‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ Stumbles with $30.5 Million Debut

 US actors Adam Brody (L) and Leighton Meester attend the world premiere of "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on March 14, 2023. (AFP)
US actors Adam Brody (L) and Leighton Meester attend the world premiere of "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on March 14, 2023. (AFP)
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‘Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ Stumbles with $30.5 Million Debut

 US actors Adam Brody (L) and Leighton Meester attend the world premiere of "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on March 14, 2023. (AFP)
US actors Adam Brody (L) and Leighton Meester attend the world premiere of "Shazam! Fury of the Gods" at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on March 14, 2023. (AFP)

“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” felt the fury of the marketplace in its theatrical debut this weekend. The New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. superhero movie opened to a disappointing $30.5 million from over 4,071 theaters.

The “Shazam!” sequel fell short of its modest expectations ($35 million) as well as the first film in the series ($53.5 million in April 2019), and earned a place on the very low end of modern DC comics movie launches, between “Birds of Prey” ($33 million in February 2020) and “The Suicide Squad” ($26.2 million in August 2021), both of which were R-rated.

Directed by David F. Sandberg, “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” brought back Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Adam Brody and Djimon Hounsou, and added Helen Mirren, Rachel Zegler and Lucy Liu. Critics, many of whom found the first film charming, were largely underwhelmed by this outing. It currently holds a 53% Rotten Tomatoes critic score.

Audiences were more positive about the sequel, giving it a B+ CinemaScore overall. Younger crowds were even more favorable.

“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” cost a reported $125 million to produce, not factoring in marketing and promotion costs. The DC shop at Warner Bros. has been going through a major recalibration for the past several months, with new bosses in James Gunn and Peter Safran forging a path ahead for the DC Universe that will officially kick off with a new “Superman” in 2025.

“Shazam! 2” was one of several holdovers of the old regime, which includes “The Flash” coming in June and a new “Aquaman” in December.

Second place went to “Scream IV” in its second weekend in theaters. The horror pic, distributed by Paramount, fell 61% from its debut and added $17.5 million, bringing its domestic total to $76 million.

In its third weekend, “Creed III” grossed an additional $15.3 million to land in the No. 3 spot. The film, directed by and starring Michael B. Jordan has now earned $127.7 million in North America.

Following its Oscar sweep last Sunday, A24 added over 1,000 screens for an encore “Everything Everywhere All At Once” run, where it earned an additional $1.2 million. “The Whale,” for which Brendan Fraser won best actor, played on 509 screens and made $145,230.



Report: Film Director Mohammad Rasoulof Fled Iran on Foot

Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof poses on May 19, 2017 during a photocall for the film “Lerd” (A Man of Integrity) at the 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. (AFP)
Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof poses on May 19, 2017 during a photocall for the film “Lerd” (A Man of Integrity) at the 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. (AFP)
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Report: Film Director Mohammad Rasoulof Fled Iran on Foot

Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof poses on May 19, 2017 during a photocall for the film “Lerd” (A Man of Integrity) at the 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. (AFP)
Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof poses on May 19, 2017 during a photocall for the film “Lerd” (A Man of Integrity) at the 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. (AFP)

Film director Mohammad Rasoulof made an "exhausting and extremely dangerous" walk across a mountainous borderland in order to avoid being jailed in Iran on national security charges, he told the Guardian newspaper.

Rasoulof said Monday he had fled Iran after a court sentenced him to eight years in jail, of which five were due to be served, over his new film "The Seed of the Sacred Fig".

The leading Iranian film-maker, often a target of the country's authorities, told the Guardian in an interview published Friday that he had found shelter in Germany and was hopeful he could attend the film's Cannes premiere next week.

The film tells the story of a judge's struggles amid political unrest in Tehran.

Rasoulof told the UK newspaper that he had "no choice" but to leave, although he expects to return home "quite soon".

"My mission is to be able to convey the narratives of what is going on in Iran and the situation in which we are stuck as Iranians," said Rasoulof.

"This is something that I cannot do in prison.

"I have in mind the idea that I'll be back quite soon, but I think that's the case of all the Iranians who have left the country," he added.

Rasoulof has already served two terms in Iranian jails over previous films and had his passport withdrawn in 2017.

Having decided to leave, Rasoulof told the newspaper he cut all communications via mobile phones and computers and made his way by foot on a secret route to a border crossing.

"It was a several-hour long, exhausting and extremely dangerous walk that I had to do with a guide," he said.

After staying in a safe house, he contacted German authorities who provided him with papers that enabled him to travel to Europe.


‘Triangle of Sadness’ Director Launches Stuck-on-a-Plane Dark Comedy at Cannes

 Director Ruben Ostlund and cast members Kirsten Dunst and Daniel Bruhl pose during a photocall for the film "The Entertainment System Is Down" at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 18, 2024. (Reuters)
Director Ruben Ostlund and cast members Kirsten Dunst and Daniel Bruhl pose during a photocall for the film "The Entertainment System Is Down" at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 18, 2024. (Reuters)
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‘Triangle of Sadness’ Director Launches Stuck-on-a-Plane Dark Comedy at Cannes

 Director Ruben Ostlund and cast members Kirsten Dunst and Daniel Bruhl pose during a photocall for the film "The Entertainment System Is Down" at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 18, 2024. (Reuters)
Director Ruben Ostlund and cast members Kirsten Dunst and Daniel Bruhl pose during a photocall for the film "The Entertainment System Is Down" at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 18, 2024. (Reuters)

Ruben Ostlund, two-time winner of the Cannes Film Festival's top prize and last year's jury president, returned to the festival in southern France to launch his next project on Saturday, a dark comedy about being stuck on a plane with no distractions.

"The Entertainment System Is Down" will star Kirsten Dunst and Daniel Bruehl as a couple whose relationship is put to the test on the 20-hour-plus plane ride from London to Sydney.

"When the iPhones and iPads are shutting out, they are doomed to deal with their own boredom," said Ostlund.

"And I'm going to look on this aspect, like taking away entertainment on a societal level, what happens then?"

Examining what happens when the rails come off of polite society has been a particular fixation of Ostlund's films, which include "Triangle of Sadness," "Force Majeure" and "The Square."

"I always want to work with people that, you know, push the boundaries of cinema," Dunst said at the launch. "That's always my dream to be a part of working with those type of filmmakers."

For filming, which is due to begin soon, the team has bought a Boeing 747, where 99% of the film will be set, said Ostlund.

"We have an airplane, a whole airplane, to not only build a section, but that you can walk from the cockpit all the way to the back so you can do longer tracking shots and really create a feeling of being in the space," said the Swedish director.


Richard Gere Drew on Father's Death for Role in Cannes Entry 'Oh, Canada'

Cast member Richard Gere interacts with fans following the screening of the film "Oh Canada" in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 17, 2024. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
Cast member Richard Gere interacts with fans following the screening of the film "Oh Canada" in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 17, 2024. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
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Richard Gere Drew on Father's Death for Role in Cannes Entry 'Oh, Canada'

Cast member Richard Gere interacts with fans following the screening of the film "Oh Canada" in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 17, 2024. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
Cast member Richard Gere interacts with fans following the screening of the film "Oh Canada" in competition at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 17, 2024. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

Richard Gere, once a Hollywood leading man, said he drew on his feelings following his father's death to bring emotional depth to his role in "Oh, Canada," for which he returned, after decades, to the Cannes Film Festival red carpet on Friday.
"It so resonated with my own emotional voyage with my dad, who was almost 101 when he passed away," Gere told Reuters.
"Paul (Schrader, the director,) wrote such a terrific script, moving script, filled with wonderful character stuff that it was very easy for me to say 'yes,'" he added.
Gere, 74, is almost unrecognizable as Leonard Fife, a man at the end of his life, intent on sharing the secrets of his youth with his wife of 30 years, played by Uma Thurman, on camera, using a technique he perfected as a celebrated documentary maker.
The film, which is competing for the film festival's top Palme d'Or prize, is told through flashbacks, with Jacob Elordi of "Euphoria" fame playing the younger version of Leonard.
Critics were lukewarm after the film's premiere, with The Guardian calling it "muddled, anticlimactic and often diffidently performed," while giving it two out of five stars.
"Oh, Canada" brings Gere back together with Schrader some four decades after the 1980 crime drama "American Gigolo."
"We're like old dogs now, you know? It's like, I was going to say old hookers, but I can't say that," Gere said.
"But there's a shorthand there. I mean, we didn't talk much during this, we just kind of figured out," he added.
The film is based on the novel "Foregone" by Russell Banks, a friend of Schrader's after he adapted "Affliction," with Nick Nolte, into the 1997 Oscar-nominated film of the same title.
The reason Schrader did "Oh, Canada"?
"Russell got sick. That simple," said Schrader, who recalled how hard-hit he was after Banks asked him not to visit because he was feeling bad due to cancer. Banks died last year.
"I knew he had written a book about dying when he was healthy, so I better read that book," said Schrader, 77. "And I read that book and I thought 'yep, that's what I should do'."
The director said he also had to confront his own mortality after a few hospital visits for long COVID and a broken bone.
"I was thinking, you know, maybe, maybe this is it," he said. "At that point, you start thinking about, well, if I've got one more film left, what should it be about?" he said.
"And, fortunately, my health has improved," Schrader said, adding that he still might have a few films in him yet.


Paul Schrader Felt Death Closing In, So He Made a Movie about It

 Director Paul Schrader poses for portrait photographs for the film "Oh, Canada", at the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP)
Director Paul Schrader poses for portrait photographs for the film "Oh, Canada", at the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP)
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Paul Schrader Felt Death Closing In, So He Made a Movie about It

 Director Paul Schrader poses for portrait photographs for the film "Oh, Canada", at the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP)
Director Paul Schrader poses for portrait photographs for the film "Oh, Canada", at the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP)

After a string of hospitalizations for long COVID, Paul Schrader had a realization.

“If I’m going to make a film about death,” Schrader told himself, “I’d better hurry up.”

The health of the 77-year-old filmmaker, whose films and scripts have covered half a century of American movies, from “Taxi Driver” to “First Reformed,” has since improved. But that sense of urgency only increased when Russell Banks, a friend of Schrader’s since he adapted Banks’ “Affliction” into the 1997 film, began ailing. Banks died in 2023.

Schrader resolved to turn Banks’ 2021 novel “Foregone” into a film. At the time, he imagined it would be his last. But Schrader, who’s been as prolific as ever in the past decade, has said that before.

In 2017, he surmised that “First Reformed” was his final cinematic statement. Then he made 2021’s “The Card Counter.” And, after that came 2022’s “Master Gardener.”

“The irony is every time you think, ‘Well, that’s about it,’ you have a new idea,” Schrader told The Associated Press in an interview at the Cannes Film Festival.

On Friday, Schrader was to premiere his Banks’ adaptation, now titled “Oh, Canada,” at Cannes. It’s his first time back in competition in 36 years. And, particularly given that he’s joined this year by Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas — all of them central figures of the fabled New Hollywood — Schrader’s Cannes return comes with echoes of the heyday of ’70s American moviemaking. “Taxi Driver,” which Schrader wrote, won the Palme d’Or here in 1976.

Schrader, though, allows for only so much nostalgia.

“It’s gotten aggrandized in the collective memory. There were a lot of bad films. There were a lot of bad players,” Schrader says of the ’70s. “However, it was the birth of the self-starting movement in cinema. So people like George and Francis and I, all film-school graduates like Marty, we all started our careers in this environment. That was a kind of a golden moment, but that doesn’t mean all the films were golden.”

“Oh, Canada,” which is seeking a distributor, is a kind of bookend to one of the films from that era: the 1980 neo-noir “American Gigolo.” Schrader reteams with Richard Gere decades after “American Gigolo” made Gere a star. Until now, Schrader says, the two hadn’t much discussed reuniting.

“Richard had been developing some mannerisms that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with as a director, and roles I wasn’t comfortable with,” Schrader says. “I was thinking more in terms of Ethan (Hawke) and Oscar (Isaac).”

But the idea of “Oh, Canada” as a kind of spiritual sequel to “American Gigolo” appealed to him. In the film, Gere stars as a revered Canadian filmmaker named Leonard Fife who, nearly on his deathbed, grouchily sits for an interview with documentary filmmakers. His wife (Uma Thurman) watches on as Leonard tells his life story, seen in flashbacks with Jacob Elordi playing the younger Fife, in the 1960s. We have the impression that Fife, who fled to Canada during the Vietnam War, is speaking more honestly than ever before.

“I thought the dying Gigolo — that put some spin on it. People are going to be interested in that, even though it’s not the same character at all,” Schrader says. “I could see that he had come out of retirement. He needs this, therefore he’ll do it for nothing.”

Schrader approached Gere with a few stipulations.

“I said, ‘I’ll send it to you on three conditions: One, that you read it right away. Two, that I get an answer in two weeks. And, three, that you understand my financial parameters,’” Schrader says. “He agreed. I said the same thing to (Robert) De Niro. Bob said, ‘Well, I agree to the first two but not the third one.’”

“So I didn’t send the script to Bob,” Schrader says, laughing.

Since the 2013 film “The Canyons,” which he directed from a Bret Easton Ellis script, Schrader has found a way to make the economics of independent filmmaking work for him.

“People thought that was all a kind of desperate career failure, but it was a glimpse into a new world. It was a trial run of how you do a film yourself,” says Schrader. “After that, I knew that you could make a film and get final cut. You could say to an investor: ‘I’m not going to make you rich — get that dog out of your head. But I think I’m going to make you whole. And I’m going to give you a credit and I’m going to put you on a red carpet somewhere. You could put your money into toasters or tires, or you could put it into this film.’”

The significant caveat to that, Schrader says, is that he came up in the old system of Hollywood. He’s not sure the same strategy could work for someone less established in today’s digital landscape.

“I got my head above the crowd when there was only 400 people in the room,” he says. “Now there’s 40,000 people in the room.”

But few filmmakers remain as engaged with current cinema as Schrader. He goes at least once a week to the movies and often posts brief reviews on his Facebook page. Jane Schoenbrun of “I Saw the TV Glow,” he recently wrote, is “hands down the most original voice in film in the last decade.” He liked the tennis drama “Challengers” (“Zendaya is a star”) but wrote: “The studios would have never let this slight a story run so long — on the other hand, the studios aren’t making this movie anymore.”

“You usually go to the movies because it’s something you want to see in a crowd,” Schrader says. “Like, I went to see ‘Cocaine Bear’ because I knew it would be great to see with an audience.”

“It’s not a particularly good time for film,” Schrader concludes as the interview winds down. “It’s not a bad time. It’s very easy to get a film made. It’s very hard to make a living.”


Actor Dabney Coleman, Villainous Boss in ‘9 to 5,’ Dies at 92

Dabney Coleman appears on the set of "Courting Alex" at Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, Calif., on Jan. 25, 2006. (AP)
Dabney Coleman appears on the set of "Courting Alex" at Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, Calif., on Jan. 25, 2006. (AP)
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Actor Dabney Coleman, Villainous Boss in ‘9 to 5,’ Dies at 92

Dabney Coleman appears on the set of "Courting Alex" at Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, Calif., on Jan. 25, 2006. (AP)
Dabney Coleman appears on the set of "Courting Alex" at Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, Calif., on Jan. 25, 2006. (AP)

Dabney Coleman, a character actor who brought a glorious touch of smarm to the screen in playing comedic villains, mean-spirited bosses and outright jerks in films such as "9 to 5" and "Tootsie," has died at age 92.

Coleman "took his last earthly breath peacefully and exquisitely" in his Santa Monica, California home on Thursday, his daughter Quincy Coleman said in a statement on Friday on behalf of the family.

While best remembered for his arrogant, unctuous and uncaring characters, Coleman said it was all an act.

"It's me kidding around," Coleman once told the New York Times.

"That's just a guy that I'm playing, just to fool around, you know," he said.

Not all of Coleman's characters were cads. He won an Emmy playing a lawyer in the 1987 television movie "Sworn to Silence" and played Jane Fonda's decent dentist boyfriend in the 1981 film "On Golden Pond" and a federal security official in 1983's "War Games."

His final screen credit was playing John Dutton Sr. in the TV series "Yellowstone" in 2019.

Coleman was born on Jan. 3, 1932, in Austin, Texas. He studied law and served in the US Army before trying acting.

His early work in the 1960s and 1970s included one-off roles in a variety of television shows, as well as a semi-regular part as Marlo Thomas' neighbor in "That Girl."

His first movie job was 1965's "The Slender Thread," directed by his acting teacher and friend, Sydney Pollack, who would later hire him for "Tootsie."

Coleman's breakout role - and the one he said was his favorite - came in 1976 on producer Norman Lear's TV series "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." He played Merle Jeeter, the creepy mayor who has an affair with the title character, in that soap-opera spoof and in spinoffs "Fernwood Tonight" and "Forever Fernwood."

His first big movie role - and the one that established his acting persona - was in 1980 as Franklin Hart, the sexist, egotistical business executive who harasses underlings played by Fonda, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin until they take him hostage and boost corporate productivity in "9 to 5."

Coleman was no more likeable two years later in "Tootsie" as a soap opera director who runs afoul of Dustin Hoffman's dressed-in-drag title character.

In 1983, he took the comic villain role even further in his first starring television role. In the short-lived sitcom "Buffalo Bill," he played a radio talk show host whose idea of a tender marriage proposal was: "You're better than 90 percent of those bimbos out there."

"It is fun to play those characters because they are so well-defined," Coleman told People magazine in 1983.

In the 1980s and 1990s, he also starred in the sitcoms "The Slap Maxwell Story" as a sportswriter, "Drexell's Class" as a corporate raider turned teacher and "Madman of the People" as a magazine columnist working for his daughter. None of the shows lasted more than two seasons.

More recent roles included HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" in 2010-11 as the man who once controlled Atlantic City, New Jersey. His part had to be rewritten when Coleman was diagnosed with throat cancer, which left him unable to speak at times.

A devoted tennis player, Coleman was twice married and divorced. He had four children with his second wife, actress Jean Hale.

"My father crafted his time here on earth with a curious mind, a generous heart, and a soul on fire with passion, desire and humor that tickled the funny bone of humanity," the statement from his daughter said.


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.