Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 5-11, 2012

Black Gold

Director Jean-Jacques Annaud, maker of such films as The Name of the Rose and Seven Years in Tibet, was in Tunisia shooting Black Gold, an epic about about two sheikhs fighting over oil in the 1930s Middle East when Arab Spring broke out, and suddenly the authorities wanted to know why Annaud had 300 guns and loads of other military hardware.

Antonio Banderas stars. He had cornered Annaud, telling the director he'd always wanted to portray an Arab.

Tahir Rahim from Un Prophet also stars, along with Mark Strong (who's gone Arabic before in Body of Lies and Syriana) and Freida Pinto from Slumdog Millionaire.

It premiered at last year's Doha Tribeca International Film Festival. Critical reception is still bit thin, and is so far mostly negative. It's only at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Rated 15+.

Also opening

Himizu – Sono Sion adapts a popular manga for this story of star-crossed romance between troubled teenage schoolkids. It's set against the backdrop of disaster in northern Japan. Himizu premiered in competition at last year's Venice festival, where Shota Sometani and Fumi Nikaido received the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best New Young Actor and Actress. At House.

Titanic in 3D – James Cameron’s smash-hit 1997 disaster epic has been remastered and converted to 3D in honor of the 100th anniversary of the demise of the unsinkable ocean liner. One entire scene has even been reshot, to fix astronomical inaccuracies in the night sky. It's the same movie – only now the iceberg is in 3D. Critical reception remains fresh, even after all these years. Also at IMAX. Rated 13+.

The Cold Light of Day – After his family is kidnapped while on a sailing vacation in Spain, a Wall Street trader (eventual Superman star Henry Cavill) goes on the run and uncovers a conspiracy involving a mysterious briefcase. Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver also star. There's no critical reception yet because the movie hasn't been released in the US. Rated 13+.

The Vow – A young woman awakens from a coma and doesn’t remember her husband – only her ex-fiancé. Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum and Scott Speedman star. Critical reception is mostly negative. At SF cinemas. Rated 13+.

Housefull 2: The Dirty Dozen – The game of one-upmanship between competitive conmen continues as they all get married and then go to visit a wealthy in-law. The overstuffed cast has Akshay Kumar, John Abraham, Shreyas Talpade, Ritesh Deshmukh, Asin, Jacqueline Fernandez, Shazahn Padamsee, Zarine Khan, Mithun Chakraborty and more. It's in Hindi with English subtitles at SF Cinema Terminal 21 at 8.30 tonight and tomorrow, SFW CentralWorld on Saturday at 8, Major Rama III on Sunday at 4 and 7pm and at Major Sukhumvit on Monday at 8. Call (089) 488 2620, (02) 225 7500 or see

Mr. Idol – Three years after the death of the lead vocalist of her band, a producer (Park Ye-jin) returns to South Korea with the intention of making a comeback. She finds a promising new lead singer, but after a bit of success, a rival music company posts a damaging video clip. Ji Hyun-Woo and Jay Park also star. It's at most cinemas, including Apex Siam Square. Rated 13+.

Plon Naya 2 Ai Yah! (ปล้นนะยะ 2 อั๊ยยยย่ะ) – It was back in 2004 when director Poj Arnon made the bank-robbery farce Spicy Beauty Queens in Bangkok, about colorful transgender cabaret dancers robbing a bank to pay for sex-change operations. Now they are back in their sequined costumes and outlandish wigs for this sequel. Jaturong Pollaboon returns as the ringleader, after having fled abroad. He comes home to finally have that operation. But then the hospital is stormed by a radical student group, led by Somchai Kemklad, doing his usual Somchai Kemklad hotheaded act. Original cast member Charoenporn "Kohtee" Onlamai is among the returnees. They're joined by Kirk Schiller, among others. Actress "Tak" Bongkote Kongmalai is also in cast, apparently having forgiven Poj after they feuded during the making of the martial-arts flick Chalee's Angels a.k.a. Dangerous Flowers. Rated 15+.

Ma Mha 2 (มะหมา 2) – And here's another Thai sequel. This one is to the NGR studio's 2007 talking-dog movie that had the English title of Mid-Road Gang. It proved pretty popular and led to more opportunities for the Chaipak Dog Training Center, which has since supplied many trained dogs to the entertainment industry. Pantham Thongsang again directs. It's mostly a batch of new dogs doing all kinds of new tricks, like running through alleys and jumping through hoops as if they were Tony Jaa in Ong-Bak. The canine cast is led by a pure-breed Thai Bangkaew named Jer. He's voiced by young actor Jirayu La-ongmanee. Jer runs into trouble when he's unjustly accused of attacking his master’s child but in fact, the infant has been kidnapped and it’s up to Jer to rescue the tyke. Pitisak Yaowananon, who starred in Pantham's 2004 drama Ai Fak, also stars. More about the movie is in a Bangkok Post story. Rated G.

Also showing

Burmese Dreaming – With the recent election win by democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, many media organizations, now including The Nation, have changed their long-standing policies to refer to Burma as Myanmar. And the former capital is Yangon, not Rangoon. Whatever. Though the political landscape has changed, the human-rights abuses of the past shouldn't be forgotten. So it goes in this 2010 film in which a young Karen woman has a nightmare about the killing of her father by soldiers in a mountain village. She wakes up in a refugee camp on the Thai border. She has been there for six years but still her mind is elsewhere. It's based on the life of Say Say Lah, a refugee imprisoned by the military at age five. Other stories are edited from the tales of students in Umpiem refugee camp. It screens at 8 tonight at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. Entry for non-members is 300 baht.

Belle de jour  – The Alliance Francais has resumed its screenings after a hiatus last month for the French Film Festival and other activities related to Le Fete. In fact, just yesterday, they showed the Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Sorry I didn't know about it until now. Next Wednesday it's another classic of French cinema – 1967's Belle De Jour, starring Catherine Deneuve as a housewife who grows bored and secretly sneaks off to work in a whorehouse during her afternoons. It's directed by Luis Buñuel. Other screenings this month are Le genou de Claire from 1970 and A nos Amours from 1983. Check the Alliance Francais website for more information. Show times are at 7.30 on Wednesdays.

Take note

The staircase and five-layer chandelier in the Scala's lobby. Photo by Philip Jablon, via the Southeast Asian Movie Theater Project.
There might have been a stay of execution in the pending plans to raze Siam Square's Lido and Scala cinemas, according to the Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project, which reports the ornate art-deco Scala theater will be the recipient of an "Award for Outstanding Conservation of Art and Architecture 2012," by the Association of Siamese Architects Under Royal Patronage.

It "should be good news and help to delay demolition."

But don't relax until Chulalongkorn University officially calls off plans to demolish the cinemas.

 There's more news for Thai readers at at Matichon Online.

Lido plans are also on hold pending a decision by Chulalongkorn University, the Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project reports.

Earlier, the Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project had reported on a "pending victory":

In a recent e-mail exchange with the general manager of Apex, an interesting new development was made known.

Apex president Nanta Tansacha has applied to the "Architectural Society" - which I'm guessing is the abbreviated title of "The Association of Siamese Architects Under Royal Patronage" - to have the Scala Theatre certified as architecturally/historically significant. The certification will be made in April or May.

No further details were made available.

If this designation comes to fruition, it ought to make it illegal to demolish the Scala.

Surf over to the blog post for lots of photos and the ending quote.

Nanta is also interviewed (in Thai) at Matichon Online.

There's also an article in last week's Bangkok Post in which Dr Permyot Kosolbhand, vice-president of Chulalongkorn's Property Management Office, is quoted as saying there are no plans to demolish the Lido and the Scala – "yet".

But wealthy Chulalongkorn University reportedly wants more and more money and aims to make that dough with the development of new commercial properties – building more malls in an area already saturated with malls.

Among its major developments is a new mall on the site of Apex's Siam Theatre, which was suspiciously torched in the arson attacks that followed the break-up of the red-shirt political protests on May 19, 2010.

Here's some quotes from Permyot:

"The Lido is not a heritage site. I can't see any point in conserving this theatre," said Dr Permyot.

"I would like to ask the opposition group one question: do they really see movies there?"

However, the professor quipped: "On the positive side, at least now we know that so many people love Lido."

So you see what kind of mind the folks who oppose Chula's plans are up against.

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