The Morning After: Sep. 23, 2013

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what I’ve seen over the past week either in film or television. On the film side, if I have written a full length review already, I will post a link to that review. Otherwise, I’ll give a brief snippet of my thoughts on the film with a full review to follow at some point later. For television shows, seasons and what not, I’ll post individual comments here about each of them as I see fit.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts

The Dean Martin Comedy Hour was on its way to cancellation when he began a new feature that saw him roasting several prominent comedians and personalities much like the Friar’s Club Roasts. With names like Bob Hope and Johnny Carson, the segment was a smash and resulted in a further ten years of specials. From 1973 to 1984, Dean Martin conducted 54 celebrity roasts.

Twelve of those roasts are now on DVD on a collector’s edition of 6 discs. The roastees included are Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Jimmy Stewart, Sammy Davis Jr, Jack Benny, Lucille Ball, Dean Martin, Kirk Douglas, Michael Landon, Jackie Gleason, Don Rickles and Joan Collins. With nearly twelve hours of footage, I was only able to make my way through three of the roasts this weekend, but fully intend on catching the others soon hereafter.

Judging only by the roasts of Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis Jr, it’s clear that you’ll be in for a treat catching all of them. Some of the funniest and most gifted comedians come out to poke fun at these legends. Among the most inspired bits are performed by people like Don Rickles, George Burns, Bob Newhart, Foster Brooks, Jack Benny, Flip Wilson, Zsa Zsa Gabor and many others. While a younger generation might not appreciate all of the humor, this is among the most humorous material ever written and performed by individuals who were every bit as legendary as the people they roasted.

Little Fugitive

This American film is most frequently credited with seeding the ideas of the French New Wave, making it an important film in the history of cinema, but one that requires a great deal of patience and unlimited appreciation of style over substance.

The film follows a young child whose brother plays a cruel trick on him by faking his own death at the hands of his younger brother. Joey (Richie Andrusco) seeks refuge in Coney Island where he attempts to win a prize by knocking over milk bottles, hits baseballs, rides the carousel and then collects milk bottles on the beach to earn enough money to pay for a pony ride (or seven). Using documentary filmmaking techniques, co-directors and co-writers Ray Ashley, Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin tell the story with limited dialogue and non-professional actors, including Andrusco who never appeared in another feature.

Because of the realism, the film takes a long while to get interesting and for inexperienced cineastes, it may be a bit of a trial. Still, the observations are honest and fascinating when looked at in the rear view mirror. It’s not an easy film to appreciate and differs greatly from a lot of the more surrealistic New Wave films of Godard.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Loosely based on an acclaimed book of the same name, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs tells the charming and humorous story of a careless inventor who creates a machine that turns water into food. When his creation causes an accident in their small island town, the sky-borne machine begins turning weather into cheeseburgers, hot dogs and other types of delectable food.

Sony Pictures Animation has a tendency to create films that grate on the nerves very quickly and then suffer from Excessive Sequel Syndrome. Thankfully, Cloudy has qualities that Ice Age never possessed. This film marks Sony’s best achievement to date, a funny and frequently clever feature. There are some clearly populist elements, but not to the obscene level in Ice Age. It may not hold a candle to the efforts of Pixar, but it’s almost on par with the best of DreamWorks.

The story bares few similarities to the picture book on which it’s based, but the film is still engaging and entertaining that should easily please children while keeping adults from going stir crazy while being forced to watch it.

The Family

Luc Besson isn’t a great director. His adherence to niche genres has limited his capability to adapt to new fields. While he succeeded wonderfully with his sci-fi comedy The Fifth Element, The Family is as uneven a film as his career has been.

Starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron and John D’Leo play a family of mobsters who’ve been placed in witness protection while the FBI, led by Tommy Lee Jones, are assigned to keep them safe. Their old habits emerge the minute they arrive in Normandy to start yet another new life as their antics force them to continuously move about or be killed by the mob.

De Niro, Pfeiffer, Agron and D’Leo work well with the limited material they are given, but the film draws too heavily on the past to creates its own originality. At one point in the film, De Niro’s character is invited to provide an American perspective of Some Came Running at a local film club, but a mix-up forces them to endure a mob-based film. The only fun part of this is trying to guess which film they will have to watch.

There are some very amusing bits, but the film is stretched to nearly two hours when it didn’t need to be.

1 Comment

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  1. My favorite roast is not included in that collection, I guess. The roast of Frank Sinatra is hilarious, especially the appearance of Peter Falk as his TV character Columbo. I hope they make that one available on DVD.

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