Monday, December 30, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 30, 2013-January 8, 2014

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Owing to the New Year's holiday, there are new movies opening today, with another wide release set for the usual day on Thursday.

Ben Stiller takes a self-consciously serious and dramatic turn as the director and star of one of today's new offerings, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It's an epic adventure tale blown up from a short story by James Thurber.

Mitty is a lowly photo editor for Life magazine who is given to "zoning out" – daydreams in which he detaches from reality and imagines he's performing a heroic deed and winning the heart of a female co-worker (Kristen Wiig).

But he's off on an adventure for real when he's assigned to track down a missing negative by the magazine's intrepid star photojournalist (Sean Penn).

Though anticipation was high for this passion project by the Zoolander and Tropic Thunder funnyman, critical reception is only mixed. Rated G.

Also opening

Captain Phillips – Tom Hanks stars in this gripping high-seas adventure that's based on an actual piracy incident. Barkhad Abdi also stars, playing the pirate captain in a much-talked-about performance. He's a newcomer, discovered among a host of Somali immigrants who responded to a casting call in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Directed by Paul "Shakycam" Greengrass, it's among the films frequently tipped for one award or another, and critical reception is mostly positive. This opens in wide release on Thursday after playing in a sneak preview run for the past three weeks. Rated 15+

Free Birds – Owen Wilson, here in Thailand filming a Hollywood drama called The Coup and taking time to hang out at the anti-government protests, stars in this animated talking-turkey comedy, which opens today. He's a Thanksgiving turkey who has been pardoned by the president and is living it up at Camp David when he's abducted by a militant activist turkey (Woody Harrelson). They then travel back in time in a bid to get Americans hooked on something else for Thanksgiving besides turkey. Critical reception is mostly negative, meaning this movie is really a turkey. Rated G.

Also showing

Alliance Française – The New Year brings a month of family comedies, starting on January 8 with 2010’s Les Petits Ruisseaux (Wandering Streams), in which a retiree (Daniel Prevost) is left rootless by the death of his best friend and sets out on a road trip. The show starts at 7 at the Alliance Française de Bangkok, now located on Wireless Road opposite Lumpini Park in the former location of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar.

Take note

There's no Wednesday movie this week at the Alliance Française. As noted above, they start back up next week. Also, the Friese-Greene Club is on a holiday break. It reopens on Saturday, January 4. Please check the Facebook page for further updates. Check back here again on January 9 for more new movies in 2014.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 24-29, 2013

Blue is the Warmest Color

A 15-year-old girl (Adele Exarchopoulos) experiences a sexual awakening when she passes by a blue-haired older student (Lea Seydoux) in the street. What follows is an intense and sexually explicit love story that spans a decade.

Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, Blue is the Warmest Color was the winner of the top-prize Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival. In an unusual move, the prize was awarded to not just the director but also to both actresses.

It has since been showered with many other accolades and much critical praise, though has also been controversial, with some critics and actresses believing Kechiche took things too far.

It's in French with English and Thai subtitles at House on RCA. Rated 20-

Also opening

47 Ronin – The Japanese tale of the 47 ronin is a fact-based legend dating back to the early 1700s, when two score and seven masterless samurai took revenge on a ruthless shogun for the killing of their lord. It's a story that's been adapted in many films before, most famously 1962's Chūsingura starring Toshiro Mifune. Now, in the hands of Hollywood, it's an epic 3D fantasy, filled with CGI dragons, shapeshifters and other supernatural beings. The Matrix hero Keanu Reeves stars along with a bunch of Japanese actors. He's a mysterious outsider who falls in with the 47 banished samurai, led by Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine, The Last Samurai) and joins their quest for revenge. Other stars include Tadanobu Asano (Last Life in the Universe, Ichi the Killer) as the rival warlord and Rinko Kikuchi (Babel, The Brothers Bloom, Pacific Rim) as a shapeshifting witch. Carl Rinsch, making his feature debut, directs. Though it opened here yesterday, this is just being released in the U.S. today. And so far, critical reception ain't pretty. Whoa. It's in real 3D in some cinemas. Rated 15+

Police Story 2013 – Jackie Chan suits back up in his police uniform for the sixth entry in his long-running Police Story series. Unlike the previous movies that had him as a Hong Kong lawman, he's a mainland Chinese cop this time around, reflecting Chan's continuing moves away from Hong Kong and into the mainstream Chinese film industry. And like 2004's New Police Story, this is a standalone tale that's darker and grittier and has nothing to do with the first four Police Story movies in the '80s and '90s, which were action-comedies (1 to 3 being classics). Here, Jackie is a detective investigating a series of kidnappings, and his daughter ends up being one of the victims. It's directed by Ding Sheng, who previously worked with Jackie on Little Big Soldier. Rated 15+

Walking With Dinosaurs – This computer-animated family adventure goes back 70 million years to the Late Cretaceous period and follows the migrations of a runt-of-the-litter pachyrhinosaurus (a herbivore dino) and his family as he grows to adulthood and proves that a strong spirit and a good heart can be just as important to survival as physical strength and size. Justin Long heads the voice cast along with John Leguizamo as the dinosaur's bird pal. They are CGI characters in live-action settings. Critical reception is mixed, with the consensus praising the film's visual brilliance even if the story, fart jokes and all, is strictly for the kiddies. In 3D in some cinemas. Rated G

Fud Jung To (ฟัดจังโตะ) – It's that time of year again. Studio M-Thirtynine and director Rerkchai Paungpetch are back with another year-end romantic comedy. It's something they've been doing for around four years now. All have been nonsensical yukfests with untranslatable titles and incomprehensible plots. Yet they have all been crazily popular and profitable. So they keep making them. M-Thirtynine's main leading lady "Yipso" Ramita Mahapruekhong stars in a dual role, a Thai woman named Gabs and a Japanese lady named Gudchan. She's on a trip to Japan with her ex-boyfriend Gob ("Boy" Pakorn Chatborirak), who of course attracts the attention of Gabs' Japanese doppleganger. Noppadon Arkard co-directs. Rated 15+

Also showing

Alliance Française – Celebrate Christmas in French with Mia et le Migou, an animated tale of a little girl’s South American adventure. It screens at 7 tonight at the Alliance Française de Bangkok, now located on Wireless Road opposite Lumpini Park in the former location of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar.

Sneak previews

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Ben Stiller takes a self-consciously serious and dramatic turn as the director and star of this epic tale, blown up from a short story by James Thurber. He's a lowly photo editor for Life magazine who is given to "zoning out" – daydreams in which he detaches from reality and imagines he's performing a heroic deed and winning the heart of a female co-worker (Kristen Wiig). But he's off on an adventure for real when he's assigned to track down a missing piece of negative by the magazine's intrepid star photojournalist (Sean Penn). Though anticipation was high for this passion project by the Zoolander and Tropic Thunder funnyman, critical reception is only mixed. It's in sneak previews from around 8 nightly at most multiplexes before opening wider on Monday, New Year's Eve Eve. Other early openings next week include the animated talking-turkey comedy Free Birds (featuring anti-government protester Owen Wilson, here in Thailand filming a Hollywood drama called The Coup). Later in the week, there's the official wide release of Captain Phillips, which started a sneak preview run last week. Please check back here on Monday for more details.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 19-24, 2013

American Hustle

The FBI's Abscam anti-corruption operation of the 1970s forms the backdrop for American Hustle, a stylish crime romp directed by David O. Russell. It reunites Russell with his Silver Linings Playbook stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, and adds Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner.

Bale is a brilliant con artist who is partnered up with a seductive Brit (Adams). They are forced to work for an FBI agent (Cooper). Just who is conning who isn't really clear, and the FBI agent seems in over his head. Caught between the two sides is a New Jersey political operator (Renner). And threatening to pull the wall down on the whole scheme is Bale's unpredictable wife (Lawrence).

Bale, who is famous for losing and gaining massive amounts of weight for his roles, packed on 40 pounds to give his character more of a presence.

American Hustle is among the leading nominees for the Golden Globe Awards, has been toasted by critics and has emerged as a possible frontrunner in next year's Oscars. Critical reception is wildly positive. Rated 18+

Also opening

Last Vegas The Bucket List meets The Hangover in this comedy about four lifelong friends, all in their 60s, who head to Las Vegas to party and gamble and celebrate the impending marriage of the last single member of their group. Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline star. Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure, The Sorcerer's Apprentice) directs. Critical reception is mixed, leaning unfavorably. Rated 13+

Homefront – Sylvester Stallone penned the screenplay to this drama, with Jason Statham taking the lead role as a widowed former drugs-enforcement agent who seeks a quiet life in a small town, but he runs into conflict with a local meth kingpin (James Franco). Kate Bosworth, Clancy Brown and Winona Ryder also star. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to unfavorable. It's at SF cinemas. Rated 18+

Journey to the Christmas Star – Because it just wouldn't feel like Christmas in Bangkok if there weren't a Christmas movie in cinemas, this Norwegian family film is about a courageous girl who sets out on an adventure to find the Christmas star, free her land from a curse and bring back a long-lost princess. It's in English with Thai subs at Major Cineplex (including EGV, Esplanade, Mega, Paragon, Paradise). Rated G

Dhoom 3 – Abhishek Bachchan and Uday Chopra reprise their roles as Jai Dixit and Ali Akbar in this third installment of the Bollywood action franchise. Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif also star. This is one of the biggest releases in years for a Bollywood film in Thailand, opening on Friday in six theaters, including EGV Grand Seacon Square, Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Major Rama III and Paragon, as well as Chiang Mai Airport Plaza and Major Cineplex Pattaya.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – The private cinema club's "antidote to holiday cheer" continues with "troubled adult" movies, offering Todd Solondz' controversial 1998 drama Happiness tonight. Tomorrow, it's American Beauty, but it's already fully booked. And Saturday is the quirky Me and You and Everyone We Know by Miranda July. Sunday is the last of the Christmas classics this season, It's a Wonderful Life. The club will then be taking a break for a week or so before returning with new programming sometime next year. 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. Also, there are often last-minute changes in the schedule, so please check the website and Facebook page before paying a visit (for example, last week, Carrie ended up being cancelled).

Sneak preview

Captain Phillips – Tom Hanks' latest high-seas adventure wasn't due to open in Thai cinemas until around New Year's, but here it is before Christmas and it's already in a sneak preview run, playing in most multiplexes from around 8 nightly. Barkhad Abdi also stars, playing the pirate captain. Directed by Paul "Shakycam" Greengrass, it's based on an actual piracy incident. It's among the films frequently tipped for one award or another, and critical reception is mostly positive. Rated 15+

Take note

House on RCA is closed from Saturday through Christmas Eve. It'll be back open on Christmas day with Blue Is the Warmest Color, and hopefully continuing to show Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy, which is worth seeing, twice even. Next week, other movies will be released a day earlier than usual as well, thanks to the Christmas holiday. Check back then for more details.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 12-18, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Bilbo Baggins' adventure continues in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the second of director Peter Jackson's adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's prequel to Lord of the Rings.

Martin Freeman stars as Bilbo, a mild-mannered hobbit who is tasked by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan) with joining 13 dwarfs on a journey to reclaim their lost kingdom from the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch).

Inflating the fairly slim children's novel into a epic trilogy to match Lord of the Rings has meant Jackson has padded out the story with new many elements, which include Orlando Bloom as Legolas the elf, a character not introduced until Lord of the Rings, taking part in this swashbuckling adventure.

Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Ken Stott and James Nesbitt are among the many other stars.

Critical reception is generally positive. Like the first Hobbit movie, this was filmed in 3D and in a high-definition high frame rate of 48 frames per second. It's a stunning, different look for what you're accustomed to seeing in cinemas. It'll be available in some cinemas. Just look for the HFR logo. There are many other choices, including plain old 2D as well as IMAX 3D. Rated G

Also opening

Empire State – Liam Hemsworth, Michael Angarano and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson star in this fact-based crime yarn about a pair of young security guards who decide to rob the armored truck company they work for. It was the largest cash heist in U.S. history. On their trail is a veteran New York police detective (The Rock) as well as local gangsters. This went straight to DVD in the U.S., and there hasn't been much of a critical reaction. Rated 15+

Battle of the Year – A Los Angeles hip-hop mogul aims to put the Americans back on top in an international street dance competition that has long been dominated by other countries. He enlists a down-on-his-luck basketball coach to lead the American dancers to victory. Critical reception is, ah, who cares? Rated 13+

Also showing

Asean Nights: Asean Beyond Frontier – Laos' first horror film Chanthaly (also the first Lao feature by a female director) will make its Thai debut in an outdoor screening this weekend as part of the Asean Arts Festival at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. Chanthaly will play on Saturday as the first of an all-horror double feature. It precedes the blockbuster Thai ghost comedy Pee Mak Phra Khanong. Directed by Mattie Do, Chanthaly premiered at last year's Luang Prabang Film Festival. It's since screened in a few other fests, most notably Austin's Fantastic Fest. In Bangkok, Chanthaly is part of a three-day festival, Asean Nights: Asean Beyond Frontier, featuring music and films from tomorrow until Sunday. The Thai-Muslim band Baby Arabia will open the festival, playing its ear-wormy blend of Malay and Arabic folk and rock at 5pm on Friday followed at 6.30 by the Indonesian childhood drama The Rainbow Troops Music by the Paradise Bangkok Molum International Band precedes the screenings of Chanthaly and Pee Mak on Saturday. And the fest's closing day on Sunday offers music by DJ Maft Dai and a double feature of Chou Davy's Golden Slumbers, a documentary on Cambodia's lost golden age of cinema, and Kongdej Jaturanrasmee's teen Thai culture drama Tang Wong. You can read more about the festival in an article in The Nation.

The Friese-Greene Club – Larry Clark looks at more troubled kids in Ken Park tonight, and tomorrow, come out to play with Warriors, Walter Hill's classic dystopian look at a New York taken over by warring street gangs. Saturday offers Brian DePalma's original Carrie, starring Sissy Spacek. And Sunday is another Christmas classic, 1947's Miracle on 34th Street. Next Wednesday, it's the beginning of "troubled adults" films, with frogs raining from the sky in Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia. 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. Also, there may be changes in the schedule, so please check the website.

Alliance Française – Films have finally resumed at the Alliance Française de Bangkok. Next Wednesday's free show is Couleur de peau: Miel (Approved for Adoption), an animated feature by the comic-book artist Jung that follows his journey back to South Korea for the first time since he was abandoned at age 5. The show is at 7pm. Take note that the Alliance Française de Bangkok is now located on Wireless Road, opposite Lumpini Park in the former location of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 5-11, 2013


South Korean director Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Mother) is the latest of his countrymen to make his English-language debut. He follows Park Chan-wook, who made his Hollywood debut with Stoker and Kim Ji-woon, who made The Last Stand with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Bong's Snowpiercer is a sci-fi epic set in a time when an experiment to reverse global warming instead caused the apocalypse. The only survivors on our frozen planet are those who live on a giant train, the Snowpiercer, which perpetually runs around and around the globe. A distinct class system has evolved on the train, with the wealthy in the front. Sick and tired of riding in the back, the poor folks mount a revolt.

Chris "Captain America" Evans stars, along with Song Kang-ho, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer and Ed Harris.

Anticipation is high for Snowpiercer, which was released in South Korea in August and was a top nominee at the country's Blue Dragon Awards, where Bong won best director.

Hollywood's Weinstein Company snapped up the distribution rights for several territories, including the U.S. And, living up to his notorious nickname, hard-charging studio exec Harvey "Scissorhands" Weinstein deemed it too complicated for American audiences and cut 20 minutes from the film. But the release in Thailand should not be affected, so hopefully we'll be seeing original uncut version. Rated 15+

Also opening

Frozen – Another Hans Christian Anderson tale is adapted for this latest "Disney princess" animated musical. Taking inspiration from "The Snow Queen", Frozen is about a sassy young princess (voiced by Kristen Bell) who sets off on an epic journey across an icy landscape alongside a rugged trader, his loyal reindeer and a comic-relief snowman (Josh Gad). She has to find her estranged sister (Idina Menzel), whose powers have trapped the kingdom in an eternal winter. Marking a first for the Walt Disney Studios, Frozen is co-directed by a woman, Jennifer Lee, who also wrote the screenplay. She previously worked on Wreck-It Ralph. Tipped as a likely Oscar nominee for best animated featrure, critical reception is generally positive. It's preceded by a new 1920s-style Mickey Mouse short, Get a Horse! It's directed by Lauren MacMullan (The Simpsons), marking the first time a woman has had solo directing credit on any Disney Animation movie. In 3D in some cinemas. Rated G

Like Father, Like Son – Happy Father's Day in Thailand, an annual observance that is also His Majesty the King's birthday. It seems an appropriate occasion to release this acclaimed movie about fatherhood by Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda. It's about a businessman (Masaharu Fukuyama) who learns his biological son was switched with another child at birth. So he must make a life-changing choice between his true son or the boy he raised as his own. Winner of the jury prize at Cannes Film Festival, critical reception is generally positive. It's at Apex Siam Square, House and SF cinemas. Rated G

Romeo and Juliet – This new adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragic romance is set in Verona of old but dispenses with the Bard’s dialogue, which is instead punched up by Downton Abbey scribe Julian Fellowes. Carlos Carlei (The Flight of the Innocent) directs. Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Ender's Game) is Juliet while her Romeo is played by Douglas Booth, a young actor who came to fame portraying Culture Club singer Boy George in the BBC made-for-TV movie Worried About the Boy. Other stars include Damian Lewis as Lord Capulet, Kodi Smit-McPhee as Benvolio Montague, Ed Westwick as Tybalt, Paul Giamatti as the friar and Lesley Manville as the nurse. Critical reception is mostly negative. Rated G

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon – Following 2010's successful launch of his Detective Dee Chinese historical fantasy franchise, veteran director Tsui Hark is back with this prequel, with Mark Chao as the rookie Dee Renjie, who takes a job on the Imperial Police Force. His first case is a doozie – fight a sea monster that is terrorizing the city each night. Carina Lau returns as Empress Wu with Feng Shaofeng as Dee's partner, the fire-haired Justice Department Chief Minister Yuchi. Angelababy, Lin Gengxin, and South Korea's Kim Bum also star. Critical reception is generally positive. It was especially praised for its vivid 3D, but unfortunately for the Thai release, it's 2D only. And is only Thai-dubbed. It's at SF cinemas. Rated G

R... Rajkumar – Here's more singing-and-dancing Indian gangsters. Shahid Kapoor is an aimless youth who works for a drug baron. He's ordered to rub out a rival dealer but gets sidetracked when he spots the beautiful, educated Chanda (Sonakshi Sinha). What Rajkumar doesn’t know is that Chanda is an orphan who was raised by the very man he's assigned to kill. At Major Cineplex. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – This week features movies about "bad lust" as an antidote to holiday cheer, with 1985's Dreamchild tonight – the "real story of 'Alice in Wonderland'". Tomorrow, it's a special program, Bi, Don't Be Afraid, an award-winner by Dang Di Phan. Dealing with the various anxieties of a six-year-old boy and his highly dysfunctional family, it was the first Vietnamese film selected for the Cannes Film Festival's Critics Week. But back home in Vietnam, it was cut by censors. Director Dang will be present to talk about his film and the current state of the industry in Vietnam. Saturday offers Damage, Louis Malle's drama about a member of parliament who risks everything for a forbidden love. Sunday's Christmas Classic  is The Shop Around the Corner, starring James Stewart. And next week gets into "troubled youth", starting on Wednesday with Lukas Moodysson's debut Show Me Love. 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. Also, there may be changes in the schedule, so please check the website.

Le chat du Rabbin (The Rabbi's Cat) – After several months of delays, it appears that the Alliance Francaise de Bangkok will finally resume its Wednesday night movies next week with The Rabbi's Cat, a delightful animation by Joann Sfar about a clever feline who eats a rabbi's pet parrot and then starts talking, telling mostly lies. The sprawling adventure tale, set in 1920s Algeria, is part of "Strange, fun and magic", an all-animation program every Wednesday this month. The Alliance in Bangkok is now in a new location in the former location of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar, opposite Lumpini Park on the corner of Rama IV and Wireless roads. The showtimes are changed as well, now at 7pm rather than 7.30 as before.

Also showing

House cinema on RCA will be closed from tomorrow in order to host talent-show audition. It will reopen on Monday, December 9.

Anti-government protests have again disrupted the routines of Bangkok residents, and last weekend most malls around Ratchprasong and Siam Square were closed, due to the whistleblowers rallying at the police headquarters. The Apex cinemas were still open when I caught a movie there on Sunday afternoon, but I've heard mixed reports on whether they remained open that night. After turning ugly over the weekend, the sides have supposedly agreed to a truce for a few days out of respect for HM the King's birthday. But there's no telling how long it will last. If you are headed out for a movie, check the news reports beforehand to steer clear of the tear-gas clouds, water cannons and rubber bullets. And call the cinema to confirm they are indeed open. Stay safe.