Jews in the News: Paul Rudd, Samuel Goldwyn and Joaquinn Phoenix

You Know Who to Call-- Again; The Williams Sisters; Bonding Trip

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” opens on Nov. 19. It‘s a sequel to the two hit “Ghostbusters” movies that opened in the ‘80s and it makes many references to the first two films. Most advance reviews of “Afterlife” are good, if not great. “Charming” and “funny” are words used in many reviews.

The “Afterlife” cast includes all the surviving, original main cast actors: Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, and Annie Potts.  Their roles are larger than a cameo, but new characters are the stars of this film.

HAROLD RAMIS, who co-wrote the first two “Ghostbuster” films with Dan Akroyd, died in 2014, age 69. He also co-starred in both films as Dr. Egon Spengler, a “major” Ghostbuster. His many other hits include “Caddyshack”, which he co-wrote and directed, and “Groundhog Day”, which he directed. 

I have to say that it’s laudable that the screenwriters have paid homage to Ramis by making Spengler (Ramis) almost a major character in “Afterlife”. In the new film, Spengler appears in several clips from the first two “Ghostbuster” movies. The “Afterlife” characters refer to these clips as  “historical documents”.

Spengler also lives on in the plot of “Afterlife”. As the film opens, we learn that Spengler is deceased and that his daughter, Callie, is the single mother of two kids: Trevor, 15, and Phoebe, 12. Financial problems force Callie and her kids to move to rural Oklahoma and live in a decayed farmhouse that Spengler lived-in and left to his daughter. Not long after their move, weird things happen near their new home, like unexplained earthquakes.

The earthquakes are followed by supernatural phenomena (ghosts, etc.) in their Oklahoma town. While poking around the farmhouse, the “kids” find Grandpa’s old ghost-busting equipment and learn about his Ghostbuster career. Phoebe and Trevor then enlist Mr. Grooberson (PAUL RUDD, 52), a school teacher, and others (like the original Ghostbusters), to help save their town, and maybe the world.

As I was finishing this column, Rudd was named “People” magazine’s 2021 “Sexiest Man Alive”. Rudd told “People” about the reaction of his (Jewish) wife of 18 years, JULIE YAEGER, 53: “She was very sweet about it. After some giggling and shock, she said ‘Oh, they got it right.’ And that was very sweet.” (The couple has two children).

JASON REITMAN, 43, is the director of “Afterlife” and the co-writer of the “Afterlife” screenplay. His directing credits include the hit films “Juno” and “Up in the Air.” The other writer is GIL KENAN, 44, a screenwriter/director who was born in the U.K. and raised in Israel. ”Afterlife” was produced by IVAN REITMAN, 74, Jason’s father. He directed the first two “Ghostbusters” movies.

“King Richard”, which also opens on the 19th, is a bio-pic that follows the early years of the amazing tennis careers of the Venus Williams and her younger sister, Selena. The title refers to their father, Richard Williams (Will Smith), “a controlling guy” who saw his daughters potential when they were about 5 years old and began coaching them. The Williams family lived then in Compton, a poverty-stricken city in Los Angeles County.

In 1987, Williams called tennis coach PAUL COHEN, now about 80, and asked him to coach his girls. Cohen went to Los Angeles, and after seeing them play, agreed to coach them.  He was their coach until 1991, when they were 10 and 11 (Cohen was a top college player, a touring pro, and coached John McEnroe, among other greats. He also advised the Israeli Davis Cup team.)

Tony Goldwyn plays Cohen. Goldwyn’s paternal grandfather was the famous filmmaker SAMUEL GOLDWYN (Tony’s only Jewish “grand”). JON BERENTHAL, 45, plays the sisters’ next coach, Rick Macci. In 1991, Richard Williams moved his whole family to Florida so his daughters could attend Macci’s tennis academy. By 1997, the sisters were top pros. (Advance reviews of this film are quite good. By the way, the Rick Macci Academy in Boca Raton is still very much open and Macci still runs it.)

Also opening on the 19th is “C’mon, C’mon”. JOAQUIN PHOENIX, 47, stars as a radio journalist who is left to care for his precocious young nephew and they bond during a cross-country car trip. Advance reviews are good and praise the sensitive way in which the star characters’ emotions are portrayed.

The film was directed by, and written by Mike Mills. He showed a deft hand in directing and writing the acclaimed films “Beginners” (2010) and “20th Century Women” (2016). Mills found out as an adult that his late mother was Jewish. Why this info was withheld is explained by the lead character in “Beginners”, who is really Mills, himself.


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