Monday, December 6, 2010

The BC Review: Burlesque

Despite the abundance of criticism this film is receiving, I was pleasantly surprised by the experience I shared with my fellow movie-goers when checking out the new musical; Burlesque.

Not placing too much emphasis on the details (who really needs quality dialogue anyway?) the Christina Aguilera/Cher-helmed musical Burlesque is an entertaining array of glitz, glamour, seduction, stage theatrics, and above all - the astounding vocals of Ms. Aguilera!

Admittedly, before catching Aguilera on the big screen, I had a few of her bigger top 40 hits on my iPod (Fighter and Genie in a Bottle to name a couple), but following the film I have a funny feeling I will be increasing my Aguilera intake. I believe I am now a fan of the blond diva!

Our first glimpse of Aguilera, playing the role of Ali, is of her working in a dive diner in her mid-west hometown. Fed up with the trappings of small-town life, Ali sets off for the big city - Los Angeles - but not without belting out a killer rendition of the great, Etta James' "Something's Got a Hold On Me". From here we are hooked. Throughout the film Aguilera's Ali takes to the stage in a LA retro-Burlesque club, chimmying and belting out one hit after another (as well as a few originals).

In addition to Aguilera, we are treated to the talented vocal stylings, red lips, and legs that seem to go on forever, of one of the most famous divas of them all, Cher. It seems the inclusion of Cher to the Burlesque cast was likely an attempt to draw some "star power" to the film. But it really wasn't needed. Of course, Cher is fun to gaze at and she lends her voice to the flick in two notable numbers, but her presence seems forced. In this reviewer's opinion, Burlesque embodies enough pizazz without the additional swagger Cher brings to the stage.

Stanley Tucci and Kristin Bell lend their talents to the film as well. Tucci playing a familiar role as the unlucky in love assistant/best friend to Cher (think Nigel in The Devil Wears Prada). But Bell steps out of her comfort zone, taking on the villainous Nikki who will stop at nothing to halt Ali's ascension to the Burlesque spotlight.

Burlesque will fulfil the guilty pleasure in us all - lots of sparkle, even more lip gloss, and tons of toe-tapping music.

The Bee Charmer Review rating: B-

Watch the Trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PiPYAz7f0Q

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The BC Review: Black Swan


Perhaps one of the flicks I was most excited about seeing this year, Natalie Portman's Black Swan, was none other than an ultimately thrilling, and very dark portrait of a prima ballerina plummeting her way down her own personal rabbit hole.

In case you haven't heard about this one, don't worry - you are not alone. Black Swan is in limited release, largely circulating among the "Indie" crowd. Honestly, I'm not sure why - it seems the film has enough twists and turns (literal and figurative) to please most audiences.

Black Swan is the story of Nina Sayers (played by Natalie Portman) a prima ballerina in NYC competing for the coveted role of the Swan Queen in the ballet classic "Swan Lake". Upon attaining that goal, she finds herself coming apart at the seems, physically and emotionally. And this is where it gets really good. The film mirrors the story of Swan lake, the story of a princess who is turned into a swan (the White Swan) by a spell. The spell can only be broken by her true love. But of course, there's a twist, her prince is seduced by her evil twin (the Black Swan) and upon learning of this, the White Swan realizes she can only be free in death and thus commits suicide.

I won't spoil the film for you, but suffice it to say - Nina begins to connect with both the White Swan and the Black Swan and must find a way to live both sides of her personality. The genius of the film hinges on this point, Nina's duality - both good and evil - co-existing within one person. The director really takes this to a whole new level as we see Nina battling her own psyche (sometimes in some shocking scenes) and interestingly developing the physical characteristics of the swan.

Natalie Portman (best known for The Professional, The Other Boleyn Girl, and Closer) is one of Hollywood's best kept secrets. Her roles tend to be far and few between, but when she makes an appearance she jumps head first into her role! Her role as Nina Sayers is no different; Portman purportedly studied ballet for a year in preparation for the role (both body and mind) and lost over 20 pounds (a sizable amount of weight for the petite actress). Not that I want to focus on the weight loss so much, of course, it definitely shows, but it is the way she transforms into Nina -vulnerable, fearful, striving for perfection to the point of physical and mental anguish.

A lesser known actress, Mila Kunis (catch her in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Date Night, and the voice of "Meg" in Family Guy) plays Lily - Nina's sometimes friend, sometimes nemesis. Lily is everything Nina is not; sexy, natural, and uninhibited, making for a formidable rival to the virginal Nina. Not surprisingly, Nina starts to believe her worst fear - Lily will take the Swan Queen role from her; ultimately replacing her. I think each of us can connect with this idea - someone wanting to replace you - your dreams, your accomplishments, your life... it's a scary prospect.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention Barbara Hershey's visceral role as Erica Sayers, Nina's mother. Erica is tense to the point of horrifying, desperately trying to protect her daughter, while at the same time mourning for her own long-lost ballet career. Adorned all in black, with her hair tied securely in a bun, Erica represents the "what could happen" scenario for Nina; falling out of the spotlight and plummeting into darkness.

As I mentioned, due to its limited release you may have to dig a little deeper than usual to find a listing near you (but, believe me, it'll be worth it). Black Swan comes recommended for thriller fans seeking an out-of-the-ordinary flick with a talent for both beauty and the grotesque!

The Bee Charmer Review rating: A-

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Bee Charmer Review: Morning Glory


Over the weekend my husband and I made a trip to what is quickly becoming our go-to theatre, the AMC Courthouse 8, to catch the new Rachel McAdams romantic comedy - Morning Glory.

Morning Glory, also starring Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, and Jeff Goldblum, is a delightful, tasteful, light-hearted "rags to riches" comedy with a few ups and downs (but mostly, ups!).

Movie Tagline (if it were up to me): Prepare to embrace your inner nerd!

Rachel McAdams plays Becky; the slightly nerdy, seriously perky, over-achieving producer who is desperate to reach her goal: Executive Producer of the Today Show! I know, seems like kind of a lofty goal, but also seems like kind of a disappointing one too! I mean, it doesn't get much quirkier than morning "news" programs (if we can really call them that). And throughout the film, we are not alone in this feeling - nearly every character has trouble taking Becky and her dream seriously. Even her mother begs her to give it up - expressing the utter embarrassment she suffers as a result of her 30-something daughter's ambitions.

From a character perspective, I really enjoyed watching McAdams in this role. She is the standard "girl next door" actress (see her in the Time Traveler's Wife, Wedding Crashers, and of course, The Notebook) and she played Becky with a natural ease. At first Becky is disheveled and almost panicky, but as the film progresses, so does she. Even the nuance of her ragged hair is transformed to a stylish curled coiffure.

Of course, despite all that, we still find ourselves cheering Becky on and hoping she will make it to her own personal grand finale. (Don't worry, I'm not going to spoil it for you).

Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford lend their serious acting chops to this romp - the former more in a comedic tone akin to her performance in The First Wives Club - the latter in a markedly more serious role. Mind you, Ford manages to be amusing, but in a very "I'm Harrison Ford and I always maintain an air of dignity" sort of way.

Because this was one of the better romantic comedies I've seen, I will hold back from giving you too much detail, but I will give you one of the best scenes. If you've ever wondered if the "Today Show" or "Good Morning America" actually managed to get those large crowds of people outside in the plaza (even on really cold days), the fictional producers of "Day Break" have it covered - cut to a very small crowd ( 3-5 people tops) filmed just within the parameters of the camera! It may be nearly non-existent in real life, but to the average TV viewer the effect is somewhat different!

In the hope you will run out see this one, I will end this commentary with one final thought. Instead of the overly gratuitous love scenes that dominate the box office these days, Morning Glory steers clear; choosing instead taste and creativity. Sure, they give us enough to know where our heroine's love-life stands, but spare us the unimaginative details. If only other films could follow this lead...

Morning Glory is a fun-filled romantic comedy the whole family can enjoy.

The Bee Charmer Review Rating: B+

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Bee Charmer Review: Inception

Hi everyone!

I know, I know, it's been quite a while since I've written. My sincere apologies for the delay - things have been a bit (more) chaotic than usual around here and suffice it to say, I haven't made it to the theatre recently... that is, until last night!

AND I am very happy to say, the return was a good one. My husband just returned from a stressful weekend in Richmond so we decided to treat ourselves to the University Mall Theatre in Fairfax, VA. University Mall is one of those cozy independent "Mom and Pop" cinemas that show only slightly out-dated flicks at a very inexpensive ticket price (just 3 dollars each!).

Last night's pick: the Leonardo DiCaprio- helmed sci/fi-fantasy, Inception. This one had been on my list for some time and was worth the wait! Much to our surprise, the theatre was packed (I'd say a very good sign for the longevity of the film.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard, and Tom Beringer, Inception is the story of a team of theives who steel information, secret information, sometimes information the subject is unaware they even know, from the subject's dreams. Sounds relatively simple right? All you have to do is hook yourself up to a machine, take a sedative, and poof! you are sharing in the unconcious dream of another. Of course, as with all good stories there is always a complication: enter, Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Cobb, and his homocidal wife, Mal (played by Marion Cotillard)- or is it just a projection of his wife?

Although I rarely comment on a film's director (well, aside from the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino), I think in this case it is worth mentioning. Inception was directed by Christopher Nolan, the genious behind the revised adaptations of Batman (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight) and such mind-bending films as Memento, and therefore, it stands to reason, this film embodies top-notch direction. Nolan may be on the fast-track to becoming one of my favorite directors.

The other day I picked up my husband's copy of Forbes magazine and came across a quote which really sums it up:

"I have a foolproof device for judging whether a picture is good or bad. If my fanny squirms, it's bad. If my fanny doesn't squirm, it's good."

- Harry Cohn, former American president and production director of Columbia Pictures.

I can say, for the entirety of the film my fanny did not squirm, not once. I felt glued to my seat, eyes squarely focused on the sites and sounds of the screen, and my mind completing a series of gymanastics in an attempt to follow the incredibly detailed and well, almost entirely original idea.

It should be noted, however, that some similarities (intentional or unintentional) do exist. Off the top of my head, as I was watching Cobb and his dream-altering team navigate various levels in the unconcious mind of their target, the films Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and What Dreams May Come came to my mind. (Insert shameless plug here, if you liked Inception, might recommend the former two).

Inception is recommended for fans of Christopher Nolan and those interested in the exploring the possibilities that exist in the human mind. Strap yourself in for one mind-expanding journey!

The Bee Charmer Review: A

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The BC Review: Machete


So for those of you who wouldn't categorize yourselves as Quentin Tarentino fans, I will start this review by stating it's probably best that you leave this one alone. Of course, on the other hand, if you are Tarantino fans, then have at it!

Robert Rodriguez's Mexican-vigilant flick, Machete, does not disappoint!

To understand Machete, you really need to look back to 2007's Grindhouse Presents films: Robert Rodrigquez's Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof. Though, not original Grindhouse flicks, the 70's-inspired horror films gave us our first glance at the now feature film, Machete (as it originally appeared as a fictitious trailer in the former).

As the story goes, an ex-Federale seeks revenge against a notorious Mexican drug lord, only to become unwitting involved in an on-going battle between the money-grubbing, power-seeking (and really, for all intents and purposes) morally bankrupt Texan politicians, red-neck border vigilantes, and "the Network," an off-the-grid, underground railroad of sorts, for those seeking to cross the border illegally. Machete give us a taste for revenge (with the added bonus of Cheech Marin as a gun-toting Catholic priest!). And of course, as the title predicts, machetes are everywhere.

Now, I know there's been a bit of discussion over the supposed political messages presented here, but for this review, I will say this, Machete is what it is, a totally over-the-top bloodbath complete with ridiculous images (to include naked women) and copious amounts of gore. Let's not read too much into the so-called "political message" (leave that for another discussion) and just sit back and enjoy.

But, what else could we expect from Rodriguez? Machete gives us what we asked for - a full-length, completely crazy feature to fill the void left from Planet Terror.

Machete stars a litany of Hollywood who's who to include:

- Danny Trejo (quite possibly the ugliest man on film these days) as the title character "Machete"

- Robert De Niro, as the morally reprehensible Senator McLaughlin

- Jessica Alba, as the sexy Latina ICE officer

- Michelle Rodriquez (aka Lost's Anna Lucia) as "She"

- Stephen Seagal, as the notorious Mexican drug lord

...and even, Lindsay Lohan, as (no surprise here) the slutty daughter of a prominent Texan. The only thing I think that could have added to this film is the addition of my new favorite "bad guy" - Mickey Rourke.

Machete comes recommended for fans of Tarantino and Rodriguez. This, I cannot emphasize enough. Strap yourselves in for one wild, machete-wielding, ride!

The Bee Charmer Review Rating: C

New Feature:Watch the Trailer

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The BC Review: Defending Your Life


My husband's been wanting me to see this one for quite some time (as he claims) so I decided to give it a whirl.

Unfortunately, you won't be able to catch Defending Your Life on the big screen soon, unless the AFI Silver Theatre picks it as a release(it's one off the Netflix queue as it was released in 1991). But it is worth the rental.

Starring Albert Brooks, Defending Your Life is about a man who's life comes to an abrupt and premature end. Brooks plays Daniel Miller, a middle-aged divorcee with a less-than satisfying career. Following his sudden departure from this world Daniel is subsequently sent to Judgment City (a less intimidating version of purgatory).

Don't get too discouraged yet! Yes, the film gets off to a bleak start, but we are instantly whisked away to a beautiful location that the tour guides (yes, there are tour guides here) explain is meant to resemble the landscape and pleasant temperatures of the Western United States (i.e. California) and should be pleasing to the soul. Guests of the city are afforded comfortable lodging in the form of a hotel, soothing tram rides with remarkably efficient arrival and departure schedules, and comfortable "Tupahs" (loose-fitting white clothing with matching slippers).

As the film's tagline portends, Defending Your Life is "the first true story of what happens after you die."

Co-starring Meryl Streep, it is delightfully funny and actually succeeds (in this reviewer's case) in presenting death in an appetizing way. How? For starters, here in Judgment City you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and as much as you want, WITHOUT the added pounds, expense, and guilt. Now, under those circumstances, who wouldn't want to pass on to the other side? (One of the best scenes involves Meryl chowing down on a ginormous plate of pasta at a whopping 3 pounds!!) About the desire for death, I kid of course, but it is at least a little intriguing.

And to top it all off, as the film portends, in Judgment City there is even room for newfound love...

But with all things there are some drawbacks to being in resident at Judgment City. Case in point, the fact that you are there (as Albert Brooks is) to DEFEND your life. And defend it to who? Get ready for this; the Universe. In this creative dramedy, the Universe is represented by capable prosecutors who exist to put you on trial and measure whether or not you've passed the tests put in front of you during your earthly life (namely, overcoming your fears). If so, then you are granted a pass to "move ahead" (important note: no one ever explains what this means, but based on the ethereal music I think it is safe to say it is a good thing). If not, it is back to earth you go!

All in all, a great film worthy of any one's viewing (as long as he/she is equipped with a marginal sense of humor when it comes to life and death!).

Reviewer's note: Keep an eye out for Rip Torn as Daniel Miller's defense attorney, Bob Diamond.

New feature: Watch the Trailer

The Bee Charmer Review Rating: B

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The BC Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World


Following our summertime trend this year, my husband and I ventured out on a random Monday evening to catch another light-hearted, distinctly summer-esque flick, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

As I am not a reader of graphic novels, I can't speak for the film's accuracy in terms of keeping close to the original story and/or depiction/illustration (for those of you who are, I'd love to hear your thoughts). But, I can say this - I thoroughly enjoyed this off-beat flick about a young man (Scott Pilgrim, played by Michael Cera) trying to find love and ultimately choosing self respect.

To accurately review this one, I feel it necessary to set the stage:

- First, you need to go into this one with a quirky sense of humor (think low-budget Indie flick, only without the low-budget aspect). The film is set in Toronto, but is in a video-game world. Quirkie, definitely quirkie. Complete with Super Mario Bros/Mortal Combat type images and sounds.

- Then you need to consider the crazy storyline and even crazier characters (keep an eye out for an absolutely diabolical Jason Schwartzman as Gideon).

- Finally, strap yourself in for one awesome ride!

As you can probably tell from the title, this one is about 22 year old Scott Pilgrim and his battles with "the world" which in reality range from playing in a "rock band", dating a 17 year old Catholic school girl, falling in love with a punk-styled Ramona, and then (and this is the kicker), battling Ramona's 7 evil exes (aka. ex-boyfriends and one ex-girlfriend) for not only the right to be with Ramona, but also the right to life!

Ramona Flowers (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is the alluring new girl in town with a positively punk attitude (and attire to match). First spotted in Scott's dream (yes, he sees her in his dreams before he ever sees her in real life), Ramona is instantly ingrained as the woman Scott is destined to be with. All he has to do is figure out A) how to meet her and B) how to get her to love him as much as he loves her. Of course, as with all love stories, this is not such an easy task. Ramona is nothing if not aloof.

For the sake of brevity (and not ruining the best parts of the film for you) I will say Scott ultimately "gets the girl". But much to his dismay upon discovering Ramona has a new man in her life these exes come seeking revenge. Scott is subsequently forced into fight to the death battles with these exes (don't worry, they don't come all at once, he of course has to fight each one individually, only succeeding in defeating them by discovering their weaknesses).

Of course, as I mentioned, this all takes place in a video-game type world so the "deaths" are not gruesome, but rather envision the hero defeating the evil villain in a Mortal Combat zone (think: when these guys fall they turn to coins).

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World comes recommended for fans of the Indie flick, and of course (due to his substantial role in the film), Michael Cera. Seriously, if you did not enjoy Arrested Development, Juno, or Superbad, might be best to leave this one alone.

New Feature: Watch the trailer!

The Bee Charmer Review Rating: B+

The BC Review: Eat Pray Love


Well, much to almost every woman's delight, it was finally released - the Hollywood version of Elizabeth Gilbert's engaging memoir, Eat Pray Love.

Starring one of the biggest Hollywood stars of her time, the lovely Julia Roberts, Eat Pray Love managed to please this reviewer. Indeed, it could not possibly compare to the book, but it did manage to provide a heart-warming story of a woman searching to re-discover herself after two failed relationships across three countries.

For those of you who haven't read the book, I HIGHLY recommend you do. I managed to pick it up at the recommendation of a friend in the publishing business (you know who you are!) and literally couldn't put it down for the duration of my honeymoon in St. Lucia. Yes, you read that right. I read the book while vacationing with my husband on our island honeymoon... it was THAT good!

But, for those of you who do not categorize yourselves as avid readers, the film is worthwhile (and perhaps more so for you as the film cannot compare to the written word).

I will hold back from telling you too much about the plot, but will say it is an adventure across three very distinct and unique countries: Italy, India, and Bali.

Julia plays Elizabeth with class and style (which in this case actually is a dissapointment). I am in agreement with other reviewers in that, Julia would not have been my first pick for this role. But she does an OK job (not great, but far from terrible). In short, the real Elizabeth is tired, beaten by the world, and frankly, down-right frompy. This should come as a surprise to no one, Julia lacks a certain "frompiness"!

The best parts of the book (namely, the FOOD she indulges in while embarking on a "no carb left behind diet" in Italy) are successfully portrayed in the film, as is the oppressive heat of India (trust me, it is HOT and HUMID there) and the breathtaking island views from her home in Bali.

A self-professed travel bug myself, Gilbert's story makes me want to hop on the next plane and embark on my own globe-trotting adventure! She illustrates with searing accuracy the feeling all travelers can relate to. That is, when one travels alone overseas, you often find yourself open to new experiences and people who you otherwise would never have engaged with at home in the States. It's almost like everyone who is traveling is on an adventure together. No one is alone, everyone is friends, and everyone (as corny as this may sound) is living an out-of-body experience. In the film, we manage to get a taste of this - but as I mentioned, nothing can really compare to the book (or of course, the actual experience of traveling!).

The film does succeed in showing us these three countries in a somewhat realistic light (although, as can be expected, it is somewhat "Hollywood-ized"). But expect to see some beautiful (and not-so-beautiful) sites in Italy (namely, the crazed streets of Naples) and India (the traffic scenes and poverty-stricken street urchins bring back memories of my trips to Delhi).

As an added bonus, in the film we are treated to the rugged good looks of Javier Bardem as Elizabeth's Bali-based latin lover, Felipe. Bardem plays the role exceedingly well; authentically portraying a man looking to rebuild his life after a painful divorce. I for one, am I big fan of Bardem (see No Country for Old Men and Love in the Time of Cholera). Hopefully this role signals his intention for more roles in the not-so-distant future.

Overall, the film is delightful and if nothing else, illustrates the beauty of three very distinct countries: Italy, India, and Bali.

Eat Pray Love is recommended for those with a passion for travel and a love of food!

The Bee Charmer Review Rating: B

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The BC Review: The Other Guys


As the summer is already beginning to show signs of winding down (can it really be August already?!), my husband and I find ourselves heading to the theatre as often as we can (before he heads back for his last year of law school). This past Friday night, along with some friends of ours, we made our way to the Courthouse AMC 8 and caught The Other Guys.

The Other Guys, starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, served up an uproarious funny "buddy cop" film.

Fans of Will Ferrell will be pleasantly pleased with his comedic contributions; as always, he delivers both classic and modern comedic timing, complete with some great quotes. As the bumbling Allen Gamble, Ferrell gives us exactly what we expect; the awkward coward, with surprisingly good instincts who somehow manages to save the day.

As my husband can attest, I am quite the Mark Wahlberg fan. Whether it be serious roles (catch him as Staff Sgt. Dignam in The Departed) or his recent comedic roles (equally as good in Date Night, I Heart Huckabees,and the seriously under rated, Rock Star). Wahlberg plays the straight dead-pan cop, Terry Hoitz; a counter to Ferrell's Gamble, with expert precision. Stuck in a less-than-exciting desk job (for shooting one of New York's beloved stars), Hoitz seeks the action of the streets and continuously exclaims "I'm a peacock, you gotta let me fly!" to anyone who will listen. Of course, much to his dismay, he is not only saddled with completing the paperwork for the force's star cops, P.K Highsmith and Christopher Danson (a seriously over-rated duo) Hoitz is stuck with a bumbling fool of a partner who is exstatic to lend his accounting skills to the dynamic duo.

In addition to Wahlberg and Ferrell, we are treated to welcome performances from the original "bad Ass" (with a capital "A") Samuel L. Jackson and Disney's latest action money-making machine, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (seriously, this guy is in everything right now). While watching these two, be prepared for one crazy (and obviously absurd, but not in a bad way) ride through the streets of NYC, followed by some super machismo office antics. The NYPD's super heros, Highsmith and Danson attempt to steal the spotlight from our true heros (but fortunately for us, they do not succeed).

The lovely and vivacious, Eva Mendes also lends a hand (and a sexy smile) to the flick. In a hilarious twist, Mendez puts on quite the show as Gamble's startlingly beautiful, and by all accounts, completely out of his league wife, Dr. Sheila Gamble. Wahlberg is his best while interacting with Ferrell and Mendez. Needless to say, Hoitz cannot keep his eyes off her all night long and remains in a state of complete shock over the good doctor's (obviously flawed?)choice in men.

Expect to be laughing pretty much throughout the entirety of this film. It is definitely one of the better comedies out there this summer.

The Other Guys is recommended for fans of the buddy cop comedy, the action thriller, and the comedic stylings of Will Ferrell.

The BC Review Rating: B+

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The BC Review: Salt


I'm sorry to say that after several months of consistent (and certainly, persistent) media hyping, I was sadly disappointed in the latest addition to the spy-family flicks; Salt.

To be sure, the plot line is intriguing... American CIA officer, blond hair, blue-eyed, Evelyn Salt, is surprised by an alleged Russian defector's arrival and subsequent accusation that she is a Russian spy.

Yes, you read that correctly. Salt hijacks us; bringing us kicking and screaming back to what can largely be considered, an easier, less confusing time - The United States vs. Russia. To the film's detriment, the old adage that it is the democratic powerhouse vs. the red communists, is almost laughable. Of course as eloquently stated in one of my all-time favorite spy thrillers, Sneakers, we all know "They still spy on us, we still spy on them", but must we revert to this premise? Surely, in this day in age, there are more intriguing stories to pen?

Despite taking us on one thrilling action scene after another (really, it is one after another, after another to the point of exhaustion), the film fails to really deliver. For many reasons, but most poignant is its lack of humanity. All of the characters are stiff to the point of robotic. This is particularly apparent when compared to predecessors such as the Bourne Identity (even a trained assassin with amnesia expresses a nominal amount of emotion).

This is especially true with our supposed "heroine". Salt is gruff, to the point of grating. So much so, that it is impossible to believe she would exist in reality, let alone maintain a functioning marriage (being some one's wife is intended to lend credibility to her cover story). Jolie's attempt to portray a strong, intelligent woman comes off as a robotic (yes, I'm using this descriptor once again) imitation of what a strong, intelligent woman, would look and act like. And it is just that; an appalling imitation.

Despite her efforts (and admitted, successes) in transcending so-called "traditional" gender roles; Angelina Jolie falls victim once again to, well, her own fame and fortune. That is, Angelina has become such a force in Hollywood and the world at large (see her ongoing humanitarian efforts across the globe) that it is nearly impossible to see her in any acting role and get past the fact that we are watching Angelina and instead be able to focus on the character she is portraying. Maybe it is her larger-than-life lips? Or just her classically beautiful face? In either case, Evelyn Salt would have fared better played by a lesser-known femme fatal.

The supporting characters, played by Liev Schrieber and Chiwetel Ejiofer, contribute some redeeming qualities. Schrieber plays a tough-as-nails officer with a passion for the mission (and really little else), while Ejiofer gives us a nice portrayal of humanity in the midst of nearly robotic colleagues.

As if this interminably drawn up flick was not enough, the "ending" (if you can really call it that) leaves us on a cliff-hanger with Salt running through the woods of Northern Virginia. Indeed, a Salt 2 is more than an idea; it's a promise.

Salt leaves much to be desired, but for fans of the espionage drama it will acquire at the very least, a luke-warm reception. However, in this reviewer's opinion, you might be better off renting one of several markedly better flicks to include, Spy Game, Breach, and Mission Impossible (the 1st installment).

The BC Review Rating: C-

Monday, July 12, 2010

The BC Review: Knight and Day


The latest expected Hollywood “blockbuster” helmed by Hollywood heavy-weight Tom Cruise and his unexpected female co-star, Cameron Diaz, though apparently failing to live up to its studio’s expectations, far succeeded in not only reaching, but surpassing this reviewer’s expectations.

Catching Knight and Day at our local AMC theatre this past Friday night, my husband and I were pleasantly surprised at the significant audience turn out (though certainly not to the scale of our Twilight Saga: Eclipse premier a couple weeks earlier) as well as our overall enjoyment of the film. Knight and Day gave us exactly what we wanted; a light-hearted, if not completely un-realistic, action thriller with a bit of comedic repartee between the two leads.

The story centers on the mysterious Roy Miller, a super-cool and always composed American secret agent. From the opening scenes, Roy is charming, drawing us in early as fans, willing him to succeed in his mission and ultimately "get the girl". Love him or hate him (I think many of us may fall in the latter category), Tom is undoubtedly perfect in a role like this (think back to his performance in Jerry Maguire). In films like these Tom is his best; simply playing his cocky, smooth, exceedingly over confident self. His portrayal of Roy is no different and is frankly perfect. Roy is everything we believe a secret agent should be: daring, sexy, a bit cocky, and always one step ahead of the bad guys.

Following poignantly bad publicity of late (recall Oprah’s couch jumping incident, assorted pro-Scientology sermons, and his latest flop as the Nazi turncoat in Valkryie) at this point it should surprise no-one, Cruise desperately needs this film to succeed. I’m not sure to what level he expects Knight and Day to revive his career, but it seems a good start.

Of course, as this is a Tom Cruise vehicle, I will not lie to you and tell you there were not several actions scenes involving motorcycles, planes, trains, and automobiles featuring death-defying stunts (in the truest sense of the phrase). But in the vain of his Mission Impossible movies (at least the first and second installments), we found ourselves delighting in every minute of it!

In all fairness, Cameron Diaz’s contributions should also be noted. As my husband can attest; a fan of Ms. Diaz’s I am not, surprisingly, she is able to hold her own in this flick. She gives a charming performance as June Havens, the, at first, unwilling participant in Roy’s assorted spy games. I will echo other movie review critics and say, Diaz is starting to show her age (and the obviously over-done spray tan in this flick is certainly not helping), but she still exudes natural beauty and does appear to be growing into herself more of late (I can say I actually enjoyed her in The Holiday and My Sister’s Keeper).

Akin to notable comedies like Wedding Crashers and American Pie, it is difficult to say what kind of staying power the film may have on its own if viewed in the comfort of one’s home (I find the success of comedies are often at the mercy of the live audience viewing experience). Therefore, this reviewer recommends making a trip to the theatre to catch this one in its full glory (if not for the $11.00 or $12.00 evening ticket, at least the $8.00 matinee price).

The film, Knight and Day, provides a fun-filled, action-packed, and comically-proficient summer film and is recommended for fans of both the Action and Romantic Comedy genre. Fans of Tom Cruise should also be pleased with his return to the big screen in a comfortable role.

The Bee Charmer Review Rating: B+

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The BC Review: Valentine's Day


Despite being the subject of some utterly toxic critical reviews, the Garry Marshall directed, Romantic Comedy (RomCom), Valentine’s Day offers a delightful compilation of short vignettes depicting intertwining relationships in various stages. Although similar to the British Romantic Comedy, Love Actually (Valentine’s Day also goes for the built-in popular appeal utilizing a heavy star-laden cast), the film also shies away from the sugary sweet RomCom-style and shows a darker side of love and relationships.

Set on the day of all days for lovers, boyfriends and girlfriends, fiancées, husbands and wives, and in one case, a mother and her son, Valentine’s Day gives us an at times amusing (and at times depressing) story of individuals experiencing the Hallmark-created and singleton-shunned holiday.

In the first scene we are introduced to two young lovers, Reed Bennett (played by Ashton Kutcher) and Morely Clarkson (played by Jessica Biel). As the sun rises Reed excitedly hops out of bed and prepares himself for the biggest question he will pose to someone else in his life; “Will you marry me?” to his still sleeping fiancée. Fortunately for Reed, Morely graciously accepts. Soon after, Reed runs to his best friend Alphonso (played by a somewhat comedic, George Lopez) to proclaim his joy. Much to his (and our) dismay, Alphonso appears surprised upon learning of Morely’s acceptance (this then becomes a recurring theme throughout the film).

Fast forward to another couple, we see two people sharing a shoulder and an armrest on a plane. It is not long before we learn the man is Holden (played by Bradley Cooper), a well-dressed and charismatic sulking soul suffering the remnants of a broken affair and the woman (expertly using his shoulder as a pillow) is Kate Hazeltine (played by Julia Roberts) a soldier making a 14-hour trip home to see someone very special for Valentine’s Day .

A third couple gives us two young people in the midst of no-less-than two-week old relationship. Liz (played by Anne Hathaway) and Jason (played by Topher Grace) demonstrate the utter awkwardness of celebrating a holiday built around the public expression of love. Additionally, of course, as this is a romantic comedy, there is something peculiar (and quite funny) about Liz. I won’t spoil that one for you – just suffice it to say, she is a struggling actress who utilizes her talent for impersonations in the evening hours.

For the sake of brevity, the three scenarios above are just the tip of the ice-burg. The film includes several more vignettes; each complete with its own unique twists and turns.

As I mentioned earlier, Valentine’s Day is jam-packed with stars, giving us no less than nineteen "A" Listers, including: Julia Roberts, Patrick Dempsey, Shirley MacLaine, Bradley Cooper, Topher Grace, Jennifer Garner, Anne Hathaway, Kathy Bates, Ashton Kutcher, Emma Roberts, Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Eric Dane, Taylor Swift, Taylor Lautner, Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, Hector Elizondo, and Queen Latifah.

Reviewer’s Note: Keep an eye out for the impressive comedic performance of Country singer/songwriter, Taylor Swift. The novice actress gives quite a performance as a giddy love-sick teenager fawning over real-life teen heartthrob Taylor Lautner (Twilight Saga’s Jacob).

Valentine’s Day is not for the faint of heart (as the film depicts, not all love stories are meant to be), but is recommended for fans of compilation films (i.e. Coffee and Cigarettes, Love Actually) and the romantic comedy.

The Bee Charmer Review Rating: B

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The BC Review: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse


For those of you who are not previously aware, I am happy to report that indeed, I have fallen victim to the latest teeny-bopper craze; Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Saga. I've read all four books and up until the other night, saw the first film adaptation of Book 1 via Netflix (and subsequently purchased the DVD), and took my husband along with me for the ride opening night of Book II: New Moon.

For the recently released third adaption, Twilight: Eclipse, we really went out of our way and made an entire evening/night/morning out of it. As it were, on opening night of Eclipse (for an extra special treat) Regal Cinema theatres played a double feature of Twilight and New Moon at 6:30pm, followed by the premiere of Eclipse with a 12:01 am start time. Needless to say (as I'm quite sure you've already surmised), my husband and I were indeed included in this group of so-called "Twihards" and made our way to the theatre for the triple feature.

As the storyline goes, the third in the series brings us back to the love-sick Bella. We continue to follow our heroine through her struggles to hold onto her life's love; Edward Cullen (a literally blood-sucking, but "vegetarian" vampire) while at the same time desperately trying to figure out her feelings for her best friend, Jacob Black (an attack-driven, vampire-hating Werewolf). Throughout the film Bella is torn between the two and of course, must ultimately make a choice (of course, it is pretty obvious who she favors as she desperately tries to persuade Edward into "changing" her, but we go along for the ride!).

As we watch the three struggle through an intense love triangle, an interesting sub-plot develops. When scenes are directed away from the three love-stricken teenagers, an old enemy; a flame-haired, vengeful vampire by the name of Victoria, serves to complicate things... eventually breeding an army of vampires set to destroy the Cullen coven (or at the very least, make a dent) in her desperate attempt to kill Bella. The sub-plot and accompanying battling vampire scenes are perhaps the best of the film and achieve minimal anticipation from the audience. But as this is not the primary storyline, it is no surprise as all ends well at the film's conclusion.

Fans of the Stephanie Meyer books will always see something worthwhile in the film adaptions. Although, despite no-less-than-three different directors for each theatrical adaption, the films pale in comparison to the riveting and utterly indulgent written words of the originals.

However, to rate the three adaptions that have been released so far, Eclipse is decidedly the best. This may be the result of a couple key factors:

1. The "characters" portrayed by the film actors (Kristen Stewart as Bella, Robert Pattinson as Edward, and Taylor Lautner as Jacob) appear to have grown into their roles and thus present a more authentic/organic depiction of the heroine and her two heros

2. The Eclipse storyline itself lends itself better to big screen adaptation than the prior films due to its intense action scenes (vampires not only fighting werewolves, but other vampires makes for some intense reading/viewing)

3. A bigger budget/more "hype". It is very apparent in the newly released film that more money has been thrown at this project (better action sequences, better make-up, etc).

Of course, the less-than-stellar film does not lessen this reviewer's anticipation of the fourth and final adaption of the series. Much to a "Twihard's" delight, Twilight: Breaking Dawn is slated for release as two separate films (Fall of 2011 and undetermined in 2012).

Twilight Saga: Eclipse comes recommended for fans of the series. This point I cannot stress enough. For those uninterested in teen romance and epic battles, this one is best left for the self-described (or as the case may be, self-denied)"Twihards".

The Bee Charmer Review Rating: B-

Friday, June 25, 2010

The BC Review: City Island


With all of the supposedly (at least marketed to be) Hollywood blockbusters making their way to the theatre during the summer season it's often difficult to find a shining "diamond in the rough". That is to say, the smaller Indie jewels unfortunately tend to fall by the wayside. One such flick is the recently released comedy, City Island. My husband and I had a chance to see this one over the weekend and we were beyond pleasantly surprised!

Starring Andy Garcia as Vince Rizzo, a City Island (for those of you not as familiar with New York City like me, City Island is a small historic fishing village in the Bronx) corrections officer with a secret dream he desperately (and ultimately fails) to hide from his wife and two kids.

Born and raised on City Island (which means he is a bonefide "clam digger"), Vince seeks a life away from the small-town expectations and difficult work of prison guard. His real dream? To become an actor in the likeness of his hero; Marlin Brando. Not wanting to embarrass himself, he uses the guise of evening "poker games" as a cover for his real activities; acting classes. Of course, as the old adage goes, "What a Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practice to Deceive"!

Vince Rizzo's wife, Joyce (expertly played by Julianna Margulies) also has a few secrets to hide; most notably, her addiction to cigarettes (a running theme throwout the film that all four Rizzos share) and her lust for young mysterious house guest tasked to build a bathroom in a shed next to the house. Joyce is the cement that holds the family together, she is rough and tumble with uncharacteristically straight hair, well-worn jeans, and a grating New York accent. But inside her tough exterior, she is vulnerable. As the film continues, her insecurities soon get the better of her and she falls prey to her own unfounded suspicions that Vince's "poker game" is just another word for "affair".

The Rizzo's two kids are also included in the tangled family web, as they too play charades in an attempt to keep their private lives (and in one case; hidden obsession) far from the knowledge of their parents.

Vince's teenage son, Vince Jr. (played by Royal Pains' Ezra Miller), forgoes the usual angsty teenager with a quick wit and biting tongue routine and instead plays a still quick-witted, yet surprisingly humorous, teen with a passion for women. Of course, as this is Indie, Vince Jr.'s love for women is not just any ordinary love, it is a love for the Full-Figured-Woman. One of whom happens to reside next door, runs a 24-hour web cam, and has a passion for baking.

Not to be left out, Vince Jr.'s sister, Vivian Rizzo also has a few secrets to hide. Most notably, her new career; dancing at a club in the city appropriately named, the Hell Cat. Of course, this wouldn't be such a big deal if it wasn't for what she was supposed to be doing; going to college. And one notable piece of trivia, Vince's daughter, Vivian Rizzo, is played by Dominik Garcia-Lorido; Andy Garcia's real-life daughter. In her case the apple certainly did not fall far from the tree!

Finally, we come to one of the most interesting characters in the film; Tony Nardella (played by Steven Strait). At the start of the film, Tony is in lock down in City Island's prison. After a brief and mysterious encounter with a well-intentioned corrections officer, Tony is brought to the outside and tasked to construct a bathroom in an unfinished shed. Of course, he too is not without a few secrets (although he does not yet know what they are) and plays a key role in bringing the whole charade crashing down.

This review would be remiss without the mention of Alan Arkin as Vince's tough, grating, acting coach. In my book, the addition of Alan Arkin to any film almost always spells success (Little Miss Sunshine, America's Sweethearts, and of course, So I Married An Axe Murderer).

Don't be surprised to find yourself laughing out loud at the priceless comedic scenes in this one. Andy Garcia leads the talented cast, expertly adopting the lovable "every man" character and winning our undying adoration.

City Island is highly recommended for fans of the Indie comedy and those looking for something with a bit more substance than the average DC Comics summer blockbuster remake/Tom Cruise action-romantic comedy.

The Bee Charmer Review Rating: A

Friday, June 18, 2010

The BC Review: Robin Hood


I’ve been waiting to write this review foolishly entertaining the idea that I would sit down and watch Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (the rival Kevin Costner version) in it’s entirely and then compose a comparison of the two. Unfortunately, as no less than a full month has gone by and it is likely I may never find time to screen it. Therefore, I’m forgoing the original idea and replacing it with this; a standard review of the Ridley Scott version.

In Ridley Scott’s 2010 version of the legendary tale of the true “Prince of Thieves” we are introduced to Robin Longstride, fighting along King Richard the Lionheart (a term used rather loosely in this depiction) in a series of battles; slowly, but steadily plundering his way back home from the Crusades. Robin Longstride, as he was known prior to his days of merriment, is a worse-for-wear archer who takes his leave after the fall of the King.

Along with some notable friends, to include “Little” John, Robin makes his way to Nottingham wherein he meets Marion, albeit a somewhat less-than-we-are-used-to-seeing-her, glamorous version. In Scott’s rendering, Maid Marion is not a maid at all but rather a matron as she has married some ten years prior (and unbeknown to her, subsequently widowed).

In terms of story, this version veers only slightly from the story we all know, giving us a bit of a prequel to the legend. To his credit, Scott succeeds in giving us some minor surprises, i.e. throwing the French and some nefarious insiders into the mix, but in the end, leaves much to be desired. Although this is not entirely unexpected, it seems Scott took the safe route; deciding against giving us a completely new interpretation and instead providing a litany of action scenes. Of course, as this is a Scott film, the action scenes are as expected; fast-paced, gritty, and always bloody.

Scott’s use of dialogue also leaves much to be desired (Shakespeare, this is not!). But, perhaps in a nod to critics (and a gift to the audience?), Scott fortunately keeps the dramatic love scenes to a minimum.

The presumed (and well-marketed) star, Russell Crowe plays Robin as we would expect; an unrelenting warrior full of vengeance, yet, also a man of heart.

Cate Blanchett, though not originally cast for this role, provides a decent interpretation of Marion. By all accounts Blanchett is one of the few remaining Hollywood actresses not afraid to “let her hair down” as they say, and show a less-than-perfectly-manicured-and-done-up-heroine. She never fails to bring a certain reality to the big screen and usually succeeds in attributing to my ability to suspend my disbelief (check her out as the incomparable Katharine Heburn alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator).

Blanchett’s talents aside, the best characters fall a bit farther down on the cast of characters list. Two favorites include Little John (played by Kevin Durand, previously seen in Wild Hogs) and Friar Tuck (played by Mark Addy of the television sitcom, Still Standing). These two, though not given a whole lot of on-screen time, give the audience excellent portrayals of inherently comedic characters.

Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood comes recommended for Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe fans. For those seeking a really creative interpretation of the legend, we suggest adding Robin Hood: Men in Tights to your Netflix queue! Additionally, as the film is billed as a prequel, the ending leaves us primed for at least one more (if not, several) follow-on features.

The Bee Charmer Review Rating: C

Friday, June 11, 2010

The BC Review: Killers


Fresh off of our good experience catching Get Him to the Greek, my husband and I set out to see another comedy. This time changing it up a bit, and catching the Katherine Heigl -Ashton Kutcher Romantic Comedy (RomCom), Killers.

Of course, as you can probably discern from its off-beat title, Killers, is a bit of a unique RomCom. It’s somewhat shocking, and includes what I believe is supposed to be, funny violence (thus, contributing to this characterization). However, it fails to break away from the mold completely, clearly utilizing the basic RomCom plot line, Boy Meets Girlà Boy Marries Girlà Boy and Girl Argue/Have Disagreementsà Boy and Girl Make-UpàBoy and Girl Live Happily Ever After.

The film opens with Katherine Heigl playing Jen, an attractive blond and the victim of a recent dumping on vacation in the south of France with her parents, Mr. Kornfeldt (played by Tom Selleck) and Mrs. Kornfeldt (played by Catherine O’Hara). Struggling to convince herself that she not a romantic dud, Jen tries to make the best of her situation.

Fast forward to five more minutes into the film and Jen (and we!) are introduced to a shirtless, bathing suit clad, Spencer Aimes (played by Ashton Kutcher) with a secret to hide.

Of course, as this is a RomCom, it is not long before the wooing is in full swing and Jen finds she is head over heels for Spencer. Fortunately for us, the director considerately employs a time-flashing-forward-mechanism and we do not have to sit through several minutes of witnessing various scenes depicting their wedding/ marriage. Rather we are transported to three years in the future, with Jen and Spencer living what appears to be a quiet suburban life.

Unfortunately, this relative domestic bliss is short-lived. Spencer’s sorted past as an employee of the “Blah Blah Blah” who gave him a license to “Blah,” comes spiraling back, resulting in a harsh reality check for Jen and some pretty shocking scenes for us. In an effort to keep the details of the film a surprise, I will cease to divulge any additional specific details, but be forewarned, the film’s title is not without meaning or consequence.

Killers is the latest Heigl-helmed RomCom in recent weeks/months (years?), following a line of hits to include: The Ugly Truth, 27 Dresses, and Knocked Up, and has 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (yes, you counted correctly) films currently in production. Formerly Izzie Stevens on Grey’s Anatomy Heigl’s attained a substantial fan-base so her rise to movie stardom is not surprising, I just hope she does not go the route of those before her (i.e. Jennifer Aniston) and is quickly type-cast as the Romantic Comedy leading lady of choice for the next 10 years.

The additions of Tom Selleck and Catherine O’Hara to the cast are welcome. Selleck is reminiscent of his recent recurring television role as Monica’s boyfriend on Friends, giving us what we expect; a hyper-masculine, attractive older man with an impressive mustache.

Catherine O’Hara, playing Jen’s alcoholic mom, is arguably the best actress in the flick as she truly demonstrates what real comedic timing and characterization is. If you’re not familiar with her work, this reviewer highly recommends catching Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, Home Alone (although not as funny in that), and Away We Go.

Killers is an OK Romantic Comedy, but could stand some considerable improvement in character development and dialogue (a Quentin Tarantino flick this is not). Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher make a good team in this film genre, but they fail to provide Oscar-winning performances.

The Bee Charmer Review Rating: C+

The BC Review: Get Him to the Greek


Last weekend my husband and I decided to take a brief vacation and make our first summer of 2010 trip to the beach. To mix things up a bit, we rode the 4 hours or so down to Virginia Beach and spent two nights at a beachfront Quality Inn. After a long day of pool, sand, and ocean, and joined by some friends of ours, we took a break from the heat Saturday night and treated ourselves to the air-conditioned facilities of the movieplex. On tap for the evening, an uproarious comedy based on characters penned by How I Met Your Mother/Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s, Jason Segal; Get Him to the Greek.

For those of you who are Jason Segal fans, or for that matter, Jonah Hill fans (Seth of Superbad fame, co-starring in Get Him to the Greek), Get Him to the Greek does not disappoint.

Get Him to the Greek stars the comedic brilliance of Russell Brand (who in this reviewer’s opinion, certainly seems to be giving his predecessor and comedic rival, Sacha Baron Cohen a run for his money these days) as the over-indulgent, but not entirely un-sympathetic, bona fide British rock star Aldus Snow. Fans of Forgetting Sarah Marshall will fondly remember Russell Brand’s characterization of an overindulgent, crass, and for all intents and purposes, drugged out rock star (not to mention front man of legendary rock group, Infant Sorrow), Aldus Snow.

Unlike his part in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Brand plays a central role in this pseudo-spin off and gives the viewer what they really want to see; MORE Aldus! Just watching this guy fumble around on screen adorned with seriously tight jeans, a tall, yet not entirely gangly frame, not without the customary rock star bling in all shapes and sizes, and strikingly beautiful curled locks, as he dominates the stage and all those who cross his path, we find ourselves desiring a show at the biggest local arena starring Aldus along with other legendary rock greats like Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler, and Robert Plant. Of course, as we feel our shoes slightly sticking to the ground and hear the faint tick-tick-tick sounds of the person next to us texting, we are sadly reminded that Aldus is a fictional character, limited to gracing our presence on screen only.

Jonah Hill expertly plays his role as the socially awkward, yet love able Aaron Green, a young man struggling to make it in the intensely competitive music business. Fortunately for the viewer, this is a familiar role for Hill (likewise roles in similar comedies like Superbad, Funny People, Knocked Up, and Accepted).

Struggling to renew his sense of adventure and challenged by his demanding boss (P Diddy), Green develops a genius idea to bring Aldus Snow back to the Greek Theater for an anniversary concert. Once given the go-ahead, Green sets off across the globe for a hilarious 3-day venture with 3 goals:

1. Find Aldus Snow;

2. Get him sober enough to play and make a litany of press appearances, not the least of which includes a visit to the Today Show;

3. And finally, GET HIM TO THE GREEK!

Of course, Aldus the self-proclaimed rock star, is not without his alcohol and drug addictions. From the moment Aaron Green shows up in his London flat, he is dead set on showing Green the time of his life (and indeed, succeeds).

Complimenting the comedic performances of Brand and Hill, we are also treated to some interesting cameos. To name a few, Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, Meredith Vieira, Lars Ulrich, P!NK, Mario Lopez, Kristen Bell, Rick Schroder, and Christina Aguilera. Of note, Kristen Bell, with the addition of Rick Schroder, reprises her role as the television star vixen, Sarah Marshall (albeit for a brief moment). Perhaps a sequel starring Sarah Marshall is at bat next?

This reviewer is looking forward to additional films created, written, and starring, the new buddy-comedy/Bromance all stars troop, set to take over from the former “Comedy All - Stars” (Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, and Vince Vaughn).

Get Him to the Greek comes recommended for fans of the rising buddy-comedy star troop/makers of Knocked Up, Suberbad, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but is not recommended for those easily offended.

The Bee Charmer Review Rating: B+

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The BC Review: MacGruber

As I was chatting with my friend Kara last Friday afternoon, she mentioned she and her fiancee were planning to grab dinner and catch the latest in the growing line of Saturday Night Live (SNL) parody skits-turned-feature-film-adaptations; MacGruber. Admittedly quite aware of the expected repercussions of a flick like this, I quickly disavowed all knowledge and reason and happily agreed (I knew my husband would be thrilled at the invitation and the chance to see it as we'd both admittedly enjoying the brief trailers we'd seen in the theatres over the course of several weeks).

For those of you who do not pride (?) yourselves on being SNL fans, I will just say that of all of the original skits (and characters) SNL has created (Superstar, the Ladies Man, Night at the Roxbury, the Blues Brothers, and Waynes World 1 and 2, to name a few), MacGruber ranks up there as one of the decidedly better adaptations. Will Forte's, what we will classify as "interpretation," of the 80's genius-problem-solving-creative-with-any-everyday-tool-or-device "MacGyver" is actually quite funny and lends itself to some serious belly-laughs.

Based on the 80's successful television program of a similar name, MacGruber tells the story of an American hero who has earned the rank of Green Beret, Navy SEAL, and Army Ranger, 16 purple hearts, 3 Congressional Medals of Honor, and 7 presidential medals of bravery, who comes out (following the horrendously violent, blood-spattered, death of his fiancee) to face his sworn enemy and life-long nemesis, Deiter Von Cunth (yes, you read that correctly) expertly played by Val Kilmer (who, as my husband pointed out, after going what can be classified as certifiably insane, moving his family out to the sticks and taking them completely off the grid, is apparently making a come back in his career).

In the aftermath of his fiancee's death, we find MacGruber much changed, sporting long hair and what looks to be Buddhist monk attire. Ten years since the dreadful events of his wedding day, he has sworn off violence and espouses a commitment to pacifism. However, this is short-lived. Upon hearing Von Cunth has attained a deadly nuclear weapon and is henceforth threatening to destroy the earth (or at least a big city or a lot of people), MacGruber buoyantly bounces back, cuts his hair, throws on his favorite vest, flannel shirt, and trusty watch, and joins with the expert stylings of Lt. Dixon Piper (another surprise casting role, played by Ryan Phillippe) and Vicki St. Elmo (played by Kristen Wiig).

Of course, as this is clearly a farce our hero proceeds to make mistake, after mistake, after frustratingly hilarious, mistake. As the film progresses we see his efforts to fashion a grenade out of a few household items continuously disappoint, leaving Lt. Dixon Piper with no choice but to use his (as MacGruber deems) "barbaric" guns to take down the assorted goons fighting with Von Cunth.

Will Forte does a great job portraying MacGruber, by all accounts a complete bumbling idiot who takes himself extremely seriously. His characterization is reminiscent of someone envisioned by a former SNL cast member, Will Ferrell (think Ron Jeremy in Anchor Man: The Legend of Ron Burgundy). Only time will tell if his career leads to similar commercial success, but from the looks of his resume he is presently working on two more feature films, played the role of Paul on Tina Fey's (another SNL alumna) 30 Rock, and has joined forces with Ferrel already on his website, Funny or Die.

Aside from MacGruber's absurd actions, the best elements of the film center on the assorted 80's paraphernalia, trends, fads, hair styles (check out Vicki St. Elmo's feathered style), and fashion. The worst (if you can classify them as such) are the truly, ridiculously, bloody/violent scenes of explosions, burn victims, and ultimately, death as well as the more crass humor ("potty" humor and the like). MacGruber is not for the faint of heart (or the easily offended).

Ryan Phillippe as Lt. Dixon Piper is an odd choice for this role (recent roles include Flags of Our Fathers, Crash, and Stop-Loss), but he seems to make it work and we get to see a side we normally do not see of him; a comedic one. He deftly plays the role straight; not wavering in his portrayal of a "serious" military soldier, but we cannot help but find his reactions and eventual acceptance of MacGruber's absurdity both endearing and laugh-out-loud funny.

Kristen Wiig, as Vicki St. Elmo also brings a bit of talent to the film. Similar to MacGruber, Vicki St. Elmo also reminds this reviewer of a character in Will Ferrell's farce; Anchorman, female reporter Veronic Corningstone (it could definitely be the feathered hair and pantsuits!). Another SNL cast member and a relative newcomer to the big screen, Wiig is starting to gather some notice, recently appearing in the previously review Date Night and lending her voice to the upcoming Steve Carell animated feature, Despicable Me.

Those looking for a laugh (albeit a cheap one) should enjoy MacGruber, as will fans of the original MacGyver; though die hard fans of the latter may be better off skipping this one and sitting home watching DVDs of the original in the comfort of their own homes.

The Bee Charmer Review Rating: C+

Monday, May 24, 2010

The BC Review: Date Night

So far this summer my husband and I have started a bit of a tradition - Tuesday night "Date Night" outings to the cinema! In the past couple of weeks I've let him pick the flick (I figure he does enough when I ask him to sit down and watch one of my decidedly "Indie" Netflix picks at home, he's entitled to pick some of the lighter summer fare).

This past week we made our date night a true date night, making our way to the Ballston Regal Theatre for an evening showing of (have you guessed yet?), Date Night (with Steve Carrell and Tina Fey)! As Romantic Comedies go, Date Night was quite enjoyable. Tina and Steve took us on a wildly uproarious ride as their characters, Phil and Claire Foster, attempted to spice up their happy, albeit, somewhat boring, average "Date Night".

The opening scene presents Mr. and Mrs. Foster in bed with the clock flashing an early hour on the night stand, their morning slumber soon-to-be interrupted by the running, jumping, and subsequently, landing of a child on Claire's shoulder followed by the cruel ripping off of Phil's anti-snoring "breathe E-Z" nose strip. This is our welcome to a day in the life of Mr. and Mrs. Foster, a New Jersey couple with young children living in a quaint suburban home outside of New York City.

After learning of the impending divorce of one their closest couple-friends, the Fosters decide to shake things up a bit, and well, prove to themselves (and each other) that their marriage is anything but dead. Seeking a high class "night out on the town" Mr. Foster drives them to a famed restaurant aptly titled "Claw" - the sort of place where the staff act as if everyone is at a party and the restaurant guests were not invited. Despite the pretentious host who ensures them in short order they did not make it in time to actually get a table and should expect to wait patiently at the bar all night; the Fosters decide to make their own luck, quickly grabbing a table really reserved for a "Mr. and Mrs. Trippelhorn" (who, as luck would have it, fail to show up). Upon sitting down and enjoying an apparently delicious entree, two goons (and yes, we would certainly classify them as such), arrive at "Mr. and Mrs. Tripplehorn's" table to inform them that they must leave immediately and step outside into the nefarious alley behind the restaurant. Of course, thinking this is nothing more than a slap on the wrist for stealing someone else's table reservation, they agree to do so.

Standing vulnerable in the alley, the "Tripplehorns" are corrected and informed as to the real reason they are out there - they have apparently stolen from Joe Miletto (played by none-other-than Ray Liotta), a notorious mobster. At this point, the film takes off and we proceed to go along for a hilarious ride as Claire and Phil Foster stumble onto the misgivings of the city's District Attorney, Frank Crenshaw (played by William Fichtner) and the city's seedy underworld.

Carell gives us what we expect; the sometimes bumbling, but always good-intentioned, caricature of a suburban guy trying to look cool, but constantly falling victim to his own cluelessness (recall similar characters in Get Smart and of course, the famed Michael Scott of The Office). But, no matter how many gaffs he makes, we find him endearing and secretly hope he can manage to get out of his own way long enough to do to the right thing and have it actually work out.

Fey is equally enjoyable as Claire Foster. Although even slightly less "cool" than her husband (she is absolutely clueless when it comes to any kind of technology and refers to a flash drive as "that little stick thingy we use at work"), she eventually succeeds in understanding the full scope of the plot they've found themselves mixed up in.

Liotta, quite rightly so, plays the notorious gangster. Since the start of this reviewer's awareness of him (as his ingenious portrayal of Henry Hill in Goodfellas), Liotta is often a welcome addition to any cast of characters (if you've not seen Corrina, Corrina, you are missing out on one of his best), especially, of late, as he delved into the comedic/family-friendly arena with such roles as Jack in Wild Hogs. His role as Joe Miletto is equally good, however, this reviewer would have liked a bit more on-screen time.

Among the great performances of Tina Fey, Steve Carrell, and Ray Liotta, we are treated to the stylings of an exceedingly hunky Mark Walberg, as Holbrooke Grant, a former client of Claire's who, conveniently, happens to be a wealthy independent security consultant with a litany of spy-like toys and agrees to help the Fosters in their quest to find the real Tripplehorns and ultimately escape the city in one piece.

Date Night is recommended for fans of Steve Carrell and Tina Fey and those looking for an enjoyable low-key "Date Night" flick.

The BC Review Rating: B

Monday, May 17, 2010

The BC Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

It is certainly safe to say this reviewer thoroughly enjoys the comedic timing and (often) adorable characters of the animated genre. Watching such films as Dreamworks Animation's Shrek (and its extensive line of not one, two, or even three, but upcoming fourth sequels) and Disney-Pixar's Toy Story (again following the trend with Toy Story 2 and now Toy Story 3), one becomes accustomed to simple story lines (with a distinct moral/lesson-to-be-learned) and quirky characters. The latest animated feature to follow its predecessors and hit the big screen is based on the children's storybook author, Roald Dahl's, Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Released in 2009, Fantastic Mr. Fox was nominated for 2 Oscars (Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures and Best Animated Feature Film of the Year). Despite it's losses, the film deserves the accolades that accompany an Academy Award nomination. Of note, the picture shies away from the modern affects of computer-generated imagery and steers more towards an "old school" Wallace and Gromit appearance with the characters. The audience is also treated to the voices of a who's who of the movie industry to include: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, and even Mario Batali (as the talented Rabbit chef).

The story is centered on Mr. Fox (voiced by non other than George Clooney), a lean, long, and witty chicken thief-turned-Newspaper columnist and his supporting cast of woodland friends. The audience is treated to Clooney's overture as the charismatic, yet humble (?), Mr. Fox as he tries (and ultimately fails) to adjust to a life far from the thrills and chills of his former life and settles into a foxhole with his wife (played by Meryl Streep) and for all intents and purposes, dimwitted, son, Ash (voiced by Jason Schwartzman). At the behest of Mrs. Fox, Mr. Fox must end his thrill-seeking days and settle into a much safer life; a somewhat problematic set of rules for Mr. Fox, worsened by a sense of monetary underachieving.

Integral to the plot line is the arrival of Ash's cousin, Kristofferson Silverfox (voiced by the film director's brother, Eric Anderson). Much to Ash's dismay, Kristofferson is everything he is not; tall with an attractive coat, athletic, worldly (the silverfox practices Yoga on a daily basis), and to add insult to injury, succeeds in wooing the object of Ash's affection. The relationship between Ash and his cousin gives us a thoroughly enjoyable comedic interlude between Mr. Fox's nail-biting nightly raids.

Despite the wishes (and wise advice) of his wife, Mr. Fox becomes determined to purchase a upper-middle class home; a tree with the financial assistance of his lawyers (also furry woodland creatures) and the moral support of his best friend, Badger (the badger) voiced by the distinctive, Bill Murray. Following the purchase of his new home, Mr. Fox spies an enticing opportunity, the existence of not one, but three farms within eyesight from the trees' branches, owned by non-other-than three of the ugliest, meanest, and shrewdest English businessmen; Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. A credit to their horror, a song, devised by local children is sung in their honor:

Boggis and Bunce and Bean
One fat, one short, one lean
These horrible crooks
So different in looks
Were nonetheless equally mean

The introduction to Boggis, Bunce, and Bean is strikingly reminiscent of the diabolical Mrs. Tweedy from a similarly-crafted animated feature, Chicken Run (recall Mel Gibson as Rocky the adventure-seeking Chicken). Following two sneak attacks at the hands of Mr. Fox, Badger, and on the third night, Kristofferson; Boggis, Bunce, and Bean devise a plan to root out their new found woodland pests and destroy them by any means necessary. From this point on, the audience is taken on a wild ride as we watch the three farmers desperately try to reach Mr. Fox and his cohorts.

Fantastic Mr. Fox comes recommended for fans of the animated genre and the Fantastic Mr. Clooney.

The Bee Charmer Review Rating: B

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The BC Review: The Hurt Locker

Due to the unprecedented 10 films selected as Best Picture Oscar nominees, this year's viewing of the AMC Best Picture Showcase 2010 was somewhat limiting as the viewing I chose to attend (for fear of losing my sanity attempting to watch all 10 in a row) was limited to just 5 of the Oscar nominees (Up in the Air, Precious - Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire, Inglorious Bastards, AVATAR, and The Blind Side).

To be sure, I had definitely intended to see the victor, The Hurt Locker, but unfortunately was forced to wait for its DVD release (admittedly, the formerly little-known Indie flick failed to garner my attention earlier). Following a couple weeks in my Netflix queue labeled "very long wait" it finally arrived in my mailbox.

Katheryn Bigelow's Best Director/Best Picture winner, though markedly less romantic than it's (and her personal) rival, James Cameron's AVATAR, gives the viewer something better; a realistic depiction of the conditions of war (and despite numerous critiques this reviewer has come across, sans any romantic, or for that matter, political, zeal).

Focused on three primary characters, The Hurt Locker presents three young American soldiers serving in Iraq in the improvised explosive device (IED) detection/removal division. In a jarring opening scene we see Guy Pearce (of LA Confidential and Memento fame) as Staff Sergeant Matt Thompson; the first of the squad to suffer the dire consequences of a grueling job. Watching as he carefully plots his course in an attempt to diffuse a small-scale roadside IED, the viewer is instantly sucked into the war drama and can literally feel the dirt, the dust, and the sweat, pouring off Staff Sergeant Thompson's face as he strides down the street in a huge explosive-detection suit. This first scene, indeed sets the backdrop for the rest of the film with Bigelow giving us all-encompassing explosions, annoying dust, and what actually feels like relentless thirst for a Capri Sun in the desert.

Sergeant Thompson is subsequently replaced with Sergeant First Class William James (played by Jeremy Renner); a wildly enthusiastic soldier with a cowboy-esque attitude. Of course, the two remaining members of Thompson's original team, Sergeant JT Sanborn (played by Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (played by Brian Geraghty) struggle to cope with the new guy's cavalier attitude, and at times, brash decisions. Adding to the already imbedded drama throughout the film, the dynamic between Sanborn and James is always teetering on the edge; wavering between sworn adversaries and mutually respected friendship.

Specialist Eldridge, vastly different from James, gives us an inside view into the mind of a young soldier as he struggles to literally fight each and every day for his life (and the lives of those around him). As the days on his tour of duty languish, each minute of the day seems to get harder for him to deal with. Taking solace in the Army-provided medical staff, Eldridge reaches out to a psychologist, Colonel John Cambridge (interestingly enough played by Christian Camargo, AKA Dexter's "The Ice Truck Killer"). Colonel Cambridge provides a much-needed shoulder for Eldridge, but unfortunately falls victim to the circumstances of his own surroundings while out with the team.

On a more personal note, as a former analyst in the security/force protection world, this reviewer thoroughly enjoyed the addition of private security contractors thrown into the story line. Specifically, as the IED detection team comes across an overturned vehicle in the wild Iraq "countryside" we are introduced (albeit briefly) to a nameless Ralph Fiennes, playing a British private contractor leading a definitely worse-for-wear team. In an outward nod to American-British cooperation on the battlefield, against the blazing sun, blistering winds, and downright pesky flies, Sergeant First Class James, Sergeant Sanborn, and Specialist Eldridge stop to lend a hand to Fiennes and his group.

Finally, I suppose it should be noted that Kathryn Bigalow's Best Director win was, like the 2010 Best Picture nominee list; unprecedented (Bigelow is the first female director to win the award). However, it should also be noted that this should come as no surprise to anyone (including Bigelow's ex-husband, Cameron); she did a phenomenal job on this film!

The Hurt Locker is recommended for fans of the "War Time Drama" (flicks like Apocalypse Now and Saving Private Ryan) and those just interested in an enthralling human drama.

The Bee Charmer Review rating: A

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The BC Review: Iron Man 2

As part of our celebratory actions following the completion of my husband's last law school final exam of the semester, we decided to head to the theatre and catch the latest in the Marvel-made-into-great-or as the case may be-not-so-great-movies (and their sequels and in some cases, prequels); the much-anticipated Iron Man 2.

Seeking to (expertly?) avoid the drones of fans and movie buffs alike, likely to come out on Friday and Saturday nights, we purchased our tickets in advance and then promptly made our way to the Ballston Regal bright and early Sunday morning to catch the 10am showing. Our plan, indeed, worked - we managed to be one of half a dozen viewers in the theatre this morning!

Without giving too much away, I will say, Iron Man 2 delivered a relatively amusing story with some well-timed, action-packed scenes. We are reminded of our love for Tony Stark and his self-deprecation from the opening scene when we witness Iron Man launch himself from the back of a plane and burst onto the stage at the Stark Expo (a year-long expo demonstrating the latest and greatest Stark inteventions and for a lucky few, up and coming inventors). Robert Downey Jr. gives us the Tony Stark we've grown to enjoy since the first Iron Man and delivers a solid performance throughout the film.

Don Cheadle gives a stellar performance in his role as Lt. Colonel James "Rhody" Rhodes, Stark's long-time best friend. Rhodes finds himself struggling to balance his job and his duty to the United States, with his loyalty to and admiration of Stark. Despite what some may call, a serious lapse in judgement, in the end, the two come together to fight a commone enemy, achieving a few firsts for Iron Man and ultimately saving their friendship. Cheadle, also does not disappoint, and gives a sincere and at times, humourous performance. In this humble writer's opinion, Cheadle is a seriously underrated genius. As with all of his roles (Crash, Hotel Rwanda, and Ocean's Eleven, to name a few), Cheadle brings a certain dignity to the film.

We are also re-introduced to Stark's personal secretary-turned-love interest-turned CEO, Pepper Potts (played by Gweneth Paltrow). The back and forth banter between Potts and Stark, though amusing, is not nearly as integral to the plot line in the second installation of the film series and is somewhat tainted by Stark's secret (I won't spoil that for you - just suffice it to say, keeping Palladium in one's chest is not the healthiest option for a human being).

The best character by far that we are not re-introduced to, but rather introduced to for the first time, is that of Ivan Vanko, in true Marvel fashion, Iron Man's soon-to-be arch nemisis. Played by Mickey Rourke (who's career is definitely on the "up swing" since shocking and ultimately delighting all of us in the The Wrestler), Ivan holds a secret past and knows far too much than anyone should about Iron Man and just how he gets his power. Unlike Pepper Potts, Ivan is indeed, integral to the plot and gives our hero what he needs, a challenge!

Finally, we see Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johannson as the newest additions to the Iron Man family (unlike Ivan, they are clearly batting for the good side). On a somewhat disappointing note, Scarlett fans may be less than impressed with her role as Natalie Rushman. It is certainly evident she may have followed the ideas and extreme dieting her female colleague, Paltrow, espouses (her physical appearance is dramatically altered as a result of her super-hero costume), but the depth of her character was certainly lacking.

Iron Man 2 comes recommended for fans of the first film, action buffs, and the ever-growing hoards of RDJ fans.

The Bee Charmer Review rating: B

Friday, April 23, 2010

The BC Review: The Verdict

At my husband's suggestion/request (he's a lover of what is known as "oldies but goodies") I've decided to add another category to these film reviews; Classics. I believe he's given me an excellent idea, to use these reviews as a way to re-introduce viewers to some titles they may have forgotten about, overlooked, or perhaps (as is my case a lot of the time) never heard of! So, hear goes the first of what may likely be many "Classic" film reviews.

As I've previously mentioned, my husband is in his second year of law school (thus contributing to my time to watch more movies! Ha ha). As an interesting twist, a professor of his teaching a course on professional responsibility (and the law) assigned The Verdict to her class. Being the ever supportive wife that I am, I agreed to screen this one with him and then of course contribute to the mandatory brow-furrowing-what-does-this-mean-to-the-legal-profession discussion.

The Verdict (released in 1982) starring Paul Newman, as the drunken personal injury lawyer, Frank Galvin, presents the story of a by all accounts, down-and-out ambulance chaser, known for his boozing and questionable moral outlook on life. Due to the generosity of a former business partner, Galvin is handed a medical malpractice case; by all accounts primed to win a very large sum of money.

The case, a dreadful malpractice suit against a Catholic hospital and its bumbling treatment of a pregnant woman which causes the death of her baby and the near death of the mother (she is left in a vegetative state in a long-term care facility), manages to pull what is left of Galvin's heart strings, leading him to seek more than the customary "we're very sorry for our screw up" sum of money; justice and a well-deserved audible apology to the victim's family. (I should mention, The Verdict is quite timely these days as the story of Abbi Dorn is gracing the pages the CNN [see link here: http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/04/22/california.triplets.visitation.lawsuits/index.html]).

Despite the morally questionable behavior of the opposing counsel, church leaders, and even his love interest, through the duration of the trial we witness Galvin morph into a person of honor, set on winning not just money but the deep-seated apologies of the hospital, hospital staff, and most importantly - the Church.

Galvin's star witness, the former hospital admitting nurse, Kaitlin Costello, blows the case wide open with an admission of guilt and detailed description of questionable procedures that occurred in the aftermath of the incident. Of course, opposing counsel attempts to damage her credibility as a reliable witness, using her own mental breakdown and eventual departure from the hospital as fodder for their claims. Surely, she can not be trusted! But the judge believes otherwise...

Newman gives a command performance (as can be expected from this veteran actor) and in the absence of other notable namesake stars, carries the film. He gives us an honest portrayal of a down-trodden man and tugs a bit on our own heart strings as we start to pull for Galvin and hope to see him succeed in the case.

The Verdict was nominated for 5 Academy Awards:

Best Picture - Richard D. Zanuk and David Brown
Best Actor in a Leading Role - Paul Newman
Best Actor in a Supporting Role- James Mason
Best Director - Sidney Lumet
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium - David Manet

The Verdict comes recommended for Newman fans and move-goers who enjoy the slow, deliberate pace of a Classic (and may attract those interested in exploring the moral obligations and professional responsibility required of those in the legal profession).

The Bee Charmer Rating: B

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The BC Review: The September Issue

Long before I became a self-described "movie buff" I maintained a deep love of Fashion. A surprising admission I'm sure for those of you who know me (I am clearly NOT the fashionista these days). But throughout my adolescence I reveled in watching Fashion TV (run in syndication on VH1 in the mid 90s) and carried around a sketch book of my "designs" with me almost everywhere.

Some time ago, on a Saturday afternoon drive on Arlington Boulevard I flipped to NPR and tuned in to hear an interview with a gentleman (whose name now escapes me) who had just completed filming a full-length documentary on Anna Wintour, (for those of you not familiar with the all-too-important fashion world, I'll explain) the famed editor of Vogue magazine. Thus the waiting began...

Luckily, I did not have to wait too much longer to see the film. Unfortunately, I (somehow) managed to miss The September Issue in theaters, but not so long after its big screen run it turned up on Netflix.

The September Issue does not disappoint! It shows Anna at her best; sitting behind her intimidating editor's desk, sporting her sleek bob, and short sheath dresses in a variety of colors and patterns (much to my surprise, Anna is NOT a fan of black), dictating her "vision" for the magazine's pages to her many, many, peons. The film gives us a raw view of the creative process behind Vogue's much-anticipated September issue, complete with the trials and tribulations of Anna's dedicated staffers as they trudge through another season trying to accommodate Anna's demands.

For those of you who caught Meryl Streep's performance in The Devil Wears Prada, you will see some similarities between the farce and the real thing. Anna is as her reputation aspouses; disciplined, focused, (more than a bit) critical, but always, masterful in her vision for the magazine. Where The September Issue surprises is Anna's introduction to her daughter, Bee Shaffer. Anna, by reputation, is known for her tenacity to keep the details of her private life just that, private. But we are introduced to Bee, a well-spoken, confident girl with a surprising love, not for fashion... but the law! The issue of where Bee will end up... her "rightful" place clearly at the editor's desk; is somewhat of a question (a circumstance Anna is less than thrilled with).

The focus clearly centered on Anna, there are a few "characters" that jump out. One in particular, is Grace Coddington, the magazine's creative director. Grace, tho not much to look at these days, was once a budding beauty found on the inside of Vogue's pages as a high fashion model. However, in the aftermath of a fortuitous car accident, these days she's clearly focused on the content - contributing the bulk of the photo spreads; awe-inspiring shoots of romantic scenes full of imagery and well, absolutely stunning beauty. Unfortunately, for her (and for us) much of her work doesn't make it past the cutting room floor as time and time again we see Anna's discerning eye scan the shoots and systematically pull the assumed favorites off the line!

A documentary at heart, The September Issue is true to its subjects, presenting them in a realistic (and sometimes adversarial) light. While at the same time, providing some well-time comic relief; as we see Grace and Anna butt heads on more than one occasion.

Of course, as this is is a FASHION themed film, the best elements include the aspiring staffers, talented photographers, hungry models, gorgeous clothes, and of course, the cameos! Keep a watchful eye for Oscar (of De la Renta fame), Jean-Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, and every bride's favorite, the lovely Vera Wang.

The September Issue comes highly recommended for fashionistas and documentary connoisseurs!

The Bee Charmer Rating: B+

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The BC Review: She's Out of My League

As a wonderful surprise last Tuesday night, my husband took me out to the movies! For a change, I decided to let him pick the flick. Not surprisingly, he went with a bit of a lighter fare than I'm usually inclined to choose myself.

She's Out of My League, although certainly far from ever achieving the coveted Oscar nod, turned out to be a mildly amusing romantic comedy. The age-old, boy-meets-girl story gained a bit of a twist as the male lead, Kirk, played by Jay Baruchel, presented the down-trotten story of a mid-30s guy stuck in a dead-end job at a Pittsburg airport desperately trying to win back his, by-all-accounts, trashy, ex-girlfriend Marnie (played by Lindsay Sloane), when he suddenly meets the girl of his dreams, beautiful, viviacious, too-good-to-be true - Molly (played by Alice Eve).

Surrounded by his somewhat idiotic friends (who in the end turn out to be his saving grace), we watch as Kirk fumbles through awkard pseudo-dates with Molly; all the while questioning why anyone like Molly would be with a guy like him. After a fair amount of time/dates the two become an item; much to the chagrin of Molly's family and much to the shock of Kirk's less-than-supportive extended family (which humurously includes his ex and her polo-shirt-attired boyfriend Ron).

Throughout the ensuing scenes, we watch helplessly as Kirk struggles against his own self-loathing to see what Molly sees in him; a kind, if yet, "safe", sensitive romantic.

Some viewers may recognize Baruchel from previous films to include small roles in Tropic Thunder and Knocked Up. But my favorite harkens back to his Zeppelin-obsessed "band aid" character, Vic Munoz, the Zeppelin fan, in Almost Famous. Although older, and certainly more mature, Baruchel holds tight to his slight, nerdish frame; expertly playing the Anthony Michael Hall "we really wish he gets the girl!"-created pursuer.

Lastly, this review would be remiss without the mention of Kirk's BBF, Stainer, (played by T.J. Miller). A quick glance at his stats indicates Miller is a relative newcomer on the scene, but in this movie-goers opinion, his physical appearance and comedic "buddy comedy/bromance" timing, places him on the path of the Kevin James, Will Ferrells, and Jason Segels of the world. (I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for more Miller roles in the future).

She's Out of My League comes recommended for those looking for a light-fare "date night" flick. For those looking for substance, our advice... keep looking.

The Bee Charmer Rating: C+