Chef. . . One of My Favorite Movies

Chef-Jon-Favreau-Pictures-EmjayFor my first review (about Jupiter Ascending), I mentioned how we watch movies at our house; that most of the movies are rentals and are watched either with a finger on the skip button or in little chunks over many days.  That means that I generally will not write one of these until the movie has been out for six months.  But the point of this review is not to talk about the critical aspects of the movie, but rather what we can gather from the movie as a “Parable.”  This might offend some – the idea that I am looking at a “secular” movie to draw inspiration from – but the point is that we can find the beneficial in all kinds of things!

Plot/Overview/Synopsis

That brings me to this movie, Chef.  Now, I am a fan of Jon Favreau from Iron Man and Avengers as a producer and actor.  Some of his other stuff [read: Entourage] I am just meh about.  I have to say that while I have sort of been wanting to watch this movie, I have been putting it off.  I was concerned that there was too much “drama” in it; that it would turn out to be almost bi-polar in nature.  I. Was. Wrong.  The movie is essentially about a man who has poured his life into being an awesome executive chef at a premiere Los Angeles bistro.  His staff (John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Bobby Cannavale) adores him and his boss (Dustin Hoffman) has become famous because of him.   However, because of this deep passion, his family (Sofía Vergara, Emjay Anthony) has been alienated by his success.  All of this changes through a series of events involving an outspoken food critic (Oliver Platt) in which he ends up the owner of a food truck and the accidental sensation of Twitter.  The remainder of the movie is a type of “all good things” story.

 Parable-Worthy?

OMG, yes.  I am not really sure where to start, but I am going to quickly highlight two or three areas.

First, this story reminds us the importance of passion.  To watch Carl Casper (Favreau) work on his craft and perfect it while maintaining a love for the product is an example of balance in a Christian’s life.  To remain passionate about our love for the Father and for the people on this “third rock” yet to pour our hearts into actual, physical training, commitment, and dare I say, “work” is something that we have yet to do.  To know that we can, as being Christ-like, show the radiance of God through the passions that he puts in our hearts is just simply something to be longed for.  To see Chef Casper shop for ingredients that are in season reminds me of the loaves and fishes where Jesus used what was available, not what wasn’t.  All of this passion being poured into something almost made me ashamed. . .  Almost (I don’t do shame).

Second is, however, a cautionary tale.  Because of this dedication, Chef Casper alienated those that he probably wanted to be close to him in his passion.  He was divorced; his only son looking for a connection to him.  Amazing, isn’t it, that in the middle of our passion, we forget that we are here to share this for the relationship, not for just the craft.  That in the end, it all goes back to how we impact the lives of those around us.  In that, we almost push away those closest to us to, somehow, reach those further away!  But, in an amazing set of events, circumstances not only reunite but improve the relationships by reinvigorating the reason for the passion – to be able to touch peoples lives.  Chef Casper realizes that he can include his son and his best friend in this epic journey called “El Jefe’s Food truck.”  He is able to share his passion with his son and create a generational gift through it.

Finally, and I think is most important, is that Chef shows we were created to be creators.  The whole downward spiral begins when Chef Casper is forced into doing the same menu over and over for 10 years which leads to a terrible online review.  The restaurant owner, Riva (Hoffman), threatens Chef Casper with termination if he doesn’t blindly follow the winning formula.  This concept of forgoing creativity because we “know the formula” struck a chord with me on many levels.  In the local church, we need to get back to innovation and the “new.”  Yes, God never changes, but who are we to think we know all of God?  All of His vast creative nature?  We, as inhabitants of this Earth, still “discover” new species every year and yet we think we know God when it comes to how we run our Sunday services?  How arrogant of us!  On another note, this screams to me that business and organizations still have more creativity locked up.  As Christians, we should be seeking the heavenly storehouses of creativity for the next revolutionary wave!  And, as an individual, it is important to me to remain creative and not allow “creativity thieves” to sneak in.  When we say, “Lord, make us like You” do we also know this means an infilling of creativity?  Let’s remember that we are creative in our nature!

Conclusion

So, yes, this movie is rated R.  This movie is also rated R for a reason – it tends to express the stress around being a chef and the language that might be prevalent in that industry.  There is also some scenes that, while not explicit, are suggestive.  However, that being said, I truly thought this was a great movie.  The content and character of the movie was wonderful and the soundtrack was killer.  I would suggest that adults watch this movie and focus on the positives, however, it took us three days and many “stops” of the movie in order to watch with the kids around.  Enjoy the movie.

Jupiter Ascending. . . Meh

jupiterascendingFor my inaugural review, I have scientifically chosen a film based on its diversity, balance of special effects and plot, and possibility to make my name widely known in the film critic department.  Or none of those. . .  You choose.  Actually, I chose this movie because it is last movie that I [mostly] watched.

Before I jump into the actual review, let me tell you a bit about my movie watching style.  First, there is generally a mini-human around at all times.  Meaning that if there is crazy language or intense violence, it just “ain’t getting watched all the way through” because I watch the majority of my films at home, in the living room, on a couch, with the lights on, without THX certified equipment.  What I am looking for is thematic content.  I’m looking to see where the feel of cinema is headed and whether or not we are moving toward Idiocracy or toward crazy, massive awakening (sometimes, it is both).  Oh, and the format of this will probably change because I am a bit ADHD as well and will probably squirrel! every time I write one of these.

Plot/Overview/Synopsis

You could just go to IMDB.com, but here it goes in about three sentences.  Jupiter (Mila Kunis), a Russian emigrant turned housekeeper wannabe royalty, is the re-sequenced DNA of an alien but not really alien human queen of the universe.  This advanced human race wants to harvest the earth’s population so they can make “human juice,” go swimming in it, and live forever; the problem is that Jupiter pretty much owns the earth so they can’t.  Everyone bad [read 1%’ers] wants her dead, and then there is a human-wolf thing (Channing Tatum) that is trying to save her.  And then there are Bees – lots and lots of bees.  That’s it.

 Parable-Worthy?

Everything is usable, just not sure how much.  In the movie, Jupiter’s father is infatuated with the stars.  She is even, obviously, named after what her father calls “the planet.” Her physical life takes a turn for the worse upon his death and her mother’s subsequent emigration to the U.S. where Jupiter grows up to be a housekeeper.  She begrudgingly goes through each day uttering the words, “I hate my life” as the alarm clock sounds 4:45am.  She is constantly looking for money; people around her are constantly trying to use her for money (culminates in her being talked into selling her eggs).  That is until she is shocked out of her current paradigm by this thought that she is actually a queen whose inheritance is the earth.  When the movie is in its last minutes and she is back on Earth, all has changed.  She has been rejuvenated with this thought that her source is not in the world around her, but is greater than what most people see.  What I found interesting here is that we, as Christians, take the same approach.  Some of us misunderstand where our “citizenship” is, while some know, but are unable to ever access the vast resources [read: not just money] that are available to us.  Jupiter Ascending‘s first parable point could be an example of “we are in this world, but not of it.”

Second topic of thought.  The DNA sequence that Jupiter is supposedly a copy of (in the movie, they state that when a DNA sequence accidentally reappears in the future, it is what is called “reincarnation” and that DNA sequence has the same rights as the previous one.  That is why she is seen as queen, in a way) had three children who sorta of split the known universe (I’m paraphrasing here since this is where the 8 year old came down and wanted to watch the “princess movie”).  But now that Jupiter is on the scene, they don’t just get everything and can’t harvest the earth to use it for highly-concentrated human life juice.  I think this highlights the dangers of thinking we are a superior species of human rather than just a transformed version of the same.  Remember that grace is a gift given freely to all through Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection.  Jupiter Ascending could be a cautionary tale of thinking ourselves higher than we ought.

I’ll stop there since it is getting lengthy.  But all in all, there is some good parable material in there.

Conclusion

So, yes, there is some good parable stuff.  And yes, there is a bit of cool plot in there.  Woefully, it isn’t a great movie from my perspective.  The effects are good (except for Channing Tatum’s almost Barf from Spaceballs level of makeup) and I really love the Bee’s sequence, but it is just about 1.5 hours too long.  There is even a part in there that reminds me of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy‘s terrible bureaucratic scene.  The language is not terrible, but the creators took full liberty with the PG-13 rating.  Not too much sexual content except a dressing scene.  And the violence actually wasn’t that graphic.  Anyway, maybe rent it and skip through just for the good parts. . .