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.

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