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Nora Ephron's
Julie and Julia

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Before popping the Julie and Julia Blu-Ray disc into your player you may want to make reservations at your favorite local restaurant. Or, better still, spend the day actually preparing a few different types of foods and have them ready and in front of you before you hit play. Oh, and they should be Julia Child recipes, of course!

If you do not do one of these two things, remember I warned you. I thought I was hungry after the screening of Julie and Julia earlier in the year, but the Blu-Ray transfer makes it impossible for you not to want to taste the so-many treats that are being made, in all their high-def glory, in front of you.

Nora Ephron’s feast of a film, Julie and Julia, is delightful and delicious concoction that boasts a refreshing non-traditional narrative, presents food the in the most scrumptious way since Babette’s Feast and—surprise-- features another brilliant performance by our reigning queen of cinema, the divine Meryl Streep! Give the best actress of our time her third Oscar already!

Ephron has a wonderful time depicting and contrasting the lives of two real people and their relationships with their men as well as their livelihood—food. Based on two memoirs, “My Life in France,” by Ms. Child and “Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously” by Julie Powell, Ephron juxtaposes the story of one woman’s attempt to pay homage to her heroine while giving her life new meaning.

Unhappy at work, Julie decides to blog about her new goal, she will cook all 524 recipes in Child’s legendary book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” The film moves back and forth between Julie’s life in 2002 and that of Child’s in 1940’s France and her journey toward actually writing the masterwork that would change cooking forever.

Meryl Streep’s spot-on Julia Child is a towering (both physically and talent-wise) figure filled with insecurities and underlying secret ambitions but a tremendous joi de vivre that envelops everyone around her. The scene where she masters the art of cutting onions (I am allergic so that sequence held a simultaneous hypnotic and repellent fascination and on Blu-Ray made me wanna run screaming!)

Amy Adams is an enchanting creature (pun intended) and her Julie is a neurotic mess except when she is cooking. Julie could have easily emerged as an unappealing bitch, but Adams gives her just enough sweet idiosyncrasies that we want her to succeed in her goal (and stop alienating her husband!) Watching her apprehensively murder a lobster and triumphantly bone a duck is just a joy.

The two women together, even though they are NEVER together, are a dream film team. The film contains solid supporting turns by Stanley Tucci (a Devil Wears Prada reunion of sorts) and Chris Messina as the respected spouses as well as Linda Emond, Mary Lynn Rajskub and the hilarious Jane Lynch (Glee) as Child’s taller sister.

The visuals, as stated earlier, look fantastic, from the sumptuous French locales to the delectable dishes. It’s food porn plain and simple and the 1.85:1 high definition transfer is tres magnifique!

The 24-bit, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is strong and enhances Alexandre Desplat’s terrifically charming score.

Among the hors d'oeuvres of special features there’s something called ‘movieIQ’ where an icon will appear whenever Julie or Julia are cooking. If you have a BD Live connection and you hit the green button, the recipe will be emailed to you.

The ‘making of documentary: Secret Ingredients: Creating Julie and Julia,’ while being too short at 28 minutes, is a delightful concoction of interviews with the cast and Ephron that proves pretty insightful. Ephron also provides a sporadic audio commentary.

‘Cooking Lessons’ (23 min) features the great Child doing what she does best. ‘Julia’s Kitchen’ (23 min) is a min-docu about donating Child’s kitchen to the Smithsonian.

The pièce de résistance is a 48 minute tribute to the late, great chef titled “Family and Friends Remember Julia Child” with tons of conversations with colleagues, friends and family.

Pick up this Blu-Ray for the holidays. You won’t be disappointed. You will, however, be ravenously crazy with hunger!

Bon Appétit!


Matt Tyrnauer's
Valentino: The Last Emperor

DVD review By Frank J. Avella

“I know what women want. They want to be beautiful.”
Valentino Garavani

Valentino: The Last Emperor is completely captivating and hard to resist—even for a fashion dunce like me.

The handsomely photographed and respectfully directed documentary gives us a glimpse into the world of the fashion giant on the eve of his retirement. The film covers the months leading up to his 45th Anniversary Couture Collection, an extravaganza that became his final gift to the world.

Valentino Garavani is one of the last great fashion icons. An egotistical genius. A Mount Olympus figure. An extraordinary talent. And when director Matt Tyrnauer allows the camera to capture the man, warts and all--the frustrated perfectionist readying for his show --the pic is riveting. Valentino becomes somewhat of a tragic figure as we watch how corporate greed and a new generation of industryites, who care more for money than quality, take over his empire.

At the heart of the documentary is a wonderful and touching love story: Valentino’s relationship with Giancarlo—his lover/business manager. The enduring couple has been together forever and even when watching them bicker, their adoration and respect for one another shine through.

The film is also loaded with celebrity padding and fashion filler.

Valentino’s vibrant work is captured splendidly and looks fantastic on DVD. All the prep work for the anniversary celebration is fascinating to behold and the beautiful eternal city of Rome pops off the home screen. The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio) and is a visual feast.

The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound mix is acceptable.

The DVD special features include: a 30 minute docu (yes, a docu about the making of a docu basically!) "The Perfect Life: Around the World with Valentino" which contains more cameos and insights into how his world operates; “The Last Collection” a bittersweet focus on prepping his final collection and “A Red Dress” which shows the development of a single gown.

Treat yourself to this wonderful peek into the world of high fashion.



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