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 Hallstr√∂m, 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!

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Bridesmaids with Babies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These Movies Are What I Live For

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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