Thailand's GTH studio again aims for the eyeballs of the country's most lucrative movie-going demographic – upper- and middle-class urban teens – with their latest thriller The Swimmers (ฝากไว้..ในกายเธอ, Fak Wai Nai Kai Ther), in which a pregnant girl commits suicide in her school's swimming pool. Her ghost then haunts the guy who knocked her up.
Juthawut Pattarakamphon and Thonphop Lirattanakhachon star as the lads who have been going to the gym and minding what they eat. They are named Perth and Tan, and are rivals on the school's swim team. Supatsara Thanachart is Ice, the troubled young woman who is Tan's girlfriend but attracts the attentions of Perth.
The writer-director is Sophon Sakdaphisit, who has been behind GTH's string of hit thrillers, penning the early 2000s hits Shutter and Alone before making his directorial debut with 2008's Coming Soon. He followed that up in 2011 with Laddaland, a mature psychological drama.
Critical buzz so far places The Swimmer somewhere below Laddaland but perhaps a bit above Coming Soon. Rated 18+
The Expendables 3 – Sylvester Stallone's latest action extravaganza arrives amid controversy over a near-perfect copy of the film being leaked to file-sharing sites weeks before its theatrical release. Not keen for that kind of publicity, the studio Lionsgate has made a federal case out of it. The story has Stallone's team of mercenaries trading shots with an arms dealer who was a former business partner. He's played by Mel Gibson. Back for more action are Expendables regulars Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and Jet Li. Arnold Schwarzenegger is also back, again. New to the proceedings is embattled star Wesley Snipes plus Hollywood vets Harrison Ford, Kelsey Grammer and Antonio Banderas, and some new blood with Twilight star Kellan Lutz. There's even one "expendabelle", mixed-martial-arts fighter Ronda Rousey. The director is Patrick Hughes, who previously helmed the Australian thriller Red Hill – one definitely worth seeking out. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to negative. Rated 15+
Swelter – Another ageing action star, Jean-Claude Van Damme, fights for multiplex real-estate against his former Expendables castmates with Swelter, which is described as a "brutal heist drama" in the vein of Reservoir Dogs plus a few other movies, such as A History of Violence and High Plains Drifter. Alfred Molina, Lennie James (Snatch) and Grant Bowler (TV's Defiance) also star. It's a modern-day western about folks turning up in a dustblown town looking for another guy who double-crossed them. Like most of Van Damme's films of late, this is going direct-to-DVD in the States, so there's not yet much critical reception. Rated 15+
Into the Storm – This "found footage" disaster thriller revisits the territory of Twister and the more-recent Sharknado, though without the sharks. Various folks with cameras – high-school students, thrill-seekers, storm chasers and townspeople – track an unprecedented outbreak of tornadoes. Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies and Matt Walsh star. Critical reception is mixed. Actually, because it's "found footage", it's not in 3D, because, you know, that wouldn't be realistic. So count your blessings. Rated G
Entertainment – Akshay Kumar is a young man who finds out his entire life has been a fraud. He goes in search of his real father – India's largest diamond merchant. In Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Rama III. Opens Friday.
Silent Film Festival – Alfed Hitchcock's debut feature, 1925's The Pleasure Garden, opens the festival at 8 tonight at the Lido. It's about the romantic entanglements of a pair of chorus girls. Tomorrow night is Hitch's boxing drama The Ring. Highlights this weekend include a free talk by piano accompanists Mie Yanashita and Maud Nelissen at 2 on Saturday, following a noon screening of Japan's The Water Magician. Sunday offers a free lecture on "The Silent Hitchcock" by Professor Charles Barr. It's at 2pm, wedged between repeat showings of The Pleasure Garden and The Ring. The big highlight is on Wednesday, when the fest shifts over to the Scala for one of Hitchcock's masterpieces, The Lodger from 1927, featuring a live performance by young Thai maestro Trisdee na Pattalung. And, just announced, Trisdee will be joined on Wednesday by his mentor, composer and conductor Somtow Sucharitkul. Tickets are 100 baht for the Lido shows and 500 baht for the closing-night gala at the Scala, available in advance from the box offices. Find out more at Facebook.com/silentfilmthailand.
Elle Fashion Film Festival – The fashionable fest put on by Post Publishing and SFX the Emporium runs until Saturday, with highlights that include Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel, Michael Winterbottom's baudy escapade The Look of Love, the typewriter romance Populaire and the French singer biopic My Way. Be aware that some of the movies, including Grand Budapest, are being projected from Blu-ray, and may be a bit unclear at times. If you're picky about such things, check at the box office before plunking down 200 baht for the tickets. For more details, please see my earlier blog post or the SF Cinema website.
The Friese-Greene Club – Live octopus is on the menu for tonight's offering of Asian horror, Park Chan-wook's classic revenge thriller Oldboy – pointlessly remade recently by Spike Lee. Tomorrow, see how bad it gets in a Turkish prison with director Alan Parker's Midnight Express. Saturday's head trip is Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman's supremely weird Being John Malkovich, and on Sunday, an insuranceman (Fred MacMurray) has a hard sell in Billy Wilder's classic film noir Double Indemnity. Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson also star. Next Wednesday, it's the story of a troubled woman (Kelly MacDonald) taking up with a suicidal hitman in The Merry Gentlemen, the first and so far only feature directed by Michael Keaton. Hear what it was like to work on the set from Bangkok-based film pro David Cluck, who served as Keaton's first assistant director. Cluck's extensive credits also include such films as The Artist, The Apparition and Oculus. 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.
The Lives of Others – Artists are featured in this Sunday's Film Virus double bill of biopics at Thammasat University Tha Prachan. First up is Goya in Bordeaux, focusing on the master painter's late-life voluntary exile to France. That's followed by Utamaro and His Five Women. From 1946, it recounts the life of Kitagawa Utamaro (1756-1806), known for his paintings of Japan's erotic "floating world". It's directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, whose earlier film The Water Magician, is part of the Silent Film Festival. The show starts at 12.30 on Sunday in the Pridi Banomyong Library at Thammasat University Tha Prachan, in the Rewat Buddhinan Room, floor U2, the basement. Dress appropriately and inform the desk worker you are there to see a movie. For details, call (02) 613-3529 or (02) 613-3530.
Alliance Française – Selections from last year's My French Film Festival in Bangkok are featured this month, and next week's selection has resonance with the current situation in Gaza. From 2011, Une bouteille à la mer (A Bottle in the Gaza Sea) centers on a 17-year-old French immigrant in Israel who puts a message in a bottle, seeking an explanation for a bomb attack in Jerusalem. It's found by a young Palestinian man, who initiates an e-mail correspondence with the girl. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, August 13.
Whenever I mention the Lido and Scala to a co-worker, she tells me how they used to charge 20 baht for the front three rows, which would often be filled by students from nearby Chulalongkorn University. She's told me that anecdote about a dozen times or so, and I don't guess it ever gets old.
Now, for the first time in more than 10 years, prices have gone up at Siam Square's Apex cinemas. At the Lido, seats in the rear rows are 120 baht, but still 100 baht closer to the screen. The Scala's seats are priced at 140 baht for the bleacher section, 120 baht for the back rows on the floor up to row O and 100 baht down front.
The move follows Apex's recent shift to digital projection, which was introduced under a special "promotional" price of 100 baht. However, with the prices at other cinema chains now routinely topping 200 baht, the Lido and Scala remain fantastic bargains even after the price hike, so please support them.
Making the Apex cinemas a better bargain is their "Movie Mileage Card", which you get stamped on each visit. A full card gets you into a film for free! And, unlike loyalty cards at other cinemas, the Apex Movie Mileage Card never expires, is free and has no strings attached. Ask for one on your next visit.
Next Tuesday, August 12, is Her Majesty the Queen's birthday, and in honor of the big national holiday, movie distributors will release another batch of new films, among them a remake of the classic Thai romance Plae Kao (The Scar), the buddy-cop comedy 22 Jump Street, Tommy Lee Jones' western The Homesman, the acclaimed drama Joe starring Nicolas Cage and a sneak preview of Michael Bay's reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I'll update with another post early next week.