Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening February 17-23, 2011

Norwegian Wood

French-Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung (The Scent of Green Papaya, Cyclo) brings Haruki Murakami's best-selling 1987 novel to the big screen.

The story is set in the 1960s and involves Watanabe (Ken'ichi Matsuyama) whose best buddy from high school commits suicide. Watanabe then enters the university where he meets his dead pal's sweetheart Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi). They bond over their mutual loss, but Naoko continues to be an emotional basketcase.

Meanwhile, Watanabe is attracted to the outgoing Midori (Kiko Mizuhara).

Notably, the movie is scored by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, who previously composed the chilling atmospheric soundtrack to There Will Be Blood. And as a bonus, the filmmakers were able to license the original Beatles' track that sparks Watanabe's nostalgic reminiscing.

Critical reception has been mixed. Rinko Kikuchi has been praised for her performance as the withdrawn Naoko, and Greenwood's score also gets thumbs up. Norwegian Wood premiered in competition at last year's Venice International Film Festival and also played at the Toronto International Film Festival. It won an award for Best Composer at the seventh Dubai International Film Festival and is nominated for three Asian Film Awards, including Best Actress for Kikuchi and Cinematograpy by Mark Lee Ping-bin.

It's playing at House on RCA and the Scala in Siam Square. Rated 18+.

Also opening

SanctumAvatar director James Cameron's fascination with scuba diving and filming underwater worlds continues to manifest itself in his movie projects. He produces Sanctum, which is said to use the same 3D filming technology he pioneered on Avatar. The adventure drama involves a bunch of divers who head to remote Papua New Guinea to be the first to explore an uncharted series of caves. They become trapped when a cyclone floods the caves, forcing them all deeper and into more danger. Critical reception is leaning to negative, with the consensus being it's "beautifully photographed, and it makes better use of 3D technology than most, but that doesn't make up for its ham-handed script and lifeless cast." In 3D. Rated 15+.

I Am Number Four – Nine teenagers from another planet have been sent to live on Earth in order to escape an enemy alien species. They will have superpowers. Three have been killed. Under the watchful eye of his guardian (Timothy Olyphant), the fourth kid (Alex Pettyfer) is growing up in small-town Ohio and trying to blend in as an ordinary high-school kid. And like most teenage boys, he falls in love with a girl, giving him a reason to take a stand when his assailants come calling. The movie is adapted from the young adult sci-fi novel of the same name. DJ Caruso (The Salton Sea, Eagle Eye) directs, with Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg producing. The movie is opening worldwide this weekend, so critics haven't yet weighed in. Also in IMAX. Rated 15+.

Love and Other Drugs – Jake Gyllenhaal is a hard-driving, womanizing salesman for Pfizer, hawking the anti-depressant Zoloft. He meets an early-onset Parkinsons' patient (Anne Hathaway) and the two almost immediately start having sexual relations. He then switches to selling Viagra, and the couple's sex life vastly improves. But what began as a relationship based on only sex turns into something more meaningful. Oliver Platt and Hank Azaria also star. Edward Zwick directs. The fact-based romantic comedy is adapted from Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman, a memoir by Jamie Reidy. Critical reception is evenly mixed with the consensus being it's a refreshingly adult rom-com but "struggles to find a balance between its disparate plot elements". Gyllenhaal and Hathaway were Golden Globe nominees for their performances. At Apex and SF cinemas. Rated 18+.

Panya Reanu (ปัญญา เรณู ) – Bin Banluerit is perhaps most well known for his role in the action film Bang Rajan but as a director he's making a sweet and sentimental childhood romantic comedy that looks to be channeling the same kind of nostalgia as the 2003 hit Fan Chan. Here, instead of being set in a Thai-Chinese town in central Thailand, the story is set in Isaan and involves a village boy Panya. He has his eyes on a local cute girl but is hounded by the chubby girl Reanu. Music plays a part in this movie as well, with the kids getting involved in a song and dance contest. A few of the familiar comedians make appearances in supporting and cameo roles. Check the trailer at YouTube. Rated G.

Also showing

Patiala House – Akshay Kumar and Anushka Sharma star in this drama about a second-generation Sikh in London who's given up on his dream to save his father's reputation. But then he meets a woman who gives him the strength to stand up for what he believes. It's in Hindi with English subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit (Ekamai) on Friday and Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 7.30 and at Major Cineplex Rama III on Sunday at 4. Visit or call (089) 488 2620.

A Year Ago in Winter (Im Winter ein Jahr) – This year's open-air film series at the Goethe-Institut Bangkok ends on Tuesday with this 2008 drama directed by Caroline Link about an artist who is commissioned by a mother to paint a posthumous portrait of her son, who committed suicide, and put him in a painting with his still-living, fiercely resistant dancer sister. The show time is at 7.30. Call (02) 287 0942-4 or check the Goethe-Institut website.

Sneak preview

The Eagle – Channing Tatum is a Roman centurion in Britain in 140 AD, looking for the truth behind the disappearance of the Ninth Legion, which his father belonged to. Determined to recover the eagle standard of the Ninth, he sets out on an adventure with his slave (Jaime Bell), and the two form a bond of friendship while also fighting the fierce Pictish warrior tribes. Mark Strong and Donald Sutherland also star. Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, State of Play) directs. Critical reception is edging to negative, with the consensus being "The Eagle has a pleasantly traditional action-adventure appeal, but it's drowned out by Kevin Macdonald's stolid direction and Channing Tatum's uninspired work in the central role." It's in sneak previews starting at around 8 nightly at Major Cineplex and SF cinemas. Rated 15+.

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