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”

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The (Wayyy Too) Lucky One

The Lucky One (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ (3/5)
Film Rating: ★ ½ (1.5/5)
Boyfriend friendly: No chance. Unless he happens to be some big Nicholas Sparks fan, in which case – tell him to call me, maybe. (Zac Efron was in that music video, right?)

I have been talking about The Lucky One (2012) since I welled up with tears the first time I saw its trailer back in January. I was convinced this movie was going to be right up there with The Notebook in my eyes. I didn’t even read the book beforehand to eliminate any “book bias” when reviewing! But perhaps I should have read it, because without doing so, I felt disconnected from the story and just completely “meh” towards the whole thing.

Now, I created this site so that chick flicks can be reviewed for what they are meant to be. And I think I have done a pretty decent job at not reviewing them as seriously as films of higher caliber, and forgiving the creative liberties they sometimes must take (a la my reviews for The Vow and This Means War). But this film really had me scratching my head at some a lot of points. So, I am going to break down The Lucky One bit by unconvincing bit. Excuse the longer length – I promise, it’ll be fun! Starting from the top…

Warning: I will spoil the entire movie for you. Even though the trailer beat me to it.

Zac Efron plays a U.S. Marine stationed in Iraq, Logan Thibault. (It’s French, pronounced like Tebow. As in, Tim Tebow – which would’ve been a lot more Amurrican of a spelling, if you ask me.) The morning after a night raid, Logan finds a photograph of a pretty, blonde woman sitting in front of a lighthouse. As he examines it, an explosion goes off where Logan would have been standing had he not found the picture. He decides to keep the photo, which becomes his guardian angel – protecting him through all sorts of brutal combat. Upon returning home to his sister’s house in Colorado, he decides to make it his mission to find the woman in the photograph and thank her. After a really brief googling of lighthouses, he is able to determine that this woman lives in a small town in Louisiana. He then proceeds to take Zeus, his German Shepherd, and walk there. From Colorado.

Let’s stop there a moment. According to Wikipedia (only the most reliable source ever), there are over one thousand lighthouses in the US alone. And a lot of them look really similar! I mean, how different can 1,000 lighthouses honestly look? And whose to say this girl is American? What if she was British? There were British troops in Iraq and the UK has lighthouses too! Not to mention, she signed the back of the picture “Keep Safe. X.” And British people end everything with X’s. I worked at the BBC briefly and even my boss signed his emails to me with them… kinda creeped me out. But my point is: Americans use XO’s, and sparingly. British people use X’s, but everywhere. Wouldn’t Zac Efron at least consider all of this before hiking all the way to Louisiana?

And how ’bout that hike… Without stopping to eat, sleep, rest, and only using major highways which are illegal to walk on, Google Maps tells me that the walk from Colorado to Louisiana takes approximately 15 days, 9 hours. And that’s state line to state line. So realistically (if there is such a thing), that walk would take at least a month. Seems like an awfully long walk to find a woman that could have been on vacation when that photo was taken. And even if Logan can do the walk, there is no way that a dog who’s been house broken all his life would. I don’t care how loyal he is. My dog won’t even let me take him on the long route around our neighborhood before plopping his fat ass down and refusing to move anywhere but back in the direction towards our home. Nevertheless, Logan walks to Louisiana, stops in a bar, and shows the picture to a guy who happens to know exactly who this girl is and where she lives. Keep in mind, this is all within the first five minutes of the movie. I thought the search for her was going to a major part of it. Wouldn’t a movie about the journey a Marine takes trying to find the beautiful woman in the photograph that saved his life be so utterly romantic? Like, can someone make that movie, please?

So he goes to her home, which is also a family-run dog kennel business (so perf!), and comes face-to-face with Beth (Taylor Schilling): the woman in the photo, former wife of the town Sheriff, and mother to young Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart). Now, there would be no movie if Logan told her why he was actually there, so he chickens out and Beth mistakes him for a job applicant. He takes a job at the kennel, and the two of them develop a steamy relationship (duh) – much to the disapproval of her combative ex-husband Keith (Jay R. Ferguson) who uses his power as Sheriff to threaten to take Ben away. During all this, Logan learns that Beth’s brother died in combat in Iraq, which may have been the result of friendly fire, so he decides to keep the photo a secret. That is until Keith raids his house, finds it, and convinces Beth that Logan was the friendly firer. As this all goes down, the gorgeous Louisiana weather rapidly switches to a torrential hurricane and an upset Ben runs away to his safe haven: a treehouse. (I don’t know about you – but the first thing my Momma ever told me was don’t climb a tree when its lightening.) Logan and Keith team up to save him – which they do – but the treehouse falls on Keith and his dead body floats down the river leaving Logan, Beth, and Ben to live happily ever after.

So what else bothered me about the above? Well, once I found out the photo was for her brother I was a little creeped out. It was just a weird photo for someone’s brother. If my brother went to Iraq, I’d give him a photo of the two of us as dorky kids. Or, if I was a mom like Beth, a photo of me and his nephew. Not a photo of me being all sexy in white by a lighthouse! But whatevs – I get it. Logan wouldn’t have fallen for her if he knew she came with baggage. I was also like, “What’s the big deal? Why won’t he just tell her about the photo? Doesn’t he realize any girl in her right mind would think that’s so hot?” But again, there’d be no movie if he did, so I mostly ignored it. Not a huge deal. Then there was the fact that the yummy sex scenes were marred by the art director’s bizarre choice to put one of those white, tulle princess canopy things over Logan’s bed. 8 year-old girls have those things over their beds, not US Marines! Mostly though, Keith’s death felt like a cop out (see what I did there?). Sure, he was a total psycho but that doesn’t mean he deserved to die! And what about poor Ben?! That kid’s gonna be in therapy for life knowing it’s his fault his dad got crushed to death by his treehouse. Alone, I may have forgave the ending. But combined with everything else, it was icing on the cake – and I’m talking one of those fancy Cake Boss cakes that look beautiful but taste like ass.

Now, I am perfectly aware that chick flicks should not solely be judged on how realistic they are. So since I gave this flick 3 hearts on the Chick Flick Barometer, there had to be some things I liked about it, and there were. I know Zac Efron gets panned by critics for his acting, and I was right there with them until I saw Charlie St. Cloud a couple of years back. He impressed me in that, and he continued to show promise here. Logan Thibault might not have been the most complex of roles, but I enjoyed watching him play the brooding solider who falls in love. And it certainly didn’t hurt that the role required him to heave around heavy packages of dog kibble shirtless. I never heard of Taylor Schilling before, but I really liked her as well. There is one scene where she rips Keith a new one, and she completely nails it. The entire audience broke out in applause! It was nice to see a fresh face, and I hope to see more of her on the silver screen. Blythe Danner, as always, was fantastic as Beth’s whacky Nana who says everything on her mind and got some legit laughs. Plus, every Nicholas Sparks book-to-movie adaptation is good for a few killer cheeseball lines that you can’t help but swoon over.

The Lucky One was one of those situations where giving it a “3” seems generous, but giving it a “2.5” would be too harsh. I didn’t hate it, but I wouldn’t necessarily watch it again. I prepared myself to cry my eyes out and I didn’t even tear up. I would normally think that’s a good thing, since I’ve been getting sick of those trademark Nicholas Sparks sad-for-the-sake-of-being-sad endings, but it means I wasn’t overly moved by the movie either. As I said, I think the story would have been stronger if it focused more on Logan’s journey to find the woman in the picture. But hey, it could have been a lot worse… Beth could’ve ended things with Logan out of nowhere to marry her skeevy, old-man of a neighbor. You know, like that other Nicholas Sparks book/movie about a US soldier in love. I’m looking at you, Dear John.

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.

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!