A Beloved Fantasy Franchise Is Revived with Netflix’s Live-Action ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’

(L-R) Actors Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Daniel Dae Kim, Ken Leung, Kiawentiio Tarbell, Gordon Cormier, Ian Ousley, Dallas Liu and Elizabeth Yu attends Netflix' "Avatar: The Last Airbender" premiere at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, California, February 15, 2024. (AFP)
(L-R) Actors Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Daniel Dae Kim, Ken Leung, Kiawentiio Tarbell, Gordon Cormier, Ian Ousley, Dallas Liu and Elizabeth Yu attends Netflix' "Avatar: The Last Airbender" premiere at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, California, February 15, 2024. (AFP)
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A Beloved Fantasy Franchise Is Revived with Netflix’s Live-Action ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’

(L-R) Actors Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Daniel Dae Kim, Ken Leung, Kiawentiio Tarbell, Gordon Cormier, Ian Ousley, Dallas Liu and Elizabeth Yu attends Netflix' "Avatar: The Last Airbender" premiere at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, California, February 15, 2024. (AFP)
(L-R) Actors Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Daniel Dae Kim, Ken Leung, Kiawentiio Tarbell, Gordon Cormier, Ian Ousley, Dallas Liu and Elizabeth Yu attends Netflix' "Avatar: The Last Airbender" premiere at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, California, February 15, 2024. (AFP)

A new entry in the "Avatar" franchise is about to soar and James Cameron has no part in it.

"Avatar: The Last Airbender" is a completely different fictional world from Cameron's Pandora but the two similarly named dueling sci-fi fantasy properties have kept throwing out new entries over the decades.

On Thursday — two years after the debut of "Avatar: The Way of Water" — Netflix offers "Avatar: The Last Airbender," a multi-part, lush live-action adaptation that mixes adventure and friendship, martial arts and philosophy, all through an Asian lens.

It’s a potentially fraught step because fans of this universe are very protective of the franchise, which began as a beloved cartoon series in the anime style airing on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008.

"When you have an opportunity to be part of a world that is beloved by generations of people, it can be daunting sometimes because it’s a big responsibility," says actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee. "But, at the same time, as performers, you don’t often get chances to sort of dive into worlds like that and to be part of gigantic productions."

"Avatar: The Last Airbender" is centered on a world with four tribes — air, water, earth and fire. Some can manipulate or "bend" their respective elements: hurl giant blobs of water, raise up rocks or zap someone with a wave of flames.

The eight-part saga starts with this world unbalanced — there has been a war for nearly 100 years as the Fire Nation tries to take over the planet, pretty much wiping out the airbenders along the way.

Then a young waterbender named Katara and her older brother, Sokka, discover a 12-year-old airbender named Aang, who has been frozen for a century. They realize that he may be the prophesied Avatar who can control all four elements and unite all four nations.

"I never asked to be special," Aang says early in the first episode. "The world needs you, Aang," he is told by an elder. "I don’t want this power," replies Aang. The elder counters: "Which is why you will make a great Avatar."

"It’s Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey," says Daniel Dae Kim, who plays the leader of the Fire Nation, connecting the series to such franchises as "Star Wars" and "The Matrix". "It makes it relatable to any kid or anyone to say, ‘I don’t have to be born with a sense of destiny.’ Anyone can have that destiny thrust upon them."

Netflix has created a lusciously crafted universe, where our heroes soar over roiling seas aboard bison that fly and armies battle with staffs, mid-air flips and power blasts. Port cities teem with elegant sailing ships, costumes are colorful and pockets of humor and romance leaven the action sequences.

"It’s such a deep show," says Gordon Cormier, born just a year after the original animated show ended its run and who now plays Aang. "Like the cartoon, it has so many character arcs and just amazing stories."

Aang teams up with Katara and Sokka to travel around their world, looking for clues for a way to channel his inner Avatar. There are plenty of slo-mo martial arts face-offs and mind-blowing manipulations of the elements.

Cast members were quick to give credit to showrunner and executive producer Albert Kim for being true to the beloved animated series while developing elements and crafting it for a live-action audience.

"I’m a fan of the original animated series myself and we wanted to do it justice," says Lee. "We wanted to make sure that the OG fans were happy with it, but at the same time, we’re not just giving them beat by beat the exact same thing because it already exists."

Dallas Liu, whose credits include "PEN15" and "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," plays the Fire Nation's crown prince and says Albert Kim helped them give the Netflix series its own identity.

"I think we found a very nice balance of staying faithful, but also allowing people who have never seen the show to watch a similar journey that still holds the essence of the original series."

The show is riding a wave of new TV series that embrace Asian culture, including Max’s "Warrior," Paramount+’s "The Tiger’s Apprentice," FX's "Shogun" and "House of Ninjas" at Netflix.

The world of "Avatar: The Last Airbender" has had a live-action treatment before — M. Night Shyamalan's film adaptation in 2010 that many fans deride. An animated sequel, "The Legend of Korra," aired from 2005 to 2008.

In addition to the new Netflix series, an animated "Airbender" theatrical film trilogy and an animated TV series are planned, with the first film of the expected trilogy set to hit theaters late next year. (That could be just in time to compete with Cameron's "Avatar 3.")

But first up is the Netflix series, which has some big issues for parents and their kids to chew on: destiny, growing up fast, whether to hide from danger and challenging yourself. And, of course, the notion of hope.

"We have to give people something to live for," Kitara says at one point. "That’s what the Avatar is — hope. And we need that just as much as we need food and shelter."

That's something Daniel Dae Kim thinks is a notion we can all relate to: "In times like we live in today, hope is a pretty good thing to have. And I think that analogy is something that makes it appropriate for right here and right now."



Sean Baker’s ‘Anora’ Wins Palme D’Or, the Cannes Film Festival’s Top Honor

 Director Sean Baker, Palme d'Or award winner for the film "Anora", poses during a photocall after the closing ceremony of the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 25, 2024. (Reuters)
Director Sean Baker, Palme d'Or award winner for the film "Anora", poses during a photocall after the closing ceremony of the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 25, 2024. (Reuters)
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Sean Baker’s ‘Anora’ Wins Palme D’Or, the Cannes Film Festival’s Top Honor

 Director Sean Baker, Palme d'Or award winner for the film "Anora", poses during a photocall after the closing ceremony of the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 25, 2024. (Reuters)
Director Sean Baker, Palme d'Or award winner for the film "Anora", poses during a photocall after the closing ceremony of the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 25, 2024. (Reuters)

Sean Baker's "Anora," a comic but devastating Brooklyn odyssey about a sex worker who marries the son of a wealthy Russian oligarch, won the Cannes Film Festival's top award, the Palme d'Or.

The win Saturday for "Anora" marked a coronation for Baker, the 53-year-old indie filmmaker of "The Florida Project" who used iPhones to make his 2015 film "Tangerine." It’s also, remarkably, the fifth straight Palme d’Or won by specialty distributor Neon, following "Parasite," "Titane," "Triangle of Sadness" and last year’s winner, "Anatomy of a Fall." Baker accepted the prize with his movie’s star, Mikey Madison, watching in the audience at the Cannes closing ceremony.

"This, literally, has been my singular goal as a filmmaker for the past 30 years, so I'm not really sure what I'm going to do with the rest of my life," said Baker, laughing.

But Baker, the first American filmmaker to win the Palme since Terrence Mallick in 2011 with "The Tree of Life," quickly answered that his ambition would remain to "fight to keep cinema alive." The director said the world needed reminding that "watching a film at home while scrolling through your phone, answering emails and half paying attention is just not the way — although some tech companies would like us to think so."

The awards were chosen by the nine-member jury led by Greta Gerwig, who told reporters she was "forever changed as a filmmaker because of this experience." Gerwig praised "Anora" as having the feeling of classical cinema, saying it felt like an Ernst Lubitsch or Howard Hawks film that lead in unexpected directions.

While "Anora" was arguably the most acclaimed film of the festival, its win was a slight surprise. Many expected either the gentle Indian drama "All We Imagine As Light" or the Iranian film "The Seed of the Sacred Fig" to win. Both of those films also took home prizes.

It wasn't the only jolt of the closing ceremony, though. Before George Lucas was given an honorary Palme d'Or, his old friend and sometimes collaborator Francis Ford Coppola appeared to present it to him, reuniting two of the most pivotal figures of the last half-century of American moviemaking. Coppola, who earlier in the festival premiered his self-financed sci-fi epic "Megalopolis," called him his "kid brother." Lucas called Coppola "a big friend and a brother and a mentor."

"I'm just a kid who grew up in a vineyard in Modesto, California, who makes movies in San Francisco, with my friend Francis," said Lucas. "It's definitely a different world. I've actually never made a film in Hollywood as a director."

"All We Imagine As Light," about sisterhood in modern Mumbai, won the Grand Prix, Cannes' second-highest honor. Payal Kapadia's second feature was the first Indian in competition in Cannes in 30 years.

Afterward, Kapadia urged a wide understanding of Indian cinema, saying "there's amazing work going on in our country."

"Not just Bollywood," said Kapadia.

The jury awarded a special prize to Mohammad Rasoulof’s "The Seed of the Sacred Fig," a drama made secretly in Iran. Days ahead of the film's premiere, Rasoulof, facing an eight-year prison sentence, fled Iran on foot. His film, which includes real footage from the 2022-2023 demonstrations in Iran, channels Iranian oppression into a family drama. The Cannes crowd met an emotional Rasoulof with a lengthy standing ovation.

Coralie Fargeat's body horror film "The Substance," starring Demi Moore as a Hollywood actress who goes to gory extremes to remain youthful, won for best screenplay.

"I really believe that movies can change the world, so I hope this movie will be a little stone to build new foundations," said Fargeat. "I really think we need a revolution and I don't think it has really started yet."

Some thought Moore, who attended the awards ceremony, might take best actress. But that honor instead went to an ensemble of actors: Karla Sofía Gascón, Zoe Saldaña, Selena Gomez and Adriana Paz for Jacques Audiard's "Emilia Perez," a Spanish-language musical about a Mexican drug lord.

Explaining the jury's unusual choice of giving best actress to an ensemble, Gerwig said each performer was a standout, "but together they're transcendent." "Emilia Perez" also won Cannes' jury prize, giving it a rare two awards at a festival where prizes are usually spread around.

Best actor went to Jesse Plemons for Yorgos Lanthimos' "Kinds of Kindness." In the film, three stories are told with largely the same company of actors. Plemons, a standout in several chapters, didn't attend the closing ceremony.

Portuguese director Miguel Gomes won best director for his "Grand Tour," an Asian odyssey in which a man flees his fiancée from Rangoon in 1917.

"Sometimes I get lucky," shrugged Gomes.

The Camera d'Or, the prize for best first feature across all of Cannes official selections, went to Halfdan Ullmann Tøndel for "Armand," starring "The Worst Person in the World" star Renate Reinsve. Tøndel is the grandson of Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman and Norwegian actor Liv Ullman.

Last year’s top winners in Cannes went on to considerable arthouse success and awards-season runs through the Oscars. That included the Palme winner "Anatomy of a Fall" and the Grand Prix winner "The Zone of Interest."

Whether this year’s Cannes lived up to that lineup was a regular conversation topic during the festival. But it was a notably eventful Cannes not just for the some of the films — including "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga" and Kevin Costner’s "Horizon: An America Saga" — that screened but for other surrounding dramas.

After stalling for years in France, the #MeToo movement gained momentum ahead of the festival following allegations by Judith Godrèche against two prominent French filmmakers. She brought her short "Moi Aussi" to the festival.

The wars in Gaza and Ukraine were sometimes referenced in press conferences and in subtly symbolic ways on the red carpet. Festival workers, seeking better protections, protested during the opening night ceremony. The Olympic flame, ahead of its arrival in Paris for the summer games, stopped by. Honorary Palmes were also given to Meryl Streep and the Japanese anime factory Studio Ghibli.


Mary Poppins Songwriter Richard Sherman Dies at Age 95

Mickey Mouse, songwriter Richard M. Sherman and Minnie Mouse pose during a dedication of Stage A on The Walt Disney Studios Lot to the Sherman Brothers, songwriters Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, before the World Premiere of Disney's "Christopher Robin," in Burbank, California, US, July 30, 2018. (Reuters)
Mickey Mouse, songwriter Richard M. Sherman and Minnie Mouse pose during a dedication of Stage A on The Walt Disney Studios Lot to the Sherman Brothers, songwriters Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, before the World Premiere of Disney's "Christopher Robin," in Burbank, California, US, July 30, 2018. (Reuters)
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Mary Poppins Songwriter Richard Sherman Dies at Age 95

Mickey Mouse, songwriter Richard M. Sherman and Minnie Mouse pose during a dedication of Stage A on The Walt Disney Studios Lot to the Sherman Brothers, songwriters Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, before the World Premiere of Disney's "Christopher Robin," in Burbank, California, US, July 30, 2018. (Reuters)
Mickey Mouse, songwriter Richard M. Sherman and Minnie Mouse pose during a dedication of Stage A on The Walt Disney Studios Lot to the Sherman Brothers, songwriters Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, before the World Premiere of Disney's "Christopher Robin," in Burbank, California, US, July 30, 2018. (Reuters)

Richard Sherman, 95, a man behind famed Disney songs that delighted generations, such as "It's a Small World (After all)" and Mary Poppins' songs "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," "Chim Chim Cher-ee" and "Spoon full of Sugar" died on Saturday, the Walt Disney Co announced on its website.

He passed at a Beverly Hills California, hospital. The cause was only listed as an "age-related illness," a Disney obituary said.

Sherman was one half of the famed songwriting team "the Sherman Brothers" along with his late brother Robert Sherman, and he was regarded as part of Walt Disney's inner creative circle.

Among non-Disney movies, the Sherman Brothers wrote songs for the hit 1968 children's film "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."

The brothers were lauded as among the most prolific composer-lyricists of the era. They wrote more than 200 songs and garnered nine Academy Award nominations, won two Oscars and three Grammy Awards, and also earned 24 gold and platinum albums over a decades-long career.

“Richard Sherman was the embodiment of what it means to be a Disney Legend, creating along with his brother Robert the beloved classics that have become a cherished part of the soundtrack of our lives,” Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a statement.

Before his career in songwriting, he majored in music at Bard College and served a stint in the US Army, where he was a conductor for an Army band and glee club in the early 1950s.

In 2005, the brothers were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Three years later, they were awarded the National Medal of the Arts, presented at the White House.

He was preceded in death by Robert Sherman in 2012.

Sherman is survived by his wife of 66 years, Elizabeth, his son Gregory and numerous other relatives. Plans for a public service were not announced.


At Cannes, Iranian Director Rasoulof Recalls Difficult Exile Decision

Cast member Setareh Maleki and director Mohammad Rasoulof attend a press conference for "The Seed of the Sacred Fig" (Les Graines du figuier sauvage) in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 25, 2024. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
Cast member Setareh Maleki and director Mohammad Rasoulof attend a press conference for "The Seed of the Sacred Fig" (Les Graines du figuier sauvage) in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 25, 2024. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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At Cannes, Iranian Director Rasoulof Recalls Difficult Exile Decision

Cast member Setareh Maleki and director Mohammad Rasoulof attend a press conference for "The Seed of the Sacred Fig" (Les Graines du figuier sauvage) in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 25, 2024. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
Cast member Setareh Maleki and director Mohammad Rasoulof attend a press conference for "The Seed of the Sacred Fig" (Les Graines du figuier sauvage) in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 25, 2024. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof recalled how he had to decide within hours whether to go into exile or serve a prison sentence, saying it was still difficult to talk about it during a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday.

Rasoulof was in the French Riviera town for the premiere of his new drama "The Seed of the Sacred Fig", almost two weeks after announcing he had fled Iran and entered into exile in the wake of his sentencing to eight years in jail and flogging.

After he learned that he had a week left before his sentence would be implemented, things moved quickly, he said, especially as authorities had caught wind of the existence of his new film, Reuters reported.

"I had to say to myself, well, do I want to be in prison, or should I leave Iran, geographic Iran, and join the cultural Iran that exists beyond its borders?" recalled the director.

"It took me two hours to take the decision. I walked around, I paced around my house. I said goodbye to my plants that I love, and I have many, many plants in my house," he added.

Then, Rasoulof left all his belongings and walked out of the house. "It's not an easy decision to take. It still isn't easy even to talk about it today with you," he told journalists.

Iran's culture minister Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili told state media this month that Rasoulof's film had been made illegally and there would be a crackdown on movies without permits.

"The Seed of the Sacred Fig" is about a court official who grows increasingly controlling of his family during the 2022 protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman arrested by the morality police for allegedly flouting dress codes.

The film drew the longest standing ovation at the festival after its premiere on Friday night and was well received by critics who called it "mesmerizingly gripping" and "shattering".

The director, who has been arrested and detained several times for charges ranging from filming without a permit to "collusion against national security", said that the idea for the film came from years of confrontation with secret services.

"All these characters were inspired by real people, all the scenes come from real situations," he said, adding that experience has also made him adept at avoiding secret services.

"Our life is fairly similar to that of gangsters, except we are gangsters of the cinema," he joked at the news conference.


US Judge Denies Alec Baldwin Bid to Dismiss 'Rust' Charge

FILE PHOTO: Actor Alec Baldwin departs his home in New York, US, January 31, 2023. REUTERS/David 'Dee' Delgado//File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Actor Alec Baldwin departs his home in New York, US, January 31, 2023. REUTERS/David 'Dee' Delgado//File Photo
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US Judge Denies Alec Baldwin Bid to Dismiss 'Rust' Charge

FILE PHOTO: Actor Alec Baldwin departs his home in New York, US, January 31, 2023. REUTERS/David 'Dee' Delgado//File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Actor Alec Baldwin departs his home in New York, US, January 31, 2023. REUTERS/David 'Dee' Delgado//File Photo

A New Mexico judge on Friday rejected Alec Baldwin's bid to dismiss an involuntary manslaughter charge for the 2021 shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, opening the way for an unprecedented trial of a Hollywood actor for an on-set death.
Baldwin's lawyers argued at a May 17 hearing that a grand jury indictment of the actor was "a sham" as prosecutors failed to tell jurors they could question defense witnesses and stopped them hearing evidence helpful to the actor's case.
Among her arguments in a court filing, district court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer said she did not find prosecutorial bad faith in the grand jury, nor error in jury instructions and prosecutors adequately advised jurors regarding a letter from Baldwin's legal team listing defense jurors they could call.
"The court finds no error in the actions taken by the prosecutor vis-a-vi the reading of the evidence letter," Marlowe Sommer, appointed by Democratic New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson in 2010, said in the filing.
The actor now faces a July 10 trial, Reuters reported.
Hutchins was shot with a live round after Baldwin pointed a gun at her as she set up a camera shot on a movie set near Santa Fe, New Mexico. The "30 Rock" actor maintains he did not pull the trigger, an assertion that has become central to the case.
Much of the differences between prosecution and defense positions are factual disputes and that is the type of case juries are meant to decide, said business and entertainment trial litigator Tre Lovell.
He is among attorneys who expect Baldwin to escape conviction, arguing he was an actor and not responsible for firearms safety, a position supported by Hollywood’s SAG-AFTRA performers union.
“The real secret is educating a jury about a film set,” said Lovell.
At trial, Baldwin’s legal team must convince Santa Fe jurors there was a cascading failure in set firearms safety before the weapon was put in Baldwin’s hand.
Special prosecutor Kari Morrissey has argued in court filings that Baldwin broke firearm safety rules by pointing the gun at Hutchins, cocking it and pulling the trigger.
Sommer sentenced "Rust" armorer Hannah Gutierrez to 18 months prison in April after a Santa Fe jury found her guilty of involuntary manslaughter for loading the live round into the reproduction Colt Single Action Army revolver Baldwin was using.
Morrissey accuses Baldwin of contributing to the collapse in firearm safety protocols by being an on-set bully. At Gutierrez’s trial she showed video of him pointing his revolver at people, firing it when not supposed to, swearing at himself and others, and telling Gutierrez what to do.
"Rust" director Joel Souza and first assistant director Dave Halls have defended Baldwin's on-set behavior, characterizing it as related to the adrenaline of an "A-list" actor.
Testing of Baldwin’s revolver by the FBI and an independent firearms specialist hired by the prosecution found it would not fire without the trigger pulled.
The defense argues the hammer and trigger of the revolver were modified to make it easier to fire, allowing an accidental discharge.
Observer and attorney Rachel Fiset sees this as a risky strategy.
“What is unusual in Baldwin’s case is that the alleged malfunction was directly in line with him appearing to “intentionally” act as if he was going to shoot the gun,” adding that if the jury does not believe the modification argument, it may be devastating to Baldwin’s credibility.


The Real Stars of Cannes May Be the Dogs 

Eddie Peng poses with his dog Xin during an interview for the film "Black Dog" at the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP)
Eddie Peng poses with his dog Xin during an interview for the film "Black Dog" at the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP)
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The Real Stars of Cannes May Be the Dogs 

Eddie Peng poses with his dog Xin during an interview for the film "Black Dog" at the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP)
Eddie Peng poses with his dog Xin during an interview for the film "Black Dog" at the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP)

It’s been a dog’s life at this year’s Cannes Film Festival — or should that be the Canine Film Festival?

Since the 77th edition’s opening day, human actors have shared the limelight with their canine co-stars on and off the red carpet, kept secure by the perky sniffer dogs that dart around the press ladder and tripods ahead of every premiere.

It all started with Messi, from last year’s Palme d’Or winner “Anatomy of a Fall” and the reigning Palm Dog champion. He was first out when the festival opened last Tuesday, flouting the carpet’s strict black-tie protocols.

Sans the obligatory bow tie or clothes of any sort, the in-demand border collie performed tricks up the famous steps of the Palais des Festivals. In town this year as a correspondent for French television, he’s been spotted up and down Cannes’ famed Croisette, taking selfies with fans.

Riding on Messi’s purely proverbial coattails was Felicity, a Samoyed ambassador for the London-based charity NoToDogMeat, which rescued her from China’s meat trade. Felicity wore a custom-made gold gown for her red-carpet moment, posing for the cameras like a pro — it was, after all, her second year in a row at the festival.

Meanwhile, Demi Moore jetted into town with her tiny chihuahua Pilaf to promote the body-horror film “The Substance.” The teeny pooch was front and center of the photocall. Even after Moore spent six to eight hours in the makeup chair with only her eyes visible, Pilaf always recognized her during filming: “That’s all that counted. My touchstone of reality,” the actor said at the movie’s press conference.

And while Pilaf only made it to Cannes as a plus-one, there were two leading dogs in town to promote their movies.

Swiss comedy “Dog on Trial” premiered in the Un Certain Regard section, directed by and starring Laetitia Dosch. Based on a real case, the French-language film tells the story of a defense lawyer who takes on Cosmos, an aggressive dog facing legal action, as a client.

The titular dog is played by Kodi, a griffon, who Dosch says is really the star of the movie. It was important to her that Kodi had his name on the credits and the film poster and would be by her side in Cannes. A comedy-drama with a feminist outlook, “Dog on Trial” is about exploitation, Dosch says — and she has an offbeat theory as to what women and dogs have in common.

Also competing in Un Certain Regard — which curates a lineup of original and daring films — is another dog-centered drama, “Gou Zhen” (“Black Dog”) from the Chinese director Guan Hu. In it, Taiwanese superstar Eddie Peng plays Lang, who’s charged with removing stray dogs from his hometown on government orders ahead of the Olympic Games. One particular dog has a profound impact on Lang — and, as it turns out, on the actor himself.

Peng built up such a bond with his canine co-star Xin, a Jack Russell-greyhound cross, that he adopted her after filming ended and credits her for changing his outlook on life.

“They act truthfully,” Peng says of dogs, on a stroll around the Cannes harborfront with Xin, who accompanied him to France. “They don’t, you know, they don’t put on the mask. They don’t care about who you are or whether you’re famous or not, how much money you make.”

When he comes home, she jumps up like it’s the happiest moment of her entire life: “I think that’s something that we all need to learn from.”

She’s also changed the way he approaches acting, abandoning much backstory and preparation.

“Animals are just so present, you know. It will be so obvious somehow, if you are overacting,” he says.

Both Kodi and Xin are surely contenders for this year’s Palm Dog, an unofficial award created by journalists recognizing the best chien in show biz. Contest creator Toby Rose is giving nothing away ahead of Friday’s ceremony, but said this year started auspiciously with Palm Dog 2023 winner Messi and “is without doubt set to be a vintage Palm Dog year.”

In Peng’s view, Xin is already a winner. He might be a household name in Asia, but it’s Xin who is getting the lion’s share of the adoration in Cannes. Since the film screened earlier this week, Peng says she’s been recognized on the streets.

“Maybe in the future I don’t need to work anymore,” he says. “I’ll just be the agent with my dog.”


Rapper Sean Kingston Arrested in California after SWAT Raids his Florida Home

Singer Sean Kingston arrives at the 2011 American Music Awards in Los Angeles November 20, 2011. (Reuters)
Singer Sean Kingston arrives at the 2011 American Music Awards in Los Angeles November 20, 2011. (Reuters)
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Rapper Sean Kingston Arrested in California after SWAT Raids his Florida Home

Singer Sean Kingston arrives at the 2011 American Music Awards in Los Angeles November 20, 2011. (Reuters)
Singer Sean Kingston arrives at the 2011 American Music Awards in Los Angeles November 20, 2011. (Reuters)

Rapper Sean Kingston was arrested in California on fraud charges Thursday, several hours after a SWAT team raided his rented South Florida mansion and carted away a van load of items.

The Broward County Sheriff's Office said Kingston was arrested without incident on a Florida warrant in the area of Fort Irwin, an Army base in the desert about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Los Angeles.

Earlier in the day, Broward detectives arrested his 61-year-old mother, Janice Turner, during the raid of the rapper's 14,000-square foot (1,300-square meter) home in Southwest Ranches, a well-off Fort Lauderdale suburb that is home to many celebrities and professional athletes, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Miami Dolphins star Tyreek Hill.

Broward County prosecutors referred all questions to the sheriff’s office, which has has declined to release specific details about charges, citing an ongoing investigation. After the raid, reporters outside the home could see authorities filling a loading van with goods. The mansion was surrounded by expensive sports cars.

“People love negative energy!” Kingston had posted on Instagram earlier Thursday. “I am good, and so is my mother! ... My lawyers are handling everything as we speak.” The post was later taken down.

Robert Rosenblatt, an attorney representing the rapper and his mother, said, “we are aware of some of the allegations” being made against the two.

“We look forward to addressing these in court and are confident of a successful resolution for Shawn and his mother,” Rosenblatt said in an email.

Florida Department of Corrections records show Kingston is currently on two years' probation for trafficking stolen property. Further information on that conviction could not be found. He will be held in California pending extradition to Florida.

According to federal court records, his mother pleaded guilty in 2006 to bank fraud for stealing over $160,000 and served nearly 1.5 years in prison. She was being held at the Broward jail Thursday night on $160,000 bond.

The Jamaican-American rapper is best known for his 2007 No. 1 single “Beautiful Girls”; another hit, “Take You There”; and his collaboration with Justin Bieber on the song “Eenie Meenie." In 2011 he suffered near-fatal injuries in a personal watercraft accident. Kingston, whose legal name is Kisean Anderson, hasn’t had a major label release in more than a decade.


Saudi Film 'Noura' Screened at Cannes Film Festival

A person walks past the Cannes film festival logo during preparations for the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Monday, May 13, 2024. The Cannes film festival runs from May 14 until May 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
A person walks past the Cannes film festival logo during preparations for the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Monday, May 13, 2024. The Cannes film festival runs from May 14 until May 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
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Saudi Film 'Noura' Screened at Cannes Film Festival

A person walks past the Cannes film festival logo during preparations for the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Monday, May 13, 2024. The Cannes film festival runs from May 14 until May 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
A person walks past the Cannes film festival logo during preparations for the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Monday, May 13, 2024. The Cannes film festival runs from May 14 until May 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

The Red Sea Fund of the Red Sea Film Foundation screened the Saudi film “Noura” at the Un Certain Regard, “a certain look,” section of the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival, making it the first Saudi film to be on the official list of the world's most prestigious film gathering, SPA reported.

Noura was supported by the Red Sea Fund and was filmed entirely in the city of art and history, AlUla, located in the northwest of the Kingdom, with 40% of its crew being Saudis, demonstrating the great support that the film industry enjoys.
The film, which has received international distribution, is scheduled to premiere in Saudi and international theaters on June 20, 2024.


Sony Says Focus is on Creativity, with Games, Movies, Music, Sensors, IP, and not Gadgets

Sony Group CEO Kenichiro Yoshida and President Hiroki Totoki attend the company's annual strategy briefing in Tokyo, Japan, May 23, 2024. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Sony Group CEO Kenichiro Yoshida and President Hiroki Totoki attend the company's annual strategy briefing in Tokyo, Japan, May 23, 2024. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
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Sony Says Focus is on Creativity, with Games, Movies, Music, Sensors, IP, and not Gadgets

Sony Group CEO Kenichiro Yoshida and President Hiroki Totoki attend the company's annual strategy briefing in Tokyo, Japan, May 23, 2024. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Sony Group CEO Kenichiro Yoshida and President Hiroki Totoki attend the company's annual strategy briefing in Tokyo, Japan, May 23, 2024. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Japanese electronics and entertainment company Sony says it’s focusing on creativity in movies, animation and video games, rather than old-fashioned gadgetry, The Associated Press reproted.
Its chief executive, Kenichiro Yoshida, outlined the company’s strategy Thursday, saying Sony was helping creative professionals deliver what he called “kando,” or a moving experience.
Yoshida did not speak about reports Tokyo-based Sony and Apollo Global Management are interested in buying Paramount Global.
Yoshida said the company is now emphasizing the creative process itself instead of prized products of the past like the Walkman portable music player and Trinitron color TVs. He said “synergies” are no longer between entertainment and electronics, but determined by intellectual property spanning animation, music, games and films.
“We will continue to support people’s creativity through our technology,” he said in an online briefing.
Sony is adapting to tougher times, with rivals making cheaper but competitive electronics. Critics say venturing into movies, music and other entertainment can be unprofitable.
Starting with its acquisition of EMI Music Publishing in 2018, Sony has invested approximately 1.5 trillion yen ($10 billion) in the last six years to strengthen its content creation.
In 2021 it acquired Crunchyroll, which has more than 13 million paid subscribers and delivers Japanese animation globally. Another was Yoasobi, a Japanese music duo that includes Vocaloid technology, or singing voice synthesizer software, and is attracting global fans.
Sony’s real-time computing technology that records “this moment,” as Yoshida put it, is being used in cameras at sports events because it can capture quickly moving subjects without distortion.
It's also used for news coverage and editing and in 3D video and computer graphics, including hit movies like “Godzilla Minus One,” and games based on human athletes’ movements, according to Yoshida.
Sony recently reported its quarterly profit rose to 189 billion yen ($1.2 billion) from 141 billion yen the year before. Quarterly sales for the maker of the PlayStation game machines rose 14% to 3.48 trillion yen ($22 billion).
But for the fiscal year through March, Sony recorded a 3% decline in profit at 970 billion yen ($6.2 billion) due to a weak performance in its financial services segment, which will be partially spun off next year.


‘The Garfield Movie’ Gave Chris Pratt a Reminder of His Lazy Side

 US actor Chris Pratt arrives for the premiere of "The Garfield" movie at the TLC Chinese Theater in Hollywood on May 19, 2024. (AFP)
US actor Chris Pratt arrives for the premiere of "The Garfield" movie at the TLC Chinese Theater in Hollywood on May 19, 2024. (AFP)
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‘The Garfield Movie’ Gave Chris Pratt a Reminder of His Lazy Side

 US actor Chris Pratt arrives for the premiere of "The Garfield" movie at the TLC Chinese Theater in Hollywood on May 19, 2024. (AFP)
US actor Chris Pratt arrives for the premiere of "The Garfield" movie at the TLC Chinese Theater in Hollywood on May 19, 2024. (AFP)

Voicing the iconic lazy, orange cat in "The Garfield Movie" reminded Chris Pratt of himself when he was in his late 20s and early 30s.

"I ate so much all the time, and I was very lazy," he told Reuters.

"I never exercised and I ate a whole bunch, and it was great," the "Guardians of the Galaxy" actor added. "So, now I don't have that any longer, but I do have the sense that I'm constantly pampered. So, depending on the season of my life we're talking about, there are similarities in the characters, but I've yet to be all of them all at once."

Pratt humorously noted that his connection to his character became stronger in several ways leading up to his interview.

"I've become Garfield. Look. I've got orange all around me. I was pampered and pet all morning before this interview and now I'm going to eat a big bowl of lasagna," he said.

The famed 1976 comic strip from cartoonist Jim Davis is going from page to animation. Distributed by Sony Pictures, it arrives in US movie theaters on Friday.

The film follows Garfield, a lethargic and greedy orange cat, as he’s snatched away from his pampered lifestyle and forced to carry out a heist for the sake of his alley cat father Vic, voiced by Samuel L. Jackson.

Pratt is no stranger to voicing animated characters following his experience portraying the Italian plumber Mario in the box office success "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" and voicing the elf Barley Lightfoot in Pixar's "Onward."

For the 44-year-old actor, it was easy to take on the role because Dindal, a well-known animation pioneer known for leading hits like "The Emperor's New Groove," already imagined his voice being used for Garfield, making it an effortless fit.

"Mark Dindal (the director) said 'I've been working on this for a couple of years, and I just hear your voice coming out of his mouth. To me, this is Chris Pratt as a cat,’" Pratt said.

Getting approval from Davis, whose comic strip has been published in over 2,000 newspapers and journals around the world, meant a lot to Pratt.

"Yeah, he's the character's creator, and I just heard recently that he gave a sweet quote and rated me a 10 out of 10 as the voice of Garfield," Pratt said.

"I don't think I'd quite realized how much pressure I'd been feeling to get the sign-off from him, and, so, the fact that he felt that way means a lot to me," he added


Dreamy Cannes Drama 'Parthenope' Embodies Naples' Character, Says Director

FILE PHOTO of Members of the public walk in front of the Palais des Festival prior to the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, July 5, 2021. (AP Photo/ Brynn Anderson)
FILE PHOTO of Members of the public walk in front of the Palais des Festival prior to the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, July 5, 2021. (AP Photo/ Brynn Anderson)
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Dreamy Cannes Drama 'Parthenope' Embodies Naples' Character, Says Director

FILE PHOTO of Members of the public walk in front of the Palais des Festival prior to the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, July 5, 2021. (AP Photo/ Brynn Anderson)
FILE PHOTO of Members of the public walk in front of the Palais des Festival prior to the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, July 5, 2021. (AP Photo/ Brynn Anderson)

The heroine of "Parthenope," Paolo Sorrentino's new coming-of-age drama, is the embodiment of the city of Naples and all its mysteries and freedoms, the Italian director said on Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival, where the film had its premiere.

Newcomer Celeste Dalla Porta stars as the titular character, a long-haired beauty who enchants the men in her life, with the film following her from her birth in the waters of the Bay of Naples to her last day before retiring as a professor of anthropology.

"Parthenope, in the first part of the film, when she is young, coincides with the city, they are two mysteries," said Sorrentino, a Cannes veteran who has brought seven films to compete for the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or.

Sorrentino was nominated for an Oscar for 2021's "The Hand of God," set in 1980s Naples, and won best foreign language film with 2013's "The Great Beauty."

"In the second part, her view becomes more critical when a more disenchanted phase of her life begins. She is a free and spontaneous woman, who does not judge, exactly like the city."

Naples is sometimes known as Parthenope in reference to the ancient Greek settlement established there, named after a siren who according to legend drowned herself after failing to bewitch Odysseus and whose body washed up on the shores of the city, Reuters reported.

For Dalla Porta, 26, the film not only is an allegory for Naples, but also for her own life.

"Before we started shooting the film I was still in a youthful, carefree phase of my life, where work was still something of a dream and being an actor somewhat an abstract idea," said at a news conference alongside Sorrentino.

"But during the process of making the film, it was as if I had to let go of the little girl in me," she added.