Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening February 21-27, 2013


Denzel Washington is an airline pilot who is hailed as a hero after making a amazing aerobatic crash landing that saves most of his passengers and avoids killing people on the ground. But then he's in trouble when it's revealed he'd been drinking before he took the controls.

Flight is nominated for two Oscars – best actor for Denzel and original screenplay – and marks the triumphant return to live action by Back to the Future, Castaway and Forrest Gump director Robert Zemeckis, following his foray into a series of lackluster motion-capture-animated features. His sleight of hand in using visual effects still dazzles with the thrilling depiction of the plane crash and subsequent recreation of the disaster scene.

But this is more than a special-effects movie, as it gets into Denzel's troubled, alcoholic character.

Supporting Denzel is a stellar cast that includes Don Cheadle as his defense attorney, John Goodman as his drug-dealing buddy, Bruce Greenwood as an airline colleague and Melissa Leo as the lead crash investigator.

Critical reception is mostly positive.

Because of strong depictions of drugs and alcohol abuse as well as sex and nudity, Flight is rated 20- in Thai cinemas, requiring an ID check at the door.

Also opening

Silver Linings Playbook – After opening last week in a sneak-preview run, writer-director David O. Russell's Oscar-nominated romantic comedy moves to a wider release this week. The story involves a young man (Bradley Cooper) who is released from a psychiatric facility. He's back living with his put-upon parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver). He wants to win back his wife, but she's put a restraining order on him. He then meets a young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who's had a breakdown following the death of her husband. She offers to help him win back his wife if he’ll enter a dance competition with her. Along with Cooper, De Niro, Weaver and Lawrence – all nominated for Academy Awards (the first time since 1981's Reds that all four acting categories are covered by one film), the cast includes Chris Tucker, Julia Stiles and Shea Wigham. It's nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. It's also won lots of other awards, including a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award for Lawrence and a BAFTA for Russell's screenplay. Critical reception is wildly positive. Rated 15+.

Snitch – Here's one of those rare occurrences of a movie starring action hero Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson that isn't a sequel or part of a franchise. In Snitch, the former pro wrestler is a father whose teenage son is jailed on drug charges. To clear his son's name, dear old dad agrees to go undercover for the Drug Enforcement Agency and take down the criminals who set his son up. Susan Sarandon, Barry Pepper, Benjamin Bratt and Michael Kenneth Williams also star. Snitch is just opening this week in U.S. theaters, so critical reception is only just now registering. Rated 15+.

Beautiful Creatures – This soapy supernatural Southern Gothic story of star-crossed lovers involves a young man (Alden Ehrenreich) who yearns to escape his small town. He falls for a mysterious new girl (Alice Englert) and together they uncover dark secrets about their immaculately costumed families, their history and their town. Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum and Emma Thompson also star. Like the Twilight movies – and designed to appeal to the same swooning audience – it's adapted from a series of young adult novels, in this case the Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+.

Also showing

German Film Week – German films screen at 7 nightly through Sunday at Paragon Cineplex. Tonight's feature is Storm, about an International Criminal Court prosecutor tracking down evidence against a Serbian war criminal. Tomorrow is Berlin is in Germany, about an East German convict who is released from prison to a newly reunified country. On Saturday, it's the comedy Whisky with Vodka, about a hard-drinking actor. The fest closes on Sunday with a live-action retelling of the story of Rapunzel. Tickets are free – follow the instructions on the Goethe Institut website to get them.

Take note

The Clap! French Film Festival, which wrapped up yesterday, seemed to be a big success, judging from the near-capacity crowds at the two films I saw, The Rabbi's Cat and Polisse.

The French fest was different from the way other "national" film festivals are handled – selling tickets instead of giving them away. The advantage of the paid-ticket scheme is you can book your seat in advance at the box office instead of having to queue up in lengthy lines, which often start forming up to two hours before showtime. The paid system also tends to discourage the "balloon chasers" – cheapskates who only turn up when something is free.

Also last weekend was the Japanese Film Festival, which had a selection of food-themed titles and followed the free-ticket model. By all accounts, the queues to get those precious free tickets at the always-popular festival were quite long and many film lovers were turned away.

Free things are nice and the service-minded intent of the organizing embassies and cultural institutions is commendable, but you still pay a price in sore feet and legs from standing in a queue. I think I prefer to pay a modest fee at the ticket counter and find a comfortable place to sit while waiting for the show to start.

If you missed the French Film Festival, don't worry – at least three of the eight titles will get a general release in Bangkok cinemas. Michael Haneke's bleak Oscar-nominated elder-care drama Amour, which closed the festival, is set to bow next week. The romantic comedy Happiness Never Comes Alone (Un bonheur n'arrive jamais seu) starring Sophie Marceau is due on April 11, and the gritty crime drama Polisse, covering a Paris police Child Protection Unit, is set for April 25 at Apex Siam Square.

With many of the Oscar-nominated movies playing or having played in Bangkok, it might be fun to see which ones actually win. On TrueVisions channel 53, the E! network, the Academy Awards broadcast starts at 6am Bangkok time Monday with rebroadcasts later in the day.

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