MARCH 14 ― The biggest excitement in local cinemas this week for me personally, is the arrival of local action flick Bulan & Pria Terhebat, as I've always been a complete sucker for fight flicks, even more so when it has female leads.
When you add to that the fact that it's a Malaysian movie, then you can definitely count me in as a paying member of the audience.
However, a pretty tight work schedule meant I wouldn't be able to catch it in time for my column this week as I had to prioritise another film that I've been wanting to see since late last year.
Singaporean film Wet Season by 2013 Cannes Camera d'Or winner Anthony Chen seems to be on very limited release here (in just four cinemas across Malaysia, and with only four showings per day at each location) and at a very high risk of reduced showtimes after its first few days.
Since Bulan & Pria Terhebat is a big local release that's expected to do well at the box-office, judging from how heavily it's been promoted here, there is a high possibility of it surviving at least two to three weeks in local cinemas.
Other than these two regional attractions, let's not forget two animated hits that seem to still be going strong, despite the threat of Covid-19 steadily increasing by the day over here.
So if you're thinking of catching some films in Malaysian cinemas this week, let's see how these fare, shall we?
Directed by Monsters University director Dan Scanlon, this new Pixar adventure is quite clearly not one of their top tier titles.
It boasts their fairly standard men-on-a-mission story (which is probably the plot of almost all of their movies, come to think of it).
See the Nemo movies, the Toy Story movies, the Incredibles movies and more for proof.
Sprinkled with their by-now-trademark heartfelt emotional fairy dust, Onwards scores its positive points courtesy of its setting ― a magical world consisting of magical creatures like centaurs, unicorns, dragons, manticores and lots more that have turned normal, because, as the film's narration helpfully explains, magic is just too hard to master, so the world found a simpler way to get by.
In this simpler world, we get to meet the film's two lead characters: the nerdy teenager Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and his role-playing game obsessed older brother Barley (voiced by Chris Pratt).
Having grown up without their father, a surprise left by their father, to be opened on Ian's 16th birthday, leads them to a first hand encounter with real magic.
A spell left by their father made it possible for them to see their father again for just 24 hours.
It's a deeply personal and touching premise to base a film on, the unthinkable privilege of getting to see a person you've always wanted to meet your whole life, even if just for one day, and it's this heartbreaking premise that keeps the film afloat with its emotional power, despite the fairly standard plotting and the expected comedic hi-jinks that follow their adventures.
In short, the film's standard Pixar feel and predictability actually makes perfect poetic sense once you arrive at its ending and realise what it's trying to say.
It's a humble message that should make us appreciate life more than we have so far.
In 2013, Singaporean director Anthony Chen won the Camera d'Or (for Best First Feature) at the Cannes Film Festival with his debut film Ilo Ilo, a story about a Filipino maid who formed an unlikely close bond with the son of a family she's been hired to work for.
This sweet and unlikely maternal bonding again forms the core of his new film Wet Season, this time involving a budding friendship between Mandarin teacher Ling (a captivating Yeo Yann Yann, who fully deserves her Best Actress win at the Golden Horse Awards last year) and her student Wei Lun (a now teenage Koh Jia Ler, who also starred in Ilo Ilo).
Where Chen takes this budding friendship I'll leave it for you to find out, but his very patient and character driven approach to storytelling works wonders in this film, and his socio-political comments about Singapore, ranging from the importance of math and science as compared to languages to the way he subtly lays down the differing perceptions of Malaysia and Singapore between citizens of the two countries, are more than delicious enough to provoke.
It's a film that delights in showing contrasts, and is more than tactful enough to not spell out its many lessons, even if Chen can sometimes overdo things in the symbolism department, especially with its rain metaphors, and one involving a big red ink stain on paper.
But this being an Asian melodrama, of course there's one lesson that one cannot avoid giving explicitly, which is that of heartbreak, and in that department Chen, Jia Ler, and Yann Yann pass with flying colours.
A wonderful film, please go see this one.
Sonic The Hedgehog
I've never been much of a gamer, but even as a casual and occasionally video-gaming child of the 80s and 90s, I'm more than familiar with the intellectual property that is Sonic The Hedgehog.
At least enough to want to see how a movie adaptation of the game turns out.
When the first trailers dropped and fans were complaining about the movie's character design for Sonic, I truly didn't see what the big deal was, so when fans raved about the new and improved Sonic that eventually ended up in the movie, I still had no reaction, except to say that the Sonic I did see in the movie looked pretty good and cute.
That much I can say about the movie as well ― it's a harmless, but not charmless movie adaptation of a video game, and it was reasonably entertaining, especially for kids.
Jim Carrey was a total hoot as the cartoon bad guy, and I can imagine anyone sitting through the movie won't be suffering too much, which is more than I can say for a lot of movie adaptations of video games.
Heck, even its box-office performance was surprisingly good, grabbing around US$300 million (RM1.2 billion) worldwide so far, on a US$85 million budget, which I think pretty much guarantees that a sequel will be on its way soon.
See it if you don't have anything else to do, and if you don't expect too much, you'll be pleasantly surprised how tolerable this movie actually is.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.