Jews in the News: Jerry Lewis, Andy Samberg and Shia Labeouf

At the Movies

It was hard not to be charmed by JERRY LEWIS, who turned 90 in March, when he appeared recently on a few TV shows to promote the film "Max Rose". While Lewis cannot walk anymore, mentally he is completely there. I was truly touched as he poignantly discussed the mutual bromance between him and Dean Martin and why he raised more than one billion for charity. Sadly, the reviews of “Max Rose” are mostly negative. However, the scenes between him and his son, played by KEVIN POLLAK, 58, have been singled out as the film’s best. Lewis plays the title character, a jazz musician haunted by the recent discovery that his wife (CLAIRE BLOOM, 85) may have long been unfaithful. This film opened in very limited release last week. I think it’s worth making a mental note of it and looking for it when it’s released to streaming services.

Comedian MORT SAHL, 89, has a largish supporting role in “Max Rose”. Yes, Sahl is still alive Every Thursday he performs at a San Francisco Bay Area club and the performance is streamed live on Periscope, a free Twitter App. Recently, I thought of Sahl when I saw a documentary on the Nazi V-2 rocket program. The V-2’s, armed with explosives, caused the deaths of thousands of British civilians. Most of the work on launch sites (tunnels, etc.) was done by concentration camp inmates. Thousands of these slave laborers were worked to death. Werner Von Braun, later the face of NASA in the late ‘50s and ‘60s, was critical to the V-2’s development. But only gradually, and mostly after his death, was his knowledge of the use and treatment of slave laborers made public. So, I will always love Sahl for breaking with the almost total US media celebration of the  "the great Von Braun" during his heyday and deftly satirizing the tile of Von Braun's sanitized autobiography ("I Aim at the Stars"). Sahl said, circa 1960: “Von Braun-- I aim at the stars, but sometimes I hit London.”

Here’s the publicity release about “Storks,” an animated film that opens on Friday, Sept. 23: “Storks deliver babies…or at least they used to. Now they deliver packages for [a] global internet giant. Junior (voiced by ANDY SAMBERG, 30) the company’s top delivery stork, is about to be promoted when he accidentally activates the Baby Making Machine, producing an adorable and wholly unauthorized baby girl.  Desperate to deliver this bundle of trouble before the boss gets wise, Junior and his [human] friend Tulip…race to make their first-ever baby drop – in a wild and revealing journey that could make more than one family whole and restore the storks’ true mission in the world.”  “Storks” was directed and written by NICHOLAS STOLLER, 40, who co-wrote the two most recent “Muppets” movies and seems to have a deft hand in crafting films that appeal to adults and kids, alike.

LaBeouf Back?

A recent issue of “Variety” profiled troubled actor SHIA LABEOUF, 30. LaBeouf is the son of a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father. He was mostly raised Jewish, and had a bar mitzvah. His father had multiple substance abuse problems, including alcoholism. His parents divorced when he was he was 10. Shia and his mother lived a pretty hardscrabble existence in a run-down part of Los Angeles. He went out, alone, at age 10 and got gigs performing stand-up comedy at local clubs and he got himself an agent. He then snared a starring role on a hit Disney Channel series (“Even Stevens”) and became a “tween star.” A series of hit films followed from 2007-2013, including “Holes,” “Disturbia,” an “Indiana Jones” movie, and “Transformers”.

For a long time I was amazed that LaBeouf didn’t act out. Most child stars, with an alcoholic parent, and a rough childhood, do act out eventually. Then, when LaBeouf turned 25, he began to screw-up, “big time.”  For the last five years, there’s been a string of bizarre incidents, the worst perhaps coming when he was dragged out of a Broadway show for shouting at the stage. LaBeouf confessed to “Variety” that he has a drinking problem and he was drunk during the Broadway show incident. He told Variety that he’s been going to AA and he’s been sober for a year. He said a romantic view of famous “screw-ups” led him to drink, but he never liked it. The other good news: “American Honey”, an indie film that stars LaBeouf, just played the Toronto film festival, and got rave reviews.



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