Archive for the 'Now Playing' Category


Restrepo: Film and Q&A

Soldiers in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley were fighting in what has been called "the most dangerous place on Earth," sometimes engaging in up to seven firefights a day.

I’m not one to usually go for documentaries. Hell, the last one within recent memory was Art & Copy, a documentary about advertising (and to some extent graphic design). Usually though, the topic of the film really has to interest me in order for me to want to see any particular film. So was the case with Restrepo, a documentary about US soldiers fighting in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. Also buoyed by several blogs and critics that have been showering praise on the doc, I was very excited to find out that Consolidated Theatres was bringing it in for a release on Oahu.

The Film

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What I liked or found interesting:

  • Politics were not involved. The entire film is shot on the ground with our troops in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. There are no interviews with politicians, high ranking officials,  generals, or anyone back home. All we get to see are the conditions that these men have to face everyday, the emotions they feel under this high pressure assignment, and their fight for survival in our mission to get rid of the Taliban.
  • The filmmakers show the right footage. Usually in war films the filmmakers like to make things look as realistic as possible, depicting the battlefield as a brutal place where wartime injuries can lead to some pretty gruesome scenes. That is not the case with Restrepo. With the war in Afghanistan still going on, it is currently a war that is fresh in the hearts and minds of Americans. As such, the filmmakers are sensitive to this fact and go out of their way to show us the right footage. Are there scenes of soldiers engaging the Taliban? Are there scenes of soldiers doing crazy things in their downtime? Are emotional scenes between soldiers shown? Is death depicted in the film? The answer to all these questions is ‘yes.’ However they are depicted in a way that is appropriate to the film and respectful to the content that is being presented.
  • The name of the film fits the person and outpost that it is based on. If you watched the trailer (please make sure to watch the trailer) you’ll know that Restrepo was a soldier from the platoon in the film who died while in combat and is also the name of the forward outpost that the soldiers created in the aftermath of his death as a way to honor and remember him. This tenacity and unrelentingness of Restrepo (the man) is carried on throughout the film, in both the nature of the outpost as well as the theme of the film.
  • There was a Hawaii connection. Halfway through the film the soldiers are shown relaxing while they have some downtime and one of them begins to play a song on Restrepo’s guitar. There’s a long intro, but eventually the soldier starts singing and all of a sudden I realize that he’s singing I’ll Never Forget Where I’m From by Justin Young. It definitely was a moment from the film I’ll never forget. All the way in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan a little piece of Hawaii finds its way there. The song is sung for a good minute and it definitely hammered home the reality of the film for me.

The Q&A

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What made the film extra special is that Consolidated Theatres setup a special question and answer session after our screening of the film with two of the soldiers that were stationed with the platoon from the film. Both Sgt Mitchell Raeon and Sgt John Clinard spent about 30 minutes after our film answering questions from the audience. It’s one thing to see a film and think that you understand it, it’s quite another to have people that experienced what happened in the film who were also there, here to tell you that ‘yes, it’s as bad as it looks in the film.’ Hearing they’re personal stories and insight into how things were really made this movie experience special. I can’t begin to imagine what they went through–even though I’ve seen the film.

Several highlights from the Q&A:

  • Both of them thought that the film was an accurate representation of what they went through and would urge anyone to watch the film.
  • This was Sgt Clinard’s first time seeing the film and while he enjoyed it, he was blown away by the number of people that turned out to see the film.
  • Both had respect for the filmmakers Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington both of whom went through the same experience as the soldiers did as well as for the portrayal of the men from second platoon.

If you read this blog post, I highly recommend you watch the trailer and both parts of the Q&A that we recorded (link to part 2 below).


Further Review

Mililani Restrepo Q&A – Part 2 – The official movie website.

Into the Valley of Death – Filmmaker Sebastian Junger’s article in the Jan 2008 Vanity Fair that talked about the struggles of soldiers in the Korengal Valley.

War – Sebastian Junger’s book about his time spent with the soldiers depicted in his film Restrepo.

Film details soldiers’ pain – William Cole’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser article about the film & special screening.


Total Eclipse Of The Heart

Turn around….

Every now and then I get a little bit nervous about big pop culture phenomena that creates masses of crazy fans. In my tween years it was boy bands, but of course these days it’s vampires and werewolves and wizards. Today movie theaters around the country are losing their minds trying to deal with females of every age who are dying to see the 3rd installment of The Twilight Saga. I haven’t  had the privilage to see Twilight Eclipse yet (8pm tonight I will have the honor; it is my favorite book in the series and the guy who directed 30 Days of Night is attached to this installment so I have my fingers crossed), but let’s talk about what I have seen… The latest Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows trailer via Film School Rejects which is supposed to be attached to today’s release of Twilight.

I was stunned into silence by this trailer. David Yates and Warner Brothers are sending Harry Potter out with a huge bang and you can feel how enormously epic this ending is in just these brief two and a half minutes. To be completely honest with you, the release of this trailer on MSN before Twilight’s opening has reshuffled my excitement. My immediate thoughts following the trailer was “screw Eclipse, I want Deathly Hallows”  which can only make me wonder how many other Twilight moviegoers may feel the same? Obviously the Twihards won’t care, but what about the rest of us? Could this trailer outshine Twilight Eclipse? Ok maybe I’m getting too excited. Honestly the Twilight fandom is so intense and rabid, I doubt this would be the case nationwide… But for some people (boyfriends and husbands being dragged to see Twilight), it may just be the highlight of the evening… along with Taylor Lautner being shirtless… yummy.

Whatever team or franchise you support its a great day for all. New epic film and new epic trailer… another great day at the movies.


Questions Answered

So I was going through my computer earlier today, digging through photos specifically, when I stumbled upon the photos and video that we shot while we were at the San Diego Comic Con this summer. I managed to find two videos of particular note: the first of James Cameron talking about Avatar, and the second with Robert Downey Jr talking about Sherlock Holmes–two big movies that were released this month. While I’m sure you could find similar video elsewhere on YouTube or other movie blogs, I thought that I would just post these clips since both of these movies are finally out. Looking back, I wish I had shot more video during comic con.

James Cameron on “why now” for Avatar
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Robert Downey Jr on Sherlock Holmes, the character, and the movie
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I think it’s interesting to hear what they had to say about their movies before they came out and also before the hype started. I hope you enjoy.

Happy New Year everyone!


Avatar is King of the World!

The new James Cameron flick out shot the competition on opening weekend, but is Avatar as good as everyone says it is?

So you’ve been to the theater to see James Cameron’s new $400 – $500 film Avatar, and after having taken off the glasses I’m sure something you had to wonder was: Does it live up to the hype? If you’re anything like me, you heard absolutely nothing about this movie before August. More than likely though you started hearing some buzz when the first trailer came out in September or October. Then you started hearing that this was James Cameron’s first movie since Titanic and that he was pushing the boundaries of digital animation and cinema. Now, as the dust settles, is Avatar going to be James Cameron’s next Titanic? Or is it just another in a long line of gimmicky 3D movies?

In my humble opinion . . . it does live up to the hype.

// The Technology

Production on Avatar took four years with Cameron developing new motion capture technology.

While digital animation, effects, and green screen are nothing new in film making, the techniques Cameron has pioneered for Avatar are. By developing new motion capture techniques for actors, with emphasis on facial details, and blending that with Cameron’s own brand of CGI-the line between what is live action and digital effects are starting to blur together. As you watch the movie it is very hard to tell that most of what you are watching was created in a computer. It’s almost as if they added in digital imperfections to give the effects and animation a more realistic look. Also, the movie does a great job of utilizing 3D. Most of the 3D involves defining space within the screen with just enough popping out not to make it seem annoying.

// Word of Mouth

Buzz has been strong among moviegoers. Photo courtesy Flickr.

The general consensus that I’ve heard, for the most part, is that everyone is enjoying their Avatar experience. Friends that I’ve talked to, tweets that I’ve read, reports and blog posts that I’ve been reading all lead me to believe that Avatar is generating a considerable amount of positive buzz. When your movie makes back half of it’s reported budget on opening weekend AND gets a glowing review from hardline movie critic Roger Ebert, good buzz is sure to follow. Who knows, maybe this buzz will lead to Titanic sized attendance in the weeks to come.

// Final Thoughts

Call it cliché or just my own naïveté, but I am going to say that Avatar will be one of the top films of the year. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and while the general plot of the movie is something we’ve sort of all heard before, it truly is the journey and not the destination that matters. I bought in to the characters and what Cameron was selling, so much so that towards the end I didn’t know who was going to make it, and who wasn’t. And, as I’ve previously stated, the visuals in the movie are spectacular, especially when combined with the  Hi-Defness of IMAX. There’s something in this movie for everyone, so if you’ve got the time during the holidays I say go out and check it out . . . after all, the king of the world is back.


// Avatar Articles and Posts of Interest

Local Review :: by Russel Kealoha of the Two Beer Queers and Metromix Honolulu

Local Review :: by Ryan Senega of Honolulu Weekly

Mainland Soundbites :: from AMC’s Script to Screen has excerpts from various trades

Crazy Tech :: from Screen Rant gives more details on Avatar’s new technology

The Titanic Effect :: from looks at potential Avatar backlash

Pick Your 3D :: from the 3D Vision Blog breaks down the different 3D technologies in theaters


Honolulu Sees Glimpses of Twilight

As I write this post, dozens of Twi-Hards are seeing the newest chapter in the Twilight Saga, New Moon, unspool in theaters. Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past year or so Twilight mania has been sweeping the nation ever since the widely popular novels were slated for silver screen adaption. The most extreme case I heard of Twilight mania was about a woman (on Oahu mind you) that saw Twilight 109 times in theaters. No, that’s not a typo (edit–ok it was a typo, 108).

Check out the fandom that turned out at the two biggest theaters in town:

The upper deck at Ward Theaters was the obvious choice to hold lines, but it quickly filled up.

But then you walk to the main staircase and see that lines are forming all over the front down to the sidewalk.

Another shot of the main staircase from the front.

It's just a sea of people from the top of the stairs.

Inside, every line to the concession stand was open and full.

Over at Dole it was a similar story. They had one long line that stretched down the front of the theaters . . .

. . . and into the parking lot and further towards Pacific Street.

And here’s video to give you a better idea of how long the line at Dole was:

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Needless to say it was a busy night at the movies and I’m sure we’ll be hearing about record numbers for Twilight: New Moon in the coming days. As for us, we’re going to wait till the insanity dies down a bit before we take in the Twilight.


Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough


I don’t know if we’ve stated this before or not on our blog, but this site isn’t a movie review site. We aren’t critics so we don’t analyze and deconstruct films–and we don’t want to pretend to either. However, we can give our opinions on them and talk about how they make us feel.

Such is the case with This Is It. To set you up, I had no desire to see this movie. It’s not that I don’t like MJ or anything like that but I didn’t really have any interest in seeing a concert movie. On the flip though I’m almost always down to see any movie as long as the previews for it don’t look ridiculously horrid. Fortunately I took up an offer to see the movie Tuesday evening. What I saw was a portrait of a legend still bringing IT to everything he does. This was not going to be the concert pic I was thinking it was going to be.

Here’s what stood out to me from the film:

1. You get to see behind the curtain :: As I found out, the movie was more of a documentary on how the King of Pop’s concerts were going to be rather than just showing footage of him performing. Things were rough, he’d stop in the middle of performances to give direction, he’d talk to dancers and musicians–all the details of putting this concert together were there. Needless to say the man was meticulous, he knew how he wanted the notes and beat of the music to flow and he’d take the time to make sure everything came out right. Believe it or not MJ even had a humorous side with footage shown of him cracking a few one liners and joking with the crew. Most of the time we only saw Michael Jackson as the legend who developed a number of great songs and performances . . . or as the oddity who made news headlines for questionable activities. What I enjoyed most from this film is that we got to see how he became the King of Pop and why he deserves the title.
2. The man still has it :: For being 50 years old he still looked as good when he was 22 (when Thriller came out). As I mentioned previously, at the time the footage was shot, MJ still has all the moves and singing that made him the great performer that he was. The dance steps are all there as well as the voice. Even though these were only rehearsals and he didn’t seem to be going all out, it’s still impressive the amount of feeling he could bring to these practice sessions and only makes you wonder how much better he would have been had the lights been up and the arena filled with fans.
3. The concert would have been amazing :: While I’m sure everyone would have been happy with Michael singing and dancing, the performance, stage, and spectacle are all part of the package of any Michael Jackson performance and this one looked to be the best ever. With elaborate stage effects, lots of additional video footage shot, amazing choreography and pyrotechnics it really is a shame that we won’t get to see this show.
4. It doesn’t address his death :: Probably above all, I appreciated the fact that the movie didn’t address Michael’s impending death and the events leading up to it. It’s something that would have been so easy to do, so I’m thankful that the creator of the film decided not to go in that direction. What we are shown is the King of Pop’s final performance, and a great one at that. And that’s how he really should be remembered.


    michael-jackson-toestandSince officially the film is supposedly only going to have a two week engagement, I highly recommend that you check it out. And if you do see This Is It, stay till the end as there are four scenes after the credits finish that are worth waiting for.


    The Curious Case of a Barbarian Princess


    We Hawaiians are a funny bunch. We want the moon but we don’t want to lasso it and pull it down ourselves. We also can’t make decisions together (another post altogether–actually, another blog altogether). Here’s the setup: a movie or tv show is made about or depicts characters from Hawaii. Protests and objections ensue because the representations of locals, specifically Hawaiians and Hawaiian culture, are depicted inaccurately.

    Case in Point: Barbarian Princess. It tells the story of one of the kingdom of Hawaii’s last royals, a young girl who at age 17 had to deal with the aftermath of her homeland being dissolved. As far as I know, this is the first legitimate movie to showcase Hawaiian history AND have a chance for some kind of release beyond the shores of Hawaii. At the heart of the “controversy” is that the lead actress is not of Hawaiian ancestry and that the title of the film is inaccurate and offensive (reports via Honolulu Advertiser and KHNL).

    Ok, I get it. Ideally we’d like to have our own people (Hawaiians) play roles based on ourselves. I also can see how at first glance the title Barbarian Princess may seem offensive. But my feeling is that these are small gripes in the bigger scheme of things. Here we have a movie about our people that could potentially be released across the country–a movie that tells the story of Hawaii, its people, and our history. In essence, something to educate the world about Hawaii. Doesn’t this sound like a good thing?

    An early poster for the movie which shows the film's previous title.

    An early poster for the movie which shows the film's previous title.

    I say, it is. As a movie person, when I put down the $10 that it costs for a movie ticket these days I want to be sure that I’m paying for something good. If the actor chosen for a role can act, portray their character well, and make the audience believe that they are that character then what does it matter what race, ethnicity or gender they are? Throughout the history of Hollywood there have been tons of cases where actors have been chosen for roles where they might not have originally fit. An African American actor in place of a Caucasian one, a male character rewritten as a female one, and all different other scenarios. The fact of the matter is, in movies actors take on the role of someone other than themself and so I have no problem with a non-Hawaiian playing a Hawaiian.

    As for the title of the movie, Barbarian Princess, I actually like the title and applaud the producers for going back to it. Originally the title was given to Ka’iulani by the media during that time in anti-monarchy propaganda, when in actuality she was far from it. This is the message that the creators of the movie are trying to convey. By naming the movie Barbarian Princess, something clearly Ka’iulani was not, it sets up an allegory for the audience. For us here in Hawaii, before we see the movie we question title as we see it as something that’s not true. For those outside of Hawaii, or have little to no knowledge of Hawaiian history, they see the title and after watching the movie find out that she wasn’t actually a “barbarian princess” and then wonder why the movie was given that title. In both cases, the title Barbarian Princess gives people something to think about and chew on–which in the end is something that any good movie does . . . it challenges you and makes you think.


    What Do You See at HIFF 2009?


    Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, and Honolulu. What do these cities all have in common? They all have their own film festivals. The 29th Annual Hawaii International Film Festival(HIFF) kicked off last week and I have to say that I’m more excited than ever to see some of the movies, excuse me-FILMS, that they will we showing this year. Traditionally in the past, film festivals have been about high art and high concept–which isn’t a bad thing, but it does tend to ward off a lot of people. However, I’ve noticed that in the past five years or so, film festivals have gone more mainstream (which is a good thing and bad thing depending on how you look at it). All of this makes me excited because now more people can find something they want to see–HIFF being no exception.

    My Experience with HIFF

    The past year or so I’ve been telling myself that I’ve got to take advantage and see something at HIFF. Has it happened? No. There always seems to be something that comes up and I haven’t been able to go. However, I have seen one film at HIFF. This was about 8-9 years ago but the lone film I’ve seen at HIFF was Cowboy Bebop: The Movie. Amazingly right after I discovered this great anime the movie came out and luckily they were showing it at HIFF. Went down to Dole about an hour early, got a ticket, and stood in line. Another thing I like about HIFF is that they have some great posters. A good one they had recently showed a hula dancer with film strips as a hula skirt. My favorite HIFF poster though came out ten years ago for the 19th HIFF. It had Hawaii’s very own Miss Universe Brooke Lee sitting on film equipment–ok so I’m somewhat biased because I just happened to have an autographed copy.

    Needless to say that HIFF has been attracting me for quite sometime and this year I’m finally going to take the plunge. Here are the movies I’m interested in seeing at this year’s HIFF.

    Red Cliff

    RED CLIFF pic 2

    What it’s about: China, 208AD. The emperor plans to wage war in order to unite all of China. Two smaller kingdoms ban together as the only way to repel the emperor.

    Why I want to see it: Two words–John Woo. Looking through the program I saw the name John Woo pop up and I have to say it piqued my interest. This is the guy that brought us Face Off, Mission Impossible 2, Broken Arrow, Paycheck, and Hard Boiled–so he knows his action. I’m hoping this will be Woo’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, just with more action and less doves. According to the HIFF notes the production of this movie was the largest in Chinese cinema history so that’s saying a lot with this Chinese epic having a monumental budget. It’s not hard to believe either with some of the biggest stars from Asia, headlined by Tony Leung. Sadly as of this post the line for this movie has gone RUSH(very few tickets remaining–to be sold 15 minutes prior to showtime). On a positive note, if I can’t make it during HIFF, I’m confident it’ll get a wide release next month.

    Art & Copy (official website)


    What it’s about: A documentary film about advertising and design featuring some of the guys that have given us some of the most recognized ad campaigns in the last 20 years.

    Why I want to see it: I’m a design guy so when I came across this trailer on during the summer I was really excited. Call me crazy but I geek out hearing about how stuff like this gets developed and how these guys work. While there is more to design that just advertising, this stuff is probably the most recognized by the average person and since it is so recognized I think going behind the scenes and finding out how they did it is interesting.

    The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus


    What it’s about: With the extraordinary ability to guide the imaginations of others, Dr. Parnassus makes not one, but two deals with the devil . . . and you know the devil always comes to collect.

    Why I want to see it: Let’s face it, this is the last cinematic performance of Heath Ledger. After the success he had with the Joker in The Dark Knight it really is a shame that he passed away. Having said that, it seems as if Parnassus has been quietly shoved aside and forgotten. I remember hearing right after his death that he was working on this movie and that principal photography was not yet complete and there was some speculation that this movie wouldn’t even see the light of day. However, another reason I want to see this is because of the way that they figured out the problem of continuing the movie without Ledger. From what I’ve heard and saw at this year’s Comic-Con, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell all took on Heath’s role when his character steps into the dream world. Will it work? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, but it is an interesting idea which makes me want to check it out.

    The Warrior and the Wolf


    What it’s about: China, pre-unification (a really long time ago). Soldiers are sent out to remote parts of the land, and after time lose touch with themselves. The story follows one of these such soldiers as he rises to take control of the troops and falls in love with a mysterious woman.

    Why I want to see it: As the closing night film for HIFF, the trailer and story premise sucked me in as it looks really similar to the size and scope of Red Cliff but seems to be more character driven. What can I say, I guess I’m a sucker for big ancient Chinese epics. Warrior also has Chinese and Hollywood cinema star Maggie Q (Mission Impossible 3, Balls of Fury, Live Free or Die Hard) starring in this film as well so there is one recognizable face in the mix here. Sadly, I won’t be able to make it to the screening due to Warrior Football being on the same night (priorities I know). Have to look for it when it comes out on DVD though.

    Other notable films at HIFF:

    Barbarian Princess: The biopic of Hawaiian princess Ka’iulani is causing a stir in our local community with a non-Hawaiian actor in the lead role. Two additional screenings have been added.

    Precious: On it’s way to a wide release, Precious has been receiving critical praise as it’s made its way through the festival circuit. How do you grow and overcome adversity in an environment with no support? This film shows us how.

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