Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening October 31-November 6, 2013

Ender's Game

Harrison Ford competes for screen time with Ben Kingsley and his hilarious face tattoo as well as a bunch kids in Ender's Game.

The gruff sci-fi icon of Star Wars and Blade Runner is the commander of a space force battling a hostile alien race called "the Buggers".

To fight them, younglings are being trained at the battle school to fight the war like they were playing a giant video game. One of the kids, Ender Wiggin, is better than all the rest. He's played by Asa Butterfield, the child actor who starred in Martin Scorsese's Hugo.

Kingsley portrays the legendary hero Mazer Rackham, who turned the tide against an earlier attack by the Buggers.

Other stars include Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Viola Davis, Abigail Breslin and that weird kid from The Kings of Summer, Moises Arias.

It's based on the 1986 Hugo Award-winning novel by Orson Scott Card.

The director is Gavin Hood, the South African helmer of Tsotsi as well as Rendition and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

This is just being released in the States this week, but critical reception, so far, is positive. Rated 15+

Also opening

Hashima Project (ฮาชิมะ โปรเจกต์) – After gaining notoriety for their viral fake ghost clip, five young filmmakers are invited by a TV show to record supernatural activity on Japan's Hashima Island, a "ghost island" off the coast of Nagasaki. And, surprise, surprise, the whippersnappers find out that the place really is haunted. It's directed by Piyaphan Chupetch and stars Pirath Nithipaisalkul, Alex Rendell, Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Mek Mekwattana and Sucha Manaying. Rated 15+

Spiders – An old Soviet space station falls to Earth and crashes into a New York City subway tunnel, unleashing a gigantic mutated spider. It's up to a transit supervisor (Patrick Muldoon) and a health inspector (Christa Campbell) to prevent the colossal queen from uniting with her eggs and creating an army of massive killer spiders. Critical reception is mostly negative, but if you like your giant spiders looking incredibly fake and cheesy, than this movie is for you. In 3D. Rated 15+

Krrish 3 – Bollywood's superhero franchise continues as Hrithik Roshan takes on evil mutants. Priyanka Chopra and Vivek Oberoi also star. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Pattaya, Rama III and Paragon. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese Greene-Club – Filmmaker Paul Spurrier celebrates Halloween at his private cinema club with a rare treat – a special screening of his 2005 horror film P, in which a dancer at a Soi Cowboy go-go bar uses black magic to upstage the others. Weirdly, the film has never been screened publicly in Thailand. The November schedule also has some leftovers from October, thanks to a couple of programming changes – Louis Malle's Pretty Baby will screen tomorrow and another of Alexander Payne's men-in-crisis comedies, About Schmidt starring Jack Nicholson, shows on Saturday. Sunday is the start of an "early Hitchcock" series with Hitch's first-ever thriller, 1927's The Lodger. Next week, there will be special screenings of Censor Must Die at the FGC. Scroll down for details on that. For the rest of November, there will be "classic Rob Reiner" movies on Wednesday (Stand By Me, This Is Spinal Tap and The Sure Thing), "disturbing" horror films on Thursdays, the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet on Fridays and ghost love stories on Saturdays. Shows start at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so please check the website to make bookings.

It Gets Better (ไม่ได้ขอให้มารั, Mai Dai Kor Hai Ma Rak) – Thai transgender director Tanwarin Sukkhapisit takes a broad, commercially appealing approach to addressing the issues of sexuality and gender with this romantic comedy drama that was the top nominee at the Subhanahongsa Awards. The movie is structured in three segments that increasingly intertwine. One story deals with an fiftysomething post-op ladyboy (played by actress Penpak Sirikul) who is touring around a small town in Thailand's scenic north. Another part deals with a young man who returns to Thailand after the death of his father and discovers the old man ran a ladyboy cabaret in Pattaya. He finds himself falling for one of the bar's staff. And the third story is about an effeminate young man who is shipped off to the monkhood after his father discovers him dressing up in his mother's clothes. The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand screens It Gets Better at 8pm on Monday, November 4, with the director present for a post-screening question session. Entry for non-members is 150 baht plus 100 baht more for anyone wanting to sip the wines provided by Village Farm and Winery.

Censor Must Die – Next week, from November 5 to 9, the Friese-Greene Club will host special screenings of Censor Must Die, a documentary by Thai filmmaker Ing K. that deals with the banning of her previous film, Shakespeare Must Die. It's an instructive look at a brand-new Thai bureaucracy – the Culture Ministry's Film and Video Board and its film-ratings system. Though the movie has been cleared for public screenings, Ing K. is still being a bit cagey about it, so the screenings are for card-carrying FGC members only. Membership at the moment is free. If you're not yet a member, you just need to get down to the club and put your name in the book 24 hours before you plan to see the movie. Also, for this movie, there is an admission price: 150 baht.

Take note

The French films are due to resume on Wednesday, November 6 at the Alliance Française Bangkok, newly located on the corner of Rama IV and Wireless Road in the former location of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar. The showtimes will be at 7pm, rather than 7.30. They haven't yet listed the program on their website and I can't get any confirmation about what film is being shown.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening October 22-30, 2013

Tom-Yum-Goong 2

Actors have excused themselves from doing the promotional campaigns for their films before, but perhaps none have done so in quite the dramatic fashion as Tom-Yum-Goong 2 (ต้มยำกุ้ง 2) star Tony Jaa has.

The latest martial-arts epic from Jaa hits Thai big screens in the midst of a feud between the star and his studio, Sahamongkol Film International. In the runup to the release of Tom-Yum-Goong 2, a contract dispute arose when it was announced that Tony Jaa had been cast in a sequel to the Hollywood car-racing franchise, Fast and Furious 7.

Sahamongkol honcho Somsak "Sia Jiang" Techaratanaprasert asserted that Jaa was under another 10-year contract with his studio and had to get his permission to take part in an outside project. He's threatened a lawsuit.

But Jaa, newly emboldened by the backing of a new Westerner manager, retorted that the contract was null and void and he was no longer a slave to Sahamongkol.

So Tom-Yum-Goong 2 opens today, the Chulalongkorn Day public holiday, without its star present to appear at premieres or make the rounds of press interviews. Instead, Jaa is in the U.S., filming Fast and Furious 7 and posting Facebook pictures of himself teaching Muay Thai to Fast and Furious leading man Vin Diesel.

Years in the making, Tom-Yum-Goong 2 is a sequel to a 2005 movie that was Tony Jaa's second major studio effort following his breakout hit Ong-Bak. Tom-Yum-Goong, a.k.a. The Protector, took Jaa to Australia, on the hunt for his baby elephant that had been abducted by gangsters. It was an aim to broaden Jaa's international appeal, setting up fights for him around Sydney landmarks with Vietnamese-American stunt performer Johnny Tri Nguyen and towering Australian wrestler Nathan Jones.

Tom-Yum-Goong 2 stays in Thailand, but still keeps the international flavor, bringing in hip-hop musician and kung-fu aficionado RZA as the main villain as well as American martial artist Marrese Crump. Jaa also meets on screen for the first time with Sahamongkol's other major martial-arts star, Chocolate actress Jeeja Yanin. She's paired up as a twin sister to another female fighter, Teerada Kittisiriprasert. Another featured fighter is Only God Forgives siren Rhatha "Yaya Ying" Pho-ngam, in her first action role. And Jaa's usual comic-relief sidekick Petchthai "Mum Jokmok" Wongkumlao reprises his role from the first Tom-Yum-Goong as a Thai-Australian police officer, now seconded to a major Interpol investigation.

The story again involves a stolen elephant, with Jaa's character on the run after being blamed for the killing of an elephant-camp owner.

Also, it's in 3D, the first by Sahamongkol and director Prachya Pinkaew.

The contract dispute between Jaa and the studio is just the latest bump in the film's rocky road to completion. The production has been beset by delays, including flooding in 2011 and Jaa's marriage to his pregnant bride last year. Also, Jeeja hooked up with an assistant director during filming, and is now married and a mother herself.

Other behind-the-scenes drama comes from Jaa's tumultuous family life becoming fodder for the Thai press, which has reported news of Jaa's fiesty wife getting into fights with her in-laws.

In 3D. Rated 15+

Also opening

The Kings of Summer – Three boys run away from home and build a house in the woods in this coming-of-age comedy-drama that premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival. The boys are the awkward Joe (Nick Robinson), who is being raised by his sarcastic widower dad (deadpan Nick Offerman from Parks and Recreation) and Patrick (Gabriel Basso), who is tired of his parents' overbearing niceness. They make a pact to run off together and fend for themselves by living off the land. They are joined on their journey by a strange kid named Biaggio (Moisés Arias). Weeks pass, and the disappearance of the boys becomes a story in the local media. Meanwhile, a girl (Erin Moriarty) enters the picture and tests the boys' friendship. Jordan Vogt-Roberts directs, making his feature debut. Alison Brie, Offerman's wife Megan Mullally, Marc Evan Jackson and Mary Lynn Rajskub also star. Critical reception is generally positive. It's at Apex Siam Square and some Major Cineplex branches, including Paragon and Esplanade Ratchada. Rated 13+.

Oshin – A remake of a 1983-84 NHK television series, this fact-based Japanese drama depicts the hardships endured by a seven-year-old girl from a poor family who is sent to work as a babysitter in the household of a timber trader during the Meiji period in 1907. It's at House on RCA, SF World Cinema at CentralWorld, SF Cinema City Terminal 21 and SFX Central Rama 9. With English and Thai subtitles. Rated G

Planes – Up in the sky in the world of Disney/Pixar's Cars, there are more talking machines. Released by DisneyToon Studios, the outfit responsible for countless direct-to-video sequels of Disney features, Planes deals with the world of airplane racing. Dane Cook voices the lead character, an agricultural aircraft named Dusty Crophopper. Despite his fear of heights, he hopes to become a top racer. Other voices include Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Cedric the Entertainer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Priyanka Chopra. Critical reception is mostly negative – this is strictly to sell toys to the kids. In 3D in some cinemas. Rated G

Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods – Son Goku and the Z fighters must contend with Birus, the God of Destruction, who is seeking a worthy opponent. The first movie from the Dragon Ball manga series to get a theatrical release in 17 years, this is also the first to be released in IMAX cinemas. Unfortunately for the Thai fans, it's only at SF cinemas, so no IMAX. With Japanese soundtrack and English and Thai subtitles at CentralWorld, Emporium and Terminal 21. Rated G

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Tomorrow night's man in crisis is Bill Murray in Jim Jarmusch's dry-witted road comedy Broken Flowers. He's a guy named Don Johnston who finds out he might have a son and sets out to track down his old girlfriends. On Friday, go behind the scenes of one of the most epically disaster-plagued film productions, Apocalypse Now, in Hearts of Darkness. And on Saturday, it's 1987's classic teen comedy Some Kind of Wonderful, scripted by the late great John Hughes. And on Sunday, the month's final Bette Davis offering, watch her and arch-rival Joan Crawford tear each other apart in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Next Wednesday's "precocious" girl is Brooke Shields in Louis Malle's controversial drama about a girl in a New Orleans bordello, Pretty Baby. Shows start at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so please check the website to make bookings.

Mirch Masala (Spice) – A determined housewife (Smita Patil) rebuffs the advances of a lusty subedar (tax collector, played by Naseeruddin Shah) in the solidly dramatic 1987 social-problem film by Indian director Ketan Mehta. Winner of three of India's National Film Awards, including best feature and supporting actor for Suresh Oberoi as the mukhi (village chief), Mirch Masala screens at 8pm on Wednesday, October 30 at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. Admission for non-members is 150 baht plus 100 baht for anyone wanting the Indian wine, rum, whisky, and snacks laid on by the Embassy of India and the Indian Cultural Centre.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening October 17-22, 2013

Machete Kills

What began as a tongue-in-cheek fake trailer for 2007's Grindhouse double feature of Planet Terror by Robert Rodriguez and Death Proof by Quentin Tarantino has blown up into an over-the-top action-movie franchise.

Machete Kills, the sequel to the 2010 first entry, has ex-convict, perennial bad guy, bartender and slow-moving desert reptile Danny Trejo again in the lead. He's a former Mexican "federale" who was betrayed and left for dead. Now working as an assassin for hire, he's tasked by the president of the United States (Charlie Sheen, credited under his real name Carlos Estévez) to battle baddies across Mexico and take down an eccentric billionaire arms dealer (Mel Gibson) who plans to launch a weapon into space.

Aside from cult icon Trejo, the cast boasts Lady Gaga, Desperado star Antonio Banderas, Damian Bichir, Walton Goggins, Spy Kids' Alexa Vega, William Sadler, Amber Heard, Vanessa Hudgens, Chilean stuntman Marko Zaror and Modern Family vixen Sofia Vergara, sporting a machine-gun-equipped bra as Desdemona. Returnees from the first entry include Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba and Tom Savini.

Critical reception isn't as strong as the first film, but if you're a fan of Rodriguez, Trejo and trashy, ultra-violent B-movies, then you'll probably want to see this. It's at SF Cinemas only. Rated 15+

Also opening

Vikingdom – Vikings? In Malaysia? Yes. Vikings. In Malaysia. A showcase for the increasingly competitive Malaysian film industry – look out Thailand – the CGI-laden Vikingdom is aimed at the fantasy-film fans who might have liked 300 or Game of Thrones. Dominic Purcell stars as a Norse king leading the human forces against the hammer-wielding red-headed god Thor, played here by none other than seven-foot-tall bad-ass Conan Stevens, who was actually in Games of Thrones as "Ser Gregor, the Mountain". Critical reception is mixed, with praise for the special effects. In 3D. Rated 15+

Escape Plan – Having had a blast making The Expendables together, '80s action heroes Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger have teamed up again for this prison-break drama. Stallone is the world's top incarceration expert. He specializes in breaking out of prisons. He's given one last job – to escape from "The Tomb", a top-secret, high-tech, maximum security facility. But once inside, he finds he's been betrayed and has no way out. So he's forced into an alliance with the prison's top dog (Schwarzenegger). Journeyman Swedish helmer Mikael Håfström (1408, Shanghai) directs. Vincent D'Onofrio, Amy Ryan, Vinnie Jones and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson also star, along with Jim Caviezel as the warden. Critical reception, so far, is mixed. Rated 15+

Coffee Please (แก้วนี้หัวใจสั่น, Kaew Nee Hua Jai San) – Romance is brewing in the coffee plantations of northern Thailand where a young coffee aficionado (Akrapan Namat) meets Jane (Wanikar Pudchang), a lady architect who can’t tell the difference between a coffeemaker and a barista. Jenwai Thongdeenok and Pakasit Patarateeranon direct. Rated 15+

Is Am Are: A Reason to Live For – Three directors, among them celebrity Pasaweepit Sornakarapa, are behind this three-segment collection of morality tales. The stories cover a fan club member who writes about her favorite superstar who committed suicide 10 years earlier, a teacher trying to boost his self-esteem and advance his career by having sex with a mute prostitute, and an unemployed guy whose life changes when he bumps into an old man while getting off the bus. This is screening at the Lido in Siam Square, with Q-and-A sessions after some screenings. See Facebook for details. Rated 15+.

Code Name: Jackal – A female assassin (Song Ji-hyo) is hired to kill a pop singer (Kim Jae-joong). Trouble is, she makes her attempt at a hotel in full view of the police who are on the hunt for another killer, the notorious Jackal. In Korean with English and Thai subtitles at SF World Cinema at Central World. There is one show daily from today until October 22. For details, see FacebookCCC.KoreanMovies.

Doraemon the Movie: Nobita's Secret Gadget Museum – A catburglar steals Doraemon's magic bell, and as a result, the blue robot kitty starts acting more and more like a real cat. So his friends Nobita, Shizuka, Suneo and Gian go to the factory where all of Doraemon's gadgets are made. Thai-dubbed only. Rated G

Boss – Akshay Kumar stars in this comedy as criminal kingpin who was disowned in his youth by his schoolteacher father. With his younger brother in conflict with a corrupt cop, the father's only hope is to turn to his estranged older boy and ask for help. Mithun Chakraborty, Shiv Pandit, Aditi Rao Hydari and Ronit Roy also star. It's at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Pattaya and Rama III.

Also showing

Karaoke Girl (สาวคาราโอเกะ, Sao Karaoke) – Documentary and drama blend in the debut feature by U.S.-schooled indie filmmaker Visra Vichet-Vadakan. It's the story of Sa, an exceedingly lovely young woman from the countryside who works in Bangkok as a bar hostess to support the folks back home. You'll get to know her through poetic camera work and contemplative moments, as well as trips from the beach and on the train back home. Bank notes flutter on the breeze and she stars in a karaoke video of her own. This played in Bangkok for a week a couple of weeks ago and now returns for a one-week run at House on RCA.

Spanish Film Festival – Continuing at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld, the festival's offering at 7 tonight is Los Niños Salvajes (The Wild Children), an award-winning drama about three Catalan teenagers caught up in dysfunctional family and school lives. Tomorrow, it's the ripping action drama Grupo 7, about a tough anti-drugs police unit in Seville. There's two movies on Saturday, starting at 5 with
Una Pistola En Cada Mano (A Gun in Each Hand), a hit comedy is about eight men in their 40s, all dealing with various crises in their lives. And at 7 it's the casino-heist yarn, The Pelayos (Winning Streak), starring Daniel Brühl and Lluis Homar. The fest closes at 7 on Sunday with Silencio En La Nieve (The Frozen Silence), a mystery that unfolds during World War II on the Russian Front, where a former Spanish police inspector serving in the German army probes strange deaths.

The Friese-Greene Club – Matthew Broderick is a high-school teacher who runs into conflict with an overachieving girl (Reese Witherspoon) running for student-body president in Alexander Payne's Election. Tomorrow, learn all about wunderkind producer Robert Evans in The Kid Stays in the Picture. On Saturday, it's another John Hughes classic, The Breakfast Club, referred to by some critics as "the Citizen Kane of teen movies". On Sunday, Bette Davis is an expat in Singapore in a 1940 William Wyler mystery, The Letter. Next Wednesday, catch another "precocious" girl in The Lawnmower Man, about a girl who strikes up a friendship with the guy who mows the lawn. Shows start at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so please check the website to make bookings.

The Act of Killing – Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer (with Anonymous and Christine Cynn), this experimental documentary is executive produced by Werner Herzog and Errol Morris and has won scores of awards at festivals all over the world. It's a gripping and much-acclaimed account of the continuing and pervasive legacy of the Indonesian death squads of the 1960s. Critical reception is overwhelmingly positive. It's screening at 2pm on Saturday, October 19 at the Lido in Siam Square. Reservations are a must. For details, please check with the Bangkok Experimental Film Festival.

Innocence – Romance is rekindled for Andreas and Claire, passionate lovers in their youth, who meet 50 years later and attempt to pick up where they left off. Directed by Australian helmer Paul Cox, this much-lauded love story of two septuagenarians had tongues wagging when it was released 13 years ago. It screens at 8pm on Monday, October 21 at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand as part of the Contemporary World Film Series. Admission is 150 baht for non-members and 100 baht for anyone wanting to partake of the wine and cheese laid on by the Australian embassy.

Take note

For some time now, the Major Cineplex chain, including EGV, Esplanade, Mega, Paradise and Paragon, has required viewers to purchase their own glasses for viewing 3D movies. This is a departure from the usual practice.

For example, I saw a 3D movie recently at an SF Cinema City, and I was handed glasses by an usher that then I handed back after the movie. The ticket price, if I recall correctly, was 200 baht.

Major Cineplex is different. They are selling 3D glasses for 150 to 400 baht, with the price depending on how basic or fancy the glasses are and whether you are a M Generation cardholder, which entitles you to a discount of up to 50 percent. Other than having to bear the inconvenience of remembering to take your own glasses when you go see a 3D movie, that's a one-time cost for you.

And Major is saving money by not having to maintain a stock of 3D glasses that have to be cleaned and repackaged after each show and replaced when they go missing or wear out.

And it seems the savings is being passed on. For example, I went to see a 3D movie at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit on a Monday night, when they have a Monday-Tuesday night promotional price of 100 baht for 2D movies. The 3D movie was just 20 baht more. So a better deal, it appears, than SF cinemas.
Next week, owing to the Chulalongkorn Day holiday on October 23, some movies will be opening a day earlier than usual. One of them will be the much-anticipated Thai martial-arts epic Tom-Yum-Goong 2, starring Tony Jaa. The first 3D effort by Jaa, this might be the one you'll want to buy 3D glasses for.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: 11th World Film Festival of Bangkok

Hurtling into its 11th year, the World Film Festival of Bangkok will open with the award-winning Australian-made Lao-Isaan family drama The Rocket and close with a new documentary by indie Thai filmmaker Nontawat Numbenchapol, By the River.

Winner of the Crystal Bear and two other prizes in Berlin, The Rocket is the tale of a little boy who is believed to be the bringer of bad luck after his family loses his home. So, with a colorful cast of characters, including a drunken uncle played by veteran Thai comedian Thep Po-ngam, he sets out on an adventure to change his fortune.

Directed by Kim Mordaunt, The Rocket won the Audience Award and prizes for Best Narrative Feature and Best Actor for young star Sitthiphon Disamoe at the Tribeca fest. It's also picked up audience awards at home in Melbourne and Sydney. And Australia has submitted it to next year's Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.

The closing film By the River (สายน้ำติดเชื้อ, Sai Nam Tid Shoer) is an award-winner too, earning a special mention after its premiere in Locarno. It chronicles the 15-year legal struggle that ensued after a lead mine contaminated Kanchanaburi province's Klity Creek and ruined the livelihoods of villagers.

With more than 800 films submitted, the fest boasts a decent selection of Thai indie features this year.

A highlight will be The Isthmus by Sopawan Boonnimitra and Peerachai Kerdsint. The story of a little Thai girl who starts speaking only Burmese, it premiered last week at the 18th Busan International Film Festival, where it was in the New Currents competition.

Other new Thai indie features are Village of Hope, an ode to rural Thai ways by veteran helmer Boonsong Nakphoo, and Mother, the debut feature of young director Vorakorn Ruetaivanichkul.

There will also be a few Thai indies that have made the rounds already in limited release in Thailand, such as Kongdej Jaturanrasmee's Tang Wong, Visra Vichit-Vadakan's Karaoke Girl and Boundary by Nontawat.

This year's Lotus Award for lifetime achievement goes to Jarunee Suksawat, one of Thailand’s biggest movie stars of the 1970s and '80s. Two of her classic melodramas will be shown, Baan Sai Thong and Pojjamann Sawangwong

Other highlights of the Asian Contemporary section include Stray Dog, which is supposedly the last film Taiwanese auteur Tsai Ming-liang plans to make. Others are A Woman and War by Junichi Inoue, To My Dear Granny by Chu Yu-Ning and Innocents by Singapore's Wong Chen-Hsi, winner of best director in the Asian New Talent Awards at this year's Shanghai fest.

And in the Doc Feast category, a highlight is To Singapore With Love. Another is The Last Shepherd, about the last travelling sheepherder in metropolitan Italy.

Cinema Beat, covering the rest of the world, is where you'll find a bunch of other don't-miss titles such as France's Stranger By the Lake, which won the Un Certain Regard directing prize for Alain Guiraudie at Cannes this year as well as the Queer Palme. There's also Israel's Rock the Casbah, an award-winner in Berlin about an Israeli soldier in 1989, seeking to avenge the death of a fellow soldier.

And an oddball pick is Synecdoche, New York from 2008. The story of a playwright (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who goes crazy while spending his life mounting an immense living theater production, it's the directorial debut of Charlie Kaufman, screenwriter of such weird and wonderful movies as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation.

Other festival sections include Cine Latino, giving rare exposure in Bangkok to films from such places as Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Portugal and Spain.

In all, there are 60 films from 25 countries.

The 11th World Film Festival of Bangkok runs from November 15 to 24, and for the first time it will be held at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.

Look for the complete lineup at the festival website.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening October 10-16, 2013

Lee Daniels' The Butler

More than four decades of American history and race relations are covered Lee Daniels' The Butler, which chronicles the incredible career of a White House servant who worked for eight presidents, from Truman in the 1940s to Reagan in the '80s.

It's a fact-based story, adapted from an article and subsequent book by Washington Post reporter Wil Haygood.

Oscar buzz has surrounded this project even before filming started, thanks to director Lee Daniels, who was a big winner in 2011 with Precious. The star-studded cast boasts Forest Whitaker as the title character plus Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, Mariah Carey, Cuba Gooding Jr, Lenny Kravitz and David Oyewolo.

Presidential portrayers include Robin Williams as Eisenhower, John Cusack as Nixon, James Marsden as Kennedy, Liev Schrieber as Lyndon Johnson and Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda as the Reagans.

The film picked up notoriety a couple months back when The Weinstein Company had a fight with Warner Bros., which claimed the rights to the title belonged to one of their long-lost silents films from 90 years ago. Eventually, a compromise was reached allowing the Weinsteins to call the film Lee Daniels' The Butler.

Critical reception is generally positive. Rated 13+

Also opening

Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen continues to be back in the good graces of film critics with yet another highly acclaimed film. Blue Jasmine stars Cate Blanchett in a much-lauded performance as a New York socialite who is broke and depressed after divorcing her scam-artist husband (Alec Baldwin). She lands in San Francisco to stay with her working-class sister (Sally Hawkins). The terrific cast also includes Michael Stuhlbarg, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard and surprising dramatic turns from comedians Louis C.K. and Andrew Dice Clay. Critical reception is overwhelmingly positive. Rated 13+

About Time – Britain's rom-com king Richard Curtis directs this tale of a young man who learns the men in his family have the ability to travel back in time for short increments. Domhnall Gleeson (son of Irish actor Brendan) stars as an awkward guy who uses his gift to strike up a romance with a pretty girl (Rachel McAdams). Bill Nighy is the guy's cool dad.  Critical reception is generally positive. Rated 13+

Insidious: Chapter 2 – James Wan (The Conjuring, Saw) serves up more scares in this story about a family whose haunted past has left them dangerously connected to the spirit world. Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye and Barbara Hershey star. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+

Streetdance All-Stars – British youngsters put on a big dance show in a bid to save their struggling neighborhood youth center. In 3D. Rated 15+.

Love Syndrome (รักโง่ๆ, Rak-ngo-ngo) – The various relationships of four pairs of young men and women are covered in this romantic comedy-drama by director Pantham Thongsang. Rated 15+.

Detective Conan: Private Eye in the Distant Sea – The boy sleuth of Japanese animation and manga takes to the ocean aboard a high-tech naval warship as he investigates the death of a sailor. At SF cinemas, Thai-dubbed only. Rated G.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Dustin Hoffman is a young man in crisis in The Graduate tonight. Tomorrow, go behind the scenes of Terry Gilliam's aborted effort to make a movie about Don Quixote in Lost in La Mancha. On Saturday, go for a ride with Steve Martin and John Candy in John Hughes' hilarious Planes, Trains and Automobiles. And Sunday features another classic Bette Davis performance in 1939's Dark Victory. Next Wednesday has Natalie Portman at her most precocious and (Gary Oldman at his most ferocious) in the assassin tale Leon, starring Jean Reno. Shows start at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so please check the website to make bookings.

Spanish Film Festival – Eight recent Spanish films will be shown for free next week at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld as part of Spanish Week. Here's the line-up:

  • Blancanieves – The tale of Snow White is reimagined as a tragic black-and-white 1920s silent film, with Snow as a bullfighter. Monday, October 14, 7.30pm.
  • Miel De Naranjas (Orange Honey) – Veteran helmer Imanol Uribe directs this drama set during the Franco regime in the 1950s in which a young government functionary grows weary of the injustices and switches sides. Tuesday, October 15, 7pm.
  • Arrugas (Wrinkles) – This award-winning 2011 animated feature tackles an unusual subject for animation – old age. It's about a pair of men who form a friendship at a nursing home. Wednesday, October 16, 7pm
  • Los Niños Salvajes (The Wild Children) – Winner of several awards at home, this drama is about three Catalan teenagers who are having rough time coping because of their dysfunctional family and school lives. Thursday, October 17, 7pm.
  • Grupo 7 – Another major nominee and award-winner, a favorite at genre-film fests, this ripping action yarn is about a tough anti-drugs police unit in Seville. Friday, October 18, 7pm.
  • Una Pistola En Cada Mano (A Gun in Each Hand) – This hit comedy is about eight men in their 40s, all dealing with various crises in their lives. Saturday, October 19, 5pm.
  • The Pelayos (Winning Streak) – Daniel Brühl  and Lluis Homar star in this heist comedy-drama about a pair of brothers who have a system for beating the odds on a casino's roulette wheel. Saturday, October 19, 7pm.
  • Silencio En La Nieve  (The Frozen Silence) – World War II, on the Russian Front. A former Spanish police inspector serving in the German army probes the mysterious circumstances of the deaths of some soldiers. Sunday, October 20, 7pm.

In addition to the films, there are performances of Spanish opera and flamenco at the Siam Society. As always with these free film festivals, allow yourself an hour or so beforehand to line up and collect your precious little ticket.

Take note

If you missed Paradoxocracy (ประชาธิปไตย, Prachathipatai) (and it's very possible you did) when it was released for a limited run in Bangkok in June, you now have another chance to catch it. House on RCA has it listed on their schedule in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the October 14, 1973 student uprising against a military dictatorship. Directed by Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Pasakorn Pramoolwong, the documentary gathers together a dozen or so academics who talk about the tumultuous times since constitutional monarchy came about in 1932. Frank and sometimes funny, it's censored in a couple of places. If you're interested at all in Thai politics, hurry on over to House and catch it while you can. Paradoxocracy will also screen at 1pm on Sunday at the Thai Film Archive as part of program that also features two other documentaries, Ngao Prawat Sart (The Shadow Of History) by Panu Aree and Octoblur (Lom Tulakom) by Patana Chirawong.

And as a final note this week, seems it was premature to announce that the films had resumed at the Alliance Française Bangkok, which has moved to a new location at the corner of Rama IV and Wireless roads. I've now been informed that the movie nights are delayed because the place is still being fitted out. The Alliance folks now say the movies will resume on Wednesday, November 6, with shows starting at 7pm. Apologies for any inconvenience.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening October 3-9, 2013

Karaoke Girl

The life of a Bangkok escort is depicted in Karaoke Girl (สาวคาราโอเกะ, Sao Karaoke), the debut feature of young independent filmmaker Visra Vichet-Vadakan.

It's the story of Sa, a country girl who was sent to Bangkok when she was just 15. After three years in a factory, she entered the sex trade in order to support her family. Four years later the filmmaker met her, documented her life in the city and in the country and also wrote a fictional script for her to act in. The story is drawn from Sa's actual experiences, threading memories of her rural childhood with the complicated reality of her urban life.

Boasting impressive credits, with New York University professor and Salaam Bombay cinematographer Sandi Sissel as a director of photographyKaraoke Girl premiered in the main competition at this year's International Film Festival Rotterdam, where it earned positive reviews. It went on many other fests, including Helsinki and London's Terracotta Far East Film Festival as well as Karlovy Vary, Vancouver, Jeonju, Hamburg and Luxembourg City. It won the award for Emerging International Filmmaker at London's Open City Docs Fest.

Happily, the film had a positive effect on Sa, and she's turned her back on her old life, according to the filmmaker.

Karaoke Girl is in limited release at the Apex cinemas in Siam Square and the Esplanade Cineplex Ratchada. It'll open next week at Major Cineplex Airport Plaza Chiang Mai and at Bangkok's House cinema on October 17. The trailer is embedded below.

In limited release, shows are at 6.30 nightly at the Apex's Lido in Siam Square and 7pm at Esplanade Cineplex Ratchada. Next week, it moves to Chiang's Mai's Major Cineplex Airport Plaza and returns to Bangkok on October 17 for a run at House on RCA. Rated G.

Also opening

Ilo Ilo – The first Singaporean feature to win an award at the Cannes Film Festival and the city-state's submission for next year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film is a family drama set against the backdrop of the 1997 financial crisis. Anthony Chen's debut film is the partly autobiographical story about a Filipina maid who moves into an apartment with a Singaporean Chinese family. She bonds with the family's bratty spoiled schoolboy and newly unemployed dad but clashes with the domineering mother. By coincidence, Ilo Ilo has a Bangkok connection, thanks to one of its producers, Wahyuni A. Hadi, wife of Thai indie filmmaker Aditya Assarat (Wonderful TownHi-So) and herself one of the driving forces behind the promotion of Singaporean independent cinema. Winner of the Cannes Camera d'Or Award for best first feature, Ilo Ilo's critical reception is generally positive. It's at House on RCA.

Gravity – The Oscars are months away, but Academy Award buzz already surrounds three of the releases this week, including this astronauts-in-peril drama directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Y Tu Mamá También), headlined by the stellar Oscar-winning pair of George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. She's a medical engineer on a space research mission with Clooney as a veteran astronaut. On a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes and the space shuttle is destroyed, leaving the two completely alone, floating in space. Following premieres in Venice, Telluride and Toronto, critical reception is overwhelmingly positive. It's in converted 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated G.

Prisoners – Hugh Jackman is acting like a guy who has his eye on a little golden statue in this taut drama about a father who becomes increasingly desperate and angry after his six-year-old daughter and her little friend go missing. A police detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) tracks down a suspect (Paul Dano) in a broken-down RV but then has to let the mentally not-all-there man go due to lack of evidence. So Jackman takes things into his own hands. Maria Bello, Viola Davis and Terrence Howard also star. Denis Villeneuve (Incendies) directs. Prisoners premiered to much acclaim at this year's Telluride festival, and critical reception is mostly positive. This opened in sneak previews last week and now moves to a wider release. Rated 15+.

The Smurfs 2 – Another sickening blend of computer animation and live action from Scooby-Doo director Raja Gosnell, the little blue folks smurf around with, gasp, humans (including Neil Patrick Harris) to smurf Smurfette, who's been smurfed by arch-nemesis Gargamel (Hank Azaria) and smurfed by an anti-Smurf hybrid creation of his. The star-studded voice cast features Katy Perry as Smurfette plus the late comedian Jonathan Winters in one of his last performances as Papa Smurf. Other smurfing smurfs include Christina Ricci, J.B. Smoove, George Lopez, Anton Yelchin, John Oliver, Fred Armisen, Jeff Foxworthy and Alan Cumming. Kids will enjoy this more than critics have. It's in smurfed 3D in some cinemas. Rated G.

Mor Hok/Haa Pak Maa Taa Pee (มอ6/5 ปากหมา ท้าผี, a.k.a. Make Me Shudder) – B-movie studio Phranakorn and schlock filmmaker Poj Arnon make their first stab at 3D with this nonsensical horror comedy about schoolboys who take ghostly challenges in haunted buildings. Rated 15+.

Besharam – SF Cinemas partners up with longtime Bollywood movie distributors Goodwill Trading, a.k.a. BollywoodThai, for the release of this picture starring Ranbir Kapoor as a streetsmart mechanic. He steals cars in order to support the Delhi orphanage he lives in. His sense of what's right and wrong is flawed until he hurts the love of his life (Pallavi Sharda) and comes into conflict with a pair of cops (Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor). Abhinav Singh Kashyap (Dabangg) directs. It's at SF Cinema City Terminal 21. Opens Friday

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – October brings a new schedule at the private cinema club, with Wednesdays featuring precocious girls, Thursdays about "men in crisis", Fridays devoted to behind-the-scenes filmmaking documentaries, the late great John Hughes on Saturdays and Bette Davis on Sundays. Tonight, it's Burt Lancaster in 1968's The Swimmer. On Friday, the great documentarian Les Blank casts his gaze on the obsession behind a movie about obsession in Burden of Dreams, chronicling the disaster-plagued making of Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo. Saturday, it's John Hughes' fourth-wall-breaking teen comedy Ferris Bueller's Day Off. And on Sunday, "fasten yours seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night" with Bette Davis in All About Eve. Next Wednesday, check out a young Natalie Portman in Ted Demme's Beautiful Girls. Shows start at 8pm. The FGC 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.

The Act of Killing – After a bit of a hiatus, film screenings start back up at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand at 7pm on Monday, October 7, with a gripping, much-acclaimed documentary on the continuing and pervasive legacy of the Indonesian death squads of the 1960s. Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer (with Anonymous and Christine Cynn), the experimental documentary is executive produced by Werner Herzog and Errol Morris and has won scores of awards at festivals all over the world. Critical reception is overwhelmingly positive. Fresh from an interview with Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show", Oppenheimer himself will take part in a question-and-answer session with the FCCT crowd via Skype. Admission for non-members is 350 baht plus 350 baht more if you want to eat. And if you miss the FCCT screening, the Bangkok Experimental Film Festival is organizing another one-off showing on Saturday, October 19 at the Lido.

Complices – The Alliance Française Bangkok, now in its new home opposite Lumpini Park on the corner of Rama IV and Wireless roads, screens French films with English subtitles at 7.30pm every Wednesday. Sadly, they are no longer on 35mm film, but they are still free. Next week's show is a 2009 crime drama by Frédéric Mermoud, about an investigation into the murder of a young man that's taking a toll on a pair of detectives. Meanwhile, the story also tracks back on the love life of the 18-year-old victim and his missing girlfriend.

Sneak preview

Love Syndrome (รักโง่ๆ, Rak-ngo-ngo) – The various relationships of four pairs of young men and women are covered in this romantic comedy drama by director Pantham Thongsang. It's in sneak previews from around 8 nightly at some cinemas before opening wide next week. Rated 15+.

About Time – Now in a second week of sneak previews, this romantic comedy is about a young man who learns the men in his family have the ability to travel back in time for short increments. Domhnall Gleeson (son of Irish actor Brendan) stars as an awkward guy who uses his gift to strike up a romance with a pretty girl (Rachel McAdams). Bill Nighy is the guy's cool dad. It's directed by Britain's rom-com king Richard Curtis. Critical reception is generally positive. It's playing at most multiplexes at around 8 nightly before opening wide next Thursday. Rated 13+.