Friday, January 25, 2008


Written by Hombre Divertido

In anticipation of the release of The Aristocats - Special Edition on February 5th, Disney recently held a special showing of the film at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. The Aristocats marks a time of simple elegance for the filmmakers at Disney. The story is simple but fun, and the animation is elegant. Set in Paris, the animators capture not only the environment but the era as well by keeping it simple and allowing each cel to serve as an artistic impression. This is most noticeable in the scenes of the city. The story is quite simple and bares some similarities to Lady and the Tramp which Disney released fifteen years earlier.

In The Aristocats we meet Duchess, voiced wonderfully by Eva Gabor, and her three kittens (Marie-Liz Kitchen, Toulouse-Gary Dubin, and Berlioz-Gary Clark) that live quite well in a beautiful mansion that they have the run of. When their owner; Madame Adelaide Bonfamille (Hermione Baddley) makes out her will, she leaves her fortune to the cats, and nothing to her butler Edgar (Roddy Maude-Roxby) who has served both her and the cats faithfully for many years. Upon finding out the contents of the will, Edgar decides to foil the feline fortune by disposing of the Aristocats. Edgar kitty-naps them in the middle of the night and abandons them in the middle of the countryside. Being the rich spoiled cats that they are, they are completely out of their element and unable to find their way home. Luckily they are discovered by O’Malley the Alley Cat voiced by the always enjoyable Phil Harris. With the help of O’Malley, and their friend from home Roquefort the Mouse, voiced by the legendary Sterling Holloway, the Aristocats manage to survive an adventurous trip home. During the trip, Duchess and O’Malley develop an appreciation for each other that leads to our happy ending.

Though an all-star cast of vocal talent was used on this film, including Scatman Crothers, Paul Winchell, and Pat Buttram, it is the inclusion of some that make for the primary flaw in this Disney effort. The use of Phil Harris and Sterling Holloway proved to be nothing more than distracting. These gentlemen are incredibly talented, but both had been featured prominently in Disney’s far more successful The Jungle Book just three years earlier, and Holloway had established himself as the voice of Winnie the Pooh long before that. Their roles in The Aristocats were not as demanding as previous projects, and certainly could have been handled by actors with less familiar voices.

With that said, the film is fun for the whole family, and a worthy addition to any collection. The animation is classic in its style, and the characters are fun with enough depth to allow each to be endearing to the audience. The new release features a virtual kitten game, a nostalgic behind-the-scenes featurette that showcases the music of the immortal Sherman Brothers, a deleted song, and more.

The special viewing at the El Capitan was attended by Gary Dubin (Toulouse) who was kind enough to answer a few questions. Dubin who continues to act and was most recently seen in a guest-starring role on 24 was only five at the time that he co-starred in The Aristocats, but you can still recognize the voice if you are standing in the theatre with him after just seeing the movie. Dubin, who was seeing the film for the first time since its original release, said that he had fond memories of filming the movie, and that he appreciated the simplicity of it and how that allows it to differ from the special-effects laden and computer-animated films of today. Dubin was accompanied by his wife who commented that he had grown up to be a lot like Toulouse. You’ll have to see the film to appreciate that comment.

The Riches: Season 1

Written by Senora Bicho

The Riches
premiered on FX on March 12th, 2007. The first season consisted of 13 episodes and was a ratings success with 3.8 million viewers watching the pilot, which, in the history of FX, was only second to the premiere of The Shield. This was the network’s first Monday night original show and the ratings were more than double that of any other program they ever aired on Mondays. These results prompted FX to announce that it will bring the show back for a second season in the summer of 2008. The show also received critical acclaim for being original and thought provoking.

The series tells the story of the Malloy Family who has all of the normal problems of the average American family, but they are a family of thieves, gypsies who move from one con to the next. Series creator Dmitry Lipkin created the lead role with Eddie Izzard in mind. The first episode starts with Wayne (Izzard) conning the attendees of a high school reunion. His charisma and natural ability to lie are clear from this clever scene. After his successful heist, Wayne is off to pick up his wife, Dahlia (Minnie Driver) who is being paroled from jail after two years. Wayne and Dahlia have three children. Cael is the shy oldest son, Di Di is the typical teenage girl, and Sam is the youngest boy who enjoys dressing like a girl. The reunited family then meets up with the rest of their gypsy community.

The happy reunion doesn’t last long as Di Di is quickly being forced into an arranged marriage. Rather than force his daughter into that situation, Wayne robs Dahlia’s Uncle and takes his family on the road. On their way to the next town, they run into another family of traveling con artists and get into a high speed chase. In the course of the chase, they run the Riches, a wealthy couple, off the road which results in their death. Wayne quickly decides to make the best of the situation and comes up with a plan to assume their lives. The Riches were moving to a new home that they had purchased online which made that part easy. Doug Rich was a lawyer and had an interview set up for a new job. Wayne meets up with the head of another law firm and uses his excellent lying abilities to quickly land a job with a $200,000 annual salary. The family is now all set in a beautiful gated community and seems to have stolen the American dream.

The rest of the season includes all of the problems that any family deals in their day-to-day life along with all of the complications that arise with stepping into the Riches’ shoes. The finale finds Dahlia’s cousin catching up with them looking for the stolen money and one of Doug’s best friends shows looking for answers.

The show has a solid foundation in the amazing cast. Izzard and Driver play off of each other beautifully. Driver received an Emmy and a Golden Globe nomination for her performance. The children are all unique and provide interesting storylines of their own. Even the supporting roles, such as Wayne’s boss and the nosey neighbor, are perfectly cast and entertaining.

The Riches offers an original premise, strong writing, interesting characters, and good performances. Luckily, the show is worth watching, which makes up for the so-called special features. There are two commentary tracks, one for the pilot and one for the season finale, with Izzard and Lipkin which are interesting and informative. The rest of the extras include two featurettes and the dreaded gag reel. “Casting Session” focuses on the process to select the cast and “World Premiere” includes interviews with the stars of the show along with some behind the scenes information. Neither of these offers much of interest.