Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening August 25-September 1, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens

James Bond meets Indiana Jones/Han Solo in the wild wild west in Cowboys & Aliens, a genre-bending mash-up starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford.

Set in New Mexico Territory in 1873, a stranger (Craig) awakens in the desert with a metal band on his wrist. He has no recollection of how it got there. He wanders into the town of Absolution, where he gets into a confrontation with a troublemaking local rich kid. The town sheriff recognizes the stranger as a wanted outlaw. And the rich troublemaker's father, the local cattle baron (Ford), wants the stranger for his own purposes of revenge. Suddenly, alien spaceships begin attacking the town and the reason for that device on the stranger's wrist becomes clear.

Olivia Wilde, Paul Dano, Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown and Keith Carradine also star.

Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Elf) directs. It's adapted from a 2006 graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg.

Critical reception is mixed. "Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford are as dependably appealing as ever, but they're let down by director Jon Favreau's inability to smooth Cowboys & Aliens' jarring tonal shifts," is the consensus.

Cowboys & Aliens was also a disappointment at the box office, being beat for No. 1 by The Smurfs, following the trend of other recent hybridized westerns like Johah Hex, The Warrior's Way and Priest that have performed poorly at the box office. It's blamed for Disney killing its planned big-screen adaptation of The Lone Ranger.

Whatever. I'm anxious to see Cowboys & Aliens. I like westerns. And I like sci-fi. I think I might like Cowboys & Aliens.

In addition to most multiplexes, it's also at IMAX (but it's not 3D). Rated 13+.

Also opening

Kon Khon (คนโขน) – Two veteran stars of the Thai silver screen – Sorapong Chatree and Nirut Sirichanya – are pitted against each other in this dark-looking drama about rival dance troupes in 1965. The story is about performers of khon, the masked-dance artform that's used to depict the Ramakien, Thailand's version of the Ramayana epic poem. It's directed by actor Sarunyu Wongkrachang. Rated G.

Conan the Barbarian – Hawaiian-born model-actor Jason Momoa steps into the role played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in a 1982 film of the same name directed by John Milius. Based on a character created in the 1930s by pulp novelist Robert E. Howard, Conan is a warrior in ancient Cimmeria whose father is killed. Conan the boy grows into strong fighter, bent on taking revenge, which turns into an epic battle. Ron Perlman is the dad and Stephen Lang (Avatar) is the warlord Khalar Zym. Rose McGowan is the warlord's daughter, a powerful witch. Rachel Nichols also stars. Marcus Nispel, who previously helmed remakes of Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, directs. "While its relentless, gory violence is more faithful to the Robert E. Howard books, Conan the Barbarian forsakes three-dimensional characters, dialogue, and acting in favor of unnecessary 3D effects," is the critical consensus, which is mostly negative. In 3D in some cinemas. Rated 15+.

Also showing

15th Thai Short Film & Video Festival – Closing on Sunday, remaining highlights in the fest include the Queer Shorts tonight (Thursday, August 25) from 5pm and S-Express shorts from the Philippines and Indonesia on Friday. Saturday includes screenings in the International Competition and the Duke Awards for documentaries. On Sunday there's lots of animation, with Shorts for Kids at 11 and then the Payute Ngaokrachang Award competition for Thai animation in the afternoon from 1. Some films don't have English subtitles, but go along anyway and you'll likely see something that'll make you glad you did. The fest is at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center in the 5th-floor auditorium and 4th-floor meeting room. Admission is free.

Thai Film Archive – The 1998 German heist drama Run Lola Run screens today. Directed by Tom Tykwer, this kinetic thriller stars plucky Franka Potente as a young woman whose boyfriend has gotten in trouble and needs 100,000 Deutschmarks. She has 20 minutes to help him. The story is divided into three "runs" – three scenarios with different outcomes. Next Wednesday, it's the acclaimed 2003 Spanish drama Take My Eyes, about a woman trying to break the cycle of domestic violence. Both have English subtitles. Show times are at 5.30pm in the Sri Salaya Theatre at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom.

Chulalongkorn University International Film Festival – The twice-yearly screening series of internationally acclaimed movies continues tomorrow (August 26) with the Japanese revenge thriller Confessions, 2008's drugs drama Afterschool on August 29 and Davis Guggenheim's documentary on the troubled US school system Waiting for Superman on August 31. After each screening there's a talk with film critics Kittisak Suvannapokhin, Nopamat Veohong and Kong Rithdee. All movies are on DVD with English subtitles. Show times are at 5pm in the Mahachakri Sirindhorn Building, 9th floor.

Third Class Citizen 028: Before Samed – Film-activist group Third Class Citizen offers a retrospective on the short fiilms of Pairach Khumwan at 4pm on Saturday, August 27 at E@Double U Restraurant on the 9th floor of SF World Cinema at Central World. Films include Relativity, Distortion, Are You Mac?, Grayscale and The City of Slince Admission is free.

Spider – Tossapol Boonsinsukh will premiere his short film Spider on Saturday, August 27 at the Reading Room, with screenings at 5 and 6pm. The 17-minute film is in Thai with no subtitles. Check the Facebook event page for more details.

Public Enemy Number One – The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand screens a documentary on Wilfred Burchett, the controversial Australian journalist who covered the Korean and Vietnam wars with such a critical eye that he was branded a communist and a traitor. David Bradbury directs, and is expected to be present for the screening. The show time is at 8pm on Tuesday, August 30. Admission is 150 baht for non-members.

La répétition (Replay) – Emmanuelle Béart and Pascale Bussières star in this 2001 drama about two women who are lifelong friends. Their relationship becomes more than friendship, verges on the obsessive and morphs over the course of many years. Catherine Corsini directs. It's screening at 7.30pm on Wednesday, August 31 at the Alliance Francaise.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening August 18-23, 2011

The Future

Multi-hyphenate writer-filmmaker-artist Miranda July follows up her critically acclaimed debut Me and You and Everyone We Know with The Future, a quirk-filled existential comedy about a slacker thirtysomething couple (July and Hamish Linklater) who think they are finally ready to start acting like adults.

So they decide to adopt a cat, who narrates the story. Yes, you read that right – this movie has a talking cat.

However, they have to wait 30 days, so the couple breaks loose with various weird activities before taking on the weighty responsibility of pet ownership.

The Future won praise at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. "A dark and whimsical exploration of human existence that challenges viewers as much as it rewards them," is the critical consensus.

It's at House on RCA. Rated 15+.

Also opening

Come Rain, Come Shine – After five years of marriage, a couple prepares for their breakup. The woman (Lim Soo-jeong) is set to move her stuff out. The man (Hyun Bin), typically male in his inability to articulate his feelings, lends a hand and memories of the good times they had resurface. Lee Yoon-Ki directs. This romantic drama was in competition for the Golden Bear at this year's Berlin Film Festival. In Korean with English and Thai subtitles at House and the Lido. Rated 15+.

One Day – After one day together – July 15, 1988, their college graduation – an idealistic working-class woman (Anne Hathaway) and a wealthy, spoiled charmer (Jim Sturgess) begin a friendship that will last a lifetime. Over the next 20 years, key moments are experienced over several July 15ths, chronicling their friendship and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. Danish-born filmmaker Lone Scherfig (An Education) directs. Critical reception, so far, is mostly negative. Rated 15+.

Final Destination 5 – If you've seen the previous four movies in the Final Destination franchise, you know what to expect – a group of people cheat a strange death thanks to someone's premonition, but it only delays the inevitable, and so the rest of the movie is a string of bizarre, gruesome killings. Here, a bunch of folks are saved from dying in a bridge collapse, but they will die anyway in other messed-up ways. What's different is this one's in 3D. Nicholas D'Agosto stars along with Emma Bell. "It's still only for the gore-thirsty faithful, but Final Destination 5 represents a surprising return to form for the franchise," is the critical consensus. Rated 18+.

Also showing

15th Thai Short Film & Video Festival – Starting today, the fest opens at 5pm with registration and then the new short O.B.L. by the Baby Arabia trio of Panu Aree, Kaweenipon Ketprasit and Kong Rithdee. That's followed by Terribly Happy, the 30-minute drama by Pimpaka Towira that was the first Thai short to compete in the Berlin Film Festival. Only Terribly Happy will have English subtitles. The fest is at the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre with daily screenings until August 28 (except Monday). The line-up includes competition shorts by Thai and foreign filmmakers, student films, animation and documentaries. Special programs include the always entertaining "Best of Clermont Ferrand" showcase from the world's largest shorts fest, the S-Express packages from the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, Shorts for Kids and Queer shorts from all over the world. A special program this year is "B-Sides: The History of Video Art in Spain." Screenings are in the 5th floor auditorium and the 4th floor meeting room at the BACC. There's an English translation of the schedule spreadsheet and the screening timetable with partial notations about subtitles. Watch for updates on the festival's Facebook page.

Thai Film Archive – Movies with English subtitles screening this week are the Korean orphan's drama A Brand New Life today (Thursday, August 18) and the 2000 Brazilian romantic comedy Bossa Nova on Tuesday, August 23. A highlight comes on Wednesday, August 24, with another film in the "Memorial to Ratana Pestonji" program: Sugar is not Sweet, the final feature by the pioneering Thai director who died in 1970. Starring one of the era's top leading men, Sombat Metanee, the 1965 romantic comedy is the story of a dying hair-tonic mogul who is determined to marry off his playboy son Manas (Sombat) to his Indian business partner's daughter Namtan. Manas, who already has a girlfriend, isn't interested in the "roti". With an eye-popping color palette, rollicking musical numbers and wild comedy, Sugar is not Sweet is also a look at how Indians are disdainfully viewed in Thai society, even if, like Pestonji, who came from a family of Indian Parsis, they were born in Thailand. Through the end of the month, other movies to look forward to are the 1998 German bank-heist classic Run Lola Run on Thursday, August 25, and the acclaimed 2003 Spanish drama Take My Eyes on August 31. Show times are at 5.30pm in the Sri Salaya Theatre at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom.

Morbid Symptom – The DK Filmhouse (Film Virus) screening series alongside the Dialogic exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre continues on Saturday with two movies under the theme of "The New". At 3pm it's Cria Cuervos, a 1976 Spanish drama by Carlos Saura about an 8-year-old orphan girl who escapes into a fantasy world as a way of coping with the deaths of her parents. That's followed at 5pm by Xala, a 1975 Senegalese film by Ousmane Sembene. A satire about the corruption in post-independence African governments, the main character is a politician who is cursed with impotence upon the day of his marriage to his third wife. The screening venue is a corner of the BACC's ninth-floor gallery, on a bare white wall where there are a handful of beanbag chairs strewn around. If you want a seat, get there early.

Chulalongkorn University International Film Festival – It's time once again for the twice-yearly Chula film fest, put on by the Department of Dramatic Arts. Starting on Monday, August 22 and running until September 9, it offers a line-up of movies that have been acclaimed hits on the film-fest circuit and, with a few exceptions, somehow passed Bangkok by. The opener on Monday is Poetry by South Korean director Lee Chang-dong, about an elderly woman who begins to take an interest in poetry while struggling with Alzheimer's and an irresponsible grandson. Yoon Jeong-hee stars in her first film role since 1994. Awards included best screenplay at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and best actress at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. Next Wednesday is the Indian hit Peepli Live, which BollywoodThai brought to the Bangkok big screen last year. It competed at last year's Sundance Film Festival and was India's official submission to the Oscars. It's a satire on impoverished farmers committing suicides and the media and political response that follows. Others in the screening series are the Japanese thriller Confessions on August 26, 2008's drugs drama Afterschool on August 29, Davis Guggenheim's documentary on the troubled US school system Waiting for Superman on August 31, Michelle Williams in the woman-and-her-dog road-trip drama Wendy and Lucy on September 2, the Greek arthouse thriller Dogtooth on September 5, the animated Cuban romance Chico and Rita on September 7 and French animator Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist, based on a screenplay by Jacques Tati, on September 9. After each screening there's a chance to share opinions with film critics Kittisak Suvannapokhin, Nopamat Veohong and Kong Rithdee. All movies are on DVD with English subtitles. Show times are at 5pm in the Mahachakri Sirindhorn Building, 9th Floor.

Une Vieille Maîtresse – Before getting married to the young daughter of an aristocrat, a notorious womanizer (Fu'ad Aït Aattou) makes a last visit to his long-time Spanish mistress (a torrid Asia Argento). The scandalous relationship has been the talk of Paris society, so before the man can wed his bride (Roxane Mesquida), the young woman's grandmother wants to hear everything about it. The man spills all sordid the details, but says it's over and he's now in love with the woman he intends to marry. And they do and are happy. But then the old mistress reappears and the man is forced to confront his past. Catherine Breillat directs this historical romantic drama, set in 1835. It competed at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007. It screens with English subtitles at 7.30pm on Wednesday, August 24 at the Alliance Francaise.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening August 11-17, 2011

The Legend of King Naresuan Part IV

There's no elephant in the room.

It's tough to get those big beasts to cooperate for the cameras, so the promised "elephant battle" has not emerged for the fourth installment of the Legend of King Naresuan series.

Now the vaunted fight with pachyderms will be depicted in Naresuan 5, which is being filmed at the Prommitr studio in Kanchanaburi.

Meanwhile, enough battle footage has been shot to cobble together another violent and bloody chapter from Siam history – The Legend of King Naresuan Part IV (Tamnan Somdej Phra Naresuan Maharaj 4: Suek Nandabayin, ตำนานสมเด็จพระนเรศวรมหาราช ภาค 4 ศึกนันทบุเรง ). It's being released this week to coincide with the auspicious occasion of Her Majesty the Queen's birthday on August 12, which is also Mother's Day in Thailand.

Naresuan 4 follows the April release of Naresuan 3. Meanwhile, the first two movies in the Naresuan series have been released on DVD in the U.S. as Kingdom of War.

With the movie's subtitle loosely translated to mean "wars with Nandabayin", Naresuan 4 focuses on the 1576 invasion of Ayutthaya by the army of Burmese King Nandabayin.

Jakrit Ammart portrays the Burmese monarch. Lt. Colonel Wanchana Sawasdee returns as Naresuan, back in action with a cast of thousands that includes "Peter" Nopachai Jayanama, Taksaorn Paksukcharoen, Chatchai Plengpanich, Grace Mahadumrongkul and Inthira Charoenpura.

The trailer, playing for the past several weeks in cinemas, on Bangkok's skytrain and elsewhere, has been frightening children and tourists with a graphic beheading scene. Rated P.

Also opening

Tomboy – The new kid in town – a girl named Laure – decides to dress and act like a boy. She fools all the other kids into thinking she's a boy, but things get complicated when she attracts a girlfriend. Directed by Céline Sciamma, Tomboy screened earlier this year at the Berlin Film Festival, where it won the Teddy Award, given by a special jury to the best film with gay themes. It's in French with English and Thai subtitles at Apex in Siam Square.

Bad Teacher – Cameron Diaz is a junior-high teacher with a rotten attitude. Bored with teaching, she maintains a steady regimen of booze and pot and sleeping in class to get through her day. When a handsome substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake) catches her eye, she becomes determined to marry him and sets about to change her ways so she can earn a big bonus and pay for breast-enlargement surgery. But she has to compete with a colleague (Lucy Punch) and keep away from a pestering gym teacher (Jason Segel). Jake Kasdan (Walk Hard) directs. "In spite of a promising concept and a charmingly brazen performance from Cameron Diaz, Bad Teacher is never as funny as it should be," is the critical consensus. Rated 18+.

The Dragon Pearl – Sam Neill stars in this family-oriented Chinese-Australian fantasy as an archaeologist working in China. His son Josh and a local girl Ling find a mysterious cave which they think is home to an ancient dragon. Louis Corbett, Li Lin Jin and Jordan Chan also star. Critical reception is mostly negative. Rated 13+.

Also showing

Memorial to Ratana Pestonji – The Thai Film Archive pays tribute this month to pioneering director Ratana Pestonji, who strove for innovations in the Thai film industry and put Thai movies on the world cinema map. His features include Black Silk (แพรดำ, Prae Dum), which is not only regarded as the first Thai film noir, it's also one of the first Thai films to compete at an overseas festival. It screened in competition at the 1961 Berlin Film Festival. It'll show at 1pm on Friday, August 12, with English subtitles. Another of his films is 1958's Dark Heaven (Sawan Mued), about a singing garbageman who enters into a tragic romance with an orphan girl. It'll show at 1pm on Sunday, August 14. Ratana's 1957 debut feature Country Hotel screens on Wednesday, August 17 at 5.30. The stagebound comedy is set in a bizarre bar and guesthouse that has only one room, where a mysterious man and an enigmatic heroine attempt to stay. Various musical acts parade through the bar, which also plays host to arm wrestling and a boxing match. From a hilarious, farcical first half, the movie descends into film-noir territory for its second half. "With its distinctive style and clever screenplay, Country Hotel is one of the best Thai films which everybody must see," says the Film Archive. There are also foreign films with English subtitles. On Tuesday, August 16 at 5.30 they'll show Hiroshima mon Amour, a 1959 French New Wave romance by Alain Resnais, about a French actress working on an anti-war film falls in love with a Japanese architect shortly before her return to France. Emmanuelle Riva and Eiji Okada star as the couple referred to as "she" and "he". The film earned an Oscar nomination for screenwriter Marguerite Duras, as well as a special award at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival. Next Thursday, August 18 at 5.30pm, it's Ounie Lecomte's A Brand New Life, the acclaimed South Korean that recently enjoyed a run at House cinema. It's about a 9-year-old girl left at an orphanage trying to come to grips with her abandonment. It won the Best Asian Film Award at the 22nd Tokyo International Film Festival and the jury award at the 2009 Cinekid Festival in Amsterdam. The screenings are in the Sri Salaya Theatre at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom.

Mother's Day programs – House cinema on RCA will screen two films in celebration of Thailand's August 12 Mother's Day – Me and You and Everyone We Know and Tokyo Tower: Mom and Me and Sometimes Dad. Me and You is the much-acclaimed debut feature by writer Miranda July. It's about a recently divorced shoe salesman (John Hawkes), the father of two children, who gets into a relationship with a quirky cab driver and video artist (July). Tokyo Tower is about an artist who must care for his cancer-stricken mother. The cast includes mother-daughter actresses Kirin Kiki as the mother in her later years and Yayako Uchida, who portrays the woman in recollections about the artist's childhood. See the House website for showtimes.

Les Sœurs fâchées (Me and My Sister) – Isabelle Huppert and Catherine Frot star in this 2004 comedy-drama about sisters with clashing personalities. It screens at 7.30pm on Wednesday, August 17 at the Alliance Francaise.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening August 4-10, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The Apes franchise that started with the 1968 sci-fi thriller starring Charlton Heston is rebooted with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, an origin tale that traces the takeover of the earth by those damn dirty apes to the present day.

James Franco stars as a research scientist working on a cure for Alzheimer's. His first test subject is a chimpanzee named Caesar, and the "cure" genetically modifies the chimp to give him human-like intelligence. He breaks free, releases the medicine among other apes and starts a revolution that leads to all-out war between the humans and the apes.

With special effects by Oscar-winners WETA Digital (Lord of the Rings, King Kong), employing some of the technologies developed for Avatar, Rise aims to present "photo-realistic" apes rather than actors in monkey suits.

Behind the creepily expressive face of Caesar is actor Andy Serkis, probably best known for his motion-capture portrayal of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings.

Brian Cox, Frieda Pinto, John Lithgow and Tom Felton also star.

Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist) directs.

Critical reception, so far, is positive. Rated G.

Also opening

Tom Hanks directs and stars in Larry Crowne, a comedy that puts him back in the Forrest Gump mode of an outcast dweeb who becomes an inspiration to those around him.

Hanks, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), is a middle-aged ex-Navy man with what he believes is a secure job at a "big-box" discount store. He's in for a surprise though, when he's downsized because according to company policy he doesn't have enough schooling.

So he sets out to take classes at a local community college and in the process remakes himself, gathering a circle of colorful new friends, new clothes and a battered motor scooter while he starts a romance with his pretty teacher. She's played by Julia Roberts, making for a reunion of lovebirds who previously romanced each other in Charlie Wilson's War.

Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson and Gugu Mbatha-Raw also star.

Critical reception for this feel-good romance is mostly negative. "Despite the relaxed, easy chemistry of stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, Larry Crowne is surprisingly bland and conventional," is the consensus. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Ghare Baire (The Home and the World) – Two giant figures of 20th century Indian culture – filmmaker Satyajit Ray and Nobel laureate writer-artist Rabindranath Tagore – come together for this epic about women's emancipation set against the backdrop of a nationalist movement sweeping British India. A project long in the works by Ray, Ghare Baire was released in 1984, premiering in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. It's based on a novel by Tagore. Ghare Baire screens at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand tonight in celebration of the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore. Part of the FCCT's Contemporary World Film Series, the Embassy of India, will provide wine, beer and food by Mrs Balbir's restaurant. Admission for non-members is 150 baht and 150 baht for anyone wanting to eat. The show time is at 8pm on Thursday, August 4.

Morbid Symptom – The DK Filmhouse (Film Virus) screening series alongside the Dialogic exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre continues on Saturday with two movies under the theme "the Old". At 3pm it's The Seed of Man (Il seme dell'uomo), a 1969 post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller by Italian director Marco Ferreri in which a young couple is rounded up by authorities, taken to an isolated base and ordered to conceive of a child in hopes of repopulating the earth. At 5 it's The Surrogate Woman, a 1987 historical drama by Korean master Im Kwon-taek about the complicated affair of a nobleman and a servant girl he's chosen to be the surrogate mother for his heir. The screening venue is a corner of the BACC's eighth-floor gallery, on a bare white wall where there are a handful of beanbag chairs strewn around. If you want a seat, get there early.

Madame Freedom (Jayu buin) – Romantic entanglements ensue in this classic 1956 South Korean film in which a married university professor finds himself attracted to typist Miss Park while the man's wife becomes interested in a young neighbor and begins to learn dancing from him while also attracting the attention of the owner of the clothing store where she works. Directed by Han Hyung-mo, it's considered a landmark for South Korean cinema as it presented for the first time the commercial potential of modern romantic dramas. The screening, supported by the Korean Film Archive, is with English subtitles at 5.30pm on Wednesday, August 10 at the Sri Salaya Theatre at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom.