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Unfunny movie destroys a brilliant play

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Unfunny movie destroys a brilliant play

Running time: 95 minutes. Rated PG-13 (suggestive references and some drug material). In select theaters and on demand.

Fifteen minutes into the awful new movie “Blithe Spirit,” something changes: The actors finally start speaking a few lines that were actually written by Noël Coward. Unfortunately, not many more arrive after that.

My dusty old play script was open the entire time to keep track of the hack job (I don’t get out much), and I was seething. Shouldn’t a new riff on an 80-year-old play by a dead guy be allowed to take some liberties? Yes, but let’s recall the reasons Coward’s comedy is a classic in the first place.

  1. It is funny. 
  2. It is charming.
  3. It’s a banquet for great actors, and has starred onstage over the years Richard Chamberlain, Judith Ivey and Angela Lansbury.

Now, change the start of those three list items to “It is not,” and you’ll get a taste of this imitation crab stick “Blithe Spirit.”  

If your experience with the British playwright is limited — or nonexistent — try the 1945 film version starring Rex Harrison. That movie, which holds up splendidly, explains everything that’s wrong with this one, directed by Edward Hall.

In both, the story is about a writer named Charles (Dan Stevens), who, while scrambling for new material, invites a medium to his home to lead a seance for his wife, Ruth (Isla Fisher), and two friends. Madame Arcati (Judi Dench) is merely an entertaining fraud, they decide, but later that night, the chipper ghost of Charles’ dead wife Elvira (Leslie Mann) appears. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

Elvira, who only Charles can see, violently haunts the couple’s home in hopes of getting her man back.

The source material explodes with wit, but this hackneyed screenplay has swapped the crackling repartee for bargain-bin joke book lines delivered at a snail’s pace.

When Charles complains to a friend about his failing libido, he says, “Big Ben’s stopped chiming” and, really driving his point home, “Mr. Peabody’s got stage fright.” Coward would sooner jump off Big Ben than write this dreck.

Spewing it out is a trio of actors who are, for the most part, one note and humor deficient. Cardboard Stevens seems entirely unfazed by having the ghost of his former wife as a squatter, Fisher’s Ruth is like a Tuesday tornado siren test and Mann’s only real contrast with her nemesis is that Elvira has been made American. The movie is set in 1937, but we could be watching a contemporary murder-mystery party in Malibu, California.

The only bright spot is Dench, and even she is hindered by the drudgery of the adaptation. Arcati is a kooky old lady (Jennifer Saunders of “Absolutely Fabulous” just played her in Britain), but Hall has rendered her scenes somber and serious.

Still, Dench is an ideal Arcati. Let’s hope she tries the role again . . . in a proper version.

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Vaccine passports not for the jetset, says WHO

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Vaccine passports not for the jetset, says WHO

No need to pull your suitcase and neck pillow from storage just yet.

In light of hype and rumor surrounding the so-called “vaccine passport,” the World Health Organization has issued a statement warning transportation officials that such clearances would not guarantee travelers are immune from spreading COVID-19 in one way or another.

Proof of immunization would be a moot requirement, as there are still more “critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission,” WHO asserted.

“WHO also recommends that people who are vaccinated should not be exempt from complying with other travel risk-reduction measures,” they wrote in a Feb. 5 statement about the proposed digital passports that show a person has been vaccinated.

They also discouraged the possibility that cautious international travelers might put a squeeze on already scarce coronavirus vaccine doses, putting disadvantaged groups at a continued risk of exposure — and extend their period of lockdown isolation.

“Individuals who do not have access to an authorized COVID-19 vaccine would be unfairly impeded in their freedom of movement if proof of vaccination status became a condition for entry to or exit from a country,” WHO wrote. “National authorities should choose public health interventions that least infringe on individual freedom of movement.”

The US, UK and other European leaders have publicly mulled safe travel programs and strategies that would pave the way for a travel industry rehab, allowing greater mobility between countries in the wake of a pandemic which has seen over 2.5 million lives lost globally since last winter. In addition to international travel, the license might potentially allow for access to bars and restaurants.

Public health experts outside of WHO’s ranks have also criticized the proposition.

“I can see that they might be useful in the longer term, but I have several concerns about them being considered at this point in time when I think the scientific evidence doesn’t support them. And there are lots of ethical concerns about them that I think are legitimate,” said Dr. Deepti Gurdasani, clinical epidemiologist at Queen Mary University of London, according to a CNBC report on Thursday.

“We know very little about the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing infection or even asymptomatic disease against several variants circulating in different countries,” Dr. Gurdasani added.

The statements come at a time when scientists are learning more than ever about the enigmatic disease, including a study reported on Wednesday which revealed that the coronavirus can survive on fabric, including cotton and polyester blends, for up to three days — removed only with scorching hot water and detergent.

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Arizona woman returns 1950s Purple Heart to man’s family after finding it at thrift store

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Arizona woman returns 1950s Purple Heart to man’s family after finding it at thrift store

A family has been reunited with their father’s Purple Heart more than three decades after he died, thanks to a bit of sleuthing.

Teresa Ferrin discovered the Purple Heart — along with several other military awards — at a thrift shop in Phoenix, Arizona, where she volunteers once a week. 

Ferrin explained to Fox News that her job involves pricing the donated items before displaying them on the shop’s floor. But about two weeks ago, someone dropped off the military awards, making sure to point out the Purple Heart among the collection. 

She inspected the medal and found a name on the back. That’s when she decided to track down the owner. 

“I just felt it needed to go to the family, and I was going to try to find the family,” Ferrin told Fox News.

At first, Ferrin she had trouble reading the name, but she eventually deciphered it: Erik Karl Blauberg. Blauberg was a veteran of the Korean War, where he received the Purple Heart, a medal presented to service members who have been wounded or killed in the line of duty. 

After doing some research online and making a few phone calls, Ferrin learned that Blauberg had been living in Apache Junction, Arizona, when he died in 1988 at the age of 58. 

Ferrin was later able to get in touch with a few of Blauberg’s eight children, including Lisa Walker, who lives in Florida.

Walker told Ferrin that Blauberg had left her family when she was young, leaving her mother to care for all eight children on her own. 

“They were estranged from him,” Ferrin explained to Fox News. “They knew who he was, they talked to him occasionally, but they didn’t really know him very well.” 

By the time Blauberg died, he didn’t leave anything to his children. So when Ferrin sent the military awards — and the Purple Heart — to the family, Walker described the gesture as “bittersweet.”

“This is one of the only things that we have [of his],” Walker told Fox News. “I’m very grateful to Teresa.

Walker said she and her siblings were also surprised to find out about their father’s military awards.

“We didn’t even know he had a Purple Heart,” Walker said. “I knew — and my brothers knew — that he had medals, but we didn’t know he had a Purple Heart, so that was very shocking.”

Ultimately, Walker said she’s thankful Ferrin was able to track her and her family down. “I can’t believe someone went above and beyond like Teresa did, and didn’t give up to find us,” Walker said.

As far as Ferrin was concerned, she said she couldn’t have done anything else, especially because her own father had also served in the military during the Korean War.

“I thought, if it was my father’s, I’d certainly want someone to return it to me,” Ferrin said. “I just felt the family needed to have that.”

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Amid COVID-19 pandemic, flu has disappeared in the US

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Amid COVID-19 pandemic, flu has disappeared in the US

NEW YORK — February is usually the peak of flu season, with doctors’ offices and hospitals packed with suffering patients. But not this year.

Flu has virtually disappeared from the U.S., with reports coming in at far lower levels than anything seen in decades.

Experts say that measures put in place to fend off the coronavirus — mask wearing, social distancing and virtual schooling — were a big factor in preventing a “twindemic” of flu and COVID-19. A push to get more people vaccinated against flu probably helped, too, as did fewer people traveling, they say.

Another possible explanation: The coronavirus has essentially muscled aside flu and other bugs that are more common in the fall and winter. Scientists don’t fully understand the mechanism behind that, but it would be consistent with patterns seen when certain flu strains predominate over others, said Dr. Arnold Monto, a flu expert at the University of Michigan.

Nationally, “this is the lowest flu season we’ve had on record,” according to a surveillance system that is about 25 years old, said Lynnette Brammer of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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