Thursday, March 18, 2010

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

Nak Prok (Shadow of the Naga)

Three thieves, Singha (Ray MacDonald), Parn (Somchai Khemklad) and Por (Pitisak Yaowananon), hide their loot in the grounds of a temple but when they return to collect the money, they find it’s been buried under a new chapel. Their solution is to force head monk Luangta Chuen (Sa-ad Piampongsan) to conduct an ordination ceremony for them so that they can stay in the monastery while they dig for their ill-gotten booty. Inthira Charoenpura also stars.

Directed by Phawat Panangkasiri, Shadow of the Naga was actually completed in 2007, but its strong subject matter -- the idea of guns being pointed at an abbot and men posing as monks and acting violently -- made producers at Sahamongkol Film International too skittish to release it.

The film premiered at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, where it didn't create much of a stir.

At one point, Sahamongkol boss Sia Jiang Somsak Techaratanaprasert wanted to release it with the pointed pistols blurred out like the censors do on Thai TV, but director Phawat stuck to his guns.

Now there's a rating system, which is supposed to advise viewers about content they might find objectionable. But there will still be "pop-up" warnings on certain scenes, in much the same fashion as some Thai DVDs.

Ultimately, I believe this is a story about the power of faith, not its destruction. And it's likely this film made three years ago has a message that's perhaps even more timely given the tense political atmosphere in Thailand right now. Have a look at the trailer. I found it very moving. It's rated 18+.

Also opening

My One and Only -- Renee Zellweger stars in this 1950s road-trip comedy drama. She's a New York City socialite who hits the road in her Cadillac convertible to find a new father for her two young boys after catching her bandleader husband (Kevin Bacon) with another woman. The tale is inspired by the childhood experiences of actor George Hamilton. Richard Loncraine directs. It also stars Logan "Percy Jackson" Lerman and Chris "Mr. Big" Noth. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to favorable. At Paragon Cineplex. Rated 15+.

Murderer (Saat yan faan) -- Aaron Kwok stars in this Hong Kong crime thriller as a police detective with short-term memory loss who's racing to solve a case in which has partner was murdered with an electric drill and the evidence is pointing to him. He can't remember the events leading to his partner's death. In Chinese with English and Thai subtitles at Paragon Cineplex and SFW World CentralWorld. Rated 18+.

When in Rome -- On a trip to Rome, a young New Yorker (Kristen Bell) impulsively steals coins from a reputed fountain of love. She then finds herself aggressively pursued by a band of suitors, among them are Josh Duhamel, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard, Will Arnett, and Danny DeVito. Critical reception is negative. Rated 13+.

Nomad -- Kuno Becker (Goal!) stars in this historical epic set in 18th-century Kazakhstan, where he's the man who is destined to one day unite the three warring tribes of the country. This film has been hanging around for a long time. It was first released in 2006 and has finally made its way to Thai soil. Jay Hernandez and Jason Scott Lee also star. It's directed by Sergei Bodrov, Ivan Passer and Talgat Temenov. Reportedly, the government of Kazakhstan has invested $40 million to make this movie, making it the most expensive Kazakh film ever made. Critical reception is pretty thin, but is mostly negative. At the Siam.

Sneak previews

It's Complicated -- Meryl Streep stars in this romantic comedy as a woman who's carrying on affair with her ex-husband (Alec Baldwin), who left her to marry a younger trophy wife. Streep's character then falls in love with an architect played by Steve Martin. Nancy Meyers (What Women Want, Something's Gotta Give, The Holiday) directs. Critical reception is mixed. It's in nightly sneak previews at around 8 and 10 at most cinemas and has a wider release next Thursday. Rated 18+.

How to Train Your Dragon -- From Dreamworks Animation, the makers of such films as Shrek and Madagascar comes How to Train Your Dragon. It's loosely based on a 2003 children's novel by British author Cressida Cowell. The main character is Hiccup, the meek nerd son of a big brawny Viking. Voiced by Jay Baruchel (Tropic Thunder), he befriends an injured wild dragon. Dad is played by Gerard Butler. Other voices include Ugly Betty's America Ferrara, TV host Craig Ferguson and Jonah Hill and Christopher Mintz-Plasse from Superbad. Critical reception so far is positive. It's in 3D-only sneak previews at SFX the Emporium and SF Cinema City MBK and maybe some other theaters before opening in a wider release next week. Rated G.

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