It’s official: Summer officially has begun, with all the right elements: a stellar story, hypnotic air flights and fights, and the key ingredient named Tom Cruise.

The fact that “Top Gun: Maverick” is a sequel of a film from 30 years ago, when Cruise first took on Pete “Maverick” Mitchell … somewhat astonishing. And then the pandemic stalled the release of “Maverick” for nearly three years … something frustrating.

But the delay heightened anticipation and expanded expectation and the Memorial Day weekend turned out to be the perfect moment to welcome “Top Gun,” which raked in a $100 million three-day gross, which, if international box office is added, meant a $248 million global tally. With today’s Memorial Day (May 30) holiday, another $50 million could be added to the explosive total.

Tom Cruise in “Top Gun: Maverick”

The alignment of the delay, the performance of Cruise as the cocky but dependable fighter pilot-turned-mentor, and the public’s eagerness to see the aerial dynamics in movie theaters (which has struggled to fill seats till now) meant the stars were aligned in filmland.

The plot was somewhat predictable, but there are surprises: generals make mistakes, mavericks take chances, a few original characters return, old wounds are resolved, a romantic bond is sealed, and Lady Gaga seals the deal with her end-titles ballad, “Hold My Hand,”
uplifting the soundtrack as folks exit the theaters. Gage’s composing collaborators are  Harold Faltermeyer and Hans Zimmer. Clearly, it’s headed to No. 1 and will be an Oscar song contender next year.

It’s fun to know and hear the “handles” of the military mights: Maverick, Iceman, Rooster, Cyclone, Fanboy, Hangman, Coyote, etc.

And here’s a rarity just might increase: Cruise welcomes fans prior to the film, in a tack-on video akin to a handshake (Benedict Cumberbatch did a similar clip prior to his “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness “sequel earlier). Could more actors and films adopt this policy? …

Elton John doc due on Disney+

A documentary on superstar Elton John is due from Disney Original Documentary and Disney+.

Deadline reports that the doc, entitled “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: The Final Elton John Performances and the Years. That Made His Legend.”

Elton John will be featured in a new documentary with a mouthful of a title.

Yes, it’s a mouthful. But John has been a musical figure not wholly represented in films. The thrust of the doc will be John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour,” when he spent months on tour, culminating in a November gig at Dodger Stadium that will cap his final North American show.

Unseen footage of his 50-year global success will provide essential videos of John earlier in his career, when his shows included lavish costumes and spectacles that reflected his charismatic flamboyancy.

“Rocketman,” the 2019 biography with Taron Egerton as John, explored his life but lacked theatrical vigor since the performance factor fell short; there was no soaring climactic fervor like the “We Will Rock You” finale with Rami Malek as Freddy Mercury in the Queen biopic, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” …

And that’s Show Biz. …


Jay Larrin, absent from the concert scene for nearly three years, broke the drought with a rare appearance Saturday night (May 28) at the Hawaii Convention Center.

He may be a bit rusty, but he’s still trustworthy to put on a show, mixing ingredients that have made him an island legend, hauling in a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts earlier this year.

Yes, he’s best known as a singer-composer for a fistful of hit tunes. “The Koolaus Are Sleeping,” and lots more. He’s also a dedicated pianist, capable of hitting those ivories with unashamed power.

He’s truly a conversationalist, turning moments into personal share-a-story sequences that reflect his glorious global vision of a world without hate, an environment linked to the ‘aina, a posture of perpetuating the soul of the islands.

And clearly, he is a poet at the keyboard, whether he’s reciting a poem that throbs in his heart, or singing out – no, shooting out – the grandeur of “The Snows of Mauna Kea,” his awesome signature that brings out the best of his melodic brand.

Nature. Kupuna. Traditions.

Jay Larrin

These are at the heart of his artistry. And at this one-nighter,  dubbed Na Kupuna Nights, he ended his years of “retirement” freedom, as he uncorked the bottled wine of his wisdom, and purred out the glory that is Hawaii, and in the end, demonstrated that he’s not lost his touch and his brand.

OK, he’s silver-haired now; FYI, he had a haircut prior to this engagement, letting the white hair flow like the snowcaps of his fave mountain. Yep, he’s got a bit of a paunch; like the rest of his aging generation, he moves slowly and cautiously. But he doesn’t disappoint. His memory and manner are sharp. And lord, he’s got a lot on his mind.

He remembers when and how he penned a prologue and an epilogue, to Eddie and Myrna Kamae’s “E Kuu Morning Dew,” and shares the beginning and ending few know about. That’s the poet at work.

He recalls how he was mentored by Pilahi Paki, the resourceful Hawaiian spirit who wrote “Aloha Is,” and worried that she didn’t respond to some minor tweaking he did with her creation, until the late Moe Keale ventured to record the mele that has evolved into a mantra about what aloha stands for.

He confesses he’s long been a fan of Kui Lee and his songwriting skills, and particularly lives by the message of “The Days of My Youth,” which prompted him to honor Lee with a poem.

He reflects on how he wrote “Molokai Lullaby,” as a tribute to Melveen Leed’s birthplace, and one of the most atmospheric “place song” embracing the virtues of the Friendly Isle.

And clearly, his adoration of the islands has fueled his songs. “I Wish You Forever Hawaii”
comes to mind. Emphatically.

Larrin used to run his shows like a piano bar, with his fans and friends listening and watching him at the piano. Over the decades, he’s been serenading in a range of locations, from Castagnola’s to Canlis, from Horatio’s to the Gangplank Lounge of the Moana Surfrider Hotel, and his compositions and camaraderie were always the primary staples.

In the distant past, he concertized in a cozy lounge as well as the main ballroom of the Hawaii Prince Hotel, where he delivered his Christmas melodies and memories, but when the pandemic hit, everything shut down everywhere. A fan at the Convention Center reminded him that he didn’t deliver “Silver Bells” for a couple of Christmases, so he did the tune and invited the audience to chime in, shaking keychains or tingling water glasses with silverware, to briefly celebrate the holidays, belatedly.

He fondly remembers a young Warren Marley, a fellow haole singer-composer-pianist from Idaho, and how they’d hang out, comparing notes, until his buddy’s too-early passing.

He’s haole, too, from Tennessee; he still has somewhat of a Southern drawl, but happily Hawaiian theories and traditions bubble in his heart and soul, and he likely knows more about the islands that have become his home for perhaps four decades.

Bryan Tolentino

The event also showcased the energy and enlightenment of NUENa ‘Ukulele ‘Ekolu, featuring Bryan Tolentino (tenor ukulele), Halehaku Seabury (baritone ukulele) and Kama Hopkins (bass ukulele).  The three (ekolu) have a splendid repertoire of classic and current Hawaiian, with the trio of different ukes setting off melodic magic.

Kuuipo Kamakahi also was part of the bill, serenading outside the dining room, sharing her Hawaiiana with casual charm. …

And that’s Show Biz. …


Have you been caught in the spell of “Tokyo Vice,” the enticing and intriguing HBO Max series that explores the dark corridors and Yakuza-clouded world of Japan journalism?

Ansel Elgort, who was Tony in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story,” stars as a newbie gaijin (foreign) crime reporter named Jake Adelstein, who is trying to earn his stripes in the daunting world of Japan’s gloomy and structural media world, based on Jake Adelstein’s novel about a fish-out-of sea element. While Elgort appears to speak and write fluent Japanese, he cannot appease his bosses because he asks too many questions, doesn’t abide to demeaning orders since he smells opportunity in the shadowy world of Hiroto Katagiri, the veteran police chief played by legendary Japanese actor Ken Watanabe, who has the power and voice to emphatically ban a cub reporter’s story, reasons not needed.

Ansel Elgort

Elgort is one of the executive producers of this hypnotic drama, which explores the underbelly of Tokyo’s 1990s club-and-crime scene, where an apparent murder cannot be reported as such, unless the cops say it is. The reporter is an eager soul with a thirst for that prime story that will put him on the map, but in the three (of eight) episodes I’ve watched, he’s still got a lot of tough challenges to confront. His fashionably long tresses, tall and lanky frame might project a model, but clearly, he’s a loose cannon uncertain what to make of Rinko Kikuchi’s Emi, his contemporary boss who oversees his assignments but always trashes his work. So he’s still working on his fame to turn around his shame.

Ansel Elgort, center, the Japanese-speaking gaijin in “Tokyo Vice.”

Director Michael Mann, who helmed the pilot episode, projects a film noirish universe, with its obvious hooks: crooked Yakuza agents pressuring clients to pay protection fees; hostess bars where Samantha, a transplanted haole played by Rachel Keller, is trying to work out her status since she speaks and adapts to Japanese ways. Samantha and Adelstein become friends as he conducts his own investigations to discover there is a link between the demise of two Japanese nationals whose deaths might be related, even in the manner of death. One, with multiple stabbing wounds; the other, a gasoline-stained guy who lights a match in an spectacle of a fiery finale; different but decidedly with similar hooks.

Action aside, a pleasant surprise was to discover an Island name in the credit rolls – that of Haiku, Maui native Destin Daniel Cretton, who is one of the producers for at least six episodes of “Tokyo Vice.” Suddenly, it became “Tokyo Nice,” with a local spin in the story and action.

Destin Daniel Cretton

Cretten, of course, is known primarily for shaping and directing “Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings,” the mammoth Marvel box office hit, which made Simu Liu a major action film star.

This, along with other yet-to-be-completed projects, including a sequel to “Shang-Chi,” will keep his name on the front burner for the next few years.

All the episodes of “Tokyo Vice” are streaming now and the spoken Japanese is sub-titled for gaijin viewers.

It’s gritty, atmospheric, and preciously dark, and part of the fun is to recognize quick shots of Japan’s bevy of tucked-away sushi bars and ramen shops, amid the crowded streets and alleyways of marketplaces and the network of subway trains.

And oh, about Elgort’s nihongo – no, he’s not fluent in the Japanese lingo but had to memorize lines, but managed to be a convincing conversationalist because of his diction and delivery. Apparently, he became a master of his lines and even could ad-lib, properly, the manner and the message in Japanese. …

And that’s Show Biz. …


“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” is one of the jewels of Broadway biographies crammed with hit songs. The title says it all. Beautiful, indeed.

Like “Jersey Boys,” the musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, “Beautiful” is bountiful with nuggets of revelation and nibbles about the composer of a kegload of pop songs fueling the soundtrack of a specific era.

Like “Ain’t So Proud,” the mega-hit loaded musical cementing and celebrating the astonishing career of The Temptations, “Beautiful” is one of Broadway’s savvy exploration and expedition of a songwriter who had the will and smarts to come from the ranks of creator to the spotlight of a performer.

And Sara Sheperd, as the queen who is King in this national touring company of “Beautiful,” celebrates the riches of the King’s cache of hot pops and its cycle of growth and appeal that not only made King famous and rich, but also brought glory and shimmer to the careers of many performers over a span of five decades.

Sara Sheperd, as Carole King, in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.”

The show, closing today (final performances at 1 and 6:30 p.m.) at Blaisdell Concert Hall, is an inspirational saga of the journey of an unknown composer who was able to cross the planks of uncertainty to make a name and enjoy her own fame as a prolific tunesmith who deserved to win back ownership of her compositions.

I apologize for the lateness of this review; I had minor health issues when “Beautiful” opened last Tuesday, and last night (Saturday, April 23) happened to be my ticket choice night before the finale.  Advice: if you have time, and can secure some tickets, go for it!

“Beautiful” is the launch of a first-time, four-musicals season that comprise a Broadway in Hawaii package this year. Later titles are “Cats,” “Hamilton” and “Jersey Boys.”

The play begins with King at home at her keyboard, prepping for her career-high concert onstage at Carnegie Hall, and ends with that triumphant performance fueled by her 1971 album, “Tapestry.” Talk about a dream come true.

That’s what friends are for: from left, Sara Sheperd as Carole King, Sara King as Cynthia Weil, Ryan Farnsworth as Barry Mann, and James D. Gish as Gerry Goffin.

Indeed, the King tapestry of tunes – then and now – defines the soundtrack of many lives. A Brooklynite, King juggled the struggles of becoming a female composer and young wife and mother to a successful hit-maker whose marriage was a victim of her sheer success. Sheperd embodies the spirit of a composer-turned-singer, visually (the tousled long hair) and vocally (a voice that makes you feel the earth move).

Her early collaborator, in songwriting and romance, was Gerry Goffin (James D. Gish, a cad with charisma), who shared ambitions and dreams of writing chart hits for a bevy of soloists and groups who would gain success, thanks to the King-Goffin well of tunes.

King and Goffin meet and compete with another duo of tunesmiths, Barry Mann (a comedic Ryan Fansworth, perfectly enacting a career hypochondriac) and Cynthia Weil (an in-control Sara King, as a fashionista and buddy in partnering), who became lifetime allies, during good and bad times.

The pleasure with “Beautiful” is the stroll down memory lane, reliving the memories of groundbreaking careers.

And because the leading characters are primarily singers, not dancers, the choreographic wonders – necessary in this kind of bio-musical — are provided by some of the delightful hitmakers of the past, like The Drifters (Torrey Linder, Jacquez Linder-Long, Julian Malone and Ben Toomer), who glide and dance through audience faves like “Up on the Roof” and “On Broadway.”

Then there’s The Shirelles (Rosharra Francis, Jamary A. Gill, Danielle Herber and Nazarria Workman) enacting “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” with empowering sass.

It helps to have a little knowledge of historical facts. The mecca of pop music invention was the Brill Building, located at 1650 Broadway, known as the “factory” where composers (King and Goffin included) assembled to create hit songs like “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” for the Righetous Brothers, “Locomotion” for Little Eva,  Bobby Vee’s “Take Good Care of My Baby,” Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-A-Lula,” The Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” Neil Sedaka’s “Oh Carol,” and The Chiffons’ “One Fine Day” (though the musical credits Janelle Woods, played by Rosharra Francis, as the deliverer of this title —  it’s an error, because she never recorded it) and Barry Mann’s “Who Put the Bomp.”

If you were astute back in the day, you’ll remember music “names” like Don Kirshner and Lou Adler, who were moguls in King’s prolific career.

Oh yeah, there’s a Monkees tune, “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” in the roster, but it’s overshadowed by King’s signatures such as “You’ve Got a Friend,” “It’s Too Late,” and “(You Make Me Feel Like ) A Natural Woman.”

And remain for the curtain call; Sheperd and company do an audience sing-along, enabling you to say– after your exit — that you sang with her. …

And that’s Show Biz. …


Nothing is simple or sane, and nowhere does it say it has to be.

So “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is a stew of incredibility and imagination, perhaps everything and anything you might not expect in a film.

It’s maniacal, but magical; it’s whimsical, yet wonderful; it’s delightful yet disastrous;  and it seemingly doesn’t end, so it offers twin endings. Like, “The End” twice.

Basically, it’s an original oddity, starring an agile and admirable Michelle Yeoh, as an operator of a laundromat who doesn’t quite know how to pay her bills so has ills with the IRS. She is the essence of a wreck-a-holic on steroids, in a grand way.

As directed by a pair of Daniels, who like to be known as the Daniels (last names, Kwan and Sheinert), this is an action film disguised as a comedy yet plays like a superheroine adventure complete with matters of the universe. It’s like a video game run amok, a family sit-com with kicks and kinks leading to a cosmic explosion of emotions and antics, a vision or version of apocalyptic end-of-the-world with more domestic ripples anchored to getting along with grandpa and a gay daughter, etc.


Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan

It’s a longish journey (running time, 2:20, but seems endlessly longer) that dodges the finish line with extended gags, which results in lags, and it certainly is overwhelming and overpowering in the constant conflicts of relationships between leading and secondary characters.

Yeoh is remarkably athletic in stamina as Evelyn Wang, who ditched the family while she was young, who now owns a laundromat with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan, the once-young lad in “Indiana Jones and the  Temple of Doom,” now converted into a modern-day comedic Jackie Chan), who unite with patriarch Gong Gong  (James Hong), the aging but able great-grandfather of the Chinese elderly dude), to celebrate Chinese New Year. But life is complex; the washing machines are below the parental residence, Waymond is seeking a divorce from Evelyn, who has to face the music and madness of an IRS audit; the couple’s daughter (Stephanie Hsu), has admitted she’s gay and brings home “good friend” partner Becky (Tallie Medel) for the family shebang.

Jamie Lee Curtis

Evelyn’s nemesis here includes Deirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis), the irrepressible IRS investigator who threatens the demise of the laundromat unless its owner can settle its questionable tax debt. Curtis is recognizable in face, but is padded with body prosthetics, and turns in a wacky, wicked performance as an IRS-er you don’t want to mess with.

The themes of filial love and respect, parental patience, spousal connections, and a heavy dose of metaverse threats and invasions where nothing is as it seems, everything and everywhere is blended into a toxic brew as if thrown into a food processor. Time is bent, twisted, flashing backward and forward, blurring reality.

And there are some icky, sticky, even sickly mess of elements, like a discomforting anal moment with a trophy substituting for a sexual device. And silly, recurring instances of googly eyes; you know, the kind of stick-on fake eyes.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are frequent unexpected sci-fi gems: hotdogs posing as fingers, toes playing the piano, for starters.

Because of its original, fresh storytelling, unfolded in bursts of clever visual and aural trickery, the Daniels have created a logical Gen Z product with word-of-mouth assist in making this a buzzed-about hit.

However, “Everything” is not for everyone, since mostly everything is unconventional and stuff keeps popping up everywhere without expectation. But you will be awed and astonished at everything you understand and even astonished by everything you didn’t quite get.

However, everything considered, you’ll have a roar of a great time.

And that’s Show Biz…