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American Humane investigating treatment of dog in film

The organization that ensures animal safety in film and television productions said Wednesday it is investigating whether a frightened dog was forced into churning water during the making of "A Dog's Purpose."

American Humane has also suspended its safety representative who worked on the film and is hiring an independent investigator to explore the matter, said Mark Stubis, a spokesman for the organization.

The film's producer, Amblin Entertainment, and distributor, Universal Pictures, said in a joint statement that they are reviewing the footage, but they are confident that "great care and concern was shown" for the dog, a German Shepherd named Hercules.

"There were several days of rehearsal of the water scenes to ensure Hercules was comfortable with all of the stunts," the statement said. "On the day of the shoot,

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said in a Twitter post that dog lovers should boycott the film "to send the message that dogs & other animals should be treated humanely, not as props."

Actor Josh Gad, who lends his voice to a dog in the film, issued a statement on Twitter saying he has asked the studio and production team for an explanation of what he calls "disturbing images."

He said that while the finished film is "one of the most beautiful love letters to animals I have ever seen," he was troubled by the video.

"I am shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will," Gad wrote. A publicist for the actor confirmed the post was authentic.

Review: Fun performances aren't enough to save 'Split'

To be clear, McAvoy is delightfully weird playing the various iterations of Kevin, although it might ruin him as a romantic lead for anyone who revisits "Atonement" after seeing this. It's actually a shame that the story, which keeps reminding us that there are 23 personalities, only chooses to show the audience about 8 of them for no particular reason.

The story of Kevin and all of his personalities feels like a crazy X-Men spinoff in some ways. He's being treated by a psychiatrist, Dr. Karen Fletcher (a perfectly campy Betty Buckley), who believes to her core that people with dissociative identity disorder are actually super humans. She's staked her career on it and Kevin is her model patient. He usually sees her in the form of Barry, a kind fashion designer, but lately she's starting to suspect the person visiting her is actually the perverted, OCD alter ego Dennis pretending to be Barry. It's a construct that should increase the tension immediately (especially knowing that there are three girls in his basement and wondering what he's capable of), but it never really lands despite some menacing ambiguity in McAvoy and subtle terror from Buckley, who gets some terrific close-ups.

The girls, by the way, are mostly non-entities with the exception of Anya Taylor-Joy's Casey Cook, an outsider even among her friends Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula). With raven black hair and pale, porcelain skin, and a haunted, far-off gaze, she looks like an emo Snow White who has seen some stuff. Indeed, Casey does have a disturbing backstory that we get a peek at through multiple flashbacks to one particularly poignant day in her childhood where her father teaches her big life lessons (and how to shoot a rifle) while deer hunting. This all ostensibly comes in handy when she's in captivity, but her strategies aren't nearly as thrilling or resourceful as, say, what we saw in "10 Cloverfield Lane," which cleverly subverted the tropes of the girl in captivity narrative while still making an exciting film.

Perhaps that's because the haziness of exactly what Dennis and Patricia and Hedwig (a lispy 9-year-old) and the "beast" they keep talking about are going to do to the girls never becomes real enough to either scare or intrigue the audience. You never want to find yourself in a purported thriller asking yourself out of boredom whether it's going to be slaughter or rape.

"Split" isn't a disaster; it's just all over the place and not nearly as effective as it should be for something with such a good premise and performances. For some M. Night Shyamalan devotees, it'll be enough though — and that's not even counting the surprise of the final shot.

"Split," a Universal Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "disturbing thematic content and behavior, violence and some language." Running time: 116 minutes. Two 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

Mall of America to reopen movie theaters with gourmet food

The Mall of America plans to continue showing movies, but in a renovated space that offers oversized reclining chairs, gourmet food and wines and cocktails.

The Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/2joDlN5 ) reported Wednesday that CMX, a subsidiary of Mexico City-based Cinemex, is building a 64,000-square-foot movie theater at the Minnesota mall, the largest indoor retail complex in the U.S. The new theaters will be on the fourth floor in the same space previously occupied by the mall-operated theaters that closed in December.

The new theaters will include about 1,110 seats in 14 rooms and are set to open this fall.

CMX CEO Jaime Rionda says the Mall of America is a "prime location" for the company.

Among the upscale features are swivel tables, "gourmet" food options and wines and handcrafted cocktails.

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

Sundance directors, actors find reteaming a winning formula

Whether muse or friend or both, actors and directors choosing to work together again is a tale as old as cinema.

It's no different this year at the Sundance Film Festival, which kicks off in Park City, Utah on Thursday and sees the reteaming of some must-see collaborators, from "I'll See You In My Dreams'" Brett Haley and Sam Elliott to the "Obvious Child" team of Gillian Robespierre and Jenny Slate.

Here's a look at a few at this year's festival:

THE HERO (Director: Brett Haley, Actor: Sam Elliott)

Writer-director Haley became friends with Elliott while making the underseen gem "I'll See You In My Dreams," where Elliott's character charms a fellow retiree in Blythe Danner. He and his co-writer Marc Basch knew they wanted to follow it up with a film written for Elliott. Initially, they thought they'd draw on his cinematic legacy and make a Western. But they quickly realized everyone makes a Western with Elliott, so they decided to play on that idea. "He's a Western icon of sorts and a guy who now makes his living doing voiceovers," Haley said. "We basically took what we loved about Sam, the legacy that he has, and we made him less famous, less successful and more of a screw up."

LANDLINE (Director: Gillian Robespierre, Actor: Jenny Slate)

While casting for the "Obvious Child" short, Robespierre remembers stumbling upon Slate, an SNL cast member for a single season in 2009-2010, and knew she'd found her muse. "She felt like a friend and she had a whole audience in laughter but also there were quiet moments where they were engaged," Robespierre recalled. "She's so present and beautiful and not traditionally what Hollywood considers a movie star. She's got a beautiful, ethnically Jewish looking face and curves and this non-perfect blonde hair, blue-eyed presence. We just thought, 'Wow wouldn't that be wonderful if the main star of our movie looked like a real woman.'" It was a no-brainer that they'd re-team for "Landline," a '90s-set comedy about two sisters (Slate and newcomer Abby Quinn) investigating their father's suspected affair and trying to keep it from their mother (Edie Falco).

A GHOST STORY (Director: David Lowery, Actors: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara)

In the lyrical "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," which played at Sundance in 2013, Mara and Affleck were outlaw lovers, but director Lowery's latest (after going big with Disney's "Pete's Dragon") is "about as art house as art house can get" with Affleck playing a ghost and Mara as his grief-stricken love. Because it was so small and self-financed, Lowery knew he wanted to work with only friends. "I'm lucky enough that at this point my sphere of friends include both of them. I was able to call them both up and say, 'Hey I'm making this weird thing, do you want to come to Dallas for two weeks?' They both said yes. I did not expect either of them to say yes. It's a risk. It's definitely not a normal movie and they both were excited about it and to work together again. I lucked out."

GOLDEN EXITS (Director: Alex Ross Perry, Actor: Jason Schwartzman)

Schwartzman brought his acerbic wit to director Perry's "Listen Up Philip," a 2014 Sundance movie, and the two have become close friends since. For Perry, calling on Schwartzman to co-star in his new film "Golden Exits," about an outsider who upsets the dynamic of two families in Brooklyn, was a very practical matter too. "Increasingly in the way film continues to flounder and struggle, having personal, direct access to actors you want to work with is very valuable and it's something I've been very lucky to have been given the support to build up," Perry said. "The next person I talk to, whether I know them or not, I can say, 'Jason's in this' and they'll say, 'OK, this is already on its way.'"

NEWNESS (Director: Drake Doremus, Actor: Nicholas Hoult)

Doremus, who won the 2011 Grand Jury prize for "Like Crazy," returns this year with his "Equals" star Hoult in "Newness," about 20-somethings in the online dating game who are addicted to the new, never giving relationships an actual chance before moving on to the next option. Hoult lived with Doremus for three months during the shoot, which became a camp-like experience. "We can say anything to each other. There's nothing that's off-limits. Everything gets done right because we make sure to push it as much as we can," Doremus said. "And, as far as actors go in their mid-to-late-20s, to me, he's the best around."

AND MORE...

Veteran filmmaker Lone Scherfig ("An Education") is working again with her "Riot Club" star Sam Claflin in "Their Finest," about an arrogant WWII-era screenwriter. She was excited to see him play something more "witty and romantic," which she'd seen in him since the start, while writer-director Marianna Palka director teamed up with longtime stars Jason Ritter and Martin Starr for "Bitch." Similarly, Jeff Baena ("Life After Beth") called upon an entire roster of his regulars for "The Little Hours," including girlfriend Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon and Adam Pally, which would require a trip to Tuscany in the spring to shoot the unconventional comedy set in the middle ages.

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Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

Octavia Spencer is named Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year

Octavia Spencer, who won an Oscar and several other awards for best supporting actress in "The Help," was named Woman of the Year on Wednesday by Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Theatricals.

"The Pudding is proud to honor an actress whose depth of talent has captivated audiences with her comedic wit and her graceful portrayals of the underrepresented," the student group said in a statement.

Spencer is scheduled to be honored with a parade through the streets of Cambridge on Jan. 26, followed by a roast and the presentation of her pudding pot.

"We are humbled by her talent and are so honored that our little pudding pot will be sitting alongside Ms. Spencer's Oscar and Golden Globe on her mantle," Hasty Pudding co-producer Adam Chiavacci said.

In addition to her Academy Award, Spencer won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award for her portrayal of Minny Jackson in 2011's "The Help."

She is currently appearing alongside Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae and Kevin Costner in "Hidden Figures," a film about the behind-the-scenes contributions of several African-American women in the early years of the NASA program.

She also played Johanna in the "Allegiant" movie franchise.

The award has been handed out annually since 1951 to people who have made lasting and impressive contributions to the world of entertainment. Previous Hasty Pudding winners include Meryl Streep, Katharine Hepburn and Helen Mirren. Kerry Washington was last year's recipient.

"Deadpool" actor Ryan Reynolds was named the 2017 Hasty Pudding Man of the Year last week.

Hasty Pudding says it is the nation's oldest collegiate theatrical organization, tracing its roots to the late 1700s.

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.

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