What’s Up Tiger Lily? 1966 ***


It would be fair to say that Woody Allen’s 1996 comedy is not quite indicative of the quality of the career that followed; the majority of What’s Up Tiger Lily? is footage from a Japanese spy film, overdubbed with a silly plot about a recipe for egg salad. If this mixture was indigestible enough, a few performances from resistible band The Lovin’ Spoonful are thrown in to pad out the running time, and yet the result is watchable and although the gags are patchy, there’s a few cracking moments. A running gag about the hero bursting into song, the villain’s car-sickness (‘I feel nauseous!”) and a lovely moment where the protagonist recognises his mother incognito in a harem of girls. These moments reflect the scattershot with of Allen’s early writing, and even if the whole enterprise is weak, it’s got more laughs than most proper films. Even Blue Jasmine would have been considerably weakened by regular stops to enjoy the musical stylings of The Lovin’ Spoonful.


Big Night 1996 ***


Stanley Tucci has become a guru figure in independent cinema, and that recognition began with 1996’s Big Night, a cheerful foodie/comedy that he co-directed with Campbell Scott. Tucci and Tony Shalhoub play Secondo and Primo, two Italian brothers with a dream of making it big in the restaurant business. Their plan to launch their volatile talents with a big night are complicated by their dalliance with Phyllis (Minnie Driver) and the final protracted resolution is as dramatic as it is moving. Isabella Rossellini, Ian Holm and Live Schreiber provide tasty support, and Big Night’s portrait of aspirational Italians makes for one satisfying dish.


Dinner Rush 2000 ***


Director Bob Giraldi cut his teeth on pop videos for Michael Jackson and Pat Benetar, and his feature debut is an accomplished comedy-drama about life in a busy New York restaurant. Danny Aiello is Louis Cropa, who struggles to balance out the interests of critics, rivals, patrons, gangsters and policemen over the course of a ‘dinner rush’ Giraldi shot the film in his own Tribeca restaurant, so the knowing feel makes sense. John Corbett, Mike McGlone, Summer Phoenix and Sandra Bernhard are amongst the patrons, but it’s the ensemble cast and Giraldi’s feeling for the nuances of city life that make Dinner Rush such a blast. It’s an upstairs/downstairs story of kitchen vs restaurant that makes for a delicious slice of NYC life.