Thursday, June 23, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 23-June 29, 2016

Elvis and Nixon

A bizarre intersection of American pop culture and politics is recounted in Elvis and Nixon, which stars Michael Shannon as the King of Rock 'n' Roll and Kevin Spacey as Tricky Dick.

It's the story of a famous photograph taken in the Oval Office in 1970, in which the President shakes hands with the King, and Presley asked to be sworn in as a special undercover agent of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, and to be given a badge.

Other stars in the indie comedy-drama include the ever-reliable Colin Hanks, plus Alex Pettyfer, Johnny Knoxville, Evan Peters, Tracy Letts and Tate Donovan.

Critical reception is mostly favorable.

Also opening

Independence Day: Resurgence – Twenty years after the first Independence Day, director Roland Emmerich gets most of the band back together for another epic of special-effects-driven global destruction. Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch and Brent Spiner are among the returnees with Will Smith among the notables not appearing. This is imagined as a reboot of the ID franchise and could be the first of a trilogy. However, early critical reception is not so good so far.

A Hologram for the King – Colin Hanks' dad is a down-and-out businessman who takes a gamble on landing a big deal with Saudi Arabia's monarch, who envisages a massive economic development rising up from the nothingness of the desert. The stressed-out exec has a panic attack, and is nursed back to health by a Saudi woman (Sarita Choudhury from Homeland), and the two hit it off in a taboo star-crossed romance. The story is based on a novel by Dave Eggers, who also wrote the screenplay. Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Cloud Atlas) directs. Critical reception is mixed.

Queen of the Desert – Nicole Kidman portrays Gertrude Bell in this historical drama, chronicling the achievements of the intrepid British explorer, diplomat and writer in the Middle East in the late 1800s and early 1900s. James Franco, Damian Lewis and Jenny Agutter are among the other stars, along with Robert Pattinson, who plays Colonel T.E. Lawrence. It's the first feature in six years from the veteran writer-director Werner Herzog. Sadly, critical reception is generally negative.

Raman Ragav 2.0 – Nawazuddin Siddiqui portrays a serial killer who preyed on citizens in 1960s Mumbai, using a steel rod to smash victims' heads to bits. Vicky Kaushal also stars. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The European Union Film Festival is under way at CentralWorld. I covered the offerings in a special post last week. The opening film, the terrific Tale of Tales, unfortunately won't be repeated during the festival, but it has been picked up by the small Thai distributor Mono Film, and hopefully it will soon get a decent general release. There are also screenings at the usual places I cover here, the Friese-Greene Club and Alliance Francaise. But I'm not going into details about those because ...

Take note

I am cutting things short this week in order to say farewell.

It's been my pleasure to bring you news of new movie releases and film events in Bangkok these past several years, but now it is time for me to shift my focus to other matters besides what's playing in Bangkok cinemas.

I leave you with an urging to get out and watch films in the cinema, and please support Bangkok's handful of independent theaters – House and Lido and especially the Scala.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: European Union Film Festival, June 23-July 3, 2016

Sixteen films from 13 countries will screen for the general public in the long-running annual European Union Film Festival, starting next week at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.

This year, the festival takes the theme “Look to the Past, See the Future”. Highlights include The Broken Circle Breakdown, a Belgian film that was a 2014 nominee for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Finland’s The Fencer, a Cold War drama that was a Golden Globe nominee, and Victoria, an innovative German crime drama that won three awards at the Berlin film fest and has been noted for its cinematography.

Other films hail from the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Sweden, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

There’s also a hidden 17th film from another country, Italy, which offers a one-off, invitation-only opening-night screening next Wednesday of Tale of Tales, a horror-fantasy from noted director Matteo Garrone and starring Salma Hayek.

Here is the line-up for the general public:

  • The Broken Circle Breakdown – Belgium’s Oscar-nominated drama takes its title from the American bluegrass music that brings together two musicians, a young man and woman, who have a daughter they name Maybelle. Tragedy then strikes.
  • Family Film – In this 2015 black comedy from the Czech Republic, a mum and dad take off for a vacation, inexplicably leaving their children and the family dog to fend for themselves.
  • The Sunfish – A third-generation Danish fisherman struggling to hold on to his livelihood finds unlikely romance when he invites a marine biologist aboard his vessel. This won many prizes, including Denmark’s 2014 Bodil Awards for best actor and supporting actress for Henrik Birch and Susanne Storm.
  • Silent Heart – A second entry from Denmark has three generations of a family reuniting amid conflict as their ailing mother wants to die before her illness worsens. Directed by Bille August, it won many prizes including best film at the 2015 Bolid Awards.
  • The Fencer – The award-winning Finnish drama is set in 1950, with a young man trapped between his World War II past and the future of Estonia as his country comes under control of the Soviet Union.
  • Standing Tall – A French judge (Catherine Deneuve) and a schoolteacher (Benoit Magimel) take up the cause of putting a juvenile delinquent (Rod Paradot) on the straight and narrow. It was a major nominee for this year’s Cesar Awards, with Magimel winning best supporting actor and newcomer Paradot named most promising actor.
  • The Sweet Escape – In another French entry, a middle-aged graphic designer seeks to change his urban lifestyle and takes up kayaking.
  • The People vs Fritz Bauer – Germany’s embattled Nazi hunter, the attorney general Fritz Bauer, comes under attack after he covertly approaches Israel’s spy service for help in tracking down Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. It was a nominee for several German Film Awards, and won best film.
  • Victoria – Winner of the Berlin Silver Bear for cinematography, this German thriller was shot in one eye-popping continuous take, and follows a young Spanish woman, a newcomer to Berlin, as she is befriended one night by four young men who turn out to be criminals.
  • Afterlife – A neurotic young man encounters the ghost of his father and the two form a bond that seemed impossible when the man was alive. From Hungary, this 2014 comedy-drama was nominated for prizes in Karlovy Vary and Palm Springs.
  • Bikes vs Cars – Sweden offers a documentary look at how bicycles stack up against other forms of transport in such cities as Los Angeles, Toronto, Sao Paulo and Copenhagen.
  • Baby (a) lone – Luxembourg’s official submission to the Oscars has troubled teenagers, a boy and girl, who meet in a school-detention programme and form a bond as they take out their frustrations with society.
  • Finn – A boy and his father, both mourning the loss the boy’s mum, who died in childbirth on Christmas Eve, find solace in music and religious symbolism. From the Netherlands, this family drama was a nominee for the Crystal Bear at the 2014 Berlin film festival.
  • Jack Strong – Poland offers a taut Cold War thriller about top Polish military official Ryszard Kuklinski, who became a spy for the US, spilling Warsaw Pact secrets in a bid to keep his country safe. Marcin Dorocinski stars, along with Patrick Wilson as Kuklinski’s CIA handler.
  • The Wolf’s Lair – Portuguese filmmaker Catarina Mourao lifts the covers off her family’s tragic past in this documentary, in which she seeks to unravel the secrets and mysteries of her family during Portugal’s dictatorship.
  • Truman – A terminally ill man is visited by an old friend, and the two set out for one last adventure, accompanied by the man’s loyal pet dog.

The European Union Film Festival opens to the general public next Thursday and runs until July 3 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld in Bangkok. The festival will then be held from July 8 to 17 at SFX Maya Chiang Mai and from July 21 to 24 at SF Cinema City, CentralPlaza Khon Kaen.

Films will have English and Thai subtitles. Tickets are Bt120 in Bangkok, Bt80 in Chiang Mai and free in Khon Kaen.

The schedule can be found online. For more details, check

(Cross-published in The Nation)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 16-22, 2016


Three award-winning Asian indie directors – Tan Shijie from Singapore, Xin Yukun from China and Sivaroj Kongsakul from Thailand – each take a crack at directing Taiwanese actor Chen Bo-lin in Distance
The three-segment drama has the actor in different roles in stories that explore the notion of "distance" and what it means in our societies.

The producer behind this ambitious indie project is Anthony Chen, the Singaporean filmmaker who won much acclaim for his 2013 drama Ilo Ilo. He's helped out by Thai producer Aditya Assarat, who also wrote one of the segments.

Distance previously was the opening entry in the Golden Horse Film Festival in Taipei.

It's in Chinese with English and Thai subtitles at SF World Cinema CentralWorld, SFX Cinema Central Rama 9 and SFX Cinema Maya Chiang Mai. Rated 15+

Also opening

The Nice Guys – Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe team up for this buddy comedy that is a throwback to a bygone era of Hollywood comedies. Set in 1970s Los Angeles, the neo-noir story has a down-on-his-luck private eye (Gosling) getting help from a self-employed enforcer (Crowe) in investigating the mysterious death of a porn star. Shane Black, the cult-figure screenwriter of Lethal Weapon, co-wrote the script and directs. Critics love it. Rated 15+

Central Intelligence – And Thai movie distributors and cinema chains double down on buddy comedies, with this one starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Kevin Hart. Johnson is a former fat kid who was bullied in school. He grew up musclebound and became a CIA agent. He attends his high-school reunion while claiming to be on secret mission. He and a motor-mouthed classmate (Hart) get up to adventures while they foil a terror plot. The director is Rawson Michael Thurber, who previously helmed the comedy masterpiece Dodgeball as well as We're the Millers. Critical reception is just starting. Rated G

Finding Dory – After more than a decade of enduring the endless pestering of talk-show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres to make a sequel to 2003's Finding Nemo, animators at Disney-Pixar finally gave up and made Ellen a movie featuring her forgetful blue tang fish Dory. She starts to have flashbacks to her family, and enlists her clownfish friends Marlin and Nemo to help her. She's then captured and taken to a marine research facility, where she has to make new friends to help her in her quest. Albert Brooks is back as the voice of Marlin with other voice talent including Ed O'Neill, Idris Elba, Dominic West and many others. Critics have all drunk the Pixar Kool-Aid. It's in 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated G

Udta Punjab – Four characters – a rock star, a migrant labourer, a doctor and a cop – fight the menace of drugs. Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Diljit Dosanjh star. In Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Third Silent Film Festival in Thailand – One of the earliest vampire films, 1922's Nosferatu opens the festival at 8 tonight at the Scala. Live musical accompaniment will be by German composer and multi-instrumentalist Gunter A. Buchwald, with percussion by Thai classical musician Anant Nark-kong. Tickets are 200 baht. The fest then shifts over to the Lido for screenings from Friday until Wednesday. Tickets are 120 baht. They are all great films and are worth seeing on the big screen with live musical accompaniment – it is an experience that can only be had in the cinema. The line-up was profiled in a special post last week. For further details, check check or

Singapore Film Festival – The third annual Bangkok showcase of Singaporean cinema gets underway today at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Running until Sunday, the fest have five entries, ranging from 1997's 12 Storeys to last year's SG50 celebration 7 Letters. It was all covered in a special post last week. Tickets are free and will be handed out 30 minutes before the shows. For more details, check the SF cinemas' site.

Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival – The second edition of the BGLFF continues until Sunday at the Quartier CineArt. Lots of worthwhile stuff. The line-up and schedule were detailed in a recent special post. Tickets are 160 baht and 180 baht. Please note that there are no ads before the shows, so the films are generally starting on time, at least that was the case when I attended last weekend.

The Friese-Greene Club – American politics are still in focus tonight with Recount, an award-winning 2008 HBO drama about the 2000 presidential ballot recount in Florida. Kevin Spacey, Laura Dern, John Hurt and Denis Leary are among the stars. Tomorrow, it's Wong Kar-wai's drama of unrequited romance In the Mood for Love, which had Bangkok locations standing in for 1960s Hong Kong. And Saturday has a "not-so-classic" foreign film made in Thailand, Sacrifice!, a 1972 Italian cannibal horror that's also known as The Man from Deep River. And Sunday's film from 75 years ago is the Josef von Sternberg thriller The Shanghai Gesture. Next Wednesday is a documentary on U.S. politics, 1960's Primary, which recalls the Democratic nomination fight between JFK and Hubert Humphrey. 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 – Tomorrow night's French film with Thai subtitles is Il était une forêt (Once Upon a Forest), a documentary by Luc Jacquet, who later did March of the Penguins. Next Wednesday's French film with English subtitles is Alda et Maria (All Is Well), in which a pair of teenage girls escape civil war in the Congo and land in Lisbon. Shows are at 7pm. Admission for the general public is 100 baht.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – The Contemporary World Film Series has one more movie this month, with Le meraviglie (The Wonders) at 7pm on Monday. An Italian-Swiss drama, it's about a family of beekeepers in the Tuscan countryside who have their quiet lives disrupted by the arrival of a troubled teenage boy and by a reality-TV crew. Directed by Alice Rohrwacher, it won the Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014. Admission is 150 baht for non-members plus 100 baht for anyone wanting the wine and cheese laid on by the Swiss Embassy.

Take note

House cinema is still closed for renovations. The place was to reopen today, but work is taking a bit longer than expected, now lasting until June 22.

The European Union Film Festival kicks off next week at CentralWorld, running June 22 to July 3.

And the oddball Thailand International Film Destination Festival has finally got around to simply stating when it will take place. Drumroll please: July 4 to 13 at Paragon Cineplex.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: The Third Silent Film Festival in Thailand, June 16-22, 2016

Vampires, those fanged fiends who come out at night to suck our blood, have long been a staple of the silver screen, and one of the earliest examples of the genre, Nosferatu, will be the opening entry of the Third Silent Film Festival in Thailand, next Thursday, June 16, at the Scala theatre in Bangkok’s Siam Square.

Directed by F.W. Murnau, the 1922 German Expressionist horror was an unauthorised adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Names and details were changed when producers were denied the rights to the novel. So, for example, Count Dracula, as portrayed by German character actor Max Schreck, became Count Orlok. Stoker’s estate sued, and got a court to rule that all copies of the film should be destroyed. But just like vampires, Nosferatu was not so easily killed. And the film stands today as a masterpiece of cinema and an influential landmark in the horror genre.

Put on by the Film Archive (Public Organisation) Thailand, the Silent Film Festival will feature eight other films, including more examples of German Expressionism, from the master himself, Murnau, and others.

Among them will be Murnau’s The Last Laugh, about an elderly hotel doorman who feels disgraced after he’s put in charge of cleaning the washroom. Also from Murnau is his first Hollywood effort, 1927’s Sunrise, which many cinephiles consider one of the best of the silent era. It’s about a social-climbing farmer who falls in love with a city woman and attempts to murder his wife.

And the German slate is further filled out with 1925’s Variety, which depicts romance between high-flying circus acrobats. It’s directed by E.A. Dupont, whose Piccadilly was a hit with crowds at last year’s Silent Film Festival.

Sure to strike a chord with local audiences is a gender-bending 1921 German adaptation of Hamlet. Starring Danish actor Asta Nielsen and directed by Svend Gade and Heinz Schall, this version imagines what it would have been like if Hamlet was born female and disguised as a male to preserve the family’s lineage.

French film heritage is acknowledged in two entries, the romantic comedy Two Timid Souls from 1928, which was the last silent film by the French master Rene Clair, and 1920’s The Swallow and the Titmouse by Andre Antoine. Remarkably, The Swallow and the Titmouse spent 63 years on the shelf, unedited, before film editor Henri Colpi discovered more than six hours of footage. A World War I saga of families who operate river barges, Colpi trimmed the epic down to a tight 79 minutes.

Following on from the Silent Film Fest’s focus on early Hitchcock two years ago, there’s another example of the early British thriller, 1928’s Shooting Stars, directed by Anthony Asquith. It’s the twisting story of a film star falling in love with an actress whose married to another actor.

And no Silent Film Festival would be complete without an effort by one of the icons of the silent era – Buster Keaton. Paying tribute to the ever-daring comedy actor, who died 50 years ago this year, will be his laugh-filled western Go West from 1925. It’s the story of a hapless city slicker who lands a job on a cattle ranch.

Cue the music

A key component of the Silent Film Festival in Thailand is live musical accompaniment. As has been done in the past two years, world-renowned musicians who are experts in silent film are brought in just for the fest.

Performing on opening night will be German composer and multi-instrumentalist Gunter A. Buchwald. Acclaimed as a “world class improviser”, Buchwald has been performing with silent films since 1978, adding musical flourishes to more than 2,900 screenings.

He’ll alternate shows with Tama Karena, a New Zealander who has been the director of music at the Chinese International School in Hangzhou, China. He previously taught music in Hong Kong and at the New International School of Thailand. Kerena’s performances include the Pordenone Silent Film Festival in Italy, which is the world’s top silent-film showcase.

Making opening night with Nosferatu at the Scala even more special will be the addition of Thai classical musician Anant Nark-kong, who will add traditional bamboo percussion to the accompaniment of Buchwald.

The Third Silent Film Festival in Thailand runs from June 16 to 22 at the Apex theatres in Siam Square.

The opening-night show Nosferatu will be at the Scala. Tickets are 200 baht. All other shows will be at the Lido, where tickets are 120 baht. Tickets are available now at the Lido box office.

For the schedule and more details, check or

(Cross-published in The Nation)

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Singapore Film Festival, June 16 to 19, 2016

Classics and more-recent entries from Singapore’s resurgent cinema movement will screen next week in the Singapore Film Festival at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.

The Singapore Embassy’s third annual Bangkok showcase of the city-state’s cinematic offerings will have five films, from 1997’s 12 Storeys to last year’s omnibus 7 Letters, which was made to honor the 50th anniversary of Singaporean independence.

Others are the 2007 musical comedy 881, the 2015 thriller 1965 and the brand-new drama Long Long Time Ago.

The classic 12 Storeys serves as an introduction to Singaporean cinema and culture, with three interweaving tales that are set in one of the city-state’s ubiquitous Housing Development Board (HDB) apartment blocks. Directed by leading Singaporean filmmaker Eric Khoo, the characters include a fumbling middle-aged husband and his gold-digging young bride, an upright and a young man left in charge of his troublesome teen sister and baby brother, and a lonely, depressed young woman and her domineering, overly critical mother. Much acclaimed, 12 Storeys won the best film prize at the Hawaii International Film Festival.

Royston Tan brings the cheer with 881, a colorful, fun-filled musical comedy about the Papaya Sisters, a glitter-bedecked duo who race around the city performing epic song-and-dance numbers on the getai concert circuit. The childhood friends find themselves at odds as they are challenged by a flashier rival act, the Durian Sisters. Tan’s musical was Singapore’s submission to the Oscars and was a nominee for make-up and costume design at Taiwan’s prestigious Golden Horse Film Festival.

Singapore’s beginnings are reflected in a pair of dramas, 1965 and Long Long Time Ago.

Directed by Randy Ang, 1965 has a Chinese girl abducted and racial tensions coming to a boil in the months leading up to Singapore’s separation from Malaysia.

Long Long Time Ago spans the 50 years from 1965 to 2015, following a family as they move from the city-state’s mostly vanished kampong villages to an HDB flat. It’s a heartfelt and nostalgic dramatic effort from director Jack Neo, who is better known for his hit comedies, such as Money No Enough and I Not Stupid.

Finally, there’s 7 Letters, which features the work of Khoo, Tan and Neo, plus noted documentary filmmaker Tan Pin Pin, cult genre-film director Kelvin Tong and up-and-coming indie filmmakers Boo Junfeng and K. Rajagopal. The seven-segment film represents “love letters” to Singapore, with stories of its diverse people, lost love, identities, inter-generational family issues, unlikely neighbours and traditional folklore.

The Singapore Film Festival runs from June 16 to 19 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Films will have English and Thai subtitles. Tickets are free and will be handed out 30 minutes before the shows. For the schedule and other details, check

(Cross-published in The Nation)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 9-15, 2016

Where to Invade Next

Though it seems like he never really went away, Michael Moore returns from a hiatus of around six years with Where to Invade Next, in which he turns his eyes to progressive European countries and elsewhere to find examples of social policies that could turn troubled America around, and really, really make it great.

The documentary premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Festival, and critical reception has been generally positive.

Where to Invade Next is the latest in the Doc Holiday series of The Documentary Club and SF Cinemas.

Shows are at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld, SFX The Crystal Ekamai-Ramindra, SFC The Crystal Ratchapruek and SFX Maya Chiang Mai. Some of the screenings at CentralWorld will be accompanied by talks by various Thai advocacy groups.

For further details, please check The Documentary Club Facebook page or SF's bookings website. Rated G

Also opening

Now You See Me 2 – The quartet of outlaw illusionists known as "the Four Horsemen" are in Macau, where they are tasked by a tech prodigy (Daniel Radcliffe) with stealing a powerful computer chip. Meanwhile, the FBI agent (Mark Ruffalo) tasked with finding the Four Horsemen pursues a personal case – taking revenge on a jailed magic debunker (Morgan Freeman). Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco reprise their roles as the magician-thieves from the first film, joined this time around by Lizzy Caplan, who takes over for Isla Fisher, who had to bow out due to pregnancy. Other stars include Jay Chou and Michael Caine. Jon M. Chu (Step Up 2: The Streets, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) directs. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

The Conjuring 2 – Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga take another outing as Ed and Lorraine Warren, the American ghost-hunting couple who documented the "Amityville horror" and other paranormal events. In Conjuring 2, they head to England, to look into the case of the Enfield poltergeist. Franka Potente, Frances O'Connor, Simon McBurney and David Thewlis also star. James Wan, helmer of those Saw and Insidious movies, directs. Critical reception is generally positive. This was in sneak previews last week and now moves to a general release. Rated 15+

The Faith of Anna Waters – Demonic possession grips us. In Singapore, an American journalist (Elizabeth Rice) is seeking answers about the purported suicide of her sister. With help from her brother-in-law (Matthew Settle), she uncovers links to many mysterious deaths that point to an apparent demonic entity. This is billed as Singapore's first "Hollywood" supernatural thriller and is directed by Kelvin Tong, a well-known Singaporean director whose previous efforts include the 2005 horror The Maid and the Hong Kong action thriller Rule No . 1. It's at Major Cineplex. Rated 15+

Te3n – Amitabh Bachchan is a grandfather who for eight years has been on a quest for justice over the kidnapping and murder of his granddaughter. Ignored by the cops, he gets help from a former cop who is now a priest (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). Vidya Balan also stars. It's a remake of the 2013 South Korean thriller Montage. It's in Hindi With English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III, Pattaya and EGV Mae Sot. Opens Friday.

Also opening

Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival – The second edition of the BGLFF opens tomorrow night with Tomcat, an Austrian drama that won the top-prize Teddy Award in Berlin this year. With many award-winning, much-acclaimed films, the entire lineup was profiled in a special blog post last week. I'm most interested in seeing the Filipino entry, Miss Bulalacao, an indie comedy about a drag performer who becomes pregnant. Another one is Nasty Baby, directed by and starring Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Silva. It's about a gay couple trying to have a baby, with help from a surrogate mother (Kristen Wiig, in a dramatic turn). The fest, which runs until June 19, is at the Quartier CineArt, and tickets can be purchased through the Major Cineplex website. Films will have English and Thai subtitles. For more details, check or

The Friese-Greene Club – With the U.S. presidential race locking into focus, American politics are on the minds of barstool pundits at the Club, which tonight has Jay Roach's 2012 HBO comedy-drama Game Change, which recalls the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Tomorrow, it's The Killing Fields, the Oscar-winning drama about Cambodia's "Year Zero", as seen through the eyes of translator-reporter Dith Pran (played by Haing S. Ngor) and New York Times reporter Sidney Schanberg (Sam Waterson). It was filmed in Thailand and is part of a line-up of "classics" made here. Saturday has "not-so-classic" movies made in Thailand, with 1976's Emanuelle in Bangkok. Sunday has 1941's The Little Foxes, directed by William Wyler and starring Bette Davis. Next Wednesday is a documentary on American politics, 2005's Our Brand is Crisis, about American political operators working on a Bolivian presidential campaign. It was recently adapted into a comedy with Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the under-renovation Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. For more details, check the club's Facebook page.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – Violence against women is in focus in two Academy Award-winning short documentaries from Pakistan at the FCCT at 7pm on Monday as part of the Contemporary World Film Series. From 2012, Saving Face deals with acid attacks. The short film follows a London-based plastic surgeon as he travels to Pakistan to perform facial-reconstruction surgery. And from 2015 is A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, which profiles a young woman who survived an "honor killing" by her father and uncle. She ran into conflict in Pakistani society for not forgiving the men. Both shorts are courtesy of SOC Films. Admission for non-members is 150 baht. Take note that there will be another entry in the Contemporary World Film Series, Le Meraviglie from Switzerland, on June 20.

Alliance Française – There are three French film events this week. Tomorrow night's French film with Thai subtitles is Un château en Italie (A Castle in Italy) in which a dysfunctional industrialist family is forced to sell their home in Italy. Saturday has a matinee for the kids, Les contes de la nuit (Tales of the Night), which has distinctive animator Michel Ocelot weaving together various fantastic stories. And next Wednesday's French film with English subtitles is Les châteaux de sable (Sand Castles), in which a young woman returns to her family home after her father's death and is reunited with an ex-lover. Shows are at 7pm except for the 2pm Saturday matinee. Admission for the general public is 100 baht.

Take note

The Silent Film Festival in Thailand has issued its schedule, and will open with Nosferatu on Thursday, June 16, at the Scala. This is a change from the previous two editions of the festival, which had the Scala gala screening as the closing event. Tickets go on sale at the Lido tomorrow, which coincidentally is the 119th anniversary of the first film screening in Thailand, which was on June 10, 1897. I will aim to have a special post on the Silent Film Fest very soon.

Also next week is the Singapore Film Festival at CentralWorld. Details of the films and the schedule are now online at SF Cinema's website. The five-film lineup ranges from 1997's 12 Storeys to last year's much acclaimed seven-segment omnibus 7 Letters.

And the long-running annual European Union Film Festival has posted its lineup, which includes Tale of Tales, the latest effort from Italian director Matteo Garrone, which stars Salma Hayek. The fest runs from June 22 to July 3 at SF World.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, June 10-19, 2016

Twelve films, many of them award winners, which deal with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender themes from 10 countries will be shown at the Quartier CineArt during the second edition of the Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. It’s organised by Attitude magazine.

With the theme “Love Wins”, the BGLFF opens next Friday with Tomcat, an Austrian drama that earned accolades at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival. The story of an orchestra musician and his boyfriend who live with their pet cat, Tomcat won the Berlinale’s best feature Teddy Award, a prize given by an independent jury to films with LGBT topics.

And the Teddy Award audience prize from this year’s Berlinale, Paris 05:59, is the BGLFF’s closing entry. It follows a young gay couple as they meet in a Paris bathhouse and pursue a relationship into the early morning hours.

In a move to boost the festival’s visibility, organisers have chosen a new venue, shifting from the hidden-away Esplanade Ratchadaphisek to the ritzy Quartier CineArt in the Em Quartier downtown.

“Last year was the first year for the Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and we were really happy with the turn-out. All sorts of people came out to support us and our films,” says organiser Marut “Nume” Prasertsri, a senior writer at Attitude magazine. “This year we’re working hard to increase the visibility of the festival to non-LGBT audiences. The films we’ve picked are all quality, well-made films with a wide appeal. We’re looking forward to sharing them with a broad audience of people, not just LGBT folks.”

Along with the prize-winning opening and closing films, Marut suggests a French entry, the lesbian romance Summertime (La Belle Saison) as one film the “straights” might embrace. Set in 1971, it’s the story of a young woman from the countryside who moves to Paris and is attracted to a strong-willed older feminist, who then follows the girl back to her farm. “Non-LGBT folk will better understand what it means to grow up different and they’ll enjoy the romance scenes,” says Marut.

Several of the films in the BGLFF are from Asia, such as Japan’s A Cappella (Mubansô), which takes place during campus protests in 1969 Sendai. South Korea offers a documentary, Weekends, about a gay men’s choir in Seoul. Directed by Lee Dong-ha, it placed third in the Panorama Audience Awards at Berlinale this year.

Further Asian themes are explored in Spa Night, in which a young Korean-American man struggles to reconcile his obligations to his immigrant family with his life in the underground world of gay hookups at Korean spas in Los Angeles. Spa Night star Joe Seo won the Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance at Sundance.

And there’s an award-nominee from India, Loev, about a businessman who heads out of town with an old friend, leaving behind problems with his boyfriend in the city. It was up for prizes at festivals in Jeonju, South Korea, and at the Black Nights of Talliin in Estonia.

The Asean bloc is represented by Miss Bulalacao, a quirky independent comedy about a drag princess who gets pregnant following an alien abduction. He is elevated to the status of a cult leader following rumours of immaculate conception. Directed by Ara Chawdhury, Miss Bulalacao won the festival prize at Manila’s Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival and best first feature from the Philippines Young Critics Circle.

Latin American flavor comes in two entries, From Afar, from Venezuela and Four Moons from Mexico. Winner of the top-prize Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival last year, From Afar is about a 50-year-old man who pays for the companionship of young men. A meeting with the teenage leader of a street gang changes their lives forever. Four Moons, which won prizes in Montreal, Monterrey and Barcelona, has four stories of gay desire, love and self-acceptance.

And there are high-profile offerings from the U.S. and Canada, with Nasty Baby, which has Chilean actor-director Sebastian Silva working with Tunde Adebimpe in a story about a gay couple trying to have a baby with the help of a surrogate mum, played by former Saturday Night Live star Kristen Wiig. They have a violent run-in with a thug (Reg E. Cathey from The Wire).

And Closet Monster won the best Canadian feature film award and other prizes at the Toronto festival last year. Directed by Stephen Dunn, it’s the dramatic coming-of-age story of a high-school teen who dreams of being a special-effects makeup artist and finds new inspiration.

The Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival runs from June 10 to 19 at the Quartier CineArt at the EmQuartier mall. Films will have English and Thai subtitles. For more details, check or

(Cross-published in The Nation)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 2-8, 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

The pizza-loving martial-arts heroes in half-shells are back to save New York in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, which involves the emergence of a mysterious purple ooze that turns humans into animals.

Returnees from the 2014 entry in the franchise include Megan Fox as reporter April O'Neil and Will Arnett as her wisecracking cameraman. Stephen Amell from TV's Arrow joins the cast as the hockey-masked vigilante Casey Jones, and Tyler Perry is a new villain, the mad scientist who created the ooze.

Critical reception is just beginning to register. It's in 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated G

Also opening

Me Before You – A quirky young woman takes a job as a caretaker to a wealthy young man, embittered after he is paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Emilia Clarke from TV's Game of Thrones stars, along with Sam Claflin. It is based on a novel by British writer JoJo Moyes, who also wrote the screenplay. Critical reception is mixed. This opened in sneak previews over the weekend and now moves to wider release. Rated G

Mr. Right – Sam Rockwell and Anna Kendrick topline this indie-leaning comedy about a heartbroken young woman who falls for a stranger who turns out to be a hitman with a sense of justice. Tim Roth also stars along with Anson Mount, James Ransone and RZA. The script is by up-and-coming screenwriter Max Landis, son of former leading Hollywood figure John Landis. Max's previous credits include Chronicle and Victor Frankenstein. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

High Strung – A street-busking violinist (musician-actor Nicholas Galitzine) falls for a classically trained ballerina (Keenan Kampa) and they decide to work together to take part in a big dance competition. Critical reception is mixed. Rated G

Timeline Next Gen (Timeline เพราะรัก..ไม่สิ้นสุด 2, Timeline Pror Rak .. Mai Sin Sut Song) – This is a followup to a 2013 indie gay romance, offering more stories of couples of various ages. Rated 15+

Housefull 3 – In London, three young men set out to impress the protective father of three wealthy and attractive daughters. This is the third entry in a hit Bollywood comedy franchise headed by Punjabi superstar Akshay Kumar, following the first in 2010  and the second in 2012. Other stars are Abhishek Bachchan, Riteish Deshmukh, Jacqueline Fernandez, Nargis Fakhri, Lisa Haydon and Boman Irani. 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 – June's schedule focuses strongly on American politics with documentaries and dramas on Wednesday and Thursday. There are also foreign films made in Thailand, with classics on Friday and "not so classic" on Saturday. This is a run-up to the upcoming Thailand International Film Destination Festival, which focuses on foreign films made in Thailand. Sunday focuses on classic films made 75 years ago. Tonight, it's the first in a series of political dramas, Ides of March, with Ryan Gosling as a political operative who becomes disillusioned after he catches his candidate (George Clooney, who also directed) in a scandal and cover-up. The place is closed tomorrow for a private event, but is back open to general membership on Saturday with Emmanuelle, the infamous soft-core erotic film made in Thailand that was the first in a series of many. Sunday has Hitchcock's Suspicion, starring Cary Grant. 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 – Tomorrow night's French film with Thai subtitles is Mon âme par toi guérie (One of a Kind), in which a man who has inherited his mother's gift of a healing touch wants nothing do with it. And next Wednesday's French film with English subtitles is Dans l'œil de Buñuel, a made-for-TV documentary on the influential Spanish filmmaker. The shows are at 7pm. Admission for the general public is 100 baht.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – American politics are also on the minds of members of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand and the FCCT's Contemporary World Film Series, which will screen Steven Spielberg's Academy Award-winning Lincoln at 7pm on Monday, June 6. Daniel Day-Lewis stars, giving a remarkable, Oscar-winning performance as America's 16th president as he cuts backroom deals with his Cabinet and Congress to ensure his legacy – the passage of the emancipation proclamation. The screening is courtesy of the U.S. Embassy, which will provide snacks and wine. Entry for non-members is 150 baht plus 100 baht for the snacks. The Contemporary World Film Series will have three shows this month, with Oscar-winning Pakistani short films on June 13 and the Swiss film Le Meraviglie on June 20.

Sneak preview

The Conjuring 2 – Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga take another outing as Ed and Lorraine Warren, the real-life American ghost-hunting couple who documented the "Amityville horror" and other paranormal encounters. In Conjuring 2, they head to England, to look into the case of the Enfield poltergeist. Franka Potente, Frances O'Connor, Simon McBurney and David Thewlis also star. James Wan, helmer of those Saw and Insidious movies, directs. Critical reception is ghostly, so far. It's screening from around 8 nightly from Saturday until Wednesday in most multiplexes, ahead of the wider release next week.

Take note

There is yet another film fest coming up – the European Union Film Festival at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld from June 22 to July 3. Tickets will be Bt120.

That's in addition to previously announced events:

There will also be the Thai Film Archive's screening series in honor of His Majesty the King's 70th anniversary of accession, beginning in July, and the Thailand International Film Destination Festival, also in July. I hope to have details on those events soon.

Also, as mentioned in last week's post, House cinema on RCA is closed until June 15. The 12-year-old boutique twinplex has become worn in places and is undergoing much-needed sprucing up.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 26-June 1, 2016

Money Monster

Fresh from the Cannes Film Festival, Money Monster is former child star Jodie Foster's fourth effort in the director's chair.

The loaded cast boasts George Clooney and Julia Roberts, with Clooney as a brash TV financial guru and Roberts the producer who is always in his ear. They are held hostage during a live broadcast by a disgruntled man (Jack O'Connell from Unbreakable) who lost his life savings after he followed the guru's advice. The captor then forces the pair to get to the bottom of a deeper financial conspiracy. Dominic West, Giancarlo Esposito and Caitriona Balfe also star.

This is the biggest and first major studio-backed effort for Foster as a director. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and Foster did the rounds of all the talk shows, promoting the film and offering her recollections on working on such films as Taxi Driver and Silence of the Lambs.

Critical reception is mixed, with the consensus being it doesn't go quite deep enough. Rated 15+

Also opening

Demolition – Jake Gyllenhaal is a Wall Street investment banker who goes off the deep end after his wife is killed in a car wreck, and he copes by dismantling everything in his life. An encounter with a problematic vending machine prompts him to send a complaint letter, which begins a series of confessional correspondence with a sympathetic customer-service rep (Naomi Watts). Chris Cooper also stars. It's directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who previously earned accolades for his work on Dallas Buyers Club and WildCritical reception is mixed. It's in most multiplexes, including Apex, Century, Major Hollywood and SF, but not Major Cineplex, a development I'm told is because of a conflict between the country's biggest cinema chain and a small distributor. Rated 13+

Bastille Day – Idris Elba from TV's The Wire and Luther has had a busy season so far, lending his voice to Disney for The Jungle Book and Zootopia. Now the Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom star is back in front of the camera, offering his try-out to be the next James Bond in the gritty action thriller Bastille Day, which has the imposing British actor as a CIA agent in Paris. He's on the trail of a conspiracy that ropes in an American pickpocket (Richard Madden, the erstwhile King of the North from Game of Thrones). It's written and directed by James Watkins, who previously directed The Woman in Black and wrote The Descent: Part 2. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

Warcraft: The Beginning – The World of Warcraft fantasy online video game is adapted for the screen, with the human realm of Azeroth coming under attack from the Horde of Orcs. Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie, directs, moving into big-budget special-effects-laden fare following his well-received low-budget indie sci-fi debut Moon and the bit-bigger sci-fi thriller Source Code. His involvement alone is reason enough for me not to dismiss it outright. Following the pattern of other big Hollywood releases this summer, Warcraft is opening here a couple of weeks before it comes out in the U.S., giving the movie some breathing room in foreign territories. Nonetheless, early critical reception is not so good. Rated 13+

If Cats Disappeared from the World – Cute-cat movies are a sub-genre of Japanese cinema. The latest is about a young man having an existential crisis after he learns he is terminally ill. He is visited by a devil, who dangles the chance to keep living if he'll pick one thing to eliminate from the world. The drama is adapted from a novel that was first published in Japan on the Line social-messaging app. Takeru Sato (Rurouni Kenshin) and Aoi Miyazaki (The Chart of Love) star. It's in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at Apex Siam Square, Esplanade Ratchadaphisek, House RCA, Major Cineplex Ratchayothin and SFW CentralWorld. Outside of the city, venues are EGV Khon Kaen, Major Cineplex Central Festival Chiang Mai, MVP Buri Ram and SFX Maya Chiang Mai. Rated G

Fathers (ฟาเธอร์) – Gay couple Foon (Uttsada Panichkul) and Yuk (Nat Sakdatorn) face challenges when they adopt a little boy and the kid becomes teased at school for having two dads. They then come to the attention of a social worker (Sinjai Plengpanich), who advises the fathers to track down the child's birth mother. Rated 15+

The Promise (คิดถึงครึ่งชีวิต, Kidthueng Khrueng Cheewit) – A young man returns to his home in rural Chiang Mai after he fails his university entrance exams. He helps out around his mother's food shop while studying for a do-over of the exam, and then meets a young Japanese woman (Akiko Ozeki), in Chiang Mai as a magazine writer, and memories of the past come flooding back. Rated G

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – The month starts winding down tomorrow night with Peter Greenaway's best-known film, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, which really encapsulates everything that is Greenaway, with sudden violence, nudity and stylish eroticism. Saturday is classic Robert Altman, who has a sprawling cast in Short Cuts, an ambitious, interweaving adaptation of several short stories of Raymond Carver. And Sunday has one more Edward G. Robinson film, his final role, co-starring with Charlton Heston in the dystopian sci-fi Soylent Green. 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 – Tomorrow night's French film with Thai subtitles is Je fais le mort (Playing Dead), in which a struggling actor takes a job playing victims in crime re-enactments. And June's schedule kicks off with next Wednesday's French film with English subtitles, L'affaire SK1, a fact-based crime drama about a young police inspector who makes connections that put him on the trail of a serial killer. The shows are at 7pm. Admission for the general public is 100 baht.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – Filipino director Brillante Ma Mendoza is a favorite of film festivals, winning many, many awards around the world. His latest triumph came at Cannes, with actress Jaclyn Jose from his Ma' Rosa winning best-actress, the first Filipina to win that honor. Mendoza is also a favorite of the FCCT's Contemporary World Film Series, which has its next entry at 7pm on Monday with Mendoza's award-winning 2012 drama Thy Womb, about a midwife who can't have children who wants her husband to remarry so he can become a father. Nora Aunor stars. Entry is 150 baht for non-members and 100 baht to partake in the gourmet popcorn and San Miguel laid on by the Embassy of the Philippines. June will have three more films in the series, with the U.S. Embassy offering up Spielberg's Lincoln on June 6, a pair of Pakistani short films on June 13 and the Swiss film Le Meraviglie on June 20.

Sneak preview

Me Before You – The Mother of Dragons from Game of Thrones, Emilia Clarke, ditches her blonde wig for Bjork buns and colorful leggings to take on the role of the manic pixie dream girl in Me Before You, portraying a quirky young woman who takes a job as a caretaker to a withdrawn wealthy young man (Sam Claflin) who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. It is based on a novel by British writer JoJo Moyes, who also adapted the screenplay. The film is possibly better known for its poster being used in the "Starring Jon Cho" campaign, criticizing Hollywood's lack of diversity and imagining what it would be like if big Hollywood films had an Asian-American leading man. Critical reception is just starting to form. This is in nightly sneak previews from Saturday until Wednesday at most multiplexes, ahead of a general release next week.

Take note

House cinema on RCA will be closed from June 1 to 15 while some renovation and repair work is undertaken.

June and July are shaping up to be a very busy time for film enthusiasts, with the unveiling of more movie events.

Already mentioned is the Silent Film Festival from June 16 to 22 at the Lido and Scala.

Dovetailing with that will be the second edition of the Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival from June 10 to 19 at the Quartier CineArt.

And as if that isn't enough, CentralWorld's SF World Cinema piles on with the third edition of the freebie Singapore Film Festival in Bangkok from June 16 to 19, which will screen five award-winning Singaporean features.

Heading into July, the Thai Film Archive is formulating plans to start a series of screenings of films that were viewed in cinemas by His Majesty the King, starting with Santi-Vina, a 1954 feature that was misplaced for 60 years. It was rediscovered and restored and shown at the Cannes Film FestivalSanti-Vina will open the series of classic films in celebration of the 70th anniversary of His Majesty's accession to the throne, with one film a month being shown until December. The venue for this film series is yet to be announced. It is a similar idea to the Seen by H.M.K. series the Archive put on in 2012.

Also in early July, there will be another edition of the Thailand Film Office's bizarre and unique Thailand International Film Destination Festival at Paragon Cineplex, which will screen another oddball crop of little-seen foreign movies that were made in Thailand in recent years. That's in combination with the Amazing Thailand Film Challenge, a competition that jets in indie filmmakers to shoot short films in certain locations in just a few days with just a few baht.