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Capsule reviews: 'Eat Pray Love' and others

The Associated Press, Thursday, August 12, 2010, 11:08am (PDT)

Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

"Animal Kingdom" — We know we're in for a different kind of family values right off the top, as we watch a teenager sitting next to his passed-out mother on the couch while some inane game show blares on the television in the background. It's only when the paramedics arrive at their shabby apartment that we realize she's dead from a heroin overdose, and yet the boy's expression remains stoic throughout. This development will force Joshua "J" Cody (James Frecheville) into a life with the relatives he never really knew — relatives his mother tried to keep him away from because they were even more screwed up than she was. Now, this 17-year-old must find his place among them, even though he's clearly in over his head from the start. Watching this small-time Melbourne crime family unravel under the weight of their overconfidence is riveting, as Australian writer-director David Michod takes his time methodically detailing their self-destruction. The combination of steady pacing, intimate cinematography and startling performances will leave you feeling tense throughout "Animal Kingdom" and probably for a while afterward. It's such a stripped-down, assured little thriller, you'd never know it was Michod's feature debut. Guy Pearce, Jacki Weaver and Ben Mendelsohn are among the excellent cast. R for violence, drug content and pervasive language. 112 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Eat Pray Love" — This does exactly what it should to satisfy its core audience: It provides a gorgeous escape, exquisitely photographed and full of female wish fulfillment. Yet it also offers sufficient emotional heft and self-discovery that it'll make people feel as if they've actually learned something and, perhaps, emerged as better people solely through osmosis. It's easy to see why Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir became an international phenomenon, even without help from Oprah. Everyone's looking for something — for answers, for their true and higher purpose — and Gilbert had the fortitude (and the wherewithal) to take off alone on a journey around the world to find herself after her divorce. Having Julia Roberts star as Liz Gilbert in the film version of the best-seller, in theory, only makes it more appealing to an even wider audience. Roberts is radiant as ever, and director and co-writer Ryan Murphy's adaptation allows her to show off her full range with plenty of hardcore hanky moments. It's overlong and it wraps up with the kind of romantic comedy cliches that, for the most part, were absent from the first two-thirds. Regardless of how you feel about the movie, though, it'll make you want to head out for wine and pasta with your girlfriends afterward. Javier Bardem, Billy Crudup and James Franco star as the various loves of her life. PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexual references and male rear nudity. 133 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"The Expendables" — An exercise in nostalgia for the bygone era of muscly, macho action films, "The Expendables" is willfully out of date, like an aged hair band that can't pack away the spandex. Sylvester Stallone, the director, co-writer and star, has summoned a who's who of the remaining defenders of high body count, testosterone-fueled action: Jason Statham, Jet Li, Steve Austin, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and Dolph Lundgren, who collectively make up a band of beefy, tattooed mercenaries. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis make cameos, too: It's a reunion. Mickey Rourke comes along as a grizzled former warrior. The crew is hired to overthrow a corrupt general (David Zayas) and a villainous, rogue CIA agent (Eric Roberts) on the fictional island of Vilena. But the world of "The Expendables" has shockingly little connection to anything like the real world, and the military compound that will be the setting for much of the film could be that from any "Rambo" movie: cargo boxes, sand bags and watch towers, all ripe for explosions. The film is a time warp to a time before irony, to a low production value movieland where it's still OK to fade to a close-up of a full moon. But it's exactly the movie Stallone wanted to make; he loves this stuff. R for strong action and bloody violence throughout, and for some language. 103 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

— Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer

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"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" — It'll sound like blasphemy — especially to the film's target audience — but here goes: This is way more involving when it focuses on actual people and the palpable angst of young love rather than the video game-style duels to the death in which the title character finds himself. Director and co-writer Edgar Wright certainly creates an infectious energy in bringing Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novels to the screen, with wonderfully weird little details sprinkled throughout. No surprise there, given Wright's previous films — the excellent "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" — which reveled in the deliriously absurd elements of everyday life. But it's those kinds of relatable factors — and some lively performances from an appealing, eclectic cast — that make the movie work. The video game flourishes grab you the first couple times. Often the action is split in a way that suggests the panels of a comic book coming to life, or words like "Ding Dong!" and "Blam!" appear on screen. These devices grow repetitive and tiresome, though, especially once you realize Scott really is going to have to fight every one of his new girlfriend's seven evil exes. Michael Cera stars as the 22-year-old Toronto nerd who's smitten upon the sight of the mysterious Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). PG-13 for stylized violence, sexual content, language and drug references. 112 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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