IT is tradition that the dawn of a new year in the Chinese lunar calendar is celebrated by spending quality time with family and loved ones. In this day and age, spending it at the movies seems to be part of some new “traditions”.
The Asian film industry is certainly capitalising on it, featuring most of the usual stars with more collaborative efforts this year than seen before — among Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Singapore, not to forget a dose of Hollywood star-power.
live it! takes a look at some of 2015’s Chinese New Year movies:
Triumph In The Skies
— Feb 14 (100 minutes)
Director: Wilson Yip and Matt Chow
Cast: Louis Koo, Julian Cheung, Francis Yip, Sammi Cheng, Charmaine Sheh, Amber Kuo
Arguably the season’s most anticipated film, the movie is a spin-off of Hong Kong TVB’s hugely successful drama franchise, loosely continuing from last summer’s series sequel, Triumph in the Skies 2. Highly stylised and romantic, the film glamorises the lives and romantic escapades of pilots and flight attendants in a fictional Skylette Airways. Reprising their television roles are Francis Ng and Julian Cheung, but the film is boosted by the addition of superstars Louis Koo, Sammi Cheng and television princess, Charmaine Sheh.
First impression: The trailer was designed to “sell” its star-studded cast and the visual element that made the drama series a success, except that it was heightened on the silver screen. Filmed in England and Beijing, we anticipate a stylish but hollow “music-video” type of experience that will nonetheless bring in big crowds for its brand and cast.
An Inspector Calls
— Feb 19 (88 minutes)
Director: Herman Yau, Raymond Wong
Cast: Louis Koo, Raymond Wong, Teresa Mo, Gordon Lam, Eric Tsang
Adapted from the British play by JB Priestley, an inspector drops by a lavish party to investigate the suicide of a pregnant girl, turning a happy engagement party upside down. A “whodunit” sequence of events follows.
First impression: Apart from its name and framework, nothing about this fantasy-like film would likely reflect the original play. The trailer presents an elaborate, kitschy costume party with over-the-top characterisation and exaggerated expressions. Typically, the snippets of dialogue are quintessentially Hong Kong-esque in flavour — those familiar with Raymond Wong’s work will know.
Lucky Star 2015
— Feb 19 (88 minutes)
Director: Ching Long, Sunny
Cast: Wong Cho-Lam, Ella Chen, Eric Tsang, Dada Chan, Yuen King-Tan, Yuen Qiu
The token ensemble cast film comes with a refreshing concept, where popular comedy actor and writer Wong Cho-Lam helms a tribute of sorts to the original king of “senseless slapstick humour”, Stephen Chow. Playing a fake version of himself, Lucky Star 2015 also features a look-alike Chow Yun-Fat, Andy Lau and Nicholas Tse. Taiwan’s SHE member, Ella Chen also joins.
First impression: Those who miss Stephen Chow’s comedy can rejoice, as Lucky Star 2015 carries key moments and phrases reminiscent of his many classic lines and scenes, as Wong showcases another layer to his comedic gifting, which has already drawn comparisons to the still undisputed king of comedy, Chow.
From Vegas to Macau 2
— Feb 19 (110 minutes)
Director: Wong Jing
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Nick Cheung Ka Fai, Carina Lau, Shawn Yue, Angela Wang.
Technically the fourth instalment of the Hong Kong film classic God of Gambler series, From Vegas to Macau 2 has clearly shifted away from the original ‘feel’ and even from last year’s film starring Nicholas Tse. Our hero, Ken (Chow Yun-Fat) is thrown from his plans to retire and enjoy life when his protégé, Vincent (Shawn Yue) comes calling for help to arrest the mastermind of money-laundering syndicate DOA, Miss Aoi.
First impression: Packed with some serious high-octane explosives, the trailer only shows a glimpse of Chow at the gambling table. The rest of it reels off like a typical action thriller, in Thailand to boot. Still, it’s good to see Chow on screen, as well as Carina Lau, who adds a touch of old school glamour to a solid cast. Let’s hope they’re saving their best hand for the actual film.
My Papa Rich
— Feb 19 (99 minutes)
Director: Ryon Lee
Cast: Wang Lei, Jack Neo, Teddy Chin, Mindee Ong
Based in Malaysia, the story tells of widower Yang (Wang Lei), who leads a solitary and simple life, while his children are working in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. When he laments at not being able to afford the coming Chinese New Year, a chance encounter with his millionaire friend Lin (Jack Neo) changes his fate. Lin offers Yang a chance of becoming a millionaire for a month.
First Impression: Malaysian director Ryon Lee was the writer behind last year’s record-breaking film, The Journey. He was also the writer for Malaysia’s first Chinese New Year hit film, Great Day. As a director, he wrote and helmed last year’s psychological horror film, The Transcend. All of the above tell human interest stories; Lee is a master at capturing and bringing out his observations on society’s behaviour. Coupled with the support of prolific Singaporean film-maker Jack Neo, My Papa Rich may be another runaway hit this year. At least it’s the only film thus far that reflects the season’s emphasis on family and cultural values.
— Feb 19 (126 minutes)
Director: Daniel Lee
Cast: Jackie Chan, John Cusack, Adrien Brody, Choi Si-Won
An epic historical drama that features Huo An (Jackie Chan), a commander during the Han Dynasty, who is framed for a crime he did not commit and is enslaved. His path crosses with a Roman general (John Cusack) on the run after he rescues the Prince in a mission.
First Impression: The trailer gives little indication to the actual plot itself, but Dragon Blade seems not to run far from a Jackie Chan blockbuster film formula — heroism versus oppression and a generous dose of moral values. Adrien Brody seems to play a cartoonish prince who is jealous of Chan’s character, Huo An’s favour among men. While it’s great that Chan managed to rope in Hollywood heavyweights such as Cusack and Brody, it’s another question whether they can add their own value to the equation.
King of Mahjong
— Feb 26 (110 minutes)
Director: Adrian Teh
Cast: Chapman To, Mark Lee, Michelle Ye, Eric Tsang, Yuen King-Tan, Richard Low
King of Mahjong centres on the decade-long feud and eventual reunion of Huang Tian Ba (Mark Lee) and Ah Fatt (Chapman To), who were the two top disciples of legendary mahjong guru, Master Ru.
First Impression: What’s a Chinese New Year movie line-up without a mahjong film? A Singapore and Malaysia collaborative effort, the movie is a curious marrying of Hong Kong style of movie making — complete with Hong Kong actors — with a localised setting and location to appeal to Southeast Asian audiences. Can the prince of vulgar comedy, Chapman To, and Singapore’s Mark Lee, both known for their caustic humour, challenge the big contenders?
12 Golden Ducks
— Feb 26 (84 minutes)
Director: Matt Chow
Cast: Sandra Ng, Lu Han, Ivana Wong, Wilfred Lau, Pakho Chau, Louis Koo, Nicholas Tse, Simon Yam, Joey Yung, Chrissie Chau
Devastated by a love affair, gigolo Future Chang (Sandra Ng) retreats to Thailand in retirement. Encouraged by his high school teacher, Chang works hard to make a comeback in the male escort “duck” trade and reclaim his popularity.
First impression: After a hugely successful decade for the Golden Chicken franchise, Sandra Ng does the unthinkable; she went to the other side of the spectrum and it’s truly bizarre, if rather impressive. Expect lowbrow humour and dozens of cameos. Perhaps amidst the dirty, gritty, flesh trade, we can find that same glimpse of vulnerability and humanity that made the original franchise a success. Let’s hope.
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on February 17, 2015.