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Thread: Monk Comes Down the Mountain - Chen Kaige's new project

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    Monk Comes Down the Mountain - Chen Kaige's new project

    Columbia beefs up China co-pros
    12 March, 2014 | By Jeremy Kay



    In a move to expand its footprint in China, Columbia Pictures has revisited its local production ties and entered into split-rights deals with Chinese production companies.

    Principal photography has commenced in Xianghe, Hebei Province, on Chen Kaige’s (pictured) martial arts feature The Monk.

    The film is a Cao Huayi presentation produced by Chen Hong, who produced Kaige’s previous two features.

    New Classics Media will distribute in China in summer 2015 while Sony Pictures Releasing International handles the rest of the world including Hong Kong and Taiwan.

    The Monk is based on Xu Haofeng’s novel Dao Shi Xia Shan (A Monk Comes Down The Mountain) and marks Columbia Pictures’ second recent production in mainland China following the co-production Gone With The Bullets from director Jiang Wen, currently in post.

    Wang Baoqiang stars alongside Taiwanese actress Lin Chi-ling and Fan Wei in the story of a monk on a quest who must defend a supremely important book.

    Columbia Pictures and New Classics Media will partner on the Chinese remake of rom-com My Best Friend’s Wedding, which is in development ahead of a December start.

    The studio is also in negotiations to release the romance Summer Has Tears with Chinese partner Ruyi Media. Jin-gyo Cho will direct Han Geng, Wang Luodan and Wu Yifan and principal photography is scheduled for the second half of this year.

    Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad said, “Columbia Pictures is re-emphasising our long-established commitment to Chinese local language production. We are delighted to be collaborating with such world-class filmmakers as Chen Kaige and Jiang Wen, as well as partnering with esteemed Chinese production companies like New Classics Media, as we ramp up our activity in China.”

    Dede Nickerson, head of production and strategic development for Sony Pictures China, said, “Chen Kaige is internationally renowned for his stunning visuals and epic storytelling. For The Monk, he has brought together a first-class team both in front of and behind the camera and we have no doubt that the results will be thrilling.”

    Columbia Pictures previously found success with Chinese local-language production through its Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia unit on Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle in 2004 and Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000.
    Interesting. It's a logical choice for Chen Kaige to go this direction to get that global appeal. His forays into our genre (The Emperor and the Assassin, The Promise, Sacrifice) have never quite done it for me as martial arts films, but they are always intriguing films.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips

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    Monk Comes Down the Mountain Official Trailer (2015) - Marital Arts Action Movie HD

    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips

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    Variety review

    Film Review: ‘Monk Comes Down the Mountain’


    Courtesy of Columbia Pictures
    July 4, 2015 | 10:48PM PT
    A visually wondrous if uncharacteristically lightweight martial-arts drama from Chinese helmer Chen Kaige.
    Maggie Lee
    Chief Asia Film Critic @maggiesama

    Tracing a Taoist priest’s foray from his hermit-like existence into the secular world, Chen Kaige’s “Monk Comes Down the Mountain” is an uncharacteristically lightweight martial-arts caper with a touch of Zen (and sin). Told in the old-school tradition of wuxia serial novels, the film’s simple fable of good and evil unfolds with wondrous visuals that recall the stylistic chutzpah of Chen’s “The Promise,” but absent that pic’s kitschiness. The feast of fighting styles on display will easily woo core Asian genre fans and conquer ancillary markets, and despite the gloomy fates of equally virtuoso martial-arts movies like “Wuxia” and “Reign of Assassins” in China, domestic B.O. looks encouraging; “Monk” took in $7 million on opening day.

    Based on a widely read martial-arts novel by author-helmer-scribe Xu Haofeng (“The Sword Identity,” “Judge Archer”), who co-wrote Wong Kar-wai’s “The Grandmaster,” the film is set in Hangzhou during the turbulent 1930s. The screenplay adaptation by Chen and Zhang Ting untangles an array of plotlines involving nationalist-communist espionage, warlords, opera stars and kung fu masters, in the process filtering out such outre figures as Japanese ninjas, Nazi scientists and Tibetan gurus. What’s left is a coming-of-age yarn whose dramatic arc follows the struggles of one school of martial arts rather than several, and the film is all the more digestible for it, playing on contrasts between the monk’s untainted good nature and the twisted minds he encounters.

    However, as the setpieces get flashier and the plot thickens, the film’s larky tone gives way to more conventional developments. Interspersed with the protag’s experiences are snippets of Buddhist teachings provided by another monk (Wang Xueqi) he consults, but these are risibly vacuous; equally clunky is the ongoing commentary by an anonymous narrator, whose didactic tone drags the film down to the level of a children’s program or storybook.

    In times of unrest, even a sequestered Taoist abbey can’t maintain its peace. To solve the problem of food shortages, the abbot (Li Xuejian) holds a martial-arts tournament to determine who must leave and seek their own livelihood. Novice He Anxia (Wang Baoqiang, “Lost in Thailand”) beats all his opponents, only to be told that, being a champion fighter, he’ll have the best chance of surviving in the secular world. The abbot’s parting advice is that he’ll “meet good and bad people, but a hero stays true to himself.”

    The abbot may be stating the obvious, but for someone as cocooned as He, telling good from bad is a tricky challenge; nor is it so easy for him to stay true to himself when faced with different choices and value systems. Later in the story, we learn that He was abandoned as a baby and raised by the abbot, who gave him a name meaning “where to put” because he was literally looking for a place to put the infant down. Although slightly absurd, the name symbolizes our hero’s quest to find his own place physically and spiritually in a perilous yet seductive world.

    The first person He encounters in the big city is Dr. Cui Daoning (Fan Wei, “Back to 1942″), who takes him in as an apprentice at his surgery. Reunited after co-starring in “A World Without Thieves” 11 years ago, Fan and Wang through the warmth they generate, transcending mere gags like He’s acrobatics during a circumcision. He stumbles on a secret involving Cui’s beautiful wife, Yuzhen (Li Chiling, bewitching), and his younger brother, Daorong (Vanness Wu, weirdly effeminate), who runs an apothecary. Though what pans out is a familiar variation on the “Legend of Golden Lotus,” Cui’s kindheartedness makes the outcome at once poignant and morally complex.

    Adhering to the episodic pattern of wuxia tales, the story finds He becoming a disciple of many masters, like Zhao Xinchuan (Danny Chan Kwok-kwan), the pupil who outshines his master, Peng Qianwu (Yuen Wah); Zhou Xiyu (Aaron Kwok), a self-effacing Taoist priest devoted to sweeping leaves; and Boss Zha (Chang Chen) a Peking opera star. The encounters all showcase different fighting techniques, the names of which progressively sillier, like “Nine Dragon Strike” or “Night or Day Ape Rehearsal.” Already elaborately choreographed, the moves are further embellished with candy-floss visual effects, resulting in a cartoonish look.

    Since his acting debut in “Blind Shaft,” Wang has all but patented his role as the gullible, noble idiot; only in the recent “Iceman 3D” and “Kung Fu Jungle” did he prove himself a martial-arts hotshot who could hold his own with Donnie Yen. Here, his rigorous training at Shaolin Temple again comes in handy, though he doesn’t much vary his innocent, fish-out-of-water shtick, and he shows little of He’s transformation from blank slate to complex figure with lustful and vengeful urges.

    Though there’s little character depth to Zhou or Zha, the suggestive bromance between two of the most handsome faces in Chinese cinema will draw oohs and aahs from viewers. In a rare low-key performance, Kwok strikes an irresistible world-weary pose in a ragged Taoist robe, while Chang finally does justice to the painstaking training he undertook for “The Grandmaster.” Yuen makes his strongest impression since “Kung Fu Hustle,” playing evil incarnate so inscrutably, you’d trust him with your secret wuxia manual. As Peng’s son Qizi, Jaycee Chen (not credited in any film publicity due to his marajuana scandal) has a “Dumb and Dumber”-esque comic rapport with Wang in the film’s most mindless sequence.

    Craft contributions aim to be crowd-pleasing, from Geoffrey Simpson’s prettified lensing to Han Zhong’s fairy-tale-evoking production design. The martial-arts choreography avoids any mainland grittiness, instead following Hong Kong-style, high-wire razzle-dazzle in the vein of Yuen Woo-ping, Tsui Hark and Tony Ching Siu-tung. Chen Tongxun’s costumes are either exquisitely lavish or head-scratchingly kooky, the latter including Qizi’s goth-rock outfits and Daorong’s Leningrad Cowboy bouffant. The 3D conversion looks satisfactory, but CGI sometimes appears glaringly artificial.
    Film Review: 'Monk Comes Down the Mountain'
    Reviewed at Sanlitun Megabox, Beijing, July. 3, 2015. Running time: 119 MIN. (Original title: "Daoshi xiashan")
    Production
    (China) A New Classics Media, Wuzhou Distribution, China Film Group release of a New Classics Media, Beijing 21 Century Shengkai Film., Columbia Pictures presentation/production. (International sales: Columbia Pictures, Los Angeles.) Produced by Chen Hong. Executive producers, Cao Huayi, Chen Hong, Dede Nickerson, Wang Xing. Co-producers, Liu Jun, Tian Tian.
    Crew
    Directed by Chen Kaige. Screenplay, Chen, Zhang Ting, based on the story by Xu Haofeng. Camera (color, widescreen, 3D, HD), Geoffrey Simpson; editor, Wayne Wahrman; music, George Acogny; production designer, Han Zhong; costume designer, Chen Tongxun; sound (Dolby Atmos/DTS/Auromax/SMDS), Lon Bender; supervising sound editor, Gu Changning; visual effects supervisor, Andy Brown; visual effects, Animal Logic VFX; action director, Ku Huen-chiu; car stunts, Bruce Law.
    With
    Wang Baoqiang, Aaron Kwok, Chang Chen, Fan Wei, Lin Chiling, Vanness Wu, Wang Xueqi, Jaycee Chan, Yuen Wah, Danny Chan Kwok-kwan, Lam Suet, Tiger Chen, Li Xuejian, Dong Qi. (Mandarin dialogue)
    I like Wang Baoqiang, despite what Jackie Chan's disiciple Jack Tu says. Wang is a Shaolin guy.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips

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    Debuting at the top

    Monk treks to top of China box office

    By Kevin Ma
    Tue, 07 July 2015, 15:55 PM (HKT)
    Box Office News

    CHEN Kaige 陳凱歌 had a career-best opening with Monk Comes Down the Mountain 道士下山, debuting at the top of China box office.

    Based on the novel by XU Haofeng 徐浩峰, the fantasy film earned RMB231 million (US$37.3 million) from approximately 5.79 million admissions over four days, representing the highest grossing film of Chen's career. Released in 3-D, IMAX 3-D and China Giant Screen, the film accounted approximately for 37.4% of all screenings.

    Derek YEE 爾冬陞's comedy-drama I Am Somebody 我是路人甲 opened in fourth place, earning RMB30.2 million (US$4.86 million) from approximately 832,000 admissions between Friday and Sunday. Chronicling the lives of bit actors working in Zhejiang Hengdian World Studios 浙江橫店影視城有限公司, the film had a screening share of approximately 11.4% over the weekend.

    The opening film of this year's Shanghai International Film Festival 上海國際電影節, the Bona Film Group Co Ltd 博納影業集團有限公司 release has made RMB40.7 million (US$6.55 million) over four days plus early previews.

    Jurassic World remained in second place, making RMB58.5 million (US$9.42 million) from approximately 1.5 million admissions between Friday and Sunday. The sci-fi thriller has made RMB1.38 billion (US$222 million) after 26 days in cinemas, passing Avatar (2009) to become the fourth highest-grossing film in China.

    The Universal Pictures Inc production is set to end its 30-day theatrical run this week.

    With a screening share of 12.5%, comedy Hollywood Adventures 橫衝直撞好萊塢 took a steep 76% week-on-week drop to third place, making RMB39.6 million (US$6.38 million) from approximately 1.16 million admissions between Friday and Sunday. The Beijing Enlight Pictures production has earned RMB290 million (US$46.7 million).

    Local horror omnibus Chang Chen's Ghost Stories 張震講故事之鬼迷心竅 – based on the works of the Mainland China writer of the same name – earned RMB12.2 million (US$1.96 million) from approximately 392,000 admissions over four days. It had a screening share of approximately 7.32%.

    SPL 2: A Time for Consequences 殺破狼Ⅱ has made RMB534 million (US$86 million). Begin Again has made RMB13.2 million (US$ 2.12 million).

    GUO Jingming 郭敬明's Tiny Times 4 小時代 鳴鑽時代, youth romance Forever Young 梔子花開2015 and local animation Monkey King: Hero is Back 西遊記之大聖歸來 open this week in cinemas.


    As expected, Terminator Genisys dominated the Hong Kong box office. From 45 locations, the sci-fi action film earned HK$15.5 million (US$2.00 million) over four days plus previews on 1 Jul (a public holiday in the city).

    In 2009, Terminator Salvation opened with HK$8.92 million (US$1.15 million), earning HK$17.7 million (US$2.29 million) during its theatrical run.

    Superhero Taisen GP: Kamen Rider 3-Go スーパーヒーロー大戦GP 仮面ライダー3号 opened in sixth place, earning HK$164,000 (US$21,100) from four locations over four days.

    Japanese youth romance Blue Spring Ride アオハライド opened in seventh place, earning HK$145,000 (US$18,800) from eight locations over four days.

    From just one screen, Japanese drama Undulant Fever 海を感じる時 earned HK$80,400 (US$10,400) over four days.

    In second place, Ted 2 earned HK$6.07 million (US$783,000) between Thursday and Sunday. The raunchy comedy has made HK$25.1 million (US$3.24 million).

    At HK$96.8 million (US$12.5 million), Jurassic World is set to become the fifth film ever to cross the HK$100 million (US$12.9 million) mark some time this week.

    Minions, Over Your Dead Body 喰女 and Poltergeist are set to open in cinemas this week.


    Terminator Genisys also topped the box office in Taipei this weekend. From 22 Taipei locations, the sci-fi action film earned NT$23.7 million (US$766,000) over four days.

    Detective Conan: Sunflowers of Inferno 名探偵コナン 業火の向日葵 opened in fourth place, earning NT$6.2 million (US$200,000) from 12 Taipei locations over four days. Last year, Detective Conan: Dimensional Sniper 名探偵コナン 異次元の狙撃手 earned NT$15.4 million (US$498,000) in Taipei during its theatrical run.

    Magic Mike XXL opened in fifth place, making NT$4.26 million (US$138,000) from 19 Taipei locations over five days. Three years ago, the original Magic Mike (2012) made approximately NT3.5 million (US$113,000) in Taipei during its theatrical run.

    Thai horror Ghost Coins 3D เงินปากผี 3D opened in ninth place, earning NT$410,000 (US$13,200) from five Taipei locations.

    Opening in just three locations in Taipei, Monk Comes Down the Mountain earned NT$160,000 (US$5,170) over three days.

    Ted 2 has made NT$39.9 million (US$1.29 million). Jurassic World has made NT$252 million (US$8.16 million). San Andreas has earned NT$80 million (US$2.59 million).

    Minions, The Gallows and local gangster drama Gatao 角頭 open in cinemas this weekend.
    Eager to see this. Who will get that first forum review on this one?
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips

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    I'll get this first forum review...

    ...because someone has to.

    This latest from Chen Kaige, one of the top 5th gen Chinese filmmakers, mostly because of the success of Farewell My Concubine. It's a Fant-Asia flick, starring Wang Baoqiang, a Shaolin-raised comedian actor who sits high on my 'one to watch' list from Kung Fu Killer and Lost in Thailand, and, among others, Jaycee Chan, who's name was removed from the credits, surely due to his recent pot bust in Beijing.

    MCDtM is disappointing. It suffers from a trend in Chinese filmmaking as they struggle for that global blockbuster - too many dishes on the lazy susan spoils the banquet. Ok, not a great label for this phenomena, but I'll come up with something more succinct after Labor Day Weekend. It's akin to Jackie's Dragon Blade - there's some great stuff - big money sets, gorgeous cinematographic moments, good cast all trying to meet the projected scope of the project - but it gets totally lost in what it wants to be. It starts as a Kung Fu comedy, then shifts to an affair/romance/murder, then to bad drug trip, then to a Fant-Asia fight scene in a basketball court, and on and on, all the while dropping this wisdom bombs steeped in Daoism and Buddhism. Re-edit this baby and there's a great film in there somewhere. But as it stands, it's too ADHD to follow. Consistent to Kaige, it focuses on dysfunctional relationships. And the textures of the sets, costumes and design are sumptuous. I must get myself a gnarly knurled walking staff like in this film, or maybe a spider-web parasol with SPOILER a hidden bloody-mary style switchblade swordEND SPOILER. Wang is a tad annoying with his whiny character, and the Kung Fu is all wire-&-CGI, but has a few moments of amusement.

    MCDtM was based on a bestseller, and I imagine that it's a great read mostly based on how the wisdom bombs drop. I think it just got twisted up by Kaige's attempt to bring it to the screen. The film did very well - opening on top of the box office in PRC and placing 4th globally.

    If I were I filmmaker, I'd be watching Chollywood cinema closely, not because it's good but because it's poachable. There are many great scenes in films like Dragon Blade and MCDtM, stuff anyone could poach like Tarantino. It's just these films are so boisterous they can't see past their own bluster, and so they continue to fail as international exports. However, if Chinese filmmakers ever manage to solve it, the sleeping dragon awakens.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips

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