Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening January 16-22, 2014

12 Years a Slave

Fresh off its win at the Golden Globes for best motion picture – drama, 12 Years a Slave is one of the most-acclaimed films this awards season. It will likely be among the leading nominees for the Academy Awards, which are being announced today in Los Angeles.

Directed by Britian's Steve McQueen (Shame, Hunger), it's based on the 1853 memoir of Solomon Northrup, a free black man from upstate New York who was abducted and sold into slavery in the American South.

Facing cruelty at the hands of a malevolent slave owner, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity and somehow find his way back to freedom.

Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon with Michael Fassbender as the mean plantation owner. Other stars include Brad Pitt (who also produced), Sarah Paulson, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Alfre Woodard and Lupita Nyong'o.

Critical reception is wildly positive, despite 12 Years a Slave making for a harrowing, punishing view. It has won or been nominated for dozens of awards and is on the year-end-best-film lists of many, many critics, except the controversial Armond White. Rated 15+

Also opening

Oldboy – Spike Lee directs this Hollywood remake of the 2003 cult-hit revenge thriller by South Korean director Park Chan-wook. Josh Brolin stars as an advertising executive who is held hostage in solitary confinement for 20 years. When he is inexplicably released, he sets out to find out who orchestrated his bizarre and torturous punishment, only to discover he is still trapped in a web of conspiracy and torment. Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Lance Reddick, Michael Imperioli and Samuel L. Jackson also star. There was much teeth-gnashing by Asian cinema purists when the remake was announced, but the complaints were tempered somewhat by anticipation over what auteur Spike Lee might do with the story. However, critical reception is mixed, with the consensus being that it's a by-the-numbers remake, right down to the claw hammer, that neither improves on the perfectly fine original nor adds anything new. Rated 20-

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – The late novelist Tom Clancy's bookish cold-war spy Jack Ryan gets a reboot in this new adventure, with Star Trek actor Chris Pine taking over the role that's been previously played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. Shifting him to the post-9/11 war-on-terror, Ryan is a junior analyst at the CIA, where he uncovers evidence of an upcoming financial terrorist attack. He was hoping for a nice cushy desk job but then he's handed a pistol by his boss (Kevin Costner) and told he's "operational" now. Kenneth Branagh also stars, playing the villain, and he's directing too! Other stars include Keira Knightly, Colm Feore and David Paymer. This is just being released in the U.S. this week, so critical reception is unknown. Rated 15+

3AM 3D Part 2 (ตีสาม คืนสาม 3D, Tee Sam Khuen Sam Sam D) – Venerable Thai studio Five Star Production serves up another trio of horror stories that take place during the early-morning haunting hour. The same trio of directors return from the first entry in 2012, Patchanon Thammajira, Kirati Nakintanon and Isara Nadee. Ray MacDonald, who was featured in the first 3AM as an prankster office worker whose practical jokes turn fatal, stars in this one as an angry guy whose friends are haunted in a funeral parlor. Another story is set at a convent, where schoolgirls dare a classmate (Supanat Jittaleela, the tomboy from Yes or No) to sneak into the abandoned chapel. And a third story is about shop workers who are scared as they hurry to finish an order. Sinjai Plengpanich stars. Rated 15+

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Shutdown, schmutdown. In spite of roads being blocked by the whistleblowing anti-government protesters, it's still possible to get to the private cinema club. Tonight's offering is one of Woody Allen's favorite movies, 1948's Bicycle Thieves, in which a poor man searches desperately for his stolen bicycle. Tomorrow, it's a tribute to the late Peter O'Toole and The Stuntman, in which O'Toole is an egomaniacal director who will do anything to bring his vision to the screen, even if it means risking the lives of his crew and stunt doubles, among them a young fugitive from the law (Steve Railsback). Barbara Hershey also stars. Saturday is a classic by John Carpenter, Escape from New York, capturing Kurt Russell in one of his finest performances. Sunday is a classic film of director David Lean, his 1954 adaptation of the romantic comedy Hobson's Choice. And next Wednesday is another "love of Asian ladies" movie, the Hong Kong-set Love is a Many-Splendored Thing. 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, so reservations are a must. Also, there are often last-minute changes in the schedule, so please check the website and Facebook page before planning a visit.

Alliance Française – The month of family comedies continues with Ensemble, c'est trop (Together Is Too Much), a 2010 comedy starring Nathalie Baye as a woman who finds out her husband has been cheating on her. She then decides to go live her her son and his family, putting pressure on everyone. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, January 22, at the Alliance Française de Bangkok, now located on Wireless Road opposite Lumpini Park in the former location of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar. It's right in the midst of one of the "Bangkok shutdown" rally sites, but I've not heard otherwise, so I'm assuming it's open. Call (02) 670 4200 to confirm.

Take note

Anti-government protesters set up camp around Siam Square's Scala cinema, which was closed on January 13, 2013. Photo via Veen_NT 

The "Bangkok shutdown" by the whistleblowing anti-government protesters began on Monday, with seven major intersections blocked. The main stage is set up at Pathumwan intersection, a stone's throw from Siam Square's Scala cinema, which was closed for business on Monday as the whistleblowers pitched tents and camped around the protest site. The sister venue, the Lido, remained open. For now, it appears the operators of the Scala and Lido are taking things day-by-day, and both are open. Scala is showing 12 Years a Slave. But before fighting your way through the protesters to see a movie, it's best to call ahead and confirm they are open – (02) 251 2861 for the Scala and (02) 252 6498 for the Lido. Or you can try checking the Facebook fan page.

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