Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening February 11-17, 2010

Air Doll

In Air Doll (Kûki ningyô), a loner man’s life-size inflatable sex toy comes to life and secretly leaves the apartment to explore the outside world with childlike wonder. As she encounters various Tokyo residents, she discovers they are as empty inside as she is.

She eventually finds a boyfriend and works with him in a video store, and she learns more about life by watching movies.

Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, the story is adapted from a manga. Itsuji Itao and South Korean actress Bae Du-na star with a special appearance by Jo Odagiri. It premiered at last year's Cannes Film Festival, and outside of Japan it's mostly been showing on the festival circuit. Critical reception so far has been mixed. In Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at House and Apex.

Also opening

The Wolfman -- Universal Pictures remakes one of its old classic monster movies, this one originally made in 1941. Still set in the 1880s, Benicio Del Toro steps into Lon Chaney's role as a nobleman who returns to his ancestral homeland in England, where he's bitten and cursed by a werewolf. Hugo Weaving is a Scotland Yard detective on the hunt. Emily Blunt and Anthony Hopkins also star. After a string of various directors being attached, Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park III, Jumanji, The Rocketeer) takes the helm. Critical reception so far appears to be generally negative. Rated 18+.

Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief -- A teenage boy (Logan Lerman) discovers he's the demigod son of the Greek god Poseidon and embarks on a journey across modern-day America with his friends -- also demigods -- to save his mother, return Zeus' stolen lightning bolt, and prevent a war between the gods. It's based on the first book in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians fantasy-novel series by Rick Riordan. It stars Catherine Keener as the mother, Kevin McKidd as Poseidon, Sean Bean as Zeus, Rosario Dawson as Persephone, Steve Coogan as Hades and Uma Thurman as Medusa. Ex-James Bond Pierce Brosnan plays a Centaur. Chris Columbus, who did the first two Harry Potter movies, directs. Early buzz is positive on this one, but like The Wolfman it is being released in the States this weekend so more reviews will be forthcoming. Rated G.

Confucius -- Chow Yun-fat portrays the influential Chinese philosopher in this historical epic. Released in China last month, the film has been controversial for a number of reasons. I mean, after all, who expects Confucius to pull out a pair of 9mm pistols and star wasting Triad thugs? But mainly the hassles over this film have to do with news reports that the nationalistic Confucius was forced into theaters that were still doing good business with the Hollywood blockbuster Avatar. James Cameron's sci-fi action movie captured Chinese imaginations with its message of a plucky natives standing up to mechanized military to protect their homeland from rampant development and land grabs while the message of Confucius is one of respect for your elders. But after Confucius did lackluster business at the box office, officials allowed Avatar back in theaters. The producer of Confucius denied Avatar had been forced out to to begin with. It's at the Siam, Paragon and CentralWorld in Mandarin with English and Thai subtitles; elsewhere it's Thai dubbed. Rated 18+.

Valentine’s Day -- Garry Marshall directs this romantic comedy about couples in Los Angeles breaking up and making up. The star-studded cast includes Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Alba, Jessie Biel, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Patrick Dempsey, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner and Ashton Kutcher. Critical reception is overwhelmingly negative. Rated 15+.

My Name Is Khan -- Superstar actor Shah Rukh Khan and the actress Kajol headline this sweeping drama by director Karan Johar. It's about a Muslim Indian-American couple who separate after tragic events. Khan portrays a man suffering from Asperger Syndrome -- a mild form of autism in that causes those afflicted to appear socially awkward. He's mistaken for a terrorist in post-9/11 America and undertakes a long journey across the US to prove his innocence to the love of his life. The movie has been hit with protests in India, not for anything about the movie, but because Khan voiced support for Pakistan being included in the Indian Premier League cricket championship. So Bangkok may be the safest place to see My Name Is Khan. It's showing at Major Cineplex Rama III on Friday and Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 4 and 7.15 and at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit (Ekamai) on Monday at 8. Visit or call (02) 225 7500 or (089) 488 2620.

Also showing

Pinoy Classics -- A jeepney driver who dreams of becoming an astronaut but ends up in Paris filling gumball machines is the story of Mababangong bangungot ( The Perfumed Nightmare), a 1977 film by Filipino director Kidlat Tahimik. Shot with the lo-fi aesthetics of an old home movie, it is Tahimik’s partially autobiographical story that juxtaposes Pinoy pride and critique of neocolonialism with a fascination for Western culture.

Screening on Sunday at 12.30, The Perfumed Nightmare is part of the Pinoy Classics series that has been going on this month at Thammasat University Phra Chan in the Pridi Banomyong Library’s Rewat Buddinan Room.

Kidlat portrays the driver of the jeepney – the ubiquitous and symbolic Filipino mode of transport that were initially created from surplus American Jeeps after World War II. He’s a space-travel buff, hailing himself as president of the Werner Von Braun club in his village. He’s also an avid listener of the Voice of America radio broadcasts, so when an American businessman offers him a chance to go to Paris, he leaps at the chance. There, he works on gumball vending machines business and quickly becomes disenchanted with the excesses of the Western world. Eventually, he turns down a chance to fly on the Concorde and he finds his own way back to the Philippines.

Perfumed Nightmare is followed by Turumba, Kidlat’s second feature from 1984. It’s about a rural family that starts a manufacturing operation to make toy dachshunds for the Munich Olympics.

Organized by Film Virus, the Pinoy Classics series wraps up on February 21 with two movies by another Filipino indie stalwart, Lav Diaz: The Criminal of Barrio Concepcion from 1998 and Hesus the Revolutionary from 2002.

This series is dedicated to Alexis Tioseco and Nika Bohinc, film experts who were killed last year September in a robbery at their home in the Philippines.

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