There's a terrific sense of righteous anger in this scruffy comedy about disenfranchised people shaking American politics to its core. But the film plays it far too safely, dealing lightly with important themes while refusing to take a real stand on anything. It also never makes the most of its likeable, fully invested cast.
Based on a true story, the film is set in 2001 Seattle, where long-time buddies Phil and Grant (Biggs and Moore) are both unemployed journalists. When Grant decides to run for city council, Phil helps with the campaign. Grant's main passion is public transportation, which he sees as a social justice issue since it's what allows lower-income people to work and improve their lives. And his counter-culture approach makes him stand out opposite the unruffled incumbent (Cedric). On the other hand, Phil's girlfriend Emily (Ambrose) starts to worry when Grant's campaign becomes a centre for frat-boy antics, including rather a lot of pot-smoking. But this populist approach is like a breath of fresh air to voters.
Watching these no-hopers take on a well-oiled political machine is pretty inspirational, especially when the characters have so much raw charm. Biggs is superb in the central role, grounding even the most chaotic scenes in earthy honesty. By contrast, Moore feels a little overwrought as the hyperactive Grant, which makes us wonder why anyone would take him seriously. Although he nicely brings out Grant's inner resolve. And both Ambrose and Cedric add complex layers to their rather thinly written characters.
Continue reading: Grassroots Review
When their over-extended Manhattan lifestyle falls apart, George and Linda (Rudd and Aniston) head to Atlanta to regroup at the home of George's rich brother (Marino) and his medicated wife (Watkins). But on the way they stop at a B&B in Elysium, a countryside commune that sparks their imagination of a possible new life. Led by forgetful founder Carvin (Alda) and self-important guru Seth (Theroux), George and Linda are surprised at how well they fit in.
But this free-spirited, free-loving society starts to strain their relationship.
Continue reading: Wanderlust Review
George and Linda are the ultimate urban couple. Living in New York, they both lead hectic lifestyles and are used to running into the bonnet of a taxi on a regular basis (don't worry, they always walk away unscathed). One disadvantage of their fast paced jobs is their tiredness in the evenings. Whenever George and Linda plan on having sex, they find themselves falling asleep on each other.
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Max (Records) is a mischievous, imaginative pre-teen with a dismissive big sister (Emmerichs) and an understanding mum (Keener). But a series of events get him thinking about the fragility of life, so he takes a flight of fantasy to a distant island populated by furry creatures who at first threaten to eat him but then adopt him as their king. Playful games ensue, as he leads them in the construction of a giant fortress. But even here, relationships become tricky to navigate.
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Paul Giamatti (as himself) is a New York actor rehearsing for a stage production of Uncle Vanya. Understandably, the play is depressing him, so he decides to put his soul in storage and lighten up. He finds a facility in the Yellow Pages, and the staff there (Strathairn and Ambrose) help him to desoul his body, although he's a little unnerved when, in a jar, his soul looks like a common chick pea. Meanwhile, Nina (Korzun) is a mule transporting souls between Russia and America, which causes rather serious complications for Paul.
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Starting Out in the Evening unveils the final chapter in the life of Schiller (Frank Langella), an aging novelist whose health deteriorates as he races to complete one last book. Since his existing novels are out of print, Leonard needs the next one be a success if he wants to be fondly remembered in the literary world. He's been working on the book for over a decade now, however, and has failed to capture interest from publishers. His shortcomings are not due to laziness, though. Leonard used to be a more prolific writer, but has never been the same since his wife died years prior, and neither has his work.
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I'm not sure what director Katherine Dieckmann (best known as an R.E.M. video director) thought she was grabbing hold of here, but this melodrama (tinged with cheap gags) is all atmosphere, broad Lawn Guyland accents, and jokes at the expense of Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. Even the "crying Indian" makes an appearance.
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Ambrose's character, Frankie, dresses and acts like a woman who's entrenched in middle age without any hope of escaping. She runs the family restaurant with her older brother, Nick (Josh Pais), and she shares their parents' old house with Nick's wife and kids. Frankie's best friend, Nicola (Jennifer Dundas Lowe), apparently keeps her around so she can look more vivacious by comparison.
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Originally performed on the stage, Psycho Beach Party is the story of a teenage girl who wants desperately to surf. It's also the story of a female cop who used to be a man. And some homoerotic surfers. And a beautiful movie star who's hiding from Hollywood. And an alcoholic mother with no grasp of the present. And a psychotic killer who hacks people up for their imperfections. And it all takes place at Malibu Beach in 1962.
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