This isn't to say James kvetches about his lot in life to the manic extent Garlin's manager character on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" can when goaded by a king crank like Larry David, but you might wish this speed-limit-safe exercise in Woody Allen-esque urban romantic neuroses had taken jazzier comic risks.
"I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With." Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes. At selected theaters. The rich keep getting meanerIt's tempting to look at director Griffin Dunne's film of Dirk Wittenborn's novel "Fierce People" -- about the seductive evil of the moneyed classes -- as an ode to the work of his father, Dominick, who has made exposing the wealthy's dark secrets his scribblers' forte at Vanity Fair.
Too bad there's little voyeuristic juice to the son's stab at a fictional version, either as something comically screwball or viciously trenchant about the country's ruling -- and rule-breaking -- class. It's 1980 and our guides are sardonic 16-year-old Finn (Anton Yelchin) and his addictive-personality mother Liz (Diane Lane), working-class New Yorkers who get invited to spend a battery-recharging summer at the massive New Jersey estate of a quirky, corrupt billionaire (Donald Sutherland).
Opulent hedonism and piquant snobbery perfumes the air as Finn initially adopts a clinically observant stance toward his entitled hosts as a way of honoring the anthropologist dad he worships, until the allure of dating the billionaire's granddaughter (Kristen Stewart) and palling around with the grandson (Chris Evans) has Finn going native dangerously fast. Lane is typically fantastic as a well-meaning mother in over her head, and Sutherland excels at sensitively rotting authority. But Dunne and Wittenborn, who adapted his book, work too hard at stressing just how ruthless the unspoken standards of the stinking rich can be, leading to a story-pivoting act of brutality toward Finn that careens the movie into a tonal wilderness that it never recovers from.
"Fierce People." MPAA rating: R for language, drug use, sexuality/nudity and some violence. Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes. At the Mann Criterion, 1313 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, (310) 395-1599; Laemmle's Town Center, 17200 Ventura Blvd.; Encino (818) 981-9811; and Laemmle's Playhouse 7, 673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena (626) 844-6500. Move away from 'McAllister'The madcap factor is off the charts in "Moving McAllister," a rather anemic road movie written by and starring Ben Gourley, who made the big mistake of building into his situation comedy clocks and maps -- factors that keep reminding us how long it is till the end of the film.
Gourley is personable enough as law intern Rick Robinson, who is asked by his imperious boss (Rutger Hauer) to transport his beautiful, spoiled and free-spirited niece, Michelle (Mila Kunis) from Georgia to Malibu -- and do it in the four days before Rick's bar exam.
You kind of expect everything to go wrong, and it does, and you're not surprised. Kunis ("That '70s Show") lights up the screen, and Jon Heder ("Napoleon Dynamite") delivers another in what will one day be a large collection of stoner roles. There are enough reasons to avoid this oh-so-wacky comedy as it meanders from piney Georgia to Port Arthur, Texas, to Monument Valley, Utah, and they include Gourley's sense of direction. Directed by Andrew Black.
"Moving McAllister." MPAA rating: PG-13 for some drug content, sexual references and crude humor. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. In general release. Clichés mar offbeat 'Scarlet'Love blooms where it's least expected in "What's Up, Scarlet?" A gender-bending twist on a shopworn formula, this indie romantic comedy boasts committed performances, persuasive casting, and above-average production values, but it can't escape the pitfalls of a predictable narrative.
Tough-minded Scarlet (Susan Priver) has a successful matchmaking business, a pot-smoking brother (Jere Burns), and a meddling mother (Sally Kirkland). Emotionally unavailable to everyone but her dogs, Scarlet callously dismisses her mother's attempts to find her a mate. A traffic accident changes all that: When her car is rear-ended by flighty foreign actress Sabrina Fisser (Musetta Vander), Scarlet is furious. But after Sabrina dissolves in tears, Scarlet takes pity on her, offering her a ride. When Sabrina reveals she's homeless, Scarlet offers a one-night stay at her house.Slowly, Scarlet's tough shell cracks as she and Sabrina initiate a tentative friendship that yields a surprising romance.
Priver (who conceived the story and co-wrote the script with director Anthony Calderella) and Vander make a refreshing and unusual screen couple.
Calderella, to his credit, doesn't fetishize the women's sexual relationship like so many comparable (straight person turns gay) films have done. Rather than focus on the novelty of their attraction for each other, he renders it a natural and gentle progression of their growing trust. Unfortunately, the film soon collapses in campy cliché.
"What's Up, Scarlet?" Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd. (323) 848-3500. 'Dead One' digs its own grave"The Dead One" ushers in a new sub-genre: the Latino zombie movie. Unfortunately, this unconvincing, thrill-free effort, based on Javier Hernandez's comic book "El Muerto," isn't likely to inspire any follow-ups, despite an ending that screams sequel.
Wilmer Valderrama stars as Diego, a young Mexican American man killed in a car crash driving to a Day of the Dead celebration, only to be resurrected a year later by the darkest forces of the ancient Aztec netherworld (long story). Havoc ensues, of course, as Diego wanders around torn between good and evil -- and pining for his eternal love Maria (Angie Cepeda) -- all while stuck in the skull-faced makeup and mariachi drag he trotted out for the original party (his Jewish friend Zak, played by Joel David Moore, memorably dubs Diego's costume his "whole loco shmata get-up").
There's a rising body count and a silly villain (Billy Drago), though Diego barrels through using a host of convenient superpowers he's picked up in the afterlife. Writer-director Brian Cox tries to wedge religious and sociological depth into the script, but he's working on a canvas too small to support the story's grand mythology.
"The Dead One." MPAA rating: PG-13 for violence and disturbing images. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes. At Laemmle's Grande, 345 S. Figueroa St., downtown L.A. (213) 617-0268.