Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening January 6-12, 2011


DreamWorks Animation has assembled yet another all-star cast for its latest animated feature Megamind, a superhero comedy that focuses on the villain.

Will Ferrell voices the title character, a big-brained alien. His story parallels that of Superman. At just eight days old, as his home planet was being destroyed, he was put into a capsule by his parents and sent to Earth. It turns out that a rescue pod containing another infant alien – Metro Man – was also being sent to Earth. The two collided, and Megamind landed in a prison, where he was raised by the inmates while Metro Man was raised by a wealthy family. While Metro Man (Brad Pitt) became the heroic popular defender of Metro City, Megamind discovered his only talent was for causing trouble. He finally gets rid of Metro Man, but then finds his life has no meaning.

Tiny Fey also stars, providing the voice for a female TV reporter. The cast also features Jonah Hill, Justin Long, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, JK Simmons, Ben Stiller and David Cross as Minion, Megamind's talking-fish sidekick

Critical reception is mostly positive. It's in 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated G.

Also opening

Hereafter – Clint Eastwood directs this drama that deals with the parallel stories of three people who are affected by death in different ways. Matt Damon is an American blue-collar laborer who is somehow able to communicate with the dead. Cécile de France is a French television journalist who survives a tsunami. And Frankie and George McLaren play Marcus and Jason, an English boy and his elder twin brother, the latter of whom is killed in a car accident. Critical reception is mixed, with the consensus being that "despite a thought-provoking premise and Clint Eastwood's typical flair, Hereafter fails to generate much compelling drama, straddling the line between poignant sentimentality and hokey tedium." Rated 15+.

Hor Taew Taek Waek Chi-Mi (หอแต๋วแตก แหกชิมิ) – Poj Arnon mixes the gay-icon vampires and shirtless werewolves of the Twilight franchise with Gothic horror in this third episode of his ghost-comedy franchise. Here, the three cross-dressing owners of a college dormitory visit a fraternity house. Poj's production faced controversy last year when the movie poster was censored by the Culture Ministry, which had determined that the shirtless vampire was showing too much skin wearing just a pair of white bikini briefs. The solution was to put some trousers on the bare-chested young man, while the hefty comedians in revealing women's bathing suits went unchanged. Meanwhile, there's a trailer at YouTube, and it shows plenty of skin, though it's mainly the protruding belly of rotund little funnyman Kohtee Aramboy. The film's original title, Hor Taew Taek Haek Chi-Mi was also deemed inappropriate by culture minders, so the vulgar and violent "haek" (to rip apart) became the more polite "waek" (to pull apart). Whatever. Even fluent Thai speakers have trouble translating the film's title. Further, the cultural watchdogs were wringing their hands over the use of the colloquial Thai expression "chi-mi", but they apprarently relented on that. Jaturong Ornnorm, Ekachai Srivichai and Yingsak Jonglertjessadawong also star. Rated 15+.

Space Battleship Yamato – Takashi Yamazaki (Always: Sunset on Third Street) directs this live-action adaptation of the 1970s sci-fi anime series. Takuya Kimura stars. He plays Kodai, leader of the ship's Tactical Unit. Veteran actor Tsutomu Yamazaki is the ship's captain. The story is set in the year 2199, when Earth has been under radioactive siege from aliens. Survivors have moved underground, but the contamination is slowly penetrating. Their only hope is the Yamato, the last space battleship. It sets out on a journey to a distant planet to acquire a device that can heal the ravaged Earth before it's too late. In Japanese with English and Thai subtitles in a few cinemas, Thai-dubbed in most places. Rated G.

Also showing

Japanese Film Festival 2011 – Akira Kurosawa Centennial Retrospective – The great Japanese director is paid tribute in this festival that runs until January 19 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. The fest opens at 8 tonight with Rashomon. Other highlights this week include 1949's The Quiet Duel, starring Toshiro Mifune as a syphilitic physician on Friday, parts one and two of the Judo Saga on Saturday, 1948's crime drama Drunken Angel starring Mifune and Takashi Shimura on Sunday, 1949's police procedural Stray Dog on Monday and 1952's Ikiru, starring Shimura in a drama that's celebrated as one of Kurosawa's most humanistic films on Wednesday. The full schedule was posted here earlier, or check it at the Japan Foundation website. Tickets are free, and are handed out one per person 30 minutes before showtime.

Eternity: Director's Cut (Chua Fah Din Salai, ชั่วฟ้าดินสลาย) – Running for 3 hours and 10 minutes – an hour longer than September's original theatrical release – the characters in director ML Bhandevanob Devakula's lush period potboiler are literally and figuratively more fleshed out with lots more skin and sex. The story is adapted from a 1943 novella by Malai Choopinit, and deals with a love triangle between a Burmese timber baron, his attractive younger wife and the man's handsome young nephew. Ananda Everingham and "Ploy" Chermarn Boonyasak star. Originally set to end yesterday, Chua Fah Din Salai: Director's Cut has proven to be popular and has been extended until January 19 at House on RCA, showing on Blu-ray with English subtitles. Rated 18+.

Tandoori Love – Since last month, the Goethe-Institut Bangkok has been holding its annual season of open-air screenings. This year's events run until February 22 at the institute on Sathorn Soi 1, every Tuesday at 7.30pm. Next Tuesday's show is Tandoori Love, a 2008 comedy by director Oliver Paulus about the misadventures of an Indian cook named Rajah in Switzerland. Vijay Raaz and Lavinia Wilson star. It's in German with English subtitles. Admission is free. Call (02) 287 0942-4 or check the Goethe-Institut website.

Bangkok Noir – Making a documentary for the German TV series Durch die Nacht mit... (Into the Night with ...), Bangkok-based filmmaker Marco Wilms got together with a wild pair, Nang Nak director Nonzee Nimibutr and In the Mood for Love cinematographer Christopher Doyle, who also worked with Thai helmer Pen-ek Ratanaruang on Last Life in the Universe (which Nonzee produced) and Invisible Waves. During their one night in Bangkok, Nonzee and Doyle visited the scenes and sources of inspirations for their films, including Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love, which is set in 1960s Hong Kong but was actually shot in Bangkok. Broadcast on German television last year, the episode will be screened at 6pm on Wednesday, January 12 at Bangkok's National Gallery as part of the"Bangkok Noir" photo exhibition mounted by the Goethe-Institut, running from January 6 to 30.

Les gens de la rizière (The Rice People) – French-schooled Cambodian refugee filmmaker Rithy Panh directs this 1994 drama that depicts the hardships of a family living in rural Cambodia in the years following the end of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. It's a time when rice is not grown, but handed out off the back of aid trucks. Peng Phan stars as Om, the matriarch of a struggling farming family. After tragedy strikes, she descends into madness, adding to the burden her children already face. Also known as Neak sre in the Khmer language, the movie premiered in the main competition at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival and was submitted to the 67th Academy Awards, the first time a Cambodian film had been submitted as a possible nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. With English subtitles at 7.30 on Wednesday, January 12 at the Alliance Française.

Take note

Update, May 2016: Some of the information below is incorrect. The screen at the Ratchayothin IMAX is not, in fact, a "real", full-size IMAX screen. While the auditorium is certainly more comfortable and less cramped than the one at Paragon, the fact remains that the only full-size, authentic IMAX screen in Thailand is the one at Paragon. The fact that the IMAX company does not differentiate between its various screen sizes waters down the brand, creates confusion and engenders distrust. Accept no substitutes.

IMAX is on an expansion blitz across Asia, and one of the newer IMAX theatres in the region is the IMAX Digital Theatre at Major Cineplex Ratchayothin. It opened a couple of months ago.

I took the time to check it out over the long holiday last weekend, catching Tron: Legacy and was impressed. It was a fantastic experience. I doubt I would have gotten as much enjoyment out of the movie if I'd seen the 2D version in a conventional theater.

Ratchayothin has a full-size IMAX screen, and the pitch and angle of the seating is not as steep and confined as it is at Siam Paragon's IMAX. At Ratchayothin, there's plenty of room and I didn't have to worry about the back of the seat in front of me banging into my knees. The seats are leather and quite comfortable. Also, I believe the admission price at Ratchayothin is generally less expensive than at Paragon. I paid 330 baht for a back-row seat.

I was initially skeptical of the rollout of the IMAX Digital Theatre brand in Thailand after I'd heard about the controversy over the inferior IMAX experience, which involved lower resolution and a smaller-than-usual "fake IMAX" screen.

So I was happy to see the gigantic screen at Ratchayothin, and I didn't notice any problems with the resolution.

Major Cineplex Ratchayothin was actually the site of Thailand's first IMAX theatre, but it was closed after Paragon Cineplex opened in 2006. So now Ratchayothin once again has an IMAX.

Located in suburban Bangkok, Major Ratchayothin is well away from the central city areas frequented by most foreigner residents and tourists, so it's a haul to get to. But it's worth the effort if you take your movie-viewing seriously. The easiest route is to take the subway to Phaholyothin station, exit to Central Lat Phrao and catch a taxi for the five-minute ride down the street.

Another IMAX digital theater is in the works for Thailand, at Major Cineplex Pinklao. There's also ones planned for Esplanade Kaerai-Ngamwongwan and at least another one or two locations.

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