Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 30-June 5, 2013

The Hangover Part III

Taking a darker tone that's more focused on action than laughs, Todd Phillips ends his debauched Hangover saga on a down note with The Hangover Part III. It has the Wolfpack boys from the first two films reuniting at Alan's dad's funeral. They make an attempt to offer comfort to Alan, but instead end up in Tijuana, and eventually, back to where it all started – Las Vegas.

Gone this time is the plot structure of the first two movies that had the guys waking up after a night of hard partying with no memories of what happened. In their previous romps in Las Vegas and then Bangkok, they spent the rest of their increasingly frenetic day-after trying to piece together the events of the night before.

Back for one last go are the Wolfpack boys, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha and Zach Galifianakis as the eccentric goofball Alan. Ken Jeong returns as the volatile gangster Mr. Chow. Following the events of The Hangover Part II, he's escaped from a Thai prison and made his way to the U.S.

Also returning are Heather Graham, the heart-of-gold stripper from Part I. John Goodman joins the cast this time around as the new big bad. And Melissa McCarthy is a love interest for Galifianakis' character.

Critical reception has been mostly negative, nowhere near as laudatory as critics were of the first installment, and box-office performance hasn't been as strong either, especially compared to the records broken for R-rated comedies by The Hangover and The Hangover Part II. Rated 15+.

Also opening

Jurassic Park 3D – One of the landmark summer blockbusters of the 1990s, Jurassic Park, has been converted into 3D in celebration of the movie franchise's 20th anniversary. Directed by Steven Spielberg, and based on a thriller novel by Michael Crichton, the story involves a team of scientists (Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum) who are called to a secret island where an eccentric billionaire (Richard Attenborough) has succeeded in creating life-size clones of long-extinct dinosaurs. The peskier of the big dinos, Tyrannosaurus Rex, attacks the scientists and soon everyone is running for their lives. Considered a breakthrough in blending computer-generated imagery (CGI) with Stan Winston's practical animatronic creatures, the special effects in Jurassic Park still hold up. Critical reception for the 3D conversion is mostly positive. It's in regular multiplexes and IMAX. Rated 13+.

Now You See Me – The studio pitch on this slick-looking crime comedy was probably "it's Ocean's Eleven with magicians". Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco star as "the Four Horsemen", flashy illusionists who use their talents at misdirection in pulling off bank heists to shower their audiences with cash. Mark Ruffalo is an FBI agent trying to lift the veil on the case and Morgan Freeman is a famous debunker of magic who might hold the key. Michael Caine also turns up. Frenchman Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, Clash of the Titans) directs. This isn't being released in the U.S. until tomorrow, and critical reception so far is mixed. Rated 13+.

Celeste and Jesse Forever – TV comedy stars Andy Samberg (Saturday Night Live) and Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation) headline this indie romantic comedy about a couple that married young and now, in their 30s, are on the verge of divorce. Celeste, the more driven of the pair, is at first convinced that divorcing her slacker husband is the right thing to do. But then he finds a new girlfriend and Celeste has second thoughts. Ari Graynor, Emma Roberts, Eric Christian Olsen and Elijah Wood also star. The screenplay is co-written by Jones and actor Will McCormack and directed by Lee Toland Krieger. It premiered at Sundance last year and was an original screenplay nominee at this year's Independent Spirit Awards. Critical reception is mostly positive. Rated 18+.

Aftershock – Don't confuse this with the Chinese earthquake epic that came out a couple years back. But an earthquake is still involved in this gory Chilean-American "torture porn" thriller. Young travelers are partying in a Chilean city's underground nightclub when a massive earthquake hits. Chaos ensues as the inmates from an insane asylum are on the loose and the threat of a tsunami looms. It's a fact-based yarn, spun from the devastating 2010 "8.8" earthquake in Chile. Perhaps the biggest name attached to this ultra-violent affair is Eli Roth, director of Hostel and pal of Quentin Tarantino. He co-wrote it, produces and stars. It's a gore-fest, in line with Roth's Hostel movies. Critical reception is mixed .It initially received an NC-17 rating, the most restrictive in the U.S., and was then toned down somewhat in re-editing to get the less-restrictive R rating. Thai censors thought it was still pretty harsh though, and they gave it the restrictive 20- rating, which means you'll have to show your I.D. if you don't look old enough.

The Bullet Vanishes – This noirish mystery is set in 1930s Shanghai, where a mismatched pair of police detectives investigate a series of strange murders, in which the bullets used seemingly vanish. Lau Ching-wan stars as Inspector Song, an expert in criminal psychology, with Nicholas Tse as his gunman partner, Captain Guo. Lo Chi-Leung (Double Tap) directs this Chinese-Hong Kong co-production. Chinese soundtrack with English and Thai subtitles at Paragon Cineplex, elsewhere Thai-dubbed. Rated 18+.

Young Bao: The Movie (ยังบาว เดอะมูฟวี่ ) – Marking 30 years in show business, the popular songs-for-life band Carabao is celebrating with a massive concert tour and this biographical movie that tracks the folk-rockers' early days. It's been a troubled production. Initially, Toon, the frontman for the popular rock band Bodyslam, was to portray Carabao's outspoken leader Ad, in what seemed like perfect casting. But he dropped out to have his place taken by newcomer actor Thana Iamniyom. The story follows Ad, a young man from Suphan Buri, and his friend Kirati "Khiaw Carabao" Phromsakha Na Sakon Nakhon (Pawarit "Bank" Mongkolpisit), as they start making music while studying in the Philippines. They return to Thailand and form one of the most successful musical acts in Thai history. Other big-name actors include musician-actor "Pae" Arak Amornsupasiri as moustachioed Lek Carabao, and "Tao" Somchai Kemklad as the band's drummer. Rated 18+.

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani – Directed by Ayan Mukerji, this song-and-dance romance extravaganza is attracting a lot of buzz for its pairing of a former "real life" superstar couple, Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone. Former Bollywood dance queen Madhuri Dixit makes a guest appearance. Starting tomorrow, it's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Ekamai and Rama III. Don't forget, for this movie, Major offers a promotional price – 250 baht Friday through Sunday and 180 baht Monday through Thursday; 150 baht all days for students. Prices for the "Exclusive Indian Movies" are ordinarily 350 baht on weekends and 200 baht on weekdays.

Also showing

Freedom on Film – The recent moves to ban and then unban the politically sensitive documentary Boundary has prompted the recent resurgence of the Free Thai Cinema Movement, which on Saturday from 1 to 6.30 in the fifth-floor auditorium at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre will host the Freedom on Film event. It will begin with a 2.5-hour documentary on censorship followed by a panel discussions with filmmakers and experts, including Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Uncle Boonmee), Pracyha Pinkaew (Ong-Bak), Nonzee Nimibutr (Nang Nak), Pantham Thongsang (Ai-Fak), Tanwarin Sukkhapisit (Insects in the Backyard) and Nontawat Numbenchapol (Boundary).The panel talk will be in Thai with no translation, but the film has English subtitles. I've been told all the seats in BACC's cramped auditorium are spoken for, but if you're interested, turn up anyway and maybe you can score a ticket. Check the Facebook events page for more details.

National Film Heritage screenings – Since its inception two years ago, 50 films have been inducted into the Registry of Films as National Heritage by the Thai Film Archive and the Culture Ministry. Began in October 2011, to mark that month's annual Film Conservation Day, 25 historic films were named, with 25 more added to the registry this past October. This Saturday and Sunday, June 1 and 2, four of the features on the lists will be screened for free by the Film Archive at Paragon Cineplex. Showtimes are at 2pm and 7pm. Up first on Saturday is The King of White Elephant (พระเจ้าช้างเผือก ) from 1941. The oldest surviving feature film, the epic of elephant battles and palace intrigue is also a rarity because it's an English-language film, produced by statesman Pridi Banomyong as anti-war propaganda, to let the world know that not all Thais agreed with Japan's imperialist moves. Also on Saturday is Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ). The newest entry in the Registry, Boonmee won the prestigious top-prize Palme d'Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, bringing much recognition to director Apichatpong Weerasethakul and to Thai independent films in general. It's a mystical tale, about relatives of a dying uncle gathering around him for a dinner that's visited by ghosts from his past. First up on Sunday is 1982's Son of Northeast (ลูกอีสาน), a landmark docu-drama by Vichit Kounavudhi, which follows the migrations of a close-knit group of struggling farming families in northeastern Thailand of the 1930s. The program closes with another classic, The Boat House or The House Boat (Reun Pae, เรือนแพ ), a sumptuous 1961 Thai-Hong Kong co-production that blends music, romance and adventure in a rollicking and tragic tale of triangular romance between guys renting a floating house and the pretty daughter of their landlord. Unfortunately, neither of the movies on Sunday have English subtitles. Subtitled prints existed at one time, but not any more. Tickets will be handed out one hour before showtime.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 23-29, 2013

Fast and Furious 6

The Fast and Furious circus jets over to London for another mindlessly fun hot-rod ride.

According to producers, Fast and Furious 6 is the first of the franchise entries to not feature underground road racing as a major plot point. They felt they'd reached a "ceiling" in audience appeal, thinking that tuned Suburus and scantily clad race girls dancing to hip-hop weren't enough.

But there's still plenty of thrills as gravel-voiced Vin Diesel and his gang drive their musclecars on the wrong side of the road in England.

Franchise regular Paul Walker also returns, as do Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges and Sung Kang. And, surprise, Michelle Rodriguez is back. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson reprises his role from Fast Five. Joining the cast this time around is Welsh actor Luke Evans as the chief villain, plus MMA fighter Gina Carano from Haywire. And stick around for a post-credits scene to see the star of another car-chase franchise.

Director Justin Lin, who's steered The Fast and the Furious series since the third entry Tokyo Drift, is back in the drivers's seat one more time. He's moving aside to concentrate on other projects as Saw director James Wan takes over on the already-in-production Fast and Furious 7.

Following their big caper in Rio de Janeiro, Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and his crew of street-racing high-stakes thieves have retired but remain wanted fugitives. Diplomatic Security Service agent Hobbs (Johnson) gives them a chance for a clean slate when he asks for Dom's help in bringing down a British ex-special forces soldier (Evans) who is leading a team of mercenaries in daring highway heists across Europe. Among the team of criminals is Dom's supposedly dead girlfriend Letty.

Critical reception is mostly positive, so far. Rated 15+.

Also opening

Epic – A teenage girl is shrunken down and discovers an incredible secret realm right in her own backyard. While trying to figure out a way to contact her nutty professor father and return to her normal size, she is caught up in a battle between the Leaf Men and their mortal enemies the Boggans. This animated feature is from Blue Sky Studios and is directed by Chris Wedge, the helmer of Ice Age and Robots. It is based on William Joyce's children's book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs. The voice cast is headed by Amanda Seyfried, along with Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Christoph Waltz, Aziz Ansari, Chris O'Dowd, Pitbull, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler and Beyoncé Knowles. Critical reception, so far, is generally positive. In 3D. Rated G.

Crush – A shy lonely high-school girl (Crystal Reed) turns into a psycho when she experiences her first feelings of love, making life a living hell for a hunky sports star (Lucas Till from X-Men: First Class). Sarah Bolger also stars. This went direct-to-DVD in the States and critical reception somewhat mixed. Rated 15+.

Also showing

European Union Film Festival – Wrapping up this weekend, tonight's feature is the Spanish drama Don't Be Afraid. Tomorrow, there are three movies: the Danish World War II drama This Life, the Polish black comedy Wonderful Summer and Julien Temple's documentary London – The Modern Babylon. Saturday's offerings are Stars Above from Finland, Goethe! from (where else?) Germany and Portugal's The Death of Carlos Gardel. And the fest closes on Sunday with Sweden's Beyond, starring Noomi Rapace, Cool Kids Don't Cry from the Netherlands and the Luxembourgish crime thriller Blind Spot. It's all at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. As always, tickets are free but you have to queue up to get them 30 minutes before showtime. This is a very popular festival, especially with the culture-starved expats, so be prepared for long lines. Check the festival website for the schedule.

Baara (Work) – The Alliance Française screens free movies with English subtitles at 7.30pm every Wednesday. Next week's offering is this 1978 African workplace comedy-drama by Souleymane Cissé. It's set in a factory in Bamako, Mali, where the harsh conditions and corruption of the bosses cause the workers to revolt.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 16-22, 2013

The Great Gatsby

"A Baz Luhrmann movie is like spaghetti that someone covered in Skittles and spiced rum," opined the Holy Taco humor website upon the opening of the Australian director's latest glitter-covered literary adaptation The Great Gatsby.

And it's as apt a description of Luhrmann's oeuvre as any. Previous iterations have included the contemporary reworking of Shakespeare with Romeo + Juliet and the pop-music-infused Moulin Rouge!

Boasting a soundtrack co-produced by hip-hop mogul Jay-Z and featuring songs by such modern-day artists as Fergie, Lana Del Rey and Florence and the Machine, F. Scott Fitzgerald's rags-to-riches story of the Roaring '20s centers on the unlikely millionaire Jay Gatsby, as seen through the eyes of impressionable neighbor Nick Carraway.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the title role, reuniting with Luhrmann following Romeo + Juliet. Other stars are Tobey Maguire at Carraway, plus Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton and Isla Fisher.

The film has premiered in the U.S. already with a strong showing at the box office, critics be damned, and last night was the suitably glamorous entry of the lrain-soaked opening of the Cannes Film Festival.

Critics are divided. As with Luhrmann's previous films, it's a "love it" or "hate it" type thing. Best advice I've heard is to just submit yourself and let the crazy spectacle wash over you.

It was actually filmed in 3D for "immersive" storytelling (as opposed to fake 3D). However, it's also available in 2D, so it's up to you to decide whether the glasses are worth the trouble. Rated 15+.

Also opening

Dead Man Down – Swedish helmer Niels Arden Oplev, director of the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, makes his Hollywood debut with this crime thriller that stars Colin Farrell and reunites Oplev with his Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace. They are two strangers who are drawn to one another by their mutual desire for revenge against a ruthless kingpin (Terrence Howard). Dominic Cooper and Isabelle Huppert also star. Critical reception is mixed. It's at Major Cineplex (including EGV, Paragon, Paradise, Mega, Esplanade). Rated 15+.

Promised Land – The controversial trend of "fracking", a radical new way of drilling for oil and gas in places where it's not otherwise economically feasible, is addressed in this comedy-drama. Matt Damon stars as a smooth-talking operator for a gas company. With his partner (Frances McDormand), they enter a small farming community and start work at convincing the locals to sign over their drilling rights. A grassroots environmentalist (John Krasinski) throws a monkey wrench into their plans. Hal Holbrook also stars. Damon's Good Will Hunting helmer Gus Van Sant directs the screenplay by Damon and Krasinki. It premiered at this year's Berlin film festival and won a Special Mention Award. Critical reception is mixed. It's at Apex in Siam Square.

Rurouni Kenshin – The popular Samurai X manga series is adapted for live action. Set during the early Meiji Period in the 1860s, it's about former samurai Himura Kenshin, who has vowed to never kill again. He drifts around, helping people and protecting them in atonement for his violent past. Takeru Satoh and Emi Takei star. This was a big box-office hit in Japan last year. It also screened at the Busan International Film Festival. Critical reception is generally favorable. It's Thai-dubbed only most places, except at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld, which has the Japanese soundtrack. Rated 18+.

Aurangzeb – Police capture the top lieutenant of a crime kingpin and torture him for information about his boss. Meanwhile, the police have a lookalike, who is sent in to further undermine the criminal organisation. In Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Paragon. Prithviraj Sukumaran, Arjun Kapoor, Sashaa Agha and Swara Bhaskar star. Starts Friday. Take note – for its next two "Exclusive Indian Movie" releases, Major Cineplex is offering discounted admission prices – 250 baht Friday through Sunday and 180 baht Monday through Thursday; 150 baht all days for students. Prices are ordinarily 350 baht on weekends and 200 baht on weekdays.

Also showing

European Union Film Festival – The annual free festival of contemporary European films opens at 7 tonight at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld with 3, a romance by German director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Cloud Atlas). It's about a man and woman, together for 20 years, who separately embark on affairs, with, as it turns out, the same man. Tomorrow night it's Medal of Honor, about an old Romanian man who receives a medal for bravery during World War II. He can't remember what it's for, but he nonetheless demands that people respect him. Saturday has three screenings, the French coming-of-age drama Tomboy, the Spanish horror-war thriller Frozen Silence and the Czech World War II drama Protector. Sunday's offerings are the Danish world War II drama This Life, the Polish black comedy A Wonderful Summer and the Dutch childhood drama Cool Kids Don’t Cry. Monday brings the Italian drama The Entrepreneur, Hungary's Liszt biopic The Last Rhapsody on Tuesday and the Danish comedian biopic A Funny Man on Wednesday. Showtimes on weeknights are at 7, with screenings on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 2.30pm. As always, the festival, running until May 26, is free, with tickets handed out 30 minutes before the show. Allow yourself plenty of time to queue up beforehand – this is always a very popular festival, so the lines will be long. All films have English subtitles, and some have both English and Thai subs. Check the festival website for the full schedule.

His Name is Ashari – It's fairly rare that documentaries and fictional features on the politically sensitive topic of Thailand's Deep South conflict are attempted, let alone publicly screened. His Name Is Ashari chronicles a mother's five-year quest to get the result of the inquest into his death, suspected to have been caused by torture. It's produced by freelance journalist Noi Thammasathien, with Mahamasabree Jehloh, Gooyee Itae and journalist Somoosa Boupan. The documentary screening accompanies a panel discussion at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand at 8 tonight. Admission for non-members is 350 baht.

Boundary – Here's another documentary on a controversial, politically sensitive topic, the Cambodian-Thai border dispute around Preah Vihear Temple. Directed by Nontawat Numbenchapol, Boundary (ฟ้าต่ำแผ่นดินสูง, Fahtum Pandinsoong) examines the knotted subject of the border conflict, red shirts and the ultra-nationalist yellow shirts. Boundary premiered at this year's Berlin International Film Festival and made its Thai premiere at the Salaya International Documentary Film Festival. Nontawat then sought a wider release for the film, but was perhaps not unexpectedly turned down by the ratings sub-committee of the National Film Board, which issued a ban. Days later, in a historic reversal of the ban, the censors admitted they made a "technical mistake" and had overstepped their authority. They allowed Boundary to be released under the 18+ rating, and, just so they'd feel like they were doing their jobs, asked Nontawat to trim a few seconds of a New Year's Eve announcement, “Let’s count down to celebrate HM the King’s 84th birthday”, out of fear that the seemingly innocuous dialogue might cause "misinterpretation". While a wider release for Boundary is still in the works, the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand will host a one-off screening at 8pm on Tuesday, May 21. Admission is free.

L'exercice de l'État (The Minister) – The Alliance Française screens free movies with English subtitles at 7.30pm every Wednesday. Next week's offering is this 2011 comedy by Pierre Schöller in which an embattled transport minister (Olivier Gourmet) fights to protect his public image while neglecting his wife and family at home.

Take note

Trouble in Mind, screening at 8pm on Friday.

The Friese-Greene Club opened its doors last weekend, offering a place for the city's film-industry professionals and die-hard cinema lovers to mix, mingle and watch old movies. A private club, it's in a shophouse in a small alley adjacent to the Imperial Queen's Park Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. Ring the bell to be let in and you'll be welcomed into a comfortable sitting area, bar and film-book library on the ground floor. More comfortable lounging space is available on the second-floor landing. And the plush nine-seat cinema, with state-of-the-art projection and sound, is on the third floor. The club is the brainchild of Paul Spurrier, a British filmmaker, former child actor and industry veteran in Thailand. He'll be showing movies from his private collection, most of which are rarely ever screened. Admission to the club is free for the moment, and all visitors are welcome. Check the club's Facebook page or website for updates on screenings, which are set for 8 nightly. Stop by to find out who the club is named after.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: European Union Film Festival, May 16-26, 2013

The long-running European Union Film Festival joins hands with SF cinemas this year to bring 18 acclaimed and popular recent movies from 15 countries for free screenings Bangkok.

The fest will also be held at the new SF multiplex in Chiang Mai, and for the first time, a mini-program of five English- and Thai-subtitled films in Khon Kaen.

In Bangkok, it will be held from May 16 to 26 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. The move to SFW CentralWorld is a welcome change from the past several years, when the EU Film Festival was held at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre – an inadequate venue for films, in my opinion.

As always, the tickets are free, which means you'll have to queue up. Tickets start being handed out 30 minutes before showtime, but in reality you'll want to get in line much earlier in order to ensure you get a decent seat. If you wait too late, you might end up straining your neck in the front row. This is always a popular festival, especially with the balloon-chasers who only turn up for free events, so brace yourself for long lines.

One thing I am uncertain of at this time is what format the movies are screening in – hopefully not DVD.

Five of them will have Thai subtitles in addition to English subs and will be shown in Khon Kaen. They are Tomboy from France (which has screened her before in a run at House), Cool Kids Don’t Cry from the Netherlands, The Death of Carlos Gardel from Portugal, Medal of Honour from Romania and the World War II drama Frozen Silence from Spain.

Here’s the line-up:

Protector (Protektor), Czech Republic, 2009 – A Czech journalist joins a Prague radio station that broadcasts Nazi propaganda in order to protect his Jewish wife. It was a winner of several Czech Lions awards, including best actress and best director.

A Funny Man (Dirch), Denmark, 2011 – This biographical drama chronicles the life of the prolific Danish actor and comedian Dirch Passer. It won several awards at home.

This Life (Hvidsten Gruppen), Denmark, 2012 – A popular entry at the Danish box office, this fact-based drama recalls the fighting spirit of the Fiils, a family of innkeepers who led the resistance against the Nazis. It won four awards.

Stars Above (Tähtitaivas talon yllä), Finland, 2012 – The stories of three women from the same family in the same country house are followed across three decades from the wartorn 1940s to the colourful 1970s and finally the present day.

Tomboy, France, 2011 – A 10-year-old girl is mistaken for a boy when she moves to a new neighborhood and embraces her new identity has she makes new friends. It won many awards, including the Teddy at the Berlin fest and prizes at several gay and lesbian fests.

Goethe!, Germany, 2010 – A starry-eyed young Goethe flunks his oral exams at law school and is sent by his angry father to the Imperial High Court in Wetzlar. There, he falls in love with a woman who is promised to another man. The sorrowful experience inspires him to write a novel that makes him an overnight success. It won a German Film Award for best makeup and was nominated for many more.

3 (Drei), Germany, 2010 – Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Cloud Atlas) directs this drama about the romantic triangle that forms when a long-married couple bring a man into their bed. A nominee for the Golden Lion in Venice, 3 won three German Film Awards, including best director and best actress.

The Last Rhapsody (Utolsó Rapszódia), Hungary, 2011 – The final days of composer Franz Liszt’s life are recalled, including his friendship with German composer Richard Wagner.

The Entrepreneur (L’Industriale), Italy, 2011 – A 40-year-old factory owner faces a crisis on two fronts when his factory is closing, leaving him with just one certainty in his life – his marriage. It won several awards at home, including the Italian Golden Globe for best film

Blind Spot (Doudege Wénkel), Luxembourg, 2012 – A senior police inspector takes one last case before retirement – the death of a fellow cop. He gets the help from a young loose-cannon officer, who just happens to be the brother of the departed policeman. This crime thriller has attracted a lot of buzz, and besides, how many times have you watched a movie in Luxembourgish?

Cool Kids Don’t Cry (Achtste Groepers Huilen Niet), Netherlands, 2012 – A spirited young girl loves football even though her closest friend thinks it’s not for girls. And even after she is diagnosed with leukemia, she remains optimistic. Eventually, it’s up to her friend to come up with something special. It swept the Netherlands' Golden Film prize, among several other accolades.

A Wonderful Summer (Cudowne lato), Poland, 2011 – This black comedy is mostly set in a funeral parlor. Kitka, 18, has a unique gift – she can communicate with the spirit of her dead mother, whose soul will not rest until she finds a suitable mate for her daughter.

The Death of Carlos Gardel, Portugal, 2011 – As a young drug addict nears death in a hospital, visits by family members evoke a web of memories. The father refuses to accept his son’s death, and channels his passion for tango and the Argentine singer Carlos Gardel.

Medal of Honor (Medalia de Onoare), Romania, 2009 – A 75-year-old Romanian man finds a new sense of self-respect after he accidentally receives a medal for his supposedly heroic actions during World War II, which he hardly remembers. It's won many awards, including several honors at the Thessaloniki Film Festival.

Don’t Be Afraid (No Tengas Miedo), Spain, 2011 – A young woman marked by a dark childhood decides to start over and face the people and emotions that keep her bound to the past. Stars Michelle Jenner, who won or was nominated for best new actress honors.

Frozen Silence (Silencio en la Nieve), Spain, 2011 – At the Russian front in the winter of 1943, members of Spain’s Blue Division encounter a dead man in the ice with his throat slit and a message carved into his chest, "Watch out, God is watching you." It was nominated for a couple of awards back home.

Beyond (Svinalängorna), Sweden, 2010 Noomi Rapace (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) stars in this drama about a woman who confronts her abusive childhood when she receives news that her mother is dying. Pernilla August (Darth vader's mother from Star Wars Episode I and Episode II) directs and Ola Rapace (Skyfall) also stars. It won the International Critic’s Week Award at the 67th Venice Film Festival plus prizes at many other festivals.

London – The Modern Babylon, UK, 2012 – Julien Temple directs this time-travelling voyage to the heart of his hometown, featuring musicians, writers, artists, dangerous thinkers, political radicals and above all ordinary people.

For the schedule, visit the festival website.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 9-15, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

J.J. Abrams, the creator of such science-fiction TV series as Lost and Fringe who has now somehow been put in charge of guiding both the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises, takes the crew of the Starship Enterprise out for another lens-flare-bedazzled spin with the oddly titled Star Trek Into Darkness.

Shrouded in mystery and rumor for much of its production, this second entry in Abrams' rebooted Trek universe has the Enterprise called back to Earth to deal with a mass-destruction mastermind. He is not Khan as fans have speculated but is just some rogue Starfleet officer named John Harrison. He's played by the awesomely named Benedict Cumberbatch.

Back in the captain's chair is Chris Pine as the brash womanizing young Captain James T. Kirk, Zachary Quinto as his logical Vulcan first officer Spock, Karl Urban as grumpy ship's surgeon McCoy, Zoe Salana as communications officer Uhura, John Cho as helmsman Sulu, Anton Yelchin as whiz-kid navigator Pavel Chekov and Simon Pegg as chief engineer Scotty. Robocop himself, Peter Weller, joins the cast as a hawkish Starfleet commander. Alice Eve a character introduced in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Dr. Carol Marcus, Kirk's love interest.

Hard-core fans of the Star Trek TV series have been critical of Abrams' direction with the franchise, arguing that he's concentrating too much on action, comedy and lens flares, straying away from creator Gene Roddenberry's exploration of social issues and the human condition. Nonetheless, critical reception is mostly positive. Opening tomorrow (not today as with the other movies), it's in 3D (post-production) in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated 13+.

Also opening

Welcome to the Punch – Mark Strong, one of the usual suspects when it comes to British gangster flicks, stars in this slick-looking thriller about a former criminal who has to return to London when his son is involved in a heist gone wrong. The ex-gangster's long-time nemesis, a police detective played by James McAvoy, sees one last chance to get his man. While at odds, they uncover a deeper conspiracy. Eran Creevy, who made a small-budget drama called Shifty as well as commercials and music videos, makes his sophomore directorial feature under the production umbrella of Ridley Scott. Critical reception is mixed, but it looks like a sure bet if you're a fan of other genre films like Layer Cake and RocknRolla. Rated 15+.

Evil Dead – Sam Raimi co-produces this new entry into his horror franchise that serves as both a remake and continuation of his original low-budget 1981 cult movie about young folks in a remote cabin who discover a Book of the Dead and unwittingly summon up dormant demons. They are picked off until only one is left standing to somehow turn back the evil. Fan favorite Bruce Campbell, star of the original and Raimi's sequels, also produces and makes a cameo, as does Raimi's Oldsmobile. It's directed and co-written by Uruguayan indie helmer Fede Alvarez, and Diablo Cody doctored the script. Critical reception is surprisingly positive, so, again, if you're a fan of the genre you probably won't be disappointed. Rated 18+.

3096 Days – This fact-based English-language drama recounts the ordeal of Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian girl who was kidnapped at age 10 and held captive in a secret cellar for eight years. Antonia Campbell-Hughes stars with Thure Lindhardt as her captor, Wolfgang Přiklopil. It's at SF cinemas and House on RCA. Rated 15+.

Love in the Rain (Ruedoo Tee Taektang, ฤดูที่ฉันเหงา) – Seems like there is one of these types of movies every year, a romantic comedy-drama that's promoted with posters of the characters standing under umbrellas. This year's entry into the canon is the second directorial effort by multi-hyphenate musician and actor "Dan" Worrawech Danuwong. It's set in the little northern tourist-trap town of Pai and involves a tight-knit group of youngsters whose affections towards each other are not necessarily returned in the way they would wish. Kung (Chalermpon “Jack Fan Chan” Thikampornteerawong) falls for Nara (Nara Thepnupha) and also becomes friendly with a musician (Dan) who lives opposite Nara’s house. But Nara is in love with a handsome hair stylist, a guy named Daisy (Toni Rakkaen), who is interested in another girl, Jan (Jintanadda Lammakanon). Like Dan's first directorial effort, the musical romantic drama The Melody, it's produced by industry titan Prachya Pinkaew and Sahamongkolfilm. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Louise-Michel – The Alliance Française screens free movies with English subtitles at 7.30pm every Wednesday. Next week's offering is this 2008 workplace comedy directed by Gustave Kervern and Benoît Delépine and starring Yolande Moreau, Bouli Lanners and Benoît Poelvoorde. It deals with workers at a coat-hanger factory who plot to kill their boss after he shuts down his business and empties it overnight, throwing them all out of their jobs.

Take note

The Mexican Film Festival is continuing at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, with screenings at 5.30pm every Tuesday until June 4. And the indie comedy-drama Cautionary Tale has a screening at 7pm on Tuesday night on the rooftop of the Muse Hotel. Please see last week's posting for more details.

Next week, I'll post details about the long-running and popular European Union Film Festival, set for May 16 to 26 at SF World Cinema.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 1-8, 2013

Iron Man 3

There's just one wide release this week – Iron Man 3 – and it opens today, two days before it makes its bow in U.S. multiplexes. Today also also happens to be May Day, Thailand's National Labor Day, a public holiday. So the movie chains have a chance at luring idle workers and their comrades in to boost up the box-office takings.

Iron Man 3 has Robert Downey Jr. suiting back up for his fourth full-blown outing as the brash billionaire superhero Tony Stark (not counting his cameo in the teaser at the end of The Incredible Hulk). While suffering post-traumatic stress after seeing New York destroyed and his brush with death in The Avengers, Tony faces a fearsome new foe in the guise of the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who rips Stark's world apart.

Don Cheadle (not Terrence Howard) also returns as Tony's good friend Rhodey, and he dons a suit too, with a new red, white and blue paint job as Iron Patriot, formerly known as War Machine. Also returning are Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark's girlfriend and longtime assistant Pepper Potts, Guy Pearce as rival industrialist Aldrich Killian and Jon Favreau, the director of the first two Iron Man movies, as Tony's driver and head of security, Happy Hogan.

Iron Man 3 is a Disney/Marvel co-production with China, a strategy that helps Hollywood skirt China's stringent quota rules that only allow a handful of foreign films to screen there each year. It's already opened in several Asian territories and broken many records.

There's even a "Sweded" Thai trailer.

Shane Black directs. He's the superstar screenwriter of the Lethal Weapon series, The Last Boy Scout and The Long Kiss Goodnight, among other flicks, and he also directed Downey Jr. in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Iron Man is part of the sprawling Avengers franchise, but RDJ has been dropping hints that this may be his last go 'round in the armored suit, wondering in GQ magazine "who many genre movies can I do?" He suffered injuries during the filming of Iron Man 3 and is probably still sore. Co-star Paltrow has said she doesn't think there will be an Iron Man 4. It may all be a play to boost Downey's $50 million paycheck even further.

Meanwhile, Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is spinning on, with Thor: The Dark World due out later this year, Captain America: The Winter Soldier next year, Joss Whedon's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series and eventually The Avengers 2.

As always with these Marvel comic-book flicks, there's a post-credits teaser for another movie in the series, so stick around and take time to appreciate just how many people worked on the film.

Critical reception for Iron Man 3 is highly favorable, much better than the rather dull second entry in the series, with the consensus being that the sense of fun from the first entry has returned. It's in 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated G.

Also opening

Shootout at Wadala – This fact-based Bollywood action flick recalls the 1982 fatal police shooting of gangster Manya Surve (John Abraham) by Mumbai police. It was the first of the so-called "encounter killings" in Mumbai. Kangna Ranaut and Anil Kapoor also star. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles Major Cineplex Sukumvit (Ekamai) and Central Rama III. Starts Friday.

Also showing

Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington – Sebastian Junger directs this documentary on war photographer Tim Hetherington, his friend and co-director of the Oscar-nominated, Sundance-winning Afghanistan war documentary Restrepo. Which Way covers Hetherington's life until his last days in Libya, where he was killed on April 20, 2011. After premiering at this year's Sundance festival, it was broadcast on HBO. The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand hosts a special screening of the documentary to benefit RISC (Reporters Instructed In Saving Colleagues). Admission for non-members is 350 baht. The showtime is at 8pm on Thursday, May 2 at the FCCT.

Cautionary Tale – This independent feature made its Bangkok debut last weekend at Jam Cafe, a new venue near Surasak BTS station that has regular movie nights. Produced and directed by Christopher Zawadzki, Cautionary Tale follows a children's TV show host grieving over the death of his daughter. The sad New Yorker comes to Bangkok and is cheered up by a Thai rock musician named Cherry. She inspires him to start making music again. There will be two more screenings of A Cautionary Tale, at 6pm on Sunday, May 5 at the Titanium Ice Bar on Sukhumvit Soi 22 and at 7pm on May 14 on the rooftop of the Hotel Muse on Soi Langsuan. Check the film's Facebook page for more details.

Contemporary Mexican Film Festival – Following the celebration of Mexico's Cinco de Mayo this Sunday, the Mexican Embassy in Bangkok is putting on a film festival. Held in conjunction with the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, the fest will feature five fairly recent Mexican movies. The screenings will be at the Sri Salaya cinema at 5.30pm every Tuesday from May 7 to June 4. The opening film is El Estudiante (The Student), about a 70-year-old man who enrolls in college and meets colorful new friends. May 14 will feature Amor en Fin (Love on a Weekend), which has three love stories from different social classes over the course of three days. Espiral (Spiral) on May 21 is about the women left behind when their men migrate to the U.S. in search of better-paying jobs. La Mitad del Mundo (The Half of the World) on May 28 is about the sexual awakening of a mentally challenged young man. And the closing film on June 4, Flor de Fango (Mud Flower), is a drama about a medical-school lecturer who falls for his family's late nanny's 14-year-old daughter. All will be shown with English subtitles. As always, the Film Archive has daily screenings of Thai and foreign films and many special events. Please follow the FAPOT Facebook page for updates (mostly in Thai only).

Les femmes du 6ème étage (The Women on the Sixth Floor) – Owing to today's public holiday, there's no movie at the Alliance Française tonight. May's roster of screenings starts at 7.30pm next Wednesday, May 8, with Les femmes du 6ème étage, a 2011 comedy directed by Philippe Le Guay about an uptight stockbroker whose life is changed by a colorful group of Spanish maids who've moved into his apartment building. Other movies this month are Louise Michel on May 15, L’Exercice de l’Etat on May 22 and Baara on May 29.