If you’re thinking of watching CHEF (15: Lionsgate) after this review, don’t do so on an empty stomach.
It’s a feel-good foodie film that will have you salivating within minutes.
Director Jon Favreau also stars as stellar chef Carl Casper, who quits his job at a prestigious Los Angeles restaurant after refusing to compromise his creative integrity to the owner (Dustin Hoffman).
He takes to the road to rediscover his culinary mojo and with support from his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) ends up in Miami with a food truck, his son and an old friend/fellow cook (John Leguizamo).
An uplifting road trip back to LA produces delicious morsels of family bonding, with Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr and Oliver Platt (as a food critic) adding to the fun.
Favreau dishes up a movie that’s both sweet and spicy, without a trace of bitterness.
> On the other hand, tear-jerking romantic drama THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (12: Twentieth Century Fox)is bitter-sweet.
Shailene Woodley plays precocious Indianapolis teenager Hazel, who has a restricted lifestyle as she’s suffering from terminal thyroid cancer.
She reluctantly joins a parents’ support group where she meets a charmer named Gus (Ansel Elgort), who is in remission after losing one of his legs to bone cancer. The pair fall in love and a shared passion for books leads them on a literary pilgrimage to Amsterdam in search of reclusive author Peter van Houten.
The movie alternates between mawkish melodrama and heartfelt sincerity, although Woodley has a smile that lights up the screen and is utterly believable, even when the story isn’t.
Sentimental viewers will be reaching for the tissues, but cynics are unlikely to be won over.
> Festive family offering THE CHRISTMAS CANDLE (U: Koch Media) will probably be remembered for the acting debut of former Britain’s Got Talent contestant Susan Boyle.
She’s the singing wife of a churchwarden (James Cosmo), who welcomes a new vicar (Hans Matheson) to the Cotswolds village of Gladbury some time in the late 19th century.
The priest has had his beliefs tested in the bi g city and is not prepared to accept that every 25 years a candle made by the family of a local chandler (Sylvester McCoy) will ensure the recipient’s prayer is answered.
Yet faith and fate conspire to teach him a Yuletide lesson that might once have been taken to heart by British viewers, but probably won’t have much impact in our cynical times.
> Set in 1970s Brooklyn, BLOOD TIES (15: Lionsgate) is a character-driven tale that’s as much a family drama as a crime thriller.
It hinges on the return of Chris (Clive Owen), a career criminal released from prison after serving a nine-year stretch. He tries to go straight and moves in with younger brother Frank (Billy Crudup), a law-abiding cop, but before long he returns to his old ways.
No prizes for guessing how the story plays out.
While violent action is kept to a minimum, it packs a genuine punch when it does erupt.
Owen gives an interesting performance and stand-out turns are provided by Marion Cotillard as Chris’s drug-addled ex-wife and James Caan as the boys’ ailing father.