REVIEW: “A TASTE OF HUNGER” (2022) Magnolia Pictures

Heading into Danish director Christoffer Boe’s latest film “A TASTE OF HUNGER”, I had more of a picture in my head of the 1990’s film ‘Big Night’ where the focus of the film was basically making food and making the audience drool over it, while having an almost comedic backstory to boot. This film came close in some ways, but not quite in the same manner.

Here in a different take on a chef’s story, Carsten (Nikoaj Coster-Waldau) has been working for 10 years to build up his small restaurant Malus, in Copenhagen with the only goal being that of earning the oh-so-rare and coveted Michelin star. His wife, Maggi (Katrine Gries-Rosenthal), is his partner in life as well as in business. We see how committed to the cause they are, and while they appear to have a solid marriage and are decent parents, it’s clear the kids and the family are not the priority in that as the quest for that rare restaurant star is. Maggi is at the point of looking outside her marriage for affection with another chef from a competing restaurant, which her young daughter Chloe (Flora Augusta) completely notices and their son August (August Vinkel), has an episode where he randomly wanders off and goes missing due to lack of attention from his parents.

A Movie by Hr. Boe Zentropa

All this deflects from the true story at hand here, again, obtaining the Michelin star, and we watch as Carsten goes through some true Ludo Lefebvre type rages that is seemingly popular amongst chefs to do. But instead of following that trend, we get taken into some really delicious and delicate food porn scenery. It’s beautiful to see such flair given here in the details with each dish being shown in it’s carefully arranged and perfectly cooked manner. The acting portrays the deep desire that every chef has to create a dish that the customer would never forget, as one can almost smell all of the delicious food, as if the scent of sautéed oyster, cooked octopus, and fermented lemons are wafting through the screen right into you. It also conveys what it really means to achieve this prized star for your restaurant as a whole. In essence, their entire life rides on it and while some might think it’s just food, it’s clear to not just Carsten and Maggi, but to their friends who join them while waiting to hear – one in particular Torben (Nicolas Bro), shows how important it is even to him.

While the story isn’t perfect here, it is the opening scenes that are truly the most beautiful to set the tone of the movie with the sequence of beautifully presented food and the music create an enthralling introduction to the movie. Yes, the mish-mash of back and forth flashbacks of the family’s decline into unhappiness might not be all that one wants to watch, but it does let you know why things are happening. As with all families, not everything is what it seems on the outside, but it does take away some from the true point of this film.

So while the food portion of this film will definitely cleanse your palette, the story as a whole might lead you straight into dessert, even with all ending as it does. But it’s definitely worth a taste.

Grade: C+

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“A TASTE OF HUNGER” hits theaters and on demand Friday, January 28, 2022

REVIEW: “SCREAM” (2022) Paramount Pictures / Spyglass Media Group

Ring..Ring.. Ring..Ring.. Yes – someone still has a landline and yes, what would “SCREAM” be if they didn’t. I mean they have to follow some traditions and this one is a MUST to have as they can’t deny us, the audience this one major plot point now can they. Well thankfully co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett agree.

The plot is simple and while it’s good to it all keep vague to not spoil it, it’s also exactly what you think it will be with the exception of this time around they’ve brought along with them a new cast of characters. New girls Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega), and her older sister Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera), as our female leads, essentially taking the spots of Gale Weathers-Riley (Courtney Cox), and Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), they have the same chemistry of not really being close at the beginning. And then Ghostface returns to town proving he can still slash with the best of them, and turns everything upside down.

With her own set of suspects…errr… friends, Tara gets attacked by whomever Ghostface might actually be this time around and that list of new suspects is long. There is Sam’s boyfriend Richie Kirsch (Jack Quaid), along with Tara’s group of school friends, Amber Freeman (Mikey Madison), the twins, Chad (Mason Gooding) and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy-Brown), Liv McKenzie (Sonia Ammar), and Wes Hicks (Dylan Minnette) – who is none other than Deputy Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton) son. Combining this new cast along with our old favourites – Gale, Sidney and yes, the now “retired” Dewey Riley (David Arquette), makes this film an absolute blast, with a lot of crisp, smart, but alas also cliched writing, that combines the nostalgia of what has come before with the infusion of fresh talent present here. Now this is how you return to Woodsboro.

SCREAM is a fun, intelligent horror film and the fandom should be quite happy here with it as it draws some good laughs for how the writers nail every piece of the dialogue, along with the film’s ability to recognize not only where it came from, but to play with it along the way. You’re along for the jokes as an audience, while it juggles every one of your expectations when it comes to what is on the screen. And while of course it has cliché galore and some cheese is thrown in, but that is sorta what the DNA of the franchise is notorious for now isn’t it?! Truly, what would a ‘SCREAM’ movie be if your characters didn’t get slashed and still be able to get up and walk around like nothing has ever happened. And that’s also what brings the humour – the quick funny one liners about what people “should” be doing in a horror movie is what made the original well.. so original.

And while the new cast is good and pretty solid in their respective new roles with any one of them being able to be and/or suspected of at one time or another, of being Ghostface. Noting that they remind you of characters of old is to be expected as well, but it is Jenna Ortega who is truly amazing here. She brings the solid teen vibes making being stalked by Ghostface seem realistic. But for all that they bring, it’s hands down the old school cast that brings it hard here. Every one of them brings back not just the memories, but their characters are more solid at this point as well. One can’t help but be entertained by it all.

With tons of slasher kills, some are not for the faint of heart, as they try to outdo each other in this area and while fun, the finale seems almost like they were trying a bit too hard to come up with too many twists and turns that are fairly obvious. But again, it’s mostly just some fun with cliché thrown in adding to the good old time slash – all in all – it’s a ..SCREAM!

Grade: B+

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Review Screening: Tuesday, January 11, 2022 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment

“SCREAM” IS OUT IN THEATERS THIS FRIDAY, JANUARY 14, 2022

REVIEW: “THE 355” (2022) Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures and director Simon Kinberg brings together an incredible group of women from Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penelope Cruz, Bingbin Fan and Diane Kruger in it’s latest release “THE 355”.

The film follows CIA spy Mason (Jessica Chastain), as she goes off-grid after a tangled mess up debacle with fellow agent/love interest Nick Fowler (Sebastian Stan). On the hunt for a new mass destruction techno weapon – one that could probably bring World War III about and possibly destroy the world through the power of technology, she teams up with her old friend MI6 cybersecurity expert Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o). But getting the disk eludes them as they battle as well against German BND Agent Marie (Diane Kruger), as they end up combining forces for the common good. As well, Colombian psychologist Graciela (Penélope Cruz), and Chinese MSS spy Lin Mi Sheng (Bingbing Fan), come into play as well, though Graciela is no spy – she is a mother with a family back home who was thrown into it all when her friend Luis Rojas (Edgar Ramirez) is killed. As well Lin Mi doesn’t join in until they get closer to the asset and expose the corruption that may take them down some paths that lead closer to home than they realize.

Now does this film involve brain surgery – no it does not. It is however full of decent action and can be entertaining for the most part – if it weren’t so darn predictable with the character story lines. It has it’s ups and downs, for the most part getting a bit more exciting in the second half where the device is put up for auction, but again, we are in the predictable ‘bad guys at the auction’ set-up here. And as I always say, you are only as good as your villain, which here is once again, predictable.

However all is not lost as the five leading ladies are all quite superb with their distinctive characters with all of them given a decent amount to do and flesh out their characters, though Fan’s Lin Mi character doesn’t show up till at least two-thirds of the way, she makes her mark. Their dynamics and chemistry are engaging as well though Chastain and Kruger’s respective agents spark off one another throughout with their entertaining, but averse relationship, while Nyong’o brings the ‘heart’ to the film in her role as retired MI6 computer expert. It is however, Penélope Cruz who comes close to stealing the show as Colombian psychologist Graciela, as she brings the much needed fun into the film with a character very much out of her depth in the espionage and action department. And lastly, the character of Marie – with Diane Kruger just bringing the bad-assery with her here every step of the way. She’s the character you love to hate, and then love again.

Again, while entertaining at times, and the bad-assery is quite on par, and ‘Girl Power’ definitely reigns supreme here, unfortunately the end result is a rather mish-mash affair that, while not really ever dull, never really feels all that fully exciting either.

Grade: C-

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Review Screener: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“THE 355” is out in theaters Friday, January 7, 2022

REVIEW: “DRIVE MY CAR” (2021) Janus Films

Continuing on with some reviews I had in the queue from 2021 and this next one is the incredible “DRIVE MY CAR” from director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi.

If someone had told me that I would be spending three hours watching a Japanese film with sub-titles and actually want more when the film ended, well yes, I would have probably thought you had popped a gummy or two. I mean honestly, when was the last time you saw a three-hour movie you wished could be longer? And trust me when I tell you that “Drive My Car” not only inspires that wish, it grants it along with every other single film wish you ever had. It also has a moment where if ‘fools’ you as the credits roll around the 45 minute mark, which made me stop and think ‘what? what is happening right now, this can’t be over’. Have no fear because it continues to give you another glorious two hours of the world of Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s film, and its wayward characters, that keep unspooling in your head.

Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), is a Tokyo Theater Director and actor who travels to Hiroshima to be in residency at a local theater group putting on a performance of Uncle Vanya. The production is to be multi-lingual including Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog and even a sign language performer playing the role of Sonja (Yoo-rim Park). Then an arrogant young actor from Kafuku’s past, Koji (Masaki Okada), appears for the auditions to the everyone’s surprise. Mostly because the recently widowed Kafuku is overly obsessed over why, before her death, his wife had an affair with the young, famous actor, whose intelligence and lifestyle seemed, well, to put it nicely, beneath her. Is there something more sinister at hand here? Well stay tuned as it will all unfold before you in glorious fashion.

As one of the stipulations of this residency though is that Kafuku has to have a driver at all times. And that driver arrives in the form of the quiet and introspective Misaki (Toko Miura). Reluctant at first because not only of tradition but of learned leariness, Kafuku ends up accepting her. Part of his method acting is that he likes to take long drives in his car while listening to a specially recorded audiotape of Uncle Vanya. It’s during these trips where both the title comes from, but, also provides a basis for their relationship even though few words are exchanged between them though Miskai has a stoic enough approach early into it all that it can’t help but to suggest she’s haunted by something. And yes, it’s the images that will stick with you throughout this film; like the two hands thrust through a Saab’s moon roof clutching cigarettes, two figures perched atop a cliff-like snowdrift, a young woman hanging back, completely captivated, as the actors rehearse the play in a park setting.

And just like a well-done play, the earlier acts create the necessary build-up for the climax and resolution to this journey. The structure of the film is like a mystery box, opening its secrets stage by stage. Even the last act is never rushed. Each scene, each nuance, is so very carefully weighed and delivered to you. It’s all so brilliantly that again, you never realize you’ve been spending the last three hours of your life completely enthralled and enveloped in the journey ‘DRIVE MY CAR’, as it’s well-worth every minute of it.

Grade: A+

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Review Screener: Courtesy of Divergent PR.

“DRIVE MY CAR” is now playing in select theaters

REVIEW: “CODA” (2021) Netflix

Catching up on some quick reviews from 2021 that I didn’t get to and starting off with the wonderful “CODA”.

I feel that at this point what can be said about “CODA” that hasn’t already been said by a gazillion critics since the movie’s debut on Apple TV+ earlier this year? Sadly, I don’t have the Apple so I only got the chance to see it while kitty sitting! But this story of a teenager, Ruby (Emilia Jones), who is the lone hearing person in her deaf family just struck such a cord with me that I would be remiss to not at least say how much it really just hit home with so many. It also continued to further the conversation on why Deaf and disabled stories need to be told and what writer/director Sian Heder did was open that door if even just a little, it’s finally deservedly been done in a most wonderful and effective way.

The Rossis family are, in many ways, just like the average American family. They also happen to be predominately Deaf and by telling this story, which is filled with so compassion and humour (spoiler alert- people with disabilities can be funny as well), it did a lot to further the sadly, under-discussed topic of disability representation in films with people with actual disabilities. There are so many elements of this movie to love. Every thing from Troy Kotsur’s portrayal of Frank Rossi, the embarrassing father, who talks about sex with a boy Ruby likes, but yet is also her biggest supporter in learning what her true passion is and why she feels obligated to help her family, and finally sees what her true passion is and why she loves music. Marlee Matlin, whose portrayal of her mother Jackie, widely opens up the door so far closed until now, onto the unspoken of discussion on how disabled/Deaf parents relate to their children. The aforementioned Jones and Daniel Durant as her brother Leo Rossi, who is as well deaf, as two siblings whose desire for responsibility and independence are brought to the forefront, but the story in how they are perceived in totally different ways, is what makes it all the more special.

And the acting is just truly one of the best things that just makes the film all the more special. Every single person from Kotsur, Matlin as the openly in love deaf couple showing they not only have to deal with the same hardships hearing people deal with, but add into that, their being deaf to the outside world, to the wonderful Emilia Jones, who characterizes flawlessly the hardships, the happiness and finally comes into her own in spectacular fashion. I hope we see many awards nominations and wins come there way this season as it’s all much deserved.

This movie captured the little things that I think we all didn’t know we truly wanted to see and learn about in the ‘disability narrative’, one that I know I want to see more of.

Hopefully we all will.

Grade: A

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“CODA” is now showing on Apple TV+