Top Ballet Performers ‘Dance for Ukraine’ in Charity Event

Australian ballet dancer Alison McWhinney and Fernando Gabriele Frola of Italy perform "La Sylphide" during "Dance for Ukraine", a charity gala to raise funds for people in need in Ukraine, at The London Coliseum, in London, Britain, March 19, 2022. (Reuters)
Australian ballet dancer Alison McWhinney and Fernando Gabriele Frola of Italy perform "La Sylphide" during "Dance for Ukraine", a charity gala to raise funds for people in need in Ukraine, at The London Coliseum, in London, Britain, March 19, 2022. (Reuters)
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Top Ballet Performers ‘Dance for Ukraine’ in Charity Event

Australian ballet dancer Alison McWhinney and Fernando Gabriele Frola of Italy perform "La Sylphide" during "Dance for Ukraine", a charity gala to raise funds for people in need in Ukraine, at The London Coliseum, in London, Britain, March 19, 2022. (Reuters)
Australian ballet dancer Alison McWhinney and Fernando Gabriele Frola of Italy perform "La Sylphide" during "Dance for Ukraine", a charity gala to raise funds for people in need in Ukraine, at The London Coliseum, in London, Britain, March 19, 2022. (Reuters)

Away from the fighting in Ukraine, Russian and Ukrainian ballet dancers rubbed shoulders in London on Saturday in a charity event that united some of the world's leading dance performers for humanitarian relief in the war-torn eastern European nation.

About 20 dancers, with glistening bodies and graceful moves, received a thunderous applause from the packed auditorium at the London Coliseum theater for the 'Dance for Ukraine' gala.

"We have so many loved ones back home. We couldn't just sit idly at home and just watch news, we wanted to do something," Ivan Putrov, who is from Ukraine and organized the event with Romanian Alina Cojocaru, told Reuters.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, an attack Moscow calls a "special operation" to demilitarize its neighbor.

The UN human rights office has said at least 847 civilians had been killed and 1,399 wounded in Ukraine as of Friday. More than 3.3 million refugees have fled Ukraine through its western border, with around 2 million more displaced inside the country.

Some audience members were draped in the Ukrainian flag for the event, with dancers from many countries including Brazil, Italy and Britain providing glamour to the stage that was lit in shades of yellow and blue.

Katja Khaniukova from Ukraine and Natalia Osipova from Russia were among those who took part. There were also dancers from the United States, France, Japan and Argentina at the event, which the organizers said raised at least 140,000 pounds ($184,520.00) for the Disasters Emergency Committee's Ukraine appeal.

"So many of the artists contacted us wanting to join so it is inspiring how overwhelming the support is from the people, but we need more support in Ukraine, more support from different governments around the world," said Putrov.



Gulf Cinema Festival Concludes in Riyadh

The five-day festival, which drew prominent artistic and cinematic figures, is part of the FC efforts to develop the sector by motivating Saudi and Arab Gulf filmmakers to create unique cinematic works. (SPA)
The five-day festival, which drew prominent artistic and cinematic figures, is part of the FC efforts to develop the sector by motivating Saudi and Arab Gulf filmmakers to create unique cinematic works. (SPA)
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Gulf Cinema Festival Concludes in Riyadh

The five-day festival, which drew prominent artistic and cinematic figures, is part of the FC efforts to develop the sector by motivating Saudi and Arab Gulf filmmakers to create unique cinematic works. (SPA)
The five-day festival, which drew prominent artistic and cinematic figures, is part of the FC efforts to develop the sector by motivating Saudi and Arab Gulf filmmakers to create unique cinematic works. (SPA)

The fourth edition of the Gulf Cinema Festival (GCF), organized by the Film Commission (FC), concluded in Riyadh under the patronage of Minister of Culture, Chairman of the Board of FC Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud.

Speaking at the closing of the event, CEO of FC Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Qahtani said the festival is testimony to the GCC cinema sector's commitment to supporting art and building bridges for cinematic cooperation among the member countries, reported the Saudi Press Agency on Saturday.

Al-Qahtani paid tribute to the Saudi government and GCC cinema industry leaders for their support for the festival, urging Gulf film makers to continue this support and help put the society’s narratives into films that carry to the world the reality in the Arab Gulf countries.

The five-day festival, which drew prominent artistic and cinematic figures, is part of the FC efforts to develop the sector by motivating Saudi and Arab Gulf filmmakers to create unique cinematic works. It highlights the Kingdom’s position as a global hub for filmmaking, nurturing talent, managing, promoting and distributing movies befitting the status of Saudi and Arab Gulf cinema.


Dick Van Dyke Earns Historic Daytime Emmy Nomination at Age 98

2020 Kennedy Center honoree, actor Dick Van Dyke attends the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP)
2020 Kennedy Center honoree, actor Dick Van Dyke attends the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP)
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Dick Van Dyke Earns Historic Daytime Emmy Nomination at Age 98

2020 Kennedy Center honoree, actor Dick Van Dyke attends the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP)
2020 Kennedy Center honoree, actor Dick Van Dyke attends the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP)

Dick Van Dyke is vying for a historic Daytime Emmy at age 98.

The actor was nominated Friday as guest performer in a daytime drama series for his part as amnesiac Timothy Robicheaux on Peacock’s “Days of Our Lives.”

Van Dyke is the oldest Daytime Emmy nominee. Producer Norman Lear was 100 when he received his final Primetime Emmy nomination in 2022 and died the next year.

Among those Van Dyke is up against is Australian actor Guy Pearce of Amazon Freevee’s “Neighbours.”

Van Dyke has won four Primetime Emmys, including three in the 1960s for his classic comedy series “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”

Actor-singer Selena Gomez is nominated in the culinary series category for her Food Network special “Selena + Chef: Home for the Holidays.” Also nominated in that category is Food Network’s “Valerie’s Home Cooking,” the show hosted by actor Valerie Bertinelli that ended last year.

The lead actress nominees are: Tamara Braun of “Days of Our Lives,” Finola Hughes and Cynthia Watros of “General Hospital,” Katherine Kelly Lang and Annika Noelle of “The Bold and the Beautiful” and Michelle Stafford of “The Young and the Restless.”

The lead actor nominees are: Eric Braeden of “The Young and the Restless,” Scott Clifton, Thorsten Kaye and John McCook of “The Bold and the Beautiful” and Eric Martsolf of “Days of Our Lives.”

The Daytime Emmys will be presented June 7 in Los Angeles and air live on CBS. The show is returning to its usual schedule after being postponed until last December because of strikes by Hollywood actors and writers. The hosts and Lifetime Achievement honorees will be announced later.


Not a Toddler, Not a Parent, but Still Love ‘Bluey’? You’re Not Alone

This image released by Disney+ shows a scene from the television series "Bluey." (Disney+ via AP)
This image released by Disney+ shows a scene from the television series "Bluey." (Disney+ via AP)
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Not a Toddler, Not a Parent, but Still Love ‘Bluey’? You’re Not Alone

This image released by Disney+ shows a scene from the television series "Bluey." (Disney+ via AP)
This image released by Disney+ shows a scene from the television series "Bluey." (Disney+ via AP)

A small blue dog with an Australian accent has captured the hearts of people across the world.

She’s the title character of “Bluey,” a kids’ program consisting of seven-minute episodes that have enraptured children and adults alike. This week’s release of its longest episode yet — at a whopping 28 minutes — prompted an outpouring of appreciation for the show, even from those who are neither toddler nor parent.

“Bluey” follows an Australian blue heeler who, along with her sister (a red heeler named Bingo), navigates the days between home and school. It’s a favorite among children for its playful humor, but it also appeals to adults reminiscing about childhood.

“My childhood experience wasn’t the greatest, so I’ve always resonated with shows where life is good,” says Miriam Neel, who lives in Colorado. “The parents in ‘Bluey’ enable imagination and creativity and really get involved with their kids, and I wish I had those experiences.”

Neel is 32 and has chosen not to have any children of her own. She says the show has become part of her morning routine and is often a go-to choice for background noise when she is working from home.

“I’m not going to speak for the entire generation, but millennials find comfort in cartoons. It’s what a lot of us grew up watching,” she said. “And if I’m going to spend time watching something I’d rather watch something that doesn’t make me afraid of the world, like any of the ‘Law & Order’ shows.”

“Bluey,” which now boasts more than 150 episodes, premiered in Australia in 2018 and began streaming on Disney+ in 2020. It also has been adapted into a digital series where famous fans like Bindi Irwin and Eva Mendes read some of the popular storybooks, and a live theater show that travels around the world.

The show has also won multiple awards, including the Australian Film Institute Award for best children’s television drama every year since 2019 and an International Emmy Kids Award.

The series provides a child’s perspective into morning routines, errands and chores, while also giving viewers a glimpse of what life is like for parents through mother Chilli and father Bandit.

This week’s special episode, “The Sign,” explores the emotions surrounding themes that resonate with both children and adults — moving houses, marriage, infertility and relationships after divorce. In addition to these universal themes, the episode wraps up the third season with Easter eggs for dedicated fans.

Lindsey Schmidt, 40, says the show’s continuity keeps her family looking forward to more.

“There are so many callbacks to previous episodes,” says Schmidt, who lives in Ohio with her husband and three children. “The shows that we watch with our kids regularly don’t reflect our lives like this show does. These anthropomorphic dogs feel just like us.”

But there are mixed feelings about the ending of the episode — SPOILER — in which the Heeler family scraps their move. Some families who relocate often for work found it unrealistic. Meg Korzon, 31, is in the process of a cross-country relocation with her four children because her husband is in the military. It’s her seventh move in 10 years.

“I was hoping it would be an episode that aligned itself with the realities of life, our lives, as a military family,” she says. “I was selfishly disappointed because it could have been an episode about change and growth.”

But the show does not shy away from other difficult topics — and that is part of the charm for adults as well.

“As a parent you aspire to be as good of parents as Chilli and Bandit are as parents. They always have a great way of talking kids through issues,” Schmidt’s 40-year-old husband John says, adding that the couple often refers back to episodes when trying to explain things to their children.

The series has touched on topics of aging, death and making friends as an adult. It also has introduced a character who uses sign language and another with ADHD.

Jacqueline Nesi, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University, notes that “Bluey” promotes self-regulation and conflict resolution for children and engaged parenting and patience for adults.

“We see them working through some of the challenges that we, as parents, might be facing, too. And at the same time, they offer a nice model for different parenting skills — asking open-ended questions to facilitate kids’ creativity, using natural consequences when they misbehave, actively playing with them and letting them take the lead,” she says.

The show has also done a lot to expose children to the world of animation, flaunting different styles in the episodes “Escape” and “Dragon,” providing a near-voiceless episode in “Rain,” and breaching the fourth wall in “Puppets,” where the show stops briefly to zoom out on the creation of just a couple seconds of animated frames.

It’s also credited with appealing to dogs — and not because the characters are the same species.

Research has said dogs have vision similar to red-green color blindness in humans, meaning their color spectrum is limited to blue, yellow, brown and shades of gray — which happen to be the colors of the Heeler family. There were more pets named Bluey, Bingo, Chilli and Bandit across the US last year, too, according to Rover.

So it’s fairly safe to say “Bluey” has appeal across species, as well as generations.

“I used to tell people what do ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘The Wire’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ have in common? They all have lower IMDb scores than Bluey. It used to anyway. I watched all these great shows, but I think ‘Bluey’ is still a favorite, maybe because I have kids. But I put it right up there with all of them,” John Schmidt says, admitting that he and his wife have watched the episodes without their children.

Schmidt says the episode tied a nice bow to end the season, and would be a perfect series finale otherwise.

“I get emotional about the potential of Bluey no longer having new episodes,” says Schmidt. “But we’ll see.”


Kit Harington Leans into Playing a Bad Guy in ‘Blood for Dust’

 This image released by The Avenue shows Kit Harington in a scene from the film "Blood for Dust." (The Avenue via AP)
This image released by The Avenue shows Kit Harington in a scene from the film "Blood for Dust." (The Avenue via AP)
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Kit Harington Leans into Playing a Bad Guy in ‘Blood for Dust’

 This image released by The Avenue shows Kit Harington in a scene from the film "Blood for Dust." (The Avenue via AP)
This image released by The Avenue shows Kit Harington in a scene from the film "Blood for Dust." (The Avenue via AP)

Kit Harington jumped at the chance to sport what he calls a “proper ‘stache” to play a drug-running killer in “Blood for Dust.”

The “Game of Thrones” actor — who confirmed a Jon Snow-centered sequel is on ice — stars in the new film alongside Scoot McNairy and Josh Lucas. It hits theaters and digital this week.

Harington, 37, will also play a role in the third season of HBO’s finance drama “Industry,” expected to air later this year. He spoke to The Associated Press recently about trusting directors, joining the show's cast and how his facial hair helped explain his character.

AP: The quiet, ominous tone of this movie was carried through well. How did you know the script would translate the way it did?

HARINGTON: I think a lot of this is a sort of personality gauge business where you meet the director and you hear his or her vision for it. And with (director Rod Blackhurst) I definitely felt that I was in safe hands, and it turned out I was. He had really thought this thing out. I saw that and felt that he was going to be able to deliver on what I thought was a classic story, but quite a well-told sort of American neo-Western.

AP: Your large mustache definitely added to the character of Ricky. Was that your choice?

HARINGTON: Yeah, I think that’s kind of Ricky to have a proper ‘stache. It’s a statement thing and it says everything about him. That he’s sort of all appearance and show. It says quite a lot about the character. I knew there’s gonna be very few times I was going to be able to have a handlebar mustache in something, so I jumped at the chance.

AP: The film exposes an underworld of criminals. Did that attract you to the role?

HARINGTON: We all, in life, have glimpsed through the curtain and seen this world. I’m always sort of fascinated by what a character is addicted to. What drives him? In some ways, Scoot’s character is not innocent in this movie. He gets drawn back to his old addictions and the art of this movie, and the skill of it that Rod manages to get across, is that we kind of forgive him all of that. Because we look this way at Ricky. We look this way at these guys. But we forgive this guy for what he’s doing and his part of that.

AP: Ricky is a criminal, but Cliff (McNairy’s character) has also been disloyal and skirted the law. Did you enjoy the tension between what is right and who’s to judge?

HARINGTON: Ricky is the hero in his own movie, and I think he’s the one who sees it in this guy. He’s like, “You’re not so different from me. Don’t pretend that you are. Just come with me and enjoy the ride.” We spoke about that a lot, like Ricky is dragging him back into this. Back into this story, back into this world, because he’s like, “You don’t get to get out. I’m going to make sure we go for one last kick-ass ride in this, and I’m going to take you with me.” It’s that kind of mentality.

AP: Can you talk about your role on the new season of “Industry”?

HARINGTON: I love that show. I kind of came into it as a bit of a fanboy. And that’s a strange thing for me, because I’d always been in “Game of Thrones” where people would come in and they’d be fans of the show. This time I was coming in as this older actor and as a fan of their show. It was really exciting. It’s just brilliant. The first episode is just mesmerizing and you’re straight back in it. I just think it’s one of the most unique, interesting, tonally exciting pieces out there.

AP: Are you watching “3 Body Problem” (created by “Thrones” creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss) ... because those are your guys?

HARINGTON: I’ve watched the first two episodes now and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I really am. It took me all of my courage to sit down and watch other people speaking their words. It took a certain amount of courage to do that in a weird sort of way. But once I was in that, I was like, “Oh, these lucky actors, these brilliant writers!” and I love it.


Heart, the Band That Proved Women Could Rock Hard, Reunite for a World Tour and a New Song

Nancy and Ann Wilson of the classic rock band Heart perform in concert at the American Music Theater on Monday, March 24, 2014, in Lancaster, Pa. (AP)
Nancy and Ann Wilson of the classic rock band Heart perform in concert at the American Music Theater on Monday, March 24, 2014, in Lancaster, Pa. (AP)
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Heart, the Band That Proved Women Could Rock Hard, Reunite for a World Tour and a New Song

Nancy and Ann Wilson of the classic rock band Heart perform in concert at the American Music Theater on Monday, March 24, 2014, in Lancaster, Pa. (AP)
Nancy and Ann Wilson of the classic rock band Heart perform in concert at the American Music Theater on Monday, March 24, 2014, in Lancaster, Pa. (AP)

Heart — the pioneering band that melds Nancy Wilson’s shredding guitar with her sister Ann’s powerhouse vocals — is hitting the road this spring and fall for a world tour that Nancy Wilson describes as “the full-on rocker size.”

“I’ve been strengthening. I’ve got my trainer,” she says. “You go one day at a time and you strengthen one workout session at a time. It’s a lot of work, but it’s the only job I know how to do.”

The Rock & Roll Hall of Famers who gave us classic tracks like “Magic Man,” “Crazy on You” and “Alone” will be playing all the hits, some tracks from of their solo albums — like Ann Wilson's “Miss One and Only” and Nancy Wilson's “Love Mistake” — and a new song called “Roll the Dice.”

“I like to say we have really good problems because the problem we have is to choose between a bunch of different, really cool songs that people love already,” says Nancy Wilson.

Like “Barracuda,” a sonic burst which first appeared on the band’s second album, “Little Queen” and is one of the band’s most memorable songs.

“You can’t mess with ‘Barracuda.’ It’s just the way it is. It is great. You get on the horse and you ride. It’s a galloping steed of a ride to go on. And for everybody, including the band."

The tour kicks off Saturday at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina, and will hit cities including Atlanta, Boston, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Detroit, as well as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado. International dates include stops in London, Oslo, Berlin, Stockholm, Montreal and Glasgow.

The band's Royal Flush Tour will have Cheap Trick as the opening act for many stops, but Def Leppard and Journey will join for three stadium dates in Cleveland, Toronto and Boston this summer.

Ann and Nancy Wilson will be filled out by Ryan Wariner (lead and rhythm guitar), Ryan Waters (guitars), Paul Moak (guitars, keyboards and backing vocals), Tony Lucido (bass and backing vocals) and Sean T. Lane (drums).

The tour is the first in several years for Heart, which was rocked by a body blow in 2016 when Ann Wilson’s husband was arrested for assaulting Nancy’s 16-year-old twin sons. Nancy Wilson says that's all in the past.

“We can take any kind of turbulence, me and Ann, and we’ve always been OK together,” she says. “We’re still steering the ship and happy to do it together. So we’re tight.”

The new tour will take them to Canada, which was warm to the band when they were starting out as what Nancy Wilson calls “a couple of chicks from Seattle.” She recalls Vancouver embracing Heart, and touring in one van across Canada in the dead of winter on two lane highways.

The Wilson sisters broke rock's glass ceiling in the '70s and Nancy Wilson says they only had male influences to look to, like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Moody Blues.

Now she says she looks out and loves seeing generations of female rockers. “You have boygenius and you have Billie Eilish and you have Olivia Rodrigo and so many amazing women — Maggie Rogers and Sheryl Crow, who calls us her big influence. And then Billie Eilish might have Sheryl Crow as her influence. So it’s a really nice legacy to pass along. I like to say we’re the OG — the original gangsters — of women and rock.”

Heart has made it into the Rock Hall, won Grammys, sold millions of albums and rocked hundreds of thousands of fans but Nancy Wilson has one place she'd still like to shine.

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of their debut album, “Dreamboat Annie,” which was the same year that “Saturday Night Live” started. “So we’re actually kind of putting it out there — Heart never played on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ But what about the 50th birthday party with Heart?”


Netflix Beats Expectations on Profit and Subscribers

Netflix bet heavily on its content line-up, including "3 Body Problem," based on a Chinese trilogy of novels. MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File
Netflix bet heavily on its content line-up, including "3 Body Problem," based on a Chinese trilogy of novels. MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File
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Netflix Beats Expectations on Profit and Subscribers

Netflix bet heavily on its content line-up, including "3 Body Problem," based on a Chinese trilogy of novels. MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File
Netflix bet heavily on its content line-up, including "3 Body Problem," based on a Chinese trilogy of novels. MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File

Netflix topped earnings expectations Thursday, reporting that profit and subscriber ranks grew as its heavy bet on a rich content line-up paid off amid a crackdown on password sharing.
The leading streaming television service said it gained 9.3 million subscribers in the recently ended quarter, raising the total to 269.6 million.
Netflix reported a profit of $2.3 billion on revenue of nearly $9.4 billion in the quarter, compared to a net income of $1.3 billion on $8.2 billion in revenue in the same period a year earlier.
"Netflix continues to lay the smackdown on its competition," said Emarketer senior analyst Ross Benes.
"This signals that password sharing was even more common than previously thought as Netflix keeps converting freeloader viewers into paid users."
Company shares slipped more than 4 percent to $581 in after-market trades, apparently due to the company saying sales in the current quarter might be less than market expectations.
Netflix shares have climbed since the start of this year, but investors seemed wary of the company's ability to keep pumping up revenue and develop its nascent ad-supported tier into a meaningful money-maker.
The company launched an ad-subsidized offering last year around the same time as the crackdown on sharing passwords outside of homes.
Netflix is still in early days of building its ad business, and it remains a work in progress, according to co-chief executive Greg Peters.
'3 Body Problem'
Netflix unveiled a sprawling TV and film lineup for 2024 as it bet that must-see content would keep viewers paying for the streaming service.
In March, Netflix released keenly-anticipated "3 Body Problem."
The series was adapted from a best-selling Chinese trilogy of novels which take place in an alternate version of modern reality where humanity has made contact with an alien civilization.
Other shows due later this year include the eagerly awaited second season of "Squid Game" -- the dystopian Korean horror tale about a fictional, deadly game show which remains by far the most-watched Netflix TV series ever.
Also among a notably international lineup were a Spanish-language, Colombian-made TV series based on Gabriel Garcia Marquez's beloved novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude," and a six-part drama about the life of Brazilian racing great Ayrton Senna.
Britain's Prince Harry and his actress wife Meghan Markle are working on two nonfiction series with Netflix -- a lifestyle program and a show on professional polo, their production company announced earlier this month.
The couple, who split with the British monarchy in 2020 and now reside in California, signed a deal with the streaming giant that same year for multiple projects.
On the movie side, Eddie Murphy returns this summer in a new "Beverly Hills Cop" sequel.
"As Netflix becomes more entrenched as an entertainment industry juggernaut, it will seek to avoid adopting the complacency of the companies it has displaced," Benes said.
Netflix co-chief executive Ted Sarados said on an earnings webcast that the company "has no appetite for making fewer films" but is determined to make better films.
Fandom fueled
Sarandos said TikTok and YouTube short-form videos, while competing for viewing time in the big picture, have also revved up "fandom" with people sharing show snippets, memes, and commentary.
Those platforms have also helped Netflix spot talented storytellers that the streaming television service is keeping its eyes on, according to Sarandos.


Taylor Swift’s ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ Is Great Sad Pop, Meditative Theater 

US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift arrives for the 66th Annual Grammy Awards at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on February 4, 2024. (AFP)
US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift arrives for the 66th Annual Grammy Awards at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on February 4, 2024. (AFP)
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Taylor Swift’s ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ Is Great Sad Pop, Meditative Theater 

US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift arrives for the 66th Annual Grammy Awards at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on February 4, 2024. (AFP)
US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift arrives for the 66th Annual Grammy Awards at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on February 4, 2024. (AFP)

Who knew what Taylor Swift's latest era would bring? Or even what it would sound like? Would it build off the moodiness of "Midnights" or the folk of "evermore"? The country or the '80s pop of her latest re-records? Or its two predecessors in black-and-white covers: the revenge-pop of "Reputation" and the literary Americana of "folklore"?

"The Tortured Poets Department," here Friday, is an amalgamation of all of the above, reflecting the artist who — at the peak of her powers — has spent the last few years re-recording her life’s work and touring its material, filtered through synth-pop anthems, breakup ballads, provocative and matured considerations.

In moments, her 11th album feels like a bloodletting: A cathartic purge after a major heartbreak delivered through an ascendant vocal run, an elegiac verse, or mobile, synthesized productions that underscore the powers of Swift's storytelling.

And there are surprises. The lead single and opener "Fortnight" is "1989" grown up — and features Post Malone. It might seem like a funny pairing, but it's a long time coming: Since at least 2018, Swift's fans have known of her love for Malone's "Better Now."

"But Daddy I Love Him" is the return of country Taylor, in some ways — fairytale songwriting, a full band chorus, a plucky acoustic guitar riff, and a cheeky lyrical reversal: "But Daddy I love him / I'm having his baby / No, I'm not / But you should see your faces." (Babies appear on "Florida!!!" and the bonus track "The Manuscript" as well.)

The fictitious "Fresh Out The Slammer" begins with a really pretty psych guitar tone that disappears beneath wind-blown production; the new wave-adjacent "My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys" brings back "Barbie": "I felt more when we played pretend than with all the Kens / 'Cause he took me out of my box."

Even before Florence Welch kicks off her verse in "Florida!!!," the chorus' explosive repetition of the song title hits hard with nostalgic 2010s indie rock, perhaps an alt-universe Swiftian take on Sufjan Stevens' "Illinois."

As another title states, "So Long, London," indeed.

It would be a disservice to read Swift's songs as purely diaristic, but that track — the fifth on this album, which her fans typically peg as the most devastating slot on each album — evokes striking parallels to her relationship with a certain English actor she split with in 2023. Place it next to a sleepy love ode like "The Alchemy," with its references to "touchdown" and cutting someone "from the team" and well ... art imitates life.

Revenge is still a pervasive theme. But where the reprisal anthems on "Midnights" were vindictive, on "The Tortured Poets Department," there are new complexities: "Who's Afraid of Little Old Me?" combines the musical ambitiousness of "evermore" and "folklore" — and adds a resounding bass on the bridge — with sensibilities ripped from the weapons-drawn, obstinate "Reputation." But here, Swift mostly trades victimhood for self-assurance, warts and all.

"Who's afraid of little old me?" she sings. "You should be," she responds.

And yet, "The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived" may be her most biting song to date: "You didn’t measure up in any measure of a man," she sings atop propulsive piano. "I’ll forget you, but I won’t ever forgive," she describes her target, likely the same "tattooed golden retriever," a jejune description, mentioned in the title track.

Missteps are few, found in other mawkish lyrics and songs like "Down Bad" and "Guilty as Sin?" that falter when placed next to the album's more meditative pop moments.

Elsewhere, Swift holds up a mirror to her melodrama and melancholy — she's crying at the gym, don't tell her about "sad," is she allowed to cry? She died inside, she thinks you might want her dead; she thinks she might just die. She listens to the voices that tell her "Lights, camera, bitch, smile / Even when you want to die," as she sings on "I Can Do It with a Broken Heart," a song about her own performances — onstage and as a public figure.

"I'm miserable and nobody even knows!" she laughs at the end of the song before sighing, "Try and come for my job."

"Clara Bow" enters the pantheon of great final tracks on a Swift album. The title refers to the 1920s silent film star who burned fast and bright — an early "It girl" and Hollywood sex symbol subject to vitriolic gossip, a victim of easy, everyday misogyny amplified by celebrity. Once Bow's harsh Brooklyn accent was heard in the talkies, it was rumored, her career was over.

In life, Bow later attempted suicide and was sent to an asylum — the same institution that appears on "Who's Afraid of Little Old Me?" "Clara Bow" works as an allegory and a cautionary tale for Swift, the same way Stevie Nicks' "Mabel Normand" — another tragic silent film star — functioned for the Fleetwood Mac star.

Nicks appears in "Clara Bow," too: "You look like Stevie Nicks in ’75 / The hair and lips / Crowd goes wild."

Later, Swift turns the camera inward, and the song ends with her singing, "You look like Taylor Swift in this light / We’re loving it / You’ve got edge / She never did." The album ends there, on what could be read as self-deprecation but stings more like frustrating self-awareness.

Swift sings about a tortured poet, but she is one, too. And isn't it great that she's allowed herself the creative license?


Alec Baldwin's Criminal Case Hinges on Wild West Revolver

An undated photo of the reproduction 1873 long Colt .45 Single Action Army revolver actor Alec Baldwin was using on the New Mexico set of western movie "Rust" in 2021. Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS.
An undated photo of the reproduction 1873 long Colt .45 Single Action Army revolver actor Alec Baldwin was using on the New Mexico set of western movie "Rust" in 2021. Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS.
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Alec Baldwin's Criminal Case Hinges on Wild West Revolver

An undated photo of the reproduction 1873 long Colt .45 Single Action Army revolver actor Alec Baldwin was using on the New Mexico set of western movie "Rust" in 2021. Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS.
An undated photo of the reproduction 1873 long Colt .45 Single Action Army revolver actor Alec Baldwin was using on the New Mexico set of western movie "Rust" in 2021. Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS.

A Colt .45 "Peacemaker" revolver, a symbol of the American Wild West, is at the center of actor Alec Baldwin's fight to avoid criminal prosecution for the 2021 fatal shooting of "Rust" cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on a New Mexico movie set.
Baldwin's 15-month battle with New Mexico state prosecutors is heading towards a July 10 climax when the actor is scheduled to face trial for involuntary manslaughter over Hollywood's first on-set shooting with a live-round in modern times.
The movie's weapons handler Hannah Gutierrez was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment on Monday for Hutchins' death. Baldwin's legal team is trying to have his indictment thrown out. His lawyers could seek a plea bargain if that fails.
But should the charge hold, Baldwin's trial is likely to focus on whether he pulled the trigger of his reproduction 1873 Colt .45 after he said he was directed - either by director Joel Souza or Hutchins - to point it at the cinematographer, according to different statements he made to the police and then to media.
Baldwin argues that Hutchins died due to a breakdown in film industry firearms safety protocol, which as an actor he was not responsible for. According to Reuters, he said it was not his job to inspect the gun and that he did not pull the trigger after Gutierrez mistakenly loaded a live round instead of an inert dummy.
Firearms and legal experts do not expect a Santa Fe, New Mexico, jury to necessarily see it that way.
In the Southwest United States, where gun ownership is routine, there is a cultural norm to check whether a weapon is loaded and never point it at someone and pull the trigger, according to Ashley Hlebinsky, executive director of the University of Wyoming Firearms Research Center.
Some local jurors may not differentiate between handling a gun on a movie set or in real life. Persuading jury members, especially gun owners, that the revolver went off on its own could be a hard sell, said the firearms historian.
Still, Hlebinsky sees a possible path to acquittal for Baldwin: namely, the argument his lawyers laid out in their motion to dismiss that the gun was modified to make it "easier to fire without pulling the trigger." That motion is now being considered by a judge.
"The defense just have to put doubt into the head of the jury," said Hlebinksy, who has acted as a firearms expert in court cases on single action Colt .45-type revolvers similar to the "Rust" weapon. "I think they can definitely do that."
CONFLICTING ACCOUNTS
It was six weeks after the Oct. 21, 2021 shooting that Baldwin said in an ABC News interview with George Stephanopoulos that he did not pull the trigger of the Italian-made gun.
Days later, the actor told a New Mexico workplace safety inspector that the Pietta reproduction Colt Single Action Army revolver had no mechanical defect.
Baldwin's statement that the gun "went off" on its own, and his comment that it worked properly, are part of New Mexico state prosecutor Kari Morrissey's assertion that the "30 Rock" actor has "lied with impunity" about details of the shooting.
"They're going to have to walk back from that statement a bit," trial lawyer Neama Rahmani said of Baldwin's legal team.
The former federal prosecutor expected the actor's lawyers to frame the incident as "an accidental discharge," a term meaning the gun fired due to mechanical failure.
He said it was an unusual though not unheard of legal position, most often employed in cases where a defendant was seeking to reduce a charge from murder to manslaughter.
According to Baldwin's lawyers, someone filed down the full-cock notch of the long Colt .45 after it was supplied brand new to the production, to make it easier to fire.
Lucien Haag, an independent gun expert hired by the state, testified at Gutierrez's trial that the full-cock notch was worn down and broken off by FBI testing, rather than filing.
FBI tests of the gun found it was in normal working condition when it arrived at their lab in Quantico, Virginia, after the shooting. An investigator had to hit the hammer with a mallet to make it fire without pulling the trigger, the blows damaging the hammer and trigger, according to the FBI.
Baldwin risks jeopardizing his credibility if he changes his story on the trigger, said lawyer Kate Mangels. She expected him to continue to blame others for firearm safety failures as prosecutors accuse him of negligence, both as an actor and the film's most powerful producer.
"At this juncture it would be difficult for Baldwin's defense team to change course," said Mangels, a partner at entertainment law firm Kinsella Holley Iser Kump Steinsapir.
Hlebinsky, the firearms expert, said movie-set armorers she knows, who have seen pictures of the hammer on Baldwin's gun, are uncertain whether the full cock notch was worn down by mallet blows or filing. She expected Baldwin's legal team to find a firearms expert to testify it was the latter.
"I don't think anyone can say 100% what happened," she said of the gun.


‘I Was Afraid for My Life’ — Orlando Bloom Puts Himself in Peril for New TV Series

 This image released by Peacock shows Chris Copeland and Orlando Bloom in an episode of the television series "Orlando Bloom: To the Edge." (Peacock via AP)
This image released by Peacock shows Chris Copeland and Orlando Bloom in an episode of the television series "Orlando Bloom: To the Edge." (Peacock via AP)
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‘I Was Afraid for My Life’ — Orlando Bloom Puts Himself in Peril for New TV Series

 This image released by Peacock shows Chris Copeland and Orlando Bloom in an episode of the television series "Orlando Bloom: To the Edge." (Peacock via AP)
This image released by Peacock shows Chris Copeland and Orlando Bloom in an episode of the television series "Orlando Bloom: To the Edge." (Peacock via AP)

Orlando Bloom wanted to test himself for his latest adventure project. Not by eating something gross or visiting a new country. He wanted to risk death — with not one but three extreme sports.

The Peacock series “Orlando Bloom: To the Edge” sees the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star shoot through the sky thousands of feet above the ground, dive into a deep sinkhole and rock climb hundreds of feet.

“While I was at moments scared for my life during the show, having come out the other end of it I feel way more capable,” Bloom tells The Associated Press.

The series, which debuts Thursday, was born from the pandemic, which made outside adventures even more alluring. It met the perfect host in a man who is a natural risk-taker. When he made his Broadway debut in “Romeo and Juliet,” he roared onto the stage on a Triumph motorcycle.

“I’m like a collector of experiences in some ways,” he says. “I’ve been remarkably gifted and fortunate to have some unique ones, but this was definitely like, ‘Oh, wow, I’m capable of this. Therefore I can do anything.’”

First up was wingsuiting — skydiving in a special jumpsuit that adds lift so you can glide longer before opening your parachute. Bloom's goal was to jump out of plane at 13,000 feet (3,962 meters) fly 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) over the Pacific Ocean and land on the beach.

Then he heads to the Bahamas, to a 663-foot-deep (202 meters) hole in the ocean, with the aim of plunging to 100 feet (30.5 meters) on just one breath. After that, it’s off to Utah to climb a 400-foot (122 meter) tower and stand on a summit the size of a pizza box.

“We all experience fear. It’s how we face this fear that defines us,” Bloom says in the first episode. “I never feel so alive being so close to death.”

There were some heart-in-your throat moments, like on his seventh skydiving jump, where Bloom needed to activate his reserve chute, something that is necessary just 1 in 1,000 times. And for his 21st jump, he did it holding hands with his 80-year-old uncle, Christopher Copeland, a master skydiver.

Usually it takes 200 solo skydives before anyone is allowed to wingsuit but Bloom convinces his instructor in just two weeks. Katy Perry, his partner, is on hand for the first wobbly flight, embracing her man after he lands and lovingly calling him “a flying wombat.”

Bloom battles ear pain to attempt the 100-foot (30.5 meter) freedive and practicing a breath exercise leaves him in tears, struggling and sweating. Freediving turns out to require a slowing heart, conserving energy and relaxing — the opposite of most sports.

The rock climbing challenge sees a usual 2-3 year training process condensed into a week. There was added stress because Bloom broke his back in a fall in his 20s and really didn't want to do that again.

“Just remember if everything hurts and you want to puke, you’re doing it right,” an instructor helpfully tells him. Bloom also leans into his Buddhist belief, meditating and chanting in the run-up to each daredevil step.

Bloom joins a crowded field of adventure-seeking celeb TV hosts, which includes Eugene Levy, Zac Efron, José Andrés, Chris Hemsworth, Will Smith, Stanley Tucci, Macaulay Culkin and Ewan McGregor.

Bloom, already a guy who went to the gym twice a day, was a quick learner and even emerged with a skydiving license. But he had one-on-one help from experts usually out of the reach of regular thrillseekers, like Maureen “Mo” Beck, a gold medal at the 2014 Spanish Paraclimbing World Championships, and Camila Jaber, the youngest female freediver to break records.

Bloom credits his instructors for their patience, expertise and teaching him to trust them and their gear. His life was in their hands but very often, their lives were in his hands.

“It wasn’t just as simple as like, ‘I’m just going to go with the flow here.’ No, I learned the tools. There are protocols,” he says. “There is a framework with which I was working. And while I was doing that, I was able to get into a rhythm, into a flow, and achieve things that I never thought I would ever do in my lifetime.”

Bloom hopes viewers will tune in to see a novice achieve remarkable feats but also to inspire them to get outside their comfort zones, be it perhaps by managing public speaking or learning a new language.

“For me, the idea of the show was like, ’Well, what is it for you?” he asks. “What is your version of jumping out of a plane? It doesn’t have to be physical or death defying in some form or another.”

Bloom says he's in a happy place, with a good career, a loving partner and great children. That made the stakes even higher for the new series.

“I’m very grateful for my life,” he says. “I’m even more grateful having survived ‘Orlando Bloom: To the Edge.’”


Planned Disneyland Expansion in California Clears Major Hurdle 

The Sleeping Beauty Castle is pictured at dusk at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, US, July 24, 2021. Picture taken July 24, 2021. (Reuters)
The Sleeping Beauty Castle is pictured at dusk at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, US, July 24, 2021. Picture taken July 24, 2021. (Reuters)
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Planned Disneyland Expansion in California Clears Major Hurdle 

The Sleeping Beauty Castle is pictured at dusk at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, US, July 24, 2021. Picture taken July 24, 2021. (Reuters)
The Sleeping Beauty Castle is pictured at dusk at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, US, July 24, 2021. Picture taken July 24, 2021. (Reuters)

Plans to expand the Disneyland Resort cleared a major hurdle Wednesday, as local officials endorsed a new blueprint governing the development of Walt Disney's Southern California theme parks over the next 40 years.

The Anaheim city council approved a plan, called DisneylandForward, that one researcher estimated would create as many as 4,520 construction jobs per year of development and an additional 26,764 parks-related positions over the coming decades.

A second procedural council vote, to consider zoning changes, revisions in the city's development agreement with Disney and an analysis of environmental impacts, is scheduled for May 7. If adopted, the changes would take effect after 30 days, clearing the way for Disney to invest a minimum of $1.9 billion in new theme park experiences and lodging over the next decade.

Parks have become a reliable profit engine for Disney and have helped cushion losses in the Disney+ streaming business, which is expected to become profitable by September. The company last year announced it would deepen its investment in its parks, and double the capacity of its cruise line, committing $60 billion over the next decade.

Disneyland, the company's first theme park, opened in 1955. As it grew in popularity, the city of Anaheim approved plans that would govern its growth, creating zones designated for specific types of developments.

In 2021, Disney submitted a plan, dubbed DisneylandForward, which would give the company flexibility in how it could develop its 490-acre California property. Disney is looking to blend hotels, shops and attractions within the same themed world, as it has in Fantasy Springs, which opens June 6 at Tokyo DisneySea Park.

TELLING 'NEW STORIES'

The proposal calls for allowing theme park attractions alongside hotels on the west side of Disneyland Drive and theme park attractions alongside new shopping, dining and entertainment to the southeast on what is today the Toy Story Parking Area.

Dozens of members of the public addressed the council before the vote. Many voiced enthusiastic support for the job opportunities and revenue they expected the expansion to bring to the area. Some local residents, however, said they would be harmed by increased traffic and noise and the conversion of a public road known as Magic Way into a pedestrian walkway.

"A project like DisneylandForward will only further exacerbate the current problems," said Anaheim resident Trangdai Glassey. "To disregard the human costs from a project of this scope is unthinkable."

The company has not said what attractions and amenities it plans to add in California, though it has pointed to attractions found elsewhere, such as the new World of Frozen, where guests can experience the fictional world of Arendelle at Hong Kong Disneyland, or the "mammalian metropolis" of Zootopia at Shanghai Disneyland.

"With each new experience taking three to five years to come to fruition, DisneylandForward is an urgent need so we can determine what new stories could be told at The Happiest Place on Earth,” Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock wrote in an opinion piece that appeared in the Orange County Register.