Posts Tagged ‘john leguizamo’


Chef, written by, directed by and starring Jon Favreau, is the kind of movie you need to watch if either (a) you’re a foodie, (b) you need a feel-good funny movie, or (c) both.

Favreau is Carl Casper, chef at a prestigious restaurant, has a public meltdown after a restaurant critic writes a savage review of his food, and quits his job. Initially bereft, he buys a food truck and travels through (part of) America, providing the opportunity for  himself to get back to cooking creatively and to reconnect with his son.

It sometimes teeters on the edge of over-sentimentality, but never quite tips over. I loved the energy and colour. Carl is likeable even when he isn’t, thanks to Favreau’s geniality. A great supporting cast – Sofia Vergara as Carl’s ex-wife Inez, Emjay Anthony as his son Percy, and a brilliant turn from the fabulous John Leguizamo as Carl’s best friend Martin – add to the enjoyment. Also, watch out for a very funny turn from Robert Downey Jr.

My one slight criticism of Chef is that it may be slightly over-long. But it’s always enjoyable and good fun, and I highly recommend it.

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1996, Romeo and Juliet, one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, and certainly a very famous love story, was given the Baz Luhrmann treatment. The setting was moved to Florida in the current day, although the original Shakespearean text was retained.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Romeo, and Claire Danes is Juliet. Support is provided by – amongst others – John Leguizamo, as Tybalt (and he very nearly steals the movie), Harold Perrineau as Mercutio, and Paul Sorvino and Brian Dennehy as Juliet’s father and Romeo’s father respectively.

The story is well enough known for me not to write a very lengthy synopsis here, but in effect, it is the tale of Romeo and Juliet, the children of warring families, who fall in love and secretly marry. I don’t think it’s too spoilerish to say that things don’t end well!

I have seen this film before, and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, it had been so long since I watched it that I decided to revisit it, and being a big fan of Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge (also starring Leguizamo in a scene stealing role), I expected that Romeo + Juliet would be a big hit for me. Unfortunately I came away thinking that sometimes it’s best not to revisit films you loved years earlier! In this instance, I felt that the film was a triumph of style over substance. It certainly looks fantastic, and for the most part, the Shakespearean language manages not to feel out of place in the present day setting.

As one might expect from a Baz Luhrmann film, this picture is full of colour and flamboyance, and it boasts an impressive soundtrack (the Des’ree song, ‘Kissing You’ which plays over Romeo + Juliet’s first meeting, is particularly lovely). Some of the acting is terrific – the aforementioned Leguizamo, Pete Postlethwaite and Mariam Margolyes are all excellent – and Sorvino and Dennehy are fine as the warring heads of the two families. In truth, the weak links in the cast are DiCaprio and Danes. DiCaprio is a gifted actor, but I don’t think he was right for the part of Romeo, and Claire Danes was fine as Juliet in the beginning, but as things got worse for her character, I lost interest in her portrayal.

On balance, I would say that this film is worth seeing, purely for the different take on Shakespeare’s work (there are SO many ways in which his plays can be performed and interpreted), but I prefer the more classic telling of this love story, rather than the modernised flashy version. Still, if it gets anybody interested in learning more about William Shakespeare, that can only be a good thing.

Year of release: 1996

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Producers: Baz Luhrmann, Jill Bilcock, Martin Brown, Catherine Martin, Gabriella Martinelli

Writers: William Shakespeare (play), Craig Pearce, Baz Luhrmann

Main cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, Harold Perrineau, John Leguizamo, Paul Sorvino, Brian Dennehy

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I haven’t seen this film since it was in the cinema (10 years ago!!), but yesterday decided to revisit it on the small screen.  How glad I am that I did.  I loved it when I first saw it, and wondered if I would still enjoy it – the answer is an emphatic yes!

Nicole Kidman is radiant (and exquisite) as Satine, a high class courtesan at Moulin Rouge in Paris, a club frequented by bohemians, artistes, writers, who call themselves the children of the revolution.  When penniless writer Christian (Ewan McGregor) meets her, they fall in love…but Satine has already been promised to a rich and powerful Duke.  A love triangle ensues, but even as the lovers struggle to stay together, an even darker force is exerting it’s pull on Satine…

I hesitate to use the word extravaganza very often, but in the case of this film, it’s deserved.  The movie combines, energetic, colourful dance routines, with romance, comedy and drama.  The music is all drawn from familiar 20th century sources, although the setting for the film is Paris at the end of the 19th century (seriously, the songs here are from such artistes as Madonna, Nirvana, The Police, Bolan, Bowie – but all given a new and exciting spin).  The colour and energy radiates off the screen, and there are many laugh-out-loud moments of hilarity.  My favourite scene is where Satine, Christian, and their bohemian friends (including Toulouse Lautrec are pitching their idea for a new show to the Duke, in the hope of gaining his financial backing.

The two leads are brilliant.  Nicole Kidman has never looked more beautiful, and has never been so funny and tragic as she is here.  McGregor too is at his most endearing and makes you want to root for his character.  However, special mention must be made of Jim Broadbent, who played Harold Zindler, the manager of Moulin Rouge; and especially John Leguizamo, who played Toulouse Lautrec.  I have only ever seen Leguizamo in one other role – a coke addled Doctor on ER, and I hated him in that role.  Here however, he was fantastic.  What an incredible actor!

The aforementioned soundtrack is fabulous, and the story plays along nicely with a perfect balance of comedy and tragedy.  If you haven’t experienced Moulin Rouge yet (and if you haven’t, then why not?), I really recommend watching this film.  You might love it, you might hate it, but I doubt that you will forget it.

Year of release: 2001

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Writers: Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pierce

Main cast: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent, John Leguizamo

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