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MARCH 11 — One of the most pleasant surprises in the Malaysian film distribution scene happened quite recently, when the good folks at Astro’s A-List channel started putting some of its films in local cinemas.
This is in addition to its already quite impressive (and rotating) monthly roster of films on its channel.
The caveat is, of course, that these films are mainly showing on GSC’s International Screens but at least they’re getting to the big screen, and as people often put it, you have to start somewhere.
With the number of other, smaller distributors also vying for screen time alongside Hollywood studio films here, going to Malaysian cinemas can be quite a colourful experience, and this week’s crop of films prove just that.
In addition to the three films I’m going to write about below, you can also choose to watch two local films — J Revolusi and Adiwiraku. If you’re a fan of Syfy movies, there’s also director Mike Mendez’s (of Lavalantula and Big Ass Spider fame) latest film Don’t Kill It, which became a surprise favourite at Fantastic Fest, not to mention Oscar flicks like La La Land and Hidden Figures still showing, and that Russian superhero movie Guardians also still playing.
And I haven’t even mentioned the Hong Kong and Bollywood films on offer as well, so it really is quite a week if you’re planning a movie day or night out!
It’s nothing short of a miracle that a Filipino film like Ma’ Rosa, which won its lead actress Jaclyn Jose the Best Actress award at Cannes last year and is directed by a bona fide member of the elite Cannes Competition club, Brillante Mendoza (he won Best Director in 2009 for Kinatay, and has been a steady presence at Cannes with almost every new film he makes), gets a cinema release here.
A story about a poor Filipino family, led by its small time drug dealer matriarch, it is a long and hard look into the cycle of poverty, drug abuse and corruption that can plague even the nicest and most innocent of families.
The plot kicks in when the police busts Ma’ Rosa and her husband for possession of drugs, and asks them to either pay a huge amount of money or rat out their supplier if they don’t want to go to jail.
What follows is an unflinching, painful and sobering experience that moves like a great propulsive thriller, with a forward momentum that one rarely finds in arthouse movies. Both ugly and beautiful, this is one film you must see this week!
For once, the hype that surrounds a superhero film is fully justified. Logan, which is Hugh Jackman’s farewell to his role as Wolverine, is as good as all the drooling reviews have made it out to be.
I was understandably sceptical when not only fanboys, but film critics started saying that Logan may just be the first superhero movie to get major Oscar recognition, but after seeing it, I don’t think it’s that unthinkable anymore.
Of course, I don’t think it will ever win Best Picture, but some nominations in the major categories won’t be a shock. A brutal and deeply emotional film about an ageing Logan reluctantly tasked with protecting a young mutant (in a world where there hasn’t been a new mutant born in 20 plus years) who’s being hunted down by a well-armed paramilitary force, writer-director James Mangold’s (of Copland and Walk The Line fame) biggest achievement here is in not spelling everything out for the audience.
Like all great movies in the drama genre, he leaves you enough space to figure things out on your own. And when you combine that thoughtful introspection with some scenes of lyrical beauty (there’s an extended family dinner scene that’s just lovely) and the downright brutal action one, you’ve got a superhero movie for the ages.
Kong: Skull Island
The biggest surprise for me about this new King Kong movie is that it’s directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, whose only previous film is the lovely US indie gem The Kings Of Summer, which is a far, far cry from the big budget (reportedly US$190 million or RM846 million)) special effects extravaganza that was to be his second feature film.
Reading interviews with him after I watched the film, apparently he asked the same question that came into my mind the first time I saw the trailer for Kong: Skull Island — why do we need another King Kong movie?
The answer will increasingly become apparent as the movie unfolds before you. This Kong movie is a Kaiju film, pure and simple. And it has all the pleasures of a great Kaiju film, by the bucketloads — exciting monster fights, smart and funny dialogue, and a bit of tongue in cheek in all the right places.
And boy does the film move. To put it simply, if you’re a geek and names like Gojira, Mothra, Gamera and Ghidorah get you unreasonably excited, then you will have a blast with Kong: Skull Island.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.