Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening February 24-March 2, 2011

True Grit

Joel and Ethan Coen turn again to the western genre with True Grit. In doing so, they seek to more faithfully adapt the Charles Portis novel of the same name instead intead of doing a straight-up remake of the 1969 oater that starred John Wayne in an Oscar-winning role.

Might the Coens' Big Lebowski dude Jeff Bridges also get an Oscar for his portrayal of the one-eyed drunken U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn?

The hair-triggered lawman is hired by the story's ostensible main character – 14-year-old Mattie Ross – to go after the man who killed her father. She is also determined to accompany the marshal on the dangerous journey across Indian territory. Mattie is portrayed by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, and though she's billed as the star of the movie, she's been nominated for a best-supporting-actress Oscar.

Josh Brolin, who previously starred in the Coens' modern-day western No Country for Old Men, portrays the villain Tom Chaney. Matt Damon is along for the ride as LaBoeuf, a Texas Ranger, also after Chaney, and Barry Pepper is a member of Chaney's gang.

True Grit has been a riproaring success for the Coens, both critically and at the box office. Critical reception is overwhelmingly positive. It's also been among the fixtures of the awards season, winning at the Bafta Awards for cinematography by the Coens' frequent collaborator Roger Deakins. It's nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. Rated 15+.

Black Swan

Acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky turns from the world of professional wrestling to ballet with Black Swan>, a psychological thriller about competing dancers in a New York City ballet company.

Natalie Portman stars as a featured dancer who is locked in competition with a rival (Mila Kunis) over the lead role in Swan Lake. The productionusually requires a dancer to portray both the innocent and graceful White Swan, which Portman's Nina is perfect for, as well as the more sensual and guileful Black Swan, which is best suited for Nina's rival Lily. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her destructive dark side.

Critical reception is mostly positive, with the consensus being it's "bracingly intense, passionate and wildly melodramatic [gliding] on Darren Aronofsky's bold direction and a bravura performance from Natalie Portman."

Having premiered at last year's Venice International Film Festival, Black Swan ihas received five Academy Award nominations – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress for Portman, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. It was nominated for 12 Bafta Awards and won for best actress. Portman also won a Golden Globe for her performance.

It's a Major Cineplex, Esplanade, Paradise and Paragon cinemas. Rated 18+.

Also opening

Rabbit Hole – John Cameron Mitchell, director of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Shortbus, turns to mature family drama with this story a husband and wife whose happy marriage falls apart after the accidental death of their son. Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart star. Kidman is an Oscar nominee for her role of the distraught mother, struggling to redefine her life. Critical reception is mostly positive, with the consensus being "it's often painful to watch, but [the] finely written script and convincing performances make it worth the effort." It's at CentralWorld, the Lido, House and Paragon. Rated 18+.

Faster – Following a string of family-friendly kiddie movies for Disney, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is back in action in Faster, a revenge tale of an ex-con, out of prison and looking for his brother's killer. Billy Bob Thornton and Carla Gugino are a couple of cops who are tailing him. And there's mysterious no-name "killer" also gunning for him. Critical reception is mixed with the consensus being that "it's good to see Dwayne Johnson back in full-throttle action mode, but Faster doesn't deliver enough of the high-octane thrills promised by its title." Rated 18+.

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 (Jamie 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." Rated 15+.

The Microchip (ชิป /หาย, Chip/Hai) Director Krissanapong Rachata (Power Kids) directs this action comedy about an everyman named John (Akarin Akaranitimetharat) who accidentally comes across computer chip belonging to a gangster. He and his colorful friends then get into all sorts of trouble trying to return the gizmo to its owner. Anuwat Tarapan, Jazz Chuancheun and Kom Chuanchuen are among the huge supporting cast. The movie also introduces a new stunt talent, Simon Kook, who with his long hair and grim demeanor looks to be in the mold of Tony Jaa. And indeed, according to the studio Film Frame's website, he's been a stand-in for Jaa as well as Johnny Tri Nguyen. He plays an unstoppable cop in The Microchip. Check the trailer at YouTube. Rated 18+.

Also showing

A Ripe Volcano (ภูเขาไฟพิโรธ) – Filmmaker and visual artist Taiki Sakpisit and sound artist Yasuhiro Morinaga collaborate on this art installation, "an allegorical revelation where Bangkok becomes a site of mental eruption and the emotionally devastated land during the heights of terrors, primal fears, trauma, and the darkness of time."

A Ripe Volcano revisits The Rattanakosin Hotel, the site where the military troops captured and tortured the civilians, students and protestors who were hiding inside the hotel during the Black May of 1992; and Ratchadamnoen Stadium, a Roman amphitheatre styled Muay Thai boxing arena, which was built in 1941-45 during the Second World War and since then has become the theatrical labyrinth of physical and mental explosions.

There's a trailer at YouTube. Watch it full screen and turn up the sound. The multi-channel video and sound installation opens today at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, in the fourth floor studio, and runs until March 6.

Where Have all the Fish Gone? Killing the Mekong Dam by Dam – A planned Xayabury Dam on the Mekong just south of Luang Prabang could affect millions of people. While four dams have already been built on the Mekong in China, the proposed joint venture by the Lao government and a Thai construction company would be the first on the Southeast Asian reach of the river. With negative impacts from the Chinese dams already documented, there is already strong opposition to the new dam. A new movie by veteran journalist Tom Fawthrop looks at the Mekong. It'll screen at 8 tonigh at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand followed by a discussion with Tom and a panel of experts. Admission for non-members is 300 baht.

Selections from Sydney Underground Film Festival + PorndogsThe Reading Room and Filmvirus present selections of short films from the Sydney Underground Film Festival and a special screening of Porndogs: The Adventures of Sadie followed by a Q+A with director Greg Blatman on Saturday, February 26, from 2pm. You can see the full lineup of shorts at Filmvirus blog. The Reading Room is at 2 Silom Soi 19, opposite Central Silom.

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