Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening March 13-19, 2014

The Cheer Ambassadors

Perhaps Thailand's warring political parties could learn a lesson or two from The Cheer Ambassadors, a rousing documentary about the plucky band of misfits who formed the Bangkok University cheerleading squad. Together, they trained hard and became determined to make it to the world cheerleading championships, and, against all odds, they actually won!

Directed by Luke Cassady-Dorion, the documentary bursts with energy as it follows the cheerleaders while they work under their coach, the obsessive Sarawut "Toey" Samniangdee. Inspired by late-night ESPN viewings of the "cheerleading Olympics", he gathered together a squad and pushed until they shared his dream of a Thai team competing on the world stage.

Since its premiere at the ninth World Film Festival of Bangkok in January 2012, The Cheer Ambassadors has spread its uplifting story around the world, winning several awards, including Best Documentary at the 60°N Os festival in Norway, the Audience Award at the ChopShots documentary Edge Festival in Jakarta and third place International Documentary at the All-Sports Los Angeles Film Festival.

But for the filmmakers, their greatest honor was being granted an audience to show The Cheer Ambassadors to Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Srindhorn.

I liked it too and listed it among the Top 10 Thai Films of 2012.

It's at House on RCA. Rated G

The Lego Movie

A 3D-animated feature adapted from the line of Lego building-block toys, The Lego Movie follows an ordinary Lego minifigure named Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt of Parks and Recreation) who is mistakenly thought to be an extraordinary person and the key to saving the world.

He undertakes an epic quest to stop an evil tyrant who wants to glue all the world's building blocks together. Aided by the heroine Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Emmet encounters a crazy array of characters, including Batman (Will Arnett), Superman (Channing Tatum) and Han Solo from Star Wars. Other voices include Will Ferrell in a triple role, Morgan Freeman as the wizard Vitruvius and Liam Neeson as Bad Cop/Good Cop.

It's directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who previously did Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and the hit remake 21 Jump Street.

A box-office hit in the U.S., critical reception is way, way better than anyone ever expected. While this is a kids' movie, adults will also be thoroughly entertained. In 3D. Rated G

Also opening

Threesome (เธอ เขา เรา ผี, Ther Khao Rao Phee) – Tanwarin Sukkhapisit (It Gets Better) directs this ghostly romantic comedy about Som (Arpa Pawilai), a movie-make-up artist who breaks up with her boyfriend Rang (Chaiyapol Julien Poupart) and starts dating Ple (Steven Fuhrer). Rang tries to get her back, but not because he's jealous but because Ple is a ghost. Rated 15+

Non-Stop – Liam Neeson is back in action as an air marshal aboard a transatlantic flight. The gruff Irish leading man faces an impossible situation when he receives text messages that threaten the death of a passenger every 20 minutes unless $150 million is transferred to an off-shore bank account. Who could the killer be? Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery and Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o from 12 Years a Slave also star. It's directed by Jaume Collet-Serra who previously steered Neeson through another impossible situation in Unknown. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive. Rated 13+

Delivery ManWedding Crashers and Dodgeball star Vince Vaughn portrays another of his usual eternal-manchild slackers in this comedy about a guy who has made anonymous donations to a fertility clinic over 20 years. He's hit with a lawsuit from 142 families demanding to know his identity. In all, it seems he has fathered 533 children. Cue the montage for his soul-searching journey. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 13+

Vampire Academy – A young woman who is from an ancient race of guardians of benevolent vampires attends boarding school with the good vampire princess, protecting her against the evil vampires. Zoey Deutch and Lucy Fry star. It's directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls, Freaky Friday) with the screenplay by Daniel Waters (Heathers) adapted from the best-selling series of young adult fantasy novels by Richelle Mead. Critics aren't biting though. Rated 13+

Rak Fung Keaw (รักฝังเขี้ยว) – And here's some Thai vampires. They are Wayu (Seigi Ozegi) and Asanee (Thanachat Tulyachat), who go to battle to win over Napha but accidentally kill her. Five centuries later, Napha is reborn as Fah and the two vampires start fighting over her again. Rated 13+

Bewakoofiyaan – Ayushmann Khurrana is a young mid-level marketing executive in love with a shoe-obsessed woman (Sonam Kapoor) who works in finance. They'd like to climb the corporate ladder together but are blocked by the woman's stubborn father (Rishi Kapoor) who believes his daughter can do better. It's at Paragon and Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, Philip Seymour Hoffman portrays mentoring rock critic Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, director Cameron Crowe's coming-of-age tale of a teenager assigned writing a Rolling Stone article about a rock band in the '70s. Tomorrow, the "perspectives of war" come from the German side during World War II, with Das Boot, Wolfgang Petersen's chilling portrayal of sailors aboard a submarine fighting in the Atlantic Wolf Pack. This is the 3.5-hour director's cut, so the movie starts earlier, at 7.30pm. Saturday, it's okay to go in the water. Dip in and see 1975's Jaws, the movie that kicked off the modern blockbuster era and still holds up. On Sunday, swashbuckler Errol Flynn trades in his sabre for a six-gun as he takes the job of sheriff in Dodge City, a 1939 western by Michael Curtiz. Shows start at 8, unless otherwise noted. 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 additions and changes to the schedule, especially on Tuesday request days and Wednesdays, so please check the website and Facebook page for updates.

German Film Weekends – The Goethe-Institut Thailand's film series begins on Saturday with Westwind, in which the bond between sisters on the East German rowing team is tested as they meet two boys while practicing for the 1988 Olympics. Sunday's offering is Short and Sweet IV, a compilation of nine live-action and animated shorts. While the styles and subject matters of each film differs greatly, they have one thing in common - all were either nominated for, or won, the Academy Award. They include 1989's Oscar-winning short Balance by Christoph and Wolfgang Lauenstein, 1993's winner Black Rider, about discrimination on a bus and the 1996 Oscar-winning animated short Quest and 2000's Quiero Ser. You can read more about the lineup in an article in The Nation last Friday. The shows are at 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays until March 30 at the Esplanade Cineplex Ratchadaphisek.

Film Virus Double Bill – I finally made it over to Thammasat University last Sunday for the screening of two Filipino films that were so soapy I still feel absolutely sparkling. This Sunday's double bill has two "Euro-centric" offerings, Dillinger è morto (1969, Marco Ferreri) and Dossier 51 (1978, Michel Deville). The show starts at 12.30pm on Sunday. The venue is the Rewat Buddhinan Room in the basement of the Pridi Banomyong Library at Thammasat University, Tha Prachan. You'll need to show your I.D. and have it scanned to gain entry. The best way to get there is to take the Chao Praya River Express to Wang Lang (Siriraj) pier and then transfer to a ferry. Due to construction on the Bangkok side of the river, the boats to Tha Prachan appeared to not be operating, so grab the one to the next closest pier at Wat Mahathat (not Tha Chang!).

Alliance Française – The award-winning drama Tomboy screens next Wednesday. Directed by Céline Sciamma, it's about a 10-year-old girl who moves to a new neighborhood and is mistaken for a boy. She embraces her new identity as she makes new friends. 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

Make plans to attend the Salaya International Documentary Film Festival, which has completed its schedule. Running from March 22 to 30, the best place to take it all in will be the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, though there are screenings at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center from March 25 to 28 plus Doc Day, all day, on March 30 at the BACC. Highlights include the opener At Berkeley and premieres of the Oscar-nominated foreign-language film The Missing Picture from Cambodia and celebrated filmmaker Uruphong Raksasad's latest The Songs of Rice. I'll have more details about the festival early next week.

Also, film programming is resuming at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, which will screen the Oscar-nominated documentary The Act of Killing on March 26 and the Cuban film La Bella del Alhambra on March 31.

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