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Kosher Cinema: August Movie Picks For JDaters®

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It’s hard to write a column about film this week without briefly touching on the shooting in Aurora, Colorado. One of the main reasons that people go to the movies is for an escape; they want to leave the stresses and troubles of their daily lives behind and immerse themselves in a different world.  Sometimes that’s a funny world, sometimes it’s an exciting one, and sometimes it’s even a tragic one, but at the end of the movie, you get up and leave that world behind.

Twelve people never got to leave that Aurora movie theater last week because a madman decided it was up to him to decide who lives and who dies. I can’t give you answers about his motives, or what made him do something so insane. Nor can I give you answers about how we stop the next maniac from shooting up a mall or a theater or an office. Some will argue for gun control, some will argue for better mental health services, some will argue for metal detectors in theaters or better security, and some will argue that violent movies like The Dark Knight Rises inspire twisted acts like the one in Colorado. All of those arguments have varying degrees of merit, but I’m not going to tell you what I think will stop another attack like this from occurring, because I just don’t know.

What I hope is that this doesn’t make anyone stop going to the movies. I hope people don’t live in fear because of this. The best we can do in the face of maniacs is to keep on living our lives and not let them control us. I remember watching the Twin Towers fall from my high school in Chelsea almost 11 years ago now, and wondering if that was just the beginning, if we’d have to live every day in fear of terrorists after that. And yes, I looked at people on the Subway a little more closely after that. I was more aware of my surroundings, but I didn’t stop living, I didn’t stop flying, and I didn’t let that horror ruin my life. So please keep going to the movies. It’s not wrong to feel afraid or nervous after this, but remember that it’s the victims recovering from gunshot wounds, and the families of the deceased who are really suffering now. Your fear will pass, hopefully swiftly. Their hurt will take a longer time to heal.

The Chosen Feature

The Chosen Feature for the month of July is Barton Fink. Barton Fink is one of the Coen Brothers’ earlier films, and one of their least widely-watched. A fascinating, strange, and highly intellectual film about a Jewish playwright from New York who’s brought out to Hollywood by a studio mogul at the dawn of World War II and forced to, unhappily, write wrestling pictures for Wallace Beery, Barton Fink was hailed by critics, and nominated for three Academy Awards. It stars John Turturro in one of his finest roles, and features a supporting cast of John Goodman, Steve Buschemi, Tony Shalhoub, Michael Lerner, Judy Davis, and John Mahoney. There are numerous biblical references made in the film, and the plot itself revolves around a man trapped in his own personal hell. It’s beautifully filmed and scripted, and well worth a watch, especially for fans of some of the Coen Brothers’ more popular works.

The JScale

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days – 2/5 Stars of David

The third feature in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series hits the screens this August, and once again, star Zachary Gordon is proving that Jews are big wimps. Actually, he’s proving we’re selfish and lazy… hey, wait a second, this Hefley guy isn’t so flattering. Anyway, the film’s written by Wallace Wolodarsky, whose Jewishness is uncertain, though he did co-write the famous Simpsons episode “Like Father, Like Clown” which revealed Krusty’s Jewish origins. DOAWK:DD also features British Jew, and Harry Potter star, Daniel Radcliffe as himself.

Total Recall – 0/5 Stars of David

Not many Jews involved in this remake of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1990 blockbuster smash.  Probably a good thing. The Jewish people shouldn’t be too involved in remakes of great Sci-Fi pictures which aren’t dated and didn’t need to be remade.

The Bourne Legacy – 1/5 Stars of David

Matt Damon has left the building, but the Bourne story continues with another Treadstone agent, played by goyish superstar Jeremy Renner who is fighting against the government that wants him dead.  He’s got some supporting Jews with Rachel Weisz and Scott Glenn (who converted when he married his wife) on board. Should be another action-packed ride.

The Campaign – 1/5 Stars of David

Jay Roach directs this political comedy vehicle for Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, but he’s about the only Jew on board.  It’s gotten some pretty mixed advanced reviews, and the trailer was panned by several websites. Ferrell could use a summer boost. His first film out this year, Casa De Mi Padre, didn’t even recoup its modest 6 million dollar budget.

Hope Springs – 2/5 Stars of David

David Frankel directs this romantic comedy about a couple who have been married for 30 years and decide to attend marriage counseling. Frankel’s the son of famed New York Times editor, Max Frankel, who once wrote a scathing critique of the Times‘ failure to highlight the plight of Jews during the holocaust. The film also features Ben Rappaport, a Texan Jew, in a supporting role!

The Expendables 2 – 0/5 Stars of David

No Jews on the creative side of this sequel to Sylvester Stallone’s bombastic 2010 action film. It features most of the biggest action stars of the 1980′s, a lot of guns, a lot of explosions, and some likely terrible acting. But you won’t be going to see The Expendables for the acting; you’ll be going for the fighting. And, with Jean Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, and Liam Hemsworth along for the ride this time, you should get plenty of it.

Paranorman – 1.5/5 Stars of David

When his town comes under attack by the undead, only Norman Babcock can save it from destruction.  Jeff Garlin and Christopher Mintz-Plasse lend some Hebrew hilarity to a cast that’s rounded out by familiar names like Anna Kendrick, John Goodman and Casey Affleck.  Leslie Mann, who’s not Jewish, but is married to Judd Apatow, also makes a vocal appearance.

Sparkle – 1.5/2 Stars of David

Sparkle is probably most notable for being Whitney Houston’s last film role. She finished filming a couple of months before her untimely death. It also marks the film debut of Jordin Sparks. Can she join fellow American Idol alum Jennifer Hudson as a successful actress? Curtis Armstrong, who attends synagogue in LA with his wife, plays a supporting role. The film is also produced by the most amusingly foul-mouthed (and definitely Jewish) producer in all of Hollywood, Howard Rosenman, who gets a story credit as well.

The Apparition – 0/5 Stars of David

No Jews… but Draco Malfoy!

Hit and Run – 1/5 Stars of David

With a plot right out of an 80′s movie, Hit and Run sees a getaway driver racing cross country and avoiding his old gang, and the long arm of the law, to get his girlfriend to Los Angeles. Be careful though, it’s a Kristen Bell vehicle, and in the last few years, that’s meant “bad movie.” Jews Tom Arnold and Michael Rosenbaum appear in supporting roles.

Premium Rush – 1/5 Stars of David

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is back, playing a bike messenger running away from some scary people who want to steal an envelope he’s been asked to deliver. This kid’s got dedication. Most bike messengers I know would have just given up the package.

Lawless – 1/5 Stars of David

Nick Cave (yes, that Nick Cave) and John Hillcoat reunite for their second film together. Their first, the critically acclaimed, but little-seen The Proposition, was quite the treat for Western fans. This film stars everyone’s favorite Jewish-Transformer buddy, Shia LaBeouf, as a bootlegger, who helps his two brothers defend their business during the Prohibition Era.

The Possession – 3/5 Stars of David

A film with an actual Jewish plot! The Possession is a horror film about the possession of a child by a Dybbuk. Kyra Sedgwick (yep, she’s Jewish) stars alongside Jeffrey Dean Morgan (nope, he’s not), and it features a supporting performance by Matisyahu! Most Jewish film of August, easily.

It’s also the last film of August.  Until next month, JDaters®!

Jonathan Maseng is a Los Angeles based screenwriter and journalist. He is a frequent contributor to the LA Jewish Journal, and his work has appeared in publications around the globe. His mother would like him to find a nice Jewish girl — he’s still looking.
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