Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 5-11, 2013


South Korean director Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Mother) is the latest of his countrymen to make his English-language debut. He follows Park Chan-wook, who made his Hollywood debut with Stoker and Kim Ji-woon, who made The Last Stand with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Bong's Snowpiercer is a sci-fi epic set in a time when an experiment to reverse global warming instead caused the apocalypse. The only survivors on our frozen planet are those who live on a giant train, the Snowpiercer, which perpetually runs around and around the globe. A distinct class system has evolved on the train, with the wealthy in the front. Sick and tired of riding in the back, the poor folks mount a revolt.

Chris "Captain America" Evans stars, along with Song Kang-ho, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer and Ed Harris.

Anticipation is high for Snowpiercer, which was released in South Korea in August and was a top nominee at the country's Blue Dragon Awards, where Bong won best director.

Hollywood's Weinstein Company snapped up the distribution rights for several territories, including the U.S. And, living up to his notorious nickname, hard-charging studio exec Harvey "Scissorhands" Weinstein deemed it too complicated for American audiences and cut 20 minutes from the film. But the release in Thailand should not be affected, so hopefully we'll be seeing original uncut version. Rated 15+

Also opening

Frozen – Another Hans Christian Anderson tale is adapted for this latest "Disney princess" animated musical. Taking inspiration from "The Snow Queen", Frozen is about a sassy young princess (voiced by Kristen Bell) who sets off on an epic journey across an icy landscape alongside a rugged trader, his loyal reindeer and a comic-relief snowman (Josh Gad). She has to find her estranged sister (Idina Menzel), whose powers have trapped the kingdom in an eternal winter. Marking a first for the Walt Disney Studios, Frozen is co-directed by a woman, Jennifer Lee, who also wrote the screenplay. She previously worked on Wreck-It Ralph. Tipped as a likely Oscar nominee for best animated featrure, critical reception is generally positive. It's preceded by a new 1920s-style Mickey Mouse short, Get a Horse! It's directed by Lauren MacMullan (The Simpsons), marking the first time a woman has had solo directing credit on any Disney Animation movie. In 3D in some cinemas. Rated G

Like Father, Like Son – Happy Father's Day in Thailand, an annual observance that is also His Majesty the King's birthday. It seems an appropriate occasion to release this acclaimed movie about fatherhood by Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda. It's about a businessman (Masaharu Fukuyama) who learns his biological son was switched with another child at birth. So he must make a life-changing choice between his true son or the boy he raised as his own. Winner of the jury prize at Cannes Film Festival, critical reception is generally positive. It's at Apex Siam Square, House and SF cinemas. Rated G

Romeo and Juliet – This new adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragic romance is set in Verona of old but dispenses with the Bard’s dialogue, which is instead punched up by Downton Abbey scribe Julian Fellowes. Carlos Carlei (The Flight of the Innocent) directs. Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Ender's Game) is Juliet while her Romeo is played by Douglas Booth, a young actor who came to fame portraying Culture Club singer Boy George in the BBC made-for-TV movie Worried About the Boy. Other stars include Damian Lewis as Lord Capulet, Kodi Smit-McPhee as Benvolio Montague, Ed Westwick as Tybalt, Paul Giamatti as the friar and Lesley Manville as the nurse. Critical reception is mostly negative. Rated G

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon – Following 2010's successful launch of his Detective Dee Chinese historical fantasy franchise, veteran director Tsui Hark is back with this prequel, with Mark Chao as the rookie Dee Renjie, who takes a job on the Imperial Police Force. His first case is a doozie – fight a sea monster that is terrorizing the city each night. Carina Lau returns as Empress Wu with Feng Shaofeng as Dee's partner, the fire-haired Justice Department Chief Minister Yuchi. Angelababy, Lin Gengxin, and South Korea's Kim Bum also star. Critical reception is generally positive. It was especially praised for its vivid 3D, but unfortunately for the Thai release, it's 2D only. And is only Thai-dubbed. It's at SF cinemas. Rated G

R... Rajkumar – Here's more singing-and-dancing Indian gangsters. Shahid Kapoor is an aimless youth who works for a drug baron. He's ordered to rub out a rival dealer but gets sidetracked when he spots the beautiful, educated Chanda (Sonakshi Sinha). What Rajkumar doesn’t know is that Chanda is an orphan who was raised by the very man he's assigned to kill. At Major Cineplex. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – This week features movies about "bad lust" as an antidote to holiday cheer, with 1985's Dreamchild tonight – the "real story of 'Alice in Wonderland'". Tomorrow, it's a special program, Bi, Don't Be Afraid, an award-winner by Dang Di Phan. Dealing with the various anxieties of a six-year-old boy and his highly dysfunctional family, it was the first Vietnamese film selected for the Cannes Film Festival's Critics Week. But back home in Vietnam, it was cut by censors. Director Dang will be present to talk about his film and the current state of the industry in Vietnam. Saturday offers Damage, Louis Malle's drama about a member of parliament who risks everything for a forbidden love. Sunday's Christmas Classic  is The Shop Around the Corner, starring James Stewart. And next week gets into "troubled youth", starting on Wednesday with Lukas Moodysson's debut Show Me Love. Shows start at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast. Also, there may be changes in the schedule, so please check the website.

Le chat du Rabbin (The Rabbi's Cat) – After several months of delays, it appears that the Alliance Francaise de Bangkok will finally resume its Wednesday night movies next week with The Rabbi's Cat, a delightful animation by Joann Sfar about a clever feline who eats a rabbi's pet parrot and then starts talking, telling mostly lies. The sprawling adventure tale, set in 1920s Algeria, is part of "Strange, fun and magic", an all-animation program every Wednesday this month. The Alliance in Bangkok is now in a new location in the former location of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar, opposite Lumpini Park on the corner of Rama IV and Wireless roads. The showtimes are changed as well, now at 7pm rather than 7.30 as before.

Also showing

House cinema on RCA will be closed from tomorrow in order to host talent-show audition. It will reopen on Monday, December 9.

Anti-government protests have again disrupted the routines of Bangkok residents, and last weekend most malls around Ratchprasong and Siam Square were closed, due to the whistleblowers rallying at the police headquarters. The Apex cinemas were still open when I caught a movie there on Sunday afternoon, but I've heard mixed reports on whether they remained open that night. After turning ugly over the weekend, the sides have supposedly agreed to a truce for a few days out of respect for HM the King's birthday. But there's no telling how long it will last. If you are headed out for a movie, check the news reports beforehand to steer clear of the tear-gas clouds, water cannons and rubber bullets. And call the cinema to confirm they are indeed open. Stay safe.

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