Sunday, April 27, 2014


It’s easy to see why Writer/Director/Actor Jon Favreau’s Chef  won the Heineken Audience Favorite Award at the Tribeca Film Festival.

With an all-star cast, including Sophia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey, Jr., Dustin Hoffman, John Leguizamo, Amy Sedaris and Oliver Platt, plus beautiful camera work by Cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau and his mostly-on script, Favreau manages to keep the action spirited and fun.

The story involves a workaholic chef (Favreau), who is hampered from expressing his true artistry by the conservative restaurant owner (Hoffman) for whom he works.  Fired, when he goes off on a rant against a food critic (Platt), the chef has to rebuild his confidence and his relationship with his son (Emjay Anthony) and estranged wife (Vergara…who’s never looked lovelier).
You’ll have some good laughs and come out hungry. 

I give Chef a 4 out of 5.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Other Woman

Although she has second billing, the only scenes in Director Nick Cassavetes’ The Other Woman that deliver on the comic promise of the film’s trailer are those with Leslie Mann in them.  The scenes without her tend to flounder and drag on, despite the delicious eye candy of Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton. 

And, despite the fact we want comeuppance for Nikolaj Coster Waldau’s Mark King, it comes across with too acerbic a tone, as if this were a thriller instead of a comedy.

The problem is twofold; Melissa Stack’s erratic script and the editing pace set by Editors Jim Flynn and Alan Heim.  Producer Julie Yorn, whose films are usually on point, might have been better served by whoever edited the peppy trailer.  

Though uneven, the film will, nevertheless, be enjoyed by women and those who have experienced the betrayal delivered by the Mark Kings of this world will, no doubt,  enjoy the pain he suffers despite the violation of the genre's tone.  And, men might take note of the message that those who betray their wives are also prone to betray those with whom they do business.

I give The Other Woman a 3 out of 5.  Leslie Mann, however, deserves a 4.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

In Your Eyes

Writer/Producer Joss Whedon has teamed with Director Brin Hill to create the delightful supernatural romance In Your Eyes.

The couple involved, Rebecca Porter (ZoĆ« Kazan) and Dylan Kershaw (Michael Stahl-David) has grown up thousands of miles apart, she in New Hampshire and he in New Mexico, but, since childhood, they are occasionally able to see what the other sees and feel the pains the other feels.  Now, they are suddenly able to hear the other’s voice, as well.

It’s a charming conceit to work from and with Whedon’s script, Cinematographer Elisha Christians images and Editor Steven Pilgrim’s cutting, Hill weaves the story, joyously.

Kazan and Stahl-David are both excellent and Nikki Reed adds to the fun as Dylan’s would-be and quite dim girlfriend Donna.
Whedon is a pioneer and has elected to distribute the film via the internet at and Vimeo.   It’s well worth the view. 

I give In Your Eyes a 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Venus In Fur

Tony Award-winning Playwright David Ives’ Venus In Fur is, currently, the most produced play in the United States.  Why?  At the Q&A following the Tribeca Film Festival’s premiere of Writer/Director Roman Polanski’s film version of the play, Ives related a story on the effect the Broadway play had on an audience member, an effect that would probably have been enhanced by the power of Polanski’s masterpiece.*

Writer/Director Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) has spent an unsuccessful day auditioning 35 actresses for the lead in his new play and is about to go home, when a 36th candidate, Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner), enters the theater, soaking wet from the storm, outside, and begs for a shot at the role.
After every effort to kick out what appears to be an ignorant hooker, Thomas becomes intrigued, when Vanda pulls from her bag a dress appropriate to the 1870 period of his play.  He relents and, as Vanda begins to audition, she becomes the exact character which he imagined for the role.  But, as the evening progresses, she becomes more than an actress and the power roles reverse as she begins to rewrite the piece and plumbs the writer/director’s character and soul.

Is she a muse?  Is this a dream?  Or, a nightmare?

Those are questions, hovering in the back of viewers’ minds from the outset.   However, the pace of the Polanski’s and Ives’ superb dialogue is so quick, the camerawork of Cinematographer Pawel Edelmon, is so fabulous, the music of Composer Alexandre Desplat is so powerful and the sound effects of Lucien Balibar are so interesting that the audience is too amused and transfixed to dwell on such issues .   Answers are not needed until discussions after the film is over.
With Venus In Fur, Polanski, again, demonstrates how powerful a filmmaker he is.  And, Seigner and Amalric have never been better.

I give Venus In Fur a 5 out of 5 and look forward to seeing it again. 

* If you want to know the abovementioned story Ives told, email me and I’ll send it to you.  It’s very funny.

Every Secret Thing

Director Amy Berg has moved from documentary films to feature films with the detective thriller Every Secret Thing, which had its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

A baby has gone missing and the suspects are two 18-year-olds, recently released from juvenile prison after 7 years for having been responsible for the death of a baby they kidnapped as adolescences. 

But, which one of them was truly responsible, then, and what would be the motivation for repeating the crime, now, is the mystery.

With a star cast, including Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks, Dakota Fanning and Common, the film has excellent performances, but starts off like an LMN TV movie before Berg seems to find her way into making it a theatrical feature.  

Nicole Holofcenor’s flawed script and the dark camerawork of Cinematographer Rob Hardy are the main problems here, especially during the initial scenes. 

Still, this is a valiant first effort and with better material Ms. Berg should  develop into a fine feature director.

I give Every Secret Thing a 3 out of 5.