On Screen: December

Root for the underdog and the rebels this month!

By Yong Shu Chiang        10 December 2021

Swan Song

Out 17 December, Apple TV+

Stars: Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Glenn Close

A man (Ali) with a loving wife (Harris) and a young family, soon to have a new addition, learns that he has a terminal condition and grapples with how to best spend the time that remains. Worried that his impending death would destroy his family, he then meets a scientist (Close) who presents an alternative solution – if he would consent to being cloned, and transfer his memories, life could go on as normal for his loved ones and his double. But when the initial experiment is a success, he starts to have doubts.

Mahershala Ali: Finding dreams in the Moonlight

Despite his two Oscars, the star of Green Book and True Detective remains a consistently excellent and underrated actor – and possibly one of the best of his generation

Born Mahershalalhashbaz Gilmore, the 47-year-old American leading man now known to many as Mahershala Ali seems criminally underrated.

A terrific, stylish actor, who once entered college on a sports scholarship, only to later find his passion in performing, Ali started his Hollywood career in television, landing a main role in the crime drama Crossing Jordan in 2001.

He would go on to appear in NYPD Blue and CSI, before securing another significant role in the science fiction series, The 4400, on which he appeared for four seasons.

His first major movie role was in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). Ali would go on to star in the final two films of the Hunger Games franchise, before breaking out in 2016’s Academy Award Best Picture, Moonlight.

In it, he played a drug dealer and mentor to the central character of Chiron. So impressive was his performance that he earned his first Best Supporting Actor Oscar. His second such award resulted from starring opposite Viggo Mortensen in 2018’s Green Book.

Going back to television, Ali received strong reviews in the third season of the crime series, True Detective, where his performance was described by one critic as “mesmerising”.

He can next be seen in the streaming feature film, Swan Song, where he plays a family man confronted with his mortality – and an impossible choice.

He has also been recruited into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is expected to appear in an upcoming new film centred on the character that Wesley Snipes made famous, Blade.

Railway Heroes

Out Now In Cinemas (Available at Shaw Theatres)

Stars: Zhang Hanyu, Fan Wei, Vision Wei

In this film set in Shandong Province, during the winter of 1939, China is caught up in a titanic struggle against Japanese invaders during the Second Sino-Japanese War. To thwart the occupying forces, a pair of railway workers (Zhang, Fan) lead a guerrilla unit in clandestine attacks. After assassinating senior Japanese officials, the rebels attract the attention of a Japanese secret agent. The stakes are then raised when a train supplying Japanese armaments is scheduled to pass through the area.

Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City

Out Now In Cinemas (Available at Shaw Theatres)

Stars: Kaya Scodelario, Hannah John-Kamen, Robbie Amell

A dying town in the middle of nowhere, Raccoon City is far removed from its heyday as the home of the Umbrella Corporation. Underneath the city, however, an evil remains that is biding its time to surface. When a college student (Scodelario) starts investigating Umbrella, a strange affliction starts to infect residents, turning them into hideous monsters. A group of survivors struggle to stay alive while trying to uncover the truth about Umbrella, and how to stop the horrific contagion from spreading even further.

The Matrix Resurrections

Out In Cinemas 22 December (Available at Shaw Theatres)

Stars: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Thomas Anderson (Reeves) is living in a modern metropolis, in a world not unlike our own, and sees a therapist to try to understand his vivid dreams. He pops blue pills for his well-being and goes about his days with a nagging feeling that all is not what it seems. Then, he meets an oddly-familiar woman (Moss), experiences deja vu, and she asks, “Have we met?” In time, Anderson realises that he is Neo – The One – and that he is back in The Matrix virtual reality, destined to stage another rebellion against the machines.

Asakusa Kid

Out Now, Netflix

Stars: Yo Oizumi, Yuya Yagira, Mugi Kadowaki

The origins of legendary Japanese actor and entertainer Takeshi “Beat” Kitano are explored in this biopic based on his memoirs of the same name. It reveals that Kitano (played by Yagira), a university dropout, had gone to Tokyo’s Asakusa district to seek his fortunes as a comedian. While working as an elevator operator at a strip club, he would become the apprentice of the resident comic Senzaburo Fukami (Oizumi), and go on to develop his inimitable persona as one of Japan’s best-loved funnymen.

Gensan Punch

Out 16 December, HBO Go

Stars: Shogen, Ronnie Lazaro, Kaho Minami

Nao (Shogen), an aspiring Okinawan boxer with a disability, is not allowed to pursue his dream in his native Japan. Undaunted, he decides to go to the Philippines, specifically to the city of General Santos, or GenSan – the hometown of boxing legend Manny Pacquiao – to train and fight for a boxing licence. The authorities are willing to overlook his prosthetic leg and allow him into the ring. However, it will not be easy for Nao to get his licence as a professional boxer, as he has to win three matches.