It's Friday the 13th. It's Day 99. It's possibly the debut of the greatest counter-programming movie matchup in the history of cinema. In one corner are the boys of Day 100 - that testosterone-laden wild bunch known as The Expendables. In the other is today's screening heroine, the almighty Julia Roberts, and her pack of wussy she-males in the best-seller turned picture perfect movie postcard Eat Pray Love.
Score one, at least in terms of Fandango pre-ticketing, to Ms. Roberts and her tale of writer Liz, an unhappy woman who receives a fortune-telling in Bali, dumps her husband, dumps her follow-up boyfriend, and goes on a pilgrimage to Italy, India and Bali to find true happiness. Besides lots of solid meditation, new friends and fine food, she also discovers a man who may end up being her one true love. While there are plenty of gorgeous shots of the scenery and the wilderness, not one stray bullet is fired and the men on display don't look like they'll be challenging Sly Stallone to an arm-wrestling contest any time soon.
That isn't to say that this enterprise exists without merit. Julia Roberts carries herself with dignity and believable enlightenment, and her male counterparts – including Billy Crudup, James Franco, Richard Jenkins and Javier Bardem – are a capable set. Their combined pectoral mass is far less than Expendables action man Dolph Lundgren, but these actors can emote and shed a tear with the finest of thespians.
Bottom line: girls and guys will get what they want this weekend at the movies. Guys get to watch guys fire heavy artillery in an expendable (!), R-rated, hardcore action flick with little to no plot beyond saving a damsel in distress. Girls get to see their girl looking beautiful, eating gelato in the Italian countryside, and shacking up with a sensitive Brazilian in Bali. It's fantasy fulfillment, and sometimes, that's exactly what we do need in our Hollywood entertainment. I wouldn't be caught dead in Eat Pray Love if not for this assignment. But I wouldn't deny that pleasure to anyone whose cup of tea this is…and now on to the final screening…of the glorious '80s throwback The Expendables.
Actually, one second to last blog post question on our girl Julia Roberts. Comment below on why you're excited (or not so excited) to see her in this role, and which of her past excellent performances do you rank as her best, and why? Here's to her and the rest of the fantastic actresses (Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Marisa Tomei) we've seen at this summer's box office!