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The Assassination of Richard Nixon Review


OK
Richard Nixon does not die in The Assassination of Richard Nixon, but the film's protagonist - a depressed, angry, middle-aged man named Samuel Bicke (Sean Penn) - eventually comes to believe that, for the good of himself and his country, the commander-in-chief deserves death. Estranged from his wife, unable to hold down employment, and disgusted by the lies and hypocrisies of a 1974 American society that favors the deceitful rich and powerful over the little man, Bicke is a powder keg waiting for his fuse to be lit. And in Niels Mueller's unsettling debut, that igniting spark comes from a series of final disappointments that Bicke - the type of man who blames his woes on a general, conspiratorial "they" - conveniently pins on the corrupting influence of the tricky U.S. president seen talking about hope and prosperity on his living room TV.

A kindred spirit of Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle ("God's lonely man") with politics, instead of prostitution, on his mind, Bicke fervently believes in honesty, upright morals, and a sense of decency and fairness. Unfortunately, his uncompromising idealism functions as a straightjacket, preventing him from performing the casual deceptions necessitated by his job as a furniture salesman or accepting the fact that his estranged wife Marie (Naomi Watts) must don a short miniskirt and tolerate customers' gropes to earn a living as a waitress. He resents the success of his tire salesman brother Julius, longs for the happy stability of living with his wife and three kids (who seem to fear him), sports fanciful dreams of starting his own tire business with an African-American friend (Don Cheadle's Bonny) and longs to join the Black Panthers (who he believes can relate to his supposed persecution). To Bicke, the world has been corrupted, and the only effective response - after sending Leonard Bernstein (a "pure and honest" man) his tape-recorded memoirs - is to orchestrate an attack on the White House via hijacked airplane that will, he imagines, awaken the world to American injustice.

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Me and You and Everyone We Know Review


Extraordinary
Don't let Miranda July's background as a performance artist scare you away from her first feature, the offbeat, totally winning Me and You and Everyone We Know. July, who also stars in the film, combines a twisted indie sensibility with honesty and warmth, creating a movie of surprising accessibility. As the "independent" genre becomes increasingly forced, Miranda July's greatest accomplishment is that this all feels so effortless.

Making up the odd little microcosm of Me and You (recently chosen for competition at Cannes) are characters ranging in size, color, age and desires. Christine (July), a woman who chauffeurs the elderly around in her car, longs for two things: her own art installation and the affections of a scruffy shoe salesman named Richard (John Hawkes, of HBO's Deadwood). Richard is nursing a broken heart and a bit of self-flagellation since separating with his wife and moving his mixed race sons (Miles Thompson and amazing six-year-old Brandon Ratcliff) into a tiny apartment.

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Must Love Dogs Review


Grim
While watching "Must Love Dogs," a romanticcomedy about moving on from divorc=E9e depression, I was sure this wouldbe a three-star review. The leads -- Diane Lane and John Cusack -- areirresistibly charismatic but accessible, the writing is wonderfully witty,and the story has a good hook: the travails of internet dating for peoplewho are still young, but too mature and serious about love for delvinginto the meat market of bars and nightclubs.

This was going to be a three-star review because of theway writer-director Gary David Goldberg (adapting Claire Cook's popularnovel) deliberately flirted with and skirted around romantic comedy cliches,making the story familiar yet fresh:

Custom boat builder Cusack and preschool teacher Lane meetearly on (in a park with borrowed dogs they both pretended to own in theirpersonal ads) and have a string of funny -- and perhaps a little too frank-- misfire dates that retain just enough chemistry to keep them both interested.But at the same time Lane, eight months out from being dumped for a youngerwoman and egged on by a family of amusingly well-intentioned busybodies,experiences bad date montages with other men. And Cusack wallows in a littleself-inflicted depression over his own divorce by watching "DoctorZhivago" at least once a day, slumped on his couch like a pile oflaundry.

This was going to be a three-star review right up untilthe movie's final five minutes, which are so much worse than any of thegenre hallmarks "Must Love Dogs" goes out of its way to set upand knock down -- so much more sappy, saccharine, ridiculous and contrived-- that it broke the picture's charming spell.

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