Archive for August, 2014

The Trip to Italy: Bellissimo—Movie

August 28, 2014

If “The Trip to Italy” doesn’t start you thinking about packing your suitcase and heading off to the Italian countryside, pretty much nothing will. “The Trip to Italy,” starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, is a follow-up to their 2010 “The Trip” and reunites them with director Michael Winterbottom in the pursuit of delicious dining and sightseeing.

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“The Trip” took Steve and Rob on a restaurant exploration of Northern England. For this go-round the two are off on a tour of six different places and restaurants in Italy. And what a tour it is. “The Trip to Italy” treats us to absolutely breath-taking scenery… an on-going discussion of Byron, Keats and Shelley…visits to some amazing historical sites… mouthwatering platefuls of food…and most especially, wonderfully delightful conversation. Whether it is in their car, in the restaurants, or even alone…yes, talking to themselves…the conversations Steve and Rob have are the best parts of “The Trip to Italy.” Both are excellent mimics and their turns at “doing” Michael Caine, Hugh Grant, Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, just to name a few, are spot-on and absolutely hysterical. Perhaps one of the funniest bits is the conversation about Christian Bale and Tom Hardy. These impressions, going back and forth between the two actors as done by Steve and Rob, are uproariously entertaining and go on for about 10 minutes. “The Trip to Italy” has so many funny lines that I could quote, but I’ll refrain so you can enjoy them “live.”

“The Trip to Italy” does manage to throw in a bit of a plot…such as it is. Steve’s son, unhappy at home, joins the twos for the end of the trip and there are some nice bonding moments between Steve and his son. Rob’s life takes an unexpected twist while on the road and he also learns that he’s up for a part in an upcoming Michael Mann film as an accountant for the Mob. Watching him do all his “Godfather” impressions is hilarious and when Steve gets in the act, even more so.

Although “The Trip to Italy” seems factual, the film is by no means a documentary, and in reality, Coogan and Brydon are playing versions of themselves. What is very real are the stunning shots of the food. As an added bonus, for the foodies among us, there are sequences filmed in the various kitchens as the food is being prepared.

Steve Coogan is well-known in the U.S. and has shown with “Philomena” that he is up to performing dramatic roles. However, comedy is his true forte, and it is here that he really shines. Rob Brydon was unknown to me, but judging from this film, he is no less gifted at comedy and improvisation than is Coogan. The chemistry between Coogan and Brydon is fantastic and makes “The Trip to Italy’” the ultimate scrumptious entrée.

3 nuggets out of 4

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For: Visit at Your Own Peril—Movie

August 25, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” is the testosterone-laden sequel to the 2005 film, “Sin City.” Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novels, the movie is directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez and written by Frank Miller. Many of the 2005 film’s characters and actors are back for “Dame.” However, if you don’t remember them, it matters not. It’s best just to absorb the film as given and not worry about what took place yesteryear.

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Watching this film, two things come to mind. Miller likes his women young and nude and with the exception of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, prefers his men to be near the sunset of their middle-age years. So if you’re a male viewer, you are in luck, but for us ladies…not so much. That’s not to say that “Sin City: A Dame to Die For” isn’t entertaining, because it does hold one’s interest for most of the film. It has a fabulous score throughout, is beautifully shot, has some great dialogue and showcases many actors who can deliver Miller’s dialogue with style, chief among them Powers Boothe and Eva Green.

“Dame” opens with a beaten-up Marv (Mickey Rourke) struggling to recall what has happened to him. He vaguely remembers a fight and then the film goes slightly back in time where we see him “handling” some frat boys who gave him  lip. Obviously they didn’t know with whom they were dealing because it doesn’t end well for them. From the scene with Marv, the film jumps around with different stories taking place. Sometimes the stories merge, but not in any meaningful way. Each comes to a semi-conclusion only to come around again and again until its respective story concludes. The one commonality for all of the characters is Kadie’s Saloon, a stripper club where much of the action takes place. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Johnny takes on the corrupt, violent Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) in a slightly complicated, but entertaining game of wits. Josh Brolin’s private-eye Dwight performs some eye-popping work with Eve Green’s Ava and Dennis Haysbert‘s Manute. Christopher Meloni is fun to watch as the detective who falls for Ava, as is Jeremy Piven as the detective’s partner.  In Kadie’s Saloon we encounter stripper Nancy (Jessica Alba), and her story, involving Senator Roark and Bruce Willis’ cop, Hartigan, is “Dame’s” saddest.

While it’s true that “Dame’s” acting won’t win any awards, the actors definitely capture the film’s spirit. Powers Boothe is always a hoot to watch in these types of parts and “Dame” is no exception. The manner in which the film shoots him works terrifically well. “Nashville’s” loss is “Dame’s” gain. Eva Green also gives her all and she is just perfect in the “noirish” role. Her first scene has her in a spectacular blue dress, which must have blown the budget on her costumes, because for the rest of the film she is usually nude. Jessica Alba is also very good as the struggling-to-keep it-together stripper. Josh Brolin and Mickey Rourke handle their manly roles quite nicely and newcomer to the group, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, more than holds his own with the old-timers. Rounding out the cast in other key roles are Ray Liotta, Stacy Keach, Christopher Lloyd, Rosario Dawson, Jude Ciccolella and Julia Garner.

Much of “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is narrated by the characters. Josh Brolin’s narration almost has a Shakespearean quality, it flows so beautifully. Mickey Rourke and Joseph Gordon-Levitt don’t fare as well as their prose just doesn’t have the same lyrical quality.

As noted earlier, the cinematography, courtesy of Robert Rodriguez, is sheer perfection as is the score, also by Rodriguez and Carl Thiel. The cinematography captures the look and feel of the novels flawlessly. And the way the lighting captures the actors’ eyes is spectacular, with the music the icing on the film’s cake.

“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is not for everyone. There’s a lot of blood and very graphic deaths and torture, but if you’re a fan of Frank Miller’s work, you won’t be disappointed.

2 nuggets out of 4

 

Frank: Read the Book Instead—Movie

August 25, 2014

Frank” is hugely disappointing. In fact, except for the acting of Domhnall Gleeson, who is NOT Frank, the film is a complete waste of one’s time. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson with screenplay by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan, “Frank” is inspired by the story of Chris Sievey, a real person who created the persona, Frank Sidebottom, a papier-mâché head-wearing musician with the post-punk band, “The Freshies.” This does sound like a very interesting premise for a film, but unfortunately “Frank” squanders the opportunity to tell an engaging story and Gleeson aside, doesn’t get the most from what should have been a great cast.

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Rather than being told from the perspective of Frank (Michael Fassbender), the film is told through the eyes of Jon Burroughs (Domhnall Gleeson), a version of screenwriter Ronson, who was a member of Chris Sievey’s band. Jon is an aspiring musician who works in an office during the day. Through a quirk of fate, Jon scores a last minute gig as a keyboardist for the band,”Soronprfbs,” fronted by papier-mâché head-wearing Frank. Frank is considered a genius by the other band members who practically worship him. Jon’s last minute substitution turns into a full-time position and he’s soon off with fellow band members to a remote portion of Ireland to work on an album. Outside of Don (Scoot McNairy), the band’s manager, and Frank himself, the band is fairly hostile to Jon, especially Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Jon is very active in social media and is constantly blogging, tweeting and posting videos of some of the band’s sessions.”Soronprfbs” starts to get a following and the group is invited to participate in the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, TX. It’s there that the film takes a twist which propels the film to its conclusion.

In reality, “Frank” is really Jon Burroughs’ story as we watch him grow and mature right before our eyes. Domhnall Gleeson does a terrific job in serving as the film’s guide. It’s through Jon that we see as much of Frank’s humanity as he allows anyone to see. Gleeson has the most fully realized performance, showing a range of emotions as the sometimes frustrated, but always learning musician. Scoot McNairy does good work as the band’s seemingly chill manager, albeit one with a host of personal problems. Unfortunately Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s one-note performance underwhelms and truth be told, she’s not a good singer, which becomes painfully apparent later in the film. Finally, there is Michael Fassbender. When you can’t see an actor’s eyes, the actor is already at a disadvantage. Therefore the voice becomes very important. Michael Fassbender’s Frank is an American and while his accent is fine, whatever acting there is, just isn’t very good. In fact, he’s shockingly mediocre. It might as well be Mickey Mouse inside the mask for all the difference it makes…and who knows, it might even make the movie better.

The script falls short on many levels. Why is Frank the way he is? We get some answers, but not enough of them. Why the band’s hostility to Jon? Why did the band think Frank was so special? A fully-rounded story would have elevated the film considerably.

In “Frank” we do see a potential star-making performance in Domhnall Gleeson, but not much else.

If you want to skip the movie and learn about the real Frank Sidebottom there are several options. One is a documentary, “Being Frank,” by David Arnold and Steve Sullivan and the other is a biography by Mick Middles, “Frank Sidebottom: Out of His Head.” Both will be available later this year. “Frank: The True Story That Inspired the Movie,” by Jon Ronson, is currently out in eBook format.

1 ½ nuggets out of 4

Are You Here: A Chicken Died for This?—Movie

August 24, 2014

In the history of cinema there may be no greater sacrifice than that of the unnamed, uncredited hen who cinematically gives her life in the making of “Are You Here.” I only hope she is honored during the Oscar’s In Memoriam tribute. Her death is one of the few “Are You Here’s” most notable moments. Who is responsible for this mess of a film? Surprisingly “Are You Here” is written and directed by Matthew Weiner. How can the man who gave us “The Sopranos” and “Mad Men” now give us “Are You Here?” I have no idea.

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“Are You Here” follows the story of two best friends–Steve Dallas (Owen Wilson) and Ben Baker (Zach Galifianakis). Steve is a TV weatherman in Annapolis and Ben,who lives nearby, has been his friend since childhood. Ben seems off the charts smart, but has untreated, severe mental health issues which make it hard for him to function. Ben is estranged from his family, so it’s been Steve who has looked out for him for most of his adult life. That in itself is pretty sad, since Steve can hardly take care of himself. He barely makes it to the studio on time and if not at work, he’s smoking pot, drinking and hitting on every woman he meets.

Ben’s father dies and the two friends go back to their hometown for the funeral where Ben’s shrewish sister, Terri (Amy Poehler) and his father’s second, much younger New-Age wife, Angela (Laura Ramsey), await them. When Ben unexpectedly inherits a large portion of his father’s estate, the characters’ lives take a sudden twist. Therein lays the remainder of the story. How will this money affect them all?

Much of “Are You Here’s” problem is in its script. Weiner doesn’t know what he wants the film to be. Dark comedy? Slapstick? Stoner? Rom-Com? Dramedy? You name it…“Are You Here” has it, and that is not necessarily good. The film doesn’t know in which direction it wants to go and so it goes everywhere.

“Are You Here” has a very good supporting cast of actors, but they are pretty much wasted. In minor roles, Edward Herrmann, Peter Bogdanovich, Alana De La Garza, Paul Schulze, David Selby and Jenna Fischer do the best they can with what they have. Laura Ramsey is fine as the young wife, but in reality, she isn’t called upon to do much other than give off some kind of spiritual glow. However, it should be noted that Amy Poehler does give a very good dramatic turn.

In the end, “Are You Here” belongs to Galifianakis and Wilson. Shockingly, Galifianakis is the better of the two. His manic scenes are a bit much, but he handles them well, and when his character calms down, he’s even better. Perhaps Galifianakis really is an actor. Unfortunately, Wilson’s performance is rather lackluster. Much like the film, his character’s portrayal is all over the place. Wilson is one of those rare actors whose good-natured humor comes with a lot of pathos. With the right director, he can really shine. Weiner isn’t that director to make that happen.

But back to the chicken…if you ever want to eat poultry again, I urge you to stay away from “Are You Here.” For vegetarians, go at your own peril.

“Are You Here” is in theatres and available On Demand.

1 nugget out of 4

The One I Love: A Fun Trip Down the Rabbit Hole—Movie

August 19, 2014

A small gem of a film,“The One I Love” is one of the strangest yet highly entertaining love stories in some time. When the credits roll you might be scratching your head with a slightly bemused look on your face, but watching “The One I Love” will be time well spent.

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Directed by Charlie McDowell and written by Justin Lader, “The One I Love” revolves around a couple, Ethan and Sophie (Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss), trying to get their marriage back on track. The frustrations about their relationship come out in a session with their therapist (Ted Danson). He suggests that they get away from it all and spend time alone in a retreat he’s used to help other couples in the past, to, as he puts it, “help them reset the reset button.” So it’s off to the country they go. Once there, Ethan discovers that there’s also a guest house on the premises. After an evening of smoking pot and drinking wine, Sophie decides to explore the guest house and has quite the experience. Separately Ethan also visits the house and he, too, has an unexpected occurrence. But what did happen to both of them? That’s the confusion, mystery and pleasure of “The One I Love.”

“The One I Love” is cast impeccably. Duplass and Moss really connect as a couple. Duplass’ character is a bit more of a skeptic than Moss’ and he plays that role flawlessly. Moss has the ability to be “sharp…” someone with an edge… and still make the audience root for her character. In Sophie, she has found just the right part for her talents. Ted Danson’s role is small, but as the therapist he is spot-on.

“The One I Love” can be confusing, but the characters are just as confused as the audience which makes the film so engaging. Like them, you either roll with it…or not. The film ends with the Mama’s and Papa’s “Dedicated to the One I Love.” For some reason, that seems to be the perfect concluding touch.

“The One I Love” is in theatres and available On Demand.

3 ½ nuggets out of 4

The Giver: Is Good to Receive–Movie

August 18, 2014

The Giver” is a very engrossing look at what life might be like in the future with no remembrances of the past. Directed by Phillip Noyce, with screenplay by Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide, based on Lois Lowry’s book, “The Giver” takes place in dystopian times, after what the film calls, the Ruin. Births are genetically engineered and the resulting children placed into families. Citizens live with a set of rules in which everyone is equal, no harsh language is used, there is no color and seemingly no emotion. When one reaches 16, there is a ceremony in which the future is decided for each person by a group known as the Elders.

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It’s on the cusp of this important event that we are introduced to Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), his two closest friends—Fiona and Asher (Odeya Rush and Cameron Monaghan)—and his mother (Katie Holmes), father (Alexander Skarsgård) and sister, Lilly (Emma Tremblay). On the day of the ceremony, we meet the Elders, who are led by the Chief Elder, a long-grey-haired Meryl Streep. In this group is one Elder with the power to remember the past, The Giver, a grey and gnarly Jeff Bridges. At the ceremony, Jonas is seemingly passed over for assignment. However, the Chief Elder comes back to him at the end, saying that Jonas didn’t fit neatly into any one category and was deemed special. As such, Jonas will be the Receiver of Memories, mentored by The Giver. It’s Jonas’ sessions with The Giver that fuels the remaining story.

For the most part “The Giver” is devoid of special effects which allows for the film’s tone and mood to have an eerily calming aspect that somehow seems right. The grey tones in which much of “The Giver” is shot adds to this feeling. It’s only when memories come into play that we see color and movement.

“The Giver’s” cast is a very strong one, headed by Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges. Streep really doesn’t have much to do except act authoritative and she is fine, albeit wasted. Bridges is extremely good, however, as the man with memories. Bridges is only 64, but in the film seems years older—maybe from the burden of harboring memories. Taylor Swift has a very brief, but important role, and in her scenes with Bridges, she is actually very good. Bridges has a knack for working well with younger actors and his interactions with Swift and Brenton Thwaites’ Jonas are quite compelling. In reality Thwaites is 25, playing 16, but he does so very convincingly. His work with Bridges and especially Odeya Rush as Fiona is very good and his scenes with Fiona seem a like a genuine portrayal of young love. Alexander Skarsgård has a very good turn as a care-giver and his scenes with the baby, Gabriel, are extremely sweet (and from where do these baby actors come—the babies playing Gabriel are amazing)—until they’re not. Katie Holmes as the strict mother is terrific to the point of being almost scary, she is so devoid of emotion.

Jeff Bridges tried for a very long time to bring “The Giver” to the screen. Compared with other “new society” YA films like “Divergent”  and the “The Hunger Games,” “The Giver” is much more quiet, but no less intelligent. He should be proud and happy with the results.

3 nuggets out of 4

 

 

Once Upon a Time in Shanghai: A Real Kick—Movie

August 13, 2014

The opening scene in “Once Upon a Time in Shanghai” lands with a hard punch and never looks back. Grabbing your attention from the get-go, the film deliberately kicks its martial arts old-style and that approach works amazingly and entertainingly well.

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Directed by Ching-Po Wong with screenplay by Jing Wong, “Once Upon a Time in Shanghai,” is set in 1930 Shanghai. The film follows the story of Ma Yongzhen (Philip Ng), who journeys by boat from his small hometown to the much larger Shanghai, in the hopes of finding a better life. Scenes before his boat docks show how skilled he is in the martial arts, particularly when using his right fist. Warned by his mother not to use that fist in all its might unless absolutely necessary–it becomes his secret weapon.

As depicted in the film, Shanghai in the 30s was presided over by different rival gangs. Through some incredible feats as well as a quick mind, young gang lord, Long Qi (Andy On), rises very quickly to the top. He comes into contact with Ma in his night club and while there is an initial competition of wits and physical prowess between the two, they come to appreciate each other’s skills. What the future holds for both is what takes up much of the remaining screen time.

Philip Ng and Andy On are as close to perfect casting as one can come. Surprisingly, Ng was born in Hong Kong and raised in Chicago. Considered a master in martial arts, Ng really looks like a 30s-style fighter and his likeable personality comes through…even in subtitles. On, originally from Providence, Rhode Island, is extraordinary in portraying a man whose face can turn on a dime…from amiable and friendly to cold and sinister. Although not formally trained in martial arts, he more than holds his own against Ng. As good as these two men are in scenes with others, it’s when they are together that magic happens. The two have genuine chemistry and they do come across as brothers. Their fighting scenes will astound, but their quiet conversations will have you laughing, too.

Fight action choreographers, brothers Yuen Cheung-yan and Yuen Woo-ping, are legends in martial arts circles and they do not disappoint. To say the fight scenes are amazing is putting it mildly. It some instances you can actually hear the crunching of bones. The sequences are remarkably fast, but balletic as well. At times it’s often difficult…in a good way…to know where to focus your eyes first.

Director Ching-Po Wong has chosen to shoot “Once Upon a Time in Shanghai” in black and white tones. This definitely puts the film in a 30s mode and give it a sense of “realness.” The lack of color works perfectly with the background and the costumes. While the fighting is front and center, “Once Upon a Time in Shanghai” also delves into the uneasy relations between China and Japan and does so in a very interesting manner.

A martial arts flick might not be for everyone. But if you were a fan of Bruce Lee, some of the more recent Jason Statham movies or just like something different in your action movies, “Once Upon a Time in Shanghai” is meant for you.

“Once Upon a Time in Shanghai” is a 2014 release and is making the rounds of various film festivals. In Washington, DC, it was part of the Freer Sackler Made in Hong Kong Film Festival.

3 1/2 nuggets out of 4

Freer Sackler: Welcome Relief From the Mall—Restroom

August 11, 2014

The Freer Sackler Gallery has many restrooms from which to choose, depending upon where you are in the Gallery. On this particular afternoon I was going to see a film in the Gallery’s Meyer Auditorium. Entering the Gallery from Independence Avenue, and after having my purse inspected, I made my way to the closest restroom near the guard. On a hot, humid August day, this room provided a refreshing break—cool and light—just what the doctor ordered.Freer Sackler

The restroom has four stalls and one handicapped booth, all with automatic flushers. There are four sinks, each with soap dispensers and a wall of mirrors above the sinks. The room has two paper towel dispensers and, for a change, there is no waving of hands or other gyrations necessary—you just pull the paper. At 1:30 p.m. the restroom was still neat and fully stocked. The room has a changing table and a little couch on which to sit.

This is a great place to be before partaking in some culture in other parts of the Gallery, attending one of the Gallery’s movies or just taking a break from the heat.

Freer Sackler 1050 Independence Ave SW,Washington, DC

Love Is Strange: Wonderful Acting Stymied—Movie

August 11, 2014

It’s so apparent that “Love Is Strange” is a work of love that it’s just a shame that the film isn’t better than it is. Directed by Ira Sachs and written by Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias, “Love Is Strange” is a very compelling story about families, love and how families deal with adversity.

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“Love Is Strange” features John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as Ben and George respectively, who, after nearly 40 years together, finally marry. The film opens on their wedding day as the two prepare for their ceremony taking place in a small NYC park, followed by a reception in the home of Ben’s family. Ben is an artist and George is a music teacher in a Catholic school. After the wedding all seems well until George is called into Father Raymond’s (John Cullum) office. Word of his marriage has reached the archdiocese and Father Raymond is obliged to fire him. Everyone knew that George was gay and in a long-term relationship, but the school was willing to look the other way until the marriage made the relationship official. Neither George nor Ben is rich and living in NYC is very expensive, so they sell their apartment in the hopes of finding something cheaper soon. While George looks for another job, they are forced to split up physically…George staying with two gay cops who live in their old building while Ben moves in with his nephew, Elliot (Darren E. Burrows) and Elliot’s wife, Kate, and teenage-son, Joey (Marisa Tomei and Charlie Tahan).

George is considerably older than his two roommates who seem to throw one party after another. To say he no longer fits into their lifestyle is putting it mildly. But Ben’s living conditions seem worse…not just for Ben, but for his family as well. Most NYC apartments are small (for the common person), and Kate’s and Elliot’s apartment is no exception. There’s not a lot of room for privacy with the addition of another person…no matter how loveable that person is.

“Love Is Strange’s” script and acting are extremely well-done. Sachs and Zacharias have created a very relatable story on many fronts and the actors carry out their roles flawlessly. Molina and Lithgow are extremely believable as the much in love couple put in an untenable situation—living apart after all these years. Lithgow is sheer perfection as the older dreamer of the two. In his own way, Molina matches him as the more down-to-earth partner. Marissa Tomei shines as the working-from-home successful author as well as a wife and mother. She truly captures the emotions of  a woman trying to hold it all together without exploding. And young Charlie Tahan is fabulous as the teen-age son, struggling to make friends and trying to “figure it all out,” only to suddenly have his life upended when he is required to share his room with a 70-year-old.

The city of New York is also a major player in “Love Is Strange,” showing us the parts of New York that tourists don’t often see…the little neighborhoods and shops. Additionally, “Love Is Strange” is bolstered by beautiful piano solos throughout, often used to transition from one scene to another.

So how can this film, with all of its favorabilities, not be a total success? In one word: direction. Sachs has taken his beautiful script and doesn’t seem to trust it and his actors enough to just let them act and let the words speak for themselves. He tries too hard to be cute with lingering camera shots on random people which are distracting and meaningless. And sometimes the audience does need a clue as to what just happened without having to guess. I spent too much time asking myself, “What just happened here?” “Who are these people?”

“Love Is Strange” is a meaningful little film with terrific performances that could have benefited from another, different director at its helm.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4

The Hundred-Foot Journey: A Very Tasty Trip—Movie

August 11, 2014

The Hundred-Foot Journey” takes some spices from India mixed with mouth-watering French cuisine and a dollop of timeless English panache to combine for a crowd-pleasing entrée. Directed by Lasse Hallström, with screenplay by Steven Knight, based on Richard C. Morais’ book, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is a sensual delight…or as a famous chef once said, “La sauce, c’est tout!”

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The Kadam family, recently arrived immigrants from India to France, has been through some hard times. Because they ran a restaurant in India, they decide to open a restaurant in their new country. When their car breaks down in a small French village near the site of a failed restaurant, the family’s elder, Papa (Om Puri), believes that the fates (and his late wife) want the family to open their restaurant on that very spot. As luck would have it, that site is directly across the street from a well-known French restaurant owned by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is the distance between Madame Mallory’s Michelin-star restaurant and what will be the new Indian restaurant. More than annoyed by competition she believes beneath her, Madame does everything in her power to make the restaurant fail, but in Papa she has met her match…and then some. Although she’s loathe to admit it, she is intrigued by the family, especially young Hassan (Manish Dayal), who impresses her early on with his culinary skills. Will the two restaurants be able to co-exist? Answering that question is where much of the movie’s joy lies.

Once you get over the idea of Mirren playing a French woman, she becomes a lot of fun to watch. In Om Puri she has the perfect sparring partner. The two have so much chemistry, it’s easy to picture a sequel for just the two of them. Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon (Marguerite), as the secondary leads, work well together, and Dayal is especially charming. There is something about his performance that makes you believe he really is a chef. His best scenes are actually when he is cooking or when he’s talking about food. Le Bon’s Marguerite seems like the stereotypical French girl—the one who does everything effortlessly. We don’t learn much about her, but she is very good as the film’s guide to what makes Madame Mallory tick.

It seems that any movie which has the slightest tinge of a Disney association—the distributor in this case—has a touch of sadness to it, and “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is no exception. The film’s opening sequences are hard to watch, but helps you understand what drives Papa. And while the film doesn’t dwell on discrimination or prejudice, it doesn’t shy away from the topic either. It very realistically touches upon the prejudice the Indian family faces initially in the small French community.

“The Hundred-Foot Journey” is a genuine feel-good movie without being cloying or overly sweet. Fans of any of the televised cooking shows will enjoy the conversations about food…the scenes seem very authentic and make you believe that is how real chefs talk about the art of cooking. But whether you love watching chefs cook or just love to eat, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” should be on your entertainment menu. With terrific acting, beautifully photographed food and a visit to France, you should “just pack your knives and go.”

3 ½ nuggets out of 4


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