After teetering on the cusp of creative disaster, Marvel has finally put its Ant-Man film back on track, but the project - now on its second director - still looks like a bit of a question mark for the blockbuster studio. Luckily we might have some new answers flowing through the rumor mill. According to some new rumors from JoBlo, Paul Rudd's Scott Lang character will be a petty thief and single dad that steals the Ant-Man technology from Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas. There are also whispers of the identity of the new villain, as the site also alleges that comic book character Darren Cross will be the film's central antagonist. In the comics, Cross is the founder of Cross Technological Enterprises, a large bio-tech firm that rivals other Marvel universe corporate giants like Stark Industries and Oscorp. Cross will reportedly have a suit similar to Ant-Man's but more militaristic, and might be played by Corey Stoll or Patrick Wilson. It's important to note that Cross' character in the comics takes on a Hulk-like appearance, but the film might not head in that direction, given the current rumors. Cross' cousin, William Cross, is also a villain named Crossfire in the comics.
While these are all rumors, and should be taken with the appropriately sized grain of salt, we wonder if Ant-Man would benefit from heading in a different direction villain-wise. Darren Cross is only the latest in a long parade of evil businessmen wreaking havoc in the Marvel universe. There's been Jeff Bridges' Obadiah Stane in the first Iron Man, Sam Rockwell's sniveling Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2, and Guy Pierce's Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3. But even outside of Disney's output, comic book films are completely stuffed with corporate boogeymen. There's the enterprising Bolivar Trask in this year's X-Men: Days of Future Past, and yet another rendition of Lex Luthor via Jesse Eisenberg in the upcoming Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The sinister businessman has remained a well used trope in the sprawling Marvel universe, and while it makes sense that Tony Stark would frequently bump heads with other enterprising industrialists, hearing that Ant-Man might also be clashing with big immoral businessmen has us wishing that the film would look for some other antagonists. Ant-Man, whose chief ability is to grow very small and still retain his normal strength, is comic book absurdity at its very finest, and the fact that he can communicate telepathically with ants makes it even more over the top. It feels like the powers that be at Marvel should have something zanier up their sleeves than yet another cutthroat capitalist in a three-piece suit that worships the American dollar. A weird hero should have even weirder rogues to do battle with.
With all that said, there might be more to Darren Cross than meets the eye. Maybe the character does turn into a giant pink Hulk in the film's climax? We'll just have to wait and see.
For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
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The Danish star had a fling with the New York Jets quarterback in 1988 while he was still married to wife Lisa. She went on to have his child, Killian, in 1989 before fleeing the U.S. to live in Italy.
And despite knowing the child was his, the sportsman kept his estranged son a secret from his daughter Brittny for 20 years - until the reality TV socialite's mum bumped into Nielsen at Ivana Trump's wedding last year (09).
Brittny tells New York gossip column PageSix, "Brigitte literally said to my mom at Ivana's wedding: 'I have a son who wants to meet his sister.' Meeting my half-brother for the first time was really very weird and very emotional. The brother I never knew I had - it's a lot to take in... All my life, I've always said I wanted a brother. I definitely want us to be close."
And Brittny is upset that she has missed out on so much time with her brother: "I feel sad that I've had a brother for 20 years that I never knew growing up. He's very tall and blond, and looks identical to Brigitte. He doesn't speak much English because he grew up in Italy. He's really sweet."
Olsen twins promote McDonald's Happy Meals abroad
The Olsen twins' latest endorsement deal may leave a bad taste in your mouth. The Associated Press reports Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are promoting McDonald's Happy Meals in France, where the fast-food goliath has more than 1,000 outlets. A spokeswoman for McDonald's French division told the AP yesterday the Olsen Happy Meal campaign began Sept. 8. The meals come with the choice of a denim bag, a crayon box or a photo album, which bears the 18-year-old twins' photo. The promotion comes just two months after the Milk Processor Education Program pulled its "Got milk?" ads featuring the twins sporting trademark milk moustaches out of sensitivity to Mary-Kate, who was released from a treatment facility in July for an eating disorder. At the time the milk campaign was announced, Mary-Kate said in a statement, "We wanted to appear in this ad because we love the campaign and we want to help make sure our fans are healthy like us."
Drugs, heart attack contributed to Rick James' death
Funk musician Rick James, who died in his sleep Aug. 6 in his Los Angeles home, had nine drugs in his system including cocaine, methamphetamine, valium and vicodin, Retuers reports. The 56-year-old singer, who suffered from diabetes and had a pacemaker, had been in fragile health after a stroke in 1998. His family attributed his death to natural causes, but the L.A. County coroner took over the case because James had not seen a doctor in recent weeks. Toxicology tests were ordered when an autopsy failed to establish the cause of death. The report said although the drugs or drug combinations found in James' system were not at life-threatening levels, they likely contributed to his heart's failure. It gave the cause of death as a heart attack and ruled the death accidental.
Jackson appears in court today
Michael Jackson appeared in court today as his attorney questioned the mother of the teenage boy accusing the pop star of child molestation, Reuters reports. This was the first time Jackson has faced the woman since the accusations became public last November. The singer's attorneys called the accuser's mother, identified in court only as "Jane Doe," to testify in order to exclude from the trial evidence seized from the offices of private investigator Brad Miller. Jackson's defense say Miller had been hired by the singer's then-lawyer Mark Geragos, which violated the rights of attorneys and their clients to privileged information. Jackson's defense team wants Jane Doe to confirm she knew Miller was hired by Geragos and informed authorities. The 45-year-old singer is scheduled to stand trial Jan. 31 on a 10-count indictment that charges him with child molestation and conspiracy. He has pleaded not guilty.
Anderson denies any wrongdoing in sexual assault suit
Anthony Anderson, who has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman on the set of his TV show last year and is facing rape charges in Tennessee, released a statement Thursday denying any wrongdoing. A woman identified only as "Jane Doe" filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Anderson and Warner Bros. Television, producers of the now-defunct series All About the Andersons. The woman alleged she visited Anderson on the set of the comedy when she was assaulted Sept. 18, 2003. "Clearly, this is an attempt to exploit Anthony's perceived vulnerability because of the ridiculous rape charges pending against him in Memphis," said the statement released by Anderson's publicist. The 33-year-old comedian was charged in July with raping a Memphis woman who was an extra in the film Hustle and Flow, which is still in production. He is free on $20,000 bail.
CBS investigates fake documents
CBS News is fighting for its credibility after a week of questions about a report it aired on President Bush's National Guard service--which may or may not have come from fake documents, the AP reports. CBS News anchorman Dan Rather reported last week he had memos allegedly written by Bush's late squadron commander, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, indicating he had been pressured to sugar coat Bush's performance and that the future president ignored an order to take a physical. The news division has acknowledged for the first time questions about the authenticity of documents used to support the story, and has promised a stepped-up effort to get at the truth. CBS has always maintained, however--with Rather repeating on 60 Minutes Wednesday--that no one has disputed the substance of the story.
Carrey to get AFI honor
Jim Carrey will receive the American Film Institute's Star Award at the 2005 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in February, the AP reports. "Jim Carrey is the rarest kind of actor," Jean Picker Firstenberg, chief executive officer of the American Film Institute, said in a statement. "Jim has proven he can do comedy or drama in films that are both creatively brilliant and reach audiences of all ages." The comedy festival will be held Feb. 9-13 in Aspen, Colo. Previous winners include Albert Brooks, Billy Crystal, Rob Reiner, the Monty Python troupe, Steve Martin, Mike Myers and Diane Keaton.
French director defends film against critics
In the wake of bad reviews for his latest film Les Parisiens, director Claude Lelouch will offer free screenings "to allow the public to judge for themselves." According to the Hollywood Reporter, Parisiens, which is about the ephemeral nature of love in the face of fame, was slammed in the press after it opened the Deauville American Film Festival Sept. 3. "Faced with an unprecedented outcry in the press against my film, and to allow the public to form their own opinion, I offer a free screening of the film in the 400 theaters where the film opened Wednesday," Lelouch said in a statement Thursday.
Twain leases land in New Zealand
Shania Twain and her husband, music producer Robert "Mutt" Lange, won approval to lease 61,000 acres of farmland on New Zealand's South Island for 33 years with automatic renewal rights for the cost of $14.1 million, the AP reports. The terms of the lease were strict, since the country is tightening controls on land sales to overseas buyers amid fears foreigners are snapping up some of the nation's prime real estate. The musical couple, who will be living there "some months" each year, agreed to create a hiking track with huts and other facilities that will cross their land and is expected to form part of a nationwide trail. They will also invest $1 million in farm development over three years and farm their own merino sheep on 24,700 acres of the lower-lying land.
Kit Bowen contributed to this report.