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.

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