Films of Jewish interest: upcoming in early 2011

December 28, 2010

Lots of films of Jewish interest are coming up in early 2011.  Here is a summary (with apologies to readers outside of Australia; these release dates are Australian – in some cases the films been released, or will be released earlier in the USA).

Late December 2010 (all in current release)

Love and Other Drugs – not a Jewish story, but director Edward Zwick (a co-creator of thirtysomething) is.  A nice romantic drama with two very appealing stars (Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway) and a fascinating sub-theme: that of a pharmaceutical rep (for Pfizer!) pushing drugs on to doctors.  

Sarah’s Key – a French Holocaust drama starring Kristin Scott Thomas, intersecting the past and the present.  A great story, too bad it’s fiction.

Meet the Parents: Little Fockers – the third in the series starring the great match-up of Ben Stiller the Jewish nurse with the retired CIA agent played by Robert de Niro.  I love the casting of Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman (two classic breakthrough Jewish actors from the 1960s) as Stiller’s parents.

Life During Wartime – the latest installment from Todd Solondz, a bleakly humorous film that almost no-one went to see when it screened in North America in July/August.  Limited release in Australia.  Read my review of the film here.

January 2011

True Grit, Jewish directors Joel and Ethan Coen directors remake the classic.

Black Swan, Jewish director Darren Aronofsky plus Jewish actresses Natalie Portman, Winona Ryder and Barbara Hershey.

Catfish, a documentary by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, starring Nev Schulman, who is obviously Jewish.  Is this real or fiction?

Another Year, by British Jewish director Michael Leigh.

The Fighter, directed by David O. Russell, who has a Jewish father and lots of his characters have been Jewish.

February 2011

How Do You Know, directed by James L. Brooks (“The Simpsons”) who is Jewish.

No Strings Attached, Directed by Ivan Reitman (Jewish) and starring Natalie Portman again.

Inside Job, a documentary about the Wall Street fiasco, must surely feature many Jewish players.

Conviction, dir by Tony Goldwyn who is Jewish, and a direct descendent of Samuel Goldwyn the film mogul.

The Human Resources Manager, an award-winning Israeli film shot partly in Romania.

Barney’s Version, a very Jewish story based on Canadian Jewish writer Mordechai Richler’s novel.

March 2011

The Debt, a thriller about Mossad agents and Nazi war criminals starring Sam Worthington and Helen Mirren.

This week in Australian cinema

July 30, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince continued in first place in the Australia theatrical box office over last weekend, but dropped substantially (55%) over the week before, down to Aus$6,462,870 from its record-setting week before.  Similar things have happened in the USA and the UK, although the film will be very popular no matter what.  It its first two weeks of release, it has done very well outside the US (or proportionately not as well inside North America, depending on your viewpoint):  63.8% “foreign” box office and 36.2 “domestic” box office, reports Box Office Mojo.  The current average, as I read it, runs just under 50% domestic, so this is quite an “outlier” of a film.  Also to date the Australia box office for this film is third in the world, but it’s early days yet and that may change as it continues release patterns.  The short answer is Australians love Harry, proportionately more than Americans do.

It’s not a great film:  I was very disappointed, and it must be the adaptation.  “Why should I care?”  I thought a number of times during the film.  Why are people doing the things that they do?  Not an ideal way to be thinking.  But it still has its many pleasures, particularly the all-star British cast … Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman (as silky and snaky as ever), Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent (new to the series), Helena Bonham Carter (under-utilised here) and Timothy Spall (also under-utilised).

The Hangover is the film to watch – keeping hold on 6th place in the Australian box office after seven weeks of release, only down 6% from the week before, with a total gross of Aus$19,489,532 to date.  No big stars but has done very very well in the USA and almost as well in Aus.

Opening this week in Australia:

Cedar Boys – Australian film directed by Serhat Caradee about Lebanese-Australians not unlike The Combination which played a few months ago to some controversy.  It does some interesting explorations of the relationships between Lebanese-Australians and Anglo Australians.

Lake Mungo – Another Australian film, very influenced by David Lynch (down to the major teen character being names “Palmer” after Laura Palmer, who died in Twin Peaks).  A “mock” documentary about the supernatural.

My Sister’s Keeper – Cameron Diaz in a film directed by Nick Cassavetes, from the novel by Jodi Picoult.  A weepy, emotional family drama and surprisingly affecting.

Public Enemies – Johnny Depp in US crime drama directed by the master Michael Mann (Heat, Miami Vice).  This is the big film of the week, although reportedly not the best from Mann or Depp.

Rudo Y Cursi (translated as “Rough and Vulgar”) – Spanish film reportedly a good comedy about soccer, starring Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna.

Sources: and

This week in Australian cinema

July 22, 2009

This week in film in Australia is all about four words:  Harry Potter and school holidays.  Since Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Price opened in Australia on Wednesday July 15th up through Monday July 20th it had grossed $18,705,212 at the box office on 510 screens.  Its opening day was $4.37 million, making it the third biggest opening day (NOT inflation-adjusted!) of all time in Australia. Roadshow Distributors reports the following top five Australian opening days:

1. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King $5.29m

2. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers $5.23m

3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince $4.37m

4. Matrix Reloaded $4.17m

5. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring $4.12m

Put it this way:  of every two dollar spent at the Australian cinemas in the last week, more than one dollar of it went to Harry Potter.  We Australians love it almost as much as the British do, and more than the Americans:  although it was popular in North America, the equivalent five-day US & Canada figure was US$158 million. Applying to the so-called “ten percent rule” (i.e. North American box office divided by 10 = Australian box office), it was more about ten percent more popular here: equivalent popularity would have predicted $15.8 million, and not $18 million.  The other interesting thing is the audience:  in the USA, distributor Warner Brothers has run exit polling that has indicated that 60 percent of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’s audience was 18 years of age and older and 57 percent was female. This is not exactly a kids film.

Also at the Australian box office, Ice Age 3 is hanging in at second place and Bruno in third place (down 65% on its first week, meaning it will probably drop reasonably fast).

Opening this week in Australian cinemas:

Drag Me to Hell, Sam Raimi-directed horror movie which critics are raving about – if you like this sort of thing. I have seen the trailer twice and have bad dreams from that alone.  Alison Lohman plays a bank officer who rejects a loan application from a “Mrs Ganush”, with disastrous results when she is cursed.

Cheri, based on two novels by Colette, directed by Stephen Frears (one of my favourite directors – The Queen, High Fidelity) collaborating with Christopher Hampton (screenplay), the first time they have worked together since Dangerous Liaisons in 1988. Michelle Pfeiffer – at age 50 – stars as a retired courtesan who has a affair with “Cheri” (Rupert Friend), who is the son of her colleague Charlotte (Kathy Bates). Pfeiffer is reportedly captivating.

Limits of Control by master of vague Jim Jarmusch, all filmed in Spain. Despite a strong cast (Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Gael Garcia Bernal), it wanders.  Not for me this time.

Red Cliff, the film of the week for me: by Hong Kong director John Woo (Face Off, Mission Impossible II), filmed in China and centred on the 208 (CE) Battle of Red Cliff, and starring Tony Leung (Lust, Caution and In the Mood for Love).

Box office sources: 

Box Office Mojo 

Urban Cinefile 

Roadshow Films media release 16 July 2009.