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Update January 2019


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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
Arts - Entertainment - Film Review World
 

April 28, 2018 - May 4, 2018

Film Review: Too much Spider-Man? Not in the Spider-Verse

This image shows a scene from “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” (Sony Pictures Animation via AP)

Mark Kennedy

Los Angeles (AP) - “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” gleefully scrambles the notion there can be only one friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and offers the exciting idea that he can be anyone. He can be a girl, he can be a middle-aged dude with a paunch and he can even be a cartoon pig.

It’s hard to underestimate what this means, but this film does what comics and graphic novels have long experimented with, but this time makes the leap to the big screen. It literally opens up a universe of possibilities. “Anyone can wear the mask. You can wear the mask,” we are told.

The result is a film that’s fantastically fresh, both visually and narratively, trippy and post-modern at the same time and packed with intriguing storytelling tools, humor, empathy and action, while also true to its roots — still telling the story of a young man learning to accept the responsibility of fighting for what’s right.

Our main hero here is one plucked from a spin-off from the main Spider-Man comic book universe: Miles Morales, a half-African-American, half-Puerto Rican teen from Brooklyn who has a Chance the Rapper poster on his wall. He looks and acts nothing like previous Peter Parker types — Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland — and that’s great. Hey, if Cate Blanchett can play Bob Dylan in a movie, why not offer us a new look on Spidey?

Produced by Phillip Lord and Christopher Miller, the duo behind the acclaimed “The Lego Movie,” this Spider-Man saga pops with outstanding animation, constantly changing its styles. At times, it can be hyper-real, then surreal. It includes anime, slo-mo, color distortion, Pop art, hand-drawn elements, CG animation and even tweaks its own origins by adding dialogue in little panels.

The animators place their story in a wonderfully gritty New York, complete with screeching, graffiti-streaked subway cars and charmless pedestrians. One quibble: Their ability to have things in the foreground appear in sharp relief while objects in the background bleed away makes it seem as if you’re watching a 3D film without those weird glasses.

Our hero Miles (Shameik Moore) is trying to navigate life between his cop dad (Brian Tyree Henry) and his cooler uncle (Mahershala Ali). After being bitten by a radioactive spider, he witnesses the death of Spider-Man. But Miles soon learns there are many other Spider-People, freed from their realities by the hulking Kingpin (Liev Schreiber), who has built a nuclear collider that allows access to alternative universes.

“New Girl” star Jake Johnson voices a flabbier and depressed Peter Parker who wears sweat pants and is going through a divorce to Mary Jane. There’s a fedora-wearing, black-and-white Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) who has been teleported from battling Nazis. There’s also a cool-girl Spider-Gwen played by Hailee Steinfeld, and Kimiko Glenn voices an anime schoolgirl from the future. And there’s Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) who is rooted in Saturday morning kiddie cartoons, including the use of a dropping anvil.

This odd family unites to take down Kingpin and return to their universes, winking forever at themselves and the viewer, not a little like the “Deadpool.” Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman — Rothman and Phil Lord wrote the story — also ground the tale with a great soundtrack that includes Elliphant, Run-DMC, The Notorious B.I.G., James Brown and Nicki Minaj.

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” a Columbia Pictures release, is rated PG for “for frenetic sequences of animated action violence, thematic elements and mild language.” Running time: 117 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.


Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show vocalist Ray Sawyer dies at 81

 

Ray Sawyer of the rock band Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show.

Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP) — Guitarist and vocalist Ray Sawyer of the rock band Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show died last week at the age of 81.

Wearing a black eyepatch, Sawyer was the face of the band as they produced several hits in the 1970s.

His agent, Mark Lyman, said Sawyer died in his sleep Monday, December 31 in Daytona Beach, Florida, after a brief illness. Lyman declined to give a cause of death out of respect for his family’s privacy.

Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show’s hits included “Sylvia’s Mother,” ‘’When You’re in Love with a Beautiful Woman,” and “The Cover of ‘Rolling Stone.’”

Sawyer wore a patch over his right eye after suffering an injury from a car accident as a young man.

Lyman says Sawyer toured up until two years ago.


Presley’s ‘Comeback Special’ still relevant, 50 years later

Elvis Presley is shown in this Aug. 1969 file photo. (AP Photo)

Adrian Sainz

Memphis, Tenn. (AP) — Elvis Presley wanted an honest answer. Steve Binder gave him one.

Presley was meeting Binder for the first time in Binder’s office in Los Angeles in 1968. A music and television producer, Binder had been asked to put together an NBC television special featuring Presley, who had become more of a movie actor than a rock ‘n’ roll singer in the 1960s when the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were dominating the rock world.

Presley and Binder talked for about an hour about music and established a rapport, Binder recalls. Then Presley popped the question: “What do you think of my career?”

“I was young and brash in those days,” Binder told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “I said, ‘I think it’s in the toilet.’”

According to Binder, Presley said: “Well finally, somebody’s talking straight to me.”

That meeting became a meaningful step in the creation of the one-hour TV show “Singer Presents...Elvis,” better known today as the ’68 Comeback Special. Aired on Dec. 3, 1968, the program was a rapturous return for the 33-year-old Presley, whose music had mostly stuck to soundtrack songs from his often pulpy, saccharine films. It was sponsored by Singer, the sewing machine company.

Relaxed at some points, energetic during others — and always inspired — a still-handsome Presley sounds strong and soulful. He appears genuine: He sweats, his black hair gets messed up.

The finale features an emotional Presley singing “If I Can Dream,” a moving piece written for the show that served as a response to the tumult of 1968, when the Vietnam War served as the backdrop for the assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.

Presley returned to prominence. He began performing for sold-out crowds in Las Vegas and produced “From Elvis in Memphis,” an album that included “Suspicious Minds” and “In the Ghetto.”

Presley’s career would slow down. He divorced his wife, Priscilla, and began abusing prescription drugs. He died of a heart attack on Aug. 16, 1977, in Memphis.

Still, his popularity has remained high. Graceland, the tourist attraction built around his former Memphis home, draws 500,000 visitors a year. HBO recently released a documentary, “Elvis Presley: The Searcher.” And his image and voice are regularly used in films, TV shows and commercials.

Much has been said about the importance of the ’68 Comeback Special to Presley’s career. In a 2008 Los Angeles Times article, writer Robert Lloyd calls it a “moment of change.”

“He regains his voice,” Lloyd writes.

Television had been an early friend to Presley. He made groundbreaking appearances on variety shows hosted by Ed Sullivan and Milton Berle. Later, however, they became sources of embarrassment. Binder says Presley complained that hosts openly made fun of him.

Presley’s return to TV required a leap of faith. Binder says Presley’s manager, Col. Tom Parker, wanted a Christmas-themed special but Blinder would have no part of it. The typically hard-nosed Parker eventually relented and the special included only a small reference to the holiday, with “Blue Christmas.”

Musical director Billy Goldenberg said he had to find a path to Presley’s “subconscious character, the things that were going on that he didn’t say, but did.”

Goldenberg also wanted to “bring Elvis into the 1960s” and make him “valid.”

NBC’s investment was validated. The special became its top-rated show of the year and has grown in stature since. A box set released in late November includes a Blu-ray version of the program, and Binder has written a book about the show.

A show he never thought would endure.

“Nothing is dated. That show could have been shot yesterday,” Binder said. “I had no idea it would ever be seen again.”


Uffizi urges Germany to return painting stolen by Nazis

Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Gallery, poses as he holds onto a copy of a still-life “Vase of Flowers”, by Dutch artist Jan van Huysum, inside the Uffizi gallery, in Florence, Italy. (Uffizi Gallery press office via AP)

Colleen Barry

Milan (AP) — The director of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence is urging Germany to return a Dutch masterpiece stolen by Nazi troops during World War II, dramatizing its absence by hanging a black and white photo of the work with the label “Stolen” in three languages.

Eike Schmidt said in a New Year’s appeal that the still-life “Vase of Flowers” by Dutch artist Jan van Huysum is in the hands of a German family who hasn’t returned it despite numerous appeals. Instead, intermediaries for the family have demanded payment for its return to Italy.

“The painting is already the inalienable property of the Italian State, and thus cannot be ‘bought,’” Schmidt said.

The oil painting had been hanging as part of the Pitti Palace collection in Florence from 1824 until the outbreak of World War II. It was moved for safety during the war but was stolen by retreating German troops. It didn’t surface again until Germany’s reunification in 1991, when the offers to sell it back to Italy began.

“This story is preventing the wounds inflicted by World War II and the horrors of Nazism from healing,” said Schmidt, who is German. “Germany should not apply the statute of limitations to works of art stolen during the war, and it should take measures to ensure that those works are restored to their legitimate owners.”

He called it Germany’s “moral duty” to return the artwork, adding, “I trust that the German government will do so at the earliest opportunity, naturally along with every other work of art stolen by the Nazi Wehrmacht.”

Germany has returned 16,000 objects to Holocaust survivors and their families under a 20-year-old international agreement on returning art looted by the Nazis. But Schmidt said the so-called Washington Principles apply only to public collections, not private ones..
 


UPDATE

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Too much Spider-Man? Not in the Spider-Verse

Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show vocalist Ray Sawyer dies at 81

Presley’s ‘Comeback Special’ still relevant, 50 years later

Uffizi urges Germany to return painting stolen by Nazis