Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 26-June 1, 2011

The Hangover Part II

The Wolf Pack is back, and this time they are in Bangkok.

As with the first Hangover, in The Hangover Part II Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) are running around the morning after, trying to piece together the events of the night before, which in their inebriated state, they've forgotten.

The rather labored plot, which was come up with as a way to cash in after the first Hangover proved to be a hit and heralded the return of R-rated comedy hijinks to the multiplexes, has the three friends and their pal Doug (Justin Bartha) traveling to Thailand for Stu’s wedding.

Hoping to prevent a repeat of the out-of-control bachelor party they had for Doug's wedding, Stu aims to just go to bed after the dignified pre-wedding dinner at a luxury resort on Krabi. However, at the urging of his bride-to-be (Jamie Chung), he relents for one celebratory beer on the beach with his buddies and his fiance's younger brother Teddy (Mason Lee).

Somehow they wake up the next morning in a seedy Bangkok hotel room, missing Teddy. Bearded Alan has his head shaved. And Stu has a facial tattoo that's just like Mike Tyson's.

Also, they have a monkey. And a monk turns up, wearing Teddy's Stanford sweatshirt.

The rest of what happens is a mystery, which is the main gimmick of these Hangover movies.

The filmmakers try to keep everyone guessing by seemingly encouraging rumors and scandals during the production.

Among early stories was that Mel Gibson was to play a tattoo artist. But then the movie's stars were outraged at the casting of the troubled actor with a history of anti-Semitic remarks and alleged abusive threats against his ex-girlfriend. So Liam Neeson was brought in to play the role. But then that didn't work out either. And so The Notebook director Nick Cassavetes was brought in for the cameo.

Bill Clinton was rumored to make a cameo after photos of him visiting the Bangkok filming location surfaced. But that was apparently just a rumor.

And one of the latest controversies concerns the capuchin monkey Crystal, who was said to have become addicted to smoking during the movie. That was just a joke by director Todd Phillips, but animal-rights activists were outraged anyway.

And even Ed Helms' facial tattoo has landed the film in legal hot water.

The movie was mostly filmed around Bangkok, with locations that include Soi Cowboy and Chinatown. It was one of the biggest productions to hit Thailand in the past year or so. Some other scenes were filmed on a Bangkok set that was constructed on the studio lot in Burbank, California.

Back for this episode is Ken Jeong, the Asian-American actor who was a dangerous foil for the guys in Vegas. Here, it looks like he's been partying with the buys and joining in their adventure. Mike Tyson is also making a cameo, somewhere. And so is Paul Giamatti.

You'll have to watch the movie to find out for sure. And then, you can't tell anyone. What happens in the cinema during The Hangover Part II stays in cinema.

Critical reception so far is mixed. Among the early reviewers is Roger Ebert, who says: "I'm no expert, but I've been to Bangkok, and while the city no doubt has a seamy side, let it be said that much of The Hangover Part II" plays like an anti-travelogue paid for by a rival tourist destination – Singapore, maybe." Rated 18+.

Also opening

Kung Fu Panda 2 – Jack Black and gang are back for a new martial-arts adventure in this DreamWorks Animation feature. Having acquired kung-fu skills, the portly panda Po is assigned by his master (Dustin Hoffman) to a mission with the Furious Five – Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Crane (David Cross) – to defeat their old enemy Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) who has acquired a deadly new weapon that threatens to make kung fu obsolete. James Hong returns as the voice of Mr. Ping, Po's adoptive goose dad. Other voices include Michelle Yeoh, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Haysbert and Danny McBride. Jennifer Yuh, who previously toiled away in the art department on such pictures as Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Dark City and the Spawn TV series, makes her feature directorial debut. Critical reception is pretty positive so far. It's in 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated G.

Puan Mai Kao (เพื่อนไม่เก่า, a.k.a. August Friends) – Formed as a fictional band for director Chukiat Sakveerakul's 2007 gay teen romance The Love of Siam, the August Band played at a few promotional appearances for the movie and proved so popular it became a real act. The band, which appeared in an animated Yellow Submarine-like fantasy segment in the shorts anthology Four Romances, now has a whole live-action feature built around them in Puan Mai Kao. "Peachy" Witwisit Hirunyawongkul and the rest of the guys hit the road for a bicycling journey from Bangkok to Lampang that will test their friendships. Kriangkrai Wachirathammaphon, who was a co-writer of Four Romances, directs with Chukiat as co-screenwriter. Rated 15+.

Do-Nut (โด๋ นัท) – Charlie Trairat stars in this love-triangle teen romance that is similar to last year's hit lesbian love story Yes or No, So I Love You. Charlie's an art student named Do who finds himself left out when his tomboyish friend Nut (Pimradapha Wright) pursues a romance with the pretty Jane (Phulada Luechatham). Nirun Thampreecha directs. Rated 13+.

Punished – Anthony Wong stars in this Hong Kong crime drama as a tyrannical tycoon. He's upset a lot of people, and someone punishes him by kidnapping and killing his daughter. Seeking revenge, he puts his bodyguard (Richie Ren) on the case. Law Wing-cheong directs. It's produced by Johnnie To and his Milky Way Image marque. Critical reception is mixed. It's in Cantonese with English and Thai subtitles at House on RCA.

Gantz: Perfect Answer – Filmed back-to-back with the first Gantz movie released earlier this year, this is a continuation of the adventures of two teens who were killed in a train accident and then brought back to life in a "game" in which they hunt down and kill aliens. But now, the stakes are higher, as the kids are ordered to kill humans instead of aliens. It's based on a manga and anime series. Kazunari Ninomiya and Kenichi Matsuyama star. Shinsuke Sato (The Princess Blade) directs. Critical reception is mixed. It's in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at Paragon and CentralWorld; elsewhere it's Thai-dubbed.

Also showing

You Say You Want a Revolution – For the past several weeks, this exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre has been hosting retrospectives of short films by local indie filmmakers. This Saturday's show features the work of Wiwat "Filmsick" Werwiwatlongsa, a Phuket-based film critic and writer who also makes short films. They include She Talk, What They Whisper, The Butterfly Effect and the Lav Diaz-inspired Encantos. The movies are projected onto a wall in a large corner of the BACC's ninth floor. There are a few beanbag chairs scattered around, so grab one if you get there in time. If not, you'll have to sit on the floor or lean against the back wall. The show time is from 3 to 6.

9 Film Fest – Nine short films, each nine minutes long and incorporating something about the No 9 in them, have been chosen for screening at the first 9 Film Fest, set for Saturday night at Siam Paragon. Founded by Brian Bennett, who started the original Bangkok Film Festival back in 1998, the 9 Film Fest is sponsored by the Bangkok Post. Judges are directors Nonzee Nimibutr, Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Pimpaka Towira, actor Ananda Everingham and the newspaper's film critic Kong Rithdee. They had 184 entries to choose from, each one made specifically for this festival. The top prize is 300,000 baht. The films will be screened in three "acts", broken up between by performances by the musical acts Calories Blah Blah and Buddha Bless. After the third act, there will be the awards presentation. A show by the rock band Paradox closes out the evening. Activities start at around 6 in Parc Paragon, the outdoor area in front of Siam Paragon. Here's the line-up of shorts:

  • 9 Days, directed by Meechai Tubphete. A home movie of a couple facing nine crisis-filled days.
  • 9 Years Later, directed by Krisanai Piriyarangsan. A soldier is trying to find a right spot for an uninterrupted radio signal.
  • Death of a Butterfly, directed by Pongpun Yuencheewit. A woman’s voice is reading a letter to a man.
  • The Elevator, directed by Suphasit Tanprasertsupa. Nine floors resemble nine stages of a person’s life.
  • Half, directed by Rakphong Rakrien. A political satire by a Thai who lives far away from Thailand and feels ashamed about what’s happening there.
  • Man with a Video Camera, directed by Kris Clijsters. Bangkok is seen in its state of flux, the ongoing change and the bubble of uncertainty beneath the surface.
  • Navigator, directed by Kanin Ramasoot. A driver and his GPS device get into a fight, break up, then make up.
  • The Numberman Theory, directed by Eeji Shimada. A man obsessed with numbers tries to represent the beauty of Arabic numbers with his body.
  • Touch Screen, directed by Katan Thammavijitdej. A teenage girl speaks with the world through her touch-screen mobile phone.

Third Class Party – Film activists Third Class Citizen, with support from Bioscope Magazine and SF cinemas, will celebrate the recent 64th Cannes Film Festival with a talk by local personalities who'll show photos and try to explain what it's like to attend the most prestigious film event on the planet. Among the speakers will be movie critic Kong Rithdee, who has regularly gone to Cannes to cover it for the Bangkok Post. Another will be filmmaker Anocha Suwichakornpong, whose master's thesis work Graceland was the first Thai short film chosen for the Cannes Cinefondation program. Also taking part will be indie filmmaker Panu Aree, whose day job is working in the international marketing department at Sahamongkol Film International, and "Teem" Chaisiri Jiwarangsan, an indie filmmaker who works with director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives became the first Thai film to win Cannes' top prize, the Palme d'Or, last year. The talk, which will be in Thai, is in the Eat@DoubleU restaurant at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld, from 3 to 5 on Sunday. Call 089-685-5253 for visit

Restropo – Following a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, this 2010 documentary focuses entirely on the remote 15-man outpost Restrepo, named after a platoon medic who was killed in action. It was considered one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. military, and the cameras never cut away from the action for talking-head interviews with generals or diplomats. Quite simply, this is war, and you are there. Co-directed by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, it received the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, was named as one of the top documentary films of 2010 by the National Board of Review and was nominated for the 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary. Critical reception is overwhelmingly positive. Hetherington died in April while covering the conflict in the Libya. This movie's screening at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand is in memory of him, and the FCCT will donate the proceeds to its Indochina Media Memorial Foundation, established in 1991 by journalist Tim Page in memory of journalists killed in the region's wars. It provides training to journalists in the lower Mekong region. The show time is at 8pm on Tuesday. Admission is Bt150 for non-members.

Faut-il Aimer Mathilde? – After her husband leaves, Mathilde has three suitors to choose from as she starts a new life. Dominque Blanc stars in this 1993 comedy-drama directed by Edwin Baily. It's part of a five-film line-up in June of movies about "life" and "actresses" at the Alliance Francaise Bangkok. Others are Les murs portuers on June 8, Quand on sera grand (Once We Grow Up) on June 15, Le Dernier des Fous (Demented) on June 22 and Sauf le Respect que Je Vous Dois on June 29. Showtimes are at 7.30 on Wednesday in the Alliance Francaise auditorium on Sathorn Tai Road. All are in French with English subtitles.

Sneak preview

InsidiousSaw franchise directors James Wan and Leigh Whannell team with Paranormal Activity writer-director Oren Peli offer this haunted-house tale. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne star as parents to move into an old house who suspect they are under siege from otherworldly forces when their son falls into a coma. Barbara Hershey and Lin Shaye co-star. Critical reception is leaning to positive. "Aside from a shaky final act, Insidious is a very scary and very fun haunted house thrill ride," says the consensus. It's in sneak previews this week from around 8 nightly at most cinemas. Rated 18+.

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