NEW YORK — The rumors are true: Handsome Jewish funnyman Paul Rudd is officially playing Ant-Man in Edgar Wright’s adaptation of the comic book hero for Marvel Studios.
If you don’t follow comics you may think the name Ant-Man is a bit of a jokey play on Spider-Man, but I can assure you that he is very much a real thing. (Indeed, Ant-Man was one of the original Avengers, the movie version of which is the third-highest grossing flick of all time.)
The original Ant-Man from the 1960s was a brilliant scientist named Henry Pym who was able to transform the particles of his body to microscopic sizes. He was also able to go the reverse way and become (wait for it) Giant-Man.
Edgar Wright, whose already antic films include “The World’s End,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” and “Shaun of the Dead,” is in a league of his own for mixing outrageous action with sharp comedy. “Ant-Man” will likely be a bit sillier than the other Marvel films, which are already pretty peppy compared to some other “dark” comic book movies.
Whether or not Rudd will be playing Pym or a different character remains to be seen. You see, as with so much in the world of comics, there isn’t just one Ant-Man. There are three. (Hey, there are over 7000 Green Lanterns out there!)
The original Ant-Man, Pym, took a dark turn in the comics, even engaging in spousal abuse. Rudd may be a better fit for the reformed thief Scott Lang, or perhaps even the “irredeemable” Eric O’Grady, something of a jerk who stumbles upon Pym’s gizmos.
Either way, with Rudd in the role, he represents the new wave of comic book superheroes – oftentimes created by and representing Jews – actually played by Jewish people. (Alas, he won’t be teaming up with Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. Get your Marvel and DC straight, people.)
In other news, we’re just a few weeks away from the third season of “Girls,” which, if you are a young person living in Brooklyn, you are forced to recognize as the most important creative endeavor in the history of time. (If you do not bow before this show, you are relegated to Queens. Or, worse, Manhattan.) The new trailer just “dropped,” as the kids on the show would say, and while it is light on plot, it appears some changes afoot.
Looks like Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath will get some of her work published (by a real publisher, not the shyster John Cameron Mitchell played last season) and Marnie becomes a YouTube celebrity. No word on the fates of Jessa or Shoshanna but you can be sure they both involve making rash, irresponsible decisions.
Shonda of the Week
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its short list of foreign language films eligible for the Oscar, and Israel was not on it.
Even though Israel is in the midst of a moviemaking renaissance, the Jewish State got dissed.
Monday morning quarterbacks can wonder if it may’ve made more sense to push “Big Bad Wolves,” the darkly comic psychological horror-thriller over “Bethlehem,” another drama about security issues. As it happens, the Palestinian Territory’s submission “Omar” made the shortlist.
I haven’t had a chance to see “Omar” yet (I haven’t been boycotting, I swear, I just haven’t gotten to it yet) but as one of my friends who saw both films put it, “Eh, it’s basically the same movie.”
For failure to recognize the outstanding strides Israeli cinema continues to make, and for possibly-maybe going in with a little dig by electing “Omar,” the nominating committee of the Academy is our Shonda of the Week.
New From Hollywood
The Wolf of Wall Street: I was worried that Martin Scoresese’s newest picture would be Not Good For the Jews, but that was keeping my sights low. “The Wolf of Wall Street” is Not Good For Humanity.
A depraved and disgusting deep look into the maw of unfettered Capitalism, Scorsese and his amped-up camera pummel the senses for three straight hours. It is glorious filmmaking that will leave you rattled and depressed. The movie is also extremely funny (in a gross way) and dazzles with its conspicuous consumption to the point that, with your guard down for a moment, you may find yourself seduced by convicted felon Jordan Belfort in his pursuit of greed. (Much of which is legal!)
Alas, like the greatest shonda of them all, Bernie Madoff, Mr. Belfort (on whose autobiography this film is based) is a member of the Hebraic faith. But this movie downplays that. (Leonardo DiCaprio lays a lot of things in this film, but not tefillin.) Then again, Rob Reiner plays his shout-y old man and Jonah Hill (absolutely fantastic in his best film role) is his lascivious right-hand man. Another of his cronies wears a prominent Chai.
Maybe it’s just my admiration for Scorsese, but I give this movie a pass for perpetuation stereotypes. Even with Jonah Hill’s over-the-top buffoonery, it doesn’t come across as mean spirited about those people. If anyone should be offended it’s the Swiss.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Ben Stiller stars and directs himself in this loose adaptation of Danny Kaye’s loose adaptation of James Thurber’s short story. While eye-popping in its location photography, the film is eye-rolling in its ham-fisted philosophy to stop dreaming and just be, man. It’s a good message… from your therapist, maybe. From Ben Stiller, who when last I checked was funny, it’s a little annoying.
With its Arcade Fire soundtrack at full-blast and product placement written into the script, “Mitty” may leave you daydreaming about another movie. It’s all well and good for comedians to try more serious films, but this one seems to be trying too hard.
Grudge Match: Alan Arkin schlumps along as Sylvester Stallone’s old Jewish trainer in this alter kaker special. Stallone, forever the nice guy, is an unemployed steel worker given once last chance to settle the score against his old rival, played by loveable loud mouth Robert De Niro. The movie is 100% by the numbers and has no surprises, but if you like having a movie on while you do other things around the house, this is a reasonable one to watch. (You can’t bring your ironing into the theater, though, so you’ll have to wait for DVD.)
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: As has been established J.R.R. Tolkein’s dwarves are pretty clear-cut Jewish stand-ins. This is both good (sympathy for a people reclaiming their homeland) and bad (a thirst for gold.) Even without metaphors, Peter Jackson’s fifth movie set in Middle Earth is good if you like this sort of thing. By now the films don’t have to stand on their own two feet – they just have to immerse the fans in computer generated action set pieces and feature Sir Ian McKellan in a giant hat mumbling things about doom. Warning: giant spiders. I had to turn away at that part.
American Hustle: Half-Jewish director David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”) delivers his slickest picture yet, a Scorsese-like treatment of the “Abscam” FBI sting of the early 1980s. Christian Bale stars as a sympathetic crook names Irving Rosenfeld. He wears a Star of David necklace, a fair amount of belly fat and an absurd toupee. After he and his cohort (Amy Adams) are nabbed for making fake bank loans, they are pressed into service by the FBI to take down corrupt politicians. This is a fun movie that’s also just smart enough – focusing on themes of identity and the allure of theft – to make it a must-see.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues: Smarmy, lunkheaded news reader Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is back and he’s brought his buddies, including the very handsome Jewish-American Paul Rudd, with him. Is this a real movie or just a collection of bits? Well, to be fair, let’s say somewhere in between. Some of the scenes – like Ron inadvertently creating the lowest common denominator conventions of 24-hour news – are quite funny. The endless scenes of Steve Carrell doing his dumb guy Brick Tamland are not. At all. Still, once this movie plays on an endless cable loop it’ll be fun to quote from it.
Marriage of Maria Braun: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1979 allegorical film about post-war Germany plays at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on New Year’s Eve at 9 pm. This movie works as both a soap opera-esque yarn about a woman troubled in love and criminal activity, or you can see it as a humongous metaphor for the “new state” of West Germany and its growing pains. Explicit references to the Holocaust are few, but when a main character dies because of an accidental gas stove explosion, the symbolism isn’t buried too deep.
Persona: Ingmar Bergman’s atmospheric, hallucinatory journey into identity, dreams and women with short blond hair wearing cool sunglasses. Is there any Jewish connection to this eternally hip art film from 1966? Uh. Well, Woody Allen really loved it. That ought to be enough, right? You can catch “Persona” at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque at 7:30 pm on New Year’s Eve. There are few classier ways to see out 2013.