No Reservations (HD DVD)

Cover Art and Menus: 6/10
The cover is Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart, back-to-back in the kitchen. It’s not bad I guess, and I shows the essence of the film, but it is pretty dull. Then again, thisi s a romantic Comedy (read chick-flick) and therefore the cover is not going to be anything too crazy. I don’t hate the cover, but it is not great either.

The menus on the HD DVD are really bland, but the good news is that the movie starts up as soon as the disc is inserted in the player. Therefore any time you want to access the menus, you just do so from inside the film. It was nice to not have to sit through a ton of previews, and it more than made up for the very static menu.

Features: 6/10
The Extras include two shorts that apparently ran on Food Network when the film initially came out. The first is from “Unwrapped” with Mark Summers, who interviews both the cast and the creators of the dishes that were in the film. It is a short, 20 minute look into the actual creations that were so mouth wateringly presented in the film, as well as the preparation by the cast on how to act like real chefs.

The second short features Emeril Lagasse (“Bam!”) with Aaron Eckhart and Abigail Breslin, who join our favorite yelling chef as he makes some of the dishes that were featured in the film. I have to admit that some of the items on the menu in the movie intrigued me, so I was equally drawn in by Emeril’s show, demonstrating some o f the actual dishes themselves. I am not a huge Emeril fan, but this show was pretty interesting. It was a nice addition, and I was dying for some of their pizza after I watched.

Movie: 7/10
Ok, so go ahead and take away my “man card”. I am pretty sure that I will catch grief for liking a romantic comedy, but to be honest, I thought this movie was well done and enjoyable. Perhaps this was a nice break from movies that have explosions and violence. That is not to say that I think this movie will win any awards, but for a romantic comedy, I thought this was a nice mix of drama and humour, with some decent characters sprinkled throughout.

Basically this is a story about Kate Armstrong (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who is the head chef at a trendy restaurant. Kate is a headstrong, opinionated individual who doesn’t take kindly to anyone questioning her authority, or her cooking. Right off of the bat it is obvious that Kate is a bit up-tight, and set in her ways. She is focused on her job, and nothing else matters.

Kate’s organized world comes undone when she finds out her sister has died in a car crash, leaving Kate as the guardian of niece Zoe (played by Abigail Breslin, of Little Miss Sunshine fame). Kate has no idea how to relate to a child, as is apparent by the fact that she attempts to prepare gourmet meals (whole fish with the head still attached) for Zoe, who looks on in horror as the dead fish stares back. Basically both are forced to adjust to the loss of Zoe’s mom, and the forced new relationship, which neither is prepared to accept.

At the same time, Kate’s boss, the owner of the restaurant, hires another chef to assist Kate, as Kate adjusts to her new role as surrogate mother. Kate is, of course, unhappy with the fact that someone else was brought in, and she views the new chef Nick Palmer (Aaron Eckhart) as a threat. Even though he assures her that he is an admirer of her talent, and he is not looking to take her job, she goes out of her way to make things difficult. It is not until Nick forms a bond with Zoe that Kate warms to him, and their shared interest in cooking brings them together.

No Reservations is a remake of the German film Mostly Martha, and as with most romantic comedies, not much is left to the imagination. If it is included in a scene, it is important to the film. Catherine Zeta-Jones somewhat overplays the role of Kate, but I was very impressed with Aaron Eckhart, as the easy going Nick. I found that he was very believable, and a really strong character.

Overall No Reservations is a decent romantic comedy that doesn’t go for cheap laughs, but instead focuses on developing the characters. Maybe I was just in the mood for a romantic comedy due to the fact that it is around Valentine’s Day, but I thought that No Reservations was very enjoyable.

Video & Audio: 8/10
I reviewed the HD DVD movie, and I was impressed with the video. On the HD DVD, both a widescreen and a full screen version of the film was included. Both look and sound great. Thee film looks crisp and the colors are bright. I was impressed, even thou this isn’t the type of film where the visuals should really stand out, as there are no special effects per se.

The audio was also good, even though I don’t think the surround sound was really used very often if at all (at least it wasn’t noticeable to me). That being said, romantic comedies don’t often seem to need surround sound. Overall it was nicely done, if not a tad bit quiet on my system.

Value: 5/10
Again we come down to price versus enjoyment. I thought that No Reservations was a fun romantic comedy, and I enjoyed seeing it. That being said, even though the packaging include both the HD DVD and the DVD, I just can’t fathom going out to spend $30.00 on this movie. I recommend renting, especially if you are looking for a fun romantic evening, without a lot of puzzling over subplots or movie twists. No Reservations is good for one watch, but perhaps you should save your cash by simply renting, rather than owning. I also have to note that the HD DVD camp appears to be officially dead. I for one will miss it, but it is hard to imagine spending top dollar for the Betamax of our generation at this point. Bring on the Blu-Ray discs.

Overall Score 7/10