Thursday, March 6, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening March 6-12, 2014

Mr. Peabody and Sherman

Adapted from the archly satirical and lovably goofy Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons made by Jay Ward in the 1950s and '60s, Mr. Peabody and Sherman is a feature-length treatment of a segment called Peabody's Improbable History, in which an urbane bespectacled talking dog masterminds time-travel adventures with his trusty adopted human boy, the awkward geek Sherman.

The story involves the bullied Sherman misusing Peabody's vaunted WABAC machine to impress his classmate Penny, and it is up to them to restore the space-time continuum. Mr. Peabody's time-travel adventures usually involved him encountering historical figures. Here, the characters include Sigmund Freud (Mel Brooks), Leonardo da Vinci (Stanley Tucci), King Agamemnon (Patrick Warburton) and Mona Lisa (Lake Bell).

Ty Burrell (Modern Family) is Peabody and kid actor Max Charles is Sherman. Other voice actors include Stephen Tobolowsky, Allison Janney, Dennis Haysbert, Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann.

It's directed by Rob Minkoff, the animation vet who helmed The Lion King. Craig Wright wrote the screenplay. His credits include the decidedly adult TV shows Six Feet Under and the short-lived 2007 series Dirty Sexy Money, which he created. It's produced by Dreamworks Animation.

Although Rocky and Bullwinkle only ran during the height of the Cold War from 1959 to '64, it aired in syndication during my childhood. I suppose somewhere out there, Moose and Squirrel are still cracking kids up with their sophisticated satire and sideways-glancing puns. The animation may have been a bit on a crude side, but the writing was top-notch.

Previous adaptations from the Jay Ward franchise have not fared well. The live-action-animation Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle from 2000 (with Robert DeNiro as the evil Fearless Leader) wasn't that good. And the live-action Dudley Do-Right from 1999 fell flat off his horse. But Mr. Peabody and Sherman seems like it is actually pretty good – surprisingly. It opened in sneak previews last week and now moves to a wide release. It's in 3D (actual) in some cinemas. Rated G

300: Rise of an Empire

Australian action star Sullivan Stapleton is the lead warrior in 300: Rise of an Empire, a sequel to the cult-hit swords-and-sandals CGI epic 300.

But he likely won't be promoting the movie because of a serious head injury he sustained when he fell off a tuk-tuk a few weeks back while in Bangkok on a break from filming the Cinemax military-action series Strike Back. Not much else is known about the incident, which happened while Stapleton was "exploring the town in his free time". The series' production is on a six-month hiatus, likely delaying its premiere for a few months or even until next year. According to film-industry sources, they shot around his remaining scenes in Thailand and are now on a break before resuming production in Hungary.

Anyway, 300: Rise of an Empire is based on 300 graphic novelist Frank Miller's unpublished Xerxes. It deals with what was going on with another band of scrappy Greek warriors while 300 Spartans were fighting and dying at Thermopylae. Stapleton is Themistocles, an Athenian general leading the Greeks in ab-crunching exercises. Eva Green is the the fierce warrior queen Artemisia and Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro is the imposing and much-pierced King Xerxes of Persia. Game of Thrones' Lena Headey is the Spartan queen.

Noam Murro (Smart People) takes over as director from 300 helmer Zack Snyder, who is at work on his Man of Steel sequel. But the comic-book fan Snyder still has a hand in, producing and co-writing the script.

Critical reception is mixed, leaning to favorable. It's in 3D (converted) in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated 15+

Also opening

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? – This award-nominated romantic comedy from Taiwanese director Arvin Chen stars Richie Ren and Mavis Fan as a couple with one kid who've been married for nine years. With the wife putting pressure on her hubby because she wants another child, complications arise when an old friend of the husband turns up and turns out to be gay. It premiered at last year's Berlin International Film Festival and was in competition at New York's Tribeca fest. Fan is a supporting-actress nominee for the upcoming Asian Film Awards. Critical reception is leaning to favorable. It's at House, Paragon, Esplanade Ratchada and SFW CentralWorld. Rated 15+

Gulaab Gang – An all-female movie is a rarity from any film industry, especially Bollywood, but that's what we have here with Gulaab Gang, which stars Madhuri Dixit as a woman who sets up a sanctuary for her abused and battered sisters. Armed with axes and sickles, these vigilantes in pink saris mete out justice while grinding spices and weaving baskets. Juhi Chawla, Divya Jagdale, Priyanka Bose and Tannishtha Chatterjee also star. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Paragon and Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Philip Seymour Hoffman is a skeevy schoolteacher in love with his teenage student in 25th Hour, Spike Lee's post-9/11 commentary of New York, as seen through the eyes of a drug dealer (Edward Norton) who is on his way to prison and is spending one last night out with his pals. It screens tonight. Tomorrow is the Soviet war drama Come and See. From 1985, Elem Klimov's film deals with the Nazi occupation of Byelorussia during World War II. On Saturday, it's 1975's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which is only the second film to win all five major Academy Awards. Sunday is the flag-waving musical by Michael Curtiz, Yankee Doodle Dandy, with Jimmy Cagney as the irrepressible Broadway showman George M. Cohan. Shows start at 8. 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 sometimes changes in the schedule, so please check the website and Facebook page before planning a visit.

Singapore Film Festival – Nostalgia for the 1990s is being stoked this weekend in the Singapore Film Festival at SFX the Emporium. Two films are being screened, That Girl in Pinafore and Ilo Ilo. Up first at 7 on Friday is That Girl in Pinafore by Chai Yee Wei. Set in 1992 – the year the island republic banned chewing gum – four young pranksters enter a music contest while they chase girls. It also screens at 4 on Saturday. Showing at 7 on Saturday and Sunday, Ilo Ilo is the first Singaporean entry to win a prize at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, the Camera d’Or for debuting director Anthony Chen. It’s the heartfelt story of a Filipina maid (Angeli Bayani) who goes to work for a middle-class Singaporean family. She struggles to bond with the family’s bratty boy and please the domineering pregnant matriarch (Yeo Yann Yann) while the father has been thrown out of work, but is keeping that a secret. Tickets are free and can be collected 30 minutes before the screening.

Film Virus Double Bill – Two titans of Filipino cinema, Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal are featured this Sunday. Up first is Brocka's All Be Damned (Hahamakin lahat) from 1990. A social drama involving betrayal and revenge, it follows lower and upper-class couples in conflict. Bernal's Working Girls from 1984 is a contemporary urban satire. It was recently remade. The show starts at 12.30pm on Sunday. The venue is the Rewat Buddinan Room in the basement of the Pridi Banomyong Library at Thammasat University, Tha Chan. You'll need to show your I.D. and have it copied to gain entry. The best way to get there is to take the Chao Phraya River Express to Wang Lang (Siriraj) pier and then ride the ferry across to Tha Chan.

German Film Series – The Goethe-Institut Thailand's monthly film series offers the 2011 drama If Not Us, Who? at 3pm on Tuesday, March 11 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. There is another screening at 3pm on Sunday at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya. It covers a tumultuous time of change in Germany, from the post-war late 1940s through the '60s, culminating in the German student protests of 1968. August Diehl stars and Andres Veiel directs. The film premiered in competition at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival and won the Alfred Bauer Prize and the Prize of the Guild of German Art House Cinemas.

German Film Weekends – Apart from the ongoing monthly German Film Series, there is also the Goethe-Institut Thailand's German Film Weekends from March 15 to 30 at the Esplanade Cineplex Ratchadapisek. The opening gala is actually not on a weekend, it's next Wednesday, March 12, with proceedings starting at 5.30pm, when World Film Festival of Bangkok director Kriengsak "Victor" Silakong will share his experiences from this year’s Berlin International Film Festival. Afterwards they'll show the drama Lessons of a Dream by Sebastian Gobler. It's about an English teacher (Daniel Bruhl) who teaches boys a new game – soccer. Other films will be Westwind on March 15, a package of Oscar-winning and nominated live action and animated shorts in Short and Sweet IV on March 16, Barbara on March 22, Cracks in the Shell on March 23, Hotel Lux on March 29 and 1950's Two Times Lotte on March 30. Shows are at 4pm. Tickets are free and can be reserved by phone at (02) 287-0942-4 ext. 80/82 or by e-mail, For more details, please see the Goethe website.

Alliance Française – Cyril Mennegun directs the 2012 drama Louise Wimmer, about a homeless woman who works hard to maintain her dignity. Corinne Masiero, Jérôme Kircher, Anne Benoît and Marie Kremer star. 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

All is calm in Siam Square on Tuesday night, as folks head in to the 9 o'clock screening of Pompeii.

Bangkok breathed a collective sigh of relief last Saturday when it was announced by the whistleblowing anti-government protesters that they would end their occupation of major city intersections and set up camp in Lumpini Park. The move came as deadly violence was ramping up around the rally sites and there was even talk of civil war. While joggers in Lumpini are inconvenienced, residents can visit the Pathumwan, Ratchprasong and Asoke areas without fear of having a bead drawn on them by snipers or blown to bits by grenades.

Now that it's safe to roam around, later evening shows have resumed at the Apex chain's Lido and Scala cinemas in Siam Square. They had been curtailed while the rally was in force at Pathumwan.

The end of the Bangkok Shutdown also clears the way for film-lovers to safely take part in an upcoming event, the Salaya International Documentary Film Festival, which runs from March 22 to 29 at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya with a concurrent program from March 25 to 28 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. Among highlights will be At Berkeley by the great documentarian Frederick Wiseman and premieres of the award-winning The Songs of Rice and Cambodia's first Foreign Language Film nominee, The Missing Picture. Read more about it at that other blog.

Disney's Frozen is back in cinemas, in celebration of its winning the Oscars for animated feature and original song. The move was perhaps prompted by the viral social-media photo of one of the Thai animators who worked on the film holding the Oscar statuette. Many other Oscar winners and nominees can also be seen on the Bangkok big screen, including 12 Years a Slave, Dallas Buyers Club, Blue Jasmine, Gravity, American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street.

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