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Celebrity Jews – Jurassic Park, Fred Rogers And Animals
AT THE MOVIES
Opening June 22: Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom is the fourth sequel since Jurassic Park, the blockbuster 1992 Steven Spielberg film that posited that dinosaurs could be brought back from extinction by using their ancient DNA. The premise was interesting, but what knocked everyone’s socks off was the tremendous computer generated (“CGI”) special effects that made the dinosaurs come alive on the big screen. Reviews for Fallen are mixed at best, but many are like this BBC review: “The plot might be ludicrous and the CGI below par, but the latest dinosaur blockbuster is good old-fashioned summer entertainment.”
As the last sequel ended, the island theme park where the dinosaurs live has been destroyed and the dinos fend for themselves in the jungle. As the new film opens, a long-dormant volcano on the island comes to life, threatening to make dinos extinct again. The effort to save them is led by characters played by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. The supporting cast includes Ted Levine (Monk), 61. Jeff Goldblum, 65, who co-starred in the first two Jurassic pics, has a small but important cameo. The script was co-written by Colin Trevorrow, 41.
Advance reviews are great for Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, a documentary about the beloved children’s program host Fred Rogers (1928-2003). Rogers certainly wasn’t Jewish — his children’s program began in Pittsburgh in 1954 and he simultaneously took theology classes at a nearby Presbyterian seminary. He was ordained in 1963. He always intended to incorporate his religious training into his TV hosting skills.
In the Feb. 1, 2017, issue of the Canadian Jewish News, there is an article, by Michael Taube, about some of Mr. Rogers’ Jewish connections. Summarized here are three of the biggest. Taube’s article was prompted by an award (“Pursuer of Peace”) given in 2014 by Pittsburgh Congregation Rodef Shalom to Mr. Rogers’ widow. 1) Rogers’ book, The Giving Box: Create a Tradition of Giving with Your Children (2000), was inspired by the Jewish tradition of the tzedakah box, which promotes savings and philanthropy. 2) A prominent “Happy Chanukah” banner appears early in the 1977 prime-time special “Christmastime with Mr. Rogers.” Later on, Rogers talks about Chanukah and even spins a dreidel — and 3) Hedda Sherpan, the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, was one of his program’s longest-serving staff members (associate director and producer). In October 2016, she said: “I had such great respect for [Rogers’] wisdom and his commitment to serve children and families in an authentic and meaningful way — so I wanted to do my very best.”
Comedian Howie Mandel, 63, is the host of the new Nat Geo Wild series Animals Doing Things (it began on June 16. New episodes air Saturdays at 9 p.m.). The show will feature the best, never-before-seen animal videos submitted to the popular Instagram account @AnimalsDoingThings. Each video is hosted by Mandel, who provides funny narration and witty commentary before and/or after the videos.