Why Can't Reese Witherspoon Get First Billing?

Kyle Buchanan · 09/11/08 12:57PM

Correct us if we're wrong, but didn't Reese Witherspoon, y'know, win an Oscar just a few years ago? We're pretty sure she did, but you'd never know it from this poster for Four Christmases, the upcoming comedy she stars in with Vince Vaughn. Despite the fact that Vaughn fired UTA and his manager after the star vehicle Fred Claus opened to less than his first $20 million paycheck, the poster still gives him first billing over the Oscar-winning, A-list Witherspoon (and for another Christmas movie, no less!). To be fair, Witherspoon's last film Rendition was a box-office bust, but she wasn't top-billed on that, either: new beau Jake Gyllenhaal was, despite the fact that he's not yet proven himself as a box office draw. After winning the industry's highest award and proving her ability to single-handedly open a comedy with films like Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama, what more does Witherspoon have to do to be called first in the billing block?Is it simply that studios are too terrified to give a woman first billing over a male star, lest people then think the film to be a chick flick? After all, Vaughn's last hit was The Break-Up, the rare romantic comedy with strong male appeal, something that marketing folks might have felt was in jeopardy had costar Jennifer Aniston been first-billed. Four Christmases isn't a romcom but a flat-out comedy, but would it be perceived as the former if Vaughn was subservient to Witherspoon in the billing block? Yes, when compared to Witherspoon, the presence of Vaughn in this film makes us more likely to see it (though still? not very likely), simply because the actor has a track record of enlivening even the most formulaic films with his improvised comic riffs. Still, we wonder just how B- and C-list you'd have to go to find a male costar whom the studio would allow Witherspoon to supplant. In an alternate Four Christmases, could the actress vault over Colin Farrell to claim first billing? Or will she have to settle for a part opposite Freddie Prinze Jr. to claim what, by rights, should be hers?

Do al-Qaeda Message Boards Have Trolls?

Pareene · 09/10/08 02:08PM

Today's Times opinion section features an op-ed by Ronen Bergman, an Israeli newspaper correspondent who tracks the mood of jihadists by monitoring their internet message boards. This is important intelligence work! Apparently they're all having debates about suicide bombing and should they maybe not be martyring themselves quite so often, because suicide itself is not considered a good thing. All interesting stuff! But reading excerpts from discussions on Ekhlaas and Firdaws, "two main Web platforms for discussing the technical aspects of jihad," just got us thinking: who moderates these forums? And why is their level of discourse so much calmer and smarter than Western blog comments?

Is 20th Century Fox Already Cooling On M. Night Shyamalan's 'The Happening'?

Mark Graham · 02/04/08 09:03PM

There are two ways of looking at 20th Century Fox's decision not to air an ad for The Happening during the Super Bowl last night (Ed. Note: teaser trailer removed by the request of 20th Century Fox). The first is that the company made a financially savvy decision by choosing not to blow $2.7 million on a thirty-second advertisement (like all those other studios did). The other is that the studio is feeling a bit gunshy on the financial prospects of Night's first film since the unmitigated disaster that was Lady In The Water. And as for which theory we think holds more water? We're going with the latter.

Why Don't Celebs Just Use The Iphone Passcode Lock?

Nick Douglas · 01/30/08 03:34PM

Apparently every cab in New York will eventually be home to a celebrity iPhone; just a week after the NY Daily News reported on the guy who copied Annie Leibovitz's assistant's contact list after he found it in a cab, a Facebook user says he found the iPhone of Richard Cohen, the NYC real estate developer who recently divorced newscaster Paula Zahn, in a cab. The celeb contact list is below, so you can argue whether the list (which includes Kissinger, Kerry, and Deniro) trumps Leibovitz's.

Who Taught These Pedophile Hunters To Imitate Preteen Girls So Well?

Nick Douglas · 01/25/08 02:50PM

Retired Missouri police chief Jim Murray, who posed as a 13-year-old girl in a Yahoo chat room and caught his mayor asking for underage sex, made the AP today. The article praises his skills, saying "He knows all the instant-messaging shorthand, the emoticons." Which makes me wonder as I always do, how do these people get so good at encouraging dirty old men to lust over their nubile, fictional bodies? And will this be the year that we discover a mountain of child porn in Chris Hansen's closet, or hear about a pedophilia ring within Perverted Justice? Probably and hopefully not, but the rhetoric of these highly publicized pedophile hunters always reminds me of the anti-gay preachers and politicians who are inevitably outed themselves. Take, for example, these quotes about Murray from the AP.

Wal-Mart Dumps Better Homes And Gardens

Nick Denton · 01/18/08 05:34PM

The ouster of the New Yorker from Wal-Mart's shelves is an honor of sorts. Although the the Conde Nast title sells more copies in California than in New York, and has a surprisingly wide reach, its readers aren't the kind to shop at the mass-market retailer. Better Homes and Gardens, another magazine cast out, is appropriately mainstream for Wal-Mart, which makes the Meredith property a more surprising reject. The banishment couldn't have had anything to do with Meredith's over-aggressive sales efforts, could it? [Keith Kelly]


Nick Denton · 01/16/08 06:13PM

Anyone else wondering why none of the major entertainment shows — Entertainment Tonight, Extra! or Access Hollywood — have touched the revelations of Tom Cruise's deep involvement with the Church of Scientology? Someone with backbone at the shows: send us the internal discussion, please.

Who Wrote The Ken Wells Book Review In 'Portfolio'?

Choire · 10/24/07 09:31AM

Finally found the November Porfolio last night! (It's slowly trickling downtown where the poors live.) You know what was striking? There are seven book reviews in it—6 of them between 100 and 200 words, each of those with a byline. But occupying one-third of page 150 is an unbylined review of "Crawfish Mountain," a new book by Portfolio's own senior editor Ken Wells! It's an extraordinarily detailed plot summary, and is headlined "From Our Staff." Whoever wrote it sure does know the book inside and out—at the very least, we can sure confirm that it's a terrible editorial call to have run this without a byline.