Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 18-24, 2013

Grean Fictions

Chookiat Sakveerakul, the acclaimed director of the teenage coming-of-age romantic drama Love of Siam and last year's award-winning three-segment sentimental drama Home, turns to comedy with Grean Fictions (เกรียน ฟิคชั่น), about high-school boys in Chiang Mai.

One kid named Tee ("Fiat" Pattadon Jan-Ngern) joins the school's film club and with his friends starts making short documentaries and posting them on YouTube under the name "GreanFictions". Grean (also transliterated as krian), is the slang word for the style of short hair that Thai schoolboys must wear. It's also used to describe anything that's uncool or unfun. The videos strike a chord with other teens and are a huge hit but melancholy Tee finds himself struggling with a crush on a female classmate.

Wanida Termthanaporn, a.k.a. Gybzy Girly Berry, also stars. She portrays Tee's older sister and gets involved in shenanigans of her own when she catches the eye of one of Tee's teachers (Boriboon Janruang) but she already has a boyfriend.

It's rated 15+.

Also opening

To the Wonder – There was a time when several years would pass by before we saw a Terrence Malick film. But now the enigmatic Texan is on fire, following up 2011's Tree of Life with this abstract philosophical musing on love. Ben Affleck, coming off his Oscar win for Argo, stars as an American who begins a romantic involvement with a European woman (Olga Kurylenko, who's also on the Bangkok big screen in Oblivion). She returns with him to Oklahoma, where their relationship changes. She meets a priest and fellow European expat (Javier Bardem) who is struggling with his faith. Ben's character meanwhile renews his ties with a childhood sweetheart (Rachel McAdams). As is usual for a Terrence Malick project, there was a lot of footage shot and the film's story took shape during the editing process. Consequently, a cast of all-stars who thought they would be in the film were surprised to find they were left out entirely. Among those on the cutting-room floor were Tree of Life star Jessica Chastain along with Rachel Weisz, Amanda Peet, Barry Pepper and Michael Sheen. And, as with many Malick films, critics are polarised. One viewer was so puzzled, he invented a drinking game. But one who gave it a thumbs up was Roger Ebert. It was the last film he reviewed before he died on April 4. Rated 15+.

Midnight's Children – Salman Rushdie and director Deepa Mehta (Fire, Earth, Water) collaborate on this adaptation of the noted author's 1981 novel about babies switched at birth in a Mumbai hospital at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947 – India's independence day. The boys, the bastard child of a beggar woman and the only son of a wealthy couple, find themselves on opposite sides of many conflicts over the course of their tumultuous lives. Critical reception is mixed. It's at Paragon and Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Rama III. Rated 15+.

Broken City – Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg chew up the scenery in this political thriller. Marky Mark is a former New York police detective with a checkered past who is drawn into a web of intrigue by the city's scheming mayor. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jeffrey Wright also star. Allen Hughes, half of the twin-brother pair that made such films as Menace II Society and Dead Presidents, directs. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+.

Penthouse North – Michelle Monaghan is a blinded former photojournalist whose quiet life in a New York penthouse is brutally disrupted by sadistic criminals in search of a hidden cache of diamonds. Michael Keaton also stars. This thriller is directed by Joseph Ruben, who previously helmed the 1995 Wesley Snipes-Woody Harrelson romp Money Train. Not much else is known about Penthouse North other than it's possibly a remake of Wait Until Dark and has been sitting on the shelf since 2011 but isn't hitting cinemas until now. Rated 15+.

Scary Movie 5 – The latest in the long line of brain-dead horror-movie parodies strings together unimaginative spoofs of such films as Paranormal Activity, Mama, The Cabin in the Woods, The Evil Dead, Inception, Sinister, Black Swan, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, 127 Hours and Insidious. Snoop Dogg, Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan are among the celebs making cameos. David Zucker, the co-writer of such films as Airplane! and The Naked Gun as well as the past two Scary Movie installments, had a hand in this. Critical reception is overwhelmingly negative. Rated 15+.

A Haunted House — Not to be outdone by the Zuckers, one of the Wayans brothers offers his own low-brow spoof of horror films with this send up of such “found footage” movies as Paranormal Activity and The Devil Inside. Marlon Wayans stars along with Cedric the Entertainer, Nick Swardson and David Koechner. As with Scary Movie 5, critical reception is overwhelmingly negative. At Major Cineplex. Rated 15+.

When Wolf Falls in Love with Sheep – This romantic comedy by Taiwanese director Hou Chi-jan is set in a neighborhood of Taipei "cram schools" where a broken-hearted young man (Ko Chen-Tung) working in a copy shop finds a drawing of a sheep on the back of a test paper. It leads him to a relationship with the sheep's quirky artist (actress Jian Man-Shu, a nominee for best newcomer at this year's Asian Film Awards). Critical reception is mixed. It's in Mandarin with English and Thai subtitles at House on RCA.

Bodyslam Nang Len (บอดี้สแลม นั่งเล่น) – Director Songyos Sugmakanan (Top Secret Teenage Billionaire, Hormones) helms this musical documentary that chronicles the "unplugged" concerts in February 2012 by Thailand's top rock band Bodyslam. It's at Major Cineplex (including Mega, etc.) Thai soundtrack only, no subtitles. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Les mains en l'air (Hands Up) – The Alliance Francais screens free movies at 7.30pm every Wednesday. Next week's show is a 2010 comedy-drama directed by Romain Goupil and starring Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Hippolyte Girardot and Linda Doudaeva. Set in 2067, a Chechen immigrant reminisces on her childhood years in Paris when her parents had to leave and she moved in with a new family in order to continue her schooling. It's in French with English subtitles.

Take note

There are weird subtitling issues with the Thai romance Koo Kam (คู่กรรม), which opened in cinemas on April 4. It's about the relationship between a Japanese soldier and a young Thai woman during World War II in Bangkok. About half the dialogue is in Japanese, and in most theaters, according to the Major Cineplex and SF Cinemas websites, the film is subtitled in Thai only. But one exception I've found is at Paragon Cineplex, where the film's original Thai and Japanese soundtrack is screening with English subtitles only.

According to The Nation's Soopsip column today, there have been complaints recently that Bangkok;s frigid cinemas aren't cold enough. Perhaps the warming was part of the government's energy-saving campaign while a Myanmar gas pipeline was under repairs. Anyway, things got heated at Major Cineplex Central Rama III, where a customer complained about the temperature and got yelled at by the manager. She ended up having to resign over the fracas. Too bad I say. In my opinion, the cinemas are still too cold and if they raised the thermostat a degree or two it wouldn't hurt.

A mind-boggling number of movies has been released this week in a "dump", something that ordinarily occurs early in the year when studios and distributors need to get a bunch of mostly forgettable films off their books and clear the decks before summer blockbuster season.

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