This post may contain spoilers.

In the past three weeks, I saw these three films that were the talk of the town, in more than one sense of the word.

Film #1 was John M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians.

I can’t remember actively going to the flicks to catch a rom-com since Garry Marshall’s Pretty Woman back in 1990 (read single ma… never mind). Also, with fiction being low on my reading list, even if I have one, at the mo, I have not heard of Kevin Kwan’s literary trilogy until I first saw the film’s trailer[1].

I actually booked to see the preview in Sheffield a weekend before its official UK release date but had to let that go[2]. After catching up on some glass-shifting, I finally got to see it the weekend before my KL trip. I don’t know why I was somewhat overcautious about the film, but it was a good yarn about love. It was actually a normal romantic tale and there was nothing extraordinary about it. That is if this wasn’t a big Hollywood release with an all-Asian cast that made the waves of late. I don’t follow Fresh Off The Boat but I kinda think I could fall in love with Constance Wu. Henry Golding was very good, in keeping with what all and sundry have reported – a non-actor that could act very well, and now have a few more Hollywood films under his belt. I really like Awkwafina’s Peik Lin and together with her on-screen dad played by Ken Jeong, they were on fire. Michelle Yeoh’s cold dragon mom was a no-brainer – she carried that role brilliantly. As for the director, Jon M. Chu, I was surprised that his previous films were of the GI Joe variety, and to achieve something like this in the Hollywood history books is a big pat to his back, as well as the overall collective that did the film.

One thing I love about the film is the music, like Katherine Ho’s rendition of Coldplay’s Yellow in Mandarin (I am listening to the OST as I am typing this) and Cheryl K’s version of Money (That’s What I Want) – those I didn’t expect!

The thing about this Singaporean tale, the two of the main characters were Malaysian and a lot of the locations used were shot in Malaysia. Langkawi, Penang, as well as KL’s Carcosa and the old Istana Negara to name a few. Luckily, due to my then impending KL trip, I stayed surprisingly calm during Golding’s accented “Satay sepuluh!” in that Newton hawker food court scene.

Film #2 was Adrian Teh’s superb PASKAL. Again, there was much praise about this military action film, and after seeing the trailer/s on YouTube, I had to go see it.

The story was good. It wasn’t a Michael Bay-styled all-out napalm-fest with a Malaysian flag in the hazy background, but the film was good enough that it didn’t stray away from the gestalt of story that was being told. If A goes to B, and C happens, the reason for C is valid without revealing a hole in the plot. The trailer included shots of the PASKAL troopers jumping out of a plane and aerial shots of the RMN’s Scorpene submarine which may be clichéd in Hollywood, but with it being a first for Malaysian cinema (as far as I am aware), I couldn’t help but feeling a tad proud watching it in the cinema. And the best thing is – these superb shots of actual military hardware was done by the by to support the story, and wasn’t dragged out just because.

There is emotion in the story too, so this is not The Expendables. And, to add, the emotion was genuine and no verbalisation by way of the script was done to invoke said emotion in the viewer. The film was well casted. I don’t admit to know any of them (I have heard of a few) but the actors that made up the Alpha team were told to train to bulk up/trim down, as well as being exposed to a smidgin of the actual hard core PASKAL training which added to the realism portrayed in the film. If you watch any of the YouTube interviews, you too would be proud to see an all-Malaysian effort to give us this film. It doesn’t matter if it’s a director of Chinese ethnicity doing a Bahasa film with a largely Malay cast[3]. About time too.

Lastly, film #3 which was Kabir Bhatia’s Pulang. The film was already on NETFLIX when I was back in KL, but I found it strange that I could watch it using my UK account. Only to realise that Pulang is out on NETFLIX internationally.

I came across the making-of docu on YouTube a few weeks back, and was fascinated with the premise of the story which was based on real events of a Malay man named Othman leaving his family to seek fortune working on merchant ships back in the mid-20th century, an oft heard story from the likes of my dad who had friends that did exactly that. Due to the timing of me catching this on NETFLIX, I had to watch this in two sittings – the first twenty minutes on the iPad in KL, and the rest on my big telly in Sheffield.

Taking a step back, it was a good film, but now and then, I had to nitpick on bits which at the end of the day prolly wouldn’t matter much. If you remembered my the absence of “just because” shots in PASKAL, there’s a few of these in Pulang. One may argue, sweeping long shots or purple hues in the clouds are needed in an epik chenta agong I suppose, but you can’t help nitpick if Melaka looked suspiciously like the Malaysian East Coast. The CG on this was aplenty, and needed to be in the film, but you just couldn’t help to go “that’s so CG” in some shots. And I’m not saying this just because I wanna pick on a Malaysian film – but you can actually see it. There were practical effects used in the film, too – so, the storm at sea scene was well done if I should say so myself. I have to say props to Tommy Mansur’s practical sets especially the one of Hong Kong. Detailed, and very impressive. At the beginning of the third act, was the scene set in the present day where Othman’s grandson and Juliana Evan’s Malay-Scouse character were searching for the location where Othman was laid to rest, and the names of Anfield and Everton cemeteries were mentioned which made me go, “Really, now…”. Well, until I Googled. Sorry for doubting.

Anyway, back to the story – this is a tragic love tale in which the reasons for Remy Ishak and Puteri Aishah’s characters being apart for so long is finally revealed in the third act. The reason for Remy’s Othman not returning was understandable but as with every tragic love tale, you can only go “why laaaaaah…..”.

I have to say this is the first time a good number of good Malaysian films (excluding the first film above in this review) is out in one shot. On the same note, I am looking forward to catch Hantu Kak Limah (grossed RM37 million) on, err… DVD, as I missed the release. I wonder if it will be on NETFLIX, seeing that there is a number of Malaysian films that can be viewed internationally currently.

[1]That’s also the result of going for books with more pictures than words. Yay Dr. Seu… tak tak taak.
[2]Not an issue, it was “free” thanks to my Cineworld Unlimited membership.
[3]Have a look at this as well.