Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 30, 2009-January 6, 2010

32 Thunwa

Singer Dan Worrawech continues building on his acting career with a new romantic comedy, 32 Thunwa. He's reteaming with director Rerkchai Paungpetch, who directed Dan's hit 2006 comedy Noodle Boxer (Sab Sanit Sit Sai Nar.

Opened today, it's the first production from M39 Pictures, a new company formed by former crew from RS Film's Avant marque, which has undergone restructuring.

Dan, formerly a singer with the boyband trio D2B and then the duo Dan+Beam, is continuing his solo singing career but is also acting in more films. He appeared in the segment Ward in Phobia 2 earlier this year. He made his film debut in 2003's Pang Bros.-produced Omen (Sung horn) with D2B bandmates "Beam" Kavee Tanjararak and "Big" Panrawat Kittikorncharoen (who died in 2007 after four years in a coma caused by a car wreck).

In 32 Thunwa (32 ธันวา, 32 December Love Error), Dan has amnesia and has forgotten which of his three girlfriends he truly loves. He gets help in figuring things out from a fellow clinic patient, played by "Nong" Choosak Eamsuk. Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Ramida Mahapreukpong and "Pai" Sitang Punnapob also star. It's rated 15+.

There's a trailer at YouTube and it's embedded below.

Also opening

Did You Hear About the Morgans? -- Hugh Grant returns after a couple-years absence with yet another romantic comedy. He's teamed up with Sex in the City's Sarah Jessica Parker for a story about a Manhattan couple on the verge of divorce because of his infidelity, but they are forced to stay together after they witness a murder. Put into the federal witness-protection program, the Morgans are shipped to a small town in Wyoming, where cattle and horses outnumber the people and rodeos are more a way of life than Broadway shows and shopping. The local sheriff is played by Sam Elliot and his gun-obsessed, Sarah Palin-like wife is portrayed by Mary Steenburgen. Wilford Brimley also stars. Critical reception has been overwhelmingly negative. Rated 13+.

The Treasure Hunter -- Taiwanese singer-actor Jay Chou gets a chance to do some of his own stunts in this desert adventure that looks like a cross between Road Warrior, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Mummy. He's the hero who rescues a damsel (Lin Chiling) and in the process loses a map to a sacred treasure. He then must recover the map from the outlaws and protect the cache of ancient artifacts. Eric Tsang also stars. Unfortunately, only the Thai-dubbed version is playing. Rated 13+.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 23-30, 2009

October Sonata

October Sonata, which opened on Wednesday this week, is a weepy romantic drama that is set in the 1970s.

The star is "Koy" Ratchawin Wongviriya, the short-haired actress who gained notice from 2008's love-triangle drama Rak/Sam/Sao (The Last Moment), in which she co-starred with "Pe" Arak Amornsupasiri. The two became an item, but have hit a rocky patch of late, and last week while promoting October Sonata, Koy broke down in tears in front of the press when she was questioned about the relationship.

Lyn's Lakorns has more about the "break", which seems to be due to the busy schedules kept by both stars.

Pe, a guitarist with the alternative rock band Slur, starred in two movies this year -- Yongyoot Thongkongtoon's romantic dramedy The Best Times and Kongkiat Komesiri's harrowing crime thriller Slice. He's also a pitchman for Mazda cars. And there was the gaffe a few months ago when Pe was set to star in the Laotian-Thai co-production of Sabaidee Luang Prabang 2 until he made a disaparging remark about the physical attractiveness of Laotian women.

Koy has kept busy too, starring in Bhandit Rittakol's A-Nueng Kidthueng Pen Yang Ying.

October Sonata (รักที่รอคอย, Rak Nee Thee Rorkoy) is directed by veteran screenwriter Somkiet Vithuranitch and is set in the 1970s, with a couple meeting at the October 8, 1970, funeral of actor Mitr Chaibancha. They set a date to meet again three years later, but tumultuous historical events and a love triangle intercede. Thanawat Wattanaphuti and Phisanu Nimsakul also star. It's rated G at most cinemas (Major Cineplex), but there's a 13+ version list on the SF cinemas site.

Also opening

The Storm Warriors -- Danny and Oxide Pang direct this sequel to The Storm Riders, a 1998 flying-swordsmen fantasy that re-energized the Hong Kong movie industry. The first film was directed by Andrew Lau, who later went on to make the hit thriller Infernal Affairs. Ekin Cheng and Aaron Kwok return as the mystical warriors Wind and Cloud for The Storm Riders II, also called The Storm Warriors. This time they face Lord Godless. Played by Simon Yam, he's a ruthless Japanese warlord bent on invading China. Meanwhile, Wind has a battle of his own, as he allows dark forces to take over his soul so he can gain more power. The Pang Brothers, twin-brother directors best known for their Thailand-based The Eye films and Bangkok Dangerous (both the 1999 original and the recent remake with Nicolas Cage), filmed Storm Warriors in a Bangkok riverfront warehouse and have spent about a year or so adding the virtual backdrops and computer-graphic special effects. Charlene Choi, Nicholas Tse, Tang Yan and Lam Suet also star. Rated 13+.

Sherlock Holmes -- Director Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) makes his first period film, going back to 19th century London for this action-comedy romp with Robert Downey Jr. portraying Arthur Conan Doyle's sleuth. Here, the deductive detective is also known for his brawn, as well as his brains. Jude Law is Holmes' sidekick Dr. Watson. Their adversary is Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), a Satanic cult leader who comes back from the dead. Rachel McAdams also stars. Critical response has been mixed, but Downey is already up for a Golden Globe for his performance. Rated 13+.

I Give My First Love to You -- A girl and boy meet in the hospital. She is the daughter of a doctor and he is a patient with a terminal illness. He won't live past 20. They make a promise for an uncertain future. At House and the Lido.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 17-22, 2009


James Cameron has been wanting to do Avatar since before he did Titanic. Finally, technology progressed to a point to where his vision could be realized.

This special-effects-driven hybrid animation and live action epic is set in the future on a far-away moon called Pandora. There, a valuable and rare mineral called unobtainium is being mined to solve Earth's energy woes. The biggest deposit of the rock is right under a village populated by a fearsome race of nine-foot-tall blue-skinned warriors called the Na'vi -- hunter-gatherers who live in harmony with nature, much like the Native Americans.

Into the mix comes Jake Scully (Sam Worthington), a Marine veteran who's lost the use of his legs. He gets the chance to fight again by putting his brain to work in an avatar -- a lab-grown body of a Na'vi warrior. Sent to infiltrate the tribe, he of course falls in love with the tribe's princess, played by Zoe Saldana.

Sigourney Weaver, Cameron's Aliens star, plays a scientist who heads up the avatar research. Stephen Lang, who's previously played American Civil War generals Pickett and Stonewall Jackson in Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, is a colonel here, intent on wiping out the Na'vi. The cast also includes Giovanni Ribisi as the head of the mining corporation, plus Michelle Rodriguez and Joel Moore.

As much as $400 million is said to have been spent on making this movie and marketing it. Will 20th Century Fox make back that money? They are hoping for a Titanic-like miracle.

Critical reception has so far been mostly positive, though there have been grumblings that while the effects are wow-worthy, the story isn't all that great. It's playing in 3D in some cinemas, including the Krungsri Imax. Rated G.

Also opening

Paa -- The roles are reversed. Bollywood veteran Amitabh Bachchan portrays a 13-year-old boy with a genetic disorder that causes him to age rapidly. His father is played by Big B's son, Abishek Bachchan. In Hindi with English subtitles at Major Cineplex Central Rama III at 8 on Saturday and 4.30 on Sunday and at SFX the Emporium on Monday at 8. Also, the colorful comedy Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, starring the likable Ranbir Kapoor, is showing on Sunday at 4 at Grand EGV Siam Discovery. Call (089)488 2620, (02) 225 7500 or visit

Also showing

House on RCA is playing the Icelandic teen drama Noi Albinoi at 5.30 daily until December 23. It's the story of a weird outcast young man who makes various clumsy attempts to break free of life in a tiny snowbound Icelandic fishing village. Admission is 80 baht.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Thailand's official ratings symbols

The official symbols for Thailand's motion picture ratings system enacted this year are starting to come into use. They are being used on movie posters, ads, cinema websites and are flashed on a title card before the start of the main feature.

The symbols are as follows:
  • Category 1 – Promote (Rated P): For educational films that the government encourages everyone to see. Symbolized by a smiley face.
  • Category 2 – General (Rated G): Appropriate for viewers of any age. Symbolized by a house.
  • Category 3 – 13+: Suggested for viewers aged 13 and older.
  • Category 4 – 15+: Suggested for viewers aged 15 and older.
  • Category 5 – 18+: Suggested for viewers aged 18 and older.
  • Category 6 – 20-: Restricted to viewers aged 20 and older, with ID checks mandatory.
There is also the hidden seventh category, for films that are banned. No symbol has been created for those films because under the law they will never be seen – at least to the knowledge of the authorities. Maybe there should be a symbol for that one – a winking smiley face.

The new symbols replace ones that were earlier drafted but were sent back to the drawing board.

Since the ratings came into effect in August, I've noticed that Thai films tend to be rated more harshly than Hollywood films. Most Thai films have been rated 15+ and higher, while Hollywood films are tending to be more liberally rated than they are in the US. In particular, Thailand's G rating offers more leniency than Hollywood's.

For example, in the U.S., The Road is rated R, restricted to viewers 17 and over "for some violence, disturbing images and language". In Thailand, John Hillcoat's cannibalism-laced adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's bleak post-apocalyptic novel is rated 13+. Disney's A Christmas Carol is rated PG (parental guidance) in the U.S. for "for scary sequences and images", but in Thailand Robert Zemeckis' creepily unsettling hybrid animation of Charles Dickens' novel was passed as rated G. The Rebound, a Catherine Zeta-Jones romantic comedy Rated R "for language, some sexual content and brief drug use" was also passed as Rated G.

Exceptions to this trend include Couples Retreat, rated PG-13 in the States and rated 13+ in Thailand. Ninja Assassin, rated R in the U.S. "for strong bloody stylized violence throughout, and language", which was rated 18+ in Thailand. Under the old censorship system, those sprays of blood would surely have been pixellated or cut altogether.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 10-16, 2009

The Road

John Hillcoat, director of the bleak Outback western The Proposition, gets even more depressing with The Road, which is adapted from Cormac McCarthey's novel about life in a post-apocalyptic United States.

Viggo Mortensen stars, playing a father who with his young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is walking the starkly abandoned highways and byways of America, looking for civilization among the ruins, which are mainly populated by nomadic bands of cannibals.

To play the role, Viggo whittled down his already lean frame by starving himself during production, confining himself to a diet of dark chocolate and a little red meat.

Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce and Charlize Theron also star. I'll be looking out for Michael K. Williams (Omar from The Wire) and Garret Dillahunt (Cromartie from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) in supporting roles.

Like The Proposition, music is by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

Critical reception, despite the film's punishing nature, is mostly positive. At SF cinemas. Rated 13+.

Pai in Love

Thai filmmakers have taken Paris, je t'aime and New York, I Love You to heart it seems. Now there's Pai in Love (ปาย อิน เลิฟ) -- six short films set in Pai, a tiny town in the mountains of northern Thailand that is a draw for foreign backpackers and Thai hipsters.

From what I understand, the six segments have been edited to form an ensemble romance story, similar to Love Actually. Here's a rundown of the six pieces:

  • Ong-Bak and Chocolate director Prachya Pinkaew's is Rak Ter Tee Soon, starring Leo Putt and Kanya Rattapetch.
  • Bang Rajan helmer Thanit Jitnukul directs Pai Postcard with "Guitar" Chayanun Ardpru and Suttírak Putsoonrot.
  • Actress Tak Bongkot Kongmalai makes her directorial debut with 3 Days of Hers, 3 Days of His, 3 Days for Us (3 วัน ของเธอ 3 วัน ของ เขา และ 3 วัน ของ เรา) starring Ray MacDonald and "Kratae" Supaksorn Chaimongkol.
  • Bandit Thongdee (Mercury Man, 4 Romances) directs Pee Sao Khrap starring "Boy" Pakorn Chadborirak and "Noo Jaa" Achiraya Peerapatkunchaya.
  • Love Sick by Dunyasit Niyomkul stars the original Bangkok Dangerous man Pawalit Mongkolpisit and "Niew" Patìda Atyatomwittayaa.
  • Sakchai Deenan (Sabaidee Luang Prabang) directs Postcard from Pai with men's magazine model "Run" Natthamonkarn Srinikornchot.
  • And Tittipong Chaisatìdee directs Secret (Kwaam Lap Kong Kwam Rak) with Noppan Boonyai, Pongam Panatju and Chalohton Prirat.

There's a trailer at YouTube. Rated 13+.

Also opening

Whip It -- It's Juno on skates. Ellen Page, the misfit pregnant teen from Diablo Cody's indie-quirk sensation last year, stars as a rebellious teenager in a small Texas town who's forced by her square-jawed mother (Marcia Gay Harden) to enter beauty pageants. She's far too hip for that. And clumsy. But she discovers plenty of poise and confidence when she straps on roller skates and becomes Babe Ruthless, a member of the Hurl Scouts, a mini-skirted, elbow-throwing women's roller-derby team. It's the directorial debut by Drew Barrymore, who also stars along with Kristen Wiig, Zoe Bell, Andrew Wilson, Daniel Stern and Jimmy Fallon. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's at House, Paragon and CentralWorld. Rated 13+.

The Founding of a Republic -- Celebrating 60 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China, this epic piece of propaganda charts the ascendancy of the Communist Party and Mao Zedong, who is portrayed by Tang Guoqiang, a well-known Mainland TV star. There's a star-studded cast of around 200, including Andy Lau, Zhang Ziyi, Jackie Chan and Jet Li, some in cameos so brief you'll probably miss them. Rated G.

The Warrior and the Wolf -- This fantasy epic is set in ancient times in the Gobi Desert, where a warrior (Jo Odagiri) begins an affair with a woman (Maggie Q) from a tribe has mystical connections to wolves. It's by veteran Chinese helmer Tian Zhuangzhuang, who adapted the screenplay from a novel by Inoue
Yasushi. At the Lido.

The Fourth Kind -- Milla Jovovich stars in this fact-based thriller, playing a psychologist in an Alaskan town. She comes to believe that her patients are suffering trauma because they were abucted by aliens. Critical reception is overwhelmingly negative. Rated G.

Rocket Singh -- Salesman of the Year -- Bollywood's biggest star of the year, Ranbir Kapoor, stars in this comedy about a freshly-graduated young man whose marks in college bar him from entering the medical or engineering fields. So he takes a job in sales. At Major Cineplex Central Rama III on Friday and Saturday 8, Sunday at 4 and 7 and Monday at 8. Call (089)488 2620, (02) 225 7500 or visit

Also showing

British Film Festival -- Two screenings remain in this year's fest -- It's a Free World at 7 tonight and Looking for Eric at 7 on Friday night. Both are directed by Ken Loach. Free World is about a young London woman who starts an employment agency of migrant workers. Eric stars soccer great Eric Cantona as himself. He coaches a postman, also named Eric, through a crisis.

House on RCA is playing the Swedish vampire drama Let the Right One In at 5.30. It's the story of a bullied boy growing up in suburban Stockholm of the 1980s who is befriended by a 200-year-old child vampire. Admission is 80 baht.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 3-9, 2009

Yam Yasothon 2

Mum Jokmok moves from reluctant lover to shotgun-toting dad in Yam Yasothon 2.

A sequel to 2005's country comedy, Yam Yasothon 2 promises more eye-scaldingly colorful outfits and a double-barrel load of down-home country humor. Janet Khiaw is back as Yam's wife Juei, with Mum's real-life daughter, Em Busarakam Wongkumlao and son Mick Phaytai joining the cast. There's also "Dim" Harin Suthamjaras from the rock group Tattoo Color as the romantic lead.

The story takes place sometime in the 1960s, same as the first film. But somehow, 20 years have passed and the prodigious brood of children sired by Yam and the amorous Juei have all left the nest, except for one daughter and one son.

Yam, now a morally upstanding village headman, is determined to protect his daughter from the roving eye of a visiting agriculture ministry official, even if it means blasting the young man with his shotgun.

There are plenty of salty jokes, colorful outfits, outlandish makeup and hairstyles as well as more than a few great tunes by a band that serenades the buffalo in the rice field. Rated 15+.

Also opening

Couples Retreat -- Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell are a couple on the verge of divorce who hope to fix their marriage at a tropical-island resort that is a Club Med for relationships. They'll get a group rate if they bring their friends along, only those three other couples don't realize that the counseling sessions are mandatory. It's a reunion of sorts for Swingers pals Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, who repectively (but not respectfully) play husbands to Malin Ackerman and Kristen Davis. Faizon Love and Kali Hawk are another couple along for the ride. Critical reception has been overwhelmingly negative, despite the talented cast. Rated 13+.

Astro Boy -- Hollywood takes on the Japanese anime TV icon, with a big-screen 3-D animated origin story that features the voice talent of Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage, Samuel L. Jackson and a litany of other big names. Reviews have been evenly mixed. Only at SF cinemas. Rated G.

Turning Point -- Shaw Brothers, a production marque from the golden age of Hong Kong cinema, makes its return with this thriller that seems informed by Infernal Affairs. Michael Tse is a young mobster who is tasked by his boss Brother One -- the always watchable Anthony Wong -- to become a mole in the police department. Eric Tsang, Francis Ng and Yuen Biao also star. In Cantonese with English and Thai subtitles at the Lido.

De Dana Dan -- Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif star in this madcap comedy caper along with Sunil Shetty, Paresh Rawal, Neha Dhupia, Rajpal Yadav and Chunky Pandey. It's in Hindi with English subtitles at Major Cineplex Central Rama III at 8 Friday and Saturday and 4 and 7 and Sunday and at Grand EGV Siam Discovery on Monday at 7.30. Call (089)488 2620, (02) 225 7500 or visit

British Film Festival

Five British films from the past year or so are showing at SFW CentralWorld from Friday until next Friday. Here's the lineup:

  • Is Anybody There? -- Michael Caine stars as a retired magician who strikes up an odd friendship with an eccentric 10-year-old boy in an old-folks home. Friday at 7 and Sunday at 3.
  • It's a Free World -- Sacked from her job, a young woman (Kierston Wareing) sets up a recruitment agency for migrant workers in London. Ken Loach directs. Saturday at 3 and Thursday at 7.
  • The Boat That Rocked -- Richard Curtis goes back to the swinging ’60s with his latest ensemble comedy, set on a ship that’s home to a pirate radio station. Bill Nighy, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Nick Frost are among the stars. It was released in the US as Pirate Radio and is already out on legal DVD here. Saturday and Monday at 7.
  • Looking for Eric -- Football great Eric Cantona stars as himself in this comedy that was the toast of the Cannes Film Festival back in May. With his famous philosophical quips, he’s helping a postman, also named Eric, through a mid-life crisis. Sunday and next Friday at 7.
  • The Age of Stupid -- Franny Armstrong directs this experimental documentary that stars Pete Postlethwait as an archivist in the future who looks back at footage of the present and wonders why we didn’t do anything to prevent climate change. Tuesday at 7.

All shows are 100 baht and are subtitled in Thai. They are all on film except for The Boat That Rocked. There's also a free program of Airplay UK music videos and Thomas and Friends shows at TK Park's mini- theatre. For more details, check the British Council website.