Archive for June, 2013

Are remakes of 'Superman' and other films necessary?

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June 13th, 2013



What’s your take on film remakes?
Are they necessary? Certainly, they’re inevitable — and a common staple in Hollywood.
Take the “Superman,” images which soars into the theaters this weekend, with Henry Cavill reinterpreting the saga of a Krypton baby hurled in a steel case to Kanvas with the familiar identity crisis: He’s Clark Kent, too, but he has the dubious mission to save the world.
Or the new “Spider-man,” with Andrew Garfield replacing Tobey Maguire, arriving in 2014, spreading its web — again — perhaps for a second round of trilogies.
There’s the CG-era “Godzilla,” too, which will be filmed in the Hawaii's back yard once more, despite the failure of the last feature on the destructive creature from Japan produced here by Chris Lee, our then local-boy Hollywood producer.
Remakes provide jobs for screen-hungry actors and valid revenues for the state economy, and yes, they even reach a new audience not acquainted with earlier versions, even if darn nearly everything — vintage and new — are at your nearest video shop or a click away online.
Just as Broadway currently is hosting a reboot of “Annie,” yet another "Annie"movie is due, too — a few tomorrows from now — with Quvenzhane Wallis as the titular figure, Jamie Foxx as kinda a variation of Danny Warbucks, and Sandra Bullock as Miss Hannigan. The producers include rapper Jay-Z and actor Will Smith, who discarded the notion to have the Smith daughter Willow play the titular figure in hopes that this one won’t be a hard-knock-life like “After Earth” (considered a major modern-day bomb) starring papa Will and son/brother Jaden.
Still in a galaxy, a bit far, far away — Disney revivals of the “Star Wars” franchise are expected.
Which begs the question: How often in a lifetime should a tale as old as time be resurrected?
For one thing, fans adore certain elements and extraordinary heroes. That’s why “Fast and Furious” can go on and on, “Batman” can get his Batmobile out of the garage, and yes, the timely and timeless Superman can be reborn once a decade, even if the last one went one round, and kaput. But hot rods and good deeds seem to have a lot of fuel and appeal, and go quite the distance, don’t you think?
Yet not everything yesteryear is super special. This season's “The Great Gatsby” with Leonardo DiCaprio was a good Gatsby, not great, perhaps a skosh better than the original with Robert Redford because of the grandeur and spectacle of modern-day filmmaking. But did we really need the newbie?
Sequel-itis is as common as, well, the common cold. Old often works, for the most part. And when it hits big, Hollywood commonly stalks to make a part two, a part three, and so on.
Watching Ironman over and over is a good example. That’s why Indiana Jones is legendary. And why, in the right hands, “Star Trek” can be periodically remounted.
That’s why there’s been a “Pirates of the Caribbean” catalogue. And an “X-Men” or “Wolverine” flick. We savor the successes of some, but not all.
There’s always a new generation of viewers to fill the seats. The older crowd will still flock to a new species of an old favorite. It’s easier to sell what has been wildly popular.
And heck, perhaps that’s why Roman numerals were invented: “Jurassic Park I, I, III.” Get it?
IV is inevitable. Often, though, the franchise runs out of steam — or bite. Think “Jaws.” Nothing could beat the original.
But there’s always an attempt to bring back yesterday. “Rocky” is being reinvented, but not for the screen for the moment. After bitten by the movie bug over the decades, Sylvester Stallone is taking the show to Broadway. A different genre.
Ditto, “The Wizard of Oz.” James Franco starred in a reinvented Oz earlier this year, but the latest buzz is that a spectacle on the Great White Way is destined next year, somewhere over the rainbow.
Sometimes a remake means the birth of a star; Jennifer Hudson in “Dreamgirls” comes to mind. But please, we don’t need a “Dreamgirls” redux in the next decade.
So where do you stand on the influx of relaunches?

Tomorrow: Hollywood should leave film jewels alone.

10 Tony moments to savor, and NPH takes four slots

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June 10th, 2013



So the 2013 Tony Awards have come and gone, and the London-imported “Matilda” took a swift kick from homegrown “Kinky Boots” and the reinvented Cirque du Soleil bon bon called “Pippin.”
So from a sofa perch, what were the 10 best moments to remember?
Easy:
No. 1 — Neil Patrick Harris, the star of CBS’ Monday night “How I Met Your Mother” sitcom, as emcee. His “Bigger” opening number, in the bigger Radio City Music Hall (than the previous upper west side Beacon Theatre), was loaded with agile dancing, pertinent and spot-on lyrics (by Lin-Manuel Miranda, a Hispanic who won Tonys for his “In the Heights” musical, and Tom Kitt) about the awards to come, with insights and ironies galore, and magical in how this one night unites all of the spectacles of the Great White Way.

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No. 2 — NPH’s closing number, “Empire State of Mind,” was preceded by his lament that time was running short so the finale had to be scrapped. Not so; this wind-up, which paid homage to Jay-Z’s version that earlier featured Alicia Keys, was a savvy, swift and right-on-the-target recap of the previous three hours, with Audra McDonald doing the vocal honors this time, coupled with Harris’ rap.
No. 3 — Alan Cumming’s comment, about the snub he received with co-presenter Scarlett Johansson, made him truly a good sport; in “Macbeth,” he was all over the map and surely worthy of consideration doing this unconventional Shakespearean turn. Might have been a better Night of the Neglected if Bette Midler was teamed with Cumming, since she also worked her butt off in her solo outing in “I’ll Eat You Last,” where she enacted the life and times of agent Sue Mengers. She probably was invited, but declined to participate — do you blame her? So Cumming wins the atta boy award.
No. 4 — Cicely Tyson, at 88, became the eldest Tony winner ever, for her Carrie Watts role in “A Trip to Bountiful.” Her acceptance speech was stellar; starting out with a bit of controlled nervousness, but concluding with a lot of keen wattage on why she’s the remaining survivor in her family.
No. 5 — It’s a hard-knock life, to be a replacement actor in an ongoing stage hit, but Jane Lynch killed ‘em with her “Little Girls” solo as Miss Hannigan in “Annie.” She towered over the little orphan girls, though with more charm than menace than, say, the frightfully facist but fantastic headmistress Miss Trunchbull in “Matilda,” played by Bertie Carvel, a man in case you didn’t know, who should have received a special Tony for such tank-like grit in the guise of an educator. So “Glee” lives on Broadway while the Fox show is on hiatus.
No. 6 — Who can resist Sandy, the pooch, in “Annie.” But really, NPH got into kind of a smoochest with the Sunday, with wet tongue exchanges in a closeup. NHP muttered that he was in a relationship but that didn’t bother dandy Sandy. Woof!
No. 7 — The comeback of Cyndi Lauper, who no longer can be considered a novelty. Back when she was a pink- or yellow-haired oddity as she made her mark in pop music, now she’s a Tony-winning composer for her score in “Kinky Boots.” This girl still just wants to have fun, but now she has Broadway gold, and she showed her updated “True Colors” when she performed her old hit during that “In Memorium” segment honoring Broadway figures who passed this past year.
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No. 8 — Mike Tyson may be out of the ring these days, and less you forget that he did have a brief one-man-show run on Broadway, he was a good sport centerstage as NPH made him prance and dance (neither of which he can do well, but he was willing) in production numbers, and was the butt of ongoing jokes that included a reference to his facial tattoo. Show biz has become Tyson’s latest wrinkle; remember, he was part of the fraternity in original “The Hangover.”
No. 9 — It was a smart move, to employ casts of shows still running on Broadway, to participate in set-ups for nominees. Thus, the gangs from “Newsies,” “Spider-man,” “Mamma Mia,” “Once,” “The Lion King” “Jersey Boys,” “Rock of Ages” and “The Phantom of the Opera” were highly visible, some even performing. But what happened to “The Book of Mormon”?
No. 10 — Broadway has happily and generously recognized the black community of actors. Several picked up Tonys in a sweep of sorts. To wit: Cicely Tyson is playing a role earlier enacted by Geraldine Paige, in “A Trip to Bountiful.” Patina Miller, in “Pippin,” is portraying The Leadying Player, a role previously played by a man (a winner, in fact, in Ben Vereen).
And Billy Porter (in “Kinky Boots”) and Courtney B. Vance (in “Lucky Guy”) solidified the conquests among black performers. Perhaps this development will bring shout-outs from the Hispanic and Asian communities, which didn’t get much leverage this past season.

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Review: Taiwan on — ‘Tomorrow’ tackles love from both sides

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June 8th, 2013



With the ‘50s Shirelles hit, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?,” as the title magnet, this Taiwan domestic comedy/dramedy probes the angst of love and relationships, both traditional and gay. The song comes into play in a karaoke scene, but with the reference, one might expect a bit more parody than dramedy.
Nonetheless, this Arvin Cheng film — the closing night feature of the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival — looms as an audience favorite.
Here’s the thing: love and all its complexities are at the core of “Tomorrow,” and the tempo embraces both hetero and homosexual, in an Asian setting.

Below, Richie Jen as Weichung, in "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow."images

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Above, Jen as Weichung, Mavis Fan as Feng.

Thirtysomething siblings Mandy (Kimi Hsia) and Weichung (Richie Jen) face separate challenges and doubts of domesticity. Mandy is altar-bound with her bland but loyal Sen Sen (the single monickered Stone), but she suffers a meltdown in a department store and turns from manchaser to recluse. Weichung is seemingly happily married for nine years, but recently promoted in his job as an optician, he becomes totally stressed and unglued when his wife Feng (Mavis Fan) starts to talk about a second child; the missus doesn’t know that Weichung still harbors gay tendencies, and when he encounters a gay wedding photographer-photographer Stephen (Lawrence Ko), who has a traditional marriage but lives his life as a homosexual party animal, he fantasizes about a return to his alternative life. He’s an adorable figure, the opposite of glam, who’d be a plain-Joe face in the crowd.
With such dullness and duty in his mundane environs, Weichung’s urges are ignited when a seductive and suave flight attendant (Wong Ka Lok) visits the eyeglass store with more than specs on his mind. Guess the batteries of old are jump-started at a time when he’s hungry for change and adventure in his life.
Faced with these wrinkles and pimples in their daily routine, the sister and brother engage in unconventional behavior. She becomes closeted, watches soaps and slurps ramen bowls. He engages in afternoon delights with the flight attendant, in rented hotel rooms (how clichéd) but is spotted by his devoted and faithful wife on day, resulting in a wave of doubt and a swirl of suspicion on her part and widening the gap in their conflicted relationship. A second child, surely, is the last thing to an immediate solution.
Perhaps because of its light tone, the film occasionally dips into cartoon mode, with imagined episodes (Mandy fantasizes about a film hero, Weichung prances on a disco floor) momentarily becoming a soap opera. I don’t know the climate of Taiwanese culture — but the pace and the lifestyle seem to be relevant and acceptable for a story that mixes domestic and personal stumbleblocks with comedic and dramatic twists.
Overall, its merits are slight but it does provide a chuckle or two along the way.
As for the selection of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?,” why not? Got my attention. And yours.

“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”
When: 8 p.m. June 9
Where: Doris Duke Theatre, Honolulu Museum of Art
Tickets: www.hglcl.org.

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Review: ‘Anxiety’ minimalist only in its 15-min. running time

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June 8th, 2013



As part of the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, a number of cinematic shorts — a few minutes to 15 minutes — have been screened with feature-length films throughout the week’s exhibition.
One of the best — “Performing Anxiety” — is a clever and appealing mini-movie about two straight actors preparing to do a short film together, engaged in a pre-shoot rehearsal that elevate “shorts” to splendid storytelling.
With a brief round of nudity, along with smooching and hugging and, well, a certain amount of body contact, this 15-minute exercise involving three actors is the pinnacle of tight, taut storytelling.
Written and directed by Reid Waterer, the film’s premise is that it’s no easy task for folks who don’t know each other to immediately establish chemistry in doing scenes together. Much less wrap up a short movie, without practice and some trials and tribulations.
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Lawrence Nichols as Duke, Danny Lopes as Jacob, in "Performance Anxiety."

Here, Danny Lopes as Jacob and Lawrence Nichols as Duke are the actors committed to film a short including a sex scene wih Anthem Moss as the on-screen director.
Both screen dudes proclaim they’re not gay, and wrestle with awkward clinches and pecks on the cheeks, and lips. Yet they acknowledge ya gotta know each other to convincingly get the job done, and besides, they need the moolah.
So they practice. They devise scenarios (Italian guys doing the kiss-the-cheek thing, dad/son doing the bedtime kiss, Olympian winners celebrating victor with hugs, one surfer giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the other) and attempt to reach that comfort level.
Not working, since this is not the simplest of tasks.
Eventually, the practice leads to the completed project, played out in black-and-white, and lo and behold, the anxieties are convincingly replaced by dramatic and credible storytelling, complete with that big juicy gay smackeroo. The Jacob character gets into the mindset that doing the gay scene might help him better get into the skin of an old school chum who was gay, and admits kissing was easier since his partner was the Duke dude, a cutie and not ugly.
The premise, complete with candid interview responses directly into the camera, add up to a funny, touching, entertaining featurette.
Even with nudity, there's nothing embarrassing, nothing gross, nothing uncomfortable. Just a very savvy rendering of a how-to episode, its execution and production values (costumes, music, cinematory) elevated to main-feature prominence and splendid performances by all.
Thus, short doesn’t have to be inferior and less; in this case, short only refers to minimal running time, since “Performance Anxiety” is long in charm.

“Performance Anxiety”
When: Noon June 9
Where: R/D Interisland Terminal, 691 Auahi St. (new venue)
Tickets: www.hglcl.org

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Review: Gay surrogate dad with personal/familial issues in 'I Do'

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June 8th, 2013



Gay marriage and illegal green card practices are at the core of “I Do,” a domestic romance/comedy which also has crossroads into duty and family obligation.
The film was written by David W. Ross, who also plays the handsome British photog Jack Edwards, who now is living in Manhattan.
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David W. Ross as Jack in "I Do."
He’s smooth as a lensman and happy as a transplant, until his brother Peter (Grant Bowler) perishes in a puzzling car accident when he squats in the middle of the road, searching for his keys in the dark of night.
The bro’s girlfriend Mya (Alicia Witt) is pregnant, and they already have a kid which Jack has been helping support, so Jack feels obligated to become the surrogate dad.
Because he’s so caught up in his work, his work visa lapses and he’s in a desperate situation — for himself, certainly, but he clearly wants to assume the responsibilities of his brother.
With immigration breathing down his neck, and threatening him to return to England,
Jack marries his lesbian co-worker friend, Alison Federman (Jamie Lynn Sigler), amid doubt, confusion and guilt — but he’s desperate and a marriage would get him his desired green card.
But wait, there’s a complication; in the middle of his green card quest, a new love enters his life, Mano Alfraro (Maurice Compte), a dashing Spaniard architect.
This is an age-old theme, duplicated in a handful of earlier features and TV movies, and even the gay element doesn’t make this fresh.
Director Glenn Gaylor is thwarted by this predictable, sugary tale, where personal happiness and familial obligation unspool into a rather sappy melodrama. The competent cast has little to work with and surely, the audience will be able to figure out how this one will end.

“I Do”
When: 6 p.m. June 8
Where: Doris Duke Theatre, Honolulu Museum of Art
Tickets: www.hglcl.org

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