in theaters: up, drag me to hell

Opening in theaters today, Pixar's latest animated feature Up, a movie I've been waiting all year to see. What makes this film particularly special is that one of the story's heroes is a young wilderness scout named Russell... who just happens to be Asian American.

Oh, they don't say Russell is Asian, and it's not really integral to the story. But I guess that's what makes it so cool -- he's just a funny character in a Pixar story. And he's even voiced by an Asian American kid, Jordan Nagai, who was chosen from about 500 kids who auditioned for the role.

Here's a profile on Jordan: Jordan Nagai, 'Up'. Funny thing is, his brother was actually the one who showed up to audition for the role. Jordan just tagged along, and the producers saw something in him and gave him a shot. Now his voice is in one of the biggest movies of the summer.

Also opening in wide release: Drag Me to Hell, director Sam Raimi's return to crazy, freak-you-out horror. It's about a young woman who finds herself on the receiving of a nasty curse. Dileep Rao is in the cast as Rham Jas, who I think tries to help her get rid of the curse. Reggie Lee is also in the movie as Stu.

And opening in limited release, Yojiro Takira's Departures, this year's surprise Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Picture. The movie's about an unemployed cellist who reluctantly takes a job doing funeral services, and through death, begins to understand what life is really about. Go here to see where the film is playing. And here's a short interview with the director: Just a Minute With: Japan's Oscar-winning Yojiro Takita.

And finally, opening at the Cinema Village in New York City, Stephane Gauger's crtically acclaimed, award-winning Saigon drama Owl and the Sparrow. The film is being distributed by Wave Releasing, a new distribution company made up of Vietnamese American filmmakers and producers bringing outstanding independent movies to the mainstream. If you're in New York, this is your chance to check out a great indie gem.