Taylor Swift’s unparalleled concert film, “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” has raised the bar for filmed musical concerts.

The spectacle was filmed over three nights last August at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA, and it’s not surprising that it Swiftly grossed $93 million in its opening screenings last weekend. It’s still in theaters, and is set for a 13-week run (with screenings only Thursdays through Sundays).  If you’re a diehard fan, you’ve already seen it and screeched nirvana squeals, throughout its 2 hour-45 minute playout.

I’ve not been a Swiftie fan, but admit I’ve admired, from afar, her business tactics. At 33, she is the master of her craft with skills in collating tales that define her as a composer.  I was curious to experience her glory on the movie screens, and have no regrets in buying tickets to the “Eras Tour.”

And in retrospect, “Eras Tour” was a revelation, demonstrating the singer’s acumen in packaging and showcasing her music, and it was a risk to launch such a behemoth endeavor, when audiences have mostly dodged the movie theaters this year.  The last biggies on screen were summer’s “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” likely the big guns in next year’s Academy Awards.

“Eras Tour” is not the kind of flick that picks up Oscars. It could be deemed a documentary, but specifically, it’s a unique theatrical concert film.

Clearly,  Swift is not a one-hit wonder, but instead a one-woman wonderment, delivering and curating her menu with 44 songs, many boasting admirable storylines, lifestyle vignettes, happy love and breakup blues, with original lyrics and melodies all penned by the singer herself.

The songs derive from nine of her 10 albums, themed with titles that reflect her moods and her succinct notions. She immerses herself in the moment, curating her tunes to elevate her storytelling.

Directed by Sam Wrench, “Eras Tour” is an experiment of sorts. It also is a damn good commercial for Swift’s successful tour — a sanitized showcase of the first leg of her global jaunt — which amassed $4.1 billion and unhinged Ticketmaster when tickets first went on sale. Her tour will continue in the summer of 2024 – a long wait — but with a $19.89 ticket price to see “Eras,” Swift is going to collect a lot more change. Most attendees, in the first go-round of the film, are likely folks who didn’t buy tickets to the live concert, because simply, they couldn’t — the demand was larger than the supply. The film documents, happily, what happened in the concert, so she’s double-dipping with the theater concert. Because of her deal in staging the film, the film producers (natch, she’s one of ‘em)  and her partner family  — thanks to a SAG strike agreement —  supposedly will get 56 per cent of the grosses, without picketing. Ka-ching!

Swift is dressed to thrill. Her costumes run the gamut, from short shorts to pants outfits, from flowing gowns to oversized capes; if Swift’s not visible, she’s changing outfits, but much of the fashion plate changes happen before your eyes. When a jacket is removed, it reveals a short outfit; when a floor-length coat is removed, it reveals formal wear. And with her model-inspired lanky legs and fashion-savvy demeanor, she is never mundane or dull in dress, radiating a rainbow of hues including white, purple, gold, silver, orange, red, blue and more, with twinkling rhinestones, beads and sequins to embrace her bright and glittery galaxy of style.

And here’s the thing; if you’ve previously attended a concert on a football field, you get the gratuitous video that shows the performer on so-so-sized screens. In “Eras,” it’s a whole new era – you see Swift in actual size, with larger-than-life images dwarfing her and enabling spectators to truly see her greatness and glory. No lawn seat or upper-level stadium seating can match the enlargement element of this production.

A splendid corps of back-up singers and dancers, who provide not just harmonic pleasures for the ears, help fill out that long walkway and incredible varied platforms.

A small but effective live band – no, not a full orchestra, but a manageable unit — keeps the beat and tempo going.

The live visuals include the mixed crowd, defining her broad audience base, from screeching fanatics singing along, word for word (yep, they know all of Swift’s music by heart) but also flashing collectible wrist bracelets that clearly identify ‘em as Swifties. But this superstar also attracts gay men, who can challenge and keep pace with the young ones.

Swift is tireless and effusive, in every tune she delivers; unlike some unnamed women superstars of the past who lip-synched some tunes, notably on songs with rigorous choreography,  she is a work horse who doesn’t rely on Teleprompter monitors  to depict lyrics. She is the real deal, at the peak of her career, and second to none in the competitive pop circus.

She is all over the map — in the Kansas City Chiefs box because of a supposed relationship with a football hero, in a TV commercial boosting “Eras” during NFL primetime, hosting Beyonce at her “Eras” film launch, and even had time to chime in at the launch of  the return of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”

Swift is not afraid of the cameras, so she sings straight into the lens, making viewers feel like she’s conferring with them. The cameras also regularly scan the crowds, and show diehard fans —  female and male – singing and dancing along. Everyone has a good time, including the theater fan, whose seat is prime whether the movie house is filled to the max or not; there’s no stress and strain of being in the nosebleed seats in the SoFi or in the last row on the field, where discomfort includes a mass of fellow fans and a long trek to the bathroom for relief.  The movie? No strain to be part of the game, and you have the liberty to applaud or get on your feet to dance.

I can understand her reason to earmark her themes – “Fearless,” “Enchanted,” “Red,.” “1989,” “Lover,” “Folklore” —  her version of catagorising –but I certainly could live without these subtitles.

I still wonder how her staging can be so fluid and organic, when Swift plays on a grand piano with moss-like greens on the precious instrument; the moss also is part of her tribute to nature in her house set with that green stuff on the roof.

But worry not, her playlist revives 44 titles and the ones I like best include “Anti-Hero,” “We Ae Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “Shake It Off,” “Betty,” “You Belong to Me,”  “Love Story” and “Bad Blood.” Create your own besties at your screening.

I marvel at one special moment, when Swift is on the walkway heading for the stage, then leaps off the stage into what appears to be water, but clearly not. It’s an illusion that one might expect at a David Copperfield magic spectacle.

You know Swift has star power when the concession stand offers large soda drinks and that huge bucket of  popcorn, branded with her image.

Surely, there will be a DVD version of “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,’” possibly a director’s cut with 45 minutes of footage trimmed from the original film.  …

And that’s Show Biz. …


Hail Kail!

Tony Award-winning director Thomas Kail, pictured below, is best known as the director of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit Broadway musicals, “Hamilton” and “Into the Heights,” and he’s been tapped to direct Disney’s live-action film-with-music, “Moana.”

The announcement was made earlier this week by Dwayne Johnson, who voiced the demigod Maui in the animated version of “Moana,” and natch, he’s already set to repeat the role. But Johnson will also be a co-producer for the remake with real folks.

Johnson said in a statement, re-imagining of the animated film and his character, Maui, is “deeply personal” to him and his Polynesian culture.

“Our culture is rooted in pride, emotion, expression, storytelling, music and mana,” he said. ‘Moana’ is a once in a lifetime endeavor for us and I’m honored to go shoulder to shoulder with our director Thomas Kail and our entire team.”

“Our ancestors are watching, and the ocean will always have a pulse,” he added.

Auli‘i Cravalho, who was a high school senior at Kamehameha, is too old now to recreate the “Moana” role she created, but she’ll have a minor role in the newbie, and also with co-producer credits. You might recall, Moana was a different brand of a Disney princess with seafaring/voyaging skills and a mind and manner to navigate her own destiny.

Neither a name, nor an image, of the new Moana has been revealed yet; hope she’s someone from our midst, who looks and talks like a local girl, and can sing her heart out. Folks here would be huhu if a non-resident lands in the throne abandoned by the aforementioned Auli‘i.

The original “Moana” film, circa 2016, featured a soundtrack of melodies composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, pictured right, Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa‘i, embracing lyrics in English, Samoan, Tokelauan and Tuvaluan.

I would assume that the prolific Miranda could be challenged to oversee the soundtrack and then provide some of the original songs; the live-action flick demands it. The silence is deafening…he could not just compose, but sing, and even be in the live-action. Stay tuned…

After all,  he introduced music and appeared in earlier Disney projects. In the “Mary Poppins Returns” sequel, he had a had a featured role, and  for the just-released live-action version of  “The Little Mermaid,” he put pen to music.  He’a Disney do-it-all-er.

Kail is known for directing theatrical productions written and starring his Broadway buddy collaborator of “Hamilton” and “In the Heights,” and yep, he seems to be in the room where it happens in Miranda’s musicals. …


The Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Paradise Lounge, in the hotel’s Rainbow Tower, continues to focus on jazz, delivered by locals. For instance, the Bruce Hamada Trio takes the limelight from 7 to 10 p.m. today (June 2), with singer Shari Lynn and pianist Jim Howard returning from 7 to 10 p.m. tomorrow (June 3).  Seats are not plentiful, so arrive early so you can see the acts, not only hear ‘em.  You can order drinks and pupu, and if you do, you get validated parking. …

Gail Mack and Gordon Kim,  longtime musical partners, will perform from 5 to 8 p.m. July 2 and 9 at Mango Street Grill, 130 Mango St. in Wahiawa. The club was formerly known as Dot’s in Wahiawa. Reservations: (808) 627-5451.…

Tito Berinobis also keeps on chugging, bless him. His summer slate: from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays, at Champs on Waialae …  from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursdays, from 8 to 11 p.m. Friday June 9 with Billy Beimes on sax, and from 7 to 11 p.m. June 13, 17 and 24, David Kauahikaua on keyboards and vocals, at the Chart House in Waikiki … and from 6 to 8 p.m. June 4 and 11 and from 7 to 9 p.m. June 30 at Elk’s Club Waikiki.

And that’s Show Biz. …


It began with the posting the flags, by the 100th/442nd Infantry Regiment Honor Guard, followed by the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Initially, the sell-out audience stood, but the voices were scanty, building up as more joined  the chorus of folks proudly singing and demonstrating their patriotism.

This was at the Hawaii Theatre last night (March 18), at a “Defining Courage” screening that saluted and glorified the Nisei soldiers – largely from Hawaii – during World War II.

For those who missed it, a second screening will be held in April. So secure tickets, pronto, to avoid disappointment. On many levels, “Courage” is a winner.

The immersive program was a unique first — part documentary, part lecture with visuals, part history lesson, part musical concert,  part salute to unsung heroes.

And wholly emotional, engaging and enlightening.

With Emmy-winning Los Angeles co-producers David Ono (who served as narrator) and Jeff MacIntyre (who handled behind-the-scenes needs as show director), “Defining Courage” was a celebration of the legacy of American wartime heroes, in vintage footage with more recently site visitations that demonstrated the valor and diligence of AJAs (Americans and Japanese Ancestry), in battles in France, Germany, Italy, Okinawa and Hawaii, who were instrumental in turning the pages of history to win the war.

It’s still a work in progress, and each performance in different cities,  will vary. Actress Tamiyn Tomita, who introduced the film, was right on target when she ID’d the screening here as “Defining Courage, Aloha Edition.” Aloha was plentiful on screen, and in the theater.
Among the hundreds of spectators were families and relatives, whose grandfathers and fathers, served in the Army in the era depicted. The movie was a time for joy and tears, and loads of hurrahs and aloha.

Without a cheat sheet, to properly ID the luminaries on screen, I regrettably won’t chance it in fear of misspelling the names of GIs and battles depicted.

So, some random observations instead:

  • The indominable spirit of the Nisei soldiers light up the screen; the scenes of their desire to serve and carry on the torch to victory, are emotional and incredible.
  • A few soldiers kept journals, with sketches, that inspired and shaped the documentary; there are shared notebooks with hand-written, first-hand memories that should be shared with future generations.
  • A small band of musicians, led by pianist-conductor Chris Wade (with Ericka Bar-David on violin, Kamuela Kahoano on guitar and ukulele, and Sibora Miloradovic on cello) performed periodically during the film, with alternating vocals by choir members (Jody Bill, Michael Covert, Andy Degan, Barrie Kealoha, Lauren Hanako Kincaide, Landon Lee and Emi Sampson) singing solo and/or as an ensemble. The newly minted numbers provided a new dimension to the visuals, with touching lyrics performed by powerful voices, but titles and composers were not properly identified in a hand-out program flyer.
  • One of the on-screen heroes known throughout the world: the late Daniel K. Inouye, who served in the war, where he lost an arm, and as a civilian he served as Hawaii’s senior Congressman for decades.
  • Two current icons – volunteers Jane Kurahara and Betsy Young, from the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii — are depicted in a brief segment regarding the efforts to establish and restore Honouliuli as a national park and historical site, for its wartime internment camp in the Ewa plains.
  • Journalist Ono several times mentioned that the history books should be rewritten to include precious details and stories that recognize the valor and service of 100th 442nd soldiers who gave their lives. It might be prudent, too, to remember the 442nd battle cry, “Go for Broke,” which was not remembered or uttered in the program. And the 100th already has a nickname, 1-puka-puka, for its zeroes. Perhaps the 442nd “Broke” slogan could be properly recognized in the second presentation at 7 p.m. April 23, again at the Hawaii Theatre. Tickets: $25 to $50, on sale at www.hawaiitheatre.com or  text (808) 528-0506. …

And that’s Show Biz. …


What does shaka mean? Who originated it? Is there the right way to wave one?

Producer Steve Sue and a team of filmmakers are trying to get the right spin on the widely used hand-and-fingers sign.

Sue, chairman of Bizgenics, a Hawaii-based nonprofit 501CE that specializes in creativity, innovation and supports  entrepreneurs to fulfill dreams, is aiming his cameras in the islands to find the meaning and origins of the shaka sign.

“It’s an interesting story to pursue,” said Sue, a Chinese entrepreneur who studied law but determined he was not going to be a lawyer. A former Californian married to a local girl who now lives in Kaimuki, Sue has toiled as a conceptualist creating theme parks, staging entertainment and corporate theater events, mega-resort casinos and other ventures.

His latest project is a documentary entitled “Shaka, a Story of Aloha,” with a planned mammoth finale Hawaiian luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oct. 19, in which three original songs are being composed by Henry Kapono to debut at the shooting.

The documentary will boast a Hollywoodish capstone in the PCC’s Hale Aloha showroom-theater, home of the “Ha” spectacle. And the public is invited to attend and participate and become part of the audience in the taping.

Steve Sue, an entrepreneur, is producing “Shaka, a Story of Aloha.”

“I’ve been interested in the shaka, learning from a friend in the LDS (Latter Day Saints) community, and three years ago, I met with the kupuna there,” said Sue.

Kella Miller, who is 100 per cent Hawaiian, was a resource with a lot of knowledge (of the shaka),” he said.

More recently, Sue went back to the PCC/LDS campus, started probing the legend of the shaka, with many logical origins, depending on the community.

“Anthology studies indicate 91 per cent of people don’t know where the shaka came from  and 7 per cent were curious about its origins.”

And region had a lot to do about the varying notions of where the shaka sign originated.

“There was a story  Hamana Kalili late in the 1800s, who lost three of his digits (between the thumb and the pinky finger), and a member of the Mormon people said it’s true. But there was a tale about a security guy on the train in Kahuku and how he lost his fingers,” said Sue.

“We talked to the Lippy Espinda family, and they say Lippy (a former operator of a service station at the entry of Waikiki and a veteran used car dealer) invented it,” said Sue.

While Joyce Fasi, widow of the former Mayor Frank Fasi, acknowledges Espinda, she said her husband made the shaka part of his brand as he campaigned on the streets of Honolulu.

The stories reflected a lot of aloha and fellowship, with variations galore.

Molokai folks give credit to leprosy residents of Kalaupapa, who lost digits.

The Portuguese paniolo of yesteryear considered the shaka as a drinking symbol.

Former surfer Fred Hemmings said dudes in the waves of Hawaii should not be forgotten in the popularity of the shaka, since surfers waved the sign as a symbol of the sport.

In Kahuku, there’s belief that the shaka was brought here by Japanese who worked at the sugar mill, because in Japan, there was Shakyamuni (with the y) who was known in short as the Shaka (without the y) buddha.

Early media personalities on TV, like Kini Popo (the late Carl Hebenstreit) utilized the shaka in his greeting.

The shaka also was flashed, albeit in a secretive manner, by a character on “NCIS: Hawai’i,” in last night’s episode on CBS, exposing the sign to a network TV audience.

And, of course, TV station KHON continues to end its newscasts with folks in all walks of life shaking and sharing the shaka – with film crews regularly shooting footage in a range of situations, from schools to malls, from hospitals to sporting events – to reflect both appreciation and friendship in a “TV moment” for the shaka-ers.

The simple flashing of a hand with three middle fingers facing to the nobs with thumb and pinky in the “up” position communicates without words.

The common shaka sign — three fingers down, between the thumb and the pinky finger.

But there’s really no right or wrong with doing the shaka. One can do a right-handed one or a left-handed version.

“The value of the shaka is connection,” said Sue. “It’s a feeling like you’ll be safe.”

Generally, the shaka should be simple, “without the elbow and body shaking.”

Sue recalled a memorable personal experience with the shaka. “It was the mid-1980s, and I was in Waialae – at Hunakai and Waialae – where a kid was selling newspapers in the median  and he threw me a major shaka,” Sue said.

The shaka can mean aloha, howzit, mahalo, all right, hang loose, a lot more.  And traditionally, it is flashed without words — though “shaka, brah” is sometimes the way to go.

The shaka is not being ignored in academia these days. “Some schools are teaching that beyond the aloha spirit, it’s important to recognize the shaka values, too.”

Kamehameha Schools is supporting and partially funding the “Shaka” film. Other partners  are Kapono Inc. and Sight & Sound Productions.

Sue is working on the eventual inclusion of the proper “shaka” sign amid the gallery of emoji icons widely utilized in e-messages.

The film also has ties with Project Shaka, which is a non-profit that provides free shaka stickers, with a motto, “Share a Shaka, Live Aloha.”

Remedy Spa Hawaii, a newcomer in the premium spa experiences in Waikiki, is a Japan business which is supporting the film because of Japan ties with the spirt of the shaka and the spirit of aloha.

Further, PBS here is interested in airing the film, with a possible reach to headquarters for wider screening on the PBS network.

Sue said he’s exploring the film festivals market, too, to launch the final product, being directed by Hawaii’s Alex Bocchieri, whose previous films include “Go For Broke” (2018), “No More Aloha” (2013) and “Flat” (2011).

“We’re stoked, with what we’ve captured so far and can’t wait to share the power of ‘Shaka’ to the world,” said Sue.

The $375,000 budget for the documentary –  already raised –was for a film envisioned as a 30-minute short. But the doc has  expanded to a 90 minute feature —  with $125,000 more sought by completion in 2023. A rough cut is expected by January 2023.

The final “shoot” at the Polynesian Cultural Center  will resemble a red-carpeted  opening night premiere event, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 19 – deliberately on a Wednesday, which is a dark night for the Laie venue – and space for 200 people is available.

Tickets are $225 (premium) and $175 (general) and will include a luau meal and a “Shaka” swag bag, plus photo ops  in front of a media wall. Those attending must sign a consent document to possibly appear in the crowd shots, part of a customary film-industry release  agreement.

Tickets are available at Eventbrite: shakacon2022.eventbrite.com

And that’s Show Biz. …


Just asking …

If Hollywood filmmakers are seeking hefty discounts and insider tax incentives to shoot projects  in Hawaii – vs. other tropical sites such as Mexico or the Caribbean – shouldn’t state regulators  consider new mandatory requirements to ensure mutually beneficial perks?

One consideration might be to require, when possible, at least a secondary role for union actors from Hawaii to gain an edge to audition for a part on camera. Instead of a Maori from New Zealand to play someone local, why not a genuine local?

So often, shows are cast before setting shop on our shores, while we have a stable of eager performers hungry for work. Local behind-the-scenes techies are regularly hired; why not on camera participants, too? Then, it might be a win-win situation. The attitude that we don’t have talent here is so untrue.

The last and only TV show to hire fresh island faces for secondary leads was the original “Hawaii Five-0,” giving Al Harrington and Zulu a huge opportunity to strut their stuff. The only current islander (though now a Los Angeles resident) is Anthony Ruivivar, who plays the husband of lead agent Vanessa Lachery in “NCIS: Hawaii.” His role is recurring, but limited.  Technically,  Amy Hill of the rebooted “Magnum P.I.” (she plays Tutui) is not a local, but now sorta is, since she has bought a condo, which makes her a part-time resident but she lives and talks like  one us anyway.

The query: Don’t you think Hawaii-based shows, notably TV, should hire more resident actors? …