Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 30, 2015-January 6, 2016

The Peanuts Movie

To close out 2015, some movies are coming out a day earlier on the eve of New Year's Eve, while others are being released as usual on Thursday, which is New Year's Eve. And some new movies are actually already playing, having made their bows in sneak previews last week.

I'll start with one of tomorrow's openings, The Peanuts Movie, which is adapted from the beloved newspaper-comic strip that spawned a merchandising empire as well as a string of successful animated holiday TV specials and theatrical features.

This new 3D computer-animated outing for the characters created by Charles M. Schulz offers Peanuts fans many familiar sights, such as Snoopy flying his doghouse against the Red Baron and Charlie Brown getting tangled up in a tree when he tries to fly a kite. The story also re-introduces Brown's perennial love interest, the mysterious "little red-haired girl", who is new in town and is thus clueless about how big a blockhead Charlie Brown can be.

The Peanuts Movie is put together by Blue Sky Studios, the same outfit that did such films as Robots, Ice Age and Rio. Critical reception has been generally positive, with the consensus being they got this one right. Perhaps it helped that Schulz' son and grandson were directly involved in the production, along with Paul Feig, a trusted comedy brand. It's even being mentioned as a possible Oscar nominee. Supposedly, the release includes a supporting short cartoon, Cosmic Scrat-tastrophe, featuring Scrat the sabretooth squirrel from Ice Age. Rated G

Also opening

Snap (แค่..ได้คิดถึง, Kae .. Dai Kit Tung) – Writer-director Kongdej Jaturanrasmee sharply observes contemporary Thai society with this romantic comedy-drama, which premiered in competition at the Tokyo International Film Festival. Set just as the military declares martial law, the story follows a young woman who is about to be married to a military officer. She returns to her provincial-capital hometown of Chanthaburi for a wedding of high-school friends and becomes nostalgic as she reconnects with her old boyfriend, who is the wedding photographer. You can read more about the film in an article in The Nation. There's also a review in the newspaper. This opened last Thursday in sneak preview and moves to a wider release tomorrow. Rated 15+

Pantai Norasingh (พันท้ายนรสิงห์) – As the story goes, Pantai Norasingh was an oarsman on the royal barge of a king during the Ayutthaya Period. One day, while steering in a fierce river current, Norasingh lost control and the boat slammed into a tree, breaking the bow. The penalty for damaging the king's barge and endangering the life of the monarch was death. No ifs, ands or buts. The king, witnessing that the barge crash was obviously an accident and not wanting to kill one of his best, most loyal men, objected to the death penalty. However, the dutiful oarsman insisted that no exception be made, otherwise, he feared, public respect for the law and the crown would be undermined. Veteran director MC Chatrichalerm Yukol presents this story as the latest in his long line of historical epics on Ayutthaya Period royals, which started in 2003 with Suriyothai and continued with the recently wrapped-up six-part Legend of King Naresuan series. According to Soopsip in The Nation, Chatrichalerm had originally intended Pantai Norasingh to be broadcast on television, but when he and the station could not agree on the best time to show the series, he took it back and re-edited it into the feature we now have before us. Opens today. Rateed G

About Ray – Teenage Ray (Elle Fanning) has made the decision to transition from female to male, against the objections of his mother (Naomi Watts), with the support of his lesbian grandmother (Susan Sarandon) and in the absence of his father (Tate Donovan). Critical reception is mixed. Opens today. Rated G

Daddy's Home – Will Ferrell reteams with his Other Guys comedy pal Mark Wahlberg for this family romp about a mild-mannered radio executive (Ferrell) who is struggling to bond with his new wife's two children. Complications ensue when their drifter father (Wahlberg) turns up, kicking off a war of one-upmanship as the two men compete for the kids' affections. Critical reception is mixed, placing Daddy's Home somewhere in the middle of the canon of Ferrell's comedies. This opened in sneak previews last Thursday and moves to a wider release tomorrow. Rated G

Barcelona Christmas Night – Christmas may be over and done with, but here's one more movie to keep the yuletide spirit going through New Year's. Multiple love stories unfold in this fluffy Spanish comedy-drama. One man is trying to win back his ex while another leaves his family to follow a woman. Meanwhile, a grandmother has a secret she's dying to tell her family, and a moody grandfather meets a Frenchman who reminds him of his first love. Opens today. Rated 15+

Also showing

German Open Air Cinema – Returning after a two-week holiday break, the series resumes next Tuesday night with Jack, a hard-hitting drama about a 10-year-old boy who goes looking for his mother after she fails to turn up to collect him after school. A nominee for the Golden Bear at this year's Berlin International Film Festival, it's directed by Edward Berger, who co-wrote the screenplay with Nele Mueller-Stöfen. The show is at 7.30pm on Tuesday, January 5, outdoors at the Goethe-Institut on Sathorn Soi 1.

Alliance Française – Female-centered films form the bulk of the free French film schedule for January, starting with Les Gazelles, a comedy about five thirtysomething women who are experiencing various problems in their relationships with men. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, January 6, at the Alliance.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 24-30, 2015


Iris Apfel, the quick-witted, flamboyantly dressed 94-year-old style maven of the New York fashion scene, is profiled in Iris.

It is directed by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, himself a legend for his contributions to the "Direct Cinema" movement with Salesman and Gimme Shelter in the 1960s and '70s. He died last March at age 88, but not before his cameras recorded Apfel reflecting on her glamour-filled life and humble middle-class upbringing during the Depression.

Critical reception is mostly positive. This is another release from the Documentary Club, which closes out a strong first year bringing documentaries to mainstream Thai movie-goers. Stay tuned for more new documentary releases in 2016. It's at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld and SFX Maya Chiang Mai. For details, check

Also opening

Goosebumps – A boy is upset about his family’s move from the big city to a small town until he meets his neighbor, an attractive teenage girl, whose father happens to be the mysterious RL Stine (Jack Black), the author of the best-selling “Goosebumps” horror novels. When the monsters from those fantastic tales are accidentally unleashed, it’s up to Stine and the youngsters to return the beasts back to the books where they belong. Rob Letterman (Gulliver's Travels, Monsters vs. Aliens, Shark Tale) directs. Critical reception is generally positive. Rated G

Love the Coopers – Four generations of a wildly dysfunctional family rediscover the importance of kinship as they gather for the holidays. John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Ed Helms, Olivia Wilde, Amanda Seyfried, June Squibb and Alan Arkin are among the huge ensemble cast in this comedy. Jessie Nelson, the writer of Stepmom, I Am Sam and Fred Claus, directs. Critics view this as a lump of coal in their Christmas stockings. Rated 15+

The Boy and the Beast – A lost boy in Tokyo falls into an alternate universe where he’s raised by bear-man, who acts as the boy’s spirit guide and trains him in martial arts. Mamoru Hosoda (Summer Wars, Wolf Children) directs. Critical reception has been favorable, and there's even talk of The Boy and the Beast being among Oscar nominees for Best Animated Feature. It's in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles. Rated G

Kyushu the Movie – Musicians Worawech “Dan” Danuwong and Pongjak “Aeh” Pitthanaporn star in this road-trip comedy about the Thai singing duo SanQ on a busking tour of Kyushu Island, Japan. They have 30 days to survive with no money; their only currency is 999 CDs of their songs, which they can sell or trade. At SF cinemas.

Bajirao Mastani – Romance develops between the fierce Maratha warrior Bajirao I and a plucky Rajput princess in this historical romance starring Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone. This was originally scheduled for release last Friday, but was swapped at the last minute with Dilwale, which was supposed to come out here this week. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Paragon and Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, for Christmas Eve, it's Joe Dante's cinematic gift to the world, Gremlins, followed by the traditional Christmas Day screening of It's a Wonderful Life. There's more colorful cheer with the traditional Boxing Day screening of The Wizard of Oz on Saturday and The Bishop's Wife on Sunday. And there's one more movie for the year next Wednesday with a final "cool Britannia" entry, Jonathan Glazer's British gangster comedy Sexy Beast. The club then takes a break for the New Year. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the under-renovation Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. For more details, check the club's Facebook page.

Sneak previews

Snap (แค่..ได้คิดถึง, Kae .. Dai Kit Tung) – Writer-director Kongdej Jaturanrasmee sharply observes contemporary Thai society with this romantic comedy-drama, which premiered in competition at the Tokyo International Film Festival. Set just as the military declares martial law, the story follows a young woman who is about to be married to a military officer. She returns to her provincial-capital hometown of Chanthaburi for a wedding of high-school friends and becomes nostalgic as she reconnects with her old boyfriend, who is the wedding photographer. You can read more about the film in an article in The Nation. There's also a review in the newspaper. It's in sneak previews from around 8 nightly at the Apex cinemas in Siam Square and most other multiplexes, then moves to a wider release next week. Rated 15+

Daddy's Home – Will Ferrell reteams with his Other Guys comedy pal Mark Wahlberg for this family romp about a mild-mannered radio executive (Ferrell) who is struggling to bond with his new wife's two children. Complications ensue when their drifter father (Wahlberg) turns up, kicking off a war of one-upmanship as the two men compete for the kids' affections. Critical reception is mixed, placing Daddy's Home somewhere in the middle of the canon of Ferrell's comedies. It's in sneak previews from around 8 nightly before a wider release on New Year's Eve. Rated G

Take note

There is no German Open Air Cinema nor free screenings at the Alliance Française to report this week. Both are on holiday break and will return after the New Year.

And looking ahead to the New Year, the Japan Foundation has announced the dates and line-up for the Japanese Film Festival. Under the theme "Shapes of Love", the fest will screen contemporary romance films from February 11 to 14 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 17-23, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

"Just let it in."

The continuing saga of faith continues with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the much-anticipated reboot of George Lucas' science-fiction phenomenon.

Even the grizzled scoundrel Han Solo, a once-cocky pilot and disbeliever in the Force, has changed his tune. "It's true. All of it," he tells the youngsters. "The Dark Side. The Jedi. They are real."

Rebooted by Disney, which bought Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4.06 billion, the Star Wars universe is reimagined by writer-director J.J. Abrams along with Empire Strikes Back screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3, Hunger Games).

No spoilers here.

The story, as far as I can make out, is set 30 years after Return of the Jedi, and introduces new characters, including a loner young scavenger woman (Daisy Ridley) and an ex-stormtrooper (John Boyega) who cross paths with figures from the original 1970s and '80s trilogy. They include Harrison Ford as Solo, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Carrie Fisher as Leia. They'll clash with a new host of villains, including the fearsome Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

Thailand is one of the first places in the universe to get this new film, but it's worth noting, as the Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee did, that it took years for the original Star Wars trilogy to finally screen in local cinemas.

Early reviews are positive. More reviews to come. Rated G

Also opening

The Guitar King – Thai rock and blues musician Lam Morrison is profiled in this TrueVisions-produced documentary by director Passakorn Pramunwong. Lam, 72, is followed as he performs at his Hot Tuna Pub in Pattaya and revisits Norway and Germany, where he performed in his rock 'n' roll heydays. Passakorn, a founder of A Day magazine, previously collaborated with filmmaker Pen-ek Ratanaruang on the documentaries Total Bangkok and Paradoxocracy. There's more about the movie in a Bangkok Post article. It's at Eastville, Esplanade Ratchada, Major Ratchayothin, Mega, Paragon and Quartier CineArt. Rated 18+

Irrational Man – A womanizing alcoholic philosophy professor (Joaquin Phoenix) is coaxed through an existential crisis with help from a much-younger woman (Emma Stone), who is one of his students. Woody Allen writes and directs. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to negative. Rated 18+

Fathers and Daughters – Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried star in this tear-jerking melodrama about an award-winning author who suffers a mental breakdown while coping with being a widowed single dad raising a little girl. Years later, as an adult, the girl has issues. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to negative. Rated 13+

Dilwale – Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol are star-crossed lovers trying to overcome a violent conflict between their familes in this action-comedy. Varun Dhawan and Kriti Sanon are also featured. In Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Paragon and Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, in honor of Kirk Douglas' 99th birthday last Wednesday, it's another one of Woody Allen's favorite films, the World War I drama Paths of Glory by Stanley Kubrick. Tomorrow, it's the restored classic Tras El Cristal (The Glass Cage), about a pedophile Nazi mad scientist who is confined to an iron lung and is looked after by one of his former victims. The club's Christmas Party is on Saturday, and though there's no film that night, there is plenty of Christmas cheer in Sunday's Miracle on 34th Street. And next Wednesday has 1982's Made in Britain, featuring Tim Roth in his debut performance as a teen racist thug. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the under-renovation Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. For more details, check the club's Facebook page.

Alliance Française – John Malkovich is the Duke of Wellington, scheming to lure French troops into a trap in the historical drama Les Linhas de Wellington at 7pm on Wednesday, December 23, at the Alliance.

Take note

There's no German Open Air Cinema for the next couple of weeks, owing to the Christmas and New Year's holidays. The outdoor movies resume on January 5 at the Goethe.

On hiatus for the past year or so, the 9FilmFest has returned and is seeking entries for an online contest set for next year. The idea is to make original short films of nine minutes in length and include a unique "signature item". In this case, the "9SI" is "flower". For more details, check the festival website or Facebook page.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 10-16, 2015


Three dysfunctional relationships rock back and forth between Asians in three cities in Sway, the debut feature by Thai-American writer-director Rooth Tang.

The drama was put together over the course of several years by Rooth, who graduated in film studies from the University of California, Irvine, and has taken part in industry initiatives, such as HBO's Project Greenlight.

For what would become his first feature, Rooth began with Bangkok scenes that were shot in 2010 with Thai stars Ananda Everingham and Sajee Apiwong. He's a well-travelled dreamer who seduces a Bangkok office worker, who then gets pregnant, but she is afraid to say anything.

In Los Angeles, the Caucasian-American second wife (Kris Wood-Bell) of a widowed Japanese-American businessman (Kazuhiko Nishimura) is having insecurity issues, along with problems with her husband's teenage daughter.

And in Paris, a drifter Chinese-American translator (Matt Wu) ponders his next move while renewing a relationship with his girlfriend (Lu Huang), a former Hong Kong TV star who is struggling to make it as a serious journalist. Meanwhile, the young man's parents are on the verge of divorce, giving him doubts about the future of his own relationship.

Sway made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, and has also screened in Taipei's Golden Horse fest, last year's Singapore International and this year's Shanghai fest.

Critical reception has been fair so far, and I've got my own review.

It's in limited release at Esplanade Ratchada, House, Major Cineplex Ratchayothin and SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Rated 18+

Also opening

Point Break – Kathryn Bigelow's cult-classic 1991 action drama is remade for the new extreme-sport generation, with Luke Bracy in Keanu Reeves' role as FBI agent Johnny Utah, who goes undercover in a gang of thrill-seeking surfers who are committing a series of high-stakes heists. Edgar Ramirez steps into Patrick Swayze's role as the philosophical Bodhi. Kurt Wimmer (Ultraviolet, Equilibrium) provides the script, which delves more into the spirituality, mythology and motivations of Bodhi and his gang. And Ericson Core, helming his second feature after the fight flick Invincible, pulls double duty in the director's chair and behind the lens. Critical reception is just starting to form. Rated 15+

Veteran – Here's a slickly made police drama from South Korea, in which a lone maverick detective goes after a corrupt young business executive. It's the same cop story that's been told many cop times, but is still "crackerjack entertainment", according to Film Business Asia. It has Thai and English subtitles at select Major Cineplex branches.

The Nightmare – Billed as a "documentary-horror", The Nightmare deals with the supposed phenomenon of "sleep paralysis", a condition in which sufferers are fully conscious and aware of their surroundings but are unable to move. The additionally suffer from disturbing visions of ghosts or demons. Or so the stories say. Critical reception has been generally positive. Rated 15+

The New Adventures of Aladdin – Two friends take jobs as Santas in a bid to rob a department store but then become storytellers for children. They take a page from "One Thousand and One Nights" and then become characters from those stories as they head off on an adventure. Starring comedian Kev Adams, it's a mainstream French comedy and looks quite a bit like mainstream Thai TV comedies. The Hollywood Reporter sums up "make a wish you don't see it".Seems it is Thai-dubbed only.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Another favorite movie of Woody Allen's, François Truffaut's childhood drama The 400 Blows, screens tonight. Tomorrow, there's more youthful drama in Larry Clark's edgy Ken Park. Saturday's restored classic is 1969's The Color of Pomegrantes, which was dusted off in observance of the 100th anniversary of Armenian genocide in Turkey. And on Sunday, Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan spread Christmas cheer in The Shop Around the Corner. Next Wednesday, it's one of my favorite movies, Michael Winterbottom's entertaining and endlessly quotable 24 Hour Party People, covering the rise and fall of music impresario Tony Wilson, Factory Records and the Manchester music scene. Steve Coogan's character explains: "I don't want to say too much, don't want to spoil it. I'll just say one word: 'Icarus'. If you get it, great. If you don't, that's fine too. But you should probably read more." Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the under-renovation Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. For more details, check the club's Facebook page.

German Open Air Cinema – Three struggling Berlin artists decide to collaborate on a project sponsored by a biotech company and they become the next step in human evolution in the science-fiction comedy-drama Art Girls. The show is at 7.30pm on Tuesday, December 15, outdoors at the Goethe-Institut on Sathorn Soi 1.

Alliance Française – There are two free French movies to list this week. On Saturday, there's a holiday-themed 2pm matinee for families and children, Santa's Apprentice. And then the usual weekday screening is My Sweet Pepper Land, a 2013 drama about a Kurdish war hero police officer who takes a job in a remote, lawless town near the Turkish border. There, he forms a bond with another newcomer to the territory, a female schoolteacher. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, December 16, at the Alliance.

Take note

There is a new-ish film-focused nightlife establishment in Bangkok – Cinema Winehouse on Samsen Road in the Khao San backpacker neighborhood. They screen double features from 7.30 nightly. This month's schedule is devoted to Christmas films. I don't get to that part of the city too frequently, so I haven't been there myself and can't vouch for the place, but others have mentioned it so I thought I would too.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening December 3-9, 2015

Wolf Totem

Banned from China after 1997's Seven Years in Tibet, French director Jean-Jacques Annaud was welcomed back into the country to make Wolf Totem, an epic historical drama about a young man from Beijing who bonds with a wolf cub when he is assigned to teach nomads in Inner Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution in 1967.

It's a fact-based adventure epic, based on an autobiography by Lu Jiamin, about a young man caught between the advancing forces of modernising China, the traditional ways of Mongolian nomads and the wolves of the wilderness.

The project took many years to plan and complete, and involved the raising and training of a wolf pack, specifically for the movie. Working with animals is something of a trademark for Annaud, who previously made The Bear as well as Two Brothers, which was filmed in Thailand and involved tiger cubs.

Initially tipped as China's entry to next year's Academy Awards (China ended up submitting the Chinese production Go Away Mr. Tumor), the French-Chinese produced Wolf Totem screened in China during the Lunar New Year holiday. Critical reception is mostly praiseworthy. It's at Apex in Siam Square.

Also opening

Runpee (รุ่นพี่, a.k.a. Senior) – Writer-director Wisit Sasanatieng returns to the scene with a boarding-school horror romance for the M-Thirtynine studio, It's about a schoolgirl (Ploychompoo Jannine Weigel) who has a special gift for smelling out ghosts. This leads her to meet a mysterious senior ghost boy and to investigate a murder that happened at the school 50 years before. It's the first feature in five years from Wisit, one of the important writer-directors of the New Thai Cinema movement of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and whose films include two of that era's classics, Tears of the Black Tiger and Citizen Dog. Rated 15+

Khun Thong Daeng: The Inspirations (คุณทองแดง The Inspirations) – In celebration of His Majesty the King's 88th birthday this Saturday, here is an animated feature with stories that are inspired by His Majesty's favorite pet dog Khun Thong Daeng. Produced by music-festival promoter Vinij Lertratanachai, with concepts overseen by movie-marketing strategist Dr Head, The Inspirations has three stories about pooches from three animation studios. Imagimax Studios has Mah Wad (Mid-Road), about a tough injured stray who is adopted by an elderly monk, and unites the temple's dog pack to protect the place from thieves. The Monk Studio contributes Tong Lor, which deals with the relationship between a blind girl, her grandmother and their pet dog. And Workpoint Studios is still in the world of robots, similar to the company's animated feature Yak a few years ago, with Little Copper, about a boy robot who gives new life to his robot pet. The three tales are tied together by live-action segments involving a girl who wanted her uncle (comedian "Nong" Choosak Iamsook) to buy her a foreign pure-breed dog, and he instead came up with a Thai mutt, played by the talented four-legged actor Richard, who has been the canine star of many Thai movies, TV shows and commercials. There is more about the movie in an article in The Nation. Rated G

Suffragette – Women are beaten and thrown into jail for demanding the right to vote in this historical drama, which covers the fight for suffrage in England in the early 20th century. Carey Mulligan stars as a young laundry worker who is swept up in a suffragettes' protest and is eventually inspired to take up the cause. Helena Bonham-Carter plays an activist who befriends Mulligan's character. Meryl Streep also stars, portraying the historical figure Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the women's suffrage movement. Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane, Village at the End of the World) directs. Critical reception is generally positive. Expect to be hearing more about Suffragette as awards season gets underway. Rated 13+

In the Heart of the Sea – Director Ron Howard is hunting Oscars in this fact-based high-seas adventure drama about the wreck of the whaling ship Essex, which was smashed to bits by a huge sperm whale, leaving the crew marooned. Chris Hemsworth stars as First Mate Owen Chase, whose book about the ordeal is said to have inspired Herman Melville to write Moby-Dick. Others in the male-focused cast are Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Brendan Gleeson (he's also in Suffragette) and Ben Whishaw. Critical reception is just starting to spout. Rated G

Krampus – Frustrated with his family's bickering during the festive season, a boy somehow summons the demonic spirit of Krampus, the Satan-like being from European Christmas lore who accompanies St. Nicholas and punishes children who are bad. This is a horror-comedy, with Adam Scott, Allison Tolman, David Koechner and Toni Collette among the stars. It's directed by Michael Dougherty, who previously wrote and directed the Halloween comedy Trick 'r Treat. Critical reception was unknown as this was being written, but it could be another holiday classic. Rated 13+

Baby Steps – Two dads are in focus in this Taiwanese-U.S. family comedy-drama about an Asian-American man and his Caucasian boyfriend seeking to have a child together. While Danny and his partner Tate deal with finding a surrogate mom, Danny's overbearing mother (veteran Taiwanese actress Kuei Ya-Lei) takes control of the proceedings. Barney Cheng writes, directs and stars as Danny. Among the producers is Hsu Li-kong, whose past credits include many Ang Lee movies, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Eat Drink Man Woman and The Wedding Banquet, which Baby Steps pays tribute to. Rated 15+

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – "Cool Britannia" on Wednesdays, "Woody Allen's favorite films" on Thursdays, "Not Such a Wonderful Life" on Fridays, restored classics on Saturdays and "Christmas cheer" on Sundays are the themes for December. Tonight, it's The Bicycle Thieves, which Allen said was "the supreme Italian film and one of the greatest films in the world". Tomorrow's anti-wonderful entry is the pardon-my-French film Baise-moi while Saturday has James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. Sunday's bit of Christmas cheer is 1951's Scrooge, the classic adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, starring Alistair Sim as the greatest humbug of them all. And next Wednesday's British film is Underground, covering a night in the life of a teenage drug dealer. From 1998, it's the first feature from FGC proprietor Paul Spurrier. And yes, it's cool. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the under-renovation Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. For more details, check the club's Facebook page.

Two films by Lav Diaz – Filmvirus, the group of Thai cinephiles and academics, have a special event this holiday weekend, bringing in more films by Filipino auteur Lav Diaz, thanks to generous support from the Japan Foundation. They are his Locarno prize winner From What Is Before, showing on Sunday at House, and the Typhoon Yolanda documentary Storm Children, screening on Monday at the Chinatown art space Cloud. The screenings were announced late last week by the Filmvirus crew and spaces went fast. Monday's event, which includes a talk by Diaz himself, is full, but the Sunday film screening still has a few spaces left. Check the Facebook post for details.

German Open Air Cinema – The aristocratic von Lengefeld sisters are both in love with the firebrand writer-philosopher Friedrich Schiller in Beloved Sisters, a sweeping historical drama that won German Film Awards for costumes and makeup. The show is at 7.30pm on Tuesday, December 8, outdoors at the Goethe-Institut on Sathorn Soi 1.

Alliance Française – With his previous missing-persons case ending in tragedy, a nearly retired police inspector takes one last case, to track down details about a mysterious mute man who was discovered unconscious on a French beach with no identification. It's La Dune, a 2013 comedy-drama. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, December 9, at the Alliance.

Take note

Along with Khun Thong Daeng: The Inspirations, there is another film in honor of His Majesty the King's birthday, Keeta Maha Raja Niphon (คีตราชนิพนธ์), which was first released this past May. It has four well-made segments that are in part inspired by musical compositions of His Majesty. Among the stories is the dramatic biographical account of the late conservationist Seub Nakhasathien. It's directed by Parkpoom Wongpoom and stars Nopachai “Peter” Jayanama. Well-known directors of other segments include Nonzee Nimibutr and Yongyoot Thongkongtoon. Keeta Maha Raja Niphon is screening until Monday (a substitution public holiday) at Major Cineplexes, where free tickets are first-come, first-serve and are handed out at special table an hour before the shows.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 26-December 2, 2015

German Open Air Cinema

Along with the resprouting of beer gardens in Bangkok, the end of the monsoon rains and the return of cool evening air also signifies the start of the annual German Open Air Cinema season at the Goethe-Institut Thailand.

Running on Tuesday nights from December 1 to 15 and January 5 to February 16, the series will screen 10 recent critically acclaimed German films, including many award winners.

Opening night, which starts at 6.30pm, has Patong Girl, a family drama and romance that was filmed in Thailand. It follows a German family on vacation in Phuket, where the teenage son falls for a young Thai woman and runs off. The mother goes off on in search and ends up finding herself. It was directed by Susanna Salonen, and she and members of the cast will be present for a talk after the screening.

Tuesday night's opener will be accompanied by a 2013 German short film, Elite, directed by Piet Baumgartner. It's about a management consultant who closes a complicated deal and as a surprise has an escort hired for him by the client.

Other entries include the period romance The Beloved Sisters on December 8 and the sci-fi comedy Art Girls on December 15.

After a break for Christmas and New Year's, the series resumes on January 5 with Jack, a childhood drama about a 10-year-old boy and his younger brother searching for their mother.

Others are the ex-convict drama I Am the Keeper on January 12; the computer-hacker thriller WhoAmI on January 26; the historical drama We Are Young. We Are Strong., about neo-Nazi riots in 1992; and the 1950s-set transgender romance The Circle on February 9.

The series wraps up on February 16 with Suck Me Shakespeer, a comedy in which an ex-convict takes a job as a schoolteacher so he can search for stolen loot he hid on the school grounds. A hit in Germany, it spawned a sequel that was released this year.

Shows are at 7.30pm on the grounds of the Goethe-Institut, off Sathorn Soi 1. For more details, check the Goethe website. And for opening night, check the Facebook events page.


The Good Dinosaur – Talking reptilians and humanoids co-exist this new Disney-Pixar animated comedy-drama about the adventure of a lost young apatosaurus named Arlo and his new pal, a feral caveboy named Spot. The voice cast includes Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin, Steve Zahn, Frances McDormand and Jeffrey Wright. With The Good Dinosaur following Inside Out a few months back, this is the first time Disney-Pixar has released two films in one year, but then there was nothing from Pixar in 2014, so they are making up for lost time. Long in the works, The Good Dinosaur has been in development for many, many years, going through a rigorous process of fine tuning until the Pixar-powers-that-be deemed the story was just right. Critical reception is mixed, with the consensus seeming to place The Good Dinosaur in the pantheon of "minor" Pixar works, somewhere around the likes of Monsters Inc. but above Cars. As with all Disney-Pixar movies, The Good Dinosaur has a preceding cartoon short, in this case Sanjay’s Super-Team, in which a meditating Indian boy dreams his Hindu gods are superheroes. Rated G

Gayby Baby – Four children who are being raised by gay and lesbian parents are profiled in this Australian picture, which is the latest release by the Documentary Club. It won the second-place audience award at the Sydney Film Festival and is a nominee for the Australian Film Institute awards. Critical reception is generally positive. It's at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld as well as at SFX Maya Chiang Mai. For further details, check the Documentary Club's Facebook page or SF cinemas' booking site. Rated G

Stung – Party-goers and catering staff at a fancy outdoor gathering come under attack by giant, mutated wasps. An indie horror-comedy, it's directed by Benni Diez, a visual-effects artist making his directorial debut. Clifton Collins Jr., Jessica Cook, Matt O’Leary and Lance Henrikson are among the stars. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

Kill Your Friends – At the height of the 1990s Britpop boom, a young record-company executive (Nicholas Hoult) will stop at nothing as he looks for his next hit. An indie British comedy, it's adapted from a best-selling novel by John Niven. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+

Knock Knock – Whoa. Poor Keanu Reeves. He's a family man who is left at home alone one weekend and comes under attack from two strange young women (Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas) who show up at his door asking for help. Directed by Quentin Tarantino's pal Eli Roth (Hostel, The Green Inferno), the erotic thriller is a remake of the 1970s exploitation film Death Game, which starred Seymour Cassel, Sondra Locke and Colleen Camp. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

Momentum – A thief (Olga Kurylenko) with a secret past accidentally reveals her identity during what should have been a routine jewel heist. She is then pursued by a master assassin (James Purefoy) and his team of killers. It's helmed by Stephen S. Campanelli, a veteran camera operator on many movies who makes his feature debut as a director. Critical reception is generally negative. Rated 18+

By the Sea – Angelina Jolie Pitt writes, directs and co-stars in this romantic drama with her husband Brad Pitt. It's her third feature as a director, following the Bosnian war drama Land of Blood and Honey and the World War II epic Unbroken. Set in 1970s France, By the Sea is a portrait of a couple who growing apart as they linger at a tranquil, picturesque seaside resort. The celebrity couple actually made this while they were on their honeymoon. Perhaps feeling grossed out, as if they caught their parents in the bedroom, critics have just rolled their eyes. Rated 18+

Tamasha – A young man and a young woman meet during a vacation on the island of Corsica. Sharing a love for storytelling, they explore the island together and form a troupe to stage dramatic plays, all while not disclosing their real names. Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone star in this epic globetrotting musical comedy-drama, which features music by A.R. Rahman. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III, Pattaya, Paragon and EGV Mae Sot.

Also showing

EVAWG Film Festival – Serious issues are the focus of the first Bangkok edition of an international film festival for Ending Violence Against Women and Girls (EVAWG), which has screenings until Sunday at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Tonight's invite-only opener is Dukhtar (Daughter), the feature debut of writer-director Afia Nathaniel, which is Pakistan’s official submission to this year’s Academy Awards. Here is the rest of the line-up:

  • Ilo Ilo – Singaporean director Anthony Chen's semi-autobiographical drama follows a young Filipina as she goes to work for a middle-class Singaporean family in the midst of the 1997 financial crisis. While dealing with the demanding pregnant mother, she bonds with the family's five-year-old son and keeps a secret of the dad. Ilo Ilo was the first Singaporean feature to win an award at the Cannes Film Festival, taking the Camera d'Or honors. Screens at 5.30pm tomorrow.
  • Te doy mis ojos (Take My Eyes) – This award-winning 2003 Spanish drama is about the roller-coaster relationship of a young mother and her abusive husband. Screens at 8.30 tomorrow.
  • When We Leave – This 2010 Turkish-German drama has a young German-Turkish woman fleeing an abusive marriage in Istanbul and seeking safety with her family in Berlin. Screens at 2.30pm on Saturday.
  • Girl Rising – Uplifting stories about girls from nine countries are told in this star-studded documentary. Each girl’s story written by well-known writers from each country and voiced by big-name actors. For example, a Cambodian girl’s story is written by noted Cambodian author Loung Ung. Celebrities lending their voices include Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett and Selena Gomez. Screens at 5pm on Saturday.
  • Girlhood – A shy, abused African-French teenage girl moves into a new neighborhood and comes out of her shell when she's accepted into a gang of girls. A 2014 drama, it's directed by Céline Sciamma, who previously did the coming-of-age romance Tomboy. Screens at 8pm on Saturday.
  • Refugiado (Refugee) –  A pregnant woman and her eight-year-old son are forced to flee the boy’s abusive father in this award-winning 2014 Argentine drama. Screens at 3pm on Sunday.
  • Private Violence – “Why didn’t she just leave?” It's a difficult-to-answer question that vexes victim advocates. This 2014 documentary examines the tough answers to that question and aims to have folks asking different questions. Screens at 5pm on Sunday.
  • Brave Miss World – Israeli model and actress Linor Abargil – crowned Miss World in 1998 – turns her shocking story of tragedy into a forum for global activism against rape. Screens at 7.30pm on Sunday.
The screenings will be accompanied by discussions from UN Women and other advocacy groups. Tickets are free and will be handed out 30 minutes before the shows. For more details, check the festival website or Facebook events page.

The Friese-Greene Club – November has one more documentary-style comedy from Christopher Guest, who dislikes the "mockumentary" term that's been applied his films. Tonight's entry is For Your Consideration, in which Guest and company skewer the annual idiocy that is Hollywood's "awards season". Tomorrow's "thoroughly modern China" movie is Jia Zhangke's A Touch of Sin, which reflects on four recent episodes in contemporary Chinese history. And Sunday has Todd Solondz' Happiness, which is just the thing you need to watch in the midst of this festive season. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the under-renovation Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. For more details, check the club's Facebook page.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – Although the FCCT's Contemporary World Film Series has closed its books on 2015, they are still showing films at the club. Next week, it's the documentary Frame by Frame, which tracks four photojournalists as they navigate an emerging and dangerous media landscape in Afghanistan. Admission for non-members is 150 baht. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, December 2, at the FCCT.

Alliance Française – A schoolteacher tries to inspire curiosity among a multi-cultural roster of teen students in Les héritiers (Once in a Lifetime), a fact-based drama from last year. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, December 2, at the Alliance.

Take note

Following a limited run at SF cinemas and an appearance at the World Film Festival of Bangkok, the existential-crisis art-house drama Vanishing Point by artist-filmmaker Jakrawal Nilthamrong is back. It's now screening at House on RCA. So check it out.