Nick's Pics Nick
Nicholson Film & Home Entertainment Critic
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FREE DVD GIVEAWAY
We are doing a Free DVD Giveaway! If you are interested in a chance at winning a free copy of The Dog who Saved Christmas Vacation or Between Heaven and Hell, it is really easy! All you have to do is send me an email at HoustonMovieGuy@gmail.com. The subject line of the email should read DVD GIVEAWAY. In the body of the email, be sure to put your name, full mailing address and which DVD or Blu-ray you would like. Winners will be selected by random drawing. Best of luck!
CATFISH - Universal
The slipperiness of truth and lies on the Internet gets played out in unexpected ways in the documentary Catfish. When Nev Schulman receives a painting based on a photograph of his from an 8-year-old girl named Abby in Michigan, he doesn't realize this is going to lead to a long-distance romance with Abby's older sister Megan… and that this romance, conducted over the phone and the Internet, will lead to something far more troubling. It would be unfair to reveal more details of Catfish, as the process of discovery is one of its pleasures--but even if you do know the sequence of events, the movie's ultimate reward is not the revelation of secrets but the surprising and very human interactions of the movie's last third.
UNITED STATES OF TARA: Season Two - CBS Paramount
The USA cable network's marketing slogan "Characters Welcome" would be a good fit for The United States of Tara. This off-center Showtime series has a slew of them--prim and proper suburban housewife Alice, beer-swilling hell-raiser Buck (a male), and hard-partying teen T. All of them are portrayed by Toni Collette, who deservedly won an Emmy for her astonishing performance(s) as Tara, a wife and mother struggling with dissociative identity disorder. The first episode establishes the series' high concept, but the show quickly finds its groove as it explores the turmoil of Tara's life and the effect DID has on her marriage and family: her exceedingly patient and supportive husband Max (John Corbett), who has to fight off Tara's more sexually aggressive "alters"; her sensitive son Marshall (Keir Gilchrist); rebellious teenage daughter Kate (Brie Larson); and resentful sister Charmaine (Rosemarie DeWitt). As the series begins, Tara has stopped taking her meds, which opens the doors for her other personalities to reveal themselves, usually at stressful or inappropriate times.
HOT WHEELS BATTLE FORCE: Season One, Part Two - Warner
Make tracks with Battle Force 5--Vert, Agura, Stanford, Zoom, Sherman and Spinner--in a fast-paced race to save the world from destruction! This elite team of drivers racks up the miles, zipping through interdimensional Battle Zones in spectacular chases, pursued by The Vandals and The Sark, all seeking the powerful BattleKeys that unlock the portal to Earth. As BF5 teammates live by their "Never Back Down, Never Give In" pledge, their enemies become more devious. In this thrilling six-episode lineup, Vert must outwit Vandals leader Kalus on his home planet, Stanford must defeat The Sark after they infiltrate BF5's secret garage and Zoom must battle The Vandals in a cage match on a "prankster" planet. Local sci-fi nut Zeke also lends his cunning to the team when a discovery and a lightning bolt supercharge his brain with Sentient knowledge. Strap in for a pulse-pounding ride full of amazing adventures on out-of-this-world race courses with Battle Force 5!
THOMAS AND FRIENDS: Wobbly Wheels & Whistles - Lionsgate
Perfect for kids of all ages, children can chug along with Thomas for a wonderfully wobbly and wheel-spinning good time! Your favorite friend has bridges to cross and tracks to uncover in these exciting adventures. When Victor gets overloaded with too many tasks, can Thomas help him let out the steam? While trying to get Scruff as clean as a whistle, will Thomas have to get his own wheels dirty? Just when things seem to be rolling along, will Ol’ Wheezy make a wobbly mess of Thomas’ special delivery? Hold on for exciting surprises waiting to be delivered just for you!
BARNEY: Musical Zoo - Lionsgate
Come along for great musical adventures with your favorite purple dinosaur! Hear an elephant trumpet and a lion roar as Barney and Riff create a wild and exciting concert filled with exotic animal sounds. Then BJ and Baby Bop get into the act, learning about rhythm and performing for others in this special orchestral treat that the whole family will trumpet over.
BIG LOVE: Season Four - HBO
Bill Paxton as the polygamist Mormon in this series has driven me absolutely crazy for four seasons. I always want to reach inside of the television and start choking him for the crazy things he does. This season he pushed my buttons even more. He decides to run for political office, of all things, with the express idea of going public about being a polygamous Mormon at his victory speech with his multiple wives and children beside him. But this is Paxton's brilliance. He has completely caught someone who is in the continuous, rapt thrall of obsessive religious belief. He is humorless, which is true of all zealots, because he never steps outside of its thrall for even a second. It absolutely controls every aspect of his life. He laments his early beginnings as a lost boy, thrown out of his outlaw Mormon compound, and mistakenly believes he has recovered from all of that. He has never recovered from being raised at a cult religious encampment. What he's done is try to transplant the cult to new soil, mainstream USA life. He plays the character as rather one dimensional and robotic because someone who is in a state of rapturous religious zeal is one dimensional!
TWELVE: Blu-ray - Fox
The central character of "Twelve" is White Mike (Chace Crawford), who has never smoked a cigarette or had a drink, nor has he taken a hit off of joint. And yet he's one of the best known drug dealers amongst wealthy Manhattan teenagers. Mike is himself only seventeen-years-old and the son of a restaurant owner, but ever since cancer claimed the life of his mother, he has been adrift, unwilling to finish school and lost in a sea of memories and nihilistic philosophical viewpoints. He has no good reason to be doing what he's doing - he's just doing it. He wants to seem more respectable to his best friend since childhood, Molly (Emma Roberts), so he lies about his profession on a regular basis and always makes an excuse for not being able to take her to where he works. This, of course, makes him even more of a loser than his clients. The thing is, he has probably known this all along.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS:
2010 World Series Collectors Edition - A&E
Do you like baseball? Then you're going to love this set! The ultimate baseball collectible, this 8-disc set features all of the complete World Series Games versus the Rangers, as well as the NLCS Games 4 & 6 versus the Phillies and a special bonus disc. In addition to the full games presented on each World Series disc, pre-game and postgame interviews, and MLB Network coverage, and 4 audio channels (Fox Sports, Fox en Espanol, Flagship Radio Station Play-by-Play for BOTH teams) all enhance the viewer experience. A special bonus disc features 60 minutes of regular and postseason highlights, player interviews, and celebratory footage.
AND SOON THE DARKNESS - Anchor Bay
Once it gets going, And Soon the Darkness is a pretty good little thriller that will have you sitting on the edge-of-your-seat during the last half hour or so. The film is a remake of a 1970 movie of the same name that starred Pamela Franklin. That picture dealt with two English girls on a bike trip through rural France. In this new version, the girls are American and they are traveling via bicycle in rural Argentina. In any event, the girls have a spat, briefly part company and then one of them (Odette Yustman) disappears. Her friend (Amber Heard) desperately tries to find her, but the town's one police officer is no help and she's not sure if she can trust the lone American (Karl Urban) there, who claims that his girl friend disappeared in this same area three months earlier.
PARIS: The Luminous Years - PBS
Paris: the Luminous Years is a beautiful way to learn about the art movements of the early 20th century. Interviews of surviving artists and writers, historians and biographers, in both English and French, added to my understanding of the time and place in which some of my favorite artists & writers lived. Conversations with Sylvia Beach are interspersed throughout, adding her opinions and memories to the mix; Miss Beach, her bookshop, Shakespeare and Co. and the city of Paris are characters in this story. Ernest Hemingway, Aaron Copeland, Picasso, and many more are quoted throughout. Their friendships, the art, politics, theatre, music, economics and, of course, the Paris of the early 20th century are thoroughly discussed from many viewpoints. I would enjoy even more period footage and conversation around this important era.
BACKDRAFT: Blu-ray - Universal
A somewhat contrived screenplay doesn't stop this thriller from serving up some of the most spectacular fire sequences ever committed to film. Like any Ron Howard production Backdraft is impressively slick and boasts a stellar cast, including Kurt Russell and William Baldwin. The actors play sibling rivals who have been at odds since the death of their firefighter father years earlier. Robert De Niro is the veteran fire inspector who is tracking a series of mysterious and deadly arsons, and Donald Sutherland is effectively creepy as the former arsonist who understands the criminal psychology of pyromaniacs.
THE DOG WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS VACATION - Anchor Bay
The Bannister family including former K-9 police hero Zeus (voiced by Mario López) is back, and this time they're spending their holidays at a beautiful Rocky Mountain resort. But toss in an unexpected visit from cocky Uncle Randy (Casper Van Dien) and his foxy poodle Bella (Paris Hilton) and a familiar pair of bumbling jewel thieves (led by Dean Cain) and this holiday may be headed downhill fast! Can Zeus solve the crime, save Bella and hit the slopes, all in time for Christmas Day? Gary Valentine and Elisa Donovan co-star in the all-new four-legged family adventure!
JERSEY SHORE: Season Two - Paramount
The eight housemates of Jersey Shore are back for another season of GTL, fist pumping, and battling grenades. But this time the party has moved south to Miami Beach. The area code may have changed, but the drama remains the same. The Situation, Vinny and Pauly D give MVP a whole new meaning; Snooki continues her search for the perfect gorilla juicehead while JWOWW tries to keep her out of trouble; Sammi and Ron pick up right where they left off; and Angelina can't help but stir things up. MVP will be creepin', Ron Ron juice will be flown', and Snooki will be Snookin' on Season Two of Jersey Shore.
WALL STREET: Money Never Sleeps - Fox
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps has the compelling backdrop of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, features Michael Douglas returning to one of the defining roles of his career, stars two charismatic young actors (Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan) and some wily old hands (Susan Sarandon, Frank Langella, and Eli Wallach)--so why is the movie such a dud? For one thing, director Oliver Stone doesn't bother to genuinely explore what caused the stock-market crash of 2008; instead, the movie's plot revolves around melodramatic backroom machinations and financial revenge, none of which has any real emotional heft. For another, Stone is possibly the most obvious director of all time. When the characters are talking about financial bubbles, the movie has shots of children in the park blowing bubbles; when the market crashes, the movie cuts to cascading dominoes--Stone beats every metaphor into submission, and if the audience feels bludgeoned at the same time, well, that's just too bad.
FUNNY OR DIE PRESENTS: Season One - HBO
Will Farrell brings his Internet sensation to television with Funny or Die Presents. This anthology of short comic sketches--some of which have appeared online--is hosted by the white-haired, avuncular Ed Haligan (Steve Tom), who's the epitome of a 1960s senior ad executive. Surrounded by a bevy of sexy secretaries, Haligan makes serious-sounding (but usually snide) pronouncements about the nature of television and computers or veers into existential angst. The sketches themselves are both wildly varied, but also similar in their complete disconnect from the world at large. A free-floating self-referential "outrageousness" dominates, all urge with neither intention nor content, a sort of comic dry heave. Sometimes the results are entertaining: "Playground Politics" reduces geopolitics to a smattering of childhood catcalls and feels wittily appropriate, while Derek Water's "Drunk History" enacts historical events as narrated by actual historians who've been plied with way, way too much alcohol--the combination of boozy confusion and deadpan reenactment is delightfully absurd.
MACGYVER: Complete Series - CBS Paramount
Like James Bond--but without the high-tech gadgets--Angus MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson) is one of those rare beings who can avert any crisis without mussing a hair. (The rest of us should be so lucky.) In the pilot alone, the secret agent dismantles a missile using a paper clip and fashions a rocket thruster out of a pistol. Is there anything MacGyver can't do? As the first season of ABC's long-running adventure series proves, the answer is a resounding no. MacGyver's secret: the everyday items he "finds along the way," like matches or gum wrappers, and the ingenuity to put them to a myriad of uses (a background in physics and chemistry doesn't hurt). Unlike Alias' Sidney Bristow, he isn't a multi-linguist, a martial artist, or a master of disguises. Wits are MacGyver's weapon of choice.
MANNIX: Season Four - CBS Paramount
Mannix's work as a private detective is very exciting and he becomes a man of great good sense, honor, justice and a nice sense of humor. This is is a great TV production. Unfortunately, there is no more productions that can attain the high level of quality that MANNIX reached. Vulgar language, low instincts, nudity and sexual exposure are not found here. There was enough quality in the plots with good camera shots, healthy actors and actresses, and general good humor. No need to display nudity or vulgarity to attract audience. We need more than ever that kind of production in these days of unfortunate loss of creativity. In a simple comparison, while McGarret does not relax in his arduous struggle with crime and shows almost no sense of humor, MANNIX works with the same seriousness, but in a more flexible way, demonstrating humor in unexpected situations.
THE RICKY GERVAIS SHOW: Season One - Warner
I'm going to start things out on a controversial note. I love Ricky Gervais and, honestly, I'd watch anything with his name on it. But "The Ricky Gervais Show" is a bit of a curiosity. While I definitely enjoyed it (these 13 episodes originally aired on HBO), I'm not sure the program was entirely necessary. Before you start to beat me up and send me hate mail--let me explain. The show uses material previously introduced on the famously outrageous Podcast starring Gervais and his long time partner Stephen Merchant. In essence, "The Ricky Gervais Show" is just an animated Podcast. None of the comedy stylings or interactions are new--only the visual representations of them are. Mind you, I don't think too many people will complain as both new and old material meld together well to create different levels of humor to the cracking wise.
MAX & RUBY: Bunnytales - Nickelodeon
The bunny tales revolve around seven-year-old Ruby and her three-year-old little brother Max. Sometimes, Max can seem like a pest, but Ruby tries to be patient. At times, Ruby doesn't let Max in on her activities, but Max usually finds a way to play along. Also, Grandma is often there to encourage the kids and lend a kindly hand when needed. Max & Ruby focuses on every day situations that preschool kids can relate to. Through the interactions between Max and Ruby, kids can learn about concepts such as teamwork, communication, patience, and the value of family relationships.
TICKING CLOCK - Sony
In Ticking Clock, Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Lewis Hicks, a journalist who gets put on the trail of a sadistic serial killer after his own girlfriend is viciously murdered. With the killer's journal in hand, Lewis must race against time to rescue the murderer's next victims. As the path begins to weave its way around and to a young orphan boy, Lewis begins to discover a deeper mystery surrounding the murders. In the crime-thriller subgenre, there are really only a few good ways to go about writing a story. One maintains consant mystery, concealing the identity of the killer until a final reveal that should be a shock to the audience. The other is to reveal the killer from the start and use his intentions and motivation as the mystery. With 'Ticking Clock,' however, both approaches are mostly thrown out, revealing the killer's identity, his motive, and everything else pretty much immediately. This is a problem because the mystery is what is usually keeps a viewer watching in a film like this. If you don't have it, the audience just won't care. Here, the writers knew what they wanted to accomplish with an interesting twist, but didn't give enough reason to stick with it in the first two acts. By the third act, the audience is fairly apathetic with the story & characters and will most likely not even care about the twist, which the entire film revolves around.