‘Jurassic World’ vs. ‘Aloha’

Jurassic World vs AlohaTWO big Hollywood films shot in Hawaii are at your multiplex this weekend. So which movie should you spend your hard-earned money on? Let’s look at the contenders.

While the trailer for “Aloha” gave me high hopes, this star-studded film has taken a beating by critics and activists. And that’s a shame. While the first half is a narrative mess, Cameron Crowe’s love for Hawaii is all over the screen. For all the bloggers complaining about “white-washing” before even seeing it, there’s plenty of Hawaiian involvement for a film centered on the military.

And while Crowe could have cast an Asian actor for Emma Stone’s “Allison Ng,” he based the character on a real person. I have many haole-looking friends who have Hawaiian or Japanese or whatever in them. If you’re from here, you know that a white-looking hapa isn’t so impossible. And right now, Jennifer Lawrence is the only actress in Hollywood who’s hotter than Stone. Crowe’s casting of her was a no-brainer. Like an esteemed local writer friend said, “If you don’t like the story, then write your own.”

Which leads us to “Jurassic World.” A friend invited me to the cast and crew screening on Wednesday. The film is what you’d expect: a big blockbuster popcorn movie built for the 10-year-old in all of us. But what many casual moviegoers don’t know is that these big Hollywood productions employ hundreds of local cast and crew – Hawaiian, Asian, haole and everything in between. While their faces may not be on the screen, they’re just as much a part of a film as Chris Pratt or Bradley Cooper. I felt it Wednesday night, when the entire audience stayed late and burst into applause when the “Hawaii crew” credits hit the screen. Box office boom or bust, these movies allow locals to do what they love. And for that, both these films deserve some aloha.

Okay, on to the fun stuff. So which movie should you see this weekend? Let’s compare:

JurassicvsAlohaHeaderJurassicAloha4
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And the winner of which movie…

Filmed in Hawaii…

That you should see this weekend…

Is…

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

NorthShore

Cheesy thrills, romantic fun, haoles and locals, all in one. My friend calls this the “Karate Kid” of surfing. Much aloha to the local cast and crew who made all these movies happen.

Q&A: Pig & the Lady gets in ‘Big Trouble’

Big Trouble In LIttle China PosterNext Wednesday’s Consolidated Theatres Hana Hou Picture Show promises to be one hell of a dinner and movie night with “Big Trouble in Little China” and a special “Pork Chop Express” pop-up by the Pig & the Lady. That’s fitting, given that this is the fourth anniversary of Consolidated’s monthly screening of classic films voted on by fans.

While Frolic foodies may know the Pig & the Lady as one of Hawaii’s hottest restaurants, Frolic filmies know the Les — the family behind that killer pho French dip banh mi – are big fans of “Big Trouble.” I talked to brothers Anderson, Andrew and Alex Le about bacon, Chinese girls with green eyes, and “Big Trouble in Little China 2.”

We all know Anderson is the programming director of the Hawaii International Film Festival from our HIFF interview, so let’s get to know the brothers behind the Pig & the Lady.

Andrew: I’m the head chef and founder of the Pig & the Lady. I started off my culinary education at KCC and then moved on to the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York.

Alex: Andrew is being modest. He’s also an award-winning chef, including being nominated twice as a semi-finalist for the James Beard award. I’m the general manager and run the farmers markets.

Anderson, Andrew, Allison & Alex Le.

Anderson, Andrew, Allison & Alex Le.

What is the sibling order of the Le family?

Anderson: Anderson (numbah one son), then Alex and then Andrew. We end the Le lineage with our baby sister Allison.

You’re going back to your roots and popping up – in a movie theater. What do you love about pop-ups and farmers markets that keeps you doing them, even with a successful brick-and-mortar?

Alex: It’s where we started. Even though we have a restaurant now, I still want to continue our farmers market program and pop-ups because they parlay the mission we had when we first started: as an inspiration for Asian street food and hawker fare culture, and also serving food that we grew up eating in the kitchen.

What are your memories of “Big Trouble in Little China”?

Anderson: I think I was the only one who saw it in the theater (at the old Cinerama, I believe). It’s just a great, fun movie with major Asian characters on the screen.

Le BrothersAndrew: Anderson was such a film nerd that he would quote this movie all the time. I remember watching this movie time and time again on cable and we recorded it on VHS. It was a go-to movie for us. Oh, and Raiden from “Mortal Kombat” was inspired by the character Thunder in this movie.

Alex: My brothers are too embarrassed to say this, but whenever the scene where the flying eyeball monster would appear, we’d chuckle and say, “Hi Andrew!” We would tease him because at the time, Andrew was a small and round boy. We were brutal.

The bathroom at The Pig and the Lady is a shrine to “Big Trouble.” Why do you guys love the movie so much?

Anderson: It’s a fun movie that has so many memorable quotes and performances from Kurt Russell, James Hong, Dennis Dun and the late Victor Wong. The James Carpenter soundtrack is on point and the setting of Chinatown was mysterious and magical. It made me want to explore San Francisco’s Chinatown and find my own six demon bag there. Or meet a Chinese girl with green eyes.

Alex: It was fun, and for a kid, scary, especially with the creature effects. Lo Pan’s “Three Storms” were bad-ass. That was such a great time for movie-going, especially since Anderson and I would sometimes cut summer school (sorry mom and dad) and go catch matinees at Cinerama, the Kapiolani or the Waikiki Twins. Those were our hanabata days!

Andrew: I love the movie, but honestly, I loved it because my brothers loved it. I was only four when the movie was released, so I learned to appreciate it when I got older.

LeFamily2If you were characters in “Big Trouble in Little China,” who would you be?

Andrew: I know my brothers would say I’m the floating ball monster. By the way, you guys are dead. I would be Wang. He owns his own restaurant, is married to a hot Chinese girl with green eyes, knows kung fu and is the real hero in this movie.

Alex: Hey, I was going to say Wang too. I would go for either Egg Shen — because he knows black magic — or that one Chang Sing guy who speaks the worst Chinese ever in the basement, when Jack and Wang are hiding out from the gang battle.

Anderson: Jack Burton. He kisses Gracie Law played by a young Kim Catrall. She was in “Mannequin.” Need I say more?

Your family owned “Toys N Joys” in Kaimuki for 30 years. What was it like growing up in a toy store?

Alex: It was fun, but also grueling. I took it over from my parents when I was very young. In the end, I made some great friendships and Christmas seasons were super fun but also crazy busy. It was a great education for my second career working in the restaurant business.

Andrew: I loved it. I had all the video games and game systems at home and I was a total otaku. I also got hooked on pogs, tamagotchi, Japanese import RPGs, etc. Yeah, I was pretty spoiled.

Anderson: I was sick of video games. Truth.

What do you have in store for the “Pork Chop Express” pop-up menu?

Pork Chop ExpressAlex: Pork dishes, of course! We’re going to have our porchetta banh mi sandwich available, for sure. We’re still crafting the menu but we also want to do some simple but delicious snacks with bacon as the key ingredient. It’ll be tasty!

Give us your Top 5 favorite movies about food.
1. “Big Night”
2. “Tanpopo”
3. “Spirited Away”
4. “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman”
5. “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”

What movie would you love to see back on the big screen for the Hana Hou Picture Show?

Anderson: It would be a toss up of either “Monster Squad” or “Real Genius.”

Alex: “The Goonies” is my all-time favorite.

Andrew: I would love a foodie film like “Tanpopo.”

Pitch us your idea for “Big Trouble In Little China 2.”

Anderson: Lo Pan is reincarnated and wreaks havoc again in the underworld of SF’s Chinatown. The now grown son of Wang and Miao Yin (played by Ryan Potter) must take the family mantle in defending the streets of Chinatown against this new evil.

But, with Egg Shen dead, he summons the forces of the old Chang Sing gang to come together (played by Jason Scott Lee, Mark Dacascos, Byron Mann and Russell Wong) while the reincarnated Lo Pan — now a successful businesswoman played by Joan Chen — runs for the vacated mayor seat and plots to take over the city once again.

Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger returns. An older and wiser Jack Burton has learned the ways of Egg Shen to finish what he started so many years ago.

Now, I’d see that movie.

“Big Trouble in Little China” screens on Wednesday, May 27th at 7 & 10 p.m. for the Hana Hou Picture Show 4th anniversary celebration at Ward. The Pig & the Lady “Pork Chop Express” pop-up will be open in the Ward theatre lobby from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. The first 200 guests attending the anniversary show will receive a complimentary Bacon Piggy Cookie.

Bonus: Frolic is giving away six pairs of tickets to next Wednesday’s “Big Trouble” screenings. Here’s how to enter.

Movie poster courtesy of MVNP

Q&A: ‘Fresh off the Boat’ showrunner Nahnatchka Khan

NAHNATCHKA KAHN (EXECUTIVE PRODUCER/CREATOR/WRITER)There was no pressure on Nahnatchka Khan.

All she had to do was pitch, write, manage and will into existence a new sitcom based on the outspoken and iconoclastic Eddie Huang’s memoir — which also happened to be the first TV show featuring an Asian American cast since “All-American Girl,” 20 years ago.

Like I said, no pressure.

Khan, one of the hottest women writer/showrunners in Hollywood, related to Huang’s provocative, best-selling memoir, “Fresh Off the Boat.” While she’s not Chinese, she lived the first generation, immigrant experience. And growing up in East Honolulu, she was surrounded by Asian culture.

Khan graduated from Kaiser High School and attended the USC School of Cinematic Arts. She went on to write for “Malcolm in the Middle” and “American Dad,” and created the show “ Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23.” Unlike in the movies — where directors have the power — television is a writer’s medium. And Khan, with expectations impossibly high, had a high-wire act to perform with “Fresh Off the Boat.”

Fresh Off the Boat 1That sound you heard on Wednesday, February 4th? A collective exhale of relief from Asian Americans across the country. “Fresh Off the Boat” premiered and wasn’t just a critical success, it was damned funny. Constance Wu was a breakout star, the show gave heart and humor to the immigrant experience, and my 4-year-old daughter was mesmerized by kids who looked just like her, looking back at her on our TV. Pressure? Please.

“Fresh Off the Boat,” “Empire” and “Blackish” are trailblazing a new age of diversity in television. And while Hawaii is a little different — yellow people are the majority and even white people are a little brown — it’s exciting to see a local girl spreading that message of diversity and excelling on the biggest of stages. I got to talk to Khan, who deserves a first-class “success perm.”

How are you feeling now that “Fresh Off the Boat” premiered and is a critical and ratings success?
So happy and extremely proud. The passion that both critics and fans have for the show is very satisfying to see and just makes me feel like, yessssssss.

Pitch “Fresh Off the Boat” for someone who hasn’t seen it yet.
Set in 1995, it follows the Huangs, a Taiwanese-American family who leave their family and friends in Chinatown in Washington D.C. and move to the white suburbs of Orlando so their father, Louis Huang, can own and operate an Old West steakhouse.

How did you get involved with the show?
The previous show I had created, “Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23″ had recently been cancelled and, after crying and drinking for a few months, I was trying to figure out what my next television project was going to be. Melvin Mar (one of the other executive producers on “FOTB”) sent me the manuscript of Eddie Huang’s memoir to see if I would be interested in developing it for television.

Fresh Off the Boat 2I read it right away and immediately zeroed in on the part where Eddie and his family move to Orlando in the mid-90s and knew that was where I wanted to set the series. Melvin and his producing partner Jake Kasdan (the show’s other executive producer) and I all have development deals at 20th Century Fox Television, which is our studio, and we sold the pitch to Paul Lee and Samie Falvey at ABC.

You graduated from Kaiser High School. What were you like growing up here?
Oh man, I was the BEST. No, but really, I lived in Hawaii Kai, went to Niu Valley, graduated from Kaiser and I loved it. It was the life. That mellowness of Hawaii, of being on “island time,” is something that I feel like I took with me to Hollywood. People are stressed out all the time here and on the inside I’m just like, “whatevehs.”

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I think I first knew when I was at Kaiser and they let me write an editorial column for the school newspaper. I was allowed to write about whatever I wanted, so I just wrote about stuff like prom and getting my drivers license, whatever was happening in my life at that time. And I remember kids coming up to me in the halls and being like, “Hey, your article was funny!” I really liked that feeling.

Fresh Off the Boat 3Name some of your creative influences.
Oh man, there’s so much out there that I love. James Brooks, the Coen Brothers, “Seinfeld,” “South Park,” Tina Fey, Judd Apatow, Amy Poehler, Wanda Sykes, T.C. Boyle, Julia-Louis Dreyfus, Christopher Guest, “Saturday Night Live,” Parker Posey, Louis CK, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Holly Hunter, “The Simpsons,” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” the list goes on…!

Has growing up in Hawaii influenced “Fresh Off the Boat”?
So many of my friends’ parents had elements of their personalities that remind me of Jessica and Louis Huang. And definitely the culture of Hawaii, the food, the music, the people, the lifestyle, all of that definitely influenced me.

Fresh Off the Boat Success Perm 2What do you miss most about Hawaii?
Spam musubi times a thousand! Also, saimin, loco moco, huli huli chicken and Zippy’s chili. Sandy Beach, Cockroach Cove, Waimanalo, Ala Moana mall (yoooooo, I spent so much time there before I could drive. My friends and I would take the bus and then hang out all day and go to Eggs ‘N Things), Fun Factory… oh, and shave ice, guava flavor!

What did you learn from your experiences as a writer and showrunner in Hollywood?
The most important thing I’ve learned is to always give yourself options. Making sure you get alts for jokes in scenes, different levels of performances from the actors, so when you’re in the edit bay and you’re looking at the episode as a whole for the first time, you can make sure that the story and comedy are both flowing and working. And that there are many different ways to tell a story… eventually you just have to pick one.

What’s the best piece of advice you got during your career?
Have the most fun possible.

What’s on your DVR?
Broad City, The Walking Dead, Louie, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Adventure Time, Mad Men, Girls, Looking, Veep.

Fresh Off the Boat Success Perm 1What do you love about writing for TV?
Entertaining people, making them laugh and feel less alone.

Give local filmmakers and screenwriters who want to make it in Hollywood ONE piece of advice.
Be true to yourself and constantly be developing your own voice, don’t feel like you have to fit into any preconceived ideas of what you think you have to do or be in order to succeed. Oh, and don’t wear slippers to a meeting.

Watch an hour of “Fresh Off the Boat” on ABC this Tuesday at 7 pm. “Very Superstitious” guest-stars NBA legend Scottie Pippen.

Q&A: Ryan Miyamoto, co-director of SXSW winner ‘Twinsters’

Twinsters Special Jury Editing“Imagine there was someone out there you’d never met who looked exactly like you and was born on your birthday. ‘Twinsters’ is the story of Samantha Futerman and Anaïs Bordier, two strangers who discovered they were potential twin sisters separated at birth.”

That’s the pitch for “Twinsters,” a new film co-directed and shot by Ryan Miyamoto. The documentary premiered last week at South by Southwest and was named one of the film festival’s “Breakout Movies” by Variety magazine.

Not bad for a guy who grew up in Kuliouou, surfing Maunalua Bay.

TwinstersPremierRyanMiyamoto knew he wanted to be a filmmaker when he was 8 years old, following in the footsteps of his uncle, Mike Prickett, a legendary cinematographer. Prickett told Ryan his job was to travel the world and film people surfing. Ryan was blown away.

Cut to 2013. After a burgeoning career as a cinematographer, Miyamoto was referred by a friend to work on “Twinsters.” What was supposed to be a couple weeks of shooting turned into a two-year odyssey. He relocated to Los Angeles to follow the emotional reunion of two adopted Korean girls—one living in LA, the other in London—who believe they’re twin sisters. The journey took him from California to London to Korea. I talked to Ryan about his experience on the film and how a seemingly random encounter could change your life.

Describe what it felt like in the theater for your SXSW premiere?
I felt so nervous, so sweaty and so nauseous. Having over 300 strangers watch your movie for the first time is a surreal experience. It was the first time we would get a real reaction to the film by people who weren’t emotionally invested.

TwinstersFilmStillHow did you get involved with “Twinsters”?
My friend Yamato Cibulka. He worked with Samantha Futerman previously on the movie “Man Up.” When Yama heard about the project, he referred me as a director of photography. The next day I Skyped with Sam, and the next week I was in California.

You’re the cinematographer and co-director on the film with one of the girls, Samantha Futerman. What was your working/directing relationship like?
The working relationship was horrible. Just joking. It was great. We both fed off of each other’s energy and made decisions that we both agreed upon. It was almost a yin and yang relationship.

TwinstersFilmStill_2“Twinsters” would have never happened without social media. Did you integrate technology into your storytelling?
Technology was very much integrated throughout the film. The first act of the film is narrated through text, Whatsapp, Facebook Message and Skype sessions that the girls had until their first reunion. Sam and I wanted the audience to feel as if they were on the journey with us, discovering the love story as it was unfolding in real time.

TwinstersPremierHow did you feel, watching this reunion unfold?
I felt really awkward watching the girls’ reunion (laughs). You have to watch it to understand.

How did you feel after the premiere?
Two years of filmmaking all came down to this one moment… and it went great. The crowd laughed when we wanted them to laugh and cried when we wanted them to cry. We even had grown men crying in their seats. Now that’s a great reaction.

“Twinsters” won a Special Jury Recognition for editing. How did you manage to shape this story with all the footage you shot?
Sam, Kanoa and I sat down for a week or two labeling cue cards with all the monumental events that took place throughout the journey. We wanted to make sure that the story was being told and not make a 6-hour piece. We nailed down all of the important events and I assembled them into a timeline. Then Jeff Consiglio came on the project and helped us shape and finesse the film into what you see now. He helped us really get out what we wanted the film to say.

TwinstersRyanMiyamotoWhat was the biggest thing you learned from shooting “Twinsters”?
The biggest thing I learned was to always trust my gut instincts. It made me a better decision maker and a more confident person.

It was a big year for Hawaii at this year’s SXSW. POW! WOW! Hawaii was there. Longtime Hawaii actor and voice talent Krisha Fairchild starred in “Krisha,” the Grand Jury prize and Audience Award winner. What was your SXSW experience like?
SXSW was overwhelming in a good way. From music to tech to movies, we were surrounded by the best in the business. And I loved the people in Austin. Everyone was so nice and sincere. They felt like the people in Hawaii. Also the food was AMAZING! I think every day I had a beer, some sort of queso and probably some tequila to wash it all down. It was great. I’m still hungover I think. And I never want to eat queso again, except all the time.

TwinstersFilmStill_03What does “Twinsters” say about family?
Family has no boundaries. Family is whomever you choose to accept into your life.

What’s next for “Twinsters”?
Distribution. Fingers crossed. We want everyone to be able to see the film.

What are you working on next?
I’m in pre-production for a movie with producers Yamato Cibulka and Kenji Doughty. The film centers around a story set in ancient Hawaii. I’m also working on a documentary about my mentor, Mike Prickett, who became paralyzed on an underwater film shoot after risking his life to save another diver.

What do you love most about filmmaking?
When you meet me in person, I don’t really talk that much. Filmmaking gives me the opportunity to show who I am through the images I create.

Give aspiring local filmmakers ONE piece of advice.
Always trust your instincts (except when it craves queso).

Why ‘Tokyo Drift’ is the best ‘Fast/Furious’ Film

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift“Furious 7’ premiered last night at South by Southwest. Variety said, “The hit muscle-car franchise does itself and the late Paul Walker proud with a solid seventh entry.” In light of the good reviews and the monumental expectations for the film, I’m going to make a Fast/Furious argument that may sound crazy.

“The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” is the franchise’s best film.

Look, the Fast/Furious franchise isn’t fine art. It’s over-the-top, high-octane, comic book madness on the big screen. So don’t troll me over this, Internets. Yes, it’s the least successful film. Yes, there’s no Walker, Rock or Vin Diesel (sort of). And yes, it gives “The Karate Kid, Part II” a run for its money in the cringe-worthy accent department. But hear me out…

“Tokyo Drift” saved a billion dollar franchise
Coming off “2 Fast 2 Furious” — my least favorite film in the series and a good title for a 12” Prince LP — the franchise had no Walker or Diesel. Instead, they rolled the dice on a hungry Asian director, created a classic fish-out-of-water story set in Tokyo and refocused on its tuner target. The film was a creative defibrillator, paving the way for Universal Studio’s biggest franchise of all time.

Justin Lin
Who is Justin Lin? He’s only the director of the last four Fast/Furious films and the most powerful Asian-American filmmaker in Hollywood today. Lin is currently directing season 2 of “True Detective” and the next “Bourne” sequel. And while his career began with the influential indie “Better Luck Tomorrow,” his career blew up as a result of “Tokyo Drift.” Here’s a great Japan shoot story from Lin:

Han
In test screenings, the character of Han, played by Sung Kang, received a 100 percent approval rating by test audiences, the highest scoring character in Universal’s history. Even better, Han was playing an Asian male character in a studio film who:

a) Didn’t know kung fu, karate or ninjutsu
b) Wasn’t a moustache-twirling Fu Manchu villain
c) Wasn’t an emasculated math nerd with a bad accent

Han was a character who destroyed stereotypes. He was cool. He was mysterious. He got the girl. And not just any girl, he apparently got a super hero (Gal Gadot, who plays Gisele in Fast/Furious 4 to 6, was cast in “Wonder Woman”). In short, “Tokyo Drift” gave us this:

Han Fast Five

Instead of this:

LongDukDong5

Drifting
Good films show us something we’ve never seen before. And “Tokyo Drift” does just that, introducing us to the Japanese subculture of drifting. In fact, the actual “Drift King,” Keiichi Tsuchiya, who honed his skills street racing in the 80s, makes a cameo in “Tokyo Drift” as one of the fishermen.

Tokyo Drift Japanese FlagFull disclosure: I’m Japanese
Okay, I admit have a bias. I love Japan. It’s in my blood. And this film presents Japan on PEDs in all its Shibuya/Harajuku/race queen glory. It’s also a seminal film for all Asian-Americans. There are few studio films that feature an all-Asian cast and ONE white lead. ONE. Even the love interest is Peruvian. So who cares if Chinese and Koreans are playing Japanese? In my book, “all look same” is all good in the name of Asian equality. In short, if you don’t like this film, you’re probably a racist. Just kidding. But seriously, don’t be a racist.

Retcon Madness ***SPOILER ALERT***
“Retcon” is short for “retroactive continuity” and “Tokyo Drift” is the root of the Fast/Furious retcon bramble. It all centers around the character of Han who takes a dirt nap in “Tokyo Drift.” Director Lin brought back Han for the fourth film, “Fast & Furious,” which retroactively makes every other “Fast” film a prequel to “Tokyo Drift.” Why? Because in “Furious 6,” the movie closes with Han’s death returning the Fast/Furious universe back to present time. Which opens up the possibility that Lucas Black’s character from “Tokyo Drift” could join the rest of the Toretto family in “Furious 7.”

And if that’s not confusing enough, Sung Kang’s Han is actually a character from Lin’s debut film, “Better Luck Tomorrow.” So in theory, this billion-dollar franchise all started with an indy prequel about Asian kids doing awful things in a suburban high school.

Wait, what?

Big Finish
At the end of “Tokyo Drift,” we’re first introduced to the theme that’s at the heart of Lin’s Fast/Furious run: family. And like all good movies, “Tokyo Drift” finishes strong. That crowd-pleasing cameo at the end of the film just might connect the dots to “Furious 7,” which opens on April 3rd.

Until then, we’ll always have Tokyo.

“The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” screens at Consolidated Theatres Ward on Wednesday, March 18 at 7 and 10 p.m. as part of the Hana Hou Picture Show.

Movie poster courtesy of MVNP