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.