After killing Hitler and other top Nazis in Inglourious Basterds, the supreme dork of genre film Quentin Tarantino skewers more history in Django Unchained, a weird blend of blaxploitation and spaghetti western.
The tale is set in Civil War-era America where a former slave (Jamie Foxx) is befriended by a genial bounty hunter (Oscar-winning supporting actor Christoph Waltz). Together, the pair set about to free Django's wife, who has been captured by a cruel plantation owner – an oddly cast Leonardo DiCaprio, who is clearly having a ball playing the villain.
Tarantino regular Samuel L. Jackson also stars, portraying a scheming house slave. And, in a tribute to the 1966 Italian western, original Django star Franco Nero appears in a cameo. Kerry Washington also stars with Don Johnson and Walton Goggins also making appearances.
Winner of the Oscar for original screenplay and many other awards this season, Django Unchained, has been met with widespread critical adoration as well as controversy over the repeated use of the "n-word". Rated 18+.
Pietà – Controversial and polarizing South Korean director Kim Ki-duk's latest feature is the ultra-violent tale of a brutal loan shark (Lee Jung-jin) whose life slowly changes after he's visited by a mysterious woman (Jo Min-su) who claims to be his long-lost mother. Pietà won the Golden Lion at last year's Venice film fest, where it was applauded in a standing ovation. However, the festival jury headed by Michael Mann was divided and reportedly wanted to give all the awards to The Master but was prevented from doing so by festival rules. So Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master got the prizes for best director and best actors and Pietà took the top prize. Despite this being a violent and by all accounts a difficult film to watch, with Oedipal symbolism and Kim's misogynistic tendencies in full view, critical reception is mostly positive. It's in Korean with English and Thai subtitles at Apex Siam Square. Rated 18+.
Side Effects – Asserting that "movies don't matter anymore," director Steven Soderbergh swears this is his final feature film for theatrical release, and that he's retiring from filmmaking in order to become a painter. This thriller, slick-looking as usual for Soderbergh, is about the things that go wrong for a troubled young woman (Rooney Mara) after she is prescribed an experimental anti-anxiety drug by a psychiatrist (Jude Law). Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones also star. Side Effects premiered in competition at this year's Berlin film festival, and critical reception is generally positive. At Major Cineplex (including Paragon, Paradise, Mega, etc.) and Apex Siam Square. Rated 15+.
The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia – With a title that makes absolutely no sense except to the originators of the Haunting in Connecticut franchise, this "sister film" to the 2009 first entry has a family moving into a historic house in the U.S. state of Georgia, which is worlds away from any place called Connecticut. It turns out the place was once owned by a taxidermist who experimented on people and kept his victims locked in the basement, and their ghosts are now haunting the new inhabitants. Abigail Spencer, Chad Michael Murray, Katee Sackhoff and Cicely Tyson star. This had a viewing-on-demand and limited theatrical release in the U.S. last month ahead of a DVD release in April. Critical reception, so far, is mixed. Rated 15+.
Suddenly It’s Magic (มหัศจรรย์รักกับสิ่งเล็กๆ, Mahassajan Rak Kab Sing Lek Lek) – Thai superstar Mario Maurer headlines this Filipino romantic comedy. He's a broken-hearted Thai superstar who goes on vacation in the Philippines and falls for a Filipina (Erich Gonzales) who works in a bakery. He then invites her to visit him in Bangkok, but his fans are opposed because they want him to get back together with his former girlfriend, a Thai actress. Suddenly It's Magic is the direct result of the popularity of the cute 2010 Thai romantic comedy A Crazy Little Thing Called Love (สิ่งเล็กเล็ก ที่เรียกว่า...รัก, Sing Lek Lek Thi Riak Wa ... Rak), a.k.a. First Love, which was a viral sleeper hit in Thailand and went on to charm teenybopper fans in other Asian countries, especially in the Philippines, where it aired on TV and made the Chinese-German Thai-raised Mario a huge idol. Mario's Sing Lek Lek co-star "Bai Fern" Pimchanok Luevisadpaibul, also popular in the Philippines, appears as Mario's Thai-actress ex. Thai soundtrack with English subtitles. Rated G.
Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns – Jimmy Shergill and Mahie Gill reprise their roles from Bollywood's 2009 Gangster drama, which is set against the backdrop of a crumbling royal household. Irrfan Khan and Soha Ali Khan also star. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Rama III. Rated 15+.
Two film events are coming up at the end of March and the beginning of April that will be of interest to fans of Southeast Asian cinema.
First up on March 30 and 31 at the Reading Room is In Lav We Trust, featuring two recent works by the master of long-form black-and-white human suffering, Filipino auteur Lav Diaz. The films are 2011's Century of Birthing (Siglo ng pagluluwal) and last year's Florentina Hubaldo, CTE. The showtime is 1pm and both films clock in at 6 hours. I advise getting there early in order to stake out the spot you'll be occupying for the day. Perhaps bring along a pillow.
Next, from April 1 to 7, is the third Salaya International Film Festival – Salaya Doc 2013 – at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, and at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. The program is slowly coming together, but the opening film has been announced – Nontawat Numbenchapol's Boundary, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival last month. The fest will also feature a competition program of Southeast Asian documentaries.