AUG 20 — With things more or less going back to normal after two years of the pandemic, one would be forgiven to expect that this year’s summer movie season would see a return to the glory days of moviegoing before the pandemic, with local audiences being spoilt for choice by Hollywood’s endless assault of big new movies throughout the months of June and July.
Thanks to the failure of Thor: Love And Thunder and, to a lesser extent, Lightyear, to make an appearance in local cinemas, the months of June and July have felt more like a drought instead, with only Mat Kilau taking this rare chance to really strike gold to become Malaysia’s all-time international box-office champion, taking over the throne from Avengers: Endgame.
How strange that it’s only in August that things really started to pick up in local cinemas, with a glut of movies opening (though still very few big ones from Hollywood), and a lot of them being huge blockbusters in their home countries.
I’ve picked out two major blockbusters currently playing in Malaysian cinemas, one each from Hollywood and Indonesia, in case you’re planning a night or weekend out at the movies this week.
I haven’t managed to find the time to catch other big new titles like Laal Singh Chaddha (a Bollywood remake of Forrest Gump!) and Beast yet, but I think these two would be fine already.
If you want something really light, funny, entertaining and handsomely well-made, I don’t think there’s another movie playing in Malaysian cinemas right now that can even hold a candle to this slick entertainment machine directed by David Leitch (who co-directed the first John Wick, and was responsible for the delightful mayhem in Deadpool 2 and Hobbs & Shaw) and headlined by a super-cool Brad Pitt.
Already cashing in almost US$120 million (RM537 million) worldwide, it’s clear how much of a crowd pleaser this film has turned out to be.
Sony’s ‘Bullet Train’ is light, funny, entertaining and handsomely well-made. — AFP pic
Playing very much like a Guy Ritchie/Quentin Tarantino movie directed by a guy who did John Wick, it’s a movie loaded with extravagant dialogue about very specific pop culture items (I learned a lot about Thomas The Tank Engine just by watching this movie!), but is also filled with plenty of great fight scenes, as one would expect from the director of John Wick.
Trying to describe the plot would take away half the fun because, as in any other Ritchie/Tarantino-esque caper, there are plenty of coincidences and double crosses in order for the paths of its multiple characters to cross.
Let’s just say that all you need to know is that Brad Pitt plays a contracted operative/mercenary called Ladybug, who’s returning to the job after a period of soul searching, and was given a seemingly easy task of stealing a briefcase in a bullet train, which is of course, full of other killers/mercenaries as well, and just let yourself be taken on this brainlessly entertaining ride by Leitch, Pitt and the rest of the actors.
‘Pengabdi Setan 2: Communion’
With the remake of Pengabdi Setan becoming Indonesia’s highest grossing film when it came out, of course a sequel will need to be made, not only for the producers to cash in on the phenomenon, but also for the audience to find out more about what happens next to the film’s Suwono family.
Already raking in five million admissions in Indonesia (approximately US$16.2 million at the box-office) after about a week plus and also topping the Malaysian box-office charts this week, this sequel looks well on its way to becoming another box-office behemoth, but is the film any good though?
Working on a much more slender plot/storyline, if you’re looking for a more satisfying narrative then you won’t find it here, as it is (thanks to its 14-storey low-cost flat setting) more or less a horror version of The Raid, in that it’s not the story that matters, but the scare set-pieces.
Yes, there are admirable attempts to tie in the events and characters in the film to real life events like the 1955 Bandung Conference and the Petrus killings in the early 1980s, but the connections made are so slight that it’ll likely take further reading for the uninformed audience to truly get. But the scare set-pieces, well that’s another matter!
While there are quite a few jump scares here that are very predictable, with room even for a fake jump scare that had the audience laughing (very clever of director Joko Anwar to do that), there is one masterfully constructed major set-piece involving an elevator accident that just showcases how much of a skilful showman Joko is as a director.
The way he builds suspense in that set-piece, subtly foreshadowing hints of what’s about to happen and meticulously cranking out the tension as the scene goes on will leave the audience breathless and gripping their seats once the payoff happens.
It’s truly a great, great set-piece that will stick in the mind of anyone watching it, and while the whole film itself might not be as satisfying as the first one, this set-piece alone is worth the price of admission.
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.