Friday, 6 April 2018

Under The Spot Light: Dukun

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For someone who grew up in the 90s, the name Mona Fandey is something that sends chills to your spine. Mona Fandey is a Malaysian Pop Singer back those days who later made a drastic career change to be a shaman.

The fame which she fully garnered as a singer, she gains it when she became the talk of the country and international media in 1993. On July 1993, Datuk Mazlan Idris, a politician from the ruling UMNO party had seek the supernatural services of Mona Fandey to grow his political career.

In return, Mona Fandey was paid handsomely and instead of fulling Datuk Mazlan Idris’s wishes, she and her team murder him and cut him up to 18 pieces. She and her team were eventually captured, tried by jury and hanged to death in 2001.

It was allegedly said that she uttered the words “Aku takkan mati” moments before she was hanged. Dukun is a Malaysian film inspired by events from the Mona Fandey case. Shot in 2006 and slatted for a 2007 released, the movie was banned by FINAS until it recent release on 5th April 2018.



Story Review


Dukun is a film about a lawyer whose daughter had ran away recently and in his efforts to find gets entangled with a murder convict that he must defend in court who is a shaman that is being convicted for murdering a businessman. In his desperation to seek his daughter he becomes a pawn in a bigger and dangerous plan of the shaman.

You will have noticed many similarities between the character of the shaman and the way the businessman was gruesomely murdered towards the Mona Fandey case. It is those moments which makes the film even more interesting.


I particularly enjoyed how the film had more layers compared to just making a film fully inspired from Mona Fandey. Instead having a plot of a lost lawyer seeking his daughter was a good touch.

However, the major twist of the film could have been hidden better in terms of the writing. No, I am not talking about the moments inspired from Mona Fandey,
but the plot regarding the lawyer and his daughter.


It was a little disappointing for me that I was able to figure out the plot twist so early in the film and with that was able to guess many moments that was about to come. I would have preferred that those moments were better hidden.

I also enjoyed how the director fits in an element of having the need to trust in god and how men seek back to god when he realizes the wrong path he has taken. Well done on emphasizing that key message.

One moment which made me very curious in the film and which I am yet to figure out if it was fiction or factual is when during the court trial, a Chinese gold businessman would testify that the convict had bout gold and jewelry worth 1.2 million from his shop.



During the time other witness was testifying, the convict would always remain calm and composed, but not during this moment. Here you will she being angry and restless and eventually she would speak in a male Chinese voice claiming that the businessman is lying, and he would eventually bleed from his mouth.

Why was this scene placed in this film? Does this scene have anything to do in the real court trial of the Mona Fandey case? I don’t know but the fact that this scene was intentionally placed in the film raises more doubts in my mind.

In a nutshell, if you like film that balances thrill and mystery, Dukun is a story you will enjoy.

Rating: 3.3/5.0

Director Review
Dain Iskandar Said


Dukun was supposed to be Dain Iskandar Said’s first film, however due to all the bans and restriction placed by FINAS, Dukun was never able to see daylight for nearly 12 years until recently.

Post Dukun, Dain has done several films and it is only fair to judge him in this film as a debut director. First of all, I must say it was very brave and bold on Dain to pick craft a film inspired by a very controversial figure. When I read about Mona Fandey when I was young, I always wondered why no films was done about her and then I found Dukun. Credit to that Dain.

Huge credit to Dain once again in extracting some very powerful performance from his cast in the film and also the research done for the detailing in the film. Let be the Mona Fandey perspective, the way a lawyer conducts himself in court or the dark magic arts. Very well detailed work was done there.

Two things didn’t impress me much in the film however. First was the editing and the engagement. I felt many scenes in the film could have been trimmed down by a couple of seconds to increase the engagement. The scene establishment shots I found it too long and thus disconnected me from the film many times.

In addition, with the lack of background scores during many scenes once again disconnected me from the film. Some sort of music or sounds during scenes especially when there were no dialogues could have made it better.

The second point was the usage of the VFX in the film. It felt a little artificial and didn’t gel well in the scenes but that is something very much forgivable as we need to remember that the film was shot 12 years ago using available technology back than.

Dain Iskandar Daud certainly did impress me very well and it is no surprise to me why his next film “Bunohan” was very critically acclaimed.


Rating: 3.2/5.0

The Cast
Datin Seri Umie Aida


Hats off Umie Aida, hats off. Your performance terrified me. In all honesty when I compared your acting to the photos and video of Mona Fandey, you seemed more terrifying than she ever was. That was a very bold and powerful 
performance.

I particularly enjoyed the way how you flirted and seduce the men in the movie. It felt so slick and cunning. It reminds me of how a snake slithers when it moves. I wouldn’t be surprised if you used both Mona Fandey and snakes as study guide to prepare for your character.

You brought us to the darkest corner of the character and struck fear in our hearts with your performance. Let be the way you lick the wall or how you bend around your body while looking possessed or the way your body jolts while you are performing the dark arts magic, it connects with the audience so well and made us fear about you.

Lots of credits for taking up such a bold and beautiful role and presenting it to us in both elegance and haunting at the same time. Enjoyed your tone you used to deliver your dialogues in the film. How it moves up and down and the aggression that comes in with. As much efforts you put in acting in the film, it was equally done in the dubbing process too.


No wonder you are such a highly sought-after actress. I hope through Dukun, you can add more awards to your glorious career. Diana Dahlan is going to be a character that is remembered for a very long time.


Rating: 4.5/5.0

Faizal Hussein


Plays the role of Karim Osman, who lost his wife about 10 years ago and now has his daughter missing. He tries to trace back his daughter in both the legal way and through engaging a mysterious individual. When all attempts fail, he is pushed into desperation to seek the help of Diana Dahlan.


His character is a lawyer by profession and Faizal does very well to shows us the dilemma of a man who should be believing facts and logic but is pushed to follow and believe something that can’t be explained.

As he tries to defend Diana’s crime from a logical point of view, he is also pushed into accepting black magic to trace back his daughter. That confusion in his character was well portrayed.

I also enjoyed the way he acts as a lawyer in court. Despite knowing his client is guilty, he comes up to find ways to defend her actions. He is a character that is dealing with many different emotions and is very lost in his life.

I like the way how he performed towards the end when he gets completely broken down and then tries to regain his way to light. No doubts Faizal justified the role given to him with credit.


Rating: 3.2/5.0


Final Verdict: The Wait Is Over, Your Nightmare Has Just Began


Final Rating: 3.55/5.0



Friday, 30 March 2018

Under The Spot Light: KL Special Force

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KL Special Force was the first ever Malay film I ever watched in the cinemas in the 28 years of my life. Well what inspired me to do so was something that happened 2 weeks ago when I watched Lee Chong Wei in cinemas.

I entered the wrong cinema hall and end up watching the opening scene of KL Special Force before releasing that it was not Lee Chong Wei. I dashed out of the cinema hall before heading to the right hall to watch Lee Chong Wei.

However, the opening scene of KL Special force impressed me so much that I decided that I had to watch this film in cinemas before it is removed although it will be in Malay. Language is not a barrier in films and this is something I had to watch.

KL Special Force was released on 8th March 2018 and it stars Dato Rosyam Nor, Syamsul Yusof & Fattah Amin. The film was directed by Syafiq Yusof.




Story Review

KL Special Force is one of the most engaging and racy film you will watch. The amount of plot twist and turns that takes place in the film will mess with your mind so much. Whenever you think you know what is going to happen, the story takes a turn or twist in a way you wouldn’t expect.


If I were to summarize the film into a one liner, KL Special force is a film about a group of police task force attempting to bring down a group of bank robbers. Where the film stands out for is the multiple layers and theme that is written into this films.

The first layer is about the police trying to catch the robbers. The second layer is about how a heavily pressured cop deals tries to cop with the demands of being a father and husband. The third layer is about exploring the dynamics between having a hot headed young cop teaming up with an experienced calm cop and the misunderstanding in it. There is also another layer which explores the motives of the robbers as well.

When you look this way, the film seems so clouded yet when you watch the film it is so easy to follow the story. Credit to the story writer of film for designing such a wonder story. It was a pleasure to be watch this story on the big screen

Rating: 4.5/5.0

Director Review
Syafiq Yusof

The first time I came across the name of Syafiq Yusof was when I saw the trailer of Desolasi. For those who haven’t watch it, do check out the trailer of Desolasi and be prepared to get your mind blown with it.

I never had the chance to watch Desolasi in cinemas, but I managed to catch KL Special Forces and you continued to impress me further. As mentioned about, the story of the film was amazing, and it was something I truly enjoyed throughout.


The Director: Syafiq Yusof

Another huge credit to the director and his team should be in the area of cinematography. The way the action sequence and chase sequence were choreograph, and shot was amazing. The camera movement and shots of many of scenes were fantastic.

The film does some very good visual storytelling. The scene and emotions of the actors speaks to loud even if there are no dialogues in it. It is just brilliant visual storytelling and once again credit to the director and the DOP team.



Another area which impressed me, so much was in the area of sound detailing. Let it be the gun shoots and things exploding and breaking, it was done with so much detailing. The panning of the car engine sound reducing as it leaves the scene was also done with full of detailing. It is wonderful to see so much effort put into these areas.

The director also deserves credit for extracting quality performance from his cast and also ensure that the editing was done very neatly and ensured that the film remained racy and engaging despite it is an emotional family scene.

An area of the film which I felt let down was the blood splattering vfx in the film. It will that it was just a splash of red colour appearing and disappearing without leaving a stain on the shirts of the victim.

The second part is I felt was there was enough back story given to the rest of the bank robbers crew. I felt there was a little love story brewing there but the bank robbers’ characters don’t get the full chance to explore the depth of their characters scope. It results in them being more then an added weight to make up the numbers rather than contributing to the scope of the film.

Rating: 4.2/5.0

The Cast
Dato Rosyam Nor

The first time I ever watch Dato Rosyam Nor in cinemas was when I watch Kabali. The man was heavily under utilized in the film. You could spot the glimpse of his talent in there but there was enough screen time for him

The second time I saw him acting was in Lee Chong Wei and I was very impressed with his performance as Misbun. You know that he is a talented actor and now with KL Special Force, he has surely sealed a reputation in my mind that he is such a terrific performer.

There are many scenes in this film which he will take your breath away with his performance. Two scenes in this film was my favourite. First is when he screams to his wife during his daughter’s birthday party about how he nearly died that afternoon and how do you expect him to be happy. That switch of emotions from being mentally disturbed to being aggressive and angry was just wow.

The second scene is when he begs to the Ashraff character to spare his family’s life and in return takes his life. The way he begs and break down was amazing. He has always been this tough hard-hitting cop who goes all out but switches when it comes to family was a great joy. It was a pleasure to watch you act.

Rating: 4.5/5.0

Syamsul Yusof

He plays the role of Ashraff whos is also the leader of Geng Anarkis. I’m not sure why the symbol of Geng Anarkis looks like the symbol from Avengers but that should be least of your concerns because when you see the way Syamsul Yusof plays his role, you might just root him to win.

I loved his character design in the film. It reminded me a little about how the Joker was in The Dark Knight. His smartness, cunningness and the way he manipulates people. There is a moment in the film which reminds me of how The Joker tries to convert Harvey Dent into becoming Two- Face.



Syamsul Yusof delivers his character in his own way and this will be one of the best villain you will see on screen. It is almost you can even beat him. Even at the end you wouldn’t know if he actually won or lost.

I loved how he balanced the emotions involved with his character. Let it be when he is calm, aggressive or emotional he adapts his characters emotions and thought process well into those moments which makes his character such a strong figure in the film.

I always believe the stronger the villain, the greater the hero looks like and the power play between the hero and villain is a great explain of this philosophy.


Rating: 4.5/5.0

Fattah Amin

Fattah Amin plays the role of Zulkifli who is a young cool hot-headed cop who initially doesn’t get along with Roslan (played by Dato Rosyam Nor). He is shown as somebody who thinks that he is very smart and eventually does more harm than good.







Fattah Amin physically looks very suitable for the role as he looks well built and composed to play the role and delivers well when he needs to explore a romantic but disturbed by work state of mind with his fiancee.

I particularly enjoyed his performance in the climax scenes and justifies well why he is given the nod for the role

Rating: 3.3/5.0


Final Verdict: A Thrill Ride That Glues You To The Edge Of Your Seats. 


Final Rating: 4.2/5.0




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Monday, 19 March 2018

Group Call: Malaysian Short Film That Will Scale Great Heights

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With every passing moment, the quality of our Malaysian film makers seems to be scaling to newer, greater heights. Most recently Sughamaai Subbulakshmi, directed by our very own Karthik Shamalan has been nominated for the Norway Tamil Film Festival for the best director award and his lead heroine, Punitah Shanmugam, bagged the best actress award.

Another proud milestone to notify is that not only our feature film makers were selected in this film festival, but two of our shortfilm makers, Viknish Lokarag Asokan & Madan who film Thiruvin Mangai and Mudhal Padayal were also award winners in this film festival. This definitely shows how  our film makers are on par with other international film makers out there.

Another short film that caught my eyes recently was Group Call. I was one of the few lucky people who could watch this short film on the big screen during Cinefest 3, before it was released online on YouTube recently

When the film came to an end, I only had one thing to say. Wow!! Just WOW!!!!. This film was a class of its own. Hats off to the director and writer of this film for coming up with something out of the box and very futuristic, in many ways.

*SPOILERS AHEAD* 

This short film is about hypnosis over a telephone call. It answers all the what, why and how that comes in your mind surrounding this core plot of the film and that makes the film more engaging, from the start till the end. 

Big shoutout to the VFX team of the film. It was so well done. Let it be the pen movement, the futuristic tab or brain reader. It was well done and placed in the film in terms of where it was needed. Credit to the VFX team again.

The sound design in the film was another aspect that needs to be applauded. It creates so much curiosity and intensity which keeps you engage throughout the film. The intensity of the phone call or the sound surrounding the character was so well designed. Sound was such a big strength to the film.

Coming to the part which awed about me the most was the writing of the film and how well things were kept. I loved the fact on how the writer and director ensured that on normal calls we could hear both sides of the conversation while if it's a call from Group Call to distract away unwanted people we only hear a one sided conversation Absolutely loved that touch from the writer and director Watch those parts closely and I believe you will get it.

However, one big question remains unanswered for me was the way the film ended. It drove me nuts to try and understand what does this ending means and what happens next. I really hope the director and writer would explain to me this after reading my write up.

Without a doubt Group Call has been one of the best or maybe even the best short film I have watched in a very long time and thank you to the director for bringing in together a team of wonderful talent and extracting everything that was needed to make this short film a huge success!

You can now watch the film in the link below






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Tuesday, 13 March 2018

LET YOUR INNER CHILD GO ON A STUPIDLY FUNNY RIDE WITH SAHIL! A Stand-Up Comedy Show By Sahil Shah


Another weekend another stand-up comedy show. Isn’t that just amazing. First of all, let’s give a huge shout out to Phoenix PR for coming up with stand-up comedy shows on back to back weekends. Having said that, on 17th March 2018 which is this coming Saturday, Phoenix PR is set to amaze us again with another stand-up comedy show


This time it is going to be a show from Sahil Shah who is set to bring the kid out of him in this show called “Childish Behaviour”. Sahil Shah has performed over 900 shows worldwide, including performances in New York, Dubai, London, Singapore, and now for the very first time, he is coming to Malaysia.


He describes himself as a 3-year-old stuck in a 26-year old’s body and boy, and he is right! Sahil does not hold back on the foolishness in this one, as he derives this special from the immaturity, the silliness, and pointlessness of things around him and his innate ability of making stupid faces and silly sounds to make anyone laugh.

Audience members can expect to be taken on a hilarious walk down memory lane with relatable ‘Indian Mom’ jokes, and how it is to grow up in the 90s with a rather careful and eye-opening analogy of the cartoons watched.

“Every time a customer buys a ticket to a Phoenix PR stand-up comedy show, they are booking a seat at a show that is unique to the ones before it. Sahil Shah is one of the most exciting names to come out of India in recent years. His energy and stage-presence are something that Malaysian audiences will find very entertaining, and most importantly, incredibly funny,” said Vinodh Menon, CEO of Phoenix PR.

For this one, Sahil asks audiences to leave their adult worries at home and enjoy the ride. Tickets are on sale at AirAsia Red Tix at https://airasiaredtix.com/sahil_shahs_childish_behaviour with EARLY BIRD prices at RM 110 (Bronze), RM  120 (Silver), and RM 130 (Gold) till the 22nd February 2018. For more information, visit the Sahil Shah’s Childish Behaviour Facebook Event Page at https://www.facebook.com/events/2579424938864884/



Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Karthik Kumar's Blood Chutney Giveaway!

By, Tharanie Rajendran 
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Karthik Kumar is one of South India’s biggest names in the comedy industry is coming to Malaysia for the first time with his third stand up special, Blood Chutney! With a tagline of Main Dish Comedy, Side Dish Blood, the show is comedy catharsis at its best and is born out of his own difficult personal situations.

“Blood Chutney is about the many difficult challenges that have happened around me and myself, and it asks a paramount question, and that is, can we find humour in all of this? This makes Blood Chutney a unique stand-up comedy show that has a lot of comedy that originates from a peculiar space. My goal is to inspire people to laugh at the ‘curve balls’ that life throws at them, and keep moving forward,” said Karthik Kumar.


Tickets to Karthik Kumar’s Blood Chutney are on sale at https://airasiaredtix.com/karthik_kumar_blood_chutney with tickets starting from RM 120 to watch Karthik Kumar live at The Gardens on 11th March, 2018 !


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