What to watch (or not) this week in the world of Jewish entertainment 


Credit: Searchlight Pictures

Dan Buffa, Special For The Jewish Light

Not everyone can be a director. A lesson I am learning quite fully with Jewish director Simon Kinberg’s latest foray into the storytelling department, “The 355.”

First, what not to watch

Starring enough Oscar nominees to make one question why they said yes to this trashy “Charlie’s Angels” rip-off, Kinberg has finally created a companion piece to his 2019 “X-Men” film, “Dark Phoenix.” Released this weekend as a way to counterprogram all the Oscars chatter going on right now, it instead will take the cake as 2022’s first bad movie. How does one waste the talents of Jessica Chastain (who claims to be an honorary Jew) and Lupita Nyong’o? Kinberg did. Skip the movie.

A good Chastain film

In an interview with Tablet magazine, Chastain talked about learning Krav Maga (an Israeli fighting method used by the military) and learning German for a role in 2017’s “The Zookeeper’s Wife.” Playing a mother and wife in Poland struggling to keep her family safe and the family zoo open during the outbreak of World War II, Chastain studied the medical experiments that were used in the Holocaust. “Zookeeper” flew under the radar yet gained national attention for her performance. Stuffed with dread and fine performances with a quietly uplifting tone, give it a look on Netflix anytime… instead of Chastain’s new film.

For Liev Schreiber fans before ‘Ray Donovan’ movie premiere

Before he puts on the Boston fixer suit again and picks up the baseball bat to dispense some anti-hero justice, Schreiber is all over the place in the cinema right now. You can currently catch his soulful voice in Adam McKay’s over-the-top Netflix extravaganza “Don’t Look Up,” and see him in Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” playing a talk show host.

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The Jewish actor, masterfully theater-trained and able to fit into any cast, always leaves a good mark after the movie is over. Football fans can hear his voice and narration during HBO’s latest “Hard Knocks” episodes, covering the Indianapolis Colts midseason. If any actor is proof that “a little goes a long way,” it’s Schreiber. Catch a full serving on Jan. 14 with the “Ray Donovan” movie premiere.

Kristen Stewart as you’ve never seen her before

Playing Princess Diana is a tall task for any actress, but especially for someone like Stewart. While she has built up her resume with very successful performances in award-caliber films among other high-profile commercial films, there are legion of “Twilight” haters who still try to crap on her latest roles. Good luck with “Spencer,” because she’s phenomenal. The November film, which is just hitting Redbox this week, gives an imagined and obtuse account of how Diana decided to leave Prince Charles at a Royal Family outing.

Jonny Greenwood, the composer of the moment, scored the film like it was a harrowing horror tale, splintering an array of sounds to create the most uncomfortable tonal vibe in the movie. Stewart keeps you glued in though, unveiling the trauma of a woman coming apart at the seams. Hopefully, this one puts the Kristen Stewart haters to rest.

Did ‘The Last Duel’ deliver?

Ridley Scott’s latest swords and sandals epic, which bowed in theaters this winter, came under fire more for its graphic content and polarizing nature. Scott even took to the internet, whining that not enough millennials saw his movie. So, what’s the verdict? It’s a fine film, co-written by Jewish screenwriter Nicole Holofcener. After winning a screenwriting Oscar in 1998, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon collaborated with Holofcener on Scott’s epic. Come for the performance of Jodie Comer; stay for the final fight between Damon and Adam Driver.

A film with a duel in the title better delivers, and Scott’s film definitely did. Find that at Redbox.

The Chalamet that doesn’t sleep

If Schreiber is a busy body, young Timothee Chalamet would be his stunt double. The 26-year-old Jewish actor had a big 2021, including his starring role in Denis Villenueve’s popular adaptation of “Dune.” While that movie has returned to HBO Max (after its original 31-day trial) and is receiving serious Academy Award consideration, the actor is spreading his work around this winter. He joined Schreiber (in a way) in “The French Dispatch” and “Don’t Look Up.”

But it’s Chalamet’s next role that carries the most intrigue: Willy Wonka. Look for that this year. In the meantime, revisit his work in 2019’s “Beautiful Boy.” He does more acting there than he has in any other role, including 2017’s heralded “Call Me by Your Name.”