Cast change gives Transformers fresh start

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

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HONG KONG, China (AP) — The robots aren't the only part of the latest Transformers film that changed. Led by star Mark Wahlberg, a whole new cast was brought in to give a fresh start to the blockbuster franchise.

Transformers: Age of Extinction stars Wahlberg as a mechanic who strikes up a friendship with good-guy robot Optimus Prime.

Wahlberg said the idea of joining the franchise came while he and Bay were working on last year's film, Pain and Gains.

"I've never done a sequel to any of the movies that I've done and this is my first installment in the series. So, still not really a sequel for me. Just thought it was fun to do something different and I really wanted to work with Michael."

The first three films were anchored by Shia LaBeouf, and Wahlberg has previously said he felt pressure about stepping into the shoes of other actors. Still he jumped at the opportunity, and while he's signed to do future installments, "I'm not doing it if Michael doesn't do it. So we'll see what happens."

At the film's worldwide premiere in Hong Kong on Thursday, Bay praised the 43-year-old Wahlberg as a leading man with maturity and gravitas.

Hong Kong and China plays an important backdrop in the latest installment, another indication of China's growing importance to Hollywood. The franchise's third film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, earned US$1.1 billion at the global box office, with US$165 million from China, its second biggest market after North America.

Armani names 'essential item'

MILAN, Italy (AP) — Giorgio Armani's fashion must-have for men next summer: A white bag.

"You cannot NOT have a white bag," the designer told journalists backstage after his Emporio Armani menswear preview yesterday, the third day of Milan Fashion Week.

Emporio's white bags for next summer include backpacks and hand luggage, and they are counterpointed with versions in black and black-and-white geometric patterns.

Armani seems to be onto something.

Gucci also featured a large white leather duffel bag -- among an array of other colours. And US department store menswear buyer, Kevin Harter of Bloomingdales, says another leather manufacturer this season was pushing white bags, saying "It will sell."

Armani says he has done a whole sale clean-up of looks for his Emporio Armani collection for next spring and summer.

Adios tour for Buena Vista Social Club

HAVANA (AP) — They were forgotten masters of a long-ago sound, their faces deeply lined and their hands spotted with age.

Then, suddenly, at an age when many performers would be retired, the members of this old-school band found themselves playing in some of the most hallowed venues around the world, sharing stages with the likes of Sting and Shakira.

After rocketing into the spotlight in the late 1990s, the Buena Vista Social Club became nothing less than Cuba's soundtrack to the world. Nearly two decades later, the remaining members of the group are preparing to disband after one last farewell tour.

"Many of the musicians have their own plans," said a visibly emotional Jesus "Aguaje" Ramos, a trombonist and orchestra leader who has been with the group since the beginning. "They must be given a chance."

He spoke in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press before the group left Cuba last week for its globe-trotting swan song.

"The name of the tour is very strong -- the Adios Tour," Ramos said. "But for me, it's more of an 'until next time'. We are musicians, and we have to do this."

The Buena Vista Social Club was born when US musician and producer Ry Cooder traveled to the island and brought the musicians together to lay down the haunting 14-track album. The record won a Grammy, and a documentary of the same name was nominated for an Oscar.

The catchy opening chords of Chan Chan still echo through the cobblestone streets of Old Havana each day, played by roving bands of musicians who know what tourists want to hear. The group's interpretation of classics like El Cuarto de Tula and "Dos Gardenias" are also frequently heard.

Together with a boom in other genres in the 1990s, the Buena Vista Social Club was a key part of a "great golden age of music in Cuba," said Raul Fernandez, a social scientist at the University of California, Irvine, who studies the island's music.

Today, many of the core original members have died, including Ruben Gonzalez, Ibrahim Ferrer and Compay Segundo, with crooner Omara Portuondo and guitarist Eliades Ochoa among the better-known still living.





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