Ex-Ghibli Artist to make directorial debut! Plus Naruto 2.5 Theater and More!

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Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro – Studio Ghibli is synonymous with animated movie magic. Even the nice old lady slinging sweet tea at the corner store in my small Kentucky hometown has heard of these classic Japanese films and knows the name Miyazaki (probably because of me in this particular case…). With Miyazaki retiring, however, the question arises of who will take up the torch in the next generation.  Who will champion the Ghibli-style animation and storytelling we have all grown to love?  Fortunately, we may have our answer.

Yōjirō Arai, a former Studio Ghibli animator who lent his hand to such Ghibli films as Arriety, From up on Poppy Hill, and The Wind Rises, is set to make his directorial debut. Studio Colorido, who also released Arai’s short film “Control Bear,” will be bringing us Arai’s first animated feature film, Taifu no Noruda, this summer. You can check out a tantalizingly short 15-second teaser to the left.

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This Week From Stu-Senpai: Naruto 2.5!


Konbanwa 今晩は from Tokyo!!

It’s supposedly spring but it’s been rainy and cold – at least it was nice during sakura season!  But rain and cold is a good time to stay indoors – and watch a live theater performance of everyone’s favorite ninja, Naruto!

The Shibuya Tourist Association has gone out of its way to support a very cool theater – AiiA in Shibuya, where Naruto is playing.   The Japan 2.5 Dimensional Musical Association is dedicated to theatrical performances (typically musicals) of anime, manga and game properties.  And their line up is pretty amazing (I’m checking out Death Note tomorrow night!) !!

So, one thing that makes Naruto 2.5 (and other 2.5 theater performances) special is the high-tech subtitle method.  You can rent goggles which project subtitles in front of you while you’re watching the play – a version of augmented reality.


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Quick Movie Review: The Overnight

The Overnight is an American comedy film written and directed by Patrick Brice. i had the chance to see the movie as I was invited to a press screening and i will say that i enjoyed the film. I will give the details on the review. 



  • Judith Godrèche as Charlotte
  • R.J. Hermes as RJ
  • Max Moritt as Max
  • Taylor Schilling as Emily
  • Jason Schwartzman as Kurt
  • Adam Scott as Alex

The Overnight takes place over one adventurous night in the lives of Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling), a couple who have recently relocated to Los Angeles with their young son. Uncertain if they’ll be able to make new friends, they happily accept a dinner invite from Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), a fellow parent they meet at the park. Upon arriving for dinner, Alex, Emily, and their son instantly hit it off with Kurt, his glamorous French wife Charlotte (Judith Godrèche), and their son. Entranced by the couple’s carefree spirit and their beautiful LA mansion, Alex and Emily go along with Kurt and Charlotte’s fun yet increasingly questionable and uncomfortable activities that kick off as soon as the kids are lulled to bed.

Even though the story’s crack at the sexual frustration of thirtysomething parents is a bit clumsy, the humor is on point and the film is more than worthwhile as a mere showcase for this perfectly balanced cast, who are totally game to push their uncomfortable scenes to the limits in order to achieve some genuinely surprising and sidesplitting moments. As the magnetic and magnanimous Kurt, Schwartzman fires on all comedic cylinders, never losing an ounce of charm through every twist and turn his character takes. Godrèche is absolutely alluring and holds her own amongst her seasoned comic castmates, whom have all proven their comedic talents on the small screen — Scott with Parks and Recreation, Schilling with Orange is the New Black, and Schwartzman with Bored to Death. Anchoring the picture are Scott and Schilling, who have great onscreen chemistry and play off Schwartzman and Godrèche equally as well as they are paired off in different combinations throughout the night.

The Overnight fits in well with executive producers Mark and Jay Duplass’ mumblecore catalogue (which includes Brice’s directorial debut, Creep). What gives this film an edge and a chance to garner a wider audience is the star power it has and its easily digestible, almost episodic feel (and runtime — 80 min.) that Netflix scrollers and binge watchers will find hard resist.

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IDW Games

San Diego, CA (March 19, 2015) – Today, IDW announced it would release a line of The Godfathertabletop games ranging from quick-to-play card and dice games to big box strategic board games. Paramount Pictures’ The Godfather is widely recognized among the most revered films of all-time.

The Godfather is more than a movie, it’s an icon,” says IDW’s Director of Business Development, Jerry Bennington. “We plan to give players as many options as possible when it comes to gaming in this rich environment. From quick dice fun to intense big box strategy this will be a line of games truly worthy of the name The Godfather.”

The Godfather game line will start with a card game due out this summer, and continue to branch out from there. The games will range in length and complexity, and take place in a variety of locations and timelines spanning the trilogy of films. Gamers can look forward to rising to power and doing everything they can to stay on top in a cutthroat world.  These games will truly be an offer The Godfather fans  can’t refuse.

The Godfather Card Game will hit stores August 2015. In the meantime, IDW Games will unveil more details about both the card and upcoming big box tabletop game on www.idwgames.com. For up-to-the-minute information, be sure to “like” facebook.com/idwgames and follow @idwgames on twitter.

Godfather ®, TM & ©2015 Paramount Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.


About IDW Games
IDW Games publishes both creator-owned and licensed tabletop games. The division was launched in 2014 and has quickly found success with one of the top-selling card games of the year with the Japanese import card game Machi Koro. IDW Games offers a mix of popular licensed games such as The X-Files and CHEW as well as strategic hobby games such as Tammany Hall and Yedo.

About IDW Publishing
IDW is an award-winning publisher of comic books, graphic novels and trade paperbacks, based in San Diego, California. Renowned for its diverse catalog of licensed and independent titles, IDW publishes some of the most successful and popular titles in the industry, including: Hasbro’s The TRANSFORMERS, G.I. JOE, MY LITTLE PONY and JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS; Paramount/CBS’s Star Trek; Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Toho’s Godzilla; Twentieth Century Fox’s The X-Files; Temple Street Productions’ Orphan Black; DISNEY Comics; Ragnarök from Eisner Award-winner Walter Simonson; and Zombies vs Robots from Chris Ryall and Ashley Wood.

IDW’s critically- and fan-acclaimed series are continually moving into new mediums. Currently, Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Disney are creating a feature film based on World War Robot; Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Warner Brothers are producing a film based on Ashley Wood’s Lore; Michael Bay‘s Platinum Dunes and Sony are bringing Zombies vs. Robots to film, Alex Kurtzman are producing a movie based on Locke & Key at Universal. 

Movie Reviews: 50 Shades Of Grey


Let’s get this out of the way—those going into Fifty Shades Of Grey expecting an erotic experience are going to be disappointed. The sex scenes are all tastefully shot and, save for the much-ballyhooed BDSM trappings, not especially provocative. (The French were right on this one.) But even if the film were NC-17-level explicit, it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. Leads Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, both of whom spend the majority of the film supposedly desperately longing for each other, have so little chemistry that it gives the sexy goings-on a rather clinical feel.

Hardcore fans of the book may also be disappointed. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson, who reportedly clashed with author E.L. James over nearly every aspect of the film, brings an arch, irreverent take to the story that makes Fifty Shades Of Grey occasionally resemble the American Psycho of mommy porn. The film benefits greatly from discarding the authorial voice of the book (Anastasia Steele’s inner goddess remains silent, thank God), and where James’ frankly embarrassing dialogue does come through, it’s played for laughs. (There are no “holy crap”s, but there is one “holy cow.”) Ostensibly erotic moments, like a stolen kiss in an elevator, come with a punchline, reinforcing the notion that Taylor-Johnson doesn’t want us to take all this swooning romantic nonsense at face value. It’s got a Danny Elfman score, for god’s sake.

However, somewhere around the first sex scene the winking self-awareness begins to recede, and to its detriment, Fifty Shades Of Grey starts taking itself seriously. By the time we actually get to the light BDSM—images of women bound with rope that Ana finds horrifying are more Helmut Newton than Kink.com—the 125-minute running time begins itself to feel like a punishment. That’s also when Taylor-Johnson begins trying to shoehorn a feminist message about sexual agency into what is essentially a fairy tale with MacBook Pros (suave billionaire prince comes to sweep ordinary girl off her feet and tell her she’s special). The results are mixed—it’s more empowering than the book, though that’s not saying much—but you can’t fault her for trying.

Another aspect of the film that might be subversive, provided it was intentional, is Dornan’s performance as 27-year-old billionaire and kinky Prince Charming Christian Grey. Dornan appears to have mistaken lack of affect for mystery, and despite his assertion that he’s “50 shades of f***** up,” he has about three shades, four at best. The character’s creepier, more abusive tendencies, while impossible to remove entirely (can we just mention that he tracks Ana’s location by tracing her phone?), are downplayed, and Christian functions as a sort of well-dressed Wikipedia article about BDSM onto which Ana can project her inner conflict. The Fetlife crowd is right to object to the book’s (and film’s) continued insistence that Christian is kinky because he was abused as a child—somehow his protestations of “It’s just the way I am!” never quite stick—but the cinematic Christian Grey is too toothless to really be threatening.

Dakota Johnson, on the other hand, is the unexpected highlight of the film. She gives Ana a strength of personality that’s lacking in the book, subtly transforming the character from a breathy house-mouse who never makes eye contact into a glamorous, intelligent woman who knows what she wants and has no problem articulating it. The story begins when Ana visits Christian’s office to interview him for her college newspaper, a meeting that wouldn’t have happened if Ana’s roommate were not sick that day. Charmed by her shyness, Christian begins aggressively pursuing Ana, showing up unannounced at her workplace and at the bar where she drunk dials him one sodden night after her final exams. In the book, he maintains dominance throughout, pressuring her to sign an (unrealistic) D/s contract that will make her “his.” One telling change between the book and the film is in the negotiation of the contract between Christian and Ana; a dinner scene where Ana struggles to maintain composure is replaced by a playful “business meeting” proposed and controlled by Ana. She’s stringing him along, not the other way around.

These aspects of the film—making the hot guy (the ostensible draw) the most boring part of the movie while imbuing the female lead with personality, presenting the submissive as the partner truly in control of the situation—could be seen as subversive. They might even be empowering, as much as a story about a woman’s desire to fix a damaged man with the power of love can be. And we’ll see if Fifty Shades Of Grey is the subject of revisionist think pieces in the decades to come. It certainly won’t be remembered for its technical merits, as Taylor-Johnson has crafted a bland, slickly unexceptional-looking film with a soundtrack of cover songs as empty as the echoing expanse of Christian Grey’s high-rise.

The answers to these questions might lie in the ending of the film, which Taylor-Johnson wanted to change from James’ version. (Plot revelations ahead, obviously.) In the film, Ana runs out of Christian’s apartment after he finally, at Ana’s request, shows her the true extent of his sadism. He runs after her, and as the doors of the elevator close, she turns and yells “Stop!”, which turns into an exchange of pleasantries echoing their initial meeting. Taylor-Johnson wanted to change Ana’s assertion to “Red!”, their agreed-upon safe word. It might seem like a small change, but think about that for a minute. In Taylor-Johnson’s version, Ana knows this is all a game, and she can end it at any time. In James’ version, Ana is still in thrall to Christian, a more romantic and, not insignificantly, sequel-friendly version of events. In the end, James won the argument, and the movie stayed true to her vision. Maybe that’s why it fails.

I give this film a 1.5/10. Watching this was like watching The Undertaker lose at WrestleMania to AJ Styles. I would rather take a bad episode of WWE Monday Night Raw than this.

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Desiree Akhavan’s Appropriate Behavior – NEW TRAILER!




Written and Directed by: Desiree Akhavan

Cast: Desiree Akhavan, Rebecca Henderson, Halley Feiffer, Scott Adsit, Anh Duong, Arian Moayed 


“Audacious and funny and unique”, Lena Dunham

“Winning first feature”, A.O. Scott – The New York Times








For Shirin (Desiree Akhavan), being part of a perfect Persian family isn’t easy. Acceptance eludes her from all sides: her family doesn’t know she’s bisexual, and her ex-girlfriend, Maxine (Rebecca Henderson), can’t understand why she doesn’t tell them. Even the six-year-old boys in her moviemaking class are too ADD to focus on her for more than a second. Following a family announcement of her brother’s betrothal to a parentally approved Iranian prize catch, Shirin embarks on a private rebellion involving a series of pansexual escapades, while trying to decipher what went wrong with Maxine.

Iranian-American filmmaker Desiree Akhavan is the co-creator and star of the award-winning web series The Slope, a comedy that follows a pair of superficial homophobic lesbians in love.  She was recently featured as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Film as well as Vanity Fair’s “Persia in New York” featuring the vibrant scene of Iranian artists flourishing in America, centered in New York.  Akhavan can be seen next January on the fourth season of HBO’s Girls.

Gravitas Ventures Will Release “Appropriate Behavior” Theatrically & On VOD January 16th

VICE Films Brings you Behind the Scenes of A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT!


Takes you Behind The Scenes of 2014’s Breakout Hit


The first Iranian Vampire Western ever made, Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, basks in the sheer pleasure of pulp. A joyful mash-up of genre, archetype, and iconography, its prolific influences span spaghetti westerns, graphic novels, horror films, and the Iranian New Wave. 

In this first episode of VICE’s behind the scenes series, they go to director Ana Lily’s home to talk about her love of vampires, David Lynch and the unique Iranian/American hybrid world of Bad City she constructed for the film.

In the second episode of the behind the scenes series, VICE continue its conversation with Ana Lily on backstory of her characters and the influences that shaped the world of Bad City.

View the Two Part Documentary


And Here

Movie Reviews: The Hunger Games- Mockingjay Part 1

Since Harry Potter was put out to grass, The Hunger Games franchise has assumed a massive new significance for Hollywood. The series of films adapted from Suzanne Collins’ novels have made Jennifer Lawrence into a global star and have transformed their producer Lionsgate into as big a player as the the traditional old studios.

Teenagers clamour to see each new episode while box office analysts, after shaky recent times in the global film business, look to the films to provide a major end of year boost. That is why there were such feverish expectations in advance of last night’s world premiere of Mockingjay Part 1.

The film doesn’t exactly disappoint but nor does it satisfy. There is a half a sandwich feel to the latest instalment – a sense that the film makers have denied us a full experience by splitting the movie into two. The film lasts for two hours

The film, based on the final book in the trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins, lasts for two hours but only takes us some of the way toward the conclusion of the story. (For the real finale, we ill have to wait until this time next year, when Part 2 of Mockingjay is released in cinemas.)


This is an even darker drama than its predecessors. That is partly because so much of it is set in the murky, subterranean world of District 13 where Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has been taken by the rebels.

They want her to be the poster girl for the revolution they are busy fomenting against the Capitol’s purring, white bearded dictator President Snow (Donald Sutherland.) The colours are desaturated.

Characters dress simply, in boiler suits.  We see very little daylight. Even the vain and flighty Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) has to adapt to the austerity of her environment and forego her wigs and make-up.

Lawrence is again tremendous as Katniss. She gives her character an emotional depth that you don’t expect in a franchise movie, conveying her vulnerability and doubt as well as well as her fiery determination and Barbarella-like sex appeal.



Katniss is pining for Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), her fellow Hunger Games survivor who has fallen into Snow’s clutches and has seemingly been brainwashed or tortured into becoming a spokesperson for the Capitol.

District 13’s steely president Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) is fighting back against Snow, with Katniss as her chief propaganda weapon.

The brilliant and much lamented Philip Seymour Hoffman (who plays Plutarch Heavensbee) died earlier this year before production was complete on Mockingjay Part 2. Digital technology was being used to “complete” his performance but the joints barely show here. This isn’t one of his major roles but he gines a typically assured and witty performance as President Coin’s sly but kind-hearted chief advisor.


THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 1, from left: Patina Miller, Liam Hemsworth, Mahershala Ali,


Along with casting Lawrence, one of the filmmakers’ best decisions at the outset of Hunger Games was to fill the series with redoubtable character actors like Hoffman, Moore, Woody Harrelson, Jeffrey Wright and Stanley Tucci.

They bring a gravitas and wit to the project that counters the callow performances of some of the younger actors. The “Hunger Games” themselves (the vicious, reality TV style games contested by selected youngsters) aren’t being contested and these old-timers are therefore far more prominent in this episode.

Director Francis Lawrence isn’t afraid to include grim imagery of war. There are scenes here of blasted cityscapes full of skeletons and of wounded characters crammed together in makeshift hospitals.

What the series has never been able to resolve is how to combine its darker, dystopian elements with the demands of the teen action movie. Mockingjay – Part 1 is full of very jarring juxtapositions.

One moment, we’ll be confronted with scenery of death and devastation – and the next, there will be some cutesy slapstick involving Primrose Everdeen’s pet cat Buttercup. Stylistically, the film veers between gritty realism and Star Wars-like escapism.

Not a great deal happens here plot-wise. Most of the story is taken up with the rebel propaganda comapaign orchestrated by Plutarch, filmed on the battle line by the punkish-looking Cressida (Natalie Dormer) and fronted by Katniss. The rebels blow up a dam and make a raid on the Capitol. That’s about it. The film ends abruptly. You can’t help but wonder if it would have made more sense to release Mockingjay as a single feature rather than split it into two. Part 1 matches its predecessors in terms of performance and production values but still feels like half a movie.

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Studio Ghibli’s “The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness” – Opens This Friday!

GKIDS has three incredible films playing in theaters.  Opening this Friday is the new Studio Ghibli doc, Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, which gets up close and personal with Hayao Miyazaki as he completes The Wind Rises, philosophizes on movies and life, plays with the Studio Ghibi cat, and makes a surprise announcement of his retirement. Song of the Sea, Tomm Moore’s long-anticipated follow up to The Secret of Kellsstarts Dec 19 and tickets are moving fast for special opening weekend screenings with free posters and the director in person.  Meanwhile, Studio Ghibli’s The Tale of The Princess Kaguya continues strong after five weeks and is still the number one reviewed movie in America.  Hope you can make it to all three!  Plenty of info below or click here for tickets.
“Like being granted a guided tour of Santa’s workshop.
Magic happens here.”
 – Variety
The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness is a fascinating, never-before-seen look inside the quirky and wonderful world of Studio Ghibli, creators of masterpieces like Princess MononokeMy Neighbor Totoro and the Oscar-winning Spirited Away. Granted near-unfettered access to the notoriously insular Studio Ghibli, director Mami Sunada follows the eminent director Hayao Miyazaki, producer Toshio Suzuki and the elusive and influential “other director” Isao Takahata for a year as the studio rushes to complete two films, Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises and Takahata’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. The result is a rare fly-on-the -wall glimpse of the inner workings of one of the world’s most celebrated animation studios and a rare insight into the dreams, passion and singular dedication of these remarkable creators. Plus you get to meet Ushiko, the Studio Ghibli cat!
Opening November 28 at IFC Center
To purchase tickets, click here.

The new film from Tomm Moore,
Oscar nominated director of The Secret of Kells

“One of the most blissfully beautiful animated films ever made.”

 – Indiewire
Opening December 19 at IFC Center
To purchase tickets, click here.


100% FRESH! – Rotten Tomatoes
“STUNNING! SUBLIME!” – New York Times
“WONDROUS! A MARVEL!” – Los Angeles Times
Now playing at IFC Center
To purchase tickets, click here. 

KUMIKO Racks Up Three Indie Spirit Noms | Opens Feb. 27th

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Racks Up Three Independent Spirit Award Nominations

Opens in Theaters February 27, 2015 via Amplify Releasing

It was announced today that David and Nathan Zellner’s Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards:

Best Director (David Zellner)

Best Actress (Rinko Kikuchi)

18th Annual Piaget Producers Award (Chris Ohlson)

The 18th Annual Piaget Producers Award nomination for Producer Chris Ohlson, sponsored by Piaget, honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality, independent films. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Piaget.

About Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

In this darkly comedic odyssey, Academy Award nominee Rinko Kikuchi (Babel, Pacific Rim) stars as Kumiko, a frustrated Office Lady whose imagination transcends the confines of her mundane life. Kumiko becomes obsessed with a mysterious, battered VHS tape of a popular film she’s mistaken for a documentary, fixating on a scene where a suitcase of stolen cash is buried in the desolate, frozen landscape of North Dakota.  Believing this treasure to be real, she leaves behind Tokyo and her beloved rabbit Bunzo to recover it – and finds herself on a dangerous adventure unlike anything she’s seen in the movies.

With Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, indie mavericks the Zellner Bros. spin a strangely touching underdog fable, populated by eccentrics and elevated to sonic heights by a Sundance award-winning score from electro-indie outfit The Octopus Project and executive produced by Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways), that will leave audiences rooting for the impossible.


Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter will be released by Amplify Releasing on February 27th

Brand-new Penguins Of Madagascar Comic Series!

Inline images 2
STORY BY: Alex Matthews
PUBLISHER: Titan Comics
RELEASE DATE: November 26, 2015

DreamWorks’ Penguins of Madagascar are getting their own brand new 4-issue comic series! Yep, Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private are jumping from the big and small screen to the CMYK panels!

Written by comedy genius Alex Matthews (Phoenix, Dandy) with eye-popping art from Lucas Fereyra, feathers are set to fly in this unique and exciting – and very funny – new series.

Check out the movie trailer here:

For more information visit: