Chef (Open Road)
Foodies will have a field day savoring this mouthwatering comedy-drama about one man's obsession with his cooking and his clan. Writer-director Jon Favreau, who also plays the title role, serves up an old-fashioned, heartwarming story, a labor of love that's all the more refreshing since it sees family values and marriage triumph, despite all obstacles.
Carl Casper (Favreau) is having a midlife crisis. Although a successful chef at a trendy California restaurant, he's frustrated by having to prepare the same dishes, over and over, as demanded by his boss. His creative rut is noted by an influential food critic and blogger, who sends a severe review into cyberspace.
Enraged, Carl decides to fight back, via Twitter, but soon learns the lesson of broadcasting too much information. A public confrontation with the critic goes viral on the Internet, and Carl loses his job.
A lifeline is thrown by his ex-wife, Inez (Sofia Vergara), wealthy and successful, but concerned that their young son is missing his father. So she invites Carl to join them on a business trip to Miami, where Carl got his start in the kitchen.
Once there, Carl is thrown another lifeline by Inez's other ex-husband (Robert Downey Jr.) who offers Carl the opportunity to take charge of a rundown food truck as a way to reinvent himself and reignite his passion for food. Joined by his former line cook, and with son in tow, Carl restores the vehicle, designs a Cuban-style menu, and sets out on the ultimate road trip.
Viewers beware: Don't see "Chef" on an empty stomach. The real stars of the film are the delectable dishes Carl serves up, which may have you running to the nearest eatery before the closing credits end.
The film contains an implied nonmarital relationship, drug use, occasional profane and crude language and some mildly adult humor. (A-III, R)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Fox)
Though it's not a film for kids, this latest addition to a franchise based on the work of French science-fiction author Pierre Boulle (1912-1994) has enough going for it to please most adults. Grown-ups also will find the themes underlying director Matt Reeves' 3-D follow-up to the 2011 reboot "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" congruent with Christian values.
A decade after a pandemic called Simian Flu wiped out most of the human race, a band of survivors occupies the ruins of San Francisco. With their fuel supply running dangerously low, they send out an expedition aimed at restoring a damaged hydroelectric plant to the north of the city.
En route, however, the mission's team members (including widowed architect Malcolm) encounter, and clash with, a community of genetically evolved apes living in nearby Muir Woods. As a potential war looms, the primates' wise chief, Caesar (Andy Serkis), works with Malcolm to prevent bloodshed.
If this peaceable duo represents the best of their respective species — each is shown to be motivated by concern for his family — the other end of the spectrum is embodied by Caesar's aggressive deputy Koba and Malcolm's irascible colleague, Carver. Koba was a victim of torturous lab experimentation, while Carver holds the apes responsible for the ravages of Simian Flu.
Via these positive and negative role models, Reeves blends pleas for tolerance and trust in with the considerable, though largely bloodless, combat action. While thoroughly honorable, the script's messages are delivered somewhat heavy-handedly. Still, Serkis' striking performance, together with top-notch special effects, elevates Reeves' sequel above run-of-the-mill entertainment.
The film contains frequent stylized violence, at least one use each of profanity and rough language as well as several crude and crass terms. (A-III, PG-13)
CNS classifications: A-I — general patronage. A-II — adults and adolescents. A-III — adults. A-IV — adults, with reservations. L — limited adult audiences, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. O — morally offensive.