Michael Buckner/Getty ImagesWhile most people scoffed when The Canyons director Paul Schrader compared its troubled star Lindsay Lohan to silver screen goddess Marilyn Monroe, they do have at least one thing in common – they've both been immortalised in song by Sir Elton John. Indeed, exactly 30 years after he penned "Candle In The Wind" as a tribute to the original Blonde Bombshell, the Rocket Man revealed this week that the closing title track from his new 31st studio album, The Diving Board, was based on watching the Mean Girls star's descent from talented actress to car-crash TMZ regular. Here's a look at five other songs that have been inspired by celebrities.
Alanis Morissette – "You Oughta Know"A tour-de-force of angst-ridden alt-rock, "You Oughta Know" transformed the Canadian from a Tiffany-esque teen pop mall queen to the world's biggest banshee. But few would have expected the subject of her fury to have been such an unassuming figure as Uncle Joey from Full House. Despite his initial denials, Dave Coulier finally admitted in 2008 that he was in fact the man who stamped on Morissette's heart after they dated in the early '90s.
Madonna – "Miles Away"Best-known for possibly the most tacky album cover of all time and a bandwagon jumping collaboration with Timbaland & Timberlake, Madonna's much-maligned 2008 release, Hard Candy, wasn’t always so contrived. Indeed, this gorgeously melancholic electro-ballad was possibly one of the most honest and autobiographical songs of the Material Girl's career as she poured her heart out over the hardships of maintaining a long-distance relationship with now ex-husband Guy Ritchie.
Carly Simon – "You’re So Vain"Long before Taylor Swift turned the concept of 'blind gossip' into an art form, singer-songwriter Carly Simon got all the tabloids talking when she assassinated a former boyfriend's character on "You’re So Vain." Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty and James Taylor's names have all been thrown into the ring as possible suspects. But only Simon and the man who paid $50,000 to discover the answer back in 2003 appears to really know who the guilty party is.
R.E.M. - "Man On The Moon"Seven years before they wrote "The Great Beyond" for the Jim Carrey-starring biopic of the same name, R.E.M. paid tribute to the late cult comedian Andy Kaufmann with this enduring hit from Automatic For The People. Referencing everything from the Taxi star's flawless Elvis impersonation to his work with wrestlers Fred Blassie and Jerry Lawler, the track was named so due to the moon-landing style conspiracy theories surrounding his 1984 death.
Annie – "Me Plus One"Taken from her 2004 debut, Anniemal, "Me Plus One" saw Norwegian starlet Annie narrate the real-life moment when Geri Halliwell locked herself in a car with producer Richard X after discovering that he'd given the song she desperately wanted to record to former S Club 7 member Rachel Stevens instead. Also sampling the barks of the former Spice Girl's dog Harry, this insanely catchy slice of electropop undoubtedly ranks as one of the more bizarre celebrity odes.
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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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Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer is based on a bestselling series of children’s books by librarian-turned-author Megan McDonald. I've read none of the books but over 14 million copies of them have been sold to date which leads me to believe there must be some fundamental appeal to them. Whatever it is none of it is to be found in this grating adaptation. For kids Judy Moody is at best a harmless diversion; for adults it’s 90 minutes of cinematic purgatory.
The film stars Jordana Beatty as the title character a precocious nine-year-old whose wildly unkempt hair hobo-rainbow wardrobe and zany portmanteaus like “supercalifragilisticexpithrilladelic” are meant to convey creativity and independence but more persuasively hint at a future of padded cells and four-point restraints. When the school term ends Judy prepares for three months of unbridled fun but her plans are derailed when two of her best friends Rocky (Garrett Ryan) and Amy (Taylar Hender) announce that they are leaving for the summer. Judy’s summer prospects further diminish when her parents decamp to California to tend to an ailing grandfather leaving behind her eccentric Aunt Opal (Heather Graham convincingly crazy) a vagabond free spirit with an interest in “guerrilla art ” to supervise in their stead.
If there’s a point to any of this director John Schultz (Aliens in the Attic) doesn’t articulate it. The film’s oblique narrative revolves around an arbitrary contest of Judy’s design in which she and her three friends compete for “thrill points” by completing various activities like riding a roller coaster or walking a tightrope. The exact stakes of the contest if there are any are never made clear giving us little incentive to care about how any of it turns out. Little matter – each activity is really just a catalyst for some lame gag the culmination of which usually involves unwanted contact with a) feces b) vomit or c) an artificial substance of equivalent unpleasantness. Vaudevillian sound design punctuates each tedious punchline heightening our collective discomfort.
Schultz’s directorial style is one of aggressive whimsy making abundant use of canted angles extreme close-ups acid-trip set design CG pop-ups animated interludes an omnipresent score that all but shouts “mischief afoot ” and Urkel. Judy Moody was clearly made with minimal funding with the bulk of said funds devoted to achieving its aesthetic of benign creepiness. One can only imagine how much the film might have been improved if a portion of its budget had been allocated to say a second draft of the script or more than one take for each scene. Bummer.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
The 69 year old admits she showed her bare bottom to Warren Beatty while they were working together on 1981 movie Reds in a bid to make him crack a smile.
She tells U.K. talk show host Graham Norton, "He is grumpy. He really is. So I mooned at him."
Margolyes also reveals she stripped off in front of director Martin Scorsese on the set of The Age of Innocence, adding, "I didn't moon him, I did these instead (my breasts).
"It was a long day and we'd done the costume parade at the beginning (of the film). (Everyone was) feeling tired and a bit listless, so I just flung off my brassiere."
But the actress was banned from bringing her naughty antics to the set of the Harry Potter movies, and instead her colleagues set up a 'swear box' which she had to contribute to every time she cursed in front of her young co-stars.
She adds, "You have to be very careful with children and they made a rule that I had to give a penny or maybe a pound to the World Wildlife Fund if I swore and, really, they did very well."