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Review: Chef

18th June 2014 | Films

Review: Chef


 

“Super nicely directed, the soundtrack is brilliant, and the locations are brilliantly chosen!”


Quite bizarrely, I saw Chef almost immediately after revisiting the brilliant but much darker Cheap Thrills with a pal. I happened to have a spare Chef ticket, which I offered up as part of the second most bizarre double-bill ever (the first one was when my parents saw Mrs. Doubtfire and Philadelphia one after the other), but was shot down, under the reasoning of ‘it’s gonna be a couple of guys slappin’ each others asses about a kitchen for 100 minutes’. Very true, but Chef is so much more than just kitchen-based ass-slappin’.

Written, directed and acted by the super talented Jon Favreau, the helmer of one of the greatest Christmas films ever, Elf, Chef tells the story of Carl Casper, a once adventurous and brave chef now working in the kitchen of a fancy Los Angeles restaurant owned by Dustin Hoffman. When a food critic insults both Casper’s cooking and his appearance, he quits his job and buys an old taco truck, taking his son and John Leguizamo along for the ride.

Chef feels like two separate movies, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The stuffy and city-based restaurant half is so enjoyable to watch that you almost forget that this is only the beginning of the story. Taking up a solid 40 minutes of the 114 minute running time, the equally entertaining ‘on the road’ second half almost feels like a coda, when it’s actually the main body of the story. Casper’s rant at Oliver Platt’s perfectly pitched food critic is hilarious and brilliantly written, but ever so slightly let down by the constant use of ‘modern’ words - ‘viral’, ‘trending’, ‘social media’. Whilst not as misguided as that…

Review: Cheap Thrills

7th June 2014 | Films

Review: Cheap Thrills

 

“A thrill ride unlike anything you’ve ever seen before!”

 

Cheap Thrills is amazing. There is no other word for it. I saw a preview of it last year, expecting it to sadly never get a proper release due to quite how intense it is. However, here we are, almost a year later, and E.L. Katz’s masterpiece is finally seeing the light of day, on iTunes and in selected cinemas. I’m not even going to write a tiny synopsis of the film, as it really is something you have to see for yourself. It comes out in the UK this Friday, and I urge you not to read anything about it, nor should you watch any trailers. All I will tell you, however, is that Cheap Thrills is an 87 minute thrill ride unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

 

The performances are all excellent, only enhanced by the direction, so perfect that you feel every single twist and turn like a slap in the face. It’s dark and funny and gritty and gory and upsetting. But it’s a thriller that even Hitchcock would be proud of. And it’s a rare treat.

 

By Preston Nyman

 

Preston has his own movie blog. For more from the world of film, visit http://prestondefends.tumblr.com/.

Review: The Dirties

3rd June 2014 | Films

Review: The Dirties

 

“You’re either going to really love it, or you’ll just hate it!”

 

The Dirties is a dark-comedy found footage film about a school shooting. Whilst that may not sound like a bundle of laughs, I can assure you that the central characters, played by director Matt Johnson and his friend Owen Williams, are so likeable that you nearly find yourself rooting for them. Nearly.

The performances are all absolutely excellent. This is partly down to the fact that many extras and supporting cast members are real high-school students, but also because of the chemistry between the two leads, who are friends in real life. Their obsessive quoting and cross-referencing of obscure films is something that any film fan can relate to, and you utterly buy that that’s what the two of them are like in real life.

Things soon turn sinister when Matt (the characters are named after the actors) takes his film class project, an 80’s action movie where two lonely kids take revenge on their bullies, too far by blurring the lines between his film-obsession and reality, at one point even discussing the T-Shirt he’s going to wear when he carries out his killing spree, which reads ‘We’re just here for the bad guys’. There are clear parallels with a bizarre film that I find myself returning to from time to time, Vernon Zimmerman’s Fade to Black. Released in 1980, it tells the story of Eric Binford, an obsessive film fan who starts killing people who have wronged him, all under the guise of a movie. It’s a strange film, but well worth a watch, if you can track down a copy of it.

The film also raises the issue that guns aren’t the main problem in the recent, tragic string of…