'Civil War’ Continues Box-office Campaign at No. 1

Cast members Dan Stevens, Melissa Barrera, Kevin Durand, William Catlett, Alisha Weir and Kathryn Newton attend a premiere for the film "Abigail" in Los Angeles, California, US, April 17, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Cast members Dan Stevens, Melissa Barrera, Kevin Durand, William Catlett, Alisha Weir and Kathryn Newton attend a premiere for the film "Abigail" in Los Angeles, California, US, April 17, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
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'Civil War’ Continues Box-office Campaign at No. 1

Cast members Dan Stevens, Melissa Barrera, Kevin Durand, William Catlett, Alisha Weir and Kathryn Newton attend a premiere for the film "Abigail" in Los Angeles, California, US, April 17, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Cast members Dan Stevens, Melissa Barrera, Kevin Durand, William Catlett, Alisha Weir and Kathryn Newton attend a premiere for the film "Abigail" in Los Angeles, California, US, April 17, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

“Civil War,” Alex Garland’s ominous American dystopia, remained the top film in theaters in its second week of release, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The A24 election-year gamble, the indie studio’s biggest budgeted film yet, took in $11.1 million in ticket sales at 3,929 theaters over the weekend, The Associated Press reported. The $50 million film, set in a near-future US in which Texas and California have joined in rebellion against a fascist president, has grossed $44.9 million in two weeks.
Its provocative premise – and A24’s marketing, which included images of US cities ravaged by war – helped keep “Civil War” top of mind for moviegoers.
But it was a painfully slow weekend in theaters – the kind sure to add to concern over what’s thus far been a down year for Hollywood at the box office.
Going into the weekend, Universal Pictures’ “Abigail,” a critically acclaimed R-rated horror film about the daughter of Dracula, had been expected to lead ticket sales. It came in second with $10.2 million in 3,384 theaters.
That was still a fair result for a film that cost a modest $28 million to make. “Abigail,” which remakes the 1936 monster film “Dracula’s Daughter,” is about a 12-year-old girl taken by kidnappers who soon realize they’ve made a poor choice of hostage. It’s directed by the duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett whose production company goes by the name Radio Silence.
More concerning was the overall tepid response for a handful of new wide releases – and the likelihood that there will be more similar weekends throughout 2024. Last year’s actors and writers' strikes, which had a prolonged effect on the movie pipeline, exacerbated holes in Hollywood’s release schedule.
Horror films, in recent years among the most reliable cash cows in theaters, also haven’t thus far been doing the automatic business they previous did. According to David A. Gross, who runs the consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, horror releases accounted for $2 billion in worldwide sales in 2023.
Guy Ritchie’s “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare” debuted with $9 million in 2,845 theaters. In the based-on-a-true-story Lionsgate release, which reportedly cost $60 million to produce, Henry Cavill leads a World War II mission off the coast of West Africa.
Though Ritchie has been behind numerous box-office hits, including the live-action “Aladdin” and a pair of Sherlock Holmes films, his recent movies have struggled to find big audiences. The Lionsgate spy comedy “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” grossed $48 million against a $50 million budget, while MGM’s “The Covenant,” also released last year, made $21 million while costing $55 million to make.
A bright sign for “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare”: audiences liked it. The film earned an A-minus CinemaScore.
The anime “Spy x Family Code: White,” from Sony’s Crunchyroll, also struggled to stand out with audiences. Though the adaptation of the Tatsuya Endo manga TV series “Spy x Family” has already been a hit with international moviegoers, it debuted below expectations with $4.9 million in 2,009 US theaters.
The mightiest film globally, though, continues to be “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.” The Warner Bros. monster movie has for the past month led worldwide ticket sales. It added another $9.5 million domestically and $21.6 million internationally to bring its four-week global total to $485.2 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at US and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore.



What to Stream This Weekend: ‘Bridgerton,’ Billie Eilish and Zayn Malik Albums, ‘American Fiction’

Photo released by Lionsgate - The AP
Photo released by Lionsgate - The AP
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What to Stream This Weekend: ‘Bridgerton,’ Billie Eilish and Zayn Malik Albums, ‘American Fiction’

Photo released by Lionsgate - The AP
Photo released by Lionsgate - The AP

Billie Eilish’s third studio album, “Hit Me Hard and Soft” and the return of “Bridgerton” are some of the new television, movies, music and games headed to a device near you.

Also among the streaming offerings worth your time as selected by The Associated Press’ entertainment journalists: Zayn Malik releases a new album, the video game Homeworld returns after more than 20 years and Cord Jefferson’s Oscar-winning “American Fiction” lands on Prime Video .

NEW SHOWS TO STREAM — Seasons one and two of “Bridgerton” followed the first two novels in the series by Julia Quinn. Taking place in Regency-era London, each book is about the love story of one Bridgerton family member. Season three, however, skips to book No. 4 with the friends to lovers’ courtship of Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) and Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan.) Netflix has broken the season into two parts with the first batch of new episodes premiering Thursday.

— Sophie Rundle of “Peaky Blinders” stars in “After the Flood,” as a police officer in a UK town that is devastated by a flood. The six-episode series is both a thriller and a red flag about the consequences of climate change. The series premiered Monday on BritBox.

— Josh Brolin leads “Outer Range” on Prime Video, a Western about neighboring ranchers battling for land that quickly turns trippy with time-travel. Lili Taylor, Tom Pelphrey, Imogen Poots and Shaun Sipos also star. All seven episodes of season two dropped on Thursday.

— André Holland (“Moonlight”) plays Black Panther founder Huey P. Newton in the new series “The Big Cigar” for Apple TV+. It dives into the true story of how in 1974, Holland was being pursued by the FBI for murder and assault charges. He got help from a movie producer named Bert Schneider to escape to Cuba. The six-episode series debuts Friday.

— The popular food competition series “Ciao House” returns for its second season on Sunday, May 19 on Food Network. On the show, 12 chefs live together in a villa in Puglia, Italy, and compete in various culinary challenges. The contestants form alliances and rivalries. In the end, the winner gets to train under master Italian chefs. “Iron Chef” champion Alex Guarnaschelli and Gabe Bertaccini return as hosts.

— Alicia Rancilio

NEW MOVIES TO STREAM – Cord Jefferson’s Oscar-winning “American Fiction,” one of the most celebrated directorial debuts in recent years, is now on Prime Video . Jeffrey Wright stars at Thelonious “Monk” Ellison, a frustrated novelist who, in a drunken fit of rage, pens a satirical book parodying what’s popular, only it becomes a sensation. Sterling K. Brown, John Ortiz, Erika Alexander, Issa Rae and Leslie Uggams round out a terrific ensemble. In her review, AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr wrote that “American Fiction” “is immensely watchable, staged without flash or pretention, that relies on its sharp script and talented and charismatic actors to carry the audience through.”

– A trio of new films coming to Netflix covers a wide gamut. The animated “Thelma the Unicorn” (streaming Friday) is about a small pony painted to pose as a unicorn, voiced by the Grammy-winning singer-guitarist Brittany Howard. Yance Ford’s “Power” (streaming Friday) examines the roots of American policing and its evolution over time. And “Madame Web,” the much-maligned Marvel entry in Sony’s Spider-Man universe of films, landed Tuesday on Netflix. Dakota Johnson stars in what Bahr wrote in her review “feels like the stitched-together product of a bunch of people who weren’t actually collaborating.”

– The odds are more in the favor of “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes,” which began streaming on Starz after a successful theatrical run last November. It’s a prequel to the Hunger Games, themselves. The games are in their 10th year and ratings are flagging, but a few twists and turns will catapult them to Panem’s center stage. The origin story is also for the man who will become President Coriolanus Snow, played by Donald Sutherland in the first four films. Here, the young, ambitious Snow is played by Tom Blythe, whose performance lifts the movie. In my review, I wrote: “Just as in the ‘Hunger Games’ films led by Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen, the new one proves how much you can sacrifice in story when you’ve got a thrilling young performer commanding the screen.”

— AP Film Writer Jake Coyle

NEW MUSIC TO STREAM — What can listeners expect from Billie Eilish ’s third studio album, “Hit Me Hard and Soft”? It’s a mystery, and the pop star is keeping it that way for a reason. Last month, Eilish announced the album by sharing the artwork on Instagram. It depicts Eilish floating in a body of water after being ejected from a door. In the caption, she wrote that she will not drop singles in advance of the release. “I wanna give it to you all at once,” she captioned the image. “I truly could not be more proud of this album.” Here's what we do know: Eilish once again worked with her brother and longtime collaborator Finneas on “Hit Me Hard and Soft.” ( Read AP's review here.)

— Once known as a heartthrob with the best pipes in the British boy band One Direction, Zayn Malik was the first to courageously individuate and leave the group that kickstarted his career and launch an R&B pop career. That was a lifetime ago — now, on Friday, he will release his fourth solo studio album, “Room Under the Stairs,” dreamt up and written at his home in rural Pennsylvania. This time around he worked with the legendary country producer Dave Cobb (known for his work with Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, and Brandi Carlile, among others) for Malik's folkiest release to date. It’s part-R&B, part-soul, part-acoustic Americana — a new, matured Malik for a new era.

— For several years, SQÜRL, the musical moniker of duo filmmaker Jim Jarmusch and Carter Logan, have performed sonic compositions to partner the cinematic works of Dadaist Man Ray. On Friday, all of that work reaches its natural apex when they will release a new album, “Music for Man Ray,” on the 100th anniversary of Man Ray’s filmic pursuits. (For the film fans reading this, you may have sense this was coming when the recently restored Man Ray film “Return to Reason” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. ) Surrealist music for the senses.

— Alternative rock fans, there’s a new docu-reality series for you. “ Billy Corgan’s Adventures in Carnyland” is an eight-part unscripted series from The CW that follows the Smashing Pumpkins’ frontman as he navigates fatherhood, being in a band, and his other idiosyncratic pursuits as a wrestling promoter and owner of the National Wrestling Alliance. Stream it on the CW App and cwtv.com.

— AP Music Writer Maria Sherman

NEW VIDEO GAMES TO PLAY — Twenty-one years isn’t that much time on a cosmic scale, but for fans of the science fiction epic Homeworld — who have waited since 2003 since the last full-blown installment — it has been an eternity. As Gearbox Publishing’s Homeworld 3 begins, the galaxy has enjoyed an age of prosperity thanks to the discovery of a network of hyperspace gates. The good times may be running out, though, as some of the gates are mysteriously collapsing. Developer Blackbird Interactive, which includes some veterans of the original game, promises plenty of the 3D outer space combat that made it a hit, whether you want to fly solo or engage in free-for-alls against your friends. Liftoff on the PC.

— If you prefer your mysteries a little more earthbound, Annapurna Interactive’s Lorelei and the Laser Eyes has you covered. You have been invited to explore an old hotel somewhere in Europe, where you’ll soon find yourself “embroiled in a game of illusions.” The aesthetic is classic film noir, with eerie black-and-white settings accented with splashes of red. Swedish studio Simogo, known for mind-benders like Year Walk and Device 6, promises “an immense amount of handcrafted puzzles,” so if you’ve been craving a really big escape room, check in on Nintendo Switch and PC.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Costner, Gere, Demi Moore: Hollywood Icons on Cannes Comeback Trail 

Demi Moore. (Getty Images North America/AFP) 
Demi Moore. (Getty Images North America/AFP) 
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Costner, Gere, Demi Moore: Hollywood Icons on Cannes Comeback Trail 

Demi Moore. (Getty Images North America/AFP) 
Demi Moore. (Getty Images North America/AFP) 

This year's Cannes Film Festival hosts a trio of heartthrobs from the back end of the 20th century, making their comeback on the red carpet: Demi Moore, Kevin Costner and Richard Gere.

From "Ghost" to "Pretty Woman" to "Dances with Wolves", they are responsible for some of Generation X's favorite movie moments.

AFP looks at what they've been up to since.

- Demi Moore: ghost girl -

On the Croisette, 61-year-old Moore will be making her unexpected return in slasher-horror "The Substance", competing for the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or.

It has been a long time since Moore came anywhere near a Cannes red carpet, having appeared mostly in small TV roles and forgettable films since the early 2000s.

In her heyday, Moore was a global star after the weepie "Ghost" co-starring the late Patrick Swayze as a murdered businessman who watches over his grieving ceramicist girlfriend from beyond the grave.

Her baggy, androgynous look in that movie -- the dungarees and boyish crop -- helped define 1990s style, and she had other era-defining hits with steamy dramas "Indecent Proposal" and "Disclosure".

An Annie Leibovitz photoshoot -- showing off her pregnant belly on the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991 -- was a stunning move at the time, since copied by Beyonce, Rihanna and others.

She proved her acting chops in meatier 1990s movies such as blockbuster courtroom drama "A Few Good Men" opposite Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson.

But since the turn of the century, Moore, who has a life-long passion for collecting dolls and bought an entire house to store her 2,000-strong collection, was in the headlines more for her tumultuous love life than her acting.

She formed two Hollywood power couples, first in the 1980s with "Die Hard" star Bruce Willis, father of her three daughters, and then with Ashton Kutcher, the latter union ending acrimoniously in 2013.

- Kevin Costner: forever West -

The soft-spoken 69-year-old is back in Cannes in his favorite genre, the Western, with the epic "Horizon: An American Saga".

Fans are hoping his fourth feature as director -- which is out of competition at Cannes -- will mark a return to form after a series of expensive duds in the 1990s trashed his Oscar-gilded career.

His directorial debut "Dances With Wolves", despite being a three-hour Western, was a global hit and in 1991 won the double Oscar whammy of best picture and director.

As an actor he captured hearts in smash hits "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" (1991) and as Whitney Houston's protector in "The Bodyguard" (1992).

Teaming up with big-gun directors also proved a winning formula, from Oliver Stone's "JFK" (1991) to Clint Eastwood's "A Perfect World" (1993).

But then a string of ultra-expensive and hubristic flops -- especially "Waterworld" (1995) and "The Postman" (1997) made him into something of a laughing stock.

He continued to work in smaller roles, but invested more in music with his nostalgic country band "Kevin Costner & Modern West".

There has been a late resurgence in his 60s, however, thanks to the long-running hit neo-Western series, "Yellowstone".

- Richard Gere: zen charm -

Gere was the world's sexiest man according to People Magazine in 1999, when he was 50.

By then he had charmed audiences with his quiet seduction in "An Officer and a Gentleman" (1982) and, of course, "Pretty Woman" opposite Julia Roberts.

He and supermodel Cindy Crawford were also the ultimate It-couple.

But progressively he gave up glamour for meditation.

Gere had been a Buddhist since he was 25, and increasingly used his fame to speak out, in particular against China's control of Tibet.

He developed a close friendship with the Dalai Lama and gave a fiery speech against China at the 1993 Oscars that got him barred from future ceremonies.

It also cost him movie roles in the 2000s as Hollywood sought to tap the vast Chinese market.

For his Cannes comeback, the 74-year-old has reunited with Paul Schrader -- who directed him in dark cult favorite "American Gigolo" (1980) -- for "Oh, Canada", playing a Vietnam War draft-evader haunted by his past.


Francis Ford Coppola Debuts ‘Megalopolis’ in Cannes, and the Reviews Are In

Laurence Fishburne, from left, director Francis Ford Coppola, and Giancarlo Esposito pose for photographers upon departure at the premiere of the film "Megalopolis" at the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Thursday, May 16, 2024. (AP)
Laurence Fishburne, from left, director Francis Ford Coppola, and Giancarlo Esposito pose for photographers upon departure at the premiere of the film "Megalopolis" at the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Thursday, May 16, 2024. (AP)
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Francis Ford Coppola Debuts ‘Megalopolis’ in Cannes, and the Reviews Are In

Laurence Fishburne, from left, director Francis Ford Coppola, and Giancarlo Esposito pose for photographers upon departure at the premiere of the film "Megalopolis" at the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Thursday, May 16, 2024. (AP)
Laurence Fishburne, from left, director Francis Ford Coppola, and Giancarlo Esposito pose for photographers upon departure at the premiere of the film "Megalopolis" at the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Thursday, May 16, 2024. (AP)

Francis Ford Coppola on Thursday premiered his self-financed opus "Megalopolis" at the Cannes Film Festival, unveiling a wildly ambitious passion project the 85-year-old director has been pondering for decades.

Reviews ranged from "a folly of gargantuan proportions" to "the craziest thing I've ever seen." But most assuredly, once again, Coppola had everyone in Cannes talking.

No debut this year was awaited with more curiosity in Cannes than "Megalopolis," which Coppola poured $120 million of his own money into after selling off a portion of his wine estate. Not unlike Coppola’s "Apocalypse Now" some 45 years ago, "Megalopolis" arrived trailed by rumors of production turmoil and doubt over its potential appeal.

What Coppola unveiled defies easy categorization. It’s a fable set in a futuristic New York about an architect (Adam Driver) who has a grand vision of a more harmonious metropolis, and whose considerable talents include the ability to start and stop time. Though "Megalopolis" is set in a near-future, it’s fashioned as a Roman epic. Driver’s character is named Cesar and the film’s New York includes a modern Coliseum.

The cast includes Aubrey Plaza as an ambitious TV journalist named Wow Platinum, Giancarlo Esposito as the mayor, Laurence Fishburne as Cesar’s driver (and the film’s narrator) and Shia LaBeouf as an unpleasant cousin named Claudio.

Coppola, wearing a straw hat and holding a cane, walked the Cannes carpet Thursday, often clinging to the arm of his granddaughter, Romy Coppola Mars, while the soundtrack to "The Godfather" played over festival loudspeakers.

After the screening, the Cannes audience stood in a lengthy ovation for Coppola and the film. The director eventually took the microphone to emphasize his movie's ultimate meaning.

"We are one human family and that's who we should pledge our allegiance to," Coppola told the crowd. He added that Esperanza is "the most beautiful word in the English language" because it means hope.

Many reviews were blisteringly bad. Peter Bradshaw for The Guardian called it "megabloated and megaboring." Tim Grierson for Screen Daily called it a "disaster" "stymied by arbitrary plotting and numbing excess." Kevin Maher for the Times of London wrote that it's a "head-wrecking abomination." Critic Jessica Kiang said "Megalopolis" "is a folly of such gargantuan proportions it’s like observing the actual fall of Rome."

But some critics responded with admiration for the film's ambition. With fondness, New York Magazine's Bilge Ebiri said the film "might be the craziest thing I've ever seen." David Ehrlich for IndieWire praised a "creatively unbound approach" that "may not have resulted in a surplus of dramatically coherent scenes, but it undergirds the entire movie with a looseness that makes it almost impossible to look away."

"Is it a distancing work of hubris, a gigantic folly, or a bold experiment, an imaginative bid to capture our chaotic contemporary reality, both political and social, via the kind of large-canvas, high-concept storytelling that’s seldom attempted anymore?" wrote David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter. "The truth is it’s all those things."

"Megalopolis" is dedicated to Eleanor Coppola, the director’s wife who died last month.

Coppola is seeking a distributor for "Megalopolis." Ahead of its premiere, the film was acquired for some European territories. Richard Gelfond, IMAX’s chief executive, said "Megalopolis" — which Coppola believes is best viewed on IMAX — will play globally on the company’s large-format screens.

In numerous places in "Megalopolis," Coppola, who once penned the book "Live Cinema and its Techniques," experimentally pushes against filmmaking convention. At a screening Thursday, a man emerged mid-film, walked across the stage to a microphone and posed a question to Driver’s character on the screen above.

Several weeks ahead of Cannes, Coppola privately screened "Megalopolis" in Los Angeles. Word quickly filtered out that many were befuddled by the experimental film they had just watched. "There are zero commercial prospects and good for him," one attendee told Puck.


How Cannes Works, from the Standing Ovations to the Juries to the Palm Dog 

US actress Meryl Streep arrives for the Opening Ceremony and the screening of the film "Le Deuxieme Acte" at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 14, 2024. (AFP)
US actress Meryl Streep arrives for the Opening Ceremony and the screening of the film "Le Deuxieme Acte" at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 14, 2024. (AFP)
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How Cannes Works, from the Standing Ovations to the Juries to the Palm Dog 

US actress Meryl Streep arrives for the Opening Ceremony and the screening of the film "Le Deuxieme Acte" at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 14, 2024. (AFP)
US actress Meryl Streep arrives for the Opening Ceremony and the screening of the film "Le Deuxieme Acte" at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 14, 2024. (AFP)

The Cannes Film Festival is hallowed ground in cinema but understanding its unique landscape can be confounding.

The Côte d’Azur festival, which kicked off Tuesday, is a 10-day ballet of spectacle and film where even the photographers wear tuxedos, standing ovations are timed with stopwatches and movies tend to be referred to by the names of their directors — “the Almodóvar,” “the Malick,” “the Coppola.”

From the outside, it can seem mad. From the inside, it can be hardly less disorienting. But grasping some of Cannes’ quirks and traditions can help you understand just what is unspooling in the south of France and what, exactly, a Palm Dog is.

WHY DOES CANNES MATTER?

The short answer is that Cannes is the largest and arguably most significant film festival, and few care more deeply about the art of cinema than the French. This is where cinema was born and it’s where it’s most closely guarded. It’s not a coincidence that to enter the Palais des Festivals, the central hub, you must climb 24 red-carpeted steps, as if you’re ascending into some movie nirvana.

Cannes is also singularly global, attracting filmmakers, producers and journalists from around the world. It’s a little like an Olympics for film; countries set up their own tents in an international village. Because Cannes is also the largest film market in the world, many who come here are trying to sell their movies or looking to buy up rights. Deal-making, though not quite the frenzy it once was, happens in hotel rooms along the Croisette, aboard yachts docked in the harbor and, yes, on Zoom calls.

But aside from being a beacon to filmmakers and executives, Cannes is a draw for its shimmering French Riviera glamour. Since the days of stars like Grace Kelly and Brigitte Bardot, Cannes has been renowned as a sun-kissed center stage for fashion.

US director and president of the Jury of the 77th Cannes Film Festival Greta Gerwig (C) is applauded by (from L) Italian actor Pierfrancesco Favino, Lebanese director Nadine Labaki, French actor Omar Sy, US actress Lily Gladstone, Turkish writer and photographer Ebru Ceylan, Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, French actress Eva Green and Spanish director, producer and writer Juan Antonio Bayona during a press conference of the Jury of the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 14, 2024. (AFP)

HOW OLD IS CANNES?

Originally called the International Film Festival, Cannes was born in the lead-up to World War II. Venice had launched the first major film festival in 1932, but in 1938, fascist influence on Venice was pervasive. The French government in 1939 chose the tourist destination of Cannes as the place for a new festival — though because of the war, the first edition wasn’t held until 1946. This year’s festival is the 77th edition.

WHAT IS IT LIKE ON THE GROUND?

The hive of activity is the Palais, a massive complex by the sea full of cinemas with names like Buñuel, Bazin and, the granddaddy, the Grand Théâtre Lumière. This is where the red carpet runs in Cannes, nightly hosting two or three world premieres beneath a glass canopy flanked by rows of photographers. Festival cars ferry stars and directors who are ushered down the carpet and up the steps. Unlike most movie premieres, there are no reporters on the carpet.

Filmmakers and casts instead face questions from the media the day after their premieres, at a press conference preceded by a photo call. The press conferences can be atypically newsy, too; after Danish director Lars von Trier declared “I am a Nazi” at a Cannes press conference in 2011, he was named “persona non grata” by the festival for years.

Interpreters translate live for headphone-wearing reporters. Inside the Palais, bleary-eyed attendees are treated to gratis espresso.

Down the Croisette, the oceanside, palm tree-lined promenade of Cannes, there are regal old hotels like the Carlton and the Martinez from where festival attendees flow in and out, interviews might be happening on balconies as autograph-seeking fans gather outside in throngs. After-parties are typically held in clubs across the Croisette, by the beach.

WHO ATTENDS?

Unlike public festivals like Toronto or SXSW, Cannes is industry-only and largely out of reach for most moviegoers. That doesn’t stop the desperate, tuxedo-clad ticket seekers who hold signs outside the Palais on the chance someone has an extra, or the photo-takers who stand on small ladders near the red carpet.

Cannes is rigorously hierarchical, with a system of color-coded badges regulating access. If you hear about a film being booed at Cannes — even Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” was famously jeered before winning the Palme d’Or — it’s usually at a press screening.

The premieres, largely attended by industry professionals, are where the prolonged standing ovations take place. But this, like many things at Cannes, is a bit of stagecraft to boost the mythology. After the credits role, a cameraman rushes in, with his footage fed live to the screen. He goes down the aisles, giving the audience a chance to applaud for the director and each star. No one is just cheering for a dark movie screen.

Messi the dog on the red carpet ahead of the "Le Deuxieme Acte" screening and opening ceremony of the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival, in Cannes, France, 14 May 2024. (EPA)

WHAT DOES ‘IN COMPETITION’ MEAN?

Cannes hierarchy is in the lineup, too. Attention focuses most on the films “in competition”: usually around 20 movies competing for the Palme d’Or, the festival’s top award. Past winners include “Apocalypse Now,” “Pulp Fiction,” and “Parasite.” Last year, it went to Justine Triet’s “Anatomy of a Fall.” Winners are chosen by a jury of nine that changes every year. This year’s is presided over by Greta Gerwig.

Competition is only one section, though. Many high-profile films might play out of competition, as “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” is this year. Un Certain Regard gathers a lineup of original or daring films. First and second films play in the sidebar Critics’ Week. There are also midnight selections and the recently launched Premiere sidebar, which also takes some overflow for films that didn’t fit into competition. Restorations and documentaries play in Cannes Classics.

And down the Croisette, separate from the official selection, is the Directors’ Fortnight or the Quinzaine, a parallel showcase launched in 1969 by a group of French filmmakers after the 1968 Cannes was canceled.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PALM DOG?

There are many other prizes, too, even an unofficial one created by journalists called the Palm Dog (sadly, not the Palme D’Og), for the best canine in Cannes. Last year, that honor went to Messi, the “Anatomy of a Fall” pooch.

Created in 2001, the annual award and its spinoff categories is decided by a jury of reporters. Past winners have included Uggie from “The Artist” (2011) and Sayuri, who played the heroic pit bull in “Once Upon A Time ... In Hollywood” (2019).

As for the reigning champ, Messi captivated the carpet on opening day this year, in town again as a correspawndent of sorts for French television.


Movie Review: Amy Winehouse Story Flattened in Frustrating Biopic ‘Back to Black’ 

This image released by Focus Features shows Marisa Abela as Amy Winehouse in a scene from "Back to Black." (Focus Features via AP)
This image released by Focus Features shows Marisa Abela as Amy Winehouse in a scene from "Back to Black." (Focus Features via AP)
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Movie Review: Amy Winehouse Story Flattened in Frustrating Biopic ‘Back to Black’ 

This image released by Focus Features shows Marisa Abela as Amy Winehouse in a scene from "Back to Black." (Focus Features via AP)
This image released by Focus Features shows Marisa Abela as Amy Winehouse in a scene from "Back to Black." (Focus Features via AP)

“Back to Black” as a movie is a tame and mediocre affair. A conventionally told biopic about a talented artist who became famous, struggled with drugs, depression and bulimia, and died early. There are nice performances from gifted actors like Marisa Abela, Jack O’Connell, Eddie Marsan and Lesley Manville, and a soundtrack of hits that helps fill the space.

But as a portrait of Amy Winehouse? It is simply dreadful.

The main problem with any movie about Winehouse is that a defining film already exists — Asif Kapadia’s Oscar-winning documentary “Amy,” released four years after her death from alcohol poisoning at age 27. Told through archival material, home videos and observations from those around her, it felt as intimate and unfiltered as a diary.

“Amy” was a sobering portrait of addiction, fame and complicity that also let you get to know and love the person behind the songs, the eyeliner, the beehive, the bloodied ballet slippers and the invasive paparazzi photos. It was no one’s idea of sensationalistic and she’s doing most of the talking.

“Amy” was also a movie that didn’t sit well with her grieving family. Her father, Mitch Winehouse, said it was misleading and contained “basic untruths.” After it won the Oscar, he doubled down saying that it had no bearing on her life and was manipulative. Kapadia, he said, was more exploitative of his daughter than anyone.

Following her death, Mitch started a foundation in her name to help young people and wrote a book about her and being the father of an addict. Her mother Janis narrated a documentary, “Reclaiming Amy,” released in 2011. And after years of declining to participate in a narrative biopic, the estate decided to allow one with full use of the songs. Like many musical biopics made alongside an estate, it’s hard not to look at “Back to Black” skeptically, wondering whose interests the film is serving.

Sam Taylor-Johnson, who directed, has said that she wanted to take the idea of “blame” out of the equation, that the family had zero input on her cut and would not benefit financially. And yet it also seems like a direct response to Kapadia’s film, depicting more than a few key moments wildly differently. They’re not just shown in a different light — some are telling a completely different story.

The screenplay by Matthew Greenhalgh is empathetic to the ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil (O’Connell) and her father Mitch (Marsan), both of whom have been villainized over the years. In the film, most are just caught up in a whirl of inevitability and the retrospective blur of grief.

There seems to be an excessive amount of rationalizing in the way everyone involved talks about “Back to Black,” over justifying its existence and its choices. But just because everyone keeps telling us that it’s a celebration doesn’t mean that we have to get on board. I’m not sure what is celebratory about dramatizing this tragedy, or helpful, or artful, or particularly revelatory about it either. The media, for example, is reduced mainly to the paparazzi camped outside her place as though that’s where the problem stopped.

Taylor-Johnson has said she didn’t want to glamorize depression, addiction or bulimia either, but the latter, which she struggled with before she was famous, is barely even acknowledged. Depiction of eating disorders is inherently fraught, but there had to have been a way to address such a large part of her life and self-image more directly.

Though linear, the story is also oddly confusing, assuming that the audience knows many details of her life (like, say, the bulimia) and the people in it. The film rushes through major career moments in montage, seeming to slow down only for a few things: A performance, Amy’s face in various forms of drunken distress and agony or scenes with her and Blake. Was it attempting a freewheeling jazz form, or is it just messy?

In some ways, this portrait of Amy Winehouse makes her immense talent the sideshow and her obsession/romance/heartache over Blake the defining story of her adult life. This is at least somewhat redeemed by the chemistry between Abela and O’Connell, who look far too glowing and healthy to be believable as heroin addicts.

But the greatest failing is how shockingly cliche the ending is. For all of “Back to Black’s” tiptoeing around delicate subjects, its romantically photographed sendoff to Amy is perhaps the most dangerously glamorized shot in the film. It doesn’t even fade to black after a title card announces her death. Before anyone can feel anything, they’ve cut to Amy telling the audience that all she wants is for her songs to make people forget about their troubles for a bit.

By this point, it reads more like a closing statement for a film that never wanted to challenge, offend or move anyone. Mission accomplished.


What Is the Celebrity ‘Blockout’ Over the War in Gaza? 

NYPD officers block off pro-Palestinian demonstrators near the Met Gala being held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (AFP via Getty Images)
NYPD officers block off pro-Palestinian demonstrators near the Met Gala being held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (AFP via Getty Images)
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What Is the Celebrity ‘Blockout’ Over the War in Gaza? 

NYPD officers block off pro-Palestinian demonstrators near the Met Gala being held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (AFP via Getty Images)
NYPD officers block off pro-Palestinian demonstrators near the Met Gala being held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (AFP via Getty Images)

Some social media users are calling out celebrities for what they say is inaction in the face of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza — and they've taken to a “blockout” to pressure the stars to take a stand.

For the blockout, users put a block on seeing any and all content from the accounts of certain celebrities on social media platforms including X, TikTok and Instagram. Some have posted about the celebrities they've blocked, using a hashtag such as #blockout, #blockout2024, or #celebrityblockout, while others have shared posts from users lambasting attendees of high-glamour events like the Met Gala and contrasting it with the situation in Gaza.

Blockout participants say it's a protest because the celebrities either haven’t spoken up or haven't said enough against Israel’s actions in Gaza during its war with Hamas. Since the war erupted Oct. 7 with Hamas' deadly attacks, Israel’s military has killed more than 35,000 people in Gaza, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants.

HOW DOES THE BLOCKOUT WORK? On social media platforms, users see content from people they follow, as well as from those chosen for them by algorithms. In both instances, users can select options to mute or block a person or account.

Blocking the accounts of celebrities or influencers means not seeing any of the content they produce on social media — no posts, no photos or videos, no collaborations with sponsors. The number of people interacting with content brings in money, so the blocks are meant to affect views, engagement and — ultimately — paychecks.

The blockout also is meant to target celebrities' brands by taking eyeballs and attention away from their content.

WHO IS BEING BLOCKED? There is no single organized list of celebrities being blocked. Some users are offering celebrity suggestions, while others are deciding on their own. Celebrities in the US and beyond have been named in the blockout.

Blocking is up to each social media user. And every celebrity, influencer or content creator must be blocked individually on each platform.

HOW DID THE BLOCKOUT START? Protests around the Israel-Hamas war have grown, with encampments on college campuses around the country. Amid those movements, attention to what celebrities and influencers were, or weren't, saying got a boost after the Met Gala last week.

The annual party draws a host of famous faces from the worlds of fashion, movies, music, sports and more. It's known for its over-the-top arrivals carpet and the elaborate outfits celebrities wear. This year, the gala was circled by protesters for much of the evening.

Social media was flooded with images from the star-studded event. Around the same time, images circulated as Israel launched a military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. That led to some users calling out the contrast between the gala's celebrity opulence and the situation in Gaza — using images from both - and condemning celebrities for not using their platforms to speak up for those who are suffering.

WILL THE BLOCKOUT BE EFFECTIVE? The effectiveness and staying power of the blockade are yet to be seen, said Beth Fossen, assistant professor of marketing at Indiana University. It might depend on the celebrity and what they’re known for — a famous person whose “brand” is tied to humanitarian causes may be more affected than one known primarily for talent, she added.

“If your identity is really tied to promoting something that is key to the boycotting, then this could potentially have really serious consequences for you,” Fossen said. “There might be some influencers that gain their fame by sort of promoting peace and then they’re being silent on this issue — followers may not forgive them.”

IS THERE BLOCKOUT BACKLASH? There has been criticism of the blockout, with some saying the focus on celebrities takes attention away from what's happening on the ground in Gaza. Others question what the parameters are for judging whether someone should be blocked — and what would constitute a well-known person speaking out or doing enough.


Comcast to Unveil Netflix, Apple TV+, Peacock Streaming Bundle

FILE - This Jan. 29, 2010, file photo shows the company logo and view of Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
FILE - This Jan. 29, 2010, file photo shows the company logo and view of Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
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Comcast to Unveil Netflix, Apple TV+, Peacock Streaming Bundle

FILE - This Jan. 29, 2010, file photo shows the company logo and view of Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
FILE - This Jan. 29, 2010, file photo shows the company logo and view of Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Comcast is set to launch a streaming bundle combining its Peacock service with Netflix and Apple TV+, as the media and broadband company looks to retain subscribers in the face of stiff competition.

The new bundle, StreamSaver, will be available to all its broadband, TV and mobile subscribers and at a "vastly reduced price to anything in the market today", Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told the MoffettNathanson Media, Internet & Communications Conference on Tuesday.

The tie-up follows a similar one announced last week between Warner Bros Discovery and Walt Disney - to offer a bundle of the Disney+, Hulu and Max streaming services.

"We've been bundling video successfully and creatively for 60 years. And so this is the latest iteration of that, and I think this will be a pretty compelling package," Roberts said, Reuters reported.

Broadband subscriber loss has been a sore point for Comcast as it faces intense competition from telecom firms such as T-Mobile and Verizon. The trend is expected to continue with the end of a federal internet subsidy program this month.

Churn - the percentage of customers who have stopped using a company's services - has also long been one of the key problems facing the streaming industry, with more companies turning to bundling to combat subscriber losses and to better compete with industry leader Netflix.

Peacock, the streaming service of Comcast's unit NBCUniversal, reported 34 million subscribers at the end of the first quarter, compared with Netflix's 269.60 million subscribers and 117.6 million at Disney+, excluding Hotstar.

In an effort to attract more customers, Comcast in April launched a low-cost prepaid service plan called "Now" for broadband, TV and mobile, with flexible monthly options.

More details about the Comcast streaming bundle are expected to be released later this month.


George Clooney to Make His Broadway Debut in Play Version of Movie ‘Good Night, and Good Luck’ 

George Clooney attends a special screening of "The Boys in the Boat" in New York on Dec. 13, 2023. (AP)
George Clooney attends a special screening of "The Boys in the Boat" in New York on Dec. 13, 2023. (AP)
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George Clooney to Make His Broadway Debut in Play Version of Movie ‘Good Night, and Good Luck’ 

George Clooney attends a special screening of "The Boys in the Boat" in New York on Dec. 13, 2023. (AP)
George Clooney attends a special screening of "The Boys in the Boat" in New York on Dec. 13, 2023. (AP)

George Clooney will make his Broadway acting debut next year in a familiar project for the Hollywood star: “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

Clooney will play legendary TV journalist Edward R. Murrow in a stage adaptation of the 2005 movie that earned him directing and writing Oscar nominations and was among the best picture contenders.

“I am honored, after all these years, to be coming back to the stage and especially, to Broadway, the art form and the venue that every actor aspires to,” Clooney said in a statement.

The play “Good Night, and Good Luck” — with David Cromer directing — will premiere on Broadway in spring 2025 at a Shubert Theatre to be announced. It will be again co-written by Clooney and Grant Heslov.

The 90-minute black-and-white film starred David Strathairn as Murrow and is a natural to be turned into a play: The dialogue-heavy action unfolds on handful of sets. The title comes from Murrow’s signoff on the TV series “See It Now.”

A key part of Clooney’s film portrayed Murrow’s struggle to maintain support from CBS executives for critical reporting on Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy, known for accusing government employees of disloyalty. Clooney played “See It Now” co-creator Fred Friendly, who resisted intense pressure and ensured the reports got to air.

Murrow, who died in 1965, is considered one of the architects of US broadcast news.

“Edward R. Murrow operated from a kind of moral clarity that feels vanishingly rare in today’s media landscape. There was an immediacy in those early live television broadcasts that today can only be effectively captured on stage, in front of a live audience,” Cromer said in a statement.

The Clooneys are boosters of journalism. Clooney’s father, Nick Clooney, worked as a TV news anchor and host in a variety of cities including Cincinnati, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. He also wrote a newspaper column in Cincinnati and taught journalism students at American University.

At the time the movie came out, Clooney said his family took pride in how journalists held the government accountable during the paranoia of the 1950s communist threat. Clooney said he wanted to make a movie to let people hear some “really well-written words about the fourth estate again.”


Meryl Streep: Hollywood’s Peerless Star 

Meryl Streep gestures during the iHeartRadio Music Awards at Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, California, US, April 1, 2024. (Reuters)
Meryl Streep gestures during the iHeartRadio Music Awards at Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, California, US, April 1, 2024. (Reuters)
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Meryl Streep: Hollywood’s Peerless Star 

Meryl Streep gestures during the iHeartRadio Music Awards at Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, California, US, April 1, 2024. (Reuters)
Meryl Streep gestures during the iHeartRadio Music Awards at Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, California, US, April 1, 2024. (Reuters)

There is a strong case to be made that Meryl Streep, who picks up a lifetime achievement award at the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday, is the most respected actor of her generation.

Streep, 74, has amassed a record haul of awards and built a filmography of modern classics that stretches across six decades, from dramas such as "The Deer Hunter", "The French Lieutenant's Woman" and "Kramer vs. Kramer", to family favorites like "Mamma Mia!" and "The Devil Wears Prada".

It is her vocal skills that have often set her apart -- from the Danish drawl in "Out of Africa" to her note-perfect impersonation of Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady", to learning Polish so well for "Sophie's Choice" that locals believed she was one of them.

She has picked up other skills along the way, practicing six hours a day for eight weeks to learn the violin for "Music of the Heart".

Streep has admitted her efforts could sometimes go too far.

She took a method acting approach to her turn as a fashion magazine boss in "The Devil Wears Prada", maintaining her icy facade even off-camera, but later said that it was a "horrible" experience and vowed never to do it again.

But her dedication has paid off time and again.

She has a record 21 Oscar nominations and three wins, a record eight Golden Globes, two BAFTAs and many other prizes.

And unlike many of her contemporaries, she has remarkably few duds among her 60-plus appearances, still scoring regular critical acclaim with recent films such as "The Post", "The Laundromat" and "Don't Look Up".

Surprisingly, she has been at Cannes only once before -- though she did manage to win best actress that year -- for 1989's "A Cry in the Dark".

"Because she has spanned almost 50 years of cinema and embodied countless masterpieces, Meryl Streep is part of our collective imagination, our shared love of cinema," the festival organizers said in a statement.

Streep said in a statement that she was "immeasurably honored" to be receiving the honorary Palme d'Or award at the festival's opening ceremony.

"To stand in the shadow of those who have previously been honored is humbling and thrilling in equal part," she said in a statement.

- 'Family comes first' -

Streep has never been one to get carried away by the trappings of fame, preferring to live as anonymously as possible at her home, where she has raised her four children.

"Being famous gets in the way of a lot of things," she once said. "My family really does come first. It always did and always will."

Born Mary Louise Streep in June 1949 to a New Jersey pharmaceutical executive and a commercial artist mother, Streep went to an exclusive school where she became a cheerleader and began acting in plays.

She continued acting at the historic Vassar liberal arts college, where she studied English and drama, before winning a drama scholarship to Yale, where she graduated in 1975.

Her Broadway debut came the same year with "Trelawny of the Wells," for which she won rave reviews, making her film debut two years later with the World War II drama "Julia".

Her career went stellar with three lauded films over the next two years, "The Deer Hunter", "Kramer vs. Kramer" and Woody Allen's "Manhattan".


Cannes Kicks off with Greta Gerwig's Jury and a Palme d'Or for Meryl Streep

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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Cannes Kicks off with Greta Gerwig's Jury and a Palme d'Or for Meryl Streep

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 Cannes Film Festival opens Tuesday with the unveiling of Greta Gerwig's jury and the presentation of an honorary Palme d'Or for Meryl Streep, as the French Riviera spectacular kicks off a potentially volatile 77th edition.
A 10-day stream of stars will begin flowing down Cannes' famous red carpet beginning with the opening night film, “The Second Act,” a French comedy starring Lea Seydoux, Vincent Lindon, Louis Garrel and Raphaël Quenard. During the opening ceremony, Streep will be given an honorary Palme, The Associated Press said.
In the days to come, Cannes will premiere George Miller's “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga," Francis Ford Coppola's self-financed “Megalopolis” and anticipated new movies from Paolo Sorrentino, Yorgos Lanthimos, Andrea Arnold and Kevin Costner.
But much of the drama surrounding this year's Cannes has been off screen.
After French actor Judith Godrèche earlier this year accused two film directors of rape and sexual abuse when she was a teenager, the French film industry has been dealing with arguably its defining #MeToo moment. On Wednesday, Godrèche will premiere her short “Moi Aussi.”
Festival workers, fed up with short-term contracts that leave them unqualified for unemployment benefits in between festivals, have threatened to strike.
And on Monday, the Iranian filmmaker Mohammed Rasoulof, whose film “The Seed of the Sacred Fig” is premiering next week in competition in Cannes, said he had fled Iran after being sentenced to eight years in prison and flogging. The film is said to be a critical depiction of the Iranian regime.
Many, though, will be focused on the stars parading Cannes' carpet. They'll include Emma Stone, Anya Taylor-Joy, Demi Moore, Selena Gomez, Nicolas Cage and Barry Keoghan. At the closing ceremony on May 25, George Lucas is to receive an honorary Palme d'Or.
Regardless, the 77th Cannes will have a lot to live up to. Last year's festival, widely celebrated for its robust lineup, produced three Oscar best picture nominees: “Anatomy of a Fall," “The Zone of Interest” and “Killers of the Flower Moon.” To help rekindle last year's spirit, Messi, the canine star of “Anatomy of a Fall,” is back in Cannes for a series of brief French TV spots.
A good Cannes will help France keep the global spotlight through the summer. The festival will be followed by the French Open, the Tour de France and, most notably, the summer Olympics in Paris. On May 21 in Cannes, the Olympic flame will be carried up the steps to the festival's hub, the Palais des Festivals.