Three films to catch (or miss) in Malaysian cinemas now

SEPTEMBER 12 ― The arrival of Tenet in Malaysian cinemas two weeks ago seemed to have brought back some of the energy and excitement that’s been missing ever since local cinemas have been allowed to re-open in July.

Granted, with the Covid-19 pandemic still stubbornly refusing to go away six months on, most people are still reluctant to go to cinemas to watch a movie.

Combine that with the fact that most of the movies that have been playing here since the reopening are nowhere near “major” status, until the arrival of Tenet, I bet most people have not even been paying attention to what’s been gracing local cinema screens so far.

But for those who do feel like venturing into Malaysian cinemas, I think this week’s line-up of movies (with one carried over from last week’s new release roster) is probably the most exciting one yet.

Disney’s live action remake of Mulan is, of course, the biggest ticket here, despite it also being available to stream on Disney+ (which costs quite a bomb there, I believe, at least when compared to cinema ticket prices here).

And with all the horror films that have been flooding our screens since July, finally we have two really exciting and worthwhile ones opening on the same day this week to compete for your time and money.

So which ones should you catch or miss? Read on and find out.

Mulan

By the time Disney’s reported US$200 million (RM830 million) investment in the live action remake of Mulan arrived on screens big and small worldwide, a few months later than its originally planned release, it already had a lot of things going against it.

But I think its biggest flaw, which will undoubtedly lead to a whole lot of collective gasping and cringe moments among the audience, not to mention endless meme opportunities, is the fact that so much of its dialogue is just plain corny and cheesy.

Forget the fact that there are no songs here like in the much beloved animated Mulan, or that this one takes itself so seriously that it even plays more like a big budget wuxia film from China instead of a big budget Disney movie, because these are legit creative choices made by the film’s creative team, led by director Niki Caro (of the highly acclaimed Whale Rider fame).

If anything, Mulan is a really handsomely photographed and neatly told movie, despite the corny dialogue’s best efforts to spoil things.

It’s just that the whole thing feels quite bland and dull, just like a lot of those big budget wuxia epics from China. It’s not terrible, nor is it good. It’s just a missed opportunity.

Sebelum Iblis Menjemput: Ayat 2

By now I’d watch anything new directed by Timo Tjahjanto (of The Night Comes For Us fame) sight unseen, even without seeing a poster, trailer or reading any write-up about it.

Just tell me that a new Timo movie has arrived in town, and I’ll be there. Sebelum Iblis Menjemput was on my list of favourite genre movies of 2018, so a sequel is definitely something I’d welcome, even if it arrived more than six months later (it opened in February on its home turf Indonesia).

Like the first film, which was a really fun homage to Evil Dead, don’t expect much originality in terms of story here ― it’s still a movie about a bunch of people encountering evil in a big old house ― but Timo has at least tried to spice things up by introducing a new set of characters that at first doesn’t seem connected at all to the survivors from the first film, and the way they’re connected is not exactly predictable as well when it’s finally revealed.

But just like the first film, the story is not the star here, it’s in the shocks, the scares and the bloodletting gore that the film truly earns its bread, and Sebelum Iblis Menjemput: Ayat 2 feels even more like a Western horror flick than its predecessor, and it’s actually a good thing.

The aftermath of the film’s first possession, in which the possessed chases the other characters around the house will have you rocking and rolling in your seat, as it is truly a wondrous feat of horrific violence and thunderous sound design, and one of the best and most unforgettable horror set-pieces you’ll see all year.

And the film doesn’t let up from there, with Timo staging plenty of creatively scary scenes that will have you feeling like you’re on one of the most thrilling roller coaster rides you’ve ever been on in your life. Don’t miss this one and enjoy!

Antebellum

This one will probably go under the radar for most people, which would be a shame because this unlikely mashup of Get Out and 12 Years A Slave by music video directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Benz making their feature film debut is a really, really fun genre film that also provides its audience with a little food for thought, albeit without much subtlety.

Those who have seen the trailer will know that Janelle Monae plays two different characters in two different timelines ― one a respected academic and activist specialising in African-American disenfranchisement in the present, and the other one a slave during the Civil War.

How these two characters are linked, I will leave it for you to find out, because it’s an even more powerful viewing experience if you don’t seek out the trailer and walk in cold.

It's a twist that I could predict right after seeing the trailer, but its very power lies in the fact that it’s so obvious and possible that you could actually predict it, and that it won’t shock you if such a thing does happen in real life right now.

Shot and staged very handsomely, it walks a very fine line between real and cartoonish violence and hate, and this is one of those genre films that will both make you angry and cheer once the comeuppance arrives. Lovely.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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