Thursday, May 28, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 28-June 3, 2015

The Voices

Impossible to pin down, artist, writer, graphic novelist and children's book author Marjane Satrapi keeps everyone guessing with her latest project The Voices, an offbeat black comedy starring Ryan Reynolds as a mentally ill guy who commits murder after he starts hearing the voices of his pet cat and dog.

It's quite a change of pace for the multi-talented French-Iranian, who made her film debut in 2007 with the stark animated adaptation of her autobiographical graphic novel Persepolis, about growing up in revolutionary-era Iran. She turned to live action with an adaptation of another of her graphic novels, Chicken With Plums, a French arthouse drama, which was followed by the French crime comedy The Gang of the Jotas.

With The Voices, she makes her Hollywood debut. Along with Reynolds, who also performs the voices in The Voices, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick and Jacki Weaver also star.

Critical reception is mostly praiseworthy. Rated 15+

Also opening

San Andreas – Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson takes the lead in this latest dish-up of disaster from Hollywood. He's a famously heroic search-and-rescue helicopter pilot who is put to the test when California's San Andreas Fault slips entirely and causes a massive earthquake that liquifies Los Angeles. He rescues his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) and they work together to look for their daughter, who is trapped in San Francisco. Brad Peyton, who previously did the special-effects focused Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore and the Journey to the Center of the Earth movies, directs. A half dozen or so writers were involved with this, but the chief credit goes to Carlton Cuse, a producer of many TV series, including Martial Law, Nash Bridges and Lost. Critical reception has yet to register. This was actually filmed in 3D and is screening in both 2D and 3D including IMAX. Rated G

Khrua Toh Amadya Taya Rattanakosin (ขรัวโต อมตะเถระกรุงรัตนโกสินทร์, Khrua Toh: Immortal Monk in Rattanakosin) – A devotional project of veteran industry figure Somkiat Ruenpraphat, this biographical drama is about one of Thailand's most famous Buddhist clergymen, Somdej Toh or, more formally, Phra Buddhacharn Toh Phomarangsi. He lived from 1788 to 1872 and was thought to have possessed magical powers. Consequently, amulets said to have been minted by the iconic monk have sold for as much as 100 million baht, and collectors believe a Somdej Toh amulet offers guaranteed protection, good luck and wealth. The biographical drama covers four periods, with four different actors portraying him, Chaitawat "Petch" Nuangjamnong, Jesadaporn "Pleng" Chomsri and Prachaya "Namkhang" Prathumdej during his earlier years, and veteran musician-actor Settha Sirichaya taking over for the monk's final years. You can read more about it in an article in The Nation. Rated 13+

Yes or No 2.5: Klab Ma Phua Rak Ther (Yes or No 2.5: กลับมา...เพื่อรักเธอ) – Originated in 2010 and billed as "Thailand's first lesbian film", the Yes or No franchise has proven popular across Asia. The first film was a syrupy and light coming-of-age romance between a naive college girl who eventually falls for her tomboy roommate, and a sequel followed up on their relationship. Now, in this not-a-sequel sequel, the fan-favorite tomboy from both films, actress-musician Suppanad "Tina" Jittaleela, portrays a different character. She's a photographer named Wine who is still in love with her former girlfriend Pim even though Pim is now hooked up with with a dude. A tomboy friend tries to find Wine a new match, but that backfires. Rated 15+

The Nutcracker – Last year, for the 40th anniversary of its most popular character Hello Kitty, the Japanese company Sanrio issued a remastered version of its 1979 stop-motion animated Nutcracker Fantasy with a new cast of Japanese voice actors. Nostalgic American viewers might be reminded of the Rankin-Bass Christmas specials that used the same animation style, such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. The story is loosely based on the Tchaikovsky ballet and E.T.A. Hoffman’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, about a little girl named Clara who becomes involved in a battle between the doll kingdom and the two-headed rat queen. Rated G

Also showing

The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol – Screening at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand tonight, here's another selection that debuted in Bangkok as part of the Salaya International Documentary Film Festival earlier this year. The Truth Shall Not Sink with Sewol takes the South Korean government to task over a slow response to last year's ferry disaster that claimed the lives of 300 people. Also known as Diving Bell, the doc focuses on efforts to bring in a diving bell that would have sped the rescue efforts, but it went unused. Highly critical of the government, the documentary premiered at last year's Busan International Film Festival over objections by the city's mayor, and led to political pressure for festival director Lee Yong-kwan to resign. The embattled Lee still has his job, but the controversy continues, with recent budget cuts that film-fest organizers say are politically motivated. The screening is at 7 tonight at the FCCT. Admission to non-members is 150 baht.

The Friese-Greene Club – May winds down with a pair of top-prize winners at the Cannes Film Festival. Americana is first up tonight with director Wim Wenders' desert saga of an amnesiac (Harry Dean Stanton) attempting to reconnect with his brother (Dean Stockwell), seven-year-old son and ex-wife (Natassa Kinski). Tomorrow, it's a British Palme d'Or winner, 1971's The Go-Between, a period romantic drama starring Julie Christie and Alan Bates. Saturday's final "sexy" movie for the month is 1976's In the Realm of the Senses, a controversial and sexually explicit arthouse romance by Nagisa Oshima. And the month closes out on Sunday with one more "modern musical", the Bee Gees-infused 1977 classic Saturday Night Fever starring John Travolta. 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.

FilmVirus Wild Type – In a special program this Saturday night, Filmvirus and the Reading Room present a selection from Chiang Mai's recent Fly Beyond the Barbwire Fence festival, which screened short films about ethnic minorities made by ethnic minority directors, telling stories of their own. Put together by Friends Without Borders, FFFest regularly serves up rare cinematic gems that often get picked up for screening in other festivals, so Saturday's show will likely offer a preview of good things to come. The show starts at 7pm at the Reading Room, a fourth-floor walk-up venue on Silom Soi 19, opposite Silom Complex.

Court – Following last weekend's screening as part of BACC's Cinema Diverse, the indie Indian courtroom drama Court comes to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand's Contemporary World Film Series. Screening at 7pm on Tuesday, June 2, the drama is about the absurd trial of a elderly activist folksinger whose inflammatory songs are said to have caused a sewage worker to commit suicide. The debut feature of young director Chaitanya Tamhane, the film has won prizes from many festivals, including Venice. Along with the movie, there will be snacks from the Spicy by Nature Indian restaurant. Admission is 150 baht for non-members plus 100 baht for anyone wanting the food.

Italian Film Festival – The first big movie event at the luxurious new EmQuartier mall opens at 8pm on Tuesday with Leopardi (Il giovane favoloso), a biographical drama about romantic-era poet Giacomo Leopardi. The following night, it's The Ideal City (La citta ideale), the directorial debut of actor Luigi Lo Cascio. He also stars in the drama, about an environmentally obsessed architect whose life unravels. The festival runs until June 11 at Major Cineplex's fancy new Quartier CineArt theater, where tickets can be booked in advance for 150, 170 and 300 baht. For more details, check the Dante Alighieri Society website or Facebook.

Alliance Française – Life under the terrifying Islamic State forces comes into focus in 2014's Timbuktu, a drama by Mauritania-based auteur Abderrahmane Sissako (Bamako). Set in the Malian city, the story centers on an escalating conflict between a cattle farmer and a fisherman that ends up coming under the auspices of the Jihadists' kangaroo court. Timbuktu was in the main competition at Cannes last year and won two sidebar prizes. It was the first film ever submitted to the Oscars by Mauritania. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, June 3, at the Alliance.

Sneak preview

La Famille Bélier – A 16-year-old girl, the only hearing member of a deaf farm family, discovers she has a talent for singing and gets a chance to go to Paris pursue her dreams. But leaving home means her parents and brother will lose their interpreter. Directed by Eric Lartigau, this comedy-drama was a major nominee at this year's César Awards in France, and it won the Most Promising Actress prize for young star Louane Emera. It's in French with English and Thai subtitles, and is in sneak previews from around 8 nightly at the Lido in Siam Square, House on RCA and SF World Cinema at CentralWorld and other venues before adding more showtimes next week. Rated 15+

Take note

Still to come is an update on the first Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which runs from June 5 to 14 at the Esplanade Ratchada. Details about showtimes and ticketing are slow in coming, but you can read more about some of the festival's very interesting entries over at that other blog. Keep an eye on the Facebook events page for other details.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Italian Film Festival, June 2-11, 2015

Seven recent acclaimed movies from Italy will be featured in the Italian Film Festival. Organised by the Dante Alighieri Cultural Association with support from the Italian Embassy, the fest runs from June 2 to 11 at the ritzy new EmQuartier mall as part of "Urban - Italia", a nine-day celebration of Italian products and culture that coincides with the ongoing Universal Exposition Milan.

All selections are in Italian with English subtitles. It's a ticketed festival, with prices set at 150, 170 and 300 baht.

Among the highlights is The Great Beauty, winner of last year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Reality, winner of the Cannes Film Festival Grand Prize in 2012 and The Wonders, the jury prize winner at Cannes last year. Here's the line-up:

  • The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza) – Directed by Paolo Sorrentino and starring the auteur's frequent leading man Toni Servillo, the drama follows a retired writer on his 65th birthday as he walks the streets of Rome and reflects on his life, past loves and unfulfillment.
  • Long Live Freedom (Vive la liberta) – Toni Servillo pulls double duty in another festival entry, director Robert Ando's political comedy. When a burned-out Italian senator decides he's had enough and pulls a disappearing act, his minder recruits the politician's psychiatrically unstable twin brother to take his place. Long Live Freedom won several honours in Italy, including best screenplay at last year's David di Donatello Awards.
  • Reality – Directed by Matteo Garrone, whose previous film, the gritty organised-crime drama Gomorrah won widespread acclaim, the 2012 Cannes Grand Prize winner Reality takes a comic view of the world of reality TV. It follows a Neopolitan fishmonger as he becomes increasingly obsessed with landing a role on "Grande Fratello", the Italian version of "Big Brother". The star is Aniello Arena, an ex-convict former gangster who was discovered by Garrone.
  • The Wonders (Le meraviglie) – Last year's jury prize winner at the Cannes Film Festival is the sophomore directorial effort from Alice Rorhrwacher. It's about a domineering teenager who dreams of breaking away from her German beekeeper father, French-speaking mother (played by the director's sister Alba) and three sisters. Monica Bellucci provides an inspirational vision. An ode to the disappearing traditional farming lifestyle of Italy, it's also a partly autobiographical reflection for the director, whose father was German and raised bees.
  • Me and You (Io e te) – Veteran writer-director Bernardo Bertolucci contributes his latest, 2012's tension-filled drama about a troubled 14-year-old boy who decides to hide out in a basement in order to escape family and social pressures. But his solitude is disturbed by the arrival of his estranged 25-year-old drug-addicted sister. Bertolucci's first film since The Dreamers in 2003, Me and You was nominated for several awards in Italy and won several others, including the EuroCinema Hawai'i Award at the Hawaii film fest.
  • The Ideal City (La citta ideale) – Actor Luigi Lo Cascio, best known for his role in the generations-spanning Italian epic The Best of Youth, makes his directorial debut with this a neo-noir comedy-drama. In The Ideal City, he portrays an environmentally obsessed architect whose life unravels after he's involved in a minor wreck while borrowing a friend's electric car. It was nominated for many prizes, and won the Young Cinema Award at the Venice International Film Festival.
  • Leopardi (Il giovane favoloso) – Romantic-era poet Giacomo Leopardi takes centrestage in this 2014 biopic, which follows the 19th century thinker in his restless search for knowledge. Elio Germano stars and Mario Martone directs. The absorbing biographical drama was in the main competition at last year's Venice Film Festival, where it won several prizes, including the Pasinetti Award and Young Jury Members Award for best actor.

For more details, check the Dante Alighieri website or Facebook.

June 2

  • 8pm, Leopardi

June 3

  • 8pm, The Ideal City

June 4

  • 8pm, Long Live Freedom

June 5

  • 8pm, Me and You

June 6

  • 3.30pm, Long Live Freedom
  • 6pm, The Great Beauty
  • 9pm, Reality

June 7

  • 3.30pm, The Wonders
  • 6pm, Leopardi
  • 9pm, Me and You

June 8

  • 8pm, The Ideal City

June 9

  • 8pm, The Wonders

June 10

  • 8pm, Reality

June 11

  • 8pm, The Great Beauty

(Cross-published in The Nation)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 21-27, 2015

Song of the Sea

A sweet traditionally animated feature from Ireland hits big screens this week with the Academy Award-nominated Song of the Sea, which is inspired by the ancient Celtic folklore about the selkie, mythical creatures that lived as seals in the ocean but could also exist for a time as humans on land.

The story is about a young brother and sister, who live with their lonely lighthouse-keeper father. They discover that their mother was a selkie.

Top Irish screen and stage talents Brendan Gleeson and Fionnula Flanagan are among voice cast.

It is directed by Tomm Moore, whose previous animated feature, The Secret of Kells, was also nominated for the Oscar.

Critical reception is overwhelmingly positive. Rated G


Director Brad Bird, who previously helmed the Pixar animations The Incredibles and Ratatouille as well as Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, makes his return to the Disney fold with Tomorrowland, a promising adaptation of a theme-park attraction.

The sci-fi adventure story is about a curious teenager (Britt Robertson) who comes into possession of a mysterious pin that reveals a hidden futuristic world. It leads her to track down a jaded former boy genius (George Clooney). Chased by mysterious goons, the pair climb into a rocket-powered bathtub and blast off on a mission to uncover the secrets of Tomorrowland.

It's co-scripted by Damon Lindelhoff, writer of Cowboys and Aliens and Star Trek Into Darkness, and is inspired by a 1950s Disney theme park attraction, as well as Walt Disney's own optimistic dreams of utopian societies.

Critical reception is generally positive. In addition to screenings at conventional multiplexes, it's also at IMAX. However, it's not in 3D. So enjoy. Rated G

Also opening

Paa Happy She Taa Yuh (ป้าแฮปปี้ Sheท่าเยอะ a.k.a. Miss Happy or literally "happy auntie") – Popular TV actress and product presenter Khemanit "Pancake" Jamikorn "goes ugly" for her big-screen debut, wearing a frizzed-out wavy mop of hair and funky mismatched baggy blouses and long skirts. She's Meesuk, a young lady who somehow manages to remain cheerful despite a run of bad luck that includes a heart problem and a doctor's diagnosis of one month to live. To survive, she decides she needs to just dance, with moves supplied by her gay best friend (singer Chalatit "Ben" Tantiwut). Rated 15+

A Little Chaos – Alan Rickman directs and stars as a droll King Louis XIV in this historical drama about the romantic entanglements of gifted landscapers competing to design a garden for the Palace of Versailles. Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Stanley Tucci and Helen McCrory also star. Critical reception is evenly mixed. Rated 15+

Unfriended – It's a bit of a twist on the "found footage" horror genre, with a screengrab drama that unfolds during a chat session on a teenager's computer. She and her friends are stalked by an unseen figure who seeks vengeance for an online bullying attack that led to a girl's suicide. This was also called Cybernatural, and critical reception is mixed, leaning slightly to positive. Rated 18+

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' – The villain Frieza returns with an aim to take vengeance against Goku and the other Saiyans. Another in a long-running series of popular Japanese manga and anime franchises, it's at SF and Apex, with the Japanese soundtrack and English and Thai subtitles at some cinemas. Rated G

Also showing

Singapore Film Festival – Six recent films from Singapore are screening from tonight until Sunday at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Among the highlights is the dark satire Unlucky Plaza, in which a Filipino restaurateur spirals out of control and takes hostages. There's also Singapore's submission to the Academy Awards, Sayang Disayang, which was the first Malay film to be produced in Singapore since the city-state became independent 50 years ago. It is a drama about a disabled elderly widower and his slowly changing relationship with his Indonesian housekeeper. Other entries are Banting, about a Muslim girl who secretly becomes a professional wrestler, the quirky romance Singapore Girl, the thriller Ms. J Contemplates Her Choice and supernatural horror in Bring Back the Dead. Showtimes and more details are covered in a special post. Tickets are free, and handed out 30 minutes before the shows on a first-come, first-served basis. So queue up.

The Friese-Greene Club – Oh sure, you hear a lot about The Godfather or Apocalypse Now, but tonight's selection is probably Francis Ford Coppola's finest film – The Conversation. The top-prize winner at the Cannes Film Festival in 1974, it stars Gene Hackman as an obsessive surveillance expert. John Cazale also stars, in one of the five feature-film roles he played in a short but unrivaled career. Tomorrow, it's a British triumph at Cannes, Roland Joffe's 1986 adventure epic The Mission, with Jeremy Irons as a missionary priest to South American tribal people, and Robert De Niro as a slave-hunting mercenary who seeks redemption. Featuring a gorgeous soundtrack by Ennio Morricone, The Mission was actually a commercial flop, according to the FGC's desscription. The club is closed for a private function on Saturday, but the show resumes on Sunday with director Frank Oz's fun adaptation of the musical Little Shop of Horrors, starring a giant talking plant and Rick Moranis, with support from Steve Martin and Bill Murray. Next Wednesday is one more music documentary for the month, Who the F**k Is Arthur Fogel, a 2013 look at the little-known Canadian CEO behind Live Nation Entertainment, the company that has monopolized the rock-concert industry. 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.

Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice – On Saturday, the second entry in this year's Cinema Diverse series at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center brings together two young filmmakers, Thailand's Aditya Assarat (Wonderful Town, Hi-So) and India's Chaitanya Tamhane for a discussion and screening of Tamhane's Court. The courtroom drama follows the trial of an elderly folksinger who is accused of abetting a man's suicide. “Court is very funny even though it’s not a comedy. The acting is very real. It could have been acted as a comedy but then it wouldn't have been funny. I laugh because the actors never let me forget this is a serious situation. That is the power of the movie,” Aditya says. A stunning debut film, Court won prizes last year at film fests in Vienna, Venice, Singapore, Goteborg and elsewhere. The accolades include the New Talent Award at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival. Along with the two directors, actor-producer Vivek Gomber will be on hand for the post-screening talk. There's no way to reserve seats – registration opens at 4.30pm, with the screening at 5.30pm on Saturday in the BACC's fifth-floor auditorium.

Alliance Française – Director Sylvain Chomet is best known for his animated features like The Triplets of Belleville and The Illusionist, but he turned to live-action for 2013's Attila Marcel, an oddball comedy about a dysfunctional young man who was raised by his overly-attentive aunts. He seeks to break away from his sheltered existence, with the help of an eccentric neighbor lady. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, May 27, at the Alliance.

Take note

More details are emerging about the Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which is set for June 5 to 14 at the Esplanade Ratchada. While a schedule and other details are being hammered out, there is a Facebook events page. It is being put on by Attitude magazine, which is also sponsoring a short-film contest in conjunction with the fest.

And yet another film fest has cropped up – the Italian Film Festival from June 2 to 11 at the Quartier CineArt. I'll have more details ready in a few days. It is being organised in part by the Dante Alighieri Cultural Association Bangkok, which has also been putting on monthly film screenings.

Next Thursday has another documentary screening at the FCCT, The Truth Shall Not Sink with Sewol, which accuses the South Korean authorities of moving too slowly to rescue victims of the 2014 ferry disaster. Hit the link and scroll down for more upcoming movies in the FCCT's Contemporary World Film series.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Singapore Film Festival, May 21-24, 2015

Wide-ranging views of contemporary Singaporean society are portrayed in six entries of the Singapore Film Festival, which runs from Thursday to Sunday, May 21 to 24 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld in Bangkok. Marking 50 years of diplomatic relations with Thailand, the festival's selection offers romance, comedy, drama and even horror.

Tickets are free, and will be handed out to those who are queued up 30 minutes before the shows.

  • Singapore Girl – In this 2014 romantic comedy, a Singapore Airlines flight attendant who has broken up with her boyfriend takes a vacation in Thailand. On Koh Samui, the quirky young woman bonds with a goofball young man, also a Singaporean who is also recovering from a break-up. They seem to get along, even though they don't speak the same language. Kan Lume (The Art of Flirting) directs.
  • Sayang Disayang (My Beloved Dearest) – The first Malay film produced in Singapore since the city declared independence in 1965 was submitted to this year's Academy Awards, and though it didn't make the short list, the film did win several accolades on the festival circuit. Directed by Sanif Olek, it is the tender portrait of the slowly developing relationship between an embittered, disabled elderly Muslim widower and his Indonesian housekeeper. Frequently prone to burst out in song, the stout maid Murni remains ever cheerful, despite her employer's refusal to accept that her diligent daily preparation of the traditional spicy dish sambal goreng is as good or maybe even better than his late wife's.
  • BantingSayang Disayang sparked an interest in more Malay Singaporean films, including this unusual sports comedy from last year. In Bintang, a young woman from a strict Muslim household secretly joins an all-female pro-wrestling team. Raihan Halim directs.
  • Unlucky Plaza – For a change of pace, here's darkly comic satire about a Filipino restauranteur (Jeffrey Quizon), who is struck by a run of bad luck when his eatery has a food-poisoning scandal, he's on the verge of bankruptcy and he's hit by a financial scam. He spirals out of control and ends up taking hostages. It's the latest effort from cult director Ken Kwek, whose 2013 debut feature Sex.Violence.FamilyValues was initially banned in the city-state.
  • Ms. J Contemplates Her Choice – Further examination of Singaporean society takes place in a thriller that features the screen debut of famous singer Kit Chan. A frequent guest on a radio show that offers advice on relationships, she is forced into a series of difficult decisions by an anonymous caller. Jason Lai, who did the award-winning short Three Feet Apart, directs.
  • Bring Back the Dead – A young mother (Jesseca Liu) who is grieving over the loss of her seven-year-old son consults a former caregiver, Madam Seetoh (Liu Ling Ling), to bring back the boy's soul. This leads to strange and deadly occurrences. Released in January in the city-state, it's directed by television veteran Lee Thean-jeen.

May 21

  • 6pm - Singapore Girl
  • 8pm - Sayang Disayang

May 22

  • 6pm - Unlucky Plaza
  • 8.20pm - Banting

May 23

  • 2pm - Unlucky Plaza
  • 4.30pm - Sayang Disayang
  • 6.20pm - Bring Back the Dead
  • 8.20pm - Ms. J Contemplates Her Choice

May 24

  • 2.30pm - Singapore Girl
  • 4.30pm - Banting
  • 6pm - Ms. J Contemplates Her Choice
  • 8pm - Bring Back the Dead

(Cross-published in The Nation)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 14-20, 2015

Phi Ha Ayothaya (The Black Death)

Zombies! Thai zombies!

For his sophomore feature effort, Phi Ha Ayothaya (ผีห่าอโยธยา , a.k.a. The Black Death), director MR Chalermchatri "Adam" Yukol channels George Romero's Night of the Living Dead through the ancient Ayutthaya kingdom, where villagers mysteriously die and then become flesh-hungry zombies. Monks and magic, usually effective against traditional Thai ghosts, are powerless to stop them. Fortunately, it's a time when everyone has a sword or two handy.

Filmed on the same massive sets in Kanchanaburi where Adam's father MC Chatrichalerm Yukol made the recently wrapped-up six-part Legend of King Naresuan saga, Phi ha Ayothaya follows Adam's 2013 feature debut The Cop.

I've got a review in the works. It's a blast. Go see it. Rated 18+

Mad Max: Fury Road

After more than 25 years of development, Australian director George Miller jump-starts his legacy with Mad Max: Fury Road, the first entry in what's expected to be an exciting new Mad Max trilogy.

The raw original film, released in 1979 during the height of the Ozploitation era, introduced the biker-battling highway patrolman Max played by Mel Gibson, and driving his supercharged 1974 Ford Falcon XB. Just a man with his car and his dog in the post-apocalyptic Outback in 1981's Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, the franchise cemented its worldwide status, and the momentum carried it through to 1985's Beyond Thunderdome.

Now, after a quarter century of development and delays, the Namibia, Africa-filmed epic stays true to its roots, with a motorhead-pleasing focus on crazy cars and practical, in-camera stunts. The bad guys are still violent hot-rodding goons, only moreso.

Tom Hardy takes over the lead role from Gibson. The strong-but-silent type falls in with a warrior woman, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) for an epically violent car chase across the desert.

Much anticipated, Mad Max: Fury Road is already earning much praise for its visceral, non-stop action, most of which is real and not CGI. Critics are going bonkers for it. It's in converted 3D, but please do try to seek out the 2D version. Rated 15+

Also opening

Lost River – Actor Ryan Gosling makes his directorial debut with this surreal neo-noir fantasy about a single mother (Christina Hendricks from Mad Men and Drive) struggling to raise her children in a mysterious abandoned city. Much influenced by his efforts on Drive and City of God with Danish auteur Nicolas Winding Refn, Gosling filmed Lost River in Detroit in 2013. It premiered at last year's Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard competition, where it was met with cheers and boos. Critics are polarized, with the consensus being that it's a mess, but at least it's an interesting mess. Rated 15+

Pitch Perfect 2 – In this sequel to the 2011 sleeper-hit comedy about a women's collegiate a cappella singing group, the Barden Bellas find themselves banned from U.S. competition due to the bumbling of the group's colorful member Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson). They seek to redeem themselves by entering the world competition in Copenhagen. Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, Alexis Knapp and Hailee Steinfeld also star. Elizabeth Banks, who produced and starred in the first Pitch Perfect, takes the director's chair. Critics are mostly singing praises. Rated 13+

Life Partners – Well-meaning young woman Paige (Gillian Jacobs) makes a pact with her longtime best friend, lesbian Sasha (Leighton Meester), that she won't get married until Sasha has the legal right to do so. But when Paige meets a handsome doctor (Adam Brody), Sasha fears she's being cast aside. Critics are generally praiseworthy of this indie romantic comedy. It's at Apex and SF cinemas. Rated 15+

Bombay Velvet – James Ellroy's L.A. Quartet of gritty crime novels about 1950s Los Angeles provides the inspiration for this stylish drama set in Bombay of the 1960s, where a boxer (Ranbir Kapoor) is in love with an aspiring jazz singer (Anushka Sharma). It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Boos at Cannes are historically a good sign, as demonstrated by David Lynch's surreal thriller Wild at Heart, which earned howls of derision but won the festival's top prize in 1990. It screens tonight. Tomorrow, it's another Cannes top-prize winner, Michelangelo Antonioni's portrait of Swinging London, Blowup. Watch for a rare performance by the Yardbirds with Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. This Saturday's "sexy" movie is The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and on Sunday, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and others will strain their vocal cords in 2012's Les Miserables. Next Wednesday, it's another musical documentary, 20 Feet from Stardom, putting the spotlight on the unsung heroes of pop music – the back-up singers. 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 – There are two offerings at the Alliance this week. First up at 2pm on Saturday, it's a "kids' screening" of the award-winning animated Ma maman est en Amérique, elle a rencontré Buffalo Bill (My Mommy is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill). From 2013, it's about a six-year-old boy who copes with stern teachers, bullying classmates and a traumatic event at home that he has yet to wrap his head around. Marc Lavoine and Julie Depardieu are among the voice actors. At 7pm next Wednesday, it's another "French film with children", Tout est pardonné (All Is Forgiven), a 2007 drama about a young couple and their daughter. A drug addict, the father is banned from seeing the little girl, but years later, the daughter learns her father is in Paris, and she decides to see him again.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – There's a documentary screening on Monday at the FCCT with The Look of Silence, another powerful examination of the Indonesian military's killing of leftists and other political opponents in the 1960s. Having earlier screened in the fifth edition of Salaya Doc, The Look of Silence is the follow-up to The Act of Killing, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer and a host of "anonymous" crew members. While The Act of Killing rubbed me the wrong way with its focus on the perpetrators of the genocide, allowing them to re-enact the killings in often grandiose and self-aggrandizing fashion, The Look of Silence keeps the focus on the victims as seen through the eyes of an Indonesian optician, who travels from town to town, confronting the people responsible for his brother’s death. At each visit, a pattern emerges, with the interviewees at first denying having any knowledge of the killings, but the guy keeps gently questioning, trying different lenses as it were, and then there's that look that comes across their face as if to say "Okay, you got me," and they realize they can no longer lie. The screening is at 7pm on Monday, May 18, at the FCCT. Entry for non-members is 150 baht.

Take note

More details have emerged about the Singapore Film Festival from May 21 to 24 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. It will show six recent films, including Sayang Disayang, a Malay drama that was Singapore's Oscar submission. Tickets will be free and handed out first come, first served, 30 minutes before the shows. I'll aim to put up a special post about it soon.

Another upcoming event will be the first Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which is being put together by Attitude magazine and is set for sometime in June at a venue yet to be announced. But the line-up of films is ready, and it's pretty impressive. Among the titles will be the local premieres of two much-anticipated Thai films from the festival circuit, How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) and The Blue Hour.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 7-13, 2015

Keeta Maha Raja Niphon

Four short films by noted Thai directors pay tribute to songs composed by His Majesty the King in Keeta Maha Raja Niphon (คีตราชนิพนธ์).

Nonzee Nimibutr directs a story of an elderly woman trying to convince a formerly famous singer to perform again in public while Wallop Prasopphol has a story of a bullied boy trying to impress a girl by acting in the school play.

Parkpoom Wongpoom recounts the life of Seub Nakhasathien, the activist wildlife conservation official who sacrificed himself to call attention to the plight of endangered animals and natural areas. He's portrayed by talented actor Nopachai “Peter” Jayanama (Headshot, Naresuan).

And Yongyoot Thongkongtoon directs a profile of a Boy Scout whose goal is to raise his school's flag, a job reserved only for the best-behaved students.

The four shorts are screening for free until Sunday at Major Cineplex branches. Seats have already filled up for several screenings and reservations are a must. To reserve your seat, check this special website, perhaps with the assistance of a Thai friend.

And you can find out more about the project at that other blog or from an article in The Nation. There's also a Facebook page and a YouTube channel.

Also opening

The Last Five YearsPitch Perfect star Anna Kendrick again puts her vocal cords to work in this adaptation of a stage musical. It chronicles the end of a love affair and marriage between an up-and-coming novelist and a struggling actress. Jeremy Jordan also stars. Richard LaGravenese (Beautiful Creatures, P.S. I Love You) directs. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive. Rated 15+

Foosball – Tiny players from a foosball table magically come to life to aid a young man in his bid to rescue his girlfriend and save his town from being leveled by an old childhood rival to make way for a new sports stadium. From Argentina, this animated feature is also known as Metegol or Underdogs. It's at SF cinemas. Rated G

Parasyte – Worm-like aliens fall from the sky and take over most everyone’s bodies, but one high-school student manages to keep his parasite confined to his right hand. He sets out to conquer the aliens. From Japan, this is the first of at least two parts. At Apex and SF. Rated 15+

Postcard Tee Mai Me… Tee Ma (โปสการ์ดที่ไม่มี..ที่มา , Postcard from Nowhere) – Three people cross paths thanks to a postcard – photographer Sai Lom (Puttipong Sriwat), Khet (Sarawut Martthong) and Karnda (Worranun Chantarasami), the woman Khet loves. Rated G

Piku – Three top Bollywood talents – Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone and Irrfan Khan – star in this road-trip comedy. An architect (Padukone) has to take her ailing father (Big B) from New Delhi to Kolkata. She recruits a cab-company owner (Khan) to take them, since none of his drivers are willing to endure the father-daughter pair. In Hindi with English and Thai subtitles Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

Alliance Française – Tonight at 6.30 is the opening of 40 Years Later: The Commemoration of the Fall of Phnom Penh, a photo exhibition by French lensman Roland Neveu, who was there in 1975 in the moments before the Khmer Rouge took over. He'll be there to sign a book of his photos. Also present will be French-Cambodian filmmaker Iv Charbonneau-Ching, whose emotion-filled documentary Cambodge, après l’adieu (Cambodia After Farewell) will be screened tonight. It follows his family's return to Cambodia after their escape from the Khmer Rouge regime in 1975. Tickets are 100 baht. You can reserve your movie ticket online. For more details, check the Facebook events page. Neveu's photos will be up through May 24. Next Wednesday, the month of French films about children continues with Tritesse Club about two men, who may or may not be brothers, meeting a young woman who may or may not be their sister. They then set out to find the man they think might be their father, who may or may not be dead. Vincent Macaigne, Laurent Lafitte and Ludivine Sagnier star. Vincent Mariette directs. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, May 13 at the Alliance.

The Friese-Greene Club – Music documentaries are featured on Wednesdays, American Palme d'Or winners at the Cannes Film Festival are on Thursdays, British Golden Palm winners are on Fridays, films that are sexier than Fifty Shades of Grey are on Saturdays and "modern" musicals on Sundays. This week's American triumph at Cannes is Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, which was actually booed by the typically hard-to-please crowd. As with many other films that are booed at Cannes, it became a cult hit. Tomorrow's British winner at Cannes is Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes the Barley, about the Irish War. Saturday, it's Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin, a break-out role for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, portraying a gay hustler. And on Sunday, it's A Chorus Line. Next Wednesday is Searching for Sugar Man, in which a pair of obsessed music fans try to find out what happened to 1970s' one-hit-wonder Rodriguez. 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.

Documentary Club – As detailed in last week's post, the ongoing Doc Holiday series at SF cinemas continues tomorrow with 1971, debuting director Johanna Hamilton’s recounting of a break-in at an FBI office that led to the exposure of Cointelpro, J. Edgar Hoover’s secret, illegal surveillance program that targeted civil rights leaders, journalists and leftist politicians. It is on from tomorrow until Sunday at SFW CentralWorld and SFX Maya Chiang Mai. Advance bookings are encouraged. Further shows may be added. For more details, please see

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – The FCCT's Contemporary World Film Series continues with this year's Academy Award winning best foreign language film, Ida, from Poland. A gobstoppingly beautiful film, shot in lovely black-and-white and framed in the classic 4:3 ratio, the drama follows an orphaned young novitiate nun in 1960s Poland. Before taking her vows, she's encouraged to track down her sole surviving family member. She's her boozing, chain-smoking aunt – a disgraced but still-formidable state prosecutor from the Stalinist era. They take a road trip to bring closure to a dark family secret dating back to the Nazi occupation. The screening, courtesy of the Embassy of Poland, comes with Polish Zubrowka vodka cocktails (don't try to keep up with that hard-drinking aunt!) and Szarlotka apple pie. It's at 7pm on Monday, May 11 at the FCCT. Admission is 150 baht for non-members and 100 baht for anyone wanting pie.

Take note

Upcoming events include a festival of Singaporean films at SFW CentralWorld from May 21 to 24. There is also the next entry in the Bangkok Art and Culture Center's Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice series, which on May 23 welcomes Thai director Aditya Assarat and young Indian director Chaitanya Tamhane for a screening of Tamhane's 2014 feature Court and a talk by the two auteurs afterward.