Asian Movie Market Is Expanding - Through Casting Hollywood Stars

The Chinese blockbusters are made to rival the popularity of their Hollywood counterparts, and as such we’re seeing the expansion of Hollywood star appearances in Chinese movies. It seems the presence of Hollywood faces is necessary for scoring global releases and enchanting international audiences.

Even though China’s box office slowed down somewhat, by 21% during the first half of 2016, the market is still seeing a significant rise when you look at the past five years, and it might be on its way to rival North America for the privilege of being the world’s number one movie market.

We’ve also seen a few interesting purchases from Chinese companies in Hollywood – for example, in 2012 when AMC theater chain was purchased by Dalian Wanda Group, or the purchase of Legendary Entertainment in January.

Despite this, however, the Chinese cinematography hasn’t had much recognition internationally in the recent years. We all remember Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” that won a foreign-language Oscar in 2000, but that one was billed as a Taiwanese film. Other than that, only Zhang Yimou’s “Hero” has earned some recognition by being nominated in 2002.

“China wants to export its films to the world — especially the U.S. — as an achievement of its soft power, but no one wants to watch its films,” says producer and director Peter Tsi, who has helmed projects in Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. “On the other hand, Hollywood is excited about getting into the China market, but the only way to achieve that is through co-production, and they must find subject matter that can resonate with the Chinese audience.”

Peter Tsi, the producer and director who has helmed many projects in Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China, claims that China wants to export its movies to the world, but that no one wants to watch them. The problem is solved, however, by working together with Hollywood, which looks to expand to the China market – so co-production is the answer. However, the subject matter of the movie needs to resonate with the Chinese audience.

Still, there are controversies – the latest being the casting of Matt Damon as the lead in “The Great Wall”. Zhang Yimou, helm of the first project that emerged from Legendary Entertainment’s Legendary East, had to defend his decision to cast Damon as he was accused of “whitewashing”. This was Yimou’s first English-language production and it cost $135 million.

According to Tsi, if the Chinese market is to rival the North American and Chinese movies to be distributed internationally, Hollywood stars have to be cast. “The only way to make it work is to arbitrarily cast a Hollywood actor or two so that U.S. distributors and exhibitors might consider screening them,” he says.
Example in point: Stephen Chow’s fantasy blockbuster “The Mermaid”, the all-time highest-grossing film in the country that reached the $500 million box office benchmark only had a limited release in the U.S. with 35 screens under the distribution of Sony.

Even so, “The Great Wall” is hardly the first example of a Western star appearing in a Chinese movie. In fact, what’s being called the “Americanization” of Eastern products began back with the original Japanese “Godzilla” of 1954, when a segment starring Raymond Burr was edited in and later introduced to American audiences, in 1956, as “Godzilla: King of Monsters!”

In more recent years, Hong Kong led the trend in early 2000s. In a Hong Kong action blockbuster of 2000, “Gen-Y Cops”, Paul Rudd was cast as an FBI agent. The movie was produced by Hong Kong’s Media Asia and Regent Entertainment, and released in 2002 in the U.S. under the name “Metal Mayhem.” Also in 2000, the action triller “China Strike Force” produced by Astoria Films (an American company) and Golden Harvest (Asia) starred Coolio in the role of a drug dealer.

According to Gregory Rivers, the Hong Kong-based Australian actor who’s been working on Hong Kong TV and films for almost 30 years, writers in Asia were not used to writing Western characters into their stories, which lead to many of them looking arbitrary.

Still, for breaking into bigger markets, it became unavoidable for characters of various nationalities to become included in Chinese films. We had Donald Sutherland starring in “Big Shot’s Funeral”, the 2001 Feng Xiaogang comedy which was a collaboration between the Asian department of Columbia Pictures based in Hong Kong and a number of Chinese companies including Huavi Bros.

More and more Hollywood faces have been appearing in Chinese productions in the past few years. Namely, Christian Bale (Zhang’s “The Flowers of War” in 2011), Adrien Brody (Feng’s “Back to 1942” in 2012 and “Dragon Blade” in 2015 alongside Jackie Chan and John Cusack), Mike Tyson (“Ip Man 3” in 2015 in the role of the property developer that had fight scenes with Donnie Yen), etc.

Before “The Great Wall” is released, however, we’ll see what kind of attention the WWII epic starring Bruce Willis, “The Bombing”, will get. Reportedly, the movie had a $90 million budget and was jointly backed by the China Film Group and private investors. Starring alongside Willis is Brody and an ensemble Asian cast with names such as the Korean star Song Seung-heon, mainland actor Liu Ye and Hong Kong actor and singer Nicholas Tse. As for “The Great Wall”, it will be released in China in December, and in the U.S. in February by Universal.

“You want a movie that hits all markets at the same time and so you want to add a Korean or an American in the cast,” Rivers says. “But sometimes it doesn’t work like that.”
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The Five Biggest Games of September 2016

This month we have a big list of games on the horizon. Big enough that five isn’t enough for this month’s Big 5. We may have to go bigger! This month we’ve got five games, a couple special mentions and a highly anticipated game in the Indie Spotlight. It’s a bit sports heavy this month but as you all know we’re on the slow climb to the holiday season. Look for October to really shine. Let’s get started, shall we?

NHL 17 – EA Sports – Sept 13 (Multiplatform)

Lace up your skates for the latest entry in the NHL franchise. Believe it or not, NHL 17 is the 26th entry in the NHL series and this year the cover is graced by St. Louis Blues forward, Vladimir Tarasenko. As always there are a host of improvements, many of them based on player feedback. One of the new modes this year sees ‘Be a GM’ changed to ‘Franchise Mode’. In ‘Franchise Mode’ you go one step further to become the team’s official owner. Relocate the team, build a new stadium, and rebuild your dynasty. Wind up that slapshot on Sept. 13th!

FIFA 17 – EA Sports – Sept 27 (Multiplatform)

From lacing skates to lacing up your cleats, it’s FIFA 17. The beautiful game prepares to debut its 2017 edition this Sept 27 and this year brings the Frostbite Engine to the series. Play through the league modes or take ‘The Journey’ which tells the story of Alex Hunter and his rise through the Premier League. Gracing the cover this year is German striker, best known for his versatility and crazy speed, Marco Reus.

NBA 2K17 – 2K Sports – Sept 16 (Multiplatform)

Three games in and three sports titles on the list. Like we mentioned above, this month is heavy on the sports. With EA’s NBA Live 17 being pushed right into 2017 there’s no competition for NBA 2K17, never mind the fact that Live hasn’t been competition for years. We’re now 18 installments into the series and 2K is never content to sit back without pumping in some new ideas every year. Cover duties are shared by Paul George on the Standard Edition and Kobe Bryant on the ‘Legends’ Edition and it will be available this coming Sept 16th.

ReCore – Microsoft Studios – Sept 13 (X1/PC)

Alright, we’re moving past the sports section into something different! Keiji Inafune and Armature Studio bring this new IP to life for the Xbox One and PC (via Xbox Play Anywhere) on Sept 13. Following the story of Joule and her robot companions, it is a fast paced and at times relentless platformer. We got some hands-on time with ReCore at an event in Toronto and summed up our thoughts in a preview piece. Coming in at a lower price point than most AAA games it offers a good incentive to jump in and check it out.

Forza Horizon 3 – Microsoft Studios – Sept 27 (X1/PC)

Start your engines for the next installment to the Forza Horizon series with Forza Horizon 3. The Horizon Festival has moved to the great continent of Australia and it’s brought over 350 of your favorite vehicles with it! With a map touted to be over twice the size of that in Horizon 2, you’ll visit iconic locations like Surfer’s Paradise and Byron Bay all while playing with your friends. Developed by Playground Games and dropping with more races and modes than ever you can get it on Sept 27th.

SPECIAL MENTIONS : BioShock: The Collection – 2K Games – Sept 13 (Multiplatform), Destiny: Rise of Iron – Activision – Sept 20 (PS4/X1)
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Frank Ocean’s Blonde Reaches Number One

The long-awaited LP Blonde  by Frank Ocean accomplished great success, as it became the Number One in its debut week. The album, formerly known as Boys Don’t Cry, sold 276,000 copies, out of which 232,000 came from the traditional iTunes-only album sales and the rest from Apple Music exclusive bulk streams.

This is the third-best opening sales week of this year, only behind Beyonce’s Lemonade and Drake’s Views. And, it’s Ocean’s first Number One album, after his Channel Orange got to Number Two back in 2012.

Earlier it was announced by Billboard that Ocean’s visual album Endless will be missing from the chart – not eligible due to only being available as one continuous stream, instead of as individual tracks, among other things. Endless, however, fulfilled Ocean’s contract with Def Jam, which made Blonde the first Billboard top 200 album that was independently released since 2013, when Garth Brooks’ box set Blame It On My Roots came out.

Other than Blonde, a few other new releases made it into the Top 10, namely the debut LP of Tory Lanez, I Told You, which entered at Number Four with 52,000 copies sold, and at Number Five, there is Lindsey Stirling’s Brave Enough with 49,000 copies.
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PES 2017 vs FIFA 16 Graphics Comparison

The never-ending duel between two mortal enemies reached a new level. The new series, which is loved by millions, has already robbed the hearts of fans.  This year, every single fan of PES has the advantage to test the new demo version. Needless to say, we couldn’t wait to compare the graphic design of last year's FIFA.

If you might be wondering why last year’s FIFA? Well, the reason is simple: we don't yet have any footage of Fifa 2017 that can show the game in good enough quality to be compared to pes 2017. Thus, we extend our invitation to all you excited fans and hope you will get a kick out of the newest version of this awesome game.

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Universal Music Group has reportedly moved to ban the practice. Is the whole streaming exclusives thing doomed?

The music streaming business is getting more fragmented, and for the fans it’s getting increasingly difficult to listen to all the new albums they would like to, because they have to pay for multiple streaming services. It’s a business that, like any other, has only profit in mind, but it seems someone has taken a look at the problem from the other side.

Kanye West recently tweeting: “This Tidal Apple beef is fucking up the music game. Fuck all this dick swinging contest. We all gon be dead in 100 Years. Let the kids have the music.”

Bob Lefsetz
, who runs a music industry newsletter, has stated that Universal Music Group is banning exclusive streaming. According to him, a company-wide email has been sent on Monday by the CEO of UMG himself, Lucian Grainge, containing this information.

This bears significance, as UMG is an umbrella company that’s a home to almost 80 labels, including artist-ran labels. Capitol, Def Jam and Interscope are among the major names with UMG, and so are Kanye West’s, Dr. Dre’s and Eminem’s labels, to name just a few. In fact, UMG holds all five of this year’s Grammy nominees for album of the year – Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, Chris Stapleton and Alabama Shakes. And they’d all be affected by this change!

It will be interesting to see if other labels will follow their example.
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Were Chastity Belts Used During Medieval Era

When chastity belts are mentioned, we often connect them to what is considered to be the time of their origin: the Medieval times, when knights going off to the Crusades would lock up their wives so they could be sure they’ll remain pure for years until they return. There have been many chastity belt artifacts said to originate from the Medieval era, but is it really true? Were chastity belts used in the Medieval times?

The idea itself seems to align with our perception of Medieval Europe: dark times when women were oppressed and when any sexual intercourse whose purpose wasn’t conception was forbidden. But, according to Sarah E. Bond’s blog post “Unlocking the Dark Ages: A Short History of Chastity Belts”, chastity belts were invented later, and 18th and 19th century historians aimed to present them as real, precisely to make their era seem enlightened and progressive compared to the Medieval times.

Albrecht Classen, in his book The Medieval Chastity Belt: A Myth-Making Process (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) explains that a chastity belt was first mentioned and described in 1405 (a long time after the last Crusade), in a treatise on siege machines, Bellifortis, written by a German engineer Konrad Kyesen.

In a book about battering rams, crossbows, and instruments of torture, Kyesen drew the “female chastity device”, accompanied by this description: “These are hard iron breeches of Florentine women which are closed at the front. Padlocks unto the four-legged creatures, breeches unto the women of Florence, A joke binds this lovely series together, I recommend them to the noble and obedient youth.”

Today it’s considered that Kyesen’s writing was in jest, but the idea seems to have stuck. Other mentions of chastity belts through history were mostly symbolic in nature, such as the tunica recta of Roman brides, along with a corded belt tied in a Herculean knot that their husbands were supposed to untie.

This, however, doesn’t come close to the usual depiction of chastity belts as made of metal or leather, with a lock, that they were supposedly using in the Medieval times. And one can’t help but wonder how would women be able to safely use it, when it would most certainly cause wounds that would become more serious and infected in a matter of days. Additionally, such belts have never been mentioned in any serious historical context, such as penitentiary texts, which is why academics started doubting their authenticity.

Many chastity belts on display in various museums and art collections have since been proved to be fake, most created in the early 19th century, but supposedly from the 14th, 15th, and 16th century. In 1996, the British Museum removed a “medieval chastity belt” from its exhibition as it was proved to date from the 19th century.

This is the time when chastity belts had their heyday: the Victorian era. Not that surprising, considering the fact that they considered masturbation to be a health hazard – which reveals the chastity belt’s intended purpose: to prevent masturbation.

Also, during the Industrial era, they were also worn by women in order to protect them from rape in their workplace, as most of their male coworkers weren’t exactly gentlemen. These chastity belts often had some sort of padding that was changed regularly, in order to improve comfort and decrease the health risk, but they still weren’t suitable for long term wear.

Chastity devices still are alive and well today, mostly used for BDSM sex, or, as in a case of one Italian woman who lost the key to her chastity belt and was forced to ask firefighters to help her with the lock, to prevent the temptation of a sexual relationship.However, we can now conclude that there is no believable evidence that chastity belts have originated from the Medieval era, so the next time you hear that old myth about crusaders and their wives, know it for what it really is: just a myth.
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Green Day Announce Release Date for New Single, ‘Bang Bang’

It seems nobody expected the new song from Green Day to arrive as soon as it apparently will.

Green Day’s lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong leaked on his social media accounts that the new single named “Bang Bang” is due to be released on 11th August this year. It is still too early to speculate whether this single will be a part of something bigger, but Armstrong was quick too add that people should “Stay tuned for more details.”

Not even a full year has passed since the release of Green Day’s last single “Xmas Time of the Year”, a free Christmas special released in 2015. On top of that almost 4 years has passed since their last album release in 2012, when they introduced their triple-LP set ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡TrĂ©!,all three of which had great success with the US audience. It should also be noted that the band has been cooperating with Rob Cavallo since early last year.

“There’s definitely a great spirit going on. We’ve always been pretty charged up,” Armstrong told Rolling Stone last April. “I’ve got, like, four or five songs right now. I’m gonna take it really slow. I’m just gonna make sure every moment is inspired and that we have something that’s really special to us. And right now with the songs that we have, it’s going in the right direction.”

This new single will be the first thing Green Day released since they were included into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which, as Armstrong claimed, will not make them neglect their fans in the future.

“We’re not going to try and pull off some, like, victory lap over this because I definitely want the music to come from a real place and be inspired, not just because we got honored or anything like that, but because we’re honoring music,” he added. “We want to work on them, and we want to make a great album.”
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