Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 27, 2012-January 2, 2013

Jack Reacher

Fans of writer Lee Childs' Jack Reacher novels were outraged when it was revealed that Tom Cruise would portray the anti-hero drifter and former military policeman. After all, Reacher is described as blond-haired, blue-eyed, 6 feet 5 inches and well over 200 pounds. The dark-haired Cruise is about a foot shorter and perhaps weighs a little over half as much. Producers claimed they simply couldn't find a bankable star who fit the exact description and Cruise was really their only choice.

Pundits predicted that Jack Reacher would be a disastrous flop, but it turned out better than anyone expected. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive, and it appears that the Mission: Impossible star might have another franchise on his hands.

Jack Reacher is based on One Shot, Childs' ninth novel in the series. After five people are fatally shot in a sniper attack, the accused gunman requests that his old Army buddy Jack Reacher come help him. Reacher turns up, determined to get to the truth, and the closer he gets, the more dangerous things become.

Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins and Robert Duvall also star, with Werner Herzog as the mysterious villain, "The Zec". Christopher McQuarrie, screenwriter on The Usual Suspects and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, directs. Rated 15+.

Also opening

Wreck-It Ralph – Disney mines nostalgia for the 8-bit era of arcade video games in this animated feature. Big hulking Ralph is the villain in the game Fix-It Felix Jr., and is tired of being unloved. He sees a chance to be a hero by entering a modern first-person-shooter game, but in so doing unleashes an enemy that threatens everyone in the gaming world. The voice cast includes John C. Reilly as Wreck-It Ralph, Jane Lynch as tough female soldier Sergeant Calhoun, Sarah Silverman as the "glitch" in the game Sugar Rush and Jack McBrayer as Fix-It Felix. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's in 3D. Rated G.

Pitch Perfect – This combination of the TV series Glee and Community and the sassy gal-pal antics of Bridesmaids centers on a new girl on campus (Anna Kendrick) who doesn't fit in with any of the stereotypical college cliques. She finds herself among a group whose members have absolutely nothing in common, except they all sing well together. Other stars include Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp and Elizabeth Banks, who also produces. Critical reception is mostly positive. At some Major Cineplex branches, including Esplanade Ratchada. Rated 13+.

Playing for Keeps – Gerard Butler smirks his way through another romantic comedy. Here, he's a dysfunctional former professional soccer star who decides he wants to reconnect with his wife by coaching his young son's soccer team. However, the job turns challenging when he finds himself pursued by amorous soccer moms. Jessica Biel also stars along with Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Dennis Quaid. Critical reception is overwhelmingly negative. Rated 15+.

Khun Nai Ho (คุณนายโฮ) – It's that time of year again, when director Rerkchai Paungpetch and studio M-Thirtynine release a romantic comedy for the New Year's holiday. The movies, which are all inexplicably popular with Thai audiences and have all racked up big baht at the box office, all follow the same general formula of casting bankable young stars and well-known comedians and putting them through a succession of nonsensical situations. Here, Rerkchai gives adorable actress "Chompoo" Araya A. Hargate a horrible bowl-shaped haircut. This apparently makes her cry, a lot, which she can do on cue with ease anyway because she's Thai TV's top soap star. I've had the story described to me, but it makes no sense whatsoever. Usual-suspect comedians "Kotee" Jaroenporn Ornlamai and Kom Chaunchuen also star along with Ray MacDonald and Teeradate Methavorrayuth. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Dabangg 2 – Salman Khan suits back up for this sequel to the 2010 hit action-comedy-drama in which he played a morally ambiguous "Robin Hood" police officer who plays both sides of the law. Sonakshi Sinha reprises her role from the first film, with Prakash Raj joining this time around as the main villain. It's at Major Cineplex Ekamai and Central Rama III. Rated 13+.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 20-26, 2012

Life of Pi

Continuing the blockbuster holiday season, there is a mind-boggling number of releases this week, all jockeying for position with last week's Hobbit and this week's big tentpole.

Celebrated director Ang Lee ventures into special-effects-laden 3D for the epic adventure tale Life of Pi, based on a best-selling novel by Yann Martel, in which a teenage boy is the sole human survivor of a shipwreck. He ends up stranded in the middle of the Pacific in a lifeboat with only a hungry tiger as his companion.

Suraj Sharma stars, with Bollywood great Irrfan Khan as the older Pi, who tells the story of how his family sold their zoo in India and planned to move it halfway around the world.

Life of Pi is among the buzzworthy titles as awards season gets underway. Tipped as a likely Oscar nominee, especially in the special effects and technical categories, it's been nominated for the Golden Globe for best picture, best director and best score by Mychael Danna. Critical reception is mostly positive. In 3D. Rated G.

Also opening

Countdown (เคาท์ดาวน์, Kaadao) – Indie filmmaker Nattawat Poonpiriya makes his major-studio feature debut directing this remake of his 2010 short film about three young Thai hipsters who share an apartment in New York City. They want to have a rocking New Year's Eve party and call a drug dealer to help out. However, the pusher Jesus has other ideas about how to have fun, and he makes the trio's night a living hell. Pachara Chirathivat, Patarasaya Krueasuwansiri and Jarinporn Junkiet star. Rated 18+.

Chinese Zodiac a.k.a. CZ12 or Armour of God III – Nearly a decade in development, Jackie Chan is back in Indiana Jones mode for this third entry in his Armour of God archaelogical adventure franchise. Infused with a sense of nationalistic Chinese pride, the globetrotting action-packed tale has Jackie as a treasure hunter-thief seeking to retrieve a dozen bronze statue heads that were stolen when French and the British armies sacked the Summer Imperial Palace in Beijing during the Second Opium War of the 1860s. Among the highlights is the 58-year-old Jackie, still doing his own stunts after breaking every bone in his body, donning a "skate suit" to fly down a hill. Read more about it in a story in today's Nation, "A man of many hats". Reviews are mixed. The original soundtrack with English and Thai subtitles at some cinemas, including Paragon, CentralWorld, Terminal 21 and Emporium. Rated 15+.

Deadfall – There's somewhat of a Fargo feel to this story of a brother and sister (Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde) who are on the run along the Canadian after a casino heist leaves their driver and a state trooper dead. A female sheriff's deputy (Kate Mara) is in pursuit on a snowmobile. Separated during a near white-out blizzard, the brother heads cross country, leaving destruction in his wake, while the sister hooks up with an ex-con former boxer (Charlie Hunnam from Sons of Anarchy) who takes her to a family Thanksgiving dinner. There, at the table, things come to a head between the siblings and the ex-con's parents (Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson). Stefan Ruzowitzky directs. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+.

Your Sister’s Sister – Plaid-clad hipster Jack (Mark Duplass) is an emotional wreck a year after his brother's death. Seeing that he could use solace, his brother's friend Iris (Emily Blunt) offers Jack her cabin on an island in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. There, he unexpectedly runs into Iris' sister Hannah (Rosemarie Dewitt), who is recovering after the abrupt end of a seven-year relationship. A blurry evening of drinking concludes with an awkward sexual incident. Screened at such festivals as Toronto, Sundance and Tribeca, critical reception for this indie comedy-drama directed by Lynn Shelton is mostly positive. At House.

Together Wan Tee Rak (Together วันที่รัก) – Princess Ubolratana and Saharat Sangkhapreecha head an ensemble cast in this family melodrama from the Oriental Eyes studio. Their long marriage comes under pressure when the wife's Alzheimer's-suffering father (Krisana Sethadumrong) is brought into the home. Peter Nopachai Jaayamana and Piyathida Worramusik also star. Sarunyu Jiralak directs. Rated 13+.

Also showing

Film Virus: Wild Type 2012 – The Film Virus group is screening Thai independent experimental shorts at the Reading Room on Saturday and Sunday, starting at 2pm. The full program is here.

Khiladi 786 – Akshay Kumar and Asin Thottumkal star in this Bollywood comedy about a family of con artists who masquerade as cops to carry out brazen schemes. At Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Major Rama III. Rated 15+.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 13-19, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

J.R.R. Tolkien's prequel to his Lord of the Rings trilogy of fantasy novels was a comparatively slim, quick read. But The Hobbit has been expanded into a trilogy for the movie adaptation by Peter Jackson, who earlier tackled LOTR to much acclaim.

In part one, An Unexpected Journey, the humble halfling Bilbo Baggins, portrayed by Martin Freeman, star of the British version of The Office, is tasked with joining a quest by 13 dwarfs to reclaim their lost kingdom. Along with way, Bilbo encounters trolls, goblins and wargs, and gets into a game of riddles with a mysterious fellow who lives by an underground lake. He also acquires a piece of "precious" jewelry that will later play an important role in the future of Middle-earth.

Returnees from the LOTR movies include Ian McKellan as the wizard Gandalf, Hugo Weaving as the elf leader Elrond and Andy Serkis doing the motion-capture performance for Gollum. Even Elijah Wood as Frodo turns up, even though he wasn't in the book, along with other interlopers from the Lord of the Rings, like the wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee) and the elf queen Galadriel (Cate Blanchett).

Newcomers to the franchise include strapping Strike Back actor Richard Armitage, portraying the dwarf leader, Thorin Oakenshield.

Jackson's Hobbit movies have been the source of many controversies, one of which has to do with the frames-per-second (fps) filming rate. Jackson, always one to embrace new technologies, filmed the movie in high definition at a high frame rate (HFR), and it's being shown at 48fps in some cinemas. Compared to the normal 24fps that most films are seen in, the HFR 3D Hobbit has a smooth, unflickering look that most viewers might compare to a videotaped soap opera or televised sporting event. In some cases, the 3D HFR is so immersive, it's making some moviegoers sick.

Critical reception is mixed – not as strong as the Lord of the Rings – with the consensus being that expanding the story into a trilogy of movies makes the story feel too dragged out.

It's in 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX and IMAX Digital, with some SF and Major Cineplex branches screening the HFR 3D version – just look for HFR logo on the theater company websites and choose carefully at the box office. Rated G.

Also opening

Namaste India (นมัสเตอินเดีย ส่งเกรียนไปเรียนพุทธ, Namaste Song Krian Pai Rian Bhud, a.k.a. Three Marks of Existence) – Directed by Gunparwitt Phuwadolwisid, this feature had its world premiere earlier this year at the International Buddhist Film Festival Bangkok. The road-trip romance follows M, a young man who can't decide what to do with his life. Seeking direction, he embarks on a pilgrimage of Buddhist holy sites. Along the way, he encounters various characters who both guide and challenge him. At Major Cineplex.

Also showing

Apologies for not posting an update last week, which fell during the King's Birthday holiday, one of the biggest movie-release dates of the year. I was out of town. Here's a recap of the releases:

  • Hotel Translyvania – Monsters, it turns out, are more scared of humans than we are of them. To escape the torches and pitchforks, Dracula has built a lavish hotel in a hidden castle. But on his daughter's 118th birthday, a backpacker stumbles in and spoils Drac's party plans. The voice cast includes Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi and Selena Gomez. Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter's Laboratory) directs. Critical reception is mixed. In 3D. Rated G.
  • Super Salaryman (ยอดมนุษย์เงินเดือน, Yod Manut Nguen Duen) – "Tik" Jessadaporn Pholdee heads an ensemble cast in this workplace comedy. He's the hard-driving boss of an office, where all the workers are pushed to create a new product or else they won't get their year-end bonus. Rated 15+.
  • Now Is Good – Dakota Fanning stars in this drama about a teenage girl facing a diagnosis of terminal cancer. She makes a "bucket list" of things she wants to do before she dies. Jeremy Irving, Olivia Williams and Paddy Considine also star. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 13+.
  • 3 Days, 2 Nights (สามวันสองคืน รัก.เลิก.เลย, Sam Wan Song Kuen) – Three directors collaborate on this romance produced by veteran filmmaker Thanit Jitnukul. It's about a young woman who's found a new boyfriend. She books a romantic getaway trip with her old one in order to dump him. Rated G.
  • Red Scarf (ผ้าพันคอแดง, Pa Pun Kor Daeng) – After a string of Thai-Lao romance movies, Sabaidee Luang Prabang director Sakchai Deenan ventures into horror with this headless ghost movie featuring an all-Lao cast. Khamly Philavong, the actress from his previous films, stars as a woman haunted by a headless ghost who somehow manages to keep a scarf around his neck. No English subtitles. Rated 13+.
  • Tai Chi Hero – The second entry in the highly stylized "steampunk" Chinese martial-arts fantasy series continues the adventures of the gifted young protagonist. Mostly Thai-dubbed but with original soundtrack and English subs at some SF cinemas branches. Rated 13+.

Respect His Teachings (เทิด เกล้า จาก คำสอน ขอ งพ่, Terd Glao Jak Kam Son Kor ...) – Just about every year around this time, there are special films offered in honor of His Majesty the King, who celebrated his 85th birthday this year on December 5. This year, there are nine features from the major Thai film studios, including Sahamongkol, Five Star, GTH, RS, M-Thirtynine and Oriental Eyes, all extolling the philosophies and innovations of His Majesty through various types of stories. The films have been screening at Major Cineplex since December 1. Some have English subtitles, some do not. The schedules are in Thai only, at the Major Cineplex website.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 29-December 5, 2012

Cloud Atlas

Lana and Larry Wachowski (The Matrix) team up with German director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) to make this sprawling science-fiction drama that spans 500 years and features a large cast of characters whose lives intertwine as they are reincarnated over the centuries.

One story has a San Francisco lawyer travelling in the Pacific Islands in 1849. In 1938 Britain, a young composer plys his trade. In 1973 San Francisco, a journalist investigates environmental corruption. And back in London, a publisher struggles with his business and personal life. In 2144, a genetically engineered domestic worker labors in New Seoul. And in 2300s Hawaii, the indigenous inhabitants are engaged in perpetual tribal warfare

Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Halle Berry and Bae Doona are just some of the stars.

Based on the 2004 novel by David Mitchell that had been considered "unfilmable", critical reception is mixed, but it's probably worth seeing on the big screen just for the spectacle of it all. Cloud Atlas opened last week in Bangkok for a sneak-preview run, and now moves to a wider release. Rated 18+.

Also opening

The Impossible – Filmed more than a year ago in Khao Lak, Phang Nga, Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) directs this fact-based account of a vacationing British family caught in the disaster of the 2004 tsunami. A mother and father and their three sons are torn apart by waves, with the mother and the oldest boy carried away and the dad and the two younger boys frantically searching. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star. A likely multiple-nominee for the Academy Awards, it premiered at this year's Toronto International Film Festival. Critical reception is mostly positive, with many plaudits for its gripping realism. You can read more about it in a recent Nation article. Rated G.

The Paperboy – Director Lee Daniels, who won acclaim last year for Precious, about a troubled inner-city girl, heads to 1960s Florida for this steamy and sordid tale about a newspaper reporter (Matthew McConaughey) digging into an old murder case. Zac Efron, a trashy Nicole Kidman and John Cusack also star. It's based on the best-selling novel by Pete Dexter. Critical reception is mixed. At Apex, House and SF World at CentralWorld. Rated 18+.

Rise of the Guardians – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman and Jack Frost form a superhero team to take on Pitch the Bogeyman who is scheming to take over the world by scaring all the children. The voice cast in this animated feature stars Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, Chris Pine and Jude Law. If you've seen the old Rankin-Bass holiday TV specials or Monsters Inc., it's a familiar tale, but has a few new twists, such as Santa as a tattooed Russian and the Easter Bunny as a boomerang-throwing Australian. Critical reception is generally positive. In 3D. Rated G.

Cold War – Despite Hong Kong's film industry being largely subsumed and devoted to making Chinese fantasy movies, the island territory still manages to produce the cracking type of police thrillers it's famous for. Cold War has been widely compared to Infernal Affairs, though other pundits say it's more like one of the early Police Story movies without any Jackie Chan martial-arts action. The story involves a police van carrying cops and hi-tech equipment that's been hijacked. The officers have been taken hostage. With the clock ticking, senior officials jockey to take charge of the case. Cold War opened this year's Busan International Film Festival, and has been generally well-received. It's in Cantonese with English and Thai subtitles at some cinemas, including SF cinemas at CentralWorld, MBK and Central Rama 9. Rated 15+.

Son of Sardaar – Jassi (Ajay Devgn) is a young man returns to India from London to his home village, where he eventually comes into conflict with a powerful local man named Billu (Sanjay Dutt). Things are further complicated when Jassi falls for Billu's niece (Sonakshi Sinha). A sprawling action-drama and comedy, along the lines of Dabangg and Rowdy Rathore, critical reception is mostly positive. Starts on Friday at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Central Rama III.

Talaash – A simple car-accident investigation spins out of control for a police inspector in this thriller starring Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Rani Mukherji. Released by the Bollywood Thai gang, it's at SF Cinema City Terminal 21 from Friday until December 5. For more information, call (089) 488 2620.

Take note

House cinema on RCA is closed from today through Sunday for a private function.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 22-28, 2012

The Master

Boogie Nights director Paul Thomas Anderson continues in the starkly bold direction he took with There Will Be Blood, about an iconoclastic 1910s oilman, with The Master
Set in post-World War II America, it's a striking portrait of drifters and seekers. Joaquin Phoenix stars as navy veteran who returns from war unsettled and uncertain of his future. He is drawn to a group called "The Cause" and its charismatic leader (frequent Anderson collaborator Philip Seymour Hoffman).

Amy Adams also stars.

The film has been controversial because it is loosely based on L. Ron Hubbard and the early days of the Church of Scientology, but it also picks up on themes explored in There Will Be Blood.

It premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September, and fueled controversy there when it was awarded the Silver Lion for best director and Volpi Cup for best actor (shared by Phoenix and Hoffman). The jury reportedly wanted to give The Master the Golden Lion top-prize as well, but the festival's rules prevented that, so the prize went to Kim Ki-duk's Pieta, and ended up feeling like a consolation prize to the South Korean director.

Tipped as a likely multiple nominee for next year's Academy Awards, critical reception is mostly positive. At Apex Siam Square and Paragon. Rated 18+.

Also opening

Premium Rush – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, coming off a strong performance in Looper, climbs aboard a bicycle for this thriller about a hotshot New York City bicycle messenger who is chased by a corrupt cop seeking the envelope he's supposed to deliver. In the film, Gordon-Levitt rides a "fixie", a bicycle with no brakes nor gears that's popular among Bangkok hipsters. Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez and Jamie Chung also star. David Koepp, screenwriter on dozens of hit films, directs. Critical reception is mostly positive. Rated 13+.

Red Dawn – Wolverines! John Milius' gritty 1984 classic about patriotic teenagers who take up arms as guerrilla fighters after the Soviets invade the U.S. has been remade. Rather implausibly, the U.S. is invaded by North Korea. Originally it was supposed to be China, but studio executives thought they ought not offend the world's biggest emerging movie market. A bunch of young stars are in the cast, among them Chris "Thor" Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson from The Hunger Games. Adrianne Palicki, Josh Peck and Isabel Lucas also star. Critical reception is mostly negative. Rated 15+.

3 AM (ตีสาม 3D, Tee Sam 3D) – Following the international-sales success of its 3D haunted airplane thriller Dark Flight earlier this year, Five Star Production offers more three-dimensional scares with this three-segment horror flick. Patchanon Thammajira directs The Wig, which follows two sisters (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk and Focus Jirakul) in a haunted wig shop. Kirati Nakintanon directs a story about a medical student (Tony Rakkaen) who gets the job of looking after the corpses of a bridge and groom. And Isara Nadee directs O.T., starring Shahkrit Yamnarm and Ray MacDonald as pranksters in an office whose practical jokes on co-workers go too far. Rated 15+.

The Four – Gordon Chan brings “The Four Great Constables” novel series to the big screen. Four sleuths skilled in martial arts are hired by the emperor to solve various mysteries. Liu Yifei, Collin Chou, Ronald Cheng, Deng Chao and Anthony Wong star. Thai-dubbed only at Major Cineplex. Rated 15+.

Love, Faith, Miracle Season 2 (ความรัก ศรัทธา ปาฏิหาริย์ (ซีซั่น 2), Kwam Rak, Sattha, Patiharn (Season 2)) – Eight short films, each running around 10 to 15 minutes, are produced by Satien Dhammasathan. Stars include Shahkrit Yamnarm, Lalita Sasiprapha and Sorrapong Chatree. Admission is free. In Thai – no English subtitles – at the Scala from Friday through Sunday.

Rak Jab Jai (รักจับใจ ) – Thai stage musicals have increased in popularity in the past couple of years and the fad doesn't seem to be going away any time soon. This is a recent hit stage musical that's simply been filmed, so if you missed the live performance or you want to see it again, here's your chance. Pop singer "Bie" Sukrit Wiesetkaew stars. He's a guy in love with a blind woman (Nuenruthai Sophon). In Thai – no English subtitles – at Major Cineplex. Rated G.

Also showing

Fados is the closing film.

World Film Festival of Bangkok – The 10th annual festival rolls into its final weekend with lots of movies worth seeing. Tonight at 9.30 is The Lovers on the Bridge, a 1991 drama by French director Leos Carax. Tomorrow at 8.20 is Elephant Shaman by Shane Bunnag, about the last elephant shaman in Thailand. It screens again on Saturday at 3.40. Also on Saturday is Return to Burma, which follows a Burmese construction worker who returns home after working for years as a laborer in Taiwan. Sunday's highlights include Under Snow from Japan and Win/Win from the Netherlands. The closing film is Fados, which is a celebration of Portugal's predominant musical genre. It starts at 6 on Sunday. It's all at the Esplanade Cineplex Ratchada.

Entre nos mains (Into Our Own Hands) – The Alliance Française Bangkok's month of documentaries finishes off with this 2010 work by Mariana Otero about workers who form a cooperative to take over a bankrupt lingerie factory. It's at the Alliance Française at 7.30pm on Wednesday, November 28.

Jab Tak Hai Jaan – Yash Chopra's final feature before his death last month is a sweeping Bollywood romance starring Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma and Katrina Kaif. He's working as a bomb-disposal expert for the Indian army in Kashmir, where he meets Anushka, a Discovery Channel intern who by chance comes across his old diary and discovers his haunted past and mourning over a lost love. Score by AR Rahman. It's at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Paragon. Rated 15+.

Sneak preview

Cloud Atlas – Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and the Wachowskis (The Matrix) team up for what's been termed  the biggest-budget independent film ever made. Filming what had been regarded an "unfilmable" novel by David Mitchell, the sprawling narrative traces half a dozen or so stories through 500 years of history, from the 19th century to the distant future, with characters in overlapping storylines who have been reincarnated in various forms. The star-studded cast includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Bae Doona, Ben Whishaw and James D'Arcy. Critical reception is mixed, but even critics who don't care for the film seem to think it's something that should be seen, just to be believed. It's in sneak previews this week from around 8 nightly at Apex Siam Square, Paragon and CentralWorld before moving to a wider release next week. Rated 18+.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 15-21, 2012

10th World Film Festival of Bangkok

A scene from Holy Motors, one of the highlights of the World Film Fest.

The 10th World Film Festival of Bangkok opens tomorrow night with the Thai premiere of Mekong Hotel, the latest feature by celebrated Thai independent filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The opening will also include the presentation of the festival's Lotus Award for lifetime achievement to French director Leos Carax, whose latest film Holy Motors is among the many highlights of this year's festival.

After Friday night's invitation-only opening at Paragon Cineplex, the festival shifts over to the Esplanade Ratchada, where it runs from Saturday until November 25.

In a recent article in The Nation, festival director Victor Silakong and deputy director Dusit Silakong, offered their Top 10 choices for viewing during the festival.

Holy Motors, which was one of the most buzzworthy titles at this year's Cannes Film Festival, is a fantasy drama about a shadowy man who assumes different roles each night as he hits the streets of Paris. Denis Lavant stars, along with Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue.

Other picks include Le Havre, another typically wry-humored offering about a lost soul from Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki. It was a major hit on last year's festival circuit and was France's submission to the Oscars.

Others are the closing film Fados, about Portugal's enduring musical genre; the Taiwanese teen romance You Are the Apple of My Eye, the Thai documentary The Elephant Shaman, about the country's last living "elephant whisperer"; Under Snow, a unique look at the traditional lifestyle of Japan's snow-covered Echigo region; the polarizing Mexican family drama Post Tenebras Lux, the "Brazilian Cinema Paradiso" Cine Holliúdy, the Japanese documentary No Man's Zone about the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the South Korean adoption drama Barbie.

Download the schedule at the festival website, and show up whenever you have time. I can almost guarantee that you'll find something a lot more interesting than the only other movie opening in cinemas this week.

Also opening

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 – Finally, after five movies, it's over. Or is it? Word is that author Stephanie Meyer and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg have penned a surprise ending to the film-franchise conclusion of The Twilight Saga. Directed by Bill Condon, Part 2 begins with Kristen Stewart in hyper-sneery mode as a newborn vampire and mother to fast-growing half-human daughter. The spawn of Bella and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) threatens to spark a war among the vampires. The Volturi ruling class wrongly assumes that Bella and Edward have transformed the kid into a vampire, something that is expressly forbidden, and gather forces to take down the entire Cullen clan. Meanwhile, Bella's bare-chested werewolf pal Jacob (Taylor Lautner) bonds with the girl and seeks to protect her from the rest of his Wolf Pack clan. This is being released in the U.S. this week, so there's not yet any critical consensus. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Arjun: The Warrior Prince – This animated feature, adapted from the Indian epic the Mahabharata, is co-produced by Disney and tells the story of the young hero archer as he overcomes his various shortcomings and learns what it takes to be a man. Critical reception is generally positive. It's at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Rama III. Rated 13+.

Une jeunesse amoureuse – The Alliance Française Bangkok's month of documentaries continues with this offering from director François Caillat who depicts his early love life in the Paris of the 1970s – an intimate coming-of-age story along with the adventure of a generation of 20-year-olds discovering American counter-culture. It's at the Alliance Française at 7.30pm on Wednesday, November 21.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 8-14, 2012

Soob Kuu Ku Loke

Petthai "Mum Jokmok" Wongkumlao and Nakorn "Ple" Silachai team up for Soob Kuu Ku Loke (สูบคู่กู้โลก ) as a pair of biker dudes who are having money troubles. However, their problems worsen when they discover their nephew (Phoom Rangsrithananon) is actually an alien in disguise. They find themselves fending off an invasion by extraterrestrials.

This is a new venture for the comedian Ple, seen here wearing a ridiculous fake beard as he pairs up with veteran comedian Mum. He was recently trounced out of his old Saranae comedy troupe by former partners Willy McIntosh and the dreadlocked Kiattisak “Sena Hoi” Udomnak, who went their own way and made Saranae Osekkai, the recent feature-film spoof of Japanese pop culture.

Naruebadee Vejjakam, who directed the first three Saranae movies, sticks with Ple for this latest effort. Rated 15+.

Also opening

Bloom (เด็กสาว, Dek Sao) – Veteran writer Fa Poolvoralak makes his feature directorial debut with this coming-of-age drama about schoolgirls in a small Ayutthaya riverside town as they prepare for the annual long-boat race. At Major Cineplex. Rated G.

Wolf Children – Some fans of Japanese anime think that Mamoru Hosoda, creator of such works as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars, is better than the perhaps more widely known veteran animator Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli. That's a matter of opinion, I suppose. Hosoda's latest tells of a young woman's romance with a guy who turns out to be a wolf. She gets pregnant and gives birth to a boy and a girl who also turn out to be wolves, and is then left alone to raise these wolf children in a contemporary Japanese society that no longer accepts the mythical creatures. Critical reception has been mostly positive. It's in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at Apex Siam Square.

House at the End of the Street – Seeking a fresh start, a divorcée (Elisabeth Shue) moves with her teenage daughter (Jennifer Lawrence) to a dream home in a small town. Of course, the neighborhood turns out to have a dark past, otherwise, why would this movie even exist?  Years earlier, in the house next door, a daughter killed her parents in their beds, and disappeared, leaving only a brother (Max Thieriot). And, against her mom's wishes, the new girl in town strikes up a relationship with the reclusive neighbor boy. With mostly negative criticism, House at the End of the Street appears to be a minor blot on the otherwise promising career of young Hunger Games starlet Lawrence. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Elle s’appelle Sabine (Her Name Is Sabine) – The month of documentary films at the Alliance Française Bangkok continues with actress Sandrine Bonnaire's sensitive portrait of her autistic sister. It's in French with English subtitles at 7.30pm on Wednesday, November 14 at the Alliance Française.

Chakravyuh – Arjun Rampal and Abhay Deol star in this political thriller set against the backdrop of the Maoist Naxalite rebel movement in India. Arjun is a highly decorated police office who convinces his best friend (Abhay) to go undercover in a Naxalite group led by the ruthless Rajan (Manoj Bajpai). It's at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Rama III. Rated 18+.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 1-7, 2012


The James Bond movie franchise marks 50 years this year with the release of Skyfall, the 23th picture officially authorized by the rightsholder, EON Productions and the Broccoli family.

Daniel Craig returns for this third outing as 007. He's a grittier and grumpier Bond than the old smoothies who've played him previously, and he's been credited for rescuing the franchise from decades of creaky self-parody. Most pundits are now ranking Craig as probably the second-best Bond since Sean Connery, above Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton, George Lazenby and Roger Moore.

Here, Bond's latest assignment has gone horribly wrong and the covers are blown for secret agents around the world.

MI6 has been attacked, forcing the spy agency's chief, M, again portrayed by Judi Dench, to go underground. Meanwhile, she finds her authority being challenged by Lord Voldemort himself – Ralph Fiennes, portraying the new chairman of the intelligence and security committee.

So M is left with just one person she can trust – Bond, an agent who was thought to be dead. Aided by the plucky Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), now a field agent instead of a secretary, Bond follows a trail around the world that leads him to another great cinematic villain, Anton Chighur – Javier Bardem, with another weird hairdo as the mysterious Raoul Silva, a former MI6 agent turned cyberterrorist.

Sam Mendes directs, with French actress Bérénice Marlohe joining the ranks of the "Bond girls" and Ben Whishaw as Bond's geeky new young gadgets guy Q.

Critical reception, so far, is mostly positive. It's in 2D only in regular cinemas as well as IMAX and IMAX Digital. Rated 13+.

Also opening

The Taste of Money – Im Sang-soo follows up his 2010 remake of The Housemaid with another erotic tale of family dysfunction. Here, he centers on a family owned conglomerate and a young man (Kim Kang-woo) who works as a private secretary to the company president (Baek Yoon-sik). He becomes entangled in an affair with the president's wife (Yoon Yeo-jeong) after she discovers her husband having an affair with a Filipina housemaid (Maui Taylor). Further complications arise when he develops feelings for his employer's divorced daughter (Kim Hyo-jin). The Taste of Money premiered at this year's Cannes Film Festival, and reception has been mixed. It's In Korean with English and Thai subtitles at House and SFW CentralWorld. Rated 20-.

Also showing

Russian Film Week – In collaboration with the Russian Embassy, SF World Cinema at Central World will screen five recent mainstream Russian films from November 1 to 9. Show times are at 8 nightly. The line-up is as follows:

  • Lucky Trouble is a romantic comedy starring Ukrainian-born Hollywood starlet Milla Jovovich. She's the love interest for a small-town schoolteacher (Russia's most prominent actor Konstantin Khabenskiy from Night Watch). Complications ensue as they prepare to get married, even though she's already engaged to another man.
  • Mamy (Mothers) is a compilation of segments by eight directors as a tribute to mothers in honor of the March 8 International Women's Day.
  • Moscow , I Love You! is another omnibus film, similar to Paris, I Love You and New York, I Love You. It consists of 18 segments about life and love in the Russian capital.
  • My Boyfriend-Angel is a romantic comedy about an angel who falls in love with a skeptical young woman.
  • The Brest Fortress, a.k.a. Fortress of War recounts the 1941 German invasion and a Soviet fortress that's besieged taken by surprise.

Tickets for Russian Film Week are free, and will be handed out 30 minutes before show time. The movies are screening on Blu-ray with English and Thai subtitles. For the schedule, please check the SF Cinema website.

Sita Sings the Blues – Animator and cartoonist Nina Paley chronicles the break-up with her boyfriend in this fanciful retelling of a story from the Ramayana, which is explained by a hilarious "Greek chorus" trio of shadow puppets. Singer Annette Hanshaw provides the "voice" of the broken-hearted Sita, through her 1920s recordings of jazz and blues. Sita was a labor of love for the animator, who put it together using many styles of animation almost single-handedly on her computer at home. It won numerous awards but its release was hampered by Paley's not obtaining a rights clearance from the publisher of the Hanshaw songs. She eventually did reach a settlement, taking out a personal loan to cover the copyright fee. Then, in a bid to make her film a test case for free sharing under the use of the Creative Commons license, she has made it available for downloads and streaming. It's showing at 8 tonight at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. Admission for non-members is 150 baht.

Dutch Film Festival in Thailand – A dozen or so Dutch features, documentaries and shorts from the past 10 years will be screened during the monthlong Dutch Film Festival. It's being held at various venues, at the Goethe Institut from November 5 to 8, at the Esplanade Cineplex Ratchada as part of the 10th World Film Festival of Bangkok from November 16 to 25 (see below for more details) and at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center from November 21 to 23. Highlights include Meet the Fokkens, a documentary on the elderly heavyset twin sisters who have worked for decades as prostitutes in Amsterdam, and Win/Win, a drama about a low-level investment-bank employee who becomes a successful trader overnight. Download the festival schedule (PDF) for more details.

Mindfulness and Murder – Ananda, a former policeman who's left behind crimefighting to become a Buddhist monk, is back on the beat when a boy is founded murdered at a Bangkok Buddhist temple. The police aren't keen to pursue the case, so the temple's abbot asks Ananda to solve the crime. Methodically, he tracks down clues and uncovers a conspiracy within the temple itself. The debut feature by veteran producer Tom Waller, Mindfulness and Murder was nominated for several awards by the National Federation of Film Associations of Thailand, including best screenplay and best director, and actor Wannasuk Sirilar won the best supporting actor prize. It's based on one of the "Father Ananda" mystery novels by expat writer Nick Wilgus. Vithaya Pansringarm stars as Ananda. He and director Tom Waller will be present for the November 6 screening at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. The show time is 8pm. Admission for non-members is 150 baht and 100 baht for anyone wanting to drink the wine.

Puisque nous sommes nés – A month of documentary films begins at the Alliance Française Bangkok with Jean-Pierre Duret and Andréa Santana's 2009 look at homeless drifter children in Brazil. It's in French with English subtitles at 7.30pm on Wednesday, November 7 at the Alliance Française.

Student of the Year – Karan Johar directs this Bollywood drama about high-school students from different ends of the social spectrum in competition to win the Student of the Year trophy. Abhimanyu Singh (Sidharth Malhotra), who comes from a middle-class family, hopes to win the trophy to rise up in prosperity while Rohan Nanda (Varun Dhawan), the son of a business tycoon, hopes to finally prove himself to his father. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Central Rama III.

Take note

The 10th World Film Festival of Bangkok opens on November 16 with Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Mekong Hotel. Other highlights include Holy Motors, which was one of the most buzzworthy titles at this year's Cannes Film Festival. The film's director, Leos Carax, will be present to receive this year's Lotus Award for lifetime achievement, and the festival will screen a couple other of his films, The Lovers on the Bridge and Mauvais Sang. Also worth mentioning is Aki Kaurismaki's Le Havre, which was an award-winner at last year's Cannes fest and was the French submission to the Oscars. This year's festival also joins hands with the Dutch Film Festival (see above), which brings in a line-up of recent acclaimed documentaries and dramas. The fest runs until November 25 at the Esplanade Cineplex Ratchada. Keep an eye on festival website for more details about the schedule.