Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 25-30, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

Man of the moment Ryan Gosling starred in Drive as a mythical stunt driver and wheelman for criminals. In The Place Beyond the Pines he's a mythical motorcycle stunt rider who turns to a life of crime to support a new family.

Eva Mendes also stars, along with Bradley Cooper as a rookie cop and Ray Liotta as a police detective.

The Place Beyond the Pines reunites Gosling with Derek Cianfrance, who directed Gosling in the searing and controversially explicit romantic drama Blue Valentine.

Gosling will also be seen soon in Only God Forgives, the Bangkok-set crime drama that reunites him with his Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn. He plays a mythical mobster who runs a boxing gym in Bangkok and runs into conflict with a steel-pipe-toting cop. It will debut in competition at the Cannes Film Festival.

The Place Beyond the Pines has received mostly positive reviews. Rated 18+.

Also opening

Polisse – Actress, writer and director Maïwenn follows the daily lives of a tight-knit Child Production Unit of the Paris police. She joins the squad as an observer to take pictures for a story assignment, wearing spectacles in hopes they'll show her a little respect. It's a jarring, gritty and sometimes shocking tale of vulnerable and abused kids but it also gets caught up in the melodramas of the cops' family lives. Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and nominated for 13 Cesar Awards, critical reception is mostly positive. Polisse premiered in Bangkok in February during the Clap! French Film Festival and now opens in a limited run at the Apex theaters in Siam Square.

The Miracle in Cell No. 7 – Convicted of a crime he did not commit, a mentally challenged man is sent to prison. There, he bonds with the hardened criminals and they help him see his daughter again by breaking her in. Released during the Lunar New Year holiday this past March, this South Korean comedy became the third highest grossing Korean film of all time. It's a nominee for six Baeksang Arts Awards, including Best Film and Best Actor for star Ryoo Seung-ryong, supporting actor Oh Dal-su, Best Supporting Actress for Park Shin-hye and Best New Actress for Gal So-won. It's at SF cinemas only. Rated 15+.

The Expatriate – Already on the Bangkok big screens in Oblivion and To the Wonder, here's Ukrainian-French actress-model Olga Kurylenko again in this Euro-thriller about a former CIA man (Aaron Eckhart) who's had his records erased and is forced into a life on the run with his daughter. Liana Liberato also stars. This is also known as Erased, and critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+.

To the Arctic 3D – IMAX gets back to its roots as a showcase for nature photography with this 3D adventure about a mother polar bear and her twin seven-month-old cubs, following them as they navigate the harshly changing wilderness. Meryl Streep narrates and James Cameron produces. Critical reception is mixed. It's at all three IMAX cinemas. Rated G.

One Piece Film: Z – The 12th feature adapted from the popular manga series has the Straw Hat Pirates Zephyr, an ex-admiral of the Marines and the most powerful enemy they've ever faced. The soundtrack features Avril Lavigne covering songs by Nickelback and Joan Jett. It's Thai-dubbed in most places, but it's in Japanese with Thai subtitles at Apex Siam Square. Rated G.

Lor Lark Sai (หล่อลากไส้ ) a.k.a. Tiger and Wolf – Comic-book motion-graphic animation mixes with live action in this supernatural tale of college guys who turn into a tiger and a wolf and battle for the affections of a female classmate. Karn Kulanupong, Nattawat Deewongkij and Wasit Pongsopha star. Rated G.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 18-24, 2013

Grean Fictions

Chookiat Sakveerakul, the acclaimed director of the teenage coming-of-age romantic drama Love of Siam and last year's award-winning three-segment sentimental drama Home, turns to comedy with Grean Fictions (เกรียน ฟิคชั่น), about high-school boys in Chiang Mai.

One kid named Tee ("Fiat" Pattadon Jan-Ngern) joins the school's film club and with his friends starts making short documentaries and posting them on YouTube under the name "GreanFictions". Grean (also transliterated as krian), is the slang word for the style of short hair that Thai schoolboys must wear. It's also used to describe anything that's uncool or unfun. The videos strike a chord with other teens and are a huge hit but melancholy Tee finds himself struggling with a crush on a female classmate.

Wanida Termthanaporn, a.k.a. Gybzy Girly Berry, also stars. She portrays Tee's older sister and gets involved in shenanigans of her own when she catches the eye of one of Tee's teachers (Boriboon Janruang) but she already has a boyfriend.

It's rated 15+.

Also opening

To the Wonder – There was a time when several years would pass by before we saw a Terrence Malick film. But now the enigmatic Texan is on fire, following up 2011's Tree of Life with this abstract philosophical musing on love. Ben Affleck, coming off his Oscar win for Argo, stars as an American who begins a romantic involvement with a European woman (Olga Kurylenko, who's also on the Bangkok big screen in Oblivion). She returns with him to Oklahoma, where their relationship changes. She meets a priest and fellow European expat (Javier Bardem) who is struggling with his faith. Ben's character meanwhile renews his ties with a childhood sweetheart (Rachel McAdams). As is usual for a Terrence Malick project, there was a lot of footage shot and the film's story took shape during the editing process. Consequently, a cast of all-stars who thought they would be in the film were surprised to find they were left out entirely. Among those on the cutting-room floor were Tree of Life star Jessica Chastain along with Rachel Weisz, Amanda Peet, Barry Pepper and Michael Sheen. And, as with many Malick films, critics are polarised. One viewer was so puzzled, he invented a drinking game. But one who gave it a thumbs up was Roger Ebert. It was the last film he reviewed before he died on April 4. Rated 15+.

Midnight's Children – Salman Rushdie and director Deepa Mehta (Fire, Earth, Water) collaborate on this adaptation of the noted author's 1981 novel about babies switched at birth in a Mumbai hospital at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947 – India's independence day. The boys, the bastard child of a beggar woman and the only son of a wealthy couple, find themselves on opposite sides of many conflicts over the course of their tumultuous lives. Critical reception is mixed. It's at Paragon and Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Rama III. Rated 15+.

Broken City – Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg chew up the scenery in this political thriller. Marky Mark is a former New York police detective with a checkered past who is drawn into a web of intrigue by the city's scheming mayor. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jeffrey Wright also star. Allen Hughes, half of the twin-brother pair that made such films as Menace II Society and Dead Presidents, directs. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+.

Penthouse North – Michelle Monaghan is a blinded former photojournalist whose quiet life in a New York penthouse is brutally disrupted by sadistic criminals in search of a hidden cache of diamonds. Michael Keaton also stars. This thriller is directed by Joseph Ruben, who previously helmed the 1995 Wesley Snipes-Woody Harrelson romp Money Train. Not much else is known about Penthouse North other than it's possibly a remake of Wait Until Dark and has been sitting on the shelf since 2011 but isn't hitting cinemas until now. Rated 15+.

Scary Movie 5 – The latest in the long line of brain-dead horror-movie parodies strings together unimaginative spoofs of such films as Paranormal Activity, Mama, The Cabin in the Woods, The Evil Dead, Inception, Sinister, Black Swan, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, 127 Hours and Insidious. Snoop Dogg, Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan are among the celebs making cameos. David Zucker, the co-writer of such films as Airplane! and The Naked Gun as well as the past two Scary Movie installments, had a hand in this. Critical reception is overwhelmingly negative. Rated 15+.

A Haunted House — Not to be outdone by the Zuckers, one of the Wayans brothers offers his own low-brow spoof of horror films with this send up of such “found footage” movies as Paranormal Activity and The Devil Inside. Marlon Wayans stars along with Cedric the Entertainer, Nick Swardson and David Koechner. As with Scary Movie 5, critical reception is overwhelmingly negative. At Major Cineplex. Rated 15+.

When Wolf Falls in Love with Sheep – This romantic comedy by Taiwanese director Hou Chi-jan is set in a neighborhood of Taipei "cram schools" where a broken-hearted young man (Ko Chen-Tung) working in a copy shop finds a drawing of a sheep on the back of a test paper. It leads him to a relationship with the sheep's quirky artist (actress Jian Man-Shu, a nominee for best newcomer at this year's Asian Film Awards). Critical reception is mixed. It's in Mandarin with English and Thai subtitles at House on RCA.

Bodyslam Nang Len (บอดี้สแลม นั่งเล่น) – Director Songyos Sugmakanan (Top Secret Teenage Billionaire, Hormones) helms this musical documentary that chronicles the "unplugged" concerts in February 2012 by Thailand's top rock band Bodyslam. It's at Major Cineplex (including Mega, etc.) Thai soundtrack only, no subtitles. Rated 15+.

Also showing

Les mains en l'air (Hands Up) – The Alliance Francais screens free movies at 7.30pm every Wednesday. Next week's show is a 2010 comedy-drama directed by Romain Goupil and starring Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Hippolyte Girardot and Linda Doudaeva. Set in 2067, a Chechen immigrant reminisces on her childhood years in Paris when her parents had to leave and she moved in with a new family in order to continue her schooling. It's in French with English subtitles.

Take note

There are weird subtitling issues with the Thai romance Koo Kam (คู่กรรม), which opened in cinemas on April 4. It's about the relationship between a Japanese soldier and a young Thai woman during World War II in Bangkok. About half the dialogue is in Japanese, and in most theaters, according to the Major Cineplex and SF Cinemas websites, the film is subtitled in Thai only. But one exception I've found is at Paragon Cineplex, where the film's original Thai and Japanese soundtrack is screening with English subtitles only.

According to The Nation's Soopsip column today, there have been complaints recently that Bangkok;s frigid cinemas aren't cold enough. Perhaps the warming was part of the government's energy-saving campaign while a Myanmar gas pipeline was under repairs. Anyway, things got heated at Major Cineplex Central Rama III, where a customer complained about the temperature and got yelled at by the manager. She ended up having to resign over the fracas. Too bad I say. In my opinion, the cinemas are still too cold and if they raised the thermostat a degree or two it wouldn't hurt.

A mind-boggling number of movies has been released this week in a "dump", something that ordinarily occurs early in the year when studios and distributors need to get a bunch of mostly forgettable films off their books and clear the decks before summer blockbuster season.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 11-17, 2013


Tom Cruise offers his twist on Wall-E with Oblivion, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller in which he's a clean-up man of sorts, working a mostly solitary life as he patrols the Earth's ruined cities in his futuristic aircraft while repairing security drones.

One day, the crash landing of a mysterious spacecraft puts him in touch with someone who might be from his past. Memories he didn't know he had come flooding back.

Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Zoe Bell and Melissa Leo also star.

And there's a cigar-smoking Morgan Freeman, who ties Tom to a chair and tells him he can't handle the truth.

It's directed by Joseph Kosinski, who made his debut with Tron: Legacy. Based on his unpublished graphic novel, he co-wrote the screenplay with Karl Gajdusek and Star Wars Episode VII scribe Michael Arndt.

Oblivion doesn't open in the U.S. until April 19, so it's up to audiences here to make their critical voices heard first by the rest of the world. It's in 2D only, including IMAX. Rated 13+.

Also opening

Happiness Never Comes Alone (Un bonheur n'arrive jamais seul ) – One of the titles that premiered in February at the Clap! French Film Festival at SFX the Emporium, this romantic comedy by director James Huth stars comedian Gad Elmaleh as a womanizing young jazz musician who falls improbably in love with the divorced mother of three children (Sophie Marceau). Huth spoke more about his film in an article in The Nation. It's in French with English and Thai subtitles at the Lido in Siam Square. Rated 15+.

VampsFast Times at Ridgemont High director Amy Heckerling is back with a new comedy, which looks to be a bit of her Clueless mixed with a sort-of parody of Twilight. Alicia Silverstone and Krysten Ritter star as a pair of young women who enjoy the party life of New York City while keeping the fact that they are vampires a secret. One of them gets pregnant, and it turns out her boyfriend is one of the Van Helsings, that famous family of vampire hunters. To protect her child, she must join forces with him to bring down the bloodthirsty "stem" vampire – Sigourney Weaver – who made her and her friend vampires in the first place. Criticial reception is evenly mixed. Rated 15+.

The Last Exorcism Part II – Turns out it wasn't the last one after all. Having survived her ordeal in the first film, Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) is found terrified and alone in rural Louisiana. Back in the relative safety of New Orleans, she begins to rebuild her life but realizes there are huge gaps in her memory. And the evil force that once possessed her is back with more horrific plans. Critical reception is mostly negative. Rated 13+.

Sammy’s Adventures 2 – With the Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory just announced by Disney and Pixar and set for 2015, starring Ellen DeGeneres as the forgetful fish Dory, it must just be a coincidence that this Belgian Nemo-knockoff is swimming its way into cinemas this week. A sequel to the 2010 first entry in the Sammy animation franchise, Sammy's Great Escape has Sammy the sea turtle supervising new leatherback hatchlings when they are attacked by seagulls. Then Sammy and his pal Ray are captured by poachers to be part of an aquarium show. In the boat's storage tank, they meet a forgetful lobster. And together, they try to figure out a way to escape. Rated G.

Nautanki Saala – Ayushmann Khuranna and Kunaal Roy Kapur star in this romantic comedy by Ramesh Sippy. Ayushman is a successful stage actor who befriends a lonely goofball played by Kunaal, and sets about to find the woman of his new pal's dreams. Pooja Salvi and Evelyn Sharma also star, along with Abhishek Bachchan in a cameo. Opening Friday, it's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Major Rama III.

Also showing

Dans la vie – Even though I've been neglectful of listing them here in recent weeks, the Alliance Française screens free movies at 7.30pm every Wednesday. Next week's movie is a 2008 comedy directed by Philippe Faucon and starring Sabrina Ben Abdallah, Ariane Jacquot and Zohra Mouffok that tackles Jewish-Arabic cultural relations with a story about an eccentric disabled Jewish woman who is cared for by a Muslim nurse who then hires her mother to be her patient's caretaker. It's in French and Arabic with English subtitles.

Chashme Baddoor – This Bollywood romantic comedy follows the exploits of three friends – Ali Zafar, Siddharth and Divyendu Sharma – who like the same girl (Taapsee Pannu). When she selects one of them, the other two attempt to break them apart. This opened last Friday and is in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Central Rama III.

Take note

Songkran, the water-splashing Thai New Year holiday, takes place this weekend. Thanks to Saturday being the official Songkran day, Tuesday has been added as a substitution day making what's usually a three-day holiday four days. Bangkok ordinarily empties out for Songkran, making travel in the city a bit quicker. However, if you want to stay dry, it's best to ride in a locked taxi and avoid the entertainment zones, like Silom Road, RCA and the night-life haunts along Sukhumvit. Even though water throwing is traditionally supposed to cease after dark, there's always a few idiots ruining things for everyone else. Siam Square, home to the Scala and Lido, will be hosting the Culture Ministry's "traditional" Songkran celebration, but there will still be water play. The government has made moves this year to tone things down, with a ban on open booze containers on vehicles as well as no alcohol sales in some areas. But it will likely still be pretty crazy. Take the necessary precautions, assume you'll probably get hit with water and don't get upset.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 4-10, 2013

Khoo Kam

Khoo Kam (คู่กรรม), the tale of star-crossed lovers during World War II, returns to the big screen this week, with Nadech Kugimiya as a Japanese soldier who falls for the fiercely independent Thai lass Angsumalin, played by new-face actress Oranate "Richy" D Caballes.

"Leo" Kittikorn Liasirikun directs this remake, which looks to be the most ambitious production yet by studio M-Thirtynine.

Based on a book by Thommayanti, Khoo Kam has been adapted for film and television numerous times. In fact, there is a Khoo Kam on Thai TV right now, with "Bie" Sukrit Wisetkaew and "Noona" Nuengthida Sophon. Another version was 1996's Sunset at Chaophraya, starring Thongchai "Bird" McIntyre and Apasiri Nitibhon.

Following last week's release of Pee Mak Phra Khanong, which is yet another adaptation of the famous ghost story Mae Nak Phra Khanong, this new version of Khoo Kam joins the trend of bringing the favorite old stories to a new generation of moviegoers. Rated G.

Also opening

The Croods – DreamWorks Animation goes back to prehistoric times with this comedy about a neanderthal family on an adventure after being displaced from their cave. The main characters are a neanderthal teenage girl voiced by Emma Stone and a more-evolved caveboy played by Ryan Reynolds. Other voices include Nicolas Cage, Catherine Keener and Cloris Leachman. Chris Sanders (Lilo and Stitch, How to Train Your Dragon) directs. Critical reception is mixed to positive. This opened last week in a sneak preview run and now moves to a wide release. It's in 3D in some cinemas.

The Host Twilight author Stephenie Meyer offers more overwrought teenage emotions in her tale about alien parasites that have taken over most of the human race. Saoirse Ronan is a young woman who's been invaded by a soul called the Wanderer and set on the path of finding the last pockets of free humans. However, she's stronger than most and does her best to resist. Andrew Niccol (Lord of War, In Time, Gattaca) directs. Max Irons and Jake Abel also star, along with William Hurt, Diane Kruger and Frances Fisher. Critical reception is mostly negative. Rated 15+.

Back to 1942 – Adrian Brody, Tim Robbins and Daoming Chen are among the stars in this heavy-handed Chinese drama set during World War II and covering the famine in Henan Province that left at least three million dead.Feng Xiaogang (Aftershock) directs. Critical reception is mixed. It's in Mandarin with English and Thai subtitles at Apex Siam Square.

Also showing

Salaya International Documentary Film Festival – The Asean Documentary Competition screenings wrap up today at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, and tomorrow the BACC screen is given over to the Director in Focus, India's Sourav Sarangi, with screenings of 2008's Bilal and his latest, Char ... the No-Man's Island. Saturday has Nargis: When Time Stopped Breathing, Nontawat Numbenchapol's Boundary, about the disputed border area around Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple, and The Cat that Lived a Million Times from Japan. Sunday has the Queer Asean program, the historic 14 October footage of the 1973 pro-democracy demonstrations, and the awards ceremony. The festival is also taking place until Sunday at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya. A Nation article last Friday has more details. Click here for the schedule.

Thailand Interational Film Destination Festival – Screenings of made-in-Thailand foreign films started yesterday and continue through Tuesday, with screenings at 4 and 8 daily at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Admission is free. Today's offerings are the tsunami drama The Impossible with Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor and another tsunami drama, Vinyan, about parents looking for their lost little boy. Belgian director Fabrice Du Weltz will be on hand for a Q&A. Other films are Formosa Betrayed and Mammoth tomorrow. Lost in Thailand screens on Saturday with the Thai theatrical premiere of the action flick Elephant White, with Q&A by star Djimon Hounsou and director Prachya Pinkaew). Sunday brings The Lady and Teddy Bear (Q&A with actors Kim Kold and David Winters), The Beach and The Hangover Part II on Monday and Pang Brothers Day on Tuesday with the Nicolas Cage remake of Bangkok Dangerous and crime thriller The Detective, followed by a Q&A with Danny and Oxide Pang. Check the schedule at the festival website.

Himmatwala – Ajay Devgn, Tamanna Bhatia and Paresh Rawal star in this colorful, song-and-dance filled remake of a 1983 "disco" movie. The story is about a man returning to his village to seek revenge for the death of his father and he falls for a local lass. As is typical of many mainstream Bollywood movies, it sounds way more serious than it actually is. Critical reception is mostly negative. It's at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Rama III. Rated 13+.

Take note

If you went to see the Thai ghost movie Pee Mak Phra Khanong (พี่มาก...พระโขนง) over the weekend, you likely faced a long line of youngsters waiting to see it. It's the first bonafide Thai blockbuster in awhile, and looks set to break records, having reached the industry benchmark figure of 100 million baht in just four days. Audiences were still packing in for midweek late-night screenings. This week's release of Khoo Kam might steal some wind from Pee Mak's sails, but I think most folks who will see Khoo Kam will only do so after they've seen Pee Mak.

Be prepared for sticker shock when you watch a digital movie at the Apex Siam Square cinemas. The chain recently installed digital projectors at the Scala and in the Lido 2 and 3. The price right now is the same as it's always been – 100 baht – a bargain. But now posters at the cinema say that's a "promotion price during introductory period", so it appears a price increase will be coming soon at Apex, at least for the digital movies. However, I'd imagine that it will still be cheaper than what Major Cineplex or SF cinemas charge, which can be as much as 200 baht or even more.