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+