The James Bond movie franchise marks 50 years this year with the release of Skyfall, the 23th picture officially authorized by the rightsholder, EON Productions and the Broccoli family.
Daniel Craig returns for this third outing as 007. He's a grittier and grumpier Bond than the old smoothies who've played him previously, and he's been credited for rescuing the franchise from decades of creaky self-parody. Most pundits are now ranking Craig as probably the second-best Bond since Sean Connery, above Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton, George Lazenby and Roger Moore.
Here, Bond's latest assignment has gone horribly wrong and the covers are blown for secret agents around the world.
MI6 has been attacked, forcing the spy agency's chief, M, again portrayed by Judi Dench, to go underground. Meanwhile, she finds her authority being challenged by Lord Voldemort himself – Ralph Fiennes, portraying the new chairman of the intelligence and security committee.
So M is left with just one person she can trust – Bond, an agent who was thought to be dead. Aided by the plucky Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), now a field agent instead of a secretary, Bond follows a trail around the world that leads him to another great cinematic villain, Anton Chighur – Javier Bardem, with another weird hairdo as the mysterious Raoul Silva, a former MI6 agent turned cyberterrorist.
Sam Mendes directs, with French actress Bérénice Marlohe joining the ranks of the "Bond girls" and Ben Whishaw as Bond's geeky new young gadgets guy Q.
Critical reception, so far, is mostly positive. It's in 2D only in regular cinemas as well as IMAX and IMAX Digital. Rated 13+.
The Taste of Money – Im Sang-soo follows up his 2010 remake of The Housemaid with another erotic tale of family dysfunction. Here, he centers on a family owned conglomerate and a young man (Kim Kang-woo) who works as a private secretary to the company president (Baek Yoon-sik). He becomes entangled in an affair with the president's wife (Yoon Yeo-jeong) after she discovers her husband having an affair with a Filipina housemaid (Maui Taylor). Further complications arise when he develops feelings for his employer's divorced daughter (Kim Hyo-jin). The Taste of Money premiered at this year's Cannes Film Festival, and reception has been mixed. It's In Korean with English and Thai subtitles at House and SFW CentralWorld. Rated 20-.
Russian Film Week – In collaboration with the Russian Embassy, SF World Cinema at Central World will screen five recent mainstream Russian films from November 1 to 9. Show times are at 8 nightly. The line-up is as follows:
- Lucky Trouble is a romantic comedy starring Ukrainian-born Hollywood starlet Milla Jovovich. She's the love interest for a small-town schoolteacher (Russia's most prominent actor Konstantin Khabenskiy from Night Watch). Complications ensue as they prepare to get married, even though she's already engaged to another man.
- Mamy (Mothers) is a compilation of segments by eight directors as a tribute to mothers in honor of the March 8 International Women's Day.
- Moscow , I Love You! is another omnibus film, similar to Paris, I Love You and New York, I Love You. It consists of 18 segments about life and love in the Russian capital.
- My Boyfriend-Angel is a romantic comedy about an angel who falls in love with a skeptical young woman.
- The Brest Fortress, a.k.a. Fortress of War recounts the 1941 German invasion and a Soviet fortress that's besieged taken by surprise.
Tickets for Russian Film Week are free, and will be handed out 30 minutes before show time. The movies are screening on Blu-ray with English and Thai subtitles. For the schedule, please check the SF Cinema website.
Sita Sings the Blues – Animator and cartoonist Nina Paley chronicles the break-up with her boyfriend in this fanciful retelling of a story from the Ramayana, which is explained by a hilarious "Greek chorus" trio of shadow puppets. Singer Annette Hanshaw provides the "voice" of the broken-hearted Sita, through her 1920s recordings of jazz and blues. Sita was a labor of love for the animator, who put it together using many styles of animation almost single-handedly on her computer at home. It won numerous awards but its release was hampered by Paley's not obtaining a rights clearance from the publisher of the Hanshaw songs. She eventually did reach a settlement, taking out a personal loan to cover the copyright fee. Then, in a bid to make her film a test case for free sharing under the use of the Creative Commons license, she has made it available for downloads and streaming. It's showing at 8 tonight at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. Admission for non-members is 150 baht.
Dutch Film Festival in Thailand – A dozen or so Dutch features, documentaries and shorts from the past 10 years will be screened during the monthlong Dutch Film Festival. It's being held at various venues, at the Goethe Institut from November 5 to 8, at the Esplanade Cineplex Ratchada as part of the 10th World Film Festival of Bangkok from November 16 to 25 (see below for more details) and at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center from November 21 to 23. Highlights include Meet the Fokkens, a documentary on the elderly heavyset twin sisters who have worked for decades as prostitutes in Amsterdam, and Win/Win, a drama about a low-level investment-bank employee who becomes a successful trader overnight. Download the festival schedule (PDF) for more details.
Mindfulness and Murder – Ananda, a former policeman who's left behind crimefighting to become a Buddhist monk, is back on the beat when a boy is founded murdered at a Bangkok Buddhist temple. The police aren't keen to pursue the case, so the temple's abbot asks Ananda to solve the crime. Methodically, he tracks down clues and uncovers a conspiracy within the temple itself. The debut feature by veteran producer Tom Waller, Mindfulness and Murder was nominated for several awards by the National Federation of Film Associations of Thailand, including best screenplay and best director, and actor Wannasuk Sirilar won the best supporting actor prize. It's based on one of the "Father Ananda" mystery novels by expat writer Nick Wilgus. Vithaya Pansringarm stars as Ananda. He and director Tom Waller will be present for the November 6 screening at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. The show time is 8pm. Admission for non-members is 150 baht and 100 baht for anyone wanting to drink the wine.
Puisque nous sommes nés – A month of documentary films begins at the Alliance Française Bangkok with Jean-Pierre Duret and Andréa Santana's 2009 look at homeless drifter children in Brazil. It's in French with English subtitles at 7.30pm on Wednesday, November 7 at the Alliance Française.
Student of the Year – Karan Johar directs this Bollywood drama about high-school students from different ends of the social spectrum in competition to win the Student of the Year trophy. Abhimanyu Singh (Sidharth Malhotra), who comes from a middle-class family, hopes to win the trophy to rise up in prosperity while Rohan Nanda (Varun Dhawan), the son of a business tycoon, hopes to finally prove himself to his father. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Central Rama III.
The 10th World Film Festival of Bangkok opens on November 16 with Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Mekong Hotel. Other highlights include Holy Motors, which was one of the most buzzworthy titles at this year's Cannes Film Festival. The film's director, Leos Carax, will be present to receive this year's Lotus Award for lifetime achievement, and the festival will screen a couple other of his films, The Lovers on the Bridge and Mauvais Sang. Also worth mentioning is Aki Kaurismaki's Le Havre, which was an award-winner at last year's Cannes fest and was the French submission to the Oscars. This year's festival also joins hands with the Dutch Film Festival (see above), which brings in a line-up of recent acclaimed documentaries and dramas. The fest runs until November 25 at the Esplanade Cineplex Ratchada. Keep an eye on festival website for more details about the schedule.