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

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