movie reviews November 2015

burntour brand Is crisisscouts guide to the zombie apocalypsesicariotruthspectreroomsuffragettesecret in their eyes

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Secret in Their Eyes
Reviewed by Bruce Rodgers

As madness seems to be gripping the world, madness drapes over Secret in Their Eyes.

The film opens with Ray Kasten (Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave) fixed before a computer screen flipping through pages of faces of men in prison. He freezes on one photo, leans forward and squints at the face in front of him. He reaches for an old photo, holds it up next to the face on the screen. The search has ended.

Later Ray is in the office of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office greeting DA Claire Sloan (Nicole Kidman, Queen of the Desert) with the look of a man still panting over a love he can’t have. FBI agent Jess Cobb (Julie Roberts, August, Osage County) enters. Ray suggests she stay. He has something to tell her and Claire. “I found him,” says Ray to a stunned Jess and Claire. “I found him.”

The expectation is the Ray has found someone, after 13 years, who got away with a crime, the crime being murder.

Director and co-screenwriter Billy Ray (Captain Phillips, Shattered Glass) then takes us back to 2002, the year of the killing during a time right after 9-11 when the country was gripped by fear of another attack. Ray and Jess are part of a counterterrorism task force, one of many set up in major cities. Claire is the assistant DA. A call comes in about a young woman found dead in a dumpster. The Ray and Jess respond because the dumpster is in a garage adjacent to a mosque under surveillance by the task force. Inside the dumpster is Jess’ daughter Carolyn (Zoe Graham).

In a scene that people who have lost a loved one to violent crime would find unbearable to watch, Roberts and Ejiofor project a visual grief that seems to reach out from the screen and grab at the throat of anyone who has experienced the deep pain of loss. Roberts, particularly, can make someone look away from the anguish destroying the contours of her face.

With Carolyn’s death, director Ray begins the process of revealing aspects of the story that explains the madness that slowly spills onto Jess and Clair from Ray. We learn why Ray feels intense guilt in Carolyn’s death — the obsession of pursuing the unattainable in both the killer and Claire’s love. The mistakes made in the first investigation and the renewed hunt with Ray’s return to LA. He convinces Claire to turn the other way as he pursues the new lead in finding Marzin or Beckwith (Joe Cole) depending on what time period the film is in, taking along good friend and fellow cop Bumpy Willis (Dean Norris, “Breaking Bad”) in illegal break-ins and letting his madness for justice push aside legal caution.

At times the film moves so fast back and forth between 2002 and the present only the gray in Ray’s hair and limp (or lack of) in Bumpy’s gait indicates what year we’re in. Claire becomes a reluctant ally while teasing Ray with looks and soft touches that he may someday have her. Kidman is ravishing in looks and dress, a standout beauty in comparison to Roberts who looks tired and beaten, and as Ray notes, “You look a million years old.”

Claire breaks the ongoing contrast between glamour and dowdiness with Jess when in 2002 she breaks the rules and lets Ray interrogate Marzin to get a confession since there’s not enough evidence to bring charges. Ray fails but in a scene that shows the talent of Kidman as an actor and Claire as a character always in charge of her men, she teases and manipulates Marzin into an angry outburst by pushing all the vulnerabilities of manhood to the brink. Still Marzin wins in the end, helped along by counterterrorism task force leader Martin Morales (Alfred Molina) determined to do “anything” — including shielding a murderer — to keep LA from a terrorist’s attack. Morales fuels more madness in Ray.

As the film settles into the present day for good, Ray’s pursuit of Marzin, now Beckwith, carries him into danger and more death. With that, Jesse reaches a point of revelation and reveals something that brings a halt to Ray’s mad-driven pursuit, at least temporarily. But director Billy Ray brings a final big surprise to the story at the end of the film. With it, the implication is that the madness has ended but in the eyes of Jess and Ray, not really. (PG-13) Rating: 4 (Posted on 11/20/15)

Reviewed by Beck Ireland

Carey Mulligan’s reluctant suffragette Maud Watts was born in the laundry where, under the leering harassment of her male supervisor, she worked her way up from the age of seven to 24 to become a sort of straw boss. The young London wife and mother had no time for or interest in participating in politics, nor could she, even if had she the inclination. It’s 1912, and women are still explicitly banned from voting in Great Britain by the 1832 Reform Act and the 1835 Municipal Corporations Act.

Not made up whole cloth by writer Abi Morgan (Shame, The Iron Lady), to be put on the screen by director Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane) in their second collaboration, Maud is a composite character, based on known suffragettes from the time in the movement’s history when it became more militant. Although Morgan and Gavron attempt to draw a direct line from this radicalization to the awarding of women’s right to vote in 1928 — a postscript explicitly states this is so — the history of votes for women (and men) in Great Britain, being restricted not simply by gender but also property qualifications, was much more complicated than the movie’s progression suggests.

When the National Society for Women's Suffrage was established in 1872, votes for women in the United Kingdom was an issue that concerned mainly women in the upper classes. Not until two decades later, under the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), did it become more of a national movement. Frustrated by the lack of headway made by peaceful lobbying, the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), led by Emmeline Pankhurst, played briefly by Meryl Streep sounding more like Glinda the Good Witch than a native of Manchester, and her two daughters who encouraged violence toward property, civil disobedience and hunger strikes.

It’s argued that these tactics actually worked against the cause, but, notwithstanding the message before the closing credits, their efficacy isn’t at issue in the movie. It’s only that it’s in this moment of time that Morgan chose to place Maud, and it’s as a good a starting point as any to tell her story, a personal, relatable microcosm for the larger movement.

As Maud becomes more involved in the violent protests, ending up in prison twice, she risks her position at the laundry, as well as her little family; husband Sonny (Ben Whishaw) is under pressure to keep Maud in line and, with his own job at the laundry on the line, find care for their son, George (Adam Michael Dodd). Police inspector Steed (Brendan Gleeson), fresh off the fight with the “the Fenians” to combat the “filthy Panks,” as the followers of the Pankhursts were called, leverages the threat of domestic violence. After a mass arrest at a protest, he orders the women to be dropped off on their doorsteps instead of brought to jail. “Let their husbands deal with them,” he snarls. (PG-13) Rating: 2 (Posted on 11/20/15)

Reviewed by Beck Ireland

Director Lenny Abrahamson’s (Frank) new film, adapted for the screen by Emma Donoghue from her 2010 Man Booker-shortlisted novel of the same title, starts with a creation myth. The narrator, five-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay), is describing the genesis of his entire universe, which consists only of the shabby objects contained within the confined interior of a small shed called “Room.” A skylight frames an empty sky, the only view to the outside world, which Jack doesn’t realize exists. He and his mom Joy (Brie Larson), known only as Ma within Jack’s limited point of view, are the sole inhabitants of this space.

Time in Room is strictly regulated, as are resources. Ma divides each day into activities — “Track” involves rolling up the rug so Jack can run from wall to wall — the same way she carefully cuts and rations apple slices and other food. Ma is resourceful, succeeding in making the best out of a scarcity of space and sustenance and an abundance of time. Where does a captive teen get the fortitude to give birth to and then raise a son on her own?

Abrahamson lovingly depicts the scenes between Jack and Ma, but there’s an underlying anxiety that hints at a potential revelation of a bond between a mother and growing son that’s too intimate. Jack and Ma share a small, twin bed. Later in the movie, he attempts to lift her shirt, presumably to nurse, and it’s not explained whether this is recent habit or regression. Ma insists that Jack, never having experienced any other existence, believe Room is the whole world.

There’s a creator of sorts in Room. In Jack’s understanding, Ma, who’s been in Room for seven years, is the architect of their microcosm. But there’s another player: at intermittent and tense times, Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) stops by, entering Room through a metal door, secured with a digital key and a beeping four-digit code. He brings food, supplies and even a toy for the day after Jack’s fifth birthday. But Old Nick’s visits mean something entirely different to Ma than they do to Jack, whom Ma stuffs in a wardrobe when Old Nick stays the night.

This premise of Donoghue’s novel, keeping faithful to Jack’s viewpoint, which she carried into the screenplay, is also its biggest problem. Young Jack’s perspective is extremely restrictive; Donoghue uses him as an emotional proxy in order to avoid writing directly of the situations in which Ma and Jack, from an adult’s perspective, find themselves. It doesn’t help that when Jack and Ma eventually leave Room, Abrahamson leans too heavily on camera tricks and quick cuts for a too-literal interpretation of Jack’s disorientation and stubbornly sticks to Jack’s narrative, in the form of puerile voiceovers, over a more complicated, mature investigation. (R) Rating: 3 (Posted on 11-16-15)

Reviewed by Mike Ireland

Feeling like a finale of sorts to the Daniel Craig era, the latest James Bond film, Spectre, opens with a terse epigraph in stark white letters against the black screen: “The dead are alive."

Of course, the Bond legacy has been built on the premise of resurrection. More than once, Bond has faked his death (Connery in You Only Live Twice, and Craig in the last installment Skyfall). 007 has also been resurrected — five times, officially — by the film series' producers when the current actor resigned, the changes in physical appearance passing unremarked within MI6.

And Bond, himself, is a specter, a "spook" in the antiquated terminology of spy novels, an agent who doesn't exist on paper. Bond creates ghosts, too — those on the receiving end of his double-0 "license to kill" and those of the people he has lost along the way.

With Daniel Craig, the franchise was truly rebooted. Previous Bonds may have differed in tone or sense of humor, but all embodied the hardened attitude of a seasoned professional, an agent so inured to violence and destruction that death merited little more than a wry quip. Not so with the Craig Bond.

2006's Casino Royale introduced an origin story, featuring a Bond who struggled with his initial kill, fell truly and fatefully in love, and couldn’t give a fig how his martini was made. Through two subsequent films, this origin story has led, in Spectre, to a Bond who is once again recognizable among his predecessors as the familiar womanizing killer and to a film that, for better and worse, is recognizable within the Bond canon.

007 first appears on screen as Death, or, at the least, as one of the dead hidden behind a skull mask, top hat and black tux amid a sprawling Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico City's Zocolo. In a stunning, seemingly unbroken tracking shot, the camera follows Bond through the street, into a hotel, up the elevator and into a young woman's room, where he abruptly loses the disguise, ditches his waiting partner, steps out onto the roof, and conducts his real business; the dispassionate assassination of a terrorist. The sequence echoes the opening of Orson Welle's A Touch of Evil, but devolves into an overlong fistfight aboard a helicopter that wastes the scene's momentum, an inconsistency typical of much of the remainder of the film.

The mission to Mexico City, it turns out, was not sanctioned. Bond was acting on posthumous orders from M (Judi Dench), the mother figure he was unable to save at the end of Skyfall. Like Hamlet's father, she reaches out to her son from beyond the grave, setting in motion a series of events that become less and less cohesive as the film progresses.

Spectre is filled with ghosts, and in the hands of Skyfall director Sam Mendes, it's also filled to distraction with echoes of past Bond films. We get the Aston-Martin with the ejector seat; a super-villain with a preposterous lair, sporting a Nehru jacket a la Dr. No; steel-nailed henchman Mr Hinx (Guardians of the Galaxy's Dave Bautista) that’s a cross between Goldfinger's Oddjob and Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker); we even get a brutal fight aboard a speeding train reminiscent of From Russia With Love.

Unfortunately, many of the plot elements feel like echoes as well. Once again, Bond goes rogue. Once again, the 00 program is in danger of being shut down; this time, to be absorbed into MI5, now headed by the weaselly Max Denbigh (Sherlock's Andrew Scott), who intends to replace agents with an international world-wide drone surveillance program.

Meanwhile, Skyfall screenwriters John Logan, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade with Jez Butterworth attempt to tie the entire tetralogy together through super-villain Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) who claims to be behind the events of last three films (the author of all Bond's pain, he says) and leads an international cartel of baddies, and has ideas of his own for that global drone surveillance system. Unfortunately, all of this is established through another long-standing 007 trope revived here — the villain's monologue, which Waltz fails to inject with sufficient menace to make convincing or threatening.

By the end, having resurrected an iconic Bond arch-enemy, Mendes has brought Bond back to the beginning, so to speak, ready to embark on the missions of the sixties films. So, yes, Bond, as the familiar, comfortable commodity, is back, but compared to where we’ve been with him for the past three films, it’s a bit of a disappointment. (PG-13) Rating: 3 (Posted on 11/09/15)

Reviewed by Beck Ireland

For his directorial debut, James Vanderbilt, who wrote the screenplay for the 2007 David Fincher-directed Zodiac, returns to the newsroom. This time, instead of following journalists as they painstakingly work, with lives at stake, to solve an insoluble mystery, Vanderbilt, who adapted the script from “60 Minutes II” producer Mary Mapes’ memoir Truth and Duty: The Press, the President and the Privilege of Power, ironically attempts to clarify the events of a scandal by obscuring them.

It’s just months before the presidential election in 2004, and Mapes (Cate Blanchett), electric from just breaking the story of the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal, is chasing down sources to confirm that incumbent president George W. Bush used his family’s political sway to avoid combat in Vietnam by taking up a coveted spot in the Texas Air National Guard. Unable to gain corroboration from live witnesses, Mapes and her team of hired guns Mike Smith (Topher Grace) and Lucy Scott (Elisabeth Moss), along with Col. Roger Charles (Dennis Quaid), a Vietnam vet who worked as a military fact-checker for the show, lead the segment with the discovery of memos, purportedly written by Bush's commander, the late Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, discussing Bush’s absence from pilot training and suspension from service.

Since the advent of film, Hollywood has put journalists in its movies. Historically, they’ve been portrayed as ethically dubious crusaders, following the blueprint set by the 1931 talkie The Front Page, in which fast-talking Hildy Johnson (Pat O’Brien) calls his peers "a lot of lousy, daffy buttinskis swelling around with holes in their pants, borrowing nickels from office boys." But the 1976 release of All the President's Men made journalists into heroes, particularly when acting to keep the government in check; solidified the profession’s position as the “fourth estate.”

Vanderbilt paints Mapes, whose wardrobe mostly looks like it belongs to a woman having a bad day in a feminine hygiene commercial, and her crew as both villain and crusader. In between bullying potential sources and juvenilely celebrating scoops, they make lots of speeches about the necessity of a free press. When the episode airs, we’re shown cross-sections of a comically rapt public, wide-eyed and disbelieving.

Naturally, Dan Rather, played by Robert Redford not as a personality but as mere physical stand-in, is kept above the fray. When Smith asks why the veteran newsman chose his profession all those years ago, he answers “curiosity.” If only he’d shown a little more of it then. (R) Rating: 1 (Posted on 11/04/15)

Reviewed by Beck Ireland

The opening scene of the latest film from Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) looks a lot like a display in the controversial traveling “educational” exhibit Bodies: The Exhibition, which began touring the country in 2005. An FBI kidnap-response squad raids a house in Arizona and instead of hostages discovers dozens of decaying bodies hidden behind the drywall. The scene, shot by Villeneuve’s frequent collaborator, cinematographer Roger Deakins, is close and grotesque. An FBI agent runs from the dark house, gasping for breathe and vomits in the yard. The shed in the backyard, rigged with explosives, self-destructs, sending debris toward the camera.

These aren’t the last or the most grotesque of the dead bodies in the film. When agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), the head of the previous squad, is handpicked by Matt (Josh Brolin), the de facto leader of a ghost team, her first assignment is to help extradite the brother of a cartel bigwig from a Mexican jail. She must travel with the team to Juarez, a city where the underbelly of its highway overpasses is decorated with mutilated — and, as they are filmed through Deakins’ expert lens, balletic — naked bodies. They’re strung up to send a message.

The ghost team’s strategy is to use the brother as bait to lure cartel head Manuel Díaz (Bernardo Saracino) out of hiding. Covert members of the CIA, DEA, a militarized SWAT team and an even more mysterious operative named Alejandro (Benicio del Toro) are on board, identified only by their uniforms: SWAT in desert camo, Matt in flip flops and body armor. Their procession, in official black SUVs is about as fast as word of mouth in the small Mexican town. The resultant chase is stunted, slowed to a crawl by traffic at the border crossing, and every other car contains potential liberators of their captive. Sweaty panic leads to opening fire and a blood bath amid the hundreds of bystanders, not all of them innocent. Just another day in Juarez.

In her previous role as squadron leader, Kate was efficient, competent, but in going by the book was always a step behind the criminals, left to gather the bodies and clean up the mess. She and the viewers are led to believe she may be the linchpin of this new loose group. But she’s kept out of witness interviews in which Alejandro interrogates the prisoner using only an unopened bottle from the water cooler and a complete lack of physical personal space or a single wetted finger in the ear. As a result, the final revelation isn’t as surprising or satisfying as it should be, but watching Del Toro’s Alejandro walk away makes up for some of that. (R) Rating: 3 (Posted on 11/04/15)

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse
Reviewed by Mike Ireland

In a market already swarming with the walking dead, it's hard for a zombie flick to make an impression anymore. Most that have left their mark did so by adding something to the formula (Dawn of the Dead's satire, Shawn of the Dead's wit, Dead Snow's zombie Nazis) or upping the gore factor (Dead Alive, Re-Animator).

Yet into the throng crawls the apostrophe-deprived Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, hoping to rise above the fray by featuring a sweet coming-of-age story and puerile body-function humor, an awkward combination that quickly stumbles and disintegrates.

High-school sophomores Ben (Tree of Life's Tye Sheridan) and Carter (Logan Miller), embarrassed to still be Scouts (not Boy Scouts of America, but the fictional American Scout Society), have agreed to go on one last camping trip to help childhood friend Augie (Joey Morgan) earn the top ASC honor, Condor scout. When they ditch Augie in the woods to attend a secret senior rave back in town, however, they discover themselves in the midst of a zombie outbreak.

Though the three leads are clearly types — geeky fat kid Augie; female-ogling burn-out Carter; and good-kid-with-a-conscience Ben — the script by director Christopher Landon, Carrie Evans, and Emi Mochizuki offers some early scenes that genuinely capture a bit of the angst and friction that arises as childhood friends start to individuate and take separate paths. Once the zombies appear, however, this is mostly abandoned in favor of juvenile gross-out humor and a disconcerting misogyny.

The adolescent males are joined by shot-gun-wielding strip-bar waitress Denise (Sarah Dumont), who may have been conceived as a strong female figure but, in cut-offs and a skin-tight tank top, could have been taken straight from Jackie Brown's "Chicks Who Love Guns" video. In fact, women don't factor much into this world except as sex objects, damsels in distress or crazy, old cat ladies, the last of which appears in the form of a zombified Cloris Leachman embarrassingly reduced to performing analingus.

Through the course of their nocturnal adventure, the boys visit a strip bar (the groan-inducing titled "Lawrence of Alabia"), ogle an undead pole dancer, and squeeze the boobs of a gratuitously topless zombie cop. Most troubling, though, is that Landon (writer of four and director of one of the Paranormal Activity sequels) dishes up these scenes with no apparent editorial perspective, encouraging the audience to revel in this pubescent view of the world, not laugh at it.

As events unfold, the filmmakers seem to desperately grasp at anything that might put this film on the map: zombies on trampolines, a zombie penis used a bungee cord, a zombie battle set to Dolly Parton's "9 to 5." The scouting premise is all but abandoned, and maturity is ultimately portrayed as a willingness to wield super-nasty weapons and hit-on-hot blondes (who have no function except as hot blondes).

Pandering to a randy pubescent audience is one thing. Scouts Guide, sadly, has the scuzzy feel of having been made by 15-year-olds. (R) Rating: 1.5 (Posted on 11/04/15)

Our Brand Is Crisis
Reviewed by Beck Ireland

Director David Gordon Green, who cut his teeth on dramatic indie fare such as George Washington and All the Real Girls, has been venturing into raunchy comedy on the big (Pineapple Express) and small (Eastbound & Down) screen. His latest release, loosely adapted by screenwriter Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) from the 2005 Rachel Boynton documentary of the same name, replaces revelatory scenes of back-room political cunning and devotion to an ideology, however misplaced, with juvenile antics and toilet humor.

Sandra Bullock plays Jane Bodine, a maverick political strategist lured out of reclusive retirement to bolster the polling numbers of candidate Pedro Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida) running in the Bolivian presidential election. Bodine is nicknamed “Calamity Jane” for the chaos she brings to campaigns — rowdy drunken escapades and dirty political tricks; one of which resulted in a deadly consequence in her last election and prompted her early retirement.

Unlike her earnest cohorts, played by Anthony Mackie and Ann Dowd, who truly believe that Castillo’s platform, which includes unpopular deals with the IMF to privatize the country’s natural resources, would be beneficial to Bolivia and its citizen, and an idealistic volunteer native (Reynaldo Pacheco) who promotes Castillo against the wishes of his more politically astute brothers because Castillo was his dead father’s favorite, Bodine holds no particular political position. Crudely, she just wants to win. “I could convince myself of anything if the price is right," she confesses in a post-election interview that frames the film. "Truth is whatever I tell the electorate it is."

But even more than just winning, Bodine wants to top her main rival, Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), a sly Southern consultant with a bald head the same as James Carville, the lead strategist of the successful presidential campaign of then-Arkansas governor Bill Clinton and member of the consulting team featured in Boynton’s documentary, but, according to Thornton, definitely not based on James Carville.

Much fuss has been made over casting Bullock as the lead political strategist. The role, originally intended for George Clooney, had to be rewritten for a female actor by Straughan. His changes seem to include focusing mainly on Bodine’s altitude sickness, knack for bumming cigarettes and using her bra as a makeshift slingshot to propel room service off her hotel balcony. No consideration is given to what it would take for a woman to lead a political strategy clique or persuade a Bolivian politician to take her advice.

It’s not always fair to compare fictionalized accounts to their source material. But this reimagining of the documentary seems to revel in its shamelessness. Granted, Boynton, too, revealed the arrogance of the consultants, but none were as crass as Scoot McNairy and his petty litany of first-world complaints while the streets erupt around him.

Documentarian Boynton also gave them a chance for sympathetic redemption. Greenberg Carville Shrum and team were carpetbaggers, but they also believed in their cause. “We are in this because we not only believe in democracy, but in a particular brand of democracy, which is progressive, social democratic, market-based and modern,” says Jeremy Rosner in his own post-election interview, who at least seems remorseful about the violent aftermath of the election. (R) Rating: 1 (Posted on 11/04/15)

Reviewed by Bruce Rodgers

Bradley Cooper’s piercing blue eyes can bring a comparison to Paul Newman. But where Newman was the epitome of on-screen coolness punctuated by a confident intelligence that never seem to falter even in failure, Cooper fills his roles with an arrogance, none greater (to date) than as Michelin-rated chef Adam Jones in Burnt. Both Cooper and Newman knew how to inhabit a character, making him believable. But only Newman retained likeability, Cooper seems not to care whether audiences like him or not in whatever role.

Chef Jones is not a likeable guy. He screwed people over in Paris while heading the kitchen in a Michelin 2-star restaurant, from letting rats loose in a competing restaurant run by a former associate, to getting hooked on coke or whatever and in debt to drug dealers, and then there’s the ongoing distraction and bedding of women, part of his kitchen or not. Run out of Paris or escaping (take your pick), Jones does penance in New Orleans chucking oysters. When he hits his millionth oyster he heads to London with the hope of opening a restaurant and gaining the elusive third star in the Michelin rating system.

Once Jones is in London, it doesn’t take long to realize Burnt isn’t really about exotic dishes or opening the palate to unknown tastes. It’s about the world of a talented chef and the worshipping (or tolerance) of underlings around him. Amazingly, many of the people Jones befriended in Paris are now working in London.  

Tony (Daniel Bruhl), as a noted maitre d’, helps Jones get the financing to establish his restaurant. Bruhl is particularly good in this role as a reserved and frustrated gay man aware of Jones’ faults and temptations yet giving and supportive because he’s in love with Jones while knowing it’s hopeless.

Jones manages to recruit his former sous chef (Omar Sy) who later betrays him in an interesting twist by way of Jones’ quest for a 3-star Michelin rating. He visits a few competing chefs vowing to put them out of business and recruits Helene (Sienna Miller) as his sauce chef. Helene becomes the pillow the emotionalistic and insolent Jones lays his head on when feelings of being human seep into him. Helping along the way is Emma Thompson as Dr. Rosshide, there to protect investors’ money in Jones’ restaurant by testing his sobriety. Making another cameo of sorts is Uma Thurman as restaurant critic Simone Forth, lamenting the apostasy of her lesbianism by once sleeping with Jones.

Once Jones’ restaurant is up and running scenes with Jones yelling and berating the kitchen help appear frequently along with him and Helene decorating plates of food, dishes we never know the names of. Burnt is not about food; it’s about life in the kitchen of a high-end restaurant run by a borderline megalomaniac. In the case of this film, once the prize is gained and Helene is at his side, Jones’ humanity takes hold. That is the just of this film.

Folks in the restaurant business will nod their heads in recognition of what is portrayed on the screen. The clash of passion and ego is common when it comes to the preparation of food. But most of us rarely visit or can afford dining in a Michelin-rated restaurant, which makes Burnt a peek into a fantasy unattained. (R) Rated: 2.5 (Posted on 11/04/15)

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Mike Ireland can be contacted at


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