New York, Mar 24 (AP/UNB) - OK, so it's basically "Big" with superheroes and villains instead of businesspeople and girlfriends, but director David F. Sandberg has infused his film with so much heart and charm that it hardly matters. Even the deficiencies, like the sluggish beginning and the random, ridiculous villains, fade away under a haze of goodwill because unlike so many big spectacle action pics with sequels in mind, "Shazam!" actually sticks the landing.
But perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. Don't worry if you don't happen to know anything about "Shazam!" or are convinced that you won't care. I certainly didn't. Plus, there are a lot of superheroes to keep track of these days and someone who needs an exclamation point is and should be immediately suspect.
The movie isn't here to judge any lack of knowledge though. It's an origin story about a jaded 14-year-old Philadelphia foster kid, Billy Batson (Asher Angel), who's bestowed with superpowers by Djimon Hounsou (naturally). As Shazam, he's physically altered into an adult and takes the form of Zachary Levi. But of course, even with his height, his muscles, his voice and even his powers, he's still very much a kid and has a lot to learn.
Those are the basics, but the spirit really comes from the smart writing, the pitch-perfect casting and the supporting world around Billy and Shazam. Right before he gets his powers, he's placed in a new group foster home led by Rosa (Marta Milans) and Victor Vasquez (Cooper Andrews) that's full of quirky characters: Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), a disabled superhero obsessive with a biting wit; Eugene (Ian Chen), a violent video game obsessive; Darla (Faithe Herman), the adorable youngest; Mary (Grace Fulton) and Pedro (Jovan Armand). The young actors assembled here are astounding, and immediately captivating, especially Grazer as Freddy and Herman as Darla who nearly steal the show. It's why when the film asks you to believe that it's really about family, and not merchandising, you're on board.
Freddy, with his wealth of superhero knowledge, helps Billy/Shazam figure out what to do with these new, strange talents. The training montages have a terrific comedic sensibility and Grazer and Levi are perfectly matched for the job. Levi in particular pulls off the tricky feat of playing a disaffected, but still fairly innocent young teenager while wearing spandex and a cape, no less. Grazer, meanwhile, who we've seen before in "It," is beyond his years with his ability to draw a laugh.
That's not to say the movie is perfect. The beginning gives an extended origin story for both Billy and the little boy who will grow up to become the megalomaniac villain, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong). Dr. Sivana is woefully underwritten, too, although Strong does his best being the straight, serious guy. For the most part it comes across as less of a threat and more of a buzzkill that gets in the way all the fun we were having with Freddy and Shazam.
Also, as if Dr. Sivana wasn't enough, the script gives him Seven Deadly Sins as henchmen. These sins take the form of unimaginative and indistinguishable CG gargoyles. I'm not exactly sure what lust or greed would look like in gargoyle form, but I'm pretty certain this isn't it. They're also given dubbed voices that feel about as authentic as the voices of the monsters The Power Rangers battled on Saturday mornings.
There's also a running gag about a strip club that seemed a little retrograde for a current film. But, nitpicks aside, "Shazam!" is just a lightning bolt of unexpected joy that is certainly worth your time and money.
"Shazam!," a Warner Bros. release, is rated by the Motion Picture Association of America for "for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material." Running time: 132 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.
New York, Mar 24 (AP/UNB) — Barbra Streisand apologized Saturday for her remarks about Michael Jackson and two men who have accused him of sexual abuse, saying that she should have chosen her words more carefully and that she admires the accusers for "speaking their truth."
Streisand had received bitter criticism online after she was quoted in The Times of London as saying that Jackson's accusers were "thrilled to be there" during the alleged abuse, which "didn't kill them."
After an initial statement Saturday to The Associated Press in which she sought to clarify her remarks, the superstar of song, stage and screen posted an apology online that went further.
"I am profoundly sorry for any pain or misunderstanding I caused by not choosing my words more carefully about Michael Jackson and his victims," she wrote.
"I didn't mean to dismiss the trauma these boys experienced in any way," she wrote. "Like all survivors of sexual assault, they will have to carry this for the rest of their lives. I feel deep remorse and I hope that James and Wade know that I truly respect and admire them for speaking their truth."
The apology went far beyond the earlier statement to the AP, in which she elaborated on her published remarks, saying she felt "nothing but sympathy" for the men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who accuse the late star of molesting them as children.
She wrote in that earlier statement: "To be crystal clear, there is no situation or circumstance where it is OK for the innocence of children to be taken advantage of by anyone."
The remarks in question came deep into a wide-ranging interview with The Times. Asked about Jackson, Streisand was quoted as saying she "absolutely" believed Robson and Safechuck, who make their allegations in the recent HBO documentary "Leaving Neverland."
Jackson's estate has condemned the HBO documentary. Jackson, who died in 2009, was found not guilty in 2005 of charges he molested a 13-year-old boy.
Streisand was asked about the documentary, which she called "too painful."
She then said that Jackson, when she met him, was "very sweet, very childlike." Asked how she reconciled that man with the one portrayed in the documentary, she replied: "His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has. You can say 'molested,' but those children, as you heard say, they were thrilled to be there. They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them."
Among those firing back on social media was the director of "Leaving Neverland," Dan Reed, who wrote of that last quote: "Did you really say that?!"
Asked by The Times whether she was angry at Jackson, Streisand said: "It's a combination of feelings. I feel bad for the children. I feel bad for him. I blame, I guess, the parents, who would allow their children to sleep with him."
Also attracting attention Saturday for remarks about Jackson was his close friend and mentor Diana Ross.
"This is what's on my heart this morning," Ross wrote on Twitter. "I believe and trust that Michael Jackson was and is A magnificent incredible force to me and to many others."
New York, Mar 23 (AP/UNB) — In their early days, the Beatles were called Johnny and the Moondogs and Coldplay went by Pectoralz. The rock band Wallows is no different.
Over the years, the trio has had a number of names, from the Feaver to The Narwhals. Now they're taking a big step to help people remember the band: A full-length album.
Wallows is made up of "13 Reasons Why" star Dylan Minnette, 22, fellow actor Braeden Lemasters, 23 (his credits include Amazon's "The Romanoffs"), and Cole Preston, 22. They've released singles independently, toured, and recorded an EP in 2018, but their debut, 11-track studio album, called "Nothing Happens," is out Friday.
They're launching a tour through North America and parts of Europe beginning in April at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. It's been a long time coming for the trio but they agree the timing is right.
"Had we been doing well when we were kids, it would've been a completely different thing," said Preston.
The trio talked to The Associated Press about their intro to music, choosing an album cover and finally releasing their album. Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
AP: You've been together since you were kids. When you think back to those early days, do you feel like you were good from the start?
Minnette: Oh, we've definitely gotten better over time but I'd say we were pretty badass when we were 13.
Preston: We were way more confident then.
AP: What does it feel like to have what you've been working toward finally come out?
Minnette: We've always known, we're going to be an album band. We wanted our records to be cohesive, make a lot of sense and be projects that stand on their own. And I feel like we definitely reveal a lot more than we ever have in our songs.
AP: How did you get this knowledge of music as kids to even start a band?
Lemasters: For me, it was my dad. He was in bands when I was growing up and I would go to his gigs. And he showed me the Beatles when I was like 9 and it blew my mind. It just kind of happened. I started playing guitar for eight hours a day in my room at around 10 and then formed (this) band. That was it.
Preston: I remember when "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band" were really big and I became obsessed. I decided I wanted to play a real instrument so started playing the drums. But I was like a nerd for "Guitar Hero" and posted my high scores online.
Minnette: You did?
Preston: Scorehero.com. I'm sure they're still up there. Drumbum1096 was my handle.
Minnette: My dad was also a musician so we'd sit at dinner and he'd be like, "Who's this again, Dylan?" ''Stevie Wonder." Then I started discovering my own music like Kings of Leon. Also from streaming music. I know a lot of people can say a lot about the digital age of music, but I feel like it's so easy, in the best way, to discover music now. You can discover incredible artists all day long.
AP: Your album cover looks like a simple piece of fabric. Talk about that.
Lemasters: Album covers and band names are the hardest thing to think of. We reached out to a lot of artists and they sent us really good stuff but it didn't connect. And our manager was texting us like, "Guys, where's the album cover? This is two days late. You're not going to have a vinyl for the release." And I took out my phone and took a picture of the back of Dylan's shirt jokingly.
Minnette: I was walking. Minding my own business.
Lemasters: And I looked at it and was like, "That's actually really cool."
Minnette: It looks like a cool design with these wavy lines. If you don't know it's a shirt it's kind of a trippy cover. But there's also something about a striped T-shirt that's very youthful and the album is also about loss of innocence and leaving it behind.
Chicago, Mar 23 (AP/UNB) — R. Kelly yelled through tears in a recent TV interview before an audience numbering in the millions, saying he's in a fight for his life to disprove sexual abuse charges. That fight will ultimately be waged in court, with the only audience that matters numbering just 12 jurors.
While the day lawyers deliver opening statements to jurors inside a Cook County courtroom is still many months or even years away, court filings as well as comments by the R&B star himself and his attorney after charges in February provide clues about an emerging legal strategy.
Signs are they intend to question the veracity of his accusers and argue that, if he had sex with them, it was consensual and he thought they were of age. His attorney has also signaled he'll push to have some counts tossed on grounds statutes of limitation ran out or because some are too closely related to crimes for which Kelly was acquitted at his 2008 child pornography trial.
Kelly, 52, was right in more ways than one when he cursed during the interview with Gayle King of "CBS This Morning," saying: "I'm fighting for my ... life." If convicted on all ten counts of aggravated sexual abuse of three underage girls and one adult, the Grammy winner faces an effective life sentence of up to 70 years in prison.
The defense is expected to fine tune their argument over coming months that Kelly's accusers are misrepresenting the facts. For now, there's not much finesse.
"All of them are lying," Kelly told King in his only full interview since being charged. "I have been assassinated," he said. Kelly's lead attorney, Steve Greenberg, also told reporters the day of Kelly's arrest, "I think all the women are lying, yes."
At a Friday pretrial hearing, prosecutors said they weren't immediately providing the defense with a copy of a video they say shows Kelly having sex with one of the minors because it's considered child pornography and shouldn't be distributed to anyone.
"The state's going to have to give it to us. They can't play hide the ball," Greenberg told reporters outside court later. "We're entitled to see the tape."
He said the prosecutor's office has handed over some evidence but still holds the bulk of it.
"I was expecting everything by this point," he said. "You should be in a position when you indict somebody the next day to turn over all the (evidence)."
Greenberg is best known for representing the accused in several high-profile murder cases, including of former suburban Chicago police officer Drew Peterson. He was convicted in 2012 of killing his third wife in a case reopened after his fourth wife disappeared.
Greenberg is regarded as a savvy, experienced lawyer prone to quips that have sometimes raised eyebrows. In arguing that any sex was consensual, Greenberg told reporters last month about Kelly: "He's a rock star. He doesn't need to have nonconsensual sex."
Greenberg and attorney Michael Avenatti have regularly clashed via Twitter, both questioning the lawyerly skills of the other. Avenatti, who represented porn star Stormy Daniels in a civil case against President Donald Trump, gave video evidence to prosecutors that he says helped them charge Kelly.
Prosecutors say they won't have to depend only on the word of the accusers.
The video Avenatti turned over purportedly shows Kelly having sex with an underage girl 20 years ago while Kelly and the girl say aloud more than 10 times that she's 14, which could help prove Kelly knew she was a minor.
And another accuser, a hairdresser, says Kelly forced her to perform oral sex on him in 2003 when she was 24. Prosecutors say a police lab found Kelly's DNA in semen on a shirt she was wearing that day.
In a defense filing Wednesday, Greenberg questioned the motives of Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, accusing her of bringing a flimsy criminal case based on old allegations "to thrust herself into the spotlight" of the #MeToo movement, which aims to highlight sexual abuse against women.
A Foxx spokeswoman declined comment.
Greenberg has also criticized Foxx for public statements in January calling allegations against Kelly in a Lifetime documentary "sickening." He said characterizing the allegations before charges were even brought illustrated bias and may have tainted the pool of potential jurors, rendering a fair trial impossible. He could revive those arguments in motions to dismiss or in appeals if Kelly is convicted.
The girl in two videos that Avenatti provided to prosecutors — one of which he turned over after Kelly was charged — is the same girl in a similar video at the heart of the 2008 trial.
Greenberg says that means charges related to her violate constitutional protections called "double jeopardy," designed to thwart overzealous prosecutors from charging people for the same crime for which they've already been acquitted.
"Double jeopardy," Greenberg said last month, "should bar that case." Kelly appeared to be making a similar point when he told King, "When you beat your case, you beat your case."
But legal experts say it's not that simple.
Double jeopardy shouldn't apply if it's not exactly the same incident being charged, said Monu Bedi, a professor at DePaul University College of Law. He said it also doesn't necessarily apply if it's the same incident but a different charge. All the 14 counts Kelly faced in 2008 were child pornography, while all 10 this time are sexual abuse, Bedi said.
But Illinois law extends protections against double jeopardy further than the protections provided under the U.S. Constitution. That could help Kelly's legal team make the case that — when it comes to the girl in the video — prosecutors are unlawfully charging him with the same crime for which he has been acquitted.
Greenberg has said the legal window on bringing at least some of the charges filed against Kelly shut years ago, though he hasn't fully explained how. Calculating when statutes of limitations run out are complex, relying on variables that are sometimes open to interpretation.
Illinois legislators in 2017 did erase all time limits for charging sexual assault of children and it unambiguously applies to such crimes that happened anytime since 2017. It can't apply retroactively to older crimes.
But that doesn't mean any sex abuse by Kelly in the late 1990s can't be charged now, Bedi said. That's because older sexual assaults are governed by the statute of limitations as it existed before 2017, when prosecutors had 20 years to charge abuse of children. So, if Kelly sexually abused a minor as far back as the late 1990s, prosecutors should still be within the 20-year charging window.
Jahangirnagar University, Mar 22 (UNB) – A three-day film festival was concluded at the Zahir Raihan auditorium on Jahangirnagar University (JU) campus on Friday.
With the slogan ‘Alada Chithi Tobu Ek Khame, Alada Shobai Shudhu Ek Name’, the convening committee of education ending celebration programme of students of session 2011-12, organised the festival.
Convener of the committee Abdur Rahim Jewel said every batch organises various cultural events to mark the end of their studies.
“We’ll organise the main event of our Rag Festival by the end of April,” he added.
Nine movies, including Dahan, KGF, Taitanic, Palabi Kothay, Tere Nam, Post Master 71, Badhai Ho and Deadpool 2, were shown at the festival.