Aw hell yeah! Let the renewal of Will Smith's career begin.
The Hollywood leading light, still-stinging from the "painful failure" of his vanity sci-fi project After Earth and a host of other lackluster misfires, dull, well-meaning prestige projects and big-budget bombs, is taking what is hopefully a different direction, perhaps back toward the types of roles that made him fun to watch in the first place.
After a bit of a hiatus, the former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is back with Focus, a crime thriller and romantic comedy in which he's a slick master of misdirection who falls for a novice con artist and teaches her the tricks of the trade. Three years later, he's in Buenos Aires working on his most elaborate scheme yet, and his old flame shows up and threatens to throw everything into disarray.
Margot Robbie, who got her big break as the female lead in The Wolf of Wall Street also stars, making Focus a test outing of sorts for the upcoming Suicide Squad, an ambitious DC Comics adaptation that will see Smith trying to fit in with an ensemble cast of villains who are forced to take part in do-or-die missions. He'll play the assassin Deadshot while Robbie will portray the Joker's former girlfriend, the unhinged Harley Quinn.
Focus is directed Glenn Ficarra and John Requa who previously did I Love You Phillip Morris and Crazy, Stupid, Love. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive. Rated 13+
Predestination – Ethan Hawke stars in this slick-looking sci-fi/noir as a temporal agent who travels through time to prevent future killers from committing their crimes. On his final assignment, he must stop the one criminal who has eluded him throughout time. Sarah Snook and Noah Taylor also star. Michael and Peter Spierig (Daybreakers) direct. Critical reception is actually pretty positive. Rated 15+
The Riot Club – Coming out amid a backlash against "posh" figures in Britain's entertainment industry, this film deals with Oxbridge society's all-male "dining clubs". Based on a play called, fittingly enough, Posh, The Riot Club follows two first-year Oxford legacies as they are inducted into an infamous group amid a power struggle among members over the club’s rowdiness and exclusionary policies. Max Irons, Sam Claflin and Douglas Booth star. Lone Scherfig (An Education) directs. Critical reception is generally positive.
The Lazarus Effect – It's Flatliners for the current generation. A bunch of brainy university researchers accidentally kill one of their own and then discover a way to bring her back to life. Unwittingly, they also unleash a deadly force. Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde and Donald Glover star. It's produced by Jason Blum, who's been behind the recent string of mean-spirited horror-thrillers The Purge, Insidious and Sinister. Critical reception is throbbing to life. Rated 18+
The World of Kanako – A former detective is back on the case when his daughter goes missing. As he probes deeper, he’s shocked to discover his model-student daughter was living a secret double life. Koji Yakusho and Nana Komatsu star. Tetsuya Nakashima, who previously helmed the well-regarded and stylish Kamikaze Girls and Memories of Matsuko, directs. It's in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at House.
Rise of the Legend – Martial-arts master Wong Fei-hung has been the subject of countless movies, such as Tsui Hark's Once Upon a Time in China series with Jet Li and Yuen Wo-ping's Drunken Master with Jackie Chan. This one's under Hong Kong director Roy Chow, with rising Taiwanese action star Eddie Peng in the lead. Here, he's an orphan who infiltrates the ranks of the Black Tiger gang in a bloody and violent bid for revenge against those who killed his father and mentor. Sammo Hung and Angelababy also star. Corey Yuen, a veteran action choreographer who has worked from Hong Kong to Hollywood, is the stunt director. Critical reception is mixed. At SF cinemas; Chinese soundtrack and English subtitles at CentralWorld. Rated 13+
Badlapur – Varun Dhawan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui star in this decades-spanning drama about two men trapped in an endless self-destructive spiral of revenge and retribution. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.
Memory! International Film Heritage Festival – Opening at 6.30 tonight at the Alliance Française, this festival put on by a Phnom Penh-based NGO, Bangkok's Alliance and the Thai Film Archive, will show 11 classic comedies under the theme of "Laughter!" The opening entries are 1902's A Trip to the Moon and Charles Chaplin's The Circus. Tomorrow has the 1955 British comedy The Ladykillers, starring Alec Guinness as the leader of an unusual gang of thieves. The fest shifts over to the Film Archive in Salaya on Saturday and Sunday with the French comedies Happy Anniversary and The Great Love by Pierre Etaix and the 1965 Mongolian "silk road comedy" Before Rising Up the Ranks. Sunday's selections are Jacques Tati's futuristic Playtime and Buster Keaton's railroad epic The General. The fest returns to the Alliance on Monday and Tuesday with the Thai classic Sugar Is Not Sweet and a repeat of the Etaix films. It's back at the Archive for next Wednesday's Makha Bucha holiday with Harold Lloyd's Safety Last and Sugar before wrapping up at the Alliance next Thursday and Friday. Tickets are free and can be booked online. For the schedule and more details, please see a recent article in The Nation or check the festival's Facebook page.
The Last Executioner – If you missed seeing The Last Executioner (เพชฌฆาต, Petchakat) last year (and lots did, given how it whirled in and out of cinemas) then here's a chance sighting in an unusual location, Bangkok's stately Neilson Hays Library. Starring Shanghai film fest award-winner Vithaya Pansringarm as Thai prison death-row rifleman Chavoret Jaruboon, it's a biopic and psychological study about a man conflicted by his faith and his lethal profession. The screening is set for tonight at 7. Tickets are 400 baht (300 baht for members/students). Book here. On hand afterward will be director Tom Waller, screenwriter Don Linder and star "Phu" Vithaya. A signed copy of the screenplay will be a raffled off.
The Friese-Greene Club – There are two entries left in this month's Australia vs. New Zealand battle for cinematic supremacy. Not sure who is winning, as both are terrific. Tonight, it's one of Australian great Peter Weir's early films, 1975's Picnic at Hanging Rock, in which schoolgirls go for a picnic and some don't come back. Tomorrow, New Zealand's Sir Peter Jackson proves he doesn't need hobbits to make movies – it's the tale of a tumultuous relationship between two girls in Heavenly Creatures. And the month closes out with one more Monty Python film, 1983's The Meaning of Life. It's already fully booked, so perhaps console yourself with a wafer-thin mint. Meanwhile, I have yet to see a schedule for March. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. For more details, check the club's Facebook page.
Open Secrets – Documentaries by noted Thai filmmakers and visual artists will screen in an art-gallery setting from tomorrow night until April 10 at Chulalongkorn University's Art Center. Among the directors is Jakrawal Nilthamrong, a visual artist and experimental filmmaker. He just premiered his debut feature Vanishing Point to award-winning acclaim at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The Chula show will feature three more of his works from the past few years, including the mid-length effort Unreal Forest, which he made in Zambia as part of an African initiative by the Rotterdam film fest. Other directors are the trio of Kaweenipon Ketprasit, Kong Rithdee and Panu Aree, who make documentaries that focus on their Islamic faith and moderate Muslims. Among their works will be the electrifying Baby Arabia, a feature about a Bangkok-based Muslim rock band that performs songs in Arabic and Malay. In all, the exhibition will screen 11 films by seven directors. The others are Pisut Srimhok, Santiphap Inkong-ngam and Sutthirat Supaparinya. Friday night's opening will feature a talk by the filmmakers, “Documentary Films: Mirrors of Society”, at 5pm. The venue is The Art Center on the seventh floor of the Center for Academic Resources (the library) at Chulalongkorn University on Phayathai Road.
The Apex website is down. Hopefully they'll find that invoice for their Web host. For showtimes, call the Lido at (02) 252 6498 and the Scala at (02) 251 2861.
Movies will be opening a day earlier than usual next week, owing to Wednesday's Makha Bucha Day. Also because of the holiday, there is no free French film next Wednesday at the Alliance. If you have the day free, I suggest you visit the Thai Film Archive for the Memory! fest. See you next Wednesday!