The new year in Thailand has started off on a sombre note, with the passing of Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana. The sister of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the princess died on Wednesday at age 84.
As part of a 15-day mourning period, government workers have been asked to wear black. Black is de rigueur for television news presenters as well. The palace is observing a 100-day mourning period.
The government has also asked that "merry-making activities" be curtailed. But, this order mainly affects live entertainment and various events - not, apparently, films.
So, opening on January 10 will be the first Thai film of the year, Mum Deaw. What appears to be a family friendly romantic comedy stars a rather nattily dressed Mum Jok Mok, pairing him up with a bratty little boy, as Mum tries to woo a pretty woman.
Looking into the crystal ball that is Pantip.com's Chalermthai movie release calendar, here's a look at what's coming up.
Two films will open on January 31: The historical drama First Flight and the supernatural fantasy, Siyama: Village of Warriors. Both are effects-heavy films that have been in production for a long time.
From RS Film, First Flight has been repeatedly delayed for five years! Set in the early 1900s, it deals with the formation of the flying corps that would become the Royal Thai Air Force.
From Mono Film, Siyama: Village of Warriors (poster via 24fps via Deknang) is a time-travel story about some modern-day teens who end up involved in a desperate battle to save a village in ancient Siam against an invasion by an overpowering army. Here is a downloadable trailer (WMV).
Twitch's Todd Brown noted awhile back that the film was already in post-production in July 2006, and that the trailer ignores the time-travel aspect. But as far as the ancient Siamese settings are concerned, the film looks like a passable historical battle yarn, comparable to Bangrajan or possibly even Naresuan II.
Chocolate (poster via 24fps) opens on February 7. This is the much-anticipated new film by Ong-Bak/Tom-Yum-Goong director Prachya Pinkaew and action choreographer Panna Rittikrai. Featuring a female protagonist, Chocolate stars 23-year-old Nitcharee Wismitanant as an autistic young woman who displays uncanny Muay Thai and martial arts skills as she goes on the warpath to take revenge against some evil moneylenders.
A project with no English or transliterated title that involves Bangrajan director Thanit Jitnukul and a bunch of kids, including Subhanahongsa Award-winning actress Narawan "Grace" Techaratanaprasert opens on March 6. I wonder if this could possibly be Power Kids, which was announced long ago as another project by Prachya Pinkaew?
Nak, an animated adaptation of the Mae Nak Phranakhon story, most memorably recounted in Nonzee Nimibutr's Nang Nak, opens on March 20. Prachya Pinkaew's Ba-Ram-Ewe production house is backing this CGI-animated work by pop singer-songwriter Boyd Kosiyabong's BeBoydCg.
One of the first Hollywood remakes of a Thai film opens in Thailand on March 20. Adapted from 2004's Shutter by Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom, the remake is directed by Masayuki Ochiai and stars Joshua Jackson in Ananda Everingham's role as the young photographer who starts seeing ghosts in his photos. Rachael Taylor co-stars as the guy's wife. Bizarrely, the action takes place in Tokyo, though it involves American characters. Early stills (via Twitch) look good, but I fear something will be lost in translation.
The Pang Bros.' remake of their own debut film, Bangkok Dangerous, is due to open in Thailand cinemas sometime in April. Its Stateside release is set for February 17.
Filmed in Bangkok in 2006 as the coup was going on, the new Bangkok Dangerous stars Nicolas Cage as a hitman. In the 1999 original, the main character was a deaf-mute. But you can't have wacky Nicolas Cage cast in a film and not have him speak, can you? So his Thai girlfriend, played by Charlie Yeung, will be deaf. Thai actor Chakrit Yamnam has a supporting role as a local "errand boy".
The argument could be made that this is technically is not a remake of a Thai film, because the Brothers Pang are from Hong Kong. But the 1999 original was made in Thailand, with Thai actors and a Thai crew by Film Bangkok, the now-shuttered Thai production company. Is the first Hollywood remake of a Thai film Bangkok Dangerous or Shutter? I am leaning toward Bangkok Dangerous.
May and beyond
Here is where the Thai film calendar for 2008 starts to get dodgy. There is something involving this opening sometime in May. I hope to find out more.
But the most highly anticipated release listed for May is Nonzee Nimibutr's historical fantasy epic, Queen of Langkasuka. Giant whales, sea gypsies, pirate ships, cannon battles and magical underwater fights figure into this tale, with Ananda Everingham and Dynamite Warrior's Dan Chupong among the stars. Production on Queen started small back around 2005, but has ballooned to a reported US$7.5 million, making it one of the most expensive Thai films yet. A trailer is here, via 24fps.
Which brings me to the third installment in MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's Naresuan series, set for production and release sometime within the year. Will it really happen? Action star Tony Jaa is said to have been cast in a small role in the upcoming Naresuan III.
Tony Jaa is also set to make his directorial debut with Ong Bak 2, also due for release sometime this year. The story has no relation to the first tale about a young country boy who goes to the city looking for his impoverished village's lucky Buddha head. Nor does it have anything to do with a man looking for his elephant. From what I understand, it's more about a young man trying to find himself as he takes a journey that teaches him the skills and inner meaning of martial arts and Thai traditional dance.
Concern has been voiced over future projects for Tony Jaa. Prachya Pinkaew's involvement with Chocolate and Tony's move to direct Ong-Bak 2 himself has caused a rift between the two collaborators, and now another much-vaunted project, Sword, or Daab Atamas, has been cancelled, leaving Tony Jaa with nothing announced after Naresuan, Ong-Bak 2 and the inevitable world tour to promote Ong-Bak 2.