Movies

Top One Movie of the Week: Eat Pray Love, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Expendables, and Animal Kingdom

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Our critics choose between Eat Pray Love, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Expendables, and Animal Kingdom.

James Frecheville in Animal Kingdom

Eat Pray Love

ANDREW: Or "Eat Pray Barf," as a Facebook friend recently posted. My wife laughed at the joke… but then admitted (much to my surprise and horror) that she actually wants to see Glee creator Ryan Murphy's cinematic adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's allegedly beloved memoir, about a divorcee (Julia Roberts) who fills the emptiness of her life with fine cuisine, deep zenful thoughts, and Javier Bardem. Personally, I have a hard time rooting for a successful, gorgeous writer who travels the world for a year and still can't find happiness until she meets an equally gorgeous and successful partner in the final reel. Plus I'm always suspicious of movies that equate spiritual fulfillment with "having it all." But, I mean, hey, I get it. Food-porn empowerment travelogues are like superhero wish-fulfillment fantasies for a different (and better smelling) demographic, and Eat Pray Love offers gorgeous scenery and a plum role for America's sweetheart, Richard Jenkins. Yet, while I may eventually get dragged to this one, I'm guessing your own avoidance of the film will be far more vigorous.    

SCOTT: Yeah, much as I hate to come off as a stereotypical testosterone-fueled hater of chick flicks, particularly of the foodie variety, I can't say that this genre speaks to me. I have no problem with the movie's existence, mind you; it has its audience that deserves to be served, and I wish them all the best with the eating and the praying and the loving. If it's any consolation to fans of food-porn empowerment travelogues, however, I'm also pretty sick of superhero wish-fulfillment fantasies, which brings us to…

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

SCOTT: The fanboy sites have been ejaculating all over this adaptation of the graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O'Malley for months now, a turn of events that never fails to raise my Shield of Skepticism. Which may or may not be a weapon wielded by one of the seven evil exes that the titular Mr. Pilgrim (Michael Cera) must battle to win the heart of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). I feel like I should be more excited about this one than I actually am; director Edgar Wright has certainly earned my goodwill with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (and even his fake Grindhouse trailer for "Don't"), and the supporting cast is promising (I'm particularly smitten with Parks and Recreation's Aubrey Plaza), yet I don't know how many more times I can watch Michael Cera do his geeky-sensitive hoodie-boy routine, and the visual overkill of the trailer suggests a movie designed solely to get fourteen-year-old boys paying to see it over and over again because it's so awesome, dude. So I'm leaning against it, but you may be able to talk me into it if you're so inclined.    

ANDREW: I don't know if I've seen too many goofy popcorn flicks or I'm getting old (or both), but I've reached the point where it's not enough for a movie to be mindless entertainment if I just don't give a crap. Call it Kick-Ass Syndrome. I mean, that movie was relatively entertaining, but… meh. So I guess teen superheroes are simply one of the things I no longer give a crap about (unless they're super entertaining, and at least vaguely connected to real life, like, say, Spider-Man). And it's not that I'm sick of Michael Cera, either — hell, I'm one of the seventeen people who actually liked Paper Heart — but to quote Roger Ebert's review of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (another prime example of Who Gives A Crap? cinema), "Life doesn't work this way." Eleven-year-old girls don't beat up mobsters, and dudes don't beat up their girlfriends' evil ex-boyfriends videogame style. Now, of course, people don't get bitten by radioactive spiders and start crawling walls, either, but Peter Parker was also navigating love, maturity, great power, great responsibility, and all that jazz, too — whereas it looks like Scott Pilgrim is nothing more than a big-screen extrapolation of the joys of manipulating Xbox controls. (But, eh, what the hell… it's got Anna Kendrick and some clever visual tricks, so maybe I'll go see it anyway.)

The Expendables

ANDREW: On the other hand, if I can only see ONE movie this week that I don't really give a crap about, it might have to be The Expendables, if only for historic and/or curiosity value. The trailer — featuring STALLONE! WILLIS! SCHWARZENEGGER! LUNDGREN! LI! STATHAM! ETCETERA! ETCETERA! — plays like the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (or maybe It's a Mad, Mad, Exploding, Bullet-Riddled World) of action films…until you realize that most of the supergroup cast got famous by appearing primarily in really shitty movies, and the cast members with the best resumes (i.e., Willis and Schwarzenegger) have the least amount of screen time. But, I dunno… how can I resist a movie with Mickey Rourke as a character named "Tool"? And, more importantly, where the hell is Jean-Claude Van Damme?  

SCOTT: Chuck Norris is also conspicuous in his absence, although maybe they're saving him for a top-secret cameo. My reaction to The Expendables is pretty much the exact opposite of the one I had to Scott Pilgrim, in that I have no idea why I'm so eager to see this one. It's not like I'm any kind of huge fan of Stallone or the action movies of the 1980s… so I guess this is nostalgia for something I never really cared about in the first place, which has to be some kind of twenty-first-century sickness. And yet I know I'll end up seeing this low-rent Dirty Dozen, although I may be wearing a disguise.

Animal Kingdom

SCOTT: The Expendables may be my guilty pleasure of the week, but as a genuine fan of Ozsploitation, I'm reserving my top honors for this acclaimed crime drama from Down Under, about a teenager whose loyalties are torn between his mobster uncles and a crusading cop (Guy Pearce), despite the disconcerting use of Air Supply on the trailer's soundtrack.

ANDREW: If I'm going to see yet another "all in the family" crime drama, I agree that it might as well have the novelty of Australian accents. But even before I read our former Nerve colleague Nick Schager's half-hearted review of the film, I was already asking myself: in the absence of any movie that really hooks me with its characters, premise, humor, action or insights into the human condition this week, is the wisest course of action to go with food porn, teen superhero nonsense, warmed-over action heroics or "g'day" spouting gangsters? And since my interest (or lack thereof) in this week's contenders is just about evenly balanced, I guess my Top One honoree might as well be the one my wife wants to see. And since my interest (or lack thereof) in this week's contenders is just about evenly balanced, I guess my Top One honoree might as well be the one with the most explosions.

Top One Movie of the Week:
Andrew's Top One Movie of the Week: The Expendables
Scott's Top One Movie of the Week: Animal Kingdom