Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 12-18, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2

The Vikings of Berk saddle up for another ride in How to Train Your Dragon 2, a sequel to the acclaimed 2010 first entry in the DreamWorks Animation franchise.

Chieftan's son Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless discover a secret cave that is home to hundreds of wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider. It could be the turning point in the village’s battle against villains Eret the Dragonknapper (Kit Harington from Game of Thrones) and Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou).

Baruchel – check out his hockey comedy Goon – considers this a saga like Star Wars. It's a big franchise, with a pretty good ongoing TV series plus another movie in the pipeline. Other voices in star-studded cast include Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller and Kristen Wiig.

Oscar buzz is already warming up for this, and DreamWorks Animation could have a shot at its first statuette since 2005 – rival Pixar Animation won't release a new film this year. However, it'll likely face competition from Warner Bros.' The Lego Movie, and Walt Disney Animation Studios will have its first Marvel Comics animation, Big Hero 6, out in November. Critical reception is wildly positive. It's in 3D (real) in some cinemas. Rated G

Also opening

Maleficent – Angelina Jolie stars in this live-action fantasy-epic reimagining of the story of the villainess from Disney's Sleeping Beauty. She's a tragic figure driven to evil by a troubled past. Long before she cast a sleeping spell on the beautiful Princess Aurora, Maleficent was a pure-hearted fairy who fell in love with Stefan, a power-hungry young man who betrays her in order to be king. She plots her revenge, but is conflicted. Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Sam Riley and Brenton Thwaites also star. And, in a bit of stunt casting, Vivienne Jolie-Pitt plays a toddler Aurora. Robert Stromberg, Oscar-winning art director on Alice in Wonderland and Avatar, makes his directorial debut. Critical reception is mixed. It's in 3D (converted) in some cinemas. Rated G

Pob Na Pluak (ปอบหน้าปลวก , a.k.a. The Ugly Ghost) – TV comedienne Sudarat "Tukky" Butrprom plays on her popular "ugly" image in this horror-comedy from producer Prachya Pinkaew. It's yet another version of the Phi Pob tale. Here, the malicious entrail-eating spirit is haunting a furniture factory. Tukky is a manager in charge of interns, screaming uniformed female university students, who all claim to be possessed by Pob. Tony Rakkaen also stars along with comedian Ping Lumpraploeng, who directs. Rated 15+

Mun Pleaw Mak (มันเปลี่ยวมาก, a.k.a. Paranoid) – A young man (Tana Chatborirak) faces comical situations involving a trickster spirit that takes possession of various things, including a vehicle's GPS navigation system and a dummy traffic cop who comes to life and gives chase while riding a zebra from a spirit-house shrine. It's a horror-comedy omnibus from studio M-Thirtynine, with directors Teekayu Thamnitayakul, Sakon Tiacharoen and Phairot Prasartong. Rated G

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – James Woods is a shady journalist hoping to cash in on a restive country's turmoil in Salvador. An early effort from director Oliver Stone, it screens tonight. Tomorrow, actor-director Tim Blake Nelson offers a modern twist on Shakespeare's Othello with O, set in an American high school. "Really a lot better than it sounds," advises the club's program. True! Saturday's censor-challenging, unsimulated-sex entry is Intimacy, a 2001 British drama about a lonely bartender who wants more from his no-strings-attached relationship with an anonymous woman. Sunday, watch out for those subway vents – it's Marilyn Monroe in The Seven-Year Itch. And next Wednesday starts a week of anniversary screenings, with Sam Peckinpah's epic western The Wild Bunch, released 45 years ago. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. There's just nine seats, so book them. Also, check the Facebook page for updates and program changes.

Filmvirus K-poppop – Despite Thammasat University's Tha Prah han campus being a hotbed of political protest, as it traditionally has, the Filmvirus Sunday series seems to be continuing. This week's double-bill of contemporary South Korean cinema starts with The Yellow Sea, a crime thriller about a taxi driver who takes an assignment as a hitman in order to clear his debt with the mob. It competed in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes in 2010 and won best director for Na Hong-jin at the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival. That's followed by Life Track, a 2007 drama about a disabled man who encounters a deaf-mute girl on the run from the cops. The show starts at 12.30 on Sunday in the Rewat Buddhinan Room on floor U2, the basement. Dress appropriately and inform the desk worker you are there to see a movie. They'll then want an ID that can be copied. The campus is located on the river opposite the Chao Phraya River Express Wang Lang (Siriraj) pier. Take a ferry heading to Tha Prachan or Wat Mahathat. Phone numbers to try are (02) 613-3529 or (02) 613-3530.

Thai Aurora at the Horizon – In the works long before the military's takeover of the government made political talk a risky endeavor, this independent film festival will screen 14 short films by young directors who offer different perspectives on politically charged issues. "From power relationships and education to the media, each film takes on a different topic to create awareness and encourage political participation," the organizers say. "We do not expect to change the country, directly or immediately. But this project might be one way to approach the current crisis." Starting at 2pm on Sunday, the venue is TK Park on the eighth floor of CentralWorld (above the Central Food Hall). Here's the line-up:

  • Lice in the Wonderland, Boonyarit Wiangnon
  • Mosquito in the Ant Land, Supakit Seksuwan
  • Introducing Post Thailand, Nuttawat Attasawat
  • Brother Ping-Ping Waiting in Line to Eat Fried Chicken, Thai Pradithkesorn
  • When I Was in Grade 12, Prempapat Plittapolkranpim
  • After Babylon, Napat Treepalawisetkun
  • The Taxi Meter, Natpakhan Khemkhao
  • Education Suicide, Karnchanit Posawat
  • Sleepwalker, Manasak Khlongchainan
  • My Hand is Still Looking, Harin Paesongthai
  • Tear of Child, Weerachai Jitsoonthorntip
  • Shut Sound: Lao Duang Duen, Joaquim Niamtubtim
  • The Youth, Ukrit Sa-nguanhai and Chayajee Krittayapongsakorn
  • Here Comes the Democrat Party, Chulayarnnon Siriphol

Check the trailer. Running 102 minutes in total, all have English subtitles. There will also be a directors' talk afterward. Entry is 20 baht. And, the entire program will be repeated at 2pm on June 22 at The Reading Room.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – After a bit of a hiatus due to the curfew, the Contemporary World Film Series is back on. Screening at 7pm on Monday, June 16, Travellers and Magicians is a 2003 drama that was the first feature to be made in Bhutan, a hermetic Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas. A road movie, it follows a junior government official who falls in with a colorful group of other travelers, among them a wise monk who tells a story about a magician, which parallels the story of the young man. It's directed by Khyentse Norbu, a holy man who is believed to be a reincarnate lama. The screening is courtesy of the Royal Embassy of Bhutan, which will provide free drinks and snacks and promote its Bhutan-Thai Friendship discount travel deal. Admission is free! Next up at the FCCT will be Trishna on June 30, rescheduled after being cancelled last month due to the curfew.

Take note

An ultra-luxury cinema was launched last Friday, the Embassy Diplomat Screens at the recently opened Central Embassy mall near BTS Ploenchit. The five-screen multiplex is similar to the other VIP cinemas at high-end malls, such as Paragon and CentralWorld, with plush, reclining sofa-like seats, blankets, pillows and a special menu with pricey food and drinks delivered to you on bended knee by servers. There's even a USB charging port to charge your phone or tablet while the movie is playing. (Surely, patrons of this refined cinema wouldn't use their phones during a movie?) Tickets are 900 baht, which is less than Paragon's Blue Ribbon theaters but more than SFW CentralWorld's First Class. For now, it seems the Embassy Diplomat Screens are a standalone operation, and with no apparent connection to other major cinema operators. For showtimes, check the website.

Meanwhile, yet another mall has opened, Siam Square One, on the location of the Siam Theatre, which burned down in an alleged arson attack in the aftermath of the 2010 red-shirt protests. The new mall doesn't boast a multiplex, though there's a Sky Hall auditorium, which will presumably host performances and events.

The "three-fingers" protesters who are causing so many problems for the military government switched tactics last Sunday, staging brief demonstrations in various places around Bangkok. Meanwhile, the junta had its security forces standing guard in key places, such as Victory Monument, Siam BTS station and the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. The show of force aimed to deter the protesters while malls stayed open, activities proceeded and non-protesting people went about their day.

By the way, the midnight-to-4am curfew has been dropped across much of the country, but it's still on in Bangkok, and probably will remain as long as those pesky "three fingers" protesters continue to make appearances, just to punish us all.

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