Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 31, 2013-January 7, 2015

Satree Lek Tob Loke Taek

Poj Anon, Thailand's leading maker of films featuring cross-dressing actors in bad wigs, offers his own take on the true story of the “iron ladies” – the transgender-queer volleyball team from Lampang that won a men's national championship in the 1990s, with Satree Lek Tob Loke Taek (สตรีเหล็กตบโลกแตก).

It is another version of story that is already a fine film, released in 2000, Satree Lek (The Iron Ladies). It was among the first in a new wave of Thai titles to make a splash internationally and was directed by Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, making his debut. He even made a sequel, and has since gone on to be one of the major players behind the hit-making Thai studio GTH.

Always the opportunist, Poj makes films that seem ripped from the headlines, and his volleyball movie has synergy with current affairs thanks to the women's national volleyball team winning a world championship this year. He drafted them for a cameo appearance in his film.

The remake has enlisted a few prominent male stars to don wigs and loud makeup, among them sought-after talent "Film" Rattapoom Toekongsap and bespectacled character actor Padung “Jazz Chuanchuen” Songsang. Ubiquitous little comedienne, actress and TV presenter "Tukky" Sudarat Butrprom is also featured, portraying the coach. Rated 15+

Also opening

Seventh Son – Jeff "the Dude" Bridges mumbles and chews his way through the scenery in this fantasy epic. He's Master Gregory, a knight of ancient times who tangles with a witch (an also-scenery-munching Julianne Moore) who he imprisoned ages ago but is now out for vengeance. The only way to defeat her is to train a new apprentice (Ben Barnes), the seventh son of a seventh son. Critics, so far, aren't falling for any of the tricks. Rated 13+

Tua Phor, Riak Phor (a.k.a. The One Ticket) – Local studio Sahamongkolfilm offers what it thinks New Year's viewers want to see – a crass comedy starring former boyband singer "Dan" Worawech Danuwong. He's a young slacker father who'd rather party with his friends than spend time with this daughter, and when he squanders the girl's savings, he's deprived her of a chance to see her favorite Japanese band. To put things right, dad has to do everything he can to get her that concert ticket. Rated 15+

Stand by Me Doraemon – One of Japan's longest-running and and most-popular franchises, Doraemon enters the computer-animation age with this first CG-animated entry. Based on the first seven volumes of the manga series, this is an origin tale, depicting how a robotic cat was sent from the future to teach and protect a bratty boy named Nobita. It's Thai-dubbed in most place, though SFW CentralWorld might have the original Japanese soundtrack. Rated G.

Also showing

  • German Open Air Cinema – After a break for the holidays, the weekly series resumes on Tuesday with Forget Me Not, a 2012 documentary by David Sieveking, in which he uncovers the past of his mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. The show is at 7.30pm at the Goethe Institut off Sathorn Soi 1.
  • Alliance Française – The year opens with 8 Fois Debout, a comedy about a young mother struggling to find work and support her son. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, January 7.

Take note

Happy new year! Because of the holiday, movies are released a day earlier than usual.

I had yet to see a January schedule from the Friese-Greene Club, so watch their Facebook page for updates.

As the year gets underway, there are a number of film events in the works. Among the highlights will be the Polish Film Festival from January 18 to 22 at SFW CentralWorld.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 25-30, 2014

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbors the Yamadas) returns with The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, his first feature animation in 14 years.

An elderly bamboo cutter discovers a tiny baby in the woods, and the man and his wife believe the rapidly growing girl is of divine origin. They prepare her for a life of nobility and move into a palace where she attracts many suitors. But happiness and true love do not come easy.

The closing entry of this year's World Film Festival of Bangkok, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya could very well be the second-to-last Studio Ghibli offering, following the retirement of studio co-founder Hayao Miyazaki and the release of his The Wind Rises. One more is in the works, When Marnie Was There by Arriety director Hiromasa Yonebayashi, and will likely be making the rounds next year.

Winning several awards at festivals worldwide, Princess Kaguya has been tipped as a possible nominee for the Academy Award for best animated feature. Critical reception is 100% positive, with much praise for the film's painterly, watercolor-like look.

It's in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at Apex in Siam Square and House on RCA. Rated G.

Also opening

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb – The action-comedy franchise bows out on a bittersweet note with the last appearance by Robin Williams as President Theodore Roosevelt. In this third entry in the series, museum security guard Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) discovers that the ancient magic that makes the Natural History Museum’s exhibitions come to life at night is dying out. To save his friends, Larry heads to the museum’s London branch in a search for answers. Rebel Wilson, Ricky Gervais, Steve Coogan, Owen Wilson and Dan Stevens also star. Critical reception is mixed. Rated G.

The Good Lie – A brash-but-well-meaning American woman (Reese Witherspoon) has much to learn when she is assigned to help with the resettlement of three Sudanese men – survivors of their country’s generation of “lost boys” war orphans of the 1980s. Critical reception is generally positive. Rated 15+

Rak Mod Kaew (รักหมดแก้ว, a.k.a. Love on the Rock) – Veteran singer-actress Marsha Wattanapanich heads the ensemble cast in this tale of fun-loving friends and romance. She's Ou, among a close-knit group of partiers who hang out at a pub. Among their pals are Baggio (Naprat Ratananit) and Fai-Liaw (Pilaiporn Supinchomphoo), a couple who are dating but have agreed not to commit. Ou, Man (Pongsak Rattanapong) and Bo (Pongkool Suebsueng) support the decision, but feelings start to change and all five find themselves at a crossroads. Released by studio M-Thirtynine. Saranyoo Jiralak (Last Summer, Secret Sunday) directs. Rated 18_

Game Plook Phi (เกมปลุกผี, a.k.a. Ghost Coins) – Ghostly revenge comes back a hundredfold after teen pranksters trap their friend in a graveyard and then steal a coin from the mouth of a corpse. Released by Five Star Production, the director is Tiwa Methaisong, a talented lensman who has previously directed a few other decent thrillers, particularly the controversial 2009 effort Meat Grinder. Rated 15+

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – A few more Christmas-themed movies will close out the year at the club. The bartender has the night off tonight, though refugees needing a place to celebrate may "BYOB". For Boxing Day tomorrow, it's the holiday romance-and-friendship classic Love Actually followed on Saturday with the cult-favorite neo-noir comedy Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang starring Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer. Sunday has An Affair to Remember, and the year's final entry on Tuesday is the epic sci-fi Children of Men. Check the club's Facebook page for updates into the New Year. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. There's just nine seats, so book them.

Sneak preview

Stand by Me Doraemon – One of Japan's longest-running and and most-popular franchises, Doraemon enters the computer-animation age with this first CG-animated entry. Based on the first seven volumes of the manga series, this is an origin tale, depicting how a robotic cat was sent from the future to teach and protect a bratty boy named Nobita. Thai-dubbed, it's in sneak previews from around 2pm at most multiplexes before opening in wide release next week. Rated G

Take note

Owing to the New Year's Eve holiday, movies will open next week on Wednesday, a day earlier than usual.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 18-24, 2014


The opening film of this year's World Film Festival of Bangkok, the documentary Somboon (ปู่สมบรูณ์, Poo Somboon), returns to the screens this week in a limited release at SF cinemas.

It follows the efforts of the title character, a remarkable elderly gentleman who devotes his life to the care of his chronically ailing wife of 45 years. The documentary is the debut feature of Krissada Tipchaimeta, a 28-year-old film school graduate.

In Bangkok, it's at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld and SF Cinema City at The Mall Bang Kapi. It's also at SF cinemas in Khon Kaen and Chiang Mai as well as the Dej Udom Theatre in Ubon Ratchathani. Rated G

Also opening

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Director Peter Jackson wraps up his bloated adaptation of JRR Tolkien's slim prequel novel to the Lord of the Rings. At first there are three armies – the dwarves, having reclaimed their mountain kingdom from the dragon Smaug, are beseiged by the woodland elves of Mirkwood and the men of Lake-Town. But then comes an attack by the forces of evil – orcs and wargs – forcing dwarves, elves and men into an alliance, held together by the supernatural forces commanded by Gandalf the wizard. Critical reception is mixed. It's in real 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX, and as with the previous two entries, there might be versions screening in 3D with the high-definition high frame rate, so look for the HFR logo at the box office if you're into that sort of thing. Rated G

Stonehearst Asylum – A young doctor (Jim Sturgess) is thrown into an unpredictable situation when he arrives for his internship at Stonehearst Asylum, where nothing is as it seems. He's at first mesmerized by a woman there (Kate Beckinsale) and drawn to the experiments of the asylum's superintendent (Ben Kingsley) until the truth about the place is revealed. Michael Caine and Brendan Gleeson also star. Brad Anderson (The Call, Transsiberian) directs. Also called Eliza Graves, and adapted from an Edgar Allen Poe short story, critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

The Possession of Michael King – "Found footage" recounts the ordeal of an atheist filmmaker who sets out to debunk the existence of God and the Devil after his wife dies after receiving poor advice from a psychic. Released straight-to-video in the U.S., critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+

P.K. — The arrival of a stranger with a child-like outlook on life causes those around him to rethink the way they see the world. Aamir Khan stars as as the innocent title character with Sanjay Dutt and Anushka Sharma among the other leads. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles Paragon, Embassy Diplomat Screens and Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – It's Christmas all month at the club, with a selection of movies that might not necessarily be about Christmas. Though some are. This week's titles are Billy Wilder's The Apartment tonight, Whit Stillman's Metropolitan tomorrow, the slasher Christmas Evil on Saturday and Meet Me in St. Louis on Sunday. Next Tuesday, don't shoot your eye out – it's the holiday classic A Christmas Story, followed on Wednesday's Christmas Eve with the now-traditional FGC screening of It's a Wonderful Life. The club's bar be closed on Christmas Day, but members and holiday refugees are invited to "BYOB" to celebrate. See the Facebook page for details. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. There's just nine seats, so book them.

Björk: Biophilia Live – Blurring the lines between film, music and art, the latest concert movie by the Icelandic avant-garde singer will be projected onto the front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre on Saturday night in an open-air screening. Supported by the Goethe-Institut, it's the closing entry of the Goethe's annual Science Film Festival. To get another of your senses working in this multimedia experience, Thai artist Pinaree Sanpitak will create an edible landscape art installation. The show starts at 8pm, but for those who want to find out more, there's something going on at 5.30pm on Saturday in the BACC's fifth-floor auditorium, with the screening of the behind-the-scenes documentary When Björk Met David Attenborough.

Alliance Française – An animated feature closes out the year's free French screenings. It's the French-Belgian-Irish produced Brendan et le Secret de Kells (The Secret of Kells), which was released in 2009 with an English soundtrack and was nominated for an Academy Award. The adventure tale is a ficitionalized account of the discovery of the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the Bible that is considered a national treasure in Ireland. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, December 24. Take note, there will be no free film program on New Year's Eve; programs resume at the Alliance on January 7.

Take note

I'm back after a two-week break. In my absence, a couple of noteworthy Thai films were released.

First, there's the slick commercial romantic comedy with the gibberish title I Fine ... Thank You ... Love You, about a boorish mechanic striking up a relationship with his English-language tutor. It reportedly crossed the benchmark 100-million-baht threshold at the box office in its first three days and holds second place for the best opening of a Thai film. The other is the indie drama W, about the struggles of a college freshman thrown into the deep end at a faculty that wasn't her first choice. The debut feature by Chonlasit Upagnit, it's at House on RCA.

And the Goethe-Institut's annual Open-Air Cinema Series has started, with screenings at 7.30pm on Tuesdays at the institute off Sathorn Soi 1. They're taking a break for Christmas and New Year's, so the series resumes on January 6 with Forget Me Not, and runs until February 17.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 26-December 3, 2014

The Master

Ask about Thai filmmaker or movie critic of a certain age how they managed to see classic world cinema works in the age before Pirate Bay, they will likely admit they got their fix from Mr. Van, Bangkok’s legendary bootleg movie vendor.

He’s the subject of The Master, a new documentary by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, which was supported this year by the Asian Project Market of the Busan International Film Festival.

Named after the Thai word for his trademark eyeglasses, it was Mr. Van who opened the eyes of countless Thais to subtitled cinema in the 1990s and early 2000s, before bittorrent trackers and streaming video became the main way to see pirated movies.

Much as he did with his acclaimed experimental romance 36, which evoked memories of 36-exposure rolls of camera film, Nawapol is again looking back on a form of outmoded media. In the case of The Master, Nawapol hits the rewind button to a time before Blu-ray, DVDs or even VCDs, to when we watched movies on videotape.

In a promotional image for the film, the Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy director holds up his prized VHS copy of Run Lola Run.

Other directors also pose with their Mr. Van artifacts. Pen-ek Ratanaruang prizes his copy of Akira Kurosawa’s 1951 adaptation of The Idiot while Bangjong Pisanthanakun holds tight to Happiness, a 1998 drama by Todd Solondz.

Banjong credits Van’s videos as a big influence, and without them, his hit 2004 thriller Shutter might not have turned out the same. “He is my coming of age,” Banjong says.

Others include directors Songyos Sugmakanan and Kongdej Jaturanrasmee, and film critics Kittisak Suwannapokin, Prawit Taengaksorn, Manotham Theamtheabrat, Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn and Wiwat “Filmsick” Lertwiwatwongsa. Concert promoter Yuthana “Pa Ted” Boonorm and radio hosts Pongnarin Ulice and Pornchai Wiriyapraphanon also share of their time in the cult of Mr. Van.

“He helped establish independent cinema,” film critic Kong Rithdee says of Mr. Van, who brought in movies that generally weren’t distributed in Thailand. Since then, the indie cinema movement has gained a foothold, and the types of edgy movies he stocked are now more commonplace in Bangkok cinemas.

“He didn’t get rich from his shop. He created his shop because of his love of cinema,” Nawapol points out in promotional materials for The Master. “A coin has two sides. Movie piracy is illegal. It devastates filmmakers and movie industry. Still, it is difficult to judge whether Mr Van was morally right or wrong. The movie aims to show piracy cycle and its effects, both bad and good.”

It's at House on RCA. Please note, that due to technical issues, there are no English subtitles.

Also opening

Saint Laurent – Bertrand Bonello directs this style-oozing biopic that chronicles the excesses and desires of the French fashion designer during the peak of his creativity from 1967 to 1976. Gaspard Ulliel stars as YSL with Jérémie Renier as his lover and business partner Pierre Bergé. Louis Garrel,  Léa Seydoux and Amira Casar also star. This is the second film this year to explore the life of Saint Laurent, but unlike the earlier one, called Yves Saint Laurent, this was made without the cooperation of the fashion house. Nonetheless, it's France's official submission to next year's Academy Awards. Critical reception is mixed. It's in French with English and Thai subtitles. Rated 18+

Horns – Hung over from a night of hard drinking, a young man (Daniel Radcliffe) wakes up to find devilish horns growing from his head. They give him the power to make people confess their sins, which comes in handy as he tries to solve the mystery of his girlfriend's rape and murder, a crime for which he's the chief suspect. Juno Temple and Max Minghela also star. Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, Haute Tension) directs. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+

Jessabelle – Returning to her childhood home to Louisiana to recuperate from a horrific car wreck, a young woman (Sarah Snook) faces a long-tormented spirit that has been waiting for her return and has no intention of letting her leave. Critical reception is mostly negative. Rated 13+

Phee Thuang Khuen (ผีทวงคืน a.k.a. The Return) – Director Sakchai Deenan, who's built his career on cross-border productions like the Thai-Lao romance Sabaidee Luang Prabang moves further afield with this multi-strand horror tale that takes place in four countries. Touted as the first Asean Economic Community film, it has stories from Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. In Bangkok, a Lao housemaid is murdered. But when her sister returns with her body to Vientiane, she discovers their mother is possessed. In Siem Reap, a Thai police officer accidentally kills a Myanmar worker while in Myanmar a woman is unable to reach her husband who is working in Thailand. In true AEC spirit, the cast comes from all four countries – Thai actor Sirachuch "Michael" Chienthaworn, Sakchai's regular actress, former Lao beauty queen Khamly Philavong, Cambodian TV host Thon Lakana and Nutchnat Srithong, from Shan State, Myanmar. With perhaps a few exceptions, the soundtrack appears to be in Thai only with no English subtitles. Rated 18+

1448 Rak Rao Khong Khrai (1448 รักเราของใคร , a.k.a. Love Among Us) – Popular indie film actress Apinya Sakuljaroensuk (Concrete Clouds, Fin Sugoi) is a young woman who is mistreated by her boyfriend and catches the eye of a lady photographer (Issabella Lete). She slowly starts to accept romantic moves from the woman, but the two face obstacles from their families, who refuse to accept the relationship. Rated 15+

Sanya Hang Khimhun (สัญญาแห่งคิมหันต์, a.k.a. Summer to Winter) – Two lonely young men meet on a beach and quickly become friends, but their relationship is put to the test as friendship turns to romance. It's at Major Cineplex. No English subtitles. Rated 15+

Sur-Real (เกมส์พลิก / โชคชะตาเล่นตลก / รักตาลปัตร, Game Plik/Chokchata Len Talok/ Rak Talapad) – Three bawdy tales are intertwined in this indie sex comedy. They involve a conflict between a police officer, a garage owner and a taxi driver that ends in murder, a heartbroken man who happens to witness the murder, and another man who has mixed feelings when his transgender college friend marries a Westerner. It's at Apex Siam Square, Esplanade Ratchada and Major Cineplex Ratchayothin and Chiang Mai Central Airport Plaza. Rated 20-

Happy Ending – Saif Ali Khan and Ileana D'Cruz star in this Bollywood comedy about writer who's lived the high life in Los Angeles for years after his hit novel. Out of money and fighting writer's block, he's tasked with writing a hit movie for a fading star (Govinda), so he looks to a popular new writer on the scene for inspiration and romance. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – November winds down with just two regular screenings left. Tonight, writer-director Lawrence Kasdan launches the career of Kathleen Turner with the hot, hot, hot Body Heat. Tomorrow and Saturday, there's a special event, the sneak preview of a new documentary, We Shot the Rock and Lived by the Roll, about classic rock photographers of the 1960s and '70s. On Sunday, it's the classic horror The Wolf Man starring Lon Chaney Jr. And it's Christmas all month in December, with a schedule filled with the type of Christmas movies you might not necessarily think of as Christmas movies, such as, for starters, Brazil, Gremlins, American Psycho, Lady in the Lake, In Bruges and The Hudsucker Proxy. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. There's just nine seats, so book them. Also, check the Facebook page for updates and program changes.

Alliance Française – Animation is featured this month, beginning with 2012's Le jour des corneilles (The Day of the Crows), a fantasy about a boy raised by an ogre of a father who prohibits the wild child from leaving their forest home. But after his father is injured in a fall, the boy ventures into the outside world. He encounters a village where he seeks help from a doctor and is drawn to the doc's young daughter. Jean Reno, Claude Chabrol and Isabelle Carré are among the voice cast. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, December 3. Take note, there will be no free film program on December 10; after that, the next show will be A Cat in Paris on December 17.

Films for His Majesty the King – With His Majesty the King's 87th birthday on December 5, there are many special film programs planned. Chief among them are free screenings of The Story of Mahajanaka, a Buddhist-inspired adventure tale written by His Majesty and released as an illustrated storybook and comic series. Virtually all of the Thai industry's animation studios have been at work to make the epic story into a cartoon feature. It'll screen for free at various Major Cineplex branches from this Saturday until December 6 and will also be shown on TV. For further details, please see the article in The Nation. Another project is by the Thai Phueng Thai Foundation of former politician Sudarat Keyuraphan, which supported the making of 10 short films about the King's virtues and duties. They include Baan Khong Boonmen directed by Attapporn Theemakron and starring Hong Kong movie actor Simon Yam. There is also the Thai Niyom project, initiated by junta leader Prayut Chan-o-cha. With support by the Thai Film Director Association, it has 12 shorts by young helmers who aim to promote the military government's campaign to teach 12 core moral values to Thai youngsters. Both short-film packages will screen for free at various Major Cineplex branches on December 6 and will also be on TV. However, I have no information about how to obtain tickets.

Sneak previews

Big Hero 6 – Riding high on the success of Frozen, Walt Disney Animation Studios offers this likely strong contender for the best animated feature Oscar. Adapted from a Marvel comic – a first for Disney since taking over Marvel – the story focuses on teen robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, who forms a bond with Baymax, an inflatable personal care robot. Hiro transforms the awkward and bulky robot into a superhero who forms the core of a new team of crimefighters in futuristic San Fransokyo. Critical reception is overwhelmingly positive. It's in sneak previews with a couple rounds of shows from around 2pm daily at most places. It opens wide on December 4.

Finding Vivian Maier – For decades, a Chicago woman who worked as a nanny led a secret life as a street photographer, capturing more than 100,000 images in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. Her treasure trove of work was uncovered by chance when three collectors bought some boxes of photos at an auction. Their effort to find out more about the incredible person who took them led them to folks who were cared for by Maier in their youth. Directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel, the documentary covers how Maloof discovered her work and, after her death, uncovered her life. Part of a new series at SF Cinemas called Doc Holiday, it's in sneak previews on Saturday ahead of more shows from December 5 to 7 and December 12 to 14.

Take note

I'm taking a break, so no new updates here until December 18.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 20-26, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Picking up from last year's entry in the franchise, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 follows heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) as she escapes from the Quarter Quell death-game only to return home to District 12 and find it utterly destroyed.

She then moves on to District 13, where she agrees to be the figurehead of a rebellion against the Capitol. However, difficulties arise when she discovers her longtime guy pal Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) has been taken prisoner and is being used as a tool against the rebellion.

Julianne Moore joins the cast this time around, portraying President Alma Coin, the leader of insurgent District 13.

Returnees include Donald Sutherland as Panem's President Snow and Woody Harrelson as Katniss' mentor Haymitch. And Philip Seymour Hoffman puts in one of his last filmed appearances before he died in February, reprising his role from last year's Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Critical reception is crazily positive. But keep in mind, this is only a placeholder for the big finale, Mockingjay Part 2, which doesn't come out until a year from now.

And something else to watch out for – in Thailand, the Hunger Games films are controversial because the three-fingered salute used by the rebels has been adopted by anti-coup protesters. On Wednesday, students used the salute to protest a visit by coup leader and prime minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha. And, having had business disrupted in the past by political protests, Apex cinemas has decided to not show the film, so no Hunger Games at Lido or Scala. Rated 15+

Also opening

Magic in the Moonlight – Woody Allen directs this comedy, set in the 1920s' French Riviera, about a curmudgeonly English magician (Colin Firth) who performs as a Chinese conjurer. He’s asked by a friend to expose a young woman (Emma Stone) who claims to be a spirit medium but her wealthy clients are convinced she’s a hoax. Simon McBurney, Jacki Weaver, Hamish Linklater and Marcia Gay Harden also star. Critical reception is mixed, with the consensus being this is minor Woody. Rated G

Bittersweet Chocolate – The description I was given for this doesn't match the gross poster. But maybe that'll make folks curious. Oompon Kitikamara directs this indie thriller about a mother who surprises her son with a birthday treat – an ultra-dark and bittersweet chocolate cake. Its mysterious taste makes strange things happen. It's at House on RCA.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Lawrence Kasdan gives the '90s generation their own "big chill" with Grand Canyon, tonight. Tomorrow, there's Jack Nicholson in one of his most unhinged performances in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Saturday is another classic Johnny Depp performance, portraying the legendary maker of some of the worst movies ever in Tim Burton's Ed Wood – probably the best movie Burton has ever made. Bring your mother on Sunday for the black-and-white horror classic Psycho. And next Wednesday is a special event – join the club if you want to find out what. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. There's just nine seats, so book them. Also, check the Facebook page for updates and program changes.

Alliance Française – France during World War I has been the theme of this month's screenings. Next week's offering is the 2005 made-for-TV documentary Premier Noel Dans Les Tranchées (First Christmas in the Trenches), which covers the Christmas truce of 1914, when troops on all sides of the bloody trench war laid down their arms for the holiday and celebrated together. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, November 26.

Take note

Apologies for neglecting to mention the Spanish Film Festival that was held last weekend at SF World Cinema. For some reason, word of it did not reach me. I aim to keep track of such events, but this one slipped through the cracks. Again, sorry.

It's a light week for new openings this week as multiplexes clear the decks for The Hunger Games. But the next two weeks will be busy, with bunches of movies opening – big tentpoles like Ridley Scott's Exodus and Disney's Big Hero 6 among them – plus His Majesty the King's birthday coming up on December 5. There is talk of several special screenings in honor of the King, so I hope to hear more about those beforehand.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 13-19, 2014

Vengeance of the Assassin

Acclaimed action director and choreographer Panna Rittikrai passed away on July 20, 2014 at age 53 and was best known for his work as a stunt coordinator on Ong-Bak and other movies starring his protege Tony Jaa.

But Panna was also a fine director in his own right, and his last film was Vengeance of the Assassin (Rew Talu Rew, เร็วทะลุเร็ว), which was actually completed a year or two ago and for some reason kept hidden away in the vaults at Sahamongkol Film International. Until now.

The story reunites Panna with two of his other discoveries besides Tony Jaa – actor "Diew" Chupong Changprung and actress "Nui" Kessarin Ektawatkul – action stars who made their debut in 2004 with Panna's big-studio directorial comeback Born to Fight, an insanely fun flick involving a bunch of national athletes battling a Burmese drug lord in a remote border village.

In Rew Talu Rew, Diew Chupong is a vengeance-seeking young man who gets involved with a group of professional assassins. He saves the life of a young woman he may have been hired to kill, and is then framed for kidnapping. He's then forced to work with his estranged brother (Nantawut Boonrabsab) to find who is out to get him.

An English-subtitled trailer offers a glimpse at Panna's flashy martial-arts moves and trademark dangerous stunts – guys are falling from a train and getting painfully banged around. If you're into action movies and martial arts, it's one not to be missed. Rated 18+

Also opening

The Hundred-Foot Journey – After a week of sneak previews, this cloying bit of harmless fluff from director Lasse Hallstrom and producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey moves to a wider release. Helen Mirren stars as a snooty Frenchwoman who runs a Michelin-starred traditional French restaurant in a French village. The refined air is shaken up by the arrival of an Indian family, whose patriarch (Om Puri) opens an Indian curry palace right across the road from Madame Mallory's place. While those two lock horns, the Indian restaurant's talented young chef (Manish Dayal) finds himself attracted to the lady sous chef (Charlotte Le Bon ) at the rival eatery. Critical reception is mixed. Rated G

Before I Go to Sleep – Nicole Kidman is going crazy! She wakes up every day with no memory as the result of a traumatic accident. But terrifying truths begin to emerge that make her question everything she thinks she knows about her life. Colin Firth and Mark Strong also star. Rowan Joffe (Brighton Rock) directs. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

Ouija – Yet another board game makes the leap to the big screen. In Ouija, which like Battleship, G.I. Joe and Transformers, is based on a Hasbro product, friends use the spirit board to search for clues into the death of one of their own, who died while playing the game alone. Don't do that. Critical reception is overwhelmingly poor. Rated 15+

The Pact II – A young woman (Camilla Luddington) plagued by nightmares is given some unsettling news by a FBI special agent (Patrick Fischler) – there's a copycat of these deceased Judas Killer and she's his next target. Critical reception is generally poor. Rated 15+

Kill Dil – A loose rip-off in the name and style of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, this Bollywood action-comedy-romance has two roaming killers (Ranveer Singh and Ali Zafar) coming into conflict over a free-spirited young woman (Parineeti Chopa). It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya.

Also showing

25 Years of Freedom: The Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Transformation of Central Europe – The embassy of Germany, with cooperation from Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, is mounting an exhibition and film series at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, marking a quarter century since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Opening yesterday – 25 years to the day that the first openings in the wall appeared – the exhibition runs until November 23. The film schedule got underway yesterday with the comedy Good Bye, Lenin! Apologies. I didn't hear about this event until now. Tonight, it's the Oscar-winning thriller The Lives of Others, about a East German secret police officer who is conflicted about his work at a covert listening post. Tomorrow is the 1964 East German classic, Divided Heaven, about a couple struggling to stay together as the wall comes up. The shows are at 6pm and are in German with English subtitles. Entry is free.

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, a fall down some stairs sends a travel writer n a different direction. It's The Accidental Tourist, starring William Hurt, Kathleen Turner and Geena Davis, part of a monthlong look at the films of Lawrence Kasdan. Halloween continues on Fridays this month with the king of the creepy-kid movies, 1976's Satanic-possession tale The Omen. Saturday, it's one of Johnny Depp's finest performances. He's gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson in Terry Gilliam's wonderfully demented Fear and Loathing and Las Vegas. And on Sunday it's more black-and-white horror classics with 1931's Frankenstein. Next Wednesday, it's "animation for adults" with Waltz With Bashir, which covers the 1982 Lebanon War in epic style and is perhaps the only animated feature documentary ever made. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. There's just nine seats, so book them. Also, check the Facebook page for updates and program changes.
Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – The 2014 edition of the FCCT's Contemporary World Film Series comes to a close with one of last year's most-acclaimed Thai films, Tang Wong (ตั้งวง), a teen coming-of-age drama and social satire. Directed by Kongdej Jaturanrasmee (whose So Be It was recently in cinemas), the story centers on four boys living in a Bangkok housing block who each make a vow to a spirit-house shrine in hopes of achieving success in their various endeavors. To honor the vow, they must learn a traditional Thai dance, which none of them knows much about. So they hire a neighbor, a transgender dancer at the Erawan shrine, to teach them. Much acclaimed at festival appearances worldwide, Tang Wong swept up most of Thailand's major film awards this year. The screening is at 7pm on Monday, November 17 at the FCCT. Producer Soros Sukhum will be present to talk about the film and answer questions. Admission for non-members is 150 baht plus 100 baht more for anyone wanting to drink Thai wine.

ExpatZ – A short film made in Thailand that has been winning awards at fests worldwide makes its Bangkok premiere next week at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. Directed by Jimmie Wing, ExpatZ is a psychedelic horror-comedy mash-up set in the totally fictional country of Wighland. There, a foreign TV journalist encounters all sorts of colorful characters as he tracks down a rogue retired American military officer. It recently picked up the grand prize for best short film at the Urban Nomad Film Festival in Taiwan, which praised the film for its "humorous and visually alluring style." The screening is set for Wednesday, November 19, at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. The event starts at 6pm with hamburgers, followed by the film at 7pm. Wing will talk and answer questions later, along with co-leads Soontorn Meesri and Lex Luther. Kamonrat Ladseeta, who plays Madame Quoits, the wife of Commander Quoits (Darren Potter), will also field questions.

Alliance Française – France during World War I has been the theme of this month's screenings. Next week's movie is the 1962 classic Jules et Jim, François Truffaut's tragic romance about the love triangle between Bohemian friends – Frenchman Jim (Henri Serre), shy Austrian Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jules' girlfriend and later wife Catherine (Jeanne Moreau). It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, November 19.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 6-12, 2014


Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan heads into space with Interstellar, an epic sci-fi thriller that's already being compared to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It's a time not far into the future, and Earth is dying. So NASA mounts a last-ditch mission, sending four astronauts through a wormhore to the far reaches of the galaxy in the hope they'll find a planet that'll sustain life.

Matthew McConaughy stars as the cowboy-philosopher pilot of the spacecraft. Still in the midst of his "McConaissance", he's still hot from his Oscar win for last year's Dallas Buyers Club as well as his work on HBO's True Detective.

Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway also star along with Nolan regular Michael Caine.

Critical reception is mixed. "Close encounters of the lame kind," was one such naysaying review.

But it's still a spectacle. Much of the film  – yes, film – was shot in the IMAX format, and the only cinema in Bangkok that is capable of showing that version in the proper aspect ratio is the IMAX at Paragon, with Interstellar: The IMAX Experience. Rated G

Also opening

Love, Rosie – Sam Claflin and Lily Collins star in this romantic comedy about lifelong best friends who are secretly in love with each other. Critical reception is mixed. This moves to a regular release after two weeks of sneak previews. Rated 15+

Namo OK (นะโม OK) – Life in a small town turns interesting with a new arrival – a westerner monk (Adam Zima) with amnesia. As he takes up work at the temple and tries to regain his memories, residents speculate about who he really is. Thitipong Chaisati directs this comedy for Phranakorn Film. Rated 15+

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends – This is a finale to an epic blockbuster live-action trilogy adaptation of a popular manga about a wandering former samurai who has taken a vow to never kill again. The movies have been dominating the box office in Japan. In part three, Kenshin (Takeru Sato) trains with his old master to learn his final technique so that he will be ready to confront his arch-nemesis and former counterpart Shishiro (Tatsuya Fujiwara). Japanese soundtrack with English and Thai subtitles is at SF cinemas at CentralWorld and Terminal 21; it's Thai-dubbed elsewhere. Rated 15+

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – The films of director Lawrence Kasdan are featured on Thursdays this month, starting tonight with the classic Baby Boomer drama The Big Chill. Still in the Halloween spirit, Fridays feature scary movies, beginning with Roman Polanski's 1968 freak-out, Rosemary's Baby. Great performances by Johnny Depp are screening on Saturdays. This week's offering is Dead Man, the wonderfully deadpan neo-western by Jim Jarmusch. Sundays have more horror, in black and white. This week has plenty of creepy kids in 1960's Village of the Damned. Wednesdays offer "animation for adults", with Disney's animated epic Fantasia screening next week. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. There's just nine seats, so book them. Also, check the Facebook page for updates and program changes.

Y/Our Music – The unusual documentary Y/Our Music attracted positive buzz when it screened at the Busan International Film Festival this year, and it's set for a Bangkok screening this Saturday. The venue, also a bit unsual, is The Space Bangkok, above the 7-Eleven at Klong San Plaza, next to Hilton Millenium Bangkok. Should be ferries and hotel boats that cross the river to take you there. It runs from 7 to 11.45pm. A "laid back" evening is promised, with Isaan music to follow by Mahidolwatit khaen band. Directed by David Reeve and Waraluck Hiransrettawat, the documentary covers a diverse array of musicians all around Thailand, from "leftfield to rice field". With post-production funds from the Busan fest's Asian Network of Documentary and the Asian Cinema Fund, the film was made on a shoestring budget, with begged and borrowed equipment. Check out the trailer.

Alliance Française – Next week's movie is Les Combattants Africains, a 1983 documentary about the Africans from French territories who were drafted to fight in World War I. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, November 12.

Sneak preview

The Hundred-Foot Journey – It's star-crossed romance in a tiny French village where two restaurants, right across the road from each other, are in fierce competition. Helen Mirren is a snooty lady who runs one place, serving Michelin-starred French cuisine. An older Indian fellow (Om Puri) is a new arrival in the village, and he shakes things up with his Indian food. Meanwhile, the Indian restaurant's star chef (Manish Dayal) is attracted to the young Frenchwoman who is cooking over at the other place. Lasse Hallstrom, the master of syrupy arthouse romances like this, directs. Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey are among the producers. It's in sneak previews from around 8 nightly in most cinemas before opening wider next Thursday. Rated G

Take note

Originally set to run just one week, the documentary So Be It has been extended at House on RCA. It's worth a look, so see it.

It appears the Scala is being used for some kind of concert or stage production again this weekend, so no movies there through Sunday.