What If (2014)

what-if-daniel-radcliffe

Roze-Rating: 4 / 5

After getting his heart broken, Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) takes a long break from the dating world, and is adamant about his cynical standpoint about love. This soon changes when he meets Chantry (Zoe Kazan), a love interest at first glance only to learn the gutting news that she has a boyfriend of several years. A coincidental run in later they make truths to become friends, not letting their feelings get in the way of their friendship. As we all know, that never works.

‘What If’ sounds like your conventional Rom-Com on paper and it pretty much is. It tries its best to stray away from overdone plot points that we have seen in the past. Which makes for a less deja vu induced viewing but ultimately it isn’t anything original. What I’ve learnt from these traditional Rom-Com’s is that the story only plays a small part towards its success. We wouldn’t be watching these films if we weren’t hopeless romantics or participating in weekend date nights with our significant other. What makes these films enjoyable are the characters and the chemistry they have within their intertwined relationships. Without chemistry, especially from the leads, there would be no romance or any reason to feel a connection to the film. ‘What If’ benefits from two talented leads who ooze chemistry. You don’t always get to see chemistry between characters as natural and grounded as this in the Rom-Com genre.

This film also benefits from a down to earth script which is genuinely funny and is for the most part successful. I like how the story is clearly used and done before but the actions and rationale of the characters are grounded and realistic. It is an awkward situation, to like someone who is in a relationship. There will be hesitation and internal debate whether to pursue that person or not. Motivating that thought, “what if?”. I found the exploration of that quite interesting and relatable. Nothing too extravagant or unrealistic happens throughout this film, I found that to be a pleasant departure from those Rom-Coms which are overly dramatic or glamorized. It’s simply about a guy who realizes it’s a lot easier to be cynical about love than to go out and find it. It’s idealistic but an interesting theme of the film. As for the comedy, the cast are to praise. There are some great nuanced moments which are both cute and funny thanks to the performances. This again, relating to how well the cast seems to gel in those crucial one on one scenes. A moment I particularly found funny is when Chantry’s sister explains her experience with Wallace from the night before, it’s quite apparent that there’s no intention to cause drama but to voice her embarrassment. She then proceeds to make her belly look pregnant, I found that a lot funnier than I should have, but I guess I was more surprised that I’m not the only one who partakes in such quirk.

I haven’t seen Daniel Radcliffe since the Harry Potter films, and I regret not following his career since then as he plays the endearing Englishman unlucky in love perfectly. His decisions have been both interesting and diverse swaying away from high budget blockbusters, and I’m genuinely looking forward to his next projects. Adam Driver on the other hand is a revelation, having starred in films such as Inside Llewyn Davis, This is Where I Leave You and many more, playing both comedic and dramatic roles which I am looking forward to catching up on. As for his Star Wars gig, it will be interesting seeing how he comes off in a massive blockbuster film.

What If may not offer anything new in the Rom-Com genre but it does offer a beautifully shot ninety minutes of endearing characters and infectious on screen chemistry with a pretty banging soundtrack.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

SS_D8-3371.dngRoze-Rating: 3 / 5

The penultimate chapter within The Hunger Games franchise brings us to District 13, home of the rebellion. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is not in the best of shapes following the chaos of her quarter-quell Hunger Games and still grieving the capture of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). She is reluctantly roped into becoming the face of the rebel forces with the hopes of saving Peeta as motivation. In order to defeat the Capitol, Katniss must embody the Mockingjay and lead the revolution towards victory.

I absolutely loved Catching Fire, so much so that it ended up being in my top ten films of 2013. It was everything that I wanted the first Hunger Games to be. It was grittier, action packed and free from unnecessary shaky cam! Which is why I was totally excited to be watching Mockingjay – Part 1 especially knowing Francis Lawrence was returning to direct it. Having ended on such a massive and intense cliffhanger, I was ready to see Katniss kick some ass and give the Capitol a taste of their own medicine. Of course you can guess that I was thoroughly underwhelmed by this film. My initial reaction leaving the theater was of annoyance having spent money on a film that didn’t really deliver on what I wanted to see but having also endured the smell of sweaty prepubescent teenagers for nothing (I can’t talk). On a business stand point I totally understand why splitting the last book into two films is smart and inevitable in today’s film industry, but I really did not see the ‘need’ for it cinematically. I think if the film was marketed as what it really is which is more of a darker character drama rather than an action packed film about revolution, then I probably wouldn’t be too bummed out about it.That being said, having reflected on the film and let it sit with me for a day, I respect what the film does and maybe after seeing Mockingjay – Part 2, it could end up being the perfect sibling to the ultimate finale. It doesn’t help that we have to wait another year to see it, which is why ultimately it just feels like an extended cliffhanger of Catching Fire.

I really wanted to like this film, and I did up until about halfway through where things started to feel a bit dragged on, overdeveloped and quite frankly slow. Stuff happens but really in the full scope of the franchise, not much really does, which is why the ending didn’t have an impact on me at all. I wasn’t shocked. It ended and I hadn’t learnt or felt any differently towards President Snow or the Capitol; I still hated them the same as I did in the last two films. It was just underwhelming and I could feel it within the theater, the energy was relatively low and people left without a commotion. I remember seeing Catching Fire and after that ending I was just blown away with excitement. I wanted that reaction.

That being said I don’t think the film is completely unnecessary, it’s a part of the story that needed to be told and is actually quite interesting. For a teen franchise, some of the themes are mature and compelling. I really liked the way they represented the rebellion and fleshed out how impactful propaganda can be on a revolution to push an agenda. It was also interesting to see how Katniss coped with being the face of the revolution and dealing with the pressures of being looked up to for inspiration. At points during the story I felt like I should be resenting Julianne Moore’s character and the nature of the rebellion based on how they were treating Katniss. I feel like there was a missed opportunity to represent revolution as a negative force although essential for change. Although these were interesting themes, it eventually became a bit tiresome as the narrative was stretched as far as it could go. The story never develops and in all honesty nor does Katniss. I was waiting for her to truly ’embody’ the Mockingjay and relish the position, but she never really does. Another reason for why Mockingjay – Part 1 ultimately feels incomplete.

Despite the film being shot gorgeously and the dystopian set pieces being well realized, I felt some of the scenes were edited frustratingly. Two scenes stick out to me at the end. Both having to edit in and out of simultaneous events. (Spoiler) The rescue scene was incredibly frustrating to watch for me. Even though I liked the Zero Dark Thirty feel about it, they completely milked that scene for everything it was worth. It went on for what felt like 10 minutes while Katniss and Snow faced off in a less than thrilling battle of wits, and by the end of what was supposed to be a suspenseful moment just didn’t work for me. It was frustrating because I loved how it was shot, the tinges of red, the way the camera followed them and the stealth. And how many speeches did we get in that film? It felt like too many.

Despite all the disappointment I could not help but admire Jennifer Lawrence’s performance, who is only growing from strength to strength as her career goes on. Nevertheless I really started to miss the no nonsense Katniss we grew so fond of from the previous films as her infatuation with Peeta increased. I can’t tell if she’s truly in love with him or if she feels guilty for the situation he’s in. Either way it’s an interesting relationship and somewhat a larger focus of this film.

Mockingjay – Part 1 isn’t necessarily a bad film, it has strong performances, interesting narrative elements and brilliant shots. Nevertheless I don’t think it merited its own film and could have easily been condensed into 45 minutes. I could understand fans loving this film as it more or less stays true to the book, but I’d much rather watch a 3 hour Hunger Games film that sticks with me forever than a 2 hour film that I’m most likely going to forget. But I doubt the studios care, because they know people like me will still buy a ticket for next years Mockingjay – Part 2!

Interstellar (2014)

interstellarRoze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

Christopher Nolan brings us not only his 9th directorial triumph but the most ambitious film of 2014. Starring the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain and a black hole or two; this film was always going to be one of the most anticipated films of the year. Interstellar, not only directed by Nolan but also co written with his brother, tells a story set in the distant future where earth is failing to provide humanity with enough food to survive. In anticipation of Earths demise, NASA prepares a mission which could not only save humanity but take them to places they have never been before.

All year round Interstellar has burdened us with its teaser trailers, teaser’s for the teaser trailers and just your average trailer keeping with Nolan’s trademark ambiguity. Well I guess it worked as they’re sitting on a healthy 330 million worldwide box office two weeks into their release. Further proving the pull power of the Nolan, McConaughey, Sci-fi combination. Although they were probably hoping for a bigger opening weekend, only to be foiled by Big Hero 6.

There have been big questions surrounding this film since its release, such as whether or not the hype took away from the films experience and without Nolan would Interstellar be getting a lot more criticism than it has been. In my opinion either way this film achieved what it was meant to do, which was give the audience an experience that would leave them pondering and debating. It’s been two weeks now and there are still discussions about the films theories, the science and the story. I can’t remember the last time I watched a film and was still thinking about it this far past my viewing. Except for Blonde and Blonder, I mean to this day I can’t think of a film that I’ve hated as much as that, despite it’s gorgeous leads. Interstellar on the other hand is memorable for the right reasons. Yes there are problems with the screenplay relating to character logic and plot holes involving who “they”are and probably some of the science, but in all honesty they weren’t as prominent until I sat down and fully digested the film. Upon viewing I was in awe of the visuals, the acting, the father-daughter relationship and even the science. Interstellar absorbs you into the film, making you think and emotionally invest into McConaughey’s character and his motivations. You can criticize the film as much as you like but there is no doubting that this is a must see film of 2014, not necessarily because it’s a great film but because it’s an ambitious film.

Interstellar is beautifully crafted which is a given for Nolan films nowadays as he reimagines space as a grand piece of spectacle while keeping its beauty and mystery intact. While we don’t get an intense sense of zero gravity and false orientation as Gravity of last year, we are still able to indulge in it’s bleak vastness and vacuum environment. The creation of the black hole alone is masterful which turns out to be scientifically accurate and may have even prompted a new discovery. There is no debate over how great this film looks, everything from the worm hole to the corn fields. Space isn’t the only bleak environment as earth is depicted as just as hopeless and on the brink of destruction. We have had some awesome illustrations of space lately and after ‘Gravity’, hopefully this becomes the standard for space films.

Going into this film I really didn’t know what to expect. The trailers advertised a lot of corn fields, a teary McConaughey and a few shots of the unknown, but I still made my way to the theater. Which only further proves that you can still make a badass trailer without giving away too much and still entice an audience. Granted I would never miss a Nolan film especially a Nolan film set in space. That being said, did the ambiguity help the film? for me it made it even more of an experience, which is exactly what watching a film should be. I’ve seen enough films after viewing a trailer and thinking “wow, it really didn’t hold back on giving away those plot points”, and ultimately your sitting waiting for those moments. So finding out that Interstellar is a lot more sentimental than I would have anticipated made for quite an emotional and unexpected experience.

Amongst the scientific mumbo jumbo at the heart of the film is a story about love and how love itself is a force to be reckoned with. It may seem a bit icky on paper and overly familiar but I totally bought into it because we’ve not seen love explored at this scale and optimism before. We’re told that love is “quantifiable” and how it might even “transcend space and time” during a love drunk speech by Anne Hathaway, a speech that initially felt off but with reflection made sense. But what really sells it are the performances by Matthew McConaughey and child star Mackenzie Foy. Their bond and their love are ultimately the stars of this film and without it, the film would have undoubtedly fell flat.

Initially this film starts off very negative, openly blaming humans for earths demise and current situation where farmers are more valuable than engineers. Only preventing the very nature of humans, which is to explore. What I liked is the progression from pessimism to optimism. McConaughey’s character has an epiphany of sorts, realizing no matter what happens humans will find a way, as we are also survivors by nature. Once the film goes in this direction, I couldn’t help but feel inspired and positive about the world we live in now.

Another element I enjoyed was the representation of time, and how time is different in certain parts of the universe. We learn that gravity has a lot to do with that. Knowing McConaughey is under some time pressure to see his children makes the film even more suspenseful and grueling. We understand that he has waited his whole life for this moment, to explore and discover new worlds, but ultimately he’s doing it to save his children. It kills him inside knowing that he’s going to lose time with them but the prospect of seeing them live in an even bleaker future is even worse. It’s a hard hitting reality about the preciousness of time and how much we depend on it.

Now in terms of the dialogue, it was very hit and miss. I understand that there are some complicated concepts and theories needing to be explained using scientific terminology and such. At times it was quite interesting and even enlightening but for the most part it just went over my head. Thanks to the fast pacing and heightened dramatic tension, it was easy to stay engaged in the dialogue, even though there were parts that I wish I could have rewinded and watched again. That being said if they would have toned down the science talk it might have made it a lot easier to fully connect with the film. Another problem was the expository nature of the dialogue. At times it was subtle and I didn’t mind that, but there were a few moments that stuck with me because it took me right out of the film. It’s never a good thing when one character is starting a conversation with “remember that time… blah blah”, unless its purely nostalgic. Nevertheless I can look past that for everything else this film is, which is pretty darn beautiful.

Interstellar may not be a perfect film, but for me, it’s not too hard to look past its flaws and see something pretty special. It has the spectacle, the aesthetics, the performances and the score to make this a fully captivating film. And if you aren’t happy with that, there’s even a talking robot that tells sarcastic jokes! We need more films like this.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

dofpRoze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

The original X-Men cast return to the big screen as they are under the attack of Bolivar Trask’s (Peter Dinklage) Sentinel program. Casualties are high and rising, as the mutants aren’t the only species being attacked but also the humans who dare to help them. This leaves earth under brutal control of the worst of society, with the mutant killing machines at their disposal. The only way to save the world is to turn back time and prevent the very event which caused the genocide. This requires Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) to be sent back to the 70s to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing Trask, an event which dictated the view of mutants around the globe.

I will say right off the bat that this is the best X-Men film to date. After multiple viewings my opinion does not change as it’s quite simply a great film. What it does is give us a true in depth exploration of these characters, not all of them, but a lot more than what previous X-Men films achieved to do. This meant Wolverine was able to take a seat back and give other characters a turn. I think Singer recognized that and for once the characters are given the respect they deserve. This film is filled with great character driven moments, and in my opinion they stand out much more than the action, which was also brilliant. This is completely down to Simon Kinberg’s screenplay, which gave us complex characters, encouraging us to think a little bit and allowing us to make our own opinions about these characters. A stand out moment would be a heated argument between Professor X and Magneto (young) as they are flying to find Mystique. It becomes clear that these are two people who have the mutants well being in mind, but their ideologies about how to go about protecting them are vastly different. For once Magneto isn’t portrayed as bad. We are able to understand his ideology and for a moment sympathize for him as he protests Professor X’s self-pity. These ideologies are further explored as Mystique is caught in between them, trying to pave her own path towards saving the mutants. Ultimately the writing really makes this a great film.

I was always a bit underwhelmed by how the characters powers were translated on screen, not all the time, but I felt this way more times than I should have. Days of Future past finally nails it as it feels more fluid and organic rather than confused and flat. I never liked Storm (Halle Berry) because I thought her powers were a bit lame, but after this film I finally understand her badassery. Right from the opening scene I knew that things were going to be different on the action side, and they were for the better. Like they say, one stick is easy to break, but a bunch of sticks are almost impossible to break. Much like their powers, they function better when they work as a team, and quite evidently it’s much more entertaining. It says a lot that Wolverine was probably one of the tamest characters throughout the whole film.

With the rise of this comic book movie phenomenon, it’s encouraging to see that the acting is not being compromised as this film has some of the best performances I’ve seen in a comic book film. If future films of this genre continue to go in this vein then I have a lot of money to save for the 20 odd comic book films which are going to be raiding our local cinemas in the coming years. Seeing this cast on screen is awe inducing right to the end. Making it even harder for me to hold in all my emotions as both Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy share an intense moment of screen time, which did not disappoint.

There is no denying that this film will make it onto peoples top 10 lists for comic book films. If not your best comic book films list, then your best comic book film moments list. The moment I’m referring to is the Quicksilver scene, which is hands down the best scene I’ve seen in awhile. It’s inventive, funny, badass and totally appropriate for the representation of his power. One thing is for sure, Aaron Taylor Johnson is gonna have to do something special to have one over on Evan Peters.

For a superhero film it felt somewhat down to earth, as if we were watching real people with genetic differences to us. The way they integrated real life events like the JFK assassination and the Vietnam war made the X-Men universe feel real which only enhances the feeling that this is more than just a comic book film but a film about these characters who are complex and interesting. Bryan Singer has genuinely saved the X-Men franchise by erasing all the continuity problems of past x-men films and giving the new cast a chance at a perfect trilogy without the burden of knowing Wolverin: Origins and X-Men: The Last Stand exist, the ending is the ultimate cherry on top to that.

Fury (2014)

furyRoze-Rating: 3.5 / 5

Fury puts us right in the seats of a Sherman tank during the last battles of WW2. It’s 1945 and the allies are making their final push into Nazi Germany looking to end the war once and for all. Having lost one of their brothers in arms, Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) and his loyal crew take on a young rookie (Logan Lerman) who looks way out of his depth. Despite being vastly outnumbered and outgunned, the fury continues to move deeper into the heart of Germany while teaching the rookie about the norms of war.

For me Fury is the perfect film for a night at the movies, it has almost everything I enjoy and want out of a cinema experience. the action is thrilling, the characters are badass and the story is enjoyable. But unfortunately it never amounts to anything more than an entertaining war flick.

Despite it not hitting the narrative heights I was expecting, it’s forgivable because all the elements work together to make a tense, heart thumping, sweat inducing ride of a war film that I look forward to watching again back to back with Saving Private Ryan. It may not be in the same critical league as some of the best war films we’ve seen in the past, but it would be hard to form an argument against this being one of the most entertaining. So of course the most memorable parts of the film is the action. The combination of gunfire, tanks in motion and a collected Wardaddy delegating battle tactics through a radio, forms this hectic, almost claustrophobic atmosphere as these guys are fighting from the confines of their tanks. They live in and for these tanks, and a large part of this film is understanding that these tanks turn into more than an instrument of war for these characters, it essentially becomes home. By the time we get to the films finale, we understand why it’s so hard for Wardaddy to abandon his home.

It’s easy to understand why these characters are so likable despite their barbaric nature, knowing David Ayer directed End of Watch. He was able to make that cop bond the main focus of that film and the payoff was perfect, making for an intensely emotional ending. This time around it’s disappointing not to feel such an intense bond between these soldiers. There are scenes which try to support and develop the dynamics of the crew and there’s no denying how strong the bonds are but by the end of the film these bonds aren’t translated through enough to make for a truly resonant ending. That being said each character is made their own with massive help from a great cast and solid performances. I don’t care how crazy people say Shia LeBeouf is, he’s still a great actor and proves it in this film by being totally unrecognizable in his role. I found Logan Lerman a bit iffy at the start but he grew from strength to strength as the film progressed, much like his character. As for Brad Pitt and company (Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal), they were as solid as ever.

For a WW2 film it didn’t feel much like a WW2 film. The locations, costumes and props looked realistic enough but I didn’t get the sense that they were fighting in that specific war. That being said, this film is more about the characters and the nature of war in general than WW2 specifically. We see how Wardaddy (Brad Pitt), despite his stern exterior, has to get away from his crew from time to time to truly let out all his repressed emotions. We learn that in war we have to pretend to be someone we are not, someone who can endure violence and exceed the limits of man. This is what Logan Lerman’s character has to learn. Despite essentially becoming a product of war, there is still chance for redemption. We see characters who are so far gone that we think there’s no return, yet they still have their moments which highlight something good inside them. Shia LeBeouf’s character grounds them a little, with his religious beliefs, his crew members may mock him but they believe in his ideas.

Despite a few underdeveloped elements such as the characters and religion in war. This is a film that is worth a second viewing based on the acting and action alone. We get gruesome violence, well choreographed combat scenes and a genuine exploration of brotherhood in war.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Dawn-of-the-Planet-of-the-Apes-WallpaperRoze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

A decade after the fight of San Francisco, Ceasar and his following of intelligent apes have adapted to life in the Redwoods. Suffering the consequences of developing the drug which created these apes are the humans who have spent the last 10 years surviving a Simian Flu epidemic.The apes are convinced that the humans have lost their battle against the disease, until a member of Malcolm’s (Jason Clarke) group runs into two apes and shoots one in excitement. Ceasar still faithful to his no killing rule lets the humans escape, unaware that they are searching for a power source to get San Francisco running again.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes joins the ranks of great sci-fi blockbusters this year among the likes of X-Men: Days of Future Past, Edge of Tomorrow and Godzilla. Films which could really prompt the rise of genuinely good sci-fi films. For a sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes completely trumps its predecessor in all departments. Keeping Ceasar central to the story was a masterful decision and because of it we get a far more compelling story than that of the humans. We’re ultimately trying to get our way to the climax which is the planet of the apes, and it wouldn’t have felt right if Franco was still there fighting for screen time. Of course he is a massive part of Ceasar’s origin story which is where Ceasar’s compassion and empathy for the humans comes from, also a reason why Rise of the Planet of the Apes works so well, but telling the majority of the story from Ceasar’s perspective was definitely the right way to go. This way we have a protagonist who is unbiased and has an impartial view towards the world, a character we know we can trust in a broken society.

During Rise of the Planet of the Apes, we see Ceasar grow up among humans, absent to life with his own kind outdoors where he belongs. He doesn’t know what humans are capable of or where he came from, but asking the questions gives him answers he finds hard to swallow. Ten years on he and his family of intelligent apes have formed a sophisticated society living as one. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is great in so many ways, it could have easily turned into a cheap action crapfest but instead it’s an intelligent film not short of the human element. I think I join a large group of people who were attracted to this film purely because of apes with guns on horses, I mean I’ve never heard of anything as awesome as that. Anyone expecting 2 hours of apes with guns may be disappointed but I’d like to think that they’d be pleasantly surprised at the same time. We spend most of the film with Ceasar amongst his family contemplating how to deal with the humans. We learn their way of life and how they all live as one and care for each other, living without the modern necessities that we live with nowadays such as electricity and internet. It makes us question how we are as a modern society, everything that is wrong with it and everything right with it. Ceasar genuinely believes that Apes are better, but as the film unfolds he learns that ignorance and indifference is something you can’t prevent and maybe conflict is all but inevitable within nature.

This film not only shows us the potential of sci-fi but also how far performance capture has come. Andy Serkis has revolutionized the film making tool and proves that it shouldn’t be ruled out as a legitimate method of performance. A lot of buzz has gone around saying that Serkis deserves an Oscar nod after this performance, and I’ll have to agree. It’s amazing to even think that a man is literally playing Ceasar, all of his facial expressions, his movements, all these details which bring the character to life. Serkis expresses so many emotions just from these delicate details which is pretty amazing since Ceasar’s dialogue is quite limited. I’ve never felt such a strong connection with a non-human protagonist. That being said, Serkis is only one of many who use performance capture to play the ape characters. The likes of Toby Kebbell and Judy Greer prove that Serkis is not the only actor who can master performance capture. Kebbell especially puts in an absolutely terrifying performance as Koba, an ape who can’t forgive the years of torture ensued by the humans.

The only negative about the film would probably be the human characters, the only character which stands out is Malcolm (Jason Clarke), one of the few humans who see the apes in a much brighter light. He is to an extent quite an important character as he reminds Ceasar that not all humans are corrupt. Characters like Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and Carver (Kirk Acevedo) represent how we find it hard to blame ourselves for the downfall of humans, even when the facts are right in our face. To an extent they mirror Koba’s same feeling of indifference.

As for the aesthetics, the CGI is a lot better than its predecessor by a large margin. The apes actually look real this time around, improving from the choppy CGI we had in the first film. The set design is incredible creating a post apocalyptic forest look to both San Francisco and the Redwoods, which sets up some incredible shots throughout the film. It’s just an overall great looking film. Also props to the sound mixing crew who created a genuine ape society atmosphere, sitting in the cinema and being able to hear apes surrounding you was not only awesome but put in perspective how many of them there were.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is definitely one of the best films of the year so far, not for its spectacle but more for its storytelling and direction. We’re being given an intelligent story about war and human nature, a film which makes us think rather than fry our brains, and for anyone who wants their brains fried, well apes on horses with guns!

Chef (2014)

Chef-1Roze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

Having gone through a stint of directing rather large budget films, Jon Favreau has “gone back to basics” with Chef, a film about cooking as a passion and a way of life. Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is a passionate chef running his own kitchen at a stable restaurant, yet he is unhappy. Restaurateur Riva (Dustin Hoffman) wants him to play it safe but after countless years of serving the same food, all Casper wants is freedom so that he can go back to enjoying his passion once again.

Chef is one of those films that has you smiling throughout its run time, not purely from its humor but from its down to earth charm and feel good vibe. Everyone has a passion, it may dominate our lives or it may just be a hobby but we all have one. Seeing Carl Casper living his passion and being it is not only a joy to watch but inspiring for all us dreamers out there. Chef is a film that tells us that the measure of success is not large sums of money or working in a respected establishment, but the currency of happiness. Casper may have been blind to his unhappiness for years but once his creativity is obstructed he realizes that freedom is all he needs to be happy again, and just like Jon Favreau, going back to basics is the way to go.

What I love about chef is the detail that’s gone into depicting cooking and food as a passion, all the intricate details from handling the food to the acting. I totally bought into Jon Favreau’s character because he totally embodies this person who lives for food and all he wants to do is share his passion with others so that they can experience everything he loves about his art, and isnt that what all artists strive to do. But just like any art, it can be corrupted by external forces be it the industries or people that want to take control and that’s when problems occur. Ultimately the direction is brilliant, Chef is a film that knows what it wants to be, a grounded, character driven piece of film with a great soundtrack.

My favorite moments in the film are equally the same moments I hate because it makes me so damn hungry!. Seeing Casper handling his food as if each ingredient was his own child, so delicate and perfectly handled just hits home how much he loves what he does. It makes those father-son montages later on in the film that much more pleasing and effective, as we get to see Casper share his passion with his son. A relatable theme for me especially, bringing me back to the days where being told to do all the crappy chores from my dad was called bonding.

As for performances, props to Emjay Anthony playing Casper’s son, who gives for me the best performance in the film. He’s just a kid stuck in between his parents divorce who doesn’t quite understand it but at the end of the day he just wants to hang out with his dad. He’s innocent but optimistic, never intending to be overly emotional about the situation, just making the most of his time with his dad. As a result of his performance, the father son relationship steals the show.

It may not be the most eventful road trip film but it sure is the tastiest, offering an upbeat playlist of latin jazz and flavor, a film that will make you want to go out and partake in your passion.