NOVEMBER 9 — The biggest film opening in Malaysian cinemas this week is undoubtedly Doctor Sleep, courtesy of it being a sequel to the much beloved The Shining.
You can find my thoughts on that film in my column last week, since I was lucky enough to catch a press screening of the movie a week earlier.
I guess that’s one of the perks you get when you write about movies, which I’m of course very thankful for.
But my rotating work schedule means I am only able to catch some of the movies early, while most of the time I’ll just have to catch them when they officially open in local cinemas.
Last week was a bit of a challenge because there were four films opening that I wanted to catch, each for very different reasons, and two of them are local films, which meant that their longevity at the cinema screens depend on how well they do during the first four days of screening.
Most local films face drastically reduced screening times after those first four days simply because there weren’t enough bums on seats during that crucial period.
So that means that if I want to watch any new Malaysian films in local cinemas, I need to make sure that I do so by the Sunday after it opens (which are Thursdays here).
Glad that I managed to do so, because while one local film managed to survive and even became the number 1 at GSC cinemas, the other one is now reduced to showing in only two cinemas in Kedah this week.
Let’s see how they fare, shall we?
The number one film I wanted to catch last week was this Taiwanese one by Myanmar-born director Midi Z, which played at the Un Certain Regard section in Cannes this year and was one of the films I wanted to catch at the upcoming Singapore International Film Festival.
Its totally unexpected arrival in Malaysian cinemas meant that this was a chance that I won’t pass up, and Midi Z and leading actress (and co-writer) Wu Ke-xi do not disappoint with a harrowing and terrifying tale of an aspiring actress’ very difficult path to stardom.
Putting us in lead character Nina Wu’s head, the audience is made to endure a torrent of horrific abuse and exploitation that she has to endure to first land a part as the leading lady in a film, and then the mental and physical torture she has to take in order to deliver her ultimately triumphant and star-making performance in said film.
Partly inspired by Wu’s own experiences as a struggling actress and of course, by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, this is the perfect film for the #MeToo era.
Local horror films that are tidily constructed, with a well thought out and elegant visual style, are not easy to find.
In fact, they’re so rare, that once something resembling that arrives, it’s really hard not to get overexcited.
Pusaka is something that resembles that rare film. It’s a sly mash-up of a detective story and your standard horror flick, telling the story of an inspector now stationed in a small town (to tend to his junkie twin sister) investigating a mysterious case involving a pair of identical twin sisters locked up in an abandoned bungalow, in which one of the twins died and the other survives.
Without spoiling much of the plot, there are other mysterious deaths as well (kudos to director Razaisyam Rashid for staging these very well, with most of these deaths likely to play in the audience’s mind afterwards), and the supernatural elements, like in most modern commercial horror flicks, give the filmmakers the perfect excuse to provide jump scares aplenty (a big sin for some, because some people tend to associate jump scares with laziness, but less so for me because I just think that it’s an inescapable part of the modern day horror film’s audio-visual language).
In short, I’d say this is one of the best Malaysian films of the year, horror or otherwise, with only one big sour note coming from Faizal Hussein’s unconvincing Kedah accent.
Other than that, this is a fine example of how to make a commercial movie — strict adherence to what makes genre movies so reliably marketable combined with the kind of seriously polished craftsmanship that one would usually only associate with commercial movies from neighbours like Thailand and Indonesia.
Go see this one.
Zombieland: Double Tap
A sequel that not many expected and many will probably deem unnecessary, Zombieland: Double Tap arrives 10 years after the first film became a beloved cult favourite, with almost everyone in the original cast becoming Oscar contenders (Woody Harrelson) or winners (Emma Stone and Jesse Eisenberg).
Depending on what you expect, Zombieland: Double Tap is either a hilarious nostalgic ride or a tiresome retread of the first movie, as we’re treated to more of the same with the same set of characters continuing their survival act in a post-apocalyptic zombie world.
The only slight variation comes in the form of the hilariously ditzy Madison (Zoey Deutch) joining the gang of four, before they’re then joined by the deliciously confident Nevada (Rosario Dawson).
I enjoyed myself during most of its running time, especially whenever Madison’s on screen as she pretty much steals every scene she’s in, but while the jokes are as fine as ever, I still found myself preferring the stylishly hilarious zombie kills in the first movie rather than this one.
7 Hari Kisah Cinta Langkawi
I wanted to catch this because I saw quite a few posts popping up on my social media feed saying that this is a worthy Malaysian rom-com, that it’s something different, fresh, and most importantly, funny.
I wasn’t sceptical because there are relatively recent examples of good, enjoyable local rom-coms like Love Supermoon, 3 Temujanji and basically Bernard Chauly’s whole oeuvre like Pisau Cukur and Manisnya Cinta Di Cappadocia.
But boy was this one a chore to sit through. It tells the story of how a bunch of guys in Langkawi, after catching a celebrated vlogger called Diva Asmara promoting her book (on how to woo a man in seven days) on a morning radio show, dared her “live” on air to come to Langkawi and woo one of them.
Diva Asmara is then portrayed to be some sort of stuck up city slicker who deserves the comeuppance that’s coming to her. Misogynist much?
To put it simply, I chuckled maybe two or three times while watching this two hour plus movie and cringed the rest of the way through.
There’s no chemistry whatsoever, making the romance part of this “rom-com” a no go, and the comedy is just painfully unfunny, which makes even the comedy part of this “rom-com” a non-starter, making this a “rom-com” without the rom nor the com.
Well, at least I tried and paid money to see it.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.