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Update April 2018

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April 21, 2018 - April 27, 2018

Film Review: ‘Ready Player One’ Review: Spielberg goes back to the future

This image shows Tye Sheridan in a scene from “Ready Player One,” a film by Steven Spielberg. (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

Jake Coyle

Los Angeles (AP) - “Why can’t we go backward for once?” wonders the protagonist of “Ready Player One” shortly before gunning his “Back to the Future” DeLorean in reverse. “Really put the pedal to the metal.”

Pressing rewind is, if anything, an understandable desire these days. But in today’s reboot, remake-mad movies, it’s not exactly swimming against the tide. Yet Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One,” a rollicking virtual-world geekfest flooded by ’80s ephemera, doesn’t just want to wade back into the past. It wants to race into it at full throttle. For those who get their fix through pop nostalgia, “Ready Player One” is — for better or worse — an indulgent, dizzying overdose.

In a dystopian 2045 where the world looks mostly like a trash heap, teenager Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) lives in “The Stacks” — not aisles of books but towering piles of mobile homes — in Columbus, Ohio, with his aunt. “These days,” he narrates, “reality’s a bummer.” With bleakness all around, seemingly everyone is addicted to strapping on a headset and entering the virtual-reality landscape of the OASIS. There, an individual can transform into a digital avatar — live-action or animated, human or extraterrestrial, Sonny or Cher — and do basically anything. Your imagination is your only limit. You can even, we’re told, climb Mt. Everest with Batman! Presumably the thin air would make him less grumpy.

It’s been five years since the death of OASIS creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance), a fizzy-haired Steve Jobs-meets-Willy Wonka nerd deity who left behind a trio of Easter Eggs — hidden clues — in his game. The first one to find the keys and follow them to the end will win the rights to the trillion-dollar company. Wade, who goes by Parzival inside OASIS, is among the competitors still trying to crack the first challenge — a blistering melee through New York City streets where racers must evade, among other things, King Kong and the T-Rex from “Jurassic Park.”

At the film’s SXSW premiere, Spielberg introduced “Ready Player One,” based on Ernest Cline’s 2011 best-seller, as a “movie,” not a “film.” Spielberg, too, is here turning back the clock — just four months after releasing his well-timed ode to the freedom of the press, “The Post” — with a thrill-ride spectacle that harkens back to his pre-”Schindler’s List” days and the more popcorn-friendly flights of movie magic that Spielberg conjured before focusing on more “serious” tales.

The funny, sometimes awkward irony of “Ready Player One” is that Spielberg isn’t just making a movie like his old movies; he’s making a movie awash with his old movies. Sounding almost embarrassed, Spielberg — who initially thought a younger director ought to direct Cline and Zak Penn’s script — has said he stripped out many of his own references from the screenplay.

But the universe of “Ready Player One” remains a loving, fanboy homage to the escapist entertainments Spielberg did more than anyone to create. “Ready Player One” could conceivably be titled “Spielberg: The Remix.” Watching it is a little like seeing him sit in with a Spielberg cover band — a band that’s, like, totally stoked to have the master in their midst.

It’s also an opportunity for one of cinema’s most absurdly skilled and most insanely popular directors to reckon with both his blockbuster legacy and the more digitally versed generations of fantasy-seekers that have followed him. In the OASIS, there are solo players called “gunters” like Parzival and his VR-crush Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), who believe deeply in the game and its maker. And there are companies, specifically one called Innovative Online Industries led by a slick suit named Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), who sends armies of players into battle in hopes of capturing the lucrative company and — in the most sinister of anti-nerd plots — open up OASIS to advertising.

When it’s not careening through ’80s references from Tootsie Roll Pop commercials to Buckaroo Banzai, “Ready Player One” is an Internet parable. There’s mention of prior “bandwidth riots” ahead of this battle over keeping OASIS an open playground to all. “Ready Player One” is both game and war, the stakes of which are occasionally lessened by the fact that it’s a land of make believe. Much of “Ready Player One” also promotes a tiresome gamer culture where “real” fanboys outrank “haters,” geeks vie with suits, and tech wizards are slavishly worshipped. In between the book and the movie, Gamergate exposed the toxicity of the video-game culture lionized here.

As eye-popping as is the kaleidoscopic OASIS — a shinier, bigger-budget, less funny pop-culture soup than the one stirred in “The Lego Movie” — “Ready Player One” is best when it keeps a foot in to the real world. That’s clearly where Spielberg’s heart is, and it’s where, you can feel, he longs to lead his film. (Sorry, “movie.”)

Still, Spielberg shows that he’s just as capable as he ever was in making a rip-roaring spectacle. The momentum is headlong, the visual fireworks are brilliant and despite all the reality-flipping, every scene is perfectly staged. For a backward-looking movie, it’s incredibly forward-moving. Spielberg makes this stuff look easier, and register more clearly, than anyone else in blockbuster-making.

But if choosing between vintage Spielberg and meta Spielberg, I still — not to sound too fanboy-ish about it — prefer the genuine article.

“Ready Player One,” a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “sequences of sci-fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, partial nudity and language.” Running time: 140 minutes. Three stars out of four.

Not a rumor: Lindsey Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac part ways

Lindsey Buckingham from the band Fleetwood Mac is shown in this Oct. 6, 2014 file photo. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Andrew Dalton

Los Angeles (AP) — Lindsey Buckingham will have to go his own way. The singer-guitarist is out of Fleetwood Mac.

The band said in a statement last week that Buckingham will not be on their new tour.  The announcement came in two terse sentences at the bottom of a long news release announcing the new concerts.

“Lindsey Buckingham will not be performing with the band on this tour,” the statement said.  “The band wishes Lindsey all the best.”

He’ll be jointly replaced by Neil Finn of Crowded House and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers.

Buckingham joined the band with then-girlfriend Stevie Nicks in 1974 and the two became the central faces, voices and songwriters of the group for the four decades that followed.

Buckingham sang and either wrote or co-wrote hits like “Go Your Own Way,” ‘’Tusk,” and “The Chain.”

Buckingham left the band once before in 1987, returning for a tour in 1996 and remaining a steady member since.

No details were given on what led to the latest split. Buckingham’s agent referred requests for comment back to a publicist for Fleetwood Mac, who said it wasn’t yet clear how to reach Buckingham for a reaction.

The 68-year-old released an album and played a series of dates with the band’s Christine McVie last year.

Fleetwood Mac used most of the news release announcing the departure to tout its two new members.

“We jammed with Mike and Neil and the chemistry really worked and let the band realize that this is the right combination to go forward with in Fleetwood Mac style,” Mick Fleetwood, the drummer who co-founded the band in 1967, said in the statement. “We know we have something new, yet it’s got the unmistakable Mac sound.”

Finn said the group contacted him only very recently, and he was stunned to suddenly find himself a member.

“Two weeks ago I received a wonderful invitation to be a part of a truly great band,” Finn said in a statement. “A few days later I was standing in a room playing music with Fleetwood Mac. It felt fresh and exciting, so many great songs, a spectacular rhythm section and two of the greatest voices ever. Best of all, we sounded good together. It was a natural fit. I can’t wait to play.”

The two voices Finn refers to are those of Nicks and McVie, who will be on the tour along with fellow longtime members Fleetwood and John McVie.

For Campbell, the new venture will be his first return to touring since the death in October of Petty, his musical partner of 42 years. Campbell was a founding member of the Heartbreakers in 1975, and played with them until just days before Petty died. The pair already had ties to Fleetwood Mac. They wrote and played on Nicks’ 1981 hit “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.”

Stallone surprises fans with visit to iconic ‘Rocky’ statue

Sylvester Stallone talks to reports in front of the Rocky statue for a “Creed II” photo op, Friday, April 6 in Philadelphia. The film, part of the “Rocky” film franchise, will be released later this year. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Philadelphia (AP) — Hey, it’s Rocky. and Rocky?

Sylvester Stallone had passersby doing double takes and chanting “Rocky! Rocky!” as he made a surprise visit to the statue of his iconic Rocky Balboa character in Philadelphia.

The 71-year-old Stallone has played the underdog boxing champ in seven “Rocky” films since 1976 and is currently in the City of Brotherly Love making the sequel to the 2015 hit “Creed.”

Stallone took a break from shooting to join Mayor Jim Kenney at the statue, next to the Philadelphia Art Museum steps he famously climbed in the first “Rocky” film.

They rededicated a plaque that had been lost for 12 years and Kenney presented him with a personalized jersey from the Super Bowl champion Eagles.

Stallone commissioned the statue for “Rocky III” in 1980.

April 14, 2018 - April 20, 2018

Film Review: Earnest ‘Peter Rabbit’ sure to delight young fans

This image shows Rose Byrne with characters (from left) Mopsy, voiced by Elizabeth Debicki, Flopsy, voiced by Margot Robbie, Benjamin Bunny, voiced by Colin Moody, Peter Rabbit, voiced by James Corden and Cottontail, voiced by Daisy Ridley in a scene from “Peter Rabbit.” (Columbia Pictures/Sony via AP)

Sandy Cohen

Los Angeles (AP) - With warm nostalgia for Beatrix Potter’s classic children’s tale, “Peter Rabbit” director, producer and co-writer Will Gluck channels the author’s earnestness into a sweet film sure to delight young fans.

Adults may find the plot predictable and the pacing a bit wanting, but the dynamic animation and beloved characters help compensate, as does the film’s cheeky self-awareness.

As in the book published in 1902, the story begins with Peter Rabbit (James Corden) disobeying his parents’ rules and sneaking into Old Mr. McGregor’s vegetable garden for a snack.

Old Mr. McGregor gives chase, but Peter and his trusty sidekick, Benjamin Bunny (Colin Moody) elude capture.  All the running around gives the old man a heart attack, and Peter assumes all their problems are solved — until McGregor’s great-nephew moves in.

Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson at his most playful) is a tightly wound Londoner who resents relocating to the countryside to care for the property.  He’s still apoplectic about being passed over for a promotion at Harrods, and that irritation is compounded when he discovers his great-uncle’s house and garden are overrun with cotton-tailed cuties he calls vermin.

The rabbits’ savior — and maybe Thomas’, too — is Bea (Rose Byrne), a kind-hearted animal lover who lives next door.  She moved to the country to paint, and her best pieces recall Potter’s original “Peter Rabbit” illustrations.

Those illustrations come to life at various points during the film.  The simple, hand-drawn animation contrasts beautifully with the slick digital work that comprises most of the movie, inserting realistic-looking talking rabbits into live-action scenes with Byrne and Gleeson.

Peter recruits his younger sisters into the battle for McGregor’s garden.  Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki and Daisy Ridley respectively voice Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail, and while these T-shirt-wearing bunnies are undoubtedly adorable, the top-level talent behind them is underused (with the exception of Robbie, who also narrates the film).

As the conflict over the garden escalates, it becomes clear that Peter and Thomas aren’t just fighting over vegetables, but for Bea’s affections.  It’s a modern romantic take on the classic rabbit tale.

Gluck further modernizes the story with a pop-packed soundtrack featuring music from Vampire Weekend, Basement Jaxx and Fitz and the Tantrums.

The main characters’ trajectory is easy to anticipate, and the movie knows it.  At one point, the narrator describes “a half-thought-out plan that’s dangerous, gutsy and convoluted, and in a story like this, pretty much guaranteed to succeed.”

But there are many amusements to be found among the ancillary characters, like a quartet of harmonizing birds who are frequently and unceremoniously interrupted (perhaps a swipe at Disney sweetness?) and a buck who can only repeat “headlights” when he sees a car.  Particularly hilarious is a loudmouthed, uncensored rooster who’s shocked each morning that a new day has dawned.

There’s enough entertainment for parents here, and plenty of good-natured humor for kids.  Stay past the credits for an extra dose of laughs.

“Peter Rabbit,” a Columbia Pictures release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for “for some rude humor and action.”  Running time: 100 minutes.  Two and a half stars out of four.

Italy museum aims to show Casanova as more than just a lover


This image taken Tuesday, March 27, 2018, shows the Palazzo Pesaro Papafava in Venice, Italy, which hosts the first ever Casanova Museum on the 18th century Italian adventurer Giacomo Casanova. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Venice, Italy (AP) - A museum is opening in the Venetian hometown of Giacomo Casanova, the 18th-century adventurer and bon vivant, in hopes of educating visitors about more than just his notorious womanizing.

The Giacomo Casanova Museum and Experience doesn’t hide Casanova’s libidinous side.  In fact, the six-room museum includes a bedroom where a shadow installation makes it seem as if Casanova is seducing a woman right in front of visitors.

But curators are seeking to shed light on other aspects of the Venetian scholar and writer whose memoir, “History of My Life,” provides one of the best chronicles of European high society of the late 18th century.

“We want this character, this person, to be known in his entirety,” said museum director Andrea Cosentino.  “Here we give the basis of what he was, not only as a lover but also as a man, philosopher and scholar.”

Using a variety of virtual reality technology, visitors can read, hear and watch digital presentations on Casanova’s youth — he was born in 1795 in the Venetian Republic — and his subsequent serial seductions.

In between, visitors can learn about his travels across Europe, his relationship with the lagoon city, his arrests and escapes, his personality and scholarly accomplishments, as well as his portrayal in film over the years.

The museum is located in the Palazzo Pesaro Papafava in Venice.

‘Chappaquiddick’ puts focus on aftermath of Kennedy accident

This image shows Jason Clarke as Ted Kennedy (left) and Kate Mara as Mary Jo Kopechne in a scene from “Chappaquiddick.” (Claire Folger/Entertainment Studios via AP)

Ryan Pearson

Los Angeles (AP) — Jason Clarke plunged into frigid waters, repeatedly, for his role as the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in “Chappaquiddick.”

The Australian actor said his research about the accident that thwarted Kennedy’s presidential chances included jumping into Poucha Pond, the same waters the Massachusetts Democrat’s car crashed into in July 1969, killing Mary Jo Kopechne.

Clarke said the indie film, which is in limited release, doesn’t try to sensationalize the accident, which Kennedy failed to report for 10 hours.

He said the film sticks “to the facts as much as we could and to play it out without scandalizing, without going to the tabloid of it.”

“This man committed this act and he worked his way out of it with help and with his own moral journey to the other side, where he then became one of the longest-serving senators in history.  I don’t think — partisanship aside — you can’t take away from what he did.”

Kennedy went to Martha’s Vineyard to race in the Edgartown Regatta and on the evening of July 18, 1969, attended a party at a rented house on Chappaquiddick Island.  Guests included Kennedy friends and several women, including Kopechne, who had worked on the presidential campaign of his brother Robert F. Kennedy, assassinated a year earlier.

Kennedy and Kopechne, 28, left the party together and a short time later their car plunged into Poucha Pond.  Kennedy escaped from the submerged vehicle and said he made several futile attempts to rescue Kopechne, who was trapped inside.

Kennedy, who died in 2009, later described his failure to report the incident to police for 10 hours as “indefensible.”

Clarke visited the bridge and pond as part of his research for the film, even jumping in.

“It’s pretty much unchanged apart from the bridge itself has got guard rails and wider.  There’s no other buildings.  The Dike House is still there, the same place.  It’s dark.  There’s no lights on the road,” he said.  “The water is dark and the current is strong.”

“I think I held my breath for five seconds to see where I came up.  And I came up a big distance away,” Clarke said.

Kennedy’s underwater escape was recreated in the waters of the Pacific Ocean off Mexico.  Clarke said the scene was hard to shoot not only because of the ocean’s cold water, but also because he had to get out of the car while upside down.

The film, an Entertainment Studios release, spends more time on the aftermath of the accident.  Clarke said viewers should leave theaters with a greater understanding of Kennedy.

“You can be with Ted a bit.  You cannot just externalize it and say bad, horrible, disgusting man.  You might want to at the end, but you can be there for it: on the phone afterwards, the walk back, the swim, the lies, the made-up story — or perhaps it’s actually really what did happen.  But you can actually stay there with Ted.  Not enough to be a Kennedy, but enough to almost touch him,” he said.

Jim Gaffigan, who plays attorney Paul Markham, one of the co-hosts of the party that Kennedy and Kopechne left together, agreed.

“We all have earlier versions of ourselves that we’re not crazy about.  At least I do,” he said.  “So there is something very interesting about the journey that Ted goes through, and being exposed to his relationship with his father,” he said.  “Look, it’s not a documentary, but there is an attempt to be objective and ask objective questions.”

British show’s take on rendang curry riles Southeast Asians

Malaysia’s national dish, Nasi Lemak and chicken rendang, are shown at a restaurant in Subang Jaya, Malaysia, Tuesday, April 3. (AP Photo/Sadiq Asyraf)

Stephen Wright

Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) — Judges on a popular British cooking show are being ridiculed for ignorance of Asian food after insisting a Malaysian contestant’s chicken rendang curry should have been crispy.

Foodies in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia took to social media to vent at the critique of the Malaysian-born cook’s traditional and standard method for preparing chicken rendang.

“The skin isn’t crispy.  It can’t be eaten but all the sauce is on the skin I can’t eat,” one of the MasterChef UK judges complained in a recent episode of the show.

Online, Southeast Asians pointed out that the chicken is cooked in curry sauce, not fried, and is never crispy.  Some accused the judges of neo-colonial attitudes and racism.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak also chipped in, posting a photo of chicken rendang on Twitter and light-heartedly asking whether anyone has ever eaten a crispy chicken curry.  Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said the judges were guilty of “whitesplaining.”

The contestant, Zaleha Kadir Olpin, was eliminated from the competition but took to Instagram to vow she’d never stop cooking the traditional way.

Her offending rendang was presented as part of Malaysia’s national dish, Nasi Lemak, or rice cooked in coconut milk that comes with sides such as peanuts, spicy prawns and rendang.

The judges lavished praise on most of the ingredients but dismissed the non-crispy chicken rendang as a “mistake.”

One of the judges, John Torode, later stirred more controversy online by trying to fuel the ages-old war of words between Malaysians and Indonesians over which country invented rendang.  However the absurdity of the crispy curry saga has provided the neighboring countries with a rare point of agreement.

The curry, which originates from West Sumatra in Indonesia, is popular in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and southern Thailand.

April 7, 2018 - April 13, 2018

Film Review: ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ is cheer-at-the-screen fun

This image shows a scene from “Pacific Rim Uprising.” (Legendary Pictures/Universal Pictures via AP)

Mark Kennedy

Los Angeles (AP) - At the end of the monsters-versus-robots flick “Pacific Rim,” a breach at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean is closed, plugging a hole that allowed hellish creatures to emerge and terrorize the globe.  But after the movie earned $400 million worldwide, was that portal really going to stay closed?

No, of course not.  And, with sincere apologies to the front-line cities on the Pacific Rim facing a mauling, we say thank goodness, because the new sequel “Pacific Rim Uprising” is a visually-stunning, expertly crafted dose of cheer-at-the-screen fun.  It’s the definition of what a blockbuster sequel should be.

“Pacific Rim Uprising “ uses a lighter palette and is geared toward a younger audience than its 2013 predecessor, but it keeps all the key elements, upping the special effects and finding honest moments and humor in the midst of world-destroying carnage.  It satisfies on every front.

Success wasn’t foreordained for the sequel.  Original writer Travis Beacham and director-writer Guillermo del Toro haven’t returned (though del Toro is still a producer), nor have its original stars, Charlie Hunnam and Idris Elba. (Elba had a very good reason for not showing up: He blew himself up in the final moments of the original to keep the Pacific portal closed).

Steven S. DeKnight, who created and ran the TV series “Spartacus” on Starz, was tapped to direct while del Toro focused on the smaller monster movie “Shape of Water.”  DeKnight also teamed up with Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder and T.S. Nowlin to craft the new story, which champions outsiders and misfits as well as celebrates makeshift families and teamwork.  Plus, some stuff gets pummeled.

First, a step back for anyone not familiar with this horrific near-future: Aliens have sent giant monsters called Kaiju to soften us humans up ahead of world domination.  But we’ve created 270-foot tall robots called Jaegers to fight back.  They’re so big they need to be manned by pairs of operators who build a neural bridge between their minds so they can work together.

The new film opens in 2035, 10 years after the last Kaiju was defeated and the breach closed.  It’s the calm before the storm.  Our heroes now are Jake (John Boyega), the rebellious son of Elba’s character, and the teen orphan Amara (Cailee Spaeny), who builds her own Jaeger out of spare parts.  They join together to help the military fight a new opponent — a rogue Jaeger that comes out of the sea and stomps around menacingly.  It is soon clear there’s a conspiracy afoot.

Boyega, fresh off his “Star Wars” gig, is great here and plays a dashing rogue who struggles under his father’s shadow but soon earns the respect of his peers.  “We are a family now and we are Earth’s last defense,” he says.  He and Spaeny have an easy rapport and some moments between them seem genuinely charming and goofy.

Charlie Day and Burn Gorman reprise their roles as squabbling scientists, and Rinko Kikuchi is back as the adopted daughter of Elba’s character.  The rest of the cast is multiethnic, competent and very sweaty.  The robots now have hologram interiors and the monsters seem less homages to past movie Kaijus and more designed to permanently upset our dreams.

If the first movie’s fight sequences were often set in the rainy dark, “Pacific Rim Uprising” embraces the light.  Cities are flattened during the day as monsters and robots slug it out.  Skyscrapers get punched, debris cascades down and cars get swiped around.  The connection between special effects and human actors is seamless and astonishing.  The level of detail — from complex cityscapes like Shanghai and Tokyo to the icescapes of Siberia — is brilliant.

Part of the success of the “Pacific Rim” films is that they have cobbled together enough elements of other films to make them familiar yet newish.  They owe “Blade Runner,” ‘’Independence Day,” ‘’Minority Report,” ‘’Star Wars” and, of course, “Transformers” — not to mention every Godzilla movie ever made — some residuals.  But they also have defined and introduced their own world and language.

It may not be nuanced, but it taps into something mythical — ferocious monsters rising from nowhere to be battled by 21st century swordfighters.  And it’s exhilarating, like when one triumphant Jaeger gazes down at a downed opponent after a climactic fight and insouciantly lifts its middle fingers.  “Pacific Rim Uprising” is so confident in itself that it basically promises a third film as the end credits roll.  We can’t wait.

“Pacific Rim Uprising,” a Universal release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language.”  Running time: 111 minutes.  Three and a half stars out of four.

Prince family lawyers to view data for potential lawsuit

Chaska, Minn. (AP) — Prosecutors in the Minnesota county where pop artist Prince died have agreed to share investigative files with attorneys for the musician’s family under strict guidelines.

Carver County Attorney Mark Metz says Prince’s death investigation remains active, so the data is confidential. But family attorneys may view it to determine whether to file a lawsuit in Illinois before a two-year statute of limitations expires.

Prince’s plane stopped in Moline, Illinois, when he became ill from a suspected drug overdose days before his death. He died April 21, 2016.

A judge’s order says attorneys must view the data at the sheriff’s office only. It must not be copied, shared or openly discussed.

Investigative data becomes public in Minnesota after a case is resolved, or if no charges are filed. Metz said he plans to make a charging decision in the near future.

Grammy winner to serve sentence in Hawaii for Guam drug case

Yvonne Elliman poses in Los Angeles in this March 20, 1978 file photo. (AP Photo)

Hagatna, Guam (AP) — A Grammy Award-winning singer who gained fame for hits from “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Saturday Night Fever” and pleaded guilty to drug possession charges in Guam can serve her sentence in Hawaii, her lawyer said.

Yvonne Marianne Elliman-Alexander, 66, who performs under her maiden name Yvonne Elliman, and her husband, Allen Bernard Alexander, were sentenced last week in the U.S. territory, where they had gone to perform at a benefit concert.

Their attorney, Mike Phillips, told The Associated Press they received a 14-day sentence that they will be able to serve by observing courtroom proceedings of a drug offender probation program in Honolulu.  They will likely have to do that for 13 days because they will receive credit for one day of incarcerated time served, Phillips said.  They both pleaded guilty to felony drug possession charges in August.

After a court appearance in Guam, Elliman-Alexander said she and her husband had performed about 120 hours of community service in Hawaii, where they live.

“Get help, and when you’re feeling stronger, help others,” Elliman-Alexander said.  “I think that’s why we did so well because we did help other people.”

Airport officers said they found marijuana in Alexander’s belongings and crystal-like rocks and a glass pipe in Elliman-Alexander’s belongings, the Pacific Daily News reported.

The couple were arrested in Guam, but the concert they performed to benefit a Catholic school went forward even though the archdiocese on the heavily Catholic island opposed it.

The court previously granted the couple’s request to leave Guam and return to Hawaii to care for Elliman-Alexander’s ailing mother after they pleaded guilty.

Elliman-Alexander had her first hit, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from “Jesus Chris Superstar,” and she played Mary Magdalene in the 1973 movie version of the Broadway hit.  She also performed “If I Can’t Have You” on the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack, which won a Grammy for album of the year in 1978.

Greek govt upset as spy show denied access to ancient temple


In this June 20, 2016 file photo, the full moon rises near the ancient marble Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, southeast of Athens. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Elena Becatoros and Derek Gatopoulos

Athens, Greece (AP) — A highly-anticipated television series adapting spy novelist John le Carre’s “The Little Drummer Girl” will not include scenes from an ancient site near Athens after a panel of archaeologists turned down an access request by the BBC and the U.S.-based cable network AMC.

Greece’s powerful Central Archaeological Council denied the one-day access request to the 2,500-years old Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, saying the site would be closed to visitors for too many hours and the production team would be too large.

The decision triggered a furious reaction from the Greece’s government, which launched a campaign three days ago to attract film productions to Greece with a series of incentives.  The government says overseas productions could be a key growth area in the country that is emerging from eight years of crippling financial crisis.

“We have declared that Greece is now film-friendly.  A few days later, another institution is contradicting this, not us but the hopes and ambitions of artists, technicians and thousands of professionals that are a part of this industry.  It is an international embarrassment,” Lefteris Kretsos, general secretary at the government’s media and communication department, said.

The decision, he said, “once again highlights the issues we have as a country.”

Filming at Greek archaeological sites, whether for commercial productions or news reporting, requires a permit from archaeologists that is often near impossible and very costly to obtain.

The six-part series is due for global release next year and stars Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgard and Britain’s Florence Pugh, while South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook will make his television debut with the project.

In the 1983 novel, an Israeli spy chief hunts a Palestinian bomber around Europe, recruiting a young English actress to try and expose him.

Ten of Le Carre’s novels have been adapted to movies.  His work is also widely known from the BBC TV series “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and “Smiley’s People,” starring  Alec Guinness as Cold War intelligence officer George Smiley.

March 31, 2018 - April 6, 2018

Film Review: With Vikander leading, ‘Tomb Raider’ isn’t half bad

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Alicia Vikander in a scene from “Tomb Raider.” (Ilze Kitshoff/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

Lindsey Bahr

Los Angeles (AP) - In “Tomb Raider,” which has elements of “Indiana Jones,” ‘’Batman” and even “Tron: Legacy,” but with an angsty young woman at the center instead of an angsty young man, Alicia Vikander takes a lot of beatings.  She is punched in the face, and in the stomach, she is thrown against rocks and sent careening through a forest, she is impaled, hit by a car, left in an impossible one-handed dead hang at least four times, and she is choked, really choked, by both men and women alike.

And she pulls it off!  The movie itself is another, more complicated, story, but this video game adaption is better than most with set pieces that are both fun and ridiculous (like a high-stakes escape room) that actually seem to approximate the experience of playing a video game.

After two pretty lousy attempts, and a lot of terrible video game adaptations on the way, Hollywood has resurrected “Tomb Raider,” and plucked the most recent supporting actress Oscar winner production could get their hands on.  And like Angelina Jolie before her, Vikander has, exactly two years after her Academy Award win for an emotional drama, stepped into Lara Croft’s combat boots and decided to raid some tombs.

Directed by Norwegian filmmaker Roar Uthaug (“The Wave”), Lara is introduced getting her butt kicked in a boxing ring.  The gym membership that gives her access to these low-rent Rocky-esque facilities is one she can’t afford to pay.  She is scrappy and barely getting by on her bike courier service paycheck.  She also isn’t afraid to take on a challenge for a few hundred bucks, like, say, biking through the streets of London with a foxtail attached to her machine while two dozen guys try to catch her.  But she’s also not past seeing a random business man on the street, thinking that perhaps it is her long-lost and presumed to be dead father (Dominic West) and going into a hazy flashback dream that distracts her enough to lose focus in the race and flip over a police car.

At the local police station, we learn the truth of Lara: This isn’t some working class girl at all, this is someone who grew up wealthier than most could imagine and whose inheritance won’t kick in until she signs some papers acknowledging that her father, who disappeared seven years ago, is dead.  Just as she’s about to concede to her father’s deputy (Kristin Scott Thomas), she stumbles on a clue that sends her on a journey to find out what happened to her father on that remote island off the coast of Japan.  He was looking for some ancient “death queen” named Himiko that we spend the next half of the film talking about and searching for.

Lara swings by Hong Kong first and gets the son of a man her father knew, Lu Ren (a compelling but underused Daniel Wu) to join her on this adventure.  One harrowing boat ride later and they’ve smashed into the island and found themselves in the possession of Vogel (Walton Goggins), a mercenary who is trying to get the mummified Himiko off the island.

It’s here that the film’s set pieces really start to click, and Lara, whose bulging back muscles are shown off at every possible opportunity, is put through the ringer trying to escape from Vogel.  That the production put her in cargo pants for the duration and not the Jolie short-shorts is perhaps a sign of progress too.

The film not-so-subtly borrows from a half dozen better films, but even so, there are definitely ways the story of “Tomb Raider” might have been improved.  Lara is for all her gumption, a pretty passive protagonist, for one.

As it stands, though, “Tomb Raider” is an often fun and visually compelling action pic that is also sometimes unintentionally silly, with a great actress leading the whole thing.

“Tomb Raider,” a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “sequences of violence and action, and for some language.”  Running time: 118 minutes.  Two and a half stars out of four.

South Korean K-Pop singers to perform in North Korea

Members of South Korean popular girl band Red Velvet pose for photographers in this Jan. 10, 2018, photo. (Lim Tae-hoon/Newsis via AP)

Hyung-Jin Kim

Seoul, South Korea (AP) — South Korea has said it will send a 160-member artistic group to North Korea, including about 10 celebrated K-Pop singers, for rare concerts there.

The South Korean musical artists will visit Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, from March 31 to April 3 and give two performances, according to a joint statement issued after the two Koreas met at a border village last week.

The development comes during a thaw in the North Korean nuclear crisis.  A North Korean band performed in South Korea during the recently ended Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

The South Korean delegation will include some of the country’s pop legends, including Cho Yong-pil, Lee Sunhee and Cho Jin Hee, who performed in Pyongyang during a previous era of detente.  Popular girl band Red Velvet is also among the South Korean groups, the statement said.

South Korea last sent a pop singer to North Korea in 2005, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry.

During last week’s talks, the two Koreas were unable to agree on which songs the South Korean singers will sing in Pyongyang, a potentially sensitive issue in a country where most citizens are blocked from accessing outside information.  But South Korean delegates said they are optimistic an agreement can be reached, saying they will exchange letters via a cross-border communication channel.

“When it comes to the list of songs, I don’t think it will take a long time if we talk about the songs they know,” said chief South Korean delegate Yoon Sang, a popular singer and composer. “Some sensitivity remains regarding which songs we’ll choose.”

The Koreas also haven’t agreed on who else will be included in the South Korean artistic delegation other than K-Pop singers.  Past South Korean performances in the North included a joint symphony concert, an opera and folk music.

Yoon’s North Korean counterpart in the talks was Hyon Song Wol, leader of the North’s only girl band.  She also headed another North Korean band which performed in the South during the Olympics.



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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

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Greek govt upset as spy show denied access to ancient temple

With Vikander leading, ‘Tomb Raider’ isn’t half bad

South Korean K-Pop singers to perform in North Korea

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