Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 27-May 4, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

With Captain America: Civil War, Marvel Studios offers a more brightly lit and quippier counterpoint to the drab darkness of the DC comics films.

Like DC's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Marvel's new Captain America movie pits top comic-book heroes against one another.

Here, the eternal Boy Scout, Steve "Captain America" Rogers, sees a threat in a plan by politicians to make superheroes accountable for all the collateral damage they are causing. It's understandable, I guess, given how Manhattan was ripped apart in the first Avengers movie and then Washington, DC took a big hit in Captain America: Winter Soldier.

The complex military industrialist Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, is on board with the politicians' scheme to keep the Avengers in check, but Rogers isn't so sure. So it's Cap and his team on one side and Iron Man and others on another.

Chris Evans returns as Cap, along with the core team that includes Anthony Mackie as Falcon, Sebastian Stan as Cap's former friend Bucky (now the damaged and brainwashed Winter Soldier), the archer Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and the supernatural-powered Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)

Also back in action is Scarlett Johansson as conflicted anti-heroine Black Widow.

Robert Downey Jr. joins the proceedings this time out as Iron Man, adding his snappy one-liners, and basically making this Captain America movie an Avengers movie or another Iron Man movie. Don Cheadle is in there as well, as Iron Man's sidekick War Machine, along with Paul Bettany, the voice of longtime Stark family servant Jarvis, now the super cyber entity Vision.

And watch for a special appearance by the new Spider-Man, Tom Holland. Spidey was formerly trapped solely in Sony's web of Marvel Comic movies. With yet another new Sony Spider-Man series set to start next year, the webslinging teen hero has been freed up for crossover action in the Disney-owned Marvel Studios cinematic universe.

Many, many other supers will take part as well, introducing Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and tossing in Paul Rudd as Ant-Man.

It's directed by the Russo brothers, Anthony and Joe, frequent TV-comedy hands who won accolades for their work on Winter Soldier. This doesn't come out until May 6 in the U.S., but, in a positive sign, many critics have already been allowed to see it, and are giving it good reviews. It's in converted 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX. Opens today.  Rated G

Also opening

The Idol – It's pretty rare for a Palestinian film to hit our screens, but I suppose this fact-based musical biopic makes commercial sense in a country where TV talent shows are a primary diversion, and so many of the movie and TV stars and popular musicians are former contestants of reality-TV talent shows. The drama covers the life of Mohammed Assaf, a young Palestinian musician who performed at weddings in refugee camps in Gaza. He went on to win on TV's Arab Idol in 2013, found worldwide fame and put Palestine in the spotlight. Tawfeek Barhom portrays the singer and Hany Abu-Assad directs. It screened at last year's Toronto International Film Festival and has been well-received by critics. Opens Thursday. It's in limited release in a handful of Major Cineplex outlets plus Apex in Siam Square, in the original Arabic with English and Thai subtitles. Rated G

Terra Formars – They are terraformers. On Mars. Get it? Terra Formars is yet another live-action adaptation of yet another popular Japanese comic series, and is much anticipated by fans of manga and Japanese pop culture. The prolific cult-film director Takashi Miike helms this big-budget effort, which was filmed in Iceland. Stars include Rinko Kikuchi and Rila Fukushima along with Kane Kosugi. Bit like Starship Troopers, the story deals with a small unit of soldiers who are fighting mutated cockroaches, giant bugs that were originally installed to help colonize the Red Planet. Opens Friday. It's Thai-dubbed in most places but the Japanese soundtrack with English and Thai subtitles is available in the usual downtown cinemas, including Apex Siam Square, Paragon, Quartier, Esplanade Ratchada, SFW CentralWorld and SFC Terminal 21. Rated G

Baaghi – A lot of Bollywood films, and other films, TV series, commercials, music videos, etc. from India, are made in Thailand. Local production-services company Benetone handles many of those projects, and they worked on Baaghi, which is actually set in Thailand. New-face leading man Tiger Shroff, along with Shradda Kappoor and Sudheer Babu star. It's the story of former college chums who fell in love with the same woman. Years later, she is abducted and is being held in Thailand, bringing the two former friends together again as fierce enemies. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

Alliance Française – Lots of French film activities to report, in line with the Alliance's expansion of its movie programming. As covered in last week's update, tonight's French film with English subtitles is Heat Wave (Coup de chaud), a murder mystery that's set during a hot time in a small African town. Friday's French film with Thai subtitles is School of Babel, a comedy-drama about a special school in Paris for immigrant children. And there's a Saturday matinee "kids' movie", the 2010 animated Une vie de chat (A Cat in Paris), about a thieving feline who looks after a little girl. And the May schedule opens next Wednesday with the English-subbed Vincent, about a young man with secret superpowers. Shows are at 7pm (except the Saturday matinee, which starts at 2pm). Admission is 100 baht for the general public.

The Friese-Greene Club – April winds down with one more spy movie tonight, Carol Reed's Our Man in Havana with Alec Guinness. The club has a private event on Thursday, but is back open on Friday for a "quirky eighties" movie, Parents by director and often-seen character actor Bob Balaban. And the month closes out on Saturday with the dystopian drama Children of Men. For May, the club's schedule ponders the question, "Over-rated or Under-appreciated?" and then covers four distinctive auteur directors and one iconic actor. Wednesdays have the American indie director Jim Jarmusch while Thursdays are devoted to the great Orson Welles. Fridays have the artful eroticism of Britain's Peter Greenaway while Saturdays feature the overlapping dialogue and sprawling casts of America's Robert Altman. And Sundays, see, are devoted to Edward G. Robinson, starting with his film-noir classic with Bogie and Bacall, Key Largo. Wednesdays are mostly the early, under-appreciated efforts of Jarmusch, starting with 1984's Stranger Than Paradise, while next Thursday is the 75th anniversary screening of the classic film, Welles' Citizen Kane. 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.

The Special Screening of Three Classic Asean Films – The most-popular tickets at the Bangkok Asean Film Festival were the "Asean Classics", three older films that were screening alongside newer entries from all the Asean bloc countries. Those three films will be screened again on Sunday at the Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom. They are the 1972 Cambodian fantasy The Snake Man at 1pm, 1954's After the Curfew from Indonesia at 3pm and 1975's Manila in the Claws of Light at 5pm. I actually saw Manila, and it is well worth making the trip to the Archive if you missed the Bangkok screening. The film recently underwent digital restoration and looks amazing. It's a gripping and gritty drama about the working class in the city. Please note that The Snake Man is Thai-dubbed with no English subtitles, but the others have both English and Thai subtitles. For details, check the Facebook events page.

Take note

I've gone ahead and issued my weekly update here a day early, owing to the big-tentpole opening of Captain America: Civil War, one day earlier than usual. Notably, Captain America doesn't open until next week in the U.S., so movie-goers in Thailand are among the first to feast eyes.

Tomorrow, the usual day movies tend to open here, there is scheduled to be one more new release, the Palestinian entry Idol.

For some reason, the Japanese film Terra Formars is not opening until Friday, which is unusual. And then there's the Bollywood release Baaghi, which opens on Friday, as per usual with the Bollywood films in Bangkok.

There are public holidays next week, including a Monday substitution for Labor Day on May 1, to give the working-class comrades and their elite overseers an extra day of rest. And then next Thursday is Coronation Day. But it appears the movies will shift back to their regular schedule of opening on Thursday.

Coming up, the dates for the third edition of the Silent Film Festival in Thailand are set for June 16 to 22, 2016 at the Lido and Scala cinemas. That's according to the latest newsletter from the Film Archive. Hopefully, more details will emerge soon.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 21-27, 2016

Patong Girl

A German teen on holiday in Thailand with his dysfunctional family falls head over heels for a local lass in Patong Girl (สาวป่าตอง), an indie drama that recently won a Grimme Prize in Germany.

It's directed by Susanna Salonen, a veteran cinematographer whose credits include second unit work on Run Lola Run, making her feature directorial debut. She was inspired to make Patong Girl by her experience during the 1990s as a diving instructor on Phuket.

The film follows the Schroeder family as they embark for one last holiday together before their youngest son Felix goes off to college. Locked into what turns out to be a dodgy holiday package, the family spends their nights boozing in a red-light district, where Felix comes to the rescue of a damsel named Fai and ends up running off with her without really knowing who she is. The mother, meanwhile, is becoming dissatisfied with her husband and she runs off too, ostensibly to find the son. She ends up finding herself.

In addition to the strong performances by Max Mauff as Felix and Victoria Trauttmansdorff as the mother, there's a break-out role for (spoiler alert) transgender actress Aisawanya Areyawattana.

Interestingly, the film was actually made around Pattaya, with Bangkok-based production services company De Warrenne Pictures and co-producer Tom Waller, helping set the stage.

The limited theatrical release follows appearances in the German Open Air Cinema season and German Film Week. It's at SF World at CentralWorld as well as SF cinemas at Pattaya Beach, Jungceylon Phuket (Patong) and Maya Chiang Mai.

For details, check the Facebook page. There's also a Vimeo trailer and an article in The Nation. Rated 15+

Also opening

Green Room – Patrick Stewart, the refined stage and screen actor best known for his roles as Captain Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and as Professor Xavier in the X-Men movies, takes a villainous turn as a white supremacist criminal kingpin in Green Room. The thriller is about members of a rock band who are locked in a fight for survival with skinhead gangsters after they witness a murder. Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat and Joe Cole also star. Critical reception is generally positive. Seems this is only playing in a small number of venues, so good luck finding it at a cinema near you. Rated 18+

Hardcore Henry – Taking inspiration from first-person-shooter video games and other point-of-view (POV) media, this Russian indie action feature is being touted as the first full-length film to be shot entirely from the first-person perspective. Basically the movie Crank, if it were made from a camera planted in Jason Statham's brain, it follows the adventure of a secret agent who wakes up in a lab and then goes through all kinds of violent situations to rescue his scientist wife, who has been abducted by a superpowered warlord. Sharlto Copley, Tim Roth and Haley Bennett are among the stars, but the real stand-out performers are the various stunt actors who donned a GoPro camera helmet to shoot, stab and punch their way through the film. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 18+

Race – Track-and-field star Jesse Owens faced a dilemma when he was chosen to represent the USA in the 1936 Berlin Olympic games. There were folks who urged him to not take part, thus denying Adolf Hitler and the Nazis a propaganda opportunity. Others pleaded with him to go to Berlin, because he most certainly would win and disprove assertions that black people were somehow "inferior". Stephan James stars in this historical sports drama, with former Saturday Night Live cast member Jason Sudeikis taking a dramatic turn as Owens' coach. Other stars include Jeremy Irons, William Hurt and Carice van Houten from Game of Thrones. Critical reception is mixed. Like Green Room, this is another limited release, with just a few venues listed. Rated G

Colonia – Emma Watson (Hermoine from the Harry Potter movies) is a young woman caught up in the unrest of 1973 in Chile. After her husband (Daniel Brühl) is kidnapped by Pinochet's secret police, she tracks him into the jungle to a torture center run by a Christian sect led by a former Nazi (Michael Nyqvist). She joins the cult in hopes she'll be able to rescue her husband. Critical reception is mixed. This opened last week in sneak previews and now moves to general release. Rated 13+

The Wave – The Norwegian film industry flexes its special-effects muscles with this Hollywood-style disaster thriller. It's set in an isolated village threatened by a tsunami, created when an unstable mountain slid off into a nearby fjord. Human drama ensues as residents scramble for higher ground. Critical reception has been mostly favorable. Rated 13+

Before I Wake – A young couple (Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane) take in a foster child, a boy who is plagued by dreams and nightmares that come to terrifying life as he slumbers. As the dreams become increasingly dangerous, the kid tries to stay awake in a bid to save his new family. He is portrayed by Jacob Trembley, the child actor who won widespread accolades for his performance in the much-acclaimed Room. The writer-director is Mike Flanagan, who previously did the Blumhouse horrors Oculus and Hush. The buzz on this seems to be positive, even as critical reception is just starting to jump. Rated 15+

Detective Chinatown – This is not the long-awaited sequel to the Chinatown sequel The Two Jakes. No, Detective Chinatown is a Chinese action-comedy about a wannabe police officer who comes to Bangkok and gets mixed up in a murder case. Aspiring to be the next Chinese made-in-Thailand mega-hit like Lost in Thailand, Detective Chinatown was actually shot in Bangkok. It was a hit in China and got a fun review by Maggie Lee of Variety. Thai-dubbed only. Rated 15+

Also showing

Bangkok Asean Film Festival – Movies from all the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will be featured in the second edition of this freebie festival, which is open to the public from tomorrow until Tuesday at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. It is put on by the Culture Ministry in a bid to promote Bangkok as a cultural and cinematic hub for the region. There are noteworthy films from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. In addition to 10 recent titles, there are three "Asean Classics", including the 1975 social drama Manila in the Claws of Light by Lino Brocka and 1954's After the Curfew from Indonesia. The fest is covered at length in an entry posted on Tuesday, just moments after the schedule was finally revealed. I mostly want to see Bitcoins Heist from Vietnam. Tickets are free and handed out 30 minutes before the shows to punters who queue up at a special table there at CentralWorld.

The Friese-Greene Club – Chow Yun-fat is at his best tonight in The Killer, John Woo's seminal slice of 1980s Hong Kong action and thrills. Tomorrow, it's the "quirky '80s" with the Coen Bros.' debut Blood Simple, which pretty much set the template for everything they've done since. The club is booked for a private event on Saturday but is back open on Sunday for Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. Next Tuesday, there is a special screening, of the Cambodian documentary I Am Chut Wutty, which covers the killing of an environmental activist. With a venue in Phnom Penh threatened with "strong action" if it showed the film, director Fran Lambrick granted permission for the FGC to show it. It is a case similar to Bradley Cox's banned-in-Cambodia documentary Who Killed Chea Vichea? about a slain Cambodian labor organizer. Find out more at the Facebook events page. And next Wednesday it's Carol Reed's film-noir spy tale Our Man in Havana, starring Alec Guinness. Shows are at 8pm (except for Seven Samurai, which starts at 7). 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 strict judge is in an awkward situation in the comedy Nine-Month Stretch (9 mois ferme), which screens at 7pm on Friday in French with Thai subtitles. Next Wednesday's English-subbed offering is Heat Wave (Coup de chaud), a murder mystery that's set during a heat wave in a small African town. Admission is 100 baht for the general public.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – Films by Asian female directors living in the West have been the focus of the FCCT's Contemporary World Film Series of late, with Indo-Canadian Deepa Mehta's Earth screening on Tuesday. Next up, at 7pm on Monday, April 25, will be Dukhtar, which New York-based Pakistani Afia Nathaniel made to widespread acclaim. It follows the adventure of a determined mother who takes her daughter away to break the cycle of arranged marriage in the Pashtun tribe. It was Pakistan's official submission to the Academy Awards. Admission is 150 baht for non-members.

Take note

After the long Songkran break, movie distributors and multiplex chains are back in furious action this week getting eight or so smaller titles off their shelves ahead of the next big Hollywood comic-book tentpole, Captain America: Civil War, which actually hits cinemas next Wednesday along with a handful of other movies the following day. I'll aim for an update on the usual day. So see you next Thursday.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Bangkok Asean Film Festival, April 22-26, 2016

Movies from across the Asean Economic Community will be shown in the second edition of the Bangkok Asean Film Festival, which opens to the public on Friday at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. It's put on by the Ministry of Culture, with support from SF cinemas, the Thai Film Archive and the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand.

The selection has recent acclaimed movies from all the Asean member states plus three "Asean Classics", films that date back to the 1950s and 1970s. The entries are a mix of gripping drama, romance, comedy, action and a moving documentary. Here is the line-up:

Asean Classics

  • The Snake Man (Pous Keng Kang, a.k.a. The Snake King's Wife) – An icon of Cambodian cinema's lost "golden age", Tea Lim Koun's inventive special-effects-laden fantasy is the tragic story of a girl who is destined to be the wife of the Snake King. The doyenne of the Cambodian stage and screen Dy Saveth is among the stars, and she is due to put in an appearance at the festival. Made in 1972, the film was released across Asia, including Thailand. Unfortunately, the first 10 minutes are missing. Also, it is Thai-dubbed only and there are no English subtitles, the only one in the fest where that is the case. But it's still worth a look if you are interested in Cambodian cinema and weird B-movie fantasies.
  • After the Curfew – From 1954 and directed by Usmar Ismail, this social drama is regarded as a classic of Indonesian cinema. It's about a former soldier who takes up a vigilante cause against corrupt officials.
  • Manila in the Claws of Light – Directed by Filipino cinema titan Lino Brocka, this much-acclaimed 1975 social drama follows a young man who has left behind his rural hometown and work as a fisherman to move to the big city and in search of new opportunities and a better life. He should have stayed in the countryside.

Asean films

  • Yasmine, Brunei – Not many films come out of Brunei. And Yasmine is only the second Bruneian film I've ever heard of. Even more unusual, is that Yasmine centers on a young woman who goes against conservative society to join competitions in the Malay martial art of silat. It won prizes at the Asean International Film Festival and Awards and at the Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival in Switzerland.
  • 3.50, Cambodia – Chhay Bora directs this drama about Cambodia's illegal sex trade, as seen through the eyes of an American woman who is making a documentary film and becomes determined to change the country's cruel ways.
  • A Copy of My Mind, Indonesia – Top indie talent Joko Anwar turns to romance with this drama about a woman who works in a beauty salon who falls for a subtitler of pirated DVDs. Their love turns problematic amidst turbulent politics. The film was in competition at the Venice fest last year and has been a frequent entry of festivals around the region.
  • Above It All, Laos – Outside of the Lao PDR, it's kind of hard to describe how groundbreaking this film is. But it is the first Lao film to have a gay main character, a medical student who is struggling to come out of the closet to his strict father. It also deals with a young Hmong woman who wants to break away from the tribal tradition of arranged marriages. Directed by Anysay Keola, one of the leading figures of Laos' burgeoning film industry, Above It All premiered at last year's Luang Prabang Film Festival.
  • Day and Night, Malaysia – This is a compilation of segments by three talented independent Malaysian filmmakers, who all offer their reflections on the state of contemporary Malaysian society. The segments are Trespassed by Ho Yuhang, Bite by Charlotte Lim and Bedside Manners by Yeo Joon Han.
  • Kayan Beauties, Myanmar – The often-exploited "giraffe neck" women of Myanmar's and Thailand's tribal regions are thrust into the spotlight in this 2012 feature, which has been shown at many festivals around the Asia-Pacific and won awards. The adventure story involves three young Kayan women who take up the search for a girl abducted by human traffickers. The Nation has an article from a couple years ago.
  • Taklub, Philippines – Brillante Mendoza, the chief purveyor of the gritty so-called "poverty porn" films of the Philippines, directs this documentary-style drama about families attempting to pick up the pieces after their community was devastated by Supertyphoon Yolanda in 2014. Veteran actress Nora Aunor stars. It won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at Cannes last year.
  • 3688, Singapore – Celebrated filmmaker Roystan Tan's movies generally have numbers in their titles and tend to be musical tales about starry-eyed dreamers. His latest is about a parking attendant who wants to be a singer just like her famous namesake, the Taiwanese "queen of hats" Fong Fei Fei.
  • The Songs of Rice (พลงของข้าว, Pleng Khong Kao), Thailand – Talented director and cinematographer Uruphong Raksasad wraps up a trilogy of farming documentaries with The Songs of Rice, which is a tuneful look at the rites of rice cultivation across the Kingdom. Winner of many prizes, Uruphong's film vividly captures such unique scenes as the water buffalo races in Chon Buri and the rocket festival in Yasothon, along with parades, prayer ceremonies, alcohol-fueled festivities and beauty pageants. It was one of my favorites of 2014.
  • Bitcoins Heist, Vietnam – Ham Tran, who made his worldwide breakthrough with 2006's post-war drama Journey from the Fall, is now solidly part of Vietnam's commercial film industry. His latest is a high-tech action thriller about a disparate squad of crooks and con artists who are tasked with tracking down a cyber-criminal. Out of all the films in this fest, this is the one I most want to see.

All films will have English and Thai subtitles (except for Cambodia's The Snake Man). After Bangkok, the fest will travel to SF cinemas in Khon Kaen from April 28 to May 4, Surat Thani from May 6 to 12 and Maya Chiang Mai from May 13 to 19.

In addition, the Film Archive will have a special screening of the Asean Classics on May 1.

Admission is free, with tickets handed out at a special table 30 minutes before the shows. Line up well before then to ensure you get a decent seat. For the schedule, please check the website. For more details, see

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 12-20, 2016

The Mermaid

Hong Kong comedy great Stephen Chow returns to the scene with The Mermaid, the story of a pretty young mermaid  (Lin Yun) who is sent to the city to seduce and kill a playboy developer (Deng Chao) whose project is destroying the merpeople's marine habitat. She ends up falling in love with the guy.

It's being hailed as a return to form for Chow, an actor, writer and director who came up in the late 1980s and early 1990s with a string of comedies and then rocketed to worldwide cult status in the early 2000s as the director and star of Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, inventive martial-arts films that mixed graceful kung fu moves with cartoonish slapstick. Critics weren't so crazy about his follow-up, the family friendly sci-fi tale CJ7. And then there was the 2013 fantasy Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, which was mainly only a hit with mainland audiences.

The Mermaid has been a blockbuster smash in China, breaking the box-office record for highest-grossing film previously held by Monster Hunt.

Critics like it too.

Sadly, it seems The Mermaid is not getting an English-friendly release in Thailand. Appears it's Thai-dubbed except for a handful of select downtown cinemas that have the Mandarin soundtrack and Thai subtitles only – no English. It's out today, on Songkran Eve, with more movies coming out tomorrow for the official start of the three-day Thai New Year public holiday. Rated G

The Jungle Book

Anglo-Indian writer Rudyard Kipling's children's stories are again adapted by Disney, this time as a photorealistic computer-animated live-action adventure.

The Jungle Book is directed by Jon Favreau, one of the guys behind the guys of the late-1990s indie film boom, making the scene as the writer and star of the cult-classic Swingers.

As a director, his career has veered wildly from smaller, indie-leaning projects, such as the sweetly funny Christmas comedy Elf and his food-oriented family film Chef, to huge Hollywood blockbusters, like Marvel's Iron Man movies and now Disney's The Jungle Book.

The only human actor onscreen is Neel Sethi, an Indian-American first-time child actor who auditioned for the role of Mowgli and was plucked from a field of some 2,000 boys who tried out.

The animals in the movie are all voiced by top Hollywood talents, including Idris Elba as the tyrannical tiger Shere Khan, Bill Murray as the bear Balloo, Ben Kingsley as the mentoring panther Bagheera, Christopher Walken as the orangutan King Louie, Scarlett Johansson as the seductive snake Kaa and Lupito Nyong'o as Mowgli's wolf mother.

Critical reception is generally positive. Filmed in actual 3D it's on regular 3D screens and IMAX but also looks just fine in 2D. Rated G. Opens Wednesday.

Also opening

Knight of Cups – Christian Bale is a womanizing screenwriter who is having an existential crisis as he sleeps with a series of beautiful women and indulges in the Hollywood party scene. Terrence Malick directs this puzzler, which is inspired by Tarot cards and continues with the philosophical and spiritual musings he explored in To the Wonder and The Tree of Life. Other stars include Imogen Poots, Wes Bentley, Brian Dennehy, Antonio Banderas, Cate Blanchett, Freida Pinto, Teresa Palmer, Natalie Portman and Isabel Lucas, along with dozens of other well-known names who all just wanted to be in a Malick movie. Among them were comedy actor Thomas Lennon, who recently related how weird it is to make a film with the secretive, iconoclastic director. As with Malick's other late-period films, critics are polarized. Rated 18+. Opens Wednesday.

Suksan Wan Klab Baan (สุขสันต์วันกลับบ้าน, a.k.a. Take Me Home) – Kongkiat Komesiri directs this thriller about a young man (Mario Maurer) who wakes up in a hospital after a five-year slumber with no memories of his past except that his name is Tan. He's brought home by his twin sister Tubtim (Wannarote Sonthichai) who lives a seemingly perfect existence in a fancy house with her architect husband Cheewin (Nopachai Jayanama) and his two children from a previous marriage. Having enjoyed Kongkiat's previous efforts – 2007's Muay Thai Chaiya, 2009's Slice and 2012's Antapal – I have what I guess are unreasonably high expectations for Take Me Home, which is produced by the indie shingle North Star and is being released by Major Cineplex-owned M Pictures. There's more about the movie in an article in The Nation today. Rated 15+. Opens Wednesday.

Fan – Shah Rukh Khan plays dual roles in this thriller about a young man who develops an unhealthy obsession with a superstar actor. The 50-year-old King Khan plays both characters, with digital de-ageing technology used to give him the face of the 17-year-old obsessed fan. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Paragon, Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III, Pattaya and Maesot. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – The Club will be open tomorrow to members who might be seeking a refuge from the Songkran revelry. Please leave your water guns by the door. Wednesday's show has Richard Burton as The Spy Who Came In from the Cold while Thursday is the cult-classic Hong Kong crime thriller City on Fire, one of the films Quentin Tarantino copied to make Reservoir Dogs. Friday's "quirky '80s" movie is the little-known end-of-the-world comedy Miracle Mile while Saturday has loads of steampunk weirdness in City of Lost Children. Sunday's Akira Kurosawa film is the underrated and influential kidnap tale High and Low. And next Wednesday has another spy movie, Hitchcock's Notorious from 1946. Please note that the Club has a new policy on smoking. 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 – The Contemporary World Film Series picks up after the Songkran break with Earth, a sweeping 1998 drama about a multi-cultural circle of close friends growing up in Lahore during very turbulent times around 1947, which saw the partition of India and Hindu-Muslim riots. Aamir Khan, Maia Sethna and Nandita Das star. Earth has music by award-winner A.R. Rahman, and it was India's submission to the Academy Awards in 1999. The show is at 7pm on April 19 at the FCCT. Directed by noted Indian-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta, it is the first of two movies this month by award-winning Asian women directors living in the West. Next up on April 25 is the Pakistani drama Dukhtar by Afia Nathaniel. Admission is 150 baht for non-members.

Alliance Française – There are no films at the Alliance this Wednesday, nor this Friday, because of the Songkran public holiday. The next show is at 7pm on Wednesday, April 20, with Fidelio, l'odyssée d'Alice, about a young woman who takes a job that is unusual for women, as an engineer aboard an ocean-going freighter. It's in French with English subtitles. The Alliance is now also showing French films with Thai subtitles on Fridays, with the next one on April 22. I'll aim to cover that next week. Take note that there is now an admission charge for the movies – 100 baht for the general public and 50 baht for members and Alliance students.

Sneak preview

Colonia – Emma Watson (Hermoine from the Harry Potter movies) is a young woman caught up in the unrest of 1973 in Chile. After her husband (Daniel Brühl) is kidnapped by Pinochet's secret police, she tracks him into the jungle to a torture center run by a cult led by a Nazi war criminal (Michael Nyqvist). She decides to join the cult in hopes she'll be able to rescue her husband. Critical reception is mixed. This opens tonight in sneak previews, with screenings from around 8 nightly through April 20. Rated 13+

Take note

Movies are being released one or two days earlier than usual this week as distributors try to entice Songkran holidaymakers into the theaters.

Next week, the new-movie releases will return to their usual day on Thursday.

Coming up, there will be the second edition of the Bangkok Asean Film Festival, which will run from April 21 to 26 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. It will have a mix of new films from Thailand and its Southeast Asian neighbors as well as a few classics of world cinema, including the serpentine fantasy romance Pous Keng Kang from Cambodia, 1954's After the Curfew from Indonesia and Lino Brocka's Manila in the Claws of Light. More on that later in the week.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening April 6-12, 2016

Luang Phee Jazz 4G

Today's Chakri Memorial Day public holiday kicks off anticipatory celebrations of next week's Songkran Thai New Year, which is a three-day public holiday from next Wednesday to Friday. So, this week and next, the movies are being released a day or two early in hopes that the idled government workers, corporate staffers and bank employees will want to spend their time out of the office paying to see new movies.

The big Thai tentpole is the Songkran-flavored Luang Phee Jazz 4G (หลวงพี่แจ๊ส 4G, a.k.a. Joking Jazz 4G). It's about a bespectacled, gauge-eared, tattooed hipster with a checkered past who is hiding out as a monk at an isolated mountaintop temple. He's played by hipster comedian Phadung “Jazz Chuanchuen” Songsang. He and his temple-boy friends have an adventure as they are sent to Bangkok on a mission during Songkran.

Directed by Poj Arnon, Luang Pee Jazz 4G is the first release under the prolific producer-director's rebooted Film Guru production marque, which has been relaunched in a new partnership with Major Cineplex, the Kingdom's biggest movie-theater chain.

Poj and Film Guru were formerly associated with Phranakorn Film, a film studio owned by the Thana Cineplex chain of upcountry cinemas. Phranakorn released a string of hit country comedies in the early 2000s, including the original Luang Phee (Holy Man) movie in 2005.

Originated by comedian, actor and director Note Chernyim, the first Luang Phee Teng starred ubiquitous comedian and TV host Pongsak "Theng Terdterng" Pongsuwan as a former street hood who has entered the monkhood and ministers to colorful residents in a provincial town. Other Luang Phee Teng installments followed in 2008 and 2010, with rapper Joey Boy and actor-musician Krissada Sukosol Clapp taking respective turns as the saffron-clad lead character. As each movie stands alone, with different characters in the lead, they aren't really sequels but are part of a franchise all the same.

The Nation has more on this latest Luang Phee movie, which is the fourth in the series. Rated 15+

Also opening

The Huntsman: Winter’s War – Universal Pictures is borrowing more than a couple pages from Disney as it attempts to spin its 2012 live-action Snow White and the Huntsman film into an epic franchise. A bit like Frozen, though likely not near as much fun, this new picture is the tale of cold sister royals in a wintry realm. Charlize Theron returns as the Evil Queen Ravenna, who is joined by her sister, the Ice Queen Freya, played by Emily Blunt. They ban love from the land and are cruel. So it's up to one of the Evil Queen's former soldiers, the huntsman Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and his comrade-in-arms (and secret lover) Sara (Jessica Chastain) to fight back. In addition to conventional 2D, it's in converted 3D, including IMAX. Critical reception is mostly negative. Rated 13+

The Himalayas – This fact-based adventure story recounts the bond between famed South Korean mountaineer Um Hong-kil and plucky younger climbers, culminating in the risky scaling of Everest by the senior climber, who comes out of retirement for a very meaningful ascent. Critical reception has been mixed, but it beat Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the South Korean box office. It's in Korean with English and Thai subtitles at the True Screen X at the Quartier CineArt. That's the panoramic 270-degree cinema in the ritzy EmQuartier mall. Rated G

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, Robert Redford is a young CIA analyst in over his head in 3 Days of the Condor. Tomorrow, it's Bruce Lee's The Way of the Dragon, which has him in Rome, helping a relative defeat Italian mobsters. A fur-covered Chuck Norris is a featured fighter. On Friday, it's Static, an early feature-film effort by Mark Romanek, the innovative director of many classic music videos. Saturday has dystopian time-travelling by Bruce Willis in Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys while Sunday is Akira Kurosawa's mystery thriller Rashomon. Please take note of the Club's new policy on smoking, which snuffs the butts from 7.15 until the movie is over. If you've visited before and were bothered by the smoke but didn't say anything except to vote with your feet, maybe give the place another chance. 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 – I now have a belated clarification on the programming changes at the Alliance, which last Friday began weekly screenings of French films with Thai subtitles. That's in addition to the usual Wednesday screenings of French films with English subs as well as a "kid's movie" on one Saturday each month. This week, owing to Chakri Day, there is no English-subbed screening. Friday has Rengaine (Hold Back), about the taboo romance between a black Christian man and an Arab Muslim woman in Paris. It's at 7pm. Again, it will screen in French with Thai subtitles. Also, there is now a cost for these movies – 100 baht for non-members, 50 baht for members and Alliance students. Take note that there will be no films at the Alliance next week, because of the Songkran public holiday. The films resume on April 20 and April 22.

German Film Series – In East Germany in 1989, as the Berlin Wall is set to come crumbling down, a little girl wants to build a machine to bring home her uncle who escaped to the West. Meanwhile, an East German police officer tries to keep order. It's Sputnik, part of the German Film Series put on monthly by the Goethe-Institut. The show is at 1pm on Sunday at the Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, and at 6pm on Tuesday in the little FA Cinematheque on the second floor of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center (not the fifth floor auditorium). For details, check the Goethe website.

Take note

As mentioned at the top of this week's post, the movies are being released a day or two earlier during the Songkran holiday period. Usually, new movies are released on Thursdays.

Next week, there will be program changes on Tuesday, Thai New Year's Eve, with the much-anticipated Stephen Chow comedy The Mermaid. and sneak previews for the Emma Watson Chilean coup drama Colonia. More new releases are set to follow next Wednesday on the actual Songkran Day with the Thai horror Take Me Home, Disney's live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book and the Terrence Malick head-scratcher Knight of Cups. So see you next Tuesday.

Looking past Songkran, the FCCT will have a one-two punch of screenings in its Contemporary World Film Series, with Deepa Mehta's Earth on April 19 and the Pakistani drama Dukhtar (Daughter) on April 25.

And there will be a second edition of the Asean Film Festival, organized by the Culture Ministry, which is keen to promote Bangkok the hub of Southeast Asian art and culture. According to a source, this year's fest runs from April 21 to 26 at SF World, with plans is to show classic films from neighboring countries, including the serpentine fantasy romance Pous Keng Kang from Cambodia, 1954's After the Curfew from Indonesia and Lino Brocka's Manila in the Claws of Light from 1975. I hope to have more on that soon.