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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

THE CHINESE ARE COMING...

...The Chinese are coming...and American movie-goers apparently don't care.

But before I continue, for those who read my blog yesterday about John Wick Chapter 2, and have not yet seen the original, it plays TONIGHT on your SyFy channel at 8PM in Hawaii (Oceanic) and, I think, 10PM in the continental USA.  Check yourself for details.

I just saw two more films, both with a Chinese connection:

                               ROTTEN TOMATOES
                                Reviewers  Audiences

Skiptrace                      33             27

The Great Wall             35             55

Low scores, but this weekend #2 in box office revenues was Fifty Shades Darker, and reviewers gave it a 9 rating.  Haven't seen anything that low in a long time.  #1 was The Lego Batman Movie, which got a 91 rating from Rotten Tomatoes, and earned $33 million, but I refuse to go to any lego productions.  The Great Wall came in third, gaining only $18 million.  John Wick 2?  #4 at $16 million.

But I wasn't all that interested in how good these Chinese-influenced films were.  Their productions are still heavily influenced by the ruling leadership.  Can you imagine how our movies would turn out if Donald Trump and the U.S. Congress determined what could be shown?  China is worse.  Some day, redeeming social virtue and stories protective of the current hierarchy will be relaxed, and these Chinese films will really become meaningful.  Today, call it Stage One.

Of all the recent releases, from Star Wars to Jurassic World to Frozen, foreign box office revenues exceeded domestic earnings.  American Sniper was the only exception.  The American movie industry is in a funk.  2002 was the year most tickets were sold, 1.6 million, versus 1.3 million last year.  China is already making a difference and growing:
  • Since 2011, box office revenues have been flat in the USA, but growing 35% annually in China.
  • China his building 26 screens/day to meet the burgeoning demand.
  • In 2012 opened up the market to foreign films allowing 34 non-Chinese films into the country.
  • However, films like Mission Impossible III and Skyfall were edited to minimize any Chinese insults.
Regarding The Great Wall, China revenues just for this past weekend was $170 million.  That is almost ten times more than domestically (U.S.).

Thus Skiptrace and The Great Wall are at the cutting edge of this transition.  Skiptrace is a 2016 Hong Kong-Chinese-American action comedy featuring Jackie Chan, Johnny Knoxville and China's favorite actress / fashion icon, Fan BingBing (left).  but she will be 36 this year.  It is already available free on Netflix.  John Wick, which came out in 2014, is still priced at $3.

Skiptrace is kind of messy, with too much Kung Fu and a bunch of twists, but some, maybe, too much so.  Fan's roll was secondary.  Just another Jackie Chan film.

The Great Wall is not what you would expect, especially when you see Matt Damon heading the cast.  This is a Chinese-U.S. co-production, and the only other name you will recognize is Willem Dafoe.  Jing Tian (right) plays the pretty face...as a general.  The whole movie is a bit preposterous:
  • However, the Great Wall looks fabulous.  The Wall is 5500 miles long.  Imagine the Roman Colosseum, built around 2000 years ago, extending from Rome to Beijing, a distance of only a little more than 5000 miles, and you can appreciate the enormity of this effort.
  • The Wall itself began construction half a millennium before Jesus and was completed maybe 500 years ago.  Thus, there is a hint that the wall was built not to stymie the Manchus, but because of these aliens.  There is a bit of confusing dialogue as to why the bones of these outer space creatures just disappear, so we don't see them today.  As I said, everything is explained to the point of ridiculousness.
  • Aliens are the enemy.  They came when a green meteor crashed into the Middle Kingdom two thousand years ago.  They have been becoming smarter, and attack the wall every 60 years, and in their most recent attack (you got to wonder why they never developed any weapons), had evolved to the point where this was a diversionary tactic to dig a hole under the Wall to reach Beijing.
Matt Damon plays a European mercenary trying to steal the secret of gunpowder.  While torturously crossing the landscape into China and losing all but one mate, he almost unknowingly picks up a simple solution that becomes the antidote for the demise of the aliens.  Not giving much away here, but he turns good guy by choosing to save his comrade, rather than being given permission to leave with this secret.

Yesterday I wished Donald Trump Happy Presidents' Day.  Today, I congratulate him for spurring the stock market, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached yet another all-time high, up 113 to 20,738.

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