- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

Lavishly adapted by director Sam Mendes of "American Beauty" from the graphic novel by writer Max Allan Collins and illustrator Richard Piers Rayner, Road to Perdition is new from Dreamworks Entertainment (priced for rental VHS, $26.99 DVD). It rates as a reel rarity: an often-elegiac coming-of-age story draped in vintage gangster-movie threads. It's our…
Video pick of the week
In 1931 Chicago, 12-year-old Michael Sullivan Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) sees his emotionally distant dad Michael Sr. (a beefy, laconic Tom Hanks) gun down local mobsters, thus learning the hard way that pop is actually an enforcer for criminal patriarch John Rooney (Paul Newman).
Rooney's psychotic son Connor (Daniel Craig) seeks to eliminate the young eyewitness but instead plugs Michael's mom (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and younger brother Peter (Liam Aiken). Targeted for termination, the two Michaels take to the road for a combo crime spree and belated bonding experience, with deranged hired killer Maguire (Jude Law) in hot pursuit.
The movie's real riches lay less in its story line than in its artful execution. Faithful to the graphic tale's intensely visual roots, late cinematographer Conrad L. Hall doesn't so much shoot as paint this striking picture, in somber, monochromatic tones interspersed with bursts of bright exterior light. The flawless cast likewise flourishes under longtime theatrical director Mendes' expert supervision, with Mr. Hanks effectively playing against type and Mr. Newman applying a lifetime of acting craft to his role.
Like Warner Home Video's recent Quentin Tarantino-scripted "True Romance" special edition disc, Dreamworks' DVD offers a crash course in the intricacies of filmmaking. Mr. Mendes' enlightening audio commentary covers virtually every phase of the cinematic process. Also included are several deleted scenes, some of which work perfectly well by their lonesome but would have damaged the film's pacing, plus an HBO "making of" documentary, a photo gallery and production notes. Lovers of high-quality film should enjoy spending an entire evening on this rewarding "Road."
Video verite
In video verite news, New Video introduces two new History Channel documentaries ($24.95 DVD each). Narrated by Mandy Patinkin, Ellis Island assembles archival footage and interviews to trace the vital role America's "golden door" played in our immigration history, while Inside Islam offers an overview of the influential religion's past and present.
First Run Features contributes Berkeley in the Sixties, an exploration of the American free speech movement and its enduring impact; and Claude Chabrol's The Eye of Vichy, an examination of the French collaboration with the Nazis during World War II ($24.95 DVD/$19.95 VHS each).
Docurama weighs in with the Best Documentary Feature Academy Award Nominee Children Underground, detailing the harsh lives of five homeless children in Bucharest, Romania, and, in a lighter vein, humorist Roy Blount Jr.'s Mississippi River journey The Main Stream ($24.95 DVD each).
Criterion classics
The busy archivists at the Criterion Collection/Home Vision Cinema (homevision.com) grant deluxe DVD treatment to a pair of 1946 film classics. Even devout fans of Jean Cocteau's eerie fantasy Beauty and the Beast ($29.95) will be amazed at Criterion's strikingly pristine restoration, complete with an original opera composed by Philip Glass. In addition to Mr. Cocteau's timeless fable, starring Jean Marais and Josette Day, the disc includes two critics' commentary tracks and a wealth of additional special features.
The same label goes the double-disc route with two movies based on Ernest Hemingway's short story The Killers ($39.95). Suspense master Robert Siodmak's 1946 noir version stars Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner and rates as one of the genre's true greats. Don Siegel's less galvanizing 1964 color remake, with Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, John Cassavetes and Ronald Reagan, makes for interesting comparison viewing. More than a dozen bonus features accompany the films.
The 'A' list
A trio of threatrical thrillers will be making their homevid debuts later this month. Universal leads the way with the Hannibal Lecter prequel Red Dragon, starring Anthony Hopkins as filmgoers' fave famished shrink, along with Edward Norton and Ralph Fiennes. Universal also offers the underperforming "Charade" remake The Truth About Charlie, with Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton. Paramount counters with the suspenser Abandon, toplining Katie Holmes and Benjamin Bratt. All three titles will be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.
Phan mail
Dear Phantom: Any chance of Lemora coming out on DVD in the near future?
Jason, via e-mail
Have not heard any word re a disc debut, but Richard Blackburn's 1973 cult chiller is available in a special VHS edition from Moore Video ($39.95, 804/745-9785).
Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 or e-mail us at: [email protected] Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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