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Lindsay Lohan has had multiple run-ins with the law but has served significant time only in rehab. Like Lohan, Paris Hilton walked in and out of prison. Directors Roman Polanski and Woody Allen have had questionable sex scandals and faced no jail time. Even O.J. Simpson was tried for murder and acquitted but then declared guilty in a civil trial. It’s unclear whether the court of justice gets interrupted by the court of public opinion, the legal system is not prepared to handle high profile inmates, or if justice can be effectively carried out with such high profile figures. So does the burden fall on Hollywood to police its own?
Shh! It’s a Secret
One challenge to Hollywood policing its celebrities is that they have high powered lawyers and are very litigious. How can journalists report on crimes if they are subject to high profile lawsuits? Also, if you’re rich enough you may have a built in network of alibis and accomplices. It’s easy to have "friends" (or paid-off bouncers) take the rap, or to have people in your employ sign non-disclosure agreements. But having inequitable legal protection does not allow celebrities to be above the law. Stars like Lindsay Lohan may not serve jail time, but judging from her reality show, the time incarcerated may have served her well. With so many celebrities dying of drug related deaths does this behavior not warrant some sort of action?
The NBA has banned Donald Sterling for life for inflammatory statements he made about minorities. Paula Deen was let go from The Food Network and lost many endorsements because of things she said. But what about the things actors and performers say that get out. During stand-up performances, Tracy Morgan said if his son was gay he would kill him, and Michael Richards used the N-word. Lest we forget the many inflammatory comments by Mel Gibson and Alec Baldwin. And yet, no one is around to fine, ban, or police them.
Shonda Rhimes: Avenger
One of the few showbiz figures policing her stars seems to be Shonda Rhimes. Columbus Short, star of Scandal, has been let go by ABC amid allegations of spousal abuse. It’s sad to lose such a vital character on the show but there are some things you just can’t abide. He may be able to get away without having to do prison time but he shouldn’t appear on a national television show, with major notoriety, about a Washington power player that is a woman. It’s unclear whether it is Rhimes or ABC that removed Short, but Rhimes does have a long history of keeping her actors in line. When Grey's Anatomy star Isaiah Washington engaged in a major physical altercation, used a gay slur, and outed an actor derisively, he was let go from the show. Now this may also be a case of responding to a public outcry but it was a decision based on outrage by the cast, crew, and creators. Regardless of whether it is ABC or Rhimes making the order, letting these actors go sends a clear message: this behavior is not permissible. Look at a show like Two and a Half Men, which kept Charlie Sheen on until his public face became too much to handle. The show was a cash cow but could have afforded to let Sheen go earlier. Clearly, he has issues with drugs and his own hubris. He didn’t start out at rock bottom and had the show intervened earlier his career might have been saved.
No one is above the law but it seems like actors and Hollywood types will not realize until they lose everything. The one lesson from Lohan’s OWN show Lindsay is that you can get yourself ejected from Hollywood for bad behavior. The trip back is an uphill climb. There’s tons of talented actors and directors, beautiful models, and enjoyable comedians… but you only get a few chances.
In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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S5: E9 Last night’s 30 Rock didn’t fail to entertain, but I couldn’t help but notice a striking similarity to an episode we saw earlier this season. I know, I know; say it ain’t so, Tina Fey! Perhaps you remember a few weeks back to the “Reaganing” episode a few weeks ago where Jack goes on a 24 hour no-fail streak, solving everyone’s issues without faltering. Well, then last night’s season five installment should have been a nice trip down memory lane, because Jack’s at it again. This time, he’s trying to avoid being everyone’s go-to Mr. Fix-it but finds that alas, he’s destined to be the one putting everyone’s problems to rest. The set-up may be a bit different, but the result is the same – we find that Jack plays his role of problem-solving fair so well and we all realize just how important he is (and don’t you forget it – his ego couldn’t take it). Despite the semi-recycled plot line, I can admit that story isn’t exactly the reason we keep coming back to the New York-centric comedy. It’s the nonstop outrageous and timely humor that succeeds no matter how out of hand or stale the story is.
The cold open sees the return of Tracy’s “son” Donald who’s two years old than him. Father and “son” make a plea for Jack to invest in Donald’s new restaurant venture after his Tracy Jordan School for Karate failed miserably. Con man Donald tries desperately to mimic Tracy’s spastic and awkward delivery but comes off as a poorly drawn caricature. Luckily the otherwise obnoxious opening scene is saved by the never-ending childlike gullibility that we’ve all come to expect from Tracy. There’s a lot more of this leg pulling throughout the rest of the episode, and by the time it reaches the end I want to strangle Donald through the television and slap Tracy upside the head for being such an idiot. Of course Jack isn’t willing to help, and thus begins his attempt at a withdrawal from the role of helper.
In Jenna’s plot this week, her cross-dressing boyfriend (Will Forte) is back, celebrating 6 months of their public tongue-touching sessions and matching outfits. She’s of course assuming he’ll pop the question – no, not that one. The sex tape question. Honestly, the idea of Jenna the sex-crazed maniac is reaching new levels of desperation – even for her. Can we go back to the days where her moments were killer one-liners and her main role was to act as nothing more than a foil to Liz’s spastic and often grotesque habits. Anyway, Jenna is deathly afraid of M word (marriage - gasp!) and fears that a committed relationship of that nature spells a dull and boring existence. Of course that means that’s exactly what cross-dressing Paul will make moves towards when he asks her to come home with him and meet his parents. This eventually results in their breakup, and much as I love Will Forte, I’ll be glad to be rid of this overdrawn storyline.
At the same time, Liz is hoping for that comfortable, boring, committed phase but fears that her relationship with Carol is hitting a wall. She hasn’t talked to him in five days, so naturally she marches up to Jack’s office hoping for that sage, rich man advice. But since Jack’s decided that he’s no longer helping anyone, he tells Liz to get a therapist – which isn’t exactly the worst idea in the world. I may identify with Liz on many levels, but there are some issues there that even I can’t wrap my head around. Jack of course manages to tout his own ability to deal with any problem by crushing it in his “mind vice” without help from others – psst, Jack, in case you didn’t notice that sentence in itself could have saved you the trouble of this entire episode. You deal with problems better than anyone, that’s why they need you. Case closed. (Although I’ll give him some credit. He does talk to Liz too much for someone he’s not having sex with.)
Even though he’s trying to take a back seat, Jack goes down to Donald’s restaurant to check it out. Enter the joke that will run rampant throughout the episode: Donald naming all his ventures after other, already existing boring businesses. The project at hand, a restaurant called Staples that features the basics plus an hourly Godzila fight (only one L due to copyright), is obviously primed to fail. Dear Tina Fey, please tell me there will be no more Donald episodes, the scenes he’s in never seem to end soon enough. Already, Jack sees that he’s needed; Tracy needs to be coaxed out of this con he’s been wrangled into. Jack convinces Tracy to cut Donald off like a real parent. He convinces Tracy that it’s his duty as a parent (I’ll pause while you Tracy Jordan types giggle at “duty”) to force him to take care of himself. Jack practically forces his hand and makes Tracy send Donald away, even though he’s got that fantastic microbrewery/ frozen yogurt bar: Microsoft. (Seriously, that joke was old as soon as it began.)
Liz is floundering without Jack’s guidance, but she’s convinced she’ll never find a therapist she likes. This turns into her laying on her office couch, while Kenneth (who never seems to be able to say no to anyone – grow a pair, dude) listens intently while Liz works out her own deep-rooted issues, including the fact that Liz Lemon made enemies with Santa early on. Cut to a little boy playing 9 year old Liz berating a mall Santa for being a fraud – we get it Liz was boyish, but knock it off. It’s getting old. Next thing we know, Liz is depending on Kenneth daily as her workplace therapist, but of course this can’t last. Suddenly Liz is losing her head, failing to notice the fact that she abusing Kenneth’s unwavering good nature. I had more faith in you, Lemon. As she solves all her issues – including her fear of eggs stemming from her aunt’s disturbing sexual frustrations – but triggers emotional problems in Kenneth and he becomes the one who needs psychiatric help. Way to go, Liz.
After helping Tracy with his daddy issues, Jack catches Lemon using Kenneth as a therapist and he realizes he’s needed. Kenneth has gone crazy, speaking in different voices – I kind of liked his Cheryl character, could you imagine an episode of girl-Kenneth? Liz has started a chain reaction of mental anguish and only Jack and his mind vice can vanquish the problem. Kenneth opens up to Jack about his troubles; his role model, Harold…the pig. Somehow, Kenneth’s hick ways never get old. Kenneth’s issues are probably one of the more enjoyable pieces of the episode. He explains that in order to earn his ticket to follow his dreams in New York, he had to participate in a pig eating contest and that the pig he was served was none other than his father pig (a term I’m so thankful for learning). Kenneth, being the determined guy he is, still ate Harold (even his face – what? No fava beans or chianti to go with?) and it’s haunted him ever since. Jack takes on Kenneth’s mental burden to crush it in his mind vice, but as Kenneth leaves we find that even the might Jack has father issues. He’s now become a part of the chain reaction of mental anguish.
The only logical way to continue this is to use his mental anguish for good, so he returns to Tracy and Donald. This time, with a more positive bit of advice. (But that’s why he’s the helper, because he can turn anguish into advice, instead of multiple personalities.)
Jack walks in just as Tracy receives half of the profits from the restaurant – a pink coat left in the coat check. He shares his sob story about how his father never thought he could accomplish anything, resulting in little Jack Donaghy accidentally giving a speech about “protoins” and living “orgasms.” Jack sees now that everyone needs a father figure to love them and support them – even if it’s a father pig like Kenneth’s – aww. Of course, the most unentertaining obnoxious 30 Rock character in a long while (seriously, get off this show; go away and never come back) refutes Jack’s assertion – he is a failure and Jack was never going to be a scientist. Then comes one of the other great moments of the episode; Jack recites his elementary school speech about proteins and amino acids like an epic, rousing speech at the end of a movie. This quickly reunites Tracy and his fake son, which I’ll deal with as long as he promises to stay off the show from now on.
Liz carries the benefits of her Kenneth therapy on to the end, skipping through the TGS halls until she shares a bench with the Godzila who’s just been fired from Donald’s restaurant. His life is eerily like hers and he’s a huge failure…bye, bye positive Lemon. We knew it wouldn’t last.