Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening August 29-September 4, 2013

Tang Wong

In Tang Wong (ตั้งวง), four neighbor schoolboys from various backgrounds all pray at a spirit-house shrine in hopes of achieving success in their endeavors.

One hopes to get a scholarship playing table tennis, while another dances in a K-pop cover band. Two others are entering the science fair. If their prayers are granted, they swear they will perform a traditional Thai dance. Trouble is, none of the boys know that much about tradition nor dancing but they do believe in the superstition about the bad luck that may befall them if they don't honor their vows. To learn the dance, they seek help from an unconventional traditional-dance performer who lives nearby.

Kongdej Jaturanrasamee, writer-director of the quirky romantic-comedies Midnight My Love and Handle Me With Care as well as last year's award-winning psychological comedy-drama P-047, directs this coming-of-age tale. It premiered at this year's Berlin film festival and also screened at the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

The buzz so far is pretty positive, with Kongdej himself saying he thinks Tang Wong is more entertaining than his previous film. Read more about it in The Nation today. It's in a semi-limited release, at many Major Cineplex branches, a few SF Cinemas locations and House on RCA. Rated G.

Also opening

White House Down – Following Olympus Has Fallen earlier this year, Independence Day and Day After Tomorrow director Roland Emmerich offers his own disaster-filled spin on the U.S. president in peril. Channing Tatum stars as a musclebound cop who applies to join the Secret Service but is denied. Not wanting to let down his daughter down with the news, he takes her on a tour of the White House just as the place is invaded by a paramilitary group. And it falls to the cop to protect POTUS (Jamie Foxx). Like many other big-budget Hollywood action movies this year, White House Down tanked at the U.S. box office and critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+.

Vehicle 19 Fast and Furious star Paul Walker trades in his tuned Suburu race car for a non-descript minivan in this action drama set in South Africa. Landing after a long-haul flight, he gets into a rented vehicle that was intended for someone else. A stranger's cellphone in the glovebox and a gun under the seat deepen the mystery. Then an unconscious woman rolls out of the cargo hold in the back and the pair find themselves pursued by corrupt cops. Rated 13+.

Make Your Move – K-pop meets Coyote Ugly and Dirty Dancing in this tale of Shakespearean star-crossed romance and clashing cultures. Derek Hough is a street-smart guy who moves to New York where he meets an immigrant Asian woman (K-pop singer BoA). They click and work out a steamy dance number together as the girl's family objects. Duane Adler, writer of Step Up and Save the Last Dance, directs. It's in 3D (actual) in some cinemas. Rated 15+.

Satyagraha – Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn and Kareena Kapoor star in this Bollywood political drama about a middle-class uprising. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Paragon, Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Major Rama III. Opens Friday.

Also showing

Penny Dreadful screens as part of Best of Clermont-Ferrand 2 on Sunday.

17th Thai Short Film and Video Festival – Veteran filmmaker Pimpaka Towira's The Death Trilogy screens today at 6.45. It's an anthology of her recent films, which are thematically linked not only by death but also of rural characters searching for justice. They are My Father from 2010, The Mother from last year and the latest work, Malaria and Mosquitoes. At 5 today is the S-Express Philippines program of shorts and an encore screening of the International Competition 3. Tomorrow at 5 it's S-Express Malaysia. Saturday's screenings start at 11am with the Special White Elephant competition for high-school and younger students, but take note that not many of those entries have English subtitles. Other highlights on Saturday include the top-tier RD Pestonji competition programs at 1, 3 and 6.45, and a retrospective of shorts by acclaimed Indian filmmaker Umesh Kulkarni at 5. Sunday opens at 11 with the Payut Ngaokrachang animation competition. There is no notation for subtitles on this program, but many don't have dialogue anyway, and they're worth watching to see what the often-resourceful and scrappy Thai animators have to offer. There's also the always-watchable Best of Clermont-Ferrand 2 at 1, offering some of the top short films of the past year or so from around the world. Also at 1, the fourth-floor screening room hosts competition films from Jenesys 2.0 (Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youth Program), in which young filmmakers from across the region were invited to submit films for competition in the Asian International Children's Film Festival 2013. The fest wraps up with the Award Ceremony starting at 4.30pm in the main auditorium. The full schedule is on the festival's Facebook page.

The Friese-Greene Club – The club's month of documentaries wraps up this week with Errol Morris' Thin Blue Line tonight, Michael Moore's debut Roger and Me tomorrow and the Oscar-winning Man on Wire on Saturday. Sunday offers a special members-only screening of The Artist with the film's first assistant director David Cluck in attendance to offer his behind-the-scenes views. September's schedule changes with different themes each day – "boundaries of sex" on Wednesdays, Peter Sellers on Thursdays, David Cronenberg on Fridays, Midnight Movies on Saturdays and classics on Sundays. It all starts on Wednesday with the controversial Lies from South Korea. The FCG is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. It's open Wednesday through Sunday from around 6pm. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so please check the website to make bookings.

Take note

The Alliance Française Bangkok is moving and has cancelled its film screenings for September. Hopefully the French films will start back up again when everything is situated.

Also, if you're new to this blog, welcome. And thanks to for featuring Bangkok Cinema Scene as a Cool Blog of the Month.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening August 22-29, 2013

Kick-Ass 2

The titular costumed crimefighter and his pal Mindy, a.k.a. Hit-Girl return for more ultra-violent action in Kick-Ass 2, the sequel to the 2010 film that was adapted from the comics of Mark Millar.

The heroic exploits of the dweeb named Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson)  have inspired a wave of other ordinary folks to don masks and costumes to fight crime. With his newly honed six-pack abs, he joins up with a group led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey).

Meanwhile, the blade-wielding Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) struggles to cope with high school, where she runs afoul of a clique of mean girls. She masks up and ditches school to fight crime, against the wishes of her foster father Marcus (Morris Chestnut).

And a new masked supervillain arises to challenge the heroes – the former Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) – newly christened as The M– F'er. He seeks to avenge the death of his gangster father at the hands of Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl.

Jeff Wadlow (Never Back Down) takes over as writer-director on this entry, with Matthew Vaughn, director of the first Kick-Ass.

Kick-Ass 2 met with controversy after Jim Carrey excused himself from doing promotional appearances for the film, saying that after the Sandy Hook school shootings, he could no longer support such a violent film.

And critics have been unkind to Kick-Ass 2, saying it doesn't hold up as well as the first one. But, if you're a fan of Hit-Girl, then check this out because it's unlikely they'll give her her own movie. Rated 18+.

Also opening

Any Day Now – Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt star in this fact-based drama about an "unconventional couple" in the late 1970s who become guardians to a teenage boy with Downs syndrome after the boy's mother is sent to prison. When the men's relationship is called into question, they have to fight the biased legal system to adopt the boy. Winner of several awards on the film-festival circuit last year, critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive. It's at House on RCA and SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Rated 18+.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones – Lily Collins is a snarky teenage girl in New York City who discovers she has the gift of seeing a secret supernatural parallel world. After her mother (Lena Headey) disappears, she joins with the Shadowhunters, a band of half angels who battle demons, warlocks, vampires, werewolves and other deadly creatures, all while attending fabulous parties. It's based on the first book in the The Mortal Instruments series of young-adult novels by Cassandra Clare, and will likely appeal to the same audience that likes the Twilight movies. Harald Zwart (The Pink Panther 2, The Karate Kid remake) directs. This is being released in the U.S. this week, so critical reception is a bit thin. Rated 15+.

The Conjuring – James Wan, director of Saw and Insidious, brings his trademark creepy dolls to this fact-based horror tale of the Warrens, the husband-and-wife paranormal investigators best known for their work in Amityville. Here, the Warrens, portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, are called to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in a secluded farmhouse in Harrisonville, Rhode Island. Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston also star. Like another modestly budgeted thriller released this summer, The Purge, The Conjuring has had great success at the box office and even better response from critics. Rated 15+.

Java Heat – Thailand isn't the only country where Hollywood comes to make ultra-violent pulpy B-movies like Rambo IV, Elephant White and Only God Forgives. Indonesia takes its licks in Java Heat, which has young leading man Kellen Lutz joining with a local Muslim detective (Ario Bayu) to investigate a terrorist attack. The mastermind of it all is none other than Mickey Rourke. As with most of these types of films, critical reception is terrible. It's at Major Cineplex (EGV, Esplanade, Mega, Paradise, Paragon) only. Rated 18+.

The Second Sight (จิตสัมผัส, Jit Sampad 3D) – Venerable Thai studio Five Star Production continues its direction into actual 3D horror with this thriller is about a guy named Jane (Nawat Kulratanarat) who has a special gift that allows him to see ghosts and the karma of those around him. When reckless teenager Kaew kills someone in a hit-and-run, Jane’s girlfriend Jum (Rhatha Pho-ngam) pleads with him not to help. But Jane, who knows the incident was no accident, goes ahead anyway, leading to problems for the couple. Pornchai Hongrattanaporn, a.k.a. Mr. Pink, directs, marking his first movie in 3D. Rated G.

Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai Again – Akshay Kumar, Imran Khan, Sonakshi Sinha and Sonali Bendre star in this Bollywood gangster flick, which is a sequel to a 2010 movie. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Rama III. Starts Friday.

Also showing

17th Thai Short Film and Video Festival – Thailand's longest continuously running film festival opens at 5.30 today with Jury, a South Korean satire about film-festival judging panels. Tomorrow's highlights include the S-Express Singapore package. Saturday offers a full day starting at 11am, with always excellent Best of Clermont-Ferrand, The Death Trilogy by veteran Thai indie filmmaker Pimpaka Towira and S-Express Chinese among the highlights. Sunday's program includes the International Competition entries. Please note that not all the Thai films have English subtitles, so kindly consult the program at the venue before entering the screenings so that you don't disrupt things by stumbling in and then quickly stumbling back out because of the lack of subs. The number of people who do this is simply astounding, and it's distracting to audience members who have settled in and are trying to concentrate on the films. The festival runs until September 1 (except Monday) at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, with screenings in the fifth-floor auditorium and fourth-floor conference room. Shows start at 5 on weekdays and 11 am on Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is free. The full schedule can be found on the Short 17 Facebook page.

The Friese-Greene Club – The month of documentaries continues at Bangkok's private cinema club, with courtroom drama in 1996's Paradise Lost tonight, the 1976 coal-miners' union classic Harlan County U.S.A. tomorrow night and 1966's ode to surfing The Endless Summer on Saturday. On Sunday, go inside a mental asylum with Frederick Wiseman in 1967's Titicut Follies. Next Wednesday is Chris Marker's visually poetic Sans Soleil. And, plan ahead for September, which will include the films of Peter Sellers, David Cronenberg and classic Midnight Movies. The FCG is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. It's open Wednesday through Sunday from around 6pm. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so please check the website to make bookings.

La Danse – The Friese-Greene Club isn't the only place in town showing documentaries by Frederick Wiseman. Next Wednesday's free movie at the Alliance Française is Wiseman's 2009 documentary on the Paris Opera Ballet. The show starts at 7.30pm.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: 17th Thai Short Film and Video Festival, August 22-September 1, 2013

Film experts come together to disagree in Jury, the opener of the 17th Thai Short Film and Video Festival on Thursday at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

Directed by Kim Dong-ho, the artistic director of the Busan International Film Festival, the 24-minute satire has a film-festival judging panel of various nationalities at odds over what makes a great film.

Filmmaker Jeong asserts that a film should move the heart while actress Soo-yeon says it’s the message that matters. British film critic Tony (played by Tony Rayns) yammers on about the current trend of Korean cinema while Japanese member Tomiyama can’t fully express her thoughts because of the language barrier. And, Sung-ki, the head of jury, can’t control any of them.

In addition to Jury, the Thai Short Film and Video Festival will present its usual roster of local and international competition films.

For the Thai competition, the categories include the R.D. Pestonji competition for general filmmakers, named after Thailand’s pioneering auteur; the White Elephant competition for college students and the Special White Elephant for high school and younger students; the Duke competition for documentaries, named after Prince Sanbassatra, the “father of Thai film”; and the Payut Ngaokrachang competition for animation, named after the pioneering Thai animator.

Apart from the competition, other Thai highlights include The Death Trilogy, a compilation of three shorts by veteran indie producer-director Pimpaka Towira, My Father, The Mother and Malaria and Mosquitoes.

Sixteen finalists have been chosen for the International Competition, with the entries hailing from Hong Kong, France, Belarus, the US, Iran, China, Ukraine, Portugal, Japan, Lebanon, Switzerland, Sweden, Israel and Madagascar.

Among the special programs will be another installment of the S-Express shorts from around the region. This year’s selection offers packages from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Chinese-speaking territories.

Another regular highlight is the Best of Clermont-Ferrand, featuring this year’s cream of the crop from the world’s premiere short-film festival. It's an always-watchable mix of quirky animation, live-action comedies and dramas and experimental shorts.

Another annual programme is the “queer” shorts. The theme this year is “Gender Doesn’t Matter” with films from Brazil, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Chile and Belgium.

And a special program this year will offer shorts about people with disabilities, with the films hailing from France, Mexico, Malaysia and Cambodia.

Among the visiting filmmakers will be India’s Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni, who will conduct a masterclass for registered participants. He will also be a judge for the international competition along with Thai filmmaker Lee Chatametikool.

A retrospective of Kulkarni’s work will feature five of his short subjects depicting unusual everyday lives, Darshan from 2003, Girni from 2004, Three of Us from 2008 and The Spell and Vilay from 2009.

The 17th Thai Short film and Video Festival runs from August 22 to September 1 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center (closed Mondays). Screenings will be in the fifth-floor auditorium and the fourth-floor conference room. Shows start at 5pm on weekdays and 11am on Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is free. Not all the Thai films will have English subtitles. For the schedule, please visit

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening August 15-21, 2013

The To Do List

Aubrey Plaza, the unusual actress from TV's Parks and Recreation, stars in The To Do List, a throwback to the 1980s teen sex comedies, especially the classic Caddyshack.

The quirky actress is a high-school valedictorian who seeks to shed her squeaky clean image. She compiles a list of all the things she missed out on, with an aim to check them all off and before she heads off to college. She sets her sights on a hunky lifeguard, in hopes of losing her virginity.

Donald Glover (Community) and Alia Shakat (Arrested Development) also star along with a host of others, including Bill Hader as her goofball boss at the swimming pool, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Andy Samberg. Rachel Bilson is her wordly older sister and Clark Gregg is her uptight father.

It's directed by Maggie Carey, a writer for Will Ferrell's Funny or Die comedy website.

Critical reception is mixed leaning to positive. Rated 15+.

Also opening

The Purge – In a dystopian near-future, crime and unemployment in the U.S. are at all-time lows, and everyone is prosperous, and it's all thanks to a government program that, once a year, makes most violent crimes, even murder, legal for a 12-hour period, allowing everyone to blow off steam. That night, one wealthy family comes under siege and struggles to survive the terrifying time. Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey star. It's directed by James Demonaco, who talks a bit about the movie to The Nation. Producers include Michael Bay (Transformers), but this movie is more closely related to the movie of Bay's co-producer, Jason Blum (Insidious, Sinister), and its smaller-budget thrillers like this one that have had the most success in this summer of mega-blockbusters and mega-flops. Critical reception is mixed. This opened sneak previews last week and now moves to a wider release. Rated 18+.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters – Percy Jackson, the demigod son of Poseidon, heads to Camp Half-Blood to learn more about his heritage. At God Camp, he meets his half-brother, Cyclops, and with his friends, continues his adventure to find the Golden Fleece. They journey into the Bermuda Triangle where they battle terrifying creatures, an army of Confederate Army zombies and the ultimate evil. This is a mix of Harry Potter and Clash of the Titans, with all the usual CGI special effects. Critical reception is mixed. It's in 3D in some cinemas, including Major Cineplex's 4DX theaters. Rated G.

Saving General Yang – Ronny Yu returns with his first feature since 2006's Fearless with an episode from the Generals of the Yang Family epic. Ekin Cheng, Vic Chou, Xu Fan, Yu Bo, Raymond Lam, Wu Chun and Adam Cheng star in this martial-arts adventure about seven sons who battle incredible odds to save their father the general. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive. It's at Major Cineplex only, Thai-dubbed most places, but the Chinese soundtrack with English and Thai subtitles is at Paragon, Esplanade Ratchadaphisek and Major Cineplex Sukhumvit. Rated 15+.

Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo – The Japanese anime-mecha sci-fi franchise continues with heroic pilot Ikari Shinji awakening after 14 years to find himself in an unfamiliar world. Earth is in ruins, and his once-friendly companions are now completely against him and he realizes that the battle is not over. In Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at SFW CentralWorld and SFC Terminal 21. Rated 13+.

Hubble 3D – Leonardo DiCaprio narrates this guided tour of the universe, including the birth of a star and a supernova, in this documentary that compiles fantastic IMAX camera footage from the Hubble Space Telescope taken during repair missions in 1993 and 2009. Critical reception is generally positive. At IMAX Paragon and IMAX Digital Ratchayothin and Pinklao.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Follow the trail of an investigation into child molestation in Capturing the Friedmans at 8 tonight as the month of documentaries continues at Bangkok's smallest cinema. Tomorrow night it's the 1968 classic Salesman in which Albert and David Maysles follow door-to-door Bible peddlers. And on Saturday it's Spellbound, with gripping coverage of 1999's U.S. National Spelling Bee. Sunday offers another classic by Frederick Wiseman, High School. And next Wednesday it's Hearts and Minds, Peter Davis' Oscar-winning look at the Vietnam War. Showtimes are at 8pm. A private club, the FCG is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. It's open Wednesday through Sunday from around 6pm. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so please check the website to make bookings.

Andalucia The Alliance Française screens free movies with English subtitles at 7.30pm every Wednesday. Next week's show is a 2007 cultural-identity drama by Alain Gomis about a young French-Algerian man who leads a nomadic existence, living in a travel trailer and avoiding any permanent jobs.

Take note

House on RCA is closed on Saturday and Sunday this week as it hosts auditions for Thailand Dance Now. And next Thursday, the 17th Thai Short Film and Video Festival starts at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. I'll have more on that soon.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening August 8-14, 2013


Hollywood's blockbuster season this summer has seemed more overstuffed than ever with the studios' major "tentpole" releases, and more often than not this year, these highly touted big-budget movies have bombed miserably.

The special-effects-driven comic-book tale R.I.P.D., about ghost police officers patrolling the spirit world, is one of the latest flops. It follows the likes of the fairy-tale battle epic Jack the Giant Slayer, the Disney Johnny Depp western The Lone Ranger and Will and Jaden Smith's sci-fi star vehicle After Earth. Other expensive movies that weren't necessarily flops but didn't exactly perform that great included Brad Pitt's zombie adventure World War Z and director Guillermo del Toro's giant robots vs. monsters movie Pacific Rim and The Wolverine.

All offered the kinds of thrills that have drawn the popcorn-munching masses in the past, but these days it seems moviegoers are pickier. And when there is a new tentpole erected each week, the choices are made even more difficult.

The situation could indicate that the "implosion" predicted by directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, in which only a handful of blockbusters are made each year with ticket prices being much, much higher, could happen sooner than anyone expected.

For my part, I've enjoyed most of these movies that have bombed, particularly The Lone Ranger, which I thought was great fun.

And I've been looking forward to R.I.P.D., mainly because I've been digging the previews. The story has Ryan Reynolds as a smart-aleck young Boston cop who is killed in the line of duty. He's immediately snapped up by the Rest in Peace Department, a lawkeeping body in the spiritual world that takes care of evil souls who won't go away peacefully. Reynolds' rookie is partnered up with a gunslinging U.S. marshal out of the Wild West, played by none other than Jeff Bridges, who combines his characters from The Big Lebowski and True Grit. They search for "deados", ghostly criminals who refuse to cross over to the spiritual realm. To work in the real world the lawmen no longer look like themselves – Reynolds appears to be veteran Chinese-American actor James Hong while Bridges is a leggy blonde Victoria's Secret supermodel.

Other stars include Kevin Bacon as Reynolds' Boston police partner and Mary-Louise Parker as Reynolds' new police chief in the ghost world.

It's directed by Robert Schwentke, who scored a major hit by adapting another comic book with Red. The box-office flop of R.I.P.D. suggests he should have stuck with the better-performing Red 2 instead.

Along with audiences staying away, critics have been unkind to R.I.P.D., who have derided it as a rip-off of Men in Black. But it appears to still have its moments, thanks to the Dude Rooster Cogburn. It's in converted 3D in some cinemas. Rated 13+.

Also opening

The Liability – Actually this looks like a better bet than R.I.P.D., especially if you like British gangster movies like Snatch or Performance. After a 19-year-old smashes up his gangster stepfather's BMW, he's assigned to pay off his debt by driving around an ageing hitman – a very grumpy-looking Tim Roth. It's a darkly comic journey that takes the kid (Jack O'Connell) into a nightmarish world of murder, sex trafficking and revenge. Peter Mullan and Talulah Riley also star. Craig Viveiros directs. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive. Rated 18+.

The Big Wedding – A long-divorced couple acts like they are still married as their family reunites for a wedding in this remake of a 2006 French film Mon frère se marie (My Brother is Getting Married). Robert DeNiro and Diane Keaton head the cast as the divorced parents, with Susan Sarandon as the woman who apparently broke up their marriage. With their adopted son getting married in a strict Catholic ceremony, the divorced mom and dad decide to pose as a couple. Strained hilarity ensues. The ensemble cast also features Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace and Ben Barnes with Robin Williams as the priest. It's directed by Justin Zackham, who previously did The Bucket List. Critical reception is mostly negative, with the consensus being the star-studded cast is totally wasted. Rated 15+.

Yam Yasothon 3 (แหยม ยโสธร 3) – Actor-director Petchthai "Mum Jokmok" Wongkamlao and his comedy kin return for a third outing of hayseed hijinks that hark back to the colorful era of rural Thai movie musical romances of the 1960s and '70s. It follows the first entry in 2005 and the 2009 sequel. The focus is more on the younger members of the cast, with Yam's sons Khathathep (Likhit Butrprom) and Khamphan (Paythai Wongkamlao) falling in love with the daughters of the village chief, Kamnan Poy (Chen Chernyim). He's an old rival of Yam's and he stole Yam's first love (played by Mum's real-life wife Endu Wongkamlao). Rated G.

Chennai Express – Bollywood has its share of major tentpole releases too, though they still tend to rely on pure star power rather than huge budgets and special effects. Chennai Express features the formidable pairing of Deepika Padukone and superstar Shah Rukh Khan, reunited for the first time since their 2007 mega-hit Om Shanti Om. A colorful, action-packed tale with plenty of comedy, and, of course, songs and dancing, it's about the star-crossed romance between a northern Indian bachelor who meets a southern Indian lady by accident on a train journey. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Rama III. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – The month of documentaries continues at the FGC, a private cinema club. Tonight, it's Inside Job, about the recent corporate meltdown. Tomorrow it's Streetwise, about streetkids in Seattle and on Saturday it's Anvil! The Story of Anvil. It's about a real band that could well have served as the inspiration for the mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap. Sunday offers another classic by the great Frederick Wiseman, Basic Training, and next Wednesday is Errol Morris' profile of Vietnam War architect Robert McNamara in The Fog of War. Showtimes are at 8pm. The FCG is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. It's open Wednesday through Sunday from around 6pm. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so please check the website to make bookings.

Changement d'adresse (Change of Address) The Alliance Française screens free movies with English subtitles at 7.30pm every Wednesday. Next week's show is a 2006 comedy by Emmanuel Mouret about the trials and tribulations of a young musician and his roommate.

Sneak preview

The Purge – In a dystopian near-future, crime and unemployment in the U.S. are at an all-time low, and everyone is prosperous, and it's all thanks to a government program that, once a year, makes most violent crimes legal for a 12-hour period, allowing everyone to blow off steam. One family comes under siege and struggles to survive the terrifying night. Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey star. It's directed by James Demonaco, who talks a bit about the movie to The Nation. Producers include Michael Bay (Transformers) and Jason Blum (Insidious, Sinister). While mega-budget blockbusters have been flopping like fish on the deck, smaller-budget horror thrillers like this one have been raking in the dough this season. Critical reception is mixed. It's in sneak previews from around 8 nightly in most multiplexes before opening wider next Thursday. Rated 18+.

Take note

To 3D or not to 3D? That is the question.

Not all 3D movies are created equally. In recent weeks I've been attempting to tip you off about the differences by specifying whether they are "converted 3D" or "actual 3D", usually referencing a handy website called

So-called "fake" or converted 3D movies, such as The Wolverine or this week's R.I.P.D., were filmed in conventional 2D but had 3D effects added in post-production. These are quite commonplace as the studios and theater chains try to capitalize on the higher ticket prices charged for these films.

However, audiences are starting to wise up and there are signs the fad is dying out, with 3D revenues sinking as viewers opt to watch movies without having to pay to rent funny-looking glasses. At some point, perhaps the studios might opt to cut their losses and stop the conversions.

I tend to agree with the trend and I don't think converted 3D movies are worth seeing. The effects are simply too gimmicky and rarely ever add anything to the story.

An exception might be the 3D conversion of a classic older film, such as Jurassic Park.

There are rare hybrid 3D movies –  I think Pacific Rim might be the only example – that had portions filmed in 3D and other parts converted from 2D. I still went for the 2D version of Pac Rim and don't feel like I missed out.

Actual 3D movies, which were filmed stereoscopically with a dual-camera set-up, are actually quite rare because they are vastly more expensive and complicated to make.

The actual 3D movies these days are mostly computer-animated features, such as Monsters University or Turbo, and again, I'm not sure seeing them in 3D adds much value. Though I will say I enjoyed the re-released 3D versions of the first two Toy Story movies.

There are occasionally actual 3D live-action movies, such as the South Korean-Chinese special-effects showcase Mr. Go, which has a motion-capture animated gorilla alongside live-action characters. It might be worth seeing in 3D, but because it's in a language other than English, there are technical difficulties with subtitling that the Thai movie distributors seem unable to overcome. So it's Thai-dubbed only in 3D. Viewers wanting an English-friendly version of the movie will have to make do with the 2D version.

Another example of an actual 3D movie was The Great Gatsby, which was filmed in 3D but also offered in 2D. Again, I went for the 2D version and don't feel like I missed out on anything because I don't think the movie ended up being all that great, despite the visual flair of director Baz Luhrmann.

Indeed, memorable experiences with 3D movies have been rare for me. One of my best 3D memories remains Avatar followed closely by Werner Herzog's documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams, which enlisted 3D as an immersive storytelling tool rather than as a way of selling special effects. Other decent 3D experiences have included Life of Pi and Martin Scorsese's Hugo, also both actual 3D movies that used the 3D effects to immerse the viewer, not just simply wow them with occasional flourishes of things popping out of the screen.

An upcoming actual 3D film from Thailand will be Tom-Yum-Goong 2, a martial-arts film starring Tony Jaa. Due out on October 23, it might be worth seeing in 3D even if the effects are cheesy.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening August 1-7, 2013

2 Guns

Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg team up in the action-comedy 2 Guns. They are rival cops, a DEA agent (Washington) and a Naval Criminal Investigative Service officer (Wahlberg), who are at odds after a botched attempt to infiltrate a drug cartel.

It's a big change for Washington, who is better known for more intense dramatic roles, but after Flight, in which he played a drug-addicted, alcoholic airline pilot, he was looking for something lighter.

Paula Patton, James Marsden, Bill Paxton, Edward James Olmos and Fred Ward also star. It's directed by Baltasar Kormákur, the Icelandic actor and filmmaker who previously worked with Wahlberg on 2011's Contraband.

This is just being released in the U.S. this week, so critical reception is a bit thin. Those in favor seem to enjoy it, saying it's a throwback to the R-rated action-comedies of the olden days. Rated 15+.

Also opening

Monsters University – Before they partnered up as professional scarers for Monsters, Inc., big furry Sully and his little one-eyed green buddy Mike were rivals in college. This is their story, the first prequel from Disney's Pixar Animation Studios, bringing back the characters introduced in 2001's Monsters, Inc. and puts them in a college setting. Expect plenty of references to Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds. Back as the voices are John Goodman as Sully and Billy Crystal as Mike, along with Steve Buscemi as Mike's roommate Randy. Joining the cast this time around are Helen Mirren and Alfred Molina along with a host of other names. As with all Pixar features, Monsters University is accompanied by an animated short, in this case it's The Blue UmbrellaCritical reception is generally positive, though not as strong as other Pixar features, such as the Toy Story movies or The Incredibles. It's in 3D in some cinemas. Rated G.

Mr. Go – A circus gorilla plays professional baseball in this South Korean-Chinese special-effects extravaganza. It's directed by Kim Yong-hwa (200 Pounds Beauty) and stars Xu Jiao, the sprightly young actress who made her debut playing a boy in Stephen Chow's CJ 7. She plays the gorilla's owner and trainer. The gorilla is computer-animated, with help from a motion-capture actor as a stand-in. It's also the first South Korean film shot in actual 3D. Critical reception for this "feel-good" movie is generally positive. Unfortunately, owing to the technical complications of subtitles, the 3D version showing here is in dubbed Thai only. However, a 2D version is screening with the original soundtrack and English and Thai subs at some cinemas, including Paragon Cineplex, SF World Cinema at CentralWorld, SFX the Emporium and SF Cinema City Terminal 21. Rated G.

Pawnshop (โลงจำนำ, Lohng Jam Nam, literally "coffin pledge") – Golden A Entertainment, a label that usually distributes low-budget B-movie-style horror thrillers, has a couple of big names in its latest release, Krissada "Noi" Sukosol Clapp and "Kratae" Supaksorn Chaimongkol. Noi plays a financially strapped songwriter and bar owner who comes up on the wrong end of a bargain with a pawnbroker who deals in the supernatural. Directed and written by Parm Rangsi and produced by Free Film, it's at SF cinemas only. Rated 18+.

Bajatey Raho – A conman (Ravi Kishan) posing as a successful business entrepreneur pulls off a series of frauds that impacts the lives of a widow (Dolly Ahluwalia) and three other poor sods (Tusshar Kapoor, Vinay Pathak and Ranvir Shorey). They decide to take things into their own hands for what's billed as Bollywood's "first revenge comedy". It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit (Ekamai) and Rama III. Starts Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Bangkok's smallest cinema will feature documentaries all this month. Each day will have a general theme, with films about justice on Thursdays, stories of the poor and downtrodden on Fridays and human obsessions on Saturdays. Sundays will be devoted to the classic documentaries of Frederick Wiseman. Tonight's film is 2003's The Corporation with High on Crack Street on Friday. Saturday is When We Were Kings, covering the epic "Rumble in the Jungle" match between boxing greats Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Wiseman's Juvenile Court from 1973 is on Sunday. And next Wednesday offers Manufactured Landscapes, a must-see on the big screen. Showtimes are at 8pm. The FCG is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. It's open Wednesday through Sunday from around 6pm. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so please check the website to make bookings.

L'esquive (Games of Love and Chance) – The Alliance Française screens free movies with English subtitles at 7.30pm every Wednesday. Next week's show is Abdellatif Kechiche's award-winning 2004 drama about immigrant teenagers in suburban Paris.