Get primed for ‘Maisel’! What to watch, not watch this week in Jewish entertainment

Amazon+Studios

Amazon Studios

Dan Buffa, Special For The Jewish Light

Sometimes, the best way to open up your heart to another on Valentine’s Day is to show them a good movie or television show. Gal Gadot fans are in for a special treat this weekend at the theaters, so let’s quickly into what’s worth watching, reading on and avoiding all together this weekend in Jewish entertainment.

Whodunit murder mystery fans, rejoice!

Gadot co-stars in Kenneth Branagh’s follow-up to 2017’s “Murder on the Orient Express” this weekend with “Death on the Nile.” By switching the setting from a train to a large boat in his Agatha Christie appreciation tour, Branagh spares the viewer little in suspense and surprise.

Gadot, a former Israeli soldier and actress, gets to play a different kind of role as the unlikely catalyst for a murder investigation. Branagh, carrying directing or starring duties, perfects the detective mustache as the famous Hercule Poirot, who finds himself on vacation in Egypt and soon enough in a murder investigation.

While Armie Hammer keeps the film from achieving greatness, Branagh’s panache and polish with the material makes it a winner.

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Diet Sorkin in “Ricardos?”

Months after first watching it, I can assure you that Jewish filmmaker Aaron Sorkin’s latest film, “Being the Ricardos,” may have been showered with several Academy Award recently, it still feels like an imperfect film with an arbitrary reach. Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem do their best in the roles and the supporting cast is great, but the screenplay is hampered by useless drama. A story that already carried juice — the chaotic end of “I Love Lucy” and her marriage all at once — was saddled with pointless point of view accounts from cast members, young and old. It’s a jumbled approach that hinders the big speech moment at the end.

If you want to feel smarter in cool movie crowds, go ahead and watch but don’t expect many awards to find it on Oscar night March 27. Hopefully next time, Sorkin gets back to the precision of his best writer/director effort so far: “Molly’s Game.”

The Jewish family life shown well in ‘Licorice Pizza’

Paul Thomas Anderson’s vivid coming-of-age film found itself nominated for three Oscars, and they were earned. But outside of all the pleasures and gifts shown in “Licorice Pizza,” an ode to the end of innocence in California in the 70s, was an honest glimpse into the life of a Jewish family. Star Alana Haim’s family in the movie is her family in real life as well, which made for naturally hilarious interactions. For instance, she brings home a young man for dinner who claims to be an atheist, and all her father can do is look directly into her eyes and think, “Really?”

Another scene shows Haim bickering with quietly judgmental sisters after the boy leaves the house, calling “you little thinkers,” because she knows they’re all mocking her dating habits. That was just one of the many unexpected treats in PTA’s film. Catch it before the Oscars, it’s better than the droll “Ricardos.”

Has the music died for Woody Allen?

Imagine being the only person in a movie theater watching the new Woody movie. The guy who once upon a time opened our hearts to neurotic love and existentialism has just about been canceled, due to all the ugly sexual assault allegations stemming from Allen’s relationship with Mia Farrow and his treatment of their daughter, Dylan. So, his latest film, “Rifkin’s Festival,” is only playing in one single theater in Manhattan, a far cry from the number of screens he received for one of his last great films, “Midnight in Paris.”

The sad truth is “Rifkin’s Festival” isn’t exactly new. It was completed and released internationally back in 2020, only to find a pale whimper at that time. Two years later, it’s dying a slow death. This may not be a what “not to” watch selection, but you most likely won’t be able to. The lesson: Make better choices earlier in your life so it doesn’t mess with your old age.

Now is the time to binge “Maisel!”

The wait is just about over for audiences to check back in with their favorite housewife-turned-comedian. Rachel Brosnahan and company will debut the fourth season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” on Feb. 18, a few days after the annual reminder for men to buy their wife flowers. Instead of collecting those nice-looking surprises at the store, cook her a good steak dinner (after soaking away its blood of course) and push play on this comedy series. It came out of nowhere and really helped put Amazon Prime on the streaming map.

Being a master procrastinator, I am also binging the entire series before the first new episode with my wife, who loves the series. A rare time where she introduces me to a good movie or show. Be that person in your house and February may just be alright.

Olympic Jewish pride!

As Jewish figure skater Jason Brown showed this week, it’s not about walking away from the 2022 Olympics with a medal. Validation comes in the journey too, something that hockey player Ethan Werek is evidence of. His great-grandparents took refuge in China many, many decades ago, and this past Thursday Werek was skating against the United States team. Due to the Omicron variant, a lot of NHL talent stayed home from the Games this year, but that gave the spotlight to unknown yet hard-working talents like Werek. Most people on his team had never met a Jewish hockey player until this month.