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Calling all fanboys: whether you loved or loathed “The Last Jedi,” making “starwars” your password isn’t a good idea.

For one thing, it’s as unoriginal as “The Force Awakens” copying “A New Hope.” But according to SplashData, a password management firm, “starwars” made its debut on its list of worst passwords in 2017, coming in at number 16.

“Unfortunately, while the newest episode may be a fantastic addition to the Star Wars franchise, ‘starwars’ is a dangerous password to use,” said SplashData CEO Morgan Slain in a statement. “Hackers are using common terms from pop culture and sports to break into accounts online because they know many people are using those easy-to-remember words.”

SplashData looked at data from five million leaked passwords, mostly from North America and Western Europe, to make its seventh annual list. Still, “starwars” wasn’t close to being as uninspired as some of the worst passwords.

“123456” came in at the top of the charts, followed by “password” in the second slot. Aiming for an extra level of protection, “12345678” was the bronze medalist, because adding two consecutive numbers after “123456” is clearly hacker-proof.

Some other notably terrible passwords included: “Iloveyou” grabbing the 10th spot, “lakers” down at number 37, and my personal favorite, “f**kyou” at number 52 (no stars, though).

You can check out the full list here.

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After Just Five Days, 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Hits $500 Million Worldwide

'Star Wars: The Last Jedi': Rian Johnson Explains Key Villain's Death | 12/20/17

On 11 December 2017, about 25 participants from Europe and the US attended the public consultation for the brand new GDPR Domain Industry Playbook by eco (Association of the Internet Industry, based in Germany) at the representation of the German federal state Lower Saxony to the European Union in Brussels.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) poses a challenge for the Registries, Registrars, Resellers and ICANN. By May 25, 2018, all parties need to be compliant, which means that not only contracts need to be reviewed, but also technical systems need to be revisited. To date, various legal memoranda have been shared, and several parties have worked on their own compliance, but no industry-wide proposal has been published that allows for a discussion of the respective roles and responsibilities of the parties involved as well as a review of data flows. The Playbook will facilitate the process of finding a commonly adopted data model to allow for compatibility of the technical, organizational and legal models the parties will use.

GDPR: Will Registars still deliver Registrant data to Registries

A significant part of the discussion concerned the topic whether the Registrars still are going to provide the Registries with the full Registrant data set (owner, admin and tech data) as their contract with ICANN and the Registries demands. There was a strong opinion of the Registrars present at the meeting (some of the top 5 globally): With GDRP in place we will not longer forward the domain name registration data to the Registries, as they do not need them to maintain their Registry function.

It seems that the Registrars are trying to use the GDPR to wipe out a decade-long multi-stakeholder discussion and consultation in the Internet Community which resulted in the thick Whois for all gTLDs. One reason why Thick Whois was introduced is the fact that ICANN terminates year by year dozens of bad actor Registrar going bankrupt or just out of business sometimes leaving millions of Registrants in the dark. Only thanks to those Registries which maintain a Thick Whois, the damage is limited. The bad actor Registrar problem will likely not be solved mid-term. And over-ruling the new Thick Whois quickly with Thin Whois again is also not a way that will happen, even with the GDPR.

In the present, the subparagraphs of the GDPR allow for transferring Registrant Data to the Registry if there is (a) Consent and for (b) Performance of a contract and for (c) Legitimate Interests. Let's focus on the Legitimate Interest as (a) and (b) are somehow tricky or literally possible. If a Registry demonstrates compelling legitimate grounds which override the interests, rights and freedoms of the data subject or for the establishment, exercise or defense of legal claims, then the Registrant data would also be given to the Registry.

GDPR: A way out of the invidious Situation

At the meeting in Brussels representatives of Registrars and Registrars discussed the diverting interests regarding the Registrant data, but it came out that there a number of good reasons and legitimate interests according to GDPR why the Registries may need to have these data. The reasons why Registry should continue to maintain Registrant data are:

  • Registries are maintaining the central abuse contact point for domain name abuse such as spam, phishing, pharming, botnet activity. Multiple participants in the meeting noted from their experience that Registrars often not respond to abuse notifications. Especially if harm is obvious, Registries act quite quickly.
  • Registries are contractually obliged to run mandatory security checks on their domain name. This can only be done properly if Registrant data are available.
  • Registration requirements such as the local present, member of a certain community (e.g., language, culture) or industry sector (e.g., bank, insurance) require full access to Registrant data.
  • Especially geoTLDs need to fulfill contracts with their government.
  • Other reasons

Such legitimate interests should be fixed in an update of the Registry-Registrar-Agreement (RRA) and the Registry's policy. By the way, the use of data just for marketing, market research or sales purposes is not justifiable under the GDPR.

In general, if Registries do not have access to Registrant data, an important part of their role as responsible gTLD manager may not be fulfilled anymore. Registries are ICANN's contracted guardians of the generic top-level domains (gTLD) and being responsible for stability and security of the zone in the first instance, but also for the gTLD's sustainable economic success. In opposite to Registrars, the Registries are monitored very closely by ICANN and are a hoard of stability in the domain name industry. Therefore the Registry needs to understand demographics, geographical distribution, business types and related data from the WHOIS to thrive and prosper its gTLD. Without WHOIS data the Registry would run its gTLD in a blind flight mode with a significant economic loss expected overtime — for Registries, and Registrars too. If Registrars are interested in Registries doing marketing in their gTLD community, they should together find a justifiable way for the data handling.

More about the eco Playbook at

Written by Dirk Krischenowski, Founder and CEO of dotBERLIN GmbH & Co. KG | 12/12/17
The winner at Saturday night’s European Film Awards of the best European Animated Feature Film Award, Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s “Loving Vincent” has smashed past $20 million at the worldwide box office, an impressive and rare achievement for an independent animated art film. Sold by Edward Noeltner’s Beverly Hills and Paris-based Cinema Management Group, […] | 12/10/17

“The Square” was named the best European film of 2017 at the European Film Awards, which were handed out on Saturday in Berlin.

The dark comedy, which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and is Sweden’s entry in the Oscar foreign-language race, also won awards for its star, Claes Bang, and for writer-director Ruben Ostlund, who won both the screenplay and directing prizes. It was also named the year’s best comedy, and picked up a previously announced award for its production design.

Alexandra Borbely was named best actress for “On Body and Soul,” which is the Hungarian Oscar entry.

The Oscar foreign-language shortlist will be announced next week, with “The Square” a favorite to be included and “On Body and Soul” a strong dark-horse candidate.

Also Read: 'The Square' Review: Comedic Moral Fable Shocks, Then Repeats Itself

“Loving Vincent” and “Communion” won the awards for animated film and documentary, respectively. British director William Oldroyd’s “Lady Macbeth” won the Discovery Award.

Actress, writer and director Julie Delpy received the Achievement in World Cinema Award, while Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov won the EFA Lifetime Achievement Award.

Winners chosen by more than 3,000 members of the European Film Academy.

Best European Film: “The Square”
Director: Ruben Ostlund, “The Square”
Actor: Claes Bang, “The Square”
Actress: Alexandra Borbely, “On Body and Soul”
Screenwriter: Ruben Ostlund, “The Square”
Documentary: “Communion”
Animated Feature: “Loving Vincent”
Comedy: “The Square”
People’s Choice Award: “Stefan Zweig – Farewell to Europe
Cinematographer: Michail Krichman, “Loveless”
Editor: Robin Campillo, “BPM (Beats Per Minute)”
Production Designer: Josefin Asberg, “The Square”
Costume Designer: Katarzyna Lewinska, “Spoor”
Hair & Make-Up Artist: Leendert van Nimwegen, “Brimstone”
Composer: Evgueni & Sacha Galperine, “Loveless”
Sound Designer: Oriol Tarrago, “A Monster Calls”
Discovery: “Lady Macbeth”
Short Film: “Timecode”
Achievement in World Cinema: Julie Delpy
EFA Lifetime Achievement Award: Aleksandr Sokurov

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Elisabeth Moss' Oscar Contender 'The Square' Treated a Great Ape as a 'Living Prop' (Guest Blog)

'The Square' Trailer: Watch Art World Go to Hell in Palme d'Or Winner (Video)

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Jan Naszewski’s sales outlet New Europe Film Sales has taken signed a world sales deal for “Loveling,” the Gustavo Pizzi movie that will open the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the Sundance Film Festival. The Brazilian/Uruguayan picture follows Irene, who lives on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro and has to come to terms with […] | 12/7/17
In a move that was presaged last week , UK exhibition chain Cineworld is to acquire Regal Cinemas , the circuit controlled by Philip Anschutz . The $3.6B deal will create the world's second largest cinema group after AMC , operating in 10 countries with 9,542 screens across the U.S. and Europe. Shares in Cineworld dipped 3.75% in early-morning London trading before beginning a rebound. The agreement also includes a "go shop period," which will allow Regal to actively solicit… | 12/5/17

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First secretary Damian Green says he hopes to reach an agreement so that UK cities remain eligible. | 11/29/17
Cineworld shares lead the FTSE 250 lower after the European chain confirms talks to buy a US rival. | 11/29/17


The A Soul for Europe Conference 2017 in Berlin presented a multi-facetted programme that aimed at bringing civil society and politicians in a dialogue on how to take responsibility for the European project.

Starting the conference with a public debate, representatives from the political and the cultural field debated the fact that above all the citizens as well as the cities and regions should take an active part in Europe.

As Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the Committee of the Regions, put it “Europe is not Brussels. Europe is where you live!” The Mayor of Cluj, Emil Boc, who succeeded in gathering all kind of communities in his city for the candidacy of a European Capital of Culture disclosed his professional secret: "All politics is local. Let people participate in their municipalities and trust will increase for the political system at large."

To activate the cities in an European sense is what Volker Hassemer, Chairman of Stiftung Zukunft, is aiming at: “The national level does not give the support we expect. Therefore, we in the cities and regions must assume our own responsibility – especially in Germany."

Arts and Culture could be a good way to do so; especially when it comes to the populist and anti-European influence that can be observed in the public sphere. Author Juan Gabriel Vasquez claims that we have to rediscover the European Narrative and that we need more humanities in universities to counter fake news, propaganda and alternative facts.

The second day of the conference with around 250 participants kicked off with two key note speeches of Karl-Heinz Lambertz and Juan Gabriel Vasquez confronting the cultural perspective with the view of a politician.

After Lambertz‘ emotionally pointed out that Europe only has a future if it becomes more than a single market, since "you can’t fall in love with a single market”. Vasquez called out to the journalists, artists and people from the cultural sector in the audience: “We must take control of the story again. We must put the literary word back in the centre of our lives.”

In some of the overall ten workshops participants discussed ways to create a Europe from the bottom-up. Among the hosts of the workshops were political and cultural representatives from Georgia (Minister for European integration Victor Dolidze), from Serbia (Activists from “Let’s not drown Belgrade”), from the Netherlands (City Council of Amsterdam) and Germany (Das Progressive Zentrum).

In the track "Arts & Politics – A good match" workshops focused on the potential of arts and culture, such as the power of the written word (authors from the international literaturfestival, the community building work that Theater an der Parkaue is doing as a local theatre for children, or the role of journalists and media in a world where "alternative facts" influence public opinion, carried out by café and n-ost, two trans-European online media organisations.

33 examples of how individual citizens and civil society initiatives can have an impact on cities and regions were shown on the European Marketplace – the project representatives had the opportunity to exchange best-practice methods and examples for their initiatives and projects.

The core element of all the discussions and workshops was clear – it’s all about cooperation between civil-society, politics and culture. Only together, we can face the challenges for the European project ahead of us, Nele Hertling, spokesperson of the A Soul for Europe initiative, pointed out at the end of the conference.

In his inspirational speech, Guillaume Klossa, the chairman of CIVICO Europa summed it up: “Our goal: Each citizen thinks as a leader and each leader as a citizen.”

Image: Jule Halsinger/ | 11/28/17
Rijeka, Croatia, anointed a European capital of culture, wants to restore and showcase the rusting boat used by the Yugoslav leader, but far-right nationalists are outraged. | 11/25/17
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IMAX has teamed with cinema chain Odeon to launch Europe's first virtual reality entertainment center. The two companies are launching the IMAX VR Experience Centre in Manchester, England at Odeon's Trafford Centre movie theater. The center, which consists of ten "pods" that will allow customers to enjoy interactive VR experiences, joins other VR centers in Los Angeles, New York City, Toronto and Shanghai. IMAX is also expected to launch five more centers in the U.S and… | 11/23/17
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The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced the winners of the 2017 International Emmy Awards on Monday, awarding “Wallander” star Kenneth Branagh and “Marcella’s” Anna Friel in the top acting categories.

The awards ceremony was held at the New York Hilton on Monday night and was hosted by comedian Maz Jobrani.

Among the 12 awards handed out on Monday was the International Emmy Directorate Award, which went to Grupo Televisa President, CEO and Chairman Emilio Azcárraga Jean. Other winners included the Steve Coogan’s “Alan Partridge’s Scissored Isle,” the Norwegian crime drama “Mammon II” and the documentary “EXODUS: Our Journey to Europe.”

Also Read: Emmys by the Numbers: HBO Wins the Night

“Television is a universal art form that transcends cultures, languages and borders — as demonstrated by tonight’s winners,” International Academy President & CEO Bruce L. Paisner said in a statement. “In these contentious times — when television programming is constantly under attack, the Academy is proud to recognize excellence from around the world.”

See the complete list of winners below:

Arts Programming 

“Hip-Hop Evolution”
Banger Films

Best Performance by an Actor

Kenneth Branagh in “Wallander”
Left Bank Pictures / Yellow Bird / BBC / TKBC
United Kingdom

Best Performance by an Actress

Anna Friel in “Marcella”
Buccaneer Media / Netflix
United Kingdom


“Alan Partridge’s Scissored Isle”
Baby Cow Productions
United Kingdom


EXODUS: Our Journey to Europe
KEO films / BBC 2
United Kingdom

Drama Series

“Mammon II”
NRK Drama / SVT / DR / YLE FEM / Nordvision Fund

Non-English U.S. Primetime Program

“Sr. Ávila”
HBO Latin America / Lemon Films
United States of America

Non-Scripted Entertainment

“Sorry Voor Alles”
(Sorry About That)
Warner Bros International Television Production België

Short-Form Series

“The Braun Family”
Polyphon, Berlin


 “Kara Sevda”
(Endless Love)
Ay Yap?m

TV Movie/Mini-Series

“Don’t Leave Me”
Scarlett Production / France Télévisions

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TV Academy Revokes Kevin Spacey's Emmy Founders Award Amid Scandal

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Occasionally, ordinary people succeed in having their voices heard and seeing their interests win out against those of multinationals in their appeals to European institutions. It’s rare enough to be worth exploring, and that’s what director Loïc Jourdain is doing in his documentary, A Turning Tide in The Life of Man, which has won many accolades and is now in cinemas.

Over many months, Jourdain followed the fishermen of the small island, Inishboffin. Competing with the deep-sea trawlers encouraged by the European Common Fisheries Policy which penalises small coastal fishing and favors industrial fishing, the fishermen find themselves deprived of their livelihood, and their traditional way of life seems threatened.

John O’Brien is one of those fishermen. He sees the results of his labour dwindle from day to day due to the industrial exploitation of fish stocks by large fishing companies, and the banning of drift nets by order of the European Union and Irish government policy. Then there is the plethora of regulations imposed by European bureaucracy on large as well as small fishing operations. O’Brien is sure that he and his fellow fishermen in Inishboffin are not the only ones in Europe experiencing this problem. So, low on options, he decides to head to Brussels to assert the interests of small coastal fishermen.

With the aid of the NGO, International Collective in Support of Fisherworkers (ICSF), the consultant Michael Earle and many generous experts, John O’Brien managed to unite fishermen all over Europe as well as other island communities, to encourage a better understanding of the particularity and specificity of their way of life. Forming around the Ocean 2012 coalition, O’Brien and his allies manage, after a self-evidently unequal legal battle against industry lobbies that lasted eight years, to influence the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, such that the conditions and interests of small fishing operations are taken into account and the more absurd measures abolished.

John O’Brien’s story is exemplary for demonstrating the way in which European citizens and local communities can successfully assert their needs and interests — indeed, the public interest — when they can organise themselves, just like the multinationals and industries. In fact, European institutions are not necessarily hostile to this form of citizen lobbying, especially when they can formulate new policies or reforms, and represent the public interest.

Unfortunately, the representatives of civil society have more modest means than industrial operations and multinationals. This obliges them to unite and work together with other interested parties . Thankfully, good-will is often easy to come by. This is an example, therefore, of the “Citizen lobbying” conceptualised by the Italian legal expert, Alberto Alemanno, as a tool for exerting pressure on institutions, and for democratic and participative development. | 11/17/17

The review embargo for “Justice League” has finally lifted, just a few days before the film comes out this weekend, and the reviews are less than fierce.

While fans who have seen the film have largely reported that they like it, critics so far have a lot of problems with the all-star DC superhero action movie.

Some reviewers blasted the film’s “disjointed storytelling” and convoluted CGI resulting in blurred action sequences. One critic even called it a “chaotic, baffling mess.”

Also Read: 'Justice League' Film Review: DC Superheroes Battle in Vain Against the Power of Zack Snyder

“And so, dear ‘Justice League,’ I must say that no, the lighting is not good,” wrote Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson. “The script is not interesting. The costumes are not fun. The film is, plainly stated, terrible, and I’m sorry that everyone wasted their time and money making it–and that people are being asked to waste their time and money seeing it. I hate to be so blunt, but it simply must be said this time,” he added.

“If you like your superhero battles in deep dark tunnels or under skies purple with alien soot, director Zack Snyder is back with yet another installment that looks the way Axe body spray smells,” TheWrap’s own critic Alonso Duralde wrote in his review.

Still, critics found some redeeming qualities in “Justice League.” Most reviewers seem to agree that the characters are the strong point of the new DC movie, and that the lighter tone and funny one-liners elevate it above predecessor “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

“But ‘Justice League’ does more right than wrong,” wrote USA Today’s Brian Truitt. “Instead of having its heroes punch each other a lot, most of the tension comes from philosophical differences on what it means to serve the greater good, and the movie also pays homage to what’s come before, with Danny Elfman’s phenomenal score successfully weaving and twisting Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman themes,” he added.

“Justice League” stars Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher and Ezra Miller, and was directed by Zack Snyder before Joss Whedon took over when Snyder suffered a family tragedy.

See Video: 'Justice League' Reaction: Here's What We Think of DC's Latest Installment

See nine review excerpts below:

Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

“Doing high school and college theater, I got used to a certain kind of pitying, deflecting, post-performance compliment–‘the lighting was so good;’ ‘what an interesting script;’ ‘what fun costumes.’ These little deceptive kindnesses told me all I needed to know, yet spared me from full exposure to the harshest truths. I’ve done the same routine myself dozens of times, because what else can we do as decent, compassionate people? Who needs mean, candid honesty when, deep down, we already know the value, or lack thereof, of what we’ve made? But once in awhile, there comes along something so egregiously bad that trying to find something good to say about it is its own kind of cruelty; such an obvious act of reaching only highlights the production’s garish dimensions, its abject failures. And, worse still, it can encourage more. In these instances, pure and unadorned honesty is really the only way to go, difficult as it may be to deliver. And so, dear ‘Justice League,’ I must say that no, the lighting is not good. The script is not interesting. The costumes are not fun. The film is, plainly stated, terrible, and I’m sorry that everyone wasted their time and money making it–and that people are being asked to waste their time and money seeing it. I hate to be so blunt, but it simply must be said this time.”

Germain Lussier, io9: 

“Everything the ‘Justice League does feels too easy. Some of that is certainly due to the film’s economical runtime, which is under two hours. This should be a good thing–way too many superhero blockbusters are too bloated nowadays–but ‘Justice League’ clearly cut out some connective tissue instead of just telling a tighter story. Among those are scenes about a random European family that feel hugely out of place for most of the film; when their purpose is finally revealed, the payoff is minimal. Wonder Woman’s first appearance is another such example. She’s fighting terrorists who have this huge political agenda but they simply disappear, leaving you scratching your head. The disjointed storytelling, coupled with a lack of tension, continually works against the film.”

Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

“First, the good news. ‘Justice League’ is better than its joylessly somber dress rehearsal, ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.’ Now the ‘but’…you knew there was a ‘but’ coming, right? But it also marks a pretty steep comedown from the giddy highs of ‘Wonder Woman.’ When Gal Gadot’s proto-feminist Amazonian avenger got her solo showcase earlier this year, there were a lot of DC partisans who finally had a reason to feel bullish about the state of their union. Following the exit of Christian Bale in 2012, it was the first real glimmer of hope that maybe the studio was headed in the right direction. That the future was bright. ‘Justice League’ won’t extinguish that hope. Not by a long shot. But it also doesn’t quite translate into a winning streak either. It’s a placeholder in a franchise that’s already had too many placeholders.

Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

[…] Warner Bros’ latest hapless attempt to jump-start their DC Comics blockbuster brand, which at this point looks less like a cinematic universe than a pop-cultural black hole, sucking up as much money and audience goodwill as the studio can shovel into it…  it feels like a sheepish feature-length retraction of the franchise to date. It’s consistently embarrassing to watch, and features plot holes so yawningly vast they have a kind of Grand Canyon-like splendour: part of you wants to hang around to see what they look like at sunset.”

Also Read: Will 'Justice League' Perform Like 'Wonder Woman' or 'Suicide Squad' at the Box Office?

Eric Kohn, IndieWire:

“Whedon’s ‘Avengers’ was an endearing accumulation of characters whose stories assembled over the course of 10 years and several movies; ‘Justice League’ attempts to speed the process and blurs its appeal. Decades ago, before Spider-Man or Captain America took charge, Batman and Superman protected a war-torn America, forever changing popular culture. It was the D.C. universe that invented this game, so it stings to see it replicate the same old moves.”

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone:

“The scenes of the League members together, bickering and bonding, spike the film with humor and genuine feeling, creating a rooting interest in the audience. Without it, the film would crumble. Let’s face it, Steppenwolf is a CGI yawn, the action sequences are often a digital blur, the soundtrack defaults to loud whenever inspiration wanes and keeping it light becomes the first step to staying superficial. ‘Justice League is a decent crowdpleaser, preferable in every way to the candy-a–ed cynicism of ‘Suicide Squad.’ But sometimes shadows need to fall to show us what to be scared of. In the end, this all-star team-up is too afraid of the dark to work its way into our dreams.”

Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune

It’s been a long, hard road to ‘Justice League.’ Director Zack Snyder, who helmed the latest iterations of Batman and Superman in ‘Man of Steel’ and ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,’ stepped away for personal reasons during post-production. ‘The Avengers’ director Joss Whedon came in to finish the film, including reshoots, which were famously foiled by Superman Henry Cavill’s ‘Mission: Impossible’ mandated mustache. But after all of that, finally, DC’s superheroes are assembled on screen at last. It’s just a shame that the resulting film is a chaotic, baffling mess.”

Brian Truitt, USA Today

“‘Justice League’ is a lighter answer to the tonal issues of both ‘Man of Steel’ and ‘Batman v Superman,’ though it’s saddled with an uneven narrative and not as much character development as you’d want in trying to shoehorn ancient mythology and setup for future movies. But ‘Justice League’ does more right than wrong. Instead of having its heroes punch each other a lot, most of the tension comes from philosophical differences on what it means to serve the greater good, and the movie also pays homage to what’s come before, with Danny Elfman’s phenomenal score successfully weaving and twisting Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman themes.”

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“In the end, though, there is something ponderous and cumbersome about Justice League; the great revelation is very laborious and solemn and the tiresome post-credits sting is a microcosm of the film’s disappointment. Some rough justice is needed with the casting of this franchise.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

Rotten Tomatoes to Withhold 'Justice League' Score Until Day Before Release

'Justice League' Amazonian Bikinis Have Twitter in Uproar: 'Men Ruin Everything'

Watch 'Justice League' Take On Villainous Steppenwolf in New Spoiler (Video) | 11/15/17
A Scandinavian co-production entitled Sámi Blood, exposing racism faced by northern Europe's indigenous inhabitants in the 1930s, won this year's Lux Prize awarded by the European Parliament for promoting European cinema. | 11/14/17
Europe’s leading festival of cinematography, Camerimage, kicked off its 25th edition Saturday with Kenneth Branagh praising what he called “the magnificent seven” DPs he’s worked with in his career. The lensers “made me work harder and better and more comfortably,” Branagh said, adding that Haris Zambarloukos, who shot his “Murder on the Orient Express,” is […] | 11/11/17

Sometimes it’s difficult to review a play when you’re all too familiar with its subject. In recent years, I was an adjunct instructor who taught writing courses at a university. That’s basically the main character and subject of Julia Cho’s new play, “Office Hour,” which opened Wednesday at Off Broadway’s Public Theater.

In her very first scene, Cho blurs the rigid hierarchy of instructors at universities: The full-timers, with or without tenure, travel on a luxury cruise, while the adjuncts paddle around in canoes below, passing each other in the night. It’s the difference between no benefits and full benefits, between making four figures per class and making high-five, low-six figures for teaching only one or two classes more each semester.

Cho disregards this professional chasm in the first scene of “Office Hour.” The responsibility of helping a deeply disturbed student, Dennis (Ki Hong Lee), falls to a lowly adjunct, Gina (Sue Jean Kim), because she and Dennis both happen to be Asian American.

Also Read: 'Junk' Broadway Review: Boesky and Milken, the Vampires of Wall Street, Are Back

“Maybe you can talk to him,” Gina is told, even though this student needs much more than talk. Indeed, other instructors like David (Greg Keller) and Genevieve (Adeola Role) fear that Dennis is a would-be campus assassin.

I overlooked Cho’s confusion about an adjunct’s status on campus for a couple of reasons. Maybe it’s dramatic license. And more importantly, Cho brings up a subject of real interest when Genevieve complains, “But I couldn’t even flunk [Dennis]. The assignments were complete, on time. Awful, but on time.”

If Genevieve were teaching trigonometry and a student didn’t know his multiplication tables but the assignments were complete and on time, would she not flunk him? And yet, Genevieve has a point when it comes to students in writing classes. If a student can’t put two sentences together but turns in gibberish, an instructor wouldn’t funk him. Arts education at a college level is all too often a scam, with untalented writers, actors and graphic illustrators getting good grades to keep classes full and instructors employed.

Also Read: 'M. Butterfly' Broadway Review: Clive Owen Falls for Peking's Victor/Victoria

This, unfortunately, is not the subject of “Office Hour,” as we soon learn. Unlike the other instructors, Gina makes the effort to empathize with the clearly tortured Dennis, even though she agrees with her colleagues that he is without talent and his prose is so violent and pornographic that students flee her class when his work is read aloud.

Since Dennis is also described as being a mute who wears a hoodie and sunglasses in class, I had to wonder when these offended students ever got the opportunity to hear his short stories and poetry be read aloud. And did Dennis play charades when it came to enacting his own screenplays? More dramatic license, perhaps.

So how violent and pornographic is Dennis’s writing? David and Genevieve each remember a sentence well enough to repeat it verbatim to Gina. Both examples have to do with anal rape. Frankly, anyone attending almost any R-rated movie has heard worse. But the greater point is what anal rape says about Dennis, who wrote the offending passages, or David and Genevieve, who recall the passages word for word, or Cho, who offers in detail only this one act of sexual violence from her character’s supposedly demented prose.

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The other thing that “Office Hour” is not about is Gina’s completely inappropriate office behavior. Kim practically sweats maternal concern, making David Mamet’s professor in “Oleanna” look like a model of propriety. Switch the sexes of Gina and Dennis in “Office Hour” and Cho would have a real debate on her hands.

There is a design behind Gina’s inappropriate behavior (physical affection, destruction of property), because she uses it to break through Dennis’s silent, hardened façade to tell him a story about her own Asian immigrant father, who wore a happy-face mask in public but treated his family at home with that same cold silence that she now sees in Dennis (who, as played by Lee, goes from threatening to adorable with uncommon speed).

Gina’s empathy for an initially repellent person forces her to unmask Dennis’s demons and confront her own. Tellingly, both Gina and Dennis are burdened with Western European names, her surname (not revealed in the play) changed through that institution of sexism and patriarchy known as marriage.

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In a game of telephone improvisation, Gina manages to unearth a family dynamic at the heart of Dennis’ problem. Frankly, it’s pure dime-store Freud, leaving us with Dennis’ ethnicity in a white world as his real problem.

If there’s any doubt here, David reappears to represent the Great Male Caucasian Villain. It’s odd, and not just because Cho is recycling a scene from “Oleanna.” Until we witness David’s verbal assault, I’d seen this instructor as a hero for having the guts to give Dennis an F in the screenwriting class. Cho conveniently leaves her African-American female character, Genevieve, out of this final confrontation.

In Cho’s Playbill bio, we learn that she went to New York University (my grad school) and Juilliard (where I’ve taken evening classes for years). I’m not sure when Cho attended these schools, but if her Dennis walked through the halls of NYU or Juilliard today he would be advised to take off his dark sunglasses and see that he is part of a sizable minority, if not, in fact, a majority.

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Way back in 1980, Alan Parker’s movie “Fame” was laughed at in the gay community for presenting its one and only homosexual character as lonely and disenfranchised at, of all places, New York’s High School for the Performing Arts. In 2017, Cho does something similar with her Dennis character, and it can best be described as victim trolling.

Neel Keller directs some extraordinary scenes of imaginary violence that build to one extended fantasy sequence, which falls flat.

Until recently, playwrights took two and a half hours or more to develop stories about tragic, deeply troubled, violent characters. Shakespeare needed four or five. “Office Hour” is a portrait of a would-be campus assassin in 85 minutes.

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Filed under: Etc.,Green,Audi,BMW,Ford,Mercedes-Benz,Porsche,Volkswagen,Green Culture,Europe,Emerging Technologies,Technology,Electric

A car could be charged to more than 160 miles of range in a half-hour.

Continue reading BMW, Daimler, Ford, VW plan Ionity EV charging network across Europe

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A Soul for Europe, Berlin – Why and how cultural institutions could include the citizenship education component in all their activities is a matter of creating more awareness of the education capacity among initiators of cultural initiatives all over Europe, especially on local level, in the cities where they are based. See more . | 11/3/17
The view is expressed in Belfast's draft bid for the European Capital of Culture in 2023. | 11/2/17
[Ethiopian Herald] Addis Ababa -One fascinating thing about the story of James Bruce, the 18th century Scottish traveler and travel writer, was that he studied the Ge'ez language in Europe, Spain, before he even came to Ethiopia. Though his main mission in coming to East African was seemingly to find the origin of the Nile River, Bruce spent a lot of time in Abyssinian [Ethiopian] court and studying the people and their culture. | 10/29/17
Five locations submit their bids to be European Capital of Culture in 2023 - despite Brexit. | 10/27/17

Fifteen survivors of alleged sexual abuse by disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein gathered at TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast in Los Angeles on Thursday to share their experiences and urge the entertainment industry to change its culture.

In a morning filled with intense emotion and determination, Hollywood’s leading women executives, actresses and creative figures came together to condemn recent revelations of sexual misconduct and offer solutions.

“I’m astounded how differently women in power are treated,” said actress Claire Forlani, who has described being harassed by Weinstein on five different occasions. “We’re second class citizens and that needs to change.”

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Zoe Brock, who wrote a powerful essay about her encounter with Weinstein at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, said she was angry that Weinstein attacked her, and equally angry at the people who let him be alone with her in a room.

“I have spent the last 20 years thinking that I was lucky for not understanding how dangerous he was,” she said Thursday. “I spent 20 years thinking he was a pathetic douchebag — nothing that dangerous.”

Nearly 300 leading women in the entertainment industry came together at the Montage hotel in Beverly Hills to talk about combatting sexism and creating inclusivity.

The 15 survivors of alleged Weinstein harassment and assault wore teal ribbons to signify their experiences. They were: Katherine Kendall, Sarah Ann Masse, Jessica Barth, Chelsea Skidmore, Alice Evans, Larissa Gomes, Louisette Geiss, Melissa Sagemiller, Louise Godbold, Kendall Rhodes, Venice Cusumano, Lauren Sivan and Leah Lamarr, as well as the aforementioned Forlani and Brock.

Many of them said they had thought they were the only ones, and were reluctant to come forward and bear the consequences. Forlani said she spoke out because she was upset at herself that she did not participate in The New Yorker piece.

“I was afraid. My conditioning was, ‘Carry on. I handled it, I’m now 45 years old, I’m safe,'” she said. “I didn’t want to deal with legal fees, I thought, Harvey is going to come after me, Harvey is going to kill anyone in his sight and I didn’t want to deal with that, so I just abstained — thinking I was being smart. The article came out and I felt shame. I thought, ‘Jesus, I’m not supporting the women.’ I was a part of this — this all happened and it’s time to join forces. It’s time to speak out.”

Lauren Sivan, a Fox 11 reporter, described why she went public with a shocking story about Weinstein masturbating into a potted plant while asking her to watch in 2007. She was disappointed when she shared the story privately.

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“Whenever I told that story, anyone that knew him, they said, ‘yep, that’s Harvey.’ No one was ever shocked and it’s time to be shocked,” she said. “That’s not normal behavior. I don’t care what era you were born in.”

But, she added: “Casual harassment has been going on all the time. It doesn’t get those shocking headlines, but it doesn’t mean we don’t experience it all the time.”

Sivan said she was relieved to see an outpouring of women’s support hoping to make a change: “The Harvey Weinstein situation was so empowering to me — to see this tight-knit Hollywood be taken down by powerful women.”

Also at TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast, Kelly Bush Novak, founder and CEO of ID, called for gender equality in entertainment — setting a deadline of three years from now.

“Let’s demand that our representation and inclusion in all aspects of our industry be 50/50 by the year 2020,” Bush Novak said in a fiery speech Thursday at TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast L.A., crediting the idea to her client, “Transparent” creator Jill Soloway.

“Equal representation in our executives, directors, writers, showrunners, department heads, the DGA, WGA, PGA, IATSE and SAG-AFTRA. On boards of directors,” she said.

IWMF Courage in Journalism Award-winner Saniya Toiken

“We need to hold the studios, production companies and individuals complicit in these crimes accountable — legally and financially,” she said. “We need to boycott those who refuse to cooperate and perpetuate this abuse of power.”

With longstanding gender inequality in Hollywood and a renewed focus on cases of rampant sexual harassment, Universal Television head Pearlena Igbokwe said there is a secret weapon to changing the industry’s male-dominated culture.

“The key is, you need to have incredibly conscientious men and more women in control,” Igbokwe said.

Igbokwe was joined by “Friday Night Lights” executive producer Jason Katims, “Midnight Texas” producer Monica Owusu-Breen and NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke on a panel titled “Embracing Inclusion: Telling Stories That Champion the New Narrative.”

Brooklynn Prince, the seven year old star of “The Florida Project” delighted the room by proudly stating that after being the first “little girl director,” she’d like to one day be the first female president of the United States.

“The Florida Project” star Brooklynn Prince at TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast in Los Angeles

IWMF Courage in Journalism Award-winner Saniya Toiken, Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty, from Kazakhstan, was also a featured speaker, who spoke with TheWrap’s Founder and CEO Sharon Waxman about the constant threats in her career as a Kazakh journalist, but said she tells stories because it’s hard for women to “to get in any position.”

TheWrap in 2017 has brought its successful Power Women franchise to Washington D.C., San Francisco, New York, and now Los Angeles, building a broad network and community of professional women who are decision makers, mothers, leaders, wives, innovators and activists.

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Our favorite Jedi master is a single man! Or is he?

Ewan McGregor, 46, was recently spotted kissing his Fargo costar Mary Elizabeth Winstead, 32. Following the sighting, a family source confirmed to PEOPLE that McGregor and Eve Mavrakis, his wife of 22 years, have been separated since May.

With McGregor having seemingly moved on, here’s a look at some of the highlights from his life with the French production designer.

RELATED: Ewan Mcgregor Splits From Wife Of 22 Years — As He’s Spotted Kissing Costar Mary Elizabeth Winstead


Their Careers Brought Them Together

McGregor and Mavrakis, 51, reportedly met on set of the British TV show Kavanagh QC while filming the episode Nothing But The Truth. McGregor guest starred in the episode, while Mavrakis worked as the assistant art director. The two wed in the summer of 1995, only six months after the episode aired.

They Were Parents Right Away

Only seven months after their wedding, the couple had their first daughter, Clara McGregor.

The now 21-year-old recently entered the media spotlight when she attended the premiere of Miles Ahead with her father in March. Apparently not interested in acting, Clara is an aspiring photographer and student at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

McGregor and Mavrakis went on to have two more biological children (15-year-old Esther McGregor and 6-year-old Anouk McGregor), and one adopted child (16-year-old Jamyan McGregor).

McGregor Is a Protective Father


McGregor and Mavrakis were not happy when paparazzi photographers joined in on their family vacation in Europe in 2002. When photos of his children, Clara and Esther McGregor, were published in the media without his consent McGregor filed a privacy lawsuit in England. Parties that had to settle with the actor included Britain’s Daily Record and The Sun, plus the photographer who took the photos.

McGregor won nearly $75,000 in damages over the legal dispute.

Adopting a Child

Since having their daughter Clara shortly after their wedding, Mavrakis and McGregor became parents to three more children, including their adopted daughter Jamyan McGregor.

In 2004, McGregor and best friend Charley Boorman spent three months on a globe-spanning 20,000-mile motorcycle odyssey for the Bravo TV series Long Way Round. Mongolia was one of the stops on their journey.

Two years later, in 2006, the actor adopted Jamyan McGregor from Mongolia. She was 4-years-old at the time.

The Split

After photos of McGregor kissing Winstead were published on Sunday, a family source confirmed to PEOPLE that McGregor had been separated from Mavrakis since May. Winstead also split from her husband, writer Riley Stearns, in May. | 10/23/17

You don’t need a VR headset to watch Amir Bar-Lev’s documentary about the Grateful Dead, “Long Strange Trip,” because this four-hour movie is as immersive a wade into the waters of the Bay Area-germinated psychedelic band’s history as 2D gets. That being said, if you devoted 240 minutes to a history of, say, KISS — another group with decades of fame, devoted fans, and controversy — you might also earn the word “immersive,” but it wouldn’t feel justified.

With “Trip,” which was executive produced by Martin Scorsese and feels of a piece with that filmmaker’s own music docs (about Bob Dylan and George Harrison), there’s a groovy synergy to spending so much movie time with an outfit famous for its unlikely impact, free-wheeling jams, pharmacological notoriety, Guinness-recognized touring prowess, and ever-expanding fan base, who catalog performances with the care and precision of archaeologists.

And in the story of hippie rock god Jerry Garcia alone, the comprehensive length bestows an added heaviness to the beloved frontman’s own funny, funky, and ultimately tragic journey trying to keep the good time going for as long as he could. You don’t have to be a Deadhead, or even a casual listener, to find in “Long Strange Trip” a compelling tale of what happens when iconoclasts become icons.

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To give an appropriately epic story its due, Bar-Lev (“The Tillman Story”) breaks the movie up into theme-meets-timeline acts with titles like “This Is Now” (young group struggles), “Who’s In Charge Here?” (successful group struggles), and “Deadheads” (massively successful group struggles). But the throughline that proves most resilient comes in the opening moments, with a Garcia interview clip from just before his death, in which he talks about the impact of the Frankenstein myth on his childhood, specifically the 1948 film “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.”

For a fearful kid who’d just lost his father, a movie that leaned into bizarreness gave him hope. Says Garcia, “I thought to myself, ‘I want to be concerned with things that are weird. That seems like fun.'” Cue the assembled influences: the beatniks, Haight-Ashbury, LSD-fueled happenings with Ken Kesey.

What emerges is a hodgepodge folk-meets-rock-meets-free-jazz combo made of a bluegrass-virtuosic guitarist (Garcia), a blues-mad harmonica player (“Pigpen” McKernan), a fleet rhythm strummer (Bob Weir), a classically-trained avant-gardist turned bassist (Phil Lesh), a pair of polyrhythmic drummers (Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart), and countless keyboardists and accompanists.

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Record contracts required them to go into the studio and lay down tracks, but for the Dead, the live gig was the real feast. The fun was in the ephemeral and the flowing, in connecting with bandmates and audiences. A sound designer describes abandoning his post in the mixing truck to watch Garcia play “Morning Dew” from the audience, making accidental eye contact with Garcia, then getting a nod as if to say, it’s OK, enjoy the moment. When Garcia visited L.A.’s Watts Towers, its solidity unnerved him. He saw nothing enjoyable in building a monument for posterity.

The be-here-now approach didn’t make for the smoothest-run or most responsible of organizations, however, as related by their early-’70s tour manager, a wiry Brit named Sam Cutler, the movie’s most vividly anecdotal interviewee. While touring (and drugs) built their reputation, drugs (and touring) took their toll. (Much is made of how dangerous it was in to accept a beverage of unknown provenance from any band member.)

As the group grew into a road behemoth that spawned a fan culture of tie-dyed twirlers and tape-obsessed tokers willing to see every show — concerts became known as much for the out-of-control Deadhead scene as what happened onstage — Garcia grew more uncomfortable with his deified status, and retreated further into heroin. Drugs had gone from tripping the fantastic, to triggering the escape hatch.

Especially heartbreaking is a final-act sequence in which Garcia is nudged into reconnecting with old flame Brigid Meier, first shown earlier in the film in previously unseen home movies, and who had given him his first acoustic guitar. It’s a short-lived rekindling, however, due to the musician’s addiction. With Garcia’s death, in 1995 at age 53 from a heart attack, it’s not surprising “Long Strange Trip” ends shortly after.

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What makes Bar-Lev’s accomplishment so rewarding is how skillfully he weaves it all: the unearthed archival footage, interviews (mostly the core group and key insiders), and a biographical tempo that never lets the celebration bore the uninformed, or the darker elements unduly harsh the buzz. There’s room for Al Franken to argue entertainingly for the 1980 Nassau Coliseum recording of “Althea,” and for Phil Lesh to movingly wonder if less touring and more focus on Garcia’s problems might have saved his bandmate and friend.

The levels always feel right in Bar-Lev’s mix, so that no section ever feels like a solo that’s gone on too long. The touring/backstage footage alone, from the Acid Tests in the ’60s to the famed European tour in the early ’70s, and through the stadium craziness of their money-making heyday, would make any documentarian envious as a visual chronicle of a true rock odyssey.

It’s no secret irony that the archive of Dead recordings left behind — from over 2,000 performances — pushes against Garcia’s distrust of eternal totems. But it’s also realistic to imagine that, wherever he is in the rock cosmos, if he could screen “Long Strange Trip,” he’d give Bar-Lev the same nod that sound designer got.

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The suicidal drift of the Catalan independence movement has its roots in an intense process of appropriating Catalonia’s social and political space – to the point of stifling any option contrary to its plans. A story of how we have ended up in this situation.

What has happened in Catalonia over the last few years can be described as a ‘great fraud’. It is a fraud that finds its roots an intense process of appropriation of Catalonia’s social and political arena until the point where anyone else’s opinion is stifled. Because it is a fraud to say, as Catalan nationalists claim, that the rights of Catalans have been crushed, that they have not been allowed to vote freely, that they have “been robbed”, or that their language or culture have been “suppressed” by Spain. What has happened in Catalonia is that the traditional “catalanismo” protected by the generosity of the Spanish constitution of 1978, which gave very ample autonomy to Catalonia, has turned into nationalism and, from this, into calls for independence, for reasons of greed, opportunism and internal politics. And nationalism is unstoppable, because it seeks a dichotomous relationship, of good versus evil, of exclusivity, of the obligation to take sides.

Add to that a de facto control of the language, education, culture and media outlets, and we have dismantled the elements of a ‘raw’ nationalism, totalitarianism – that which has historically destroyed Europe – and reconstructed them as a post-modern style of nationalism, social-media friendly, a nationalism of selfies with flags, of the audiovisual imagination, with an impeccable marketing strategy. It has been largely developed since the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the Statute of Catalan Autonomy in 2010 – that cut part of the Statute – after a disastrous negotiation process and, more concretely, with the massive staging of the Diadas (Catalonia’s national festival).

An absurd ethnic chimera in a democratic and open Spain. And this is what has manipulated and convinced many Catalans – though not 50 percent of the population, according to the results of the last regional elections. It is a process that has come to a head before the backdrop of the economic crisis, which welcomed people into the ranks of the independence movement who had been hardest hit, but who until that point had had no nationalist leanings. It is a phenomenon that can be explained by the global uprising against the inequalities ushered in by neoliberalism, which is now strangely allied with the most nationalist of Catalonia’s nationalists, on a clear basis of supremacy over ‘poor’ Spaniards. The story is completed with the search for a scapegoat: “Spain”, or the slogan “Spain is robbing us”, in the role of the villain.

The latest chapter in this ruse concluded on 1st October, with the suicidal call for a referendum on self-determination made by a politician who has already admitted to being predisposed towards suicide, Carles Puigdemont, the President of the Generalitat, despite it being declared illegal by the Constitutional Court. To examine on whom the burden of proof falls, it is enough to say that on 6-7 September there was a coup d’état in Catalonia, against the State’s institutions from within, and ignoring the non-nationalist half of its parliamentary representation.

The government, formed by a coalition of right-wing independence supporters and the left-wing radicals of the Popular Unity Candidacy – which now leads the insurrection in the streets and is relentlessly hounding any opposition in a purely revolutionary strategy – ignored the Statute of Catalonia, with all its legal provisions, and the Spanish constitution to approve two laws: one aiming to hold a referendum on self-determination and the other to declare independence unilaterally. Despite repeated judicial orders, the Catalan government decided to continue along its suicidal path, searching until it had found a fitting image – that of victimisation, of “police officers from the repressive State against defenceless democratic civilians”, in the absence of the regional police, converted into a political police – to find an iron-cast excuse to declare Catalonia’s independence, which is the choice that had already been made ahead of time. The cynicism and irresponsibility are immense.

In Europe we already know about the manipulation of primal feelings and the half truths or complete falsehoods that are stirred up in referendums, as we saw perfectly with Brexit. Mariano Rajoy’s government must take the blame for its lack of initiative and its abdication of responsibility, trapped between the institutional compromise of carrying out the law and of avoiding the photo finish – in the form of violence – that nationalist victimisation was seeking in its quest for front page coverage in the international press, and that it finally obtained. Rajoy’s style of governing has not exactly been characterised as reactive and here was a case in which it had to be, accelerating the course of events.

The events are unprecedented in modern European history and have stunned all Europe’s governments and the EU – for whom it is an unwelcome question, since it adds one more problem to the identity crisis in which Europe has been submerged for many years. Not to mention the fact the problem could ricochet back home, via member states’ own nationalist movements. What we are seeing now is a key moment, but with misguided interlocutors who are not suited to restoring order and dialogue, a word on everyone’s lips these days but which seems impossible at this point. We need a different starting point if we are to reach a valid agreement (through an official referendum, hardly a likely option for Rajoy since it lies outside the constitutional framework, or a new statute with or without constitutional reform, an option that supporters of independence would not accept given their hyperbolic politics).

If Puigdemont declares independence in the coming days, as he has already indicated, Rajoy will activate article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, thus taking away Catalonia’s autonomy. Doing so will introduce new conflicts that no one would have thought possible. But, faced with the suicide that Puigdemont is pulling Catalonia towards, what is the correct way to defend the rule of law and democracy – the true kind, the one that represents all citizens – that are Europe’s fundamental values?

Cartoon: Carles Puigdemont, president of the Catalonian government | 10/9/17

A whole lot of fur has been flying since last Thursday, when The New York Times published a game-changing investigative story about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct that in lightning speed brought the mogul to his knees.

He apologized and took an immediate leave of absence from the company he co-founded, but that wasn’t enough. His board members and legal advisers have been resigning en masse. And as new, ugly details emerge of three decades of settlements for sex-related offenses, he’s quickly becoming a national pariah.

I applaud The New York Times and writers Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey for getting the story in print. I’m sure it was a long and difficult road.

Also Read: What Does the Harvey Weinstein Scandal Mean for The Weinstein Co.?

But I simply gagged when I read Jim Rutenberg’s sanctimonious piece on Saturday about the “media enablers” who kept this story from the public for decades.

“Until now,” he puffed, “no journalistic outfit had been able, or perhaps willing, to nail the details and hit publish.”

That’s right, Jim. No one — including The New York Times.

In 2004, I was still a fairly new reporter at The New York Times when I got the green light to look into oft-repeated allegations of sexual misconduct by Weinstein. It was believed that many occurred in Europe during festivals and other business trips there.

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I traveled to Rome and tracked down the man who held the plum position of running Miramax Italy. According to multiple accounts, he had no film experience and his real job was to take care of Weinstein’s women needs, among other things.

As head of Miramax Italy in 2003 and 2004, Fabrizio Lombardo was paid $400,000 for less than a year of employment. He was on the payroll of Miramax and thus the Walt Disney Company, which had bought the indie studio in 1993.

I had people on the record telling me Lombardo knew nothing about film, and others citing evenings he organized with Russian escorts.

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At the time, he denied that he was on the payroll to help Weinstein with favors. From the story: “Reached in Italy, Mr. Lombardo declined to comment on the circumstances of his leaving Miramax or Ricucci, saying they were legal matters being handled by lawyers. ‘I am very proud of what we achieved at Miramax here in Italy,’ he said of his work for the film company. ‘It cannot be that they hired me because I’m a friend.'”

I also tracked down a woman in London who had been paid off after an unwanted sexual encounter with Weinstein. She was terrified to speak because of her non-disclosure agreement, but at least we had evidence of a pay-off.

The story I reported never ran.

After intense pressure from Weinstein, which included having Matt Damon and Russell Crowe call me directly to vouch for Lombardo and unknown discussions well above my head at the Times, the story was gutted.

I was told at the time that Weinstein had visited the newsroom in person to make his displeasure known. I knew he was a major advertiser in the Times, and that he was a powerful person overall.

But I had the facts, and this was the Times. Right?

Also Read: TV Reporter: Harvey Weinstein Masturbated in Front of Me

Wrong. The story was stripped of any reference to sexual favors or coercion and buried on the inside of the Culture section, an obscure story about Miramax firing an Italian executive. Who cared?

The Times’ then-culture editor Jon Landman, now an editor-at-large for Bloomberg, thought the story was unimportant, asking me why it mattered.

“He’s not a publicly elected official,” he told me.  I explained, to no avail, that a public company would certainly have a problem with a procurer on the payroll for hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the time, Disney told me they had no idea Lombardo existed.

A spokeswoman for the Times had no comment on Sunday.

I was devastated after traveling to two countries and overcoming immense challenges to confirm at least part of the story that wound up running last week, more than a decade later. I had met in person with a woman who said she’d been paid off for an unwanted sexual encounter and thus proved she existed.

Also Read: Harvey Weinstein Has No Case Against the New York Times, Legal Experts Say

Today I wonder: If this story had come to light at the time, would Weinstein have continued his behavior for another decade, evidenced by the scathing 2015 memo by former staffer Lauren O’Connor unearthed by Kantor and Twohey.

Writes Rutenberg: “Mr. Weinstein had his own enablers. He built his empire on a pile of positive press clippings that, before the internet era, could have reached the moon.”

The New York Times was one of those enablers. So pardon me for having a deeply ambivalent response about the current heroism of the Times.

Editors note: A previous version of this story stated that Jon Landman was a deputy managing editor at the Times. He left that position in 2013 to become an editor at large at Bloomberg View. TheWrap regrets the error.

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The little country at the edge of the Iberian Peninsula, long under the radar, received a big profile bump last month when Madonna revealed she’d be moving to Lisbon so her son David Banda, 11, could attend the prestigious Benfica soccer academy. The Queen of Pop has reportedly picked up an 18th-century Moorish-style mansion for $8.9 million in the picturesque suburb of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, that was long a summer destination for Portuguese royals.

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But Madonna‘s not exactly roughing it while the historic restate is being restored — she’s reportedly staying in a suite at Lisbon’s Pestana Palace hotel.

The Queen of Pop isn’t the only star to purchase property in Portugal. Other noteworthy residents include Christian Louboutin and Michael Fassbender, who purchased a home in the historic Alfama district in May.

Native Cristiano Ronaldo is embracing the influx of A-listers: The second outpost of the soccer star’s hotel CR7 (his initials and jersey number) opened last year. The first was in his hometown of Funchal on the island of Madeira, a Portuguese territory off the coast of Morocco.

WATCH: Take a Virtual Vacation to the Magical Portuguese City of Óbidos with Travel + Leisure 

Portugal has beautiful coastline in the southern Algarve region, which lures sun seeking English celebs to hotels like Vila Vita Parc. In the north, is the culture capital of Porto and the Duoro Valley (the birth place of Port Wine. Stars looking for a one-of-a-kind stay, should check into Pedras Salgadas Spa and Nature Park, where they can relax in a futuristic treehouse between treatments.


Budget-conscious travelers should take note, too. More affordable than many other European destinations, Portugal has plenty to offer for a reasonable price: In Lisbon, book a stay at the stylish B&B Casa Amora (from $100/night) and ride the city’s famous yellow streetcar — route 28 stops at major tourist spots, and a day pass costs $7.25.

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In Porto, discover the country’s famous blue-and-white tiles, called Azulejos, for free at Porto Cathedral and take in a show or just ogle the architecture at Rem Koolhaas’s ultra-modern Casa da Música.

Whatever you do, don’t leave Portugal without trying its signature egg tart. Pasteis de Belem in Lisbon is a famous purveyor, where the treats cost $1.30 each. | 10/6/17

Lady Gaga is focusing on her health — and has a positive update for fans.

The 31-year-old singer, who postponed the European leg of her world tour citing “severe physical pain,” tweeted on Friday to share an article from Noisey titled “Lady Gaga Pioneered Online Fandom Culture As We Know It.”

“What a killer article,” she wrote. “Gettin’ stronger everyday for my #LittleMonsters can’t wait to get back on stage & be w u at JoanneWorldTour #PawsUp.”

The mid-September announcement that Gaga would have to reschedule numerous tour dates came just days after the singer canceled a performance in Brazil and revealed that she suffers from fibromyalgia — a chronic illness she also addresses in her new documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two.

“I have always been honest about my physical and mental health struggles,” Gaga wrote on Twitter. “It is complicated and difficult to explain, and we are trying to figure it out.

“As I get stronger and when I feel ready, I will tell my story in more depth, and plan to take this on strongly so I can not only raise awareness, but expand research for others who suffer as I do, so I can help make a difference,” the singer continued.

What a killer article. Gettin' stronger everyday for my #LittleMonsters can't wait to get back on stage & be w u at JoanneWorldTour #PawsUp

— xoxo, Gaga (@ladygaga) September 30, 2017

“I use the word ‘suffer’ not for pity, or attention, and have been disappointed to see people online suggest that I’m being dramatic, making this up, or playing the victim to get out of touring,” Gaga added. “If you knew me, you would know this couldn’t be further from the truth.

In Gaga: Five Foot Two, the pop star gives an inside look to her chronic pain, being forced to work through the pain on several occasions.

“Do I look pathetic?” she asks in one scene, putting her hands over her face to cover her tears. “I’m so embarrassed.”

Fibromyalgia is a disorder affects an estimated 5 million adults, according to the National Institutes of Health. It can cause pain as well as fatigue, headaches and insomnia.

The “Bad Romance” singer received an outpouring of support from fans and stars alike. Beyoncé gifted her “Telephone” partner an Ivy Park sweatshirt and flowers, which the latter shared in two separate posts on Instagram.

“Not having a good pain day,” Gaga wrote in the caption. “Thank you honey B for sending me this comfy sweatshirt. Keeps me warm outside in a hammock so I can be w the trees, and the sky, and the sun and take deep breaths. Feel so lucky to have so much love.” | 10/1/17

It’s party time for bees and other species, because, starting today, the chemical pesticide fipronil can’t be used anymore in agriculture across Europe.

Fipronil is a common pesticide used in agriculture and sparked an international food scandal last summer because the toxic substance was used illegally in chicken stables, contaminating eggs and eggs derivatives. So far, 26 European countries and 23 non-EU countries -- in total 49 countries -- have been affected. The extent of the contamination shows how our food and agriculture system is broken. It’s time to leave toxic substances behind and rethink the food we eat and produce.

Laser projection on the Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw. 16 September, 2016

However, improper and illegal use of fipronil is not the only concern. Fipronil is also notorious  because it’s harmful to bees and other pollinators. In the past, it was widely used on crops to protect crops against pests. Low doses of fipronil were applied to the seeds before sowing. The end result was the intoxication of the bees harvesting on the nectar and pollen of those fields treated with the toxic chemical.

Fipronil used on crops posed an unacceptable risk to bees and Greenpeace has been actively pushing for a phase-out of fipronil as part of its “Save the bees” campaign. In 2013 the European Commission strongly restricted the use of fipronil in agriculture.

Bees Action at Agriculture Ministry in Rome. 11 May, 2017.

Fipronil use has been gradually reduced since then, and more and more EU countries stopped using it. From 30 today onwards the use of fipronil on crops is forbidden in the entire EU. This is great news for bees, bumblebees, butterflies and many other insects.

However, other harmful pesticides are still on the market, threatening bees and other species. Neonicotinoids, which were also partially restricted in 2013, are now in the eye of the storm as mounting scientific evidence shows their toxic effects on bees and other species.

Recent data has shown that neonicotinoids are dangerous in fields, not only when tested in laboratories. Last march the European Commission put forward a proposal to further restrict clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, the three most known neonicotinoides. However, no decision or action to ban them has been taken despite the evidence of their hazardous effects indicates that they should also go.

Tackling individual substances is a short term solution, however it doesn’t address the heart of the matter: industrial agriculture is not viable as it poses too many risks for our planet. A different agricultural model must be adopted globally and urgently. Ecological farming can help us face big challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss or water pollution. It also provides healthy sustainable food for everybody.

Wheat in Ecological Farm in France. 21 June, 2017.

With the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy to be debated soon in the EU,  we will have a chance to discuss how to promote ecological farming and avoid further food scandals and to stop the decline of bees and other species.


Luís Ferreirim is a Food for Life campaigner with Greenpeace Spain

[Daily Maverick] Although the Catholic Church started out in South Africa at a decided disadvantage compared to the other European-founded churches, its status as a latecomer and sometime victim of social discrimination did not significantly alter its subsequent position in - and on - the colonial system. Very quickly it adapted itself to the 19th century southern African culture, in effect creating two "churches" - the church of the colonists and the church of African missions. This split shaped the first 150 years of Cat | 9/27/17
She's been promoting her Fenty beauty line around Europe. And after dazzling with her array of sexy ensembles, Rihanna continued her glamorous spree for the Madrid launch at Callao cinema.
Why three European art parks — outdoor spaces with large-scale, site-specific sculpture — have become essential places to engage with culture. | 9/21/17

Magnolia Pictures has picked up U.S. rights to Susanna Nicchiarelli’s “Nico, 1998,” the distributor announced on Wednesday. The film is a look at the last two years of the Velvet Underground singer and actress’s life. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Danish actress, singer and songwriter Trine Dyrholm plays Nico during singer and former Warhol superstar’s last hurrah during the final two years of her life, 1987 and 1988, when her new manager convinces her to go on tour and promote her new album. Nico is also looking to reconnect with her son.

“Nico, 1988” won Best Film in Horizon section at this year’s Venice Film Festival. Magnolia is planning for a 2018 theatrical release.

Also Read: Magnolia Picks Up Icelandic-Language Movie 'Under the Tree'

Nicchiarelli wrote and directed the movie, which is an I Wonder Pictures release of a Vivo film with Rai Cinema and Tarantula production in coproduction with VOO and BE TV. Marta Donzelli, Gregorio Paonessa, Joseph Rouschop and Valérie Bournonville produced, while the executive producer is Alessio Lazzareschi.

Magnolia SVP of Acquisitions John Von Thaden negotiated the deal with Charlotte Mickie of Celluloid Dreams representing the filmmakers.

“Susanna Nicchiarelli has conjured up a beautifully filmed window into the world of Nico that rings truer than any documentary could,” Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles said in a statement. “It would not have been possible without the daring, transcendent performance by Trine Dyrholm as the reluctant, deeply flawed icon.”

Also Read: Magnolia Picks Up Michael Cera, Abbi Jacobson Comedy 'Person to Person'

“I am so excited that my film will be seen by an American audience, and I am really proud that ‘Nico, 1988’ has been acquired by such a highly regarded, tasteful distribution company,” Nicchiarelli said in the statement. “Magnolia has handled some of my favorite films. I trust that my unconventional look at the last years of Nico, a European, will be appreciated in the United States, the very place that discovered the original Nico and made her a star.”

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Magnolia has acquired North American rights to Icelandic director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson’s “Under the Tree.”

The comedy follows two neighboring families as tensions mount between them in a tranquil suburb. A giant tree, which casts a looming shadow on one of the neighbors’ properties, is at the center of it. “Under the Tree” stars Steinthor Hroar Steinthorsson, Edda Bjorgvinsdottir, Sigurdur Sigurjonsson, Thorsteinn Bachmann, Selma Bjornsdottir and Lara Johanna Jonsdottir.

The Icelandic-language film premiered at the Venice Film Festival and is screening at the Toronto International Film Festival as part of the Contemporary World Cinema section. Magnolia is planning an early 2018 release.

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Sigurdsson’s previous projects include “Paris of the North” and “Either Way,” which had a U.S. remake as “Prince Avalanche.”

“Under the Tree” was written by Sigurdsson and Huldar Breidfjörd and produced by Grimar Jonsson. It was co-produced by a group including Iceland’s Netop Films, Poland’s Madants, Denmark’s Profile Pictures, and Germany’s One Two Films, and got additional support from the Icelandic Film Center, Danish Film Institute, Polish Film Institute, Nordisk Film & TV Fond, EURIMAGES and ZDF/Arte.

Magnolia senior vice president of acquisitions John Von Thaden negotiated the deal with Jan Naszewski of New Europe Film Sales and Peter Van Steemburg of ICM representing the filmmakers. Financial terms were not disclosed.

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AMC Entertainment’s stock is down 31 percent since Aug. 1 amid a brutal box office slump, but the company sees plenty of upside in a relatively under-tapped European market and a solid fall slate. One area it does not see upside: the $10/month unlimited movie subscription service, MoviePass.

AMC blasted the service last month, calling it “not in the best interest of moviegoers, movie theaters and movie studios,” and Chief Financial Officer Craig Ramsey said it’s still not a good deal for the cinema chain at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2017 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference conference in Beverly Hills on Thursday.

“We believe in subscription and we believe it has relevance in theatrical exhibition,” Ramsey said, citing programs at AMC’s Odeon theaters in the U.K. and Germany.

Also Read: AMC Theatres Seeks to Block New MoviePass Subscription Plan

“But it needs to be approached sensibly and priced right — that’s probably the biggest issue we have is the pricing and how that might set up some unrealistic expectations,” he said. “There is a day of reckoning for that type of strategy.”

Ramsey also hit the brakes on premium video on demand, as studios including Fox have expressed interest in delivering films to home consumers earlier — for a higher price.

“There’s some things we’re willing to do around windowing and there’s some things we’re probably less cooperative on,” he said. “We want to ensure our downside is protected.”

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AMC, which is owned by China’s Dalian Wanda Group, sees some better opportunities in the Old World. Over the last 12 months, AMC has acquired European chains Odeon and Nordic, and Ramsey said there are opportunities to apply its premium features in the U.S., like recliners and large format screens, to a European market that is relatively underserved.

“Screens per million is about half in those European markets as it is in the U.S.,” he said.

Ramsey chalked down this summer’s box office slump to “a six month phenomenon,” and waved off concerns that it might be more of a secular than cyclical effect.

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“Sometimes you get fatigue a little bit and then you get that movie that brings you back to the theater.”

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Joe Wright’s stunning “Darkest Hour” is no ordinary biopic of Sir Winston Churchill. It is a vigorously directed, tightly paced war thriller with nothing less at stake than saving the world from Adolf Hitler.

Anchored by an exacting, measured but sweetly responsive lead performance by Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour,” which premiered on Friday night at the Telluride Film Festival,  is the best of many great cinematic portraits of Churchill. There is no other way to watch Oldman than in near disbelief that anyone could bring Churchill back to life this
convincingly. It will be difficult for any other actor to top Oldman
this year.

The story will be familiar to some, especially to those who know World War II well or have read any Churchill biographies. The film opens with King George asking Churchill to take over the role of Prime Minister, since Neville Chamberlain is woefully ineffectual against Hitler, whose army is sweeping through Europe with alarming speed.

Also Read: See Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in 'Darkest Hour' Trailer (Video)

A master of biting wit and blunt wisdom, Churchill is disliked by many in government for those very reasons. To some it seems he has all of the grace and elegance of a bulldog. He smokes, drinks, shouts – he is simply too much for many of the staid members of Parliament.

It’s surprising to see how many in the British government fought Churchill, or tried to moderate him, somehow thinking that Hitler was a man who could be dealt with reasonably. Our fascination and enduring admiration for Churchill is due mostly to his being the only prominent leader to draw an inflexible line against fascism. This film is about that line and its effectiveness.

Built as a fast-paced thriller, “Darkest Hour” is a countdown. How bad
will things get? Can Churchill save the day? In some ways, he’s his
own worst enemy because his gruff manner and occasional cruelty are
not exactly winning personality traits.

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This film is about a specific moment in time when events teetered on a precipice. The Allied path to victory was far from assured, so a large part of the strategy was to inspire a frightened and shaken nation to acquire the psychological temperament of winners. That was one Churchill’s most significant gifts, and was perhaps his most powerful tactic to combat Hitler. He needed to reach over the government and speak directly to the people.

He was resourceful, improvisational and absolutely unafraid of taking
on the greatest menace the modern world has ever known. The world
could use another Churchill right about now.

Joe Wright’s ambition here is remarkable. He hasn’t directed anything
this vibrantly alive since “Pride & Prejudice.” The dynamism pulsing
through “Darkest Hour” is surprising, since we might imagine a movie
about Churchill’s speech-writing and strategizing to be slow and
plodding. But in Wright’s hands it is anything but.

Ably assisted by Valerio Bonelli’s propulsive editing and Bruno Delbonnel’s opulent cinematography, the film flirts with magical realism throughout. The camera may pull back in a breathtaking shift of perspective, show a battle from high above as remote bursts of fire, or take us on a slow-motion tour through the streets of England, where ordinary people soldier forth on the brink of total disaster.

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Anyone expecting the standard “Masterpiece Theater” style will be dazzled by the frenetic energy that churns the narrative, not to mention the painstaking attention to the details involved at every level – costumes, score, and production design are all eminently Oscar worthy.

But there is no doubt that “Darkest Hour” belongs to its lead. Oldman
has every mannerism and inflection nailed down completely, yet he
never loses focus on why we need yet another film about Churchill. Now
more than ever, it’s essential to remember what real leadership looks
like. To be reminded that it’s not about easy answer. To be shown that
the strengths that saved us in the past may be the very strengths we
need to save us once again.

It’s interesting that both Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” and Wright’s
“Darkest Hour” swirl around a parallel chain of events. One could cut
“Dunkirk” into the middle of “Darkest Hour” to frame the story of how
300,000 soldiers became stranded on those beaches.

These two films arrive at a crucial time for Europe and the US, when once again border tensions are building and misguided leaders scapegoat minorities to feed resentments. Wright’s film doesn’t make overt allusions to these conflicts, but it does gives a clear example of what can sometimes happen when being on the right side is a lonely place to be. It also shows quite clearly that sometimes playing it safe is the most dangerous play of all.

Oldman is supported by a great cast, including standout Kristin Scott
Thomas as his wife Clementine and Lily James as Churchill’s typist
who comes to mean much more to the film than that humble occupation.
Lily is Winston’s first audience for his legendary speeches and builds
a connection with him that helps humanize his character. The great Ben
Mendelsohn as King George does not so much give us a stuttering King
as one who already has already conquered his affliction.

Also Read: 'Dunkirk' Review: Christopher Nolan's WWII Saga Spins a Sensational Story of Struggle and Survival

“Darkest Hour” will be a major player in the Oscar race, if Friday night’s
crowd reaction is any indication. Oldman received a richly-deserved standing ovation. In his remarkable career he’s gone from playing Sid Vicious to Winston Churchill. No one seems more surprised than he. At the Q&A after the screening he said when he was first asked to play the part he laughed out loud.

Some might say that classic Hollywood has made comeback, focusing once again on WWII. But “Darkest Hour” is so much more than that. It feels alive and fresh – the kind of cinema that doesn’t waste a second.
Wright has made sure every shot is indispensable. He has made not just
one of the best films of the year, but one that will inspire some of
us to hold up our fingers in a “V” sign to keep our spirits high, to
demonstrate our confidence that we can win this game we’re currently
clearly losing.

As Churchill would say, “It is the time to dare and to endure.”

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One stark lesson of this summer’s miserable box office: Studios may no longer be able to rely on overseas markets as a life raft for tentpoles that underperform in North America.

Paramount’s “Transformers: The Last Knight” grossed just $229 million in China, less than the $320 million 2014’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction” earned there when the country’s box office was significantly smaller. Worse, the total overseas revenue for “The Last Knight” was $471 million, nearly half the $859 million the previous installment earned.

As Hollywood’s domestic box office has cratered by more than 14 percent this summer, studios are discovering that other pricey studio projects — including Paramount’s “Baywatch” and Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” — are failing to score both at home and abroad.

“If [the box office] starts dwindling internationally, that’s a problem,” Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst at ComScore, told TheWrap. “Studios have always counted on those international markets to make up the difference for any shortfall in the North American box office for specific films.”

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But this year that strategy has proved to be less than meets the eye as established franchises are not proving to be as bankable as expected even as overseas box office has ticked up 3 percent so far this year (North American sales are down 6 percent for 2017 to date).

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” earned about $70 million less domestically than its 2011 predecessor, “On Stranger Tides,” and was by far the lowest-grossing movie out of all five of Johnny Depp’s “Pirates” films.

While the franchise continued to perform fairly well overseas, with “Dead Men” reeling in $618 million in international markets, that was the smallest foreign gross since the first “Pirates” film, “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” which came out 14 years ago and made just $3 million in the world’s second-largest movie market, China.

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“Dead Men” hauled in $172 million in China but it still fell nearly $200 million short of the foreign gross for “On Stranger Tides.”

Even “Baywatch,” based on an internationally syndicated show that reached upwards of 1 billion people a week in nearly 150 countries, earned just $119 million internationally and a dismal $58 million in North America despite megawatt headliner Dwayne Johnson and plenty of hype. That simply wasn’t enough to make up for its belly flop at home. (The R-rated comedy didn’t get past China’s regulators.)

But with China’s appetite for this summer’s crop of Hollywood hits relatively light, and certain tentpoles like Sony’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” not even hitting the market yet (the superhero flick premieres in China on September 8), the Middle Kingdom hasn’t come through for Hollywood this year.

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While studios only get about one-fourth of the Chinese theatrical gross, compared with roughly half in the U.S., the sheer size of that market has frequently bailed out big-budget would-be blockbusters that flopped at home.

Paramount’s “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” grossed just $45 million at the domestic box office earlier this year, but took in $301 million internationally, led by China with $164 million. Headliners Vin Diesel and Donnie Yen — two of China’s biggest stars — undoubtedly helped push it up the Middle Kingdom’s charts.

And Legendary’s video-game adaptation “Warcraft” earned just $47 million at the domestic box office last year, but brought in a whopping $386 million in international markets, including $214 million in China.

Dergarabedian said sometimes it takes just one movie to turn things around. That happened in China this summer, pushing its box office up 6 percent year-over-year — but Hollywood had nothing to do with the country’s home-grown $800 million smash hit “Wolf Warriors 2.”

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And while the European box office held strong during the dog days — helped by Warner Bros.’ “Dunkirk” — that also wasn’t enough to save the industry’s bacon.

Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic was extremely popular in the United Kingdom, where it grossed $63.2 million, making it the country’s second highest-grossing film of the year after Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” “Dunkirk” has grossed $397 million worldwide through August 23.

AMC Theatres, the world’s largest cinema chain, may be the best example of what’s happened this summer. The company has expanded in Europe (and is owned by a major Chinese entertainment company, Dalian Wanda Group) but its geographic diversity couldn’t compensate for a disastrous summer season at home.

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The company’s stock tanked about 25 percent earlier this month after AMC previewed disastrous second-quarter earnings. Still, AMC CEO Adam Aron told investors, “Gains in Europe were more than counterbalanced by the weak American results.”

The movie business may be more international than ever, but Hollywood still shapes the box office. And there was no saving this dry, cold American summer.

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An orphan girl’s dream of becoming a top ballerina in Paris hardly sounds like the stuff of big-time animated fare, not unless the “girl” were a talking ferret or goat or wombat or whatever, followed around by a smart-ass insect.

But the French family flick “Leap!” is content to believe in computer-rendered humans to care about, a picturesquely painted 19th century City of Lights to be transported to, and a story of pluck, talent, hard work and adventure that you’ll always be ahead of, but never entirely mind seeing play out. Especially if you’ve got a wide-eyed youngster in tow, or never quite got over the undiscovered performing genius you always knew was inside you.

Called “Ballerina” in its European run — where a girl-specific title and lack of emphatic punctuation clearly aren’t turn-offs to family audiences — this modestly budgeted but appealingly energetic piece of aspirational fluff is best when its modern sensibilities mesh with its old-fashioned themes, and jarringly off whenever it feels the need to kowtow to contemporary kidpic tropes like slang, fart jokes, and anachronistic references.

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A vigorous, pop-scored “dance off” between the underdog heroine and her snooty rival? In our “Pitch Perfect”/hip-hop battle era, why not. But dialogue that has our twirling, jumping protagonist’s boy pal jokingly call what she’s doing “kung fu”? That’s not pop culture winking, it’s lazy wisecracking.

“Leap!” does start with a certain uphill battle of sympathies, trying to convince us the sun-kissed, massive, bell-towered, country orphanage on the coast of Brittany is a place from which anybody would want to escape. (Couldn’t the artists have tried to make it seem a tad horrifically Dickensian, instead of ripe for a Gallic getaway?) No matter: ebullient Félicie (voiced by Elle Fanning), always kicking up her heels, wants out so she can fulfill her dream of dancing for the Ballet de Paris, so we want that for her, too.

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With the help of her raggedy best pal Victor (Nat Wolff), a budding inventor working on human wings, the pair escape the clutches of the orphanage’s rotund, overprotective guardian Luteau (Mel Brooks) and make it to cobblestoned, lamplit Paris, where the Eiffel Tower is still under construction, and where Félicie is ready to start building her own destiny.

Thankfully it’s easy to sneak into the sumptuous Palais Garnier opera house, where she meets a beleaguered, limping cleaning woman named Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen), who takes Félicie in to her servants’ quarters at the home of her wealthy employer, a Cruella de Ville knockoff named Régine le Haut (the deliriously mean-voiced Kate McKinnon). Regine has an equally odious (and, regrettably, stereotypically blonde) daughter Camille (Maddie Ziegler), who’s being groomed for upcoming success at the Palais’s ballet school.

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Until Félicie swipes Camille’s acceptance letter, that is, pretends to be her, and joins the prestigious and competitive Opera Ballet School. Eventually she works her way into contention for the role of Clara in an upcoming production of “The Nutcracker,” thanks to rigorous off-site training with Odette, a one-time star ballerina sidelined by traumatic injury, who sees promise in her untrained, exuberant charge.

It’s patently unfair to compare animated froth like “Leap!” to any classic of dance cinema like “The Red Shoes,” especially when the “Leap!” dance sequences, though spirited, clumsily mix motion-capture choreography with the kinds of physics-defying feats we expect from animation. Yet it’s worth noting that the most entertaining and sensitively handled parts of “Leap!” are in the more human-sized feelings of nurtured passion and artistic bonding that any good tale of the fleet of foot requires.

No matter how much directors Eric Warin and Eric Summer (who wrote the story with Laurent Zeitoun) try to distract with dumb comedy — usually involving the annoying Victor — or cartoony action (there’s a typically overwrought climax on the unfinished, yet-to-be-gifted-to-the-U.S. Statue of Liberty), the relationship between Félicie and Odette is a warm, heart-tugging one, whether focused on the intricacies of dance mentorship or augmented by pop songs and inspirational platitudes.

And Jepsen fans, don’t fear: the Canadian singer’s howitzer of bubblegum “Cut to the Feeling” gets its just due in the big dance finale — and if you feel the need to complain about technopop scoring an 1880s-set ballet, you aren’t the audience for “Leap!” (Also, you’re heartless.)

A final note about the disingenuous, cynical poster for “Leap!”, which stresses Victor in his winged contraption holding Félicie above Paris, as if humans flying were the movie’s construct, and our heroine needed male help: Most of the international posters for “Ballerina” spotlight Félicie in dance garb, because, well, it’s about ballet. Was the Weinstein Company afraid to alienate brothers tagging along with sisters on a family trip to the movies?

Sometimes, you just wish the people who make these decisions would take a flying …

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Last week, AMC Theatres fired the shot heard ’round the popcorn machine  — and erased more than $1.3 billion in market value for the four biggest movie theater chains in North America.

AMC, which has been aggressively buying up cinema chains and adding recliners and fancy food options to its theaters, announced plans on August 1 to cut costs and previewed brutal second-quarter earnings. After a profit of 7 cents a share in the first quarter, the world’s largest exhibitor reported a massive loss of $1.35 a share.

That sent the company’s stock plunging more than 25 percent — and signaled trouble for the entire exhibition industry. Weak box office proved to a drain for Regal, Cinemark and Canadian chain Cineplex as well. All three reported disappointing second quarter revenues and all saw their share prices ?drop, though not as a steep AMC’s.

Also Read: AMC Theatres Slashes Costs to Deal With Box Office Slump, Stock Plunges 25 Percent

What went wrong?

1. Blockbuster drought

Second-quarter box office was down 1 percent compared to last year — with hits like Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman” failing to match last summer’s string of global blockbusters like Disney/Pixar’s “Finding Dory,” Disney/Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” or Disney’s “The Jungle Book.”

And the next three months look brutal compared to last year’s $2.95 billion-grossing third quarter — including Universal’s “The Secret Life of Pets” and Warner Bros. “Suicide Squad,” which each grossed more than $300 million domestically, as well as surprise hits like Sony’s “Sausage Party” and Sony/Screen Gems’ “Lights Out.”

Through August 9 this year, the third quarter box office has added up to just $838 million — and the upcoming release schedule is pretty bare as far as guaranteed nine-figure films.

Also Read: AMC Entertainment Reports Brutal Q2 Earnings As Summer Box Office Slumps

2. Debt-fueled dealmaking

The box office slowdown comes at a particularly bad time for AMC in particular. The company made three separate billion-dollar acquisitions last year, picking up U.S. exhibitor Carmike and European chains Odeon & UCI and Nordic.

As a result, AMC has about $4.9 billion in total debt as of June 30 — and it is now pausing acquisitions to try to reduce that burden.

3. High overhead

AMC plans to cut staff and introduce strategic pricing to help fill seats. “The company has embarked on a domestic cost reduction and revenue enhancement plan to better align operating expenses with theatre attendance in its markets and reduce general and administrative costs for the balance of 2017 and into 2018,” AMC said in an August 1 release.

In addition, AMC and Regal recently agreed to sell Open Road Films, the distributor of Best Picture winner “Spotlight” co-owned by the two exhibitors, to Tang Media Partners. The goal: shedding more non-core assets. (The companies previously announced that the venture had cost them each $49 million in losses.)

Also Read: Tang Media Partners Names Rob Friedman CEO of TMP Entertainment

4. It’s a cyclical business

While domestic box office is down 4 percent from a record-breaking 2016 at this point, it’s flat compared to 2015 and up from 2014.

And even if the third quarter proves to be lackluster, the movie business has a way of delivering twists. Most people didn’t expect much from horror film last winter’s “Don’t Breathe,” but it rolled to nearly $90 million domestically on a sub-$10 million budget.

Disney/Marvel’s “Thor: Ragnarok” should get things back on track in November, and the year ends with a new “Star Wars” film, which could be the savior the cinema world needs.

“The Force Awakens” pushed the 2015 box office over the $11 billion mark and helped it set a new record when it looked like a much longer shot just weeks before. Can “The Last Jedi” save 2017’s bacon? Theater chains sure hope the Force will be with them.

Related stories from TheWrap:

AMC Theatres CEO Says 'Acquisitions Are Paused' to Reduce Debt

AMC Entertainment Reports Brutal Q2 Earnings As Summer Box Office Slumps

AMC Theatres Slashes Costs to Deal With Box Office Slump, Stock Plunges 25 Percent | 8/10/17

The culture of Europe might better be described as a series of overlapping cultures. Whether it is a question of North as opposed to South; West as opposed to East; Christianity as opposed to Protestantism as opposed to Catholicism; many have claimed to identify cultural fault lines across the continent. There are many cultural innovations and movements, often at odds with each other, such as Christian proselytism or Humanism. Thus the question of "common culture" or "common values" is far more complex than it seems to be. The foundation of European culture was laid by the Greeks, strengthened by the Romans, stabilized by Christianity, reformed and modernized by the fifteenth-century Renaissance and Reformation and globalized by successive European empires between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries. Thus the European Culture developed into a very complex phenomenon of wider range of philosophy, Christian and secular humanism, rational way of life and logical thinking developed through a long age of change and formation with the experiments of enlightenment, naturalism, romanticism, science, democracy, and socialism. Because of its global connection, the European culture grew with an all-inclusive urge to adopt, adapt and ultimately influence other trends of culture. As a matter of fact, therefore, from the middle of the nineteenth century with the expansion of European education and the spread of Christianity, European culture and way of life, to a great extent, turned to be "global culture," if anything has to be so named .

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