EAT PRAY LOVE * * *
Cert PG, 139 mins
Based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s autobiographical best-seller, Julia Roberts plays the writer who embarks on a quest for self-knowledge and happiness.
Realising she’s miserable with husband Billy Crudup, Liz just ups and leaves without discussing their problems, which gives us a taste of how selfish she can be.
She embarks on a relationship with younger actor James Franco but still whines about feeling empty.
So she runs away for a year, heading to Italy to eat, India to pray and to Bali for romance.
Rome looks nice and so does the food, and Roberts can fit a lot of spaghetti into that wide mouth of hers.
What’s harder to swallow is when Liz claims she’s put on weight with all the scoffing and has a ‘muffin top’. Of course you have, love.
Then it’s off to an ashram in India, where the overlong film really sags. Liz comes out with more self-indulgent homilies, but I’m afraid I couldn’t care less about how ‘‘disconnected’’ she feels.Even a fine actor like Richard Jenkins struggles with the sappy script.
Things pick up when she moves on to Bali and literally bumps into sexy Javier Bardem – it’s just a shame he doesn’t appear until 30 minutes before the end.
If you like Roberts and understand what it means to ’‘smile with your liver’’, this is the film for you. Others will get bored half-way through but there are just about enough witty lines and picturesque scenes to keep watching.
Only just, mind. RL
THE TOWN * * * * *
Cert 15, 125 mins
Actor turned director Ben Affleck follows up Gone Baby Gone (2007) with another brilliant Boston-based thriller.
He was once so wooden he threatened to take root, but as a director of contemporary thrillers Affleck is suddenly right up there with the likes of Paul Greengrass and Christopher Nolan. Astonishing!
The Town opens in costumed tribute to Bill Murray’s Quick Change and has been more than crossed with Robert De Niro’s Heat. But when a film engages you in criminal activity in ways not seen since Scorsese’s The Departed (2006), there’s something supremely satisfying about watching it.
Based on Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves and with beautiful cinematography by Oscar-winning great Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood), The Town is set in an area rife with robberies of banks and armoured cash vans.
Doug MacRay (Affleck) and his gang of three (including The Hurt Locker’s Oscar-nominated Jeremy Renner as James Coughlin) are simply following their father’s criminally-minded footsteps.
Once mistakenly called the best actor in the world by Steven Spielberg, Pete Postlethwaite enjoys a rare outing as a criminal mastermind called Fergie.
Hiding behind his flower business, he offers a lovely line when he looks at the four hoodlums and tells them he can see their fathers in all of their faces.
Affleck keeps much of the film enjoyably tense even though the end is predictable.
But when the action rears its head you can almost feel the bullets whizzing past your ears and the low-level camerawork on the car chases through Boston’s narrow streets adds further excitement to a potent mix.
John Hamm and Rebecca Hall co-star. Chris Cooper was so good in a thriller called Breach three years ago, his role as Affleck’s father is disappointingly brief. But it’s a measure of the director’s new drawing power that an actor of Cooper’s stature was willing to do such a scarcely-recognisable cameo. GY
THE HOLE 3D * * * *
Cert 12A, 92 mins
Director Joe Dante never did live up to the promise of his first hit, Gremlins (1984). But, at last, he’s made a new movie that should appeal to that difficult age group to satisfy, the 12 to 15-year-olds.
Three children discover a mysterious hole which simply becomes a film-maker’s excuse to test his audience’s resistance to different potential phobias.
An enjoyable compendium with some good effects, The Hole is bound to find one of your weaknesses.
Some 12-year-olds are going to be in for such a shock they’d do well to remember comedian Brian Conley’s old catchphrase: ‘‘It’s only a puppet!’’ GY
FROZEN * * * *
Cert 15, 93 mins
Best friends Dan (Kevin Zegers) and Joe (Shawn Ashmore) visit a New Hampshire ski resort for the day with Dan’s girlfriend Parker (Emma Bell).
With darkness falling, they persuade the chair lift operator to let them go up for one last run. But due to a miscommunication, they’re left hanging in mid-air, while the resort is closed down for the weekend – and no-one’s coming back for four days.
The tension builds well as they debate the best course of action. Jumping down proves rather disastrous, but they’ll freeze to death if they stay up there.
With a better-than-average script and performances, there are a couple of startling moments and good use of just one location. RL