'Captain Marvel' and a few other goodies in Malaysian cinemas this week

MARCH 9 ― The wait is half over. Avengers: Endgame might be the most anticipated film of 2019, thanks to Avengers: Infinity War's jaw-dropping ending, but the film's post-credit scene also gave birth to another surprise ― the existence (and therefore the story) of Captain Marvel.

There are plenty of films playing in Malaysian cinemas this week, but I'm sure none of them will occupy as many screens as Captain Marvel; and probably even in the next few weeks.

It's such a hotly anticipated movie that there were “haters” who began posting negative reviews and ratings even before it opened in cinemas, apparently because of lead actress Brie Larson's comments about how she'd love to see more diversity among the entertainment press, with most of the haters often only concentrating on her use of the words “white male” instead of her plea for more inclusiveness.

Prior knowledge of this controversy is not needed to enjoy Captain Marvel, but depending on which side of the fence of inclusiveness you're on, that knowledge can really deepen your appreciation for the themes in this film.

And just in case you stumble upon a sold out screening of Captain Marvel, or are simply looking for something else to watch this weekend, I've made it a point to recommend some alternatives as well.

Captain Marvel

I'll probably need to see this one or two more times to confirm this, but I have this feeling that Captain Marvel might well end up being my second favourite Marvel movie of all time, behind the still untouchable Captain America: The First Avenger.

Yes, Captain America: The Winter Soldier may just be the most politically prescient superhero film ever made and Captain America: Civil War a beautiful exploration of the futile attempt to see things purely in black and white, but when it comes to superhero films, I give a lot of currency to one particular emotion ― joy.

And joy is exactly what you'll get with Captain Marvel, from all sorts of angles. In its tale of a scrappy underdog Kree soldier finding herself, you'll find joy.

In witnessing the women in the film assert themselves, assume their power and exert it, you'll find joy.

In the story's many surprises (that they've somehow kept secret), you'll also find joy.

In Carol Danvers' gradual discovery (and enjoyment) of her powers, you'll find joy.

In its empowering subtext and totally unexpected political allegory on America's race relations and its world superpower status, you'll find lots of joy.

Heck, even in seeing a side of Nick Fury you've never seen before (a more innocent and fun one), you'll also find joy.

And for geekier film fanatics like me, the pleasure of witnessing the writing and directing team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck effortlessly apply their knack for the personal and the intimate in films like Half Nelson and Sugar onto a superhero blockbuster like Captain Marvel is, again, a joy to behold, because as hard as it may be to believe, what's at stake in the film is not really the fate of the world, the universe or anything like that, but quite simply her conscience.

In short, Captain Marvel is pure joy, a Marvel film that doesn't need to concern itself much with any shared universes and just enjoy being its own thing (90s references and all), that's also socio-politically aware but uses its themes to make the movie soar even higher.

And in Ben Mendelsohn's Skrull leader Talon, we have one of the most compelling villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. Excuse the pun, but this one's a marvel indeed.

The Prodigy

The Pact establishes director Nicholas McCarthy as one of the very few talents to watch from the ever crowded world of indie horror.

His follow-up film At The Devil's Door unfortunately didn't do much to fulfill that promise, but he's back for another bite with his latest film The Prodigy, which got a surprise low-key release in local cinemas beginning last week.

A slight tweak or variation on The Omen and The Exorcist, The Prodigy sees writer Jeff Buhler add a bit of Mickey Keating's excellent but under-seen Psychopaths (or maybe Wes Craven's My Soul To Take) into the mix, so instead of demons or the Antichrist, we get a reincarnated serial killer in the body of an eight-year-old boy whose intelligence is off the charts.

The emotional connection, that crucial ingredient that will make or break a horror flick, we get from the mother's love for the boy, and the lengths she'll go to so that her boy can be released from this nightmare.

It's nothing you haven't seen before, but McCarthy knows his scary movie beats so well that you will still find yourself gripping your seat more than you expected to.

Gully Boy

A sort of Bollywood version of 8 Mile? Count me in! Playing in cinemas since the middle of February, I've only managed to find the time (and interest) to give this a watch last week, and I'm glad I did because I've unexpectedly stumbled upon one of my favourite movies of 2019 so far.

Telling the story of a poor, working class Muslim guy living in the slums of Mumbai who found his voice through rap and hip hop, and is determined to use that voice to not only give his life dignity, but to break free from the shackles of poverty, expectation and class structure.

Playing like a perfect combination of mainstream Hollywood rap musicals and archetypal Bollywood formulas, even the script's sometimes messy attempts at manufacturing crisis as it goes from its second act towards the climax is drowned out by the pure likability factor of its core story and the charisma of every single actor in front of the camera, especially the irresistible chemistry between the lead couple played by Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt.

Director Zoya Akhtar has a wonderful gem on her hands this time, and I hope this one manages to cross over and travel far beyond Bollywood audiences.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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