Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening July 29-August 4, 2010

Millennium 1: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

When Swedish journalist and writer Stieg Larsson died in 2004 at age 50, he left behind the unpublished manuscripts to a trilogy of mystery novels that he wrote for his own enjoyment.

The books, which became known as the Millennium Trilogy, were a much-acclaimed sensation in Sweden. They have since been translated and have made Larsson the second best-selling author in the world.

The primary characters are a pair of crimefighters: crusading activist investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, a tattooed eccentric young computer hacker with a photographic memory.

The novels were adapted last year into a trilogy of epic, critically acclaimed Swedish films.

A Hollywood remake is in the works, with David Fincher slated to direct. George Clooney, Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt were among the names mentioned for the part of Mikael, though Daniel Craig is now reported to have closed a deal for the role. Kristen Stewart, Ellen Page and Carey Mulligan are among actresses expressing interest in the part of Lisbeth.

In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Mikael (Michael Nyqvist) and Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) are asked to investigate the 40-year-old disappearance of a woman from a powerful family. They link the case to grotesque murders that took place at the time and uncover a dark and appalling family history.

Critical reception is overwhelmingly positive, though sensitive viewers should be warned about the graphic violence. It's also a rather long movie, running for two and a half hours.

House on RCA is bringing all three of the Millennium movies to Bangkok. Millennium 2: The Girl Who Played with Fire starts August 19 and Millennium 3: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest on August 25. It's in Swedish with English and Thai subtitles. Rated 18+.

Also opening

The Last Airbender – M. Night Shyamalan adapts the fantasy cartoon series that aired on the Nickelodeon channel in the U.S. about a boy hero named Aang, the last of his kind who can control all four elements. He leads his friends in an epic battle with the Fire Nation. Noah Ringer stars as Aang with Nicola Peltz and Jackson Rathbone as his friends in the Southern Water Tribe. Cliff Curtis is Fire Lord Ozai with Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire as his brooding son Zuko. The movie has a lot of computer-generated special effects and was retrofitted after production into 3D. It's been controversial because many of the main characters, who were Asian in the cartoon series, are portrayed by Caucasian actors in a common Hollywood practice called "facepainting", a controversy that also dogged the recent Prince of Persia. Critical reception is overwhelmingly negative, with the movie slammed for overblown special effects, an incomprehensible plot, laughable dialogue and a general sense of joylessness. At a press conference in Mexico, Shyamalan went on the defensive when a reporter asked him why his movies since The Sixth Sense have gotten worse and worse. “If I thought like you, I’d kill myself. ... Your impression of my career isn’t my impression of my career, it’s something you read on Google ..." In 3D in some cinemas. Rated G.

Also showing

FCCT-NETPAC Asian Film Festival – The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand's series of films accoladed by the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema continues this week with Akasa Kusum (Flowers of the Sky), directed by Prasanna Vithanage, who's considered the pioneer of Sri Lanka's New Wave. It's the winner of multiple awards, including the NETPAC Award at the Granada Festival in Cines del Sur, Spain, for "its strong portrayal of female characters whose lives, regrets and new beginnings are depicted in a delicate yet convincing way." The doyenne of Sri Lankan cinema, Malini Fonseka, portrays Sandhya, an aging movie star who rents a room in her home to movie "artistes", most of whom use it for their trysts. Scandal erupts when a young married actress (Dilhani Ekanayake) is caught with her actor-lover in her own home. Shalika then moves into Sandhya's house and the two become close friends. Suddenly, someone totally unknown and unexpected from Sandhya’s past reappears. Fonseka was a nominee for last year's Asian Pacific Screen Awards for her performance. It screens at 8pm on Thursday, July 29. Admission is 150 baht for non-members.

Legend of Mae Nak – Mae Nak Phra Khanong (แม่นาคพระโขนง) is an enduring ghost story, said to have a basis in fact, about a woman in the canal community of Phra Khanong in the 1800s, who died in childbirth while her husband was away fighting in a war. Her love was so strong, that when the husband returned, she and her child appeared to him to still be alive, and terrorized any neighbors who would dare tell him the truth. There's a shrine to the ghost wife at Wat Mahabutsoi off Soi On Nut. The story has been made into film more than a dozen times, and there have been TV series and stage plays based on it. The first film was made in 1959. Others have included Nonzee Nimibutr's much-acclaimed 1999 version, Nang Nak and even a Mae Nak in America in the 1970s. British director Mark Duffield cast Mae Nak as a ghostly protector of a young couple living in her house in 2005's Ghost of Mae Nak. The 2008 animated feature Nak had her as a candy-colored heroine teaming up with other famous Thai ghosts to save her child from being used by evil foreign ghosts. The various films will be discussed at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom on Saturday, July 31, starting at 1, with a screening of the 1995 short Mae Nak by Pimpaka Towira, which seeks to deconstruct the myth of Mae Nak by telling her side of the story. The talk will be in Thai, and I'm not sure the short film will have English subtitles. For details, call (02) 482 2013-14 ext 111.

The Adventure of Sudsakorn – The late animator Payut Ngaokrachang's seminal animated feature is based on an episode from Phra Aphai Mani, a 30,000-line epic poem by Sunthorn Phu, and depicts the fantastic adventures of the young son of a mermaid and a minstrel prince. It's screening at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, at 11am every Sunday until October 3. Call (02) 482 2013-14, ext 111.

Thai Short Film Marathon – Around 500 shorts are being shown in the selection round for next month's 14th Thai Short Film & Video Festival. It's a unique chance to take part in something I don't think any other film festival does. Screening are in the Bangkok Art and Culture Center's fourth-floor meeting room from 5 to 8.30 weekdays and 11 to 8.30 Saturday and Sunday, until August 1.

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