Idol Chatter

Well, not literally. But when you’re talking about a movie like “The Hebrew Hammer“–the blaxploitation-style Jewish comedy film of a few years ago, which bombed at the theaters but inspired wild fan devotion–it’s not surprising that the sequel would involve taking down the Mad Prince of Malibu.

TMZ reports that the sequel, which has already been written by HH1 scribe Jonathan Kesselman, features the following sure-to-be-memorable–and-memorably protested–opening scene:

The sequel, called “The Hebrew Hammer 2: Hammer vs. Hitler,” depicts a very drunk Mel Gibson spilling out of Moonshadows, two blondes on each arm, and a bottle of Irish whiskey in hand. Gibson then obnoxiously berates the valets, leaps into his Lexus and speeds off, screaming obscenities about the Jews. Apprehended by a policeman down the road from Moonshadows, Gibson’s anti-Semitic tirade is cut short when the cop–“The Hebrew Hammer”–puts a bullet in Gibson’s head, spraying a bloody Star of David onto the windshield of his Lexus.

“Don’t mess with the Heebs,” the Hammer grunts at the bloodied superstar. “Jesus was our homeboy first.”

OK, so I made up that last line of dialogue. (Note to Jonathan Kesselman: If you’d like to use that line, give my agent a call.) But no studio is going to make this film. It’s one thing to put Mel in rehab. But proposing to blow away the former Braveheart? Never gonna happen. The only people who shoot and bomb celebrities are Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and even they use puppet and animated surrogates (see also “South Park”: “Canada bombs the Baldwins” and “the Film Actors Guild” in Team America, particularly Matt Damon). I think the only real-life people you can safely blow away on screen are Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein. Anyone else is going to cause an uproar.

But Mel might be able to rest easy, since I’m not sure that that scene actually exists. The “proof” for this story is apparently this opening page of HH2’s script. I know that TMZ boasts an exclusive interview with Kesselman, but it seems to me like the writer/director is joking about the Kill Mel opening scene. The page in question contains two different fonts, and seems awfully unprofessional, even for a draft.

Maybe I’m wrong. But the story seems a little off to me–perhaps the script page is part of an internet buzz campaign designed to evince online support for a movie sequel that’s going to be a tough sell in today’s Hollywood. At least the rest of the movie–The Hebrew Hammer is called out of retirement to take on a time-traveling Hitler–sounds like a premise worth watching.

While the general public is familiar with the MPAA ratings that accompany the movies they watch–G, PG, PG-13, R–and what the ratings mean, it is safe to say that most moviegoers don’t really know, or care, what the Motion Picture Association of America is or how its members decide what film gets what rating. But documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick thinks that consumers should be aware of the intricate politics and enormous hypocrisy of the MPAA. With satirical humor–not to mention two female detectives who hunt MPAA board members down and make them confess everything–he unravels the mystery of the MPAA’s secretive ways in “This Film Is Not Rated,” which opens in limited release this weekend before airing on the Independent Film Channel this fall.

In theory, the MPAA is simply a voluntary ratings system in which movie executives from different studios serve for a predetermined length of time on the ratings board that hands out a rating based on a film’s content. No filmmaker is required to submit his or her film to the MPAA ratings board for approval. However, the MPAA works closely with the National Association of Theater Owners, and they like the ratings system. So if a film is not rated, or has the dreaded NC-17 rating, the chance of a film having commercial success is slim.

However, the MPAA system becomes even more complicated in light of the fact that the members of the board are from conflicting studios, so there’s just a teeny bit of sabotage going on in the ratings decision making process. For example, if you think a fellow studio has a potential blockbuster on its hands, maybe you want it to get an “R” rating instead of a “PG-13” rating, so its audience will be smaller. On the other hand, all studio execs want to reach that target demographic of young white males, so violence and women’s breasts don’t receive the same kind of rating as male nudity or other controversial elements.

Dick supports these claims by interviewing numerous directors, including Kevin Smith (“Clerks”) and Matt Stone ( “South Park”), who have attempted to do battle with the MPAA and have often lost those battles. With both humor and anger the directors recount the notes they have been given by the MPAA instructing them on how to achieve a different rating by editing the film differently–even though the MPAA is not supposed to give such suggestions.

I don’t agree with some of the conclusions “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” comes to when exploring how to solve the problem of the MPAA , but I still think this movie is important viewing for anyone who has bought a movie ticket based on a movie’s MPAA rating. The MPAA does not exist to be a friendly moral gatekeeper to guide or protect you or your family but is a corrupted system that is arbitrarily legislating morality and censoring content. And it’s the degree of corruption that makes “This Film” so shocking.

Oh, and just in case you are wondering, “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” received an NC-17 rating for its objectionable content.

Thumbing through the latest celebrity-strewn Gap ad, part of the company’s new “t-shirt shop” campaign, I found the usual melange of supermodels, iconic rockers, film legends, and rising stars. All looking enigmatic, gazing into the camera, straight at you, saying–what?

Then I turned the page and found “Entourage” star Jeremy Piven, flaunting his Star of David pendant.

The advertising masterminds behind this campaign want us to equate shopping at the Gap with individuality, personal style, and self-expression–so says the p.r. Isn’t that why you shop at the Gap? I hope so, because you can hardly see the t-shirts in the artsy photos.

If that’s the case, consider what we learn about Piven, or ourselves, from his pose. He’s contorted into a pretzel-like arrangement, with arms entwined, one hand over his face. Clenched between his lips, in one version of the ad, is a chain, and from it dangles a large metal Mogen David. (In another version, right, the chain is around his neck, the Mogen David resting on his chest.)

Maybe Piven–who plays the ruthless, trash-talking, wife-dissing Hollywood agent Ari Gold on “Entourage” and starred in the movie “Keeping Up with the Steins,” about a driven Hollywood agent competing with other Hollywood Jews to throw the most expensive, extravagant Bar Mitzvah party in history–is all tied up in knots about the fact that it’s 2006 and he’s helping to perpetuate hoary media stereotypes of Jews.

Against a backdrop of slams at the U.S. government and lectures on how the architectural industrialization and tourist culture is ruining the local flavor of N.Y.C. neighborhoods, “Looking for Kitty” (opening today) is a story of friendship between two men, both of them chasing memories of the women who have left them.

Edward Burns’ grieving widower is a private detective who is hired by a high-school baseball coach (Paul Krumholtz) to help him find his missing wife. Krumholtz plays a good, if insular guy from Peekskill (which Burns’s character constantly calls “Poughkeepsie”) whose entire life was centered on the local level–his job as a Little League coach and his wife, nothing else. Each character in his own way has excluded himself from experiences outside the parameters of his comfort zone; by being in each other’s lives they teach each other to embrace the reality of their circumstances and engage with the world around them. The two protagonists are themselves “New York holdouts,” old-school guys who refuse to relinquish their hold on their emotional geography and persist in standing strong against the winds of change.

Krumholtz’s dogged adherence to the belief that his wife was seduced by a culture of excess and that she really wants to come back is pathetic–but it is also relatable. To varying degrees, we’ve all been there, adhering to ideals that we’ll never reach or wanting people who are out of our reach. For his part, the detective explains that he’s not using the internet because he likes to do things the old-fashioned way, “the way Bogie woulda done it.” Yet, he has rejected one of the more old-fashioned elements with which he was raised, Catholicism (a common theme in Burns’s work), because he notes that even without the religious guilt, “I felt sh—y enough about myself already.” The two help each other change, and even though each one goes home alone, they ultimately “leave because it is time to go,” which is a subtle lesson that not everyone learns.

Portraying a neighbor, Connie Britton provides Burns’ character with a moment of distraction and a tortured smolder, while Rachel Dratch, playing a woman in a bar, serves as a temptation to the fiercely loyal Krumholtz. This film is also noteworthy for the return of Ari Meyers (of TV’s “Kate and Allie”), and features some odd but evocative and moving moments from both Burns and Krumholtz.

All of the women are underused, which is probably intentional, since the press kit talks of the “mechanics and mysteries of male bonding.” Though it’s pretty clear that the connections between Burns’ and Krumholtz’s characters are superficially about beer and baseball, there is something deeper that binds them: the brotherhood of loss and a lingering obstinacy when it comes to accepting what life has dealt.

I left the theater feeling sadder, but not significantly. The experience felt a little like tofu–spongy, with an indeterminate texture; I knew there was protein to the dish as a whole. But when lasting satisfaction eluded me, it was hard to admit that it was over. Which is, perhaps, the point.