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Update April  2019

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Arts - Entertainment - Film Review World

Monty Python celebrate ‘Life of Brian,’ honor ailing Jones

Terry Jones is shown in this April 24, 2015 file photo.
(AP Photo/Andy Kropa/Invision)

Hilary Fox

London (AP) — Celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the Monty Python comedy classic “Life of Brian” are being somewhat overshadowed this month by the health news of member Terry Jones.

Jones is “very robust” although “on the downhill slope” due to dementia, according to his friend and colleague Michael Palin. Jones was diagnosed in 2015 with a form of dementia that impairs the ability to speak.

“I go and see him and the great satisfaction is just to get a reaction; sadly, he doesn’t speak much. But I read him some stuff that we’d written together a long, long time ago and Terry actually started to laugh at it, and he laughed only at the bits that he’d written,” Palin recalled in a recent interview.

“Life of Brian,” which Jones directed, is among the group’s revered 45 TV comedy episodes, five films and a blockbuster Broadway musical. When the film came out four decades ago, it was a huge hit, but also stirred controversy because of its plotline: It was about a man named Brian Cohen who was born in the stables next to Jesus and mistaken for the Messiah. Palin played Pontius Pilate with a speech impediment.

Palin recalls the film was actually banned from a town called Aberystwyth in Wales until 2008.

“Then Aberystwyth elected a new mayor, and the mayor they elected was Sue Jones-Davies, who played Brian’s girlfriend, romping around in the nude. She was mayor of Aberystwyth and the first thing she said was, ‘We’re going to release this film in Aberystwyth,’” he recalled. “It was only shown for one night.”

Iron Maiden singer made honorary citizen of Bosnia’s capital

Bruce Dickinson poses for cameras with his honorary citizen certificate at the city hall in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Saturday, April 6. (AP Photo/Eldar Emric)

Eldar Emric

Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herze­govina (AP) — Bosnia’s capital city has made Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson an honorary citizen for a concert he performed while Sarajevo was under siege during the 1992-95 war.

Mayor Abdulah Skaka presented the award earlier this month at a ceremony in Sarajevo City Hall, which was badly damaged during the long Bosnian Serb siege of the city and since restored.

“The arrival of Mr. Dickinson in Sarajevo in 1994 was one of those moments that made us in Sarajevo realize that we will survive, that the city of Sarajevo will survive, that Bosnia-Herzegovina will survive,” said Skaka.

April 6 is Sarajevo Day, which marks the city’s 1945 liberation during World War II and the start in 1992 of the Bosnian Serb siege that killed more than 11,000 people, including 1,600 children.

Dickinson, who also walked through the city center greeting people and signing autographs, said that “it’s a great honor to be given the honorary citizenship of Sarajevo.”

“In a world where things only last for about five seconds on social media ... people are still remembering it. That’s really quite something,” he told The Associated Press. “This is a brilliant day, a lovely day and it’s great to be back.”

Film Review: ‘Dumbo’ remake takes flight on its own charms

This image shows Colin Farrell, Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins in a scene from “Dumbo.” (Disney via AP)

Jake Coyle

Los Angeles (AP) - The original “Dumbo” was released in the summer of 1941 while Germany was spreading across Europe and war was breaking out in the Pacific. Crafted as a simpler Disney fable after the more extravagant “Fantasia” disappointed at the box office, “Dumbo” — only 64 minutes in length — took flight just as far more chilling creations were taking to the air.

Almost eight decades later, “Dumbo” is alight again in Tim Burton’s somber and sincere live-action remake of the animated classic. Burton has refashioned “Dumbo” as a sepia-toned show-business parable tailored to more animal rights-sensitive times.

“Dumbo” is the latest in a circus parade of Disney remakes (“The Lion King” and “Aladdin” are due out later this year) that brings classic characters into seemingly more real worlds with the aid of digital wizardry. None of them will overwhelm anyone by their necessity. Movies, after all, aren’t smart phones that require software updates.

That said, Burton’s “Dumbo,” while inevitably lacking much of the magic of the original, has charms and melancholies of its own, starting, naturally, with the elephant in the room. Of all the CGI make-overs, this Dumbo is the most textured, sweetest and most soulful of creatures. Like the original, he doesn’t speak and trips over his floppy ears. Whether cowering at a new height or finding astonishment as he, with a sneeze, is sent airborne, the digitally rendered Dumbo is one precious pachyderm.

The film opens in 1919 on the heels of World War I. Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell, who has grown into the most sensitive and consistent of leading men) returns from war, minus an arm, to his two children, Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins). Though Dumbo endures separation from his mother in Burton’s film, the deeper grief in “Dumbo” has been transferred to the humans: The children’s mother died while Holt was away at war from an influenza that, as one character says, “hit like a hurricane.”

Other things have changed, too. The traveling circus where the Farriers make their home has fallen on hard times. Settling down in Joplin, Missouri, the camp is half its former size. Its owner, Max Medici (Danny DeVito, spectacular), has sold off the horses that Holt rode in his act. Medici sinks all his remaining money into an elephant that he hopes will revive the circus, only to feel swindled when she produces such a droopy-eared offspring, discovered at birth beneath a heap of hay.

Of course, Dumbo’s stock rises once he does, too, and Medici’s suddenly sensational circus quickly attracts the interest of a much more big-league circus impresario, V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton, in a devilishly slick performance), who brings Medici’s whole circus to his Coney Island kingdom as a means, we immediately grasp, of luring Dumbo away and dispensing, like a vulture capitalist, with the rest.

It’s a kind of reunion for Burton, Keaton and DeVito, who 27 years ago came together in “Batman Returns.” The film, starring a bird that couldn’t fly in DeVito’s Penguin, was like a wicked version of “Dumbo,” and similarly full of misfits and so-called freaks. “Dumbo” is naturally lighter terrain for Burton but for the first time in years, the director — so long an expert at the proximity of fantasy and horror — seems at home.

And he steers “Dumbo,” from a script by Ehren Kruger, toward a grand corporate satire as the big-city conglomerate tries to co-opt the genuine wonder of Dumbo and Medici’s traveling band. Greed and exploitation close in on them as the big-tent gets bigger. That such a story line should come in the biggest big-tent of them all, Disney (whose Disneyland isn’t so dissimilar to Vandevere’s Dreamland) is either an awkward or happy irony, depending on your level of cynicism.

But it is wondrous when Dumbo takes flight. Burton’s camera feels genuinely mesmerized at his elephant’s magic act. The filmmaker’s recent films have been well outside his best work; it was his woeful “Alice in Wonderful” that kick-started much of the Disney live-action remakes. But when Dumbo soars, it’s clear that Burton is a believer, still, in the ability of a beautiful oddity to transcend.

“Dumbo,” a Walt Disney Co. release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for peril/action, some thematic elements, and brief mild language. Running time: 112 minutes. Three stars out of four.

Swedish superstars ABBA: New song later this year

Swedish pop group ABBA are pictured at the Dorchester Hotel in London in this file photo dated Nov. 5, 1982. (AP Photo/Dave Caulkin)

Copenhagen, Denmark (AP) — ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus says fans can expect a new song “in September or October” from the four-member Swedish pop group that broke up 37 years ago.

Ulvaeus told Denmark’s Ekstra Bladet tabloid that “it takes an extremely long time” to make the video with the avatars of the group members, adding “it has been delayed for too long.”

The band earlier said Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Faltskog reunited to plan a virtual tour featuring digital avatars, and that one of the two new songs is entitled “I Still Have Faith in You.”

ABBA shot to fame by winning the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with “Waterloo,” and had big hits in the 1970s including “Dancing Queen” before splitting up in 1982.

‘Fake’ Botticelli work turns out to be from artist’s studio


English Heritage Conservator Rachel Turnbull completes the conservation of “Madonna of the Pomegranate”, a painting revealed as a rare example by the workshop of Sandro Botticelli in Florence. (Christopher Ison/English Heritage via AP)

London (AP) — Art experts in Britain have discovered that a painting long thought to be a fake Sandro Botticelli in fact came from the master’s own Florence workshop.

After stripping back a century of yellowing varnish and surface dirt, conservators confirmed that “Madonna Of The Pomegranate” — a smaller version of the famous 1487 painting in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery — was “stylistically too similar to be an imitation.”

The painting had been assumed to be a later copy because it’s different to the original in detail, and the thick yellow varnish had concealed the quality of the vivid reds, blues and golds.

But Rachel Turnbull, a senior conservator at the charity English Heritage, which cares for hundreds of historic sites, said that X-ray and infrared tests showed an under-drawing and changes to the composition that’s uncommon in imitations.

“It was of the right period, it was technically correct and it was painted on poplar, a material commonly used at the time,” she said.

The circular painting, part of a collection bought by a diamond magnate, shows angels flanking Mary, who holds baby Christ and a pomegranate symbolizing his future suffering. Though small, it includes exquisite details and features gold leaf adorning Mary’s halo and the wings of the angels worshipping her.

It is currently on display in Ranger’s House, a Georgian villa in southeastern London.

‘Captain Marvel’ gets an average introduction

This image released shows Brie Larson in a scene from “Captain Marvel.” (Disney-Marvel Studios via AP)

Lindsey Bahr

Los Angeles (AP) - If there is one thing that’s true of most of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s that they have life and spirit to spare. It’s a kind of an intoxicating joy that dares even the most comic book-apathetic to get onboard and delight in the spectacle, and it usually comes down to the characters. You might not care about whatever Earth-threatening foe is at large this time, but you care about Captain America, Black Panther and Black Widow and enjoy spending a few hours with them.

I spent over two hours with Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers and I still have no idea what her personality is. Sure, there’s a lot more going on in “Captain Marvel ,” but it’s a pretty egregious failing considering that the creative bigwigs at Marvel had 10 years and 20 films to work it out. It’s hard to say whether that’s a flaw in Brie Larson’s performance or a failure of the script, but I came out of the film from writers/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck not caring all that much about her beyond what her dazzling powers might mean for the next Avengers film, which is perhaps the lamest way of all to experience these movies.

The story drops you in the middle of things and gives Carol Danvers a convenient case of amnesia as she tries to piece together her past by dreaming of Annette Bening while training to be a soldier with Jude Law on the planet of Kree. She is told at least 10 times in the first 10 minutes of the film that she needs to control her emotions, mostly by Law. This is a charged thing to say to a woman, but also confusing because “emotional” is the last word I would use to describe the character as she’s presented. She’s more impulsive and bullheaded than anything else. Emotions and heart don’t seem to have anything to do with her decisions. At times it even seems like she’s channeling the Terminator.

But this is also a script that has Larson delivering eye-rolling lines like “enough of your mind games” with a straight face. She’s a great actress, but that’s a tall order for the best of them.

The film is meant to be disorienting, especially at the beginning. She’s confused and so the audience must be too, I guess? But things start to come together when she crash-lands on Earth in the middle of a Los Angeles Blockbuster Video somewhere around 1995, which you know because there’s a “Babe” poster and a cardboard display for “True Lies.” The filmmakers have fun with all their mid-’90s references from computers to musical cues (if you like angry ’90s girl pop anthems you’re in luck), but I wish someone would have been paying that much attention to the continuity of Larson’s curls, which change even in the middle of scenes.

In LA, she comes across a young Nick Fury, played by a digitally de-aged Samuel L. Jackson, whose infectious liveliness is a godsend. Together they try to both track down shapeshifting alien invaders called the Skrulls (led by Ben Mendelsohn) and also get answers about her past, which honestly sounds a lot more interesting than her present. But this is the origin story they went with and it does not include Bening teaching Larson how to fly a fighter plane.

There are some twists and turns and a scene-stealing orange cat that would be difficult to discuss here without spoiling everything. All-in-all it’s fine, but nothing to get too excited about. And it could have and should have been so much better: The cast was there, the cool directing talents, the budget and the “brand” goodwill. Halfway through most Marvel movies I don’t often find myself dreaming up some other Brie Larson, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn and Gemma Chan movie (oh right Gemma Chan is in this as a glorified extra), but it happened in “Captain Marvel.”

The first female-led movie of the MCU deserved more.

“Captain Marvel,” a Walt Disney Studios release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive language.” Running time: 124 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

Ex-Fox executive banks on crowdfunding to produce MH370 movie

Darlene Lieblich Tipton.

Veteran Hollywood executive Darlene Lieblich Tipton is driven by the fact that the friends and families of the 239 passengers and crew on-board Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 that went missing on March 8, 2014 “need and deserve closure”.

With never-before seen MH370 pics and video taken after the plane disappeared, Tipton has launched headfirst into MALAYSIA 370 – a feature film project “dedicated to the heroic actions of the 239 passengers and crew on board Malaysia Airlines #370.” Crowd-funding activities were activated on October 1, 2018 with Tipton investing most of her personal funds into the production.

“So far I have raised over USD 1.4 million – USD 500,000 from my retirement savings and the rest from friends, family, and supporters of my last movie,” Tipton said, adding that most of the funds raised so far were from people who have worked with her personally in Hollywood.

Tipton said, “The minimum production budget is USD 7.5 million, with a maximum budget of USD 30 million.” Tipton offered several unique perks to crowd-fund the project. Her preference for financial support is to have users download the movie’s hauntingly beautiful theme song, “Remember Me”. The song is a tender message from a passenger on MH370 to bring comfort and closure to a loved one left behind. This song has been recorded in English, Mandarin, Greek, Spanish and Russian. Tipton would also like to have a version recorded in Bahasa Melayu recorded under a paid contract in Los Angeles with a full orchestra.

Acknowledging the presence of naysayers and trolls, she said the negative media reports used details that sometimes have put a 180 degree spin on what she actually said. “I was not given the opportunity to correct the inaccuracies, and once something is on the Internet it becomes a lasting piece of incorrect data.”

Once the financial target is achieved, Tipton wanted to give the first and full priority to the talent and crew – above and below the line production positions – who have been banned from China. The list includes Oscar-winning film director Martin Scorsese, Brad Pitt, Sharon Stone, Harrison Ford and musical stars like Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and Bjork.

“There is no major Hollywood studio that will let us shoot on their lot... Shooting the movie at an indie production facility like Amazon’s Culver Studios would be a dream come true,” Tipton concluded.

Crowdfunding efforts thus far are a multi-pronged approach of donations, sale of memorial coins and theme song downloads.  Tipton said, funds received from the sale, rental, and distribution of ‘MALAYSIA 370’ will be allocated to the 239 families affected. “The goal is to be able to give each family USD 100,000 for a total output of USD 23,900,000.”


Debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is displayed during a Day of Remembrance event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, March 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Monty Python celebrate ‘Life of Brian,’ honor ailing Jones

Iron Maiden singer made honorary citizen of Bosnia’s capital

Film Review: ‘Dumbo’ remake takes flight on its own charms

Swedish superstars ABBA: New song later this year

‘Fake’ Botticelli work turns out to be from artist’s studio

Film Review: ‘Captain Marvel’ gets an average introduction

Ex-Fox executive banks on crowdfunding to produce MH370 movie