CK’s Not-So-Secret Santa Review Swap: Dinner Rush

Check out all Not-So-Secret Santa reviews at the Cinematic Katzenjammer.

Gigino is no ordinary Tribeca Italian restaurant: it is owned by Luigi Cropa (Danny Aiello) the patriarch of a mob family. Luigi’s brother is murdered on the school run two weeks before Christmas – I see what you did there, Secret Santa – and the rival bookmakers behind it later show up at the restaurant looking for Luigi’s son Duncan who has gambling debts. Duncan (Kirk Acevedo) is working in the kitchen and begins a cat-and-mouse game to escape the gangsters. Add to that a packed restaurant, a police detective invited to dine by Luigi himself and a host of diners ranging from demanding to downright annoying who may have a hidden agenda, and the tension is explosive. Something is going to happen. The question is what, when, and more importantly – who.

I enjoyed the contrast between the mafia plots and the festive atmosphere of a busy restaurant: jazzy music, good food and trivia entertainment from the barman, all the while feeling someone would not walk out of there alive. Director Bob Giraldi makes the viewer part of the action: except for the few scenes outside the restaurant, you might as well be a member of staff alternating between the lazy festive pace of the dining space and the rushed atmosphere of the kitchen, complete with close ups of chefs and food. The food… did I mention the food? This is not a film you can watch on an empty stomach. There’s so much footage of the cooks whipping up delicious-looking dishes that I almost forgot to guess which characters might be implicated in the inevitable massacre.

Dinner_rushsantaA bookmaker, a bookmaker and a bookmaker walk into a restaurant…

Dinner Rush keeps you guessing. I have to admit it’s not the kind of film I usually choose as they make me nervous, like the situation could explode anytime… and it is very well done in that respect. The family dynamics between Luigi and his two sons were well-acted and added a touch of normalcy (what do you mean your family Christmas doesn’t involve murder and millions of dollars?) Still, I was kind of wondering where this was going after an hour or so and whether someone would finally punch Fitzgerald who thinks he can get free everything because he waited 45 minutes. Never go to Comic-Con, Fitzgerald. I was trying to figure out where the film was going and well, I didn’t. I won’t spoil it too much for people like me who may have missed it or been 10 years old when it came out, but let’s just say it’s very satisfying when all the pieces of what’s been going on all evening finally click together. One thing though. When you own a restaurant and a seedy bookmaking business you should definitely know that revenge is a dish best served cold.

Overall, Dinner Rush was intense and I’m glad I ended the year on something different. Thank you, Not-So-Secret Santa and now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go raid the kitchen.

Links of the month

A few fun tidbits from my corner of the internet!

– If Harry Potter was made by Disney, it would be hilarious – from HeyUGuys

– The 2014 run of Get into London Theatre is on! Check it out for discounted tickets to plays and musicals.

– Let’s Go Fly a Kite! Passers-by in Leicester Square were surprised by a flashmob to celebrate the release of Saving Mr. Banks. At the US premiere, it was Julie Andrews who revisited the song joined by Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson and Disney execs.

– Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are working together again and they have the best. Bromance. Ever.

Powder Room

“Women disappear into the toilet for 25 minutes at a time, what the f*ck are they doing?” This is how MJ Delaney sums up her first feature film Powder Room, an adaptation of the play When Women Wee. The film follows Sam (Sheridan Smith) on a night out in London with a couple of posh friends (played by Kate Nash and Oona Chaplin). She is trying to live up to their tales of fancy parisian life when her actual friends (Jaime Winstone, Riann Steele and Sarah Hoare), show up in the club too, drunk and dishevelled. The rest of the night is a game of cat and mouse in and out of the club, but all the revelations, fights and decisions happen in that all-important place: the ladies’ bathroom.

Powder Room sam

Despite its all-star cast, Powder Room definitely feels real and close to home: no Hollywood gloss-over here, it could be happening down your street. It’s very funny, and the girl power present on set during their 19-day shoot certainly translates onscreen in the dynamic within the group(s) of friends. Sheridan Smith keeps Sam likeable despite her sometimes questionable behaviour; actually, she is perhaps the most relatable of the lot. And as a French person, I just have to mention how good Oona Chaplin is. Her character lives in Paris and her little quips in French were just perfect. The soundtrack is energetic and the performers, FakeClub, steal the show in their few seconds onscreen. Even better, the other artists featured in the film are mostly yet unsigned bands found on SoundCloud… Here’s to hoping this gives them a much-deserved boost!

Powder Room group

On top of the fun aspect of all the gossip going on in the bathroom, I really enjoyed the contrast between the image the girls try to project in front of their friends and the reality that you see in that space – the bathroom is where they hide to cry, take drugs and fight with their husbands on the phone. This atmosphere of constant comparison and almost competition for the most “accomplished” life is very current.

This is a film about women, written and directed by women but not just for women. Everyone can enjoy a comedy and hey, I’m first in line for everything Marvel. All in all it is a lesson in not giving a shit and enjoying what you have with the people you like.

Powder Room is released in UK cinemas on 6 December.

Tick tock, it’s Catching Fire o’clock

The wait is over, as audiences finally find out what becomes of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) after they forced the Capitol to crown them both victors of the Hunger Games. There can only be one survivor in this televised fight to the death between a group of teenagers, designed to oppress and divide the twelve districts of Panem. Only, the last two standing threatened to kill themselves and leave the Games without a winner. The Hunger Games ended with the anger of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) at their act of defiance, and the promise of retaliation. Catching Fire gives a broader view of the impact of the Games: the crowds in the districts are rallying around these children who would rather have died than played by the rules, and uprisings are multiplying across the country. Katniss and Peeta must pretend that they were incapable of killing each other because they were madly in love – the only publicly acceptable excuse to keep the peace. But as they tour the country, their practised speeches do nothing to extinguish the spark of rebellion, and they become a symbol to be eliminated at all costs.

Catching Fire VictorsPeeta and Katniss tour the country as victor of the Hunger Games

I’d like to toast the writers and director Francis Lawrence, because adapting a book is hard, and adapting a book told from a single character’s point of view is harder – especially one as weary as Katniss. Yet they have found a way to expand the story outside of her mind and to fit it naturally to a film-type storytelling without resorting to voiceovers or long explanations. The best example of this is the character of President Snow, who is developed through a series of scenes with his granddaughter and head gamemaker that shed more light on his cruel and calculating ways than his outward interaction with Katniss might. The familiar settings of District 12 and the Capitol are back with some new sets as well, of which I won’t tell much to keep the surprise, but they are just like readers will have imagined them. James Newton Howard’s soundtrack is effective if a little too similar to that of the Hunger Games; we could do with some new themes, but I expect this will be the case in Mockingjay Part 1 and 2 what with the dramatic change of setting.

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence at the Catching Fire premiere.

Despite a great script and direction the film rests, of course, on the shoulders of its young stars Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson. Jennifer Lawrence once again proves her ability to effortlessly switch genres after her Oscar-winning turn in Silver Linings Playbook. Her Katniss is intense and focused and conveys just enough of what is really going on inside her head – which the reader knows but the film-only audience needs to learn despite her constant attempts at not letting it show. The supporting cast play off her beautifully, especially Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, possibly the biggest character development and evolution since the first film. Effie, of all characters, shows that the glossy polish is starting to crack even in the Capitol. The love triangle arc between Katniss, Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) may be a little too much for a dystopian revolution story; I generally take issue with love triangles becoming the essential selling point of YA to the point of detracting from the actual plot, but this is a rant for another day.

I think it’s fair to say the Hunger Games is the best screen adaptation of YA series so far and yes, I have read and seen them all. Catching Fire is so very, very good. Watch it, bring your friends & don’t forget the sugar cubes.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was released in UK cinemas on 29 November.