Film Review: ‘Fantastic Beasts’ promising, not yet Potter-magical
Redmayne is shown in a scene from the film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to
Find Them.” (Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. via AP)
Los Angeles (AP) - Who’s up for
a little escapism at the multiplex?
J.K. Rowling, embarking on her new,
post-Potter blockbuster franchise with “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find
Them,” has said herself that her screenplay, which she began several years
ago, was informed by world events — particularly, she noted, a rise in
populism around the globe.
And so there’s definitely some darkness
in “Fantastic Beasts,” despite its being a family film, complete with the
sweetest little beasts (and bigger ones) imaginable — expect to see your kid
melt forthwith over the lovable jewelry-imbibing Niffler (It’s stunning how
many carats he can consume without gaining weight.)
But there’s also a refreshingly light
tone competing with the sinister themes, thanks especially to two
exceedingly appealing supporting characters headed for a sweet confection of
But first, the title: Harry Potter fans
will know that “Fantastic Beasts” was a required text for Harry and his
Hogwarts mates. That little book has now become the seed of a franchise —
there are FOUR films to come — based on its author, Newt Scamander (Eddie
Redmayne), a wizard Magizoologist with a mop haircut, a bashful grin, and
one fabulous briefcase.
Why is this briefcase so great? Well,
it’s magic, like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag. But while Mary basically pulled
out room furnishings, Scamander has not only a menagerie of fantastical
creatures, but seemingly a whole mini-planet in there to house them.
We start with Scamander just off the
boat in 1926 New York, a few years before the Great Depression. Director
David Yates, of the last four Potter films, has clearly spared no expense in
creating this Jazz Age Big Apple, from the grand skyscrapers and period
automobiles to Colleen Atwood’s delicious costumes, to of course the
endlessly inventive CGI beasts.
It’s not the best time for a young
wizard and his pets to be arriving. Magical folk have gone undercover.
Among the No-Majs (that’s American for Muggles, or humans), zealots from the
Second Salemers (as in Salem Witch Trials) are looking to destroy wizards
So the wizards’ governing body, MACUSA,
is suppressing all magical beasts, lest they expose the wizards. It’s
particularly inconvenient when Newt’s creatures are accidentally set loose
across the city.
It becomes a race against time for Newt
and three companions to rescue them and save the city from an undefined,
sinister force. These companions are Tina (Katherine Waterston), an
ambitious but well-meaning MACUSA investigator; Jacob (Dan Fogler), an
amiable, portly No-Maj baker who gets caught up in it all; and Queenie,
Tina’s mind-reading, sweetly sensitive sister (Alison Sudol).
Also in the mix: Percival Graves (Colin
Farrell, in an undefined role), the mysterious director of MACUSA, and
zealot Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton). And there’s one more big star —
bigger than all — who makes a late appearance. (We won’t spoil it here —
feel free to Google.)
It’s all entertaining, lovely, expertly
done. Why then does it feel as if something’s missing? Perhaps it’s our
inescapable urge to compare it to the Potter phenomenon.
Or perhaps it’s that Harry was, well, a
kid, who we watched grow up. “Fantastic Beasts” is obviously more of an
adult story. Redmayne is charming, though less commanding than in some
other roles. He has nice charisma with the winsomely earnest Waterston.
But the real chemistry is between Fogler and Sudol, an unlikely couple
eyeing each other coyly across the Wizard/No-Maj chasm.
Then there are the beasts — not just
Niffler, but Bowtruckle, Erumpent, Murtlaf and Mooncalf, to name a few.
Here, Rowling delivers as only she can. “I don’t think I’m dreaming,” Jacob
says. “I ain’t got the brains to make this up.”
Other than Rowling, who really does?
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find
Them,” a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture
Association of America for “some fantasy action violence.” Running time:
133 minutes. Three stars out of four.
Is high-frame rate the next failed Hollywood gimmick?
shows a scene from the film “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” set to be
screened at 120 fps at only a handful of specially equipped theaters
worldwide. (Mary Cybulski/Sony-TriStar Pictures via AP)
New York (AP) — It’s starting to
look a lot like the Fifties at the movies.
That was when theaters, alarmed by the
rise of television and newly freed from the ownership of Hollywood studios,
trotted out a wave of gimmicks to freshen up the moviegoing experience.
Ballyhooed advancements like “Smell-O-Vision” and 3-D raged briefly before
—at least for a time — receding into camp.
But many of those gimmicks have been
reborn for a more high-tech age with new media anxieties. Now it’s cable
dramas and streaming networks that are stoking fears that a mere movie isn’t
enough to draw audiences out of their homes.
For this new era, there aren’t
brilliant showmen like William Castle who put electric buzzers in the seats
for 1959’s “The Tingler” and guaranteed $1,000 for any moviegoer who died of
fright while watching 1958’s “Macabre.”
Instead, it’s many of the industry’s
top filmmakers who are pushing new theatrical experiences. The latest
purported cinematic savior is high-frame rate, an innovation without quite
as catchy a name as 1959’s scented “AromaRama.” Instead of the traditional
24 frames a second, HFR is composed of many more images per second, lending
greater clarity. But so far, the reviews are dismal.
First, Peter Jackson made his “Hobbit”
trilogy in 48 frames-per-second, though poor reviews led it to be largely
phased out by the final installment. Now, Ang Lee has doubled-down on the
format, and then some. His “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” was made with
120 frames per second. Critics have, in kind, amped up their doubts about
the technology’s promise, claiming its hyper-real effect appears artificial
or, worse, like a telenovela.
Whether high frame rate will go the way
of “Smell-O-Vision” remains to be seen. “Billy Lynn” will only be screened
at 120 fps at two specially equipped theaters in North America, and maybe
half-a-dozen worldwide. Lee has urged patience. James Cameron, who led the
3-D resurrection, has pledged to make his “Avatar” sequels in a HFR format.
But high-frame rate is just one of the
big-screen innovations making this decade look like a digitized sequel of
the ’50s. Here are some of the gimmicks that have returned, in mutated
forms, like creatures from a black lagoon:
3-D: The golden era of 3-D,
ushered in by 1952’s “Bwana Devil,” lasted less than two years. But the
phase propelled by Cameron’s “Avatar” and embraced by the likes of Lee,
Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, has already lasted a decade. It’s now
a regular, if divisive component of moviegoing: a cherished part of the
theatrical spectacle to some, a loathsome surcharge on already higher priced
movie tickets to others. Though audience interest for 3-D has at times
waned, its grip on theaters seems assured. Cameron hopes to release “Avatar
2” in glasses-free 3-D.
Cinerama: The panoramic
widescreen format, projected onto a curved and arced screen, first debuted
with 1952’s “This Is Cinerama.” It and other screen-stretching formats such
as Ultra Panavision 70, brought widescreen majesty to films like “How the
West Was Won” and “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Cinerama was closely followed by
CinemaScope, the anamorphic lens advertised as “the modern miracle you see
without glasses,” and the less successful Circle-Vision 360 — something like
a forerunner to today’s IMAX screens. CinemaScope, big and beautiful,
remains a cherished choice for many filmmakers. Damien Chazelle’s upcoming,
glowingly nostalgic “La La Land” — an early Oscar favorite and an implicit
argument for the glory of movies - is the latest to bring back CinemaScope.
Sensurround: The 1974 film
“Earthquake” launched Sensurround which used low bass sounds to create a
rumbling, vibrating effect. (Moviegoers in next-door theaters sometimes
complained of the tremors from “Earthquake” while watching other releases
that year, like “The Godfather Part II.”) Other efforts to transfer
sensations on the screen to people in the seats have followed. So-called
“4-D,” long a theme park attraction, adds an amusement park ride effect to
theaters with moving seats, smells and weather effects like fog and rain. A
South Korean company has opened “4DX” rooms around the world, playing
Hollywood blockbusters. Some of them — and William Castle would appreciate
this — even tingle.
Mott the Dog: Motorhead ‘On Parole’ - 4 stars
Motorhead (from left) Larry Wallis, Lucas Fox and Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister.
These were the first recordings made by
the trio to soon emerge as Motorhead. They are not however what you might
imagine from the group if you only know them from the album ‘Overkill’
They were at this stage a band in the embryonic stage
and consisted of Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, formerly of Hawkwind who had lost
his place as bass guitarist of the space rockers for his extreme rock’n’roll
lifestyle and becoming the most famous member of the band; Larry Wallis, who
was at the time in two bands, Motorhead and The Pink Fairies (soon to raise
loyalty issues); and Lucas Fox who did not even make it past the recording
of this album as his studio drumming was considered not good enough and was
over-dubbed by Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor before the album even got handed
into United Artists Records in 1976.
Two producers were used during the recording of the
sessions - Dave Edmunds had a go first but was really more interested in
getting his own solo career off the ground and so production duties were
taken over by Fritz Fryer.
The results are excellent, as Dave Thompson of
Allmusic put it: “The music is devastating, steeped in Blues, drenched
in booze, the highest octane pub rock of all. No matter how well you think
you know Motorhead, this is still nothing like you would be expecting. A
true rocker’s sonic symphony, this is Wagner with whiplash.”
Although it’s still Lemmy’s band, the songwriting and
singing is shared out between the individual group members. There are also
three tracks brought over from Lemmy’s Hawkwind days: “Motorhead”, the last
song written by Lemmy in his old band (although on this version there are no
sonic Hawkwind keyboards, electronics or violin solos), and straight ahead
rocked up versions of “The Watcher” and “Lost Johnny”.
The Pink Fairies’ “City Kids” was dragged out and given
a good kicking too, as was the 1963 Holland-Dozier-Holland Motown single
“Leaving Here” which is rocked up so much as to be almost unrecognizable
from the original. Larry Wallis had a few good tracks up his sleeve and
combined with the stunning axe work he displays here who knows what could
have been if he had decided to stay with the band. The classic Motorhead
track “Iron Horse/Born to Lose” is also given its first airing on this album
as a slow heavy rock song.
Of course United Recording Artists took one listen to
the album and were so horrified they buried it deep in their vaults, dug a
bunker for themselves and basically hid from the band until they could sell
their contract on to Chiswick Records, who then allowed the band (with
‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke on lead guitar) to virtually re-record the album and put
it out under the band’s own name.
Motorhead then moved onto Bronze Records and fame and
fortune with a new, heavier rock’n’roll sound, at which time United Artists
put their collective heads back above the parapets and realized they may
have missed something, resulting in them releasing this album as “On
Parole”. Of course it’s still a great album, but by 1979 things had moved
on and the band had disowned it. So next time United Artists, stick to your
Note: On the re-released album you get four of
the tracks produced by Dave Edmunds tagged on at the end. Seems like the
swap to Fritz Fryer was a good one!
Iron Horse/Born to Lose
(Produced by Dave Edmunds)
Ian (Lemmy) Kilmister, bass guitar and vocals
Larry Wallis, guitar and vocals
Phil (Philthy Animal) Taylor, drums
Lucas Fox, drums on ‘Lost Johnny’
Now you can visit the Rolling Stones’ 1962 apartment
Stones (from left) Ronnie Wood, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Charlie
Watts attend the opening night party for “Exhibitionism” at Industria on
Tuesday, Nov. 15, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
New York (AP) - When Mick Jagger
was coming up with ideas for an exhibition highlighting The Rolling Stones’
five-decade long career, he wanted to re-create the mood of the band in its
So, he had a team re-create the first
London apartment he and his band mates shared in 1962, complete with dirty
dishes, beer bottles and blues records placed throughout the flat.
“That was the weirdest thing really.
... The building is still there — it’s not a building that’s been knocked
down or anything, it’s right around the corner from where I actually live
now,” Jagger said. “It’s very redolent of the space ... and it smells like
it and feels like it.
“I just remembered how it really was,”
“There were a lot of places like that
in the early ’60s ... you wouldn’t want to live there now,” Charlie Watts
The Stones also re-created their
recording studio, complete with original instruments, for “Exhibitionism —
The Rolling Stones,” the band’s exhibit that debuted at Industria in New
York City this month after launching in London earlier in the year. It
includes colorful tour outfits, Jagger’s lyric book, Keith Richards’ 1963
diary, Watts’ toy drum kit and various photographs, from posters to magazine
“None of it made me cry particularly.
Some of it made me laugh,” Jagger said of the memorabilia.
The exhibit runs in New York through
March 12, 2017. Some of the pieces are works by Andy Warhol, Alexander
McQueen and John Pasche, who designed the Stones’ iconic tongue logo.
“It’s like bumping into memories
everywhere you look for me,” Richards said. “You turn the corner (and say),
‘Oh, that’s where I left it. Whether it’s a guitar or a piece of clothing,
everything sort of rings a bell somewhere.”
Ronnie Wood, who joined the group in
1975, said he enjoyed seeing the “little motifs” throughout the exhibit, and
added that one of his favorite memories was joining the band for his first
public performance — on his birthday.
“I had to learn the entire Stones back
catalog to get ready to go onstage on June 1, my birthday, for my first
public show with them,” he said, smiling.
Of his highlights, Richards said,
laughing: “I can pick out a few lows but we won’t bother with them, but
otherwise, it’s been pretty much a high all the time.”
The Stones will release a new album of
blues cover songs called “Blue & Lonesome” on Dec. 2. When asked what his
future goals are for the band, Watts said: “Staying alive I think is the
biggest thing at the moment, or getting up in the morning.”
Film Review: Tom Hanks returns as Robert Langdon in ‘Inferno’
(left) and Felicity Jones are shown in a scene from, “Inferno.” (Jonathan
Prime/Sony Pictures via AP)
Los Angeles (AP) -
“Inferno” is the third Robert Langdon film, with Tom Hanks reprising the
role of the Harvard “symbology” professor whose parlor trick is solving
elaborate criminal plots by deciphering great works of art. If his exploits
are to continue (and there is good reason to fear they might), I hope he’ll
eventually be confronted with a puzzle that brings him face to face with a
Rothko, leaving him utterly bereft of clues.
The first two Langdon
movies (also directed by Ron Howard) were cold, soggy soups of conspiracy
that served up a very poor man’s Indiana Jones, minus the fun but plus a
dubious haircut. The filmmakers have skipped one book in the series,
perhaps wisely since Brown’s “The Lost Symbol” enlists Freemasons as its
conspiracy-du-jour, following escapades with the Catholic church and
self-flagellating albino monks in “The Da Vinci Code” and the Illuminati in
“Angels & Demons.”
“Inferno,” a better,
more simplified thriller than those films, trades less on the ancient
mysteries of a shadowy organization than the familiar arch villainy of a
megalomaniac — and a good one, at that. The reliably intense Ben Foster
plays Bertrand Zobrist, a billionaire who, fearful that overpopulation will
destroy humanity, wants to trim the herd by half with a virus that will
unleash a modern-day plague.
Langdon’s role in the
scheme isn’t clear. The film begins with him waking up in a Florence
hospital, his recent memory wiped clean by a head wound and his mind haunted
by apocalyptic visions. It’s that classic hangover with little to jog the
noggin other than a mysterious bio-tube from the night before.
When a pursuer turns up
and starts shooting, Langdon and the doctor on hand, Sienna Brooks (Felicity
Jones), flee and begin piecing together Zobrist’s plot, one concocted with
heavy shades of Dante and Botticelli’s Map of Hell painting. They chase the
virus while trailed by the World Health Organization (Sidse Babett Knudsen,
Omar Sy) and a clandestine security firm (Irrfan Khan exquisitely plays its
gentlemanly leader). Langdon and Brooks dash through the Palazzo Vecchio,
the Boboli Gardens and other starred attractions in Brown’s Florence guide
The opportunity to see
Hanks traversing European capitals has been enough to make the Langdon films
blockbusters. Along the way, Langdon — a bit of a drip — has not given
Hanks much to work with. But slavishness to Brown’s text has finally given
way in David Koepp’s script to an apparent understanding that the books
don’t deserve such regard, or at least that few care anymore.
The benefit is that
“Inferno” isn’t a burning heap of hogwash, like “The Da Vinci Code” was.
It’s a lot more like a tweed-jacket version of Bond or Bourne or most any
other thriller out there. But if Langdon is distinguished from the other
globe-trotting saviors by his PhD, why aren’t his movies smarter?
“Inferno,” a Columbia
Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of
America for “sequences of action and violence, disturbing images, some
language, thematic elements and brief sensuality.” Running time: 121
minutes. Two stars out of four.
Hells Bells: Bad Company ‘live’ at the 02 in London
This gig had been
eagerly anticipated for months, not just by myself, but every person who had
bought a ticket for Bad Company’s “Swan Song Tour”.
band for the night were RSO, or in other words Bon Jovi’s world renowned
ex-guitarist Richie Sambora and his newest squeeze Orianthi. These guys
have been linked together both musically and romantically for a few years
now and are currently working on an album together, so that should be
I was fortunate (or
maybe unfortunate?) to catch a performance by the duo at the Islington 02
Academy back in June 2014. On that occasion I was left more than a little
disappointed by the performance; Richie was not in good form, in fact he
appeared to slur his words and lose all sense of coordination.
Given that previous
experience, I wasn’t expecting much from his set at the 02, so was
pleasantly surprised that he seemed slightly better prepared this time
round. I can’t say it was a mind blowing performance, but certainly more
than adequate. His vocals were a million times better than at the Islington
show, but again, he really didn’t seem to find that ‘je ne sais quoi’ so
prevalent in his Bon Jovi days.
The couples opening
number was a cover of U2’s “When Love Comes to Town”, a slightly odd choice
I thought, but then the rest of their set list was a rather eclectic mix
too. Song choice aside though, Richie tried to engage the half-filled arena
with some cheesy banter, and to give him his dues, he really worked his butt
off to please everyone. There’s never been any doubt about his superior
stage presence, let’s face it, being at the forefront of one of the most
prevalent rock bands of the last few decades, he had to have mastered his
stage craft by now, but there was something lacking.
Orianthi does seem to
have steered him in the right direction though, so good on her. She has
proved a very competent guitarist in her own right, and looked every bit the
stunning rock goddess on this occasion. There’s still a large amount needed
to get them completely on track but hopefully the pair will keep touring and
eventually gel better in future.
RSO out of the way it
was on to the act that everyone was really there to see, Bad Company. The
classic line-up was here, consisting of Paul Rodgers, Mick Ralphs and Simon
Kirke, complemented perfectly with the addition of Howard Leese (guitars)
and Todd Ronning (bass).
personifies the true English gentleman of rock, no gimmicks or frills, he
just powers through his harmonious vocals in style, perfection itself! No
way would you guess how many years he’s been around, and to be honest, who
cares? Clearly age has no barriers when it comes to Rodgers looks or
voice. Let’s face it, few other lead singers of that era can boast the
range and clarity of the performances he still puts out. Not only that, he
can also still twirl a mike stand like a 20 something!
Kirke too has aged
gracefully, and here he put on a really powerful performance. His kit
poised on a sparkling drum riser, he towered above his bandmates, a very
fitting position. Ralphs on the other hand hasn’t been quite so blessed,
but saying that, for someone in his early 70’s, he still braved his way
through some apparent physical discomfort, and it definitely wouldn’t have
been Bad Company without him. (Note: a few days after this concert some sad
news filtered through that Mick Ralphs had suffered a stroke and was
hospitalised. We all wish him a full and very speedy recovery.)
The bonus of
positioning Rodgers piano right next to Kirke proved an inspirational move
at the London gig, and added to the powerful and monumental sound. The
rhythm section will always be an integral part in the classic sound of Bad
Company and Free numbers, especially with such classics as “Feel like Making
Love”, “Run with the Pack” and “Can’t Get Enough”, so the addition of Todd
Ronning on bass was an excellent idea.
All in all there was
absolutely nothing to criticize about the whole performance at the O2. The
sound system was phenomenal and the band members gave their all, which was
clear to see by everyone there. Even the set-list had been carefully
thought out, mixing and matching powerful, unforgettable tracks with
slightly toned down ones. This concert will live with me for many years to
come, and I was gutted when it ended.
Being called the Swan
Song Tour, it would have appeared this could be the final tour for the
current line-up, but Rodgers did more than hint it was not the end. A lot
depends of course on the health of Mick Ralphs, but here’s hoping for his
full recovery and that there’ll be more performances like this one to come
from the band, because I’ll be first in line for a ticket!
1, Live for the Music
2, Gone, Gone, Gone
3, Feel Like Makin’
5, Burnin’ Sky
6, Run with the Pack
7, Ready for Love
8, Crazy Circles
10, Movin’ On
11, Shooting Star
12, Can’t Get Enough
13, Rock ‘n’ Roll
14, Bad Company
Tributes pour in for
singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen
Cohen is shown performing in this May 13, 2006, file photo. (Nathan
Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Los Angeles (AP) — Leonard
Cohen, the baritone-voiced Canadian singer-songwriter who seamlessly blended
spirituality and sexuality in songs like “Hallelujah,” ‘’Suzanne” and “Bird
on a Wire,” died last week at age 82.
Cohen, also renowned as a poet, novelist and aspiring
Zen monk, blended folk music with a darker, sexual edge that won him fans
around the world and among fellow musicians like Bob Dylan and R.E.M.
He remained wildly popular into his 80s, when his deep
voice plunged to seriously gravelly depths. He toured as recently as
earlier this year and released a new album, “You Want it Darker,” just last
month. Adam Cohen said his father died with the knowledge that he’d made
one of his greatest records.
Cohen’s “Hallelujah” went from cult hit to modern
standard, now an unending staple on movies, TV shows, YouTube videos,
reality shows and high school choir concerts.
Cohen, who once said he got into music because he
couldn’t make a living as a poet, rose to prominence during the folk music
revival of the 1960s. During those years, he traveled the folk circuit with
younger artists like Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and others.
His contemporary Kris Kristofferson once said that he
wanted the opening lines to Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire,” on his tombstone.
They would be a perfect epitaph for Cohen himself:
“Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my
way to be free.”
It was Dylan who first recognized the potential of
1984’s “Hallelujah, performing it twice in concert during the mid-1980s,
once in Cohen’s native Canada.
It had gone unnoticed when it came out on an
independent-label album that had been rejected by Cohen’s label. He had
filled a notebook with some 80 verses before recording the song, which he
said despite its religious references to David, Bathseba and Samson was an
attempt to give a nonreligious context to hallelujah, an expression of
“When people talk about Leonard, they fail to mention
his melodies, which to me, along with his lyrics, are his greatest genius,”
Dylan said. “Even the counterpoint lines — they give a celestial character
and melodic lift to every one of his songs. As far as I know, no one else
comes close to this in modern music.”
Robert Vaughn, suave
‘Man from UNCLE’ star, dies at 83
Vaughn is shown portraying superspy Napoleon Solo in this undated press
photo for television’s “The Man From U.N.C.L.E” series. (AP Photo, File)
New York (AP) — Robert Vaughn,
the debonair, Oscar-nominated actor whose many film roles were eclipsed by
his hugely popular turn in television’s “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” died last
week at age 83. Vaughn passed away Friday, Nov. 11 after a brief battle
with acute leukemia.
“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” was an
immediate hit, particularly with young people, when it debuted in 1964. It
was part of an avalanche of secret agent shows (“I Spy,” ‘’Mission:
Impossible,” ‘’Secret Agent”), spoofs (“Get Smart”), books (“The Spy Who
Came in From the Cold”) and even songs (“Secret Agent Man”) inspired by the
James Bond films.
Vaughn’s urbane superspy Napoleon Solo
teamed with Scottish actor David McCallum’s Illya Kuryakin, a soft-spoken,
The pair, who had put aside Cold War
differences for a greater good, worked together each week for the mysterious
U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) in combatting
the international crime syndicate THRUSH.
“Girls age 9 to 12 liked David McCallum
because he was so sweet,” Vaughn said in a 2005 interview in England. “But
the old ladies and the 13- to 16-year-olds liked me because I was so
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” aired until
early 1968, when sagging ratings brought it to an end. Vaughn and McCallum
reunited in 1983 for a TV movie, “The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.” in
which the super spies were lured out of retirement to save the world once
McCallum said he was “utterly
devastated” after learning of Vaughn’s death.
“Robert and I worked together for many
years and losing him is like losing a part of me,” he said in a written
In recent years, Vaughn had starred for
eight seasons on the British crime-caper series “Hustle,” playing Albert
Stroller, the lone Yank in a band of London-based con artists. “Hustle” also
aired in the U.S.
“I imagined that Napoleon Solo had
retired from U.N.C.L.E., whatever U.N.C.L.E. was,” Vaughn recalled in 2006.
“What could he do now to use his talents and to supplement his government
pension? I imagined Stroller as Napoleon Solo, The Later Years.”
Before “U.N.C.L.E.” Vaughn made his
mark in movies, earning an Oscar nomination in 1959 for his supporting role
in “The Young Philadelphians,” in which he played a wounded war veteran
accused of murder.
The following year, he turned in a
memorable performance as a gunfighter who had lost his nerve in “The
Making that movie, Vaughn recalled in
2005, had presented the cast with a vexing problem: no script.
“We had to improvise everything,” he
said. “I had to go to the costume department myself and choose the black
vest and the black hat.”
Vaughn was drawn to politics in several
of the TV roles he chose. He portrayed Harry S. Truman in “The Man from
Independence,” Woodrow Wilson in “Backstairs at the White House” and a
presidential aide in the 12-hour “Washington: Behind Closed Doors,” for
which he won an Emmy.
He also toured in a one-man play
“F.D.R.” about Franklin D. Roosevelt’s battles with polio.
Vaughn remained active in movies in
later years, usually in character roles. Among his films: “The Venetian
Affair,” ‘’The Bridge at Remagen,” ‘’Julius Caesar” (the 1970 British
version starring Charlton Heston), “The Towering Inferno,” ‘’S.O.B.,”
‘’Superman III” and “Delta Force.”
Long among Hollywood’s most eligible
bachelors, Vaughn married actress Linda Staab in 1974.
“The breaks all fell my way,” said
Vaughn in 2006.
But was he really as cool as he
appeared to his adoring audience?
“Not according to my wife,” Vaughn
chuckled. “She’s married to the guy who doesn’t take the garbage out on
Tuesday evenings, the guy she battles with to get me out of my jumpsuit and
running shoes. She doesn’t allow me in public unless I wear a tie and a
Johnny Depp joins
‘Fantastic Beasts’ sequel
Los Angeles (AP) —
Johnny Depp is about to enter a world of magic. The actor is set to be part
of “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find
Them” in a secretive role according to a Warner Bros. representative.
Depp will appear in a cameo in the
first film, which opens on Nov. 18, and have a bigger role alongside star
Eddie Redmayne in the sequel in 2018.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find
Them” is based on Rowling’s book of the same name and set 60 years earlier
than Harry Potter in 1926 New York. There are five films planned in the
Warner Bros. franchise.
Depp is no stranger to franchises,
having led both the live-action “Alice” films and “The Pirates of the
Caribbean,” both for Disney.
Film Review: ‘Doctor Strange’ dazzles with mind-bending visuals
released by Disney shows Benedict Cumberbatch in a scene from Marvel’s
“Doctor Strange.” (Disney/Marvel via AP)
Los Angeles (AP) - No affinity
for superheroes or familiarity with Marvel mythology is required to enjoy
the visual spectacle that is “Doctor Strange.” Being open to mysticism and
the possibility of parallel dimensions might help, though.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays the title
character in this origin story, where plot is secondary to dazzling special
effects that invert gravity, reverse time and twist buildings like blocks in
a Rubik’s Cube. It’s worth it to watch the film in 3-D, and on an IMAX
screen if possible (as this critic did), for an immersive, almost
psychedelic experience. Two spectacular action sequences in the third act
are enough to justify the ticket price.
Dr. Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) is a
brilliant, arrogant neurosurgeon. He’s a know-it-all about medicine and
music; a materialist with an expansive apartment and a drawer full of
designer watches. His commuter car is a Lamborghini, and he’s speeding
around curves in it when he’s distracted by a text and flies off a cliff.
He awakens from surgery to finds his hands shattered and held together with
a series of metal pins.
Despondent because he can’t work,
Strange travels to Nepal, where he believes a healer may have cured someone
from complete paralysis. He ends up at a palace where he meets the
mysterious Mordor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton),
warriors who introduce him to magical powers and mystical realms. As a
scientist, Strange dismisses their teachings (“I do not believe in
fairytales about chakras”), but desperation — and a bizarre trip down a
third-eye wormhole — make him a believer.
Meanwhile, one of the Ancient One’s
former students (Mads Mikkelsen, always an excellent villain) has gone
rogue, using the mystical teachings to connect with dark forces. He and his
minions believe they’ll receive eternal life if they destroy the sanctums of
the Ancient One’s power, which are conveniently located in New York, London
and Hong Kong — all dynamic settings for destruction and mind-bending magic.
Each of the city sequences look great,
but the New York scenes are truly phenomenal. In the hands of director
Scott Derrickson and the special-effects artists who worked on “Guardians of
the Galaxy,” the Big Apple becomes mesmerizingly Escher-esque: a disjointed,
gravity-ignorant collection of streets and buildings.
While some of the magical elements may
be far out (a levitating cape, for example), the Ancient One’s messages are
grounded in contemporary pop psychology and spirituality. She says things
like, “We never lose our demons, we only learn to live above them,” and
“Silence your ego and your power will rise.” Coming from a bald Tilda
Swinton, it sounds more insightful than preachy.
The film addresses such sweeping
concepts as death and time, but only to define the characters’ motives.
Some of the messages may be worth contemplating, but “Doctor Strange” is not
a message movie. It is a visual delight, where the spiritual notion that
not all can be explained by science allows for an “Inception”-like
unraveling of reality.
Be sure to stay through the credits for
two delicious Marvel “Easter eggs.” One involves a massive, self-refilling
beer and the other teases a possible “Strange” future.
“Doctor Strange,” a Walt Disney Studios
release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for
“sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence.”
Running time: 115 minutes. Three stars out of four.
Iggy Pop: Jarmusch was first,
only choice for Stooges doc
In this May
20, 2016 file photo, director Jim Jarmusch, left and singer Iggy Pop, pose
at the screening of the film “Gimme Danger,” at the 69th international film
festival, Cannes, southern France. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
Birmingham, Mich. (AP) — In
1969, Jim Jarmusch got his hands on The Stooges’ self-titled debut album,
and the 16-year-old future filmmaker from Ohio was hooked.
“We were partly plotting our escape
from Akron in the future and we were investigating whatever stuff we could
get our hands on that was a little outside,” said Jarmusch, seated in a
Detroit-area hotel suite next to Iggy Pop, frontman of both the band and
Jarmusch’s new documentary of the group called “Gimme Danger.” ‘’We were
Midwestern ... and suddenly that was like, wow, this is our stuff: This is
working-class, wild-ass primal music. Yeah, that had a big effect.”
The attraction never wavered, so
Jarmusch said he eagerly accepted Pop’s invitation four decades later to
make a film about the band. While technically it qualifies as a
documentary, Jarmusch prefers terms like “celebration” and “investigation of
context and influences.” Or, as he declares early in the film, “We are ...
interrogating Jim Osterberg about the Stooges — the greatest rock ‘n’ roll
Whatever it’s called, it’s a compelling
story about Osterberg — who became Iggy Pop — and his band that included
late brothers Ron and Scott Asheton and James Williamson. The film
chronicles the band’s rise from the outskirts of Detroit to dissolution amid
drugs and commercial indifference — but not before releasing sonic blasts
that would inspire hordes of fans and bands, including the Sex Pistols,
Ramones, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Then, there’s The
Stooges’ resurrection in the 2000s, when Pop says they reunified to “finish
up the job” with new music, triumphant tours and induction into the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame.
The singer, who grew up near the
college town of Ann Arbor, had long thought the story of his pioneering,
proto-punk band, The Stooges, deserved to be told on film. But he “didn’t
ask two people to do the damn movie, I asked one person.”
“(Jarmusch) knew all about the group
and he had been coming to our shows anyway for no reason except to come to
the show. He’s his own person, artistically,” said the 69-year-old Pop,
dressed all in black save for some colorful sandals. “I thought, well, this
would be a great opportunity, it would elevate the group to have someone of
this stature see whatever they see and share that with people. And I knew
he had the ability.”
Pop, who in person and on film candidly
discusses his earlier appetite for drugs and the band’s propensity for
self-sabotage, said he was still “shocked” to see “Gimme Danger” start with
the 1970s demise and then move backward and forward from there. But he
welcomed the “unique” approach of Jarmusch, which included animation,
handwritten text and less-than-precise editing in an effort to “be true to
The Stooges,” according to the filmmaker.
Jarmusch calls it an “emotional
decision” to structure the film the way he did, because hindsight offers the
chance to view The Stooges’ early failure far differently. He calls the
first three albums — “The Stooges,” ‘’Fun House,” and “Raw Power” — “a
classic gift to rock ‘n’ roll music” featuring songs like “I Wanna Be Your
Dog,” ‘’Search and Destroy” and “T.V. Eye.”
“They had made those three things and
now they’re 23, 24 years old going home to their moms because they’re
rejected by the world,” said Jarmusch, as Pop laughs heartily alongside
him. “I made my first feature film, ‘Permanent Vacation,’ when I was 26
years old. These guys had already made these three records and gone home.
... Let’s just start with what they did and how they were treated by the
The comment leads to an easy, brotherly
back-and-forth between filmmaker and subject. “To be fair to the world,”
Pop says, Jarmusch took the time to get a “proper education.” The New York
filmmaker of “Broken Flowers” and “Only Lovers Left Alive” admits he
“wouldn’t have been ready,” but praises The Stooges for their early gusto:
“You just went for it.”
Pop allows that he could have been
“more sensible” and “should have taken some music lessons, some singing
“I’m glad you didn’t,” Jarmusch said.
Hells Bells: UFO land centre-stage in St. Albans
The UK leg of the
current tour by British rockers UFO only took in a few dates this year,
which was unfortunate as I’m sure they would have sold out many more venues
off the back of their latest album “A Conspiracy of Stars.”
Phil Mogg, Andy Parker,
Paul Raymond, Vinnie Moore and Rob De Luca all put in amazingly fresh and
full on performances during the gig I attended at the Alban Arena in St.
Albans on October 25, they just didn’t put a foot wrong! As regular UFO
concert going fans have grown accustomed to, it was a mixture of the band’s
classic anthems with a sprinkling of newer material.
At curtain up, four
members of the group initially bounded onto the stage, minus Phil, who
ambled on at a more leisurely pace. I think everyone at this point was a
tad worried, as Phil’s newly shaved head, which amplified the spotlight and
almost drowned out his facial features, coupled with a slightly hunched
gait, meant that for a moment he looked his age. However, as soon as he
said “Hi” to the audience and broke straight into “Ain’t No Baby”, any fears
were soon diminished. No, there definitely was nothing wrong, as he belted
out the song in his usual pitch perfect way. What followed was a perfectly
executed performance from everyone, and even the crowd were in good voice!
One of the things I
(and I’m sure a lot of other UFO fans) admire so much about Moggy, is the
infectious typically British humour and banter that pours from him in such a
natural unscripted way. The rapport he creates with this intimate exchange
with the audience is almost unique. So refreshing and uplifting to hear,
rather than the boring lack-lustre song introductions you get from so many
of the younger bands these days. I received a very unexpected short but
sweet personal dedication! Even then his tongue in cheek approach came to
the fore when he muddled up my surname, only to correct it a few seconds
later much to the amusement of the gathered masses.
Mogg’s vocal ability
has definitely not suffered over time, clear and at full throttle he masters
every note with no gimmicks or embellishments needed. Not always perfect,
but totally natural and the way it should be.
UFO, despite the change
in line-ups over the years, have always geared towards the guitarist taking
centre stage. This night was no exception. Moore’s spectacular renditions
of Schenker’s classic riffs and solos were performed to perfection, adding
his own flair to the mix but somehow staying true to the original sound, no
easy feat for even the most experienced axe-man. You have to bear in mind
that Moore is from the neo-classical school of shred, but his unique tone
creates a perfect complimentary match to the harder edged rock sound of UFO.
Paul Raymond is the man
behind the keys, synths and rhythm guitars, but equally adept at taking
charge on lead guitar as need be. This, as well as superb backing vocals
and harmonies, show what an amazing all-rounder he is, an integral part of
the band. The stand-out performance from Raymond at this gig had to be
“Love to Love”, where he really proved a powerhouse with his haunting
melodies, truly majestic.
Andy Parker has been a
regular stalwart over the years, and still continues to hammer out the
percussive backbone of UFO, which drives the music. Then not forgetting
bassist De Luca who had the dubious task of filling the boots of the long
missing Pete Way. Not an envious undertaking it has to be said but he did a
lot more than just play stand-in, he’s proved a worthy replacement in the
way he commands his instrument and provides some truly memorable melodic
bass lines and rhythmic rumble.
The band were rock
solid on the night - the UFO machine warming up and gathering speed with
every song. Personal highlights for me were “Love to Love”, “Cherry”, “Rock
Bottom” “Lights Out” and of course “Doctor Doctor”. The band members were
really fired up by the closing stages of the encore, but alas it was the end
of the night. Come on guys, more dates around the world needed!
1. Ain’t No Baby
2. We Belong to the
3. Fight Night
4. Run Boy Run
5. Lights Out
7. Only You Can Rock Me
8. Burn Your House Down
10. Love to Love
11. Messiah of Love
12. Makin’ Moves
13. Rock Bottom
14. Doctor Doctor
15. Shoot Shoot
ABBA members to launch
‘new digital experience’ next year
members of Swedish pop group ABBA, from left, Benny Andersson, Agnetha
Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Anni-Frid Lyngstad are shown together in this
March 14, 1980 file photo. (AP Photo/Tsugufumi Matsumoto)
New York (AP) - The members of
ABBA are reuniting for a “new digital experience” next year.
The iconic Swedish pop band made the
announcement recently but didn’t offer much in the way of details. They
said they are teaming up with Universal Music Group and entertainment mogul
Simon Fuller (“American Idol,” Spice Girls) to “create an original
entertainment experience ... that will enable a new generation of fans to
see, hear, and feel ABBA in a way previously unimagined.”
“We are exploring a new technological
world that will allow us to create new forms of entertainment and content we
couldn’t have previously imagined,” Fuller said in a statement.
ABBA’s Benny Andersson described the
virtual experience as “a time machine that captures the essence of who we
were …and are. We’re inspired by the limitless possibilities of what the
future holds and love being a part of creating something new and dramatic
ABBA includes Andersson, Agnetha
Faltskog, Bjoern Ulvaeus and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. The group formed in
Stockholm in 1972 and after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 the
quartet went on to become one of the best selling pop music acts in history.
They last performed together 35 years ago. The four members made a rare
joint appearance in January for the opening of a Stockholm restaurant
inspired by the “Mamma Mia!” musical.
Lyngstad said fans around the world
always ask about a reunion, and said: “So I hope this new ABBA creation will
excite them as much as it excites me.”
Nepal’s most popular Buddhist
nun is a musical rock star
and musician Ani Choying Drolma performs during a concert in Mumbai, India,
Oct. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)
Kathmandu, Nepal (AP) — There is
one Buddhist nun everyone in Nepal knows by name — not because she’s a
religious icon and a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, nor for her work running a
girl’s school and a hospital for kidney patients.
Ani Choying Drolma is famous as one of
the country’s biggest pop stars.
With more than 12 albums of melodious
Nepali tunes and Tibetan hymns that highlight themes of peace and harmony,
the songstress in saffron robes has won hearts across the Himalayan nation
“I am totally against the conservative,
conventional idea of a Buddhist nun,” the 45-year-old nun said. Some people
“think a Buddhist nun should be someone who does not come out in the media
so much, who is isolated ... always in a monastery, always shy. But I don’t
believe in that.”
Neither do her fans, who greet her with
a roar of applause whenever she walks out on stage, and fall silent as she
closes her eyes to sing.
“Every time I get frustrated with life
or get angry, I just listen to Ani’s music and I calm down,” said one fan,
Sunil Tuladhar. “She is my music goddess.”
But with a career deviating sharply
from what conservatives in Nepal believe to be the proper path of a
Buddhist, she’s caught criticism as well. One Buddhist monk at the famed
Swayambhu Shrine questioned how she can reconcile the simple life of a
religious ascetic with the fame and wealth she’s amassed over her two-decade
“How can a nun be making money by
selling her voice, living a luxurious life and yet claim she is a nun?”
Surya Shakya asked.
Despite her fame, Drolma looks every
bit the typical Nepalese Buddhist nun, with her hair shaved short and an
ever-present smile. She travels the world giving concerts in countries
including the United States, Brazil, China and India.
Popular composer Nhyoo Bajracharya, who
has worked with Drolma, describes her music as a fusion of traditional
Tibetan and Nepali styles. “They are religious songs, slow rock with
flavors of blues and jazz combined,” he said.
But Drolma believes her singing goes
beyond delivering a catchy tune. Her 2004 hit “Phoolko Aankhama,” which
means “Eyes of the Flower” in the Nepali language, features lyrics that
touch on religious teachings: “May my heart always be pure/May my words be
always word of wisdom/May the sole of my feet never kill an insect.”
Her singing offers listeners a way to
practice meditation and “is about invoking a spiritual quality,” she said in
a recent interview with the Associated Press. “That is what I rejoice in.”
She refused to say how much money she
has earned from album sales and concerts, but said she donates much of it to
education charities through her Nun’s Welfare Foundation and runs a kidney
Still, compared with most Nepalese
living in this impoverished mountain nation, Drolma lives like a rock star —
with a luxury car and a new home in an upscale neighborhood of the capital
“It is a very conservative point of
view thinking that a nun should be poor and wearing rags. That’s a wrong
attitude,” she said. “My concerts make very good money, my CD sales make
very good money, and I think that helps me to afford such a comfortable
Drolma said she was 13 when her mother
allowed her to join the Nagi Gompa nunnery to escape from an abusive
father. She also dreaded getting married, as she would likely have been
forced to do as it was the custom in Nepal at the time.
“I had the impression that getting
married was the worst thing to do in life,” she said.
At the nunnery, just north of
Kathmandu, she learned to chant the Buddhist scriptures. But while most
recited the lines quickly, she stood out — chanting melodiously and drawing
the other nuns’ admiration.
In 1994, American musician Steve
Tibbetts visited the nunnery and, being impressed with her voice, recorded
her singing. He returned after receiving interest from U.S. record
companies, and recorded Drolma’s first album, “Cho,” released in 1997.
The album royalties and performance
fees that came after left Drolma a bit stunned. Most Nepalese have humble
lives, with a quarter of the country’s 28 million people living in poverty
and heavily reliant on subsistence farming and remittances from family
members working abroad.
“The question was, what do I do with
the money?” she said. “I realized that this money can help me fulfill my
dream, so that is how I started the school.”
She set up an educational foundation
and opened the Arya Tara school, on a mountainside just south of Kathmandu.
The boarding school offers about 80 girls, aged about 5 to 18, free lessons
in Buddhist scripture as well as math, science and computer skills. The
foundation also covers the cost of sending the girls to college.
The students, similarly clad in saffron
robes, giggle and smile when talking about Drolma.
“Ani is more than my mother. My mother
gave me birth, but Ani raised me, gave me education, took care of me and is
the only reason that I have reached this far,” said 17-year-old Dolma Lhamu,
who is now enrolled in college.
Drolma is similarly adored at the
kidney hospital she runs in Kathmandu, where hundreds of patients receive
free dialysis twice a week.
She said it’s her work at the hospital
and school that keep her singing and accepting invitations to perform. For
the critics who question her globe-trotting lifestyle or high income, she
has little patience.
“People in society will have different
opinions,” she said. “I try my best to see how I can improve my attitude
toward life, toward people and toward the world, and to find ways to make
the best use of my life.
“I am famous today, but tomorrow people
will not know me. It fades away. That is the reality,” she said.
Explorer claims he’s located famous pirate ship’s treasure
explorer Barry Clifford stands next to a display case containing silver
coins recovered from the wreckage of the pirate ship Whydah Gally, at the
Whydah Pirate Museum, in Yarmouth, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Yarmouth, Mass. (AP)
- The undersea explorer who discovered the Whydah Gally, the first
authenticated pirate shipwreck in North America, believes he’s found where
the ship’s legendary treasure lies after more than 30 years of poking around
the murky waters off Cape Cod.
Barry Clifford told the
Associated Press his expedition recently located a large metallic mass that
he’s convinced represents most if not all of the 400,000 coins and other
riches believed to be contained on the ship.
Archaeologist Chris Macort holds a bronze wheel wax seal recovered from the
wreckage of the pirate ship Whydah Gally. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
“We think we might be
at the end of the rainbow,” Clifford said in the recently opened Whydah
Pirate Museum on Cape Cod, where many of the expedition’s finds are now
and historians say they’re intrigued but remain skeptical, mostly because
he’s been disproved on other finds.
“Barry Clifford’s many
claims can be very exciting, if they can be verified with photographs or
scientific proof,” said Paul Johnston, a curator at the Smithsonian’s
National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. who specializes in
shipwrecks. “Until then, it’s just talk.”
The former slave ship,
commanded by the English pirate Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy, went down in
stormy seas off Wellfleet, Massachusetts, in 1717, killing all but a handful
of the nearly 150-person crew. It’s believed the heavily laden ship sunk
quickly, leaving the ill-gotten riches from over 50 ships at the bottom of
But Victor Mastone,
chief archaeologist for the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological
Resources, which oversees shipwrecks and other undersea finds, suggests the
pirates could have simply been lying.
“Did they brag more
than they should have? Who knows?” he said. “We know what the pirates said
Johnston and others as longtime opponents who have refused to treat his
team’s work seriously.
“Why would they be
bragging to the judge about how much treasure they stole? They were
hanged,” he said, referring to the fate that befell the surviving pirates of
explorer hopes to start investigating the suspected riches in the next few
weeks, but stressed the recovery process will take time. Once the mass is
located and raised, his team will need to gently break it down using
electrolysis and small hand tools.
“For me, it’d be great
to get it all finished, but it isn’t going to get done in my lifetime,”
Clifford said. “Archaeology doesn’t happen quickly, if you’re doing it
Since his 1984
discovery, Clifford and his team have returned nearly every year to the
wreck, over which he has special rights.
reclaimed some 200,000 artifacts, including thousands of silver Spanish
coins, hundreds of pieces and fragments of rare African gold jewelry, dozens
of cannons, various colonial-era objects and other prizes.
A new find at the wreck
that made him famous would be a coup for Clifford, who has been dealt major
setbacks on other recent expeditions.
In 2014, he claimed to
have found the wreck of the Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus’ flagship from
his first voyage to the Americas in 1492, off the coast of Haiti, only to
have researchers from UNESCO conclude it was more likely a ship from a later
era because of the presence of bronze and copper fasteners.
Then last year,
Clifford claimed to have located the infamous Scottish pirate Captain
William Kidd’s Adventure Galley off the coast of Madagascar. UNESCO again
threw cold water on the pronouncement, concluding an over 100-pound silver
ingot Clifford produced as proof of his find was actually 95 percent lead.
Ulrike Guérin, an
underwater heritage specialist at UNESCO, declined to comment on Clifford’s
latest claim but says the Haiti and Madagascar experiences highlight how the
explorer’s work lacks the “necessary scientific approach.”
Film Review: ‘Jack Reacher’ sequel not as good as 2012 original
Cruise is shown in a scene from, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.”
(Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions via AP)
Los Angeles (AP)
- It’s not the acting or the action that
makes “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” inferior to the original 2012 hit.
It’s the story.
The first film,
“Jack Reacher,” established the title character as a brilliant, brutal
loner dedicated to justice. He’s a former military officer turned
drifter, unfettered by emotional ties, motivated purely by exacting
What makes an
archetypal character like this fun to watch is an unpredictable story,
where the audience and protagonist together uncover the mystery. The
2012 film achieved this beautifully, packing action into a compelling
thriller that developed the villains as much as the hero.
In “Never Go Back,”
the bad guys are one-dimensional caricatures and the lone wolf is driven
by protecting a teenager whom he insists from the start isn’t his
daughter. This leaves the film riding on its action sequences and the
charm of its central characters, played by Tom Cruise and Cobie
Smulders. And while they’re incredibly appealing, they can’t do more
than the story allows.
Cruise, who has
made himself this generation’s ultimate action star, is perfect as Jack
Reacher. He’s steely, strong and almost accidentally handsome. The
ageless actor does most of his own stunts and effectively uses his eyes
to convey his character’s guarded sensitivity.
played a small role in the “Avengers” films, proves herself an action
star and leading lady as Susan Turner, an Army major who has taken over
Reacher’s post in the military police force. Turner is investigating
the murders of two soldiers in Afghanistan when she’s removed from her
office and jailed on espionage charges.
Reacher comes to
her aid, but another official warns him off, taunting him with a pending
paternity lawsuit that claims Reacher fathered a now 15-year-old girl.
Reacher denies it, but goes after the girl (Danika Yarosh) anyway.
Suddenly, he’ll do anything to protect her.
undoes the suspension of disbelief. Nothing about Reacher’s character
suggests he’s yearning for fatherhood, and yet she becomes his main
“Never Go Back” is
based on Lee Child’s 18th Reacher novel. The 2012 film was adapted from
a much earlier work in the series, so perhaps Reacher’s desire to be a
dad is covered in the volumes in between.
The teenager is the
pawn in this story as Reacher and Turner try to uncover corruption high
in the military ranks. They find that beyond a cover-up of the
soldiers’ murders, crooked officials may be supplying weapons to
insurgents in the Middle East. The villain appears to be a white guy in
a suit with an American flag pin on his lapel, but he isn’t named and
doesn’t speak until the film’s third act.
trenchcoated heavy (Patrick Heusinger) is tailing Reacher, Turner and
the teen. He’s the catalyst for the chases and fight scenes, which
director Edward Zwick cuts together so quickly, their grace is hard to
Still, there are
some breathtaking action sequences, including a chase through New
Orleans’ French Quarter that sees Reacher scaling wrought-iron balconies
above a bustling Halloween parade on Bourbon Street.
her share of the action and holds her own with Cruise, which is great to
see. Turner may be female, but her character’s depth and strength
matches Reacher’s. With Smulders and Yarosh on camera almost as much as
Cruise, “Never Go Back” doubles the number of key women from the 2012
film. If only the story was as good.
Never Go Back,” a Paramount Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the
Motion Picture Association of America for “sequences of violence and
action, some bloody images, language and thematic elements.” Running
time: 118 minutes. Two stars out of four.
Mott the Dog: Scorpions sling Singapore a golden performance
Scorpions’ Klaus Meine gives his all at the Suntec arena in Singapore,
Oct. 21, 2016.
Six years ago the Scorpions
announced their farewell to the world, however the end is still nowhere
in sight with the Hannover based band who were formed by guitarist
Rudolf Schenker way back in 1965, now celebrating their 50th
anniversary, although the first studio album ‘Lonesome Crow’ was
released back in 1972 just as heavy metal was laying down its earliest
Since then the Scorpions have
became a global household brand, conquering every continent on the
planet with their deadly sting of multi-million selling albums full of
power ballads and the very best in textbook heavy metal.
Schenker (left) and Matthias Jabs out front and rockin’.
For a population of just five and a
half million it’s amazing to see how popular the Scorpions are in multi-
ethnic Singapore, with 7,000 fans selling out the sixth floor Suntec
International Convention Hall, situated on the top floor of a grand
multi-storey shopping complex.
With an encyclopedia of tunes to
chose from you could be forgiven for thinking that the Scorpions would
stick to a greatest hits set at this stage in their long established
career, but this show was by no means a nostalgia trip as the German
band remain as relevant as ever and this night performed four songs from
their most recent album ‘Return To Forever’, which was released last
Ex-Motorhead drummer Mikkey Dee has made a seamless switch to the
That message was clear in the
opening statement of ‘Going Out With A Bang’ from that album followed by
the more popular ‘Make It Real’, which had the Singaporean flag
emblazoned on the visual screen backdrop, and the crunchy riff of ‘The
Zoo’ which saw all arms raised in a unified clap-along.
At 68 years old it’s understandable
why the Scorpions’ stalwarts are thinking about their retirement but an
athletic Rudolf Schenker has more energy than most men half his age and
Klaus Meine’s unique voice is in fine fettle and can still hit all the
Schenker plays to the crowd in Singapore.
‘Coast To Coast’ is one of the most
captivating instrumentals you’ll ever hear in a live setting, with
Schenker and Matthias Jabs out front giving their all while bassist
Pawel Maciwoda and Klaus Meine, adding guitar too, stand to their side
to give the band the appearance of the proud Four Horsemen. A
With so much to cram in, most of
their early 70's output was reduced to a medley at this concert. A
further collection of acoustics saw the Singapore crowd faithfully sing
along to ‘Always Somewhere’ and ‘Send Me An Angel’, their voices further
raised on the symbolic anthem of ‘Winds Of Change’, a single that sold
an amazing 14 million copies worldwide.
For those who think the Scorpions
are just a ballads band, you couldn’t be further from the truth as the
remainder of the show turned ultra heavy with the belting ‘Rock N Roll
Band’ and the explosive ‘Dynamite’ that got my head banging a good ‘un.
After 23 years service with
Motorhead new drummer Mikkey Dee has settled in with the Scorpions as if
he has been there for years, giving the Scorps a new injection of
brutality. His time with Motorhead wasn’t forgotten as a tribute to
Lemmy came with a colossal version of ‘Overkill’ that saw a projection
of Marshall amps and portraits of the iconic hero, which brought an
emotional tear to the eyes of many. A most fitting tribute.
Scorpions soak up the applause.
The Scorpions are the masters of
how to use a stage, making maximum use of their area with every band
member shaping themselves in choreographed moves like true
The rocket ride of ‘Blackout’ saw
more madcap facial expressions from Schenker, ‘No One Like You’ hit the
roof, with Matthias Jabs looking the real guitar god along with Schenker
and ‘Big City Nights’ was the perfect anthem for this colourful bustling
The power ballad ‘Still Loving You’
was the first encore, with the evening getting a knockout ending with
the simplicity of the mighty ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’, which blew the
roof off the Suntec.
The Scorpions are still very much
at the top of their game.
(Photos courtesy Aloysius Lim &
Alvin Ho - LAMC Productions).