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Posts Tagged ‘Dustin Hoffman’

 

** and Jon Favreau in  "Chef"

Emjay Anthony and Jon Favreau in “Chef”

“CHEF” My rating: B (Opening wide on May 22)

115 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The title character of “Chef” works in a hugely lucrative but artistically stifling high-end L.A. restaurant. He has a meltdown and goes off looking to regain his muse of cooking.

Interestingly enough, “Chef “ was written, directed by, and stars Jon Favreau, who first burst onto the scene as an indie auteur (“Swingers,” “Made”) before finding mucho money and Tinseltown clout cranking out superhero movies for the Marvel folk (“Iron Man”).

“Chef” can be seen as Favreau’s return to down-home cooking/filmmaking. Despite its impressively deep cast, it’s a relatively simple, modestly budgeted affair, less a banquet than a delicate palate cleanser.

Nothing earthshaking happens here. No deep emotions are plumbed or existential dilemmas explored.

But if  the film is superficial, it is often slyly funny, has a real handle on the restaurant biz and its denizens, genuinely likes its characters, and tries to look on the sunny side. In short,  a pleasant couple of hours at the movies.

Carl Casper (Favreau) is top chef at one of Hollywood’s most in-demand eateries. But he’s hit a creative dead end. The joint’s owner (Dustin Hoffman) doesn’t want to tinker with success and consistently nixes Carl’s attempts at an edgier menu.

When a powerful food blogger (Oliver Platt) pans the place as old hat and unimaginative, Carl has a very public meltdown that is recorded by dozens of customers, making him an Internet sensation.  But while being the raving chef raises Carl’s profile, it gets him fired and makes him unemployable.

He’s got no choice but to start over. (more…)

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Billy Connolly, Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay and Pauline Collins

Billy Connolly, Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay and Pauline Collins

“QUARTET” My rating: B- (Opens January 25 at the Tivoli and Glenwood Arts)

98 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“Quartet,” the movies’ latest exercise in geriaxploitation, is about old folks living in a not-for-profit British community for retired musicians.

It’s  “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” with operatic solos instead of sitars and tablas.

It’s also the feature film directing debut of actor Dustin Hoffman, who doesn’t appear on the screen but proves himself more than capable of calling the shots behind the camera. “Quartet” isn’t astoundingly cinematic, but Hoffman clearly knows how to work with actors.

Of course it helps to have an A-list cast of graying Brit thesps on hand.

Set in a formerly grand English country house which now has been divided up into apartments, Ronald Harwood’s screenplay (based on his stage play) centers on the arrival of Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), a once world-famous soprano whose shaky finances have forced her to give up her London townhouse. Now she’s come to Beecham House to live among her aged peers.

Not that she’s looking forward to it. Group living is a real comedown for the imperious Jean, who spends the first few days taking her meals in her room and listening to old LPs of her performances.  There’s a touch of the imperious Lady Violet Crawley (of “Downton Abbey,” natch) in Smith’s performance, but also a welcome vulnerability.

(more…)

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“KUNG FU PANDA 2”  My rating: C

minutes | Rating: G

“Kung Fu Panda 2” is one of the most beautiful animated films ever, with fantastic action scenes, astonishingly detailed “sets” and a filmic sense worthy of any live-action epic.

It’s a good thing it’s so gorgeous, because dramatically it’s pretty much a wash.

Not awful. But not memorable.

This sequel assembles most of the voices from the first “Panda,” especially Jack Black (more…)

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