Thursday, February 25, 2016

On DVD: The Blue Hour

The Blue Hour (Onthakan, อนธการ), indie director Anucha Boonyawatana's much-acclaimed gay murder mystery, is due for release on DVD and streaming platforms on March 8 in the U.S., where Strand Releasing picked up the rights.

And Strand had three copies of the DVD to give away. And they were quickly snapped up.

Here's more about it from Strand Releasing:

The Blue Hour is a sexy supernatural love story about a bullied loner, Tam, who finds solace in the arms of Phum, a boy he meets at a haunted swimming pool. Phum reveals that his family’s land has been stolen and the newfound lovers imagine a perfect life together on the disputed land. Haunted by a ghostly presence, Tam struggles to stay connected to reality. An official selection of the Berlin International Film Festival, The Blue Hour is a dark atmospheric tale of love and distress.

I thought it was pretty good, and included The Blue Hour among the best Thai films I saw last year.

There's a trailer, embedded below.

In Thai cinemas: Monkey Twins, The Rain Stories

Thai action cinema has been on the ropes for the past year or so. The leading proponent was writer, director and choreographer Panna Rittikrai. He died in July 2014. And Panna's chief protege, leading Thai martial-arts star Tony Jaa, has largely parted ways with the Thai film industry in order to finally go work in Hollywood.

So stunt specialists and martial-arts actors have been relegated to supporting roles in horror movies and trashy Thai TV series.

But now comes Monkey Twins (วานรคู่ฟัด, Wanorn Khoo Fud ), which blends Thai and Chinese martial arts, dance and theater.

Released by Kao Thaitayarn Co. Ltd., it's co-directed by figures who worked with Panna and Jaa in the past – Ong-Bak 2 writer Nonthakorn Taweesuk and Tom-Yum-Goong 2 action choreographer Weerapol Pumartfon. The story pits Hanuman, the monkey hero of Thai masked dance, against Sun Wukong, the magic monkey of Chinese opera. Sumret Muangput, Kazu Patrick Tang and Panyanut Jirarottanakasem star.

Check out the trailer, embedded below.

Held over for a week after its initial release, The Rain Stories (เมื่อฝนหยดลงบนหัว, Meur Fon Yod Long Bon Hua) is the latest from Nichaphoom Chaianan, the indie writer-director of last year's gay romance My Bromance.

It's an anthology of unconventional high-school love stories. They involve a disabled girl falling for the hottest boy in school, a boy who is about to meet his father for the first time becoming embroiled in a relationship with his best friend, and another boy who is considering entering the gay sex trade in order to repay his gambling debts.

Check the trailer. It's in limited release at Esplanade Ratchada in Bangkok.

Other activities in Thai cinemas this week includes Wim Wenders: A Retrospective, which has screenings on Saturday, Sunday and March 5 at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom. Co-organized by the Goethe-Institut Thailand, Wimfest opened this evening with an outdoor screening of Wings of Desire in Lumpini Park. Other highlights include the Archive's first 3D screenings, with Pina and Every Thing will be Fine screening in state-of-the-art 3D on March 5.

Check the Bangkok Cinema Scene for more details.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

In Thai cinemas: Luk Thung Signature and the return of The Act of Killing

Star-studded stories unfold to the toe-tapping beat of Thai country songs in Luk Thung Signature (ลูกทุ่ง ซิกเนเจอร์, a.k.a. Love Beat), a sprawling musical drama by producer-director Prachya Pinkaew. Best known for directing the Tony Jaa martial-arts dramas Ong-Bak and Tom-Yum-Goong, Prachya has long wanted to make a luk thung musical.

Featuring 13 songs, the stories include a brooding business executive (Krissada Sukosol Clapp) who is searching for the cleaning lady he heard singing while he was in the toilet. She's played by Rungrat Mengphanit, a singer who is best known as "Khai Mook The Voice", thanks to her winning appearance on a Thai TV talent show.

Another story centers on a washed-up overweight pop singer (singer-actor Chalitit "Ben" Tantiwut) who finds new popularity when he puts on a glittering rhinestone suit and switches to luk thung.

Other stars include The Voice Thailand Season 1 winner Tanon Jamroen as well as Siraphan Wattanajinda, Chaiyathat Lampoon, Sombat Metanee and Pitsamai Wilaisak, Sumet Ong-art, Su Boonliang and luk thung songwriter Sala Khunawut.

Read more about it in a story in The Nation.

Also in cinemas is a revival run for the 2012 documentary The Act of Killing, which has the perpetrators of genocide in Indonesia in the 1960s re-enacting their gruesome deeds in often self-aggrandizing fashion, in scenes from their favorite types of movies – westerns, film-noir mysteries and lavishly staged musical numbers.

The Act of Killing rubbed me the wrong way when I saw it in a one-off special screening in Bangkok a few years ago. I felt it let those colorful politicians and military figures mostly off the hook for their wave of politically motivated killings in 1965-66. But it was part of a one-two punch by director Joshua Oppenheimer and his "anonymous" team of filmmakers, who followed up the The Act of Killing with the powerful and essential counter-punch, The Look of Silence, which focused on one gentle survivor's personal search for truth and justice.

Brought back by the Documentary Club, this is the 159-minute "director's cut" of The Act of Killing. It won many awards, including the European Film Award for Best Documentary and the Asia Pacific Screen Award. It was also a nominee for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

The Act of Killing opens this week, and the must-see followup The Look of Silence is released next Thursday. There's a special screening of both films from 6pm on Saturday in an event put together by the Documentary Club and Film Kawan, an academic group that specializes in Southeast Asian films. It's at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.

Apart from that special screening, regular venues for The Act of Killing are SF World, SFX Central Rama 9, SFX Central Lad Phrao and SFX Maya Chiang Mai. For further details, check the Documentary Club Facebook page or SF Cinemas booking site

Departing first-run cinemas after of two-week run is Khon Muay Kab Rak Thee Taektaang (ฅนมวยกับรักที่แตกต่าง, a.k.a. Boxing in Love), in which former childhood sweethearts – traditional dancer Roong and boxer Yord – are reacquainted years later in Bangkok, where Yord gets mixed up with mobsters and is tasked with going undercover in a police sting. Roengsak Misiri and Kriangsak Phinthutrasi direct.

Other new movies this week include Deadpool and Carol. There's more details on the other blog.