Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening August 27-September 2, 2015

Absolutely Anything

Robin Williams and the cast of Monty Python's Flying Circus all figure into the absurdist comedy Absolutely Anything, which stars Simon Pegg (Star Trek, Mission: Impossible) as a hapless Earthling who is granted powers by a bunch of jerkface aliens. He can make anything happen, but doesn't do much of consequence with his abilities, other than make his pet dog talk.

The Pythons' Terry Jones directs, and is also one of the voices of those trouble-making aliens, along with John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam, making Absolutely Anything the first time the Pythons have worked in a movie together since 1983's The Meaning of Life. Williams, in one of his last roles, is the voice of the dog. Kate Becksinsale, Eddie Izzard and Rob Riggle are also featured.

Despite the presence of Brit-comedy favorite Pegg, the Pythons and Williams, critical reception has been underwhelming. Rated 15+

Also opening

Paper Towns – Following up quickly behind the popular success of the teen romantic drama The Fault in Our Stars, here's another movie based on a young-adult novel by author-of-the-moment John Green. Paper Towns deals with a teen named Quentin who has long had a crush on mysterious neighbor girl Margo. After an all-night adventure with her, Margo disappears, leaving behind clues that Quentin and his friends have to follow on a cross-country journey that will change their lives forever. Outspoken model-actress Cara Delevingne stars along with Nat Wolff and Austin Abrams. Jake Schreier (Robot and Frank) directs. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive. in limited release at Paragon and SF World at CentralWorld. Rated 13+

Khon Oak Hak (คน.อก.หัก, a.k.a. Love H2O) – In this Thai comedy, Naam (Natpapas Thanathanamaharat) is the editor of a romance magazine but her own love life turns rocky after her long-time boyfriend ditches her for someone else. She wants to find the perfect guy to take to her ex’s wedding and has a choice between old friend Doc (Tony Rakkaen), diplomat Joe (Navin Yavapollkul) or property tycoon Ohm (Ananda Everingham). Sutthasit Detinthonnarak (Club Friday: The Series) directs. Rated 15+

367 Won: Him and Her (367 วัน Him and Her) – And in this Thai romance, Tine (Chonluedee Amornlak) and Hade (Khanut Rojanai) have been a couple since high school. Now  graduated from college, Tine is set to head overseas, and she breaks up with Hade rather than have him wait for her to return. Thirawat Phadungkan directs. Rated G

Attack on Titan – After 100 years of living behind huge walls to protect themselves from man-eating giants, humanity is starting to fight back. Among them is teenager Eren Jaeger (Haruma Miura), who must use his special gift to defeat the titan race. This is the first of a two-part live-action adaptation of a popular manga and anime franchise in Japan. Part two, Attack on Titan: End of the World, is set for release there next month. Critical reception has been mixed. It's Thai-dubbed most places (including IMAX) but in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at a few locations, including CentralWorld, Paragon and the Quartier CineArt. Rated 13+

To the Fore – Dante Lam, a Hong Kong director known for gritty, gripping crime thrillers, turns to romance with To the Fore, which is set in the world of competitive cycling, where four riders put their relationships to the test as they enter a big race. Eddie Peng, Choi Siwon, Shawn Dou and Wang Luodan star. Critical reception has been mixed. It's Thai-dubbed most places but is in Chinese with English and Thai subtitles at some locations, including Paragon and Quartier CineArt. Rated G

Also showing

Bangkok Asean Film Festival – Lots of worthwhile stuff to choose from in the selection of Southeast Asian films put together by the Culture Ministry and the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand, running from tonight until Sunday at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. For broad comedies, there's the hilarious What's So Special About Rina? from Brunei and, if you like Thai TV comedies, then you'll probably like Huk Ey Ly 2 (Really Love 2) from Laos. There's drama with The Last Reel from Cambodia, Bwaya from the Philippines, Siti from Indonesia, 1021 from Singapore and Golden Kingdom from Myanmar. Vietnam has a gay angle with Big Father, Small Father and Other Stories, while Malaysia offers a darkly comic satire with Men Who Save the World. And Thailand looks to the South with the drama Latitude 6, with various stories of religious and cultural conflict against the backdrop of restiveness in the three southernmost provinces. Each film was further detailed in an earlier post. Tickets are handed out 30 minutes before the shows, so queue up well in advance to ensure you get a decent seat. The schedule is at the SF Cinemas website.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – A longstanding feud between Brazilian farming families boils over in Behind the Sun (Abril Despedaçado), a 2001 drama by Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries), screening at 7 tonight. Part of the FCCT’s Contemporary World Film Series, the movie is courtesy of the embassy of Brazil. Admission is 150 baht for nonmembers, plus 100 baht for anyone wanting the snacks and drinks. Also upcoming at the club is the Belgian film Two Days, One Night (Deux Jours, Une Nuit) by the Dardenne brothers on September 7.

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight is a special event, with a best-of selection from last year's Shnit International Short Film Festival. It's part of the run-up to this year's Shnit fest, which is set for October 7 to 18, and is held simultaneously in major cities worldwide, Bangkok among them. If you want to go, check the Facebook events page. Tomorrow is one more Bertolucci for the month, 1996's Stealing Beauty, with Liv Tyler as an American teenager visiting her late mother's hometown in Tuscany. She hopes to lose her virginity before the summer ends. Saturday's Terry Gilliam film is one his most celebrated, 1995's 12 Monkeys, starring Bruce Willis, Madeline Stowe and an absolutely unhinged Brad Pitt. And the month wraps on Sunday with one more Sinatra film, 1958's Some Came Running, a small-town drama that features the first onscreen pairing of Sinatra with fellow Rat Packer Dean Martin. 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 – A depressed rock musician quits his band and stumbles on a new occupation as the caretaker of an old Paris apartment building in Dans la cour (In the Courtyard). He soon builds a rapport with residents, among them a mentally deteriorating retired woman. Gustave Kervern and Catherine Deneuve star. Pierre Salvadori directs. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, September 2, at the Alliance.

Take note

The latest offering from the Documentary Club, Amy has moved to a wider release. It's at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld, SF Cinema City Terminal 21, SFX Central Rama 9, SFX Maya Chiang Mai and maybe more places. For showtimes and bookings, please check SF Cinema's bookings page.

Upcoming events include another entry in the Bangkok Art and Culture Center's Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice series, which on September 5 has Pee Mak director Banjong Pisanthanakun screening one of his favorite films, The Chaser from South Korea. He'll be talking about the thriller afterward with director Na Hong-jin. Registration opens at 4.30pm with the show at 5.30pm in the BACC's fifth-floor auditorium.

Also in September will be a video-art exhibition, Behind the Painting, with work by inventive filmmaker Chulayarnon Siriphol. Organized by the Japan Foundation, the exhibition will be at Silpakorn University's Art Center, opening on September 11 and running until October 10. Don't miss it!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Bangkok Asean Film Festival

Yet another free film festival is upon us with the Bangkok Asean Film Festival, organized by the Culture Ministry and the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand. Running from August 27 to 30 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld, it will present films from each of the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Noteworthy entries include The Last Reel from Cambodia, Bwaya from the Philippines and Men Who Save the World from Malaysia. There are even films from two countries that don't really make that many movies, Laos and Brunei.

Here is the line-up:

  • What's So Special About Rina? (Brunei) – One of the first feature films to come out of the oil-rich Muslim sultanate on the island of Borneo, Rina is an enjoyable romantic comedy by Harlif Haji Mohamad and Farid Azlan Ghani. It centers on a sad-sack advertising man named Hakim (Syukri Mahari) and his ladies-man roommate Faisal (Tauffek Ilyas). Hakim nervously attempts to catch the eye of his new co-worker Rina while Faisal competes for the affections of a waitress, who is also being wooed by an Elvis impersonator. Read more about it in an article in The Nation from a couple years ago.
  • The Last Reel (Cambodia) – This much-buzzed-about title mixes contemporary Cambodian culture with the country's cinematic Golden Age of the past, all tinged by the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge era. The drama involves a young woman (Ma Rynet) who learns that her aged, mentally ailing mother was an actress in the 1960s and 70s. Seeking to make a connection with her mom, Sophoun sets about recreating the lost final reel from one of her mother's most famous films. Mom is portrayed by Dy Saveth – one of Cambodia's best-known actresses and a starlet of the Golden Age. The debut film by Kulikar Sotho, The Last Reel has won several prizes, including the Spirit of Asia Award from the Tokyo film fest and the Black Diamond Audience Award from the Udine Far East Asian Film Festival.
  • Siti (Indonesia) – Directed by Eddie Cahyohno, Siti is a 24-hour slice of life about a young mother who goes to work in a karaoke bar, against her fisherman husband's wishes, in order to support the family. It is filmed in black-and-white, in the old-style 4:3 ratio. Critical reception has been fair, and Siti has won awards, including best actress at the Singapore International Film Fest for star Sekar Sari and best script at the Shanghai fest.
  • Real Love 2 (Laos) – Stifled for decades by the communist military rulers, commercial filmmaking is finally starting up in Laos, and one of the early adopters of this fledgling medium has been singer, comedian and TV host Jear Pacific, who last year made his film debut with the romantic comedy Huk Ey Ly, which offered various vignettes of young couples and their comical antics, all in a slapstick style designed to appeal to an audience whose main source of entertainment has been Thai television. The quickly made sequel Huk Ey Ly 2 offers more of the same, and it's been a big hit in Laos, which just opened its first modern multiplex, the Major Platinum Cineplex in Vientiane.
  • Men Who Save the World (Malaysia) – Liew Seng Tat, who made his award-winning feature debut in 2007 with the sweet boyhood tale Flower in Pocket, returns with a satire on contemporary Malaysian society with Men Who Save the World. The story is centered in a remote village that is panicked by a haunted house, inhabited not by ghosts, but by a fugitive African immigrant. From appearances in festivals that include Hong Kong, Locarno and Singapore, critical reception has been mixed, but perhaps viewers with more than a passing knowledge of Malaysian culture will appreciate this film more.
  • Golden Kingdom (Myanmar) – This is a drama, written and directed by American filmmaker Brian Perkins. It premiered at this year's Berlin International Film Festival, where it was a nominee for Best First Feature and the Crystal Bear Award in the youth-oriented Generation Kplus category. With many painterly, finely composed shots, it follows four young novice monks at a remote monastery, who are left to fend for themselves when their abbot is called away on temple business. Critical reception has been fair.
  • Bwaya (Philippines) – A 2009 incident in which a girl was killed by a crocodile serves as the basis for this award-winning drama by Francis Xavier Pasion. Set in the Agusan del Sur water basin, the story involves a young mother (Angeli Bayani from Ilo Ilo) who is searching for her daughter's missing body. She has to navigate treacherous social terrain as she discovers that the worst predators are not in the water. Bwaya (Crocodile) has won many awards, including the Best Film-New Breed prize and Netpac Award at Cinemalaya and the Grand Prize at Tokyo FilmEx.
  • 1021 (Singapore) – Despite a huge Tamil-speaking population, locally made Tamil films have been rare in Singapore, but there is a movement afoot to correct that. Following 2009's My Magic by Eric Khoo, now there's 1021, a family drama about a teenage girl who after the death of her mother goes to live with her father, a lonely, depressed man who has turned to drugs to cope. Local buzz has been positive.
  • Latitude 6 – Thailand looks the Deep South for its contribution to the festival, with this drama that was released in cinemas in July. Directed by Thanadol Nualsuth, it weaves together stories in a tight-knit ethnically diverse community in Pattani. The characters include a Bangkok musician and computer technician (Peter Corp Dyrendal) who comes to Pattani to update the Islamic Bank's software. Along they way, he falls for a Muslim woman, who is the daughter of a stern, tradition-minded religious leader who frowns when he sees the guy's tattoos. There's also a young guy who wants to excel at Pencak Silat, against the wishes of his tradition-minded father, and a young woman who deejays for a community radio station, caught in a love triangle between two boys. And the Army's Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), who produced this bit of propaganda, is there to lend an amiable, helping hand.
  • Big Father, Small Father and Other Stories – Another selection from this year's Berlinale, Big Father is the sophomore effort from director Phan Dang Di, who was much acclaimed for his debut Bi, Don't Be Afraid. Set in 1990s' Ho Chi Minh City, the story involves a youngster named Vu who arrives in Saigon to go to photography school. He falls in love with his roommate, a shady guy who wants to involve Vu in various schemes. Meanwhile, the boy's father pushes a village girl toward Vu for an arranged marriage, and she becomes a third leg in an awkward triangular romance. In addition to taking part in the top-tier Golden Bear competition in Berlin, Big Father was also a nominee for prizes at the Hong Kong fest.

In addition to those 10 films, there is a hidden 11th title in the mix, Mart Payak, a made-for-TV biographical documentary on famed boxer Samart Payakarun, "The Jade Faced Tiger". Part of The Great Muay Thai Fighter TV series produced by Krungthep Thurakij and the Now 26 television channel, with support from the Culture Ministry, it follows Samart from his start in the ring as a boy and his rise to the heights of the Muay Thai world. It screens just once, on Wednesday night in a gala invite-only opening ceremony.

Following its run in Bangkok, the Asean Film Festival will travel to SF branches in Chiang Mai from September 3 to 6, Khon Kaen from September 10 to 13 and Surat Thani from September 17 to 20.

Admission is free, with tickets handed out 30 minutes before the shows. You'll want to queue up for an additional 30 minutes or so to ensure you get a decent seat. For the schedule, please see the SF Cinemas website.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening August 20-26, 2015


The short life of Grammy-winning pop musician Amy Winehouse is detailed in the much-acclaimed hit documentary Amy, which comes to Thai cinemas as part of the ongoing Doc Holiday series put on by SF cinemas and the Documentary Club.

Winehouse was 27 years old when she died on July 23, 2011, following a rapid rise to stardom. Known for her bluesy voice, which was compared to the likes of Billie Holiday or perhaps Nina Simone, her hits included the song "Rehab" and her second album "Back to Black". However, she had problems, in her personal life and with the trappings of fame, and she turned to drugs and alcohol to cope.

Asif Kapadia directs. He previously did Senna, which profiled car-racer Ayrton Senna. Kapadia follows the same formula for Amy, which involves audio recordings of around a hundred interviews that serve as the backdrop for archive videos from family and friends, news clips and concert footage, avoiding the trap of "talking heads" that so many documentaries fall into.

Critical reception is highly positive.

The scheduling of these Documentary Club offerings is a little confusing, but it's all calculated to virally boost interest in the film through social media. There is just one screening scheduled for this week, at 8 tonight at SFW CentralWorld. Amy then moves to a wider release from next Thursday at CentralWorld, SF Cinema City Terminal 21, SFX Central Rama 9 and SFX Maya Chiang Mai. More shows may be added. For details, check the Documentary Club Facebook page or SF Cinema's bookings page.

Also opening

Pixels – Aliens mistake classic video games as a declaration of war, and invade the planet in the form of Pac-Man and other arcade characters. In response, the U.S. president (Kevin James) recruits a childhood friend (Adam Sandler) and other champion gamers to fight back. Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad also star. Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire) directs. As with all of Sandler's other movies, critical reception has been brutal, but that won't stop this from turning up repeatedly on HBO about a year from now. Rated G

Hitman: Agent 47 – A genetically engineered assassin is assigned to take on a mega-corporation that plans to unlock his secrets in order to create a highly advanced army of killers. Rupert Friend shaves his head for this role, starring alongside Hannah War, Zachary Quinto and Ciaran Hinds, among others. This is a second movie adaptation of a video game and is a reboot/sequel to 2007's Hitman, which starred Timothy Olyphant. Critical reception is just now starting to register. Rated 13+

Exeter – Teenagers become possessed by an evil spirit, which was released when they played a vintage record backward. Serves them right. Stephen Lang, Brittany Curran and Gage Golightly are among the stars. It's directed by Marcus Nispel, who has previously done the remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th, and is produced by the same folks behind the torturous horrors Paranormal Activity and Insidious. Also known as Backmask, critical reception has some positivity, but mainly from horror fans. Rated 18+

Love Love You อยากบอกให้รู้...ว่ารัก (Love Love You Yak Bok Hai Roo Wa Rak) – Here's the type of indie gay Thai film that inspired the release of other Thai gay films this year, such as P'Chai My Hero, Red Wine and the Dark Night and The Blue Hour. Here, Blue Hour leading man Atthaphan Poonsawawas stars as a young man named Gump who feels the Earth shake when meets Sun (Thanasarn Miangbua). Gump’s boyfriend Night (Narrapat Sakulsong) has meanwhile fallen for for a dude named Ball. Their friends step in to sort things out. Napat Jaitientum directs. Rated 13+

Next Station I Love You – After two years of marriage, a young woman (Yang Fanghan) is diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, prompting her husband (Steven Ma) to quit his job to take care of her. Together, they turn to their faith for solace. A Chinese drama, it is directed by Dewei Li. It's at Major Cineplex.

All Is Well – Abhishek Bachchan, Asin, Rishi Kapoor and Supriya Pathak star in this road-trip comedy-drama about a dysfunctional family being chased by goons. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Rama III. Opens Friday.

Also showing

Maryam, an entry in the S-Express Indonesia package, screening on Saturday.

19th Thai Short Film and Video Festival – S-Express packages of shorts from the Philippines and Singapore plus broadly appealing International Competition entries are on tap tonight and tomorrow at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. On Saturday, you have the choice between the International Competition, finalist Thai shorts in the top-tier R.D. Pestonji Award competition (named for Thailand's first auteur) or all the S-Express entries in one go. The festival wraps up on Sunday, which starts with a morning block of Thai animation, all competing for the Payut Ngaokrachang Award, named after Thailand's pioneering animator. Screenings start at 5.30pm on weekdays and 11am on Saturday and Sunday. For more details, please check the festival's Facebook page.

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight's Bergman offering is 1962's Winter Light, which is described as the Swedish great's "favorite" and is "intimate and autobiographical". Tomorrow's Bertolucci film is the Italian director's controversial 2003 effort The Dreamers, in which a young American man meets a pair of French siblings against the backdrop of riots in Paris in 1968. Saturday has another Terry Gilliam film, with 1977's Jabberwocky, which was his first solo effort following Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And Sunday has Frank Sinatra in the very dark drug-addiction drama The Man with the Golden Arm, which is directed by Otto Preminger and has an iconic poster designed by Saul Bass. The month starts winding down next Wednesday, with one more film from French actress-director Catherine Breillat, 1999's Romance. 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 – Secrets among a close-knit group of friends and family come spilling out in the 2012 comedy-drama Amitiés sincères, directed by Stephan Archinard and François Prévôt-Leygonie and starring Gérard Lanvin, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Ana Girardot, Wladimir Yordanoff and Zabou Breitman. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, August 26, at the Alliance.

Take note

Undeterred by Monday night's bombing at the Erawan Shrine, which killed 20 people and hurt around 100, the government is pressing on with events, including yet another film festival at CentralWorld, right by the blast site. Announced on Tuesday by the Culture Ministry (the very day there was another, non-fatal bomb blast near Sathorn Bridge Pier), the Bangkok Asean Film Festival will run from August 27 to 30 at SF World Cinema. It will have entries from all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with Cambodia's The Last Reel and Vietnam's Big Father, Small Father and the Other Stories being among the notable titles. I hope to have more details to pass along by this time next week.

Also near the Erawan Shrine, the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand has two upcoming screenings, with the Brazilian drama Behind the Sun (Abril Despedaçado) by Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries) next Thursday, and the Belgian drama Two Days, One Night (Deux Jours, Une Nuit) by the Dardenne brothers on September 7.

Further down the street, the Friese-Greene Club also has a special event next Thursday, with a best-of selection from last year's Shnit International Short Film Festival. It's part of the run-up to this year's Shnit, which is set for October 7 to 18, and is held simultaneously in major cities worldwide, Bangkok among them.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening August 12-19, 2015

Inside Out

For their latest feature Inside Out, the wizards at Pixar Animation go inside the mind of a depressed 11-year-old girl at a crucial time in her life.

Such a story may not seem like the type of uplifting family friendly movie Pixar is best known for, but it could well be the most-imaginative and complex story yet attempted by the pioneering computer-animation studio.

The main characters are the emotions Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust, who operate from Headquarters, a spaceship-like command center inside the mind. Under the controlling efforts of the domineering Joy, things run pretty smoothly until a mishap causes Joy and Sadness to be swept away to the far recesses of the girl Riley's mind. They have a big adventure, trying to figure out how to get back to Headquarters. Meanwhile, Fear, Anger and Disgust are ill-equipped to handle operations as Riley is struggling to cope with moving with her parents to a new city.

It's directed by Pete Docter, who previously touched on childhood fears with Monsters Inc. and growing old with the emotional Up. He also came up with Toy Story and Wall-E. Helping to crack the code of Inside Out was co-director Ronnie del Carmen, who has had a hand in Pixar's Brave, Ratatouille and other pictures. They approached it from their viewpoint as doting fathers, who came up with Inside Out as a way of coping with their children growing up.

The voice cast is perfect, with Amy Poehler bringing her relentlessly perky persona from TV's Parks and Recreation to the proceedings as Joy. She is so darned happy you want to strangle her. She's joined by Phyllis Smith from the U.S. version of The Office as the melancholy but deceptively powerful Sadness. The emotions are further rounded out by Saturday Night Live's Bill Hader as Fear, Mindy Kahling from The Mindy Project as, eww, Disgust, and always-outraged comedian Lewis Black as Anger.

Critical reception is overwhelmingly positive. I've actually already seen this myself, and can attest that it is another fine effort by the folks at Pixar. If you don't leak anything from your eyes at some point, then something is probably wrong with you.

As with all Pixar and Walt Disney animation films, there will be an accompanying short before the main feature, with Inside Out paired with the Polynesian-tinged musical romance Lava.

It's in actual 3D, though I saw it in 2D, and didn't feel I missed out. In the U.S., the grown-up-friendly Inside Out is rated PG, meaning youngsters might need parental guidance to understand it fully. But here in Thailand, where the censors take a cursory glance, see it's a cartoon and automatically think it's only for kids, it's rated G.

Also opening

Our Little Sister – Following the death of their estranged father, three twentysomething siblings invite their shy 13-year-old sister from another mother to come live with them at their grandmother's house, which is in a lovely rural setting. Hirokazu Kore-eda directs, and Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Kaho and Suzu Hirose star. Adapted from the manga Umimachi Diary, the drama premiered in the main competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Critical reception is generally praiseworthy. It's at Apex, House, Paragon, SF World and SFX Maya Chiang Mai. Rated 15+

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – In 1963, at the height of the Cold War, debonair CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill from Man of Steel) is forced to team up with a tough Soviet spy (Armie Hammer from The Lone Ranger) to stop a mysterious criminal organization that has acquired its own atomic bomb. Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Hugh Grant and Jared Harris also star. Guy Ritchie directs this long-in-the-works adaptation of the 1960s TV series that starred Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. It looks stylish enough, I suppose. However, I wish Ritchie would go back to directing more small-budget British gangster movies like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch, rather than overblown retreads like his Sherlock Holmes movies or this thing. No chance of that. He's doing Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur next. Surprisingly, critical reception is actually mostly positive. It's in 2D only, including IMAX. Rated G

Monster Hunt – In ancient China, a young man (Jing Boran) becomes pregnant after an encounter with a demon. He and his strong-willed monster-hunter girlfriend (Bai Baihe) plan to sell the baby demon lord, but develop feelings for it as they evade bounty hunters. Eric Tsang and Sandra Ng also star. A blend of live-action actors with computer-animated blobs from the Uncanny Valley, it's directed by Raman Hui, who previously worked in Hollywood on such efforts as Shrek and Antz. It's been a big hit in China, and you can read all about it in a Los Angeles Times article. Rated G

The Diabolical – When a single mother (Ali Larter) and her two young children are tormented by an evil presence in their quiet suburban home, she turns to her scientist boyfriend (Arjun Gupta) to take on the violent forces that paranormal experts are too frightened to face. An indie horror directed and co-written by Alistair Legrand, The Diabolical premiered at this year's South by Southwest Festival, and has had some positive reviews from horror-speciality websites. Rated 18+

Parasyte: Part 2 – Young hero Shinichi (Shota Sometani) and the friendly alien parasite in his right hand come up against various forces of the pro-parasite cabal, including a mean ex-schoolteacher, the mayor and his mysterious bodyguard (Tadanobu Asano). This follows the first part, which was released here in May. Critical reception has been mixed, with the consensus being that Part 1 was pretty strong, but Part 2 isn't. Rated 15+

Brothers – Akshay Kumar and Sidharth Malhotra are fighting siblings who take out their anger with each other in the mixed-martial-arts fighting ring in Brothers, which is an official remake of the 2011 Hollywood fight drama Warrior. Jacqueline Fernandez also stars. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Central Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, two of the club's themes this month combine, with French director-actress Catherine Breillat starring with Marlon Brando in Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial erotic drama The Last Tango in Paris. Tomorrow, there's some new guy, a Star Wars: The Force Awakens actor named Max Von Sydow, playing a game of chess against Death in Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal. Friday has more Bertolucci, his 1970 Italian political thriller Il Conformista. Saturday's Terry Gilliam movie is his unsung 2013 effort The Zero Theorem, which fans view to be a final entry in a trilogy of Orwellian films by Gilliam, Brazil and 12 Monkeys being the other two. And Sunday has the original conspiracy theory thriller, John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate, starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and a very terrifying Angela Lansbury. Next Wednesday is a directorial effort from Breillat, 2001's Fat Girl, in which two teenage sisters explore their sexuality. 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.

19th Thai Short Film and Video Festival – The Thai Film Archive and Thai Film Foundation's annual short-film extravaganza opens at 5.30pm tomorrow at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. Selected from more than 500 entries from around the world, the program is a daunting thing to get your head around. Don't think too hard. Just do what I do – show up, sit down, shut up and take it all in as best you can. The highlights are many, with the broadest appeal coming from the selections from the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, which is the biggest and best short-film showcase in the world. Many Oscar-winning entries have come out of that festival. Other widely appealing shorts can be found in the International Competition slots and the S-Express, which has films from Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. The Queer Program is something the festival organizers are quite fond of, and rightly so. They additionally have a special program this year called "Out of Place", which is a selection of expat-friendly stories about foreigners and their misadventures in foreign countries. That's all in addition to the usual selections of Thai shorts, youth and student films, documentaries, animation and experimental entries. The fest runs until August 23, with weekday screenings starting at 5.30pm and then a full slate on Saturdays and Sundays, starting from 11am. Please note that the BACC is closed on Mondays, so no fest that day. Shows are in the BACC's fifth-floor auditorium as well as a smaller improvised space on the fourth floor. Admission is free. For the schedule and further details, please check the festival's Facebook page.

Alliance Française – There is no free French film tonight because of Her Majesty the Queen's Birthday and the Mother's Day public holiday (which is why movies in the malls are opening a day earlier this week), but the Alliance is back open for movies next Wednesday with a special event, which brings actress Irene Jacob to Bangkok for a "meet the artist" session with Polish auteur Krzysztof Kieslowski's arthouse drama Rouge (Red), which is part of his influential Three Colors trilogy. The show and talk are at 7.30pm on Wednesday, August 19 at the Alliance.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening August 6-11, 2015

The Blue Hour (Onthakan)

It's been a strong year for Thai queer films, and one of the major pillars has been The Blue Hour (Onthakan, อนธการ), a coming-of-age romance and suspense thriller.

The story involves a teenager named Tam (Atthaphan Poonsawas) who is bullied at school and unloved at home. He arranges to meet a stranger named Phum (Oabnithi Wiwattanawarang) at a spooky, abandoned swimming pool. There, amid the moldering surroundings, the two young men have rough sex and then talk about ghosts. A friendship forms, and it leads to extremely dark places.

Directed by Anucha Boonyawatana, The Blue Hour had its world premiere at this year's Berlin International Film Festival, alongside another queer-themed Thai entry, director Josh Kim's How to Win at Checkers (Every Time), a.k.a. P'Chai My Hero, which was released in cinemas here last month. Then there's a third gay romance, Tanwarin Sukkhapisit's Red Wine in the Dark Night, which was released a couple weeks ago.

In addition to Berlinale, The Blue Hour has been featured at other festivals, including Hong Kong, Seattle, Taipei, Toronto's Inside Out and Montreal's Fantasia fest. Critical reception has been very positive, and I've got my own review coming soon. In the meantime, here's a few words from the Fantasia Fest:

A stunning ghost story from Thai filmmaker Anucha Boonyawatana, The Blue Hour recalls the work of masters such as Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, while spinning its own fresh take on repressed queer sexuality, abuse and intolerance. Using the concept of haunting to tackle these issues, as well as the complex interplay between national identities and buried sexual desires, Boonywatana’s feature-length debut is nothing short of a masterpiece of tension, a revelation from this year’s Berlinale. Acutely observant, The Blue Hour’s ethereal and painterly cinematography is matched only by its terrifying set design and the stunning Thai countryside, which comes alive as the perfect mirror to the protagonists’ fragile psyches — and the traumatic and supernatural forces bubbling underneath their doomed romance.

It's only at some SF cinemas: SF World, SFX Central Rama 9, SFC The Mall Bang Kapi, SFC The Mall Ngamwongwan and SFX Maya Chiang Mai (sorry Pattaya).

For more details, check the film's Facebook page. Rated 18+

Also opening

Fantastic Four – Marvel Comics have struggled for decades to bring Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's "first family" to the big screen. Attempts have included a low-budget unreleased 1994 effort, produced by Roger Corman solely to hold onto expiring rights to the property, and a pair of critically assailed, quickly forgettable big-budget efforts made about 10 years ago. There were hopes that maybe Hollywood would get it right this time, but the approach seems to have faltered right out of the gate, with a new origin tale that departs radically from the comics, which upsets people. There are controversies over this, but I don't want to address them here, because it's just so tiresome. Just give the movie a chance, I say, and let it stand on its own merits. Directed by Josh Trank, who got his big break with the pretty neat found-footage superhero tale Chronicle, this new new Fantastic Four stars Miles Teller (Whiplash) as brilliant scientist and group leader Dr. Reed Richards/Mister Fantastic, Kate Mara (House of Cards) as Sue Storm/The Invisible Woman, Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station, The Wire) as Johnny Storm/The Human Torch and Jamie Bell (Jumper, Turn: Washington's Spies) as Ben Grimm/The Thing. Unfortunately, early critical reception is underwhelming, so this film faces a uphill battle. Could be back to the drawing board. Rated G

Dark Places – Twenty-five years after her family was massacred in a Kansas farmhouse, and her court testimony sent her brother to prison, the lone survivor reluctantly agrees to revisit the case with a group of true-crime enthusiasts who say they have uncovered new evidence. It's adapted from a book by Gillian Flynn, the novelist who became hot property last year with the success of Gone Girl. Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Corey Stoll, Chloe Grace Moretz, Drea de Matteo and Christina Hendricks star. Frenchman Gilles Paquet-Brenner directs. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

Joe Hua Tangmo (โจ หัวแตงโม นักสืบออนไลน์) – Jirayu La-ongmanee is Joe, a computer hacker who creates an avatar that enables him to enter the online world to find out the real names of the people behind display names on social networks. Arikanta “Gypso” Mahaprukphong and Tanan Boonyatanapiwat also star. Industry veteran Kittikorn Liasirikun directs, blending live action with computer animation. Rated G

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – August at the FGC has gotten underway with French actress-director Catherine Breillat's films on Wednesdays, Swedish titan Ingmar Bergman on Thursdays and Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci on Fridays. Saturdays are devoted to cult director and Monty Python member Terry Gilliam while Sundays have Frank Sinatra films. Tonight, it's Bergman's Autumn Sonata, his last effort for the cinema before he turned to television. It stars Ingrid Bergman and Liv Ullmann. The club lists a private event for tomorrow, but the heavy wooden door swings back open on Saturday for a special screening, not of anything by Gilliam, but for The World Made Straight. An indie crime drama set in 1970s North Carolina, it's directed by David Burris, who will be present. Burris is a producer on the TV series Survivor. Seating for this special event is first-come, first-served, so don't be late. Check Facebook for details. Sunday features Sinatra in his Oscar-winning role in the classic World War II drama From Here to Eternity. And next Wednesday's offering combines two of this month's themes, with Bertolucci directing Marlon Brando and Breillat in the controversial erotic drama Last Tango in Paris. 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.

Take note

Movies will be released a day earlier next week because of the public holiday for Her Majesty the Queen's birthday and Mother's Day.

And, owing to that, there will be no screenings at the Alliance Française. However, the following Wednesday, August 19, the Alliance will host a special screening of Polish auteur Krzysztof Kieslowski's Rouge (Red), with the film's star, actress Irene Jacob, coming to Bangkok for a "meet the artist" session.

Also next week is the start of the 19th Thai Short Film and Video Festival, an annual highlight of my movie-going calendar. Details are still being hammered together, but I'll aim to have more information soon.

It seems the shine has worn off 3D in Thailand, as Fantastic Four is released here in 2D only, despite having a 3D version available. The 3D conversions are mainly being done for China, where 3D is still being pushed heavily and seems to be preferred.