Thursday, February 25, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening February 25-March 2, 2016


Charlie Kaufman, the innovative writer-director behind such mind-bending existential conundrums as Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation and Synecdoche, New York, turns to animation with Anomalisa.

It's the story of a lonely self-help author and motivational speaker (David Thewlis) who sees everyone (Tom Noonan) as identical until he's at a convention and meets a lonely sales rep (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who may or may not be the love of his life.

Kaufman, a veteran film and TV screenwriter, who in the past has worked with such directors as Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry, collaborates this time around with Duke Johnson, a stop-motion animator whose previous credits include Morel Orel, Mary Shelley's Frankenhole and the stop-motion episode of Community, all under writer-producer Dino Stamatopoulos, the guy who is perhaps best known as "Starburns" on Community. Starburns Industries is the main production company behind the film. They put together initial funding through a Kickstarter campaign.

It was awarded the Grand Special Jury Prize and the Future Film Festival Digital Award at the Venice Film Festival last year and was nominated for a Golden Globe. It's also an Oscar nominee, up against other animated features, Pixar's Inside Out (the likely winner), Brazil's Boy and the World, Aardman's Shaun the Sheep and Studio Ghibli's When Marnie Was There.

Critical reception is generally praiseworthy. Although it's animated, this isn't a movie for the kiddies because there is a stop-motion animated sex scene, plus off-color language. In the U.S., it was rated R, which is restricted to viewers 17 and over unless accompanied by a guardian. Thai censors, doing their jobs, are also keen on keeping youngsters from seeing anatomically accurate stop-motion figures having sex, and have rated Anomalisa 20-, meaning you're supposed to show an I.D. if you look young.

Also opening

Son of Saul – The Oscars' Best Foreign Language Film race comes into focus with Son of Saul, a Hungarian Holocaust drama that has already won the Grand Prix at Cannes, the Golden Globe and Critics' Choice Award. It's the likely winner in an Academy Awards category that also has Embrace of the Serpent from Colombia, Theeb from Jordan (two countries that are first-time nominees), the Turkish drama Mustang from France and A War from Denmark. A gripping, handheld-cam, found-footage-type account, Son of Saul takes place over a day and a half in a Nazi death camp in Hungary, where a Jewish prisoner who has been forced to help the Nazis incinerate their victims finds an unburned dead boy in a pile. He becomes determined to give the kid a decent Jewish burial. Meanwhile, the Sonderkommando prison workers plan a rebellion. László Nemes directs, making his feature debut. Critical reception is generally praiseworthy. Rated 15+

Zootopia – Walt Disney Animation Studios, the outfit behind the Oscar winners Frozen and Big Hero 6, didn't make it into the Academy Awards race this year. So maybe you'll be hearing more about this movie around this time next year. Though a more likely Oscar entry from the studio will be the South Pacific seafaring entry Moana, featuring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, coming later this year. All talking animals, the story of Zootopia is set in a world where mammals, predatory and prey alike, peacefully co-exist. Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), an idealistic bunny rabbit, decides she wants to join the police, even though most cops are bigger critters, such as the cape buffalo voiced by Idris Elba from The Wire. Assigned to parking patrol, Judy is befriended by a fast-talking con-artist fox voiced by Jason Bateman. Other voices include Shakira, J.K. Simmons, Jenny Slate, Tommy Chong, Octavia Spencer and Kristen Bell. There's more about the movie in an article in The Nation. Critical reception is generally positive. This one's okay for the kids and young-at-heart old-timers. It's in 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated G.

Monkey Twins (วานรคู่ฟัด, Wanorn Khoo Fud ) – Thai action cinema has been on the ropes for the past year or so. The leading proponent was writer, director and choreographer Panna Rittikrai, who died in July 2014. And the leading star, Tony Jaa, has largely parted ways with the Thai film industry in order to go work in Hollywood. So stunt specialists and martial-arts actors have been relegated to supporting roles in TV series and horror movies. But now comes Monkey Twins, which blends Thai and Chinese martial arts, dance and theater. Released by Kao Thaitayarn Co. Ltd., it's co-directed by figures who worked with Panna and Jaa in the past – Ong-Bak 2 writer Nonthakorn Taweesuk and Tom-Yum-Goong 2 action choreographer Weerapol Pumartfon. The story pits Hanuman, the monkey hero of Thai masked dance, against Sun Wukong, the magic monkey of Chinese opera. Sumret Muangput, Kazu Patrick Tang and Panyanut Jirarottanakasem star. Check out the trailer. Rated 15+

Gods of Egypt – Although Thai movie distributors have done a pretty good job this season getting Oscar-nominated movies in front of our eyes, they still must carry water for the Hollywood studios, which are responsible for this epic turd. Gerard "This Is Sparta!" Butler gobbles the scenery as Set, the God of Darkness, who defeats rival deity Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jamie Lannister from Game of Thrones) and blinds him in one eye. Set takes over Egypt and enslaves the people, giving rise to a mere mortal (Brenton Thwaites) who allies himself with Horus and attempts to lead a rebellion. Chadwick Boseman, Elodie Yung, Courtney Eaton, Rufus Sewell and Geoffrey Rush are also featured. This is is so bad, director Alex Proyas (I, Robot, Knowing) and the studio apologized for it before it was released, because of whitewashing. Further critical response awaits. Rated 15+

Also showing

Wim Wenders: A Retrospective – Angels weary of immortality yearn for the human experience in Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin), which screens at 6 tonight in Lumpini Park. An influential film in the realm of world cinema, it's the opener of a two-week retrospective on German director Wim Wenders by the Goethe-Institut and the Thai Film Archive. The program then shifts to the Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, with screenings on Saturday and Sunday and next Saturday. This Saturday's offerings are Wenders' feature debut The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick and two entries from his Road Movie Trilogy, Alice in the Cities and Kings of the Road. Sunday has The American Friend, the Cannes Palme d'Or winner Paris, Texas and the Wings of Desire sequel Faraway, So Close! And next Saturday's films will be in 3D – a first at the Archive – with the dance documentary Pina and the drama Every Thing Will Be Fine. For more details, check the special post, the Archive's website or the Goethe website.

The Friese-Greene Club – The club has a private event tonight but the door swings back open tomorrow for the first of three remaining movies this month – One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, featuring Jack Nicholson in one of his great roles. Directed by Milos Forman, Cuckoo's was shot by cinematographer Haskell Wexler, who died in December. Saturday's "kinky" movie is Pedro Almodovar's Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, starring Antonio Banderas. And Sunday's Billy Wilder movie is The Apartment, a contemporary comedy starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray and Ray Walston. 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 – A serial killer is preying on young women in Oise, France, in the 1970s in the fact-based crime drama La prochaine fois je viserai le cœur (Next Time I’ll Aim for the Heart) directed by Cedric Anger and starring Guillaume Canet, Ana Girardot and Jean-Yves Berteloot. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, March 2, at the Alliance. Please note there is no free French film on March 9 because there is instead a concert by Duo Brunetti-Pachioli.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Wim Wenders: A Retrospective

Wim Wenders, the award-winning German auteur who has explored existential rootlessness in such films as Wings of Desire and Paris, Texas, will be paid tribute in a series of screenings organised by the Thai Film Archive and the Goethe-Institut.

Highlights of Wim Wenders: A Retrospective include an outdoor showing of Wings of Desire in Bangkok’s Lumpini Park next Thursday and the first 3D screenings at the Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, which will distribute special glasses to the audience for the dance documentary Pina and Wenders’ 2015 drama Every Thing will be Fine.

“The Film Archive is excited to collaborate with the Goethe-Institut Thailand in organising ‘Wim Wenders: A Retrospective’. This is due not only the fact that Wim Wenders is a world-class German filmmaker, but also because we believe that films are one of the best learning tools. The reason why Wim Wenders has been admired around the world is that his films have brought audiences to discover mankind, the world we live in, and most importantly ourselves,” says the archive’s director, film historian Dome Sukvong in the program notes.

A fervent believer in the old-fashioned cinematic experience, Dome reckons the Wenders retrospective will give local film lovers a once-in-a-lifetime memory they can cherish.

“Nowadays, watching films, including the nine Wim Wenders’ films shown in this event, can easily be done on the Internet. However, watching films on a big screen with friends and strangers, who have a passion and faith in films, is not easy. This rare gathering is a marvellous chance for all moviegoers to watch good films that have been meticulously well preserved. Fine films enable us and our next generation to experience mankind and discover ourselves again and again.”

Born in 1945 in Dusseldorf, Wenders was one of the proponents of the New German Cinema movement in the 1970s. He had studied medicine and philosophy before moving to Paris in 1966 to study painting. He instead gravitated toward movies, receiving a “crash course in the history of film” at the Cinemateque Francaise. He returned to Germany in 1967 to enrol in the newly founded University of Television and Film Munich. During this time, he worked as a film critic, directed short films and helped found Filmverlag der Autoren, a distribution company for independent auteurs.

After graduating from film school, Wenders’ first feature was 1972’s The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter), which follows a brooding footballer as he’s sent out of a game for arguing and then commits murder.

Wenders then moved on with his Road Movie Trilogy, three dramas he made with cinematographer Robby Muller, who has shot most of Wenders’ films. They are Alice in the Cities from 1974, The Wrong Move from 1975 and Kings of the Road from 1976. The three low-budget efforts established a meandering style that Wenders and Muller would later follow for their bigger-budget efforts, including 1984’s Paris, Texas.

His international breakthrough came with 1977’s The American Friend, an adaptation of one of Patricia Highsmith’s crime novels, with Dennis Hopper as art forger Tom Ripley, who befriends a terminally ill picture framer portrayed by Bruno Ganz. It was West Germany’s official submission to the Oscars.

Triumphs for Wenders followed, including the Venice Golden Lion for The State of Things in 1982, the top-prize Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Paris, Texas, Best Director at Cannes for Wings of Desire and Academy Awards nominations for for his documentaries Buena Vista Social Club, Pina and The Salt of the Earth.

From 1987, the Lumpini Park opener Wings of Desire (Der Himmel Uber Berlin) is about immortal guardian angels in Berlin. Weary of immortality, the celestial beings yearn for human experiences, with one of them, portrayed by Ganz, falling in love with a trapeze artist. American actor Peter Falk and the rock band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds also figure into the plot.

With Goalie’s Angst, the road movies Alice and Kings, and The American Friend representing Wenders’ New German Cinema period, the retrospective will also feature Paris, Texas and the 1993 Wings of Desire sequel Faraway, So Close! (In Weiter Ferne, so Nah!), to show off his mid-career efforts.

As a coincidence, the screening of Paris, Texas, will be exactly 31 years from the date the film was first shown in Thailand, in Lumpini Park on February 28, 1985, according to archive officials and film critic Manotham Theamtheabrat.

Lately, Wenders has committed to making films in 3D, which he believes immerses the viewer. It’s a medium he first explored with 2011’s Pina, about German dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch, who died in 2009. He stuck with 3D for last year’s Every Thing will be Fine, a harrowing drama about a writer (James Franco) who kills a child in a traffic mishap.

“I discovered that 3D had more potential than just for dance and architecture,” Wenders told the Guardian last year. “I could see it created a whole different presence in close-up. It has a magnifying effect, it’s like a magnifying glass, making everything stand out.”

Wim Wenders: A Retrospective runs from February 25 until March 5 at Lumpini Park and the Film Archive. Here is the schedule:

February 25, Lumpini Park
6pm, Wings of Desire

February 27, Archive
1pm, The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick
3pm, Alice in the Cities
5pm, Kings of the Road

February 28, Archive
1pm, The American Friend
3.15pm, Paris, Texas
6pm, Faraway, So Close!

March 5, Archive
1pm, Pina (in 3D)
3pm, Every Thing will be Fine (in 3D)

Seats can be booked in advance until Saturday at For the Lumpini Park screening, there is a Facebook events page. And for more details, check or the Goethe website.

(Cross-published in The Nation)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening February 18-23, 2016

The Look of Silence

Following last week's release of The Act of Killing, here's the essential companion piece, The Look of Silence, which delves further into politically motivated genocide in 1960s Indonesia.

While The Act of Killing kept its focus on the perpetrators of the genocide – politicians and military figures who still hold power and influence – The Look of Silence is all about the victims. They are embodied by a sole survivor, an optician who goes door-to-door, plying his trade in giving eye exams to the elderly.

His job is excellent cover for what he's really doing – tracking down those who were responsible for killing his older brother in 1965. Patiently and methodically, he finds these people, and gets them to confess to truths that have been buried for nearly 50 years. Often, the words are out their mouths before they realize what they are saying.

An Academy Award nominee and almost-universally praised, The Look of Silence a must-see movie, especially for local residents and anyone interested in the history and politics of Southeast Asia. It's at SF cinemas. For further details, check or SF's bookings site. Rated G

Also opening

The Rain Stories (เมื่อฝนหยดลงบนหัว, Meur Fon Yod Long Bon Hua) – Nichaphoom Chaianan, the indie writer-director of last year's gay romance My Bromance, directs this anthology of unconventional high-school love stories. They involve a disabled girl falling for the hottest boy in school, a boy who is about to meet his father for the first time becoming embroiled in a relationship with his best friend, and another boy who is considering entering the gay sex trade in order to repay his gambling debts. Check the trailer. It's at Major Cineplex. Rated G

Joy – Writer-director David O. Russell gets the band back together for his latest effort, which has several of the same cast members as his recent critically acclaimed hits Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. It's the fact-based tale of Joy Mangano, the inventor of the self-wringing Miracle Mop, who became a self-made millionaire selling her products on cable-TV shopping channels. Jennifer Lawrence stars, portraying Joy as a struggling divorcee in a dead-end job who is heavily in debt and is sharing a house with her bickering divorced parents (Robert De Niro and Virginia Madsen), her kindly grandmother (Diane Ladd) and her singer ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez). With help from her father's new girlfriend (Isabella Rosselli), she comes up with the Miracle Mop and gets on TV with the assistance of a visionary QVC network executive (Bradley Cooper). Lawrence won the Golden Globe for best actress in the comedy category and she's also an Oscar nominee. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to favorable. Rated 13+

Concussion – Snubbed for an Oscar nomination, Will Smith portrays the brilliant Nigerian-American physician Dr Bennet Omalu, who discovered links between repeated blows to the head and the premature deaths of professional gridiron football players. He encounters vigorous pushback from the National Football League when he wants to present his findings. Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Albert Brooks also star. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive. Rated G

Legend – Tom Hardy is in a dual role in this indie British drama, which covers the rise and fall of identical twin gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two of the most notorious and violent criminals in British history. It's a story previously covered in The Krays, a 1990 cult film that had the twins portrayed by brother musicians Gary and Martin Kemp of Spandau Ballet. Hardy, who's had a heck of run this season with such films as Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant, was snubbed by the Baftas but he won best actor at the British Independent Film Awards for his work in Legend. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive. Rated 18+

Zoolander 2 – Fifteen years later, dimwitted male fashion models Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) are called back into action to stop a criminal mastermind who is killing the world's most beautiful people. Penelope Cruz joins the cast this time around, playing the Interpol agent handler of Derek and Hansel. Will Ferrell returns, as fashion world arch-villain Mugatu. A comedy that found a cult following after it was released on home video, the first Zoolander was quite funny and holds up to at least a couple of repeated viewings before it gets old. Zoolander 2, which is simply a shameless cash grab, is destined to be forgotten in the same bin that Anchorman 2 went into. Critical reception is mostly negative. Rated 13+

Little Boy – Upset that his father has volunteered to fight in World War II, a developmentally stunted 7-year-old boy learns many important lessons after he turns to the Christian faith in a bid to bring his father home. Stars include Emily Watson, Kevin James, David Henrie, Tom Wilkinson, Ted Levine and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. Critical reception is mostly negative. Rated G

Bakuman – A young man becomes determined to be a manga and anime artist after he falls in love with a girl who wants to be a voice actress. She’ll marry him only after they achieve their dreams. A live-action adaptation of a popular manga and anime TV series about manga and anime artists, this opened in sneak previews last week and now moves to a wider release. Rated G

Neerja – Sonam Kapoor stars in this fact-based drama about the hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 in Karachi in 1986, in which a 23-year-old flight attendant bravely rose up to defend the hostages. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, Alan Rickman is a Paris wine-shop owner who comes up with a contest that pits "New World" wines against French vintages in the 2008 indie comedy Bottle Shock, which also stars Chris Pine, Bill Pullman and Dennis Farina. Tomorrow, a black cop from Philadelphia (Sidney Poitier) works with a Southern white police chief (Rod Steiger) to solve a murder in 1967's In the Heat of the Night, directed by Norman Jewison and featuring cinematography by Haskell Wexler, who is paid tribute this month following his recent passing. Saturday's "kinky" movie is 1982's Cat People starring Nastassja Kinski. It also works as a tribute to the late David Bowie, who performed the film's theme song. Sunday has another Billy Wilder film noir, his 1950 Hollywood portrait, Sunset Boulevard. 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 – A fiftysomething Paris businessman enters into a tryst with a young Ukrainian male prostitute who is involved with a violent street gang in the 2013 drama Eastern Boys. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, February 24, at the Alliance.

Take note

Until Saturday, you can reserve seats for Wim Wenders: A Retrospective, which is taking place at the Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom on February 27-28 and March 5, screening such films as Paris, Texas and The American Friend as well the 3D movies Pina and Every Thing will be Fine, which will be the first 3D films shown there. The place has 120 seats, and half of them are up for grabs now, with the other half held for walk-ins on the show dates. The retrospective opens next Thursday with Wings of Desire, outdoors, in Lumpini Park. I'll have more about Wendersfest in a couple of days.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening February 11-17, 2016

The Act of Killing

The perpetrators of genocide in Indonesia in the 1960s are given a chance to tell their side of the story in The Act of Killing, which has these colorful military figures and politicans re-enacting their gruesome deeds in often self-aggrandizing fashion, in scenes from their favorite types of movies – westerns, film-noir mysteries and lavishly staged musical numbers.

The Act of Killing rubbed me the wrong way when I saw it in a one-off special screening in Bangkok a few years ago. I felt it let those men mostly off the hook for their wave of politically motivated killings in 1965-66. But it was part of a one-two punch by director Joshua Oppenheimer and his "anonymous" team of filmmakers, who followed up the The Act of Killing with the powerful and essential counter-punch, The Look of Silence, which focused on one gentle survivor's personal search for truth and justice.

Brought back by the Documentary Club, this is the 159-minute "director's cut" of The Act of Killing. It won many awards, including the European Film Award for Best Documentary and the Asia Pacific Screen Award. It was also a nominee for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

The Act of Killing opens this week, and the must-see followup The Look of Silence is released next Thursday. There's a special screening of both films from 6pm on Saturday in an event put together by the Documentary Club and Film Kawan, an academic group that specializes in Southeast Asian films. It's at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.

Apart from that special screening, regular venues for The Act of Killing are SF World, SFX Central Rama 9, SFX Central Lad Phrao and SFX Maya Chiang Mai. For further details, check the Documentary Club Facebook page or SF Cinemas booking site

Also opening

Luk Thung Signature (ลูกทุ่ง ซิกเนเจอร์, a.k.a. Love Beat) – Star-studded stories unfold to the toe-tapping beat of Thai country songs in this sprawling musical drama by producer-director Prachya Pinkaew (Ong-Bak, Tom-Yum-Goong. The stories include a brooding business executive (Krissada Sukosol Clapp) who is searching for the cleaning lady he heard singing while he was in the toilet. She's played by Rungrat "Khai Mook The Voice" Mengphanit. Another story centers on a washed-up overweight pop singer (Chalitit "Ben" Tantiwut) who finds new popularity when he switches to luk thung. Other stars include The Voice Thailand Season 1 winner Tanon Jamroen as well as Siraphan Wattanajinda, Chaiyathat Lampoon, Sombat Metanee and Pitsamai Wilaisak, Sumet Ong-art, Su Boonliang and luk thung songwriter Sala Khunawut. Read more about it in a story in The Nation. Rated G

Deadpool – Marvel Comics’ wisecracking "Merc with a Mouth" comes to the screen in this origin story starring Ryan Reynolds. He's a mercenary former Special Forces operative who has cancer and submits to a rogue experiment that leaves him horribly disfigured but with heightened healing powers and superhuman abilities. Deadpool is officially part of the X-Men franchise, which is held by Fox. It's been in development a long time, but it seems with all the tinkering they may have got it right, leaving critics impressed. Rated R in the States, mainly for baudy language, this comic-book movie is not necessarily for the kiddies. Rated 15+

Carol – One of the big titles of awards season, Carol has been widely praised for its performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as women in a taboo lesbian relationship in the U.S. in the 1950s. Blanchett is the housewife Carol who attracts the curious eyes of shopgirl and aspiring photographer Therese (Mara). They gradually grow closer while Carol is in the midst of a messy divorce. Todd Haynes (I'm Not There, Far from Heaven) directs. Listed among the year's best by many, many critics, Carol has six Academy Award nominations, including best actress for Blanchett and supporting actress for the co-lead Mara. Critical reception is wildly positive. This opened in sneak previews last week and now movies to general release. Rated 15+

The Choice – Ick. It's Valentine's Day weekend, so here's yet another movie adaptation of yet another weepy Nicholas Sparks romance novel. It's the story of the evolving relationship between a womanizing small-town veterinarian (Benjamin Walker) and his neighbor, an attractive young woman (Teresa Palmer) who is a medical student. Critics think it's yucky. Rated G

Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong – Combining the spirit of two holidays, last weekend's Chinese New Year and this weekend's Valentine's Day, here's a love letter to Hong Kong. The story has a young Chinese-American woman (Jamie Chung) visiting Hong Kong for the first time. She meets an expat American (Bryan Greenberg) who is working in finance. The two hit it off as they tour the sights. They then meet again a year later. Critical reception has been generally favorable.

The Monkey King 2 – This actually came out last week, but wasn't in cinemas until Friday, so I got confused when it didn't appear last Thursday and didn't list it. Sorry about that, campers. An obligatory release for Chinese New Year, The Monkey King 2 is a sequel to a 2014 big-budget blockbuster fantasy based on ancient Chinese literature. Aaron Kwok steps into the role of the Monkey King, taking over from Donnie Yen. He is released from prison after 500 years and tasked with undertaking his "journey to the West" to retrieve sacred scriptures. Gong Li also stars, playing the chief villain, the White Bone Demon. Soi Cheang directs with action choreography by Sammo Hung. Special effects were handled in New Zealand by the same folks that did visual effects for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. It's in Chinese with English and Thai subtitles in select cinemas. Rated 13+

Fitoor – Charles Dickens' Great Expectations receives the Bollywood treatment in this sweeping romantic drama starring Aditya Roy Kapur, Katrina Kaif and Tabu. It's the story of star-crossed relations between a poor boy who lives by the docks and the beautiful daughter of the wealthiest man in town. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – "Blue baby syndrome" is at the heart of tonight's selection, Something the Lord Made, a well-regarded made-for-HBO drama starring Alan Rickman as a pioneering American researcher in the 1930s, who performs medical studies with help from a gifted young black man (Mos Def). Tomorrow, talented cinematographer Haskell Wexler takes his place in the director's chair, mixing fiction with documentary footage in Medium Cool, a counter-culture drama about a TV cameraman caught up in the violence that erupted during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Saturday's "kinky" movie is The Night Porter, starring Dirk Bogarde as a sadomasochistic former Nazi concentration camp officer who is in a twisted relationship with one of his former prisoners. Sunday has a special Valentine's Day movie – The Road Home – Zhang Yimou's timeless love story of a schoolteacher and the young woman (Zhang Ziyi) who falls for him. Next Wednesday, it's another of David Bowie's cinematic contributions, the Japanese prisoner-of-war drama Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. 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 Film Series – Struggling Berlin artists collaborate on a project sponsored by a biotech company and they become the next step in human evolution in the science-fiction comedy-drama Art Girls. The show is at 1pm on Sunday at the Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom and at 6pm on Tuesday in the fifth-floor auditorium at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. Keep in mind, the Archive and the Goethe have special event coming up, Wim Wenders: A Retrospective, opening on February 25 with a Lumpini Park screening of Wings of Desire.

Alliance Française – Voilà! The website appears to be back up. Next week's show is Brooklyn. Not to be confused with last year's current critical hit with the same title, this Brooklyn is from 2014 and is the story of a runaway girl who tries her luck with the hip-hop scene in Paris. It's at 7pm on Wednesday, February 17, at the Alliance.

Sneak preview

Bakuman – Japanese teenage comic-book artists meet in high school and try to get their stories published in a weekly comics magazine. This is a movie adaptation of a popular manga about manga artists that has also been adapted as an animated TV series. It's by the same folks who did the popular manga-based horror Death Note. It's in sneak previews with shows from around 8 nightly in most multiplexes. It opens in general release next week. Rated G

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening February 4-10, 2016

The Revenant

After several months of delays, The Revenant finally comes to Thailand.

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, an Oscar-winner for last year's Birdman, the fact-based historical adventure is the account of American frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), who was attacked by a bear and then betrayed and left for dead by his hunting party in the early 1800s. He claws his way out of a shallow grave and goes on an epic journey through the snow to take revenge.

Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter also star.

As has been touted in the numerous stories released to promote the film during its vigorous awards-season campaign, The Revenant was made under often-punishing conditions, plunging DiCaprio into frozen Canadian rivers and into live animal carcasses. Despite the cold weather and hardships, the production had trouble locating places to film snow. The crew eventually was forced to pack up and leave Canada, trekking to the far southern tip of Argentina to find adequate amounts of the white stuff.

Much-hyped, The Revenant won three Golden Globe Awards and is the leading Academy Award nominee, with 12 Oscar nods, including including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor for DiCaprio (his fourth acting nom and likely his to win), Supporting Actor for Hardy and Best Cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki.

Critical reception is generally positive. Rated 15+

Also opening

Room – While The Revenant has garnered much of the attention this awards season with its very prominent campaigning, the small indie feature Room has quietly been racking up accolades for its performances by Brie Larson and young Jacob Tremblay. The story is about a woman and her five-year-old son who have been held captive in a single room for years. One day, the mom sees a chance for the boy to escape, allowing him to experience the real world for the first time. It's nominated for four Academy Awards – Best Picture, Best Director for Lenny Abramson (Frank), Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. Critical reception is almost universally positive. Rated 13+

The Danish Girl – One of the first patients to undergo sexual reassignment surgery is covered in this highly fictionalized historical drama, which has been winning awards and nominations. Alicia Vikander and Eddie Redmayne star as a Danish painter couple whose relationship evolves after the wife asks her husband to pose as a woman for a portrait. This awakens a longing inside, and the husband decides he is a she named Lili. Directed by Tom Hooper (The King's Speech, Les Misérables), The Danish Girl has been a major nominee, with Golden Globe, Academy Award and Bafta nods for both Vikander and Redmayne, who was a big winner last year for his turn as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Critical reception is generally positive. This opened in a sneak preview last week and now moves to general release. Rated 18+

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Zombie-comedy hijinks meet Jane Austen in this horror romp that has heroine Elizabeth Bennett (Lily James) and her socialite gal pals as highly-trained martial arts warriors. They kick into high gear to combat an undead plague. But the willful Elizabeth must put also aside her differences with the snobby Mr Darcy (Sam Riley) to defeat the zombie menace. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

Dirty Grandpa – Just before his wedding, a strait-laced young man (Zac Efron) is tricked into driving his recently widowed grandfather (Robert De Niro) to Florida. The foul-mouthed old man wants to cut loose, and indulge in the booze, drugs and sex on offer during the college Spring Break. Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) also stars. This movie has been widely reviled by critics and has been termed among the worst and most embarrassing of the late-career efforts of De Niro. Rated 18+

Extraction – I imagine Bruce Willis banks in the same place as Robert De Niro. He cashes another paycheck with this drama that mostly went straight to video in the States but has been deemed as good-enough filler for the Thai multiplexes. The Die Hard star is a retired CIA operative who is taken hostage by terrorists. His only hope for rescue is his son (Kellan Lutz), a deskbound CIA analyst, who launches an unsanctioned rescue mission. Gina Carano (Haywire) also stars. Critical reception is overwhelmingly negative. Rated 15+

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Haskell Wexler, all beloved film figures we lost in the past month or so, are paid tribute in February at the Club. Rickman is a ghost humorously haunting his widow (Juliet Stevenson) in tonight's offering, the 1990 romantic comedy Truly, Madly, Deeply. Cinematographer Wexler's talents are on display in 1966's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which also showcases the abilities of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as a bickering couple. Saturdays are devoted to "Variety's 'kinkiest movies ever made", a list that exists as a backlash to Fifty Shades of Grey, which the Club hates. This week's entry is Secretary, with James Spader in one of his creepiest roles. He's the sadomasochistic boss of a new secretary (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Sundays are devoted to director Billy Wilder, starting with the 1944 film-noir thriller Double Indemnity, starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson. Bowie's films screen on Wednesdays. He's a vampire in next week's offering, The Hunger, a pre-Top Gun effort by Tony Scott. 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.

Sayonara Setsuko: A Tribute to Setsuko Hara – In the run-up to next weekend's Japanese Film Festival, Filmvirus, the Japan Foundation and the Reading Room join for a tribute to one of Japan’s most revered actresses. Three films will demonstrate her legacy, starting with 1946’s No Regrets for Our Youth by Akira Kurosawa, followed by Yasujiro Ozu’s Late Spring from 1949 and Mikio Naruse’s Repast from 1951. The show starts at 1pm on Sunday, February 7 at The Reading Room on Silom Soi 19.

Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice – Thailand's most celebrated filmmaker, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, is still scheduled to make an appearance on Saturday at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center for the closing entry in the BACC's Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice series for 2015-16. His choice is the 2012 Chilean political drama No, starring Gael García Bernal as an advertising man who takes up work for the scrappy "No" campaign that ousted General Augusto Pinochet in a 1988 national plebiscite. Pablo Larraín directs. “This film makes me realize that we were born to be puppets. Our strings are being pulled by different forces. Even the word “Democracy” has its own agenda. By the time we grow up and see the strings, we cannot cut them. All we can do is smile as the scripts tell us to. So much so that sometimes we think that our freedom and happiness are real,” Apichatpong says in translated remarks on the BACC website. He and Bangkok Post film critic Kong Rithdee will host a discussion following the screening. It's a free event, with seats available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you want to go, you'll probably need to queue up early for registration, which opens at 4.30pm. The screening is at 5.30pm in the 220-seat fifth-floor auditorium.

German Open Air Cinema – The crime farce Suck Me Shakespeer closes out the Goethe Institut's annual outdoor screening series. A critically acclaimed 2013 box-office hit, Suck Me Shakespeer follows an ex-convict criminal who lands a job teaching rowdy teenagers at a school that was built over the place he buried stolen loot. The show is at 7.30pm on Tuesday, February 9, outdoors at the Goethe-Institut on Sathorn Soi 1. Meanwhile, the Goethe's regular German Film Series continues with monthly screenings at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center and at the Film Archive. And the Archive and the Goethe have joined for Wim Wenders: A Retrospective, which will feature nine of his films, including a Lumpini Park screening of Wings of Desire on February 25 and the first 3D screening at the Film Archive, with Pina on March 5.

Alliance Française – The website appears to be down. There's Facebook, but it's not the same. In the meantime, I have two movies to list. First, there is a "kids' movie", a 2pm Saturday show of U, a fairy tale about a unicorn that befriends a lonely imprisoned princess. And then the usual free French film next Wednesday is Le Petit Lieutenant, a 2004 crime drama about a fresh academy graduate from Le Havre getting picked for the Paris vice squad and partnered with a senior officer who is old enough to be his mother. She's played by Nathalie Baye. It's at 7pm on Wednesday, February 10, at the Alliance.

Sneak preview

Carol – Another of the big titles of awards season, Carol has been widely praised for its performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as women in a taboo lesbian relationship in the U.S. in the 1950s. Blanchett is the housewife Carol who attracts the curious eyes of shopgirl and aspiring photographer Therese (Mara). They gradually grow closer while Carol is in the midst of a messy divorce. Todd Haynes (I'm Not There, Far from Heaven) directs. Listed among the year's best by many, many critics, Carol has six Academy Award nominations, including best actress for Blanchett and supporting actress for the co-lead Mara. Critical reception is wildly positive. It's in sneak previews from around 8 nightly in most multiplexes before opening in general release next Thursday.