If, over the past week, you've seen people reading The Great Gatsby everywhere — at the park, on the subway, at the movie theater during the opening credits — it's not in preparation for this weekend's release of Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic. No, no, old sports. It's because Stephen Colbert told them to. Filling in the void of Oprah's Book Club, The Colbert Report host kicked off his inaugural cOlbert book club with the beloved novel. (First rule of cOlbert's book club? "Don't read Fight Club!"). The only problem is that, like pretty much everyone who has ever joined any book club, Colbert wound up sipping chardonnay and not reading the book at all.
While he certainly looked the part (watch out, Leo, Stephen makes a pretty great Gatsby himself) he still had no idea what the book was about, rendering him unable to discuss it with his guest, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan (A Visit From the Goon Squad). With time running down, he recruited Gatsby's leading lady Carey Mulligan ... after all, she would have had to have read the book, right? Right?!
Wrong! Don't be fooled by her beauty, grace, intelligence, and brilliant acting skills. It's all a front! (Damn British accents). Turns out, Mulligan actually can't read and has no idea what's going on in her movies (as evident by her confusing the ending of Gatsby with that of Drive). There's only thing to remedy such a situation: ride the Reading Rainbow all the way to LeVar Burton! Who needs to read when you can just look through Burton's Star Trek VISOR, anyway?
As far as Colbert book segments go, this one might be on par with his visit with the late, great Maurice Sendak. From his keen analysis of The Great Gatsby ("Couldn't you boil this book down to, 'Bitches be crazy'?") to a heard-but-not-seen cameo by James Franco, here's to hoping Colbert doesn't make his book club a one-time venture. The Hobbit seems like the obvious next choice.
Watch all three segments, including his hilarious and insightful discussion with Egan, below.
The Colbert Report Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,Video Archive
The Colbert Report Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,Video Archive
The Colbert Report Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,Video Archive
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The trailers for Hope Springs might lead you to believe it's a romantic comedy about a couple trying to jumpstart their sexless marriage but it causes more empathetic cringing than chuckles. Audiences will be drawn to Hope Springs by its stars Meryl Streep Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell and Streep's track record of pleasing summer movies like Julie & Julia and Mamma Mia! that offer a respite from the blockbusters flooding theaters. Despite what its marketing might have you believe Hope Springs isn't a rom-com. The film is a disarming mixture of deeply intimate confessions by a married couple in the sanctuary of a therapist's office awkwardly honest attempts by that couple to physically reconnect and incredibly sappy scenes underscored by intrusive music. Boldly addressing female desire especially in older women it's hard not to give the movie extra credit for what writer Vanessa Taylor's script is trying to convey and its rarity in mainstream film. The ebb and flow of intimacy and desire in a long-term relationship is what drives Hope Springs and while there are plenty contrived moments and unresolved issues it is frankly surprising and surprisingly frank. It's a summer release from a major studio with high caliber stars aimed squarely at the generally underserved 50+ audience addressing the even more taboo topic of that audience's sex life.
Streep plays Kay a suburban wife who's deeply unsatisfied emotionally and sexually by her marriage to Arnold. Arnold who is played by Tommy Lee Jones as his craggiest sleeps in a separate bedroom now that their kids have left the nest; he's like a stone cold robot emotionally and physically and Kay tiptoes around trying to make him happy even as he ignores her every gesture. One of the most striking scenes in the movie is at the very beginning when Kay primps and fusses over her modest sleepwear in the hopes of seducing her husband. Streep makes it obvious that this isn't an easy thing for Kay; it takes all her guts to try and wordlessly suggest sex to her husband and when she's shot down it hurts to watch. This isn't a one time disconnect between their libidos; this is an ongoing problem that leaves Kay feeling insecure and undesirable.
After a foray into the self-help section of her bookstore Kay finds a therapist who holds week-long intensive couples' therapy sessions in Good Hope Springs ME and in a seemingly unprecedented moment of decisiveness she books a trip for the couple. Arnold of course is having none of it but he eventually comes along for the ride. That doesn't mean he's up for answering any of Dr. Feld's questions though. To be fair Dr. Feld (Carell) is asking the couple deeply intimate questions so if Arnold is comfortable foisting his amorous wife off with the excuse he had pork for lunch it's not so far-fetched to believe he'd be angry when Feld asks him about his fantasy life or masturbation habits.
Although Arnold gets a pass on some of his issues Kay is forthright about why and how she's dissatisfied. When Dr. Feld asks her if she masturbates she says she doesn't because it makes her too sad. Kay offers similar revelations; she's willing to bare it all to revive her marriage while Arnold thinks the fact that they're married at all means they must be happy. Carell's Dr. Feld is soothing and kind (even a bit bland) but it's always a pleasure to see him play it straight.
It's subversive for a mega-watt star to play a character that talks about how sexually unsatisfied she is and how unsexy she feels with the man she loves most in the world. The added taboo of Kay and Arnold's age adds that much more to the conversation. Kay and Arnold's attempts at intimacy are emotionally raw and hard to watch. Even when things get funny they're mostly awkward funny not ha-ha funny.
The rest of the movie is a little uneven wrapped up tightly and happily by the end. Their time spent soul-searching alone is a little cheesy especially when Kay ends up in a local bar where she gets a little dizzy on white wine while dishing about her problems to the bartender (Elisabeth Shue). Somewhere along the line what probably started out as a character study ended up as a wobbly drama that pushes some boundaries but eventually lets everyone off the emotional hook in favor of a smoothed-over happy ending. Still its disarming moments and performances almost balance it out. Although its target audience might be dismayed to find it's not as light-hearted as it would seem Hope Springs offers up the opportunity for discussion about sexuality and aging at a time when books and films like 50 Shades of Grey and Magic Mike are perking up similar conversations. In the end that's a good thing.
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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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.
Top Story: Jackson's First Accuser May Testify
A young man who reaped millions by settling a deal with pop star Michael Jackson after a 1993 child molestation investigation may be called to testify at a grand jury examining similar charges currently leveled against the singer, Reuters reports. In an article from the Santa Barbara News-Press, which did not name sources, the prosecutors in the current molestation case against Jackson could include subpoenaing the man, who as a boy was at the center of the 1993 case, as well as employees of Jackson's Neverland Valley Ranch in Santa Barbara, and other witnesses who testified in 1993.
"Buck" Gets New Meaning for Hilton
Hotel heiress Paris Hilton took a nasty spill Friday in Florida when she was thrown from a horse, Reuters reports. She was taping an episode of The Simple Life 2, a second installment to her hit reality series in which this time she and pal Nicole Richie will travel across the southern United States in an Airstream trailer. A spokesman for the TV studio told Reuters Hilton was walking around after falling off the horse, "but to err on the absolute side of caution, we made a decision to Medivac her" to a nearby hospital in Tampa, Fla. Hilton did not sustain any major injuries.
And More on Star Injuries…
Pop princess Britney Spears canceled two concert dates in Chicago and Detroit after suffering a knee injury while performing in Illinois, Reuters reports. Spears, 22, was expected to resume her to Onyx Hotel Tour in Atlanta next Tuesday and would reschedule the missed concert dates for sometime in April, the spokeswoman said.
Janssen Gets Nip/Tuck
Actress Famke Janssen, best known as a former Bond bad girl in GoldenEye and a brilliant mutant in X-Men, will join F/X's hit series Nip/Tuck in a recurring role, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She'll play a woman who becomes a "life coach," or counselor of sorts, to Joely Richardson's character, Julia McNamara, the wife of one of the two plastic surgeons who are the focal point of the series.
Duo To Take Producers Leads
Brad Oscar and Roger Bart will replace Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in the hit musical The Producers, Variety reports. Lane and Broderick, who originated the roles of Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, respectively, and eventually left the show, made a limited return in December to boost the show's declining grosses. Oscar and Bart, who played Bialystock and Bloom after Lane and Broderick exited the show the first time, will reprise the roles April 6.
Role Call, Part I: Diesel Eyes Third Fast and Furious; MacLaine, Caine Join Bewitched
Universal Pictures is hoping Vin Diesel will reprise his role as Dominic Toretto for a third The Fast and the Furious. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the studio, which will release Diesel starrer The Chronicles of Riddick on June 11, is revving up a Fast team, hiring Chris Morgan (S.W.A.T.) to pen a script accommodating Diesel's return to the street-racing franchise. The studio says no deal is in place with the actor, just that it is "looking to bring back certain elements from the first two films." Diesel opted out of the last year's sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious, which starred the original The Fast and the Furious player Paul Walker as well as Tyrese and grossed $127 million … Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine have joined the cast of Columbia Pictures Bewitched, a big-screen send-up of the hit '60s TV show, starring Nicole Kidman as kindly witch Samantha Stevens and Will Ferrell as her mortal husband, Darren. Variety reports MacLaine would play Sam's meddling mother Endora, originated by Agnes Moorehead on the TV show. Caine would star as Samantha's father, Maurice.
Role Call, Part II: Spielberg, Cruise Make War, Pitt May Buckle Up Spurs as Jesse James
Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise are in cahoots to bring H.G. Wells' classic 1898 sci-fi novel The War of the Worlds to the big screen, Variety reports. The novel was immortalized by Orson Welles' Mercury Theater radio show in 1938, when a performance of it created nationwide panic when listeners didn't realize the war was fiction. In addition to the radio production, the book inspired a 1953 film starring Gene Barry and Les Tremayne. The Spielberg/Cruise production is looking at a late 2005 start date…Warner Bros. is wooing Brad Pitt to star as Jesse James in an adaptation of the Robert Hansen novel The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. According to Variety, the story focuses on Robert Ford as a way to tell the James legend. Ford was a member of the James gang and started out worshipping the exploits of the fastest gun in the West. He eventually became envious and figured he'd take over the gang and garner his own reputation by shooting James in the back.