Thursday, June 26, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 26-July 2, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction

"I've never done a sequel," Mark Wahlberg declares in a studio interview about Transformers: Age of Extinction.

And, for now, he's correct, since this fourth entry in director Michael Bay's Transformers franchise is actually more a reboot than a sequel, with plans to carry the series on for a second trilogy.

A whole new human cast is introduced. Gone is the annoying Shia LaBeouf. Megan Fox, bless her heart, is long since forgotten. Now it's Wahlberg's turn to guide us back into the world of shape-shifting alien robots.

It's been four years since an epic battle sent the benevolent Autobots and the villainous Decepticons into hiding.

Wahlberg is Cade Yeager, a struggling tinkerer who salvages a battered old semi-truck that turns out to be Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots.

The discovery puts Yeager and his daughter in the crosshairs, as forces commanded by paranoid government officials come calling. The Decepticons are also on alert, and again, all of humanity is in peril.

Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci, T.J. Miller, Kelsey Grammer and Titus Welliver also star. John Goodman is among the new Transformer voices.

Critical reception is surprisingly positive so far, with the consensus being this fourth installment gets back to the basics of giant robot movies.

It's in actual 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX. In fact, excitable director Bay says 60 percent of the film is made to fit the IMAX screen and that's the way he wants folks to see it. In Thailand, the only authentic full-size IMAX screen is at Paragon – other IMAX outlets here are not the true IMAX aspect ratio and size. Rated 13+

Also opening

Magic Magic – A young insomniac woman loses the ability to tell dreams from reality in this psychological thriller starring Juno Temple, Emily Browning and, playing remarkably against type, Michael Cera. They are among travelers who head to a remote hideaway in the Chilean countryside, and everyone gangs up on the poor girl. Chilean helmer Sebastián Silva directs. Critical reception is generally positive. It's at Paragon, CentralWorld and House on RCA. Rated 15+

Punjab 1984 – Supposedly the biggest Punjabi film ever, this drama is set during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Punjab State. There, a mother searches for her son who has been accused of being a terrorist. Diljit Dosanjh, Amrinder Gill, Kulraj Randhaw, Kirron Kher and Pawan Malhotra star; Anurag Singh directs. In Punjabi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Central Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Now in the final week of June, tonight's offering is I Am Cuba, a 1964 Soviet-Cuban drama that was forgotten until the mid-1990s, when Martin Scorsese happened upon it and pushed for a full restoration. Featuring extraordinary Russian cinematography, the club's schedule notes "it is both a love letter to Cuba and shameless propaganda". Tomorrow, there's a private event, and Saturday is for card-carrying members only – the first-year anniversary party with an encore screening of the first film shown at the club – Ridley Scott's sci-fi/film-noir masterpiece Blade Runner. The month closes out with John Huston's The Misfits, the last film by both Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. 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 – First up in this Sunday's double bill of contemporary South Korean films is National Security, a 2012 drama that's based the memoir of Kim Geun-tae, a democracy activist who was kidnapped and tortured for 22 days in 1985 under the military dictatorship of Chun Doo-hwan. That's followed by The Terror Live, a 2013 thriller in which a down-on-his-luck news anchor exploits a terrorist attack for his own gain. The show starts at 12.30 on Sunday in the Pridi Banomyong Library's Rewat Buddhinan Room, 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. Call (02) 613-3529 or (02) 613-3530.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – For his 2011 drama Trishna, celebrated director Michael Winterbottom adapts the classic novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and ports the setting of the star-crossed romance to Rajasthan, India, where the scion of a wealthy British-Indian family falls for a local lass who works in the family's hotel. Riz Ahmed and Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) star. Supported by the British Council, the screening will also feature Fullers London Pride beer and fish and chips. Postponed from May 26 due to the curfew imposed by the junta, the show is at 7pm on Monday, June 30 at the FCCT. Admission is 150 baht for non-members plus 100 baht more for the brew and snacks.

Alliance Française – After taking a month off due to other French cultural events happening during La Fête, the Alliance's free films start back up next week. July's theme is "On a Journey", and the series kicks off with La vierge, les coptes et moi, a 2012 comedy in which a filmmaker heads to Egypt to make a movie about the supernatural appearances of the blessed Virgin in the Christian Coptic community. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, July 2.

Take note

The IMAX release of Transformers: Age of Extinction prompted me to go searching for information about authentic IMAX theaters. It's a confusing situation because not all IMAX theaters are created equal. It's worth noting – again – that in Thailand, there's only one real IMAX screen, at Paragon. The other IMAX screens here are smaller.

Anyway, according to the list, two more IMAX venues are planned as developers seek to cover every square meter of Bangkok with malls. One will be at the Emquartier, opening this year opposite the Emporium. Another is planned for the Bangkok Mall, a massive development that's being readied at the Bangna intersection. It'd be nice if at least one of the planned new IMAX cinemas had the full-size 72 foot × 53 foot (22 meter × 16.1 meter) IMAX screen like at Paragon, but with seating that isn't as cramped as Paragon's.

The 18th Thai Short Film and Video Festival is coming up in August, and starting on Wednesday, at the FA Cinematheque in the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, there will be the Short Film Marathon, in which some 500 entries to the festival will be screened. Shows are from 4.30pm Wednesday to Friday and 11am to 8.30pm on Saturday and Sunday, until August 6.

There's also the Southeast Asia Cinemas Conference from July 7 to 10 at the Thai Film Archive. Aside from addresses, panel talks and presentation of academic papers, the highlight will be film screenings. Among them will be the latest opus by Filipino auteur Lav Diaz, Norte, the End of History, which is a loose adaptation of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Other films include Dustin Nguyen's eastern-western Once Upon a Time in Vietnam, the award-winning Singaporean family drama Ilo Ilo and a brand-new Indonesian film, Rocket Rain. Registration is free for Thais, costs some for others. See the website for details.

Bangkok Comic-Con is set for July 4 to 6 at Royal Paragon Hall.

Finally, it appears that BIC.MOV.Fest set for July 3 to 6 at Paragon is not happening. Inquiries have so far been left unanswered and the festival's Facebook page has not been updated since before military takeover of the government in May.

Update: Some part of BIC.MOV.Fest have merged with Bangkok Comic-Con, while other parts of the movie festival, mainly activities planned by the Culture Ministry, have been postponed.

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