Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening September 27-October 3, 2012

End of Watch

David Ayer, the screenwriter behind the gritty Los Angeles police thriller Training Day, is back with another tale of LA's men in dark blue, End of Watch.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña star as a pair of gung-ho young patrolman who make a traffic stop of a drug suspect and seize a cache of money and firearms, including a gold-plated AK-47. The arrest puts them on the trail of a ruthless cartel and marks them for death.

To get in shape for their roles, Gyllenhall and Peña underwent five months of training, which included 12-hour ride-alongs with Los Angeles law enforcement agencies.

The filming was done documentary style, similar to the TV show Cops, to give viewers that "you are there", first-person-shooter feeling.

Ayer's third feature as writer director following Harsh Times and Street Kings, Critical reception for End of Watch is generally positive. Rated 18+.

Also opening

Fighting Fish (ดุ ดวล ดิบ, Du Duan Dib) – A French expat and his Thai pal (JJ Jakkris Kanokpojnanon) get mixed up in an underground boxing club in this martial-arts drama from Saga Studios. The Frenchman is portrayed by Jawed El Berni, a stuntman who's made a name for himself as the double for Bollywood superstar Salman Khan. Fans of Thai action films might recognize Suchao Pongvilai as the mob boss from his turn as the villain in Ong-Bak. French-Vietnamese stunt performer Kazu Patrick Tang from Raging Phoenix and BKO: Bangkok Knockout also turns up. It's the directorial debut by former pin-up model and sexy video star "Ying" Julaluck Ismalone (formerly Kittiyarath). A decade ago she starred in the controversial erotic mermaid fantasy Phra-Apai-Mani but recently relaunched her acting career playing a villain in Bangkok Revenge, starring Jon Foo, one of the bad guys who fought Tony Jaa in the first Tom Yum Goong. Rated 15+.

Motorway – Hong Kong director Soi Cheang and his producer Johnnie To have the lock on stylishly slick, twisty Hong Kong crime thrillers. Their latest effort stars Shawn Yue as a hard-driving cop who belongs to the "invisible squad", an elite unit of highway patrolmen. Blasting around the city in his Audi A4, he's partnered with a cooler-headed veteran officer, played by the always-reliable Anthony Wong. The maverick young cop meets his match when he's tasked with bringing in a mobster's cunning getaway driver (Guo Xiaodong). Barbie Hsu, Li Haitao, Lam Ka-tung, Michelle Ye and Josie Ho also star. Critical reception is mixed, though Singapore's Nutshell Review likens it to "Hong Kong's answer to Drive". In Cantonese with English and Thai subtitles at House. Rated 15+.

Stolen – Nicolas Cage is doing Liam Neeson in this Taken-esque thriller, which comes out just before the release of Taken 2. Cage is a former master thief who has just finished an eight-year prison sentence after being double-crossed in a heist gone awry. Everyone seems to think he knows where the $10 million is from that last caper, and so his vengeful ex-partner (Josh Lucas) turns up and kidnaps Cage's estranged daughter. Malin Ackerman, Danny Huston and M.C. Gainey also star. Stolen reunites Cage with his old Con Air director Simon West, making a comeback this year with Expendables 2 having just been in cinemas. Stolen had a limited release a week or so ago in the U.S. and looks destined mainly for the home-video market. Critical reception, what little there is, is negative. Rated 15+.

The Assassins – Chow Yun-fat takes on the role of Chinese warlord Cao Cao in this historical drama set during the Three Kingdoms period. He's plotting to overthrow the emperor and has tasked a pair of young lovers (Hiroshi Tamaki and Liu Yifei), who have undergone five years of training as assassins, to kill Emperor Xian. It's Thai-dubbed with English subtitles at Major Cineplex. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Otelo Burning –  A boy in apartheid-era South Africa struggles to overcome the racist obstacles to achieve his dream of surfing in this much-acclaimed South African drama screening at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Bangkok at 8 tonight (September 27). The Embassy of South Africa and its newly-arrived ambassador will lay on a spread of South African wine and food. Admission is 150 for non-members and 200 baht for the food.

Barfi! – India has submitted this much-acclaimed romantic comedy to the Academy Awards as its best foreign language film entry. Ranbir Kapoor stars as Barfi, a mischievous deaf-mute young man in picturesque 1970s Darjeeling. He captures the heart of a young upper-class woman (Ileana D'Cruz) who is already engaged. Their unique friendship becomes complicated with the return of an old childhood acquaintance of Barfi's, a young autistic woman (Priyanka Chopra) and Barfi's being accused of bank robbery and kidnapping. Kapoor has won many plaudits for his incredible physical-comedy portrayal as has Chopra for her role as the autistic girl. It's at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Rama III. Rated 13+.

Take note

Cinema Diverse –  After a couple months' hiatus, the film series of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre and Films Forum starts back up on October 20 with Niño, a much-acclaimed Filipino family drama in which an opera singer tries various ways to revive her comatose politician brother, including singing arias to him and dressing her 9-year-old boy up as St. Niño, the Child Christ. Meanwhile, other family members return home, all wanting a share of the estate, and secrets come tumbling forth. It's the debut feature by veteran stage director Loy Arcenas and stars 84-year-old Fides Cuyugan Asensio, one of the Philippines most prominent opera singers. They will attend the screening, which is being supported by Cebu Pacific Air. The Philippines Embassy will serve Filipino food and beer before the screening of the film, which is also being supported by the Society of Filipinas in Thailand. The reception is at 5pm with the screening starting at 6.30pm in the BACC's fifth-floor auditorium. Admission is free.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening September 20-26, 2012


Oliver Stone is back in action with Savages, a gritty tale of a couple of young marijuana growers who run afoul of a violent Mexican cartel.

Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson star as Chon and Ben, two hipsters who are growing a potent strain of weed that Chon, a former soldier, brought back from the war in Afghanistan. It's made them very wealthy but has attracted unwanted attention from the Mexican drug cartel. They share a girlfriend (Blake Lively) who's named O and when they won't give in to the cartel's demands, O is kidnapped.

The cast boasts John Travolta as a corrupt DEA agent, with Benicio Del Toro as a cartel enforcer and Salma Hayek chewing up scenery as the cartel leader.

Based on a crime novel by Don Winslow, who also co-scripted the movie, Savages is a return of sorts to the sordid types of stories Stone stylishly spun in Natural Born Killers and U-Turn.

Critical reception is mixed but it's generally faring better than Stone's previous effort Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Rated 18+.

Also opening

I Carried You Home (Padang Besar, ปาดังเบซา) – Indie Thai director Tongpong Chantararangkul makes his feature debut with this slow-moving drama about estranged sisters (Akhamsiri Suwanasuk and Apinya Sakuljaroensuk) who are reunited by the bizarre circumstances of their mother's death. They accompany their mom's body on an ambulance drive from Bangkok to their hometown of Pedang Besar on the Thai-Malaysian border. I Carried You Home premiered at last year's Busan International Film Festival, where it was in the New Currents competition. Other festival appearances have included Marrakech, Vancouver, Rotterdam, Deauville and most recently Washington, D.C. It opened the 9th World Film Festival of Bangkok in January and was also featured at June's MovieMov Italian Film Festival. It's at Apex cinemas in Siam Square and at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Rated 15+.

Dredd 3D – Karl Urban, the Kiwi actor who's become a favorite of genre fans for playing Dr. McCoy in the Star Trek remake and as the killer government agent in Red, takes over a role once held by Sylvester Stallone. It's a new adaptation of the comic book about a dystopian lawman who's given the authority of judge, jury and executioner. He's charged with bringing justice to a feared slum and its resident druglord (portayed by Lena Headey from Game of Thrones and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles). Olivia Thirlby also stars, playing Dredd's rookie telepath partner. And watch out for Wood Harris, a.k.a. Avon Barksdale from The Wire. In contrast to the unwelcome remakes of a couple other 1990s sci-fi movies, Total Recall and the upcoming RoboCop, anticipation for this new take on Judge Dredd has been high because the 1995 Stallone version was too campy to do the comic justice. And fans haven't been disappointed by this darkly violent tale, which is penned by Alex Garland (The Beach). Critical reception is mostly positive. In 3D. Rated 18+.

Hit and Run – Dax Shepard co-directs and stars in this independent car-chase comedy about a getaway driver who breaks out of the witness protection program in order to take his girlfriend to Los Angeles. While racing down the road, he has to stay ahead of gangsters, the girlfriend's ex-boyfriend and a U.S. marshal. Kristen Bell, Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold and Kristin Chenoweth also star. Critical reception is mixed, but if you like car-chase flicks, then you'll probably have fun with this. Rated 15+.

Bait – It's been more than 35 years since Jaws swam into cinemas, and movie-goers still aren't safe from sharks. In Bait, hungry great whites are washed ashore in a tsunami. They are feeding in a flooded supermarket where shoppers are trapped. Bait saw a limited theatrical release in the U.S. but is mostly going direct-to-DVD. Critical reception, so far, is mixed. In 3D. Rated 15+.

Also showing

L’heure zéro (Towards Zero) – Pascal Thomas directs this 2007 mystery based on the novel by Agatha Christie. François Morel, Danielle Darrieux, Melvil Poupaud, Laura Smet, Chiara Mastroianni, Alessandra Martines and Clément Thomas star in this whodunnit about a wealthy old woman murdered at her seaside home. Which one of her eccentric guests is the culprit? A vacationing police inspector tries to unravel the tangle of clues. It's in French with English subtitles at 7.30pm on Wednesday, September 26 at the Alliance Française.

Take note

The Nokia Ultra Screen theaters at Paragon Cineplex are no more. After seven years, the premium cinema wing at Paragon has been renamed under a new sponsorship deal with Bangkok Airways. Similar to the EGV Gold Class theaters, the Bangkok Airways Blue Ribbon Screens offer an ultra-pricey but ultra-comfortable alternative to the conventional multiplex auditoriums. They have a reclining chair, pillows and blankets, and a deluxe lounge to sit in before the show.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening September 13-19, 2012

Resident Evil: Retribution

How many Resident Evil movies has there been?

I've lost track. A quick count reveals that Resident Evil: Retribution is the fifth entry in the zombie-horror-sci-fi-action franchise that's based on a video game.

Paul W.S. Anderson again directs with his wife Milla Jovovich slipping back into her catsuit as Alice, the pistol-packing main character who's trying to get to the bottom of the zombie apocalypse. She awakens to find herself in the heart of a secret facility run by her former employer, the evil Umbrella Corporation, a company that made biological weapons until one of the viruses got loose. The company has been on lockdown ever since, trying to control the virus.

As she races around the secret facility in a bid to escape, she encounters old acquaintances such as Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) from the first Resident Evil movie. This time she has a bug on her throat that's controlling her thoughts.

Also returning is Michelle Rodriguez as the rifle-toting commando Rain Ocampo, who despite being turned into a zombie in the first film, is back in cloned form.

Li Bingbing is the operative Ada Wong, wearing a red dress with a conveniently placed tear that makes it possible for her to kick zombie heads.

Resident Evil: Retribution is being released this week in U.S. cinemas and it's still too early to gauge critical reception. It's in 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX.Digital. Rated 18+.

Also opening

The Intouchables – After he becomes a quadriplegic in a paragliding accident, an aristocrat (François Cluzet) hires a street-smart ex-con (Omar Sy) to be his caretaker. Together, the pair form an unlikely bond that's rooted in honesty and humor. The second-biggest film in French box office history, this comedy-drama was a major cultural touchstone of 2011 in France. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's in French with English and Thai subtitles at House, Paragon Cineplex and SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Rated 15+.

9-9-81 (บอก-เล่า-9-ศพ, Bok Lao 9 Sop) – A bride-to-be jumps to her death after she learns her fiancé has died. But he hasn’t. What really happened? In a bit of a twist on the horror-anthology format, the points of view of the groom, the best friend and others who were acquainted or close to the couple are recounted in nine short segments by different directors. They are Suthat Phawilairat, Ditsaphong Sampattawanit, Phithak Rueangrotsin, Adirek Phothong, Phirun Anusuriya, Sayree Lawchonnabot, Siriphon Prasatthong, Thanyawan Mepnom, Nuttorn Kangwanklai, Rapeepimon Chaisayna and Oliver Woonsan, with the story by Rapeepimon. Rated 15+.

Also showing

La princesse de Montpensier – Bertrand Tavernier directs this much-acclaimed 2010 period costume drama starring Mélanie Thierry, Lambert Wilson, Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet and Gaspard Ulliel. Based on the novel by Madame de La Fayette and set in France of 1562 against the background of the savage Catholic-Protestant wars, a young aristocratic woman falls for a rakish young man while her hand is promised to a prince who is then called away to war. She is then left in the care of an ageing nobleman who struggles with his own desires for the young woman and the need to protect her. It's in French with English subtitles at 7.30pm on Wednesday, September 19 at the Alliance Française.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening September 6-12, 2012

Jan Dara

Director ML Bhandevanop "Mom Noi" Devakula brings his penchant for lavish historical melodramas and lots of naked skin to the infamous erotic tale of Jan Dara, about a 1930s Siamese hi-so family in which sexual abuse and incest were the rule.

It's the third film of the 1966 novel by Utsana Phleungtham. It was previously adapted in 1977 but is mostly known today for its 2001 version by Nonzee Nimibutr.

Mom Noi is on a remake roll since his return to filmmaking after a 13-year hiatus with 2008's Chua Fah Din Salai – another erotic-novel adaptation that had been filmed before – and Umong Pha Muang (The Outrage), last year's Lanna-flavored "adaptation" of Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon.

But, he insists Jan Dara is ripe for a remake and he dismisses critics who say otherwise.

With his sense for the breathtakingly theatrical, complete with elaborate costumes, stage-worthy performances and finely detailed old-time settings, Mom Noi greatly expands on previously filmed versions of the story, making this Jan Dara just a "chapter" – the first of two parts. What we'll see now covers Jan's tumultuous life from birth to age 17.

Love of Siam heartthrob Mario Maurer stars, playing young Jan, whose abusive father is a sex-addicted womanizer. Much of the story deals with Jan's first brushes with romance and his struggles to have a normal relationship with a girl his own age, in spite of the negative influences of his home life.

Curvy "Tak" Bongkot Kongmalai is Aunt Waad, who is the nurturing maternal figure in Jan's life since his own mother died. Singer Ratha "Yaya Ying" Po-ngam takes on the role of Khun Bunluang, the worldly seductress who moves into the household as Jan's father's minor wife. And, controversially, Japanese adult-video star Shou Nishino is cast has Khun Kaew, Jan's half-sister and major thorn in his side.

It's rated 18+.

Also opening

On the Road – Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles, who previously directed the road-trip adventure of a young Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries, takes another cross-country drive from another time with On the Road, adapted from the partly autobiographical novel by beat author Jack Kerouac, chronicling his youthful travels. Produced by Francis Ford Coppola, it stars Sam Riley as Kerouac's alter-ego Sal Paradise. An aspiring New York writer, he sets out with his wild ex-con pal Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) on a road trip across 1940s America with their girlfriend Mary Lou (Kristen Stewart). Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Elisabeth Moss and Terrence Howard also star. It premiered in competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival, but critical reception is somewhat tepid. It's at Apex Siam Square. Rated 18+.

Jesus Henry Christ – Toni Collette and Michael Sheen star in this offbeat comedy about a precocious boy (Jason Spevack) who was a test-tube baby. He discovers he has a half-sister and sets out to find his biological father. Directed by Dennis Lee and adapted from his Academy Award-winning student short film of the same name, it's executive produced by Julia Roberts. Critical reception is mixed. It's at Paragon and House on RCA. Rated 13+.

Painted Skin: The Resurrection – This sequel to the 2008 Chinese fantasy epic has the Fox Demon (Zhou Xun) released from her ice prison and again on the hunt for men's hearts to feed on in order to maintain her shape as a beautiful seductress. She meets up with a plucky scar-faced warrior princess ("Vicky" Zhao Wei) and the two get involved in a romantic triangle with the princess' former beau (Chen Kun). Critical reception is generally positive, and is probably a good bet if you're into these crazy Chinese fantasies. It's at SF cinemas with the Chinese soundtrack and English subtitles at some branches. Rated 13+.

R2B: Return to Base – In the wake of director Tony Scott's death, here's a South Korean Top Gun drama starring Rain as a hotshot air force fighter pilot. It's a remake of a 1963 Korean film, Red Muffler, a.k.a. Soar Close to the Sun. It's apparently Thai-dubbed and is at Major Cineplex. Rated 13+.

Also showing

Joker – Akshay Kumar stars in this fantasy comedy about a man who returns to his home village to find it has dropped off the map, and while the world around it has changed, the village has remained the same for 60 years. Sonakshi Sinha and Chitrangda Singh also star. It's at Major Cineplex.