A sunny-side up spiritual quest
Eat Pray Love
Talk about putting the lite into enlightenment. Starring Julia Roberts and inspired by a new-age page turner, Eat Pray Love charts the global odyssey undertaken by a successful New York-based magazine writer after a mid-life meltdown prompts a quest for meaning in her life.
As depicted during the opening scenes, it's not overstating the situation to say that Elizabeth (Roberts) is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Marriage to the hapless Stephen (Billy Crudup) has ended in a painful divorce, while an unhappy rebound relationship with a "yogi from Yonkers", James Franco, literally brings her to her knees.
She looks to "God" for answers and, realising that she's lost any "appetite" for life, the upshot is the aforementioned year-long odyssey that encompasses Italy, India and Indonesia. A Roman food fest is followed by hippy-dippy meditation in Calcutta. The final port of call is Bali, which delivers the possibility of a romantic bonanza with the swoontastic Javier Bardem.
Sales of the book have conferred new-age sage status on Gilbert and it's easy to see this Ryan Murphy-directed feature proving popular with devotees. Sumptuous production values and idyllic backdrops are sure to find favour with those who like their spiritual quests sunny-side up. There is a dark night of the soul but it's barely touched upon, with the arrival of Bardem at the end of the rainbow confirming the suspicion that the approach is strictly soft-focus.
With Roberts delivering decent star power, Eat Pray Love can be enjoyed as an exercise in superficial escapism. As regards anything more meaningful? Unless you believe there's a Javier Bardem for everyone in the audience, anyone using this as a star to steer by is heading for the rocks.
Eat Pray Love is showing
If Buried is remarkable for anything, it's for basing itself around the primal fear of being entombed alive in a coffin, persuasively depicted in this stripped-down affair from Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes.
Construction worker Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) comes to inside a wooden coffin buried somewhere in Iraq. He is bound and gagged and understandably terrified. All he has to keep him company are a Zippo lighter, a mysterious mobile phone with limited battery power and a pencil. He slowly works out that his truck convoy was ambushed, a skirmish ensued and Paul is now being held to ransom.
Buried takes place entirely within the cramped confines of Paul's wooden hell, with the camera arranging itself awkwardly around the sweating, frenzied Reynolds to maximise the horror of claustrophobia. Our victim tries to reach out to the world above and is met with many calm voices on the other end who don't appreciate the urgency of his situation.
Cortes adopts a grip-and-release approach, setting trials for Paul of accumulating tension. The "fading light" and "sands of time" metaphors are incorporated under our noses, and while we may think we know what the outcome is bound to be, Cortes refuses to bow to assumptions. After all, we are in the box too, knowing only as much as Paul does. If you like your thrillers taut, lean and unadorned then six-feet under is the place to be.
Released on September 29
Some good-looking glamorous guys stroll nonchalantly in slow-mo from an exploding helicopter, hop into their sportscars and head off for a 30-year-old Scotch to celebrate a lucrative day of crime they had planned meticulously for months. This lot, however, are in LA and have nothing to do with anyone called Ocean.
A familiar but oddly unstellar (or perhaps just hobbled) cast make up this band of Takers (robbers to you) and Matt Dillon plays their official nemesis -- LAPD Jack, a brilliant but not-by -the-book cop with an understanding partner and a disastrous personal life. Then out from jail pops disgruntled former gang associate Ghost (rapper TI) with a lucrative plan which will lead the two sides to hurtle closer with some Russians and double-crossing in between.
There are some good ideas but the characterisations and script are weak. The soundtrack is good, but the film's greatest strength is the visuals with a good-looking cast shooting it out in largely well-directed (by John Luessenhop) set pieces. The biggest problem is that it is unclear with whom we are supposed to find affinity. The goodies are not good and all but one of the baddies are neither bad nor repellent, a moral conundrum which can work in something such as Heat, but does not work at all here. Ultimately: Who wins? Who cares?
Takers opens on October 1
The Hole in 3D
Dane and Lucas Thompson (Chris Massoglia and Nathan Gamble), teen and pre-teen brothers respectively, make one of their many house moves, this time to a small town where the only distraction Dane can see is his next-door neighbour Julie (Haley Bennett). In the basement of their new home they discover a sturdily locked trap door which, naturally, they open. It reveals a bottomless pit, the opening of which is swiftly followed by creepy goings on. So while their mother (Teri Polo) goes out to work, the lads and Julie get involved in some frights and sleuthing.
Director Joe Dante cut his teeth on kinda classics such as Rock and Roll High School, some Gremlins and Small Soldiers. And while The Hole is not classic, it works fine as a gore-free horror. The 3D works well and the cast convince.
The pacing loses something in the middle, but otherwise The Hole in 3D is not bad. Too bland for hard-core horror fans, it's perfectly acceptable for teens, not really tweens, and there were adults squealing at the screening I saw. A sort of soft-core horror.
The Hole in 3D now showing