Not The Fairest Of Them All

Mirror Mirror (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ½ (2.5/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ (2/5)
Boyfriend friendly: Umm… not so much

I have to be honest – I always thought that Snow White kind of sucked in comparison to the other princess movies. Yeah, I know it’s a classic because it was the first cel-animated feature in motion picture history and yaddi-yadda but seriously – it’s pretty much the same exact story as Sleeping Beauty (an evil witch curses a princess to an eternal sleep that can only be cured by true love’s kiss), except Sleeping Beauty is way better. Now, before you jump all over me, let me make my case: 1) Sleeping Beauty has better hair and a better name… well, at least Aurora is better – I’m not too sure about her undercover code name, Briar Rose. 2) Snow White’s best friends are forest animals and dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty’s best friends are forest animals and fairies. And 3) even though Prince No-Name and Prince Phillip look kinda the same, Phil is hotter because not only does he have a name but he also kills the evil witch by stabbing her when she transforms into a freaking fire-breathing dragon. Prince No-Name doesn’t even kill the evil queen, the dwarfs do!

Needless to say, I was less than thrilled when I heard that 2012 would have not one but two “new takes” on Snow White. But, as I began to see trailers and clips for both versions, I actually started to get a little excited for Mirror Mirror. Whereas Snow White and the Huntsman looks dark and intense, and just not my personal cup of tea, I thought Mirror Mirror’s light-hearted and comedic approach might add some of the excitement that I miss in the Disney version. Unfortunately, the expectations I have for Snow White and the Huntsman seemed to ring true for Mirror Mirror: beautiful to look at, but a boring story with an unoriginal script.

This was one of the harder movies to rate because Mirror Mirror wasn’t necessarily awful – it just wasn’t anything special. Director Tarsem Singh created a spectacular kingdom, with sets and costumes that made my mouth water, but all the magic was lost in a script full of flat jokes and clichés. Although I think Julia Roberts is always exceptional, the material she was given to work with as a humorously insecure evil queen that we love-to-hate was hackneyed. Her vain attempts to slow down her aging body reminded me of Jennifer Coolidge’s evil stepmother in A Cinderella Story, and her childish means of entertainment (like using servants as chess figures) were practically stolen right out of Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen. Phil Collins’ daughter, Lilly Collins, made for a beautiful Snow White but, despite giving her a sword, she felt just as wimpy and oh!-so-perfect-its-annoying as the 1937 version. Seriously, I can’t really blame the Queen for wanting Snow dead… That bitch’s flawless, white skin didn’t even turn red or get goosebumps when she was exiled to the icy, cold forest in a short-sleeve dress! The dwarfs had some good lines (and sweet accordion stilts), but were mostly underused and I was kind of sad when they never burst out into a modernized rap rendition of Heigh-Ho. However, points do go to this version for not only giving the prince a name but also for having Armie Hammer play him. My only lament there is that they didn’t use the technology from The Social Network to create two of him. Yum!

Mirror Mirror definitely plays towards children, but I wouldn’t call it “fun for the whole family”. Times are a-changin’, particularly over the last few years where we have seen more and more actual heroines and less damsels-in-distress. Even my 8 year-old cousin preferred watching Katniss over Snow White this weekend! Perhaps, in that respect, Snow White and the Huntsman will actually be a pleasant surprise. K. Stew does look pretty badass in that suit of armor and – judging by the trailer – she doesn’t actually talk all that much in the movie, which is a win in my book.

And because Wrestlemania was last weekend, and the WWE Disney Princess league should probably happen at some point, I leave you with this. Whose your money on?:

The Odds Are In Favor

The Hunger Games (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ½ (4.5/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ (4/5)
Boyfriend friendly: So much blood and guts!

If there was a death battle amongst book-to-movie adaptations where Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games were offered as tributes, it would play out like this: The Hunger Games would wipe out the 4 Twilight movies + Harry Potter #5 within the first five minutes, stealthily take out Harry Potter #6, followed by #2, #7, #1, struggle with but ultimately defeat #8 and #4, then sneakily emerge as a dual-victor with The Prisoner of Azkaban and prove to the greedy, suit-wearing government officials in charge of The Republic of Hollywood that they don’t have to destroy every single good book that crosses their desk.

I won’t be doing Suzanne Collins any justice by trying to summarize her epic masterpiece here. But in case you have not gotten to read or see The Hunger Games (you’re missing out!), here’s the general gist: In post-apocalyptic North America, a totalitarian nation known as Panem emerges consisting of a wealthy Capitol and 12 districts. Conditions in the districts, particularly the outlying ones, are extremely oppressive where families face starvation, dangerous working conditions, and torturous punishment for disobeying the law. As punishment for a previous rebellion, in which a 13th district was obliterated, every year each district must send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 as a tribute to participate in The Hunger Games, where they must fight to the death until a lone victor remains. The event is televised to the entire nation, where viewing is mandatory.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is a 16 year-old badass with a bow and arrow who lives in District 12, one of the poorer districts. After her father dies in a coal-mining accident and her mother mentally checks out, Katniss takes it upon herself to care for her younger sister Primrose by illegally hunting for food in the woods with her hottie BFF, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth). When Prim’s name is chosen as a tribute for the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss impulsively volunteers in her place. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), the baker’s son who once gave Katniss bread when she was on the brink of starvation, is chosen as the male tribute and Katniss is torn between her gratitude towards him and the reality that they both can’t return to District 12. Her feelings get even more confused when Peeta confesses his love for her during a televised interview before the games start. Does he actually care about her or is it all part of the plan their alcoholic mentor and former District 12 Games victor, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), devised to present the two as star-crossed lovers in order to attract sponsors? Katniss doesn’t have much time to mull it over. Once the gong rings and the games start, there is only one thing she has time to think about: how to survive.

I would first like to thank the genius person who decided to cast a leading lady who can actually act her ass off. After suffering through Kristen I-Have-One-Emotion-On-My-Pouty-Face-At-All-Times Stewart as Bella, and getting frustrated that she made me laugh at parts that had me crying in the book, I was scared that Hollywood would ruin Katniss for me, as well. But the second I saw the first Hunger Games trailer, and had to remind myself to breathe again after watching her volunteer in Prim’s place, I knew I was in good hands. Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss. I firmly believe there is not another person who could have done it better. And it didn’t stop there. Katniss is just one of the many different and amazing characters that Collins created, and the creative team really pulled out all the stops when it came to filling those supporting roles. Elizabeth Banks as the hysterically naive Effie Trinket, Stanley Tucci as the eccentric television host of the games, Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, Katniss’s heartfelt stylist. Perhaps, the best surprise, was that I was completely blown away by Willow Shields, the 11 year-old actress who played Prim. It’s not until the second and third books that I really started to know and love Prim. But in only a short amount of screen time, Shields won my heart over. I almost couldn’t watch her tearful goodbyes to Katniss, and started to wish I could volunteer myself in Katniss’s place, in order to make Prim’s pain go away. My pansy ass would’ve been dead in minutes.

My only complaint with the entire film – and it is a pretty valid complaint – is the portrayal of Katniss and Peeta’s relationship. If you’ve read the books, you understand that it’s not just an act. Peeta is actually legitimately in love with Katniss, and has made it a priority to make sure she goes home alive. Unfortunately, that was completely lost in the movie and it came across that Peeta, like Katniss, was only acting to get gifts from sponsors. In the books, I was totally Team Peeta. But because his and Katniss’s relationship wasn’t developed enough in the movie, I became Team Gale. This was to no fault of the actors, who brought the chemistry when it was asked of them. It just wasn’t asked of them enough! They cut out so many of Peeta’s best moments: the countless times he jokingly-but-totally-seriously asks for a kiss, his biting questions about her relationship with Gale, when he covers for her with the Avox girl, and the heartbreaking realization at the end when he discovers that Katniss was acting for the games, and when she realizes that he wasn’t. Of course, I know that they couldn’t fit everything into a movie that was already 2 1/2 hours long and, for crowd-pleasing purposes, it was probably smart to lighten up the ending a bit. But then they could have at least made the beloved cave scene a bit sexier! In the book, that one scene makes their complicated feelings crystal clear to the reader. In the movie, I think it just confuses you more. And there was nothing PG-13 about it!

Besides that oversight, the movie was extremely faithful to the rest of the book and really embraced all of the little details Collins slipped in – Katniss’s braid, Cinna’s gold eyeliner, Prim’s untucked shirt, the Capitol’s eclectic way of life. There were also some moments in the movie that I actually liked more than in the book, which is a first for me. Though I liked what the Madge character symbolized, I thought cutting her out of the movie and having Prim give Katniss the mockingjay pin was more touching and meaningful. I also liked how, since we weren’t stuck in Katniss’s head, we got to see what was going on outside of the games: Gale’s reactions to the Katniss/Peeta romance, Haymitch working the floor to get sponsors, the Gamemakers putting all the booby traps of the arena into action. In the second book, we find out that President Snow (Donald Sutherland) executed the Head Gamemaker, Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley), for being outsmarted by Katniss but we never hear how he did it. At the end of the movie, we see it happen, and well – it is mother-effing-brilliant.

A big kudos to Lionsgate for defying the odds and making this one of the few book-to-movie adaptations worth watching! For the sequel I just have two requests: 1) Katniss is the “girl on fire”, so don’t be afraid to add some more heat to the Peeta/Katniss/Gale triangle! 2) Bump up the release date. I don’t think I can hold out until November 2013.

Now tell me… are you Team Gale or Team Peeta?

One Fish, Two Fish, British Fish, Yemen Fish

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ (2/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ (3/5)
Boyfriend friendly: If he likes salmon fishing! Or the Yemen.

I have to be honest, I seriously procrastinated seeing this movie – which is unfortunate because the trailer looked cute enough. Just the title is so… blah. I mean, I wanted to see a movie called Salmon Fishing in the Yemen about as much as I want to actually go salmon fishing in the Yemen. And my desire to go salmon fishing in the Yemen falls somewhere after my desire to go crocodile hunting in the Australian Outback but before my desire to go skinny dipping in the Artic. I knew though if I waited until Hunger Games Mania kicks off on Friday, I’d never see it. So today, I saw it. And – it was pretty OK as far as movies about salmon fishing in the Yemen go. (We should make this a drinking game.)

Directed by Lasse Hallström, the film follows the odd pairing of Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor), Britain’s leading fisheries expert, and Ms. Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt), who works as a consultant for a Yemeni sheikh (Amr Waked) who is determined to bring the fly-fishing industry to the Arabian desert. Dr. Jones is a by-the-books gentleman who has an off-beat sense of humor, only drinks during the weekend after 7PM, and isn’t passionate for much of anything – including his marriage – besides fish. He is initially offended that the sheikh, through Ms. Chetwode-Talbot, would even propose something so preposterous. In an effort to deter the project from moving forward, Jones makes a series of grandiose demands that include access to the world’s top scientists, an enormous budget, and of course – the transportation of thousands of living salmon to the Yemen. To his chagrin, Ms. Chetwode-Talbot gets him a meeting with famed Chinese engineers, the sheikh gives a whopping £50 million to the budget, and the British Prime Minister’s fiery Press Secretary (Kristin Scott Thomas) lends government support, hoping to fabricate a good-will story to improve Anglo-Arab relations. As it turns out, with just a little bit of faith and friendship, salmon fishing in the Yemen (drink!) isn’t such a ludicrous idea after all.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a light movie that confronts some heavy topics (faith, love, the environment, politics, terrorism, and war – to name a few). Unfortunately, two hours doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to go into all of them in depth and the result is a lot of unresolved feelings and having to take the writer’s word for it. As a critiquer of chick flicks, the part that was most unsettling to me was the lack of romantic chemistry between McGregor and Blunt. The platonic chemistry was definitely something that developed throughout the course of the film, and I loved watching that friendship grow, but I never truly bought that they fell in love. At least on Jones’ end it was easy to understand why he would fall in love with Ms. Chetwode-Talbot, even if I couldn’t point out exactly when he does. Blunt brings such an effortless charm, cleverness, and sophistication to the character that, of course, a man in such a dry, loveless marriage like Jones would be attracted to her. On the other hand, Harriet starts off in a brand new, hot-and-heavy relationship with a member of the British armed forces. When he goes missing in action, I was never convinced that the feelings she develops for Jones during this time are authentic, rather than a stroke of vulnerability.

Lack of romance aside, I thought Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was an enjoyable movie about friendship. The comedy was sharp and smart involving some hysterical one-liners delivered to perfection by McGregor, Blunt, and particularly Scott Thomas in a terrific supporting role as a ballbusting PR flack. Although, at times, its attempts to be political got my most exaggerated of eye rolls, it did show some interesting optimism towards Middle Eastern relations. It shouldn’t matter what part of the world we live in – we are all part of the same species. Hopefully, like the salmon, our utopia is just a little swim upstream.

Since this title just doesn’t cut it, Vote for your favorite more profitable movie idea below!

Bridesmaids with Babies

Friends with Kids (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ½ (3.5/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ (3.5/5)
Boyfriend friendly: He’ll get a kick out of the monogamous “woe is me” males. But he’ll also probably return that engagement ring.

In a world where the divorce rate is at 50%, a baby can be conceived in a test tube, and chivalry is so dead that today – in a subway car full of men in suits – I was the one that gave up my seat to a pregnant woman, why bother with the all traditional bullshit?

In Friends with Kids, Julie Keller (Jennifer Westfeldt) and Jason Fryman (Adam Scott) are two single, thirtysomething Manhattanites who decide to fuck tradition (figuratively, but also kind of literally). Julie is perfectly content at being mediocre: she has good hair, can pull the rest together, and has a decent job with a nice boss. Jason comes from money, really enjoys his sex life, and likes to play a game where you have to pick one out of two terrible would-you-rather situations. BFFs since the college days, the two are dumbfounded when they discover their married-with-children friends (aka the entire cast of Bridesmaids – Maya Rudolph & Chris O’Dowd, Kristen Wiig & Jon Hamm), who were once so hot and heavy they’d have quickies in restaurant bathrooms, are now resentful, spiteful and only have sex once a month (if it’s a good month). On the endless journey back from visiting the couples in Guam Brooklyn, Jason jokes that divorced people who remarry have it great: they only have to take care of a kid 50% of the time, so the other 50% can be spent intimately with the one they’re meant to be with. When Julie agrees, he takes the joke further saying that they should have a kid together and split custody. After all – not only are they best friends with nothing but platonic feelings for one another, but they live in the same apartment building. 9 months after some awkward, almost-incestuous-feeling sex – Joseph Keller-Fryman is born.

The concept behind this movie isn’t groundbreaking by any means – especially given the last few years in rom-com world (i.e. The Switch, The Back-Up Plan, Life As We Know It). But this is the first time it’s been done by someone as wickedly sharp and funny as Jennifer Westfeldt – who not only starred in this, but also wrote and directed it. With a smart script that was able to make me want both things (for the arrangement to work and for Julie & Jason to end up together), and an all-star cast that she was able to nab through the connections of her longtime, real-life lover Jon Hamm, the idea of having a kid with someone you’re not in a relationship with felt… well, genius.

Of course, as it turns out, life with a kid isn’t all that much sexier just because you’re single. Little Joe can have a diarrhea attack at any moment, and he won’t hold it back just because Megan Fox is in the next room waiting to bang your brains out. And, as Ben (Hamm) points out in a drunken tirade that is spot-on though spurned from jealousy, what do you tell Joe when he’s older and finds out Mommy and Daddy never loved each other? Jason and Julie think they have all the answers, but soon Joe is close to 2 and throwing a heartbreaking tantrum because he wants Daddy to stay the night.

Friends with Kids is a great romantic comedy (with the perfect combination of both) and I highly recommend it, as it acts like an unofficial, more mature sequel to Bridesmaids. It skips all the conventional “honeymoon bliss” and cuts right to the core of a relationship. When there’s not enough time to have shower sex every morning, what else is there to hold it together? Friends with Kids will never be a classic because it is just slightly too familiar, slightly too smart, and slightly too painfully honest at times. The 3.5 rating comes mostly from the last five minutes of the film, which tries to be edgy with an indelicate “I Love You” speech by Jason that uses my favorite four letter word when it just isn’t appropriate. Westfeldt does give us the happy ending though, and in some twisted way it seems that their crazy idea inevitably worked out. Baby first, love story after.

And now I leave you with a link to Chick Flick Critic’s Jason-Fryman-Inspired “Would You Rather” Quiz. Have fun!

Wanderbust

Wanderlust (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ½ (1.5/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ½ (2.5/5)
Boyfriend friendly: He’ll probably like it more.

How does one write a funny review about a movie that wasn’t all that funny?

Ok, that’s a bit unfair because A) I saw Book Of Mormon last night, and that raised the comedy bar for me by a LOT and B) Wanderlust did have some really funny moments…which were all in the trailers, clips, and TV spots. You would think that a R-rated movie would have to leave the bulk of its comedy for the movie but, apart from some male frontal nudity and Paul Rudd offering to pump Malin Akerman with his gonads, I already had seen the best of it. And I just hate when that happens!

If you somehow didn’t see one of the thousand promos that aired over the past few weeks for Wanderlust, then here’s the gist: George (Rudd) and Linda (Aniston) are a married couple struggling to make it in Manhattan, particularly after buying an expensive West Village studio (excuse me, “micro-loft”). George is the sole bread-winner, working at a job he hates so Linda can bounce around careers until she figures out her “major”. Things take a turn for the worse when George loses his job and HBO rejects Linda’s documentary about penguins with testicular cancer. (Now that I think about it, that HBO scene was actually great… particularly if you’ve ever pitched something to a table of execs before.) Without mulling over any other options, the two sell their apartment and roadtrip down to Atlanta, so George can work for his awful-human-of-a-brother (Ken Marino). That doesn’t last long, and the two find themselves staying overnight at Elysium Bed & Breakfast: a commune (excuse me, “intentional community”) of pot-smoking, guitar-playing, free-loving hippies. They decide to give the lifestyle a try after a night of fun with the residents, who include the senile Elysium founder, Carvin (Alan Alda), the “charming” tree-dwelling team-leader, Seth (Justin Theroux), and a nudist winemaker/author, Wayne (Joe Lo Truglio).

This is the first movie I’ve given a lower Chick Flick Rating than film rating so I am going to focus my review on that since, after all, that is the purpose of this site. Although I loved the pairing of Rudd and Aniston – and they absolutely need to do more movies together – George and Linda just never worked as a couple for me. Obviously George loved Linda very much, since he supported her through all her crazy career changes and agreed to buy the expensive apartment that made her so happy, but I never understood exactly why he loved her (besides the fact that she had Jennifer Aniston’s body, of course). Linda never convinced me that she loved George more than she loved herself, and I was really frustrated with her because of it. Perhaps it’s because Paul Rudd meets my sexy criteria in both looks and personality, thus ringing in at #3 on my Celebrity Freebie List, so I couldn’t understand how even a fictional character could find his sarcasm annoying or feel adulterous feelings towards Seth – with his unshampooed hair and gross beard. I’m also a traditionalist, so when George and Linda agreed to explore Elysium’s open relationship policy… it rubbed me the wrong way and I stopped caring about their marriage altogether. However, if there was no open-love policy, then there would’ve been no scene where Paul Rudd practiced his dirty talk (two words: erection selection) in the bathroom mirror. And that was definitely a highlight, making the ticket price at least worthwhile.

Personally, Wanderlust didn’t do it for me but it had a lot of people in my theater cracking up, so maybe I missed something? It was by no means painful to sit through, and the all star cast continued to drive the exhausted hippy jokes home throughout. I just had higher expectations – especially since I freaking loved Role Models, and this was by the same writer/director. My advice: save your cash and (if you remember) see it when it’s on Netflix. I’ll probably add it to my queue and give it another try as well.

This Means War

This Means War (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ½ (3.5/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ (2/5)
Boyfriend friendly: Yes! Lots of explosions & your guy def had a dude-crush on Tom Hardy in Inception.

If a deadly terrorist with a German(?) accent had you at gunpoint… would you choose to spend the rest of your life making steamy, hot lovin’ with Tom Hardy (devilishly handsome, British) or Chris Pine (blue-eyed beauty, flawless complexion)?

Unfortunately poor Lauren Scott (Reese Witherspoon) has just that very problem! Struggling to get back in the game after catching her long-term boyfriend doing the nasty with a pilates instructor, Lauren’s best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler) makes her one helluva online dating profile. Within seconds, “travel agent” and single FILF, Tuck (Hardy), messages her and they have a casual but chemistry-flared first date. But for whatever reason the date ends by, like, 4PM (judging by my internal sundial), so Lauren stops to rent a movie on her way home. It just so happens, this video store is frequented by ladies man FDR (Pine), who hangs there to prey on single women. (Perhaps FDR should’ve had the initials “JFK” instead?) Of course, Lauren doesn’t fall for his suave shtick, and he’s all the more into her because of it. Since Lauren’s a top product tester for a consumer magazine, deciding between the two should be no problemo. But what she doesn’t know is that Tuck and FDR are BFFs/CIA partners…and they’ve declared war over her.

Now, before I go any further, I have to ask two questions:
1) Can someone find me the dating site that has one guy as perfect as Tom Hardy?
Cause generally IF they do happen to actually look as hot as their profile photo portrays (which is a less than 1% chance), then they have a major personality flaw, like severe anger management issues. Not that I speak from experience or anything…
2) Are video rental stores even around anymore?! I know this script was written 10 years ago, but doesn’t every script go through re-writes? There wasn’t ONE other place Lauren and FDR could have met? Cause even if there is one store left somewhere, I’m pretty sure a top product tester like Lauren would know that Netflix is the better only way to rent.

Those logistics aside, I did enjoy watching This Means War. It aimed to strike the same chords as Charlie’s Angels, another McG directed chick flick. Although not as successful, it certainly had its fair share of action-packed thrills, laughs, and cheesy romance. Were there a ton of plot holes? Of course. Did I see the ending coming from a mile away? Sure did. Did Tuck and FDR destroy an entire restaurant during a fight, but somehow the managers/patrons disappeared into thin air? Um, yes. So why was I able to enjoy This Means War when I hated the similar One For The Money? Easy: the acting. With a different cast, this movie could’ve been a complete fail. But these actors have fun with their roles and create hysterical chemistry between Lauren/Tuck, Lauren/FDR, Trish/her cheeto-eating husband, and of course, the Tuck/FDR bromance. Tuck & FDR’s attempts to win over Lauren are creepy but in a pathetically endearing and AWESOME way, requiring FDR to rescue an “old bastard of a dog”, Tuck to whoop a little kid’s ass in paintball, and for both of them to take severe liberties with the Patriot Act.

Sometimes it’s nice to go to a movie you can just enjoy and not think too hard about. So I recommend seeing This Means War in theaters when you need a little break from real life. In the meantime, comment below and let me know who you would choose! I’m Team Tom. Yes, obviously because he’s British. But also because I have a bit of a personal vendetta against Chris Pine after he replaced Robert Schwartzman in The Princess Diaries 2. I never fully recovered from that sequel…

These Movies Are What I Live For

The Vow (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (5/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ (3/5)
Boyfriend friendly: As if he has a choice?

You know that sinking feeling you get in the pit of your stomach during a movie you really like because the camera tilts up to the sky, the screen gets wide, the music gets louder, and you’re just overcome with this complete sadness because you know that it’s going to end? The same kind of feeling you get going down a big drop on a roller coaster? It’s been awhile since a chick flick has made me feel that way. And tonight, I finally got that feeling back.

Valentine’s Day is bigger than Christmas to me, because Valentine’s Day weekend means all the artsy films have been released and nominated for Oscars, and theaters can now make room for the cheesy, feel-good romance movies that proudly make up 95% of my DVD collection. Unfortunately, the past four V-day weekends have been total duds with box office toppers like: Just Go With It (Just Don’t With It), Valentine’s Day (According To Every Single Living Celebrity), Dear John (Dear John, You’re Cute But I’m Going To Marry A Creepy Old Man), He’s Just Not That Into You (And I Can See Why), and Fool’s Gold (The Money The Producers Made From Any Sucker Who Paid To Watch). But ALAS! Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum have come to save the (holi)day!

The Vow is based off of the true life events of newlyweds Krickett and Kim Carpenter – upgraded in the film as the sexier Paige (McAdams) and Leo (Tatum) Collins. After a severe car accident puts Paige in a coma, she wakes up to realize the last five years of her life are completely wiped from memory. In her mind, Obama is still Senator and she is still a preppy law student who lives with her conservative parents (Sam Neill, Jessica Lange) and is engaged to a yuppie named Jeremy (Ben from Felicity). Why would she ever give all that up to become an artist living in a hip, bohemian loft with a musician husband and no medical benefits? Well, that’s the problem. She can’t remember, so Leo has to figure out how to make his wife re-fall in love with him.

To be honest, Channing Tatum and I never really had chemistry before this movie (gasp!). Sure, his body looks like it was sculpted by Michelangelo, but I questioned his acting ability and his dance moves have nothing on Patrick Swayze’s. So I am surprising myself when I say that he carries the film, not McAdams. It is heartbreaking (in a good way) to watch him believably play the unwavering husband who is hopelessly in love with the woman he married and desperate to get back. At times, I even found myself angry at Paige for not remembering him! Astonishingly, despite her non-reciprocated feelings and his frustration because of it, Tatum’s dedication to Leo’s unfaltering devotion keeps the on-screen chemistry alive. Tatum also has a series of clever one-liners, which he delivers with perfection. (Never did I ever think a fart scene could be cute).

In response to the complaints I’m reading regarding the ending well, I won’t spoil it here, but I will say two things:
         1) That’s the way it went down in real life
         2) Doesn’t that prove even further that they truly are soulmates?
I personally LOVED the ending. My only complaint is that it felt like Paige and Leo were apart longer than they were together, which I guess is the case in every chick flick. No one gets together till the end, do they? But here, it stuck out. They started off married in the movie, and I loved those happy moments, so I wanted to see more of them.

Leo expresses my exact feelings, in a scene where he tries to excite Paige about falling in love again: “You know how when you read a great book,” he explains, “And you loan it to a friend, but are so jealous that they get to experience it for the first time, and you’ll never get another chance? Well, now you will.” Even if there’s nothing like the first time, I’ll be sure to experience The Vow over and over again. (Although I’m pretty sure if I lost my memory, my boyfriend would deem it a blessing from God and run for the hills).

P.S. How did I fail to mention the shot of Tatum’s nude butt?

American Girls Are Sneaky Bitches

W./E. (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ (3/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ (3/5)
Boyfriend friendly: You’ll enjoy it more without him looking up basketball scores on his iPhone.

I’ve always been intrigued by the love story of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII. I first heard about them in a 6th grade World History class, where I was still clinging to the whole “Princess Dream”. (To my credit, this was wayyy before Prince William started to go bald and the same year that The Princess Diaries came out – so not my fault). I was instantly fascinated by Wallis. She was just an average, American woman who captured the heart of a Prince so heavily that he abdicated the throne and lived in exile just so he could marry her. Sheesh! How dreamy is THAT? And hey – if she could do it, then surely that meant that I could marry a Prince one day too… or at least Aaron Carter.

If you didn’t learn about Wallis & Edward in school, then you probably recognize them as minor, rather unlikable, characters in The Weinstein Company’s Academy Award winning film, The King’s Speech, about Prince Edward’s younger brother who took the throne following Edward’s abdication. But there are two sides to every story, so this year the Weinstein bros decided to show another perspective. And who better to direct a film about a highly scandalous American woman with British infatuations than Madonna?

Now, our Madge has never been one to take the easy route. So, if you think tackling the “greatest romance of the century” was enough for her, you’re mistaken. W./E. instead weaves together two women: Wallis Simpson, who had to find a Prince before she could find love, and Wally Winthrop, who seemingly found the Prince but is missing the love story. Wally’s story is set in 1998 Manhattan, where she feeds her obsession with her namesake during a Sotheby’s auction of Wallis and Edward’s estate. The film plays a bit of show and tell: Wally examines Wallis’ possessions, like her Cartier diamond bracelet, and envisions what happened – where Edward gave it to Wallis, how she reacted. Eventually Wally’s daydreaming leads to actual conversations with Wallis’ spirit, who explains that Edward wasn’t the only one who had to make sacrifices for love. Wallis, too, had to say goodbye to things dear to her, such as her privacy and acceptance.

Andrea Riseborough is breathtaking as Wallis Simpson, and it is easy to understand how Prince Edward (or David, as he is known by close friends) becomes so smitten with her. Between her witty banter, piercing blue eyes, swinging hips, and “I-couldn’t-careless-that-you’re-a-Prince” façade… I couldn’t help but feel seduced by her as well. History books portray her as the villain: a gold-digging, twice divorcée who selfishly changed the course of British history. But in W./E., Wallis is the victim. At one point, she even tries to end the romance to save the royal family humiliation. But Edward refuses to go forward as King without her. After all, what’s a King without the woman he loves by his side?

Everything about the Wallis & Edward story is so perfect – from the beautiful camera movements to the majestic set design – that I resented the other half of the movie for being there. Abbie Cornish is a phenomenal actress, but here, as a battered trophy wife, she was underwhelming. Her one-dimensional Wally Winthrop doesn’t stand a fighting chance against the multidimensional Wallis Simpson. Even if looking at the handsome Oscar Isaac as Evgeni, a Sotheby’s security guard who flirts with Wally, wasn’t exactly punishment, this part of the movie was certainly less strong. Perhaps even unnecessary.

Despite that, I truly enjoyed W./E. and I feel it’s worth seeing in theaters if you enjoy a good romance. Yes, it’s getting panned by critics but that’s exactly the reason I started this website. The film absolutely has its flaws, but there is something beautiful about an imperfect film about imperfect people. I also believe if Madonna’s name wasn’t attached, critics may have been a bit more sympathetic towards it. If I learned anything from W./E., it’s that you can’t help who you fall in love with, and I couldn’t help falling for this film.

One For The (Gimme Back My) Money

One For The Money (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ (2/5)
Film Rating: (1/5)
Boyfriend friendly: There is shooting, car explosions, & a millisecond of Katie Heigl side-boob action.

If the highlight of a movie is the trailer you see before it, something’s up. (BTW if you haven’t seen the trailer for “The Lucky One,” the latest Nicholas Sparks installment starring ZAC EFRON, watch it here after reading my review. Tip: Pause at 2:07, pretend it’s your hand down Zac’s pants, & let out a big “Have Mercy” in your best Uncle Jesse voice.)

One For The Money is based on the best-selling novel by Janet Evanovich, about Stephanie Plum: lingerie-salesperson-turned-bounty-hunter, whose first job is to bring in bail-skipping murder suspect Joe Morelli…who happened to take her virginity when she was 17 on the floor of a Tasty Pastry. Now, movies are never as good as the books they’re adapted from. I accepted that a long time ago, and generally do an OK job separating the two. But I don’t think they even tried here – which is a shame, considering this is an 18-part & counting book series with serious franchise potential. Even if you haven’t read the books (major mistake on your part), it should be obvious what a horrendous effort this was.

I have deemed myself a Katherine Heigl champion, defending her harshly criticized work in 27 Dresses, The Ugly Truth, and Life As We Know It. And I’m still not going to criticize her. I’m going to criticize the people who cast her. What part of Stephanie Plum – a clumsy, brunette bounty hunter with a thick Jersey accent – screams Katherine Heigl?
I honestly would’ve preferred it if they lost the painfully wrong accent and sloppy dye job and just let her do her thing. Or if they cast someone like Anne Hathaway who has that “I’m awkward but hot” vibe down. Bringing me to the bigger question…

…WHO in the casting department was Irish actor Jason O’Mara sleeping with to get the role of Joe Morelli: Italian heartthrob with hard muscle, black hair, and Mediterranean complexion?! He’s a decent actor but was there no just-as-decent Italian-looking actor? Milo Ventimiglia pulled off that Italian badass thing real well in Gilmore Girls/Rocky VI. If these casting directors find work in Hollywood again it’s only because of their choice with Sherri Shepherd as Lula. She was hysterically fantastic!

I still gave this a Rom Com rating of 2/5 “hearts”. There were some good laughs, the premise is great, and it was slightly better than that other Jersey-based bounty hunter romcom (What was that called again?). If you haven’t read the books, read them. If you haven’t seen the movie, wait till it’s on Netflix. Thankfully, I got a 1/2 price ticket through Groupon. Otherwise this Jersey girl might be going bounty hunter on Lionsgate’s ass.

Tale As Old As Time

Beauty & the Beast 3D
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (5/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ (4/5)
Boyfriend friendly: Only if you’ll see Star Wars 3D with him in February

Beauty & the Beast 3D may be a weird first review piece considering the story has literally been around for hundreds of years. But Disney, in true Disney fashion, continues to find ways to “re-vamp” all their treasured classics so they can get the most bang out of their buck. After the 1991 film release, came the animated television series, the two direct-to-video midquels, the Broadway musical, the Imax remastered extended version, and, of course, we can’t forget the sing-along edition hosted by Jordin Sparks. Now, Beauty & the Beast is back in theaters, but this time in 3-D… despite the fact that a 5-disc combo pack including a DVD, digital copy, Blu-ray 2D, AND Blu-ray 3D version was released last year.

It’s a little embarrassing to admit how excited I was to pay 20 bucks for a 3D movie ticket in NYC to go see something that I own on VHS. (I used to own it on Blu-ray/DVD too until I loaned it to a foreign exchange student and she took it back to Italy with her… that bitch.) It could be because Beauty & the Beast was the first movie I ever saw in theaters. Or because I named my dog after Belle. But really, I think it’s because Beauty & the Beast is the perfect example of a great romcom. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry, and you leave the theater singing and believing that you’re a princess also destined for a great love story.

For anyone who has lived under a rock for the past 20 years, Beauty & the Beast is about Belle: a French, Daddy’s girl who is being forced to marry this awful The-Situation-but-better-looking dude Gaston, and (you guessed it) the Beast: who is actually a young prince put under a spell by some mean Enchantress all because he wouldn’t give her a place to crash when she was disguised as an ugly, old homeless person. (FYI: I wouldn’t let an ugly, old homeless person stay in my castle either.) The only way Mr. Beasty can reverse the spell, is by loving and being loved in return. So, to make a long story short, Belle gets trapped in his castle, they fall in love, they kick Gaston’s ass, and the Beast turns back into a Prince all while being interrupted for some lovely musical dance breaks by the Beast’s talking household appliances, Lumiere (a candlestick), Cogsworth (a clock), and Mrs. Potts (a teapot).

Beauty & the Beast was actually converted to 3D before The Lion King and, whereas I was very impressed with TLK’s 3D conversion, I was pretty indifferent to this. The 3D did little to add to the movie’s greatness, but it also didn’t take away from it. Sure, there are certain parts where the characters look flat and two-dimensional against a three-dimensional backdrop (a problem that was almost entirely fixed for TLK). But there were also scenes like “Be Our Guest” where everything popped perfectly. You noticed all the little intricacies put in by the animators that were harder to catch before, like filled wine glasses dancing on top of wine bottles and swooping chandeliers holding spoon swan-divers. That scene alone makes the 3D ticket price worth it.

Belle is by far the best out of the Princess Core 4 (i.e. the princesses that are on EVERY Disney backpack, lunchbox, and nightgown). Sure, your 5 year-old daughter might dream of being a mermaid – but Ariel is only 16 years old and wants to get MARRIED. Plus, she’s a ginger. Jasmine might not be rushing off to get married, but that’s only cause she wants to run around with her boobies hanging out. And Cinderella is just fucking boring. Belle’s smart! She reads! She dresses conservatively (but elegantly)! She’s fiercely strong and independent! And she loves people for who they are on the inside… (sigh)

Deciding whether or not paying an inflated ticket price to see a movie you already know all the words to is your call. I enjoyed it, but I would have also enjoyed digging out my toddler-sized yellow ballgown, popping the movie into the one VCR I have left, and singing/dancing along in the privacy of my bedroom. Regardless of how you do it, the happiness you’ll feel for that hour and a half is worth a re-visit. This tale as old as time is truly timeless, and me thinking that the Beast is hotter before he turns back into a Prince/a Hanson brother is besides the point.