At the movies
“The Kill Team,” a documentary by S.F. filmmaker Dan Krauss, opens Friday, July 25 in Berkeley and San Francisco. It tells the story of a young soldier in Afghanistan who attempted to alert the military to atrocities being committed by his unit, and who then himself became a target of one of the largest war-crime investigations in U.S. history. Krauss was Oscar-nominated for his first film, “The Death of Kevin Carter.” He’s an adjunct professor at Stanford, where he teaches documentary filmmaking. Meanwhile, escapism of a sort can be found in “Lucy,” also opening July 25 and starring Scarlett Johansson. Lucy, forced to be a drug mule for gangs, is injected with a serum that allows her to use all of her brainpower — she can absorb information instantly, move objects with her mind and ignore pain.
WGN, the Chicago-based “superstation,” has decided to venture into original drama programming with series “inspired” by historical events. “Salem,” which premiered in April, is based on the 17th-century witch trials in Salem, Mass., and takes big-time liberties with the historical facts. Likewise, the new WGN show “Manhattan,” starting at 10 p.m. Sunday, July 27, is “inspired” by the Manhattan Project, the World War II program to build the first atomic bomb. However, the cast of main characters is fictional. The real lead scientist on the project was J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967). In the TV series, the project leader is the character Frank Winter. Other fictional characters include Glen Babbit (played by Daniel Stern, 57), a scientist who mentors other scientists, and scientist Charlie Isaacs, described on one fan site as a “working-class Jewish kid from St. Louis” and “the greatest mind of his generation.” Playing Isaacs is Ashley Zukerman, 31. He was born in Los Angeles to Jewish parents (I believe his mother is from Israel) and raised in Australia, where his parents teach computer-related subjects at prestigious Monash University (named after Gen. John Monash, the commander of Australian and New Zealand troops in Europe during the last years of World War I). Zukerman has a long track record of good parts in Aussie plays and TV series.
Maxim’s hot Hebrews
Tongue firmly in cheek, I might argue that the reason Jews are the most highly regarded religious group in America (Pew Center Research, June 2014) is partially due to the astonishing rise in the number of Jewish women appearing on lists like Maxim magazine’s “100 Hottest Women in the World.” Yes, I know these lists can be viewed as sexist. But there’s no denying that show biz is largely about sex appeal, and very few show biz women (or men) object to their names appearing on these “hottest” lists. They are very popular on the Web.
I say if you are going to venture into sexist territory, you might as well be accurate. The number following each name and age is the Maxim ranking. Unless otherwise noted, all are actresses: Scarlett Johansson, 29 (2), Mila Kunis, 30 (9), Ashley Tisdale, 29 (33), Lauren Cohan, 32 (41), Emily Ratajkowski, 23 (62), Melissa Rauch, 34 (64), Israeli model Bar Paly, 29 (66), and Israeli Gal Gadot, 29 (84). Four others on the list who are sometimes identified as Jewish come with asterisks: actress Lea Michele, whose father is Jewish, was raised Catholic; actress Lake Bell has three Jewish grandparents but calls herself “not Jewish,” Marin-raised model Dylan Penn, the daughter of the (secular) actor Sean Penn, has just one Jewish grandparent (her father’s father); and actress Olivia Wilde has only incredibly remote Jewish ancestry.
Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.