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Update October 2016


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Update October 29, 2016

Film Review:Riveting ‘Deepwater Horizon’ captivates throughout

This image shows Mark Wahlberg in a scene from, “Deepwater Horizon.” (David Lee/Summit via AP)

Lindsey Bahr

Los Angeles (AP) - We all know how “Deepwater Horizon “ ends.  When the BP oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, 11 people died and millions of gallons of oil spewed into the waters and up against the Gulf shores in the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

The story of the aftermath, even 6 years later, is still being written.  The how-did-it-happen is another thing, and the point of director Peter Berg’s intensely thrilling indictment of the greed and gross negligence that contributed to the horrific outcome.

Like the best true stories translated to film, this well-known ending works for Berg, not against him.  He and writers Matthew Sand and Matthew Michael Carnahan know, as Ron Howard did with “Apollo 13” and James Cameron knew with “Titanic,” that it’s not about whether they live or they die or if the ship goes down or all are saved.  It’s about the process and those decisions, big or small, corrupt or well-intentioned, that made this disaster inevitable.

Based on a New York Times article, “Deepwater Horizon’s Final Hours,” the film is about the crew — the men and women aboard just doing their jobs.  Mark Wahlberg anchors as Mike Williams, a no-nonsense engineer, who leaves his wife (Kate Hudson) and precocious daughter at home for his dangerous job on the rig.  An early scene with a school science project spells out exactly what he and his co-workers do and foreshadows what will go wrong.  It’s the kind of set up that on paper likely seems too cutesy, but here, it not only works, it actually builds tension rather effectively.

“Deepwater Horizon” rises above expectations of what a movie like this is capable of at every turn — restrained where you think it might go too big or sentimental, and genuinely affecting when you think you’re gearing up for an eye-roll.  Wahlberg may be an easy punchline, but he’s an underrated everyman and at his subdued best here.  Even Hudson, in the generally thankless concerned-wife role, makes it seem worthwhile.

It’s a welcome step up for Berg, too, whose patriotic bombast and cliche romanticism overwhelmed “Lone Survivor.”  Here, you really internalize the plight and rage of the workers, even though most people in the audience aren’t likely to ever set foot on an oil rig.

When Kurt Russell’s crew leader Jimmy Harrell gets angry at the corporate brass for having neglected to perform some critical safety tests, you’re angry right along with him.  The execs like Don Vidrine (a perfectly slimy John Malkovich) see only that they’re behind schedule and over budget and are cutting corners with abandon even as the rig seems to be faltering underneath them.

Jimmy and Mike eventually convince them to run a few tests — a white knuckle endeavor for everyone involved and, well, you can torture a statistic until it talks and it seems it might be the same for a pressure test.  So they proceed, and, of course, things go spectacularly wrong.

It is a spectacle indeed — a must-see horror of fire and oil as this unbelievably massive structure explodes and crumbles around all the people we’ve gotten to know, like Gina Rodriguez’s Andrea Fleytas, Dylan O’Brien’s Caleb Holloway and Ethan Suplee’s Jason Anderson.  It’s the rare film that can make you care about, and be able to tell the difference between, over a dozen characters.

I would have liked to have seen more of the rescue efforts from the Navy, more of the aftermath, but Berg keeps things focused, and the movie is likely better off for it.  “Deepwater Horizon” achieves that impossible balance of being a tribute to the workers who both perished and survived that day and a searing critique of the rotten system that put them there in the first place.

“Deepwater Horizon,” a Lionsgate release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “for prolonged intense disaster sequences and related disturbing images, and brief strong language.” Running time: 107 minutes.  Three and a half stars out of four.


Mott the Dog: Pop’s All Stars keep Pattaya rockin’

Pop’s Pattaya All Stars/Band of Smiles rockin’ it up at The Venue.

A small trip out of Pattaya down Siam Country Club Road towards Lake Mabprachan takes you past The Venue, one of Pattaya’s premier rock‘n’roll pubs.  On a recent visit there Mott the Dog was entertained by a great double bill of Pop’s Pattaya All Stars (a super group of local Thai musicians, the crème de la crème if you like) and a set by the Band of Smiles, which is Pop’s Pattaya All Stars plus the addition of Rick and Harpic Bryant.

Walking through the door our group was warmly welcomed by The Venue’s manageress Saruda Mokarat and shown to a bunch of tables well located at the side of the stage, with Pop already rockin’ away and leading his All Stars through their paces.  They opened with a couple of instrumentals until breaking into Gary Moore’s “Still Got the Blues”, which really set the mood for a great musical evening.

The ever vigilant Pop noticed one patron wearing a vintage UFO t-shirt so next up we got “Doctor Doctor”.  Needless to say the t-shirt wearer was soon leaping about all over the place in ecstasy.  Ae, the lead singer for the All Stars is a real talent and can turn his hand to any form of music, but he really excels on the out and out rockers.

The All Stars kept on rockin’ until it came time to change the bands banner and become the Band of Smiles.  The opening number “Nutbush City Limits” smoothly segued into “The Riverboat Song” and they were up and flying.

Harpic has developed into one of the finest singers, a real joy to hear and watch.  Husband Rick drives away at the rhythm guitar plus playing the odd solo when he can fit it in.  But this gives the band that extra powerful drive, allowing Pop to let rip on guitar.  Rick’s presence also leaves space for the other musicians on stage to shine as well.  With Big-T thrashing out the beat on the drums, Au driving the band along on bass and Toto (the magician of the keyboards) weaving his spells, what you are listening to is genuinely down and dirty rock music.

The band not only played brilliantly but also put on a show too, with constant movement on stage and shapes being thrown at every opportunity.  The Band of Smiles set came to its conclusion with a raucous version of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock‘n’Roll” with Harpic and Pop bringing the house down.  The audience demanded more and finally got what they asked for, with Harpic taking center stage for a solo version of “Mercedes Benz” (shut your eyes for a second and you could have been at the Royal Albert Hall listening to Janis Joplin.)

By no means finished, this brought Pop’s Pattaya All Stars back on the stage and not wishing to be outdone they came out with a point to prove.  They tore into the heavier end of their material, paying homage to the likes of Uriah Heep, Motorhead and Golden Earring and they literally had the audience in the palm of their hands.  After several rocking numbers things were brought to a conclusion by a simply stunning version of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”, with Pop’s guitar solo at the end faultless.  But still the crowd would not let them go, and we got some Chuck Berry to send us on our way.

Live music at The Venue offers a great evening out and Pop’s Pattaya All Stars play Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (you have to be a bit lucky to catch the whole of the Band of Smiles).  If you are out that way and have at least a few rock & roll bones in your body, be sure to call in - you will not be disappointed!


Astley never stops appreciating ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’

Singer Rick Astley poses for photos in New York to promote his first album of new music in 23 years. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Nekesa Mumbi Moody

New York (AP) — Rick Astley exiled himself from music for a good part of the last three decades, but he never really left pop’s consciousness.

For one, hits like “Never Gonna Give You Up” and “It Would Take A Strong Strong Man,” derided by critics as cheesy at the time, have endured.  Then there’s the whole rick-rolling phenomenon — when a promised link on a web site turns out instead to be an Astley video.

At first, Astley was annoyed by rick-rolling.  Then his daughter helped him realize that it was cool — and that it helped boost his profile during his fallow years by keeping his boyish face in ours.

He’s even more appreciative now as he releases “50,” his first album of new music in 23 years.

“The idea of me releasing a new record now — I need every bit of help I can get,” he quipped.

He may not have needed it as much as he thought: The album debuted at the top of the charts in his native United Kingdom, and when he performed his first U.S. shows in New York and Los Angeles over the summer, they sold out.  He wrapped up a short U.S. tour earlier this month.

The still boyish-looking Astley recently sat down with The Associated Press to talk about life after his ’80s pop success, rick-rolling and what music means to him now.

AP: During your break, did you ever long to get back to music?

Astley: I think you never lose that feeling of — ‘cause you know I still got an ego— whether you retire or not.  I mean, it’s still there and there is a little voice on your shoulder sort of saying, ‘You’re better than him.’... I think that is one the lucky things about what I chose to do and what I love to do, you know ... it is a young person’s world really, but you know an old boy like me can still make a record and can still make a bit of a splash.

AP: You think the whole ‘rick-roll’ thing was good for you?

Astley: Absolutely it was because I think if you’re doing anything like music or movies, there is so much competition. ... And also there have been some really, really clever things done with that song.  It has not just been rick-roll.  There have been so many different things.  One of my favorites is they got (President Barack) Obama to sing “Never Gonna Give You Up” (in a mash-up video) or say it at least, which I thought was brilliant.  I mean, it’s obviously somebody with too much time on their hands, but they also did that with “Mad Men” as well.

AP: There are some artists who only want to perform their new songs.  What’s your take?

Astley: I’m not really in that camp, to be honest, because I had a long break from it, so it’s not like I have been singing those tunes for 30 years.  You know, I am fully aware of the fact that the only reason — you know we had a No. 1 album in the U.K. with this record — it’s like the reason it got played on the radio with the first couple of tunes and stuff. ... When we play live and stuff, there is a part of me thinking, ‘Great, we are going to finish “Never Gonna Give You Up,” and I know every single person in this room or in this field knows that tune.’  They might not all like it, but I know they all know it.

AP: What do you think of your music legacy?  Are you resentful that some dismissed your music at the time?

Astley: No. I mean if I’d been a journalist and I had been reviewing my records ... you know I’m not so sure what I would think of it either.  I mean, I think there are some really great strong pop songs ... but just looking at it you kind of think. ‘Well yeah, but it’s a bit manufactured. ‘ ... I don’t hold any grudges for people who had a go at me, you know what I mean?  That’s for sure.


In ‘Voyage,’ the history of life on a very big screen

This image shows a scene from “Voyage of Time,” by filmmaker Terrence Malick. (IMAX via AP)

Jake Coyle

Los Angeles (AP) - About 20 years ago, Andrew Knoll, a professor of natural history and NASA consultant, was sitting in his office at Harvard when he got a strange phone call.

“The person on the other end of the line said, ‘My name is Terry Malick.  I’m interested in making a film about the history of life.  I’m going to be in Cambridge next month.  Could we have lunch?” Knoll recalls.  “I must admit, it was probably halfway through lunch when it just dawned on me: ‘Hey, this guy made “Badlands.’’’”

Malick, who never does interviews or public appearances, is perhaps the movies’ most secretive filmmaker and for years, the project was the subject of whispers and rumor.  Meanwhile, as he was churning out films like “The Tree of Life” and “The Thin Red Line,” Malick was quietly and persistently pursuing a long-held dream of seemingly impossible ambition: to make a movie about life as we know it.

Now viewers of Malick’s “Voyage of Time”, set to land in IMAX theaters this month, will find a film of vast majesty that welcomes all comers with open arms.  The movie goes so far as to include yourself, whenever you examine a little rock, or a leaf.  You and they, as you will see, belong to the same story.”

For a filmmaker who has always been animated by a profound and inexhaustible sense of wonder, “Voyage of Time” is perhaps Malick distilled down to his essence.  There’s no story except for the elemental marveling and metaphysical quest that make the backbone of the director’s other films. (“The Tree of Life” memorably widened its scope of a Texas family to include the universe and dinosaurs.)

The film’s basis is in science (Knoll served as chief science adviser) but it’s told with a poetic rapture at the miracles and mysteries of life.  The 45-minute film, narrated by Brad Pitt, travels from the Big Bang to today, merging the personal with the universal, filled with awe for “every atom, every particle blazing.”

The film was made with a mix of shooting around the globe with IMAX cameras, footage gleaned from the Hubble telescope, re-creations and a sizable amount of digital effects of prehistoric times that were overseen by Dan Glass (“The Matrix,” ‘’Batman Begins”).  Malick occasionally met with Knoll and other scientists to go over the chronology and evolutions.

“It’s this history and theoretical future seen through the eyes of one of our greatest artists,” says Sarah Green, a regular producer of Malick’s.  “I think it can play day and night, absolutely.  We have a G rating.  There’s nobody who can be kept out of it.  But there’s obviously some very mature thinking.”

A 90-minute version narrated by Cate Blanchett where the journey is a little less guided will also be released sometime next year.  But “Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience” will play like a science documentary in IMAX’s museum network, in aquariums and science centers.

Malick’s film had been a known project for years at IMAX but it wasn’t until a few years ago that it began coming together.  Greg Foster, chief executive of IMAX, had been interested in finding new life in the exhibitor’s legacy business of nature documentaries through less traditional films.  After a call from Malick, he flew out to meet him in Austin, Texas, and see the movie.

“I won’t pretend, there aren’t some bucket-list realities to this.  There aren’t a lot of opportunities to work with Terrence Malick.  He doesn’t make a lot of movies,” says Foster.  “And when he does, and he makes one that’s designed for our format, you have to ask yourself if it’s too good to be true.”

The film will remain in IMAX theaters for months if not years.

“It’s not going to change much over the next 30 years in terms of the world,” says Foster.  “It’s the kind of thing that’s going to stick around.  We won’t know how this movie is doing for six months.”

Like most of Malick’s movies, “Voyage of Time” is as lofty as it is basic, immense as it is intimate, spiritual as it is scientific.  When preparing the film, Malick shared with producers an Albert Einstein quotation that guided the entire enterprise:

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the source of all true art and science.  He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead - his eyes are closed.”


Update October 15, 2016

Film Review: ‘The Magnificent Seven’ rides again, with more guns

From left, Byung-hun Lee, Ethan Hawke, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Vincent D’Onofrio and Martin Sensmeier appear in a scene from “The Magnificent Seven.” (Sam Emerson/Sony Pictures via AP)

Lindsey Bahr

Los Angeles (AP) - Deciding to remake “The Magnificent Seven “ with a fresh batch of movie stars is certainly no sin.  John Sturges’ 1960 tome, itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s classic “Seven Samurai,” is a fun confection of star power and charismatic bravado, sure, but held in such high esteem probably more because of Elmer Bernstein’s iconic score than anything else.  Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a ragtag group of outlaws banding together to defeat a powerful bully?

But director Antoine Fuqua doesn’t exactly elevate that now well-trod premise in this dutiful and solid rehashing of the seven gunmen who attempt to save a terrorized town, even if he does up the shoot-em-up action (and body count).  Bernstein’s score is given a few nods throughout the film, but saved in full for the final credits.  Thus, it’s left to the actors to carry us through the over two-hour running time.

You could do worse than putting it all in the capable hands of Denzel Washington, with some help from Chris Pratt.  Washington, as the steely-eyed bounty hunter Sam Chisolm, is the de facto leader, the Yul Brynner of the group.  His out-of-use heart starts beating again when the recently widowed Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) begs him to return to her small farming town of Rose Creek to save them from the terror of greedy industrialist Bartholomew Bogue, played with delicious, over-the-top menace by Peter Sarsgaard.

Bogue is running a mining operation nearby and wants their land, too.  He’ll either pay the residents of Rose Creek an unfairly low price for it or force them to leave (already a less compelling idea than taking the food they’ve grown, but this “farming town” does very little farming anyway).  Fuqua takes no time easing into the story, starting out with an all-out massacre in the town.

For about an hour, things are fairly fun as Chisolm recruits the other six.  Pratt’s Josh Faraday is the first up — a bemused gambler with enemies to spare and a fondness for whiskey who signs up for the mission to try to win back his horse.  They find a legendary Civil War vet Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and his blade-wielding buddy Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee) — who gets to put his own spin on the memorable gun vs. knife duel.

There’s the bearlike, shell-shocked tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), the Mexican gunslinger Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and an exiled Native American, Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).  It’s a delightfully diverse little group, but unfortunately the script, credited to “True Detective” creator Nic Pizzolatto and “The Equalizer” scribe Richard Wenk, doesn’t spend much time getting to know these men.  What is there isn’t nearly clever, funny or insightful enough to make up for that.  It felt like no one ever quite agreed on what the tone should be.  Fun?  Nihilistic?  Folksy?  Irreverent?  Sincere?  It’s all over the place and it’s not good.  The actors do their best, but when even Pratt struggles to sell a joke, you know you’re in trouble.

All dialogue, however, gets drowned out eventually as the movie gives way to the extremely long and frustratingly illogical final showdown with a Marvel-sized body count that nonetheless provides some exhilarating moments for Washington, Pratt and a few others.  The pieces are there but never quite come together.  By the time Bernstein’s score plays and the credits start rolling, it’s a little too late to do anything besides make you even more nostalgic for what came before.

“The Magnificent Seven,” a Sony Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material.”  Running time: 132 minutes.  Two and a half stars out of four.


Scholars who studied liars, put pants on rats win Ig Nobels

Thomas Thwaites (left) accepts the Ig Nobel prize in biology for creating prosthetic extensions of his limbs that allowed him to move like and roam in the company of goats. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Mark Pratt

Boston, Mass. (AP) - A Swede who wrote a trilogy about collecting bugs, an Egyptian doctor who put pants on rats to study their sex lives and a British researcher who lived like an animal have been named winners of the Ig Nobels, the annual spoof prizes for quirky scientific achievement.

The winners were honored - or maybe dishonored - in a zany ceremony at Harvard University last month.

The 26th annual event featured a paper airplane air raid and a tic-tac-toe contest with a brain surgeon, a rocket scientist and four real Nobel laureates.

Human Aeorodrome Eric Workman acts as a target for paper airplanes during the Ig Nobel award ceremonies at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Sept. 22. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Winners receive $10 trillion cash prizes — in virtually worthless Zimbabwean money.

This year’s Ig Nobels, sponsored by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, included research by Fredrik Sjoberg, who published three volumes about collecting hoverflies on the sparsely populated Swedish island where he lives.

It sounds downright dull, but Sjoberg’s books are a hit in his homeland, and the first volume’s English translation, “The Fly Trap,” has earned rave reviews.

“I had written books for 15 years (read by no one) when I finally understood it’s a good thing to write about something you really know, no matter what that might be,” Sjoberg said in an email, describing the award as the pinnacle of his career.

“The Ig Nobel Prize beats everything,” he said.  “At last I hope to become a rock star.  Leather pants, dark sunglasses, groupies. All that.”

Ahmed Shafik decided rats needed pants.

He dressed his rodents in polyester, cotton, wool and polyester-cotton blend pants to determine the different textiles’ effects on sex drive.  The professor at Cairo University in Egypt, who died in 2007, found that rats that wore polyester or polyester blend pants displayed less sexual activity, perhaps because of the electrostatic charges created by polyester.  He suggested that the results could be applied to humans.

The study did not explain how he measured a rat’s waist and inseam.

Charles Foster, a fellow at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, won for literally living like an animal.  He spent months mimicking a badger, an otter, a fox, a deer and a bird in an attempt to see the world through their eyes, then wrote a book, “Being a Beast,” about his experiences.

He lived as a badger in a hole in a Welsh hillside; rummaged like a fox through trash cans in London’s East End looking for scraps of chicken tikka masala and pepperoni pizza; and was tracked by bloodhounds through the Scottish countryside to learn what it’s like to be a deer.

It wasn’t much fun.

“I was hunted down quite quickly,” he said.

Andreas Sprenger was part of a team at the University of Luebeck in Germany that found that if you have an itch on one arm, you can relieve it by looking in a mirror and scratching the opposite arm.  Sound silly?  But imagine, Sprenger said via email, if you have a skin condition with an intolerable itch, you can scratch the other arm to relieve it without rubbing the affected arm raw.

Gordon Logan, a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, and colleagues from Canada and Europe won for their research on lying.  Their study of more than 1,000 people who are ages 6 to 77 — “From junior to senior Pinocchio: A cross-sectional lifespan investigation of deception” — found that young adults are the best liars.

How do the scientists know their subjects weren’t lying to them?

“We don’t,” Logan said.


Update October 8, 2016

Film Review: ‘Blair Witch Project’ sequel gets lost in the woods

Valorie Curry is shown in a scene from “Blair Witch.”
(Chris Helcermanas-Benge/Lionsgate via AP)

Mark Kennedy

Los Angeles (AP) - People will have different reactions to the new “The Blair Witch Project” sequel, but one thing we all probably can agree on is this: We need to hurry up and clear-cut that haunted forest in Maryland, once and for all.

Even environmentalists would agree — what about a nice big parking lot? — after sitting through the harrowing “Blair Witch,” which takes place in the same creepy woods where three student filmmakers disappeared in the original.

Why either a new batch of kids or a new clutch of filmmakers have suited up to tramp around the Black Hills in search of the same angry witch is puzzling.  There’s an old saying that you can never go home again.  It is advice neither team took — and so they’re doomed.

“Blair Witch “ borrows most of the skeleton of the original 1999 film but ups the scariness at the cost of coherency.  Director Adam Wingard also strays from the found-footage concept and sometimes doesn’t even pretend that what we’re seeing was shot by anyone in the group.  That suspension of disbelief is important or why try a direct sequel at all? (By the way, we’re totally ignoring the quickie 2000 sequel “Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.”)

First a primer, in case you just wandered out of a haunted forest: “The Blair Witch Project” was a cultural sensation.  Shot for an initial budget of less than $50,000, it grossed just shy of $248 million, sparking trends in both found-footage horror and shaky-camera confessionals.

Its faux-documentary premise was that it was just stitched-together footage taken by three student filmmakers who went missing while witch hunting.  Directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Snchez did such a good job that audiences initially really believed three souls had been lost.

The original was quaint horror by today’s standard, more psychologically traumatizing and not at all gory.  The three students gradually turn on each other in the face of escalating hysteria — really just piles of rocks and weird stick figures.

It ended with a snot-nosed, half-faced apology by one victim.  In the sequel, her brother (James Allen McCune) is determined to find out what happened 20 years ago.  So he and three friends (Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid), incredibly, suit up to tramp in the same creepy woods.  By this time it should be clear that no one should ever wander off alone, even to relieve themselves.  Do these kids listen?

This time, our heroes are joined by some locals (Wes Robinson and Valorie Curry) who know the woods — but may have their own agenda — and writer Simon Barrett has weaved in a sly lesson about our confidence in high-tech gizmos.  The group seems invincible with their GPS, digital walkie-talkies, memory cards and earpieces. (They even brought a drone.)  Good luck with that, guys.

This sequel gets progressively messy while “The Blair Witch Project” grew progressively taut.  In this movie, the filmmakers throw out a lot of elements that are dead ends — double-crossing, infections and time shifts.  The film really only rights itself in the final, breathtaking sequences when the title character applies her special brand of pressure.

So, for those keeping score, it’s: Nosey Kids, 0; Blair Witch, 2.

It’s time to bulldoze, right?

“Blair Witch,” a Lionsgate, Vertigo Entertainment, Room 101 and Snoot Entertainment release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “language, terror and some disturbing images.” Running time: 89 minutes.  Two stars out of four.


In ‘Deepwater Horizon,’ an ecological disaster’s human toll

Mike Williams (center) an electrician and survivor on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, poses with Peter Berg (left) director of the film “Deepwater Horizon,” and cast member Mark Wahlberg at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Toronto. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Jake Coyle

Toronto (AP) - The name Deepwater Horizon is synonymous to most with environmental catastrophe and corporate negligence.  For Mike Williams, who survived the April 2010 oil-rig explosion by plunging into the Gulf of Mexico from several stories up, it was about something else.

“My 11 brothers that got killed were immediately forgotten,” Williams said, speaking from his Sulphur Springs, Texas, home.  “We understand the oil.  It’s bad, yes.  The birds are dying and the shrimp and the crabs and all that stuff.  But those aren’t brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, sons, daughters.  Shrimp can come back.  People, you can’t bring those guys back.”

This April 21, 2010, file photo shows a large plume of smoke rising from BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Peter Berg’s film “Deepwater Horizon” puts the spotlight of a big-budget disaster movie on the human toll of a real-life tragedy.  Mark Wahlberg stars as Williams, a central figure in an earlier “60 Minutes” segment that focused on the Deepwater Horizon workers.

“There are probably several different ways you could tell this story or any story, but I liked this approach,” says Berg (“Friday Night Lights,” ‘’Battleship”).  “I was very moved by the fact that 11 men lost their lives and I didn’t even know that before the ’60 Minutes’ piece.”

Made for over $100 million by Lionsgate, “Deepwater Horizon” gives the true story the kind of action-film treatment usually reserved for caped crusaders.  A mock oil rig, 85 percent to scale, was built at an old Six Flags in Louisiana out of more than 3 million pounds of steel — one of the largest film sets ever erected.  The film, based on a New York Times article that detailed the events surrounding the explosion, burrows into the details and politics of life on the rig leading up to the chaos-inducing blowout.

“It’s great that the studio would take the risk to make a movie that has no sequel potential,” says Wahlberg.  “At a time when we get bombarded with superhero movies and other stuff that’s pretty mind-numbing, it’s nice to have a really smart, adult movie that has action.”

Though director J.C. Chandor originally helmed the project, Berg came aboard to lend the film a more movie star-based approach.  “This film works on many levels and I think one of them is just a big-ass action film in the best possible way,” Berg says.

Berg’s last film, “Lone Survivor,” similarly sought to pay tribute to a hardened community (the US Navy SEALS) with kinetic verisimilitude.  Many of the rig workers have small roles in the film or served as consultants, including Williams.

“Once the family members and loved ones heard that they were making a movie, they were all completely against it because they assumed that Hollywood was going to make a movie about the environmental disaster and their loved ones would be overlooked again,” says Wahlberg.  “Once we were able to communicate to them what our intentions were, what the movie was going to be, then they all came onboard.  We wanted to honor those people.”

Some may take issue that one of the largest environmental disasters in history has been reduced to a fiery action movie.  “Deepwater Horizon” spends little time on the millions of barrels of oil that leaked into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days after the explosion.  Nor is there much scrutiny of BP, which was found primarily responsible for the spill by a federal judge in 2014.  It has paid billions in cleanup costs, penalties and settlements.

“When it came down to who decided what, pointing figures, we didn’t want to do that,” says Wahlberg.  “These guys do a very dangerous job.”

The primary figure of corporate greed is encapsulated by rig supervisor Donald Vidrine (played by John Malkovich with a devilish Cajun accent), who was found guilty of a misdemeanor pollution charge for a shoddy pressure test that precipitated the explosion.  In the film, a money-centric, behind-schedule BP is seen as recklessly rushing past safety regulations.

Williams, an electrician who has given up the oil business to home-school his kids, says Berg told the story “right down the middle.”  He hopes the film makes people more aware of the “dirty, dangerous, potentially toxic business” that fuels their cars.

“More than likely, the people who see this film are going to get in a car and drive to the theater,” he says.  “Or even if they take public transportation, it still has to have some kind of fuel source.  And even if it’s electric-powered, it still has to have grease, it still has to have tires — all, of course, petroleum products.  When they make that connection, it will be a deeper connection to the men that died.”

“It’s the least I can do to speak for them,” says Williams, “because I’m still here and they’re not.”


Dan Brown’s next thriller, ‘Origin,’ coming next fall

Author Dan Brown.
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

New York (AP) - Dan Brown’s next thriller is set to come out next fall.

The plot and settings are, for now, a mystery.

Publisher Doubleday announced last week that the novel is called “Origin” and is scheduled for Sept. 26, 2017.  The story will feature Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, the protagonist for Brown’s mega-selling “The Da Vinci Code” and such blockbusters as “Inferno” and “Angels & Demons.”  According to Doubleday, “Origin” will feature Brown’s usual blend of “codes, science, religion, history, art and architecture.”  Brown has guided readers on worldwide tours in his previous works, but there is no word yet on where “Origins” will lead to.

Doubleday isn’t commenting on the book’s geography, but does say Langdon will find himself in “the dangerous intersection of humankind’s two most enduring questions.”


Goldie Hawn’s key to romance with Kurt Russell? No marriage

Actors Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell are shown in this Dec. 14, 2015, file photo. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

London (AP) - Goldie Hawn says the key to her successful 33-year Hollywood romance with Kurt Russell is that they never got married.

The actress appeared on the chat show “Loose Women” on Britain’s ITV last week.  She says she “would have been long divorced” if she had gotten married.  She says choosing not to get married “gives you the freedom to make decisions one way or the other,” adding that she and Russell “liked the choice.”

Hawn says “not every relationship works” and adds that movie stars may have “a harder time because the camera is on them all the time.”

Hawn has a son, Wyatt, with Russell and two children from her marriage to Bill Hudson: actors Oliver and Kate Hudson.


Disney to make live-action ‘Lion King,’ Favreau directing

Jon Favreau will direct the new “Lion King.”
(Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

New York (AP) - The animated classic “The Lion King” will be the latest Disney film to get a live-action remake.

Disney announced last week that Jon Favreau, who helmed the box-office hit “Jungle Book” remake, will direct the new “Lion King.”  He’s also at work on a “Jungle Book” sequel.

The circle of life now inevitably leads to live-action remakes for Disney classics.  The new “Lion King” follows in the wake of similar remakes for “The Jungle Book,” ‘’Cinderella,” ‘’Pete’s Dragon” and the upcoming “Beauty and the Beast.”

The original 1994 “Lion King” grossed US$968.8 million and won two Oscars, including one for the Elton John song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”  The Grammy-winning soundtrack sold more than 14 million copies and the hit Broadway musical has been running for 19 years.


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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

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Film Review: ‘Blair Witch Project’ sequel gets lost in the woods

In ‘Deepwater Horizon,’ an ecological disaster’s human toll

Dan Brown’s next thriller, ‘Origin,’ coming next fall

Goldie Hawn’s key to romance with Kurt Russell? No marriage

Disney to make live-action ‘Lion King,’ Favreau directing

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