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Lose Ben Stein's Money: The Boss comes out, the Putin



Big Bomb Theory

Stein is a lot of things, but movie star ain't one of them. Ben Stein has had a checkered career - speech writer for Richard Nixon, TV game show host, business columnist, movie actor. But his latest foray into the entertainment world as movie producer doesn't seem to be panning out too well.

Stein's movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed opened last weekend with mediocre box office numbers and less than mediocre reviews. It's a purported documentary intended to support the theory of "intelligent design" and show how proponents of intelligent design face discrimination and harassment in academia. Among other subtleties, it attempts to link Darwinism to Nazi genocide and the Berlin Wall.

Critics virtually unanimously panned Expelled, blasting it as a ham-handed and not very clever propaganda exercise. Jeanette Catsoulis of the New York Times called it "one of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time ... a conspiracy-theory rant masquerading as investigative inquiry ... an unprincipled propaganda piece that insults believers and nonbelievers alike."

Opening-weekend audiences apparently weren't bowled over either: The movie opened on 1,052 screens Friday and earned $1.2 million, or just $1,130 per screen, "showing there wasn't any pent-up demand for the film despite an aggressive publicity campaign," wrote Hollywood Deadline Daily. In comparison, Michael Moore's Sicko took in $23.9 million its opening weekend from just 441 theaters, and his Fahrenheit 9/11 did $23.9 million from only 868 screens.

Looks like Stein's movie just lacked an intelligent design.

The Boss and the Blob

Just before the critical Pennsylvania primary (well, everybody keeps telling us it's critical) Barack Obama picked up two big show business endorsements from two guys who are physical opposites but apparently ideological twins.

The first was Bruce Springsteen, who came out in favor of the Illinois senator rather quietly by posting a brief letter of endorsement on his website.

"Senator Obama, in my view, is head and shoulders above the rest," The Boss wrote. "He has the depth, the reflectiveness, and the resilience to be our next President. He speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that's interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit."

The other Obama boomer was the rotund documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, who - as one might expect - expressed himself in considerably more caustic language.

"I haven't spoken publicly 'til now as to who I would vote for, primarily for two reasons: 1) Who cares?; and 2) I (and most people I know) don't give a rat's ass whose name is on the ballot in November, as long as there's a picture of JFK and FDR riding a donkey at the top of the ballot, and the word 'Democratic' next to the candidate's name," Moore wrote on his website Monday.

However, he went on, "over the past two months, the actions and words of Hillary Clinton have gone from being merely disappointing to downright disgusting. I guess the debate last week was the final straw. I've watched Senator Clinton and her husband play this game of appealing to the worst side of white people, but [at the debate] last Wednesday, when she hurled the name 'Farrakhan' out of nowhere, well that's when the silly season came to an early end for me. She said the 'F' word to scare white people, pure and simple. ... Yes, Senator Clinton, that's how you sounded. Like you were nuts. Like you were a bigot stoking the fires of stupidity."

Heating Things Up at the Kremlin

split for perfect splits. With not much news to report on French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy this week, Upfront decided to bring you up to speed on the brewing sex scandal that could rock the Kremlin.

Rumors swirling around Moscow are that Russian President Vladimir Putin, 56, has been having an affair with Olympic gymnast Alina Kabaeva, 24, and, in fact, has separated from his 50-year-old wife, Ludmilla, and is planning to dump her and marry the younger woman.

The talented Ms. Kabaeva, a rhythmic gymnast known for her athleticism and remarkable "natural flexibility" (ahem!), captured a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and the gold at the 2004 games in Athens. (You can see her displaying her natural flexibility on YouTube, and take it from Upfront, it really IS remarkable.)

Kabaeva also is a member of the Duma, the Russian Parliament, representing the pro-Putin party - one of a number of shapely young gymnasts that the president has elevated to that body.

According to a Russian tabloid, Moskovski Korrespondent, Putin and Kabaeva actually have set June 15 as their wedding date. But Putin has vigorously denied those reports.

And on Saturday Moskovski Korrespondent was shut down - demonstrating that, although its president may display the same appetites as certain American politicians, Russia is still Russia.

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