Thursday, March 31, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening March 31-April 6, 2016

All Things Must Pass

Remember Tower Records? In the days before streaming music services, MP3s and digital downloads, Tower Records and other record stores were the places to get your music fix. There used to be Tower Records outlets in Bangkok, but despite me spending much hard-earned money there, they were shuttered in the early 2000s as the U.S.-based music retailer headed toward bankruptcy.

What happened? There’s more to it than just the Internet and illegal downloads. The answers await in All Things Must Pass, a documentary that examines the legacy of Tower Records and its colorful founder Russ Solomon.

It’s directed by Colin Hanks – son of Tom and a talented actor and filmmaker in his own right. He’s joined by a host of well-known musicians who lament Tower’s passing. Among them are hip-hop titan Chuck D, rockers Chris Cornell and Dave Grohl and top pop artists Elton John and Bruce Springsteen.

Critical reception is overwhelmingly positive. All Things Must Pass is yet another fine release organized by the Documentary Club. It's in a limited release at select SF cinemas. For times and venues, please check

Also opening

10 Cloverfield Lane – A young woman is injured in a car wreck and wakes up in a storm cellar with no memory of how she got there. She tries to escape, but there’s a strange man there who says that’s impossible due to fallout from a deadly chemical attack. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman and John Gallagher Jr star. What's going on? Is this a sequel to the 2008 found-footage surprise hit Cloverfield? Of course it is! But because this is from the Bad Robot factory of producer J.J. Abrams, details about the film were kept under wraps until the very last minute in order to stoke that ever-so-valuable viral curiosity. Despite Abrams and his cutsey-pie marketing gimmicks, critics love 10 Cloverfield Lane. Rated 13+

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 – With their teenage daughter about to head to college, Toula (Nia Vardalos) and her non-Greek husband Ian (John Corbett) are dealing with marital problems in the face of a secret from Toula’s past and the prospect of a bigger, fatter and even-more-Greek wedding. This is the follow-up to the 2002 low-budget smash hit that kickstarted the Hollywood career of writer-actress Nia Vardolos. And ever since that first film, Vardolos' close friends have been bugging her and bugging her to write another Big Fat Greek screenplay. Helps that two of those close friends are producer Rita Wilson and her husband, some guy named Tom Hanks. Nonetheless, critical reception has been tepid. Rated 13+

11 12 13 Rak Kan Ja Tai (11 12 13 รักกันจะตาย a.k.a. Ghost Is All Around) – Horror anthologies. The Thai film industry has a thing for horror anthologies. Saravuth Wichiansarn (Ghost Game) directs this one, which is released by the M-Thirtynine studio. It has the same type stories as other Thai horror anthologies – one about a guy haunted by the spirit of his suicidal girlfriend and another about goofball pals haunted by a friend who is dead but doesn't know it. A third story follows a woman who is in for terror in her travels with her gay chum. Heartthrob "Weir" Sukollawat Kanarot is among the stars. Rated 18+

Ki and Ka (Hers and His) – Traditional gender roles are reversed in sweeping Bollywood style in this romantic comedy starring Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Kapoor, which is about a rising young female corporate executive who wants to stay focused on her career, and her man, who stays at home to cook and clean. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

Salaya International Documentary Film Festival – The annual Salaya Doc festival has moved into the city, to the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, where it will continue until Sunday with events starting at 1pm daily. Today's selection includes Look Love, which contrasts stories of Chinese schoolboys from different social classes, and Tea Time, an Chilean feature about elderly ladies who have had weekly tea gatherings for 60 years. Both of those are part of the fest's "Sense and Sensibility" category for films directed by women. There are also entries in the Asean Documentary Competition, screening in four programs from 5.30pm today and tomorrow. Tomorrow has Face Taiwan, which looks at the state of contemporary Taiwanese cinema, and Return to Nostalgia, which is about the search for a lost classic film of Malaysian cinema. Both of those are part of the Power of Asian Cinema series commissioned by KBS Busan television. There's also Visible Silence, a short documentary on the Thai lesbian realm of "toms" and "dees". Saturday is devoted to a panel talk on funding, the announcement of awards in the Asean competition and then Homeland: Iraq Year Zero, a 334-minute look at Iraq before and after the U.S. invasion. Sunday has No Lullaby, on the insidious cycle of sexual abuse by a parent, When We Talk About KGB, about a Lithuanian former political prisoner's search for answers and Before the Last Curtain Falls, about ageing German drag queens. For more details, please check the fest's Facebook page.

The Friese-Greene Club – One last film for March tonight, closing out the monthlong tribute to David Lynch. It's his most atypical film, The Straight Story, a gentle, heartfelt road drama about an elderly man who drives his riding lawnmower across the country in order to see his ailing estranged brother. Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek and Harry Dean Stanton star. And the April schedule is just out, with "the secret life of secret agents" on Wednesdays, Hong Kong action on Thursdays, "quirky Eighties" on Fridays, "a bright future?" on Saturdays and Akira Kurosawa on Sundays. The '80s quirk gets underway tomorrow with one of Martin Scorsese's best, After Hours, with dystopian sci-fi in Terry Gilliam's Brazil on Saturday. Sunday has Toshiro Mifune caught between warring sides in a small town. It's Yojimbo. And next Wednesday is Robert Redford as an intelligence analyst in over his head in 3 Days of the Condor. 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 – The Alliance switches things up this week with just one film screening to list, this one at 7 tomorrow night. It's the equine-themed drama Jappeloup, a fact-based yarn about a lawyer who gives up a successful legal career in order to pursue the sport of show jumping, entering the Olympics with his prize steed Jappeloup. As is customary, the Alliance then takes much of April off, owing to the Songkran holiday. The free movies will resume on Wednesday, April 20.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: March 24-30, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Good old Batman. Just a regular dude, looking out for the rest of us mere mortals. He's always suspicious, always wary. And for every superhero or supervillain that emerges from outer space or out of a vat of chemicals, Batman studies their powers and abilities and methodically comes up with ways to defeat them, just in case.

Superman is his biggest test yet. Who is this guy in the red cape? Where does he come from? How does he get his powers? Batman, the Great Detective, figures it out in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Controversially, this latest version of Batman is played by Ben Affleck, who takes over the iconic role from Christian Bale, who portrayed the Cape Crusader in the Dark Knight Trilogy of Christopher Nolan. Having already been featured in the comic-book rodeo, playing a lackluster Daredevil years ago (the Netflix series does Daredevil justice), his reading of Bruce Wayne/Batman is a world-weary, been-there-and-done-that type. It seems the brooding darkness of the Nolanverse is carrying over into the DC Extended Universe.

But it's the comic-book-crazy 300 and Watchmen director Zack Snyder who helms this latest iteration, carrying on his meticulous and devoted panel-by-panel work from Man of Steel, which introduced Henry Cavill in the role of Superman and his bespectacled alter-ego newspaper reporter Clark Kent.

Here, Warner Bros.' DC Comics movie franchise takes further shape as it seeks to match Disney, Marvel Comics and the Avengers. Not only does this movie have the essential element Batman but they also rope in Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, making her debut) and arch-nemesis Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). Jeremy Irons joins as Bruce Wayne's butler and crime-fighting partner Alfred, with Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and others continuing in their roles from Man of Steel. It's all in service of the eventual Justice League movie, but first we'll get Suicide Squad and standalone films for Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash and others.

Critics have been desperate to trash this film since it was first announced. They don't care for Snyder, aren't crazy about Cavill as Superman and have mixed feelings about the Batfleck. Warner Bros. kept them at bay, imposing strict embargoes. But the reviews are starting to trickle in. It's in converted 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated 13+

Also opening

Risen – Praise Jesus. Our cinemas become churches in observance of Easter Sunday. In Judea in 33AD, veteran Roman military tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) begins to question his beliefs and spirituality as he works to uncover the truth of what happened to a certain crucified troublemaker. Basically, it's a straight-faced and faith-based version of the movie-within-the-movie that George Clooney was making in Hail, Caesar! Cliff Curtis and Tom Felton also star. It's directed by Kevin Reynolds, who is best known for his work as Kevin Costner's go-to guy (he actually called action on the famed buffalo-hunt scene in Dances with Wolves). Critical reception is mixed, with praise for the performance by Fiennes. Rated 13+

Trumbo – One of Hollywood’s highest-paid screenwriters, Dalton Trumbo, is caught up in the anti-communist crusades in the 1950s and is banned from working. Friends turn their backs on him, he's sent to prison and he veers toward financial ruin, but he continues to produce award-winning scripts, giving the credit to others or writing under a pseudonym. Bryan Cranston stars and he earned Academy Awards and Golden Globe nominations for his portrayal. Helen Mirren is the scandal-addicted columnist Hedda Hopper, and she also earned a Golden Globe nomination. Other stars include Louis C.K., Alan Tudyk, Diane Lane, Michael Stuhlbarg and John Goodman. Critical reception is generally positive. It's in limited release, playing only at the Lido in Siam Square.

Rocky Handsome – Rock-hard abs and explosions combine in this violent Bollywood thriller starring John Abraham and his gym membership. He's a father who embarks on a deadly rampage of revenge after his adorable little eight-year-old daughter is killed. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

Salaya International Documentary Film Festival – The Thai Film Archive's sixth annual documentary fest opens at 1pm on Saturday with The Scala, a 50-minute made-for-TV piece by Thai filmmaker Aditya Assarat, who takes his cameras inside Siam Square's imperiled landmark cinema for what he reckons is one last look around. The Scala is part of a special Power of Asian Cinema package, co-produced by the Busan International Film Festival and Korean Broadcasting. Other programs are Sense and Sensibility, which groups together documentaries by female directors, and the Asean Documentary Competition, which has entries this year from Vietnam, Myanmar, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia. A major highlight is The Memory of Justice, a 1976 film that looked at wartime atrocities, by the Germans in World War II, and by the Americans in Vietnam. Running 278 minutes, the film was recently restored and presented at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Another marathon screening will be Homeland: Iraq Year Zero, an award-winning chronicle of everyday life in Iraq before and after the U.S. invasion. It runs 334 minutes and will be presented in its entirety. The fest is at the Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, from Saturday through Monday, and then from Tuesday shifts over to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, where it runs through April 3. The schedule is embedded below. You can state your interest in attending the opening film and ceremony on the Facebook events page. For more details, please check the fest's Facebook page.

The Friese-Greene Club – There's one more scheduled screening on Saturday of Trump: What's the Deal?, a revealing 1999 documentary that is reportedly "the movie Trump doesn't want you to see." A specially licensed screening, the cost is 150 baht. The place has a private event tonight, but is back open tomorrow with the controversial erotic thriller Irreversible by Gaspar Noe and a Douglas Slocombe cinematography effort in the historical drama Lady Jane on Sunday. Next Wednesday, there's one more great Danish film, 1994's Nightwatch, starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) as a morque watchman who gets caught up in a murder case. 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 young man sets out to find his missing grandmother, who escaped from an old-folks home, in Les souvenirs (Memories). It screens at 7pm on Wednesday at the Alliance.

Take note

The Bangkok Art and Culture Centre has posted the line-up for this year's Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice series, taking the added theme of The Female Perspective and recruiting prominent female Thai filmmakers to show thought-provoking films and then talk about them. The opener is on May 21, with Soraya Nakasuwan showing The Pearl Button from Chile. Others will be twin-sisters Wanweaw and Weawwan Hongvivatana on July 23, producer-director Pimpaka Towira on September 24 and producer-director Anocha Suwichakornpong on November 19.

An article in The Nation last Friday details efforts by researcher Philip Jablon and the Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project to raise awareness about the plight of old movie palaces. It includes updates on the Lido and Scala, which will now hopefully remain open through 2018, as well as two old, shuttered standalone cinemas, The Prince and the Nang Loeng, that could reopen.

Meanwhile, Khao Sod English had a recent article on strong-arm practices being used by theater owners to force movie distributors into paying for ads in newspapers. The story says that distributors who didn't make the big ad buys found their films trounced out of cinemas in favor of movies by distributors who did pay. Explains a lot about how things work in Thai cinemas and why some movies tend to be harder to track down than others. If you are a smaller, independent distributor, you are going to have to work harder to keep your movie in front of eyeballs.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening March 17-23, 2016

Jane Got a Gun

Natalie Portman is a young frontierswoman in Jane Got a Gun. Although she's got plenty of sand, she has to get help from her gunslinger ex-boyfriend when her farm and her husband (Noah Emmerich) come under attack from a land-grabbing villain.

Amazing that this movie got made. The gritty, female-focused western was initiated as a project for British director Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk about Kevin). But things apparently weren't to Ramsay's liking, and she departed the production on the first day of shooting. A game of musical chairs then took place as cast members departed and were replaced and others changed roles.

Australian actor Joel Edgerton was originally to play the villain, with Michael Fassbender as Jane's gunslinger ex. But Fassbender left and Edgerton moved into the hero role.

Edgerton brought in Gavin O'Connor, who he'd worked with on the fight picture Warrior, to direct.

Meanwhile, Jude Law, who was to be the new villain, left because he only wanted to work with Ramsay. Bradley Cooper was then cast, but didn't stick around. So Ewan McGregor ended up in the villain role.

Critical reception has been mixed, but it should do the trick if you are a fan of westerns like Unforgiven, True Grit or The Homesman. Rated 15+

Also opening

Triple 9 – Corrupt cops who are under the thumb of the Russian mob are forced into pulling off the perfect heist. To do so, they come up with a plan that involves setting up a rookie cop to be killed. A very violent police thriller, Triple 9 is directed by John Hillcoat, an Australian whose previous uncompromising, unrelenting and bleak efforts have included The Proposition, The Road and Lawless. The ensemble cast is toplined by Casey Affleck, with support from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Michael K. Williams and Clifton Collins Jr. Kate Winslet is the Russian mob boss. Critical reception is mixed, but if you're a fan of Hillcoat's previous efforts and aren't squeamish about violence, this is one to see. Rated 20-

Bangkok 13 (บางกอก 13 เมือง-ฅน-ตาย) – Veteran producer-director Dulyasit Niyomkul helms this horror thriller about a young woman (Tarntara Rungruang) who has a supernatural sixth sense. Haunted by a childhood secret, she hopes to find answers when she joins the cast of a reality TV series that sends contestants into 13 spooky places in Bangkok. Rated 13+

Ride Along 2 – Diminutive motor-mouth Kevin Hart reteams with hip-hop tough-guy Ice Cube in the second entry in director Tim Story's buddy-cop franchise. The original set up had Hart's wannabe cop trying too hard to impress his brother-in-law, a streetwise veteran lawman. So it's just more that sort of thing. Critical reception is mostly negative. Rated 13+

Friend Request – Social-media dangers are depicted in this German-produced thriller, in which was popular college student "unfriends" an acquaintance, which causes her to be cursed by a demonic presence that is killing her closest pals. Alycia Debnam-Carey, William Moseley and Connor Paolo star. Simon Verhoeven (no relation to Dutch director Paul Verhoeven) directs. Rated 15+

Jeruzalem – American tourists visiting religious sites in Jerusalem have to fight for their survival when the Holy City becomes the epicenter of the apocalypse. An Israeli-produced thriller, it's directed by the Paz brothers. Rated 15+

Retribution – And here's a Spanish-made thriller, in which a bank executive receives an anonymous phone call informing him he has just a few hours to obtain a large sum of money or a bomb under his seat will explode. Rated 13+

Hana's Miso Soup – Just as she is ready to start her life, a young woman is hit with a cancer diagnosis, but, miraculously, she becomes pregnant. And when the baby is born, the young cancer-stricken mother becomes determined to teach her daughter everything she knows, including how to make tasty, healthful miso soup. In Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at Apex Siam Square, House on RCA and SFW CentralWorld. Rated 13+

Kapoor and Sons – Summoned by their 90-year-old grandfather (Rishi Kapoor), estranged bickering brothers Rahul Kapoor (Fawad Khan) and Arjun Kapoor (Sidharth Malhotra) return to their childhood home. There, they fall in love with the same woman (Alia Bhatt). It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

Thailand-China Film Culture Week – Forty years of diplomatic ties and increasingly cozier relations are celebrated in Thailand-China Film Culture week, organized by the Guangxi Film Group Company Limited, SF cinemas and the Thai-Chinese Culture Union. Running from tomorrow until Sunday at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld, the event will have five contemporary Chinese films playing alongside two critically acclaimed indie Thai films. Here is the line-up:

  • The Nightingale – An eight-year-old girl and her grandfather walk from Beijing to his rural hometown in Guilin in order to fulfill promise to his dead wife, to deliver a caged nightingale bird. From 2013, The Nightingale made the rounds of film festivals in 2014 and last year, and won a few awards.
  • Liu San Jie – From 1978, here's a classic from the Guangxi library. Touted as China’s first musical movie, it's the story of a travelling folksinger, Third Sister Liu, who inspires villagers wherever she goes.
  • The Dancing Young – High-school students who are crazy about dancing look for their big break as they try to balance the activity with their studies and social lives.
  • Monkey King: Hero Is Back – The hero of Chinese literature and legend gets another outing in animated form in a story of a special child who unknowingly releases the Monkey King from a 500-year curse. He pays back the kid by fighting the evil monster who have taken over his village.
  • Saving Mr. Wu – Andy Lau toplines this taut, fact-based thriller about a Hong Kong actor who is kidnapped in China by four criminals posing as police. The real cops have 24 hours to come up with a ransom to save the guy. Sheng Deng (Police Story: Lockdown and Little Big Soldier) directs. It was nominated for two awards at last year's Golden Horse Film Festival and has scored positive reviews.
  • Eternity (ที่รัก, Tee Rak) – Award-winning Thai indie writer-director Sivaroj Kongsakul recounts a rural Thai-Chinese upbringing in this haunting, heartfelt drama that was inspired by the death of his father and the romance of his parents. It won the Tiger Award at the 2010 International Film Festival Rotterdam and also took prizes in Deauville and Hong Kong.
  • W. – Chonlasit Upanigkit, a young filmmaker who sought out for talent in the film-editing suite, made his directorial debut with the enigmatic W., which was his student film. Originally three hours long, it was trimmed down to its two-hour bare essence and won critical acclaim in 2014. It's the story of a disoriented young woman who is thrown into the deep end of college life.
There's actually a screening of the musical tonight, but it is invitation only. Public screenings begin tomorrow night at SF World. Tickets are free and will be handed out 30 minutes before the shows – get your place in line well before that ensure you have a decent seat. For the schedule, please see the SF Cinemas website.

The Friese-Greene Club – Heineken? Don't even think about it ordering one if you see Blue Velvet at the Club tonight. It's part of monthlong tribute to cult director David Lynch. Tomorrow's "controversial" film is 2005's Hard Candy, about a teenage girl seeking revenge against a pedophile. And Saturday has the second of three screenings this month of Trump: What's the Deal?, a revealing 1999 documentary that is reportedly "the movie Trump doesn't want you to see." It costs 150 baht. Sunday has another of the films shot by the late British cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, the ahead-of-its-time dystopian sci-fi sports drama Rollerball, from 1975. And next Wednesday is another entry from Denmark's Dogme 95 school, Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark, starring Bjork. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the under-renovation Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. For more details, check the club's Facebook page.

Alliance Française – There are two movies to list this week – a "kids' movie" on Saturday and the usual Wednesday night screening. First up at 2pm on Saturday is The Painting (Le tableau), which has characters in an unfinished painting coming into conflict. Three of them team up for an adventure in which they leave the painting in search of the artist. And then the next usual Wednesday night screening will be Party Girl, a 2014 comedy-drama about an ageing nightclub hostess who decides to settle down and get married.

Take note

Way too many movies to deal with this week, as distributors and cinema chains work to get a few titles off their books and clear the decks ahead of next week, when the main focus will be on Warner Bros' big superhero tentpole, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Meanwhile, the Salaya International Documentary Film Festival is continuing to offer updates on on its sixth edition, which runs from March 26 to April 3 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center and the Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom. Watch the Facebook page as details emerge.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening March 10-16, 2016

The Hunting Ground

Rape culture at American colleges is exposed in The Hunting Ground, a documentary on campus rape crimes, institutional cover-ups and the toll that rape and sexual abuse takes on students, families and society.

It's the latest film by Kirby Dick, the noted documentary filmmaker whose previous works include Twist of Faith (on sex abuse of children in the Catholic Church), the informative This Film Is Not Yet Rated (on Hollywood's hypocritical film-ratings agency) and The Invisible War (on sexual assault in the U.S. military).

A winner of several awards, The Hunting Ground features the Academy Award-nominated original song "Til It Happens to You", written by Diane Warren and performed by Lady Gaga. It was featured in a special live performance at the recent Oscars ceremony. Critical reception has been mostly positive.

Brought to Thailand by the Documentary Club, The Hunting Ground is at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld and SFX The Crystal Ekamai-Ram Indra. For more details, check the Documentary Club Facebook page and SF's bookings site. Rated 13+

Also opening

Kung Fu Panda 3 – The DreamWorks Animation talking-animals franchise keeps rolling, with the portly panda martial-artist Po (Jack Black) reuniting with his long-lost father (Brian Cranston) and paying a visit to a secret panda paradise. Meanwhile, a new villain arises in the form of a snorting bull named Kai (J.K. Simmons), who is defeating kung-fu masters across the land and stealing their supernatural powers. Along with Black, returning voices include Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Dustin Hoffman, James Hong and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Kate Hudson and Jolie's children add their voices to this latest adventure. Critical reception is generally positive. This was in daytime sneak previews last week and now moves to general release. It's in 3D in some cinemas. Rated G

The Divergent Series: Allegiant – Taking a page from adaptations of Harry Potter, The Hobbit and The Hunger Games, it's apparently mandatory now for the third book in young-adult-science-fiction novel trilogies to be broken in two for the Hollywood movie adaptations. This is part one of the final chapter in Divergent, with Part 2 (now called Ascendant) not due out until next year. So it's not over yet. Anyway, the story has the teen heroine Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her rebel-scum friends faced with having to flee for their lives from a comfortable existence in post-apocalyptic utopian Chicago. Theo James, Jeff Daniels, Octavia Spencer, Ray Stevenson, Zoë Kravitz,  Miles Teller and Ansel Elgort also star. Critical reception is starting to trickle in, but won't really get going until next week when this opens in the U.S. The release in overseas territories is a move to gin up box-office takings before the majority of critics weigh in and trash the film. In addition to 2D screenings in ordinary cinemas, there's also a 2D IMAX version. Rated 13+

Also showing

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – Film screenings resume at the FCCT, with a special Thai documentary screening and panel discussion tonight and a South African film on Monday. First up is Y/Our Music, a critically acclaimed and nominated Thai-British documentary on the political and social divide in Thai music. It covers the nearly forgotten mor lam artists of the Thai country music scene in the Northeast and oddball indie musicians in Bangkok. Panelists will be co-director "Art" Waraluck Hiransrettawat Every, political scientist Dr. Sirote Klampaiboon, and Bangkok Post music columnist John Clewly. The show is at 7 tonight. Admission is (yikes!) 450 baht for non-members. Monday marks the beginning of the year's Contemporary World Film Series, which opens with Drum, a fact-based 2004 South African drama about a writer for Drum magazine getting caught up in the anti-Apartheid movement in the 1950s. Taye Diggs and Gabriel Mann star. South African Ambassador Ruby Marks will be on hand, along with South African wine and snacks. Entry is 150 baht for non-members plus 100 baht for the drinks and food. The show starts at 7pm.

German Film Week – The Goethe-Institut's annual showcase continues tonight with Inbetween Worlds (Zwischen Welten), following a German soldier in Afghanistan as he becomes conflicted between duty and his conscience as he works in a Taliban-controlled area with a young Afghan interpreter. Tomorrow, it's A God send (Ein Geschenk der Götter), in which an unemployed actress takes a job teaching theater to other jobless folks. Saturday has Jack, about a 10-year-old boy looking for his missing mother. And the week concludes on Sunday with Patong Girl, about a dysfunctional German family on vacation on Phuket. It was shot in Phuket with a Thai and German cast, with assistance from production-services firm De Warrenne Pictures. Shows are at 7pm at Paragon Cineplex. Tickets are 120 baht and 150 baht at the box office.

The Friese-Greene Club – A support-group meeting for the confused will be convened at the Club immediately following tonight's screening of the L.A.-noir mystery Mulholland Drive, part of a monthlong tribute to cult director David Lynch. Tomorrow's "controversial" film is another cult entry, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. "Not for the faint-hearted," warns the Club. Saturday is the first of three screenings this month of Trump: What's the Deal?, a 1999 documentary on the bloviating U.S. presidential candidate. It's reportedly "the movie Trump doesn't want you to see." Showing no fear of being sued by Trump, the FGC has specially licensed the film for screenings in its nine-seat boutique cinema, and is charging 150 baht a head to recoup the costs. Douglas Slocum, the veteran British cinematographer who died last month at age 103, is paid tribute in Sunday screenings. This week's entry is The Servant, a 1963 adaptation of a Harold Pinter novel that won four BAFTAs, including best cinematography. "The Best of Danish" is featured on Wednesdays, with Thomas Vinterberg's 1998 family drama Festen. It's the first of the films made under the rules of the Dogme 95 movement, which aimed to bring filmmaking back to the basics of story, acting, and theme, eschewing special effects and slickness. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the under-renovation Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. For more details, check the club's Facebook page.

German Film Series – The Goethe has got it going on when it comes to film. In addition to the recent Wim Wenders retrospective and the ongoing German Film Week there are the monthly installments in the year-round German Film Series, which has screenings at the Thai Film Archive and the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. This month's entry is Love Steaks, an indie romance about the unusual relationship between a resort's trainee masseur and the hotel's chef-in-training. It screens at 1pm on Sunday at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, and at 6pm on Tuesday in the BACC's fifth-floor auditorium.

Alliance Française – Following a one-week hiatus, the free French films return at the Alliance with Deux de la Vague (Two in the Wave), a 2010 documentary on the friendship between two of the founding titans of the French New Wave – Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, March 16, at the Alliance.

Take note

Details are starting to emerge about the Salaya International Documentary Film Festival, which runs from March 26 to April 3 at the Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, and the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. Hit the Salaya Doc Facebook page to see what they are up to.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening March 3-9, 2016

Hail, Caesar!

With Hail, Caesar!, the Coen Bros. return to the Hollywood Golden Age at Capitol Pictures, which they first mined for screwball-comedy hijinks in Barton Fink, which was set in the 1940s.

Now in the 1950s, Capitol has a brash new executive “fixer”, played by Josh Brolin, who has his work cut out for him when the studio's biggest star, matinee idol Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) goes missing during the production of a swords-and-sandals epic. Turns out he's been kidnapped by a shadowy group known as "the Future".

Aside from Coen veterans like Clooney and Brolin, there's also Frances McDormand as a film editor and Tilda Swinton in dual roles as rival twin sister gossip columnists. Channing Tatum and Alden Ehrenreich are a couple other young leading men at the studio. Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson and Jonah Hill also star.

The Coens have stated that this is the third entry in their Numbskull Trilogy of films with their favorite numbskull Clooney, following O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) and Intolerable Cruelty (2003), though 2008's Burn After Reading might also fit in there too.

Critical reception is mostly positive, putting Hail, Caesar! somewhere in the Coens' middle realm, below A Serious Man and above The Man Who Wasn't There. Rated 13+

Also opening

London Has Fallen – Remember 2013, when there were two back-to-back "Die Hard in the White House movies"? One was Roland Emmerich's stupidly fun White House Down, with Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx, and the other was the straight-faced, grimmer-toned and much-less-fun Olympus Has Fallen, which was directed by Antoine Fuqua and starred Gerard Butler as a disgraced Secret Service agent who redeems himself when the White House comes under attack. He's back in London Has Fallen, protecting president Aaron Eckhart as he attends a British prime minister's funeral, which becomes a target for a Pakistani arms dealer who wants to wipe out all the world leaders. Charlotte Riley joins the cast, playing a British agent. Returnees include Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster and Melissa Leo. Babak Najafi, an Iranian-born Swedish filmmaker, takes over as director, making his English-language debut. Rated 18+

Love Say Hey .. Yaak Say Wa Rak Ther (เลิฟเซเฮ.. อยากเซว่ารักเธอ) – High-school seniors have to figure out how to balance love, friendship and their studies as they work to make a film together for their graduation project. Napat Jaitientum directs. He previously directed the gay romances, last year's Love Love You and 2014's Love's Coming. Rated G

Office – An office supervisor (Bae Sung-woo) snaps after a long day at work, kills his family and disappears. A police detective (Park Sung-woong) is on the case, but co-workers are tight-lipped about the man, until, one by one, they start getting killed off too. It's directed by Hong Won-chan, who makes his debut as helmer following screenplays on such acclaimed South Korean thrillers as The Chaser, The Yellow Sea and Confession of Murder. In Korean with English and Thai subtitles at SFW CentralWorld and Esplanade Ratchada. Rated 18+

Mojin: The Lost Legend – An infamous tomb robber (Chen Kun) has settled down to retire with his new fiancee when an old girlfriend (Angelababy) who he thought died 20 years ago resurfaces and lures him back to China and the tomb of a Mongolian princess, which holds an artifact that has the power to raise the dead. Thai-dubbed it seems. Rated 13+

Jai Gangaajal – Priyanka Chopra portrays the first female police superintendent in Bankipur, Bihar. She decides to take on a corrupt local politician and his henchmen. Manav Kaul, Rahul Bhat and Queen Harish also star. In Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Danish films, David Lynch, "controversy!", a tribute to cinematographer Donald Slocum and Donald Trump: What's the Deal? are featured this month. The abstract movies of David Lynch are featured on Thursdays, beginning with The Elephant Man. Friday's "controversial" film is A Clockwork Orange. This Saturday is a one-off special event, the fourth edition of the 9 Film Fest, which will screen the winning entries in this year's online contest. To compete, filmmakers have to come up original nine-minute films that contain a "signature item" that is unique from year to year. This year's "9SI" was "flower". Sunday has the films shot by Slocum, beginning with the screwball British comedy The Lavender Hill Mob. Later in the month, the club has scheduled Saturday screenings of Trump: What's the Deal?, a 1999 documentary that is reportedly "the movie Trump doesn't want you to see". It's set for March 12, March 19 and March 26, for Bt150 per person. 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.

Signes de Nuit in Bangkok – The Reading Room, Filmvirus, the Goethe-Institut and the International Festival Signet de Nuit present an extensive selection of experimental short films and documentaries from this year's International Festival Signet de Nuit in Paris. Screenings are on Friday and Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at the Reading Room on Silom Soi 19. For the full schedule, please check the Facebook events page.

Wim Wenders: A Retrospective – The Thai Film Archive lets light filter through its state-of-the-art 3D projector for the first time, with back-to-back Saturday screenings of two 3D films by influential German director Wim Wenders. First up at 1pm is Pina, Wenders' tribute to the late German dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch. That's followed by the drama Every Thing will be Fine, which has James Franco as writer who kills a child in a car wreck. These are two films in which the filmmaker seeks to use 3D to "immerse" the audience in sights, sounds, experiences and storytelling, rather than just titillate with gimmicks and flashy special effects as most mainstream commercial 3D films do. It's an approach that contemporaries of Wenders have taken, such as Werner Herzog with his 3D documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams or Martin Scorsese, with his epic childhood drama Hugo., and Jean-Luc Godard with Goodbye to Language. For more details, check the special post, the Archive's website or the Goethe website.

German Film Week – Following the recently concluded Open Air Cinema season, the ongoing Wim Wenders: A Retrospective and the monthly German Film Series, German cinema remains in focus with German Film Week from March 7 to 13 at Paragon Cineplex. It will screen seven contemporary German films from 2013-14. Here's the line-up:

  • Monday, March 7: Who am I – No System is safe – Baran bo Odar directs this thriller about a hacker who uses the virtual reality to become "somebody". An opening reception precedes this screening, beginning at 6pm.
  • Tuesday, March 8: Schönefeld Boulevard – A plus-size teenage girl gets her first taste of the wide open world when construction of a new Berlin airport comes to her neighborhood.
  • Wednesday, March 9: The Age of Cannibals (Zeit der Kannibalen) – Two longtime business consultants who make their living travelling to far-flung countries advising companies, are both in for disappointment when they are passed over for a big promotion.
  • Thursday, March 10: Inbetween Worlds (Zwischen Welten) – In Afghanistan, a German soldier becomes conflicted between duty and his conscience as he works in a Taliban-controlled area with a young Afghani interpreter.
  • Friday, March 11: A God send (Ein Geschenk der Götter) – An unemployed actress takes a job teaching a theater class to chronically jobless folks. They will try to put on the play Antigone.
  • Saturday, March 12: Jack – A 10-year-old boy goes looking for his mother after she fails to turn up to collect him after school. A nominee for the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, the drama is directed by Edward Berger, who co-wrote the screenplay with Nele Mueller-Stöfen.
  • Sunday, March 13: Patong Girl – There's conflict for a German family on vacation in Phuket, when the teenage son falls for a local lass and runs off. Mum runs off too, to search for the boy, but instead goes on a journey to find herself. Susanna Salonen directs this Thai-German comedy-drama, filmed in Phuket with a Thai and German cast.

Shows are at 7pm. All films will have English subtitles. Tickets cost 120 baht and 150 baht at the Paragon box office.

Sneak preview

Kung Fu Panda 3 – The Dreamworks Animation franchise returns with Jack Black's rotund martial artist Po and his friends getting up to more adventures. Po, the orphaned panda, finds his homeland and bonds with his father and other panda family members. Meanwhile, an evil new adversary arises in the former of master Kai, voiced by J.K. Simmons. Along with Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, David Cross, Seth Rogen and Jackie Chan in returning roles, newcomers to the franchise include Bryan Cranston and Kate Hudson. It's in sneak previews from Saturday until Wednesday, with kid-friendly screenings starting between 2pm and 5pm . Rated G

Take note

There's no free film screening next Wednesday at the Alliance Française, which instead will have a one-off concert Duo Brunetti-Pachioli. The free French films return on March 16.