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Empire Blogs

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 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 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 StatesAre Real Stars Making Their Own Fan Films Now?

Posted on Wednesday August 22, 2012, 09:33 by Helen O'Hara in Empire States
Are Real Stars Making Their Own Fan Films Now?

We live in an age that prizes irony and self-deprecation, so we shouldn't be surprised when films like The Expendables happen. Here is a group of (mostly) fading action stars pooling their remaining star-power to fuel a return to cinema screens in lieu of straight-to-DVD ignominy. In principle, it could be a winning tactic - and in principle, it's an idea that I am behind, because I liked many of the films the core cast have made, and I'm always up for some OTT action. But somehow, particularly in the case of The Expendables 2, it feels less like a last hurrah and more like self-penned fan-fic.

The Expendables 2 is admittedly funny on occasion, sometimes on purpose. These are, after all, seasoned pros in the entertainment industry and men aware that part of their appeal lies in their own ludicrousness. But everyone is in on the joke, poking fun at themselves and playing to the crowd. And the result just feels weird; this is a story it's impossibl...

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Empire StatesThe Olympic Opening Ceremony And Danny Boyle: A Treat For Film Fans

Posted on Friday July 27, 2012, 12:14 by Helen O'Hara in Empire States
The Olympic Opening Ceremony And Danny Boyle: A Treat For Film Fans

Just a quick word. I was lucky enough to get along to the Olympic opening ceremony rehearsal on Wednesday night, and I want to say a few spoiler-free things about it ahead of tonight's big event. First of all, it looks freakin' amazing. Danny Boyle and his team (including fellow filmmaker Stephen Daldry) have done themselves proud with a ceremony that is spectacular and also surprisingly witty. This is not just a technical, mechanical show that dazzles but has no real oomph, but one that manages to fit in a lot of British quirk, some surprisingly anti-establishment touches, a celebration of people rather than elites and a huge amount of heart. Hopefully that doesn't break the spirit of the message on Wednesday, which was, simply, "save the surprise".

It's also (perhaps unsurprisingly) a ceremony that has a lot to offer film fans, which is a welcome relief given that some among us could hardly give less of a hoot about sport. Seriously, watch it with a film-eye this even...

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Empire StatesWhere Are The Great British Sports Movies?

Posted on Friday July 20, 2012, 12:25 by Helen O'Hara in Empire States
Where Are The Great British Sports Movies?

We've just put together a list of the Greatest Sports Movies Ever Made, and Blighty does not come out of it well. I've just gone through and counted the number of British films on the list and, if we're talking films about sport in the UK there are six (possibly seven if you count Escape To Victory as British, which most people seem to want to). For contrast there are eight baseball films. And what I'm wondering is, why the heck is this?

Now obviously we didn't include every British sports movie - Bend It Like Beckham didn't make the cut, nor When Saturday Comes or the co-British Goal! trilogy. But even if you make the case that those or others should have been on the list somewhere, I'm going to point and laugh at you if you think we missed any British films that would have made the top ten. The UK is a country where people are nuts about sport and w...

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Empire States50 Shades Of What Now?

Posted on Monday July 16, 2012, 11:55 by Helen O'Hara in Empire States
50 Shades Of What Now?

Ladies and gentlemen, everyone is talking about it so I can resist no longer. Let's discuss 50 Shades Of Grey - as a novel, as a potential film franchise, as a phenomenon. What is it, how bad is it, who cares, and what sort of film is it going to make. Spoilers for all three books will follow, to the extent that you can spoil something with this little plot.

First of all, a quick reminder. What we're talking about is a trilogy by a writer known as E L James, the story of a graduate called Anastasia who begins an affair with Christian Grey, a handsome 28 year-old billionaire who has a penchant for BDSM (bondage, domination, sado-masochism). For the inexperienced Ana, this is something of a culture shock, and much of the plot of the three books concerns the pair negotiating one another's boundaries and establishing an emotional and sexual rapport, while Christian overcomes his need for absolute control of those around him and learns to treat Ana as her own...

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Empire StatesExplaining Ice Age: Continental Drift

Posted on Tuesday July 3, 2012, 17:46 by Helen O'Hara in Empire States
Explaining Ice Age: Continental Drift

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to tackle one of the great scientific conundrums of our age. No, not the Higg's Boson - that's been found. Not that faster-than-light blip either; that's been discredited. No, the conundrum to which I refer is Ice Age: Continental Drift. Let's recap. And yes, the word "overthinking" will apply to this entire blog.

The very first Ice Age movie saw a small group of prehistoric mammals - a mammoth, a sabre-tooth tiger and a giant sloth - attempting to return a lost human baby to its tribe while also attempting to get out of the way of the apparently-just-encroaching ice age.

Now that movie appeared to take place during the last ice age, given the development of the humans. Said ice age lasted from 110,000 to 10,000 years ago; humanity has existed since about 50,000 years ago, which narrows it down a bit. If the stories take place in the US, which seems to be the case given the presence of Sid's megal...

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Small ScreenTrue Blood: Season Four - What A Witch

Posted on Thursday May 10, 2012, 17:18 by Helen O'Hara in Small Screen
True Blood: Season Four - What A Witch

So how are we feeling about True Blood these days? I have to admit, season four was something of a letdown for me. I mean, it's still entertaining, particularly when Lafayette was involved in anything, or Jessica. But so few of the rest of the cast seemed to be having fun, and many of them seemed to be forced to play against their strengths, and what with the show hitting DVD so that you can all have a look, let's consider what's been going on. Season Four spoilers, incidentally, follow throughout.

Take, for example, Alexander Skarsgard's Eric, struck with amnesia and rediscovering life alongside Sookie. In the books, it worked rather well for the big fierce manipulator to be suddenly reduced to powerlessness and then to finally get into Sookie's pants by dint of not endlessly contriving at same. Somehow here, however - not helped by Skarsgard's horrendously parted "innocent" hair - he just seemed a bit silly. Which has the knock-on effect of rendering Sookie's inability to resist hi...

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Empire StatesMoving Seats? A New Gimmick Or The Saviour Of Cinema?

Posted on Sunday May 6, 2012, 19:07 by Helen O'Hara in Empire States
Moving Seats? A New Gimmick Or The Saviour Of Cinema?

This week I attended another screening of The Avengers (Assemble) that offered something called “D-Box” seats. These are seats that move in tandem with the action onscreen – think flight simulators or those various “4D” and “5D” rides at various theme parks*. I’ve tried a few of those experiences: Shrek 4D at Universal Studios, Muppets 4D at Disneyworld, and a few similar rides at Futuroscope back when it was a real novelty. But this is the first time I’ve been to one of these presentations for a proper feature film, and it was an entertaining but…odd experience. I’m sure quite a few of you have already tried it, being early adopters and all, but let’s discuss it.

First of all, I thought it was immense fun. For a movie like Avengers, it works because there are regular little pops of action and huge swathes of movement. The technology is well suited to car chases and Tony Stark’s flight a...

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