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Tom Cruise was set to jet into Cannes on Wednesday with "Top Gun: Maverick" as a Russian dissident in the main competition showcases an alternative side to the world's top film festival.
Cruise, last at Cannes 30 years ago, is tipped to make a spectacular entrance accompanied by a French Air Force aerobatic display team dazzling with a fly-past over the red carpet.
Critics have treated the sequel to his superstar-making 1986 blockbuster to giddy reviews, with hopes the film will boost movie theaters still struggling to recover from the pandemic.
"In the history of cinema... (Cruise) has one of the highest success rates," festival director Thierry Fremaux said this week.
"This is someone that we haven't seen on streaming platforms, TV series, or doing adverts... He is someone who is devoted to cinema."
Before that, in the main competition for the top prize Palme d'Or, Cannes was set to welcome Russian dissident Kirill Serebrennikov with a very different offering: "Tchaikovsky's Wife" about the legendary composer's brief and tragic marriage.
The director was unable to attend the festival for two previous nominations due to a controversial court case that barred him from leaving Russia.
Now in exile following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, his new film is unlikely to improve his standing with the Kremlin given that it shines a light on the composer's homosexuality -- a story that remains taboo for Russian conservatives.
The war has already been a major theme at the festival, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky making a surprise appearance via video at the opening ceremony on Tuesday.
"Will cinema keep quiet, or will it speak up? If there is a dictator, if there is a war for freedom, once again, everything depends on our unity. Can cinema stay outside of this unity?" Zelensky said.
There will be a special screening of "Mariupolis 2", a documentary about the conflict by Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius, who was killed in Ukraine last month -- reportedly by Russian forces.
Ukraine's beleaguered filmmakers will get a special day at the festival and one of its most promising directors, Sergei Loznitsa, will show "The Natural History of Destruction", about the bombing of German cities in World War II.
The head of the jury charged with selecting the winners this year, French actor Vincent Lindon, said the invasion of Ukraine had penetrated even the glamorous bubble that is Cannes, which was founded in 1946, he noted as a response to fascism.
"The torments of the world, which is bleeding, suffering, burning... they rack my conscience," he told the opening ceremony.
According to analysis site The Numbers, Cruise's 39 films as lead actor have pulled in just shy of $8.5 billion (8 billion euros) worldwide.
"Top Gun: Maverick" could add as much as $390 million from the United States alone, according to Box Office Pro.
Empire magazine praised its "slick visuals, crew camaraderie, thrilling aerial action, a surprising emotional wallop and, in Tom Cruise, a magnetic movie-star performance as comforting as an old leather jacket."
The Department of Justice has asked for transcripts of interviews conducted by the House select committee, and a legal expert explained how that shows the criminal investigation of Jan. 6 has moved out into the open.
The pace of the DOJ probe of the insurrection has reportedly frustrated the White House, but MSNBC legal analyst Barbara McQuade told "Morning Joe" the request for evidence collected by congressional investigators shows federal authorities have widened the scope of their criminal investigation.
"I think this is a very significant development," said McQuade, a former U.S. Attorney. "It tells us that the Justice Department is looking at more than just the physical attack that occurred on Jan. 6 at the Capitol, but the full scope of all of the things that the Jan. 6 committee has been investigating that includes aides to Mike Pence, we've talked about the pressure that Donald Trump put on him to stop the certification. It includes DOJ high-level officials who were pressured by Trump to say that there was fraud in the election."
McQuade doesn't believe their ongoing investigation has expanded, but she said the request does signal a new phase to the criminal probe.
"I don't think it means necessarily only now are they beginning that expansive investigation." she said. "I think they've just reached a point where they've decided it's okay to go overt. It's likely they've been doing covert investigations to get email, for example, is likely completed and now ready to proceed to this phase."
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After some four years probing Mars' interior, NASA's InSight lander will likely retire this summer as accumulated dust on its solar panels saps its power.
The lander will, however, leave behind a legacy of data that will be tapped by scientists around the world for years to come, helping to improve our understanding of planet formation, NASA said, while announcing on Tuesday the imminent end to InSight's science operations.
Equiped with an ultra-sensitive seismometer, InSight recorded more than 1,300 "marsquakes," including a magnitude 5 quake on May 4, the largest so far.
But around July, the seismometer will be turned off.
The lander's energy level will then be checked about once a day, and some pictures may still be taken. Then by the end of 2022, the mission will be completely stopped.
The cause: the accumulation over months of Martian dust on the lander's two solar panels, each measuring about seven feet (2.2 meters) wide.
InSight, which is already running on only a tenth of the energy it had at the beginning, will soon find its batteries drained.
The speed at which dust accumulated corresponded more or less to what had been estimated by NASA.
The lander got a new lease on life around a year ago, when its robotic arm was put to new and unplanned use to remove some dust from the solar panels, extending the mission.
The maneuver -- employed six times successfully -- saw the arm use dust itself to clear the panels, as it scooped up some martian soil and gently dropped onto the robot so the dirt was blown across the solar panels, clearing parts of their surface.
Adding something to the lander specifically to clean the panels was forgone due to costs, explained Bruce Banerdt of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, during a press conference Tuesday.
Such a mechanism would leave "less to put into the science instruments," he said.
InSight, one of four missions currently on the Red Planet -- along with the US rovers Perseverance and Curiosity, and China's Zhurong -- arrived on Mars in November 2018.
Its seismometer, made in France, has since paved the way for great advances.
"The interior was kind of just a giant question mark," said Banerdt, who has worked on the InSight mission for more than a decade.
But thanks to InSight, "we've been able to map out the inside of Mars for the very first time in history."
Seismic waves, varying based on the materials they pass through, offer a picture of the interior of the planet.
For example, scientists were able to confirm that the core of Mars is liquid and to determine the thickness of the Martian crust -- less dense than previously thought and likely consisting of three layers.
The magnitude 5 quake in early May was much larger than all those previously recorded and close to what scientists thought would be the maximum on Mars, though it would not be considered a huge tremor on Earth.
"This quake is really going to be a treasure trove of scientific information when we get our teeth into it," Banerdt said.
Earthquakes are in particular caused by plate tectonics, he explained. But, they can also be triggered when the Earth's crust moves due to temperature anomalies caused by its mantle.
It is this type of vibration that scientists think they are dealing with on Mars.
Not all of InSight's scientific operations have gone smoothly, however, such as when its heat probe had trouble being successfully buried below the surface to take the planet's temperature because of the composition of the soil where the robot landed.
Regardless, in light of the seismometer's success, NASA is considering using the technique elsewhere in the future, said Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division.
"We'd really like to set up a complete network on the moon to really understand what's going on there."
© 2022 AFP