Jon Hamm

cong

When it comes to independent films and major releases, animation is fairly underutilized medium. There are exceptions, but for the most part, it’s generally used for kid-centric stories or to paint a lush, if slightly more adult, world. That’s why movies like A Scanner Darkly and The Congress are so special. They use animation for drama and to express ideas that go beyond a few pretty shots. Both films shouldn’t be compared past that point, but they are both emotional, visual, and mental exercises — rides that you either go along with from the start or don’t. If director Ari Folman‘s The Congress grabs you from its first frame, then expect a rich science-fiction film packed with commentary, ideas, laughs, tears, and beauty.  Speaking of beauty, Robin Wright (played conveniently by Robin Wright) has lost it, at least according to some slimy agist studio executive we meet working at Miramount. She’s now 44 years old. That usually means for actresses their careers are winding down, but after years of “bad” choices and choosing family over work, Robin isn’t the big deal that she once was. The offers aren’t coming in, at least not the offers she’s interested in — she wouldn’t ever dare to take part in a science-fiction film.

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Mad Men Season 7 Waterloo

Cooking a hamburger is difficult work. Patties must be placed on a griddle; they must be flipped; they must be taken off the griddle at a time neither before nor after they have reached the ideal temperature (I’m sure I’m glossing over several key steps, thus illustrating the extremely difficult process we’re working with here). Burger King knew burgermastery is something attained only by a precious few. This is why, in the 1950s, they commissioned the creation of a Flame Broiler, a giant machine that transports disks of meat across conveyor belts through jets of fire, thus ensuring every patty emerges cooked to perfection. No longer would fast food chains require multiple tenured professors of burgerology on payroll. Burgers were finally for the people. The brothers who actually built the first Flame Broiler, Frank and Donald Thomas, realized the innate potential of a great greasy contraption that could perform all the same labor as a high school junior, but with none of the backsass. So they packed up their machines and they started their own fast food joint: Burger Chef. The first franchise opened in 1954, and in the next ten years, Burger Chefs sprouted up all over the country. By 1968, Burger Chef was a big deal —  big enough that the whole company was bought out by the General Foods Corporation. But not even the corporate world could contain the massive growth spurts of Burger Chef and his boy sidekick Jeff, because General Foods buckled under their titanic, […]

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Mad Men Season 7 Episode 3 Field Trip

Speculating about Mad Men is some nasty business – quite literally, as most theories regarding Matt Weiner’s beloved AMC drama series are all about ending the lives of beloved characters in increasingly gruesome ways, from predicting that Don Draper will leap off a high rise to his death to this season’s theory that Megan Draper is going to die in one of many terrible ways, from Manson family murder to plane crash – but the series’ continued interest in rooting its plotlines in reality means that such wild wondering isn’t without merit. Anything could happen, at least, anything could happen that at least sort of happened in our actual past. Of course, that doesn’t mean that anything big is going to happen on the show – as completely nuts as it would be to see Megan offed by the Mansion family, Weiner’s show has never so fully injected his fake characters into real history, and it is highly unlikely that particular storyline would ever play out – but plenty will continue to happen (such is the nature of life, episodic television, and history). Sure, we’re not likely to see any of the Mad Men team splashed across the front page of newspapers around the country, but we are likely to feel the fallout of what happens to various company accounts in a more personal way (life, you guys), because if there’s one thing we do know about the show, it’s that professional success sure makes the personal pains go down […]

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Mad Men The Strategy

There once was a time when Paul Anka, sitting somewhere among the streets and cafes of gay Paris, heard a song. A song that would change his life. A song that, according to Anka, was really shitty. “I thought it was a shitty record, but there was something in it,” Anka told The Telegraph in 2007. Harsh, yes, especially if you’re Claude Francois, whose 1967 hit “Comme d’habitude” is the toilet-quality (honestly, it’s not that bad) piece of music in question. But there was something lurking within “Comme d’habitude,” and Anka would eventually scrape that something out of its French pop shell. Years later, Anka would be hanging out with Frank Sinatra, doing those usual Frank Sinatra-adjacent things — dinner, drinks, casual association with members of La Cosa Nostra — when the Chairman of the Board dropped a truth bomb on Anka and the various mobsters present. He was out; he was done; the music biz was a fickle mistress and Frankie wasn’t playin’ her games no more. Anka was stunned, but he knew what to do. The only way to respect Sinatra’s decision to quit the music industry was to write him the biggest hit of his musical career. So Anka found his old copy of “Comme d’habitude,” which, conveniently, he had purchased the rights to after hearing it in France so long ago. And he picked it apart and he put it back together and he wrote a whole new set of lyrics that were much more in […]

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Walt Disney Pictures

We all know baseball is just a game, but professional baseball is a game with much higher stakes. Million Dollar Arm tells the real life story of struggling sports agent JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) who finds himself desperately looking for his next big client to keep his new company (and expensive lifestyle) intact. But his promise of changing his clients’ lives may actually come true when he discovers first-time ball players Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madur Mittal). After JB and his business partner Aash (Aasif Mandvi) lose a huge client, they find themselves faced with the fact that their dream of launching their own agency may officially be over. But in a move that feels more Don Draper than JB Bernstein, Hamm’s JB comes up with a last minute Hail Mary idea that has him traveling to India to host a contest and hopefully find the next great pitcher. With a million dollars on the line, the try-outs are packed, but the talent is slim and just when JB, Aash and Ray (Alan Arkin as a crotchety, slightly narcoleptic scout) are ready to call it, they discover some actual potential.

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Mad Men Season 7 Runaways

The menage-a-trois has a long and storied history. I’m assuming that’s the case, anyway, because few historians have bothered to write down when and where people first started doing R-rated things to each other in threes rather than twos. There are surprisingly few cave paintings on the matter. But we do know that by the fifth century, the idea of three people romantically entangled was not entirely unheard of, to the point where three-way situations were a small but recognizable part of pop culture (on the ancient Greek equivalent of the E! network). And by the 1700s, three-way sex was all the rage with upper crust Europeans in powdered wigs (wig powder, naturally, is a potent aphrodisiac). Famed Italian loverboy Giacomo Casanova first lost his virginity in such an arrangement. Various dukes (William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire) and Counts (Adolf Frederik Munck) are also famous for committing this salacious act. And 19th century art, be it European, Asian or Arabic, is also riddled with the same thing (film would barely catch up with the menage-a-trois until the ’90s, with the 1994 Steven Baldwin classic, Threesome). This was something done behind closed doors, by a privileged few who only occasionally had their three-way sex committed to timeless and very public pieces of artwork. It wasn’t until the sexual revolution of the 1960s that the common man (someone like you or I) would think of such a thing. And I guess Don Draper can be lumped in with you or I, because […]

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Mad Men Season 7 Monolith

Prior to 1935, if you wanted to drink something, you had your choice of bottle or cup. But post-1935, consumers had a third option: the canned beverage. Carbonated drinks like beer and soda were poured into tin cans, sealed to preserve freshness, and shipped to stores across the country, providing relief for consumers sick of the bottle industry’s monopoly on drinks you buy from a store. Except that most people were fine with the bottle monopoly, because early canned drinks tasted a lot like tin — an unpleasant side-effect of, you know, being stored for so long in tin cans. There was also much confusion in how to open a can of, say, Coca-Cola. Some models required bottle openers, while others had screw-on lids. Confusion ran rampant among the masses, and for a few decades canned drinks were not the popular item they are today. Then, in 1959, a man named Ermal Fraze invented the pop top, a handy metal tab yanked from the top of a can, leaving a convenient mouth-sized opening. Canned imbibement finally took the world by force, blanketing the world with discarded shards of razor-sharp aluminum, but also providing a level of thirst-quenching not possible from a bottle. And Coke, which had existed in cans since 1955, began revamping the look of the Coke can every couple of years, to keep this new trend feeling fresh. It’s the 1966 redesign that becomes a vessel for vodka (and trouble) in last night’s Mad Men, entitled “The Monolith.” […]

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Mad Men Season 7 Episode 3 Field Trip

French filmmaker Jacques Demy hit it big with his 1964 musical, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, garnering a Palme’ d’Or, a handful of Oscar noms, and even a name-drop on Mad Men a few years back. And because Hollywood was poaching foreign talent even back in the ’60s, Demy was brought stateside to make his first (and only) American film: Model Shop. It did not do well. Demy’s mainstream success came from French people breaking out into sudden song and dance, and Model Shop contained precisely none of those things. Instead, it was about a young man named George (Gary Lockwood) on the brink of physical and existential disaster. He soon loses his car to a couple of repo men, and he loses his freedom to a Vietnam draft notice that’s just arrived in the mail. And so George floats around LA when he stumbles upon Lola (Anouk Aimée), a French model and the protagonist of an earlier Demy film — the aptly titled Lola. The two share a brief, passionate night; they talk of their deep affection for Los Angeles; they part ways, both a little more learned in the deep and meaningful way that can only come from a 1960s French art film. And in “Field Trip,” this week’s episode of Mad Men, we find Don Draper wiling away his unemployed hours at the theater, thoroughly engrossed in Model Shop. As far as entertainment choices go, it’s kind of an awful choice (a depressed and aimless guy looking for […]

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Mad Men Season 7 A Day

“Elenore,” the 1968 single from The Turtles, does not have a particularly hard edge to it. Because The Turtles were not known for their hard-edged rock. They were known for “Happy Together,” which you’ve all certainly heard because it’s been in roughly eight billion movies, TV shows, commercials and classic rock radio stations. But The Turtles were tired of their bubble-gum pop reputation and their hit single about blue skies and holdin’ your girl real tight. They wanted to branch out and stretch their stylistic limits, much like other bands of the time (bands that rhymed with “The Cheatles”), but their label, White Whale Records, said no. What The Turtles needed was another “Happy Together.” So The Turtles wrote another “Happy Together,” a song so sappy and upbeat it could not possibly be taken seriously, a song with lyrics like, “I really think you’re groovy, let’s go out to a movie.” Surely, the world would know that this was a snipe at their previous, sugar-drenched pop. But they didn’t. The song went all Springtime for Hitler and became a huge hit, with White Whale and general audiences not really noticing that it was supposed to be stupid. When we hear “Elenore” in last night’s Mad Men (entitled “A Day’s Work“) it has a dual meaning. The song is sugary, but with a hollow center —  just like Don and Sally Draper’s state of affairs as it hums from the car stereo on the way back to boarding school. Don thinks […]

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Mad Men Season 7 Time Zones

Accutron: It’s not a time piece. It’s a conversation piece. The first Accutron hit the markets long before Freddy Rumsen was pitching it in such surprisingly elegant language. Actually, it had been selling for about ten years, debuting in October of 1960 (just around the time Mad Men‘s first season was drawing to a close). Watches of the time, and for several centuries previously, were built around a “balance wheel,” a little pendulum that shifts back and forth and keeps the watch’s hands moving. Watchmaking company Bulova did away with the balance wheel for their Accutron watch, inserting a fancy electric tuning fork and cementing Accutron as the first electronic watch in history. Those tiny metal forks also made the Accutron the most accurate wristwatch ever made, and a “horological revolution” (thanks, Wikipedia!). At least until 1969, when Astron debuted the quartz-powered Astron and Joel Murray, as Rumsen, sat down to do his best Don Draper impression in the offices of Sterling Cooper & Partners (technically, this episode was set in January of ’69 and the Astron didn’t come out until December, but who’s to say Bulova didn’t have a little insider knowledge about the competition?). But at the time of Rumsen’s pitch, the Accutron was the cutting edge, and hearing such a sharp pitch about such a sharp watch sounds so very peculiar from a character best known for peeing his pants and collapsing into a sad, drunken heap. Scott Hornbacher, the director of last night’s episode, knows this. […]

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Mad Men Season 7 Promo Peggy and Don

Some TV shows adhere to our thoughts, like glue, tape or that brand of putty known for extreme silliness. These are shows where half the cast might be killed off during a formal wedding feast or where the protagonist’s Great Big Secret is discovered by his brother-in-law while on the can. Mad Men is not one of those shows. It’s something slower, more prone to introspection and a slow simmering burn than graphic violence and CGI dragons. It’s no slight against Mad Men. It’s just a way of saying that a series that opened its sixth season with two hours of Dante’s Inferno allegory is not built for the same kind of cliffhanger anticipation that dragon shows are. Add in the ten(ish)-month gap between the last new episode of Mad Men and today, and you may be a little rusty on the comings and goings of Sterling Cooper & Partners (you may also have forgotten that the series’ ad firm is now called Sterling Cooper & Partners, which has been the case ever since Don Draper and Ted Chaough got drunk and decided to smoosh their two firms together). No worries, that’s why we’re all here: for a quick look back at the old Mad Men and one last look ahead at this year’s shiny new Mad Mens.

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Mad Men

It is a great and terrible irony that a show about ad executives has such awful tag lines. AMC just dropped a thirty-second tease of the upcoming last-ish season of Mad Men, a tease that’s mysterious, tantalizing, and also riddled with really, really un-Mad Men-like puns. In bright, saturated colors and hypnotic slow-mo, all the major Sterling Cooper & Partners players stand around an airport and do various things reminiscent of air travel. Pete buys his ticket. Betty stands by a small army’s worth of luggage and huffs impatiently. Roger ogles a passing woman (as is required at all times by John Slattery‘s contract). And as Don Draper gazes out at this new world around him, wherever that world may be, a brief piece of text appears on screen: “It’s All Up in the Air.” You know. Like an airplane. And as the audience reels from such furious punnage, the teaser winds up and delivers the knockout blow:

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Zach Galifianakis and Jon Hamm

Some may have thought Zach Galifianakis‘ star was on the wane (it’s been what, ten months since the last Hangover movie?), but that’s no longer the case after last week. One sitting President and six minutes of verbal abuse later, Galifianakis has awkwardly shuffled back into spotlight. And his newest move, post-Obama smackdown, involves another former Between Two Ferns guest: Jon Hamm. The two are negotiating to star in Keeping Up With the Joneses, a new comedy from Fox 2000. Details are scarce, but with a little creative sleuthing we can figure out the basics. Deadline‘s exclusive story has the logline as follows: “A quiet, suburban cul de sac is turned upside down when an unfulfilled married couple begins to suspect that there’s something nefarious afoot with their sexy and charismatic new neighbors.”

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Million Dollar Arm

Just like apple pie, McDonald’s, bald eagles and Beyoncé, baseball is the American way. Once upon a time (read: the 70s-90s, mostly), the Great American Pastime was routinely celebrated in movies like Major League, A League of Their Own, The Natural and, of course, Field of Dreams and Angels in the Outfield (people naturally love baseball ghosts). In the present day, the baseball craze has died down somewhat, possibly due to the fact that the sport hasn’t had a huge, Sammy Sosa/Mark Mcgwire-style showdown in years to get amped over. Recent, serious baseball-centric films like Moneyball and 42, which told the story of Jackie Robinson, have seen success, but there hasn’t been the same wave of feel-good sports flicks that Bobby and his Little League team could go catch after practice together. Now, there’s a film coming down the pipeline that is attempting to fill that void. Here we have Million Dollar Arm, a Disney concoction starring Jon Hamm that is somehow, regrettably, not about a bionic pitcher. Nor is it attached to a Million Dollar Baby. Hamm plays real-life sports agent J.B. Bernstein, who once saw huge career success with baseball greats but isn’t bringing in the talent anymore. His crazy scheme to rectify his career is to travel to India and create a reality show with young cricket players, the best of which come back with him to America to try out for the Majors. It’s like Trouble with the Curve, but with a game that lasts for a week.

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franco

What is Casting Couch? It’s still got its ear to the RSS feeds looking for casting news, even though the studios are probably waiting until the holiday is over to release any more. Still, we were able to find out about some new jobs for child actors, as well as who John Stewart has been busy recruiting for Rosewater. When James Franco announced that he wanted to make a movie adaptation of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, pretty much everyone said it was a bad idea and shouldn’t be done. But he did it anyway, and now the film has played Cannes. Never being one to stop tempting fate, Franco’s success has led to him deciding he now wants to adapt another, even less structured for the cinema Faulkner story, The Sound and the Fury. Not only does he feel like he’s cobbled together enough sources of financing to get it done, but according to a report from the LA Times, he also feels like he can get Mad Men star Jon Hamm to appear in the film as the family it feature’s patriarch, Mr. Compson, his brother Dave Franco as Quentin Compson, and Danny McBride in a role that’s still undisclosed. Scheduling issues just need to be ironed out, and then it’s all a go. Franco himself intends on appearing in the film as well.

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Mad Men 6

While the sixth season of Mad Men wrapped up with a big, messy, chocolate-colored bow last Sunday, speculation about what we can expect from the final season of the best television series (on air now, and perhaps ever) has really only just begun. Though it’s become standard practice for Mad Men fans to theorize about creator Matthew Weiner fitting dramatic events on his show around actual historical events from the corresponding time periods (of note, the sixth season finale took place in November of 1968), that’s rarely panned out in a big way. Sure, this season included plenty of fallout from events like the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, more than enough discussions about the election of President Nixon, and even a bevy of references to cultural hot buttons like Rosemary’s Baby and Planet of the Apes, but it never placed its characters exactly inside them. Sure, Peggy’s boyfriend Abe zipped off to do some news photography post-MLK assassination and everyone sure was sad about America’s inability to hold on to good leaders, but none of our characters were ever really there. And, despite some truly brilliant theorizing, Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) didn’t end up “being” Sharon Tate in any way, shape, or form. Basically, Mad Men watchers love to create large-scale scenarios that involve their favorite (and, more often, their least favorite) characters within the actual confines of history, while Weiner and company continue to dance around (and even firmly reject) such scenarios. Will the […]

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mad men header

This week Mad Men ended a season that mainly focused on the increasingly degenerate Don Draper. He’s become a hopeless alcoholic. He barely phones it in at work, a place where he used to shine brightest of all. He is cheating on his wife with his neighbor, whom he sometimes makes his submissive. His daughter caught them mid-coitus. He purposely shamed his co-workers in a meeting. The list likely could go on for some time, so get comfortable. Though in this finale, “In Care Of,” written and directed by Matthew Weiner and co-written by Carly Wray, Don gets some much-needed comeuppance – and it’s pretty brutal. Don’s tale is hardly the only sad story in this episode, as Peggy, Ted, Pete, and Roger all meet somewhat sad fates by this season’s end. While there have certainly much better Mad Men finales – and much better Mad Men seasons, for that matter – this one was successful in tying up the ongoing plot lines, as well as putting forth some truly memorable scenes and some brilliant performances.

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Mad Men PR

With just one episode left in this year’s remarkable Mad Men season, AMC has cheerily released an “official” press release announcing the latest merger for the ad men, including a look at the new firm’s new logo and adorable comments from all of its partners. The memo was shared on Mad Men’s Facebook page after last night’s show (and subsequently shared by every person you know on social media), and while it’s certainly fun to gaze at, it’s even more fun to use as the jumping off point for some Mad Men activities (and, we’ll admit it now, to delve ever-deeper into the finely-tuned historical elements of the ever-accurate show). Let’s have some fun.

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mad men header

Don Draper just keeps pulling out the dick moves. And with next week being the season six finale, who knows what he had in store for us? A lot of stuff happened on this week’s Mad Men installment, “The Quality of Mercy,” written by Andre and Maria Jacquemetton and directed by Phil Abraham. So much so that Ken Cosgrove gets shot in the face in the first few minutes and it’s barely a blip on the overall drama scale. Another great episode, this one really sets the stage for the impending finale. It also featured Roger Sterling’s proclamation that he “once held Lee Garner Jr.’s balls!” if that’s any indication. Well, not really. But that line sure tickles. As noted, Don behaved pretty poorly this week, which makes for great television, but not necessarily for making his character any more likable. Don is still pretty worked up over the Sally-caused coitus interruptus… to the point where he is acting like Kirsten Cohen from The O.C. and stealthily spiking his orange juice with vodka. And taking the day off work. He is also very peeved by the growing camaraderie between Peggy and Ted, to the point where he goes out of his way in a meeting to embarrass the hell out of Ted and rob Peggy of her idea for the St. Joseph aspirin campaign.

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portmangarb

What is Casting Couch? Maybe not more casting news than you can shake a stick at, but just enough so that you’ll feel comfortable shaking a stick at it. Today we have news of movie roles for TV stars Allison Williams and Jon Hamm. Get shakin’. Back a few months ago it was looking like Natalie Portman and Michael Fassbender were going to be working together on Jane Got a Gun, but we all saw what happened there. No dice. Those who were hot and bothered by the idea of a Portman/Fassbender pairing need not worry though, because not only will they both be appearing in Terrence Malick’s newest project in some form or another, but they’ll definitely be sharing serious screen time in Justin Kurzel’s new adaptation of Macbeth. Just two days ago we learned that Fassbender would be taking the title role of the stage-to-film adaptation, and now Screen Daily is reporting that Portman has signed on for the role of his scheming, murderous wife, Lady Macbeth. This should give her more of an opportunity to cultivate that creep factor she showed flashes of in Black Swan. Intriguing.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
B+


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