Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 28, 2011-January 4, 2012

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Steven Spielberg brings Belgian comic-book hero Tintin to the big screen with The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.

For his first animated feature, Spielberg uses the motion-capture process that's similar to James Cameron's Avatar in which the actors perform on a virtual set, and wear special suits and helmets so their movements and expressions are translated to a computer program. Other scenes are wholly done with computer animation.

Spielberg acquired the rights to the Tintin books when author Hergé died in 1983 and sat on them until he could figure out a way to make the movie that matched his artistic vision. This film, the first of a planned series, is based on three comics, The Crab with the Golden Claws (1941), The Secret of the Unicorn (1943) and Red Rackham's Treasure (1944).

The results look pretty stunning, with the intrepid boy hero Tintin having the same kind of adventures as Indiana Jones did in Spielberg's live-action movies.

Jamie Bell performs as Tintin, the blond-coiffed boy reporter who has a pet dog named Snowy. He teams up for the adventure with the grizzled Captain Haddock, portrayed by the king of motion-capture animation, Andy Serkis, who previously brought to life the characters of Gollum in Lord of the Rings and King Kong, both movies directed by Peter Jackson, who is producer of Tintin, as well as this summer's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which Jackson's Weta Workshop special-effects house had much to do with.

The cast is rounded out by British comic duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as the bumbling twin detectives Thomson and Thompson and Daniel Craig as the main villain.

Already nominated for several awards, including the Golden Globe for best animated film, critical reception is generally positive. It was filmed in 3D, and will be shown in 3D in most cinemas, including IMAX and IMAX Digital. Rated G.

Also opening

Jiro Dreams of Sushi – This documentary looks at 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono, whose restaurant, a 10-seater in a subway station in Tokyo's Ginza district, has been recognized as the best sushi place in the world, earning a 3-Star Michelin rating. Reservations must be made up to a year in advance. Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, Jiro Dreams of Sushi has been a hit on the festival circuit. It was bought for release by Magnolia Pictures and won an audience award at this year's AFI Fest in Los Angeles. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's at House on RCA.

Real Steel – Hugh Jackman trains a giant robot to box in this family drama from Disney. He's a former boxer sometime in the near future who's turned to boxing promotion after robots have replaced humans in the ring. Struggling after losing his robot in a crushing defeat, his estranged 11-year-old son re-enters his life and he finds a way to connect with the boy by obtaining a discarded old "sparring bot" and rehabilitating the underdog machine to be a contender. Practical animatronic robots are used in some scenes while most of the fighting is done by digital 'bots animated by the Avatar "simulcam" motion-capture technology in which the movements of real fighters are used. Dakota Goyo and Evangeline Lilly also star. Critical reception is mixed. It's also at IMAX and IMAX Digital. Rated G.

New Year's Eve – Garry Marshall follows up his star-studded ensemble romance Valentine's Day with another sickly sweet all-star ensemble romance that follows several couples and singles on New Year's Eve. The overstuffed cast includes Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jovi, Abigail Breslin, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Josh Duhamel, Zac Efron, Héctor Elizondo, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Yeardly Smith, Hilary Swank, Robert De Niro and too many other names to mention. Critical reception is overwhelmingly negative. Rated G.

Bangkok Sweety (Sor Khor Sor Sweety, ส.ค.ส. สวีทตี้ ) – For the third consecutive year, in what is now an apparent tradition, director Rerkchai Paungpetch and studio M-Thirtynine, release a Thai romantic comedy during the last week of the year. They have all been critically assailed but are insanely popular with young Thai audiences and have always made a ton of money. Bangkok Sweety, a.k.a. Sweety Movie, portrays different kinds of love, all culminating during Bangkok's New Year's Eve celebration. The cast includes "Dan" Worrawech Danuwong, "Pae" Arak Amornsupasiri, Charoenporn "Kotee" Ornlamai, "Saipan" Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Keeratee and "Yipso" Ramita Mahaphrukpong. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Hi-So – Indie Thai director Aditya Assarat's profile of cross-cultural confusion, starring Ananda Everingham, is back after a one-month run at SF cinemas in October. It's been revived by House on RCA. The drama, with dryly comic moments, is about an actor who's moved back to Thailand after being schooled in the States. He's acting in a tsunami film when his girlfriend from San Francisco comes to visit. There's Lost in Translation moments and she and Ananda just can't connect. Later, Ananda has a Thai girlfriend, and the same problems happen all over again. A tsunami-devastated resort and a partially demolished Bangkok apartment building represent the wreckage of the soul. Rated 13+.

German Open Air Cinema – The Goethe-Institut Thailand's annual outdoor movie series starts back up next week after taking this week off. Up next on Tuesday, January 3, is Close to You (Ganz nah bei Dir), a 2009 comedy-drama about a quirky obsessive-compulsive bank clerk who aims to make as little contact with strangers as possible. His life changes when he takes a liking to a blind cello player and then his apartment is robbed, forcing him start his life over again. The German Open Air Cinema series runs on Tuesdays until February 28 at the institute on Sathorn Soi 1. Show times are at 7.30pm.

La Bête Humaine (The Human Beast) – Jean Renoir directs this 1938 thriller, based on the book by Emile Zola. Jean Gabin is a train engineer who lusts after the wife (Simone Simon) of his co-worker (Fernand Ledoux). More seduction, betrayal and murder follow. It's at the Alliance Francaise at 7.30pm on Wednesday, January 4.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 22-28, 2011

The Kick

From the director of Thai martial-arts hits like Ong-Bak and Chocolate comes The Kick (วอนโดนเตะ), a South Korean-Thai co-production about a Korean family in Bangkok who join with a pair of Thai friends to battle gangsters.

As the story goes, former Taekwondo champs Moon (Jo Jae-hyeon) and Yun (Ye Ji-won) have settled down in Thailand to open a Korean restaurant and taekwando school. Their three kids are interested in different things; the teenage boy is crazy about K-pop, the girl loves football and Thai dance and only the youngest boy shows any interest in martial arts. Their life changes when they become involved with Korean mobsters who've stolen a sacred Thai sword. A family friend Mum (comedian Petthai "Mum Jokmok" Wongkumlao and his Muay-Thai-fighter niece Wah Wah (Jeeja Yanin) join in the battle.

The Kick premiered earlier this year at the Busan International Film Festival and was released in South Korean cinemas in November. Check out the trailer to see if you'll like this kind of action. Rated 15+.

Also opening

Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen's latest romantic comedy, which premiered at this year's Cannes Film Festival, is being hailed as a return to form for the director of such classics as Annie Hall and Sleeper. Owen Wilson stars, playing a screenwriter who's visiting Paris and he has magical, time-travelling experiences each night at midnight, which force him to confront the problems of his relationship with his fiancée (Rachel McAdams). Historical figures he encounters include Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Man Ray, Luis Buñuel, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. Wilson and McAdams (also appearing in the new Sherlock Holmes being released this week) were previously paired up in Wedding Crashers. The cast includes Adrien Brody, Kathy Bates, Michael Sheen, Marion Cottilard and French first lady Carla Bruni, playing a museum guide. Critical reception is highly favorable. Rated 13+.

Arthur Christmas – From Aardman Animations, the British studio that brought us Chicken Run and the Wallace and Gromit tales, teams with Sony Animation for this 3D computer-animated holiday treat in which Santa's workshop has become a huge hi-tech enterprise that delivers two billion presents in one night in much the same manner as a military operation. However, Santa's teenage son Arthur (James McAvoy) discovers that one child has been forgotten, so he teams up with Grand-Santa (Bill Nighy) to save the holiday the old-fashioned way. Other voices include Hugh Laurie as older brother Steve Christmas, Imelda Staunton as Mrs. Santa and Jim Broadbent as Santa. Critical reception is highly favorable. In 3D. Rated G.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are back with director Guy Ritchie for a second outing about the master detective Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. Watson. This time Holmes meets an adversary who is his intellectual equal but whose capacity for evil is unmatched – Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). Eddie Marsan, Rachel McAdams, Stephen Fry and Noomi Rapace also star. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to favorable. Rated 13+.

Take note

The film festival calendar for Thailand in January just got even more crowded with the announcement yesterday of the Hua Hin International Film Festival, which will take place January 26 to 29. They have trailers for a few of their films on YouTube. The newly announced fest overlaps with the rescheduled 9th World Film Festival of Bangkok, which was postponed from November because of the floods to January 20 to 27. Also in Bangkok, there will be the 6th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival on January 28 and 29 and February 4 and 5 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. And in Chiang Mai, there is Payap University's Lifescapes Southeast Asian Film Festival from February 2 to 5.

A few other notes:

  • The German Open Air Cinema Season at the Goethe-Institut takes a break for the holidays. It'll start back up after the New Year on January 3.
  • The newly opened CentralPlaza Grand Rama 9 shopping center has the 11-screen SFX Central Rama 9. It's at the intersection of Rama IX and Ratchadaphisek roads at the Rama 9 MRT station.
  • Major Cineplex at CentralPlaza Bangna has reopened after renovations on the sixth and seventh floors of the mall.
  • And House, the boutique cinema on Royal City Avenue, has recently redesigned its website, offering showtimes, movie synopses in Thai and English and previews of upcoming films.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 15-21, 2011

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Tom Cruise's punctuationally difficult spy franchise returns for a fourth installment with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which has Cruise back as Ethan Hunt, joined by a team that includes Simon Pegg (returning from M:I3), Paula Patton and Hurt Locker star Jeremy Renner.

The story goes that the Impossible Missions Force has been framed for the bombing of the Kremlin and the U.S. president initiates "ghost protocol", shutting down IMF and disavowing all its agents. The IMF secretary (Tom Wilkinson) gives Hunt a new mission – go rogue in an effort to clear their name.

As with all the other M:I films, there's a daring feat by Cruise, who always performs his own stunts. This time, watch him scale the outside of Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, footage of which was captured with the extra-large 70mm IMAX cameras in the same way action scenes in The Dark Knight were filmed, and not, thank goodness, in 3D.

The director is Brad Bird, who follows Brian De Palma, John Woo and J.J. Abrams in helming the franchise. It's the much-acclaimed Bird's first live-action effort, having previously done 1999's animated feature The Iron Giant and two Oscar-winning Pixar CG-animated movies, The Incredibles and Ratatouille.

It's early days yet for critical reception, with mostly the industry press weighing in. But so far, the buzz is extremely postitive.

The IMAX version with the full height is offered only at the IMAX theatre at Paragon Cineplex, which also has an exclusive prologue to The Dark Knight Rises. It's also at other cinemas including the 4DX thing with the moving seats at Paragon. Rated 13+.

Also opening

Sleeping Beauty – In Sucker Punch, Emily Browning portrayed an orphan girl who's sent to an insane asylum, where she performs as an exotic dancer and goes into a dream state that has her fighting giant samurai, zombie soldiers and a fire-breathing dragon. It's somewhat the same premise in Sleeping Beauty, where she works as a semi-nude waitress at an exclusive gentleman’s club and is promoted to the Sleeping Beauty Chamber where elderly, impotent men pay to have an erotic experience with her while she's sedated. The debut feature by Australian director Julia Leigh and "presented by Jane Campion", it was in the main competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Critical reception is evenly mixed. At Apex Siam Square. Rated 20-.

Machine Gun Preacher – Gerard Butler stars in this fact-based biographical drama as Sam Childers, an ex-convict alcoholic drug-dealing gang member who turns to Christianity and then devotes his life to missionary work, rescuing children in war-torn Sudan, and takes up arms again to protect those children from raids by rebel soldiers. Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace, The Kite Runner, Stranger Than Fiction) directs. Critical reception is mixed. At SFW CentralWorld and House on RCA. Rated 15+.

Love, Wedding, Marriage – Mandy Moore is a newlywed marriage counselor who's shocked to learn her parents (James Brolin and Jane Seymour) are headed for divorce. She'll stop at nothing to get them back together in time for a 30th-anniversary surprise party. Kellan Lutz from the Twilight movies co-stars. Dermot Mulroney directs. Critical reception is negative. Rated G.

Thang Yak Wad Jai (ทางแยกวัดใจ) – Each year around this time, the film industry offers special films called "pappayon chalerm prakiat", which honor the achievements of His Majesty the King. This year's offering comes from film studio GTH, which offers a trio of short films, all starring actor Pitisak Yaowanon as a man who affects the lives of others with his good deeds. The segments are directed Chayanop Boonprakob (SuckSeed), Sophon Sakdapisit (Laddaland) and Nithiwat Tharatorn (Dear Galileo). Sponsored by True, viewers can get a pair of free tickets if they figure out how to register their good deeds at the website, It's showing only at Major Cineplex.

Also showing

German Open Air Cinema Season – The Goethe-Institut Thailand's annual outdoor screening series continues next Tuesday with North Face (Nordwand), a fact-based mountaineering drama from 2008, directed by Philipp Stölzl. Set in the summer of 1936, a pair of passionate climbers, friends since childhood, aim to be the first to climb the north face of the Eiger, a steep stretch of rock that's known as the "murder wall". The German Open Air Cinema series runs every Tuesday night until February 28 at the institute on Sathorn Soi 1. Show times are at 7.30.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 8-14, 2011

Life Without Principle

Hong Kong director Johnnie To trades his usual bullets for banknotes in Life Without Principle, a drama about three people plunged into dire financial straits when their lives are somehow intertwined with that of a loan shark.

The characters are an investment banker (Denise Ho) who's forced to push a high-risk investment on a greedy but ignorant customer; a dimwitted triad member (Sean Lau Ching Wan) who turns to the futures market to bail out a fellow gangster; and a police inspector (Richie Jen) whose fiancee (Myolie Wu) puts a down payment on a condominium without consulting him first. The loan shark is Lo Hoi Pang.

Life Withouth Principle premiered in the Golden Lion competition at this year's Venice Film Festival. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's already played in Singapore, where there are reviews by A Nutshell Review and FilmsBlitz.

In Cantonese with English and Thai subtitles at House on RCA.

Also opening

Immortals – Tarsem Singh, the director of such visually stunning movies as The Cell and The Fall, returns with this 3D swords-and-sandals fantasy set in ancient Greece. It's from the same producers as 300. Henry Cavill stars as a stonemason named Theseus, who vows to avenge the death of his mother and takes up a sword to fight the brutal and bloodthirsty King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), whose murderous Heraklion army is rampaging across Greece in search of the long lost Bow of Epirus. Theseus gets help from the Sybelline Oracle, Phaedra (Freida Pinto from Slumdog Millionaire), whose disturbing visions of the future convince her that Theseus is the key to stopping the destruction. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to negative. "The melding of real sets, CG work, and Tarsem's signature style produces fireworks, though the same can't be said for Immortals slack, boring storytelling," is the consensus. In 3D. Rated 15+.

Happy Feet Two – George Miller, the producer-director of such films as Mad Max and Babe, offers more family-friendly fare with this sequel to his 2006 animated feature about dancing penguins. Tapdancing penguin Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) now has a son who is reluctant to dance like the other penguins and finds himself an outcast. He takes up with another penguin clan and develops an interest in flight. Robin Williams, Pink, Sofia Vergara, Hank Azaria, Hugo Weaving, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon are among the voice cast. Critical reception is mixed. "The animation is as eye-popping as ever, but Happy Feet Two's narrative is too noisily incoherent to recapture the Oscar-winning charm of its predecessor," is the consensus. It's in 3D, including IMAX. Rated G.

Also showing

German Open Air Cinema – The Goethe-Institut Thailand's annual outdoor screening series continues next Tuesday with How About Love, a drama by Stefan Haupt that's set here in Thailand. Adrian Furrer stars as a Swiss surgeon vacationing in Thailand whose life takes a major turn when he visits refugee camp on the Burmese border and decides to stay and try to help. You can find out more about How About Love at the movie's website. The German Open Air Cinema series runs every Tuesday night until February 28 at the institute on Sathorn Soi 1. Show times are at 7.30.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 1-7, 2011

Breaking Dawn – Part 1

It's almost over. The penultimate entry in The Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn – Part 1, has the young mortal woman Bella (Kristen Stewart) getting married to Edward (Robert Pattinson), her pale-skinned lug of a vampire beau. And, to make matters worse, she gets pregnant! But can Bella bear the child to term? The vampire clan is worried that the baby's physiology isn't compatible.

Meanwhile, the "wolf pack" clan of werewolves, including Bella's lovelorn bare-chested friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner), are circling and growling. They see the vampire-human hybrid as a potential threat and want to kill it.

Oh, how will it end? If you've read the romance novels by Stephenie Meyer you already know. But if you're only watching the movies, you'll have to wait a full year for Breaking Dawn – Part 2 to see how this melodrama plays out.

These final two entries in the Twilight franchise are directed by Bill Condon (Kinsey, Gods and Monsters), who reportedly was in contention for the job alongside such names as Gus Van Sant and Sophia Coppolla.

Critical reception is mostly negative. "Slow, joyless, and loaded with unintentionally humorous moments, Breaking Dawn – Part 1 may satisfy the Twilight faithful, but it's strictly for fans of the franchise," is the consensus. And be forewarned, it might cause epileptic seizures. Rated 15+.

Also opening

Sector 7 – In the middle of the ocean, the crew of an oil rig fight a new mutated lifeform. Ha Ji-won, Ahn Sung-ki and Oh Ji-ho star. Reception has been mixed. This 3D monster flick from South Korea was released there in IMAX cinemas, but it's in ordinary 3D theaters in Thailand. The original Korean soundtrack with English subtitles is at SF World Cinema; elsewhere it's Thai-dubbed only. Rated 13+.

Also showing

Primitive – Filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul's multi-platform art exhibition finally makes its way to Bangkok after touring the world for the past couple of years. It'll be at the Jim Thompson Art Center from today until February 29. Part of the same project as the acclaimed feature film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, the video installation Primitive is an intimate look at the village of Nabua, Nakhon Phanom, along the Mekong in northeastern Thailand. It was there in 1965 that the Royal Thai Army staged a massacre during an anti-communist offensive. Primitive deals with ghosts of that violent past. The seven-channel video installation also offers a slice-of-life look at the young men of Nabua as well as a music video by Moderndog and a behind-the-scenes film of the building of a spaceship – just one of the art projects Apichatpong came up with as a way of engaging the villagers in his project. Commissioned by Haus Der Kunst, Munich, Primitive has previously shown in Munich, Liverpool, Paris, New York and the Yokohama Triennale. I checked it out at New York's New Museum earlier this year and am glad I'll be able to see how it fits into Bangkok. The Jim Thompson Art Center is on Kasemsan Soi 2, near the National Stadium skytrain station. It's open daily from 9 to 5.

German Open Air Cinema – The Goethe-Institut Thailand's annual outdoor movie season starts next week and runs every Tuesday until February 28 at the insitute on Bangkok's Soi Sathorn 1. The opening film is the Swiss short Scribbling & Tingling from 2010 by Amaury Berger. And then it's Longing (Sehnsucht) from 2006 by Valeska Grisebach. It's a small-town drama about love, loss and infidelity involving a thirtysomething volunteer fireman who's been with his wife since they were teenagers. It was a nominee for the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. The show starts at 7.30. All are shown in German with English subtitles. Admission is free. Call (02) 287 0942-4 extension 82 or visit

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 24-30, 2011

Headshot (Fon Tok Kuen Fah)

Pen-ek Ratanaruang aims to turn the hitman genre on its head with Fon Tok Kuen Fah (ฝนตกขึ้นฟ้า), a.k.a. Headshot.

Based on a short novel by acclaimed Thai writer Win Lyovarin, it's a film-noir flavored thriller about a cop who is blackmailed by a powerful politician and framed for a crime he did not commit. Sent to prison, he is eventually recruited to become a hitman for a shadowy vigilante group. While posing as a monk on one job, he's shot in the head and wakes up after a three-month coma to find that he sees everything upside down, literally. He aims to start a new life, but finds himself being hunted by revenge killers.

"Peter" Nopachai Jayanama stars. He's the actor who portrayed the prince's leading general in the Naresuan movies and also starred in Pen-ek's forest thriller Nymph. Cris Horwang, from Saturday Killer and Bangkok Traffic Love Story, also stars.

This is the first feature that Pen-ek's done without the Thai studio Five Star Production. He's gone the indie route and is now with the upstart production marque Local Color, started by producer Pawas Sawatchaiyamet (formerly Saksiri Chantarangsri).

Headshot had its world premiere back in September at the Toronto International Film Festival. It also screened in competition at the Tokyo fest, where Pen-ek did an official interview. You can read it at the festival website. The film also screened at the Vancouver fest, where IndieWire gave it a favorable review. There's even a review in The Nation today. And you can watch the Thai trailer.

It's at SF cinemas. Rated 18+.

Also opening

Take Shelter – The intense actor Michael Shannon stars in this psychological drama, portraying a small-town family man who is disturbed by apocalyptic visions. He sets about building a storm shelter in his backyard without explaining the need for it, and his strange behavior strains his relationship with his family. Jessica Chastain also stars, portraying the man's wife. It's directed by Jeff Nichols, an independent writer-director from Little Rock, Arkansas, who made the critically acclaimed Shotgun Stories, which also featured Shannon. Take Shelter is also gathering critical acclaim as well as awards at film festivals. It's at Apex Siam Square and at House on RCA. Rated 15+.

Puss in Boots – The scene-stealing supporting character from Dreamworks Animation's Shrek movies gets his own feature in this swashbuckling adventure that fractures more fairytales. Here, the swordfighting feline, voiced by the debonair Antonio Banderas, teams up with the street-smart cat burglar Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and his old friend, the criminal mastermind Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) to battle the outlaw couple Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris). Critical reception is mostly positive. It's being released this week in just 3D, including IMAX and at Paragon's 4DX cinema, but will have a wider 2D release next week. Rated G.

Trespass – Another week brings another Nicolas Cage movie. With Seeking Justice released last week, Bangkok movie-goers can now get a double-dose of Nic with Trespass, which reunites him with 8MM director Joel Schumacher. He's a fast-talking diamond merchant who has a pretty blonde wife – played by Nicole Kidman. They live in a lavish mansion and have a troublemaking teenage daughter (Liana Liberato). Suddenly, their home is besieged by masked men, who hold them hostage. Ben Mendelsohn, Jordana Spiro, Cam Gigandet and Dash Mihok also star. Critical reception is mostly negative, the consensus being it's "another claustrophobic thriller that Joel Schumacher can churn out in his sleep ... nasty and aggressive, more unpleasant than entertaining." Rated 15+.

Take note

Although areas of suburban Bangkok continue to be plagued by floodwater, life is returning to normal across much of the metropolis as water recedes and efforts turn to recovery.

The Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhom Pathom, weathered the flood, putting up sandbag barriers and sealing its vault. It served as a haven for flood refugees and survivalists, showing daily matinees. The Nation had a story about it. A video clip, embedded above, captures the mood.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 17-23, 2011

The Thing

Mary Elizabeth Winstead follows in Sigourney Weaver's footsteps into an Alien-like female action role in The Thing, which looks like a remake but is meant as a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 thriller that starred Kurt Russell.

Winstead is a plucky paleonthologist who faces an alien lifeform at an Antarctic research base. Joel Edgerton and Ulrich Thomsen also star. Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. directs.

Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+.

Also opening

Seeking Justice – Nicolas Cage is a schoolteacher turned outlaw vigilante after his wife is brutally assaulted. Also stars Guy Pearce and January Jones. Directed by Roger Donaldson, the thriller is also known as Justice. Af SFW CentralWorld. Rated 15+.

Vampire Strawberry (แวมไพร์ สตรอเบอร์รี่) – In what looks to be a broadly comic spoof of the Twilight movies, vampires feed only on the blood of females. Annie Brook and Chartchai Ngamsan star along with the usual cast comedians, including Kom Chuanchuen, Somchai Sakdikul and Anek Inthachai. Rated 13+.

Phantom of the Opera – The musical production celebrates 25 years with a special video presentation of the October 1 and 2 silver anniversary performance at the Royal Albert Hall. It's as close as you can get to actually sitting in the audience without having to actually be in London. Shows are at Paragon Cineplex until November 23. Check ThaiTicketMajor for prices and showtimes.

Also showing

The Year My Parents Went on Vacation – This childhood drama is set in the tumultuous 1970s in Brazil, where a 12-year-old boy's leftist parents are forced into hiding and he's sent to live with his grandfasther. Though his country is in the grip of a dictatorship and the Vietnam War is raging, all young Mauro can think about is whether the Brazilian team will be Italy in soccer's World Cup. Cao Hamburger directs. Critical reception is mostly favorable. It screens at 8 tonight at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand, with caipirinha rum cocktails and cheesebread served by the Embassy of Brazil. Admission for non-members is 150 baht and it's 100 baht for anyone wanting to eat or drink.

Take note

As the flood crisis in Bangkok continues, there are signs of the waters receding from some areas and the resumption of business as usual. Even though there is still water on the roads, the Central mall and the neighboring Major Cineplex in Pinklao have reopened. Plans are also to reopen Central Lat Phrao.

However, there are new warnings about flooding in new neighborhoods, including the Bang Kapi and Ramkamhaeng areas. So keep an eye on the water level in the canals near your home, and be wary of water rising from the drains on your street.

Unfortunately, a major English-language source of flood information, the #ThaiFloodEng hashtag on Twitter, has become practically useless due to trolls, general nonsense and stupid questions about whether tourism sites and shopping destinations remain open. Out of frustration, some of the reputable news sources and individuals have abandoned the hashtag's timeline. I suppose now it's best to track the flood news on the Bangkok Post and The Nation websites.

If you feel you must go to a movie, check for news about possible flooding in the area you plan to visit. And avoid contact with floodwater if at all possible.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 10-16, 2011

The Help

One of this summer's most critically acclaimed movies in the U.S., The Help is about a young white woman in Jackson, Mississippi, who starts a secret writing project with a pair of black maids – a risky proposition because of societal rules in the American South of the 1960s.

Emma Stone is Skeeter, the college-graduate writer, with Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer as her partners in the project, which explores the daily lives of homemakers and their hired help. Bryce Dallas Howard is the town's snooty racist ringleader. Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek and Cicely Tyson also star.

The movie is adapted from the best-selling 2009 novel by Kathryn Stockett and is directed by Tate Taylor.

Critical reception is mostly positive. "Though arguably guilty of glossing over its racial themes, The Help rises on the strength of its cast – particularly Viola Davis, whose performance is powerful enough to carry the film on its own," is the consensus. The Help was also a surprise hit at the U.S. box office.

It's at Paragon Cineplex.

Also opening

Tower Heist – The employees of a high-rise luxury condo want to take revenge by stealing from the Wall Street swindler who stole their retirement funds. They know nothing about crime, so they hire a streetwise ex-con to help them with the caper. Directed by recently resigned Oscar producer Brett Ratner, Tower Heist has long been in the works, first hatched six years ago as an idea by Eddie Murphy, who wanted to make an "all-black Ocean's Eleven". Now, many rewrites later, with Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck and Matthew Broderick among the bumbling gang of thieves and Alan Alda as the penthouse tenant, it ain't that. But Murphy is still in the movie, playing the smart-alec ex-convict, and Gabourey Sidibe from last year's much-acclaimed Precious is a saucy maid. Critical reception is surprisingly positive. Rated 13+.

Dirty Girl – A troubled and promiscuous high-school student (Juno Temple) in 1980s Norman, Oklahoma, is assigned to the special-education class, where she strikes up an unlikely frienship with a shy gay guy (Jeremy Dozier). They embark on a road trip to Fresno, California, in search of the girl's birth father. Milla Jovovich, William H. Macy, Mary Steenburgen and Dwight Yoakam also star. Written and directed by Abe Sylvia, the coming-of-age comedy premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Festival. Critical reception is mixed. At Major Cineplex (including Paragon, Paradise, Esplanade, EGV).

Racing Love a.k.a. Mid-Mile(มิดไมล์) – Comedian Kohtee Aramboy stars in this motorsports comedy as a tuk-tuk driver who joins a car-racing team. Kom Chuanchuen also stars along with Alexander Mackie and Atsadaphon "Green AF5" Siriwatthonkun. Rated 15+.

Siang Thao Fah Naa Thao Klong – Musician Lek Carabao along with actress "Kratae" Supaksorn Chaimongkol and others explore the tradition music of Thailand's four regions. Pham Rangsri directs. Screenings at 7 nightly until November 16 at House on RCA.

Also showing

Lemon Tree – A Palestinian widow puts up a fight when the new Israeli defence minister moves in next door and orders her citrus orchard cut down because it poses a security threat. Lemon Tree screens at 8 tonight (Thursday, November 10) at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand. Directed by Eran Riklis, the 2008 drama won many prizes, including best actress for Hiam Abbass and best screenplay at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. Admission is Bt150 for non-members. Call (02) 652 05801 or visit

Take note

In the past week, the flood has closed Major Cineplex Ratchayothin and Central Lad Phrao, home to an SFX cinema. According to The Nation, Major Cineplex has closed 12 branches because of the flooding.

The waters, keep bottled up on Bangkok's northern edge by permanent floodwalls and a line of sandbags of unusual size (or SOUSs for short), have seeped in and are moving ever-so-slowly closer to central Bangkok. They threaten to hit the Victory Monument area in a week or so. The water is also creeping through the sewers, rising back up in the eastern suburbs, causing what is now minor flooding along Srinakarin Road.

Due to the amount of water still looming behind barriers in northern Bangkok, the flood disaster is expected to continue for several more weeks. It will likely take a month or two to drain it all.

Avoid flooded areas if at all possible. If you feel you have to go to a movie, consult multiple sources of information to ensure the area you're heading to won't be underwater by the time the movie lets out.

I've been keeping tabs on the flood on Twitter, by following the #ThaiFloodEng hashtag. Like Twitter in general, you have to sift through a lot of nonsense for nuggets of useful information, but at the moment I don't know where else to look. And a good source of practical information about the flood can be found in the videos by Roo Su Flood, the latest of which addresses panic buying in the supermarkets.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 3-9, 2011

Killer Elite

Jason Statham stars in Killer Elite. He plays an ex-Special Air Service agent and hitman who comes out of an early retirement to rescue his former mentor (Robert De Niro, channeling his old Ronin role). He's being held hostage after a botched job in Oman.

In order to save De Niro, Statham takes on an assignment from a sheikh, who wants revenge against three former SAS men for the killing of his sons. This leads to a clash with the head enforcer of a secret society of assassins, played by Clive Owen.

The story is adapted from The Feather Men by novelist Ranulph Fiennes. Yvonne Strahovski, Aden Young and Dominic Purcell also star. Northern Ireland filmmaker Gary McKendry directs, making his feature debut.

"A rote, utterly disposable Jason Statham vehicle that just happens to have Clive Owen and Robert De Niro in it," is the critical consensus. Rated 18+.

Also opening

Texas Killing Fields – A local homicide detective (Sam Worthington) teams up with a New York City cop (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to track a serial killer who’s dumping bodies in rural Texas, and then the tables are turned and the hunters become the hunted. It's a fact-based story, loosely drawn from the Interstate 45 murders in the 1990s. Chloë Grace Moretz and Jessica Chastain also star. Ami Canaan Mann, daughter of director Michael Mann, directs. The film premiered in competition at this year's Venice Film Festival. Critical reception is mostly negative. At Apex Siam Square and SFW CentralWorld. Rated 18+.

30 Kamlung Jaew (30 กำลังแจ๋ว) – A 30-year-old woman’s life changes when she breaks up with her airline-pilot boyfriend and then catches the eye of a much-younger neighbor boy. “Aum” Patcharapha Chaichua stars and "King" Somjing Srisuphab directs. Released by studio M-Thirtynine, this is the second "thirtysomething" chick flick in less than a month, which might be confusing to some viewers. The other is 30+ Sode on Sale, which is still in most cinemas. There was a story about them both in The Nation awhile back. Rated 15+.

1911 – For his 100th movie, Jackie Chan presses himself into service for the cause of nationalist propaganda, portraying Huang Xin, the co-leader of the rebellion against China’s last imperial dynasty. Winston Chao also stars as nationalist leader Sun Yat Sun with Joan Chen as the empress dowager. Jaycee Chan and Li Bingbing also star. Chinese soundtrack with English and Thai subtitles only at SFW CentralWorld; elsewhere Thai-dubbed. Rated 15+.

Take note

Despite assurances from some authorities that Central Bangkok will be spared from flooding, there is still a lot of water from the north yet to come down, so the crisis continues and the threat remains.

Many shopping malls and multiplexes are closed or have curtailed hours. Events are cancelled. One of the city's biggest multiplexes, Major Cineplex Ratchayothin, is the latest to get hit by flooding.

If you haven't been flooded yet, staying at home might be the best option for now. But you'll still need to take precautions. The latest video from the RooSuFlood group (embedded above) explains what to do. Read more about RooSuFlood and their work in a recent Nation article.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening October 27-November 2, 2011


Nicolas Winding Refn, the Danish director of such cult films as the Pusher trilogy, Valhalla Rising and Bronson, won best-director honors at this year's Cannes Film Festival for his latest triumph, Drive, which takes the Los Angeles crime thriller for a spin.

It's territory already covered in such movies as To Live and Die in LA by William Friedkin, Heat and Collateral by Michael Mann and Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown by Quentin Tarantino. But Refn, with actor Ryan Gosling, offers an artfully stylized and existential, yet still violent, twist.

Gosling is a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a wheelman for robberies. His rule is you have five minutes to get in and get out with your loot. If you take longer than five minutes, he's gone. His driving style relies more on stealth than speed. He chooses a non-descript car in order to blend in. He'd rather park the car in a hiding spot and wait for the cops to give up than get into a chase. He lives a spartan, uncomplicated life, but things take a turn when he becomes involved with a neighbor lady (Carey Mulligan), a single mother with a young son. It turns out her husband (Oscar Isaac) is due out of prison soon, and Gosling's character takes on the responsibility of helping the man out of a jam.

Out comes the hammer as he finds himself in conflict with a mobster, played by Albert Brooks in a major turning point for his career. Ron Perlman is another thuggish gangster, and Brian Cranston is Gosling's game-legged mechanic boss. Christina Hendricks also stars as an accomplice in a heist.

Refn, in Thailand to make his next film, Only God Forgives, a Bangkok-set crime thriller, says Gosling's character undergoes a transformation into a superhero, and his symbol is the giant scorpion, embroidered into the back of his jacket. Gosling has his scorpion just like Thailand as the Red Eagle, Refn said at the recent press screening, referring to Insee Dang, the masked vigilante most famously portrayed in Thai films of the 1960s by superstar Mitr Chaibancha.

Drive has been controversial. The script languished in Hollywood's studio system for years until Refn got hold of it. He tinkered with it so much, the studios rejected it, saying it wasn't the film he'd promised them. So he made it an independent project. Viewers have also been upset. One woman in the U.S. filed a lawsuit, claiming she'd been mislead into seeing Drive because it was touted as a fast-paced hot-rod movie like The Fast and the Furious.

Drive isn't like that. It's a different kind of thrill. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's at Major Cineplex (including Paragon, Esplanade and Paradise) and House on RCA. Rated 18+.

Also opening

In Time – Justin Timberlake is a man living in the future when everyone stops ageing at 25, and time is literally money. The wealthy live forever while the poor have to beg, borrow and steal enough minutes to make it through another day. Accused of murder, he has to figure out a way to expose the corrupt system. Amanda Seyfried also stars. Andrew Niccol directs. He's the writer-producer of such dystopian sci-fi films as Gattaca and The Truman Show, and also the director of Lord of War. In Time faces a lawsuit from sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison, who says it's substantially the same as his "Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman". It's just being released this week, so there's not yet a critical consensus. Rated 13+.

The Lion King – Back in cinemas in 3D for just two weeks, Disney's 1994 animated tale takes on dark Shakespearian tones as it follows the life of a lion cub who would be king, who is betrayed by his evil uncle Scar. The young lion becomes a fugitive, and is befriended by the ragtag duo of a meerkat and warthog who teach him the philosophy of a carefree life with the song "Hakuna Matata". Music is by Tim Rice and Elton John with the voice cast featuring Matthew Broderick as Simba, James Earl Jones as King Mufasa, Jeremy Irons as Scar, Rowan Atkinson as Zazu and Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin and Jim Cummings as hyenas. When The Lion King 3D was released in the U.S. a month or so ago, it was No. 1 at the box office, leading Disney to plan more 3D re-releases, which will include Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid as well as Pixar's Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo. Critical reception is mostly positive. At Major Cineplex (including EGV, Paragon, Esplanade and Paradise). Rated G.

Grave Encounters – The Canadian filmmaking team who call themselves The Vicious Brothers offer this horror flick that uses the same "found footage" style as The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield in which the crew of a ghost-hunting reality-TV series encounters supernatural occurences in an old psychiatric hospital. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 13+.

Take note

With Bangkok's flood crisis worsening, many movie screenings and events have been cancelled or postponed.

Tonight's screening of Francois Truffaut's The Woman Next Door at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand has been cancelled.

The World Film Festival of Bangkok has been postponed from November 4 to 13 until January 20 to 27.

Several other films that were set to be released this week are now on hold, and will presumably be rescheduled when the flood crisis is over.

In addition, there is a taxi shortage, so it may be more difficult to get around the city. You might emerge from a movie to find yourself stranded. Many roads are under water. Bus services are being re-routed. The BTS skytrain and MRT subway lines might be curtailed.

Embedded above is a video that explains the flooding situation.