Friday, May 31, 2013

Will Smith Wags "Shark Tale" to Success

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 203 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Shark Tale (2004)
Running time: 90 minutes (1 hour, 30 minutes)
MPAA – PG for some mild language and crude humor
DIRECTORS: Bibo Bergeron, Vicky Jenson, and Rob Letterman
WRITERS: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift, Michael J. Wilson, and Rob Letterman
PRODUCERS: Bill Damaschke, Janet Healy, and Allison Lyon Segan
EDITORS: Nick Fletcher with Peter Lonsdale and John Venzon
COMPOSER: Hans Zimmer
Academy Award nominee


Starring: (voices) Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renée Zellweger, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black, Martin Scorsese, Ziggy Marley, Doug E. Doug, Michael Imperioli, Vincent Pastore, Peter Falk, Katie Couric, and Phil LaMarr

The subject of this movie review is Shark Tale, a 2004 computer-animated comedy film from DreamWorks Animation. Shark Tale stars Will Smith as a worker fish and Jack Black as a vegetarian shark who take advantage of a gangster shark’s death.

Oscar (voice of Will Smith) the fish lives in the low end of the reef. He works at a whale (think car) wash, but he’d like to be a rich, famous somebody. Lenny (Jack Black) is a vegetarian shark, but his father, Don Lino (Robert De Niro), a shark mob boss, wants him to be tough so that he can run the family business with his brother, Frankie (Michael Imperioli). Oscar and Lenny & Frankie have an accidental encounter that leaves Frankie dead. Through a series of unfortunate misunderstandings, Oscar gets credit for killing Frankie and becomes known as “the shark slayer.” Oscar befriends Lenny and the two help each other; Oscar gives Lenny a place to hide, and the shark helps the fish perpetuate the myth of Oscar being a shark slayer. However, all that wealth and fame make Oscar forget his roots, and he fails to see that his friend Angie (Renée Zellweger), has been there for him all along. And his troubles only get worse when Don Lino comes looking for the shark slayer, and Don Lino isn’t awed like everyone else at the reputation of the shark slayer.

I could never imagine Disney using African-American or Black subcultures as a stylistic basis for one of their animated films, but DreamWorks does just that with Shark Tale. The computer-animated tale uses lots of hip hop attitude and music and a little of its slang, mostly through the performance of actor Will Smith. The film isn’t hip hop heavy, but Shark Tale has enough hip hop-ness to be noticeable.

Hip hop aside, Shark Tale is a very entertaining film, mostly on the strength of Will Smith’s performance, and Smith seems to chose material that he has to save on the strength of his personality. Is that some kind of martyr complex? Shark Tale isn’t all that well directed or written. The film is well cast; even famed movie director Martin Scorsese surprises with a small but wiry voice over performance. However, Scorsese, like everyone except Will Smith, has little with which to work. The film, especially on the writing end, treats the cast like window dressing, but still, the supporting cast gives inspired performances as window dressing.

Shark Tale’s premise, both Oscar’s plot and Lenny’s subplot, are actually effective and intriguing; both however are glossed over. Oscar has some serious self-confidence issues, and Lenny is certainly…a fish out of water with his family. The script focuses on jokes over the substance of overcoming obstacles. Still, Shark Tale is very entertaining, and visually, it’s a vast improvement in the quality of the computer animation over other DreamWorks computer animated films.

So how does Shark Tale compare to the Oscar®-winning, Finding Nemo, which is also an undersea tale? Finding Nemo has more heart, and the screenwriters took time to delve into the character issues and the humanity of the players. Shark Tale creates obstacles for the characters and then sweeps everything under the rug, whereas Nemo saw the characters through heartaches all the way to victory. While it may come up short on that end, Shark Tale still deserves credit for what it does right. It lets a charming film personality and movie star do his thing, and boy, does Will Smith do his thang.

7 of 10

2005 Academy Awards, USA: 1 nomination: “Best Animated Feature Film of the Year” (Bill Damaschke)

2005 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “BAFTA Children's Award-Best Feature Film” (production team)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Shinsuke Sato at 2013 Japan Film Festival of San Francisco


Award Winning Director Of GANTZ, GANTZ II And SAND CHRONICLES Makes A Rare U.S. Personal Appearance For S.F. Bay Area’s First Dedicated Japanese Film Festival Taking Place At NEW PEOPLE Cinema

San Francisco, CA, May 29, 2013 – The 2013 J-POP Summit Festival, the popular yearly San Francisco summertime Japanese Pop Culture celebration, has announced director Shinsuke Sato as the first Guest of Honor for its inaugural Japan Film Festival of San Francisco (JFFSF), the first fully-dedicated annual Japanese film event for the S.F. Bay Area, taking place at the NEW PEOPLE Cinema beginning Saturday, July 27th through Sunday August 4th.

Director Shinsuke Sato will appear for the very special U.S. premiere of his latest film, Library Wars, on Friday, August 2nd at 7:00pm, and Saturday, August 3rd at 1:10pm. The film is a new live-action sci-fi adventure adapted from the bestselling novel and anime series originally written by Hiro Arikawa. In addition to introducing his new film, Sato will engage in an insightful Q&A session with audiences immediately following each theatrical screening.

The Japan Film Festival of San Francisco invites attendees to catch more than 15 films, representing a vivid cross-section of recent Japanese live-action as well as anime cinema, that will have their exclusive U.S. and/or San Francisco premiere at NEW PEOPLE Cinema. The Festival will also be a prominent feature of the 2013 J-POP Summit Festival, taking place across Japantown on Saturday and Sunday, July 27th and 28th. A complete schedule of films and advance ticket information is available on

Library Wars is set in the year 2019 in Japan, a new law is passed to crack down on free expression, which allows for the government to create an armed force to find and destroy objectionable printed material. Meanwhile, to oppose this oppressive crackdown, the Library Force is created. The Library Force includes instructor Atsushi Dojo (Junichi Okada) and Iku Kasahara (Nana Eikura), who work to protect the libraries. A fierce battle soon ensues between these two groups.

“It’s a tremendous honor to welcome director Shinsuke Sato as a very special Guest of Honor for our first annual Japan Film Festival of San Francisco,” says Manami Iiboshi, the Executive Director of Japan Film Festival of San Francisco. “His newest film, Library Wars, takes the battle for free speech in an action-packed new direction that shows his creativity and prowess as a filmmaker. We look forward to audiences having this rare opportunity to meet and interact with one of Japan’s most visionary directors at the kick-off of a unique new annual film festival celebrating the best of new Japanese cinema!”

Director Shinsuke Sato was born in 1970 in Hiroshima, Japan. In 1993, while attending Musashino Art University, he wrote the screenplay and directed the 16mm short film, Ryonai Genshuku, which won the 1994 Pia Film Festival Grand Prize. This success launched his career as a film and television drama screenwriter. In 2001, he made his major debut as a director with LOVE SONG. Sato followed this project with The Princess Blade, which was screened at numerous film festivals around the world and distributed in over 20 countries including the United States and United Kingdom. In 2003, the feature film was released in North America and received tremendous critical acclaim.

In the fall of 2007, Sato directed the film, Sand Chronicles, which was also based on a popular manga comic series and became a major Japanese office hit. In 2009, he collaborated with Production I.G. and Fuji Television on the full-length animated film, Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror, as a screenwriter and director. Oblivion Island was nominated for Best Animated Film at the 33rd Japan Academy Awards. At Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival 2010, the film was also awarded the Jury Prize – Special Mention for the Best Animated Feature Film, and at the 14th Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival, it won the Special Jury Prize in the feature films category. In 2010, Sato directed GANTZ and the sequel, GANTZ II: Perfect Answer, which were also based on hugely popular Japanese anime and manga series. Both films became box office hits. The films are distributed in the U.S. by NEW PEOPLE Entertainment.

NEW PEOPLE Cinema is a 143-seat cinema located in the underground floor of NEW PEOPLE in San Francisco. Equipped with a cutting-edge HD digital projection and THX®-certified sound system, NEW PEOPLE Cinema is home for local film festivals and entertaining events.

The J-POP SUMMIT FESTIVAL is an annual Japanese Pop Culture celebration that features live bands and artists from Japan, pop culture panel discussions, film premieres, fashion and DJ dance events, and celebrity appearances. The Festival is hosted by NEW PEOPLE in cooperation with the Japantown Merchants Association. In 2012, the two-day event attracted 65,000 attendees.

Additional information about the J-POP Summit Festival is available at

Animated Short Review: "Baby Buggy Bunny" is One of the Great Bugs Bunny Shorts (Happy B'day, Mel Blanc)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 163 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Baby Buggy Bunny (1954)
Running time: 7 minutes
DIRECTOR: Charles M. Jones
WRITER: Michael Maltese
PRODUCER: Edward Selzer
ANIMATORS: Ken Harris, Abe Levitow, Lloyd Vaughan, and Ben Washam
LAYOUT ARTIST: Ernest Nordli
COMPOSER: Milt Franklyn


Starring: (voice) Mel Blanc

The subject of this review is Baby Buggy Bunny, a 1954 animated short film directed by Chuck Jones and written by Michael Maltese. This animated film is part of the “Merrie Melodies” series of cartoon shorts from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film stars Bugs Bunny, as he takes on an orphaned baby who is definitely more than he seems.

In Baby Buggy Bunny, Baby-Faced Finster (aka Ant Hill Harry) (Mel Blanc) robs a bank, but his loot ends up in Bugs Bunny’s (Mel Blanc) home (the hole in the ground, rabbit hutch). Finster disguises himself as an orphaned baby, and perches himself on Bugs’ doorstep as an orphaned infant, left with a note by the missing mother in which she ask Bugs to care for Baby Finster. Bugs takes Finster in, but finds the baby quite ornery. Soon, Bugs figures out that Baby Finster is really Baby-Faced Finster, hot off a bank robbery, and Bugs is determined to see justice done.

Although there are so many Looney Tunes animated shorts that I could call a favorite, Baby Buggy Bunny stands out because the entire cartoon is top-notch – from the stylish character designs and quicksilver animation to the superb sketch comedy and gag writing. This is one of the Looney Tunes that is as much for adults (if not more so) as it is for children.

Classic Bugs Bunny cartoons usually set the rabbit up against worthy adversaries; in the case of Baby-Faced Finster, the short film has a nasty and sneaky creep who is as malevolent as he can be in Looney Tune cartoon. A good villain really kicks Bugs Bunny’s smarts and luck into high gear, and Finster certainly does that. Outside of cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny vs. Daffy Duck or Yosemite Sam, Baby Buggy Bunny is one of the better fight Tunes.

8 of 10

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review: "Nightbreed" Remains Unique (Happy B'day, Danny Elfman)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 91 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Nightbreed (1990)
Running time: 101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Clive Barker
WRITER: Clive Barker (based upon his novella Cabal)
PRODUCER: Gabriella Martinelli
EDITORS: Mark Goldblatt and Richard Marden
COMPOSER: Danny Elfman

FANTASY/HORROR with elements of drama and thriller

Starring: Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, David Cronenberg, Charles Haid, Hugh Quarshie, Hugh Ross, Doug Bradley, Catherine Chevalier, Malcolm Smith, Bob Sessions, Oliver Parker, Debora Weston, Nicholas Vince, Simon Bamford, and Kim Robertson

The subject of this movie review is Nightbreed, a 1990 fantasy and horror film from writer-director Clive Barker. The film is based on Barker’s 1988 novella, Cabal, which was originally published as hardback book along with some of Barker’s short stories. The film follows a young man wanted for murder who joins a tribe of monsters and outcasts, called the “Nightbreed,” that also hides from humanity.

Nightmares of a place called Midian haunt the dreams of Aaron Boone (Craig Sheffer). His dreams tell him that Midian is the place of monsters, but his therapist, Dr. Philip K. Decker (David Cronenberg), tells Boone these dreams are the byproduct of a guilty conscience. You see, Decker insists that Boone is a serial killer, but the truth of the matter is that Decker is the real killer. He’s pinning the crimes on Boone, his vulnerable patient. A chance encounter with a raving madman, however, gives Boone directions to Midian, somewhere in rural Canada. What Boone finds is that Midian is a large and peculiar graveyard, and below its graves live strange and wondrous creatures and monsters. One of them attacks and bites Boone.

Decker’s deception leads to Boone’s death, but he arises to find himself back in Midian’s underworld, the lair of the Nightbreed. Now, he must save his new family and his girlfriend Lori Winston (Anne Bobby) from Decker’s elaborate fraud and murderous intensity. Meanwhile, the local law has gathered a gun-toting, bloodthirsty mob, and they’re on a hunt for Nightbreed trophies.

Clive Barker has stated in the past that his 1990 film, Nightbreed, was meant to be “the Star Wars of monster movies,” but disagreements with the studio producing the film meant that Nightbreed was not released to theatres in the version Barker wanted movie audiences to see. Still, what is on the screen is stylish and distinctive, and Danny Elfman’s score creates the perfect harmony for this dreamlike fairy tale. Barker’s vision of supernatural creatures and human freaks of nature living in a secret underground world (beneath a cemetery), right under the noses of normal human society is attractive to anyone with a vivid imagination or who feels vastly different from the mainstream.

The special effects and make-up effects seem dated 17 years later (as of this writing), but this concept’s blend of human drama, dark fantasy, weird horror, and social commentary (prejudice and intolerance) is worth a look by the adventurous, inspired movie lover.

6 of 10

Monday, June 11, 2007

"The Great Gatsby" Crosses $100 Million Mark at Box Office

The Great Gatsby” Does Great Box Office, Hitting the $100 Million Mark

Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ film adaptation of the great American novel from the 1920s also roars overseas

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Baz Luhrmann’s lavish adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great American novel, The Great Gatsby, has crossed the $100 million mark at the domestic box office after only 14 days in release. In addition, the film opened at the top of the international box office, taking in $43 million in 49 territories and scoring the number one spot in the key markets of France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Russia and Taiwan. The international cumulative gross now stands at an estimated $64.4 million, with major markets such as Australia, Mexico, Brazil and Japan yet to open. The worldwide total box office now stands at an impressive $165.1 million and counting. The announcement was made today by Dan Fellman, President of Domestic Distribution, and Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, President of International Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures.

One of the most anticipated films of the year, “The Great Gatsby” has emerged as a worldwide counter-programming phenomenon in the highly competitive early summer corridor. Audiences have embraced the drama, the immersive 3D spectacle, and the eclectic music of the film, resulting in strong word of mouth and repeat viewings.

In making the announcement, Fellman stated, “Just as the book has been beloved by readers for generations, Baz Luhrmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ has already become a favorite of moviegoers. We all congratulate Baz and his amazing cast and crew on the success of the film, which will continue to enjoy the lucrative summer play time.”

Kwan Vandenberg said, “The strength of the international opening is a testament to Baz Luhrmann and everyone involved in the film. The movie’s spectacular Cannes launch truly set the stage for the summer of ‘Gatsby’ around the world.”

Sue Kroll, Warner Bros. Pictures President of Worldwide Marketing, noted, “We had the benefit of a wonderful collaboration with this extraordinary director and his cast and team. The film Baz put together, with its modern yet timeless feel, including its surprising musical mix, gave us all the elements we needed to create a pervasive and evocative marketing campaign that has resonated with audiences everywhere.”

From the uniquely imaginative mind of writer/producer/director Baz Luhrmann comes the new big screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. In his adaptation, the filmmaker combines his distinctive visual, sonic, and storytelling styles in 3 Dimensions, weaving a Jazz Age cocktail faithful to Fitzgerald’s text and relevant to now. Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the title role.

“The Great Gatsby” follows would-be writer Nick Carraway as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz, bootleg kings, and sky-rocketing stocks. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby, and across the bay from his cousin, Daisy, and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan. It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without of the world he inhabits, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and holds a mirror to our own modern times and struggles.

Academy Award® nominee DiCaprio (“Django Unchained,” “The Aviator”) plays Jay Gatsby, with Tobey Maguire starring as Nick Carraway; Oscar® nominee Carey Mulligan (“An Education”) and Joel Edgerton as Daisy and Tom Buchanan; Isla Fisher and Jason Clarke as Myrtle and George Wilson; and newcomer Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker. Indian film legend Amitabh Bachchan plays the role of Meyer Wolfshiem.

Oscar® nominee Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge!”) directed the film in 3D from a screenplay he co-wrote with frequent collaborator Craig Pearce, based on Fitzgerald’s novel. Luhrmann produced, along with Catherine Martin, Academy Award® winner Douglas Wick (“Gladiator”), Lucy Fisher and Catherine Knapman. The executive producers are Academy Award® winner Barrie M. Osborne (“The Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King”), Shawn “JAY Z” Carter, and Bruce Berman.

Two-time Academy Award®-winning production and costume designer Catherine Martin (“Moulin Rouge!”) designed the film, as well as produced. The director of photography is Simon Duggan, and the editors are Matt Villa, Jason Ballantine and Jonathan Redmond. The music is by Craig Armstrong, with Anton Monsted serving as executive music supervisor and co-producer.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, in association with A&E Television, a Bazmark/Red Wagon Entertainment Production, a Film by Baz Luhrmann, “The Great Gatsby.” The film is being distributed in RealD 3D, 3D and 2D by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures.

This film has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language.

Monday, May 27, 2013

"Blue is the Warmest Color" Wins 2013 Palme d'Or

by Lucy Troy

The 66th annual Cannes Film Festival was held in Cannes, France from May 15 to May 26, 2013. I’ve included a list of winners of the “In Competition” categories, the main competition in which films compete for the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or. I’ve included the winners from three other competitions: “Un Certain Regard,” “Cinefondation,” and the “Golden Camera.”

The “Grand Prix” is the second most prestigious prize given at Cannes, after the Palme d’Or. The competition known as “Un Certain Regard” is a part of Cannes that runs parallel to the competition for the Palme d’Or.

Steven Spielberg headed the jury for the main competition. Twenty films competed for the Palme d’Or. Jane Campion was the head of the jury for the Cinefondation and Short Film sections.

The lesbian romance and drama, Blue is the Warmest Color: The Life of Adele, won the Palme d’Or. Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1960s folk tale, Inside Llewyn Davis, took the second prize, the Grand Prix.

In an unusual move, the jury gave the Palme d’Or not just to Blue is the Warmest Color’s director, Abdellatif Kechiche, but also to the film’s two stars, Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux. Adele Exarchopoulos portrays a 15-year-old girl whose life is changed when she falls in love with an older woman, played by Lea Seydoux. The three-hour film caught headlines and gained notoriety for its lengthy, graphic sex scenes.

2013/66th Cannes Film Festival winners:


Palme d'Or:
LA VIE D'ADÈLE - CHAPITRE 1 & 2 (Blue is the Warmest Color: The Life of Adele) directed by Abdellatif Kechiche

Grand Prix:
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

Award for Best Director:
Amat Escalante for HELI

Award for Best Screenplay:
JIA Zhangke for TIAN ZHU DING (A Touch of Sin)

Award for Best Actress:
Bérénice Bejo in LE PASSÉ (THE PAST) directed by Asghar Farhadi

Award for Best Actor:
Bruce Dern in NEBRASKA directed by Alexander Payne

Jury Prize:
SOSHITE CHICHI NI NARU (Like Father, Like Son) directed by Kore-Eda Hirokazu

Vulcain Prize for an artist technician, awarded by the C.S.T.:
GRIGRIS directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun


Palme d'Or - Short Film:
SAFE directed by Byoung-Gon Moon

Short Film Special Distinction Ex-aequo:
• HVALFJORDUR (WHALE VALLEY) directed by Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson
• 37°4 S directed by Adriano Valeio


Prize of Un Certain Regard:
L'IMAGE MANQUANTE (The missing picture) directed by Rithy Panh

Jury Prize - Un Certain Regard:
OMAR directed by Hany Abu-Assad

Directing Prize of Un Certain Regard:
L'INCONNU DU LAC (Stranger by the Lake) directed by Alain Guiraudie

A Certain Talent Prize:
LA JAULA DE ORO played by Diego Quemada-Diez

Avenir Prize:
FRUITVALE STATION directed by Ryan Coogler


1st Prize Cinéfondation:
NEEDLE directed by Anahita Ghazvinizadeh

2nd Prize Cinéfondation:
EN ATTENDANT LE DÉGEL (Waiting for the Thaw) directed by Sarah Hirtt

3rd Prize Cinéfondation Ex-aequo:
• ÎN ACVARIU (IN THE FISHBOWL) directed by Tudor Cristian Jurgiu
• PANDY (PANDAS) directed by Matúš Vizár


Caméra d'or:
ILO ILO directed by Anthony Chen

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Richard M. Sherman and Alan Menken Will Perform Together at D23 2013

Disney Legends Richard M. Sherman and Alan Menken Join Forces for a Once-in-a-Lifetime Concert

The two Academy Award®-winning composers share the stage for one night only performing “The Disney Songbook” at the D23 Expo 2013, Saturday, August 10

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--For one night only, two of the world’s most celebrated songwriters and composers will take to the stage for “Richard M. Sherman and Alan Menken: The Disney Songbook.” The concert will take place at the D23 Expo 2013 at the Anaheim Convention Center in the D23 Expo Arena on Saturday, August 10.

Together Sherman and Menken have won a combined 10 Academy Awards for their work with Disney, and have composed music and songs for more than three dozen Disney feature films, over two dozen Disney Park attractions and half a dozen Disney musicals on Broadway.

“I can’t express how excited I am that my esteemed friend Alan Menken and I will be sharing the same bill for the very first time,” said Sherman. “Alan is an incredible talent, and I know we’re both thrilled to be performing for Disney’s most ardent fans—they’re the best and I can’t wait to be a part of what promises to be a very special night for all of us.”

“Richard Sherman and I share so many things; our cherished association with The Walt Disney Company, the blessing of having the opportunity to share our musical talents with 'children of all ages' and a genuine mutual admiration—but one thing we've never gotten to share is a concert stage,” said Menken. “This summer at the D23 Expo 2013, we will do just that. And I can't think of anyone I'd prefer to share that stage with. Richard, along with his brother Robert, wrote songs that filled my formative years with joy and fantasy. And, all these years later, I can say with complete honesty that there is no one I've met in our business who is more warm and generous than my friend and fellow songwriter, Richard Sherman.”

Admission to the concert will be on a first-come, first-served basis and is included in the price of a ticket to the D23 Expo. In addition to the 4,000-seat D23 Expo Arena, the concert will be simulcast into a 2,000-seat overflow theater inside the Convention Center.

Richard M. Sherman and his brother Robert B. Sherman composed some of the most beloved songs in the Disney canon. The Disney Legends won two Oscars® for their work on Mary Poppins, and during their decades–long association with Disney they wrote more than 200 songs for 27 films and two dozen television productions. They made unforgettable contributions to such Disney films as The Parent Trap, The Jungle Book, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and the entire Winnie the Pooh series, as well as the family classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. They also penned beloved songs for Disney Parks including the theme songs for Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, it’s a small world, and Carousel of Progress. Richard wrote the song “Make Way for Tomorrow Today” for the blockbuster film Iron Man 2, and is working on a new stage musical based on Walt Disney’s 1967 animated film classic The Jungle Book, premiering this June at the Goodman Theater in Chicago.

With eight Academy Awards, Alan Menken has received more Oscars than any living person. He has written songs and scores for some of the world’s most beloved films: Tangled (Oscar nominee), Enchanted (three Oscar nominations) The Little Mermaid (two Oscar wins), Beauty and the Beast (two Oscar wins), Aladdin (two Oscar wins), Pocahontas (two Oscar wins), Hercules (Oscar nominee), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Oscar nominee), Little Shop of Horrors (Oscar nominee), Home on the Range and Newsies. His song “Star Spangled Man,” was the patriotic anthem of the 2011 hit film Captain America: The First Avenger.

Menken’s Broadway successes include his 2012 Tony Award® for Newsies, plus The Little Mermaid (Tony Award nominee), Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors, and Sister Act (Tony Award nominee). His other stage productions include King David, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and his latest stage production Aladdin: The New Musical, opening next year. At Disney Parks, Menken added an exclusive ballad (“To Be Free”) to his song score for Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular at Disney California Adventure and penned “Compass of Your Heart,” the catchy theme song for the attraction Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage at Tokyo DisneySea.

Tickets for the D23 Expo are available at a discounted price for a limited time. Though June 15, tickets are $52 for a one-day adult admission and $42 for children 3–12. Tickets for members of D23: The Official Disney Fan Club are $45 for a one-day adult admission and $37 for children. Multi-day money-saving tickets are also available for both D23 Members and the general public, and D23 Members can save as much as $144 off the price of admission, based on the purchase of four three-day tickets at the D23 Member rate before June 15. For more information on tickets and the ticket pricing structure for members and general admission, visit

About D23 Expo 2013
The D23 Expo—The Ultimate Disney Fan Event—brings the entire world of Disney under one roof, providing attendees with unprecedented access to Disney films, television, and theme parks. For the latest D23 Expo 2013 news, visit To be part of the D23 Expo conversation, make sure to follow @DisneyD23 and tag your tweets with #D23Expo.

About D23
The name “D23” pays homage to the exciting journey that began in 1923 when Walt Disney opened his fledgling studio in Hollywood. D23 is the first official club for fans in Disney’s nearly 90-year history. D23 gives its members a greater connection to the entire world of Disney by placing them in the middle of the magic through its quarterly publication Disney twenty-three; a rich website at; member-exclusive discounts and special events for D23 Members throughout the year, highlighted by the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, August 9–11, 2013.

Fans can join D23 at and at To keep up with all the latest D23 news and events, follow us @DisneyD23 on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Review: "Better Luck Tomorrow" Showed the Promise of Justin Lin

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 167 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)
Running time: 101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence, drug use, language and sexuality
WRITERS: Ernesto Foronda, Fabian Marquez, and Justin Lin
PRODUCERS: Julie Asato, Ernesto Foronda, and Justin Lin
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Patrice Lucien Cochet
COMPOSERS: Michael Gonzales and Tobin Mori


Starring: Parry Shen, Jason T. Tobin, Karin Anna Cheung, Sung Kang, Roger Fan, John Cho, Ryan Cadiz, and Jerry Mathers

The script for Justin Lin’s film Better Luck Tomorrow attracted hip hop entertainer and current minister MC Hammer as a financial backer, and the finished film attracted MTV as a film distributor. Better Luck Tomorrow is the tale of over-achieving, but disenchanted Asian-American teens from middle class, upper middle class, and affluent backgrounds, and since early in the year, it’s gotten a lot of buzz as a cool indie flick. Predictably, however, the young male characters’ world-weariness leads to extreme violence, and isn’t that just so typical of indie films about young men.

Ben Manibag (Parry Shen) is an intelligent, bright boy with his eyes on getting into a really good college where he can study biology and perhaps later go to medical school. He’s so clean cut that he even does charity work at a hospital and heads a volunteer public clean up crew. He and his social group of upwardly mobile Asian-American teens have vague feelings of dissatisfaction. He and his buddies put their overachieving minds to the business of various criminal enterprises. They enjoy the power trip and attention their crimes bring as much if not more so than the cash they earn, but their immoral behavior soon has them stumbling into a plot that has deadly consequences.

As both editor and director, Justin Lin ably adds many filmmaking flourishes that keep his film riveting, kinetic, and mostly fun to watch. The script by Lin and his collaborators, however, isn’t very strong. The characters are cardboard cutouts, and they’re not helped by the actors’ lack of subtlety. The performers seem to have two settings – bored and (a few times) intense. Jason J. Tobin as Virgil Hu is the only actor who seems to get any mileage out of his character.

There is one thing that makes the film a bit of an oddity. It’s about Asian-Americans, and not (thankfully) about bored, spoiled rich white kids and the (tedious) dark underbelly of suburbia. A film about bored youths is almost always about young, white people. It’s as if young nonwhites don’t have lives, or at least don’t have interesting lives in this so called melting pot.

That novelty is actually not a bad thing. It actually makes the film more interesting and adds a lot to the visual flavor. It’s nice to see a film examine something from a new and different point of view. Lin deserves major credit for his willingness to bring this movie, Better Luck Tomorrow, to screen. Reservations aside, he looks, judging by the film, like he could be a very good director. Hopefully, he and his writing collaborators will also get better.

6 of 10

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Muse to Perform at Global Premiere of "World War Z"


Paramount Pictures has teamed up with Grammy Award-winning British band Muse to feature the band’s music in the new film “WORLD WAR Z.” The tracks are from Muse’s latest album The 2nd Law. Following the film’s world premiere in London’s Leicester Square on Sunday, June 2, Muse will perform live from Horse Guards Parade Ground, St. James’s Park. Tickets for the live performance will be available Tuesday, May 28 at 9:00 a.m. BST. For more information and for tickets, please visit

“WORLD WAR Z” revolves around an ex-United Nations investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop a pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself. Starring Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos and James Badge Dale.

Since forming in 1994, Muse has released six studio albums selling upwards of 15 million albums worldwide. The band earned its highest-ever debut on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart when “The 2nd Law” bowed at No. 2 a week after its October 2 release. Madness, the first single from the album, was No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart for 19 weeks, breaking the previous record set in 2007. The “2nd Law” and “Madness” received two Grammy Nominations this year. The group’s last album, The Resistance, reached No. 1 in 19 countries around the world, and they have won numerous awards including a Best Rock Album Grammy Award and an American Music Award for The Resistance.

“WORLD WAR Z” is directed by Marc Forster from a screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Drew Goddard & Damon Lindelof, and screen story by Matthew Michael Carnahan and J. Michael Straczynski. Based on the novel by Max Brooks. Produced by Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Ian Bryce.

“WORLD WAR Z” is in theaters June 21, 2013.

About Paramount Pictures Corporation
Paramount Pictures Corporation (PPC), a global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment, is a unit of Viacom (NASDAQ: VIA, VIAB), a leading content company with prominent and respected film, television and digital entertainment brands. Paramount controls a collection of some of the most powerful brands in filmed entertainment, including Paramount Pictures, Paramount Animation, Paramount Vantage, Paramount Classics, Insurge Pictures, MTV Films, and Nickelodeon Movies. PPC operations also include Paramount Home Media Distribution, Paramount Pictures International, Paramount Licensing Inc., and Paramount Studio Group.



Review: "Before Sunset" is an All-Time Great Romance

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 234 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Before Sunset (2004)
Running time: 80 minutes (1 hour, 20 minutes)
MPAA – R for language and sexual references
DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater
WRITERS: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, and Richard Linklater; from a story by Kim Krizan and Richard Linklater (based upon characters by Kim Krizan and Richard Linklater)
PRODUCERS: Anne Walker-McBay and Richard Linklater
EDITOR: Sandra Adair
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy

The subject of this movie review is Before Sunset, a 2004 romantic drama from director Richard Linklater. It is the sequel to the 1995 film, Before Sunrise. Set nine years after the first film, Before Sunset follows the young American man and young French woman who first met on a train and spent a night in Vienna as they reunite in Paris.

It’s been nine years since Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) first met in Vienna. Back then they promised to meet again in six months, but it didn’t happen. Now, Jessie is on the European leg of his book tour. He’s in Paris for a book signing session at a small (and intimate) book store when he spies Celine off to the side… and they pick up where they left off nine years ago.

It must seem nearly impossible that Before Sunset, Richard Linklater’s sequel to his romance classic, Before Sunrise, surpasses the original. Just as in the first film, the lead characters talk and talk and talk, but this time there is the baggage of nine years of disappointments between their meetings. Whereas, in Sunrise, the talk was existential and about hope and promise, this time every topic leads back to two questions for the characters: What if we had both kept our promise to meet again in Vienna?” and the unspoken question, “Are we supposed to be together.”

Sometimes, when we meet old and dear friends whom we haven’t seen for a long time, we find that we pick up with the relationship right where we left off. Linklater, Hawke, and Ms. Delpy take that phenomenon and turn it into art, art that lives and breathes. Before Sunset is a great romantic film and a great film period – a love idyll about ideal romance. Would that more films be about love rather than hate and make us invest ourselves in the outcome of romantic love. Plus, look out for that knock out surprise ending.

9 of 10

2005 Academy Awards, USA: 1 nomination: “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (Richard Linklater-screenplay/story, Julie Delpy-screenplay, Ethan Hawke-screenplay, and Kim Krizan-story)

Review: "Before Sunrise" a True Romance

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 233 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Before Sunrise (1995)
Running time: 105 min (1 hour, 45 minutes)
MPAA – R for some strong language
DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater
WRITERS: Kim Krizan and Richard Linklater
PRODUCER: Anne Walker-McBay
EDITORS: Sandra Adair and Sheri Galloway
COMPOSER: Fred Frith


Starring: Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy

The subject of this movie review is Before Sunrise, a 1995 romantic drama film from director Richard Linklater. The film follows a young American man and a young French woman who meet on a train and spend one night in the city of Vienna, walking, talking, and getting to know each other.

After he breaks up with his girlfriend in Spain, American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) takes a train tour of Europe. On the Budapest-Vienna train, he meets Celine (Julie Delpy), a French grad student. They strike up a conversation, and Jesse convinces her to skip her stop and get off the train with him in Vienna where he’s scheduled to take a flight back to American the following morning. They walk and talk and fall in love before Jesse leaves at sunrise, but will they ever meet again?

Before Sunrise is a true romantic film. It’s about two people falling in love, but director Richard Linklater’s film is such an unusual romance because he doesn’t sell the romance between Jesse and Celine using swelling orchestral music or beautiful cinematography of lush sunsets and sunrises. Instead, he forces the audience to accept or reject the believability of the couple’s growing friendship, fascination with each other, and eventual falling in love based upon how they talk to each other. And boy, do they talk. They talk about love, life, relationships, gender, men & women, politics, history, and they sometimes even make small talk.

Before Sunrise is an acquired taste, but if you can accept how unnaturally natural Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are in their performances, how they really seem to be getting to know each other (both as actors and characters), for real, then you’ll like this movie. This is one of those times when a film that is literally filled end to end with thick dialogue is actually as riveting as an action thriller. The ending seems a little too stretched out, but Before Sunrise is an exceptional and unique motion picture.

8 of 10

Friday, May 24, 2013

New "World War Z" Poster - May 23, 2013



The story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop a pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself.

Review: "Torque" is Fast, but Not Furious (or even good)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 87 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Torque (2004)
Running time: 84 minutes (1 hour, 24 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for violence, sexuality, language and drug references
DIRECTOR: Joseph Kahn
WRITER: Matt Johnson
PRODUCERS: Brad Luff and Neal H. Moritz
EDITORS: David Blackburn and Howard E. Smith
COMPOSER: Trevor Rabin


Starring: Martin Henderson, Ice Cube, Monet Mazur, Matt Schulze, Jay Hernandez, Max Beesley, Joe Doe, Will Yun Lee, Jaime Pressly, Adam Scott, Faizon Love, Justina Muchado, Christina Milian, and Fredro Starr

The subject of this movie review is Torque, a 2004 action movie from director Joseph Kahn. I think of this film as The Fast and the Furious on motorcycles; in fact, one of Torque’s producers, Neal H. Moritz, also produces The Fast and the Furious film franchise. Torque focuses on a motorcyclist who is first framed for murder by an old rival and then, pursued by the murder victim’s brother, the leader of a feared biker gang.

Biker Cary Ford (Martin Henderson) returns to Cali, after spending several months overseas. Not long after Cary returns, an old rival named Henry James (Matt Schulze) frames him for a murder Henry committed. However, Junior (Fredro Starr), the murder victim, is the brother of Trey (Ice Cube), a gang leader who buys the trumped up evidence that Cary killed Junior, and he wants Cary dead. Tie that into the fact that an FBI agent wants to arrest Cary as a drug dealer, and the film Torque has its conflict ducks lined in a row.

Twenty years ago, the Warner Bros. logo would not have appeared at the head of this film; instead the movie company logo that would have appeared in front of a film like Torque would have belonged to such outfits as Cannon Pictures or New World Pictures. I understand and whole-heartedly buy into the concept of popcorn pictures, but Torque is plain bad: bad directing, worse writing, piss poor dialogue, and charisma-less actors. Torque has the power to summon cringes galore, and it is unintentionally funny – not rare in Hollywood pictures, but painful when you’ve already lowered your expectations and are willing to accept even a mediocre movie if it’s mildly entertaining. Torque is not anywhere entertaining.

The last ten minutes, however, are a hoot, and the scene I call “joust of the bitches” is worth the cost of a discounted rental. “Star” Martin Henderson is the lowest of the low-rent Tom Cruise-look-alikes, but no one else in this film is better. Think thrice before you rent this dog.

1 of 10

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Spike Jonze's "Her" Due November 2013

Warner Bros. Pictures Slates Spike Jonze’s “Her” for November 20, 2013

Film to open in limited release in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--“Her,” the new modern-day love story from Oscar®-nominated filmmaker Spike Jonze (“Being John Malkovich”) and Annapurna Pictures, will open in limited release on November 20, 2013, it was announced today by Dan Fellman, President, Domestic Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures.

The film will be released initially in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto, with future cities and dates to be announced.

Written, directed and produced by Jonze, “Her” stars Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”), Amy Adams (“The Master”), Scarlett Johansson (“Hitchcock”), Rooney Mara (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), Chris Pratt (“Moneyball”) and Olivia Wilde (“People Like Us”).

In making the announcement, Fellman stated, “Spike Jonze is known as a filmmaker who breaks the mold, and ‘Her’ continues in that tradition. It’s a thought-provoking love story that speaks to the impact of ever-evolving technology on our personal lives. We love the film, and we are very excited to be able to share it with audiences on November 20th.”

Joining Jonze as producers on the film are Vincent Landay and Megan Ellison. Daniel Lupi and Ted Schipper will serve as executive producers, with Natalie Farrey and Chelsea Barnard as co-producers.

The behind-the-scenes creative team includes director of photography Hoyte Van Hoytema (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”), production designer KK Barrett (“Where the Wild Things Are”), costume designer Casey Storm (“Where the Wild Things Are”) and editors Eric Zumbrunnen (“Where the Wild Things Are”) and Jeff Buchanan (“Be Kind Rewind”).

An Annapurna Pictures Production, a Film by Spike Jonze, “Her” will be distributed domestically by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

Review: "The Hangover Part II" Not Quite the Same

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 36 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Hangover Part II (2011)
Running time: 102 minutes (1 hour, 42 minutes)
MPAA – R for pervasive language, strong sexual content including graphic nudity, drug use and brief violent images
DIRECTOR: Todd Phillips
WRITERS: Craig Mazin, Scot Armstrong, and Todd Phillips (based on characters created by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore)
PRODUCERS: Daniel Goldberg and Todd Phillips
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lawrence Sher (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Debra Neil-Fisher and Mike Sale
COMPOSER: Christophe Beck


Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Paul Giamatti, Mason Lee, Sasha Barrese, Jamie Chung, Jeffrey Tambor, Nirut Sirichanya, Bryan Callen, Mike Tyson, and Nick Cassavetes

The subject of this movie review is The Hangover Part II, a 2011 comedy from director Todd Phillips. The film is a sequel to the 2009 hit comedy, The Hangover. Most of the cast returns for this sequel, including Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Justin Bartha, the characters the comprise “the Wolfpack.” In The Hangover Part II, another pre-wedding get-together turns bad, this time in Thailand.

The Hangover Part II opens two years after the Wolfpack’s escapade in Las Vegas, Nevada. Now, dentist Dr. Stuart “Stu” Price (Ed Helms) is getting married, but the nuptials are in Thailand, the home of Stu’s bride-to-be, Lauren (Jamie Chung). Stu invites Phil Wenneck (Bradley Cooper), Doug Billings (Justin Bartha), and reluctantly, Alan Garner (Zach Galifianakis) to attend the wedding.

In addition to the usual pre-wedding jitters, there is some other tension. Lauren’s father, Fohn Srisai (Nirut Sirichanya), hates Stu, and Alan does not like that Teddy (Mason Lee), Lauren’s little brother, is tagging along with the Wolfpack. Stu, Phil, Doug, Alan, and Teddy decide to spend one night around a campfire on the beach, drinking beers and roasting marshmallows. The following morning, Stu, Phil, and Alan wake up in a dirty hotel room in Bangkok. They can’t remember what happened after the campfire, and someone is missing again.

The Hangover Part II is not The Hangover. For one thing, the sequel lacks the element of surprise that made the first film such a delight. The Hangover practically came out of nowhere and caught audiences unaware, with its twists and turns that made Las Vegas seems like a wonderland of playful raunchiness and good-humored naughtiness. In spite of all the R-rated fun, The Hangover was joyful, and the danger was less about jeopardy and more about merriment.

I can’t say that The Hangover Part II is darker than the first film, because The Hangover wasn’t a film with a dark mood or even dark undertones. The Hangover Part II is just plain dark. It is raunchier, as if to say “Bangkok don’t play!” I also wouldn’t say that the story is especially cruel to the characters, but the screenplay does seem to be putting Phil, Stu, and Alan through their paces. It is as if fate doesn’t really care one way or the other about them. Whatever made Las Vegas a special, but safe playground for the Wolfpack isn’t a privilege the friends will get everywhere they go. Sometimes, in some city, one of the Wolfpack will get f***** up the a**, and it won’t be any bigger a deal than getting a bad tattoo after getting pissy drunk.

However, The Hangover Part II is funny, not as funny as the original, but funny in its own foul and revolting way. It is a sequel, but it is also basically a remake of the first movie, set in a new “sin city,” with some changes in circumstances, and a few new supporting characters.

Four years ago, I wrote that the fun in The Hangover was in getting the surprises. The fun in The Hangover Part II is being surprised that you are more amused than you are disgusted by the Wolfpack’s one night in Bangkok.

6 of 10

2012 Razzie Awards: 2 nominations: “Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel” (Both a Remake and a Sequel) and “Worst Supporting Actor” (Ken Jeong, also for Transformers: Dark of the Moon-2011, Zookeeper-2011, and Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son-2011)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Announcing First Annual Japan Film Festival of San Francisco


Exclusive Premieres Include Dreams For Sale, Himuzu, Lesson Of The Evil, Library Wars, Platinum Data, Space Battleship Yamato And More At First-Ever NorCal/Bay Area Dedicated Japanese Film Celebration; Festival Will Welcome Library Wars Director Shinsuke Sato As Guest of Honor

The 2013 J-POP Summit Festival, the popular yearly San Francisco summertime Japanese Pop Culture celebration, has announced the launch of the Japan Film Festival of San Francisco, the first fully-dedicated annual Japanese film event for Northern California and the S.F. Bay Area.

The week-long Japan Film Festival of San Francisco will take place at the NEW PEOPLE Cinema beginning Saturday, July 27th through Sunday August 4th. The festival will also be a prominent feature of the 2013 J-POP Summit Festival, taking place across Japantown on Saturday and Sunday, July 27th and 28th. A complete schedule and advance ticket information is available on

Tickets are $13.00 per film unless otherwise indicated. NEW PEOPLE Cinema is located at 1746 Post St. (cross street is Webster St.) in the heart of San Francisco’s Japantown.

Nine live-action films representing a vivid cross-section of the best in recent Japanese cinema will have their exclusive U.S. and/or San Francisco premiere at NEW PEOPLE. The Japan Film Festival of San Francisco will complement this press release in coming days with a subsequent announcement detailing an exciting slate of anime feature films also set to receive their U.S. and/or San Francisco premieres.

Live-action films include director Miwa Nishikawa’s Dreams for Sale, Sakuran director Mika Ninagawa's Helter Skelter, Sion Sono's award-winning masterpiece, Himizu, architect/author Kyohei Sakaguchi’s documentary, How To Build a Mobile House, director Takashi Miike’s Lesson of The Evil, director Shinsuke Sato’s Library Wars, actor Kazunari Ninomiya’s Platinum Data, the samurai adventure of Rurouni Kenshin, and Space Battleship Yamato, based on one of Japan’s greatest anime properties (known in the U.S. as Star Blazers) and a must-see for any sci-fi aficionado. Films will be presented with their original Japanese dialogue with English subtitles.

The Japan Film Festival of San Francisco is also honored to welcome Director Shinsuke Sato, who is also known for his 2011 blockbuster, GANTZ, for a special in-person appearance for the exclusive U.S. premiere of his newest film, Library Wars. Sato will participate in a special Q&A session with the NEW PEOPLE Cinema audience and also appear as a Guest of Honor during the 2013 J-POP Summit Festival.

The Japan Film Festival of San Francisco is presented in conjunction with the 2013 J-POP Summit, taking place Saturday July 27th and Sunday July 28th across the city’s historic Japantown district to celebrate the phenomenon of Japanese pop culture with a colorful array of live bands and artists, panel discussions, film premieres, edgy fashion shows and DJ dance events, celebrity appearances and more. The J-POP Summit Festival is hosted and organized by NEW PEOPLE in cooperation with the Japantown Merchants Association. In 2012, the two-day event attracted nearly 65,000 attendees. More information is available at

Japan Film Festival of San Francisco Live-Action Program:

Saturday, July 27th, 7:00pm

Written and directed by Miwa Nishikawa, who’s SWAY and Dear Doctor were screened at numerous film festivals around the world, Dreams for Sale is a richly evocative drama about a couple that lose everything in a fire and attempt to make a fresh start by swindling others. Wife Satoko (Takako Matsu) and her husband Kanya (Sadawo Abe) run a small eatery in a corner of Tokyo, but on the 5th anniversary of its opening, a fire erupts in the kitchen and burns the place to a cinder. In desperate need of cash, Satoko and Kanya embark on a hilarious and heartwarming marriage scam in an attempt to put their lives back on track.

Saturday, August 3rd, 4:20pm

Sakuran director Mika Ninagawa's live-action adaptation of the eponymous shojo manga by Kyoko Okazaki utilizes brilliantly colored visuals to depict the descent of an outwardly perfect but inwardly unstable star that reigns over the entertainment world. Top model Liliko (Erika Sawajiri) captivates the public with her beauty that is the envy of all who look upon her. However, her appearance has been entirely engineered through plastic surgery. Complications arise from the numerous operations and begin to eat away at Liliko both physically and psychologically, sending her into a downward spiral.

Sunday, August 4th, 1:10pm

Sion Sono's award-winning masterpiece is based on Minoru Furuya's manga "Himizu,” named for a species of a Japanese mole. Set after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, all 14-year-old Yuichi Sumida (Shota Sometani) wants is to live a decent life. But his environment keeps dragging him into the mud. Keiko Chazawa (Fumi Nikaido), a classmate of Yuichi, harbors a severe crush on him and sticks around despite being berated by him. One day, the yakuza comes by Yuichi's home and tells him to pay off his father's debt. Yuichi already heartbroken by his mother's abandonment and abuse from his father nears a tipping point. A string of incidents occurs that brings Yuichi's world to a screeching halt. Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Saturday, July 27th, 1:30pm

With the appearance of the famous "Zero Yen" architect, Kyohei Sakaguchi, the documentary, How to Build a Mobile House, makes its U.S. premiere in his favorite city, San Francisco! Screening attendees will also be invited to his free workshop to build a Mobile Green House with him during the J-POP Summit Festival. Kyohei's numerous books include "Tokyo Zero Yen House, Zero Yen Life,” inspired by the exuberant creativity of street dwellers. This documentary delves into the roots of dwelling, and living, through the unique activities of this architect who "does not build." Sakaguchi, who devised a nest-like abode that fits the size of the human body, apprentices himself to a Tama River Robinson Crusoe who actually lives on a riverbed. The film depicts the completion of a mobile house for only $260.00 in materials.

Saturday, July 27th, 4:20pm & Tuesday, July 30th, 7:00pm

Directed by Takashi Miike, Lesson of the Evil is a twisted psycho thriller based on a bestseller novel by Yusuke Kishi. Hasumi is a popular teacher among students at Shinko Academy, a private high school, and well respected by the faculty and the PTA. However, a student named Reika feels something menacing lurking beneath his shining reputation. While Hasumi brilliantly solves one problem after another, from a teacher-student sexual harassment to group cheating to bulling, he starts to take control of the school. As the problems go away, Reika becomes uneasy about the way they are solved. Tsurii, an unpopular teacher in the school, despises the popular Hasumi and starts investigating Hasumi's past and discovers that Hasumi is a real psycho.

Friday, August 2nd, 7:00pm & Saturday, August 3rd, 1:10pm
** Featuring special in-person appearance by Director Shinsuke Sato

Library Wars is based on the bestselling novel and manga series by Hiro Arikawa. Set in the year 2019 in Japan, a new law is passed to crack down on free expression, which allows for the government to create an armed force to find and destroy objectionable printed material. Meanwhile, to oppose this oppressive crackdown, the Library Force is created. The Library Force includes instructor Atsushi Dojo (Junichi Okada) and Iku Kasahara (Nana Eikura), who work to protect the libraries. A fierce battle soon ensues between these two groups.

Thursday, August 1st, 7:00pm & Saturday, August 3rd, 7:00pm

J-Pop artist Kazunari Ninomiya (Gantz, Oscar –nominated for Letters from Iwo Jima), stars in Platinum Data, the biggest film to be released n Japan in 2013 and directed by Keishi Ohtomo (Rurouni Kenshin). Ryuheo Kagura (Kazunari Ninomiya) is an exceptional scientist working at the National Police Agency's Special Analysis Research Institute. After solving series of complex criminal cases, he is assigned to investigate the murders of several people connected to the newly developed DNA forensics. Yet, when the faint trace of evidence left at the scene is analyzed through the DNA forensic system, it identifies himself as the offender. With no such memory, he decides to flee and the pursuer becomes the pursued. Is Kagura guilty or innocent? Should he trust in science, or in himself? Does he represent hope for humanity or despair? Platinum Data holds the key…

Sunday, July 28th, 6:30pm & Thursday, August 1st, 4:00pm

A new live-action film adaptation of creator Nobuhiro Watsuki 's samurai manga that has sold over 57 million copies, been translated in 23 countries, and also inspired a popular animated series. Rurouni Kenshin follows the adventures of a slight and mild-mannered young man who was once an assassin working for anti-Shogunate forces but vows to abandon killing following Meiji revolution in Japan, and devotes his sword-wielding talents to helping others.

Sunday, August 4th, 3:20pm

A stunning live-action adaptation of the famed space opera originally created by Leiji Matsumoto that laid the foundation for the entire Japanese science fiction anime genre. A brave young crew journeys into space on a fateful trip to save the human race as it teeters on the brink of extinction. Five years have passed since the alien Gamilas first began assaulting Earth with radiation bombs in 2194. Most of the human race is now gone. Susumu Kodai (Takuya Kimura) joins other survivors of the Earth Defense Force in the mighty Space Battleship Yamato in search of a device that can restore the devastated planet. Although director Takashi Yamazaki first gained prominence with his heartwarming film, Always: Sunset on Third Street, his background is in science fiction and his talents for VFX shine in this acclaimed film based on one of Japan’s greatest sci-fi properties.

NEW PEOPLE Cinema is a 143-seat cinema located in the underground floor of NEW PEOPLE in San Francisco. Equipped with a cutting-edge HD digital projection and THX®-certified sound system, NEW PEOPLE Cinema is home for local film festivals and entertaining events.

The J-POP SUMMIT FESTIVAL is an annual Japanese Pop Culture celebration that features live bands and artists from Japan, pop culture panel discussions, film premieres, fashion and DJ dance events, and celebrity appearances. The Festival is hosted by NEW PEOPLE in cooperation with the Japantown Merchants Association. In 2012, the two-day event attracted 65,000 attendees. More information about the J-POP Summit Festival is available at

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review: "My Neighbor Totoro" is Pure Magic

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 35 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Tonari no Totoro – original title
Running time: 88 minutes (1 hour, 28 minutes)
PRODUCERS: Toru Hara with Ned Lott (2005 Disney version)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mark Henley (Disney version)
EDITOR: Takeshi Seyama
COMPOSER: Joe Hisaishi


Starring: (voices) Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, Tim Daly, Lea Salonga, Frank Welker, Pat Carroll, and Paul Butcher; (original Japanese): Noriko Hidaka, Chika Sakamoto, Shigesato Itoi, Sumi Shimamoto, Hitoshi Takagi, Tanie Kitabayashi, Toshiyuki Amagasa, and Naoki Tatsuta

The subject of this movie review is My Neighbor Totoro, a 1988 Japanese animated fantasy film from writer-director, Hayao Miyazaki, and produced by Studio Ghibli. Originally titled, Tonari no Totoro, the film focuses on two sisters who move to the country where they encounter the forest spirits who live nearby.

My Neighbor Totoro was released in English in the United States beginning in 1990s. After acquiring the rights, Walt Disney Pictures released their English dub of the film in 2005, featuring the voices of Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, Tim Daly, and Lea Salonga. The subject of this review is the Disney version of My Neighbor Totoro, which has just been released on Blu-ray for the first time (as of this writing).

My Neighbor Totoro opens in Japan, 1958. Professor Tatsuo Kusakabe (Tim Daly) and his daughters, the elder Satsuki (Dakota Fanning) and four-year-old Mei (Elle Fanning), move into an old house in Matsugo. There, Kusakabe will be closer to his wife and his daughters’ mother, Yasuko (Lea Salonga), who is recovering from a long-term illness.

Not long after moving into their new home, the girls soon encounter small, dark, dust-like spirits called soot gremlins (or soot sprites), moving from light to dark places in the house. That’s just the sisters’ first encounter with the fantastic. One day, Mei spies a small magical creature and follows it to a large camphor tree near the old house, where she enters a world of magic and adventure. That leads to both Satsuki and Mei discovering a wondrous creature they call “Totoro” (Frank Welker).

In 1989, the release of Walt Disney’s animated musical film, Little Mermaid, was (and still is) seen as a renaissance for Disney animated feature films. A year before that, Japanese animation (or “anime”) did not need a renaissance thanks to films like Studio Ghibli’s 1988 release, My Neighbor Totoro.

As with other Miyazaki films, My Neighbor Totoro looks like it was lovingly crafted by the hands of human artists and animators. They drew and painted until they created a beautiful animated film that really has the illusion of life. Like many films from Studio Ghibli, My Neighbor Totoro loves people and nature equally. Thus, the film is about the Kusakabe sisters exploring nature and the magic found within it, rather than being about a conflict with nature and the girls being threatened by the magic they find there.

The Matsuga countryside, as depicted by this film’s artists, is a pastoral ideal, with verdant forests and fields. There is so much fertility and the water is so crystal clear and cool-seeming that you might believe that magic could not help but exist here. In fact, a sense of wonder about nature and their resourceful imaginations are what help the Kusakabe girls discover magic in a strong breeze or in the music they hear at night.

My Neighbor Totoro is blessed with a few truly great characters. Satsuki and Mei are remarkably convincing as little girls. It is said that there is magic in a child’s laughter and heartbreak in a child’s cries. Dakota Fanning as Satsuki and her sister, Elle Fanning, as Mei personify that by giving life-like performances. I believed in the Kusakabe girls because everything about them – their actions, conversations, desires, etc. – ring with authenticity – thanks to the Fanning sisters.

Of course, the film’s signature character is Totoro, one of the finest characters ever to appear in an animated film. He is a force of nature, doing more by communicating through growls, roars, and facial expressions than many actors do even with dialogue composed by the best writers. He’s pure enchantment; you can’t take your eyes off Totoro. After seeing Totoro when he first appears in the film, I felt that I never saw enough of him afterwards. Then, there is Catbus – that crazy mind-bending Catbus. The first time I saw him in this movie, I felt something that I only experience while watching the best of the best movies, something I can’t put into words.

I have previously seen four films by Hayao Miyazaki, including the superb Spirited Away. I think My Neighbor Totoro is the one that has wowed me the most… so far.

10 of 10

Monday, May 20, 2013

Chinese Actress Li Bingbing Joins "Transformers 4"


Michael Bay and Paramount Pictures jointly announced that Chinese actress Li Bingbing (Resident Evil: Retribution) has been cast in the eagerly awaited “TRANSFORMERS 4.” The actress joins Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Jack Reynor, Nicola Peltz and Sophia Myles in the fourth installment in the hit series of movies based on the best-selling Hasbro toyline. Paramount Pictures will release the film on June 27th, 2014.

“I am excited to have Li Bingbing join our cast and to be shooting portions of the movie in her native China. I have always aspired to work with the best actors and this cast is especially exciting now with the addition of Li,” said Michael Bay.

Li’s recent hits in China include the Tsui Hark-directed “Detective Dee And The Mystery Of The Phantom Flame” and “1911.” She has already begun to cross over into American films, most recently co-starring in the Paul W.S. Anderson-directed “Resident Evil: Retribution,” and before that “Snow Flower And The Secret Fan” and “Forbidden Kingdom.” She was recently named Variety's "Asian Star of the Year" which was celebrated in Los Angeles last month.

“I am thrilled to get to work with Michael Bay. ‘Transformers’ has influenced generations in China and the movie franchise has a massive fan base. I am very happy to be able to join this international production. Thank you Paramount for the invitation! Looking forward to it!” said Li Bingbing.

Paramount, China Movie Channel and Jiaflix Enterprises announced this past April a Cooperation Agreement regarding the production of “Transformers 4” in China. Under the agreement, China Movie Channel, under the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT), will cooperate with Paramount in broad-based support of the production of the film in China. “Transformers 4” is expected to be released in China on or about June 27, 2014. The parties also intend to cooperate in a number of other areas related to “Transformers 4,” including the selection of filming sites within China, theatrical promotion, and possible post-production activities in China as well as casting of Chinese actors and actresses in the film.

This agreement represents the first time that China Movie Channel will work with a western studio in the production of a major motion picture.

“We are delighted to see Ms. Li Bingbing being selected for a major role in ‘Transformers 4,’ a very successful global film franchise,” said Yan Xiaoming, Chairman of China Movie Channel. “Ms. Li is an excellent and famous Chinese actress with many fans in China. She has had many successful projects with China Movie Channel and in the past. We wish her every success in ‘Transformers 4’ and with the worldwide audience that will enjoy her great talent.”

Said Sid Ganis, Chairman of Jiaflix, “Li Bingbing is an enormously talented Chinese artist who is fast becoming a worldwide movie star and is a great addition to a stellar cast.”

Shooting this summer in multiple locations in the U.S. and China, the film is directed by Bay and re-unites the filmmaking team from the hit franchise, including producers Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Don Murphy & Tom DeSanto and Ian Bryce; and executive producers Steven Spielberg, Bay, Brian Goldner and Mark Vahradian. “TRANSFORMERS 4” is written by Ehren Kruger, based on Hasbro’s Transformers™ Action Figures.

The third, and most recent installment of the franchise, “TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON,” is the fifth highest global grossing film of all time with $1.124 billion dollars of worldwide box office success. The “TRANSFORMERS” movies are among the most popular films ever released in China, and Michael Bay is among the most popular directors with Chinese audiences. “TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON,” released theatrically in 2011, grossed $165 million in China and more than $1.1 billion worldwide.

About Paramount Pictures Corporation:
Paramount Pictures Corporation (PPC), a global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment, is a unit of Viacom (NASDAQ: VIA, VIAB), a leading content company with prominent and respected film, television and digital entertainment brands. Paramount controls a collection of some of the most powerful brands in filmed entertainment, including Paramount Pictures, Paramount Animation, Paramount Vantage, Paramount Classics, Insurge Pictures, MTV Films, and Nickelodeon Movies. PPC operations also include Paramount Home Media Distribution, Paramount Pictures International, Paramount Licensing Inc., and Paramount Studio Group.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: "The Philadelphia Story" Remains Great American Cinema (Happy, B'day, Jimmy Stewart)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 104 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Philadelphia Story (1940) – B&W
Running time: 112 minutes (1 hour, 52 minutes)
DIRECTOR: George Cukor
WRITER: Donald Ogden Stewart (based upon the play by Philip Barry)
PRODUCER: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Joseph Ruttenberg (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Frank Sullivan
COMPOSER: Franz Waxman
Academy Award winner


Starring: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young, John Halliday, Mary Nash, Virginia Weidler, and Henry Daniell

The subject of this movie review is The Philadelphia Story, a 1940 romantic comedy from director George Cukor. The film is an adaptation of the 1939 Broadway comic play, The Philadelphia Story, written by Philip Barry. The film’s screenplay was written by Donald Ogden Stewart and Waldo Salt, although Salt did not receive credit. Starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, the movie focuses on a rich woman whose wedding plans get complicated when her ex-husband and a tabloid reporter show up. Jimmy Stewart won his only Oscar for his performance in this film.

Socialite Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) prepares to marry again, but this time to, George Kittredge (John Howard), a politician who is not in her social class. Her ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), has other ideas and plans on crashing the wedding. He invites himself to the Lord’s family estate in north Philadelphia, bringing along tabloid reporter, Macaulay Connor (James Stewart, who won his first Oscar for this role), and Macaulay’s photographer, Elizabeth “Liz” Imbrie (Ruth Hussey), both of whom are hoping to get the goods on the social event of the year. It is a news story their boss, Sidney Kidd (Henry Daniell), plans to call “The Philadelphia Story.” However, Haven’s machinations have some expected and not-at-all expected results.

Many movie fans and film critics consider The Philadelphia Story to be one of the most exhilarating screwball romantic comedies ever. Much credit goes to the incomparable romantic triangle of Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart (although Hepburn had originally hoped to play alongside Clark Gable and Spencer Tracey). Philip Barry, who wrote the play upon which this film is based, also modeled his original Tracy Lord on Hepburn, so everything worked well from the standpoint of Hepburn’s character. Grant and Stewart were also great movie actors who mastered dialogue; fully capable of being witty (especially Grant) and verbose, necessities as the film is dialogue heavy.

The witty dialogue isn’t just for show. It establishes much of the film’s plot, as well as its setting, characters, and its principles and philosophy of relationships – a credit to screenwriter, Donald Ogden Stewart (and Waldo Salt who worked on the script but did not receive a screen credit). The viewer could get a buzz or a high just from listening to all that snappy batter and all those sharp comebacks and clever asides. This is one time “all that talk, talk” is just wonderful to hear, and it’s fun to watch how easily the star trio does it.

However, the trio doesn’t work alone. There are a number of excellent supporting performances. Ruth Hussey earned an Oscar nomination as Macaulay’s droll reporter sidekick, who gives the film’s heady dialogue some even-headedness. Mary Nash and Virginia Weidler provide some straight comic relief as Tracy’s mother Margaret and sister Dinah, respectively. John Halliday as Tracy’s father, Seth Lord, and Roland Young as Uncle Willie are the elder statesmen bringing wisdom to the young lovers and rivals.

Finally, George Cukor, known as Hollywood’s ace director of actresses, and a frequent director of Hepburn films (Little Women, Adam’s Rib), brings it all together so that the dialogue rarely seems forced, the acting phony, or the film too staged (which often happens to films based on plays). His guiding hands make The Philadelphia Story indeed one of the great romantic and screwball comedies in film history.

9 of 10

1941 Academy Awards: 2 wins: “Best Actor in a Leading Role” (James Stewart) and “Best Writing, Screenplay” (Donald Ogden Stewart); 4 nominations: “Best Picture” (Joseph L. Mankiewicz; M-G-M), “Best Actress in a Leading Role” (Katharine Hepburn), “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Ruth Hussey), and “Best Director” (George Cukor)

1995 National Film Preservation Board, USA: National Film Registry

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Review: "The Matrix Reloaded" a Bold Vision

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 74 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
Running time: 138 minutes (2 hours, 18 minutes)
MPAA – R for sci-fi violence and some sexuality
WRITERS/DIRECTORS: Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski
PRODUCER: Joel Silver
EDITOR: Zach Staenberg


Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Harold Perrineau, Jr., Adrian Rayment, Neil Rayment, Gloria Foster, Roy Jones, Jr., Randall Duk Kim, Monica Bellucci, Nona M. Gaye, Helmut Bakaitis, Sing Ngai, Harry Lennix and Anthony Zerbe

The subject of this movie review is The Matrix Reloaded, a 2003 American and Australian science fiction action film from The Wachowski Brothers. It is the sequel to the Oscar-winning, The Matrix (1999). In the film, Neo and the rebel leaders race to stop an army of Sentinels from destroying the human sanctuary, Zion, while Neo’s dreams suggest that Trinity will suffer a dark fate.

I liked The Matrix Reloaded so much that I’d like to bow down at the feet of Andy and Larry Wachowski, the creators/writers/directors behind this brilliant science fiction/action cum philosophical film. This must be the most thoughtful, inventive, and entertaining science fiction film since 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s amazing what the brothers did when their studios gave them a bigger budget, and when technology gave them the ability to add even greater mind-bending effects than what they had in the first film, The Matrix. Every time George Lucas got more money and improved technology, he only managed to either make a mediocre film or to actually take away from the wonder of the original Star Wars.

Neo (Keanu Reeves) and his compatriots: mentor Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), lover Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and new crew mate Link (Harold Perrineau, Jr.) have 72 hours to save the day before 250,000 sentinel probes that are digging through the earth to reach Zion. Neo is also trouble Trinity of whom he’s been having bad dreams. The heroes must find The Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim) who knows the way to the Mainframe of the Matrix, the place where Neo might be able to save mankind.

At one point while I was watching this film, I could appreciate the creativity and the urge of the filmmakers to push the boundaries of visual effects, but I found The Matrix Reloaded to be a drag. It seemed to lack the freshness and surprise of the original. I was finding The Matrix Reloaded fresh in its throw-everything-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks way. The film seemed to have an awkward rhythm: talk, philosophy, talk, speech, fight, talk, fight, action scene, more talk, etc. This was a story about humans fighting machines, and the entire movie reeked of being artificial, more the result of computer effort than human effort.

I was wrong: human ingenuity and spirit make this film, with the computer as the left hand that helps the human right hand. Suddenly, it all clicked for me, and the film made so much sense. The rest of the way was a breathtaking experience for me. I had to struggle to keep up with the film’s rapid-fire pace. The action is quite intense, and the story is packed with human pathos, intrigue, and mystery. The Wachowski’s really dig into the idea that the Matrix is an artificial intelligence, but an intelligence nonetheless, and it has personalities – multiple personalities with individual agendas.

Great directing, great effects, excellent rhythm, inspired acting – what more do I need to say? This is good. Morpheus is even more mystical and even more frightening. Neo is super cool and super bad, a superman who can unleash his special abilities at the drop of a hat. Trinity is still hot, but she has a purpose; she’s more than just a babe/appendage. She’s the shoulder upon which Neo leans. I was also really surprised by how much the film delves into ideas of and philosophy about freedom, control, and choice.

No kidding, this is great stuff. It does have some weak points. It drags at times before it really gets rolling. Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) is now as much comic relief as he is a cool villain, whereas he was an all-dangerous and lethal adversary in the first film. And the Twins (Adrian and Neil Rayment), with their blond dreadlocks are good, but they ain’t all that.

There have many good sci-fi films, and there have been some very good sci-fi films, including The Matrix. I don’t know how I’ll feel a year later about this sequel, but right now, I think The Matrix Reloaded is one of the truly great sci-fi films, and probably the best action movie ever made. Although The Matrix Reloaded ends in a cliffhanger, it stands on its own, just whetting your appetite for more. There are enough new revelations about the characters and about the Matrix to keep your head spinning until the next chapter.

9 of 10

2004 Black Reel Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Supporting Actress” (Gloria Foster)

2004 Razzie Awards: 1 nomination: “Worst Director” (Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski – also for The Matrix Revolutions-2003)