In the month of the Lunar New Year, many reunions, sometimes joyful, sometimes awkward, fill our calendars.
The dramatic and comedic potential of the anxiety and angst that sometimes accompanies such gatherings has been mined for television and film over the years, with American traditions such as Thanksgiving and the dreaded high-school reunion as consistent themes.
Two of these selections, John Cusack’s 1997 dark comedy Grosse Pointe Blank and the upcoming Afterparty streaming series, centre around high school reunions and the tensions between the characters.
Another three, the 1980s John Hughes classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles; the 2007 romantic comedy Dan in Real Life; and local 2011 Chinese New Year movie Homecoming, focus more on family get-togethers, including the rush to make those reunions.
Last, but not least, the latest trend in the post-pandemic era is for special cast reunions of popular television series or movie franchises to air. The newest example brings together, once again, the talents who made the Harry Potter stories come alive on the big screen.
Available now, Netflix
Stars: Mark Lee, Jack Neo, Ah-Niu
Each year, during the Lunar New Year, families around the world make plans to gather for the traditional Reunion Dinner. In this film by writer-director Lee Thean-jeen, there are three stories about three sets of people trying their best to make it home – on either side of the Causeway – in time. These stories involve a young man (singer Ah-Niu) and his mother (Neo), a Hong Kong chef (Lee), a taxi driver (Malaysian comedian Afdlin Shauki) and a whole host of characters played by Jacelyn Tay, Rebecca Lim, Koe Yeet and Liu Ling Ling.
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return To Hogwarts
Available now, HBO Go
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Marking two whole decades since the very first Harry Potter movie was released in the cinemas, this television special (following last year’s Friends reunion) reunites the beloved cast of the movie franchise, including leading actors Radcliffe, Watson and Grint, a large contingent of the principal cast members, producer David Heyman and the filmmakers Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuaron, Mike Newell and David Yates. Together, they reminisce and make revelations about the movies that changed their lives.
Grosse Pointe Blank
Available now, Disney+
Stars: John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Dan Aykroyd
A man disillusioned with his life and his career gets an invitation for his high school reunion. Martin (Cusack) decides to go back to his hometown for the reunion, to reconnect with his friends and look up the girl he stood up at the prom, Debi (Driver). The problem is, Martin is a professional hitman, and his mid-life crisis has led to a number of other assassins, including one called Grocer (Aykroyd), converging on his reunion. As he fights off his fellow killers, he realises he needs to win back the one that got away.
Dan In Real Life
Available now, Disney+
Stars: Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook
The “Dan” who writes the newspaper advice column, “Dan in Real Life”, is a widower and father-of-three played by Carell. As he and his extended family prepare to go away for an annual gathering, he meets a beautiful stranger (Binoche) who warns that she already has a boyfriend. As it turns out, that boyfriend is Dan’s brother, Mitch (Cook). Awkwardness and heartache ensue as the bizarre love triangle becomes apparent, and “follow your heart” becomes a difficult piece of advice to follow.
Planes, Trains And Automobiles
Available now, Google Play Movies, Apple TV
Stars: Steve Martin, John Candy, Laila Robins
Two men with seemingly nothing in common are thrown together by fate as one, a New York advertising executive named Neal (Martin), rushes to be with his family in Chicago for the Thanksgiving holiday. His unintended companion, an odd travelling salesman called Del (Candy), is a little too close for comfort as the pair’s journey is interrupted time and again by bad weather, bad luck or their own bad behaviour, and they are forced to improvise an itinerary involving – you guessed it – planes, trains and automobiles.
Available 28 January, Apple TV+
Stars: Tiffany Haddish, Sam Richardson, Dave Franco
After a high school reunion that brings together people with contrasting fortunes in life, among them a wealthy celebrity named Xavier (Franco), a group of former classmates are invited to the pop star’s house for an afterparty. The night takes a turn when Xavier is found murdered and almost everybody present, many of whom have reason to hate their host, is a suspect. A detective named Danner (Haddish) then arrives to investigate and get a different perspective from each of the suspects.
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