Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 6-12, 2016

Luang Phee Jazz 4G

Today's Chakri Memorial Day public holiday kicks off anticipatory celebrations of next week's Songkran Thai New Year, which is a three-day public holiday from next Wednesday to Friday. So, this week and next, the movies are being released a day or two early in hopes that the idled government workers, corporate staffers and bank employees will want to spend their time out of the office paying to see new movies.

The big Thai tentpole is the Songkran-flavored Luang Phee Jazz 4G (หลวงพี่แจ๊ส 4G, a.k.a. Joking Jazz 4G). It's about a bespectacled, gauge-eared, tattooed hipster with a checkered past who is hiding out as a monk at an isolated mountaintop temple. He's played by hipster comedian Phadung “Jazz Chuanchuen” Songsang. He and his temple-boy friends have an adventure as they are sent to Bangkok on a mission during Songkran.

Directed by Poj Arnon, Luang Pee Jazz 4G is the first release under the prolific producer-director's rebooted Film Guru production marque, which has been relaunched in a new partnership with Major Cineplex, the Kingdom's biggest movie-theater chain.

Poj and Film Guru were formerly associated with Phranakorn Film, a film studio owned by the Thana Cineplex chain of upcountry cinemas. Phranakorn released a string of hit country comedies in the early 2000s, including the original Luang Phee (Holy Man) movie in 2005.

Originated by comedian, actor and director Note Chernyim, the first Luang Phee Teng starred ubiquitous comedian and TV host Pongsak "Theng Terdterng" Pongsuwan as a former street hood who has entered the monkhood and ministers to colorful residents in a provincial town. Other Luang Phee Teng installments followed in 2008 and 2010, with rapper Joey Boy and actor-musician Krissada Sukosol Clapp taking respective turns as the saffron-clad lead character. As each movie stands alone, with different characters in the lead, they aren't really sequels but are part of a franchise all the same.

The Nation has more on this latest Luang Phee movie, which is the fourth in the series. Rated 15+

Also opening

The Huntsman: Winter’s War – Universal Pictures is borrowing more than a couple pages from Disney as it attempts to spin its 2012 live-action Snow White and the Huntsman film into an epic franchise. A bit like Frozen, though likely not near as much fun, this new picture is the tale of cold sister royals in a wintry realm. Charlize Theron returns as the Evil Queen Ravenna, who is joined by her sister, the Ice Queen Freya, played by Emily Blunt. They ban love from the land and are cruel. So it's up to one of the Evil Queen's former soldiers, the huntsman Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and his comrade-in-arms (and secret lover) Sara (Jessica Chastain) to fight back. In addition to conventional 2D, it's in converted 3D, including IMAX. Critical reception is mostly negative. Rated 13+

The Himalayas – This fact-based adventure story recounts the bond between famed South Korean mountaineer Um Hong-kil and plucky younger climbers, culminating in the risky scaling of Everest by the senior climber, who comes out of retirement for a very meaningful ascent. Critical reception has been mixed, but it beat Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the South Korean box office. It's in Korean with English and Thai subtitles at the True Screen X at the Quartier CineArt. That's the panoramic 270-degree cinema in the ritzy EmQuartier mall. Rated G

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, Robert Redford is a young CIA analyst in over his head in 3 Days of the Condor. Tomorrow, it's Bruce Lee's The Way of the Dragon, which has him in Rome, helping a relative defeat Italian mobsters. A fur-covered Chuck Norris is a featured fighter. On Friday, it's Static, an early feature-film effort by Mark Romanek, the innovative director of many classic music videos. Saturday has dystopian time-travelling by Bruce Willis in Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys while Sunday is Akira Kurosawa's mystery thriller Rashomon. Please take note of the Club's new policy on smoking, which snuffs the butts from 7.15 until the movie is over. If you've visited before and were bothered by the smoke but didn't say anything except to vote with your feet, maybe give the place another chance. 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 – I now have a belated clarification on the programming changes at the Alliance, which last Friday began weekly screenings of French films with Thai subtitles. That's in addition to the usual Wednesday screenings of French films with English subs as well as a "kid's movie" on one Saturday each month. This week, owing to Chakri Day, there is no English-subbed screening. Friday has Rengaine (Hold Back), about the taboo romance between a black Christian man and an Arab Muslim woman in Paris. It's at 7pm. Again, it will screen in French with Thai subtitles. Also, there is now a cost for these movies – 100 baht for non-members, 50 baht for members and Alliance students. Take note that there will be no films at the Alliance next week, because of the Songkran public holiday. The films resume on April 20 and April 22.

German Film Series – In East Germany in 1989, as the Berlin Wall is set to come crumbling down, a little girl wants to build a machine to bring home her uncle who escaped to the West. Meanwhile, an East German police officer tries to keep order. It's Sputnik, part of the German Film Series put on monthly by the Goethe-Institut. The show is at 1pm on Sunday at the Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, and at 6pm on Tuesday in the little FA Cinematheque on the second floor of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center (not the fifth floor auditorium). For details, check the Goethe website.

Take note

As mentioned at the top of this week's post, the movies are being released a day or two earlier during the Songkran holiday period. Usually, new movies are released on Thursdays.

Next week, there will be program changes on Tuesday, Thai New Year's Eve, with the much-anticipated Stephen Chow comedy The Mermaid. and sneak previews for the Emma Watson Chilean coup drama Colonia. More new releases are set to follow next Wednesday on the actual Songkran Day with the Thai horror Take Me Home, Disney's live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book and the Terrence Malick head-scratcher Knight of Cups. So see you next Tuesday.

Looking past Songkran, the FCCT will have a one-two punch of screenings in its Contemporary World Film Series, with Deepa Mehta's Earth on April 19 and the Pakistani drama Dukhtar (Daughter) on April 25.

And there will be a second edition of the Asean Film Festival, organized by the Culture Ministry, which is keen to promote Bangkok the hub of Southeast Asian art and culture. According to a source, this year's fest runs from April 21 to 26 at SF World, with plans is to show classic films from neighboring countries, including the serpentine fantasy romance Pous Keng Kang from Cambodia, 1954's After the Curfew from Indonesia and Lino Brocka's Manila in the Claws of Light from 1975. I hope to have more on that soon.

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