MARCH 16 — I’ve been so busy with work and life in general that I totally missed out on the fact that this year’s Oscars happened last Monday.

Also, I still haven’t managed to see quite a few of the major nominees and winners like The Zone Of Interest and American Fiction. So, I guess I missed the boat on that one.

But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been watching any movies though, just that I haven’t been diligently catching up with the Oscar stuff much.

As for movies in general, outside of my usual diet of genre films on VOD and streaming platforms, I’ve also managed to catch two box-office and critical hits in Malaysian cinemas in the past two weeks, the major one being the Hollywood behemoth that is Dune: Part Two and the other, probably lesser-known one being the Indonesian box-office hit Agak Laen.


These are two very different films, with very different reasons for being this loved by a paying audience, but if you’re an avid movie geek like me, you’ll find much to love in these two.

Agak Laen

Already the second biggest box-office hit in Indonesian film history, the numbers as of February 26, 2024 recorded more than 7.35 million admissions for the film in Indonesia alone.


It trails only KKN Di Desa Penari, which recorded 10 million admissions back in 2022.

Box-office numbers are not publicly available in Indonesia, hence the use of admission numbers as data to track the performance of a film.

But if you can just imagine 7.35 million admissions for a movie that costs an average of RM15 per ticket, that would already mean more than RM110 million in box-office takings, which is huge.

A comedy horror flick starring members of the popular Indonesian podcast group that’s also called Agak Laen, it has a pretty brilliant hook for a premise — four down and out friends decide to pour their all into breathing new life into their haunted house carnival attraction, and their very first customer turns out to be a local politician with a weak heart who dies of a heart attack right there and then.

And of course, this would mean that the politician’s ghost now dwells in their haunted house, making it really haunted and scary for the punters, who then proceed to make it viral on social media.

Despite the already obvious brilliance of this setup, writer-director Muhadkly Acho has decided to also throw in elements of tear-jerking melodrama into the mix, to make things even more relatable for the audience.

I use the word relatable because even as a pure comedy, this movie has some of the funniest and most relatable jokes you’ll hear this year, especially if you’re from this part of the world and are somewhat familiar with the language (the English subtitles sometimes didn’t do the jokes justice, as some of them tend to get lost in translation).

Western audiences will probably find the melodramatic bits a bit of a turnoff, but I enjoyed every bit of this film.

I laughed out loud a lot, cried buckets, and simply had a grand old time watching this movie. Is it one of the best movies of the year? Probably not. But it definitely is one of the most enjoyable ones yet this year.

Dune: Part Two

Timothee Chalamet stars in ‘Dune: Part Two’. — Screen capture via YouTube/Warner Bros. Pictures
Timothee Chalamet stars in ‘Dune: Part Two’. — Screen capture via YouTube/Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s a good thing that I decided to re-watch the first Dune before coming in to see this one because even during that re-watch I realised that I’ve forgotten quite a few of the film’s details.

Continuing where the last one left off, director Denis Villeneuve has decided to go even bigger with this sequel, giving us even more action and spectacle when compared to the more measured approach of the first film.

I think it would be a bit too much to try and summarise the film’s plot, because there’s a reason why the book is so massive and at least two films are needed to tell this story.

Let’s just say that in this middle part of the saga, we get to witness the coming of age of not only Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet), but the inevitable fulfillment of the prophecy involving the Lisan al Gaib/Mahdi.

As Paul embeds himself deeper and deeper with the Fremen, learning their ways and also slowly falling in love with Chani (Zendaya), whom we only got glimpses of in the first film, we also get to witness the effects of religious mania on people, and how that can be weaponised to achieve the goals you want to achieve.

Some new characters are introduced here, none more strikingly than the Emperor’s daughter Irulan (Florence Pugh) or the film’s main villain Feyd Rautha (Austin Butler), but all of them got outshone by a peripheral character from the first film, Stilgar (Javier Bardem), whose obsession with the Lisan al Gaib prophecy provided this very serious, almost three-hour long space opera with some truly unexpected moments of comedy, even becoming the film’s biggest meme on the internet right now.

For some reason I prefer the first film more, maybe because its deliberate pace makes it feel a bit more organic and less rushed, unlike the climax to this sequel where the Fremen attack the Harkonnen forces (who also have the supposedly super elite Sardaukar on their side) felt a bit too easy and rushed, resulting in what I feel is a not so satisfying ending.

Still, the craftsmanship here is immense, and that is enough reason to go and see this on the biggest screen you can find.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.