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Archive for December, 2013

I Love You, Ants.

Continuing Marvel’s trend of outside-the-box, tone-perfect casting, Paul Rudd will play Ant-Man for Edgar Wright, presumably as Scott Lang and not Henry Pym. “Wright’s original plans for the film called for both Pym and the later Ant-Man of the comics, Scott Lang, to appear in the feature…'[We] see Pym as Ant-Man in action in the 60’s, in sort of “Tales to Astonish” mode basically, and then the contemporary, sort of flash-forward, is Scott Lang’s story, and how he comes to acquire the suit, how he crosses paths with Henry Pym, and then, in an interesting sort of Machiavellian way, teams up with him.'”

Important to note, the casting of Paul Rudd means we now also have a teaser for Edgar Wright’s ANT-MAN. (If that didn’t make any sense to you, see this.) Also, word is Ant-Man’s insectophile colleague, the Wasp, might well be played by Rashida Jones, Rudd’s I Love You, Man co-star (and a college acquaintance of mine). Good choice!

Update: “I’ve been dying to do a Marvel picture for so long. The script is really fun, the director is really good.” Ant-Man gets its Henry Pym in Michael Douglas.

Banksters of America.

“‘Everyone knew that we weren’t helping people,’ said Erik Schnackenberg, a customer-service manager who left Urban Lending in 2011…’They were giving us all the pressure and none of the power to change anything. It was this absurd, self-contained ecosystem of worthlessness.'”

Bloomberg‘s Hugh Son delves into Urban Lending, the fraudulent front group/vendor that serial offender Bank of America worked with to profit from families facing foreclosure. “Instead of helping homeowners as promised under agreements with the U.S. Treasury Department, Bank of America stalled them with repeated requests for paperwork and incorrect income calculations…Tens of thousands of HAMP modifications were improperly denied by Bank of America and Urban Lending since April 2009.” Sure would be nice if somebody went to jail for this. (Image via Rolling Stone.)

Update: “As Judge Jed Rakoff recently wrote in a scathing essay in the New York Review of Books, the failure to prosecute those responsible for the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression ‘must be judged one of the more egregious failures of the criminal justice system in many years.'” In very related news, David Dayen makes the case for Jamie Dimon’s long-overdue perp walk. “Open the business pages at random and they often read like the police blotter.”

Narm!


“I think every series should end that way. Why not? We live with these characters for so long, it always feels like a betrayal to not know where they go, what the rest of their lives are like.” Eight years after its airing, Vulture offers up an oral history of the final Six Feet Under montage. “It was such a simultaneously shocking and obvious way to end the show. And I think that’s why it was so effective.”

Into the Dreaming.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m incredibly honored to be working with David Goyer, Warner Bros, and @neilhimself on SANDMAN. #Prelude” Joseph Gordon-Levitt tweets out that he’s working on a film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, or at the very least the first book, Preludes & Nocturnes.

Thus far, Levitt’s only signed on as a producer, though he’s not a terrible choice for the title role. Benedict Cumberbatch is getting close to over-exposed these days, but his aloof otherworldliness is a pretty perfect match for Morpheus.

Mona Lisa Smiles.

Someday everything’s gonna be different, when I paint my masterpiece. As making the rounds of late, celebrities photoshopped into famous paintings. Worth a browse-through.

Rebecca and Lawrence.

“‘You see, in our family Olivia was always the breadwinner, and I the no-talent, no-future little sister not good for much more than paying her share of the rent’ Fontaine told columnist Hedda Hopper in 1949…’My sister was born a lion, and I a tiger, and in the laws of the jungle, they were never friends.'” Joan Fontaine, 1917-2013.

“Burton called him ‘the most original actor to come out of Britain since the war,’ with ‘something odd, mystical and deeply disturbing’ in his work.'” Peter O’Toole, 1932-2013. “‘I’m a professional,’ he said in one interview, ‘and I’ll do anything — a poetry reading, television, cinema, anything that allows me to act.'”

Flying, Spidering, Roaring, Zerging.


As a follow-up to the ambitious and underrated Cloud Atlas, the siblings Wachowski return to their manga-centric sci-fi roots in this first trailer for Jupiter Ascending, with Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, and James D’Arcy. Hrm…looks a bit like The Fifth Element, art direction wise, and Kunis sure does seem to fall off things a lot. Anyway, I’m in.


Also in the trailer bin of late, Spiderman (Andrew Garfield) makes at least three more enemies — we’ll get to a Sinister Six soon, no doubt — in Rhino (Paul Giamatti), Electro (Jamie Foxx) and the Green Goblin (Dane De Haan) in the first teaser for Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spiderman 2, also with Emma Stone, Sally Field, and Campbell Scott. After Chronicle, The Place Beyond the Pines, and Kill Your Darlings, I’m a mite tired of DeHaan, to be honest, but I’ll grant that his schtick does work well for Harry Osborne.

Update: And another I missed on the first sweep: David Strathairn gamely rallies the paratroopers in the atmospheric trailer for Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla reboot, also with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe. I prefer the leaked one with the Oppenheimer voiceover (“I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds,” bringing the thunder lizard back to its Hiroshima roots), but I can see how that might’ve been too edgy for a summer blockbuster.

Update 2: Tom Cruise cosplays Starcraft, and gets some mechanized infantry pro-tips from Emily Blunt, in the first trailer for Doug Liman’s The Edge of Tomorrow, a badly-named adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need is Kill. Eh, maybe.

Update 3: Matthew McConaughey and Christopher Nolan celebrate the dream of flight in a brief and relatively vague teaser for Interstellar, also with Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, John Lithgow, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, and David Oyelowo. As it says, one year from now.

Update 4: Speaking of gamely rallying folks, Gary Oldman tries to get San Francisco’s few remaining humans to chin up against those damn dirty apes in the first teaser for Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, also with Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Judy Greer, and, of course, Andy Serkis. The first one was surprisingly ok, and this can’t be worse than Oldman’s last dystopian epic, The Book of Eli, so I’ll likely matinee it.

Update 5: A few more come down the pike for the holiday film season: First up, computer genius Johnny Depp goes the way of the The Lawnmower Man in this short teaser for Wally Pfister’s Transcendence, also with Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Clifton Collins Jr., and Cole Hauser. The Matrix-style binary is a bit of a cliché at this point, but Pfister has done memorable work as Nolan’s cinematographer, so I’m optimistic.

And, following up on the first trailer of a few months ago, Wes Anderson introduces us to the cast of characters of The Grand Budapest Hotel, among them Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Almaric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saiorse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, and Tony Revolori.

Pope and Change.

“It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new…In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”

In his recent major encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis calls out the obvious shenanigans that is trickle-down economics, and has some choice words for the financial sector:

“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” “This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation…To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”

I already sung the praises of this Pope a few months ago, but it can’t be said enough: this Holy Father is such a breath of fresh air. His recent courage in this regard even encouraged our President to make his own quite-good speech about income inequality last week: “So let me repeat: The combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American Dream, our way of life, and what we stand for around the globe.”

Unfortunately — like Obama’s Osowatomie speech in 2011 and his election night speech in 2012 — this seems to be just another example of Obama’s rhetorical tourism on the progressive front. He’s talked a good game — on the occasions when he’s not hippie-punching or parroting Third Way — for close to five years now. But where’s the action to back this rhetoric up? After years of his touting grand bargains and deficit hysteria and allowing sequestration, and looking at the emerging budget deal, I’m not holding my breath. Whatever happens the next three years, it’s already past clear that the tremendous, once-in-a-generation opportunity granted to Obama in 2008 to effect real and positive change has, unfortunately, been wasted.

Update: Pope Francis is TIME’s Person of the Year. A worthy choice, though I would’ve probably have gone with Edward Snowden.

Awful, Actually.

“Let’s begin by stating the obvious: It’s a tremendous cast. (Chiwetel Ejiofor is even tucked in there somewhere.)…As for the rest of the film — which is to say, the bulk of the film — I think it offers up at least three disturbing lessons about love. First, that love is overwhelmingly a product of physical attraction and requires virtually no verbal communication or intellectual/emotional affinity of any kind. Second, that the principal barrier to consummating a relationship is mustering the nerve to say ‘I love you’ — preferably with some grand gesture — and that once you manage that, you’re basically on the fast track to nuptial bliss. And third, that any actual obstacle to romantic fulfillment, however surmountable, is not worth the effort it would require to overcome.”

Standing athwart the recent attempts by Vulture to canonize the loathsome Love, Actually as a beloved Christmas standard, Chris Orr points out, once again, that it’s, actually one of the least romantic films out there. This may seem at first to be just another battleground in the current culture war of Snark v. Smarm, but I don’t think that quite applies. I defer to no man in my appreciation of good movie romances — I picked one as my top film of last decade — but I Find Love, Actually schlocky, gross, and the opposite of romantic. (That is, unless you happen to find it heartwarming when dudebros relentlessly hit on their subordinates and their best friends’ wives.)

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