Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 26-December 2, 2009

A Christmas Carol

Director Robert Zemeckis is back with his third "performance capture" experiment with Disney's A Christmas Carol, featuring Jim Carrey as the miserly old grouch Ebenzer Scrooge. It's yet another of the dozens of adaptations of this classic novel by Charles Dickens, about how the black-hearted Scrooge learns the true meaning of compassion during a Christmas Eve visit by the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future.

I don't know. Give me the Muppets or Mr. Magoo or Scrooged with Bill Murray, along with a few Rankin-Bass specials, the Peanuts, and I'll consider my holiday complete.

But maybe Zemeckis is on to something. The director of the cult-hit Back to the Future series as well as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump and many others, it's the third outing for his still experimental "performance capture" technique. It's a hybrid of CGI animation and live action, in which the actors' movements are recorded and then rendered in a disturbingly dead-eyed manner. He first used the technique on another Christmas movie, the rather dull Polar Express in 2004, and then improved it a bit with the often bawdy and action-filled yarn Beowulf in 2007.

Carrey not only plays Scrooge but the three ghosts as well. So there is plenty of Carrey to go around. Somehow Gary Oldman, Cary Elwes, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn and Spy Kids' Daryl Sabara fit into this cast as well.

Reviews have been mixed.

It's playing in 3D in some cinemas, including the IMAX at Siam Paragon. Rated G.

Also opening

Ninja Assassin -- The Matrix directors Larry and Andy Wachowski are back, working as producers through their cipher, V for Vendetta director James McTeigue with this blood-soaked tale of the world's deadliest assassin. Not only is he a ninja -- already pretty bad ass (and most ninjas are assassins) -- he is also, uh, an assassin. South Korean superstar Rain takes on the role, getting a high-profile boost after his supporting effort in the Wachowskis' undeservedly ballyhooed Speed Racer. Naomie Harris from the Pirates of the Caribbean series is welcome here, playing a police officer on the trail of politically linked murders. Bond bad guy Rick Yune (Die Another Day) also stars. Reviews are mostly unfavorable. Rated 18+

Paranormal Activity -- Purportedly made for $15,000, this is the latest low-budget blockbuster. With popularity secured through a viral-marketing campaign by Paramount Pictures, it's earned more than $100 million, making movie-studio execs rub their hands together and muse whether more movies can be made like this. Similar to The Blair Witch Project, it's captured home-movie style, and is presented as a documentary, about a young couple who are haunted by a supernatural presence in their home. Reviews have been mostly positive. Rated 15+

Julie and Julia -- This fact-based comedy is about a writer who hatched a scheme to get rich. Having relatively little experience in the kitchen, she decided that the best way to land a book deal would be to cook all 524 of the recipes in TV chef Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", and write a blog about it. The plan worked. She got the book deal and now it's a movie, directed by Nora Ephron. Amy Adams portrays the blogger, Julie Powell. Her story is told in parallel with that of Julia Child, played by Meryl Streep, with episodes from Child's autobiography "My Life in France". Reviews have been mostly positive. At Paragon Cineplex.

Robsessed -- New Moon is raking it in. It earned 50 million baht in Thailand alone, and shattered The Dark Knight's opening-day record. This documentary is about the star of The Twilight Saga, heartthrob vampire Robert Pattinson. It follows the young English actor after he was ranked “Top Male Hottie” at the Teen Choice Awards. At House and Lido.

Yom-Pee-Poa (โยมผีพ่อ) -- Produced by Pacific Island Film, this comedy is about a novice Buddhist monk who is haunted by the ghost of his father (Charnnarong Khantheetao), who wants the boy to find his mother. Ghost dad grows to terrifying heights, to hilarious effect as can be seen in the trailer. So there is lots of running around and screaming from a cast of the usual comedians, including Apaporn Nakhon Sawan, "Jik" Naowarat Yuktanan and others.

Also showing

European Union Film Festival -- The festival continues through Sunday at SFW CentralWorld. Highlights in the upcoming days include Christmas Story from Finland, Crossed Tracks from France, Zozo from Sweden, Silent Wedding from Romania, The Collectress from Lithuania and Splinters from Poland. Check the schedule at the EU website.

Bollywood movies -- The fact-based terrorism thriller Kurbaan is back for two more screenings this weekend. It stars Kareena Kapoor as a wife who is shocked to find out she's been used as a pawn in her husband's (Saif Ali Khan's) terror plot. The movie caused controversy in India last week when outraged conservative protesters ripped down the movie posters, which depicted Kapoor's naked back. More artful demonstrators covered Kapoor's fleshy image with a painted-on sari. It's showing at 8 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday at Grand EGV Siam Discovery. Also back for another screening is Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, a romantic comedy with Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif. It's showing at 5 on Sunday at Grand EGV Siam Discovery. For tickets, call (089)488 2620 or (02) 225 7500 or log on to

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 19-25, 2009

European Union Film Festival

Bangkok's longest-running film festival gets underway tonight with Zozo, a Swedish drama about a Lebanese emigrant boy and his epic journey.

In all, there are 23 films from 17 countries playing until November 29 at SF World Cinema at Central World.

Here's the lineup:

  • Gibellina -- The Earthquake, directed by Joerg Burger (Austria) -- This documentary looks at Sicilian village that was rebuilt after an earthquake and how its lost its charm in its new incarnation as a lifeless modern bedroom community.
  • Ben X, directed by Nic Balthazar (Belgium) -- A mildly autistic bullied boy is inspired to take revenge on his tormentors.
  • A Farewell to Hemingway, directed by Svetoslav Ovtcharov (Bulgaria) -- In his many travels, Papa Hemingway once stayed in Bulgaria. This is the story of what happened.
  • Corridor #8, directed by Boris Despodov (Bulgaria) -- Corridor #8 is a huge infrastructure project meant to link the Black and the Adriatic Seas. Along the road, this documentary captures the moods, the prejudices and the hope of the people from the three Balkan countries, who paradoxically are “far away, so close” to each other.
  • Citizen Havel, directed by Miroslav Janek and Pavel Koutecky (Czech Republic) -- Václav Havel was a key figure in the great changes that took place in central and Eastern Europe in the 1990s. This documentary film captures his work and influence both in the Czech Republic and internationally.
  • Christmas Story, directed by Juha Wuolijoki (Finland) -- This is the fantastic story of the altruistic St. Nicholas -- the man who became Santa Claus.
  • Crossed Tracks (Roman de Gare), directed by Claude Lelouch -- Judith Ralitzer, femme fatale and popular writer, is seeking characters for her next best-seller. A serial killer has just escaped from a high-security prison. Huguelle, a hairdresser in a top Paris salon, is going to change their destiny.
  • La Paloma -- Longing Worldwide, directed by Sigrid Faltin (Germany) -- This is a look at the rich history of the evocative song "La Paloma", visiting the people who sing it in Cuba, Mexico, Hawaii, Romania, Germany, the Basque Country and Tanzania.
  • Adventurers, directed by Béla Paczolay (Hungary) -- A down-on-his-luck trumpeter and his borderline-hoodlum son want to bring grandpa to Budapest, to save him from the misery his life has become due to grandma’s senility.
  • Good Morning Heartache (Riprendimi), directed by Anna Negri (Italy) -- A young couple readying for the birth of their first child agree to let a team of documentary filmmakers follow them. As the pregnancy progresses, their relationship falls apart.
  • The Viceroys, directed by Roberto Faenza (Italy) -- This acclaimed historical drama is set in the mid 1800s in the last years of the reign of the House of Bourbon in Sicily. As seen through the eyes of a boy, the dynasty’s last heir, the mysteries, intrigues and complex personalities of the other family members are brought to light.
  • The Collectress, directed by Kristina Buožytė (Lithuania) -- A traumatized speech therapist no longer feels emotions.
  • Irina Palm, directed by Sam Garbarski (Luxembourg) -- Marianne Faithfull stars as a working-class fiftysomething widow who is deeply in debt. She plunges into the London prostitution scene and reinvents herself.
  • Love is All, directed by Joram Lürsen (Netherlands) -- An ensemble romantic comedy looks at various situations -- a mother falling for a teenage Don Juan, a perfectionist wife causing stress, a woman's fling with a member of the Dutch royal family and an undertaker and lifeguard who are planning to get married.
  • Hannah Hannah, directed by Annemarie van de Mond (Netherlands) -- A stubborn outsider in a large family is left with mixed feelings when her family warmly accepts her new boyfriend.
  • Splinters (Drzazgi), directed by Maciej Pieprzyca (Poland) -- The paths of three people cross during a seemingly ordinary and grey weekend. They haven't intended to meet and shouldn't have met, but the fate gave them no choice.
  • Our Beloved Month of August, directed by Miguel Gomes (Portugal) -- Summer is a time for music and celebration in Portugal, where singer Tania and guitarist Heider are young, attractive and enjoy a mutual attraction. The director and his crew try to get their project off the ground, be it a musical, a fact-based drama, or a horror film.
  • California Dreaming, directed by Cristian Nemescu (Romania) -- In his comedy-drama, a NATO arms train bound for the Kosovo war is stopped in a small Romanian village and delayed by corrupt local officials. Armand Assante is among the cast. It won the Prix un certain regard at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007.
  • Silent Wedding, directed by Horatiu Mălăele (Romania) -- In this comedy-drama, a couple's wedding is cancelled due to the death of Stalin. They plan to go ahead with the ceremony anyway.
  • Obaba, directed by Montxo Armendáriz (Spain) -- A young woman filmmaker heads to a small town in the Basque Country to make a documentary. As she digs deeper, the village becomes shrouded in magic — something to do with the mysterious green lizards which plague the townspeople -- and allegedly feed on their brains.
  • Mataharis, directed by Icíar Bollaín (Spain) -- This drama explores relationships and ethics in the daily life of working women.
  • Zozo, directed by Josef Fares (Sweden) -- Loosely based on the director's own life story, a 10-year-old boy struggles to flee Beirut amidst war.
  • The Linnaeus Experience, directed by Folke Rydén (Sweden) -- This experimental documentary is a look at how we should behave and act today in order to survive tomorrow and how can science and research contribute to a better world.
  • Sounds Like Teen Spirit, directed by Jamie Jay Johnson (UK) -- Go behind the scenes of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, in which contestants aged 10 to 15 must compose and write their own entries and sing them in their national language.

Note that out of all these, only two are on 35mm film -- Ben X from Belgium and Crossed Tracks from France. The rest are DVD. All have English subtitles or are English language. Only the Polish film Splinters and the two Dutch romantic comedies Love Is All and Hannah Hannah have English and Thai subs.

Check the schedule at the EU delegation website.

Also opening

New Moon -- The second film in The Twilight Saga has teenage girl Bella (Kristin Stewart) delving deeper into the supernatural world of vampires and werewolves. Taylor Lautner and the teenage werewolf boys do a lot of running around without their shirts on. Pale skinned teenage vampire Robert Pattinson broods. A welcome addition to the cast is Dakota Fanning. Chris Weitz directs. Rated G.

Goemon -- Kazuaki Kiriya, the visionary maker of the dystopian sci-fi fantasy Casshern, which was shot on a "digital backlot", returns with his second outing -- a history fantasy on the infamous Robin Hood-like ninja warrior and bandit of 16th century Japan. Yosuke Eguchi stars. Rated 15+.

Crossing Over -- Wayne Kramer, the indie director of The Cooler and Running Scared, directs this ensemble drama about illegal immigrants of various nationalities struggling to survive in Los Angeles. It stars Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Jim Sturgess and Cliff Curtis. At SFW CentralWorld and SFX Emporium. Rated 15+.

Kurbaan -- Rensil D'Silva directs this fact-based Indian romantic drama that is set against the backdrop of global terrorism. Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan star. It's playing Friday and Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 4 and 7 at SFW CentralWorld. Call 089 488 2620, 02 2257500 or visit

The Time Travellers Wife -- This story of a woman (Rachel McAdams) who is married to librarian (Eric Bana) who involuntarily time travels is back in a limited re-release at House on RCA.

Take note

Rak Haeng Siam, Chookiat Sakweerakul’s acclaimed gay coming-of-age romantic drama is showing at House on RCA tomorrow and Sunday at 5.30. Fans can enter a drawing for a Japanese poster for Love of Siam. It’s the third entry in House’s “Queer Movie” series. Visit

There is also a Science Film Festival going on at various venues like the Goethe Institut, the Children's Discovery Museum and TK Park in CentralWorld. One of the entries that caught my eye is A Mirror of a Living Train Market (กระจกสะท้อนวิถีชีวิตชาวตลาดรถไฟ), a five-minute documentary produced by the MCOT TV station Modernine, about the market operating on the tracks of the Mae Klong Railway. It's playing several times, including at 4pm show on Saturday at TK Park. You can check the Goethe Institut website for the rest of the lineup. The schedule is all in Thai.