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Empire StatesChinese Propaganda Is Hitting Hollywood

Posted on Tuesday June 4, 2013, 11:03 by Helen O'Hara in Empire States
Chinese Propaganda Is Hitting Hollywood

It is, by now, a truism that China is hugely important for Hollywood blockbusters. It’s currently the second-biggest single film market in the world; by the end of the decade it’s expected to be number one. The Chinese authorities only permit 34 foreign (mostly American) films to hit their screens each year – but those 34 get access to the country’s 1.344 billion people and take about 60% of a box-office worth £1.7bn last year. If you include sufficient Chinese elements in your film to be considered a “co-production”, you can take home 43% of the gross instead of the otherwise-typical 25%. In these straitened times, it’s no wonder that studios are shooting China-specific scenes and sub-plots (Iron Man 3’s Dr Wu had much more screentime in the Chinese cut), or that filmmakers are looking to include Chinese elements in their stories (Joss Whedon told EW in reference to Avengers 2 that, “China is on my radar. It can't not be at this point.”)...

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Empire StatesDrive Like Dominic Toretto - Sort Of

Posted on Friday May 17, 2013, 15:17 by Ally Wybrew in Empire States
Drive Like Dominic Toretto - Sort Of

As I careen rapidly closer to a solid cement wall, I find myself counting the number of times I’ve genuinely thought I might die. As it turns out, the vast majority of these have been in the past hour and a half thanks to the guys at Universal and Fast & Furious 6. As a car nut, when Empire was asked if one of our team would like to spend a morning burning the tyres off an Alfa Romeo for the upcoming ‘drive or die’ action movie, I boldly (or stupidly) assured everyone that, ‘I got this’. I had grand visions of learning how to drift round corners at 100mph and weave between oncoming buses, cabs and unsuspecting pedestrians, probably in LA, Tokyo or Miami. But nope. Instead I was packed off to Bedford. Not as glamorous, perhaps, but as it turns out its gusty plains are perfect for advanced driving lessons, so I headed north to put my limited skills to the ultimate test. Would I be fast? Would I be furious? Right now I’d settle for ‘swift’ and ...

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Empire StatesScreen To Stage: Once

Posted on Friday April 26, 2013, 02:42 by Helen O'Hara in Empire States
Screen To Stage: Once

The movie Once is a musical so subtle that most people don’t even realise it is a musical in the first place. The indie feel, low-key guitar songs and musician characters mean that it’s easy to miss the way characters unfailingly sing their feelings, or the miraculous ability they all have to pick up one another’s songs (which, let’s face it, talented musicians can actually do to a greater or lesser extent, so it only seems miraculous to the rest of us). All of that makes it a non-obvious choice for a stage adaptation – but the further non-obvious choices made in staging that adaptation make this a show that’s as delightfully low-key as the film was. Despite the fact that this is a Broadway smash transferred to the West End, it could hardly be further from the Lloyd Webber / Cameron Mackintosh extravaganza we’re accustomed to seeing.

For one thing, this is a musical with only one set – an Irish pub, its walls lined with mirrors hung haphazardly at var...

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Empire StatesWhat Are Your Cinematic Affectations?

Posted on Friday March 1, 2013, 17:37 by Ali Plumb in Empire States
What Are Your Cinematic Affectations?

There’s a moment in Iron Man where Tony does this thing with his hands. It’s like a double finger click with his right hand that slaps into the palm of his left hand, making a sound like “Clicketty-click” in the process. It’s the kind of thing everyone’s favourite billionaire playboy philanthropist does when he’s walking, or thinking, or just being a bit cool. “Throw a little hot rod red in there…” Clicketty-click.

There’s another moment in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where the semi-professional fourth wall breaker is in the bathroom of posh restaurant Chez Quis, washing his hands and talking to no one in particular. Before he leaves, he picks up a mint from a bowl. “Mint”, he says, popping into his mouth. That’s it. “Mint.”

Finally, Fantastic Mr. Fox. “What’s this thing you do, the whistle ...

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Empire StatesSeth MacFarlane: Oscar Hero Or Lame Duck?

Posted on Monday February 25, 2013, 05:21 by Phil de Semlyen in Empire States
Seth MacFarlane: Oscar Hero Or Lame Duck?

“From Whoopi all the way down to Ron Jeremy, it’s an honour that everyone else said no,” grinned a visibly nervy Seth MacFarlane at Oscars zero hour. A few minutes later you could sense people backstage fumbling for Jeremy’s number, hoping that the man could free himself from whatever torrid triste he was engaged in at the time to save the day as the Family Guy guy dropped clunker after clunker on the Oscars.

First there was a sur-le-nez remark about Jean Dujardin’s post-Oscars career lull that was undercut hilariously by the man himself about, what, nine months ago on Funny Or Die. If that seemed a little cheap, the riff on Daniel Day-Lewis’ in-character methods on Lincoln (“If you'd seen Don Cheadle on set, would you have had to free him?”, he asked the perplexed Brit) and a sock puppet version of Flight that culminated in him delibe...

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Empire StatesFive Things We Learnt At The London Toy Fair 2013

Posted on Friday January 25, 2013, 15:42 by Phil de Semlyen in Empire States
Five Things We Learnt At The London Toy Fair 2013

Held in the vast Olympia hall in west London, Toy Fair is a giddifying jamboree that brings manufacturers and retailers together amid a vast array of Scalextric, Smurfettes and snoozing Furbys. It’s also – ssshhh! – a secret trove of plot points and spoilers for the big superhero releases of the year ahead. Last January, the nice people at Hasbro gave us a first peek at their new Hulk, revealing Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk clobber a good five months before The Avengers assembled, while LEGO showed off ‘Loki’s Cosmic Cube Escape’, in which a tiny god of mischief and an equally tiny, mind-controlled Hawkeye made off with the tesseract in a 4x4. You know, a bit like in the film.

Needless to say, we were back for Toy Fair 2013 this week, hoping to glean more brick-based hints from LEGO’s Iron Man 3...

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Empire StatesEmpire Vs. Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark

Posted on Friday November 23, 2012, 14:53 by Ali Plumb in Empire States
Empire Vs. Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark

As part of the Amazing Spider-Man New York press trip, I got the chance to see the Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark musical on Broadway. If you were to ask me for a one-word review of the Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark musical on Broadway, the one word I would give you is ‘bonkers’. On the better side of bonkers, mind, but still – ahem – completely off the wall.

Chances are, you’ll have already heard about its initial technical glitches, huge running costs and critical mauling. Maybe you’ll know it as “that U2 Spider-Man musical where those stuntmen were injured” or possibly as “the Broadway show with the weirdest name of all time”, but now that the dust has settled, the script has been rewritten, certain songs excised and nuts-on-the-wire rigging firmly tightened, this felt like the right time to appreciate Marvel’s foray i...

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Empire StatesThe Amazing Spider-Man / MIB3 Press Trip Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Visiting Movie Locations

Posted on Friday November 16, 2012, 11:22 by Ali Plumb in Empire States
The Amazing Spider-Man / MIB3 Press Trip Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Visiting Movie Locations

As part of the recent Amazing Spider-Man / Men In Black III New York press trip – one that took place literally hours before Hurricane Sandy hit, believe it or not – a lucky few got to trapeze, bungee, helicopter, space shuttle, taxi and parkour around The Big Apple to celebrate the films’ releases on Blu-ray. I was one of that lucky few, and I can safely say that it was one of the best adventures in Abroadland I’ve ever been on....

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Empire StatesHollywood Costume At The V&A: Empire Reviews The Exhibition

Posted on Thursday October 18, 2012, 10:43 by Helen O'Hara in Empire States
Hollywood Costume At The V&A: Empire Reviews The Exhibition

The Victoria and Albert Museum's latest big exhibition, Hollywood Costume, is something I've been excited about ever since I first heard it mentioned. There was a mini-press launch back in March and Senior Guest Curator - and costume designer of some note - Deborah Landis talked us through some of the collection, and I very nearly cheered aloud. They have Dorothy's dress! Indy's hat! And - most thrilling of all - Marilyn Monroe's dress from Some Like It Hot, the one where you can basically see everything while she sings I'm Through With Love. So it was in high spirits that myself and two Empire colleagues headed off yesterday morning to the full exhibition launch for a look at what's in store.

There's lots of good news about it. The collection fills three galleries, and is nicely presented with quotes for each outfit from either star, director, producer or costume designer to explain the thinking behind the look (mostly. A few quotes are more generic and a looser fit). Landi...

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Empire StatesTen Things I Learnt From The Bond 50 Press Day

Posted on Thursday September 27, 2012, 14:59 by Phil de Semlyen in Empire States
Ten Things I Learnt From The Bond 50 Press Day

You may have heard that the James Bond movies – all 22 of them – have arrived in one giant case of pure, Blu-ray 007ness; motored across Britain in the kind of crazed PR stunt that’s worth its weight in valium. The convoy of Bond vehicles stopped at every James Bond location en route to London, from Scotland's Eilean Donan Castle (The World Is Not Enough) to Nene Valley (Octopussy). I was invited along to Day 5, the Stoke Park leg, to celebrate with three Bond girls and a certain toothy villain. Here’s what I learnt along the way.

Stoke Park Has A Surprising “00” Back Story
As any fule kno, Stoke Park appears in Goldfinger and again as a double for a Hamburg ballroom in Tomorrow Never Dies* (*I didn’t actually know this). It’s also a hefty 1-wood from Pinewood Studios, which made it Connery’s course of choice during his Bond years...

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