Julie and Julia
Reviewed by Frank J.
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
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
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
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
Pick up this Blu-Ray for the holidays.
You won’t be disappointed. You will, however, be
ravenously crazy with hunger!
Valentino: The Last Emperor
DVD review By Frank J.
“I know what women want. They
want to be beautiful.”
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
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.