Sunday, August 31, 2008

Evil tsunami spirits in Vinyan

Vinyan, a French-Belgian-UK thriller filmed in Thailand, and set in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, is about a Western couple (Emmanuelle Beart and Rufus Sewell) who lose their son in the tsunami. Six months after the disaster they remain in Thailand, with the wife believing in her heart of hearts that her son is still alive, and that he was kidnapped by pirates. Through a contact in the Thai underworld (Thai pop rocker Petch Osathanugrah), the couple is able to hire a boat to take them into pirate-infested Burmese waters, where they discover a strange tribe of children living in the jungle.

It has a real Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now vibe, with a bit of Lord of the Flies or possibly Children of the Corn thrown in.

Vinyan, which means "evil spirit" in Thai, premiered at the Venice International Film Festival. A review from London's Guardian, was not kind. The film is also set for the Toronto International Film Festival.

In a BBC interview in Venice, Belgian director Fabrice du Welz defended his use of the tsunami as a plot device, saying he took pains to ensure the tragedy was depicted "artistically and poetically". Here's some quotes:

I know some people may be irritated but I think these subjects have to be dealt with."

"For me the tsunami was a starting point. I never asked if it was a good or a bad thing.

"My story is about a couple who have lost a child. I tried to deal with their sorrow with a certain distance and respect, without being melodramatic."

French actress Emmanuelle Beart also defended the film.

"I never felt we were being insensitive or treading on people's toes. Having seen Fabrice's first film, I realised he wouldn't deal with mourning and the loss of a child in a normal way."

"For people in the West, death is a taboo -- it's fearful and dizzying. In Thailand there is this idea that death is continuative.

"They believe certain souls have to be released because they're stuck between two levels. We, the living, are holding them back."

In the run-up to its world premiere, the film had gained a reputation for being violent and gory. You can check out the trailer on YouTube, but a better version and additional clips are available at Twitch.

There was concern over censorship in France. But it's been given a fairly unrestrictive “forbidden for Under 12” rating, and is due for wide release in France on October 1. No word on if it'll turn up in Thai cinemas anytime soon.

(Via Bloody Disgusting, Twitch)

As Bangkok Dangerous release nears, Pangs are loving Hollywood

Bangkok Dangerous, now tipped as the first major Hollywood release of the North America's autumn movie cycle, opens in Thai cinemas on September 4, and elsewhere on September 5.

Directed by Oxide and Danny Pang as a remake of their 1999 debut film, it looks to be a Hollywood-tailored reimagining, with big explosions and the unstoppable force of nature that is Nicolas Cage and his ridiculous hair. Indeed, it was Cage's production company that snapped up the remake rights for the film.

Instead of the protagonist being a deaf mute as in the original, his handicap is that he's a conspicuous foreign assassin in Bangkok, where he doesn't know the language and is unfamiliar with the culture. But the hearing-impaired angle is still covered, in a romantic interest for Cage's character, played by Charlie Young. Thai actors Shahkrit Yamnarm, Panward Hemmanee, Nirattisai Kaljareuk and Dom Hetrakul also star.

The movie has been in the works for quite sometime, with principle photography taking place in Bangkok in 2006 at the same time a military coup was going on. (Gee, it's funny how times have changed.) One of the stories told about the production is that the only gunshots during the coup were fired on the set of Bangkok Dangerous. But this is perhaps apocryphal, as Danny tells Hollywood Reporter that they "were advised to film silent gunfire shots for their numerous gunfight scenes".

Danny says the Thai system of making movies prepared them better for Hollywood, than working in Hong Kong. Here's more from the Hollywood Reporter:

Bangkok Dangerous director Danny Pang said the Hollywood system is the perfect fit for him and his brother Oxide, twins collectively known as the Pang Brothers.

Having started their directorial career in Thailand, the Hong Kong-born brothers were used to the systematic approach of filmmaking in the country, which, incidentally, had a lot in common with the Hollywood process. Contrarily, the more improvisational approach opted by Hong Kong filmmaking was harder for the twins to accept.

Meanwhile, the first review for the new Bangkok Dangerous has been turned in by Variety. Critic Jordan Mintzer writes:

Heavy on the spice and cheap on the meat, Bangkok Dangerous adds plenty of Thai seasoning to the Hollywood lone-assassin recipe, but the result is only mildly pungent. Rehashing certain elements -- including striking location shooting -- that marked their much grittier 1999 feature of the same title, Hong Kong's Pang brothers increase the decibel level of the gunshots and the schmaltz level of the scenario, but such embellishments, not to mention a Nicolas Cage doused with Clairol, make this hefty remake seem less dangerous than incongruous.

The review goes on to praise the performances by Young and Shahkrit, and says one of the highlights is a boat chase through a canal community.

More about Bangkok Dangerous is detailed at Movie Cafe. And the trailer that's been playing in Thai cinemas for the past few months is embedded below.

Related posts:

(Via the Golden Rock)

A five-minute trailer for Burn

Burn, the new thriller by 999-9999 director Peter Manus, is about the slickest-looking horror film I've seen come out of Sahamongkol, if the new trailers are anything to go by.

The story is about mysterious cases of spontaneous human combustion and involves a bespectacled pharmaceutical company lawyer, played by Bongkot "Tak" Kongmalai.

The five-minute showreel is heavy on courtroom drama, with a farang drug-company executive telling the court how wonderful his company and its miracle products are. Somehow, I think the company must be involved in a rash of cases in which people go up in flames.

Prangthong Changdham and Chalat na Songkla also star.

I've put together a YouTube playlist of all three trailers: The five-minute showreel, another two-minute promo and the original teaser trailer. The playlist is embedded below.

Burn opens in Thai cinemas on September 11.

(Via Twitch, 24 Frames per Second)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

12th Thai Short Film & Video Festival review: Diseases and a Hundred Year Period

The mood was joyously celebratory on Friday night at the opening of the 12th Thai Short Film & Video Festival. Each year that the festival gets put on, somehow, is viewed by organizers as a miracle, because they are always scrambling to raise cash to put it on.

And this year, the festival is being held in the new Bangkok Art and Culture Center, a venue that has long been in the planning stages, but has mainly been a political football -- kicked around, with no goals made. So the fact that it's been built is a miracle too.

The festival and the venue are sending a message to the conservative establishment that wishes the contemporary art and independent film communities would just go away. The message is: "We're still here."

And with that, there really could not have been a more perfect film to open the festival, the first film event at the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center, than Diseases and a Hundred Year Period.

Directed by Sompot "Boat" Chidgasornpongse, the short is one of a growing number of reaction pieces to the censorship of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century. Diseases effectively functions as a documentary of this troubling episode in Thai cinema history.

Sompot, who served as a second assistant director on Syndromes, introduced his film, saying he was at school at CalArts when he heard about the censorship, and that he was shocked.

His film opens with a shot at the back of Sompot's head, as narration explains about the year-long struggle Apichatpong engaged in to screen his internationally acclaimed film in Thailand, the censorship board's decision to cut six scenes, and Apichatpong's archly symbolic choice of replacing those six scenes with scratched, black film leader, and allowing the film to be shown in a limited theatrical run so it could take its place in Thai history.

Then, the six actual censored scenes are shown, or parts of them anyway. The frame is zoomed at weird angles, at parts of the picture that only offer the barest hint of what is being filmed. I found out later the scenes were captured off of Strand Releasing's DVD, which has these hard-burned, really huge subtitles. That's why the cropping and zooming is so weird. (The better DVD, apparently, is the UK release.)

The original dialogue is intact, but what takes center stage is a text scroll of a dry recitation of Thai history -- where Thai people came from, how they originally dressed, and how the visit of Lord Bowring and the opening up to the world changed things and brought Western conservative values to the Kingdom.

Introducing each segment is a quote from the censors, that the film was "devoid of artistic merit", shamed Thailand in the international community and humiliated and embarrassed the director's parents. There's even that famous quote, "Thai people want to see a comedy". Indeed they do, and there were many chuckles all around as this short unspooled.

The best part was the use of the Thai folk song "Chang" ("The Elephant Song"), as the camera revolved around the statue of the Princess Mother, but the frame was zoomed and cropped on the wooden elephant figures that are placed on the statue's base as offerings.

The 20-minute Diseases and a Hundred Year Period was the first of six shorts in the opening program of the 12th Thai Short Film & Video Festival. Here's the others:

  • Le Silence des Machines - Women arrive at work at a garment factory to find their sewing machines have been shipped to China and they are out of a job. So they launch into song and dance routines. Directed by Paul Calori and Kostia Testut, from France.
  • Yours Truly - Humphrey Bogart is fed into a meat grinder in this startling animated feature in which cut-out stills from old film noir are reassembled. Directed by Osbert Parker, from the UK.
  • Wunderlich Privat - A man, alone in his apartment, is seeking to have his private reflection period, but visitors interrupt him, and he's forced to reveal his secret. Directed by Aline Chukwedo from Germany.
  • Silencio - I had first seen this when it screened as part of the Short Films Project in Commemoration of the Celebration on the Auspicious Occasion of His Majesty the King's 80th Birthday Anniversary. This time I took something different away from it. The soundman's search for silence was not so much out of vanity or delusion -- he was seeking enlightenment. In addition to winning a jury prize at the Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival, Silencio has also picked up a special mention at the Hamburg Short Film Festival. Directed by Sivaroj Kongsakul from Thailand.
  • Revolution - More workers take to the streets and sing. Directed by Jouko Aaltonen from Finland.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thai superheroes, animation, music videos and horror in Pusan's special programs

Mercury Man, the Thai take on Spider-Man from 2006, will soar again, fighting evil alongside other "super" films in "Superheroes in Asia", one of the many special programs announced by the Pusan International Film Festival.

Directed by Bhandit Thongdee and featuring action choreographed by the Panna Rittikrai team, Mercury Man is about a firefighter who is injected with a mercury-like substance, which gives him great strength and the ability to leap off a tall bridge in a single bound. He's battling terrorists in Bangkok.

Mercury Man will screen alongside 10 other Asian hero films: Malaysia's Cicak Man, Masked Rider and Gekko Kamen from Japan, Krrish from India, Hong Gil Dong from Korea, Darna from Indonesia, Lastickman and Captain Barbell from the Philippines and Super Inframan from Hong Kong.

A revered religious figure and a famous Thai ghost will be featured in another special program, "Ani Asia!: A Leap of Asian Feature Animation", features nine animated features with a focus on Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore. From Thailand will be The Life of Buddha, a laboriously epic cel-animated feature that premiered in Thailand last December. It will be contrasted by Nak, the colorful, kid-friendly iteration of Thailand's Mae Nak ghost legend, which refashions ghost mom Nak as a superheroine, fighting the influence of evil foreign ghosts on Thai traditional society.

A Thai examination of fear is featured in the “2008 Asian Omnibus Collection”, a round-up of the recent crop of omnibus films from Asia. It will include the Korean premiere of 4bia, the four-segment horror film headed up by GMM Tai Hub's Yongyuth Thongkongtoon, with Shutter/Alone pair Banjong Pisanthanakul and Parkpoom Wongpoom and Body #19's Paween Puritpanya each contributing segments.

Wisit Sasanatieng and Pen-ek Ratanaruang are among the featured names in "Music Videos by Asian Film Directors". Wisit has two clips: one from Citizen Dog of Modern Dog's "... Before" and "Flashback Love" by Petch Osathanugrah. The rocker (and M-150 energy-drink heir) also hired Pen-ek to direct "I Still Love You So." Both of Petch's songs are from his recent album, Let's Talk About Love.

By the way, Petch is among the cast of the new French thriller, Vinyan, set in Thailand in the aftermath of the tsunami.

(Via Variety, Pusan International Film Festival website)

Tony Jaa is back

Tony Jaa has returned to making Ong Bak 2, reports the Daily Xpress today in its Soopsip celebrity news column.

He was back on the set on Monday, but has been demoted from making his directorial debut to being just the star. Handling the day-to-day duties in the director's chair is his mentor, action choreographer Panna Rittikrai, whom Tony started making movies with in the early 1990s.

Hopefully this will really be the end to the melodrama that ensued last month when Tony disappeared from the set and shooting on the massive, period martial-arts film ground to a halt. Amid stories of Tony's meltdown, there were rumors of black magic, live-chicken sacrifices and Tony retreating to meditate in caves. Tony then went on television and shed tears, denying he was practicing sorcery, and saying he had gone broke trying to direct the movie. He defended his decision to direct the movie himself, saying that his "artistic quality" cannot be compromised.

But executive producer Somsak "Sia Jiang" Techaratanaprasert at Sahamongkol Film International said the company had given Tony 250 million baht. Where did the money go? Well, no matter. Sia Jiang's eyes welled up, saying he thought of Tony like a son, and that he just wants Tony to finish the movie. But Tony was out as director, and his old director from Ong-Bak and Tom Yum Goong, Prachya Pinkaew, was in -- a job Prachya was uncomfortable in taking because he and Tony had fallen out over Tony's wanting to direct Ong-Bak 2 himself.

Tony was bundled off in a van by some "heavies", and a lawyer showed up at a press conference to present Tony's demands, which weren't likely to be met. It looked like the end for Tony and Ong-Bak 2. Then, Tony went to police headquarters to report that he was being followed by men in safari suits, and one of Sia Jiang's friends on the force called the studio chief and mediated a deal that would see the parties shake hands.

The whole ordeal had martial-arts-film fans wringing their hands with worry, and knotting their foreheads with doubt. The disappointment was especially acute because a lot of expectation had been built up by an incredible showreel from Ong-Bak 2 that premiered at the Cannes Film Market and was brought to the Web by Twitch.

Now it's expected that the production will wrap up in time for Ong-Bak 2 to be released on December 4 or 5 as planned.

The Coffin filling up with cash

Ekachai Uekrongtham's horror film, The Coffin (โลงต่อตาย, Lhong Tor Tai), earned 15 million baht in its first four days since opening in Thai cinemas on August 21, according to an item in today's Daily Xpress. It's the No. 1 film in Thailand.

“It could end up close to 40 million baht, recouping our investment,” producer Pantham Thongsang is quoted as saying by Daily Xpress.

Major Cineplex, Thailand's biggest movie chain, lists The Coffin as its top movie, outpacing the newly released Hollywood actioner, Death Race. The top 5 at Major is rounded out by Wall-E, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and another Thai film, the Phranakorn martial-arts drama, Hanuman: The White Monkey Warrior, which opened on August 12.

The Coffin is a co-production between Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong interests and features a pan-Asian cast led by Hong Kong's Karen Mok and Ananda Everingham from Thailand. The original soundtrack is in English, but for Thai cinemas, it has been cleanly dubbed and English subtitles are added. I'd still like to catch the English version, just to hear Ananda's Aussie accent.

Plans to create an “international version” have been dropped, says Pantham, a producer at Thailand's TIFA Company Ltd. The same cut will instead be seen throughout Asia, and presumably, worldwide.

TIFA also says a song from The Coffin soundtrack, "Yeur" ("Won't Let You Go"), is jumping up the charts on music label GMM Grammy's social networking site, G Member.

Rights to The Coffin have already been sold to Hong Kong and South Korea, and it was supposed to open in South Korea in July, though I can't find any reference that it ever did. It was shopped at Cannes by Arclight Films' Easternlight label.

Also, Twitch unearthed an English-language trailer, and I find it better than the Thai trailer, which gives too much away.

See also:

Related posts:

(Via Daily Xpress, Shock Till You Drop, Twitch; hat tips to Movie Cafe and 24 Frames per Second)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

12th Thai Short Film & Video Festival: Opening weekend preview

Unless the anti-government protesters blockade the Pathumwan Intersection, the 12th Thai Short Film & Video Festival -- the biggest yet -- opens on Friday as the first film event for the new Bangkok Art & Culture Centre. Admission is free, though you'll need a ticket. They'll be made available at the auditorium on the fifth floor an hour before the show.

The opening program starts at 6.30pm. There are six films, starting with Diseases and A Hundred Year Period, a new film by Sompot Chidgasornpongse.

A second Thai film in the program is Silencio by Sivaroj Kongsakul. Silencio premiered last year as part of the Short Films Project in Commemoration of the Celebration on the Auspicious Occasion of His Majesty the King's 80th Birthday Anniversary. It went on to this year's Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival, where it was in the Labo Competition and it won a Mention du Jury Presse. It's about a soundman and his vain search for silence.

On Saturday, there's two blocks of Thai competitions at noon and 2pm and then the Best Shorts of Clermont Ferrand at 4pm. This is curated by Rogert Gonin, founder of the French festival, which is the world's largest short-film fest.

Then at 6.30, it's the first Digital Forum, with two Thai works: Manus Chanyong One Night at Talaenggaeng Road, directed by Paisit Panpruegsachart; and Penguin by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit.

On Sunday, there's three blocks of Thai competition, at noon, 2 and 4pm. Then there's a second program of Best Shorts of Clermont Ferrand starting at 6.30.

Devoted follower of the Thai short-film scene Limitless Cinema has gone through the entire festival program and notated which films that shouldn't be missed (they are marked "MUST SEE MUST SEE MUST SEE"), as well as films that might be of interest of fans of gay cinema (those are marked "GAY GAY GAY"). Subtle, eh?

The festival takes a break on Monday and starts back up at 5pm on Tuesday with the opening film of the Doc Forum: The Convert by Panu Aree, Kong Rithdee and Kaweenipon Ketprasit. I'll post more on that in a few days.

See also:
(Cross-published at Bangkok Cinema Scene)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Love of Siam cast reuniting for 4 Romance

Young actors Mario Maurer and "Pitch" Witwisit Hiranyawongkul, who portrayed teenage lovers in The Love of Siam, are among the cast of 4 Romances, a four-segment romantic drama.

Not to be outdone by rival studio GMM Tai Hub's ensemble romance Hormones and their four-segment horror omnibus 4bia, the gang at Sahamongkol Film International wants to show they can work together. Along with Love of Siam writer-director Chukiat Sakweerakul, there will be the veteran hands Prachya Pinkaew, Bhandit Thongdee and Rachen Limtrakul also directing segments.

Bangkok of the Mind, the go-to website for all news about Mario and The Love of Siam, has more details about 4 Romances:

The four parts are called Dream, Sweet, Shy and Kiss.

Chukiart is directing Pitch and his band August in his part of the movie, a fantasy called Dream. Pitch's band, August, was created for his last movie, Love of Siam.

Rachen Limtrakul is directing Mario in the part called - wait for it - Kiss! The lead actress is a new face to acting whose name was not given.

Shy, directed by Bhandit, stars actress "Tan" Kanya Rattanaphet, from Love of Siam, and a new face as the male lead.

Sweet, directed by Prachya, stars actor Chakrit Yaemnam, "Champ" Wasit Phongsopha from Khao Chon Gai, and Saipan Apinya [Sakuljaroensuk], from Friendship, also starring Mario.

4 Romances is due for release sometime in November.

See also:

(Via Bangkok of the Mind, Deknang/Popcornmag)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Review: The Coffin (Lhong Tor Tai)

  • Directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham
  • Starring Karen Mok, Ananda Everingham, Napakapapa Nakaprasitte, Andrew Lim, Florence Vanida, Aki Shibuya
  • Released in Thai cinemas on August 21, 2008
  • Rating: 3/5

Can you change your luck? Can you escape bad karma? Can you cheat death?

In The Coffin, those questions are answered with a resounding "No!" in the form of a 10-wheel truck T-boning a Mercedes-Benz sedan.

It happens pretty quickly too. And once that question is out of the way early on, it frees up the rest of the movie for plenty of jump scares and scenes of ceaseless, calculated beauty from Beautiful Boxer and Pleasure Factory director Ekachai Uekrongtham.

A stunning Karen Mok leads the strong ensemble cast. She's Sue, a Hong Kong dietitian, obsessed about her health. So she curses her luck when she discovers she has cancer. She has run off to Thailand to avoid getting married and telling her intended about her illness. It's there she hears about the strange ritual of lying in a coffin, in the world's largest funeral for the living, in which adherents hope to reverse their bad fortunes.

In another storyline, Ananda Everingham is Chris, a Thai architect whose Japanese artist girlfriend (Aki Shibuya) is of fragile health. He hopes that lying in a coffin will make her better.

After the ritual, both Sue and Chris start experiencing strange things -- seeing people and things that aren't possible. Zoe finds her boyfriend from Hong Kong (Andrew Lim) is suddenly in Thailand. How can that be? And anyway, shouldn't she have been killed by that 10-wheel truck?

The ritual nearly kills Chris, whose claustrophobia made him so anxious, he went into a seizure. Of course, it doesn't help that a mysterious woman named May (Art of the Devil's Napakapapa Nakaprasitte) is crawling around in the coffin with him. She haunts his dreams. She is walking in a field, and he tries to catch up to her, but never can.

Sue hangs with her friend Nan (Florence Vanida), and tries to sort things out. Sharp-eyed viewers will spot Beautiful Boxer star Asanee Suwan as the swimmer Joe, who appears in case-study video that Sue and Nan watch. Chris looks for a remote, tree-shrouded temple from his dreams. The place is crematorium, tended by a drunken old man (Suchao Pongvilai).

Both Sue and Chris find what they are looking for, but the truth is not what they desired.

But they sure do look good. Horror is rarely this gorgeous. There's the symmetry of hundreds of coffins, arranged in concentric circles around a giant sitting Buddha, as well as a long closet, full of mirrors, all reflecting terror. Even the creepy old remote Buddhist temple has an idyllic charm. These are all from the eye of Ekachai, whose background in theatre makes the The Coffin like a stage production.

How about taking things a bit further, and adding some songs? The multi-talented Karen Mok could handle that, and probably the rest of the cast too. Perhaps Ekachai could take a cue from Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and adapt The Coffin for the musical stage?

Related posts:

From Thailand to Thy wins audience award at Odense

From Thailand to Thy, a documentary about Thai women who've married Danish men and have moved to Thy, a district in northwestern Denmark, won the audience award at the International Odense Film Festival, according to a translation of an article in Danish newspaper Fyens Stiftstidendes by ScandAsia Thailand.

The audience award was by Internet voting, according to ScandAsia.

Fyens Stiftstidendes reviewer Caspar Vang described Janus Metz' film as a "humoristic documentary, about a very closed society within the society that many Danes know nothing about".

Here's the synopsis from the festival website:

Five hundred and seventy five Thai women live in Denmark’s northern Thy district, married to Danish men. There were almost no Thais living in Thy fifteen years ago, but Sommai – a former sex-worker from Pattaya – was there. With Sommai as the key figure, the film depicts a network of strong, industrious Thai women. They have to find a husband for Sommai’s niece Kae, who is in Denmark on a three-month tourist visa. They look for the right man for Kae using personal ads and female intuition.

(Via ScandAsia Thailand)

Bangkok Love Story released on DVD in the U.S.

In addition to The Bodyguard and Bodyguard 2 being released this week on DVD in the U.S., there's Bangkok Love Story, which was picked up for North American distribution by TLA Releasing. After making the rounds at a series of lesbian and gay festivals, Bangkok Love Story will be released on Region 1 DVD tomorrow.

This gay-romantic-action drama about a hitman and his target falling in love, written and directed by Poj Arnon, won the Subhanahongsa Award for Best Script. It also won Best Cinematography for Tiwa Moeithaisong. During an earlier run of international festivals, the film won the Grand Award at the 34th Brussels International Independent Film Festival.

Coffee Coffee and More Coffee's Peter Nellhaus reviews Bangkok Love Story, and says it's a surprising film from the same director of Haunting Me, a comedy about screaming transvestites. Here's bit of what he has to say:

What struck me about Bangkok Love Story is that the man who got some cheap laughs from a parody of Brokeback Mountain made a film that has succeeded with audience and critics, a gay love story that will probably be parodied by other Thai filmmakers, if it hasn't been already. The mawkishness of Bangkok Love Story is stressed by the gushing strings. Imagine, if you will, a vintage Warner Brothers weepie, with Leslie Howard leaving Bette Davis for Humphrey Bogart, to the musical accompaniment of Max Steiner. The effect is an overload of melodrama and beefcake ...

Peter has a theory about Bankgok Love Story, but I'll leave it to you to go read his review. He also finds it encouraging "that a new Thai film that is neither a ghost story nor martial arts adventure has a DVD release in the U.S. Now if only Love of Siam, Me ... Myself and Ploy will follow ..."

Bangkok Love Story is available at at HK Flix and at Amazon.

See also:

English-subbed trailer for Tiwa Moeithaisong's Fatality

The Fatality, a Thai-Taiwanese co-production directed by Tiwa Moeithaisong, now has a trailer. From Right Beyond's You Tube Channel, it's embedded below. There's some cool stuff going on -- black-and-white footage of places of death, a drive into a tunnel and a mysterious woman in white in the middle of the road.

Pitchanart Sakhakorn (Victim) and Kenji Wu star in this tale of death, reincarnation and retribution, about a man who commits suicide, but wakes up in the body of a coma victim, and the two souls battle for control.

Right Beyond's previous efforts include the teen romantic drama Friendship and slew of direct-to-video releases, including Cursed Hair. Hopefully The Fatality will generate a more positive response than those. They are co-producing The Fatality with Taiwan's SkyFilms.

The Fatality is set for release in Thai cinemas on October 30, just in time for Halloween sometime in 2009.

(Via 24 Frames per Second)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Stuntmen's photo galleries from Ong-Bak 2

Behind-the-scenes photos from the set of Ong-Bak 2 have been posted by Thep on the forum. The photos are from four stuntmen -- Sukchay, Alongkorn, The JAB and Sumret -- and are taken from their galleries on the Hi5 social-networking website. (They are all apparently friends of actor Mario Maurer?)

I don't know when the photos were taken -- before Tony Jaa's troubles or more recently, since Tony's presumable return to making the movie. Either way, they are fun to look at, show the scope of the production and give hope that despite the hiccup in production all will be well.

(Via, photo from Sukchay's Hi5)

A bullet in the eye: A Vietnamese actress on the set of Shanghai in Bangkok

If you saw the recent photos from the Bangkok set of Shanghai, and wondered who the ruby-lipped, peacock-feather-brandishing actress sitting behind John Cusack was, well wonder no more. It was Vietnamese actress and model Ly Nha Ky. She is back in Vietnam and regaling the media with tales of her 13 days of working on a Hollywood movie.

In an interview by Thanh Nien News, Ky describes her desire to prove her professionalism, determination and dedication to the film, even to the point that she remained on the set after a fragment from a blank pistol became lodged in her eye. Here's more from the story:

Chow Yun-fat and I shared a scene, standing close together in a casino. Chow’s character was assassinated. I was right in front of him. The assassin shot over my shoulder to kill Chow.

“A fragment from the blank shot hit my left eye but I didn’t know and continued to work. Director Mikeal Hafstrom and all members in the film crew were concerned and asked me to see the doctor. But I didn’t go because I thought it would affect the schedule.”

She said the other actors expressed a lot of care about her injury.

Ky went to the hospital when she returned to Vietnam to remove the fragment from her eye. Ky said, “I am really happy because after each scene, I was given emotional encouragement, especially from director Mikael Hafstrom. It gave me extra motivation even though they were all strangers.

“The talent of Hollywood film makers is that they create such a real background. Everything seemed real so the feeling of being scared and terrible was also real. The scenes of war, shooting, and death made me feel as if I was there.

“I was surprised when I looked at the film shots that I look so mature and become another person under the hand of the talented director.

“It was a big film crew but the schedule was very specific,” she said. “Every detail was coordinated. The stuntmen acted first so that the main characters could understand the action. They held frank discussions with the director to find the best way to perform. It’s really intellectual cooperation.”

Ky said, “For me, in 13 days, in spite of my small role, I learnt a number of lessons, especially more confidence in myself, future openings for me and for Vietnam movies. It proved that Vietnam movie stars are capable, but haven’t had many chances to develop their talent.

“American filmmakers are surveying the Asian market. This was the first time they came to Vietnam. At the end of this year, when ‘Shanghai’ is released, the filmmakers will see the public’s reaction. I hope that we now have two Vietnamese actresses and next year, 10-12 more, so that more Vietnamese actors/actresses will be able to appear in Hollywood films and Vietnamese motion pictures will cooperate with Hollywood.”

Ky was one of two Vietnamese actresses cast in supporting roles in the film, which is set in 1940s Shanghai. The other was Vu Thu Phuong, "the Weinstein Company's representative in Vietnam".

There's a story on Ky's blog, which describes her filming a bomb-explosion scene, and a Thai actor who was to support her, got scared and "ran away", and Phuong stepped in to the "dangerous" situation to assist her compatriot.

In a Vietnamese-language report by Việt Báo, there are more photos from the Bangkok set, including one of The Weinstein Company's Bey Logan appearing to strangle Ky.

Related posts:

Friday, August 22, 2008

New trailer, new release date for Queens of Langkasuka

After a critical trashing and repeated delays, Nonzee Nimibutr's Queens of Langkasuka is now pegged for an October 23 wide release in Thailand, as trumpeted in a new, extended-length trailer that's just been posted to You Tube. It's embedded above.

Watch it in all its cannon-pounding glory. You've got Ananda Everingham in a loin cloth, riding a manta ray and letting fly a sonic roar that summons a thrashing sperm whale. There's impassioned speechifying by veteran actress Jarunee Suksawat as the elaborately costumed queen. Daeng Bireley star Jesdaporn Pholdee engages in palace intrique. Dan Chupong is kicking butt. Nang Nak's Winai Kraibutr is a pirate. Sorapong Chatree is a bearded sage. Spurred on by a regal-sounding choir, an army, airborne on hang gliders, drops bombs on enemy ships.

I'm excited. How about you?

Queens of Langkasuka is also set for a special midnight screening at the Venice Film Festival and it might yet turn up at the Bangkok International Film Festival.

(Via Moon0i's YouTube Channel)

Jaruek Kaljaruek, the Thai film industry's professional

The Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee today profiles Jaruek Kaljaruek, the managing director of the regional post-production and multimedia hub Kantana Group, current chairman of the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand (FNFAT) and the president of the 2008 Bangkok International Film Festival.

He has the unenviable task of heading an industry group that has seen its share of friction. In 2006, the FNFAT, then headed by Sahamongkol Film International honcho Somsak Techaratanaprasert, called for a boycott of the Bangkok International Film Festival, over a dispute about organization of the film market and the promotional budget.

The festival, meanwhile, is trying to regain its bearings after having its budget slashed and being hit with a bribery scandal that's linked to the festival's past organizers, the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Jaruek's role as both head of the FNFAT and the festival is one of peacemaker. And it marks the first time that a someone from within the Thai film industry is taking charge of the festival.

Here are some quotes from the article (cache):

I'm a figure of compromise, I think that's why the industry trusts me. I've always been a professional, and I want to install a professional system into the FNFAT, to make it work like a company, to transform it into an organisation that really matters to Thai cinema."

"The festival has been going for five years, the TAT has already spent 800 million baht on it, so it'd be a shame if we just discontinued it. And it's a good opportunity that the industry people will now run the festival, because it is directly related to the image of our local film industry and the confidence of the international film community."

"There are good things about the past festival, not just bad bits. We'll keep those good things, while we'll try to be more creative and to spread good words. The scandal is out of scope here. We're thinking forward now."

At the same time, the Thai film industry is facing challenges. Filmmakers are struggling, and the new Film Act, still in the process of implementation, could restrict creativity, muzzle independent voices and make things even harder for filmmakers to break into the industry.

Jaruek addressed the new Film Law, which the FNFAT helped "negotiate" with the Ministry of Culture Ministry "to include a clause that approves in principle the formation of a central, semi-governmental body to oversee filmmaking activities". Details are sketchy on how such a body would be funded, organised or what authority it would have, "not to mention how it will work to reconcile the conservatism of the Ministry with the liberal creativity of modern filmmaking". Here's more:

Right now this is the only promise of support that the new Film Law spells out, and without the FNFAT's participation, maybe it would have been left out," says Jaruek, adding that in dealing with the lawmakers, he had to concede certain stances in order to win others. "It's still a concept, but I'd say that this new organisation will work to develop the quality of Thai filmmakers, promote them in and outside the country, and give them funding. This is not only for mainstream directors, but also for independent and the so-called art films."

Jaruek also addressed the view of indie filmmakers, who see the FNFAT as only representing the big studios and mainstream filmmakers.

Commercial films are important to keeping the industry going, but I recognise the importance of art films too. Without them, cinema won't improve, and the audience won't improve.

"The problem is that filmmakers do not have funding to make art films in Thailand, and these films do not have a venue for screening. I have those issues in mind, and will consider them with the plan to set up the central film body."

The implementation of the new Film Law and the new motion-picture ratings system is still being pondered though, says Kong, so other, more ambitious schemes are a long way off. He lets Jaruek have the last word:

I'm hopeful though. The government has good intentions but it will take time for them to learn about the industry, and it'll take time for us to learn to compromise with them. But the point is we will try to work together. I'm working on that."

Chocolate rated 18 in the U.K., due on DVD in November

The British Board of Film Classification has rated Chocolate an 18 for "strong violence", and it "was passed with no cuts made". It was submitted by Showbox Media Group.

Update: Following that rating, Chocolate is listed at Amazon UK. The DVD will be released on November 3 -- the first definitive word of an English-friendly DVD of the film.

Meanwhile, Chocolate is coming to North America, screening in the Midnight Madness program at the Toronto International Film Festival and at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. No word yet on a DVD release for the U.S. and Canada, though.

(Via BBFC, and thanks to Logboy!)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bollywood in Bangkok: 'The blood gushed out and was all over my face'

Bollywood leading man Zayed Khan was injured last weekend while shooting a stunt in Bangkok for an action film called Blue.

He jumped out of a high-rise building, the fall went wrong and Zayed’s forehead hit the windshield of a car. Here's more from Sindh Today:

The blood gushed out and was all over my face. It took a while for everyone to realise I was injured,’ Zayed told IANS from Bangkok.

After a visit to the hospital, a couple of stitches, heavy sedation and antibiotics on Sunday, Zayed was back to shooting Monday morning.

"Fortunately the cut is hidden by my hair. So no continuity problems," said Zayed, whose family back home panicked when they heard about the mishap.


Boxer Nose, Yuthlert and a Japanese swimsuit model

Rak/Sam/Sao director Yuthlert Sippapak is at work on his next project, E-Tim Tai Nai, a romantic comedy-drama written by and starring comedian Udom "Nose" Taepanich.

Nose plays an boxer who runs a bar in Pattaya. A Japanese tourist named Itemi, portrayed by swimsuit model Asuka Yanagi walks into the bar, and Nose's character, falls immediately in love.

The casting of the Japanese beauty follows a similar move in a film released earlier this year, GMM Tai Hub's Hormones, which featured a jaw-dropping turn by former AV idol Sora Aoi.

E-Tim has been in the works for a few years and is the first collaboration between Nose and Yuthlert.

Deknang has more photos from the set.

Nose, a popular stand-up comic, has previously starred in Loveaholic in 2006 and last year's black comedy Bus Lane, which I'm sorry I missed.

Currently, Nose can be seen in Daew 7, a behind-the-scenes documentary of his most recent stage show, which was was filmed by his younger brother, Crying Tigers and Bangkok Time helmer Santi Taepanich. Daew 7 (แอบถ่าย เดี่ยว 7) is playing at the Lido cinema in Bangkok, but it doesn't have subtitles.

(Via Daily Xpress, print edition, Page 7, August 21, 2008)

The Bodyguard is here to save the day

The Bodyguard and Bodyguard 2 are out on DVD on August 26 on Magnolia Pictures' Magnet label. It's the first U.S. release for the 2003 action comedy and the first English-friendly disc for the 2007 sequel, both starring Petchtai Wongkamlao as a cool, smooth Isaan gunman.

In part one, he is the chief protector of the richest man in Thailand when the man is killed. The wealthy man's son goes missing, and takes up with a family in a slum. A hilarious, never-ending parade of bad guys tries to find the boy and kill the bodyguard. Instead of Muay Thai kicks, he dances to mor lam to dispatch the villains.

In Bodyguard 2, which is actually a prequel, Petchtai goes undercover as luk thung singing star for a record label that is a front for weapons dealers. He must stay a step ahead of the bad guys and his jealous wife.

Tony Jaa makes cameo appearances in both, both spoofing his movies Ong-Bak and Tom Yum Goong.

A review of both movies has turned up at Cinema Suicide. Here's an excerpt:

Ultimately, each movie is jammed with more fart jokes and seriously insensitive gags than you’ll know what to do with. Each one features some fluttering gay guy. How do you know he’s gay? Is he seen dating a man? Of course not! He’s the one wearing the eye shadow and lip stick. Each one features bare-ass male nudity and gallons of blood. In these movies, shootouts result in explosive bullet wounds, geysers of blood from mouths and so on. The violence is every bit a part of the gag, as well. Michael Bay only dreams of a gun fight that ends with four cars colliding and exploding in midair, simultaneously, The Bodyguard makes it a reality. You’re also going to be hard pressed to find a movie where a man without pants plummets from a building to his death when a woman flicks the head of his penis. Every second of each movie is operating on a higher level of crazy. Bodyguard 2 is a little more grounded, as I said, but you get a close up of a guy shitting his pants at a urinal. Ever seen that Jet Li Die Hard ripoff, High Risk? That scene where the dead guy’s rigor mortis grasp on Jackie Cheung’s balls results in him tearing his pants off through the closed door? Imagine two movies that feature nothing but that joke.

The Bodyguard and Bodyguard 2 will be available as a double-feature package or separately.

Related posts:

(Via Love Asian Film)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

12th Thai Short Film & Video Festival set for Bangkok Art and Culture Center

The longest-running Thai film festival, the Thai Short Film & Video Festival is bigger than ever this year, expanded from 10 days to 16 days, from August 29 to September 14.

Now in its 12th edition, it’s taking place at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center - the first film event for the brand-spanking-new facility at Pathumwan Junction.

An important showcase for young, up-and-coming Thai independent filmmakers, as well as an interesting look at feature-length documentaries and experimental works from international art-film directors.

Thanks to the digital explosion, a record 400 submissions were received for this year's competition, and the organizers had to watch them all. They narrowed the selection down during the annual Short Film Marathon, which wrapped up on August 10, after showing films for ten hours a day every Saturday and Sunday for a month.

A good many of the films were pretty awful, says the Thai Film Foundation’s Chalida Uabumrungjit, and the young filmmakers don't know how bad they were until they saw them on the big screen. Still, it's an instructive form of encouragement.

Special programs will include a best-of package from Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival in France, the world’s biggest short film festival. There will be a package of Queer Shorts, the British Council's AirplayUK music video program and the Electric Eels Showcase of award-winning Thai shorts from the international circuit.

Feature-length documentaries will be screened in the Doc Forum. They will include the premier of The Convert by Panu Aree and Kong Rithdee, about the love between Muslim man and Buddhist woman.

Over the next couple of weeks, I hope to post more in detail about this increasingly vibrant and diverse festival.

The full program has yet to be uploaded to the festival's website, but an advance look is available at the Thai Film Foundation.

See also
(Adapted from a guest article at Absolutely Bangkok)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More black magic go-go action in P2: The Unforgiven

No, it's not a sequel to the Hollywood thriller that takes place in a parking garage.

P2: The Unforgiven is a sequel to a film called P, a horror thriller about a young woman -- a Bangkok go-go dancer -- with black-magic powers.

Directed by Paul Spurrier, P had a good reception when it was shown back in 2005 at the New York Asian Film Festival, the Brussels Fantastic Film Festival and the Yarmouth Film Festival. It's never been released in Thailand, and I have yet to actually see the movie.

MonteCristo International is shooting the sequel now, though few details have been revealed. Perhaps I'll get the chance to ask Paul about this the next time I see him.

(Via Film Stalker and Bloody Disgusting)

Kongdej's Snow chosen for Pusan Promotion Plan

Snow, a project by Handle Me With Care writer-director Kongdej Jaturanrasmee is among the 30 projects chosen for the Pusan Promotion Plan at the Pusan International Film Festival's Asian Film Market.

The Pusan Promotion Plan is an important platform for filmmakers to meet with investors. Past recipients of funds from the PPP include the still-in-development Heartbreak Pavilion, a collaboration by Thunska Pansittivorakul and Sompot Chidgasornpongse, and Wonderful Town by Aditya Assarat.

(Via Variety)

Review: Hanuman: The White Monkey Warrior

  • Directed by Sakchai Sriboonnak
  • Starring Sornram Theppitak, Yardtip Rajpal, Damian Mavis, Dean Alexandrou, Anton Kalin
  • Released in Thai cinemas on August 12, 2008
  • Rating: 2/5

Nowhere near as fun or as cool as the posters promise, Phranakorn Film's foray into action, Hanuman: The White Monkey Warrior (หนุมานคลุกฝุ่น, Hanuman Klook Phun), is a major letdown.

The problem is that star Sornram Theppitak is not a martial artist. Tony Jaa has spoiled fans of Thai action cinema -- we expect the star to do his own stunts and throw his own punches. But any time Sornram is kicking, hitting, clambering around on a truck or flying by wire, he's wearing a ballcap to cover his face. This makes it convenient for those shots that capture all the action from a distance. But whenever his face is in the frame, the shot is too close and cropped to get any sense that he's actually fighting -- even if he may have thrown a few punches or was laced into a harness.

Faring better in this tale of supernatural tattoos is a trio of foreign bad guys, played by Damian Mavis, Dean Alexandrou and Anton Kalin, all experienced stunt actors who flip, kick, punch and sneer their way through the picture with glee. They are fun to watch and make Hanuman at least somewhat tolerable.

Even when he's rolling around in bed with some ladies and is stripped down to nothing but a pair of black briefs, Mavis gives it his all, despite the bizarre tiger-striped hairstyle he's sporting. Alexandrou is as balletically bad-ass as ever -- he should have been playing the hero. And Kalin rocks his dreadlocks, even has he's changing into a CGI crocodile and rolling around on the ground.

The plot, which contains too many loose threads, never really gains any momentum. The narrative is bogged down by too many flashbacks and a confusing litany of supporting characters who seem irrelevant.

Sornram is Yod, a young man raised by a tattoo master, who tattooed the monkey god Hanuman on Yod's chest. A nifty comic-book title sequence explains that the fighters in Bang Rajan wore these mystical, ancient tattoos, which gave them superpowers. Too bad the rest of the movie wasn't that well illustrated.

A rival tattoo master, with a stable of foreign fighters, seeks a MacGuffin in a cloth-wrapped package that Yod possesses. He sends Damian the tiger, Dean the black leopard and Anton the crocodile to kill Yod's master, and then they go after Yod -- a policeman who is set to marry a beautiful woman named Candy (Odette Henriette Jacqmin). The attack leaves Candy dead -- she never picks up a pistol like in the film posters. Her little sister has broken legs.

Yod and the crippled girl fall into a river and wash up on the shores of the idyllic Cozy House, an orphan ranch where the boys all learn Muay Thai and the girls are taught traditional Thai dancing. Yardtip Rajpal plays the sweet dance teacher and a possible new love interest for Yod. Comedian Kotee Aramboy, misshapen, Sangtong-like character Suthon Wechkama (the madman from 13 Beloved) and lovable lug Sonthaya Chitmanee from Muay Thai Chaiya are among the comic relief. But when the time comes for them to put up their dukes and fight, they quickly fold. Even the Muay Thai-trained boys are unceremoniously mowed down, though their teacher, played by a very brave Kowit Wattanakul, at least tries to put up a convincing challenge.

A subplot involving a gangster rivalry is one of the raveled threads in this story. A foreign kingpin, played with Brando-channeling relish by old Hollywood musical hand David Winters, is apparently in charge of the three foreign fighters. Kirk Schiller is involved somehow as a turncoat go-between the foreign mob and some hilariously moustachioed Thai gangsters who run an illegal boxing club.

The movie is actually quite violent, with much bloodshed and many grisly deaths. But rather than feeling any sympathy or sadness for the dispatched characters, there is only a sense of relief -- for the actors, because they are no longer in the movie, or for the story, which becomes less and less encumbered and that much closer to ending.

There's even cannibalism! Apparently, if you eat your tattoo master, you will gain his powers. So it was probably not a good idea for the evil eyepatch-wearing tattoo master to reveal that secret to his foreign trio. They leap on the guy like a pack of bloodthirsty hyenas. Bad for the master, but good for us.

Related posts:

Monday, August 18, 2008

Trailer, posters for Mheejou

Mheejou (อาข่าผู้น่ารัก, also Akha Phoo Narak or Bannok TV) is a long-in-the-works project by Sukanya Vongsthapat, who's made her name as a producing partner with Prachya Pinkaew at Sahamongkol Film International.

The story involves the title character, a bubbly young Akha hilltribe girl (Fuana Hiroyama) in northern Thailand, who becomes a personality on the tribe's local-access television station.

It's all very sweet, and looks to be quite moving as well. The trailer from YouTube is embedded below.

Meejhou opens in Thai cinemas on Thursday.

(Via SiamZone, Moon0i's YouTube Channel)

More posters for The Coffin

Here's some more posters for The Coffin. I've got an alternate Thai poster, and a selection of English-language posters and even a couple of Taiwanese posters.

Starring Ananda Everingham, Karen Mok and Mamee Napakpapha Nakprasitte, The Coffin is directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham. It's based on a true Thai ritual of lying in a coffin to dispell bad karma.

The Coffin opens on Thursday in Thailand.

The CoffinThe Coffin

The CoffinThe Coffin

Related posts:

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Thai film review roundup: Insee Thong, Khu Gam, Operation Black Panther

Thai films continue to captivate bloggers worldwide, and I wanted to spotlight a few of the recent reviews I've come across.

On Coffee Coffee and More Coffee, film critic Peter Nellhaus is digging Insee Thong (อินทรีทอง, Golden Eagle), the last filmed appearance by action star Mitr Chaibancha. Peter seeks to put things into perspective, stating "Insee Thong is a key film to understanding Thai cinema", and that for all its technical flaws, it is actually an entertaining film.

I would go as far to say that, except that it's in Thai, and roughly made by Hollywood standards, it has everything current audiences are looking for in a movie, and more.

Insee Thong is available on DVD with English subtitles, but the condition of the film is pretty poor. Still, it's a rare, subtitled example of 1960s Thai action cinema starring Mitr and his frequent leading lady Petchara Chaowarat.

Next, Lakorn Central has a look at Khu gam (คู่กรรม), an oft-adapted tale of star-crossed romance between a Japanese officer and a Thai woman set in Thailand during World War II. A novel by Thommayanti, Khu gam has been adapted around a half dozen or so times. There was a film in 1973 starring Nart Poowanai, Sayun, Ling Lee Ju, and Rachun, another in the 1980s starring Jintara Sukkapat and Warut Worrantum and a 1996 film, Sunset at Chaophraya, starring Thongchai "Bird" McIntyre and Apasiri Nitibhon. The '96 film was adapted from a popular TV series that also starred Bird. There's been a sequel, Khu gam 2, a 2004 soap opera with Sornram Theppitak and Benz Pornchita na Songkhla, a soap opera series of the sequel and most a stage musical with Japanese actor Seiki Oseki in the lead. From the comments on Lyn's blog, it looks like lakorn fans favor the 1980s film with Jintara and Warut.

Last, but certainly not least is Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill!, which reviews Operation Black Panther (แหย่หนวดเสือ), a loopy 1977 spy spoof directed by and starring Sombak Metanee. In a bit that could be in an Austin Powers movie, there's an action sequence that involves a car with two front ends. I'll let Die, Danger's Todd explain:

Sombat's car ... looks to be made out of two Mini Cooper front ends welded together, complete with opposite facing steering wheels. This allows Sombat to drive the car from either end, something that is demonstrated to amusing effect in an early chase scene where he keeps hopping from one seat to the other to extricate himself from whatever apparent dead-end his pursuers have backed him into. (Yes, I know there's such a thing as reverse, but what's the fun in that?) A later chase in an underground parking garage sees Sombat and his female accomplice (played by Aranya Namwong) each taking control of one of the car's steering wheels and working in tandem to evade the bad guys who are baring down on them. Finally, a well placed burst of machinegun fire from one of the heavies separates the two halves of the car, leaving Sombat and Aranya to complete the chase by each driving their own truncated half-cars with the back ends dragging noisily against the pavement.

And that is far from all from Todd -- he's also reviewed Insee Thong and in doing so surveyed Mitr's entire Red Eagle series. He must have VCDs of old, unsubtitled Thai action films stacked up to the ceiling. For example, there's his ongoing "Films of Sompote Sands" series, which I intend to try and summarize at some point soon.