Back in 2005, director Robert Rodriguez had the cool idea of taking Dark Knight writer-artist Frank Miller's neo-noir Sin City graphic novel and recreating the gritty frames and hard-boiled dialogue in a movie. Famously, the thrifty filmmaker made it on the cheap in front of green screens, with cars and other objects represented by cardboard boxes. Special effects and scenery were added later, but the film also boasted a stellar cast that included Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke. It made Frank Miller a movie franchise, with another of his graphic novels, 300, also given the panel-by-panel treatment and becoming a huge hit with a sequel, and Miller himself directing The Spirit.
Now Rodriguez and Miller reteam for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, which offers four more gritty tales ripped from a glowing black-and-white film-noir fantasy world. Even lousy bums who were killed off in the first film are back, with Roarke as soft-hearted brute Marv and Bruce Willis as the doomed honest cop John Hartigan.
Rosario Dawson is back as the domineering leader of the city's dames, with Jessica Alba as the dancer Nancy and Powers Boothe as a corrupt senator. Newcomers include Eva Green, Ray Liotta and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Josh Brolin takes over the role of femme-fatale chew-toy Dwight, who was previously played by Clive Owen, and Dennis Haysbert steps into a role played in the first film by Michael Clark Duncan.
Critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
When Michael Bay announced plans to take over the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, he said he would be making drastic changes to the characters' origins, and that the film would likely just be called Ninja Turtles. Fans were furious, and after much hate was spewed, Bay relented. Now the film is here, with the full TMNT name and the origin story intact.
The "Heroes in a Half Shell" are Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello, pizza-chomping warriors who arose from the ooze of New York's sewers and learned martial arts from a rat sensei named Splinter. Their arch-enemies are the Foot Clan led by the fearsome Shredder.
The movie adds Megan Fox as a plucky reporter who's trailing the turtles. Will Arnett, William Fichtner and Whoopi Goldberg are among the other stars, with Johnny Knoxville lending his voice to lead turtle Leonardo and Tony Shalhoub as the voice of Splinter.
The director is Jonathan Liebsman, the South African helmer of Wrath of the Titans and Battle: Los Angeles.
Critics say the movie stinks but it doesn't matter – it's been the No. 1 movie in the U.S. for the past couple of weeks, and two more sequels are already in the works, with the next film due out in 2016. This opened for a sneak-preview run last week and now moves to a wide release. It's in 3D (converted) in some cinemas. Rated 13+
Kristy – A college student makes the fateful decision to remain on campus alone during a holiday break and finds herself pursued by masked killers. This movie is also known as Random, but for reasons I can't figure out, it's called Kristy here. Scott Derrickson, the director of Sinister and the upcoming Deliver Us From Evil is executive producer and Oliver Blackburn directs. Rated 15+
James Cameron's Deepsea Challenge 3D – The ocean-obsessed Titanic director puts himself in the picture as he plunges more than 10 kilometers to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in this documentary about his record-setting dive for National Geographic. Critical reception is mixed. It's in real 3D in some cinemas. Rated G.
Third Person – Writer-director Paul Haggis forces together three stories of troubled relationships in this thriller. In Paris, Liam Neeson is a writer who has left his wife (Kim Basinger) to be with his mistress (Olivia Wilde) who cannot commit to him because of a terrible secret. In New York, a young mother (Mila Kunis) is in a custody battle with her husband (James Franco) after she is accused of attempting to murder her son. And in Rome, an American businessman (Adrian Brody) falls for a Romanian lady (Moran Atias) and is drawn into a kidnap plot involving the woman's daughter and a Russian gangster. The shine has worn off Haggis since his upset Oscar win for the heavy-handed and preachy Crash, and critical reception is generally negative. Rated 15+.
Mardaani – Rani Mukerji stars in this rare female-led action thriller from Bollywood. She's a senior police inspector in Mumbai, investigating the disappearance of a teenage girl. The clues point to a mafia kingpin's human-trafficking ring. Tahir Raj Bhasin and Sanjay Taneja also star. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.
Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – The FCCT's Contemporary World Film Series explores cross-cultural struggles with The Namesake, a 2006 drama by Oscar-nominated director Mira Nair. Irrfan Khan and Tabu star as a Bengali couple who immigrate from Kolkata to New York and have children. Through a series of mishaps, their son is named Gogol, after the father's favorite Russian author. He (Kal Penn of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) grows up lazy and resentful, but through various struggles, travels and romantic entanglements, he learns to embrace his Indian heritage. Critical reception is generally positive. The show, courtesy of Mirabai Films and the Embassy of India, is at 7 tonight at the FCCT. Indian Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla will be on hand with Indian wines and treats from Mrs Balbir's. Admission for non-members is 150 baht plus 100 baht for the wine and food.
The Friese-Greene Club – Released from prison after serving time for a crime she didn't commit, a woman seeks revenge in Park Chan-wook's Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, tonight's Asian horror entry. Tomorrow, it's another Alan Parker film, with the 1980 classic Fame. Saturday is the very trippy The 5,000 Fingers of Doctor T, a fantasy about schoolboys imprisoned at a music school for forced to play a giant piano. It's written by none other than Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. By coincidence, this Sunday's film-noir offering will serve as a tribute to Lauren Bacall, the smoky-voiced leading lady who died on August 12 at age 89. It's The Big Sleep, one of the best with Bogart and Bacall. 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 – The great American rock band The Doors are featured in this Sunday's Filmvirus double bill of biopics at Thammasat University Tha Prachan. First up is The Doors, Oliver Stone's fast-and-loose recounting of the band's formation in the 1960s, with Val Kilmer as mercurial frontman Jim Morrison. Kyle MacLachlan portrays organist Ray Manzarek, Frank Whaley is guitarist Robby Krieger and Kevin Dillon is drummer John Densmore. Stone's movie has been criticized by Manzarek and the others as being wildly inaccurate. But they all like the documentary When You're Strange, which was made for the American Masters series on American public television. It features the music of The Doors and archival footage, as well as excerpts of HWY: An American Pastoral, an experimental film made by Morrison. Johnny Depp narrates. 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, which closes out with the 2011 thriller De Bon Matin, in which a banker arrives at work, promptly shoots two of his colleagues and then sits down to await the arrival of the police. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, August 27.
Details are still coming together for the 18th Thai Short Film and Video Festival, which runs from next Thursday to September 7 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center.
This week the Coconuts website issued a report that was meant to clarify rumors about the future of the Lido and Scala cinemas.
The report was in response to online rumors that the contracts for the two endangered theaters had been extended three years. Property owner Chulalongkorn University answered that the rumors were untrue, and that in the case of the Lido, the contract has already expired. However, talks are taking place to get a new contract in place, and it seems likely that the wrecking ball might not swing at the Lido or Scala until 2016.
Or maybe not. Enjoy these places while you can. There are other rumors floating about Siam Square's redevelopment plans, but I'll leave those for another day.
Meanwhile, the Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project has a look at the Scala on the closing night of the Silent Film Festival.