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Review: 'The Joneses' is another studio comedy misfire

It's now been more than 10 years since "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" and five since "Bridesmaids." (Feel old yet?) There have, undoubtedly, been good comedies since, namely things with Melissa McCarthy in them, Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha" and anything Wes Anderson is putting out. But there has been perhaps no greater casualty to the constrictions of blockbuster-centric Hollywood than comedy. The freedom necessary for comedy to thrive is mostly found on television; the action is with "Broad City," ''Atlanta," ''Inside Amy Schumer" and others.

Mottola, the director of "Adventureland" and "Superbad," has been at the center of comedy on both the big screen and on TV ("Arrested Development," the underrated "Clear History"), but "Keeping Up With the Joneses," written by Michael LeSieur ("You, Me and Dupree") doesn't have much of the naturalism that has distinguished his best.

Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher play Jeff and Karen Gaffney, a regular suburbanite couple experiencing an empty nest for the first time with their kids away at summer camp. An impossibly stylish and accomplished couple moves in next door, the Joneses (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot, taking a break from her Wonder Woman duties). He's a travel writer who can blow his own glass; she writes a cooking blog and wears cocktail dresses to neighborhood barbeques.

But what makes the Joneses most jealous of them is their easy affection with one another. Though its name is taken from the status-obsessed phrase first made famous by a 1913 comic strip and coopted by the Kardashians, this "Keeping Up With the Joneses" is a comedy about marital passion rekindled.

That the Joneses are putting up a facade is evident from the start, but the movie cleverly subverts the nature of their secret identities. They are elite government spies of some sort, but not as far removed from the normal squabbles and challenges of marriage as you might think.

The collision of international espionage thrills and quiet suburban life has become familiar by now thanks to the likes of "The Matador," ''Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and "The Americans." When the bullets start flying, "Keeping Up With the Jones" has some moves of its own, thanks to the talents of Galifianakis (here playing a naive, aw-shucks character that limits him) and the always game Fisher. Only Hamm manages to create a three-dimensional character: a James Bond secretly yearning to be a regular guy.

But whatever is cramping the style of "Keeping Up With Joneses" — whether it's the PG-13 rating, the stock characters or a thin script — the feeling never leaves that everyone here could do better if they were really let loose. Alas, it's going to take more than Wonder Woman to save the studio comedy.

"Keeping Up With the Joneses," a 20th Century Fox release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "sexual content, action/violence and brief strong language." Running time: 101 minutes. Two stars out of four.


Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at:

Emma Stone, Jane Curtin join Bill Murray tribute in DC

Emma Stone and Jane Curtin are late additions to the lineup of performers who'll celebrate Bill Murray when he receives the nation's top prize for humor.

The Kennedy Center announced Tuesday that Stone and Curtin will take the stage in honor of Murray on Sunday night. Murray is this year's recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Curtin performed alongside Murray on "Saturday Night Live." Stone co-starred with him in the little-seen movie "Aloha."

Also new to the lineup are musician Rhiannon Giddens and Ivan Reitman, who directed Murray in "Ghostbusters." Murray's co-star in that movie, Dan Aykroyd, has dropped out of the event. The Kennedy Center says he has a scheduling conflict.

Previously announced performers include David Letterman, Sigourney Weaver and Aziz Ansari.

5 Things to Know about the Smithsonian's ruby slippers

The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History has launched a crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter to preserve the ruby slippers from the 1939 movie "The Wizard of Oz." The museum hopes to raise $300,000 in a month. Here are five things to know about the famous relic:

— THEY'RE NOT THE ONLY PAIR: At least seven pairs of slippers were made for the movie, and four pairs are known to exist. The Smithsonian's pair was donated anonymously in 1979 after being sold at auction in 1970. Two other pairs are owned by private collectors, including a pair purchased by Leonardo DiCaprio and Steven Spielberg for display at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which opens next year in Los Angeles. A fourth pair was stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in 2005, and remains at large.

— THEY'RE MISMATCHED: One shoe is wider than the other, and there are other subtle differences in their shape and construction. Each has Garland's name scrawled on the inside. One is marked as "#1," the other as "#6."

— NO RUBIES: The shoes are made from about a dozen different materials, including wood pulp, silk thread, gelatin, plastic and glass. Most of the ruby color comes from sequins, but the bows of the shoes contain red glass beads. They began as ordinary shoes that were dyed red, and a netting with the sequins was fitted for them and sewn on. They have felt on the soles to muffle their sound for dance sequences.

— NOT MADE TO LAST: The shoes are nearly 80 years old, and like most movie props, they weren't built to last. During their time at the museum, the color has faded significantly from exposure to light and moisture. Some of the sequins have no red plastic coating left and are no longer translucent.

— COSTLY PRESERVATION: If the Smithsonian successfully raises $300,000, most of the money will go toward scientific research and construction of a special case that will keep them from deteriorating further. The shoes will also be cleaned, but nothing will be done to enhance their color or repair them with newer materials.

Review: A boy comes of age in achingly powerful 'Moonlight'

child, teenager and young adult.

This is no "Boyhood," however. There are three actors portraying Chiron (surely to be a Sophie's Choice come awards season), and although it takes a bit of imagination to accept the three as the same person, "Moonlight" feels somehow even more poignant than that 12-year experiment. That's no small feat, and perhaps that's because of the power of the subject and its exploration of the gayness of an African American man.

But Jenkins has also accomplished something truly extraordinary in that "Moonlight" feels as real and raw and vague and specific as a memory. That this all coalesces into a coherent and impactful story is a testament to his singular talent — not to mention how wildly different it is from his debut, "Medicine for Melancholy."

Jenkins adapted "Moonlight" from Tarell Alvin McCraney's play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue." The subject, Chiron (played first by the promising newcomer Alex Hibbert) is introduced as a wisp of a boy in a rough, sunny neighborhood. He's being chased by some kids when he finds refuge in a blighted apartment. An adult on the streets notices the scene and comes to Chiron's aid, coaxing him out of hiding and back into the world.

Something is not right with this quiet little boy and this man, Juan (a powerful standout Mahershala Ali), and his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe) are generous and well off enough to help. We soon find out that Chiron is indeed from an unstable home. His mother, Paula (Naomie Harris, showing grit and substance) is fiercely protective of her little boy when she's alert, but she's also a full blown addict. It's a condition that only worsens with time.

Thus, Chiron bumbles back and forth between the nurturing hominess of basic strangers, the coldness of school and the ugliness of his mother's place. There's also the uncomfortable truth that Paula buys her drugs from Juan's men. His savoir is the reason he needs saving.

The raw edges of his life are even more frayed when we meet up with him again as a teenager. Chiron (now played by Ashton Sanders) has shot up like a reed, but not yet out. His stature and quietude make him even more of a target for the hulking, clique-y boys around him, who bully and taunt him with glee.

It's only Kevin (played by Jaden Piner as a child, Jharrel Jerome as a teen and André Holland as an adult) who provides any sort of friendship throughout his life. In the teenage section, the two share an intense and passionately physical connection one night on the beach — an interaction that, however fleeting, will follow him for years.

A moment of rage stemming from the newly awakened Chiron will define the next chapter of his life, too. But I'll refrain from describing this third part. It's a transformation that's best experienced, and it's one that left my heart in pieces.

"Moonlight" is not propelled by story so much as atmosphere — a melancholy blend of music, careful imagery and colors and repeating motifs that will linger in your mind long after the credits roll. It's one of the most exciting character studies in recent memory and one that will endure beyond the politics and impermanence of awards season.

Hopefully it doesn't take Jenkins another eight years to make a film. But we can take comfort in the very strong likelihood that, even if it does, it will be well worth the wait.

"Moonlight," an A24 release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for "some sexuality, drug use, brief violence, and language throughout." Running time: 110 minutes. Four stars out of four.


MPAA Definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.


Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter:

The top 10 movies on the iTunes Store

iTunes Movies US Charts:

1. Ghostbusters (2016)

2. The Infiltrator

3. The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

4. Central Intelligence

5. X-Men: Apocalypse

6. Star Trek Beyond

7. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

8. Ice Age: Collision Course

9. Dirty Grandpa (Unrated)

10. Jack Reacher

iTunes Movies US Charts - Independent:

1. The Infiltrator

2. Hello, My Name Is Doris

3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

4. Blue Jay

5. Captain Fantastic

6. Our Kind of Traitor

7. Blood Father

8. The Fourth Phase

9. Swiss Army Man

10. A Most Wanted Man


(copyright) 2016 Apple Inc.

Tom Cruise accompanies Jack Reacher to Tennessee for charity

A screening of Tom Cruise's new film brought the actor to Knoxville, Tennessee, where it raised $600,000 for the Children's Charity of Eastern Tennessee.

Media outlets report the fundraiser was held Monday night at the Pinnacle 18 theater in Turkey Creek. The event included live music, a catered meal, some time for attendees to interact with Cruise on the carpet outside the theater and an advance screening of Cruise's new film, "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back."

About a thousand people attended the event, which raised $600,000 for the Children's Charity of Eastern Tennessee. Also known as Variety of Eastern Tennessee, the organization raises money for numerous organizations that serve at-risk children.

The movie is a sequel to the 2012 film "Jack Reacher." It hits theaters on Friday.

DiCaprio says he's cooperating with DOJ in Malaysian scandal

Leonardo DiCaprio says he's awaiting direction from the U.S. Justice Department regarding any ill-gotten funds that may have supported his environmental foundation or 2013 film "The Wolf of Wall Street."

The Oscar-winning actor released a statement through his representatives Tuesday saying he will return any gifts or donations connected to a Malaysian wealth fund, pending a fraud investigation of that fund by the U.S. and other countries. Court filings in connection with the investigations allege a complex money laundering scheme intended to enrich top-level officials of the Malaysian government-controlled wealth fund.

"Both Mr. DiCaprio and (the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation) continue to be entirely supportive of all efforts to assure that justice is done in this matter," the statement said. "Mr. DiCaprio is grateful for the lead and instruction of the government on how to accomplish this."

The Justice Department says that at least $3.5 billion has been stolen from the wealth fund, known as 1MDB, by people close to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Najib created the fund in 2009 shortly after he took office to promote economic development projects in the Asian nation, but the fund accumulated billions in debts over the years.

The Justice Department has initiated action to seize $1.3 billion it says was taken from the fund to buy assets in the U.S., including luxury properties in New York and California, a $35 million jet, art by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet, and financing of "The Wolf of Wall Street," according to federal government complaints filed in Los Angeles in July.

The government complaints also say that more than $700 million has landed in the accounts of "Malaysian Official 1." They didn't name the official, but appear to be referring to Najib.

The Justice Department complaints also do not mention DiCaprio by name, but make an oblique reference to "Hollywood Actor 1," who during his Golden Globe acceptance speech thanked "the entire production team" and singled out several people close to Najib implicated in the scandal as "collaborators" on the film. DiCaprio won the Golden Globe for his "Wolf of Wall Street" performance.

The Justice Department complaints identify the collaborators by name, including Najib's stepson, Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz, who co-founded movie production company Red Granite Pictures. Besides "The Wolf of Wall Street," other films produced by Red Granite include 2015's "Daddy's Home" and 2014's "Dumb and Dumber To."

Last week, a Swiss rainforest charity demanded that DiCaprio resign from his post as a United Nations "Messenger of Peace" if he doesn't disclose his financial ties to the Malaysian fund. But on Monday, a U.N. spokesman expressed continued support for the actor.

Stephane Dujarric said he understands that DiCaprio's foundation is working with the relevant authorities in the U.S. to resolve the issue.

"We continue to welcome his public work on behalf of climate change," Dujarric said.

Najib has consistently denied any wrongdoing since allegations of massive fraud in the fund erupted last year. He remains firmly in political control by clamping down on critics and because of unwavering support of most ruling party members. The opposition is too weak in Malaysia to dislodge him.

Democracy group Bersih plans to hold a mass street rally on Nov. 19 to demand Najib's immediate resignation to allow an independent investigation in Malaysia into the financial scandal.


Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.

In 'Tower,' a mass shooting before anyone knew what that was

Neal Spelce was scrounging for news to fill his Austin station's noon radio broadcast when he heard this announcement on the police scanner: "We have a report of a shot being fired at the University of Texas."

That message, on Aug. 1, 1966, didn't even begin to capture the magnitude of the tragedy about to rock the sleepy college town.

Charles Whitman, an architectural engineering major and U.S. Marine sniper, had climbed the campus clock tower and launched a killing rampage considered one of the first "mass shootings" in modern American history.

A new documentary film, "Tower," captures the sense of confusion and carnage that permeates many major acts of violence. But it also illustrates how extremely rare such events were back then — a stark contrast to more recent massacres that have become almost chillingly common.

Director Keith Maitland tells the story using animation spliced with news photographs and footage, radio clips and testimonials provided chiefly by eight survivors. Among them is Spelce, then news director for KTBC-TV, who soon after that initial report was in a station vehicle, broadcasting on radio as he drove toward the sniper.

"It was really an unbelievable scene, unlike anything anyone had ever seen before and you didn't have any frame of reference," Spelce, then 30, said in a phone interview. "It wasn't like today. There was no police tape marking anything off. No authority saying 'Stand back.' We were able to go straight onto the campus."

The documentary has begun opening in theaters nationally, five decades after an attack in which Whitman, then 25, killed 13 people and wounded nearly three dozen others. He had killed his wife and mother prior to heading to the tower, one victim died a week later and medical examiners eventually attributed a 17th death to Whitman in 2001.

Rather than focusing on the sniper, though, the documentary explores what it was like on the ground during the mayhem. Men, women and a newspaper delivery boy were shot without warning, before they even knew to be afraid — and some survived. Some scrambled for any cover they could find in the nearly 100-degree heat. Police and ordinary Texans would eventually rush to get their own guns and fire back, in vain, at Whitman from the ground.

The sniper's face doesn't appear in animation; only his legs are shown after he's killed by police and a store manager who made their way to the top of the clock tower. Whitman's name isn't mentioned until more than hour into the film.

"I felt like really every other newspaper article, magazine article, the one bad TV movie and other kinds of basic-cable, true-crime investigations were always about the sniper and trying to unravel his motivations," Maitland said, panning a 1975 Kurt Russell made-for-TV offering called "The Deadly Tower."

"We would never know the answers to those questions," he added. "But what was answerable was what it was like to survive."

When the shooting started, a TV station near to the clock tower rolled a camera close — some say it was onto a balcony, others remember it as by an open window. The footage, which Maitland said hadn't been previously accessed since the 1970s, appears in the documentary and provides the much of the visceral, seemingly endless sounds of booming gunfire throughout it. Authorities would later say Whitman had 700 rounds of ammunition, though how many times he fired between around 11:48 a.m., as the attack began, and when he was killed about 90 minutes later is unknown.

Claire Wilson James had just finished an anthropology test when she and her boyfriend, Tom Eckman, began walking through campus to put a nickel in the meter where their Volkswagen was parked. The 18-year-old was eight months pregnant and describes in the film being shot and feeling her baby stop moving — then lying on the blistering pavement beside Eckman's body.

Bystanders carried James to safety eventually, knowing they too could be shot at any instant. Another of the documentary's stars, John "Artly" Fox, said at Austin's South by Southwest Film Festival in March that the rescuers figured they had a 75 percent chance of survival since the tower's observation deck was four-sided. While Whitman was firing from all four, he couldn't be more than one place at once.

James spent seven weeks in intensive care. She resumed classes the following January and said she never felt "horror or trauma" returning to campus — but eventually left school anyway.

"It seems like you're with the love of your life and I'm going to have a baby in another month or so, and then, all of a sudden, everything's gone," James, who now lives in Texarkana, Texas, said in a phone interview. "I just felt a lot of loneliness."

Maitland said many mass killings prior to Whitman's had clearer motives. What occurred at the University of Texas was targeting people with no connection to the sniper.

"These random public acts are the most terrifying because there's nothing you can do to prevent them. There's no amount of vigilance you can have with somebody, especially a long-range sniper," Maitland said. "That's where the real turning point is in the story of public crime."


This story has been corrected to reflect the quote should be attributed to James, not Jones.

Harry Shearer sues French studio over 'Spinal Tap' profits

Comedian Harry Shearer announced Tuesday that he has sued a French film studio over tens of millions in dollars in profits he claims he and his co-creators are owed for creating the classic mockumentary "This Is Spinal Tap."

Shearer's lawsuit filed in a federal court in Los Angeles on Monday claims the French company Vivendi S.A. and its subsidiary StudioCanal withheld profits from the film, its music and its merchandise.

Shearer released a two-minute video on Twitter announcing the lawsuit, urging people to share it with the hashtag #fairnessrocks.

Shearer co-created the satire about a British rock band on the decline, which has been featured on numerous top movie lists of all time since its 1984 release. "This Is Spinal Tap" was made for $2.25 million, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit seeks $125 million from Vivendi but did not give a breakdown of how much that amount represents in profits Vivendi received and how much Shearer says he is entitled to in additional damages.

The film earned $4.5 million in theaters when it was released, and its re-release earned $193,000, according to figures from box office analysis firm comScore.

Those figures do not take into account money the film earned on the home video market, which would include VHS tapes, DVDs, Blu-Ray and its airings on television and cable.

Vivendi told Shearer and his co-creators that their share of merchandise between the 1984 release of the film and 2013 was $81, the lawsuit stated.

The company said their share of profits on music on songs such as "Sex Farm" and "Stonehenge" was $98, according to the lawsuit, which also said Vivendi has not provided accounting for the film's profits since 2013.

The band included Shearer, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean, who were later joined by actor-director Rob Reiner to create the film and its music. Guest, McKean and Reiner are not plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed by Shearer's company, Century of Progress Productions.

Vivendi in an emailed statement declined comment on the lawsuit.

A jury would determine the amount of any damages awarded to Shearer's company. He is also asking a judge to award him trademarks to the band name Spinal Tap and his character's name, Derek Smalls.

If awarded the trademarks, Shearer could use the names to sell Spinal Tap-related merchandise.

The comedian also voices several characters on the long-running Fox animated series "The Simpsons."


This story has been corrected to show the hashtag is #fairnessrocks, not #fairness rocks and that the name of one song is "Sex Farm" not "Sex Far."


Anthony McCartney can be reached at

Hundreds in Warsaw bid farewell to filmmaker Andrzej Wajda

Hundreds of Warsaw residents and public figures packed a church Tuesday for a mourning Mass to bid farewell to renowned filmmaker Andrzej Wajda.

Wajda, who received an honorary lifetime achievement Oscar in 2000, died in a hospital Oct. 9 at the age of 90, just months after finishing "Afterimage," a movie that will compete for a foreign language Academy Award.

The film is a biopic about avant-garde artist Wladyslaw Strzeminski fighting totalitarian Stalinist ideology.

Culture Minister Piotr Glinski, former presidents Aleksander Kwasniewski and Bronislaw Komorowski as well as popular Polish actors, many of whom played in Wajda's movies, were in the crowd that packed Warsaw's St. Jack church for the special Mass.

"I came here for him, because he merits our memory," Stella Wiktor, 82, told The Associated Press before the Mass. "I saw almost all of his films and they will always be with me."

An urn with Wajda's ashes and his portrait stood near the altar, which was decorated with white gladiolas.

"We are losing a teacher, someone with great authority," the Rev. Andrzej Luter said in the homily.

"He knew how to effectively expose the world of primitive propaganda around us," Luter said.

In awarding him an Oscar for lifetime achievement, the Academy members said Wajda was "a man whose films have given audiences around the world an artist's view of history, democracy and freedom, and who in so doing has himself become a symbol of courage and hope for millions of people in postwar Europe."

He made more than 40 movies, including the 1977 "Man of Marble," which looked at the roots of worker discontent in communist Poland in the 1950s; and "Man of Iron," in 1981, on the rise of the Solidarity labor union movement that won him the top prize, the Palme d'Or at Cannes festival that year.

Crowds are expected for Wajda's funeral that will be held Wednesday in the southern city of Krakow, where his mother is buried.

He is survived by his fourth wife, stage designer and actress Krystyna Zachwatowicz, and by his daughter Karolina, as well as by former wife, actress Beata Tyszkiewicz.

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