Film Review: Riveting ‘Dunkirk’ is Nolan’s, and year’s, best
This image shows (from left) Harry
Styles, Aneurin Barnard and Fionn Whitehead in a scene from
“Dunkirk.” (Warner Bros Pictures via AP)
“Dunkirk “ is not a typical war movie.
There are no brothers in arms,
no flashbacks to simpler times and pretty wives and girlfriends left
behind, no old men in situation rooms pontificating about politics
or helping with exposition. There’s no talk of Hitler, or Germans
or battlefields or trauma or mothers. In fact, there’s hardly any
talk at all, or, for that matter, even any characters in the
But don’t be mistaken:
Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” is a stone cold masterpiece.
It’s a stunningly immersive
survival film told in 106 thrillingly realized minutes. Nolan puts
the viewer right in the action whether it’s on the beach with
400,000 men queued up and waiting for a rescue that may never come,
on the waters of the English Channel in the little civilian ship
headed into hostile waters with only an aging man and two teenage
boys aboard, or in the air above in the two lone Spitfires that are
quickly running out of fuel.
I’ve never experienced anything
quite like “Dunkirk’s” intoxicating immediacy. The screen and
images envelope you with urgency, dread and moments of breathtaking
beauty and grace as you wait with the soldiers, as the title card at
the beginning says, for deliverance.
The story begins on the ground,
with a young soldier, Tommy (newcomer Fionn Whitehead) wandering the
deserted streets of Dunkirk looking for water and a place to relieve
himself. Propaganda flyers float down to the ground reminding the
soldiers of something they’re already well aware of — that they’re
surrounded. “Surrender + Survive!” the flyers read as Hans Zimmer’s
gently ominous score plays in the background telling us that while
it may be calm for a moment, it is not safe. A deafening gunshot
breaks the silence, and, fair warning, your racing heart will not
stop for quite some time.
Nolan follows Tommy back to the
beach where soldiers stand in long lines that stretch to the water,
where no boats approach. His part is nearly silent, his motivations
unknown. They are all haunted shells, stripped of meaningful
weapons and a military purpose. He and the rest just know they need
to get off the beach at any cost.
We accompany Tommy as he tries
to achieve that objective which eludes him with almost comic
frequency. He’s the unluckiest lucky fellow out there.
Occasionally we get the
sobering perspective of the higher ups, compliments of the great
Kenneth Branagh as Commander Bolton.
In the air there are the two
Spitfire pilots, Farrier (played by Tom Hardy, whose face is once
again largely obscured but who can act circles around many of his
contemporaries even with just the use of his eyes and eyebrows) and
Collins (Jack Lowden). They get to be the lofty, classical heroes
of war films past as they shoot down the enemy. Hardly has a film
ever made you feel as in the moment as this.
And on the sea, the three
civilians, Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and
George (Barry Keoghan) who, like so many during the Dunkirk
evacuation, took it upon themselves to captain their own small
vessel and journey into war dressed in their seaside knits and armed
only with lifejackets and blankets to help save their country’s
stranded men. They’re the beating heart of film, especially when
pitted against a shell shocked soldier (Cillian Murphy) who is
determined to stop them from going back to Dunkirk.
These narratives intertwine and
loop back and repeat from different vantage points with stunning
effectiveness — never seeming redundant or dull. Nolan finds
suspense at every angle, and ramps up the tension with the help of
Zimmer’s ticking score. While, there might not be character arcs to
speak of, the performances are first-rate nonetheless (even pop star
Harry Styles, who might just have another viable career option).
Nolan continues to be
unparalleled in Hollywood — working on a scope that few are able
to. As many filmmakers experiment with the small screen, Nolan has
only gone bigger and bolder with his commitment to film and IMAX.
What a case “Dunkirk” is for the movie theater. Not only that,
“Dunkirk” is far and away the best film of the year, and Nolan’s
See it big and then see it
“Dunkirk,” a Warner Bros.
Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association
of America for “for intense war experience and some language.”
Running time: 106 minutes. Four stars out of four.
British actor stranded for 3 days after
fall in Thailand
Bangkok (AP) - Paul Nicholls, a British actor who starred
in the EastEnders soap opera, was stranded in the wild for three
days on a Thai island after he fell down a waterfall and broke
his kneecap, a rescuer said.
Nicholls was rescued July 13 on the resort
island of Koh Samui after villagers noticed his rented motorcycle
had been parked near the waterfall for several days.
The 38-year-old actor was taken on a stretcher
to Samui International Hospital and later transferred to the
government-run Koh Samui Hospital where he is currently being
The head of the rescue team on Koh Samui,
Chaiyaporn Sapprasert, said the actor could barely move when
rescuers found him after an hourslong search.
Dr. Dulkij Wittayajanyapong, director of Samui
International Hospital, said Nicholls’ kneecap suffered an open
fracture and was infected because it was under water for more than
The district chief of Koh Samui, Narong
Yuttitam, said the accident would not have taken place if Nicholls
had abided by danger signs placed near the secluded waterfall.
“Accidents can happen anywhere and at any time
if we do not stay vigilant,” Narong said.
Who’s next: Jodie Whittaker
1st female star of ‘Doctor Who’
British actress Jodie Whittaker.
(Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)
London (AP) - British
actress Jodie Whittaker was announced last week as the next star of
the long-running science fiction series “Doctor Who” — the first
woman to take a role that has been played by a dozen men over six
Whittaker, best known for
playing the mother of a murdered boy in detective drama
“Broadchurch,” will replace Scottish actor Peter Capaldi at the end
of the year, the BBC said.
Whittaker is the 13th official
incarnation of the Doctor, a galaxy-hopping Time Lord from the
planet Gallifrey who travels in the Tardis, a time machine shaped
like an old-fashioned British police telephone booth.
In a testament to the place
“Doctor Who” holds in Britain’s cultural life, the revelation was
made on live television after the Wimbledon men’s tennis final. A
film clip showed a mysterious hooded figure — revealed to be
Whittaker — walking through the woods.
“Doctor Who” ran from 1963 to
1989, and was revived to acclaim in 2005. Its longevity is partly
due to its flexible premise. The central character, known only as
the Doctor, can travel across space and time and can regenerate into
new bodies — allowing for endless recasting of the role.
Speculation had been mounting
that a woman would get the role, generating excitement from some
fans and opposition from others who feel that the character has been
established as male.
Whittaker, 35, has worked
extensively in British television and film. On the big screen, she
played Anne Hathaway’s best friend in romantic drama “One Day” and
battled aliens in “Attack the Block.”
She said that becoming the
first female Doctor “feels completely overwhelming, as a feminist,
as a woman, as an actor, as a human.”
“I want to tell the fans not to
be scared by my gender,” she said. “Because this is a really
exciting time, and ‘Doctor Who’ represents everything that’s
exciting about change.”
Bennington’s death mirrors that of close friend Cornell
Chester Bennington (left) performs
with Linkin Park in this May 16, 2015 file photo. (Photo by Owen
New York (AP) — The
death of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington last week came as a
surprise to the world when it was announced, but it also struck
similarities to the death of fellow rocker and close friend Chris
Cornell, who killed himself in May.
Authorities are investigating
Bennington’s death as an apparent suicide, Los Angeles County
coroner spokesman Brian Elias said. Bennington, who was 41, was
found dead in his home near Los Angeles. He had a strong bond with
Cornell and died on what would have been the Soundgarden singer’s
Bennington was also the
godfather to Cornell’s 11-year-old son, Chris. And Bennington sang
Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at Cornell’s memorial.
The Cornells called Bennington
a member of their family in a statement released last week.
“The Cornell family is
overwhelmed by the heartbreaking news about Chester Bennington which
tragically comes so soon after their family’s own loss,” said a
Cornell family spokesperson. “They open up their loving arms to
Chester’s family and share in the sorrow with all those who loved
Linkin Park was set to go on a
North American tour starting this week but has since cancelled all
Bennington helped Linkin Park,
whose sound mixed rap and rock, become one of the most commercially
successful acts in the 2000s. The Grammy-winning group sold more
than 10 million copies of their 2000 debut, “Hybrid Theory,” which
featured the megahit and anthem, “In the End.” They sold another 6
million with 2003’s multiplatinum “Meteora.” Both albums explored
feelings of frustration and fury.
The success helped Linkin Park
become the U.S. Billboard’s No. 1 act of the decade for rock songs
and alternative songs.
Band co-founder and producer
Mike Shinoda said on Twitter he was “shocked and saddened.”
“Chester Bennington was an
artist of extraordinary talent and charisma, and a human being with
a huge heart and a caring soul. Our thoughts and prayers are with
his beautiful family, his band-mates and his many friends,” Warner
Bros. Records CEO and Chairman Cameron Stang said in a statement.
Film Review: A thrilling epic in ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’
image shows a scene from “War for the Planet of the Apes.” (Twentieth
Century Fox via AP)
Los Angeles (AP) -
Apparently all the new Planet of the Apes films needed to do to really
hit a home run was take the humans out of the equation. It’s what this
whole trilogy has been leading to, really, as we dipped our toes into
the rise, dawn and now war of this burgeoning civilization of apes and
the humans who are desperately and often dishonorably fighting for their
“War for the Planet of the Apes” is
a riveting and surprisingly poignant epic that’s a shade above the rest
of the franchise dreck populating every multiplex around at the moment.
It’s as though director Matt Reeves, screenwriter Mark Bomback and the
production actually put care and thought into what they were doing with
Reeves wastes no time getting the
action started with a gripping opening battle. We enter the world
through the eyes of some terrified intruders. A group of human soldiers
walk through the woods in search of Caesar (Andy Serkis). They don’t
know whether he’s still alive, but their leader is hell-bent on
exterminating the apes.
Caesar and his followers have been
operating from a secret hideout in the woods — a gorgeous little Eden
tucked away behind a thundering waterfall. When the soldiers find them,
the apes fight back swiftly and effectively and nearly take out all of
the combatants. Caesar spares the lives of the few survivors to send a
message back to their leader that the apes are not savages and just want
to live in peace separately from the humans.
Of course the message inspires
exactly the opposite reaction and the beautiful and harrowing and nearly
silent nighttime raid that comes soon leaves the apes no choice but to
abandon their home and hit the road in search of safety. Caesar,
however, decides he must go off alone and avenge his community by
destroying the Colonel (Woody Harrelson), a deranged Kurtz figure who is
truly one of the best true villains we’ve had in quite some time.
A few of Caesar’s comrades follow
him on his journey to find the Colonel. Along the way they pick up a
young, mute girl (Amiah Miller) and a tiny, manic and adorable zoo ape
voiced by Steve Zahn who has the same sort of comic energy as Yoda on
Dagobah (without all the force stuff and Jedi training). When they
arrive at the Colonel’s base, they find a much bleaker and more
complicated situation than they could have ever expected.
To say too much more about the plot
would probably be a mistake and part of the greatness of Bomback’s
script is how even in following a pretty standard exodus story, it still
manages to surprise and captivate throughout, and with minimal dialogue
too. At times, it even feels like “War for the Planet of the Apes” is
essentially a silent movie with the mute girl and the majority of the
apes communicating in sign language.
Caesar also continues to be a
fascinating and truly complex character that’s as well-conceived and
executed as a live-action performance. Harrelson, too, is a menacing
delight in his role that has more layers than might meet the eye.
“War for the Planet of the Apes”
should be a satisfactory conclusion for the series, but that’s naively
assuming franchises are even allowed to have intentional endings.
Regardless of what happens or doesn’t happen next for the Planet of the
Apes, this installment is very simply a great time at the movies.
“War for the Planet of the Apes,” a
20th Century Fox release, is rated PG-13 for “sequences of sci-fi
violence and action, thematic elements, and some disturbing images.”
Running time: 142 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.
Ariana Grande to become Manchester honorary citizen
singer Ariana Grande is shown performing in this Aug. 26, 2015 file
photo. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
London (AP) -
Manchester officials say they are making U.S. pop singer Ariana Grande
an honorary citizen of the city because of her response to the deadly
concert attack in May.
City council leader
Richard Leese proposed the move, describing the 23-year-old singer as “a
young American woman for whom it would have been understandable if she
never wanted to see this place again.”
He said instead,
Grande “brought comfort to thousands and raised millions” for an
emergency fund when she returned to headline the One Love Manchester
benefit concert in June.
officials in the northwest English city have voted to back the proposal.
Bomber Salman Abedi
killed 22 people on May 22 when he detonated a bomb at the Manchester
Arena at the end of a concert by Grande.
Christopher Nolan didn’t know
how famous Harry Styles was
Styles is shown in this May 9, 2017 file photo.
(Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Los Angeles (AP) - Director
Christopher Nolan and actor Mark Rylance didn’t know quite how famous
Harry Styles was before “Dunkirk.” The young people in their lives
“I don’t think I was that aware
really of how famous Harry was” before casting the pop star in the
upcoming World War II epic, Nolan said. “I mean, my daughter had talked
about him. My kids talked about him, but I wasn’t really that aware of
it. So the truth is, I cast Harry because he fit the part wonderfully
and truly earned a seat at the table.”
Styles, 23, who gained fame with
One Direction and recently launched his solo career, plays a British
soldier in Nolan’s suspense-thriller about the evacuation of hundreds of
thousands of Allied soldiers from Dunkirk, France, in May and June of
Rylance, also featured in the film,
said he learned of Styles from his 11-year-old niece.
“She was just more excited than
anything I’ve ever done because I was going to be acting with Harry
Styles,” said Rylance, who has won an Oscar and three Tonys. “I went up
in her estimation. I won the Harry!”
Styles described his first days on
set as “overwhelming.”
“I’d say realizing the scale of the
production was very overwhelming. I think whatever you imagine kind of
a giant film set to be like, this was very ambitious even by those
standards. You know the boats and the planes and the volume of bodies
... it was pretty amazing.”
“Dunkirk” also features Kenneth
Branagh, Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy, and stars newcomer Fionn
Styles, who recently added 56 dates
to his upcoming solo world tour, said his One Direction bandmates were
supportive of his acting dreams.
“They are big fans of Chris, too,
and I think they’re excited to see it,” Styles said.
Queen guitarist Brian May to release 3-D book about the band
image released by Shelter Harbor Press shows “Queen in 3-D,” by Brian
May. (Shelter Harbor Press via AP)
Los Angeles (AP)
- Queen guitarist Brian May is releasing a
book of 3-D images capturing the rock band’s history.
May announced last
week that he will publish the coffee table book under his own imprint in
August. It includes more than 300 photos and a 3-D viewer May designed.
May is a lifelong
enthusiast of stereoscopic images and says he’s traveled with a 3-D
camera since he was a child.
“Queen in 3-D”
features behind-the-scenes photos May took of his bandmates during
recording sessions and while on tour. The guitarist and composer also
shares personal anecdotes about Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor and John
“Queen in 3-D” is
being published by the London Stereoscopic Company, which May launched
in 2008 with the aim of “bringing the magic of true stereoscopy to the
Film Review: Holland, cast delight in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’
shows Tom Holland in a scene from “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” (Chuck
Zlotnick/Columbia Pictures-Sony via AP)
Los Angeles (AP) - One thing is
certain: Culture has not been lacking in takes on Spider-Man for the past 15
years. First there was Tobey Maguire, who under the direction of Sam Raimi
for three films ushered in the modern superhero era, and then there was
Andrew Garfield whose two films with Marc Webb were immediately
forgettable. And now, like all obedient franchises, they’re trying to start
all over again, this time with the much more age-appropriate Tom Holland in
“Spider-Man: Homecoming .”
And you know what? Superhero cynicism
aside, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is really fun. Director Jon Watts, whose
only previous feature film credit is the indie thriller “Cop Car,” has
confidently put his stamp on the friendly neighborhood web-slinger by making
one bold move: actually casting teenagers to play teenagers.
Yes, after two films with late
20-somethings donning the Spidey suit and getting bitten by that pesky
spider, Spider-Man finally gets to be a kid (and we get to skip over the
whole origin/ Uncle Ben story). Instead, Watts’ film, which is upsettingly
credited to six screenwriters, picks up with Peter Parker (Holland) right
before, during and after the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” which
introduced Holland’s Spider-Man in that epic airport Avengers battle.
Instead of a “last week in Marvel”
segment to catch up, we’re given a refresher via Peter’s perspective. He’s
just an excited kid who filmed the whole adventure and ever since has been
thirsting for more Avengers action. He tries, endearingly, to prove his
mettle on his own as he waits idly in Queens for a call from Tony Stark —
giving directions to the elderly, retrieving stolen bikes and doing flips on
What he doesn’t know is that for eight
years, there has been a supervillain emerging in his town in the form of a
wronged construction worker, Adrian (Michael Keaton), who decided to break
bad after losing a job to a government crew that clears post-superhero fight
disaster areas. Peter, with his true-blue heart and naiveté and eagerness
to prove himself, of course takes on more than he can handle, while also
trying to navigate high school, homework, crushes and the awkwardness of
just being a teenager. Time passes easily and just when you might worry
that you don’t actually care about any of the characters, the story throws a
great curveball that carries interest to the end.
The film is overflowing with stellar
talent, even in the smallest of roles and not counting the Marvel loaners in
Robert Downey Jr. (who oozes charisma and charm even when phoning it in for
a handful of scenes) and Jon Favreau. In the high school alone, there’s the
too-cool Michelle (Zendaya), the crush Liz (Laura Harrier) and the adorable
breakout best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon). Hannibal Buress and Martin Starr
are there, too, to add reliable laughs. Adrian’s bad-guy crew includes
Logan Marshall-Green and Michael Cernus. Even Spider-Man’s suit has an
Oscar winner behind its voice (Jennifer Connelly).
Then of course there is Holland, a
terrific actor since “The Impossible,” who is the perfect amount of
empathetic, excitable and clueless to make Peter Parker work now and for
years to come. For the most part, “Homecoming” is a joy. It’s
light-hearted, smart, a little meta and the first Marvel film to really
consider what it might be like for kids living in a world where superheroes
My only quibble with “Spider-Man:
Homecoming” is that for all of its charming and infectious realism about
race, high school life and class issues, it has a bit of a woman problem.
Simply: every significant and semi-significant female character looks like a
model. It wouldn’t be an issue were the film not so spot-on with casting
such a realistic variety of men and teenage boys, or if it were less
concerned with hammering down on the “Aunt May is hot” bit that goes a
little too far, but when taken together you start to wonder if maybe things
would have been different if just one of the six screenwriters was a woman.
But just as Peter has some growing up
to do, so does this young franchise.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming,” a Sony
Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of
America for “sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive
comments.” Running time: 133 minutes. Three stars out of four.
Czech orchestra of disabled musicians gets world attention
picture taken Feb. 23, 2017, members of the Tap Tap orchestra perform during
a charity concert in Prague Czech Republic. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Prague (AP) — It’s an unusual
orchestra, one that has played in London, Madrid, Moscow and Jerusalem. Its
next stops are New York, Washington and Chicago.
The Tap Tap, created 18 years ago to
give students at a renowned school for the disabled in Prague an
extracurricular activity, has become a major musical operation that has
drawn millions of fans, first at home and gradually abroad.
You can’t tell from its professional,
typically rhythmic sound that many of the musicians are in wheelchairs with
serious disabilities. And that’s just what its director wants.
Band leader Simon Ornest believes that
often the disabled aren’t challenged enough and people tend to be too
solicitous of them.
“My goal from the very start was not to
do it as a therapy but as a band with everything that it could involve,”
Ornest said. “(Those) around 18 to 20 years old are confronted in our band
for the first time with a situation where we really want something from
them. We insist on it.”
Ornest said he had a feeling the
concept was viable but has been astounded at its success.
“I wouldn’t believe it would be
possible to develop it as we have done. It’s an elaborate system with hard
work behind it, unexpectedly hard work,” he said.
He said the band’s strength is based on
its two essential rules.
“We come on time and we do what we
promised among ourselves to do. It’s a pretty good basis for any teamwork,”
In the beginning, The Tap Tap started
with cover versions of their favorite songs. Today it produces music of its
own, with help from local musicians, and lyrics that target the world of the
“We try to sing about the people with
disabilities in a sensitive but also humorous way,” Ornest said.
Their recent hit, “The Bus Director” is
about a bus driver who prevents a disabled man from boarding the bus with
his bicycle. The song has had over 6.9 million views on YouTube — quite an
accomplishment for a song sung in Czech in a country of only 10 million.
“At the beginning, people were more
curious about what we are, about what the disabled can perform,” said Jana
Augustinova, a The Tap Tap singer. “And then (came) pity, wonder. Now, we
have fans as any other band. They like our music and they don’t consider us
a band of disabled kids but as a real band.”
Today, the 20-member ensemble plays
about 60 concerts a year and has been performing a musical at the National
Theatre in Prague. Despite all the difficulties of going on the road, The
Tap Tap has played a number of European capitals. This year it is crossing
the Atlantic to put on concerts in New York City, Washington D.C. and
The orchestra’s next project for next
year is to perform in Czech prisons together with inmates in concerts that
will be broadcast live by Czech public television.
“What the people just released from
prison and the disabled have in common is that the public doesn’t expect
much from them,” Ornest said.
Ladislav Angelovic, the band’s master
of ceremonies, said The Tap Tap is ready to face a whole new level of
“We started as an extracurricular
activity and it got out of our hands a bit,” he said. “In fact, we are a
professional ensemble now.”
From bars to baseball parks: Lady Gaga readies live shows
Lady Gaga is
shown performing in this Feb. 12, 2017 file photo. (Photo by Matt
New York (AP) — Whether it’s at
a bar or baseball park, Lady Gaga says she’s going to give every performance
The singer will launch a summer tour
with stops at arenas and stadiums across the globe, and she’s also returning
to the Dive Bar Tour with Bud Light to perform a show in Las Vegas on July
She called the first bar crawl,
completed last fall around the release of “Joanne,” a deep experience.
“For what it’s worth, when I got up
there, I totally forgot where we were and I just went into performance
mode,” she said in a phone interview. “For me, no matter how small a venue
is, you don’t perform it differently than you perform at a big venue, that’s
not fair to the fans.”
Last year’s tour included a stop at The
Bitter End, the New York City bar where Gaga performed before her pop star
Gaga, 31, will launch a world tour on
Aug. 1 in Vancouver, British Columbia. It includes stops at baseball parks
like Citi Field in New York, AT&T Park in San Francisco, Wrigley Field in
Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston.
Now that she’s wrapped filming “A Star
is Born” with Bradley Cooper — an experience she called “life changing,”
‘’wonderful” and “inspiring” — she’s focusing on the massive tour.
“This one will be a little bit
different,” she said. “I also like to change things up. “I have some other
ideas about how I’d like to perform some of my fans’ classics.”
Part of switching it up comes from the
sound of “Joanne,” which includes rock, country and slower songs compared
with Gaga’s past electro-flavored dance hits.
“The album is extremely healing and
reflective for me. I wrote about things that I’ve never written about
before that are extremely deep and personal, and dare I say, things that
haunted me, that were poisoning me, that were toxic to me, and I had to get
them out. And it was very revealing in that way,” she said.
“The cover of the album is very
indicative of that — me putting a hat on that I’ve never worn before and
just not sure where I’m going at all — but knowing I got to get out of where
At the Coachella festival in April,
where Gaga headlined, she released “The Cure,” an upbeat song about
healing. She said she wrote the song after performing at the Super Bowl
She added that she’s writing new music
and said she could drop another song unrelated to an album.
“You know, I wouldn’t say that it’s out
of the question,” she said.
Film Review: More Carell, but fewer ideas in ‘Despicable Me 3’
shows characters Gru, voiced by Steve Carell (left) and Balthazar Bratt,
voiced by Trey Parker, in a scene from “Despicable Me 3.” (Illumination and
Universal Pictures via AP)
Los Angeles (AP) -
One of the many — and we mean many — subplots in “Despicable Me 3” is about
a girl’s obsession with finding a unicorn. The adorable tot spends her
waking hours wishing and hoping and dreaming, and she comes close — but in
the end what she finds is a sweet little goat. It’s very cute, and it does
the trick — but it’s still, you know, a goat.
One could say that this
third installment in Illumination’s “Despicable Me” series, directed by
Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda, shares something with that little goat. When
“Despicable Me” first came out in 2010, introducing the world to those
squishy, chattering Minions and the gloriously weird pseudo-Slavic deadpan
of Steve Carell, it was a unicorn: fresh, inventive, unique. But this third
one, leaning on an endless litany of ’80s pop culture references to
entertain parents and a whole lot of noisy, forgettable action to please the
kids, feels more like that goat. It still does the trick — for now. But it
ain’t no unicorn.
still has its core characters, especially the invaluable Carell as
turtlenecked, spindly-legged Gru, a villain gone straight. Indeed, the
filmmakers have found a way to double their key asset’s contribution by
introducing Gru’s hitherto unknown twin brother, Dru, also voiced by Carell
But first, we learn
that things are going quite well on the personal front for Gru since we last
left him, at the end of “Despicable Me 2,” in newly found marital bliss with
the formidable Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), who’s thrilled to become a mother
to the three girls (or “goruls,” as Gru pronounces it) that Gru adopted
under nefarious pretenses in the first film. Now, of course, Gru is a
doting dad, and Lucy makes five.
Not so much. There’s a new boss at the Anti-Villain League, and she
immediately fires Gru for his failure to nab the new villain in town:
Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), an aging, disgruntled ’80s child star. Bratt
is bitter that his fans all deserted him when he hit puberty. Now he’s bent
on revenge against the industry that betrayed him — and determined to
dance-fight his way to world destruction.
He’s also stuck in an
’80s time warp, which is quite amusing if you lived through them (which none
of the kids watching this film have, but we know that’s nothing new in kids’
entertainment — kids and parents just watch parallel movies). So he has
shoulder pads, and a long, mullet-style hairdo with an ungainly bald patch.
His favorite toy is a Rubik’s cube, and he wears — of course — shoulder
pads. He loves to moonwalk, and his personal soundtrack is a trip down
memory lane: “Bad,” ‘’Into the Groove,” ‘’Take On Me” and “99 Luftballons,”
to name a few.
With Bratt winning the
opening round, Gru and Lucy come home jobless. At least they have Margo,
Edith and little Agnes, who does thoughtful things like cook them gummy
bear-and-meat soup for dinner. She even sells her dear stuffed unicorn to
help her parents out.
Then, unexpected news:
Gru has a twin brother. So the family departs for Freedonia (not an ’80s
reference, but a Marx Brothers one), where Dru — richer and more successful
than Gru, of course — lives on a pig farm. But he also owns some really
cool stuff, and wants Gru to teach him how to be a villain. Meanwhile, the
womenfolk are exploring downtown Freedonia, which looks suspiciously like
Monaco, and experiencing the unique ritual of its cheese festival.
And what, you ask,
about the Minions? Well, they’re in prison, having invaded a talent
contest. If that sounds confusing, it is. They still do produce the
occasional, reliable fart joke — but it’s hard not to think that there was
some difficulty finding them a useful role here. As for Dr. Nefario, he
sits this one out, encased in carbonite.
Given that the main
theme of the previous films has to do with crime and redemption, good and
evil, it’s not a stretch to imagine that this film, too, will present Gru
with that crucial identity issue once again — is he a villain, or a good
guy? Luckily, thanks to Carell’s talent, we still care.
But one gets the
sinking feeling that the ideas are starting to slowly run out. When
“Despicable Me 4” arrives a few years hence, let’s hope it’s regained a bit
of that unicorn magic.
“Despicable Me 3,” a
Universal release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America
“for action and rude humor.” Running time: 90 minutes. Two stars out of
R2-D2 droid used in Star
Wars films sells for $2.76m
used in the first five Star Wars movies sold at auction for $2.6 million
last week. (Profiles in History via AP)
Los Angeles (AP) -
An R2-D2 droid that was used in several “Star Wars” films has sold at
auction for nearly $3 million.
The auction house
Profiles in History said the 43-inch tall unit that was compiled from parts
used throughout filming of the original trilogy sold for $2.76 million at an
auction on June 28.
There was no
information about who purchased the droid, which was the most expensive item
offered in a movie memorabilia auction that included numerous props from the
“Star Wars” franchise. Other items up for sale included Luke Skywalker’s
lightsaber from the first two films, which sold for $450,000 and Darth
Vader’s helmet from the original film sold for $96,000.
California-based Profiles in History had estimated the droid could fetch up
to $2 million before the sale.
Other space-themed film
and television memorabilia was also for sale, with a collection of 23 ships
from “Battlestar Galactica” and “Buck Rogers” sold for $1.8 million. A
helmet worn by late actor Bill Paxton on the set of “Aliens” sold for
Not all the items that
sold were out of this world. The lighted dancefloor from “Saturday Night
Fever” sold for $1.2 million.”
‘John Wick,’ ‘Dragon Tattoo’
star Michael Nyqvist dies at 56
actor Michael Nyqvist is shown in this Sept. 12, 2015 file photo. (Photo by
Los Angeles (AP) —
Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist, who starred in the original “The Girl With
the Dragon Tattoo” films and often played villains in Hollywood movies like
“John Wick” died last week after a year-long battle with lung cancer. He
“It is with deep
sadness that I can confirm that our beloved Michael, one of Sweden’s most
respected and accomplished actors, has passed away quietly surrounded by
family,” Tversky said in a statement on behalf of the family.
Nyqvist is perhaps best
known worldwide for originating the role of Mikael Blomkvist in the Swedish
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” series opposite Noomi Rapace. Daniel
Craig played the role in the American adaptation.
In Hollywood, Nyqvist
played a broad range of memorable roles, including the mob boss who
terrorizes Keanu Reeves in “John Wick” and Tom Cruise’s foe in “Mission:
Impossible — Ghost Protocol.”
“Michael’s joy and
passion were infectious to those who knew and loved him,” read the family’s
statement. “His charm and charisma were undeniable, and his love for the
arts was felt by all who had the pleasure of working with him.”
Nyqvist has a number of
films on the slate that are yet to come out, including Terrence Malick’s
World War II drama “Radegund” and Thomas Vinterberg’s “Kursk,” about the
2000 K-141 Kursk submarine disaster.
He is survived by his
wife Catharina and their children Ellen and Arthur.
U2 bassist thanks band for helping him through addiction
is seen at The 13th Annual MusiCares MAP Fund Benefit Concert at The
Playstation Theater on Monday, June 26, in New York (Photo by Michael
New York (AP) -
In a frank and heartfelt speech, U2 bassist Adam Clayton thanked his
bandmates of four decades for their support during his treatment and
recovery for alcohol abuse years ago, and then joined them for a rollicking
rendition of a few hits.
“We have a pact with
each other,” said Clayton, 57, who was receiving an award from MusiCares,
the charity arm of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. “In
our band, no one will be a casualty. We all come home, or none of us come
home. No one will be left behind. Thank you for honoring that promise, and
letting me be in your band.”
He ended by quoting
lyrics that Bono, U2’s frontman, had written when the band was starting out:
“If you walk away, walk away, I will follow.” At that, his bandmates came
out to join him, performing “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of,”
‘’Vertigo” and, fittingly, “I Will Follow.”
The evening at the
PlayStation Theater in Times Square also featured performances by rapper
Michael Franti, Jack Garratt, reggae singer Chronixx, Macy Gray, and The
Lumineers, who are currently appearing with U2 on their “Joshua Tree” tour.
Clayton was introduced
by British record producer Chris Blackwell as someone who “lived through
addiction and came out the other side, and has been courageous enough to
Taking the stage, the
bassist quipped: “I’m not used to achieving anything on my own.”
Turning serious, he
said: “I’m an alcoholic, addict, but in some ways that devastating disease
is what drove me towards this wonderful life I now have. It’s just that I
couldn’t take my friend alcohol. At some point I had to leave it behind and
claim my full potential.”
He said part of the
reason he had a hard time quitting drinking was that, “I didn’t think you
could be in a band and not drink. It is so much a part of our culture.”
It was Eric Clapton, he
said, who finally told him he needed help.
“He didn’t sugarcoat
it. He told me that I needed to change my life and that I wouldn’t regret
it,” Clayton said. He credited another friend, The Who’s Pete Townshend,
for visiting him in rehab, where he “put steel on my back.”
As for his bandmates,
Clayton said, “I was lucky because I had three friends who could see what
was going on and who loved me enough to take up the slack of my failing.
Bono, The Edge, and Larry (Mullen) truly supported me before and after I
entered recovery, and I am unreservedly grateful for their friendship,
understanding and support.”
Clayton received the
Stevie Ray Vaughan Award for his support of the MusiCares MAP Fund, which
offers musicians access to addiction recovery treatment.
Arriving at the theater
earlier, he told reporters the fund was especially important given the
current epidemic of opioid addiction. “MusiCares ... really provides funding
for a lot of people to look into those things and find help,” he said.
He added that his
bandmates had been supporting him for 40 years.
“You know, I guess they
loved me before I knew how to love myself,” he said. “So it’s really
important that they share this with me.”
Film Review: In ‘The Last Knight,’ round 5 for the Transformers
shows Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager in a scene from, “Transformers: The Last
Knight.” (Paramount Pictures/Bay Films via AP)
Los Angeles (AP) - A concussed
serenity sets in somewhere in the middle of the ceaseless ballet of metal
and machismo in Michael Bay’s “Transformers: The Last Knight.” Freed of
concerns like plausibility or story, you can simply gape in wonder at the
ruthlessly thunderous images in front of you.
Maybe that’s the feeling of brain cells
dying a painful, anguished death. It’s a sensation I imagine cornered
boxers sometimes experience while blow after blow rains down upon them.
Dazed by the unrelenting digital demolition on screen, thoughts go through
your head like: ‘Can this movie literally crush me?’ ‘Is death by Dolby
possible?’ and ‘You know, it’s really time to get the car washed.’
By the time you’ve scraped yourself off
the floor after all 149 minutes of the 3-D “The Last Knight,” you feel the
need to compensate for the sheer gluttony of destruction, of unrelenting
bigness. Maybe fast for a little while, you think, or just sit quietly in a
corner. Bay might be spinning another tale of Autobot v. Decepticon in
which the fate of the planet hangs in the balance, but his real battle is
conquering you, the moviegoer. And make no mistake about it. He’s gonna
“Transformers: The Last Knight, is, if
nothing else, a pummeling. The fifth in the franchise and second in the
“Wahlberg Years” (Mark Wahlberg replaced Shia LaBeouf as lead in the last
installment), “The Last Knight” continues the Hasbro toy adaptations and
expands further into the alien machines’ mythology.
The script by Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
and Ken Nolan ropes in a backstory involving Arthurian legend, suggesting
the magic of Merlin was nothing but Transformer technology. Centuries
later, the continual arrival of Transformers on Earth connects to these
ancient events. There are crucial objects — Merlin’s staff, a talisman that
attaches itself to Wahlberg’s Autobot-defending Cade Yeager — that bring
constantly arriving Transformers, plummeting in space ships from the sky,
and eventually, the vengeful leader of their home planet, Cybertron.
With Optimus Prime away on holiday (or
searching for something or other back on Cyberton), the human population has
turned against the Transformers. One can see why. They’re swaggering,
bickering bags of bolts who eschew their best parlor trick (transforming
into cars and trucks) for avalanches of ammo. There is, for a moment, a
touch of metaphor for immigrant empathy in their unfortunate status, but it
quickly gets buried in the mounting debris.
That is, at any rate, what I could make
out. Stonehenge has something to do with the plot, too, as does Anthony
Hopkins, who plays the latest in a long line of guardians to these
mysteries. There’s also an Oxford scholar (Laura Haddock) skeptical of
Round Table legend, and, briefly, an elite scientist (Tony Hale) whose
insistence on solving intergalactic problems with silly things like physics
is, here, a joke. “Transformers” is like the anti-”Martian”: brawn over
“This here’s a big boy zone,” announces
the Autobot commando Hound (John Goodman) in a junkyard. But he might as
well be providing the movie’s ethos.
Later there’s a submarine chase and a
planetary battle in the air as “The Last Knight” — an exercise in enormity —
insatiably hurtles toward feats of greater and greater grandiosity. It’s an
empty pursuit; there’s no explosion big enough to give Bay the fix he needs.
But what makes the “Transformers”
movies different from other blockbuster colossuses is Bay. Whatever his
deficiencies in other areas (coherence, emotions, women), he remains the
most proficient master of big-screen rock ‘em sock ‘em mayhem. His
manipulation of scale is unsurpassed, as is his ability to synthesize
obscene amounts of visual effects into an astonishingly fluid choreography
of color and chaos.
After two and half hours of pulverizing
action, there’s nothing to do but raise the white flag, admit defeat, and
shudder as you pass the theater for the latest “Cars” movie. No more,
“Transformers: The Last Knight,” a
Paramount Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association
of America for “intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual
humor and language.” Running time: 149 minutes. Two stars out of four.
Daniel Day-Lewis says
he’s retiring from acting
Actor Daniel Day-Lewis is shown in this Jan. 27, 2013,
file photo. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
New York (AP) - Daniel
Day-Lewis, one of the most widely respected actors of his generation and a
three-time Oscar-winner, says he’s retiring from acting.
The 60-year-old actor announced last
week that he has shot his last film and performed in his last play. That
makes Paul Thomas Anderson’s already filmed “Phantom Thread,” due out in
December, his final film.
“Daniel Day-Lewis will no longer be
working as an actor,” his representative Leslee Dart said in a statement.
“He is immensely grateful to all of his collaborators and audiences over the
many years. This is a private decision and neither he nor his
representatives will make any further comment on this subject.”
The announcement sent shockwaves
through Hollywood, where Day-Lewis is revered as possibly the finest actor
of his time. But Day-Lewis has also long been an exceptionally deliberate
performer who often spends years preparing for a role, crafting his
characters with an uncommon, methodical completeness.
“I don’t dismember a character into its
component parts and then kind of bolt it all together, and off you go,”
Day-Lewis told the AP in 2012, discussing Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” ‘’I
tend to try and allow things to happen slowly, over a long period of time.
As I feel I’m growing into a sense of that life, if I’m lucky, I begin to
hear a voice.”
He has stepped away from film before.
In the late 1990s, he famously apprenticed as a shoemaker in Florence, Italy
— a period he called “semi-retirement.” ‘’Phantom Thread,” which Focus
Features will release Dec. 25, is his first film in five years, following
A five-time Academy Award nominee,
Day-Lewis is the only one to ever win best actor three times. He earned
Oscars for “My Left Foot,” ‘’Lincoln” and “There Will Be Blood.”
Day-Lewis, who is married to
writer-director Rebecca Miller with three children, broke through with
1985’s “My Beautiful Laundrette,” by Stephen Frears. His films since then
have included “The Last of the Mohicans,” ‘’The Age of Innocence,” ‘’In the
Name of the Father” and “Gangs of New York.”
His last play was in 1989, a National
Theatre production of “Hamlet,” in London. Day-Lewis infamously walked out
in the middle of a performance, and never returned to the stage again.
Stars of ‘Jumanji’ sequel pay tribute to Robin Williams
Jack Black and Nick Jonas pose during a photocall to promote the film
“Jumanji: Welcome to the jungle” in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, June 18.
(AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Hernan Munoz Ratto
Barcelona, Spain (AP) - Jack
Black and Nick Jonas — two of the stars of the upcoming “Jumanji” sequel
— have paid tribute to the actor who led the original film — the late
Describing Williams as a “sweet,
sweet man,” Black said the late actor would “love” the movie. “He had a
great sense of adventure. ... It would have been amazing to work with
him,” he said at a press event for the film in Barcelona, Spain.
Williams, who died in 2014, starred
in the original 1995 movie as Alan Parrish, who was trapped in a board
game for 26 years. The new film, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,”
shows where Parrish was all that time.
In the sequel, the board game from
the original movie has been reimagined as a vintage video game, into
which four teenagers are drawn. The teens become their video game
avatars — played by Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Black.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”
will be released in December.
Simon Cowell charity single
released to aid fire victims
Actress and singer Rita Ora.
(Photo by Amy Sussman/Invision/AP)
London (AP) - A charity
music single produced by “American Idol” and “The X Factor” judge Simon
Cowell was released last week to help victims of the devastating
Grenfell Tower fire in London.
Some 50 artists performed a cover
of Simon and Garfunkel’s classic recording of “Bridge Over Troubled
Water.” The singers included Rita Ora, Robbie Williams, Liam Payne and
Grime star Stormzy opens the
single, rapping: “I don’t know where to begin so I’ll start by saying I
refuse to forget you/I refuse to be silenced/I refuse to neglect
you/That’s for every last soul up in Grenfell/Even though I’ve never
even met you.”
The single’s release marked a week
since the blaze, which ripped through the apartment building in the
early hours of June 14, when many of the residents were home asleep. At
least 79 people are thought to have perished in the fire.
Ora, the 26-year-old, who is from
London and grew up near Grenfell Tower, said she cried while recording
her vocals for the song.
“It’s an amazing thing that we’re
doing because it’s a very touchy subject for me because that’s my
neighborhood ... you know, I played in that block and my friends who
grew up there, who still lived in that block and we can’t find — it’s a
tragedy and it was hard for me to even sing it,” she said.