A fun, lighthearted film that really, really, really made me want to eat. Not cook, mind you. Some would want to copy the co-main character, Julie Powell, on her quest to cook all of Julia Child’s recipes from her Mastering the Art of French Cooking classic cookbook. I just wanted to eat my way through the movie. Aside from this film encouraging my foodie-ness, it is highly entertaining, though I must admit, I enjoyed Meryl Streep playing early Julia Child on an odyssey to to get a French cooking cookbook published in English MUCH more than the odyssey of Powell and her recipe crusade. Amy Adams as Powell is appealing, as Adams always is, but I had little interest in Powell’s saga. She cooks and blogs about cooking and talks about cooking and fights with her husband about cooking. It gets a little tiresome. The Julia Child parts, mostly set in Paris after WWII, are full of life and passion…just like Child herself. It is impossible to take your eyes off of Streep’s Child…not only is the characterization by Streep spot-on, but the storyline is also more vibrant and lively. We take a vested interest in Child and her cookbook quest, whereas with Powell, we honestly don’t care by the end. Fortunately, the Julia Child pieces of the film are so overwhelmingly funny and sweet, they make the film worth watching. And, it’s not that you will HATE the Powell storyline…you just won’t want to be best friends with her. With Child, you want to be her pal…to help her along with her cookbook…to talk with her…and especially, to EAT with her. And, I’m sure this has to do with both Child’s gregarious personality and also with Streep’s vivacious performance. All in all, an engaging, entertaining film that you most definitely should not watch on an empty stomach!

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This film is what I wanted the film Under the Tuscan Sun to be…a true experience of the culture, people and general “soul” of the place. The region of Provence in France is a beautiful region…similar to Italy’s Tuscany in the way people rave of its beauty and its scents and its postcard images. This series is based on the book of the same title by Peter Mayle, a former ad man in London who, along with his wife, decide to retires early in a farmhouse in Provence’s Luberon region. Mayle’s book became a sensation (mostly because it is about someone who actually does something that most people just dream of) just like Frances Mayes’ book about “escaping” to Italy…Under the Tuscan Sun. Unfortunately, the film version of Mayes’ book was changed into more of an exploration of romance instead of a study of Tuscany and its people. This TV version of Mayle’s book, on the other hand, is exactly what the book is…and more! When I say more, I do not mean to criticize Mayle’s beautiful book in any way. I just mean that SEEING Provence in its full glory surpasses the written word some. And what sights you see here! A Year in Provence is filled with the “air” of Provence…the images, the language, the smells, the culture, etc. This is a FUN time…there is something for everybody: scenery, humor, culture, beauty. How can you miss!

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I liked Mostly Martha, so it’s always hard when a film that was good to begin with gets the remake once-over. It happens quite a bit with older films…many black and white. I guess Hollywood feels the attention span of movie-goers is about 30 years or less. But, what’s usually really frustrating is when a RECENT foreign film is remade into an English film. Um, excuse me, we CAN read subtitles, you know! So, here we go with another contemporary film…this time a very well-received German film…that is getting the Hollywood touch so Americans can go to the movies and not have to spend two hours READING. The horror, the horror! And, I’m not even that big of a fan of foreign films! Imagine how insulted staunch devotees of international cinema are!!!!! All that aside (is that possible after my rant?), Catherine Zeta-Jones plays a tough, temperamental chef who runs her NYC restaurant kitchen like clockwork until her sister dies and she’s left with the responsibility of raising her niece. Enter Aaron Eckhart as a replacement chef and more than just cooking fires begin to heat up. This is a sweet, touching film…more than just your average romantic comedy. It has edge and some truly poignant moments between the Zeta-Jones character and the young girl. Is it better than Mostly Martha? Well, no. But, I honestly didn’t expect it to be. It is a remake after all.

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A fun, entertaining holiday movie with star of stars, Barbara Stanwyck. The premise seems a bit silly, but trust me, it works. Stanwyck plays a food/homemaking columnist (remember — this is the 1940s) who cannot do anything domestic herself…just write about it. But, low and behold, she is forced to become the domestic goddess when her editor makes her practice what she preaches. Stanwyck excelled in comedies like this…low key and very smart. She’s always excellent but in scatterbrained roles like this one, she’s priceless. Not just a holiday movie either — good all year around!

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A fabulously vivid and enticing film from Mexico that combines food and sensuality. The story, based on the acclaimed novel by Laura Esquivel, revolves around a family who has three daughters…the oldest one is a rebel, the middle one is the “good” girl, and the youngest is doomed to a live of misery and loneliness since she will be the one to take care of her aging mother and can never marry. The youngest falls in love with a man, but the middle daughter is the one the mother assigns him to marry instead. Filled with rage and hatred for her mother and her situation, the youngest takes her anger out in her cooking. Beautifully filmed, this is a wonderfully colorful and lush film that will make you both hungry and excited. What more can you ask for than that?

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