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

Men In Black: International
Film

Men In Black: International

Nobody wanted this one: a reboot of a series that now feels redundant with every galaxy-guarding wisecrack coming from the theater next door. But how fun was it back in 1997, when CGI-heavy sci-fi first collided with salt-and-pepper buddy comedy? After three films, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are now AWOL – probably wisely on their part – leaving the dark suits and memory-wiping neuralysers to Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, who may bring to mind their superior ‘Thor: Ragnarok’. They have little to do in a film that’s both whirlingly busy and stubbornly listless and uninspired. It won’t exactly make you hate movies, full stop, but ‘Men in Black: International’ imposes such a generic dullness, it will have you seriously examining your entertainment choices. For a character that’s meant to be born and raised in Brooklyn, Thompson’s Molly, an often naive trainee agent, represents a missed opportunity for toughness – or at least the endearing street smarts this series used to supply on the regular. Meanwhile, if you ever wondered when Hemsworth surfer-bro charm would curdle into swagger, it’s now: As Molly’s new partner, Agent K, Hemsworth is almost surprisingly unfunny. When, only 15 minutes in, you’re hearing boss Emma Thompson complain about their secret organisation’s gendered name (‘I’ve had the conversation,’ she fumes), you have no idea you’re experiencing the film’s only funny line. She dispatches the duo to find some wayward aliens while a mystery mole undermines

Time Out says
2 out of 5 stars
Toy Story 4
Film

Toy Story 4

Turns out, Pixar’s sentient toys can still make us cry: Nearly 25 years after their cinematic debut, the sweetly selfless plastic pals return in a fourth ‘Toy Story’, one charged by the animated series’ thematic essence of finding purpose in being useful to others. It’s a hopeful, immensely human chapter that echoes and extends the franchise’s complex notions of loyalty, displacement and self-worth, doing so with humour and warmth. Working from a script by Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom (as well as six other story contributors, including the ousted ex-Pixar chief John Lasseter), director Josh Cooley successfully balances all these elements – a noteworthy achievement considering the large cowboy boots he had to fill after the epic yet nuanced ‘Toy Story 3’, one of Pixar’s more perfect achievements. The reliable company of old friends certainly helps. Now happily living with a new kid, Bonnie (voiced by Madeleine McGraw), Tom Hanks’s pull-string pardner Woody, Tim Allen’s devoted Buzz Lightyear, Joan Cusack’s feisty Jesse and the rest of the gang are back. New to the clan is Forky (Tony Hale of ‘Veep’, adding nervy personality and genuine weirdness), an existentially confused spork with low self-esteem that the ever-imaginative Bonnie creates as a kindergarten craft project. Convinced of his status as trash (an unusually raw class dilemma for a Pixar movie), Forky get a crash course on his toyness from Woody, himself thrown by a life crisis resembling that of a retiree. B

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
Film

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

‘Prepare for war,’ someone who knows Latin will tell you, if you ask about that subtitle, though it’s hardly necessary intel: In these gloriously dumb – but remarkably well-staged –gun-fu movies, the war is already here and it lasts the entire film. Maybe others like it when Keanu Reeves talks. He’s more effective when he moves. His somber suit-clad NYC assassin has become his signature role, stripping down ‘Speed’ and ‘The Matrix’ into something John Woo sleek. Mob thugs killed his pet pit bull in the first film. Those guys are long gone. Even though the latest John Wick brings on the usual distractions – Ian McShane’s fruity boutique-hotel proprietor, Lawrence Fishburne’s king of the Bowery underworld, Halle Berry as a lady with vicious dogs that leap straight for the crotch – mostly these characters stay out of the way. We’re here for the rigorously conceived, blessedly coherent takedowns, the work of director Chad Stahelski (also Reeves’s longtime stunt double and choreographer). Stahelski is a fight-scene Fosse and Reeves is his Gwen Verdon: ‘Parabellum’ takes the hall-of-mirrors high style of the second film and pushes it into overdrive. The level of hard-R-rated bloodletting is so delirious, you’ll smile at how bad it is for you. A closed Manhattan Bridge is the perfect site for a sword duel on speeding motorcycles. Put Wick on a horse and he’s more of a menace than John Wayne on a grouchy day. In one fight, so many knives are flung, they need to use a corpse for a pi

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Pokémon Detective Pikachu
Film

Pokémon Detective Pikachu

If you know your Psyduck from your Squirtle, this one may already be on your most-anticipated list for the year. For Pokémon devotees, it ticks all the boxes, from the moment it opens with a grazing Cubone (a pocket monster who wears a skull as a hat – cuter than it sounds) and introduces Ryme City, a place where humans and Pokémon live in harmonious incomprehension. If you aren’t one of those people, imagine watching ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ after a PCP binge and you’ll get the idea. The dense plot involves genetically mutated Pokémon, a Spielberg-y missing dad and a sinister corporation. Into the mix comes loner Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), who discovers he can talk to Pikachu, the ex-partner of his missing cop dad. Ryan Reynolds provides the furry sleuth’s voice and has a ball, chucking around inappropriate one-liners (‘Are you going to make me into a lampshade?’) with giddy abandon. If the final act is a bit dull and the anarchic Reynolds factor ends up muzzled, director Rob Letterman makes sure not to lose that self-aware edge altogether, while providing enough Pokémon Easter eggs to satisfy the most demanding fan. He’s also helped invent a whole new movie genre: cuddly noir. 

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Hotel Artemis
Film

Hotel Artemis

Hollywood’s visions of the future tend to make hellscapes of major cities. Joining the Detroit of RoboCop and the NYC of Escape from New York is Hotel Artemis’s Los Angeles, where the citizens of 2028 riot for water rights and criminals are everywhere. The film’s title refers to a secret emergency room for wounded gangsters over which Jodie Foster’s alcoholic, haunted Nurse presides, with the help of Dave Bautista’s heavy. One night, the patients are joined by LA’s Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum, at the nastier end of his spectrum), the crime boss who owns the hospital, and an injured cop (Jenny Slate) who has a tie to the Nurse’s shady past. It’s an atmospheric setup, with the faded Hotel Artemis offering a nicely seedy backdrop for a cast of good-looking, increasingly antagonistic eccentrics. Offering the closest thing to a moral compass in this den of thieves is the cool and charismatic Sterling K Brown as a badly hurt bank robber. The problem is that screenwriter-turned-director Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3) doesn’t get the buildup-to-payoff ratio right: Before any real conflict takes place, a lot of time is spent establishing characters and situations that don’t really matter. As with its fellow underworld action-thriller John Wick, an elaborate mythology informs these people’s interactions; but while that Keanu Reeves franchise was explosive, the action here is underwhelming. Still, at a tight 90 minutes, Pearce deserves credit for packing the screen with interesting characters,

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Skyscraper
Film

Skyscraper

‘Skyscraper’ is a cacophonous blockbuster, in the Die Hard wannabe (plus obligatory 3D and pricey special effects) mold, the likes of which you’ve probably seen (or perhaps avoided) many times over. Dwayne Johnson plays Will Sawyer, a former FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader currently on assignment in China with his family, in his new job as skyscraper safety assessor. It’s no spoiler to say that this skyscraper, a tech-laden, phallic monstrosity, doesn’t turn out to be so safe, and the film quickly turns into an occasionally tense but mostly predictable tale of a man taking risks to save his family from explosions, devious suits and terrorists. Johnson is obviously a bankable star, and his charisma lightens up a few moments, as when he makes creative use of his character’s prosthetic leg to save himself, and has a satisfied reaction. For the most part, though, touches of humanity are largely absent. Sawyer’s two children are cute, but they’re pretty much pawns in the action scheme here, and we know Johnson will serve a big heroic ending. Sawyer’s wife, Sarah, is largely depicted as a woman in peril–which is a shame, given that she’s played by Neve Campbell, who brought such shrewdness to roles in ‘Scream’ and ‘Wild Things’ back in the ‘90s. Campbell is given a couple moments to shine (as when she shows she knows Chinese, to the surprise of the officers helping her), but they’re few and far between. The most egregious moment in ‘Skyscraper’ just might come during a fight scene

Time Out says
2 out of 5 stars
See all Time Out film reviews