CHINESE NEW YEAR MOVIES

Festive screen picks

The Straits Times rounds up films from family-friendly fare to thrillers, in cinemas or online, for the movie lover

There seems to be an especially healthy crop of movies in cinemas this Chinese New Year. For starters, how about three pictures from the titans of the holiday season: action superstar Jackie Chan, Hong Kong actor-director Stephen Chow and Singapore's own Jack Neo, making his first action-comedy.

On the Hollywood side, there is a young-adult science-fiction spectacular, Alita: Battle Angel, a James Cameron-produced work based on a popular manga; and the sequel to a popular hit, The Lego Movie 2.

Whether you are looking for hours of entertainment or seeking relief from reunion overload, there is plenty to take in, in cinemas or online.


In cinemas


PHOTOS: 20TH CENTURY FOX, GOLDEN VILLAGE, MM2 ENTERTAINMENT, NETFLIX, SHAW ORGANISATION, STARHUB, THE PROJECTOR, WARNER BROS, VIDDSEE

KILLER NOT STUPID

What: Action-comedy

When: Opens on Tuesday

Director: Jack Neo

Stars: Apple Chan, Amber An (both above), Jay Shih, Nadow, Gadrick Chin, Ryan Lian

Singaporean comedy icon Neo goes Asia-wide in this, his first action-comedy.

This picture, set briefly in Singapore before moving on to Taiwan, features actors from both territories bringing, one hopes, mirth and mayhem to a tale of spies and assassins out to grab a top-secret device.


A JOURNEY OF HAPPINESS

What: Comedy

When: Opens today

Director: J.Y. Teng

Stars: Joyce Cheng (above), Lo Hoi Pang, Lin Min Chen, A-niu, Alex Lam, Jerry Lamb

When the Siew family from Hong Kong fly to Malaysia for a holiday, comedic consequences ensue when nothing goes right. The movie features a Hong Kong cast playing the Siews, who go on the road to tourist spots in Cameron Highlands and Ipoh, among others.


MISSBEHAVIOUR

What: Comedy

When: Opens today

Director: Pang Ho Cheung

Stars: Dada Chan, June Lam, Isabella Leong, Gigi Leung, Patrick Tse, Miriam Yeung (above)

Award-winning writer-director Pang is known for comedies that blend social satire with adult humour (Women Who Flirt, 2014; Vulgaria, 2012).

In this send-up of Hong Kong values and female bonding, a bottle of breast milk left in an office refrigerator by a senior executive, used by mistake as creamer, becomes the catalyst for a group of estranged friends to reconnect.


PEGASUS

What: Drama-comedy

When: Opens on Tuesday

Director: Han Han

Stars: Shen Teng, Huang Jingyu, Yin Zheng, Yin Fang, Tian Yu

This motor-racing work featuring a cast from China trades on racetrack action and a feel-good story of a veteran driver trying to make a comeback in the sport, while becoming a better father to his six-year-old son.


ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL

What: Science-fiction action

When: Opens on Tuesday

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Stars: Rosa Salazar (above), Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali

A new cinematic universe beckons with this big-budget young-adult picture, based on Yukito Kishiro's manga series with a Pinocchio-like story of the relationship between a scientist and a cyborg who yearns to be a real girl.

While out scavenging for parts, Dr Ido (Waltz) finds the head of a cyborg he names Alita (Salazar). He re-animates her and finds that while her memory has been wiped, she possesses fighting skills everyone believes have been lost in the last great war.


KNIGHT OF SHADOWS: BETWEEN YIN AND YANG

What: Fantasy-comedy

When: Opens on Tuesday

Director: Yan Jia

Stars: Jackie Chan (above), Ethan Juan, Elaine Zhong, Lin Peng

If Hollywood can launch a new cinematic universe with Alita this Chinese New Year, China can do the same with Chinese mythology.

In this big-budget fantasy picture that pits Chan's demon hunter Pu Songling against a range of beings in human and non-human forms, viewers should expect spells, computer-driven visuals and lots of action.


THE NEW KING OF COMEDY

What: Comedy

When: Opens on Tuesday

Director: Stephen Chow

Stars: Wang Baoqiang, E Jingwen

Chow's sequel to the 2016 hit, the eco-fantasy The Mermaid, seems to have been delayed in production, so to fill the Chinese New Year slot, he has gone all the way back to his King Of Comedy (1999) to find a follow-up.

Like the original, this new film is set in the world of wannabe actors dreaming of their big break, but find each day more humiliating than the last. Chow (above in blue, in a behind-the-scenes picture) does not act in this, but from the trailer, it looks like a return to his earlier style of rapid-fire physical comedy.


THE LEGO MOVIE 2

What: Animation comedy

When: Opens Feb 7

Director: Mike Mitchell

Stars: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish

The follow-up to the 2014 smash sees the return of Emmet (Pratt), Batman (Arnett) and the rest of the gang, teaming up to defeat an alien invasion led by Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi (Haddish).

The original's directing team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller has handed the reins over to Mike Mitchell (Trolls, 2016; The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water, 2015).

Judging from the trailer, the cheerful zaniness of the first film thankfully seems to be intact.


INTEGRITY

What: Crime thriller

When: Opens Feb 7

Director: Alan Mak

Stars: Sean Lau (above), Nick Cheung, Karena Lam, Anita Yuen

Mak and producer Felix Chong, the force behind some of Hong Kong's top thrillers (the Infernal Affairs trilogy, 2002 to 2003), are basing this white-collar crime story on the work of the ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption).

Lau is the anti-fraud analyst while Yuen plays a senior customs officer suspected of cigarette smuggling.

As with Infernal Affairs, a trilogy is planned.


COLETTE

What: Biopic

When: Opens Feb 7

Director: Wash Westmoreland

Stars: Keira Knightley (above), Dominic West

Born into Belle Epoque France, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Knightley) married a famed literary figure, became a writer of note and caused tongues in Paris to wag due to the sexual frankness of her stories and the taboo-breaking nature of her affairs.


PEPPA CELEBRATES CHINESE NEW YEAR

What: Live action, animation

When: Opens Feb 7

Director: Zhang Dapeng

Stars: Zhu Yawen, Liu Yun

The cartoon character Peppa Pig is popular around the world, especially in China. This Mandarin co-production between Peppa's Canadian owners and Chinese studio Alibaba Group is the first set in China to mix live action with animation.

The story revolves around a family coming together for Chinese New Year. As they celebrate the traditional way, the parents and grandparents tell the young ones stories of how Peppa's own family marks the occasion.


Online

GUANG

Where: Viddsee (go to www.viddsee.com/video/guang/nmo7y)

Malaysian film-maker Quek Shio Chuan recently turned his short project into a feature.

Wen Guang is autistic and struggles with communication.

Forced to find a job to make ends meet, he sets out on an odyssey, but in secret, he nurtures a passion that has nothing to do with what others think is essential.


MOVE OUT NOTICE

Where: Viddsee (go to www.viddsee.com/video/move-out-notice/prbxl)

Wei and her mother do not argue any more because her mother has, for months, been exchanging notes with her instead of talking to avoid conflict.

In this award-winning comedy-drama short from Singapore film-maker Leon Cho, when Wei tells her mother she is going to live on her own, a blow-up ensues.


GRANDMA IN JULY

Where: Viddsee (go to www.viddsee.com/video/grandma-in-july/6dn2a)

In this short drama about second chances from Singapore film-maker Chang Kai Xiang, shortlisted for the Viddsee Juree Singapore prize last year, Ah Ma (grandmother) likes to come back from the other side to look for something she has lost.

One day, her grandson, to his horror, becomes aware of her presence.


NANNY MCPHEE AND THE BIG BANG

Where: HBO Go

In this comedy gem from 2010 - the follow-up to the 2005 original - Emma Thompson (above) stars as the snaggle-toothed, unibrowed, black-clad figure of the title, a stern woman who does not hesitate to use her magic to deal unusual punishments to badly behaved children.


THE RED TURTLE

Where: HBO Go

This Oscar-nominated work of animation from Dutch film-maker Michael Dudok de Wit draws graphics and storytelling inspiration from both Western and Japanese styles.

The near-wordless fairy tale is an account of a man marooned on an island, doomed to be alone, until one day, he meets a turtle who seems to be as lonely as him.


DEAR EX

Where: Netflix (from tomorrow)

This Taiwanese comedy-drama opened last year's Singapore International Film Festival, but not before it won a clutch of nominations, including Best Feature, at the Golden Horse Awards.

It won three, including Best Actress for Hsieh Ying-hsuan (above left, with Roy Chiu).

Co-directors Mag Hsu and Hsu Chih-yen inject plenty of emotion to this story about a widow (Hsieh), who is shocked the nominee for her dead husband's insurance payout is his male lover. The resulting conundrum drags in her son, leading to soul-searching and divided loyalties.


THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS

Where: Netflix

This Western anthology from the duo of Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country For Old Men, 2007) is made up of six short works, so it is perfect for watching on the go.

Each work is a gem of black comedy set in the Old West, viewed by the Coens as a place where men and women go to learn the bitterest truths. Stars Tim Blake Nelson (above).


POLAR

Where: Netflix

You might want to watch this privately on your phone because of the nudity and violence.

Mads Mikkelsen (above) is a super assassin looking forward to a peaceful retirement in his snowy cabin, but old colleagues just will not leave him alone.

This stylish, pulpy piece of B-movie fun features gloriously over-the-top villains and taut action.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 31, 2019, with the headline 'Festive screen picks'. Print Edition | Subscribe