(Capsule reviews by Melissa Anderson, Nick Pinkerton and Robert Wilonsky)
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World For all of Scott Pilgrim's adherence to the graphic novels upon which it's based--the pop-art pows and thwacks, the video-game imagery, the rock-and-roll and references, the merging of chop-socky action and puppy-dog-sweet sentiment--it goes even deeper, conveying the ache pulsating between the lines in Bryan Lee O'Malley's original comic. Edgar Wright's film version is still essentially The Oldest Story in the Book: Boy meets girl and has to fight to keep her.
And the boy--Scott Pilgrim, played by Michael Cera--is a stunted mess stranded in deep-freeze Canada. He's got himself a high school girlfriend named Knives (Ellen Wong), plays bass in a decent-but-never-gonna-make-it pop-punk trio called Sex Bob-Omb, and shares an apartment and bed with gay roomie Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin). At first, Scott's but another in a looooong line of mopey, tousled kidults played by Cera, who seems to have a range from A to A. But as soon as Scott meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who brings with her seven evil exes who Scott has to dispatch if he wants to keep going out with her, the kid sprouts some fuzz on his peaches. Out goes the whine, down goes a straight shot of big-boy bourbon. As he did in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Wright immerses his heroes in pop culture's detritus and diversions, but doesn't drown them in it. You don't have to be dazzled or tickled by the movie, or get every joke, to be touched by it, too. (R.W.)
113 minutes Rated PG-13
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Love Ranch Helen Mirren married director Taylor Hackford in 1997; the two fell in love on the set of White Nights (1985), their first film together. Love Ranch, their second collaboration in 25 years, should be grounds for divorce. Written and executive-produced by journalist (and Hackford pal) Mark Jacobson, Love Ranch is based on the real-life Joe and Sally Conforte, owners of Nevada's Mustang Ranch, the first legalized brothel in the U.S. Renamed Charlie and Grace Bontempo (and played by Joe Pesci and Mirren), the proprietors are first seen welcoming in 1976 at their whorehouse outside Reno, as Foghat blares, a sociopathic john is eighty-sixed, and Mirren's voiceover, an uneven Americanized squawk, announces: "Selling love will make you rich." Rather than being a film about a specific time, milieu, place, or ethical quandary, Love Ranch focuses instead on the least provocative topic: the Bontempos' marital meltdown. Grace stoically endures both her infertile, former yardbird husband's cavorting with the employees and her cancer diagnosis, finding diversion in Charlie's latest purchase, boxer Armando Bruza (Sergio Peris-Mencheta). The more riveting movie is the one that plays in your head as you imagine how Hackford talked Mirren into doing this. She may look and sound miserable in her husband's film, but stumping for Love Ranch on talk shows and in magazine profiles/bathtub exposés, Mirren gives one of her best performances yet. (M.A.)
117 minutes Rated R
Grown Ups You've probably seen the poster for Grown Ups, with its stars--Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and Kevin James--barreling down a waterslide. Or is the verb I'm looking for "coasting"? Grown Ups begins with a flashback to a 1978 boys' basketball championship, where the starting five look like 12-year-old versions of the aforementioned lineup. We catch up with the teammates 30 years later, reunited for Coach's funeral in their New England hometown (helpfully identified onscreen as "New England"). Entrusted with Coach's ashes, the boys and their families head for their old summer-getaway lodge, where they sit in Adirondack chairs by a perpetually gold-shimmering lake. The guest list includes the urn, Rock's stock-comic mother-in-law, a dog with snipped vocal cords, five men, four wives, and 10 kids. This small army becomes a gridlock of gags and plotlines, with conflicts and assigned traits dropped and hastily retrieved as needed. Maya Rudolph is the only capable comedienne among the wives; the men are either unfunny or, if given fewer lines, useless. Though the uncynical goodwill that accompanies Sandler's work makes footing this vacation bill less enraging than the toxic Couples Retreat, it's one of those Sandler movies where the inevitable Steve Buscemi cameo passes for the highlight. While Sandler has never trafficked in epigrammatic wit, there's a difference between, say, Billy Madison's "Of course I peed my pants--everyone my age pees their pants," and this lazy stuff--the difference between smart-dumb and plain-dumb. (N.P.)
102 minutes Rated PG-13