At the Movies
“Coco” is an animated film from Disney/Pixar studios. Capsule plot: 12-year-old Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, deceased musician Ernesto de la Cruz. However, his family has a generations-old ban on music. He ignores this and journeys to the Land of the Dead where he meets Hector, a charming “trickster,” and together they unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history. (Opens Nov. 22)
Hispanic actors voice all the characters. LEE UNKRICH, 50, directed the film and co-wrote the story that is the basis for the flick’s screenplay. Unkrich won the Oscar for best animated film in 2011 (“Toy Story 3”, which he produced and directed). He’s co-directed many other Pixar hits. Lee and his wife, LAURA, are members of a San Francisco-area synagogue.
By the way, while Unkrich is associated with charming family fare, he says that the first film that made him want to make movies was “The Shining,” the classic STANLEY KUBRICK horror picture. He saw it when it opened in 1980 (he was 12). He works in references to “The Shining” in all his films. For example, in “Toy Story 3” there’s a license plate that reads “RM 237 (short for Room 237). Unkrich recently said that there’s “Shining” references in “Coco,” but he wouldn’t disclose them before it opens.
“Molly’s Game,” directed and written by AARON SORKIN, 56, is based on the real experiences of Molly Bloom, now 39. When she was 26, she became the target of an FBI investigation because she ran an underground poker empire for celebrities and the Russian mob. Bloom, the daughter of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, is played by Jessica Chastain. Her father, played by Kevin Costner, is a major character in the film. I know Molly’s brother, Jeremy Bloom, a top snow skier and former NFL player, identifies as a Christian. Not sure about Molly. (Opens Nov. 22)
“The Current War” tells the story of the battle between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse as to whose system will be chosen to provide electricity to homes and businesses in the late 1880s. Sounds dry-- but this was a battle royal, with some really weird twists. Michael Shannon plays Edison and Benedict Cumberbatch plays Westinghouse. The original screenplay is by MICHAEL MITNICK, 34, the author of several hit regional theater plays. (Opens Nov. 24)
A Time to Sing, a Time to Kvell
On Nov. 22, Netflix will begin streaming “Barbra: The Music…The Mem’ries…The Magic!” This concert film was made during BARBRA STREISAND’s last concert tour. Streisand, 75, is joined by many celebrity guests, including Seth MacFarlane, Jamie Foxx, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman and Melissa McCarthy.
More Hebrew Superhero News
“Justice League” opened last week to mixed reviews. In my last column, I said that co-star EZRA MILLER, 25, who plays the Flash, indicated that the Jewish identity of the Flash’s alter-ego, Barry Allen, might be dropped in the final cut. Mea culpa, I mis-read something. The website GeekNation made the series of events clear. There’s a scene where Allen tries to explain away his resemblance to a young guy in a photo. His questioner knows the photo shows the Flash without his costume. Allen replies that the guy in the photo looks like him (“Hippie, long hair, very attractive Jewish boy”), but isn’t him. Miller, GeekNation says, ad-libbed that the Flash is Jewish and this ad-lib did make the final cut. So, the Flash, who wasn’t identified as Jewish in comics, is now the first clearly Jewish superhero on the big screen.
“Captain Marvel” is another blockbuster comic-based movie. It’s set to open in 2019. Basic plot: A young boy named Billy Batson is transformed into superhero Capt. Marvel when he says: “Shazam!” “Variety” reports that ASHER ANGEL, 15, has been cast as Batson. You might know him as co-starring character Jonah Beck on “Andi Mack,” a hit Disney Channel series.
Last March, “Arizona Jewish Life” profiled the young actor. They write: “In December 2015…Asher became a bar mitzvah at his home in Paradise Valley [AZ]. He didn’t have time to attend Hebrew school, so his vocal coach, Michele Kahn, helped him prepare. Asher is glad he followed through and reflects on his religion. [He says]: ‘What Judaism means to me is being born to this family and it pulls them together and keeps them close.”’ (JOSHUA RUSH, 15, who plays Cyrus Goodman, another major “Andi Mack” character, is also Jewish).