Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 20-26, 2013


Celebrated American indie director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter) gets back to the southern U.S. setting of his debut Shotgun Stories with another gritty tale.

In Mudthe title character is portrayed by the current go-to indie-movie leading man Matthew McConaughey, who continues to show his impressive range. He shed pounds to play a stick-figure of a fugitive who is hiding out in a boat caught in the treetops of an island on the Mississippi River. Discovered by two boys, Ellis and Neckbone, they agree to help him, unwittingly putting themselves and their town at risk.

The cast also features Nichols' regular Michael Shannon (who's also chewing up scenery as General Zod in Man of Steel), plus Reese Witherspoon, Ray McKinnon, Sam Shepard and Joe Don Baker.

Mud premiered in competition at last year's Cannes Film Festival. Reception is overwhelmingly positive, with critics comparing it to such masterpieces of American literature as Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer. Rated 15+.

Also opening

Paradoxocracy (ประชาธิปไตย, Prachathipatai) – Director Pen-ek Ratanaruang is better known for his surreal, darkly comic fictional features like Headshot, Last Life in the Universe or Monrak Transistor. But from time to time, he likes to change things up by doing a documentary. On Paradoxocracy, he collaborates with Pasakorn Pramoolwong, editor of A Day magazine, to cover Thailand's contemporary political history. The film is a mix of archive footage, narration and talking-head interviews with various academics and activists, surveying the tumultuous times since the constitutional monarchy was instated in 1932. Paradoxocracy was submitted to censors and had a few cuts ordered. In a bold move, no footage was actually cut, but words deemed inappropriate by censors have been muted and subtitles crossed out so you'll at least see that there's censorship going on. The film was initially slated for a limited release back in February, but then the theater balked. So Pen-ek and Pasakorn have been trying for months to secure a release. Finally, Major Cineplex decided it would take the risk. Starting Monday, June 24, and running until July 10, Paradoxocracy will screen at 2 and 8pm at Paragon Cineplex and Esplanade Cineplex Ratchada. There's more about it in the Bangkok Post. Rated G.

World War Z – Brad Pitt fights a swarm of CGI zombies in this apocalyptic epic. In development for years, World War Z has all the makings of a box-office disaster, with rewrites by a changing roster of screenwriters, scene reshoots, postponed release dates and rumors of an on-set feud between Pitt and director Marc Forster (Machine Gun Preacher, Quantum of Solace). Despite bad buzz surrounding the troubled production, critical reception is actually not too negative. It's based on an acclaimed book by Max Brooks, son of Mel. Goodwill for the film has been further buoyed by Pitt's partner Angelina Jolie joining him at premieres in her first public appearances since announcing she'd undergone surgery to prevent breast cancer. It's in 2D as well as converted 3D. Rated 13+.

The Sapphires – An Aboriginal singing group of four soul sisters are discovered in Australia by a drunken Irishman (Chris O'Dowd from Bridesmaids), who becomes their manager and launches them on a career in show business that has them going to Vietnam to entertain the troops. This fact-based feel-good tale is generally well-received. It's at Major Cineplex (including Paragon, Esplanade, etc.). Rated 13+.

Raanjhanaa – Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman scores this Bollywood romance, the sweeping tale of Kundun (Dhanush), who's long harbored feelings for boyhood gal pal Zoya (Sonam Kapoor). So he's understandably broken-hearted when she comes to him and asks for his help in winning the affections of Akram (Abhay Deol), her friend from college. Opening on Friday, it's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Rama III.

Also showing

Refugee Film Festival – In observance of World Refugee Day today, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is screening four films for free until Sunday at Paragon Cineplex. The highlight is War Witch, a 2012 drama about child soldiers in Africa by Canadian director Kim Nguyen. It stars Rachel Mwanza, an illiterate child plucked from the streets of Kinshasa and schooled by Nguyen. Her performance earned her the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin International Film Festival and other prizes. It was also nominated for an Academy Award. Other films are the documentaries Pushing the Elephant and Run for Life and the Oscar-winning Danish drama In a Better World. You can reserve tickets through the UNHCR website. Many shows are already fully booked. You'll want to collect your tickets well before the show starts to ensure you get a decent seat.

Living Peru – Not very well publicized – nobody bothered to tell me about it – the Living Peru travelling film exhibition started on June 15. There's still a chance to catch a few of the films. It's on until Saturday at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Arts. Tonight at 6, it's Cuchillos en el cielo (Knives in the Sky), a brand-new drama about a man held for 10 years on a terrorism accusation and then released when he's found innocent. And on Saturday there's the short film Danzak at 1pm, followed at 5pm by the documentary Lima Bruja: Retratos de la música criolla (Enchanted Lima: Portraits of Criolla Music). Take note of a complaint by Limitless Cinema that the films showed earlier than advertised. According to the organizer, the Runa Run Association, screenings will follow at other venues, include the Museum Siam and the Thai Film Archive. The venue for this week's screenings is room 401/18 in CU's Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Building off Henri Dunant Road.

L'Enfant d'en haut (Sister) – Courtesy of the Swiss Embassy, the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand is screening this 2012 coming-of-age drama about siblings living on the edge at an Alpine ski resort, where a little boy supports his older sister by stealing. Directed by Ursula Meier, it won a Silver Bear at the Berlin film fest and was Switzerland's submission to the Academy Awards. The show is at 8pm on Monday. The Swiss Embassy is providing wine and snacks for 100 baht. Entry for non-members is 150 baht.

Dance les cordes (On the Ropes) – The Alliance Française screens free movies with English subtitles at 7.30pm every Wednesday. Next week's show is a drama about girl boxers – a boxing coach's daughter and his niece. They used to be close, but in the ring they become pitiless opponents.

Sneak preview

Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons – Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle) revisits the Journey to the West epic, co-directing but not starring in this comic reworking of the ancient Chinese fantasy tale. The hero is the novice demon hunter Tang Sanzang (Wen Zhang), who has yet to actually make his famous journey. He's in a remote village, trying to solve the case of strange deaths involving various demons, like the Fish Demon and the Pig Demon. He's helped out by the plucky demon huntress Miss Duan (Shu Qi). Critical reception is generally positive. Originally slated to open last month, it's in sneak previews this week with showtimes at around 8 nightly at SF Cinemas. It's Thai-dubbed with English subtitles. Rated 13+.

Take note

With just nine seats, the Friese-Greene Club is Bangkok's smallest cinema. And the private club started a month or so ago by filmmaker Paul Spurrier has proven popular with in-the-know movie buffs. Recent film series devoted to British and Australian movies have attracted decent crowds. The series launched this week is American Independents, featuring films by the likes of Vincent Gallo and Harmony Korine. A lot of interest has been shown, so the FCG has instituted a seat-reservation system. Just check the website for details. Tonight's screening of Donnie Darko is listed as fully booked, but at last check there were still seats available for the other films, such as Miracle Mile, which is harder to come by.

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