Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Italian Film Festival, June 8-12, 2011

Contemporary and classic Italian films and even a couple of Thai movies will be presented in the Moviemov Italian Film Festival from June 8 to 12 at SFX the Emporium cinema.

The program features an Italian Showcase of recent films, a special screening, a retrospective of classics by Mario Monicelli and a tribute to Thai filmmaker Pen-ek Ratanaruang.

And for the first time, the Italian Film Festival in Bangkok will have a juried competition for the new crop of Italian films. Thai theater and film director Ekachai Uekrongtham, Chulalongkorn University cinema professor Elio De Carolis and the Thai Film Archive's Chalida Uabumrungjit will award the Moviemov Plate to the film that best represents Italy abroad.

In addition to SFX the Emporium, screenings will also be at Chulalongkorn University and at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya. See the Thai-Italian Chamber of Commerce website for the full schedule or download the brochure PDF.

Italian Showcase

  • Manuale d'am3re (Manual of Love 3, a.k.a. The Ages of Love), directed by Giovanni Veronesi (2011) – The third entry in this series of romantic comedies as an anthology of four love stories. Robert De Niro plays a divorced university professor who woos Monica Bellucci. Shot in Tuscany and Rome, the cast also features Laura Chiatti, Riccardo Scamarcio, Valeria Solarino and Donatella Finocchiaro.
  • Mine Vaganti (Loose Cannons), directed by Ferzan Ozpetek (2010) – A large traditional Italian family is upset by the sudden news that the youngest son is gay. Riccardo Scamarcio stars.
  • Una vita tranquilla (A Quiet Life), directed by Claudio Cupellini (2010) – Toni Servillo is a former mafia hitman who has left the life of crime for 15 years and built a new identity in Germany only to have his criminal past catch up with him.
  • La scuola è finita (School's Out), directed by Valerio Jalongo (2010) – A drug-dealing student is given a chance at redemption by a pair of teachers.
  • La doppia ora (The Double Hour), directed by Giuseppe Capotondi (2009) – Romantic sparks fly and then turn tragic when an Eastern European waitress meets an Italian ex-policeman on a speed date.
  • Dieci inverni (Ten Winters), directed by Valerio Mieli (2009) – The director's debut feature follows a relationship over 10 years that begins with glances between a young man and woman on a Venice water taxi and undergoes many changes.
  • Io sono l’amore (I Am Love), directed by Luca Guadagnino (2009) – Tilda Swinton gives a widely acclaimed performance in this drama about an Italian family wracked by turmoil.

Special screening

  • Valzer (The Waltz, directed by Salvatore Maira (2007) – A man and a hotel maid meet in this award-winning drama that is shot in one continuous 90-minute take.

Classic retrospective

Regarded as one of the masters of commedia all'Italiana, Mario Monicelli directed films that have been described as a perfect mirror of Italian society during the 1950s and 1960s. Among his best-regarded work is 1959's La Grande Guerra (The Great War). Monicelli died last year at the age of 95. In all, seven of his classic movies from the 1950s to the 1990s will be shown. Here's the line-up:

  • Guardie e Ladri (Cops and Robbers), 1951 – Comedian Toto stars as a thief who has eluded the law for years. The latest lawman to give pursuit is Aldo Fabrizi, a detective who's given three months to bring the robber to justice – a job that becomes complicated when the thief ingratiates himself into the detective's family circle.
  • I Soliti Ignoti (Big Deal on Madonna Street), 1958 – This jewel-heist comedy stars Vittorio Gassman and Marcello Mastroianni. They are heading a caper that involves digging a tunnel from an apartment into a neighboring business, but plans go awry when their tunnel comes up in the wrong place.
  • La Grande Guerra (The Great War), 1959 – Alberto Sordi and Vittorio Gassman are mismatched army buddies who are drafted into service during World War I and serve in the trenches on the Austro-Hungarian frontlines. Produced by Dino DeLaurentis, this is Monicelli's best-regarded film. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and was nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign-language film.
  • Amici Miei (My Friends), 1975 – Four middle-aged Florentines engage in idle pranks in a continuous attempt to prolong their childhood. This hit comedy spawned two sequels.
  • Un Borghese Piccolo Piccolo (An Average Little Man), 1977 – When his only son is killed in an armed robbery, a meek middle-aged man (Alberto Sordi) takes justice into his own hands. Shelly Winters also stars.
  • Il Marchese del Grillo (The Marquis of Grillo), 1981 – Alberto Sordi portrays the larger-than-life title character, a womanizing man who is always inventing stories and cracking all types of jokes.
  • Parenti Serpenti (Dearest Relatives, Poisonous Relations), 1992 – A large family reunites in their ancestral home for Christmas, as they do every year. But this year the elderly mother and father spring a surprise on their sons – one of them will inherit the family home if they agree to care for their aging parents.

Tribute to Pen-ek Ratanaruang

One of Thailand's most-popular directors on the international scene, Pen-ek Ratanaruang has selected two of his movies to be shown. He'll receive the Best Thai Director 2011 Award presented by Ciak magazine in the Ciak d’Oro ceremony in Rome. Here's the line-up:

  • Ploy, 2007 – A jet-lagged Thai-American couple (Pornwat Sarasin and soap actress Lalida Panyopas) check into a Bangkok hotel after a long-haul flight from the U.S. and their tenuous marriage is tested when the husband invites a young woman (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk) up to their room. Meanwhile, the hotel's bartender (Ananda Everingham) is engaged in a playful tryst with a maid (Porntip Papanai). Ploy premiered in the Directors' Fortnight program at the Cannes Film Festival. Pen-ek will present the film along with Goffredo Bettini, artistic director of Moviemov, and Piera Detassis, artistic director of the International Rome Film Festival and director of Ciak Magazine.
  • Last Life in the Universe, 2003 – Tadanobu Asano stars in this quirk-filled black comedy as an eccentric, suicide-obsessed librarian living in Bangkok, hiding from his secret past. Violent circumstances lead him to take up with a young Thai woman (Sinitta Boonyasak) at her ramshackle house by the sea. Last Life is one of a pair of pan-Asian co-productions Pen-ek did with Asano and cinematographer Christopher Doyle (the other is 2006's Invisible Waves). The cast also includes cult Japanese actor Riki Takeuchi and a cameo by filmmaker Takashi Miike. Asano received the Upstream Prize for Best Actor at the 2003 Venice Film Festival.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 26-June 1, 2011

The Hangover Part II

The Wolf Pack is back, and this time they are in Bangkok.

As with the first Hangover, in The Hangover Part II Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) are running around the morning after, trying to piece together the events of the night before, which in their inebriated state, they've forgotten.

The rather labored plot, which was come up with as a way to cash in after the first Hangover proved to be a hit and heralded the return of R-rated comedy hijinks to the multiplexes, has the three friends and their pal Doug (Justin Bartha) traveling to Thailand for Stu’s wedding.

Hoping to prevent a repeat of the out-of-control bachelor party they had for Doug's wedding, Stu aims to just go to bed after the dignified pre-wedding dinner at a luxury resort on Krabi. However, at the urging of his bride-to-be (Jamie Chung), he relents for one celebratory beer on the beach with his buddies and his fiance's younger brother Teddy (Mason Lee).

Somehow they wake up the next morning in a seedy Bangkok hotel room, missing Teddy. Bearded Alan has his head shaved. And Stu has a facial tattoo that's just like Mike Tyson's.

Also, they have a monkey. And a monk turns up, wearing Teddy's Stanford sweatshirt.

The rest of what happens is a mystery, which is the main gimmick of these Hangover movies.

The filmmakers try to keep everyone guessing by seemingly encouraging rumors and scandals during the production.

Among early stories was that Mel Gibson was to play a tattoo artist. But then the movie's stars were outraged at the casting of the troubled actor with a history of anti-Semitic remarks and alleged abusive threats against his ex-girlfriend. So Liam Neeson was brought in to play the role. But then that didn't work out either. And so The Notebook director Nick Cassavetes was brought in for the cameo.

Bill Clinton was rumored to make a cameo after photos of him visiting the Bangkok filming location surfaced. But that was apparently just a rumor.

And one of the latest controversies concerns the capuchin monkey Crystal, who was said to have become addicted to smoking during the movie. That was just a joke by director Todd Phillips, but animal-rights activists were outraged anyway.

And even Ed Helms' facial tattoo has landed the film in legal hot water.

The movie was mostly filmed around Bangkok, with locations that include Soi Cowboy and Chinatown. It was one of the biggest productions to hit Thailand in the past year or so. Some other scenes were filmed on a Bangkok set that was constructed on the studio lot in Burbank, California.

Back for this episode is Ken Jeong, the Asian-American actor who was a dangerous foil for the guys in Vegas. Here, it looks like he's been partying with the buys and joining in their adventure. Mike Tyson is also making a cameo, somewhere. And so is Paul Giamatti.

You'll have to watch the movie to find out for sure. And then, you can't tell anyone. What happens in the cinema during The Hangover Part II stays in cinema.

Critical reception so far is mixed. Among the early reviewers is Roger Ebert, who says: "I'm no expert, but I've been to Bangkok, and while the city no doubt has a seamy side, let it be said that much of The Hangover Part II" plays like an anti-travelogue paid for by a rival tourist destination – Singapore, maybe." Rated 18+.

Also opening

Kung Fu Panda 2 – Jack Black and gang are back for a new martial-arts adventure in this DreamWorks Animation feature. Having acquired kung-fu skills, the portly panda Po is assigned by his master (Dustin Hoffman) to a mission with the Furious Five – Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Crane (David Cross) – to defeat their old enemy Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) who has acquired a deadly new weapon that threatens to make kung fu obsolete. James Hong returns as the voice of Mr. Ping, Po's adoptive goose dad. Other voices include Michelle Yeoh, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Haysbert and Danny McBride. Jennifer Yuh, who previously toiled away in the art department on such pictures as Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Dark City and the Spawn TV series, makes her feature directorial debut. Critical reception is pretty positive so far. It's in 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated G.

Puan Mai Kao (เพื่อนไม่เก่า, a.k.a. August Friends) – Formed as a fictional band for director Chukiat Sakveerakul's 2007 gay teen romance The Love of Siam, the August Band played at a few promotional appearances for the movie and proved so popular it became a real act. The band, which appeared in an animated Yellow Submarine-like fantasy segment in the shorts anthology Four Romances, now has a whole live-action feature built around them in Puan Mai Kao. "Peachy" Witwisit Hirunyawongkul and the rest of the guys hit the road for a bicycling journey from Bangkok to Lampang that will test their friendships. Kriangkrai Wachirathammaphon, who was a co-writer of Four Romances, directs with Chukiat as co-screenwriter. Rated 15+.

Do-Nut (โด๋ นัท) – Charlie Trairat stars in this love-triangle teen romance that is similar to last year's hit lesbian love story Yes or No, So I Love You. Charlie's an art student named Do who finds himself left out when his tomboyish friend Nut (Pimradapha Wright) pursues a romance with the pretty Jane (Phulada Luechatham). Nirun Thampreecha directs. Rated 13+.

Punished – Anthony Wong stars in this Hong Kong crime drama as a tyrannical tycoon. He's upset a lot of people, and someone punishes him by kidnapping and killing his daughter. Seeking revenge, he puts his bodyguard (Richie Ren) on the case. Law Wing-cheong directs. It's produced by Johnnie To and his Milky Way Image marque. Critical reception is mixed. It's in Cantonese with English and Thai subtitles at House on RCA.

Gantz: Perfect Answer – Filmed back-to-back with the first Gantz movie released earlier this year, this is a continuation of the adventures of two teens who were killed in a train accident and then brought back to life in a "game" in which they hunt down and kill aliens. But now, the stakes are higher, as the kids are ordered to kill humans instead of aliens. It's based on a manga and anime series. Kazunari Ninomiya and Kenichi Matsuyama star. Shinsuke Sato (The Princess Blade) directs. Critical reception is mixed. It's in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at Paragon and CentralWorld; elsewhere it's Thai-dubbed.

Also showing

You Say You Want a Revolution – For the past several weeks, this exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre has been hosting retrospectives of short films by local indie filmmakers. This Saturday's show features the work of Wiwat "Filmsick" Werwiwatlongsa, a Phuket-based film critic and writer who also makes short films. They include She Talk, What They Whisper, The Butterfly Effect and the Lav Diaz-inspired Encantos. The movies are projected onto a wall in a large corner of the BACC's ninth floor. There are a few beanbag chairs scattered around, so grab one if you get there in time. If not, you'll have to sit on the floor or lean against the back wall. The show time is from 3 to 6.

9 Film Fest – Nine short films, each nine minutes long and incorporating something about the No 9 in them, have been chosen for screening at the first 9 Film Fest, set for Saturday night at Siam Paragon. Founded by Brian Bennett, who started the original Bangkok Film Festival back in 1998, the 9 Film Fest is sponsored by the Bangkok Post. Judges are directors Nonzee Nimibutr, Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Pimpaka Towira, actor Ananda Everingham and the newspaper's film critic Kong Rithdee. They had 184 entries to choose from, each one made specifically for this festival. The top prize is 300,000 baht. The films will be screened in three "acts", broken up between by performances by the musical acts Calories Blah Blah and Buddha Bless. After the third act, there will be the awards presentation. A show by the rock band Paradox closes out the evening. Activities start at around 6 in Parc Paragon, the outdoor area in front of Siam Paragon. Here's the line-up of shorts:

  • 9 Days, directed by Meechai Tubphete. A home movie of a couple facing nine crisis-filled days.
  • 9 Years Later, directed by Krisanai Piriyarangsan. A soldier is trying to find a right spot for an uninterrupted radio signal.
  • Death of a Butterfly, directed by Pongpun Yuencheewit. A woman’s voice is reading a letter to a man.
  • The Elevator, directed by Suphasit Tanprasertsupa. Nine floors resemble nine stages of a person’s life.
  • Half, directed by Rakphong Rakrien. A political satire by a Thai who lives far away from Thailand and feels ashamed about what’s happening there.
  • Man with a Video Camera, directed by Kris Clijsters. Bangkok is seen in its state of flux, the ongoing change and the bubble of uncertainty beneath the surface.
  • Navigator, directed by Kanin Ramasoot. A driver and his GPS device get into a fight, break up, then make up.
  • The Numberman Theory, directed by Eeji Shimada. A man obsessed with numbers tries to represent the beauty of Arabic numbers with his body.
  • Touch Screen, directed by Katan Thammavijitdej. A teenage girl speaks with the world through her touch-screen mobile phone.

Third Class Party – Film activists Third Class Citizen, with support from Bioscope Magazine and SF cinemas, will celebrate the recent 64th Cannes Film Festival with a talk by local personalities who'll show photos and try to explain what it's like to attend the most prestigious film event on the planet. Among the speakers will be movie critic Kong Rithdee, who has regularly gone to Cannes to cover it for the Bangkok Post. Another will be filmmaker Anocha Suwichakornpong, whose master's thesis work Graceland was the first Thai short film chosen for the Cannes Cinefondation program. Also taking part will be indie filmmaker Panu Aree, whose day job is working in the international marketing department at Sahamongkol Film International, and "Teem" Chaisiri Jiwarangsan, an indie filmmaker who works with director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives became the first Thai film to win Cannes' top prize, the Palme d'Or, last year. The talk, which will be in Thai, is in the Eat@DoubleU restaurant at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld, from 3 to 5 on Sunday. Call 089-685-5253 for visit ThirdClassCitizen.exteen.com.

Restropo – Following a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, this 2010 documentary focuses entirely on the remote 15-man outpost Restrepo, named after a platoon medic who was killed in action. It was considered one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. military, and the cameras never cut away from the action for talking-head interviews with generals or diplomats. Quite simply, this is war, and you are there. Co-directed by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, it received the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, was named as one of the top documentary films of 2010 by the National Board of Review and was nominated for the 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary. Critical reception is overwhelmingly positive. Hetherington died in April while covering the conflict in the Libya. This movie's screening at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand is in memory of him, and the FCCT will donate the proceeds to its Indochina Media Memorial Foundation, established in 1991 by journalist Tim Page in memory of journalists killed in the region's wars. It provides training to journalists in the lower Mekong region. The show time is at 8pm on Tuesday. Admission is Bt150 for non-members.

Faut-il Aimer Mathilde? – After her husband leaves, Mathilde has three suitors to choose from as she starts a new life. Dominque Blanc stars in this 1993 comedy-drama directed by Edwin Baily. It's part of a five-film line-up in June of movies about "life" and "actresses" at the Alliance Francaise Bangkok. Others are Les murs portuers on June 8, Quand on sera grand (Once We Grow Up) on June 15, Le Dernier des Fous (Demented) on June 22 and Sauf le Respect que Je Vous Dois on June 29. Showtimes are at 7.30 on Wednesday in the Alliance Francaise auditorium on Sathorn Tai Road. All are in French with English subtitles.

Sneak preview

InsidiousSaw franchise directors James Wan and Leigh Whannell team with Paranormal Activity writer-director Oren Peli offer this haunted-house tale. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne star as parents to move into an old house who suspect they are under siege from otherworldly forces when their son falls into a coma. Barbara Hershey and Lin Shaye co-star. Critical reception is leaning to positive. "Aside from a shaky final act, Insidious is a very scary and very fun haunted house thrill ride," says the consensus. It's in sneak previews this week from around 8 nightly at most cinemas. Rated 18+.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 19-25, 2011

Enemies of the People

More than a decade in the making, the documentary Enemies of the People chronicles the efforts by Cambodian journalist Thet Sambath to gain the trust of a man who was second-in-command of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, a genocidal regime that was responsible for the deaths of 2 million people, including Sambath's father, mother and older brother.

In an attempt to understand the tragedy, Sambath sought to talk to the Khmer Rouge leaders, which led him to track down Brother No. 2, Nuon Chea.

Patiently and methodically, Sambath set aside the personal grief he had for his dead family members, and worked to get close to Nuon Chea as well as lower-ranking soldiers who carried out the killings.

At first Nuon Chea and the others were reluctant to talk about the Khmer Rouge, but Sambath persisted and eventually they talked about everything, even showing where the bodies were buried, and how they drew the knives across so many throats.

A collaborative effort with British journalist and filmmaker Rob Lemkin, the pair are now at work on their follow-up, Suspicious Minds, a documentary that explores the "reason" behind the Khmer Rouge killings.

Meanwhile the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia – the U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal – under which the 84-year-old Nuon Chea is being detained awaiting trial for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, is set to start on June 27, with Nuon Chea on trial alongside former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary, his wife and ex-social affairs minister Ieng Thirith and former head of state Khieu Samphan.

Enemies of the People was screened earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, and has had screenings in Cambodia as well.

The film comes to Thailand through the Extra Virgin Company, marking the first foray into foreign film by the independent production and distribution company.

It's screening as part of the Extra Virgin Director's Screen Project at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Show times are at around 7 nightly with Saturday and Sunday matinees at around 2. Sambath and Lemkin will be present for Q&A sessions after the screenings tonight and on Friday. Rated 18+.

Also opening

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Heralded by its gala premiere out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival, the fourth entry in the Pirates of Caribbean franchise has Johnny Depp again daubing on the black eyeliner and donning his tri-corner hat as the comical pirate Captain Jack Sparrow. He's on an adventure to find the Fountain of Youth. Joining the cast this time out is Penélope Cruz, a former love interest for Sparrow and the daughter of the dread pirate Blackbeard, who is portrayed with appropriate menace by Deadwood star Ian McShane. Geoffrey Rush also returns as the indestructible Captain Hector Barbossa, and Keith Richards is back as Jack Sparrow's pirate-captain father. Rob Marshall (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha) takes over the helm from franchise director Gore Verbinski. Critical reception so far is mixed. At Cannes, there was more buzz about the red-carpet appearances by Depp, Cruz, Rush and other stars than there was about the movie. It's in 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated 13+.

Don’t Look Up – Hong Kong director Fruit Chan is best known for his creepy abortion thriller Dumplings starring Bai Ling, which was originally part of the pan-Asian shorts anthology Three Extremes and then expanded into a feature of its own. Fruit made a foray into English-language horror with 2009's Don't Look Up, a remake of Japanese director Hideo Nakata's 1996 thriller Joyû-rei (Ghost Actress). The story is shifted to Romania, where a young director (Reshad Strik) and his crew are making a movie about a gypsy curse, and the production seems to be haunted. Eli Roth, Rachael Murphy, Henry Thomas, Kevin Corrigan and Alyssa Sutherland also star. Critical reception is mixed. It's at House on RCA. Rated 18+.

The Ward – The first film in 10 years from master thriller director John Carpenter, The Ward is set in a haunted psychiatric hospital in the 1960s. Amber Heard stars. She's sent to this looney bin from hell after she sets a fire to a farmhouse. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Bangkok International Student Film Festival – The second edition of the annual showcase of student films offers more than 200 shorts and documentaries from around the world, with screenings from around 11am daily until tomorrow on the fourth and fifth floors of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

You Say You Want a Revolution – For the past several weeks, this exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre has been hosting retrospectives of short films by local indie filmmakers. This Saturday's screening features the work of Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, who has gained notoriety in the past several months after her feature film Insects in the Backyard was banned by the Ministry of Culture, whose authorities deemed the strong depictions of homosexual relations, sex acts and implied patricide harmful to Thai morals. The ban is being fought in the Thai courts and there's a legal defense fund you can contribute to. Tanwarin's been making short films for more than a decade now, and here's a great opportunity to see a selection of her work. The shorts include I'm Fine, Sai-Bai-Dee-Ka, in which the transvestite director is locked in a cage beside Democracy Monument, makeup melting off in the hot sun yet reassuring passersby that she's fine, just fine, thank you. There's also Where's My Doll?, which was made for the 2008 Thai Short Film & Video Festival's tribute to Thai cinema pioneer R.D. Pestonji. You can read more about the program at Limitless Cinema. The showtime is from 3 to 6pm on Saturday on the ninth floor of the BACC.

Scent of Oak (Roble de Olor) – The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand's Contemporary World Film Series is back, and they are heading to Cuba for their next outing with this award-winning 2004 drama and romance by Rigoberto López. A fact-based tale, Roble de Olor traces the tumultuous love story between a woman from Haiti and a German man, at the beginning of the 19th century in Havana. The mixed-race couple goes on to establish an important coffee plantation where they aim to create a Utopian society, working the fields alongside their slave laborers in a direct challenge to management practices at the time. To further encourage their workers, they form a classical-music orchestra and play Mozart, Haydn, etc. Arousing anger among other farmers as well as bureaucrats and the German man's own family, the stage is set for confrontation. For the screening supported by the Embassy of Cuba, Ambassador Lazaro Herrera will lay on treats his country is known for, including rum and cigars, as well as the the Cuban band Fascinacion from the Senor Pico restaurant at the Rembrandt Hotel. The show time is at 8pm on Monday at the FCCT. Admission is 150 baht for non-members and 200 baht for anyone want to light a stogie, sip rum or enjoy Cuban snacks.

Ridicule – Director Patrice Leconte’s sumptuously costumed 1996 period comedy is a satiric view of the court of Louis XVI in the 18th century, where a poor lord learns to play the delicate games of palace intrigue as he tries to get royal backing for a drainage project. Charles Berling, Jean Rochefort and Fanny Ardant star. Screens at 7.30pm on Wednesday, May 25, as the closing film of the "Special Festival de Cannes" at the Alliance Francais Bangkok.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 12-18, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer

No, The Lincoln Lawyer has nothing to do with the 16th president of the United States.

It's a modern-day crime thriller set in Los Angeles, with Matthew McConaughey sleazing it up as highly sought-after criminal defense attorney who operates out of the back of his chauffeur-driven Lincoln Town Car.

Accustomed to defending bikers, drug dealers and various other low-life criminals, McConaughey's Mickey Haller takes on the highest profile, most challenging case of his career when he agrees to help a wealthy Beverly Hills playboy who's accused of rape and attempted murder.

The accused is portrayed by Ryan Phillippe, and he looks to be running a game on the lawyer as the suspense builds.

The cast includes William H. Macy as Mickey's down-at-the-heels investigator, Michael Peña as a previous client whose case was similar and Marisa Tomei as Mickey's disapproving prosecutor ex-wife. Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Bob Gunton and Bryan Cranston also star.

Critical reception is mostly favorable. "It doesn't offer any twists on the predictable courtroom thriller formula, but with a charming Matthew McConaughey leading its solid cast, The Lincoln Lawyer offers briskly enjoyable entertainment," says the consensus.

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

Also opening

White Buffalo (E-Nang Ei Khoei Farang, อีนางเอ๊ย...เขยฝรั่ง) – The phenomenon of the dusky women of Isaan getting hitched to pale-skinned foreigners is the basis of this romantic comedy. “Ron AF5” Patarapon Too-on stars as a young man who returns to his Northeast village for a childhood friend’s wedding and is shocked to discover that the women there are crazy about farang men, including his old crush, Waewdao (“Preaw AF2” Anusara Wanthongtak). Rungrawan Tonahongsa, who previously played the troublemaking Isaan maid in Noo-Hin: The Movie, also stars. It's the feature directorial debut by veteran industry hand Chinoret Khamwandee and was chosen from the Thailand Script Project four years ago and picked up for production by Sahamongkolfilm International. It also received backing from the Culture Ministry's "Strong Thailand" fund. Read more about it in The Nation. And check out the trailer. Rated 13+

Love First (Khob Khun Thee Rak Kan, ขอบคุณที่รักกัน) – Five Star Production brings together three stories about families in this romantic-drama anthology directed by Peerasak Saksiri, who previously wrote the screenplay to the hit historical musicial drama The Overture; Putipong Saisikaew, who was one of the "Ronin Team" behind Art of the Devil 2 and Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, the longtime lensman for Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The cast includes veteran soap actress Lalita Sasiprapha nee Panyopas, best known outside Thailand for her roles in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's 6ixtynin9 and Ploy, and the young starlet Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, who made her debut in Ploy. However, the two Ploy actresses appear in different segments – Lalita as the wife of a soldier husband heading off to duty while Saipan Apinya is a music student travelling around the countryside with a professor (veteran character actor Somchai Sakdikul) and another student played by Patchai Pakdeesusuk, better known as Pup from the rock band Potato. Check out the trailer. Rated G.

Priest – Paul Bettanhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gify stars as a vampire-fighting priest in this Wild-West-flavored special-effects-driven action-horror thriller that's based on a South Korean comic. When his niece (Lily Collins) is kidnapped by vampires, Bettany's character disobeys his monsignor (Christopher Plummer), breaks his vows and goes in search. He's accompanied by a wasteland sheriff who's also the niece's boyfriend (Cam Gigandet) and a former warrior priestess, played by Maggie Q. Karl Urban (Star Trek, Red) is the villain, Black Hat. Genre-cult character actor Brad Dourif also stars. Scott Stewart, who previously directed Bettany as an avenging angel in Legion, directs. Critical reception so far is negative, but because this movie doesn't open in the U.S. until Friday the 13th, it's possible that better opinions are still forthcoming. It's also showing in 3D (post-converted). Rated 15+

Panda Diary (Panda Days) – Pandas, pandas, pandas. If you can't get enough of these roly-poly, bamboo-munching black-and-white bears from TrueVision's 24-hour Panda Channel broadcast from the cage of Lin Ping at the Chiang Mai Zoo or the upcoming Kung Fu Panda 2 animated feature, here's a Japanese documentary a pair of four-year-old cubs born in captivity in Wakayama, Japan and their journey to a new home – a reserve in China where they will help repopulate the species in their native land. It's in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at Apex Siam Square. Rated G.

Also showing

Bangkok International Student Film Festival – The second edition of the annual showcase of student films offers more than 200 shorts and documentaries from around the world, include France, the U.K., New Zealand, Spain, the Czech Republic, Kenya, South Korea and Israel, as well as Thai student films. Many will have English subtitles. Starting today, screenings run from around 11am or noon daily except Monday until May 20 on the fourth and fifth floors of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. Check the daily schedule on the festival website for more details. There will be be seminars and workshops. Admission is free. Get a glance of the action in the festival trailer.

You Say You Want a Revolution – For the past several weeks, this exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre has been hosting retrospectives of short films by local indie filmmakers. This Friday's screening features the work of Chulayarnnon Siriphol, whose notable films include Hua-Lam-Pong, Danger and Karaoke: Think Kindly. You can read more about the program at Limitless Cinema. The showtime is from 6 to 8pm on the ninth floor of the BACC. There's also a screening on Saturday from 6 to 8 featuring shorts by Paisit Panpreuksachat. Upcoming shows will feature shorts by Tanwarin Sukkhapisit and Wiwat "Filmsick" Lertwiwatwongsa.

Clean – Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung won the best actress prize at Cannes in 2004 for her portrayal of the drug-addicted widow of a rock star. Directed by her ex-husband Olivier Assayas, she has her hair all frizzed out and is chain-smoking. She's a woman determined to change her ways in order to take custody of her son from her in-laws. Nick Nolte appears as her father-in-law. Clean was also a nominee of the Bangkok International Film Festival's Golden Kinaree in 2005, as well as loads of other prizes. Critical reception is mostly positive. Screens on May 18. Screens at 7.30pm on Wednesday, May 18 as part of the "Special Festival de Cannes" at the Alliance Francais Bangkok, every Wednesday until May 25.

Take note

House cinema on RCA is closed through Tuesday as it hosts the annual auditions for the "Academy Fantasia" talent show. It'll reopen on Wednesday, May 18.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 5-11, 2011

Fast Five

The Fast and the Furious franchise shifts gears from street-racing to a straight-up heist flick with the fifth entry in the series, Fast Five (Fast & Furious 5).

Vin Diesel is back for his third outing as fugitive street-racer and master thief Dominic Torreto. He's joined again by Paul Walker, playing an ex-FBI agent who was once Dom's adversary but left his life as a lawman behind in 2009's Fast & Furious to help Dom take revenge against a druglord.

Dom's latest caper is to steal $100 million in cash from a fortified police station in Rio de Janeiro.

In addition to Walker's Brian O'Connor, joining the cast for this outing are Rome Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) – a pair of street-racers from the second film in the series, 2 Fast 2 Furious, which also starred Walker but not Diesel. And Jordana Brewster, playing Dom's sister Mia, is back for her third appearance in the series.

Adding even more muscle to this car-racing franchise is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, playing a tough US lawman who is determined to stop Dom and his gang.

Justin Lin, who's taken over the franchise since the third film, 2006's The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, directs.

Critical reception is mostly favorable. "Sleek, loud, and over the top, Fast Five proudly embraces its brainless action thrills," is the consensus, which means critics actually like this car-chase flick.

Keep your seat for a post-credits scene involving Eva Mendes, the undercover cop from 2 Fast 2 Furious, and Michelle Rodriguez, who was presumed dead after the events of Fast & Furious.

In addition to ordinary theaters, there's also an IMAX version at Paragon (but it's not in 3D). Rated 15+.

Also opening

Something Borrowed – A terminally single lawyer (Ginnifer Goodwin) drinks too much on her 30th birthday and finds her herself in bed the next morning with her crush from high school (Colin Egglesfield). And the problem is he's the soon-to-be-married fiancé of her best friend (Kate Hudson). John Krasinski also stars. Because this romantic comedy is also being released in the U.S. this week, critical reception is too early to gauge. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Journey Through ASEAN – Two more movies dealing with children and family issues in Southeast Asia are featured in the Film Kawan film series at TK Park at Central World. At 2pm on Saturday it's Buddha's Lost Children, a 2006 Dutch documentary is about a Thai Buddhist monk who uses his patience and faith (as well as his Muay Thai skills) to help orphaned children, fight drug abuse and preserve a vanishing way of life. His unique ministry brings Buddha's message to the remote mountain villages via horseback. At 2 on Sunday it's Homerun, a heartfelt 2003 family drama directed by popular Singaporean comedian and filmmaker Jack Neo. It's a remake of an Iranian film, Children of Heaven, and is about a poor brother and sister and their adventures over a lost pair of shoes. It's set in 1965, against the backdrop of Singapore's independence from Malaysia and also contains satire about relations between the two countries. The screenings are in Mini Theater 1 in TK Park on the eighth floor of CentralWorld.

Van Gogh – The final 67 days of artist Vincent Van Gogh's life are depicted in this 1991 biographical drama by Maurice Pialat. Jacques Dutronc portrays the talented but tormented painter. Screens on Wednesday, May 11 as part of the "Special Festival de Cannes" at the Alliance Francais Bangkok, every Wednesday until May 25.

Take note

House cinema on RCA will be closed for a week from next Tuesday as it hosts the annual auditions for the "Academy Fantasia" talent show. It'll reopen on Wednesday, May 18.