Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 1-9, 2012

The Avengers

Programs at Bangkok cinemas are changing two days early this week in a move to snare viewers who might have today off in observance of the May 1 Labor Day national holiday and in anticipation of the long holiday weekend in observance of Coronation Day on May 5.

And what a movie they have for us: The Avengers, which is probably the biggest superhero film ever made, and one of the biggest releases of Hollywood's summer blockbuster season.

The Marvel Comics franchise features Iron Man, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk and Thor. These are guys who do not play well with others and they make a volatile team as they are assembled by Nick Fury, the director of the super-secret agency S.H.I.E.L.D. There, the four superheroes are joined by ace archer Hawkeye and kick-ass female operative Black Widow. Together, they must defeat Thor's evil brother Loki, who aims to take over Earth or destroy it.

The cast is pretty amazing, with Robert Downey Jr. returning for his third outing as Iron Man/billionaire playboy Tony Stark. Chris Evans is back in his red, white and blue suit as Captain America and Chris Hemsworth again dons his helm as the mighty Thor. Taking over as Hulk, previously portrayed by Edward Norton (and in director Ang Lee's earlier now non-canon film by Eric Bana) is Mark Ruffalo, who actually performs the role thanks to motion-capture technology instead of CGI or body double as has been done previously. Lou Ferigno, the muscleman who doubled for Bill Bixby's Hulk on TV, will be the Hulk's voice. Scarlett Johansson is the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. the Black Widow, who was first introduced in Iron Man 2. And Jeremy Renner is another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, the archery marksman Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye, who was glimpsed in Thor. The villain Loki is portrayed again by Hiddelston. And Samuel L. Jackson is back in the eyepatch as Nick Fury, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The movie, long in the works, is directed and co-written by Joss Whedon, who is a huge comic-book nerd and a much-loved cult figure among other nerds and genre fans for his work on the TV shows "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Angel", "Firefly" and "Dollhouse" and the web series "Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog".

More of Whedon's work can be seen right now on Bangkok big screens. He's the co-writer/producer of the fun horror thriller The Cabin in the Woods, which opened for nightly sneak previews last week and continues for one more week before opening wider on May 10.

Critical reception is overwhelmingly positive.

In addition to good, old-fashioned 2D, it's also in 3D, including IMAX. Rated G.

Also opening

Being Flynn – Robert De Niro and Paul Dano star in this drama about a volunteer aspiring writer in a homeless shelter who encounters his estranged father, a conman and self-professed poet. It's a fact-based tale, co-written by writer Nick Flynn and director Paul Weitz (American Pie, About a Boy). Critical reception is mixed. It opens on Thursday at Apex Siam Square.

Also showing

Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (The Lovers on the Bridge) – Leos Carax directs this 1991 comedy-drama starring Denis Lavant, Juliette Binoche and Klaus Michael Grüber about homeless people who live on the oldest bridge in Paris. Two of them fall in love – Alex, a street performer addicted to alcohol and sedatives, and Michèle, a painter who is slowly losing her sight. It's at the Alliance Française at 7.30 on Wednesday, May 2.

Soul of a Nation – By popular demand, the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand will again show this 1980 BBC documentary that examines the role of the monarchy in preventing Thailand from succumbing to the wave of communist insurgencies in Southeast Asia in the 1970s. BBC reporter David Lomax puts questions to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, many of them about prickly subjects that are rarely, if ever, discussed. John Gielgud narrates. The show time is at 8pm on Wednesday, May 2. Admission for non-members is 300 baht.

La naissance de l'amour –  Philippe Garrel directs this 1993 drama starring Jean-Pierre Léaud, Lou Castel and Johanna ter Steege in this story of two friends and their struggles with love. It's at the Alliance Française at 7.30 on Wednesday, May 9.

Saving Face – This Oscar-winning short documentary looks at the phenomenon of acid attacks against women in Pakistan and focuses on the lives of two survivors as they deal with their horrifying disfigurement and attempt to bring their assailants to justice. Update: The screening has been postponed until further notice.

Take note

Get ready for sticker shock if you watch The Avengers at SF Cinemas.

With one of the year's biggest blockbusters coming out, SF Cinemas has announced a price increase that goes into effect today, May 1, according to the Pantip.com web forum.

The notice doesn't say exactly what the price of admission will be, but then both SF and Major Cineplex's ticket-pricing policies are very opaque anyway, with a tiered system that gets increasingly expensive depending on the format of the film (3D,digital, etc.), what neighborhood the theater is in, how popular the movie is, what day and time it's showing and how far back from the screen you want to sit.

Both theater chains have special deals that offer cheaper tickets at certain times, on certain days to certain people like students and seniors, but the conditions of those deals are usually so restrictive – like they don't apply to new releases and certain other movies – I ordinarily don't bother mentioning them, though I have caught a couple lucky breaks at Major, watching movies for 100 baht on Monday or Tuesday night (but probably not this Tuesday, because of the holiday).

SF cinemas also have the annoying and deceptive practice of only showing you the expensive seats when you are at the ticket window. You tell them what movie you want to see, and on the computer screen they'll show "light blue available", and only the seats in the back are selected. Those sometimes cost 200 baht, or more! If you don't want to pay that much, you have to get them to re-select things so the available seating nearer to the screen will be shown. Thing is, I don't think most customers know to ask for the re-selection to show the cheaper seats, and so they cluelessly pay the more expensive price.

In the meantime, Apex Siam Square and House on RCA are still 100 baht, and both places are worth supporting.

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