It could be something to do with the unsettling year we've had, but there is a series of Hong Kong films in the pipeline that are either set in the future or firmly rooted in the past. Not the distant past of swords, top-knots and fancy garb, but the fairly recent past when we didn't have to worry about deadly viruses and rising unemployment. Recently, we had Infernal Affairs II, which is set during the high-rolling early 1990s, a time when the economy was booming and the living was good. Next year, we'll get Stephen Chiau Sing-chi's latest, Kung-Fu Hustle, which is set a few decades further back - in 40s Canton. China Star's upcoming Lunar New Year comedy, Mischievous Fantasia, also looks back with a hint of nostalgia, although in true Hong Kong movie-making fashion, it still tries to be topical. Set mostly in 1969, the film stars Louis Koo Tin-lok and Lau Ching Wan as a pair of conmen who make a living by cheating at mahjong. One day the feckless duo stumbles across a magic lamp, which releases a genie, played by Cecilia Cheung Pak-chi. Inevitably, the genie offers them three wishes, and gets caught up in their trickery. The cheating momentarily stops for the conmen to watch the TV broadcast of Neil Armstrong's moon walk. Koo's character wishes he could see a Chinese astronaut land on the moon - and hey presto - he finds himself in 2009 with his wish granted. Although the story has a surreal modern twist, it is basically a parody of one of Hong Kong's oldest film genres - the gambling movie - which was popular in the 60s and 70s. The film, which is in production, has already drawn comparisons to Michael Hui Koon-man's Games Gamblers Play (1974), in which Hui and his brother, Samuel Hui Koon-kit, played a pair of knaves. 'Louis Koo and Lau Ching Wan will be imitating the big stars from the late 60s and early 70s, but it's not based on any particular film,' says China Star distribution chief Ann Hung. According to the gossip magazines, Koo has grown his hair long and started wearing bell-bottom jeans, while the female characters will be sporting beehive hairdos. Because the competition for the film audience this Lunar New Year will be typically fierce, China Star is not taking any chances with star power. Apart from Koo and Lau - who are starring in box-office topper Lost In Time - the film will feature Francis Ng Chun-yu, and Jordan Chan Siu-chun, with both members of pop duo Twins (Charlene Choi Tsoek-jin and Gillian Chung Yan-tong) in cameo roles. However, it's directed by only one half of China Star's usual winning combination of Johnnie To Kei-fung and Wai Ka-fai. After co-directing 10 films with To, Wai is going it alone this time, taking credits as writer, director and producer. Meanwhile, To is lined up to take control of another title for China Star, Judo Dragon Tiger Chart, scheduled for release next April. It's about a group of friends dealing with a mid-life crisis, and features Koo, Jordan Chan, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Aaron Kwok Fu-sing and Gigi Leung Wing-kei. If you'd prefer to escape to the future rather than gaze back at the past, there's plenty to look forward to. Apart from Michelle Yeoh Choo-kheng's futuristic Silver Hawk and Wong Kar-wai's long-awaited 2046, there's the sequel to Golden Chicken which is scheduled for release in time for Christmas. The film again stars Sandra Ng Kwun-yu as happy-go-lucky prostitute Ah Kam, but this time the story begins on that politically significant date 2046, and imagines what might happen to Hong Kong during the 43 years until then. As in the first film, Ng's character looks back on her eventful life and, in the process, tells the story of Hong Kong - which in this case includes the Sars outbreak and the July 1 mass protest. The filmmakers must have had barrels of fun with the premise, although we can only hope our heroine doesn't remain a working girl into her 80s.