Monday, May 29, 2006

Bangkok Dangerous gets Hollywood treatment

According to this news report, Nicolas Cage will star in the Hollywood remake of the Pang Bros' Bangkok Dangerous. Umm, but the protagonist won't be a mute assassin. It'll be a talking Nicolas Cage.

Oxide and Danny Pang will direct the remake and are to start shooting in Bangkok in August, the AP report says, citing the South China Morning Post.

The brothers will inject new elements into the remake and may also cast Thai, South Korean and Hong Kong actors, Oxide Pang was quoted as saying at the Cannes Film Festival.

Wonder where this fits in with the other projects mentioned? Ah, who knows?

Twitch, meanwhile, has glimpses at solo projects, Danny Pang's Diary and Oxide's Forest of Death.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Another kids' movie from Prachya

Twitch has another glimpse at an upcoming Thai film: Power Kids, by Prachya Pinkaew, and starring Narawan Techaratanaprasert, among other youngsters.

It's a sort-of Spy Kids-type adventure and is in addition to Chocolate.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Some upcoming Thai films that might not suck so bad

Twitch has some glimpses of promotional images from Cannes for three Thai films - Chocolate, Tabunfire and 13.

You'll have to go there to look at them, and read the reader comments while you're there.

Their description of Chocolate is a hell of a lot cooler than it sounded when the movie was first described in another post about Tony Jaa directing Ong Bak 2. Then, it was described as a children's movie. But now, it's about about kick-ass kid in a martial-arts revenge flick that they are comparing to Danny the Dog.

Tabunfire stars Dan Chupong, from Born to Fight (and, supposedly the upcoming Nonzee Nimibutr film, Queens of Pattani), and Panna Rittikrai, the martial-arts choreographer on Ong Bak, Tom Yum Goong, The Bodyguard, director of Born to Fight and director of dozens of Thai B-movie action movies. It marks his return to the screen for the first time in quite some time. It involves buffalo rustlers, black magic and the menstrual blood of a virgin.

13 is a thriller starring Krissada Terrence of Bangkok Loco, and looks to be quite a bit different than that bit of candy-colored mayhem.

(Cross-poublished at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Peter Chan talks Eye sequel, while Pangs eye wuxia

Peter Chan was back in Bangkok recently to promote his Perhaps Love and talk about other upcoming projects, among them another sequel to The Eye, an Asian horror franchise that he's produced and is directed by the Pang Brothers. The first film is being remade by Hollywood.

He told The Nation's Soopsip column that the title of the sequel will either be The Eye 3 or The Eye 11 (if you remember, the third Eye movie was variously called Eye 10 or Eye Infinity) and shooting could begin before the end of this year.

Oxide Pang denies everything. Danny and Oxide, like Peter Chan, are Hong Kong directors, but they have worked extensively in Thailand.

"We don't have any plans to do a sequel of The Eye right now," Oxide was quoted as saying by Soopsip.

However they are interested in making a wuxia film.

"We want to make a sword movie," Oxide said. "It can be either a Chinese-Thai sword movie or a Thai sword movie."

Soopsip then goes on to wonder about the future of the Tony Jaa sword flick, Daab Atamas, which is on hold while Tony makes Ong-Bak 2 and director Prachya Pinkaew is busy with other projects.

If the Pang Bros make their sword flick first, will Tony Jaa's get made? Who knows? Heck, why can't they both get made. Even better, how about the Pangs direct Tony Jaa? But that's just me musing. It's all conjecture at this point.

The Pangs, meanwhile, have had their latest film, Re-Cycle, showing at Cannes. It's a Hong Kong/Thai co-production. A review calls it "imaginative but exhausting".

Back to Peter Chan. Besides a possible Eye sequel, he also has martial arts on his mind. Soopsip says he's planning to remake the 1973 Shaw Bros epic, Blood Brothers, with shooting to start in September.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Weinsteins have a new DVD label and a new name for Tom Yum Goong

Twitch and Kaiju Shakedown are reporting the launch of a new martial arts boutique DVD label by The Weinstein Company and Quentin Tarantino. It'll be called Dragon Dynasty and will feature the upcoming Ong-Bak 2 and something called The Protector, the new U.S. title for Tom Yum Goong.

Born to Fight will also get a Dragon Dynasty release (though it'll be hard to beat the Madman version I just picked up), as well as Sha Po Lang (SPL) (huh, the HK two-disc version is already excellent), Seven Swords and Dragon Squad. Other titles on the label will include 43 movies from Hong Kong's Fortune Star. Like Police Story? Maybe some Sammo Hung stuff as well? Anyway, I have it already.

There's some John Woo stuff: The Killer, Hardboiled, Bullet in the Head and A Better Tomorrow.

And some Jet Li action, including Fist of Legend and Tai Chi Master.

Oh, and now we see what they're doing with the Shaw Brothers titles they optioned, including Lau Kar Leung's 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Eight Diagram Pole Fighter and Heroes of the East, all starring Gordon Liu, Martial Arts of Shaolin, with Lau Kar Leung directing Jet Li, and one of Shaw's best movies of all, King Hu's Come Drink With Me, starring Cheng Pei-pei. And don't forget King Boxer, the movie that started the kung-fu craze in America back in the '70s.

"Each Dragon Dynasty DVD will possess a unique and carefully crafted identity, and will include many groundbreaking, informative and exclusive special bonus features such as rare behind-the- scenes footage, deleted scenes, out-takes, and specially commissioned documentaries and interviews featuring cast members, filmmakers and celebrity enthusiasts of Asian film," says somebody.

I'd be pretty excited if I didn't already own a lot of the titles already and wasn't wise to the tricks that the Weinsteins pull with Asian releases, like re-editing them, dubbing them and re-scoring them.

However, if they do anything with the Shaw Brothers titles, I hope they eliminate the ambient bird noises that Celestial added to their releases. Tweet.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Wisit's third project: The Unseeable

More news has come forth about Wisit Sasanatieng's third film. It's called The Unseeable, and will be produced by Five Star Production., Kung Fu Cult Cinema and Twitch all have details about the film, which were announced over the weekend in Cannes.

It'll be a horror film and will have a script by one of the team from Art of the Devil 2, leaving Wisit to pay sole attention to the visual aspects. It'll be the first time Wisit has directed a film he hasn't had a hand in writing.

ThaiCinema offers a synopsis:

Flashback to the year of 1946, a young pregnant rural girl enters the city of Bangkok to find her lost husband. She rents a boarding house where she meets several strange incidents, especially the widow who is the owner of the house. It has been rumoured that she still sleeps with her dead husband. In seeking of her husband, the desperate girl finds the connection between the widow's husband and her. In the discovery of the truth, she has to encounter something unseeable.

The reports cite Screen Daily, which says the budget is US$2 million, or about 80 million baht. Shooting has already been started and we can look forward to a release around October.

For my money, it's a winning combination -- Wisit's visual style and the script by whoever it is from Art of the Devil 2, a film I didn't pay much attention to when it came out but has since gone on to win awards and gain attention in the West. It's playing at the New York Asian Film Festival.

Meanwhile, Wisit has the Thai historical epic Nam Prix, to be co-produced by Luc Besson's EuropaCorp and Five Star Production and Armful, the martial-arts picture planned by Singapore's One Ton Cinema. But both Nam Prix and Armful are slow to get off the ground, because international funding is involved.

So The Unseeable will keep Wisit's visual style in front of everyone's eyes for the time being.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thai horror roundup

I will continue to underestimate the power of horror films and the interest people have in them, and it will be my downfall.

Ghost of Mae Nak has been picked up by Tartan for sale in the UK and US.

This is just part of a roundup of Thai horror film news that Kung Fu Cult Cinema has been reporting in recent days.

Twitch also has a review of Ghost of Mae Nak.

A Thai film, directed by British writer-director Mark Duffield, Ghost of Mae Nak is about a young couple in Bangkok who are haunted by the legendary ghost, most famously depicted in Nang Nak by Nonzee Nimibutr and in nearly two dozen other Thai films over the years. Nak is a woman who died in childbirth while her husband was off fighting a war. He returns home to his loving wife and bouncing baby boy and senses nothing wrong at first, but then the reality of the situation becomes clear. To drive out the spirits, a revered Buddhist monk knocked a hole in the forehead of Nak's corpse and kept the relic as a talisman.

KFC Cinema also has news about Alone and Body, a couple of upcoming horror flicks from GMM Tai Hub. The website of Thai film studio GTH (Shutter, Dorm) has updated with a couple of posters and synopses for a couple of their upcoming films alone (from the same director of Shutter) and Body. Both are set for late 2006/early 2007 releases.

The story of a long-lost Siamese twin, Alone is directed by the Shutter duo, Parkpoom Wongpoom and Banjong Pisanthanakun and stars Marsha Watanapanich.

Then there's Body, which somehow involves a murderer trying to dispose of a body by cutting it up with a surgical scalpel and flushing it down the toilet. This resembles an actual case here in Thailand a few years ago, when a prominent doctor was convicted and sentenced to death for dismembering his wife, who was also a physician. In Body, directed by Paween Purijitpanya, a man sees the crime happening in his dreams and comes to believe that the dead woman is sending him messages that speak of revenge: "I am still here."

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

In memoriam: Cherd Songsri

Thai director, screenwriter and producer Cherd Songsri passed away on May 20, 2006 in Ramathibodi Hospital in Bangkok. He had battled cancer for the past four years.

Both The Nation and the Bangkok Post had obituaries. MovieSeer has a profile and interview done in 2001, when he made his last film, Behind the Painting.

He got his start carving shadow puppets from animal skins. He was also a schoolteacher and a magazine editor, as well as a writer of television and radio shows. His first picture was called Norah. It was made in 1966 on 16mm, and was one of the biggest hits of the 16mm era in Thailand.

Cherd was a staunchly independent director. When it's said that he was a director, screenwriter and producer, it really means it -- he did all those tasks on all his pictures. So I guess that makes him the godfather of the Thai indie film movement.

He was also the first Thai director to make movies with international audiences in mind. He got the idea to make films about his idealized vision of Thai culture from the olden days after he went to film school at UCLA and thought it would be great to show old Siam to the world.

Among his films was Plae Chow (The Old Scar), from 1977, which is a fondly remembered classic tale of doomed lovers in rural Thailand. It won a prize at the Three Continents Festival at Nantes, France in 1981.

I'd have to see it again, but I think Adirek "Uncle" Watleela managed to get Cherd on set for a brief appearance in last year's Ghost Variety, in which just about every Thai director or producer made an appearance.

He's written a book about his cancer fight, A Diary of Death.

Cherd is said to have been elusive about his age, saying he stopped counting birthdays when he was 28. But The Nation said he was 75.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thai Night at Cannes

Rotten Tomatoes' Jen Yamato and the rest of her crew continue their coverage of the Cannes Film Festival, and the parties. They hit Thai night!

Soon enough it was time to head to another party, this time to the Bangkok Film Festival party held at the Carlton. Thai appetizers, oodles of noodles, and an open bar: cool. Bottles of Thai Coca-Cola? Super cool! Oh yeah, and [Princess Ubol Rattana] was in attendance to greet the revelers and endorse her nation's cinema.

Of course, the 100,000 euro event was set up to announce the dates for the Bangkok International Film Festival. Mark your calendars. It will be held January 26 to February 5, 2007.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

More from Criticine

In an earlier post about Criticine, I missed another Thai-related article: An interview with Suparp Rimtheparthip and Thida Plitpholkarnpim, the editors of Bioscope magazine, a Thai-language cinema magazine that's been a supporter of the indie film movement in Thailand.

They have some things to say, like this:

The problem with Thailand is that it does not see film as part of culture. We think that culture is khon traditional dancing or prohibiting spaghetti straps. The government is trying, but when they do, they only view it in terms of sustainable economics. The film festival is therefore organized by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Making use of Thailand as a film location for foreigners is seen only in financial dimensions, in terms of how much money it will rake in. We never understand how film is culture.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Review: Khan Kluay

  • Directed by Kompin Kemnumgird
  • Released in Thai cinemas on May 18, 2006
  • Rating: 3/5

The first Thai CGI cartoon feature to be released offers such contrasts and ranges of emotions, I'm not so sure the kids get it. For such a cartoony-looking 3-D cartoon, the laughs are few and far between in Khan Kluay, though there are some rollicking action sequences and probably the best footage of an elephant battle that will ever be committed to film.

The characters are weird - funny shaped and blobby looking, the elephants are the colors of cotton candy. The hero is blue, his girlfriend is pink and wears a flower in her ear.

Yet the movement is detailed. The way the elephants just serenely hang out and casually flap their ears is something I've picked up on just from checking out the real pachyderms up at Ayutthaya, the Lampang elephant conservation center and sometimes on the streets of Bangkok. You can tell the animators spent many hours studying the movement of elephants

And for all the weirdness of the character designs -- humans are the strangest of all -- the backgrounds are stunning. Blades of grass, flowers, trees, the skies, the rivers and rice paddies -- they all look absolutely real. Heck, for all I know about the animation process they could be real.

But let's get to the story and all those crazy emotions.

Khan Kluay is an elephant born in the jungle. He is so named by his grandma because his "back gently slopes like a banana stalk ... I guess that's what I'll call you. "Khan kluay" is banana stalk in Thai.

The little elephant grows up playing hide-and-seek in the lotus pond with his friends, the frogs. Meanwhile, the other little-kid elephants -- bullies and brats -- play wargames and bully each other, until they decide to play soccer with a frog and taunt Khan Kluay for not having a father. Khan Kluay loses his temper and fights the bullies and wins.

He's beat up, though, and sheepishly tries to hide the swollen eye from his mother.

Later, he asks about his dad. There's a flashback to a battle -- quite a contrast from the lush, peaceful jungle to this smoky battlefield. Khan Kluay's dad is facing an evil Burmese elephant of mammoth proportions -- the elephant from hell.

Khan Kluay decides he's going to go find his dad. He runs into a Burmese camp. Stirs up the guards. Is saved by a little prince (who has a gift for calming Khan Kluay and the pair instantly bond). Khan Kluay keeps running and falls off a cliff and into a river. He washes up in a spooky elephant graveyard. He's limping.

He finds a girl elephant (voiced by Narawan Techaratanaprasert), but can't find his own herd. So the girl takes him to hers -- it's a human village. Khan Kluay has been betrayed, but with his bum leg, he's soon captured.

He can't believe that elephants and humans work together. I wonder if anyone got the elephants' viewpoint on this?

His leg heals. Some bandits come to the village. There's no seven samurai to save them. Besides, the bandits have mean a tiger and a pack of wild, snarling civit cats (that look like Scrat from Ice Age, which was a movie that director Kompin Kemnumgird worked on previously). The weaselly critters rip flesh and leave the girl elephant hurt, but Khan Kluay triumphs.

He pitches in to help. And the next time the bandits come around (years pass by), he's ready with some Muay Thai moves. Hold that tiger.

Word from the palace comes down. Ayutthaya is no longer a vassal state of Hongsa (Burma), and the Ayutthaya king calls for an elephant roundup to prepare for battle.

Khan Kluay goes to the tournament and is doing well, especially for his size. He's smaller than the rest of the elephants, but is determined. Then his long-lost mother sees him and distracts him. He goes nuts. But then the king shows up. It's King Naresuan the Great, who was captured as a little boy by the Burmese. He was a Burmese prince for a time, and was taught all the ways of war by the the Burmese king. Funny how he faces them in battle as an adult isn't it? But that's history. And of course, he was the little boy who saved Khan Kluay in that army camp years ago.

I have to admit, I got all choked up with the human-to-elephant bonding.

And then there's a final big battle scene, which actually took place in 1592 on the Saraburi plain -- possibly the last great elephant battle in history. Khan Kluay must face that elephant from hell that his father faced.

But there's a message of sacrificing yourself for your country's sake -- a jingoistic, nationalistic bit of hokum that really has no place in a cartoon like this -- unless that cartoon is trying to be more than just a cartoon. I mean, everyone has to make sacrifices, but what kind of message is it for kids to say you have to fight and die to save your country?

It sure as heck isn't Miyazaki. Not yet anyway. It's more like Dreamworks, all dressed up with a weak story, though not near as funny. Still, it's a good start for Thai 3D animation. Everyone who worked on this film has learned something from their veteran director, so hopefully there will be more, and along with them, stories with a more peaceful, compelling message.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

New articles at Criticine

The new issue of Criticine is up. In this issue, editor Alexis A Tioseco takes great pains to explain why the scholarly Southeast Asian film journal based in Manila hasn't had much on Thai film. It's because of the language difference; most of the other countries with developed film industries - Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia - have a history co-productions and share better fluency in English (because they were colonized, while Thailand managed to keep itself isolated). But Criticine hopes to increase content on Thai cinema with more translations of articles from Thai publications.

This issue features two interviews, of Bangkok Post film critic Kong Rithdee and with Apichatpong Weerasethakul, both conducted by indie filmmaker Thunska Pansittivorakul for Siam Contemp, a magazine published by the Thai Culture Ministry.

Kong's interview is excellent. He explains quite succinctly what the Thai film industry is doing right, and what it's doing wrong. He talks about why the Korean film industry has been so successful while the Thai industry - though well advertised - is fumbling. He sounds off about the Bangkok International Film Festival - the star-studded, red-carpet party thrown each year at taxpayer expense.

Apichatpong's interview goes in-depth, talking about what film personally means to him, but also about the state of the Thai industry, which he terms as "not professional enough", a systemic problem that goes to the very root of the Thai educational system and society:

Thailand is plagued by the greed of a small group of powerful individuals - greedy people who do not think of creating anything beneficial for the country, unlike Korea or Hollywood.

The big news though is that his New Crowned Hope project is now called Syndromes and a Century.

It had been called Intimacy and Turbulence, but has changed. Here's an excerpt that explains:

Thunska: At first, I heard that it was about your father and mother?

Apichatpong: It’s not anymore. There’s still some element of them in it. I began with my parents’ story, but it has sprung to other things. When I met the actors, when I found the location, there were other stories combined and added in. I try not to limit it—I allow it to flow whichever way it goes. It is very exciting.

He also talks about other upcoming project, Utopia, famously called his "caveman" picture, and Heartbreak Pavilion, which he's producing and is co-directed by Thunska and Sompot Chidgasornpongse.

(Via Twitch; cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ong-Bak 2 billboard in Cannes

The Rotten Tomatoes crew is in Cannes, where Senh snapped a great photo of an Ong Bak 2 billboard.

I'll be watching their group blog for more coverage from the festival, where the Tourism Authority of Thailand's big Thai night bash is at the Carlton tonight. Wonder if they RT gang will crash the party?

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Thailand gets the Code

Thailand can be a great place for movies. But lately it hasn't been so great.

Government censors bowed to the demands of Christian groups and said they would chop the final 10 minutes of The Da Vinci Code, thus rendering the movie incomprehensible. But, Columbia Pictures appealed the ruling, and now the movie will be shown in Thailand uncut.

Somehow, it didn't seem fair that a group of influential Christians actually got to see the entire movie and decided that no one else - no matter what their faith is - should see it. Religion is a tricky thing.

The Da Vinci Code will still have disclaimers in Thai at the beginning and end that the movie is a work of fiction.

The tussle over The Da Vinci Code comes after a film company postponed the release of Lucky Loser, after diplomatic concerns by Laos were raised that the sports comedy and its depiction of Lao athletes with their underarm hair dyed blond might offend Lao people.

However, there was the movie Ghost Game, which offended the Cambodian government because it exploited the Khmer Rouge atrocities for the sake of a teen horror film. Despite Cambodian diplomatic protests and pleas from survivors of the brutal regime's torture, nothing was done to stop that film from being shown.

Thailand, with its rich history and culture, still has a lot of maturation to do when it comes to its handling of films.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

More pulpy B-movie action!

The popularity of Tony Jaa, Ong-Bak and Tom Yum Goong is bringing more of Thailand's hard-working, hard-hitting B-movie directors to the fore.

The latest is Chartchai Maliwan, a veteran filmmaker who was a director at the studio where Tony Jaa's mentor, Panna Rittikrai, got his break into the movie biz.

The company, Pechpunna Production, did some early Tony Jaa titles, including Mission Hunter II, Wild Spirit Killer, Hard Gun and Battle Worrior (spelling's from the movie poster). They also did Panna's first Born to Fight.

Twitch has details about Dead End, including links to the movie's website and a trailer.

Dead End stars an action man named Michael B, who did some stunts in Ong-Bak. He's no Tony Jaa, but then, there's only one guy like that. Still, Dead End looks like a lot of fun.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Thai soccer movie postponed over Lao concerns

With the Cambodian government still upset over the Thai horror film Ghost Game and its making light of the Khmer Rouge's Tuol Sleng torture center, the Lao government warned that another upcoming film could harm relations with their country, reports The Nation.

Since the government first raised its concerns last week, the issue has escalated, and now the film company, GTH Films, is postponing the film. It was due to be released on May 18, but is now on hold, The Nation reports.

Mak Te (Lucky Loser) portrays Lao people as inept rustics who are incapable of putting together a World Cup-worthy football team - until they hire a Thai coach.

Officials said they feared a Lao version of the January 2003 anti-Thai riots that erupted in Cambodia after false press reports quoted a Thai actress saying Cambodia's ancient Angkor Wat temples should be returned Thailand.

"The best way to deal with the current situation is to halt the release of the film", said GTH chief Visute Poolworalaks.

He said the film, which had a budget of more than Bt60 million (about $1.5 million), had already been cut to avoid the possibility of offending people. "We've already removed many scenes that might possibly be too sensitive to the relationship between the two countries."

Still, the outrage over the film was a surprise.

"GTH always thought that whoever saw the film, whether Thai or Laotian, would like it. So this is very unexpected," he said.

The film's director, Adisorn Tresirikasem, described it as an entertaining story about the football dreams of Asians. But if it did not serve that purpose, he supported the company's decision not to release it, Adisorn said.

"But I still believe in the film and would love people to see it so they will get answers to any doubts they may have," he said.

Producer Jira Maligool said those involved in the project had good intentions. The films GTH makes are carefully thought out to please all audiences, and are produced with good intentions, Jira said.

"I was very happy over the past two years with this film project. I hoped that it would be popular among audiences in Southeast Asia," he said.

Jira said that originally the film was three hours long, but the production team decided to cut many scenes they thought might be sensitive in terms of relations with Laos. The final cut is less than two hours long, he said.

After the press preview last week, the Lao Embassy expressed concern over the film and GTH sent a copy to the embassy for viewing.

Jira said the Lao officials liked many parts of the film but found some parts inappropriate.

"I want to say that the ultimate message of the film is all about the dreams we share, especially about football," he said."All Asian people have a dream and we still pursue our dream despite our difficulties."

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Brett Ratner wants Tony Jaa

Hey, Tony Jaa. Quick, re-arrange your calendar. Brett Ratner wants you to appear in Rush Hour 3, according to Coming Soon.

Ratner's wish list also includes NBA star Yao Ming, Bollywood beauty Aishwarya Rai and the smouldering Gong Li, last seen in Memoirs of a Geisha and soon to be seen in Miami Vice.

Trouble is, Tony Jaa has a full plate already, as he's directing Ong-Bak 2, and will likely move straight on to his next project, Sword.

But Ratner is oblivious to all this and can hardly contain himself.

"I'll tell you who I'm going after," he was quoted as saying. "I want Yao Ming, the basketball player, to be in it. I want to recreate the fight sequence from the Bruce Lee movie [that's Game of Death, Brett] where he fights Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but I want to do the reverse; I want Chris Tucker to fight Yao Ming. I want that to happen. I want Aishwarya Rai and I would love Gong Li to be in the movie. There's some people that I want, but I don't know if I'll be able to get them. Tony Jaa I want, too. I love him."

Rush Hour 3, the long-talked-about third installment in the buddy-cop franchise featuring a motor-mouthed wiseacre LA cop (Chris Tucker) and a stoic Hong Kong detective who's a martial arts expert, played by Jackie Chan. It starts filming this summer in New York and Paris, despite that Jackie is less than enthused to be a part of the proceedings.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Chatchai's mystery infection

Chatchai Plengpanich, the award-winning leading man from Necromancer and Hit Man File, has been treated for a mysterious infection that could have left him paralyzed if he hadn't been treated in time, The Nation reported today.

"He is recuperating. The original symptoms when he was first admitted were regarded as severe," Dr Manoon Leechawengwong of Vichaiyut Hospital was quoted as saying.

Manoon said he didn't know how an excessive amount of bacteria had entered the actor's circulatory system, which caused a lowering of his immune system and severe muscle weakness.

"Exercise alone does not guarantee a strong immune system," he said, referring to the 46-year-old actor's exercise regimen and his regular participation in sporting events.

"Rest is equally important. Sleep is vital. Everything needs to be balanced. Enough exercise, enough rest and enough food. Anyone of these done excessively is not beneficial," Manoon told The Nation. "Like running, it could cause bones to deteriorate or some women to stop menstruating if done too much," he said.

Dr Somphon Bunnakhupt, an expert on infectious diseases, said Chatchai's original symptoms were similar to the those suffered by singer Big of the boy-band trio D2B two years ago. Somphon said the medication used to treat Chatchai was made locally, unlike that used for Big (Parawat Kittikorn) which was expensive and had to be imported.

The young singer had a road accident in which his car plunged into a polluted canal. The bacteria in the water entered his nasal passages and eventually into his brain. Big survived after months of treatment that cost millions of baht, but he suffered severe brain damage.

Other causes of bacteria entering the body include chronic infections, animal bites and even ordinary skin rashes.

(Cross-published at the Rotten Tomatoes)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Citizen Dog going to France

Twitch reports that Citizen Dog is getting a theatrical release in France. It's due out on July 12.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Stories from the North awarded at Jeonju fest

In more news to catch up on, Stories from the North, by Uruphong Raksasad, won the JJ-Star Award at the Jeonju International Film Festival, which ran from April 27 to May 5.

The 87-minute indie feature ran in the festival's Digital Spectrum section. here's more about it and the director from the festival's website:

Uruphong decided to make a film about a village in northern Thailand where he was born after thinking of his project since graduating from university. This short film March of Time is named after some newsreel films. It is the first chapter of Stories from the North. Uruphong was skeptical about industry that pursues only for money and profits while he worked at Thai TV and a major studio. He explores the dark side of industrialization as well as his love for natural life in the film.

Also at Jeonju this year, Pen-ek Ratanaruang was among the directors taking part in the annual Digital Short Films by Three Directors. His piece was called Twelve Twenty, about a man in an airport who suddenly falls in love with a woman at the check-in counter on the other side of the lobby.

Eric Khoo from Singapore had No Day Off, about maids in Singapore (always a controversial subject) and Darezhan Omirbayev from Khazakhstan contributed About Love, about a lonely math teacher who meets a former student by chance and then falls in love with the alumnus' wife.

I'll try to keep my eyes out for future screenings of these films.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

An Armful of poster

Twitch has come up with a conceptual poster for Armful, which Singaporean production company One Ton Cinema is trying to get Wisit Sasanatieng to direct. The good folks at Kung Fu Cinema noticed this too, which in this fast-paced world was where I noticed it.

Now, as I write this, I sense a slow rumble fanning out across the ground, which I think emanates from the offices of Five Star Production, which has said before that Wisit, the visionary director of Tears of the Black Tiger and Citizen Dog, is supposed to be working on a Thai historical epic called Nam Prix, NOT Armful.

But Wisit actually worked up this wonderful poster himself to help One Ton drum up interest at the Cannes Market.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Rice People DVD release

Better than Ghost Game for sure, Rithy Panh's The Rice People is getting a DVD release in the US. It's due out on May 30, and is available from Amazon.

A soul-crushing masterpiece from 1994, it's the story of a Cambodian family struggling to grow rice and simply live in rural Cambodia in the years following the Khmer Rouge.

It's being released by Facets Multimedia, which also has Rithy's powerful S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine, his documentary in which Cambodian artist Vann Nath and others held by the Khmer Rouge at Toul Sleng confront their former captors and try in vain to get them to apologize for what they did.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

"Sensitivity training for Thai filmmakers

Reacting to the Cambodian backlash about the Thai horror film Ghost Game, which depicted the Khmer Rouge's Tuol Sleng torture center, Thailand's Ministry of Culture will call a meeting with film producers to ensure that they are aware of the importance of cultural sensitivity, the Bangkok Post reported yesterday.

Cultural Monitoring Center watchdog Ladda Tangsupachai will take a break from censoring and banning DVDs to put on the meeting will take place later this month or early next month.

''I believe the film producers did not mean to offend Cambodians. They were just careless and poorly informed about our neighbor's culture,'' she was quoted as saying by the Post.

Cambodian cultural officials had called on their Thai counterparts to yank the film from cinemas, but Ladda said the ministry won't do that.

''We cannot do so. When foreign filmmakers make films that irritate Thais, we have never asked them to stop their release,'' she says.

For reference on that, see the movie The Elephant King, which has generated a little criticism in Thailand for its negative depiction of the Kingdom.

Ghost Game
has drawn criticism from the Cambodian Ministry of Culture, which has imposed a ban on it.

The Post quoted a press release from the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, which called on Thai authorities to ''act in a responsible manner and interrupt the showing of this movie in Thailand'' and lambasted Tifa Co, the producer of the film, as having been ''deeply disrespectful to the memories of the victims of this tragedy, which diminishes the extreme gravity of the events Cambodian people have endured during the Khmer Rouge era.''

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Upcoming films: Khan Kluay, Noo Hin

I've been hunting around for downloadable trailers for the animated feature, Khan Kluay, but haven't had much luck (update: the website now has a crappy Flash trailer, which Twitch noticed). But I did find a gallery of stills over at Deknang.

After initially being a little put off by the character design (I thought it was too cute!), I've considerably warmed up to Khan Kluay, the first animated feature film to be produced and released in Thailand since 1979's cel-animated feature, The Adventure of Sudsakorn. I actually think it's pretty sweet and that the film is going to be awesome.

The animator, Kompin Kemgumnird, worked on Disney's Tarzan and Blue Sky Studios' Ice Age before returning to Thailand to work on Khan Kluay. Some of the character designs in Khan Kluay are very similar to Ice Age, especially a pair of what I think are civet cats, who bear a little resemblance to Scrat, the sabretooth squirrel. This is not a problem or criticism. I'm just pointing it out.

It's out in Thai cinemas on May 18.

Update: The Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee reviews the film in today's Real Time section, and blasts it for jingoistic tendencies.

I'm also watching out for Noo-Hin: The Movie, due out in local theaters on June 1. Deknang has a good gallery for that, too.

Produced by Nonzee Nimibutr and directed by Komgrit Treewimol (Fan Chan, Dear Dakanda), I think Noo-Hin is going to be the hit film of the year. It's based on a popular Thai manga, about a plucky little house maid from Thailand's rural northeast (Isaan), who works for an upper-class family in Bangkok.

The actress who portrays the title role is the spitting image of the comic character, and she's a darling. I don't know how else to put it.

Promotional items for the film include a mask of her face, which you attach to your face with a couple of neon green barrets, which are provided with the mask.

She also stars in a "turn your phone off" promo that's showing before some films in local cinemas. It's a parody of a similar promo for Chicken Little, in which the title character was dancing to a techno tune, the phone rings and a chunk of sky falls on him. The Noo-Hin version is preferable.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Enough planning already, just shoot the thing

Shooting for Nonzee Nimibutr's historical epic, Queens of Pattani (Puen Yai Jone Sa Lad), finally gets under way this month after two years of planning, according to today's Soopsip column in The Nation.

A swashbuckling adventure about pirates in the Gulf of Thailand 400 years ago, the movie is set in the Pattani kingdom in the south of Thailand during the Ayutthaya era. The script is by Seawrite winner Win Liawarin.

Choopong Diaw Changprung (aka Dan Choopong) from Born To Fight and Ananda Everingham from Shutter star. Not sure who the aforementioned Queens of the title are portrayed by.

Part of the hold-up probably had to do with funding. Originally conceived as a two-part epic, the project was green-lighted by Sahamongkol Films with a budget of more than 200 million baht, but that budget was cut back to 100 million for the two episodes, Soopsip says.

Seems that Nonzee, who was among Thailand's "new wave" of directors back in the late 1990s and used to have a lot of juice in the local film industry, has lost some of his influence.

Not sure how much historical epic 100 million baht (about US$2.5 million) will buy, but Nonzee will start filming village scenes and the seaside footage along Thailand's Eastern Seaboard. At any rate, it's good to hear that the director of such films as Nang Nak and Jan Dara is back at work.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Thai action movies in the news

Twitch reports that The Tiger Blade, a guilty pleasure of mine, is now available on DVD in Canada! Hopefully, it is uncensored.

In other Thai action film news, Twitch has links to a Japanese Tom Yum Goong trailer. They say it's in the same vein of wacky fun as the Born to Fight trailer the Japanese cut awhile back, and that I wish was still online. The Tom Yum Goong preview lacks a little in comparison with the Born to Fight clip, but it's still great fun, especially when a red arrow shows the height of the lamppost (2.5 meters) then Tony does a back-flip kick and shatters the lamp. Best thing, it's downloadable. So go get it.

In a somewhat related development, I was recently checking out more Japanese wackiness, courtesy of Midnight Coffee. They have links to two very graphic music videos and two hilarious energy drink commercials starring two great actors, Susumu Tarajima and Tadanobu Asano.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Monday, May 8, 2006

Yuthlert, Uncle searching for snake lady

Yuthlert Sippapak, the director of Buppha Rahtree and Ghost of Valentine (Krasue Valentine), is sticking with horror movies.

For his next film, he's doing Mia Ngoo (The Snake's Wife) and is searching for a fresh-faced leading lady.

"We want the actress who is able to play with snakes. She must be sexy, too," producer Adirek "Uncle" Watleela, told the Soop Sip column in The Nation earlier this week.

The actress should be aged between 18 and 25.

"We’ll consider actresses from applications and photos. We don't need to do personal interviews," Uncle says.

Uncle and Yuthlert have worked on several projects together, with Uncle having a role in both Buppha Rahtree films and Ghost Valentine as half of a duo of bumbling police officers. He's hilarious. Yuthlert, in turn, had a guest appearance in Uncle's directorial comeback last year, Ghost Variety.

In more flush years, Uncle was a powerful producer, with his own production company, Film Bangkok, which backed such influential Thai films as Bangkok Dangerous, Bang Rajan and Tears of the Black Tiger. Film Bangkok is now shuttered and Uncle's finding his footing again as a director, producer and comic actor.

Anyway, if you're a sexy Thai woman, between ages 18 and 25, and like to handle snakes, and you're willing to work with Yuthlert and Uncle, send a headshot to Filmman Company, 302/42 Suan Suetrong Village, Soi Lat Phrao 71, Wangthonglang, Bangkok 10310 or e-mail

Update: Twitch has conceptual poster art, from Deknang.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Friday, May 5, 2006

Thai films at Cannes

There's a Thai short film selected for this year's Cannes Film Festival this year, a short by Anocha Suwichakornpong called Graceland. The Bankgok Post's Kong Rithdee has more about the film in a story in today's Real Time section.

A master's thesis work for Columbia University, the 17-minute short is one of 17 titles that's been chosen for Cinefondation, a special programme that showcases works by promising film students.

The description from Kong's story makes it sound like 3,000 Miles to Graceland meets Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Blissfully Yours or Tropical Malady: "a Thai Elvis impersonator (played by TV star Sarawut Martthong, at a cut rate that is), lovingly brycleemed and sparklingly sequinned ... journeys with an older woman into the forest in the dead of the night in a futile attempt to heal each other's wounds."

The film was shot on 35mm last year in Bangkok and Khao Yai National Park. All went well until Anocha sat down to look at the footage after the shooting wrapped.

"What I saw was so shocking that I couldn't even cry," she told Real Time. Nearly every frame of the film was smeared with a mysterious blue tint, an effect caused by a camera malfunction.

Not happy with the unintended blue effect, the color was fixed at a Bangkok film lab, costing 2 million baht (about US$50,000) - the biggest ever expenditure for a Thai short film.

Meanwhile, even though there are no Thai features at this year's festival, which in past years has hosted Tears of the Black Tiger, Blissfully Yours and the 2003 Jury Prize winner Tropical Malady, Thailand will still have a big presence on the Croissette.

As for film, the most important thing going on is that Utopia, the latest project by Apichatpong Weerasethakul is included in the Atelier program, which gives exposure to projects by young directors. It's another effort by Apichatpong to drum up support for his film. It was also warmly received at the Hong Kong Filmart.

Then there are the parties, which the Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee details in another story in today's Real Time section.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand, that free-spending, taxpayer-funded agency that brings us the glitzy Bangkok International Film Festival, is sparing no expense to put on a lavish party at Cannes finest hotel, the Carlton. Thai Night Party is May 19. It's 100,000 euro just for the hotel alone, not including the expense of organizing the bash, flying in all the guests and putting on a banquet of "exquisite Royal Thai cuisine". Partygoers can expect an announcement concerning the next edition of the Bangkok International Film Festival, as well as general efforts to promote the beauty of Thailand as a vacation destination and filming location.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Culture, which has access to less money, is sponsoring a six-day trip for cinema professionals. The agenda includes various meetings with film-related institutions from European countries, with the aim of sharing knowledge on cultural management, especially those regarding movies.

And then there are the other Asian films. It's worth noting here, I guess, that the closing film (in the En Certain Regard program) is Re-cycle (actually a Thai co-production) by the Pang Brothers - Hong Kong filmmakers who got their start making movies in Thailand. Gwai Wik (Re-Cycle) is actually a Hong Kong-Thailand co-production, with the involvement of Thailand's Matching Motion Pictures and several Thai crewmembers.

And there's the Cannes Classic section, which features the cool, old school Shaw Bros romp, 14 Amazons, as well as Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicca: Valley of the Wind.

And then I am looking at the jury, headed by Wong Kar Wai, with Monica Bellucci, Helena Bonham Carter, Argentinian director Lucrecia Martel, Zhang Ziyi, Samuel L. Jackson, French director Patrice Leconte, Tim Roth and Palestinian director Elia Suleiman, and I'm thinking what a great movie all these folks might make together.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Art of the Devil 2 at New York Asian Film Fest

A little catching up to do: The New York Asian Film Festival will show last year's Thai horror hit, Art of the Devil 2. The complete lineup of Asian films is listed over at Kaiju Shakedown.

Here's what Grady Hendrix, the festival organizer and keeper of the Kaiju blog, has to say about it:

Forget every Japanese horror movie you’ve ever seen, full of dead, wet, grumpy girls with bad haircuts. Art of the Devil 2 (no familiarity with Art of the Devil 1 required) only owes a sideways debt of paternity to Takashi Miike’s torture/dating film, Audition. A hit at the Thai box office, and winner of numerous audience and technical awards, this slick, sick flick is all about teachers and students and black magic. Eye-searingly beautiful Ms. Panor [Mamee Nakprasert], a teacher in the countryside, has six wonderful students. The wonderful students play a nasty prank on Ms. Panor and her reputation is ruined. Then they all go away to college. When they return to their hometown they discover that Ms. Panor seems happy, and even more beautiful than before. What they don’t know is that Ms. Panor has spent a lot of time learning black magic and summoning demons. What they don’t know is that she is a good teacher who still has lots to teach them. She wants to teach them about pain. She wants them to learn about suffering. She wants to help them open their third eye with a power drill. Directed by a team of seven filmmakers known as the Ronin Team, Art of the Devil 2 will remind you of your special time in high school. That is, if you attended high school in hell.

A sequel in name only, I couldn't get past the gory trailers and stomach-churning poster art to actually go see the movie, but this description makes me wish I had. I'm sure I'll pay for it years from now when the movie is eventually released on DVD overseas with English subtitles.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Tony Jaa to direct Ong-Bak 2

When he says "Action!", he really means it.

Tony Jaa will direct Ong-Bak 2, reports the Soopsip column in today's Nation, which confirms rumors that have been floating about for the past several weeks.

Filming is expected to start sometime soon, if not already.

Prachya Pinkaew, who helmed Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong, will produce Ong-Bak 2. And Jaa's mentor, action choreographer Panna Rittikrai will still be involved.

The confirmation that Ong-Bak 2 will be Jaa's next feature comes after months of speculation, with the 30-year-old action star's name being tied to a sword-fighting yarn called Daab Atamas and a historical epic called Phraya Phichai, not to mention some high-profile Hollywood projects. Variety even reported Jaa making something called Man of a Thousand Poisons.

"I'm tied up doing my movie right now and the script for Daab isn’t finished yet so [Jaa] asked about being director on the project," Prachya was quoted as saying in Soopsip. He's working on a children's film another project right now, called Chocolate. "The time was right so we agreed."

It appears Ong-Bak 2 is just a working title, and that if the name sticks, it will be a sequel in name only, and will probably not have anything to do with the first film's story of a young man from a poor village named Ting who must fight bad guys to retrieve the stolen head of his village's Buddha image.

"We decided to use the title Ong-Bak 2 because it's immediately recognized wherever we go," Prachya said. "In some countries, the film Tom Yum Goong is called Ong-Bak 2."

Details about the story in Ong-Bak 2 are sketchy for the moment. It had earlier been reported that the film is about "a young man on a journey that teaches him the skills and inner meaning of martial arts."

"It's definitely an action movie and the story is inspired by khon dance," Prachya told Soopsip.

Ong-Bak 2 has already whipped up loads of interest. The Weinstein Company has already purchased the worldwide rights to the film, excluding Asia and the UK.

Meanwhile, if I understand Soopsip correctly, Dab Atamas, or simply Sword, is by no means a dead project. The screenplay is being written by acclaimed writer Prapas Chonsalanon and shooting is expected to start later this year after Prachya finishes Chocolate.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Fan Chan alumni update

Two more of the six directors behind 2003 blockbuster Fan Chan will make their solo debuts this year, Adisorn Tresirikasem with Maak Te (Lucky Loser) and Nithiwat Tharatorn with Phror Arkat Plian Plang Boi (Seasons Change).

They follow Songyo Sugmakanan who made one of this year's highlights, Dorm, and Komgrit Treewimol who did last year's hit, Dear Dakanda. Komgrit follows that up with the upcoming live-action adaptation of the Thai manga, Noo Hin, which looks like loads of fun.

Meanwhile, there's Vijja Kojew, who's concentrating on film editing, according to the Soopsip column today's Nation. He’s doing just great in another branch of moviemaking - editing.

He won a National Film Award for his editing Khomgrit's Dear Dakanda. He was also the primary editor on Fan Chan. He's now running Sawasdee Taweesuk, an independent unit at GTH Film that makes trailers and teasers as well as music videos and commercials.

"We are studying the possibilities of being a firm," he told Soopsip. "Editing is an important part of making films. I love doing it, especially on my friends’ films," he says.

"I don’t have any plans to direct for the next few years. There’s a lot more I want to experience in life first. I need more time to prepare."

Let's see. That just leaves Witthaya Thongyooyong without a mention in the news recently. Wonder what he's up to?

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Monday, May 1, 2006

Genocide: It's not a game

I'm back, after taking a break from the Web while I did some travelling outside Thailand. And I've returned to find a controversy over the new Thai horror film, Ghost Game.

Seems the filmmakers approached the Cambodian government about making a movie at Tuol Sleng Prison, a former high school that was turned into a torture center by the Khmer Rouge. Fearing that the movie - about a fictional reality TV series set in a haunted war museum - would make light of the atrocities that took place under the genocidal regime, permission to film at Toul Sleng was denied.

So the filmmakers returned to Thailand and made a mock-up of Tuol Sleng, right down to the electrified, steel-frame beds with no mattresses and the checker-board pattern floors.

People are none too happy about it.

Executive producer Napat Pavaputanont na mahasarakam, producer Pantham Thongsang and director Sarawut Wichiensarn issued a public apology.

The Nation had an editorial, strongly condemning the movie.

Even Kaiju Shakedown has news about it.

And Youk Chhang, director of Documentation Center-Cambodia, which houses documentation of the Khmer Rouge genocide, has written a full-page article on the Bangkok Post's Outlook section, titled, "Genocide is Not a Game." He writes about his own horrific experiences under the Khmer Rouge. His story is also inspirational and uplifting - it would make a great movie if it were treated with the proper respect.

For further reference on the Khmer Rouge on film, see The Killing Fields, or any of the films of Rithy Panh.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)