22
Aug
14

Review: What If

Daniel Radcliffe bets he had some of that Harry Potter love potion right about now.

Daniel Radcliffe bets he had some of that Harry Potter love potion right about now.

How many guys (or girls) have faced the dilemma posed as the central conceit of What If: Can a guy and a girl just be friends without feelings/relationship/desire/sex getting in the way? It’s an interesting question and I’m sure at the very least someone you know has probably experienced the uncomfortable situation of being friends with a member of the opposite sex in the hopes that they can make the jump from friend to ‘something more’.

What If gives us Daniel Radcliffe, the grown up Harry Potter himself playing Wallace, a med-school dropout and relationship recovering 20-something living in Toronto. Still trying to get over his last relationship from a year ago, he happens to meet Chantry played by Zoe Kazan–a down to earth manic pixie dream girl who he has an instant connection with and who brightens up an otherwise dull party. After enjoying a wonderful evening of conversation and even walking Chantry home, she drops the bomb on him . . . she has a boyfriend but still wants to be friends with him. Awesome right? Dumbstruck and not really sure of what to make of the situation, Wallace talks himself into the friendship as having some sort of relationship with her is still better than nothing.

But that's what a good friend likes to do . . . watch you while you sleep.

But that’s what a good friend likes to do . . . watch you while you sleep.

What I like about the movie is that it feels pretty authentic how Wallace tries to navigate his friendship with Chantry. The role of being the good friend, the behind the scenes silent anguish, the rationalizing of it all; a lot of what Wallace goes through is exactly what happens when you’re in that type of situation. He wants to get his feelings out, but because of the complexity of the situation, he fears that once he does, he could lose everything.

The chemistry between Kazan and Radcliffe have between their characters quite good. Kazan plays Chantry as sort of a free spirit type, but a bit more reliable and reasonable as she’s always trying to make everything work (her job, relationship, friendship). Radcliffe on the opposite side is loveable and affable in his portrayal of Wallace. Their characters are obviously awkward at first, but as the film goes on and their friendship (and feelings) start to grow, you do see them as this cohesive unit and begin to wonder, “Why don’t they just get together?” If there’s one knock against them, it’s that their characters definitely feel like characters from an indie rom-com as they have a lot of weird and random banter between each other; more than I felt would happen in real life.

You're friend-zoning me? Seriously?

You’re friend-zoning me? Seriously?

Since it’s a rom-com, we’re obviously heading towards some sort of conflict where feelings come out, people are hurt and/or are mad, and we end up with a rift between the guy and the girl. While I won’t give anything away, I did feel the way both characters handled the confrontation was fairly reasonable (up to a point) and felt pretty authentic, unlike studio rom-coms where the girl has unbelievably high expectations or where a misunderstanding is blown WAY out of proportion. In these movies I also feel that someone has to be a dick since if there’s a love triangle, the third wheel is usually sacrificed so that the main characters can get together. What If handles both of these hurdles pretty well and I left the theater feeling pretty upbeat about where Chantry and Wallace ended up and how they got there.

With summer winding down and movie-date night options being really scarce, What If fills that void by being a rom-com that’s fairly realistic and isn’t melodramatic. I’m sure guys won’t be clamoring to see it, but they can take comfort in the fact that What If rises above the rest in the genre. It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s cute; and you could do far worse seeing something else this weekend.

What If expands this weekend and can be seen at Consolidated Kahala 8, Consolidated Ko’olau Stadium 10, and Regal Dole Cannery 18.

3.5/5 stars // rated PG-13 // 1hr 42min

20
Aug
14

Don’t Let the Honoka’a People’s Theatre Go Dark!

The grand dame of Honoka'a.

The grand dame of Honoka’a.

Here on Oahu we’re fortunate enough to have a number of different theaters to choose from when we want to go to the movies. As the years have gone on, cinema and the movie going experience has changed and theaters have had to struggle to keep up or face going out of business. The biggest success story is probably our very own Consolidated Theatres which boasts nearly 100 years of “Entertaining Hawaii.” However, many of the small and community based movie houses that were quite prevalent 40-50 years ago have nearly all disappeared (more here).

On the Big Island, one of these small town movie houses is still in existence and to this very day and still provides an awesome cinema experience and public service for its community. The grand dame of Honoka’a, The Honoka’a People’s Theatre, was built in in 1930 and since then has been creating a unique cinema experience for the community for 84 years. On-going renovations since the 90s have diversified the theatre’s use and it has also become a renowned venue for live performances. Here’s a bit more info on the Honoka’a People’s Theatre from their website:

The People’s Theatre is the largest theatre on Hawaii Island, with 525 seating capacity and a large 50 foot screen. The theatre has a DTS surround sound system, 35 mm and digital film projectors, a 50 ft stage, dance floor, 30 stage lights, 4 roving scanner lights, two side balconies, dressing rooms, basic live PA, and a grand piano. The lobby hosts a concession stand, dining area, and ticket booth. Available upstairs for performers during large events is a greenroom area with a kitchen and lounge area.

The People's Theatre back in the day.

The People’s Theatre back in the day.

Though the Honoka’a People’s Theatre has managed to stay open, they are currently facing the same issue that many small mom and pop and single screen community theaters across the country have faced in recent years: digital conversion. With film prints almost entirely phased out by the big studios (Disney, Fox, Sony, Warner Bros, Paramount) theaters have had to convert to digital projectors or face shutting down. While the People’s Theatre may not shut down, they’ll definitely lose a big chunk of their history if they are unable to continue to show movies.

Currently the Honoka’a People’s Theatre is hosting a number of fund raising events in an effort to raise the $60,000 they need to secure a DCI-compliant digital projector. Along with these events, they have also created a campaign on Kickstarter to help those that want to donate. As of this posting they are about $22,000 away from reaching their goal with five weeks left to go.

Inside the theatre with a view of the screen, stage, and some of the 525 seats the theatre holds.

The interior of the theatre as it appears today with a view of the screen, stage, and some of its 525 seats.

The Red Band Project was fortunate enough to visit the Honoka’a People’s Theatre earlier this summer, and though we weren’t able to take in a show, we did get feel for how “grand” the grand dame of Honoka’a is. As lovers of movies and the cinema experience, the Red Band Project has already backed the Kickstarter campaign and now we put it out there for you to donate. Though you may never set foot in the Honoka’a People’s Theatre, please consider donating (even a small amount) as unique cinema experiences such as this are hard to come by these days, especially in Hawaii.

For more information about the Honoka’a People’s Theatre, check out their website or Facebook page. For more on the history and personal recollections of the theatre, see the piece written for Hana Hou magazine. If you’d like to donate to their fundraising efforts, head over to their Kickstarter page and leave a few bucks for a good cause!

See their Kickstarter video below:

15
Aug
14

Review: Life Itself

Renowned film critic Roger Ebert is front and center in the documentary Life Itself.

Renowned film critic Roger Ebert is front and center in the documentary Life Itself.

When film critic Roger Ebert passed away last year I’ll be honest . . . I didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until I started reading some of the many remembrances and tributes that I really got the sense of how big of a deal this guy was. Yeah sure he had that movie review show back in the day and the man did help coin the most recognizable rating system in the world, but outside of that I never really knew who he was or what made him so great.

Did I ever read him? No. Do I have aspirations to be like him? No. Then why the interest in watching a documentary about him? Since his passing I’ve read up on some of his work and I’ve come to better understand who he was and why he meant a lot to the film community. He helped turned film criticism into something that was legitimate, something that people read and respected, and had the forum to reach a lot of people and talk to them about film. He was knowledgeable, eloquent, and wrote with a voice that was quite unique. In the end, watching Life Itself is something that I felt I just needed to do in order to continue calling myself a movie lover.

Going into my viewing of Life Itself there were only a handful of things that I knew about Roger Ebert. There are the basics of course: he had the first tv film criticism show Siskel & Ebert with Gene Siskel, he was from Chicago and worked for the Chicago Sun-Times, he was husband to Chaz, and that he had lost the use of his voice due to cancer. While this knowledge base is probably more than most people know of him, Life Itself examines many other facets of his life and really dives into the things people knew most about him.

Roger with wife Chaz on the night of their wedding.

Roger with wife Chaz on the night of their wedding.

The film is broken up into three parts: his early life and his rise to being a film critic, the years of working with Siskel and Ebert colleague Gene Siskel, and his final years after the loss of his voice. Clocking in at two hours, the film gives you more of a look at Ebert’s life than you would expect. Documentarian Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters) leads us through the usual steps in Ebert’s life, interviewing friends, family, colleagues, and other film related acquaintances along the way. Probably most heartfelt are the scenes of Ebert shot while in the hospital or in rehab as we get to see him at moments where he appears worn down and is a far cry from the critic that we knew him as on his tv show.

While a lot of the info from his early life that sets up his rise to being the consummate film critic as well as his more recent medical troubles was all very interesting; it was probably the portion that focused on his relationship with Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune that was the most fascinating to watch. I had heard somewhere that they bucked heads a lot, but I didn’t realize to what extent until this documentary. Here you have two men, very knowledgeable, both very self assured, and both with strong viewpoints; opposing each other on many different occasions. How could the most recognizable film criticism show in the world happen with two men that were almost always at odds with one another? The answer . . . film.

Gene Siskel and Roger debate the merits of film on At the Movies.

Gene Siskel and Roger debate the merits of film on At the Movies.

From practical jokes on one another, to trying to out scoop each other covering the world of cinema, to taking pot shots at each other while filming the show; the sense that you get from the film is that these two men tolerated each other because they always wanted to be the best and the other guy was alway there to challenge them. Probably the most disheartening thing in the film is that both of these men didn’t realize the unlikely friendship (yes, friendship) they had until it was too late for both of them.

To kind of put a bow on the whole thing, Life Itself isn’t for everyone. It’s a documentary first so if you’re looking for fiction then this definitely isn’t for you. As for the subject matter itself–I found much of it engrossing. But then again, I love movies and I like talking about them so Life Itself is definitely in my wheelhouse. And that’s the kind of the demographic this film is for, for those that really love film culture. With just about a two hour runtime, it will probably wear on the average movie watcher. If you’re in the target demographic with me, then get your popcorn and be prepared for a film that I give two thumbs up.

Cinematic Scene: Tube Cleaning

With documentaries being rather straightforward (visually) and filmmakers using employing file footage and one-on-one interview shots, I was fearful that I would have to omit this portion of my review. However, one scene in particular stand out as soon as I saw it. By this point in the film Ebert is in the hospital and director Steve James does not shy away from some of the more unpleasant activities that he has to go through.

In the scene, a nurse is seen at Ebert’s bedside. She asks him if he’s ready for his tube cleaning or suction. At first you’re not sure what is about to happen, but then you see her make a motion near Ebert’s throat and next thing you know you see him wincing in pain. Up until this point we’ve never seen Ebert weak or sickly–even with his operation and the loss of his voice. He’s always remained upbeat and full of energy. However, this is the first time we see a chink in his armor; and it’s a startling one. It’s mainly because you can almost feel the pain he’s going through just from watching the reaction on his face. I’m not sure how painful that cleaning procedure actually is, but watching Ebert go through it sure looked like hell.

Life Itself will be playing selected days and times at the Doris Duke Theater at the Honolulu Museum of Art from August 15-21. It is also currently available on VOD services.

3.5/5 stars // rated R // 2hrs

14
Aug
14

Lucy REVIEW: There’s Something About Lucy

0814_01-LucyDOM

What is she really doing there? It’s like she’s trying to play an electric harp.

Just to make this clear, Lucy is an incredibly stupid movie that makes absolutely zero sense whatsoever.

But Lucy is also maddeningly, a gloriously achievement in film-making so out of control that somehow it transcends being a “bad film” and is in actuality a disaster so precisely calibrated to writer and director Luc (The Professional, The Fifth Element) Besson’s insane vision that one can’t take one’s eyes off the screen.

I mean, for example, take Transformers 4. I know that ain’t the full title but I don’t care to go back and figure it out nor remember it. There came a point where I wanted to walk out of the theater. But the A/C was working like a Godsend so I sat there for three hours being pummeled by uninspired, rote CGI. If I had rented the DVD at home, I surely would’ve turned it off at the 2 hour mark.

But not a moment like that happened with Lucy… As the plot continued to spiral into completely illogical ludicrousness, I still couldn’t figure out where the movie was going. Part of the “credit” goes to Besson’s screenplay, but most of the “credit” should go to Scarlett Johansson—who also single-handedly proves that women can lead a comic-book hero film. Because not only is Lucy essentially a superhero origin story, it also made a shitload of money.

0814_02-LucyWithDudes

You guys didn’t see Captain America: Winter Soldier, have you?

Lucy is the tale of a young girl in Taiwan who is turned into a drug mule by Korean gangsters. They surgically insert a big bag of some blue drug in her body (reportedly a synthesized version of the stuff that makes fetuses grow so quickly) to smuggle into the US. The bag breaks and she slowly gains more and more access to the remaining 90% of the human brain, which the movies tells us, mankind isn’t evolved enough to use yet. (The science behind the whole 10% thing is also kinda dubious to begin with but let’s just go with it for now.)

Johansson is truly a marvelous actress. Unlike her role as the Black Widow in the Marvel movies, she actually doesn’t do very much gun-shooting or ass-kicking here. Most of the time she’s sitting in a room, a car, or airplane, just staring into space, calculating whatever it is her brain feels the need to calculate. And she still somehow remains a character that is compelling and sympathetic. She’d be a wonderful Terminator.

0814_03-LucyWithKanji

Those characters actually mean: “Do not urinate and defecate on floor.”

As stated before, Besson incredulously shoots for the Kubrick/Malick moon as well. His mind must have become so gloriously warped in self-indulgence that he typed any old thing that popped into his head while working on the script. Maybe he was on drugs and experienced a helluva trip because somehow we explore deep space, early man making fire, the dinosaurs, scenes of different species of animals procreating, the rest of human evolution and history… Perhaps concepts this zany would have worked better in outer space like The Fifth Element, which contains similar themes, albeit, subtler.

And did I mention the film only takes about 90 minutes? Hell, I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel because Lucy is the summer’s most charismatic female character and I’m kinda curious what she’s up to right now. (SPOILER: She kinda turned herself into a giant black stalactite computer with a handy USB drive. She’s also…everywhere, capable of sending you text messages if you think about her.)

So here lies the rub. Yes, Lucy isn’t very good. Practically every friend I know who’s seen the movie has hated, hated, hated it. I don’t blame them. But it’s also shockingly and audaciously watchable, something that can’t be said for Transformers 4. In another time, Lucy would have been a classic, prime candidate for MST3K.

Lucy is currently playing in theaters everywhere.

31
Jul
14

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

GuardiansOfTheGalaxy1

They’re really not a bunch of a-holes.

With Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel makes a bold move by taking a cast of characters that not a lot of people are familiar with and gives them the big screen treatment. While at this point any film within the Marvel Universe might seem too big to fail (The Avengers $1.5 billion worldwide, Captain America: The Winter Soldier $713 million worldwide), Guardians will be a proving ground of sorts for them. Should Guardians flop it could signal that smaller comic properties might not work. Should it prove to be as successful as the other Marvel Universe films, Marvel can start printing their own money because then they will be able to turn nearly any character or property into a new franchise.

I am here to tell you that Marvel has nothing to worry about.

Guardians of the Galaxy marks Marvel’s first foray into outer space. While we got to see some of that in The Avengers, Guardians wholly takes the action off of Earth. It centers around a ragtag group of unlikely alien outlaws that come together to stop an evil psychopath from destroying peaceful civilizations. Though it does sound kind of out there, it’s got Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel to give you some sense of familiarity.

I'm Star-Lord man.

I’m Star-Lord man.

One of my biggest concerns going into the film was that I’ve always felt space based or cosmic characters really have their work cut out for them. With nothing to ground them here on Earth, how are audiences supposed to relate to characters that have nothing to do with us? Guardians gives us relatability straight off the bat with the origin story of our protagonist Peter Quill. Even before the film’s title is shown we see the circumstances around Peter’s abduction from Earth as a kid. Even though in the very next sequence we see Peter all grown up as the dashing and good looking Star-Lord, there is a sense that probably deep down inside of him, being away from his family is something he probably thinks about from time to time.

A lost child far from home and taken away from his family; that’s a fear that any parent can tell you they’ve thought about at some point in their parenting careers. With that in mind, it gives the audience an instant connection to Quill and a way to buy in to the movie.

While we get an instant connection to Quill in the first ten minutes of the film, both as a kid and as an adult, the rest of the team doesn’t get as much definition character-wise. Unlike The Avengers, Guardians doesn’t have the luxury of films building up characters and leading into the team-up. In this film, we meet each of the Guardians for the first time and everything we find out about them is built up through their actions and conversations in the film.

GuardiansDraxGroot

I am Groot.

From the trailer we are told that Star-Lord is a thief, Gamora is an assassin, Drax is a maniac, and Rocket and Groot are thugs; they shed these labels fairly quickly after their introductions. Once the Guardians come together and start working with one another; that’s when the film really starts to become fun. We get to see how each of them think, how they carry themselves in a fight, and their vulnerabilities as well.

Quill is easily the character that’s most relatable to us since his is the lone human in the film. Out of all the characters though, it’s Rocket and Groot that I enjoyed the most. With CGI characters, it’s sometimes a gamble because what you’re seeing isn’t a real raccoon or a tree that’s a living being. Since we know they’re fake, how do believe them as characters? Guardians answers this by making them nuanced and very well defined. The way Rocket talks, what he says, and how he acts and reacts in situations makes him a smart and savvy guy who people underestimate not only because of his size, but because they perceive him as a rodent as well. Rocket overcomes this by proving his worth in a number of situations in the film that allow him to showcase his smarts and make him more than a raccoon bent on destruction.

GuardiansRocket

I need that guy’s leg.

Groot meanwhile, he doesn’t say that much; in fact he only says one line repeatedly throughout the film. It’s the way he says it and his mannerisms that tell us about him. He is the straight man to Rocket’s wild man. Probably what I loved most about him is that everyone seems to understand exactly what he’s saying even though to the audience he’s only saying one line. It’s like he has his own language that only people in the movie understand while we in the audience have to decipher it–which isn’t too challenging because the context of each scene informs us pretty well as to how he’s responding.

What helps these two CGI characters to be even more believable is that Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel change their voices ever so slightly that they’re not readily identifiable by them. Sometimes when you have a prominent star playing an animated or CGI character, having them use their regular voice takes you out of the film as you see the star behind the voice and not the character they’re trying to portray. That’s not the case here. Never once did I see Cooper or Vin, just Rocket and Groot. With great character building and solid voice work, these two characters blend so well into the fabric of the film that after a certain point I believed they were real.

Gamora and Drax on the other hand I felt could have used a little more development. While we sort of find out Gamora’s background, her motivations for becoming a Guardian aren’t all that clear. Same sort of thing goes for Drax. Quill, Rocket, Groot, and Gamora meet up with Drax while in prison and then he joins the party pretty willingly when he has a big ax to grind with Gamora. One thing I really liked about Drax though is that they made his character very learned and matched it with the way he spoke. From what little knowledge I have of his character from the comics, I thought he wasn’t as smart as they made him in the film. The way he spoke blew me away as I really wasn’t expecting that and it also provided some hilarious situations as well.

Going green in Trek isn't as cool as going green in Guardians.

Going green in Trek isn’t as cool as going green in Guardians.

While overall I liked the characters and the way they interacted with one another, my biggest quibble with the film (and it’s a minor one at best) is the way the Guardians came together. I felt that they banded together a bit too easily. It probably has a lot to do with how the motivations of Gamora and Drax aren’t fully made clear, so when a team up is suggested it doesn’t feel fully authentic. It was as if they shed their initial reservations about the others too willingly. I know this is Guardians of the Galaxy, so at some point they were ultimately going to join forces, but unlike The Avengers where we knew where each of them were coming from, since this film is doing a lot more, some plot elements don’t get their due–character motivations and setup being two of them.

Once the film gets past this hurdle and the Guardians do come together, that’s when the film really starts to take off and live up to the exuberance that you feel from the trailers. Each of the characters plays to their strengths and you see how they work well together. Groot and Drax are their heavy hitters for sure. Gamora can hold her own, but her inside information is what really helps the team. And while Rocket sort of feels like savviest Guardian among them, Quill’s cunning tempers Rocket’s negligence. That is why Quill makes a great leader for them. While everyone else sort of only sees their goals for the mission, Quill uses his wit to focus their individual motivations and bring them together. That’s why he’s Star-Lord man!

With each Marvel film contributing to the makeup of the overall Marvel Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy does its fair share of world building. While I won’t give away any of the easter eggs or reveals from the film, it did make me wonder if some of this extra universe building was really necessary.

No, Merle from The Walking Dead isn't the easter egg you're looking for.

No, Merle from The Walking Dead isn’t the easter egg you’re looking for.

In the last Marvel film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there is a major universe changing event that happens that will definitely affect all Earth based Avenger films that come afterward. Back then I wondered whether this world building was at the expense of telling Cap’s story similarly to how the Stark/Iron Man story was sidelined by all the SHIELD stuff in Iron Man 2.

Ultimately, the universe building in Guardians isn’t on the level of The Winter Soldier or even Iron Man 2, but I did still feel that the underlying storyline that they added in was a little hamfisted and should have either been left out of the film or integrated better. They could have even saved something like that for the post movie credit scenes that they so love to include.

One of the fun things about Guardians is its soundtrack. Unlike almost all of the other Marvel films that predominantly only have a film score (instrumental music), Guardians of the Galaxy utilizes a soundtrack that not only adds some fun and nostalgia to the film, but gives the audience another connection back to Earth as well. I would venture to guess that anyone over the age of 25 will have heard most of the tunes in the film like Blue Suede’s Hooked on a Feeling or Redbone’s Come And Get Your Love among others. Subtly though, the soundtrack is another way that connects the audience back to Earth. Because we know these songs and we know that these are Quill’s jams, that gives us relatability to his character and gets us to buy into the film that much more.

Overall Guardians of the Galaxy is a solid film and I don’t perceive Marvel having a flop anytime soon. With another great superhero team on their hands who knows what Marvel will be able to do next. Do they bring out lesser known Avengers to feed into this universe? It’s totally possible, they can’t keep the core group of Avengers indefinitely so phasing the older guys out but keep making Avengers movies with new Avengers definitely makes sense. Now that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has expanded into outer space, the sky isn’t the limit anymore. The Guardians of the Galaxy have made sure of that.

Cinematic Scene: Guardian Battle Planning

“Cinematic Scene” is an effort to bring light to some of the more technically creative and/or emotionally charged scenes in the film and lives at the end of each review to discuss these noteworthy scenes. Whether it’s fancy camera work, brilliant use of special effects, or heart wrenching acting; I will pick one notable scene from the film that you should pay attention to.

“Cinematic Scene” is an effort to bring light to some of the more technically creative and/or emotionally charged scenes in the film and lives at the end of each review to discuss these noteworthy scenes. Whether it’s fancy camera work, brilliant use of special effects, or heart wrenching acting; I will pick one notable scene from the film that you should pay attention to.

While there are many fun and action packed scenes in the film, it’s a quieter one that enjoyed the most. It comes just a bit before a big battle in the film while the Guardians are talking with one another and trying to strategize. I would say that it’s in this scene in the film where we can finally call them a team. No longer are they worried about the smaller things that they were concerned with when we are first introduced to them at the beginning of the film. In this scene they are all finally on the same page, opening up to one another, and are thinking as a single unit. Of course they banter and jest as well, and that definitely is part of their team dynamic, but it’s this one moment that stands out because finally, they do become the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Guardians of the Galaxy is now playing in theaters everywhere.

4/5 stars // rated PG-13 // 2hr 2min

21
Jul
14

Wish I Was Here REVIEW: Emo Epiphanies

For $100, you can sit with Zach Braff.

For $100, you can sit with Zach Braff.

With Wish I Was Here, Zach Braff continues to document the life journey of the male emo millennial. If 2004’s Garden State showed us the said millennial in his 20s, Wish documents him a decade later in his 30s, domestically settled down with kids as well as non-artistic responsibilities.

Braff plays Aiden, an unemployed actor, married to the hardworking Kate Hudson, with two precocious children in a private Jewish school, a slacker brother and a dying father (Mandy Patinkin). And he, of course, is searching for answers. Or epiphanies. With arms wide open. Cue the incessant emo rock on the soundtrack that features The Shins, Badly Drawn Boy, Paul Simon and other usual suspects.

Although not as sweepingly effective as Garden State, Wish still somehow works while being set in a sit-com purgatory where everyone has the perfect one-liner under a pall of sanitized mumblecore navel-gazing. There’s also a welcome, healthy dose of Jewish religion to ground the work with some sort of sense of time and existence other than that of the flustered, aging hipster. The ultimate appeal of this movie probably comes from the abject, good-natured sincerity pouring off the script by Braff and his brother Adam. Even with all the magical unrealism going on, the depiction of the family dynamics and relationships feel genuine.

That jar holds all the Kickstarter money.

That jar holds all the Kickstarter money.

Hudson is charming and gorgeous as ever. Perhaps a little too charming and gorgeous for a mother working full-time doing data entry for the Department of Water. Patinkin verges on the edge of over-acting, but then he always does. Jim Parsons has a small part as an acting colleague of Braff’s and one wonders if he will ever be able to shake the aura of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory.

Controversial for its Kickstarter-funded budget, Braff’s very public battle for final cut may have resulted in a product a bit too precious and forced. But that doesn’t mean Wish I Was Here isn’t worthy of existing, complete with its heart on the sleeve of its hipster t-shirt.

——

At the end of the July 17 screening at the Kahala theaters, Frolic Hawaii’s Brian Watanabe hosted a Q&A with co-screenwriter and 6-year Honolulu resident Adam Braff (Zach’s bro, pictured left).

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Some of the highlights from that Q&A:

  • When questioned on how to get ahead in screenwriting: Find “a partner who is an international celebrity” and “sharpen your pencils.”
  • Braff would like to work on a project reuniting his brother with his Scrubs co-star Donald Faison.
  • Adam Braff’s favorite moment in the film—Kate Hudson and Mandy Patinkin in the hospital. “I don’t think you see someone reminding someone on their deathbed that they have unfinished business.”
  • “There’s quite a bit of things that will be on the DVD.”
  • Rowdy the stuffed dog from Scrubs is indeed somewhere in the film.
  • “I don’t know how this movie got so Jewish.”
  • They actually only had Mandy Patinkin for four days during the production.

Coolest part of the Q&A though? Once the film finished, they killed the credits in the middle and just started into it. I thought we’d have to wade through the whole thing before it started, but we didn’t have to wait.

(Sorry to all you end credit aficionados. Unless there’s a comic book movie easter egg just sitting at the conclusion of it all, I’m outta there. Things to do, drinks to drink. You know how it is. Wish I was here.)

Wish I Was Here is now playing exclusively at Consolidated Theatres Ward 16.

 

 

01
Jul
14

Top 5 Movies Based on Graphic Novels

Yes, that's Captain America himself Chris Evans leading the way, this time in Snowpiercer.

Yes, that’s Captain America himself Chris Evans leading the way, this time in Snowpiercer.

We here at the Red Band Project are excited for the upcoming release of Snowpiercer. Directed by Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho (Mother, The Host) the film stars Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, and John Hurt as some of the last survivors on Earth who reside on the Snowpiercer, a train that continually navigates the frozen globe keeping its inhabitants alive. It’s a sci-fi fable that deals with class struggle amidst the backdrop of a future where the world is frozen over.

Due out tomorrow at Consolidated Theatres Kahala 8, the film is based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige. While Hollywood has been quick to jump on the comic book craze, it’s also adapted its fair share of graphic novels. While similar in many respects to comic books, graphic novels are usually self contained stories told in one book or a set of books and are not ongoing series.

This got me thinking, we’ve had all sorts of graphic novel adaptations, some of them good and some of them pretty crummy, but which ones have been the best? Listed below are my Top 5 Films Based Off of Graphic Novels . . .

#5 – Old Boy (2003)

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Loosely based on the Japanese manga series written by Garon Tsuchiya and illustrated by Nobuaki Minegishi, Korean director Park Chan-wook‘s film of the same name is quite the twisted tale of revenge. I’m not going to lie, it’s the total 180 that this film pulls that got it onto this list. I remember the first time watching this film thinking it was going one way and then I get the rug pulled out from under me. Talk about mind blown. The way Chan-wook tells the story and how well he sets the table is was drew me in. That and the utter brutality in the film, the first I’d really seen like that, is what helps to make this film stand out.

#4 – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

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If there was only one thing I could say about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, it would be that it makes me proud to have played video games at least for a time in my life. Based on the series of graphic stories by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the movie is jam packed with video game references and is so smart about the way it uses and portrays them that it’s no wonder that it holds a special place in the hearts of geeks everywhere. When you combine that with Edgar Wright‘s vision and style, the movie is truly unique and a love letter to video games, comics, music, and geeky pop culture. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World gives us a glimpse into a world where real video game conventions (extra lives, power ups, restarting levels, bosses) do exist and is so awesome that it made me wish I could live in that same world as well.

#3 – Sin City

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Based on a few of the novels from the Frank Miller series, Sin City the movie is also directed Miller and Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, Spy Kids). The movie’s visual style is definitely what draws you in and for the record is really is quite gorgeous. The stylized black and white look with accent colors popping up every once and a while to add mood and tone to the film simply blew me away when I saw it for the first time. That combined with the engrossing and criss-crossing neo-noir crime stories that involve these checkered characters in this disreputable city really engages you. While comic book movies up till this point really tried to shy away from their paper based roots and go for realism, the coloring and stylization of Sin City made it truly feel like it was a ‘comic book movie’ through and through–and I thought it really worked for the film.

#2 – V for Vendetta

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There is just so much good stuff going on in V for Vendetta that whenever I see it on TV, I almost always get sucked into watching it. Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, the film version of V for Vendetta is an awesome example of when you take rich source material and create an appropriate adaptation. Themes in the film such as government having too much control, fear of the people warranting government protection, and propaganda spread by the government all underline growing sentiment that was going on in a post-9/11 world when this film came out in 2005. Add to the mix a very charismatic (and sharp tongued) character with a righteous mission in V and like I said, there’s a lot of stuff here to like. The film also has some snappy fight sequences with stylized use of V’s daggers that make him even more of a loveable folk hero. “Remember, remember the 5th of November,” from his lines of dialogue to the way he carried himself, though you never saw his face, Hugo Weaving did an awesome job of portraying V. From a strong lead character, to themes in the film that overlap with real life, to a fun story; V for Vendetta is a prime example of what a good graphic novel adaption should be.

#1 – 300

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While Frank Miller‘s graphic novel 300 isn’t the thickest tome, the translation from page to screen is really spot on. The way Zack Snyder literally took what was on the page, used green screen digital backgrounds and visual effects to create a visual look that was similar to what was on the pages of Miller’s book, the film adaptation is a visual spectacle to behold. Couple that with the charismatic portrayal of Leonidas by Gerard Butler and mighty Spartans would be forever engrained as pop culture icons. While the story is fairly straightforward, it’s the ferocity and undauntedness the Spartans exude on screen that get you pumped up and make you wish you were in battle with them. With a great visual style, colorful characters, and a never say die attitude, Leonidas and the brave 300 is quite possible the best film to have been adapted from a graphic novel.

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Of course a whole slew of graphic novels from a wide range of genres have had the film treatment; 30 Days of Night and Constantine from the horror genre, Road to Perdition and A History of Violence are period dramas, and American Splendor and Ghost World in the indie vein. While quite a few films were considered, in the end many didn’t make the cut. A few honorable mentions that just didn’t make it onto my list: Men in Black, The Mask, and i. If you have any suggestions on what should have made the list, sound off in the comments below.

While Snowpiercer certainly won’t be the last graphic novel to be adapted into a movie, it’s definitely one we here at Red Band have been looking forward for quite some time. Be sure you check it out this weekend at Consolidated Theatres Kahala!

 




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