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Review: Lovingly constructed 'Red Turtle' entertains slowly

In its typical Hollywood form, an animated feature is usually the cinematic equivalent of a sugar rush — a frantic barrage of colors and movement and jokes and sounds.

It's safe to say that "The Red Turtle," a fortuitous collaboration between Japan's famed Studio Ghibli and Dutch animator-director Michael Dudok de Wit, is very, very different. A fable, beautifully drawn in calm, soothing colors, it doesn't even have dialogue, let alone a throbbing soundtrack. Those sounds you hear are the sounds of silence, and eventually they become hypnotic.

As Dudok de Wit tells it, he received an email out of the blue in 2006 from the vaunted animation studio, asking if he'd be interested in working on his first feature (the director is known for his animated shorts.) He was, and he came up with the story of a man cast away on a deserted island.

The director's research took him to his own deserted island, in the Seychelles, where he shot thousands of photographs. He wanted to recreate the feeling of how time stands still in such a place. He spent nine years creating that animated world. And you can tell.

The film begins with a roiling sea. A man is lost in the waves; we don't know how he got there. Finally, he washes up on a tranquil island, inhabited seemingly only by a few friendly crabs on the beach.

Exploring the rocky cliffs, he slips and falls into a crevasse, and seems about to drown in the water below when he steels his nerves, dives deeper down, and finds a way out. Slowly, in this way, he learns how to cope with the forces of nature around him. And slowly we relax, too, into the rhythms of this natural world.

There are some lovely greens and blues and grays here, but unlike many animated films, the palette is limited and the colors fairly muted — as they are in life. It's beautiful, but we also know that the man — of course we don't know his name, or anything about him — aches to find a way back to civilization.

He builds an impressive raft and sets sail, only to have some unknown underwater force — could it be a shark? — destroy it and send him gasping to the shore. He rebuilds the raft and tries again, but the same force destroys it once more.

It turns out this is no shark, but a big, beautiful red turtle that is thwarting our man's dream of escape. But why? And how will this confrontation end?

It's tempting to continue recounting the plot here, but this is one of those films where the less you know beforehand, the better. Suffice it to say that as our main character learns to be patient with nature, we too sense the need to slow down and wait for our own gratification.

Of course nature can be terrifying, too, in sudden ways, and so another thing this expressive film manages to convey is how vulnerable man is to the caprices of nature. Finally, we're also asked to contemplate our attitudes toward death — but now we're really getting ahead of ourselves. No more plot revelations here, other than to say that the entire cycle of life is lovingly portrayed.

After watching "The Red Turtle," you might find yourself checking out flights to your own deserted island. Especially now, with so much turbulence in the headlines, you could do worse than submit to 80 minutes of watching crabs crawl in the sand and feeling some cool ocean breezes — if you pay close enough attention, you can actually sense them wafting through the screen.

"The Red Turtle," a Sony Pictures Classics release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America "for some thematic elements and peril." Running time: 80 minutes. Three stars out of four.

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MPAA definition of PG: Parental Guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

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Follow Jocelyn Noveck at http://www.Twitter.com/JocelynNoveckAP

Polanski to preside over French cinema awards ceremony

Filmmaker Roman Polanski will preside over this year's Cesars Awards ceremony, the French equivalent of the Oscars.

The Academy of Arts and Techniques of cinema said Wednesday the 83-year-old Polanski is expected to deliver the opening and closing speeches during the Feb. 24 ceremony in Paris.

Polanski, who lives in France, won eight Cesars over the course of his career, including for best director in 2014 for his film Venus in Furs.

Alain Terzian, the president of the academy, said Polanski is an "insatiable esthete reinventing his art and works over the years."

Polanski is wanted in the U.S. in a case involving sex with a minor that has been hanging over him for almost 40 years. He won the best-director Academy Award for "The Pianist" in 2003.

Hong Kong actor Andy Lau injured while working in Thailand

Hong Kong actor Andy Lau has been injured while working in Thailand.

A statement from his representative said the 55-year-old actor fell off a horse and injured his pelvis on the set of a commercial Tuesday.

The statement thanked people who expressed their concern but said fans shouldn't worry. It said: "Mr. Lau is under the sound care of a medical team and all is fine."

No further information about how he was injured or his current condition was disclosed.

Lau is one of the most beloved actors from Hong Kong and has won countless accolades for singing and acting.

His notable films include the blockbuster thriller "Infernal Affairs" and the drama "A Simple Life." He recently appeared in Chinese director Zhang Yimou's period drama "The Great Wall," opposite Matt Damon.

Lau is married with a 4-year-old daughter.

Indian court acquits actor Salman Khan of using illegal arms

Top Bollywood star Salman Khan was acquitted by a court on Wednesday on a charge of using unlicensed weapons while hunting for rare blackbucks in a western India wildlife preserve 18 years ago.

Khan, 51, was present as Chief Judicial Magistrate Dalpat Singh Rajpurohit announced his acquittal in Jodhpur, a city in Rajasthan state.

His attorney, Hastimal Saraswat, said the magistrate dismissed the charge against Khan for lack of evidence. If convicted, he would have faced up to seven years in prison.

The prosecution argued that the license for a revolver and a rifle allegedly used by Khan had expired in 1998.

As Khan's fans cheered his acquittal, he tweeted: "Thank you for all the support and good wishes."

The Indian court system is notoriously slow, and it often takes years and even decades for cases to go to trial.

Apart from the illegal weapons case, police filed three poaching cases against Khan during the shooting of one of his films in Jodhpur in 1998.

He was convicted by a lower court and sentenced to jail terms of one and five years in two cases. But the actor challenged the verdict in a higher court, which said there was no evidence to suggest that the pellets recovered from the animals were fired from Khan's gun. He is still facing trial in a third case of alleged poaching of two rare blackbucks.

Khan, who has starred in more than 90 Hindi-language films, has had other brushes with the law.

In 2014, the Mumbai High Court acquitted the actor in a drunken-driving, hit-and-run case from more than a decade ago.

The judges found that prosecutors had failed to prove charges of culpable homicide, in which they accused Khan of driving while intoxicated in 2002 and running over five men sleeping on a sidewalk in Mumbai, killing one of them.

The government of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital, has challenged his acquittal in the Supreme Court.

Review: In 'The Founder,' cutthroat big business, supersized

When Kroc (Michael Keaton), a struggling traveling salesmen selling milkshake mixers, first beelines to San Bernardino, California, in 1954 to get a look at Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac (John Carroll Lynch) McDonald's burger joint, he stands agog at the counter. Moments after he orders, Kroc is handed his burger and fries in a bag, but he might as well have been flame-grilled by lightning. "But I just ordered," he stutters.

Kroc quickly recognizes the revolutionary power of the McDonalds' restaurant and becomes its franchise-driver and the pre-eminent proselytizer of an empire built on burgers. The arches, an invention of Dick's just like its other innovations, will spread "from sea to shining sea," Kroc vows. As a gathering place for families, it will be "the new American church, open seven days a week," he says.

"It requires a certain kind of mind to see the beauty in a hamburger bun," wrote David Halberstam of the minds behind McDonalds in "The Fifties." Of course, the genius behind McDonald's lied largely with Dick McDonald, who engineered the "speedee service system" of its assembly line-like kitchen, designed its layout and focused its tiny menu.

But the ironically titled "The Founder" is not about him. It's about Kroc, a hard-drinking, slightly shifty Illinois salesman who took the idea of the McDonalds and spread it around the world through sheer (and sometimes unscrupulous) force of will and savvy standardization. In the opening scenes, Kroc, struggling to eke out a living on the road, faithfully listens to Norman Vincent Peale's "The Power of Positive Thinking." ''Persistence, determination alone are all powerful," Kroc absorbs.

"The Founder" is a quintessentially post-war American story about a self-made man largely made by others. Kroc, who died in 1984, fashioned himself as the "big picture" visionary to the McDonald brothers' enterprise. Though McDonald's had by 1954 already sold 21 franchises, Kroc's zeal for expansion was compulsive and it turned him into a billionaire.

The McDonald brothers quickly realize, as Dick says, that they've let a wolf in the hen house. They begin fighting over issues that in their world are of massive importance, like milkshakes. Defending his high standards, Dick warns of "crass commercialism" infecting the franchise, and somewhere, Ronald McDonald chokes on a Big Mac.

But Kroc outmaneuvers them and eventually takes control of the company, leaving the run-over McDonalds to stare blankly at the yellow-and-red Frankenstein they've created. "I'm national," a swelling Kroc declares. "You're local."

Yet if there's any tragedy in "The Founder," it's not in the fate of the McDonald brothers but in Kroc's success. The film is penned by Robert D. Siegel, whose "The Wrestler" and "Big Fan" also reflected the dark underbellies of American dreams. But "The Founder," like its subject, is a little mechanical and a little too timid to really take a bite out of McDonald's. It's less a full meal than a drive-thru order.

Hancock's film stays laser-focused on Kroc, and with the naturally appealing Keaton playing him, our sympathies initially slide toward him. But unease steadily creeps in, especially as Kroc, while espousing the virtues of family, callously jettisons his quietly steadfast wife (Laura Dern) for another man's (Linda Cardellini). The bad taste of day-old McNuggets begins to form in our mouths as our hero turns villain, and a successful one at that.

Keaton chomps on the role, a Willy Loman who strikes it rich. Like Bryan Cranston on "Breaking Bad," we can see the wheels turning behind his eyes in his step-by-step drive for power, albeit selling a slightly healthier product than Walter White peddled.

The frightful thing about "The Founder," though, is that for all Kroc's back-stabbing and double-crossing, he's right. Remorseless brutality, just like fresh buns, turns out to be a necessary ingredient in business. Would you like fries with that?

"The Founder," a Weinstein Co. release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "brief strong language." Running time: 115 minutes. Three stars out of four.

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MPAA Definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Norman Vincent Peale.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

Film about 1960s black mathematicians tops MLK weekend

"Hidden Figures," the uplifting film about African-American mathematicians at NASA during the 1960s space race, led the North American box office for the second straight week, selling $27.5 million in tickets over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, according to final studio figures Tuesday.

The Fox release, which stars Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer, has now made $61.9 million following its two weeks of nationwide release. Holdovers dominated the four-day weekend, while a number of high-profile new wide releases struggled badly.

Ben Affleck's period crime thriller "Live by Night" managed a feeble $6 million, and Martin Scorsese's passion project, the Christian epic "Silence," earned a mere $2.4 million. Paramount's pricey family film "Monster Trucks," which cost $125 million, opened with just $14.2 million. In an unprecedented move, Paramount's corporate parent, Viacom, last year wrote off the film as a $115 million loss.

The top 20 movies at U.S. and Canadian theaters Friday through Monday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Tuesday by comScore:

1. "Hidden Figures," 20th Century Fox, $27,506,839, 3,286 locations, $8,371 average, $61,889,939, 4 weeks.

2. "Sing," Universal, $19,025,360, 3,693 locations, $5,152 average, $238,240,880, 4 weeks.

3. "La La Land," Lionsgate, $17,717,720, 1,848 locations, $9,588 average, $77,299,289, 6 weeks.

4. "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," Disney, $16,806,712, 3,162 locations, $5,315 average, $501,898,446, 5 weeks.

5. "The Bye Bye Man," STX Entertainment, $15,204,094, 2,220 locations, $6,849 average, $15,204,094, 1 week.

6. "Monster Trucks," Paramount, $14,174,039, 3,119 locations, $4,544 average, $14,174,039, 1 week.

7. "Patriots Day," Lionsgate, $13,753,384, 3,120 locations, $4,408 average, $14,677,466, 4 weeks.

8. "Sleepless," Open Road, $9,771,305, 1,803 locations, $5,419 average, $9,771,305, 1 week.

9. "Underworld: Blood Wars," Sony, $7,263,585, 3,070 locations, $2,366 average, $25,379,703, 2 weeks.

10. "Passengers," Sony, $6,491,814, 2,447 locations, $2,653 average, $90,871,545, 4 weeks.

11. "Moana," Disney, $6,104,745, 1,847 locations, $3,305 average, $233,410,870, 8 weeks.

12. "Live by Night," Warner Bros., $6,003,052, 2,822 locations, $2,127 average, $6,188,696, 4 weeks.

13. "Why Him?" 20th Century Fox, $4,175,449, 1,977 locations, $2,112 average, $56,008,496, 4 weeks.

14. "Fences," Paramount, $3,513,003, 1,342 locations, $2,618 average, $46,645,365, 5 weeks.

15. "Lion," The Weinstein Company, $2,772,941, 575 locations, $4,823 average, $13,815,545, 8 weeks.

16. "Silence," Paramount, $2,374,886, 747 locations, $3,179 average, $3,456,650, 4 weeks.

17. "Manchester by the Sea," Roadside Attractions, $2,054,178, 726 locations, $2,829 average, $37,215,956, 9 weeks.

18. "Assassin's Creed," 20th Century Fox, $1,658,469, 968 locations, $1,713 average, $53,162,110, 4 weeks.

19. "Moonlight," A24, $1,363,803, 582 locations, $2,343 average, $14,862,562, 13 weeks.

20. "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them," Warner Bros., $1,201,902, 502 locations, $2,394 average, $231,073,227, 9 weeks.

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Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.

The top 10 movies on the iTunes Store

iTunes Movies US Charts:

1. The Accountant (2016)

2. Deepwater Horizon

3. Storks

4. Sully

5. Café Society

6. Keeping Up With the Joneses

7. Jason Bourne

8. Kevin Hart: What Now?

9. The Girl On the Train (2016)

10. The Secret Life of Pets

iTunes Movies US Charts - Independent:

1. The Dressmaker

2. The Book of Love

3. The Infiltrator

4. Blood Father

5. The Autopsy of Jane Doe

6. Christine (2016)

7. Kate Plays Christine

8. A Man Called Ove

9. American Honey

10. Banking on Bitcoin

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(copyright) 2017 Apple Inc.

Mexico: no warrants for actress Kate del Castillo

The spokeswoman for Mexico's Attorney General's Office says there are no warrants for actress Kate del Castillo, but she has been "mentioned" in criminal investigations.

Del Castillo said in an interview with The Associated Press that a "macho" Mexican government is persecuting her only because she's a woman.

But spokeswoman Natalia Briseno told The AP Tuesday no sexism is involved.

Briseno said Del Castillo has been mentioned in organized crime investigations, but that doesn't mean she's a suspect.

Briseno said the actress "has no legal impediment to enter or move freely" in Mexico.

The investigations are apparently related to her text message conversations with now-imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, and his potential links to her tequila business.

Del Castillo arranged Sean Penn's interview with Guzman in 2015.

Woody Harrelson goes live from London, talks 'Star Wars'

Woody Harrelson is trying to do something that's never been done before, although he's starting to realize why his feat would be a first.

The American actor plans to spend the early hours of Friday shooting a full-length film, called "Lost In London LIVE," which will be broadcast as it happens in over 550 U.S. theaters.

"Someone was asking me earlier, 'Do you think that people will start doing this now? Filming a movie and live-streaming it at the same time?' And I said, 'Well, not if they speak to me first.' This is some harrowing stuff," he laughs.

Based on a relentlessly awful night out he really had in the British capital, Harrelson wrote and is directing the film that combines comedy and drama.

Talking on the movie's set in the streets of London's theatre district, where rehearsals are happening during the day and at night, Harrelson says he could do with three more weeks of preparation before the action unfolds in real time.

Harrelson, 55, was arrested in London after a night out in 2002. He declined to say whether "Lost in London" is based on events from that night, but the set includes a recreation of the club he visited before his arrest.

"Lost In London LIVE" is an attempt to merge his two loves, film and theater. And even though audiences will be watching on the other side of the pond when it's Thursday evening, Harrelson is convinced the event's live-streamed nature will add an electrifying element.

"Will it mess up the performance? That's the question. Will the fear be too high to eke out a performance? I don't know," he said.

Harrelson's co-stars are musician Willie Nelson and actor Owen Wilson, a close friend who also helped refine the script.

"Owen Wilson is my best buddy. Now, that doesn't mean I'm his best buddy, but he's my best buddy and he is a tremendous asset because not only is he just so great on screen, and he's great as an actor and he's great to work with," he said.

Harrelson's breakthrough as an actor came on the 1980s television sitcom "Cheers." He's since starred in a number of critically acclaimed TV shows and movies, from "Natural Born Killers" and "No Country For Old Men" to "True Detective" and "The Hunger Games" films.

Harrelson next will be joining the "Star Wars" universe, with a part in the spin-off movie about a young Han Solo. Describing his character as a criminal and a mentor, he says he's delighted to be joining that "amazing world."

"All you want is to make good movies, because eventually I'll be gone and those will still be here," he said. "You know what I mean?"

DuVernay talks with Winfrey about Trump, race, her new film

Ava DuVernay doesn't want to talk about Donald Trump's election. Her feelings are still too raw.

But because Oprah Winfrey asked about it, the filmmaker opened up: Trump "represents violence," DuVernay said, and she doesn't have much empathy for those who supported him.

She made the remarks Sunday during a discussion about "13th," her documentary about the prison industrial complex and the disproportionately high number of black men behind bars.

Winfrey moderated an hourlong conversation between DuVernay and political commentator Van Jones at the home of Netflix chief Ted Sarandos, who hosted the event with wife Nicole Avant under two tennis-court-sized tents in their backyard.

Guests at the invitation-only affair were mostly industry insiders, including Quincy Jones, Rob Reiner, Laura Dern, Mira Sorvino, Courtney B. Vance and Chelsea Handler. Winfrey was a winning moderator, quipping to the crowd but mostly quiet, keeping the spotlight on her subjects.

A few moments recalled her old talk show.

The first thing she did was move her chair closer to DuVernay and Jones. In a long slate dress and black stilettos, Winfrey scooted the rattan seat over herself. Sarandos quietly hustled onto the stage to move a small coffee table that was in her way. Later, when the conversation about Trump got particularly animated, Winfrey deadpanned to the audience: "We should be televising this."

Footage from Trump's campaign rallies appears in "13th," which connects the criminalization and jailing of black men in jail to a provision of the 13th Amendment that prohibits slavery except as a punishment for crime. Available now on Netflix, the film is among 15 documentaries shortlisted for Oscar nominations, which will be announced Jan. 24.

DuVernay said she feared the police as a child growing up in Compton, California. As a student at UCLA, she studied American history, justice and institutionalized racism.

In researching the documentary, DuVernay said she was most surprised to learn about the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that proposes policies and legislation based on the corporate interests it represents.

The film also shows how political rhetoric about being "tough on crime" has historically translated to more policing in communities of color.

Jones, who also appears in "13th," said, "You can't talk about the history of black America without talking about mass incarceration."

DuVernay and Jones agree that the recent police shootings of black men are part of a long history of criminalization of black people by politicians and police. They also agree that the prison problem isn't quickly or easily solved.

"It's not a one-answer question," DuVernay said, adding that she doesn't expect the issue to be remedied during her lifetime.

But she and Jones disagree on the best approach for dealing with the impending Trump administration.

Jones said he wants to connect with Trump voters who find the president-elect distasteful but supported him because they felt overlooked by other candidates.

DuVernay said she has no time for that. Racism and sexism are distractions, she said, "to my humanity and what I'm doing."

"Distraction is if I stop and try to talk to folks who have clearly demonstrated that they're not open to hearing that," she said. "What they will hear is what I do: How I move forward, the art that I make, the energy that I put out into the world."

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy.

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