THE BANQUET Director: Feng Xiaogang Starring: Ge You, Daniel Wu Yin-cho, Zhang Ziyi, Zhou Xun Prelude: Feng was inspired by the story of Hamlet, and decided to turn it into a martial arts costume drama. Expectations are high given the film's production costs of US$20 million. The story: The plot is Shakespearean with an oriental and martial arts twist. Set during the Period of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-960 AD), the story follows different members of the royal court trying to murder their enemies at an evening banquet. Zhang plays a young woman who becomes the queen and stepmother to her childhood love, the prince (Wu). Ge stars as the evil king who stole the throne from Wu's father, while Zhou features as a court maiden in love with the prince. The stars: Zhang Ziyi may be unpopular with the Chinese media, but western audiences love her. Her performance in Wong Kar-wai's 2046 won rave reviews from overseas media, which described her as sexy and charming. While Zhang will draw in western crowds, this film will help Zhou get her deserved share of the international limelight. She won the award for best actress at this year's Hong Kong Film Awards for her role in Peter Chan Ho-sun's romantic musical Perhaps Love. And Zhou is more than a pretty face. Her beautiful voice promises to win her many new fans. She sang several songs for the Perhaps Love soundtrack and released an album last year. The action: The film has Yuen Wo-ping - the action choreographer of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - at the helm. Yuen, who has also worked on Hollywood projects such as The Matrix series, is well known for his poetic action sequences. He is praised by The New York Times as the man who has 'helped to define a bold new style in American action films'. The art: Tim Yip, the first Chinese person to win an Oscar for art direction for his work in Crouching Tiger, is the film's art director. Yip launched his career with John Woo's gangster classic A Better Tomorrow. The music: Tan Dun, who wrote the scores for films such as Crouching Tiger and Hero, is an avant-garde composer of classical, multi-media, western and eastern music. As well as writing the score, Dun appears briefly as a singer in the film. Why bother: A star-studded cast and an Oscar-winning crew, what more could you want?