Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening February 28-March 6, 2013


Cult-favorite South Korean director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) makes his much-anticipated English-language debut with Stoker, a Hitchcock-style thriller.

The family drama centers on a young woman (Mia Wasikowska) whose father has just died in a car wreck. Out of the blue, her long-lost uncle (Matthew Goode) comes to live with the family. Though she suspects he has ulterior motives, she is mysterious drawn to her uncle.

Nicole Kidman is the emotionally unstable mother. Dermot Mulroney and Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook) also star.

The last movie to be produced by Tony Scott before his death last year, it's also the debut screenplay by Wentworth Miller, the hunky star of the TV series "Prison Break". Nobody believed such a good script could be written by a physically attractive person, so Miller submitted it under a pen name, Ted Foulke, after his dog. It hit the 2010 "black list" of the most sought-after Hollywood scripts.

And although the name of the film evokes "Dracula" author Bram Stoker, Miller has been at pains to insist the story isn't about vampires. However, the villain is just as predatory.

Critical reception is mostly positive. Rated 18+.

Also opening

Jack the Giant Slayer – Hollywood's first major tentpole release of the year, the fairy tale of a brave farmboy and magic beanstalks is given the Lord of the Rings comedy-fantasy-epic treatment by director Bryan Singer (X-Men, The Usual Suspects). Nicholas Hoult, already on Bangkok screens as a lovestruck zombie in Warm Bodies, is the young hero who befriends a princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) as he battles goofy CGI giants. Other cast members include Ewan McGregor as a helpful royal guard, Stanley Tucci as the king's scheming adviser, Ian McShane in full Britishness as the king and Bill Nighy as one head on a two-headed giant. Opening this week in the U.S., critical reception is too early to tell. It's in 2D as well as 3D, including IMAX and IMAX Digital. Rated G.

Gambit – This rather shrill remake of a 1966 Michael Caine crime caper stars Colin Firth as an art dealer seeking to swindle his abusive boss (Alan Rickman) by conning him into buying a fake Monet "Haystacks" painting. However, the plan quickly unravels thanks to an unpredictable Texas rodeo queen, played by a hammy Cameron Diaz. Tom Courtenay, Stanley Tucci (again) and Cloris Leachman also star. This remake has been stuck in Hollywood's development hell for years, with such names as Aaron Sorkin, Alexander Payne, Robert Altman and Mike Nichols attached at one time or another. Eventually, the Coen brothers cashed a paycheck for writing the script and directing chores fell to Michael Hoffman (The Last Station). Critical reception has been overwhelmingly negative, showing that not everything the Coens have something to do with is necessarily good. It's at Major Cineplex. Rated 13+.

A Werewolf Boy – A young woman (Park Bo-young) who has moved to an isolated country estate for health reasons encounters a feral young man (Song Joong-ki) living on the grounds. She befriends him and struggles to civilize him. A Werewolf Boy premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Festival and was featured at the Busan fest before opening in a wide release in South Korea, where it reached No. 3 at the box office and is one of the country's highest-earning melodramas of all time. It's in Korean with English and Thai subtitles at some cinemas, including SF World at CentralWorld and Paragon, and Thai-dubbed in most others. Rated G.

Chronicle of My Mother – If Amour isn't enough sadness for you, here's more drama about the elderly and dying. With his aged mother slipping away, a bitter writer seeks reconciliation and answers about why she abandoned him after World War II. Yakusho Koji, Kiki Kirin and Aoi Miyazaki star in this adaptation of an auto-biographical novel by Yasushi Inoue. It's in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at Apex Siam Square and House on RCA.

Also showing

Kai Po Che! – This hit Bollywood comedy drama stars Sushant Singh Rajput, Raj Kumar Yadav and Amit Sadh as three friends who are bound by their love for cricket. Enduring various epic struggles, they set out to open a cricket academy. Amrita Puri also stars. It's directed by Abhishek Kapoor and produced by Ronnie Screwvala and Siddharth Roy Kapur. The first-ever Indian film to be featured in the World Panorama section of the Berlin International Film Festival, critical reception is generally positive. It's at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Rama III. Rated 13+.

Sneak preview

Amour – Hot off winning this year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Michael Haneke's bleak drama opens this week in select cinemas in what's officially classified as a "sneak preview".

Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva star as retired music teachers in their 80s, whose lifelong bond of love is severely tested after Anne suffers a series of crippling strokes. Isabelle Huppert also stars, portraying the couple's daughter.

An uncompromising portrait of the ravages of old age, Amour has nonetheless been met with widespread acclaim since its premiere last year at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the top-prize Palme d'Or.

Other accolades have included the BAFTA for Best Leading Actress and Best Film Not in the English Language and César Awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress. It was nominated for five Oscars in all, including best picture, best director and best actress. Riva, who turned 86 on Oscars day last Sunday, is the oldest actress to be nominated for the honor.

It's in French with English and Thai subtitles at the Lido in Siam Square. Select branches of SF cinemas – SF World, SFX the Emporium, SFX Lad Phrao, SFC Terminal 21 – are also screening it in French with both English and Thai subs, at least that's what they told me on their ticket hotline. Some Major Cineplex outlets also have it – Ratchayothin and Mega – but double-check on the soundtrack and language, because the website is indicating an English dub with Thai subs at most Major branches. Showtimes are from around 8 nightly. Rated 15+.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening February 21-27, 2013


Denzel Washington is an airline pilot who is hailed as a hero after making a amazing aerobatic crash landing that saves most of his passengers and avoids killing people on the ground. But then he's in trouble when it's revealed he'd been drinking before he took the controls.

Flight is nominated for two Oscars – best actor for Denzel and original screenplay – and marks the triumphant return to live action by Back to the Future, Castaway and Forrest Gump director Robert Zemeckis, following his foray into a series of lackluster motion-capture-animated features. His sleight of hand in using visual effects still dazzles with the thrilling depiction of the plane crash and subsequent recreation of the disaster scene.

But this is more than a special-effects movie, as it gets into Denzel's troubled, alcoholic character.

Supporting Denzel is a stellar cast that includes Don Cheadle as his defense attorney, John Goodman as his drug-dealing buddy, Bruce Greenwood as an airline colleague and Melissa Leo as the lead crash investigator.

Critical reception is mostly positive.

Because of strong depictions of drugs and alcohol abuse as well as sex and nudity, Flight is rated 20- in Thai cinemas, requiring an ID check at the door.

Also opening

Silver Linings Playbook – After opening last week in a sneak-preview run, writer-director David O. Russell's Oscar-nominated romantic comedy moves to a wider release this week. The story involves a young man (Bradley Cooper) who is released from a psychiatric facility. He's back living with his put-upon parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver). He wants to win back his wife, but she's put a restraining order on him. He then meets a young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who's had a breakdown following the death of her husband. She offers to help him win back his wife if he’ll enter a dance competition with her. Along with Cooper, De Niro, Weaver and Lawrence – all nominated for Academy Awards (the first time since 1981's Reds that all four acting categories are covered by one film), the cast includes Chris Tucker, Julia Stiles and Shea Wigham. It's nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. It's also won lots of other awards, including a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award for Lawrence and a BAFTA for Russell's screenplay. Critical reception is wildly positive. Rated 15+.

Snitch – Here's one of those rare occurrences of a movie starring action hero Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson that isn't a sequel or part of a franchise. In Snitch, the former pro wrestler is a father whose teenage son is jailed on drug charges. To clear his son's name, dear old dad agrees to go undercover for the Drug Enforcement Agency and take down the criminals who set his son up. Susan Sarandon, Barry Pepper, Benjamin Bratt and Michael Kenneth Williams also star. Snitch is just opening this week in U.S. theaters, so critical reception is only just now registering. Rated 15+.

Beautiful Creatures – This soapy supernatural Southern Gothic story of star-crossed lovers involves a young man (Alden Ehrenreich) who yearns to escape his small town. He falls for a mysterious new girl (Alice Englert) and together they uncover dark secrets about their immaculately costumed families, their history and their town. Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum and Emma Thompson also star. Like the Twilight movies – and designed to appeal to the same swooning audience – it's adapted from a series of young adult novels, in this case the Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+.

Also showing

German Film Week – German films screen at 7 nightly through Sunday at Paragon Cineplex. Tonight's feature is Storm, about an International Criminal Court prosecutor tracking down evidence against a Serbian war criminal. Tomorrow is Berlin is in Germany, about an East German convict who is released from prison to a newly reunified country. On Saturday, it's the comedy Whisky with Vodka, about a hard-drinking actor. The fest closes on Sunday with a live-action retelling of the story of Rapunzel. Tickets are free – follow the instructions on the Goethe Institut website to get them.

Take note

The Clap! French Film Festival, which wrapped up yesterday, seemed to be a big success, judging from the near-capacity crowds at the two films I saw, The Rabbi's Cat and Polisse.

The French fest was different from the way other "national" film festivals are handled – selling tickets instead of giving them away. The advantage of the paid-ticket scheme is you can book your seat in advance at the box office instead of having to queue up in lengthy lines, which often start forming up to two hours before showtime. The paid system also tends to discourage the "balloon chasers" – cheapskates who only turn up when something is free.

Also last weekend was the Japanese Film Festival, which had a selection of food-themed titles and followed the free-ticket model. By all accounts, the queues to get those precious free tickets at the always-popular festival were quite long and many film lovers were turned away.

Free things are nice and the service-minded intent of the organizing embassies and cultural institutions is commendable, but you still pay a price in sore feet and legs from standing in a queue. I think I prefer to pay a modest fee at the ticket counter and find a comfortable place to sit while waiting for the show to start.

If you missed the French Film Festival, don't worry – at least three of the eight titles will get a general release in Bangkok cinemas. Michael Haneke's bleak Oscar-nominated elder-care drama Amour, which closed the festival, is set to bow next week. The romantic comedy Happiness Never Comes Alone (Un bonheur n'arrive jamais seu) starring Sophie Marceau is due on April 11, and the gritty crime drama Polisse, covering a Paris police Child Protection Unit, is set for April 25 at Apex Siam Square.

With many of the Oscar-nominated movies playing or having played in Bangkok, it might be fun to see which ones actually win. On TrueVisions channel 53, the E! network, the Academy Awards broadcast starts at 6am Bangkok time Monday with rebroadcasts later in the day.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening February 14-20, 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard

Ah, Valentine's Day. The perfect day to grab a date and watch a movie with Bruce Willis blowing stuff up.

Willis is back as tough wise-cracking police officer John McClane for A Good Day to Die Hard, the fifth entry in the action-movie franchise that began in 1988.

For the first time, the events take place away from U.S. soil, with McClane visiting Moscow on vacation and to track down his estranged son Jack. The kid is played by up-and-coming Australian star Jai Courtney from Spartacus: Blood and Sand and most recently Jack Reacher.

It turns out Jack is a secret agent working to protect a government whistleblower. Together, father and son uncover a plot by terrorists to use uranium from the old Chernobyl nuclear plant to build weapons of mass destruction.

The director this time around is John Moore, who previously did the videogame adaptation Max Payne, the 2006 remake of The Omen, 2001's Behind Enemy Lines and the 2004 remake of Flight of the Phoenix. The script is by Skip Woods, writer  of The A-Team, Swordfish and other action films.

This is just now opening in the U.S., so critical reception is not yet registering. It opened in Singapore last week. MovieExclusive and Nutshell gave it mixed marks but mainly complained about the local authorities' censorship of the "yippie ki yays", which isn't the case for the Thai release. It's also at IMAX and IMAX Digital. Rated 15+.

Also opening

Warm Bodies – "Zom rom com" is a term I think was first coined for British director Edgar Wright's genre-bending cult hit Shaun of the Dead, but it also applies to this new zombie romantic comedy in which a teenage zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult) starts to experience feelings after he comes to the aid of a cute girl (Teresa Palmer). Other zombies notice the star-crossed lovers and start to experience feelings as well. They also gain the ability to communicate through grunts and gestures. However, the leader of the human resistance against zombies (John Malkovich) is the girl's father and he has other ideas. And there are fierce even-more-dead skeletal creatures that pose a greater threat to both humans and zombies. Rob Corddry, Dave Franco and Analeigh Tipton also star. It's directed by Jonathan Levine, who previously did 50/50, The Wackness and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. Critical reception is mostly positive. Rated 15+.

Bachelorette – Aiming to capture the success of Bridesmaids, this comedy about the drunken antics of women at a bride's bachelorette party stars Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan as three friends who are invited to the wedding of a chubby classmate who they used to make fun of in high school. She's played by Rebel Wilson, who came to fame for her quirky supporting role in Bridesmaids. James Marston and Adam Scott also star. This was in sneak previews last week and moves to a wider release this week at Major Cineplex outlets, including Paragon, Esplanade, Mega, etc. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+.

Safe Haven – Don't let director Lasse Hallström hear you call this a "chick flick". The king of melodrama, he actually hates that term. Nonetheless, this has all the makings of a "chick flick", being yet another adaptation of a gooey over-sentimental novel by Nicholas Sparks. Julianne Hough is a young woman on the run from a violent past. She arrives in a small North Carolina town with no intention of getting into another relationship, but the setting is so gosh-darn romantic, she can't help it. She falls for Josh Duhamel, a kind-hearted widower store-owner father of two kids. This doesn't come out in the U.S. until this week, and critical reception, so far, is mixed. Rated 13+.

Choice Khoo See Dee Tae Fun (Choice คู่ซี้ดีแต่ฝัน) – Musicians “Way” Prinya Intachai from the hip-hop group Thaitanium and Preeti "Bankk" Barameeanant from the Thai rock group Clash (not to be confused with the Clash) make their directorial debut and also star in this comedy about a pair of convenience-store clerks who dream of doing more with their lives. They face some tough choices after their store is robbed. Among the other stars turning up are "Sai" Inthira Jaroenpura, "Tao" Somchai Khemklad and Sirin "Cris" Horwang. Both the musicians have acted in films before, with Way playing a menacing tattooed monk in 2011's Mindfulness and Murder, among other films. And Bank starred in 2009's basketball-martial-arts thriller Fireball. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Clap! French Film Festival – Bangkok movie-goers are spoiled for choice this week with three festivals going on. The Clap! French Film Festival started yesterday at SFX the Emporium and runs through next Wednesday, and overlaps with both the annual Japanese Film Festival at SFC Terminal 21 and German Film Week at Paragon Cineplex. Highlights of the French fest include tonight's free outdoor double-bill at Museum Siam of The Artist and Intouchables, starting at 7pm. Among this weekend's offerings are the 2011 Cannes Jury Prize winner Polisse, about the Child Protection Unit of the Paris police and the animated feature The Rabbi's Cat. Tickets are 120 baht (100 baht for students) at the box office – book them now – no need to queue for hours on end in hopes of getting a good seat. Please see the full line-up in a previous post.

Japanese Film Festival – Here's one of those "free" film festivals in which you pay the price in the time it takes to stand in line for the tickets. They are handed out 30 minutes before showtime but the lines often start forming well before then, so plan accordingly if you want to ensure a good seat. The Japanese fest offers one of the few times a year that Japanese films are screened in Bangkok with English subtitles – the rest of the year the regular Friday screenings at the Japan Foundation are generally Thai-subbed only. This year's festival, starting tomorrow and running through Sunday at SF Cinema City Terminal 21, offers seven food-themed movies. Please see the full line-up in a previous post

German Film Week – Instead of having you queue up for an hour or two, the Goethe Institut offers an e-mail reservation system for its free festival – just follow the instructions on their website. This year's fest starts on Monday and runs through next Sunday, with seven films, one screening each night at 7 at Paragon Cineplex. Please see the full line-up in a previous post

ABCD: Any Body Can Dance – Song and dance are a vital part of all Bollywood movies, so it seems strange that there aren't more movies that are actually about dance. Prabhu Deva stars as a guy who just wants to dance. That's it. Plus some great music. Billed as "India's first 3D dance film", it is indeed screening in 3D at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Major Rama III and Paragon. Rated G.

Special 26 – Akshay Kumar stars in this fact-based comedy-drama heist flick. It's inspired by a case from 1987 when men posing as Central Bureau of Investigation officers staged a daring robbery of a jewelry store in Mumbai. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Rama III.

Take note

House cinema on RCA is closed from today until Sunday for a private event – auditions for "The Voice Kids".

Thanks to Art of the Bangkok Coffee and Movie Meetup Group for pointing out that the Major Cineplex group has "a Golden Ticket" promotion for its Oscar-nominated movies, offering tickets for 100 baht. I am not sure about what restrictions, if any, apply to this deal, but under the promotion, Major is bringing back Oscar-nominated movies that screened last year or earlier this year, such as The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyArgo, Skyfall, Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom and Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master (which was also screening at House on RCA).

The deal also covers such Oscar-nominated coming attractions as Silver Linings Playbook and Flight. Michael Haneke's bleak elder-care drama Amour, which is the closer of the Clap! French Film Festival on February 20, moves to a regular theatrical release on February 28, according to Major's promotion.

There's also Lincoln, which has no definite date yet other than "coming soon".

Sneak preview

Silver Linings Playbook – David O. Russell screenwrites and directs this romantic comedy starring Bradley Cooper as a bipolar man living with his parents after a stint in a psychiatric institution and a disastrous marriage. Trying to get back on his feet, he strikes up an odd friendship with a young widowed woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who also has issues. Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver are the guy's working-class parents and the supporting cast includes Chris Tucker. Silver Linings Playbook is nominated for eight Oscars, including best picture and best director as well as all four acting categories, a feat not matched since 1981's Reds (and DeNiro's first Oscar nom since 1991's Cape Fear). Wins this awards season include Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for Lawrence and a BAFTA for best adapted screenplay, though Russell thought Lawrence should have won a BAFTA too. This is in sneak previews, with screenings from around 8pm at most multiplexes (including Apex Siam Square), before moving to a wider release next week. Rated 15+.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: German Film Week, February 18-24, 2013

Seven acclaimed German movies will unspool over seven days during German Film Week, February 18 to 24 at Paragon Cineplex. Shows are at 7 nightly.

Tickets are free and may be reserved through the Goethe Institut – just follow the instructions on the Goethe website.

All are in German with English subtitles.

Here is the lineup:

February 18

Goethe! – Philipp Stölzl directs this 2010 biographical romantic drama covering the life of young writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. At 23, he's failed his law exams and is sent to the provinces. There, he falls in love with Lotte, a young woman who is promised to another man. Alexander Fehling and Miriam Stein star.

February 19

If not us, Who? (Wer wenn nicht wir) – This biographical drama covers the life and love of Bernward Vesper and Gudrun Ensslin, intellectuals who became involved in the Red Army Faction terrorist movement of the 1960s. August Diehl and Lena Lauzemis star. A nominee for the Golden Bear at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival, it won several prizes, including the bronze for outstanding feature at the German Film Awards.

February 20

The System (Das System - Alles verstehen heißt alles verzeihen) – In Rostock, in the former East Germany, a young slacker and petty thief is caught breaking into a building by a man who was a former member of the Stasi secret police. He's then drawn into the man's shadowy web of corruption.

February 21

Storm – Kerry Fox stars as a prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. She is conducting a case against a Serbian war criminal and heads to Sarajevo to track down the sister of a dead witness. Hans-Christian Schmid directs. It won several prizes at the 2009 Berlin International Film Festival, including the Amnesty International Award, as well as the silver for outstanding feature at the German Film Awards.

February 22

Berlin is in Germany – A convict and former citizen of the German Democratic Republic (Jörg Schüttauf) is released from prison after 11 years and struggles to cope with life in "Old East Berlin" and the reunified Germany. It won several awards, including the Panorama Audience Award at the 2001 Berlin fest and best from from the German Critics Association.

February 23

Whisky with Vodka – A hard-drinking womanizing actor (Henry Hübchen) misses too many days on the film set and has to contend with another actor (Markus Hering) being double-cast for his role.

February 24

Rapunzel – Luisa Wietzorek lets down her hair in this live-action TV-movie retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Japanese Film Festival, February 15-17, 2013

The Japanese Film Festival takes on a culinary theme this year with seven films involving food or cooking.

Abbreviated to just three days, the festival runs from February 15 to 17 at SF Cinema City Terminal 21. Tickets are free and will be handed out 30 minutes before showtime. You'll want to give yourself ample time to queue up in front of the festival table in the cinema lobby to ensure you get a decent seat.

The Japanese Foundation has regular screenings of Japanese films all year 'round, but they are generally only subtitled in Thai. So the Japanese Film Festival is one of the few times each year Japanese films are screened in an English-friendly manner.

Here's the line-up:

February 15

  • Eclair – Akio Kondo directs this wartime childhood drama, which is based an autobiographical novel by Shigeru Nishimura. It follows the orphan Akio as he's sent to reform school after he's caught stealing sweets. There, he is disciplined by a strict teacher called the "White Satan". Later, he's adopted by a single woman, but has to perform soul-crushing labor for her. So he escapes again, and joins a touring theater troupe as the reality of war takes hold. Registration and ticket distribution starts at 6.30, with opening ceremony at 7. Show time is at 8pm.

February 16

  • Kamome Diner – A young Japanese woman opens a Japanese restaurant in Helsinki and struggles at first, but soon attracts an electic group of customers and co-workers. 2pm.
  • The Chef of South Polar – Here's another film based on an autobiography, this one about Jun Nishimura, a cook who joined the research expedition living at Dome Fuji Station near the South Pole. Under hard, -54 degree Celsius tempertures in the middle of nowhere, he managed to cook extravagant gourmet meals. 4.30pm.
  • Patisserie Coin De Rue – A young woman turns up at a Tokyo pastry shop looking for her boyfriend, who was a chef there. He's gone, so she asks to stay on as an apprentice chef while she searches for him. Hanging aroung is another pastry chef who was legendary, but mysteriously left the business. 7pm.

February 17

  • Rinco's Restaurant – After a bad breakup with her boyfriend, a young woman returns to her hometown and moves back in with her mother. She opens a small restaurant where she has no menu and only takes one reservation a day, putting all her effort into preparing one grand meal. 2pm.
  • Udon – A young man, having failed as a comedian in the big city, returns home and takes on a job as reviewer of noodle shops, and runs into conflict with his stubborn udon-chef father. 4.30pm.
  • A Boy and His Samurai – A samurai (Ryo Nishikido) somehow time travels from the Edo period to the present day, and settles down with a single mother and her 6-year-old boy. Showing them he has a knack for making desserts, the samurai eventually becomes a popular pastry chef. 7pm.

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Clap! French Film Festival, February 13-20, 2013

The annual French Film Festival gets new name this year, Clap!, evoking the applause-worthy lineup of some of the best French films from the past year or so. It runs from February 13 to 20.

Screenings will be at SFX the Emporium, except for the annual Valentine's Day outdoor screening at the Museum Siam, which this year features a double bill of The Artist and Intouchables.

Other highlights include the Palme d'Or-winning Oscar-nominated Amour, the crime drama Polisse and the animated feature The Rabbi's Cat.

While the open-air Valentine's Day screening is free, tickets at the Emporium will be 120 baht (100 baht for students). This is different (and more civilized in my opinion) from other "national" film fests that show their movies for free but require you to queue up for up to two hours beforehand to get a decent seat.

Here's the line-up:

Beloved (Les bien-aimés) – This romantic drama spans 30 years as it tracks the relationships of a mother and then her daughter, starting with the backdrop of the 1960s in Paris, Prague, London and back to Paris. Ludivine Sagnier, Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve and Milos Forman star. Christophe Honoré writes and directs. February 13, 7pm, and February 16, 4.10pm.

The Artist – Last year's sensational Oscar-winning silent comedy-drama is about a Hollywood silent film star (Jean Dujardin) whose life turns rocky with the advent of sound. As his fame fades, a young plucky young actress he encounters (Bérénice Bejo) rises to superstardom. Also stars Uggie, the scene-stealing Jack Russell terrier. February 14, 7pm, Museum Siam.

The Intouchables – A wealthy man is left paralyzed and wheelchair-bound after a para-gliding accident. He hires a streetwise young man from a housing project to be his caretaker, and the two form an unlikely bond. François Cluzet and Omar Sy star. France's submission to the Oscars made it as far as the January shortlist. It's been a nominee and winner of many awards, including the Golden Globes. It won the César for best actor for Omar Sy. February 14, 9pm, Museum Siam.

Polisse – Maïwenn directs and stars in this gritty drama about a tight-knit team of the Child Protection Unit of the Paris police. Won the Jury Prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for 13 César Awards. February 15, 7pm and February 17, 7.10pm.

The Rabbi's Cat (Le chat du rabbin) – Joann Sfar adapts his comic-book series for the big screen. Set in Algeria in the 1920s, the story is about a cat who starts to speak after swallowing a parrot, and his owner is a rabbi. It won last year's César Award for Best Animated Film. February 16, 2pm and February 17, 5pm.

Happiness Never Comes Alone (Un bonheur n'arrive jamais seu) – Sophie Marceau and Gad Elmaleh star in this romantic comedy a womanizing young jazz musician who, against all odds, becomes involved with divorced mother of three. February 16, 7pm.

The Chef (Comme un chef) – Jean Reno stars as a veteran chef who finds himself in a pickle when the financial group that owns his restaurant wants it to lose a coveted Michelin star so it can bring in a hot young chef (Michaël Youn) who specializes in molecular gastronomy. February 17, 2pm.

Big is Beautiful (Mince alors!) – This comedy is about the issues big women face. Among them is a pretty plus-sized young wife is given a "gift" by her husband to spend time in a weight-loss spa. There, she befriends a thin lawyer who is obsessed with controlling her body image. And they befriend an older plus-sized woman who declares "big is beautiful" even as she copes with health problems. February 18, 7pm.'

A Gang Story (Les Lyonnais) – Based on true events, Gang Story (Les Lyonnais) is the epic tale of Edmond Vidal (Lanvin) - This fact based drama charts the rise of Vidal (Gérard Lanvin) from the gypsy camps to leader of the Gang des Lyonnais, which pulled off a spate of successful armed robberies in the 1970s. With his friend (Tchéky Karyo) in trouble, Vidal gets drawn into one last job. February 19, 7pm.

Amour – Michael Haneke's bleak drama is about an elderly couple (Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) and the husband's efforts to care for his wife after she has a stroke. Amour won the top-prize Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival last year and is nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress in a Leading Role for Emmanuelle Riva. This is scheduled for a wider release in Thailand on February 28. February 20, 7pm.

For more details, check the festival website.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening February 7-13, 2013

Jan Dara: The Finale

Director ML Bhandevanov Devakula wraps up his two-part adaptation of the epic story of lust, incest and sexual abuse in a noble family in the 1930s and '40s.

In Jan Dara: The Finale (จันดารา ปัจฉิมบท), Mario Maurer glues on a moustache, signifying that he's all grown up. But just who, and what, has he become?

After spending time in the provinces, exiled from his family's Bangkok mansion, he has learned the terrible truth behind his birth. He is urged by his family's matriarch (Radklao Amaradit) to return to Bangkok to claim his birthright and get revenge on his hateful stepfather (Sakkaraj Rerkthamrong).

But in taking revenge, Jan also lashes out against his friends and loved ones. It appears the circle of sex and violence from which he was spawned is never ending.

Ratha Po-ngam, Bongkot Kongmalai, Chaiyapol J. Poupart and Sho Nishino also star.

Adapted from a 1966 novel by Utsana Phleungtham, Jan Dara has been made into films before, most notably in 2001 by Nonzee Nimibutr. With censorship smears now replaced by ratings, Mom Noi thought the time was right to really exploit the story. However, despite the bodacious bare curves of actress Bongkot “Tak” Kongmalai, last year’s Jan Dara: The Beginning was greeted with yawns.

Despite rumors that director Mom Noi was going to make this installment even more explicit than last year's Rated 18+ part one, Jan Dara: The Finale is also rated 18+.

Also opening

Bullet to the Head – The stream of flicks featuring ageing action stars continues unabated, and it's largely thanks to Sylvester Stallone who got things rolling again with The Expendables. Arnold Schwarzenegger is still stomping around on the big screens in the slick modern-day western The Last Stand, and Bruce Willis is coming up next week in the fifth Die Hard movie, A Good Day to Die Hard. A pulpy B-movie actioner that's adapted from a French graphic novel, Sly's Bullet to the Head is also a return for another action-movie veteran, director Walter Hill, the man behind such classics as The Warriors, The Long Riders and 48 Hrs. Having been producing and directing for mainly TV in recent years, notably the HBO series Deadwood, it's his first theatrical feature in more than a decade. Sly plays a hitman who teams up with a cop (Sung Kang) to bring down the killers of their respective partners. Critical reception is mixed, but it should appeal to fans of Stallone and the action genre. Rated 15+.

Lost in Thailand – The highest-grossing Chinese movie ever comes to Thai screens for this weekend's Chinese New Year. The low-budget road comedy was shot on the fly in various locations around Thailand. It's a loose sequel to 2010's Lost on Journey. Xu Zheng, who also directs, stars as a businessman and inventor of a new techonology. He comes to Thailand to find a company executive who is on a retreat. He's tailed by a unscrupulous rival (Huang Bo). Along the way, Xu Zheng falls in with a bumbling countryman (Wang Baoqiang). They experience the various things that other tourists in Thailand might encounter, like Buddhist temples, elephant rides, resort hotels, ladyboys and general culture shock. Critical reception is mixed. Update: It's Thai-dubbed everywhere except Paragon, which has the original soundtrack with English subtitles just once a day for now. Rated G.

Mama – Orphaned children who survived an ordeal are rescued by their uncle (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend (Jessica Chastain). But the girls, who have grown half wild in their time alone, aren't quite right, and soon their new stepmother is convinced that there is an evil presence among them. Guillermo del Toro executive produces this horror thriller directed by Andres Muschietti, which was No. 1 at the U.S. box office upon its release there last month. Reception is generally favorable, with critics hailing the "old-school" scares that recall such other child-centered horror films as The Exorcist and del Toro's own Pan's Labyrinth. Rated 15+.

I Am a King – This South Korean comedy adapts Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper and sets it during the Joseon Dynasty in the 1400s. The heir to the throne wants to experience life outside the palace, so he has a slave who looks like him take his place. Joo Ji-hoon stars, playing a dual role as the crown prince and the slave. It's at Major Cineplex only, with Korean with English and Thai subtitles at some outlets, including Paragon and Esplanade. Rated 13+.

Also showing

Le bruit des gens autour (Sunny Spells) – Diastème directs this 2008 romantic comedy-drama starring Emma De Caunes, Léa Drucker and Bruno Todeschini with interconnected stories taking place during the Avignon Festival. It's at the Alliance Française at 7.30pm on Wednesday, February 13.

Take note

The Scala cinema in Siam Square is hosting the British Council's Live at the Scala, a multimedia performing arts festival, from tonight through Saturday, starting at 7pm. So it won't be movies as usual. Instead, it'll be all kinds of live, cutting edge performance art acts. Admission is 100 baht.

Where's Lincoln? It had been listed on the Pantip schedule as a possibility for release in Thailand this week, but it sadly never materialized, despite the movie's star, Daniel Day-Lewis, being pretty much a shoo-in for the Academy Award for Best Actor. Lincoln, covering the 16th U.S. president's move to free the slaves, is nominated for 12 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for Steven Spielberg. DDL has already won the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for his role, and Tommy Lee Jones scored at the SAG Awards for his portrayal of a flinty abolitionist lawmaker. Despite all the accolades, Lincoln is now nowhere to be found on the Thailand release calendar. Perhaps if it wins an Oscar or two, the distributor Fox and cinemas will be more keen to screen it here.

Meanwhile, another Oscar-nominated slavery-themed American movie, Django Unchained, will be appearing sooner than I expected. I spotted posters for it at Major Sukhumvit, and it's set for release on March 14. Director Quentin Tarantino's "n-word"-laced homage to spaghetti westerns and blaxploitation stars Jamie Foxx as a former slave out for revenge against his master (Leonardo DiCaprio in an atypical offbeat villain role). He's helped along the way by an amiable bounty hunter, portrayed by Christoph Waltz, the Oscar-winning Austrian actor who found worldwide fame as a charming Nazi in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. Django Unchained is nominated for five Oscars, including original screenplay for Tarantino and supporting actor for Waltz, who's already won the Golden Globe this year for the role.

Still to come on February 21 is Silver Linings Playbook, a romantic comedy directed by David O. Russell. It stars Jennifer Lawrence in a Golden Globe- and SAG-winning role. Bradley Cooper also stars as a depressed young man who is still living at home with his working-class parents. It's also won accolades for Robert DeNiro as Cooper's father, in one of his most solid performances in awhile. Silver Linings Playbook is up for five Oscars and marks the first time since Reds that a film has been nominated in all four acting categories, with nominations for Lawrence, Cooper, DeNiro and Jacki Weaver.

Also on February 21 is the airline drama Flight, starring Denzel Washington in an Oscar-nominated role. It's directed by Back to the Future helmer Robert Zemeckis, marking his welcome return to live-action drama after a string of motion-capture animation experiments.

Sneak preview

Bachelorette – Aiming to capture the success of Bridesmaids, this comedy about the drunken antics of women at a bride's bachelorette party stars Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan as three friends who are invited to the wedding of a chubby classmate who they used to make fun of in high school. She's played by Rebel Wilson, who came to fame for her quirky supporting role in Bridesmaids. James Marston and Adam Scott also star. It's screening at the multiplexes from 8 nightly this week until moving to a wider release next weekend. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+.