Maui Connections

When I interviewed Pierce Brosnan in front of 3,000 people at his Maui Film Festival Celestial Cinema tribute last June, we covered lots of ground. The charismatic Irishman talked about the transformative effect of acting, the range of roles he has played, and about the blurry line between being the hero or villain. He laughed to admit that he was as dazzled as the rest of us by the debonair image he steps into so easily on screen, and that it was just a facade for the more human fellow, insecurities and all, underneath.

His newest film, “The Foreigner,” is like a master class in everything he was talking about — and one of the most brilliant performances in his mighty career.

Jackie Chan gets top billing in this action thriller, breaking out of the sometimes clownish, martial-arts-hero role he has been typecast in throughout his career. Instead, he does the Chinese equivalent of Liam Neeson in “Taken,” playing a seemingly mild and doting old dad who goes into full vengeance mode after he loses his daughter.

Set in London and the Irish countryside against the political backdrop of IRA terrorism, Martin Campbell’s brisk direction leaves room for Chan to add a soulful dimension to his physical prowess, with very satisfying results. Both he and Brosnan play men who are older now, still wrestling the violent demons of their youth and the ambiguity of contemporary politics.

Chan ultimately triumphs, but it’s Brosnan who delivers the tour de force in this coincidentally timely portrait of a man in pursuit of power but lost in lust.

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When my column moved out of the entertainment section several years ago, its focus shifted from movies to “Maui Connections” in the real world.

But as film-awards season approaches, I start going to the movies again, compiling my 10-best list for Barry Wurst to keep my Hawaii Film Critics Society membership current. On the movie screen, even thousands of miles from home, there are “Maui Connections” all over the place.

Instead of seeing “The Foreigner” last weekend, I could have gone to “Professor Marston & the Wonder Women,” co-starring Connie Britton, who was also honored by the Maui Film Festival last June.

“Anything that happens in Maui has a certain mystique about it,” she said during her Celestial Cinema tribute. “It feels almost holy.”

Also opening last weekend was “Marshall,” about the early career of future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. It co-stars Josh Gad, who made his first visit to the Valley Isle in 2016 on a junket for “The Angry Birds Movie” at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea.

Although Gad has already dazzled Broadway in “The Book of Mormon” and became a rock star to the under-12 set voicing Olaf in “Frozen,” he was like a kid in a candy store beholding Maui for the first time. He was the one in awe when Chris Sugidono did a video interview with him for The Maui News, conveying the distinct impression that being a local Maui guy was way cooler than being a mere movie star.

Winding up on a Maui beach with two beautiful young Harvard students is one of Ben Stiller’s fantasies in his current midlife-crisis dramedy, “Brad’s Status” — even if the beach it was filmed on isn’t actually on Maui.

Jake Gyllenhaal, in contrast, was on Maui for real for the Maui Film Festival in 2005. He was one of the first young rising stars the festival noticed and honored, one nanosecond before the rest of the world took note and he hit the A-list. A great guy, even then. He’s currently starring in “Stronger,” about Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman, redefining what it means to be “a hero” — for better, and worse.

With the holidays just around the corner, studios are rolling out trailers of what they hope will be their award contenders and big winter hits . . . featuring even more Maui Film Festival honorees like Jessica Chastain, Elizabeth Banks, Andrew Garfield and somewhat local guy, Woody Harrelson.

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Of course, Maui’s got some ponies of its own in the filmmaking race.

“2307: Winter’s Dream,” the sci-fi action thriller co-produced by award-winning Maui filmmaker Kenneth Martinez Burgmaier, has just been released on iTunes (itunes.apple.com/us/movie/2307-winters-dream/id1271912361) and the soundtrack is available on Apple Music. Along with other cable TV and digital platforms, this puts it in reach of 100 million homes.

Its theatrical run spans 12 AMC Theaters across the U.S. Producer Burgmaier notes that in its opening week, AMC positioned it next to the new “Blade Runner”“Our $750,000 film next to a $200 million budget film! A first in the sci-fi cinema history!”

* Rick Chatenever, award-winning former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at UH-Maui College and documentary scriptwriter/producer. Contact him at rickchatenever@gmail.com.

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