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Update December 2017


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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
Arts - Entertainment - Film Review World
 

Saturday, Dec. 9 - Dec. 15, 2017

Film Review: Not even Wonder Woman can save ‘Justice League’

This image shows Ezra Miller (from left) Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot in a scene from “Justice League.” (Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. via AP)

Lindsey Bahr

Los Angeles (AP) - It’s hard not to feel a little bad for the DC Comics films at this point.

They have the unenviable task of having to form an identity in the shadows of the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which are usually good and rarely unwatchable, and the continued glow of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, which are seeming more and more like transcendent anomalies as we get deeper into this never-ending cycle of super humans crowding our multiplexes.  DC got off to a rocky start and then Patty Jenkins went and made a very good “Wonder Woman.”

And yet somehow it is no surprise that “Justice League” tips the balances back in the wrong direction.  Although marginally better than “Batman v Superman” and “Suicide Squad,” director Zack Snyder’s latest is still a profound mess of maudlin muscles, incoherent action and jaw-droppingly awful CGI.  It is big, loud, awful to look at and oh-so-dumb.

With Superman (Henry Cavill) dead, and the world facing yet another devastating threat (yawn) this time at the hands of some ancient creature named Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) and his army of giant alien mosquitoes, which look like Saturday morning Power Rangers villains, Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) go in search of some new recruits: Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller), a quippy “kid” who’s excited to join the team; Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) who talks like a surfer bro and looks like a Nordic bodybuilder with ombre locks and fishermen’s knits; And Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher), who is still in the sulky “why me” phase of his superhero career.

There are some good moments, thanks in large part to the addition of Miller, whose quick, self-deprecating humor (likely the result of Joss Whedon’s script and reshoot work) and general liveliness steals scenes away from his brawnier and moodier counterparts.

But everything else about “Justice League” feels labored, from a preposterous underwater battle that comes out of nowhere and the camaraderie between the superheroes that never clicks into place, to Batman’s lumbering gait (does the batsuit weigh 300 pounds?) and Superman’s mouth which looks a little...off. It’s likely because the production had to digitally remove Cavill’s “Mission: Impossible 6” mustache for re-shoots. After experiencing this unnaturally altered face on the big screen, it seems like the worst possible compromise.

And never has it been so obvious that the character of Wonder Woman is now being presented through a man’s eyes. Snyder chooses on multiple occasions to let the shot linger on Gadot’s figure, whether panning up her legs unnecessarily to get to a normal scene of dialogue or making sure that the camera is there to capture the moment when her skirt flies up in an action sequence. It is, quite frankly, gross and a wildly disappointing departure from what Patty Jenkins was able to accomplish with the character earlier this year.

There’s even an attempt to humanize the potential destruction with a random impoverished Eastern European family struggling to defend their homestead. The story focuses in on the family’s young daughter, who, in braided pigtails picks up a can of bug spray as a defense. You’d think that this might come back and provide an opportunity for her to a) see and be inspired by Wonder Woman in action or b) at least get saved by her. It would be so obvious. But they don’t even meet.

It’s just a tiny example of how “Justice League” feels like a bunch of disconnected moments with no governing theory behind it other than the fact that this movie has to come at this time to introduce audiences to characters whose stand-alone movies have already been promised to shareholders.

It’s not too late to re-think this whole thing and start over. Just keep Gadot around, please.

“Justice League,” a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “sequences of sci-fi violence and action.” Running time: 121 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.


Jay-Z leads Grammy noms with 8 as rap, R&B take center stage

 

R&B artist Jay-Z.
(Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

Mesfin Fekadu

New York (AP) - Jay-Z is the leader of the 2018 Grammy Award nominations in a year where the top four categories are heavily dominated by rap and R&B artists, giving the often overlooked genres a strong chance of winning big.

The Recording Academy announced last week that Jay-Z is nominated for eight honors, including album, song, and record of the year.  Bruno Mars is also nominated for the big three, while Kendrick Lamar — who earned seven nominations — and Childish Gambino are also up for major awards.

No rock or country acts were nominated in the top four categories.  The rap- and R&B-heavy nominations, which include numerous black and Latino artists, come after the Grammys were criticized earlier this year when some felt Beyonce’s multi-genre “Lemonade” album should have won album of the year over Adele’s “25.”  Adele also expressed that Beyonce should have received the prize.

Albums and songs eligible in the 84 categories at the 60th annual Grammys had to be released between Oct. 1, 2016 and Sept. 30, 2017. This year is the first year the Grammys used online voting for its main awards show.


Artifacts from King Tut’s tomb set for international tour

In this Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015, file photo, tourists look at the tomb of King Tut as it is displayed in a glass case at the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Los Angeles (AP) - Artifacts from King Tut’s tomb are going on tour next year to mark the upcoming 100th anniversary of the discovery of the Egyptian pharaoh’s resting place.

The California Science Center says the exhibit, “KING TUT: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh,” will go on view at the Los Angeles museum in March for 10 months before heading to Europe in January 2019 as part of a 10-city international tour.

The museum says the exhibition represents the largest collection of artifacts and gold from Tutankhamun’s tomb ever to go on public display outside of Egypt.  It says 40 percent of the items are leaving Egypt for the first and last time before going on permanent display at a new museum being built near the Giza Pyramids in Egypt.

King Tut’s tomb was discovered in 1922, more than 3,000 years after his death.


Lenin impersonator ekes out a living on edge of Red Square

Lenin impersonator Sergei Soloviev waits for tourists in Red Square, Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Moscow (AP) - Visitors are forbidden to photograph Vladimir Lenin’s mummified body in the mausoleum on Red Square — but nearby, Sergei Soloviev is happy to offer an alternative.

On most days, the man who bears a close resemblance to the Bolshevik leader hangs out near the entrance to the square waiting to pose for tourists for a small fee.  With his mustache, goatee and a flat black cap covering his bald head, Soloviev’s resemblance is strong even if his face lacks the beady intensity of the real Lenin’s.

He’s usually in the shadows of the ornate red-brick State Historical Museum, on a pedestrian walkway between Red Square and the adjacent Manezh Square, one of the most tourist-dense parts of Moscow.  There’s often a man who impersonates Josef Stalin with him, along with one or two other Lenin doppelgangers.

Soloviev speaks with pride about how those others were impressed when he first showed up in 2000.

“One of the other Lenins said ‘Oh look, here comes my competition,’” he said.

How does a person become a Lenin impersonator?

Soloviev says that in 1999 he began to feel like Lenin and started growing the goatee and mustache.  When he went to his job as a metalworker at a car shop, his boss said “Shave!  We have a dress code ... we don’t need a Lenin.”

He eventually lost the job, noticed other impersonators and went to work.

Soloviev attracts a lot of looks, but many of them don’t go further and pay his requested 100 rubles (US$1.75) for a photo.

He complains that many Chinese tourists, for whom Moscow is an increasingly popular destination, come with tour operators who tell them the Soviet impersonators will try to rip them off.  This offends both his honor and his sense of what he’s worth.

“Can’t you give 100 rubles for Lenin?” he asks.


Fagen sues late Steely Dan partner over band’s name, music

In this July 4, 2009 file photo, Walter Becker, left, and Donald Fagen, of the U.S. group Steely Dan perform at the 43nd Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Keystone, Jean-Christophe Bott)

Los Angeles (AP) — Donald Fagen of Steely Dan is suing the estate of his late band mate, Walter Becker, over ownership of the band’s name and music.

Fagen’s attorneys filed papers last week in Los Angeles claiming that when Becker died in September, his estate was obligated to honor an agreement between the men stipulating that if one should die or otherwise leave the band, the other would buy back his “shares” in the group.

Becker’s representatives are calling the suit “unwarranted and frivolous.”  They said that the 45-year-old agreement was not in effect when he died.

“In our view, Mr. Fagen is unfairly trying to deprive Walter’s family of the fruits of their joint labors,” the estate said in a statement, adding that it had been working toward a compromise with Fagen’s lawyers.

Fagen’s attorney Skip Miller said that “the agreement at the heart of the suit is as valid as the day it was signed.”

“Mr. Fagen believes Mr. Becker’s estate is entitled to receive all normal royalties on the songs they wrote together,” he said. “But this case is about the future of the band, and we will vigorously defend the contract.”


Update Saturday, Dec. 2 - Dec. 8, 2017

Film Review: As moving as it is colorful, ‘Coco’ a joy for all

In this image released by Disney-Pixar, character Hector, voiced by Gael Garcia Bernal (left) and Miguel, voiced by Anthony Gonzalez, appear in a scene from the animated film, “Coco.” (Disney-Pixar via AP)

Sandy Cohen

Los Angeles (AP) - At first, Disney-Pixar’s latest, “Coco,” sounds a lot like the 2014 Fox film “The Book of Life.”

Both are animated features steeped in the aesthetics and customs of Day of the Dead: the Mexican tradition of creating elaborate altars, painted skulls and paths of marigolds to welcome the spirits of dead loved ones for a temporary visit to the world of the living. And both films focus on a young boy who follows his musical dreams at the risk of disappointing his family.

So it seemed like familiar territory, which made it all the more unexpected to find myself transported into a fabulously colorful, slightly psychedelic and entirely magical world where I was so wrapped up in the story about families connecting across generations that the tears on my cheek took me by surprise.

Pixar has always had a knack for tugging at the heartstrings of grown-ups while delighting younger viewers with good-natured characters and eye-popping visuals. Those elements are also at work here, but not since “Up” has an animated film delved so deeply into the web of relationships woven on the way to old age, nor has Pixar ever looked so closely at a specific cultural tradition.

The result is a rich experience for any audience: a story of family and culture, death and transcendence, all set to vibrant Latin music — including a new song by Oscar winners Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (“Frozen”) — and awash in the brilliant colors and dazzling designs the imaginative talents at Disney and Pixar are known for.

“Coco” centers on Miguel (newcomer Anthony Gonzalez), a 12-year-old with the heart of a musician born into a family of shoemakers who’ve banned music for generations. His great-great-grandfather was a guitarist who left his great-great-grandmother alone to raise their young daughter, Coco, and the Riveras forbade all music after that.

By the time Miguel comes along, Coco is the elderly matriarch of the family: a kind-faced collection of wrinkles who sits quietly in her room all day. Miguel feels disconnected from his family history and resentful that it would prevent him from being like his idol: Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), Mexico’s most beloved musician.

As Miguel’s family prepares for the Dia de Muertos holiday, stacking a colorful altar with food, flowers and family photos, he defiantly takes off in pursuit of music, hoping to compete in a neighborhood showcase that would confirm his talents. But his attempts to procure a guitar accidentally lead him across the golden bridge into the realm of the dead.

In this otherworldly place, Miguel uncovers a mystery, connects with a quirky guy named Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), and meets generations of relatives he’s only known through old photos. He encounters magical alebrijes, fantastical spirit animals that help guide the lost. And he realizes that his musical dream could be more meaningful than he thought — especially for Mama Coco — but he’ll need his family’s support to return to the land of the living.

With “Coco” (which is a bit of a misnomer, since it’s really Miguel’s journey), director Lee Unkrich (“Toy Story 3”) and screenwriter/co-director Adrian Molina have crafted a timeless and beautiful tale that’s classically Pixar: playful, inventive and profound. It’s a universal story of love and belonging set in a kaleidoscopic world of brilliant apparitions and lively, well-dressed skeletons.

The animation is exceptional: Realistic elements, like Mama Coco’s gnarled, arthritic hands, look absolutely lifelike, while the spirit world is populated by buildings and bodies that defy gravity.

Like the multicolored, flying tiger-dragon that swoops through Miguel’s adventure into the land of spirits, “Coco” is a thrilling and joyous vision, a celebration of life and the loving tradition of the Day of the Dead.

“Coco,” a Disney-Pixar release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for “thematic elements.” Running time: 109 minutes. Four stars out of four.


Forbes names Beyonce music’s highest-earning woman

   

U.S. singer Beyonce. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

New York (AP) - Forbes has crowned Beyonce as the highest paid woman in music.

The magazine says the singer earned $105 million over a yearlong period stretching from June 2016 to June of this year. Beyonce’s earnings were boosted by her “Formation” world tour last year, which Forbes says grossed $250 million.

Runner-up Adele also enjoyed a successful year on the road. Her tour helped contribute to $69 million in earnings.

Taylor Swift, Celine Dion and Jennifer Lopez complete the top five highest female earners in the business.

Dolly Parton is a surprising sixth. Forbes says the 71-year-old brought in $37 million with the help of 63 shows during the yearlong period.


Seventies teen idol David Cassidy dead at 67

This April 1972 file photo shows singer and teen idol David Cassidy. (AP Photo)

Hillel Italie

New York (AP) — David Cassidy, the teen and pre-teen idol who starred in the 1970s sitcom “The Partridge Family” and sold millions of records as the musical group’s lead singer, died last week at age 67.

Cassidy, who announced earlier this year that he had been diagnosed with dementia, died Tuesday, November 21 in a Fort Lauderdale hospital after suffering from organ failure.

“The Partridge Family” aired from 1970-74 and was a fictional variation of the ’60s performers the Cowsills, intended at first as a vehicle for Shirley Jones, the Oscar winning actress and Cassidy’s stepmother. Jones played Shirley Partridge, a widow with five children with whom she formed a popular act that traveled on a psychedelic bus.  The cast also featured Cassidy as eldest son and family heartthrob Keith Partridge; Susan Dey, later of “L.A. Law” fame, as sibling Laurie Partridge and Danny Bonaduce as sibling Danny Partridge.

It was an era for singing families — the Osmonds, the Jacksons. “The Partridge Family” never cracked the top 10 in TV ratings but the recordings under their name, mostly featuring Cassidy, Jones and session players, produced real-life musical hits and made Cassidy a real-life musical superstar. The Partridges’ best known song, “I Think I Love You,” spent three weeks on top of the U.S. Billboard chart at a time when other hit singles included James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “The Tears of a Clown.”  The group also reached the top 10 with “I’ll Meet You Halfway” and “Doesn’t Somebody Want to be Wanted” and Cassidy had a solo hit with “Cherish.”

“In two years, David Cassidy has swept hurricane-like into the pre-pubescent lives of millions of American girls,” Rolling Stone magazine noted in 1972. “Leaving: six and a half million long-playing albums and singles; 44 television programs; David Cassidy lunch boxes; David Cassidy bubble gum; David Cassidy coloring books and David Cassidy pens; not to mention several millions of teen magazines, wall stickers, love beads, posters and photo albums.”

Cassidy’s appeal faded after the show went off the air, although he continued to tour, record and act over the next 40 years, his albums including “Romance” and the awkwardly titled “Didn’t You Used To Be?” He had a hit with “I Write the Songs” before Barry Manilow’s chart-topping version and success overseas with “The Last Kiss,” featuring backing vocals from Cassidy admirer George Michael. He made occasional stage and television appearances, including an Emmy-nominated performance on “Police Story.”


German police retrieve 100 stolen John Lennon items

 

A pair of John Lennon’s glasses are displayed at the police headquarters in Berlin, Tuesday, Nov. 21. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Diaries of John Lennon from the years 1975, 1979 and 1980 were some of the items recovered by German police. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Kirsten Grieshaber

Berlin (AP) — German police have recovered around 100 items that belonged to late Beatles star John Lennon that were stolen from his widow in New York, including three diaries, two pairs of his signature metal-rimmed glasses, a cigarette case and a handwritten music score.

The retrieved possessions were displayed last week at Berlin police headquarters.

“This was a spectacular, unusual criminal case,” police spokesman Winfrid Wenzel told reporters.

German authorities first became aware of the items, stolen from Yoko Ono at her New York home in 2006, when a bankruptcy administrator for the Berlin auction house Auctionata contacted them in July. The administrator had found the memorabilia in the company’s storage.

Police confiscated the items from the auctioneers and last week arrested a suspect and raided his Berlin home and cars. They said another suspect, who is living in Turkey, is currently “not available,” but they would try to get him extradited to Germany.

During their investigation, police officers and prosecutors also flew to New York, where they met Ono to have her verify the stolen goods’ authenticity.

“She was very emotional and we noticed clearly how much these things mean to her and how happy she would be to have them back,” prosecutor Susann Wettley said of the moment they showed Ono some of the recovered items and pictures of some others.

Wettley said that Ono’s former driver, who is now living in Turkey, is one of the suspects. He has a previous conviction in New York related to the stolen items, she said.

The other suspect, who was arrested in Berlin on Monday, was identified as a 58-year-old German businessman of Turkish origin. During the search of his car, police said they found additional belongings of Lennon in a briefcase hidden under the spare tire in the trunk. Neither suspect’s name was released because of German privacy rules.

Police are still checking confiscated computer files and business contracts to better understand how exactly the stolen goods ended up at the auction house in Berlin and if the auctioneers were aware that they bought stolen goods from the two suspects. They said the items have been in possession of Auctionata since 2014, but were never available for sale online.

The trove of Lennon memorabilia also includes a recording of a Beatles concert from 1965, a school exercise book from 1952, contract documents for the copyright of Lennon’s “I’m the Greatest” song and handwritten scores for “Woman” and “Just like starting over.”

There are also three of Lennon’s leather-bound diaries, from 1975, 1979 and 1980. The last entry was made by Lennon on the morning of Dec. 8, 1980, a few hours before he was killed, Wettley said.

It included a note on the famous photo shoot by Annie Leibovitz that same day showing a naked Lennon embracing his wife.

It wasn’t immediately clear when Ono will get all the items back.
 


DAILY UPDATE

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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Film Review: Not even Wonder Woman can save ‘Justice League’

Jay-Z leads Grammy noms with 8 as rap, R&B take center stage

Artifacts from King Tut’s tomb set for international tour

Lenin impersonator ekes out a living on edge of Red Square

Fagen sues late Steely Dan partner over band’s name, music


Film Review: As moving as it is colorful, ‘Coco’ a joy for all

Forbes names Beyonce music’s highest-earning woman

Seventies teen idol David Cassidy dead at 67

German police retrieve 100 stolen John Lennon items



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