Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 30-May 6, 2015

Doc Holiday: 1971

Since last December, an initiative branded Doc Holiday has been bringing popular recent documentaries to Bangkok multiplexes. It's given movie-goers a chance to see such acclaimed titles as the found-photos treasure trove of Finding Vivian Maier, and Life Itself, about influential film critic Roger Ebert. And of note recently, there was the Oscar-winning public-surveillance exposé Citizenfour.

The latest release is another film that has us watching who is watching us, 1971, a critically acclaimed feature by debuting director Johanna Hamilton. It recalls when a group calling itself the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI broke into a bureau office. The burglars, who are interviewed, brought to light files related to Cointelpro, a secret, illegal domestic-spy program that targeted civil-rights leaders, journalists, politicians and other leftist figures who were deemed enemies of the state by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.

The film is part of the ongoing Doc Holiday series at SF cinemas, which is organized by the Documentary Club, a personal project started by Bioscope magazine editor Thida Plitpholkarnpim. It's different, experimental and grass-roots, and it taps into the welcome recent trend of documentaries – both foreign and Thai, and independent – being eaten up by local audiences.

The deal works like this: Documentary Club's limited screenings are first set up on weekends at SF World at CentralWorld. Then, driven by the viral power of social-media networking, and maybe even good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth, the frequencies may be extended to more days and other SF branches, depending on the films' popularity.

For example, after its initial weekend run at SF World, Citizenfour was expanded to daily screenings at other SF cinemas, such as SFX Lad Phrao. Documentary Club has also been doing opening-weekend screenings in Chiang Mai, at the SFX Maya.

Anyway, to find out the actual showtimes, you've got to check the Documentary Club's Facebook page. Only there will you find the updates on the latest times and venues. And, it'll be from there, where I'll attempt to track the films' progress each Thursday, if possible.

According to the latest Facebook post, 1971 screens at 7.30 tonight at SFW CentralWorld, and not at 7 as SF's poster seems to indicate. The film is then scheduled to move to a slightly wider limited release next weekend, May 8 to 10 at CentralWorld and at SFX Maya Chiang Mai. And then, who knows? It's all up to you.

Advance bookings through SF Cinema City's website are encouraged.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

If it's not the FBI or National Security Agency trying to control our lives, it's that forever-meddling superhero Tony Stark. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the egotistical billionaire weapons developer thinks it would be a swell idea to restart a long-dormant peacekeeping system. It turns out to be an artificial-intelligence entity that attains consciousness and decides that the only way to save the world is to destroy it. Nice going Tony.

To clean up his mess and stop the scary robot Ultron, Stark needs the help of eye-patched maestro Nick Fury and the Avengers – Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and a few other super folk. Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and many, many more all return for this sequel to 2012's first Avengers movie, which also ties in with the Iron Man movies and the Marvel TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. James Spader is the menacing voice of Ultron. Also joining the cast are Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen as the Maximoff twins, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, who you may have glimpsed at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Cult-TV-series director Joss Whedon (Firefly, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer) again directs, marking what he says will be his last Avengers movie. As with the other entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there will be tie-in scenes with upcoming Marvel films during the ending credits; so keep your seat and pay your respects to all the grips, gaffers, best boys and visual-effects artists.

Critical reception is generally positive, though maybe not as strong as the first Avengers. It's in converted 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated G

Also opening

Gabbar is Back – And I didn't know he left. Bollywood action star Akshay Kumar takes a page out of Tony Stark's book. He's a vigilante who thinks it would be a swell idea to form a military strike team to systematically eliminate society's most-corrupt individuals. A pair of lawmen are on his case. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Woody Allen's Manhattan closes out the month tonight. Keep an eye on the club's Facebook page for May's schedule. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the under-renovation Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22.

Doc Weekend – Documentaries, documentaries, documentaries. We love documentaries. In addition to the Documentary Club initiative detailed above, this weekend there are 10 recent Thai documentaries on screen at TK Park at CentralWorld. It’s a chance to see some noteworthy films that played in local cinemas but maybe you missed, including Somboon, Mother and Wish Us Luck. It’s also an opportunity to catch up, with such examples as Siam Park City, a 2011 effort by Chonlasit Upanigkit, the film student who earned plaudits last year for his debut feature, W., a drama that was his graduation project and premiered in the Busan International Film Festival, and also had a limited local cinema run. The event is curated by local filmmaker Supakit Seksuwan, who put together last year's Thai Aurora the Horizon. Admission is Bt20. TK Park is on the eighth floor of CentralWorld, above the Central Foodhall. Shows start at 11am on Saturday and Sunday. For full line-up, you can check that other blog, the fest's Exteen blog or the Facebook events page.

Alliance Française – "French films with children" is the theme for May, beginning with Tirez la langue, mademoiselle (Miss and the Doctors), about a pair of brothers who are both doctors. They start looking after a diabetic child and fall for the kid's mother. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, May 6.

Take note

Next Thursday, May 7, is the opening of the photo exhibition “40 Years Later: the Commemoration of the Fall of Phnom Penh” by Roland Neveu at the Alliance Française Bangkok. The opening will have the one-off screening of the emotion-filled documentary Cambodge, après l’adieu (Cambodia After Farewell), in which co-director Iv Charbonneau-Ching follows his family's return to Cambodia after their escape from the Khmer Rouge regime in 1975. Tickets are 100 baht. You can reserve your movie ticket online. For more details, check the Facebook events page. Neveu's photos will be up through May 24.

Bangkok Comic-Con is happening this weekend at Bitec. It'll have booths and all kinds of things in addition to costumed superheroes wandering around. There's more about it in an article in The Nation today.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 23-29, 2015

Skin Trade

Tony Jaa, fresh off his well-received Hollywood debut in Fast and Furious 7, takes the lead in Skin Trade, a gritty crime drama that has the Thai action star teaming up with Swedish bruiser Dolph Lundgren to go after human traffickers in Bangkok.

It's directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham, a filmmaker and theater director who has been celebrating some of his own success lately, with the nightly stage show Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives marking one year of drawing crowds to the tourist-oriented Asiatique the Riverside Bangkok. Ekachai previously won widespread acclaim for his work on the fact-based transgender drama Beautiful Boxer, which was a winning mix of Muay Thai action and art-house sensibilities. He talks more about his work on Skin Trade in an article in The Nation.

Skin Trade has Jaa as a Thai policeman who teams up with a New York cop (Lundgren) to tangle with Serbian mobsters who are running a human-trafficking ring in Bangkok. Ron Perlman also stars, along with Celina Jade, Michael Jai White and Peter Weller.

The project is something Lundgren has been trying to get produced for a long time. The fair-haired action icon made his breakthrough as an imposing Russian boxer in Rocky IV and is among the cast of Stallone's Expendables movies. And he worked with Jaa on an unfinished movie called A Man Will Rise, which was set up at Thai studio Sahamongkol Film. Jaa at the time was going through a career transition, and he decamped from A Man Will Rise amid a still-boiling contract dispute with Sahamongkol. Under new manager and producer Michael Selby, Jaa and Lundgren eventually set to work on Skin Trade, which was made after Fast and Furious 7, and was filmed mostly in Thailand but also in Canada.

Skin Trade is just out here in Thailand and is set for a U.S. release on May 8 but early buzz from action-oriented websites has been positive. Although the English soundtrack is generally available, there's a Thai-dubbed version lurking as well, so take care when choosing the showtime. Rated 18+

Also opening

Woman in Gold – Helen Mirren stars in this fact-based drama, portraying Maria Altmann, a determined Jewish woman who fought a decades-long legal battle for the return of priceless Klimt masterpieces that were stolen from her family by the Nazis. Ryan Reynolds is her wet-behind-the-ears lawyer Randol Schoenberg. Daniel Brühl, Katie Holmes, Tatiana Maslany and Max Irons also star. Critical reception is politely mixed. Rated 13+

The Age of Adaline – A 29-year-old woman who has remained ageless for some eight decades and has kept mostly to herself so others won't discover her secret, falls for a wealthy man. She spends a weekend with the man's parents in which she must make a decision that will change her life forever. Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Kathy Baker and Ellen Burstyn star. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive. Rated 15+

4 Sao (สี่เส้า, a.k.a. Love Is) – Three ethnic Chinese women from Doi Mae Salong, Chiang Rai, head to college and develop a friendship with a young man named Kamol (Pongsakorn “Toei” Mettarikanon). Karanyapas Khumsin directs. Rated 15+

Fleet of Time – The relationship of six Beijing friends is traced from the waning days of high school in 1999 to a reunion 15 years later as one from their group is set to wed. In Chinese with English and Thai subtitles at CentralWorld, Esplanade Ratchada and Paragon; Thai-dubbed elsewhere. Rated 15+

108 Demon Kings – France, Belgium and Luxembourg team up with China for this animated fantasy, which is based on the literary epics The Water Margin and Journey to China. The story has three very different people – a prince, a monk and a pickpocket – teaming up to battle monstrous demons who are terrorizing the land. Thai-dubbed. Rated G

Also showing

Week of Portuguese Cinema – The fest continues at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center with screenings at 6 tonight and tomorrow. Tonight, it's the award-winning Tabu, about the epic star-crossed romance between expat lovers in colonial Africa. Directed by Miguel Gomes, it features tedium-inducing present-day Lisbon scenes in color with vivid memories of the past in stylishly framed black-and-white. His latest, a six-hour tryptch Arabian Nights as at the Cannes Director's Fortnight. Tomorrow, it's E Agora? Lembra-me (What Now? Remind Me), filmmaker Joaquim Pinto's first-person documentary about living with HIV. The fest returns on Saturday to the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, closing out with 35mm screenings. The show starts at 1 with Capitães De Abril (April Captains), a 2000 coup drama by Maria de Medeiros. That's followed by encore screenings of classic films by the late Manoel De Oliveira, 1990's Non Ou a Vã Glória De Mandar (No, or the Vain Glory of Command) and his 1942 debut Aniki-Bóbó. Seats can be reserved online at

Swedish Film Festival – Eight recent and well-acclaimed movies will be shown in this free festival at SFW CentralWorld. The opener at 7 tonight is the romance Belleville Baby followed at 8.40 by the quirky drama Hotell. Tomorrow has two more, the black comedy The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared at 7 and the romantic comedy Ego at 9.15pm. Saturday has the divorce documentary A Separation (Att skiljas) at 3pm, Ego at 5pm and the ensemble romantic drama Stockholm Stories at 7pm. Sunday starts at 3.30pm with the class-reunion comedy The Reunion (Återträffen), The 100-Year-Old Man at 5pm and the drama Shed No Tears at 7.30pm. The fest's entries are detailed in a special post and the schedule is at the SF Cinema City website. Tickets are free, and are handed out 30 minutes before each show.

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, Woody Allen explores the musical genre with 1996's Everyone Says I Love You. Tomorrow, it's a final "cult film" entry for the month with the black comedy The Last Supper. And on Saturday it's another of the best westerns with Sam Peckinpah's very stylish and unapologetically violent The Wild Bunch. Sunday's French classic is Breathless, Jean Luc-Goddard's debut that kicked off the French New Wave. And next Wednesday is one more Werner Herzog, his fact-based prisoner-of-war drama Rescue Dawn, which he filmed in Thailand with Christian Bale and Steve Zahn. It is based on Herzog's 1997 documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly, about Dieter Dengler, a US Navy pilot whose plane went down in Laos during the Vietnam War. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the under-renovation Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. For more details, check the club's Facebook page.

Alliance Française – France's foreign minister navigates the tricky world of diplomacy in Quai d'Orsay (The French Minister), a 2013 comedy by French New Wave veteran Bertrand Tavernier. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, April 29.

Sneak preview

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Egotistical billionaire Tony "Iron Man" Stark just can't leave well enough alone. The eternally tinkering genius weapons developer creates an artificial-intelligence peacekeeping entity that becomes the evil killer robot Ultron. To clean up his mess, Stark needs the help of eyepatched maestro Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers – Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and a few other super folk. Joss Whedon directs. Critical reception is generally positive, with the consensus so far putting this sequel in the "almost as good as the first movie" category. Marvel's latest blockbuster has a one-day sneak preview next Wednesday before opening wide next Thursday. It'll be in converted 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX.

Take note

Apologies for last week's update, in which I forgot to include details about Perhaps Love, the 2005 Hong Kong musical that was the opener of this season's Contemporary World Film Series at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. Don't miss the next entry in the series, this year's Oscar-winning Polish film Ida, which screens at the FCCT on May 11.

Other upcoming events include Bangkok Entertainment Week (including a Comic-Con) from April 30 to May 3,

Doc Weekend on May 2 and 3 at TK Park at CentralWorld will screen many noteworthy recent Thai documentaries including Somboon, Mother and Wish Us Luck.

And Movie Season 2 on May 9 and 10 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center will feature 16 student short films. Thanks to Art for letting me know about that.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 16-22, 2015

When Marnie Was There

Japan's vaunted animation house Studio Ghibli is reportedly winding things down, with When Marnie Was There being their final feature.

Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (Arietty), the story is based on a British children’s novel by Joan G. Robinson. It's about a shy sick tomboy who is sent to live with relatives in a coastal village. There, she has visions about a mysterious abandoned mansion and a blonde girl named Marnie who no one else has ever seen.

This will surely be a bittersweet film for fans of Studio Ghibli, which announced Marnie would be its last new movie following the retirement of studio co-founder Hayao Miyazaki and the release of co-founding director Isao Takahata's The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Though this might only be a "short pause" while Ghibli rights itself, there 's nothing new yet in the pipeline.

Critical reception is generally positive. It's in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles. In addition to Scala and House, it's also at CentralWorld, Paragon, Major Ratchayothin and Esplanade Ratchada. Rated G

Also opening

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water – The undersea cartoon world of Bikini Bottom falls into chaos after a pirate (Antonio Banderas) steals the Krabby Patty Secret Formula, forcing Spongebob SquarePants and his pals from the deep to team up, enter our dimension and retrieve the beloved burger recipe. Critical reception is wackily positive. This opened in a sneak preview last week and now moves to a wider release. It's in real 3D in some cinemas. Rated G

Big Game – When Air Force One is shot down by terrorists, the US president – played by none other than Samuel L. Jackson – bails out in his escape pod and lands in the wilderness of Finland. There, he's encountered by a 13-year-old boy undergoing a traditional hunting rite of manhood. Armed with only a bow, it’s up to the kid to fend off attackers while leading the president to safety. Onni Tommila also stars. It's reportedly the most expensive film ever made in Finland. Critical reception is generally positive. Rated 13+

Child 44 – Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and Gary Oldman try out their Russian accents with varying degrees of success in this thriller that is adapted from the best-selling novels of Tom Rob Smith. Hardy is a state security officer in the Stalin-era Soviet Union. Disgraced and sent to a remote outpost, he bucks authority as he seeks to find out the truth about a child's death, which he believes to be the work of a serial killer preying on little boys. Daniel Espinosa (Safe House) directs. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+

Boychoir – After his single mother dies in a car wreck, a talented-but-undisciplined Texas boy is packed off to an East Coast boarding school. The boy at first clashes with the school’s choirmaster (Dustin Hoffman), an old-fashioned disciplinarian, but soon learns to channel his hard feelings into his singing. Critical reception is mixed. Rated G

Demonic – College students investigating ghosts are found dead inside an abandoned home. A police detective (Frank Grillo) and a psychologist (Maria Bello) attempt to piece together what happened, with the help of – wait for it – video found at the scene. Critics have yet to discover this latest bit of nastiness, which is churned out of the mill of co-producer James Wan, one of the guys responsible for the sickening Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring as well as the new Fast and Furious movie. Rated 15+

Mr. X – Bollywood enters the realm of big-budget-blockbuster sci-fi with this week's big release, Mr. X, in which a young man gains the power of invisibility and becomes a revenge-seeking vigilante. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Martin Landau is man in a moral quandary in Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors tonight. Tomorrow, it's Buffalo '66, cult director Vincent Gallo's love-it-or-hate-it crime drama about an ex-con who kidnaps a young woman (Christina Ricci) and forces her to pose as his wife as he seeks revenge against the man responsible for his imprisonment. On Saturday, it's another of the great westerns, The Searchers, which is is quite simply the best of the many fine films made by John Ford and John Wayne. And on Sunday, François Truffaut is struggling to make a film in the French classic Day for Night. Next Wednesday is another weird Werner Herzog movie, the mockumentary Incident at Loch Ness, which Zak Penn directed and Herzog produced. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the under-renovation Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. For more details, check the club's Facebook page.

Week of Portuguese Cinema – Two films by Manoel de Oliveira will screen during the Week of Portuguese Cinema starting on Sunday at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom. De Oliveira, who was making movies well into his 100s, died on April 2 at age 106. Notably, the Thai Film Archive's screenings will feature exclusively 35mm prints, including de Oliveira's debut feature, 1942's Aniki Bobo and his 1990 epic Non Ou a vã Glória De Mandar (No, or the Vain Glory of Command). During the week, from Tuesday to next Friday, the Portuguese movies will screen at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, but it returns to the Archive on the following Saturday. The entire schedule is detailed in a previous post. Admission is free and you can book your seat online at

Alliance Française – After a break for Songkran, the free French films return next Wednesday with Hippocrate, a comedy-drama about a junior doctor who takes a job in a hospital ward headed by his father. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, April 22.

Sneak preview

Woman in Gold – Helen Mirren stars in this fact-based prestige drama, portraying Maria Altman, a determined Austrian woman who fights an extended legal battle for the return of priceless Klimt paintings that were stolen from her family by the Nazis. Ryan Reynolds is her lawyer Randol Schoenberg. Daniel Brühl, Katie Holmes, Tatiana Maslany and Max Records also star. Critical reception is mixed. Officially not due to open until next week, this is in sneak previews from around 8 nightly in most multiplexes. Rated 13+

Take note

Bit of a mix bag of films this week and next as distributors get some smaller titles off their books and clear the decks for the next comic-book behemoth, Avengers: Age of Ultron, which will have a one-day sneak preview before opening wide on April 30.

Slightly overlapping the Week of Portuguese Cinema will be the Swedish Film Festival, which runs from April 23 to 26 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Details are covered in an earlier post and the schedule is online at the SF Cinema City website.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Swedish Film Festival, April 23-26, 2015

Eight recent films will be screened in the Swedish Film Festival from April 23 to 26 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Here is the line-up:
  • The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared – A centenarian dynamite expert escapes from an old folks home, embarking on a journey that leads to murders and suitcase full of cash. Felix Herngren directs this 2014 black comedy, which has won audience awards at festivals.
  • Ego – A 25-year-old hard-partying womanizer is forced to re-examine his life when he suddenly loses his eyesight.  Lisa James-Larsson directs this 2013 romantic comedy.
  • Belleville Baby – Director Mia Engberg reflects on a past romance in this 2013 autobiographical drama, in which an old flame calls and says he's spent many years in jail. She then recalls the tumultuous spring when she met him in Paris.
  • Stockholm Stories – Multiple plots are strung together in this 2013 comedy about five young urbanites whose paths cross during a few rainy days in November.
  • Shed No Tears – In Gothenburg, a young man dreaming of making it with his music embarks on an emotional journey to find inspiration. This drama was nominated for 10 Guldbagge Awards last year, Sweden's equivalent of the Oscars.
  • Hotell – Alicia Vikander, the young actress who is featured in the current hit Hollywood scary robot movie Ex Machina, stars in this 2013 drama. It's about depressed young folks find a way to shake off their dissatisfaction with life by checking into hotels in order to reboot their personalities.
  • The Reunion (Återträffen) – Swedish artist Anna Odell makes her directorial debut with his 2013 drama, which was inspired by her not receiving an invitation to a class reunion. She then sets out to imagine what it would have been like if she'd gone and confronted the classmates who bullied her. It was nominated for four Guldbagge Awards, and won the top-prize Best Film last year.
  • A Separation (Att skiljas) – Not to be confused with the award-winning Iranian drama with the same English title, this Swedish Separation is a tragic-comic documentary that chronicles the break-up of a marriage – that of the director's own parents.
This is one of those "free" film festivals, so you know the drill. Tickets will be made available 30 minutes before the show, but the queue for the precious little slips of paper starts forming long before that. Enjoy. For the schedule, please see the SF Cinemas website.

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Week of Portuguese Cinema, April 19-25, 2015

Manoel de Oliveira, a titan of Portuguese cinema who died at age 106 on April 2, and who was still making films well into his 100s, is paid tribute during the Week of Portuguese Cinema, which is organized by the Thai Film Archive, Cinamateca Portuguesa, the Bangkok Art and Culture Center and the Camões Institute.

The selection includes de Oliveira's first feature, 1942's Aniki-Bóbó, about a gang of street children in the director's hometown of Porto. There is also his 1990 drama, No, or the Vain Glory of Command, which covers Portugal's military history as seen through the eyes of a soldier in colonial Africa.

Other entries include The Eyes Of Asia, a 1996 drama about a Roman Catholic missionary in Japan; the 1963 coming-of-age drama Os Verdes Anos (The Green Years), which is the debut feature of Paulo Rocha; and 1989's Recordações Da Casa Amarela (Recollections of the Yellow House), a Lisbon waterfront drama directed by and starring João César Monteiro.

There's also the sweeping 2012 romance Tabu, which recalls star-crossed love among expats in colonial Africa, uniquely toggling back and forth between the modern day (in color) and the 1960s (in old-timey black-and-white). This screened at last year's World Film Festival of Bangkok, and was among the must-see selections of that fest's programmers.

And there's the 2013 documentary E Agora? Lembra-me (What Now? Remind Me), in which HIV-positive filmmaker Joaquim Pinto looks back at his life; and Capitães De Abril (April Captains), a 2000 drama that recalls the 1974 coup that overthrew a right-wing dictatorship.

Notably, some of the films will actually be screened with 35mm prints, which doesn't happen much anymore in this digital age. Here is the schedule:

April 19, Thai Film Archive (35mm film screening)

  • 1pm – Aniki-Bóbó, Manoel de Oliveira, 1942, with introduction by José Manuel Costa, director of Cinamateca Portuguesa
  • 4pm – Os Olhos Da Ásia (The Eyes Of Asia), João Mário Grilo, 1996
  • 6pm – Non Ou A Vã Glória De Mandar (No, or the Vain Glory of Command), Manoel De Oliveira, 1990

April 21, Bangkok Art and Culture Centre

  • 6pm – Os Verdes Anos (The Green Years), Paulo Rocha, 1963

April 22, Bangkok Art and Culture Centre

  • 6pm – Recordações Da Casa Amarela (Recollections of the Yellow House), João César Monteiro, 1989

April 23, Bangkok Art and Culture Centre

  • 6pm – Tabu, Miguel Gomes, 2012

April 24, Bangkok Art and Culture Centre

  • 6pm – E Agora? Lembra-me (What Now? Remind Me), Joaquim Pinto, 2013

April 25, Thai Film Archive (35mm film screening)

  • 1pm – Capitães De Abril (April Captains), Maria De Medeiros, 2000
  • 3.30pm – Non Ou A Vã Glória De Mandar (No, or the Vain Glory of Command), Manoel De Oliveira, 1990
  • 5.30pm – Aniki-Bóbó, Manoel de Oliveira, 1942

Admission is free. All films will be shown with English subtitles. And, here's a cool thing I wish the other "free" film fests in Bangkok would do – you can book your seats online at the following link:

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 9-15, 2015

The Legend of King Naresuan Part VI

After years of struggle that eventually bankrupted his studio, director MC Chatrichalerm Yukol brings his epic historical-drama franchise to its logical conclusion with Tamnan Somdet Phra Naresuan Maharaj 6: Awasarn Hongsa (ตำนานสมเด็จพระนเรศวรมหาราช ภาค 6 อวสานหงสา...อ้างอิง, a.k.a. The Legend of King Naresuan Part VI: The Fall of Hongsa.

With resplendent costumes, elaborately staged scenes of palace intrigue and plenty of action, King Naresuan, portrayed as always by Royal Thai Army Lt-Colonel Wanchana Sawatdee, leads his loyal Ayutthaya troops into battle against the forces of Hongsawadi, and the vengeful disfigured King Natabureng (Jakkrit Ammarat).

Temfah Krisanayuth joins the cast as a Mon warrior woman who becomes allied with Naresuan's forces. Noppachai Jayanama and Grace Mahadumrongkul also star. Rated G.

Also opening

Little Forest: Summer and Autumn – A young woman moves from the big city back to her small hometown in the mountains. There, she gains new energy from nature and a healthful, self-sufficient lifestyle. Ai Hashimoto stars. Based on a monthly manga by Daisuke Igarashi, a sequel Little Forest: Winter and Spring, was released in February in Japan. It's In Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at Apex and House.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, Woody Allen famously breaks the fourth wall in one of his first and arguably still his best films, Annie Hall. Tomorrow it's Static, a rare screening for a 1986 feature by Mark Romanek, an inventive helmer who is known for his many music videos. Saturday's western has Gary Cooper keeping an eye on the clock, waiting with dread in High Noon. And stuff blows up real good in Sunday's French film, the gripping 1953 trucking yarn The Wages of Fear. Next Wednesday, celebrate the end of Songkran with an unusual offering from Werner Herzog, his 1970 comedy Even Dwarfs Started Small. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the under-renovation Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. For more details, check the club's Facebook page.

Sneak preview

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water – Totally in the ridiculous spirit of Songkran, TV's Spongebob Squarepants and his pals from Bikini Bottom break out of their cartoon world to make a freakish appearance in our dimension. Antonio Banderas is among the talents in this second feature film based on the hit Nickelodeon cartoon series. Critics love it. It's in sneak previews from around 2 daily before going wide next Thursday. It's in real 3D with 2D offered as well. Rated G.

Take note

Owing to Songkran, the water-soaked and powder-clouded Thai New Year holiday that is celebrated annually from April 13 to 15, there is no free French film next Wednesday at the Alliance Française.

Following the holiday, events include a Portuguese film festival from April 19 to 25 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center and the Thai Film Archive, and the Swedish Film Festival from April 23 to 26 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. I hope to have more details on those soon.

And the FCCT's Contemporary World Film Series starts back up on April 20 with Hong Kong director Peter Chan's musical Perhaps Love.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 1-8, 2015

Fast and Furious 7

Thailand's multiplex operators had put their eggs into one basket for this week's opening of Fast and Furious 7, positioning it as the sole major release of the week, a major tentpole roped up by tomorrow's fifth-cycle birth-anniversary celebrations for Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. In other words, the Princess, affectionately referred to as Phra Thep, is 60. There's also a huge new mall opening in Bangkok.

As in other territories outside the U.S., Fast and Furious has been an immensely popular franchise in Thailand, with fans drawn by the fast cars, gyrating women, over-the-top action scenes, Vin Diesel's gravelly voice and the muscles of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

This seventh film in the car-chase series is extra-special because it is the last one featuring star Paul Walker, who died in November 2013 in a car crash that took place during a break in filming. He's been with Fast and Furious since the beginning in 2001, only taking a break for the third part, Tokyo Drift.

And making Fast and Furious 7 even more special for Thailand is the casting of martial-arts actor Tony Jaa in a small supporting role as a villain. Jaa is making his much-anticipated Hollywood debut, after toiling for years in the Thai studio system, where he made such movies as Ong-Bak and Tom-Yum-Goong.

But a week before today's release, Jaa's former employer Sahamongkol Film International got the Civil Court to issue an injunction to temporarily ban Fast and Furious 7 in Thailand, legal action taken because of a contract dispute with Jaa. Sahamongkol contends the actor is still under contract and by going to work for other studios, he's in breach of that. Jaa insists the contract is not valid, and he's moved on to pursue his long-held dream of working in Hollywood.

Anyway, on Monday, the movie's distributor UIP managed to get the temporary ban lifted, with the court reasoning it was unfair to the other actors in the film. I mean, poor Jordana Brewster!

And all along, it seemed like the injunction wasn't really having any effect, as the movie was still being promoted and if you didn't know anything about the injunction, you'd assume everything was proceeding as normal. The whole ordeal is covered in a post on that other blog.

So what's the movie about? Does it matter? Well, sure. Why not? Dominic Torreto (Diesel) and his gang of car-racing high-stakes thieves have settled into comfortable lives following their last caper. But they are forced to fight back when they are targeted by a highly trained British black-ops assassin (Jason Statham), who is out for revenge for the death of his brother. It is basically Die Hard 3, but with cars that fly.

James Wan, who previously helmed sickenly raw horror movies like Saw and Insidious, takes over as director. The bulk of the series has been directed by Justin Lin, who has moved on to Paramount's Star Trek, captaining the Simon Pegg-penned entry that might actually save the rebooted sci-fi marque. Furious 7 also features Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris and, hey, Lucas Black.

Critical reception is crazily positive. At least when I last looked. It's in fake 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX and IMAX Digital. Rated 15+

Also opening

Outcast – Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen star in this made-for-China historical action fantasy as a pair of Westerner warriors who seem weirdly out of place in the ancient Eastern realm. They come to the aid of an heir to the throne and his sister who are targeted for assassination by their older brother. Yifei Liu and Andy On also star. Nick Powell, who has overseen stunts on a wide range of movies including the action-packed Hot Rod and slick-as-heck Resident Evil: Retribution, directs. This was supposed to open last Thursday, but didn't appear on the schedules when I checked, but by Saturday Outcast had been added to the roster, so now I'm listing it here. Critical reception is mostly negative. But come on! Nic Cage! Rated 15+

Ode to My Father – South Korea's second-highest-grossing film of all time is a historical epic covering three tumultuous decades, from the 1950s Hungnam Evacuation during the Korean War, to the government's decision to send nurses and miners to West Germany in the 1960s, and South Korea's mostly unsung participation in the Vietnam War, as seen through the eyes of a man named Deok-Su. Yoon Je-kyoon (Sex Is Zero) directs. It was well received on the festival circuit, but as with all things Korean, it's been contentious. Critical reception is mixed, with some viewers turned off by an idealized view of authoritarian South Korean regimes of the past. Sounds familiar. It's in Korean with English and Thai subtitles. Rated 13+ Opens Thursday.

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! – In wartorn 1940s Calcutta, a young private detective takes on his first case, which pits him against an evil genius who is out to destroy the world. Sushant Singh Rajput, Anand Tiwari and Swastika Mukherjee star. Super stylish, it's adapted from a series of detective novels by best-selling Bengali writer Saradindu Bandyopadhyay. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Cineplex Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – April's schedule features Werner on Wednesdays, Woody on Thursdays, cult indies on Fridays, great westerns on Saturdays and French classics on Sundays. Tonight, Klaus Kinski is an explorer in the rugged epic Aguirre, the Wrath of God, the first of several collaborations between Herzog and his volatile muse. Purple Rose of Cairo is this week's Woody. Friday's cult indie is Miracle Mile, a 1988 film that captures the coming apocalypse in Los Angeles in real time. Saturday, it's the most epic of the epic spaghetti westerns, Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, with Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach searching for a hidden cache of Confederate army gold. Equally epic is Sunday's French film Playtime, Jacques Tati's ambitious look at alienating modern architecture. Leone blew up bridges, Tati built an airport. You decide. And next Wednesday is another Herzog, Nosferatu, the Vampyre, in which Kinski really is Count Dracula. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the under-renovation Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. For more details, check the club's Facebook page.

Alliance Française – There are two free French offerings this week. First up on Saturday is something for young (and old) viewers, the highly influential animated feature Le Roi et l'oiseau (The King and the Mockingbird), directed by Paul Grimault, who took some 30 years to realize the project to full fruition, finally bringing his definitive version to the screen in 1980. It's in French with English subtitles at 2pm on Saturday, April 4 at the Alliance. Next Wednesday's offering is geared for more mature audiences, L'amour est un crime parfait (Love is the Perfect Crime), starring Mathieu Amalric as a university professor with a reputation for sleeping with his female students. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, April 8 at the Alliance. Please take note that there will be no free French film on Wednesday, April 15, owing to the long Songkran holiday, from April 13 to 15.


As statEMd at the top of this piEMce, thrEMrEM is aEMn EMMENSE EMnew shoppiEMng EMall iEMn BaEMngkok, thEM EMQuartiEMr oppositEM thEM EMporiuEM at PhroEM PhoEMng EMBTS statioEMn, iEMn what is bEMiEMng toutEMd as thEM "EM District".

I will stop now.

Along with the usual high-end boutiques, coffee shops and gourmet pretzel stands, this huge new mall has an ultra-luxurious theater operated by Major Cineplex, the Quartier CineArt, which opens today. According to a story in The Nation, the Quartier CineArt is aimed at the well-heeled expats who live in the pricey neighborhood, and has the same higher prices that you'll find at Paragon. There's yet another Em-themed EMall to go up across the park on the site of the former Washington Square, with more of the same. But here's a suggestion: put in a fair-priced cinema (and/or cabaret show) to replace the one that was ripped down there.

An eight-screen multiplex, the CineArt has the Toyota IMAX, which is yet another of the mini-IMAX screens that have cropped up in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Hat Yai in recent years. Do not be fooled by these "IMAX Digital" screens as they are called – the only authentic full-size IMAX screen is the Krungsri IMAX at Paragon, an important distinction if you want the true IMAX experience.


This was set to be a weird week even without the legal brouhaha over Furious 7.

Fast and Furious 7 opens a day earlier than usual, then adding to the confusion is one more film opening tomorrow, the South Korean offering Ode to My Father, which looks to be at Major Cineplex. And there's a Bollywood movie, opening on Friday as they usually do.

I am just going to post this today and hope the movies will materialize as advertised, and that no other unannounced movies will suddenly crop up. I will keep an eye out for changes, and will note them on Twitter. See you here EMnEMxt Thursday.