Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening January 20-26, 2011

Baby Arabia

A joyfully spiritual documentary that should get your toes tapping, Baby Arabia chronicles the Thai-Muslim musical ensemble that's been entertaining audiences around Bangkok for 35 years.

Directed by Panu Aree, Kong Rithdee and Kaweenipon Ketprasit, the documentary follows the familiar pattern of other rockumentaries, starting off with a performance, showing the band traveling to their gigs – including a wedding that's up a small canal – and then profiles the key members of the bands in their daily lives.

Key members include accordionist Supachai "Geh Baby" Luanwong, who founded the band back in the 1980s when the the Arab music boom was sparked in the Thai-Muslim community by folks bringing back LPs from Mecca. There's also lead guitarist Umar Noraheem, who sings the Arab lyrics and yodels.

There's also two female lead singers, the husky voiced Jameelah Baby and Suriyah Madtorhead, who coaches the band's young back-up singer/dancers.

The band members are careful to point out that their faith comes first, and they hope that's the message their music brings.

Baby Arabia premiered at last year's Thai Short Film and Video Festival, was screened at the Vancouver film fest and has had a few other appearances around Thailand. It starts a limited run this week at House on RCA. Rated G.


Amores Perros and Babel director Alejandro González Iñárritu continues to explore dark themes in Biutiful, a drama that's set in Spain and stars Javier Bardem.

He plays Uxbal, a figure in Barcelona's underworld who's also a devoted dad. Suffering from cancer, he's seeking to put things right before he dies.

Biutiful premiered in competition at last year's Cannes Film Festival and is Mexico's submission to the Academy Awards. It's also nominated in the U.K.'s Bafta Awards and Bardem is a best-actor nominee. Critical reception is leaning to positive. At the Scala.

Also opening

Lud See Lud (หลุดสี่หลุด or หลุด 4 หลุด) – Chookiat Sakveerakul, Kongkiat Khomsiri and Phawit Panangkasiri bring their own styles to stories scripted or co-scripted by thriller writer Ekkasith Thairath, who rounds out the foursome with a directorial debut of his own in Sahamongkol Film International's horror omnibus. Eakasith, writer of such films as 13 Beloved, Body #19 and Who R U, offers Grian Laang Lok (เกรียน ล้าง โลก, a.k.a. Clean-Up Day), a short-but-sweet teaser to start things off. Alexander Rendel, the young actor who starred in Chookiat's 2004 debut feature Evil (Pisaj), stars, playing one of a group of guys hanging and talking about a virus to end the world. Kongkiat, who previously helmed Five Star's Slice, Muay Thai Chaiya and had a hand in the Art of the Devil series, directs the darkly comic Ran Kong Kwan Peua Kon Tee Kun Gliat (ร้าน ของขวัญ เพื่อ คน ที่ คุณ เกลียด , The Gift Shop for the Ones You Hate) stars "Boy" Pakorn Chatborirak as an office worker who's just been promoted to manager, and he receives some congratulatory gifts that aren't all that nice. Phawit, directing Keun Jit Lut (คืน จิต หลุด, Eerie Nights) brings the same film-noir touch as in last year's Buddhist crime thriller Nak Prok (Shadow of the Naga) in a similar tale of three criminals – led by Ananda Everingham, still in his angry bad-ass Red Eagle mode – on the run from the cops. Bad karma eventually catches up. And 13 Beloved and Love of Siam director Chukiat directs the colorful all-out comedy segment Hoo Aa Gong (ฮู อา กง), about a wacky Thai-Chinese family dealing with the spirit of their grandfather, who on his deathbed asked that his corpse be preserved "until ..." There's an English-subtitled trailer at the Sahamongkol Media channel. Rated 18+.

The Child's Eye – The Pang brothers try their hand at 3D – Hong Kong's first – with this new installment to their Eye series of ghost thrillers. Here, a group of young Hong Kong travelers are stranded in Bangkok by the political protests. A taxi driver takes them to a creepy old hotel where they experience all kinds of supernatural phenomena. Rainie Yang and Shawn Yue star. Critical reception is mixed. In 3D. Rated 15+.

Alpha and Omega – This 3D-animated talking animals movie is about wolves at opposite ends of the social order – an "alpha" shewolf who takes her duties to the pack seriously (voiced by Hayden Panettiere) and a slacker male wolf (Justin Long). They find themselves stranded in the wilderness far from their home territory and have an adventure with all sorts of wacky new friends. Dennis Hopper, Danny Glover and Christina Ricci are some of the other celebrity voices. Critical reception is mostly negative, but your kids won't care. In 3D. Rated G.

No One Killed Jessica – Raj Kumar Gupta directs this fact-based crime drama about a reporter (Rani Mukerji) teaming up with the sister (Vidya Balan) of a murdered model in order to bring the case to justice. Screens at 8pm on Saturday at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit (Ekamai) and at 4pm on Sunday at Major Cineplex Rama III. Bollywood Thai also brings back the Punjabi comedy Yamla Pagla Deewana at 8 on Saturday and at 4 Sunday at Major Rama III (yes, two Bollywood movies at Major Rama III!) and at 7.30 on Sunday at Major Ekamai. Call (089) 488 2620.

Also showing

Salaya International Documentary Film Festival – The Film Archive (Public Organization) in cooperation with the Thai Film Foundation organizes the first Salaya International Documentary Film Festival offering more than 20 Asian documentaries until Sunday at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom. Among the highlights is a tribute to Japanese director Ogawa Shinsuke with the screening of his most acclaimed work, 1968's Summer in Narita, the 1971 follow-up Narita: Peasants of the Second Fortress as well as his 210-minute epic from 1982, A Japanese Village. There's also short films from acclaimed Thai director Uruphong Raksasad. Check the full schedule here or see the Facebook events page.

French Open Air Cinema Festival – The Embassy of France and the Alliance Française bring French films to Phra Arthit Road's Santi Chai Prakan Park this weekend with the groundbreaking French New Wave classic A Bout de Souffle (Breathless) on Friday, the 2007 comedy whodunit L’Heure Zéro (Towards Zero) and the family comedy Les Enfants de Timpelbach (Trouble at Timpetill) starring Gerard Depardieu and Carole Bouquet on Sunday. Show times are at 7, all in French with English subtitles. Call (02) 670 4231 or check the Alliance Française website for more details.

Chulalongkorn University International Film Festival – The annual DVD-screening series of acclaimed foreign films starts back up on Monday with Eyes Wide Open, an Israeli drama about a taboo romance between ultra-orthodox Jewish men – a married father of four and a 20-year-old student. Next Wednesday's show is from Palestine, The Time That Remains, director Elia Suleiman’s semi-autobiographical account of his family, inspired by his father’s diaries, starting from when he was a resistance fighter in 1948, and by his mother’s letters to family members who were forced to leave the country. The show times are at 5 in the Mahachakrisirindhorn Building, ninth Floor. Admission is free. All movies are screened on DVD with English subtitles. Call (02) 218 4802 or visit

Krabat – Part of the annual open-air film series at the Goethe-Institut Bangkok until February 22, this coming Tuesday's show is a 2008 fantasy. David Kross and Daniel Brühl star in this Harry Potter-like supernatural thriller about boys learning sorcery. It's based on a 1971 book by Otfried Preußler, which was first published in English as The Satanic Mill and and republished in 2000 as The Curse of the Darkling Mill. The show time is at 7.30. Call (02) 287 0942-4 or check the Goethe-Institut website.

La grande séduction (Seducing Doctor Lewis) – Jean-François Pouliot directs this 2003 Canadian romantic comedy about a tiny fishing village that's seeking revitalization by luring a new factory. to do so, they need a new town doctor. With English subtitles at 7.30 on Wednesday, January 26 at the Alliance Française.

Take note

The Social Network was the top winner at the Golden Globe Awards, taking the prizes for best drama, screenplay for Aaron Sorkin, director David Fincher and the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. In observance of the win, Bangkok cinemas have brought back the movie for a revival run.

Other movies winning Globes included The King's Speech (best actor for Colin Firth), Black Swan (best actress for Natalie Portman) and The Fighter (best supporting actor and actress for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo).

The Fighter opens next week, and it's in sneak previews this weekend at some Major Cineplex branches and at Apex Siam Square.

Also coming to Bangkok is The King's Speech, at Apex Siam Square on February 3. And a Bangkok run is rumored for the ballet psychological thriller Black Swan.

Also getting an extended run thanks to an awards win is Eternity: Director's Cut, which is continuing at House on RCA. The period romantic drama made a breathtaking sweep at the Kom Chad Luek Awards, winning in five out of the seven categories: best movie, director and screenplay for ML Bhandevop Devakul and best actor and actress for Ananda Everingham and Ploy Chermarn.

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