Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening March 29-April 4, 2012

Wrath of the Titans

Clash of the Titans, a 2010 remake of a 1981 Ray Harryhausen stop-motion-animation epic, was critically assailed but it was enough of a financial success that Warner Bros. saw an opportunity to make a franchise out of it.

So now we have Wrath of the Titans, with Sam Worthington back as Perseus, the demigod son of the god Zeus (Liam Neeson, cashing another paycheck).

The story takes place a decade after Perseus' defeat of the monstrous CGI Kraken. Perseus is attempting to live a quiet life as a fisherman and single dad of his 10-year old son Helius. But the gods and the Titans are still at war, and the gods are losing, thanks to humanity's lack of devotion. And so Perseus is called upon to rescue Zeus when he's captured by his turncoat godly son son Ares (Edgar Ramírez).

Ralph Fiennes, Toby Kebbell, Bill Nighy, Danny Huston and Rosamund Pike also star.

Early buzz is that it's better than Clash, but not many critics have weighed in yet. It's in 3D, including IMAX. Rated G.

Also opening

Love 555 (รัก 555 อย่าท้าก๋อย, Rak 555 Ya Tha Koy) – The title of this comedy released by M Pictures references the "555" Thai Internet shorthand for laughter. If you speak even a little Thai, you get it. If not, then, well, who cares? Ha, ha, ha. Swimmer Pimchanok (Pokchat Thiamchai) is trained by a Japanese coach (Jaturong "Mokjok" Ornnorm, who also directs) but comes up against an unexpected rival who is being trained by Hayato’s respected friend (Jim Chaunchuen). Pongpit Preechaborisutkun also stars. Rated G.

Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu – Bollywood heads to Las Vegas in this romantic comedy starring Imran Khan and Kareena Kapoor as two strangers who wake up to discover that they’ve gotten married. At Paragon.

Also showing

Agent Vinod – Bollywood's answer to James Bond is this globe-trotting blockbuster spy yarn starring Saif Ali Khan, with Kareena Kapoor, Prem Chopra and Malika Haydon. Sriram Raghavan directs. Read a review at Beth Loves Bollywood. It's in Hindi with English subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit (Ekamai) on Friday and Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 5. Call (089) 488 2620 (02) 225 7500 or check

311, directed by Tatsuya Mori.

Salaya International Documentary Film Festival – If you didn't make it to the Thai Film Archive for last week's second edition of Salaya Doc, you missed some great films screening in the wonderful atmosphere of the Sri Salaya Theatre, along with appearances by many of the filmmakers, and even some Thai movie stars. But this weekend, Salaya Doc brings some of its films to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. The offerings on Saturday are 311, on Japan's earthquake last year; Golden Slumbers, a magical look at the lost films of Cambodia's cinematic golden age; and Repatriation, about the complicated, emotional and contentious South Korean issues of repatriating "unconverted" North Korean spies. Sunday is a trio of unflinching films from the Director in Focus, China's Xu Tong: Wheat Harvest, about the sex industry in Beijing; and Fortune Teller and Shattered, about a crippled itinerant soothsayer and his deaf, mute, mentally impaired wife. Check the festival blog for the schedule.

Take note

The Scala Theater in 2007, with a special Christmas Eve screening of The Love of Siam. Photo by Pantip user:Kampongpiratevee, via Wikimedia Commons.

A movement is afoot to try and convince Chulalongkorn University against tearing down Siam Square's historic Lido and Scala cinemas in order to build more shopping malls.

Kong Rithdee writes about the issue in last Saturday's Bangkok Post, and he says that perhaps the powers that be at Chula are willing to listen. Further, he says, "let's take a deep breath" and quotes Associate Professor Permyot Kosolbhand of Chulalongkorn's Property Management Office:

"We will try to find a way to preserve the symbols of the area, but at this point we have no details."

The grass-roots movement takes the form of an online petition, which I linked to last week. It's in Thai – and it's going to be only Thais who have a say in this – but an English translation has been provided, courtesy of reader Richard Wilson:

For those who love movies, three movie theaters in the Apex Group are now slated to be demolished. These three movie theaters represent a creative center, an alternative space. They have always been unique places for:

  • Showing movies that are outside the mainstream (i.e., shorts, documentaries, award-winning films, political movies, cross-gender movies, etc.),
  • Projects specifically for the creative community
  • Holding events for young people and for the general public.

We do not object to change and development, but we request that the management guidelines for the Siam Square area be reviewed, taking into consideration the mission of the University –
“Chulalongkorn is known for its public service” – and also taking into account the expectations that society has for this area.

Please submit your first and last names in the “comment box”.

Every name submitted will be sent directly to the e-mail of the Office of the University Dean of Chulalongkorn University and the drafters of this petition will combine these names and submit them along with an official letter requesting that the petition’s request (be granted).

Thank you.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

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

The Hunger Games

It's The Matrix of the new generation. A groundbreaking phenomenon.

Based on the best-selling young-adult novel by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games is set in a post-apocalyptic North America, where food supplies are scarce, and where, each year, boys and girls from ages 12 to 18 are selected in "the reaping" to fight in a televised battle in which there can only be one survivor.

The story is told from the viewpoint of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen. She volunteers to be sent to the games in place of her 12-year-old sister.

She's played by Jennifer Lawrence, the smashing young actress who came to prominence in the indie flick Winter's Bone and was then cast in X-Men: First Class as the blue-skinned nude shape-shifter Mystique. Now with The Hunger Games, she has her pick of major movie franchises. The sequel, Catching Fire, is already in the works.

Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci and Lenny Kravitz also star. Gary Ross directs. And that's fantastic news. His previous credits include the imaginative Pleasantville. And it looks like The Hunger Games captures that dystopian past.

The Hunger Games is being compared to The Twilight Saga, but don't let that put you off. It's also been compared to the Japanese movie Battle Royale, both favorably and unfavorably, but critical reception so far is wildly positive. See it! Rated 15+.

Also opening

Dark Flight 407 (407 เที่ยวบินผี, 407 Tiawbin Phee) – Following quickly on the heels of Mae Nak 3D comes another Thai 3D movie, this one billed as the first Thai film to actually be shot in stereoscopic 3D. Produced by Five Star Production, Dark Flight 407 is a haunted airplane tale. Veteran singer-actress Marsha Wattanapanich stars as a flight attendant who is back in the air 10 years after she was the sole survivor of a crash. Peter Knight also stars as a flight engineer. Isara Nadee, one of the "Ronin Team" responsible for Art of the Devil 2, directs, with the script by another Art of the Devil 2 team member, Kongkiat Khomsiri, who previously directed Muay Thai Chaiya and Slice and has scripted such films as Bang Rajan and The Unseeable. After its release here, Dark Flight 407 will take wing and head to Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau and Cambodia. In 3D. Rated G.

The Tree – A family is thrown into despair by the sudden heart attack of their father. The children believe the spirit of their dead dad lives in the giant tree in the yard of their home in rural Australia. They take comfort in the tree at first, but then it grows so large that it threatens to crush their house. The mother (Charlotte Gainsbourg) wants to cut it down but is opposed by her 7-year-old daughter (the amazing little Morgana Davies). The closing film of the 2010 Cannnes festival, critical reception is generally positive. At House on RCA. Rated 13+.

We Bought a Zoo – Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous) directs this family comedy-drama that's based on the memoir of Benjamin Mee, a Briton who took on the challenge of buying a dilapidated zoo and fixing it up. Adapted for American audiences, Matt Damon stars as the single dad who moves his two children to the countryside zoo. Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Colin Ford, Elle Fanning, Angus Macfadyen and Peter Riegert also star. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive. It's at SF cinemas. Rated G.

The Lorax – Dr. Seuss' 1971 children's book with an environmental message was first adapted as a much-beloved 30-minute animated TV special in 1972. Now Illumination Entertainment, the animation firm that made the 2010 hit Despicable Me, stretches the tale into a feature. Added to the story is a 12-year-old boy (voiced by Zac Efron) who lives in a sterile, manufactured suburb. He hopes to win the affections of a nature-loving girl by finding a real truffula tree, but is disheartened to learn that they've all been chopped down. In the land where there were once forests, he encounters the Once-ler (Ed Helms), an old man who recounts the story of how he got rich by harvesting the truffulas, which led to his conflict with a grumpy little orange man who speaks for the trees. He's voiced by Danny DeVito. Other voices include Taylor Swift, Rob Riggle and Betty White. Critical reception is mixed, with the main complaint being the "moral simplicity of the book gets lost with the zany Hollywood production values". In 3D. Rated G.

Gone – A young woman  (Amanda Seyfried) is convinced that the serial murderer who kidnapped her two years ago has returned and taken her sister. So Jill decides she has to find her sister on her own and take revenge on the killer. It wasn't screened for movie critics, and reception is mostly negative so far. Rated 15+.

She (เรื่องรักระหว่างเธอ, Ruang Rak Rawang Ther) – A surprise hit of 2010 was Yes or No, So I Love You, an indie Thai film that depicted romance between a couple of cute college girls. Now Angel and Bear productions, the same firm that was behind the coffee-infused romance Bitter/Sweet, wants to look at more lesbian love in She. It has two stories. In one, a businesswoman facing terminal cancer turns her back on her husband and daughter in hopes of sparing them pain; but then she strikes up a relationship with a female photographer. Meanwhile, a columnist's life is destroyed when her boyfriend e-mails their sex clips to her work contacts. While bouncing back, she strikes up a friendship with her tomboy neighbor. Veteran actress Penpak Sirikul, who appeared earlier this year in the transgender romance It Gets Better, stars along with Ann Siriwan Baker, Appassaporn Sangthong and Kitchya Kaesuwan. It's directed by Sranya Noithai, who previously did 2007's historical horror romance Perng Mang: The Haunted Drum. Rated 13+.

Agent Vinod – BollywoodThai is back in action with this globe-trotting spy adventure produced by and starring Saif Ali Khan along with Kareena Kapoor, Prem Chopra and Malika Haydon. Sriram Raghavan directs. 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 Rama III on Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 4. Call (089) 488 2620 (02) 225 7500 or check

Also showing

Golden Slumbers is the closing film of the Salaya Doc festival.

Salaya International Documentary Film Festival – Continuing through Sunday at the Sri Salaya Theater at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, Salaya Doc has many highlights, including hard-hitting documentaries by China's Xu Tong, a competition of films from around Southeast Asia and foreign documentaries in the Perspectives section. Saturday offers the recently restored 1977 classic Word Is Out, which challenged gay and lesbian stereotypes in the U.S. Sunday includes The Cheer Ambassadors, about the first Thai team to compete in the World Cheerleading Championships and Golden Slumbers, about the lost films of Cambodia's golden age of cinema. Admission is free. Check the festival blog for the full schedule. Some of the films will also be shown at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre on March 31 and April 1.

Take note

The lobby of the Scala. Photo by Philip Jablon.

Since news broke last week of Chulalongkorn University's greed-motivated plans to tear down the Lido and the Scala cinemas in order to build more shopping malls in an area already saturated by shopping malls, there has been notable commentary in Bangkok's English language press. The Nation yesterday had a piece by Philip Jablon, "The case for preserving the Lido and Scala theatres". Here's an excerpt:

"If we appraise these theatres based on the law of scarcity, which holds that the decrease in quantity of a particular kind of artefact or institution leads to a corresponding increase in its worth, then the Lido and Scala are priceless, being the last two of their kind in the country."

Jablon is also known as "The Projectionist", the blogger of The Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project. There, he posted a more-blunt assessment of Chula's plans:

"Only corrupt minds would destroy a cultural institution like the Lido Theater. The mental midgets behind it should be deeply ashamed."

Interestingly, Jablon also writes about the Sala Chalerm Thani, Bangkok's lone wooden cinema, which may or may not be slated for restoration. And one of London's oldest cinemas is being restored.

Bangkok Post movie critic Kong Rithdee also comments on the Lido and Scala, saying in part:

"This shows that the concern and heartbreak are more than just a tug of nostalgia. The imminent demise of the Lido highlights the issue of urban planning, visions of the cityscape, the scarcity of cultural institutions, the importance of architecture as a form of collective history, and the politics of space, public and private, in Bangkok's super-prime location. The bitterness is especially pungent because of a widespread feeling that Chulalongkorn University, the kingdom's premier educational body, has recently dedicated much effort to real estate adventures and shopping mall construction. After Chamchuri Square and Digital Gateway (not to mention MBK, which sits on its property) the university is now building the 1.8 billion baht Siam Square One on the site where Siam Theatre once stood. Not a library, not a park, not a futsal field; only malls – nothing but malls."

There's now an online petition. Sign it if you think it will help.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

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

This Must Be the Place

Sean Penn stars in This Must Be the Place, portraying Cheyenne, an ageing, semi-retired glam rock star who arrives too late to reconcile with his estranged father.

Bored and jaded, Cheyenne decides he needs to confront the Nazi war criminal who tormented his father in the Auschwitz concentration camp. He sets out on a road trip across America to find the fugitive.

Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsch, Kerry Condon and Harry Dean Stanton also star. Musician David Byrne has a cameo, and the title references the Talking Heads song "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)". Byrne also composed original songs for the film, co-written with singer-songwriter Will Oldham. However,, Penn does not actually sing the songs himself.

Paolo Sorrentino, making his English-language debut, directs. He and Penn got together after Penn expressed interest in working with the Italian director after the actor was head of the jury at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and saw Sorrentino's Il Divo.

This Must Be the Place premiered in competition at last year's Cannes Film Festival and was also featured at Sundance this year. Critical reception is fairly positive.

It's at Apex Siam Square. See it there before they tear the place down.

Also opening

Mirror Mirror – Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall) brings his penchant for wildly costumed fantasies to the fairy tale of Snow White. In this vivid and humorous-looking reimagination, Julia Roberts is the Evil Queen, with Lily Collins as the exiled princess who gets help from the seven dwarfs to reclaim her kingdom. Armie Hammer, Sean Bean and Nathan Lane also star. It's one of two Snow White movies coming out this year. Due in June is Snow White and the Huntsman, which casts the tale as a historical battle epic and stars Kristen Stewart from Twilight. The U.S. release of Mirror Mirror has been delayed until March 30, so there's no reviews yet. Rated G.

Puncture – Chris Evans is a brash young playboy lawyer who's covered with tattoos and has a love for recreational drug use and partying. But he finds a cause to fight for in an emergency-room nurse who was pricked on the job by a contaminated needle. As he digs deeper to expose a health-care conspiracy, heavyweight attorneys swoop in to threaten him. Critical reception is mixed. At Major Cineplex (Esplanade, Paragon, Paradise, EGV).. Rated 18+.

Special Forces – With Act of Valor in cinemas right now to serve as a recruiting commercial for the U.S. Navy SEALS, here's the French answer, depicting a unit of the Commandement des Opérations Spéciales, assigned to rescue a journalist (Diane Kruger) taken hostage in Afghanistan. Djimon Hounsou, Denis Menochet and Benoît Magimel also star. There isn't much critical reception yet. At SF cinemas. Rated 13+.

This Means War – Chris Pine and Tom Hardy are CIA operatives who become increasingly competitive rivals after they discover they are in love with the same woman (Reese Witherspoon). They engage in an escalating battle of wits, using all the hi-tech spy gadgetry at their disposal. McG (Charlie's Angels, Terminator Salvation) directs. Critical reception is generally negative. Rated G.

Also showing

French Film Festival – Part of La Fête, the annual French-Thai cultural festival, the film fest continues through Sunday at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Movies this week are the teen drama Love Like Poison tonight at 8 and the parenting comedy A Happy Event tomorrow at 8. Saturday has a Checkout Girl's Big Adventure at 12.30, The Names of Love at 2.45 and Sarah's Key at 5pm. Sunday closes the fest with Altogether Too Many at 12.30, Service Entrance at 2.45 and Deep in the Woods at 5pm.

Salaya International Documentary Film Festival – The Sri Salaya Theater at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom survived last year's floods to hold another Salaya Doc fest, but this year the organizers will also bring a selection of their films to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. The opening feature on March 20 will be 311, a documentary by veteran filmmaker Tatsuya Mori on the aftermath of last year's earthquake in Japan. The closing film on March 25 will be Golden Slumbers, a documentary on the lost films of Cambodia's golden age of cinema by Davy Chou. Other films include The Cheer Ambassadors, about the first Thai team to participate in the World Cheerleading Championships. It's part of the Perspective section, which also includes Nicolas Philibert's Nenette, about the 40-year-old orangutan at Paris' Jardins des Plantes zoo; Aki Ra's Boys, about orphaned bomb victims at Cambodia's Landmine Museum; Repatriated, on North Korean spies who were held in South Korea for 30 years; and Word is Out, a classic, recently restored 1977 documentary by the Mariposa Film Group that shattered stereotypes of gays and lesbians. Another highlight is the Director in Focus. This year it's China's Xu Tong with Wheat Harvest, covering the sex industry in Beijing; and Fortune Teller and Shattered, a pair of films about a crippled itinerant soothsayer and his deaf, mute, mentally impaired wife. There's also an ASEAN documentary competition with entries from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Burma and Indonesia. Some of the films will be repeated on March 31 and April 1 at the BACC. In addition to the screenings, there will be workshops and seminars. A story in The Nation today has more. Check out the film festival's blog for the full schedule.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Lido, Scala cinemas targeted for redevelopment

The Lido cinemas in 2007. Photo by Wise Kwai via Wikimedia Commons.

Sad news today for fans of independent and "foreign" films in Bangkok – Apex Siam Square's Lido cinemas and the Scala theater are slated for redevelopment by landlord Chulalongkorn University to make way for new shopping malls.

The Lido will be the first to close. The last flickers will be sometime next year and it'll be razed in order to build a new mall that's set to open in 2014.

Lovers of the Scala theater get a bit more time to enjoy the 1,000-seat art-deco edifice – it's slated for redevelopment in 2016.

The awful news broke in today's Bangkok Post, which teases a little about the plans to build a mall on the Lido site.

More details are in a Thai report on the MThai website, which describes a three-phase project by leaseholder Chulalongkorn University, which is seeking to remake Siam Square into more of a high-end shopping destination to compete with the luxury malls opposite the square, like Siam Discovery and Siam Paragon.

Phase 1 is already under way – the building of the Siam Square One mall on the site of the former Siam Theatre, which burned down in the arson attacks in the aftermath of the red-shirt political protests of 2010. Phase 2 will be the redevelopment of the Lido site, and Phase 3 will see the likely demolishment of the historic Scala.

The Apex chain's Siam, Lido and Scala all date back to the 1960s boom in cinemas in Thailand, and were once state-of-the-art theaters, holding many premieres.

After a fire at the Lido complex sometime in 1990s, the former single-screener was divided into a three-screen multiplex and shopping plaza.

And, with the Siam burning down in 2010, the Scala stands as Bangkok's sole-remaining single-screen standalone movie house.

Their chairs have become squeaky and have popped springs. The curtains are dusty and the carpets are worn. The masses have abandoned them for the 3D digital screens in the fancy malls across the road. But the Lido and Scala still have their charm, and they remain as sought-out destinations for discerning movie-goers.

The Scala's main attraction is its beautiful art-deco interior, huge screen and selection of first-run Hollywood and world-cinema hits, all for the bargain price of 100 baht – about one-third cheaper than the cookie-cutter cineplexes that offer less than half the movie-going experience.

The Lido caters to more of an arthouse crowd, with an eclectic selection of indie features as well as Japanese and Korean films.

Sad as I am to see the Lido and Scala go, I am not surprised. Though the theaters do good business on weekends, try seeing a movie in Siam Square at midday on a weekday and you're likely to be turned away because there aren't enough people to make an audience.

And while the Lido has an attractive selection of movies that often aren't showing anywhere else, the small auditoriums – wider than they are deep – are a drawback. You have to sit all the way in the back to see the whole screen.

It's the Scala I really want to see saved, though as a farang of modest means I have little say in the matter. It would take a group of wealthy and influential Thai architectural preservationists who are more powerful than the bosses at Chula to see that the Scala is left standing.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

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

John Carter

"Tarzan" writer Edgar Rice Burroughs' 100-year-old "Barsoom" sci-fi adventure novels come to the big screen this week with Disney's John Carter.

Geographically confused actor Taylor Kitsch stars as the former Confederate officer of the U.S. Civil War who is mysteriously transported to the red planet. He finds that it's a lush, fantastic place that the 12-foot-tall, four-armed natives call Barsoom. Taken prisoner, he reluctantly becomes embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions amongst the inhabitants of the planet, including barbaric tribe leader Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and the Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins).

Samantha Morton, Thomas Haden Church, Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy and Bryan Cranston also star in this movie that's a mix of Star Wars, Avatar and Dune.

Aside from test footage from a aborted animated version by Bob Clampett back in the 1930s and the direct-to-DVD Princess of Mars in 2009, the John Carter project has long been stuck in Hollywood's development hell. At one time Sin City's Robert Rodriguez and Iron Man director Jon Favreau were attached to a planned Paramount production. Rights then reverted to Disney, which handed the project to Andrew Stanton, who previously helmed Pixar's Finding Nemo and WALL-E. John Carter marks Stanton's first foray into live-action film.

The movie is just being released this week, so critical reception has been minimal so far. It's in 2D, Digital 3D and IMAX 3D. Rated G.

Also opening

I Wish (Kiseki) – Two brothers forced to live separately due to their parents’ divorce hear that the energy created when two bullet trains pass each other for the first time on a new rail line will be enough to grant wishes. So they hatch a plan to harness that enery to bring their mom and dad back together. Hikaru Koreeada (Nobody Knows, Air Doll) directs. I Wish premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Festival. Child actor Ohshirô Maeda is a nominee for best newcomer at this year's Asian Film Awards. He stars in the film with his real-life brother Koki Maeda. Hiroshi Abe, Kirin Kiki and Jô Odagiri also star. It's in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at Apex Siam Square and House on RCA.

The Good Doctor – Orlando Bloom is an arrogant young doctor who transfers to a hospital in southern California to start his residency. Wanting respect more than anything, he sees his chance with an 18-year-old woman (Riley Keough) who is suffering from a kidney infection. However, when her health starts improving, he begins tampering with her treatment to keep her sick and him in control. Taraji P. Henson, Rob Morrow and Michael Peña also star. This hasn't been released in the States yet so there isn't much critical reception yet. At Major Cineplex, Esplanade, Paragon. Rated G.

Big Miracle – Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski star in this family friendly feel-good drama about a Greenpeace activist and a journalist who unite a town and mobilize a nationwide effort to save a family of gray whales trapped in the ice near Point Barrow, Alaska. Tim Blake Nelson also stars. It's a fact-based tale, based on Operation Breakthrough, which was chronicled in the 1989 book "Freeing the Whales". Critical reception is generally positive. At SF cinemas. Rated G.

Rak Ao Yoo (Love Flood) – Opportunistic director Poj Arnon mobilized film crews to wade into last year's floods to film the backdrop of this romantic comedy about an office worker (scandal-plagued singer-actor "Film" Rattapoom Tokongsub) and his buddy (Attaphong Attakitkun) volunteering to help flood victims with the ulterior motive of scoring with the ladies. He meets one he really likes (Busarin Yokphraiphan), but she doesn't feel the same way. Bencharat Wisitkitchakan also stars. Poj, his cast and crew had to work fast to make this movie while there was still water covering Bangkok's streets. The title comes from the Thai government's oft-repeated refrain during the flood crisis of ao yoo – "we can handle it" – which also has a sexual connotation in Thai slang. Rated 13+.

Also showing

French Film Festival – Part of La Fête, the annual French-Thai cultural festival, the French film fest opens tonight at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld with an invitation-only gala that will be graced by Oscar-nominated British actress Kristin Scott Thomas. She has lived and worked in France for several years and is the star of the Holocaust mystery Sarah’s Key, which is showing on Saturday at 8pm. Other movies this week are the romantic comedy The Names of Love at 8 on Friday, the comedy Service Entrance at 12.30 on Saturday, the family drama Wolberg's Family at 2.45 on Saturday and 8 on Wednesday; the comedy A Happy Event at 5.45 on Saturday, A Checkout Girl's Big Adventures at 12.30 on Sunday; Deep in the Woods at 2.45 on Sunday, Love Like Poison at 5 on Sunday, Khamsa at 7 on Sunday and 8 on Tuesday and Altogether Too Many! at 8 on Monday. The screenings, which continue until March 18, are in French with English subtitles. Tickets cost 120 baht (100 baht for students). There’s also a package of five tickets for 500 baht.

At the Horizon – Laos has for decades lagged behind its neighbors in film production, due to lack of support, strict censorship and piracy. Meanwhile, Laotian people watch Thai TV from just across the river and buy pirated DVDs of Hollywood and Korean fare. Hopefully that situation will change with a new generation of filmmakers, who have turned out the first Lao thriller. At the Horizon impressed the head film censor so much he wanted it to be premiered at last year's Luang Prabang Film Festival. It also was shown at the Hua Hin fest and the Lifescapes Southeast Asian Film Festival in Chiang Mai. It was released in Lao cinemas (there are three in the entire country) last month, although it had blurry spots covering guns, smoking and booze like on Thai TV, and the ending was changed. It's the story of two men from opposite ends of Laos' social strata, a spoiled rich kid and a mute motorcycle mechanic, who are thrown together by violent circumstances. Anysay Keola, who made the film as part of his master's thesis work at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, directs. It screens at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand on Monday night at 8. Anysay will be in attendance to answer all your questions. Admission for non-members is 150 baht.

Take note

Shame, starring Michael Fassbender as a sex addict in New York City, opened last week at the Lido cinemas in Siam Square. It was hoped that director Steve McQueen's controversial-but-acclaimed drama would screen uncut, especially because it is rated 20-, which supposedly prohibits anyone under 20 from seeing it.

However, the Bangkok Post reports that cuts have indeed been made to some of the sex scenes. And that is indeed a shame. It was hoped that the ratings system would put an end to the prudish censors acting as nannies to mature Thai audiences. But this isn't the case with Shame. I would advise Bangkok film-goers to give Shame a miss at the Lido. Perhaps wait for import DVDs to become available, if you really feel you must see it.

Update: Distributor M Pictures says the film has not been censored, but Bangkok movie-goers have complained on social-media websites that some scenes appear to have snipped. Fassbender's full-frontal scene is intact, but some of the sex scenes may have been cut, according to the complaints.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening March 1-8, 2012


German-born, Irish-raised actor Michael Fassbender is now in three movies on Bangkok screens! Just last week, he stars in two, playing a psychologically messed-up Carl Jung in A Dangerous Method, and as a suave and untrustworthy mission partner to Gina Carano's hard-hitting special-ops agent in Haywire. But it's for Shame, opening this week, that Fassbender has received the most accolades in the past year.

He plays a young man living in New York, who has carefully cultivated a private life that allows him to indulge in his addiction to sex. But the sudden appearance of his troubled sister (Carey Mulligan) puts a major cramp in his lifestyle.

British filmmaker Steve McQueen directs. Shame premiered at last year's Venice Film Festival, where it won the best actor award, among other prizes. It's also collected awards from many other critics associations and festivals. Critical reception is mostly positive.

In the U.S., Shame was released under the controversial and most-restrictive NC-17 rating because of its explicit sex scenes. In Thailand, it receives the most-restrictive rating too, 20-, with ID checks mandatory, and is reportedly uncut. It's at Apex Siam Square.

Also opening

The Grey – Director Joe Carnahan teams back up with his A-Team star Liam Neeson for this grim-looking adventure tale. Neeson is the rather dour and brooding security chief for an oil-drilling team that finds itself fighting for survival after their plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness. There, they become prey for a pack of hungry wolves. Critical reception is mostly positive. Rated 13+.

Chronicle – "Found footage" in the style of such films as Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield and The Devil Inside recounts this tale of three teenage boys who develop telekinetic powers after they come into contact with a mysterious object. Critical reception is surprisingly positive, showing there might be good things yet in store for this tired trend of "found footage" films. Rated 13+.

Act of Valor – Active-duty members of the U.S. Navy SEALs elite special-ops force star in this action drama about a mission to rescue a kidnapped CIA agent. Basically, a small filmmaking unit was allowed to hang out with the SEALs while they went through training exercises. Some filming took place in Phnom Penh, where an explosion was staged. Critical reception is mostly negative, with the film being derided as pro-military propaganda. Rated 18+.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked – The annoying shrill-singing woodland rodents are back for a another sequel, this time on a cruise-ship vacation. Critical reception is mostly negative. Even actor David Cross, who cashed a check as one of the live-action actors in this movie, slammed it. Small children will probably enjoy it enough to make their parents buy the DVD for repeated viewings. At SF cinemas. Rated G.

Rak Sud Teen (รักสุดที) – Mario Maurer is the handsome playboy leader of a motorcycle gang he's in with a couple of goofy guys. He swore he’d never fall in love, but then he meets a beautiful girl ("Ice" Amina Gul) and it's love at first sight. Thima Kanchanaphairin and Worachat Thammawichin also star. Parithan Wacharanon directs. He's better known as the leader of the team that dubs all the Chinese films in Thailand. Rated G.

Tamnan Rak Mae Nak 3D (แม่นาค 3D) – The story of the ghost Mae Nak has been adapted for movies, television and the stage dozens of times, and is still probably best done in the 1999 film by Nonzee Nimibutr, Nang Nak. The story, supposedly true, takes place sometime in the mid-1800s reign of King Mongkut, in Phrankhanong, a rural canal village that's now been swallowed by the Bangkok metropolis. While the pregnant Nak's husband Mak is away fighting a war, she dies while giving birth. Mak returns home, unaware that his sweet loving wife and new baby are ghosts, and the fearsome Nak takes vengeance on any neighbor who tries to clue Mak in. Now the story is told in Thailand's first 3D horror feature, which has been long in the works. Nak's endlessly stretchy arms will reach out to choke you. "Tak" Bongkot Khongmalai is Mae Nak. Rangsirote Phanpheng co-stars and Phichai Noirod directs. Rated 15+.

Also showing

The Battle of Algiers – Gillo Pontecorvo directs this vivid documentary-style war drama from 1966 on the battle against French colonial forces by Algerian freedom fighters. Highly acclaimed as a classic of world cinema, the film is held up as an important commentary on urban guerilla warfare. It screens at 8 tonight at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, with support from the representative of Algeria, who will provide Algerian food. Admission is 150 baht for non-members.

Chulalongkorn University International Film Festival – CU's Dramatic Arts Department's twice-annual DVD screening series has three more movies. Tomorrow it's Le Quattro Volte, about an old goatherder struggling to maintain his way of life. Monday's movie is Estomago from Brazil, about an Italian-restaurant cook who learns to get by in a society divided between those who eat and those who get eaten. The series closes next Wednesday with Attenberg, an "awkward sex" comedy about a weird young woman who observes her fellow humans as if they were subjects of a David Attenborough wildlife documentary. All movies are screened on DVD with English subtitles. Afterward, there will be a discussion with Thai film critics. Admission is free. The venue is off Henri Dunant Road, in CU's Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Building, 9th floor. The show time is 5pm.

Take note

Part of La Fete, Thailand's annual French cultural festival, the French Film Festival runs from March 9 to 18 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. The focus this year is on comedy, with 10 films: Service Entrance, A Happy Event, Sarah’s Key, Wolberg's Family, Altogether Too Many!, Love Like Poison, A Checkout Girl’s Big Adventures, The Names of Love, Deep in the Woods and Khamsa. Tickets are 120 baht or there's a limited number of five-ticket packages available for 500 baht.

With the Academy Awards finally handed out and the endless, buzz-killing speculation over for another year, now's a good time to take a relaxed look at some of the winners playing here and see if they live up to the hype. They include the enjoyably entertaining The Artist at Apex Siam Square and SF cinemas. It won best picture, director original screenplay, leading actor and other awards. Also at Apex and SF cinemas is Alexander Payne's The Descendants, which won best adapted screenplay and features a fine performance by best-actor nominee George Clooney (who's also very slick in The Ides of March, which he also directed). The original screenplay winner Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen's best movie in years – is still playing at Apex. The best foreign language winner Nader and Simin: A Separation is still on at House. It's a gripping family legal drama and is well worth seeing. Martin Scorsese's heartfelt and fantastic Hugo, winner of most of the technical Oscars, is playing in 3D only at Paragon and CentralWorld. And The Iron Lady, featuring an Oscar-winning turn from Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, is still around.