JULY 30 — With Mat Kilau fever not showing signs of slowing down yet, despite entering its fifth week in local cinemas and now taking over the number one spot in the all-time Malaysian box-office charts from Avengers: Endgame after collecting RM90 million in 33 days, and Thor: Love and Thunder now officially cancelled, the summer movie season has seen very few big Hollywood movies opening here in Malaysian cinemas.
So it’s pretty much left to the Asian contingent to pitch in and make this year’s summer movie season a bit more exciting in local cinemas, with Indonesian horror hit Ivanna (which had more than two million admissions already in Indonesia), the latest film from Korean auteur Park Chan Wook (of Old Boy and Joint Security Area fame) Decision To Leave and, of course, the newly released The Doll 3, which I hope to catch soon, all competing for screen time and audience attention.
If you’re looking to catch a movie or two in a local cinema near you, here are a few notable recent releases that might just be worth your time, all of them Asian hits coming from countries as varied as Thailand, South Korea and Hong Kong.
Fast & Feel Love
Prolific Thai boy wonder Nawapol “Ter” Thamrongrattanarit (now 40 years old, and with six feature films already under his belt) is probably my favourite Thai filmmaker at the moment, even surpassing my love for Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Anocha Suwichakornpong, for his ability to maintain his personal quirks and style even when making films for Thailand’s leading studio GDH, as can be seen in his previous films Heart Attack and Happy Old Year.
He’s done it again with Fast & Feel Love, another quirky and freewheeling comedy-drama about relationships, this time focusing on man-child Kao, who’s obsessed with sport stacking, and his girlfriend Jay, who’s slowly beginning to realise that she’s wasted 10 years of her life caring for Kao with no signs of maturity and progress in sight.
Promoted as Ter’s first action movie, the PR (and even the movie’s poster, which uses the same font and styling as the Fast & Furious movies) definitely doesn’t lie, as we’re treated to plenty of suspenseful and skilfully executed action scenes revolving around the sport of speed cup stacking, and there are even plenty of nods to and spoofs of films like The Dark Knight, Ip Man and even Parasite scattered across the film to hilarious effect.
But it’s the film’s big, beating heart that will ultimately stay with you, culminating with an ending that’s as bittersweet and heartbreaking as they come, punctuated by a nod to that famous farewell scene in Furious 7 that will leave you smiling.
The Witch: Part 2. The Other One
A scene from 'The Witch: Part 2 - The Other One'. — Screen capture via YouTube/EonTalk
Having loved the first film (The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion) enough to own a physical copy of it on Blu-ray, this long-awaited sequel will undoubtedly have most fans drooling with high expectations, so it’s with great regret that I have to report that this sequel is a pretty disappointing one, despite it being directed by the same director, Park Hoon-jung.
Expanding on the mythology introduced in the first movie, this sequel plays very much like the current trend of re-quels (a combination of sequel and remake), but this time involving a different girl with superpowers that she may or may not realise she has.
The main plot and character trajectory is more or less the same — some very bad people are looking for a girl with superpowers, who’s hiding with a new family that she genuinely cares for — but it’s the execution here that’s very disappointing, with some truly wonky CGI work that’s more reminiscent of the cheesy CGI work on wannabe blockbusters from China than the usual high standard that we’re accustomed to with Korean movies, a convoluted story littered with sub-plots that go nowhere, and some cringe-worthy attempts at humour and melodrama.
No matter how big a fan you are of the first film, proceed with caution.
Detective vs Sleuths
A huge hit in China, banking US$85.3 million already in 17 days, director Wai Ka Fai’s long-awaited return to feature filmmaking (his last film was Written By, way back in 2009) is sort of an unofficial revisit of his 2007 film Mad Detective, with the main character here played by the same actor and sharing the same character traits and thematic similarities involving personality disorder, Detective vs Sleuths is a wild, and wildly entertaining, police procedural that’s spiced up with plenty of Hong Kong-style action moviemaking.
Wai, who is mostly known as the writer and sometimes co-director of Johnnie To’s more idiosyncratic films, also recycles the main case in Blind Detective for this film, and has delivered an absolutely unhinged film about Jun Lee (an absolutely cracking Lau Ching Wan), a disgraced ex-detective who can see dead people coming up to him to either help him solve their murders or, even more outlandishly, prevent their murders from happening.
Some unsolved murders finally point to the existence of a group of vigilantes who seem to worship Jun Lee and his previously ignored pleas about how some murder cases have been wrongly solved.
All of this then leads up to a never-ending battle between Jun Lee and the group of vigilante sleuths, resulting in plenty of batshit crazy action sequences and logic-challenging revelations that just can’t help but be entertaining as hell to witness.
Yes, this film might give you a headache, but the fun ride it takes to cause you that is definitely worth it.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.