Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening October 7-13, 2010

The Red Eagle

Wisit Sasanatieng, the maker of such acclaimed movies as Tears of the Black Tiger (Fah Talai Jone) and Citizen Dog (Mah Nakhon), directs this superhero crime thriller.

The Red Eagle (Insee Dang, อินทรีเเดง) is a new version of a 1960s action-movie series that starred legendary leading man Mitr Chaibancha. He's a vigilante crimefighter named Rome Rittikrai who wears a red mask and goes by the name Red Eagle (Insee Dang).

Tragically, Mitr died on October 8, 1970, while making what became the last in his Red Eagle series, Golden Eagle (Insee Tong). Mitr fell from a rope ladder while being carried aloft by a helicopter in an accident that's been blamed on a lack of safety standards on Thai movie sets of the era.

The character was created by writer Sake Dusit for a 1956 crime novel that spawned a total of nine books, 10 movies and a TV series. Mitr starred in six of the films, and it's his Red Eagle that's most iconic.

The new movie's release comes one day before the 40th anniversary of Mitr's death and amid a flurry of hype, as The Red Eagle is probably the most heavily promoted Thai movie so far this year.

Thailand's current No. 1 leading man, Ananda Everingham, steps into Mitr's role.

It's a much darker, brooding character than Mitr played.

Instead of the fun-loving drunken playboy lawyer that Mitr portrayed, Ananda's Rome Rittikrai is a former special-forces operative. He's a secretive, brooding loner who is addicted to morphine and lives in a spartan basement underneath an icehouse.

His one love is a socialite anti-nuclear activist played by Yarinda Bunnag. She was once engaged to the prime minister (Pornwut Sarasin), but because of her protests against a nuclear power plant, she is targeted by a shadowy organization called the Matulee and comes under the Red Eagle's protection.

Meanwhile, there's a masked villain named the Black Devil (Jonathan Hallman) who is gunning (and slicing) for the Red Eagle.

Police are also after Red Eagle, with a brash young detective lieutenant (Wannasing Prasertkul) heading the investigation.

The often violent and bloody action eventually becomes fast, furious and relentless as the Red Eagle and the Black Devil clash with their swords on Bangkok's rooftops. Red Eagle races through the streets on his souped-up motorcycle.

It's a Hollywood-style, CGI-powered superhero thriller in the style of The Dark Knight or Spider-Man.

In production for around three years, this new version of The Red Eagle has had its share of drama. Filming finally got under way last year after having been delayed when Ananda suffered serious injuries in a motorcycle accident in 2008. Budgetary difficulties and creative differences have led to Wisit's saying this will be his last movie for a major studio. He has since revealed his hard feelings for the studio system in newspaper stories at The Nation and the Bangkok Post.

Interestingly, it's quite possibly the first movie to use the Wilhelm scream, an old-time Hollywood sound effect.

Adding to The Red Eagle mystique, there's lots of promotional tie-ins with the movie. You'll see adds for a fast-food restaurant, a bank, an energy drink and even the motorcycle Ananda rides. Bangkok's new Madame Tussaud's wax museum, opening in December at the former EGV Gold multiplex at Siam Discovery, gets in on the action with a wax figure of the original Red Eagle, Mitr Chaibancha. And the theater chains, SF cinemas and Major Cineplex, have each produced collectible Red Eagle popcorn sets.

A Nutshell Review has what's likely the first review of The Red Eagle and also an interview with Insee Dang himself, actor Ananda Everingham (both cross-published at Twitch).

Viewers will be in for a major surprise at the end, which will only further stoke the legend of The Red Eagle.

Watch the English-subtitled trailer at YouTube
. Rated 18+.

Also opening

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole – Zack Snyder, the director of 300 and Watchmen (and now the next Superman movie) turns to animation with this feature that's based on the Guardians of Ga'Hoole epic fantasy novels by Kathryn Lasky. It's produced in part by Animal Logic, the Australian studio that's best known for the singing penguin movie Happy Feet. Legend of the Guardians is actually a dark story, about young owls who become embroiled in a struggle for control of the owl kingdom. The voice cast includes Jim Sturgess, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Barclay, Abbie Cornish, Anthony LaPaglia, David Wenham, Helen Mirren, Sam Neill and Hugo Weaving. Critical reception is mixed, with reviews praising the beautiful animation but finding fault in the weak story. It's in 3D in some cinemas. Rated G.

Grown Ups – Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider star in this buddy comedy about high-school pals who reunite after 30 years for a 4th of July weekend at the lake resort where they spent their summer vacations as boys. Fart jokes and sight gags involving the rotund Kevin James and Rob Schneider's character's marriage to a much-older woman then ensue. Salma Hayek, Mario Bello and Maya Rudolph also star. Critical reception is overwhelmingly negative, with reviewers expecting better of the cast of former "Saturday Night Live" veterans. Rated 13+.

Anjaana Anjaani – Priyanka Chopra and Ranbir Kapoor star in this romantic comedy about two suicidal strangers who meet while trying to jump off the George Washington bridge in New York City. Critical reception is mixed. It's showing at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit (Ekkamai) on Friday at 8 and Sunday at 7.30 and at Major Cineplex Rama III on Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 4. Call 089 488 2620.

Also showing

Phuket/Boy Genius/The Sigh – A collection of three shorts by Wonderful Town director Aditya Assarat closes the current leg of the Extra Virgin's Director's Screen Project. Commissioned as a tourism promotion, Phuket is actually a bittersweet tale of a South Korean actress (played by Lim Su-jeong) who is trying to take a vacation in Phuket, but is harried by phone calls and fans. She is rescued by the hotel's limo driver (veteran actor Sorapong Chatree, whose portrayal of the driver is a bit lonely and sad). The driver Pong shows the actress the non-touristy aspects of life on the island. Boy Genius and The Sigh are from 2005 and 2006 and humorously deal with filmmaking. The first stars young director Sivaroj Kongsakul as a filmmaker struggling to make an art film in his back yard. The Sigh is about a soundman who discovers a woman's sigh on a recording, and with the help of a friend (Sivaroj again), sets about trying to find her. The two instead make a startling discovery. The screenings are at the recently re-opened SF World Cinema at CentralWorld, with showtimes at around 7.30 daily and additional 2.30 matinees on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Debt (Dlug) – The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand's Contemporary World Cinema series resumes this week with this highly acclaimed 1999 crime thriller by Polish director Krzysztof Krauze. It's about a pair of guys who try to obtain a loan from an old acquaintance without knowing he's tied to the Russian mafia and they subsequently end up owing him a debt even though they never received any cash. The bigger their debt becomes, the greater the stakes. For the screening, the Embassy of Poland will serve Wyborowa Vodka and Polish dumplings. The showtime is at 8pm. Admission is 150 baht for non-members and 100 baht for anyone wanting vodka shots and dumplings.

Cabaret Balkan: Rarely Seen Films from the Balkans – Postponed from two weeks ago, the screening series closes with a pair of classic 1960s and '70s Bulgarian films. First up is The Peach Thief from 1964. Directed by Vulo Radev, the drama has the wife of a Bulgarian Army officer falling in love with a Serbian prisoner at the end of World war II. Next is The Goat Horn from 1972. Directed by Metodi Andonov, it's violent revenge tale about a goat herder whose wife is raped and killed. He then takes his daughter into the hills and raises her to avenge her mother's death. The movies, with English subtitles, 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.

Jeanne et le garçon formidable (Jeanne and the Perfect Guy) – Virginie Ledoyen stars in this 1988 musical-romance as a free-spirited young receptionist for a travel agency who meets a guy (Mathieu Demy) on the Paris subway and impulsively makes love to the man once all the other passengers have emptied out. The romance would be blissful if not for one tragic complication – he's HIV positive. It's showing on Wednesday, October 13, at 7:30pm at the Alliance Française, with English subtitles. Admission is free.

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