Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening March 31-April 5, 2011

Four years in the making, and repeatedly delayed year after year as the production dragged on and on, the third entry in director MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's Naresuan franchise finally hits the big screen this week with The Legend of King Naresuan Part III: Naval Battle (ตำนานสมเด็จพระนเรศวรมหาราชภาค 3 ตอน ยุทธนาวี, Tamnan Somdej Phra Naresuan Maharaj Part 3: Yutthanawee).

Having proclaimed sovereignty, King Naresuan the Great (Lt. Colonel Wanchana Sawasdee) faces a new threat from a spy in his midst. The traitor's flight in a Chinese junk leads to the vaunted river battle with an armada of royal barges. Later, Naresuan clamps a sword in this teeth as he battles the Burmese.

Along with Lt. Col "Bird" Wanchana, the cast returning for this outing includes Sorapong Chatree as the wise warrior monk, "Peter" Nopachai Jayanama as Naresuan's boyhood friend Lord Rachamanu, Taksaorn Paksukcharoen as the king's companion Lady Maneechan, Chatchai Plengpanich as King Thamaracha, Grace Mahadumrongkul as the king's sister Princess Supankulayanee and Inthira Charoenpura as the warrior woman Lurkin.

The lavish, sweeping concept of the Naresuan films builds on what "Than Mui" Chatrichalerm started with his 2002 historical epic Suriyothai, which was the most expensive Thai film at the time and still holds the box-office record with earnings of 500 million baht.

With a cast of thousands, including a literal army of extras (actual Royal Thai Army soldiers) and a purpose-built studio in Kanchanaburi Province, the scale of the Naresuan films is like nothing ever attempted before in Thailand. Even Hollywood isn't making movies like this anymore – they just use CGI.

Still to come is The Legend of King Naresuan Part IV: Elephant Battle, which will depict "the great Battle of Yuthahatthi", probably the last great conflict of the war-elephant era, in which Naresuan fought the Burmese crown prince. Part 4 had initially been penciled in for release around August 12, Her Majesty the Queen's birthday. But it's still being filmed and is now a contender for release on the next auspicious date on the calendar, December 5, His Majesty the King's birthday.

I've been told that English-subtitled prints are slow in coming and probably won't start unspooling in most central Bangkok cinemas until sometime on Saturday. The websites for Major Cineplex and SF cinemas indicate that Paragon Cineplex and SFW CentralWorld have subtitles, but check at the box office to make sure.

In the meantime, take a look at the trailer if you haven't seen it already. Rated P.

Also opening

Hop – E.B., the son of the Easter Bunny, wants to leave the family business and become a rock drummer. But on his way to Hollywood, he's hit by a car driven by Fred (James Marsden), a slacker dude. E.B. then feigns injury in order to move in with Fred and live the life of a young bachelor. Meanwhile, the evil Easter Chick is making plans to take over the holiday. And a trio of "Pink Beret" commando bunnies are sent to find E.B. British comedian Russell Brand is the voice of E.B. and the voice cast also includes Hank Azaria as the Easter Chick and Hugh Laurie as Mr. Bunny. Live-action stars include Gary Cole, Elizabeth Perkins, Mel Brooks and David Hasselhoff. This movie is directed by Tim Hill, who previously did Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties and Alvin and the Chipmunks, and it's the same blend of cartoonishly creepy CGI characters interacting with befuddled-looking live-action actors. Chris Meledandri, who previously did Despicable Me, is producing. There's no critical reception yet because the movie is just being released worldwide this weekend, but I can't imagine this getting very good reviews. Rated G.

The Roommate – A college student (Minka Kelly) finds that her roommate (Leighton Meester) is dangerously obsessed with her. Cam Gigandet also stars. It's directed by Danish filmmaker Christian E. Christiansen. Critical reception is mostly negative. At SF cinemas. Rated 18+.

Take note

There's only three movies opening this week in order to clear the decks for Naresuan 3, which will be taking up the bulk of screens. This is also a short week, with more new releases coming early next week, on Wednesday, April 6, which is Chakri Memorial Day, a national holiday. That will be a warm-up for the Songkran holiday, starting Wednesday, April 13, and most movies that week will open that day.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

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

Sucker Punch

Fairytale princesses and nerd-boy comic-book fetishes combine in Sucker Punch, directed and co-written by Zack Snyder.

Unlike Snyder's previous films, including 300 and Watchmen, Sucker Punch is not based on a graphic novel, even though the girl-powered fantasy looks like it's ripped from the pulpy pages of a comic and reframed panel for panel.

Emily Browning stars as Baby Doll. Her Cinderella-like character is locked away in an institution. There, her imagination takes over and she finds herself in a dreamworld where she is in control, wearing a midriff-baring schoolgirl uniform and fighting an army of steampunk robots. She urges her similarly scantily clad fellow inmates to join her in the battle. They include Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung.

Oscar Isaac, Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm and Scott Glenn also star.

Fan buzz is pretty high, but since Sucker Punch hits theaters worldwide this week, critical reception is too early to tell. Also at IMAX (but not in 3D). Rated 13+.

Also opening

Shine a Light – Martin Scorsese often uses the music of the Rolling Stones in his films, so it's only fitting that he be the one to direct a concert documentary on the band. With the same bravado he exhibited in Goodfellas, Mean Streets and The Last Waltz, Scorsese effortlessly captured the swagger of the Stones as they played New York's Beacon Theater as part on their 2006 "A Bigger Bang" tour. It's a star-studded concert, with guest appearances by Jack White, Buddy Guy and Christina Aguilera as well as Bill Clinton. Released in 2008, Shine a Light was the closer of that year's World Film Festival of Bangkok. However, the festival's celebratory outdoor screening at Parc Paragon was marred by the venue's blinding lighted advertising billboards, which could not be shut off without costing millions of baht. So it's a welcome development that this enjoyable, highly entertaining concert film is being brought back for another go on the big screen. Critical reception is mostly favorable. It's playing at House on RCA, which will have the sound turned to 11. Rated G.

In a Better World (Hævnen) – Winner of this year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, this Danish drama is about a physician (Mikael Persbrandt ) who shuttles back and forth between his home in Denmark and work in a refugee camp in Africa. The Danish title is Hævnen, literally "the revenge", which stems from the main story about the doctor, his wife (Trine Dyrholm) and their two sons, one of whom is being bullied in school. The boy Elias (Markus Rygaard) is defended by a new kid in town, Christian (William Jøhnk Nielsen), and together the boys are involved in an act of revenge that puts all their lives in danger. Susanne Bier directs. Her previous films include After the Wedding and the original version of Brothers, which was remade with Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal. She also directed the Hollywood drama Things We Lost in the Fire. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's at Apex Siam Square. Rated 13+.

Gnomeo and Juliet – At night, after you've gone to sleep, your garden gnome statues come to life. There are two factions – red and blue – that have been at odds since the first statue was cast. This animated feature has two star-crossed lovers from the opposing sides, just like the Shakespeare tale. James McAvoy and Emily Blunt star, with the voice cast also featuring Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham, Ozzy Osbourne, Julie Walters and Patrick Stewart as well as a guest performance by Elton John. Directed by Kelly Asbury and produced by Starz Animation out of Canada, it's being released by Touchstone Pictures. Critical reception is mixed, with the main gripe being it's "too self-referential for its own good". In 3D in some cinemas. Rated G.

The Mechanic – Jason Statham stars in this remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson hitman thriller. He's an assassin known for his strict code and unique ways of cleanly eliminating targets. Ben Foster takes over the role originally played by Jan Michael Vincent, as the son of a previous target who is taken under the hitman's wing. Simon West (Tomb Raider, The General's Daughter) directs. Donald Sutherland also stars. Critical reception is mixed, the consensus being that "Jason Statham and Ben Foster turn in enjoyable performances, but this superficial remake betrays them with mind-numbing violence and action thriller cliches." It's at Apex Siam Square. Rated 15+.

Morning Glory – A plucky TV producer (Rachel McAdams) aims to revive a struggling morning news show by bringing in a veteran news anchor (Harrison Ford) and a former beauty queen and longtime TV personality (Diane Keaton). Problems arise when Ford's gruff, no-nonsense newsman balks at covering the usual light morning-show topics and he can't stand his co-host. Meanwhile, there's love behind the scenes for the producer. Patrick Wilson also stars. Critical reception is mixed, the consensus being "it's lifted by affable performances from its impeccable cast, and it's often charming – but is also inconsistent and derivative." Rated 13+.

The Resident – Cult horror label Hammer Film Production returns to the scene with this thriller starring Hilary Swank. Playing a divorced physician, she moves into a Brooklyn apartment and has a couple of nice neighbors, among them her landlord Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen, The Losers) and Hammer's Dracula star Christopher Lee. Feeling like she's being watched, she sets up a surveillance system that shows her fears were justified. Critical reception is mixed. At Major Cineplex (including Paragon, Paradise, Esplanade). Rated 18+.

Vanishing on 7th Street – A power outage plunges Detroit into darkness, leaving a disparate group of folks to work together to survive. Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton and John Leguizamo star. Brad Anderson directs the screenplay by Anthony Jaswinski. Critical reception is mixed, with reviewers referencing Twilight Zone in terms of the type of suspense that can be expected from this thriller. Rated 18+.

Also showing

French Film Festival – Part of the annual La Fête culture and arts festival, the seventh edition of Bangkok's French Film Festival continues until Sunday. Tonight's screening is the teenager-and-grandfather drama Restless. The hit romantic comedy Heartbreaker screens tomorrow night. Saturday has François Ozon's drug drama The Refuge, the musical biopic Gainsbourg, the Kurdish immigrant's adventure Welcome and the teen romance LOL (Laughing Out Loud). The fest wraps up on Sunday with Heartbreaker, the romance Mademoiselle Chambon and the teen thriller Lights Out. Screenings are at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Check the festival website for more details.

Invictus – Clint Eastwood directs this drama about the South African team’s inspirational country-healing win in the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The story is based on author John Carlin's Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation, which recalls the days when blacks actually rooted against the white-dominated rugby union side. Morgan Freeman portrays Nelson Mandela while Matt Damon is Springboks captain Francois Pienaar. It's screening at 8 tonight at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand as part of the Contemporary World Film Series. It's courtesy of the Embassy of South Africa, which will provide wine and snacks. Entry for non-members is 150 baht and 150 baht for anyone wanting to sample the wine and food.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

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


Indie filmmaker Chayanop Boonprakob made at least a couple of SuckSeed shorts about struggling young rock bands that were shown at the Thai Short Film & Video Festival in recent years. He subsequently took steady job as a flight attendant for Thai Airways International, but returned to filmmaking when GTH producer Jira Maligool came calling.

The result is a slick new teen romantic comedy, SuckSeed Huay Khan Thep (SuckSeed ห่วยขั้นเทพ). It's the story of schoolboys who form a band to impress girls, but things get complicated when a girl joins up.

The three buddies are portrayed by Jirayu La-ongmanee (Phobia 2, Love Julinsee), Patchara Jirathiwat and Thawat Pornrattanaprasert. And they all play their own instruments.

The girl guitarist who joins the band is Natcha Nualjam. She's the daughter of veteran Thai rock guitarist Laem Morrison, so axe-shredding comes naturally for her.

Thanks to the showbiz clout of the GMM Grammy company, well-known Thai musicians make cameos. They include singer Pod from Moderndog, Pui Blackhead, Dak from Big Ass and the band Bodyslam as well as members of Paradox and So Cool.

You can read more about the movie at The Nation. There's also a trailer at YouTube and the official website. Rated 15+.

Also opening

Mary and Max – An Australian clay-animated feature, directed by Adam Elliot, is about the odd lifelong pen-pal relationship that develops between a shy 8-year-old girl in Melbourne (voiced by Bethany Whitmore and later by Toni Collette) and a misanthropic 44-year-old man in New York (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Barry Humphries narrates and Eric Bana lends his voice as Mary's boyfriend. Dealing with dark themes that include loneliness, alcoholism, obesity and mental disorders, this is most assuredly not a cartoon for the kiddies. Mary and Max has been a hit at film festivals. Awards include the Annecy Cristal from the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and Best Animated Feature at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards in 2009. Critical reception is mostly favorable, the consensus being that it's "a lovingly crafted, startlingly inventive piece of animation whose technical craft is equaled by its emotional resonance." At House on RCA. Rated G.

The Stool Pigeon – Dante Lam directs this Hong Kong crime thriller about a detective (Nick Cheung) who recruits an informant, a street racer named Ghost (Nicholas Tse), to infiltrate the gang of the thief Barbarian (Lu Yi). Guey Lun-mei also stars as the girlfriend of one of the gangsters. Critical reception has been favorable, with a car chase set to the song "White Christmas" noted as a highlight. It's in Cantonese with English and Thai subtitles at Apex Siam Square. Rated 15+.

Gantz – Two teenagers who died while trying to rescue a man from the subway tracks find themselves brought back to life and forced to participate in a game where they hunt down and kill aliens. This ambitious sci-fi thriller, the first of two parts, is based on a best-selling manga and popular anime TV series. Critical reception is mixed. It's in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at Paragon and CentralWorld, elsewhere Thai dubbed. Rated 15+.

Beastly – An obnoxiously rich, good-looking and popular teenager (Alex Pettyfer) is taught a lesson in humility by a witch (Mary-Kate Olsen) when he's transformed into a hideously body-modded monster, a form he'll stay in unless he can find true love in two years. Vanessa Hudgens is his romantic interest. And Neil Patrick Harris plays his blind tutor. A contemporary twist on Beauty and the Beast, the movie is based on the fantasy romance novel by Alex Flinn. Critical reception is mostly negative. Rated G.

Just Go With It – Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston team up for this romantic comedy, directed by Sandler's regular Happy Madison helmer Dennis Dugan. Sandler is a plastic surgeon, divorced for 20 years but lies about being in an unhappy marriage in order to gain sympathy with women. While on vacation in Hawaii he meets a younger woman (Brooklyn Decker) who he really likes. He decides to get "divorced" so he can be with her. So he convinces his long-suffering assistant Aniston to play the part of his soon-to-be-ex wife and ropes her children into the lie as well. Critical reception is mostly negative, with the consensus being it's "slightly better than some entries in the recently dire rom-com genre, but that's far from a recommendation." Rated 13+.

Last Night – A married New York City couple (Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington) spend a night apart. He takes a business trip with an attractive colleague (Eva Mendes). She meets up with an old flame (Guillaume Canet). This 2010 indie romance is directed by Iranian-American filmmaker Massy Tadjedin. It hasn't had a wide release yet in the U.S., so critical reception is a bit thin. It's at Apex Siam Square and SFW CentralWorld. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Living with the Tiger – Directed by Mike Thomas, this documentary about children living with HIV focuses on two youngsters as they take an emotional journey back to the families that had once left them to die at a hospice. The story is framed by the children's performance in a specially written opera, composed by Bruce Gaston, and performed to audiences in Bangkok and the countryside. There was a story about the project in The Nation on Monday. It screens at 8 tonight at Patravadi Theatre as part of the Fringe Festival. Former Miss Thailand and filmmaker Pop Areeya will give an introduction and director Thomas will be onhand afterward for a Q&A. Visit the film's website for details about tickets.

French Film Festival – Part of the annual La Fête culture and arts festival, the seventh edition of Bangkok's French Film Festival opens at 8 on Friday night with Gainsbourg, a biographical comedy-drama on the colorful romantic life of singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. Saturday has the gay fatherhood comedy Baby Love starring Lambert Wilson, the sweeping historical romance What Love May Bring, the teen-and-grandfather drama Restless and the teen suspense thriller Lights Out. On Sunday, there's the nostalgic Memory Lane, François Ozon's drama The Refuge, the mother-daughter comedy LOL (Laughing Out Loud) and the Kurdish migrant's comedy Welcome. The romance Mademoiselle Chambon screens on Monday, Baby Love again on Tuesday and Memory Lane on Wednesday night. Screenings are at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Check the festival website for more details.

Third Class Cinema 024: Kong Pahurak Retrospective – The indie-film activist group Third Class Citizen offers a retrospective on director Kong Pahurak, a film student at Japan's Waseda University. He's made a series of well-crafted shorts that are mostly low-budget sci-fi. His films include The Ladybird's Tears, the Orwellian thriller Censored and the wry dark comedy Shinda Gaijin. The screening is at 4pm on Sunday at Eat@W at SF World Cinemas at CentralWorld. That's the restaurant on the eighth floor at the cinema. Admission is free. Check the Facebook event page for more details.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: French Film Festival, March 18-27, 2011

As part of the annual La Fête French culture and arts festival, the French Film Festival is back for a seventh edition, with a line-up of 11 recent French box-office hits and critically acclaimed film-fest favorites that include comedies, dramas, romance and suspense.

After an invite-only opening on Thursday, the fest runs from March 18 to 27j at SF World Cinemas at CentralWorld. Tickets are 120 baht, and SF Cinemas has a package deal of 500 baht for five movies.

Here's the line-up:

GainsbourgJoann Sfar adapts his graphic novel for this biographical comedy-drama about Serge Gainsbourg, tracking the singer-songwriter's life from his childhood in Nazi-occupied Paris, the swinging songwriting years of the 1960s to his death in 1991. Eric Elmosnino stars as Gainsbourg with Lucy Gordon as Jane Birkin (Gordon's last filmed appearance) and Laetitia Casta as Brigitte Bardot. Friday, March 18, 8pm and Saturday, March 27, 2.30pm.

Baby Love (Comme les autres) – Lambert Wilson stars as Manu, a gay paediatrician who wants to adopt a child and bring him or her up with his partner, Philippe (Pascal Elbé). Problem is, the lawyer Philippe isn't interested in such entanglements. Manu persists though, and goes about searching for a surrogate mother. He finds an Argentine beauty (Pilar López de Ayala) who's willing, if he'll grant her a marriage of convenience. This romantic comedy is the debut feature by director Vincent Garenq. Saturday, March 19, 12:30pm and Tuesday, March 22, 8pm.

What Love May Bring (Ces amours-là) – A woman named Ilva (Audrey Dana) looks back on her love life with the bulk of the story taking place during the German occupation of Paris. Directed by Claude Lelouch, the veteran filmmaker describes it as a "a remake of my 41 films". Musician Laurent Couson, who also composed the score, makes his acting debut as one of Ilva's many lovers, Simone the piano player. He'll be present for a Q&A session after the screening. Saturday, March 19, 2.30pm.

Restless (L'insurgée a.k.a. Le Bel âge) – 17-year-old Claire (Pauline Etienne) struggles between her commitment to swimming and her first love. She lives with her 80-year-old grandfather Maurice (Michel Piccoli) Reverdy, a composer who spends much of alone with his memories of World War II. The debut feature by Laurent Perreau, this drama is a sensitive study of contrasting characters – one facing her impending adulthood and the other the inevitability of his death. Saturday, March 19, 5.30pm and Thursday, March 24, 8pm.

Lights Out (Simon Werner a disparu...) – During a drinking party in the woods, a group of teenagers discover a corpse hidden in the undergrowth. Who is it? How did it get there? Fabrice Gobert directs. Saturday, March 19, 7.45pm and Sunday, March 27, 5pm.

Memory Lane – One summer, seven 25-year-old friends get together in their old hometown to spend a few days together. Some still live there, others have returned for family reasons or to find the traces of lingering adolescence, while others think that they'll perhaps find love. The debut feature by Mikhaël Hers, it's a study of characters caught "in between" – between city and country, friendship and love, life and death and youthful dreams and the impending realities of growing up. Sunday, March 20, 12.30pm and Wednesday, March 23, 8pm.

The Refuge (Le refuge a.k.a Hideaway) – For a long time director François Ozon wished he could make a movie with an actual pregnant actress. He did it with his 2009 drama, starring Isabelle Carré. She portrays Mousse, a young woman, who with her lover has everything going for her, but drugs invade their lives. Louis dies of an overdose, leaving Mousse alone and pregnant. Not having anywhere else to go, she seeks refuge in a house far away from Paris. Sunday, March 20, 2.30pm and Saturday, March 26, 12.30pm.

LOL (Laughing Out Loud) – High-school girl Lola (Christa Theret) navigates the pressures of romance, friendship, the Internet and social-networking websites. Meanwhile, Lola's mother (Sophie Marceau) tries to cope with the generational differences with her daughter while navigating odd relationships of her own. Directed by Lisa Azuelos, this French hit romantic comedy has been picked up by actress Demi Moore for a Hollywood remake that stars her and Miley Cyrus. Sunday, March 20, 4.30pm and Saturday, March 26, 7.30pm.

Welcome – Bilal is a 17-year-old Kurdish boy from Iraq who sets off on an adventure-filled journey across Europe, following his dream of making it to England to become a professional football player and meet his girlfriend. He gets as far as Calais, France, where he decides he wants to cross the Channel but first must learn how to swim. He makes friends with a Frenchman (Vincent Lindon) who will teach him. Philippe Lioret directs. Sunday, March 20, 6.45pm and Saturday, March 26, 5.10pm.

Mademoiselle Chambon – Jean (Vincent Lindon), a hard-working, dedicated husband and family man, is asked by his son's homeroom teacher Mademoiselle Chambon (Sandrine Kiberlain) to be a substitute teacher and finds himself falling for her elegant charm. Stéphane Brizé directs. Monday, March 21, 8pm and Sunday, March 27, 12.30pm

Heartbreaker (L'arnacoeur) – Alex (Romain Duris) has a speciality in breaking up relationships. His aim is to charm the pants off a bride-to-be, wife or girlfriend and make her intended mate an ex. He runs into trouble with this latest target, a woman named Juliette (Vanessa Paradis), a young free-spirited heiress. Pascal Chaumeil directs. Friday, March 25, 8pm and Sunday, March 27, 2:45pm.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening March 10-15, 2011

127 Hours

James Franco stars in 127 Hours, a fact-based drama about a mountain climber who is trapped in a suspenseful situation for five days in the Utah desert.

Because it's based on real life, everyone probably already knows the story, but I won't spoil it here.

The movie was up for best picture at this year's Academy Awards and Franco scored an Oscar nomination. Danny Boyle directs and the Slumdog Millionaire helmer again collaborates with Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman for the Oscar-nominated soundtrack.

Critical reception is overwhelmingly positive, the consensus being that it's "as gut-wrenching as it is inspirational ... one of Danny Boyle's most beautifully exuberant directorial efforts with a terrific performance from James Franco."

It's only at Major Cineplex (including Paragon, Paradise, Esplanade). Rated 13+.


Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski enlists his Jack Sparrow buddy Johnny Depp for Rango, a spaghetti western that's disguised as an animated feature.

Depp voices the chameleon who has the identity crises that are endemic to his species. But he puts on a badge and becomes sheriff in a small desert town called Dirt that is threatened with have its water supply cut off by bad guys.

Verbinski has said
he aimed to get Depp's past movie characters into the portrayal of Rango, with bits of Jack Sparrow, Edward Scissorshands and Ed Wood turning up. I think there's a bit of Hunter S. Thompson as well.

Other voices are by Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty as the tortoise mayor, Alfred Molina, Harry Dean Stanton, Timothy Olyphant, Ray Winstone, Stephen Root and Bill Nighy as Rattlesnake Jake.

Critical reception is mostly positive. The consensus: "It may not be as charming as it thinks it is – and it certainly isn't for kids – but Rango is a smart, giddily creative burst of beautifully animated entertainment." Rated G.

Also opening

Red Riding HoodTwilight director Catherine Hardwicke and Orphan screenwriter David Leslie Johnson take on the old folktale. Here, Red isn't so little, but she has big eyes and she has a name, Valerie. As played by Amanda Seyfried, she's a poor young woman in medieval times who's heading toward an arranged marriage with a wealthy man but plans to elope with her lover (Shiloh Fernandez). The big, bad wolf in this case is a werewolf, and the Witchfinder General, Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), clues the villagers in to the fact that the werewolf only changes form at night and the rest of the time is human, and could be any one of them. Critical reception is too early too tell, but the buzz on this so far is mostly positive. Rated G.

Hak Na Sarakham (ฮักนะ 'สารคาม) – Indie filmmaker Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, director of the banned social drama Insects in the Backyard, goes strictly commercial with her latest effort, which is produced by Sahamongkol Film International. It's a sunny comedy about the love lives of youngsters in Maha Sarakham, a rural province in the culturally distinct Isaan region of Thailand's northeast. Impish comedienne "Tukky" Sudarat Butrprom stars, playing the upperclassman mentor to some of the schoolkids. Check the trailer. Rated 15+.

Dek Phee Du 2002 Sop (เด็กผีดุ 2002 ศพ, 2002: The Unborn Child – Opportunistic showman Poj Arnon seizes upon last November's aborted fetuses scandal for his latest ripped-from-the-headlines movie. Somchai Kemklad stars. He plays a crime reporter, married to a high-school teacher, portrayed by "May" Pitchanart Sakakorn. The happy couple have a young daughter, and the little girl starts seeing ghostly playmates, which are apparently tied to an abortion had by one of the teacher's students. They make their lives a living hell. See what it's all about in the trailer. Rated 15+.

Namtan Daeng (น้ำตาลแดง, a.k.a. Brown Sugar) – The full version of last year's anthology of erotic short films gets a limited run this week at House cinema on Bangkok's Royal City Avenue. This "uncut" version runs for 2 hours and 40 minutes. House RCA's Facebook page says Brown Sugar will run for just one week, until next Wednesday. There were six segments of Brown Sugar by indie directors Panumat Deesatta, Zart Tancharoen, Kittiyaporn Klangsurin, Prachya Lampongchat, Surawat Chuphol, Anurak Janlongsilp and produced by Prachya Pinkaew and Bandit Thongdee. For the commercial release by Sahamongkol Film International, they were split in half, with the first three in cinemas last September, and the second helping in November. The first batch had the much-talked-about masturbation scene by Lakkana Wattanawongsiri, playing a massage girl who has the hots for a tattoo artist. She later goes to get a tattoo on her pelvic region. The original theatrical releases were rated 18+. Thai soundtrack only, no English subtitles.

Also showing

Living with the Tiger – Directed by Mike Thomas, this documentary about children living with HIV focuses on two youngsters as they take an emotional journey back to the families that had once left them to die at a hospice. The story is framed by the children's performance in a specially written opera, composed by Bruce Gaston, and performed to audiences in Bangkok and the countryside. The screening will be at 8pm on Monday, March 14, at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. The British director Thomas and Anthony Pramualratana from the Thailand Business Coalition on AIDS will take part in a post-screen discussion.

Sneak preview

Just Go With It – Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston team up for this romantic comedy, directed by Sandler's regular Happy Madison helmer Dennis Dugan. Sandler is a plastic surgeon, divorced for 20 years but lies about being in an unhappy marriage in order to gain sympathy other women. While on vacation in Hawaii he's meets a younger woman (Brooklyn Decker) who he really likes. He convinces his long-suffering assistant Aniston to play the part of his soon-to-be-ex wife and ropes her children into the lie as well. Critical reception is mostly negative, with the consensus being it's "slightly better than some entries in the recently dire rom-com genre, but that's far from a recommendation." Just Go With It was originally scheduled to open in a wide release but instead is only showing in sneak previews this week, with nightly screenings at most multiplexes from around 8. Rated 13+.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

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


Liam Neeson is back in action-star mode in Unknown.

It's a typical tale of a everyman caught in a web of intrigue. He's a biotechnology specialist attending a summit in Berlin with his wife when his taxi crashes off a bridge and into a freezing-cold river. He awakens from a coma to find his identity stolen, and the woman he believes is his wife (Mad Men's January Jones) denies she isn't and is with another guy (his Michael Collins co-star Aidan Quinn) who is posing as him.

So he's got to piece together what the heck has happened, and he enlists the help of the taxi driver, who is not a typical male Berliner cabbie but a fetching blonde (Diane Kruger).

Bruno Ganz and Frank Langella also star.

It's directed by Spanish helmer Jaume Collet-Serra (House of Wax, Orphan).

Unknown has a similar feel to Taken, the gritty Euro-action thriller that cemented Neeson into the pantheon of bad-ass action stars. Before Taken, Neeson had primarily been known as a serious dramatic actor in such historical fare as Michael Collins and Schindler's List, even though he did movies like the swashbuckler Rob Roy, played a disfigured masked vigilante in Darkman, swung a Jedi knight's lightsabre in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and kicked Christian Bale's butt in Batman Begins. But it was Taken that enabled him to take on tough-guy roles like leading The A-Team and landing a cameo in the upcoming The Hangover Part II.

Critical reception is mixed with the consensus being "Liam Neeson elevates the proceedings considerably, but Unknown is ultimately too derivative – and implausible – to take advantage of its intriguing premise." Rated 13+.


After agonizing over the title of this animated comedy-adventure, based on a fairytale by the Brothers Grimm, the powers that be at Disney went with Tangled. But since that conceptual title is probably too much for most folks to wrap their heads around, for its release in many territories outside the U.S. it's simply Rapunznel.

This latest Disney princess movie has Mandy Moore as the extraordinarily tressed young woman, trapped in a tower. She lets down her hair for a wise-cracking bandit named Flynn Rider, voiced by Zachary Levi from the TV series Chuck. More comic relief comes from various animal friends, such as a laughing horse and Rapunzel's pet lizard.

Various criminals and other heavies are voiced by such character actors as Ron Perlman, M.C. Gainey, Jeffrey Tambor, Brad Garrett and Richard Kiel.

There's also Oscar-nominated music by trusty Disney tunesmith Alan Menken.

Critical reception is mostly positive, with the consensus being that while it's "far from Disney's greatest film, [Rapunzel] is a visually stunning, thoroughly entertaining addition to the studio's classic animated canon." In 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated G.

Also opening

The Adjustment Bureau – Matt Damon and Emily Blunt star in this Inception-like sci-fi thriller. It's based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, whose books have spawned such big-screen dystopian dramas as Total Recall, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly and Blade Runner. Damon is an up-and-coming politician whose chance meeting with a dancer (Blunt) changes the fate that's been pre-determined for him by a shadowy group of men in fedoras that include John Slattery (Roger Sterling from the TV series Mad Men). Anthony Mackie from The Hurt Locker and Terence Stamp also star. They have his whole life mapped out for him in an elaborate, maze-like flowchart that's written in a little notebook. Critical reception so far is mixed. Rated 13+.

Season of the Witch – Nicolas Cage puts another long-haired wig to play a knight in the 14th century. He and his cohort (Ron Perlman) return to their home after the Crusades and find the realm reeling from the Black Plague. A young woman (Claire Foy) is believed to be a witch and the cause of the sickness. The knights escort her to a monastery where monks investigate her purported powers and try to lift the curse. Christopher Lee also stars. Dominic Sena (Gone in 60 Seconds, Swordfish) directs. Critical reception has been overwhelmingly negative, with the consensus being it's "slow, cheap-looking, and dull [and] fails even as unintentional comedy". Rated 13+.

Love Julinsee Rak Man Yai Mak (เลิฟ จุลินทรีย์ รักมันใหญ่มาก) – This teenage romance by studio M-Thirtynine caused a stir a few months back when the teaser clip was banned by censors who deemed it unsuitable because it showed almost-kissing youngsters in school uniforms. The offending teaser has since been removed from M-Thirtynine's official YouTube channel, and a new clip was uploaded last month. Directed by Chainarong Tampong and Sakol Tiachareon, the ensemble romance is four stories against the backdrop of the show by costumed rock band Paradox at last year's Big Mountain Music Festival. One story has the girl Nao (Tisanat Sornsuek) and the guy Yoh (Alex Rendell) waiting for each other to say "I love you". Musician Pla (Irada Siriwut) goes to the concert to forget her playboy ex-boyfriends. Fon (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk) looks back at the cute romance she had in school with an underclassman (Nuttapong Piboonthanakiet), which included sharing shredded fish snacks. Yok (Jirayu La-Ongmanee) and Eue (Monchanok Saengchaipiangpen) are lifelong best friends who've taken things to the next level of being boyfriend and girlfriend. Rated 13+.

Also showing

A Ripe Volcano (ภูเขาไฟพิโรธ) – Filmmaker and visual artist Taiki Sakpisit and sound artist Yasuhiro Morinaga collaborate on this art installation, "an allegorical revelation where Bangkok becomes a site of mental eruption and the emotionally devastated land during the heights of terrors, primal fears, trauma, and the darkness of time." Locations include the the Rattanakosin Hotel, where the military captured and tortured protesters during the Black May of 1992 and the Ratchadamnoen boxing stadium, for contrasting scenes of violence and ghostly suspense. The multi-channel video and sound installation is at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre in the fourth-floor studio, until Sunday.