Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening March 8-14, 2012

John Carter

"Tarzan" writer Edgar Rice Burroughs' 100-year-old "Barsoom" sci-fi adventure novels come to the big screen this week with Disney's John Carter.

Geographically confused actor Taylor Kitsch stars as the former Confederate officer of the U.S. Civil War who is mysteriously transported to the red planet. He finds that it's a lush, fantastic place that the 12-foot-tall, four-armed natives call Barsoom. Taken prisoner, he reluctantly becomes embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions amongst the inhabitants of the planet, including barbaric tribe leader Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and the Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins).

Samantha Morton, Thomas Haden Church, Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy and Bryan Cranston also star in this movie that's a mix of Star Wars, Avatar and Dune.

Aside from test footage from a aborted animated version by Bob Clampett back in the 1930s and the direct-to-DVD Princess of Mars in 2009, the John Carter project has long been stuck in Hollywood's development hell. At one time Sin City's Robert Rodriguez and Iron Man director Jon Favreau were attached to a planned Paramount production. Rights then reverted to Disney, which handed the project to Andrew Stanton, who previously helmed Pixar's Finding Nemo and WALL-E. John Carter marks Stanton's first foray into live-action film.

The movie is just being released this week, so critical reception has been minimal so far. It's in 2D, Digital 3D and IMAX 3D. Rated G.

Also opening

I Wish (Kiseki) – Two brothers forced to live separately due to their parents’ divorce hear that the energy created when two bullet trains pass each other for the first time on a new rail line will be enough to grant wishes. So they hatch a plan to harness that enery to bring their mom and dad back together. Hikaru Koreeada (Nobody Knows, Air Doll) directs. I Wish premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Festival. Child actor Ohshirô Maeda is a nominee for best newcomer at this year's Asian Film Awards. He stars in the film with his real-life brother Koki Maeda. Hiroshi Abe, Kirin Kiki and Jô Odagiri also star. It's in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at Apex Siam Square and House on RCA.

The Good Doctor – Orlando Bloom is an arrogant young doctor who transfers to a hospital in southern California to start his residency. Wanting respect more than anything, he sees his chance with an 18-year-old woman (Riley Keough) who is suffering from a kidney infection. However, when her health starts improving, he begins tampering with her treatment to keep her sick and him in control. Taraji P. Henson, Rob Morrow and Michael Peña also star. This hasn't been released in the States yet so there isn't much critical reception yet. At Major Cineplex, Esplanade, Paragon. Rated G.

Big Miracle – Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski star in this family friendly feel-good drama about a Greenpeace activist and a journalist who unite a town and mobilize a nationwide effort to save a family of gray whales trapped in the ice near Point Barrow, Alaska. Tim Blake Nelson also stars. It's a fact-based tale, based on Operation Breakthrough, which was chronicled in the 1989 book "Freeing the Whales". Critical reception is generally positive. At SF cinemas. Rated G.

Rak Ao Yoo (Love Flood) – Opportunistic director Poj Arnon mobilized film crews to wade into last year's floods to film the backdrop of this romantic comedy about an office worker (scandal-plagued singer-actor "Film" Rattapoom Tokongsub) and his buddy (Attaphong Attakitkun) volunteering to help flood victims with the ulterior motive of scoring with the ladies. He meets one he really likes (Busarin Yokphraiphan), but she doesn't feel the same way. Bencharat Wisitkitchakan also stars. Poj, his cast and crew had to work fast to make this movie while there was still water covering Bangkok's streets. The title comes from the Thai government's oft-repeated refrain during the flood crisis of ao yoo – "we can handle it" – which also has a sexual connotation in Thai slang. Rated 13+.

Also showing

French Film Festival – Part of La Fête, the annual French-Thai cultural festival, the French film fest opens tonight at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld with an invitation-only gala that will be graced by Oscar-nominated British actress Kristin Scott Thomas. She has lived and worked in France for several years and is the star of the Holocaust mystery Sarah’s Key, which is showing on Saturday at 8pm. Other movies this week are the romantic comedy The Names of Love at 8 on Friday, the comedy Service Entrance at 12.30 on Saturday, the family drama Wolberg's Family at 2.45 on Saturday and 8 on Wednesday; the comedy A Happy Event at 5.45 on Saturday, A Checkout Girl's Big Adventures at 12.30 on Sunday; Deep in the Woods at 2.45 on Sunday, Love Like Poison at 5 on Sunday, Khamsa at 7 on Sunday and 8 on Tuesday and Altogether Too Many! at 8 on Monday. The screenings, which continue until March 18, are in French with English subtitles. Tickets cost 120 baht (100 baht for students). There’s also a package of five tickets for 500 baht.

At the Horizon – Laos has for decades lagged behind its neighbors in film production, due to lack of support, strict censorship and piracy. Meanwhile, Laotian people watch Thai TV from just across the river and buy pirated DVDs of Hollywood and Korean fare. Hopefully that situation will change with a new generation of filmmakers, who have turned out the first Lao thriller. At the Horizon impressed the head film censor so much he wanted it to be premiered at last year's Luang Prabang Film Festival. It also was shown at the Hua Hin fest and the Lifescapes Southeast Asian Film Festival in Chiang Mai. It was released in Lao cinemas (there are three in the entire country) last month, although it had blurry spots covering guns, smoking and booze like on Thai TV, and the ending was changed. It's the story of two men from opposite ends of Laos' social strata, a spoiled rich kid and a mute motorcycle mechanic, who are thrown together by violent circumstances. Anysay Keola, who made the film as part of his master's thesis work at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, directs. It screens at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand on Monday night at 8. Anysay will be in attendance to answer all your questions. Admission for non-members is 150 baht.

Take note

Shame, starring Michael Fassbender as a sex addict in New York City, opened last week at the Lido cinemas in Siam Square. It was hoped that director Steve McQueen's controversial-but-acclaimed drama would screen uncut, especially because it is rated 20-, which supposedly prohibits anyone under 20 from seeing it.

However, the Bangkok Post reports that cuts have indeed been made to some of the sex scenes. And that is indeed a shame. It was hoped that the ratings system would put an end to the prudish censors acting as nannies to mature Thai audiences. But this isn't the case with Shame. I would advise Bangkok film-goers to give Shame a miss at the Lido. Perhaps wait for import DVDs to become available, if you really feel you must see it.

Update: Distributor M Pictures says the film has not been censored, but Bangkok movie-goers have complained on social-media websites that some scenes appear to have snipped. Fassbender's full-frontal scene is intact, but some of the sex scenes may have been cut, according to the complaints.

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