Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 12-20, 2016

The Mermaid

Hong Kong comedy great Stephen Chow returns to the scene with The Mermaid, the story of a pretty young mermaid  (Lin Yun) who is sent to the city to seduce and kill a playboy developer (Deng Chao) whose project is destroying the merpeople's marine habitat. She ends up falling in love with the guy.

It's being hailed as a return to form for Chow, an actor, writer and director who came up in the late 1980s and early 1990s with a string of comedies and then rocketed to worldwide cult status in the early 2000s as the director and star of Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, inventive martial-arts films that mixed graceful kung fu moves with cartoonish slapstick. Critics weren't so crazy about his follow-up, the family friendly sci-fi tale CJ7. And then there was the 2013 fantasy Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, which was mainly only a hit with mainland audiences.

The Mermaid has been a blockbuster smash in China, breaking the box-office record for highest-grossing film previously held by Monster Hunt.

Critics like it too.

Sadly, it seems The Mermaid is not getting an English-friendly release in Thailand. Appears it's Thai-dubbed except for a handful of select downtown cinemas that have the Mandarin soundtrack and Thai subtitles only – no English. It's out today, on Songkran Eve, with more movies coming out tomorrow for the official start of the three-day Thai New Year public holiday. Rated G

The Jungle Book

Anglo-Indian writer Rudyard Kipling's children's stories are again adapted by Disney, this time as a photorealistic computer-animated live-action adventure.

The Jungle Book is directed by Jon Favreau, one of the guys behind the guys of the late-1990s indie film boom, making the scene as the writer and star of the cult-classic Swingers.

As a director, his career has veered wildly from smaller, indie-leaning projects, such as the sweetly funny Christmas comedy Elf and his food-oriented family film Chef, to huge Hollywood blockbusters, like Marvel's Iron Man movies and now Disney's The Jungle Book.

The only human actor onscreen is Neel Sethi, an Indian-American first-time child actor who auditioned for the role of Mowgli and was plucked from a field of some 2,000 boys who tried out.

The animals in the movie are all voiced by top Hollywood talents, including Idris Elba as the tyrannical tiger Shere Khan, Bill Murray as the bear Balloo, Ben Kingsley as the mentoring panther Bagheera, Christopher Walken as the orangutan King Louie, Scarlett Johansson as the seductive snake Kaa and Lupito Nyong'o as Mowgli's wolf mother.

Critical reception is generally positive. Filmed in actual 3D it's on regular 3D screens and IMAX but also looks just fine in 2D. Rated G. Opens Wednesday.

Also opening

Knight of Cups – Christian Bale is a womanizing screenwriter who is having an existential crisis as he sleeps with a series of beautiful women and indulges in the Hollywood party scene. Terrence Malick directs this puzzler, which is inspired by Tarot cards and continues with the philosophical and spiritual musings he explored in To the Wonder and The Tree of Life. Other stars include Imogen Poots, Wes Bentley, Brian Dennehy, Antonio Banderas, Cate Blanchett, Freida Pinto, Teresa Palmer, Natalie Portman and Isabel Lucas, along with dozens of other well-known names who all just wanted to be in a Malick movie. Among them were comedy actor Thomas Lennon, who recently related how weird it is to make a film with the secretive, iconoclastic director. As with Malick's other late-period films, critics are polarized. Rated 18+. Opens Wednesday.

Suksan Wan Klab Baan (สุขสันต์วันกลับบ้าน, a.k.a. Take Me Home) – Kongkiat Komesiri directs this thriller about a young man (Mario Maurer) who wakes up in a hospital after a five-year slumber with no memories of his past except that his name is Tan. He's brought home by his twin sister Tubtim (Wannarote Sonthichai) who lives a seemingly perfect existence in a fancy house with her architect husband Cheewin (Nopachai Jayanama) and his two children from a previous marriage. Having enjoyed Kongkiat's previous efforts – 2007's Muay Thai Chaiya, 2009's Slice and 2012's Antapal – I have what I guess are unreasonably high expectations for Take Me Home, which is produced by the indie shingle North Star and is being released by Major Cineplex-owned M Pictures. There's more about the movie in an article in The Nation today. Rated 15+. Opens Wednesday.

Fan – Shah Rukh Khan plays dual roles in this thriller about a young man who develops an unhealthy obsession with a superstar actor. The 50-year-old King Khan plays both characters, with digital de-ageing technology used to give him the face of the 17-year-old obsessed fan. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Paragon, Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III, Pattaya and Maesot. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – The Club will be open tomorrow to members who might be seeking a refuge from the Songkran revelry. Please leave your water guns by the door. Wednesday's show has Richard Burton as The Spy Who Came In from the Cold while Thursday is the cult-classic Hong Kong crime thriller City on Fire, one of the films Quentin Tarantino copied to make Reservoir Dogs. Friday's "quirky '80s" movie is the little-known end-of-the-world comedy Miracle Mile while Saturday has loads of steampunk weirdness in City of Lost Children. Sunday's Akira Kurosawa film is the underrated and influential kidnap tale High and Low. And next Wednesday has another spy movie, Hitchcock's Notorious from 1946. Please note that the Club has a new policy on smoking. 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.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – The Contemporary World Film Series picks up after the Songkran break with Earth, a sweeping 1998 drama about a multi-cultural circle of close friends growing up in Lahore during very turbulent times around 1947, which saw the partition of India and Hindu-Muslim riots. Aamir Khan, Maia Sethna and Nandita Das star. Earth has music by award-winner A.R. Rahman, and it was India's submission to the Academy Awards in 1999. The show is at 7pm on April 19 at the FCCT. Directed by noted Indian-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta, it is the first of two movies this month by award-winning Asian women directors living in the West. Next up on April 25 is the Pakistani drama Dukhtar by Afia Nathaniel. Admission is 150 baht for non-members.

Alliance Française – There are no films at the Alliance this Wednesday, nor this Friday, because of the Songkran public holiday. The next show is at 7pm on Wednesday, April 20, with Fidelio, l'odyssée d'Alice, about a young woman who takes a job that is unusual for women, as an engineer aboard an ocean-going freighter. It's in French with English subtitles. The Alliance is now also showing French films with Thai subtitles on Fridays, with the next one on April 22. I'll aim to cover that next week. Take note that there is now an admission charge for the movies – 100 baht for the general public and 50 baht for members and Alliance students.

Sneak preview

Colonia – Emma Watson (Hermoine from the Harry Potter movies) is a young woman caught up in the unrest of 1973 in Chile. After her husband (Daniel Brühl) is kidnapped by Pinochet's secret police, she tracks him into the jungle to a torture center run by a cult led by a Nazi war criminal (Michael Nyqvist). She decides to join the cult in hopes she'll be able to rescue her husband. Critical reception is mixed. This opens tonight in sneak previews, with screenings from around 8 nightly through April 20. Rated 13+

Take note

Movies are being released one or two days earlier than usual this week as distributors try to entice Songkran holidaymakers into the theaters.

Next week, the new-movie releases will return to their usual day on Thursday.

Coming up, there will be the second edition of the Bangkok Asean Film Festival, which will run from April 21 to 26 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. It will have a mix of new films from Thailand and its Southeast Asian neighbors as well as a few classics of world cinema, 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. More on that later in the week.

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