Anne Hathaway may not be known as one of the most publicly political celebrities in Hollywood, but, when it comes to Saturday Night Live, the actress and politics go together about as well as Catwoman and black latex. Take Hathaway's first appearance on SNL — the actress oversaw an October 2008 episode that brought us the now-classic parody of Sarah Palin and Joe Biden's vice presidential debate. ("I believe marriage is meant to be a sacred institution between two unwilling teenagers.") And now, just over four years later, Hathaway has come full circle, hosting the sketch comedy show for the third time just days after President Obama was re-elected for a second term, inviting a stellar, if a bit bittersweet, Romney sign-off. But Saturday's show managed to shine the more it strayed away from politics. And the more it featured its host. Because Hathaway continued to prove to SNL audiences that Catwoman bares some sharp comedic claws.
And, sure enough, the beginning of SNL started with a farewell — what was likely the final sketch to feature Jason Sudeikis as the conceding presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. The sketch — which featured a disappointed, milk-swigging Romney who still showed Mormon-approved optimism — was well-written, if a bit oddly staged. (The silence-filled gaps between Taran Killam's amusing Tagg/Matt/Josh Romney pop-ups felt longer than the wait to hear Obama's Tuesday night victory speech.) Still, the scene was a nice departure from the ripped-from-the-TV-screen political sketches of yore, and bonus points for the series' take down of election night's real loser, when Josh Romney tells his father to come to the living room: "Donald Trump is doing a very amusing thing where he's racist."
Sudeikis again seemed to acknowledge his final months with SNL — the actor is leaving the show in January — during Hathaway's monologue, during which he talked about his "wild ride" on the show and what he's learned "after you've been here for eight seasons." But the Les Misérables star's voice eventually took center stage during the fifth musical monologue of the season. (For the record, there have only been seven new episodes — WWJRS? That is, What Will Jeremy Renner Sing?) Of course, this one made more sense than the rest — Hathaway's voice alone would be enough to invite awe, but the Les Mis-inspired tune (about the thrills of Sunday for the SNL cast) was more than chuckle-worthy, reminiscent of Steve Martin's memorable "Not Gonna Phone It In" monologue in 1991. (And Hathaway's Stefon impression? It. Had. Everything.) With the new cast, are the SNL glory days of the '90s back?
The series is certainly allowing its newbies to flex their comedy muscles more than previous featured players. New cast members Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant headlined the first post-monologue sketch of the night as, respectively, a teen and her best friend-turned-third wheel. It was an amusing sketch that showcased Bryant's droll talents — and certainly hit home for any girl who ever attended high school — even if the spot seemed more appropriate for the back third of the show. (But, speaking of the '90s, did the sketch — and Hathaway's valley girl impression of the new bad girl in school — remind anyone of SNL's "Delta Delta Delta" days?)
But the next sketch, the pre-taped "Legend of Mokiki," was far from SNL convention. Featuring episode MVP Killam as a human experiment who becomes famous for doing a dance called "the sloppy swish" — and Hathaway as the poor soul who falls in love with him — the sketch was as random as it was obvious that it came out of a late-night, exhausted writing session. But even when shorts like these make little sense, it's impossible not to enjoy the glimpse we get into the deranged inter-workings of the writers' minds.
More audience-friendly was the following sketch, which proved Hathaway has another celebrity impression under her belt: Homeland's Emmy-winning Claire Danes. The actress' take on Carrie Matheson, complete with the character's patented ugly cry, was flawless — even simple phrases like "And do what?" were indistinguishable from her Showtime counterpart. But Hathaway wasn't the only one to score in the sketch — Bill Hader's Saul was as impeccable as the actor's Alan Alda, and Killam, once again, stole the scene with his Agent Brody, whose "mouth is so small, it's hard to hear the words."
Far less tasty was the lazy McDonald's sketch, featuring Strong and Bobby Moynihan as two delinquent employees dead-set on insulting all of their colleagues, and Hathaway's uptight boss. But Moynihan more than made up for the groan-worthy sketch with his Drunk Uncle, yet again the highlight of Weekend Update. ("If Nationwide is on my side, how come Obama is president? Jews-papers!") Unfortunately, the rest of Weekend Update wasn't nearly as funny — in fact, the writing proved to be just as progressive as Moynihan's uncle, who lamented in his day "You couldn't vote unless you had a cane, monocle, top hat, fancy!" Seth Meyers using the record number of women elected to office as an opportunity to make a joke about pantsuits? Really, Seth? Really?! And a joke about all women hating sports to boot? I say it again: Really?! Thank god for Moynihan and Hader, and Fred Armisen, who made up for the lackluster segment — which included a predictable Obama impression from Jay Pharaoh — with their gay couple from Maine, who are celebrating their newly established ability to wed by registering with L.L.Bean.
But SNL was quickly back in business with the brilliant Kate McKinnon as a cheerfully exhausted Ellen DeGeneres. The sketch was more or less an opportunity for the episode to showcase Hathaway's hysterical Katie Holmes impression, but McKinnon also inspired laughs as the controversy-adverse daytime host. ("It was a big week in politics, so I'm going to talk about eating some popcorn yesterday.") And Hathaway proved her physical comedy prowess with a unique sketch about the conception of Grant Wood's American Gothic painting, which, in SNL's world, really portrayed two goofy models who loved corn puppets.
SNL closed out the show with a "Happy Fun Ball"-esque sketch for "Flaritin," a medication for those who suffer "a made-up allergy" to gluten, cigarette smoke, yogurt, rice, meat deodorant, squirrel dander, Los Angeles, small penises, rap, and Italians for attention. But, strangely enough, any portion of the show that didn't include Hathaway — including musical guest Rihanna's bizarre performance of "Diamonds," which looked to be set in front of a karaoke music video — suffered without the host. She even managed to invite a laugh in her goodbye, telling the audience, "Thank you so much to Katie Holmes and Claire Danes." Would it be too much to call our Catwoman the cat's pajamas? (Yes. Yes it would.)
What did you think of Saturday's show? Did Hathaway's taste of Les Mis in the monologue enough to keep you wanting more?
[Image Credit: NBC]
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There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.
A billionaire TV producer (Robert Mammone) has a great idea for a reality show that he wants to put on the Internet and his goal is to beat the 40 million Super Bowl audience. He has compiled a crack team of young hip and immoral tech geeks directed by Goldman (Rick Hoffman) and puts cameras throughout a remote island where former prisoners are going to kill each other while audiences watch after shelling out the pay-per-view fee. The location is done on a remote secret island and the death row prisoners are bought from prisons around the world with the promise that the survivor gets to walk free. Among the contestants are a rogue Aussie named McStarley (Vinnie Jones) a martial arts expert (Masa Yamaguchi) a husband-and-wife team (Manu Bennett and Dasi Ruz) a monstrous killer who doesn't do much more than grunt (Nathan Jones) and others known only as The Italian The German and other monikers quickly forgotten. Enter the sole American Jack Conrad (Steve Austin) who's in a South American prison for some obscure reason and is recognized on TV by his wife (Madeleine West) who tries to save him. However it looks like Conrad is pretty good at helping himself. Don't expect the acting to be much more evolved than what could be seen among the World Wrestling Entertainment superstars especially since many of them were plucked from the ring to star in this morality tale. But Austin (who had in a strong cameo in Adam Sandler's Longest Yard) proves he has a sense of humor as well as strength. Vinnie Jones is ridiculously over-the-top as the Aussie who's the hand-picked winner of this game shown setting up alliances Survivor style only to turn on them later. The supporting cast are refreshingly entertaining but one-note caricatures both in the contest and running the contest. It's obvious that they aren't going to be around long but the actors do milk their tiny roles for every bit of attention they can get. Rick Hoffman as the brilliant camera mastermind of the project is both whiny sniveling and mean-spirited so when he joins some of the rest of the crew and suddenly develops a backbone and a conscience he ends up stealing the movie with his acerbic humor. But it's the understated American hero Conrad who holds a mirror up to the people who like to watch this stuff. Director Scott Wiper who co-wrote this story has also acted in similar movies like this (A Better Way to Die). It’s obvious he knows what he’s doing with The Condemned and develops a sense of voyeuristic angst like those of us who can't keep our eyes off a train wreck. Like the darkly subversive Belgian film Man Bites Dog the camera crew remains safely distant and remote until the reality directly involves them. Then the crew wonders "What the hell are we doing?" while the audience might be thinking "What the hell are we watching?" Much like Series 7: The Contenders Rollerball and other movies which show a dark and bloody near future this kind of reality doesn't seem too far away and maybe proves that movies which provide this type of gladiator spectacle target a certain segment of the human population who need to blow off steam.