Film Review : Chef (2014)

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IMDB Score – 7.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 87%

Directed By – Jon Favreau
Starring – Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Sofia Vergara, Dustin Hoffman, Scarlett Johansson, Roberrt Downey Jr, Oliver Platt, Amy Sedaris, Russell Peters, and Emjay Anthony

A chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family.

It has been a fucking long time since I was last in a theater; a month I believe. That’s not good when you’re supposed to be a film blogger but what am I going to say? I’ve been busy with my real person job and I honestly just haven’t been pulled out to the theater in the last month by anything. Like always, I’m waiting to see the bigger films like Godzilla/X-Men until the crowds die down because I get anxiety from assholes talking during the movie I paid for. This doesn’t necessary mean I wait for everything as I’m going out tomorrow to see “The Double” and I’m also writing this review right now on Jon Favreau’s latest film, “Chef”.

First let me say that I was in the theater with mostly old people who proceeded to talk during the whole movie. The thing is, it was okay! I actually didn’t mind because of how the film was and I’ll get into that in a minute. I’ll also say that old men don’t give a shit who they sit next to. I was sitting three seats from the left in a row and to my right were four open seats. Older couple walks in, sits down, to my left. They didn’t give a shit if they could of had empty seats next to me. They wanted to sit near the isle and I was going to have to sit next to the old man. I didn’t mind one bit. Who the hell cares? First off, I was there first and I’ll be damned if I’m going to move my seat just because somebody else sat next to me for no reason but why would I have to? The guy wasn’t wheezing like the penguin from “Toy Story”. He didn’t smell like death and I felt no fear that he was going to hold me hostage before Mr. Death came by and took him away. I don’t understand the heebie jeebies with sitting next to people in a theater unless they’re Paul Reubens. They’re just people.

I digress.

Chef! I had the choice to either see Chef or the Spiderman sequel and you know what? FUCK SPIDERMAN! I’ll take an original film over that cash cow any day. I believe I was first introduced to Mr. Favreau while watching the film “Swingers”, which while not being directed by him, both starred and was written by the man. Jon has gotten a little bigger in the wallet and waistline since then but he’s a talented writer/directer and this seemed like a return to form for him. It was. I ended up really enjoying the film.

The film centers around Carl, played by Favreau himself, who gets fired from his job running a restaurant for telling a food critic to shove it. He then grabs his partner and ten year old son and embarks on a journey to create the ultimate food truck.

I should not have gone into this hungry. This is what most of the people in the theater were talking about, the food. The food was gorgeous and goddamn mouth watering. It was like watching an episode of “Chopped” instead all the food looked somewhat normal and tasty. There’s a Cuban place near me that does authentic Cuban food while blasting Cubano music from 100 speakers. I’ll be visiting them soon because I have a hankering for a Cuban sandwich now. I wanted to tell everybody to shut up but I would have been kicked out by an angry mob of starving lunatics. It was acceptable and I went along with it. The music in the film is also fantastic. They used a very horn heavy selection of songs mixed in with a little up tempo blues. One of my favorite blues musicians, Gary Clark Jr, actually makes a cameo. Speaking of cameos with a guy who has a Jr. at the end of his name, if you’re going to see this film because of RDJ, don’t. He’s in it for five minutes. He isn’t funny. I suppose he’s just doing his old buddy Jon a favor cause the film was fine without him. Same goes for Scarlett Johansson. She was in the film to add weight to the main characters downfall and once she did she was gone. The stars who line the top of the billing were merely expensive decorations. The real meat and guts lie with Favreau and his on screen son played by Emjay Anthony, who was delightful. It’s their story and somehow it came to a heartwarming end when I thought it was going to be cheesier than the guys fantastic looking grilled cheese.

The film did have some pacing problems though. There was a scene with Russell Peters, who played a cop, that was just very strange and distracting from the film. It should have been left on the floor like most of the final third of the film. The two hour run length really should have been cut down to about an hour and a half but it’s a small complaint on an overall good film that does nothing besides make you hungry and make you feel good. It’s a refreshing film in the midst of all the superheros and monsters that are going to be filling our screens in the next couple of months. It’s also a great return of a promising and humble filmmaker.

I’m going to go make a sandwich now.

4/5

Suggested Viewing : Big Night, The Station Agent, Anthony Bourdain shows, Ratatouille




Film Review : Her (2013)

IMDB Score – (Currently) 8.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 91%

Golden Globe Nominee for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay

Directed By – Spike Jonze
Starring – Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde, and Rooney Mara

A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.

A week ago I thought I saw my film of the year. Inside Llewyn Davis was a bleak and ultimately devastating story about a folk singer who can never catch a break. It was soulful and moving and really just hit me in a way that no other film this year hit me. “Her” is the complete opposite. It is soulful and devastating but in the complete opposite direction. They are my ying and yang picks for films of the year.

I’ve been a fan of Spike Jonze since seeing him wear granny make-up and swing his boobs around in “Jackass”. His music videos are some of the most memorable videos of the late 90’s and early 2000’s and his films are visceral experiences that are unique and one of a kind. This time, Jonze puts his pen to the paper and crafts not only the best screenplay of the year, but one of the most intimate and personal films I’ve ever seen. The film stars Theodore, a lonely recently divorced man who is seeking a friend. Theodore walks past a kiosk advertising a new operating system which developing intelligence and personality. The operating that Theodore purchases is named Samantha and is voiced by Scarlett Johansson. The film takes place in an obvious future world but instead of being a dystopian nightmare, the future we see is vibrant and colorful. Social media seems to have evolved into a living breathing entity and everybody walks about with ear pieces in their ears which reads them the news, emails, or just converses with their user. This is really all you should know plot wise as the film grips you and takes you on the ride. Two hours never flew by so fast.

Having some relationship issues of my own at the moment, the film spoke to me. It’s premise is ultimately a very strange one. A man falling in love with a computer? How silly. Is it really that silly? Who is to say that a person can’t have a connection with somebody who is not there physically. I know it is usually frowned upon, but long distance relationships do work in small amounts. Those relationships are kept through phone conversations, letters, and recently with the ability of video conversations. I know people who have gotten married after meeting on the internet. I know people who have had extensive relationships with people miles away. Samantha may be a voice of a computer but in this world, that voice has a mind and personality that only builds more and more every day.

Spike Jonze created a perfect screenplay here. It is nearly flawless in its pacing and immersing in its intimacy. I don’t know what is going on in the mans life but he wrote from the heart and it showed. The whole film radiates red like it’s the center of a beating heart. I’m not usually a huge romance fan. I have been slowly integrating and finding wonderful films of this genre and am really warming up to the idea that romance films can not only be made well, but be considered important pieces of art. Jonze created a piece of art that is directly linked to the heart. Whether we have had many or only a few relationships, we each have gone through life changing events with another person. These events and the time we spend with somebody builds our character. They make us into the people we will eventually become. This is the main theme of Her. The relationships we have with other people, whether they end badly or flourish, create the people we turn into and help us learn from our mistakes until the next person comes along. I just can’t write enough how touched and moved I was with this film after this year. I have regretted more things than I can count. I wish I could change things. I wish there were some way to do things different. This is no way though. Those things happened and it’s only up to me to make sure that the future is made with all the love and happiness I experienced along the way. That is human nature. We push on and try to maintain happiness. The film just reiterated to me that everything is going to be okay.

I’m sorry I got a little personal there. It just it me hard.

The aesthetics of the film should also be noted. It’s a gorgeous film. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema should honestly win all the awards for this. As I stated before the film just radiates red which only goes to further the emotions thrown at us by the cast. Geez I haven’t even mentioned the cast. Scarlett Johansson could actually be nominated for a supporting role in which she doesn’t appear on screen in any way. She was that good. It was just a voice but it represented one half of a completely real and touching relationship with co-star Joaquin Phoenix who was incredible as always. Phoenix, who appears in nearly every single scene dominates as a lonely man who finally finds love after going through a difficult and draining divorce. Amy Adams, who really can’t do anything wrong recently, rounds out the trio by giving a heartwarming performance as Theodores friend and neighbor. It’s a film full of just amazing everything.

Go see this film. Take your girlfriend. Take somebody who is going through a rough time or recently lost somebody they love. It is a smart, funny, and incredibly real science fiction film that produces such honest and earned emotional response. Some people won’t get past the premise, but the people who have experienced loss in their lives are going to feel amazing at the fact that we still have so much to gain and learn. It’s my top film of the year along with “Inside Llewyn Davis”

5/5