Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening February 18-24, 2010

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

Heath Ledger stars in his last role as the barker of a traveling theater troupe. He changes whenever he steps through a magical mirror.

When Ledger died in January 2008, production was stopped, but director Terry Gilliam was able to work cinematic magic to salvage this fantasy by having Ledger's "physically transformed versions" played by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell. The three actors, all friends of Ledger, donated their fees to Ledger's daughter.

The story involves the leader of the theater troupe, played Christopher Plummer, who has sold his daughter's soul to the devil. Model Lily Cole is daughter. Verne "Mini Me" Troyer is featured as Parnassus' confidant. And singer Tom Waits is Mr. Nick -- the Devil. Critical reception has been slightly favorable, with praise for the performances and visual spectacle expected of a Terry Gilliam film. At SFX The Emporium and SF Cinema City The Mall Bangkapi. Rated 13+.

Also opening

True Legend -- Su Chan wasn't always the old alcoholic beggar you've seen in Jackie Chan's Drunken Master movies. Martial-arts choreographer Yuen Woo Ping, perhaps best known for his work in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Matrix, seeks to set the record straight with this fact-based drama about the life of Beggar Su, who was once a wealthy man who dreamed of creating his own martial-arts discipline. But his ego caused his downfall and a tragic loss, and he turned to the bottle as he sank into poverty. Vincent Zhao portrays the master. Michelle Yeoh also stars with Jay Chou as "the God of Martial Arts". Notably, this is the last film David Carradine completed before his death last year in a Bangkok hotel room. Thailand-based 7-foot-tall Australian actor and stuntman Conan Stevens is also featured. Portions are in 3D in some cinemas. Thai-dubbed soundtrack only, with no subtitles. Rated 13+.

Little Big Soldier -- Jackie Chan stars in this historical comedy drama, set during China's Warring States period, playing a old farmer footsoldier who kidnaps the young general of a rival army (Wang Lee-Hom) in hopes of collecting a reward and earning his way out of the military so he can go back to farming. It's taken 20 years for Jackie to bring this project to the screen. Originally, he was supposed to play the young general. Thai-dubbed soundtrack only and no subtitles. Rated 15+.

Also showing

My Name Is Khan -- Overcoming a politicized controversy involving Pakistan, cricket and protesting right-wingers that had nothing to do with the film, this sweeping drama opened last weekend worldwide, setting records in the U.S. and the U.K. and could be on track to top the record set by 3 Idiots. Superstar actor Shah Rukh Khan portrays a man suffering from Asperger Syndrome -- a mild form of autism in that causes those afflicted to appear socially awkward -- who's mistaken for a terrorist in post-9/11 America. He undertakes a long journey across America to prove his innocence to the love of his life (Kajol). It's directed Karan Johar. BollywoodThai brings it back for another weekend, and advises that reservations aren't a bad idea. And it's true -- the Bangkok Bollywood screenings are usually packed with families of eager Indian filmgoers. It's showing at SFW CentralWorld on Friday and Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 4. Visit or call (02) 225 7500 or (089) 488 2620.

Pinoy Classics -- Filipino indie director Lav Diaz is perhaps best known for his films that push the boundaries of cinema, with sprawling, all encompassing, free-length movies that run for seven, nine, even 11 hours. This weekend's Pinoy Classics series offers a chance to see his more-conventional length features. Lav Diaz: The Early Years The Criminal of Barrio Concepcion from 1998 and Hesus the Revolutionary from 2002.

Criminal (Serafin Geronimo, kriminal ng Baryo Concepcion), Diaz's debut, involves an investigative journalist (Angel Aquino) who listens to the story of Serafin (Raymond Bagatsing), who claims he's an infamous kidnapper in a scheme that went horribly wrong.

One of Diaz's commercial efforts for Regal Studios, Hesus Rebolusyonaryo is set in a dystopian, military-ruled Philippines of 2011, though as critic Noel Vera pointed out in a 2005 review, "the film is really a commentary on the Philippines in the year 2002. Manila's streets have not changed; if anything, they look seedier and more garbage-strewn ... Diaz in effect took his budget constraints--no money for sets, or crowd extras--and turned them
into a political point: that Manila in the future will be more of the same, only worse." The loner Hesus (Mark Anthony Fernandez) stirs up trouble.

Organized by Film Virus, the screenings start at 12.30 on Sunday at Thammasat University Phra Chan in the Pridi Banomyong Library’s Rewat Buddinan Room. You'll have to check any bags you have and present your ID to the information desk.

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.

Next for Film Virus is Salty Video Day, on February 28, with the Thai indie features Color of the Streets (director's cut) and The Cruelty of Soysauce Man (extended version).

Sneak previews

Up in the Air -- George Clooney stars in this comedy-drama, a nominee for six Academy Awards, including best actor for Clooney, best director for Jason Reitman and best picture. He plays an executive who makes a living firing people from their jobs. In this economy, it's a great job to have. Up in the Air is in sneak previews this weekend, with showtimes at around 8pm at various cinemas. It opens in a wide release next week, along with six other big films, so maybe get it out of the way this weekend if you have a chance. Rated 13+.

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