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A Better Movie with Sofia Vergara

Posted on May 12, 2015 at 8:00 am

Do you want to see a wild comedy with Sofia Vergara? Don’t waste your time with the dreary Hot Pursuit. Take a look at a much better film, Big Trouble, made in 2002, with Tim Allen and Rene Russo, based on the very funny book by Dave Berry. Sofia Vergara has a small role as a beautiful (of course) maid.

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For Your Netflix Queue Rent This Instead

Hot Pursuit

Posted on May 7, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Copyright 2015 MGM
Copyright 2015 MGM

Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon are both talented, beautiful actresses with savvy business acumen and strong entrepreneurial energy. Witherspoon’s accolades in 2014 included more than a Best Actress Oscar nomination for “Wild.” She also produced it, and another Oscar-nominated film, “Gone Girl.” Both Witherspoon and Vergara produced the vastly less ambitious “Hot Pursuit,” a high-concept, low-octane road movie filled with chases and shrieking that cannot disguise the soul-numbing vacuousness of its screenplay.

Our fun couple consists of Cooper (her first name is a who-cares third act reveal), a by-the-book, second-generation cop played by Witherspoon, and Mrs. Riva, the wife (and very quickly, widow) of a Colombian drug dealer, with ethnic attributes less subtle than Charo crossed with the Frito Bandito. She keeps hanging on to her roller bag filled with sparkly stilettos.

Cooper has a lot to prove when she gets her first chance in the field after a mishap involving the tasering of a teenager who yelled “Shotgun” because he wanted the front passenger seat in a car. When Riva and her husband need police escorts to court so they can testify against the big drug kingpin, Cooper gets assigned to Mrs. Riva. But before they can leave the Riva’s home, two different sets of assassins show up, one pair masked.

I wonder if they will turn out to be people Cooper did not realize were untrustworthy! We haven’t seen that before!

Cooper and Mrs. Riva are very different people with very different views of the world and very different goals. The one goal that they share is not getting killed. After an APB is issued for their capture, they go on the run, arguing, hiding out, stealing, abandoning, and crashing vehicles, and all kinds of exhausting and unfunny hijinks.

It is particularly disappointing that this movie was produced and directed by women. If men foisted so many lazy jokes about Vergara’s lush figure on an audience looking for a little light entertainment, we’d decry them for sexism. Well, if the sparkly shoe fits….

Parents should know that this film includes crime and law enforcement violence, with characters injured and killed, peril, chases, explosions, drugs and drug dealing, strong language, sexual references, and some gender and sexual humor.

Family discussion: Does this movie make fun of stereotypes or perpetuate them? When did the characters’ views about each other change?

If you like this, try: “Outrageous Fortune” and “Midnight Run”

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Action/Adventure Comedy Crime

Chef

Posted on May 15, 2014 at 6:00 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language, including some suggestive references
Profanity: Very strong and graphic language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Comic peril
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: May 16, 2014
Date Released to DVD: September 29. 2014
Amazon.com ASIN: B00KQTGWPC

You’re writer/director/actor Jon Favreau.  You’ve been making big-budget films, mostly huge blockbuster successes (“Elf,” “Iron Man”), but also a big-budget bust (Cowboys & Aliens, which I liked).  This might put you in mind of a simpler, more chef poster headersatisfyingly creative time (Favreau wrote the indie smash “Swingers” and wrote and directed “Made”).  And that might inspire a movie like “Chef,” with Favreau as writer. director, and star and a small-scale story with, thanks to his connections, a big-scale cast, about an artist who, like a movie director, creates the kind of art that must be appreciated by others to be satisfying.  And director Jon Favreau brings the same loving care to the creations made by his character that the chef does himself.  This movie will be on lists of “Great Food Films” forever, along with classics like “Big Night” and “Babette’s Feast.”  The food is so lusciously photographed you can almost smell it.  And the music perfectly matches the food, sensual and spicy.  This is an utterly delectable treat.

No surprise — it is about a guy who has a big-time, high pressure job, loses his mojo, his inspiration and his sense of creativity, and then finds it again in a smaller venue.  The job is in the title.  Favreau plays Carl, a passionate chef at a high-end restaurant, frustrated because the owner (Dustin Hoffman) wants him to stick to his “greatest hits,” the solid, reliable favorites that Carl now finds boring.  “You remember what happened when you put guts on the menu?”  When an influential restaurant critic gives him a bad review, Carl quits in a fury.  Then, in an even bigger fury, he tweets what he thinks is a private response to the critic (he is not sure of the difference between Twitter and email). It goes viral.  (“You’re trending, bro.”) Carl goes into a shame spiral fueled by self-pity and blame, both self and everyone else.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tP6SE65F-h4

Carl’s passion for his job led to the end of his marriage to Inez (Sofia Vergara).  He is a devoted but harried father to Percy (Emjay Anthony), a young social media expert who enjoys the fun activities his dad plans for them when he has time but wishes they could just plain hang out more.  Inez, wanting to get Carl out of his funk, invites him to come with her on a business trip to Miami, so he can watch Percy.  It will get him away from the Twitterverse gaffe of the day crowd and give him some time with his son.  She also has another plan.  Her previous ex-husband (a movie-stealing performance by the scene-stealing master thief and “Iron Man” star Robert Downey, Jr.), who gives Carl a food truck.  Well, apparently there is a food truck there underneath the layers of grime and fry oil.  Joined by a friend (John Leguizamo) and Percy, they drive the truck back home to Los Angeles, stopping along the way to feed the people who have been following Percy’s social media updates.

There are no surprises in the story, and there is not one female character with any reason to exist other than supporting/adoring Carl, but the characters feel genuine and the food is mesmerizingly luscious.  Favreau has his mojo back, and I hope he will keep ours going by serving us food truck movies along with his five star restaurants.

Parents should know that this movie includes very strong and crude language and some vulgar references.

Family discussion: What is your favorite meal to cook?  Why was it hard for Carl to just hang out with Percy before the food truck?

If you like this, try: “Big Night” and “No Reservations”

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Comedy Date movie Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Family Issues Independent

Fading Gigolo

Posted on April 17, 2014 at 9:24 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Some violence
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: April 19, 2014

John Turturro wrote, directed, and stars in “Fading Gigolo,” a bittersweet meditation on the ways we seek and hide from intimacy, sometimes at the same time.

Turturro plays Fioravante, a florist who works part-time for Murray (Woody Allen), the third-generation proprietor of a used and rare bookstore.  But the bookstore is folding.  “Very rare people buy rare books.”

As they pack up the shop’s inventory, Murray tells Fioravante that his dermatologist said she was willing to pay for sex.  “Are you on drugs?”  “Apart from my Zoloft, no.”  The empty bookshelves suggest the sadness of anything or anyone who has something to give that is not being used.  Murray says he thinks the quiet, unassuming Fioravante would be just what this doctor ordered, and volunteers to act as the middle-man, or, to put it more directly, the pimp.

The subject matter and the presence of Allen suggest a broad comedy, something between “Deuce Bigalow” and “Deconstructing Harry.”  After an awkward start with female characters who are superficially drawn and some uneven tonal shifts, it becomes a thoughtful drama that gets much more interesting in the second half, when after encounters with gorgeous, successful, worldly women like the doctor (Sharon Stone) and her friend (Sofia Vergara), he takes on Avigal, a young widow from the ultra-Orthodox Satmar community (French singer Vanessa Paradis, in a performance of exquisite sensitivity).

The same quiet, sensitive quality that makes Fioravante careful and tender in taking care of plants makes him very good at his new job.  He gently dances with one of his clients to make her feel cherished.  And he is respectful of Avigal, caressing her back and letting her weep.

The Satmar community has its own police force.  Liev Schreiber plays an Orthodox cop, who wears a tallit under his uniform and whose professional responsibilities come second to some strong feelings he has for Avigal.

But the most compelling character here is the city itself.  Turturro skillfully shows us the complications, juxtapositions, and unexpected connections of the city’s diverse populations.  Gorgeous music weaves through the story to bring it together.  By the final moments, we see it is as carefully tended as Fioravante’s flowers.

Parents should know that this is a movie about prostitution and it has explicit content and strong language.

Family discussion:  What difference did Avigal’s relationship with Fioravante make in her life?  Were you surprised by the decision she made?

If you like this, try: “Hannah and Her Sisters” and “Hester Street”

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