The comedy “Tag,” opening on Friday, June 15, is based on a true story about five friends who have been playing the schoolyard game since they were children. As adults, they drop everything to meet up once a year and play a no-holds-barred version of tag. As the film opens, the wedding of Jerry (Jeremy Renner), the only player never to lose at tag, coincides with the friends’ annual game, so the other four figure they can finally beat him because he’ll be so distracted. The cast includes Rashida Jones, 42, as the only female player, and Isla Fisher, 42, as the wife of one of the players.
Opening the same day in many cities is the documentary “Eating Animals,” based on a book by Jonathan Safran Foer, 41 (“Everything Is Illuminated”). Foer’s study of the horrors associated with factory farming so impressed actress Natalie Portman, 37, that she got Foer’s permission to turn it into a documentary, which she narrates. (Portman became a vegetarian at age 8 and a vegan in 2009). Advance reviews praise the way in which the filmmakers went undercover, at some risk, to film some very cruel practices.
Now streaming online
“Bombshell,” a documentary about the life of actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000), can now be seen on Netflix for those who didn’t catch the film earlier this year at the East Bay Jewish Film Festival or at last summer’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. It also had a limited theatrical opening last year. In her heyday, circa 1940, Lamarr was a big Hollywood star and was widely considered the most beautiful actress alive. In the last 25 years, another side of the actress has become known — her talent for invention.
The child of affluent, assimilated Viennese Jews, Lamarr led an extraordinary, improbable life, and that alone makes this well-crafted film worth your time. Via interviews with her three children, and many others (including Mel Brooks, 91), a full portrait emerges. But, be warned, it isn’t a happy story.
Early on, Lamarr was interested in science, but at the time that wasn’t a viable career path for women. Her beauty led her into a movie acting career in Europe and then Hollywood. She sometimes had great courage, but, on the other hand, she often cast off things that were “inconvenient,” such as her Jewish background, her one adopted child and her five husbands.
Much of the 90-minute film is spent on her most famous invention: a way to make radio-controlled torpedoes invulnerable to jamming by Nazi subs. The Navy didn’t use the invention during World War II, but later her “frequency hopping” idea became the basis for the way cell phone calls, Wi-Fi and GPS is transmitted. (Enough spoilers. Watch it.)
More contemporary is the new Netflix comedy series “Set It Up,” which began streaming last week. Zoey Deutch, 23, and Glen Powell co-star as assistants to two high-powered executives who run them ragged. They decide to orchestrate a romance between their bosses in the hope that will calm them down.
Opening last week in theaters — and also available as a video-on-demand choice — is the feature film “The Year of Spectacular Men.” Written by Zoey’s sister Madelyn Deutch, 27, and directed by their mother, actress Lea Thompson, the film got such good reviews in film festivals that it earned a wide release. Madelyn, who describes the film as semi-autobiographical, plays lead character Izzy Klein, a recent college grad who suffers through a series of bad romantic relationships and leans on her younger sister (played by Zoey) and her mother (played by Thompson) for support.
The Deutch sisters, with their mother’s full support, were raised Jewish and had bat mitzvahs; their father is producer-director Howard Deutch, 67. Last month, Madelyn spoke to the Los Angeles Jewish Journal about her bat mitzvah. “It puts a lot of responsibility and accountability on the kid,” she said. “You’re treated like an adult with opinions and a point of view. I think it changed my life, being able to stand at the bimah in front of a congregation and say what I thought about the world around me. I think it altered the kind of adult I became.”
Comedian Howie Mandel, 62, is hosting a new series on the cable network Nat Geo Wild called “Animals Doing Things.” Set to premiere on Saturday, June 16 at 9 p.m., the show will feature the best (and, reportedly, never before seen) animal videos submitted to an Instagram account @AnimalsDoingThings. Mandel provides funny narration and witty commentary.