Friday, June 25, 2010

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Thai Short Film Marathon, July 1-August 1, 2010

It's that time of year again, when the selection committee, enthusiastic cinephiles and student filmmakers hunker down in a room and watch the hundreds of entries that have been submitted to the Thai Short Film & Video Festival.

This year for the festival's 14th edition, there's around 500 entries to look over, and in order to be seen, they have to be shown.

The Thai Film Foundation has the list of entries.

The Short Film Marathon is the first round of selection to pare down the selection for the various competitions in the 14th Thai Short Film & Video Festival, which is open to student films, documentaries, the general public and foreign filmmakers.

The marathon starts on July 1 and runs daily until August 1, except on Mondays and July 13 to 18. Showtimes are 5 to 8.30 Tuesday through Friday and 11 to 8.30 on Saturday and Sunday. The screening space is the fourth-floor meeting room in the Bangkok Art and Culture Center.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 24-30, 2010

Lung Boonmee Raluek Chat (Uncle Boonmee who can Recall his Past Lives)

Lucky Thailand. It's the third country on the planet to see this year's Palme d'Or winner from the Cannes Film Festival.

Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a strange, gentle tale of a man suffering from kidney disease who chooses to spend his final days surrounded by his loved ones in the countryside. In a solid narrative, told in fractured episodes, the ghost of Boonmee's deceased wife appears to care for him, and his long-lost son returns home in a monkey’s body. In a much-talked about scene, a princess (Wallapa Mongkolprasert) has sex with a talking catfish. Eventually Boonmee sets off on a quest through a spooky jungle and is drawn to a cave where he was born in his first life.

Shot on 16mm stock, it's an old form of moviemaking that pays homage to the films Apichatpong saw in the Khon Kaen theatres of his youth, as well as TV dramas and comic books.

Since his return from Cannes, Apichatpong has been the toast of Thailand. The movie screened to two packed halls at the SFX Emporium last Friday for a press and VIP premiere.

At Cannes, jury president Tim Burton said "I felt it was a beautiful, strange dream you don't see very often. It's the type of cinema I don't usually see and again, that's what this festival is all about. ... You always want to be surprised by films and it did that for most of us."

Critical reception for Apichatpong's films has always been wildly polarized, though this year the negative criticism seems a bit muted.

Among those in favor of Uncle Boonmee was Screen Daily's Mark Adams, who called the film "a beautifully assembled affair, with certain scenes staged with painterly composure, and also increasingly moving as the subtle story develops." There is also "surreal humour – often laugh-out-loud moments".

Film Business Asia's Derek Elley found it a "baffling and ponderous take on reincarnation ... pretentious, elitist filmmaking without point or human pathos."

Apichatpong himself has urged audiences not to take it so seriously, saying "please don't think too much and let yourself be hypnotized and taken on a journey".

There's also a review at The Nation.

Watch the trailer at YouTube and see if you aren't intrigued.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives starts tomorrow (Friday), at SFX the Emporium, with showtimes at 7.20 nightly and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2. Rated 15+.

Also opening

That Sounds Good (เรา สองสาม คน, Rao Song Sam Khon) – Director "Leo" Kittikorn Liawsirikul hits the road for this romance set against the backdrop of an off-road rally kicking up dust across Laos and Vietnam. Musician Jay Montonn Jira shifts from scoring movies to starring in them with That Sounds Good. The composer of the 9 Wat soundtrack portrays the driver of a four-wheel-drive rig. Along for the ride with Jay's Somchu are two young women, Ter and Soontri (Ramita Mahapreukpong and Rattanrat Eertaweekul). The former doesn't see so good and wears thick round eyeglasses while the latter has impaired hearing and wears a hearing aid. Inevitably, with the three attached to their orange Suzuki four-wheeler, a love triangle forms, with plenty of significant glances and long, moody looks at the exotic landscape. Rated 13+.

The Karate Kid – More 1980s nostalgia is mined in this franchise reboot, with Will Smith's son Jaden Smith taking over the Ralph Macchio role. The setting is changed but the story is the same. A boy moves with his mother (Taraji P Henson) to a new place; this time it's Beijing instead of Los Angeles. Picked on by bullies, the kid tries to learn some karate moves, which prove ineffective but are enough so this franchise can keep its name. Jackie Chan steps into Pat Morita's role as a kindly handyman who takes the boy under his wing. The guy is actually a kung fu master, but keeps that a secret. He teaches the boy how to take the jacket off. Jacket on, jacket off, and so on. Critical reception has been surprisingly not so negative, with the stoney-hearted guys over at Twitch remarking this is probably the best solid acting performance that Chan's done. Harald Zwart (The Pink Panther 2, One Night at McCool's) directs. Rated G.

Knight and Day – Cameron Diaz plays a young woman who haplessly becomes involved in the violence-filled exploits of an unhinged fugitive secret agent played by Tom Cruise. Struggling to survive a mission that has him marked for death, the agent and the woman embark on a globe-trotting adventure with a determined federal agent (Peter Sarsgaard) in hot pursuit. This movie has long been in development hell, with many stars and directors attached. James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) finally got it done. Early critical reception is mixed. Rated 13+.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee – Writer-director Rebecca Miller puts together this ensemble drama starring Robin Wright as a woman with a checkered past who seeks to calm her life down by marrying a man 30 years her senior (Alan Arkin). They move to a Connecticut retirement community, where Pippa finds excitement is not ready to leave her yet. Bored, she strikes up a friendship with a neighbor's emotionally troubled son (Keanu Reeves). Monica Bellucci, Julianne Moore, Maria Bello and Winona Ryder also star. Critical reception is mixed, with the consensus being it's a "reverential and offbeat .... road trip film [that] takes emotional detours and is elevated by great performances, particularly that of Robin Wright. At the Lido.

Fire of Conscience – Dante Lam directs this Hong Kong crime thriller that stars Leon Lai and Richie Jen as mismatched cop partners investigating the murder of a prostitute. When DNA evidence implicates a fellow officer from Lai's beat as the prime suspect, they must look beyond the obvious to get to the truth. Fire of Concscience premiered earlier this year at the Hong Kong International Film Festival. In Chinese with English and Thai subtitles at House on RCA.

Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance – This is the second in the Rebuild of Evangelion anime series, set in a post-apocalyptic world and involving a team of young pilots of giant mecha fighting machines, battling the constant attacks of the monstrous Angels. In Japanese with only Thai subtitles at the Lido.

Also showing

Raajneeti – Naseeruddin Shah, Arjun Rampal, Nana Patekar, Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Ajay Devgn and Manoj Bajpai star in this sprawling multi-character Bollywood drama about a backstabbing family of politicians. It's thought to be loosely based on the Congress Party dynasty headed by Sonia Gandhi. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's playing at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit (Ekamai) tonight (Thursday) at 7.30. Call (089) 488 2620 or visit

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 17-23, 2010

The A-Team

I have dim memories of watching The A-Team on TV back the 1980s. Don't remember much about it except for the Mohawked, gold-chain-wearing Mr. T and "I pity the fool ..."

Anyway, The A-Team are back, now on the big screen. They are still a group of four soldiers, sent to prison for a crime they didn't commit. Instead of Vietnam, now they have been fighting in Iraq.

Liam Neeson takes the late George Peppard's role as Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith, the cigar-chomping leader of the group. Bradley Cooper is in the Dirk Benedict role as the wisecracking Face, the charismatic ladies man. "Howling Mad" Murdock is the pilot of the group. He was played by Dwight Schultz on TV but is now portrayed by Sharlto Copley, the talented actor from South Africa who rose to fame starring in last year's District 9. And though I think Mr. T is irreplaceable, they have cast multiple-martial-arts star Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, who shaves a Mohawk onto his scalp and gives it go as B.A. Baracus.

The trailer is a blast. They parachute out of a plane in a tank, and actually shoot down another plane while they're in the air.

Joe Carnanhan, the filmmaker who rose to prominence with the indie crime thriller Narc and also helmed the cult-hit Smokin' Aces, directs.

Critical reception is pretty evenly split, with the consensus being that this "big-screen version ... captures the superficial, noisy spirit of the TV series".

Be sure to stick around through the ending credits for a humorous sequence involving Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz.

Mr. T thinks the rated PG-13 movie is too violent. The Thai censors think so too, and gave it an advisory rating of 18+.

Also opening

Bitter/Sweet (ข้ามฟ้า หาสูตรรัก, Kam Fah Ha Sut Rak) – This awkward Hollywood-Thai romance has been touring the festival circuit for the past year or so and has even won a few awards. It stars Kip Pardue as an American coffee buyer looking for beans in Krabi. He meets a feisty Thai woman, played by Mamee Nakprasit, and falls in love, even though she hates him at first sight. James Brolin is the boss of coffee company who actually has an ulterior motive for sending Pardue to Krabi. The cast includes Akara Amarttayakul as a Muay Thai boxer who's in for a big surprise. There's also Spencer Garrett as a drunken Austrian expat – a comic-relief wingman for Pardue's character – and Kalorin Supaluck Neemayothin as the drunk's long-suffering girlfriend. Pakkaramia Potranan is Mamee's younger sister, who's the boxer's girlfriend. Veteran actors Viyada Umarin and Sompob Benjathikul are the mom-and-pop coffee farmers. And Singer Tata Young makes a an appearance so brief, it's hardly worth mentioning. The movie opened with a star-studded premiere at last week's Phuket Film Festival. The trailer is at YouTube. Rated 13+.

Takien: The Haunted Tree (นางตะเคียน, Nang Takien) – Haunted-tree dramas are an enduring tradition in Thai cinema. This latest one is produced by Pacific Island Film, makers of last year's moralistic teenage-drugs drama Samchuk. So it's sure to contain a message in its story of a troubled young woman (Jiranun Manochaem) who commits suicide by hanging herself in a takien tree and haunting the local village. Rated 18+.

StreetDance 3D – A London streetdance crew goes begging for rehearsal space and strikes a deal with a ballet troupe. In 3D. Rated 13+.

The Message – Cloak-and-dagger thrills in Japanese-occupied China during World War II. The Japanese try to smoke out a Chinese mole by sending a fake message. Directed by Chen Kuo-fu and Gao Qunshu, this Chinese thriller has had some decent reviews. At the Lido.

Raajneeti – Naseeruddin Shah, Arjun Rampal, Nana Patekar, Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Ajay Devgn and Manoj Bajpai star in this sprawling multi-character Bollywood political drama. It's thought to be loosely based on the Congress Party dynasty headed by Sonia Gandhi. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's playing at Major Cineplex Rama III on Saturday at 7.30 and on Sunday at 4. Call (089) 488 2620 or visit

Take note

House on RCA is not showing movies this week. It's holding the annual auditions for the Academy Fantasia reality-TV show.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 10-16, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

It doesn't matter that Jake Gyllenhaal isn't Persian. The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time looks utterly ridiculous. A confusing wash of sand and CGI.

Can you tell I'm excited about seeing it?

The Brokeback Mountain star has bulked up considerably to play this swashbuckling role, based on a character in a video game. He's a prince, adopted at birth by the king with the intent of keeping the king's two sons from fighting over the throne. But things don't work out that way, and the adoptee prince is made a fugitive. He has the Dagger of Time, which gives him the power of going back just a little bit and take another stab at something that might have gone wrong.

Gemma Arterton is a princess, who's held captive by the prince and spends the whole movie whining at him.

Ben Kingsley smirks as he collects a paycheck from Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Alfred Molina gets one too.

Mike Newell (Love in the Time of Cholera, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) directs.

Critical reception is mixed, with consensus being "a suitably entertaining swashbuckler." Rated 13+.

Also opening

Letters to Juliet – Amanda Seyfried plays an aspiring magazine writer who discovers an unanswered letter to Shakespeare's Juliet in a stone wall in Verona, Italy. She tracks down the writer of the letter, who 50 years ago was a lovelorn woman, now a grandmother. She's played by Vanessa Redgrave. The reporter then teams up with the older woman on a trip across Italy to track down her heartthrob Lorenzo. Gael García Bernal, Daniel Baldock and Christopher Egan also star. Gary Winick (Bride Wars, 13 Going on 30) directs. Critical reception is mixed, saying it has "refreshingly earnest romantic charm, but it suffers from limp dialogue and an utter lack of surprises." At Major Cineplex, EGV, Paragon, Esplanade. Rated 15+.

Also opening

San Alai: Payut Ngaokrachang – The Thai Film Archive and the Thai Film Foundation will pay tribute on Saturday to the late pioneering animator Payut Ngaokrachang (ปยุต เงากระจ่าง), who died on May 27 at age 81. They will show his first animated short, 1955's Haed Mahasajan (เหตุมหัศจรรย์), about a distracted traffic cop, and his daughter, actress Nantana Ngaokrachang, will be there to make her hand-and-feet impressions in the cement outside the cinema. She's best known for her starring role in Cherd Songsri's 1977 classic romantic tragedy Plae Kao (The Old Scar). Her father had made his impressions, including a funny drawing, at the Sri Salaya in 2008. Payut is best known as "the Walt Disney of Thailand" for making the country's first animated feature, The Adventure of Sudsakorn, which was released in 1979. The annual Thai Short Film & Video Festival's animation prize is the Payut Ngaokrachang Award, a silver medallion designed by Payut himself. San Alai: Payut Ngaokrachang (In Memory of Payut Ngaokrachang) gets under way at 2.30 on Saturday. Poet Jiranan Pitpreecha will give a reading, there will be the movie screening and Nantana will make her impressions. It all runs until about 6. The Film Archive is easily reachable from Bangkok's Victory Monument on air-con bus 515. It's about a one-hour ride and the Film Archive (หอ ภาพยนตร์(องค์การมหาชน), Hor Pappayon (Onggan Mahachon)), identified by the bright yellow Thai Film Museum, is near the end of the line on Phuttamonthon Soi 5 in Salaya. Call (02) 482 2013-5 or (02) 482 1087-8.

Reality Filmmaker Showtime #1 – Electric Eel Films will have another session of its Reality Filmmakers Showtimes Season #1 on Friday at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. The project had 12 young filmmakers being mentored by experienced indie directors "Juke" Aditya Assarat, "Geng" Jakwaral Nilthamrong, Soraya Nakasuwan, Lee Chatametikool and Anocha Suwichakornpong. They'll show the resulting short, Dear Father (ฉันกับพ่อ, Chan Gap Por). Anocha and Chalida Uabumrungjit of the Thai Film Foundation will lead a talk about the project. It all starts at 5.30 on Friday in the fifth floor auditorum at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center.

Remember the Siam – The Lido multiplex in Siam Square has extended its benefit screeings of Japanese films to help the merchants whose shops were lost in the burning down of the Siam Theatre. They're showing Nobody Knows at 3.30 and Be With You at 8.15.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 3-9, 2010

Po Taek

Funnyman Petthai "Mum Jokmok" Wongkumlao teams up with veteran comedian Thep Po-ngam (สุเทพ โพธิ์งาม) in Po Taek (โป๊ะแตก), a satiric mockumentary-style behind-the-scenes look at the Thai film industry.

Watch the trailer, and check out Mum coaching his old mentor Thep on how best to act like a lizard.

There's shenanigans on the craft-service line and more wackiness during the traditional prayer ceremony to mark the start of production. You have thick-headed actors who can't take direction and stuntmen raising their amputated limbs to volunteer for a dangerous scene.

A host of other familiar comedians turn up, including Mum's Ching Roi Ching Lan TV castmates Choosak "Nong Cha Cha Cha" Iamsuk and Theng Terdterng, as well as Note Chern-yim, Kom Chuanchuen, "Tukky" Sudarat Butrprom and Apaporn Nakonsawan.

It's a busy time for Thep, who last year declared bankruptcy and put on a pair star-studded live benefit concerts to put him back on good financial footing.

During the red-shirt political protests there was talk of a boycott of Thep after the bald-headed comic appeared at "multi-color shirts" counter-protest rallies. Box-office results for Po Taek, in cinemas this Thursday, will show whether they were serious.

The Killer Tattoo star also leads the upcoming drama Friday Killers (or is it Friday Killer?), premiering as the closer of the Phuket Film Festival. It's part of the trio of hitman movies directed by Yuthlert Sippapak for Phranakorn.

And he's also supposed to do the documentary The Cult Maker with Yuthlert for Film R Us.

Produced by Workpoint, Baa-Ram-Ewe and Sahamongkolfilm International, Po Taek is covering similar ground to another film from Film R Us, Sam Yan, which opened on May 20. That trio of comedy stories has comedian Kohtee Aramboy as a director having behind-the-scenes troubles with his lead actor. Rated 15+.

The Ghost Writer

Completed by director Roman Polanski while he was under house arrest in Switzerland, fighting extradition on 34-year-old sexual-assault charges back to the U.S., The Ghost Writer is an adaptation of The Ghost, a thriller by novelist Robert Harris.

Ewan McGregor stars as a writer hired to polish up the autobiography of a disgraced former British prime minister, menacingly portrayed here with Blair-like flair by ex-007 Pierce Brosnan. The deeper the writer digs in searching for the truth, the more his life becomes in danger.

Olivia Williams also stars, playing the Cherie Blair-like wife of the ex-PM.

And Kim Cattrall plays the ex-PM's personal assistant. It's a two-fer week for Cattrall in Bangkok cinemas; the British actress also stars in Sex and the City 2.

Having premiered earlier this year at the Berlin Film Festival, critical reception is strongly favorable, with praise for Polanski's stylish direction, a tense screenplay (adapted by Harris), and a strong central performance from McGregor. Rated 18+.

Also opening

Sparrow – Hong Kong director Johnnie To's lyrical thriller/romantic drama stars Simon Yam as the leader of a team of slick pickpockets, or "sparrows" in Hong Kong street slang. When he's not artfully lifting wallets, he's roaming the streets with his vintage camera, snapping photos. His life takes a turn when he glimpses a young woman (Kelly Lin) in his viewfinder. The other members of his gang also encounter the mysterious girl. A nominee for the Berlin Golden Bear in 2008, critical reception is highly favorable. At House. Rated 18+.

Sex and the City 2 – In the second big-screen outing for the 1998-2004 HBO series, two years have passed and Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her three friends have lives that are more stressful than ever. All are married except for Samantha (Kim Cattrall), who is 52 and trying to keep her libido alive while dealing with menopause. Charlotte (Kristin Davis) has a handful with two children and a husband whose eyes are roving to their nanny. Carrie's marriage to Mr. Big (Chris Noth) has settled down and Carrie worries whether she can ever truly be happy. Samantha then gets a PR job for a sheik in Abu Dhabi and invites Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) to visit, so the four friends get out of the city and visit the desert. Critical reception has been overwhelmingly negative, with the movie blasted for its thin plot, bloated running time and stereotyped, negative portrayal of the Middle East. Rated 15+.

Killers – Katherine Heigl is a hapless woman who meets and falls in love with a stranger and rushes into marriage only to discover her perfect man (Ashton Kutcher) is a contract killer for the CIA and she's now a target alongside him by rival assassins. Critical reception is nonexistent because studio Lionsgate has declined to screen it for critics – a move that usually means the movie stinks. Lionsgate says: "We want to capitalize on the revolution in social media by letting audiences and critics define this film concurrently... In today's socially connected marketplace blah blah blah blah." Rated 15+.

14 Blades – Switching from the contemporary martial-arts drama of Ip Man 2, Donnie Yen stars in this martial-arts fantasy. Set in ancient China, the tale has to do with 14 elite fighters, members of the emperor's secret Brocade Guard, trained in the use of 14 blades, eight being for torture, five for killing and the last one for suicide if their mission fails. As the leader of the Brocade Guards, Donnie is betrayed when he discovers a plot by eunuchs to usurp the emperor, something to do with a prince played by Sammo Hung and the Imperial Seal. He escapes and spends the rest of the film in fast-paced action sequences trying to get to the truth. Zhao Wei also stars, providing a romantic interest for Donnie. Critical reception is mostly positive. Thai-dubbed only. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Remembering the Siam – Four Japanese movies that screened back in the day at the Siam Theatre are playing to benefit the merchants who lost their shops in the Siam Theatre fire: Nana at 12.15, Nobody Knows at 2.30, Always: Sunset on Third Street at 5 and Be With You at 7.30 daily until next Wednesday except Saturday at the Lido. Tickets are 100 baht, with half the proceeds going to help out the burned-out tenants.