Movies to watch at the cinema this Chinese New Year

·7-min read
Reunion Dinner. (Still: Golden Village Pictures)
Reunion Dinner. (Still: Golden Village Pictures)

SINGAPORE — With the number of visitors to each household capped at five per day, getting in some Chinese New Year visiting will be tricky. But cinemas are still open! Bring in some prosperity and laughter with these fine films for the new lunar year.

New Kung Fu Cult Master 1 (1 Feb)

This action movie is an adaptation of Louis Cha's wuxia novel, The Heavenly Sword and Dragon Saber. It sees all the forces in the martial arts world fighting for control of two legendary weapons, the Dragon Saber and the Heavenly Sword. Xie Xun, of the "demonic" Ming Sect, seizes the Dragon Saber - only to find that the owner of the Heavenly Sword, Emei Sect's Master Miejue, has killed his god-brother Zhang Cuishan (Louis Koo)...

If you liked Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, then this movie will give you more wuxia action. The film is the first part of an adaptation of a Louis Cha classic, so you know it's going to include all the wuxia tropes you know and love. Louis Koo previously played another wuxia character from a Louis Cha novel, Yang Guo (from The Condor Heroes 95), so it'll be fun to see how he approaches this character!

Spider-Man: No Way Home (out in cinemas now)

This superhero movie sees Spider-Man, our friendly neighborhood hero, having to deal with the consequences of his identity being public knowledge after the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home. When he seeks out Doctor Strange for help, it results in visitors from everywhere arriving... and some of them seem oddly familiar.

The biggest superhero movie of 2021 is still in in cinemas, and it's a whopper of a film. While spoilers for the movie abound, suffice it to say that if you've ever been a fan of the cinematic version of Spider-Man, you'll be pleased.

And if you've watched it once already — I'd daresay that the Lunar New Year is a great time to watch it again! Spider-Man's dressed in red after all, so it's quite a huat film.

The King's Man (out in cinemas now)

This spy action comedy film depicts the founding of the King's Man agency. In the early 20th century, a collection of history's worst tyrants and criminal masterminds gather to plot a war to wipe out millions. One man must race against time to stop them and in so doing, lays out the origins of the very first independent intelligence agency.

Ralph Fiennes does seem to be making the rounds in British spy movies these days, doesn't he? But the highlight of this film is definitely Rasputin (or at least, this cinematic version of him). It might be a standard action thriller, but with some British comic flavour.

Scream (out in cinemas now)

This horror movie is set twenty-five years after the first film, when a streak of brutal murders shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro. Now, a new killer has donned the Ghostface mask and begins targeting a group of teenagers to resurrect secrets from the town’s deadly past.

Everybody's back for this new instalment (it's not quite the reboot that it's been touted to be) of the Scream franchise. If you're a horror film fan, then you'll love this new film that's both scary and thoughtful in execution.

We're not sure if this film will be scarier than meeting your relatives at a reunion dinner, but trying both out this Lunar New Year seems like as good a plan as any.

West Side Story (out in cinemas now)

This musical is Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the Broadway musical West Side Story. The original theatrical musical was inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and centers on the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs.

Romeo & Juliet is a timeless tale — but you can't deny that this film (itself an adaptation of what is already an adaptation of the classic play) has rather convoluted origins. Nevertheless, the appeal of this film isn't the story (which everyone knows by now), but the songs and performance. And the cast definitely delivers on this one.

Special Delivery (out in cinemas now)

This action film is about the unexpected events that unfold when a driver with a 100% success rate at delivering anything worth the money, puts a child in her car. It turns out that some things can be a little bit more... difficult to deliver. But with a 100% success rate at stake, that might not matter as much.

This is a fun, humorous action flick (which is great for the holiday mood). (Read our review of the movie here.)

Although its concept is highly derivative of the Transporter franchise, the appeal lies more in the sights and sounds of Korea. Trade in a gong xi fa cai for an annyeong haseyo this Lunar New Year.

Makmun 2 (out in cinemas now)

This horror film centres around widower Rini. After the loss of her husband, Rini's grief increases when her aunt, who raised her, dies. too. While returning to the village to mourn, Rini's only child, Hafiz, goes missing and is found unconscious in the middle of the forest. Why?

Threatening children is always a good formula for raising the stakes in horror movies, and it's no different in this one. It looks like there'll be possessions, child ghosts, and plenty of blood and gore in this movie. What better way to get your adrenaline pumping while in the cinema?

Reunion Dinner (out in cinemas now)

This comedy follows the story of Chaoyang (Lawrence Wong) and Zihong (Cya Liu) who have been dating for more than a year, with marriage on the cards. Chaoyang is estranged from his mother, but a client requests for a livestream of their reunion dinner to promote his products. Chaoyang gets the help of a friend, Wei (Mark Lee), to “rent-a-family”, resulting in a series of mishaps and hilarity.

Admit it — who hasn't been deeply ashamed of certain family members before? And a reunion dinner can be the most terrible place for such conflicts to arise. This film takes a look at the complex relationships between family members. Anchored by heavyweights like Xiang Yun and Mark Lee, this looks to be a wholesome comedy that will touch hearts everywhere. Read our full review here.

King Richard (27 Jan)

This biographical drama follows the journey of Richard Williams (Will Smith), an undeterred father instrumental in raising two of the most extraordinarily gifted athletes of all time, who will end up changing the sport of tennis forever. Driven by a clear vision of their future and using unconventional methods, Richard has a plan that will take Venus and Serena Williams from the streets of Compton, California to the global stage as legendary icons. It is a profoundly moving film that shows the power of family, perseverance and unwavering belief as a means to achieve the impossible and impact the world.

No, this isn't about the Shakespearean King Richard. Rather, it's about the father of tennis superstars Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) Williams and their origins in the world of tennis. This sports drama shows how powerful family can be, and what can be achieved when they are together. I'm not feeling Will Smith's goatee though. Read out review of the movie here.

Fireheart (27 Jan)

This animated comedy revolves around sixteen-year-old Georgia Nolan (Olivia Cooke), who dreams of being the world's first-ever firefighter. When a mysterious arsonist starts burning down Broadway, New York's firemen begin vanishing. Georgia's father, Shawn (Kenneth Branagh), is called out of retirement by the Mayor of New York to lead the investigation into the disappearances. Desperate to help her father and save her city, Georgia disguises herself as a young man called "Joe" and joins a small group of misfit firefighters trying to stop the arsonist.

Don't be misled by the fact that this is an animation. It's a powerful story of empowerment and breaking gender boundaries. But as the characters find out, sometimes love and dreams can triumph over the prejudices of all. And as the trailer shows, the bond between parent and child can be stronger than any disguise or pretence.

I Am What I Am (27 Jan)

The animated comedy film is about three teenagers who were ignored and bullied by others. By coincidence, they began their lion dance journey under the training of a master who grew up selling salted fish. Finally, they realise their dreams and became "lions" in their own hearts with their passion and drive.

Unlike many Chinese animated films, this one is firmly rooted in real-life — depicting the city of Guangdong in grand 3D-animated glory. But at its heart, it's about brotherhood and friendship, dressed up in that most festive of traditions — the lion dance. Seeing a fluid, animated lion dance on screen will be quite the treat.

Nasi Lemak 1.0 (27 Jan)

This fantasy comedy involves a battle between chefs that results in... time travel? They somehow find themselves in the ancient Melaka Kingdom, where they must find a way back home. Expect to see delicious dishes of nasi lemak (Malaysia's national dish) as the characters embark on their multilingual hijinks.

There's no denying the creativity in the premise of this film, which promises to throw in everything and the kitchen sink. What's especially charming about it is the sheer smorgasbord of languages heard in it — which makes it feel incredibly Malaysian (and Singaporean, too). If you want to travel to (ancient) Malaysia but can't, this might just be the panacea for you.

Sila Nerangalil Sila Manitharagal (28 Jan)

This drama sees how the lives of four men - an un-empathetic son, a disgruntled room attendant, an upcoming overconfident celebrity actor and an ostentatious I.T employee, coming from different socioeconomic backdrops, get interwoven after an incident. The events post-incident take them through a life-changing internal journey, connecting them deeper with their loved ones leading them to new perspectives towards life.

This film looks like a deep exploration of the human condition, and how we're linked no matter our backgrounds and personalities. But ultimately, what brings these four individuals together may be the very thing that tears them apart. And with some oddly relatable scenes of everyday life, this movie may remind us of what it is to be human.

My Best Friend's Breakfast (28 Jan)

This romantic drama centres around Xiang Weixin (Li Mu), a 17-year-old high school sophomore, who regards eating as the most important and most healing thing in life. She's disappointed to find out that her crush Tao Youquan (Zhou Xingzhe) is unavailable. But with her best friend Fang Qiran (He Sijing), she will find a way to perhaps get her happily ever after. Adapted from the novel of the same name.

There's nothing like the nostalgia of school, which is what this film attempts to recapture. At its heart, it's about a simple boy-meets-girl romance set during the carefree days of schools. Although the cast looks a little bit too old to be students, we can forgive that if the love story is strong enough.

Ah Girls Go Army (1 Feb)

This comedy drama takes place in a possible future, when there are not enough boys in Singapore. It focuses on the first batch of female recruits, a bunch of Gen Z teens and youngsters with different backgrounds and education. As they train under the fierce leadership of Sergeant Chow and Lieutenant Roxanne, they find themselves being pushed to the limits of their potential. Together, they overcome hardship and their initial resistance to serve NS and discover newfound abilities, which helps mend relationships in their personal life as well.

No Lunar New Year would be complete without the traditional Jack Neo offering, which this year comes in the form of women serving NS. Read our review here.

Perhaps the movie will usher in a new generation of female talent who will hopefully go on to reshape Singapore's cinematic landscape.

Yakuza Princess (3 Feb)

This mystery thriller is set in the expansive Japanese community of Sao Paulo in Brazil — the largest Japanese diaspora in the world — which is where Akemi (Masumi) grew up. When she turns 21 she finds out that she is the heiress to half of a Yakuza empire in Japan, that she has a taste for blood and that the man who’s been protecting her was actually sent to kill her.

That's a lot of bombshells for main character Akemi to find out at the age of 21. But what makes it exciting is the potential for bloodshed and violence (what did you expect from a movie with the word "yakuza" in the title?) that we'll get to see. It's definitely not the type of movie you'll bring your grandmother to see — but then again, grandmothers have been known to be especially cool about such things.

Belfast (3 Feb)

This drama is drawn straight from Branagh's own experience. A nine-year-old boy must chart a path towards adulthood through a world that has suddenly turned upside down. His stable and loving community and everything he thought he understood about life is changed forever but joy, laughter, music and the formative magic of the movies remain.

Having clinched a Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, this movie looks like it'll be a personal but epic story that showcases the tumult of Northern Ireland in the 1960s. While the story sounds great, one has to wonder if the black-and-white treatment is going a little overboard though.

Jackass Forever (3 Feb)

This comedy celebrates the joy of being back together with your best friends and a perfectly executed shot to the dingdong, by bringing the original Jackass crew back for another round of hilarious, wildly absurd, and often dangerous displays of comedy with a little help from some exciting new cast. Johnny and the team push the envelope even further on in Jackass Forever.

If you loved the juvenile but hilarious antics of the previous Jackass films, then you're going to love the zany and dangerous new pranks showcased in this film. It's definitely not the sort of film that you'd bring your grandmother to — but your favourite cousins might be up for the ride.

Moonfall (3 Feb)

This science-fiction film sees a mysterious force knocking the Moon from its orbit around Earth and sending it hurtling on a collision course with life as we know it. With mere weeks before impact and the world on the brink of annihilation, NASA executive and former astronaut Jo Fowler (Halle Berry), astronaut Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson) and conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman (John Bradley) mount an impossible last-ditch mission into space, leaving behind everyone they love, only to find out that our Moon is not what we think it is.

And to round out our recommendations with something that's totally un-Lunar New Year — a science fiction film that has aliens on the Moon and so much more. Expect a high-octane adventure that sees powerful rockets hurtling into space as a team of astronauts do whatever they can to save the Earth. They don't have time to worry about reunion dinners in this film — because if they don't succeed, nobody will be having dinners, reunion or otherwise.

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