Chef

one cigar

One cigar

When I mentioned to people that I had seen The One Hundred Foot Journey, and how it inspired me to go deeper into the things I cook, they said, “Oh, then you need to see the Chef“.   Well, I tried.

It is not often that I start a movie that I don’t finish, but this was one.  There was nothing here that was inspiring nor worth watching.  Part of the problem was the film wasn’t sure if it wanted to be a comedy or a drama, it failed on both fronts.  The story line was not plausible, the acting was mediocre, and about half way through I had had enough.

One has to ask why actors like Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, and Robert Downey Jr agreed to show up in this film.   I say show up because none of them were acting.   The lines they had were stiff and delivered as if they were reading a prescription bottle.

As for any kind of inspiration into cooking, if I used what this film brings to the table, I would just go back to frozen dinners from Swanson’s.

This one gets one cigar and that is being generous.

 

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In Your Sights by Elizabeth Krall

inyoursights

 

Thunder from down under…….    *****

 

In my review policy I state that a five star review from me means that “you blew my socks off, surprised me, and I can’t wait for your next book”.  Elizabeth Krall’s novel did just that.  With superb writing, vivid descriptions, and meaty characters, she pulls the reader into the story and does not let go until the words “the end” appear.

Set in and around Sydney, Australia, this story is about a woman who has lost her husband to a hit-and-run driver and is trying to rebuild a life.  As she slowly begins to trust herself to explore new relationships, she finds herself caught up in a mix of violence, sexual exploration, and intrigue.  While being stalked on the Internet, and still dealing with the loss of her husband, her world becomes an even bigger nightmare when she is brought face to face with serial rapist..

This novel is layer after layer of human relationships and how we view each other.  The twists and turns keep you guessing and Krall’s no-holds-barred approach to writing is refreshing.  Her descriptions will unnerve you and yet keep you riveted to the page. Just when you think you have things figured out she takes off in a whole new direction.  Her characters come alive and you find yourself swept up with them as the story unfolds.

In Your Sights is book one of a Sydney Triptych, can’t wait for the next one.

Like I said in the beginning this one gets five stars.

 

 

The Gambler

three cigars

Three cigars

THIS REVIEW COMES WITH A SPOILER ALERT!!!!!

This was a very interesting film.

First, the actors. Talk about a mixed bag of really good actors, some in incredibly small roles. George Kennedy plays the grandfather who ironically dies as the movie starts.  I say ironically because I thought George was dead already. Andre Braugher, who was incredible in the TV series Homicide, has one scene, about two lines, and then is gone. Jessica Lange plays the mother and is amazing. If you have never seen her in Cape Fear, you need to. John Goodman, who is always good, takes on a very serious role and in my mind deserves an Oscar nod for this one. Mark Wahlberg gives an outstanding performance for the most part, although in some of the scenes his acting ability falls short.

What makes the movie, however, is the dialog. The philosophical discussions are riveting.  From Goodman’s diatribe on what constitutes one’s ability to say “Fuck You”, to Wahlberg’s lecture on what it takes to succeed above all others. The classroom discussions are a bit unnerving, and capture how many professors must feel. One of the lighter moments is the encounter of Jessica Lange and the bank officer is when she is trying to take out money.

The only real weakness is the middle drags a bit, and there are some scenes that are added without explanation. This is due to poor editing and makes the film not as good as it could have been.

The original movie, in 1974, starred James Caan and was one of his better acting roles.  It is interesting that in that film the debt was $44,000 and in the new version is $260,000. But the big difference between the two is the ending. In the original, one is left wondering, in the remake the ending is clearcut. Not to spoil it, but as the tension builds, even though you can guess the outcome, there is still some doubt. Wahlberg’s run at the end is a great metaphor for the freedom of having shed an addiction.

This could have been a four cigar movie, but I have to give it three cigars and a few ashes.