NEW YORK — As the world turns its eyes to the ramshackle hotel rooms of Sochi, Hollywood is looking back to the Olympics of 1996. It was announced this week that Jewish-American actor Jonah Hill will be playing the part of Richard Jewell in a biopic.
Jewell, if you recall, was the falsely accused terrorist during the bombing at the Atlanta Olympic Games that killed two people and injured over one hundred. Hill’s animalistic boss from the current Oscar contender “The Wolf of Wall Street” Leonardo DiCaprio will once again co-star, this time as his attorney. No start date for shooting has been announced.
Who’da thunk that the foul-mouthed, rotund yukster from “Superbad” would end up being one of our most in-demand serious actors? His mother, that’s who! I’m sure Mrs. Feldstein (Hill’s non-stage name) is very proud.
In other news, disgusting, mouthbreathing comic book nerds (such as myself!) who have no patience and even less of an attention span were treated to a sneak preview of fifteen minutes from the forthcoming film “300: Rise of an Empire.”
The movie, which is a sequel to the highly successful and quite influential “300,” is helmed by Israeli commercial director Noam Murro. It also stars Franco-Jewish actress Eva Green who, as she grows further into womanhood at age 33, is transforming from just another gorgeous gal to borderline unearthly va-va-va-voomship.
The special screening, which took place in cities across North America, proved that the new movie is going to be almost impossible to follow, as it is half-sequel, half-prequel. (Call it a sidequel?) Still, there are moments when Green, playing the nefarious Persian Queen Artemisia, slices men down with daggers and secretly pull the strings of her God-King brother Xerxes like a crypto-historical Cyrano de Bergerac.
The movie looks positively idiotic and I plan to see it at least six times.
New From Hollywood
The Monuments Men: George Clooney honors the men who risked their lives to protect the noble works of Man against Nazi theft and destruction in this mild, slightly-good film. It’s a little desultory and one can’t help but wonder if all this action to save paintings is kinda besides the point as the extermination camps are still operating, but the characters, like the film itself, feel called to a higher purpose. Hey, any excuse to see Bill Murray, Bob Balaban and John Goodman in Army uniforms isn’t that bad.
The LEGO Movie: Wait, so they’re expecting us to pay to watch a giant toy commercial? Well, a little, yes, but you’ve got to trust me when I say that this is one of the funniest and most clever kids’ films – strike that, film of ANY stripe – to come out of Hollywood for quite some time. It isn’t just loaded with zings, but the design work, which blends state of the art computer generated images with handcrafted stop motion, is absolutely top notch. Jewish actors like Elizabeth Banks, Alison Brie and (again!) Jonah Hill provide voice-over work alongside Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman and Will Arnett.
The Last of the Unjust: Claude Lanzmann, 88-year-old Franco-Jewish director of “Shoah,” has finally completed his 220 minute documentary about Benjamin Murmelstein, the last head of the Jewish Council at the Theresienstadt Ghetto. We’ve written about the film extensively already but now it finally gets its post-festival release.
That Awkward Moment: The part-Jewish teen heartthrob Zac Efron stars in the first movie ever named for a social media hashtag. There’s no way this will sound embarrassingly out of date in two years! The film features rising Jewish star Miles Teller and “Fruitvale Station”’s Michael B. Jordan who, along with Efron, are three “bros” who fight to stay true before “hoes.” Alas, affairs of the heart trump such fellowship, and the hoes in question start to disrupt the aforementioned bros. Results are awkward. Disclosure: I didn’t actually see this movie, but I heard from solid sources that it’s terrible.
Labor Day: Ivan Reitman’s son presents a new film starring Barbra Streisand’s stepson based on a novel written by J.D. Salinger’s former girlfriend. That’s a lot of connection with some top Jews, but anything’s worth discussing instead of the meat of this fairly rancid film. A Lifetime Network chick flick at best, this silly love escapade takes place in a country home when an escaped jailbird hides out with a lonely single mother and her father figure-less son. For a few days they play house, which involves making a lot of pies. Then reality crashes in. As a book, maybe it works. As a movie, it is risible. Paramount Pictures is dumping this high profile picture (Kate Winslet is the lead) in February, which ought to tell you something.
Generation War: The miniseries that gripped Germany is now playing as a (very long) feature film in both Israel and the United States. As we’ve reported another title for the film could be “Just Following Orders: The Movie.” The lengthy tale follows five young German friends (one Jewish) from the beginning of the war through the end – detailing how circumstances slowly chips away at their ethics and humanity. It isn’t an easy film to sit with, but is still recommended.
Play Misty For Me: When most people think of Clint Eastwood they think of a man on a horse, but once you catch this 1971 film (the first one he directed) you’ll think of great interior decorating. Clint plays a jazz DJ with a gorgeous coastal home who starts having run-ins with a depraved stalker (played by Jewish-American actress Jessica Walter). This film is no masterpiece, but it is good trashy fun – and it features the titular Errol Garner song extensively. Catch it at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on Sun Feb 9 at 7 pm.
Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb: Stanley Kubrick and Peter Sellers (both Jewish) collaborated to create the finest satirical political film of the 20th Century. While some of their jokes may be a little dated (hunt for the Adlai Stevenson gags!) the absurdity of total destruction through nationalist hatred remains, alas, ever relevant. The black and white photography by Gilbert Taylor is sublime, so catch this in the theater if you can. It plays at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on Sunday Feb 9 at 9:30 pm.