Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening January 21-27, 2010

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

The fact that Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is actually a cautionary tale about the culture of over-consumption must have been lost on Burger King. The fast-food chain lined up contestants to see who could eat the most Whoppers in one 12-minute sitting as a promotion for this Sony Pictures Animation feature at the Krungsri Imax. Burger King is selling collectible toys and figurines from the movie.

The overall champ downed five, and won a gilt-framed plaque for his efforts. It was quite a sight to see, with the crowd palpably excited as an older gentlemen fearlessly and sloppily wolfed down his Whoppers. Second place went to a petite woman who ate six -- four in her initial round and two more in a finals eat-off. There's a video of the contest at The Nation.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is based on a children's book by Judi and Ron Barrett.

It's the story of an oddball inventor in a small town who creates a machine that makes food rain from the sky. The invention is seized upon by the town's mayor, who thinks the raining food will attract tourists and save the dying fishing town.

The mayor gets fatter and fatter as the food gets bigger and bigger until a perfect storm forms and threatens to bury the whole world in a hail of spaghetti and meatballs.

While the gimmicky 3D effects -- fantastic in Imax -- and slapsticky cartoonishness of it all will delight children, adults will probably get the film's environmental message, which echoes that of Pixar's Wall-E, that the culture of consumerism has dire consquences.

A great voice cast and wry disaster-movie references make Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs a candy-coated treat.

Bill Hader from Saturday Night Live voices the nerdy inventor Flint Lockwood while Anna Faris is the plucky Sam Sparks, a meteorologist and intern reporter for a weather channel who feels she has to hide how smart she is.

Bruce Campbell voices the mayor. Plucked right out of Jaws, he doesn't see the impending doom. Nothing can derail his plans to bring tourists to his tiny island in the Atlantic.

Mr. T is the town's lawman. Instead of a Mohawk, have pity on this fool for the bald spot that runs down the center of his skull.

James Caan is Flint's technophobic father, who only talks to his son by using fishing metaphors. Surprise voices include Neil Patrick Harris and Benjamin Bratt.

It was written and directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who previously did an animated TV series, Clone High.

Critical reception is generally positive. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is in 3D in some cinemas, including Krungsri Imax at Siam Paragon. It's rated G.

Also opening

After School -- Imitating the successful High School Musical franchise and the award-winning TV series Glee, Chalat Sriwanna directs this musical about high schoolers who achieve fame with their rock band. They break into song and fall in and out of love. It stars Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Atiwit “Kirin” Iamyodsib, Nattapong Chartpong, Arisara Tongborisut, Pornrawi Anantakun and Louis Hess D'Alzon. Rated G.

The Spy Next Door -- Ever the busy man, Jackie Chan is slumming it in this Hollywood comedy, playing a secret agent who decides to give up his career and settle down in a nice suburban neighborhood. His new mission is to win over three precocious kids. It's one of several movies Jackie has lined up. He's starring in the Will Smith-produced remake The Karate Kid and has his own production coming up, the Chinese historical yarn Little Big Soldier. Critical reception is overwhelmingly negative, but keep in mind that Jackie cranks out light fare like The Spy Next Door to fund his own (hopefully better) Chinese and Hong Kong movie projects and keep his many charitable efforts going. Rated 13+.

Pope Joan -- Legend has it that in the ninth century, a young woman disguised herself as her dead brother and rose to the top of the hierarchy in the Roman Catholic Church. By German director Sönke Wortmann, this movie is based on a 1996 novel by American writer Donna Woolfolk. Johanna Wokalek stars with David Wenham and John Goodman. Rated 15+.

Love, First -- Four love stories take place on the day of a total eclipse. Se-jin is is worried his otherworldly dreamgirl Joo-won may disappear one day. So-hyun asks Ji-woo, who's nursing heartbreak over another girl, to teach her how to drink as an excuse to spend more time with him. Jung-suk and Soo-jung are a workaholic couple struggling to start their relationship as Jung-suk is still not over his dead wife. And Jin-man who has been on a free-hug campaign around the world for six years. He hopes to reconnect with his old girlfriend, but first has to find her phone number. With English and Thai subtitles at the Lido.

Also showing

Breaking the Silence -- A new documentary about Burma by Canadian filmmakers Pierre Mignault and Helene Magny takes a rare journey into Karen State and shows the humanitarian crisis in eastern Burma where the Karen are in a desperate struggle against one of the world's worst dictatorships. On orders from the country's ruling generals, the Burmese army ransacks and burns villages, relocates populations to army-controlled work camps and the engages in the systematic rape of women from ethnic minorities. Director Pierre Mignault will be present for the screening. The show time is 1.30pm on Friday, January 22 at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Bangkok. Admission is 150 baht for non-members.

German Short Film and Animation Showcase -- Begun yesterday, this film series runs daily until next Wednesday (except Monday) at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. Admission to all shows is free. Here's the schedule:
  • Today's screenings are Best of Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film 2009: BW-Reel -- Best of Animation Baden-Württemberg at 5 followed by Best of Interfilm 25 at 6.30.
  • Tomorrow at 5 is Short in Berlin, which compiles works from before and after the Berlin Wall fell. That's followed by Between State Art and Underground – Animated Film in the GDR at 6.30.
  • Saturday's program starts at 11 with the animation compilation Tricks for Kids, then Short in Berlin at 1 follwed by a talk. The documentaries Cycling the Frame and The Invisible Frame by Cynthia Beatt with Tilda Swinton will be shown at 4. Best of Interfilm shows again at 6.
  • Sunday's shows are Best of Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film -- International Selection at 11 and 5, Tricks for Kids at 1, BW Reel at 3.
  • Between State Art and Underground is shown again on Tuesday at 6, with a talk.
  • The closing program at 6 on Wednesday is Contemporaries -- German Animated Film from 1989 Until Now. There will be a talk afterward.

3 Idiots -- Bollywood's biggest box-office hit yet is back for one more showing. It's a sprawling, emotion-filled story of three young men who become best friends in engineering school, where they are put under tremendous pressure by a beastly professor. Aamir Khan stars. There's a couple of great song-and-dance numbers. Go! See it! It's showing at EGV Metropolis (Big C opposite CentralWorld) on Sunday at 4. Visit or call (02) 225 7500 or (089) 488 2620.

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