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Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. It is the story of a year-long journey she took following a devastating divorce and love affair that left her questioning the most fundamental notions of who she was and where she was going. She decided she would do three things she thought would be spiritually nurturing and sustaining. She had always wanted to learn Italian, which she thought was the most beautiful language. She began in Italy, being kind to herself, and that included not just learning Italian but, as the title of the book suggests, eating Italian, too. Once she felt physically restored, she went to India, to commune with the divine. She meditated in an ashram, learning patience and humility. And then she went to Bali, where a shaman had once invited her to return, to try to achieve balance. The book inspired this week’s feature film, with Julia Roberts. Those interested in the real story can find an update on the book’s most beloved characters on Gilbert’s website.

Here, Gilbert talks briefly to fans about the themes of the book and her hopes that readers will not just imitate her journey but find their own.

And here is a video of one of the people she wrote about in her book, Ketut Liyer of Bali.

Gilbert’s TED talk about the sources of creativity is truly inspiring:

Why do we want what we want? I don’t mean world peace or for our school’s team to win the NCAA championship, but why do we want a particular brand of shoe or phone or perfume? Is it because we think we will be able to appropriate some of the glamor of the celebrities who endorse them or the happiness of the people in commercials who seem to be having so much fun? And how can companies sell products to consumers who skip the ads on television and use pop-up blockers online?

This provocative new film takes current marketing trends and tweaks them just slightly for a sharp, witty, and revealing take that shows us, among other things, that we never really leave middle school when it comes to wanting to be just like the cool kids.

A new family moves into a wealthy neighborhood. They are attractive, charming, and very friendly. They love to entertain and they are always helpful in suggesting products to help you feel better, smarter, and more successful. “What are friends for?” they smile when thanked.

They seem to have it all — and by that I mean every high-end, desirable, utterly enticing gadget, fashion, and accessory you might see in a luxury magazine or on a red carpet or in the SkyMall catalogue. Their name is Jones, as in keeping up with — and as in Jonesing for all of their goodies in an attempt to achieve their effortless glamor.

They’re not a family. They are “stealth marketers,” placed in wealthy neighborhoods to push products. Kate (Demi Moore) is in charge. She has been “Mrs. Jones” with six different “husbands” in different neighborhoods. The new “Mr. Jones” this go-round (David Duchovny) is a former golf pro and car salesman named Steve. Kate teaches him the power of ripple effects — you sell more by influencing the local influencers like the most popular hairdresser in town and the guy who works in the pro shop at the country club. Meanwhile, the fake Jones kids are in high school, pushing lipstick and a rum drink in a sack. “You can’t just sell things; you’re here to sell a lifestyle, an attitude,” their supervisor (60’s supermodel Lauren Hutton) crisply reminds them. “If people want you, they’ll want what you’ve got.”

All goes well at first, the smooth operation contrasting with their neighbor’s clumsy efforts to sell her Mary Kay-style cosmetics. Steve reassures himself that he’s only “making a match between great products and the people that want them.” But then things go very badly, with tragic consequences.

Duchovny and Moore are just right, both deploying and mocking their movie star glamor. In the past, both stars have traded on a talent for blankness (yes, that is a talent), allowing us to project our own feelings onto them. Here, both are a bit more vulnerable and accessible. The exceptional supporting cast includes Amber Heard and Ben Hollingsworth, as their fake children and Chris Williams as the hairdresser. And watch for the movie’s own stealth marketing through its product placements — almost all of the items used by the Joneses are real. If you leave the theater thinking you really should pick up one of those phones with real-time video or a Japanese toilet, ask yourself why.

CONTEST ALERT: I have three DVDs to give away to the first three people who send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com with “Jones” in the subject line. Don’t forget to include your address! Good luck, and thanks very much to Fox for providing the DVDs.

Putting Tina Fey and Steve Carell together seems so natural it’s hard to believe that it took this long. Both are funny in part because they let us see how smart they are. The characters they play on television may be clueless (about some things in her case, about pretty much everything in his), but they are clever about their cluelessness. They make us lean in a little, listen a little more closely — we have to up our game a bit to make sure we catch all the fine points, which are actually pretty fine. This is one movie where the closing credit out-takes are worth the wait.

They are perfectly cast in “Date Night” as a suburban couple who feel that they are in a bit of a rut. Their lives are so dull that when they are out together they amuse each other by inventing conversations about more interesting lives for the couples around them. So instead of their usual weekly outing to a suburban restaurant for potato skins and salmon, they go into Manhattan for a big night out on the town at a trendy restaurant. And then everything goes wrong, wronger, and wrongest, and funny, and funnier, and if not funniest, funny enough for making your own date night worth the cost of the tickets and babysitter.

I like the way they do not go for the usual easy laughs based on incompetence and misunderstandings — at least not between the couple. Of course there are a lot of misunderstandings with everyone around them when Phil (Carell) impulsively lies about who he is in order to score a table at a fancy restaurant. It turns out that the name he has appropriated is the nom de crime of a couple who have stolen something that some very nasty people want back very badly. This leads Phil and Claire (Fey) on a wild goose chase all over Manhattan.

What I like best about this movie is that it avoids the usual easy laughs that come from incompetence and mistrust. Claire and Phil may be in way over their heads, but they never lose the essential sweetness of their connection. They — and Fey and Carell — always seem to be getting a kick out of each other. As actors and as human beings, both have an authentic understanding of the rhythms of marital shorthand (and sometime short-changing). They always have each other’s backs. And a constant stream of expert guest performers in supporting roles keeps the movie fresh and energetic. Director Shawn Levy (the Night at the Museum movies) knows how to blend action and comedy and this time he’s even added in some heart.

This is the last big week of the summer movie season and it is quite the box office battle. the Expendables.jpgIn one corner, we have The Expendables, starring ten of the hugest (in every sense) action stars in movie history: Sylvester Stallone (who wrote and directed), his “Rocky IV” nemesis, Dolph Lundgren, WWE superstar Stone Cold Steve Austin, Ultimate Fighting Champion Randy Couture, martial arts master Jet Li, former NFL player Terry Crews, “Iron Man 2’s” Mickey Rourke, and “Transporter’s” Jason Statham — plus brief appearances by Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is touting itself as “the manliest movie ever made” and what would happen “if testosterone mated with explosions” and a fight scene had the crowd in Hall H at Comic-Con cheering. It also features Eric Roberts as the bad guy.
eat_pray_love_poster_m.jpgTen action heroes just about add up to the three-woman team behind the other movie: international best-seller Elizabeth Gilbert, box office champ Julia Roberts, and empress of all media Oprah Winfrey. “Eat Pray Love,” based on the Oprah-endorsed international best-seller, has been made into a movie starring Julia Roberts and directed and co-written by Ryan Murphy (of “Glee” and “Nip/Tuck”). So, the Roberts siblings are both starring in movies opening on August 13.
And then there is another movie that had the Comic-Con crowd in ecstasy, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” based on the graphic novel series, starring Michael Cera, and directed by Edgar Wright, about as powerful a combination for the comic/gamer/fantasy crowd as Stallone et al and Oprah et al are for their respective fans. Any guesses on who’s going to win the box office this weekend?
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