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Update August 2018

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August 18, 2018 - August 24, 2018

Film Review: ‘Christopher Robin’ a return to Hundred Acre Wood

This image shows (from left) Bronte Carmichael, Ewan McGregor and Hayley Atwell in a scene from “Christopher Robin.” (Laurie Sparham/Disney via AP)

Jake Coyle

Los Angeles (AP) - The misfortune of “Christopher Robin” is not only that it comes a year after “Goodbye Christopher Robin,” an earnest if sentimental tale about Winnie-the-Pooh author A.A. Milne and his son, Christopher Robin Milne, but that it arrives a few months after the screwball radiance of “Paddington 2.” When it comes to bears in London this movie year, our hearts are already spoken for.

But for those who prefer honey to marmalade, “Christopher Robin” is a more gentle and melancholic fable about recapturing the joys of childhood as an adult with the help of a wise and innocent bear. It’s telling that in Marc Forster’s comparatively somber but sweet movie, the standout of Milne’s furry creatures — all of them rendered digitally as worn-out stuffed animals — is that old grump Eeyore (voiced by Brad Garrett), whose morose mutterings land nearly all the film’s laughs.

Humor has never been the forte of Forster (“Finding Neverland,” ‘’Quantum of Solace”), so don’t come to “Christopher Robin” expecting hijinks from Tigger or a single overstuffed bear stuck in a doorway. Instead Forster has fashioned a meticulously handsome post-WWII period drama — perhaps one more for adults than children — leaning much closer to “The Velveteen Rabbit” than Saturday morning cartoon.

There’s a degree of atonement in the stylistic shift; the real Christopher Robin (never a fan of the books) lamented the Disneyfication of his father’s characters and never accepted royalties. And as with Disney’s 2106’s “Pete’s Dragon,” there’s an unlikely, largely indie collection of filmmakers behind a relatively modest live-action revival. Alex Ross Perry (“Listen Up Philip”), Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”) and Allison Schroeder (“Hidden Figures”) wrote the script.

In the opening scenes in the fictional land of the Hundred Acre Wood, Pooh and the rest are giving young Christopher Robin a farewell party. “Don’t you get all grow-ed up on us,” Tigger tells him. But after a page-turning montage, Christopher Robin has indeed done just that. He’s now a working, married man in London, wed to Evelyn (Haley Atwell), with a daughter named Madeline (Bronte Carmichael) and a grueling job. He’s an efficiency manager for a luggage company housed in a towering gray building.

The demands of his work have drained all the fun out of Christopher Robin, whose middle name has been upgraded to surname. He hasn’t so much as smiled in years, Evelyn says. But on a particularly crucial work weekend, out pops Pooh from a Hundred Acre Wood portal from the trunk of a tree outside Christopher’s town house.

The voice is instantly recognizable (Pooh veteran Jim Cummings voices him, as well as Tigger) though the form is a little novel. Like the other characters, Pooh looks more a glassy-eyed teddy bear than he has before, and more frizzy than E.H. Shepard’s illustrations. The digital effects impressively double for tangible, hand-hewn felt creations, but (aside from Owl) they crucially lack lively eyes.

That keeps the gang (there’s also Piglet, Rabbit, Kanga and Roo) always secondary on the screen to McGregor. Naturally, Christopher is pulled back into Hundred Acre Wood where his priorities are straightened out. He relearns Pooh’s wise advice that “doing nothing often leads to the very best something” — a message that proves surprisingly relevant to the midcentury workplace policies of Christopher’s luggage company, even if Pooh mishears his job as “a fish-in-the-sea manager.”

It all fits together a little too well, too predictably and, well, too Disney. Pooh and company have always been a wonderfully neurotic bunch, but in Forster’s polished film, they’re a little suffocated, a little lifeless. Any semblance of authentic childlike glee remains purely theoretical. It’s surely not a good sign when Eeyore is the one stealing the show. Watching “Christopher Robin,” I couldn’t help feeling a bit like Tigger when he arrives in London and wonders: “How come nobody’s bouncin’?”

“Christopher Robin,” a Walt Disney Co. release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some action.” Running time: 104 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

Janet Jackson, Cardi B to headline Global Citizen festival

Janet Jackson.
(AP Photo)

New York (AP) — John Legend, Janet Jackson, The Weeknd and Shawn Mendes are among the artists slated to appear at the 2018 Global Citizen Festival.

The event will take place on Sept. 29 on the Great Lawn in New York City’s Central Park. Janelle Monae and Cardi B, who gave birth in July, will also perform.

Hugh Jackman and Deborra-lee Furness will host the festival, which calls on world leaders to achieve the United Nations’ sustainable development goals and end extreme poverty by 2030.

The international advocacy group also wants leaders to tackle the maternal health crisis, end child marriage and reduce the use of plastics.

The festival is a continuation of a series of events honoring the life and legacy of South African Nelson Mandela in his centenary year.

Free tickets are distributed to those selected after becoming members of Global Citizen.

Brad Pitt says he has given Jolie Pitt millions since split

Angelina Jolie (left) and Brad Pitt are shown together in this Nov. 5, 2015 file photo. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Andrew Dalton

Los Angeles (AP) — Brad Pitt said in court documents last week that he has given estranged wife Angelina Jolie Pitt more than $1 million and lent her another $8 million since their separation two years ago, countering her assertion from a day earlier saying he has paid “no meaningful child support.”

Pitt’s attorneys said in the two-page document filed in Los Angeles Superior Court that he “adamantly disputes the contention that he has not paid significant child support.” The document added that he loaned Jolie Pitt $8 million to buy her current home, and has paid over $1.3 million in bills for the benefit of Jolie Pitt and their six children.

Jolie Pitt’s attorneys said in their own court filing that Pitt has failed to live up to their informal financial arrangements and she’ll seek a court order to get retroactive payments from him.

Pitt’s attorneys said in documents they filed for him that Jolie Pitt’s lawyers have made no mention that she had any problems with the amounts he has given her for the children. It’s not clear what child-support arrangements the couple has in place during the divorce process.

The two filings were rare unsealed public documents in the case that gave a glimpse into the slow-moving divorce of the 54-year-old actor Pitt and the 43-year-old actress and director Jolie Pitt.

Pitt’s attorneys said the filing was utterly unnecessary and “a thinly veiled effort to manipulate media coverage” of the split.

Jolie Pitt’s filing also said she wanted to have the couple’s marriage dissolved by the end of the year by separating some of the lingering issues to be resolved later. Neither side specified what those issues were.

Pitt’s lawyers answered that the actor actually suggested expediting the divorce in this way, and had already agreed to it.

Jolie Pitt’s filing requested a case management hearing to discuss the issues of child support and finalizing the divorce soon. Pitt’s response said that a status conference that is already scheduled would serve the same purpose.

The Hollywood power couple had been together for 12 years and married for two when she filed for divorce in 2016. Jolie Pitt currently has primary custody of their children.

Amid cancer treatment, Irrfan Khan finds new a perspective

In this Jan. 22, 2018 file photo, actor Irrfan Khan poses for a portrait to promote the film “Puzzle” during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP)

Lindsey Bahr

Los Angeles (AP) — Actor Irrfan Khan is a Bollywood star and Hollywood chameleon, who has bounced between the two with ease for decades, working with everyone from Mira Nair to Wes Anderson and Ang Lee and stealing scenes in both Oscar-winners (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and blockbusters (“Jurassic World”) alike. But all that’s been put on hold as he undergoes treatment in London for a neuroendocrine tumor, a rare form of cancer.

Although Khan’s life now is very different from only a few months ago, he still has films that he worked on as recently last year coming out, including “Puzzle,” a poignant character drama from Oscar-nominated producer Marc Turtletaub (“Little Miss Sunshine”) about a stifled suburban housewife, played by Kelly Macdonald, who forms a bond with a more cosmopolitan man, (Khan), over a shared fondness for puzzles. It’s one that the 51-year-old actor is immensely proud of, and eager to talk about, but, he also knows very keenly how unpredictable his life has become.

AP: ‘Puzzle’ is quite lovely, but also a small character drama — a bit of a departure from the bigger Hollywood films you’ve become known for

Khan: I was looking for something for a long time in American cinema, Hollywood cinema. I have been reaching for this, for a personal experience where I could invest myself and I could have more meat that I could get apart from myself completely and get into something which is unknown. This character had complexity and a strange unpredictability where he himself doesn’t know where things are moving and is in a limbo state. There are so many interesting angles to this person. It was a complex situation, but I love that the way it comes out of the characters’ mouths is very simple. So I fell in love it with it and I shifted my schedule in India and said, “I’m going to do it.” It worked out and I really loved it.

AP: How are you doing in general?

Khan: I’ve seen life from a completely different angle. You sit down and you see the other side and that’s fascinating. I’m engaged on a journey.

AP: There’s been a lot of speculation in the media about your condition and you’ve made pleas on social media not to trust the reports. But what do you want people to know about what you’re going through?

Khan: There are challenges which life throws at you. But I have started believing in the way this condition has tested me, really, really tested me in all aspects — physical, emotional and spiritual. It has put me in a rapture state.

Initially I was shaken. I didn’t know. I was very, very vulnerable. But slowly, there is another way to look at things that is much more powerful and much more productive and healthier, and I just want people to believe that nature is much more trustworthy and one must trust that. Nature will do whatever it has to do.

This sudden jolt has put me into a platform where I could look at things in a completely different manner. And for that I am really thankful.

AP: What is your day to day like now? Are you reading scripts or planning to work at all?

Khan: No, I’m completely out of reading scripts. This has become a surreal experience. My days are unpredictable. I used to think my life would be like that, but I could never practice unpredictability and spontaneity. That has happened now. I don’t plan. I go for breakfast and then I don’t have a plan. I take things as they come. That has been really helping me a lot. I don’t make plans. I’m just spontaneous. And I’m loving this experience.

AP: You’re in London going through treatments. Is there anything you can share about that?

Khan: I have had the fourth cycle of chemo. And I have to have six cycles and then we need to have a scan. After the third cycle, the scan was positive. But we need to see after the sixth scan. And then we’ll see where it takes me. There’s no guarantee of life with anybody. My mind could always tell me to hang a kind of chip on your neck and say, “I have this disease and I could die in a few months or a year or two.” Or I could just avoid this conversation completely and live my life the way it offers me. And it offers so much. I admit I was walking around with blinders. I couldn’t see what it offered me.

You stop your contemplation, you stop your planning, you stop the noise. You see the other aspect of it. It gives you so much. Life offers you so much. That’s why I feel like I have no other words but thanks. There are no other words, there’s no other demand, there’s no other prayer.

August 11, 2018 - August 17, 2018

Film Review: Bask in the effervescent insanity of ‘Mamma Mia 2’

This image shows (from left) Jessica Keenan Wynn, Lily James and Alexa Davies in a scene from “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.” (Jonathan Prime/Universal Pictures via AP)

Lindsey Bahr

Los Angeles (AP) - “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is a wholly ridiculous movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s the kind of movie that feels and sounds like a summer vacation should: Fizzy, lively, low-stakes and soundtracked by ABBA.

This is a world where things generally just work out, where folks are kind and willing to help, where everyone has perfect beach hair, where characters just (asterisk)know(asterisk) they’re pregnant after one bout of morning sickness, and where old flings and family members are not only welcome to suddenly sail back into lives they’ve abandoned but greeted with joy and a song. Who’s got time for bitterness and jealousy in these Greek isles?

The dialogue may be ridiculous, the plot may be questionable, and the musical numbers may be staged and stitched together like a manic fever dream (including a uniquely crazy rendition of “Waterloo” with Lily James and Hugh Skinner prancing around a French restaurant). But “Mamma Mia 2” wears its happy heart so earnestly on its fringed suede sleeve that it almost doesn’t matter. Like an all-inclusive resort, it might be a little cheesy and there is surely some cooler and more authentic option out there with less green screen and more character development, but easy can be its own kind of fun.

And this all-inclusive resort has Cher. And Andy Garcia. And Colin Firth playing Leonardo DiCaprio to Stellan Skarsgard’s Kate Winslet at the bow of a boat packed to the gills with a mass of people singing “Dancing Queen.” And minimal singing from Pierce Brosnan. And a final show-stopper that’s so fun, you might be disappointed there isn’t an encore.

But the real reason this bonkers movie works so well is the incandescent Lily James. She plays a younger Donna (who 40 years later is played by Meryl Streep), during a very eventful summer in 1979 where she both finds her calling and meets (and sleeps with) the three men who all could very possibly be the father of her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). It should be said that two of the three suitors are uncomfortably overeager to get Donna into bed as soon as they meet her.

The flashback portions are told in tandem with what’s happening in the present day, where Sophie is preparing for the grand opening of the hotel Donna. Seyfried is good, if underserved, and her story picks up considerably when Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters) arrive, but it’s the ’79 portion that you want to keep going back to (at least until Cher shows up for the last 10 minutes).

James, who is always strong no matter how big her role (from “Cinderella” to “The Darkest Hour”), gets a real star turn here. She also has a sweetly appealing voice that’s (thankfully) more 90s Disney than modern folk singer. And with some more talented singers in her male counterparts, young Bill (Josh Dylan), Harry (Hugh Skinner) and Sam (Jeremy Irvine), you find yourself actually looking forward to their songs instead of bracing for them. Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies also shine as young Tanya and Rosie, although I would like a word with whoever decided that they would have the exact same haircuts 40 years earlier.

English screenwriter and director Ol Parker took over directorial duties and slowed the pace considerably from Phyllida Lloyd’s impossibly energetic “Mamma Mia!” where there was rarely a scene where someone was running, skipping or bounding with joy. In “Here We Go Again,” which almost sounds like a threat, or at least bemused resignation, there is actually downtime and breathing room, which can drag at times. This is a movie that very much requires you to be in the “right mood.”

And perhaps the most surprising thing about this whole sequined bell-bottomed experience is you might even find yourself getting a little emotional. But not too much, this is vacation after all.

“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” a Universal Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “for some suggestive material.” Running time: 114 minutes. Three stars out of four.

Art of illusion: Face paint transforms Serbian makeup pro

Serbian make-up artist Mirjana Milosevic, known professionally as ‘Kika’, looks at her transformation in a mirror in her studio at her home in the central Serbian town of Smederevo, Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Darko Vojinovic

Smederevo, Serbia (AP) — It took Mirjana Milosevic less than an hour to transform into a zombie. The Serbian makeup artist also can turn into a skeleton or a genie and make body parts disappear.

Milosevic, 36, has attracted fans around the world for the illusions she creates on and with her own body. She records the whole process and posts videos on YouTube and social networks under the professional name Kika.

Milosevic creates her videos, which have gotten millions of views, in a studio in her home in the central Serbian town of Smederevo. There, in front of a dressing table and surrounded by mirrors, she picks the tools that will immerse her in a new role.

With makeup pencils, brushes and face paints, Milosevic slowly creates an image that completely changes her appearance. Flawless black lines appear as contours, then symbols resembling neck tattoos. An outline colored in with white becomes a mask that reveals hollowed-out and sharp teeth.

A zombie is born.

Her signature skin illusions take longer, Milosevic says. She puts in days of contemplation and planning, followed by hours and hours of work, to put a hollow in her stomach or to appear without a head.

The artist says she always liked to draw, but never on paper. As a young girl, Milosevic drew on walls, tables and her legs and arms.

“My parents say I learned to draw before I could walk,” Milosevic said.

Milosevic says her favorite self-imposed illusion is the ‘Wooden Puppet Doll’ — a blue-haired doll with a string for a stomach and wood body parts — that in 2016 won her an award sponsored by makeup brand NYX and opened doors.

“The wooden puppet changed my life,” she said.

Thailand to host 2018 Miss Universe pageant

Thailand’s Aniporn Chalermburanawong caused a stir at the 2015 Miss Universe contest when she appeared in a tuk-tuk dress. (AP Photo/File)

Bangkok (AP) — Thailand will host the 2018 Miss Universe beauty pageant, organizers said last week.

The Miss Universe Organization said in a statement that it has granted “sole proprietorship” to a Thai investment firm to host the pageant this December.

Thailand has hosted the competition twice before, most recently in 2005, when it was won by Miss Universe Canada, Natalie Glebova. She afterward settled in Thailand.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha welcomed the organizers’ choice of Thailand.

“It’s a good thing that their officials see Thailand’s potential,” Prayuth said. “If we can organize it and there are no problems with various agreements, then the government is happy to support it.”

Prayuth said the Ministry of Tourism and Sports would be responsible for overseeing the event and arranging details of how it will be organized.

Organizers said Miss Universe 2018 will be a three-hour event broadcast live on Dec. 16.

Artist to auction sculpture of late Tham Luang Cave diver to assist family

Artist Krisana Napulphol holds a sculpture of former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan at his studio in Nakhon Pathom.

“An independent Nakhon Pathom artist has sculpted a likeness of former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan to be auctioned off on behalf of his family after he lost his life during the recent operation to save the Moo Pa Academy youth football team stranded in Tham Luang Cave in Chiang Rai province.

The clay sculpture was made by Krisana Napulphol and was named “My Hero” in honor of the sacrifice of Saman Kunan.

The artist explained that he had known the former Thai Navy Seal from cycling events and that he was shocked to hear of his death. The sculpture is based on a photograph of Saman that Krisana found while mourning the passing of the rescuer raising a fist in triumph following the discovery of the 13 members of the youth football team. Krisana said he was inspired by Saman’s eyes and demeanor in the photo.

The artist has also sculpted likenesses of the commander of the rescue operation, chairperson of the Thai Water Well Association and of Thai Navy Seals. He is to assemble the sculptures for display at his personal gallery as well as auction several pieces so that he may forward proceeds to Saman Kunan’s family. (NNT)

World premieres at Venice for Gosling, Cooper movies


Ryan Gosling will star as astronaut Neil Armstrong in the world premiere of the movie “First Man” at the 75th Venice Film Festival later this month. (AP Photo/File)

Rome (AP) — The Venice Film Festival will feature plenty of Hollywood star power, including premieres for a biopic of astronaut Neil Armstrong starring Ryan Gosling, a period western by the Coen brothers with Liam Neeson, and Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut starring Lady Gaga.

The 75th edition of the world’s oldest film festival opens on Aug. 29 with the world premiere of “First Man” by Damien Chazelle. Like his previous film “La La Land,” which also opened the festival and earned six Oscars, it stars Gosling, who plays Armstrong.

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is the new offering from the Coen brothers. It started out as a television series before being turned into a movie featuring Tom Waits.

Emma Stone, Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz star in an irreverent royal comedy set in the early 18th century called “The Favourite,” by Yorgos Lanthimos, which also makes its debut on the Lido.

Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson are paired in the horror movie “Suspiria” by Luca Guadagnino, who earned acclaim for last year’s “Call Me By Your Name.”

Among other films being shown for the first time are “Roma,” Alfonso Cuaron’s first film since “Gravity;” Mike Leigh’s “Peterloo,” about an 1819 massacre in northern England; and “Sunset” by Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes, who captured the 2016 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film with “Son of Saul.”

Debuting out of competition for the Golden Lion are Bradley Cooper’s “A Star is Born,” in which he stars alongside Gaga, and the police abuse drama “Dragged Across Concrete” with Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn.

Golden Lions for career achievements will be presented to British actress Vanessa Redgrave and Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg at the festival, which runs through Sept. 8.

August 4, 2018 - August 10, 2018

Film Review: Tom Cruise thwarts the apocalypse on a broken ankle

This image shows (from left) Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames in a scene from “Mission: Impossible - Fallout.” (David James/Paramount Pictures and Skydance via AP)

Jocelyn Noveck

Los Angeles (AP) - And so, fellow moviegoers: Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what Tom Cruise can — and will — do for you.

The answer is anything. The man will do anything to entertain you. At age 56, when the rest of us are making chiropractor appointments and upping our corrective lenses, Cruise will jump out of a plane for you, into a lightning storm. He’ll learn to fly a helicopter for you, all for one nausea-inducing helicopter piloting stunt — yep, he’s piloting AND acting — that sends him into a death spiral in “Mission: Impossible - Fallout.”

One day, if this continues, it will surely seem silly. One day, people will chuckle sympathetically at the exploits of this well-meaning but wrinkled movie star, perhaps in his 80s then, putting his life in danger to please his fans. Now, though, is not that day. With his partner, returning director-writer Christopher McQuarrie, Cruise delivers all the above in the ridiculously entertaining “Fallout,” his sixth outing as Ethan Hunt.

As for the plot, well, you may chuckle in confusion. It gets unnecessarily complicated. For most movies, this would be a much bigger problem. But because “Fallout” moves so quickly from one crazy stunt to another, it doesn’t matter. You’ll think, “Hmm, what?” But then, “Whoa! Is Tom about to jump off that building?”

We begin, as always, with a new mission — this time, it arrives in a hollowed-out copy of Homer’s “Odyssey,” perhaps a reference to Hunt’s own journey. We’ll try to boil it down: The evildoers are the Apostles, terrorists who aim to nuke the world’s top religious sites — the Vatican, Jerusalem and Mecca — and bring on an apocalypse. They’re in league with Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the criminal mastermind from the last film, who stayed alive and now wants revenge against Hunt, not to mention the global destruction thing.

Hunt must get his hands on three missing plutonium cores. He actually manages this, for a second — but has to give them up to save a cherished team member. Thus is launched an overarching dilemma of this installment: Should Hunt save one life that is dear to him over millions of others?

We don’t get much time to ponder. Hunt has to start from scratch. His IMF team includes, as always, loyal Luther (Ving Rhames), and tech whiz Benji (the wonderful Simon Pegg), who provides needed levity. It’s safe to say that never before has Benji’s life hung so precariously in the balance.

IMF secretary Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) is back, clashing with Erika Sloane (Angela Bassett), certainly the most stylish person ever to head the CIA, onscreen or off. Sloane forcibly injects her own agent, the very handsome but shady Walker (Henry Cavill), into Hunt’s operation, causing all sorts of complications.

Crucially, we also have former MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson, who made such an impression in the last film). She’s back, but working for whom, exactly? Regardless, it’s fun to watch her take down a succession of brutish men. A welcome newcomer is Vanessa Kirby (“The Crown”) as the mysterious White Widow.

Of course, it’s the stunts that really matter. And the scenery. Paris has always been beautiful, but there’s a certain frisson you get when arriving with Cruise by way of a plummet from a plane onto the roof of the Grand Palais. And that motorcycle chase around the Arc de Triomphe? Let’s just say that getting through that traffic circle alive on a real-life day is a Mission: Impossible.

Then we’re off to London, where Cruise shattered his ankle bone filming a rooftop chase. At a recent screening, McQuarrie explained that most of what we see the actor doing here, including that sprint, was done after the injury. Feel free to consider that as you watch.

The most dramatic stunts were filmed in New Zealand, standing in for Kashmir. Many people go bungee-jumping there; probably relatively few do it from a moving helicopter. We also see Cruise piloting another helicopter into a seemingly irreversible plunge. A climactic physical fight was shot in Norway, on a cliff that drops into a fjord. And Cruise’s 25,000-foot jump from a plane was filmed in Abu Dhabi.

Much ink has been spent analyzing this enduring phenomenon called Tom Cruise, and what motivates him, onscreen and off. “I just want to entertain people,” he said recently. That’s one mission he can still nail.

“Mission: Impossible - Fallout,” a Paramount Pictures release, is unrated by the Motion Picture Association of America. Running time: 147 minutes. Three stars out of four.

Titanic director Cameron backs bid for 5,500 items from ship

James Cameron.
(AP Photo/file)

Aoise Taggert, aged nine, looks at a model of the Titanic at Titanic Belfast, Northern Ireland, Tuesday July 24. (Niall Carson/PA Wire(/PA via AP)

Dr Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of Titanic in 1985, speaks in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Tuesday July 24. (Niall Carson/PA via AP)

Gregory Katz

London (AP) — Filmmaker James Cameron and Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard are backing a bid by a group of British museums to acquire a collection of 5,500 artifacts from the sunken vessel.

The campaign announced last week aims to raise $20 million (15 million pounds) to buy the items from a private American company that salvaged them from the wreck.

The director of the 1997 blockbuster “Titanic,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, said there are grave concerns that the collection will be broken up and sold privately because that company has filed for bankruptcy.

“That’s why people who feel some protective role have stepped up and kind of linked arms,” Cameron said. “It’s an incredible piece of history, an object lesson about human hubris. If it gets sold into private hands, it disappears from the public eye. It would be broken up and could never be reassembled.”

He said his expeditions to the undersea site have made him feel a responsibility to honor those who lost their lives on its doomed voyage in 1912.

The objects include a section of the ship’s hull and a bronze cherub decoration from the ship’s grand staircase. They were recovered from the wreck site during seven deep sea expeditions between 1987 and 2004.

The bid for the artifacts comes from the Royal Museums Greenwich, National Museums Northern Ireland, Titanic Belfast and Titanic Foundation Limited. The National Geographic Society has pledged $500,000 to help fund the project — both Cameron and Ballard are National Geographic Explorers in Residence.

The bid was announced July 24 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, at the location where the ship was designed, built and launched.

Ballard, who discovered the wreck in 1985, said the campaign is the “only viable option to retain the integrity” of the artifacts. He said the collection “deserved to be returned home to where its journey began.”

The Titanic sank in the North Atlantic on its maiden voyage in 1912 after hitting an iceberg. More than 1,500 passengers and crew died.

Airman who inspired ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ film dies at 79

Adrian Cronauer is shown in this October 1987 file photo.
(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Ben Finley

Norfolk, Va. (AP) — Adrian Cronauer, the man whose military radio antics inspired a character played by Robin Williams in the film “Good Morning, Vietnam,” passed away last month. He was 79.

Mary Muse, the wife of his stepson Michael Muse, said Cronauer died July 18 from an age-related illness. He had lived in Troutville, Virginia, and died at a local nursing home, she said.

Actor Robin Williams is shown in a scene from the 1987 movie, “Good Morning, Vietnam.”

During his service as a U.S. Air Force sergeant in Vietnam in 1965 and 1966, Cronauer opened his Armed Forces Radio show with the phrase, “Goooooood morning, Vietnam!”

Williams made the refrain famous in the 1987 film, loosely based on Cronauer’s time in Saigon.

The film was a departure from other Vietnam war movies that focused on bloody realism, such as the Academy Award-winning “Platoon.” Instead, it was about irreverent youth in the 1960s fighting the military establishment.

“We were the only game in town, and you had to play by our rules,” Cronauer told The Associated Press in 1987. “But I wanted to serve the listeners.”

The military wanted conservative programming. American youths, however, were “not into drab, sterile announcements” with middle-of-the-road music, Cronauer said, and the battle over the airwaves was joined.

In the film, Williams quickly drops Perry Como and Lawrence Welk from his 6 a.m. playlist in favor of the Dave Clark Five.

Cronauer said he loved the movie but much of it was Hollywood make-believe. Robin Williams’ portrayal as a fast-talking, nonconformist, yuk-it-up disc jockey sometimes gave people the wrong impression of the man who inspired the film.

“Yes, I did try to make it sound more like a stateside station,” he told The AP in 1989. “Yes, I did have problems with news censorship. Yes, I was in a restaurant shortly before the Viet Cong hit it. And yes, I did start each program by yelling, ‘Good Morning, Vietnam!’”

The rest is what he delicately called “good script crafting.”

Cronauer was from Pittsburgh, the son of a steelworker and a schoolteacher. After the military, he worked in radio, television and advertising.

In 1979, Cronauer saw the film “Apocalypse Now” with his friend Ben Moses, who also served in Vietnam and worked at the Saigon radio station.

“We said that’s not our story of Vietnam,” Moses recalled. “And we made a deal over a beer that we were going to have a movie called ‘Good Morning, Vietnam.’”

It wasn’t easy. Hollywood producers were incensed at the idea of a comedy about Vietnam, said Moses, who co-produced the film.

“I said ‘It’s not a comedy — it’s the sugar on top of the medicine,” Moses said.

Writer Mitch Markowitz made the film funny, and director Barry Levinson added the tragic-comedy aspect, Moses said. Williams’ performance was nominated for an Oscar.

Moses said the film was a pivotal moment in changing the way Americans thought about the Vietnamese and the war.

July 28, 2018 - August 3, 2018

Film Review: ‘Adrift’ is a woman vs nature tale for the #MeToo era

This image released by STXfilms shows Shailene Woodley (right) and Sam Claflin in a scene from “Adrift.” (Photo STXfilms via AP)

Jocelyn Noveck

Los Angeles (AP) - Woman vs. nature. It certainly has a ring to it, especially when woman wins. But there are too few such stories in our popular culture, and certainly on our movie screens.

Enter “Adrift,” based on the harrowing, real-life story of Tami Oldham, who sailed off on a romantic voyage from Tahiti to San Diego in 1983 with her fiance, Richard Sharp, and ran into a brutal hurricane. Oldham wrote of the ordeal — 41 days on the open seas in a damaged 44-foot sailboat — in her book, “Red Sky in Mourning,” and if you haven’t read it yet, good: Stop Googling and see the film first. You’ll be glad you didn’t know all the details beforehand.

Off the bat, “Adrift,” by Icelandic action director Baltasar Kormakur (“Everest”), has several things going for it. First of all, Kormakur is a lifelong sailor, and he chose to film on the open ocean off Fiji, lending the proceedings an obvious visual urgency. Second, the story is simple and thrilling — because it’s true. And third, Shailene Woodley, one of the most naturalistic young actresses working today, is hard not to root for in any film, and certainly here as Tami, a relaxed California girl suddenly caught in an elemental battle to survive.

Where the film could do better is in painting the characters with nuance and complexity. This is less necessary in the scenes on water — we have all the excitement we need there. But the scenes on land seem rather perfunctory, if still pleasing and romantic (nothing wrong with watching two attractive, tanned young people fall in love.)

We begin with Tami waking up after an obvious catastrophe, the boat practically destroyed. Stumbling around the wreckage, she comes to the devastating realization that Richard (Sam Claflin), the more experienced sailor of the two, is nowhere to be seen.

Flashback to five months earlier, when Tami arrives in Tahiti, a 23-year-old free spirit with no clear life plans. All she wants to do is see the world. She gets an odd job at the marina, where one day she meets Richard, a handsome young Brit who built his own boat and spends his life sailing.

These two good-looking creatures are immediately drawn to each other, and spend idyllic days sailing, cooking, drinking wine. Staring at the crimson sky one day, Tami proclaims it to be red. Richard quickly corrects her: Its “beet-dyed pomegranate,” OK, we get why she’s falling in love.

Then an irresistible opportunity arises: An older couple wants Richard to sail their boat back from Tahiti to San Diego. The terms are too attractive to pass up. Tami overcomes her initial reluctance to cut short her own, independent journey, and they head off into the deep blue.

And then disaster strikes, and suddenly these exceedingly capable people seem helpless against the ferocity of nature. At the worst moment, Richard fastens himself in, and shouts to Tami through the raging winds to go down below, where she’ll be safer.

The action toggles back and forth between happy scenes on land, and the ordeal at sea, which show Tami figuring out a way to stop the boat from sinking, then pulling a badly injured Richard from the waters and caring for his wounds while she tries to navigate, using nautical maps and her own desperate creativity. The land scenes provide some intermittent relief; on the other hand, they do stall the suspense.

The couple’s risky goal is to reach Hawaii, and Tami knows that if she makes an error, they’ll die. She also must figure out how to ration the fresh water and meagre food supplies, which consist of sardines, some Spam, a jar of peanut butter. A committed vegetarian, she must cope with the reality that if she can’t kill and eat fish, she probably won’t make it.

Woodley’s honest, unfussy performance seems perfectly tailored to the script by Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell and David Branson Smith. Claflin makes Richard a dashing, sensitive romantic partner. The story is not complicated — nor does it need to be. Woman vs. sea. Woman triumphs. An apt story for 2018.

“Adrift,” an STX Entertainment release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America “for injury images, peril, language, brief drug use, partial nudity and thematic elements.” Running time: 120 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

‘Downton Abbey’ movie to shoot this summer


This undated publicity photo shows characters from the TV series, “Downton Abbey.” (AP Photo/PBS, Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE, Nick Briggs)

New York (AP) — Three years after going off the air, “Downton Abbey” is coming back as a movie.

Focus Features said that it will this summer begin production on a “Downton” film that will reunite the Crawley family on the big screen. Series creator Julian Fellowes wrote the screenplay and will produce.

The long-rumored film adaptation is likely to be released sometime next year. The primary cast members are all set to return.

Over six seasons, “Downton Abbey” became a global hit, airing in at least 150 countries, and setting a record for non-U.S. television shows with 69 Emmy nominations.

Brian Percival, who directed the series’ pilot, will direct the film.

Scarlett Johansson pulls out of trans drama after backlash

Scarlett Johansson.
(Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Jake Coyle

New York (AP) — Scarlett Johansson has withdrawn from the film “Rub & Tug” after her plans to portray a transgender man prompted a backlash.

In a statement, Johansson said she was pulling out from the project “in light of recent ethical questions raised surrounding my casting.” Johansson was lined up to star as Pittsburgh 1970s and ’80s prostitution ring leader Dante “Tex” Gill, who was born Lois Jean Gill but identified as a man.

When transgender actors and advocates questioned the casting, Johansson initially responded with a statement that criticism “can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman’s reps.” All are cisgender actors who won acclaim for playing transgender characters.

“While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film,” the actress said.

Johansson previously came under fire for playing an originally Asian character in the 2017 film “Ghost in the Shell.” That film’s director, Rupert Sanders, was set to also helm “Rub & Tug.”

It’s not clear if the film, which Johansson was also producing, will go forward. A representative for Johansson didn’t respond to an email. A spokesman for New Regency, which was set to produce “Rub & Tug,” said it’s uncertain what will happen with the film.

Some critics have argued that trans roles should be played by trans actors.

“Actors who are trans never even get to audition for anything other than roles of trans characters,” Jamie Clayton, a transgender actress who stars in Netflix’s “Sense8.” ‘’That’s the real issue. We can’t even get in the room.”

Jen Richards, trans activist and creator of the web series “Her Story,” praised Johansson for stepping down.

“If you’re tired of hearing about it, you can’t imagine how tired trans actors are of talking about it,” Richards said on Twitter. “We just want to work. And with more trans and nonbinary people, of all kinds, participating, the work will be a better and richer representation of our world. This is a win.”

Stevie Nicks and LeAnn Rimes share heartbreak in new duet

This combination photo shows Stevie Nicks (left) and LeAnn Rimes. (AP Photo)

Pablo Arauz Pena

Los Angeles (AP) — Stevie Nicks cried on her living room floor when she first saw LeAnn Rimes perform “Borrowed” on her TV in 2013.

The song, about an intimate, yet fleeting romance between Rimes and her lover, came out on Rimes’ “Spitfire” album when Nicks became enamored with it. The Fleetwood Mac singer knew then that she wanted to sing it with Rimes someday.

“It was very easy for me to try to be in that same sad, deeply tragic, passionate place where she was when she wrote that song because I had been there. I had lived there for a long time,” Nicks said in an interview with The Associated Press from Mexico, where she was on vacation.

Nicks heard from mutual friend and producer Darrell Brown, who co-wrote “Borrowed,” that Rimes was planning to touch up some of her hits for her “Re-Imagined” EP, and she jumped at the chance to record a duet version with Rimes.

“Being able to have another artist really kind of get you on so many levels in that authenticity and from that space is really magical,” said Rimes.

The new version, released last month, balances Nicks’ soft croon to Rimes’ striking vocals. Like in the previous version, a cool and fading steel guitar compliments the rhythmic melody and calming percussion.

Even though Nicks has been singing and recording long before Rimes was on the scene, she said working with her is like going to singing college.

“She doesn’t brush over anything,” said 70-year-old Nicks. “You have to sing every single word with her; otherwise it won’t be a good duet because she would leave you in the dust.”

Rimes, 35, became a star as a teen and launched hits such as “Blue,” ‘’How Do I Live” and “Can’t Fight the Moonlight.” She won the best new artist Grammy at age 14.

Both singers come from different musical backgrounds. Nicks is a rock ‘n’ roll magnate from Phoenix and Rimes has country roots in Texas, but their voices reflect on a shared passion where heartbreak isn’t bound by place, time or genre.

Rimes said she came up with the idea for the song during an emotionally troubling moment on an airplane when she noticed someone reading a tabloid magazine with her on the cover. She started to cry when the stranger’s husband came to her comfort.

“I honestly feel like that guy was an angel,” she said. “Some things came over me at that moment and I just remember thinking that title (“Borrowed”) to myself.”

The first line of the song came to Rimes: “I know you’re not mine. Only borrowed.” From there, she took it to the studio where she fleshed out the rest of the tune.

“It’s a very honest, authentic moment and capturing a piece of me that I really didn’t know existed until I wrote this song,” said Rimes.

Rimes is currently on a summer tour and Nicks is hitting the road with Fleetwood Mac in the fall. Both singers said they hope to perform the song together someday.

“I would love to do a record with LeAnn,” said Nicks. “I’m hoping that for some reason we’ll get to go onstage and sing this song together.”



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Stevie Nicks and LeAnn Rimes share heartbreak in new duet

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