Posts Tagged ‘Bobby Cannavale’

Annie: Changed Up But Still Fun—Movie

December 22, 2014

Sometimes a movie surprises you…in a good way…and so it is with the 2014 “Annie.” Extremely entertaining, full of heart and fun, there’s truly not a bad performance in the entire film. And while you won’t tap dance your way out of the theatre, you’ll leave humming with a smile on your face. Directed by Will Gluck with screenplay by Gluck and Aline Brosh McKenna, based on Thomas Meehan’s stage play book and Harold Gray ‘s comic strip, Little Orphan Annie, the best way to enjoy this “Annie” is to leave your memories of yesteryear’s versions behind and appreciate this version on its own merit.

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“Annie” 2014 is less a traditional movie musical and more of a dramedy with musical numbers sprinkled in. Set in present day, Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) lives in a group foster home run by Ms. Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), a one-time wanna-be actress and present-day alcoholic. Annie was abandoned by her parents as a child outside an Italian restaurant, left with nothing but half a locket and a note saying that someday they hoped to see her again at the restaurant. One afternoon, while trying to save a dog from being tortured by some neighborhood boys, she is almost hit by a car, but is swept out of harm’s way by Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), a self-made billionaire running for mayor. His campaign advisor (Bobby Cannavale) thinks there might be benefit to his campaign…giving him some much need humanization…by inviting Annie to live with Stacks for a period of time. And so she and her newly adopted dog, Sandy, come to live with Stacks in his penthouse. Annie’s relationship with Stacks, his assistant, Grace (Rose Byrne), Ms. Hannigan and the girls under her “care” carry the story forward.

Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx, “Annie’s” two leads, are both very good and have terrific chemistry together. Wallis, so winning in her “Beasts of the Southern Wild” film debut, continues to captivate. She’s extremely convincing in conveying Annie’s innocence and street smarts. She definitely has some dance moves and sings well enough in the role. It is no surprise that Foxx can sing and dance, and as Stacks, he is absolutely charmingly perfect in the part.

As good as Wallis and Foxx are, it really is the rest of the cast that helps make Annie as entertaining as it is. At times Cameron Diaz’s Hannigan may seem over the top, but truth be told, she is really good as the drunk longing for the good old days. Her scenes with the girls are fun to watch and her “Easy Street” song and dance with Cannavale is very sweet. Her interaction with David Zayas as the shop owner, Lou, who harbors a crush on Hannigan, is especially good. And when her singing truly counts, her voice in the part works. Rose Byrne’s scenes with Wallis are achingly good. However, the real hands-down scene stealer is Stephanie Kurtzuba as Mrs. Kovacevic, the case worker helping Annie. She is just amazing…funny, musical, and capable of saying so much with just the blink of an eye, she steals every scene she is in without even trying.

There is some very appealing singing and dancing by Annie and the foster girls. “It’s the Hard Knock Life” is particularly enjoyable. “Annie” also features some amusing cameos and has some great NYC and subway shots adding to the film’s overall enjoyment.

See this “Annie” with an open mind and you’ll be glad you did. It’s just a plain good time at the movies.

3 nuggets out of 4

Chef: So Very Tasty—Movie

June 2, 2014

Chef” is mouth-wateringly terrific. Absolutely delicious on every single level, writer and director Jon Favreau has created a movie from the heart and it shows.Chef-Movie1

Set initially in LA, the movie opens with Chef Carl Casper (Favreau) preparing a new menu for the restaurant in which he is executive chef. He plans to unveil the menu that night when an important food critic, Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), will be dining in the restaurant. However, he is emphatically discouraged from doing so by the restaurant’s owner (Dustin Hoffman), so Carl changes his plans and goes with the tried and true instead. The critic is unimpressed and savages Carl in his review. Before long the review is all over the Twitterverse and when Carl, a very inexperienced Twitter user responds, he makes matters a lot worse. Hoping to dig himself out of the gigantic hole into which he has fallen, Carl decides to do a tasting menu at the restaurant and show the critic what he can really do. With his young son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), who is with him for the weekend, he goes food shopping. During the expedition you can see how much Percy adores his father and how interested he is in cooking. Unfortunately, the evening doesn’t go as planned and Carl is ultimately fired. His ex-wife, Inez (Sofía Vergara), with whom he remains on good terms, perhaps for the sake of their son, perhaps for something more, encourages him to go into the food truck business and cook what he loves. He says no to that idea, but agrees to accompany her and Percy on her business trip to Miami, acting as Percy’s nanny. Miami is where Carl and Inez met and where Inez’s father still lives. It’s in Miami that Carl realizes just what it is he wants to do with his life.

“Chef” is exceptionally cast. Favreau is extremely believable as chef and father. His scenes with his staff (John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale) feel very real and there seems to be a genuine chemistry with them. It’s refreshing to see Vergara do something different from her customary bombshell role and she and Favreau work very well together. Although I hated seeing Dustin Hoffman as such a prick, at least he is a very good one. But the movie’s true find is Emjay Anthony. He is absolutely adorably perfect as the young Percy. He seems like a real child…he never has a false note and is an utter joy to watch; his chemistry with Favreau is off the charts. And in a shout-out to the casting department, he actually looks like he could be the son of Vergara and Favreau. In smaller, but important roles, Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey, Jr. round out a terrific supporting cast.

Favreau’s script seems to truly capture the life of a chef…celebrity or not. He shows how hard it is for a chef to have a personal life and demonstrates how at the mercy of the owner a chef truly is. Favreau also has a great understanding of social media and how it can impact businesses and lives. With Percy as our guide, we really learn a lot about this whole new world and it’s very entertainingly told. One must also mention the film’s delightful score which only serves to enhance the film. Each song just fits…it’s that simple. The movie’s only misstep is when Inez’s publicist, in an effort to help, suggests that Carl audition for “Hell’s Kitchen.” Anyone who watches the caliber of cooking on that show knows that Carl would be way too talented for it.

Finally there is the food…OMG…the food. When you watch Carl butter the bread for a simple grilled cheese sandwich and want to jump through the screen to eat it, you know you are in for a treat. Every portion…every bite…looks scrumptious. I’m a vegetarian and this is the first time I ever thought about going back to eating meat. And you’ll swear that you can actually smell the variety of aromas as Carl prepares each dish.

Sometimes unpretentious movies have a way of truly reaching one while entertaining at the same time. In the days of endless special effects, never-ending battles and way over the top music, “Chef” speaks to one’s senses in a more emphatic way than those other movies ever could. It’s a truly perfect movie. Just some advice—come to “Chef” on either a full stomach or have dinner reservations for a wonderful restaurant immediately following the film.

4 nuggets out of 4

Blue Jasmine: A Beautiful Flower in a Summer Full of Weeds—Movie

August 2, 2013

“Have you ever gotten high on nitrous oxide?”That may be one of the worse pickup lines in the history of pickup lines, but it’s just one of the gems from Woody Allen’s latest, “Blue Jasmine.”

I don’t know how it’s possible, but Woody Allen just gets better with age. “Blue Jasmine” is unlike anything he’s done before and it’s just plain wonderful. The film is like watching a master-class in acting, writing and directing—all in one sitting. Even the selection of the music is spot-on.bluejasmine-poster

“Blue Jasmine” is the bittersweet story of upscale, sophisticated Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), who moves from New York City to San Francisco to live with her lower middle-class sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), and her two young sons.

Allen tells Jasmine’s back-story in bits and pieces. We learn that she was happily married…or so she thought…to wealthy businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), living the good life of dinner parties, high society and excess. When that world crashes down around her, she has a nervous breakdown. Upon recovery, she makes her way to San Francisco to reinvent herself.

While Jasmine’s head is up in the clouds, Ginger is more practical. Jasmine is not content with who or what she is. Ginger, on the other hand, comes to realize that “good enough” can actually be great.

Allen has given actresses some of their most memorable roles, and with Jasmine he has done so again. Cate Blanchett delivers an absolutely mesmerizing performance. Her Jasmine is at times so delicate, that you really worry for her survival. Her character has a number of facets—self-confidence, eccentricity, fragility, creativity and even mental toughness. Blanchett plays them all to perfection.

Sally Hawkins, not as well-known to American audiences as Blanchett, matches her step for step in a less showy role. She’s completely believable as the hard-luck sister, looking for her prince. Her scenes with Andrew Dice Clay (Augie), Bobby Cannavale (Chili) and Louis C.K (Al)…husband, fiancé and suitor respectively…are brilliant. Each relationship is slightly different and extremely genuine. The actors are also very good, particularly Cannavale. His role is not especially likable, but his fine acting wins you over in the end.

Peter Sarsgaard (Dwight) has a small, but important part as Jasmine’s new-found love interest. We’re not sure if he’s too good to be true, and in a weird way, his relationship with Jasmine ends up mirroring that of Ginger and Al.

Alec Baldwin is impeccably cast as Jasmine’s husband, Hal. It would have been easy to make his character just one color, but Allen and Baldwin give him layers. We find out about his true nature early on in the film, but surprises are still in store.

The film’s conclusion is a bit jarring, but like everything else about “Blue Jasmine,” is utterly perfect. To be true to the character and the film, it couldn’t end any other way.

Woody Allen will always be identified with New York, but his most recent films have been done overseas and in this case, California. This shift seems to have given him a new lease on life and movies. It seemed that “Vicky Cristina Barcelona“and “Midnight in Paris” would be hard to beat, but with “Blue Jasmine” Allen has done something completely different and topped them both.

4 nuggets out of 4


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