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Friday News: HP’s bribery and money laundering, Amazon’s acquisition of ComiXology, the Dublin Literary Award’s shortlist, and Ireland’s singing priest

Friday News: HP’s bribery and money laundering, Amazon’s acquisition of ComiXology,...

Hewlett-Packard Admits to International Bribery and Money Laundering Schemes – Okay, let’s start with the bad news. If this were April Fools’ Day, I’d say this has got to be a joke. Sadly (or for those reading The Will, alas), HP “has admitted to creating and using slush funds for bribes, money laundering, and clandestine “bag of cash” handoffs in order to profiteer off of lucrative government contracts in Russia, Poland, and Mexico.” Apparently they have already pled guilty, which will result in a $108 million penalty (probably petty change when compared to the contracts), criminal fines, and DOJ forfeitures. American HP executives have, thus far, escapes prosecution, but considering that the SEC, FBI, and IRS all collaborated in the investigation, I wouldn’t be surprised if individuals are soon charged. If you want a sense of how this works, check out some of the details of their Russian operation:

Beginning in the late 1990s, HP’s Russian conspirators concocted a sophisticated scheme to bypass internal controls and falsify records in order to siphon cash into a secret slush fund — eventually totaling about $10 million. Partly used for bribes and kickbacks to Russian officials, the money was aimed principally to grease the wheels for an approximately $48 million technology contract that HP ultimately won. The vast majority of that cash was laundered through off-shore bank accounts and ultimately deposited into shell accounts, some directly held by Russian officials. –VICE News

AMAZON.COM TO ACQUIRE COMIXOLOGY – I’m not sure whether this is good news or bad news. Amazon and ComiXology honchos seem to be pretty happy about the deal, the terms of which have not yet been made public. There are references to “reinventing reading in a digital world” and growing the market for comics and graphic novels. ComiXology’s Guided View technology creates what the company describes as an “immersive experience” for readers, and it’s obvious that Amazon is interested in capturing a wide swath of readers, especially in the context of their recent introduction of Kindle Worlds.

Founded in 2007, comiXology offers a broad library of digital comic book content from over 75 of the top publishers as well as top independent creators. Following the acquisition, comiXology’s headquarters will remain in New York. –ComiXology Unbound

Ten books shortlisted for the 2014 Award – In what is apparently the most valuable annual literary prize in the world for a work of fiction published in English, the shortlist for the€100,000 Dublin Literary Award has been announced. Featuring titles like A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard, The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng, and Traveler of the Century by Andrés Neuman, books were nominated by 110 library systems in 39 countries. Despite the language requirement, half of the books were originally published in languages other than English, and they represent an international literary perspective.

The titles on this year’s shortlist were nominated by public libraries in Australia, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, South Africa and The Netherlands.

The five member international judging panel, chaired by Hon. Eugene R. Sullivan, will select one winner which will be announced by the Lord Mayor of Dublin and Patron of the Award, Oisín Quinn on Thursday 12th June in a morning announcement. –IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

Is this the best singing priest ever? – You may be one of the 7 million or so people who have seen this video, but check out the story of this singing Irish priest, who surprised a couple who were not from his parish with an amazing rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (slightly customized to fit the couple he just married). The sound wasn’t great on my computer, but I can’t tell how much of that is my speakers and how much is the recording. Hopefully you can hear it clearly, because Father Ray Kelly has quite the pipes. –The Guardian

Friday Film Review: Bridesmaids

Friday Film Review: Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids (2011)

Genre: Comedy/Romance

Grade: B+

“You kind of stole all the crazy.”

“I out-crazied you.”

Okay, the fact that I reviewed “Bad Santa” last year should tell y’all I have no shame about watching and recommending gross-out movies. Still I hesitated on this one awhile before deciding to give it a shot. The critics’ reviews were pretty good but when a friend told me about the “intestinal distress while in bridesmaids dress situ” scene, I wavered. Did I really want to watch a film where the bride-to-be and her bridesmaids all race for the lone bathroom in a chi-chi wedding salon – and some of them don’t make it? Guess you can tell that in the end, I did.

Down on her luck Annie (Kristen Wiig) is thrilled when her long time best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph, who I loved in “Away We Go”) announces her engagement – especially after a hilarious brunch when Lillian wonders if Dougie is about to break up with her (“He calls me Dude a lot.”) But it doesn’t take long for trouble to elbow its way onto the scene. At the engagement party – held at the snooty country club where Dougie’s family and boss are members – Lillian introduces Annie to her other bridesmaids Becca (Ellie Kemper) who seems to have a chaste marriage with her Ken doll husband, Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey – Reno 911) whose three boys have her living in a fluid spattered home, Megan (Melissa McCarthy) who makes sex sound like a full on Krav Maga session, and Helen Harris III (Rose Byrne) who’s so perky and perfect she makes everyone’s teeth ache.

Or maybe it’s just Annie who can’t stand Helen as the other women eagerly fall into line with whatever expensive outing Helen dreams up for the pre wedding celebrations while Annie’s efforts result in the women suffering an extreme bout of food poisoning as they try on expensive bridesmaid dresses in a shop with white carpeting. The bachelorette trip to Vegas also falls prey to Annie’s fear of flying and probably gets her added on the no-fly list after Air Marshall Jon (Ben Falcone) and Megan have to take a hysterical Annie down mid-flight.

Annie’s love life also sucks as she bounces between bad dates and f*ck buddy, happy-go-lucky asshole Ted (uncredited John Hamm). Still, a chance meeting with Wisconsin State Trooper cutie Officer Nathan Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd, whose accent I just want to wrap around me like a blanket), due to her taillights being broken, brings Annie a much needed sympathetic friend to whom she can pour out her troubles.

When her frustrations boil over at the OTT French themed (complete with Golden Retriever puppy party tokens) bridal shower, will Annie finally go too far and alienate her best friend forever? And does she have any hope of salvaging her budding relationship with Rhodes before her self doubts sabotage that too?

Let me try and find some redeeming aspects of the film to salve my conscience about rec’ing it. Annie does grow as a person. She learns something about valuing herself and that the human heart has an endless amount of room to add new friends. Annie finally sees that Helen doesn’t have the perfect life it appears to be from the outside and that perhaps she’s just looking for someone to accept her too. And maybe Rhodes’ encouragement – plus the carrot cake Annie bakes as a peace offering – has rekindled her dreams to make her living as a baker instead of existing in a soul sucking job in a middling jewelry store.

The movie also lets the female stars be funny in a way that few movies have allowed. Usually women have to be all nicey nice. Be sweet. Don’t say anything bad. Don’t make waves. Beam that clinched teeth smile in public like a lady and wait until you get home before yelling how you really feel. In “Bridesmaids” the women get to show it all in public. Though it might start with the painfully polite, faux female facade of friendliness before heading to the speech-off contest at the engagement party, pretty soon the white cotton gloves start to come off. From the tampon commercial tennis match to the screaming meltdown at the bridal shower (watch for the rabbits running for cover in the background) – the characters really show their true feelings right out in the open and to each others’ faces. I might not want to see a steady diet of this all the time and I certainly don’t think I could actually do any of these things in public myself – the “be nice” lessons of a lifetime are hard to shake – but it’s damn funny and refreshing to watch on screen.

Which leads me to the main reason to see it. I found it to be OMG funny. I started laughing at the morning “conversation of shame” between Annie and Ted and kept on during Annie’s impersonation of a penis and balls at her bunch with Lillian. Then there’s Annie’s brother and sister roommates – ick! blech! scrub the tub scene from my brain with bleach! (note, this is in the unrated version of the film). Annie’s sobriety test is only topped by Steve Martin’s in “The Man with Two Brains” while her taunting of flight attendant Steve, while under the influence of whatever pills Helen gave her washed down with a gulped Scotch, had me in stitches.

Annie’s not the only one with the good lines though. Megan wants to climb a hawt guy “like a tree” and Rita frankly talks about how she wants “balls in her face” during the bachelorette party in Vegas. Helen’s disingenuous “Oh, you can get checks cashed here” comment followed by the condescending statement about the “sense of camaraderie in coach” would make me want to slap her too. I loved Rhodes’ and Annie’s morning radar gun bantering, though if he let Annie sit in the front seat when they started after the guy going 91 mph – “can’t let that go” – why couldn’t he let her do it again later in the film?

But the three sequences that stand out for me are the well known “food poisoning,” the French bridal shower throw down, and Annie’s attempts to get Rhodes to help her. The “hot lava” get-me-to-a-toilet, projectile vomiting scene almost made me wet myself even as I thought “am I laughing at this?” I just had to immediately rewind it to make sure I’d really seen what I just thought I had. And then I laughed at it again. Good thing Helen’s husband is probably rich enough to replace that carpeting. The butterfly flitting out of the bridal shower invitation box (a box for God’s sake!) set the tone for things to come. Riding white horses while being lead to Helen’s house was bad enough but the hot chocolate fountain, party favors (but why Goldens? Why not poodles?) and the gigantic cookie would have me at least thinking if not saying “Are you shitting me?” too. Watching the dual meltdown is cathartic (“She does NOT get a party favor!”).

The last scene is funny but also revealing. Annie discovers the hollow sham of Helen’s life then starts to open up to her as a friend – just a bit, we see how much Annie hurt Rhodes, how he’s struggling to maintain that hurt but that there might be romantic hope here- and it’s funny as hell. The first time I saw it I was concentrating on Annie and Rhodes but take the time to watch what Rose Byrne as Helen does as her facial expressions are priceless.

This is another Hollywood release that doesn’t have the bonus material on the rental discs (I hate, hate, hate these!) The extra stuff is worth seeking out as the commentary is good and the gag reel truly is funny. But the line-o-rama, where the director just let the actors ad lib and improv a variety of lines, is a scream. That alone is a reason to try and see this stuff.

The film ends in a way I like. Not everything is neatly wrapped up. Annie still doesn’t have a job. She and Helen might get to be closer friends but I’d never bet the farm on them being BFFs. Megan seems to have gotten herself down to a manageable number of puppies and possibly has something going with Air Marshall Jon. And Annie just might be ready to let herself have a positive relationship with a man who looks like a winner. Maybe he’ll let her turn on his siren some more and play with his radar gun again. B+