Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening August 23-29

The Raid: Redemption

A worldwide sensation among action-movie and martial-arts fans, The Raid: Redemption has a police tactical team going to make an arrest in an apartment building. There, they are trapped and beseiged almost non-stop by a ruthless mobster’s army of thugs.

Iko Uwais stars as a rookie member of the SWAT team. He's a practitioner of the Indonesian martial art of pencak silat, and is credited with sensationalizing it for worldwide audiences in much the same way that Tony Jaa did with Muay Thai (or more properly Muay Boran) in 2003's Ong-Bak.

The director is Gareth Huw Evans, a Welsh-born filmmaker who relocated to Indonesia and made a name for himself with Merantu, a cult martial-arts hit starring Uwais.

Following Merantu, Evans and Uwais aimed to make something harder-hitting while also channeling the martial-arts classics like Bruce Lee's The Big Boss and Jackie Chan's Drunken Master as well as newer cult movies like Park Chan-wook's Oldboy and Takeshi Miike's Ichi the Killer and even Hollywood action blockbusters like Die Hard.

The Raid premiered last year on the film-festival circuit and was picked up for U.S. distribution, where it acquired a retooled score and the Redemption in its title, aiming for a possible franchise.

Critical reception is mostly positive. It has English and Thai subtitles at Apex and SFW CentralWorld. Rated 18+.

Also opening

Shambhala (ชัมบาลา) – Sunny Suwanmethanon and Ananda Everingham are estranged brothers on a soul-searching journey in Tibet. Sunny, the more strait-laced and uptight of the pair, decides to go to Tibet to fulfill the wishes of his ailing girlfriend (Nalinthip Phermphatsakul). His feckless older brother, played by Ananda, then turns up. He's having problems with his girlfriend (Asa Wang) and invites himself along. Panjapong Kongkanoi, a veteran TV director, helms this road-trip drama, which is his feature-film debut. It was completed three years ago, but has been delayed for release by Sahamongkol Film International for one reason or another. You can find out more about it in an article in The Nation. Rated 15+.

Lay the Favourite – After achieving great critical acclaim with his portrait of a troubled Elizabeth II in The Queen, director Stephen Frears makes a return of sorts to a grittier tale, like The Grifters or Dirty Pretty Things. This comedy is about a former stripper (Rebecca Hall) from Florida who finds herself in Las Vegas. There, she falls in with a gang of sports gamblers led by Bruce Willis. Catherine Zeta-Jones, Joshua Jackson and Vince Vaughn also star. Critical reception is mixed, and is so far among the most-poorly received films by the High Fidelity helmer. At SF cinemas. Rated 13+.

The Dinosaur Project – Tired of waiting around for another Jurassic Park sequel, a team of British filmmakers went digging and turned up some “found footage” that purportedly reveals the terrifying discovery of adventurers who were searching for “Africa’s Loch Ness monster”. But really, it's just bad CGI. Critical reception is mixed. Rated G.

Also showing

When Night Falls screens on Friday at 5 and Sunday at 11.

16th Thai Short Film and Video Festival – Wrapping up on Sunday, there are still many highlights to see, among them Queer Musical!, adding a tuneful twist to the annual package of GLBT-themed shorts from around the world. That's tonight at 6.30 and on Sunday at 1pm. Also of note is the Jeonju Digital Project, offering new works by three Asian filmmakers: The Great Cinema Party by the Philippines' Raya Martin; Light in Yellow Breathing Space by Sri Lanka's Vimukthi Jayasundara; and the feature-length docu-drama When Night Falls by China's Ying Liang, on Friday at 5 and Sunday at 11. Controversially, When Night Falls deals with the case of Yiang Jia, a man who became a symbol for injustice when was executed in 2008 for killing six police officers with a knife. He had complained of abuse and harassment by police  after his arrest in 2007 for riding an unlicensed bicycle. The film, which has angered Chinese authorities, follows Yiang Jia's mother in her quest for justice. According to the Bangkok Post, Ying Liang, who is in Bangkok to give a masterclass on Friday afternoon, will face arrest if he returns home. On Saturday at 1pm, the entire S-Express package of shorts from the Philippines, Malayasia, Indonesia and Singapore will be shown in one 250-minute block. Also worth catching is the Best of Clermont-Ferrand program on Sunday at 11am, offering an entertaining selection of short movies from the world's largest shorts fest. It's all at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre in the fifth-floor auditorium and the fourth-floor conference room. Admission is free.

Chulalongkorn University International Film Festival – The twice-yearly DVD-screening series continues on Friday with Silenced, a South Korean drama in which a new teacher at a school for deaf children uncovers a dark, troubling secret. On Monday it's Tuesday After Christmas, a Romanian drama about a married man torn between devotion to his wife and lust with his new fling. And next Wednesday is Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, a crime tale by Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan. The series wraps up on August 31 with Belgium's Dardenne brothers and The Kid With a Bike. Screenings are at 5pm on the ninth floor of the Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Building at Chula. Admission is free. All have English subtitles.

Ek Tha Tiger – In case you missed it last week, Bollywood Thai is offering another run this weekend of the blockbuster thriller starring Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif. The action-packed spy-romance yarn is about a university professor suspected of selling nuclear secrets to Pakistan. It's in Hindi with English subtitles at SF Cinema City Terminal 21 on Friday at 7.30, Saturday at at 5 and 7.30, Sunday at 3, 4 and 7pm and Monday at 7.30pm. Call (089) 488 2620 or (02) 225 7500 or visit

La Petite Jérusalem (Little Jersusalem) – Karin Albou directs this 2005 drama starring Fanny Valette, Elsa Zylberstein and Bruno Todeschini about an orthodox Jewish teenager living with her family in France, struggling to balance her religious upbringing with her increasingly complex views of contemporary society. It's in French with English subtitles at the Alliance Française on Wednesday, August 29, at 7.30pm.

Sneak preview

Ted – With his animated TV series like "The Family Guy" and "American Dad", writer-director Seth MacFarlane leaves no pop-culture reference unturned as he aims for the broadest possible laughs. But with Ted, his feature-film debut, McFarlane offers a more narrowly honed concept with a live-action story of man and his talking teddy bear. Mark Wahlberg stars, with MacFarlane himself as the voice of the smoking-drinking-swearing stuffed bear. I wonder if MacFarlane was inspired at all by the 2005 Thai comedy, Citizen Dog by Wisit Sasanatieng? It also had a smoking-drinking-swearing teddy bear. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's in sneak previews this week, screening nightly at most cinemas from around 8, and then opens in wide release next week. Rated 18+.

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