Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 8-12, 2010 (updated)

This is an updated entry, noting that Kon Thai Ting Pandin has been postponed and adding the screening of Tokyo Sonata at House.

I Am the Director

Nitchapoom Chaianun's documentary I am the Director (ฝันฉันคือผู้กำกับ, Fun Chan Kue Phoo Kamkab) interviews nine young directors.

Five are already established, either working for big-industry studios like GTH's Wittaya Tong-U-Yong (The Little Comedian) and Komkrit Treewimol (Dear Dakanda) and Sahamongkol's Chookiat Sakveerakul (Love of Siam), or as independents, like Sakchai Deenan (Sabaidee Luang Prabang) or Aditya Assarat (Wonderful Town).

And there are four other young filmmakers who want to be directors: Uten Sririwi, Supakit Seksuwan, Harin Paesongthai and Pitchaya Jarusboonpracha.

I am the Director has had various screenings before, including last year's World Film Festival of Bangkok.

It's an illuminating look at Thailand's film industry and indie scene, and well worth watching.

There's an English-subtitled trailer at YouTube. It's playing April 19 at 6.30 nightly at the Lido multiplex in Siam Square.

Shutter Island

Director Martin Scorsese returns to the thriller genre with Shutter Island, which is based on a best-selling novel by Dennis Lehane.

Again working with leading man Leonardo DiCaprio, who starred in his Gangs of New York, The Aviator and The Departed, Scorsese pays tribute to Hitchcock-style suspense with this story, set in 1954, about a federal marshal (DiCaprio) and his partner (Mark Ruffalo) who visit a creepy prison mental hospital on an island, where a murderess has somehow escaped. Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow also star.

Originally planned for release last October but delayed to this year so it could be properly promoted and exploited by Paramount, Shutter Island premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. Critical reception is mixed to favorable. It opened on Tuesday. Rated 18+.

The Princess and the Frog

After saying it was abandoning hand-drawn 2D animation after 2004's Home on the Range, Disney's animation studios, now under the supervision of Pixar executives, returns to the classic artform with a feature that aims to recapture the cartoon magic. Like the stories of Snow White, Cinderella, Pocahontas, Mulan or The Little Mermaid, this is a "princess" story, and, notably, it's the first black Disney princess.

The story, set in 1920s New Orleans, has a young woman named Tiana who is confronted by a talking frog who claims to be a prince and thinks she is a princess. The frog then convinces her to kiss him to break a voodoo spell and so begins an adventure through the bayous of Louisiana for the pair.

The voice cast stars Anika Noni Rose from Dreamgirls as Tiana, Bruno Campos as the frog prince and Keith David -- check out his voice work in Coraline -- as the scheming voodoo magician and chief villain.

It's directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, who previously did The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules and Treasure Planet.

In an age where most animated features are made with computers and done in 3D, the retro look of The Princess and the Frog is refreshing. Critical reception is solidly favorable. Rated G.

Also opening

Big Boy (บิ๊กบอย ) -- Veteran entertainer Seetha Sirichaya (เศรษฐา ศิระฉายา) returns to the big screen in this breakdancing comedy-drama. "Toy" Seetha, former lead singer of the 1970s rock band The Impossibles, made a cameo in 2006's The Possible (Kao ... Kao). His long list of acting credits includes playing the villain in the classic Cherd Songsri drama Plae Kao (The Scar). He remains an ever-present personality, regularly staging concerts and hosting TV variety series. He's also married to actress Aranya Namwong, a screen siren of the 1970s. In Big Boy he's the old-smoothie grandfather of an awkward teenager (Toni Rakkaen), who comes to Bangkok from the countryside to learn more about breakdancing. Turns out granddad is a dancer himself, though it's the ballroom style of Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire. It's the kind of part a classy entertainer like Seetha can play with ease. What follows looks to be a sort Karate Kid for the Thai b-boy scene, with the boy getting schooled by the grandpa and a young woman dancer. The second feature from new production house M39 Pictures, it's directed by Monthon Arayangkoon, who's making big shift away from the kaiju thrills of 2004's Garuda (Paksa Wayu) and the horror of The Victim and The House. The trailer is at YouTube. It opened Tuesday. Rated 13+.

Date Night -- Tina Fey (30 Rock) and Steve Carell (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) team up for this comic romp as a husband and wife on the verge of divorce. To spice up their dull marriage, they decide to have a romantic night out in New York City. A case of mistaken identity makes their evening a good deal more thrilling and dangerous than they planned. Mark Wahlberg also stars, playing a suave secret agent. Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum) directs. Critical reception is almost evenly mixed. Rated 15+.

Agora -- Alejandro Amenábar (The Others, The Sea Inside) directs this historical romantic drama set in ancient Alexandria, Egypt. A slave (Max Minghella) who's turned to Christianity is conflicted by his love for his mistress, the atheist philosopher and astronomer Hypatia (Rachel Weisz). Critical reception is mixed. At Apex and SF World CentralWorld. Rated 15+.

Frozen -- Three snowboarders are stranded on the chairlift at night in a ski resort that's going to be closed for a week. They could drop down from their high perch and risk injury or stay in the chair and risk death by starvation and freezing. As it turns out, their choices are even scarier than they imagined. Directed by Adam Green, this indie horror thriller premiered this year at Sundance and is making its way around the the horror and genre festival circuit. It's pretty cool that we have a chance to see it here in Thailand. Critical reception is mixed. At House, Paragon, CentralWorld. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Tokyo! Tokyo! Tokyo! -- Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Tokyo Sonata is a quietly unsettling and powerful drama about a dysfunctional Japanese family of four. No one will look each other in the eye and tell the truth. The father has lost his job, but continues to suit up and act like he's showing up, leaving the house each day to sit in the park and wait in a bread line for lunch. The housewife appears dutiful but has been taking driving lessons behind everyone's back. She yearns for freedom. The youngest son is secretly taking piano lessons after his father forbade him. And the oldest wants to join the American army and fight in Iraq. After a quiet beginning, the movie goes a bit off the rails in the last act, and it's actually fun. It's the final entry in the Tokyo! Tokyo! Tokyo! "off-the-menu" series at House, showing on Saturday and Sunday at 4.30 Check the House website.

Take note

Malls, hotels and other businesses around the Rajprasong Intersection in central Bangkok have been closed or cut back on hours because of the rallies staged there by the red-shirt political protesters. This has included CentralWorld and Paragon, where Thailand's biggest multiplexes are located.

The release of one film, Kon Thai Ting Pandin (The Edge of the Empire), has been postponed, with the studio citing the political protests as the reason.

A state of emergency declared by the government is meant to end the protest and restore order to Bangkok. I am uncertain how it will affect things. Chaos still pretty much reigns. Before setting out to watch a movie anywhere in the Bangkok metro area, it's best to call ahead and confirm the cinema is open.

Next week, movies are scheduled to open two days earlier than usual, on Tuesday, April 13, the start of the Songkran Thai New Year holiday. Planned releases include the Thai thriller 9 Wat, the attitude-filled superhero sensation Kick-Ass, battling angels in Legion, the erotic psychothriller Chloe and the Japanese sports comedy Oppai Volleyball.

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