Thursday, November 24, 2011

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

Headshot (Fon Tok Kuen Fah)

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

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

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

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

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

It's at SF cinemas. Rated 18+.

Also opening

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

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

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

Take note

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

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

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

The Thing

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

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

Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+.

Also opening

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

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

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

Also showing

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

Take note

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011

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

The Help

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

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

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

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

It's at Paragon Cineplex.

Also opening

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

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

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

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

Also showing

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

Take note

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 3, 2011

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

Killer Elite

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

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

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

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

Also opening

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

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

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

Take note

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

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

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