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Chef ****

I was skeptical about this film before we saw it, but it was much more enjoyable than I expected.

It’s the story of a Los Angeles chef for whom everything seems to be going wrong, his control (lack) of his kitchen, his marriage (separation/divorce), and his parenting (not enough time for his son).

When Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) ends up in a ‘fight’ with his boss (restaurant owner played by Dustin Hoffman) and with LA food critic (Robert Downey, Jr.), his career hits bottom, which, of course, sets up the film and his journey to regain all that he has lost.

‘Reduced’ to following the advice of his former wife (Sofia Verganes), and urged on by his girlfriend (Scarlett Johansson), Casper refurbishes an old food truck and sets out on a cross country journey to rediscover himself.

Sounds cheesy (sorry), I know.

But somehow the film works.

It’s light, humorous, and largely hits the right notes.

In fact, there’s good music to accompany Casper, a touching relationship with his son (well acted by young Emjay Anthony), and lots of good shots for those who enjoy the world of cooking and food.

*                    * *                    * *                    * *                    *

Korengal_08 Korengal ***1/2

When I read that about this film, I suspected I was going to be enthralled.

Not so much.

One of the better documentaries I had seen about the war in Afghanistan, and war in general, was Restropo, (briefly reviewed in 2011 on MillersTime). That film told the story of a platoon of US soldiers and their 15-month deployment in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. Without commentary, you simply followed the action and inaction and the words and silences from the soldiers as faced an enemy that was nearby but that was not really seen. It was a view of that war that has remained with me.

In Korengal, the same director (Sebastian Junger) presents the same valley and the same men, along with interviews he recorded after the soldiers left the Korengal. Again, Junger lets the camera tell the story. The focus this time is largely on the effect the same action and inaction had on each of them personally.

Perhaps I was expecting too much, but I left the theater wondering if there was really much new in this second film.

If you haven’t seen Restropo, that is the more powerful and more informative documentary. Korengal adds a bit, but not much.