Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:
"FAST & FURIOUS 6"
Confession: Everything I know about street car racing I've learned from this action-packed franchise, a concept that director Justin Lin credits to synchronicity. Many years ago on Saturday night, three NBC-TV shows -- "The Golden Girls," "Empty Nest" and "Nurses" -- all dealt with hurricanes. The way those dissimilar plotlines interconnected so impressed Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan that they've patterned the mythology of these street-smart, multi-cultural characters in the same way.
Set in Europe, this installment concludes the second trilogy, connecting back to the first, marking the return of Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), love interest of rebellious Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). It's confusing since Letty supposedly died. But don't let that bother you as much as it troubles Dom. Although she has amnesia, Letty's alive and kicking, working for British ex-Special Ops mercenary Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) and taking on Riley (mixed-martial arts fighter Gina Carano), sidekick of DSS Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson). Hobbs offers full pardons to Dom and his gang (including Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris) if they'll help him bring Letty in, retrieve high-tech weaponry and take down Shaw. It's formulaic plotting.
Focusing on cars, Toretto drives a 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8, as well as a 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8, powered by a stock 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 engine, and a vintage 1969 Dodge Daytona. One chase sequence involves a Jeep, an Alfa Romeo Giulietta and a huge Russian Antonov cargo jet hurtling down a runway, as cars careen, catapult, clatter and crash -- in massive vehicular carnage.
Another has a superfast tank bursting out from inside a large truck. The threat here is a long, low-slung ramp car designed to get underneath other cars and flip them over. There's no 3D, no IMAX, just old-fashioned stunt work (credit coordinator Dennis McCarthy), embellished with CG visual effects and a turbo-charged sound system.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Fast & Furious 6" is an outrageous, high-octane 7, concluding with a Tokyo-set teaser for the next sequel in July 2014.
Pilfering characters and plot points from Ben Stiller's "Meet the Parents," this silly marital comedy pivots around Craig Robinson (Darryl on TV's "The Office") as Wade Walker, an aspiring New York music therapist who works as a kiddie entertainer, advising toddlers not to wet their pants: "Speak it; don't leak it!"
Working-class Wade lives with and loves Gracie Peeples (Kerry Washington), a successful lawyer, who has never mentioned him to her distinguished, upper-class family, headed by demanding, disapproving federal Judge Virgil Peeples (David Alan Grier), whom Wade refers to as "the chocolate Kennedys." Intending to propose marriage with a diamond ring in his pocket, bumbling Wade arrives, uninvited, at the annual family "Moby Dick Day" party at the Peeples' palatial, waterfront Sag Harbor mansion, bringing a gift of wine, not knowing that Gracie's kind-hearted mother Daphne (S. Epatha Merkerson) is a recovering alcoholic and former disco queen known as Lady Divine. Chaos ensues, involving Grace's kleptomaniacal teenage brother Simon (Tyler James Williams) and her CNN broadcaster sister Gloria (Kali Hawk), a closeted lesbian who's brought along her partner, camera woman (Kimrie Lewis-Davis). That's enhanced by hapless Wade's consumption of psychedelic mushrooms and the arrival of his prankster brother (Malcolm Barrett).
Written and directed by Tina Gordon Chism ("Drumline") like an episodic sit-com with black cultural references, it meanders, desperately trying to be farcical but never attaining the proper momentum despite its amiable ensemble cast that includes Ana Gasteyer as the mayor with Diahann Carroll and Melvin Van Peebles as Judge Peebles' parents. Billed as "Tyler Perry Presents The Peeples," its escalating slapstick shtick is certainly more effective than Tyler Perry's sermonizing "Temptation."
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Peeples" is a formulaically funny, utterly familiar, fish-out-of-water 5 -- with a few absurdly engaging comedic touches.
Inspired by actual events, this is the sordid story of unrepentant hit man Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon), who murders more than 100 men in and around New Jersey between 1964 and 1986, as his adoring wife and devoted daughters suspect nothing.
Opening with the question: "Mr. Kuklinski, do you have any regrets for the things you've done?" -- there's a flashback showing how, back in 1964, hulking, young Richie began dating sweet, unsuspecting Deborah Pellicotti (Winona Ryder). Telling her that his job involves dubbing Disney cartoons, he observes that she's prettier than Natalie Wood.
In actuality, Richie bootlegs porno pictures, when he's not violently stabbing, shooting or bludgeoning anyone who annoys him. His malevolence attracts the attention of local gangster Roy DeMeo (Ray Liotta), who hires him as an enforcer. Dubbed "The Iceman" because he freezes the bodies of his blood-splattered victims to disguise their time of death, Kuklinski then works as an assassin for various East Coast crime families, often using cyanide since it kills quickly and is difficult to detect in toxicology tests.
By the time Richie and Deborah marry and produce a couple of daughters, he's earning enough in "currency exchange" to move to suburbia. A former altar boy, he insists that the girls -- Anabel and Betsy (McKaley Miller, Megan Sherrill) -- attend Catholic school, as Deborah naively believes they're living the American Dream.
Based on Anthony Bruno's true-crime novel and an HBO documentary, featuring interviews with incarcerated Kuklinski before he died at age 70 in 2006, the script is by Morgan Land and Israeli-born director Ariel Vromen. Unfortunately, while a neo-noir tension abounds, there's no psychological profile that would explain Kuklinski's sadistic, psychopathic behavior as he deliberately leads a double life.
Shannon's menacing performance and Ryder's poignant beauty are the only saving graces in this grimly bleak, contemptibly cold-blooded endeavor, wasting supporting turns from James Franco, Stephen Dorff, Chris Evans, Robert Davi and David Schwimmer.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Iceman" is an intensely ferocious 3, glorifying a dour, dangerous, despicable man.