Hey there, JDaters! It seems like summer just rolled in, and yet it comes to an unofficial close with Labor Day this weekend. Put away your white shoes and sunblock, fall’s crashing onto the scene. While August delivered us a couple of bombs, there was nothing quite on the level of a Gigli, a Pluto Nash, or some of the true duds of Augusts past. September promises us some strange bedfellows: sequels, remakes, re-releases, and even a few original concepts. Am I the only one who finds it ironic that original concepts are now original concepts in Hollywood?

The Chosen Feature

Speaking of original concepts, the Chosen Feature for August is a cute, and under-appreciated comedy, The Frisco Kid. The film is about a rabbi from Poland, played by Gene Wilder, who travels to America to become the rabbi of a congregation in San Francisco during the gold rush days. On his way, he encounters a bandit played by Harrison Ford, and the two form an unlikely friendship while running away from a posse or two, getting into bar fights, and saving the Torah. While some parts of the movie have become a little dated, both Wilder and Ford make it eminently watchable. They work well together, and Wilder’s performance in particular is still fresh today. It’s a sweet-hearted movie, with some good laughs, and some very strong Jewish themes.

The JScale

The Words – 2.5/5 Stars of David

The Words starts off our month by bringing some serious Jewish involvement to the table. A tale of a writer who learns the price you must pay when you steal another’s work (here’s looking at you Fareed Zakaria), The Words’ co-writers/directors Lee Sternthal and Brian Klugman are both of Jewish ancestry, as is young actress Nora Arnezeder, whose mother is an Egyptian Jew.  Klugman, interestingly, is the nephew of acclaimed screen actor Jack Klugman, best known as Juror #5 from 12 Angry Men and Oscar Madison from The Odd Couple, as well as Quincy M.E.

Raiders of the Lost Ark – 4/5 Stars of David

The classic Indiana Jones film gets an IMAX re-release this month that promises to be a treat for the eyes of an entire generation that never got to see the film in theaters.  Lots of Jews involved in this one.  Spielberg, of course, as well as screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. Then you’ve got leading-man Harrison Ford, whose mother was Jewish, and Alfred Molina, who while not Jewish, sure loves playing Jewish characters. Add in the biblical center of the plot, and you’ve got a movie with quite a bit of Jewishness afoot.

Toys in Attic – ?/5 Stars of David

This Czech animated film gets an English language version with some familiar voices in Cary Elwes, Forest Whitaker and Joan Cusak, but it’s nearly impossible to find out if the people who actually made it are Jewish or not. If you feel like it, go and czech.

Resident Evil: Retribution (aka 5) – 1.5/5 Stars of David

I’m not sure what wasn’t covered in the first four Resident Evil movies, but the whole gang’s back for a fifth installment, and presumably a fifth paycheck, ridding the world of the nasty T-Virus, and killing some zombies. There are actually three actors in prominent roles with some Hebrew heritage. Oded Fehr is Israeli, though oddly enough, most well known for playing Arabs. Sienna Guillory’s father, singer Isaac Guillory was of Jewish background, and Boris Kodjoe actually has a Jewish, maternal great-grandmother.

Finding Nemo 3D – 1.5/5 Stars of David

Another re-release. As if remakes weren’t enough, now they’re just trying to trick us into seeing the same damn movies we’ve already seen. At least Finding Nemo was a good one. It also has several notable Jewish voices behind its characters. Both Nemo and his dad Marlin are voiced by Jews Alexander Gould and Albert Brooks, respectively. Brad Garret also makes an appearance as Bloat, the Pufferfish.

Dredd – 0/5 Stars of David

This presumably more faithful adaptation of the character Judge Dredd from the comic 2000 AD stars Karl Urban and Lena Heady.  There are no notable Jews in the movie. It’s got a pretty low bar to jump to be better than the 1995 Sylvester Stallone vehicle.

House at the End of the Street – 1/5 Stars of David

Eliabeth Shue and Katniss Everdeen move into a scary neighborhood, and frights ensue. This horror film, which is clearly a Jennifer Lawrence vehicle, features a script by member-of-the-tribe Jonathan Mostow, who was last seen directing the interesting, but ultimately disappointing Bruce Willis Sci-Fi thriller, Surrogates.

Trouble with the Curve – 0/5 Stars of David

The last time Clint Eastwood starred in a film that he didn’t direct was in 1993, nearly twenty years ago. That film, In the Line of Fire, is now a classic, and we can only hope Trouble with the Curve is just as good.  Though this is director Robert Lorenz’s first time in the driver’s seat on a picture, he served as Eastwood’s assistant director on hits like Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River. He didn’t bring along any Jews with him on this one, though.

Won’t Back Down – 1/5 Stars of David

This film, about two mothers (one white, one black) trying to improve the failing inner city school that theirs kids attend, went through several title changes, but has finally arrived as Won’t Back Down. The film stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, who’s Jewish, and Viola Davis, who’s not.

Hotel Transylvania – 3/5 Stars of David

And now for a film chock full o’ Jews. The Hebrew roll-call for this animated Dracula feature includes director Genndy Tartakovsky, write Robert Smigel, and actors Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Fran Drescher, and Jon Lovitz. There’s practically a minyan at the hotel!

Looper – 1/5 Stars of David

This high concept Sci-Fi film features the reunion of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his Brick collaborater, Rian Johnson. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is best known for being Zooey Deschanel’s cute Jewish friend.  He’s joined in Looper by Noah Segan, who’s also of Jewish descent, as well as Bruce Willis, Jeff Daniels, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo, and Garret Dillahunt, who are not.

And that’s it for the wide releases for September. Enjoy your High Holidays, and have a sweet New Year. And maybe try and fit in a film before the Day of Atonement (but not on the Day of Atonement).

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.
One Comment
  1. An interesting title is The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which is probably going to expand wide. It has one of the most Jewish casts of the year: Logan Lerman, Paul Rudd, Ezra Miller, and Sarah Ramos.

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