Nick's Pics Nick
Nicholson Film & Home Entertainment Critic
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AMARCORD: Blu-ray - Criterion
Like 8 1/2 before it, Amarcord marks an extremely personal film for Fellini. Like his relationship to Guido in 8 1/2, the character of Titta serves as an extension of Fellini on film. Whereas Guido served as an extension of Fellini’s state of mind, Titta serves as an extension of Fellini’s childhood memories. Through the retelling of emotional stories that deal with Titta and his family, Amarcord (which translates into “I Remember”) presents a cyclical collage of wondrous nostalgia for the Italy of Fellini’s childhood. Starting in the spring and ending their one year later with the return of the yearly “puffballs”, we are presented with and touched by the many experiences that Titta comes face to face with. At the same time, the film is much more than a mere visual presentation of Fellini’s own nostalgia, for it also questions the true validity of one’s own memories. This questioning of memory by Fellini is made apparent in the manner in which single scenes can go from “reality” based to fantasy-like parody back to “reality” based in a manner of moments. This is one of the most poignant of Fellini’s films and a definite must own in the Criterion series.
FREE DVD GIVEAWAY
We are doing a Free DVD Giveaway! If you are interested in a chance at winning a free copy of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Season 4 Volume 2, Fun on the Farm, Fireman Sam: Ready for Action, Bob the Builder: The Golden Hammer The Movie, Wubbzy Be Mine, Chuggington: Let's Ride the Rails, Ben 10 Ultimate Alien Volume One, Untold Secrets of the Civil War, Alpha and Omega, 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!
LIFE AS WE KNOW IT - Warner
In Life as We Know It, Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel discover that their closest friends have appointed them guardians of their child in the unlikely event of their joint death--an unlikely event that has just happened. Make no mistake: There's no reason this movie should have been any good. The premise is the worst kind of formulaic Hollywood claptrap; the pleasant but cautious Heigl (Knocked Up) is playing yet another uptight fussbudget; since a promising movie debut in the underrated Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, Duhamel has largely coasted on his looks in tripe like the Transformers movies--yet Life as We Know It is surprisingly likable.
VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA:
Season Four, Volume Two - Fox
Voyage was a pioneer in its day---the first big budget science fiction television show that was episodic rather than anthology-based. Much of TV "sci-fi"---including the various incarnations of Star Trek---owes a debt to Voyage's producer Irwin Allen for boldly exploring this then-untapped venue. For those who do not know, Voyage was also the longest running non-syndicated prime time science fiction series on a major U.S. network for nearly thirty years. In my book, that's an impressive historic fact...and it wasn't achieved by a fluke. The star power of Richard Basehart and David Hedison, backed by an able supporting cast, plus state-of-the art miniatures, sets, and special effects that remain impressive to this day, are all part of the recipe that made Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea a great success.
FUN ON THE FARM - TM Books Video
A fun and educational preschool video for the younger set. You'll learn where food comes from and about the growing season - planting, cultivating, and the harvest in the fall. You'll see tractors and combines and lots of farm animals. Doodle Rooster narrates and is joined by Harvey Horse and Bell, the dairy cow. Play the Cloud Game and try to find animals in the sky. You'll be amazed at how many you will find. Visit the Farm in the Zoo at Lincoln Park Zoo, right in the middle of Chicago. You will also go to the John Deere Harvester Works in East Moline, Illinois to see how John Deere makes their combines.
WUBBZY BE MINE - Anchor Bay
Wow! Wow! Love is in the air! Watch Wubbzy, Widget, Walden and Daizy in these Valentine-themed episodes full of friendship and appreciation! What happens when Wubbzy uses Cupid’s bubble-blower to bring together Wuzzleburg’s oddest couples? Can Wubbzy and friends find the fastest way ever to make their own valentines?
CHUGGINGTON: Let's Ride the Rails - Anchor Bay
They're trainees! They're making tracks! Wheels to the rails! Clackety-clack! Honk your horns for the new worldwide hit television series about eager young engines Wilson, Brewster and Koko as they learn to become working trains in the land of Chuggington. In these six popular episodes, the trainees find fun and excitement as they get lost in a deserted town, handle an important responsibility in the safari park, and discover that the repair shed isn't such a scary place after all. There's plenty of action and laughs along the way with lessons about overcoming fear, responsibility and problem solving, all while discovering social-readiness values like friendship, teamwork, courtesy and more. As the trains, and your own little chuggers, practice their skills and complete daily tasks, they learn to ride the rails of life!
RED - Summit
You can take the agent out of the CIA, but you can't take the CIA out of the agent--or so discovers Frank Moses, to his chagrin. Frank, played by Bruce Willis, simply wants to live his simple life with his government pension. But when a troop of black-ops guys descends on his house one night and blows it to smithereens, Frank realizes he needs to get a few of his old colleagues together and find out what's what. That's the premise of Red, a jolly action flick based on a rather more serious graphic novel. Because Frank's old posse includes kicky roles for Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and a tea-pouring, hot-lead-spraying Helen Mirren, the movie boasts a certain appeal just at the "Holy cow, can you believe who's in this thing?" level.
LET ME IN - Anchor Bay
Let Me In blends the innocent face of Chloe Grace Moretz with the darkness of vampirism. A young boy named Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) has troubles at home (his parents are divorcing) and at school (bullies pick on him mercilessly). But when a mysterious girl named Abby (Moretz) moves in next door, Owen hopes he's found a friend, even though she smells a little strange. Unfortunately, his new friend needs blood to live, and the man who seems to be her father (Richard Jenkins) goes out to drain local residents to feed her. But even as Owen starts to suspect something is wrong, having a real friend might just matter more.
RIOT - Olive Films
Riot is a good action film about Jim Brown and Gene Hackman staging a riot in prison in order to allow a distraction so they can escape through underground tunnels. Brown and Hackman are great in this and the suspense of the last 30 minutes is killer! I rank this one up there with Escape From Alcatraz. A must see for all fans of escapism movies.
VAMPIRE KNIGHT: Complete Series - VIZ Media
Yuki Cross is a high school girl attending class with her best friend Yori and closest guy pal/brother figure Zero, who's being raised with her by the school's headmaster. But by night, Yuki and Zero maintain the peace as the school is turned over to young vampires, who with the help of a medical breakthrough do not need to drink human blood and are the members of a new generation of vampires being trained to peacefully coexist with humans. Among them are their leader, Kaname Kuran, a mysterious figure who saved Yuki from a vampire when she was little and on whom she has had a crush ever since; Ruka Souen, the Kaname groupie pining away for him while he only has eyes for Yuki; Hanabusa Aido, the temperamental bisexual who's jealous of Kaname's attention towards Yuki but also finds himself drawn to her; Aido's easygoing, reliable cousin Akatsuki Kain, who alternates between trying to keep Aido out of trouble and patiently waiting for Ruka to get over Kaname and notice him; Kaname's friendly, sociable best friend Takuma Ichijo, and Ichijo's friends Senri Shiki and Rima Toya, two goths who do modeling work on the side. Yuki's growing acquaintance with Kaname's circle will coincide with her learning a terrible secret Zero has been keeping from her, and her life will change as she's torn between the two boys she loves deeply in different ways.
NARUTO SHIPPUDEN: Box Set Five - VIZ Media
This "box set 5" includes episodes 54 through 65, starting what's known as the "Sora Arc". This new set begins Shippuden's first filler arc which had some level of criticism of fans but they aren't as bad as people think, specially considering the first series 80+ episodic filler. However this time around the studio worked around that and created a singular story arc (which will finish in middle of DVD box set 6) with interesting characters and plot. The story itself seamlessly merges with the original Manga's Canon material so as to provide more depth to the story and some of it's characters. The story might have it's faults but it is no way a "horrible experience". I definitely recommend this for all fans of the series.
BARNEY SHAPES AND COLORS ALL AROUND - Lionsgate
Circle around with your favorite T-Rex for a colorful celebration! Barney, BJ and Baby Bop invite you on a rainbow adventure filled with shapes of every hue. Explore new colors and get your toes tapping to create your own art show. Banjo music will have you square-dancing with rhythm and blues. Learn about all the shapes you can find in your very own room. Barney shows you it’s hip to be square!
THE ROMANTICS - Paramount
Oscar winner Anna Paquin and Katie Holmes lead an all-star cast in The Romantics: a generational “dramedy” about friendship, rivalry and loyalty. Alliances are tested when seven college pals reunite to watch two of their own say “I do” at a seaside wedding. But the maid of honor (Holmes) and the groom (Duhamel) share a passionate history, and the bride (Paquin) isn’t the only one who’s wondering if it’s all in the past. Based on the acclaimed novel by Galt Niederhoffer, The Romantics proves that nothing complicates friendship like love.
ALPHA AND OMEGA - Lionsgate
Love is blind to the rules of tradition, opposites attract, and both clichés apply quite nicely to the wolves in Alpha and Omega. In the wolf world, the pack values the omega wolves' skill of defusing tense situations with humor just as much as they value the keen leadership skills of the alpha wolves, but tradition dictates that alpha wolves don't mate with omega wolves. So, when the all-business alpha wolf Kate (Hayden Panettiere) and the fun-seeking omega wolf Humphrey (Justin Long) find themselves attracted to one another, the pair resign themselves to a life apart, and Kate agrees to a match with alpha male Garth (Chris Carmack) from a rival pack in order to peacefully merge the two packs into one. But when Humphrey and Kate are tranquilized in their home in Jasper National Forest, Canada, and relocated to Sawtooth Forest far away in Idaho, the two discover that not only can opposites work very well together, but that neither of them can continue to ignore their attraction for the other.
THE UNTOLD SECRETS OF THE CIVIL WAR - Questar
It isn't everyday that a DVD set comes out that is as riveting and educational as this one. Questar has released The Untold Secrets of the Civil War with these wonderfully documented and little-known true stories. This collection brings to life forgotten stories of the Civil War from both sides of the conflict. How did Union generals capture General Robert E. Lee's battle plans just before Antietam? Which Confederate victories delayed the Emancipation Proclamation? What factors turned the tides of the battle at Gettysburg? These and other secrets of the Civil War are examined in this dramatic and comprehensive collection featuring sweeping battle reenactments and historical experts. This five DVD set is brilliant and wonderfully done for the historical enthusiast or the viewer who just wants to see a great program.
21 JUMPSTREET: Season Four - Mill Creek
The fourth season of Fox's hip undercover cop phenomenon opens with Ioki (Dustin Nguyen) in the hospital and Hanson (Johnny Depp) in prison (falsely convicted of murder). The end of the premiere ("Draw the Line") brings good news for one of them when Penhall (Peter DeLuise) and Booker (Richard Greico) join forces, while the fate of the other looks promising. This is confirmed in the following episode ("Say It Ain’t So, Pete"), but by then, Booker will have split the scene (to return for the Booker-Jump Street crossover, "Wheels & Deals"). The rap on the fourth year is that Depp started turning in lackluster performances when he couldn't get out of his contract. Fortunately, he doesn't sink the show, but it's clear his heart isn't in it anymore. On the bright side, 21 Jump Street remained as much a time capsule of the late-1980s as ever with music from the B-52s and Devo and references to Ghostbusters and Back to the Future.
SIMON & SIMON: Best of Season Two - Mill Creek
Follow the Simon brothers as they solve many mysteries while running a detective agency in San Diego, California. Gerald McRaney and Jameson Parker star as Rick and Andrew Jackson "AJ" Simon, two brothers working as private detectives in San Diego. This top-rated 80s crime-of-the-week drama series details the day-to-day struggles, as well as the extremely exciting cases that these two polar-opposite brothers face. Together, they're working as hard as they can to earn a living recovering stolen items, locating missing persons, and occasionally tracking down a murder. The Simon brothers may have mixed like oil and water, but for the show's fans they were a match made in heaven!
DUKE ELLINGTON - Scholastic New Video
Just in time for Black History Month, celebrate African American history with Duke Ellington…and More Stories to Celebrate great figures in African American History, a historic and musical collection of four unforgettable stories lovingly adapted for the small screen from best-selling picture books. Featuring captivating narration by Forest Whitaker, Phylicia Rashad, Samuel L. Jackson and Billy Dee Williams, bonus features on the DVD include Read Along captioning and discussion questions.
LINCOLN AND DOUGLASS: An American Friendship -
Scholastic New Video
Timed to release for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Black History Month, and President's Day, Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship…and More Stories to Celebrate U.S. History features four animated stories features celebrity narration by James Earl Jones, Jeff Brooks, and Danny Glover and includes an interview with acclaimed author Nikki Giovanni. Additional extras include Read Along captioning and discussion questions. There are four different stories/chapters included in this set.
STINGRAY: The Complete Series - Mill Creek
As advertised the 5 disc contains all 24 episode including the 2 part pilot version. I was very apprehensive about the quality as they would have to use a great deal of compression to fit that much video on to 5 discs. But I was very pleased, as I checked each disc the quality is much better than I expected! Yes there is a small amount of artifacting but very little, they did a very good compression job for 5 episodes per disc. The color looks good and accurate, the print or source material is totally clean and the picture is nice and sharp and clear.
THIRTY SOMETHING: Season One, Volume One - Mill Creek
The touchstone TV series for baby boomers--and TV watchers of the '80s--thirtysomething shows its deep intelligence afresh in this splendid boxed set, featuring every episode of the first season (which debuted in 1987) and so much more.In cultural terms, it's hard to overstate the impact of thirtysomething, which focused on an ensemble of friends, some married, some single, some successful, some struggling--dealing with the aftermath of the '60s ethos, what it meant to balance family and career, and how to reinvent marriage (or to even consider marriage) in the wake of the women's movement. No small task. But thirtysomething was, and is, up to the challenge. First, even above its stellar cast, is the smart, savvy writing that so distinguished the series when it was on the air. Creators Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz wrote many of thirtysomething's episodes, including the pilot, which laid out the complex relationships and feelings of the cast members.
I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE: Unrated - Anchor Bay
The original version was reviled, condemned, and banned around the world for its on-screen depictions of depravity and violence. Now experience the acclaimed remake that dares to go even further: Jennifer Hills (a fearless performance by Sarah Butler) is a big-city novelist who rents an isolated country cabin to write her new book. But when she is brutally raped by a group of sadistic rednecks, Jennifer has plans for more than mere revenge. One-by-one she will find them. She will inflict horrific acts of agonizing torment upon them. And no jury in America would ever convict her. Jeff Branson , Daniel Franzese, Rodney Eastman, Chad Lindberg and Tracey Walter co-star in this graphic, shocking and undeniably disturbing new take on one of the most controversial films of all time.
I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE: 1978 Original - Anchor Bay
Writer-director Meir Zarchi's controversial story of rape and revenge has lost none of its ability to shock viewers since it first gained notoriety in the late '70s. Camille Keaton (grand-niece of Buster Keaton and, later, Zarchi's wife) stars as a young woman who is terrorized and then brutally assaulted by four men while on vacation. After slowly pulling herself together, she methodically tracks down and butchers each of the perpetrators. Zarchi's film has been consistently accused of celebrating violence against women, and while the rape scenes are graphic, they also lack the voyeuristic qualities that earmark other similarly plotted exploitation films. If anything, Zarchi is guilty of awkward scripting; the dialogue is leaden, and Keaton's transformation from victim to avenger is too swift.
ZORRO: The Complete Series - A&E
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.
ONG BAK 3: The Final Battle - Magnolia
Ong Bak 3 is a visually stunning movie. I won't bore you with the plot or story line, other than to say is it time for Tien to get revenge for the death of his father. This is a movie of extremes. It flops in some places and in other places, it sores to heights never before seen in this genre. But what does work, is Tony Jaa's mixing and matching of mysticism, Buddhism, spiritualism, and kick ass kick boxing. That along with the stunning visualizations takes this movie way beyond the normal realm of a normal martial arts movie.
WHITE WEDDING - Image
I really enjoyed White Wedding, from the chemistry of the actors to the creative direction that Jann Turner took with the film. This movie was very appealing to the eye. Most of the time when you think about Africa, you think about deserts, wild animals, and safaris. White Wedding shows in spectacular grandeur the enchanting terrain of South Africa - the lush green grass and trees, high class resorts, and beautiful hills and mountain tops. The fact that this movie is a road trip movie shows off the scenery even more, with the pair traveling everywhere from Johannesburg to Cape Town.