Thursday, May 5, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 5-11, 2016

Buppha Arigato

Yuthlert Sippapak is one of the Thai film industry's more distinctive and prolific directors. His signature move is to throw all kinds of ideas into the blender and then somehow assemble them as halfway coherent films that I have more or less enjoyed over the years.

After a bit of a hiatus, he's back at it with Buppha Arigato (บุปผาอาริกาโตะ, a.k.a. Buppha Rahtree: A Haunting in Japan).

Not only does it blend the horror, comedy and romance genres, it's also an Asian cultural mix, with a blood-and-slapstick story about Thai musicians visiting a winter resort in Japan, where they are haunted by the ghost of a spurned young woman.

Additionally, it is trading on a combination of well-known Thai movies, tying in with Yuthlert's own Buppha Rahtree franchise of ghost comedy-horrors and the hit 2003 film Fan Chan. The bulk of the cast are the kids from Fan Chan, all grown up, including that film's lead actor Charlie Potjes along with the schoolyard bully, Chalermpon "Jack" Thikampornteerawong, who is now a ubiquitous TV personality and commercial pitchman. It's the first time all the guys have been reunited onscreen since they were children.

There's a bit more about it at The Nation and Twitch has the English-subtitled trailer. Rated 15+

Also opening

High-Rise – The dystopian science fiction of J.G. Ballard comes to the screen in the starkly vivid style of Stanley Kubrick with High-Rise, about a futuristic apartment building that is a self-contained society, where you never have to leave. While the more-well-off live in decadence, the majority of tenants can only dream of moving to the better floors. Tom Hiddleston, now in TV's engrossing spy-thriller miniseries The Night Manager, stars as one of the more-well-off. The terrific cast also features Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss and James Purefoy. It's directed by the celebrated British indie filmmaker Ben Wheatley, who gathered accolades for A Field in England and the smaller cult films Kill List and Sightseers. Following premieres at last year's Toronto International Film Festival and San Sebastián, High-Rise has been generally well-received, and we're lucky to have it here on our screens. Rated 18+

The Witch – Decades before the Salem Witch Trials had viewers glued to their sets, a Puritan family in 1630 New England believes witchcraft is responsible for a missing baby, crop failures, a talking goat, demonic possessions and other forms of bad luck. A hit at Sundance last year, the indie horror is by writer-director Robert Eggers, making his feature debut. He won the Directing Award in the U.S. Dramatic category at Sundance. Critical reception is very favorable. The trailer was scary enough for me, but if you're into smart indie horror, this comes highly recommended. Rated 15+

Criminal – Kevin Costner is a dangerous convict who is implanted with the memories of a dead CIA agent and put on a mission to stop a terrorist. Costner appears to be working overtime to reinvent his late career in much the same manner as Liam Neeson has done with those Taken films. Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman are there to chew the scenery as well. It's directed by Ariel Vroman, who previously did the mob-assassin pic The Iceman. Critical reception is mixed, but fans of throwback action flicks and that trio of leading actors will probably enjoy this. Rated 15+

Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Uprising – Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne sign up for more campus hijinks, this time around going to war with a disruptive sorority that has moved into the quiet neighborhood where they are trying to raise a family. It's the same as the first Bad Neighbours (or just plain Neighbors, if you prefer), except instead of rowdy frat boys it's unruly girls. Chloë Grace Moretz and Selena Gomez are among the sadistic sorority sisters. And alumni from the first film are back to help out, including Zac Efron. This doesn't come out in the U.S. until May 20, so it's being released upon the unsuspecting overseas territories without the benefit of very much critical reception, but the buzz is heating up. Rated 18+

Mother's Day – Penny Marshall's dad is back to pour syrupy sentiment all over another holiday, this time picking the Mother's Day observance that's held around this time of year in most parts of the world except Thailand. But rather than wait for Thai Mother's Day on Her Majesty the Queen's birthday of August 12, we're getting Mother's Day right now. It follows the same formula as Garry Marshall's Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve, with several loosely interconnected stories of dysfunctional relationships starring big Hollywood names, including Pretty Woman herself Julia Roberts. Others cashing paychecks include Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Sarah Chalke, Aasif Mandvi, Timothy Olyphant, Jason Sudekis, Hector Elizondo, Margo Martindale and Jon Lovitz. As with those other Marshall holiday movies, critical reception is overwhelmingly negative. But agents love these movies, because it means work for their clients. So they will keep getting made. Rated G

1920 London – This is the third entry in the 1920 Bollywood horror series, which began in 2008 and had a followup in 2012 with 1920: The Evil Returns. Here, Meera Chopra is a woman who lives in London with her husband (Vishal Karwal). He appears to be demonically possessed after he receives a mysterious gift from Rajasthan. So she goes off to the storied desert land in search of an exorcist (Sharman Joshi). At Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday. Rated G

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, hitch up your sled and head on down for the 75th anniversary screening of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, which I think is part of the "Over-rated or under-appreciated?" theme for the month. Debate amongst yourselves. Tomorrow, it's the first entry in a look at the erotic, violent and highly stylish films of Peter Greenaway, starting with The Pillow Book. Saturday has one of American director Robert Altman's masterpieces, the anti-war, anti-establishment satire M*A*S*H, which pretty much set the template for the types of movies he made. Sunday has a mid-career Edward G. Robinson turn, as a leading man in Fritz Lang's film-noir The Woman in the Window. Next Wednesday features another early feature by American indie auteur Jim Jarmusch, his prison-escape yarn Down by Law. 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 street hood gets caught up in a graffiti gang in the French crime drama Vandal, screening with Thai subtitles on Friday. Next Wednesday's English-subbed offering is the action thriller The Connection, which has Jean Dujardin as a French lawman going after more or less the same drug ring Gene Hackman was trying to bust in The French Connection. Note that there will be no French film with Thai subtitles on May 13, because there will be a jazz concert. Shows are at 7pm. Admission is 100 baht for the general public.

Take note

Coming up, the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand has two more entries in the Contemporary World Film Series, Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter on May 16, and Filipino director Brillante Ma Mendoza's Thy Womb on May 30.

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