IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Ah Boys tops Asian movies list

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 8, 2014

Film-maker Jack Neo and the men in green kept the Singapore flag flying high at the box office last year.

His military-themed Ah Boys To Men 2 grossed $7.9 million to top the Asian films list and also made it to No. 2 on the overall top 10. No other Asian film made it.

This is a feat that Neo has pulled off two years in a row. In 2012, part one of Ah Boys To Men marched off with $6.2 million. It topped the Asian films chart and came in at No. 5 overall.

It is all the more impressive considering that no Asian film had cracked the overall top 10 in 2011.

Clearly, as has been the case over the years, Hollywood rules in Singapore.

Even lacklustre Hollywood fare such as fantasy action flick 47 Ronin do well in Singapore. The US$175-million (S$222-million) movie tanked overseas with US$84 million in earnings but has crossed the $3 million mark in Singapore - which would mean that it ranks behind only Ah Boys To Men 2 on the Asian chart.

Incidentally, Ah Boys 2 is also the reigning all-time box-office champ among local films.

Rather than resting on his laurels, Neo is already looking ahead to his next movie. Part one of The Lion Men, about competing lion dance troupes, is slated to be released on Chinese New Year's Eve on Jan 30. He says: "It was very hard to film because it has a lot of dangerous stunts and I really hope that it will be appreciated."

If his track record is any indication, The Lion Men could well leap into the charts again this time next year.

Meanwhile, Neo was not the only repeat act at the box office last year. The usual suspects of superhero flicks and familiar sequels continued to triumph. Better yet, a superhero sequel.

Marvel's Iron Man 3 blasted away the competition with $12.6 million in takings. It was also the top-grossing film worldwide with a US$1.2 billion earned. Even billionaire Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, would be impressed.

And Marvel's Thor: The Dark World landed at No. 3 in Singapore with $7.8 million.

Sequels and franchise titles sewed up six of the remaining seven spots from animation Despicable Me 2 to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The Wolverine is not technically a sequel but it is the sixth instalment in the mutant superheroes X-Men film series.

Upcoming superhero franchise titles on the horizon this year include Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days Of Future Past.

Man Of Steel is the only new title in the overall top 10 for 2013, although "new" would be stretching it, considering that Superman is the granddaddy of superheroes and already a familiar entity from previous big screen outings.

Live action films fared better in Singapore and there is only one animation title, Despicable Me 2, in the top 10 here. Worldwide, the Pixar prequel Monsters University was No. 6 while musical fantasy Frozen locked down the No. 9 spot.

Meanwhile, sequels and franchise titles had a good showing among Asian titles as well from Ah Boys To Men 2 to action star Jackie Chan's Police Story 2013 to period fantasy Young Detective Dee: Rise Of The Sea Dragon.

But hearteningly, original titles took up seven of the 10 spots. These include Stephen Chow's fantasy adventure Journey To The West, which is distinct from his two-part A Chinese Odyssey (2004) featuring some of the same characters.

Apart from Neo, local film-makers Kelvin Sng and Anthony Chen also made it to the top 10 with comedy drama Taxi! Taxi! and family drama Ilo Ilo.

After wowing audiences at film festivals abroad, Ilo Ilo proved that it had wider appeal than a niche arthouse flick by making $1.23 million. It edges ahead of Wong Kar Wai's martial arts movie The Grandmaster, which it had beaten to win the Golden Horse Award for Best Film, but lost out in the Oscars' best foreign-language film nominations.

Breaking the stranglehold of Mandarin films in the Asian top 10 is the Thai horror comedy hit Pee Mak. It earned $920,000 to squeeze in at No. 9. In 2012, non-Mandarin titles failed to make a dent in the Asian top 10.

bchan@sph.com.sg

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 8, 2014

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