Films Review February


Barry Pepper is very effective as Matty Demaret, the son of a Brooklyn crime boss who wants in on the family action. Reduced to being an errand boy after he refuses to kill the man responsible for sending his father (Dennis Hopper) to prison, Matty gets fed up with his lower run status and convinces his paroled father and uncle (John Malkovich) to trust him and his friends with an important money drop.

When Matty’s partner Johnny Marbles (Seth Green) loses the money, Matty recruits Marble’s cousin (Andrew Davoli) and friend (Vin Diesel) to help recover the loot. Written and directed by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, “Knockaround Guys” is a wicked slice of film noir. There are no good guys (even the small town sheriff and his deputy are evil), and when things get bad, they really get bad. Hopper and Malkovich are appropriately cast as aging mobsters trying to hold on to their turf, while Pepper and Diesel excel as two men trying to carve a niche of their own. (New Line Home Video)


Painted with the brush strokes of a master, “Road to Perdition” emerges as the best film of the year so far, a dark, stormy tale of fathers and sons and how the fine line between loyalty and betrayal can blur at a moments notice. Samuel Johnson once wrote “there must always be a struggle between a father and a son, while one aims at power and the other at independence.” Those words echo through the engrossing screenplay by David Self (based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner), a tightly woven Depression-era gangster film that features Tom Hanks in one of his best, most tormented performances. Please click on title for complete review. (DreamWorks)


Most of the original voice talent from the theatrical film return for these made-for-video vignettes that further explore the relationship between Belle (Paige O’Hara) and the Beast (Robby Benson). The video and DVD feature two new songs by Belle, plus two new characters, Webster, a talking dictionary, and Chandeleria, a female chandelier. (Walt Disney)


Conventional mob drama stars Vladimir Mashkov as Oleg, a powerful Russian mobster, who on New Year’s eve announces that he is retiring from a life of crime. That suits his family, especially his mother (Lesley Ann Warren) just fine, but Oleg’s retirement is met with unexpected consequences, including a Russian partner who wants his share of the money, and a female exterminator (Jennifer Jason Leigh), originally hired to kill the roaches in the kitchen but who stays on for other reasons. Veteran cast, including Dean Stockwell and Henry Thomas, can’t save this vanity project from co-writer/director/co-star Sergei Bodrov from becoming nothing more than a pale imitation of “The Sopranos.” (Monarch)


Made-for-cable sequel lacks the punch and vision of the original film and its numerous theatrical sequels. This watered-down affair might have been at home on the Sci-Fi Channel, but it looks like a cheap rip-off on home video. The action takes place 10 years after the fact, where thanks to the OCP and RoboCop Alex Murphy, Delta City is now crime free. All that changes when a new crime boss teams up with corrupt government officials to reprogram the robotic crime fighter and turn him loose on his partner and makers. (Lion’s Gate)


Alexis Bledel is enchanting in this drama based on Natalie Babbitt’s best-selling novel. Bledel plays young Winnie Foster, who fed up with her strict and proper upbringing at the hands of her parents (Amy Irving and Victor Garber), runs away from home, losing herself in the woods near her home. There she discovers Jesse Tuck (Jonathan Jackson), a young man who claims to be immortal. At first skeptical, Jesse meets Tuck’s family (parents Sissy Spacek and William Hurt, brother Scott Bairstow), all of whom claim that one drink from a magical fountain has kept them young. Well directed and cast, “Tuck Everlasting” is truly a magical experience. (Walt Disney Home Video)


In “The Tuxedo,” Chan plays a taxi driver who is recruited to be the chauffeur of a secret agent. Desiring everything that his new boss is and possesses, Jimmy Tong (Chan) is amazed to learn that most of the credit goes to a two-billion high tech suit that allows the wearer to defy gravity, defeat bad guys, and even dance. I like Chan, but I didn’t like “The Tuxedo,” an ill-fitted comedy that wastes his time and talent. Chan is noted for his comic timing and ability to perform breathtaking stunts, two things that director Kevin Donovan and a quartet of writers (maybe more?) fail to take advantage of. Not much makes sense in “The Tuxedo,” a film that feels as if it was written by committee and directed for young children. Every plot point is handed to us with an apology. Except for Chan, who rises to the top of this silly mess like cream in coffee, the rest of the cast drown in their own excesses. Director Donovan doesn’t seem to realize that nuance is more than just a word in a dictionary. Please click on title for complete review. (DreamWorks)

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