Monthly Archives: May 2014

Chef

Movie:  Chef

Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is a man who loves food.  He loves to eat, he loves to cook great dishes that people will appreciate, and he loves his life as a chef at a fashionable restaurant in California.  If only the owner of the restaurant, Riva (Dustin Hoffman), would stop thinking about quantity over quality.  When famed food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) is coming to critique the restaurant’s menu, Carl is all set to dazzle the critic with new and daring palate pleasers, but Riva demands the tried and true menu is the way to go.  Carl departs the restaurant in spectacular fashion, setting the Twitter universe into a trending frenzy.  Lady friend Molly (Scarlett Johansson) gives him a sympathetic shoulder, and a gentle shove for Carl to go and find something that makes him truly happy.

Carl’s ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) is still his closest confident, and she urges Carl to spend time with their son Percy (Emjay Anthony) for some father-son bonding.  This begins a  journey of discovery on many levels.  There are wonderful adventures in Miami, New Orleans, and Austin, interesting people, feel good scenes, a terrific cameo, and most of all, food that makes you want to run out of the theater and find a good restaurant!

Jon Favreau has written and directed a real gem.  He was able to get big name actors in the film because it’s so darn good.  It reminds the audience about what films ought to be, and seldom are.  Do yourself a favor and see this movie.  Not a bad sound track, either.

Actors to Watch:  John Leguizamo has a big role in this movie, and he is always worth watching.  Newcomer Nili Fuller (Marvin’s assistant, Candy) has a cameo, but guys definitely will want to see her more in the future.

Dialogue Nuggets:  “If you went to a Stones concert and Mick Jagger didn’t do Satisfaction, would you be happy?”

“You wouldn’t know a good meal if it sat on your face!”

“I’m putting a little corn starch on my huevos; it’s a little humid down there.”

Post Credits Stuff:  As the credits roll, there are some interesting out-takes.  At the very end of the credits, the real chef is teaching Jon Favreau a thing or two.

 

 

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The Amazing Spiderman 2

Movie:  The Amazing Spiderman 2

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:  The Amazing Spiderman 2 starts out with an amazing eye-popping opening sequence where Peter Parker, aka Spiderman (Andrew Garfield), helps out the police in stopping a dangerous criminal from speeding away with a truckload of plutonium.  Not only does Spidey leave the perpetrator tied up in a bow, er… web, for the authorities, he also left the bottles (really, this stuff was stored in bottles?) secured for the cops as well.  All in a day’s work, and still swings to his college graduation just in time to receive his diploma and kiss his girl, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).

But even super heroes have a personal life, and Peter has a spat that results in a break-up with his girlfriend.  She goes on to get a job in a high tech corporation, and Peter reunites with a best pal from his youth, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), who’s father just passed away.  Harry is now the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Oscorp, which by coincidence Peter’s father used to work for as a researcher.  Which by another coincidence Gwen now works for….

In between swinging around town doing good deeds as Spiderman, Peter finds tantalizing clues about the mysterious disappearance of his parents.  He even gets Aunt Polly (Sally Field) to come clean with what she knows.

Max (Jamie Foxx), a bright but unsung employee (yes, at Oscorp) has a nasty work site accident, and spends a good part of the movie trashing the city.  Good thing Spiderman is around to clean up the mess.

This is a fun movie for action lovers.  The 3-D special effects are definitely worth the extra bucks at the ticket booth.  Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have real screen chemistry as their romance is on and off again throughout the movie.  Are the scenes where the bad guys wreck the city and extend the mayhem too long to where it gets repetitive and even boring?  Yes, that seems to be a trend with almost all of the comic book to film genre.  But overall, a film worth seeing.

Huh?  What the ….:  Okay, one minute Electro is in a vat of wet stuff with nasty things happening to him, naked, and he pops out in some kind of streamlined suit.  How did that clothing transformation take place?  And why is he able to hover in the air when he is shooting electric bolts at people?

Early in the film an evil dude is wearing a parachute and about to exit the plane, but gets involved in a struggle with another character.  From one second to the next, the parachute disappears from his back!

All power in the city gets turned off!  The air traffic controllers are sitting in the dark, helpless, but somehow they know two commercial airlines are on a collision course.  Hello, you don’t have power!  How would you know this?

Spiderman takes on a villain  in some sort of mechanical armor with bad ass machine guns in each arm.   Crowds of people stand around watching like spectators at a WWF wresting match.  People, why aren’t you running for cover?  Those are bullets spraying all over the place!

There is something bogus about that funeral at the end of the film.  Trust me, my Spidey sense is tingling….

Dialogue Nuggets:  “I had a friend once.  It didn’t work out”.

Peter to Gwen:  “You are on my path.  You will always be on my path.”

Stuff After Credits:  Yes, there is a short scene.  What the heck is that X-Men character doing in a future Spiderman flick?

 

Fading Gigolo

Movie:  Fading Gigolo

Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:  Fading Gigolo is not the sequel to American Gigolo and the later years of a greying Richard Gere.  This is a story about Fioravante (John Turturro) and bestie Murray Schwartz (Woody Allen), two guys trying to scratch out a living in New York City.  Murray’s rare book store is going toes up, and Fioravante is eking out a living working floral arrangements and off the books plumbing.  Murray pays a visit to his attractive dermatologist Dr Parker (Sharon Stone), and the two muse about the potential in people who experience a ménage a trois.  Murray recalled that he had one during the Blackout of 1977:  “It was too dark to see anything, but still very pleasant”.  The good doctor is intrigued, and Murray intimates that he knows someone, “a real professional”, and it will only cost her $1,000.

With a client on the hook, Murray floats the idea to Fioravante that this is their ticket to solvency.  Taken aback by the idea, Fioravante asks Murray, “Are you on drugs”?  To which Murray replies, “Apart from Zoloft, no”.  Worn down by Murray’s flattery about his appeal to women, and no doubt worried about his meager checking account balance, Fioravante proclaims, “I’m your ho’!”

It turns out that Fioravante, renamed Virgil for professional reasons, is a natural in the role of gigolo.  He has a knack for making women relax, he is a good dancer, he keeps a touch of mystery about him, and … he performs.  Word among the female set spreads, and Virgil is in demand.  His pimp, Murray under the nom de plume Dan Bongo, is earnestly beating the bushes for clients.  Soon Selima (Sofia Vergara), a tigress in 8 inch stiletto heels has Virgil in her bed.  Then shy and widowed Avigal (Vanessa Paradis) is enticed to meet Virgil, but only for a massage.  Things start to get complicated for the sex practice, as Avigal is constantly followed by a love smitten Jewish neighborhood watchman in the person of Dovi (Liev Schrieber).

This is a very smart adult comedy with solid acting and a great script.  Woody Allen is in his funniest role in 20 years.  John Turturro, who wrote and directed the film, gives a sensitive and textured performance as a man who loves women in general, and slowly reveals real feelings for one in particular.  This is a rare film that allows you to laugh at the human condition, and then be moved by real people having real emotions, unlike the romcom fare we are usually subjected to.  This is a film that deserves to be seen.

Huh?  What the ….:  Woody Allen playing baseball with the neighborhood kids.  Pretty spry for a 78 year old guy.

Sharon Stone in a nude scene. Pretty hot for a 56 year old babe.

Actor to Watch:  This is a showcase for John Turturro.  The film came out too early in the year, but maybe a dark horse for an Oscar acting nomination?

Dialogue Nuggets:  Murray describing Selima:  “She’s a miracle of physics.  I don’t know what keeps her up”!

Selima and Virgil:  “Do you have any idea what goes on in a woman’s head”?                               Virgil retort:  “If I did, I wouldn’t be here”.

Dr. Parker to Virgil:  “You’re top shelf – hard to reach.  That’s what makes you so good”.

 

 

 

Railway Man

Movie:  Railway Man

Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:  It is 1980 in Lancaster, England, and we see a group of aging WW II veterans reminisce about their wartime experiences as well as their current affairs.  Eric Lomax (Colin Firth) has been telling his mates about his latest train trip where he met Patti (Nicole Kidman).  He tells the fellows, “I came to the unlikely conclusion that I’ve fallen in love”!

Eric and Patti marry after a brief period of dating, and seem like a happily married couple.  Alas, Eric and many of his veteran friends carry deep emotional scars from WW II, as they were part of a unit that surrendered to the Japanese in Singapore back in 1942.  The Japanese warrior code considered soldiers who surrendered to be dishonorable cowards, and the British prisoners were treated with cruelty and frequent brutal beatings.  Eric was singled out for torture because of his complicity in building a crude radio so that the British prisoners could hear periodic updates on the progress of the war, which was a lone source of hope in a bleak work camp.  These were the British soldiers that were tasked with building the infamous Burma railway, which was made famous in the film “The Bridge On The River Kwai”.  The conditions for the men in this camp were deplorable; many died from malnourishment and disease, over-work, and zealous beatings from the Japanese guards.

Eric, like many WW II veterans, repressed the horrors that he experienced.  Since he could not discuss much of it with his mates, including his best mate Finlay (Stellan Skarsgard), he certainly could not share with his wife who would have no concept of what he had gone through.  And he especially could never share what happened to him when the Japanese special police, the Kempetai, took him into the little white hut for interrogation about the radio.  In one of life’s quirks, Eric discovers that the Kempetai Lieutenant who interrogated him not only survived the war, but was a tour guide in Thailand for a war museum.

This movie was based on the real life story of Eric Lomax.  It is a deeply moving story of one man’s struggle to come to terms with the emotional and physically trauma that he suffered during the war, and then tried to repress deep into the corners of his mind so that he could carry on with his life.  These days we call it Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, but few of the WW II veterans received the care needed to deal with that level of psychological damage that they suffered.  This film does an exceptional job in depicting the human condition and how war affects a man not just during the conflict, but for the rest of his life.  This is a great movie, and should be given a wider audience than it is getting.

Huh?  What the ….:  Eric, despite being a prisoner of war in very primitive circumstances, somehow manages to retain expertly trimmed hair with a perfect part.  Amazing.

Actors to Watch:  Colin Firth is magnificent.  One of the very best performances in his long career.  Kudos to Hiroyuki Sanada who plays Lt Takeshi Nagase.

Dialogue Nuggets:  When the Japanese lower the British flag in Singapore, Finlay sadly comments, “I’ve just witnessed the fall of the British Empire”.

Japanese officer to British prisoner: “You will be killed shortly.  It will be to your advantage to answer my questions in the meantime”.

Post Credits Stuff:  At the end of the film, there are photos of the real main characters, as well as some information about them.  Eric lived a long life, only recently passing away in 2012.