Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 21-27, 2016

Patong Girl

A German teen on holiday in Thailand with his dysfunctional family falls head over heels for a local lass in Patong Girl (สาวป่าตอง), an indie drama that recently won a Grimme Prize in Germany.

It's directed by Susanna Salonen, a veteran cinematographer whose credits include second unit work on Run Lola Run, making her feature directorial debut. She was inspired to make Patong Girl by her experience during the 1990s as a diving instructor on Phuket.

The film follows the Schroeder family as they embark for one last holiday together before their youngest son Felix goes off to college. Locked into what turns out to be a dodgy holiday package, the family spends their nights boozing in a red-light district, where Felix comes to the rescue of a damsel named Fai and ends up running off with her without really knowing who she is. The mother, meanwhile, is becoming dissatisfied with her husband and she runs off too, ostensibly to find the son. She ends up finding herself.

In addition to the strong performances by Max Mauff as Felix and Victoria Trauttmansdorff as the mother, there's a break-out role for (spoiler alert) transgender actress Aisawanya Areyawattana.

Interestingly, the film was actually made around Pattaya, with Bangkok-based production services company De Warrenne Pictures and co-producer Tom Waller, helping set the stage.

The limited theatrical release follows appearances in the German Open Air Cinema season and German Film Week. It's at SF World at CentralWorld as well as SF cinemas at Pattaya Beach, Jungceylon Phuket (Patong) and Maya Chiang Mai.

For details, check the Facebook page. There's also a Vimeo trailer and an article in The Nation. Rated 15+

Also opening

Green Room – Patrick Stewart, the refined stage and screen actor best known for his roles as Captain Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and as Professor Xavier in the X-Men movies, takes a villainous turn as a white supremacist criminal kingpin in Green Room. The thriller is about members of a rock band who are locked in a fight for survival with skinhead gangsters after they witness a murder. Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat and Joe Cole also star. Critical reception is generally positive. Seems this is only playing in a small number of venues, so good luck finding it at a cinema near you. Rated 18+

Hardcore Henry – Taking inspiration from first-person-shooter video games and other point-of-view (POV) media, this Russian indie action feature is being touted as the first full-length film to be shot entirely from the first-person perspective. Basically the movie Crank, if it were made from a camera planted in Jason Statham's brain, it follows the adventure of a secret agent who wakes up in a lab and then goes through all kinds of violent situations to rescue his scientist wife, who has been abducted by a superpowered warlord. Sharlto Copley, Tim Roth and Haley Bennett are among the stars, but the real stand-out performers are the various stunt actors who donned a GoPro camera helmet to shoot, stab and punch their way through the film. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+

Race – Track-and-field star Jesse Owens faced a dilemma when he was chosen to represent the USA in the 1936 Berlin Olympic games. There were folks who urged him to not take part, thus denying Adolf Hitler and the Nazis a propaganda opportunity. Others pleaded with him to go to Berlin, because he most certainly would win and disprove assertions that black people were somehow "inferior". Stephan James stars in this historical sports drama, with former Saturday Night Live cast member Jason Sudeikis taking a dramatic turn as Owens' coach. Other stars include Jeremy Irons, William Hurt and Carice van Houten from Game of Thrones. Critical reception is mixed. Like Green Room, this is another limited release, with just a few venues listed. Rated G

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 Christian sect led by a former Nazi (Michael Nyqvist). She joins the cult in hopes she'll be able to rescue her husband. Critical reception is mixed. This opened last week in sneak previews and now moves to general release. Rated 13+

The Wave – The Norwegian film industry flexes its special-effects muscles with this Hollywood-style disaster thriller. It's set in an isolated village threatened by a tsunami, created when an unstable mountain slid off into a nearby fjord. Human drama ensues as residents scramble for higher ground. Critical reception has been mostly favorable. Rated 13+

Before I Wake – A young couple (Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane) take in a foster child, a boy who is plagued by dreams and nightmares that come to terrifying life as he slumbers. As the dreams become increasingly dangerous, the kid tries to stay awake in a bid to save his new family. He is portrayed by Jacob Trembley, the child actor who won widespread accolades for his performance in the much-acclaimed Room. The writer-director is Mike Flanagan, who previously did the Blumhouse horrors Oculus and Hush. The buzz on this seems to be positive, even as critical reception is just starting to jump. Rated 15+

Detective Chinatown – This is not the long-awaited sequel to the Chinatown sequel The Two Jakes. No, Detective Chinatown is a Chinese action-comedy about a wannabe police officer who comes to Bangkok and gets mixed up in a murder case. Aspiring to be the next Chinese made-in-Thailand mega-hit like Lost in Thailand, Detective Chinatown was actually shot in Bangkok. It was a hit in China and got a fun review by Maggie Lee of Variety. Thai-dubbed only. Rated 15+

Also showing

Bangkok Asean Film Festival – Movies from all the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will be featured in the second edition of this freebie festival, which is open to the public from tomorrow until Tuesday at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. It is put on by the Culture Ministry in a bid to promote Bangkok as a cultural and cinematic hub for the region. There are noteworthy films from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. In addition to 10 recent titles, there are three "Asean Classics", including the 1975 social drama Manila in the Claws of Light by Lino Brocka and 1954's After the Curfew from Indonesia. The fest is covered at length in an entry posted on Tuesday, just moments after the schedule was finally revealed. I mostly want to see Bitcoins Heist from Vietnam. Tickets are free and handed out 30 minutes before the shows to punters who queue up at a special table there at CentralWorld.

The Friese-Greene Club – Chow Yun-fat is at his best tonight in The Killer, John Woo's seminal slice of 1980s Hong Kong action and thrills. Tomorrow, it's the "quirky '80s" with the Coen Bros.' debut Blood Simple, which pretty much set the template for everything they've done since. The club is booked for a private event on Saturday but is back open on Sunday for Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. Next Tuesday, there is a special screening, of the Cambodian documentary I Am Chut Wutty, which covers the killing of an environmental activist. With a venue in Phnom Penh threatened with "strong action" if it showed the film, director Fran Lambrick granted permission for the FGC to show it. It is a case similar to Bradley Cox's banned-in-Cambodia documentary Who Killed Chea Vichea? about a slain Cambodian labor organizer. Find out more at the Facebook events page. And next Wednesday it's Carol Reed's film-noir spy tale Our Man in Havana, starring Alec Guinness. Shows are at 8pm (except for Seven Samurai, which starts at 7). 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 strict judge is in an awkward situation in the comedy Nine-Month Stretch (9 mois ferme), which screens at 7pm on Friday in French with Thai subtitles. Next Wednesday's English-subbed offering is Heat Wave (Coup de chaud), a murder mystery that's set during a heat wave in a small African town. Admission is 100 baht for the general public.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – Films by Asian female directors living in the West have been the focus of the FCCT's Contemporary World Film Series of late, with Indo-Canadian Deepa Mehta's Earth screening on Tuesday. Next up, at 7pm on Monday, April 25, will be Dukhtar, which New York-based Pakistani Afia Nathaniel made to widespread acclaim. It follows the adventure of a determined mother who takes her daughter away to break the cycle of arranged marriage in the Pashtun tribe. It was Pakistan's official submission to the Academy Awards. Admission is 150 baht for non-members.

Take note

After the long Songkran break, movie distributors and multiplex chains are back in furious action this week getting eight or so smaller titles off their shelves ahead of the next big Hollywood comic-book tentpole, Captain America: Civil War, which actually hits cinemas next Wednesday along with a handful of other movies the following day. I'll aim for an update on the usual day. So see you next Thursday.

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