Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening January 26-February 1, 2012


In the early 2000s, Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane revolutionized Major League Baseball when he threw out the rule book. Up until then, players were largely scouted and fielded solely on the basis of their abilities. But Beane didn't look at the players and how they held the bat and or threw the ball – he looked at their statistics, and used those numbers to build a competitive team with just a fraction of the payroll of other big league teams like the New York Yankees.

Brad Pitt portrays Bean in Moneyball, which is based on a book by Michael Lewis. Jonah Hill is a statistics whiz who helps Beane devise his strategy, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is the A's manager, who is among the traditionalists who chafe at Beane's new approach.

Moneyball has long been in the works. At one time, Steven Soderbergh was attached to direct, and he wrote a screenplay that took an approach not liked by studio executives. So Bennett Miller (Capote) was brought aboard, and Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) was drafted to write a third version of the screenplay. He's credited for the final version along with Steve Zaillian.

It's nominated for six Academy Awards, including best actor for Pitt, a surprise supporting actor nod for Hill as well as best best picture and best adapted screenplay. Critical reception is mostly positive. Even if you don't know anything about baseball, you'll probably like Moneyball. It's at SF cinemas. Rated 13+.

Also opening

The Skin I Live In – Before he went to Hollywood to play Zorro, the desperado and voice a swashbuckling cartoon cat, Antonio Banderas acted in a number of films by Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. The Skin I Live In reunites the pair for a body-horror thriller that you might expect to come from the likes of David Cronenberg or Paul Verhoven. Banderas portrays a plastic surgeon who's haunted by past tragedies. He creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig is a mysterious and volatile woman (Elena Anaya) who holds the key to his obsession. Premiering in competition at last year's Cannes Film Festival, critical reception is mixed, but mostly positive. It's in Spanish with English and Thai subtitles at House, Paragon Cineplex and SFW CentralWorld. Rated 18+.

The Devil Inside – Here's another horror movie that's made in a documentary style with fake found footage, similar to The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. Here, a young documentary filmmaker becomes involved in a series of exorcisms during her quest to Italy to find out what happened to her mother, who is said to have murdered three people as a result of being possessed by a demon. Critical reception is extremely negative, but that doesn't matter because The Devil Inside opened at No. 1 at the U.S. box office when it was released there earlier this month. Rated 15+.

Always – Ex-boxer Cheol-Min (So Ji-Sub) works a night job as an attendant at a parking lot, which entails a lot of sitting in a tiny booth and watching a small TV. One night a woman named Jung-Hwa (Han Hyo-Joo) walks in, offers him something and sits next to him. Cheol-Min comes to realize she's blind and has mistaken him for the attendant who worked there previously. Or has she? Directed by Song Il-Gon, Always was the opening film of last year's Busan film festival. In Korean with Thai subtitles at Apex, CentralWorld and Paragon Cineplex; elsewhere Thai-dubbed. Rated 13+.

Panya Raenu 2 (ปัญญา เรณู 2) – Last year, actor-director Bin Binluerit made an independent film about Isaan schoolchildren entering a singing contest. It was a project near and dear to his heart and he must have been gratified when audiences turned up to watch it, plunking down more than $420,000 or about 13 million baht at the box office. However, if you were among the many who saw Panya Raenu, you might wonder how there can be a sequel. No matter. Sahamongkol Film International has got hold of it now, and though Bin is still the director and the child stars are the same, the cast has the new addition of such box-office stars as “Tukky” Sudarat Butrprom and Petthai “Mum Jokmok” Wongkhamlao. The story this time around has the schoolkids heading to Bangkok for a music contest, but star singer Panya is missing. Chubby loud-mouthed girl Raenu and the rest have to find him. Rated G.

Rak Sudthai Pai Na (รักสุดท้าย ป้ายหน้) – Last year, two of Thailand's major studios released duelling romantic comedies about thirtysomething women. Sahamongkol had 30+ Singles on Sale and less than a month later M-Thirtynine offered 30 Kamlung Jaew. Both were hits at the box office. Now Five Star Production wants in on the action. So they've released Rak Sudthai Pai Na, in which an unlucky-in-love career gal (Khanuengnit Jakkrasamithanon) finds herself on a city bus, which jerks to a stop and throws her against a short-pants-clad high-school kid (Thakrit Hemannopjit). The two strike up a friendship, but with the age difference, the relationship is a struggle. Kirati Nakinthanon directs. Rated G.

Also showing

World Film Festival of Bangkok – Shortened from 10 days to eight after being moved to this month because of flooding in November, the ninth edition of the World Film Festival of Bangkok ends tomorrow. If you're free tonight, check out Once Upon a Time in Anatolia by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. The crime drama won the Grand Prize at Cannes last year. It's also showing at 8.30 on Friday night. And there's also the debut feature by Rirkrit Tiravanija, premiering tonight and screening again tomorrow. It's a documentary about an elderly farmer in Chiang Mai province, who's been a subject of some of Rirkrit's other artworks. Another premiere tonight is the documentary The Cheer Ambassadors, about the Thailand National Cheerleading Team and their going to compete in the World Cheerleading Championships. The closing films, starting at 6pm on Friday, will be Earthly Paradise from Chile and a collection of Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki's films, including Rocky VI and Total Balalailaka Show. Those will be shown outdoors at the The Nine Neighborhood Center, a trendy new shopping mall on Rama IX Road, just west of the intersection with Sri Nakarin Road.

6th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival – Right on the heels of the World Film Festival of Bangkok is BEFF, which is held every other year or so. The sixth edition is themed "Raiding the Archives", and the festival line-up is a selection of vintage experimental films from the Thai Film Archive and other archives across Asia and around the world. It's being held in various venues around Bangkok, but on Saturday and Sunday, the main focus is at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, with the first program starting at noon and the last one at 5. Saturday's highlights include the South Korean feature An Escalator in World Order, re-edited newsreel and propaganda footage present a parade of past leaders pledging one new dawn after the other. It was the winner of the 2011 Jeonju International Film Festival audience award. There's also a selection from the Hanoi DOCLAB. On Sunday, there's Women on the Move, featuring pioneering female filmmakers in New Zealand in the late 1920s and 1930s. On Monday, screenings are at the Jim Thompson Art Center and on Wednesday at the Goethe-Institute. Click the link for the full schedule.

German Open Air Cinema – Actress-filmmaker Angela Schanelec directs and stars in next week's film, Afternoon (Nachmittag), a 2007 drama in which an an actress travels to her lakeside house near Berlin, where her brother Alex and her son Konstantin still live. It's summertime and the weather is hot. Konstantin’s girlfriend Agnes comes to visit her parents living in the house next door.

Take note

The Thai Film Archive has been organizing regular screenings at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. Not only old (unsubtitled) Thai films are being shown, but there are movies from other countries too, and those will generally have English subtitles. The screenings are in the fourth-floor conference room, which is not particularly well-suited for film viewing. However, the alternative in catching the Film Archive's programs is making your way out to the Archive itself in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, about an hour from the city center. Seems some Bangkok folks complained about the difficulty in getting there, so the Archive is bringing the films to them. The showtimes are at 6pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Check the BACC website for details (mostly Thai only).

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