Arts & Entertainment

Your complete guide to Penang's art exhibitions, theatre plays, musicals, comedy, movie reviews and film trailers

Penang's best art galleries
Art

Penang's best art galleries

Your art appreciation begins now

50 things to do in Penang: Arts and culture
Things to do

50 things to do in Penang: Arts and culture

Here's how you can channel your inner culture vulture

Street art by Ernest Zacharevic
Art

Street art by Ernest Zacharevic

A look at Penang's most photogenic graffiti art

Independent bookshops in Penang
Shopping

Independent bookshops in Penang

Where you can score some inspirational reads

Street art in Penang
Art

Street art in Penang

A guide to George Town's glorious street art

Latest film reviews and releases

Valérian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Film

Valérian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Spiraling through the same vertiginous terrain as such nutty, chock-a-block sci-fi epics as 'Avatar' and David Lynch’s weird-on-weird 'Dune', the mega-expensive 'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets' flaunts a visual imagination on fire – and a human pulse that’s at best sporadic. Let’s just say it doesn’t skimp on the planets. We’re only just beginning to take in a utopian 'Space Oddity'-scored prologue in which generations of astronauts, human and otherwise, meet peacefully at an orbiting space station when the action shifts to a gorgeous beach where an alien princess cavorts with a pet that poops pearls. Then there’s a desert world that’s home to a giant mall which you can only see with special glasses. Don’t get exhausted – we’ve got two more hours to go. Based on a French comic-book series that dates back to 1967 and reportedly went into George Lucas’s food processor (along with much else) for 'Star Wars', 'Valerian' bears the typical weakness of having a central pair of bland human heroes, tasked with rooting out cosmic corruption that’s not worth explaining. Valerian himself (Dane DeHaan who, after his jerky turn in 'A Cure for Wellness', deserves sharper scripts) is a space jock whose every line reading makes you appreciate lesser, latter-day Han Solos like Chris Pine. Thankfully, model-turned-actor Cara Delevingne does a spunkier job with sidekick Laureline, diversifying her arsenal of expressions beyond a frowny face. Her caterpillar eyebrows and hypnotic f

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Dunkirk
Film

Dunkirk

You might already know how the evacuation of Dunkirk in May 1940 turned out: how over 300,000 mainly British troops escaped from the beach and harbour of a northern French port while being bombarded by the Nazis. But the power of Christopher Nolan’sharrowing, unusual war film is that it tries hard, with real success, not to make any of this feel like just another war movie. Instead there’s a strong sense of this bloody, strange event unfolding in the unknowable way that those on the ground might have experienced it. It’s awe-inspiring and alienating, perhaps as it should be. At less than two hours (brief for the director of ‘The Dark Knight’ films and ‘Interstellar’) and keeping dialogue to a bare minimum, ‘Dunkirk’ gives us a short, sharp dose of the oddness and horror of war, dropping us right into the fray. It’s a staggering feat of immersive terror, blessed with such knockout photography that it has to be seen on a massive screen if at all possible (Nolan shot the film in two large formats, Imax and 65mm). It looks, feels and sounds like a nightmare, balancing naked suffering (drowning, shooting, shelling, crashing, burning) with a strong hint of otherworldliness: Nazi propaganda leaflets spookily dropping from the sky; strange foam washing up on the sand, dislocating aerial shots of sea meeting land. Nolan gives us three interlocking chapters, offering three different perspectives. There’s ‘The Mole, One Week’, taking place on the harbour wall from which thousands were

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Baby Driver
Film

Baby Driver

Music sounds better when you’re on the road. In ‘Baby Driver’, ‘Shaun of the Dead’ director Edgar Wright takes the car-chase action film – loaded with tyre squeals – and weds it to a cracking jukebox playlist. The result is the most supercharged piece of motorised choreography since John Landis destroyed a fleet of cop cars in ‘The Blues Brothers’. Wright’s hero, Baby (‘The Fault in Our Stars’ actor Ansel Elgort), still has a hint of peach fuzz on his cheeks, but he’s a genius with a gearstick. A getaway driver with dreams of going straight, Baby needs music to drown out the tinnitus-induced buzz in his head. Unlike the more violent and existential vehicular visions seen in ‘Drive’ or ‘Bullitt’, ‘Baby Driver’ is sweet fantasy. That means its two-bit thieves and criminal masterminds (Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey) are enjoyably cartoonish; the same goes for Baby’s waitress crush, Debora (Lily James), the kind of broad-smiling cutie that filmmakers always seem to dream about. Their romance is nourished with doe-eyed looks and Beach Boys-scored dreaminess, but the movie doesn’t know what to do with it, except hatch a plan to ‘head west and never stop’. The chances are you won’t mind: the action sequences here, imbued with humour and break-on-a-dime timing, are the most beautifully sustained and jaw-dropping of Wright’s career. You’ll be rewinding them in your head for days.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
War for the Planet of the Apes
Film

War for the Planet of the Apes

An evolution of the tech-heavy Hollywood blockbuster, the ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise is a Darwinian dream come true. These movies have captured a soulfulness that’s different from anything else out there. ‘Apes’ wrangler, director and co-writer Matt Reeves (‘Cloverfield’) has steered the concept into ethically complex territory, beginning with 2014’s second chapter, ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’. He now surpasses himself with a broodingly downbeat epic set 15 years after the outbreak of the civilisation-killing simian flu. As you’ll have guessed from the title, it’s a war film, but not just any war. From the scrawled markings on the human soldiers’ helmets – ‘Monkey Killer’ – to the bald, bellicose colonel straight out of ‘Apocalypse Now’ (Woody Harrelson, doing his best bug-eyed Brando), this film rewages the war of Vietnam, complete with its tangle of self-negating righteousness and mission drift. Once again our hero is Caesar (Andy Serkis in a motion-captured triumph that eclipses even his beloved Gollum – the effects here are close to magical), sensitive leader of the apes who suffers a calamitous blow to his family after a sneak attack. His peaceful nature rocked by a desire for vengeance, Caesar departs with a small detachment of shaggy aides-de-camp to intercept the humans while his tribe heads for shelter. Apart from pulling off the unique trick of having us root for human extinction, ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ foregrounds a beautiful tension between t

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Spider-Man: Homecoming
Film

Spider-Man: Homecoming

‘Couldn’t you just be a friendly, neighbourhood Spider-Man?’ asks Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) of his 15-year-old webslinging protegé Peter Parker (Tom Holland), fearing that the high schooler is going to tangle with the wrong bad guy and end up in more trouble than he can handle. And indeed ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ offers a welcome narrowing of the Marvel mega-verse, away from alien invasions and globe-smashing supervillains and back towards something more local and intimate. The film’s villain, flight-suited arms manufacturer The Vulture (Michael Keaton), doesn’t even want to rule the world: he’s just chasing a fast buck to feed his family. The problem is that he’s willing to sacrifice innocent lives to achieve that goal – starting with Peter’s. ‘Homecoming’ isn’t strictly an origin story: there’s no radioactive spider bite, no wow-I-can-lift-a-car-now moment. This is about a young man figuring out what to do with the power he’s already acquired, while also navigating the pitfalls of everyday teenagerhood. It’s light and breezy – and perhaps a little throwaway, at times. It’s also dizzingly entertaining. Holland brings just the right blend of goofy and gallant – we genuinely like this kid, even when his cockiness threatens to get out of hand. He’s handed a perfect foil in the form of Ned (Jacob Batalon), the traditional chubby sidekick with a touch more depth. And despite what the trailers might suggest, Tony Stark’s regular cameos don’t unbalance the film: he’s more gu

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Okja
Film

Okja

Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho's 'Okja' is a globalised caper comedy with a conscience buried somewhere among all its silliness. In the film's sights are GM food production and the poor treatment of animals, and at its heart is a cute, often winning relationship between an oversized pig and a Korean girl called Mija (An Seo Hyun). Call it a wacky kids' film with a message (one delivered in a script co-written with Jon Ronson), and it's just fine. But there's too much ripe language and violence for this to work for most kids, and less forgiving audiences are likely to find that 'Snowpiercer' and 'The Host' director Bong's fondness for slapstick and caricature cancels out much of its serious purpose. Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal's performances as corporate baddies set on turning giant pigs into lucrative bacon are much less fun than they should be: Gyllenhaal's turn as a narcissistic, crazed animal expert is especially over-ripe and grating. Put aside the pantomime approach to depicting the Mirando Corporation – a nasty food multinational with extravagant CEO Lucy Mirando (Swinton) at its head – and it's easier to enjoy the warm connection between Okja and little Mija. Okja is the result of Mirando's plan to raise 27 super-sized piglets and increase her company's food-production game. She's being raised in a remote Korean forest by Mija and her grandfather, until Mirando's crazy animal guru Dr Wilcox (Gyllenhaal) appears to whip her off to the US. What follows is a chase

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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