Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 22-28, 2010

Noo Kanpai

Thai tattoo movies are a unique subgenre of Thai films, though off the top of my head I can only give a few examples.

Of course there's Killer Tattoo, but that isn't really what I'm thinking about here.

It's about the Thai spiritual tattoos that are said to convey supernatural powers that protect the wearers from bullets and blades.

You'll see the tattoos around, worn by policemen, soldiers, motorcycle-taxi drivers and other hard-working men in Thailand.

The ink is very much in evidence in historical battle epics like Bang Rajan 2.

The recently released Buddhist thriller Nak Prok (Shadow of the Naga) made a cheeky reference to the "power" of the tattoos and showed one of the main characters receiving one from a monk.

The tattoos are applied with an ink-dipped needle that's attached to a long stick.

Supernatural tattoos were a focal point of the 2008 action movie Hanuman: The White Monkey Warrior, in which the characters assumed the powers of the mythical gods they had tattooed on their backs.

Another 2008 tattoo-action movie was Haa Taew, literally "five columns", which refers to the five lines in a tablet of Buddhist scripture that is usually tattooed on the shoulder.

Lots of young actresses and models are getting these haa taew tattoos on their delicate little shoulder blades. Other women get little scrolls on the small of their back.

They're following the example of Angelina Jolie who came to Thailand some years back and got one from Ajarn Noo Kanpai, the recognized master of the yantra tattoo. There's lots of videos dedicated to Noo Kanpai.

It was Noo Kanpai who produced Haa Taew and now he's made another movie -- an action-packed biopic about his own life.

According to the legend of Noo Kanpai, the master first started to study about magic spells and yantra tattooing at the age of six. When it was discovered the tattoos conveyed magical powers, everyone wanted one, even as Noo Kanpai tried to remain modest and avoid infamy. The full title is, check this out, Noo Kanpai Seuk Maha Yan Ying Kan Sanan Jor (หนู กันภัย ศึกมหายันต์ ยิงกันสนั่นจอ), something about fighting furiously and loudly.

Khet Thantap, Bin Bunluerit, Suebsak Pansueb and Supakorn Kitsuwan star with a special appearance by Noo Kanpai himself. Keep your eyes peeled on the trailer (embedded below) for a familiar pair of policemen -- probably the last appearance by the two of them together. Arinthawit Chomsri directs. It's released by Ohm Maha Ruay Film. Rated 18+.

Also opening

The Crazies -- Breck Eisner (Sahara) directs this remake of a 1973 George Romero thriller about zombies of a different sort that crop up in an Iowa farming community. A toxin is turning the residents into violent psychopaths and the U.S. military is bearing down trying to isolate the sickness by killing everyone off. But there are survivors -- the local sheriff (Timothy Olyphant), his physician wife (Radha Mitchell) and others. Critical reception is leaning toward positive. Rated 18+.

The Shock Labyrinth 3D (Senritsu meikyû 3D) -- The Grudge director Takashi Shimizu gets in on the 3D trend with this horror-thriller about teenagers dealing with the sudden return of a friend who went missing a decade ago. When she falls ill, they take her to a hospital but end up trapped in a labyrinthine haunted house. It's Thai-dubbed in most places by House cinema on RCA has the 2D version in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles. Rated 15+.

Brooklyn's Finest -- Training Day director Antoine Fuqua offers another gritty thriller about bent cops. The policemen in this drama about come from different beats. There's an undercover guy played by Don Cheadle, a young vice cop (Ethan Hawke) who's started skimming drug money to support his sick, pregnant wife, and an older uniform officer (Richard Gere) who just wants to get through his last week before he retires. They all come together at the same crime scene. Wesley Snipes and Michael K Williams (Omar from The Wire) also star. Critical reception is leaning towards negative. At Apex and SF Cinemas. Rated 18+.

Tenderness -- Russell Crowe stars in this crime thriller as a police detective keeping watch over an 18-year-old psychopathic killer (Jon Foster) who's been released from an institution and appears to have been rehabilitated. The detective believes otherwise. Meanwhile, a 16-year-old girl seeks out the young man, thinking he'll help her escape from her troubled home. John Polson directs. The actor-turn-director previously helmed the psycho-thrillers Swimfan and Hide and Seek, but has also been doing TV work, including Without a Trace, The Mentalist and FlashForward. The movie is adapted from a novel by Robert Cormier (The Chocolate War, I Am the Cheese). Critical reception for this 2008 film is still a bit thin on the ground but is leaning towards negative. At APEX and SFX Central Lad Prao. Rated 18+

Take note

The red-shirt protests are continuing in the Rajprasong area and CentralWorld has remained closed. Siam Paragon and other shopping centers in the area have been open but might be cutting back on hours. The red-shirt protests are coming under pressure from security forces who are determined to keep them confined to Rajprasong and not spread to Silom. A number of anti-red-shirt groups -- yellow shirts, no-shirts, white shirts, multi-color shirts, whatever-kind-of-shirts -- are staging counter protests.

In short: It's getting ugly.

Be careful out there. Stay clear of the protest areas. Pay attention to the news and call ahead before you venture out.

This week, the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand postponed the start of its FCCT-NETPAC Asian Film Festival, officially "due to unforeseen circumstances". The club is located in the penthouse of the Maneeya building, just steps away from the Rajprasong interesection. You do the math.

The film series is now due to start on Thursday, April 29 with Mr. and Mrs. Iyer from India.

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