Nick's Pics Nick
Nicholson Film & Home Entertainment Critic
This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the
writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views
regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the
editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day
time phone number.
"The battle against the Devil, which is the principal task of Saint Michael the Archangel, is still being fought today, because the Devil is still alive and active in the world." -Pope John Paul II "The Rite" is a supernatural thriller that uncovers the Devil's reach to even one of the holiest places on Earth. Inspired by true events, the film follows seminary student Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue), who is sent to study exorcism at the Vatican in spite of his own doubts about the controversial practice and even his own faith. Wearing his deep skepticism like armor, Michael challenges his superiors to look to psychiatry, rather than demons, in treating the possessed. Only when he's sent to apprentice with the unorthodox Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins)--a legendary priest who has performed thousands of exorcisms--does Michael's armor begin to fall. As he is drawn into a troubling case that seems to transcend even Father Lucas's skill, he begins to glimpse a phenomenon science can't explain or control...and an evil so violent and terrifying that it forces him to question everything he believes.
Throughout the annals of film production, there have been numerous occasions where theatergoers step back and simply ask, "why?" Not even the brilliant Sir Anthony Hopkins can save this film and the doldrums it is sure to cause it's viewers. The story is a hodgepodge of cliches that you can see coming a mile a way. In addition, the suspense is contrived and just feels fake. And what the heck is it with the PG-13 rating? You can't under any circumstances, have a Devil that is 'fit for children.' Gimme a physical break! For those that are a bit more skeptical, allow me to put this film into a better perspective. If you take the suspense, the acting, the story, the chemistry and the intrigue of The Exorcist out of the film, what you would have left is The Rite.
Starring: Anthony Hopkins,
Colin O'Donoghue & Alice Braga
Director: Mikael Hafstrom
Company: Warner & New Line
in Local Theaters
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) is living the American dream: great job, beautiful family, shiny Porsche in the garage. When corporate downsizing leaves him and co-workers Phil Woodward (Chris Cooper) and Gene McClary (Tommy Lee Jones) jobless, the three men are forced to re-define their lives as men, husbands, and fathers. After 12 years on the job at the company, the men are blindsided, though, and struggle greatly dealing with their mental recession. After some time spent with his family, Bobby soon finds himself enduring enthusiastic life coaching, a job building houses for his brother-in-law (Kevin Costner) which does not play to his executive skill set, and perhaps the realization that there is more to life than chasing the bigger, better deal. With humor, pathos, and keen observation, writer-director John Wells (the creator of "ER") introduces us to the new realities of American life.
For Gene (Jones), who was the company co founder with James Salinger (Craig T. Nelson) the transition has become someone confrontational and angry. Gene feels that his co-founder has made poor decisions with the company that essentially led to its less that positive financial situation. He goes off the preverbial deep end while leaving his materialistic wife and examines what he really loved about the job - and work - in the first place. Over time, all three men discover what is most important to each of them, their families and their individual existence.
Wow! If more films could take on this perspective! One of the best aspects of this film is that it cut out the fat. There isn't any droll B-roll, nor is there any problematic exposition. Just the facts ma'am, from one point to the next. This is unbelievably admirable in the film and most blatters will thank you for it. The performances of all involved were deep and very well done. The quality of Affleck's work of late, as well as that of Tommy Lee Jones, continues to impress me. The story, the charisma of the characters and performances and the cinematography of this film are brilliant. This picture provides a deep look into the lives of all echelons of society during these trying economic times. How the different classes of society deal with the stress of financial woes, the lack of self worth, and the triumph of the human spirit will no doubt make the viewer think about their own lives and the decisions we make to define us. Just out of the 2011 movie gate, we have an award contender right here.
The Company Men
Starring: Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Maria Bello & Kevin Costner
Director: John Wells
Company: The Weinstein
in Local Theaters
MPAA Rating: R
We are doing a Free DVD Giveaway! If you are interested in a chance at winning a free copy of Raging Bull (BD), Dances with Wolves (BD), Machete, Dying God, The Lena Baker Story, An Ultimate Gulliver Collection, Colin or The Nature of Existence, 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!
MATLOCK: Season Six - Paramount
Over the course of nine seasons, Andy Griffith's Ben Matlock became like one of the family. Much like Columbo, he was smarter than his rumpled demeanor suggested. Just an old country lawyer at heart, transplanted to the big city, his homespun humor and clever way of getting at the truth entertained us each week. While less serious or dramatic than the terrific Perry Mason, the stories centered around the cast and their interactions nearly as much as the cases. Matlock is a legal drama series starring Andy Griffith as defense attorney Ben Matlock - a Harvard-educated, fiery southerner who charges $100,000 a case to brilliantly defend his clients by finding the real killer.
ESPN "30 for 30" Volume One - ESPN
In celebration of the ESPN 30th anniversary, ESPN Films presents 30 for 30 , a critically acclaimed series of films from some of today's finest directors. From Barry Levinson & Peter Berg to Steve James, Brett Morgen and Ice Cube, each filmmaker brings their unique perspective to an extraordinary sports story from the last 30 years. The New York Times calls the films entertaining and Time Magazine says it is a thrilling collection. ESPN has nailed it with this gripping series. Multiple films have received official selections from the Sundance, Toronto, Tribeca and South by Southwest Film Festivals, making this collection of remarkable films a must-have for any film fan. The ESPN 30 for 30 Gift Set, Volume 1, is a 6-disc set that includes the first 15 films from the series: Kings Ransom, The Band That Wouldn't Die, Small Potatoes: Who Killed The USFL?, Muhammad & Larry, Without Bias, The Legend of Jimmy The Greek, The U, Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks, Guru of Go, No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson, Silly Little Game, Run Ricky Run, The 16th Man, Straight Outta L.A. and June 17th, 1994. The Gift Set also includes over 2 hours of bonus features.
SCOOBY DOO MYSTERY INCORPORATED: Season One - Warner
Hop in the van for Mystery Inc.'s new, cool series of spooky capers. Like, it's an all-new Scooby-Doo TV series for families who want their mysteries like Scooby-Doo and Shaggy want their pizza … spicy with extra sauce! Join the gang in Crystal Cove--the most haunted place on Earth--to solve creepy cases packed with fearsome spooks and frights, exciting chases, terrifying surprises and of course, Freddy’s ingenious traps. But the gang doesn’t fall for that ghost stuff anymore. They know there’s always a bad guy behind the monster suit, until they receive a cryptic clue from the mysterious Mr. E, who challenges them with their greatest mystery yet--to uncover the secret behind the curse of Crystal Cove! Get trapped with Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, Freddy, Daphne and Velma in four action-packed adventures from the cool, new show that's a lot of doggone fun!
DALLAS: Season 14 - Warner
In its 14th and final season, Dallas goes out in a gusher of murders and kidnappings, lies and blackmail, seductions and schemes. J.R., Bobby and Cliff – three original characters so big only Big D could hold ’em – are at the heart of the action, surrounded by oil-country folks who joined the series over the years and a passel of dynamic newcomers. And of course there’s that Dallas hallmark, a white-knuckle cliffhanger. This time it’s a two-part finale inspired by It’s a Wonderful Life in which J.R.’s guardian from the great beyond shows the Lone Star State’s meanest rattler what the world would have been without him. Think everything’s for the better? Then you’re in for some surprises!
ER: Season 14 - Warner
The tone of ER's fourteenth season should strike its fans as slightly odd. By season 14 the series had cycled through about 6 lead casts, won countless awards, and established itself as the longest-running prime time medical drama ever. With about a month left in this season, NBC made the announcement that it would return for one final season and then bow out gracefully. The network may have made the announcement in April of '08, but you can be sure the writers had a bit more advanced notice than that, and so when you watch the season with that in mind, you begin to recognize how many of the choices made were done so out of a desire to close things out instead of get new stories moving. For most of the characters and their respective plot lines in the show, this decision makes lots of sense as the past few seasons had leaned quite heavily on a small and arguably ill-prepared ensemble that paled in comparison to the casts that preceded them. However, even with the finish line in view and with their main pool of characters not carrying the same weight as before, the writers and cast managed to infuse the second to last season with its fair share of surprises and some glorious new additions to the supporting cast.
MACHETE - Fox
As a tribute to both the hyperbolic excesses of 1970s drive-in cinema and the fearsome screen persona of veteran character actor Danny Trejo, producer-writer-codirector Robert Rodriguez's Machete is, in grindhouse parlance, one mean mother. A full-length version of Rodriguez's faux "Mexsploitation" trailer in Grindhouse, Machete sketches, in the boldest strokes possible, the adventures of its titular hero (Trejo), a former federal agent turned day laborer after losing his wife and child to a katana-wielding drug lord (Steven Seagal, of all people). Recruited by shady businessman Jeff Fahey to assassinate a rabble-rousing senator (Robert De Niro) with a particular hate vibe for immigrants, Machete soon finds himself the target of government agents, border vigilantes (led by Don Johnson!), and about half the state of Texas. Unfortunately, none seem to realize the film's central thesis: Machete's business is killing, and business is booming.
NO TOMORROW - Docurama
As profiled in the film Aging Out, Risa Bejarano was a foster care success story. Recently graduated, she set out for college with multiple scholarships and a sense of excitement about her future. Then, she was brutally murdered. Soon, Aging Out became the centerpiece of Risa s murder trial, as prosecutors used the film to heighten sympathy for the victim and hatred for the defendant. Troubled that their documentary was being used to advance the prosecutor s argument for the death penalty, filmmakers Vanessa Roth (Academy Aware winner, Freeheld) and Roger Weisberg (Academy Award nominee, Sound and Fury, Why Can t We Be A Family Again?) made a new film, No Tomorrow, which focuses on the trial and the unexpected use of Aging Out as evidence. In No Tomorrow, similarities emerge between Risa and her killer, and viewers are forced to question not just whether the accused deserves to die, but whether the state deserves to kill. Through extensive interviews with those involved in the trial and tense courtroom footage, No Tomorrow poses a difficult question: What role did the filmmakers previous documentary play in this chilling death penalty trial?
THE LENA BAKER STORY - Lionsgate
Based on true events, The Lena Baker Story recounts one African-American woman’s struggle to rise above the challenges of her life, to face the choices she makes, and to ultimately triumph over her impossible circumstances.
WHITE WEDDING - Image
Set against South Africa’s breathtaking landscapes, White Wedding is a high-spirited modern day road comedy about love, commitment, intimacy, friendship, and the unbelievable obstacles that can get in the way of a fairy-tale ending. Ayanda (Zandie Msutwana) is just days away from her lifelong dream of a modern ‘white wedding,’ complete with a dazzling dress, dozens of bridesmaids, a flamboyant wedding planner and large reception at a fancy hotel. The only problem is that her husband-to-be, the sweet, committed Elvis (Kenneth Nkosi), is 1,000 miles away with his childhood friend and best-man Tumi (Rapulana Seiphemo). What should be a simple, straightforward journey gets seriously derailed, forcing Elvis, Tumi and Rose (Jodie Whittaker), a footloose English doctor they meet along the way to tackle directional mishaps, car accidents, a tag-along goat, and a potentially dangerous encounter with a bar full of redneck Afrikaners seemingly stuck in the era of Apartheid.
SARAH JANE ADVENTURES: Season Three - BBC
Stalwart journalist Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and her trio of intrepid teenage sidekicks defend the Earth against hostile aliens galore, equipped with gumption, sonic lipstick, and a hidden extraterrestrial supercomputer called Mr. Smith. This spinoff from Doctor Who is squarely aimed at a younger audience, with much of the action carried by handsome and cool Clyde (Daniel Anthony), spunky but levelheaded Rani (Anjli Mohindra), and Sarah Jane's adopted son Luke (Tommy Knight), who's a genetically engineered genius. The six two-episode stories in the complete third season feature Sarah Jane becoming possessed by an alien prison escapee, red-eyed teens playing in an empty amusement park, paranormal investigators in a haunted house, the Mona Lisa come to life, and an invasive alien plant, as well as some aliens familiar to Whovians and a visit from the Doctor himself (in the form of the ever-energetic David Tennant).
WAKING THE DEAD: Season Four - BBC
Season Four of Waking the Dead, a British CSI, arrives on DVD 1/19! Chief Inspector Boyd and his team are back to reopen the files of more cold cases. A spectral leader, calling himself “The Shepherd,” is incitivulnerable women to commit murder; a sadomasochistic killer is counting off his victims, leaving the word “sorry” carved into their skiand the discovery of an unexploded bomb threatens to bring unforeseen upheaval to the team. Meanwhile, Boyd's visiting a shrink to deal with his anger management, while an apparently mild-mannered ex-con starts to reveal signs that he's actually well connected in a sinister crime ring. Whatever happens, whatever the result, Boyd is determined to get to the bottom of every crime, even if he must examine his own ways of working to unravel the truth. But the final case of the season brings a shocking turn of events that shakes the team to its core.
ZORRO: Complete Series - A&E
Zorro is one of the more underrated heroes out there -- a sort of Hispanic cross between Robin Hood and Batman. Admittedly, I've never really been a huge fan of Zorro (I'm more of a Robin Hood girl), but one of the better representations of him is the well-beloved, family-friendly "Zorro: The Complete Series." It has some downsides, but it's a pleasantly upbeat series filled with romance, swordplay, sneering villains and a guy running around in a mask. Don Diego de la Vega (Duncan Regehr) is called back from his studies in Spain to his family estate in California. It turns out that Los Angeles (a tiny pueblo instead of the megacity it is now) is now ruled by the tyrannical Alcalde Luis Ramone (Michael Tylo). His father Don Alejandro (played first by Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and then by Henry Darrow) and local tavern-keeper Victoria Escalante (Patrice Camhi Martinez) are opposing the Alcalde, which is putting them in danger. Everybody thinks of Diego as a mild-mannered nerd, and don't realize that he's actually a master swordsman, scientist and acrobat (just how long was he away?!). So with the help of his mute sidekick Felipe (Juan Diego Botto), a secret passage and a wild horse, Diego becomes El Zorro, who rides out and battles Alcalde Ramone and his successor Ignacio De Soto (John Hertzler), as well as various bandits, thieves and killers of all kinds.
CRISS ANGEL MINDFREAK: Season Six - A&E
The hit A&E series Criss Angel: Mindfreak once again stretches the boundaries of reality and belief in this thrilling fourth season. Criss Angel's incredible illusions, death-defying escapes, fearless demonstrations and astonishing physical feats have made him the first ever five-time back-to-back recipient of the Magician of the Year award. His visionary approach to the art of magic rejects the traditional confines of the craft and gives birth to an edgy new brand of modern mysticism.
DOCTOR WHO: Meglos - BBC
The planet Tigella is ruled by the elderly Zastor, who has to mediate between two factions--the Savants, or the scientific caste with their white one-piece body suits and blonde hair, who use the unstable Dodecahedron as their power source and the salmon and black-robed Deons, who worship the Dodecahedron. This conflict between rational and religious-minded people is universal, those who demand proof and those who believe. The Deons have an advantage, in that they believe it came from the heavens, where the Savants think it came from somewhere, anywhere, but not the heavens. To fix the instability of the Dodecahedron, and to placate both sides, Zastor calls on the Doctor, who's in orbit nearby. He describes him as the man "who solves the insoluble by the strangest means. He sees the threads that join the universe together, and mends them when they break." In other words, he has the "maturity to respect many points of view."
DOCTOR WHO: The Dominators - BBC
Dr Who deals with the then-topical subject of the atom bomb, a group of people on an alien planet visiting an atomic testing island but finding that the radiation has somehow disappeared. It transpires that a spacecraft inhabited by two war-like beings and their robots is powered by radiation and his absorbed it all. Before long the Doctor, Zoe and Jamie have arrived on the scene and uncovered a plot to turn the whole planet into a radio-active mass to fuel an invasion fleet. One of the best Troughton stories I've seen. The Doctor himself is at his best. The two Dominators (an experienced navigator and his over-enthusiastic probationer) are memorable characters, the cold-eyed navigator especially effective. The fact that they have individual and differing characters leads to some excellent confrontational scenes between them. The robotic Quarks are eerily effective with their bizarre crystaline heads and creepy voices and the sound-effects and special-effects are mostly good. A story which is truly worthy of that over-used term 'classic'.