Film Review: ‘Alien: Covenant’ brings a return to gut-busting horror
This image shows Katherine Waterston
in a scene from “Alien: Covenant.” (Mark Rogers/Twentieth
Century Fox via AP)
Los Angeles (AP) - Ah, the
siren song of John Denver. Who among us can resist it? Certainly, not
the crew of the Covenant, a vessel powered by a golden sail cruising
through space with 2,000 “colonists” in hyper sleep and years to go
until they reach their destination.
But when a shock wave from a solar
flare jostles the crew awake, they soon begin hearing a faint
transmission of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” emanating from a curiously
Earth-like planet. Such sonic waves would be expected if this was
“Guardians of the Galaxy,” but this is the “Alien” universe — no place
for sunny ’70s singer-songwriters. When the antsy crew deviates from
their carefully planned mission to seek the transmission’s source, we
know it’s only a matter of time until cosmic crustaceans begin bursting
forth from bodies. Take me home? You betcha.
“Alien: Covenant” is, itself, a
homecoming of sorts for a well-traveled franchise. Since Ridley Scott’s
1979 original — still the ultimate deep-space horror — “Alien” has
passed through numerous directors (James Cameron, David Fincher,
Jean-Pierre Jeunet) and a prequel reboot, Scott’s “Prometheus.” That
film, more bloodless and brainy, sought to answer questions of origin
with some pretty audacious back-story and — there’s just no easy way to
say this — eyebrow-less colossuses who created the universe.
In Scott’s “Alien: Covenant,”
taking place ten years after “Prometheus,” the so-called Engineers are,
thankfully, nowhere to be seen. Back instead are everyone’s favorite
extraterrestrials, those acid-dripping drama queens so fond of making a
big entrance. Like some of the alien offspring, “Covenant” is a hybrid:
part gory “Alien”-style scare-fest, part chilly “Prometheus”
existentialism. It’s a tall order of thrills and theology that the ever
gung-ho Scott, working from a script by John Logan and Dante Harper,
comes close to pulling off.
But while “Alien: Covenant” has an
ace up its sleeve — Michael Fassbender times two — the sheer number of
tricks “Alien: Covenant” pulls out, some of them lifted from the five
earlier installments, adds to a general sense of deja vu, which is no
doubt made worse by the many “Alien” rip-offs that now adorn our
galaxy. Yet what was once a slithery straightforward monster movie in
space has mutated into an impressively ambitious but overly ornate
saga. “Alien: Covenant” has plenty to offer, but unfortunately requires
ample study of “Prometheus.”
The captain of the Covenant (James
Franco, for a heartbeat) doesn’t survive the shock wave, leaving the
uncertain Oram (Billy Crudup) to lead the crew that includes Daniels
(Katherine Waterson, our more demure, less imposing Ripley), the
imprudent pilot Tennessee (Danny McBride) and Walter (Fassbender), an
upgraded model of David, the android the actor played in “Prometheus.”
It’s Oram’s decision to detour for
the John Denver-blasting planet, one that initially looks smart. Once
through the stormy atmosphere, they find a beautifully mountainous
landscape complete with foggy lakes and fields of wheat. But there are
ominous warnings, like an eerie silence because of the lack of any
animals or birds. And who planted the wheat? When one of the crew
members says he’s going to “take a leak,” he might as well be announcing
his imminent death.
When things go haywire, the crew
freak out and make such poor, emotional decisions that you, as in prior
“Alien” films, find yourself rooting for the creatures with bike-helmet
skulls. They might not be pretty, but they’re not foolish.
The “Alien” films have always been
where our idealistic adventuring and world-conquering hubris are
brutally brought down to earth, even in the deep reaches of space.
That’s why the insertion of an artificial intelligence has been
fitting. The lone human(ish) presence on the planet turns out to be
David, who has, ala “Apocalypse Now,” been living a godlike existence,
lording over his creations.
Not as intensely mechanical as his
newer model, he has clearly developed some unusual glitches. He quotes
Byron, with jealousy. Like a robot Brando, he sings “The Man Who Broke
the Bank at Monte Carlo” while trimming his hair. He’s a kind of
frustrated poet who yearns to create like the man who made him.
The scenes between David and Walter
have a strange, erotic energy. David, trying to unshackle his fellow
android from servitude, urges him to make music and teaches him how to
play a recorder. “You have symphonies in you, brother!” he encourages.
For Fassbender, an actor capable of precision and madness in equal
measure, the dual parts are a feast.
There are moments for Daniels and
the Alien, too, as “Alien: Covenant” winds along. But by the film’s
belabored end, the franchise has shed its host. This is no longer an
“Alien” movie, it’s an android one.
“Alien: Covenant,” a 20th Century
Fox release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for
“sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity.”
Running time: 123 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
Ballad beats glitz as
Portugal’s Sobral wins Eurovision
Salvador Sobral from Portugal celebrates as he holds the trophy after
winning the Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 13.
(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Iulia Subbotovska/ Jim Heintz
Kiev, Ukraine (AP) — A
gentle romantic ballad challenged the Eurovision Song Contest’s
decades-long reputation for cheesy, glittery, unbridled excess — and won
Portugal’s Salvador Sobral sang his
Amar Pelos Dois (Love For Both) in a high, clear tenor accompanied by
quiet strings and a piano in last Saturday night’s extravaganza, which
was watched by millions around the world.
Unlike the 25 other competitors who
performed on a wide stage backed by flashing lights, bursts of flames
and other special effects, Sobral sang from a small elevated circle in
the middle of the crowd, an intimate contrast to others’ bombast.
“Music is not fireworks, music is
feeling,” he said while accepting the award.
Sobral won in a landslide,
capturing 758 points, 143 more than second place.
Runner-up Kristian Kostov of
Bulgaria wasn’t short on feeling — his powerful song “Beautiful Mess”
was awash in melodrama, the singer appearing almost wrung out by
Moldova’s Sunstroke Project
finished a surprising third in the 2017 contest with a bouncy, jazzy
song called “Hey Mama” in which the female backup singers hid their
microphones in bridal bouquets.
Film Review: In ‘Colossal,’ the inner monsters are literal
Sudeikis (left) and Anne Hathaway are shown in a scene from “Colossal.”
(Neon via AP)
Los Angeles (AP) -
The Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo makes funny, fantastical,
Frankenstein-like films that playfully combine small-scale with
big-concept. His 2011 film “Extraterrestrial” is a romantic comedy centered
on a handful of characters amid a massive unseen alien invasion. His
“Timecrimes” was about a marriage filtered through a time-traveling murder
“Colossal,” his second
English-language feature and biggest production yet, fuses a traditional
rom-com plot — big-city girl returns to her hometown — with a far more
monstrous genre: the kaiju film. It’s a tantalizing prospect. Who among us
hasn’t wondered what if Sally had met Godzilla instead of Harry? Would “Sex
and the City” not have been improved had Mothra been on the loose?
In truth, “Colossal” is
a more sly manipulation and inversion of genre. Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is
an unemployed New York writer who spends her nights drinking before making
apologetic early morning returns to her boyfriend’s (Dan Stevens) luxury
apartment. The more-together Tim, in the film’s opening scene, has had
enough. “I can’t deal with you in that state,” he says. He packs her bags.
Gloria retreats to her
small-town home, crashing at her family’s now empty house, and the movie
starts taking the shape you’d expect it to. Gloria runs into an old friend,
Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who cheerfully hires her as a waitress at his bar.
Gloria, again, doesn’t make it to bed until the sun is up, spending nights
drinking with Oscar and his pals (Tim Blake Nelson, Austin Stowell).
The mess Gloria —
alcoholic and inconsiderate — makes turns out to harm not just those around
her, but thousands of fleeing Koreans. She wakes to see news reports of a
monster attack in Seoul. Later, she realizes with horror that the monster
has her mannerisms (a particular way of scratching its head) and there’s a
strange coincidence between its regular appearances (always at 8:05 a.m.)
and whenever Gloria steps onto a nearby playground.
To say more would risk
spoiling the primary pleasure of “Colossal”: watching Vigalondo juggle his
outlandish premise with twists both realistic and implausible. There’s a
thrill to riding along with a movie that plays it straight-faced before so
readily jumping into the absurd.
But it’s a cheap
thrill. “Colossal” sags under its high concept; its metaphors, not
monsters, run amok. The movie’s kaiju side is merely a fun-house mirror
held up to its characters’ emotional troubles, an eccentric mask for a
fairly unimaginative story about a young woman trying to get her life under
The one-trick act of
“Colossal” becomes tiresome even as its leads — particularly an excellent
Hathaway — work to find some depth in the story. Most interesting is the
turn that comes for Sudeikis’ Oscar, whose old flame for Gloria is more
sinister than you’d expect. This is the movie’s more clever twist, but it
feels less organic than it ought to — just a convenient way to lead up to
the required monster melee climax.
Yet Vigalondo remains a
tantalizing filmmaker who may well find a story to match his mash-ups.
There’s something in the way his characters’ lives are refracted and
manipulated through screens that resonates. (His last film, “Open Windows,”
was about a blogger lured into spying on his favorite actress through his
laptop.) He revels in eradicating the chasm between us and what we watch.
“Colossal,” a Neon
release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for
language. Running time: 110 minutes. Two stars out of four.
With ‘Alien,’ ‘Blade Runner’ sequels, Scott looks forward
director Ridley Scott. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Los Angeles (AP) – Ridley Scott
insists he is not a nostalgic person, but you wouldn’t know that looking at
the 2017 movie calendar. Not only are audiences getting another “Alien”
movie, “Alien: Covenant,” on May 19, but also a long-time-coming “Blade
Runner” sequel in October.
Scott made his name in Hollywood with
“Alien” in 1979. It was the kind of genre-busting horror that continues to
inspire pale imitations to this day. (Including one this year’s Jake
Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds space pic “Life.”) And then, in 1982, his
futuristic neo-noir “Blade Runner” gave a new aesthetic to our dystopian
future. It may have confounded most upon its release, but the sublime
mind-bender has gained a cult and eventually popular following over the
While the titles might suggest
otherwise, Scott says he’s more interested in “what’s next.”
“I never look back,” Scott said
recently by phone. “I only look forward and think I’m very lucky to be able
to do that.”
In fact, he’s so focused on what’s next
that even while talking big ideas about creation and “Alien: Covenant,”
Scott was doodling an image for scene 103 of his upcoming John Paul Getty
kidnapping film, “All the Money in the World.”
“I can do very good telephone doodles
and they actually turn out as storyboards,” Scott said matter-of-factly.
“I’m storyboarding as we speak. I’m able to do that. It’s all in my mind.
I think I’ve got a kind of photographic memory. I was born with it. You
either have it or you don’t. So that’s been quite useful.”
“Alien: Covenant” is intended to be a
sort of bridge between Scott’s original “Alien” and the 2012 prequel
“Prometheus.” Scott has wanted to explore the origins of how that creature
breathing down Ripley’s neck came to be and ask the question that “Alien”
didn’t: Why would anyone make such a monster?
The question is brought up in
“Prometheus,” technically the fifth film in the “Alien” universe, but most
people who saw the 2012 prequel left feeling deeply confused. Scott is
well-aware of this and promises there will be some clarity in “Covenant.”
“‘Prometheus’ leaves us with a lot of
questions and ‘Covenant’ answers a lot of those questions,” he said.
“Alien: Covenant” brings in a new team,
the crew of a colony ship, including Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup and
Danny McBride, who believe they’ve found a paradise. Of course that turns
out not to be the case.
Michael Fassbender’s “Lawrence of
Arabia”-loving android David is back too, as is a new android, Walter, also
played by Fassbender, and the monster itself.
“We found out that the good old beast
was still very popular with the audience, so I decided to re-inject some of
his presence back into it,” Scott said. “It gets pretty gnarly. I’m very
pleased with it actually.”
Scott says audiences can expect some
philosophizing and spectacular visuals, including an idea he came up with to
solve the problem of how the ship would continue getting and storing power
in deep space: Massive sails, about the size of six football fields that can
soak up the radiance in space and store it as power.
“I discovered recently that’s exactly
what NASA are doing,” Scott said. “You can make a fabric that is stronger
than metal and you can fold it up into a massive box and it will fold away
like a good sail on a sailing ship so I apply that kind of thinking and
there we have it. It works. And then you get it in the hands of the visual
effects people and it all looks pretty good. So we’re going to send it to
NASA to see if I can speed up the process for them.”
That the film is being promoted as an
“Alien” film rather than a “Prometheus” sequel is confounding to some,
including Forbes’ box office writer Scott Mendelson, who points out that
“Prometheus” was rather successful. It made over $400 million worldwide
against a $130 million budget.
“They’re selling its relationship to a
franchise that is well-known but isn’t insanely beloved. It’s a geek
franchise,” Mendelson said.
Mendelson added that while nostalgia
might sell for some, it’s not going to bring in a younger audience with its
hard R rating.
Still, Scott has ideas for at least a
few more “Alien” installments.
“In answering the question ‘who, why
and when was this thing made and for what reason,’ it presents a whole
different universe, so the universe starts expanding, which I think is
healthy. Why switch it off?” Scott said. “What it’s leading to is the
question of creation. And creation, I don’t care who you are, is on
Whether or not audiences will see that
expanded universe will depend on how well “Covenant” does. Closer on the
horizon is “Blade Runner 2049,” which is set 30 years after the original.
Scott helped the screenplay and produce, but ceded directing
responsibilities over to “Arrival” helmer Denis Villeneuve.
And while Scott might not consider
himself nostalgic, he is at least a little excited about one crossover
moment: The second “Blade Runner 2049” trailer is supposed to play in front
of “Alien: Covenant” showings, which, Scott says drolly, “will be cool.”
Kiss: Alive II – 5 stars
the wonderful made up band, started releasing albums 33 years ago and ever
since that distant point in time it has been a real rocket ride for both the
group and its fans. First we got the debut album “Kiss” (1974) and later
the same year were presented with “Hotter Than Hell”. Then, in 1975, we
were offered “Dressed to Kill”, but none of these releases did as well as
either the band or their record company Casablanca had hoped.
All that changed later in 1975 however
with the release of the first Kiss live album “Alive”, which was a smash hit
all over the world and especially in America, where it remained on the
Billboard Top 100 charts for two years, peaking at number nine.
Over the next two years the band
delivered three more studio albums in the shape of “Destroyer”, “Rock and
Roll Over”, and “Love Gun”. In between these recording stints the band
would take their amazingly over the top stage show out on the road, but
keeping up this frantic pace meant something was likely to break, so whilst
the Kiss band members were given a small rest and relaxation period a second
live album was created. This was engineered, produced and mixed by Eddie
Kramer, who had been involved in all the Kiss albums up to this point and
also worked with the cream of rock & roll; Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones
and The Beatles to drop in just three.
An attempt had been made to get the
latest Kiss live show down on tape in Japan earlier that year but the
results were deemed unsatisfactory so only a couple of songs were deemed
good enough for this recording. Fortunately the shows from the ‘Love Gun
World Tour’ at the Los Angeles Forum in August 1977 were also recorded and
so were the sound-check songs, the latter meaning the studio engineers had a
variety of live Kiss songs to select from but without an audience, so crowd
noises were later over-dubbed.
What you get here is a selection from
all three sources but it still runs like the perfect live concert. The band
and management’s reluctance to repeat songs from the first live album meant
only songs from the three previous albums were included in this set, which
in the days of vinyl meant that they covered three sides of the album whilst
the fourth was taken up by new studio tracks.
While all this was going on, lead
guitarist Ace Frehley had decided to take his ‘time off’ part of the deal a
bit too seriously and only actually appears on one song on the studio
recordings, and that was “Rocket Ride” which he sang on while also playing
lead guitar and bass guitar. Bob Kulick was whipped into the studio and
laid down the other lead guitar parts (uncredited until the re-released
version in 1997) except on a great cover of the Dave Clark Five hit, “Anyway
You Want It” where Paul Stanley took all the honors.
rock band Kiss.
But never mind all the sleight of hand,
this album is still a scorcher with an adrenalin-charged buzz running right
through it. It opens up with the famous introduction from the MC of “You
wanted the best? You’ve got the best. The hottest band in the world - Kiss”
(cue massive amounts of pyro) and then it’s straight into a hard rockin
“Detroit Rock City”. From there on out it’s chocks away and head for the
stratosphere with highlights including a thunderous “Ladies Room”, Paul
Stanley going totally over the top on “Love Gun” and Ace Frehley showing why
he gained cult status as the best glam rock guitarist from another planet.
Beth is extremely soppy but then the girls in the audience all love it.
This is the perfect rock & roll party
Paul Stanley – guitar and vocals
Ace Frehley – lead guitar and vocals
Gene Simmons – bass guitar and vocals
Peter Criss- drums and vocals
Detroit Rock City
Kings of the Night Time World
Calling Doctor Love
Hard Luck Woman
Tomorrow or Tonight
I Stole Your Love
God Of Thunder
I Want You
Shout It Out Loud
All American Man
Rockin’ In The USA
Larger Than Life
Any Way You Want It
Note: Review written by Mott the
Dog and Hells Bells. If you fancy a chat about rock music, Mott the Dog can
usually be found in his kennel at Jameson’s Irish Pub, Nova Park, Soi AR in
Joss Stone provides intimate evening at Cloud 47
serenades her fans in Bangkok.
singer/songwriter Joss Stone performed a sold out intimate concert in front
of just 400 lucky fans in Bangkok recently, the open air rooftop concert
being held for charity at the swanky Cloud 47 restaurant.
Part of her Total World
Tour, where Stone ambitiously aims to perform in every country on the globe
(Thailand marking her centenary show and nation), the March 9 performance
was stripped back with just a three-piece band and Stone barefoot in a white
summer dress, zestfully making her stunning voice heard immediately on the
funky opener “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power To The People”, dedicated to
the previous day’s International Women’s Day.
The 400 strong audience at Cloud 47 lapped up the
performance by the English songstress.
More uplifting messages
were delivered with “Big Ol’ Game” and the reggae flavoured “Love Me”. A
charged up “Super Duper Lover” got everyone out of their seats to dance
along while a chatty and feisty Stone bared her Dover soul on music, which
built into a flamboyant crescendo from her band.
The ska groove of
“Harry’s Symphony” kept the dance flow going before she expressed her
remarkably versatile voice further on a bewitching cover of “I Put A Spell
Leaving with the ballad
“Right To Be Wrong” saw Stone playfully throwing out orange chrysanthemums
into the appreciative crowd. It was indeed an enchanting evening under the
Real-life ‘Rocky’ gets his moment on-screen
Wepner talks to The Associated Press in his home in Bayonne, N.J. in this
photo taken Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Josh Cornfield, Associated Press
Bayonne, N.J. (AP) - Forty-two
years after he stepped into the ring against Muhammad Ali as a 40-to-1
underdog, Chuck Wepner’s business card still has a picture of the moment
when he knocked down the champ.
For the New Jersey boxer, it gave him
brief hope that he could win. For Ali, it led him to start fighting with a
vengeance, eventually taking an exhausted Wepner out with 19 seconds left in
the 15th and final round.
For Sylvester Stallone, the overmatched
underdog’s fight was a moment of needed inspiration while writing the script
Stallone became a superstar and Rocky
Balboa became an iconic character. Wepner reeled off a few more wins and
continued his day job as a liquor salesman, while living a hard-partying
lifestyle that led to prison.
sends Chuck Wepner to a neutral corner as heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali
(left) starts to get to his feet during the ninth round of their title bout
at the Cleveland Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio, March 24, 1975. (AP
Wepner’s life story has now arrived on
the big screen with Liev Schreiber playing the Bayonne Bleeder in “Chuck,”
which opened last week in the United States.
“Everyone says to me, ‘Oh, Chuck,
finally you got your due,’” the 78-year-old Wepner said from his living room
in Bayonne, the working-class town across the harbor from New York where he
“You know what, I’ve been living large
for 42 years. I fought Ali in ’75, I went 15 rounds, I had him down, and
then they made the movie ‘Rocky.’ I was the inspiration. I haven’t been
Wepner and Balboa’s story share
similarities — low-level working class fighters getting a shot at the
champ. But while Rocky went on to beat the Ali-like Apollo Creed in their
“Rocky II” rematch, Wepner turned to a life of partying and cocaine. He
pleaded guilty to drug charges in 1987 and served two years of a 10-year
Like Rocky’s fight with Hulk Hogan’s
Thunderlips character in “Rocky III,” Wepner was thrown out of the ring by
wrestling legend Andre the Giant at Shea Stadium in New York in a 1976
fight. Unlike Rocky, Wepner also fought a bear.
Wepner sued Stallone in 2003, arguing
that he improperly used his name to promote the “Rocky” films. Stallone
responded that Wepner benefited by making public appearances as “the real
Rocky,” but later settled. A spokeswoman for Stallone said he wasn’t giving
interviews ahead of the film.
Schreiber said that it’s hard to look
at some of the parallels between Rocky Balboa and Wepner and not think that
Stallone was inspired by Wepner’s life.
“But I also know from talking to
Sylvester Stallone that he thought the fighter was an amalgamation of
several fighters,” Schreiber said, “and that probably the biggest
inspiration to him was sort of his own battles as an artist, that was really
the inspiration for the character.”
Schreiber, who said he was drawn to
Wepner’s life as a cautionary tale of fame and celebrity, said that
storytellers often exploit real people to create their narratives.
“And I think that’s OK,” he said. “I
think that’s the nature of art and storytelling. Some stories stay very
close to the truth ... but I think we should also feel the license to expand
on some things and express ourselves as fits the person that’s creating the
“Chuck” also stars “Mad Men’s”
Elisabeth Moss as Wepner’s second wife and Naomi Watts as his third wife,
Linda. It was Linda who helped Wepner get his life together after he was
released from prison and later convinced him to sue.
While Wepner admits he did a bad job
auditioning after a night of partying when Stallone tried to give him a part
as his sparring partner in “Rocky II,” the last straw was not being
considered for a part in the Stallone and Robert De Niro film “Cop Land,”
which filmed near Bayonne.
“I sued for $15 million,
fuhgeddaboudit, I didn’t get a minute percentage of that,” Wepner said.
“Stallone and I are friends now. We had to go to court. That was just
business. I love Sylvester, I think he’s great. I think his moves are
“Chuck” director Philippe Falardeau
said that while there are similarities between Wepner and Rocky, Stallone’s
character was “much more low-key, much more insecure. Chuck Wepner has no
insecurities. He’s so confident.”
Falardeau said that Stallone gave the
filmmakers his OK. Just as important, Falardeau says: As the movie ends
with Schreiber’s Wepner and Watts’ Linda walking down the boardwalk, he
stops for a Polaroid photo in front of a Rocky statue outside of a Planet
Falardeau said Stallone lent the statue
to the filmmakers from his personal collection.
Ancient Roman monument-turned-eyesore gets needed makeover
A view of
the Mausoleum of Augustus in Rome during a special opening for the press,
Tuesday May 2. (Ettore Ferrari/ANSA via AP)
Rome (AP) - The mausoleum of
Emperor Augustus, a towering monument when it was built in 28 B.C. but long
a decrepit eyesore in Rome’s historic center, is being restored. The
10-million-euro public-private facelift is expected to be completed in 2019.
The structure, located along the Tiber
River, is made up of circular, vaulted corridors with the sepulcher in the
center. It has been covered with trees, weeds and garbage and closed to the
public since the 1970s because of safety concerns.
Its restoration is being financed by
the city of Rome, the culture ministry and a 6 million-euro donation from
the TIM phone company.
Last week, Mayor Virginia Raggi donned
a protective helmet and paid a visit. “I hope the mausoleum will be given
back as soon as possible to the people,” she said.
Augustus had the mausoleum built for
himself and the imperial family, and it also houses the bones and ash of
Emperors Vespasian, Nero and Tiberius, each indicated with a marble plaque.
The structure, originally 90 meters in
diameter and 45 meters high, originally featured a bronze sculpture of
Augustus on the roof. Its location a stone’s throw from the Tiber gave it
maximum visibility around the city of Rome.
Over the centuries it was used as a
fortress, for bullfights and for concerts. Fascist dictator Benito
Mussolini, eager to revive Roman imperial glory, restored the area and built
a square piazza around it called Piazza Augusto Imperatore, which today
houses upscale restaurants and shops.
But the mausoleum itself was shut down
in the 1930s, fenced off and left in disrepair.
In the first phase of the restoration,
workers cleaned out the garbage and cut back the trees and weeds that grew
up inside. Phase two involves installing electricity and a cover.
The restored mausoleum will have an
adjoining museum, elevators and a shop, making it a convenient stop
alongside the nearby Ara Pacis altar which received a Richard Meier-designed
protective covering a decade ago.
Augustus was 35 when he had the
mausoleum built, shortly after his victory in the naval Battle of Actium,
where he defeated the fleets of Antony and Cleopatra, consolidating his
power and making him the undisputed leader of the Roman Empire.
Guitarist sues to stop use of Jefferson Starship band name
In this July
24, 1987 file photo, members of Starship, from left, Mickey Thomas, Craig
Chaquico, Grace Slick and Donny Baldwin, pose outside the Berkeley Community
Theater in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Doug Atkins)
San Francisco (AP) -
A founding member of Jefferson Starship has filed a lawsuit to stop some of
his former bandmates from using the band’s name for upcoming performances
Chaquico is asking a judge to prevent a new iteration of Jefferson Starship
from using the name in the federal lawsuit filed in San Francisco. He
claims the group has been using the Jefferson Starship name without
permission, and has used his image to promote shows through early 2018.
The lawsuit said the
band’s members agreed to retire the Jefferson Starship name in 1985 after
founding member Paul Kantner left the group.
Kantner to use the Jefferson Starship name for several years, but that right
ended when Kantner died in 2016, the lawsuit said.
Jim Lenz, a
representative for the new iteration of Jefferson Starship, did not
immediately respond to an emailed message seeking comment.
The band has gone
through numerous iterations, starting out as Jefferson Airplane, which
featured Grace Slick singing huge hits such as “White Rabbit” and “Somebody
to Love” and famed guitarist Jorma Kaukonen.
Chaquico was discovered
by Kantner and enlisted the guitarist into Jefferson Starship in 1974. The
group broke up a decade later, prompting Chaquico and other members to form
a new group, Starship, which recorded the hit “We Built This City.”
“This case is about
tarnishing the legacy of the original Jefferson Starship band,” Chaquico
said in a statement.
“We retired the name in
1985 and we agreed that nobody would use the name again. For this band
line-up to tour and call itself Jefferson Starship is woefully misleading to
the public and confuses longtime fans.”
Film Review: ‘Guardians’ returns and
it’s better than the first
shows Zoe Saldana, from left, Karen Gillan, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista and
Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper, in a scene from, “Guardians Of The Galaxy
Vol. 2.” (Disney-Marvel via AP)
Los Angeles (AP) -
In James Gunn’s sequel to his swashbuckling space Western, the Guardians of
the Galaxy do their version of “The Empire Strikes Back,” complete with
daddy issues but with a considerably more anarchic spirit and enough acerbic
interplay among its interstellar gang to make Obi-Wan blush.
The wild whiz-bang of
the first “Guardians” and its gleeful upending of superhero conventions was,
I thought, not the second-coming others felt it was. Having sat through a
meteor shower of imposingly well-made Marvel products, the
too-pleased-with-itself “Guardians” felt to me like an intensely scripted
politician trying to smugly crack wise.
When the motley crew of
scavengers reunites in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” many of its tricks
— the anachronistic ’70s hits, the exotically foul-mouthed creatures — are
not the sneak attack they were in 2014. But that turns out to be a good
thing. No longer so busy advertising his movie’s genre transgressions,
Gunn, who wrote and directed the sequel, is free to swim backstrokes through
his cosmic, CGI-spiced gumbo.
It’s a soupy, silly
spectacle that recalls, if nothing else, the weird, kaleidoscopic design of
a Parliament-Funkadelic album cover. Gunn’s film also shares George
Clinton’s goofy extravagance (and includes his song “Flashlight”), and a
neon-colored cast with its own Mothership.
There are two types in
the universe, Dave Bautista’s muscle-mound Drax declares early on. “Those
who dance and those who do not.” In the “Guardians” universe, which
blithely mocks just about everything, this is close to a mission statement.
Whereas the first film featured Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill on a faraway
planet bopping to Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love,” the early scenes of
“Vol. 2” find the Guardians battling some giant monster while Baby Groot —
the extraterrestrial tree turned sapling (voiced by Vin Diesel) — grooves to
ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky.”
universe, made up of such ironies and oddities, worships at the altar of
incongruity. Referenced within are “Cheers,” Mary Poppins, Looking Glass’
“Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl),” David Hasselhoff and Fleetwood Mac’s “The
Chain.” It’s the kind of wacked-out tapestry that even Lindsey Buckingham
would find head-spinning.
While Quill resembles a
classic Han Solo-like hero, his fellow Guardians — Zoe Saldana’s
green-skinned Gamora, the caustic, Bradley Cooper-voiced raccoon Rocket,
Drax and Groot — are a multi-species band of outsiders. No two are alike in
temperament or genetics.
Though they bicker
endlessly, they’re a cobbled-together, multi-species family, just one more
likely to trade insults than hugs. And the nature of family is at the
center of “Vol. 2.” Quill, having lost his mother as a young child in the
first film, learns that his father is a “celestial,” or deity, named Ego
(Kurt Russell), with a planet of his own creation. The Guardians meet him
after fleeing the remote-controlled pods that pursue them when Rocket steals
batteries from Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), the High Priestess of the
golden-hued Sovereign race.
Returning is Michael
Rooker’s excellent Yondu Udonta, who resembles a rejected audition to the
Blue Man Group and controls a lethal arrow with a whistle. He’s hired to
capture the Guardians, but his character — who raised the orphaned Quill —
plays an unexpectedly emotional role in Quill’s journey into his past. The
effect is similar for Gamora’s sister Nebula, the Guardians’ furious
prisoner. Others are in the mix, too, including a brief cameo by Sylvester
Stallone and, more impressively, Chris Sullivan’s mutinying, unfortunately
named pirate Taserface.
All of the names,
though, are kind of joke, as is much of the plot (batteries?), the planets
and, well, the whole operation. In one scene, an escaping ship shoots
through so many hyper-speed portals that their faces go bug-eyed like Looney
Tunes characters, maybe revealing the films’ underlying DNA.
But while this
“Guardians of the Galaxy” has no earnest belief in its sci-fi theatrics (the
credits action scene is largely just blurry background to Baby Groot’s
dancing), it believes surprisingly sincerely in its characters’ inner lives,
the ones buried beneath their sarcastic exteriors. “Guardians” takes place
further in the reaches of the galaxy than any other Marvel movie, yet it’s
the most earthbound. In the words of David Bowie, another space oddity,
“Guardians of the
Galaxy Vol. 2,” a Walt Disney Co. release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion
Picture Association of America for “intense sequences of sci-fi violence,
and brief suggestive content.” Running time: 136 minutes. Three stars out
‘Baywatch’s’ Dwayne Johnson
just wants to entertain you
Rock” Johnson (left) and Alexandra Daddario are shown in this promo photo
for their new movie, “Baywatch”.
Los Angeles (AP) - In
2000, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was trying to break into Hollywood. He was
off to an OK start. The pro-wrestler already had a following, a role in
“The Mummy Returns” and high-wattage charm. He also had no acting
experience, no idea how Hollywood worked, and, besides a few idols in
Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger, no blueprint for
“I couldn’t say, ‘Oh, let me just
follow the half-black and half-Samoan actor who was also a wrestler. Let me
follow his path.’ That wasn’t an option, that wasn’t there. So I was
forced to create my own,” Johnson said recently. “I have an ideology that I
always like to share with the inner group, and with some people on the
outside, and I’ll share it with you: I don’t just want to play the game. I
want to change the way the game is played.”
And he did, becoming one of the world’s
biggest movie stars in the process, with a booming production company, a
year-round filming schedule, 84.4 million followers on Instagram, 11.2
million on Twitter and a reported $64.5 million salary in 2016 that put him
at the top of Forbes’ highest-paid actors list.
“Alone among his generation, Dwayne
Johnson has aimed for middle of the road, broad, appealing, leading man
status,” said Richard Rushfield, who runs the Hollywood newsletter The
Ankler. “While his peers have carved out more edgy, cool, of-the-moment
profiles, Johnson has assiduously whittled down the rough edges of his early
‘The Rock’ wrestling persona.”
Simply, the 44-year-old superstar is an
entertainment machine and, like Schwarzenegger before him, summer is his
main stage. There’s his pre-summer “Fast and the Furious” movies, which
Johnson is credited as helping to revitalize. The latest is expected to
cross $1 billion globally this week. But Johnson has also proven himself to
be a summer draw on his own in leading roles in the disaster pic “San
Andreas” in 2015 and the buddy comedy “Central Intelligence” in 2016. This
summer, he’s betting on “Baywatch” as a potential new franchise.
“I love being able to create big movies
or TV shows that entertain people, that make them happy. I know what it’s
like to earn a dollar. I know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck
and wonder how you’re going to pay the rent. I know what it’s like to be
evicted. Money doesn’t fall out of the sky. So if you’re going to pay for
your ticket, that inspires me to want to make a great movie,” said Johnson.
Johnson, who heads up the production
company Seven Bucks with his ex-wife Dany Garcia, may be the purest
expression of a global entertainer there is, aside from Tom Cruise or Will
Smith. He thinks big. He thinks globally. The audience is king. And he’s
going to put in the work to make sure they’re smiling.
It’s that thinking that led him to the
“Baywatch” movie. Johnson was a teenager when the show was at the height of
its popularity. He appreciated the “sexiness” of it, but also considered it
kind of cheesy. Then, about five years ago, he was told it was the most
successful television show of all time — an unparalleled global hit. And
that settled it. Johnson would have to don the red trunks.
The film is not the television show,
nor is it trying to be. There are still red suits, and the babes and the
bodies and some of the same names (Johnson is Mitch Buchannon, the role
originated by David Hasselhoff), but he says their movie is funnier,
raunchier, more action-packed and, well, more self-aware. The cast includes
Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario and Priyanka Chopra.
“I always say, I have one boss. Not
the movie studios ... The audience. The people. They’ll dictate if there’s
another one,” Johnson said. “And I think we have a good shot.”
Mott the Dog: Goo Goo Dolls wrap-up Asian tour in Bangkok
Rzeznik croons to fans at the Bangkok Convention Center, February 13.
New Yorker rockers Goo Goo Dolls
recently finished off their Asian tour in a most welcoming
air-conditioned venue on the top floor of the Bangkok Convention
Center. It was the first visit by the band to Thailand and a delight
for their many fans here, many of whom have waited since 1986 to see the
group perform live on home soil.
Former drummer Mike Malin had
departed from the band in 2013, leaving what was felt by many to be an
insurmountably large hole in the Dolls’ line-up. But additional new
musicians brought into the ranks have quickly gelled into a very fine
professional unit, leaving many not noticing any changes at all, and
besides, the main two protagonists are still there.
In Bangkok the band gave a
satisfying two hour set packed with 22 tracks, with each one being a
real Goo Goo Dolls style hitter. Their acoustic rock driven program
started with the recent “Over And Over”, with the young female fans down
the front clamouring to get the attention of poster boy pin up John
Rzeznik, a frontman who has managed to keep his stylish good looks
throughout his career. His sidekick, bassist Robby Takac, is an
energetic soul who adds the power to the boppy rebel beat and later in
the show he took over the vocals for the punk charged “Bringing On The
Takac pumps out another bassline.
It was Rzeznik though who
predominantly held court, especially with his acoustic guitar playing on
the more subtle “Name” and the ballady “Better Days”, while a jovial
heckler couldn’t falter him on the country flavoured “Come To Me”.
From their most recent album
“Boxes”, “The Pin” was a standout amongst many of their Stateside hits
but inevitably it was group’s biggest hit, “Iris” from 2012, a number
one on the American Pop billboard charts, that raised voices all around
the packed arena.
A solitary encore of the apt “Long
Way Home” saw a snowstorm of confetti and giant white balloons released
down from the ceiling rafters, ensuring a mass party atmosphere. It
concluded a refreshing set from one of most inoffensive of rock bands
who really know how to please.
Goo Goo Dolls in Bangkok:
John Rzeznik - guitar and vocals
Robby Takac - bass guitar and
Brad Fernquist - guitar and
Karel Tunador - keyboards,
saxaphone and guitar
Craig Macintyre – drums
Over & Over
Long Way Down
Here Is Gone
Bringing On The Light
Come To Me
Stay With You
Long Way Home
‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ author dies at 88
This 1975 image shows author Robert M.
Pirsig working on his motorcycle. (William Morrow via AP)
Hillel Italie, AP National
New York (AP) - Robert M.
Pirsig, whose philosophical novel “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle
Maintenance” became a million-selling classic and cultural touchstone
after more than 100 publishers turned it down, died last week at age 88.
Pirsig’s died at his home in South
Berwick, Maine after suffering from failing health.
“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle
Maintenance” was published in 1974 and was based on a motorcycle trip
Pirsig took in the late 1960s with his 12-year-old son, Chris.
Like a cult favorite from the
1950s, Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” the book’s path to the best-seller
list was long and unlikely. It began as an essay he wrote after he and
Chris rode from Minnesota to the Dakotas and grew to a manuscript of
hundreds of thousands of words.
After the entire industry seemed to
shun it, publisher William Morrow took on the book, with editor James
Landis writing at the time that he found it “brilliant beyond belief.”
Pirsig’s novel was in part an ode
to the motorcycle and how he saw the world so viscerally traveling on
one, compared to the TV-like passivity of looking out at the window of a
“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle
Maintenance” ideally suited a generation’s yearning for the open road,
quest for knowledge and skepticism of modern values, while also telling
a personal story about a father and son relationship and the author’s
struggles with schizophrenia.
A world traveler and former
philosophy student, Pirsig would blend his life and learning, and East
and West, into what he called the Metaphysics of Quality.
“But some things are better than
others, that is, they have more quality,” he wrote. “But when you try
to say what the quality is, apart from the things that have it, it all
goes poof! There’s nothing to talk about. But if you can’t say what
Quality is, how do you know what it is, or how do you know that it even
exists? If no one knows what it is, then for all practical purposes it
doesn’t exist at all. But for all practical purposes it really does
The book was praised as a unique
and masterful blend of narrative and philosophy and was compared to
“Moby Dick” by New Yorker critic George Steiner, who wrote that Pirsig’s
story “lodges in the mind as few recent novels have.” Writing in The
New York Times, Edward Abbey was unsure how to categorize the book.
“Is ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle
Maintenance’ a novel or an autobiography?” he wondered. “In this case
the distinction seems of no importance; maybe it never was. Call the
book, as Pirsig himself does, an inquiry. Therein lies its singular
energy and force.”
Pirsig’s response to his unexpected
success was to step away from it. He avoided interviews and took 17
years to complete “Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals,” the sequel to his
“It is not good to talk about Zen
because Zen is nothingness,” he told The Guardian in 2006. “If
you talk about it you are always lying, and if you don’t talk about it
no one knows it is there.”
A native of Minneapolis, Pirsig was
a prodigy who at age 9 scored 170 on an IQ test and six years later
graduated from high school. Army service in Korea at the end of World
War II exposed him to Eastern thought and culture and profoundly
He studied philosophy at the
University of Minnesota, traveled to India and back in the states honed
an enigmatic teaching style at Montana State College and at the
University of Illinois, sometimes refusing to grade papers or asking
students to grade each other.
At the same time, he suffered from
anxiety so paralyzing that one day he was in a car with Chris and lost
his way, needing his son to guide him home.
“I could not sleep and I could not
stay awake,” he told The Guardian. “I just sat there
cross-legged in the room for three days.”
Chris was killed by a mugger in
1979, and later editions of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”
would include an afterword about him.