Review: Chef

Chef PosterA chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family.

Jon Favreau wrote, directed and stars in this quite sweet little food-based discovery of self and overall it’s a nice film. Favreau brings in his friends Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson and the cast, Favreau included, are wonderful and bring a tasty buffet of talent. There’s some delicious food-porn and the music choices in particular are tasty indeed!

If you want to see it and enjoy it, I suggest you stop reading here. Because as much as I liked watching it, the film has some unfortunate flavour clashes that leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth on reflection.

I think Favreau’s menu had a lot of great ingredients, but each dish was sadly left feeling incomplete and under seasoned. We are introduced to wonderful characters, Downey Jr. in particular, that are a single flavour-note, dropped in and never developed. Johansson, similarly, is shown, used for a couple of scenes to add spice, then left by the wayside.

The main plot trajectory, of Favreau’s Chef’s reconciliation with his son, was the main arc, and it sometimes felt that everything else was kind of tacked on; even the food elements seemed to be merely a little sizzle for the over-done steak of a pretty standard plot.

The social media elements, the heavy use of Twitter, Vine, Facebook et al at first were a nice touch, but ended up being heavily overused, to the point that it started feeling like an infomercial, which left a bitter taste in the mouth.

I think if the middle of the film had been expanded out somewhat, a culinary road trip across America, picking up ingredients and ideas and re-expanding Chef’s connection to food, his customers and his son, this would have been a more satisfying film. But sadly, as it was, what looked initially to be a taste explosion, turned out to be bland, souring the inspiration and great ingredients that went into it.

30 Days of Screenplays, Day 16: “Hanna”

Icon-Writing-150I’m very grateful to Scott Myers of Go Into The Story for putting up my script analysis of Hanna as part of his 30 Days of Screenplays series of guest posts.

I love Hanna, the blend of fairy tale and action movie is an excellent one and allows the story to take some unexpected genre twists. So, if you fancy it, have a read of the script here, then tell me if you agree with my analysis!

Edge of Tomorrow vs All You Need is Kill

edge-of-tomorrow-bluntI’m trying to make sure I go to the cinema more often, so last week I went to see Edge of Tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. It was either that or X-Men: Days of Future Past. There seemed to be a time travel element to both, but despite my reservations about Tom Cruise, I’ve pretty much hit superhero fatigue at this point. I’m still looking forward to the gloriously ridiculous Guardians of the Galaxy, but beyond that it’s getting harder and harder to get excited about the next Marvellous Men In Tights Movie.

I enjoyed the film, more than I thought I would. This was my initial micro-review:

It had its flaws, sure, the ending particularly felt tacked on, but it was enjoyable. But, I thought I’d check out the spec screenplay, to see how tacked on that ending really was.

Dante Harper’s adaptation of All You Need Is Kill, a Japanese novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka is already legendary in screenwriting circles. Written on spec, rather than at the behest of a studio, the material garnered a seven-figure studio deal. Suddenly there was hope for all us forlorn scribes that we might be able to pay bills, eat and write.

Read the All You Need Is Kill screenplay.

So, in this futuristic Groundhog Day set on D-Day (don’t think we didn’t notice what you did with the release date, Warner!), what are the main differences between script and screen? Well, other than the premise, the conceit, the setting and some of the characters – Pretty much everything. Some spoilers ahead.

To begin with, it’s a great script, a real page turner. This is what I want to see in an action film script, a rip-roaring read where you suddenly look up and an hour has passed and you’re 3/4 of the way through.

There’s perhaps too much emphasis on flashback, a bit heavy-handed when you’ve already got timeloops, but it’s a real barnstormer. One thing I liked in the script, a good use of semi-flashback exposition, was after 38 minutes of action, the protagonist goes and then find out/explains the history of the conflict. Nothing up front.
You’re just thrown in and picking up clues, which I like.
It lightens the burden of the eventual exposition. Unfortunately the flashback-as-exposition was repeated too often for my tastes.

But storywise, so much is different. Cruise’s character Cage is just a raw recruit in the script, instead of a disgraced officer and the reasoning behind the timeloops is totally different and even makes a little more sense. The conflict never goes further than the original beach, the only other setting being the base, to which the conflict eventually moves in the script as the Mimics learn where to focus their attacks.

But it’s the ending where the real difference hits, an ending foreshadowed by Sergeant Farell on page 46 of the script:

That's what it takes to be a great soldier. Realize your doom and get on with it. Inflict the greatest damage you can on your enemy. And die a hero.

It’s sacrifice that’s required to go from coward to hero. It’s the sacrifice that was blunted in the end of Edge of Tomorrow by allowing one more reset. But while Cage doesn’t die in the original script, it’s sacrifice that’s required of him, making it a more somber ending, which I much preferred.

So, Edge of Tomorrow was a good film, and I really enjoyed watching it. But it leaves some open questions, loose ends that were not left loose by the original script.

Best of Digital – Netflix Movies

Icon-Movie-150Carrying on the series from last week’s Best of Digital – Netflix TV Shows, I’d like to highlight a few perhaps hidden gems of Netflix’s movie offerings.

Capote – Writer Truman Capote finds himself in a dance with the devil while researching the Clutter family murders for his masterwork, “In Cold Blood.” It won Philip Seymour Hoffman the Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role Academy Award in 2006.

Fargo  – When a car dealer conspires with dim-bulb criminals to kidnap his wife for a hefty ransom, a folksy — and pregnant — police chief is on the case. It won 4 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, in 1997.

Stand By Me – When four boys seek adventure in the woods while looking for a missing teenager’s dead body, they learn some truths about themselves along the way.

Vanilla Sky – A man who has everything — money, good looks and a gorgeous woman — seemingly loses it all when his face is horribly disfigured in a car accident.

Fish Tank – The life of a hot-tempered teen outcast takes an unexpected turn when her mother brings home a handsome and mysterious boyfriend.

The Raid – Trapped in a tenement building during a raid, a SWAT team must fight its way out against the forces of a drug lord they were trying to assassinate.

Battle Royale – The Japanese government introduces a system whereby randomly chosen schoolchildren are taken to an island and forced to fight each other to the death.

Carrie – An outcast teen with telekinetic ability lashes out with her deadly power when the high school “in crowd” torments her with a sick joke at the prom.

The Square – As the Egyptian Revolution unfolds, this 2014 Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature immerses the viewer in the intense emotional drama of young people on the streets of Cairo claiming their rights and creating a society of conscience. As two governments topple, the personal stories of the freedom fighters unfold in an inspiring tribute to the power of citizenship.