Prancing professor, new flicks on Netflix and a dark drama - TV in Israel

What's new to watch in Israel?

 ‘COBRA’ (photo credit: Cellcom)
(photo credit: Cellcom)

A word that has rarely, if ever, been uttered on the Israeli version of Dancing with the Stars, which airs on Channel 12 (Keshet) on Tuesday nights after the news, is now being used often: “Professor.” The professor in question is one of the contestants, Prof. Idit Matot, the director of the anesthesia division at Ichilov Hospital (Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center). This will not come as a surprise to anyone who saw the event at which Ichilov opened its vaccine drive in December 2020 and where Prof. Ronni Gamzu was one of the first to get vaccinated. The hospital was trying to frame the new vaccine in a positive light and Ivri Lider came to perform as the staff danced and Matot was front and center when the music started.

She also plays a significant part in the documentary, A Tale of Two Plagues, which is currently available on Hot VOD. This film, by Yair Agmon, looks at the two years since the start of the pandemic and follows the staff of Ichilov as they try to cope with it. Matot is one of the principal interviewees in the film and one of the most outspoken, as she has been throughout the crisis. The film traces connections between the political crisis during the period of four elections which overlapped with the health crisis. Matot and other medical personnel testify to the seriousness of the disease but criticize how the previous government took what they characterize as draconian and often counterproductive or useless measures to stop it. It’s fascinating to revisit the parallel crises, which were so recent but about which many details have blurred, especially given the sheer volume of news on both subjects.

At press time, the first episode featuring Matot on Dancing with the Stars had not yet aired but given her performance alongside Lider during the vaccine launch, she should make her colleagues proud. Eretz Nehederet already aired a promo making fun of her, surely the most meaningful sign of true celebrity in Israel.

And speaking of the pandemic, while many of us have spent a great deal of the last two years watching Netflix series, the streaming service also produces movies and recently released the titles of its 2022 slate of 74 original movies. Some of these films already have release dates, while most do not yet. If you feel you have not gotten enough of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, there is a reboot being released on February 18 directed by David Blue Garcia, which tells the story of how Leatherface comes out of hiding after 50 years to terrorize some young friends in a small Texas town who – to their everlasting regret – annoy him.

AMONG OTHER upcoming movies that will be of interest is Knives Out 2, the sequel to the popular 2019 whodunit about murder and mayhem in the home of a vile rich family. The new movie, like the original, also was directed by Rian Johnson and stars Daniel Craig, who is reprising his role as investigator Benoit Blanc. The sequel will take place in Greece and the cast includes Edward Norton, Janelle Monae, Kate Hudson and Kathryn Hahn. Blonde, directed by Andrew Dominik and based on a novel by Joyce Carol Oates, is a biopic about Marilyn Monroe, with Knives Out’s breakout star, Ana de Armas, in the lead role, for which she has presumably dyed her dark hair. Reportedly, this movie will not flinch from depicting Monroe being raped by a Hollywood executive, but it will also portray her as anything but a dumb blonde and will show her maneuvering her career to heights never before achieved by a Hollywood sex symbol.

 ‘CHILDREN IN the Woods.’ (credit: VERED ADIR/YES) ‘CHILDREN IN the Woods.’ (credit: VERED ADIR/YES)

Colin Firth stars in John Madden’s Operation Mincemeat, which tells a truly incredible story of how British Intelligence used the corpse of a drifter to deceive the Nazis and change the course of the war. It will be shown on May 11 presumably to coincide with V-E Day on May 8. John Ridley’s Shirley stars Regina King in a biopic about trailblazing Black congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, who ran for US president in 1972. Don DeLillo’s White Noise is an amazing book about a fairly ordinary family doing its best to deal with life, and now Noah Baumbach has adapted it into a movie starring Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig and Don Cheadle. Comedy fans will want to see Jonah Hill, Eddie Murphy, Rhea Perlman and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Kenya Barris’s You People, a comedy about modern love and family dynamics. Another comedy title will be Judd Apatow’s The Bubble, which stars Leslie Mann and Karen Gillan in a story of a group of actors stuck inside a pandemic bubble at a hotel trying to complete an action movie about flying dinosaurs. Adam Sandler will star in two films: Hustle by Jeremiah Zagar, which also stars Queen Latifah, in which Sandler plays a down-on-his luck basketball scout who discovers a phenomenal player with something to hide; and Johan Renck’s Spaceman, a sci-fi film in which Sandler plays an astronaut whose life on earth is falling to pieces and who finds himself captivated by a mysterious voice.

AS ALWAYS with Netflix, there will be many titles in languages other than English. Anime fans will look forward to Tetsuro Araki’s Bubble, about – what else – young people in a dystopian world. Omar Sy (Lupin, Les Intouchables) stars in The Takedown, as a cop investigating a drug deal gone wrong in the Alps.

Ophir Award-winning actress Dalit Kahan stars in Children in the Woods, a series that she is directing (with Ilan Abudi) and that she wrote. It’s a gritty crime drama about a homeless woman (Kahan) who is pregnant and a police investigator, played by Yiftach Klein, who is investigating a crime ring that traffics in infants and he tries to recruit her to get him information on the ring, which has connections as far away as Spain. The series looks into dark corners of life that many would prefer to ignore and is often difficult to watch. I interviewed Kahan about 20 years ago when she was in the movie, Mars Turki, and I remember that she had an unusual day job for an actress: she was an advertising copywriter. Not long after that, she began writing and creating series, both here and in Europe. The series is running on Yes Action on Thursdays at 10 p.m. and on Yes VOD and StingTV. This may well be the next Israeli series to go global.

Cellcom TV has just released Cobra, a British drama starring Robert Carlyle as the prime minister during a time when widespread power outages and other problems suddenly cause unrest and the government must figure out how to cope with it, leading to conflicts among different political factions. It is not a groundbreaking series, but I got hooked on it pretty quickly.