Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening August 19-25, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire

Did you see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo at House? I hope so, because it served as a bang-up introduction to the two main characters of the Swedish movie series, based on the Millennium trilogy of mystery novels by Stieg Larsson.

I'm hooked.

In The Girl Who Played With Fire, the troubled and rebellious genius computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) becomes a prime supect in a murder that has ties to the sex-trafficking trade from Eastern Europe.

She goes on the run while her friend and crime-fighting partner, the crusading, feminist-leaning journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), keeps his distance in trying to get to the bottom of the case and maybe even clear Lisbeth's name.

This movie hits the Bangkok boutique screen as more news about the Hollywood remake is hitting the wires. With 007 Daniel Craig already lined up to play Blomkvist, it's been announced that young actress Rooney Mara will play Lisbeth. She was most recently seen in the Nightmare on Elm Street remake. David Fincher is directing.

Much as I enjoyed the first entry in the Millennium movies (I've not read the books), I found myself distracted at wondering why the movie needs to be remade, but then reading subtitles isn't for everyone I suppose. And I think Daniel Craig is a ringer for Michael Nyqvist.

Critical reception is more mixed compared to Dragon Tattoo, with the consensus being it doesn't pack quite as much punch as the first. It's at House RCA, in Swedish with English and Thai subtitles. Rated 18+.

Guan Muen Ho (Hello Stranger)

Seems like everyone is getting in on the trend for South Korean pop culture in Thailand.

Last month, there was Poj Arnon's romance released by Phranakorn, Kao Rak Thee Korea (เการัก ที่เกาหลี, also Sorry Saranghaeyo).

Now comes GTH with a romantic comedy, Guan Muen Ho (กวน มึน โฮ ). Originally called Knowing Me, Knowing You, the official international English title is how Hello Stranger.

It's the solo bow by Banjong Pisanthanakun, who makes the switch to romantic comedy from horror after co-directing Shutter and Alone with Parkpoom Wongpoom and doing the comedic segments for the Phobia and Phobia 2 portmanteau horror movies.

The story has a young woman (newcomer "Noonaa" Neungtida Sophon), who's obsessed with South Korean TV dramas, and a young guy ("Ter" Chantavit Dhanasevi from Coming Soon). They meet on a package tour of South Korea and agree to travel together with the stipulation that they won't tell each other their names or try to get to know each other.

Banjong has said he aims to make a satire about the Thai fascination with Korean music, movies, TV shows, fashion and hairstyles, but it will also be a romantic comedy and show an awareness of that genre's cliches.

He tells The Nation that it's actually "anti-romantic".

"Most romantic comedies feature one charming character and one less-forward individual. The prominent character leads the other and they finally fall in love. But if the two characters don’t want to get to know each other then how does the romance ever get off the ground? That’s the challenge," he says.

Banjong says he likes South Korean films but has no interest in K-pop. The male character embodies his personal views while the female character is typical of the young Thai woman: She wants to visit South Korea to see the locations of her favorite TV shows.

“It’s like teasing; it’s not serious. I understand how they feel. If I had a chance to visit the the locations of Forrest Gump, I’d probably be the same,” he grins.

There's an English-subtitled trailer at YouTube. Rated 15+.

Also opening

MacGruber – The recurring Saturday Night Live sketch that parodies the 1980s action TV series MacGyver comes to the big screen with the bumbling special operative played by Will Forte called back into action to take down his arch-enemy, Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer). Kristen Wiig and Ryan Phillippe also star. Critical reception is mixed, though the consensus is that it's better than most SNL movie adaptations. It's only at SFX the Emporium. Rated 18+.

Splice – Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley play a pair of geneticists who defy the rules and secretly splice human and animal DNA, creating a new creature named Dren who turns into a dangerous beauty. Vincenzo Natali directs with Delphine Chanéac as the creature Dren. Critical reception is pretty positive, with the consensus being that fans of the type of "body horror" David Cronenberg made famous should enjoy it. Rated 15+.

Woochi – After he makes a mistake with his Taoist wizard colleagues, the wizare Woochi (Kang Dong-won) and his trusty dog Chorangyi (Yoo Hae-jin) are sealed into a painting, where they stay for 500 years until they are called out of retirement when goblins are causing havoc in modern-day South Korea. At the Lido.

The Back-up Plan – Jennifer Lopez stars in this romantic comedy as a single woman who conceives twins through artificial insemination, only to meet the man of her dreams (Alex O’Loughlin) the very same day. Critical reception is mostly negative, with the consensus being that while J.Lo is appealing is a pretty predictable and typically nonsensical rom-com. Only at Paragon, Esplanade and some Major Cineplex branches. Rated 15+.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt – Michael Douglas has been in the news recently, with word that he's undergoing treatment for throat cancer, but is confident of making a full recovery. And while we're waiting for him to appear in Oliver Stone's Wall Street sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, here he is as a corrupt district attorney. Jesse Metcalfe plays a young writer who seeks to expose the always-winning prosecutor's rigged trials by framing himself for murder. Amber Tamblyn also stars. Directed by Peter Hyams, this is a remake of a 1956 film-noir thriller by Fritz Lang. It's also apparently not as good, with critical reception being mostly negative. At the Lido.

Lafangey Parindey – Deepika Padukone (Om Shanti Om, Chandni Chowk to China) is a blind, roller-skating dancer who softens the heart of a fighter played by Neil Nitin Mukesh in this romantic comedy-drama directed by Pradeep Sarkar and produced by Aditya Chopra. In Hindi with English subtitles at Major Cineplex Central Rama III on Friday and Saturday 8 and Sunday at 4 and at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit (Ekamai) on Sunday and Monday at 7.30. Call (089) 488 2620 or visit

Also showing

International Award-Winning Thai Films – The Culture Ministry joins with Paragon Cineplex to salute Thai shorts and features that won awards and gained acclaim on the international festival circuit in a film series that runs until Sunday. Today at 5 and on Saturday at 5.30 it's Apichatpong Weerasethakul's A Letter to Uncle Boonmee, Kanitta Kwanyu's The Moment of Love , Nattaphong Homchuen's entertaining Red Man, Pichaya Chaidee's Love You If Me Dare and Zart Tancharoen's Relativity Plus Quantum. Tomorrow at 5 and Sunday at 1 are more shorts, Anocha Suwichakornpong's Graceland and Like. Real. Love. and Aditya Assarat's Waiting and 705/1 Sukhumvit 55. The 222-minute documentary on politics, society and southern Thailand, Citizen Juling, screens on Saturday at 1 and Sunday at 6. More about the films was covered here in an earlier post. The schedule is also at the Major Cineplex website. Tickets are 120 baht (80 baht for students). Call (02) 129 4635-36.

Mundane History (เจ้านกกระจอก, Jao Nok Krajok) – Playing as part of Extra Virgin's Director's Screen Project, director Anocha Suwichakornpong's family drama is loaded with symbolism as it comments on Thai society as well as life, the universe, and, well, everything. The story is about a young man who's been paralyzed in an accident. He's the scion of a well-to-do Bangkok family. The dad is cold and distant, too busy with his work to care much. He hires a male nurse for his son. The two are ill at ease – the rich kid because he's bitter about having to waited on hand and foot, and the nurse because he comes from upcountry and is ill-equipped to deal with the way his new patient looks down on him. The film is made unique by a non-linear structure, which gives it a jagged, jazz-like feel that's enhanced further by an alternative-rock soundtrack by the bands Furniture and the Photo Sticker Machine. Mundane History has been winning lots of awards, most recently the Grand Prix at the Era New Horizons International Film Festival in Poland. It screens until September 1 at SFX the Emporium, with nightly screenings at around 7 and additional Saturday and Sunday matinees at around 2. The showtimes are not fixed exactly, so check the SF website or Extra Virgin's calendar for the latest timings. Every Saturday, there's special activities, with a director's Q&A after the evening show. Rated 20-.

Chulalongkorn University International Film Festival – Michael Haneke's 2009 Palme d'Or-winning period drama The White Ribbon screens on Friday. Filmed in stark black and white, it's set in a northern German village on the eve of World War I. Thirst, Park Chan-wook's thriller about a priest-turned-vampire, screens on Monday. The show time is 5pm in the Boromrajakumari Building, Room 503 (seating capacity: 320). There's free parking next to Chulalongkorn University Auditorium. The movies are on DVD, all with the original soundtracks and English subtitles. Admission is free. Stay on afterward for a talk with film critics Kittisak Suvannapokhin, Nopamat Veohong and the Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee. Call (02) 218 4802 or visit

Rhythmic Uprising – This is a documentary on social and cultural movements by artists against class inequality in Bahia, Brazil, a region known for it's vibrant dance and music. The film takes a look behind the scenes of the grandiose Carnival spectacles to see how local cultural leaders use the arts to change lives. After the screening there will be a short music performance by Capoeira Angola Bangkok and then a panel discussion, "From Brazil to Thailand: Music as a Tool for Social Change" (in Thai only), with social activist Sombat Boon-ngam-anong, musician and activist Adchariya Sitikittisri, music scholar Atipop Pataradajapaisan and Vipash Purichanont as moderator. The show starts at 2 at Kyo Reading Room, upstairs through a narrow doorway in a shophouse at 2 Silom Soi 19, near the corner of Silom Road.
Call (02) 635 3674 or visit

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.

Cabaret Balkan: Rarely Seen Films from the Balkans – This film series got under way last Sunday with Emil Kusturica's wild comedy-drama Time of the Gypsies, about a Gypsy boy with telekinetic powers who helps wrangle grifters and beggars on the streets of Milan. They were showing the 4.5-hour, five-part mini-series made for Yugoslav television, but a technical problem prevented the final installment from being shown. It'll be screened this Sunday. The main program this week is two of Serbian director Aleksandar Petrovic's works from the 1960s, Three, a trio of World War II stories that was an Academy Award nominee for best foreign-language film, and I Even Met Happy Gypsies, a tragic romance that was also an Oscar nominee that won the Fipresci Prize and the jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1967. The movies are at Thammasat University Tha Prachan, in the Pridi Banomyong Library's Rewat Buddhinun Room, U2 Floor. The shows start at 12.30. The movies are on DVD. Admission is free. You'll have to inform the library staff you're watching the movies and let them copy your ID. Call (02) 613 3529 or (02) 613 3530 or visit the DK Filmhouse blog for the complete lineup.

Le voyage en Arménie – Anna, a cardiologist, discovers her father has fled to his native Armenia after being diagnosed with a heart problem. Despite their contentious relationship, she sets out to bring her father back to France for an operation. She is a tough-minded, headstrong woman with little feeling for her father's homeland or patience with its politics and socially intrusive culture, yet she finds this journey not only a reunion of sorts, but one of reconciliation. It's showing on Wednesday, August 25 at 7:30pm at the Alliance Francaise, with English subtitles. Admission is free.

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