By Nate Bloom
Men in Black Redux
The first two “Men in Black” movies (1997) and (2002) were huge box office hits. So, of course, they’ve made another — this time in 3-D. “Men 3,” which opens on Friday, May 25, begins with Agent J (Will Smith) learning that the life of Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and the future of Planet Earth are at risk. “J” must time travel to 1969 to stop an alien criminal named Boris and change the course of history. “J” teams up with the young version of Agent K (Josh Brolin) to stop Boris. “J” only has 24 hours to do this, or he will be trapped in the past forever.
BARRY SONNENFELD, 59, who directed the first two “Men” movies, helms this one, too. He began as a top cinematographer and then was tapped (1991) to direct the first of two “Adams Family” movies. They were hits, as was his next film, “Get Shorty” (1995). STEVEN SPIELBERG then asked Sonnenfeld to direct the first “Men” movie. (Spielberg has produced all three.) “Men 3” is co-written by ETAN COHEN, 38, who was born in Israel and grew up mostly in the States. He’s a graduate of the prestigious Maimonides Modern Orthodox school near Boston and Harvard College. He wrote for TV comedies until his script for “Tropic Thunder,” a 2008 film farce co-starring and co-written by BEN STILLER, 46, made him an in-demand film writer.
Hemingway and Gellhorn
The HBO original movie, “Hemingway & Gellhorn,” premieres on Sunday, May 28, at 9 p.m. The publicity release gives the essential plot: “This biographical drama recounts one of the greatest romances of the last century—the passionate love affair (1936-39) and tumultuous marriage (1940-45) of literary master Ernest Hemingway (Clive Owen) and trailblazing war correspondent Martha Gellhorn (Nicole Kidman) —as it follows the adventurous writers through the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and beyond. As she grew in reputation and stature, Gellhorn stood toe-to-toe with Hemingway, mirroring his heroic spirit and putting his famous bravado and iconic style to the test.”
Here’s the Jewish angle: GELLHORN (1908-98) had three Jewish grandparents and was raised secular in St. Louis. She was among the first journalists to reach the liberated Dachau concentration camp at the end of WWII and the experience changed her. She embraced her Jewish background and became a passionate and life-long supporter of Israel. A supporting (real-life) character in the film is the famous photographer ROBERT CAPA (1913-54). A Hungarian Jew, he took iconic photos of the Spanish Civil War and, later, the Israeli War of Independence.
PETER COYOTE, 70, plays Max Perkins, Hemingway’s literary editor. The film is directed by PHILLIP KAUFMAN, 75 (“The Right Stuff,” Unbearable Lightness of Being”).
Here’s a few sidelight tidbits that might interest you: Hemingway made an American WASP the hero of “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” his novel about the Spanish Civil War. However, about 40 percent of the American volunteers who went to Spain to fight for the Republic against the Nazi-backed Franco rebel forces were Jewish and the number of American WASPs fighting in Spain was tiny; writer Max Eastman is a prominent character in the film. He was not Jewish as most people assume; the HBO film was shot almost entirely in San Francisco. Kaufman found San Fran locales that worked: like a Chinatown street that looks like Shanghai in the ‘40s.
Just Great: Rashida Jones Ancestry Story
The NBC celebrity roots show, “Who Do You Think You Are?” has one annoying feature. They do not announce which celebrity they are profiling until a week or so before airdate. That’s why I didn’t clue you in to the May 4th airing of the show featuring actress RASHIDA JONES, 36, (“Community,” “I Love You Man”) in advance. The good news is that episode can be viewed on-line until next September and the website version includes a couple of deleted scenes, family photos, and a written re-cap of the show’s scenes. Jones is the daughter of Jewish actress PEGGY LIPTON, 65, best known for the ‘60s series, “Mod Squad,” and her ex-husband, famous African-American composer/producer Quincy Jones (a very classy guy). Rashida was raised Jewish and firmly identifies as Jewish in a religious sense.
Rashida already knew a lot about her father’s ancestry, so she opted to explore her maternal grandmother’s life and ancestry. Her grandmother was born into the small, but vibrant Irish Jewish community and Jones traveled first to Ireland. She learned that her Irish Jewish ancestors originally were from Latvia, so she traveled there to learn more. The whole episode was fascinating, but the ending, which I won’t reveal, was extraordinarily moving. You can easily find the episode on the show’s website. Simply google the title.