Saturday, February 27, 2010

English-language trailer for The Little Comedian

The first GTH joint of 2010 is Baan Chan ... Talok Wai Gon (Por Son Wai) (บ้าน ฉัน ..ตลก ไว้ ก่อน ( พ่อ สอน ไว้ )), which has been given the international English title of The Little Comedian and a trailer to go with that, embedded below.

Directed by Fan Chan alumnus Witthaya Thongyooyong, who last offered the time-traveling rock band tale The Possible (Kao ... Kao), Baan Chan is about a family comedy troupe with a black sheep -- a son who isn't funny. He's constantly upstaged by his filthy-mouthed younger sister. Yeah, it's something to see a little girl in pigtails explain to the doctor why her older brother has pimples.

But the doctor isn't laughing at the girl's jokes, she's laughing at the little boy.

And, she's played by smile queen Paula Taylor. The boy, just coming into puberty, is in love. It's Rushmore with sweet Thai cuteness replacing the Wes Anderson quirk.

Comedian Jaturong Mokjok also stars as the family patriarch.

The Little Comedian opens in Thai cinemas on March 11.

14th Thai Short Film & Video Festival open for submissions

The 14th Thai Short Film & Video Festival is calling for submissions for the fest to be held in August. Shorts can be about anything, made in any style, but not longer than 30 minutes, except documentaries, and completed on or after January 1, 2009.

The fest has an international competition for non-Thais while Thai filmmakers compete for the R. D. Pestonji Award (general individuals), the White Elephant (college students), Special White Elephant (under 18), the Payute Ngaokrachang Award (animation) and the Duke Award (documentaries).

The deadline is May 31.

Send your DVD screeners to: 14th Thai Short Film & Video Festival, PO Box 6, Phuttamonthon, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand 73170.

Online entry forms can be filled out on the Thai Film Foundation website around the end of March.

(Via Matichon)

Yuthlert lines up The Cult Maker, Bangkok Kung Fu at Film R Us

Yuthlert Sippapak is among the "outside producers" working with entertainment conglomerate RS Public's new Film R Us production company.

He says he has two projects lined up. Actually three.

First he'll be take part in Sam Yan, which is a collaboration with two other directors.

Next will be The Cult Maker, a documentary featuring Yuthlert's Killer Tattoo star, veteran comedian Thep Po-ngam. Plans are to start production in June.

Next will be something called Bangkok Kung Fu, likely due out before the end of the year.

The deals with RS, producers of his debut Killer Tattoo, come as the busy Yuthlert has his Killers Trilogy in production for Phranakorn. Yuthlert says he's going to star on Sam Yan and The Cult Maker before moving on Saturday Killers. Part three of the Killers Trilogy, Sunday Killers, will be pushed to next year, after Bangkok Kung Fu wraps.

Update: More details on Sam Yan.

(Thanks Kh. Tom!)

Friday, February 26, 2010

RS Film and Avant now Film R Us

Thai music and entertainment conglomerate RS Public Company Limited has relaunched its film business with a new subsidiary called Film R Us.

Instead of having producers "in house", the company will release projects from "outside producers", but the main focus will remain on comedies and horror movies for the mass market, says Komsan Chetchotisak, chief commercial officer and executive vice president for film at RS.

Here's more from The Nation:

[Film R Us] will produce four movies this year at a combined cost of 140 million baht. Revenue from the four films is anticipated at 200 million baht, up 25 per cent from last year, said Komsan.

From next year, four or five movies will be made annually at a cost of 40 million baht each.

Film R Us replaces Avant, which according to the Internet, music label RS Promotion established in 1992. Avant debuted in 1995 with the teen romance Romantic Blue, directed by Rashane Limtrakul. Other films have included Yuthlert Sippapak's 2001 debut Killer Tattoo.

Avant's last release was last year's horror romance Fan Kao (My Ex).

Under restructuring at RS, several former Avant staffers split and formed their own company, M39, which had a big hit with its first release 32 Thunwa, a comedy directed by Rerkchai Paungpetch, who previously directed Noodle Boxer (Saeb Sanid sid Sai Nah), a comedy that was a huge box-office smash for Avant and RS.

(Via The Nation, Thai PR)

Slice tops Subhanahongsa Awards nominees

The bloody serial-killer thriller Slice (Cheun) is the top nominee for the Subhanahongsa Awards, the Thailand National Film Awards, announced yesterday.

Released by Five Star Production, Slice is nominated in 14 of the 16 categories, including best picture, director and screenplay for Kongkiat Komesiri, who wrote the script from a story by Wisit Sasanatieng. Best-actor nominee "Pe" Arak Amornsupasiri portrays a convict let out of prison to find a serial killer who's believed to be his former best friend. Child star Attapan Poolsawasdi has a best-supporting actor nod for the emotionally challenging role as an abused childhood friend of Pe's character. Jessica Pasaphan is nominated for supporting actress for her role as Pe's hairdresser girlfriend.

October Sonata, a romance and social-class drama by writer-director Somkiat Vituranich, produced by NGR, has 11 nominations, including best picture, director and screenplay. "Koy" Ratchawin Wongviriya is a nominee for best actress for her portrayal of the illiterate heroine who's hopelessly in love with a leftist intellectual during Thailand's politically turbulent 1970s. Pitsanu Nimsakul as her Chinese immigrant husband has a supporting actor nod.

Another Five Star Production thriller, Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Nymph (Nang Mai), has seven nods, including best director and screenplay. Noppachai Chaiyanama, as a photographer in a troubled marriage who becomes obsessed with a strangely alluring tree, is up for best actor. His character's cheating wife, pop star "Gybzy" Wanida Termthanaporn, has a best actress nod.

With six nominations is Best of Times (Kwaam Jam San Tae Rak Chan Yaao). Produced by GTH and directed by Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, the romantic drama is up for best picture, best director and best screenplay for writers Wannareudee Pongsitsak, Omrapon Paendintong and Nontra Kumwong. A supporting actor nod goes Krissana Setthatumrong, who portrays a widower with Alzheimers and Sunsanee Wattananukul has a supporting actress nod for her role as widow who takes a shine to the forgetful gent.

A Moment in June, an indie romantic drama released by Sahamongkol Film International, also has six nominations, including best screenplay for writer-director O Nathapon. Shahkrit Yamnarm earns a best actor nod for his portrayal as the gay director of a stage play set in the 1970s. Supporting actor and actress nods also go to the older couple in the movie, Suchao Pongvilai and Deuntem Salitul.

Another best picture nominee is the schoolboy drugs drama Samchuk, which has four nominations, including a best director nod for Thanit Jitnukul. Paramej Noi-um is up for best actor for his portrayal of a principal trying to get a group of his students to quit using drugs.

Also up for best picture is Citizen Juling, an indie documentary by Kraisak Choonhavan, Ing K and Manit Sriwanichpoom covering violence and politics in Thailand's Deep South. The 4.5-hour film is also up for best editing.

Other best actress nominees include Chutima Teepanat as a suspended college trying to find herself Europe in Dear Galileo (Nee Tam Galileo), Sirin "Cris" Horwang, a winsome career gal looking for love in Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story (Rot Fai Faa ... Maha Na Ter) and Siriwimol "Mai" Charoenpura as a beef-noodle vendor who isn't serving beef with her noodles in Meat Grinder (Cheuat Gon Chim).

Given by the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand, the Subhanahongsa Awards ceremony will be held on March 28 at Bangkok's Sala Chalermkrung Theatre.

The complete list of awards is at the Nation Weblog.

(Via The Nation; thanks Orn!)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

On DVD in Singapore: Raging Phoenix

Raging Phoenix, the sophomore star turn by "Jija" Yanin Wismistananda, is out on DVD in Singapore. MovieXclusive has it

Jija portrays a dour young loner socialite who is rescued from kidnappers on bladed-pogo-stilts by a group of guys led by Kazu Patrick Tang, who mix hip-hop dance moves, Muay Thai and whisky to make the ancient Siamese fighting discipline of mayraiyuth. They teach her the moves and soon she's ready to take on the kidnappers and their fragrant scheme.

Directed by Rashane Limtrakul with action choreography from Panna Rittikrai and the Baa Ram Ewe team, Raging Phoenix (จีจ้า ดื้อสวยดุ, Jija Deu Suay Du) had its moments, but was bogged down in places by melodrama and attempts at romance.

Despite the tough-as-nails leading lady, the film failed to catch fire at the Thai box office.

It opened in Singapore last November, peaking in sixth place (damn, why didn't Thailand get Fantastic Mr. Fox or The Informant!?). Reviews were mixed.

A Nutshell Review ("probably Singapore's No. 1 movie review blog") said this:

Raging Phoenix isn't perfect, but it is yet another milestone for Jija Yanin to prove what she can do. Call me a fan as I am liking her films already, and can't wait to see her in more action films!

Almost DVD-box-blurb worthy.

U.K. action buffs might want hold off a bit, as NEO Magazine says Raging Phoenix will be out there in April.

(Thanks Logboy!)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Soi Cowboy coming to DVD in the U.K.

The oddball Anglo-Thai film noir Soi Cowboy is coming out on DVD in the U.K. on March 31. has it. Network Releasing is the distributor.

Directed by Thomas Clay, it stars Nicolas Bro, a huge Dane who's living in Bangkok with a tiny pregnant Thai woman (Pimwalee Thampanyasan). The first half of the film, in dull monochrome, follows their mundane daily activities. The man pops a Viagra and hopes he'll have sex with his little lady, who was apparently a bargirl who worked in Bangkok's Soi Cowboy red-light strip. The couple take a trip to Ayutthaya, disappear into a temple and the scene changes, to bright color and the Thai countryside, where a young man is charged with collecting his brother's head.

The film's many festival appearances include the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, where it premiered, and the Bangkok International Film Festival, where I got to see it.

And it's well worth another look.

(Thanks Logboy!)

Agrarian Utopia shares award in Istanbul

Uruphong Raksasad's Agrarian Utopia (Sawan Baan Na) has won another award! At the !f istanbul International Film Festival, which wrapped up on Sunday, it shared the prize with Gigante, by Uruguay's Adrian Biniez. The two directors split the purse of $15,000.

The jury, comprised of Icelandic filmmaker Dagur Kari, Sundance Film Festival world cinema senior programmer Caroline Libresco, Turkish director Ümit Ünal, film critic and NISIMASA founder Matthieu Darras and Mexican producer Daniel Birman Ripstein, deliberated for four hours before coming to the decision to award both films. The jury statement:

We wish to award the !f istanbul Directing Prize to two inspired films. For its precise, skillful directing; humanistic vision; and appreciation of heavy metal music, we award the Prize to Gigante; And for putting conflicting realities into perspective in a shifting world and for artfully and transcendently re-envisioning nature and humanity, we award the Prize to Agrarian Utopia.”

Agrarian Utopia's previous honors include the Unesco Award at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. Production company Extra Virgin has list of the many other prizes. Agrarian Utopia can be seen next month at the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival.

(Via Extra Virgin)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Poj Arnon directing romance in South Korea

Poj Arnon is the latest Thai filmmaker to be caught up in the trend of Korean pop culture. He started shooting a movie last week in Gangwon Province, South Korea.

Sorry Sarahaeyo (Sorry Sa Rang He Yo) is a Thai-South Korean co-production aimed at promoting tourism in South Korea. It's a romance about a vacationing Thai woman, played by Thai-Japanese model Haru Yamakushi, who falls in love with a South Korean actor, played by singer Noh Ah Joo.

At a press event in Bangkok a couple of weeks ago, Poj stated it’ll be the first time he’s directed a romance about a woman in love with a man. He’s better known for his katoey comedies and the gay romance Bangkok Love Story.

Other Thai directors working in South Korea recently include Wisit Sasanatieng, who's in production in Busan on his Iron Pussy segment for the city's pan-Asian romance anthology Camellia.

And last year, Aditya Assarat examined what it's like for a South Korean actress to go on vacation in Thailand in Phuket. Last month, Phuket screened at the Clermont-Ferrand festival.

Production on Sorry began on February 17 in Gangwon Province and is expected to wrap by March 2. Shooting locations will include Chuncheon City, Pyeongchang County, Sokcho City and Kang Neung City. The movie is co-produced by Poj's production company Film Guru and South Korea's Don't Worry.

(Via Asian Media Wiki)

Tai Hong, My Valentine topped box office

The portmanteau films Tai Hong (Still, aka Die a Violent Death) and My Valentine topped the Thai box office during their opening weeks of release.

Box Office Mojo, back to updating its Thai charts after a long spell, had Phranakorn Film's Tai Hong scaring up an impressive US$483,407 (about 16 million baht) during its first week of release on January 28-31, topping Avatar, Jackie Chan's The Spy Next Door, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Solomon Kane. Featuring deadly ghost stories ripped from the headlines of Thailand pulpy mass-circulation dailies, Tai Hong was a compilation of segments by four directors, Chartchai Ketknust, Manus Worrasingha, Tanwarin Sukkhapisit and Poj Arnon, with such stars as Mai Charoenpura, Akara Amarttayakul, Supaksorn Chaimongkol and Sattawat Sethakorn.

February 4-7 had the Five Star romance My Valentine in the top spot with a comparatively anemic $231,326 (about 7 million baht). The romantic comedy had three directors, Songsak Mongkolthong, Pornchai "Mr. Pink" Hongrattanaporn and Seree Phongnithi, each taking actress Mintada "Mint AF3" Wattanakul through a relationship with a different guy. It topped Avatar, which stayed in second place and Tai Hong, which dropped to third, as well as another new release that week, the bald John Travolta shoot-em-up From Paris with Love as well as The Spy Next Door.

Yet to come are figures from this past weekend's new releases, which included Yuen Woo-ping's martial arts epic True Legend (with a 3D scene in some cinemas) and Jackie Chan's Little Big Soldier, both only offered with Thai-dubbed soundtracks. There was also Terry Gilliam's fantasy The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, aka Heath Ledger's last film, in limited release.

It was a light weekend, perhaps letting audiences rest up for the onslaught of seven movies this weekend, which falls on the Buddhist holiday Makha Bucha, and will be a three-day weekend for many. There are two Thai releases, the Phranakorn military comedy Kongphan Kruekkruen Tor Tahan Kuekkuk (Jolly Rangers) and the Sahamongkol thriller Who Are You? (Krai … Nai Hong), plus several Oscar nominees, The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air and Invictus as well as the Denzel Washington post-apocalyptic actioner The Book of Eli and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.

But the question for this upcoming weekend isn't which movies will rule the box office, but how judges will rule on February 26 in the case of whether the Thai government can keep the frozen assets of ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Depending on the decision, there could be a flare-up in protests by the pro-Thaksin red-shirt group, which could lead to a chilling security clampdown.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Isn't there enough comedy in the military?

Phranakorn Film has a new comedy opening this week, Kongphan Kruekkruen Tor Tahan Kuekkuk (กองพันครึกครื้น ท.ทหารคึกคัก), which comes at a time when the Thai military is already looking quite foolish for its reliance on a "bomb detector" that has been thoroughly debunked.

Directed by comedian Note Chern-yim, who also plays a loud-mouthed drill instructor, the slapstick-heavy Kongphan Kruekkruen Tor Tahan Kuekkuk is about four young men who pull the unlucky red slip in the draft drawing. They are packed off to a training camp at Kanchanaburi, where they catch the eyes of local ladies. And I'm not certain, but it appears that one of the soldiers is not even interested in women. According to Film Business Asia, the international English title is Jolly Rangers, but I doubt anyone will ever come to know Kongphan Kruekkruen Tor Tahan Kuekkuk by that title.

The comedy comes at a time when the Thai military and other state security agencies have been the butt of jokes for their reliance on the GT200, an expensive device that is purported to "detect" explosives, drugs or whatever contraband soldiers, policemen or customs officers might be looking for.

Britain has banned the export of the devices -- essentially "an empty plastic case" and "the equivalent of a hazel twig divining rod" -- but too late for Thailand's armed forces and security agencies to procure hundreds of them at prices of around 1 million baht apiece. Such a waste.

In response to the criticism of the "hoax" device by academics, the Science Ministry ran tests, with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declaring that dogs can do a better job of detecting bombs. He's politely asked the military to stop using them, pretty please. But the generals have defended the use of the GT200 -- perhaps for their money-detection capabilities, or simply out of the same spiritual beliefs that compel soldiers to wear protective amulets and get tattoos that stop bullets.

Defense of the GT200 has also come from Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand, Thailand's colorful celebrity forensic pathologist.

The Thai government has also asked the military to stop using the GT200 as a "lie detector" to provide leverage against people officers think might be hiding bombs or weapons.

Some units have switched to using chopsticks instead.

Others are still using the GT200, with serious consequences for two soldiers who were injured after the device failed to detect a bomb in a market in Pattani.

It's all fun and games until people start getting blown up.

Nonetheless, the timing of Kongphan Kruekkruen Tor Tahan Kuekkuk is pretty ironic. Another movie being released in Thai cinemas this week is The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow's much-critically acclaimed and awarded drama about a bomb squad in Iraq that doesn't use the GT200 -- it uses men who defuse the bombs.

Bangkok Post film critic Kong Rithdee had more about the irony and Kongphan Kruekkruen Tor Tahan Kuekkuk, which he roughly translates as "the exhilarating regiment", as well as the history of Thai military comedies in his Saturday column.

And if you can stand it, there's a trailer for Kongphan Kruekkruen Tor Tahan Kuekkuk embedded below.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Agrarian Utopia, Mundane History, Boonmee and In Space in San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival

Agrarian Utopia and Mundane History, two of my picks for best Thai films of 2009, are showing at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival.

Two Thai shorts are in the line-up as well, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's A Letter to Uncle Boonmee and In Space by Visra Vichit-Vadakan.

Uruphong Raksasad's Agrarian Utopia (Sawan Baan Na) is in the documentary showcase and is a dramatic look at rice farming in Thailand, where "strapped by crippling debts and interest rates, the families share a plot of land; the fertile soil offers them potential riches, but market prices may reduce their crop value to almost nothing."

A recent Tiger Award winner in Rotterdam and also set for New York screenings, Anocha Suwichakornpong's Mundane History (Jao Nok Krajok) is a family social-class drama about a young paralyzed man and the male nurse hired to attend to his mundane daily needs, touching on "masturbatory frustrations and ... fantasies of a dying cosmic star [in a] karmically interlinked universe." Check the trailer at the festival website.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's short film A Letter to Uncle Boonmee is part of his larger multi-platform Primitive art project that visits the village of Nabua, Nakhon Phanom, which was subject to a brutal and deadly anti-communist crackdown by the Thai military in 1965. In the film, young men read a letter to the mystical, constantly reincarnated Uncle Boonmee, describing the village as the camera floats around like a butterfly through the magical atmopshere Apichatpong has created. The short, which has been featured at many festivals, recently made its online premiere, but I recommend seeing it in the cinema, just for the effect of total immersion.

Finally, there's In Space, by Visra Vichit-Vadakan, which was featured at last year's World Film Festival of Bangkok. "Pai lives with his grandparents and mischievously idles away his time working at a New York grocery market. He doesn’t give much thought to his grandmother’s suggestion to become a monk, until he realizes that he can reunite the family in the afterlife."

The San Francisco Asian American Film Festival runs from March 11 to 21.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Prachya Pinkaew's Elephant White adds Bacon

Kevin Bacon has joined the cast of Elephant White, the English-language action drama being directed by Prachya Pinkaew and starring Djimon Hounsou. The addition of the Footloose star is according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Hounsou, most recently on the Bangkok big-screen in the supernatural action film Push, plays Curtie Church, a mercenary in Thailand where, according to IMDb, he's "engaged by a 14-year-old girl who gives his life a new meaning." Bacon was last seen in Bangkok cinemas in the revenge flick Death Sentence. In Elephant White, THR says, he'll play "an old acquaintance of Hounsou's character whose allegiance can't be trusted."

Scripted by Kevin Bernhardt, producers include Frank DeMartini and DeWarrenne Films' Tom Waller. It's the first English-language feature for Prachya, whose previous directing credits include Ong-Bak and Tom-Yum-Goong starring Tony Jaa and Chocolate with female action star Jija Yanin.

Production is set to start in Thailand on March 8.

(Via Asia Pacific Arts, Cinema Blend)

Shadow of the Naga will come in two flavors -- with warnings and without

The Shadow of the Naga (Nak Prok, นาคปรก), the "monks with guns" drama that is finally seeing a release on March 18 after sitting on the studio's shelf for three years, will have two ratings -- 18+ with "pop up" warnings whenever the thieves-dressed-as-monks do something bad, and a straight-no-chaser 20+ with no "pop ups".

The 18+ rating is being done by Sahamongkol Film International in hopes of heading off criticism by conservative Buddhists about the movie's strong language and violent acts. News in Bangkok has a few thoughts about this move.

The plans for the alternate versions were detailed by The Nation in a story yesterday that details about everything you'd want to know about Nak Prok, which is about a trio of thieves who bury their loot in a Buddhist temple then dress as monks in order to retrieve the stolen money. Completed in 2007 and actually premiered at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, it stars Ray MacDonald, Somchai Kemklad, Pitisak Yaowanon and Inthira Charoenpura.

Director Phawat Panangkasiri is candid when he explains the film's long delay in being released:

Phawat says Nak Prok was always intended as a film noir and that he has no regrets about refusing to bow to social sensitivities, even if it's meant such a long wait.

When movie mogul Somsak 'Sia Jiang' Techaratanaprasert saw the final cut three years ago, he ordered Phawat to re-edit and erase the gun from many scenes. "It looked so bizarre when the characters just point their hands at each other!" laughs Phawat.

"They decided to return to original version but with one condition. Somsak knew that the film would be banned under the old film law. So he asked me to wait for the new law, although back then we didn't know really know about the ratings and if and how they would help."

There might be protests anyway. Back in 2003, the action film Aguilimala, based on Buddhist scripture, came under heavy criticism from the Buddhist consevatives.

I am grateful Nak Prok is finally getting released. The trailer, which I posted awhile back, is so good it makes me cry. I hope the whole movie has that effect has well. Because I need a good cry.

By the way, that might be the last Nation entertainment story that I can share freely. The newspaper has instituted a paywall called Nation Exclusive, with entertainment features like that one part of the "exclusive" content for subscribers only. We'll see how that goes.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Two Thais in class of 2010 at Berlinale Talent Campus

Indie filmmakers Noth Thongsriphong and Wichanon Somumjarn are among the attendees of this year's Berlinale Talent Campus at the Berlin Film Festival. Classes ran from February 13 until today.

Noth debuted his highly polished short drama Lost and Found at the World Film Festival of Bangkok in 2008. On his page, the 30-year-old filmmaker says he's working for an advertising agency as a regional producer for consumer products and has a project called The Empty.

Wichanon directed Four Boys, White Whiskey and Grilled Mouse, which won a special mention R.D. Pestonji Award at last year's Thai Short Film & Video Festival. Produced by Anocha Suwichakornpong's Electric Eel Films. Grilled Mouse recently screened in Rotterdam. You can watch the short at the Talent Campus website.

"I love filmmaking because it makes me happy," says the 27-year-old director.

Alumni of the Berlinale Talent Campus have included Pathompon Tesprateep, Mingmongkol Sonakul, Chaisiri Jiwarangsan, Jakrawal Nilthamrong, Anocha Suwichakornpong, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, Lee Chatametikool, Sarawut Chutiwongpeti and Pimpaka Towira.


Lav Diaz: The Early Years to close the Pinoy Classics series

Since the end of January, Film Virus has been showing films by the likes of Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal in the Pinoy Classics series at Thammasart University.

The series closes this Sunday with Lav Diaz: The Early Years and a chance to see two of the conventional-length features by the boundary-pushing indie director. They are his debut, The Criminal of Barrio Concepcion from 1998 and Hesus the Revolutionary from 2002.

Criminal (Serafin Geronimo, kriminal ng Baryo Concepcion) involves an investigative journalist (Angel Aquino) who gets sucked into the story of Serafin (Raymond Bagatsing), who claims he's an infamous kidnapper in a scheme that went horribly wrong.

One of Diaz's commercial efforts for Regal Studios, Hesus Rebolusyonaryo is set in a dystopian, military-ruled Philippines of 2011, though as critic Noel Vera pointed out in a 2005 review, "the film is really a commentary on the Philippines in the year 2002. Manila's streets have not changed; if anything, they look seedier and more garbage-strewn ... Diaz in effect took his budget constraints--no money for sets, or crowd extras--and turned them into a political point: that Manila in the future will be more of the same, only worse." The loner Hesus (Mark Anthony Fernandez) stirs up trouble.

I finally made the Pinoy Classics screenings in their second week, and caught Himala by Ishmael Bernal. This is the gritty and tragedy-filled story of a naive young woman (Nora Aunor) who claims she's seen the Virgin Mary. Soon, a cult springs up around her and people flock to the remote village to pray to her and be healed by her prayers. The spectacle is viewed through the eyes of a visiting filmmaker. On the fringes is a cabaret-brothel that opens to cash in on the tourist trade and serve the lower spiritual needs of the pilgrims. There's also a pair of young men -- one's a boyfriend of Elsa's best friend who's been caught up in Elsa's nightmare -- who are devising ways to get to the Middle East so they can find work.

Last weekend I was introduced to two films by indie pioneer Kidlat Tahimik, his 1977 debut Mababangong bangungot ( The Perfumed Nightmare) and his second feature Turumba.

Both blend pride for Pinoy culture with a critique of neocolonialism and a fascination for Western culture.

The Perfumed Nightmare stars Tahimik himself as a jeepney driver in a small town that has just one access road that crosses a small bridge over a small river. A Chaplinesque everyman dreamer who listens to Voice of America and has an obsession with space travel -- he's president of the Werner Von Braun Fan Club -- he's always thinking about crossing that bridge and many more bridges.

A meets an American Boy Scout leader, who was one of six attendees at a world jamboree planning function on a tiny, muddy island in the river. The Scouter wants to ship Kidlat and his jeepney to Paris. Kidlat then drives his jeepney around the French capital and works at the man's business of filling gumball machines. He eventually becomes disenchanted with the excesses of the Western world, turns down a chance to fly on Concorde ("be the first Filipino to fly supersonic") and he finds his own way back to his old life.

Turumba is a more mature and technically polished effort but is also about dreams and disillusionment when it comes to viewing the Western world. The comedy-drama is seen through the viewpoint of a boy in small village. He's the son of the town's song leader, who leads the annual Turumba festival parade. When the family isn't performing in its church band, they work at their cottage industry making papier mache toys to sell at the annual festival. The boy also hangs out with a local blacksmith, who fashions machetes from scrap metal and is always on the lookout for good steel -- Mercedes shock absorbers are the best. The idyllic, simple life is thrown into disarray when a German woman visits the festival and is captivated by the family's handicrafts. She buys all of them. Dad's eyes light up at the opportunity, and pushed by the foreign lady, he soon has the family working 'round the clock to make more toys for German department stores, and eventually has them ditching their traditional water buffalo and horse figures to make dachshund mascots for the Munich Olympics. Tradition is forsaken, just to make more money.

The screenings start at 12.30 on Sunday at Thammasart University Phra Chan in the Pridi Banomyong Library’s Rewat Buddinan Room. If you haven't been there before, you'll want to ask for directions. The entire library is a basement, and the AV center is in the basement of that basement. You'll have to check any bags you have and present your ID to the information desk.

This series is dedicated to Alexis Tioseco and Nika Bohinc, film experts who were killed last September in a robbery at their home in the Philippines.

Next for Film Virus is Salty Video Day, on February 28, with the Thai indie features Color of the Streets (director's cut) and The Cruelty of Soysauce Man (extended version).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Slice, October Sonata top nominees for Bangkok Critics Assembly

(Cheun) and October Sonata (Ruk Te Ror Koi) are tied with nine nominations each in the 11 categories to be awarded by the Bangkok Critics Assembly (ชมรมวิจารณ์บันเทิง).

Both are up for best film. Kongkiat Komesiri is nominated for best director and shares a screenwriting nod with Wisit Sasanatieng for Slice. Somkiat Vituranich is nominated for director and screenwriting prizes for October Sonata. Both films also make a sweep of the categories for cinematography, editing, art direction and score.

"Pe" Arak Amornsupasiri, who plays a convict let out of prison to find a serial killer in Slice, is up for best actor, while his former girlfriend "Koy" Ratchawin Wongviriya, the tragic heroine of the 1970s social-class romance October Sonata, has a best actress nod.

Other top nominees are A Moment in June (Nor Ka Na Rak) with six nods, while Nymph (Nang Mai) and Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story (Rot Fai Faa ... Maha Na Ter) each have five.

Other nominees are Citizen Juling, Samchuk, Best of Times (Kwaam Jam San Dtae Rak Chan Yaao), Phobia 2 (Haa Phrang), In Country Melody 2 (E-Som Somwang Cha Cha Cha), Dear Galileo (Nee Tam Galileo), Meat Grinder (Cheuat Gon Chim),32 Thunwa, Mor 3 Pee 4 Rao Rak Naa, The Happiness of Kati (Kwam Suk Kong Kati) and Fireball (Taa/Chon).

The awards will be given on March 9. The Nation has more about the nominees and the entire list.

Posters for Yuthlert's Killers Trilogy

As a follow-up to news of Yuthlert Sippapak's trilogy of hitman movies, Meu Puen 3 Pak, I have a set of character posters that I found on Yuthlert's Facebook page, but hadn't seen anywhere else. I asked if I could share them here, and of course he said, "yes, take what you want." So I rifled through.

Great stuff. I am super-excited Yuthlert is returning to the hitman genre of his first film, Killer Tattoo.

Stephen Cremin of the new Film Business Asia website is chuffed about the project as well, and he reports that the international English title is The Killers Trilogy. Here's more:

Friday Killers (มือปืน ดาวพระศุกร์) is a drama starring Thep Po-ngam (เทพ โพธิ์งาม) and Ploy Jindachote (พลอย จินดาโชติ), Saturday Killers (มือปืน ดาวพระเสาร์) is a romance starring Nong Cha Cha Cha (โหน่ง ชะชะช่า) and Cris Horwang (คริส หอวัง), and Sunday Killers (มือปืนพระอาทิตย์) is a comedy starring Kotee Aramboy (โก๊ะตี๋ อารามบอย) and Pitchanart Sakhakorn (พิชญ์นาฏ สาขากร).

Check out the rest of Film Business Asia for more news.

(Thanks Stephen!)

Yuthlert ready with three-pack of hitman films

Having wrapped up his Buppah Rahtree ghost franchise for now, "Tom" Yuthlert Sippapak gets back to the hitman genre of his 2001 debut Killer Tattoo with a trilogy of hitman movies, Meu Puen 3 Pak (มือปืนตรัยภาค), which will be released by Phranakorn.

Yuthlert had four top actresses lined up at the press conference to promote the project, which is well under way.

Among them is Sirin "Cris" Horwang, riding high on awards-season buzz for last year's romantic comedy Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story. She previously worked with Yuthlert on the 2008 Nose Udom vehicle E-Tim Tay Nai, playing an Akkha woman.

Another actress is "May" Pichanart Sakakorn from The Victim, who starred in Yuthlert's 2004 crime comedy Sai Lor Fah (Pattaya Maniac).

There's also Ploy Jindachot from Phranakorn's giant snake thriller Deep in the Jungle and hard-working young actress "Saipan" Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, who will appear later this year in Phranakorn's snake horror The Intruder.

Can't have a Yuthlert joint without comedians, so there was the usual crew of funnymen at the press conference, including Udom Chuanchuan, Kotee Aramboy, Pattaya Maniac's "Nong" Choosak Iamsuk and Killer Tattoo star Thep Po-ngam.

The first part, Meu Puen Dao Prasook (มือปืน ดาวพระศุกร์, Venus Hitman), is being planned for release in May. Subsequent entries will be Meu Puen Dao Prasao (มือปืน ดาวพระเสาร์, Saturn Hitman) and Meu Puen Pra-athit (มือปืนพระอาทิตย์, Sun Hitman).

Each will have different themes, drama for the first, then romance and finally comedy.

Lyn's Lakorns has more from the press con.

Update: Posters!

(Via Lyn's Lakorn Blog,

Monday, February 15, 2010

Queens of Langkasuka hits Blu-ray in Taiwan

It's taken two years since Queens of Langkasuka (Puen Yai Jome Salad) hit cinemas in Thailand for a licensed and legal English-friendly version to come to home video.

Envisioned as a two-part big-budget epic but cut down to two hours by the studio, Nonzee Nimibutr's historical pirate fantasy still turned out to be good fun, with a great cast that includes Ananda Everingham, Dan Chupong, Sorapong Chatree and Jarunee Suksawat.

It's out on Blu-ray in Taiwan. YesAsia has it. It's a Region A disc, so U.K. folks are still out of luck. And there are no extra features listed. There's a DVD too.

Up to now, the only licensed home video release outside Thailand that I'm aware of was the Blu-ray and DVD in Germany, which had only German subtitles. There, it was released as Pirates of Langkasuka.

Of course, in the two years since it was in cinemas in Thailand, there's been plenty of time for folks to rip the Thai DVD, put it on the torrents and watch it with fansubs. There was even a DVD issued by a bootleg label.

(Thanks Logboy!)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

EFM 2010: Ong-Bak 3 and Fireball Begins bring on the Thai action

Though Asian films are in the spotlight this year, the Berlinale has been quiet for Thai films. It's the accompanying European Film Market where the Thai action is.

Sahamongkol Film International is there with a big crew headed up by executive vice president Gilbert Lim. They are hawking Ong-Bak 3.

The Hollywood Reporter quotes him in their EFM Asian roundup:

Gilbert [L]im of Sahamongkol Film International, which is selling Ong Bak 3 here, confirmed that, despite the EFM's European label, Berlin's market for Asian cinema is booming.

"Each year has just been getting better for us," he said, without divulging sales figures.

I would hope that Sahamongkol is also pushing its upcoming thriller Who Are You?, with Sinjai Plengpanich.

Sahamongkol, also a big distributor of foreign films in Thailand, is there looking to buy as well.

Todd Brown of makes the pilgrimage to EFM, and Twitch has full coverage. Todd's searching for spiritual enlightenment from the likes of Fireball director Thanakorn Pongsuwan, who has a show reel for Fireball Begins. No footage yet, just words:

He has cut together a promo reel for display to potential buyers. A mix of temp footage and more polished work that will likely be included in the final film, the reel showcases several new environments - the new fight arena is fantastic - improved camera work, and an evolution of the sport as it developed on US military bases in Thailand during the Vietnam War, moving from the traditional Thai sport of sepak takraw into the form it occupied in the first film.

Sounds good! If the camera holds steady and backs up just a little bit during the action scenes, I'll be ready for Fireball Begins.

Also braving the frigid temperatures of Berlin to participate in the European Film Market are Mei Meksuwan and Pimpaka Towira of Extra Virgin, producers of Uruphong Raksasad's Agrarian Utopia and Jakrawal Nilthamrong's Unreal Forest, which recently premiered in Rotterdam.

Thai distributor J-Bics is on the participants list as well.

(Via Wildgrounds, Twitch)

Review: My Valentine

  • Directed by Songsak Mongkolthong, Pornchai "Mr. Pink" Hongrattanaporn, Seree Phongnithi
  • Starring Mintada Wattanakul, Wasu Sangsingkaew, Krit Sriphoomset, Suwikrom Amaranan
  • Released in Thai cinemas on February 4, 2010; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5

Light almost to the point of being forgettable, the portmanteau romance My Valentine is kept pumping by a cartoonish energy and the wild smile of leading lady Mintada "Mint AF3" Wattanakul as she flits from man to man in three different segments.

If the chemistry of Mint with one of her fellas isn't working for you, don't fret, because it will be over soon enough, and she'll be on to the next one.

Produced by Five Star, My Valentine (แล้วรัก ...ก็หมุนรอบตัวเรา, Laew Rak Kor Mun Rob Tua Rao) is directed by the same trio that did last year's cotton-candy colored romance anthology, Before Valentine: Pornchai "Mr. Pink" Hongrattanaporn (Bangkok Loco), Seree Phongnithi (Ghost-in-Law, Art of the Devil) and Songsak Mongkolthong (The Screen at Kamchanod), who also co-scripted.

As with Mr. Pink's previous projects, the opening credits are done in an energetic sequence that is part of the narrative, with names cleverly appearing on various objects. Mint and her co-worker friends are waking up late to work and have to rush, and they run through a film set outside their apartment building, and so the three directors aren't just names on the screen, they are actually in the credits, as are the other members of the crew.

The action in each segment begins on Valentine's Day, and they each start the same way -- with the bickering married couple from Before Valentine, florists Hia (Jaturong Mokjok) and Jae (Warapun Nguitragool Saptana-udom), driving a truckload of roses onto the expressway. They are so caught up in their spirited discussion, they almost rear-end another vehicle. Mint's character then has to pull an emergency manuever to avoid hitting the rose truck. She can either come to a screeching halt or swerve left or right, and reset the story.

Mind (or Mild as the subtitles state) is first rear-ended by a fortysomething guy named Mick ("Jeeb" Wasu Sangsingkaew) in a black Lamborgini (at least I think it's a Lambo), and she keeps running into the man in her travels through the city while selling insurance.

In one scene, she is so persistent in trying to sell insurance to an elderly Chinese man doing his meditation exercises in the park, that she gives the guy a heart attack, and then Mick is there wearing an angel outfit to help out.

She later spots Mike using a payphone, and he has the gall to ask her for change so he can continue his call -- not sure why his mobile wasn't working, but whatever. Mind then has to trek across town to collect the 32 baht from Mick, and somehow that turns into a relationship.

Mick is actually quite wealthy and spends all his time running various charities. While a guy with a sportscar and tons of money might make him a dream man for many women, he's so busy, he never has time for Mind. So their story is about the outlandish ways he has to try and make up for that and somehow make the relationship work.

The chemistry isn't really there, but not to worry, because the story is soon back at the expressway ramp to go in a different direction.

Mind next meets Art (Krit Sriphoomset from Dangerous Flowers), a guy about her twentysomething age, who's fun to be around. But he's also extremely rude. This is probably the most entertaining segment to watch, just to see
Art dish out the abuse and see how Mind reacts. Art works as an animator, and there is a lively animated videogame sequence here, which really boosts the intensity.

It's this middle segment that seems to take a cue from the comedy portions of GTH's Phobia (Phrang) horror portmanteaus, and have a character who's intent on satirising other movies. Here, Art lets loose with the spoilers of Five Star's own films. So if you haven't seen Before Valentine or Slice, maybe skip this one.

Finally, Mind meets an old college friend, Gong ("Per" Suwikrom Amaranan). He's actually working in the expressway toll booth, and Mind drives off while he's trying to get her attention, and breaks his arm. Despite his injuries, he's a gentle, warm and caring guy who seems able to make friends with just about anyone he meets. He seems too perfect, however, and harbors a bit of sadness.

This romantic comedy seems to be marketed on the premise that Mind has a choice of the three men, but I can't recall if it actually comes down to that. Rose petals fly into the air in a beautiful stylized CGI storm, and perhaps the choice is left up the audience.

There is more sweetness during the end credits as real couples are interviewed about how they met. So perhaps the message is, go find yourself your own perfect mate.

Related posts:

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ong-Bak 2 sets Blu-ray sales record

The Blu-ray of Ong-Bak 2 has done well since being released in the U.S., charting at No. 6 for the week ending February 7 and managing a record 43% Blu-ray market share, according to, which bases its report on figures from Home Media Magazine and Neilson Videoscan First Alert.

I am assuming the "record" is for new-released Blu-ray titles. Anybody know for sure? Let me know.

There are lots of reviews of Ong-Bak 2 rolling in.

High-Def Digest has one, noting it is a "brilliantly choreographed slugfest" and praising the cinematography and direction of Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai, but also looking at the technical aspects of the BRD, which has "extremely sub-par video and ... slightly disappointing audio".

Another review is at DVD Talk, which says that included on the Blu-ray is the "Alternate Cut", which is "essentially a European re-edit of the film, from Luc Besson's company EuropaCorp. The differences between the Theatrical Cut (97:50) and the Alternate Cut (88:27) boil down to a streamlining of the action beats to best appeal to casual audiences."

Blogcritics has a dual review of Ong-Bak 2: The Beginning and the Blu-ray of Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior, which was released on February 2, the same day as Ong-Bak 2.

Finally, there's Kung Fu Cinema, which goes old school and reviews the DVD of Ong-Bak 2, noting that the two-disc "Collector's Edition" has all the same features as the Blu-ray, except, of course, the high resolution.

Here's the extras:

  • The Making of Ong-Bak 2: The Story and Characters of an Epic (7 min.)
  • The Making of Ong-Bak 2: Revealing the Majesty (7 min.)
  • The Making of Ong Bak: The Art of War (7 min.)
  • Behind the Scenes: Capturing a Warrior (5:00 min.)
  • Behind the Scenes: The Kingdom (6 min.)
  • Behind the Scenes: The Community (7 min.)
  • Interviews with Cast and Crew (25 min.)
  • HDNet: A Look at ONG BAK 2 (3 min.)
  • Ong Bak 3 – Exclusive Footage (2 min.)
  • International and U.S. trailers for Ong-Bak 2
  • High-def trailers for Red Cliff, District 13: Ultimatum, Bronson and The Warlords

Makes me want to get into Blu-ray. Anybody in Thailand with recommendations on where to shop or what whether I can expect region-coding hassles if I shop locally?

Time reviews 'too beautiful' Agrarian Utopia

Uruphong Raksasad's Agrarian Utopia (Sawan Baan Na) is still making its way around the festival circuit. It's been in competition this week at the !f Istanbul AFM International Independent Film Festival. And at the end of the month, it makes its U.S. premiere, screening in New York as part of the Museum of Modern Art's Documentary Fortnight 2010: MoMA's International Festival of Nonfiction Film.

Somewhere along the line, Time magazine's John Krich caught the film. In the review Field Daze, he writes:

If there's anything to criticize in the 33-year-old director's sophomore effort (a follow-on from 2006's equally pastoral Stories from the North), it's that his high-definition images — all darkening clouds and lustrous green paddies — are too beautiful. Despite its share of grumbling about corrupt politicians, Agrarian Utopia quickly moves beyond some heavy-handed message movie toward Buddhist meditation. Uruphong's oppressed peasants are as much victims of their own restlessness as they are of meager rice prices. With a poet's eye, the sights and sounds of their close-to-nature existence are transformed into sources of comfort.

I keep being told that Agrarian Utopia is to get a commercial release in Thailand this year. So I hope to see it again.

Update: Treehugger reviews Agrarian Utopia at Istanbul's !f fest.

(Via Extra Virgin)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mundane History to make North American premiere at BAM

Anocha Suwichakornpong's Mundane History follows its recent Tiger Award win in Rotterdam with a North American premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music as part of the BAMcinématek's Rotterdam@BAM series.

The screening is at 6.30pm on Saturday, March 6. You can get tickets at the BAM website.

(Via Electric Eel)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Steven Spielberg of Thailand

Producer Frank DeMartini is in Bangkok prepping for the production of Elephant White, an action film starring Djimon Hounsou and directed by Prachya Pinkaew, who DeMartini refers to as "the Steven Spielberg of Thailand".

In a posting at Big Hollywood, "Why I'm Filming in Bangkok", DeMartini tells his readers who Prachya is:

Prachya is famous for Om Bak, Chocolat and Tom Yung Goon, three of the highest-grossing films in the history of the country. You may be wondering why I am in Thailand and not somewhere in the United States. Why am I in a country 9,000 miles away from home when I could be shooting this movie anywhere in America including Los Angeles.

DeMartini goes on to explain why he's in Bangkok and offer his views on why shooting movies in the U.S. is so expensive.

It's good that he's here. The Thailand Film Office will be pleased. He can tell other Hollywood folks that the film business in Thailand is great, because they may have heard otherwise.

By now DeMartini must feel like an old Thailand hand, having recently completed The Prince and Me 4 in Thailand, with elephants -- of course -- and production services by DeWarrenne Pictures.

But, um, Frank, the names of Prachya's movies you referred to are Ong-Bak, Chocolate (not the Johnny Depp gypsy movie) and Tom-Yum-Goong. And, among the Top 15 highest-grossing Thai films of all time, according to a study by the Thai Film Foundation's Sanchai Chotiroseranee, Tom-Yum-Goong is in fourth place and Ong-Bak is 14th. Chocolate did pretty good if I recall, but it's not in the top 15.

(Thank you, Lady Karla!)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

World Film Festival of Bangkok sets dates, calls for submissions

Mark it: November 5 to 14, 2010. The 8th World Film Festival of Bangkok.

The fest is calling for submissions, with an entry deadline of October 1.

The countdown begins now.