Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 31-June 6, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

Already this season, we've had the live-action retooling of the "Snow White" tale by Tarsem Singh with the slightly comic Mirror Mirror, starring Julia Roberts as the evil queen.

Now comes Snow White and the Huntsman, which aims to be even more epic and grimmer in tone as it mixes fantasic Lord of the Rings-style battle sequences with the tale of the fair young woman and the dwarfs.

Perpetually sneering Twilight starlet Kristen Stewart has for some reason been cast as the only woman in all the land who's fairer than Charlize Theron, the evil queen. The queen sends a huntsman (Chris "Thor" Hemsworth) to kill her. Instead, the huntsman and the seven, no eight, dwarfs school the tomboyish Snow White in the art of war. She dons armor and takes up a sword in a fight to end the wicked queen's reign.

The eight (count 'em) dwarfs are a lively bunch of veteran British Isles talents – Ian McShane, Johnny Harris, Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Brian Gleeson, Ray Winstone and Nick Frost.

Critical reception, so far, is mixed. Rated 13+.

Also opening

Rowdy Rathore – Akshay Kumar stars in this action flick. He's a small-time conman who charms ladies' hearts with just a blink. He falls in love with Priya (Sonakshi Sinha), a pretty girl whom he met at a wedding he crashed. His situation is further complicated when a 6-year-old girl turns up, claiming he's her dad. Kareena Kapoor also stars. It's screening in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit (Ekamai) on Friday at 8pm, Sunday at 7.30 and Monday at 8 and at Major Central Rama III on Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 4. Call (089) 488 2620 or check

I Miss U (รักฉันอย่าคิดถึงฉัน, Rak Chan Yaa Khid Tueng Chang) – A young surgeon (Apinya Sakulrajjamroensuk) attempts to help her senior colleague (Jessadaporn Pholdee) to move on after his lover is killed in a traffic wreck. But soon, it becomes apparent that the dead girlfriend’s spirit won’t let go. Natthaveeranuch Thongme also stars. Released by Thai studio M-Thirtynine, it's directed by Monthon Arayangkoon (Garuda, House). Rated 13+.

Art Idol อยากให้เธอรู้ว่ากูติสท์ –  A young man (Chonnakan Phoolsiriwong) wants to be a superstar but doesn’t have any talent until he meets an artist (Pongthep Anurak) who inspires him to try his hand as a painter. This romantic comedy is released by Thai studio Mono Pictures. Rated G.

Also showing

European Union Film Festival 2012 – Twenty-three films from 17 EU member states will screen from today until June 10 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, in the fifth-floor auditorium. Movies this year are mostly from 2010. As with other free film festivals, be sure to get in line early in order to get a decent seat. Check the line-up and schedule at Facebook.

Seen by H.M.K. – The Thai Film Archive's screening of classic films that were viewed in public cinemas by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej continues through next week at the Archive's Sri Salaya Theatre in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom.

Among this weekend's screenings is Lord Jim, a 1965 adaptation of Joseph Conrad's adventure novel that stars Peter O'Toole with support from the likes of Eli Wallach, Curd Jurgens and James Mason. A ripping yarn that more closely resembles a western despite its setting on the high seas and in the Far East, it was one of the first big Hollywood pictures to be filmed on location in Cambodia. And it was almost the last, until Tomb Raider and Angelina Jolie came along in 2001, as well as Matt Dillon with City of Ghosts in 2002. According to The Projectionist at the Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project, O'Toole said unfavorable things about the country, which angered Prince Sihanouk so much that he temporarily suspended diplomatic relations with the U.S. Conrad actually visited the film location and stayed in Bangkok, the legacy of which is the Joseph Conrad Suite at the Oriental hotel and the hotel's Lord Jim restaurant.

Here's the remaining schedule at the Film Archive:

  • Pan Din Khong Roa a.k.a. Our Homeland (1976, Thailand), Friday, June 1, 5.30pm
  • Lord Jim (1965, USA), Saturday, June 2, 1pm
  • The Great Escape (1963, USA), Sunday, June 3, 1pm
  • Ruen  Pae a.k.a. The Houseboat (1961, Thailand), Monday June 4 and Saturday, June 9, 1pm
  • Amrapali (1966, India), Tuesday, June 5, 5.30pm
  • You Only Live Twice (1967, USA), Wednesday, June 6, 5.30pm
  • Love Story (1970, USA), Thursday, June 7, 5.30pm
  • Mue Jorn (1961, Thailand), Friday, June 8, 5.30pm

Please note that the Thai films don't have English subtitles, though the Indian film does. Click on over to for further details about the films seen by His Majesty and the theaters he visited.

Sneak preview

Piranha 3DD – The 3D horror-comedy franchise returns with a not-so-subtle double-entendre title, opening in sneak previews at around 8 nightly this week in most cinemas. A follow-up to the 2010 version, the action this time has the bloodthirsty flesh-eating prehistoric fish finding their way into a newly opened water park. Ving Rhames, despite having been eaten in the first part, returns for more fun. Joining the cast is "Baywatch" star David Hasselhoff plus Gary Busey, Katrina Bowden, Danielle Panabaker, Matt Bush, Chris Zylka and David Koechner. Critical reception is mostly negative, but if you liked the first one, you might want to give this one a chance. In 3D. Rated 20-.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 24-30, 2012

Men in Black III

Most of the fun in  Men in Black III appears to be from Josh Brolin doing Tommy Lee Jones, a role that Brolin, a fellow Texan, must've relished. They previously appeared in the same film together, the Coen Bros.'s No Country for Old Men, but never actually shared a scene. Anyway, from the previews, it appears that Brolin has Jones down to a T.

The first MiB, made in 1997, had an easy charm. It relied not so much on special effects, which still hold up, thanks to Rick Baker's practical creature effects. The main selling point was the chemistry of the unlikely pairing of a gruff old Tommy Lee Jones taking a young whippersnapper New York cop (Will Smith) under his wing and making him his partner in a secret quasi-government agency that's in charge of monitoring extra-terrestrials. It remains highly re-watchable, for me anyway.

On the other hand, the 2002 sequel was an abysmal, overblown stinker that seemed to only be made in order to cash in on a talking dog and the placement of such products as designer sunglasses and Mercedes-Benz automobiles (disappointingly replacing MiB's utilitarian but surprisingly maneuverable Ford LTD cruisers).

It's taken 10 years to bring this sequel to cinemas. There was controversy during production in New York, when Will Smith's giant trailer caused protests among local residents. And earlier, good old Rip Torn, Agent Z, ran into trouble with the law when he got drunk and broke into a bank. Whoops. Emma Thompson joins the cast as the new chief of MiB, Agent O, replacing Torn.

Again directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, MiB3 has Smith's Agent J, now a seasoned "I'm too old for this shit" MiB veteran, waking up one day and finding his old partner Agent K (Jones) never existed. So he travels back in time to the 1960s to contact a younger version of K (Brolin) and try to keep history from being altered.

Critical reception is mixed so far. It's in 3D in some cinemas. Rated G.

Also opening

Red Dog – Josh Lucas stars in this fact-based Australian family drama about a stray red cattle dog that united an Outback community while roaming the country in search of his lost master. Noah Taylor, Rachael Taylor and Koko the dog also star. It's been a nominee and winner of several awards in Australia. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's at House on RCA Rated G.

MuralPainted Skin director Gordon Chan again dips a brush into Pu Songling's collection of 17th century supernatural tales "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio" for this historical fantasy about a poor travelling scholar (Deng Chao) who becomes distracted by a mural and enters into the fantasy land depicted therein. Betty Sun and Collin Chou also star in this Chinese-Hong Kong co-production. Thai-dubbed only. Rated 15+.

You Instead, a.k.a. Tonight You're Mine – This U.K. romantic comedy has an indie rock star (Luke Treadaway) getting accidentally handcuffed to the leader of a pop-punk girl group (Natalia Tena) while backstage at a Scottish music festival. They end up spending 24 hours chained together, with fighting giving away to grudging acceptance and then ... well, it's a romantic comedy. Thai audiences might appreciate that the plot of two people chained together mirrors a famous Thai novel that's been made into movies, Chua Fah Din Salai. Critical reception is mixed. It's at House on RCA. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Seen by H.M.K. – The Thai Film Archive brings a special program to the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, featuring classic movies that were viewed by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in a public cinema. It continues through Sunday in the B.A.C.C.'s fifth-floor auditorium. The line-up includes the 1961 musical-romance-action-drama Ruen Pae (เรือนแพ, a.k.a. The House Boat),  1965's Lord Jim, 1970's Love Story and the Bond flick You Only Live Twice. Check the full line-up in a previous blog entry. After the series runs at the B.A.C.C., most of it will be repeated at the Film Archive's Sri Salaya Theatre. Please note that most of the non-English-language films don't have English subtitles.

European Union Eco Film Festival – A spin-off of the annual European Union Film Festival in Thailand, the Eco Film Festival running today through Sunday features shorts and features of documentaries and other movies about the environment. The line-up includes The Age of Stupid, Home and Recipes for Disaster. Screenings will be on DVD format. Free tickets can be picked up 30 minutes before show time at SF Cinema City Terminal 21. Check the schedule at the SF Cinema City website, or check an article in The Nation for more details.

Le premier venu (Just Anybody) – Jacques Doillon, who was in Bangkok a few years ago to receive the Lotus Award from the World Film Festival of Bangkok, directs this 2008 romantic drama starring Clémentine Beaugrand, Gérald Thomassin and Guillaume Saurrel. It's about a young upper-class woman who decides to give her love to the first guy who comes along, who happens to be a homeless drifter. It's at the Alliance Française at 7.30 on Wednesday, May 30.

Take note

Simple Simon was the closing film of the Swedish Film Festival.

Last week's Swedish Film Festival was a huge success, with way more film-goers than expected turning out to snap up the free tickets for the screenings of recent Swedish films at SFX the Emporium.

Last Sunday, queues for the tickets formed up to 90 minutes ahead of the show time, despite the fact that there was a strict policy about not handing out the tickets until 30 minutes beforehand. However, if you didn't go ahead and get in line and stand there for an hour or more, chances were you would end up sitting all the way in the front row, in the aisles or not get a ticket at all. The last two shows, Sound of Noise and Simple Simon, were completely full. Both were great movies.

The recent New Spanish Film Festival experienced a similar phenomenon, attracting many penny-pinching foreign and Thai film-goers and audiences packing into an auditorium that were showing crappy DVDs on the big screen. Latecomers were stuck sitting all the way in front. The Hong Kong Film Festival was also free, but I didn't experience the same rush for seats; it was still easy to get a decent place to sit fairly close to show time.

The Swedes did a great job, showing cinema-quality digital files and not DVDs like the Spanish did.

But on the other hand, paid film festivals, such as the World Film Festival of Bangkok, don't attract the same kind of viral following. It's rare to see a sold-out, filled-to-capacity show.

As a movie-goer, I tend to prefer to the paid model, just so I don't have to compete with other balloon-chasers for a place in line, which is time-consuming, tiring and inconvenient. But it's easier on the wallet, that's for sure.

More upcoming film festivals in Bangkok include the European Union Film Festival from May 31 to June 10 and the Buddha Panya International Buddhist Film Festival from June 7 to 10. The EU fest is free at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, and is always popular with the balloon-chasers, while the Buddhist fest will have paid admission but will have an excellent, interesting line-up.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Seen by H.M.K.

The Thai Film Archive will show nine classic films in the screening series "Seen by H.M.K.", featuring movies that were viewed by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in a public cinema.

Mostly from the 1960s, among them are such Hollywood classics as The Great Escape and Love Story as a well as a James Bond film, You Only Live Twice, and several Thai films.

The series opens at 4pm on Tuesday, May 22 in the fifth-floor auditorium of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, with an invitation-only screening of 1961's Mue Jorn, directed by Vichit Kounavudhi. A relic of the era when most Thai films were shot on 16mm, the archive has transferred its 16mm print to a hi-def digital file. The visual quality is still beautiful with some small scratches, assures programmer Sanchai Chotirosseranee. It will be accompanied by a team of live dubbers, just like when the film was shown back in the '60s.

"Seen by H.M.K." runs from May 23 to May 27 at the BACC and will be repeated afterward at the Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom.

Here's the line-up:

  • The Great Escape (1963, USA) Wed, 23 May at 6 p.m. at BACC and Sun 3 June at 1 p.m. at Film Archive
  • Amrapali (1966, India) Thu 24 May at 6 p.m. at BACC and Tue 5 June at 5.30 p.m. at Film Archive
  • Ruen  Pae (The Houseboat) (1961, Thailand)  Fri 25 May at 6 p.m. at BACC, Monday 4th and Sat 9th June at 1 p.m. at Film Archive
  • Mue Jorn (1961, Thailand) Sat 26 May, 12 p.m. at BACC, and Fri 8 June, 5.30 p.m. at the Film Archive
  • Jade Goddess (1969, Taiwan) Sat 26 May at 3 p.m. at BACC
  • Lord Jim (1965, USA)  Sat 26 May at 6 p.m. at BACC and Sat 2 June at 1 p.m. at Film Archive
  • Love Story (1970, USA) Sun 27 May at 12 p.m. at BACC and Thu 7 June at 5.30 p.m. at Film Archive
  • You only Live Twice (1967, USA)  Sun 27 May at 3 p.m. at BACC and Wed 6 June at 5.30 p.m. at Film Archive
  • Pan Din Khong Roa (Our Homeland) (1976, Thailand)  Sun 27 May at 6 p.m. and Fri 1 June at 5.30 p.m. at Film Archive

Of the non-English-language films, only Amrapali will be shown with English subtitles. There are no English subtitles on any of the Thai films. Admission is free.

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 17-23, 2012

Iron Sky

When the Finnish sci-fi flick Iron Sky was first touted in a viral marketing campaign a couple years ago, the idea of the Nazis secretly retreating to the moon seemed preposterous but also somehow serious, grim and even somewhat intriguing.

Now the movie is completed, and it's a goofy-looking comedy that makes the Nazis a big joke like they were in the TV show "Hogan's Heroes". It's a type of humor that's become politically incorrect in recent years, especially in light of director Steven Spielberg's vow to never again make the Nazis the butt of a joke as he did in Raiders of the Lost Ark because they were nothing to joke about. And there was the recent controversy at a Chiang Mai school where students staged a Nazi rally for costume day. Iron Sky will certainly confuse the issue in that regard. Maybe the students will want to hold an Iron Sky costume day? On top of the idiotic Nazis, there's also a somewhat dated parody of former U.S. vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin who's somehow gotten herself elected U.S. president.

As the story goes, in the last moments of World War II, a secret Nazi space program evaded destruction by fleeing to the dark side of the moon and it's there that over the past 70 years they've constructed a gigantic swastika-shaped fortress and an armada of flying saucers. When an American astronaut lands a bit too close to the secret base, the moon führer (Udo Kier) decides the glorious moment of retaking the Earth has arrived sooner than expected. Two Nazi officers, ruthless Klaus Adler (Götz Otto) and idealistic Renate Richter (Julia Dietze), travel to Earth to prepare the invasion.

It premiered earlier this year at the Berlin Film Festival and critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+.

Also opening

Distortion (คน-โลก-จิต, Kon-Loke-Jit) –  It's been four years since veteran director Nonzee Nimibutr, director of the 1990s "Thai new wave" films Daeng Bireley's and Young Gangsters and Nang Nak, has had a feature in cinemas. Distortion is a psychological thriller in which four characters – a psychologist, a scientist, a businessman and a student – somehow become involved a serial-murder case. Sarunyu Prachakrit, Boonyisa “Poppy” Chantrarachai (first runner up Miss World Thailand 2012), Artit Wiboonpanitch, Arpa Pawilai and Suchao Pongwilai star. Rated 18+.

The Flowers of War – Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, the director of such opulently costumed martial-arts epics as Hero and House of Flying Daggers as well as such world-cinema classics as Raise the Red Lantern and The Road Home, turns his attention to the Japanese "rape" of Nanjing in 1937 in this English-language historical drama. Christian Bale stars as an American stranded in Nanjing by the Japanese invasion. Holed up in a Catholic convent, he's persuaded to pose as the convent's priest in a bid to protect the schoolgirls who live there. He gets some unlikely help from a band of prostitutes who are hiding in the convent's basement. Ni Ni, the young actress who plays a pivotal role in all this, won the Best Newcomer award at this year's Asian Film Awards. It was also a nominee for several other AFAs, including best director, and was China's submission to the Oscars, though it didn't make the shortlist of nominees for Best Foreign Language film. Critical reception is mixed. It's at Apex Siam Square. Rated 13+.

StreetDance 2 – When a top street dancer loses to an American crew, he sets off to gather the best dancers from around the world to take them on. Filmed in 3D at various landmark locations, StreetDance 2 also sees our hero fall in love with a beautiful salsa dancer. Critical reception is mixed. In 3D only. Rated 15+.

The Viral Factor – Jay Chou and Nicholas Tse star in this international-crime thriller directed by Hong Kong's Dante Lam. Jay is the leader of an International Security Affairs task force tracking a deadly virus. His brother (Tse) is a master thief. It's a bit of a departure for Lam, who's done tightly twisting crime stories based in Hong Kong. This one moves further afield, with action taking place in Jordan but mostly in Kuala Lumpur. Critical reception is mixed. It's at Major Cineplex and unfortunately is Thai-dubbed only. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Swedish Film Festival – Organized with the Embassy of Sweden, the fest offers seven recent acclaimed films with screenings running until Sunday at SFX the Emporium. The line-up is A One-way to AntibesSimple SimonSimon and the OaksA Thousand Times StrongerSound of NoiseSebbe and Miss Kicki. All are in Swedish with English subtitles. Admission is free. Line up a half hour before showtime to get your ticket. Check the schedule at the SF Cinema City website or read the article in The Nation, which also has details on the upcoming EU Eco Film Festival starting on May 24, which will be followed the week after by the annual EU Film Festival. Also upcoming is the Buddhist International Film Festival from June 7 to 10 at SFW CentralWorld.

L'enfer (Hell) – Claude Chabrol directs this 1994 drama starring François Cluzet, Emmanuelle Béart and Marc Lavoine. Based on the script to 1964's unfinished Inferno by Henri-Georges Clouzot, it's about a couple who run a hotel with the husband beginning to suspect his wife of infidelity an descending into paranoia from which there is no escape. It's at the Alliance Française at 7.30 on Wednesday, May 23.

Take note

House on RCA is closed through May 21 while it hosts the auditions for "True Academy Fantasia".

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 10-16, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods

Having opened for a sneak-preview run two weeks ago, The Cabin in the Woods finally moves to an official wide release.

Produced and co-written by Avengers director Joss Whedon, and directed and co-written by Whedon's "Buffy"/"Angel" writing partner Drew Goddard (Cloverfield), The Cabin in the Woods has five college students heading off for a weekend of partying at a remote cabin, and from there, the usual horror-movie story diverges wildly.

An antidote to the tiresome and sad trend of "torture porn" and "found footage" horror films, The Cabin in the Woods aims to get back to the roots of the genre, and offers plenty of nods to The Evil Dead

It's best if no more is said from this point, except to say it's hilariously wicked good fun. Go see it!

Kristen Connolly, Chris "Thor" Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz (from Whedon's "Dollhouse") and Jesse Williams are the five youngsters, but it's Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford who steal most of the movie.

Cabin was actually filmed and completed long before Whedon even started on The Avengers, but got trapped in the studio vault when MGM went bankrupt. Lionsgate finally got around to releasing it, and it's well-timed, given the huge buzz Whedon is enjoying from The Avengers.

Critical reception is overwhelmingly postive. Rated 18+.

Also opening

Dark Shadows – Once again, Tim Burton brings his fantastic gothic vision to a weird movie with Johnny Depp as some wacky character. Here, the frequent collaborators adapt the cult-classic 1960s TV series about a playboy English nobleman who's changed into vampire and buried alive by a vengeful witch (Eva Green). Dug up 200 years later in 1972 small-town Maine, he tries to fit in as he's acquainted with descendants who are even wackier than he is. The family is so messed up, they have a live-in psychiatrist (Helena Bonham Carter). Plus, that witch is still around, making his life miserable. Michelle Pfeiffer, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloë Moretz and Jackie Earle Haley also star. Critical reception is mixed so far. Rated 13+.

Bel Ami – Robert Pattinson continues his quest to be recognized as a serious actor rather than just that guy who plays the vampire in the Twilight movies. He stars in this costume drama, set in 1800s Paris, where he's a social-climbing young playboy, sleeping his way up the societal ladder by bedding wealthy and influential women. It's based on a 1885 novel by Guy de Maupassant and has been made into a movie several times before. Christina Ricci, Kristin Scott Thomas, Uma Thurman and Colm Meaney also star. Critical reception is mixed. It's at Major Cineplex. Rated 15+.

American Reunion – It was all the way back in 1999 that American Pie revitalized the teen gross-out sex comedy genre that was popular in the1980s with such movies as Porky's and Meatballs, and Pie became an industry of its own, with four direct sequels and an equal number of spin-offs. Here, the gang is all grown up, more or less. Pie-loving goofball Jim (Jason Biggs), his "band camp" wife Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), the jock Oz (Chris Klein), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), brainy Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), whoever that chick Tara Reid plays and of course the irrepressible party guy Stifler (Seann William Scott) reunite for a holiday weekend at the lake. Also back for more laughs is Jason's dad (Eugene Levy), Stifler's mom (Jennifer Coolidge) and those guys who like to use an acronym for a Filipino rebel group. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+.

Vicky Donor – John Abraham produces (but does not star) in this "superhit" Bollywood comedy about a struggling sperm-donation clinic. Ayushmann Khurrana, Yami Gautam and Annu Kapoor star. It's at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit (Ekamai) on Friday at 8, Sunday at 7.30 and Monday at 8 and at Major Cineplex Central Rama III on Saturday at 7.30 and Sunday at 4. Call (089) 488 2620 or check

Chob Kod Like Chai Kod Love (ชอบกด Like ใช่กด Love) – A young guy who lacks the confidence to approach girls ("Mos" Patiparn Pattaweekarn), a new flight attendant (Sucharat Manaying) with very high standards in men and two other guys (Ankun Thanasubchareon and Niti Chaichitatornwho) start a love-confession service on the Internet. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Trois couleurs – Bleu (Three Colors: Blue) – The first of the impressionistic trilogy of films by Krzysztof Kieślowski, Blue explores the meaning of "liberty" in its story of a woman (Juliette Binoche) whose husband and child are killed in a car crash. She then attempts to cut all her former ties and live in isolation but finds that she cannot live totally free of human connections. It's at the Alliance Française at 7.30 on Wednesday, May 16.

Swedish Film Festival – Having just had the Hong Kong Film Festival and the New Spanish Film Festival, Bangkok now hosts the Swedish Film Festival from May 16 to 20 at SFX the Emporium. Organized with the Embassy of Sweden, the fest offers seven recent films, opening next Wednesday at 7.30 with A One-way to Antibes, a drama about a half-blind widower fighting with his children over his assets. Others are Simple Simon, Simon and the Oaks, A Thousand Times Stronger, Sound of Noise, Sebbe and Miss Kicki. All are in Swedish with English subtitles. Screenings will be in digital format, but good quality I'm told, not blurry DVD. Admission is free. Line up a half hour before showtime to get your ticket. Check the schedule at the SF Cinema City website.

Take note

The Scala on Sunday, May 7, 2012, before the 5.45 screening of The Avengers. Photo by Wise Kwai.

A few items:

  • A new blog on Tumblr, Scala marquee, has been started. Long live the Scala.
  • The Bangkok metropolitan area's newest cinema, Mega Cineplex, opened over the long Coronation Day holiday last weekend at Mega Bangna, a sprawling American-style shopping mall that's the cause of traffic snarls along Bangna-Trad Highway in the eastern suburbs. Operated by the Major Cineplex chain that also runs EGV, Paragon, Paradise, Esplanade, etc., Mega has 15 screens, which were mainly showing The Avengers.
  • By the way, Major Cineplex changed its website not too long ago. It takes some getting used to, but there may be a way to use the old design.
  • I'm told that the UMG RCA, initially slated to close on May 1, will remain open for another week or two while The Avengers is hot property.
  • A recent Reader's Submission at the Stickman website waxes nostalgic about the Scala and the Lido, and a certain nightlife figure you might meet there.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 1-9, 2012

The Avengers

Programs at Bangkok cinemas are changing two days early this week in a move to snare viewers who might have today off in observance of the May 1 Labor Day national holiday and in anticipation of the long holiday weekend in observance of Coronation Day on May 5.

And what a movie they have for us: The Avengers, which is probably the biggest superhero film ever made, and one of the biggest releases of Hollywood's summer blockbuster season.

The Marvel Comics franchise features Iron Man, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk and Thor. These are guys who do not play well with others and they make a volatile team as they are assembled by Nick Fury, the director of the super-secret agency S.H.I.E.L.D. There, the four superheroes are joined by ace archer Hawkeye and kick-ass female operative Black Widow. Together, they must defeat Thor's evil brother Loki, who aims to take over Earth or destroy it.

The cast is pretty amazing, with Robert Downey Jr. returning for his third outing as Iron Man/billionaire playboy Tony Stark. Chris Evans is back in his red, white and blue suit as Captain America and Chris Hemsworth again dons his helm as the mighty Thor. Taking over as Hulk, previously portrayed by Edward Norton (and in director Ang Lee's earlier now non-canon film by Eric Bana) is Mark Ruffalo, who actually performs the role thanks to motion-capture technology instead of CGI or body double as has been done previously. Lou Ferigno, the muscleman who doubled for Bill Bixby's Hulk on TV, will be the Hulk's voice. Scarlett Johansson is the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. the Black Widow, who was first introduced in Iron Man 2. And Jeremy Renner is another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, the archery marksman Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye, who was glimpsed in Thor. The villain Loki is portrayed again by Hiddelston. And Samuel L. Jackson is back in the eyepatch as Nick Fury, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The movie, long in the works, is directed and co-written by Joss Whedon, who is a huge comic-book nerd and a much-loved cult figure among other nerds and genre fans for his work on the TV shows "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Angel", "Firefly" and "Dollhouse" and the web series "Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog".

More of Whedon's work can be seen right now on Bangkok big screens. He's the co-writer/producer of the fun horror thriller The Cabin in the Woods, which opened for nightly sneak previews last week and continues for one more week before opening wider on May 10.

Critical reception is overwhelmingly positive.

In addition to good, old-fashioned 2D, it's also in 3D, including IMAX. Rated G.

Also opening

Being Flynn – Robert De Niro and Paul Dano star in this drama about a volunteer aspiring writer in a homeless shelter who encounters his estranged father, a conman and self-professed poet. It's a fact-based tale, co-written by writer Nick Flynn and director Paul Weitz (American Pie, About a Boy). Critical reception is mixed. It opens on Thursday at Apex Siam Square.

Also showing

Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (The Lovers on the Bridge) – Leos Carax directs this 1991 comedy-drama starring Denis Lavant, Juliette Binoche and Klaus Michael Grüber about homeless people who live on the oldest bridge in Paris. Two of them fall in love – Alex, a street performer addicted to alcohol and sedatives, and Michèle, a painter who is slowly losing her sight. It's at the Alliance Française at 7.30 on Wednesday, May 2.

Soul of a Nation – By popular demand, the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand will again show this 1980 BBC documentary that examines the role of the monarchy in preventing Thailand from succumbing to the wave of communist insurgencies in Southeast Asia in the 1970s. BBC reporter David Lomax puts questions to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, many of them about prickly subjects that are rarely, if ever, discussed. John Gielgud narrates. The show time is at 8pm on Wednesday, May 2. Admission for non-members is 300 baht.

La naissance de l'amour –  Philippe Garrel directs this 1993 drama starring Jean-Pierre Léaud, Lou Castel and Johanna ter Steege in this story of two friends and their struggles with love. It's at the Alliance Française at 7.30 on Wednesday, May 9.

Saving Face – This Oscar-winning short documentary looks at the phenomenon of acid attacks against women in Pakistan and focuses on the lives of two survivors as they deal with their horrifying disfigurement and attempt to bring their assailants to justice. Update: The screening has been postponed until further notice.

Take note

Get ready for sticker shock if you watch The Avengers at SF Cinemas.

With one of the year's biggest blockbusters coming out, SF Cinemas has announced a price increase that goes into effect today, May 1, according to the web forum.

The notice doesn't say exactly what the price of admission will be, but then both SF and Major Cineplex's ticket-pricing policies are very opaque anyway, with a tiered system that gets increasingly expensive depending on the format of the film (3D,digital, etc.), what neighborhood the theater is in, how popular the movie is, what day and time it's showing and how far back from the screen you want to sit.

Both theater chains have special deals that offer cheaper tickets at certain times, on certain days to certain people like students and seniors, but the conditions of those deals are usually so restrictive – like they don't apply to new releases and certain other movies – I ordinarily don't bother mentioning them, though I have caught a couple lucky breaks at Major, watching movies for 100 baht on Monday or Tuesday night (but probably not this Tuesday, because of the holiday).

SF cinemas also have the annoying and deceptive practice of only showing you the expensive seats when you are at the ticket window. You tell them what movie you want to see, and on the computer screen they'll show "light blue available", and only the seats in the back are selected. Those sometimes cost 200 baht, or more! If you don't want to pay that much, you have to get them to re-select things so the available seating nearer to the screen will be shown. Thing is, I don't think most customers know to ask for the re-selection to show the cheaper seats, and so they cluelessly pay the more expensive price.

In the meantime, Apex Siam Square and House on RCA are still 100 baht, and both places are worth supporting.