One of the most significant contributions to the Thai movie-going world in 2015 was the formation of the Documentary Club, which brought in a steady stream of buzzworthy new documentaries to local cinemas and promoted them mostly through online social media.
Formed as a personal project of Bioscope magazine editor Thida Plitpholkarnpim, the Documentary Club has been a big success, showing that mainstream audiences really do want to watch documentaries, and it forges on into 2016, with its ongoing Doc Holiday series at SF Cinemas, starting with Cartel Land.
Directed by Matthew Heineman (Kathryn Bigelow is among the executive producers), Cartel Land gets into Sicario territory as it trains lenses on the ongoing Mexican Drug War and profiles vigilante efforts to stop the violence on both sides of the border, with the U.S.-based Arizona Border Recon founded by Tim “Nailer” Foley and Mexico's Autodefensas, run by a physician, Dr. Jose Mireles.
One of the titles being mentioned as a possible Oscar nominee, Cartel Land premiered at last year's Sundance Film Festival, where it won Best Director and the Special Jury Award for Cinematography in the U.S. Documentary Competition.
It's at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld and at SFX Maya Chiang Mai. For more details, check the Documentary Club Facebook page. Rated 18+
The Big Short – The beginnings of this fact-based financial comedy go back to the closing credits of The Other Guys, the 2010 Will Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg comedy about police partners trying to arrest a crooked Wall Street financier. Humorously illustrated with simple charts and diagrams, the closing credits of The Other Guys explained the Ponzi scheme that led to the 2008 financial meltdown. Director Adam McKay, better known for comedies like Anchorman or Stepbrothers than for prestige-seeking social-commentary pieces, wanted to continue with that theme. That led him to this unlikely adaptation of Michael Lewis' non-fiction book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. It's about financial-world outsiders who spot a worrisome trend in the housing-lending market and then decide to profit from the inevitable collapse. Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and a bearded Brad Pitt are among the ensemble cast. Earning comparisons to another much-acclaimed high-energy finance flick, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Big Short has been nominated for three Golden Globe Awards and is being mentioned as a possible Oscar nominee. Critical reception is generally praiseworthy. Rated 15+
The Hateful Eight – Right from the beginning, Quentin Tarantino has made a big deal out of his latest picture. He threw a tantrum when the script was leaked and vowed not to make the movie. Friends and financial backers convinced him to change his mind, and so he organized a table read of the script before a live audience. More yes-men emerged to tell Tarantino to make the movie. In shooting it, he decided to revive a moribund film format, Ultra Panavision 70, and then take it on a "roadshow" to the handful of theaters still equipped to project 70mm. It comes to us in digital form only, which is too bad. With plenty of Tarantino's non-stop, rapid-fire vulgarities, the story is about passengers on a stagecoach – a hangman (Kurt Russell), his condemned prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a bounty hunter and former Union Army cavalry major (Samuel L. Jackson) and a town's new sheriff (Walton Goggins) – seeking refuge from a blizzard in a remote outpost. They encounter four other figures – an elderly Confederate general (Bruce Dern), a cowboy (Michael Madsen), an Englishman (Tim Roth) and a Mexican (Demián Bichir) – whose motives are mysterious. Influenced by TV westerns such as Bonanza and The Virginian, it's been described as an Agatha Christie drawing-room mystery set in the old American west. It is already nominated for three Golden Globe Awards: screenplay, best score (by Ennio Morricone, his first in decades) and actress (for Leigh, her second Globe nod following 1994's Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle). And The Hateful Eight is also feeling the Oscar buzz. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+
The Dressmaker – Kate Winslet stars in this Australian comedy-drama. Set in the early 1950s, it's about a small Outback town's former resident, who left in disgrace decades before, returning to care for her ailing, eccentric mother (Judy Davis). An accomplished Paris fashion designer, she sets up her sewing machine and begins to bring a new sense of style to the locals, among them the town lawman, played by Hugo Weaving. Liam Hemsworth also stars. Jocelyn Moorhouse (Muriel's Wedding, How to Make an American Quilt) directs. It was a major nominee at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards and winner of the best actress, supporting actress and supporting actor prizes for Winslet, Davis and Weaving. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive. Rated 15+
The Friese-Greene Club – Satyajit Ray's restored Apu Trilogy screens on Thursdays. Tonight, it's the second entry, 1956's Aparajito. Fridays have a line-up of great motion pictures lensed by cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who died on January 1 at age 85. It starts with Robert Altman's LA-noir entry, The Long Goodbye, starring Elliott Gould as detective Philip Marlowe. Saturdays are devoted to Paul Thomas Anderson, who was right out of the gates with his first feature, Hard Eight, starring Philip Baker Hall as a roving gambler who takes a young buck (John C. Reilly) under his wing. Gwyneth Paltrow also stars. And watch for Philip Seymour Hoffman – it wouldn't be a PT Anderson film without him. Sundays, the church pews are reserved for worshipers of St. Audrey, starting with 1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's. Truman Capote, Blake Edwards and Henry Mancini will deliver the liturgy. Wednesdays thumb their nose at the corn-fed with "U.S. Meet World", a series of critically acclaimed "foreign" films that for reasons nobody can figure were hits in the United States. Next week's offering is all about that American fascination for weird Spanish Civil War stories with Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. 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.
German Open Air Cinema – The Swiss embassy chips in with I Am the Keeper (Der Goalie bin ig), a drama about a criminal who is released from prison after he served his time and kept his mouth shut. He seeks a fresh start back in his hometown and falls for a local diner's waitress while trying to stay out of the way of his past. The show is at 7.30pm on Tuesday, January 12, outdoors at the Goethe-Institut on Sathorn Soi 1.
Alliance Française – It's West Side Story in France in Geronimo, which has star-crossed young lovers from rival gangs shielded by an idealistic young community educator. Tony Gatlif directs. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, January 13, at the Alliance.