Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Lucky Loser gets a new life

Lucky Loser (Mak Tae), the sports comedy that was yanked from release back in May over diplomatic concerns with Laos, will be re-edited and released in October, reports Soopsip in today's edition of The Nation.

The film will now concern a tiny, fictional Southeast Asian country called Aa-wee (which is close enough to the Thai pronunciation of Laos that the dialogue can be convincingly looped). All traces of Laos' flags and national emblems are being removed through editing or through the reshooting of some scenes. About 5 percent of the movie will be changed.

Initially, it looked as if GMM Tai Hub, which spent around 60 million baht on the film, would have to permanently shelve it.

Executives at the production company say they believe the new version won’t cause any trouble with Thailand's neighbours. Ahead of the film's initial release on May 18, the Embassy of the Lao People's Democratic Republic expressed concerns over the movie, saying it might be humiliating to Laotian people and the country's real national football team.

The original story is about a talented Thai football coach who is turned down by national squad. When his aunt wins first prize in the lottery, she decides to sponsor the Laotian team, which beats the Thai squad in the qualifying round and makes it through to the World Cup.

The Laotian players are put through their paces, being forced to train in refrigerator containers in order to acclimate themselves to European weather. They also dye their hair (including their armpits) blond, to emulate their favorite European football stars.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Friday, August 25, 2006

More updates on Tony Jaa in US; looking for female co-star for Ong-Bak 2

With Tom-Yum-Goong (also known as The Protector) opening in the US on September 8, Tony Jaa is in the States on a promotional tour. Kaiju Shakedown has an extensive write up on his appearance at the Museum of the Moving Image. Twitch has more, including a link to the US trailer of The Protector and news about a trailer for an older Tony Jaa film, Spirited Killer, which has turned up on YouTube.

Also, Rotten Tomatoes' own Senh Duong interviews Tony Jaa, who says "yes yes!" to possible Indiana Jones 4 role and "no" to Rush Hour 3.

Also Kaiju Shakedown has links to video footage of the Museum of the Moving Image appearance.

And while Panna Rittikrai is busy doing martial-arts choreography for Prachya Pinkaew's upcoming female action heroine flick, Chocolate, Jaa is getting things moving with Ong-Bak 2, which he'll direct and write under his own production company Iyara (which means elephant), according to Soopsip in The Nation on Wednesday. And he's looking for a fresh-faced female co-star. She must look Thai, be between 18 and 22 years of age and stand 165 to 170 cm. She should also be able to play traditional Thai music and perform traditional dance. The deadline for applications is August 31. For more information, call (02) 273 0930-9 ext 140.

Also: Flickr photo set and SF Chronicle interview.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Doctors upset about Cadaver

Hardly a week can go by in Thailand without a newly released movie upsetting someone.

The offender this week is a horror film called Cadaver, which has physicians up in arms, according to Soopsip in The Nation on Wednesday.

The Thai title of the film was Ajaan Yai, which is the Thai term for cadavers used for medical school training. It means "the principal" and is meant to be a term of respect for those who donate their bodies for research.

In the movie, the donation of the cadaver is being used to cover up a crime, but to be able to rest in peace, the dead man's spirit asks for help from a terrified young female student (Natthamonkarn Srinikornchot) to track down his murderer.

Doctors were offended by the film's title, which they said makes like of a time-honored term of respect.

To stem the outrage, the title of the film has been changed to Sop, which means simply "corpse".

"We're doing everything we can to comply with the requests of the group in order to be able to release the film on schedule," Sahamongkol Film marketing director Awika Techaratanaprasert is quoted as saying. "We have already called back all the promotional materials they found offensive and have put out information to make it clear that this is a work of fiction, not a true story."

Now, for my part, I'm not normally into the horror movies. They're too scary. But I've seen Audition, so how bad can this be? So yeah, I'm interested in seeing this, and this was before it become mildly controversial.

Meanwhile, Ghost Game, a movie that Cambodians found offensive because it made light of the Khmer Rouge horrors, has been shown in Singapore as part of the Sawasdee Film Festival. Channel NewsAsia has a review.

See also:
(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mixed Messengers

News from both Twitch and Kaiju Shakedown, via Bloody Disgusting: The Pang Bros. first Hollywood effort, The Messengers, has required reshoots by another director that is not the Pangs.

The movie, about a haunted sunflower farm in the Upper Midwestern US, is from Sam Raimi's Ghost House production company. Bloody Disgusting seems to know who the hired gun is, but they're not naming him. The film stars Kristen Stewart, Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller and John Corbett and is expected hit theaters in North America on January 19.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Review: Mercury Man

  • Directed by Bhandit Thongdee
  • Produced by Pracha Pinkaew
  • Starring Wasan Khantaau, Matinee Kingpoyom, Arnon Saisangchan, Jinvipa Kheawkunya, Parinya Kiatbusaba
  • Wide release in Thailand on August 10, 2006

Sylvester Stallone might have shied away from taking on Osama bin Laden in his planned Rambo sequel (he’s going after Burma instead), but a new Thai superhero, Mercury Man, embraces the FBI's most-wanted terrorist as a major plot point in his story.

The latest martial-arts action film from the makers of Ong-Bak and Tom Yum Goong has an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink plot, where characters and elements keep getting thrown in, in hopes that something will work. The result is a dizzying, and needlessly complex plot involving an international terrorist conspiracy led by a character named Osama bin Ali, Khmer black magic and Tibetan amulets.

What’s good about Mercury Man is the martial arts, choreographed by veteran action man Panna Rittikrai, Tony Jaa’s mentor who did the honors for Ong-Bak and Tom Yum Goong. So there are plenty of muay Thai kicks and elbows to the forehead.

A wannabe Spider-Man or X-Men, Mercury Man does feature some convincing computer-graphic animation, like when the hero is doing a high dive from the top of the Rama IX Bridge. The movements are fluid and the rendering flawlessly blends with the live-action characters.

On the downside are that insane plot and the script, which overburdens the Thai actors with a lot of clunky English dialogue. But for action fans and folks looking for the next cult film, those could be selling points.

The story starts out in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where a group of young boys are gambling in the back of one of the Angkor Wat temples. The object of their game is to guess when a stopwatch will stop; it won’t be on zero – it stops due to the mental manipulations of a little boy. The gamblers are rousted out by the cops, one of whom takes an interest in the telepath, and the kid is not seen again until much later.

Cut to Tibet – a band of travellers is looking for a temple with a sacred amulet. When soldiers block their way, out come some nasty looking curved blades and the soldiers are no more. These are the real villains, or one of them at least - Metinee "Look Ked" Kingpoyom. She finds the temple, and though a youthful female guardian (Jinvipa Kheawkunya) with formidable martial arts skills is guarding the amulet, Look Kad, or Areena as she is called, defeats her and takes the amulet.

Cut to Bangkok, finally. A heroic firefighter, Chan (Wasan Khantaau), risks all to save a baby from burning building. Thing is, the fire is for practice and the baby is just a doll. Chan, always playing the hero and never willing to work with the team, is called on the carpet again by the fire chief. He is demoted to watching the equipment room.

But soon a real fire alarm comes in. There’s a blaze at the prison. But the fire has been started as a diversion for a prison break. Areena and her men are breaking out their leader – the international terrorist Osama bin Ali (Arnon “Phu Blackhead” Saisangchan).

Chan, who’s bluffed his way onto the firefighting line, busts in on the breakout and tries once again to play the hero. Chan finds himself stabbed with a mysterious amulet that drives a mercury-like fluid into his veins. The hot firefighter is now a super-heated superhero.

Concerned about the changes his body is going through, Chan has some strange visions involving a monk, who tells him about keeping a cool heart (jai yen), but if he finds that his heart is hot, he must use that power. Then that female guardian from the Tibetan temple pops up out of nowhere to tell Chan what has happened to him – the amulet has given him a superpower that he must learn to control. If he has the slightest emotion – anger or passion – his body will overheat and his clothes will burst into flames.

Later at home he tests that theory. This is probably the first time a superhero in a family comic-book movie uses a Penthouse magazine to see if he gets all hot and bothered. And, sure enough, after lingering over the pages of lewdly posed, buxom blondes, his jeans are afire.

Chan lives with his mother (Darunee Khrittabhunyalai) and has a brother who’s now a sister, portrayed by none other than the Beautiful Boxer herself, Parinya "Nong Toom" Kiatbusaba.

Deciding to use that power, he instructs his big sis to sew him a superhero costume out of some fire-proof cloth (it just so happens that sis is an expert superhero costume designer, as well as a kick-ass kickboxer, who manages to get a few well-placed kicks in a number of action setpieces).

Next is a montage of the "dark hero" high-diving from the top of the Rama VIII Bridge to stop some fleeing crooks. He puts a halt to a bank robbery. He captures some rampaging elephants (that had become enraged by the mind-control of that creepy little Cambodian boy). And, he stops a drunken driver from running down a garland seller, yet the scene still manages to advertise a major beer brand. Funny how that works.

Meanwhile, Osama bin Ali is urging his terrorist network on. How they understand him is beyond comprehension, for his English is so heavily accented, subtitles are needed to see what he’s saying. Poor Phu Blackhead. His voice should have been dubbed over, or maybe he could have just spoken Thai and had a translator. Or perhaps his character could have been done away with completely, to let Look Ked star as the chief villain rather than a lackey.

In a clumsy bit of exposition, there’s a flashback to Afghanistan, to see how Osama copped such a huge resentment against the United States and the Western world.

Osama's bombers fan out across Bangkok. One, an attractive young woman, takes a seat in a Khao San Road cafe. A strapping American lad talks her up. She bats her eyes and says, I kid you not: "May the force be with you," as she triggers her bomb. It's a chilling proposition – having terrorists pick such targets, but scene only generated laughter for the audience.

Using the combined power of the Sun and the Moon amulets, Osama hopes to rule the world, or destroy it. Trouble is the Sun amulet is now in the body of Chan, leaving the terrorists with just the Moon amulet. There’s some scientific mumbo jumbo to explain it all, but the upshot is that the Sun amulet does not contain mercury at all; it's uranium. But Uranium Man just doesn’t sound as cool as Mercury Man.

To get the Moon amulet, Osama kidnaps Chan’s mother and sister, which leads eventually to a big confrontation at the Royal Thai Navy base in Sattahip. It involves a missile being a fired at an American ship (that is apparently being sailed by officers of Britain’s Royal Navy, or at least extras from England), and the anti-aircraft guns on the aircraft carrier, HTMS Chakri Nareubet, being fired to save the day.

That little Cambodian boy is using his mind control for something or other. Osama doses himself with a chemical weapon. And Areena stabs herself with the Moon amulet and turns into an acrobatic ice queen. But she dare not bare herself with a form-fitting painted-on costume like Mystique in the X-Men. No nudity please, we're Thai! So Areena has some demurely icy shorts and a halter-top worked into the latex costume design.

Throughout the film there are references to Spider-Man. The fire chief tells Chan, "With great fires comes great responsibility." There are spray-painted notes to Spidey in the scenery. And whenever possible it seems, there are children wearing Spider-Man T-shirts. It's unknown what the filmmakers hope to accomplish by this, other than just trying to be cute.

They did it in Ong-Bak, with notes in the scenery to Luc Besson (who in turn bought the rights to the film and distributed it throughout the world) and Steven Spielberg (who has yet to call). It was funny then, but now it's just annoying. Do they honestly think Mercury Man will find his way into a Hollywood superhero film anytime soon?

There's a rich tradition of Thai mythology that already exists. Maybe someday Mercury Man can join forces with characters from the Ramakien or the stories of Sunthorn Phu (or Sek Loso)? Or maybe he could settle for helping Rambo defeat the generals in Burma?

See also:
Related posts:

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Sek Loso vs Noi of Pru

It's like being back in the 1800s, when word of events in other parts of the globe would take weeks to gradually trickle in. Only, now the Internet and You Tube are involved.

Weeks after the Ramakien: A Rak Opera performances at the Lincoln Center, the events of the show, specifically Sek Loso and Noi of Pru being involved in a fight onstage, are finally starting to hit the Thai press and gossip columns.

A video of the fight - showing Sek smacking Krissada "Noi" Sukosol-Clapp on the head with a shoe and the shoving match that ensued - has been posted on You Tube, and it's embedded below.

While Sek Loso is seen as a spoiler by some, for unprofessional behavior and disrupting the show (though Noi played a part in that as well), he's also being hailed as a hero among the more rebellious sorts. He's a punker, taking out his aggressions and giving one to the man!

There's other things at play, too, especially when you look at the class differences involved: Sek is from a humble rural Northeast Thailand background; Noi is the Thai-American son of a heiress to a Bangkok hotel chain.

Still more will emerge as the artists and organizers trickle back to Thailand and tell their sides of the story.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thai films in Toronto

Two Thai films, from two of Thailand's best directors, will make their North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Invisible Waves, Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's latest, starring Tadanobu Asano, is among "the best of the International Film Festival Circuit" while Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century, will play in Toronto after it screens in Venice.

In fact, the entire lineup of films commissioned for the New Crowned Hope Festival in celebration of Mozart's 250th birthday, of which Syndromes and A Century is part, will screen at Toronto.

Thanks to Twitch for keeping track of developments at Toronto.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Malaysia' oldest cinema gets reprieve

If I ever hear that Bangkok's Scala, Siam or Lido cinemas are to be closed or worse, torn down and turned into a luxury fashion mall, I'd feel like my heart was being ripped out.

So I was glad to hear earlier this week that Malaysia's oldest cinema, the Coliseum Cinema in Kuala Lumpur, was spared after a public outcry over the government's plan to close the 84-year-old theater.

The building was set to be acquired by the government and turned into a heritage center.

Hey, with columns right in the middle of the auditorium, who could blame them?

However, the government backed down - something very rare there - when the plan was opposed by historians and the public.

Under a new plan, the Coliseum will continue to screen movies and work with the government to spruce up the building and turn an adjacent space into an arts and culture center.

The 888-seat cinema was built in 1921 by Chua Cheng Bok and is also well known for its Coliseum Cafe which is featured prominently in tourist guides for its vintage feel.

"The place is 84 years old, and so is the staff (seriously, some have worked here their whole lives)," says the Frommer's Guide. "The place is legendary, and someday it will be gone and there will never be anything else like it."

The Coliseum began screening Western movies in 1946 and has operated continuously ever since except for a break during the Japanese occupation in the Second World War.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

New name for Nonzee's movie; Everingham watch

Quickly, I need to get this out of the way: Nonzee Nimibutr's new project, formerly titled Queen of Pattani is now called Queens of Langkasuka, according to an article by Kong Rithdee in today's Bangkok Post Real Time.

Pattani is the current name of a southern Thailand province, where there is a lot of unrest and Muslim militancy going on, so the name change is a move to distance the film from that.

Shutter leading man Ananda Everingham stars as a sea gypsy. Dan Chupong from Born to Fight is the military chief for a queen. Langkasuka was one of the old kingdoms in southern Thailand. The movie is a historical fantasy epic. It's due to be completed in about year.

Everingham, meanwhile, has already been tapped to co-star in Duek Laew Khun Khaa (Bangkok Time) by Santi Taepanich, the director of last year's interesting documentary, Crying Tigers.

It's being produced by some influential filmmakers, including Nonzee and ML Mingmongkol Sonakul and actor Attaporn Theemakorn. Even Santi's mother has put up some money to help him make the film, Soopsip reported in The Nation earlier this week.

Attaporn plays a pornography vendor along Silom Road, with Everingham in the role of a rentboy and Dusita Chalermcharnchai working in a hospital emergency room.

"It’s a romantic story, but it's very different from the kind of romances played out in other films," Santi was quoted as saying.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Bhandit the elder

There are at least two directors named Bhandit (a given name, not a family name) who are active in the Thai film industry. One is Bhandit Thongdee, director of Mercury Man. The other is Bhandit Rittakol, a veteran filmmaker whose efforts include Thai revolutionary biopic The Moonhunter and the supernatural jungle yarn, Tigress of King River.

He's been in ill health the past few years, Soopsip in The Nation reported earlier this week. But he was looking fit at the recent screening of his 1987 film Duay Klao (The Seed), which has been remastered and will be screened nationwide starting September 9. The film, which features His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej's development projects, was screened earlier at the Bangkok International Film Festival, and the remastering and wider release is in celebration of the world's longest serving monarch's 60 years on the throne.

Bhandit's most recent film was the swashbuckler earlier this year, The Magnificent Five, which I didn't see and apparently no one else did either.

He's also working on another script. "What else I can do? Run a noodle shop?" the director was quoted as saying in Soopsip. "I have to work. I don't have much time because a director of my age is going to be out of fashion soon."

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Friday, August 11, 2006

The 10th Thai Short Film and Video Festival

Everything's happening at once here in Bangkok, where not only is there mini-buffet of Myanmar films screening, there's the two-week long 10th Thai Short Film and Video Festival, running this year at the Pridi Banomyong Institute on Soi Thong Lor.

Organized by Chalida Uabumrungjit of the Thai Film Foundation, the festival has grown over the years from 30 films in 1997 to more than 300 this year. It is now one of at least five short-film events in Bangkok.

Highlights include this year's crop of 3 Digital Short Films by Three Filmmakers, with shorts by Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Darezhan Omirbayev from Kazakhstan, and Singapore's Eric Khoo. The films were made for the annual short films package sponsored by the Jeonju International Film Festival.

Pen-ek's is Twelve Twenty, adapted from a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel about the silent romance of a couple (Ananda Everingham and Kemabsorn Sirisukha) after the man spots the woman from across an airport lobby. Pen-ek's frequent collaborator, Christopher Doyle, figures into the mix somehow. They will be screened at 7pm from August 28 to 30 at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit. Tickets are 150 baht.

There will also be Graceland, the first Thai short film selected for the Cannes Film Festival's Cinefondation program. Directed for her Columbia University thesis, the movie is by Anocha Suwichakornpong and stars Sarawut Martthong as an Elvis impersonator who is driven into the countryside by a strange woman (Jelaralin Chanchoenglop). Two of Anocha's other films will also be shown for the first time in Thailand: Ghosts from 2005 and Full Moon from 2003. The screenings are at 7.30pm on August 19 at Pridi Banomyoung.

Other highlights include a selection of classic Japanese documentaries in Cinema with a Conscience at 1pm and 3pm on August 26 and 27 at the Japan Foundation on Soi Asok and on September 2 and 3 at Chulalongkorn University Communication Arts Faculty. Admission is free.

A marathon screening, along with a reunion of directors from festival's past 10 years, will take place during the Long Night of Shorts from around 6pm to 2am on August 26 at the Pridi Banomyong Institute.

There are also some British shorts, including the animated City Paradise by Gaelle Dennis, at 7.30pm on August 20 at Pridi Banomyong, and a second program, Landscapes in My Head at 8pm on August 24.

For more information, check out Kong Rithdee's story in today's Bangkok Post or pick up a copy of The Nation Weekend, which didn't put its stories online for some reason or another.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Myanmar Film Festival in Bangkok

If I want to see a Burmese film, I needn't get on a plane to Singapore to attend the Asean Film Festival. Because right here in Bangkok, starting next week, is the Myanmar Film Festival, organized by veteran Burmese director Kyi Soe Tun.

Kong Rithdee has the full story in today's Bangkok Post Real Time section ("Cultural Exchange", Page R1).

According to Kong, there are 208 movie screens in Myanmar (the name given to Burma by the coup-staging generals in 1989 who then violently put down a democracy uprising in 1990). The film industry makes about 20 films a year and hundreds more for the VCD market. The country's "golden age" was in the 1980s, just before video became popular demonstrations against the military government sent the country into a tailspin of isolation and poverty.

The Myanmar Film Festival runs from August 17 to 20 at Major Hollywood Ramkhamhaeng and will feature five films from Kyi Soe Tun, a veteran filmmaker based in Yangon (or Rangoon as it used to be called), who serves as the chairman of the Myanmar Motion Picture Association.

"Most of the 20 movies produced each year in Myanmar are comedies," he is quoted as saying by the Bangkok Post. "I wish that our directors were more interested in making realistic and artistic films, but it can't be helped that the audience still wants to see only comedies."

Each film in Myanmar costs around $100,000 to make. "If a film is popular, it can generate up to $200,000. But that doesn't happen regularly," says Tun.

Thai films are not screened, though Hollywood films are. Mostly, it's action films or dramas. Anything with sexual or political content is forbidden by the authorities.

Tun is also planning a historical epic, meant to tell the Burmese side of the story about the conflict between Ayutthaya and Honsa in the 16th century, which has been depicted countless times in Thai cinema, including the upcoming Naresuan, with Burmese always depicted as ruthless, one-dimensional villains.

As a boy prince, Naresuan was kidnapped by the Honsa and raised as a son by Honsa's King Burengnong, who taught Naresuan military tactics. Tun's planned epic will tell the same story from Burengnong's point of view, and will include the character of Prince Naresuan. And, as it turns out, according to Kong, Tun is a friend of Naresuan director MC Chatrichalerm Yukol, and he has visited the Kanchanaburi set of the upcoming film a few times.

The films are (according to the Post, they will have English subtitles):
  • Upstream (2003; 10am August 17, 8pm August 18, 5.30pm August 19 and 3pm August 20) - The story of a boy brought up in a monastery after his parents desert him.
  • Never Shall We Be Enslaved (1997; 12.30pm August 17, 10am August 18, 8pm August 19 and 5.30pm August 20) - About King Thibaw, the last king of Burma, who struggled with two colonial powers, the British and the French.
  • Hexagon (2006; 3pm August 17, 12.30pm August 18, 10am August 19 and 8pm August 20) - A comedy is about six young and middle-aged women from different families and backgrounds, all of them pregnant.
  • Sacrificial Heart (2004; 5.30pm August 17, 3pm August 18, 12.30pm August 19 and 10am August 20) - A costume action-drama is set in 1074 during the reign of King Anawaratha the Great. With the kingdom at war, one of the king's generals falls in love with the king's bride.
  • True Love (2005; 8pm August 17, 5.30pm August 18, 3pm August 19 and 12.30pm August 20) - A drama about the relationship of a Japanese man and young Burmese girl.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

ASEAN Film Festival in Singapore

The ASEAN Film Festival is going on now, until August 15 in Singapore. It's quite a lineup of films, including Citizen Dog, but more interestingly films from countries that aren't regularly heard from at film festivals, namely Myanmar (Burma) and Laos. Nine of the 10 ASEAN countries are represented -- lacking only Brunei. Wish I'd seen something about this earlier - I might have made arrangements to get there.

The films are:
(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Thai co-star picked for Cage's Dangerous remake

Shahkrit Yamnarm has been named as a co-star with Nicolas Cage in Time to Kill, according to Soopsip in The Nation today (Page 12A).

He joins Hong Kong actress Charlie Yeung in the cast.

Shahkrit's acting credits include the early Yuthlert Sippapak-scripted film, O Negative (1998, GMM Pictures bought the script then took the project away from Yuthlert), as well as Yuthlert's own February and quite a few other films and Thai TV series.

A fluent English speaker, he'll presumably play the "errand boy" character, helping Cage's hitman character navigate the highways and byways of Bangkok.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Rambo IV in Thailand

Rambo has resurfaced in Thailand. He's a player in a high-stakes Russian roulette game in Patpong in Bangkok.

Just kidding. Only partly, though. According to today's Soopsip column in The Nation (Page 12A), Sylvester Stallone is due to start shooting for Rambo IV in October in Thailand.

Rumors had it that Rambo was going to go back to Afghanistan and hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Instead, according to Soopsip (which must've got it from Entertainment Weekly), he's going to take on another pariah state: Burma (which the generals who run the country insist be called Myanmar).

The story will start out in Bangkok, with the troubled former Green Beret John Rambo making a living by salvaging old PT boats and tanks for scrap metal. When a group of volunteers bringing supplies into Burma goes missing, a relative of one of the missing missionaries begs Rambo to find them. Rambo then leads a team of young guns in to the rescue.

IMDb has an entirely different plot description, but "since this project is categorized as being in production, blah, blah, blah ..."

Stallone got the idea to set the story in Burma after calling up Soldier of Fortune magazine and asking: "What is the most critical man-doing-inhumanity-to-man situation right now in the world? Where is it?" The answer was Burma.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Monday, August 7, 2006

Dangerous confusion

Lots of confusing news about the Pang Bros' remake of Bangkok Dangerous, starring Nicholas Cage and due to start shooting this month in Bangkok.

Cage portrays a hitman who comes to Bangkok to do a job. And now the lead actress has been named to play his love interest: Charlie Yeung. Monkey Peaches has the exclusive news. Kaiju Shakedown has the commentary on the choice. Yeung is to come to Thailand soon and learn traditional Thai dance and sign language, since she will play the part of a deaf-mute.

In the original, the gunman is a deaf-mute, which is what makes him such a fearless shooter -- he can't hear the gun go off or the screams of the people he's killing.

But, you can't have Nicolas Cage in a movie and not have him be able to say wacky things, so some things had to change.

The title is another confusing thing. IMDb has it listed as Time to Kill, which is a pretty bland name (kind of like the Weinsteins' stupid new name for Sha Po Lang -- Kill Zone). Trade journal Variety is still calling it Bangkok Dangerous. But then the same article refers to a movie called Scarecrow, which must be the movie the Pangs just wrapped up in North America, listed on IMDb as The Messengers. Of course the article, "Cage's 'Dangerous' liason" is dated June 6. It's two months old. So stuff is bound to change.

But, confusion is good. It keeps people off balance. Keeps 'em guessing. Keeps 'em coming back for more.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Saturday, August 5, 2006

Rak and roll

If you're in New York, you've probably heard about the summer festival going on at the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts.

Last weekend an all-star cast of Thai rock stars was on hand to perform a rock opera adaptation of the Ramakien national epic. Ramakien: A Rak Opera (get it?), featured the likes of Modern Dog, Sek Loso, rapper Joey Boy, Palmy and Noi of Pru (Bangkok Loco fans know him as Krissada Terrence). Those are the big names, which you'll know if you follow the Thai music scene. There was also contemporary dance guru Pichet Klunchun, production collective Photo Sticker Machine (which is also Hua Lumpong Riddim, a music credit that's seen in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's films) and singer Rik Vachilipilun. New York performer Arto Lindsay fit in there somewhere, too.

Music was directed by Bruce Gaston, an accomplished musician of Thai classical music; choreography by Pichet and stage design by Rirkrit Tiravanija, and the show was masterminded by Tim Carr, a former A&R man who worked with the Beastie Boys but is now based in Bangkok and trying to manage to Sek Loso and some of the other groups involved in the project.

"Grandly ambitious and inconclusive, overstuffed and sketchy," is the word-byte I'm choosing from the New York Times review, which may or may not be still online. I think the reviewer, Jon Pareles, liked the music, he just didn't care for the production. "A concert tour might have been a better introduction to Thai rock, since the music largely became a backdrop to the stage images."

And, indeed, there were some rough spots, according to Soopsip in The Nation (page 12A, August 1 and August 3).

In the opening night's production, Sek Loso (playing King Rama) made full contact rather than just a staged blow with Noi (Hanuman the Monkey God). Sek, deciding instead to play the role of the moody rock star, then stormed offstage and refused to return to the production. Noi was later seen sobbing in the dressing room backstage, though not because he was hurt from Sek Loso's blow, but because he was distraught about the overall disaster of the production.

(Cross-published Rotten Tomatoes)

Mercury rising

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm starting to get a little excited about seeing Mercury Man, though with less than a week to go before its August 10 opening, the hype in Thailand isn't nearly as palpable as it was for Tom Yum Goong (or The Protector or Warrior King or whatever you want to call it).

No matter. There's still plenty going on. Deknang has a couple of pages to gander at. First, there's a look at what's apparently a Mercury Man comic book and a gallery of five new posters.

Twitch has been posting like crazy about Mercury Man. Their latest posting has a link to a downloadable trailer (also on the movie's website).

The movie is directed by Bhandit Thongdee, produced by Prachya Pinkaew (and his Baa-Ram-Ewe production marque) and features action choreography by Panna Rittikrai. Among the stars is model-actress Metinee Kingpayome, Miss Thailand World 1992, whom I last saw (it's been years now) in Province 77. She's playing an icy villain.

Meanwhile, there's just a bit more news to go along with this post.

There's also a crew of three martial-arts actors from France who go by the name Tri-X. They approached Prachya in Cannes and asked to be in his next movie. So they are in Mercury Man, somewhere.

And they are in a short film that's been shot in 360-degree format by Prachya and is showing at AIS Future World at Siam Paragon in Bangkok, according to an apparently print-only article in Thursday's Nation (Surreal Sound, August 3, 2006, page 16A, by Parinyaporn Pajee).

In the short, the Tri-X team appears in an empty warehouse and rescues a girl from a band of high-kicking villains. "The experience is so realistic," gushes The Nation, "that it appears as if audiences are instinctively warding off blows."

Guess I'd better submit myself.

The 360 film is produced by Fat Radio's (and House cinema's) "Ted" Yuthana Boon-orm, who also made a music video for the screening.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

See how they offend

See How They Run (Koy Ther Yom) is the latest horror-comedy to come out of Thailand (MovieSeer synopsis and review). Which means it also must be the latest movie to offend someone.

A Buddhist organization is complaining that the movie shows disrespect to the religion and insults the image of Buddhist monks, according to a print-only edition article in The Nation on Friday ("A new spectre: Insensitivity", Page 12A, by Parinyaporn Pajee).

It's another black mark in the book for the Thai film industry, which earlier this year produced Ghost Game, which offended Cambodia by using a mock-up of the Khmer Rouge's torture center as the stage for a reality-TV horror flick. Then there was the soccer comedy Lucky Loser (from GMM-Tai-Hub), which the Laotian government protested as demeaning to Lao people. It was shelved before it was released, burning a 60 million baht hole in GTH's coffers.

See How They Run, about a little ghost boy running around making mischief and scaring villagers (and a monk), is also from GMM Tai Hub. The title is a comedy line that the protagonist – a monk – uses to tell people to flee the ghost. And it’s the scene used to publicise the film that shows the monk himself fleeing from ghost that’s causing the problem.

According to The Nation, the Council of the Buddhist Organisations of Thailand submitted a letter to the National Police Bureau demanding that parts of new comedy be changed, citing the inappropriate title and scenes that insult the image of monks.

"A monk is respected as a mature follower of Buddhist teachings. He should be calm and help people, not run away himself," said Suphin Thongtara, the council's president. "There are many ways of making people laugh. If filmmakers mock our religion, who will respect the Buddhist monk?"

Thailand is 98% Buddhist, so instead of offending its neighbor countries this time, it's offended itself, as well as a religion.

GTH officials deny the accusations, saying the movie has passed the censors, and the filmmakers took the extra step of making sure the film and its promotional materials passed the muster at the Religious Affairs Department.

Anyway, the movie is in cinemas. The money will talk on this one. The protest isn't widely recognized. Contributors on say they think the Buddhist groups are misunderstanding the film, the Nation said. Perhaps they should be more concerned about what is going on in today's society, such as monks who sleep with women or practise sorcery, than some as worldly and trivial a work of fiction, the folks said.

It is, however, another chance to push for a ratings system in Thailand.

"We have followed the rules and adapted the film until we had the approval from the Office of National Buddhism. I don't want to accuse them of narrow-mindedness," said GTH president Visute Poolvoralak. "But, on the other hand, there may be some groups who don’t understand the movie. If Thailand had a rating system, I believe that we could prevent these situations from recurring."

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Citizen Wisit

Here's a flurry of news about Wisit Sasanatieng, all courtesy of The Nation's Soopsip column on August 2, 2006 (Page 12A).

Adding to the accolades his Citizen Dog received from Montreal's Fantasia Festival, Wisit has received this year's Silpathorn Award for filmmaking. The honor is bestowed by Culture Ministry's Office of Contemporary Arts and Culture and is given to actual living, breathing and working contemporary artists. Past recipients of the film honor are Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (last year's honoree).

Citizen Dog, meanwhile, is set for a commercial release in France, now on August 23, Soopsip said. That's being handled by Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, which is also still backing one of Wisit's upcoming projects, the historical epic Nam Prix. (What about Armful?)

But what's really going on is that Wisit is shooting his next film right now in the mountains of Korat. It's called The Unseeable (Pen Choo Kab Phee). It's a ghost story being written by one of the Ronin Team from Art of the Devil 2. And it's due for release in October.

It will star Siraphan "Noon" Watanajinda from last year's hit romantic comedy Dear Dakanda and socialite (but still newcomer actress) Supornthip Chuangrangsree, who is president of Branded The Agency. Soopsip couldn't elaborate on what roles the two female leads play, as in who's the ghost and who isn't. Who knows? No matter. If it's Wisit, it's going to be awesome.

Deknang has more.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)