Onscreen, big or small
Opening June 2 is “Wonder Woman.” Basic plot: Chris Pine, whose maternal grandpa was Jewish, plays Steve, a World War I American secret agent pursued by the German army because he knows they plan to use a horrible deadly chemical weapon. He crash lands on an idyllic island where Diana, aka Wonder Woman, lives. She takes him back to England and for a time she doesn’t reveal her true self. But fate takes her to a no-man’s land on a battlefield, and look out, it’s Wonder Woman in full regalia!
Jews worldwide have been giddy since Israeli actress Gal Gadot, 32, was cast as Wonder Woman. She’s practically a superhero Jewish role model: A former Miss Israel, top model, Israeli Army veteran, motorcycle rider, mother of two with an Israeli husband who’s a successful hotel developer.
The original Netflix film “War Machine” premieres Friday, May 26. It is a satire loosely based on the nonfiction book “The Operators” by the late Michael Hastings. In 2010, Hastings did a Rolling Stone interview with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the head of NATO forces in Afghanistan, in which the general heavily criticized President Obama. He was subsequently forced to resign. In 2012, Hastings turned his year of traveling with McChrystal into “The Operators.”
Brad Pitt stars as Gen. Glen McMahon, who is based on McChrystal, and like McChrystal, “War Machine” follows the events leading up to his firing. Emory Cohen, 27, plays Willy Dunne, an important member of McMahon’s staff. Cohen burst into prominence with his stunning performance as an Italian guy who courts an Irish girl in the acclaimed film “Brooklyn” (2015). The cast includes Anthony Michael Hall as Gen. Michael Flynn (yes, that Michael Flynn).
“Band Aid” opens in a few theaters on June 2 and will be available for on-demand streaming from IFC on June 9. It co-stars Zoe Lister Jones, 34, and Adam Pally, 35, as a couple whose marital discord, ironically, helps their music career as they form a band that does “fight songs.” Lister-Jones, who was raised in her mother’s Jewish faith, wrote and directed the film. She co-stars in the Fox series “Life in Pieces.” Pally co-stars in the Fox comedy “Making History.” “Band Aid” received very good advance reviews.
Mayim Bialik ‘girls up’
You’d think that the teenage years of “Big Bang Theory” star Mayim Bialik, 41, would be any young person’s dream. At age 13, she was in “Beaches” (1988), a major hit film. When she was 16, she was the star of “Blossom,” a hit sitcom.
But it was not all smooth sailing for Bialik, who is Modern Orthodox. In a recent Marie Claire magazine article she recounts, year-by-year, from age 4 until age 17, her insecurities. Here’s age 17: “I don’t like the boys the other girls like. I don’t want to act dumb so boys will like me. I want to find someone who looks and thinks like Elvis Costello. I want to live anywhere other than this country; I want to go where I’m not the only one who doesn’t shave my legs and armpits. I want to go where it’s not weird to like sports cars and comic books and veganism.”
Her new book, “Girling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular,” is aimed as an encyclopedic guide for all girls, those who are quirky and those not, on how to cope with the challenges of growing up.
On her book’s cover, Bialik wears a cape similar to Supergirl’s, as she jumps joyfully in the air. “If I’m writing a book about girls feeling empowered and feeling intelligent and embracing their quirky sides,” she says, “I don’t want to be presented as the pretty girl wearing glasses on the cover of this book. I actually suggested that we do something comic-y and superhero-y and empowering with me in sneakers, the way I always am.”