‘Dragon Tattoo’ star Michael Nyqvist dead at 56

27 Jun

Michael Nyqvist, the Swedish star of the original “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” films, died at the age of 56 on Tuesday after battling lung cancer, his manager said.

“On behalf of Michael Nyqvist’s representatives and family, it is with deep sadness that I can confirm that our beloved Michael, one of Sweden’s most respected and accomplished actors, has passed away quietly surrounded by family after a year long battle with lung cancer,” Alissa Goodman said in a statement to AFP.

“Michael’s joy and passion were infectious to those who knew and loved him. His charm and charisma were undeniable, and his love for the arts was felt by all who had the pleasure of working with him. “

Nyqvist, who had been acting in his native Sweden since the early 1980s, won global fame and critical acclaim for his role opposite Noomi Rapace in three movies based on Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” novels.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and its two sequels, all released in 2009, made more than $215 million at box offices worldwide.

Nyqvist played Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative reporter who teamed up with feisty rebel hacker-turned-detective Lisbeth Salander (Rapace) in the first movie as they searched for the disappeared niece of a business tycoon.

Nyqvist — who had more than 50 film credits — went on to forge a successful career in Hollywood, starring in “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” (2011), “John Wick” (2014) and “Frank and Lola” (2016).

In 2010, Nyqvist published “När barnet lagt sig” (“Just After Dreaming”), an acclaimed memoir detailing his earliest childhood memories after his adoption, experiences at theatre school and tracking down his biological parents at age 30.

He is survived by his wife Catharina, and their children Ellen and Arthur.

Political thriller by French PM to be made into film

26 Jun

A novel co-written by France’s new Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is to be made into a film, his publisher said Monday.”In the Shadows”, a political thriller set during the final days of a neck-and-neck French presidential election, is being adapted f…

London tower block charity single tops UK charts

23 Jun

A charity single released to raise money for survivors of the Grenfell Tower block fire reached the top spot in the British charts on Friday after selling more than 170,000 copies.

The track is a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by 50 artists including Stormzy, Emeli Sande, Robbie Williams and Paloma Faith.

It was released one week after the fire in west London on Wednesday and had the biggest sales of any single this decade on its first day, selling 120,000 copies, the Official Charts Company said in a statement.

The single was the second-fastest selling one of the year, after Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You”.

Seventy-nine people are presumed to have died in the blaze at Grenfell Tower, a council-owned apartment complex built in 1974 and refurbished last year.

The video for the single featured the aftermath of the blaze, including firefighters in tears as they left the building and horrified bystanders.

The song starts with an emotional rap by Stormzy.

“I don’t know where to begin so I’ll start by saying I refuse to forget you/I refuse to be silenced/I refuse to neglect you,” the grime star sings.

Proceeds from sales of the song and extra donations will go to Artists for Grenfell, which was set up to support survivors and victims’ families.

The song was organised by music mogul Simon Cowell.

Also on Friday the English Football Association said that around £1.25 million (1.4 million euros, $1.6 million) in proceeds expected from the Community Shield game in August between Chelsea and Arsenal would go to survivors of the fire.

“Two great London clubs will come together to play at the city’s most famous stadium just a few miles from Kensington,” FA chairman Greg Clarke said in a statement.

“They will be united in their passion for football, grief at this tragic loss and support for their community,” he said.

‘El Chapo’ to sue Netflix over series: lawyer

22 Jun

Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman plans to sue Netflix and Univision for allegedly defaming him with a TV series about his life, one of his lawyers said Thursday.The series, “El Chapo” — which premiered in April — presents Guzman as a “hear…

Philippine star Charice announces new transgender name

22 Jun

US television star and music sensation Charice Pempengco of the Philippines has announced a new transgender identity, revealing his new name on Twitter: Jake Zyrus.”My first tweet as Jake. Overwhelmed. Saw all your love comments and I’m so happy. Final…

Glastonbury opens doors with Radiohead, Sheeran on bill

21 Jun

The gates to the Glastonbury Festival swung open Wednesday for five days of the world’s biggest greenfield music fest, headlined this year by Radiohead, the Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran.

Some 175,000 people were expected to descend on Worthy Farm outside Glastonbury in Somerset, southwest England, in sizzling temperatures but with reinforced security measures after a string of terror attacks in Britain.

“Hooray! Welcome to Glastonbury!” said founder Michael Eavis, greeting those queueing outside as the green metal gates opened.

Shows on the seven biggest stages start on Friday, but rucksack-lugging revellers like to get there early to secure a decent spot to pitch their tents in.

“There were some checks but there are so many people and it is so hot. The queues were better than I thought they would be,” said Anna Harris, 25, from south London, who was among the first to get in.

Tickets cost £238 ($300, 270 euros) and all 135,000 have sold out, with a further 40,000 people accredited to attend.

“It’s like going to another country, a hip and thrilling Brigadoon that appears every year or so,” the festival said.

“You enter a huge tented city, a mini-state under canvas. British law still applies, but the rules of society are a bit different, a little bit freer. Everyone is here to have a wild time in their own way.”

Glastonbury started off as a loss-maker in 1970, with 1,500 people paying one pound to watch Marc Bolan top the bill, with free milk from the farm to tempt music-loving hippies.

It is now one of the world’s landmark music festivals, with dozens of stages, fields and areas. The site has a perimeter of about 8.5 miles (13.5 kilometres).

Radiohead top the bill Friday on the main Pyramid Stage, backed up by The XX, Royal Blood and Kris Kristofferson.

On Saturday, the Foo Fighters are headlining, after sets by The National, Katy Perry, Run the Jewels and Craig David.

Sheeran closes the festival on Sunday, supported by Biffy Clyro, Chic and Barry Gibb.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is due to give a talk and introduce US rap duo Run The Jewels.

On the secondary Other Stage, Major Lazer, Alt-J and Boy Better Know are the headliners, with sets from Liam Gallagher, Kaiser Chiefs, Emeli Sande and The Courteneers.

Status Quo, Goldfrapp, The Pretenders, The Jacksons, Dizzee Rascal, Alison Moyet and Kiefer Sutherland are also on the bill.

Movie star Johnny Depp will present the 2004 film he starred in, “The Libertine”, in a new film zone at the festival.

– ‘Pee power’ –

Worthy Farm will have 10 information signs powered by urine, thanks to a new 40-person urinal near the Pyramid Stage.

The urine is converted into electricity thanks to technology developed by the University of the West of England.

A second “Pee Power” site at the festival will charge lighting and mobile phones.

Organisers and police have urged attendees to pack light and expect searches.

“The policing style may look and feel slightly different this year,” police officer Caroline Peters said.

“Like the rest of the UK, festival-goers should be alert but not alarmed,” she said, following four terror attacks in recent months in London and at a Manchester pop concert.

Mobile phone network EE, which is providing free wi-fi on site, is expecting Glastonbury to be the most shared live event of the year, with 40 terabytes of data predicted to be used.

There will be no festival in 2018, with the dairy farm needing a fallow year every five years to recover.

Prodigy, key force in East Coast hip-hop, dead at 42

21 Jun

Prodigy, one half of hip-hop duo Mobb Deep whose dark hardcore style helped define the East Coast sound amid the 1990s rivalry with the West Coast, died Tuesday. He was 42.The rapper, who had recently released a solo album amid a burst of creative ener…

Daniel Day-Lewis announces retirement from acting

20 Jun

Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis, one of the most acclaimed performers of his generation, has announced he is retiring.Citing the 60-year-old star’s spokeswoman Leslee Dart, trade magazine Variety said he “will no longer be working as an actor.””He…

Burkina architect Kere unveils illustrious UK pavilion

20 Jun

Burkina Faso’s Diebedo Francis Kere on Tuesday unveiled his temporary pavilion in London’s Hyde Park, becoming the first African architect to undertake the prestigious assignment given to a world-famous architect every year.Kere’s Serpentine Pavilion c…

Tony Bennett to be honored by Library of Congress

20 Jun

Tony Bennett, the 90-year-old crooner who has remained a commercial success for seven consecutive decades, will be honored for his life’s work by the Library of Congress, it announced Tuesday.The world’s largest library said Bennett will be the next re…

Cosby: from US cultural icon to tainted pariah

17 Jun

From US cultural icon blazing past racial barriers to tainted pariah on trial for sexual assault: a hung jury may have given Bill Cosby momentary relief, but it is not likely to help restore his image in America’s eyes.His name once evoked so much — t…

John Avildsen, director of ‘Rocky’, dies at 81

17 Jun

John Avildsen, the Oscar-winning director whose blockbuster films like “Rocky” and “The Karate Kid” championed the ascent of underdogs, has died. He was 81 years old.The filmmaker died of pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles,…

After losing voice, Shania Twain announces comeback

16 Jun

Shania Twain, the crossover country star whose huge success in the 1990s was followed by troubled years in which she lost her voice and husband, is ready with a comeback album.Twain, the top-selling woman in country music history, announced that she wi…

Pakistani-American makes Hollywood rom-com debut

14 Jun

Growing up in Pakistan’s chaotic megacity of Karachi, Kumail Nanjiani never imagined he would one day star in a Hollywood rom-com, let alone be a leading man in Donald Trump’s America.”The Big Sick,” opening in selected cinemas on June 23, brings to th…

Anita Pallenberg, actress and Stones muse, dead at 73

14 Jun

Anita Pallenberg, the globe-trotting actress and model who was best known as part of a love triangle within The Rolling Stones, has died, friends said Wednesday. She was 73.Pallenberg, who long struggled with drugs and alcohol, died Wednesday of unspec…

Grammys broadens album award to boost classical, jazz

14 Jun

The Grammy for Album of the Year, one of the most prestigious prizes in music, will have looser requirements this year to allow more classical and jazz works to compete.The Recording Academy, the group of music professionals who vote on the awards, ann…

NY’s Met Museum shakes up leadership with new CEO

13 Jun

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art announced Tuesday the appointment of Daniel Weiss as chief executive officer, shaking up its leadership structure as the famed institution works to trim a budget deficit.The 60-year-old medieval history scholar wil…

Late punk pioneer Alan Vega’s album due next month

12 Jun

The first track from a posthumous album of punk pioneer and Suicide singer Alan Vega was released on Monday, featuring his signature style of abrasive nihilism.Vega’s wife and artistic collaborator Liz Lamere said the album, “IT,” would follow on July …

Moby releases surprise new album amid ‘apocalypse’

12 Jun

Moby, the master of bleak electronica and vociferous critic of US President Donald Trump, on Monday returned with a surprise new album set in an “apocalypse.”The rocker and DJ made available for free download “More Fast Songs About the Apocalypse,” his…

Midler, millennial angst scoop Broadway’s Tony Awards

12 Jun

Bette Midler won best actress in a musical while an edgy new tale of millennial angst scooped six awards including best musical at Broadway’s equivalent of the Oscars for US theater.The glitzy revival of “Hello, Dolly!” starring the 71-year-old Midler …

Former Top Gear host injured in ‘serious’ crash

10 Jun

British TV presenter Richard Hammond was hurt Saturday in a “serious crash” in Switzerland but escaped with “no serious injury”, a spokesman for his car show said.The former presenter of “Top Gear” — the world’s most-watched factual TV show — suffere…

Spotify nemesis Taylor Swift ends streaming boycott

9 Jun

Once Spotify’s most visible critic, pop superstar Taylor Swift on Friday returned her music to all streaming services as the number of artists to boycott the booming format dwindles.All of the 27-year-old singer’s music including “1989,” her blockbuste…

Ice Cube appeals to ‘good cops’ in new protest song

8 Jun

Nearly three decades after shocking America with “Fuck tha Police,” rap legend Ice Cube is back with what he calls a 2017 version — an appeal to “good cops” to lead.The gangsta rap pioneer, now also the star of Hollywood action films, is releasing the…

Katy Perry returns as a sultry 30-something

8 Jun

Katy Perry’s songs used to delight in first-time innocence — she kissed a girl (and she liked it), and a night of love made her feel like she was living a teenage dream.

Now 32, the pop superstar has discovered adulthood. On a new album, her sound is sultry and her experiences are anything but chaste.

“Witness,” which comes out Friday, marks Perry’s first album since 2013 and comes after the artist largely retreated for a year following the blockbuster success of her “Prism” album and tour.

Perry, whose string of hits have dominated mainstream radio and teenage girls’ playlists for the past decade, evidently has had her fill of producing anthemic synth-pop.

On “Witness,” few of the songs easily lend themselves to arena singalongs.

Perry brings a retro disco energy to first single “Chained to the Rhythm,” but the song is an outlier, with Perry incorporating the robust beats of R&B and hip-hop to toughen her pop style.

Hip-hop powerhouse Nicki Minaj shares her rhymes into “Swish Swish,” whose urban, funky rhythm could have come from Janet Jackson, while rising trap trio Migos make “Bon Appetit” even saucier.

To a dancehall backdrop, “Bon Appetit” shows a new side to the “spread-like-a-buffet” Perry as she sings of the pleasures of oral sex — “Fresh out the oven, melt-in-your-mouth kind of lovin’.”

On “Roulette,” the most classic Perry song on the album with an infectious dance-pop beat, the more mature Perry describes her new taste for romantic danger — “Take the safety off for a minute.”

Perry also allows more space for her own voice, showing her talent for gliding from a gentle rasp to smooth higher ranges. Over understated electronica, she lets her vocals carry the songs “Miss You More” and “Into Me You See.”

– Attack on Taylor Swift? –

In a nod to its rap style, “Swish Swish” comes off as a diss track as Perry — the world’s most followed person on Twitter with nearly 100 million followers — warns: “Funny my name keeps coming out yo mouth / ‘Cause I stay winnin’.”

“Swish Swish” is sure to fuel speculation it is a response to fellow mega-star Taylor Swift, whose own song “Bad Blood” was widely seen as an attack on Perry, whom Swift has suggested sabotaged her tour by poaching her staff.

Whatever the rivalry, Perry and Swift both turned for their latest albums to Swedish producers Max Martin, Ali Payami and Shellback — who behind the scenes have created some of the 21st century’s top hits.

If sexuality is part of adulthood, so too are romantic entanglements. Perry’s stories are full of relationships that never quite end neatly, with an overly active smartphone ever ready to rekindle memories.

“You don’t have to subtweet me / My number’s always been the same,” Perry sings on “Save as Draft.”

– Changed by home, Clinton –

Perry — whose real name is Katheryn Hudson — returned to write “Witness” at her home in Santa Barbara, California, where she reconciled with her conservative Christian parents and returned with a new short-cut, blonde hairdo.

The singer has described her journey home as part of healing, saying she was able on “Witness” to reveal more of herself beyond the Katy Perry stage persona.

While Perry kept quiet on the music front last year, she emerged as one of the most prominent celebrity supporters of Hillary Clinton’s ill-fated presidential campaign.

Perry has hardly become a protest singer, but on “Bigger Than Me,” she explains her need to speak out, saying she has become convinced she has a higher mission in life.

“So I’ll speak my truth, though my voice shakes,” Perry sings — musically at least, not shaking.

In a description that could sum up the album, Perry likens herself to “Marilyn Monroe on a monster truck.”

“I’m feminine and soft. But I’m still a boss,” she declares.

Chuck Berry revisits youth in posthumous album

7 Jun

Chuck Berry defined rock ‘n’ roll as he gave voice to feel-good 1950s baby-boomer culture. For his swan song, he is reliving that same youthful spirit — and tidying up some loose ends.

The rock pioneer died in March just as he was planning an unlikely comeback; in October, for his 90th birthday, Berry had announced he was releasing a new album.

Entitled simply “Chuck,” the album comes out Friday and marks the first studio recordings by Berry since 1979, with the 10 songs fine-tuned for release since his death.

Returning after three decades in which musical tastes have shifted in manifold ways, Berry stays true to his classic sound — tightly structured tunes rooted in the blues, with a touch of country and the electrifying energy that he called rock ‘n’ roll.

On “Chuck,” Berry signs off as forever young. His world at age 90 was the same one that embraced him in the 1950s — a lifestyle of driving fast cars, partying mischievously and checking out women.

The album kicks off with quintessential Berry, his verses alternating with frolicking yet brassy-toned guitar riffs, on “Wonderful Woman.”

In the song, Berry remains transfixed — who knows for how many years — by a woman with “big beautiful eyes” and “long, brown wavy hair” who showed up at his concert — in the second row, he recalls.

On the album’s first single, “Big Boys,” Berry remembers trying to befriend cool older schoolmates, with his enthusiastic guitar complemented by one of rock’s premier axe-men, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine.

– A woman for Johnny B. Goode –

Berry recorded the album around St. Louis, where he lived his whole life, with his son and grandson and other artists who accompanied him for two decades in gigs at the Blueberry Hill club.

Berry dedicated “Chuck” to his wife of 68 years, Themetta Suggs. But he also appeared to want to close some of the musical stories he started.

Berry revisits 1958’s “Johnny B. Goode” — a song so famous that it represents rock ‘n’ roll to potential extraterrestrials on the Voyager spacecraft — with the new “Lady B. Goode.”

Nearly 60 years later, Berry has turned his classic song into a diptych. “Lady B. Goode” brings the perspective of “the little teen queen” who fell in love with someone who sounds an awfully lot like Johnny B. Goode — a humble country boy who finds fame with his guitar.

Berry, opening with a hard-driving R&B guitar riff similar to “Johnny B. Goode,” sings of her: “She followed him around where he would play his guitar / Till he got so popular they made him a star.”

“Then she could only see him on a TV screen / And hoped someday that he’d come back to New Orleans,” he sings.

– Back to the Caribbean –

Berry also revisits old territory on “Jamaica Moon,” a remake of his “Havana Moon” whose commercial flop in 1956 had irritated him.

For his second take of the song, Berry again imagines himself as a Caribbean boy waiting on a dock for an American girl who promised to return.

But this time, a bouncy guitar brings a touch of reggae as Berry sings in patois, “Me still alone, me sip on de rum.”

The original “Havana Moon” — acoustic with a Latin flavor — faded as Fidel Castro’s revolution soured Americans’ romance with Cuba, although the song was revived as a cover by Carlos Santana.

“Jamaica Moon” also echoes a lyric in another defining rock song, the famously indecipherable “Louie Louie.”

Berry’s sound goes most contemporary on “Dutchman” as he switches to spoken-word over his blues guitar, telling the story of a dog who enters the bar and explains he was once a musician whose “music was considered superb.”

“He didn’t make the Hall of Fame, but it bought him shrimp, rice and beans.”

Berry, in real life, was one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Defense grills accuser at Cosby sex assault trial

7 Jun

The main accuser in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial was subject to vigorous cross-examination by the defense Wednesday, exposing inconsistencies in her account surrounding the encounter more than 13 years ago.Andrea Constand, 44, was grilled by Cosby…

S. Korean pop star T.O.P in ‘critical condition’

7 Jun

South Korean pop star T.O.P is in critical condition, his doctor said Wednesday, a day after the singer was hospitalised following an apparent drug overdose.The 29-year-old rapper of K-pop boy band Big Bang was found unconscious at a police station whe…