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Review: Big-screen 'CHIPS' a tawdry, sexist disappointment

Reimagined by writer, director, producer and star Dax Shepard, the big-screen "CHIPS " is a tawdry, testosterone-fueled tale built around penis jokes and endless evaluation of women's appearances.

The two main characters discuss the looks of almost every woman on screen. Calling someone "a 2" might be a forgivable comic misstep, but making such remarks a major part of a movie's humor is reductive and gross, not to mention outdated and uninspired. Maybe you need to look like Kristen Bell (Shepard's wife, in real life and this film) or have a Y chromosome to find it funny.

News flash: Women don't exist to be beautiful for men. Doesn't everyone know that in 2017 — particularly Shepard, who has two young daughters?

The best thing about "CHIPS" is some classic Southern California scenery and superb motorcycle riding, complete with stairwell tricks, airborne stunts and long shots of that beloved mecca for local bikers, Angeles Crest Highway.

But overall, the film is an uncomfortable eye-roll. Shepard and co-star Michael Pena have plenty of charm, but not enough to support the feeble story and tasteless jokes.

The film opens with the words "The California Highway Patrol does not endorse this film — at all," and it's easy to see why.

Shepard is Jon Baker, a former motocross champ trying to reinvent himself and save his marriage by joining the CHP. The 40-year-old rookie is paired with Frank "Ponch" Poncherello (Pena), an FBI agent working undercover to root out potentially crooked officers within the CHP. But this Jon and Ponch are so inept, so distracted by hot chicks and pseudo-philosophical conversations about "homophobia" and "closure," that buying them as actual law enforcement is too much of a stretch. They're more like frat guys doing cosplay.

And guy humor is one thing, but this is just dumb. One repeated gag involves Shepard in his underpants and Pena's discomfort at being around his near-naked partner. "You face-planted my bag!" Jon says to Ponch.

That kind of low-brow stupidity could be redeemed by a strong story or well-developed characters, but "CHIPS" offers neither. Ponch and Jon are caricatures, and even the crime they're investigating lacks punch because the crooked cops' motivations are never explained.

And the objectification of women here is brutal. There are several close-ups of women's butts in yoga pants, and Ponch openly lusts after them — so much that it's a problem and he has to quickly steal away to masturbate. I'm not kidding. Even the CHP chief, played by Jane Kaczmarek, is reduced to an object: Ponch and Jon discuss her body ("It was tight") after Ponch discovers she's secretly sex-crazed. (Of course she is.)

Only Maya Rudolph, who makes a brief cameo to reunite with her "Idiocracy" co-star, escapes objectification. She is just a police officer who happens to be female. Josh Duhamel and the original Ponch, Erik Estrada, also make cameos, though unfortunately Estrada gets in on the lady lust.

Made before the U.S. elected a president whose crude, caught-on-tape remarks regarding women inspired a nationwide conversation about "locker-room talk," there's no shortage of a "locker-room" tone toward women in "CHIPS." That's not just tired and unfunny, it's potentially alienating to half the population.

The TV series was from a different era, to be sure, but affording basic respect regardless of someone's looks or gender is timeless.

"CHIPS," a Warner Bros. Pictures release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for "crude sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, some violence and drug use. Running time: 101 minutes. One star out of four.

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

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

Greta Garbo's former NYC apartment on market for $5.95M

Film legend Greta Garbo's former longtime apartment in New York City is up for sale for nearly $6 million.

The New York Times reports (http://nyti.ms/2nFMaXm ) that the Swedish-born star's seven-room Manhattan co-op overlooking the East River is on the market for $5.95 million, with monthly maintenance of nearly $9,100.

The co-op is located on the fifth floor of the 14-story Campanile building, located on East 52nd Street. Garbo lived there from 1954 until her death in 1990 at age 84.

The apartment is being sold by the family of Gray Reisfield, Garbo's niece and sole heir to the actress's estate. Reisfield and her husband occupied the co-op from around 1992 to 2013 before relocating to San Francisco.

Garbo was one of Hollywood's biggest stars in the 1920s and '30s.

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Information from: The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com

Onetime defendant in legendary Lufthansa heist is rearrested

An aging mobster who beat a charge that he took part in a legendary heist retold in the hit film "Goodfellas" was accused Wednesday in a less noteworthy crime — getting a group of gangsters, including John "Dapper Don" Gotti's namesake grandson, to torch a car that cut him off in traffic.

Vincent Asaro, an 82-year-old third-generation member of the secretive Bonanno crime family, was ordered held without bail after pleading not guilty to the 2012 arson in federal court in Brooklyn.

Also pleading not guilty to the same arson and an unrelated bank robbery was John J. Gotti, the 23-year-old grandson of the late Gambino crime family boss John Gotti.

The defendants "are charged with committing an assortment of violent crimes — arson to exact punishment for a perceived slight and robberies to unjustly enrich themselves," acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde said in a statement announcing the arrests.

Outside court, Asaro's lawyer questioned the timing and the point of the government's decision to again go after her client, who was leading a quiet life until FBI agents came to his door Wednesday.

"I think he's frustrated," said the attorney, Elizabeth Macedonio.

The new case was a harsh reversal of fortunes for Asaro, who was last seen at the same courthouse raising his arms and shouting "Free!" after a jury found him not guilty of charges he orchestrated the Lufthansa robbery with James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke, the late Lucchese crime family associate who inspired Robert De Niro's role in the film.

At the time, the heist was called one of the largest cash thefts in American history, with gunmen looting about $5 million in untraceable U.S. currency that was being returned to the United States from Germany, along with about $1 million in jewelry, from the airline's cargo terminal.

Asaro later survived a bloodbath portrayed in "Goodfellas," with De Niro's character going ballistic over fellow mobsters' purchases of flashy cars and furs and, fearing they would attract law enforcement attention, having them whacked. Prosecutors — relying on the testimony of turncoat mobsters that the defense labeled as opportunistic liars — claimed Asaro collected at least $500,000 from the score but had a gambling problem and squandered it away at the racetrack.

Prosecutors now say that three years before his arrest in the Lufthansa case, Asaro ordered the arson to avenge getting cut off by another motorist in the Howard Beach section of Queens. He provided the home address of the driver to a Bonanno associate, who recruited Gotti and another man to douse the motorist's car with gasoline and torch it, court papers said.

The arsonists fled in a Jaguar sedan driven by Gotti that briefly led a police car on a high-speed chase before officers "terminated the pursuit for safety reasons due to Gotti's reckless driving," prosecutors said.

Earlier this month, Gotti was sentenced to eight years in state prison after pleading guilty to selling oxycodone pills. His grandfather died in prison in 2002.

If convicted on the federal charges, Asaro and Gotti face terms of up to 20 years.

Subject of film 'Bernie' appeals lengthy sentence for murder

A former Texas mortician whose legal issues were the subject of the 2011 film "Bernie" is appealing his sentence of 99 years to life in prison in the killing of a wealthy widow.

Bernie Tiede (TEE'-duh) was resentenced last year for his 1999 murder conviction in the fatal shooting of 81-year-old Marjorie Nugent, whose body was found in his freezer.

In a petition filed Tuesday with the Sixth Texas Court of Appeals, Tiede's attorneys argue that his 1997 indictment was tainted by a biased grand juror and that the jury that sentenced him was "repeatedly exposed to outside influence" in the form of non-case-related publicity, including the film in which he was played by actor Jack Black.

They also say a previous plea agreement calling for a 20-year prison system was breached.

Prosecutors say Tiede stole millions of dollars from Nugent.

Movie of Vince Flynn's 'American Assassin' to debut Sept. 15

The late Minnesota author Vince Flynn's counterterrorism operative Mitch Rapp is coming to the big screen in September.

CBS Films and Lionsgate announced Wednesday that "American Assassin," based on Flynn's best-seller, will hit theaters Sept. 15 nationwide and in North America.

"American Assassin" stars Dylan O'Brien as Rapp and Michael Keaton as his mentor, Stan Hurley. Sanaa Lathan plays Deputy CIA Director Irene Kennedy, who pairs Rapp and Hurley on an investigation into attacks on military and civilian targets. That leads to Rapp and Hurley teaming up with a Turkish agent to prevent a world war from erupting in the Middle East.

Michael Cuesta (the film "Kill the Messenger" and Showtime series "Homeland") directs.

Flynn wrote a series of thrillers featuring Rapp. Flynn died in 2013 after battling prostate cancer.

Box office reaches new record, but international sales flat

The Motion Picture Association of America said Wednesday that the worldwide box office reached a record $38.6 billion in 2016, though international revenues were essentially stagnant.

The MPAA's annual report showed a global increase of .5 percent in ticket sales from 2015. While China, the world's second-largest market after the U.S., has long been a priority of Hollywood, it dropped 1 percent last year with $6.6 billion in ticket sales.

Box office in North America hit a record $11.4 billion, although the increase of $300 million was due largely to rising ticket prices. About 11 percent of North Americans, the MPAA said, are frequent moviegoers — those who go to the theater at least once a month. They make up 48 percent of all tickets sold.

About 71 percent of the U.S./Canadian population went to the movies at least once in 2016, up 2 percent from 2015.

Among the year's biggest box-office hits were "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," ''Finding Dory" and "Captain America: Civil War" — all of them, it's worth noting, released by the Walt Disney Co. The MPAA noted that three of the top five grossing films drew a majority female audience.

"Even with an incredible variety of viewing choices available to audiences, cinema remains the premier way to experience the magic of our movies," said MPAA chief Chris Dodd. "And the good news is, there are positive signs for growth in the future."

Other notable conclusions from the report include:

— Younger moviegoers increased. The biggest jump was for 18- to 24-year-olds, who went on average 6.5 times in 2016, up from 5.9 times in 2015.

— The appeal of 3-D continued to slide. Sales of 3-D movies fell about 8 percent to $1.6 billion, even though there were 30 percent more 3-D releases.

— African-American and Asian moviegoers continue to increase. Per capita, Asians/Other Ethnicities go more than any other group, seeing on average 6.1 movies a year.

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This story has been corrected to show the Chinese box office declined 1 percent, not 3 percent.

The film is 'CHIPS' and 'CHiPs TV fans are poised to hate it

Hardcore "CHiPs" fans hate it and the real California Highway Patrol seems not quite sure what to make of it.

But Larry Wilcox, who rode his motorcycle to everlasting fame in the old "CHiPs" TV series, says that for now, he'll give the benefit of the doubt to "CHIPS," the forthcoming film based loosely — very loosely — on the show that made him and Erik Estrada two of the biggest stars of the 1970s and early '80s.

"I have not seen the film but the trailers looked like a soft-porn version of 'Dumb and Dumber,'" Wilcox said recently. "However, I hear the actors are both very talented and funny, so maybe it all works."

Fans of the original "CHiPs," still widely seen in reruns and on DVD, are far less forgiving. They've been posting angry messages all over the internet since the first trailers for the R-rated action comedy emerged, calling it garbage and disrespectful to police officers everywhere.

In a lengthy "open letter" to Dax Shepard, Sue Walsh of New York accuses the film's writer, director and co-star of mocking the original show with a ridiculous remake filled with nudity, penis jokes and raunchy bathroom humor. (She left out big-breasted women but they're in there, too.)

"'CHiPs' was not just a '70s cop show. It wasn't Shakespeare, no, but it did and does mean a whole lot to a whole lot of people," said Walsh, who is organizing a 40th anniversary reunion of the show this fall that most of the original cast is expected to attend.

To understand why fans are so upset, one must remember what a gentle, family-oriented show "CHiPs" was.

CHP Sgt. Jon Baker (played by Wilcox) and his partner, Estrada's Officer Frank "Ponch' Poncherello, were hunky young straight-arrow cops cruising sun-splashed, surprisingly uncrowded LA freeways on their motorcycles when not cracking jokes or flirting harmlessly with cute female sheriff's deputies.

To the thump of a persistent disco track, Baker and Ponch kept busy rescuing people from cars, occasionally solving folks' personal problems and frequently chasing down miscreants before carting them off to jail without ever drawing their weapons.

"I know that there are people that grew up watching 'CHiPs' and that was part of the reason they decided to join the department," said CHP spokeswoman Fran Clader. "I watched it when I was growing up."

In the film version, however, Shepard and Michael Mena's Baker and Ponch are anything but straight arrows. They accidentally destroy vehicles, cause fiery crashes, blow stuff up and sometimes shoot the wrong people.

"I understand it's a broad comedy," said Clader, adding she hasn't seen the film and won't offer an opinion on the trailer.

She said the CHP did grant the producers some technical assistance, for which the agency was reimbursed. But there's also this disclaimer at the beginning of "CHIPS": "This film is not endorsed by the California Highway Patrol. At all." And sharp-eyed fans will notice the title punctuation of "CHIPS" was changed from the original "CHiPs," further distancing the film from the department.

Estrada, who has a cameo, did not respond to multiple phone and email messages. But in a video clip from a recent premiere, he described it as "a movie you have to view with your adult sense of humor."

As for Wilcox, he says he'll probably see it — eventually.

"I think I will wait for the video," he added.

Butterbeer ice cream hitting shelves for Harry Potter fans

A Pennsylvania ice cream maker is courting Harry Potter fans with a new flavor based on Hogwarts' favorite drink, "butterbeer."

Yuengling's Ice Cream notes that J.K. Rowling once described butterbeer as tasting "a little bit like less sickly butterscotch." With that in mind, Yuengling's says the new butterbeer variety combines buttercream and butterscotch ice cream. Yuengling's says "the result is magical decadence that will transport you to another place and time."

President David Yuengling says the company hopes it made Rowling proud with the flavor.

Butterbeer may be a good fit for Yuengling's. The ice cream company began as an offshoot of the well-known Pennsylvania brewery during the prohibition years. It's now a separate company.

Review: So-so 'Power Rangers' reboot is cheesy, self-serious

There's no right answer. There've been successful versions of both. Irreverent and meta takes on dated or impossible material have worked (usually thanks to Phil Lord and Chris Miller) as have deathly serious interpretations.

In the case of "Power Rangers ," that cheesy Saturday morning show that cobbled together shameless merchandising goals, dubbed Japanese action footage and sanitized high school shenanigans, they went mostly serious. And it might not have been the best call for a story that still involves a villain named Rita Repulsa who wanders around town eating gold. But we'll get to her later.

Even with such campy morsels to play with, the vibe director Dean Israelite seems to be going for is "Friday Night Lights" meets "Fantastic Four," which actually isn't totally awful at the beginning as we meet the five high school students destined to wield their newly found superpowers to save the world.

There's the star football player, Jason (Dacre Montgomery), who's rebelling against his good-boy image; the once-popular girl Kimberly (Naomi Scott, who looks like a combination of Sarah Michelle Gellar and Emma Roberts); the "on-the-spectrum" Billy (RJ Cyler); the mysterious new girl Trini (Becky G.); and the adventurous Zack (Ludi Lin). They're angsty teens with secrets and zero perspective so imagine how weird things get when they all happen to be hanging out one night in a restricted mining area, stumble upon some jewels, get into a would-be fatal car crash and wake up with the ability to crush iPhones and scale mountains.

It's hard to muck up the excitement of testing out your newfound superpowers, but then the ridiculous plot has to kick in (and all the requisite origin story clichés) and you can see the film struggling to maintain its straight face while Bryan Cranston's pin art face bellows at the Rangers and Elizabeth Banks' Rita Repulsa devours every piece of gold she can find.

Banks is actually fairly fun in the part — she snivels and sneers with campy glee under the pounds of zombie makeup as she fiendishly terrorizes some engagement ring shoppers at a jewelry store like she's the only one who understands what movie she's in.

But good lord does this film overstay its very conditional welcome. Israelite, who also made the occasionally riveting found-footage, time-travel pic "Project Almanac," gives the images some grit and visual interest but the story just spends too much time on the maudlin coming-of-age and teambuilding. A little less therapy and a little more action would have gone a long way in the mushy middle section.

By the time the Power Rangers figure out how to morph, you're already looking for a way to morph out of the theater, which is a shame because for whatever it's worth, the cheesiest, most Power Rangers-y moments are saved for the final battle.

Much like the teens at the center, "Power Rangers" goes through some awkward growing pains in real time trying to figure out what movie it wants to be or even should be.

"Power Rangers," a Lionsgate release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, language, and for some crude humor." Running time: 124 minutes. One and a half 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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Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

Ryan Gosling on Malick, directing again and that Oscar flub

Even amid the chaotic melee on the Dolby Theatre stage during the infamous best-picture Oscar flub, Ryan Gosling was typically unflappable. While most reacted with shock and confusion, there was the "La La Land" star — cool and bemused — chuckling on the side of the stage.

"What can you say?" Gosling said in an interview by phone from Los Angeles. "I was very happy for 'Moonlight' at the same time. It's such a wonderful film. It's great to see such great work acknowledged."

It takes a lot to rattle Gosling. But making Terrence Malick's largely improvised "Song to Song," the 36-year-old actor grants, was like working "without a net." Gosling stars in the film, which expands in theaters this weekend, alongside Michael Fassbender and Rooney Mara. It's broadly speaking a love triangle set against the music scene of Austin, Texas, but plot describes only so much in a Malick movie. "Song to Song" is a careening kaleidoscope of light and love, wandering between the everyday and the transcendent.

Gosling is currently readying for another film with "La La Land" director Damien Chazelle, in which he'll play astronaut Neil Armstrong. And he stars in this fall's sci-fi sequel "Blade Runner 2049." But his experience on "Song to Song," shot all the way back in 2012, is still powerful for him.

AP: How did Malick approach you?

Gosling: It was just: Would you be interested in working without a script? I said sure. A little more than a year later, he asked me to come out to Austin. They were doing some kind of preliminary shooting at one of the music fests out there. The idea was that he wanted to try to cause what he called "collisions" between a narrative film and this music scene in Austin, to take these scenes into real environments that you couldn't control and see what happened.

AP: How did you talk about the film?

Gosling: There were these themes of love and betrayal he was discussing a lot with us. It seemed to me that what he was trying to do with this unique process of shooting was to sort of take a sledgehammer to those themes and break them into smaller pieces so he could reassemble them into a different form that would give the audience an opportunity to see them from a different perspective — maybe his perspective. It was more like pointillism or something where you're creating fleeting moments that he can later assemble into a bigger picture.

AP: What was the atmosphere like while shooting in Austin during a festival?

Gosling: My job was to try to encourage passersby on the street — non-actors, musicians, people in the crowd — to come into the world of the movie and take the scene where they wanted to take it and to try to keep in the world in the movie. To try to keep them from looking into the camera, to try to make them address me as not an actor but as a fellow concertgoer or whatever the situation required. It was very different than just playing a character. It was almost like, I don't know, your job — to get these people to reveal themselves.

AP: It sounds like a challenging process, but you, Fassbender and Mara often exude such joyfulness in the movie.

Gosling: We would basically travel in a van together with a small group of people. You would just hop out and play out the general idea of the scene in a certain location, and then hop in a van and look for another location to do the scene in. We spent most of our days that way. A lot of days you felt like you weren't able to get something that Terry was looking for, because he's looking for something beyond the scene. You just have to be ready for when it happens. We did kind of hit a wall at a certain point and Terry said, "Let's just go to Mexico." So the next day, we picked up and went to Mexico.

AP: Fassbender's chimpanzee impression on the Mexican beach was impressive.

Gosling: He does an incredible chimpanzee.

AP: You directed "Lost River," a highly personal Detroit-set fairy tale, shortly after making "Song to Song." Was Malick an inspiration?

Gosling: He would give me the camera almost every day and have me shoot something. It was great for me just to be having that practice knowing I was about to go make a film on my own. He doesn't place a lot of importance on the rituals that most people in the industry kind of depend upon: continuity, linear storytelling, traditional coverage, a script, hair, make-up, wardrobe, location. In some cases, he refers to them as cinderblocks holding you down. Obviously that doesn't work for every film, but it's very helpful to see from that perspective to sort of demystify the importance of all those things.

AP: Do you think about directing again?

Gosling: Absolutely. It was one of the best experiences of my professional life. I look forward to doing it again.

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

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