Picks and Pans Main: Movies

updated 08/23/2010 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/23/2010 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Eat Pray Love

Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, Billy Crudup | PG-13 |

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DRAMA

Julia Roberts is so engaging that when she glories in a bowl of pasta, you can almost taste the tagliatelle. That's crucial, because you also have to hear her spout the navel-gazing drivel running through her character Liz's mind. Confession: I was not a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert's 2006 bestseller about her divorce and subsequent journey through Italy, India and Indonesia. The film's saving grace is that it ventures out of Gilbert's head, sparing us some of the neuroses and highlighting gorgeous locales and appealing fellow travelers.

After leaving her rebound boyfriend (James Franco) in New York, Liz heads to Rome and falls for ruins and ravioli before parking herself in an Indian ashram for a few months. The pal she makes there, Richard (Richard Jenkins), is a folksy delight, but we're really just waiting for Liz to get to Bali so she can meet Felipe (Bardem), also broken-hearted and searching. There's no more soulful actor working today than Bardem, and his Felipe lifts a film that sags in the middle and needs a grounded but passionate foil for Liz. Roberts is buoyant in the Italian scenes, relatable in India, and enviable in Bali. By the end, her Liz is actually likable-even to someone who hated the book.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

CRITIC'S CHOICE

Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong| PG-13|

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ACTION

With its brash blend of gamer and comic-book iconography, indie rock and martial arts, Scott Pilgrim is one of the most exuberant movies of the year. Scott (Cera) is nerdy cool, playing in a band and platonically sharing a bed with his gay roommate (the rakish Kieran Culkin). His mission: to defeat the seven evil exes of Ramona (Winstead), the neon-tressed girl he's dying to date-and to shake his own semi-ex, Knives Chau (Wong), whose name should've been a warning. The romance with Ramona is cute and funny, but the action is in Scott's battles with the exes, which brim with clever and funny details. The ending is a bit of a cheat, but the rest is resplendent in its geekiness.

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