Let the Bullets Fly
A bandit robs a conman impersonating a mayor to then try and take over a remote village in 1920s China in Let the Bullets Fly, a wild-west-style action comedy that's directed by and stars Jiang Wen. Playing the bandit, Jiang matches wits with the local crime boss, portrayed by Hong Kong tough-guy Chow Yun-fat. Ge You, Feng Xiaogang and Carina Lau also star.
Much like the spaghetti westerns of the 1960s and '70s had political overtones, pundits say Let the Bullets Fly is loaded with symbolism about China's politics and society. Jiang, however, remains coy about the message of his movie.
A record-breaking box-office hit in China earlier this year, Let the Bullets Fly has also been a critical success. It was nominated for five Asian Film Awards, including best director and screenplay for Jiang, best actor for Chow and supporting actress for Lau. It lost out on best film to Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, but won the prize for costume design.
Critical reception is mostly positive. It's Thai-dubbed except for one place in Bangkok – SFW CentralWorld, where it's playing in Mandarin with English and Thai subtitles. Rated 18+.
Rio – Brazilian-born director Carlos Saldanha, who previously made the Ice Age movies as well as Robots for Blue Sky Animation, turns to a subject near and dear to his heart with this musical talking-animals story of a domesticated macaw named Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) who embarks on an adventure in Rio de Janeiro with a wacky band of misfit friends, including a foxy female macaw (Anne Hathaway), toucans (including George Lopez), a bulldog named Luiz (Tracy Morgan), a red-crested cardinal named Pedro (Will.i.am) and his canary friend Nico (Jamie Foxx). Critical reception is mostly positive, with Rio praised as "a simple and charming movie [that] hits great heights thanks to its colorful visual palette, catchy music, and perfect vocal performances." In 3D. Rated G.
World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles – It's an apocalyptic crisis as Los Angeles comes under attack by powerful unknown forces in this sci-fi drama. Directed by South African helmer Jonathan Liebesman, the documentary-style action focuses mainly on US marines, soldiers and airmen and their response to the attack – presumably by aliens – and takes inspiration from such movies as Black Hawk Down and Saving Private Ryan. It's a war movie. Pro-military hoo-rah propaganda. Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Michael Pena, Ne-Yo and Ramon Rodriguez star. Critical reception is leaning to negative. "Overlong and overly burdened with war movie clichés, Battle: Los Angeles will entertain only the most ardent action junkies." Rated 13+.
Staten Island – The lives of three residents of New York's Staten Island intersect as they struggle to get ahead. Sully Halverson (Ethan Hawke) plans to rob mob boss Parmie Tarzo (Vincent D’Onifrio) while deaf-mute deli worker Jasper Sabiano (Seymour Cassel) wants to escape the mobsters who have infiltrated his life and business. An indie art-house crime drama that only saw a limited release in 2009, it's also known as Little New York. Critical reception is a bit thin on the ground. It's at House cinema on RCA.
Nang Phee (หนังผี, a.k.a. The Cinderella) – Weird supernatural stuff starts happening after a hot-tempered actor named Rashane dies on a movie set and his mother calls back his soul to take revenge on those who were involved in his demise. Sarunyoo Prachakit stars with Pattaranan "Nannie Girly Berry" Deeratsamee and "Nut" Niranaat Victoria Coates. Sarawut Intaraprom, who did last year's cracking horror thriller Tai Tang Klom (The Snow White), directs this release from Golden A Entertainment. See a bit more in the trailer. Rated 18+.
Scream 4 – Ten years have passed and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), now a self-help book author, returns home to Woodsboro on the last stop of her book tour. She reconnects with her friends Sheriff Dewey and Gale (David Arquette and Courtney Cox). It's also the 15th anniversary of the first Woodsboro Murders and unfortunately her appearance also brings about the return of the masked serial killer Ghostface. Wes Craven is back as director with series creator Kevin Williamson writing the script. In addition to original trilogy stars Campbell, Arquette and Cox, new faces Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere also star. Critical reception so far is mixed. The movie is just opening in the U.S. this week and is in sneak previews in Thai cinemas this week, with nightly showtimes starting at around 8 at most multiplexes. Rated 18+.
Movies are opening earlier than ordinary this week because of the Songkran (Thai New Year) holiday, which starts today and runs through Friday, though in some places it may go on longer. If you're a Songkran scrooge like me, the cinema offers a great place to take refuge from the watery festivities. However, the trick is getting out of your house and into your theatre seat while staying dry. If you have your own car, you have a good chance if you're heading to a mall multiplex with a covered parking garage. Or, try calling a taxi service, which can dispatch a cab to your door. I recommend the Howa taxis. They are clean and generally always professional. And keep your car doors locked. Use common sense. Take precautions to keep things dry that you don't want to get wet. Rubber sandals and an extra set of clothes are also good ideas. And actually, despite the water-throwing revelers (both at curbside stations and roving in pickup trucks), Songkran is a great time to be in Bangkok – the city empties out because folks go to visit their home provinces.