To close out 2015, some movies are coming out a day earlier on the eve of New Year's Eve, while others are being released as usual on Thursday, which is New Year's Eve. And some new movies are actually already playing, having made their bows in sneak previews last week.
I'll start with one of tomorrow's openings, The Peanuts Movie, which is adapted from the beloved newspaper-comic strip that spawned a merchandising empire as well as a string of successful animated holiday TV specials and theatrical features.
This new 3D computer-animated outing for the characters created by Charles M. Schulz offers Peanuts fans many familiar sights, such as Snoopy flying his doghouse against the Red Baron and Charlie Brown getting tangled up in a tree when he tries to fly a kite. The story also re-introduces Brown's perennial love interest, the mysterious "little red-haired girl", who is new in town and is thus clueless about how big a blockhead Charlie Brown can be.
The Peanuts Movie is put together by Blue Sky Studios, the same outfit that did such films as Robots, Ice Age and Rio. Critical reception has been generally positive, with the consensus being they got this one right. Perhaps it helped that Schulz' son and grandson were directly involved in the production, along with Paul Feig, a trusted comedy brand. It's even being mentioned as a possible Oscar nominee. Supposedly, the release includes a supporting short cartoon, Cosmic Scrat-tastrophe, featuring Scrat the sabretooth squirrel from Ice Age. Rated G
Snap (แค่..ได้คิดถึง, Kae .. Dai Kit Tung) – Writer-director Kongdej Jaturanrasmee sharply observes contemporary Thai society with this romantic comedy-drama, which premiered in competition at the Tokyo International Film Festival. Set just as the military declares martial law, the story follows a young woman who is about to be married to a military officer. She returns to her provincial-capital hometown of Chanthaburi for a wedding of high-school friends and becomes nostalgic as she reconnects with her old boyfriend, who is the wedding photographer. You can read more about the film in an article in The Nation. There's also a review in the newspaper. This opened last Thursday in sneak preview and moves to a wider release tomorrow. Rated 15+
Pantai Norasingh (พันท้ายนรสิงห์) – As the story goes, Pantai Norasingh was an oarsman on the royal barge of a king during the Ayutthaya Period. One day, while steering in a fierce river current, Norasingh lost control and the boat slammed into a tree, breaking the bow. The penalty for damaging the king's barge and endangering the life of the monarch was death. No ifs, ands or buts. The king, witnessing that the barge crash was obviously an accident and not wanting to kill one of his best, most loyal men, objected to the death penalty. However, the dutiful oarsman insisted that no exception be made, otherwise, he feared, public respect for the law and the crown would be undermined. Veteran director MC Chatrichalerm Yukol presents this story as the latest in his long line of historical epics on Ayutthaya Period royals, which started in 2003 with Suriyothai and continued with the recently wrapped-up six-part Legend of King Naresuan series. According to Soopsip in The Nation, Chatrichalerm had originally intended Pantai Norasingh to be broadcast on television, but when he and the station could not agree on the best time to show the series, he took it back and re-edited it into the feature we now have before us. Opens today. Rateed G
About Ray – Teenage Ray (Elle Fanning) has made the decision to transition from female to male, against the objections of his mother (Naomi Watts), with the support of his lesbian grandmother (Susan Sarandon) and in the absence of his father (Tate Donovan). Critical reception is mixed. Opens today. Rated G
Daddy's Home – Will Ferrell reteams with his Other Guys comedy pal Mark Wahlberg for this family romp about a mild-mannered radio executive (Ferrell) who is struggling to bond with his new wife's two children. Complications ensue when their drifter father (Wahlberg) turns up, kicking off a war of one-upmanship as the two men compete for the kids' affections. Critical reception is mixed, placing Daddy's Home somewhere in the middle of the canon of Ferrell's comedies. This opened in sneak previews last Thursday and moves to a wider release tomorrow. Rated G
Barcelona Christmas Night – Christmas may be over and done with, but here's one more movie to keep the yuletide spirit going through New Year's. Multiple love stories unfold in this fluffy Spanish comedy-drama. One man is trying to win back his ex while another leaves his family to follow a woman. Meanwhile, a grandmother has a secret she's dying to tell her family, and a moody grandfather meets a Frenchman who reminds him of his first love. Opens today. Rated 15+
German Open Air Cinema – Returning after a two-week holiday break, the series resumes next Tuesday night with Jack, a hard-hitting drama about a 10-year-old boy who goes looking for his mother after she fails to turn up to collect him after school. A nominee for the Golden Bear at this year's Berlin International Film Festival, it's directed by Edward Berger, who co-wrote the screenplay with Nele Mueller-Stöfen. The show is at 7.30pm on Tuesday, January 5, outdoors at the Goethe-Institut on Sathorn Soi 1.
Alliance Française – Female-centered films form the bulk of the free French film schedule for January, starting with Les Gazelles, a comedy about five thirtysomething women who are experiencing various problems in their relationships with men. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, January 6, at the Alliance.