Since his days directing sketches for comedy troupe The State and his seminal debut feature Wet Hot American Summer David Wain has been expertly calculating ways to make his brand of absurdist humor work within the rigid conventional world of Hollywood movies. His latest Wanderlust is the perfect example of a hollow rom-com template that Wain fills to the brim with bizarre jokes and perfectly timed physical humor. His soldier of fortune is Paul Rudd who brings the golden ratio: looks of a leading man and a comedic gravitas that is unmatched. Rudd's at the top of his game whether he's landing a one-liner stretching his face to Jim Carrey-like proportions or reacting to his maniac co-stars the actor delivers—making Wanderlust charming deranged and very funny.
George (Rudd) and Linda (Jennifer Aniston better suited for this wacky comedy than you'd think) are a happily married couple living in New York attempting to live the dream lifestyle without any of the reality to fall back on. It doesn't work—George loses his job Linda fails to sell her documentary on penguin testicular cancer and the two find themselves forced to sell their "micro-loft" in the West Village and move in with George's brother in Atlanta. During their epic car ride George and Linda make a pit stop at a local Georgian B&B only to discover it's a counterculture commune home to an eclectic group determined to live on their own alternative terms. The inhabitants of "Elysium" range from nudists to tai chi experts to organic farmers but they all have one goal: live free. Realizing they don't have too much else going on in their lives (their alternative is shacking up with George's materialistic misogynistic businessman brother Rick played by the amazing Ken Marino) George and Linda dive head first into the off-beat world of Elysium.
Wanderlust dishes out its fair share of oddities when exploring the world of Elysium but isn't content in simply exploiting those quirks. Wain who co-wrote the script with Marino fleshes out the ensemble and makes keen choices so that no character is just a face in a crowd. Comedy pros like Justin Theroux Alan Alda Malin Akerman Joe Lo Truglio Kathryn Hahn Kerri Kenney Lauren Ambrose and more round out the cast and help color the world of Elysium piling laughs on top of laughs with every scene. Theroux stands out as Seth a spiritual leader for the group who begins to woo Linda away from George with his savvy guitar skills and potent herbal teas. Seth's slow and steady demeanor is a welcome change from the usual rapid-fire style seen in the modern comedy (the movie was produced by Judd Apatow so it wouldn't have been a surprise to see the approach replicated in Wanderlust) making us laugh in a zen fashion.
Meanwhile George just can't get anything right from group "truth circle" exercises to drinking coffee made of dirt to Elysium's "free love pact " which gives both he and his wife the chance to sexually explore outside of their relationship. The couple quickly realizes the freedom of their new home divides them and Wain's sensitivity to story and character evolve the relationship in a rather conventional yet desirable fashion.
Wanderlust falls somewhere between a Katherine Heigl romantic comedy vehicle and the pleasantly obscene work of Wain's past—and it may catch some off guard. The movie doesn't mind throwing in a bit of male nudity playing with abrasive repetition or those who find laughs in patience. The movie fully embraces the weird while never lettings its characters slip fully into caricature. Much like George and Linda's own dilemma Wanderlust wants to find harmony between the mainstream and the not-so-much. Thankfully it achieves inner peace.
February 13, 2002 10:10am EST
This film is based on Elegy for Iris literary critic John Bayley's biography of his late wife the brilliant writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch. Iris is unconventional in the sense that it does not adhere to a structured plot or story line but instead focuses on their relationship by flashing back and forth between the present and 40 years ago when the two first met. In the sequences taking place in the past Kate Winslet plays a young confident Murdoch in her formative years a woman revered by men and openly bisexual. Hugh Bonneville plays the young and apprehensive Bayley hopelessly pursuing her. The present however reveals a drastic role reversal for the couple: We see Murdoch in her 70s as played by Judi Dench and witness her descent into Alzheimer's disease and the toll it takes on her husband played by Jim Broadbent. The once-subservient husband has been thrust into a caretaker position and painfully tries to cope with his beloved wife's illness and loss of sanity.
Dench deservedly received a best actress Oscar nomination for the fabulous job she does as the older Murdoch. She is convincing as a brilliant thinker and even more believable as her condition worsens--check out the heartbreaking scene when Bayley locks himself in the study to get away from her irrational behavior and she scratches the windowpane on the glass door like a cat while looking at her husband with utter helplessness. Dench conveys her character's vulnerability in a single glance. As an older Bayley Broadbent is as impressive as Dench especially as he struggles to be assertive yet avoid being too harsh. Bonneville as a young Bayley could almost be Broadbent's clone. At first glance he looks like the same actor made to look older through some sort of makeup or special effects wizardry. Bonneville skillfully hatches the young Bayley's traits and tics later perfected by Broadbent. Winslet also Oscar-nominated for Iris (in the supporting actress category) well plays Murdoch's early audacity and boldness.
Director Richard Eyre does a beautiful and seamless job flowing from the past to the present throughout the film. Although the film barely delves into Murdoch's work the importance of her writing is established with scenes from a BBC interview or a luncheon given in her honor. Eyre also does an exceptional job conveying Bayley's hopeless predicament: he fusses over Murdoch like an overprotective parent intermittently lashing out at her only to apologize sobbing afterward for having done so. It's sweet and pitiful especially since Bayley believes that the Iris he fell in love with is still in there somewhere. But while the film is visually exquisite and convincing the subject matter is not necessarily entertaining. We know Murdoch will eventually succumb to her illness but it's even more dreadful to have to watch every agonizing step. By the time Murdoch was reduced to playing in the dirt and watching Teletubbies I found myself wondering When is she going to die already?
Grammy Award-winning artist Eminem was sentenced to two years' probation Tuesday for carrying a concealed weapon.
The rapper had entered a guilty plea with prosecutors in February after he pistol-whipped a man he saw kissing his wife, Kimberly, outside a Detroit-area nightclub called Hot Rocks in June.
Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga said earlier that he would seek no more than six months because Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Bruce Mathers III, "has no record and there was no serious injury," The Associated Press reported.
Circuit Judge Antonio Viviano also fined Eminem $2,500 and ordered him to undergo counseling and submit to drug testing. The rapper also must ask the court for permission to travel overseas.
Eminem already has reached a preliminary divorce agreement with his wife that gives him joint custody of their 5-year-old daughter.
On the advice of his attorneys, Eminem made no statement in court. He stood silent between his attorneys in a dark suit and tie.
The rapper's mother, Debbie Mathers-Briggs, was at court Tuesday to see her son's sentencing.
"It was just basically to make sure he was OK," she told Reuters. "I didn't want my son to get jail time. You may have differences, but you never stop loving a child," she told Reuters.
Eminem said after his sentence that he was looking forward to putting the case behind him.
"The judge treated me fair, like any other human being," he said, AP reported. "I just want to get it behind me and get back to spending time with my little girl and making music."
Springsteen shows who the "Boss" is
New Jersey rock star Bruce Springsteen won his legal battle Tuesday to block Masquerade Music Ltd. from releasing 19 songs he recorded before he became famous.
The London Court of Appeal dismissed Masquerade's challenge of a December 1998 decision preventing the release of an unauthorized album featuring Springsteen's early work. The London-based Masquerade had imported about 75 copies of the album, Before the Fame, and had "threatened to release many further copies," said High Court Justice Francis Ferris, according to the BBC News.
The songs were recorded in the early 1970s, several years before Springsteen's hit "Born to Run." The album would feature the "Boss" accompanying himself with guitar and piano, material that was never meant for release.
Springsteen felt that Masquerade's attempt to claim ownership of the songs' copyright was an attack on his artistic integrity
"The music you release is the way you shape your career, and I have always believed you have to do all you can do to protect your work," Springsteen told Reuters.
The singer received an award of $725,000 in legal costs and the cost of the appeal, still to be determined.
Strike Waivers OK'd by SAG president
Strike waivers for individual filmmakers have received the approval of Screen Actors Guild president William Daniels. He will support granting the waivers if the qualifiers accept the guild's labor demands during a work hiatus, but he stressed the ultimate decision will be made by SAG's negotiating committee.
"I want to keep actors working," Daniels said Monday following a news conference about the announcement of legislative hearings on agent issues.
Some more stringent guild members believe this move may take away leveraging power at the negotiation table, while others see it as a tactic to bring out the benefits of the guild contract.
SAG has received hundred of requests from filmmakers seeking waivers in the last few months. The SAG contract is due to expire June 30. Negotiation talks have not yet been set.
Castro attends "Thirteen Days" screening
Producers of Thirteen Days, including star Kevin Costner, Peter Almond and Armyan Bernstein, spent many hours Monday viewing the film and discussing its historical significance with Cuban president Fidel Castro -seven hours, to be exact, lasting until 2 a.m. The actor was very appreciative of the president's time and that Castro responded very favorably to the film, Costner's spokesman Stephen Rivers told Reuters.
The film's ending has Moscow agreeing to withdraw the missiles from Cuba to the annoyance of Castro, who resented the deal being cut over his head. The U.S. delegation explained to Castro before the screening that the film represented "one perspective on the crisis from one side" and encouraged the Cubans to make their own version.
Not surprisingly, the Cuban news agency, the Presna Latina, felt the film displayed a superficial vision, typical of Hollywood.
"The North Americans are presented yet again as the saviors of the world, while Cuba appears in the film, according to some critics, as mere decoration in a sugary film of pure Hollywood style," the agency said. "With more dialogue than action, the film tends to send the spectator to sleep," it added. The film is set to be screened Wednesday in Moscow for Russian dignitaries and former U.S. cabinet members who were involved in the Missile Crisis, including former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.
Napster continues to filter music files
Napster filed a third compliance report on Tuesday with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, saying it has blocked more than 1.7 million files from its service, substantially improving its filtering technology.
The online song-swap service reported that its has reduced in half the average number of music files shared by users.
Napster has spent $750,000 for six-month's worth of access to the song database of the Internet music company Gracenote and hired 15 staffers to increase its efforts.
In March, Napster disputed claims filed by the Recording Industry Association, which blamed the Web site of inadequate filtering efforts.
In opposition, Napster said the RIAA's complaint dealt with parameters of injunction and not the file sharer's effort to comply with it.
Both companies will have a chance to reconcile their differences on Tuesday at a hearing before District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel to discuss compliance issues.
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Andrew Morton to write unauthorized Madonna biography
Andrew Morton, the author of such celebrity biographies as Princess Diana and Monica Lewinsky, has a new subject: pop star Madonna.
St. Martin's Press purchased the North American rights to Morton's unauthorized Madonna biography, in which he will "disclose the unknown Madonna," St. Martin's president and publisher, Sally Richardson, said Tuesday in a statement.
"Andrew loves complicated women and has a genius for getting into their psyche and telling the world what makes them tick," Richardson added.
A 500,000-copy first printing is planned. The book is scheduled for release in November.
Morton wrote 1992's Diana: Her True Story and 1999's Monica's Story, both New York Times No. 1 bestsellers.
Queen tune makes a comeback
British pop singer Robbie Williams will work with Queen to record a new version of the rock band's 1977 hit "We Are the Champions." The song will be included on the soundtrack for A Knight's Tale, the upcoming film starring Aussie hunk Heath Ledger, according to Reuters.
A spokesman for Williams emphasized that this was a onetime collaboration.
"There are no plans to release it as a single here or in the U.S. It's for a film, so it will just be part of a soundtrack," he said.
Williams recorded the track with Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon from Queen, which originally sold more than 100 million records. Lead singer Freddie Mercury died in 1991 of AIDS.
"Captain Corelli" to receive London premiere
The highly anticipated love story Captain Corelli's Mandolin will receive its world premiere in London on Thursday, April 19, according to Reuters.
The film, starring Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz, is based on the bestseller by British novelist Louis de Bernieres. It details a love affair between an Italian officer, Corelli, and a local girl on the Greek island of Cephallonia during World War II. This leads up to the events of September 1943, when, after the Italians declared an armistice with Allies, the Italian soldiers left on the island refuse to surrender to the Germans and fought in vain for 10 days.
The premiere will benefit the British Red Cross.
Paul McCartney's daughter getting into the act
Fashion designer Stella McCartney, the daughter of former Beatle Paul McCartney, wants Beatles documentary filmmaker Geoff Wonfer to film her as she sets up her own fashion label, according to Reuters. Wonfer produced The Beatles Anthology and has made films about McCartney's late photographer mother, Linda.
The documentary would chronicle McCartney's departure from the French fashion label Chloe to create her own Gucci-backed designer label.
Several television stations are bidding for the rights to air the documentary.
"Ab Fab" is back
The British cult hit comedy Absolutely Fabulous will return to television after a five-year absence, with the original cast in place, according to USA Today. The BBC and Comedy Central will produce six new episodes to air in November.
Known affectionately among fans as Ab Fab, the sitcom follows the misadventures of two boozy, sex-starved, fashion-crazed friends played by Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley.
Rosie goes home after stint in hospital
Talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell was sent home from a New York hospital Monday afternoon, after she was admitted for a staph infection in her hand, according to USA Today. She will not return to her show this week as she is still recovering and on antibiotics.
O'Donnell went to the emergency room on April 3 complaining of excruciating pain in her hand after she had surgery to repair a tendon from a fishing accident last year. Barbara Walters and other members of the show The View are filling in this week for O'Donnell. She will return to her duties behind the desk on Monday.
Actor and activist Graf dies
David Graf, a character actor who starred in all seven Police Academy films, died Saturday of a heart attack in Arizona. He was 50.
Best known for his role as Eugene Tackleberry in the Police Academy series, and for his recurring role as Col. Chase on NBC's hit drama The West Wing, Graf also was very active with the Screen Actors Guild. He served on the national board as a Hollywood representative, the TV-theatrical steering committee, the new technologies caucus and the national disciplinary review committee.
"His kindness, generosity of spirit and ability to tirelessly work for the better of actors will be missed," SAG President William Daniels told Variety.
His other credits includeRules of Engagement, Citizen Ruth and Guarding Tess.
He is survived by his wife, Kathy, and two children.