Thursday, October 27, 2011

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also opening

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

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

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

Take note

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

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

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

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

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

Embedded above is a video that explains the flooding situation.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening October 20-26, 2011

Top Secret Wairoon Pun Lan

Top Secret Wairoon Pun Lan (Top Secret วัยรุ่นพันล้าน) – The story of Tao Kae Noi seaweed-snack tycoon Aitthipat “Top” Kulapongvanich is told in this semi-autobiographical account of the struggles of a Thai-Chinese teenager who parlayed his online-gaming wins into a business that made him a millionaire by age 27. “Peach” Patchara Chirathivat, who made his scene-stealing debut in the rock 'n' roll movie SuckSeed earlier this year, stars. Among his co-stars is Somboonsuk Niyomsiri, making his acting debut at age 80. Better known as Piak Poster, Somboonsuk directed a string of classic youth-oriented movies in the 1970s. Songyos Sugmakanan (Dorm, Hormones) directs. Read more about it in a recent Nation article. Rated 15+.

Also opening

Buddha – Prince Siddartha’s early life is depicted in this anime adaptation of the award-winning manga by Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka. The theme “Scarlet Love Song” was composed and recorded for the movie by the metal band X Japan. At Apex Siam Square.

Dream House – Soon after moving into their cozy new home, a family learns of a brutal crime committed against former residents of the dwelling, and the dad (Daniel Craig) is in for a shock when he finds out who perpetrated the killings. Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts also star. Jim Sheridan (The Boxer, My Left Foot) directs. Critical reception of this psycho-thriller is mostly negative. Rated 15+.

Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night – What's certainly going to be confusing for moviegoers is the presence of two entries from the low-budget Paranormal Activity ghost mockumentary franchise opening the same week by competing distributors. The M Pictures release, Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night, is a Japanese remake of 2009's Paranormal Activity. It's about a young woman, wheelchair-bound with two broken legs after a car wreck, who starts experiencing supernatural phenomena. Her computer-nerd brother sets up a video camera in hopes of catching the ghosts. Noriko Aoyama and Aoi Nakamura star. Rated 15+.

Paranormal Activity 3 – The other Paranormal movie released this week is from distributor United International Pictures (UIP). A prequel to last year's second film in the Hollywood series, it's set in 1988 and is about two young sisters who befriend an invisible entity that resides in their home. It's directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, the pair who did the controverisal "fake documentary" Catfish. Critical reception, so far, is positive. Rated 18+.

After Dark Horrorfest – House cinema on RCA brings in seven "films to die for" from the After Dark Horrorfest, an annual independent horror film festival that commissions original works. There are seven features: Husk (farm haunted by scarecrows), The Task (night in a haunted prison), Seconds Apart (telepathic twins), Prowl (vampires), Scream of the Banshee (monster with a bone-shattering scream), Fertile Ground (haunted rural home) and 51 (space aliens), all from this year's HorrorFest 5. Check House's Facebook page for the schedule.

Also showing

Le fil (The String) – Back home in Tunisia after the death of his father, 30-year-old Malik (Antonin Stahly-Vishwanadan) is once again living with his mother (Claudia Cardinale). He'd like to tell her that he's gay, but can't bring himself to do so and slips ever deeper into his lies. Mehdi Ben Attia directs this 2009 drama. In French with English subtitles at 7.30pm on Wednesday, October 26 at the Alliance Francaise.

La femme d'à côté (The Woman Next Door) – François Truffaut directs this 1981 romantic drama about the love triangle that shatters the idyllic life of two seemingly happy families in a French village. Gérard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant star. Crtical reception is mostly positive. The screening, courtesy of the Embassy of France, is at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand at 8pm on Thursday, October 27. Admission is 150 baht for non-members and 50 baht for anybody wanting to sip the French wine laid on by the embassy.

Take note

With floodwaters threatening Bangkok, going to a movie might be the furthest thing from some people's minds while others might welcome an escape to the cineplex, especially if it's on a floor high atop one of Bangkok's shopping malls.

If you do venture out, be mindful of the flood warnings, especially for Bangkok's eastern suburbs, including the Rangsit and Fashion Island areas. Many cinemas may be closed and events might be cancelled, so perhaps call ahead before you go.

Or stay at home and watch an old home movie, The Flood in Bangkok 1942 (embedded above). Among the first films to be listed as national heritage by the Culture, the clip was filmed by Tae Prakardwuttisan, who made several documentary records during the era.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening October 13-19, 2011


Borders are breaking down in indie filmmaker Aditya Assarat's sophomore feature, Hi-So (ไฮโซ).

Inspired by Aditya's own life - he was raised in Thailand but spent half his life going to school in the U.S. - Hi-So is a bifurcated look at a melancholy man who doesn't fit in either place.

Ananda Everingham stars. He plays a Thai actor who's recently moved back to Thailand after years in the States. While making a movie on location in Phang Nga Province (the same setting as Aditya's 2008 debut Wonderful Town), he's visited on set by his American girlfriend (Cerise Leang) and is having trouble connecting to her. Later he's back in Bangkok and has a Thai girlfriend (Sajee Apiwong), and can't relate to her either.

It's a movie of halves, with the first in English and the second in Thai.

"By the nature of the structure, the two halves always reflect each other, and I always thought it would be like the same movie being played over again," Aditya told The Nation last month. "Even some of the conversations are the same, except one is in English and the other in Thai."

Aside from getting a highly personal project out of his system, Aditya says the aim of Hi-So is to depict a modern Thailand that's been changed by globalization.

"It's a contemporary Asian film. It's about what it's like to live in Thailand now and what it feels like to live in Asia now, where there's a breakdown of culture and borders. We're all becoming one Asian culture," he says. "A hundred years ago, to be born in Thailand meant something. It meant that you spoke Thai and you never left the country and you were Thai. Now it could mean anything. You can speak English or Japanese and you don't eat Thai food. You watch Korean TV shows or French movies and you wear your hair the way people wear it in Brazil."

Enthusiasts of contemplative cinema, as well as as fans of indie Thai films and Ananda will probably enjoy Hi-So, which despite all the brooding by its star, has its entertaining moments, thanks in large part to the two fabulous female leads and a colorful supporting cast.

Hi-So premiered a year ago at the Busan International Film Festival and his played the circuit, hitting Tokyo, Berlin and recently Singapore, among other fests. It also had a limit run in New York.

Find out more about the movie at its Facebook page. There's also an official YouTube channel, which includes the trailer (embedded below), cool clips from the soundtrack and a couple of short films by Aditya that are closely linked to Hi-So6 to 6 (part 2 here) and Bangkok Blues (part 2 here).

Part of the Extra Virgin Director's Screen Project, Hi-So is in limited release for the next month at three SF cinemas: CentralWorld, Central Lat Phrao and SF Cinema City at the new Terminal 21 mall at the Asoke intersection. Showtimes during the first week of release are at 7 nightly with additional Saturday and Sunday matinees around 2 or 2.30. Check the SF bookings site to make sure. Rated 13+.

Also opening

30+ Sode on Sale (30+ โสด on Sale, a.k.a. 30+ Singles on Sale) – Putthiphong Promsakha na Sakon Nakhon, the director of last year's teenybopper hit First Love (Sing Lek Lek Thee Riak Wa … Ruk, สิ่งเล็กๆ ที่เรียกว่า...รัก,), a.k.a. A Crazy Little Thing Called Love or A Thing Called Love, has another movie out. Only this time, instead of spying on the romantic life of a high-school girl, he's got a 30-year-old woman on his hands in 30+ Singles on Sale. "Ploy" Cherman Boonyasak stars, playing a rare comedic role. She's a photographer, who, at the age of 32, has just been dumped by her longtime boyfriend. Phichitra Siriwetchachaphan and the impish "Tukky" Sudarat Butrprom are her supportive best friends who aim to get her back in action. She soon meets a handsome fortuneteller (musician-actor "Pe" Arak Amornsupsiri) who says if she doesn't find a new boyfriend soon, she'll have to wait years for another. 30+ is one of a pair of Thai thirtysomething romance movies being released. The other, due next month, is 30 Kamlung Jaew, starring "Um" Patcharapha Chaichuea. The Nation has a story about them both. Rated G.

Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World – Robert Rodriguez reboots his old Spy Kids franchise with a fresh pair of young recruits. Jessica Alba heads the cast in this one. She's a young mother who retired from her life as a secret agent after her last mission went awry. However, her old enemy the Timekeeper (Jeremy Piven) again threatens the world. And, her two stepchildren (Rowan Blanchard and Mason Cook) are drawn into the plot when they are recruited by the spy kids division. Original Spy Kids Daryl Sabara and Alexa Vega are also back, as is Rodriguez regular Danny Trejo. Ricky Gervais is the voice of the kids shaggy dog robotic dog Argonaut. Critical reception is mostly negative, but kids and die-hard Rodriguez fans will probably have fun. The movie is advertised as being "in 4D with Aroma-Scope", meaning it's in 3D and you're supposed to get a scratch-and-sniff card to use during certain scenes to add that fourth dimension. Rated G.

The Smurfs – The little blue people first appeared as a comic book by Belgian cartoonist Peyo in the 1950s and became an animated TV series in the 1980s. Now, in this self-parodying animated/live-action feature, the Smurfs are chased from their magical land by their arch-nemesis the wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) and end up in New York City. There, they are taken in by an uptight young man (Neil Patrick Harris) and his wife (Jayma Mays). Much smurfing around ensues. The voice cast includes veteran comedian Jonathan Winters as Papa Smurf and singer Katy Perry as Smurfette. Raja Gosnell (Scooby-Doo, Beverly Hills Chihuahua) directs. Critical reception is mostly negative, but children and Smurfs fans will probably enjoy it. Rated G.

Also showing

Home Movie Day – The Thai Film Archive hosts a Home Movie Day event on Saturday, October 15, at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, 5th-floor auditorium, from 11am to 6pm. They'll have various activities, including screening of old movies, highlighting the historical importance of old home movies. Some fine examples can be found on the Thai Film Archive's National Heritage Films Registry. You can find out more about the event, which is held worldwide, at the website, For more information, call (02) 482 2013-14, ext. 111.

La folle histoire d'amour de Simon Eskenazy – Ten years after Man Is a Woman, Simon Eskenazy has become a celebrated performer of Jewish traditional music. His intrusive mother, ex-wife and 10-year-old son, who he has never seen, all turn up at his place, followed by Naim, a young Muslim transvestite who will change his life. Jean-Jacques Zilbermann directs this 2008 comedy starring Antoine de Caunes, Mehdi Dehbi and Elsa Zylberstein. In French with English subtitles at 7.30pm on Wednesday October 19 at the Alliance Francaise.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening October 5-12, 2011


Apocalypse looms as newlyweds are celebrating in Melancholia, a much-acclaimed psychological disaster drama by the controversial director Lars von Trier.

Kirsten Dunst stars as the depressed bride at the sumptuous party with her new husband (Alexander Skarsgård). It's taking place at the home of her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland).

Meanwhile, the rogue planet Melancholia is on a collision course with Earth

Melancholia premiered in the main competition this year's Cannes Film Festival, where Dunst received the Best Actress Award. However, the film was overshadowed by comments from Von Trier during a press conference in which he said he sympathasized with Hitler, causing Dunst to gape at him in disbelief. The festival then declared him persona non grata. And he may face criminal charges back in France over those comments.

The movie is generally critically acclaimed.

At Apex Siam Square and from Saturday at SFX the Emporium. Rated 13+.

Also opening

50/50 – Joseph Gordon-Levitt portrays a young man diagnosed with a rare form of cancer who's given a 50/50 chance of living. Determined to beat the illness, he approaches life with a sense of humor and renewed vigor, even has he's going through arduous chemo treatments. Seth Rogen stars as his best friend with Angelica Huston as his mother and Bryce Dallas Howard as his faithless girlfriend. Anna Kendrick, Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer also star. Directed by Jonathan Levine (All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, The Wackness), the fact-based story is by screenwriter Will Reiser and is partly based on Reiser's bout with cancer. The comedy-drama is generally well received, with the critical consensus being that it's "a good-hearted film about a difficult topic ... maneuver[ing] between jokes and drama with surprising finesse." It's at House, Paragon Cineplex and SFW CentralWorld. Rated 18+.

The Sorcerer and the White Snake – Jet Li stars in this Chinese epic martial-arts fantasy. He's a kung-fu sorcerer who makes it his mission in life to root out evil demons and monsters. He encounters one in a plague-stricken town – the White Snake, who's taken the form of a woman (Eva Huang). She's sacrificed everything in order to help the man she loves, the local herbalist (Raymond Lam). Charlene Choi also stars as the Green Snake. Tony Ching directs. The Sorcerer and the White Snake premiered out-of-competition at last month's Venice Film Festival. It's just now opening outside of China, so reviews are hard to come by, though one at Singapore's MovieXclusive is generally favorable. Chinese soundtrack only at SFW CentralWorld; elsewhere Thai-dubbed. Rated 15+.

Rascals – Ajay Devgn and Sanjay Dutt are competing conmen trying to outdo each other in a series of outlandish schemes. Arjun Rampal and Kangana Ranaut also star. Directed by David Dhawan, this Bollywood comedy was entirely filmed in Thailand. The plot bears remarkable similarity to the Steve Martin-Michael Caine comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. It was recently the subject of a lawsuit in India, though not over the similarity, but due to some dispute about the financing. It's in Hindi with English subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit (Ekamai) on Friday at 8, Sunday at 7.30 and Monday at 8 and at Major Cineplex Central Rama III on Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 4. Visit or call (02) 225-7500 or (089) 488-2620.

Love Summer: Rak Talon on the Beach (Love Summer รักตะลอน ออน เดอะ บีช) – A group of Thai youngsters have an adventurous roadtrip to a beach destination and along the way they befriend a bikini-clad Japanese actress (Yui Tatsumi) and a bearded foreigner named Bob (Jonathan Samson). "Bai Fern" Pimchanok Leuwisetpaibul, Tana Eamniyom and Tanwa Suriyachak star. Trilak Makmeongpad directs. Rated 15+.

Doraemon the Movie 2011: Nobita and the New Steel Troops – The little boy Nobita and his earless robotic cat friend Doreamon build a giant robot that turns into a weapon in the fight against an invading robot army. There have been more than 30 of these annual Doreamon movies, based on the long-running Japanese manga and anime series by Fujiko F. Fujio. This is a remake of a 1986 entry in the franchise and is the first one in 3D, though it appears the Thai release is not in 3D. Thai-dubbed. Rated G.

Also showing

In Memory of Mitr Chaibancha – Forty-one years ago this Saturday, October 8, superstar actor Mitr Chaibancha fell to his death from a helicopter while making Insee Thong (Golden Eagle). As they do each year in memory of Mitr, the Thai Film Archive will have a special program including some of Mitr's movies. They'll screen the 1966 comedy Sam Kler Jer Long Hon (สามเกลอเจอล่องหน, "three friends meet the invisible man"). Following lunch, at 2pm, actress Butsakon Sakonrat, who co-starred with Mitr in some other movies, will have her hand-and-foot impressions made in the Star Terrace outside the Sri Salaya Theatre. And at 3.30, there will be a biographical documentary on Mitr's life.

Eyes Wide Open (Tu n’aimeras point) – A married Orthodox Jewish father of four falls in love with a 22-year-old male student in this 2009 Israeli-French-German drama by Haim Tabakman. It screened in the Un Certain Regard category at the Cannes Film Festival and is generally well-received. by critics. It's in French with English subtitles at the Alliance Francais Bangkok at 7.30pm on Wednesday, October 12.