Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening August 28-September 3, 2014

Tukkae Rak Pang Mak (Chiang Khan Story)

Bits and pieces of veteran director Yuthlert Sippapak's own life are mixed into Tukkae Rak Pang Mak (ตุ๊กแกรักแป้งมาก, Chiang Khan Story).

A romantic comedy, representing yet another genre shift for the prolific director who's tackled action, comedy, horror and melodrama – often all in the same film – the story is set 25 years ago in Loei's historic Mekong River port city. Jirayu La-ongmanee is a kid with the rather odd name of Tukkae – named after the chirping house lizard. As a kid, his best friend was the district chief's daughter Pang. She (Chonthida “Pleng” Asavahame) moves away and returns much changed, and does not remember Tukkae at all. He's always had a thing for her, but doesn't tell her who he is.

Interestingly, much of the story takes place in a small-town movie theater, the likes of which have mostly disappeared from the landscape. In addition to views from the projection booth, there are also depictions of the old hand-painted movie billboards that used to be common in Thailand but have been mostly replaced by photos printed on giant plastic sheets.

Chiang Khan Story marks a comeback of sorts for Yuthlert. The Loei native who drifted off to New York and came back to Thailand in the early Aughts to make movies like the action-comedy Tattoo Killer, the New York-set melodrama February, Pattaya Maniac and Buppha Rahtree, which he made a franchise. Since then, he's done more than a dozen films over around half as many years, but lately he's taken a break after his potentially controversial Deep South drama Fatherland (ปิตุภูมิ พรมแดนแห่งรัก, Pitupoom) was yanked from release by the film's producer.

His new film is the first release from a new studio Transformation Films, a joint venture of M Pictures, Bangkok Film Studio (formerly Film Bangkok), True I-Content and Matching Studio. Rated 15+

Also opening

Lucy – Scarlett Johansson is a drug mule who becomes a one-woman army after the drug she's transporting leaks into her blood stream, giving her superhuman talent and the ability to use more than just 10 percent of her brain. The latest by writer-director Luc Besson, it looks to be a return to the female-led action films he used to do, such as Nikita, The Fifth Element, Joan of Arc and Leon: The Professional. Morgan Freeman and Choi Min-sik. Critical reception is mixed leaning to positive, with lots of praise for another solid performance by Johansson, who's been on a roll with Under the Skin, Her, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and now Lucy. Though strictly in 2D, it's also in IMAX cinemas. Rated 15+

What If (a.k.a. The F Word) – Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe is a medical school drop-out who's been burned by a string of bad relationships. But he forms an instant bond with Chantry (Zoe Kazan), a young woman who lives with her longtime boyfriend (Rafe Spall). Adam Driver, Mackenzie Davis, Megan Park and Oona Chaplin also star in this British-American indie romantic comedy. Michael Dowse (Goon, Take Me Home Tonight) directs. Critical reception is generally positive. Rated 15+

Standing Up – A pair of geeky bespectacled kids are bullied at summer camp and left stranded on an island. Together, the boy and girl decide to run away together. Annalise Basso, Chandler Canterbury, Radha Mitchell and Val Kilmer star. D.J. Caruso (I Am Number Four, Eagle Eye) directs. Critical reception is mixed. It's at Apex cinemas in Siam Square and House on RCA.

Ju-on: The Beginning of the End – Japan's Grudge series of ghost thrillers continues with a seventh entry. Here, a schoolteacher visits the home of a boy who's been absent from school. Unaware of the spirits that live there, she finds herself reliving the tragic events of years before. Sho Aoyagi, Yoshihiko Hakamada and Nozomi Sasaki star. Masayuki Ochiai, who helmed the Hollywood remake of Shutter, directs. Critical reception is mixed. Thai-dubbed only. Rated 15+

Kiki’s Delivery Service – A young witch comes of age while starting her own business making deliveries with her flying broomstick, with assistance from her talking cat. It's a live-action adaptation of a novel by Eiko Kadono, a story best known for the 1989 Studio Ghibli animated feature. Fūka Koshiba stars as Kiki along with Ryōhei Hirota, Machiko Ono and Tadanobu Asano. Takashi Shimizu, best known for his Ju-on ghost thrillers, directs. Critical reception is mixed. It's in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at Apex cinemas in Siam Square.

Raja Natwarlal – After his partner-in-crime is killed, a small-time conman seeks help from a mentor in plotting revenge. In Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Central Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

18th Thai Short Film and Video Festival – Opening tonight at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, highlights include Cambodia 2099, a short film by French-Cambodian director Davy Chou that is part of a new program of French shorts called "French Connection". There's also Stone Cloud, a new work by noted Thai video artist Jakrawal Nilthamrong that is part of a special program later in the week. And, from the Queer shorts line-up, there's the hilarious MeTube: August Sings Carmen 'Habanera'. Also tonight, Archive EX 1, which is a selection of historic Thai experimental films in honor of the Thai Film Archive's 30th anniversary. Friday's highlights include The Best of Clermont-Ferrand, which is a showcase from the world's largest short-film festival, and a competition program of Thai filmmakers vying for the top-prize R.D. Pestonji Award. Saturday and Sunday are full days starting at 11am, with many things to see, including the International Competition and the S-Express package from the Philippines. On Monday, the festival shifts over to the Lido for a one-off screening of Filipino auteur Lav Diaz' four-hour social drama Norte, the End of History. The show starts at 6 – don't miss it. The fest returns to the BACC on Tuesday the the S-Express Singapore show, and on Wednesday, catch Letters from the South, featuring observations on the Chinese diaspora from Southeast Asian directors. For more details, please see the schedule on the festival's Facebook page.

The Friese-Greene Club – A family is haunted by tragedies in A Tale of Two Sisters, the finale entry in this month's Asian horror series on Thursday nights. Tomorrow, it's just another brick in the wall of Alan Parker's films with Pink Floyd's The Wall. Saturday, it's the extremely weird Tokyo Gore Police, and on Sunday, Tyrone Power is on the fringes of society in Nightmare Alley. Next Wednesday is the beginning of a monthlong tribute to Robin Williams, showcasing his best performances, opening with the unsettling thriller One Hour Photo. Other special focuses next month are "The Genius of Ang Lee" on Thursdays, "funny things that happen in England" on Fridays, "so bad they're good" movies on Saturdays and a tribute to Lauren Bacall on Sundays. 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 – Flamboyant British director Ken Russell offers his sumptuously surreal view of German composer Gustav Mahler's life in 1974's Mahler. Winner of the Technical Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, it screens at 12.30pm on Sunday at Thammasat University Tha Prachan as part of the Filmvirus double bill of biographical films. That's followed by parts one and two of The Bill Douglas Trilogy, My Childhood and My Ain Folk. These are 1970s autobiographical films about the Scottish filmmaker's early childhood – part three, My Way Home, will screen the following Sunday. The venue is 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 – "Novels on the big screen" is September's theme for the free French films, starting with Michael Kohlhaas, starring Mads Mikkelsen as a 16th-century horse trader who runs into conflict with a greedy nobleman and becomes a lawless swashbuckler. Based on an 1810 German novel by Heinrich Von Kleist, it's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, September 3.

Sneak preview

Boyhood – One of the most hotly anticipated films of the year, Boyhood is a triumph for director Richard Linklater, who filmed the coming-of-age drama over 12 years, capturing various stages of life for a kid named Mason (Ellar Coltrane), from ages 5 to 18. Patricia Arquette is his divorcée mother and Ethan Hawke is the dad. It premiered at this year's Sundance fest and also won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival. Critical reception is crazily positive. It's in nightly sneak previews at Apex Siam Square, House on RCA, Paragon and CentralWorld before a wider release next week. Rated 13+

Deliver Us from Evil – A New York police officer joins forces with an unconventional priest (Edgar Ramirez) to investigate a strange series of paranormal crimes. It's supposedly a true story. Olivia Munn also stars. Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) directs. It's in sneak previews from around 8 nightly at most multiplexes before opening wide next week. Rated 18+.

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