Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 17-23, 2014


Wally Pfister, the lensman for  Christopher Nolan on everything from Memento to The Dark Knight Trilogy, makes his feature directorial debut with Transcendence, a Nolanesque high-concept sci-fi thriller in which a man's experiments with artificial intelligence threaten to bring an end to human existence.

Johnny Depp stars as an ambitious tech guru who wants to create a powerful sentient computer network that combines the collective knowledge of everything. "Once online, its analytical power will be greater than the collective intelligence of every person born in the history of the world," he says. His controversial experiments make him the target of anti-technology extremists who inadvertently become the catalyst for him to take his work to the next terrifying level.

Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Cole Hauser and Morgan Freeman also star.

This is just coming out, so critical reception is still being parsed. Rated 15+

Also opening

Need for Speed – Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman from TV's Breaking Bad) stars in this adaptation of the popular Electronic Arts video game. He's an ex-convict street racer who joins a cross-country race with revenge on his mind and a massive bounty on his head. Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots and Michael Keaton also star. Critics aren't racing to praise it, but if you like car-chase flicks (or the Emmy-winning Aaron Paul) then it's probably okay. This opened in sneak previews last Friday and moves to a wider release today. It's in 3D (converted) in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated 13+

My House (บ้านขังวิญญาณ, Baan Khung Winyarn) – After a young couple move into a new home with their daughter and mother-in-law, the whole family starts to change. The girl sleepwalks, the husband is always bad-tempered and the food goes rotten at an alarming rate. When the mother-in-law dies, the couple decides to investigate. Akara Amatayakul and Ariya Tharnwong star. It's directed by Theeratorn Chaowanayothin, who a few years back took part in the omnibus horror Ngao. Rated 18+

Khumba – Not content to let Disney's The Lion King nor DreamWorks' Madagascar hog all the talking African animal action, South Africa's Triggerfish Animation Studio turns out this musical tale about a half-striped zebra who is rejected by his superstitious herd. He embarks on a daring quest to earn his stripes. The voice cast includes Jake T. Austin, Liam Neeson, Laurence Fishburne, Richard E. Grant, Steve Buscemi and a host of others. Critical reception is mixed. It's in 3D in some cinemas. Rated G

Lupin the 3rd vs Detective Conan – Anime franchises cross over as the boy detective Conan Edogawa aims to catch master thief Arsene Lupin III, who is suspected of stealing the the Cherry Sapphire. It was a nominee for the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year, which went to Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises. It's at SF cinemas only and it Thai-dubbed only. Rated 13+

2 States – A young man and woman meet at college and fall in love. Trouble is, they are from different states with wildly different cultures – he's from Delhi and comes from a Punjabi household while she is from a Tamil Brahmin family in Chennai, and none of the parents are going to easily accept the marriage. Starring Arjun Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, this romantic comedy is based on the partly autobiographical 2009 novel by Chetan Bhagat. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Paragon, Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, Anthony Hopkins is in one of this career-best performances in Merchant-Ivory's Remains of the Day, portraying a butler who begins to question his lifelong loyalty. Tomorrow, Albert Brooks takes a witty look at what happens after we die in Defending Your Life. Saturday, a film crew invades a small town, leading to chaos in State and Main, written and directed by David Mamet. Sundays this month are normally for Michael Redgrave movies, but this week there's a special event – it's Cinematography Evening. The guest is Geoff Boyle, an early adopter of digital technology who's shot such films as The Mutant Chronicles and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, which was made in Thailand. The event, sponsored by VS Service, a prominent production-services firm, begins at 7pm with a screening of Boyle's documentary Side by Side. Next Wednesday, go behind the scenes of the golden age of Filipino exploitation cinema in Machete Maidens Unleashed. Shows start at 8 unless otherwise noted. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so reservations are a must. There are sometimes additions and changes in the schedule, so please check the website and Facebook page for updates.

Film Virus Double Bill – Saddle up and hit the trail to Thammasat University on Sunday as the Double Bills resume with a pair of "late westerns". First up is Uli Edel's 1999 made-for-TV movie Purgatory, in which outlaws ride into a town that turns out to be a holding space for the Wild West's legendary figures. The terrific cast includes Sam Shepard, Eric Roberts, Randy Quaid and Donnie Wahlberg. That's followed by John Wayne's swansong, 1976's The Shootist, directed by Don Siegel. The show starts at 12.30pm. The venue is the Rewat Buddhinan Room in the basement of the Pridi Banomyong Library at Thammasat University, Tha Prachan. You'll need to show your I.D. and have it scanned to gain entry. To get there by ferry, take the Chao Praya River Express to Wang Lang (Siriraj) pier and then transfer to a ferry heading to Tha Prachan or Wat Mahathat piers.

Thailand International Film Destination Festival – The second edition of the Thailand Film Office's showcase of foreign film productions in Thailand has three screenings daily from April 22 to 28 at Paragon Cineplex. The offerings include such classics as the Oscar-winning The Killing Fields and the Robin Williams' laughfest Good Morning Vietnam, in which Thailand stood in for its wartorn neighbors. There will be two Bond movies – The Man with the Golden Gun and Tomorrow Never Dies.  And there are a host of premieres, among them Glory Days, about a '90s hair-metal band reuniting in Pattaya and attempting to turn back the clock. Other films include the Bangkok crime flick Only God Forgives, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li and Ninja: Shadow of a Tear. Local premieres include the Pang brothers' 3D disaster thriller Out of Inferno and Hong Kong director Benny Chan's crime drama White Storm. The schedule has yet to be finalized, so keep your eye on the website and Facebook page.

Alliance Française – Romain Lévy directs the 2012 comedy Radiostars, about shock jocks from a failing radio station who hit the road in a bid to win back their audience share. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, April 23 at the Alliance Française de Bangkok, at the intersection of Rama IV and Wireless roads, opposite Lumpini Park in the former location of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar.

Take note

I can't seem to find showtimes on Major Cineplex's website. Where'd they go? Their smartphone app still carries the timings though. And so does Moveedoo.

With Songkran out of the way, film-event organizers aren't letting the heat slow them down. Upcoming engagements include the Swedish Film Festival from April 24 to 27 at SFX the Emporium, the Autism Film Festival on April 26 at Paragon and Bangkok International Student Film Festival from April 29 to May 4 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 10-16, 2014

The Lunchbox

There's Bollywood and then there's proper Indian cinema. The Lunchbox firmly fits in the latter category. Not your usual trifle off the Bollywood assembly line, The Lunchbox is a Hindi-language arthouse hit that has been critically acclaimed around the world.

The setting is in modern Mumbai and covers a unique part of the city's culture, the dabbawalla, in which hot lunches are delivered from homes and central kitchens to workplaces. It's a complex system that's been in place for more than a century, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Things hardly ever go wrong, but in The Lunchbox a mistaken delivery leads to a relationship between two strangers – a weary, soon-to-retire widower and an unhappy housewife.

Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi) is the office worker Saajan, who one day is pleasantly surprised to have a good meal delivered to him, instead of whatever boring lunch he usually gets each day. Inside he finds a note. It's from the housewife Ila (Nimrat Kaur) to her husband. Saajan pens a response, which gets back to Ila. She keeps sending him lovingly prepared lunches and notes.

Written and directed by first-time helmer Ritesh Batra, The Lunchbox premiered during Critics Week at last year's Cannes Film Festival. Pundits immediately pegged it as a lock for India's submission to the Academy Awards, so there was a lot of outrage after The Good Road was submitted instead.

Honors include Best Actor for Khan and best screenplay at the Asian Film Awards (an upset over The Grandmaster), Best Screenplay and Jury Grand Prize at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, and Best Supporting Actor for Nawazuddin Siddiqui, best screenplay and Outstanding Achievement for Irrfan Khan at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival.

Critical reception is overwhelmingly positive.

It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Apex in Siam Square, House on RCA, Paragon, SF World Cinema at CentralWorld and several Major Cineplex branches, including Sukhumvit (Ekamai) and Rama III.  Rated 15+


Darren Aronofsky first got interested in the Biblical tale of Noah and the Ark when he was kid, penning a poem about it when he was in the seventh grade. Now, with plenty of clout built up after the critically acclaimed triumphs of Black Swan and The Wrestler, Aronofsky was able to put his stamp on the story of an ordinary man taking on a huge challenge.

Russell Crowe stars as the simple carpenter and family man who has a vision of God flooding the world to cleanse it of its wickedness. He builds a giant box for his family and all the earthly critters. Other stars include Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins and Ray Winstone.

Among religious critics, Noah has been controversial and they say the action-packed epic takes too many liberties. It's been banned in several countries, including Malaysia. In Singapore and other places, disclaimers have been posted at the box offices, noting that "Noah is director Darren Aronofsky's version of the story of Noah ... inspired by the Book of Genesis. Though artistic license has been taken, we believe the film to be true to the values and integrity of the biblical story."

Secularly, critical reception has been mixed, leaning to positive. I haven't seen it yet, but I think it's hard to top Bill Cosby's take on the tale. It's in 3D (converted) in some cinemas. Rated 15+

Also opening

Mor 6/5 Pak Ma Tha Mae Nak (มอ 6/5 ปากหมาท้าแม่นาค, a.k.a. Mathayom pak ma tha Mae Nak) – Thailand's reigning cinematic snakeoil salesman Poj Arnon is a shameless opportunist. Never one to shy away from making a film that's ripped from today's headlines, his latest zeitgeist-capturing effort is this comedy, which blends last year's blockbuster Thai movie Pee Mak – the record-shattering box-office hit – with his own 2013 horror-comedy, Mor 6/5 Pak Ma Tha Pee in which bratty schoolboys run and scream as they are chased by ghost teachers. Here, they pray to the Mae Nak shrine for good luck on their school-entrance exams, but one of the lads insults the legendary ghost wife. They are then pulled into a time warp, end up back in Mae Nak's day and for some reason take off their shirts as they come to Mae Nak's aid. She's portrayed by Wanida "Gybzy Girly Berry" Termthanaporn, who joins the elite echelon of Thai actresses to take on the role. Oh, and hey, just to top Pee Mak, it's in 3D! Rated G.

Kan Krai Khai Pha Mhai (กรรไกร ไข่ ผ้าไหม, a.k.a. Rock, Paper, Scissors) – Having wrapped up his Panya Raenu trilogy of comedies about low-income Isaan schoolchildren, director Bin Bunluerit turns his attention to a wealthy city school where impossibly precocious girls take part the school's endless array of extracurricular activities, including sports, singing, ballroom dance and trying to impress cute boys. Rated G.

Rio 2 – Blue Sky Studios and Brazilian director Carlos Saldanha return with a sequel to their 2011 animated feature about a pet bird who goes on a globetrotting adventure. This time out, the rare Blue Spix Macaws Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) fly into the Amazon to search for a surviving flock of their endangered kind. Other voices include Leslie Mann, Bruno Mars, Jemaine Clement, George Lopez, Jamie Foxx and Critical reception is mixed. This opened last week in afternoon sneak previews and now moves to a wider release. In 3D in some cinemas. Rated G.

Bhoothnath Returns – Amitabh Bachchan has another outing as the heroic ghost of the hit 2008 horror comedy. Here, the Ghost Nath takes on a corrupt local politician. Boman Irani and Shahrukh Khan also star. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhuvmit (Ekamai), Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight the FGC presents Anthony Hopkins in 1994's Shadowlands, director Richard Attenborough's take on author C.S. Lewis' relationship with poet Joy Davidman (Debra Winger).Tomorrow, hitch a ride with Albert Brooks on a cross-country RV trip in Lost in America. Saturday is Oleanna, director David Mamet's adaptation of his own play about a college professor (William H. Macy) blindsided by a sexual harassment rap by one of his students. Sunday features Michael Redgrave in the 1951 drama The Browning Version, in which a retiring teacher confronts failure. Next Wednesday, get the inside story on an obsessive amateur filmmaker as he tries to make a horror film in American Movie. Shows start at 8. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so reservations are a must. There are sometimes additions and changes in the schedule, so please check the website and Facebook page for updates.

Alliance Française – Next week's offering is a slice of quirk from writer-director Sólveig Anspach in Queen of Montreuil, about a young widowed woman who returns to her home in the hipster Parisian suburb of Montreuil. She holes up with a group of colorful acquaintances, including a depressed sea lion. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, April 16 at the Alliance Française de Bangkok, at the intersection of Rama IV and Wireless roads, opposite Lumpini Park in the former location of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar.

Take note

More apologies this week – I failed to note the Goethe-Institut's monthly German Film Series entry that was screened on Tuesday at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. There's still a chance to see the film, the 2005 comedy One Day in Europe, at 1pm on Sunday at the Thai Film Archive.

Although the Thai New Year festival doesn't officially begin until April 13, it's likely that the celebrations will actually begin tomorrow if not right now. Officially just a three-day holiday, one of the Songkran days this year falls on the weekend, necessitating a "substitution day". So the water warfare and powder bombings will last even longer, finally ending on Wednesday, April 16. So take precautions.

Following Songkran, events include the Thailand International Film Destination Festival from April 20 to 29 at Paragon, the Swedish Film Festival from April 24 to 27 at SFX the Emporium and the Autism Film Festival on April 26 at Paragon. Also, the Film Virus Double Bills resume on April 20 at Thammasat University.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 3-9, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Chris Evans returns as Marvel Comics' World War II supersoldier in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Two years after aliens nearly destroyed New York City in The Avengers, the good-hearted, upstanding and moral Cap is still struggling to find his place in modern society. He's got a list of things to catch up on  and experience, among them eat Thai food.

But a new threat emerges in the form of the Winter Soldier – a steel-armed killer created by Soviet scientists. Turns out it is Cap's old Army buddy Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). In battling the new villain, Captain America teams up with superspy Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. the Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) as well as another superhero member of the Avengers, the Falcon (Anthony Mackie).

Samuel L. Jackson also stars, making his return as the eyepatch-clad S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury, and Robert Redford is Agent Alexander Pierce. Cobie Smulders also returns as Agent Maria Hill.

Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, who did Welcome to Collinwood and You, Me and Dupree, but also such TV series as Community and Arrested Development, direct.

Critical and fan reception of this film is crazily positive. They're calling it the greatest Marvel Cinematic Universe movie yet. As with the other films in this series, there will be at least two post-credits bonus scenes and teasers to forthcoming attractions, so awkwardly keep your seat and be patient as all the names of the film crew scroll by. It's in 3D (converted) in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated G

Also opening

American Dreams in China – This sprawling Chinese rags-to-riches drama charts the rise of three ambitious friends over the course of 20 years as they build a business empire on teaching English. It's directed by celebrated Hong Kong filmmaker Peter Chan, with cinematography by Christopher Doyle. Huang Xiaoming, Deng Chao, Tong Dawei and Du Juan star. It won best film, best director and best actor for Xiaoming at China's Golden Rooster Awards last year. Critical reception is mixed. It's in Mandarin with English subtitles at Paragon, SF World Cinema at CentralWorld, Esplanade Cineplex Ratchada, Major Ratchayothin and House on RCA. Rated 15+

Tarzan – Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan the Ape Man again comes to the big screen, this time in motion-capture animation from a German studio. Twilight heartthrob Kellan Lutz is Tarzan, the orphan boy raised by apes in the African jungle. With his love interest Jane Porter (Spencer Locke), he faces the mercenary army of the evil CEO who took over the Greystoke family business after Tarzan's parents died in a plane crash. Critical reception is mixed. It's in 3D. Rated G

Main Tera Hero – David Dhawan directs this comedy about a small-town guy who heads off to college in Bangalore and falls for a beautiful but mysterious young woman (Ileana D’cruz) and then is caught up in a conflict with a corrupt cop (Arunoday Singh) and a gangster (Anupam Kher) whose daughter (Nargis Fakhri) is charmed by him. In Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Thursdays this month are devoted to Anthony Hopkins, featuring his films from before he blew up big with Silence of the Lambs. This week's entry is 1987's Charing Cross Road, a transatlantic romance that also stars Anne Bancroft. Fridays are for the films of actor-director Albert Brooks, starting with 1987's Broadcast News. Clipped, crisp dialogue is on tap every Saturday this month with the films of David Mamet, starting with his 1987 drama House of Games, starring Lindsay Crouse as a woman in over her head when she encounters a clique of colorful conmen. Michael Redgrave is the star of Sunday movies, starting this week with The Importance of Being Earnest from 1952. Wednesdays feature documentaries about obsessive filmmakers, and in line with the upcoming release of Noah, next week's offering is Audience of One, about a Pentecostal preacher who gets a message from God – "Make a movie!" Shows start at 8. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so reservations are a must. There are sometimes additions and changes in the schedule, so please check the website and Facebook page for updates.

Festival of Luis Buñuel in Mexico – Five films made by Spanish auteur Luis Buñuel during his Mexican period from 1946 to 1965 will be shown at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom on Saturday and Sunday, April 5 and 6. The event, co-sponsored by the Archive and the Embassy of Mexico, opens at 1pm with the comedy El Gran Calavera (The Great Madcap) from 1949. There will then be a talk in Thai by film expert Wiwat "Filmsick" Lertwiwatwongsa. They'll then show the 1952 comedy Subida al Cielo (Ascent to Heaven, a.k.a. Mexican Bus Ride) from 1952. Sunday opens at 1pm with La Illusion Viaja en Tranvia (Illusion Travels by Streetcar) from 1954. Next is the 1959 religious epic Nazarín, which won the International Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and was Mexico's submission to the Academy Awards. The closer is the 1951 family drama La Hija del Engaño (The Daughter of Deceit). All are in Spanish with English subtitles. For more details, check the film archive website or the Facebook page.

Alliance Française – A delinquent boy run scams on wealthy guests at a Swiss ski resort to support his older sister in the 2012 drama L'enfant d'en haut (Sister). Directed by Ursula Meier, who won the Silver Bear in Berlin for her picture, it stars Léa Seydoux and Kacey Mottet Klein. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, April 9 at the Alliance Française de Bangkok, at the intersection of Rama IV and Wireless roads, opposite Lumpini Park in the former location of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar.

Take note

Scala stairs by PJ.
There is an important article at the Southeast Asian Movie Theater Project. If you care a wit about the future of the Scala theater or life in Bangkok itself, please read it.

Apologies to any readers who showed up late to the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand's screening of the Cuban film La Bella del Alhambra on Monday. The FCCT has changed its usual screening time, starting at 7pm rather than 8.

Aside from the Friese-Greene Club, another freeloader movie venue that's been mentioned in the press and social media lately is Jam Cafe, off Sathorn Road in the neighborhood of Surasak BTS station. They show movies on Wednesday nights, but they keep their programming a surprise until almost the last minute. This month's theme is "so bad it's good" and this week's selection turned out to be the truly awful Jean-Claude Van Damme film Street Fighter.

The website for House cinema on RCA seems to have gone belly up, but I assure you the place is still open for business. The best way to keep updated is to "like" their page on Facebook.

The Thai Film Archive follows the excellent programming of Salaya Doc with films by Luis Buñuel this weekend. I haven't regularly covered the Archive's activities for a couple reasons, one that it's a bit far from Bangkok and two because the films aren't often English friendly – they show many great old Thai films, but most don't have subtitles. However, henceforth, if I spot something that might be of interest I will mention it.

The Film Virus Double Bill at Thammasat University is taking a break for Songkran. Whew. Programs will resume there on April 20.

Coming up, the Thailand International Film Destination Festival returns for a second edition, running from April 20 to 29 and showing a bunch of foreign films that were made here. Hopefully, I'll have more details about that soon.

And looking further ahead, there's the Swedish Film Festival from April 24 to 27 at SFX the Emporium.