"Eat Pray Love" is a laid-back adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling memoir of searching the world for something to fill her life post-divorce. It was directed by Ryan Murphy (creator of "Glee"), who co-wrote the script with Jennifer Salt.
It stars Julia Roberts, which is both a plus and minus. The superstar infuses her Elizabeth with the charm and attractiveness needed for the role, but, like the film, she doesn't do much with the angst and uncertainty at the end of her marriage. Her rebound from her husband (Billy Crudup) is with a young(er) actor (James Franco), but being around him isn't helping Elizabeth, a financially secure New York-based writer. So she tells her publisher (Viola Davis) she's heading out for some globe-trotting research. (Nice work if you can get it.)
Places like Rome, Naples and Bali make for pretty nice scenery, and Elizabeth enjoys some delicious meals along the way. As for her spiritual growth, "Eat Pray Love" isn't Somerset Maugham's "The Razor's Edge." Sure, she learns some valuable lessons along the way. At an ashram she meets a recovering alcoholic Texan (Richard Jenkins) who helps her forgive herself for her own failings.
But since this is a romantic comedy, waiting down the line is a charming divorced Brazilian expatriate played by Javier Bardem. "Eat Pray Love" is enjoyable as far as its story takes it, which isn't very far. By the time the film is finished you may be dreaming about a trip to Rome anyway - or at least a good pizza.
Muscles and mayhem
In "The Expendables" Sylvester Stallone plays Barney Ross, about one step removed from Barney Rubble. Other members of the cast are Jet Li as Yin Yang, Eric Roberts as James Munroe, Randy Couture as Toll Road, Steve Austin as Paine and Mickey Rourke as Tool. That gives you the somewhat jokey attitude of this throwback muscle-bound film directed by Stallone.
Part of the fun is seeing action figures from the 1980s
Roberts' character is a rogue CIA agent pulling the strings of a Latin American puppet dictator named Garza (David Zayas), whose own daughter, Sandra (Giselle Iti ), has turned against him. Barney and the boys become involved - and for the first time in awhile, not for dollars.
But plot or not, "The Expendables" is really about explosions and who drops in, including cameos by former action rivals Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger as cops. Even Dolph Lundgren - who as Russian boxer Ivan Drago nearly pummeled Rocky Balboa to death in "Rocky IV" - starts out as part of Sly's crew. There's one thing for sure though, Stallone isn't going into old age quietly.
"The Pillars of the Earth" is reminiscent of those epic miniseries that aired in the 1970s and 1980s. Based on Ken Follett's 1,000-plus-page novel of the same name, the story takes place over many decades and uses the building of the fictitious Kingsbridge Cathedral (modeled on the cathedrals of Wells and Salisbury) as its centerpiece.
Set during bloody events in 12th-century England during a period of civil war known as the Anarchy, the plot involves murders and mysteries. One is about succession to the throne, another about solving the technical problems of building a cathedral.
And since this is a Ridley and Tony Scott production, there's plenty of bloodletting and sex, but it's also populated with some fine actors - Ian McShane, Donald Sutherland, Rufus Sewell, this year's Tony Award winner Eddie Redmayne, Matthew Macfadyen and Alison Pill.
"Pillars," which aired on Starz this summer, does not measure up to historical dramas like HBO's "Rome," but it is mostly entertaining.
Keep in mind
In "Luther," the BBC mystery, Idris Elba gives a convincing and measured performance as a slightly warped police detective on the trail of a serial killer. "Countdown to Zero" is an informative documentary about nuclear proliferation.