Olivia Newton-John, ‘Grease’ star and singer, dies aged 73

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John at a 40th anniversary screening of ‘Grease’ at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, US, Aug. 15, 2018. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 August 2022

Olivia Newton-John, ‘Grease’ star and singer, dies aged 73

  • Olivia Newton-John gained worldwide fame as high-school sweetheart Sandy in the hit musical movie ‘Grease’

LOS ANGELES: Australian singer Olivia Newton-John, who gained worldwide fame as high-school sweetheart Sandy in the hit musical movie “Grease,” died Monday, her family said. She was 73.
The entertainer, whose career spanned more than five decades, devoted much of her time and celebrity to charities after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992.
Newton-John “passed away peacefully at her ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends,” said a statement from her husband John Easterling posted on her official social media accounts.


Barack Obama wins Emmy for narrating national parks series

Updated 04 September 2022

Barack Obama wins Emmy for narrating national parks series

  • Barack Obama is the second president to have an Emmy. Dwight D. Eisenhower was given a special Emmy Award in 1956

LOS ANGELES: Barack Obama is halfway to an EGOT.
The former president won an Emmy Award on Saturday to go with his two Grammys.
Obama won the best narrator Emmy for his work on the Netflix documentary series, “Our Great National Parks.”
The five-part show, which features national parks from around the globe, is produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, “Higher Ground.”
He was the biggest name in a category full of famous nominees for the award handed out at Saturday night’s Creative Arts Emmys, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Attenborough and Lupita Nyong’o.
Barack Obama is the second president to have an Emmy. Dwight D. Eisenhower was given a special Emmy Award in 1956.
Barack Obama previously won Grammy Awards for his audiobook reading of two of his memoirs, “The Audacity of Hope” and “A Promised Land.” Michelle Obama won her own Grammy for reading her audiobook in 2020.
EGOT refers to a special category of entertainers who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. To date, 17 people have done it.
The late Chadwick Boseman also won an Emmy for his voice work on Saturday. The “Black Panther” actor won for outstanding character voiceover for the Disney+ and Marvel Studios animated show “What If...?“
On the show, Boseman voiced his “Black Panther” character T’Challa in an alternate universe where he becomes Star-Lord from “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
It was one of the last projects for Boseman, who died in 2020 of colon cancer at age 43. 


Baldwin expects no charges over fatal movie set accident

Updated 20 August 2022

Baldwin expects no charges over fatal movie set accident

  • A criminal investigation into the shooting is still ongoing, and prosecutors have not yet ruled out charges against those involved
  • "I sincerely believe... (investigators are) going to say that this was an accident. It's tragic," said Baldwin in a rare interview

LOS ANGELES: US actor Alec Baldwin said he does not believe anyone will be criminally charged over the fatal shooting on the set of Western film “Rust,” telling CNN he has hired a private investigator to assess culpability for the tragedy.
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins died after being hit by a live round that came from a gun Baldwin was holding as he rehearsed on the New Mexico set of the low-budget movie last October.
A criminal investigation into the shooting is still ongoing, and prosecutors have not yet ruled out charges against those involved.
“I sincerely believe... (investigators are) going to say that this was an accident. It’s tragic,” said Baldwin in a rare interview about the episode, a portion of which was aired Friday.
Baldwin told CNN he had replayed the events leading up to the shooting over and over for the past 10 months.
While insisting he does not want to “condemn” Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film set’s armorer and props assistant, Baldwin pointed the finger of blame at her and assistant director Dave Halls, who handed him the gun moments before the shooting.
“Someone put a live bullet in the gun who should have known better,” Baldwin said.
“That was (Gutierrez-Reed’s) job. Her job was to look at the ammunition and put in the dummy round or the blank round, and there wasn’t supposed to be any live rounds on the set.
“There are two people who didn’t do what they were supposed to do,” he added.
“I’m not sitting there saying I want them to, you know, go to prison, or I want their lives to be hell.
“I don’t want that, but I want everybody to know that those are the two people that are responsible for what happened.”
Baldwin, who was both the star and a producer of “Rust,” has been the subject of a number of civil lawsuits over the shooting, including from Hutchins’s family.
He has previously said he was told the gun contained no live ammunition, had been instructed by Hutchins to point the gun in her direction, and did not pull the trigger.
But a recent FBI forensic report concluded that the gun could not have been fired “without a pull of the trigger.”
Meanwhile, Gutierrez-Reed has sued the film’s ammunition supplier, accusing him of leaving real bullets among the dummy cartridges.
On Thursday, her lawyer criticized the FBI for failing to carry out DNA or fingerprint testing to establish who had handled the live rounds found on set.
“It is inconceivable that the sheriff would not seek answers to this fundamental question and it raises a serious problem with the entire investigation,” said a statement from Jason Bowles.
Following Baldwin’s latest interview, lawyers for both Gutierrez-Reed and Halls told CNN that the actor was trying to deflect blame away from himself.
Baldwin also used the CNN interview to address former US President Donald Trump’s public intimation that he could have killed Hutchins on purpose.
Trump last year told a podcast that Baldwin — who frequently impersonated and ridiculed the president on “Saturday Night Live” — was a “troubled guy,” suggesting that “maybe he loaded” the gun.
Baldwin told CNN he was consequently worried that some of Trump’s supporters would “come and kill me.”
“Here was Trump, who instructed people to commit acts of violence, and he was pointing the finger at me and saying I was responsible for the death,” said Baldwin.
“There is just this torrent of people attacking me who don’t know the facts.”


What We Are Playing Today: Award-winning co-op game 'It Takes Two'

Updated 19 August 2022

What We Are Playing Today: Award-winning co-op game 'It Takes Two'

  • The award-winning production was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S in March 2021

Married life can be hard; sometimes couples must cooperate to solve their problems. They need to know when to be firm or relent, so it takes two to make the relationship work.

This is exactly the aim of the action-adventure platform “It Takes Two”, which was created by Hazelight Studios and released by Electronic arts.

The story centers on a couple Cody and May who are seemingly incompatible and plan to divorce. They break the news to their daughter Rose late in the afternoon.

Rose then goes upstairs to her room and using two handmade dolls that resemble her parents, acts out a scene where they reconcile.

Rose’s tears, however, magically transfer the souls of her parents into these two dolls, who are now trapped and desperate to return to their bodies. In order to do that, they are forced to work together. 

The production was awarded The Game Award for Game of the Year 2021. It was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S in March 2021.

“It Takes Two” has top-notch graphics, with many details for surfaces and a rotating view. You can move the camera angles around and explore the environment.

It is a multiplayer video game and does not have a single-player option.


Cannibals, comedy and a cinema icon share Venice limelight

Updated 26 July 2022

Cannibals, comedy and a cinema icon share Venice limelight

  • The world's oldest film festival runs from Aug. 31 to Sept. 10
  • Among the leading lights expected to show up on the red carpet will be Timothée Chalamet, Sadie Sink, Adam Driver, Olivia Wilde and others

ROME: A Marilyn Monroe drama, a cannibal road movie and a black comedy about family life are among the stories showcased at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
The world’s oldest film festival, regarded as a launch pad for Oscar contenders as awards season approaches, runs from Aug. 31 to Sept. 10, and features dozens of hotly anticipated movies both in and out of competition.
Among the leading lights expected to show up on the red carpet will be Timothée Chalamet, Sadie Sink, Adam Driver, Olivia Wilde, Harry Styles, Penelope Cruz, Ana de Armas, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, Christoph Waltz and Sigourney Weaver.
International art house directors will share the stage with established Hollywood figures, as pictures by Darren Aronofsky, Andrew Dominik, Alejandro Inarritu, Luca Guadagnino, Joanna Hogg, Koji Fukada and Jafar Panahi get their first outing.
Four originals by the TV streaming giant Netflix line up in the 23-title competition section, including Dominik’s “Blonde,” which stars de Armas in a fictionalized take on the tragic life of US actress Monroe.
For the first time, Netflix gets the honor of opening the festival with Noah Baumbach’s “White Noise” starring Driver and Greta Gerwig — a satiric chronicle of family life that is based on a novel of the same name by Don DeLillo.
One of the most anticipated films is likely to be “Bones and All” featuring Chalamet alongside rising star Taylor Russell as impoverished cannibal lovers in a picture directed by Italy’s Luca Guadagnino.
“It analyzes the poorest and most marginalized in America, the failure of the American Dream,” the festival’s artistic director, Alberto Barbera, said on Tuesday.
Festival regular Cate Blanchett, who presided over the jury in 2020, returns a competition hopeful the film “Tar,” directed by Todd Field — a fictional tale about a famed composer and conductor, who leads a major German orchestra.
“Tar” is one of nine US-produced movies in competition, with five from France, four from Italy and two from Iran — including “No Bears” by Panahi, who is serving a six-year prison sentence in Iran after being convicted of propaganda against the Islamic Republic in 2010.
Venice often provides a first glimpse of future Oscar winners such as “Birdman” in 2015. Its director, Inarritu, returns to the city’s Lido Island with his latest movie — “Bardo” a Spanish-language Netflix comedy set in Mexico.
Likewise Martin McDonagh premiered “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” in Venice in 2017 which went on to scoop multiple awards. His follow-up “The Banshees Of Inisherin,” set in Ireland and starring Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, will get its first showing on the Lido.
As ever, some of the out-of-competition films will get as much attention as those pushing for the Golden Lion top prize.
These include psychological thriller “Don’t Worry Darling,” directed by Wilde and featuring Florence Pugh and Styles, “Dead For a Dollar,” a Western by Walter Hill starring Waltz and a documentary “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” by Evgeny Afineevsky.

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UK to host 2023 Eurovision instead of Ukraine

Updated 25 July 2022

UK to host 2023 Eurovision instead of Ukraine

LONDON: Britain said Monday it had reluctantly agreed to take Ukraine’s place as hosts of next year’s Eurovision song contest after organizers said there was no prospect of the event going ahead in the war-torn country.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said it was his “strong wish” for Ukraine, this year’s winner, to host the 2023 edition and found it “deeply regrettable” that was no longer possible, with the BBC stepping in to host.