CHEF (2014)

Chef

 

After the massive successes of his Iron Man films where Jon Favreau proved to the studio system that he could helm the big budgeters with confidence and make a LOT of money, this is a welcome return for Jon Favreau making simpler more intimate films.
‘Chef’ or How Carl Casper got his groove back is a feelgood comedy of sorts, there are no serious dramatic stakes here, more a man simply doing what he can to reclaim his mojo.

Carl Casper (Favreau) is a very successful chef at a popular restaurant in L.A. but finds himself in somewhat of a creative rut, some plot contrivances happen and he goes on his journey. It is a light-hearted film that doesn’t break the dramatic bank

The cast are all clearly having a blast especially John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale both of whom lift most of the films they appear in. The best scenes are in the kitchens where the actors engage in a playful dance that is filled with charm and fun.

The rest of the supporting cast do really well, the legendary Dustin Hoffman, a histrionically toned down Sofia Vergara, the ever sexy and stalwart Scarlett Johannson, the brilliant Oliver Platt and Sir Robert of Downey Jr are all a delight to watch. Amy Sedaris has fun with her scene as a publicist and she manages to hit all the right tickles. Emjay Anthony dials down any emotional blackmailing playing Favreau’s son and thus the scenes between father and son work nicely.

The things that stood out were the music, the food and the power of twitter.
There is a plethora of really fun music, especially very cool renditions of A Message to Rudi, Oye Como Va, Sexual Healing and of course, El Michels Affair’s quality version of Wu’s C.R.E.A.M.
Music and food go together here beautifully and the clear love and attention when it comes to the food preparation is in full effect. And twitter. Yes, there are simplifications but the gentle comment on the world of social media is here played out fairly intelligently, most effectively the generational understanding (or lack of) and the sheer possibilities of it.

Unlike most other feelgood films, there are few emotional manipulations, Favreau keeps it as real as he can within the parameters of the undertaking, which he also managed to do with Elf.
All the actors plum for real over caricature with their performances and the film benefits greatly from it, creating some lovely moments reminiscent of the repartee he had back in 1996 with Swingers.

It is a fun, entertaining film that will put a smile on your face and have you racing to the nearest quality restaurant. Eat before you watch.

3.5/5

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BLUE JASMINE (2013)

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Cate Blanchett is very good. She clearly is an actress of depth and intelligence.

However, if the character she is playing is an absolute nut case, do I want to spend 90 minutes or so with her? Not really.

Woody Allen has been hit/miss since 1994 with Bullets over Broadway.
There have been some exceptional films in the meantime but also a bunch of duds.
This has been lauded by critics and commercialists alike. I don’t get it.
It lacks charm, which the Woodster usually serves up in droves.

Everybody is great in it, always a pleasure to see Bobby Cannavale as well as Peter Sarsgaard, and Sally Hawkins is lovely as Jasmine’s sister. Being an actor who gets to be in a Woody Allen film is probably one of the highlights of your career, so most would jump at the chance.

I didn’t emotionally connect with any of the characters, but maybe this was the point.

Maybe the Woodster is making a comment on the vapidity and vacuity that is so prevalent in today’s society. “This is where you’re heading, materialistic and obsessed with wild superficial imaginings” and if so there is a redemptive quality about the film.
But if that is the case then this is one of his bleaker films.

Cate Blanchett’s Jasmine is just plain unhappily; looking for salvation in all the wrong places. Misguided and mentally programmed to love the ‘stuff’ and ‘status’ of life and feeling that she is a failure without it.

Critics are hailing it a great film and I just don’t get it.
I like Woody Allen but I will wait for the next decent one to come out.

3/5

BUY THE BLU-RAY DVD HERE

DOWNLOAD THE FILM ON iTUNES HERE