At the Movies
The big budget sci-fi flick “Ad Astra” opened Sept. 20 and will be in theaters for several weeks. Capsule plot: Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones) and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of humans on Earth. The film was directed by, and co-written by JAMES GRAY, 50. He’s directed and written a number of well-received films, including three with a lot of Jewish content (“Little Odessa,” “Two Lovers,” and “The Immigrant”).
Opening Sept. 27 is “The Laundromat.” It is a comedy-drama inspired by the “Panama Papers” scandal which broke in 2015. Millions of documents created by a Panamanian law firm were leaked. The documents showed how the firm helped rich people worldwide illegally hide their wealth from the taxman. The film begins with Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep) taking a vacation in Panama. Somehow she gets drawn into a vortex of questionable financial dealings that involve two Panama lawyers and side trips around the world. The large ensemble cast includes DAVID SCHWIMMER, 52, and MELISSA RAUCH, 39.
The screenplay is by SCOTT Z. BURNS, 56, who frequently works with “Laundromat” director Steven Soderbergh. Burns grew-up in Golden Valley, a Minneapolis suburb, and went to a Jewish summer camp. When he was young, he was inspired by the COEN brothers, who grew-up in St. Louis Park, a suburb next to his hometown. Much later, Burns met the Coens after his screenwriting career was established. They talked, he said, about (local) “rabbis and schools.”
Burns wrote two other acclaimed Soderbergh films: “Contagion” (2011) and “Side Effects” (2018). “The Report,” a film he directed and wrote about the use of torture by the CIA post 9/11, will stream on Amazon in November.
Nice Emmy Note
A song written for the now-concluded series “My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” won a Creative Arts Emmy on Sept. 15. The Emmy was shared by its three composers: “Crazy” star RACHEL BLOOM, 32, ADAM SCHLESINGER, 51, and JACK DOLGEN, 40ish. It was the first Emmy for Bloom and after she won the award she announced that she was pregnant with her first child. Her husband of four years is comedy writer DAN GREGOR, 37.
New Shows: Streaming and Broadcast: Catch-Up
“Unbelievable,” an eight-episode mini-series, was released in its entirety on Netflix on Sept. 13. It follows Marie, a teen who was charged with lying about being raped, and the two female detectives who follow a long path before they arrive at the truth. The always good Toni Collette plays one of the detectives. The series was co-created by, and co-written by Susannah Grant, Pulitzer Prize winner MICHAEL CHABON, 56, and AYELET WALDMAN, 54 (Chabon’s wife).
If you get the AXS cable/satellite station, you can watch “Paul Shaffer Plus One.” It began on Sept. 15 (new episodes Sundays at 9PM). It’s also aired on Shaffer’s SiriusXM radio show. PAUL SHAFFER, 69, was the original (1974) leader of the “SNL” house band before leaving in 1982 to lead the house bands on David Letterman’s talk shows. In “Plus One”, Shaffer talks to a lot of famous folks (mostly musicians). Season one guests include Steely Dan co-founder DONALD FAGEN, 71, and HARRY SHEARER, 75 (in his fictional persona as Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls).
“Prodigal Son” is a crime thriller (with some dark humor) that began on Fox on Sept. 23 (9PM). It centers on Malcolm Bright, a law enforcement profiler who is incredibly good at his job. He knows how killers think. His gift seems to be based on the fact that his father, who is still alive, was a notorious serial killer. HALSTON SAGE, 26, has a big supporting role as Ainsley, Malcolm’s sister. Ainsley is a successful TV journalist. Her good sense of humor helps her maintain a good relationship with her very weird brother.
“Stumptown” began on ABC on Sept. 25 (10:30PM). Cobie Smulders stars as a tough private investigator with a military intelligence background. CAMRYN MANHEIM, 58 (“The Practice") has a biggish supporting role as police lieutenant Cosgrove.
“Carol’s Second Act” begins on CBS on Sept. 26 (9:30PM). It stars Patricia Heaton as Carol Kenney, a retired teacher with two grown children who decides to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. As the series starts, she is doing her hospital internship. ASHLEY TISDALE, 34 (“High School Musical”), co-stars as Carol’s daughter, Jenny, a pharmaceutical rep with an upbeat attitude that keeps her mother’s spirits up. Tisdale’s mother is Jewish.