Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 28, 2011-January 4, 2012

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Steven Spielberg brings Belgian comic-book hero Tintin to the big screen with The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.

For his first animated feature, Spielberg uses the motion-capture process that's similar to James Cameron's Avatar in which the actors perform on a virtual set, and wear special suits and helmets so their movements and expressions are translated to a computer program. Other scenes are wholly done with computer animation.

Spielberg acquired the rights to the Tintin books when author Hergé died in 1983 and sat on them until he could figure out a way to make the movie that matched his artistic vision. This film, the first of a planned series, is based on three comics, The Crab with the Golden Claws (1941), The Secret of the Unicorn (1943) and Red Rackham's Treasure (1944).

The results look pretty stunning, with the intrepid boy hero Tintin having the same kind of adventures as Indiana Jones did in Spielberg's live-action movies.

Jamie Bell performs as Tintin, the blond-coiffed boy reporter who has a pet dog named Snowy. He teams up for the adventure with the grizzled Captain Haddock, portrayed by the king of motion-capture animation, Andy Serkis, who previously brought to life the characters of Gollum in Lord of the Rings and King Kong, both movies directed by Peter Jackson, who is producer of Tintin, as well as this summer's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which Jackson's Weta Workshop special-effects house had much to do with.

The cast is rounded out by British comic duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as the bumbling twin detectives Thomson and Thompson and Daniel Craig as the main villain.

Already nominated for several awards, including the Golden Globe for best animated film, critical reception is generally positive. It was filmed in 3D, and will be shown in 3D in most cinemas, including IMAX and IMAX Digital. Rated G.

Also opening

Jiro Dreams of Sushi – This documentary looks at 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono, whose restaurant, a 10-seater in a subway station in Tokyo's Ginza district, has been recognized as the best sushi place in the world, earning a 3-Star Michelin rating. Reservations must be made up to a year in advance. Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, Jiro Dreams of Sushi has been a hit on the festival circuit. It was bought for release by Magnolia Pictures and won an audience award at this year's AFI Fest in Los Angeles. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's at House on RCA.

Real Steel – Hugh Jackman trains a giant robot to box in this family drama from Disney. He's a former boxer sometime in the near future who's turned to boxing promotion after robots have replaced humans in the ring. Struggling after losing his robot in a crushing defeat, his estranged 11-year-old son re-enters his life and he finds a way to connect with the boy by obtaining a discarded old "sparring bot" and rehabilitating the underdog machine to be a contender. Practical animatronic robots are used in some scenes while most of the fighting is done by digital 'bots animated by the Avatar "simulcam" motion-capture technology in which the movements of real fighters are used. Dakota Goyo and Evangeline Lilly also star. Critical reception is mixed. It's also at IMAX and IMAX Digital. Rated G.

New Year's Eve – Garry Marshall follows up his star-studded ensemble romance Valentine's Day with another sickly sweet all-star ensemble romance that follows several couples and singles on New Year's Eve. The overstuffed cast includes Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jovi, Abigail Breslin, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Josh Duhamel, Zac Efron, Héctor Elizondo, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Yeardly Smith, Hilary Swank, Robert De Niro and too many other names to mention. Critical reception is overwhelmingly negative. Rated G.

Bangkok Sweety (Sor Khor Sor Sweety, ส.ค.ส. สวีทตี้ ) – For the third consecutive year, in what is now an apparent tradition, director Rerkchai Paungpetch and studio M-Thirtynine, release a Thai romantic comedy during the last week of the year. They have all been critically assailed but are insanely popular with young Thai audiences and have always made a ton of money. Bangkok Sweety, a.k.a. Sweety Movie, portrays different kinds of love, all culminating during Bangkok's New Year's Eve celebration. The cast includes "Dan" Worrawech Danuwong, "Pae" Arak Amornsupasiri, Charoenporn "Kotee" Ornlamai, "Saipan" Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Keeratee and "Yipso" Ramita Mahaphrukpong. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Hi-So – Indie Thai director Aditya Assarat's profile of cross-cultural confusion, starring Ananda Everingham, is back after a one-month run at SF cinemas in October. It's been revived by House on RCA. The drama, with dryly comic moments, is about an actor who's moved back to Thailand after being schooled in the States. He's acting in a tsunami film when his girlfriend from San Francisco comes to visit. There's Lost in Translation moments and she and Ananda just can't connect. Later, Ananda has a Thai girlfriend, and the same problems happen all over again. A tsunami-devastated resort and a partially demolished Bangkok apartment building represent the wreckage of the soul. Rated 13+.

German Open Air Cinema – The Goethe-Institut Thailand's annual outdoor movie series starts back up next week after taking this week off. Up next on Tuesday, January 3, is Close to You (Ganz nah bei Dir), a 2009 comedy-drama about a quirky obsessive-compulsive bank clerk who aims to make as little contact with strangers as possible. His life changes when he takes a liking to a blind cello player and then his apartment is robbed, forcing him start his life over again. The German Open Air Cinema series runs on Tuesdays until February 28 at the institute on Sathorn Soi 1. Show times are at 7.30pm.

La Bête Humaine (The Human Beast) – Jean Renoir directs this 1938 thriller, based on the book by Emile Zola. Jean Gabin is a train engineer who lusts after the wife (Simone Simon) of his co-worker (Fernand Ledoux). More seduction, betrayal and murder follow. It's at the Alliance Francaise at 7.30pm on Wednesday, January 4.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 22-28, 2011

The Kick

From the director of Thai martial-arts hits like Ong-Bak and Chocolate comes The Kick (วอนโดนเตะ), a South Korean-Thai co-production about a Korean family in Bangkok who join with a pair of Thai friends to battle gangsters.

As the story goes, former Taekwondo champs Moon (Jo Jae-hyeon) and Yun (Ye Ji-won) have settled down in Thailand to open a Korean restaurant and taekwando school. Their three kids are interested in different things; the teenage boy is crazy about K-pop, the girl loves football and Thai dance and only the youngest boy shows any interest in martial arts. Their life changes when they become involved with Korean mobsters who've stolen a sacred Thai sword. A family friend Mum (comedian Petthai "Mum Jokmok" Wongkumlao and his Muay-Thai-fighter niece Wah Wah (Jeeja Yanin) join in the battle.

The Kick premiered earlier this year at the Busan International Film Festival and was released in South Korean cinemas in November. Check out the trailer to see if you'll like this kind of action. Rated 15+.

Also opening

Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen's latest romantic comedy, which premiered at this year's Cannes Film Festival, is being hailed as a return to form for the director of such classics as Annie Hall and Sleeper. Owen Wilson stars, playing a screenwriter who's visiting Paris and he has magical, time-travelling experiences each night at midnight, which force him to confront the problems of his relationship with his fiancée (Rachel McAdams). Historical figures he encounters include Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Man Ray, Luis Buñuel, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. Wilson and McAdams (also appearing in the new Sherlock Holmes being released this week) were previously paired up in Wedding Crashers. The cast includes Adrien Brody, Kathy Bates, Michael Sheen, Marion Cottilard and French first lady Carla Bruni, playing a museum guide. Critical reception is highly favorable. Rated 13+.

Arthur Christmas – From Aardman Animations, the British studio that brought us Chicken Run and the Wallace and Gromit tales, teams with Sony Animation for this 3D computer-animated holiday treat in which Santa's workshop has become a huge hi-tech enterprise that delivers two billion presents in one night in much the same manner as a military operation. However, Santa's teenage son Arthur (James McAvoy) discovers that one child has been forgotten, so he teams up with Grand-Santa (Bill Nighy) to save the holiday the old-fashioned way. Other voices include Hugh Laurie as older brother Steve Christmas, Imelda Staunton as Mrs. Santa and Jim Broadbent as Santa. Critical reception is highly favorable. In 3D. Rated G.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are back with director Guy Ritchie for a second outing about the master detective Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. Watson. This time Holmes meets an adversary who is his intellectual equal but whose capacity for evil is unmatched – Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). Eddie Marsan, Rachel McAdams, Stephen Fry and Noomi Rapace also star. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to favorable. Rated 13+.

Take note

The film festival calendar for Thailand in January just got even more crowded with the announcement yesterday of the Hua Hin International Film Festival, which will take place January 26 to 29. They have trailers for a few of their films on YouTube. The newly announced fest overlaps with the rescheduled 9th World Film Festival of Bangkok, which was postponed from November because of the floods to January 20 to 27. Also in Bangkok, there will be the 6th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival on January 28 and 29 and February 4 and 5 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. And in Chiang Mai, there is Payap University's Lifescapes Southeast Asian Film Festival from February 2 to 5.

A few other notes:

  • The German Open Air Cinema Season at the Goethe-Institut takes a break for the holidays. It'll start back up after the New Year on January 3.
  • The newly opened CentralPlaza Grand Rama 9 shopping center has the 11-screen SFX Central Rama 9. It's at the intersection of Rama IX and Ratchadaphisek roads at the Rama 9 MRT station.
  • Major Cineplex at CentralPlaza Bangna has reopened after renovations on the sixth and seventh floors of the mall.
  • And House, the boutique cinema on Royal City Avenue, has recently redesigned its website, offering showtimes, movie synopses in Thai and English and previews of upcoming films.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 15-21, 2011

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Tom Cruise's punctuationally difficult spy franchise returns for a fourth installment with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which has Cruise back as Ethan Hunt, joined by a team that includes Simon Pegg (returning from M:I3), Paula Patton and Hurt Locker star Jeremy Renner.

The story goes that the Impossible Missions Force has been framed for the bombing of the Kremlin and the U.S. president initiates "ghost protocol", shutting down IMF and disavowing all its agents. The IMF secretary (Tom Wilkinson) gives Hunt a new mission – go rogue in an effort to clear their name.

As with all the other M:I films, there's a daring feat by Cruise, who always performs his own stunts. This time, watch him scale the outside of Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, footage of which was captured with the extra-large 70mm IMAX cameras in the same way action scenes in The Dark Knight were filmed, and not, thank goodness, in 3D.

The director is Brad Bird, who follows Brian De Palma, John Woo and J.J. Abrams in helming the franchise. It's the much-acclaimed Bird's first live-action effort, having previously done 1999's animated feature The Iron Giant and two Oscar-winning Pixar CG-animated movies, The Incredibles and Ratatouille.

It's early days yet for critical reception, with mostly the industry press weighing in. But so far, the buzz is extremely postitive.

The IMAX version with the full height is offered only at the IMAX theatre at Paragon Cineplex, which also has an exclusive prologue to The Dark Knight Rises. It's also at other cinemas including the 4DX thing with the moving seats at Paragon. Rated 13+.

Also opening

Sleeping Beauty – In Sucker Punch, Emily Browning portrayed an orphan girl who's sent to an insane asylum, where she performs as an exotic dancer and goes into a dream state that has her fighting giant samurai, zombie soldiers and a fire-breathing dragon. It's somewhat the same premise in Sleeping Beauty, where she works as a semi-nude waitress at an exclusive gentleman’s club and is promoted to the Sleeping Beauty Chamber where elderly, impotent men pay to have an erotic experience with her while she's sedated. The debut feature by Australian director Julia Leigh and "presented by Jane Campion", it was in the main competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Critical reception is evenly mixed. At Apex Siam Square. Rated 20-.

Machine Gun Preacher – Gerard Butler stars in this fact-based biographical drama as Sam Childers, an ex-convict alcoholic drug-dealing gang member who turns to Christianity and then devotes his life to missionary work, rescuing children in war-torn Sudan, and takes up arms again to protect those children from raids by rebel soldiers. Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace, The Kite Runner, Stranger Than Fiction) directs. Critical reception is mixed. At SFW CentralWorld and House on RCA. Rated 15+.

Love, Wedding, Marriage – Mandy Moore is a newlywed marriage counselor who's shocked to learn her parents (James Brolin and Jane Seymour) are headed for divorce. She'll stop at nothing to get them back together in time for a 30th-anniversary surprise party. Kellan Lutz from the Twilight movies co-stars. Dermot Mulroney directs. Critical reception is negative. Rated G.

Thang Yak Wad Jai (ทางแยกวัดใจ) – Each year around this time, the film industry offers special films called "pappayon chalerm prakiat", which honor the achievements of His Majesty the King. This year's offering comes from film studio GTH, which offers a trio of short films, all starring actor Pitisak Yaowanon as a man who affects the lives of others with his good deeds. The segments are directed Chayanop Boonprakob (SuckSeed), Sophon Sakdapisit (Laddaland) and Nithiwat Tharatorn (Dear Galileo). Sponsored by True, viewers can get a pair of free tickets if they figure out how to register their good deeds at the website, It's showing only at Major Cineplex.

Also showing

German Open Air Cinema Season – The Goethe-Institut Thailand's annual outdoor screening series continues next Tuesday with North Face (Nordwand), a fact-based mountaineering drama from 2008, directed by Philipp Stölzl. Set in the summer of 1936, a pair of passionate climbers, friends since childhood, aim to be the first to climb the north face of the Eiger, a steep stretch of rock that's known as the "murder wall". The German Open Air Cinema series runs every Tuesday night until February 28 at the institute on Sathorn Soi 1. Show times are at 7.30.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 8-14, 2011

Life Without Principle

Hong Kong director Johnnie To trades his usual bullets for banknotes in Life Without Principle, a drama about three people plunged into dire financial straits when their lives are somehow intertwined with that of a loan shark.

The characters are an investment banker (Denise Ho) who's forced to push a high-risk investment on a greedy but ignorant customer; a dimwitted triad member (Sean Lau Ching Wan) who turns to the futures market to bail out a fellow gangster; and a police inspector (Richie Jen) whose fiancee (Myolie Wu) puts a down payment on a condominium without consulting him first. The loan shark is Lo Hoi Pang.

Life Withouth Principle premiered in the Golden Lion competition at this year's Venice Film Festival. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's already played in Singapore, where there are reviews by A Nutshell Review and FilmsBlitz.

In Cantonese with English and Thai subtitles at House on RCA.

Also opening

Immortals – Tarsem Singh, the director of such visually stunning movies as The Cell and The Fall, returns with this 3D swords-and-sandals fantasy set in ancient Greece. It's from the same producers as 300. Henry Cavill stars as a stonemason named Theseus, who vows to avenge the death of his mother and takes up a sword to fight the brutal and bloodthirsty King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), whose murderous Heraklion army is rampaging across Greece in search of the long lost Bow of Epirus. Theseus gets help from the Sybelline Oracle, Phaedra (Freida Pinto from Slumdog Millionaire), whose disturbing visions of the future convince her that Theseus is the key to stopping the destruction. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to negative. "The melding of real sets, CG work, and Tarsem's signature style produces fireworks, though the same can't be said for Immortals slack, boring storytelling," is the consensus. In 3D. Rated 15+.

Happy Feet Two – George Miller, the producer-director of such films as Mad Max and Babe, offers more family-friendly fare with this sequel to his 2006 animated feature about dancing penguins. Tapdancing penguin Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) now has a son who is reluctant to dance like the other penguins and finds himself an outcast. He takes up with another penguin clan and develops an interest in flight. Robin Williams, Pink, Sofia Vergara, Hank Azaria, Hugo Weaving, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon are among the voice cast. Critical reception is mixed. "The animation is as eye-popping as ever, but Happy Feet Two's narrative is too noisily incoherent to recapture the Oscar-winning charm of its predecessor," is the consensus. It's in 3D, including IMAX. Rated G.

Also showing

German Open Air Cinema – The Goethe-Institut Thailand's annual outdoor screening series continues next Tuesday with How About Love, a drama by Stefan Haupt that's set here in Thailand. Adrian Furrer stars as a Swiss surgeon vacationing in Thailand whose life takes a major turn when he visits refugee camp on the Burmese border and decides to stay and try to help. You can find out more about How About Love at the movie's website. The German Open Air Cinema series runs every Tuesday night until February 28 at the institute on Sathorn Soi 1. Show times are at 7.30.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 1-7, 2011

Breaking Dawn – Part 1

It's almost over. The penultimate entry in The Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn – Part 1, has the young mortal woman Bella (Kristen Stewart) getting married to Edward (Robert Pattinson), her pale-skinned lug of a vampire beau. And, to make matters worse, she gets pregnant! But can Bella bear the child to term? The vampire clan is worried that the baby's physiology isn't compatible.

Meanwhile, the "wolf pack" clan of werewolves, including Bella's lovelorn bare-chested friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner), are circling and growling. They see the vampire-human hybrid as a potential threat and want to kill it.

Oh, how will it end? If you've read the romance novels by Stephenie Meyer you already know. But if you're only watching the movies, you'll have to wait a full year for Breaking Dawn – Part 2 to see how this melodrama plays out.

These final two entries in the Twilight franchise are directed by Bill Condon (Kinsey, Gods and Monsters), who reportedly was in contention for the job alongside such names as Gus Van Sant and Sophia Coppolla.

Critical reception is mostly negative. "Slow, joyless, and loaded with unintentionally humorous moments, Breaking Dawn – Part 1 may satisfy the Twilight faithful, but it's strictly for fans of the franchise," is the consensus. And be forewarned, it might cause epileptic seizures. Rated 15+.

Also opening

Sector 7 – In the middle of the ocean, the crew of an oil rig fight a new mutated lifeform. Ha Ji-won, Ahn Sung-ki and Oh Ji-ho star. Reception has been mixed. This 3D monster flick from South Korea was released there in IMAX cinemas, but it's in ordinary 3D theaters in Thailand. The original Korean soundtrack with English subtitles is at SF World Cinema; elsewhere it's Thai-dubbed only. Rated 13+.

Also showing

Primitive – Filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul's multi-platform art exhibition finally makes its way to Bangkok after touring the world for the past couple of years. It'll be at the Jim Thompson Art Center from today until February 29. Part of the same project as the acclaimed feature film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, the video installation Primitive is an intimate look at the village of Nabua, Nakhon Phanom, along the Mekong in northeastern Thailand. It was there in 1965 that the Royal Thai Army staged a massacre during an anti-communist offensive. Primitive deals with ghosts of that violent past. The seven-channel video installation also offers a slice-of-life look at the young men of Nabua as well as a music video by Moderndog and a behind-the-scenes film of the building of a spaceship – just one of the art projects Apichatpong came up with as a way of engaging the villagers in his project. Commissioned by Haus Der Kunst, Munich, Primitive has previously shown in Munich, Liverpool, Paris, New York and the Yokohama Triennale. I checked it out at New York's New Museum earlier this year and am glad I'll be able to see how it fits into Bangkok. The Jim Thompson Art Center is on Kasemsan Soi 2, near the National Stadium skytrain station. It's open daily from 9 to 5.

German Open Air Cinema – The Goethe-Institut Thailand's annual outdoor movie season starts next week and runs every Tuesday until February 28 at the insitute on Bangkok's Soi Sathorn 1. The opening film is the Swiss short Scribbling & Tingling from 2010 by Amaury Berger. And then it's Longing (Sehnsucht) from 2006 by Valeska Grisebach. It's a small-town drama about love, loss and infidelity involving a thirtysomething volunteer fireman who's been with his wife since they were teenagers. It was a nominee for the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. The show starts at 7.30. All are shown in German with English subtitles. Admission is free. Call (02) 287 0942-4 extension 82 or visit