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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That’s right: Our brand-new First Lady has already snagged the cover of a magazine -- sans Mr. President -- and it’s not some obligatory Reader’s Digest, campaign-for-literacy piece; it’s Vogue!
Michelle Obama becomes just the second First Lady ever to grace the fashion magazine’s cover.
The only other President’s wife to boast such an honor? Current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who posed for the Vogue in December 1998, according to People.com.
For Michelle’s cover shoot, she was photographed by famed shooter Annie Liebovitz at the Hay-Adams Hotel, where the Obama clan stayed prior to the Inauguration.
In the March issue, the First Lady discusses getting used to Washington and her White House role -- first and foremost as a mom to daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.
MORE NEWS: Will Smith Tops Bankability List
Top Story: Aniston Carries a Torch for Olympics
Actresses Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie are among the many who will carry the Olympic torch on its journey around the world, The Associated Press reports. The flame was lit in Ancient Olympia on Mar. 25 and brought to Athens' marble stadium, where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896. It will burn at the stadium until June 4, where it starts a 46,800-mile journey across six continents, 27 countries and 33 cities with some 11,000 runners and will return to Greece July 9 for the second half of its domestic relay. The Summer Olympics will take place in Athens Aug. 13-29.
Brown Stands Trial For Hitting Houston
Singer Bobby Brown has been ordered to stand trial on charges of domestic abuse against his wife, Whitney Houston, AP reports. The charges stem from an incident Dec. 7, when Houston called police to report that Brown threatened to beat her "and then struck the left side of her face with an open right hand," a police report said. Brown was ordered to turn himself in to authorities July 10 or 11 for fingerprinting when he would be released on a $2,000 bond. The judge also warned Brown again having "violent contact" with Houston. The couple left the courtroom walking arm-in-arm and made no comment to reporters and television cameras waiting outside, AP reports.
Supermodel Campbell Wins Privacy Case
Supermodel Naomi Campbell scored another legal victory Thursday against a tabloid newspaper, Reuters reports. Britain's Law Lords, the country's highest court, ruled against the Daily Mirror in the final round of a long legal battle which began when the paper ran a story three years ago saying, correctly, that Campbell, 33, had visited Narcotics Anonymous. Campbell originally sued the newspaper and won, citing invasion of privacy, but in 2002, an appeal court ruled in favor of the Mirror, thus stripping Campbell of the approx. $6,280 awarded to her. But on Thursday, the Lords allowed Campbell's appeal against that ruling, saying she had indeed endured an "invasion" of her privacy. "This is a very good day for lying, drug-abusing prima donnas who want to have their cake with the media, and the right to then shamelessly guzzle it with their Cristal champagne," Mirror editor Piers Morgan said in a statement. "If ever there was a less deserving case for creating what is effectively a back-door privacy law it would be Miss Campbell--but that's showbiz." The case has been closely watched by lawyers for the media, many of whom regard the development of privacy law in Britain as potentially more threatening than the tried and tested laws of defamation, Reuters reports.
In Other Supermodel News…
Supermodel Heidi Klum welcomed her first child, a daughter, Leni, Tuesday in New York, AP reports. The baby's father is Flavio Briatore, managing director of Renault's Formula One team.
Picasso Painting Sells For Pretty Penny
Pablo Picasso's "Boy With the Pipe" set a world record for the most expensive painting ever sold, when it was auctioned Wednesday at Sotheby's for $104.1 million, Reuters reports. The price, which included the auction house's commission, easily eclipsed the old mark of $82.5 million set by van Gogh's "Portrait of Dr. Gachet," which sold in 1990. The Picasso painting was part of the collection of the late Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney, who had bought the painting in 1950 for $30,000. Sotheby's would not release the name of the buyer.
WGA Postpones Talks With Studios
The Writer's Guild of America postponed contract talk Wednesday with film studios and TV networks after rejecting the industry's latest offer, Reuters reports. The Hollywood's screenwriters proposed a salary-enhanced one-year extension of their labor pact-an offer similar to the yearlong contract deal reached earlier this year between the industry and the Screen Actors Guild. Nick Counter, the industry's chief negotiator and the head of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), said the studios they would respond to the offer when talks with the union resume talks May 12. The WGA and the studios have been in contract negotiation for about a month now. The main stumbling block in the negotiations are DVD residuals, with the union seeking a bigger piece of budding $16 billion digital videodisc market pie.
A Fifth Porn Actor Tests HIV Positive
In what has become the largest outbreak of the AIDS virus in Southern California's porn industry in six years, a veteran porn actress yesterday became the fifth adult film performer in Los Angeles to test positive for HIV. An industry health care official told Reuters the actress was one of 14 performers who worked directly with longtime porn star Darren James, who is thought to be the source of the outbreak. The woman, whose name was not made public, was one of about 50 porn actors under an industry wide 60-day quarantine for having worked directly with James or with the women who had onscreen sex with him after his suspected exposure to the HIV virus in March.
Role Call: Bochco Develops Iraq Drama; Noyce, Neufeld Take on WWII
Veteran TV producer Steven Bochco, co-creator of Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue, will develop an hour-long war drama set in Iraq for the FX cable network-his first series for a basic cable network. The project is described as a contemporary drama exploring the lives of men and women in uniform both on and off the battlefield … Helmer Phillip Noyce and producer Mace Neufeld, who worked together on the Jack Ryan films Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, will take on The Bielski Brothers for Warner Independent Pictures. The project revolves around three Jewish brothers who heroically hid 1,250 Jews from the Nazis in a forest outside Belarus during World War II.
Guylaine Cadorette contributed to this report.