Thursday, May 29, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 29-June 4, 2014

The Legend of King Naresuan Part V

Seven years after it first made its bow, director MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's lavishly mounted Naresuan epic rumbles to a close with The Legend of King Naresuan Part V: The Great Elephant Battle (ตำนานสมเด็จนเรศวรมหาราช ๕: ยุทธหัตถี, Tamnan Somdej Phra Naresuan Maharaj Ha: Yuthahatthi). It culminates in the 1593 Great Battle of Yuthahatthi, one of the last major battles to use war elephants.

Wanchana Sawasdee, a lieutenant colonel and cavalryman in the Royal Thai Army, stars as Prince Naresuan. Crowned king of Ayutthaya, the former Black Prince faces a challenge from his childhood friend, the wickedly sneering Burmese viceroy prince Phra Maha Upparacha (Napassakorn Mit-em).

Other stars include "Peter" Nopachai Jayanama as Naresuan's long-time friend Lord Ratchamanu, Inthira Charoenpura as a Karen warrior princess and "Aff" Taksaorn Techanarong as Narusuan's long-time sweetheart Maneechan.

There's also Colonel Winthai "Seh Tod" Suwaree of the Royal Thai Army. He was recently the only thing on Thai TV when the military took over, and served long hours as the spokesman, appearing at odd hours to read a new order from the junta. He plays Ekathotsarot, younger brother of Naresuan and eventual successor to the throne.

Coming three years after Naresuan 3 and Naresuan 4, part five faced production delays when a fire destroyed that very footage the whole franchise had been working up to – the elephant battle – forcing the veteran director to remake it. Funding to shoot that elephant battle had initially come from the Culture Ministry's Strong Thailand fund back in 2010 – originally meant to be 100 million baht – half the film-funding initiative's budget – but cut to around 46 million baht after other filmmakers protested.

It's rated G

Also opening

The Raid 2: Berandal – Indonesia's martial-arts action franchise barrels on, sending rookie policeman Ram (Iko Uwais) on an undercover assignment in prison, where he's tasked with infiltrating a Jakarta crime syndicate. Director Gareth Evans sequelizes the sequel, adding car chases, more fights and more sinister characters – look out for assassins Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man. It was a huge hit at Sundance and critical reception  is mostly positive. Action fans have been practically hyperventilating over it. It's at Major Cineplex only, and looks like it's Thai-dubbed with English subtitles. Rated 18+

Le Week-End – Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan star as a long-married English couple who revisit Paris for the first time since their honeymoon in hopes of rekindling romance. Jeff Goldblum also stars, playing an egotistical American professor living in Paris. Roger Michell (Hyde Park on Hudson, Notting Hill) directs. A nominee for five British Independent Film Awards, and winner of the best actress prize for Duncan, critical reception is mostly positive – perhaps a pleasant diversion for gentle souls seeking something other than a Thai historical battle epic or an Indonesian martial-arts film. It's Apex Siam Square, House, Paragon and CentralWorld. Rated 13+

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar
– Morgan Freeman narrates this short live-action documentary. Nothing to do with the DreamWorks animated series, this chronicles the efforts of a scientist as she works to protect the unique and highly evolved primate species that only lives on the island off Africa. Running just under 40 minutes, it's in 3D at IMAX. Rated G

Heropanti – It's star-crossed romance for two young lovers – a girl named Dimpy who has a strict and stern father, and a guy named Bablu who fights for her love. Kriti Sanon and Tiger Shroff star, making their film debut. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

Movies on Design – The film program of the Bangkok Design Festival wraps up today with two entries, Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, about the artist who staged an "interactive performance" in 2010 at New York's Museum of Modern Art at 4.15pm and From Nothing, Something: A Documentary on the Creative Process at 6.30pm, followed by a talk. Tickets are 180 baht. More details at the fest's Facebook page.

European Union Film Festival – Evening shows for the fest at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld were shifted to around a half hour earlier in keeping with the old 10am-5am curfew. Hopefully they won't change the times again now that curfew isn't until midnight. Here's the remaining line-up through June 5:

  • Russian Dolls – The second of French director Cedric Klapisch's trilogy of breezy romantic comedies that started with The Spanish Apartment, Russian Dolls catches up with Xavier (Romain Duris) and his old cohorts from Barcelona five years later. Lucy Gordon, Kelly Reilly, Audrey Tautou and Cécile De France also star. 6.30 tonight.
  • Chinese Puzzle – The newest and final entry in Cedric Klapisch's rom-com trilogy follows Frenchman Xavier (Romain Duris) to New York where he's still trying to figure things out as he visits old friends. Take note: This will get a limited commercial release in Bangkok on June 19. 6.30pm tomorrow.
  • A Royal Affair –  Alicia Vikander and Mads Mikkelsen star in this costume-drama account of the relationship between Princess Caroline Matilda and the royal physician to Denmark's mentally ill King Christian VII. 4pm on Saturday.
  • Jose and Pilar – Portuguese Nobel Prize-winning author Jose Saramago and his resolute wife Pilar del Rio are profiled in this 2010 documentary. 6.30pm on Saturday.
  • The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) – Italian auteur Paolo Sorrentino directs his leading man Toni Servillo through this Fellini-like escapade, following an ageing socialite as he walks through the streets and ruins of Rome following celebrations for his 65th birthday. One of the top films of 2013 of many critics, it won the foreign-language prizes at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. 4pm on Sunday.
  • A Hijacking – The takeover of a cargo vessel by Somali pirates is experienced by crewmembers while back at the ship owner's offices in Copenhagen, a stand-off unfolds as the ransom is negotiated. 6.45pm on Sunday.
  • The Symmetry of the Butterfly – From Luxembourg, this multi-layered comedy has a writer living in a retirement home who uses the people around him as inspirations for his stories. 6.30pm on Monday.
  • The Gang of Oss – Authorities try to break the influence of criminal gangs on a Netherlands' industrial town in the 1930s. 6.30pm on Tuesday.
  • Walking Too Fast – Set in 1982, this Cold War thriller is about a secret police lieutenant who starts to have doubts about his line of work. 6.30pm on Wednesday.
  • Finsterworld – Various quirky characters come together in this drama, the first by documentarian Frauke Finsterwalder, that aims to explore the German psyche. 6.30pm next Thursday.

Tickets are handed out 30 minutes before showtime, but the queues start forming before that. Enjoy. All films will be screened in their original languages with English subtitles. Some films will also have Thai subtitles. Check the schedule at or see

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight's final boarding-school story for May is Yuang Zhang's Little Red Flowers, about the struggles of a little boy in regimented post-revolutionary China. Tomorrow night's big-screen feast is Sergio Leone's spaghetti western masterwork, Once Upon a Time in the West. And May closes out on Saturday with the troubled-youth tale Melissa P. It's an erotic drama based on a Sicilian teenager's diary. The club will be hold a private event on Sunday, so keep out. The June schedule kicks off on Wednesday with Red Sorghum, the debut by Chinese film great Zhang Yimou. Other highlights in June include films on democracy (or lack thereof), censorship (or lack thereof), notable films celebrating anniversaries and the club's own first-year anniversary party on June 28, with an encore screening of the first film shown, Blade Runner. Shows are back to 8pm (7 during the old curfew). 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 aren't a bad idea. For details, check the website and Facebook page.

Bangkok Open Air Cinema Club – A new movie series, set for the last Saturday each month, makes its debut this week at The Hive Rooftop Bar with Star Wars. This is the original 1977 film that started it all. The show's at 7.30pm. Tickets are 300 baht and include a pair of complimentary drinks, beer or prosecco, and unlimited popcorn. Check the website for details on making reservations. The venue is a newly opened five-floor members-only "co-working" space at 46/9 Sukhumvit Soi 49.

Kafka Festival in Bangkok – The embassies of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic and the Goethe-Institut Thailand are hosting a three-day festival to remember writer Franz Kafka on the 90th anniversary of his death. Events will include lectures, performances and films. The screenings are Michael Haneke's 1997 adaptation of Kafka's Das Schloß (The Castle) at 6pm on June 4 and the 1965 Czech short Postava k podpírání (Joseph Kilian) and the 2006 documentary Who Was Kafka? It's all at the Goethe-Institut off Sathorn Soi 1. Check the website for details.

Take note

Just hours after last week's update went online here, the Thai military, led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha, upgraded its declaration of martial law (and not a coup) to a full-scale seizure of the government.

A curfew was imposed, running from 10pm to 5am, but that was relaxed starting yesterday, so now we're under lockdown from only midnight to 4am.

Though Taylor Swift has canceled her sold-out concert here – uselessly announced on the very day the curfew was relaxed – most film events, including the EU Film Fest, have soldiered on with only a few minor changes in their schedules.

However, one exception was the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand's planned screening of Michael Winterbottom's Trishna last Monday. It will be rescheduled.

Free film screenings aren't happening in June at the Alliance Française, but that doesn't have anything to do with the curfew or the government situation – it's because there's the annual French cultural fest La Fête, from June 4 to July 6 at various venues.

Meanwhile, there's yet another film festival coming up, the weirdly named Bangkok International Digital Content and Movie Festival, or BIC.Mov.Fest for short, from July 3 to 6 at Siam Paragon. Backed by the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand, the Culture Ministry, the Commerce Ministry, the Tourism and Sport Ministry and other concerned agencies, it is being positioned as a successor to the long-defunct and scandal-plagued Bangkok International Film Festival. It will offer workshops, seminars and other events to highlight not just the film industry, but also television, video games, animation, character licensing, software and apps. Expect a red carpet to be rolled out at some point. The film selection will likely include a fixture of the old BKKIFF, the "Thai Panorama" of notable and mainstream Thai films of the past year or so.

Just remember, there's the 12th World Film Festival of Bangkok – a real, honest-to-goodness film festival that keeps the focus on films. It's set for October 17 to 26.

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