Watch the whole thing HERE!
Watch the whole thing HERE!
Watch the whole thing HERE!
This weekend Reese Witherspoon and Sofía Vergara play a by-the-book cop and the widow of a drug boss in the comedy Hot Pursuit. The unlikely duo hit the road, teaming up to outrun crooked cops and a murderous cartel. “Right now we can’t trust anyone but each other,” says Reese as they crack wise and dodge bullets.
It’s a movie that follows in the long tradition of Hollywood buddy comedies.
There’s an argument to be made that Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy originated buddy comedies long before Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis donned dresses and camped it up in 1959’s Some Like It Hot. For my money, however, the Billy Wilder film about two musicians who witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and flee the state disguised as women set the template for the modern buddy movie.
The basic formula is there — colliding personalities, gibes and comic conflict between the two actors — but more important than any of that is the chemistry between Lemmon and Curtis. Even though every buddy picture relies on tension between the leads, sparks also have to fly between them or the whole thing will fall flat.
Brett Ratner, director of Rush Hour 1, 2 and 3—which paired Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan to great effect—calls interesting chemistry between actors “an explosion in a bottle” and says it’s crucial to the success of any buddy pic.
Since Some Like It Hot, producers have paired up a laundry list of actors searching for the perfect mix. Lemmon and Walter Matthau were the journeymen of the genre, co-starring in six buddy pictures ranging from the sublime—The Odd Couple, which features the classic buddy picture one-liner, “I’m a neurotic nut, but you’re crazy.”— to the ridiculous — Grumpier Old Men.
The female buddy comedy is a more elusive beast. Recently Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock teamed as a tough-talking street cop and uptight, lone wolf FBI agent to bring down a murderous drug dealer in The Heat and in the 1980s Bette Midler was the Queen of the form, pairing off with Shelley Long for Outrageous Fortune and with Lily Tomlin for Big Business in which both stars played dual roles, making it a buddy comedy times two. “Two’s company. Four’s a riot,” read the movie tagline.
There are others, dating back to 1937’s Stage Door, but there is no debating that Hollywood has been slow to feature female bonding as a subject of buddy movies. It’s wild there are two man-and-his-dog buddy movies—Turner and Hootch and K9—but so few featuring women. Despite the box office success of several female buddy comedies sequels have been as rare as hen’s teeth. For instance, Vulture.com points out that of the duelling buddy comedies released on April 25, 2008—Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s Baby Mama and Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay—Fey and company grossed $60 million, while Harold and friends made $38 million and yet the guys laughed all the way to another sequel while Baby Mama remains a one off.
Hollywood is finally warming to the idea of female driven comedies, so perhaps this weekend Witherspoon and the highest paid woman on television can generate enough box office dough to warrant another team-up. In the movie biz money usually speaks louder than anything, including gender.
There are buddy comedies galore featuring men, even at least two, “Turner and Hootch” and “K9,” featuring a man and his dog, but relatively few starring two women. This weekend Reese Witherspoon and Sofía Vergara give their chemistry a test run in the road buddy movie “Hot Pursuit.”
Witherspoon is a by-the-book cop Rose Cooper assigned to deliver drug lord Felipe Riva (Vincent Laresca) and his glamorous wife Daniella (Vergara) to a Dallas, Texas court where they will testify against the Cortez Cartel. All hell breaks loose during the transfer and hired killers kill Felipe. Cooper rescues Daniella, taking her on the run to protect her.
This is a buddy comedy, so you know eventually they will bond, but at the beginning they are opposites in every way. Cooper is an uptight second-generation cop, obsessed with rules and regulations while Daniella is an over-the-top sex bomb, unwilling to leave the house without a suitcase full of stilettoes, even as bad men are shooting at them.
Soon allegations suggesting Cooper is a dirty cop arise in the press and the unlikely pair become, as Daniella says, “the most wanted ladies in America.”
Witherspoon and Vergara are a good match. In true buddy comedy tradition they are Mutt and Jeff, physical and personality opposites. Witherspoon is short and spunky, Vergara is like a cartoon, Jessica Rabbit with an accent and a way with a line.
It’s too bad they aren’t given much to work with. The film starts with a gem of a sequence showing Cooper literally growing up in the back of a police car. It’s charming, funny and sweet, which buys the rest if the movie some goodwill, but it doesn’t last. Both actors squeeze laughs out of underwritten material—Vergara’s delivery is all rolling Rs and cleavage, Witherspoon falls into slapstick—but even though they’re funny, the script isn’t. They milk a few giggles out of the situation, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re starring in a lazily scripted road movie with no real forward motion. There’s not enough energy or laughs to keep things really interesting.
“Hot Pursuit” is a good showcase for its stars but the best it can do is poke fun at the ages and bodies of its leads. Both deserve better and so do we.
Watch the whole thing HERE!
Watch the whole thing HERE!
Perhaps Jon Favreau is still stinging from the reviews he received for “Cowboys & Aliens” or maybe a critic kicked his dog when he was young. Either way judging by his outburst at a food critic in the new comedy “Chef,” he holds some serious animosity for those who sit in judgment of the creative class.
I’ll keep that in mind as I write this review.
Favreau (who also wrote, directed, produced and stars in the film) is Carl Casper, a former hot shot cook, now a divorced work-a-day chef who spends so much time pumping out his boss’s high-end but unimaginative menu, he has no time to spend with his son Percy (Emjay Anthony).
When a famous restaurant critic (Oliver Platt) comes in Carl finds himself stuck between Riva, a restaurant owner (Dustin Hoffman) who wants to play it safe, and his own instincts to push the envelope.
“If you bought Stones tickets and they didn’t play Satisfaction, would you be happy,” asks Riva. “Go with the favorites.”
The plan backfires and Carl is stung by a review that slaps him for a “lack of imagination” and suggests “his dramatic weight gain can only be explained by his eating all the food that is sent back to the kitchen.”
A confrontation with the critic leads sets him on a path to regaining his passion, a journey that begins behind the wheel of a food truck.
The new film is more “Iron Chef” than “Iron Man” and it’s nice to see Favreau shelve the CGI of his biggest hits and return to the human heartbeat of films like “Elf” and “Swingers.” “Chef” is a crowd pleaser that combines its ingredients in a familiar but still delicious way. It’s somewhat predictable, but like comfort food it’s warmly inviting.
Favreau and his sidekick, sous chef Martin (John Leguizamo) are a natural culinary comedy team, with an easy chemistry that gives the movie much of its charm. Sofia Vergara and Scarlett Johansson, as Carl’s ex and current flame respectively, suggest that women find men who cook irresistible, or that Favreau is playing the Woody Allen card of casting slightly out of his league. Both hand in spirited performances and after a brief pasta seduction scene it’s clear Carl has figured out that the old saying, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” applies to women as well.
Robert Downey Jr lightens things up in a slick-talking role that was probably written for Vince Vaughn, and Russell Peters has a funny, but unrealistic cameo as a snap-happy cop.
Critic bashing aside, “Chef” is a lightweight, but enjoyable film; an amuse bouche that may leave you hungry for something more substantial but still manages to satisfy.
The director who used elaborate special effects to make Iron Man soar through the night sky and a spaceship land in the Wild West says, “there is nothing more cinematic and exciting than watching food be prepared.”
Jon Favreau, helmer of blockbusters like Iron Man 1 and 2 and Cowboys & Aliens, adds, “Modestly budgeted films like Eat Drink Man Woman or Jiro Dreams of Sushi are as compelling as any big budgeted Hollywood movie.”
In his new film Chef (which he wrote, directed, produced and stars in), Favreau plays Carl Casper, a chef set on a new culinary path after an influential food critic gives his restaurant a savage review.
The nugget of inspiration for the movie came two decades ago when Swingers, another film Favreau wrote and starred in, became a hit.
“The Big Night came out the year Swingers did,” he says, “and I remember seeing that film and feeling like they had really accomplished so much. With Swingers we had certain modest accomplishments. I was satisfied with it, but Big Night felt like a movie and felt like they had captured something larger.
“Maybe that was in the back of my head for the last 20 years. There was an envy that I had of what they were able to accomplish with the music, the culture, the performances, the food and how delightful it was. So I finally got to make my food movie.”
In those 20 years, Favreau has been in the Hollywood trenches as a producer, director, actor and writer and is quick to note the similarities and differences between the story of Chef and his real-life work in the movie business.
“The archetypes of the players on the stage in the food world and the movie world are very similar,” he says.
“The stakes are a bit higher in the food world, which is why it is dramatically appealing. One bad review can shut you down. Right now, the way reviews work in movies is that you’re reading 90 reviews. It’s all on Rotten Tomatoes, a compilation of numbers and you don’t really have that personal relationship with a specific critic as you do in the theatre world or the food world. In the food world you are eye-to-eye with that critic and you are eye-to-eye with the customer and when that food gets sent back to the kitchen you are looking at that plate. It’s a lot different.”
Favreau’s next film is a live-action remake of The Jungle Book, but he says he’ll likely flip-flop between big- and small-budget films in future.
“If I knew I could come up with a small story that I’d be excited about, next year I’d do this again but honestly, it hasn’t been since Swingers that I’ve been able to sit down and write something so fully formed so quickly.
“I somewhat envy the filmmakers who can come up with a small story each year because this was the best experience I’ve ever had.”
It would be easy to mistake “Fading Gigolo” for a Woody Allen film. First there’s the obvious stuff—it’s set in New York, has a jazz score, younger women flirt with older men and, of course, Woody is in the center of it all cracking wise.
But it’s not a Woody Allen film. It was written and directed by John Turturro, who is a formidably talented actor but as a director, suffers in comparison to his co-star and obvious inspiration.
Allen is Murray Schwartz, a New York bookseller—he sells “rare books for rare people”—is forced to close his store and let his single employee Fioravante (Turturro) go. Fioravante is a soulful jack-of-all trades, but master of none until he embarks in a new gig that suits him to a tee—gigolo. Murray becomes an unlikely pimp, setting Fioravante up with older, bored rich women (Sharon Stone and Sofía Vergara) who become smitten with his puppy dog eyes and sweltering sensuality. Trouble is, although his bank account is full, Fioravante finds the job personally unfulfilling. That changes when he falls for Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), the demure widow of a rabbi.
“Fading Gigolo” attempts to find the balance of humour, pathos and romance that seems to come so easily to Allen, but is more “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” than “Annie Hall.” From the sexual shenanigans of the gigolo scenes to the more repressed romance of the Avigal storyline, the muddled story fails to generate any real heat. Add to that a subplot involving Liev Schreiber as a neighborhood ranger with feelings for the widow who reports Murray for breaking Jewish law and you have enough stories for two movies crammed into one.
Performance wise, Turturro is so stoic it’s as if he’s planning the next shot in his head while also trying to act in the film, but Stone, Vergara, Paradis and Schreiber each have a moment to shine. Stone, playing a doctor with a philandering husband, becomes more than a stereotype as she quietly cries, from trepidation and nervousness the first time Fioravante stops by to ply his trade. It’s a revealing moment in a movie that could have used a few more of them.
Since this is a de facto Woody Allen movie it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Allen walks away with the whole thing. There is a thrill that goes along when he describes Fioravante as “disgusting, but in a very positive way.” It’s a Woody-ism that provides a whiff of nostalgia that makes the audience long for the good Woody Allen movies, not imitations like this one.