Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening, March 24-30, 2011

Sucker Punch

Fairytale princesses and nerd-boy comic-book fetishes combine in Sucker Punch, directed and co-written by Zack Snyder.

Unlike Snyder's previous films, including 300 and Watchmen, Sucker Punch is not based on a graphic novel, even though the girl-powered fantasy looks like it's ripped from the pulpy pages of a comic and reframed panel for panel.

Emily Browning stars as Baby Doll. Her Cinderella-like character is locked away in an institution. There, her imagination takes over and she finds herself in a dreamworld where she is in control, wearing a midriff-baring schoolgirl uniform and fighting an army of steampunk robots. She urges her similarly scantily clad fellow inmates to join her in the battle. They include Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung.

Oscar Isaac, Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm and Scott Glenn also star.

Fan buzz is pretty high, but since Sucker Punch hits theaters worldwide this week, critical reception is too early to tell. Also at IMAX (but not in 3D). Rated 13+.

Also opening

Shine a Light – Martin Scorsese often uses the music of the Rolling Stones in his films, so it's only fitting that he be the one to direct a concert documentary on the band. With the same bravado he exhibited in Goodfellas, Mean Streets and The Last Waltz, Scorsese effortlessly captured the swagger of the Stones as they played New York's Beacon Theater as part on their 2006 "A Bigger Bang" tour. It's a star-studded concert, with guest appearances by Jack White, Buddy Guy and Christina Aguilera as well as Bill Clinton. Released in 2008, Shine a Light was the closer of that year's World Film Festival of Bangkok. However, the festival's celebratory outdoor screening at Parc Paragon was marred by the venue's blinding lighted advertising billboards, which could not be shut off without costing millions of baht. So it's a welcome development that this enjoyable, highly entertaining concert film is being brought back for another go on the big screen. Critical reception is mostly favorable. It's playing at House on RCA, which will have the sound turned to 11. Rated G.

In a Better World (Hævnen) – Winner of this year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, this Danish drama is about a physician (Mikael Persbrandt ) who shuttles back and forth between his home in Denmark and work in a refugee camp in Africa. The Danish title is Hævnen, literally "the revenge", which stems from the main story about the doctor, his wife (Trine Dyrholm) and their two sons, one of whom is being bullied in school. The boy Elias (Markus Rygaard) is defended by a new kid in town, Christian (William Jøhnk Nielsen), and together the boys are involved in an act of revenge that puts all their lives in danger. Susanne Bier directs. Her previous films include After the Wedding and the original version of Brothers, which was remade with Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal. She also directed the Hollywood drama Things We Lost in the Fire. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's at Apex Siam Square. Rated 13+.

Gnomeo and Juliet – At night, after you've gone to sleep, your garden gnome statues come to life. There are two factions – red and blue – that have been at odds since the first statue was cast. This animated feature has two star-crossed lovers from the opposing sides, just like the Shakespeare tale. James McAvoy and Emily Blunt star, with the voice cast also featuring Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham, Ozzy Osbourne, Julie Walters and Patrick Stewart as well as a guest performance by Elton John. Directed by Kelly Asbury and produced by Starz Animation out of Canada, it's being released by Touchstone Pictures. Critical reception is mixed, with the main gripe being it's "too self-referential for its own good". In 3D in some cinemas. Rated G.

The Mechanic – Jason Statham stars in this remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson hitman thriller. He's an assassin known for his strict code and unique ways of cleanly eliminating targets. Ben Foster takes over the role originally played by Jan Michael Vincent, as the son of a previous target who is taken under the hitman's wing. Simon West (Tomb Raider, The General's Daughter) directs. Donald Sutherland also stars. Critical reception is mixed, the consensus being that "Jason Statham and Ben Foster turn in enjoyable performances, but this superficial remake betrays them with mind-numbing violence and action thriller cliches." It's at Apex Siam Square. Rated 15+.

Morning Glory – A plucky TV producer (Rachel McAdams) aims to revive a struggling morning news show by bringing in a veteran news anchor (Harrison Ford) and a former beauty queen and longtime TV personality (Diane Keaton). Problems arise when Ford's gruff, no-nonsense newsman balks at covering the usual light morning-show topics and he can't stand his co-host. Meanwhile, there's love behind the scenes for the producer. Patrick Wilson also stars. Critical reception is mixed, the consensus being "it's lifted by affable performances from its impeccable cast, and it's often charming – but is also inconsistent and derivative." Rated 13+.

The Resident – Cult horror label Hammer Film Production returns to the scene with this thriller starring Hilary Swank. Playing a divorced physician, she moves into a Brooklyn apartment and has a couple of nice neighbors, among them her landlord Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen, The Losers) and Hammer's Dracula star Christopher Lee. Feeling like she's being watched, she sets up a surveillance system that shows her fears were justified. Critical reception is mixed. At Major Cineplex (including Paragon, Paradise, Esplanade). Rated 18+.

Vanishing on 7th Street – A power outage plunges Detroit into darkness, leaving a disparate group of folks to work together to survive. Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton and John Leguizamo star. Brad Anderson directs the screenplay by Anthony Jaswinski. Critical reception is mixed, with reviewers referencing Twilight Zone in terms of the type of suspense that can be expected from this thriller. Rated 18+.

Also showing

French Film Festival – Part of the annual La Fête culture and arts festival, the seventh edition of Bangkok's French Film Festival continues until Sunday. Tonight's screening is the teenager-and-grandfather drama Restless. The hit romantic comedy Heartbreaker screens tomorrow night. Saturday has François Ozon's drug drama The Refuge, the musical biopic Gainsbourg, the Kurdish immigrant's adventure Welcome and the teen romance LOL (Laughing Out Loud). The fest wraps up on Sunday with Heartbreaker, the romance Mademoiselle Chambon and the teen thriller Lights Out. Screenings are at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Check the festival website for more details.

Invictus – Clint Eastwood directs this drama about the South African team’s inspirational country-healing win in the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The story is based on author John Carlin's Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation, which recalls the days when blacks actually rooted against the white-dominated rugby union side. Morgan Freeman portrays Nelson Mandela while Matt Damon is Springboks captain Francois Pienaar. It's screening at 8 tonight at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand as part of the Contemporary World Film Series. It's courtesy of the Embassy of South Africa, which will provide wine and snacks. Entry for non-members is 150 baht and 150 baht for anyone wanting to sample the wine and food.

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