Movie Reviews

Directed by Ryan Murphy

Cast: Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, Viola Davis, Billy Crudup, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, Ali Khan
Review by Joshua Starnes


Happily married Elizabeth Gilbert (Roberts) takes a right turn in her life by enduring a painful divorce and proceeding to take a round-the-world journey of self-enlightenment and fulfillment.


Do you know what the most interesting thing in the world to you is? You. Do you know what the least interesting thing in the world to anyone else is? You.

That’s not entirely true because people have relationships and empathy, but I think we can safely call it 95% true. So how do you get around that problem in a story that is essentially about you? As an author or filmmaker you can either make your ‘you’ stand-in so likeable and/or universal that everyone else sees themselves in it and goes along for the ride out of shared experience. Or you can make your stand-in such a vehicle for ridiculous wish fulfillment that everyone else comes along to pretend the have the shared experience.

A lot of movies like “Eat Pray Love” like to pretend to themselves they’re the first kind of story, without realizing (or actively) ignoring the fact they are the second, resulting in something that is simultaneously preachy and shallow, which is about as aggravating as it sounds. Try imagining one of the ‘Real Housewives’ of wherever explaining to you what you need to do reach spiritual enlightenment. Well, maybe not that shallow but certainly that immature.


Liz (Julia Roberts) isn’t happy with life. She doesn’t know why, she just is. She married her goofball husband (Billy Crudup) too early to realize that wasn’t what she wanted and the affair she has with a young actor (James Franco) doesn’t make things any clearer. Her only solution is to check out of life: travel to several countries (all beginning with the all important letter I) so that she can spend some time focusing on herself and what it is she really wants.

The thing is what Liz really wants is to be 20 again, with the wonderful expanse of life ahead of her and none of the cynical realizations of maturity to keep her from enjoying it. If that sounds really, really hard to relate to, it is. Liz maybe the most unlikeable character Julia Roberts has ever had to play, not because co-writer/director Ryan Murphy (“Glee”) is trying to make her so (and eventually redeem her) but because everything the film does pushes her in that direction.

I suspect that’s because his eye is less on his characters than it is on the loving, beautiful travelogue he has put together of Italy and Indonesia and India. Especially Italy. Sure, it’s the part of the movie that’s supposed to be about giving in to physical pleasures as a real thing not to feel guilty about, but it also seems to be the only part of the movie anyone making it really understands because it’s the only part that doesn’t pretend to be more than it is. I swear to God, they spent longer lovingly lighting the spaghetti under Robert Richardson’s watchful eye than they did trying figure out why on Earth anyone would ever like Liz.

However as it moves into its spiritual journey, with Liz embracing her inner ashram in India and her attempt to balance the competing desires of her heart of India, “Eat Pray Love” reveals itself to be the con man it is. It knows people want to have their cake and eat it too, and it’s going to do its best to give it to them, while spinning just enough spiritual platitudes to make sure you’re not really paying attention to the smoke and mirrors.

After a year of discovering herself Liz literally runs into a dashing Brazilian ex-pat (Javier Bardem) in Bali with all the finesse of a Harlequin romance and has to wonder if it was all for naught and all she really needed was someone else to make her happy after all. It’s the sort of thing people rake “Sex and the City” over the coals for but at least they had the honesty to be up front about it.

There are some descent supporting performances scattered in “Eat Pray Love” from Richard Jenkin’s sloganeering Texas pilgrim to Viola Davis as Liz’s publisher and one and only model of sanity in the world. But they’re not enough to turn the tide that is all, all about Liz.

“Eat Pray Love” is the shallowest of shallow wish fulfillment, which wouldn’t be so obnoxious if it wasn’t trying to gussy itself up with the clothing of enlightenment. But maybe I’m the one who’s cynical. If I met the supermodel of my dreams on a beach in Bali, I’d probably get over any personal problems I had, too.




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pirates of the caribbean 2017.jpgCaptain Jack Sparrow searches for the trident of Poseidon.

Directors: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
Writers: Jeff Nathanson (screenplay)
Stars: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem

Review by Gilbert Seah 

 The 5th instalment of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN franchise has been delayed a year and then another to be finally released this year after budget and script problems. It is easy to see why. The film like most sequels comes across as louder and bigger but not necessarily better. Written by Jeff Nathanson based on a story by himself and Terry Rossio, the story is a narrative mess and all over the place. In the parts where it is barely coherent, the special effects and swashbuckling action totally destroys whatever left as a thread of a story.

The film begins with a boy rowing a boat into the vast ocean. A huge ship scoops the boy up from underwater where the audience learns that the boy is seeking his father (Orlando Bloom) to return home. The father is under a curse and the boy vows to seek the Trident of Poseidon which returns power to the seas and break the curse that prevents the father returning home. The film then jumps 9 years into the future. The boy is revealed to be now grown up as the handsome Brenton Thwaites who is locked beneath the ship after warning the captain of dangerous waters that no ship has ever come back from. When imprisoned, the ship is attacked by ghosts. Henry is met by an evil, hissing ghost by the name of Salazar (Javier Bardem). He is apparently a powerful and maniacal undead pirate hunter of the Spanish Navy who was trapped in the Devil’s Triangle. After escaping, he seeks the Trident of Poseidon to wipe out all piracy and exact revenge on Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). He asks Henry to pass the message to Sparrow that he is looking for him as he cannot relay the message as dead men tell no tales. Of course, all this make no sense. The story then jumps to anther point. jack Sparrow is robbing a bank.

No one really cares what happens. A female character Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) is further introduced into the story to form the romantic interest for Henry, who also ends up seeking that dreaded trident. To form a strong female presence in the film, she fights for women’s rights to study in the university at that time.

When Johnny Depp is not appearing half the time behaving as if he was drunk or high, the pirates are swinging all over the ship and beating each other up. Lots of props get wrecked with lots of pyrotechnics thrown in. The camera swirls around for no reason – to the sky, to the sea down to the vast expanse of beaches.

The film’s best segment which occurs at the start when Sparrow falls asleep during a bank heist is quite over-the-top, but the the rest of the film never matches that part.

It only took ten minutes of the film for boredom to set in and the film lasts a full 2 hours and 20 minutes. The few cameos of Paul McCartney and Kiera Knightley do not enliven the film either.

This should finally be the last tired entry to a tired series. Jack Sparrow and gang should be forever banished to the Devil’s Triangle. In this film, Sparrow is supposed to have lost his mojo and getting it back with Poseidon’s Trident. No kidding about that loss of mojo.



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