Nick's Pics Nick
Nicholson Film & Home Entertainment Critic
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THE MESSENGER: 360 DAYS OF BOLIVAR
You know the old saying that even with your eyes open, you can still easily miss what is right in front of your face? There are many folks in Houston that love movies and seem to feel that any film, made outside of the Hollywood system, isn't worth their time. Shawn Welling, a local film maker, dispels the rumor...no...he simply destroys it with his docudrama titled, The Messenger. Don't believe me? You want proof, you say? Welling has the credentials to back up his film making ability as a three time winner of the Remi Award, which is the select award for the WorldFest International Film Festival - the oldest and largest of it's kind in the United States. In case you were curious, WorldFest provided the first film awards to the likes of Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee and George Lucas. I am certain you would agree that Mr. Welling is in excellent company.
What started as a film focusing on the beauty of the natural habitat and ecosystem we so often overlook, quickly evolved into a human interest story on the locals and their interactions with one another. The emotions of their stories quickly take root with the viewers as you hear from Michael, Tommy, Eugene and Back Up Birt. As the conversations began, Shawn Welling commented, "When we first met these individuals who inhabited Bolivar- in their humble surroundings- we weren’t sure to feel sorry for them or for ourselves.”
Michael Pickering is a jovial carefree agnostic that spent years of fishing in Alaska to find himself on Bolivar Peninsula cutting grass and keeping a vigil on a used car lot from his mobile home not 300 yards from Norbert’s Bait Camp and Icehouse. Michael loves the sea, the wind and his dogs. As a self-admitted son of outlaws, thieves and killers- his upbringing as a boy was difficult as he found himself in prison.
Tommy Etzel was a very successful engineer making a six figure salary when he went off the deep end to one day find himself in Washington D.C. at 2:00 a.m. looking for crack cocaine and hookers in one of the deadliest cities in the nation. After conning his friends, family and new acquaintances on a routine basis he finally hit rock bottom where the only peace he could find was on the Bolivar Peninsula. Tommy wandered like a nomad at "The End of The Road" on Bolivar Peninsula searching to shed his skin to somehow become "clean" and "right" with God. Tommy loves to fish off the pier at the "End of The Road" and finds great satisfaction just waking up to see the sun rise and the sun set as he appreciates God's creation all around him. His wife Sheryl makes a miraculous return back into his life. He bares testimony that he is astounded at the love God has shown him despite his past manipulations of his fellow man. After many years he has finally been able to forgive himself which he proclaims to be the most difficult task of all.
Eugene Miller has suffered physical and emotional anguish throughout his life while confessing that his survival has been because of his faith. He was run over be a lawn mower at the age of nine and ridiculed by his peers at an early age because of the deformities in his hands and feet. He was thrown in a garbage can by a bunch of rebel rousers when he was 10 years old and claims the Lord came to him and told him he would have a special mission in life and not to be discouraged. Eugene has Multiple Sclerosis and gets around with the use of a wheel chair. He loves NASCAR auto racing and performs lawn mower along with other small engine repairs to make a meager living. He lives in a small, portable trailer that lacks a woman's touch with his beloved dog named sugar. His loneliness carries him down to the depths of humility, but not despair as he is a believer in miracles.
Back Up Birt scrambles around Bolivar Peninsula in a most unusual fashion. He picks up odd jobs and is often taken advantage of for his kind nature. He is best known for an old pick up his grandfather gifted him. His grandfather taught him not to "lean on anyone else for favors, but just make do yourself." After the forward gears in his transmission went out he made his way between his local friends house and Norbert’s Bait Camp and Bar by driving backwards all over the Peninsula. Birt declares that no one is a stranger, but only somebody who you've not yet met.
After a period of time, Hurricane Ike arrived and the Peninsula disappeared. There really is nothing that can describe the total devastation experienced on that piece of land. No matter what, if you look long and hard enough, you can find a message in anything that can touch your soul. Looking at this land both before and after the storm will no doubt have a profound effect on how you see and think, provided you have a soul. Michael Pickering, the enigmatic star of the film, said it best on his outgoing cell phone message after the destruction of everything he owned. "Sorry I missed your call. I am going through some changes in my life. If you don't hear back from me, you're one of them."
Everything about this film is beautiful. Under Welling's direction, the film takes on a character of it's own. The pacing of the pictures keeps its momentum moving forward through the use of progressive edits and the story being told. You can't help but root for these guys, which takes the project and the viewer to the next level. The emotion of this film is so real you can touch it. The characters and land expose their souls to the camera through the expert cinematography by Roger Scott Budge. What Budge accomplishes through his expert eye truly shows the spirituality of the entire film. The film covers the personal lives of these curmudgeons leading up to and after Hurricane Ike at the setting of Norbert’s Bar & Bait Camp in Port Bolivar just after you cross the ferry in from Galveston, Island. The astronomical number of lives lost coupled with the emotion of the storm is simply overwhelming and too much to bare. There are a number of things the audience can take away from this film. The characters on Bolivar take nothing for granted. An excellent sunset is better than anything money can buy and all that matters is being good to and loving each other - something all of us could learn a little something about. A jovial Bolivar resident Michael Pickering sheds light on what love is: “You’re either laughing or your crying, and I’ve shed enough tears.”
Starring: Michael Pickering,
and Eugene Miller
Director: Shawn Welling
Company: Welling Films
Available on DVD
MPAA Rating: NR
We are doing a Free DVD Giveaway! If you are interested in a chance at winning a free copy of Sugar Boxx, Glee: Season One, Hereafter, Barney Shapes & Colors All Around, Wishbone, Jump Into Spring or Timmy Time: Timmy Steals the Show, 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!
THE WALKING DEAD: Season One - Anchor Bay
After waking from a coma in an abandoned hospital, police officer Rick Grimes finds the world he knew gone - ravaged by a zombie epidemic of apocalyptic proportions. Nearby, on the outskirts of Atlanta, a small encampment struggles to survive as 'the dead' stalk them at every turn. Can Rick and the others hold onto their humanity as they fight to live in this terrifying new world? And, amidst dire conditions and personal rivalries, will they ultimately survive one another? AMC’s The Walking Dead is an epic, survival adventure series from the director of The Shawshank Redemption and the producer of The Terminator and Aliens. In this series they go through a painstaking detail about what it's like to lose your family, dealing with "dangerous" survivors, the logic of racism when there is no longer a real race left, sacrificing survivors for the betterment of the others, how to maintain a family and raise children in an Apocalypse, figuring out the vulnerabilities and behavior of the zombies, and whether life is really even worth living in such a bleak world.
WAITING FOR HOCKNEY - Docurama
The study of a dreamer's determination as he takes on a one of a kind art project is by turns hysterical and tragic. Starting from a biographical standpoint, the film turns into an incisive look at the nature of art, an examination of the artistic process, and a discussion on what validates artistry in today's society. And we see it all through the eyes of Billy Pappas, an illustrator who worked on one drawing for eight and a half years! The single minded devotion is both awe inspiring and borderline insane. This film should be part of the curriculum for every undergraduate and graduate art program in the nation -- including writing programs. For high schools it's the perfect instrument to ignite discussion and writing. It's such an important film! Anyone who works in the arts or appreciates them--any of them--should see this documentary. It's magnificently made and crucial viewing.
CLIMATE OF CHANGE - New Video
Actress Tilda Swinton provides a poetic narration (courtesy of Simon Armitage), that links the disparate scenes together. Haunting and evocative, the voice-over is one of the strongest elements in the film. During this 90 minute sojourn across the globe, we visit India where school children are trying to raise awareness on a myriad of issues, New Guinea where the rain forest is being obliterated, Togo where locals are lessening pollution and replanting vegetation, London where a green business woman talks of recycling and education, West Virginia where the Appalachians have been devastated by the coal mining industry (this segment also includes a trip to Washington), and a strange interlude in Norway. That's a lot of topics introduced--but, by necessity of time alone, nothing is developed too deeply.
ANDRE PREVIN: The Kindness of Strangers - Kulture
André Previn turned seventy in 1999. From Berlin refugee to multi-Oscar-winning film score composer, from great jazz pianist to chief conductor of both the London Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras, through four marriages including Mia Farrow and present wife Heather, with an honorary knighthood for his services to British music, his story is extraordinary. Previn's remarkable career reached a climax in September 1998 with the premiere of his first opera, A Streetcar Named Desire. He also conducted the production at the San Francisco Opera, with Renée Fleming as Blanche. This film tells the story of the making of the opera, based on Tennessee Williams' controversial stage play, and follows the backstage trials and tribulations from first rehearsals through to opening night. Previn talks candidly about the experience and relates it to his international life and career. André Previn has stood center stage in the world of music for the last fifty years. Tony Palmer s ninety-minute documentary, filmed in America, Japan, Germany, Austria and England, tells both why and how.
THE ZOMBIE FARM - Maya Entertainment
After her thoughtful piece on domestic violence is rejected by the studio, an independent filmmaker sets out to expose a fraudulent faith healer, but instead, the two find themselves surrounded by the undead when a rival santera gives abuse victims a horrifying answer to their problems. Ricardo Islas follows in the grand tradition of George Romero in using the zombie film as a platform for a more profound social issues. Islas instills a heavy Latino influence, while examining the debilitating effects of domestic abuse and the loss of Mexican-American culture through Americanization. Guilty parties in either of the above offenses become undead slaves who are completely rid of their heritage and soul. Although the social agenda can be heavy-handed at times, its bold approach is a welcomed change to the tired zombie picture.
LEAVING - IFC
The plot is basic: woman in a dull marriage falls for a builder, has an affair, confesses to her husband, can't let go of her desire to continue the affair... The point is not the plot but the very human behaviors, reactions, and pain that is consequential to the act. No one escapes unscathed. The movie is like a Dutch painting - everything is finely observed, on a small scale, and intensely human. There's no point in judging the behavior of the various characters - this isn't a medieval morality play. It's a study of an accidental explosion that occurs in the lives of perfectly normal people living mundane lives. What matters is how accurate, how honest, and how involving the study manages to be. And this study manages to be extremely good indeed. We can watch, knowing that it's all going to end badly yet appreciating the transient pleasure experienced by the lovers even as they destroy those around them. Watching, we can know that thoughtlessness leads too often to low-quality outcomes yet we enjoy the sureness of touch exhibited by the cast and director. We can know that temporary infatuation is no real basis for an adult relationship, yet we can remember our own jeunesse d'esprit from all those years ago - before we discovered that actions inevitably have consequences.
KINGS OF PASTRY - First Run Features
The competition for the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (known as the MOF) occurs in France every four years. The winners get to proudly wear a red, white and blue collar on their chef uniform. I say "winners" because all can win, some can win, and all can lose. There is no first, second and third place. But competition is tough. In 2008 - or 2009, I can't be sure - the filmmakers followed three of the 16 competitors. Two were French pastry chefs who live in France. The third - Jacquy Pfeiffer, is a Frenchman who teaches at Chicago's French Pasty School (the only school dedicated to French pastry). I won't give you a spoiler alert - and I hope other reviewers don't reveal the ending either. That's what makes the 88-minute film so interesting.
CARMO, HIT THE ROAD - First Run Features
Carmo would do anything to escape the hellhole of a Brazilian border town where she lives. So when a lonesome, wheelchair-bound low-life named Marco arrives on the scene, she jumps at the chance to help him transport a shipment of smuggled goods. An unlikely romance unfolds as the two are chased through a lush and jagged South American landscape by bandidos, the police and their own passions alike. A lawless, reckless journey of self-discovery, this Sundance dazzler refuels the classic road-trip genre.
LAST TANGO IN PARIS: Blu-ray - MGM
Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial 1973 film stars Marlon Brando as an expatriate American in Paris reeling from his wife's suicide and entering into a nihilistic sexual relationship with a young woman (Maria Schneider). The film is still shocking, not simply because of its (sometime unconventional) sexual sequences, but because Brando's protagonist needs his liaison with Schneider's character to remain anonymous, an experience not to be shared but indulged on either end. Bertolucci is also operating on subtext here: in a way, Brando's non engaging engagement is a metaphor for a certain attitude toward directing movies. Jean-Pierre Léaud costars, but the film is more than anything a vehicle for a great performance by Brando.
MOONSTRUCK: Blu-ray - MGM
Remember the outfit Cher wore to the Oscars when she won an Academy Award for her performance in this 1987 film? Ay-yi-yi. The actress' more retiring character in this infectious comedy leaps several psychological hurdles just giving her hair a permanent. But then the original screenplay by John Patrick Shanley (Joe Versus the Volcano) is a wonderful, gently satirical tale of an Italian-American family dealing with repression and dissatisfaction against a backdrop of cultural expectations. Cher is focused and funny as a widow who feels she should marry an older fellow (Danny Aiello), but then falls for his black-sheep brother (Nicolas Cage). Olympia Dukakis and Vincent Gardenia are perfect as her parents, and John Mahoney (of TV's Frasier) has a memorable, small role as a middle-aged man on the make who gets a lecture from Dukakis's character. Shanley's dialogue is comically stylized in a way that makes one appreciate how much words can inform an actor's performance.
RAIN MAN: Blu-ray - MGM
Rain Man is the kind of touching drama that Oscars are made for--and, sure enough, the film took Academy honors for best picture, director, screenplay, and actor (Dustin Hoffman) in 1988. Hoffman plays Raymond, an autistic savant whose late father has left him $3 million in a trust. This gets the attention of his materialistic younger brother, a hot-shot LA car dealer named Charlie (Tom Cruise) who wasn't even aware of Raymond's existence until he read his estranged father's will. Charlie picks up Raymond and takes him on a cross-country journey that becomes a voyage of discovery for Charlie, and, perhaps, for Raymond, too. Rain Man will either captivate you or irritate you (Raymond's sputtering of repetitious phrases is enough to drive anyone crazy), but it is obviously a labor of love for those involved. Hoffman had been attached to the film for many years, as various directors and writers came and went, but his persistence eventually paid off--kind of like Raymond in Las Vegas.
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. Because the Swedish film adaptation of the novel Let the Right One In (on which Let Me In is based) was surprisingly popular and critically acclaimed, it's going to be hard for Let Me In to avoid comparisons. Surprisingly, it retains much of the flavor and spirit of the original.
INSIDE JOB - Sony
As he did with the occupation of Iraq in No End in Sight, Charles Ferguson shines a light on the global financial crisis in Inside Job. Accompanied by narration from Matt Damon, Ferguson begins and ends in Iceland, a flourishing country that gave American-style banking a try--and paid the price. Then he looks at the spectacular rise and cataclysmic fall of deregulation in the United States. Unlike Alex Gibney's fiscal films, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Casino Jack, Ferguson builds his narrative around dozens of players, interviewing authors, bank managers, government ministers, and even a psychotherapist, who speaks to a culture that encourages Gordon Gekko-like behavior, but the number of those who declined to comment, like Alan Greenspan, is even larger. Though the director isn't as combative as Michael Moore, he asks tough questions and elicits squirms from several participants, notably former Treasury secretary David McCormick and Columbia dean Glenn Hubbard, George W. Bush's economic adviser. Their reactions are understandable, since the borders between Wall Street, Washington, and the Ivy League dissolved years ago; it's hard to know who to trust when conflicts of interest run rampant.
MORNING GLORY - Paramount
Morning Glory showcases the comedic (and romantic) talents of two cute couples of different ages--Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton and the adorable Rachel McAdams and Patrick Wilson. Love can bloom, no matter what time of life, or, as the setting of Morning Glory underscores, no matter what time of day. McAdams is excellent and darling as an ambitious TV producer who vows to turn around a sinking morning TV news show by bringing in a heavyweight anchor (Ford) to pair with the lighthearted, deft Keaton. But Ford wants none of the "news lite" that morning shows need to surface, so sparks fly between the bickering co-anchors almost immediately. Happily, Ford is easier in his skin in Morning Glory than he has been in some of his past romantic efforts, so he and Keaton play off each other easily and believably.
HANNAH MONTANA FOREVER: Final Season - Disney
It's hard to believe that it has been four years since Hannah first graced the presence of every tweener on the planet. It's the final season of Hannah Montana, the show that redefined television and inspired a generation of young girls. You've been part of Miley Stewart's life for four amazing years and have watched her grow up with her best friends Lilly and Oliver. Now it's senior year and Miley is at a crossroads. After all these years, does she still have the best of both worlds? Can she continue her alter ego, Hannah Montana, or will she leave it all behind to be an ordinary girl? See the epic series finale and bring home this must own 2-disc DVD collection, including cast goodbyes and the exclusive final season alternate ending! Now join Miley, Lilly, Oliver, Robby Ray, Jackson, Rico and special guest stars Sheryl Crow, Cody Linley, Dolly Parton and more as they bring the groundbreaking and beloved series to a close.
DALZIEL & PASCOE: Season Three - BBC
With the four episodes on two discs of Dalziel & Pascoe it's good to see that the quality and the style of the series have established themselves. That fine actor with a mug's face, Warren Clarke, plays Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel. Dalziel has a Yorkshire accent that at times could use subtitles. He worked his way up and he's smart. He dresses well. He drinks, he smokes, he's overweight, and he yearns to bed most of the good-looking women he meets. Andy is rough around the edges. He's pugnacious towards everyone, especially the better classes. He is sarcastic most of the time and has an unmatched gift for deliberately being crude. As he says to his young sergeant, played by Colin Buchanan, "I scratch my balls, pick my nose and fart with unneeded force." Morse would wince if he ever met Andy. Peter Pascoe, a university man, is cultured, better educated and almost as smart as his boss. He wants to catch criminals just as much as Andy does. By now Dalziel and Pascoe have formed an effective team, but there's no doubt who is in charge. We've also met the third member of Andy's team, Detective Sergeant Edgar Wield (David Royle). Wield is tall, quiet, reliable and thorough. He can be surprising at times.
JUDGE JOHN DEED: Season Three - BBC
Every episode in the Judge John Deed series is intelligent, top- notch drama with an ongoing romance. It is particularly interesting to see how the British courtroom system works. The behind the scenes interaction between the judges, high court judges, police and the Head of Chancellory operates The courtroom drama is often riveting. It is entirely refreshing to watch dramas dealing with such a variety of subjects instead of the same old thing on N.A. television, i.e. drugs, rape and drugs and more drugs. To be sure, Judge John Deed does have cases on those subjects but they are not the rule. I bought the pilot and series 1. I have been recording the show for the past year and a half on the BBC channel.
PIRATE BLAST: Wii Game - Zoo
Captain Greasebeard and his evil Henchbots are determined to take over Vile Isle, and it's up to you to save the innocent and destroy the evil swashbucklers in Pirate Blast. Destroy as many of the Captain's Henchbots as possible, and fight your way to the end to face off with Greasebeard himself. Restor order and defeat Captain Greasebeard or find yourself walking the plank, matey.
REBOOT: Seasons One & Two - Shout Factory
Since early 1990s, Dot Matrix, Enzo, Guardian Bob and thousands of Binomes from Reboot have thrust into battles with corrupt forces of Megabytes and Hexadecimal to stop their relentless pursuit of chaos and destruction of the high-tech city Mainframe. Reboot made history for being the first fully computer-generated animated TV series when it debuted on U.S and Canadian television in 1994. The series ran four successful seasons and was seen in over 70 countries around the world, boasting a large fan base of loyal followers in kids and adult gamers alike. The show’s unique setting inside a computer allows the characters and storylines to mine the references to computers and video games for all they’re worth, giving the show its humorous edge. The innovative animation, insider humor and high octane action combine to give viewers a lot of binary bang for their buck.
SUGAR BOXX - E1 Entertainment
Genevieve Anderson plays a crusading female TV reporter who goes undercover to be put in Florida's worst female camp/prison to find out the whereabouts of the granddaughter of one of her mother's friends who has been unjustly incarcerated for a bogus criminal charge. Once inside the prison compound,the reporter then discovers a ring of corruption,prostitution and drug operation that leads right up to the prison warden (Linda Dona). The reporter is befriended by a hard as nails female convict played by Thela Brown who helps her to start a bloody revolt among the female inmates to rebel against their corrupt guards and prison officials. Jarrett covers perfectly all the film cliches of the women in prison movies with great tongue in cheek humor and excellent zeal in the action scenes. The actors play their roles more or less straight especially female leads Anderson and Brown with extra help of genre pros Satana, Hill and Natividad in their cameo roles. All in all Sugar Boxx plays homage to those great 1970's women in prison exploitation pictures and is recommended viewing if you're interested in that film genre.
BIRDS OF THE GODS - PBS
The island of New Guinea in the South Pacific is home to birds so spectacular and unique that the first Europeans to see the birds in the sixteenth century named them "birds of paradise," believing they must have come to Earth directly from heaven. The indigenous people of New Guinea have lived with the birds for thousands of years, and have long honored and revered them as sacred ancestors and powerful spirits of their world. Their ancient traditions make the birds' feathers highly prized and the birds very vulnerable. But to find these birds in New Guinea is extremely difficult, and to witness their extraordinary mating displays is even tougher. David Attenborough introduces a young team of New Guinean scientists who are on a grueling expedition to find and film these breathtaking birds. They hope to learn a few of the secrets of these heavenly creatures, and to find a way to ensure their future.
FOUR LIONS - Magnolia
This comedy is based on a group of extremist Muslims who decide to demonstrate in the face of all this consumerism and corruption of the West, the beauty of their religion by committing horrible deeds-that in their eyes are nothing but noble. Take note that they are from Sheffield, England. Four of the men are identifiably Muslim, but one stands out like a nerd on the football team. He is a white convert to Islam, and the most radical, impatient, and extreme of the pack-trying to convince them to attack a Mosque. Two members, Omar and Waj, get sent to a terrorist training camp with disastrous result-keep watching after the credits to understand the extent of their tragic contribution. After returning, all five, which includes the new recruit Hassan, decide to find a target to express their rage.