Thursday, January 30, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening January 30-February 5, 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street

Although it's critically acclaimed and has garnered five Academy Awards nominations, Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street has polarized critics and the director's fans.

On one hand, it's a welcome return to form for the director of such gritty crime movies as Goodfellas and Casino. On the other hand, it's typical of Scorsese's approach, with his trademark rapid-fire dialogue, voiceovers and flashy editing on overdrive. A critic friend of mine likens it to manga (Japanese animation).

The fact-based tale is about hedonistic stockbrokers in the late 1980s. Oscar-nominee Leonardo DiCaprio stars, portraying Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker who went from penny stocks to a life of excess. Jonah Hill, also an Oscar nominee, portrays a fellow trader who becomes Jordan's partner in lucrative "pump and dump" schemes.

The cast also features Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Jon Favreau and Jean Dujardin. The Oscar-nominated screenplay, based on Belfort's memoir, is by Terence Winter, writer of The Sopranos and creator of Boardwalk Empire.

It's been controversial for its vivid depictions of drug use, sex and foul language, as well as the glorification of Belfort's deeds. Also, it's around 3 hours long, so brace yourself.

Critical reception is mostly positive, with accolades including Academy Award nominations for best picture and director plus a Golden Globe win for DiCaprio, Directors Guild nomination for Scorsese and Writers Guild nod for Winter. Following a sneak preview last week, The Wolf of Wall Street moves to a wider release today. Rated 18+

Also opening

Lone Survivor – Like Zero Dark Thirty, here's another critically hailed fact-based tale from the frontlines of the post-9/11 War on Terror. Mark Wahlberg stars as a member of a four-man US Navy SEAL team on a mission in 2005 to capture or kill a high-level Taliban operative. They are ambushed by enemy forces in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan. Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster and Eric Bana also star. It's directed by Peter Berg (Battleship, The Kingdom), who brought aboard Marcus Luttrell, the Navy SEAL who wrote the book about his harrowing experience. Wahlberg was rumored to be in the running for an Oscar for his role, but he was snubbed. The movie did score two Academy Award nominations for sound editing and sound mixing, and it won two Critics' Choice Awards, including best actor in an action movie for Wahlberg. Critical reception is mixed, but mostly positive. Rated 15+

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones – The fifth "official" entry in the "found-footage" ghost franchise is set in suburban southern California, where three Latino teenagers discover a witch in their midst. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to the negative side. Rated 15+

Four Kings (สี่เรียงเซียนโต๊ด, See Riang Sian Tode) – Actor Supakij Tangtadsawat makes his directorial debut with this tale of a gambler (Thep Pho-ngam) and his nephew (Akarin Akaranithimetharat) who team up with a card-sharp magician  (Shahkrit Yamnarm) and a distractingly pretty female accomplice (Patra Athiratkun) to run a scam on a gambling den. They eventually decide to take their game to a casino in a neighboring country, where the stakes are higher, as are the dangers if they are caught. Rated 15+

Until Now (กาลครั้งหนึ่ง...จนวันนี้, Kalla Khrug Nueng … Jon Wan Nee) – The relationship of a boy and girl, Ton and Kaew, is tracked over the course of their lives, from the childhood romance of schoolmates, to young adulthood and then marriage, which sees the guy (Arak Amornsupasiri) having second thoughts about marrying his girlfriend and deciding to search out his old sweethart Kaew. Rated G

Badges of Fury – When it comes to Hong Kong martial-arts action comedies, most folks will likely think of movies by Jackie Chan or Sammo Hung. But Jet Li can do comedy too, though he's mainly the straight man in Badges of Fury. He's a veteran Hong Kong police inspector working on a serial murder case involving a budding young actress and her sister. He's partnered with a bumbling rookie (Wen Zhang). Collin Chou (The Matrix Reloaded), Michelle Chen, Liu Shishi, Jin Shui, Ada Liu and Wu Jing also star. Critical reception is mixed. It's in Mandarin with English and Thai subtitles in some cinemas, including at Paragon, Mega, Paradise, Esplanade Ratchada,  Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Rated 15+

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – One of Woody Allen's favorite films, Stanley Kubrick's World War I drama Paths of Glory starring Kirk Douglas, screens tonight. Tomorrow, January comes to a close with one more tribute to the late Peter O'Toole – 1972's The Ruling Class, which thumbs its nose at Britain's class system and features a totally mad O'Toole as the inheritor of an earldom. February brings a new schedule, featuring the French crime wave on Wednesdays, Strange Visions of the Future on Thursdays, special events on Fridays, controversial films on Saturdays and classic musicals on Sundays. This Saturday features another Kubrick classic, 1971's highly disturbing A Clockwork Orange. You'll never listen to Beethoven's Ninth or "Singin' in the Rain" the same again. Sunday's musical is My Fair Lady. And next Wednesday's French crime thriller is 1981's Diva. All shows are 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, so reservations are a must. There are often last-minute changes in the schedule, so please check the website and Facebook page before planning a visit.

Goethe Institut – There are three films left in the Goethe's annual Open Air Cinema series. Next Tuesday, February 4, is the Kosovo war drama My Beautiful Country, in which a widowed Serbian mother of two young children cares for an injured Albanian soldier who has broken into her home. The show starts at 7.30 on the lawn at the Goethe on Sathorn Soi 1.

Alliance Française – February brings a new theme for the French cultural center's cinema, "Love in Movies", starting on Wednesday, February 5 with Pauline et François, a 2010 drama starring Laura Smet, Yannick Renier and Léa Drucker. It's about a family man whose life changes when a woman comes into his life. The show starts at 7pm at the Alliance Française de Bangkok. It's at the intersection of Rama IV and Wireless roads, opposite Lumpini Park in the former location of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar.

Take note

The Lido and Scala cinemas are soldiering on as the "Bangkok Shutdown" anti-government protest continues into its third week with no end in sight. Late-night shows have been cancelled. The best way to get there is by Skytrain. You can access Siam Square through the rear entrance of the Digital Gateway mall, and bypass the crowd of vendors catering to the protesters on Rama I Road. It's best to catch an earlier show at Lido and Scala and then make your escape from the area as quickly as possible.

But you'd best get your movie-going fix in by Saturday because there's an election on Sunday, and the protest leaders have vowed to bring Bangkok to a halt by staging marches in all 50 of the city's districts.

Last Sunday there was advance voting, and polling places were blockaded by protesters. Shots were fired at one polling place, and left one protest leader dead. So take care if you are out and about.

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