The Hundred-Foot Journey
In rural France, a bitter rivalry forms between two restaurants—one a traditional home of haute cuisine hungry for a third Michelin star, the other an upstart Indian restaurant headed by a natural culinary genius.
Readers—including producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey—took to Richard C. Morais’ novel, and an intriguing mix of talent has lined up behind it, including Helen Mirren and Om Puri, screenwriter Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Locke), and composer A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire). Lasse Hallström directs, and while he hasn’t been on a hot streak lately (Safe Haven, Salmon Fishing In The Yemen), this looks like the sort of glossy-but-substantive drama that used to do well.
Nothing yet, but lazy critics are already crafting variations on “It’s worth traveling 100 miles to [see/avoid] this movie.”
Co-star Manish Dayal has mostly appeared on shows like CSI and 90210. Here, he’ll have to hold his own against Mirren, a daunting prospect for anyone.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 5.6
Food, France, Hallström: Haven’t we been down this road before with Chocolat? And what did that get us? (No, seriously, what did that get us? We can’t remember a thing about that movie.)
Into The Storm
Harkening back to the tornado-mania of 1996 (which saw the release of Twister and the TV movies Tornado! and Night Of The Twisters), Into The Storm focuses on a group of tornado-chasers drawn to a small town being pummeled by increasingly deadly cyclones over the course of a single day.
The cast is headed up by The Hobbit’s Richard Armitage and The Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callies (plus Veep’s Matt Walsh in a supporting role we can only assume functions as comic relief), but the real stars of Into The Storm appear to be the billions of pixels composing the natural-disaster porn that seems to be this movie’s raison d’être. The director’s long association with James Cameron (he was second-unit director on Avatar and Titanic, and co-directed Aliens Of The Deep with Cameron) seems designed to make him a natural at wrangling computer-generated tornadoes.
An early teaser trailer is extremely light on plot details, focusing instead on the sensory overload of mid-twister mayhem. Into The Storm is posited as a found-footage disaster movie, and while some shots in the teaser look reasonably amateurish, Quayle seems to have interjected some wide-screen CGI theatrics, resulting in what looks like a combination of Twister and The Day After Tomorrow, with a dash of Cloverfield in the mix.
Hyper-destructive natural disasters had a good run at the multiplex in the 1990s and early 2000s, but audiences haven’t been lining up to see the Earth destroyed by catastrophic weather events much these days… perhaps because we seem to be seeing a lot more of them in real life lately.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 4.4
Maybe if we knew a little more about this movie, we could work up a little more excitement. Besides, disastrous weather just doesn’t pack the escapist thrill it used to back in the 1990s.
Perhaps wistful about playing a superhero without any superpowers in assorted Marvel films, Scarlett Johansson here plays a young woman who wakes to find drugs have been sewn into her abdomen, and that she’s now expected to transport them against her will. When the packet breaks, she dies a horrible death—or at least she would in a different sort of movie. Here, she starts to develop superpowers when the drugs allow her to access parts of her brain beyond the 10 percent that most humans use, according to a widely repeated bit of pseudoscience that last surfaced in the movie Limitless.
Filmed in Taipei, Paris, and New York, Lucy is the latest directorial effort from Luc Besson, whose EuropaCorp functions as a factory for slick Euro-thrillers like Taken and the Transporter series. That means, based on past efforts, Lucy will likely look great, move quickly, not make much sense, and not necessarily have to. Morgan Freeman co-stars, this time playing a scientist and possibly, just possibly, lending the film an otherwise-unearned sense of gravity and a wry sense of humor.
Most of the early word around Lucy has concerned the difficulty Besson faced shooting in Taipei, where paparazzi proved a constant nuisance— though, sadly, not the sort of nuisance easily taken care of by a heroine with superpowers.
Besson’s films are never less than slick and professional, sometimes to a fault. They’re unabashed in their desire to appeal to global audiences, and in the process of trying to be all things to all people, they can lose any individual flavor. A strong star—a Liam Neeson or Jason Statham—can offset this, and Johansson is a powerful presence. At the very least, it should make an intriguing double feature with Under The Skin, another film in which Johansson stands outside humanity looking in.
ANTICIPATION RATING: 7.4
Sure, there’s usually a ceiling on how good a Besson film can be, but this looks like fun of the sort that needs less than the 10 percent of the human brain to appreciate, and Johansson is on a hot streak these days.