Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 24-30, 2012

Men in Black III

Most of the fun in  Men in Black III appears to be from Josh Brolin doing Tommy Lee Jones, a role that Brolin, a fellow Texan, must've relished. They previously appeared in the same film together, the Coen Bros.'s No Country for Old Men, but never actually shared a scene. Anyway, from the previews, it appears that Brolin has Jones down to a T.

The first MiB, made in 1997, had an easy charm. It relied not so much on special effects, which still hold up, thanks to Rick Baker's practical creature effects. The main selling point was the chemistry of the unlikely pairing of a gruff old Tommy Lee Jones taking a young whippersnapper New York cop (Will Smith) under his wing and making him his partner in a secret quasi-government agency that's in charge of monitoring extra-terrestrials. It remains highly re-watchable, for me anyway.

On the other hand, the 2002 sequel was an abysmal, overblown stinker that seemed to only be made in order to cash in on a talking dog and the placement of such products as designer sunglasses and Mercedes-Benz automobiles (disappointingly replacing MiB's utilitarian but surprisingly maneuverable Ford LTD cruisers).

It's taken 10 years to bring this sequel to cinemas. There was controversy during production in New York, when Will Smith's giant trailer caused protests among local residents. And earlier, good old Rip Torn, Agent Z, ran into trouble with the law when he got drunk and broke into a bank. Whoops. Emma Thompson joins the cast as the new chief of MiB, Agent O, replacing Torn.

Again directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, MiB3 has Smith's Agent J, now a seasoned "I'm too old for this shit" MiB veteran, waking up one day and finding his old partner Agent K (Jones) never existed. So he travels back in time to the 1960s to contact a younger version of K (Brolin) and try to keep history from being altered.

Critical reception is mixed so far. It's in 3D in some cinemas. Rated G.

Also opening

Red Dog – Josh Lucas stars in this fact-based Australian family drama about a stray red cattle dog that united an Outback community while roaming the country in search of his lost master. Noah Taylor, Rachael Taylor and Koko the dog also star. It's been a nominee and winner of several awards in Australia. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's at House on RCA Rated G.

MuralPainted Skin director Gordon Chan again dips a brush into Pu Songling's collection of 17th century supernatural tales "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio" for this historical fantasy about a poor travelling scholar (Deng Chao) who becomes distracted by a mural and enters into the fantasy land depicted therein. Betty Sun and Collin Chou also star in this Chinese-Hong Kong co-production. Thai-dubbed only. Rated 15+.

You Instead, a.k.a. Tonight You're Mine – This U.K. romantic comedy has an indie rock star (Luke Treadaway) getting accidentally handcuffed to the leader of a pop-punk girl group (Natalia Tena) while backstage at a Scottish music festival. They end up spending 24 hours chained together, with fighting giving away to grudging acceptance and then ... well, it's a romantic comedy. Thai audiences might appreciate that the plot of two people chained together mirrors a famous Thai novel that's been made into movies, Chua Fah Din Salai. Critical reception is mixed. It's at House on RCA. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Seen by H.M.K. – The Thai Film Archive brings a special program to the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, featuring classic movies that were viewed by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in a public cinema. It continues through Sunday in the B.A.C.C.'s fifth-floor auditorium. The line-up includes the 1961 musical-romance-action-drama Ruen Pae (เรือนแพ, a.k.a. The House Boat),  1965's Lord Jim, 1970's Love Story and the Bond flick You Only Live Twice. Check the full line-up in a previous blog entry. After the series runs at the B.A.C.C., most of it will be repeated at the Film Archive's Sri Salaya Theatre. Please note that most of the non-English-language films don't have English subtitles.

European Union Eco Film Festival – A spin-off of the annual European Union Film Festival in Thailand, the Eco Film Festival running today through Sunday features shorts and features of documentaries and other movies about the environment. The line-up includes The Age of Stupid, Home and Recipes for Disaster. Screenings will be on DVD format. Free tickets can be picked up 30 minutes before show time at SF Cinema City Terminal 21. Check the schedule at the SF Cinema City website, or check an article in The Nation for more details.

Le premier venu (Just Anybody) – Jacques Doillon, who was in Bangkok a few years ago to receive the Lotus Award from the World Film Festival of Bangkok, directs this 2008 romantic drama starring Clémentine Beaugrand, Gérald Thomassin and Guillaume Saurrel. It's about a young upper-class woman who decides to give her love to the first guy who comes along, who happens to be a homeless drifter. It's at the Alliance Française at 7.30 on Wednesday, May 30.

Take note

Simple Simon was the closing film of the Swedish Film Festival.

Last week's Swedish Film Festival was a huge success, with way more film-goers than expected turning out to snap up the free tickets for the screenings of recent Swedish films at SFX the Emporium.

Last Sunday, queues for the tickets formed up to 90 minutes ahead of the show time, despite the fact that there was a strict policy about not handing out the tickets until 30 minutes beforehand. However, if you didn't go ahead and get in line and stand there for an hour or more, chances were you would end up sitting all the way in the front row, in the aisles or not get a ticket at all. The last two shows, Sound of Noise and Simple Simon, were completely full. Both were great movies.

The recent New Spanish Film Festival experienced a similar phenomenon, attracting many penny-pinching foreign and Thai film-goers and audiences packing into an auditorium that were showing crappy DVDs on the big screen. Latecomers were stuck sitting all the way in front. The Hong Kong Film Festival was also free, but I didn't experience the same rush for seats; it was still easy to get a decent place to sit fairly close to show time.

The Swedes did a great job, showing cinema-quality digital files and not DVDs like the Spanish did.

But on the other hand, paid film festivals, such as the World Film Festival of Bangkok, don't attract the same kind of viral following. It's rare to see a sold-out, filled-to-capacity show.

As a movie-goer, I tend to prefer to the paid model, just so I don't have to compete with other balloon-chasers for a place in line, which is time-consuming, tiring and inconvenient. But it's easier on the wallet, that's for sure.

More upcoming film festivals in Bangkok include the European Union Film Festival from May 31 to June 10 and the Buddha Panya International Buddhist Film Festival from June 7 to 10. The EU fest is free at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, and is always popular with the balloon-chasers, while the Buddhist fest will have paid admission but will have an excellent, interesting line-up.

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