PROPONENTS of the 'Asian values' argument often talk of the loyalty, honour and other positive aspects of the extended family. But perhaps those close-knit ties begin to unravel when some Asian families transport themselves to the land of the free. Or, indeed, anywhere they can play the lottery. A New York Vietnamese family hit the front pages last week after a jury awarded US$8 million (HK$61.8 million) to a woman six years after she claimed her uncle had stolen her winning lottery ticket. The court ruled in favour of Julie Sau Thi Ma, whose uncle Xuan Lien had for all those years refused to admit the jackpot-winner he cashed in belonged to his niece. Both relatives had been working in an electronics store when Ms Sau bought the ticket - using the same numbers she always used, taken from her dead mother's healthcare card. But when she went to the hiding place she reserved for her tickets, she found it gone. When Mr Xuan cashed in his ticket, he used the implausible story that he had copied the winning numbers from a discarded ticket he found lying in the street. A suspicious Ms Sau won an injunction to prevent the lottery authority from handing over most of the US$8 million, but had to wait until now for her day in court. The fight split the family down the middle, with Ms Sau's siblings standing by her, and Mr Xuan's children swearing he could never have swiped the ticket. In an ironic twist to the tale, it was the uncle's unremitting greed which made his loss all the more difficult to swallow. Up until the case went to court, he rejected every offer from his niece to share the winnings 50-50. Starting on Friday night in more than 3,000 cinemas, giant comets began hurtling into the North Atlantic and sending ashore 100-metre high tidal waves capable of crushing skyscrapers like matchsticks. In less than two months it will happen again, but with an asteroid the size of Texas and a final outcome known only to a select few at the Walt Disney Company. The battle of the cosmic disaster movies has hit America's multiplexes. It pits fact against fiction and Disney against Dreamworks, and serves up the memorable image of Vanessa Redgrave as a wronged mother who kills herself as the world ends. It has earned the derision of East Coast commentators for Hollywood's 'technological pornography'. Deep Impact, released this weekend by Dreamworks, is the first full-scale 'event' film from the studio founded four years ago by Steven Spielberg. Considered vital to the company's future, it boasts a star cast and dazzling computer graphics, but has received only lukewarm reviews. The film includes spectacular footage of a fiery comet streaking towards an 'Extinction Level Event' on Earth. Seconds later, downtown Manhattan is dwarfed by a curling wall of water. But between scenes of doom and panic, Deep Impact is 'far from thrilling', Daily Variety declared, blaming 'a largely dull assortment of troubled human beings', including Robert Duvall and Morgan Freeman. It made an exception only for the 'classy' Redgrave. Most galling for Dreamworks is the panting coverage already being lavished on Disney's Armageddon, starring Bruce Willis - 'the only asteroid movie you'll ever need', as Newsweek gushed weeks before its July 1 release. Like Deep Impact, Armageddon features a manned mission to blow up the coming menace. Unlike the one in Deep Impact, this works. Expecting a blockbuster, cinema chains are planning to sell tickets in advance and withdraw Deep Impact to make way for it. Both films received an uncanny blast of free publicity in March, when US scientists said an asteroid as wide as Indiana was heading for Earth with an estimated arrival time of 2028. A day later the scientists revised their forecast, saying the rock would miss by 312,500 kilometres. The prospect of two almost identical disaster films is hardly new. In 1996 Mars Attacks! told exactly the same story as Independence Day, but with its tongue in its cheek. Last year Dante's Peak and Volcano, both about volcanoes, threatened to cancel each other out at the box office. The duel of the asteroids is different, according to Peter Bart, editor of Daily Variety. 'These films are more expensive and more important to the studios. There's far more at stake.' The showdown mirrors a bitter rivalry between Disney and Dreamworks, created when Jeffrey Katzenberg, one of Spielberg's co-founders, left the older studio in disgust after not being promoted. Four years on, Dreamworks is in dire need of a hit after the failure of Amistad, Spielberg's slavery epic, at the box office and the Oscars. As Hollywood aims its meteors at New York, New York has struck back. Not only have the two studios come up with just one solid action film idea between them, they have insulted their audiences with saturation special effects at the expense of plot and dialogue, according to Alan Caruba, founder and sole member of the Boring Institute, which exists to debunk Tinseltown. 'I can appreciate a good special effect if it's integral to the film,' Mr Caruba, a former publicist, told The New York Times. 'But this is an era of Hollywood that assumes the audience has the attention span of fungus.' Neal Gabler, the author of numerous books on Hollywood, went further. 'The analogy I would use is drug addiction,' he said. 'There's always a new drug that comes along because the old high isn't enough any more. Special effects work the same way.' It will console neither pundit that both asteroid films are expected to be trounced at the box office by a remake of Godzilla - nor that its producers wanted to make an asteroid film at first but judged the market too crowded.