Top 5 Reasons We Love Darren Criss

Darren Criss has only been in television’s spotlight for a handful of years, but he has already managed to gather an incredible amount of dedicated fans. On twitter alone, his account has an impressive 1.7 million followers. It doesn’t take much to see that Criss is beloved by many.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the 27-year-old actor, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 reasons we love Darren Criss. See if you end up falling in love with him after reading them all.

 


 

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1. He’s Harry Potter.

Well… not exactly, but he certainly does a great job of portraying a comedic Harry Potter on stage. In 2009, Darren Criss co-founded a Chicago-based musical theatre company called StarKid Productions. That same year, Criss played Harry Potter in the StarKid production “A Very Potter Musical” and began gathering attention for himself. The hilarious musical was put on YouTube and became a viral video. The musical was so popular that they created two more installments. Even before hitting television screens, Criss already showed us his humor, charm, talent and stage presence.

 


 


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2. He’s Blaine.

Darren Criss is most known for his character Blaine Anderson on the popular Fox musical comedy-drama series Glee. Following his success with StarKid Productions, he was casted as the charming gay high school student. The chemistry between Blaine and another character named Kurt Hummel gained a large fan support and their relationship was named, “one of the most beloved TV couples of the millennium” by  the New York Post. Additionally, they were named Favorite TV Couple at the 2010 AfterElton.com Visibility Awards, and Entertainment Weekly claims that the boys have been “leading the way” in representing the gay community on television.

 


 

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3. He’s talented.
As you can probably tell from his work, Darren Criss is an awfully talented fellow. He began playing the violin at the age of 5 and was classically trained for 15 years. Of course, he didn’t stop there. He also taught himself how to play the guitar, piano, mandolin, harmonica and drums. By the age of ten, he began joining theater groups and theater companies. By 15, Criss began composing songs. He made his television debut in 2009 on Eastwick, his Broadway debut in 2012 in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and his film debut later that year in Girl Most Likely.

 

 


 


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4. He’s Filipino-American.
And he’s extremely proud of his roots. His mother is a native of Cebu, Philippines and went to live in America in hopes of better circumstances for her children. Criss admits that while his childhood was not too immersed in the culture, he has been to the Philippines numerous times and has a “bizarre kinship” with the country. “As soon as I got off the plane, I was like, ‘Ah, this is me back in the Philippines.” I love this place. Whatever Filipino blood [I have in me] is very happy to be here.” he said in an interview.

 


 


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5. He has a big heart.
Possibly one of the biggest reasons Criss has such a large fanbase is because he seems to be a genuinely good person. Following the massive Typhoon that hit the Philippines, Criss launched a campaign to encourage donations. His statement said, ”My mother was born & raised there, and as a result I have always been proud of my Filipino heritage, as well as lucky enough to feel the tremendous support of the Filipino community throughout my life as an artist.” Criss is an active supporter of The Trevor Project which focuses on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. His work with this organization gained him Variety’s Power of Youth Philanthropy award.

 


 

Bonus: He’s Hot.

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Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ Now On Broadway

Story by Taylor Weik. 

It’s finally time for everyone’s favorite thief to take his turn under the flashing bulbs of Broadway. Disney’s Aladdin, the musical adaption of the 1992 Walt Disney film, officially debuts at Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre on March 20. The musical features an all-star creative team, including Tony Award-winning director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon), with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by the late Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and book and additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin.

Of the 34-member cast, the two leads are both Asian American. Playing the title role of Aladdin is Adam Jacobs, whose mother is Filipina (Jacobs portrayed Marius in the 2006 Broadway revival of Les Misérables), and biracial Thai American Courtney Reed, whose credits include In the Heights and Mamma Mia!, will play Princess Jasmine.

“It doesn’t feel real,” says Reed about the role. “She has always been my favorite Disney princess, and now I get to bring her to life. It’s a dream come true.”

The musical comedy promises a full score with brand new songs, though Disney fans can rest assured that five of them will be from the original film. “It may be cliché but ‘A Whole New World’ is just a classic,” says Reed. “The arrangement for the show is gorgeous, and I love singing with my co-star Adam.” The production will also introduce new characters, specifically Babkak, Kassim and Omar, Aladdin’s three sidekicks.

Even the classic Disney characters will have some new lines to work with. “In expanding the story for Broadway, we’ve been able to add a little more depth to [Jasmine], and she’s a bit more modern than you may remember her from the movie, so the audience will get a chance to see a more dimensional Jasmine,” says Reed. “I just have to trust myself and my director to stay true to the essence of the princess I watched on my screen every day growing up!”

This story was originally published in our Spring 2014 issue. Get your copy here. 

National Film Society’s Comedy Web Series, Awesome Asian Bad Guys

Story by Ada Tseng. Photos by Craig Stubing, unwrittenfilms.com    

In 2011, Patrick Mendoza Epino and Stephen Dypiangco started a YouTube channel and new media studio called National Film Society. Part of the joke was that their name sounded very official and old-school Hollywood, but in reality, the playful, self-mocking and slightly absurd videos, from “Film School or No Film School?” to “Manny Pacquiao vs. Batman,” were made by two Filipino American filmmakers who riffed on everything. Eight months after they started, they caught the attention of PBS Digital Studios, which added National Film Society to their lineup. Since then, they’ve given out National Film Society “awards” (aka slightly inappropriate Barrel Man statuettes) to their confused actor friends, filmed commentary about the popular PBS series Downton Abbey, and interviewed subjects from documentarian Morgan Spurlock to Cookie Monster.

One of their most memorable videos was titled “Awesome Asian Bad Guys,” where they paid tribute to the badass Asian fighters in the action films they loved watching in the ’80s and ’90s. Unfortunately, in typical white male-dominated Hollywood form, these impressively skilled Asian guys always ended up dying very quickly at the hands of a Bruce Willis, an Arnold Schwarzenegger or a Mel Gibson. Dypiangco’s favorite bad guy was George Cheung (Rush Hour, Rambo 2); Epino’s favorite was Al Leong, who was killed off so many times that he’s inspired an “Al Leong Death Reel” compilation on YouTube where he violently perishes in almost 20 different movies. At the end of this National Film Society video, they mention that it’d be awesome to gather all these Asian bad guys together one day and create a super team, kind of like “the Asian Expendables.”

They had no idea they’d actually do it one day. “We just thought, conceptually, it’d be funny,” says Epino. “We weren’t like, ‘Let’s make it!’”
“It just seemed like it’d be ridiculous and fun,” says Dypiangco. “And it seemed like it’d be something that’d work really well on the web.”
Once they got some actors on board — including Tamlyn Tomita (beloved for her role on Karate Kid 2), Yuji Okumoto (who played the Karate Kid’s nemesis in the same film), comedic actor Aaron Takahashi (onboard to play the villain), and even Al Leong himself — Epino and Dypiangco launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to make their Awesome Asian Bad Guys web series.
A year and a half later, Awesome Asian Bad Guys is scheduled to premiere in San Francisco at the 2014 CAAMFest in March. There, it will play as a short feature, but online, it will be separated into approximately 10-minute webisodes. Though there were some “bad guys” in their dream cast that they weren’t able to lock down — including Bolo Yeung (Bloodsport, Double Impact) and James Hong (who turned them down four times) — Epino and Dypiangco’s team of Asian American actors were game to play fictional versions of themselves in the action comedy. The story begins with Tomita, who alerts the National Film Society about the dangers of Takahashi — who people might recognize as the funny guy with glasses in the Amp’d Mobile and State Farm commercials, but, in his personal life, is the leader of a gang with a diabolical plan to take down his competition in the entertainment industry.
“See, Tamlyn had a twin sister named Pamlyn whom Aaron killed,” explains Epino, with a straight face. “So she comes to us to help her get revenge.” He laughs. “Don’t ask why she comes to us. She just does.”
“She asks us to help recruit this team [of Awesome Asian Bad Guys] to take down Aaron,” says Dypiangco. Other co-stars include Dante Basco (Rufio in Hook, Ben in The Debut), who plays Takahashi’s right-hand man, and Randall Park (Larry Crowne, The Five-Year Engagement, Veep), who is desperate to join the team of Awesome Asian Bad Guys to show that he can do more than just play the goofy Asian sidekick. Epino and Dypiangco even got Nuo “Sunny” Sun, who has worked on films such as The Avengers, The Expendables and The Last Airbender, to be their stunt coordinator.
“[Patrick and I] are on the Awesome Asian Bad Guys team, so we get to do some action, but we do it as [versions of] ourselves,” says Dypiangco. “So we’re not super skilled.”
“We’re poorly skilled,” says Epino. “But we were available to do the fight training more often than any of the rest of the actors, whose schedules we’d have to work around because they would sometimes book other gigs at the last minute.”
While they did some research on other web series to get a sense of the online medium, the story mostly references The Expendables, the film series starring Sylvester Stallone and other action hero actors, including Jet Li. Yet while they were shooting, the cast and crew kept telling them it felt like they were making a Naked Gun movie.

“That wasn’t necessarily conscious,” says Dypiangco, about being inspired by the over-the-top crime comedy film franchise from 1988 to 1994 starring Leslie Nielson, “but I think people thought that because [Awesome Asian Bad Guys] is just super silly.” He laughs. “But I actually watched Naked Gun again recently, and it’s pretty good!”

 

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This story was originally published in our Spring 2014 issue. Get your copy here

An Intimate Conversation with Ang Lee

What do a superhero action blockbuster, an intimate western love story and a foreign language film have in common? For one, they’re all directed by Taiwanese-American director Ang Lee.

The Film Foundation and Louis XIII Cognac partnered up Wednesday night to cohost Creative Encounter, an evening of conversation with two-time Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee and actress Anne Hathaway, who worked with Lee on Brokeback Mountain in 2005.

Held in the Charles Aidikoff Screening Room in Beverly Hills, Creative Encounter began with a video montage of Lee’s numerous films along with a discussion about Lee’s love affair with filmmaking, illustrating decades-worth of the hard work and talent the Film Foundation aims to preserve as an “art form that stands the test of time.”

Despite his incredible successes thus far, Lee didn’t always want to be behind the camera. Coming to the United States from Taiwan when he was 23 years old, Lee had all the intentions of becoming a famous actor, but he soon realized an unavoidable obstacle standing in the way of his dream: he couldn’t speak English. Wanting to continue to be a part of the entertainment industry in some way, Lee resorted to directing.

“I went to film school but I was doubtful and I didn’t think I would make any money or do anything,” Lee reflected on his decision. Does he still have his doubts? “Not anymore,” Lee said, “Not after the two, three Oscars. I can’t deny that I’m a talented filmmaker now, but I used to deny it for a long, long time.”

Lee soon fell in love with directing, discovering that he could take something pretend in order to convey a truth. It’s another similarity his many diverse works share: the hopes and disappointments that all humans have. His leaps between genre and style also are due, in part, to Lee’s drive to explore the unknown.

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“It’s like sight-seeing; why would you want to go to the same place?” Lee said. “In marriage you have to be loyal, but in filmmaking…why not explore?” He’s admitted to turning down several movie deals in the past that he felt were in a genre he had already spent time in.

Lee also reflected on his long career from the beginning, back when he directed one of his first films in 1992, Pushing Hands, about the clash between Chinese traditions of family and modern Western ideals regarding individualism. If he could, would he travel back in time to give his younger, less experienced self advice?

“No,” Lee said simply. “I’m not saying that movie was perfect. There were things I did that I think now, ‘Oh, don’t do that, that’s so embarrassing,’ but I was doing my best.”

Actress Anne Hathaway, who won the Oscar last year for best supporting actress, weighed in on her 10 year friendship with Lee and her initial first impressions. The two met when 21 year-old Hathaway auditioned for Brokeback Mountain –– in an extravagant princess ball gown, no less, during a lunch break from filming The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.

“I was so intimidated when I walked into the room, but when I met [Ang], I felt like I’d known him for a long time,” Hathaway reflected. “Before, I never referred to myself as an actress but after working with him on this film I thought, ‘I can call myself an actress now.’”

Continuing with his theme of human condition, Lee revealed his plans for a new film centered around boxing. ”It’s two guys beating each other senseless, but with meaning,” Lee said, “And I think that’s the bottom line of life: the effort we put into something.”

A KARATE KID TRIBUTE for Tamlyn Tomita’s Birthday

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Japanese-American actress Tamlyn Tomita turns 48 today. Tomita has had numerous Hollywood TV and movie roles such as Waverly Jong in The Joy Luck Club, Lieutenant Commander Tracy Manetti in JAG and guest roles on popular TV shows like Glee and Teen Wolf.

But let’s not forget about the iconic movie that first introduced us to Tomita in 1986, when she was just 20 years old. The Karate Kid, Part II had Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita reprise their roles as student and mentor in this martial arts sequel. Tomita played Kumiko, the young Daniel’s love interest.

To commemorate Tomita’s birthday and give you a blast from the past, we present to you photos and video clips from everyone’s favorite coming-of-age karate blockbuster. Wax on, wax off.

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Disney Princesses As Sailor Moon Characters

Disney’s newest animated feature Frozen brought us not one, but two new Disney Princesses. With the success of the film, the popularity of Disney Princesses have once again shot up.

Social media sites have been covered with tests to “find out which Disney Princess you are.” People have begun closely analyzing Frozen princesses Anna and Elsa as well as the classics. More and more videos of Disney song covers are being uploaded to YouTube every minute.

At this point, is there anything that could make the Disney Princess craze even more successful? How about combining it with another popular franchise?

Well that’s exactly what artist Drachea Rannak has done. Since 2013, Drachea Rannak has taken popular Disney heroins and re-imagined them as Sailor Moon characters.

Popular manga and animated series Sailor Moon is one of Japan’s most successful franchises. The English adaptations of both the manga and anime series became the first successful shōjo title in the United States. The franchise has not only stolen the hearts of Japan and the US, Sailor Moon has gained popularity worldwide.

It only seems fitting that two powerhouses join together. Drachea Rannak recently added Anna and Elsa onto his list of “Sailor Princesses.” Check them out below.

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Top 5 Reasons We Love Variety’s 2014 Breakthrough Actress OLIVIA MUNN

Variety‘s Breakthrough of the Year Awards celebrates and recognizes rising stars in entertainment and technology. This year, the awards ceremony took place at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas.

Much of our attention was focused on Variety’s 2014 Breakthrough Actress Winner, Olivia Munn. The 33-year-old half-Chinese actress has been on our radar for quite some time. Thankfully, the world is taking notice.

Munn is most known for her roles in films such as Iron Man 2 and Magic Mike as well as her roles on television shows such as The Daily Show and New Girl.

Although she is considered a “rising star,” she has captivated the hearts of her fans for years. Don’t know her yet? Now’s the time. Here are our Top 5 Reasons We Love Olivia Munn.

 


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1. She never gave up on her dreams.
In a 2011 interview with Audrey Magazine, Munn admits that when she first told her mother she wanted to be an actress, her mother adamantly disagreed and insisted that she become a lawyer.

In fact, her mother wasn’t the only one who doubted Munn’s choice of acting. Initially, Munn found her dreams difficult to follow. Her unique look and Asian eyes originally caused her to feel doubtful.

But Munn didn’t give up on her dreams. In fact, it all made her work harder to prove to everyone (including herself) that she was capable. “I told myself, my bar will always be higher than what I was doing at the time. Then if I reached that one, I would make another higher one, and another one,” she says. “I’ve worked hard for a long time [so I could] tell myself, I’ll never be the reason I hear no.”


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2. She overcame social pressures.
Munn spent much of her childhood moving around. She was born in Oklahoma, but spent a large portion of her childhood in Tokyo, Japan. Needless to say, she found it difficult to fit in.

According to Refinery29, Munn tried to change her appearance to be accepted by her peers. “I wore men’s clothing a lot in high school because I wanted to hide behind baggy pants and T-shirts. When I moved from Japan to Oklahoma at 16 I tried to go more preppy to fit in. I ditched my skater clothes but I just ended up looking like some weird girl desperately trying to fit in. The kids in school would be wearing sweater vests from Gap, but we couldn’t afford brand new clothes so I would borrow my grandmother’s linty, moth-eaten sweater vests and not realise how much of a sore thumb I looked like.”

But as expected, she overcame this need to fit in. “When you’re always the new girl, it forces you to come up with new ways to make friends,” Munn tells Audrey Magazine, “because every time you go somewhere, it’s literally the same battle. Eventually with me, once I built up so much scar tissue, I didn’t have to worry so much about becoming popular or being welcomed or being accepted.”


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3. Her strong relationship with her fans.
Over the years, Munn has gathered quite a handful of loyal fans and has proven that she doesn’t allow fame to get to her head. Her fan club is called OMFGs (Olivia Munn Fan Group) and Munn has been known to be extremely generous and kind to her dedicated fans.  In an interview with US Magazine, Munn has stated that she owes everything she has to her loyal fan group, OMFG.

“They’re amazing. I’m very lucky. It’s a really good feeling to know they have my back,” says Munn. ““They put me on this ride. They’re coming along for the ride.”

 


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4. She’s a published author.
Although Munn pursued her dream of becoming an actress despite her mother’s initial sentiments about the career, the last thing Munn wanted to do was go against her mother’s will. Munn admits that no matter what, she needed her mother’s approval before making big decisions like moving to Hollywood.

To satisfy her mother, she graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a journalism degree and work for a year at a local television station before moving west.

Although Munn is now a successful actress, she still put her degree to good use and became a published author. Suck It, Wonder Woman: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek, was released on July 6, 2010.

 


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5. She’s an Audrey Magazine covergirl.
The beautiful Olivia Munn graced our Spring 2011 cover. Check out the must-read cover story here.

 

LINSANITY : Not Even A Multimillion Dollar NBA Contract Or A Feature Film Can Change Jeremy Lin

Story by Ada Tseng.

In 2012, basketball star Jeremy Lin lived the ultimate underdog story. As the then-23-year-old rose from obscurity — one minute, he was worried his short-lived NBA career was over, the next minute, he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline “Against All Odds” — Lin became more than an international sports hero. He embodied the hardworking Asian American icon that had been discriminated against and underestimated his entire life and was finally getting his opportunity to show the world what he could really do.

While his February 2012 streak caught everyone (including Lin himself) off guard, no one could have been more excited than the film team led by director Evan Jackson Leong, who happened to be shooting a documentary about Lin at the time. Leong had started production on the film back when Lin was a senior at Harvard university. Lin remembers, “I figured, worst case, we’d have someone compile all this footage and make a cool story, and maybe I’ll be able to show it to my kids and my grandkids one day.”

As January 2012 rolled around, Leong was ready to wrap up Lin’s story, but the only thing he was missing was a good ending. Lin not only gave them their ending, he elevated the stakes of the film more than any of them could ever imagine. What was envisioned as a low-key series of webisodes about one of the few Asian Americans in the NBA suddenly included footage of sports journalists bombarding Kobe Bryant with questions about Lin, David Letterman donning a Jeremy Lin jersey on the Late Show, and even President Obama claiming he knew about Lin way back when he was playing at Harvard. Narrated by actor Daniel Dae Kim, Linsanity: The Jeremy Lin Story screened at the Sundance Festival, had a theatrical release in October, and will be out on DVD January 4.

After the whirlwind that was Linsanity whisked Lin from the New York Knicks to the Houston Rockets in July 2012, the attention started to die down. A year later, the 25-year-old has, for the most part, remained out of the headlines, but in Taiwan, the homeland of Lin’s parents, the obsession continues. Giant Linsanity billboards can be seen all over Taipei, and as Linsanity producer Bryan Yang says in a new NBA video about Jeremy Lin fandom in Taiwan: “Linsanity as a phenomenon has not subsided. It’s as if it were February 2012 still. … It’s the Beatles, except modern-day in Taiwan.”

Each summer, Lin travels to Taiwan to teach at a youth basketball camp, as well as to share his testimony of the past year. At 2013’s “Dream Big, Be Yourself” youth conference in Taipei, he confessed that he temporarily lost control of his identity with the unexpected onslaught of fame.

“I talked a lot about the pressures of Linsanity and being caught up in who everyone else wanted me to be,” says Lin. “I addressed three main issues that draw people away from God — money, worldly success and human approval — and how I started to put my identity in basketball. I started to be consumed by the whole Linsanity thing.”

On what helps him keep his head on straight, he says, “I think it’s just constant reminders, going back to the Gospel message and understanding that it doesn’t matter how well I play or what I do on the court; at the end of the day, I’m still a sinner before God, and that’s all that really matters. I need His grace, His love, His forgiveness, and it’s about being diligent, spending time with God every single day and having that support network to keep you accountable.”

But that doesn’t mean Lin doesn’t have time to have fun. On his down time, he and his family and friends collaborate on comedy videos on his YouTube channel, which boasts videos with up to 4.7 million views and have featured everyone from popular YouTube stars KevJumba and Ryan Higa to basketball colleagues Steve Nash and James Harden.

“People can take three minutes and watch a funny video, and it’ll help them laugh and relax, but hopefully every video has a specific message behind it, too,” says Lin. For example, one of his latest videos, “You’ve Changed, Bro,” which spoofs the idea that Lin has let fame go to his head, ends with a passage from Romans 12:2a: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

And on being considered a new Asian American sex symbol? The 6- foot-2-inch athlete, who has been quoted saying that his perfect girl would be “a faithful Christian” and have “a desire to serve other people [and] help with the underprivileged,” remains modest.

“I appreciate that people see me in that way, but it’s kind of something that I brush to the side,” he says. “I don’t think that’s ever been one of my goals or one of my focuses, but I’m still thankful that they see me in whatever light that they see me in.”

This story was originally published in our Winter 2013-14 issue. Get your copy here

Full Length Trailer for Live-Action “Kiki’s Delivery Service” Disappoints Viewers

When it was announced that Japan was creating a live-action version of Hayao Miyazaki’s beloved classic, Kiki’s Delivery Service, it seemed as if the world could hardly wait.

This news was especially exciting for dedicated Miyazaki fans who were saddened by Miyazaki’s news of retirement. Although the  film director, animator, manga artist, producer, and screenwriter would no longer create brilliant works, fans took comfort that his legacy could live on through this live-action film.

Unfortunately, this excitement quickly dropped with the release of the film’s teaser trailer a few months ago. Although the teaser gathered well over 1 million views, this number does not accurately explain fan reactions to it. The teaser had over 400 likes, but it also gained over 2,300 dislikes. Clearly, the public had no problem expressing their opinion.

Some complained about the special effects while others claimed there was no way it could accurately portray the magic of Miyazaki’s work. Some even broke out into arguments about the 1985 novel by  Eiko Kadono which inspired Miyazaki’s work in the first place.

Whatever your opinion of the trailer was, there was simply no denying that fans seemed unsatisfied.

Recently, the first full length trailer of the live-action film made its way to the internet. This time, the trailer is a minute a five seconds. Although this may seem short for a full length trailer, this is still longer than the 40 second teaser released earlier.

This trailer reveals more of the island which Kiki appears to live on, the bakery she works in, a boy we suspect is Tombo, and more shots of Kiki flying on her broom.

The full length trailer is only a couple of days old, but it has already gained nearly 600,000 views on YouTube. Unfortunately, the dislikes almost double the likes. Once again, some ghibli fans do not appear to be pleased while others argue that it’s a “must see.”

Watch it below for yourself and tell us what you think.

 

Tao Okamoto’s Hollywood Debut in “The Wolverine”

Story by Taylor Weik.

She’s walked on more runways than she can count, has had an issue of Japanese Vogue dedicated to her and her bowl haircut inspired fashion designer Phillip Lim to imitate the style on the whole cast of his fall/winter 2009 show. To say that Tao Okamoto has made achievements in the fashion world is an understatement. Now, the Japanese supermodel, who has won honors such as “Model of the Year” from the Japan Fashion Editor’s Club and one of Japanese Vogue’s “Women of the Year,” has moved on to the entertainment industry to tackle another profession: acting.

Okamoto made her Hollywood acting debut in this summer’s Marvel blockbuster The Wolverine, costarring alongside the Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman. Directed by 3:10 to Yuma’s James Mangold, the X-Men sequel, which is set to be released in Digital HD  November 19 and released on DVD and Blu-ray December 3, follows the hero to Japan for the first time since World War II where he encounters a new set of mutants and villains. While in Japan, he meets and falls for Okamoto’s Mariko Yashida, the granddaughter of Wolverine’s old friend whom he saved during the war.

It’s no coincidence that Okamoto’s first film has her costarring with Jackman. “My Japanese agent told me about the audition and I almost refused; I’ve never acted,” Okamoto recalls. “But then when I was told that the role would be Hugh Jackman’s love interest, I said yes right away!”

Okamoto has always cited Jackman as one of her celebrity crushes, so when she received the news that she had landed the role of Mariko while in her New York apartment, “I was so happy and honored, then I was worried. I didn’t know what to expect from my first acting role.”

But the model had a large support system. Okamoto had reassuring talks with Mangold and Jackman became a mentor to her as soon as the two met. In between takes and while on set, Jackman would give her helpful acting tips he’d learned over the years. She even got to work with Rila Fukushima, another model-turned-actress that Okamoto had known for 10 years in the fashion world but never had the chance to get to know.

 

More than anything, Okamoto found that acting wasn’t so different from modeling. “The reason why I love modeling is because I love transforming myself. I enjoy dressing up as someone else and immersing myself. Acting allows me to do that even more because now I can use my voice and movements to immerse myself even more in the role.”

Is she going to pursue acting full-time? Maybe, but not now. Okamoto plans to continue balancing her runway shows with scene-rehearsing. In the future, she hopes to act in serious dramas or musicals (yes, she can sing, too). She’s graced the pages of magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue as a model already; maybe next time, she’ll be one of the featured actresses.