Back Rowe Reviews
Real Time Movie Reviews from the Back Row of a Theater


Chef (R)

Directed by: Jon Favreau
Starring: Jon Favreau
May 2014

This review was originally tweeted in Real-time from the back row of a movie theater and appears @BackRoweReviews. Though efforts were made to tease rather than ruin this movie’s memorable lines and moments, some spoilers may exist in the following evaluation. The original tweets appear in black, while follow-up comments appear in red. For concerns over objectionable content, please first refer to one of the many parental movie guide websites. All ratings are based on a four star system. Happy reading!


The whole hog for review day.

A piece of fruit versus kettle corn. Guess which one wins.
One look at Favreau should answer that question. He almost had me sold on the fruit, though.

Favreau tells Hoffman his restaurant is in a “creative rut.”
Hoffman tells Favreau to cook his favorite hits. Favreau tells Hoffman to take his job and shove it…which
was a hit in 1977 by Johnny Paycheck.

Favreau’s son helps him create a #Twitter account. Welcome to social media.

Favreau sends his first tweet. Love the bird animation and tweet sound effect.

Favreau gets a crash course on the public nature of #Twitter.
It’s not like texting, folks. I’m always happy when Twitter gains exposure in movies since I use it in conveying my reviews, but are people really this ignorant over the medium in question? Sometimes I think it’s a little overdetermined like in Draft Day when Costner’s mom (Ellen Burstyn) uses Twitter and he doesn’t. And “dummys” on the subject always call it “twittering.”

Review redux. Showdown creates a media firestorm.
TMZ would have a field day over such a demonstrative meltdown.

New job: be a nanny in Miami.
Wish I can take credit for the rhyme, but it’s in the dialog.

Iron Man gives Favreau a taco truck.

How to make a Cubano sandwich. A delectable scene.

Lady and the Tramp photo op with cop is hilarious.

Cornstarch on ware wolves. Sidesplittingly funny.
Correction: werewolves. This scene is a bit crass but it’s extremely hilarious, especially if you’re a fan of random gags.

Austin Midnight sandwich for $7. Looks delicious.
Actually, as tasty as that sandwich appears, I’d gladly pay $20 for one.

One second video is a special moment.
It’s amazing what kids can do with technology these days. Oops, just dated myself.

Final analysis: a delicious repast of father/son, road trip and follow your dreams tropes served with flair.

3 out of 4 stars. A feel good film with plenty of laughs and heartwarming moments. Worth a watch.

Favreau has spent the better part of the last decade behind the camera, so it’s nice to see him acting again, and what’s more, in a leading role that he can really sink his teeth into. As the title would suggest, this movie is all about food, so viewers are strongly cautioned not to enter the theater on an empty stomach…otherwise you might find that you’re one limb short when you leave. As for me, I was stuffed to the gills when I saw the film and I was still salivating throughout the movie. There’s not much more I can add to my above analysis, and I don’t want to ruin any of the movie’s many memorable moments. This is a highly pleasurable film where the plot has just as much meat as the dishes it serves. Chef is a rare treat that’s not to be missed. Order up!

A Knight's Tale (PG-13)

Directed by: Brian Helgeland
Starring: Heath Ledger
May 2001

Brief nudity and innumerable anachronisms (most notably the score) nearly ground this medieval tale, but a serviceable storyline, colorful sidekicks and an adequate villain combine to produce a satisfying and inspiring film.

Rating: 2 1/2

Cast Away (PG-13)

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Tom Hanks
December 2000

Tom Hanks, again, proves he’s one of Hollywood’s finest actors. Just like he did for
Philadelphia, Hanks emaciated himself for the island scenes. An enormous amount of screen time is spent on Hanks’ survival lessons, and it’s a tribute to his acting and Zemeckis’ skillful directing that our interest is held for so long. Hanks’ conversations with Wilson get annoying after a while, but the anthropomorphized volleyball is a mental defense mechanism that, in tandem with his hope of being reunited with his sweetheart, Kelly (Helen Hunt), is the only thing that keeps him sane. His reunion with Kelly after his rescue is a study in ambivalence: he still loves her but realizes he must move on, just as she did. Other than the unsatisfactory existential coda, Cast Away is an excellent drama that speaks volumes even when dialogue is scarce.

Rating: 3

Mercy Streets (PG-13)

Directed by: Jon Gunn
Starring: Eric Roberts
October 2000

A low-budget affair that tells a decent story despite its monetary restrictions,
Mercy Streets is a religious film that doesn’t pound you over the head with its moral lesson, but rather, shows real people in real-life situations. David White, in a dual role, does a good job of playing the “good brother, bad brother” scenario: wayward John, pressured into doing “one last job” for nefarious Rome (Eric Roberts), accidentally trades places with his priest brother, Jeremiah, who ends up taking the rap for John. Excellent guest performances by Cynthia Watros (The Drew Carey Show), Stacy Keach and even Lawrence Taylor salvage the movie from the typical B movie slag-heap. The “anatomy of a heist” sequence is brilliant, especially the freeze-frame shot, but the final scene is nearly identical to the dénouement in Ocean’s Eleven.

Rating: 2 1/2

Remember the Titans (PG-13)

Directed by: Boaz Yakin
Starring: Denzel Washington
September 2000

On his impressively long list of career-defining roles, Denzel Washington’s turn as football head coach Boone, of newly-integrated T.C. Williams High School in Virginia during the early seventies, stands out as one of his very best.
Remember the Titans is so much more than a sports movie and even transcends its poignant social commentary…the movie is fun and the characters are memorable. There are many standout scenes, including: the team’s pre-dawn jog to Gettysburg, Gary Bertier’s ill-fated drive and, of course, the championship game. Remember the Titans is a winner on many different levels.

Rating: 3

The Perfect Storm (PG-13)

Directed by: Wolfgang Petersen
Starring: George Clooney
June 2000

Based on actual events,
The Perfect Storm is a glimpse into the hard lives of Atlantic fisherman and the toll the job takes on them and their spouses. George Clooney is good, but not great, and the end is easy to predict. Perhaps taking a little artistic license would have improved the straightforward storyline.

Rating: 2 1/2

U-571 (PG-13)

Director: Jonathan Mostow
Starring: Matthew McConaughey
April 2000

Life imitates art in
U-571: just as First Officer Tyler comes into his own, so does Matthew McConaughey as a leading man. The story is rife with leadership lessons, both good and bad, and the pulse-pounding plot makes for a first-rate submarine warfare flick. Though it borrows (quite heavily at times) from Run Silent, Run Deep and Crimson Tide, the movie presents intense battle sequences and really hits the mark with Tyler’s baptism of fire after his field promotion to captain. Featuring great performances from Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel, David Keith and even Jon Bon Jovi, U-571 is a rousing and patriotic tribute to WWII soldiers.

Rating: 3