Like giving and receiving hongbao and eating pineapple tarts, going to the movies has become a Chinese New Year tradition in Singapore.
This year, the Hong Kong comedy offering typical of the festive season comes in the form of Wong Jing's From Vegas To Macau II starring Chow Yun Fat, as well as 12 Golden Ducks, the gigolo spinoff of Sandra Ng's popular Golden Chicken movies, in which she plays a kind-hearted prostitute.
Local box-office king Jack Neo has another movie centered on his cash cows, the Ah Boys of his Ah Boys To Men movies, while funnyman Mark Lee collaborates with his Hong Kong counterpart Chapman To on King Of Mahjong.
Adults can enjoy a date night with Fifty Shades Of Grey, based on the bestselling erotic book of the same name, and acclaimed action film Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Children will not want to miss Shaun The Sheep, the much-anticipated stop-motion animation from the makers of Wallace & Gromit.
Whatever the choice is, there is surely something to please every palate.
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Director: Kevin Macdonald
Stars: Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Tobias Menzies, Ben Mendelsohn
What: This adventure flick has Law playing a submarine captain who goes into the ocean in search of a World War II submarine that is said to be filled with gold. Reviews have been very positive so far, with critics commending the tense pressure- cooker story.
Watch this if you like: Submarine thrillers such as Crimson Tide (1995) and U-571 (2000).
Director: Marjane Satrapi
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick
What: Reynolds stars as Jerry, a gentle but mentally ill factory worker who starts doing crazy, violent deeds when he hallucinates his cat egging him on to be a serial killer. It is a dark comedy that keeps getting darker.
Watch this if you like: Satrapi's Oscar-nominated animation Persepolis (2007), based on her autobiographical graphic novel of the same name. If you enjoyed her bizarre sense of humour, this one is for you.
FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Stars: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan
What: Based on E.L. James' best-selling novel of the same name, this erotic film is centred on mousy literature student Ana (Johnson), whose life changes after she meets and is romanced by the wealthy Christian Grey (Dornan). She soon discovers that his bedroom tastes are a bit kinkier than her own.
Watch this if you like: The books, obviously. Or maybe you are just curious about the hype.
KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Stars: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine
What: Based on the comic book by Mark Millar, Colin Firth is veteran secret agent Harry, who recruits young thug Eggsy (Egerton) to vie for a spot in the elite secret service known as the Kingsman. There is plenty of violence but also wit, as the cast have a blast spoofing themselves, such as Jackson delivering a deliberately over-the-top performance as a villainous philanthropist.
Watch this if you like: Kick-Ass (2010), Zombieland (2009) and other unapologetically violent but intelligent, funny satires.
OPENING NEXT THURSDAY
SHAUN THE SHEEP
Director: Richard Starzak and Mark Burton
Stars: Voices of Justin Fletcher, John Sparkles, Omid Djalili
What: How apt is it to be watching this in the Year of the Sheep – or is it Year of the Goat?
Whatever the animal is in the Chinese zodiac, this feel-good stop-motion animated flick should placate those restless kids on a sugar high from eating too many pineapple tarts and Chinese New Year sweets.
This latest film from the acclaimed Aardman Animations studio – home of Wallace & Gromit – revolves around the titular sheep Shaun, who dreams of breaking from his mundane farm life.
When his owner, The Farmer, accidentally wanders into the city and suffers amnesia, Shaun and the rest of his herd make it their mission to bring him back to the countryside.
Watch this if you like: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit (2005), Chicken Run (2000).
Director: Daniel Lee
Stars: Jackie Chan, Adrien Brody, John Cusack, Choi Si Won
What: Said to be the most expensive Chinese movie ever made. With a budget of US$65 million (S$88 million), this epic period war film is set in the Silk Road during the Han dynasty, when different tribes and factions were all struggling for control of the region.
Chan plays Huo An, the head of the region’s Protection Squad, who crosses paths with Roman generals (Cusack and Brody).
Watch this if you like: Epic Chinese period war movies, such as The Warlords (2007) and Red Cliff (2008).
FROM VEGAS TO MACAU II
Director: Wong Jing
Stars: Chow Yun Fat, Carina Lau, Nick Cheung, Shawn Yue
What: In this follow-up to last year’s commercial hit From Vegas To Macau, Chow returns as Ken, who is also known as the God Of Gamblers for his slick skills. He gets involved in a complex money laundering case, where he continually gets conned by a seemingly nerdy and innocent IT consultant played by Nick Cheung.
Watch this if you like: From Vegas To Macau (2014), and other Hong Kong gambling comedies by director Wong Jing, who is known for his wacky brand of humour (God Of Gamblers, 1989; The Tricky Master, 1999).
KING OF MAHJONG
Director: Adrian Teh
Stars: Chapman To, Mark Lee, Michelle Ye
What: Hong Kong’s comedy king Chapman To stars opposite Singapore’s comedy king Mark Lee for the first time in this film about two mahjong experts. Lee is a mahjong expert who challenges To to the ultimate game for bragging rights as the champion of champions. When To declines, Lee kidnaps To’s wife (Ye) and holds her hostage. Look out for the string of cameos from big Hong Kong names such as Eric Tsang, Susan Shaw and Mimi Chu, and Taiwanese actress Tien Hsin – quite a feat for a local flick.
Watch this if you like: Like From Vegas To Macau II, this looks set to please fans of gambling comedies. But catch this one for the local flavour.
12 GOLDEN DUCKS
Director: Matt Chow
Stars: Sandra Ng
What: After Ng produced and starred in three commercially and critically successful films about being a prostitute (Golden Chicken, 2002; Golden Chicken 2, 2003; Golden Chickensss, 2014), it was only time she made one about gigolos, too (in Cantonese, “duck” is euphemism for gigolos and “chicken” for female prostitutes).
Looks like she had too much fun with the older films to not star in this one as well – so she dons a prosthetic male chest and a dirty moustache to play a smarmy gigolo. Watch out for the many cameos that are sure to crack you up, with appearances from stars such as Nicholas Tse, Edison Chen, Louis Koo, Simon Yam and Anthony Wong.
Watch this if you like: Golden Chicken (2002), Golden Chicken 2 (2003), Golden Chickensss (2014).
TRIUMPH IN THE SKIES
Director: Wilson Yip and Matt Chow
Stars: Julian Cheung, Francis Ng, Sammi Cheng, Louis Koo
What: This is the movie spinoff of hit TVB drama Triumph In The Skies (2003), which is centered on the romantic lives of the pilots and flight attendants working for the fictional Skylette Airlines.
Ng and Cheung reprise their pilot roles and are joined by a host of new hotties – Koo, Cheng, Charmaine Sheh and Amber Kuo. Flying has never looked sexier.
Watch this if you like: TVB’s hit drama series Triumph In The Skies (2003) and Triumph In The Skies II (2013).
AH BOYS TO MEN 3: FROGMEN
Director: Jack Neo
Stars: Wesley Wong, Tosh Zhang, Wang Weiliang, Maxi Lim, Charlie Goh, Joshua Tan
What: Cannot get enough of the Ah Boys yet? The National Service recruits of Neo’s Ah Boys To Men movies (2012, 2013) – Singapore’s highest-grossing local films of all time – return for a whole new challenge here, going through the famously tough training regimen of the Naval Diving Unit.
Expect the usual dialect wordplay and Neo’s trademark heartland humour as the boys test their physical and mental limits in the deep blue sea. A new Ah Boy joins the cast here as a gangster – Hong Kong actor Wesley Wong, son of veteran actress Angie Chiu.
Watch this if you like: Ah Boys To Men (2012), The Lion Men (2014).