Jews in the News: Joey King, Debra Messing and Gal Gadot

Killers on a Train, A Great Bar Mitzvah Movie??, the Sandman  
JOEY KING, 22, co-stars in “Bullet Train”, a thriller that opens in theaters on August 5. All the main characters have “coded” names, like “Ladybug”. Here’s the capsule plot: Trained killer Ladybug (Brad Pitt) wants to give up “the life” but is pulled back in by his handler in order to collect a briefcase on a Japanese bullet train. Once onboard, he and the other competing assassins onboard discover that their objectives are all connected. (King plays "Prince", a trained British assassin.)
The Jewish event of the month is “13”, an original Netflix film centered around a bar mitzvah (premieres Aug. 12). Bar Mitzvah movie? That’s great-- but you should be prepared for a possibly not great movie.  “13” is based on the Broadway musical of the same name that opened in 2008 to so/so reviews and closed after only 100 performances.
I looked into the history of “13” after reading an article on a popular Jewish website. The author gushed about “13” composer/lyricist JASON ROBERT BROWN, 52, and she described “13” as a “beloved” musical. Well, it couldn’t be that “beloved” if only a few thousand people saw it. 
Brown is professionally respected. However, three of his four Broadway musicals only ran for two months. The exception is his latest work, the score for the musical production of “Mr. Saturday Night” starring BILLY CRYSTAL, 74. The songs are okay, but theatergoers are going to see Crystal (the show closes next month).
Brown’s Broadway “cold streak” includes musical versions of “Urban Cowboy” and “The Bridges of Madison County”. Two other “sort-of flops” include musicals with heavy Jewish content: “Parade” (1998) and “The Last Five Years” (2002). The former was about the lynching (Georgia, 1915) of LEO FRANK, an innocent Jewish businessman. Reviews were pretty good, but the sad subject matter kept Broadway audiences away. “Five Years” chronicled an interfaith marriage very similar to Brown’s real-life failed marriage. It did okay off-Broadway, but a film version (2015) was a total box office flop.  
Despite what I just wrote, maybe we are in for a pleasant surprise. The original “13” cast was “all teens”. In 2008, the NY Times theater critic panned “13”, noting that teens are fascinated by teen characters, but adults aren’t.  
The good news: Brown and the show’s “book” (script) writer, DAN ELISH, now 62, heavily revised the show in 2009 for an off-Broadway revival and they added a number of adult characters. The adult characters are in the Netflix film. This could be a big plus. 
Eli Golden, a total newcomer, stars in the Netflix film as Evan Goldman, the bar mitzvah boy (I assume Golden is Jewish, but I haven’t “verified” him). Here’s the film’s plot: Goldman is a New York City kid about to hand out his bar mitzvah invitations when his life radically changes. His father (Peter Hermann) leaves his mother for a young flight attendant. 
Evan and his mother, Jessica (DEBRA MESSING, 52) flee to a tiny town in Indiana. They live with Jessica’s mother, Ruth (RHEA PERLMAN, 74). The bar mitzvah is still on and Evan is tutored by his NYC rabbi (via Zoom). He’s played by the very likable JOSH PECK, 35.  
Of course, there are few Jews in the town, and there are a few hateful remarks, but anti-Semitism is a quite minor theme in the film. “Teen politics” is the real theme. Early on, Evan becomes friends with two teens who aren’t popular in school: Patrice, a smart, “righteous” girl who has a crush on Evan, and Archie, who is disabled. 
Things change when Evan manages to get into the good graces of a very popular jock. This sets in motion a very complex series of events that ultimately force Evan to make hard, ethical choices about who will attend his bar mitzvah. 
“The Sandman” is a 10-episode Netflix series that begins streaming on August 5. The lead character is Morpheus, the king of the “Dreaming”. As the series begins, he escapes from a century-long captivity and sets out to restore his kingdom. 
The series is based on “The Sandman”, an American comic book series written by NEIL GAIMAN, a British Jew. Plans to make it into a film began in 1991!  One script “plan” after another was pitched and shot down.  Finally, in 2019, Gaiman, now 61, DAVID S. GOYER, and ALLAN HEINBERG agreed on a format (mini-series) and a script. Goyer, 56, has written many hit super-hero movies. Heinberg, 55, wrote the huge hit “Wonder Woman”, starring GAL GADOT. 


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