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.