This year's Chinese New Year movies can be summed up like this - Jay Chou vs Jack Neo vs Auntie Lucy vs Tony Leung vs All's Well Ends Well No. 7.
Of course, not all five flicks have a CNY theme per se. "Dance Dance Dragon" and "All's Well Ends Well" do. But the dragon hongbao can go well with the other three Chinese flicks too - "We Not Naughty", "The Viral Factor", "The Great Magician" - since everybody speaks Mandarin in them and Meryl Streep isn't doing a precise impersonation of the God Of Fortune.
We do need to add a word of caution though - "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" is NOT a Chinese New Year movie. Okay. Enjoy your festive treats! Gong Xi Fa Cai!
PS: Please leave hongbaos for us at the door.
Excuse us, was David Copperfield the magic consultant?
Directed by: Derek Yee (Shinjuku Incident)
Stars: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Lau Ching Wan, Zhou Xun
Tale: On the streets of Beijing in the early 1920s, a challenge is set. Fifty silver dollars goes to the person who can re-enact the most amazing magic trick of all time – the “Eight Immortals’ Treat”. China’s best magicians gather to compete. Emerging from among them is Tony Leung, who never dazzles us without a cool sense of style. Adapted from a Chinese novel.
Offbeat bit: According to the film’s production notes, in one of the fighting scenes, a crew member who thought that Leung had stabbed Lau by accident screamed and wrecked the entire sequence. Apparently, even Leung thought that he had shish-kebabed Lau. It turned out to be false. No word on whether that alarmist crew fella was subjected to the magic act of the Chinese Water Torture as punishment.
Juice: Leung and Lau were roommates back in their old TV days in the 1980s when they acted in the series, “The Duke Of Mount Deer”. You know, those what’s-yours-is-mine friendly roomie times when stuff kept disappearing from drawers like magic.
Time to forgive Jack The Cheater
Directed by: Jack Neo
Stars: Daniel Chan, Joshua Ang, Shawn Lee, Xiang Yun, Cherry Hsia
Tale: Two rebellious buay tak cheh (“cannot study” in Hokkien) poly students (Ang and Lee) get involved as spray-painters for loan sharks. One comes from a poor family, the other from a rich one. They may be pai kias (“bad boys” in Hokkien) but they got an entrepreneurial talent in inventing a mini-helicopter that can vandalise living-room walls. An idealistic teacher (Hong Kong actor Chan) tries to help them mend their ways, including running naked in the school to gain their trust. Meanwhile, casino gambling debts force one of the kids’ dads to go into hiding, occasionally surfacing to push his missus (poor Xiang Yun) violently against the wall like Mike Tyson. Then the whole thing transports itself to a jungle in Malaysia where Eric Moo shows up as a baddie and somebody gives birth with painful use of the scissors to reflect both maternal sacrifice and how it’s very important to always use Medisave.
Offbeat bit: Yep. It’s that kind of Jack Neo movie where everything gets thrown in, including not only the kitchen sink but the chicken in the kitchen. We’re speaking metaphorically, okay? There’s no chicken in this film. But there are references to education (Neo’s fave topic), parental neglect, Ah Longs, evil casinos, online bullying, and the film’s main theme – that youngsters today are freakin’ out of control. That’s the children, but how about the behaviour of the adults? Well, this is director Jack’s comeback flick since 2010’s Being Human, launched just days before he was caught with his pants down in his sordid sex scandal, Being Horny. Oh, it’s been two years. Even China mistresses aren’t hated that long. Time to move on, folks.
Juice: Our dear Jack maybe doesn’t feel it’s time yet to put himself on the screen (disguised as a woman in last year’s Homecoming doesn’t count, dudes). So he uses another Hitchcock-ian trick. He appears as a voice on the phone as the kids’ former teacher.
Gong Xi Fa Cai - Here we go again!
Directed by: Chan Hing Kai (All’s Well End’s Well 2011)
Stars: Donnie Yen, Louis Koo, Sandra Ng, Kelly Chen, Raymond Wong, ChapmanTo
Tale: Seeing a lot of single guys with free time on their hands, and a lot of single gals who need a man’s help (hey, this is from the film’s production notes cos we’re no male chauvinist pigs), a divorcee starts a website with the concept of “embrace”. Meaning, like a dating agency for cheap labour, the dudes “embrace” and “assist” the chicks they’ve just met. Oh, you know what “embrace” between opposite sexes often leads to, right? The four couples featured – Pop singer Donnie Yen becomes Sandra Ng’s boyfriend for one night at a banquet. Construction worker Louis Koo models in the buff for photographer Kelly Chen who feels the hubba hubba. Cynical novelist Chapman To helps a blind girl (Lynn Xiong) experience her first romance. And unlikeable lawyer Raymond Wong becomes a “stand-in dad” to rich chick Yang Mi to help choose a hubby for her.
Offbeat bit: This HK comedy series is as traditional as CNY bak kwa itself. Why? Donnie Yen, Louis Koo and Sandra Ng keep popping up with the frequency of a STD. But the record goes to Hong Kong’s oldest specky nerd, Raymond Wong, who’s in all seven versions (including this one) since No. 1 back in 1992. Man, that’s historic. The amazing thing is that the Jurassic Fart still looks more or less the same even at 63 years old. But the babes he’s paired him with keep getting younger and younger until as the line in Billy Crystal’s City Slickers goes – “Soon you’ll be dating sperm”.
Juice: Kelly Chen disguises herself as a beer girl. The production notes reveal that two pairs of underwear were provided graciously for her mini skirt. So that “she can feel comfortable and act as freely as she could”.
Nothing to do with Fann Wong’s epic-fail "Dance Of The Dragon"
Directed by: Kat Goh (2004 TV series Durian King)
Stars: Adrian Pang, Kym Ng, Dennis Chew, Marcus Chin, Lai Meng, Melvin Sia
Tale: 84-year-old lao ah umm, Mother Loong (Malaysian veteran Lai Meng), wants a grandchild in the auspicious Year of the Dragon. Problem is her three children in her Malaysian home aren’t exactly baby-producing rabbits. Her eldest daughter (Ng) got dumped by her beau. Only son (Sia), although married, is scared of having kids. And younger daughter (Chew) can’t get a boyfriend because she looks just like radio DJ Dennis Chew playing his famous drag character, Auntie Lucy, a sight so terrifying it kills testicles faster than a Japanese nuclear accident. Meanwhile, there is a chef in the house – funnyman Adrian Pang – who keeps cooking angmoh dishes for insular small-town Malaysian types who remind you of the distant relatives from Jiu Hu that embarrass you every cheapo Hongbao time. And oh, suddenly, a mysterious googoo-gaga baby pops out of nowhere and it seems the old ah mah’s prayers have been answered. Or have they?
Offbeat bit: Just out of curiosity, why are so many movies going to Malaysia for their locations? Viral Factor takes place in Kuala Lumpur. I Not Naughty scoots off to a Malaysian jungle for its final scene, and DDD here is set across the Causeway too. Gotta ask these questions, man – Is it us? Nobody likes us? Or is our cost of living really that incredibly high even for filmmakers?
Juice: Real pros are at work here. Pang and producer Kelvin Tong are actually trained lawyers. Sia has an architecture degree. And Marcus Chin is a ….. oh, check that out in the tabloids.
Jay, Nic, guns, bombs and Smallpox - Sounds thrillingly contagious
Directed by: Dante Lam (Sniper, The Stool Pigeon)
Stars: Jay Chou, Nicholas Tse and a lot of people, cars and shopping centres in Kuala Lumpur that get wiped out
Tale: International super-action cop Jon Man (Chou) gets a bullet in his head in a mega Black Hawk Down-style terrorist shootout in Jordan. Given two weeks to do heroic stuff before he becomes totally paralysed, he travels from Beijing to KL to find his long-lost older brother, Man Yeung (Tse), who’s a wanted criminal under our tropical heat. The dude’s wanted mostly for trading drugs, partly (presumably) for the awful ASEAN Summit-type batik shirts he keeps wearing. Meantime, there’s a plot by an international gang to steal a deadly virus which could basically mess up their pretty faces. Because one bro (Mr Chou) is good like an angel and the other (Mr Tse) is pi**ed as if he’s still mad at Cecilia Cheung, they do battle with each other in the way separated siblings do – a lot of things get wrecked but not their inner bonding. And man, we really do mean A LOT OF THINGS. Malaysian cops, Malaysian thugs, cars, shopping malls, trains, helicopters, hospitals, construction sites, everything except those Malaysian football teams which give our LionsXII side in the MSL a hard time. Why, oh, why are we always so unlucky even when things blow up in our faces?
Offbeat bit: We got this from Wikipedia before that crazy 24-hour shutdown – “With a HK$200 million budget, lead actors Jay Chou and Nicholas Tse have an insurance of HK$150 million and 20 bodyguards to protect them. The budget also includes RM$70,000 for apartment rentals in Kuala Lumpur. The producers will borrow airplanes from the air force, tanks and other things to use it for filming. The filming locations include Hong Kong, Xi'an, Middle East, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Jordan and Singapore.” Man, we can vouch for this. Our chairs nearly exploded during the screening.
Juice: I’m-a-lover-not-a-fighter Jay may have had enough of this manly BS. During a recent press conference to promote the movie here, he questioned himself philosophically: “When I was filming, I was thinking how my hands are for playing the piano and not for holding guns.”