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Update November, 2019


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Film Review: Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’ is mature and melancholy

This image released by Netflix shows Al Pacino, center left, and Robert De Niro, center right, in a scene from “The Irishman.” (Netflix via AP)

Lindsey Bahr

The runtime is the most boring aspect of Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” to dwell on.

There is no question that three hours and 28 minutes qualifies as a long movie. And in a landscape where some films can make two hours seem bloated and overindulgent, it’s at least understandable why one might be wary. But Scorsese has earned the benefit of the doubt and “The Irishman” keeps you rapt from the first winding tracking shot through a staid retirement home — a flashy cinematic show in the most un-cinematic of places — through the melancholic end.

The whole film in fact is something of a knowing contradiction: A small epic with a superhero budget, using technology like the oft-discussed de-aging process not for vulgar show or gimmickry but to add real heart and grandeur to a film that is trying to grapple with the scope of a life. The subject at hand here is Frank Sheehan (Robert De Niro), the teamster and mafia figure who claimed right before his death that he was the one who killed Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).

Although hardly accepted as a definitive answer to one of our great unsolved mysteries, Scorsese and screenwriter Steve Zaillian (“Schindler’s List,” ‘’Gangs of New York”), inspired by Charles Brandt’s “I Heard You Paint Houses,” saw in this deathbed confession the opportunity to make something more poignant and personal: An opus about the enormity of a life lived in and around the mafia.

To pull off this ruminative trick and still make an entertaining film, Scorsese has naturally gone back to his original muse, De Niro, and a few old friends. They include Joe Pesci (who came out of retirement for an all-time performance as crime boss Russell Bufalino, who is both sympathetic and otherworldly sinister) and Harvey Keitel (in a small role), who have along with their director defined and illuminated the concept of the mafia for many who will never come near that world.

Frank tells this story of friendship, loyalty, ego, violence and family from a retirement where he is achingly alone. Death is all around. Scorsese plants a brief, matter-of-fact obit on the faces you meet along the way. And Frank has the blessing and burden of having reached an age that no one is supposed to in this line of work. You can feel the weight of that with every word.

Pacino doesn’t make his entrance into the film for quite some time, but his arrival and gravitas gives the film a jolt exactly when it’s needed. It’s almost needless to say that seeing him and De Niro together again is a special delight.

If this all seems rather somber, it’s because of the stunning last hour, which will stick with you long after the film is over. But before then, “The Irishman” is actually quite droll, with some of the best characters and dialogue you’ll see in a film all year. There’s a long conversation about fish in one of the tensest stretches that is delightfully funny and natural, and an amusing running thread about Hoffa’s distaste for lateness. The actors, the director and the script never get lost in the plot — this is the rare film that makes you feel as though life is really happening around the mafia machinations, of which there are plenty.

“The Irishman” is much more than just another mob story after all. It’s also the story of a filmmaker in the late stages of his career reconciling with one aspect of his life’s work. “Silence” was that for his religion-themed films. But “The Irishman” is the more effective and clear-eyed attempt — not to mention more accessible to audiences than a tale about 17th-century Portuguese Missionaries.

But one thing that “The Irishman” is lacking for is in substantive female characters. Here, they are wives to be left, or tolerated, and daughters to protect and disappoint. The latter is embodied by Frank’s daughter Peggy, who as a young girl witnesses her father commit an act of violence that puts a permanent crack in their relationship. She is Frank’s conscience, which he won’t realize until it’s far too late. What she isn’t is a character we get to know anything about.

Perhaps who Peggy is or grew up to be (Anna Paquin portrays her as an adult) is inconsequential, though. This is Frank’s story, after all, and he’s still learning all the way up to the end.

“The Irishman,” a Netflix release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “pervasive language and strong violence.” Running time: 208 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four. (AP)


Sony sets ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel for 2022

This image released by Sony Pictures Animations shows a scene from “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Sony Pictures on Friday set a follow-up to the 2018 Oscar-winning hit for release in April 2022. (Sony Pictures Animation via AP)

New York (AP) — The inventive, animated Spider-Man remix “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is getting a sequel.

Sony Pictures on Friday set a follow-up to the 2018 Oscar-winning hit for an April 2022 release. Producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller also celebrated the announcement on Twitter and signaled that they, too, are returning.

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” grossed $375.5 million worldwide. Its deconstructionist approach to Spider-Man earned some of the best reviews of any recent superhero film, and won the Academy Award for best animated feature.

Sony and Marvel Studios recently parted ways on “Spider-Man” before making up. Marvel is set to produce the third film in the live-action “Spider-Man” series.


‘Goodness and humor’ celebrated as ‘Sesame Street’ turns 50

This image released by HBO shows the cast of “Sesame Street” during a celebration of their 50th season of the popular children’s TV show. This first episode of “Sesame Street” aired in the fall of 1969. (Richard Termine/HBO via AP)

Mark Kennedy

New York (AP) — Fifty years ago marked the debut of a TV show that would make history.

The educational and yet silly “Sesame Street” was meant to help young children get ready for school, with diversity and inclusion baked into the show, set in a place where monsters, humans and animals lived peacefully together.

“Sesame Street” has proved to be a celebrity magnet and a cherished show for generations. There’s also evidence that “Sesame Street” really does help children learn.

“Sesame Street” has opened its arms over the years. It became the first children’s program to feature someone with Down syndrome. It’s had puppets with HIV and in foster care, invited children in wheelchairs and dealt with topics like jailed parents, homelessness, women’s rights and military families. It’s even had girls singing about loving their hair.


Film Review: ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ claims No. 1 over ‘Joker’

 

This image released by Disney shows, from left, Harris Dickinson as Prince Phillip, Elle Fanning as Aurora, Robert Lindsay as King John and Michelle Pfeiffer as Queen Ingrith in a scene from the film, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.” (Jaap Buitendijk/Disney via AP)

Lindsey Bahr

Los Angeles (AP) — The Walt Disney Co.’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” knocked “Joker” out of the No. 1 spot at the box office, but just barely.

Studios on Sunday say the film starring Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning grossed an estimated $36 million in North America and $117 million internationally in its first weekend in theaters. The first film had a much stronger domestic showing, opening to nearly $70 million domestically in 2014, and the sequel was expected to earn more stateside.

Although, “It’s not as strong as we hoped domestically, but it’s a good start for October and we have a great window leading into Halloween,” said Cathleen Taff, Disney’s president of theatrical distribution. “Most encouraging is the fact that audiences seem to be responding very positively.”

The A CinemaScore — in contrast to the mixed critical reviews — suggests that the film could have a longer life at the box office.

Although it fell to second place after two weekends at the top, Warner Bros.’ “Joker” continues to hold strong at the box office. It added $29.2 million in its third weekend in North America. The villain origin story has grossed over $247 million domestically. Worldwide, it’s earned $737.5 million, and has already surpassed the lifetime grosses of “Justice League” and “Suicide Squad.”

Now the big question is whether the R-rated film will make it to $1 billion, but with a $55 million production budget, it’s already a massive hit for the studio and will likely also become director Todd Phillips’ highest-grossing film too.

“It’s already in territory that nobody thought it would get to. It’s achieved a box office that is above the wildest expectations of the studio and analysts,” said Paul Dergarabedian, Comscore’s senior media analyst. “Even if the box office stopped right now it’s an absolute, unqualified success.”

Third place went to another new sequel, Columbia Pictures’ “Zombieland: Double Tap” with $26.7 million. The R-rated comedy comes 10 years after the original, reuniting Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Woody Harrelson with director Ruben Fleischer.

“Three films earning over $25 million, that doesn’t happen very often,” Dergarabedian noted, although the weekend is down from last year when “Halloween” opened to over $76 million.

In notable landmarks, “Hustlers” crossed $100 million domestically this weekend. It’s the second STX film to do so this year after “The Upside.”

And buzzy, awards-friendly indies are continuing to thrive. “Parasite,” which opened last weekend, added $1.2 million. This weekend, Taika Waititi’s Nazi satire “Jojo Rabbit” opened in five theaters with a strong $350,000, the black and white Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe mindbender “The Lighthouse” earned $419,764 from eight theaters, and “Jay & Silent Bob Reboot” grossed $93,520 from one screen this weekend.

But the year is still down 5% from last year.

“It was a great weekend for sequels and great weekend for indie movies,” Dergarabedian said. “But we’re still struggling to get ahead of last year. We’re racing to the finish line here. We’ve only got 11 weekends left to go.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” $36 million ($117 million international).

2. “Joker,” $29.5 million ($77.8 million international).

3. “Zombieland: Double Tap,” $26.7 million ($5.3 million international).

4. “The Addams Family,” $16.1 million.

5. “Gemini Man,” $8.5 million ($33.4 million international).

6. “Abominable,” $3.5 million ($9.2 million international).

7. “Downton Abbey,” $3.1 million ($2.5 million international).

8. “Judy,” $2.1 million ($1.3 million international).

9. “Hustlers,” $2.1 million ($3 million international).

10. “It: Chapter Two,” $1.5 million.


Dolly Parton, Chris Stapleton, Pink to perform at CMA Awards

In this July 31, 2015 file photo, Dolly Parton performs in concert at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. Parton will perform a new song “Faith” in a gospel medley at the Country Music Association Awards on the Nov. 13 awards show in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Wade Payne/Invision/AP, File)

The Associated Press

Nashville, Tenn. (AP) — Dolly Parton will perform a new song “Faith” in a gospel medley, Reba McEntire will revisit her hit “Fancy” and Chris Stapleton will perform a duet with Pink at this year’s Country Music Association Awards.

CMA announced Wednesday the first round of performers for the Nov. 13 awards show in Nashville, Tennessee. Parton will also sing “God Only Knows” with Christian duo for King & Country and “There Was Jesus” with Zach Williams.

Carrie Underwood, who is nominated for entertainer of the year and will host the show with McEntire and Parton, will perform “Drinking Alone,” while Miranda Lambert will sing her new single, “It All Comes Out in the Wash.”

Additional performers include Eric Church, Luke Combs, Keith Urban and the show’s top nominee, Maren Morris.


Review: Neil Young back in his ragged glory with ‘Colorado’

Neil Young with Crazy Horse, “Colorado” (Reprise).

Scott Bauer

Neil Young is back with his old band Crazy Horse in all their ragged glory with “Colorado,” a beautiful, rambling, chaotic howl against climate change, division and hate.

It’s one of Young’s best record in years, reminiscent of 1989’s triumphant “Ragged Glory,” and his first with Crazy Horse since 2012.

Young, an old man showing no signs of slowing down at 73, cranks up both his rage and tenderness as only he can with the latest incarnation of Crazy Horse behind him. The band members have spent 50 years recording on and off with Young. The latest version features longtime Bruce Springsteen guitarist Nils Lofgren, who replaces retired 70-year-old Frank “Poncho” Sampedro.

But just like Young, Crazy Horse seems to defy the passing of time with the energy and emotion they bring to “Colorado.” That passion is on full display on “Mountaintop,” a companion documentary that captured the recording session high in the Rockies as Young and Crazy Horse suck on oxygen and work out the new songs.

The sweetly melodic three-minute opening track “Think of Me” could easily fit on Young’s 1992 “Harvest Moon.” But in a sharp left turn, Young follows it up with a shambolic 13-minute jam — “She Showed Me Love” — with echoes of earlier Crazy Horse adventures like 1969’s “Down by the River.”

As he has for much of the past decade, Young focuses his rage on climate change, railing about “old white guys trying to kill Mother Nature.”

On the standout “Rainbow of Colors,” Young offers some hope amid the despair. “There’s a rainbow of colors/In the old USA,” Young croons. “No one’s gonna whitewash those colors away.”

Young’s never one to whitewash anything, as he proves magnificently once again on “Colorado.”
 


UPDATE

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Review: Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’ is mature and melancholy

Sony sets ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel for 2022

‘Goodness and humor’ celebrated as ‘Sesame Street’ turns 50


‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ claims No. 1 over ‘Joker’

Dolly Parton, Chris Stapleton, Pink to perform at CMA Awards

Review: Neil Young back in his ragged glory with ‘Colorado’