Hollywood Now: Can’t Miss Holiday Movies—Spielberg’s The Post, Pitch Perfect 3, The Greatest Showman, Molly’s Game and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

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Meryl Streep in The Post
Meryl Streep, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Credit: Niko Tavernise/20th Century Fox

Spielberg Directs Hanks & Streep to Golden Globe Nominations

Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep join forces in The Post, which dramatizes the battle between The Washington Post and the Nixon administration over the right to publish the Pentagon Papers, which proved the government’s cover-up of military actions in the Vietnam War. Opening December 22 in select cities and wider January 12, it has already been nominated for six Golden Globe Awards with nods to best drama, screenplay, director (Spielberg), actor (Hanks) and actress (Streep). “This is a very good time to explore the virtues of a free press, to engage in an honest conversation about what contributions the press at its most principled can make to our democracy,” says the Jewish director, whose wife Kate Capshaw converted to Judaism before their 1991 wedding.

The movie’s cast also includes Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), who was raised Catholic and has been married to Naomi Yomtov, who is Jewish, since 1997. They have raised their two children in her faith. Alison Brie, who plays Streep’s daughter, is Jewish on her mother’s side and grew up identifying as Jewish. She and her husband Dave Franco, also Jewish on his maternal side, can be seen in The Disaster Artist alongside Dave’s brother James Franco, who also received a Golden Globe nomination. The winners will be announced January 7 on NBC.

 

Pitch Perfect III with John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks
John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks in Pitch Perfect 3. Credit: Universal Pictures

The Bellas are Back…Again

Having a tough time of it in the real world post-college, the Barden Bellas return to what they do best in Pitch Perfect 3, which sends the a cappella singers overseas on a USO tour. In theaters December 22, “This movie not only has more singing and more dancing than the previous two features, but it is a full-fledged action-adventure,” says Elizabeth Banks, the director of the second installment who reprises her role as commentator Gail and co-produces once more with her husband Max Handelman. Banks converted to Judaism when she married Handelman, who is Jewish, in 2003, and they’re raising their two sons in the faith. The pair will produce and she’ll direct a reboot of Charlie’s Angels, which will be released in 2019.

 

Zac Efron and Zendaya in The Greatest Showman
Zac Efron and Zendaya. Credit: Niko Tavernise/20th Century Fox

Zac Efron Sings and Dances for The Greatest Showman

 The Greatest Showman, opening December 20 and starring Hugh Jackman as circus impresario P.T. Barnum, is not only a showcase for the Golden Globe-nominated Jackman. It also gives Zac Efron the chance to return to the song-and-dance roots he established in High School Musical and Hairspray in the role of Phillip Carlyle, Barnum’s ringmaster protégé and friend. “Even though the story is set in the 1870s, there’s a real modern sensibility and it’s about issues that mean a lot to us today. I thought the script was incredibly creative and done in a way I’ve never seen before,” says Efron, who is Jewish on his father’s side.

Carlyle becomes involved with a trapeze artist played by Zendaya, and the pair does “some pretty crazy acrobatics” in their airborne duet, “Rewrite the Stars” (the music is by Oscar-winning La La Land composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul). “This was some of the most technical choreography I’ve ever attempted in my entire life,” Efron confesses. “To prepare for it, I watched a lot of musicals. I watched Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, even Michael Jackson because of the way he always told a story with his dancing.” Although they didn’t use harnesses, “Luckily nothing went wrong,” Efron adds. “It turned out to be really beautiful and unique.”

 

Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba in MOLLY'S GAME
Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba. Credit: Michael Gibson/ Motion Picture Artwork

From Mountaintops to Poker Table Tops

Skier Molly Bloom was headed for the Olympics when a devastating accident dashed her dreams, but she found excitement and riches in the world of high-stakes poker. Bloom, who is Jewish on her father’s side, ran exclusive poker games in Los Angeles and New York for billionaires, celebrities and Russian mobsters, which got her indicted on illegal gambling and money laundering charges. The book she wrote about it is now a movie called Molly’s Game, starring Jessica Chastain as Molly, Idris Elba as her lawyer and Kevin Costner as her father. “I loved Molly’s humor; I loved her intelligence; I loved the underdog story—a woman becoming successful in an industry that is filled with men,” says Chastain, who is nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in the film, which opens December 25 in select cities and nationwide January 5.

 

Hart, Johnson, Gillan, Black in Jumanji
Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan and Jack Black. Credit: Columbia Pictures

A Modern-Day Remake Channels the Teenager Within

Jack Black had to channel his inner teenage girl for his role in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, opening December 15. In the sequel to the 1995 Robin Williams hit, four teenagers find an old video game and select avatars to play it. That means Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Black, who represents an image-conscious queen-bee type named Bethany, act like teenagers while trying to beat the game and get out alive. Black was brought up Jewish, the son of a Jewish mother and a father who converted to Judaism. His wife Tonya Haden is Jewish on her mother’s side, and they’re raising their sons in the Jewish faith.

Jake Kasdan, who directed and co-wrote the movie, is the son of writer-director Lawrence Kasdan and writer Meg Kasdan and grew up Jewish but not religious. His wife, singer-songwriter Inara George, is not Jewish, but they’re raising their kids with many Jewish traditions. “We have a standing Friday night dinner with friends who are slightly more observant, with kids the age of our kids,” he says. “We say the bracha on bread and wine. My wife has really embraced this. It’s a kind of nice tradition.”

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About Gerri Miller

Gerri Miller writes and reports from Los Angeles about celebrities, entertainment and lifestyle for The Jewish Journal, FromtheGrapevine.com, Brain World, HeathCentral.com, and others. A New York native, she spent a summer working at Kibbutz Giv'at Brenner in Israel and attends High Holy Day services at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood every year.