"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" is essentially video games brought to life filtered through the eyes of a mopey 22-year-old bass guitarist for a band known as the Sex Bob-omb in Toronto.
Michael Cera plays Scott in this action comedy from Edgar Wright ("Shaun of the Dead" and "Super Fuzz"). Obviously not the pumped-up superhero type, obviously, the down-and-out musician who is an aficionado of arcade video games has been dumped by all of his girlfriends, and now unhappily has to share a bed with his gay roommate, Wallace (Kieran Culkin). His sister, Stacey (Anna Kendrick), offers him love advice but you can tell she pretty much thinks he's a loser.
Then he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who is both tough and sharp. Though, they seem opposites, she somehow warms up to the reed-like Scott anyway. One problem — he can only win her heart if he battles all of her old boyfriends. Turns out she has a lot. Goofy idea, for sure, but it's in Scott's fantasy world where he really lives. Video games then spring to life with razzle-dazzle that ranges from spectacular fight scenes to Bollywood production numbers.
Based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O'Malley, "Scott Pilgrim" is a lot of fun, and Wright gives it enough of an emotional underpinning involving the uncertainties of young adulthood to make the movie more than interesting than "game over" when it ends.
Childish 'Grown Ups'
Adam Sandler and his friends seemed to have fun making "Grown Ups," another comedy of middle-age guys who haven't figured out how to grow up. For the rest of us, it's not so much fun.
In it, Sandler teams up with his fellow 1990 s "Saturday Night Live" alumni David Spade, Chris Rock and Rob Schneider along with Kevin James. They play pals who won a basketball championship in junior high and have reunited 30 years later at a beautiful lakeside retreat in New England for the funeral of their beloved coach.
Sandler's character, Lenny Feder, is a highly successful Hollywood agent with a hot wife (Salma Hayek) involved in the fashion world (Salma Hayek). His kids are so spoiled they text their nanny, but his wish that they might enjoy the pleasures of nature at the resort seems ridiculous considering how they have been raised.
Of the rest: Rock is a cowering house-husband; Spade is an unrepentant womanizer; Schneider is a new-ager with a wife more than 30 years his senior (played by the 76-year-old Joyce Van Patten), who enjoys a lustful and noisy marriage; and James portrays a married man with children while hiding the fact he has no job.
When the five come together, they soon revert to their childish (not innocent child-like) and selfish ways, acting stupid and pulling off pranks like urinating in a pool. "Grown Ups" is not for grownups grown-ups. It's not for children, either.
In "Charlie St. Cloud," Zac Efron's title character spends a lot of time with the ghost of his younger brother, Sam (Charlie Tahan), who has been was killed by a drunk driver five years before. The film, directed by Burr Steers ("17 Again,", "Igby Goes Down"), is a vaguely metaphysical romance set in the Pacific Northwest.
Charlie's morose existence changes when he meets Tess (Amanda Crew), who, after the death of her father, is readying herself for an around-the-world solo sailing voyage. As they fall in love, it creates a difficult dilemma since Charlie has promised never to abandon Sam, and Tess is committed to her adventure.
Do we care? Sometimes. Efron is not without charm, and "Charlie St. Cloud" finds enough of that "Ghost" vibe for those with the right spirit to enjoy the movie.
Mirren enlivens 'Ranch'
In "Love Ranch" Oscar-winner Helen Mirren plays Grace Bontempo, the hard-edged madam of a 1970 s Reno whorehouse. The script, by New York contributing editor Mark Jacobson, is a fictional story based on Nevada's notorious Mustang Ranch, the first legal brothel in the U.S., which was run by Joe and Sally Conforte. In 1975, Joe brought the contract of Argentine heavyweight fighter Oscar Bonavena and had him train at the ranch.
There, the fighter began to have an affair with Sally, 26 years his senior, and boasted of taking over the brothel. He was shot to death outside the ranch on May 22, 1976. No one was convicted, and the story became national news.
In the film by Taylor Hackford ("Ray"), Joe Pesci plays Charlie, whose marriage to Grace is primarily a business arrangement. She runs the business and oversees the "25 psychotic whores"; he can have sex with whomever. "Love Ranch" tries to capture the zeitgeist of the era — the extreme and tawdry end of the sexual revolution — but only partially succeeds. And as a bizarre romance, it doesn't quite work, either. Still, Mirren, as always, is worth watching for her performance.
If you aren't checking out "Sherlock" — the modern-day re-imaging reimagining of Arthur Conan Doyle's famed sleuth on PBS's "Masterpiece Mystery!" — then go for the box set of season one.
Created by Steven Moffat, now the head writer and lead producer of "Doctor Who," "Sherlock" addsincludes all of today's forensics accoutrements while keeping the kinkiness of the character. Benedict Cumberbatch gives an energetic reading as the great detective, and the stories — while still relying on the Holmes-ian world — have some nifty twists and turns.
Speaking of "Doctor Who," the fifth season — this time with new doc, Matt Smith — is pretty entertaining. While Smith isn't quite up to David Tennant's entertaining portrayal of the title role, he does grow on you. Better, though, are the tone and stories of the fifth season. Moffat has re-invigorated the series.
The Fox show "Lie to Me" pretty much pivots on the Tim Roth's Dr. Cal Lightman, a psychologist who is an expert in body language and reading faces. Luckily, Roth is such a quirky, interesting actor that the series succeeds. Season two is out on DVD Tuesday, and the show airs on Mondays.