Do not read unless you’ve seen “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother),” the seventh episode of the third and final season of HBO’s “The Leftovers.”

For my own amusement, I sometimes imagine describing individual episodes of “The Leftovers” to people who’ve never seen the show.

Let’s try it with this installment, shall we?

“A former sheriff from a small town in New York is in Australia, where his father has become convinced of the existence of a song that will stop the planet from being engulfed in a world-ending flood. The father drowns his son, and the son, Kevin, travels to an alternate realm that he has visited before, where he met God, did karaoke, and killed a woman who had been appearing to him in his ‘real’ life. When Kevin enters this realm again, he is both an assassin (as he was the first time he went there), and also the President of the United States, who was elected on a platform of wearing all-white clothes, ending marriage and engaging in the total destruction of basically everything.



“The woman he met and killed the first time through is there; she is the Secretary of Defense and she wants him to launch the nukes that will kill everyone. Another person he knew from his ‘real’ life is there — she’s the Vice President — and she tries to stop the launch from happening, and the VP also helps him find the room that will allow him to communicate with the Prime Minister of Australia. The Prime Minister, Christopher Sunday, may know the crucial song Kevin needs, and despite the fact that she helps him, Kevin kills the Vice President. 

“By the way, the ‘real’ Kevin can occupy the body of either Kevin — the President or the assassin — and he switches back and forth between them by looking at reflective surfaces. Eventually there’s a showdown between the Kevins, with the Secretary of Defense urging Kevin to launch the nukes, and he does that after killing one of his selves. Oh, and God is giving Kevin instructions part of the time, and a romance novel one of the Kevins wrote — which was hidden behind a White House portrait of Millard Fillmore — ends up figuring pretty prominently in the whole thing.”

I mean, if I see one more episode of TV that follows that tired format, I will scream. The old Millard Fillmore/cloned assassin plot — who isn’t sick of it?!

I kid, of course, because that summary is so wonderfully batshit, and just re-reading it made me feel the presence of a hypothetical tinfoil hat on my head. But this show is so deep and wittily profound that the tricks and stratagems and left turns it unleashes end up being so much better than even the most loopily compelling conspiracy theory. “The Leftovers” bestows upon us lucky viewers something so rare and beautiful: The tinfoil hat of the heart.

(Which we then have to rip apart in order to find the key to the nuclear launch system. Obviously.)

I rolled into 2017 with only two thoughts, really: This year has to be better than the crapfest that was much of 2016. Hahahahaha!

The other thought: I really, really hope that “The Leftovers” does a sequel to “International Assassin,” an all-time great episode of television. Not only would the existence of such a sequel, executed with great skill, allow the show’s fans to enjoy another rollicking ride through existential crises of a confused Everyman with amazing abs, the mere existence of such an episode would fix whatever was wrong in the world. Hahhahahahaha!

“The Most Powerful Man in the World” did not fix everything wrong with the world, as phenomenal as it was. In fact, toward the end, it gave us the image of nuclear missiles streaking through the sky over a major city. It is not a sight that most of us are excited to see, given that an unhinged orange buffoon with impulse control issues now has the keys to America’s nuclear arsenal. Way to be prophetic about how afraid we would all be at this moment in time, “The Leftovers” — well done! Please never do that again.

Of course, in the weird, upside-down universe of “The Leftovers,” Kevin’s decision to launch the nukes was not an embrace of nihilism. It was the right thing for him to do. For much of the run of “The Leftovers,” Kevin has been a passive or reactive character, going along with the plans of other people or simply being tossed and turned by the unpredictability of life — and the forceful choices of the people in his life  — without making his own hard choices. This time, he had to choose. And what he did was the right option for him.

Kevin chose to end the fantasy of escape; there will be no more trips to the post-death zone, no more karaoke with God, no more goading from Patti Levin (Ann Dowd), no more assassination assignments. Of course the main reason there won’t be any more of these jaunts is because the series is ending (though of course I want a spinoff about Nora Durst and Ghostface Killah solving mysteries and fighting crime, a philosophical drama with a bangin’ soundtrack titled “The Search for Raekwon.” You’re welcome.)



It may be boring to keep saying this, but by law, I must say it again: The masterstroke of this series is to offer up situations that can be read a multitude of ways, but not because they are vaguely rendered or lack thematic heft or moral conviction. There are a few different ways to read Kevin’s action — was he embracing death, an end to all choice? Or was he embracing the future, the messiness of real life, the rejection of false and ultimately unhelpful escapes? I think it’s the latter, though your mileage may vary.

But the battle for the souls of these characters has always been between Thanatos and agape, between death and love, between death and life. Death is pervasive in this world, its aftereffects can’t be escaped. One reason the Guilty Remnant never made a ton of sense to me is that their mission — reminding people of the Sudden Departure — hardly seemed necessary. Just as it’s hard for us to go five minutes without wondering what fresh hell the orange buffoon has brought down on us, wouldn’t people in a post-Departure world think about death and loss and the Departed all the time?

It does make sense for there to be a number of death-focused cults after the Departure, of course. I can see a large chunk of the citizenry being worn down by the process of wondering what happened. In that situation, I can see the attraction of worshipping the finality and power of death, and even long for its total domination as a way of evading the pain and doubt of life.

Apparently the Guilty Remnant did evolve even more strongly into that kind of group. And Patti Levin’s strong fixation on getting Kevin to end the world also almost sounds like a network executive urging the creation of a really grandiose season finale, one full of beheadings and blood and dismemberment (“We give them what they want and they want to die.”). And Patti’s urgings echo a strong thread that runs through the American psyche — a thread that seems ascendant just now. We say we’re about freedom and life and the pursuit of happiness, but almost every day there’s news of a mass shooting or some other kind of senseless destruction, which belies the nation’s loftier ambitions and reveals something uglier and more Thanatos-obsessed underneath.

So the idea of Kevin as the figurehead of a destructive, negating, trigger-happy group that had gained a great deal of power made a certain kind of sense. But “The Leftovers” wisely doesn’t make these choices impersonal and general; they’re always far more individual and personal.

If Kevin left the Assassin Realm [tm] intact, he would always have a place to retreat to, an escape hatch. Kevin’s not unlike Don Draper, a man who knew a thing or two about the average person’s unconscious obsession with death, and who bugged out every chance he got. Kevin, like Don and so many other difficult TV men, struggled because the bonds of intimacy and real friendship were too taxing and confusing for him; escape was always a more attractive option. But Kevin now understood that he could not keep dying all the time in search of the Answer. Living was the answer, a messy choice that would continue to confuse him. But living in his real life had to be the only option moving forward, because flight and escape had cost him parts of his soul, not to mention his future with Nora.

Heavy stuff. But so much delight, so many pure damn delightful shenanigans, preceded Kevin’s final, existential choice.

I love that “The Leftovers,” a show about the most inexpressible and existential and soul-churning parts of being alive, transformed itself, once again, into an ass-kicking movie about an international assassin. I did not know that I wanted a combination of “John Wick” and “Waiting for Godot,” but I absolutely did want that and I will always want more of that, which is why this show cannot end on June 4. I forbid it.

As I have noted in past reviews, “The Leftovers” weirds me out sometimes with how predictive it is of our actual world. When a rich guy named Greg Gianforte, who was in the news for being a world-class jerk, ended up looking exactly like Dean (Michael Gaston), Kevin’s old friend from Mapleton, it almost made perfect sense. That’s how uncannily the show’s supposedly skewed reality refects events and characters in the actual, real world these days. Not only was Dean’s presence in this world suitably appropriate and deranged, we also got to enjoy Justin Theroux’s perfect line delivery of the sentence, “I’m an assassin.” Finally, Kevin accepted his fate; there was only one suit to put on, the black suit of the well-dressed international assassin. Of course, in our daydreams and fantasies, we’re way, way cooler than we are in real life, and if Kevin has to go to this deep and scary psychological realm, at least he gets a kickass suit and and super-important mission to complete. 

In the bunker, he met his old friends Patti Levin and Meg Abbott (the long-absent Liv Tyler). Ann Dowd was a wonder, of course, in this entire episode, but never more so than in the speech she gives before launching the nukes, which I watched five times. It was great to see Tyler again, but this is one of the costs of an abbreviated final season: We didn’t get to see more of Meg. So it goes.

Meg seemed doubtful of Kevin’s ability to save the world, and her fears weren’t unrealistic. “The Leftovers” has always been aware that it is more than a little ridiculous for its narrative to revolve around a white male savior. The show is only too aware that Kevin is hardly a perfect vehicle for his own salvation, let alone anyone else’s. But it still has fun with the idea of Kevin as some kind of prophet, to the point that, in this episode, he has the voice of God in his ear, literally. Of course, Kevin eventually rejects the voice of God, leaving Him complaining on the floor of the bunker. Probably a wise choice, in this instance.

But let’s get to the heart of the matter: We do not deserve the blessing of the dick-measuring scene.

Since I first saw this episode two months ago, I have been chortling at the fact that HBO was going to air an actual penis-measuring sequence. The irony is too good, too rich, too wonderful. I mean, one of the core foundations of the post-aughts TV Golden Age was that what men do — and where they put their junk — is the most interesting topic of all time. Obviously TV has moved on — the best TV shows at the moment are about a lot more than the evolution of American masculinity, and sometimes they don’t explore that subject at all, which is a relief. The era that ended when “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” wrapped up was a wonderful time to be writing about TV, of course, but some topics were just flogged to death, and then flogged 100 more times for good measure. 

“The Leftovers” has enough self-awareness to dig into some of those ideas about manhood and masculinity in somewhat fresh and thoughtful ways. And in this episode, it used humor to signal how silly so much of TV drama can be when it comes to the sanctity of narratives about dudes. This perfect show gave us two scenes in which Kevin had to pull out his member so that it could be measured and assessed by an indifferent scanner. God is real.

Someone back up a truck full of Emmys to the house of Damien Garvey, who played the head of President Kevin’s Secret Service detail. The reactions of Garvey (who played an Australian cop earlier in the season) were sublimely hilarious; the way he averted his eyes but then slid them back over for a peek was nothing short of insanely funny. Comedy gold, my friends, comedy gold.

More seriously, it’s hard not to read a lot of the Kevin vs. Kevin arc — and the Kevin Sr. and Kevin Jr. story — as a critique of the limits of traditional masculinity. What prompts Kevin Sr. to say “I love you” to his son? The prospect of killing him so that he can go on a quixotic mission. The world literally has to be ending for these men to reveal their deep love for each other. The scene itself was heartbreaking and beautifully acted, but the fact that things have to be this extreme for these men to connect — maybe that’s just a little messed up. 

Evie’s disdain for President Kevin is apparent: She doesn’t think he’s the one leading his own administration, and she’s probably right. Kevin has often been a passenger on this strange ride, not the one leading the charge. Much of the episode, and the character’s overall arc, is about admitting the truth to himself without somehow breaking himself further in the process. Kevin plunges into the Assassin Realm — in which the stakes are as real and as challenging as they are in the “real” world — to find the truth through a prism, through a reflection, because maybe it’s too hard to confront head-on in the real world. Once in the Assassin Realm, however, he asserts that he just wants to go home. Does he?

Let’s look at his past: He is far more often leaving, evading and finding methods of escape than he is homeward bound.

Kevin lied to himself about why he was going to the Assassin Realm, but on some level, he probably knew the truth. He told himself and others that he was going to send messages and ask question for others, but those weren’t the real reasons. He was forcing himself to look in the mirror — in many different reflective surfaces — to see his own failings. Not to condemn those flaws, not to engage in another orgy of self-hatred and negation. But to see how his lies and evasions were holding him back.

In the end, Kevin read from a book, not a holy book, but a book of truth. 

In the novel, the real Kevin became apparent. The Kevin hiding behind the abs and the suit and the messianic possibilities and the failings came to the fore. He finally spoke openly about feeling weak, alone, stupid and unworthy. He messed up with Nora because on some level, he didn’t think he deserved her, and so he sabotaged their relationship. The only thing more frightening than being unloved is being loved. Like Don Draper before him, Kevin didn’t know how to handle someone seeing who he really was and loving him anyway. Can he rectify that screwup?

Maybe he can. Maybe he can sit on the roof with his fragile, uncertain father. Maybe he can leave the suit and the fantasies behind, and accept that he’s not only not the savior — he’s just like everyone else. Maybe he can stay, he can be patient, he can wait, not to be told what to do, but for the right time to decisively move forward, with purpose and some hope. He had to go far away to learn what he already knew: Everyone’s weak, everyone’s afraid. While he was far away, ending it all, the world spun on without him.

What happens next? God only knows.

For previous “Leftovers” recaps and coverage, look here. 


Ryan reportedly is livid over Katy's paycheck and 'suddenly asking himself why he would come back for a 16th season at a salary [much smaller than that] of the newcomer judge.'

Ryan Seacrest may ditch hosting gig on ABC's "American Idol" reboot. He is reportedly not happy when learning that new judge Katy Perry is allegedly being paid $25 million, which is much higher than his. Ryan is allegedly offered over $10 million to host the reboot. However, after he learned that Katy is being paid much higher than his, although he hosted the show on FOX for 15 seasons, he is reportedly livid and ready to quit the show. "[He] was suddenly asking himself why he would come back for a 16th season at a salary [much smaller than that] of the newcomer judge," Richard Rushfield, author of "American Idol: The Untold Story", says. The author further reports that Ryan "has grown notably cooler on the prospect" since he already signed on a new gig on "Live" with Kelly Ripa in New York. Should he accept the "American Idol" gig, it would require tiring weekly cross-country trips to LA. However, a source tells Page Six that the radio personality is "hopeful that a deal can be reached given his affection for the show." Katy, meanwhile, gushed about her paycheck in a recent interview. She said, "I'm really proud that, as a woman, I got paid." She added, "And you know why? I got paid, like, more than like pretty much any guy that's been on that show."


'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales' repeats its predecessors' success by gaining an estimated $62.2 million in its first weekend at box office.

Despite only nabbing a 32 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" unsurprisingly managed to sail to No. 1 at North American box office. The movie starring Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Kaya Scodelario and Brenton Thwaites earned an estimated $62.2 million in its first weekend, with the Memorial Day boost bringing its estimated weekend total to $76.6 million. The movie was also doing well overseas, nabbing an estimated $208 million on the three-day weekend. "This is a trend that we've seen play out over the course of these films," said Dave Hollis, executive vice president of distribution for Disney. " 'Pirates' is a huge spectacle film of the kind that international audiences continue to be drawn toward...but the domestic response also shows that the audience for this film is clearly there," he added. Sitting at No. 2 at box office was still "Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2". The second installment of the "Guardians of the Galaxy" movie series earned an estimated $19.9 million on the three-day weekend and approximately $24.2 million after Memorial Day. Meanwhile, R-rated comedy "Baywatch" could only gain an estimated $18.1 million on the three-day weekend and an estimated $22 million on the four-day holiday weekend. The movie starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Zac Efron currently has a 19 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and earns a B+ CinemaScore. Sitting at the fourth place at the box office was "Alien: Covenant", which nabbed an estimated $10.5 million on the three-day weekend and approximately $13.2 million after Memorial Day. "Everything, Everything" rounded out the top five by earning an estimated $6.2 million, with Memorial Day boost bringing its estimated weekend total to $7.8 million. Top Ten Movies at Weekend Box Office for May 26-28, 2017 and May 26-29 May, 2017:

  1. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" - $62.2 million ($76.6 million)
  2. "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" - $19.9 million ($24.2 million)
  3. "Baywatch" - $18.1 million ($22 million)
  4. "Alien: Covenant" - $10.5 million ($13.2 million)
  5. "Everything, Everything" - $6.2 million ($7.8 million)
  6. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul" - $4.4 million ($5.7 million)
  7. "Snatched" - $3.9 million ($4.9 million)
  8. "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" - $3.2 million ($4.0 million)
  9. "The Boss Baby" - $1.7 million ($2.25 million)
  10. "Beauty and the Beast (2017)" - $1.6 million ($2.0 million)



People at Old Vic Theatre were evacuated due to security alert only days after the deadly bombing terror in Manchester.

Approximately 1,000 people at Old Vic Theatre in Central London were evacuated due to security emergency. They were asked to move out of the building during a performance of "Woyzeck", a play that stars "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" actor John Boyega. "We have been evacuated as a precaution; audience safety is our priority. We are liaising with the Met Police," the theatre tweeted. The cast were moved to the Imperial War Museum gardens near the theater while police brought bomb-sniffing dogs to conduct their searches. The production resumed after the Metropolis police gave the all clear. "Following Met Police advice, this evening's performance will go ahead as planned," the theater explained. Boyega also tweeted, "Thank you #Woyzeck." The incident happened only days after deadly bombing attack in Manchester outside Ariana Grande's concert venue.


Instead of 'slipping her into the background of another movie,' Fox might sign on Dafne Keen to return for a X-23 solo movie.

Dafne Keen might return to reprise her role as X-23 in a future movie following her impressive debut in "Logan" that became Hugh Jackman's swan song as Wolverine, but don't expect her to join one of the "X-Men" movies. She might get her own solo movie instead. Producer Hutch Parker told IGN, "I don't know definitively, but in terms of the stuff we've been talking about, it's not sort of slipping her into the background of another movie. It's looking at that character, which is a great character and has a pretty interesting run within the comics, to find a story that we think she could carry or certainly be kind of majorly significant within." "That's the only kind of thing that Jim as a storyteller, a filmmaker ... that's the way his sort of process works. And the way his mind works in terms of what he would aspire to. Which isn’t to say that the studio couldn’t have a conversation about something else, but the one that we've been kind of discussing loosely and kicking around is more likely to be its own film." In a previous interview, Director James Mangold said, "Anything's possible. I've certainly talked to [the studio] about it. I even talked to them about it before we made the movie. I thought she was just such a great character, but with what Dafne did, I think that certainly that's possible."


Sofia Coppola is named Best Director, Nicole Kidman receives a special award and Swedish movie 'The Square' wins the top honor.

Winners of the 2017 Cannes International Film Festival have been announced. Joaquin Phoenix and Diane Kruger were named Best Actor and Best Actress for their respective performances in "You Were Never Really Here" and "In the Fade". Ruben Ostlund's "The Square" took home the top honor, Palme d'Or, while Robin Campillo's "120 Beats Per Minute" grabbed Gran Prix prize and Andrey Zvyagintsev's "Loveless" got Jury Prize. Sofia Coppola won the title of Best Director for her work "The Beguiled" and Nicole Kidman was feted with Special 70th Anniversary Award. This year, the juries included Fan Bingbing, Jessica Chastain, Will Smith and Uma Thurman while the head of the juries is Spanish director/screenwriter Pedro Almodovar. Meanwhile, Monica Belucci served as a host for the opening and closing ceremonies. MAIN COMPETITION:

  • Palme d'Or: Ruben Ostlund - "The Square"
  • Gran Prix: Robin Campillo - "120 Beats Per Minute"
  • Jury Prize: Andrey Zvyagintsev - "Loveless"
  • Best Director: Sofia Coppola - "The Beguiled"
  • Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix - "You Were Never Really Here"
  • Best Actress: Diane Kruger - "In the Fade"
  • Best Screenplay: Yorgos Lanthimos - "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" and Lynne Ramsay - "You Were Never Really Here"
  • Camera d'Or: Leonor Serraille - "Jeune Femme"
  • Short Film Palme d'Or: Qiu Yang - "A Gentle Night"
  • Special 70th Anniversary Award: Nicole Kidman

  • Un Certain Regard Prize: Mohammad Rasoulof - "A Man of Integrity"
  • Best Actress: Jasmine Trinca - "Fortunata"
  • Best Poetic Narrative: Mathieu Amalric - "Barbara"
  • Best Direction: Taylor Sheridan - "Wind River"
  • Jury Prize: Michel Franco - "April's Daughter"

  • Nespresso Grand Prize: Emmanuel Gras - "Makala"
  • France 4 Visionary Award: Fellipe Gamarano Barbosa - "Gabriel and the Mountain"
  • Leica Cine Discovery Prize for Short Film: Laura Ferres - "Los Desheredados"
  • Gan Foundation Support for Distribution Award: Fellipe Gamarano Barbosa - "Gabriel and the Mountain"
  • SACD Award: Lea Mysius - "Ava"
  • Canal+ Award: Aleksandra Terpinska - "The Best Fireworks"

  • Art Cinema Award: Chloe Zhao - "The Rider"
  • SACD Award: Claire Denis - "Let the Sunshine In" and Philippe Garrel - "Lover for a Day"
  • Europa Cinemas Label Award: Jonas Carpignano - "A Ciambra"
  • Illy Prize for Short Film: Benoit Grimalt - "Back to Genoa City"



A female Spidey, Scorpion, Tarantula and Kraven are among the characters who will reportedly come to the upcoming Spider-Man spinoff.

Plot points for the untitled Silver Sable and The Black Cat project might have been revealed. If Splash Report can be trusted, the upcoming Spider-Man spin-off will have the likes of Dominic Fortune, Jessica Drew or Spider-Woman, Sergei Kravinoff or Kraven the Hunter, Lonnie Lincoln or Tombstone, and Charles Standish. The movie is reportedly set seven years after Mendel Stromm (a.k.a. Robot Master) and his two henchmen (The Scorpion and The Tarantula) killed Silver Sable's father. It will follow the Sable as she "is hired by the government to find Felicia Hardy. The Black Cat, a master hacker and thief, has apparently stolen valuable secret information. She's hiding in the lawless and dangerous triple frontier area between Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil." "Once there, Sable asks her old contact Dmitri Smerdyakov (a.k.a. The Chameleon) to locate her. But it seems, the government are not the only ones looking for the Black Cat. It seems Felicia had made a deal Stromm to save her father from a Russian prison and she's been genetically enhanced. Now, the mad scientist wants his prized experiment back because his financier (cough Norman Osborn cough) wants a return on his investment." Like "Venom (2018)", the Silver Sable and Black Cat movie won't be related to the upcoming "Spider-Man: Homecoming" series that stars Tom Holland and crosses paths with The Avengers. So if the rumors are true, it's unlikely to see Spider-Woman and all those Spidey supporting cast and villains in the webcrawler solo movie once they're introduced in the spin-offs. "Venom" has found its Eddie Brock in Tom Hardy. The movie is directed by Ruben Fleischer. It's scheduled to kick off production this fall for an October 5, 2018 release. Meanwhile, the Silver Sable and Black Cat film hasn't announced a director, cast and release date.


Italy’s “years of lead,” when the leftist Red Brigade and their right-wing counterparts instituted an unprecedented reign of terror, remain a sensitive subject for a nation more likely to nostalgize its troubled past than process it in any constructive way. While not an infrequent subject in Italian cinema (see Mimmo Calopresti’s “The Second Time,” Marco Bellocchio’s “Good Morning, Night”), the way it’s handled in Annarita Zambrano’s smart, affecting debut “After the War” adds a new note to the ongoing discussion, while marking its director as a serious talent to watch. Paralleling the lives of a former terrorist living in exile in France alongside those of the family he hasn’t seen for two decades, the film explores in an intimate manner the personal toll of violent political resistance. Targeted art-house play could follow probable festival success.

SEE MORE: Cannes Film Festival



In 2002, France ended the “Mitterand podoctrine,” a policy that allowed convicted terrorists from Italy’s far-left to remain in exile in France and avoid extradition back home. That same year in Bologna, jurist Marco Biagi was assassinated by a group calling themselves the New Red Brigade. Zambrano takes these two events and crafts a fictional story centered on Marco Lamberti (Giuseppe Battiston), a member of the Armed Formation for the Revolution who fled to France in 1981 after assassinating a judge. For those wondering where Zambrano’s sympathies lie, it’s not with the terrorist: Lamberti is a complex character yet his overriding trait is egotism.

Before showing Lamberti, Zambrano shows his daughter Viola (Charlotte Cétaire) playing volleyball in high school. The life she has as a “normal” French teen is about to end thanks to the event two days earlier that opens the film: A law professor in Bologna is gunned down at his university by a far-left group claiming to be inheritors of Lamberti’s organization. Afraid he’ll be extradited back to Italy now that the Mitterand doctrine is kaput, Marco flees Paris with Viola and reaches a former safe house. From there he contacts Jérôme (Jean-Marc Barr), who promises, for old time’s sake, to provide him with fake passports so father and daughter can escape to Nicaragua.

The professor’s assassination in Bologna, together with the possibility of extradition for old crimes, reawakens interest in Lamberti back in Italy, where the police and press come calling on his sister Anna (Barbora Bobulova) and their mother Teresa (Elisabetta Piccolomini). The mom keeps a guarded silence whereas Anna is unnerved. It’s been 20 years since they’ve had any communication from Marco, so the sudden attention reopens painful wounds.

Zambrano skillfully allows these two stories to unfold side by side to show how crimes of the past, no matter their motivation, insidiously infect the present. Viola expected to graduate at the end of the year; now she’s been wrenched from home, brought to the middle of nowhere in France, and expected to start a new life in Central America. Seeing her father’s face on the cover of a news magazine with the headline “Intellectual or Criminal?” understandably churns up feelings she can’t even begin to process.

Marco is oblivious to his daughter’s emotional turmoil, consumed instead by paranoia and a sense of injustice, lashing out that the press “has no right” to rake him across the coals. He agrees to one interview, by journalist Marianne (Marilyne Canto), in a scene that Zambrano turns into a superbly written acrobatic feat of self-justification and indignation, revealing not just the man’s monomania but the fundamentally flawed rationale by which Lamberti and fellow terrorists justify violent political acts. Marco’s inability to see beyond his ego leads to an unexpected tragedy made especially affecting by the late scenes’ telegraphed restraint.

Battiston often plays comic roles or the best friend, but Zambrano uses his serious solidity to even better effect, and the inner anger he occasionally allows to flash out of a calm exterior enriches his portrayal of a man who believes the justifications he gives the world for his terrible actions.  Bobulova sensitively captures Anna’s many-layered inner conflicts, and Cétaire melds petulance with grace. Marvelously composed widescreen visuals contrast French scenes, often shot outdoors and glowing in striking late summer light, with Italian sequences, mostly indoors, conveying the characters’ feelings of inescapability.


The Cannes Film Festival played host to some good movies this year (there is never a year when it doesn’t), yet throughout the 12-day event, there has been a pervasive feeling, shared by critics and distributors and publicists and audiences alike, that the festival’s been having a soft year, that the magic was tamped down. It had something do with the lack of a universally agreed upon home run, like “Toni Erdmann” or “Amour” or “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” or “Breaking the Waves.” (There were a handful of doubles and triples, but more disputes than not about all of them.) It had something to do with the new security system (long, slow lines to get through metal detectors), which freighted the simple act of walking into a movie with a touch of that airport depression. For all that, Cannes is still Cannes: the most momentous film festival in the world. Here are nine random thoughts on what made this year’s festival tick, what didn’t work, and what did.



1. Would it really be so hard to select a better opening-night film? “Ismael’s Ghost,” the Arnaud Desplechin movie that kicked off the festival, was universally despised, and with good reason: It was a messy, dispiriting crock of a movie. The fact that Mathieu Amalric starred as a grizzled, drunken film director who is too self-absorbed to bother showing up on his set only emphasized the film’s air of entitled overindulgence: Is this how the French film industry works? The most obvious reason “Ismael’s Ghost” was chosen is that it was a homegrown drama with prestige stars (Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg), and there were probably backroom-deal reasons I’m not privy to, but the lesson should be simple: When you open the quintessential film festival with a movie this bad, it makes everyone feel like they were greeted at the door with a glass of champagne that immediately got spilled on their shirt.

2. The programmers are at the mercy of the films that get made. In a medium with the mysterious alchemy of movies, there are great years and there are off years, and a likely explanation for why there weren’t more extraordinary films at Cannes this year is, quite simply, that they hadn’t been made. (The other explanation is the festival’s ongoing tendency to limit the pool by favoring movies with at least one French producer or distributor.) Yet to stick to what was there: A number of high-profile titles shared the peculiar quality of appearing to unfold inside an aquarium of detachment. They gave us characters to study, to judge, to gawk at, to laugh at, to extract lessons from, but they invited a connection with them that was more cynical than powerful.

Ruben Östland’s “The Square” was about a museum curator who receives the comeuppance of his own cluelessness. Michael Haneke’s “Happy End” tracked a family of haters as dryly remote as they are wretched. Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled” was more refined than the 1971 original, but it took the borderline-exploitation material to a blithe place of nearly abstract vengeance. Even Andrey Zvyagintsev’s rigorous, resonant, hard-hitting “Loveless” featured a pair of characters who come off nearly as chilly to us as they do to each other. And then, of course, there was Yorgos Lanthimos’s “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” an absurdist mythological fable in Kubrickian horror clothing that opens with a close-up image of open-heart surgery; by the time its central figure, played by Colin Farrell, pays the price for a sin we never see (or, more to the point, feel), that disturbing first shot is about as close as the movie is going to come to having a heart. Any of these films could wind up taking the Palme d’Or. But that wouldn’t make any one of them easier to relate to.

3. Why wasn’t “The Florida Project” in competition? Sean Baker’s follow-up to “Tangerine” was one of a small handful of films at Cannes this year that excited nearly everyone who saw it. It, too, is built around a character who doesn’t exactly give you the warm fuzzies (Bria Vinaite’s snarly delinquent of a single mom). Yet there’s no mistaking the unblinking humanity of Baker’s gaze, or what an accomplished filmmaker he has become; if it’s possible to put scraggly neorealism on the high wire, this movie does it. Normally, I don’t think twice when a film that isn’t in competition turns out to be better than a number of the competing titles (that happens at every festival), but in this case, by placing “The Florida Project” in Director’s Fortnight, the Cannes programmers may have seriously dropped the ball. Had it been in competition, the movie would likely have proved a contender (for acting awards, for the director’s prize) and would have been buzzed about even more loudly than it was.

4. The Trump era is a movie. I’m a news junkie to begin with, and in the past four months, ever since Donald Trump became president and the fate of his govern-from-the-hip recklessness became intertwined with all our fates (and the fate of the world), I, like so many others, have become addicted to grabbing news, analysis, and the backstory of his latest mishap on my phone almost any time I have a break — a ritual that didn’t stop at Cannes. The reason I bring it up is that the daily saga of America In The Age of Trump is, let’s be honest, more than just news. It’s a spectacular and tumultuous drama, a kind of live existential novel you never want to put down (and don’t have to), with a new twist and cliffhanger every day. I don’t mean to sound flip; news in the Trump era is dramatic precisely because the stakes are so high. Yet the never-ending dosage of labyrinthine real-world political soap opera is something that popular culture, including highbrow Cannes Film Festival culture, must now compete with. It’s not that there’s any less of a desire to go to a movie. It’s that movies like the ones shown at Cannes, whose calling card tends to be their authenticity, may now have an even higher bar of enthrallment to clear.



5. Netflix isn’t just a company, it’s a concept. There was much chatter throughout the festival about the politics of Netflix: the company’s overwhelming, if not ideological devotion to streaming at the expense of theatrical programming, and the decision by the powers that be at Cannes that going forward, no film could be shown at the festival in competition without a French distribution deal — a rule designed specifically to target Netflix. The rule was devised to avoid a situation where a film like “Okja” or “The Meyerowitz Stories” (the company’s two competing entries) would be shown, and even celebrated, but denied the chance to play in theaters. The Cannes decision means that Netflix probably won’t be submitting any movies for the festival next year.

The larger issue is how, as a result of this kerfuffle, the very word Netflix has become a different meme than it was at the height of “Netflix and chill.” Right or wrong, the name has come to symbolize a metaphysical threat to the future of theatrical distribution. Roman Polanski, interviewed at Cannes, made the point that the theatrical experience, fueled by our desire to see movies with an audience, will never go away, and I think he’s right, but that kind of misses the point: What’s threatened by the meme of Netflix isn’t movies in theaters, it’s adventurous movies in theaters. It’s not simply a logistical matter of how films shown by Netflix are made available to the viewer; it’s a matter of intent, of desire, of the dream of art. Cannes, drawing a line in the sand, said: We and Netflix stand on opposite sides of that dream.

And yet…

6. “Twin Peaks” looked right at home in Cannes. Maybe “Top of the Lake: China Girl,” the second season of Jane Campion’s Sundance Channel mystery series, did too, although I didn’t get to see it. But I did see the two episodes of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks: The Return” that were shown, all scrunched together without ad breaks or first-episode credits, and make no mistake: They were wild at heart, and wild in the brain. They suggest that the new “Twin Peaks,” which Sonia Saraiya reviewed here, could be the most the spookily avant-garde thing ever shown on television. Watching it, I felt like I did the first time I saw “2001: A Space Odyssey” when I was 11, and during the climactic head-trip through space and time, culminating in those scenes with Keir Dullea watching himself as an old man, all I could think was, “This is the most insane thing I’ve ever seen.”

In its first two hours, “Twin Peaks: The Return” pushes miles past the WTF quality of the original series’ final episodes. At the time, it seemed to many of us that the show had jumped the shark, yet Lynch now seems to have broken through to an entirely new realm, drawing on the sinister trippy surrealist extravagance he played with in “Eraserhead” as a way of deconstructing the very seeds of the suspense of serial television. All of which made “Twin Peaks,” or at least two hours of it, a hypnotically disorienting screen spectacle that pulses with the daring of — yes — a movie.

7. “Carne y Arena” will hook you on VR. I’m not quite sure how long it took director Alejandro G. Iñarritu to conceive and create his extraordinary six-and-a-half-minute virtual-reality installation, which places you — miraculously — smack in the middle of the Sonora Desert along with a group of illegal immigrants, forging an altogether revolutionary experience for your eyeballs and your empathy. But I know that if it was announced right now that next year’s Cannes was going to feature a follow-up VR installation (I don’t mean about immigrants; I mean about…anything), I’d already be counting down the days until I could plunge back in.

8. The most overpraised movie, and the most underpraised. Overpraised: “The Beguiled.” It was characterized by critics as a baroque hoot (though it’s got about three laughs), and it was lavished with praise for its performances (by Kirsten Dunst and Nicole Kidman, both fine in thinly written roles) and its subtler re-imagining of the 1971 Don Siegel/Clint Eastwood pulp psychodrama. But that movie was no classic — more like grindhouse Tennessee Williams — and watching Coppola’s remake, I couldn’t escape the feeling that there’s not enough there there. But maybe that will help it to become a megaplex hit.

Underpraised: “Redoubtable.” Michel Hanazavicius’ fascinating movie has the temerity to dramatize the love life of Jean-Luc Godard (played by Louis Garrel, who I wish looked more like him). But it’s really about the moment in 1968 when Godard turned his back on his audience, just as it was starting to turn its back on him. The film entertainingly evokes the poison-pill tragedy of Godard’s transformation, when he slipped through the looking glass of a “radical” political evolution that became his way of rejecting the world. Hanazavicius is a clever formalist movie nut, and with “Redoubtable” he may have stumbled onto a new genre: the inside-the-auteur biopic.

9. If Michael Haneke and Yorgos Lanthimos got into a fight, who would win? Nothing makes a budding world-class auteur seem cutting edge quite like an undertone of hip misanthropy. For a while, Haneke ruled the stoic-camera-gaze, ice-pick-into-the-heart-of-the-bourgeoisie, how-deep-is-your-cruel? waterfront. Then he made “Amour,” a work of lacerating humanity, which may be why his new film, “Happy End” (warning: title is heavily ironic!), felt like a warmed-over version of the usual Haneke ice. But stepping up to take his place, and maybe steal his crown of feel-bad nihilistic cachet, is the director of “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” What happens in Lanthimos’ movie fuses the compelling, the daring, the shocking, the hateful, and — the more it goes on — the inexplicable. Sound familiar? The clincher is that his aggression, like Haneke’s, is really always pointed at one place: the audience.


“Fate of the Furious” is a billionaire overseas.

The eighth installment of Universal’s Fast and Furious franchise crossed the $1 billion mark at the international box office on Sunday, becoming only the sixth film in history to do so.

This weekend the movie earned $3.3 million from 41 territories, pushing it past the $1 billion mark. Combined with its domestic sum of $222.5 million, the film’s worldwide total currently stands as the eleventh best of all time at $1.223 billion, as of Sunday.

In China alone, the movie has made $387.4 million, making it the highest grossing foreign film of all time there. Other top grossing territories are Brazil ($41.6 million); U.K. and Ireland ($37.4 million); Mexico ($36.8 million); and Germany ($32.1 million).


‘Fast & Furious’ Films Ranked Worst to Best


“Fate” has been a box office titan since it opened on April 14, and went on to have the largest opening weekend of all time internationally ($443.2 million), and globally ($542 million).



F. Gary Gray directed the high-octane action flick written by Chris Morgan. The film’s massive draw owes a lot to its diverse cast which includes Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, and Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges. Charlize Theron joined the latest installment to play the villain.

Other films to have grossed over $1 billion overseas are “Avatar” ($2 billion); “Titanic” ($1.5 billion), “Furious 7” ($1.165 billion); “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ($1.131 billion); and “Jurassic World” ($1.019 billion). “Furious 7” and “Jurassic World” were also released by Universal.


Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is sailing into first place at the domestic box office this weekend, but the story the numbers dictate is not one of swashbuckling heroics.

Johnny Depp’s fifth outing as Jack Sparrow is looking at a three-day total of $62.2 million from 4,276 locations, and a four-day holiday weekend sum of $77 million. If not for international appeal, that would be a let down for a movie riding on a $230 million production budget.


Film Review: ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’


The first place finish also can’t cover up a serious case of franchise fatigue. “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is the lowest opening for a Pirates movie apart from the original, which earned over $46 million in its first weekend (and was also the only installation approved by critics). Last time out in 2011, “On Stranger Tides” pulled in $90 million in its opening weekend. That’s still less than 2007’s “At World’s End” ($114.7 million) and 2006’s “Dead Man’s Chest” ($135.6 million). But it’s no question why Disney is still churning out sequels — within the next few days, the franchise will have made over $4 billion worldwide.



“This is a trend that we’ve seen play out,” said Disney’s distribution chief Dave Hollis. “We’re setting out to make a film that resonates as a global film,” he said, adding that audiences are “still here” in the U.S. as well.

“Dead Men Tell No Tales” centers on Sparrow battling deadly ghost sailors, led by Javier Bardem’s Captain Salazar. Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg directed the film, which also sees the return of both Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, who were absent from the fourth installment.

Over time, the “Pirates” franchise has become more reliant on overseas ticket sales, and that’s certainly the case this time out. The three-day estimate overseas is a whopping $208.4 million. Globally, the movie is expected to make $270.6 million this weekend, and over $300 million by the end of the four-day holiday weekend. Since the franchise still makes money (even if U.S. grosses are dwindling) this may not be the last we see of Captain Sparrow.

“This is one of the most prolific franchises of all time,” Hollis said. “We find ourselves with another big opening weekend showcasing global appeal of the franchise.”

Meanwhile, Paramount’s “Baywatch” was hoping to make an oceanic summer splash, but looks to have ended up in the kiddie pool. The rebooted property should land a three-day total of $18.1 million from 3,647 locations and end the four-day holiday weekend with $22 million (not counting the money it made in sneaks on Wednesday). That’s far below early estimates. The movie carries a production budget above $60 million.


Film Review: ‘Baywatch’


“I think we got pretty stung by reviews,” said Paramount’s distribution chief Megan Colligan, referring to the film’s current 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. “It research tested extremely well,” she added, saying that the stars are about to start promoting the film heavily abroad. “We’re hopeful that our international numbers will help us with our overall.”

This is the latest in a string of misses for the studio this year including “Ghost in the Shell,” “Rings,” “XXX: The Return of Xander Cage,” and “Monster Trucks.”

Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron star in the comedy that spawned from the 1990s NBC drama starring David Hasselhoff and a team of lifeguards who patrolled the beaches of Los Angeles. This time around, it’s Johnson, an experienced and devoted lifeguard, who butts heads with a new recruit, Efron, until they uncover a criminal plot.

Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario, Jon Bass, Kelly Rohrbach, and Ilfenesh Hadera also star. Seth Gordon directed the film based on a screenplay by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift. Jay Scherick, David Ronn, Thomas Lennon, and Robert Ben Garant all have story credits.

“Baywatch” will land in third behind Disney’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” which has proven to be the only major hit to emerge from the summer box office so far. The sequel looks to pull in another $24.2 million over the four-day weekend, raising its domestic total close to $340 million.

Fox’s “Alien: Covenant” should end up in fourth during its second weekend in theaters. The latest installment in the Alien franchise is looking at $13.1 million over the four-day stretch. Rounding out the top five, the YA adaptation “Everything, Everything” looks to have been a solid low-budget investment for Warner Bros. Its four day total should be about $7.6 million.

This weekend, a number of films are meeting or passing milestones. Universal’s “Fate of the Furious” became the sixth film to earn over $1 billion overseas. Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” passed $500 million domestically putting it in elite company as well. With $783 million globally, Disney and Marvel’s “Guardians 2” has surpassed the first “Guardians” movie’s total earnings. Disney in general is keeping the box office afloat — as of Friday, the studio became the first to have earned over $1 billion in 2017, reaching the milestone in near record time. The only time a studio has earned so much so quickly was Disney last year.




“Beauty and the Beast” just waltzed past a major box office milestone.

The live-action remake of Disney’s 1991 fairy tale crossed $500 million at the domestic box office after Saturday earnings were totaled, making it the eighth movie ever to do so.

“Beauty and the Beast” has been a box office darling — and one of the few bright spots in 2017 — since it was released on March 17 and went on to a $174.8 million opening weekend.


Disney’s Live-Action Films in the Works


Overseas the film has been a hit as well, earning over $732 million. Its worldwide total sits at over $1.2 billion. It is currently the tenth highest grossing movie of all time behind “Frozen.”

Bill Condon directed the movie starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast. The strong supporting cast includes Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, and Josh Gad who made headlines for being the first opening gay character in a Disney movie.



Those who enjoyed seeing a non-animated version of “Beauty and the Beast” should get used to the concept. Disney has a lineup of live-action remakes of its animated classics in the works, including “Snow White,” “Mulan,” and “Lion King.”

The other movies to break $500 million domestically are “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ($936.7 million); “Avatar” ($760.5 million); “Titanic” ($658.7 million); “Jurassic World” ($652.3 million); “Marvel’s The Avengers” ($623.4 million); “The Dark Knight” ($534.9 million); and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” ($532.2 million).


Disney’s latest crack at the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise appears to be a global hit.

The fifth installment, subtitled “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is sailing to $270.6 million at the international box office. That, combined with the $77 million it’s expected to pull in over the four-day holiday domestically, should easily put the film over $300 million globally during its opening frame.

In China alone the movie will make an estimated $67.8 million. The third highest opening for any Disney movie is partially attributed to the opening coinciding with the country’s Dragon Boat Festival holidays.


Film Review: ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’


The film saw the largest opening of all time in Russia with $18.1 million ($18.6 million including previews). The rest of the top five territories are Korea ($11.6 million); France ($9.3 million); and Germany ($8.4 million).



“Dead Men Tell No Tales” centers on Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow battling deadly ghost sailors, led by Javier Bardem’s Captain Salazar. Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg directed the film, which also sees the return of both Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, who were absent from the fourth installment.

This weekend, a number of films are meeting or passing milestones both in the U.S. and abroad. Universal’s “Fate of the Furious” became the sixth film to earn over $1 billion overseas. Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” passed $500 million domestically putting it in elite company as well. With $783 million globally, Disney and Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” has surpassed the first “Guardians” movie’s total earnings. Disney in general is keeping the box office afloat — as of Friday, the studio became the first to have earned over $1 billion in 2017, reaching the milestone in near record time. The only time a studio has earned so much so quickly was Disney last year.

More to come …


Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” enjoyed one of the widest releases in Chinese history and opened with a $66 million three-day weekend opening.

The film played 115,000 screenings on Friday, expanding to over 130,000 on Saturday, and then 115,000 on Sunday. According to data from local provider Ent Group, “Pirates” scored $19.3 million on Friday, $19.4 million on Saturday, and enjoyed its biggest day on Sunday with $25.3 million, the first day of the two-day Dragon Boat Festival public holiday.

The film’s cumulative score, including previews, puts it in the top 20 of all time in China, but also a long way behind the $184 million scored by “The Fate of the Furious” some six weeks earlier. “Furious 8” enjoyed some 160,000 screenings per day at its peak, and now has a total of $390 million.



“Pirates” was a huge hit on IMAX screens in China. It earned some $9 million of its China total on 401 IMAX screens. All other international markets combined added up to $8 million.

The heavyweight launch of “Pirates” represented a sharp brake on the progress of India’s “Dangal,” which had topped the chart for the past two weeks. In its fourth week the (Disney-backed) “Dangal” scored $11.0 million. That gave it a 24-day cumulative total of $137 million in China.

Representing, a big change, six of the following places were taken by Chinese-made new releases, all released on Saturday.

Hong Kong-Chinese action film, “God of War” scored $4.3 million in two days in third place. Comedy romance, “Didi’s Dream” grossed $2.57 million.

Chinese animation, “The Three Little Pigs” scored $1.44 million. “La Historia De Un Amor” scored $1.21 million.

American sci-fi thriller, “Life” scored $970,000 in seventh place. Chinese drama, “Edge of Innocence” scored $930,000 in eighth place. Chinese animation, “My King, My Father” followed, earning $430,000.


“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” landed on top of the South Korean box office, accounting for 48% of the total weekend revenue. Opening on 1,323 screens nationwide on Wednesday (May 24), the Disney release earned $11.5 million from 1.52 million admissions in five days. Its opening day was $1.46 million exceeding that of “Beauty and the Beast,” 2017’s biggest non-Korean release.

Political documentary, “Our President” debuted in second. The Thursday opener earned $4.36 million in first four days, by far the biggest opening weekend score for a homegrown independent documentary. The film revisits the journey of Roh Moo-hyun, South Korea’s president from 2003 to 2008.

UPI’s “Get Out” and CJ Entertainment’s Cannes entry “The Merciless” slipped to third and fourth, respectively. “Get Out” earned $3.01 million between Friday and Sunday for a total of $12.7 million after two weekends. “Merciless” earned $826,000 between Friday and Sunday for a total of $6.13 million.



DreamWorks’ “Boss Baby” dropped to fifth, earning $692,000 between Friday and Sunday. The animated feature has accumulated a total of $16.2 million after four weekends.

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