Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happy birthday Jeeja!

"Jeeja" Yanin Vismistananda ("จีจ้า" ญาณิน วิสมิตะนันทน์), action heroine of Chocolate and the forthcoming Du Suay Doo ("stubborn, beautiful and fierce") turns 25 today.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Behind the scenes of Power Kids with the 'Drunk Bully'

To be a human punching bag, you have to be a real nice guy.

And Richard William Lord is that. Clean-cut, clear-headed and cordial, he belies his appearance as the "Drunk Bully" in the latest Thai action film, Power Kids or 5 Huajai Heroes (or, roughly, "five heroes [for the] heart").

The story of young Muay Thai students who need to retrieve a donor heart from a hospital that's been taken over by machine-gun-toting terrorists, Power Kids is the latest no-holds-barred, high-impact martial-arts extravaganza from producer Prachya Pinkaew's Baa Ram Ewe company and Sahamongkol Film International, the makers of such films as Ong-Bak and Tom Yum Goong by Thai action hero Tony Jaa.

Lord is one of several foreign actors who appear in Power Kids, but aside from Vietnamese-American leading man Johnny Nguyen, who plays one of the terrorist leaders, Lord is the only one who spends a decent amount of time on camera before he's dispatched.

And what a time it is.

The 6-foot-4-inch Lord, playing an obnoxiously inebriated student at a Muay Thai school, towers over his pre-teen co-stars, but is beaten down by the gang of youngsters and the raw power of Muay Thai. It's the first major action scene in Power Kids.

"Those little kids really tore me up," says the rugged actor, who was literally taking it on the chin as young star Nantawooti "Wut" Boonrapsap came flying at Lord feet first off a mini-trampoline.

"Wut was like surgeon," says the lantern-jawed Lord, noting that the action coordinators would call for Wut to use his feet to strike the very tip of Lord's chin, and he did every time, except for when the trampolines were left in Thailand's blistering sunlight for too long and the springs became soft. That made Wut's aim go off, and he landed a foot on the side of Lord's neck.


"The inside of my mouth was cut up ... my ear canal was ruptured ... I was pissing blood," says Lord, detailing the injuries he received on Power Kids.

"I wasn't a stuntman, I was a human punching bag."

Despite all the hard work and punishment, Lord says he has the highest respect for the cast and crew, especially young co-stars Wut and the female fighter Sasisa "Kat" Jindamanee, who were 12 and 11 years old respectively when the scenes were filmed.

"They work those kids hard," Lord says, talking about round-the-clock shooting schedules. At one point, Kat and another Power Kids child star, Narawan "Grace" Techaratanprasert, were concurrently shooting another action film, Som Tum, with another big-man actor, former WWE star Nathan Jones. Som Tum was released last year.

Lord says he also remains awestruck by the dedication of the stunt performers at the Baa Ram Ewe production company, which has a facility where the stuntmen train daily.

Once the cameras had stopped rolling and the bright lights had dimmed, the fury and power shown by the actors melted away. And out came the ice packs for his swollen face, and sliced, chilled mangoes for refreshment.

"They are such incredibly kind and gentle people," says Lord, who adds that he was particularly moved by Wut's apologizing to him after every take. "It was hard for him to hit me," says Lord, "but the action director kept encouraging him, 'show the power of Muay Thai, show the power of Thai people'. When we were done, Wut was crying, he was so sorry."

Power Kids
was a particularly punishing film for all involved, says Lord.

The film had been started by another director in 2005, and interest was generated in Power Kids with sales fliers at the Cannes Film Market in 2006. But the project became dormant after the two principal child actors Wut and Kat were injured while performing stunts, Lord says. Some of those early scenes remain in the film, but by the time the young actors were again ready to work, they had grown visibly older, necessitating reshoots of many action setpieces. Director Krissanapong Rachata, himself a star in his childhood, was brought in to handle the reshoots and complete the film, says Lord.

The scenes with Lord were some of the last for the production, shot in 2007 along the Chao Phya River in Bangkok.

Working on Power Kids was an eye-opener for the journeyman stunt performer, actor, model and voiceover artist.

Trained as a gymnast, Lord's credits include the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular back in his native Florida. "I played the German mechanic who fights with Indy around the airplane," says Lord.

He also worked as a stuntman on the Miami Vice TV series in the 1980s. There, nursing a sore back after a particularly hard day of shooting that required his bad-guy character to smash through a window and fall into a swimming pool, he got some advice from star Don Johnson, who told him, "It's how many times you keep getting up. That's what counts in this business."

Contacts made on the Indiana Jones show led to Lord's coming to Thailand in 1994 to work on a James Bond 007 stunt show at Safari World in Bangkok. And he's been based more or less in Thailand since then, shooting TV commercials and shows, modeling for magazine spreads, catalogs and ad layouts and doing voiceover work. He was even a schoolteacher in Thailand for a time.

And he's also dubbed the voice of another big-man foreigner actor, 7-foot-tall Conan Stevens, who's briefly seen in Power Kids and has been featured in several other Sahamongkol productions, including Somtum and The Bodyguard 2. It was for the action comedy Bodyguard 2 that Lord dubbed over the big tough Stevens' Australian accent for a comedic contrast. "The director [Petchtai "Mum Jokmok" Wongkamlao] kept telling me 'more gay, more gay'," says the deep-voiced Lord.

When Lord was cast as "Drunk Bully" in Power Kids, the action coordinators tested him at the Baa Ram Ewe studios, rigging Wut and Kat in slings and swinging them at Lord. "I said, 'yeah, I can do that,' let's go."

But on set, it was different, with the mini-tramps brought in to make the kids airborne. They would come flying into the frame feet, knees and elbows first, and the hits came hard and heavy. The sling rigging couldn't be used, because it would be visible on film, Lord explains.

"I had never been so brutalized," says Lord.

That advice from Don Johnson on the set Miami Vice came back to him, and Lord kept getting back up, he says, earning the respect of his castmates, the crew and the legion of Thai stunt performers.

"I know what questions to ask now, when I go to work in an Asian film," says Lord, who at age 50 probably won't taken another action role like he did Power Kids.

He's a had a good run, though, Lord notes, saying that in Hollywood, where stunt-performer safety is tantamount, a stuntman can work around 25 years. But in rough-and-tumble Thailand, where camera and light rental is the biggest cost in making a film and safety is sacrificed for making every shot count, the stuntmen will have about four to six years before they have to retire.

Still, Lord has great enthusiasm for Power Kids, saying that he had returned to Florida after completing the film, but then came all 19,000-plus miles back to Thailand especially to attend the world premiere in Bangkok in early March.

He says he was disappointed that none of the other foreigner stars -- save for an extra who portrayed a doctor -- turned up to support the film.

"I really hope it does well in the West," says Lord, who says action-film fans who savor the brutal punches, elbow thrusts and flying double-knee bombs of Tony Jaa's Ong-Bak or Baa Ram Ewe's new female star Jeeja Yanin in Chocolate, should love Power Kids.

"It was a great honor to be in Power Kids," says Lord. "But I wouldn't want to do it again."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

On Blu-ray only from Thailand: Paul Spurrier's P

The first local release of a movie on Blu-ray Disc is a strange case in many ways.

P is a Thai-language horror thriller by British director Paul Spurrier. The first Thai film by a Western director, it premiered in 2005 but mainly hit the festival circuit and had a handful of theatrical releases.

It still has never been shown or officially released in Thailand and is controversial for its frank depiction of the country's go-go bar scene and illegal sex industry.

P is the story of a young woman (Suangporn Jaturaphut) working in Bangkok's bar scene, but pushed too far, she turns to black-magic powers taught to her by her grandmother, and she becomes a demon.

The movie had been picked up for release in the U.S. and the U.K. by Tartan Video, but the company shut its doors, and P was among the many titles stuck in limbo.

So Spurrier has taken things into his own hands. Here's more about the Blu-ray release from the website:

Bored with constantly being asked where the film could be obtained, the director has now worked with a Thai company to produce the first-ever Thai-produced Blu-ray. (A small selection of other Thai titles are available on Blu-ray, but all have been released by Western distributors.)

Only a very limited number of discs will be released as a limited Collector's Edition, and it is only available for retail in Thailand.

We have a very limited number of discs available for sale as an import title, but since this version has not been released internationally, it will not be available at retail outlets.

Mastered direct from the 35mm film master, and encoded at high bit-rates, this release has been given a lot of care and attention. The director personally oversaw every aspect of the transfer, and was delighted that now fans of the film can get a version that is as close as possible to the experience of watching in a cinema.

The disc will also have an exclusive "Director’s Scrapbook" feature, which is a commentary track by the director and visual extras presented as a 114-minute version of the film itself, overlaid with outtakes, behind the scenes footage, deleted scenes, stills, storyboards and text info. There's also a music-only track, a hi-def version of trailer and a guide to the nightlife of Bangkok.

P has been released on DVD with English subtitles, on a Region 4 disc out of Australia.

But with all the extras and the personally supervised high-resolution transfer of the film, "this version makes it worth going out to buy a Blu-ray player", the website says.

And an HD TV. And a special sound system. And proper chairs to sit in to really get the full benefit.

Sigh. Looks like I still won't ever get to see P.

The trailer looks fantastic though. It's on YouTube and I've embedded it below.

Meanwhile, a sequel P2: The Unforgiven has been mentioned as being in production. Wonder if I'll ever get to see that?

Update: Another option for ordering this is HK Flix.

(Via TwitchFilm.net)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Wonderful Town is 'Film of the Month'

Aditya Assarat's indie drama Wonderful Town is back in London, playing until next Thursday (April 2) at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.

Commemorating the occasion is the British Film Institute's Sight & Sound magazine, which names Wonderful Town the "Film of the Month" in its April issue.

Tony Rayns writes the review. There's a lot to chew on there, and it might be the kind of review you don't want to read until after you've seen the film, but here's a choice excerpt:

Filmmakers like Aditya give the lie to all the talk of 'the end of art cinema' after the deaths of Bergman and Antonioni."

And Rayns has nice things to say about the performance of Anchalee Saisoontorn, who recently picked up best-actress prizes from the Bangkok Critics Assembly and the Kom Chad Luek Awards, as well as lead actor Supphasit Kansen.

By the way, Wonderful Town is wrapping up its limited Thai revival run. It's playing at the SFX Cinema at Central Festival Pattaya Beach.

(Via IFC)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Filmart wrapup: Meat Grinder sold, Soul's Code reviewed

Continuing the look at Filmart, the industry fair wrapped up yesterday in Hong Kong. The Hollywood Reporter (PDF) has a few items:

  • Phranakorn Films sold all rights in Taiwan and Hong Kong for Meat Grinder to Taiwan's Deep Joy Entertainment. Despite what Logboy says about censorship, I still have to wonder if a "director's cut" of Meat Grinder might be marketed internationally.
  • Thailand's GMM International bought the rights to a package of 11 horror titles from Indonesia's Rapi Films. I bet they'll dub them in Thai and send them straight to video.
  • Thailand's Right Beyond sold TV and video rights for Diamond Eye and Mr. Tim Muay Thai Fighter to Hungary's Paradigma Film as well as video rights for King Cobra and Black Panther to NSR of Malaysia. Those are all direct-to-video titles from Right Beyond.

And the day three edition of The Hollywood Reporter Fair Daily (PDF) had Elizabeth Kerr's review of last year's horror-crime-procedural Soul's Code (ถอดรหัสวิญญาณ or Thod Rahat Winyan). Here's the intro:

If you took the Thai horror hit Shutter and mated it with CSI, the product might be something like Soul’s Code. And what an ugly child it would be. Even taking into consideration the suspension of disbelief demanded of the genre, director Adsajun Sattagovit’s Code can't make a case for itself as either a procedural thriller or as a horror pic, lacking as it is in both thrills and frights.

And it gets better and better. Oddly, a scathing review like that makes me want to watch Soul's Code, and I actually have the DVD at home but I haven't worked up the courage to bring it down off the shelf and put it in the player.

Slice to test the censors

Following up on news from Filmart, Kongkiat Khomsiri, director of Muay Thai Chaiya and co-director of Art of the Devil 2 and 3 started shooting his latest project Slice on Tuesday.

According to a video report by MCOT from the pre-production prayer ritual, the makers of Slice hope that it will be a test of the forthcoming film-ratings regulations, which are due to be enacted in May, just to see what the censors will allow.

Five Star is hoping to have the film wrapped up by June.

The crime-thriller stars the current leading man of the moment, “Pe” Arak Amornsupasiri. He made his big-screen debut in GTH's 2007 horror film Body #19, followed by last year's weepy romance Rak/Sam/Sao, and he's currently in cinemas starring in GTH's hit romantic drama, Best of Times (Kwaam Jam San Dtae Rak Chan Yaao). He also acts in soap operas and plays guitar in an indie rock band called Slur.

For this movie Pe says he will likely have to cut his hair, instead of tucking his long frizzled locks underneath a wig like he did for Best of Times.

The cast also features veteran actor "Nok" Chatchai Plengpanich and Sonthaya Chitmanee, the good buddy from Muay Thai Chaiya.

Slice is about a guy named Tai, an ex-hitman who the police turn to for help in solving a case of serial killings in which the victims are "severed".

The Thai title is Chuean (เฉือน), which means the same thing as the English title.

Slice is co-scripted by Wisit Sasanatieng, who's returning the favor of Kongkiat writing the script for Wisit's old-timey ghost drama The Unseeable.

(Via Daily Xpress, MCOT, SiamZone)

Chocolate in Amsterdam at Imagine

Now in its 25th year, the Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival has changed its name to simply Imagine, which TwitchFilm.net's Ard Vijn says reflects the festival's embracing of movies outside the horror, fantasy and sci-fi genres.

So they have action films like Chocolate.

The festival runs from April 5 to 26.

(Via TwitchFilm.net)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thai Spider-Man and movies from the headlines

As the "Thai Spider-Man" quickly became one of the most-Twittered and blogged-about stories of the day yesterday after it hit the BBC and wire services, I couldn't help but think about its parallels to a Thai movie.

In 2006's superhero yarn Mercury Man, a Thai firefighter is injected with a strange substance that gives him superpowers. Although he can't shoot webbing from his wrists, Mercury Man's powers and his costume are eerily similar to Spider-Man's. And Mercury Man's makers even gave shout-outs to Marvel Comics' webslinger, which included a spray-painted message to "Spidy" on a wall and child extras wearing Spider-Man pajamas.

The real-life story emerged a couple of days ago, when a fire brigade was dispatched to a school to rescue an 11-year-old autistic boy who had crawled out on a third-floor ledge because he was too scared to attend class.

Firefighter Somchai Yoosabai quickly assessed the situation and decided this was a job for Spider-Man. So he raced back to the fire station and changed into his Spider-Man outfit. The boy trusted the masked superhero, and allowed Spidey to grab him off the ledge.

Somchai keeps the outfit handy to entertain children at school assemblies, but he's also worn it to lead dancers through aerobic routines, according to a story in today's Daily Xpress.

I chose the outfit because Spider-Man is a very famous superhero. Most children know him and he's easy to remember. Spider-Man also shares characteristics with firemen: both wear red, climb high buildings and help people."

Somchai also dresses as Ultraman, and he once dressed as morlam singer Poifai Malaiporn, to talk a drunk man out of making a suicide leap.

Quick, somebody sign Somchai up, because he needs to be in a movie or two. Or at least a reality TV series. I just hope Marvel's lawyers don't come calling at the fire station.

The story also got me thinking again about the Pang Bros.' latest project, The Child's Eye, in which the Pangs again display their knack for ripping a movie plot from the current headlines.

Their original story for 2002's The Eye actually came from at least a couple of news stories -- one the Pangs read about a woman getting a corneal transplant, which made them wonder whether she'd see the same things as the original owner of the eyes. A major scene in the movie has a tanker truck exploding -- based on an actual event in 1990 in Bangkok, in which a liquid-propane-tanker truck crashed and exploded on Phetchaburi Road, killing 63 people and injuring 90.

The Child's Eye uses last November's shutdown of Bangkok's airports as a setting in which passengers stranded by the anti-government protests start having supernatural experiences.

Oh, and it'll be in 3-D!

This got Thai 101's Rikker thinking, and in the comments, he offered the following treatments:

  • Ghost Parliament: In a wacky election gone awry, a ghost gets elected to Thailand's House of Representatives. Hijinx ensue as members debate the appropriateness of letting the spirit take office, but ultimately allow it, stating that at least he has a soul. Special cameo by George Clinton.
  • Spirit Prison: In this screwball thriller, a mixture of Thai and foreign inmates are surprised to find that the penitentiary they've been sentenced to is staffed entirely by otherworldly entities! If you can't get enough bug-eyed screaming and people bumping into each other in the dark, then don't miss it!
  • Apparition Physician: Somsak is in the top of his class at school, is very popular with the ladies, and dreams of finally completing his medical degree. There's only one hitch: he's no longer living! Killed in a freak accident with an electric mosquito bat, he isn't about to let death get in the way of his dreams. Join him in his journey from specter to doctor.

These will all be in 3-D, of course, says Rikker.

Just watch out. I can see Phranakorn Film rushing any one of these into production right now.

Ong-Bak 2 released on DVD in Thailand, Blu-ray planned in Germany

Ong-Bak 2 has been released on DVD in Thailand, according to Bangkok1080, which has a review. It looks fantastic.

Also, a Blu-ray release is planned in Germany, according to Logboy.

The German DVDs usually don't have Englisch.

And unless you've been living under a rock (or meditating in a cave perhaps?), you'll know that Thai DVDs almost never have English subs, and that is definitely the case with this one.

A Hong Kong release is forthcoming. Let's see what happens with that.

Blood Maple gets cash at HAF

Blood Maple and the Passion of the Kid, the debut directorial project of Chartchai Ketnust, was awarded $20,000 worth of post-production services by Technicolor Bangkok at the Hong Kong-Asian Film Finance Forum.

Technicolor Bangkok also awarded services to Vietnamese director Chuyen Bui Thac for his project, Vertigo (PDF).

The Hollywood Reporter has the rundown on the other winnners, including Hong Kong actress Charlie Young, whose directorial debut Christmas Rose is being produced by Oxide Pang.

The third edition of Screen International Fair Daily (PDF) profiles Chartchai, who's been a post-production specialist for GTH, working on such films as Alone, Dorm, 4Bia, The Tin Mine and Final Score, for which he won the editing award from the Bangkok Critics Assembly. Here's more from the PDF:

The image of a student being stabbed in the heart with a wooden stick left an indelible imprint on the young Chartchai Ketnust. “It’s like the way a vampire is killed,” says Chartchai, who discovered the picture in a book about the October 1976 student massacre at Bangkok’s Thammasat University when he was 14. “My teacher was reluctant to talk about it, and so are people today.”

It is a desire for answers that has led the 31-year-old to make his directorial debut with Blood Maple and the Passion of the Kid. Set in the 1970s, Blood Maple is a drama about a young boy who makes enemies with his childhood friend when he discovers she is a communist fighter.

The project has found the backing of Sinsawad Yodbangtei at Bangkok's Pridi Phanomyong Institute, and Kamron Kunatilaka’s documentary production company Magenta Media Creation, as well as producer Pantham Thongsang.

It's actually started filming. With a total budget of US$500,000 and $330,000 in hand already, Chartchai was seeking $170,000 for post-production. The $20,000 award from Technicolor Bangkok means he's left looking for $150,000.

The ratings system makes things worse

Although Thailand's motion-picture ratings act doesn't come into full effect until May, censors are already getting geared up to chop and cut films so they'll fit within the restrictions, according to an article at the Asia Media Forum.

Coming under the axe under this new system is the gory psychological thriller Meat Grinder. A story about a troubled beef-noodle vendor (played by Mai Charoenpura) who uses an ingredient other than beef, the movie was censored for national security reasons because authorities feared it would cast Thailand's beef-noodle vendors in a bad light.

According to AMF, Meat Grinder was supposed to be for audiences 13 years or older, but it still contains violence, brutality, inhumanity and bad language. Under the ratings that I've seen stated, it might be okay for 15-year-olds. But then Meat Grinder also contains what I consider to come under the vague heading of "crime", which is disallowed for even 18-year-old viewers.

So how are the age-restrictions decided? Arbitrarily, by the ratings board? Or by the filmmakers themselves? I'm confused.

The problem with the ratings law is that it is not an improvement over the old censorship regime -- not an improvement for filmmakers that is. For the bureaucrats with their scissors, Vaseline and pixellation software, it's going to be the happy time.

The ratings law merely codifies and legitimizes what the conservative cultural minders have been doing all along. Where there were no rules before, now there is a law, which states what can't be seen and what can't be uttered. It's all about restrictions. Nothing is permitted. And it's all so nebulous and open to interpretation, filmmakers remain at the mercy of censors.

The apologist for this new law comes in the unlikely person of Prachya Pinkaew, the producer and director of such violent action films as Ong-Bak, Tom Yum Goong and Chocolate. He was part of the panel that drafted the new ratings regulations, and he points to the fact that Meat Grinder was released at all proves that the system will work. He's quoted by AMF:

Meat Grinder was initially banned by Thai censors because they thought the movie would put the country in a bad light, given the presence and popularity of noodle shops here. Because of the ratings system, this movie is now showing in Thailand," popular film director, producer and screenwriter Prachya Pinkaew told AMF.


Prachya said he is satisfied with the new system and is, in fact, excited about it.

"I've been waiting for this for many years. I don't think this is going to be a failure in the Thai setting. The same set-up has existed in other countries in the region and Thailand is almost the last country that is going to use a ratings system. No matter what, movies will be shown in theatres anyway," said Prachya.

He added that his colleagues at the Thai Directors Association say the ratings system “will allow them to create their work however they want".


Prachya agreed that the 'banned' classification can create problems. He said that while the part about offending the Monarchy is clear, it remains unclear how the board will interpret what is offensive or harmful to national security and religion.

He predicts that the implementation of the new ratings system could be "hectic", which could result in doubts and questions coming up repeatedly. "But in the future, this system should go well," Prachya said on a hopeful note.

The article also quotes Freedom Against Censorship Thailand's C.J. Hinke:

The 'banned' classification is open to bureaucratic abuse. All in this classification are highly subject to individual interpretation and could easily be used to punish free thinkers as much as the current book and Internet censorship and lèse majesté prosecutions."

Hinke believes that the new ratings system still reflects the "growing trend to unbridled censorship throughout Thai society" and is again one of the ways of "creating a new generation of Thais who are unable to form their own opinions".

"The new classifications will serve to stifle Thai directors and producers who will be more concerned with a favourable ratings in order to sell movies rather than producing high quality, creative films," said Hinke, a Thailand-based translator and book publisher who is also the coordinator of the Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT), an anti-Internet censorship group formed in 2006.

This, added Hinke, could result in a decrease in the number of Thai films that can compete in international film festivals.

Said Hinke: "Film is one of the creative avenues for social change in society and deserves government support, not censorship."

Of course, filmmakers could always appeal the decision of the ratings board to the National Film Board, chaired by none other than the prime minister, new Culture Minister Teera Slukpetch has pointed out.

Oh, that's just great. More bureaucracy. I'd like to see the Motion Picture Association of America change its appeals process so filmmakers take their appeal to the President of the United States, Congress and the Supreme Court!

Back in 2007, when the new film law was being drafted under a government formed by the military after a coup, Apichatpong Weerasethakul wrote an article blasting the process. I can't access the Thai Film Foundation's website at all, but thankfully via the Internet Archive, I can find his article (but only if I use Explorer). Here's an excerpt:

I strongly believe that government intervention must be removed from the activities of filmmaking and screening in Siam. I am ready to be bullied by the "arbiters" picked by the people in the industry, but I refuse to be bullied and raped by the so-called "protectors" appointed by the government.


I'd rather wait another few decades for a complete, fair and sincere law, than to accept something that promises us nothing but a fake kind of freedom. Despite our protest, the final draft of the new Film Act is likely to be the Ministry of Culture's version. We, the filmmakers, the Federation of National Film Producers, and theatre owners will in this life never see the promised Film Centre or Film Funding. This government will never give freedom to the people. We are making a pact with the devil. If you're reading this, prove me wrong and I'll kiss your feet.

After the law was passed, Apichatpong resubmitted his Syndromes and a Century for release, hopeful that he would be proved wrong. Before the law, censors wanted to cut four scenes. Under the new film law, they cut six.

I don't think there's going to be any foot-kissing happening anytime soon.

(Via Asia Media Forum and FACT)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

That's Opal

One of my favorite character actresses, Panissara Pimpru ( โอปอล์ ปาณิสรา พิมพ์ปรุ ), better known as simply Opal to most Thais, has recently reinvented her appearance, and to flaunt it, she does what any newly toned-up actress would do -- pose in a swimsuit on the cover of a magazine.

Popcornmag has scans of the pix from Lips, and it took me awhile to get my head around the fact that this is Opal.

No, it's not a newly liberated Rihanna. A recent article in the Bangkok Post's Muse section confirms that (cache):

At the very first sight of Opal walking in, 'Muse' greets our cover girl with a compliment on her fierce outfit and perfectly styled straight-fringe, and teasing her that she could be easily mistaken for an identical twin of US pop idol Rihanna.

"Oh, how sweet of you," she responded with her ear-piercing voice. "But that is an insult for Rihanna, don't you think?"

The dusky 27-year-old Bangkokian goes on to blast skin-whitening treatments and Thai society's ideal of light skin being equal to beauty.

Anyway, read the whole piece.

She's recently undergone a slimming program. I don't think she was "fat" before. Now she's just less rounded in some places.

Looking again at the Lips magazine photos ... give me a moment ... I can't believe this is the same woman who's the flirtatious southerner Nurse Tan in 2005's Dear Dekanda (Puen Sanit) -- a role that won her a best supporting-actress prize at the Star Entertainment Awards.

Watch any GTH comedy, and you'll see her. She's the fiery orchestra conductor Professor Rosie in Seasons Change, the bosom-juggling bar floozy in last year's teen romance Hormones and the fortune-teller in Metrosexual.

She's credited in the recent GTH effort, Best of Times, but -- still can't believe this -- I missed her. Can anybody help me out?

Her most recent project is for television, producing and co-starring in the sitcom-drama, Nua Koo Pratoo Tud Pai (literally "your fated lover is next door", according to Lyn's Lakorn Blog), airing on Saturday afternoons on Modernine. The stars are Opal's Puen Sanit and Bedside Detective co-star Sunny Suwanmethanond and actress-model Paula Taylor.

After flirting with a career as a flight attendant and then working in public relations, Opal's debut film role was as the domineering chief maid Jim Dam in Yongyoot Thongkongtoon's 2004 comedy Jaew (M.A.I.D.), which I recently got from Hong Kong on DVD. She's the reason I'll give it repeat viewings.

Though she tells the Bangkok Post that she's turned down offers from other studios to appear in films, she's featured as the dog-hating cat owner in NGR's canine comedy Mid-Road Gang, and is the chatty moviegoer in the indie romance A Moment in June.

Her bit-part roles, particularly in Hormones or A Moment in June, remind me of Frances McDormand's small walk-on roles in the Coen Bros.' Raising Arizona and Miller's Crossing.

But I'm not sure we'll ever see Frances in a swimsuit like that.

(Via Deknang)

Technicolor Bangkok goes digital

Post-production laboratory Technicolor Bangkok unveiled its new digital imaging suite last week.

Present for the ribbon cutting was actor William Hurt, along with Sophia John and US Ambassador Eric John, Dr. Atchaka Brimble, secretary general of the Thailand Board of Investment, and Paul Stambaugh, managing director Technicolor Bangkok.

Here's a quote from Stambaugh:

With the launch of the new Digital Imaging department, we can more effectively serve a short- or long-form project from front-to-back under one roof — from the drop at the lab and the digital dailies, film scanning for the online conform and theater color grading to film record, answer and release printing.

New in Bangkok is Mike Balabuch, who's the new DI department's manager. He'd previously worked in New York for Digital Intermediate on such projects as The Devil Wears Prada and Robert Altman's Prairie Home Companion.

Also on the Bangkok DI team is colorist Steve Calalang. According to the press release, he's won praise from directors of photography for his work on such films as Syriana, Freedomland, Hitch, The Forgotten and The Visiting.

In Hong Kong, the second edition of The Hollywood Reporter Fair Daily (PDF) says that last week's opening party in Bangkok, thousands of dollars of services were given away in a drawing.

The new DI suite allows the use of hi-tech Red Digital Cinema Cameras.

Among the directors champing at the bit to try one is Queens of Langkasuka director Nonzee Nimibutr. “[Technicolor]'s dedication is a very good sign to those making films in the region who want to have the highest quality but who may not have so much money," Nonzee is quoted as saying.

The Hollywood Reporter article has more on Thailand's status as a hub of post-production in Asia, and is an interesting read. So grab that PDF.

Update: Hurt was in Thailand making a film called Shadows. Bangkok Post has an interview (cache).

(Via press release, also at Hollywood Reporter and OnScreen Asia)

Filmart Day 2: Nymph eyed for Cannes; Mono Film is now motif+

Following yesterday's first round of updates from Filmart in Hong Kong, here's a couple more items to pass along from Screen International's Fair Daily (PDF):
  • Five Star Production is promoting Slice, the upcoming crime thriller directed by Kongkiat Komesiri and written by Wisit Sasanatieng. It started shooting yesterday. Also, a sequel to the three-director romance Before Valentine (will they call it After Valentine?) is planned. And Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Nymph is in post-production and is definitely hoping for a slot at Cannes.
  • Mono Generation's film company, which most recently produced the award-winning Happy Birthday, is now called motif+ (yes, dammit, with a lowercase "m"). Producer-director Pantham Thongsang (Ai Fak, Mid-Road Gang) is the head of the division. The company's next film is the teen-oriented romance Roommate by Karun Komanuwong, director of last year's gender-swapping romance Valentine. A story about a rock band living in a apartment, Roommate was to have featured Mario Maurer, but he's no longer part of the project, according to Bangkok of the Mind. Pantham also has a project in the Hong Kong-Asian Film Financing Forum (HAF) -- Blood Maple and the Passion of the Kid, directed by Chartchai Ketnust.

Classic Thai films in the Week of Siam

The last week of every month until August is designated the Week of Siam at House cinema on Royal City Avenue in Bangkok, where classic Thai movies will be shown as a benefit for the National Film Archive.

Not many of the films will be subtitled in English.

Happily, one exception to that will be showing this week, an oldie, but a goodie -- Ai Tui -- a uproarious musical comedy from 1971 that stars Sombat Metanee and Petchara Chaowarat.

A new print of the film was struck for the 2nd World Film Festival of Bangkok in 2004, and I'm overjoyed that it will once again be unspooled.

Directed by Dokdin Kanyamarn (who also co-stars) Ai Tui is part of the week of films under the theme of "Laan Laew Jaa" -- "It's a million!" -- a phrase coined by Dokdin to signify a 1-million-baht box-office smash.

Ai Tui will screen at 1pm on Saturday, March 28, 4pm on Monday, March 30, and will be closing film for the week at 7pm on Wednesday, April 1.

Subsequent weeks will be Than Mui Week (May 28-June 3), featuring films by director MC Chatrichalerm Yukol; comedy (June 25-July 1), featuring more Dokdin movies; Different Kinds of Love (July 23-29) with classic romances, and Week of Sinjai (August 27-September 2), featuring films of leading lady Sinjai Plengpanich.

The media will be a mix of 35mm, 16mm and DVDs. Admission is 120 baht (100 baht for members) for film screenings and 80 baht (50 baht for members) for DVD screenings.

Proceeds will benefit the effort by the National Film Archive -- upgraded to a public organization under an executive decree approved by the Cabinet -- to build a new vault to preserve Thai films.

Daily Xpress has more on Week of Siam, as does Filmsick. You can also check the schedule at House.

(Cross-published at Bangkok Cinema Scene)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Khan Kluay gets big-name help for sequel

The hero war elephant of King Naresuan the Great is back in Kantana Animation's Khan Kluay II (ก้านกล้วย 2) and he has some high-profile voice talent backing him up.

Uttaporn Teemakorn, and soap-opera queen Ann Thongprasom, who were last paired in the 2004 hit romantic weeper The Letter, play husband-and-wife pachyderms.

Other voices are by Nonzee Nimibutr (playing the Burmese king), Montri Jenuksorn, Warut Worrantum and Krit Sripoomseth. Lyn's Lakorn Blog has more.

The sequel to 2006's feature -- Thailand's first computer-animated feature (later marketed as The Blue Elephant in the U.S. and Jumbo in India) -- the story has Khan Kluay as a senior elephant in the army of King Naresuan the Great. He's training his troops for the next big battle, showing the big beasts all the Muay Thai moves that elephants do best.

But he's forced to choose between his family and duty to his King when his wife, the pink elephant Chaba-Kaew and their little elephant calves, are kidnapped and held hostage in Burma.

Khan Kluay II opens in Thai cinemas on Thursday. The trailer is at YouTube and I've embedded it below.

The music of Thai movies on Monrakplengthai

Quite sometime ago, Peter of the Thai music blog, Monrakplengthai (มนต์รักเพลงไทย) contacted me to let me know of his existence, and I duly added the link under my Thailand blogroll and started following it. I just never got around to actually writing about it. Until now. Thai 101 also recently featured Monrakplengthai.

It's a great blog. Peter's digitized cassettes of mainly older music, like Suraphol Sombatcharoen (whose music is featured in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Monrak Transistor) and violinist Eua Sunthonsanan's Suntharaporn big band, which has influenced the soundtracks of Wisit Sasanatieng's period films Tears of the Black Tiger and The Unseeable.

There's newer stuff too, like songs-for-life icons Carabao.

The most recent post is a tape featuring the dulcet tones of 4DK Todd's favorite character actor, Sangtong Seesai, who was a seriously good singer.

My favorite so far is the soundtrack to Monrak Lukthung (มนต์รักลูกทุ่ง) the 1970 smash-hit musical romance starring Mitr Chaibancha and Petchara Chaowarat, which played in cinemas for six months. The music (songs by Phaibun Butkhan and others) is the reason why it was -- and is -- so popular.

Not entirely lovelorn ballads and superb crooning, there's also serious rocking, like Buppah Saichon's "Rup To Thom Pai" ("รูปหล่อถมไป"). Filmsick Twittered me the link to the song in the movie on YouTube and I've embedded it below. The condition of this historic, classic film is horrifically heartbreaking, but at least the songs survived.

Filmart: Updates on Pen-ek, Wisit and Pang Bros.

Filmart is under way alongside the Hong Kong International Film Festival, and the reports are starting to seep in.

TwitchFilm.net's Todd Brown made the rounds yesterday, and he hoped to catch a glimpse of Pen-ek Ratanaruang's new film, but Nymph continues to elude him.

He also has updates on a "surreal" mystery project by Wisit Sasanatieng that will be filmed between parts one and two of his Red Eagle films -- good to hear there will be two parts after all, and another project as a bonus.

Also, Slice, the crime thriller penned by Wisit for Muay Thai Chaiya and Art of the Devil 2 and 3 director Kongkiat Komsiri has started filming.

Read his whole report.

Also from Hong Kong, there's more on the Pang Bros.' third sequel in The Eye franchise -- The Child's Eye, which is planned to be the first Asian digital 3-D horror film, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Here's more:

The Child’s Eye in 3D tells the story of six stranded Hong Kong travelers during the shutdown of the Bangkok airport in the November 2008 anti-government protest and their supernatural encounters after the disappearance of three in the group.

The showpiece of the film will be an underworld made up of paper replica houses, filled with paper dolls and paper cars -- a city formed by all the paper-made facsimile of the real world burnt and offered to the deceased in the traditional Chinese ancestor worship ritual. The twins also will be introducing a monster in the film.

“The way to handle a monster is the same as creating spooky and suspenseful atmosphere, so it’s something we want to try in this film,” Oxide Pang said.

Yes! A thriller that cashes in on the current 3-D trend and is ripped from recent headlines.

It begins filming in Thailand in June.

Meanwhile, there are market screenings for Thai films at HAF. Among them is Happy Birthday from motif+ (formerly Mono Film), Super Hap from Avant, and Five Star is showing Before Valentine and Soul's Code.

Making its Asian Premiere, Uruphong Raksasad's Agrarian Uptopia is the only Thai film featured at this year's HKIFF, and it's getting a market screening as well. It's produced by Pimpaka Towira and Mai Meksawan of Extra Virgin.

Syndromes and a Century tops Kom Chad Luek Awards

In another unusual pick for Thailand's awards shows, Apichatpong Weerasethakul was awarded best film and best director for his Syndromes and a Century at the Sixth Kom Chad Luek Awards.

Premiered in 2006 at the Venice Film Festival, Syndromes and a Century played all over the world to universal acclaim and was the top pick of dozens of critics in 2007. It was finally released in Thailand last year in a limited run after a prolonged fight with censors who at first sought to cut four scenes and then ended up cutting six scenes.

To make a point about censorship, Apichatpong released Syndromes and a Century: Thailand's Edition in a limited run with the six banned scenes replaced by scratched black film leader. The missing scenes total around 15 minutes and range in length from a few seconds to around seven minutes.

The romantic drama Wonderful Town, which also only saw a limited release in Thailand, was also honored at the Kom Chad Luek Awards last night at Centerpoint Playhouse at CentralWorld, with star Anchalee Saisoontorn named best actress -- her second honor after winning at the Bangkok Critics Assembly Awards. The win continues the awards run for indie director Aditya Assarat's film.

"Tui" Kiatkamol Latha was named best actor for his role as a three-armed man in Kongdej Jaturanrasamee's romantic comedy Handle Me With Care (Kod). He had been nominated by both the Bangkok Critics and Subhanahongsa Awards, but had lost out to Ananda Everingham.

Television shows were also honored, and Lyn's Lakorns has the rundown on that. The Kom Chad Luek Awards are given by the Kom Chad Luek newspaper of the Nation Multimedia Group.

Update: There was also an award for best film script. It went to Wonderful Town. Best-supporting film actor went to Sorapong Chatree for Ong-Bak 2 and Focus Jirakul won again for Hormones. Pop Pictures has more.

(Via Kom Chad Luek)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ghostly lightbulb ad wins at AdFest

I've featured the entertaining Sylvania lightbulb commercial before, but in light of its win at Adfest, which wrapped up over the weekend in Pattaya, I'd like to bring it back for another look. It's still on YouTube, and I've embedded it above.

Picnic won a Silver Lotus Award for Film at AdFest. The TV spot was produced by Jeh United Ltd., and shot by director Thanonchai Sornsrivichai of Phenomena.

The off-beat ad promotes Sylvania's light bulbs as a way to keep ghosts at bay. It's set at a family picnic, where a child gets a lesson from dad on ghosts from local legends, like the vampiric floating head Krasue, Kra Hung, the flying ghost, the banana ghost and the jackfruit ghost.

The Inspiration Room has a partial list of winners. Other Thai winners in the film category included a Gold Lotus for Thai Life Insurance, Melody of Life by Ogilvy & Mather Thailand; Silver Lotus for Oishi Black Tea Lemon, New Staff by Y&R Thailand; Breeze Excel Washing Detergent, Clean Conscience by Lowe Bangkok; K - SME Credit, Quick, Long, A Lot by Ogilvy & Mather Thailand; Bronze Lotus for FB Battery, Spark by TBWA\Thailand; Chaiphak Training Center, Living Room by JWT Bangkok; and Thai Health Promotion Foundation, Compare by Think Factory, Bangkok.

AdFest, formerly called the Asia-Pacific Advertising Festival, has been held in Thailand since it was launched in 1998 and it's been dubbed the "Cannes of Asia" -- after the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival -- not the film festival.

According to AdAge, AdFest attendance was down this year from last year, with the worldwide financial crisis to blame. The AdAge writer also shows a wealth of knowledge about the naughty side of AdFest's venue -- Pattaya -- and he can't resist making a crack about ping-pong balls.

(Via @BenetoneFilms/Benetone Films)

Bangkok taxi driver: You talkin' to me?

Hail a Bangkok taxi, and you never know who will be behind the wheel.

Even with my limited Thai, I've met a few interesting characters -- some genuinely nice, others kinda creepy.

Philip Golingai, Bangkok-based reporter for The Star in Malaysia, recently met a one such interesting character, and he seems genuinely nice.

Here's an excerpt from his latest Thai Takes column:

Poo is not your typical Thai taxi driver. He is a 60-year-old faded actor and director who drives a taxi to make a decent living ...

The last time Poo, whose real name is Chaikorn Chitcha-uw, acted or directed was about 10 years ago. In his prime, he was cast mostly as a bad guy (because of his fierce beard).

He had appeared in about 30 movies as well as directed a movie and a TV series called Mr. Joke (Thailand’s Mr. Bean).

Asked why he quit acting and directing, Poo, whose stage name is Robert, after his favourite actor Robert De Niro, said: “I’m an old man.

Read the whole story. Hopefully Robert Poo will make a comeback.

Review: Meat Grinder

  • Directed by Tiwa Moeithaisong
  • Starring Mai Charoenpura, Rattanaballang Tohsawat, Duangta Tungkamanee
  • Released in Thai cinemas on March 19, 2009
  • Rating: 4/5

Despite a few cuts by squeamish, national-security-fearing censors, Meat Grinder remains a bloody, violent and gore-filled dish, but it's also a satisfyingly and surprisingly tasteful thriller with a social message.

Society and the vicious cycle of domestic violence are the metaphorical meat grinders in this tale of a woman who is reared by abusive parents and as a result copes with life's problems in the only way she knows how -- grabbing a big sharp knife and hacking away.

Mai Charoenpura plays Buss, a noodle vendor who's inherited her mother's noodle stall. She's struggling to care for a limping little girl named Bua. Buss pushes her noodle cart through the warren of narrow alleyways and canal-side footpaths in her neighborhood. Her only escape from the drudgery is to immerse her head into a water-filled klong jar and drown out the voices in her head.

Her's is a lonely existence. But one day she's caught up in a riot of students being chased by soldiers. The setting is the 1970s, and the students are pro-democracy activists pursued by soldiers as part of an anti-communist crackdown.

One of the students, Attapon (Bangkok Love Story's Rattanaballang Tohsawat), beckons Buss into a side alley to escape the soldiers. Hardly a word is spoken between them, but with the fog of smoke bombs enveloping the scene, it has a tense sensuousness. Attapon smiles, and Buss acknowledges curtly. It's clear she has little use for other people -- especially men -- but a connection has been made nonetheless.

Attapon later goes looking for one of his friends who is among the many missing after the riot, and the trail leads back to Buss and her noodle cart.

More is revealed to show Buss' family background and why she has such a low opinion of men. Turns out she's learned everything, including her noodle recipe, from her mother (a serenely wicked Duangta Tungkamanee).

Mai gives a uncharacteristically understated performance. Sure, she gets to fly into a murderous, nostril-flaring rage, which is as much a delight to watch as her best scenery-chewing moments in Suriyothai, but she's also not overplaying it.

Gangsters, led by Somchai Sakdikul -- bizarrely outfitted in lumpy prosthetics so he looks 100 pounds heavier -- come around looking for Buss' husband. He's a gambler and owes money. Maybe they can take it out on trade with Buss?

Out come the knives and meat cleavers. Chop chop. Slash slash. Cut cut. Pound pound.

But what about Buss' new boyfriend Attapon? Can he tame the beastliness of Buss?

Director Tiwa Moeithaisong, the editor and cinematographer who breathed kinetic life into the modern city of Poj Arnon's Bangkok Love Story, does triple duty on Meat Grinder, handling the editing and lighting chores on Meat Grinder himself. (Poj is one of the producers of Meat Grinder. And it's by Phranakorn Film, representing the studio's grand arrival into the international marketplace -- yes Meat Grinder is that good.)

It's an eye-popping effort by Tiwa, with plenty of stylization, slow-mo, dramatic blurring and shifts from color to black and white and back again. When there is color, it seems muted, except for Buss' blue blouse, which becomes less colorful as the story progresses. Red -- as in blood red -- becomes the main primary color later on.

The alleyways, wooden shophouses, market stalls and railroad tracks that serve as this movie's setting are timeless places, isolated from the bristling concrete hi-rise jungle that Bangkok's become. The setting adds an element of claustrophobia -- a feeling of being trapped and disoriented -- lost in a maze.

A fresh breath is the sparse score, which also adds tension. Instead of screeching violins or thudding percussion to announce scary moments, the soundtrack drops away to silence, making things more frightening as Buss stalks her prey. For surreal effect, when Buss is working on her killing floor, a haunting easy-listening romance ballad is playing.

Oh to be sure, there are elements of "torture porn" in Meat Grinder, but it's in the classic sense of old slasher movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the original) and not so much Saw.

Instead of being gross or nauseating, Meat Grinder is beautiful to look at -- sometimes even sexy -- and it made me hungry afterwards, though a bowl of noodles wouldn't really satisfy -- maybe a big, thick juicy steak?

Meat Grinder's Thai title is Cheuat Gon Chim (เชือด ก่อน ชิม), which literally means "carve before tasting". It was originally Guay-dteow Neua Kon (ก๋วยเตี๋ยว เนื้อ คน), literally "human meat noodles", but that was changed at the behest of censors.

The censors have also had a whack at the film in the name of "national security" -- can't have the general public believing that all Thai noodle vendors are going to poison you, slice you up and serve you to their next customers.

There's a warning message preceding the opening credits that I think says something to the effect of "the government censors think you all are so stupid, so they've ordered us to place a warning message on this film to let you know it's just a work of fiction and does not represent the standard practices of Thai noodle vendors. Really, Thai noodle soup is the yummiest, best quality noodle soup in the world, and all Thai noodle vendors are wonderful, kind and friendly people. Eat more Thai noodles!"

The warning message is in Thai so I really don't know what it says. Thing is, if the censors are so fired up about "national security" -- whatever that means -- which is presumably tied to Thailand's international image, then why just have a warning message in the Thai language only? Did the censors really think this movie would cause riots?

The cuts may have made things a bit unorganized as the film was being printed. There's a couple of places where the narrative jumps -- similar to the missing-reel effect of Quentin Tarantino's and Robert Rodriguez' Grindhouse. I think it actually adds to the '70s vibe of the movie -- not that I'm in favor of censorship.

Don't worry gorehounds -- Meat Grinder is still very violent and bloody, and there are moments that will make your fingers and toes curl.

I would like to see a director's cut of Meat Grinder, though I am uncertain whether the new film law would allow that, since movies about murderous noodle vendors have become an issue of Thailand's national security.

This serving of Meat Grinder may be all you're going to get. Bon appetit!

See also:

Related posts:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Trailer for Poj Arnon's gay teen football comedy

Phranakorn Film's YouTube channel uploaded the trailer to Poj Arnon's Taew Te Teen Rabert (แต๋วเตะตีนระเบิด). It's embedded below.

It looks to be trying a bit of everything -- there's a bit of Love of Siam vibe happening, as well as lifts from Poj's own Bangkok Love Story -- guys looking all dramatic in the rain.

But there's also the insane slapstick comedy that Phranakorn is infamous for. Here, a dwarf is involved. Not sure what that's about, and not sure I really want to know.

Pang Bros update: Remaker on DVD in Hong Kong, Eye sequel in 3-D

Remaker (Kon Raruek Chat, คนระลึกชาติ), a 2005 karmic thriller directed by Mona Nahm and produced by Oxide Pang, is set for release on DVD this week by Kam & Ronson in Hong Kong.

It's the story of Tom, an antiques dealer on his way to deliver a Buddha statue, when his truck plunges off a bridge and into the river. He is rescued by a woman named Pim, who happens to be passing by. He is rushed to hospital and recovers, but finds he's having strange visions about the future, and somehow comes to understand that Pim's rescuing him wasn't just a coincidence.

Thai soap stars Andrew Gregson and Phiyada Akkraseranee are the principals.

If I remember correctly, Remaker might have been a loose remake of Oxide's 1997 directorial debut, Who Is Running?, or maybe it just explored similar karmic themes?

DDD House has it.

Meanwhile, it was announced awhile back that Danny and Oxide are planning a fourth film for their Eye franchise, The Child's Eye, and it'll be in 3-D. It'll be the third Eye sequel by the Pangs, following their 2002 hit that was remade by Hollywood with Jessica Alba, 2004's The Eye 2 starring Shu Qui and The Eye10 (or The Eye Infinity or The Eye 3), which was a teen-oriented horror comedy. Bloody Disgusting had more on The Child's Eye.

(Thanks Logboy!)

Disaster strikes Bangkok in 2022 Tsunami

What would happen if a tsunami like the one on Boxing Day 2004 hit Bangkok?

That's the idea behind 2022 Tsunami, which has big CGI waves slamming Thailand's capital, laying waste to the metropolitan infrastructure and submerging the city.

It's a disaster on the scale of say, The Day After Tomorrow, Poseidon or my personal favorite, The Towering Inferno.

It's a production by Twentieth June Entertainment and Toranong Studio.

The teaser is at YouTube and I've embedded it below, but there's a better quality clip at Bangkok 1080.

2022 Tsunami is due in Thai cinemas on April 30.

(Via Bangkok 1080, Deknang/Popcornmag)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Power Kids is, you know, for kids?

Seven-foot-tall actor/stuntman Conan Stevens is in Sahamongkol's kiddie action drama Power Kids. If you're not watching carefully, you might miss him.

In footage shot four and half years ago, Conan appears as a bodyguard for the U.S. ambassador. They are all dispatched rather quickly and mercilessly by machine-gun-toting terrorists led by Johnny Nguyen. Before he's shot several times, Conan gets to throw one of the bad guys over a counter.

At least he got some licks in. Another bodyguard actor, Greg Jorgensen laments that he "just got killed like some punk".

For Conan, Power Kids was the first Thai movie he acted in, and was the reason he came to Thailand. In writing about his experience, he hits on a point I hadn't pondered:

[A]s I watched it I have to admit it is a children's movie. In fact the only other people in the cinema when I watched it ... was a really old lady with a bunch of young kids.

Several central themes like the remote-control car (including the awesome camera work and heart-pumping music in the race scene) clearly show that the target market is small children, so I found myself rather bored at times watching the film.

I'll admit I kind of dug the RC racing scenes -- possibly some of the best filmed scenes in the movie.

Power Kids is rather violent though, which will be its main selling point. I think it exceeds the level of violence allowed for a G rating in the U.S., but it might be okay for a PG rating. I wonder how it would have been rated under the forthcoming Thai motion-picture ratings system?

Back to Conan, who says he might be leaving Thailand soon. He has a funny story about chewing betel nut as a pick-me-up because he was tired after watching Power Kids.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ananda Everingham still recuperating from motorcycle crash

Sometimes it takes awhile for news about Thai celebrities to filter into the realm of the English, and this is one of those cases.

And with the help of Lyn of Lyn's Lakorn Blog, I'm finally able to piece something together.

On November 26, a few weeks before the release of his latest movie, Happy Birthday, and just after he had returned from an appearance at Goa's International Film Festival of India, actor Ananda Everingham was seriously injured in a motorcycle crash in Chiang Mai. His bike hit another bike and he was thrown from his ride. He required immediate surgery for a shattered foot.

Visitors in the hospital included Happy Birthday director Pongpat Wachirabunjong and singer Louis Scott. Such celebrity-studded occasions would usually mean photos of an actor laid up in a hospital bed, which seem to be customary for the Thai press, but Ananda begged that no pictures be taken. Smart dude.

He's up and walking around again, obviously, since he's been picking up awards trophies for his work on Happy Birthday.

At the Subhanahongsa Awards, he told reporters that if he can run and jump without feeling pain, he won't need surgery. If he needs surgery, it would take him two months to recuperate, which includes physical therapy.

This should not affect his biggest upcoming project, Insee Dang (Red Eagle). Directed by Wisit Sasanatieng, it's scheduled to start shooting in three to four months. He's to play the lead role in this action film about a masked vigilante crimefighter. It's a reboot of a classic Thai film series from the 1950s and '60s that starred Mitr Chaibancha. It would be Ananda's biggest role yet.

Ananda was quoted on Wednesday by Soopsip in Daily Xpress as saying the motorcycle wreck "ruined my chance of starring in an action film".

But I think he was being self-deprecating, which is one of Ananda's underappreciated gifts -- a refreshing trait in a land where self-deprecation, irony and sarcasm are not generally recognized.

Other upcoming projects include High Society with Aditya Assarat and Kalayaan with Filipino director Adolfo Alix Jr. Both of those are still in development.

In the meantime, Ananda's doing voice acting for an anime, playing a smooth-talking sex-trade trafficker in Intersection, a public-service short by MTV EXIT and USAID.

According to Soopsip, Ananda's also planning to release an autobiographical photo book, telling his life story so far in family snapshots (should be some good ones -- his father is adventurous photojournalist John Everingham). Edit: Soopsip was wrong. Actually, it's going to be a photo book of the 99 days after the wreck.

Through it all, Ananda's been supported by his girlfriend, actress-model Jeed Saengthong.

According to Lyn, Ananda turned up at one of Jeed's recent appearances and presented her with a bouquet of flowers.

And at the Subhanahongsa Awards, Ananda gave an acceptance speech, offering his thanks to the cast and crew of Happy Birthday. Lyn's Lakorn's has more:

Lastly he looked over to his longtime girlfriend, actress Jeed Saengthong, thanked her for always giving him support and encouragement, and to conclude, he looked straight at her tenderly and said "I LOVE YOU".

Sweet right? Apparently not everyone thought so, some were annoyed by his love proclamation. He is telling his girlfriend he loves her which he probably does every day or maybe every other day. Nothing spectacular. Must I tell people to chill every gosh darn day! Come on everyone, “Relax don’t do it, When you want to go to it”. I really don’t know what that means, just sing along anyways.

Yes, that's right. At a ceremony when there were actresses sashaying around in revealing gowns, the most upsetting thing to the culture nannies and squares was a public pronouncement of affection by Thai cinema's top leading man.

Well, if Ananda can make it through rehabbing his injuries, he should be able to handle the petty criticism.

(Thanks Lyn!)