Choice of films: Lightyear, The Convert, Roadrunner: a film about Anthony Bourdain
Light year (NC16)
105 minutes, showing, 4 stars
In this surprisingly poignant space adventure spinoff of the Toy Story films (1995 to 2019), space ranger Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Chris Evans) and his crewmates are stranded on a planet filled with dangerous creatures.
Buzz tries to find a way home with the help of fellow ranger Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), but the alien monster Zurg (James Brolin) appears, along with his mighty army of robots.
In the Toy Story universe, it was the movie that inspired the production of the Buzz Lightyear action figure that found its way into boy Andy’s collection.
The cliché in artistic space movies is this: you travel across the galaxy, only to find what you seek within yourself. That’s what’s happening here, but you won’t notice it because of the tight storytelling.
A square-jawed male hero of a fantastical genre, Evans’ space guard Buzz embarks on this inner journey. He even gets a therapy animal, the adorable robot cat Sox. Buzz and Sox make a fun Luke Skywalker-R2-D2 team, but Sox is better because he’s also a very empathetic life coach.
The convert (PG)
84 minutes, Netflix, 4 stars
At the complicated intersection where race, religion, family ties, gender roles and sexuality meet, you’ll find the late Malaysian filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad.
Titled Muallaf (which in Malay means “to convert”) when it was released in 2008, his fifth feature was only recently added to Netflix. Several of his works – including Rabun (2002), Mukhsin (2007) and Talentime (2009), the last feature film before his death from a stroke the same year – were added a few years ago.
This could be because The Convert was controversial and played in Singapore before its release in Malaysia, following edits for religious sensitivities.
The version on the streaming service appears to be cut-free. Unfortunately, it’s poor picture and sound quality – a fate that has also plagued some Singapore films on Netflix, such as the military comedy Army Daze (1996).
The Convert is a story full of humor and also sadness. The Rohani and Rohana sisters (played by real-life sisters Sharifah Amani and Sharifah Aleysha) opt for intellectual honesty in all of their affairs. In a society that isn’t ready for women who are as intelligent and confident as they are, their outspokenness comes at a price.