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The Latest in ShowBiz News

Alex Florez

By

2008/08/13 at 12:00am

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving sexuality, and smoking.
Release Date: 2008-08-15
Starring: Woody Allen
Director(s):
Distributor:
Film Genre:
Country: USA, Spain
Official Website: http://vickycristina-movie.com/

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Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Not so long ago, New York based director (at that time, anyway) Woody Allen once confessed to us that the reason there are never any prominent hispanic characters in any of his films is because he sticks to what he knows.  Meaning of course, old Jewish families, upper class Manhattanites and chaotic love affairs that usually flirt with death.  So what does Allen now know about Catalonia and Spanish culture in general that prompts him to set his latest film on the mediterranean coast? Other than that they will finance his films?

To answer my own question, I think the appeal for Allen has been the idea that such sexual promiscuity and emotional confusion also exists outside the realm of New York and in practically every single corner of the globe.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona, his first and most likely last film to be set in Spain, pits Scarlett Johansson (Cristina) and Rebecca Hall (Vicky) as two American friends who decide to spend their summer in Barcelona.  Cristina, more of a wandering spirit, is always on the lookout for adventure, while Vicky on the other hand, is much more sensible and committed to her fiance back home.

But their radically different attitudes towards love are tested when they meet Spanish painter Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) and his volatile ex-wife Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz).

A case can be made that Allen has made this same film 35 times over (excluding the ‘early funny ones’). As usual, you’ll find plenty of sarcasm, infidelity and yes, a few rounds fired from a gun.  But the plot only sizzles when Penelope Cruz joins the cast.  Her turbulent behavior is wildly reminiscent of Judy Davis’ brilliant performance in Allen’s Deconstructing Harry (1997). 

Unfortunately, in this film, Cruz is the catalyst for an event that never arrives. The sense that something absurd, tragic and utterly hilarious would take place in the end, the way it did in Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) for instance, kept building throughout the film. Instead, it moves right along, one lustful scene after another, wondering what sort of statement it wants to make about ‘love’ that it hasn’t already.

 

Then there’s the mysterious voice over which threads the film together. Totally unnecessary given that it doesn’t really explain anything nor does it provide any insight from an omniscient point of view.

The movie’s funniest moments, without question, rely on the chemistry between Bardem and Cruz, giving way to the little momentum the film manages at times – making Johansson and Hall seem out of touch with the whole ‘Woody Allen genre’.

Hispanics however, will marvel at how well Allen’s neurotic language translates in Spanish. While most of the film is spoken in English, the few scenes where Bardem and Cruz exchange a few words in, are hysterical.  More evidence that these days, the international community seems to get Woody more than we do.

 

Mack Chico

By

2008/08/13 at 12:00am

George Clooney buys rights to ‘The Challenge’

George Clooney buys rights to 'The Challenge'

George Clooney is taking a taxi to the dark side.

The multi-tasking thesp has bought the rights to Jonathan Mahler‘s legal thriller The Challenge,” about the long campaign waged by U.S. Navy lawyer Charles Swift and Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal to ensure a fair trial for Salim Hamdan, the bodyguard and driver of Osama bin Laden.

Project will be developed through Clooney and Grant Heslov‘s Smoke House shingle. Deal is believed to be in the low-seven-figure range.

As with any Smoke House project, “The Challenge” remains a potential directing, writing and starring vehicle for Clooney.

A spokesman for Clooney confirmed that no decision had been made yet on what exact role Clooney would take on the project, although some are already speculating that the role of idealistic lawyer Swift may prove a fit for the thesp.

Clooney had been tracking Mahler’s story for some time, and Smoke House execs met with the writer months before the book’s recent publication. While there had been interest from other potential buyers, Clooney’s persistence is believed to have played a key role in persuading Mahler to sign with Smoke House.

Hamdan was sentenced Aug. 7 by a panel of military officers at Guantanamo Bay to a prison term of 66 months, including time already served. The Yemeni-born convict was found guilty of material support for terrorism but cleared of the more serious charges of conspiracy to commit murder, seen by some analysts as a victory for retired naval officer Swift’s efforts.

Mahler’s book ends with the landmark 2006 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the military tribunals ordered for Hamdan and other Guantanamo Bay detainees violated the Geneva Convention and the Uniform Code for Military Justice. While Mahler is planning to update the paperback edition of his book to include Hamdan’s trial verdict, it is unclear when Clooney’s bigscreen adaptation of “The Challenge” will end.

Project is the latest in a series of politically charged projects being developed by Smoke House.

Also in the pipeline are dramedy “Escape From Tehran,” recounting the CIA’s attempts to use a fake movie project to smuggle a handful of Americans out of Tehran during the 1979 hostage crisis; “Men Who Stare at Goats,” based on Brit author Jon Ronson’s book about the U.S. Army’s 1st Earth Battalion, which was authorized to use paranormal powers; and “Our Brand Is Crisis,” an adaptation of Rachel Boynton‘s doc about the 2002 Bolivian presidential election, when candidate Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada hired James Carville‘s political consulting firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner to help him win.

Mack Chico

By

2008/08/12 at 12:00am

Smart People

Rating: 2.5

Rated: R for language, brief teen drug and alcohol use, and for some sexuality
Release Date: 2008-04-11
Starring: Mark Poirier
Director(s):
Distributor:
Film Genre:
Country:USA
Official Website: http://www.smartpeople-themovie.com/

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Despite its sharp cast and a few laughs, Smart People is too thinly plotted to fully resonate.

This is not Juno. In fact, I don’t think this movie gives anything new that we haven’t known about. People who are intelligent can be so smart that they lose touch on what’s important, they slowly distance themselves from those who care about them without even realizing it. Smart People got a lot of brain but… not enough heart. Yes it’s smart, witty, and occasionally funny but along the way, something is missing. Something that would make it captivating instead of boring, which is what it is.

All I can say is thank heavens Thomas Haden Church is in this movie. His character is probably the most interesting one. He’d come up with smart-ass remarks and comebacks that are entertaining. Not laugh out loud funny, but good enough to keep us from sleeping.

The tone of the movie for the most part is depressing. The filmmaker wants you to see how smart people can be so detached that when they start to feel something, they don’t know what to do with it or they react in the wrong way. Ellen Page’s character’s crush on her uncle, played by Thomas Haden Church is one example.

Dennis Quaid does an excellent job playing a clueless, unhappy professor, Sarah Jessica Parker has a certain charm and cuteness, but would somebody please give Ellen Page some other character to do!

Don’t get me wrong, I love Juno, but what Ellen Page needs now is not another independent movie (Hard Candy, Tracey Fragment, An American Crime).

She should try another big budget project that would challenge her to do a different role in a different style or genre (she was in X-Men 3 by the way)

The movie does okay in depicting a dysfunctional family without being too outrageous and messed up. But you’ll mostly get frustrated with how it can’t seem to carry itself and bring itself to a good conclusion or resolution.

It’s sorta like hearing a note held for the longest time with only a few fillers from time to time, but only a few unfortunately. The self-realization moments aren’t groundbreaking. This movie fails to leave a lasting impression. It’s another independent movie that will easily be forgotten in time.

Alex Florez

By

2008/08/12 at 12:00am

CJ7

Rating: 2.5

Rated: PG for strong language.
Release Date: 2008-03-07
Starring: Stephen Chow, Chi Keung Fung, Vincent Kok, Sandy Shaw, Kan-Cheung Tsang
Director(s):
Distributor:
Film Genre:
Country:Hong Kong
Official Website: http://www.sonyclassics.com/cj7/

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Mack Chico

By

2008/08/12 at 12:00am

Chris Columbus to Direct Robert F. Kennedy Film

Chris Columbus to Direct Robert F. Kennedy Film

Variety says that Chris Columbus will direct a feature about Robert F. Kennedy‘s 1968 presidential run. Columbus and his 1492 Productions have acquired screen rights to the Thurston Clarke book “The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America.”

Columbus will produce with 1492 partners Michael Barnathan and Mark Radcliffe. Columbus will write the script solo or invite another screenwriter to work with him, adds the trade.

Kennedy’s idealistic campaign, which focused squarely on poverty, racism and ending the unpopular Vietnam War, resonated with Columbus and his 1492 partners. While losing his iconic brother made him wary of crowds, Kennedy refused to insulate himself from the public during his run.

Mack Chico

By

2008/08/12 at 12:00am

Billy Bob Thorton could be the next ‘Freddy Krueger’

Billy Bob Thorton could be the next 'Freddy Krueger'

So we know that Michael Bay‘s Platinum Dunes production company has plans to remake Wes Craven’s horror classic A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. The entire movie would get the facelift that an appropriate budget would provide, including a new dream-dwelling mass murderer. But who could possibly replace Robert Englund as the iconic rake-handed Freddy Krueger?

How about Oscar-winning actor Billy Bob Thornton? It’s just a rumor at this point — but it was initiated by the original Freddy himself. Robert Englund was on the late night radio show Loveline last week to promote JACK BROOKS, MONSTER SLAYER (and discuss sex, I guess), and was inevitably asked about the NIGHTMARE reboot. And Englund stated that the last gossip he heard was that Thornton could be slipping on the sweater and burn makeup for the role.

Englund also claims he’s not opposed to being replaced (as he says, he already made the movie), or the remake itself, since he feels it’s the sort of movie that deserves a bigger budget for the dreamscape special effects (they ran out of money while making the first movie).

Thornton seems like the kind of dude who’s receptive to any sort of material, and he does have an existing Bay connection from ARMAGEDDON. Food for thought (or nightmares)!

Mack Chico

By

2008/08/11 at 12:00am

Angelina Jolie takes over for Cruise in "Edwin A. Salt"

Angelina Jolie takes over for Cruise in "Edwin A. Salt"

“Edwin A. Salt” is about to undergo a gender change.
Once expected to star Tom Cruise, the Columbia Pictures espionage thriller will be redrafted by screenwriter Kurt Wimmer as a star vehicle for Angelina Jolie. Philip Noyce remains attached as director and Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Sunil Perkash are producing.

Jolie is close to a deal to play the title character, a CIA officer who’s accused by a defector of being a Russian sleeper spy and must elude capture long enough to establish her innocence.

Cruise had long flirted with the project, but that ended recently. The well-regarded script had several male movie stars circling.

Jolie took a liking to it, prompting the studio’s decision to rewrite it. Sources said the project won’t require that much of an overhaul to suit her.

After Universal beefed up Jolie’s role in “Wanted” and then marketed the action film squarely on Jolie’s shoulders and watched it gross $132 million domestically, Jolie reestablished in the wake of “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” that she is the rare female who is viable in an action genre that has been almost the exclusive domain of men.

“Edwin A. Salt” will undergo a title change, and if everything falls into place, the film shapes up as a return vehicle for Jolie, who recently gave birth to twins. Another candidate for her return is the Lionsgate drama “Atlas Shrugged,” which has been adapted by Randall Wallace from the Ayn Rand novel.

Jolie, who also provided a lead voice in the DreamWorks Animation hit “Kung Fu Panda,” drew strong notices at the Cannes Film Festival for her starring role in the Clint Eastwood-directed drama “The Changeling” for Imagine and Universal. That film opens in late October.

Jolie is repped by Media Talent Group’s Geyer Kosinski.

Mack Chico

By

2008/08/11 at 12:00am

‘The Dark Knight’ – fourth times a charm at the box office

'The Dark Knight' - fourth times a charm at the box office
Stoner movie “Pineapple Express” fell a few hits short of knocking “The Dark Knight” out of his Batmobile as the Caped Crusader powered to his fourth straight weekend as the box-office leader.

Sony Pictures’ R-rated comedy about a pothead and his small-time dealer on the lam from the law and a ruthless drug lord after witnessing a murder scored $22.4 million for the weekend, for a total of $40.4 million since opening Wednesday.

Strong numbers for a movie that cost about $27 million to produce, but not enough to overtake Warner Bros.’ Batman blockbuster, which pulled in $26 million for the weekend and boosted its domestic total to $441.5 million.

That moved “The Dark Knight” ahead of “Shrek 2” on the all-time list, behind “Titanic” and “Star Wars,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media by Numbers, a box-office tracking service.

“The staying power of this film is somewhat unprecedented,” he said, noting that the last movie to enjoy a four-week run at the top was “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” which opened in December 2003.

“What makes it even more impressive is the fact that it’s a summer film and it’s taking on all competitors and prevailing in such a profound way,” he said.

Dan Fellman, Warner’s head of domestic distribution, cited several factors for the movie’s hold on the top spot, including repeat business, popularity among older and infrequent moviegoers, and a continued strong showing on Imax screens, which rang up $3.2 million this weekend.

He predicted that “The Dark Knight,” which stars Christian Bale as Batman and the late Heath Ledger as his nemesis, the Joker, would soon bump up a notch and eventually gross about $520 million.

“By next weekend, we’ll be in No. 2, ahead of ‘Star Wars,’ ” he said. That 1977 hit brought in $461 million; “Titanic” topped $600 million.

Though “Pineapple Express” didn’t manage to grab the top spot, Sony executives weren’t exactly crying in their bong water over the box-office performance of the raunchy comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.

Produced by Judd Apatow, who earlier brought to life such hits as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” the movie opened Wednesday at $12 million and sales more than tripled by the weekend.

“The $40 million for us was just like, wow, we couldn’t be happier,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s president of domestic distribution.

“Everything about this movie has just played out really well.”

Brandon Gray, president of box-office tracker Box Office Mojo, said “Pineapple Express” was doing better than might be expected, given that its subject matter had a narrower appeal than some of Apatow’s earlier offerings.

“For a stoner action comedy, it’s doing very well,” he said.

In other results this weekend, Universal’s “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” slipped to third from second with $16.1 million in ticket sales and nearly $71 million total.

“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2,” a Warner Bros. movie that also premiered Wednesday, finished fourth with $10.7 million for the weekend and $19.7 million in all.

Universal’s “Mamma Mia!” dropped two spots to sixth but still took in $8 million, enough to push it across the $100-million mark in domestic ticket sales.

Despite some strong showings, this marked the third weekend in a row that box-office receipts were lower than comparable weekends last summer, Dergarabedian said. This weekend’s total was about $120 million, compared with $154 million for the same one last year, his data show.

His numbers also show that box-office revenue for the year is $6.14 billion, down from $6.17 billion for the same period last year. Attendance is off by 4.3%.

Mack Chico

By

2008/08/11 at 12:00am

‘Tropic Thunder’ to be boycott

'Tropic Thunder' to be boycott

A coalition of disabilities groups is expected as early as Monday to call for a national boycott of the film “Tropic Thunder” because of what the groups consider the movie’s open ridicule of the intellectually disabled.

The film, a movie-industry spoof directed by Ben Stiller, is set for release on Wednesday by Paramount Pictures and its DreamWorks unit.

“Not only might it happen, it will happen,” Timothy P. Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, said of the expected push for a boycott. Speaking by phone, Mr. Shriver said he planned to be in Los Angeles with representatives of his group and others to picket the movie’s premiere on Monday evening in this city’s Westwood district.

A particular sore point has been the film’s repeated use of the term “retard” in referring to a character, Simple Jack, who is played by Mr. Stiller in a subplot about an actor who chases an Oscar by portraying a mindless dolt.

Mr. Shriver said that he had also begun to ask members of Congress for a resolution condemning what he called the movie’s “hate speech” and calling for stronger federal support of the intellectually disabled.

“The most disappointing thing, the most incredible thing, is that nobody caught it,” said Mr. Shriver, who, as a co-producer of the DreamWorks film “Amistad,” is no stranger to the studio. He spoke of what he described as the studio’s and the filmmakers’ blatant disregard for the disabled even as they stepped carefully around other potentially offensive references, notably in a story line that has Robert Downey Jr. playing a white actor who changes his skin color to play a black soldier.

In a statement on Sunday, Chip Sullivan, a DreamWorks spokesman, said the movie was “an R-rated comedy that satirizes Hollywood and its excesses and makes its point by featuring inappropriate and over-the-top characters in ridiculous situations.” Mr. Sullivan, in the statement, added that the film was not meant to disparage or harm people with disabilities and that DreamWorks expected to work closely with disability groups in the future. But, he said, “No changes or cuts to the film will be made.”

Formal complaints about the content of films are not uncommon, but well-coordinated boycotts are fairly rare. The groups involved said that they represented millions of members and associates. Perhaps the most striking use of the tactic involved “The Last Temptation of Christ,” released in 1988. Religious groups that considered that movie’s depiction of Jesus blasphemous called for a boycott of companies owned by MCA, whose Universal unit made the film.

DreamWorks and Paramount have shown “Tropic Thunder” in more than 250 promotional screenings around the country since April, but significant complaints came only recently, when marketing materials for the movie caught the attention of advocates for the disabled. The tag line on one mock promotional poster on a Web site, since removed, read, “Once upon a time there was a retard.”

Over the weekend an ad-hoc coalition of more than a dozen disabilities groups — including the Arc of the United States, the National Down Syndrome Congress, the American Association of People With Disabilities and others — laid the groundwork for public protests to begin Monday.

The groups refrained from formally asking that viewers boycott the movie, pending informational screenings that were scheduled for their members at eight locations around the country on Monday morning.

But representatives of the National Down Syndrome Congress saw the movie at one such screening on Friday and immediately advised fellow advocates to expect a film sufficiently offensive to justify mass action.

“I came out feeling like I had been assaulted,” said David C. Tolleson, executive director of the Down syndrome group who saw the movie.

Mr. Tolleson and Peter V. Berns, executive director of the Arc of the United States, said on Sunday that they could not recall a similar coalition of disabilities groups forming against a film. Mr. Berns noted that some people had objected to the use of the word “retarded” in “Napoleon Dynamite,” a comedy released by Fox Searchlight and Paramount’s MTV Films unit in 2004.

“But there’s really been nothing near this magnitude,” Mr. Berns said.

In earlier interviews with The New York Times, Mr. Stiller and Stacey Snider, chief executive of the DreamWorks unit, said the movie’s humor was aimed not at the disabled but at the foolishness of actors who will go to any length in advancing their careers.

After meetings and conference calls with Ms. Snider and others, the studio altered some television advertising, but declined to edit scenes from the movie.

“Tropic Thunder” is likely to be the last movie released by DreamWorks before its top executives — Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Ms. Snider — formally announce their plans to become aligned with a new company to be financed by Reliance Big Entertainment of India. The three will continue to be involved with at least a dozen films at Paramount but are expected gradually to shift their energies to the new enterprise, which will probably distribute its movies through another studio.

Mr. Shriver said that he had spoken with Ms. Snider and others at DreamWorks about “Tropic Thunder” and came away convinced that they had no plans for mitigating measures.

Their response, he said, convinced him that the time had come for his group and others to strike a far more aggressive public posture on behalf of the disabled. “The movement needs to enter the public eye and not just be talking among ourselves,” he said.

Mack Chico

By

2008/08/09 at 12:00am

Bernie Mac dies at 50

Bernie Mac dies at 50

Bernie Mac, a stand-up comic who played evil-tongued but lovable rogues in films like “Bad Santa” and “Mr. 3000” and combined menace and sentiment as a reluctant foster father on “The Bernie Mac Show” on Fox, died on Saturday in Evanston, Ill. He was 50 and lived near Chicago.

The cause was complications from pneumonia, said his publicist, Danica Smith.

Mr. Mac, an imposing stage presence with a line of scabrous insults, parlayed his success as a stand-up comedian onto the big screen in a string of comedies that cast him in cameo roles, usually as wily con men like Pastor Clever in “Friday” and Gin, the store detective in “Bad Santa.” He also excelled as short-tempered misanthropes, notably in his starring role as Stan Ross, the nation’s most hated baseball player, in “Mr. 3000.”

In 2001, the Fox network took a gamble with “The Bernie Mac Show,” an unconventional family comedy with Mr. Mac portraying a childless married comedian who reluctantly takes in his sister’s three youngsters when she goes into a drug-treatment program.

The irascible Mr. Mac made a different kind of TV dad, “more Ike Turner than Dr. Spock,” Chris Norris wrote in a 2002 profile for The New York Times Magazine. Mr. Mac’s special style of tough love — “I’m gonna bust your head ’til the white meat shows,” he warns his surly teenage neice — set the show apart from other family sitcoms and raised a few critical eyebrows, but audiences saw enough of the character’s soft center to find the show touching.

“The success of my comedy has been not being afraid to touch on subject matters or issues that everyone else is politically scared of,” Mr. Mac told The Times in 2001. “It’s a joke, believe me. I’m not trying to hurt anybody.”

Mr. Mac incorporated aspects of his standup act and during each episode would break the fictional world of the show and address the audience directly. On one show, he swiveled in his chair and said, “Now America, tell me again, why can’t I whip that girl?”

“The Bernie Mac Show” show ran for five seasons, and Mr. Mac won Emmy awards as outstanding actor in a comedy series in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Bernard Jeffrey McCullough was born in Chicago to a single mother who inspired him, indirectly, to become a comedian. When he was 5, he told a television interviewer in 2001, he saw her sitting in front of the television set crying. “The Ed Sullivan Show” was playing, and when Bill Cosby began telling a story about snakes in the bathroom, she started laughing despite herself. “When I saw her laughing, I told her that I was going to be a comedian so she’d never cry again,” Mr. Mac said.

His mother died of cancer when he was 16, and he was raised by his grandmother on the South Side of Chicago. His two brothers also died, one in infancy, the other of a heart attack in his 20s.

At Chicago Vocational Career Academy, he was voted Class Clown by his graduating class. Already serious about his intended profession, turned down the honor “I said, ‘I’m funny. I’m a comedian, I’m not a clown,’” he later recalled. “My humor had changed from foolishness to making sense.”

After high school, Mr. Mac worked as a janitor, a mover and a school bus driver before finding a job at a General Motors plant. In 1976 he married his high school sweetheart, Rhonda who survives him, as does their daughter, Je’Neice, and a granddaughter.

Desperate to get started as a comedian, he told jokes for tips on the Chicago subway and worked comedy clubs, many of them off the beaten track. “When I started in the clubs, I had to work places where didn’t nobody else want to work,” he told The Washington Post. “I had to do clubs where street gangs were, had to do motorcycle gangs, gay balls and things of that nature.”

In 1983 he was laid off at GM and for a time his family had to move in with relatives. Plugging away at his comedy career, he caught the attention of Redd Foxx and Slappy White, who invited him to do off-the-cuff material in Las Vegas in 1989, and a year later he won the Miller Lite Comedy Search, a national contest, with his profanity-laced monologues on events in his own life and on black life in Chicago

In 1990, he was invited to do two shows with Def Comedy Jam, a tour featuring young black comedians that was filmed for HBO. Small film roles followed, in “Mo’ Money” (1992), “Who’s The Man?” (1993) and “House Party 3” (1994), as well as an HBO variety series, “Midnight Mac,” and a spot with the Original Kings of Comedy, a tour that showcased some of the most popular contemporary black comedians. The tour, which grossed an astounding $59 million, generated several HBO specials and a film by Spike Lee, “The Original Kings of Comedy.”

Mr. Mac made the move to television reluctantly. “The people come to see you, the person they fell in love with, but when they see you on TV you bvecome a whole other character, another person, and they become disappointed, and I wasn’t going to allow that to happen to me,” he said.

Nevertheless, he appeared in a recurring role as Uncle Bernie on the UPN sitcom “Moesha” for several years beginning in 1996, and in 2001 he took the plunge with “The Bernie Mac Show.”

Praised by the critics for its fresh irreverent take on the family sitcom, it became one of Fox’s biggest hits.

The show coincided with a spate of films that made Mr. Mac, if not a box office star, a welcome comedic presence in films like “What’s the Worst that Could Happen?” “Ocean’s 11” and its two sequels and “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.”

In July, Mr. Mac, a fervent Barack Obama supporter, dismayed his candidate at a fund-raising dinner in Chicago. Delivering a stand-up routine, he told salacious jokes and drew a reprimand from Mr. Obama, who warned him, “Bernie, you’ve got to clean up your act next time.”

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