Saturday, January 21, 2012
Chinese New Year Movies to Watch
With the coming Year of the Dragon, Hong Kong is getting into the festive mood with the release of two Chinese New Year comedies.
“All’s Well Ends Well 2012” (八星抱喜) and “I Love Hong Kong 2012” (2012我愛HK喜上加囍) continue the time-honored annual tradition of wrapping all-star casts, zany antics, singing and dancing into feel-good family movies.
The long holiday break is typically a major movie-going period in Hong Kong, with the Chinese New Year comedy tracing its origins back more than 70 years. Much of the comedy is derived from poking fun at local pop culture and current events.
In “I Love Hong Kong 2012,” for example, there’s a take-off on a memorable scene from the hit Taiwan movie “You Are the Apple of My Eye,” recently crowned the highest-grossing Chinese-language film in Hong Kong history.
It’s also an opportunity for stars best known for dramatic roles to kick off their shoes and have some fun. In “All’s Well Ends Well 2012,” martial-arts star Donnie Yen (甄子丹) plays a washed-up rock singer (yes, he sings and plays guitar), turning his image as an action hero on its head. And Chapman To (杜汶澤) delivers a bull’s-eye impersonation of Hong Kong director Peter Chan, one of the industry’s most recognizable filmmakers.
Actor-producer Raymond Wong, a three-decade veteran of local comedies, is the creative force behind the “All’s Well Ends Well” series, which began 20 years ago with stars such as Maggie Cheung (張曼玉) and Stephen Chow (周星馳). This year’s movie is the seventh in the series, four of which have been produced since 2009.
Mr. Wong told The Wall Street Journal last year that he expected to give the series a break after “All’s Well Ends Well 2011,” but nothing speaks louder than success. Last year’s entry pulled in 167.7 million yuan ($26.5 million) at the mainland China box office, according to media-research firm EntGroup, making it a holiday hit. Mr. Wong says now that he couldn’t ignore the approval from an eager audience and plowed ahead to produce this year’s entry.
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Eric Tsang, another veteran of Hong Kong movies, is the star of the “I Love Hong Kong” movies — this is the second in the young series — and numerous other Lunar New Year comedies. The success of last year’s “I Love Hong Kong” — it came in at No. 8 on the top 10 box-office films for 2011, earning 26.7 million Hong Kong dollars (US$3.4 million) — guaranteed the production of this year’s movie.
Messrs. Tsang and Wong have a long history with Chinese New Year comedies. They have even collaborated on several movies, including on one of the most memorable and commercially successful New Year comedies ever: “Aces Go Places” in 1982. That movie and four others are part of a retrospective at the Hong Kong Film Archive next week celebrating the Chinese New Year comedy.
This year, Mr. Wong says that he is again ready to give the “All’s Well Ends Well” franchise a break. So what can audiences expect from him next year? He’s contemplating a return to the “Aces Go Places” series.
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