Our Brand Is Crisis - Review

R  |  107 min  |  Comedy, Drama
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters October 30, 2015**

SynopsisAn American woman, well-versed in political campaigns, is sent to the war-torn lands of South America to help install a new leader but is threatened to be thwarted by a long-term rival.

ReviewCharles Dudley Warner said, "politics makes strange bedfellows". Meaning of course that political interests can bring together people who otherwise have little in common.It can also be said that politics makes good script fodder. The latest being OUR BRAND IS CRISIS in which Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton make strange but entertaining screen mates. 

Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida) is a Bolivian presidential candidate with a dismal rating in the polls. he is going to need exceptional help and maybe a miracle if he is going to beat out the front runner Rivera (Louis Arcella). Castillo's campaign team decide to bring in American strategist “Calamity” Jane Bodine (Bullock). Jane is fantastic at what she does, or was until a devastating defeat with horrible consequences sidelined her emotionally. She reluctantly agrees to join the team only to find that Rivera has Pat Candy, Jane's rival and nemesis, on his side. The election now becomes personal and Calamity Jane will stop at nothing to see Castillo win. Best candidate or not. 

Sandra Bullock can step up in dramatic fashion. We have no argument about that. She even has a little gold statue on her mantle to prove it. We love her in the romantic comedy realm but truth be told she is fantastic at being vulnerable and chaotic. She has layers of emotion that she can tap into which allows her a subtle and effective range of character dynamic. We see a lot of that in this one. And it balances perfectly with the sly, cat who ate the canary, persona that Thornton oozes so effortlessly. The two do a dance in this one that is a tango of respect and ruthlessness. 

Pat Candy is a quiet easy going guy on the surface. The kind that will smile and nod to your face while the whole time picturing you in the throes of pain and death. You never see him sweat. He always seems to be in complete control. This is in dire contrast to Jane's frantic, chaotic nature. She seems close to a nervous breakdown and you wonder if she has control of anything. But just when you think all is lost she has the ability to grab  solution from nowhere and make is fantastic. 

You do not have to be a fan of politics to enjoy the story line and script of this. Yes it takes place in the political arena but it is more about the cunning, behind the scene tactics of the two strategists. When Jane comes up with the crisis brand for Castillo's campaign it then becomes a game of how to let it best serve their agenda. Like many elections it is not about the right man winning it is simply just about winning. 

There are a few funny moments in this one but not sophomoric half witted comedy. The laughs are pure and natural. They are well fitted for pressure situations and organically break the tension. It is by definition more a lighthearted drama. The layers of emotion coming from the solid acting of the main cast. OUR BRAND IS CRISIS is rated R for language including some sexual references. It is intended for adults and the language and references are not awkward or gratuitous. They are true to life and situation specific. I give it 3.5 out of 5 bus rides. I would recommend seeing it for sure just not convinced it is worth box office ticket money. A cheaper matinee or wait for the rental? Not a bad option. 

Burnt - Review

R  |  100 min  |  Comedy, Drama
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters October 30, 2015**

SynopsisA chef who destroyed his career with drugs and diva behavior cleans up and returns to London, determined to redeem himself by spearheading a top restaurant that can gain three Michelin stars.

ReviewSome of the more entertaining reality competition shows revolve around the world of professional chefs. They are full of personalities with inflated egos, intense obsessive natures, and an inherent need to succeed at any cost. BURNT is a film that takes all of those elements, amps them up by ten, and offers us a wildly engaging and deeply emotional story about one such fictional Chef. 

Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) has been off the culinary radar for years. Many of his associates and friends figure him to be dead or strung out somewhere in a drunken stupor. Jones was one of the most talented and respected Chefs in Paris before falling off the grid.He had already earned two Michelin stars; a feat few ever obtain. When he returns, clean and sober, determined to give it a go once more he has lots to prove; especially to himself. He hand picks a gang of kitchen mates, takes over a faltering London restaurant, and begins his climb back to the top. 

This is Cooper's best performance since 2012's SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and should easily garner him an Oscar nod. Jones goes from zero to sixty on the emotion-ometer in seconds and brings a high level of intensity to the kitchen and to his own desire for perfection. Those around him fear him but at the same time stand in admiration of his abilities. Cooper harnesses this rage and expertly brandishes it in each rant. There is no doubt that those in the culinary world have the toughest skin of any profession. Adam lashes out in tyrannical fits of rage at the smallest overlooked detail. It is no wonder the food in high end restaurants is so expensive. The over head to replace all the smashed plates from crazed chefs must be astronomical. 

If this film were wall to wall high pressure drama it would be a bit too much to swallow. BURNT mixes this in with some softer and even endearing scenes of Adam when he is not in the heat of the moment. It makes perfect use of Cooper's pretty boy charm and flirtatious mannerisms. You like him and he manages to get you to care for Jones as well. This is a talented guy trying to overcome some bad decisions. Yes he drives his employees with fury but you sort of understand. They do not seem to mind so why should the audience. The supporting cast rally around Cooper and create a well oiled ensemble. Sienna Miller, Omar Sy, Sam Keeley, and Daniel Brühl each create differing personalities all with the same goal; help Jones get the star. One must assume that like most upscale kitchens this is how things are done and the atmosphere seems very believable. 

Foodies will appreciate the attention to the art of plating and the style at which the dishes are created. There are many culinary references and behind the scene discussions that shed a bit of light on what goes in to a nights service. The pressure is extreme and the competition with other chefs is undeniable. Especially when a Michelin star is on the line. One bad review and it is all over. You get the feeling that these guys are one bad plate away from losing their minds completely. 

BURNT is rated R for language throughout. Chefs use the F word like butter. It is the liquid in which all sentences are sauteed. So be prepared for a lot of out bursts and volatile expletives. There is a tad bit of violence but nothing else even close to objectionable material. This is a solidly written, quick edited, and expertly directed film. The acting elevates it even higher. I give it 3.75 out of 5 opening nights. Loved Cooper in this role and the TOP CHEF fan in me appreciated the story and peek inside the kitchen. 


Walking Dead theory - SPOILERS

After last nights upsetting WALKING DEAD episode I have come to a conclusion. SPOILERS follow.

I do not think that Glen is dead. I think that what we saw was the other guy laying on top of Glen. That is who they were eating and Glen will crawl away while the zombies are distracted.

The shock and horror on his face was one of fear and not pain.. I believe I am right in this.