Thursday, March 24, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: March 24-30, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Good old Batman. Just a regular dude, looking out for the rest of us mere mortals. He's always suspicious, always wary. And for every superhero or supervillain that emerges from outer space or out of a vat of chemicals, Batman studies their powers and abilities and methodically comes up with ways to defeat them, just in case.

Superman is his biggest test yet. Who is this guy in the red cape? Where does he come from? How does he get his powers? Batman, the Great Detective, figures it out in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Controversially, this latest version of Batman is played by Ben Affleck, who takes over the iconic role from Christian Bale, who portrayed the Cape Crusader in the Dark Knight Trilogy of Christopher Nolan. Having already been featured in the comic-book rodeo, playing a lackluster Daredevil years ago (the Netflix series does Daredevil justice), his reading of Bruce Wayne/Batman is a world-weary, been-there-and-done-that type. It seems the brooding darkness of the Nolanverse is carrying over into the DC Extended Universe.

But it's the comic-book-crazy 300 and Watchmen director Zack Snyder who helms this latest iteration, carrying on his meticulous and devoted panel-by-panel work from Man of Steel, which introduced Henry Cavill in the role of Superman and his bespectacled alter-ego newspaper reporter Clark Kent.

Here, Warner Bros.' DC Comics movie franchise takes further shape as it seeks to match Disney, Marvel Comics and the Avengers. Not only does this movie have the essential element Batman but they also rope in Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, making her debut) and arch-nemesis Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). Jeremy Irons joins as Bruce Wayne's butler and crime-fighting partner Alfred, with Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and others continuing in their roles from Man of Steel. It's all in service of the eventual Justice League movie, but first we'll get Suicide Squad and standalone films for Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash and others.

Critics have been desperate to trash this film since it was first announced. They don't care for Snyder, aren't crazy about Cavill as Superman and have mixed feelings about the Batfleck. Warner Bros. kept them at bay, imposing strict embargoes. But the reviews are starting to trickle in. It's in converted 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated 13+

Also opening

Risen – Praise Jesus. Our cinemas become churches in observance of Easter Sunday. In Judea in 33AD, veteran Roman military tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) begins to question his beliefs and spirituality as he works to uncover the truth of what happened to a certain crucified troublemaker. Basically, it's a straight-faced and faith-based version of the movie-within-the-movie that George Clooney was making in Hail, Caesar! Cliff Curtis and Tom Felton also star. It's directed by Kevin Reynolds, who is best known for his work as Kevin Costner's go-to guy (he actually called action on the famed buffalo-hunt scene in Dances with Wolves). Critical reception is mixed, with praise for the performance by Fiennes. Rated 13+

Trumbo – One of Hollywood’s highest-paid screenwriters, Dalton Trumbo, is caught up in the anti-communist crusades in the 1950s and is banned from working. Friends turn their backs on him, he's sent to prison and he veers toward financial ruin, but he continues to produce award-winning scripts, giving the credit to others or writing under a pseudonym. Bryan Cranston stars and he earned Academy Awards and Golden Globe nominations for his portrayal. Helen Mirren is the scandal-addicted columnist Hedda Hopper, and she also earned a Golden Globe nomination. Other stars include Louis C.K., Alan Tudyk, Diane Lane, Michael Stuhlbarg and John Goodman. Critical reception is generally positive. It's in limited release, playing only at the Lido in Siam Square.

Rocky Handsome – Rock-hard abs and explosions combine in this violent Bollywood thriller starring John Abraham and his gym membership. He's a father who embarks on a deadly rampage of revenge after his adorable little eight-year-old daughter is killed. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

Salaya International Documentary Film Festival – The Thai Film Archive's sixth annual documentary fest opens at 1pm on Saturday with The Scala, a 50-minute made-for-TV piece by Thai filmmaker Aditya Assarat, who takes his cameras inside Siam Square's imperiled landmark cinema for what he reckons is one last look around. The Scala is part of a special Power of Asian Cinema package, co-produced by the Busan International Film Festival and Korean Broadcasting. Other programs are Sense and Sensibility, which groups together documentaries by female directors, and the Asean Documentary Competition, which has entries this year from Vietnam, Myanmar, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia. A major highlight is The Memory of Justice, a 1976 film that looked at wartime atrocities, by the Germans in World War II, and by the Americans in Vietnam. Running 278 minutes, the film was recently restored and presented at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Another marathon screening will be Homeland: Iraq Year Zero, an award-winning chronicle of everyday life in Iraq before and after the U.S. invasion. It runs 334 minutes and will be presented in its entirety. The fest is at the Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, from Saturday through Monday, and then from Tuesday shifts over to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, where it runs through April 3. The schedule is embedded below. You can state your interest in attending the opening film and ceremony on the Facebook events page. For more details, please check the fest's Facebook page.

The Friese-Greene Club – There's one more scheduled screening on Saturday of Trump: What's the Deal?, a revealing 1999 documentary that is reportedly "the movie Trump doesn't want you to see." A specially licensed screening, the cost is 150 baht. The place has a private event tonight, but is back open tomorrow with the controversial erotic thriller Irreversible by Gaspar Noe and a Douglas Slocombe cinematography effort in the historical drama Lady Jane on Sunday. Next Wednesday, there's one more great Danish film, 1994's Nightwatch, starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) as a morque watchman who gets caught up in a murder case. 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 young man sets out to find his missing grandmother, who escaped from an old-folks home, in Les souvenirs (Memories). It screens at 7pm on Wednesday at the Alliance.

Take note

The Bangkok Art and Culture Centre has posted the line-up for this year's Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice series, taking the added theme of The Female Perspective and recruiting prominent female Thai filmmakers to show thought-provoking films and then talk about them. The opener is on May 21, with Soraya Nakasuwan showing The Pearl Button from Chile. Others will be twin-sisters Wanweaw and Weawwan Hongvivatana on July 23, producer-director Pimpaka Towira on September 24 and producer-director Anocha Suwichakornpong on November 19.

An article in The Nation last Friday details efforts by researcher Philip Jablon and the Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project to raise awareness about the plight of old movie palaces. It includes updates on the Lido and Scala, which will now hopefully remain open through 2018, as well as two old, shuttered standalone cinemas, The Prince and the Nang Loeng, that could reopen.

Meanwhile, Khao Sod English had a recent article on strong-arm practices being used by theater owners to force movie distributors into paying for ads in newspapers. The story says that distributors who didn't make the big ad buys found their films trounced out of cinemas in favor of movies by distributors who did pay. Explains a lot about how things work in Thai cinemas and why some movies tend to be harder to track down than others. If you are a smaller, independent distributor, you are going to have to work harder to keep your movie in front of eyeballs.

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