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During the course of one frenzied evening, a restaurant owner and bookmaker deals with a potential hostile takeover, a snooty critic, and his attraction to his dead partner's widow. Danny Aiello and John Corbett bring the behind-the-scenes drama of a NYC Italian restaurant to life through an exciting tale of gangsters and gourmet food.

Bob Giraldi
Danny Aiello, Edoardo Ballerini, Vivian Wu, Mike McGlone, Kirk Acevedo, Sandra Bernhard
Writing Credits:
Rick Shaughnessy, Brian S. Kalata

Revenge is a dish best served cold.
Rated R for language, some violence and sexuality.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Standard 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround
English, Spanish

Runtime: 99 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 1/21/2003

• Theatrical Trailer
• DVD-ROM Content


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TV - Mitsubishi CS-32310 32"; Subwoofer - JBL PB12; DVD Player - Toshiba SD-4700; Receiver - Sony STR-DE845; Center - Polk Audio CS175i; Front Channels - Polk Audio; Rear Channels - Polk Audio.


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Dinner Rush (2001)

Reviewed by David Williams (March 12, 2003)

New York’s hottest eatery is going to have a killer night.

Dinner Rush is a marvelous, off-the-beaten-path film from first time director Bob Giraldi. The dark comedy takes place in a trendy Manhattan eatery and it’s a setting that Giraldi should be familiar with, as he’s a successful restaurateur himself and much of the film was even shot in his Tribeca restaurant, Gigino's. The entire film takes place one particularly busy night where Murphy’s Law is in full effect; whatever can go wrong, will … and does.

The majority of the film takes place in a popular Italian eatery and moves seamlessly between the kitchen, dining room, and even the sidewalk of the establishment. We are completely immersed into the very authentically portrayed culinary/restaurant culture and are introduced to Louis Cropa (Danny Aiello), the owner of the tradition steeped restaurant where Dinner Rush takes place – the Gigino. Louis has seen his share of changes over the years and has seen his restaurant grow from a small, but thriving, family business into a trendy hot spot for nouveau and upscale cuisine – Italian and otherwise. The Gigino is clearly in transition and Louis’ son Udo (Edoardo Ballerini), the restaurant’s superstar chef, is mainly responsible for its newfound success. While Louis isn’t too happy with all of the chic changes - and Udo isn’t too thrilled with his dad’s ideas and reluctance to turn the reigns over to him - Louis learns out that there are more pressing matters at hand.

We learn that Louis has been running a bookmaking operation as a side business out of the restaurant for years and while he’s not above taking anyone’s money, he likes to keep his collection rate high and lends mostly to folks who can afford to pay. Because of his self-imposed policy, Louis stops letting Duncan (Kirk Acevedo) – the sous-chef in the Gigino kitchen - place bets. However, since Duncan’s a degenerate gambler, he decides to place his bets elsewhere. But, compulsive as he is, Duncan quickly goes in to debt for “thirteen large” with his new bookie(s) and it brings some unwelcome guests in to the restaurant where he works, as they have come to collect from him what is rightfully theirs.

Louis knows the men and recognizes them on sight when they come in to his establishment. They proceed to inform Louis that they want a cut of his booking action and refuse to leave until they’re “partners in the business” and they get their money from Duncan. The thugs, Black (Alex Corrado) and Blue (Mike McGlone), also see the limitless possibilities in the restaurant and have let it be known they plan to muscle in on it as well. Louis, who’s trying to get out of the bookmaking business that more than likely got his partner recently murdered, tells the thugs they can have his book, but never his beloved restaurant. Black and Blue decide to hang around until Louis has a change of heart – devouring the delectable cuisine that Gigino has to offer – and waiting. But the night continues to get worse …

In addition to our two thugs, we’re introduced to Nicole (Vivian Wu), the restaurant's very capable hostess who spends her free time juggling the romantic courtesies of Duncan and Udo. There’s also Marti (Summer Phoenix), the artist/waitress who endures some rather condescending remarks from some of her patrons.

All the while, patrons are coming in and out of the bustling eatery and they add a bit more bedlam to our already chaotic story. The customers include arrogant art gallery owner, Anthony Fitzgerald (Mark Margolis) and his entourage of important artists hangers-on who expect to be treated as celebrities the moment they show up. Margolis really makes you despise his character quite quickly, as he comes across appropriately condescending and impossible to please – someone that we can all relate to. We also meet a well-to-do Wall Streeter named Ken (John Corbett), a fixture at the bar who arouses our suspicions for reasons that we just can’t quite comprehend at the time and oh, and by the way, the petulant food critic just showed up too - Jennifer Freely (Sandra Bernhard) – and regardless of her torrid past with Udo, she has shown up unannounced to review and write up the place. (Don’t worry – it’ll all make sense in the end.)

The film contains a marvelous cast that was definitely hired more for their talent rather than the glamour and buzz they could bring to the small, independent project. Everyone does a solid job from top to bottom and there’s not a single stinker in the entire bunch. Notable performances outside of the main cast include Frank Bongiorno as Louis' discerning partner of 25 years; Polly Draper shows up as Bongiorno's bereaving daughter who seems to have a bit more on her mind that just talking through things with Louis; Sophie Comet plays the “Food Nymph”, Jennifer Freely’s opportunistic dinner date who falls for Udo; and John Rothman is Louis' long time attorney and confidant.

The film’s plot is methodically revealed and follows a very Robert Altman-ish roadmap as it reveals multiple layers and multiple characters in its own due time. At just when you think nothing’s happening, the film turns a corner and pulls you right back in. First time screenwriters Rick Shaughnessy and Brian Kalata have crafted a marvelous script, as Shaughnessy’s varied documentary experience and Kalata’s background in law seem to have grounded the script somewhat. Giraldi’s music video familiarity gives the film a certain crispness and succinctness - and when coupled with the fact the he actually owns a restaurant, it adds a real sense of pragmatism and accuracy to the proceedings as well. Ultimately, Dinner Rush was the pleasant marriage of a great story and under-appreciated talent (outside of Sandra Bernhard) and something, that if you give it a chance, will definitely entertain you. Do yourself a favor and check this one out when you get a chance.

The DVD Grades: Picture C / Audio B- / Bonus D-

New Line presents Dinner Rush in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with anamorphic treatment and even provides a fullscreen version of the film on the same side of the platter. Both versions serve the film well and as expected, I’ll only be checking out the widescreen version of the film for purposes of my review.

The picture quality for the film is slightly inconsistent, but considering the independent nature of the film, that’s to be expected somewhat. Also, when you consider that the film only had one major set – and it was a restaurant already owned by the director - you realize that the budget for Dinner Rush was probably less than Ben Affleck’s hair gel budget for Pearl Harbor. Even so, the film looks quite strong at times, and the image quality settles in somewhat as the film presses on. The color palette for the film was quite strong and offered up some very warm and rich hues, with some noticeable (and heavy) filtering used at times during the proceedings. Everything was properly balanced and saturated, with no bleeding or smearing noted and fleshtones were very warm and natural throughout. Black levels were appropriately deep and dense and exhibited nice shadow detail and delineation, although some of the more dimly lit scenes portrayed a bit more grain than others.

Flaws with the film were what you would expect with an indie, small-budget project, as grain was a common element throughout Dinner Rush and it softened the overall picture somewhat – some scenes more than others. There was also an excessive amount of flakes and white specks that marred the transfer from time to time, although shimmer and edge enhancement were not seen. While the flaws were minimal in nature, their abundance throughout the film kept the score down somewhat.

Once again, another solid effort from New Line and aside from a few minimal flaws, Dinner Rush looks quite nice. While some of the flaws were correctable – and if anyone could fix them, it’s New Line – they wisely decided to invest their efforts elsewhere knowing the audience for the DVD would be small. Not New Line’s best, but still better than most and they’ve done nothing to sully their pristine reputation here.

New Line’s Dinner Rush comes with a surprisingly active Dolby Digital 5.1 track that significantly enhances the viewing of the film and immerses the viewer into the chaotic world of dinner rush in a trendy Manhattan restaurant. While the film is a dialogue-driven affair, New Line has done a marvelous job of authoring some really nice ambience into the track and engaging the viewer’s surrounds in some really nice moments.

While I really expected this film to contain the standard-fare “character sketch/study” mix, I was pleasantly surprised to find that New Line had made fine use of the front and rear surrounds and come up with a track that places the viewer right into the middle of a fashionable Manhattan eatery. Effects such as clamoring patrons, clanging dishes, sizzling and simmering dishes, and other, more active moments in the kitchen/restaurant are used to great extent and ultimately, Dinner Rush provided the listener with quite a lively experience.

Dialogue in the film was always front and center and never displayed any issues related to harshness, edginess, and intelligibility. The film’s score, from Alex Lasarenko, was very modest and quaint and received some nice dynamics and fidelity from the studio, while the LFE was essentially a non-issue throughout. Most of the time – well, really the entire time – the LFE usage in the film was only used to prop up the score, as well as add a slight amount of punch to some generic effects found within. Even so, a very impressive job and we have come to expect nothing less from the studio.

Also included is an alternate audio track in Dolby Digital Surround 2.0, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.

A Theatrical Trailer, as well as trailers for Simone, Knockaround Guys, and Human Nature under a heading entitled More From New Line are included and that’s it. Not really a whole lot to say about this other than that’s all there is and the score should reflect that.

Dinner Rush was a great find that was entirely entertaining, as well as gave the viewer an interesting look behind-the-scenes of a working restaurant. We see everything from the chefs working to create a great cuisine to the staff coddling unbearable customers to a surprise visit from a local food critic. It’s an interesting concept and one that Giraldi and company pull off masterfully.

Once again, DVDMG has given me the opportunity to review a cinematic gem that didn’t receive much play at the box office but has found a fitting home on DVD. While the DVD lacks any substantive extras and received only a slightly above-average video transfer, with New Line’s name on the cover, you know you’re in good hands. While a rental may be in order for those of you fed on a steady diet of Hollywood crap, I think this would be a good film to have in your collection regardless. While the price may be a bit steep considering what’s included on the DVD, the bargain here is the film itself and it comes highly recommended.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.36 Stars Number of Votes: 25
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