On Screen China: 2019 Chinese New Year Films


A poster from Peppa Pig Celebrates Spring Festival

The Spring Festival (also called the Lunar New Year and sometimes the Chinese New Year) has for some years now been a period when Chinese films dominate the box-office without the interference of foreign films. Not only do Chinese films dominate because of this more obvious reason but films premiering during this period pretty much set the annual record for best box-office results. It’s not hard to figure out that people with free time during a week-long national holiday will sooner or later find their way to the cinema. With the recent years’ steady rise of box-office numbers, there’s bound to be a hype both among the ones who consume the films and the ones who make the films.

The 2019 Spring Festival repertoire started out with a record high number of films that were to be shown on the silver screen. With a total of 13 films on the repertoire initially, it has now been cut down to 8 films. Three of the eight films are sequels. Two are science fiction films. Shen Teng is the leading actor in two of them. Sun Wukong (“Monkey King“) does not seem to be in any of the films. And a pig can be seen in at least two of the films.

Still from Pegasus. Shen Teng.

Not since 2015 have there been so few fantasy movies and never before have there been so many science fiction films. I remember back in 2015 when people were waiting for news about the then upcoming film The Three Body Problem 《三体》 (People are still waiting), some journalist wrote that 2015 would be the year when Chinese science fiction film would take off and become popular. In 2019, I’ve read once again that this year will be the breakthrough year for Chinese science fiction films. And this time, I’m actually willing to accept the prophecy. The trailer of The Wandering Earth looks really good and there’s hope for the film to make it in the global market. Ning Hao’s Crazy Alien might be a film more suited for a domestic market but the anticipation for Crazy Alien is crazy and those who have watched Ning Hao’s second film in the Crazy trilogy will quickly notice that the character Geng Hao (耿浩) made it to the sequel.

If you’re not a fan of the science fiction genre, Stephen Chow’s The New King of Comedy will probably do the trick. Already in the trailer one can recognize several scenes similar to those from the prequel back in 1999. Given China’s tightened censorship, it would be interesting to see how The New King of Comedy will perform in the mainland market, since Chow’s older films usually have elements of social satire and Stephen Chow himself is not afraid of making fun of the old classics, either.

Still from Integrity

If you can’t wait for the Fast & Furious franchise to continue to fetishize about racing cars and hyper-exaggerated action scenes, then maybe Han Han‘s movie Pegasus about a retired race car driver can satisfy you for the time being. If that still doesn’t interest you, maybe Integrity will catch your attention. Director Alan Mak, who is famous for Infernal Affairs, has made a movie about corruption among big companies and government officials. Yes, it does sound like a propaganda movie.

If you’re completely disappointed by the aforementioned films, then there’s a Jackie Chan film for you. To be fair, his latest films have not impressed a lot, the plot and trailer of The Knights of Shadows Between Yin and Yang does not really seem to be impressive, either. It reminds me of a combination of Monster Hunt and League of Gods mixed with the classical Jackie Chan slapstick comedy infused with kung fu.

Still from The Knights of Shadows Between Yin and Yang

We won’t really know if the films are good or bad until we’ve seen them. It might just be that Integrity is a really good thriller without any forced political ideas. But maybe the most interesting movie of them all is the Peppa Pig movie. I know the Chinese love their Zodiac animals, but I never imagined they would use a British one to convey the Spring Festival.

Still from Crazy Alien


Title: Crazy Alien《疯狂的外星人》
Director: Ning Hao (宁浩)
Starring: Huang Bo (黄渤), Shen Teng (沈腾),
Plot: Geng Hao (Huang Bo) and his life-long friend Da Fei (Shen Teng) has tried every sad and desperate business idea trying to become rich. Then one day a sign from the skies finally arrives. An alien enters the life of Geng Hao and Da Fei turning their peaceful life upside down. A mysterious enemy in the West starts a search all around the world looking for signs that will lead them to the alien. Set in a Chinese coastal city Geng Hao and Da Fei struggles with befriending the alien and avoiding an interplanetary war. Watch the trailer here.



Title: The Wandering Earth 《流浪地球》
Director: Frant Gwo (郭帆)
Starring: Qu Chuxiao (屈楚萧), Li Guangjie (李光洁), Wu Jing (吴京), Wang Zhi (王智), Ning Hao (宁浩)
Plot: “Our sun is dying. In the past the sun was a pillar for the existence of mankind and now it has become a symbol of death and horror. Instead of waiting for an imminent death mankind instead chose to fight. An endless journey of flight. In order to escape we must build an engine big enough to move the earth out of our solar system. Our new home is ahead of us and earth has now become our ark. But the price for migration is high. Culture, ethics, and common knowledge: things that once were known to man will slowly disappear as we enter the vast sea of stars. The only thing we’re left with is the fierce thirst for survival. Uncertainty and suspicion once the very reason for violence among humans will all be gone when the sun has collapsed and humans can finally bear with them hope on their long wandering journey.”



Title: Pegasus 《飞驰人生》
Director: Han Han (韩寒)
Starring: Shen Teng (沈腾), Johnny Huang (黄景瑜), Zheng Yin (尹正), Zhang Benyu (张本煜)
Plot: The once all-famous racer Zhang Chi (Shen Teng) now lives his days by selling fried rice from a food stand. But he decides to take on the new generation of racers even though he doesn’t have any money, a team or a driver’s license. So, Zhang Chi has to renew his license and on this new way in life that he has taken he faces agony, comedy and tragedy. Many are the things that await this former racing god.

Title: The New King of Comedy 《新喜剧之王》
Director: Stephen Chow (周星驰)
Starring: Wang Baoqiang, E Jingwen (鄂靖文), Kai Man Tin (田启文), Zhang Quandan (张全蛋)
Plot: Ru Meng (E Jingwen), is a small town, a bit too old, girl who all her life have dreamed of becoming a movie star. Her relationship with her father is a bit constrained and all her friends begs her to give up her ambition of becoming an actress. It’s only her boyfriend Charlie (Wang Quandan) who supports her dreams. Then she meets Ma Ke (Wang Baoqiang) who inspires her to act out her dream even more but because of Ma Ke himself already lost his ambitions he creates more harm than good. In the end Ru Meng decides to give up her dream and return home to her parents and get another job. Little does she know that during this time a director has gained interest in her acting and wants her for his next movie. Watch the trailer here (no sub).



TitleIntegrity 《廉政风云》
Director: Alan Mak (麦兆辉)
Starring: Sean Lau (刘青云), Nick Cheung (张家辉), Anita Yuen (袁咏仪), Alex Fong (方中信), Karena Lam (林嘉欣)
Plot: The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has been working a long time on a big case concerning bedazzlement and bribery but the situation has changed since the main suspect Chen Chaoqun, CEO of Lida company, jumped bail and the main witness (Nick Cheung), former CFO of Lida, didn’t show up in court. Therefore the court recesses for a week and the ICAC decides to go through the whole case again in order to be ready within a week. Captain of the case is Chen Jingxi (Sean Lau) and responsible for finding the missing witness is his former lover Jiang Xue’er (Karena Lam). Solving the case will not only get them closer to justice it will also reveal a hidden side among Chen and Jiang.



Title: The Knight of Shadows Between Yin and Yang 《神探蒲松龄》
Director: Yan Jia (严嘉)
Starring: Jackie Chan (成龙), Ethan Juan (阮经天), Elane Zhong (钟楚曦), Lin Peng (林鹏)
Plot: The great literary figure and detective of many realms, Pu Songling, join forces with the bailiff Yan Fei to solve the case of the missing girl from the Jinhua village. On his journey to unravel the truth Songling brings with him deities of all kinds and also give rise to a great love story.


Title: Peppa Pig Celebrates Spring Festival 《小猪佩奇过大年》
Director: Neville Astley, Zhang Dapeng (张大鹏) and three more
Starring: Zhu Yawen (朱亚文), Liu Yun (刘芸), Chen Yiwen(陈奕雯)
Plot: This is the story of Yang Tuan and Dumpling living in a love filled home with their mom and dad. On the Eve of the Spring Festival, all grandparents come together and join the festivities. Yang Tuan and her relatives celebrate all the traditional customs but they also encounter things they could only dream of. Its the same for Peppa and her brother George who also encounter surprises during their holiday. And all of it will make them love their family and their life even more.

Recommended ReadingIn China, Peppa Pig Is a Street Couture IconBy Sixth Tone


Title: Bonnie Bears: Blast into the Past 《熊出没·原始时代》
Director: Ding Liang (丁亮) and Lin Huida (林汇达)
Starring: Zhang Wei (张伟), Tan Xiao (谭笑), Zhang Bingjun (张秉君)
Plot: Big Bear, Er Bear and Bald Qiang accidentally fall into a time hole inside a cave and on the other side the pre-historic ages await them. The three of them meet the cute wolf Feifei who accompany them on their journey to find their way back to the contemporary times while Feifei herself is looking for the Courage Fruit. While all this is happening the people of the prehistoric times is at war with the wolves with a great battle between the two clans is about to begin.


The five films that now have had their dates changed to another time are ”A Boyfriend For My Girlfriend” 《情圣2, ”The Legend of Pig Warrior” 《猪八戒传说, ”Overall Planning” 《日不落酒店》, “Animal Rescue Squad” 物出 and 《江湖喜事》