Thursday, July 30, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening July 30-August 5, 2015

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Tom Cruise says he was "scared s–less" doing his stunts in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, his latest desperate, bravura effort to keep himself and the over-punctuated Mission: Impossible franchise relevant.

Hanging for dear life off an ascending military cargo plane and racing around on motorcycles, Cruise is back for the fifth installment in the hit movie series, which is based on a 1960s TV show. Following the adventures of Ghost Protocol, Cruise's Ethan Hunt and his IMF team have been disbanded and scattered to the wind. But a new threat emerges in the form of the Syndicate, a shadowy organization that is using IMF's old technology and assets in an escalating series of terrorist attacks. To stop them, Hunt and his team have to put their trust in a disavowed British spy (Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson).

Along with Cruise, other returnees from previous M:I installments include Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner. Alec Baldwin joins this time around.

The director is Christopher McQuarrie, the writer of Bryan Singer's The Usual Suspects, who has become a go-to guy for Cruise since directing him in Jack Reacher and having a hand in scripting such Cruise vehicles as Valkyrie and Edge of Tomorrow.

Critical reception is mostly positive, with the consensus being that Cruise and company are a well-oiled machine that deliver the goods as expected. It's in 2D only, including IMAX cinemas. Rated 13+

Also opening

The Road Within – After his mother dies, a young man (Robert Sheehan) who suffers from Tourette’s syndrome is packed off by his father to a clinic. There, the sweary guy falls for an anorexic woman (Zoe Kravitz, who shrunk down to 90 pounds for the role). He decides to take her on a trip to deliver his mother’s ashes to the ocean, bringing his obsessive-compulsive roommate (Dev Patel) along for the ride. Robert Patrick and Kyra Sedgwick also star. An independent drama that has won awards at several film festivals, The Road Within is directed by Gren Wells. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

Love Hiao Fiao Tott (เลิฟเฮี้ยวเฟี้ยวต๊อด, a.k.a. There’s Something About Tott) – Anon “Poj” Mingkhwanta directs this romantic comedy about a hapless young man (Khunathip Pinpradab) whose overwhelming charm attracts many ladies, making it difficult for him to hold down a job and earn the money he needs to get his beloved grandmother (Duangta Tungkhamanee) out of the nursing home. Rated 15+

Last Knights – A disgraced knight seeks revenge and the restoration of his honor as he leads a rebellion against the ruthless emperor. Clive Owen stars as the sword-wielding hero, with Morgan Freeman as his master. Aksel Hennie is the sneering baddie. This seems to be an adaptation of Japan's historical 47 Ronin tale, but with European-style knights with broadswords instead of samurai. The director is Japan's Kazuaki Kiriya, making his English-language debut. He previously directed the special-effects-laden epics Casshern and Goemon. Critical reception has landed with a dull thud. It's at SF cinemas. Rated 15+

Drishyam – A middle-class man who runs a village cable-TV network in Goa, and his family, have their happy life turned upside down when they become suspects in the disappearance of the teenage son of a police officer. With Ajay Devgn, Shriya Saran, Tabu and Rajat Kapoor. In Hindi with English subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Central Rama III and Pattaya. Rated G

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – "A unique exploration of the nadir of taste, sophistication and film technique." Now that's an accurate description of tonight's cult-classic entry, John Waters' Pink Flamingos. Tomorrow's "precocious girl" is British ingenue Jane March in 1992's The Lover, a steamy adaptation of a Marguerite Duras romance novel and starring Tony Leung Ka Fai as "the Chinese man". And that's all I have so far. For the August schedule, keep an eye on the club's Facebook page. Shows start at 8pm.

Alliance Française – In Une place sur la Terre (A Place on Earth), a lonely photographer (Benoît Poelvoorde) finds himself drawn to a mysterious piano-playing neighbor lady in this 2013 drama by Fabienne Godet. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, August 5, at the Alliance.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening July 23-29, 2015

Red Wine in the Dark Night

Along with How to Win at Checkers (Every Time), released here last week, and next month's release of The Blue Hour, fans of Thai queer arthouse cinema have been anticipating Red Wine in the Dark Night, the latest from talented writer-director Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, who previously surveyed transgender culture in the award-winning It Gets Better (ไม่ได้ขอให้มารั, Mai Dai Kor Hai Ma Rak).

Following the successful string of indie gay romances that have been getting limited releases in Bangkok cinemas, Khuen Nan Red Wine in the Dark Night (คืนนั้น Red Wine in the Dark Night), is getting a wide release from Thanadbuntueng Production, Artfo Production and Tanwarin's own Am Fine Production.

There's an intriguing vampire vibe with the plot about an innocent soul named Wine (Pongsatorn "Fluke" Sripinta from My Bromance) who encounters a blood-sucking amnesiac he names Night. He's played by Steven Isarapong Fuller, who previously appeared in Tanwarin's mainstream ghost romance Threesome.

Other stars include Krittachapon Thananara, (It Gets Better, Hug Na Sarakham, Teacher and Student), Nontapat Intarasuan (Feel Good) and Sutthinat Uengtrakul (Love’s Coming).

"I would like to make this film simply to remind all of us that love can really make us blind. Love is definitely a beautiful thing, on the other side, love creates obsession and makes us do whatever it takes to make a person love us and be with us as long as possible.  I believe love requires lots of thoughts to make it really work," says Tanwarin in a director's statement issued ahead the movie's release.

Rated 18+

Also opening

Southpaw – Movie-awards season is months away, but already Jake Gyllenhaal is getting Oscar buzz for his transformative performance in this boxing drama. He's a former champ who loses everything – his title, his wife and daughter, his suburban home, his manager, etc. It seems hopeless until he meets a retired boxer (Forest Whitaker) who agrees to become his trainer and support his comeback bid. It's directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen) and written by Kurt Sutter, best known for his work on the gritty TV series The Shield and Sons of Anarchy. Rachel McAdams and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson also star. Most of the attention on Southpaw is focused on Gyllenhaal being practically unrecognizable after he bulked up for the role and trained for months as a boxer, following his dramatic weight loss for the very creepy Nightcrawler. But apart from that, Southpaw appears to be very much in the realm of standard Hollywood boxing pictures, and critical reception is only evenly mixed. Rated 13+

Ted 2 – Writer-director Seth MacFarlane again voices a foul-mouthed teddy bear in this sequel to the 2012 broad-comedy hit about a guy (Mark Wahlberg) who is "thunder buddies" with his magically transformed stuffed animal. In this sequel, Ted has gotten married to a (human) co-worker (Jessica Barth) and the two want to have children. When sperm-donation plans go comically awry, the two plan to adopt, but the state says parents need to be human and they rule Ted is not a person but property. So a recently graduated law student (Amanda Seyfried) is recruited to take on what becomes a major civil-rights case. Critical reception is evenly mixed. Rated 18+

Poltergeist – Tobe Hooper's classic 1982 thriller about family who move into a home built on an old cemetery that is haunted by evil spirits still holds up. But Hollywood is a relentless machine that must remake and ruin everything to keep the gears greased. And so it goes. But hey, at least the talented actor Sam Rockwell is getting a paycheck, so maybe he'll do something better next. The only difference between this and the original is the family now has a flat-screen TV. There's also some special-effects and scares ramped up to appeal to the current generation of fans of movies like Saw and The Conjuring. Yuck. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to the negative side. Rated 13+

Latitude 6 (ละติจูดที่ 6) – Restive southern Thailand is the backdrop for this propaganda film by the Internal Security Operations Command and UCI Media. A romantic drama, its aim is to "promote better understanding". There are various stories of cultural and religious conflict, mainly having to do with actor-musician Peter Corp Dyrendal, who portrays a Bangkok banker assigned to Pattani. There, he is charmed by the laid-back southern lifestyle. He falls for a young Muslim woman and hopes to prove he is worthy to the girl's strict father. Though the Army means well (and doesn't it always?), the film's release is poorly timed, with the motorcycle-enthusiast actor embroiled in social-media-fueled controversies over affairs and failures to turn up to work on TV shows. Rated G

Mon Love Sib Muen (มนต์เลิฟสิบหมื่น) – Just like Hollywood, the mainstream Thai movie industry isn't terribly inventive, and when one studio has a big box-office hit, the others follow it with something that looks similar, in hopes it will also catch on. The latest attempt is a reworking of the 1970 classic Monrak Luk Thung, which starred the legendary screen duo of Mitr Chaibancha and Petchara Chaowarat, and was a massive hit in its day, remaining in theaters for something like six months. There were (and still are) tons of other rural Thai musical romantic comedy-dramas, but none caught on like Monrak Luk Thung. Pariphan “Toh Phantamitr” Vachiranon, a member of the Phantamitr film-dubbing team, directs this new version, which is tarted up with CGI kickboxing roosters and hipster comedians. Chaiyapol Julien Poupart (Threesome, Jan Dara, The Scar) stars as a country boy who is hopelessly in love with a local lass, but can't marry her until he raises a lavish dowry. Rated 15+

Empire of Lust – This historical epic from South Korea is set sometime during the early Joseon Dynasty, and involves a prince who has been passed over as heir to the throne. Meanwhile, a battlefield hero falls for a courtesan who has a hidden agenda. Fans seem to think this one's okay. Rated 15+

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – The club is having a private event tonight, but is back open tomorrow with another "precocious girl", this time Mischa Barton in the terrific Lawn Dogs, in which a 10-year-old girl from a gated community goes against the wishes of her social-climbing parents and befriends the local yokel who mows lawns in the neighborhood. Hey, it's Sam Rockwell, who can be seen cashing a paycheck in the Poltergeist remake. Saturday has the original "bad kid" movie, 1956's The Bad Seed, in which a perfect pig-tailed little girl seems to be a murderer. Sunday's "imaginary friend" movie is The Machinist, which had Christian Bale dropping half his body weight to portray an industrial worker who is losing his mind over his inability to sleep. Next Wednesday is one more Canadian comedy, the Academy Award-winning hit teen pregnancy comedy Juno. 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 – With the earthquakes in Nepal on the minds of the region's newshounds, the FCCT hosts a screening on Monday of Kathmandu, a Mirror in the Sky (Katmandú, un espejo en el cielo), a fact-based 2011 Spanish drama about an idealistic young schoolteacher who volunteers in Kathmandu and devotes herself to helping the street kids. She faces difficulties due to cultural and caste differences, bureaucracy and corruption. The film is based on the life of Victoria Subirana, founder of the EduQual Foundation, who will fly to Bangkok to appear at the screening and talk after the movie. The show is at 7pm on Monday, July 27. Admission for non-members is 150 baht plus 100 baht for anyone wanting the tapas and wine laid on by the Spanish embassy.

Alliance FrançaiseSuzanne, the second feature from director Katell Quillévéré, chronicles the life and affairs of a young woman, who becomes a teen mother and then later courts trouble when she falls for a gangster. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, July 29, at the Alliance.

Take note

Apologies for omitting word last week of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre's Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice series, which had Concrete Clouds director and well-known film editor Lee Chatametikool screening Filipino director Raya Martin's How to Disappear Completely and then discussing it last Saturday. Although I had noted it here a couple of weeks ago, last week I had the dates confused in my mind. But there's no excuse. I have been terrible about keeping up with the BACC's movie events, and I'll try to do better. If anybody involved with the series is reading this and can assist in "promoting better understanding", please give a shout.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening July 16-22, 2015

P’chai My Hero

A much-needed fresh perspective in Thai cinema emerges in the indie drama P'Chai My Hero (พี่ชาย My Hero), which is adapted from the short stories of noted Thai-American writer Rattawut Lapcharoensap and directed by Korean-American Josh Kim. Combining two stories from Rattawut's Sightseeing collection, P'Chai My Hero is known internationally as How to Win at Checkers (Every Time).

The story centers on the tender relationship between two brothers, insecure 11-year-old Oat and his masculine but openly gay older brother Ek. Orphaned at a early age, the boys live with their superstitious aunt and her pest of a younger daughter. It's a warm-hearted yet bittersweet coming-of-age tale, as Oat looks for ways to help Ek stay out of the army as the annual military draft lottery approaches. Oat also wants desperately to beat Ek at checkers, so that Ek will finally take him for a night out in Bangkok.

Not only is this Thai film cobbled together from the English literature of a Thai-American writer by a Korean-American director (he previously did a short documentary called Draft Day, on transgender folk taking part in Thailand's unique military conscription drawing), the producers hail from all over – Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand and the US. They are Edward Gunawan, Chris Lee, Andrew Thomas Tiernan and Anocha Suwichakornpong. This could well signal a direction to follow in the Asean Economic Community, as Southeast Asia's filmmakers look for ways tell stories that resonate with home audiences as well as those abroad.

How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival, and also had a screening at the inaugural Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Critical reception has been highly positive – this is one of the best Thai films of the year so far. Don't miss it. It's at Apex, Esplanade Ratchada, House, Major Ratchayothin, Paragon and Chiang Mai Airport Plaza. Rated 18+


The Marvel Cinematic Universe takes a comedic turn with Ant-Man, a super-sized superhero who has the ability to be as small as an ant or as big as a skyscraper. A brilliant scientist, he's actually one of the founding members of The Avengers superhero team.

Paul Rudd stars as a small-time thief who is tasked by scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) with recovering his stolen super-suit, which gives the wearer the ability to shrink in size with a corresponding increase in strength. Corey Stoll and Evangeline Lilly also star.

This project was originated by cult British director Edgar Wright, who was set to direct. But, when the far-out ideas of Wright and his writing partner Joe Cornish clashed with the lockstep world-dominating plans of Marvel Comics executives, he left the project and Adam McKay (Anchorman) was brought in to rewrite the script, along with Rudd. Peyton Reed (Bring It On, The Break-Up) directs.

Critical reception is generally positive. Like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, this will have references to other Marvel movies, so keep your seat during closing credits if you don't want to miss out. It's in 2D in converted 3D (including IMAX). Rated G

Also opening

Kidnapping Freddy Heinenken – Anthony Hopkins stars as the heir to a Dutch beer empire in this fact-based crime drama about a 1983 kidnapping that resulted in the biggest ransom ever paid. But, the strain of the caper tested the friendships of the perpetrators. Sam Worthington, Jim Sturgess and Ryan Kwanten also star. It's directed by Daniel Alfredson, a Swede who previously did two sequels in the Swedish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movies and is the older brother of Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy). Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

Bajrangi Bhaijaan – A five-year-old speech-impaired Pakistani girl gets lost at a railway station in India, and finds shelter in the colorful community of a Hindu man (Salman Khan), who takes it upon himself to reunite the mute girl with her family. Kareena Kapoor, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Om Puri also star. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

European Union Film Festival – Still plenty to see as the long-running annual EU fest rolls into its final weekend at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Tonight, it's Beloved Sisters, a historical drama from Germany. Tomorrow is the Dutch thriller Borgman, in which a street person worms his way into the lives of an upper-class family. Saturday has the darkly comic Heavenly Shift, about a Budapest ambulance worker, the Belgian surrogate pregnancy drama Melody and the highly acclaimed '71, about a British soldier stranded alone in Troubles-wracked Belfast. And Sunday has the Romanian family drama The Japanese Dog and two from the late Portuguese auteur Manoel de Oliveira, Gebo and the Shadow and The Old Man of Belem. The EU fest next moves to SFX Maya Chiang Mai from July 24 to August 8 and then to SF Cinema City in Khon Kaen from August 7 to 9. For details, check my earlier post, the SF cinemas website or the EU's Facebook.

The Friese-Greene Club – A controversial flop when it was originally released, director Tod Browning's 1932 sideshow drama Freaks found its audience on the midnight-movies circuit in the 1970s. Screening tonight, it is now a cult classic. Tomorrow night's "precocious girl" is once again Natalie Portman, who followed up her role in 1994's Leon with 1996's Beautiful Girls, which has a bunch of adults at a crossroads during a high-school reunion. Timothy Hutton, Matt Dillon and Noah Emmerich also star. Saturday's "bad kid" is Jodie Foster, in the rare and underrated 1976 thriller The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. Martin Sheen also stars. The first rule about Sunday's film: You do not talk about Sunday's film. The second rule about Sunday's film: You do not talk about Sunday's film. And next Wednesday, it's the classic Canadian summer camp comedy Meatballs, which featured Bill Murray in his first film role. Shows are at 8pm (even the "midnight" movies). 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.

According to Marguerite Duras Project – The ongoing Marguerite Duras series continues on Tuesday and Wednesday at Thong Lor Art Space with 1969's Détruire dit-elle (Destroy, She Said), in which a depressed man meets a mysterious woman who might be involved in kidnapping women sold into prostitution. It will be followed on July 28 and 29 by 1959's Hiroshima Mon Amour, directed by Alain Resnais. All will have English and Thai subtitles. In addition to the films, which are free, the project is also staging a play, An Epilogue to the Malady of Death, which is on at 7.30pm on Thursday and Friday and 3pm on Saturday and Sunday until August 1. For details, check the Thong Lor Art Space Facebook page or the Facebook events page.

Alliance Française – In Au Galop (In a Rush), a young single mother is about to get married when she meets another guy, a single dad with an overbearing mother. Louis-Do de Lencquesaing directs and stars in this comedy-drama, which also stars Marthe Keller. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, July 22, at the Alliance.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening July 9-14, 2015

Y/our Music

Urban and city beats blend in the tuneful documentary Y/our Music, which finally comes to Bangkok cinemas after a spin on the festival circuit.

I've seen it twice, and it kept my toes tapping both times. Directed by David Reeve and Waraluck “Art” Hiransrettawat Every, Y/our Music is a bifurcated look at Thailand's social divide through the benignly harmonious prism of music.

In Bangkok, there's an esoteric blend of city folk, playing Western-influenced folk, jazz and rock, while in the countryside, there are National Artists, performing the traditional Isaan country-folk music of mor lam, on traditional instruments, such as the electric pin (Isaan banjo) and the khaen (Isaan reed pipe).

It's those Isaan sounds that mostly come through, thanks to ever-present transistor radios in market stalls, taxi-cab stereos, masked street performers and, eventually, the Northeastern legends themselves.

Here are the performers:

  • Wiboon Tangyernyong – A Khao San-area optician who developed a worldwide following as a maker of bamboo saxophones.
  • Sweet Nuj – Young musician and indie record label entrepreneur Bun Suwannochin formed a duo with his singer mother-in-law Worranuj Kanakakorn, and they sell their discs online.
  • Happy Band – Following the tradition of The Who, Velvet Underground and Talking Heads, some Bangkok artists thought it'd be a swell idea to create a rock band as an art project. Eventually, they learned to be musicians.
  • Captain Prasert Keawpukdee – A gentleman who sells used violins and Buddha amulets at Chatuchak market, he hosts old-timey fiddle jam sessions on weekends.
  • Nattapol Seangsukon – Otherwise known as DJ Maftsai, he is a DJ who collects old mor lam, luk thung, string and Thai funk, and is the glue that holds this all together.
  • Chaweewan Phanthu – National Artist singer and academic.
  • Chalardnoi Songserm – National Artist singer.
  • Thongsai Thabthanon – Phin master. "Borrowed" telephone wire from American GIs to string up his Isaan banjo and play with rock bands.
  • Sombat Simlhar – A blind virtuoso of the khaen, the Isaan bamboo reed pipe. He lost his sight in early childhood and turned to music, becoming a major recording artist and performer who is still much sought-after.

Critical reception is pretty great. Y/our Music screens at 6.45 nightly until July 22 at the Lido in Siam Square. Rated G

Also opening

Magic Mike XXL – Before he blew up big with such movies as 21 Jump Street, Foxcatcher and White House Down, dancer and actor Channing Tatum worked for about eight months as a stripper, and it was his early-career exploits that inspired the 2012 sleeper hit Magic Mike, which was directed by Steven Soderbergh and was widely acclaimed. So of course there's a sequel, with Tatum's Mike rounding up most of the six-pack-rocking crew from the first film, including Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez and Gabriel Iglesias. The story is set three years later, after Mike bowed out of the stripper life at the top of his game. They get back together for a last hurrah, hitting the road for a tour from Florida to South Carolina. Elizabeth Banks, Donald Glover, Amber Heard, Andie MacDowell, Jada Pinkett Smith and Michael Strahan join the cast this time around. Gregory Jacobs, a first assistant director and producer on many of Soderbergh's films, takes over as director. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive, making XXL not as well received as the first Magic Mike but probably still magical enough for the fans. Rated 15+

Minions – The gibberish-spewing little yellow characters from Illumination Entertainment's animated Despicable Me franchise come front and center in their own movie, with a story that explains their origins, in which the devoted henchmen quested for centuries to find a master to serve. Their latest is female supervillain Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock), who tasks them with breaking into the Tower of London to steal the queen's jewels. If you listen closely, you might hear a bit of Bahasa Indonesian sprinkled throughout the nonsensical utterings of the Minions. That's thanks to co-director Pierre Coffin, the son of a French diplomat dad and an Indonesian novelist mum. The overstuffed voice cast also includes Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Geoffrey Rush and Jennifer Saunders. Critical reception is generally positive. Rated G

Danny Collins – Al Pacino stars in this fact-based musical drama about an ageing 1970s rock musician who is inspired to change his hard-living ways after he receives a letter of encouragement from John Lennon, delivered 40 years late. Nine of Lennon's songs were licensed for the film, which is very loosely based on the life of English folksinger Steve Tilston. Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale and Christopher Plummer also star. It's written and directed by Dan Fogelman, screenwriter on such films as Last Vegas and The Guilt Trip. Critical reception is generally positive. Rated 18+

F. Hilaire (ฟ.ฮีแลร์) – The writer of the widely used "Darun Suksa" Thai-language textbook was not Thai at all: he was a French Roman Catholic missionary and schoolteacher. Brother Hilaire was one of the key educators behind Thailand's Assumption College and taught many of the statesmen who would lead the Kingdom into the modern era. His story is recalled with help from a present-day scholar (Pharunyoo "Tac" Rojanawuttitham) who is looking for a new angle as he tries to write a thesis. Jason Young portrays the bearded clergyman teacher. Rated 13+

The Scar International Version – Dramatist ML Bhandevanop "Mom Noi" Devakula's adaptation of the classic tragic romance Plae Kao (แผลเก่า) is back in cinemas for one week as The Scar International Version. Adding 40 minutes of further exposition, the longer director's cut premiered at last month's Thai Film Festival in London. Adapted from a novel by Mai Muengderm, The Scar is set in the Bang Kapi countryside of the 1930s, where poor farm boy Kwan is hopelessly in love with Riam, the daughter of a wealthier farming family. The star-crossed romance has been adapted for film and TV many times before, including a beloved 1977 film version by Cherd Songsri. Mom Noi's take stars Chaiyapol Julian Pupart from Mom Noi's Jan Dara remake as Kwan and Davika Hoorne from Pee Mak Phra Khanong as Riam. It's playing at House on RCA.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – A black-clad gunfighter rides the Old West in search of enlightenment in tonight's cult-classic "midnight movie" El Topo by avant-gard auteur Alejandro Jodorowsky. Tomorrow's "precocious girl" is Natalie Portman, making her motion-picture debut as a pint-sized assassin in Léon: The Professional, starring Jean Reno and a very shouty Gary Oldman. Saturday night's "bad kids" movie is Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale, which has inspired such films as Kill Bill and The Hunger Games. Sunday has another imaginary friend in the deeply unsettling Donnie Darko. And next Wednesday, it's South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, in which all the world's ills are blamed on Canada. 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.

European Union Film Festival – The long-running annual EU fest gets underway tomorrow night at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld with Girlhood, a French coming-of-age drama about a black 16-year-old who joins an all-female street gang. Saturday has the Czech sports drama Fair Play and the German post-World War II thriller Phoenix. Sunday has entries from Luxembourg (the Oscar-winning animated short Mr. Hublot and the death-row tale Dead Man Talking). Other entries are the Swedish documentary Trespassing Bergman, the Danish psychological drama The Hour of the Lynx and the Finnish crime yarn Concrete Night. Tickets are 120 baht at the box office. You can also book through the SF app and the website. For showtimes and other details, please check my earlier post.

According to Marguerite Duras Project – Born in French-colonial-era Saigon in 1914, author Marguerite Duras wrote steamy novels that reflected on her affairs and the expat experience. Her works have been adapted many times for films that highlight her cross-cultural romances. She also directed many films herself and wrote screenplays. This month, Thong Lor Art Space is screening some of those movies as part of the According to Marguerite Duras Project. With screenings at 7.30pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, next week's show is 1975's India Song. Delphine Seyrig stars as a twice-married French socialite in Calcutta, where she takes lovers to relieve the boredom. Other offerings will be 1969's Détruire dit-elle on July 21 and 22 and 1959's Hiroshima Mon Amour, directed by Alain Resnais, on July 28 and 29. All will have English and Thai subtitles. In addition to the films, which are free, the project is also staging a play. An Epilogue to the Malady of Death will be performed at 7.30pm on Thursday and Friday and 3pm on Saturday and Sunday until August 1. For details, check the Thong Lor Art Space Facebook page or the Facebook events page.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – Burmese human-rights activist Aung Myo Min is profiled in the documentary This Kind of Love, screening next Wednesday. Directed by Jeanne Hallacy, it premiered at last month's Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival in Yangon. The 45-minute doc follows Aung Myo Min's return to Burma after 24 years in exile, and highlights his vision of human rights for everyone, especially GLBT folk. You can read more about the film and Aung Myo Min in stories from The Nation. Hallacy will take part in a panel talk, with Aung Myo Min calling in on Skype. Entry for non-members is 350 baht. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, July 15 at the FCCT.

Alliance Française – A poor theater actor who has left his wife to take up with his new love – a struggling actress – tries to make that relationship work in La jalousie, directed by Philippe Garrel, and starring Louis Garrel, Anna Mouglalis and Rebecca Convenant. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, July 15, at the Alliance.

Take note

Upcoming is the next entry in the Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice series at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, on July 25, where Concrete Clouds director Lee Chatametikool picks How to Disappear Completely, an award-winning 2013 drama by Raya Martin, one of the leading directors of the Philippines indie film scene. Martin and actress Ness Roque are expected to take part.

Ongoing events include the Short Film Marathon, in which all 500 or so entries in next month's 19th Short Film and Video Festival are screened until August 2. Shows are from 11am to 8.30pm on Saturday and Sunday and 4.30pm to 8.30 Tuesday to Friday in the FA Cinematheque on the second floor of the BACC.

Also, if you still haven't seen the Documentary Club's latest offering The Wolfpack, it looks likely it will be around for another week or so. A weekend screening I attended was more than half full, and more showtimes were being added.  For details, check their Facebook page or SF Cinema City for details.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening July 2-8, 2015

The Wolfpack

Six unusual brothers, kept locked away in their Manhattan apartment by a stern father and homeschooled by their mother, learned most of what they know about pop culture and life itself from watching movies. They grew up spending their days re-creating favorite films such as Reservoir Dogs and The Dark Knight with homemade props and costumes.

It's The Wolfpack, a documentary by Crystal Moselle, who makes her debut as a director. She spent several years getting to know the Angulo brothers, all with Sanskrit names, Mukunda, Narayana, Govinda, Bhagavan, Krisna and Jagadesh. They were raised by a strict Peruvian dad, who forbade his children and his American wife from leaving their apartment on Manhattan's Lower East Side. At one point, the boys didn't leave the apartment for an entire year. But they eventually came to light when 15-year-old Mukunda was the first to venture outside, scaring the neighbors with his Friday the 13th hockey-goalie mask.

Screened at the Sundance Film Festival this year, The Wolfpack captured the hearts of industry figures, and went on to win the festival's Grand Prize for U.S. Documentary. Critical reception is generally positive.

The Wolfpack comes to cinemas as part of the ongoing Doc Holiday series, put on by the Documentary Club and SF cinemas. Shows are at 3, 5, 7 and 9 through Wednesday at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. It's also screening at 8 night from tomorrow to Sunday at SFX Maya Chiang Mai.

Additional showtimes and venues may be added. To find out more, check Facebook. Advance bookings are encouraged through the SF Cinemas website.

Terminator Genisys

The thing about the Terminator franchise is that the timeline is continually changing. It is canon. And whenever a character travels back in time, multiple timelines are altered and splintered. So there is no limit to what the studios want to do. If something doesn't work, they can just hit reset and try again. And it doesn't matter if it makes sense.

So now we have Terminator Genisys, which like the 1984 movie has resistance leader John Connor sending lone warrior Kyle Reese back in time to protect his mother Sarah Connor from being killed by the machines of Skynet. Original series star Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as a cyborg guardian. It'll be interesting to see how they explain the machine-man's head of gray hair and wrinkled appearance.

Other stars are Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and Jai Courtney (A Good Day to Die Hard), with Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke taking a break from being the mother of dragons to be the mother of future human society.

She follows GoT castmate Lena Headey in the role of Sarah Connor, Headey having portrayed the heroine mum in TV's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which ran for two seasons and was actually pretty cool.

Alan Taylor takes over as director. A veteran helmer who previously did Thor: The Dark World, he's best known for his work on TV series such as Game of Thrones and The Sopranos.

Terminator Genisys is the fifth feature film in the franchise. It follows 2009's Terminator Salvation, which tied in with the TV series but was a failed attempt at a reboot. Perhaps Genisys will take hold, but critics aren't so sure. Perhaps it's time to lower this franchise into a pool of molten steel.

It's in 2D and converted 3D, including IMAX. Rated 13+

Also opening

The Trials of Cate McCall – Kate Beckinsale is Cate McCall, a former hot-shot lawyer whose career went off the rails. Newly sober and trying to rebuild her life, she is assigned to defend a woman who has been framed for murder. But her search for evidence uncovers conspiracy and corruption in the police department. Nick Nolte, James Cromwell, Clancy Brown and Mark Pellegrino also star. It's helmed by Karen Moncrief, a TV actress who is adding to her credits as a writer-director. Critical reception isn't a thing, even though this movie has already aired on the Lifetime channel in the U.S. Rated 15+

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Canadian comedies, "midnight" movies, precocious girls, bad kids and imaginary friends are featured in July. Tonight, it's Eraserhead, the disturbing and mind-blowing cult classic from David Lynch, which is a regular staple on the midnight-movie circuit. Tomorrow's precocious girl is Brooke Shields, portraying a 12-year-old New Orleans prostitute in Louis Malle's controversial Pretty Baby. Saturday's "bad kids" are boys marooned on an island in 1963's Lord of the Flies. On Sunday, the bartender won't flinch if you order two martinis for just yourself. It's James Stewart in Harvey. And next Wednesday is the hilariously uneven comedy Canadian Bacon, documentarian Michael Moore's first and only foray into scripted features. John Candy stars, in one of his last performances. Shows are at 8pm (even the "midnight" movies). 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.

Marathon 19 – Each year, the Thai Film Foundation receives hundreds upon hundreds of entries for the annual Thai Short Film and Video Festival, and each year all those entries are screened in a monthlong marathon preceding the festival. This year, the Short Film Marathon starts on Saturday, July 4, and runs until August 2, with screenings in the little FA Cinematheque on the second floor of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. Shows run from 4.30 to 8.30 Tuesday to Friday and 11am to 8.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The BACC is closed on Mondays. The 19th Thai Short Film and Video Festival is set for August 13 to 23 at the BACC. For more details, check the fest's Facebook page.

Alliance Française – Next week's screening is Hannah Arendt, which depicts the German Jewish writer and philosopher as she covers  the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, and presents her controversial thoughts about "the banality of evil". Margarethe Von Trotta directs and Barbara Sukowa stars. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, July 8, at the Alliance.

Take note

The European Union Film Festival runs from July 10 to 19 at SFW CentralWorld and is covered in a special post. Happily, you won't have to queue up in a long line to get free tickets. However, the convenience of booking your seats in advance comes at a price – 120 baht. Still a good deal.