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Be Brave, Young Pilgrim 

Plus: With schmaltzy Eat Pray Love, Julia nevertheless takes this week's Roberts family faceoff

click to enlarge Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Previews

THE SWITCH. Romantic comedy about artificial insemination stars Jennifer Aniston as Kassie Singleton, a single gal who wants to have a baby, and Jason Bateman as her neurotic friend Wally, who kinda screws things up. 100m. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, sexual material including dialogue, some nudity, drug use and language. Opens Friday at the Broadway.

CYRUS. An uncomfortable comedy with John C. Reilly as the divorced lug John, who really likes Molly (Marisa Tomei). The trouble is her grown son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill), who still lives at home and seems just a little too jealous of John. Directors Jay and Mark Duplass are brothers who founded the mumblecore movement. 92m. Rated R for language and some sexual material. Through Thursday at the Garberville, opens Friday at the Minor.

PIRANHA 3D. Remake of the 1978 horror comedy Piranha, which was in turn a parody of Jaws. Elisabeth Shue plays the sheriff defending her lakeside town, a spring break spot for partying college students, as hungry prehistoric fish invade. Oh yeah, it's in 3-D. 89m. Rated R for sequences of strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use. Opening at the Broadway and the Fortuna in 3-D, at Mill Creek in 2-D.

VAMPIRES SUCK. Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, the writing/directing team behind the spoofs Scary Movie, Date Movie, etc. take on teen vampire flicks, in particular the Twilight series. 80m. Rated PG-13 for crude sexual content, comic violence, language and teen partying. Opening Friday at the Broadway and Mill Creek.

NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS. British hit based on the Nurse Matilda children's book series. Emma Thompson, who also wrote the adaptation, stars as a stern nanny ruling a house full of unruly children. The star-studded cast includes Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor, Ralph Fiennes and Maggie Smith. 100m. Rated PG for rude humor, some language and mild thematic elements. Opening at the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK. Revelatory documentary profile of the aging, oft face-lifted Brooklyn-born comedienne. 84m. Rated R for language and sexual humor. Opens Friday at the Minor.

On Saturday, Arcata Theatre Lounge brings back Ridley Scott's 2000 epic Gladiator, with Russell Crowe as the gladiator seeking revenge in ancient Rome. ATL's next Wednesday Sci-Fi Pint and Pizza Night has a pair of esoteric European space flicks: the 1960 East German/Polish film First Spaceship on Venus and Journey to the Seventh Planet, a Danish film made in 1962. Way out!

-- Bob Doran

Reviews

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD. I suppose I should begin with a "V" alert. Not only is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World based on a graphic novel series, there is also a video game of the same name, and part of the film itself is a series of video game encounters.

Having absolutely no prior knowledge of the Scott Pilgrim character from any source, I had little idea what to expect. What I got was a delightful film that managed to combine comedy, action and romance while also delving into the nature of reality, sort of an Inception-lite.

The premise is straightforward: Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) meets his soul mate Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Grindhouse), but she comes with some very unusual baggage. In order to win her, he must fight all seven of her exes to the death; they have been organized by head ex Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman).

These battles take place as video game encounters, so the resulting destruction doesn't take place in "real life." Meanwhile, Scott Pilgrim also has to deal with high-schooler Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), who thinks Scott is her soul mate, and compete in a battle of the bands with his band, Sex Bob-omb.

The film is a lot of fun, the execution stylish, the acting fine and the conclusion satisfying. The good cast also includes Kieran Culkin as Wallace, Scott's gay roommate and best friend, and Anna Kendrick as his sister, Stacey, who impatiently comments on Scott's girlfriend problems.

Cera is making a career so far out of playing the non-macho male who still seems to get the girl, usually by being clever. So far he's kept it fresh. Rated PG-13 for stylized violence, sexual content, language and drug references. 112m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

THE EXPENDABLES. The marketing strategy for The Expendables is one that has long been dependable: Gather together a cast of well-known actors, in this case a gaggle of action stars, saturate the public with advertising, and wait for the box office figures to pile up. And for the guaranteed hard-core target audience, include virtually non-stop, over-the-top mayhem with minimal plot distractions and no character development. In fact, those elements exactly define this empty, disgustingly hypocritical shell of a film, poorly directed by Sylvester Stallone, who also stars as Barney Ross, leader of a group of mercenaries.

The film kickstarts the gore with a scene set in Somalia -- the mercenaries take care of business by wiping out a group of Somali pirates holding hostages, which may be an argument for privatizing the real world's own attempt to deal with such hijacks.

Having set the film's strategy, the rest of the story is put in motion when a "Mr. Church" (an uncredited Bruce Willis) hires the mercenaries to overthrow a South American dictator, General Garza (David Zayas), who rules over the fictional country of Vilena with an iron fist. Barney and his core group, which includes Yin Yang (Jet Li) and Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), discover, however, that the real villain in Vilena is actually ex-CIA agent James Monroe (Eric Roberts).

It also transpires that Garza has a comely daughter (Sandra, played by Giselle ItiƩ) who is a rebel. Inserting Sandra into the story allows the signature Stallone moment: sappy, sentimental and shallow self-examination, during which he realizes he's become an empty shell who now has a chance to recover what is left of his soul.

Since much of the film consists of faceless villains being mindlessly gunned down -- sort of The Wild Bunch without Peckinpah's cinematic skills -- the philosophizing is also deeply hypocritical. I don't know why Willis didn't want a credit, but perhaps he was hoping no one would recognize him. Rated R for strong action and bloody violence throughout, and for some language. 103m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

EAT PRAY LOVE. The marketing strategy for Eat Pray Love was somewhat different than that for The Expendables. The film is based on the very popular 2006 memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, which resided on the New York Times hardback best-seller list for well over 150 weeks and is currently No. 1 on the non-fiction paperback list. Oprah Winfrey devoted parts of two shows to the memoir. And then there is the ever-glowing Julia Roberts in the lead role, finding food, balance and love on the big screen the same weekend her real-life brother Eric is impersonating a ruthless killer.

The story is well-known: Liz Gilbert, a successful writer unhappy in her marriage, embarks on an affair, during which she separates from her husband. (In the film, they separate first). Gilbert eventually gets a divorce and the affair also grinds to a halt. Deciding she needs a reboot, she embarks on a yearlong trip around the world (paid for by an advance on the book she intends to write about the experience), spending time in Italy, India and Bali, locales corresponding to the three words of the title.

To be upfront, this is not the sort of material that resonates with me. Nonetheless, the film consistently held my interest, and even when she amps down the wattage, Roberts is still a luminous screen presence and a very good actor, particularly here. I believed in her character's search, and I shared her impatience when women around the world kept telling her she just needs a man. But the film relies too heavily on Roberts' ability to carry it; few of the other actors are memorable and the story bogs down periodically.

As for the material itself, everything seems a little too convenient, too planned and too Hollywood-ready. And how nice that a woman whose confidence in herself is shaken finds someone who looks just like Javier Bardem at the end of her journey. Still, despite one's attitude toward Gilbert's arc, the film is a journey worth taking. Rated PG-13 (on appeal) for brief strong language, some sexual references and male rear nudity. 133m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Minor and Fortuna.

-- Charlie Myers

Continuing

DESPICABLE ME. Can cute kids turn an evil madman (voiced by Steve Carell) into a good guy? Rated PG. 95m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS. Your mission: to find the biggest idiot you can and bring them to dinner. Rated PG-13. At the Broadway.

GROWN UPS. Adam Sandler reunites with childhood friends to celebrate maturity... not! Rated PG-13. 113m. At the Broadway.

INCEPTION. Inception Puzzler of the Week: How was Eames able to infiltrate Browning's office? bit.ly/cWMUpK. Remind me -- who was Eames, again? Rated PG-13. 148m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

THE OTHER GUYS. Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell star as a cop odd couple. PG-13. 108m. At Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

SALT. Angelina plays the hottest CIA agent ever. Rated PG-13. 100m. At the Broadway.

SORCERER'S APPRENTICE. Old magic dude recruits young magic dude to, ummm, battle evil. Nic Cage's most Mickey Mouse role to date. Rated PG. 109m. At the Broadway.

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