Film and Foodie Review: Mr. Church

mr-churchAt the request of a fan of film and foodie,  curious about what I would suggest for the foodie portion, I am reviewing Mr. Church .  Let me admit,  Mr. Church is a movie that I never wanted to see because with as many stories that there are to tell about the Black experience, the one that Hollywood loves to green light are the ones where African Americans deeply love the White people they serve.  With that said, I do have to say this film has a little bit more to offer because of the writer, Susan Mc Martin’s deep love and appreciation of the person that Mr. Church is based on.  She wants him personified with dignity and layered with intelligence and class.  She  want viewers to know how he enriched her family’s life.  mr_church_2016_12446304

Mr. Church is an African American man who is the cook for a a White woman and her young daughter.   In the opening credits to the film, we are informed that this is based on a real friendship.  And the more you watch, it is evident that story is filled with truths and love.  It feels like a love letter, not in the romantic sense but a story of deep love and regard for a person would impact the writer’s life.  Eddie Murphy gives a quiet performance.  He restrains any impulses to be comedic.  And in doing so,  I believe as an actor he is giving real homage to who the character of who Mr. Church is.   There is an air of mystery to Mr. Church that keeps you guessing throughout the film.

This is slow moving film. It is a bit of simple story of friendship and family can be the same thing.

The Foodie:  Grits take center stage among the stews, and cakes that Mr. Church whips up.  I will differ to a recipe from the now closed Baltimore based and Black owned Darker Than Blue restaurant.  It was a top notch upscale restaurant with mostly soul food.   Watch this video of the chef preparing Catfish and Grits:

Film and Foodie: Hacksaw Ridge

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The critic rises to her feet teary eyed as she says, “Bravo!, Bravo!”  Hacksaw Ridge is a great true story made into a splendid film.  It is the story of Desmond Doss, a Seven Day Adventist who refuses to bear arms in battle of Okinawa.   He was a conscientious objector, he refused to kill or carry  a weapon.  He opted to serve his country as medic.  While in service as a medic he would go into battlefield saving 75 men.  With each person he set out to save, he spoke to the Lord.   The quote for ages shall be, “Lord, let me get one more.”

Mel Gibson is the director.  The cinematography is beautiful.   The story is well executed.  You are allowed to know the characters in a way that allows you to care about what happens.  You see character arcs not only in the leading man but in a few of the supporting characters.     Andrew Garfield convincingly provides a wide array of emotions.  Despite Garfield Oscar worthy performance.  He is not carrying this film alone. The acting is top notch.  You connect with the characters whether they are the nice guys are not.  It is really good to see  Hugo Weaving, Sam Worthington and Vince Vaughn in these roles.The stand out newbie is Luke Bracey, kind of the tough shell character.  The leading lady to Andrew Garfield is Teresa Palmer.  She actually played the romantic lead to Luke Bracey in the remake of Point Break.  The hugely talented cast helps to flesh out a heart-warming movie.

Hacksaw Ridge has powerful messages of conviction, patriotism and courage which touch the soul.

Check out the Film and Foodie Review Video

The Foodie picks:   After being flustered by the raw emotion of the film, I drew a blank about what to pair.  I can see clearly now, the rain has gone.   Okay, so Doss is a southern guy from Virginia.  I am a New York gal with Virginian parents so I know a thing or two about southern cooking.   What kind of heroes welcome home dinner would our southern gentleman like to come home to.    While in theaters go to a Southern style cooking restaurant.  Think cornbread, fried chicken and mashed potato comfort food.   Let’s get a little more elegant for watching this movie with friends at home.   When on DVD then opt for southern cuisine finger foods like baby back ribs, macaroni & cheese balls, deep fried pickle chips  and happy ending of peach cobbler.   Then raise a glass to the soldiers with a blue martini but if you are conscientious objector to drinking then don’t.

Film and Foodie Review: Dr. Strange

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Before I get into the film,  for a change I want to talk about the star power behind the leading man in Dr. Strange. There is a rising star in Benedict Cumberbatch, often called the “internet’s boyfriend.”  He does silly video gags on the internet.  He reads audiobooks of classics.  I suggest you find his narration of Casanova on You Tube.   Then there is his work in the acclaimed PBS Version of Sherlock Holmes which stars Cumberbatch and in England he has body of work that has made him a bonafide star there for years.  America was teased with him in the 2nd installment of the Star Trek reboot, Into the Darkness by his portrayal as the notorious Khan.   Most notably was his Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Alan Turing in the Imitation Game. Yet, with all this work under his belt nothing will propel his star to general public like Dr. Strange.   It is not because this is his best work but it is the right work to be attached to doing.   Marvel movies are remarkable success stories.   And lately, the less popular comics like Guardians of the Galaxy and Dr. Strange are having outstanding box office success.

Despite strong box office, add my voice to the choir of folks saying Dr. Strange is not the strongest script.  It could have been punched up a tad more.   Writers were added to inject some humor in the film; however, good ole fashioned intensely dramatic verbal content lacked.  How unfortunate when there is such stellar talent on board such as MacAdams, Ejiofor, Swinton and Madsen.  Not of one of them disappoint yet there are not stretched to vibrant performances.   The saving grace for Dr. Strange is where the script lacks, the visuals astound and will not disappoint the Dr. Strange Comic book fans in be the trippy film desired to match the books.

Spoiler: My only  spoiler comment is about the villains which usually disappoint us in Marvel movies.   Dr. Strange should get some slack if you consider that you have ultimately two main villians, three if you wait for the post credits.   Mads Milkkelson is who we see in the trailers but on some level he  is simply a guide to Dr. Strange’s ultimate showdown with the more significant villain of Dormamu.   And once you see the film, you will be hip to what is now becoming a classic line from the end of the film.

See more commentary about the film and listen to the foodie pairing. 

Film Review of Deepwater Horizon

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Deepwater Horizon is a true story filled with the greed of the oil business and how it leads to  tragedy.   Yet in the midst of tragedy there are heroic true stories.   It features Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell and John Malkovich.   And the trio all put in fine performances.   I was especially drawn to John Malkovich performance.   Honestly, it was lost on me until this moment that father and daughter  were in this film, Kate Hudson and stepdad Kurt Russell.   Kate has a quiet supporting role.  Find out  a bit more about this film by watching the review below.

Film and Foodie Review: The Accountant

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Don’t believe the critical bad hype about “The Accountant”,  go with the audience reaction which is very positive.   Although, the movie is evidently flawed in some areas like contrived coincidence.   The second plot point twist toward the ending is way too verbally expository rather than executed ins .   Despite these two factors.  I would lean to what is positive more than what is negative.

For those excited about the pairing of JK Simmons and Ben Affleck together in this film, you really will not get to see them play opposite each other.   If you don’t know, these will play opposite each other Ben Affleck’s version of Batman and JK Simmons will play Commissioner Gordan.    As for Anna Kendrick, she is likeable.  I was concerned about the age difference but Affleck looks rather young in this film contrary to the mature slightly grey look he has been celebrating in other films.

Watch the  Non-Spoiler Film and Foodie review:

Review of Hateful Eight

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This will be one of my shortest reviews for a film.  As, it says below…”Hated It.”  Normally, there is a foodie review and I could give you some witty suggestions on what to eat but in light of not advocating this film,  no food review.

Now why do I hate it?  At 3 hours and 7 minutes, it is too long given the execution of the story which could have been finished 60 minutes earlier.  There is no payoff by the end of the film and no truly likable hero.  This a bloody mess of a film.  However, in my opinion less bloody than most Tarentino films which admittedly in the past I have enjoyed.   Django, Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs are some of my favorites.   If you insist on seeing this then please don’t have children around.  Multiple heads  are blown off.

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Film and Foodie Review: Spotlight

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The Film: This is a movie I didn’t want to see, a movie about the sexual violation of children by priests. However, this film is a well done account of the Boston Globe’s dedicated Spotlight team 2003 Pulitzer winning investigation on the crimes committed by priests.  Spotlight is the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative unit in the United States.  In the early 2000s, theteam uncovers the widespread problem of child abuse by priests in the Boston area.   The string of trackable crimes dates from the 70’s to the early 2000’s.   For a disturbing topic, the highlight is delightful cast including  Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d’Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, and Billy Crudup.   Each actor seems to bring nuances of internal agony about the situation.   The story illuminates the fraternity of silence about suspected crimes.  I expected the film to be slanted with Hollywood propanganda but it seems just to be honest storytelling.

The Food:  I deliberated about broaching the topic of food.  It’s such a heavy movie.  Set in Boston,  I thought a bread bowl of  New England clam chowder and Sam Adams beer would be perfect comfort food.  You’ll need for this for this uncomfortable topic.

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Film and Foodie: The Revenant

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The Film: Well, it is a bloody good movie.  It takes you into a beautifully cold world.  It is a picture chronicles our not so distance past and the American/European fur trading business.  What was the cost of fur in exchange for lives?   In The Revenant we follow the story of fur trapper Hugh Glass.   The semi-biographical story follows the main character trying to survive.  The now famous bear scene makes you wonder how did post production do it?   Like  Mad Max Fury Road it is the kind of visual story telling that bring back credence as why you spend the extra money to sit in a movie theater rather settling for watching it on TV, laptop or phone.   Those mediums albeit great to have will never do what the movie theater experience can.  Isn’t it splendid that we may be moving in the a realm of film making warrants our expensive tickets.

It is a pretty linear  and somewhat predictable in what the end goal.  The director expands the survival story with embellishment such as Glass having a Native American wife and bearing a son with her.  This is not true but exacting revenge withe motivation of it not just be about me but you killed my blood widens the audience empathy for the character.  The trailer tells you in a nutshell

Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hardy in the Trailer for "The Revenant"

Leonardo Di Caprio and Tom Hardy in the Trailer for “The Revenant”

what is going to happen.    The treat is getting to see  Leo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy play opposite each other as enemies.  They are both top of the line actors.  They are both close friends in real life and really work well together for on screen chemistry the brilliantly layered by both.  The two have worked together before in the hit film Inception: however I think this film may solidify seeing this duo work together more.  One week after the release of the film both DiCaprio and Hardy have earned Oscar nominations.  My hope is that the both will win.

The Food:  My suggestions are eating something like a burger rare/medium rare or steak prepare the same way or raw vegan or sushi.  Since this film is all about surviving in nature when this hits dvd it you can cook out doors do so.  If you can watch the movie outdoors even better.   After seeing, The Revenant, a friend of mine had this to say:

“I can’t believe we could eat meat after so much blood & guts, but the movie was excellent!”

Watch How to Make

Burger Sous Vide Medium Rare Burger

Film and Food: Peanuts Movie

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The Film: Welcome The Peanuts Movie to the world of 3D animation.  Although this film is not a visual spectacular, it is a respectful and classy update to the look of the Peanuts gang.  The story is a bit of a payoff about who Charlie Brown is to lovers of ole Charlie Brown.  At times, this film really felt like it was for adults who grew up enjoying the TV special and the comic strip.

In theater where I attended, I felt the the children’s engagement level and laughter came midway in the film.  It was too busy building connecting with nostalgia and briefly building backstory for a new generation.

The scene stealer of this movie is none other than Snoopy.   When this film hits dvd, it will be a nice addition to the any family movie collection.

The Food:  How about cracking open some peanuts in shell and enjoying a healthy fruit punch concoction like an aqua fresca in the summer.  In the winter maybe boiled peanuts still in shells and white hot chocolate.

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MCCN Editor and film Critic with Peanuts Gang

Film and Foodie Review: Creed

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The Film: As much as I would love to be knocked out by  “Creed”as many film critics and fans are, I am simply not.    I wanted to love the film.  For me there was only one moment that  felt electrifying  but then it was over…quickly.  The movie felt long.    The love story felt contrived.  Every time the love story entered, I wanted it to disappear.

What I did love was Sylvester Stallone’s performance as the veteran world champion heavy weight boxer of the world.  Stallone conveyed sadness and wisdom as it all seemed believable not only because of his acting performance but it is a story that a Rocky fan knows.  Fans have watched the underdog revel in simply good enough to contend with the best.  We the fans, have watched people believe in Rocky when he didn’t believe in himself.  We have seen Rocky grow from relationships and we have seen the relationships that he has lost along the way.  Thus,  the relationship between young Adonis Creed( son of Apollo) and Rocky is believable.    There is a convincing story of young man trying to have a connection with a Dad that he never knew.  It is plausible that a relationship with Rocky would be important to him.  It believable the Apollo’s death would haunt rocky_8colRocky enough that he would do just about anything for Apollo’s son because we watched Rocky and Apollo train together and become very close.  So when Rocky trains Adonis, the flood gates of wisdom pour out with movie history trivia quotes of the future.

It is hard to compete with scene stealing boxing opponents that Stallone was never afraid to put in the ring like Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang and the Russian but I enjoyed the opponent of Adonis, “Pretty” Ricky Conlan played by Tony Bellew.  Albeit his appearances are rather brief in the film.  He is pretty, he had swagger and I was impressed with him.   In real life, Bellew is a British fighter who was once the WBC International Light Heavyweight Champion.

So what about the star?  Michael B. Jordan is a great actor.  I was impressed with him within 30 seconds of watching the independent film hit Fruitvale Station.  Jordan has superstar written all over him.  I look forward to hopefully seeing him in a range of roles in years to come.  As for for his performance in Creed,  he does a good job.  He really knows how to tap into a convincing range of emotions.  And you get to see it this film.  I anticipate seeing  a beefed up version of Adonis Creed in the sure to come next installment to this franchise.

Despite not being knocked about by this film, it is a generally good story with strong acting.  This movie sets up what I hope will be a better second installment.  And I hope, the writer is not stuck on this leading lady being the one for Adonis.  Nevertheless, the love story will not make or break the next film.  Although, the love story of Adrian and Rocky was absolutely weaved beautifully that you couldn’t walk out of film not knowing Adrian’s name.  With this film although, I saw the actress more than I wanted to see her.  I don’t remember the character’s name at all.  Don’t get me wrong, actress Tessa Thompson is a good actress.  The love story was just underwhelming. I know it sounds like I am looking for a love story but I am not.  What I was looking for was plenty of drama, action and the unbelievable music that elevates a Rocky film.  I saw some drama, some action and didn’t get enough of the unbelievable score.

The Food:  Hmn, I just finished watching muscles for two hours.  Do I want beefcake or cheesesteak.  Okay,  just stop for a proper Philly Cheesesteak.  The film also acknowledges soul food but the food for the soul of a Philadelphia location story has to be the cheesesteak.

The cast enjoyed cheesesteak nearly every day while on set in Philadelphia. Yahoo News reports, Jordan’s choice of ingredients might surprise you. Instead of picking a traditional Philly cheesesteak stuffed with delicious beef, the 28-year-old star prefers chicken. In fact, that was the controversial preference offered up by nearly everyone that Yahoo spoke to from the film, including director Ryan Coogler. The 29-year-old filmmaker doesn’t even like red meat, he said, so it’s got to be chicken. Tessa Thompson, who co-stars in the film, is also on the chicken bandwagon — but even more controversially, doesn’t like ketchup.  Watch Michael B. Jordan talk about his love of the chicken cheesesteak. 

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Chicken Cheesesteak

As for Sylvester Stallone, the original Italian Stallion, he’ll take it with all the ingredients — even if, as he joked, the liquid cheese always ends up ruining his clothing.

  • Bonus commentary– This I did love, an explanation of “Gonna Fly Now.” It was a completely organic moment with Rocky and Adonis and a great ode to one of the great songs in movie history.

Review by Crystal A. Johnson