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Kosher Cinema: December Movie Picks For JDaters®

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Hey there, JDaters, hope you enjoyed having turkey with your families and being thankful for the good things in life (like a November filled with well-reviewed movies like Skyfall, Flight, Wreck it Ralph, Lincoln, and Argo).  And now that we’re fully into the swing of the holiday movie season, I’m here to bring you the lowdown on all the movie-goodness December has to offer.

The Chosen Feature

Now, being that Hannukah (or is it Channukah, Hanukah, or Hannuka?) is just around the corner, you’d think I’d pick a Hannukah movie for the Chosen Feature this month. But think again. Fact is, there aren’t really any truly good Hannukah movies. Sure, the Hebrew Hammer’s good fun, and a decent spoof, but I’d struggle to call it a classic. And Eight Crazy Nights is one of Adam Sandler’s worst films.  If you’re looking for decent Hannukah fare, you’re mostly dealing with kids movies like a Rugrats Chanukah. Fact is, Hannukah just hasn’t done well on film. Even the feared Mel Gibson Maccabees movie never made it off the ground. When Jews get their traditional Chinese food and go to the theater on Christmas, one thing’s for certain, it’s not to see a Hannukah movie.

The JScale

Deadfall – 1/5 Stars of David

While there are no actual Jews in this film about siblings (Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde) who pull off a botched heist and then take off for Canada, but Bana (who memorably starred in Munich) and Director Stefan Ruzowitzky (whose previous effort was the Oscar-winning The Counterfeiters, a true story about Jews who were forced to participate in a Nazi scheme to destabilize England’s economy with counterfeit bills) have both participated in the making of powerful Jewishly-themed films in the past.

Playing for Keeps – 0/5 Stars of David

No Jews, other than producers, involved in the making of this romantic comedy starring Gerard Butler as an ex-soccer-pro who uses a gig coaching his son’s soccer team as an excuse to score off the field with the moms of the other kids. Sounds like it’s based on a true story to me.

The Rabbi’s Cat – 5/5 Stars of David

This 2011 French animated film about a Rabbi in 1920′s Algeria whose cat gains the ability to speak after eating a parrot, is getting a limited release in the US this month. Written and directed by the French-Jewish graphic novelist Joann Sfar, it’s one of the more Jewish films to see a release in the US this year.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – 0/5 Stars of David

Ain’t no Jews on Middle Earth, but this prequel to the Lord of the Rings looks to be a winner.  And it does feature music by Howard Shore. And no, neither Andy Serkis nor Elijah Wood (who makes a brief appearance) are Jewish. Serkis is Armenian, Wood was raised Catholic.

The Guilt Trip – 4/5 Stars of David

Just the title, and the fact that this movie is about a son traveling cross-country with his mother should clue you in to the fact it was written by a Jewish screenwriter, Dan Fogelman. When you add in the fact that the mother/son duo is being played by Seth Rogen and Barbara Streisand, well you’ve got a pretty darn Jewish movie. The only thing keeping it from 5 Stars of David is the presence of Ann Fletcher as director, who though not Jewish, is welcome due to her helming of the underrated romcom: The Proposal.

Monsters Inc. 3D – 2/5 Stars of David

The Pixar classic gets a 3D re-release, no doubt to hype up the sequel coming out next year. Featuring the voices of Jews Billy Crystal and Frank Oz, it’s a classic for a reason, though whether you’ll be shelling out 17 bucks to see it in 3D is another story.

Jack Reacher – 0/5 Stars of David

The film with the title most likely to be mistaken for a piece of Masturbation porn also has no Jews in it.  Tom Cruise is… well I’d mention his religion, but I don’t feel like getting sued.

This is 40 – 3/5 Stars of David

Writer/Director and part-time Jew Judd Apatow is back with this spinoff of mega-hit Knocked Up that follows the characters played by Paul Rudd (member of the tribe) and Leslie Mann (not). It also features Albert Brooks in a supporting role. Billed as a “sort-of sequel,” only time will tell whether it’s also “sort-of” good.

Django Unchained – 1/5 Stars of David

Fresh of his very Jewish, very successful Nazi-killing romp, Inglorious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino is back with the not-very-Jewish Django Unchained, the story of a slave (Jaime Foxx) and a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) whose unusual deal sees them tracking down the fugitive Brittle Brothers and then heading off on other adventures. It also features Jonah Hill in a small role.

Les Miserables – 3/5 Stars of David

Broadway smash Les Mis joins other classics like Chicago, Nine, and Phantom by getting its own film adaptation. Along for the ride are… one Jew (Sascha Baron Cohen), a person of Jewish ancestry (Helena Bonham Carter), and one soon-to-be Jew (if the rumor mill on Anne Hathaway’s conversion is correct). Les Mis also features English lyrics by the Jewish, South-African writer Herbert Kretzmer. Plus, the original French composers, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, are also Jewish.  The story, as you may know, is not.

Parental Guidance – 3/5 Stars of David

This comedy, from Jewish director Andy Fickman, stars the very-Jewish Billy Crystal and Bette Midler as grandparents helping to raise their daughter’s kids while she works. Looks to be the second film in December with clearly Jewish parents dealing with their adult children. Do I sense a theme?

Quartet – 1/5 Stars of David

Dustin Hoffman directs this film about retired Opera singers living in an old-age home who stage a concert to celebrate the birthday of Verdi every year. Starring mostly British and Irish actors, we as Jews can feel happy they were not celebrating the birthday of Wagner, instead.

And that’s all for 2012, folks! Enjoy your holidays, have a happy however-you-spell it, and see you in 2013!

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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