The Top One Movie of the Week

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Our critics choose from Robin Hood, Just Wright, and Letters to Juliet.

SCOTT: The summer movie season kicks into high gear as Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe look to recapture a little of that ol’ Gladiator magic, with what they’ll be only too happy to tell you is a grittier, more violent take on the Robin Hood legend. Crowe in particular has gone out of his way to disparage every existing screen incarnation of the man from Sherwood Forest, stopping just short of calling Errol Flynn a tights-wearing pansy, which hasn’t exactly endeared him to the purists — but then again, when’s the last time Crowe did anything to endear himself to anyone? That’s not to say he won’t make for a rock-solid, rough-and-tumble Hood, and I trust he can hold an accent better than Kevin Costner managed with his poofy-mulleted Robin (who, let’s be honest, actually was a bit of a tights-wearing pansy) nearly two decades ago. Expecting Scott’s take to improve on that 1991 misfire is setting the bar mighty low, but Cate Blanchett has to be an upgrade on the badly miscast Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Maid Marian, and even if Matthew Macfayden has his work cut out for him trying to out-ham Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham, it can’t hurt to have William Hurt, Max von Sydow, and Kevin Durand (Lost‘s creepy mercenary Keamy) on hand for all the stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. What do you think? Are you up for some Crusades-era ass-kicking this weekend?

ANDREW: In a word: blecch. While I’m all for archery and wealth-redistribution fantasies, millionaire "populists" like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have kinda spoiled the whole Robin Hood myth as far as I’m concerned. And I’ve never really been a big fan of Russell Crowe in humorless, self-important Gladiator mode, so I think I’ll pass on Sherwood Forest this week and instead revisit an old favorite from last year’s SXSW film festival: Best Worst Movie, which opens in NYC on the 14th. But if documentarian Michael Paul Stephenson‘s charming ode to bad low-budget films in general (and Troll 2 in particular) doesn’t qualify for Top One Movie of the Week honors because it’s not a wide release, then I guess that leaves us with dueling, black-and-white romantic "warm-edies," neither of which is likely to lure me to the cineplex. I’ll start with Just Wright, starring Queen Latifah (in what seems like her seventeenth film of the year) as a physical therapist who falls in love with her physical therapee (Common), an NBA All-Star. The ever-fabulous Pam Grier co-stars, which is a plus, but my suspicion that the film may not exactly be geared to my specific tastes is confirmed by the fact that it was directed by Sanaa Hamri, who also brought us The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2: Another Trouser. And so that leaves Letters to Juliet, starring the ever-lovely, ever-bland Amanda Seyfried. Your thoughts?

SCOTT: Yikes. Is this really the second weekend of the big summer-blockbuster season, or have we somehow slipped through a wormhole in time and found ourselves in the movie wasteland of mid-January? As I find myself saying before every Red Sox game this season, this lineup does not inspire confidence. This might have been a good week to bring in a special guest to lend a female perspective to the proceedings, since asking someone like me to pick between Just Wright and Letters to Juliet is sort of like asking "Do you want to freeze to death or die in a fire?" Well, maybe it’s not quite that grim… but as someone who sat through and reviewed both Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movies, I’d be inclined to write off Just Wright even if it didn’t have such an awful pun for a title. Letters to Juliet features the doe-eyed Seyfried as an American vacationing in Verona (setting of Romeo and Juliet, natch) who finds a love connection by answering letters addressed to the fictional Juliet; it sounds awfully reminiscent of Dear John, the Seyfried-starring Nicholas Sparks weepie I reviewed earlier this year. And since director Gary Winck’s most recent effort was the critically reviled Bride Wars…yeesh, maybe Just Wright doesn’t look so wrong after all.

ANDREW: Wow, if I wasn’t going to see Letters to Juliet before, I’m not going to see it twice as much, now that I know the director was responsible for unleashing one of 2009’s worst films, a hackneyed "comedy" so odious it actually dragged the lovely and talented Anne Hathaway down to Kate Hudson‘s level (while somehow making Hudson even worse than usual). Plus, if Seyfried’s dewy, wide-eyed pulchritude didn’t lure me to a theater to watch her make out with Julianne Moore in Chloe a few weeks ago (note to self: remember to add Chloe to Netflix queue), then it’s surely not enough to lure me to a squishy cheese-doodle like Juliet. And since my only real objection to Just Wright is that I simply have no interest in seeing it (even though it seems like a perfectly nice little romantic comedy), I suppose I could ratify it as our Top One Movie… unless you want to break precedent and just abstain courteously from making an official selection this week?

SCOTT: Ah, but that would be taking the easy way out! We’re here to make the hard choices, although for me, this one isn’t so difficult after all. While I agree with you that Russell Crowe can be a pompous, humorless screen presence, and while Gladiator was more of a guilty pleasure for me than a masterpiece worthy of its Best Picture Oscar, Robin Hood is still a lavish, historical-action spectacular… which makes it stand out amid all the superheroics and modern-day mercenary teams crowding the summer schedule. So unless Amanda Seyfried makes the surprising decision to invite me to the Letters to Juliet premiere as her date, this week’s pick is an easy one for me.

Scott’s Top One Movie of the Week: Robin Hood

Andrew’s Top One Movie of the Week: Just Wright

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