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The world premieres of James Mangold’s “Ford v Ferrari,” the Safdie brothers’ “Uncut Gems,” Edward Norton’s “Motherless Brooklyn,” Tom Harper’s “The Aeronauts,” Kelly Reichardt’s “First Cow” and Rupert Goold’s “Judy” will highlight the lineup of the 2019 Telluride Film Festival. The festival announced its slate of films on Thursday, one day before the three-day event will kick off in the Colorado mountain town.

Stars headed to the Colorado mountain town should include Matt Damon and Christian Bale for the auto-racing drama “Ford v Ferrari,” Adam Sandler for “Uncut Gems,” Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones for the period piece “The Aeronauts” and Renee Zellweger for the Judy Garland story “Judy.”

Special tributes and Silver Medallion Awards will be presented to Zellweger, Adam Driver and director Philip Kaufman.

Also Read: Oscar Race Begins: Fall Festivals Bring Moment of Truth for 'Joker,' 'Jojo Rabbit' and Many More

Portions of Ken Burns’ upcoming documentary series, “Country Music,” will also be screened in Telluride, as will Agnes Varda’s final film, “Agnes by Varda,” Davis Guggenheim’s Bill Gates documentary “Inside Bill’s Brain” and Trey Edward Shults’ “Waves.”

The three short films will include “Lost and Found” and “Into the Fire,” both by Orlando von Einsiedel, the Oscar-winning director of the short “The White Helmets.”

The festival, which selects a carefully-curated group of about two dozen films, has also opted to showcase a number of films from this year’s Cannes Film Festival, including Pedro Almodovar’s “Pain and Glory,” Celine Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life,” Kantemir Balagov’s “Beanpole” and Bong Joon Ho’s Palme d’Or winner, “Parasite.”

Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” Fernando Meirelles’ “The Two Popes” and Lauren Greenfield’s “The Kingmaker” are among the films that will go to Telluride after premiering at the Venice Film Festival. “Marriage Story” is the only film to be playing all four of the fall festivals – Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York – while “The Kingmaker” is the only documentary to be screening at Venice, Telluride and Toronto.

Telluride typically showcases a group of films that include many Oscar nominees-to-be, though its eight-year streak of screening the eventual Best Picture winner came to an end last year when “Green Book” skipped Telluride, premiered in Toronto and went on to win the top prize. Of last year’s Telluride selections, only two, “Roma” and “The Favourite,” would receive best-pic nominations, though the 2018 selection also included Oscar winners “Free Solo” (documentary feature) and “First Man” (visual effects) and nominees “Cold War,” “Shoplifters” and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Also Read: Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones Soar Higher 'Than Anyone Has Ever Been' in 'The Aeronauts' Trailer (Video)

Telluride screenings begin on Friday and end on Monday.

The lineup:

· THE AERONAUTS (d. Tom Harper, U.S. – U.K., 2019)
· THE ASSISTANT (d. Kitty Green, U.S., 2019)
· THE AUSTRALIAN DREAM (d. Daniel Gordon, Australia, 2019)
· BEANPOLE (Kantemir Balagov, Russia, 2019)
· THE CLIMB (d. Michael Angelo Covino, U.S., 2019)
· COUP 53 (d. Taghi Amirani, U.K., 2019)
· DIEGO MARADONA (d. Asif Kapadia, U.K., 2019)
· FAMILY ROMANCE, LLC (d. Werner Herzog, U.S. – Japan, 2019)
· FIRST COW (d. Kelly Reichardt, U.S., 2019)
· FORD v FERRARI (d. James Mangold, U.S., 2019)
· JUDY (d. Rupert Goold, U.K.-U.S., 2019)
· A HIDDEN LIFE (d. Terrence Malick, U.S. – Germany, 2019)
· THE HUMAN FACTOR (d. Dror Moreh, U.K., 2019)
· INSIDE BILL’S BRAIN (d. Davis Guggenheim, U.S., 2019)
· THE KINGMAKER (Lauren Greenfield, U.S., 2019)
· LYREBIRD (d. Dan Friedkin, U.S., 2019)
· MARRIAGE STORY (d. Noah Baumbach, U.S., 2019)
· MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN (d. Edward Norton, U.S., 2019)
· OLIVER SACKS: HIS OWN LIFE (d. Ric Burns, U.S., 2019)
· PAIN AND GLORY (d. Pedro Almodóvar, Spain, 2019)
· PARASITE (d. Bong Joon-ho, South Korea, 2019)
· PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE (d. Céline Sciamma, France, 2019)
· THE REPORT (d. Scott Z. Burns, U.S., 2019)
· TELL ME WHO I AM (d. Ed Perkins, U.K., 2019)
· THOSE WHO REMAINED (d. Barnabás Toth, Hungary, 2019)
· THE TWO POPES (d. Fernando Meirelles, U.K., 2019)
· UNCUT GEMS (d. Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie, U.S., 2019)
· VARDA BY AGNÈS (d. Agnès Varda, France, 2019)
· VERDICT (d. Raymond Ribay Gutierrez, Philippines, 2019)
· WAVES (d. Trey Edward Schultz, U.S., 2019)

Additional programs:
· COUNTRY MUSIC (d. Ken Burns, U.S., 2019)
· WOMEN MAKE FILM: A NEW ROAD MOVIE THROUGH CINEMA (d. Mark Cousins, U.K., 2019)a

Short films:
· FIRE IN PARADISE (d. Zack Canepari, Drea Cooper, U.S., 2019)
· INTO THE FIRE (d. Orlando von Einsiedel, Iraq-U.K., 2019)
· LOST AND FOUND (d. Orlando von Einsiedel, Bangladesh-U.K., 2019).

Selections from guest director Pico Iyer:
· LATE AUTUMN (d. Yasujir? Ozu, Japan, 1960)
· THE MAKIOKA SISTERS (d. Kon Ichikawa, Japan, 1983)
· MR. AND MRS. IYER (d. Aparna Sen, India, 2002)
· UNDER THE SUN (d. Vitaly Mansky, Czech Republic-Russia-Germany-Latvia-North Korea, 2015)
· WHEN A WOMAN ASCENDS THE STAIRS (d. Mikio Naruse, Japan, 1960)

Additional film revivals:
· THE WIND (d. Victor Sjöström, U.S, 1928)
· THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE (d. Victor Sjöström, Sweden, 1921).

Backlot:
· 63 UP (d. Michael Apted, U.K., 2019)
· BILLIE (d. James Erskine, U.K., 2019)
· CHULAS FRONTERAS (d. Les Blank, U.S., 1976)
· THE GIFT: THE JOURNEY OF JOHNNY CASH (d. Thom Zimny, U.S., 2019)
· LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE (d. Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, U.S., 2019)
· NOMAD: IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF BRUCE CHATWIN (d. Werner Herzog, U.S., 2019)
· SOROS (d. Jesse Dylan, U.S., 2019)
· UNCLE YANCO (d. Agnès Varda, France-U.S., 1967) + BLACK PANTHERS (d. Agnès Varda, France-U.S., 1968)

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www.thewrap.com | 8/29/19

Elton John accused Russian president Vladimir Putin of “hypocrisy” when it comes to his stance on LGBT rights and policies, citing the censorship of the Elton John biopic “Rocketman” as a reason for why he doesn’t take Putin at his word.

In an interview with The Financial Times on Thursday, Putin said he’s willing to “let everyone be happy, we have no problem with that,” but criticized certain lifestyle choices for fear that it could “overshadow” other “traditional family values.”

“I find duplicity in your comment that you want LGBT people to ‘be happy’ and that ‘we have no problem in that,'” John said in a statement obtained by TheWrap. “Yet Russian distributors chose to heavily censor my film ‘Rocketman’ by removing all references to my finding true happiness through my 25 year relationship with David and the raising of my two beautiful sons. This feels like hypocrisy to me.”

Also Read: Elton John and 'Rocketman' Filmmakers Condemn Russian Censorship of Film

John previously issued a statement condemning the censorship of “Rocketman,” in which The Guardian reported that a Russian distributor had cut all scenes in the film featuring gay sex or men kissing due to laws banning “homosexual propaganda,” an estimated five minutes in all of total footage.

Further, the caption ahead of the film’s credits says that John now lives happily with his husband and that they are raising their children together. The Guardian quoted a Russian film critic who said that in Russian version of the film, the credits read that John has established an AIDS foundation and continues to work with his musical partner.

John and the filmmakers at the time said they were unaware that the changes to the film would be made.

“I am proud to live in a part of the world where our governments have evolved to recognise the universal human right to love whoever we want,” John continued in his letter to President Putin. “And I’m truly grateful for the advancement in government policies that have legally supported and allowed my marriage to David. This has brought us both tremendous comfort and happiness.”

Also Read: 'Rocketman' Fact Check: Did Elton John Really Take His Stage Name From John Lennon?

Speaking to the Financial Times, Putin said that the ideals of “liberalism” had become “obsolete” and further threw water on the idea that Russia’s policies are homophobic.

“I am not trying to insult anyone because we have been condemned for our alleged homophobia. But we have no problem with LGBT persons. God forbid, let them live as they wish,” Putin said Thursday. “But some things do appear excessive to us. They claim now that children can play five or six gender roles.”

Putin continued: “But this must not be allowed to overshadow the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population.”

“Rocketman” is a biopic and jukebox musical about John’s life starring Taron Egerton and directed by Dexter Fletcher. The film is in theaters now.

Read John’s full letter to President Putin below:

Dear President Putin,

I was deeply upset when I read your recent interview in the Financial Times. I strongly disagree with your view that pursuing policies that embrace multicultural and sexual diversity are obsolete in our societies. I find duplicity in your comment that you want LGBT people to “be happy” and that “we have no problem in that”. Yet Russian distributors chose to heavily censor my film “Rocketman” by removing all references to my finding true happiness through my 25 year relationship with David and the raising of my two beautiful sons. This feels like hypocrisy to me.

I am proud to live in a part of the world where our governments have evolved to recognise the universal human right to love whoever we want. And I’m truly grateful for the advancement in government policies that have legally supported and allowed my marriage to David. This has brought us both tremendous comfort and happiness.

Respectfully,

Elton John

#LOVEISLOVE #WORLDPRIDE @ejaf

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www.thewrap.com | 6/28/19

CBS has renewed the summer drama “Blood & Treasure” for a second season, the network announced on Wednesday.

Described as a “globe-trotting action-adventure drama,” the series stars Matt Barr as a former FBI agent who teams up with a resourceful art thief, played by Sofia Pernas, to catch a ruthless terrorist who funds his attacks through stolen arts and antiquities.

“‘Blood & Treasure’ is a fun, escapist adventure with comedic elements filmed in multiple locales around the world that has been a great performer and a wonderful addition to our summer schedule,” Amy Reisenbach, executive vice president, Current Programs, CBS Entertainment, said. “We’ve heard the story pitch for season two and look forward to seeing all-new exploits from Russia to Southeast Asia next year.”

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In the weeks since its debut late last month, “Blood & Treasure” has performed well for CBS on Tuesday nights, averaging 5.71 million viewers as the summer’s most-watched new scripted series.

In addition to Barr and Pernas, Oded Fehr, Michael James Shaw, Katia Winter, James Callis, Alicia Coppola, and Mark Gagliardi also star

The series is produced by CBS Television Studios in association with Propagate Content. Matthew Federman, Stephen Scaia, Taylor Elmore, Ben Silverman, Marc Webb, Mark Vlasic and Howard T. Owens are executive producers.

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www.thewrap.com | 6/26/19
"Fiddler captures those big moments in our lives, moments of transition..." Roadside Attr. has unveiled an official trailer for a doc film titled Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles, from filmmaker Max Lewkowicz. The documentary tells the origin story behind one of Broadway's most beloved musicals, Fiddler on The Roof, and its creative roots in early 1960s New York, when "tradition" was on the wane as gender roles, sexuality, race relations and religion were evolving. Fiddler on the Roof is a musical with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein, set in the Pale of Settlement of Imperial Russia in 1905. It first premiered on Broadway in 1964, and was the first musical at the time to surpass 3,000 performances during its original run. This looks like a very fascinating, lively look back at Broadway (and cinema) history. Here's the first trailer for Max Lewkowicz's doc Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles, direct from YouTube: The origin story ...

Donald Trump’s rants against the media — and in particular, his use of the phrase “enemy of the people” — has increased the danger journalists face across the world, New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger said Tuesday at Code Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“What I’m really concerned about is the broader affect [Trump’s criticism is] having on this sort of culture in the United States, a country where freedom of the press and freedom of expression has always been among our most essential rights,” Sulzberger said. “And then, in particular, the incredibly dangerous climate that has been created abroad, where this has basically been read by dictators and tyrants around the world, legitimizing their own efforts to crackdown on the press. We’ve seen unprecedented numbers of attacks on journalists, harassment on journalists.”

Moderator Peter Kafka asked Sulzberger if he draws a direct connection between the president’s comments and the threat journalists face outside the U.S. “I do,” Sulzberger replied, noting what he says is a measurable increase in foreign politicians using the phrase “fake news” to denigrate the media.

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According to a 2018 report by British human rights organization Article 19, 78 journalists were killed and more than 300 were imprisoned in 2017, a 10-year global high. The report also cites a sharp rise in restrictions on media in countries like Russia, Turkey and Hungary in recent years.

Sulzberger, who drew laughs from the conference audience when he said the president was “obviously” a “loyal reader,” said he was especially unsettled by his use of the phrase “enemy of the people,” something he said harkens back to Stalinist Russia.

Sulzberger also pointed to a disparity between President Trump’s public and “private posture” towards the media. He recalled a meeting with Trump where his secretary told him he had several important calls to return. Trump, according to Sulzberger, responded “what could be more important than The New York Times?”

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Kafka then asked which side truly reflects the president’s stance.

“What’s his real view? When you’re the president of the United States, we need to take you at your word,” Sulzberger said.

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www.thewrap.com | 6/11/19

Dan Harris is stepping down from his post as anchor of ABC’s “Nightline” to focus on growing 10% Happier, a business based on his 2014 book of the same name.

“It is a high class problem: I simply have too many awesome things on my plate, between weekend ‘GMA,’ ‘Nightline,’ and the expanding 10% juggernaut (which, by the way, never would have come into being without an astounding level of support from ABC News),” Harris said in a memo to staff Tuesday. “So why, given all the options, did I decide to drop the ‘Nightline’ anchor gig? Because, frankly, you deserve an anchor who gives it his or her all. This team of amazing producers – who work all hours and travel all over the world – has the right to expect an on-air representative who is in the trenches with you day after day. And the circumstances of my life simply will not allow that right now.”

Harris, who has been with ABC News since 2000 and co-anchored “Nightline” since 2013, will remain as a co-anchor of the weekend of “GMA” and host ABC News’ “10% Happier” podcast.

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“I’m happy to tell you that he’ll continue to report his trademark powerful and important, deeply reported stories for ‘Nightline’ and across ABC News,” Goldstone wrote in his own memo to the news division.

“Dan has traveled the world fearlessly for an up close look at some of the most dangerous places on the planet, from Rio de Janeiro’s war on drugs and Vladimir Putin’s Russia to the inner workings of the Sinaloa cartel’s drug operations in Mexico and notorious gang violence in El Salvador,” he continued. “At the same time, it’s been incredibly exciting to witness how Dan’s thriving 10% Happier franchise has grown from a best-selling book to an award-winning podcast, highly-rated app and second best-selling book, drawing millions of fans. It’s a testament to his hard work and a reflection of how vital meditation and mindfulness have become in our modern culture. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.”

See Harris’ full memo to staff below.

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Team,

It is surreal to step away from your dream job.

The irony is not lost on me. In my book, 10% Happier, I wrote at length about how I fought and pleaded to anchor Nightline. But it is the success of that book — and its spawn: a podcast and a tech startup — that are the reason I now have to step away.

It is a high class problem: I simply have too many awesome things on my plate, between weekend GMA, Nightline, and the expanding 10% juggernaut (which, by the way, never would have come into being without an astounding level of support from ABC News).

So why, given all the options, did I decide to drop the Nightline anchor gig? Because, frankly, you deserve an anchor who gives it his or her all. This team of amazing producers — who work all hours and travel all over the world — has the right to expect an on-air representative who is in the trenches with you day after day. And the circumstances of my life simply will not allow that right now.

I am not going away. I don’t know where my office will be, but it won’t be far. (Which means Jasmine won’t have to make an arduous journey for the next practical joke she wants to play on me.) More importantly, I will continue working on big, investigative stories. The reports I have been able to file for this show — from the Congo, Haiti, El Salvador, Brazil, Mexico, even Papua New Guinea — have been some of the most meaningful work of my life.

I love Nightline. I love doing these kinds of stories. And I love being part of this incredible culture. None of that will change.

It has been an absolute privilege for me to share the anchor seat for the past five and a half years on one of the most insightful and well-respected news shows on television. Nightline is in great hands with Steve, Juju, Byron and our team of senior producers.

I want to say thank you to everyone at Nightline — for doing some of the best work in broadcast news, for establishing and maintaining one of the most extraordinary collaborative work cultures I have ever seen, and for making fun of me when I deserve it (daily). I look forward to much more.

With immense gratitude,

Dan

And here’s Goldston’s note.

Team,

After nearly 6 years, Dan Harris has decided to step back from his anchor duties on Nightline to dedicate more time to his rapidly growing 10% Happier business and other roles at ABC News. I’m happy to tell you that he’ll continue to report his trademark powerful and important, deeply reported stories for Nightline and across ABC News.

Dan has traveled the world fearlessly for an up close look at some of the most dangerous places on the planet, from Rio de Janeiro’s war on drugs and Vladimir Putin’s Russia to the inner workings of the Sinaloa cartel’s drug operations in Mexico and notorious gang violence in El Salvador.

At the same time, it’s been incredibly exciting to witness how Dan’s thriving 10% Happier franchise has grown from a best-selling book to an award-winning podcast, highly-rated app and second best-selling book, drawing millions of fans. It’s a testament to his hard work and a reflection of how vital meditation and mindfulness have become in our modern culture. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

While Dan may be stepping away from the Nightline anchor desk, he will continue to anchor the weekend editions of GMA with Eva, Whit, Adrienne and Rob and host the 10% Happier podcast.

Nightline has long been distinguished by captivating storytelling and in-depth, tenacious journalism. I’m incredibly proud of Steve, Juju, Byron and the entire team for carrying that legacy into the future, including a new slate of documentary features to come. There’s much more great work ahead from this stellar team.

Please join me in thanking Dan for his tremendous work as anchor at Nightline. Below you can read a personal note from him.

James

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www.thewrap.com | 6/11/19

This weekend, a European phenomenon is back — though Americans may have to hunt for clips on YouTube or seek out a VPN and watch via another country’s home broadcaster.

The Eurovision Song Contest, a cross between “The X Factor” and the Miss Universe pageant that offers Yanks a glimpse of what it’s like to be in a culture that doesn’t have jazz and blues as the foundation of its pop music.

For those who’ve never seen — or even heard of Eurovision — before, here’s a quick primer to get you caught up.

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What exactly is this contest?
Eurovision began as an idea back in the mid-1950s as a way for Europe to come together after World War II had ripped it apart. It was a pretty revolutionary effort for its time. Television was still the Wild West of communications and the Olympics hadn’t yet become an international broadcasting event. Eurovision was one of the first major attempts to hold an event that people from a wide range of countries could watch. With that in mind, the organizers wanted each country to showcase a song that was indicative of their culture.

That sounds like a pretty noble goal.
Yes … but it was also very out of touch with what was happening with music at the time. Rock ‘n’ roll was beginning to take root and The Beatles would take the world by storm just a few years after Eurovision’s inception. This meant that Eurovision’s lineup of ballads and cultural pieces quickly felt antiquated compared to the rock revolution that was going on in the charts. And that was six decades ago … the entries would only get weirder from there.

How weird?
For starters, there was once a rule implemented on and off over the years stating that participants could only enter songs that were in their country’s main language. When that rule was in effect, some countries found a loophole: give the song a hook that involves complete gibberish. Songs with titles like “Boom Boom” and “Diggi-loo Diggi-ley” poured out while the home-language rule was in effect.

Then there are the artists themselves. As Eurovision has evolved, more and more ridiculous acts have come out of the woodwork. Finnish monster-rock bands, Russian grandmas and Latvian pirates are among the acts that have performed for a TV audience of hundreds of millions in recent Eurovisions. And that Finnish monster rock band actually won.

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Jeez! So is this just some musical freak show?
Well … let’s be fair. While there’s always been some silly novelty acts, there’s also some solid bits of Europop on hand every year from genuinely talented folks. Sweden won in 2012 with “Euphoria,” a soaring dance track by “Idol” contestant Loreen that went multi-platinum in her country after her victory.

There’s also a small handful of top stars on the winners’ list you might recognize. ABBA used Eurovision as a launch pad to stardom in 1974 with their song “Waterloo,” and French-Canadian Celine Dion’s win in 1988 was her biggest claim to fame before “Titanic” came out. Quality — or at least creativity — does tend to win out at Eurovision.

OK, so how does this contest work?
First, all the countries have a national contest where they vote on which song will represent at Eurovision. The participants are divided up into two semifinals, with the exception of the host nation and the “Big Five” countries — France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.K. — who automatically qualify for the final.  They are joined by the 10 countries that get the most votes in each semifinal. In the final, all 26 countries get three minutes to make a good impression, and then the whole continent votes “Idol”-style (not for their home country, of course), as do professional juries for each country.

Then the show transitions to a long procession of national “ambassadors” reading out who each country gave their votes to. The top 10 performers in each country’s vote get points, with 12 points going to the top vote-getter, followed by 10 and then eight down to one for the rest of the order. The same goes with the juries, but with 10 points going to the performer in first place.

And what does the performer with the most points win?
This trophy. Oh, and their country gets to host the competition next year.

What? No prize money? No contract? No vague promises of superstardom?
Nope. The winners do get their 15 minutes of fame and some success on the charts, but beyond ABBA and Celine, Eurovision winners almost never have long-term success. Again, Eurovision long ago moved away from the sort of music that leaves a lasting cultural impact.

Even now, a good chunk of the acts are homogenous power ballads that can blur together when performed in succession. Still, Eurovision is worth watching just for the spectacle of it all. The Disneyland-esque sweetness of the proceedings is charming, and the lack of stakes for the performers keeps it feeling light and fun rather than a battle for wealth, glory, and continental supremacy.

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It has also made headlines in recent years that have allowed it to take steps beyond the realm of annual oddities like the Running of the Bulls. The winner in 2014 was gay Austrian singer Thomas Neuwirth, who performed as drag queen superstar Conchita Wurst. The victory transformed Conchita into an LGBT icon in Europe, even as Russian conservatives raged in fury and used the singer as an example of why Russia shouldn’t be a part of the EU. For all of Eurovision’s platitudes about tolerance and peace, this was a moment where those ideals were actually acted upon, even if it meant breaking the general tone of inoffensiveness.

If it’s supposed to be European, why is Australia a competitor?
It turns out that Eurovision has a major cult following in Australia, and they were invited to compete several years ago as a thanks for all the support down under. The expansion of the European Union means countries like Azerbaijan and Israel get to compete too.

So…if all these countries that aren’t strictly European are competing, does this mean we may be seeing the USA compete in Eurovision soon?
Eh…don’t count on it.

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www.thewrap.com | 5/18/19

Country X is occupied by Country Y, so how do citizens of these two very different nations cope, relate, converse and otherwise interact with each other? That’s the subject of Christopher Chen’s provocative new play, “Passage,” which opened Sunday at Off Broadway’s Soho Rep.

The playwright’s use of letters extends beyond these two undefined countries. The many characters have names that range from B to S, with one actor (Howard W. Overshown, wisely underplaying each role) multicast as characters named D, J, S, the Gecko and the Mosquito. All these letters sounds confusing, but shortly after you’ve figured out that Country Y isn’t Country Why, it begins to make sense.

“Passage” could be about China and Tibet, or Russia and Crimea, or maybe even the United States and Guam. Chen’s use of the letters X and Y gives him enormous freedom, and he uses it to powerful effect. That’s also true of the dozen lettered characters on stage that costume designer Toni-Leslie James has color-coded (per the instructions in Chen’s script) so that the citizens of X and Y, not to mention the Gecko and the Mosquito, are easily distinguished.

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Saheem Ali’s fluid direction and use of Arnulfo Maldonado’s unique turntable set also help to clarify. In a stunning coup d’teatre, the actors sometimes perform as stagehands to spin Maldonado’s set as their actor colleagues stand or walk on the moving platform. Amith Chandrashaker’s lighting adds to the movement and often charges the space with dramatic foreboding.

The first half of “Passages” moves briskly through a number of brief confrontations set in Country X: An X woman (Purva Bedi) believes that one of her X friends (David Ryan Smith) is too complicit with the Y government; a new Y émigré (Andrea Abello) soon discovers that her Y fiancé (Yair Ben-Dor), a longtime resident of Country X, has changed and not for the better; a well-known X doctor (K.K. Moggie) deals effectively but warily with various Y citizens (Howard W. Overshown and Linda Powell) living and working in her own country; and so on.

It’s a credit to Chen’s powers as a writer that each of these encounters immediately engages, and in under an hour, he establishes a wide panorama of a society under siege but still functioning. Except for the occasional protest, civility reigns.

Also Read: Tony Award Nominations 2019: The Complete List, From 'Hadestown' to 'Tootsie'

This meandering but captivating plot quickly comes together in the second half of “Passage.” It involves an explosive incident at a holy site in Country X when the X doctor takes the Y émigré on a tour of some caves. The actor Lizan Mitchell has been the play’s host and narrator, a.k.a. G, and she tells us that this episode may recall “A Passage to India,” by E.M. Forster, but adds, “This isn’t his story but our story.”

Indeed, Chen has lifted from Forster — not only the caves but the title “Passage” — but goes to a very different place.

Too often in today’s theater, playwrights promote a culture of victimization, with everybody racing to claim his or her group as the most persecuted. The first half of “Passage” leads us to believe that Chen’s play will be another one of those. The second half completely turns those expectations upside down.

Much credit here goes to the very understated but immensely empathetic performances delivered by Powell and Moggie. Equally wonderful is the work of Mitchell. She begins as our host and narrator. By play’s end, she has become the evening’s shaman.

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www.thewrap.com | 5/6/19

After a weekend that saw the Marvel Cinematic Universe once again assert its dominance over the pop culture landscape, Marvel Studios will now see its lifetime box office grosses cross the $20 billion mark after “Avengers: Endgame” entered the top 10 all-time box office list on Monday.

The superhero crossover’s first weekday in theaters was also the opening day for the final market to receive the film — Russia. There, the film made $7.8 million and set a new record for the highest opening day in that country, 59% ahead of the previous record set by “Avengers: Infinity War,” which opened on a Thursday.

Also Read: Roy Wood Jr Responds to Anger Over 'Avengers: Endgame' Spoilers by Spoiling Lots of Other Stuff (Video)

On the domestic side, “Endgame” grossed $36.7 million, the second highest total ever recorded on a Monday behind the $40 million made by “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015. That total is also down 60 percent from the $90.3 million opening “Endgame” made on Sunday. By comparison, “Infinity War” made $24.7 million for a 64% day-to-day drop.

This is an early sign that the second weekend of “Endgame” is going to be one of the largest in industry history, and will likely mean that the film will hit the $2 billion mark in the same time that it took “Infinity War” to hit $1 billion. Already after six days in theaters, “Endgame” has reached a global total of $1.34 billion, leapfrogging films like “Frozen,” “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” to enter the top 10 highest grossing films of all time.

For Marvel Studios, this is a capstone moment in its rise to box office dominance since it first released “Iron Man” 11 years ago. As of today, Marvel Studios has produced half of the top 10 highest grossing films of all time before inflation adjustment, those five films being “Black Panther” and all four “Avengers” films.

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www.thewrap.com | 4/30/19

The internet started to take on momentum in the 1990s. At that time many analysts, myself included, marveled at the opportunity of creating a platform that would boost grassroot democracy. There was no need for a middleman and there were few barriers to ordinary people becoming involved. This included organizing groups, discussions and events, sharing knowledge, insights and information, publishing opinions — just some of the potential attached to the internet. And for the first two decades, this basically was what happened, in a very positive and constructive way. It did disrupt several business, social and political models but that that was seen as 'a new broom sweeping clean.'

All of that is still happening — and as a matter of fact, it has only increased. However, at the same time, the ugly side of humanity has moved into this area as well. They all jumped on the bandwagon — cheats, plain criminals, misogynists, racists and bullies. This was very unfortunate, but it became serious when more organized misuse of the internet began to take place. This is undermining democracy and democratic processes; many people began to say enough is enough.

Most of the misuse is aimed at generating fake traffic that leads to extra advertising income or click income on YouTube for instance. In proportion to overall internet activity the other, serious political misuse is significantly less. It has, however, far deeper negative consequences. It is using manipulation to set people against each other. It interferes with democratic processes such as elections and undermines democratic institutions.

This criminal internet activity happens more or less in parallel with broader traditional forms of manipulations and is not limited to the internet. The fake news activities and the undermining of democratic institutions are for example carried out by President Trump without the internet. The same is happening in countries such as Britain, Turkey, Hungary, Poland and Italy, to name just a few.

There is no doubt that the internet has become an important tool to create division, hatred and conflict. This has more to do with human behaviour than with technology. Addressing only the technology element of this problem will not solve the much more serious underlying issues.

Division, lies, hatred, fake news, racism and conflict are being used by our leaders in public. It is then not difficult to understand that people perceive this as a license to do the same, with or without technology.

It is important to state that it is not the internet that is causing all of this. So far the internet has created far more positive than negative outcomes, and we need to preserve what's best about it. Most importantly, this includes the freedom for people to express themselves. Equally important is that entrepreneurs can innovate and build new business models. At the same time, we need to ensure that we protect society from broader harm.

We can look at what we have done with other tools that we use — tools like guns, cars, chemicals and drugs. All these products and services can have negatives associated with them. What we have done over the years to address this is to build elements into these products and services to limit the risk and increase safety.

This has been done through the hard work of everyone involved: the government and industry, as well as the users/consumers. As an example, look at cars in the 1970s. They killed 3 to 4 times more people than they do now, and our population has nearly doubled over that period. How did this change happen? Partly through regulation, partly through better products, and partly through human behaviour.

Have we, as a result, eliminated all the harmful elements of motor cars? No, of course not. But the risks have been reduced considerably over those years. This to such a level that the negative (e.g., death by car accidents) seems to be acceptable to most of us. Is that enough? No, it isn't. And so we are still trying to improve, through the combined efforts of government, industry and us, the people.

We will also have to begin to develop similar processes in relation to the internet. However, before we know what we need to do, we will first have to drill down to where the problems are and work out who can do what in addressing the issues.

Starting with the government, Mark Zuckerberg mentioned the need for a more active role for governments and regulators. He suggested the need for an update of the rules for the internet. In particularly in four areas: harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.

In relation to the industry, he recommends starting with data manipulation aimed at defrauding the internet companies. Here the social media companies have a vested interest in tackling that problem themselves as fraud cost them money. The tools that they develop to minimize this can also be used to address other data manipulation issues — for example, interferences in elections and fake news. As Zuckerburg indicated, the government will also have to play a key role in setting up the rules for this. This will also need to be done at international levels.

It will remain a cat and mouse situation. New — more sophisticated — technologies to combat this will be developed, and they will be circumvented by criminals, and this process will continue. In the end, criminal interferences will be greatly reduced. The reason being that it simply becomes too costly for many of the groups to come up with their own tools to crack the ones developed by industry. The best hope here is for a managed situation, similar to those that have been created to manage other potentially dangerous tools, as in the motor car example.

A challenging issue here is the fact that what is harmful to one society, culture or religion is not necessarily the same for another group. A real threat — or even perhaps a reality — is that this would lead to a further regionalization of the internet. Countries such as China, Iran and North Korea have already created their own walls around the internet, and Russia is also trying to build its wall.

Another issue in relation to the industry is whether some of these companies are becoming too dominant and are showing monopolistic tendencies. A very human reaction to this is that we don't tolerate monopolies. We, therefore, need to start looking at industry legislation, be it anti-trust remedies, breaking up companies or other solutions.

Lastly, we also need to drill down on the people's side. We need to identify and address what causes the problematic behaviour of those misusing the internet before we can address these issues. Education and information at schools and elsewhere will be important. They will deliver longer-term positive outcomes.

Full-blown criminal behavior, racism, hate speech and the like are already punishable under existing laws. Our enforcement agencies, however, are still not well-equipped to address Internet-based crimes as effectively as they address similar crimes conducted in more traditional ways.

I am sometimes alerted by people who read my analyses to information or activities that are of an illegal or criminal nature. I report them to the appropriate authorities, but I have never received an answer from them. And if one goes to a police station to report internet abuse that will still too often elicit a blank look from the officer at the desk.

In order to get the people on board here, they need to be supported by well-functioning institutions. They should be able to take effective action against individuals that are crossing the line online. At the moment there is a feeling among the public that they are losing control over some of the central mechanisms of their lives. In the case of the internet, the lives of most people have been improved, and it has created lots of new economic activity. At the same time, it is also clear that the negatives of technology are such that people are not comfortable with the risks and safety issues. Comparing this with the example of motor cars, it is obvious that more work is needed. And whether we like it or not, people want action now.

So far this is resulting in some countries introducing broad and vague sweeping laws. Laws which are not implemented effectively, because it is impossible to do so while they are still being written. We clearly need to improve on that.

This will become increasingly apparent as time goes on. My colleagues in America say that the problems with the hastily introduced social media legislation will soon become evident in Australia. Other countries will learn from these mistakes and will adopt more realistic legislation to safeguard innovation, economic growth and freedom of speech. These core democratic elements seem to become the casualties of bad legislation. With a lack of effective self-regulation from the digital media giants, there is however no doubt that major changes to these negative elements in the use of the of the Internet will increasingly be regulated and legislated.

Written by Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication

www.circleid.com | 4/24/19

HBO has released the first full-length trailer for its upcoming five-part miniseries about the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Emily Watson, Paul Ritter, Jessie Buckley, Adrian Rawlins and Con O’Neill star in “Chernobyl,” which dramatizes the story of the 1986 nuclear accident.

The accident, which took place in April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the abandoned city of Pripyat, Ukraine, occurred following a massive explosion that released radioactive material across Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, reaching as far as Scandinavia and Western Europe. It is considered one of the worst man-made catastrophes in history.

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HBO’s miniseries tells the story of the men and women who sacrificed to save Europe from unimaginable disaster, all the while battling a culture of disinformation.

“Chernobyl” was written by Craig Mazin and directed by Johan Renck. Executive producers are Carolyn Strauss, Jane Featherstone and Mazin, with Chris Fry and Johan Renck serving as co-executive producers. Produced by Sister Pictures and the Mighty Mint as an HBO/Sky Co-Production. The series was filmed on location in Lithuania.

Watch the video above.

“Chernobyl” will premiere Monday, May 6 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.

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www.thewrap.com | 3/28/19
By Emanuel Pietrobon What if Russia never sold Alaska to the United States? History would have been completely different, this is why the study of the Alaska purchase is a must-to-do for every want-to-be geopolitician and strategist Between 1835 and 1840 the French sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville published "Democracy in America", a two-volume essay focused on the explanation of the reasons behind the firmly establishment of democratic culture in the United States.

Video game giant Electronic Arts is laying off 350 people, the company said on Tuesday, marking the latest round of job cuts to hit the gaming industry in recent months.

The layoffs represent about 4 percent of EA’s global workforce. The Redwood City, California-based company is behind popular sports franchises like the “Madden” football and “FIFA” soccer series, as well as the “Battlefield” shooter series.

“These are important but very hard decisions, and we do not take them lightly,” EA chief Andrew Wilson said in a blog post. “We are friends and colleagues at EA, we appreciate and value everyone’s contributions, and we are doing everything we can to ensure we are looking after our people to help them through this period to find their next opportunity. This is our top priority.”

Also Read: Activision Blizzard Cuts Nearly 800 Jobs Despite 'Best' Financial Year

The layoffs will primarily impact EA’s marketing, publishing and operations teams. EA will also be “ramping down” its teams in Russia and Japan, Wilson said.

The cuts come only a month after Activision Blizzard, the Santa Monica-based company behind several of the world’s top video games, including “World of Warcraft” and “Call of Duty,” let go of 800 employees. And last September, Telltale Games laid off 250 employees, effectively shuttering the company.

Shares of EA stock increased half a percent on Tuesday, closing at $102.32 per share.

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www.thewrap.com | 3/26/19

Electronic Arts has issued a statement on a sizable round of layoffs that aim to ramp "down our current presence in Japan and Russia" and refocus on "increasing quality in our games and services." ...

www.gamasutra.com | 3/26/19
The UK Parliament's seizure of internal Facebook documents is already leading to trouble for the social network. Digital Culture, Media and Sport committee chairman Damian Collins has alleged that Facebook knew of Russia-linked data harvesting in 20...
www.engadget.com | 11/27/18
Dmitri Kuznetsov, known as Husky, was sentenced on charges of hooliganism after he tried to serenade fans on the street when a concert was canceled.
www.nytimes.com | 11/23/18
Once an ambassador of American culture in post-Soviet Russia, McDonald’s is now navigating rising U.S.-Kremlin tensions. To stay above the fray, the chain is taking a new tack: Go Russian.
www.wsj.com | 11/8/18
Once an ambassador of American culture in post-Soviet Russia, McDonald’s is now navigating rising U.S.-Kremlin tensions. To stay above the fray, the chain is taking a new tack: Go Russian.
www.wsj.com | 11/8/18

If you are among the detractors of The Last Jedi, know that you have been riled into a state of hatred by a calculated effort to sow discord in American popular culture.

The post Russia is to Blame for at Least Some of ‘The Last Jedi’ Online Hate and Vitriol appeared first on Egotastic - Sexy Celebrity Gossip and Entertainment News.

egotastic.com | 10/2/18

If watching Tiffany Haddish put Kevin Hart through the educational wringer in “Night School” isn’t enticing you to go to the movies this weekend, perhaps a Russian action comedy in which Russian spies team up with the CIA might be your thing.

Or not.

Director Andrezj Bartkowiak — an action maven who has worked on films like “Speed” and directed Jet Li in multiple films — is offering up “Maximum Impact,” a film that sees Russian FSB agents (of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation) team up with the CIA in order to stop their respective countries from declaring nuclear war after the grandaughter of the secretary of state — played by Eric Roberts — is kidnapped. The film is a co-production between Russian studio Czar Pictures and Hollywood Storm, a L.A.-based outlet created by the movie’s leading star, Moscow-born Alexander Nevsky.

So what’s the comedy part? Well, there’s a Secret Service agent played by Tom Arnold — whose character has a bladder problem — and a drug lord played by famed Hollywood bad guy actor Danny Trejo. There are also some unintentional laughs about the film’s poster, which movie buffs on Reddit have noted bears a striking resemblance to the 2017 Michael Keaton black ops action film “American Assassin.” Billy Baldwin also appears in the film as a shadowy American.

Also Read: 'Maximum Impact' Film Review: Pro-Russian Action-Comedy Serves Up Misogyny Alongside Propaganda

But April Wolfe, in her review for TheWrap, calls it a propaganda film. And a bad one at that.

“It’s not not a worthy cause to portray Russian citizens in a more flattering light; god knows American propagandistic films painted Soviets as the big bad for decades, and that’s not an easy image recovery,” she wrote.  “But hoo-boy, this movie has some pretty blatant intentions of specifically making the FSB (née KGB) look nice and not shady at all. Whatever, that’s fine. American cinema isn’t short on pro-CIA narratives. But aside from the political implications, you’ll find this film is also quite hateful of women, too.”

The film was released in Russia last November, but barely made a dent at the box office with Box Office Mojo reporting a gross of just under $32,000. Now it’s coming out in limited release via CineTel this weekend in advance of a digital/VOD release on Tuesday, less than six weeks before a U.S. midterm election that has newspapers reporting on whether Russia will try to interfere. 

Watch the trailer here:

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www.thewrap.com | 9/27/18

Let us look back at the history of Russian propaganda films. The standard-bearer must be Sergei Eisenstein’s 1938 “Alexander Nevsky,” a Stalinist-era epic centered on the hero Prince Alexander, who drove out the Romans in the 13th century. The barely-veiled subtext of that film, however, was a depiction of Russo-German relations as the war loomed ahead, with a call to arms for citizens and a clear warning to would-be attackers. I’ve no idea how effective it was at reaching its propagandistic goals, but the film itself is gorgeous and filled with inventive effects, and Eisenstein accomplished at least the feat of cinematic excellence.

Flash forward to 2018, and the quality of Russian propaganda films has fallen dramatically. Case in point: “Maximum Impact,” a joint Russian-American action comedy about a top-secret summit meeting between the American secretary of state and Russian head of state, with the goal of shoring up relations between the two countries. (Much like the stated goal of the company that produced this film, Czar Pictures.)

In the film, the only thing getting in the way of the U.S. and Russia becoming best buds is a shadowy coalition between a raggedy Smoking Man-esque American (a Democrat?) played by Billy Baldwin and the Germans (?), who are plotting to frame the very innocent Russians for a terrorist attack. Starring in this picture, and a handful of recent films intent on portraying positive images of Russians, is the actor Alexander Nevsky, an Orange County Putin acolyte who looks like if you asked your grandmother to paint a portrait of Steven Seagal in her community art class, and acts like acting is his own personal hell that he must endure.

Watch Video: 'Hunt for the Trump Tapes' Host Tom Arnold Promises 'There's a Pee-Pee Tape'

It’s not not a worthy cause to portray Russian citizens in a more flattering light; god knows American propagandistic films painted Soviets as the big bad for decades, and that’s not an easy image recovery. But hoo-boy, this movie has some pretty blatant intentions of specifically making the FSB (née KGB) look nice and not shady at all. Whatever, that’s fine. American cinema isn’t short on pro-CIA narratives. But aside from the political implications, you’ll find this film is also quite hateful of women, too. Goody!

Directed by Andrzej Barkowiak — cinematographer of “The Verdict,” “Speed,” and “Falling Down” — this film bears zero resemblance to any film Barkowiak has ever made before, including those he directed himself, like the stunning 1990s breakout Jet Li vehicles “Romeo Must Die” or “Cradle 2 the Grave.” It is as though Barkowiak was body-snatched and replaced with Tommy Wiseau, and it doesn’t help that “Rush Hour” scribe Ross LaManna is recycling some of his worst jokes here, most of which focus on shaming and harassing women and then laughing at how frazzled they get, specifically Kelly Hu’s character Kate, a secret service officer.

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When Kate and FSB agent Maxim (Nevsky) — Get it? Maxim-um Impact? — round up their people to take on the pesky Germans together, Kate’s subjected to humiliation after humiliation. At one point, Maxim comes up behind her, puts a giant silver bowl over her head to restrain and blind her, and begins cutting off her hair, while all the men laugh. “That was a $250 haircut,” she throws back at them before finishing with the scissors herself. Hahahaha! (In many cultures, forcibly cutting off a woman’s hair is a means of publicly dehumanizing them.)

Sometimes Kate gets to participate in her own sexualization, like when the teams are watching surveillance footage, and she remarks upon seeing herself that her pants aren’t doing her ass any favors. Another time, Kate gets the nutty idea to jack a car to better chase the Germans, and one of her peers lovingly calls her a “crazy-ass bitch.” For the life of me, I cannot understand why Hu signed on for this film. Perhaps it was the allure of physical comedy and kicking and punching the bad guys, both of which are rarely offered to women actors.

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What’s most dizzying about this film has nothing to do with political messages; those are all too clear. Instead, it’s the particularly mean and bizarre humor that boggles the mind. It becomes impossible to decode the joke or what the hell LaManna was thinking.

Tom Arnold as Agent Barnes gets the most confounding of these scenes: Barnes chatters about his enlarged prostate and health issues constantly. When the team is en route to Russia, he interrupts a discussion, wailing about his need to pee. Only, when he opens the bathroom door, there is a teen girl texting on her phone, crouched by the toilet. Barnes yelps at her to, “Watch out!” And then we cut to an exterior of the plane, while we hear Barnes emphatically and vocally relieving himself, ostensibly right over the head of this teen girl. It’s scenes like these that will have you sighing, wondering what happened to the days of sophisticated propaganda.

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www.thewrap.com | 9/27/18