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Still Cruising: Tom premieres new ‘Mission Impossible’ adventure in Abu Dhabi

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The red carpet unfurled Monday in Abu Dhabi for Hollywood action megastar Tom Cruise, who was on hand for the Middle Eastern premiere of “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One.”

Cruise was met by an enthusiastic crowd of fans and movie buffs eager to catch a glimpse of the star at the Emirates Palace Hotel in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Dressed in a tailored tuxedo and flashing his signature smile, Cruise appeared moved by the exuberant reception, stopping to speak with many attendees. The evening’s buzz was punctuated by the “Mission: Impossible” theme, its familiar chords adding a layer of cinematic nostalgia to the night.

“I’m a cinephile, I love movies and the history of cinema and how this art form develops,” Cruise told The Associated Press on the red carpet. “I didn’t know whether the audience was going to embrace (the first Mission: Impossible movie), it was the first film I ever produced and I did it because I wanted to challenge myself in many ways as an actor, as a producer, as a storyteller.”

“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” is the seventh installment of the blockbuster $3.5 billion grossing franchise famed for jam-packed action and ever-daring stunts performed by the 60-year-old Cruise himself.

“We’ve had a lot of fun coming up with these moments,” said Cruise.

The Mission: Impossible series follows the globe-trotting adventures of Ethan Hunt, a secret agent of the Impossible Missions Force, or IMF, as he undertakes high-risk covert operations. Picture heart-racing action, sophisticated gadgets, and Cruise’s Hunt executing death-defying stunts at every turn.

Matching the topic of the moment, Hunt and his IMF team are tasked with tracking down a potent new artificial intelligence weapon in “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One.” Scenes include base-jumping off a cliff on a motorcycle, hurling a steam train off an exploded bridge, and drifting a yellow Fiat 500 through Rome’s winding streets.

In a nod to the locale, the film incorporates several action sequences in Abu Dhabi. The desert landscapes of Liwa, known as the Empty Quarter, set the stage for intense horseback chases and firearm confrontations. Cruise runs across the dune-shaped roof of Abu Dhabi International Airport’s new Midfield Terminal in another scene.

“When you see us shooting a sequence in Abu Dhabi, it’s about that culture, it’s about that country, and that’s why we keep coming back here,” said Christopher McQuarrie, who is returning for the third time as director of the high-octane spy series.

McQuarrie joined Cruise on the red carpet along with other Mission: Impossible co-stars, both new and returning. Hayley Atwell and Pom Klementieff made their franchise debut, while Simon Pegg reprised his role as Benji Dunn, a character known for infusing comedic relief into the franchise’s most tense scenes.

“When you have a film which is high-tension you need that to occasionally be injected in order to make it a little bit more enjoyable,” said Pegg.

Following pandemic delays, the production companies behind the franchise, Paramount Pictures and Skydance, pushed the film’s release from September of 2022 to July of 2023. A leaked video from the set featured Cruise launching an expletive-laden rant at colleagues after he reportedly spotted two crew members failing to respect social distancing rules. The star expressed his concern about the potential consequences, which included shutting down production and jeopardizing the then-struggling movie industry and the jobs it supports.

“We just had to write the rulebook on how to make a film during a pandemic,” said Pegg. “Make sure everything was super safe, that was Tom’s biggest challenge in a way was to make us all feel safe and be safe, somehow we muddle through.”

Cruise was praised by many for his role in revitalizing Hollywood following the industry’s pandemic-induced stagnation. This recognition came on the heels of his blockbuster film, “Top Gun: Maverick,” which not only marked Cruise’s first $100 million debut but also signified the return of blockbuster movies to theaters as the most significant movie debut since the onset of the pandemic.

Abu Dhabi marks the third premiere location for “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One,” with the red carpet previously rolled out at the Spanish Steps in Rome and Leicester Square in London. The movie is set to open in U.S. theaters on July 12.


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Book Review: Explosive debut novel ‘Fireworks Every Night’ is a bittersweet celebration of survival

“Fireworks Every Night” by Beth Raymer (Random House)

C.C.’s isn’t your typical rags-to-riches story. She remembers growing up in a single-wide with her older sister, stay-at-home mom and car-salesman dad. But she also remembers when they moved to Florida after everything in the car lot burned down — including their home — launching them into a comfortable middle-class life and a fresh start in a state her dad proudly brags has fireworks every night.

“Fireworks Every Night” is Beth Raymer’s debut novel, but not her first book. Following her 2010 memoir “Lay the Favorite,” she borrows from her life to create a deeply personal story of a dysfunctional family.

Having grown up in West Palm Beach, Raymer puts her local knowledge to use as her protagonist — a resident of Loxahatchee, Florida — rattles off the schools she plays basketball against, and how worn down or rich they are. She’s familiar with the Baker Act and who’s been institutionalized through its use. She knows all the neighborhoods and has eaten at Benny’s on the Beach.

If the gorgeous cover designed by Elizabeth A. D. Eno isn’t enough to draw you in, let the heartbreakingly determined main character and the promise of an earnest look at the skeletons in her closet convince you.

In adulthood, C.C. is engaged to a well-educated and absurdly wealthy man — a far cry from the childhood in which she learns what it means to fight for survival. Hopping between the two timelines in stark juxtaposition, the full picture of C.C.’s life emerges.

As kid-C.C.’s home life comes completely unraveled, the story morphs from tragicomedy to horror, revealing how her family fell apart and left her sister struggling with addiction, her mother chronically absent and her father homeless. All the while, adult-C.C. is juggling a host of modern stresses: the viability of having children, climate change, living in a world that makes it far too easy to compare yourself with the 8 billion others who inhabit it, and reconciling your self-worth with the balance in your bank account.

Raymer launches addiction, homelessness, neglect and poverty shamelessly into the lexicon, treating C.C. and her family with nothing less than respect.

A nature motif runs throughout the story, blurring the line between animal and human and calling into question what is “natural” in a world so unnaturally shaped by people. Animals play a quiet but pivotal role throughout “Fireworks Every Night,” shaping Raymer’s engrossing novel into a bittersweet celebration of the scrappy Americans who are finding a way to survive even as the elite push humans and animals alike out of their habitats.

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Book Review: ‘White House by the Sea’ tells storied Kennedy tale through family’s compound

“White House By the Sea: A Century of the Kennedys at Hyannis Port” by Kate Storey (Scribner)

The history of the Kennedy family is so well-chronicled — from the modern Camelot legend surrounding John F. Kennedy’s presidency to the series of tragedies that marked the family throughout the 20tb century — that it’s hard to imagine new ways to tell their story.

But Kate Storey does just that in “White House By the Sea: A Century of the Kennedys at Hyannis Port” — revisiting the family’s history through their time at the famed Kennedy compound on Cape Cod.

Storey, the senior features editor at Rolling Stone magazine, weaves a fascinating narrative about the Kennedy family using Hyannis Port as the backdrop. The book traces the family’s ties to the compound back to the 1920s, when Joseph Kennedy bought Malcolm Cottage, what became known as the Big House.

Many of the stories feel so familiar, from Joseph Kennedy Jr.’s death during World War II to John F. Kennedy Jr.’s fatal plane crash in 1999. The compound was also the setting for much happier occasions, including John F. Kennedy’s presidential acceptance speech and the wedding of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver.

Storey gives them a fresh look with new details and well-sourced reporting that opens up a traditionally private community — “what’s left of Camelot,” she writes.

Storey’s research gives the book a more intimate feel than many other histories of the Kennedy family, introducing figures that aren’t as well-known but played a key role in the family and its compound. Fittingly, it’s written in an accessible way that makes the book a welcome beach read.

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Fox News unveils primetime lineup with Jesse Watters in Tucker Carlson’s former time slot

Jesse Watters will fill the Fox News Channel time slot left vacant by the firing of Tucker Carlson, part of a dramatic revamp of the network’s evening lineup announced on Monday.

Greg Gutfeld’s late-night show that combines news and comedy will move up an hour to start at 10 p.m. Eastern, displacing Laura Ingraham. She’ll shift to 7 p.m., the hour that Watters has occupied. Sean Hannity will stay in his 9 p.m. time slot, Fox said. The new lineup debuts on July 17.

The announcement comes roughly two months after Fox News fired Carlson shortly after settling a defamation lawsuit with the voting machine maker Dominion Voting Systems on the eve of trial. The case, which centered on the network’s airing of false claims following the 2020 presidential election, exposed a trove of private messages sent between Fox hosts, including Hannity and Carlson, in which they criticized peers at the network.

Carlson has since begun doing occasional monologues for Twitter, although Fox is attempting to get him to stop the broadcasts.

Fox has seen its ratings tumble since Carlson exited. Carlson averaged 3.25 million viewers at 8 p.m. in the first three months of the year, and the string of guest hosts who replaced him the past two months usually reached under 2 million, making the network’s command more tenuous.

The lineup change signals that Fox is doubling down on its opinionated evening programming strategy, with three sharp-tongued men filling the prime-time hours. It’s something of a triumphant return for Watters, who got his start at the 8 p.m. hour, doing man-in-the-street interviews and other features for Bill O’Reilly before O’Reilly’s firing in 2017.

It also means double duty for Gutfeld and Watters, who are both panelists on “The Five” and will continue there. The late-afternoon political talk show has become Fox’s most popular program.

Keeping that show’s chemistry intact appeared to be a priority for Fox. Gutfeld said in a Wall Street Journal interview last week that he would no longer appear on “The Five” or do his late-night show if he were to get Carlson’s old time slot.

Trace Gallagher, who has worked at Fox since the network began in 1996, will host a news show at 11 p.m., filling the hour that Gutfeld is leaving vacant.

“The unique perspectives of Laura Ingraham, Jesse Watters, Sean Hannity, and Greg Gutfeld will ensure our viewers have access to unrivaled coverage from our best-in-class team for years to come,” Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott said in a statement.

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