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.

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