Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 13-21, 2010


In a twist on Spider-Man and all that hooey of "with great power comes great responsibility" comes Kick-Ass, about a teenage comic-book nerd to who dons a costume and calls himself Kick-Ass as he goes around the city performing feats of derring-do.

"With no power comes no responsibility," says the hero nerd, portrayed by Aaron Johnson.

Caught on viral video as he performs great deeds, he soon finds there are other costumed avengers lurking. Much like most of the anti-heroes in Watchmen, they are ordinary people with no superpowers.

Among them is a kid with a fast car and a red outfit who calls himself Red Mist. He's played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, probably best remembered for his role as "McLovin" in Superbad.

But the real kick-ass characters in Kick-Ass have to be the purple-haired gun-toting acrobat Hit-Girl (13-year-old Chloe Moretz in a stunning performance), who wears a plaid schoolgirl skirt with her body armor. She's partnered with her father, Big Daddy, played by none other than Nicolas Cage. I'm getting a big Batman vibe off Big Daddy, which is probably the intention of the filmmakers.

Based on a comic series by Mark Millar (who also wrote Wanted), it's directed by Matthew Vaughn, who previously did the British gangster drama Layer Cake and the fractured fairytale Stardust and produced Guy Ritchie's Snatch.

Critical reception is mostly positive. There's a teaser on YouTube. Opens Thursday. Rated 18+.

9 Wat

9 Wat (9 วัด), English title Secret Sunday, is perhaps a fitting movie to open today, which is the start of Songkran, the Thai New Year -- one of the biggest holidays in the Kingdom.

The release day is auspicious, because many adherents do just what they are doing in the film -- visit nine Buddhist temples in a bid to erase bad karma and clear the way for good luck.

That isn't the way it's working out for "Noon" Siriphan Wattanajinda, a beauty columnist who is being haunted for some reason. Maybe because she dyed her hair a bleach blond. Or wears thick eye makeup. And dresses fashionably. And swims in a bikini. The spirits can't take it. They are angered by non-traditional Thai looks.

So she takes a trip with her architect boyfriend (James Alexander Mackie), who's been tasked with undertaking the nine-wat ritual by his mother (Penpak Sirikul). The couple are accompanied by a friend of theirs who is a monk (Pharadorn Sirakovit).

Trouble is, instead of clearing up their bad karma, the temple trek seems to bring them more rotten luck. And bleeding cows. And headless dogs. And a hand that needs washing.

It's directed by Saranyoo Jiralak, who's making his feature debut. He's previous worked as an assistant director with Nonzee Nimibutr and Wisit Sasanatieng and has been making commercials.

“I don’t believe karma can be fixed. We all have to pay for what we have done,” he was quoted as saying in The Nation last week.

It's the second production from the new company, Oriental Eyes, which debuted in 2008 with Where the Miracle Happens, a drama starring Princess Ubol Ratana.

Saranyoo says his first choice wouldn’t have been a horror flick but after discussions with the producers, he decided it could be an interesting project.

“Although the Thai film industry has a lot of ghost and horror movies, I believe there is room for new ideas. I hope viewers are ready to open their minds,” he says.

For actress Siraphan, who debuted in romantic comedy Puean Sanit (Dear Dakanda) and starred in Wisit Sasanatieng’s Pen Choo Kab Phee (The Unseeable) and was featured in Where the Miracle Happens, portraying Poon has been her biggest challenge to date.

“Poon may seem confident and aggressive but in fact, she’s very vulnerable. It wasn’t easy for me take the part because I come from a very conservative family,” says the actress, who agreed to take the role only after her mother read the script and gave the green light.

“Her decision really encouraged me to do this project even if it does blow my good girl image,” she says.

The trailer has crowds jumping in cinemas now and it's on YouTube. Rated 18+.

Also opening

Legion -- From the poster, I thought this looked stupid. Then I saw the trailer and thought, "Wow. This looks pretty cool." It's basically Dogma without the dick jokes. Paul Bettany plays the archangel Michael, the only one standing between mankind and the apocalypse. He teams up with mortal strangers in a remote desert diner to battle all the other angels and protect a young waitress (Adrianne Palicki) who may be pregnant with Christ in his second coming. Dennis Quaid, Lucas Black, Tyrese Gibson and Charles S. Dutton also star. Scott Stewart, a senior staffer at award-winning visual-effects house The Orphanage, makes his directorial debut. Critical reception is mostly negative. Rated 18+.

Chloe -- Atom Egoyan directs a remake of Anne Fontaine’s Nathalie, with Julianne Moore as a wife who suspects her husband (Liam Neeson) of infidelity. She meets an alluring young woman (Amanda Seyfried) who works as an escort and hatches a scheme of having the girl seduce her husband but finds that she's the one being seduced. Critical reception is evenly mixed. Rated 18+.

Oppai Volleyball -- Haruka Ayase, in Japanese Academy-nominated role that won her best actress from the Mainichi Film Concours, stars as a young teacher in 1979 Japan who volunteers to coach the boys volleyball club. The guys are all nerds who are obsessed with girls. In an effort to motivate the team, she promises to flash them her “oppai” (breasts) if they win a game. At the Lido.

Take note

Except for Kick-Ass, movies are opening two days earlier than ordinary this week because of the Songkran Thai New Year holiday, which starts today (April 13) and officially runs until Thursday but will likely continue through the weekend. It's a traditionally celebratory and lighthearted time for family gatherings and water fights.

This year there is more to worry about than getting wet.

There is a pall cast over Songkran by the deadly battles that took place in Bangkok on Saturday between the red-shirt political protesters and Thai soldiers.

The red shirts are continuing their protest and are still occupying the Rajprasong Intersection. This has caused the nearby malls, including CentralWorld and Paragon, to close or curtail hours. The Lido multiplex has been dropping is last showtimes, closing after the 6.30 shows are over.

I hope there won't be any more shooting.

So, in addition to slipping your phone and other gadgets in waterproof bags, wearing light clothing and plastic sandals, prepare for your movie outings by planning carefully and trying to avoid the areas of town where the protest is going on, however non-violent they might be right now.

Make sure the cinema is open. I've called ahead to my favorite cinemas -- the Apex in Siam Square, and they confirm they are open and are showing Kick-Ass at the Siam, Shutter Island at the Scala and Oppai Volleyball as been added to the program at the Lido.

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