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Provocative 'Civil War' prevails at the box office in its second weekend

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Provocative 'Civil War' prevails at the box office in its second weekend

Alex Garland’s “Civil War” fended off incursions from new movies to retain its box office title for the second weekend in a row.

The provocative film, from independent A24, is expected to generate about $11.1 million in ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada through Sunday, bringing its total domestic box gross to $44.9 million, according to Comscore.

The R-rated dystopian thriller, also written by Garland, stars Kirsten Dunst, Cailee Spaeny and Wagner Moura as journalists in a near-future time struggling to cover deadly urban warfare on U.S. soil, as California and Texas unite to take down a president who has given himself an unconstitutional third term.

Universal Pictures’ “Abigail,” the R-rated horror tale about a monstrous 12-year-old ballerina battling her captors, made a splash as it came in a close second to “Civil War” with an estimated $10.2 million at the box office, according to Comscore. It opened in 3,384 locations.

Comscore estimated the overall total box office haul for the three-day window would reach $65.4 million. Year-to-date, the box office slump continues with an estimated $1.98 billion in domestic ticket sales, down 19% compared with 2023.

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Last weekend, “Civil War” opened with an estimated $25.7 million in ticket sales from the U.S. and Canada, which exceeded industry expectations. The strong showing marked the biggest domestic opening weekend for an A24 movie since the company’s founding 12 years ago. With a reported $50 million budget, “Civil War” is A24’s most expensive movie ever. The movie played in 3,929 theaters.

A24’s movies include best-picture Oscar winners “Moonlight” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” and other standouts including, “Hereditary,” “Lady Bird” and “Uncut Gems.”

Last weekend, “Civil War” toppled Warner Bros.’ “Godzilla x Kong,” which had held the top spot for two weekends. This weekend, “Godzilla x Kong,” is expected to come in third place with $9.5 million in ticket sales for a domestic total of $171.6 million through four weekends.

Two other new releases planted their flags. Guy Ritchie’s “The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare,” from Lionsgate, was projected to finish the weekend in fourth place with an estimated $9 million. Sony Pictures/Crunchyroll’s “Spy x Family Code: White” should generate about $4.9 million, placing fifth for the weekend.

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Movie Reviews

‘The Village Next to Paradise’ Review: Somali Family Drama Doubles as a Potent Portrait of Life in the Shadow of War

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‘The Village Next to Paradise’ Review: Somali Family Drama Doubles as a Potent Portrait of Life in the Shadow of War

Mo Harawe’s debut feature The Village Next to Paradise is a haunting offering. The film, which premiered at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section and is the first Somali film to ever screen on the Croisette, presents a compelling narrative of one family’s survival in a sleepy Somali town. But it’s the devastating backdrop against which their drama plays out that lingers long after the credits roll. 

The siren wails of drones soundtrack each scene of Harawe’s film, which opens with footage of a real-life report of a United States drone strike on Somalia. Since the U.S. began using drones in the East African country in the early 2000s, Somalis have suffered at the hands of an enveloping and ravenous counterterrorism operation. According to data from the New America foundation, there have been more than 300 documented uses of drones resulting in hundreds of known civilian deaths.

The Village Next to Paradise

The Bottom Line

Uneven but affecting.

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Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard)
Cast: Ahmed Ali Farah, Ahmed Mohamud Saleban, Anab Ahmed Ibrahim
Director-screenwriter: Mo Harawe

2 hours 13 minutes

The fatal impact of contemporary warfare organizes life in Paradise village, a locale whose name seems more melancholic with time. Marmargade (Ahmed Ali Farah), a principal character in Harawe’s languorous film, makes money doing odd jobs, but one of his most lucrative gigs involves burying the dead. Some of the people for whom he finds a place in the sandy terrain died of natural causes, but many of them are victims of foreign airstrikes. When this business slows, Marmargade reluctantly smuggles a truck full of goods — the contents of which play a pivotal role later — to a nearby city. 

Because Marmargade knows the realities of living in a place shrouded by the shadow of death, he strives for a better life for his son Cigaal (Ahmed Mohamud Saleban), a buoyant kid who thinks nothing of the constant buzzing coming from the sky. When the local school cancels classes for the year because of chronic absenteeism among the teachers, Marmargade works to send Cigaal to a school in the city, where safety is more than an illusion. But Cigaal doesn’t want to leave his family, friends or his life in the village. When Marmargade proposes this new life to him, the child rejects the idea. 

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The main narrative of The Village Next to Paradise revolves around the conflicting desires within this makeshift family. Marmargade lives with his sister Araweelo (Anab Ahmed Ibrahim), a recently divorced woman who wants to build her own tailoring shop. The two have the kind of fractious relationship resulting from years of mistrust. She thinks her brother should be honest with Cigaal instead of trying to trick the young one into going to school. Marmargade wants his sister’s financial support more than her advice. After she refuses to lend him the money for tuition, Marmargade makes a series of decisions that threatens all their livelihoods. 

Harawe’s film contains many admirable elements. With its unhurried pacing and tender focus on a single family, The Village Next to Paradise recalls Gabriel Martins’ 2022 feature Mars One. And the way Harawe structures the film around a broader geopolitical conflict resembles the role the Chadian civil war played in Mahamet Saleh Haroun’s  2010 film A Screaming Man, which also premiered at Cannes. The cinematography (by Mostafa El Kashef) offers truly striking images that conjure up the ghostly atmosphere of this village without turning its people into caricatures for a Western gaze hungry for a particular kind of poverty porn. 

But The Village Next to Paradise is also hobbled in places by its meandering narrative and occasionally wooden performances from Harawe’s cast of local nonprofessional actors. The sharpness of Harawe’s vision is dulled by a story that takes one too many detours before settling into itself. Characters with dubious relevance are introduced and then dropped, while ones who come to play crucial roles don’t get an appropriate amount of screen time.

The film becomes more dynamic in its latter half, when Marmargade’s desperation leads him to questionable decisions that clash with Araweelo’s desires. Indeed, it’s also during these parts of the film that Harawe pulls the strongest performances from his actors, who otherwise struggle to shake off an understandable stiffness. 

Despite these flaws, Harawe’s film does have a real staying power. The Village Next to Paradise orients itself around a quiet optimism and surprising humor that mirror real life. There are moments throughout that serve as a reminder that even in places where death feels close, hope for tomorrow is still alive.

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‘Masked Singer’ winner reveals whether they will resume 'Musical' — that was a clue — career

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‘Masked Singer’ winner reveals whether they will resume 'Musical' — that was a clue — career

Sixteen contestants went down to one Wednesday night when the “Masked Singer” crowned Goldfish the winner. Underneath the mask was Disney darling, Coachella queen and Broadway beauty Vanessa Hudgens, who was champion of Season 11 of the reality TV competition series.

The competition was down to Goldfish, who sang “Heart of Glass” by Blondie and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” by Elton John, and Gumball, who chose “Latch” by Disclosure featuring Sam Smith and “Renegade” by Styx. The candy man was revealed to be “Friday Night Lights” star Scott Porter, who worked with Hudgens on 2009’s “Bandslam.”

Judges Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg and Robin Thicke both guessed incorrectly that he was Derek Hough. Ken Jeong guessed Taran Killam, and Rita Ora thought Joseph Gordon-Levitt was under the mask.

They fared much better unmasking Goldfish: While Thicke guessed Hilary Duff and Jeong said it was Nicole Scherzinger, both Ora and McCarthy-Wahlberg were correct that the star of Broadway’s “Gigi” was their winner.

“It’s honestly the most incredible thing ever. I’ve just been so excited to take my mask off and stare into Rita’s eyes and be like ‘Girl, this is why I couldn’t hang out with you,’” Hudgens, a longtime friend of Ora’s, exclaimed after the reveal.

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“I was like, ‘What’s going on with Vanessa? She always texts me back’ — but now it’s because you were here,” Ora yelled back from the judges’ seats.

The “High School Musical” star had been asked to join the show several times but decided this time to give her fans a taste of what they’ve been missing in her time away from music, Hudgens told ET.

“My fans had been asking, saying, ‘We want more music, we want singing anything, give it to us please.’ And I was like, ‘You know, this would be a really interesting way to give my fans what they want, but make sure they’re really fans,’” she said. “And they are!”

But the Queen of Coachella, so named because of her remarkable outfits at the annual Southern California music festival, admitted that she would probably stick to the screen for the immediate future.

The actor’s “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” opens in theaters on June 7. It’s the fourth film in the Will Smith-Martin Lawrence buddy cop action comedy franchise. Hudgens also co-starred in the third movie, “Bad Boys for Life.”

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“I always say life is about priorities and [music’s] just not a top priority right now,” the new mom said. “Who knows? Maybe down the line, maybe it will be, but as of now, it’s still no.”

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Short Film Review: Karita (2023) by Virginia de Witt and Koji Ueda

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Short Film Review: Karita (2023) by Virginia de Witt and Koji Ueda

“So I came here…”

Headed by actress-turned-director Virginia de Witt and Koji Ueda, a Kyoto-born Tokyo-based director, photographer, and filmmaker, “Karita” is a film inspired by the manga series “Nana”, while trying to answer the question, what if “Lost in Translation” was cast with the “Fleabag” character. The 17-minute short will be premiering at the Dances With Films Festival on June 22nd in Los Angeles.

The film begins with a series of impressive images from nighttime Tokyo, while the ominous music suggests that something dangerous is about to happen. The next scene has two women walking in the streets during the day, as Nico, an American, is shown around Tokyo by her friend
and supervisor at a local record store, Rumi. The camera is shaky and the cuts frantic, while there is a different dialogue heard in the background. The next, dominated by neon pink lights scene, brings us to the location the dialogue is taking place, inside a bar, where the two girls are talking to two boys and one girl, with Nico asking them if they have ever done anything dangerous. One of the boys, Ren, starts talking about people stealing cars. Nico shares her own experience in the US, which makes everyone in the table rather amused.

The night continues with a lot of drinking and eventually, Rumi decides to go home, cautioning her friend not to do anything stupid, before she goes. The next scene takes place in a garage with a sports car, which belongs to the uncle of the second of the boys in the company, Kenji. Suki, the other girl, who is quite drunk, insists they take the car for a drive, despite the yakuza-like uncle having specifically cautioned his nephew otherwise. In the end, with Ren in the driver’s seat, they take a drive around Tokyo.

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Unfolding much like a road-movie/music video, “Karita” will definitely stand out due to its impressive visuals, with Koi Ueda’s cinematography, in combination with the impressive lighting and coloring, capturing night time Tokyo in the most impressive fashion. Curtis Anthony Williams’s frequently frantic editing also adds to this sense, while the rather fast pace definitely suits the overall aesthetics here.

At the same time, there is a part of the movie that is quite realistic as the group visit various locations, as a pier, a convenience store, the record store, and the aftermaths of getting drunk and doing stupid things is also highlighted. A pinch of humor, as in the whole concept of the uncle and Suki’s actions, and some notions of romance, cement the rather entertaining narrative here.

Virginia de Witt plays the foreigner that tries to appear cool in order to fit in with gusto, while Haruka Hirata as Rumi is quite convincing as the “cautious” friend, with the chemistry of the two also being on a very high level, presenting a rather kawaii relationship between them. The other actress that stands out here is Mika Ushiko, who is quite convincing as the drunk Suki.

As mentioned before though, the aspect that makes “Karita” stand out is definitely its production values, which are on a level very rarely met in short films, while being the main reason the movie definitely deserves a watch. All in all, a very appealing film, in an effort that intrigues on what the filmmakers could do with a bigger budget in their hands, that would allow them to explore the script and the characters more.

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