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.


  1. We have all worried about whether the Scala will be around in the future. But I always took for granted that there would always be a Wise Kwai. For the English-speaking film community in Bangkok, these columns have been the single most important source of information - not only telling us what films are showing, but bringing news of festivals, awards and the Thai film industry.
    These pages also served another very valuable and unique purpose - to introduce Western audiences to Thai films. There is really no other source for reviews and news in English language of Thai films. (I'm not just talking about in Bangkok - I'm talking about in the whole world.)
    I realise it must often have been frustrating for Mr. Kwai - there must have been many Thai films which were painful to sit through. I wonder how many hours of comedy sound effects, mincing ladyboys and incomprehensible subtitles he has had to sit through.
    But of course there have also been Thai films made that really do deserve an audience - and Wise has helped us to find which ones.

    Whilst I want to thank him for the information he has brought to us over many years, I am deeply worried that there will be no-one to replace him. This is a serious loss to the Bangkok film community.

    Nevertheless, whatever he does in the future, I wish Mr Wise Kwai my thanks, my gratitude, and the best of luck!

  2. Agreed. I started living in Thailand five years ago and have found your column very helpful in negotiating through complicated world of Thai film. Thanks to you, I have seen more enjoyable Thai movies than I could have expected. The occasional stinker was entirely my fault for letting myself be dragged there by my Thai BF. Good luck with your future endeavours. You will be missed. - Ian

  3. Yes, thank you for keeping the film community up-to-date and being a focal point for film lovers....