Shitty Transformers 4 Becomes China’s Highest Grossing Movie Of All Time

TOPSHOTS-HONG KONG-US-FILM-ENTERTAINMENT
Called "the stupidest movie of the year" and "one of the most atrocious movies I have ever seen in my life" -- so bad that even Peter Travers, a man who loved King Kong, urged viewers to not watch it -- Transformers: Age of Extinction just might be the frontrunner for worst movie of the year. Funny thing: it's also the frontrunner for highest grossing movie of the year, after Chinese audiences just made this film the No. 1 movie in China of all time.

Deep Trouble: On The Set Of China’s Most Expensive, Possibly Worst Film (Part 2)

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Editor’s note: Empires of the Deep, with a budget exceeding $100 million, was supposed to be China's Avatar. But as our correspondent, Dale Irons, found out on set, this extravagant 3-D epic was plagued from the beginning by incompetence and misfortune -- to say nothing of dangerous working conditions, a rampaging horse, and the tide. Five years after production began, there's little reason to believe this film will ever see a big-screen release. This is Part 2 of Dale's two-part diary from the set of what might be China's most expensive -- and worst -- movie ever. --RFH

Deep Trouble: On The Set Of China’s Most Expensive, Possibly Worst Film (Part 1)

Empires of the Deep mermaids featured image
Editor’s note: Empires of the Deep is a much-delayed 3-D epic film that seems destined to disappear forever. Neither the film -- known rather generously as "China’s Avatar," starring Bond girl Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) -- nor the full story may ever be officially released. It’s now been five years -- an appropriate anniversary -- so, tired of waiting, we here publish the “production diaries” of a young Australian-British man, Dale Irons, who found himself back in 2009, for various reasons, on the set of allegedly the most expensive Chinese film ever made -- and possibly the worst. Big words? Read for yourself. --RFH

Another AWW Documentary: “Ai Weiwei, The Fake Case,” Reviewed

Ai Weiwei, The Fake Case
I’m back writing about Ai Weiwei, which isn’t what I particularly want to be doing, but as he seems to be the only Chinese artist known or cared about by a wider (Western) audience, here we are. This continued, and likely mutually beneficial, publicity for AWW has led to yet another documentary focusing on the trials and tribulations -- well, mostly the trials -- of him as he continues to work as an artist and professional dissident.

Beijing From Above: Aerial Shots Render City In Amazing New Light

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Matthew Niederhauser, who's putting finishing touches on a film called Kapital Creation that documents Beijing's development, recently uploaded a Vimeo featuring stunning aerial footage of this city. It's interesting how a simple rotation of perspective can completely change how we view a place -- and makes you realize the value of a window office atop a skyscraper (or a blimp). Watch the video; you're unlikely to find urban Beijing rendered more beautifully.

Wrenching Heartstrings: Zhang Yimou’s “Coming Home” Trailer, Reviewed

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When a movie makes Steven Spielberg cry, you can be sure of one thing: it was written for the express purpose of making people cry. Please take a look at the trailer for Coming Home, the new film by Zhang Yimou starring his muse Gong Li and the distinguished Chen Daoming. Then consider how Sinosphere described one particular audience's reaction after a screening:

Ai Weiwei’s Objection To “The Sandstorm” Results In Its Removal From Kickstarter [UPDATE]

The Standstorm pulled from Kickstarter
We publicized a Kickstarter on April 1 of a 10-minute dystopian sci-fi film set in Beijing by TED Talks director Jason Wishnow that was advertised as "starring" Ai Weiwei. It blew past its $33,000 goal in no time, probably thanks to the attention that Ai Weiwei -- China's most visible artist -- garners around the world. But now the Kickstarter has been removed and the preview for the movie, The Sandstorm, is only available on YouTube. What gives?

Oliver Stone Rails Against Chinese Film Industry “Platitudes,” Coddling Of Mao

2014 Beijing International Film Festival - Director Oliver Stone Interview
The fourth Beijing International Film Festival opened on Wednesday, and it looks like it's already less boring than last year's. For that we have the Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone to thank, who on Thursday in a panel discussion spoke provocatively on Mao Zedong and urged the Chinese to confront their history. As The Hollywood Reporter reports:

The FBI Made A 30-Minute Beware-Of-China Film Called “Game Of Pawns”

Game of Pawns
There are some serious amateur filmmakers working for the United States's Federal Bureau of Investigation -- I can think of no other reason why Game of Pawns would exist: a nearly half-hour mini-movie that tells the story of Glenn Duffie Shriver, who was bribed by Chinese officials when he was studying in Shanghai to pass along sensitive information. Shriver made $70,000 before he was caught. He's now in the US serving out a four-year sentence in federal prison.

Watch: “The Dialogue,” A Documentary Film About Han-Tibetan-Uyghur Relations

The Dialogue
Posted just last week to Vimeo (password duihua), The Dialogue is a film by Wang Wo that looks at the Chinese government’s increasingly restrictive policies toward non-governmental contact between minority groups (specifically Tibetan and Uyghur) and Han Chinese. The film centers on an attempt by Chinese intellectuals and human rights lawyers to make contact with the Dalai Lama.

The Animated Feature Everyone Wants To See

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It’s not every day that a Chinese animated film manages to secure more than 1 million yuan in funding. It’s even rarer that that money comes from the crowd. But 3,596 backers saw promise in Big Fish & Chinese Flowering Crabapple, a new film by Liang Xuan. Enough promise that they donated 1.58 million yuan over 45 days on Demohour. It now holds the title of China’s most successful crowd-funded project to date.

A Different Type Of Crowdfunding For Filmmaker Moxie Peng’s “My 17 Gay Friends”

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The bar Alfa was hopping last Friday as actors / patrons gathered for a casting call / fundraiser for indie director Moxie Peng’s newest project, My 17 Gay Friends. Eighty percent of the night’s collected cover went to support the production. Attendees had the choice of being a judge or trying out for a role in the film. Judges were given masks to protect their identities and limited to choosing only two candidates.

Watch: Independent Director’s Debut Film About China’s “Parasite Singles”

Critical film tackles the topic of China’s parasite singles
Our friends at Beijing Today will be swinging by every now and then to introduce art and culture around the city. This week, please meet independent filmmaker Lei Yong, whose debut The Young Play Games, The Old Play Tai Chi tells the life of China's "parasite singles," young people who have enjoyed education and opportunity but remain unemployed and hapless.