P’chai My Hero
A much-needed fresh perspective in Thai cinema emerges in the indie drama P'Chai My Hero (พี่ชาย My Hero), which is adapted from the short stories of noted Thai-American writer Rattawut Lapcharoensap and directed by Korean-American Josh Kim. Combining two stories from Rattawut's Sightseeing collection, P'Chai My Hero is known internationally as How to Win at Checkers (Every Time).
The story centers on the tender relationship between two brothers, insecure 11-year-old Oat and his masculine but openly gay older brother Ek. Orphaned at a early age, the boys live with their superstitious aunt and her pest of a younger daughter. It's a warm-hearted yet bittersweet coming-of-age tale, as Oat looks for ways to help Ek stay out of the army as the annual military draft lottery approaches. Oat also wants desperately to beat Ek at checkers, so that Ek will finally take him for a night out in Bangkok.
Not only is this Thai film cobbled together from the English literature of a Thai-American writer by a Korean-American director (he previously did a short documentary called Draft Day, on transgender folk taking part in Thailand's unique military conscription drawing), the producers hail from all over – Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand and the US. They are Edward Gunawan, Chris Lee, Andrew Thomas Tiernan and Anocha Suwichakornpong. This could well signal a direction to follow in the Asean Economic Community, as Southeast Asia's filmmakers look for ways tell stories that resonate with home audiences as well as those abroad.
How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival, and also had a screening at the inaugural Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Critical reception has been highly positive – this is one of the best Thai films of the year so far. Don't miss it. It's at Apex, Esplanade Ratchada, House, Major Ratchayothin, Paragon and Chiang Mai Airport Plaza. Rated 18+
The Marvel Cinematic Universe takes a comedic turn with Ant-Man, a super-sized superhero who has the ability to be as small as an ant or as big as a skyscraper. A brilliant scientist, he's actually one of the founding members of The Avengers superhero team.
Paul Rudd stars as a small-time thief who is tasked by scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) with recovering his stolen super-suit, which gives the wearer the ability to shrink in size with a corresponding increase in strength. Corey Stoll and Evangeline Lilly also star.
This project was originated by cult British director Edgar Wright, who was set to direct. But, when the far-out ideas of Wright and his writing partner Joe Cornish clashed with the lockstep world-dominating plans of Marvel Comics executives, he left the project and Adam McKay (Anchorman) was brought in to rewrite the script, along with Rudd. Peyton Reed (Bring It On, The Break-Up) directs.
Critical reception is generally positive. Like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, this will have references to other Marvel movies, so keep your seat during closing credits if you don't want to miss out. It's in 2D in converted 3D (including IMAX). Rated G
Kidnapping Freddy Heinenken – Anthony Hopkins stars as the heir to a Dutch beer empire in this fact-based crime drama about a 1983 kidnapping that resulted in the biggest ransom ever paid. But, the strain of the caper tested the friendships of the perpetrators. Sam Worthington, Jim Sturgess and Ryan Kwanten also star. It's directed by Daniel Alfredson, a Swede who previously did two sequels in the Swedish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movies and is the older brother of Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy). Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+
Bajrangi Bhaijaan – A five-year-old speech-impaired Pakistani girl gets lost at a railway station in India, and finds shelter in the colorful community of a Hindu man (Salman Khan), who takes it upon himself to reunite the mute girl with her family. Kareena Kapoor, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Om Puri also star. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.
European Union Film Festival – Still plenty to see as the long-running annual EU fest rolls into its final weekend at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Tonight, it's Beloved Sisters, a historical drama from Germany. Tomorrow is the Dutch thriller Borgman, in which a street person worms his way into the lives of an upper-class family. Saturday has the darkly comic Heavenly Shift, about a Budapest ambulance worker, the Belgian surrogate pregnancy drama Melody and the highly acclaimed '71, about a British soldier stranded alone in Troubles-wracked Belfast. And Sunday has the Romanian family drama The Japanese Dog and two from the late Portuguese auteur Manoel de Oliveira, Gebo and the Shadow and The Old Man of Belem. The EU fest next moves to SFX Maya Chiang Mai from July 24 to August 8 and then to SF Cinema City in Khon Kaen from August 7 to 9. For details, check my earlier post, the SF cinemas website or the EU's Facebook.
The Friese-Greene Club – A controversial flop when it was originally released, director Tod Browning's 1932 sideshow drama Freaks found its audience on the midnight-movies circuit in the 1970s. Screening tonight, it is now a cult classic. Tomorrow night's "precocious girl" is once again Natalie Portman, who followed up her role in 1994's Leon with 1996's Beautiful Girls, which has a bunch of adults at a crossroads during a high-school reunion. Timothy Hutton, Matt Dillon and Noah Emmerich also star. Saturday's "bad kid" is Jodie Foster, in the rare and underrated 1976 thriller The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. Martin Sheen also stars. The first rule about Sunday's film: You do not talk about Sunday's film. The second rule about Sunday's film: You do not talk about Sunday's film. And next Wednesday, it's the classic Canadian summer camp comedy Meatballs, which featured Bill Murray in his first film role. Shows are at 8pm (even the "midnight" movies). 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.
According to Marguerite Duras Project – The ongoing Marguerite Duras series continues on Tuesday and Wednesday at Thong Lor Art Space with 1969's Détruire dit-elle (Destroy, She Said), in which a depressed man meets a mysterious woman who might be involved in kidnapping women sold into prostitution. It will be followed on July 28 and 29 by 1959's Hiroshima Mon Amour, directed by Alain Resnais. All will have English and Thai subtitles. In addition to the films, which are free, the project is also staging a play, An Epilogue to the Malady of Death, which is on at 7.30pm on Thursday and Friday and 3pm on Saturday and Sunday until August 1. For details, check the Thong Lor Art Space Facebook page or the Facebook events page.
Alliance Française – In Au Galop (In a Rush), a young single mother is about to get married when she meets another guy, a single dad with an overbearing mother. Louis-Do de Lencquesaing directs and stars in this comedy-drama, which also stars Marthe Keller. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, July 22, at the Alliance.