Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017 - Jan. 5, 2018
Film Review: Children’s book ‘Ferdinand’ jumps to screen nicely
This image shows a scene from the
animated film, “Ferdinand.” (Twentieth Century Fox via AP)
(AP) - This holiday season, there’s all
manner of conflict at your local movie theater — Jedis battling in
the stars, Winston Churchill warring in Europe and Olympic athletes
dueling on ice. And then there’s that 2,000-pound bull that refuses
“Ferdinand “ is
a first-rate animated tale adapted from the beloved 1936 children’s
book about a pacifist Spanish bull who just loves to sit around and
sniff flowers. It’s often dark, sometimes whacky, but true to the
heart of the book and beautifully brought to life in modern Spain.
Saldanha, the director of “Rio” and “Ice Age” movies, and
screenwriters Robert L. Baird, Tim Federle and Brad Copeland faced a
daunting task turning a spare 66-page book by Munro Leaf and Robert
Lawson into more than 100 minutes of film.
largely succeeded, while adding more serious issues along the way,
including animal rights, rigged economic systems, nature versus
nurture, cowardice, and the importance of looking out for each
other. Not bad for a kid’s flick, huh? It also plunges another
sword in the sport of bull fighting.
At its core,
“Ferdinand” is an anti-bullying statement that stars a bull. In a
neat twist, that bull who refuses to fight is voiced by professional
wrestler John Cena, a man who makes his living with violence.
bred to fight but won’t. His dad and peers at a bull fighting ranch
all want to go into the ring and take on a matador. “Is it OK if
it’s not my dream?” the young Ferdinand asks. No, he’s told.
“You’re either a fighter or you’re meat.”
father disappears, our bullish conscientious objector manages to
escape and ends up in a peaceful flower farm, lovingly taken care of
by a young girl. Good for Ferdinand, but bad for the filmmakers,
who have more than another hour more to fill.
cavalcade of strange and bewildering creatures: three crafty
hedgehogs, three condescending Lipizzaner horses and an unhinged
goat called Lupe. Kate McKinnon voices the goat and her performance
is Robin Williams-in-”Aladdin” level work. A film that was overly
dark suddenly gets an infusion of silliness and comic genius.
We take a few
detours — there’s a brilliant dance competition between
break-dancing bulls and the prancing horses; an unorthodox running
of the bulls, this time with the animals chased by bad guys through
the streets on Segways; and an utterly wonderful interpretation of a
bull in a china shop.
the only bull to realize that the entire bullfighting game is fixed
and tries to convince his peers to flee (the voice actors include a
very good Peyton Manning — yes, that Peyton Manning — as a bull
prone to vomiting, and a hysterical David Tennant as a very hairy
rescues some of his pals from the “chop shop” — note: seeing this
with your kids may become uncomfortable if you promised hamburgers
afterward — then sacrifices himself for the good of the group and
ends up facing the meanest matador in all of Spain in the ring in
Madrid. Will he finally fight? Will he die for his convictions?
There are a few
weird notes. It’s a little strange to hear the Ferdinand we grew up
with under a Spanish cork tree now have a SoCal surfer accent,
saying he’s “stoked,” ‘’hold that thought” and “this is some next
level stuff.” He also does that weird thing where he talks to
fellow animals but is mute when it comes to communicating with
And the musical
choices are a little odd. Nick Jonas offers the new soaring ballad
“Home” and the Colombian artist Juanes delivers with “Lay Your Head
On Me.” But did we really need the unearthing of the 20-year-old
“Macarena”? And Pitbull’s overexposed “Freedom” makes little sense
here unless it’s because of the pun on his name. It would have been
nice to have a more Spanish-heavy soundtrack.
Still, for all
its problems, this is a film with world-class animation, revealing
everything from astonishingly rich crowd scenes to rusty details on
an old pail. The animators have managed to make wet fur feel
tactile and show the headlights of cars bouncing off other cars.
So for the
overall message of the film — “Live your own life” — plus the rich
animation and the completely looney McKinnon, we have one word: Ole!
20th Century Fox release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture
Association of America for “rude humor, action and some thematic
elements.” Running time: 107 minutes. Three stars out of four.
Lady Gaga achieves ‘dream’
with Las Vegas residency
Lady Gaga is shown performing in this Oct.
21, 2017 file photo.
(AP Photo/LM Otero)
Las Vegas (AP) -
Lady Gaga will join the list of superstars with regularly scheduled
shows in Las Vegas in 2018, when she kicks off a two-year residency in
Gaga in a statement
last week said it has been her “life-long dream” to perform in Las
Vegas. She said she is humbled to be joining a historical line-up of
performers that include Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.
came at the end of a successful year for the superstar that included a
stunning Super Bowl performance and a sold-out tour.
International did not immediately announce performance dates at Park
venue is located at the Park MGM casino-resort, formerly known as the
Monte Carlo. It hosted the residencies of Cher and Ricky Martin.
Saturday, Dec. 23 - Dec. 29, 2017
Film Review: ‘The Last Jedi’ a welcome disturbance in the Force
This image shows Gwendoline Christie as
Capt. Phasma in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” (Lucasfilm via AP)
Los Angeles (AP)
- A welcome disturbance in the Force, Rian
Johnson’s “The Last Jedi” is, by wide measure, the trippiest, scrappiest
and most rule-breaking “Star Wars” adventure yet.
Not the exercise in
nostalgia that was J.J. Abrams’ “The Force Awakens,” Johnson’s Episode
VIII takes George Lucas’ space opera in new, often thrilling, and
sometimes erratic directions while finding the truest expression yet of
the saga’s underlying ethos of camaraderie in resistance to oppression.
Though there are countless familiar broad strokes — rebel escapes, Jedi
soul-searching, daddy issues — “The Last Jedi” has discovered some new
moves yet, in the galaxy far, far away.
As the second
installment in this third “Star Wars” trilogy, “The Last Jedi” is like
the inverted corollary of “The Empire Strike Back” (long the super fan’s
favorite). While it is, like its part-two predecessor, often murky and
weird, Johnson’s frequently comic film distinguishes itself by upending
the traditional power dynamics of heroes and bit players in the Star
odds-defying daredevil flyboy (Oscar Isaac as Resistance pilot Poe
Dameron) is an impetuous chauvinist, at odds with a female commander (a
purple-haired Laura Dern). “Get your head out of your cockpit,”
admonishes Leia (the late Carrie Fisher, to whom the film is
dedicated). The master-apprentice relationship — previously Yoda
instructing young Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on a swampy remote planet
— is now tilted more toward Rey, the young Jedi (Daisy Ridley), sent to
stir a monkish Skywalker from a windswept, Porg-infested isle. And
instead of a Tauntaun’s guts being spilled, there are even moments of
animal rights reflections creeping into the galaxy. About to bite into
his rotisserie dinner, Chewbacca, with a sad groan, is struck by pangs
touch in his zippy and nimble reboot was in his diverse casting — in
particular Ridley and John Boyega, as Finn, the Stormtrooper turned good
guy. But Johnson, who also wrote the film, has gone further to shake up
the familiar roles and rhythms of Star Wars. Scattershot and
loose-limbed, “The Last Jedi” doesn’t worship at its own altar, often
undercutting its own grandiosity.
Those breaks of
form — formerly mostly reserved for a smirking Harrison Ford — will
throw some diehards. Especially in the surreal isolated scenes of Rey
and Luke — where Luke, with a thick gray mane and a hermit’s foul-manner
is seen drinking a creature’s breast milk and pole-vaulting from rock to
rock — “The Last Jedi” teeters on the edge of camp.
It’s not surprising
that Johnson, the director of the twisty time-traveling noir “Looper,”
has made a movie full of clever inversions. What’s jarring is that he’s
made a “Star Wars” film that tries to not take itself too seriously,
while simultaneously making it more emotional.
Yet before its
considerable payoff, “The Last Jedi” feels lost and grasping for its
purpose. Unlike the earlier films, the less tactile “The Last Jedi”
isn’t much for world building, and its sense of place isn’t as firm. As
an intergalactic travelogue, it’s a disappointment.
exceptions, though, especially the chambers of the Supreme Leader Snoke
(Andy Serkis, adding to his gallery of grotesques). Soaked in an
otherworldly crimson red, Snoke’s lair looks like something out of
Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut.”
Johnson also lacks
what Lucas and Abrams alike recognized as the franchise’s most potent
weapon: Ford. As the prairie boy turned knight, Hamill has never been
the saga’s heart-and-soul. While Luke gets his big moment, “The Last
Jedi” doesn’t do him any favors, plopping him on a pitiless jagged rock
away from the action and a backstory filled with regret.
As Fisher’s final
“Star Wars” film, it’s a shame she isn’t more front-and-center. (The
next film was to be hers, the way Ford and now Hamill have had theirs.)
But she makes her scenes count.
Though Isaac has
been fashioned as the heir-apparent to the bemused Ford, Boyega is the
actor I’ve left both episode VII and VIII wanting more of. The downside
in a story that spins its characters around the galaxy is that the new
generation of Star Wars protagonists hasn’t had time for the small
gestures that would shape their characters — close-ups that their
forerunners were afforded. Even after two films, Rey is more of an
unstoppable sprite than a fleshed-out person.
But “The Last
Jedi,” as if with a wind against its back, gathers momentum. By
breaking down some of the old mythology, Johnson has staked out new
territory. For the first time in a long time, a “Star Wars” film feels
Much of that sense
of progress comes in the character of Rose Tico (a superlative Kelly
Marie Tran), a maintenance worker who’s thrust into a pivotal role in
the rebellion. It’s she who voices the film’s abiding message, one that
— as the first “Star Wars” film of the Trump era — has affecting
resonance. The Resistance will win, she says, “not fighting what we
hate” but “saving what we love.”
“Star Wars: The
Last Jedi,” a Walt Disney Co. release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion
Picture Association of America for “sequences of sci-fi action and
violence.” Running time: 152 minutes. Three stars out of four.
Rock Hall 2018 class: Nina Simone, Bon Jovi, the Moody Blues
Guitarist Justin Hayward, left, and bassist
John Lodge of The Moody Blues are shown performing in this Aug. 20,
2009, file photo. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
New York (AP) — Iconic
singer Nina Simone and New Jersey rockers Bon Jovi lead the 2018 class
of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, which includes four first-time
The Cars, as well as first-time
contenders Dire Straits, The Moody Blues and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, are
also part of the 2018 class announced last week. They will be inducted
on April 14, in Cleveland, Ohio.
The six inductees were chosen from
a group of 19 nominees, including Radiohead, who were expected to enter
in the Rock Hall in their first year of eligibility, but didn’t make it.
Tharpe, a pioneering guitarist who
performed gospel music and was known to some as “the godmother of rock
‘n’ roll,” will be inducted with the “Award for Early Influence.” She
died in 1973. The other five acts will be inducted as performers.
ABBA exhibit explores
band’s 1970s rise
Bjorn Ulvaeus, former band member of the
group ABBA, poses for photographers in a recreation of the Brighton
hotel suite where the group celebrated their 1974 Eurovision Song
Contest Victory. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
London (AP) — ABBA’s Bjorn
Ulvaeus says a new London exhibition about the Swedish pop group took
him right back to the 1970s — and he realized some things haven’t
The Abba: Super Troupers exhibit
includes reconstructions of the hotel room in England where band members
stayed after winning the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with “Waterloo,” a
’70s recording studio and a typically drab British living room of the
Ulvaeus said that a television set
in the exhibit “showed footage from 1973-74, how the Brits were hesitant
about Europe back then, in the very same way as they are now, which is
really sad, I think.”
He said Britain’s departure from
the European Union was “like losing — not losing a friend because you’re
still there — but somehow you don’t want to be in the team, and I think
The exhibition at London’s
Southbank Centre features items from the ABBA museum in Stockholm and
private archives, including costumes, handwritten notes, photos and
It sets the rise of the spangly
Swedish superstars “against the shifting socio-economic and political
conditions of the time” — a period when Britain was beset by strikes,
power shortages and financial crisis.
At a preview of the show, Ulvaeus
said it brought back old memories. But he said the four members of ABBA
would never reunite for live concerts, because it “would be such
“It would be enormous. And it
would take such... you cannot imagine the tension and the attention from
everyone,” he said.
“So it would be like robbing
yourself of, perhaps, two or three years out of your life when I could
be paddling on my surf ski in the archipelago of Stockholm instead.”
The exhibition runs to April 29.
Fittingly, the nearest train and subway station is Waterloo.
Saturday, Dec. 16 - Dec. 22, 2017
Film Review: In ‘Wonder,’ a sweetly
sincere message movie
This image shows Jacob Tremblay, right, and
Julia Roberts in a scene from “Wonder.” (Dale Robinette/Lionsgate Films)
Los Angeles (AP) -
Based on R.J. Palacio’s 2012 YA novel, “Wonder” is about a 10-year-old boy,
Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay, with heavy makeup), with mandibulofacial
dysostosis or Treacher Collins Syndrome. His parents (Julia Roberts, Owen
Wilson) have homeschooled him up until now but believe it’s time for him to
enter 5th grade and middle school — a lion’s den if ever there was one,
especially for a gentle, socially isolated boy with facial deformities
despite 27 healing surgeries.
They, along with his
older sister Via (an excellent Izabela Vidovic), live (where else?) in
brownstone Brooklyn, the epicenter of inspirational tales about precocious
pre-teens. Auggie is comfortable around the neighborhood in his astronaut
helmet (Halloween is his favorite holiday because of its costume-covered
anonymity) but the prospect of school petrifies him. His first experiences
aren’t reassuring, either. A legitimate science whiz and self-declared
“Star Wars” fan, he’s nicknamed “Barf Hideous.” Later, rumors spread that
just touching him will spread the plague.
The movies, a
superficial medium by nature, often put irregular appearances under a harsh
microscope. Seldom do we see stories like Auggie’s given a close-up. But
when they have, the results have often been moving and memorable — like
David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man” and Peter Bogdanovich’s “Mask.”
“Wonder” adds to that
lineage but it’s not entirely focused on Auggie’s tribulations. As the film
progresses, it begins to abruptly shift perspectives, reconsidering the
point of view of various characters in Auggie’s orbit.
After we first
experience Auggie’s joys and hardships at school, we see the encounters from
the other side. After Auggie’s first friend (Noah Jupe) betrays him when he
thinks Auggie is out of earshot, we get his story. After Via feels
overshadowed by her brother, we follow her own struggles in losing a now
too-cool friend. She joins the drama club. And we get the backstory of the
school bully (Bryce Gheisar), too, revealing parents from whom he learned
The result is a clear
and straightforward message movie, soaked in empathy. It tenderly evokes
both the crushing pain of being shunned and the saving grace of a
much-needed friend — for Auggie and for everyone. It’s a sincere and
valuable lesson in putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.
“Wonder,” a Lionsgate
release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America. Running
time: 113 minutes. Three stars out of four.
New Jimi Hendrix album with
unreleased songs coming in March
Jimi Hendrix is shown performing in this
1970 file photo.
New York (AP) -
Unreleased songs recorded by Jimi Hendrix between 1968 and 1970 will be
released next year.
Experience Hendrix and
Legacy Recordings announced last week that they will release Hendrix’s “Both
Sides of the Sky” on March 9, 2018. The 13-track album includes 10 songs
that have never been released.
Hendrix died in 1970 at
age 27. The new album is the third volume in a trilogy from the guitar
hero’s archive. “Valleys of Neptune” was released in 2010, followed by
“People, Hell and Angels,” in 2013.
Eddie Kramer, who
worked as recording engineer on every Hendrix album made during the artist’s
life, said in an interview that 1969 was “a very experimental year” for
Hendrix, and that he was blown away as he worked on the new album.
“The first thing is you
put the tape on and you listen to it and the hairs just stand up right on
the back of your neck, it’s an incredible thing,” said Kramer.
Many of the album’s
tracks were recorded by Band of Gypsys, Hendrix’s trio with Buddy Miles and
Billy Cox. Stephen Stills appears on two songs: “$20 Fine” and “Woodstock.”
“It sounds like Crosby,
Stills & Nash except it’s on acid, you know,” Kramer, laughing, said of “$20
Johnny Winter appears
on “Things I Used to Do”; original Jimi Hendrix Experience members Mitch
Mitchell and Noel Redding are featured on “Hear My Train A Comin’’’; and
Lonnie Youngblood is on “Georgia Blues.”
Kramer produced the
album alongside John McDermott and Janie Hendrix, the legend’s sister and
president of Experience Hendrix. Kramer said though “Both Sides of the Sky”
is the last of the trilogy, someone could find new Hendrix music in an attic
or a basement, which could be re-worked.
He also said they have
live footage of Hendrix, some just audio and some in video, which they plan
“It was amazing just to
watch him in the studio or live. The brain kicks off the thought process —
it goes through his brain through his heart and through his hands and onto
the guitar, and it’s a seamless process,” Kramer said. “It’s like a lead
guitar and a rhythm guitar at the same time, and it’s scary. There’s never
been another Jimi Hendrix, at least in my mind.”
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)
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
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)
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
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
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
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?”
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,
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
“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)
Los Angeles (AP) - At first,
Disney-Pixar’s latest, “Coco,” sounds a lot like the 2014 Fox film “The Book
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
April 1972 file photo shows singer and teen idol David Cassidy. (AP
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.