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.


  1. I don't understand why de Niro bothers making movies. Is it just for the money? His reputation as a great actor is established so why he trashes it making crap is beyond me. And as he famously dislikes interviews, maybe we'll never know. - Ian

    1. To quote Omar from The Wire, "Fish gotta swim."