Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 10-16, 2014

The Lunchbox

There's Bollywood and then there's proper Indian cinema. The Lunchbox firmly fits in the latter category. Not your usual trifle off the Bollywood assembly line, The Lunchbox is a Hindi-language arthouse hit that has been critically acclaimed around the world.

The setting is in modern Mumbai and covers a unique part of the city's culture, the dabbawalla, in which hot lunches are delivered from homes and central kitchens to workplaces. It's a complex system that's been in place for more than a century, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Things hardly ever go wrong, but in The Lunchbox a mistaken delivery leads to a relationship between two strangers – a weary, soon-to-retire widower and an unhappy housewife.

Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi) is the office worker Saajan, who one day is pleasantly surprised to have a good meal delivered to him, instead of whatever boring lunch he usually gets each day. Inside he finds a note. It's from the housewife Ila (Nimrat Kaur) to her husband. Saajan pens a response, which gets back to Ila. She keeps sending him lovingly prepared lunches and notes.

Written and directed by first-time helmer Ritesh Batra, The Lunchbox premiered during Critics Week at last year's Cannes Film Festival. Pundits immediately pegged it as a lock for India's submission to the Academy Awards, so there was a lot of outrage after The Good Road was submitted instead.

Honors include Best Actor for Khan and best screenplay at the Asian Film Awards (an upset over The Grandmaster), Best Screenplay and Jury Grand Prize at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, and Best Supporting Actor for Nawazuddin Siddiqui, best screenplay and Outstanding Achievement for Irrfan Khan at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival.

Critical reception is overwhelmingly positive.

It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Apex in Siam Square, House on RCA, Paragon, SF World Cinema at CentralWorld and several Major Cineplex branches, including Sukhumvit (Ekamai) and Rama III.  Rated 15+


Darren Aronofsky first got interested in the Biblical tale of Noah and the Ark when he was kid, penning a poem about it when he was in the seventh grade. Now, with plenty of clout built up after the critically acclaimed triumphs of Black Swan and The Wrestler, Aronofsky was able to put his stamp on the story of an ordinary man taking on a huge challenge.

Russell Crowe stars as the simple carpenter and family man who has a vision of God flooding the world to cleanse it of its wickedness. He builds a giant box for his family and all the earthly critters. Other stars include Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins and Ray Winstone.

Among religious critics, Noah has been controversial and they say the action-packed epic takes too many liberties. It's been banned in several countries, including Malaysia. In Singapore and other places, disclaimers have been posted at the box offices, noting that "Noah is director Darren Aronofsky's version of the story of Noah ... inspired by the Book of Genesis. Though artistic license has been taken, we believe the film to be true to the values and integrity of the biblical story."

Secularly, critical reception has been mixed, leaning to positive. I haven't seen it yet, but I think it's hard to top Bill Cosby's take on the tale. It's in 3D (converted) in some cinemas. Rated 15+

Also opening

Mor 6/5 Pak Ma Tha Mae Nak (มอ 6/5 ปากหมาท้าแม่นาค, a.k.a. Mathayom pak ma tha Mae Nak) – Thailand's reigning cinematic snakeoil salesman Poj Arnon is a shameless opportunist. Never one to shy away from making a film that's ripped from today's headlines, his latest zeitgeist-capturing effort is this comedy, which blends last year's blockbuster Thai movie Pee Mak – the record-shattering box-office hit – with his own 2013 horror-comedy, Mor 6/5 Pak Ma Tha Pee in which bratty schoolboys run and scream as they are chased by ghost teachers. Here, they pray to the Mae Nak shrine for good luck on their school-entrance exams, but one of the lads insults the legendary ghost wife. They are then pulled into a time warp, end up back in Mae Nak's day and for some reason take off their shirts as they come to Mae Nak's aid. She's portrayed by Wanida "Gybzy Girly Berry" Termthanaporn, who joins the elite echelon of Thai actresses to take on the role. Oh, and hey, just to top Pee Mak, it's in 3D! Rated G.

Kan Krai Khai Pha Mhai (กรรไกร ไข่ ผ้าไหม, a.k.a. Rock, Paper, Scissors) – Having wrapped up his Panya Raenu trilogy of comedies about low-income Isaan schoolchildren, director Bin Bunluerit turns his attention to a wealthy city school where impossibly precocious girls take part the school's endless array of extracurricular activities, including sports, singing, ballroom dance and trying to impress cute boys. Rated G.

Rio 2 – Blue Sky Studios and Brazilian director Carlos Saldanha return with a sequel to their 2011 animated feature about a pet bird who goes on a globetrotting adventure. This time out, the rare Blue Spix Macaws Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) fly into the Amazon to search for a surviving flock of their endangered kind. Other voices include Leslie Mann, Bruno Mars, Jemaine Clement, George Lopez, Jamie Foxx and Critical reception is mixed. This opened last week in afternoon sneak previews and now moves to a wider release. In 3D in some cinemas. Rated G.

Bhoothnath Returns – Amitabh Bachchan has another outing as the heroic ghost of the hit 2008 horror comedy. Here, the Ghost Nath takes on a corrupt local politician. Boman Irani and Shahrukh Khan also star. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhuvmit (Ekamai), Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight the FGC presents Anthony Hopkins in 1994's Shadowlands, director Richard Attenborough's take on author C.S. Lewis' relationship with poet Joy Davidman (Debra Winger).Tomorrow, hitch a ride with Albert Brooks on a cross-country RV trip in Lost in America. Saturday is Oleanna, director David Mamet's adaptation of his own play about a college professor (William H. Macy) blindsided by a sexual harassment rap by one of his students. Sunday features Michael Redgrave in the 1951 drama The Browning Version, in which a retiring teacher confronts failure. Next Wednesday, get the inside story on an obsessive amateur filmmaker as he tries to make a horror film in American Movie. 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 additions and changes in the schedule, so please check the website and Facebook page for updates.

Alliance Française – Next week's offering is a slice of quirk from writer-director Sólveig Anspach in Queen of Montreuil, about a young widowed woman who returns to her home in the hipster Parisian suburb of Montreuil. She holes up with a group of colorful acquaintances, including a depressed sea lion. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, April 16 at the Alliance Française de Bangkok, at the intersection of Rama IV and Wireless roads, opposite Lumpini Park in the former location of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar.

Take note

More apologies this week – I failed to note the Goethe-Institut's monthly German Film Series entry that was screened on Tuesday at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. There's still a chance to see the film, the 2005 comedy One Day in Europe, at 1pm on Sunday at the Thai Film Archive.

Although the Thai New Year festival doesn't officially begin until April 13, it's likely that the celebrations will actually begin tomorrow if not right now. Officially just a three-day holiday, one of the Songkran days this year falls on the weekend, necessitating a "substitution day". So the water warfare and powder bombings will last even longer, finally ending on Wednesday, April 16. So take precautions.

Following Songkran, events include the Thailand International Film Destination Festival from April 20 to 29 at Paragon, the Swedish Film Festival from April 24 to 27 at SFX the Emporium and the Autism Film Festival on April 26 at Paragon. Also, the Film Virus Double Bills resume on April 20 at Thammasat University.

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