Like comfort food, this movie has very little nutritional value, but it sure goes down smoothly. This is one of those shamelessly delicious-looking films that makes our mouths water at the tasty dishes that are lovingly created on-camera. And it also has an array of deeply likeable characters, witty cameos and sparkling dialogue to keep us smiling. So who cares that nothing unexpected happens from start to finish? This is a movie we sit back and enjoy without worrying about the appearance of a plot twist.
The title character is Carl (played by writer-director Jon Favreau), the chef at a top Los Angeles restaurant that is stuck in a rut because the owner (Dustin Hoffman) refuses to change anything on the menu. When a snooty food critic (Oliver Platt) criticises Carl for his tired and predictable cuisine, Carl's reaction sparks an angry Twitter war. In a fit of anger, Carl quits his job then hatches a plan to get back to his roots while bonding with Percy (Emjay Anthony), his pre-teen son with spicy ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara). So Carl and his sidekick Martin (John Leguizamo) take Percy to Miami to refurbish food truck and drive back to California, along the way building a reputation and perfecting their Latin-infused menu.
Since a complex plot would just be distracting, this film coasts on the charisma of its likeable cast, throwing in lively side roles for the likes of Scarlett Johansson as a restaurant colleague, Bobby Cannavale as a fellow chef and most memorably Robert Downey Jr. as Inez's hilariously nutty ex. Everyone is relaxed and effortlessly funny, which makes the interaction feel amusing and never remotely forced. While this is easily Favreau's most assured work as a director (that's including the first two Iron Man movies), this is also his most generous performance too. He infuses the whole film with easy-going charm.
Continue reading: Chef Review
Puss (Banderas) is a notorious outlaw looking for a way to clear his name and repay an old debt when he hears that redneck thugs Jack and Jill (Thornton and Sedaris) have some magic beans that can be used to find a golden-egg-laying goose. Then he discovers that sexy thief Kitty Softpaws (Hayek) is also after them. And worse yet, she's working with Humpty Dumpty (Galifianakis), Puss' childhood cohort who once betrayed him. When Humpty convinces Puss that he's now a good egg, the trio makes an elaborate plan to get the beans together.
Continue reading: Puss in Boots Review
Charlie and Dan (Travolta and Williams) are old pals and partners as sports publicists. Charlie is a relentless bachelor, teasing Dan about his impulsive, brief Vegas marriage to Vicki (Preston) eight years earlier. What neither of them knows is that Vicki gave birth to Dan's twins (Ella Bleu Travolta and Rayburn), and now she needs him to watch them for two weeks. Nutty antics ensue as these cute kids upset these men's life, dragging them off for a weekend camping trip and of course slowly winning them over in the process.
Continue reading: Old Dogs Review
Teens Needy and Jennifer (Seyfried and Fox) have been best pals since childhood, but their friendship has now shifted: Needy likes everyone and has a nice-guy boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons), while Jennifer is the school's ice-queen babe. One night their favourite band Low Shoulder is performing at a local bar, and Jennifer has her eye on the singer (Brody). But he decides to sacrifice her to gain musical success. The problem is that she's definitely not a virgin, and her voracious hunger for boys takes a nasty turn.
Continue reading: Jennifer's Body Review
Megan (Bush) is a perky teen who always wanted to be a ballerina but wound up in the inner-city Musical High School instead of Julliard. She's befriended by the sassy Charity (Atkins), whose brother Thomas (Wayans Jr) catches her eye and offers to teach her some new dance steps. But Thomas and his pal (Crockett) are in debt to a local gangster (Grier). To pay up they need to take on a rival team in The Streets dance-off, which happens to be on the same night as the school's Senior Showcase.
Continue reading: Dance Flick Review
When her mother dies unexpectedly, Meghan White (Shoshana Bush) leaves the suburbs and heads for the big city. There she attends Musical High School and quickly befriends brash unwed mother Charity (Essence Atkins), the chubby Tracey Transfat (Chelsea Makela), and the standard good boy mixed up with a bad crowd, Thomas Uncless (Damon Wayans Jr.). At first, she could care less for her hip-hop loving classmates. But soon, she is turned around by the beat of the music and the attentions of Tom.
Continue reading: Dance Flick Review
Set in a small and snowbound Pennsylvania town, Snow Angels at the very least looks like a town from reality, as opposed to the idyllic villages filmmakers create when they want to tell moral fables about violence and family (see Reservation Road, In the Bedroom, and so on). It starts with a high school marching band practicing in the cold, performing in a lackluster fashion that brings about a hilariously stern lecture from their instructor (played to icy perfection by Tom Noonan). Then a pair of gunshots are heard cracking through the cold air and the film flashes back to "weeks earlier."
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Somewhere in all Turturro's chaos is a story about Nick Murder (James Gandolfini), a blue-collar schlub with a stolid wife, Kitty (Susan Sarandon), and a trio of slightly cracked daughters -- Constance, Baby, and Rosebud (Mary-Louise Parker, Aida Turturro, and Mandy Moore, respectively) -- who function partially as a junior set of Furies but are mostly there to bash out songs in the backyard as part of the three-piece bubblegum garage band they've formed. In short: Nick's a two-timing bastard who's stepping out on the wife with Tula (the previously mentioned Irish hussy), a fact Kitty doesn't take to overly well, and numerous friends and family get dragged into their scuffle and forcing everyone to occasionally bust out in song.
Continue reading: Romance & Cigarettes Review
But seriously, Chicken Little is Disney's first solo stab at a CGI kiddie flick, something that was going to happen sooner or later and which, given Disney's recent track record in animation, has had most moviegoers scared silly. Chicken Little takes an age-old fable and hands the story to director Mark Dindal (who directed the best animated Disney movie in recent memory, the under-seen The Emperor's New Groove). Nice start, but... Chicken Little? "The sky is falling, the sky is falling?" In the original story, Chicken Little gets beaned with an acorn and gathers up all his friends to tell the king that the sky is falling. As they trek to visit the king, they are captured by Foxy Loxy and (depending on how gruesome the interpretation you're reading is) are promptly eaten.
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Amy Sedaris' Comedy Central series Strangers with Candy was an absurdist deconstruction of after school special conventions, following the wacky travails of 46-year-old ex-junkie, ex-con, ex-prostitute Jerri Blank (Sedaris) as she reentered high school as a freshman student. A potent cocktail of vulgarity, farcicality, and switchblade-sharp wordplay, the show was a mild cult hit for the then-fledging cable channel (as well as its first original live-action program), running for three brief seasons and eventually launching the career of Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report). Unceremoniously cancelled in 2000 just as it was hitting its ludicrous stride, Strangers with Candy seemed destined to become another footnote in television history, consigned to the same overlooked fate as Chris Elliot's Get a Life and Fox's recently canned Arrested Development. Until, that is, Sedaris and co-creators Colbert and Paul Dinello somehow convinced David Letterman's Worldwide Pants Inc. to produce a feature-length version of the disregarded pseudo-sitcom, which now arrives in theaters like a giant middle finger to every inspirational Hollywood melodrama that tries to argue that people can transform themselves for the better, hard work is rewarded, and heroin is bad.
Unfortunately, however, the cinematic Strangers with Candy - directed by Dinello, who also reprises his role as idiotic, effeminate art teacher Geoffrey Jellineck - only maintains its antagonistic inappropriateness long enough to fill out its first 45 minutes; after that, the tank runs pretty dry and the proceedings become akin to a mediocre TV episode in which plot, rather than scatological silliness, is the main focus. Its story is a prequel of sorts to the Comedy Central series. The film kicks off with a credit montage of Jerri's hilarious exploits in prison (murdering a fellow inmate, enjoying a shower with a naked female) before following her home, where she discovers her dad (Dan Hedaya) is in a coma, mom is dead and replaced by hateful stepmonster Sara (Deborah Rush), and she now has a loathsome jock half-brother named Derrick (Joseph Cross). When the family physician (played by Ian Holm!) suggests that Jerri might cure her father by trying to undo the past thirty-two years-worth of depraved behavior, she decides to enroll at Flatpoint High, where she finds herself both tussling with barely-in-the-closet science teacher Chuck Noblet (Colbert) and blissfully moronic principal Blackman (Gregory Holliman), and hanging out with friends Megawatti Sukharnabhoutri (Carlo Alban) and Iris Puffybush (Dolores Duffy).
Continue reading: Strangers with Candy Review