A Thriller Flick, Jews Star in 2 New TV series, and More
“The 355”, an action spy thriller, opens in theaters on Jan. 7. Jessica Chastain stars as a CIA secret agent who teams up with other international agents to recover a secret weapon. SIMON KINBERG, 49, directed the film and he co-wrote it. He has co-written a number of “X-Men” films and he's also a top film producer.
Check out “Good Sam”, a CBS series that premiered on Jan. 5. New episodes air Wednesdays at 9PM. It’s easy to catch encore showings on-demand or free on-line.
Here’s the capsule plot: Dr. Samantha Griffith (Sophia Bush) becomes the top surgeon at her hospital after her boss and father, Dr. Rob Griffith (British Jewish actor JASON ISAACS, 58), falls into a coma. Her life becomes complicated when he awakens and wants to resume surgery. She’s now her father’s boss and decisions about his professional career are now in her hands.
Isaacs grew-up in a religious Jewish home, but he is not religious as an adult. He is best known for playing Lucius Malfoy in the “Harry Potter” movies. His list of starring or co-starring roles goes back decades. Sadly, most of his films were so/so in quality and weren’t box-office hits. Likewise, he was in two very short-lived American TV series.
However, two critically acclaimed indie films Isaacs co-starred in are certainly worth seeing. The first is “The Death of Stalin” (2017). It’s a black comedy that managed to be funny and pretty factually accurate. It depicted the fierce jockeying to be Stalin’s successor (1953) as the dictator lay dying. Isaacs co-stars as Marshall Zhukov, the Soviet Union’s greatest WWII hero. All the would-be Stalin successors courted Zhukov. (Historians really love this movie.)
The other film is “Mass”, which was released last October, and now is available on pay-per-view. Few people saw “Mass” in theaters, but critics loved it. In “Mass”, the parents of a teen student murdered in a school shooting meet with the parents of the teen shooter (who took his own life). “The Hollywood Reporter” says: “It’s a harrowing watch, but a cathartic one, with each of the four superb principal actors delivering scenes of wrenching release.”
“Pivoting”, a dramedy series, premieres on Jan. 9 (9PM, Fox). Here’s the premise: three middle aged women, who are friends, are jarred by the sudden death of a mutual friend. They decide that that “life is short” and they have to take chances to shake up their lives. In other words, pivot from what they have been doing.
GINNIFER GOODWIN, 43, plays Jodie, one of the three friends. Her most memorable roles include playing the third wife of a polygamous renegade Mormon in “Big Love” on HBO (2006-2011); a romance-seeking young woman in the hit film “He’s Not Just That Into You” (2010); and Snow White on the ABC series “Once Upon a Time” (2011-2018).
Goodwin is the daughter of a non-Jewish father and a Jewish mother. She was raised “both” Jewish and Unitarian (with more exposure to Judaism). In 2013, she said that she had left religion behind her ten years before, but she had recently made a choice to embrace Judaism.
Like “Mass”, “Old Henry” opened in a very few theaters last October. It quickly went to pay-for-view where something rare happened: this Western film got great “word-of-mouth”. People who saw it told their friends and it gradually became a big hit as a home rental. The National Board of Review recently named “Old Henry” one of the top 10 indie films of 2021 and there is real Oscar buzz about the performance of the film’s star, veteran character actor TIM BLAKE NELSON, 57.
Early in 2021, Nelson talked about the 20th anniversary of the release of “The Grey Zone”, a Holocaust film that he wrote, directed, and acted in. Many have called it the most accurate Holocaust drama ever made.
Nelson grew-up in Oklahoma, the son of Jewish parents. His mother’s parents settled in Tulsa after fleeing Nazi Germany. Nelson’s maternal grandfather went to work for an oil-drilling company founded by a relative. Nelson’s uncle, GEORGE KAISER, now 79, took over the company in 1969 and made it super-successful. Kaiser, a multi-billionaire, is Oklahoma’s biggest donor to general and Jewish charities.
The PBS celebrity ancestry show, “Finding Your Roots”, began its 8th season on January 4. The 21 celebs profiled this season include actress PAMELA ADLON (4th episode) and director/writer and DAMON LINDELOF (9th episode). I’ll say more about them just before their episode premieres.