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+
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
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 bit.ly/portuguesefilmthailand.
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.
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.
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.