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The Silverman Sister Act

On the surface, it may raise an eyebrow that controversial comedian Sarah Silverman’s sister is a renowned rabbi. That is, until you get to know them.

At this point, there are few things that Sarah Silverman could say or do that would shock people. But mention that the consistently controversial—and consistently hilarious—comedian’s sister is one of the world’s most renowned and influential rabbis, and watch those who thought they’d seen or heard everything from the professional button-pusher react, once again, with surprise.

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Boston Globe/Getty

But learn more about Sarah’s sister, Rabbi Susan Silverman, and it becomes abundantly clear that even though “I’m godless and she’s godfull,” as Sarah puts it, audacity runs in the family.

Yikes

Woody As a Pimp Is Tough to Watch

He sits on park benches scoping out rich middle-aged women for his gigolo. In light of allegations, Woody Allen’s turn as a pimp in ‘Fading Gigolo’ is problematic, to say the least.

The premise of Fading Gigolo, a new film by John Turturro, is simple enough: M. Schwartz & Sons Rare & Used Books, a quaint, red-awninged Mom-and-Pop bookstore in Downtown Manhattan, is going out of business—yet another casualty of modernity, judging by the sprawling Staples next door.

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Inside, its aging proprietor, Murray, played by Woody Allen, is chatting with his longtime employee, Fioravante (Turturro, who wrote and directed the film), about a strange episode he’d overheard at his dermatologist’s office. It seems his skin technician, Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone, radiant), is interested in hosting a “ménage”—as in ménage à trois—along with her friend and a man. Murray tells her he knows just the guy, but it’ll cost her $1,000. Since they’re both out of work, Murray tries to sell his boy Friday on the idea of being a gigolo.

last call for zombies

‘Walking Dead’s Scary New Rick

Spoilers ahead: In the AMC zombie drama’s season finale on Sunday, a new, killer leader was born and old Officer Friendly left behind.

The Walking Dead’s fourth season finale was the most terrifyingly intense hour the show has produced all season—so why do people feel robbed?

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Gene Page/AMC

No major characters died. Nagging questions remained unanswered. (Where is Beth? How do we still not know what Terminus is?) Serene flashbacks to the group’s earliest days in the prison, just as peace settled in and Rick gave up his role as leader, made up about half the episode. And the other half comprised of situations so tense, it seemed like they must be escalating toward some bursting point—which, except for Rick’s newfound resolve to kill or be killed, never came.

I'm Back

The State of Schwarzenegger

The DEA agent film 'Sabotage' seemed like a perfect reboot for the former governor but it was awful—though Schwarzenegger is good in ways that suggest he might still have a future in film.

He always said he'd be back. 

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Open Road Films

Ahh-nold. Arnie. The Austrian Oak. The Governator. On Friday, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger returned to the big screen in Sabotage, only his third starring role since leaving office in 2011. For Schwarzenegger fans like me, the movie had all the makings of a breakthrough. Direction by David Ayers, the Navy submariner who wrote Training Day and helmed 2012's excellent End of Watch. No gimmicks, no supervillains, no tongue-in-cheek nostalgia—just a streetwise story about the deadly suspicions that infect an elite team of undercover DEA agents after the money they stole during a drug bust disappears. And a role for Schwarzenegger as John "Breacher" Wharton—a damaged legend of the drug wars—that seemed to suit his older, craggier persona. Finally, we said. The perfect career reboot

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Robert Daly

Starvation, snake venom, “oil pulling”—no wonder Chris Martin didn’t want to live with this woman.

When Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced to the world on Tuesday that they were “consciously uncoupling,” we couldn’t help but wonder if Paltrow's notoriously strict lifestyle was to blame.

In 2008, Paltrow founded her lifestyle website and brand GOOP, encouraging readers and fans to “invest in what’s real” and “nourish the inner aspect.” With a slew of overly-healthy recipes, pricey beauty treatments, and tough workouts, Paltrow quickly became recognized as the girl we love to hate with an “I’m better than you” attitude.

On Thursday, The Sun reported that Paltrow's obsession with her diet and Kabbalah caused a rift in her marriage to the Coldplay songbird. "Chris felt he was starting to lose the woman he fell in love with," a source told the British tabloid. It’s hard not to believe it when you’re discussing a woman who has said things like, “I would rather die than let my kid eat Cup-a-Soup” or “I’d rather smoke crack than eat cheese from a tin.”

Fact-Check

‘Noah’: Bible vs. Blockbuster

Director Darren Aronofsky takes plenty of liberties with the biblical myth, but also brings back parts of the story we've forgotten.

With Noah, Darren Aronofsky has made a surprisingly good movie about a man who saves his family and the animal kingdom from a catastrophic worldwide flood. For those who entered the theater expecting to be entertained, and even perhaps made to think, by a cinematic adaptation of a biblical story, they no doubt left happy. For those who expected to see the biblical story rendered into glorious IMAX, every detail preserved exactly as it is told in Genesis, disillusion probably set in around the third minute and lasted until the hundred and thirty-third.

This is the film that will introduce most of the country to the Watchers: fallen angels who, according to Aronofsky’s version, have been encrusted in stone and, with a little persuading, help Noah construct the ark (for giants with gobs of rock for hands, they are extraordinarily dexterous). The Watchers are a very ancient tradition, going back over two thousand years in Jewish and Christian interpretation. But they don’t go as far back as Genesis.

At least the Watchers have a good long pedigree. The same cannot be said for the antagonistic narrative the film creates between Noah and the movie’s villain, Tubal-Cain (a real biblical character, but I never quite pictured him looking so much like he came out of a Mad Max movie). This is the flood story with fight scenes. Plenty of them. Every movie must have its bad guy, I suppose, but in the Bible the only characters in the Flood story are either on the ark or in heaven. And I’m tempted to say that there is already a bad guy in the story.

A DOLLAR FOR YOUR THOUGHTS

Vegan Strippers Tell All

Lest you think those who remove their clothing for a living are nothing but vacant showgirls, it turns out there’s a lot more underneath those faux-leather bras and furless panties than T&A. Portland's pretty women discuss the likes of health care, Crimea and immigration.

Sometimes, one tires of the incessant cable news punditry; the same talking heads spouting the same talking points. Sometimes, one yearns for a fresh perspective on how issues affect regular Americans. You know, regular Americans who also happen to be dancers at a vegan strip club.

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Linda Davidson/The Washington Post, via Getty

So off I went to Casa Diablo, the world’s first vegan strip club located in Portland, Ore. (Of course it is in Portland.)

Baseball's Barons

The Heroes of My Youth

Paul Hemphill was one of the great unsung writers of the American South. Here he celebrates the heyday of Birmingham's minor league team, the Barons.

Just in time for Opening Day, here’s a gem about minor league ball in the South. It was written by the late Paul Hemphill, who was often called the Jimmy Breslin of the South. But that doesn’t do him justice. He was more than a brilliant columnist. His first book, The Nashville Sound, remains one of the great books ever written about country music, and his baseball novel, Long Gone, later made into a fun and now overlooked movie (it was shown on HBO the year before Bull Durham came out), is a treat. Leaving Birmingham: Notes of a Native Son, a memoir about coming of age in the South in the ‘50s and ‘60s is tough, honest, and moving.

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Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, via Getty

Do yourself a favor and read Hemphill’s classic piece, “Quitting the Paper,” or his beautiful essay about his Old Man, or this story about Catfish Hunter. And next time you’re in a used bookstore, keep an eye out for one of Hemphill’s several fine collections.

Watch This!

The Week in Viral Videos

Week in Viral Videos

From Arnold Schwarzenegger’s QVC appearance to an orchestral cartoon theme song mashup, watch our countdown of this week’s buzziest videos.

5. Do IT for Denmark

Denmark’s got a problem, and this time we’re not talking about the murderous Copenhagen Zoo. The great homeland of Tycho Brahe and Soren Kierkegaard is having a baby-making crisis, with the birth rate reportedly at a 27-year low. But one Danish travel company hopes to change that by promoting sexcentric vacations. This incredible commercial announces Spies Rejser’s ovulation discount and conception contest. You have to see it to believe it.

Peter Guralnick has written biographies of Elvis and Sam Cooke. He could kick back and write fiction or teach. But forget that. He’d still rather sit around waiting for a Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland horn rehearsal in the middle of the night—even if it never happened.

“Long before the existence of Crawdaddy! or Fusion or Rolling Stone,” Peter Guralnick wrote in his first book, Feel Like Going Home, “I wanted to do a history of Sun Records.” That was 1971. Now, more than four decades later, Guralnick’s wrapping up a biography of Sun’s founder, Sam Phillips. “I think I’m something like 27 pages from the end right now,” he said during a recent phone. There’s no firm publication date set, so he’s got time to revise the manuscript—which he describes as “about as long as [Dream Boogie],” his 2005 biography of Sam Cooke, so call it roughly 800 pages—before turning it in to Little, Brown.

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Colin Escott/Getty

What does it feel like to fulfill a lifelong creative ambition? “I haven’t enjoyed instant gratification,” Guralnick admits, but his career has “gone way beyond anything I could have imagined. I mean, to be able to talk to Howlin’ Wolf, to get to interview Merle Haggard, to meet Sam Phillips—these are things that were on my mind from even before I started writing.” Those stories (among many others) are collected in Feel Like Going Home and its followup, Lost Highway, which have been reissued in “enhanced” digital editions that feature audio extracts from Guralnick’s original interviews as well as new video segments. “It was a way, in a sense, of revisiting territory that I’ve never left,” he explains. “I mean, I’m no less invested in, no less passionate about, no less excited by the music of Howlin’ Wolf or Muddy Waters or Jerry Lee Lewis today than I was when I first discovered them, or when I first met them.” During our conversation, we revisited aspects of those two books, and how his approach to music writing—which also includes a definitive two-volume biography of Elvis Presley—has evolved over time.

Double Standard

The Eagles' Race Problem

One of the best receivers in the NFL was released on Friday for having alleged gang ties, while the same team rewarded a confirmed racist.

There’s a scene early on in Silver Linings Playbook, filmmaker David O. Russell’s wacky potpourri of mental disease, familial dysfunction, and crabby snacks and homemades, that’s become a part of Philadelphia Eagles lore.

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Rob Tringali/Getty

Pat Solitano, a whirling dervish of a man-child portrayed by Bradley Cooper, has just been sprung from a mental institution by his cheery mother. He’s to attend a dinner with his ex-wife’s bestie—the first of several steps in his demented scheme to win her back. But Pat’s been out of action for a while, and social decorum has never been his forte, so he asks his shrink if it’s fine to wear the Eagles jersey his brother bought him while he was locked away.

Tongue

Miley Cyrus and Twerk 101

Listening to Bangerz and perfecting your twerk aren’t prerequisites, though it would probably behoove you to do both to succeed in this college course.

Complicated child star who never really grew up or genius entertainer?  Skidmore University is offering a new sociology course called, “The Sociology of Miley Cyrus: Race, Class, Gender, and Media.” The class will explore Miley’s upbringing in a famous family, her time as a child star, and what happens to Disney stars once they grow up.   From her Hannah Montana days to her more twerking on Bangerz, students will get a better look at why Destiny Hope is the way she is.

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Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Rutgers University offers the course “Politicizing Beyoncé,” which is an opportunity for students to explore race, sex, gender and sexuality in America, and how it has been placed in Queen Bey’s music. Students can find a deepermeaning in Beyoncé’s oeuvre. Sasha fierce, Beyoncé’s alter ego, will also be a matter of discussion.

OOPS

Colbert Caught in Twitter Storm

A Tweet from his show joking about ‘the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever’ provoked fury on Twitter aimed at Stephen Colbert. He says it was nothing to do with him.

We can add Stephen Colbert to a long list of professional funny people who have leapt off the comedy high-diving board, hoping that there’s water in the pool, only to crash into dry cement.        

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Scott Gries/PictureGroup

Rosie O’Donnell, Jimmy Kimmel, Gilbert Gottfried, The Onion, and many other standups have been compelled to abjectly apologize, lose their jobs, explain themselves or otherwise suffer severe pain for their ill-fated attempts to make people laugh.        

Why the GOP Is Angry About Colbert

When Stephen Colbert was announced as David Letterman's successor, Rush Limbaugh and company both criticized and politicized the move. Keli Goff discusses whether they're actually mad.

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