About the movies
“Paper Towns,” a coming-of-age story based on John Green’s best-selling young adult novel, opens Friday, July 24. In an interview posted on his website, Green says he “assumed” both lead characters were Jewish (the book only references a bat mitzvah). The comedy-drama centers on Quentin Jacobsen (Nat Wolff, 20), a high school student who harbors an unrequited love for Margo Roth Spiegelman, the girl next door. The action takes off when Margo (Cara Delevingne) mysteriously disappears and Quentin follows clues she may have left as to her whereabouts. Halston Sage, 22, and Austin Abrams, 18, have big supporting roles as friends who help Quentin in his search.
“Southpaw,” which opens the same day, stars Jake Gyllenhaal, 34, as Billy Hope, a light heavyweight fighter who starts out on top of the world: He’s made it from the streets to the championship; he has a beautiful wife (Rachel McAdams) and a lovely young daughter. But everything changes after his wife is murdered and he goes into a personal tailspin and family services has to take his daughter away. A principled, small-time boxing trainer (Forest Whitaker) takes Billy on and helps him clean up his act and fight again — aiming for redemption and the return of his daughter. Gyllenhaal bulked up for the role and is almost unrecognizable.
A third film opening on July 24 is “The Stanford Prison Experiment,” based on the 1971 psychology experiment in which a small group of students played prison guards or prisoners under the supervision of Stanford professor Philip Zimbardo. Billy Crudup plays Zimbardo, with Olivia Thirlby, 28, playing U.C. Berkeley psychology professor Christina Maslach (and the future Mrs. Zimbardo). She persuaded the professor to stop the experiment early after observing the brutality taking place. The “guards” face a revolt by the “prisoners,” led by student Daniel Culp (played by Ezra Miller, 22, who is getting stellar reviews).
Roger Rees, 71, died on July 10. The Welsh-born actor’s notable roles included rich guy Robin Colcord on “Cheers” and Frida Kahlo’s father in “Frida.” In 2011, he wed his partner of 33 years, playwright Rick Elice, now 58. Elice is an observant Jew and Rees converted to Judaism in the 1980s.
Last week, the single “Fight Song” had reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song was written and is performed by Rachel Platten, 33, who has had considerable success since her first CD came out in 2003. But a Top 10 single is a first for her. On July 14, she joined Taylor Swift onstage to sing her hit. She told People magazine: “I had a moment of, ‘Oh my gosh, my dreams are coming true.’ Even though it’s not my own crowd yet, I felt like that was exactly the moment I’d always dreamed about.” In 2012, Platten married attorney Kevin Lazan, 34, in a traditional Jewish wedding.
From 1979 to the present, there have been TV specials, movies and series about teens living near De Grassi Street in Toronto. Several have had “Degrassi” in the title, and generations of kids worldwide have followed what’s called the “Degrassi franchise.” A reunion special of former “Degrassi: Next Generation” stars will air on the TeenNick cable station at 8 p.m. Friday, July 31. Tribe members (all Canadian landsmen) appearing on the special include Stacey Farber, 27 (Ellie), Lauren Collins, 28 (Paige), Shane Kippel, 29 (Spinner) and Jake Epstein, 27 (Craig). The most famous “Degrassi” alumnus won’t be there: Aubrey Drake Graham, 28, aka rap star Drake, who played Jimmy Brooks. (By the way, new episodes of “Degrassi: Next Class” will be shown on Netflix starting next January. Netflix rescued the franchise from cancellation on the Nickelodeon cable stations).
Columnist Nate Bloom, an Oaklander, can be reached at [email protected]