October movie fest has high hopes but falls short of expectations

Ted Pigeon

“Red Dragon” **½ – A mostly faithful adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel, but featuring too much of Anthony Hopkins, and not enough of the rest of the ensemble cast, especially Edward Norton. This film is not only an adaptation of the first novel in the Hannibal Lecter trilogy, but it is also a remake of the 1986 film, “Manhunter,” directed by Michael Mann. “Red Dragon” was only made so that Hopkins could reprise his role as Hannibal, and although it is very engaging at times, any scenes without Norton seem forced and out of place. What starts off as extremely engaging begins to lag through the middle section and then finishes off well. It has many great scenes; however, the not-so-great scenes neutralize them. This is not a bad film, but it could have been better, and it’s nowhere near up to par with “Manhunter.” Still, it’s entertaining enough and gets the job done.

“Knockaround Guys” ** – This overly clichéd film about a new and more self-conscious generation of mobsters is rather pointless. Barry Pepper leads the cast, which also includes Seth Green and the underused Vin Diesel, as well as two veteran actors, John Malkovich and Dennis Hopper. There are some good performances, but none of them amount to much since the story is both contrived and slow-moving. Things pick up near the end with a by-the-book but entertaining showdown finale. One good thing about the film is that it’s short, even though the first hour tends to drag. It tries to come off like it has some sort of meaning, but we’ve seen it all before.

“The Rules of Attraction” *** – An energetic and strangely compelling film about three college students who lead eccentric lives yet are all desperately miserable and searching for love. There is a surplus of creativity and inventiveness in this film, from Memento-like flashback segments to split-screen shots. This is not a film for everybody, but underneath its surface of drugs, sex and alcohol, there lies meaning. The characters could have been a bit more engaging, yet by the end you will still feel for them. They all make similar discoveries about the emptiness and loneliness in their lives, realizing that things are not the way they wish. It starts off as a comedy/drama and ends up a tragedy, with a powerful ending that leaves all of its characters cold and alone.

“The Ring” **½ – Very atmospheric, this horror film works perfectly as a mood piece, with its dark undertones and stylish production. But after a strong first act, the story veers off into downright silliness. The premise, which involves a videotape that kills its viewers seven days after seeing it, is fascinating and propels the story for the first hour. But, as is the case with many horror films, it lacks direction. Naomi Watts holds things together when the story begins to trail off, but there wasn’t much she could do. Nevertheless, this film is evocative and, at times, very scary. It’s a shame that the filmmakers couldn’t have devoted more time to a competent story, rather than merely setting the mood for it.