Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening February 9-13, 2012

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

George Lucas continues to squeeze his hit sci-fi franchise for more cash with the re-release of all six films in 3D.

From 1999, Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace was the first of the much-panned trilogy of prequels to his critically acclaimed Star Wars films of the 1970s and '80s. Here, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a cocky Jedi apprentice. He's played by Ewan McGregor. With his Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), they discover a 9-year-old boy living as a slave on the desert planet of Tattooine. Strong in the Force he is. The Jedi knights are escorting a young queen (Natalie Portman), who forms a bond with the boy during their spacefaring adventures.

Despite its childishness, Phantom Menace is a generally rollicking action flick, featuring a pod-speeder race in the desert and a visit to a fantastic aquatic planet (which leads to the unfortunate introduction of goofball character Jar-Jar Binks). And, for as much as it's highlighted on the poster, the light-sabre fight with the deadly Darth Maul is all too brief.

Critical reception is mixed, slightly leaning to favorable. Rated G.

Also opening

The Woman in Black – Daniel Radcliffe keeps going after the completion of the Harry Potter movies, starring in this Hammer Film thriller that's set in spooky Edwardian-era England. He's Arthur Kipps, a young widower lawyer who leaves his young son to travel to a creepy remote village to attend to the affairs of the deceased owner of Eel Marsh House. There, he finds that the locals are haunted by a mysterious vengeful woman. Critical reception for this traditional period thriller is mixed, leaning to positive. Rated 15+.

Safe House – Ryan Reynolds is a young CIA agent who is tasked with looking after a fugitive (Denzel Washington) who is back on the grid after a decade on the run. When the South African safe house he's remanded to is attacked by mercenaries, the pair escape and become unlikely allies while on the run, trying to stay alive. Vera Farmiga and Brendan Gleeson also star. It's the Hollywood debut by Swedish director Daniel Espinosa. This one's just being released in the U.S. this week, so there's no critical consensus yet. Rated 15+.

W.E. – A young woman (Abbie Cornish) stuck in a abusive, loveless marriage with a Russian security guard in 1990s New York, channels her energy into an obsession with Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough), the American socialite for whom Britain's King Edward VIII (James D'Arcy) gave up the throne – a story touched on in last year's award-winner The King's Speech. It's the second directorial feature effort by Madonna, who previously helmed the 2008 romance Filth and Wisdom. With only a limited release so far, critical reception is generally negative. It's at CentralWorld, House and Paragon. Rated 15+.

The Iron Lady – Not to be confused with The Lady, the Aung San Suu Kyi biopic that opened last week, this one stars Meryl Streep as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. It's the story of the price she paid for power in a male-dominated world. Jim Broadbent also stars, portraying Dennis Thatcher. It's nominated for two Oscars, including best actress for Streep, who also won her eighth Golden Globe award for the role. Phyllida Lloyd, who previously worked with Streep on the ABBA musical film Mamma Mia!!, directs. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to negative. Rated G.

Valentine Sweety (วาเลนไทน์ สวีทตี้) – The cameras kept rolling after the December release of director Rerkchai Paungpetch’s New Year’s ensemble romance Bangkok Sweety, following five groups of lovers into Valentine's Day. "Dan" Worrawech Danuwong, Keerati and Ramita Mahapreukpong, Kavi Tanjararak, "Pae" Arak Amornsupasiri, Apinya Sakuljaroensuk and Kotee Aramboy star. Rated 15+.

Take note

This is a shorter week for movie releases because of next week's Valentine's Day holiday, when there will a couple of Thai romance movies released especially on that day. I'll aim to do another update before then.

One special event worth mentioning now is the Valentine's Day Cinema Picnic by Moonlight that's part of the annual La Fête French-Thai cultural festival.

The highlight will be the screening of the recently restored proto-science-fiction film, 1902's A Trip to the Moon by pioneering filmmaker Georges Méliès. That’s followed by Emmanuel Mouret’s romantic comedy from last year, The Art of Love.

Admission is free. The show time is at 7.30 at the Museum Siam.

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