REVIEW: “THE KITCHEN” (2019) Warner Bros.

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This is not a comedy. Ordinarily a movie review would not begin by telling you what the movie is not, but when the theater marquee flashes “Starring Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish”, most anyone would assume they are in for a 2-hour laugh out loud romp with the promise of some outlandish one-liners to drop at the next party. Instead, the directorial debut from Andrea Berloff is a relatively violent mob movie.

Kathy (Melissa McCarthy), Ruby (Tiffany Haddish), and Claire (Elisabeth Moss) are left isolated when their mob-connected husbands are busted by the FBI, and sent to prison. Survival instincts kick in for the previously un-involved ladies, and they quickly realize that a bit of strategy would allow them to not only run the business their husbands left behind, but also build it into something better. Of course the mobsters left behind are none-too-pleased with the women outperforming them, and so we get a good old fashioned ‘brains vs. brawn’ battle.

The setting is the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan. The year is 1978, so the Irish community still has a stronghold on the area. This is basically the same time frame and the same streets that serve as the setting for the classic film ‘TAXI DRIVER.’  We see what happens when a woman’s touch is applied to gangster activities: bonds are built, services are rendered, and payments are made. The illusion of power draws the three women in deeper, and the movie has us believe they are good at it. The issue is, as viewers, we never really buy into these three seizing this power. We are just supposed to sit back and accept that Kathy is an expert community organizer, Ruby gets things done behind the scenes, and timid Claire evolves. Actually, Claire’s transformation is the best part of the film. Seeing her discover new talents and her true persona is as exciting for us as it is for her. However, in total, the 3 characters are little more than caricatures of gritty mobsters.

In addition to the three stars, the cast is deep. The three husbands, Jimmy (Brian d’Arcy James), Kevin (James Badge Dale), and Rob (Jeremy Bobb),  all three are criminals and bad husbands who’ve been sent to serve three years in prison for their roles in a robbery.  Domhnall Gleeson as Gabriel,  resumes his chameleon ways in what could have been a more interesting role as he just literally randomly shows up in a scene without explanation and continues on from there, Common in a very small background role, plays a federal agent Gary Silvers, though he does give us the only plot twist ending of the movie.  Annabella Sciorra has a nice turn as the Italian mobster’s Alfonso Coretti’s (Bill Camp) wife Maria, and the great Margo Martindale complete with prop cane and wig, plays by far the best character of this entire film Helen O’Carroll, the only role that completely stands out in of all the respective gangster roles in the film.

The film does a nice job tying in historical elements of the era, including the construction plans for the Javitz Center, where they mention ‘some millionaires son is creating’ i.e., this is none other than Donald Trump.  There are more than a few moments of violence, but the shots aren’t nearly as dramatic as we’ve come to expect in mob movies. It’s simply not as gritty as it pretends to be.  The pretense of ‘just another day at the office’ after each murder committed by these women seems prevalent here.  There are some similarities to some mob movies of past, but if you’re expecting a female version of ‘Goodfellas,’ that’s not happening, though had this been done right, it could have been.   I expect it will be a crowd-pleaser for those along for the ride. Just remember – it’s not a comedy.

Grade: D+

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Media Review Screening: Thursday, August 8, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros. 

“THE KITCHEN” IS IN THEATERS IN THE U.S.A. ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 9, 2019 // FOLLOWING WORLDWIDE LATE AUGUST/SEPT

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REVIEW: “THE WALK” (2015) Sony Pictures

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the walk
Opening this film with Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) standing atop the Statue of Liberty explaining to us, the audience, what the lure of the twin towers is to him and why it’s the perfect place to ‘hang his wire’. All this is done with Levitt speaking directly to the audience a-la documentary style..but with none of the panache of “Man on a Wire” the documentary film made in 2008 about this same event.

So why you ask did Robert Zemeckis make this dramatized version of events from as it seems fairly pointless. Well that is the question I asked myself while watching throughout the film. While we do get taken into the beginnings of a young Philippe maybe even a little to much so, but we meet Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley) as the man who inspired Philippe to begin his career in high-wire walking, how he meets the woman who supports him throughout Annie (Charolotte Le Bon), his main photographer friend Jean Louis (Clement Sibony) along with math whiz/acrophobic Jean Francois (Cesar Domboy) as well as Americans J.P. (James Badge Dale) Albert (Ben Schwartz) and scene stealer insurance/inside man, Barry (Steve Valentine).
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Watching them plan the ‘heist’ is fun at best, though a bit long in the tooth for some scenes. It doesn’t build up the tension needed until Philippe actually begins ‘The Walk’ between the towers and it’s truly the main reason to see this film as to witness that spectacle itself which is delivered well with flair & excitement. The swooping and inventive movement of the camera does show exactly how daring this feat really was.
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I will add though as well as that part of the film came off, some of the CGI/green screen was so poorly done that for me, it just couldn’t compare to the actual footage shown in the 2008 documentary where you see the real Philippe smiling and pulling off the stunts he did while 1300 feet in the sky.

The performaces will get no awards and it’s a bit frustrating at times to realize they could have used so many amazing although yes, lesser-known, but actual French talent that is there for the picking rather than US actors in the respective lead roles as the accent use can be rather jarring at times. But I get it, you need a name to carry your film. For me and I recommend this to anyone – see ‘Man on a Wire’ as it will serve your needs much better than this version.
The film would have gotten a lot lower grade from me had it not been for the honorable way they show the Towers in the light they did and especially the lovely homage scene at the end.

Grade: C-

Screening: Wednesday, October 7,2015 ~ Courtesy of the PGA