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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 ANG LEE FILM FESTIVAL

For all of you folks that are fans of Ang Lee, please be sure to check out the Ang Lee Film Festival this weekend, February 19 - 21. The festival will take place at the Rice University Media Center, use entrance #8 and is between Stockton and University Boulevard. Free parking is available at the media center. Friday night at 7:30 pm, the featured film will be Pushing Hands. Saturday, The Wedding Banquet will be shown at 7 pm. Eat Drink Man Woman is the featured film for Sunday and will begin at 7 pm as well. If you have any questions concerning the film festival, please contact Ms. Jennifer Wen at (713) 961-9465.

MOVIE REVIEWS

THE WHITE RIBBON

The action takes place in a German village in the fifteen months that precede World War I. Among the people who live there are a baron, who is a large landowner and a local moral authority, his estate manager, a pastor with his many children, a widowed doctor and a schoolteacher who is thinking of getting married. It is he who, many years later, tells this story. Though everything seems to be quiet and orderly, as it always has been, with the seasons following each other, and good harvests following bad ones, suddenly some strange events start to occur. If some appear to be quite ordinary, even accidental, though others are inexplicable and may well be malevolent.

The village is worried, and at a loss as to what to do. The baron, whose wife will soon leave the village to go to live in Italy, makes a speech in the church, but it has no effect. The pastor, a particularly strict character, had since the beginning of the events, tied a white ribbon to the arm of his two eldest children, a boy and a girl: it is to remind them permanently of their duties to purity. In spite of these ribbons, his own family is not spared.

The schoolteacher, whose pupils are growing more and more unruly, and who is considering getting married, starts little by little to unravel the mystery. What he discovers seems incredible to him: those guilty of most of these misdeeds are the village children. They have formed a secret society and their leader seems to be Marie, the pastor's daughter. We learn that the Archduke of Austria has been murdered by a Serbian in Sarajevo. An international crisis is brewing. The worries and the dramas of the village are soon lost in the strange excitement of the coming war. Later, the schoolteacher ponders over it again, considering that all these events are the fault of the parents. The kids were just reacting what they were taught, werent' they?

Wow. The story, the characters, the performances and the direction all keep the momentum and suspense moving forward consistently. The film is a number of different languages, most predominantly German, but is equipped with English subtitles. This is clearly one of the best and most well done foreign films I have ever seen. I cannot encourage you to see this film more strongly.


Starring: Christian Friedel
& Leonie Benesch
Director: Michael Haneke
Company: Sony Pictures
Classic
Now Showing: In area Theatres
MPAA Rating: R
Grade: A+

DVD REVIEWS

We are doing a Free DVD Giveaway! If you are interested in a chance at winning a free copy of Bikini Royale 2, Wallace & Gromit A Matter of Loaf and Death, Wallace and Gromit The Complete Collection (Blu-ray) and/or the Preschool Prep Series on DVD, it is really easy.  All you have to do is send me an email at Filmlords@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!

A genuinely old-fashioned Hollywood romance with a science fiction angle, The Time Traveler's Wife stars Eric Bana as Henry DeTamble, a Chicago librarian with a genetic disorder causing him to travel through time involuntarily. The screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin (My Life), based on a novel by Audrey Niffenegger, incorporates some of those crazy paradoxes that are a part of time-travel fiction, but without beating one over the head. Take Henry's introduction to his future wife, Clare (Rachel McAdams), who tells him they've already met even though they haven't actually met. Brain teasers, however, are not what The Time Traveler's Wife is about. In a quite haunting way, the story really concerns what it means to know and love someone at every phase of his or her life.

Seven Emmy nominations for this season of the award-winning show! After her unprecedented victory over billionaire Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson), Patty Hewes (Glenn Close) has the legal world at her feet. Just as she's pondering her next move, Daniel Purcell (William Hurt), a man from Patty's mysterious past, storms back into her life, catapulting Patty into a new legal challenge. What starts as a domestic murder case, escalates into the highest reaches of government as Patty unearths a vast conspiracy. At the same time, Ellen (Rose Byrne) is on a mission to take down Patty. She's agreed to act as an informant for the FBI, assisting them in their criminal investigation of Patty and the firm. As Patty unravels the mystery surrounding Daniel Purcell, she must also negotiate the perilous minefield both inside and outside her office.

With empathy, low-key humor, and discreet sexual suggestiveness, Adam Salky expands his 2005 short into a critical look at the way stereotypes can define--and confine--teenagers. While working on a senior-class production of A Streetcar Named Desire, three "types" collide: the good girl, the best friend, and the bad boy. Party girl Courtney (Rooney Mara) serves as the glue that binds the unlikely trio. Her studious friend, Alexa (The Phantom of the Opera's Emmy Rossum), doesn't think rich boy Johnny (Zach Gilford) takes things seriously enough. Alexa's other friend, the sexually ambiguous Ben (Teeth's Ashley Springer) supports her at the expense of his own needs, but their roles shift after theater actor Grant Matson (Alan Cumming in a too-short cameo) observes a rehearsal and praises Johnny's naturalism at the expense of Alexa's stiffness.

Seasons one and two of Night Court were good, but season three begins some of the best years of the show with Markie Post joining the cast as Christine, the public defender and Florence Halop replacing Selma Diamond as one of the two bailiffs - Selma died during the summer of 1985. Christine filled what was really missing from the bill that former public defender Billy just never could deliver. Christine is who we always knew was Harry's soulmate, a fact the two of them dance around for the entire duration of the series. Beautiful, compassionate, and somewhat naive, she also makes the perfect target for Dan Fielding's leachery. Harry's soulmate was something Billy just never convinced me she could be, and she simply wasn't the type to attract Dan Fielding. An original show that is a must own for comedic fans!

I love military shows with good character development - which Army Wives provides. The viewer is invited into the lives and homes of the main characters. This allows glimpses of the characters' struggles, successes and dreams. For this reason, it's easy to become interested in the characters and to care what happens to them. There is also considerable suspense, which pulls the viewer from episode to episode and from season to season. For example, season three ended with one character leaving her husband, one character possibly committing suicide and one character possibly being blown up in Iraq. With all of these cliffhangers, I can't wait to see season four!

Get Ready, Get Set, Go! In this athletic-themed collection, Wubbzy and his Friends learn all about teamwork, fair play and good sportsmanship. What happens when Wubbzy joins a hoopty-hoops team? Why is Wubbzy so upset about being small? How do Wubbzy’s friends prove that cheating at games is wrong? Michelle Kwan as Michelle Kwanzleberry and Tiki Barber as Touchdown Tiki star in this collection that takes the Gold!

Majid Majidi has directed another exquisite film that will please his fans and appeal to those who enjoy films that tell a simple, but meaningful story in a pristine fashion. In Song of Sparrows the visual images are much more revealing of the underlying story than the dialogue is, in my opinion. Karim, played adeptly by Reza Naji, is an irascible patriarch whose ill fortune as a farm hand changes virtually by chance when he travels to the capital city of Tehran on his motorbike. As his good fortune brings more material objects to his simple country home, his troubles continue to plague him until fate literally comes crashing down on him and awakens him to the more important, simple pleasures of life. This movie will appeal especially to families, foreign film fans, and those enjoy cinematic art movies.

A little pinch of zaniness and a big dash of fun is the perfect recipe for laughter as Shaun the Sheep™ and his barnyard buddies Bitzer, Shirley, and Timmy get into more wacky shenanigans along with those fun-loving Naughty Pigs next door. The laughs keep rising, as the creators of the Academy Award®-winning Wallace & Gromit™ are on a roll, dough-ling out more sheep-herding mayhem by the baker’s dozen.

If Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" is your type of history, this is a must have for your collection. The primary sources are good and the performances are powerful. Teachers might like this as a companion to teaching the use of primary source documents. Zinn gives the right amount of context to the pieces so that they make sense. Based on Zinn's books, the film features the complete spectrum of political positionists who explain what they agree and disagree with.

You don't have to like football (or soccer, as we call it in the U.S.) to enjoy The Damned United, because this sharp, funny movie isn't about sports any more than Citizen Kane is about running a newspaper. The Damned United is about ego specifically, the large and driven ego of Brian Clough (Michael Sheen), the manager of a low-rung football team who, along with his assistant Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall), brought his team to the top rank. At which point Clough self-destructed, even as he seemed to be given the keys to even greater heights: he was hired as the new manager of Leeds United, perhaps the strongest team in England, replacing his longtime rival Don Revie (Colm Meaney).

Ghost Hunters is one of the most popular shows on television as the stars search from coast to coast for paranormal activity. It is a good show, but is often saddled with loud & horrible music. The music drowns out anything the viewer might hear. The music also incorporates odd sounds so if you could hear something, you can't tell what it is. One thing that Most Haunted and Paranormal State do is use the music in the history portions of their shows and keep it to a minimum to none on the actual ghost part so you can hear with the crew what is going on. With Ghost Hunters the music tends to make the viewer feel as if they are really not to be included on the hunt that you, the viewer are an outsider looking in on the clique as they hunt and you will find out when they are good and ready to let you in on the haunting.

 

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Contact Filmlords@gmail.com if you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column. Write a SIGNED letter to the editor with valid day time phone number--name can be withheld by request.

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