ARCHIVED REVIEWS (K)
K-19: The Widowmaker
K-Pax
Kangaroo Jack
Kate & Leopold
Keeping the Faith
Kid Stays in the Picture
Kiss of the Dragon
Kissing Jessica Stein
Knight's Tale, a
Knockaround Guys

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Archived Video Reviews (K)
 

K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER - B-
Starring:
Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Peter Sarsgaard, Joss Ackland, J.J. Field, Lex Schrapnel, Tim Woodward, Christian Camargo
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Drama, 139 min (PG) (Paramount, 2002)


No, K-19: The Widowmaker is not another unnecessary sequel to the James Belushi-German Shepard comedy K-9 (1989). Rather, it is a stoic recount of Soviet heroics that, up to now, have gone relatively unheralded for narrowly diverting a massive explosion that could have led to WWIII during the Cold War. Set in 1961, K-19 stars Harrison Ford as a stiff, by-the-book commander of a Russian nuclear sub that is rushed to sea before its time, ultimately being hit by an deadly reactor malfunction that poisons the crew and almost results in full-scale disaster. Though she is unable to escape the shadow of former sub flicks like Das Boot (1982), Crimson Tide (1995), The Hunt for Red October (1990) and U-571 (2000), director Kathryn Bigelow centers K-19 on the bravery with which the soldiers faced this crisis and the result, in its own competent if unexceptional way, is adequately moving. Ford, sporting a Russian accent that fades in and out like a far away radio signal, has an appropriately sturdy sparring partner in costar Liam Neeson (as the sub's No. 2), but the film springs a character leak with a sudden reversal of sympathy late in the game and it would have been nice to get to know more than a couple of these military men. (top) (back)

K-PAX - B-
Starring:
Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Alfre Woodard, Aaron Paul, Mary McCormack, David Patrick Kelly, Saul Williams, Ajay Naidu
Directed by:
Iain Softley
Drama, 121 min (PG) (Universal, 2001)

If his recent roles are any indication, Kevin Spacey seems to be taking career advice from Robin Williams. After all, gone is the just-this-side-of-sane zing of past Spacey performances (American Beauty, Seven, The Usual Suspects), only to be replaced with dewy, message-heavy characters such as his emotionally scarred teacher in Pay It Forward and the inspirational mental patient in K-Pax. To be fair, Spacey's performance here is thoughtful and inspired - far superior to the dullard he was in Pay It Forward - but that doesn't mean one can't wish for something a little more complex. Here Spacey plays Prot, a mystery man committed to a psychiatric hospital for claiming to be an extraterrestrial, and Jeff Bridges, Starman himself, is the doctor dedicated to unraveling the mysteries of Prot's existence. In their scenes together, Spacey and Bridges are especially satisfying, with the two actors playing a captivating game of verbal ping-pong. It's elsewhere that the film shows its strain, with director Iain Softley (The Wings of the Dove) never really connecting the sci-fi and moralistic aspects of the story, all too often falling back on familiar One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest eccentricity and unconvincing displays of family interaction. (top) (back)

KANGAROO JACK - D+
Starring:
Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson, Christopher Walken, Estella Warren, Dyan Cannon, Marton Csokas, David Ngoobujjarra
Directed by: David McNally
Comedy, 89 min (PG) (Warner Bros., 2003)


Having hung around with computer-generated bugs in Joe's Apartment (1996), Jerry O'Connell does a similar trick in Kangaroo Jack, this time getting involved in a comic caper featuring the title kangaroo. Problem is, though marsupials are less dirty and disgusting than cockroaches, Kangaroo Jack is a witless kid's comedy that is about as annoying as a bug infestation. O'Connell and Barbershop's Anthony Anderson top the cast as two nobodies who are forced to fly to Australia to drop off an envelope of cash after mistakenly angering a mob boss who happens to be O'Connell's stepfather (Christopher Walken, the best thing here). While there, the duo accidentally get robbed by a kangaroo with a passion for licorice and they are off on a wild 'roo chase, enlisting the help of an alcoholic bush pilot and voluptuous animal lover (Planet of the Apes' Estella Warren) along the way. Unfortunately, the adventures here are purely uninspired, with one numbing chase scene after the next, and the film doesn't even deliver on the promise of the rapping kangaroo seen in the ads and poster since that attitude is only seen in a minor dream sequence. Truth be told, though, Jack could have spared with Eminem and his film would still be 'roo doo. (top) (back)

KATE & LEOPOLD - B-
Starring:
Meg Ryan, Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Bradley Whitford, Breckin Meyer, Natasha Lyonne, Charlotte Ayanna, Philip Bosco
Directed by:
James Mangold
Comedy, 114 min (PG) (Miramax, 2001)

They may still be making money, but it's about time that Meg Ryan retired from romantic comedies. After all, there is only so often one can dip into the same well before it goes dry and Ryan, after years of flicks like You've Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, I.Q. and so on, hit that point in about 1998. It's too bad because Kate & Leopold, breezily directed by James Mangold (Girl, Interrupted) and brightened up by leading man Hugh Jackman, is a generally pleasant film, hampered primarily by Ryan's cold and almost workman-like performance. The actress plays Kate, a hard-working New Yorker who learns there is more to life than business when she falls for Leopold, the polite new man in her building (Jackman, the dapper charmer from X-Men and Someone Like You). Little does she know (or, should I say, believe), but Leopold is actually a suave 19th-century duke who accidentally traveled through a ripple in time to 2001. A fish-out-of-water/opposites-attract combination, Kate & Leopold never shies away from formula, but it also doesn't feel constrained by it (unlike, say, Just Visiting) and the script makes the most of Jackman's light comic touch. Because of this, though the film certainly isn't for the ages, it does warrant a marginal pass. (top) (back)


KEEPING THE FAITH - B-
Starring: Edward Norton, Ben Stiller, Jenna Elfman, Anne Bancroft, Milos Forman, Ron Rifkin, Holland Taylor, Eli Wallach
Directed by: Edward Norton
Comedy, 129
min (PG) (Touchstone, 2000)

Known for his powerhouse performances in films such as Fight Club and American History X, Edward Norton hardly seems like the type of actor who would make his directorial debut with a light romance. Nonetheless, here he is starring in and directing Keeping the Faith, a relationship comedy in which he plays a Catholic priest who, along with his rabbi best friend (Ben Stiller), begins to question his faith when a beautiful blonde from their past (Jenna Elfman) reenters the picture. On simple romantic comedy terms, Keeping the Faith is an amusing and well-cast picture, with Norton and Stiller making for a sharp comedy duo and Elfman wisely dumping her ditsy Dharma and Greg antics in favor of playing a smart, sophisticated woman. Keeping the Faith, however, has much loftier ideas than simple love ideas involving everything from faith and God to public perception and tradition and rather than face these themes, the film just turns its pretty little cheek. (top) (back)

THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE - B
Starring:
Robert Evans, Ali MacGraw, Dustin Hoffman, Phyllis George, Paul Newman
Directed by: Nanette Burstein, Brett Morgan
Documentary, 93 min (14A) (Warner, 2002)


Robert Evans has led quite the life: discovered by Norma Shearer while sunbathing at a hotel swimming pool, he went on to become a small-time actor, the head of the ailing Paramount Pictures, the husband and then ex-husband of Ali MacGraw (she left him for Steve McQueen), a scandal-afflicted washout and then, finally, a Hollywood icon. The Kid Stays in the Picture, a lively documentary based on Evan's 1994 autobiography, tries to cram all of Evans' successes and failures into a 90-minute exploration and directors Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgan have done a sensational job of bringing old photographs to life through unique animation and effects, all of it interpreted by Hollywood-spun narrative courtesy of Evans himself. Because of its roots and biased narration, Picture is undoubtedly one-sided (MacGraw no doubt has a few things to say about how she comes across here and Francis Ford Coppola has denied that it was Evans who pushed him to make The Godfather longer), but this is still a juicy little documentary full of Hollywood gossip and background of such classics as Love Story, Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby, all of it outlined by Evans at his most salacious and romanticized. (top) (back)


KISS OF THE DRAGON -
C+
Starring:
Jet Li, Bridget Fonda, Tcheky Karyo, Laurence Ashley, Burt Kwouk, John Forgeman, Max Ryan, Colin Prince, Cyrul Raffaelli
Directed by:
Chris Nahon
Action, 98 min (18A) (20th Century Fox, 2001)

Sooner or later, Hollywood is bound to cast Asian star Jet Li in a movie that matches the precision and fluidity of the actor's martial arts moves. Kiss of the Dragon, like Romeo Must Die before it, certainly isn't that movie, but at least it offers another taste of Li's skill at, well, kicking butt. Too bad the story and characters are silly even by action-movie standards. Once again a man of few words but many kicks, Li plays a top Chinese cop who goes to Paris to help with an international drug bust but ends up being framed for murder by a French officer (The Patriot's Tcheky Karyo) so corrupt his stench could leap oceans. An American hooker with a heart of gold somehow plays into the story, but as played by Bridget Fonda, she's too stiff and controlled to contribute anything to the story. What's left is Karyo, overdoing the snarling to the point that you would think he was a werewolf, and Li, who conceived the story (Fifth Element director Luc Besson co-wrote the script) and does his best to make up for the sorry dialogue and contrived action sequences (I suppose all French police stations also house kung fu academies). Only when the kicks are flailing, the billiard balls flying, the glass smashing and punches pulsating does he do the trick. (top) (back)

KISSING JESSICA STEIN - B
Starring:
Jennifer Westfeldt, Heather Juergensen, Scott Cohen, Tovah Feldshuh, Jackie Hoffman, Michael Mastro, Carson Elrod, Scott Cohen
Directed by: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld
Comedy, 96 min (14A) (Fox Searchlight, 2002)


Kissing Jessica Stein may owe a lot to Annie Hall, but it is doubtful that, back in 1977, Woody Allen even considered having his title character give up on men and try dating women. That, however, is exactly what happens in Kissing Jessica Stein, a lively and charming adaptation of the 1997 Off Off Broadway production Lipschtick starring the play's screenwriters, Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen. A cross between Lisa Kudrow and Diane Keaton, Westfeldt plays Jessica, a neurotic 28-year-old New York City copy editor who, frustrated at the lack of romantic possibilities, decides to broaden her horizons and answer a personals ad by Helen Cooper (Juergensen), an oversexed art gallery owner also interested in trying something new. As Jessica and Helen meet and connect, Kissing Jessica Stein displays a nice wit, a general avoidance of preachy messages or obvious stereotypes (Jessica's Golden Girls-style grandmother notwithstanding) and a touchingly honest approach to modern relationships. Though the conclusion is a rushed let-down and the inclusion of Jessica's ex-boyfriend (Scott Cohen) is extraneous, this is nonetheless an immensely likeable, well-meaning and friendly same-sex romantic comedy. (top) (back)

A KNIGHT'S TALE - C+
Starring:
Heath Ledger, Rufus Sewell, Mark Addy, Paul Bettany, Shannyn Sossamon, Alan Tudyk, Laura Fraser, Christopher Cazenove
Directed by:
Brian Helgeland
Action, 132 min (PG) (Columbia TriStar, 2001)

After having had his directorial duties on Payback taken away by star Mel Gibson, L.A. Confidential screenwriter Brian Helgeland gets a chance to show what he can do with this teen-centric medieval actioner. Unfortunately, for all its gleeful modern touches and unabashed audience pandering, A Knight's Tale joust comes up short as anything more than throwaway entertainment. Heath Ledger, last spotted as Gibson's son in The Patriot, plays the underdog hero, a lowborn servant who impersonates a wealthy knight so that he can compete in artisocratic jousts, become something of a sports hero for his time, and woo a shapely princess (newcomer Shannyn Sossamon). Ledger has his charms and there are lively supporting performances from Alan Tudyk (28 Days) and Mark Addy as Ledger's confidants and Paul Bettany as Geoffrey Chaucer (yes, that Geoffrey Chaucer), but Helgeland's direction plods when it should soar, the villain (Rufus Sewell) is a stiff and the romance between Ledger and the wooden Sossamon is completely devoid of any romantic sparks. Besides, even if the medieval audience is singing and clapping along to Queen's "We Will Rock You," it is mighty difficult to get excited about a sport as dull and repetitive as jousting. (top) (back)

KNOCKAROUND GUYS - C+
Starring:
Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Seth Green, Andrew Davoli, John Malkovich, Dennis Hopper, John Liddle, Tom Noonan
Directed by: David Levien, Brian Koppleman
Drama, 92 min (14A) (New Line, 2002)


Modern mobster life is nothing like The Godfather and Knockaround Guys, a sort of junior Sopranos, looks at Family life through the eyes of its sons, a group of ambitious young men who don't see a future in the mafia but, because of their bloodline, can't seem to find a future anywhere else. It's an interesting premise and writer/directors David Levien and Brian Koppleman do a compelling job of setting it up, but Knockaround Guys stumbles and loses its rhythm when it transplants its big city boys with a shoddy fish-out-of-water setting. Barry Pepper, moody and frustrated, plays Matty, the son of a wiseguy leader (Dennis Hopper) who is sick of being treated like an errand boy and wants to start playing with the big fishes. When his friend (Seth Green) botches Matty's first operation and loses US$500,000 in small-town Montana, Matty and his pals (including Andrew Davoli and a pre-XXX Vin Diesel) fly out to encounter rednecks, stoned skateboarders and a corrupt sheriff (Tom Noonan). John Malkovich, all honey ham as a Brooklyn mobster, gooses Knockaround Guys to life whenever he makes an appearance, but generally the film is too lightweight, falling back on familiar mobster themes and far too little surprise or suspense. (top) (back)
All reviews by Mike Boon.
 


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