Endless Love for Endless Love

Endless Love (2014)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (4/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ (3/5)
Boyfriend Friendly: No. But he sure as hell better take you anyway. With a notepad in hand.

I will start this review out by saying that it is exactly movies like this that made me start this site in the first place. Endless Love is currently at a 14% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 14%! That’s so low that on Valentine’s Day, I opted to see Her for the 3rd time because I didn’t want to risk being more bummed than I already was (it was my first single V-Day in 5 years, gimme a break). So instead, I dragged myself to a matinee this morning. And you know what? I loved it. Apparently, so did 67% of the Rotten Tomatoes audience – proving once again that critics need to chill the eff out and critique a romance film like a romance film. Or they don’t because, you know, I do take pride in being the voice of reason.

I have never seen the original Endless Love, nor I have read the book that the 1981 film is based off of, but I have read summaries of both and they sound really depressing. I mean, I can recognize the beauty in a solidly-written tragic love story. I am a bit of a Romeo and Juliet junkie, to the point where I’ve already picked out the brownstone future me plans to live in on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights. But it is awards season, which means there are enough heavy movies out right now that sometimes you need to throw a good ole fashioned whimsical romance into the mix. Is that so awful? According to Peter Travers, yes. To me? Quite the contrary.

The trailer tells you all you need to know about the movie: “She comes from a world of privilege and power, but she’ll leave it all behind for him.” Clichéd? A bit. Melodramatic? That’s an understatement. But aren’t all romance films to a degree? Hell, aren’t ALL romances in general? I know every relationship I’ve ever been in has had its fair share of both – doubly so in the melodramatic department. Plus, I never get sick of seeing the good girl meets “wrong side of the tracks” guy story play out because, as a notorious good girl, I can say with confidence that most of us do have a hidden desire to run off with a quote/unquote bad boy. Granted, I can also say with confidence that when that does happen, it more often than not ends the way the original Endless Love does. But that story is for a different day!

Anyway, I’m not going to spend too much time on the plot because you’ve seen it rehashed a million times but Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde) is a beautiful, teenage recluse whose spent her high school years locked up mourning the loss of her older brother. On the day of graduation, her classmate David Elliot (Alex Pettyfer), who has been eying her for years from afar, finally gets to make his move when the Butterfields show up for dinner where he valets. He invites her for a joyride in a Maserati he’s parking, and in an instance of spontaneity she says yes (obviously while holed up at home she got the chance to watch Transformers and knew that 50 years from now, she’d want to say she had the guts to get in the car). Thus, the beginning of a glorious summer romance. The only issues are that her Dad is a total hardass/jackass who isn’t into the fact that David’s only aspiration in life is to work as a mechanic in his father’s garage and that instead of a whole summer together – they only have two weeks, because Jade’s leaving for Brown early for an internship.

The movie is chock full of darling love scenes and montages that will make you swoon (or make you really bitter… depending on your outlook on love this week), including an adorable moment where David calls the cops on a rival party going on so that all the kids there will come to Jade’s graduation party, which was formerly a no-show bust. Pettyfer does this 911 call in his legitimate British accent by the way… which, given the fact that he and Wilde are both Brits, I just don’t understand why they didn’t set the film in the UK because that would have been too hot to handle. I know some had complaints about the pair’s chemistry, but I am the self-proclaimed chemistry police and I didn’t have any issue. Pettyfer, who I didn’t care for in Magic Mike, was charming and I totally bought him as a hopeless romantic (or as Jade’s father called him a “homeless romantic”). His attraction to Jade started as a mere infatuation but I saw where that transpired into actual love (post-grad party, when he is walking on the hoods of cars like a giddy boy who just discovered masturbation). I also enjoyed seeing Jade find herself, as she grew from a closeted girl to a spontaneous woman finally ready to enjoy life. Many critics had problems with the way Wilde constantly twirled and pranced around on camera, but I challenge all of those writers to go back to the first time they experienced love and try to claim that they didn’t do the same. I mean, I remember when I got my first KISS I came home screaming and jumping up and down like a lunatic. My family rushed downstairs thinking something terrible happened. No, Gary, some guy named Alex with a car just kissed your 15 year-old daughter in your driveway. Go back to sleep.

I am so used to romance movies ending SAD and unrequited lately, that I was petrified (pettyferfried?) this would end like the film/novel it set out to remake. When everything went up in flames at the end (literally), I couldn’t help but let out a gasp and clasp my mouth in fear. But this film has a happy ending, and I was grateful for that. Endless Love is not life-changing, but it knows exactly the type of movie it is and it does it well – incorporating romance, adventure, fireworks and all of the others things I ever want into a sappy, feel-good chick flick.

Since there hasn’t been enough Ryan Gosling on screen lately, I will end with a shout-out to my new favorite website, KissingRyan.com. You’re welcome, ladies:

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Let It Go, Let It Snow, Let It Go

Frozen (2013)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (4/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ (3/5)
Boyfriend Friendly: This movie is so girl power that you won’t even want him there. Go with your sister instead so you can fight over who’s the Anna and who’s the Elsa afterwards.

As I sit here watching the Sochi Olympics, lamenting over my short-lived career as a 7 year-old figure skater where I was much more focused on the piping hot churro that I was rewarded with after every lesson than I was on landing my toe loop (can you blame me?), I figured this would be the perfect time to write a review on the pretty-surprising Disney smash Frozen.

Now, let me start off with a disclaimer: for as much as I loved it, I did have some issues with Frozen – mostly with the plot, which at times felt rushed and at other times had its holes. For this alone, I do not think it holds a candle to The Lion King, and is definitely not above Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast. BUT the animation was gorgeous, the music was uplifting, and the story was inspiring and fairly feminist as far as Disney movies go. So, it was a win in my book. Plus, I definitely shed more than my fair share of tears during the show-stopping “Let It Go”… but, more on that later.

Frozen is based off Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, and when I say based I mean that, like Andersen’s fairytale, there is a fierce woman who has the ability to turn things into snow/ice and the comparisons really stop there – give or take a troll or two. But that’s okay, because truthfully that story can be a little scary and very preachy so I was good with the creative liberties that the Disney team took (No offense, Hans). Anyway, Elsa and Anna are princess sisters who live in the luscious realm of Arendelle and all is good and well except for the fact that Elsa was born with icy powers that sometimes shoot out of her unexpectedly. This can be fun when you’re doing things like transforming your banquet hall into a winter wonderland, but not so much when you accidentally strike your baby sis with a laser beam of ice. The King and Queen rush Anna to some magical trolls who heal her, but warn the King and Queen that Elsa’s powers must be controlled and that any memory that Anna has of Elsa’s powers must be erased. Cut to a bunch of years later: the King and Queen are dead (Disney HATES parents), Elsa is about to be coronated, and the two sisters haven’t had much interaction since The Ice Incident – which Anna doesn’t remember and therefore thinks Elsa is just a cold-hearted b*tch. But really, Elsa has been hiding in her bedroom in fear, wearing gloves, and trying not to freeze everything in sight. (And you thought King Midas had it bad… at least he had the power of gold, not cold.)

*Groan*. I just re-read that last sentence. Sorry guys, this is my first review in a year and a half. I’m a little rusty. Moving on…

The day of Elsa’s coronation, the castle doors open up for the first time in years and all of the teenage hormonal angst that had been building up within Anna erupts when she meets Prince Hans of Mutton Chops. Actually, he was from someplace else but I can’t remember where because I was so focused on his facial hair and being fearful for poor Anna, who must have never gotten the memo that you should never trust a man with mutton chops. Anna tells Elsa that her and Hans plan to marry, and Elsa – like any respectable older sister – tells Anna she’s crazy, shoots out some ice, and sends Arendelle into an eternal winter. The people of Arendelle accuse Elsa of being some sort of evil sorceress, so she flees to the North Mountain and Anna goes after her, leaving Hans in charge of the kingdom. Along the way, she runs into mountain man Kristoff and his BFF/pet reindeer Sven, as well as a talking snowman named Olaf who was a product of Elsa’s and has some insight as to where she went.

Although the setup of the film did have its fun moments, the writers squeezed in a lot in a short amount of time – sometimes a bit haphazardly. Within the first half hour, Elsa almost killed Anna for the first time, their parents died, Anna fell in “love,” and then Elsa almost killed Anna for a second time – exposing her powers. The film didn’t really take off for me until Elsa fled to the mountains and burst out into one of the most “Screw Everyone, I’m Awesome” songs of all time: Let It Go. I’m including it here because if you haven’t heard it yet well, what’s wrong with you? And if you have, your play count is probably in the double digits already so why not make it triple:

I love this number for so many reasons, from Idina Menzel’s powerful vocals to the fierce look Elsa gives as she slams the doors to her ice castle closed at the end. It’s an anthem for anyone who beats to their own drum and has ever felt like they had to hide it. It challenges girls everywhere to shed those obedient female stereotypes society has laid out for us and to just do our own thing. I could seriously write a whole review about just this one song. But, I won’t. From that moment on, the film really took on a life of its own. I loved the spunk that Kristen Bell brought to Anna. I loved the innocence that Josh Gad brought to Olaf: a snowman whose only wish is to feel the warmth of summer. And even though I saw the ending coming the second the trolls said “only an act of true love can cure a frozen heart,” I loved that what saved Anna in the end wasn’t her love for a man, but her love for her sister. One thing that did really bother me though was Han’s reveal as a villain. I knew it was going to happen the whole time, but I just hoped it wouldn’t. Granted, the movie needed a bad guy, but this just seemed like a cheap mechanic to use to add some drama. Plus, they named him Hans and like… poor Hans Christian Andersen who inspired the story, amiright?!

Truthfully, even though Anna was the selfless one who sacrificed herself for her sister, Elsa remains the heroine for me. Perhaps it’s because, particularly at this stage in my life, I identify more with her: a good girl/perfectionist who grows up in fear of showing her true colors until the pressures of adulthood leave her no choice but to just let it go. Elsa is my soul sister, and I thought it was really cool to see another Disney heroine with absolutely NO love interest (Brave’s Merida being the first to my knowledge). Hopefully Frozen’s box office numbers will inspire Disney to make more movies about fearless heroines who don’t need no man to legitimize their awesomeness.

To end, here’s a throwback to my figure skating days. I’m the one in green with the churro gut:

Aw, shucks! I totally forgot to fit in a Polar Vortex/Disney marketing scheme joke somewhere… Too easy.

Snow White and the Hunksman

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ½ (3.5/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ (3.5/5)
Boyfriend friendly: Just tell him that you’re going to see “that new movie with Thor”. You won’t be lying, and he’ll think you’re going to The Avengers for the 9th time.

I already went into a rant about how lame of a princess Snow White is in my review of Mirror Mirror, so I won’t dwell on that any longer (although I will point out that Disney World must have had a reason for taking down Snow White’s Scary Adventure this May). Therefore, it should be no surprise that I had zero desire to sit through another disastrous attempt at remaking an already mediocre story – and judging by the drab three minute trailer that just did not appeal to me at all, I was certain this would be just that. But I knew I had to see it for the purposes of this blog, so I dragged myself out of bed this morning to catch an 11:30AM showing ($4 movie tix before noon, yo!) and by, George, I think I liked it!

Snow White and the Huntsman closely follows the well-known tale (evil queen obsessed with beauty, talking mirror, poisonous apple, seven dwarfs) but adds a few welcome additions (sexy huntsman, intense battle sequences, evil queen back story). Ravenna (Charlize Theron) is an evil sorceress with some serious Daddy issues. She has a nasty habit of feeding from attractive women to sustain her own beauty, seducing powerful men with said beauty, then killing them and taking over their kingdoms. Unfortunately Snow’s father, King Magnus (Noah Huntley), is no exception. For reasons we never really understand, Ravenna decides to spare her pretty, young step-daughter Snow White (Kristen Stewart), and locks her up in a high tower. Years later, however, her magic mirror reveals that Snow’s beating heart is the one thing keeping Ravenna from immortality. She sends her brother to retrieve Snow from her prison cell, but Snow pulls the ole stab-him-in-the-eye-with-a-rusty-nail trick and escapes. Moral of the story: Never send a man to do a woman’s job. Snow makes a break for the eerie Dark Forest, where the Evil Queen’s powers are useless. Ravenna hires the only Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) who has been to the Forest (and lived to tell the tale) to chase after her. He finds Snow in like 3 seconds flat, but is so struck by her beauty and kindness that he decides to switch sides and help her in her journey to find Duke Hammond (Vincent Regan), an old friend of her father, and his son William (Sam Claflin), her childhood bestie. With all of her new allies, including a band of dwarfs led by Bob Hoskins, a revolt is planned to claim Snow’s rightful throne.

Let me start out by stating the obvious: Charlize Theron was absolutely magnificent as Ravenna. Her Evil Queen was dark and, of course, evil but also very complex. She wasn’t just evil for evil’s sake, like the Queen in the original Snow White or in Mirror Mirror. There is a good reason she is so full of hate, and at times I truly felt sorry for her. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t want Snow to completely kick her ass in the end. Chris Hemsworth also surprised as the hunksman huntsman ’cause I have to be honest: Thor just does not do it for me. I guess I prefer the superheroes who make their own power, like Iron Man and Batman, which is no fault of Chris Hemsworth, but I definitely preferred him here as the brooding huntsman who drinks just a little too much but always steps in at a clutch moment. He also was the only one with any sort of funny lines in a movie that could have used just a tad more comic relief. And K. Stew was actually tolerable in the title role. Her accent went in and out, but she did a good job at making Snow pretty resourceful and kind of badass. Think Katniss, not dainty princess. She also wasn’t required to smile until the last two seconds, so that must have made it a bit easier for her.

The costumes were completely stunning. I loved every single item that Ravenna wore, from her beaded gold dresses to her cloak made of raven’s feathers, and Colleen Atwood’s homage to the original Snow White costume – little hints of red in the sleeves of Snow’s dress – made me smile. Rupert Sanders also created a fantastical world, complete with a petrifying Dark Forest, some interesting-looking fairies (they look like the killer aliens from Galaxy Quest!), and some scary-ass evil soldiers who form out of shards of black glass. It surprises me to say that this movie was more faithful to the original story than Mirror Mirror, and every addition or change was carefully thought out and welcomed (including a twist to the classic poisoned apple scene and a LOVE TRIANGLE, which every half-decent movie with Kristen Stewart apparently needs). Don’t be fooled though: this is not a “fun for the whole family” fairy tale and the little kid in my theater who sobbed throughout the entire Dark Forest scene is proof.

Of course, there were problems. The movie dragged considerably in the middle, and it seemed like Sanders began slipping things in just so he had an excuse to play with some fancy CGI. There is one too many fight sequences, and a scene with a white deer who has abnormally large antlers that could have just been cut out and no one would’ve known the diff. It also raised a lot of unanswered questions: Wouldn’t Snow be a little unstable after being held captive all those years? If the Evil Queen hates men so much, why isn’t she a bit more compassionate towards women? And for Christ’s sake, why were Stewart and Hemsworth the only two soldiers without protective helmets in the final battle scene? I thought it was supposed to be safety, not sexy, first!

Honestly, this might just be the “fairest” of all the Snow White movies. That’s a bold claim though, because I don’t think I’ve actually seen the original Snow White since that time I was 5 and I tried to make the well in our backyard garden talk back to me, like she does in the beginning, and I fell down it and cut up my leg pretty badly. True story. Anyway, I still think the Snow White story kinda sucks and I am much more excited for Maleficient: the live-action take on Sleeping Beauty starring Angelina Jolie due out in 2014.

First Impressions: Think Like A Man vs. The 5 Year Engagement

Since I saw Think Like A Man and The Five Year Engagement back to back – and since both have Kevin Hart in the cast, underlying motifs about baked goods, and aspiring chefs who open up a food truck in the midst of heartbreak – I decided that smushing the two into one review would be appropriate.

First up…

Think Like A Man (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (4/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ½ (2.5/5)
Boyfriend friendly: The title and predominantly male cast will make it hard for him to realize you tricked him into seeing a chick flick.

In a world where women are cursed with longer bathrooms lines, our “monthly friend”, and the joy of pushing babies out of our vaginas (seriously?), female intuition is the one thing we’ve always had going for us. So why would any woman want to “think like a man”? That was my first thought when I saw the trailer a few months back, and I walked into the theater ready to sit through a misogynistic movie that encouraged girls to modify their values in order to get a guy. Instead, I was pleased to find that, like dating, first impressions can be deceiving…

Based on the actual dating advice book by Steve Harvey (seriously?), Think Like A Man is an ensemble comedy about four different types of men boys whose girlfriends begin taking the advice from Harvey’s book to heart and turn the tables on the relationship. When the guys catch on, and realize that Harvey has betrayed the sacred bro code by revealing their secrets to women worldwide, they decide to use the book to their advantage by planning a counterattack. Of course, this backfires and the women end up with exactly what they wanted. Like I said, female intuition is a force you just can’t mess with. Zeke (Romany Malco) is a player, who is determined to get into the pants of Mya (Meagan Good)… little does he know she’s just as determined to wait 90 days before giving him “her cookie” (seriously?). Michael (Terrence J. Corwley) doesn’t skip a Sunday dinner with his Momma and still has her do his laundry – much to the dismay of his single-mother girlfriend Candace (Regina Hall), who is sick of being number two in his life. Dominic (Michael Ealy) is a waiter/valet parker/aspiring chef whose relationship with Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), a COO of a Fortune 500 company, is based on the illusion that he drives a Lamborghini. Turtle – I mean Jerry Ferrara – plays Jeremy, a frat boy who graduated years ago and still won’t propose to his breadwinning college girlfriend, Kristen (Gabrielle Union). However, it is Gary Owen and Kevin Hart who steal the show in supporting roles as their friends. Owen plays Bennett, the token white guy of the bunch who is actually happily married and damn proud of it. Hart plays new and bitter divorcée Cedric, who is determined to get over his ex-wife (Wendy Williams), either by hitting the strip club… or Michael’s mom. And even though I hate to say it, because I despise him with every fiber of my being, Chris Brown also has a hysterical cameo role as a former one night stand of Mya’s, who she runs into everywhere. Guess playing an asshole wasn’t that far of a stretch for him, huh?

Though a little long (2 hours!) and very predictable, there are more than enough laughs that make up for all of the film’s faults. (Generally it’s a good sign for me when parts that made me laugh in the trailer still make me laugh in the theater.) I was also relieved that I never felt like the women were actually “thinking like a man” – to me, they were actually thinking in a very calculated way that only a woman could think, and I was pleased that they never had to change who they were/settle for anything less than what they deserved in order to be happy in love. However, I would highly NOT recommend seeing this if you expect to come out of it with any sort of new insight into the male brain. Something tells me that asking a guy what his short-term and long-term goals are on the first date, or inviting him up for a “night cap” and only giving him a cup of coffee, won’t go as well in real life as it did in this movie. Nice try Steve-o, but I’ll stick to Cosmo.

Sidenote: Can someone please start giving Michael Ealy’s sexy blue eyes their own line in the credits?

Moving on to…

The Five Year Engagement (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ (3/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ (3/5)
Boyfriend friendly: Humor you can both enjoy. Unless you’ve been (im)patiently waiting for him to pop that question… then do everything in your power to make sure he doesn’t ever see this movie. Ever.

It was love at first one-sheet sight for me and The Five Year Engagement. Emily Blunt’s cake-filled mouth and Jason Segel’s tux-under-bathrobe attire still manages to squeeze a smile outta me every single time I see it. However, an itty bitty voice inside my head kept telling me to be skeptical and not fall too hard. Sure, it was written by and stars Jason Segel – the man behind one of my absolute favorite movies (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and the man who makes up 50% of my all-time favorite fictional couple (Marshmallow and Lilypad!). But there was something about the premise that always irked me. Why would moving to Michigan mean you’d have to delay your wedding by five years? One or two years while you get settled – sure. But five?! I’ve known people who’ve had super long engagements, but it’s usually for logistical reasons, like the reception hall the bride-to-be’s been dreaming of since she was a little girl is booked for the next 3 years or that her sister got engaged at the same time and she wants her own separate year to be a “Princess Bride”. Having to postpone tying the knot because you move to Michigan and the relationship gets a little rocky? Well, that has me wondering if the couple should even get married in the first place…

The Five Year Engagement starts off where most romcoms end. Tom (Segel) proposes to his girlfriend of exactly one year, Violet (Blunt), on the rooftop of the San Fran restaurant where he works as a sous chef, while fireworks go off ringing in the new year. She accepts and engagement parties and pre-wedding bliss ensue… until Violet receives an acceptance letter inviting her to participate in a two-year post-doctoral psychology program at the University of Michigan. Tom is supportive, saying he can cook anywhere, so the two say goodbye to the Bay Area and head to the snowy North. Only the adjustment isn’t as easy for Tom as he thought it’d be. While Violet’s career blossoms, attracting special attention from the Professor she works under, Tom gets a job making deli sandwiches on College Row. Wedding plans continue to loom farther and farther on the horizon, particularly as Violet’s program gets extended a few years and as Tom becomes complacent hunting in the wilderness, wearing dopey hand-knit sweaters, and sporting an uneven beard. The major blow to the relationship comes when Tom eats part of Violet’s psychology experiment – a stale doughnut.

It was interesting to see this movie with my younger sister, who is my polar opposite, because we both picked different sides. I have always been very driven with a “career first, love after” mindset and eloping sounds more appealing to me than dealing with the madness of a wedding, whereas my sister came out of the womb wearing a tiara and is positive that Kate Middleton’s special day won’t hold a candle to hers. So it makes sense that I was very sympathetic towards Violet, who was trying to follow her dream, and that my sister was sympathetic towards Tom, who was trying to follow his heart. In fact, my sister and I got into a very heated debate after the movie over this. I felt that Tom never even tried to make himself happy there for her, and that he was a sulky cry baby about everything. Take the deli job and then keep looking! There’s gotta be a fancier restaurant somewhere in the state of Michigan! It also bothered me that he was never honest with her about his feelings – she asked him a countless number of times if he was unhappy and he always lied, which caused him to lash out in passive-aggressive ways via repulsive beards and deerskin mugs instead of trying to fix the problem like an adult. Sissy on the other hand was very aggravated by Violet’s selfish and insensitive attitude, believing that she knew Tom was unhappy there but never wanted to admit it to herself because then she would have to make compromises. Instead of trying to help her fiancée adapt, she complained about him to her Professor – who interpreted it as a call for help. In the end, we both agreed that the characters really were not compatible for one another and that the only reason we were rooting for them to end up together was because of the adorable charm each actor brought to them.

What The Five Year Engagement lacked in romance, it made up in laughs. There were some really, really funny parts. Chris Pratt – who, if you remember, got his start on angsty teen dramas like Everwood and The O.C. – has really proven his comedic chops lately: first on Parks and Rec, and now here as Alex, Tom’s obnoxious-in-a-fantastic-way BFF. Alex’s parody of We Didn’t Start The Fire, which was sampled in the trailer, is only one of two amazing song performances he has in the film. The other is a sincere, full-out rendition of Cucurrucucu Paloma, dedicated to his shot-gun bride and Violet’s sister, Suzie (Alison Brie/Mrs. Pete Campbell). In all honesty, it has Grammy potential. If Alex’s singing steals the first half of the movie, then it is Suzie and Violet’s conversation using Elmo and Cookie Monster voices at the request of Suzie’s daughter that steals the second half. Come to think of it, I think that the coupling of Pratt and Brie is what made the entire movie for me, and I kinda think Segel should consider writing a spin-off about them a la Get Him To The Greek.

When The Five Year Engagement was funny – it was funny. But when it wasn’t, it was sad and depressing and dragged. I know Segel wrote it, but I almost wish John Krasinski, Blunt’s real-life husband, had played the part of Tom instead. He could have definitely pulled the role off just as well, and then perhaps there would’ve been more chemistry. I really do adore Emily Blunt but this is the second movie I’ve seen of hers in a row where the on-screen chemistry just was not there (See: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen)! I wonder if that is mere coincidence, or if it is a problem we are going to see more of…

                                                                   * * *

You probably won’t get this unless you’ve seen both movies but…
                           “When Sesame Street Meets Think Like A Man”

Spoiler Alert: They Still Hit The Iceberg

Titanic (in 3D)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (5/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ (4.5/5)
Boyfriend friendly: If you have trouble convincing him to take you, these 4 words should do the trick: Kate Winslet’s 3D boobs.

When Titanic came out in theaters for the first time in 1997, I was in the third grade and it was a magical experience that evoked a lot of “firsts” for me: first time I got to see a PG-13 movie in theaters, first time I saw a pair of boobs that didn’t belong to my Mom, first time I decided I wanted to go to “movie school” (which I did) so I could become a big-time director (which I didn’t), first time my Dad let me get popcorn AND Sno-Caps (hey, it’s a 3 hour movie!), first time I fell in love and could use the fancy cursive I just learned to write “Christie DiCaprio” all over my schoolbooks… Cut to 15 years later: I have seen more than my fair share of boobs (even though I never seemed to grow any), the AMC near me has abhorrently retired Sno-Caps, I don’t remember how to write in cursive, and my heart has gone on from Leonardo to a string of other Hollywood infatuations (most currently – Andrew Garfield). One thing that hasn’t changed? The wondrous movie magic that mesmerizes my entire being throughout the 194 minutes of James Cameron’s Titanic.

Now, I have faced a lot of criticism over the years for my unabashed love for this movie. During my time at Tisch, my high opinion of the film was undoubtedly in the vast minority and I found myself in one too many heated debates over the 1997 Academy Awards. Yes, L.A. Confidential was an amazing film that would have deserved the award any other year… but against Titanic? Bitch, please. Forget for a second that this bad boy set box office records (which is not something the Academy generally cares about anyway), grossing close to $2 billion worldwide. Forget about its script, which is amazing and easily the most quoted script in movie history despite it being criticized for its sappiness and repetitive use of the main characters’ names (Rose: 76, Jack: 85). Forget about how completely ahead of its time the stunning special effects were. Instead, just think about it’s impact. I was in the third grade and I still remember what I was eating in the theater that night, and who I talked about it with at the lunch table the next day (Heather Frederick, thank you very much). Did it impact every person to the same extent as it impacted me – who decided then and there at the age of 8 that I would go to film school? Of course not. But people of all ages and genders worldwide came out in droves to see Titanic multiple times. Why? Because there is literally something in it for everyone: a hard-hitting historical account of one of the world’s saddest tragedies, an epic tale of romance and loss, fearless action sequences, beautiful cinematography, mind-blowing visual effects… even some nudity! And although everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I firmly believe whoever claims that the film sucks is just saying it to be ironic. [No offense.]

Now that that’s off my chest…

It was hard for me to imagine what a third-dimension could add to a film that was already so aesthetically spectacular and pretty-effing-perfect in 2D. To be honest, I don’t think it added all that much. I’m not saying it didn’t look completely awesome – it’s James Cameron, of course it did. The dude spent over 60 weeks and $18 mil converting the movie frame by frame (all 260,000 of them). But I always felt like Titanic in 2D had a bit of a 3D feel to it already. Granted, there were a few scenes that particularly stood out due to this conversion. The 3D permits us to teeter with Rose over the ship’s railing as she contemplates suicide, and the depth and darkness of the ocean at this angle truly spooked me. Later on, post-iceberg, Jack and Rose are at that same location on the stern, when it is split in half from the rest of the ship. Clinging onto the outside of the railing, they are pulled into the air at a 90 degree angle before facing a steep plunge into the icy water. That moment was alway the scariest part of the film for me, and in 3D, my stomach dropped like I was on a roller coaster. A really, really high one.

But, I didn’t pay the expensive 3D ticket price because I was so excited to see Titanic in 3D… I paid the expensive 3D ticket price because I was so excited to see Titanic. Again. On the big screen. Because every time I watch this movie, I discover something new about it that I love. This time around? I found out that a part of me actually feels kinda sorry for Cal Hockley. In my previous 15 or so viewings of Titanic, I had always written Cal off as Rose’s arrogant and possessive fiancé – a storybook villain. But this was the first time I ever watched the film as a grown-up who has experienced heartbreak firsthand. And, for whatever reason, all my previous perceptions about Cal were now erased. It had never occurred to me that he might actually love Rose (or at least the idea of her), and it is the heartbreak that comes from not being loved in return that causes him to lash out. When Cal puts the Heart of the Ocean around Rose’s neck for the first time, a glimmer forms in his eyes. I had always assumed it was the wealth surrounding the diamond that caused the glimmer, but for once, I felt like it was because he thought he was giving the world to the woman he loved. Later on, that glimmer is replaced by sadness caused by the realization that Rose is in love with another man. Yet, he can’t shake the hope that she may come back around, which propels him to skip out on his initial chance for a lifeboat in an effort to save her. Later on, after Rose has blatantly made her choice, Cal still doesn’t give up hope and searches for her on The Carpathia. Truthfully, it all kind of broke my heart. Of course, I am completely 150% for Rose being with Jack, but I couldn’t help feel a bit more sympathetic towards Cal’s character. After all, wouldn’t you want to frame a robbery on the jerk your still-fiancé posed nude for behind your back? I would also like to take this time to apologize to Billy Zane, whose strong performance as the man scorned I have long overlooked.

The only issue with seeing a movie you love dearly in theaters fifteen years after it’s initial release is that there is a whole generation of teenagers who weren’t alive when it originally came out and may have never gotten around to seeing it. (Gasp!) To be quite honest, I am not even sure the teenage girls in my theater knew that it was a re-release. When Jack dies, there was a collective “Huh? He dies? What kind of movie is this?” and when My Heart Will Go On plays during the end credits one of them literally went, “Ohhh. So that’s where this song comes from.” Thankfully, I think they had learned in some history class that the Titanic sinks so at least that wasn’t a big shocker. That aside, seeing it on the big screen again was still a magical experience, particularly on the 100th anniversary of its sinking. If you like the movie half as much as I do, you cannot miss this opportunity to give James Cameron even more money than he already has.

Things I’ve Learned Since I First Saw Titanic In 1997:
1) When Jack says, “I saw that on the Nickelodeon,” he isn’t referring to the TV channel.
2) Jack and Rose are doing more than just “kissing naked” in that horse-drawn carriage.
3) Billy Zane made male eyeliner sexy long before Johnny Depp.
4) There’s no way that necklace would’ve stayed in Rose’s pocket that whole time.
5) I’ll never be blonde, foreign, or a supermodel, so Leonardo DiCaprio will never date me.
6) Trying to master Rose’s party trick will result in a sprained ankle.
7) And mastering Jack’s “man spitting” is not something you should show to anyone. Ever.
8) The woman who plays Old Rose wasn’t a Titanic survivor. (Where did I hear that?)
9) Rose is 17 in the movie, proving that slutty high school girls have been sending naked pictures of themselves to boys long before ‘sexting’ was a word. It also proves that you never know how old you might be when those pictures resurface. (Crap.)
10) That very last scene doesn’t actually mean everyone came back to life again…

Mad WoMen

If there is one thing this Sunday night’s episode of Mad Men taught us: behind every great man is a helluva strong woman. And there’s a very good reason we stand behind our men… they don’t have eyes in the back of their head, but we have eyes in the front of ours. 😉

I know this site is called Chick Flick Critic, so I should probably stick to reviewing movies. However, I am a complete sucker for badass women and the women in Mad Men’s “Mystery Date” episode were one ball-busting set of B.A.M.Fs. I won’t review the whole episode here (which may have been one of my favorite Mad Men episodes ever) but I will take the time to applaud each mad lady for having – as Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s newest copywriter Michael Ginsburg might say – some serious chutzpah.

Let’s start with Ms. Zou Bisou Bisou herself – Megan Draper:
I admit – when Megan’s character was first introduced last season, my catty girl instincts came out and I was all ready to write her off as a French-Canadian slut who sleeps with her boss. And when Don proposed to her in last season’s finale, I was all ready to write him off as another sad, predictable man who thinks only with his penis and picked his hot, young secretary over the intelligent and elegant, but older, Dr. Faye Miller. But then Season Five came, and Megs went ahead and seduced me with that sexy French song-and-dance number of hers in the premiere episode. Then, when Don acted like a royal Dick Whitman about the rad surprise party she threw him, she tortured him by cleaning the apartment in her underwear and being all “I’m so hot but you can’t get this” (of course he’s Don Draper so he did end up getting it, but whatever). Finally, in the latest episode, they confronted the big question that has been on all of our minds since the finale: is Don a changed man or will he keep his adulterous ways? In “Mystery Date”, Megan and Don bump into Andrea, one of his previous lovers, during a very awkward elevator ride. But instead of passively aggressively letting her discomfort brew inside of her all day like ex-wife Betty, myself, and most other women would do, Megan confronted Don right at the office coffee maker. She was all, “Hey player, I know you fucked every woman up and down Madison Avenue – twice – but you’re with me now. So if I have something to worry about, I deserve to know now.” And even though I am sure she knows Don will eventually cheat on her (otherwise what kind of show would it be?), at least there is the satisfaction that she scared him so much that he had a freaking crazyass nightmare about murdering the elevator bitch.

SCDP’s number one guy’s girl, Peggy Olson, also wore her sassypants for this episode. Sick of giving Pete Campbell a high horse to ride like a rodeo clown, Roger Sterling panics when he realizes it’s Friday night, the Mohawk Airlines campaign outline is due Monday, and he was too busy with his office drinking/flirting/sleeping (in that order) to get it started. He offers Peggy a measly $10 to not only complete the whole pitch over one weekend, but to lie to Campbell by saying Roger asked her to do it last week. With her stockinged legs crisscrossed over her desk, and Bourbon in hand, she sizes his desperation up and responds: “$10 for the work. But the lie will cost more.” CHA-CHING! $10 soon becomes $410 – cash – which is a boatload of money in the 60s, especially for a woman. When he tries to argue, she threatens to take his watch too and he bolts out of her office so fast, her door doesn’t even get the chance to hit him on his way out. Peggy has another great scene in this episode, where she drunkenly bonds with Dawn, the lone black employee, confessing that it’s hard acting like a man at the office and she isn’t sure if she wants to bother trying anymore. A brief, but strong, moment of female solidarity fills the air – but it is quickly marred when Peggy goes to leave the room and both women realize that she is leaving her purse (filled with Roger’s money) with Dawn. Peggy is immediately ashamed of her momentary prejudice, and decides to leave the purse alone regardless of her suspicions. Hoes before dolla dolla bills, y’all.

The number one performance of the night goes to my favorite fiery femme fatale: Joan Holloway Harris. In “Mystery Date”, Joan’s cry-baby husband, Greg, returns home from Vietnam on a 10 day leave, meeting his (but really Roger Sterling’s) son for the first time. The reunion conjures up a truly passionate welcome back kiss, causing me to momentarily forget how much I despise this man. Greg (understandably) can’t keep his hands off his Joanie, so he sends her mother on multiple beer runs with the baby so that the two of them can have sexytime. However, the reunion bliss comes to a screeching halt when Greg’s parents force him to admit to Joan that he has volunteered to go back to Vietnam for another year. Now Joan generally doesn’t take crap from anyone – which is why we love her so much – but Greg has always been the exception. Here, though, she doesn’t disappoint. After a sleepless night, she emerges from her bedroom, looks at Greg dead-on with her killer Medusa eyes, and goes, “I’m glad the Army makes you feel like a man, cause I’m sure sick of trying to do it.” Atta girl, Joanie! He responds by telling her that the army makes him feel like a good man and FINALLY, Joan says what we have been waiting three seasons for her to say: “You’re not a good man. You never were. Even before we were married.” BOOYAH. You tell that asshole! I was beginning to think she would never confront Greg about how he raped her in Don’s office in Season 2. But finally, she does and WOW was it worth the wait. Kudos to Christina Hendricks for pulling it off so powerfully! Greg storms out in his typical huffy puffy fashion, and I kind of wanted Joan to yell after him, “By the way – the baby isn’t yours. It’s obvious science, you idiot. No wonder you couldn’t get a job as a real doctor!” But whatever. The scene was still awesome the way it was.

At the core of the episode is the story of the 1966 rape-and-murders of 8 nurses in Chicago and the haunting idea that you never really know whether a prince or a dud stands on the other side of that door. For once, the “high heel” is not a symbol of sensuality… it is a symbol of vulnerability. Sure, Cinderella finds her prince… but was it really all that safe for her to be running around the castle with one shoe on at midnight? Some women (like Megan, Peggy, and Joan) are able to overcome these demons and send their “duds” right back through the door they came in: Megan sends Don home from work with his cold, Peggy sends Roger walking out of the office that he gave her back in Season 2, Joan sends her husband a-packin’ out of their apartment. Other women, like Sally Draper, end up hiding under a bed like the 9th nurse. It is a really interesting episode, particularly from a female perspective, and I would highly recommend it to any woman – whether they are a Mad Men fan or not.

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?