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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.


 

MOVIE REVIEWS

GREEN ZONE

Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, United 93) re-team for their latest electrifying thriller in Green Zone, a film set in the chaotic early days of the Iraqi War when no one could be trusted and every decision could detonate unforeseen consequences. During the U.S.-led occupation of Baghdad in 2003, Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon) and his team of Army inspectors were dispatched to find weapons of mass destruction believed to be stockpiled in the Iraqi desert. Rocketing from one booby-trapped and treacherous site to the next, the men search for deadly chemical agents but stumble instead upon an elaborate cover-up that inverts the purpose of their mission. Spun by operatives with intersecting agendas, Miller must hunt through covert and faulty intelligence hidden on foreign soil for answers that will either clear a rogue regime or escalate a war in an unstable region. And at this blistering time and in this combustible place, he will find the most elusive weapon of all is the truth.

There are two things you should realize before you see this picture so it meets your expectations. First, this is essentially the fourth Jason Bourne film - just without the name. Second, realize that dramamine is your friend. I don't know what it is about Paul Greengrass directed films, but Holy Mary can somebody show him how to turn on a camera stabilizer or give this man a tripod? Geez. To literally see someone two rows down actually vomit during the film from the jumpy camera work and countless others have to leave the screening in order to regain their stability is completely unacceptable. If this happens to you, feel free to send your medical bills to Director Paul Greengrass. Aside from those obvious flaws, the film really is quite good. Damon is brilliant as usual and the story is sold from beginning to end. This is a political thriller that hits you smack in the face with the realism of our current day involvements. It makes you wonder about the real war in Iraq, seven years after it's onset, and what are the real reasons as to why we are there in the first place.

Green Zone
Starring: Matt Damon
& Greg Kinnear
Director: Paul Greengrass
Company: Universal
Now Showing: In area Theatres
MPAA Rating: R
Grade: B

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 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!

Murder mysteries with a psycho-thriller twist. British TV knows how to do crime mystery. Set 2 of Armchair Thriller is even better than the first set. More mystery drama than psychological weirdness. These suspenseful stories are each taken from acclaimed authors' novels, always a good sign. They don't try to make a TV series from a bad book. The series is period drama of late-70s simply because that is the date when it was originally aired. It is not intended to be a period mystery set, but it is rather nostalgic in seeing avocado green rotary telephones, bell-bottom pants, typewriters, paneled walls, 70's furnishings and wallpaper, and technology such as reel-to-reel tape recordings, VHS players, and a 33rpm record music center. Other than the occasional hair style, each suspense/mystery plot is as contemporary enjoyable as any 21st century production.

In 17 stories of suspense, award-winning writer Ruth Rendell combines vivid plots with a keen understanding of the motivations and machinations of the human mind. Featuring outstanding performances by Colin Firth, James Callis, Amanda Redman, James D’Arcy, Honeysuckle Weeks, and George Baker as Inspector Wexford, these programs bring Rendell’s work to life with every wicked irony and startling twist intact. The Mysteries in this edition include Master of the Moor, Vanity Dies Hard, The Secret House of Death, The Double, Bribery & Corruption, Front Seat, A Case of Coincidence, A Dark Blue Perfume, May & June, The Orchard Walls, Going Wrong, Harm Done, The Fallen Curtain, The Lake of Darkness, You Can’t Be Too Careful, Simisola and Road Rage.

Not just another by-the-numbers teen-angst movie, Bandslam is a joyful expression of pop exuberance, with an unexpectedly thrilling (and retro) soundtrack and numerous moments of visual excitement. Actor-turned-director Todd Graff brings stylish imagination and heart to this story of a much-taunted and beleaguered kid named Will (Gaelan Connell), whose miserable life at a Cincinnati high school comes to an end when he and his single mom (Lisa Kudrow) move to New Jersey. At his new school, Will befriends two very different girls: the laconic Sam (Vanessa Hudgens), and the take-no-prisoners, former cheerleader Charlotte (Aly Michalka), who is trying to get her rock band off the ground. The latter sees in Will--a student of pop music history--a potential manager who can help her group take top prize at an inter-school competition called Bandslam.

The entertaining, adrenaline-packed Ninja Assassin wastes no time cutting quite literally to the guts and gore of the mysterious world of ninja warriors--the blood flows as freely as champagne on New Year's Eve. Only 3-D might have made it even better. Taken from the streets as a child, the orphan Raizo (Korean pop artist Rain, in his first leading role) is molded into a deadly assassin through methods that might make even the strong of stomach wince. The story flows from present-day Berlin to Raizo's brutal training by the Ozunu, one of the mythical Nine Clans that perform political assassinations around the world. Refusal to follow an order by the clan leader forces Raizo into a life on the run. When Mika (Naomie Harris), a Europol researcher, gets too close to the truth, Raizo risks detection by his former clan-mates to protect her, and to exact his revenge.

John Krasinski makes his acclaimed directorial debut with this adaptation of the book by David Foster Wallace. After being abruptly dumped by her boyfriend, a graduate student (Julianne Nicholson) decides to interview a series of men about their reasons for behaving badly. What follows is an intimate portrait of the male species at their best, worst and most hilariously complex, confessing their desires, failures, frustrations and resentments. Academy Award winner Timothy Hutton, Will Arnett, Bobby Cannavale, Will Forte, Christopher Meloni, Chris Messina, Michael Cerveris, Frankie Faison and Krasinski himself star as just some of the interviewees in this darkly funny and savagely enlightening comedy/drama that electrified audiences at Sundance.

When a journalist (Jim Caviezel) is stranded in her remote village, Zahra takes a bold chance to reveal what the villagers will stop at nothing to hide. Thus begins the story of Soraya (Mozhan Marnò), a kind woman whose cruel, divorce- seeking husband trumps up false charges of infidelity against her, which carry an unimaginable penalty. Soraya and Zahra attempt to navigate the villagers’ scheming, lies and deceit to prove her innocence. But when all else fails, Zahra must risk everything to use the only weapon she has left – her voice – to share Soraya's shocking story with the world.

Not the Alice you were looking for, huh? So this Alice is a martial arts butt-kicker. She meets Jack who slips her a ring and once Jack is abducted Alice follows, thus leading to her falling down the rabbit hole or the looking glass. Once there she meets Hatter who wants to help her find her way home. As she learns more about Wonderland and their emotion-extracting economy, her life becomes endangered when the Queen of Hearts orders for Alice's capture. The Queen ultimately wants the ring Alice received from Jack to power the looking glass. Along Alice's journey to find Jack, she also meets The White Knight who accompanies the duo to the Casino where the captured humans are extracted while also running away from the Queen's men: White Rabbit and the Suits. Quite an adventure!

Dr. Tenma (Nicolas Cage), a revered scientist on the floating paradise known as Metro City, has recently created a technologically advanced robot in the image of his late son Toby in an effort to assuage his overwhelming grief. Far from an average robot, his creation (Freddie Highmore) is a thinking, feeling robot endowed with the memories and emotions of the real Toby and powered by a unique blue core energy recently discovered by Dr. Tenma's good friend Dr. Elefun (Bill Nighy). Despite his efforts, Dr. Tenma quickly discovers that his new creation will never replace his human son, and he coldly casts him aside. Being a thinking, feeling robot, the robot boy sets off in search of a place where he might fit in, and his journey lands him below Metro City, on the surface of the wasteland known as Earth, where he is befriended first by a trio of rebellious robots who dub him Astro Boy and later by a group of human orphans led by the robot repairman Dr. Hamegg (Nathan Lane). Although Astro Boy fully intends to confess his robotic origins to the humans, circumstances prevent the disclosure, and his first real friendships are tainted by the underlying deception. Meanwhile, back in Metro City, President Stone (Donald Sutherland) launches a campaign to destroy Astro Boy in an effort to steal the blue core energy and use it with its opposing and very unstable red core energy to guarantee his reelection. In the end, Astro Boy's real ancestry comes to light, and his relationships with the humans and his very existence are threatened.

Oh yes, Bitch Slap is everything you think it is. Girls. Guns. Cat fights. Explosions. Lesbian romances. A story of bad guys, booty, alliances, betrayals, and secrets. It's being billed as, "a post-modern, thinking man's throwback to the B movie/exploitation films of the 1950s - 70s," but the truth is it gives us little to think about, and I'm hard pressed to say that it reexamines modern assumptions of culture, identity, and language. It does, however, open with a Joseph Conrad quote: "The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness." We see the word "men" and automatically think it's a blatant anti-male message. But by the end of the film, it's made abundantly clear that women are just capable of being wicked.

Michael Angarano stars as Benjamin, a self-conscious, home-schooled teen whose aspirations of being a science-fiction writer are played out Walter Mitty-style. His doting mother (Jennifer Coolidge) treats him to a weekend at a writing camp, where Benjamin meets his idol, sci-fi author Ronald Chevalier (Jermaine Clement). Benjamin submits his "Yeast Lords" manuscript to Chevalier for the big-time writer's approval. But Chevalier is struggling for a hit book and he promptly plagiarizes Benjamin's work. Director Jared Hess cowrote Gentlemen Broncos with his wife, Jerusha Hess, and they do a fine job of capturing grimacingly painful, but funny trials of adolescence. The 'nad jokes and gross-out humor get a little stale, but the Hesses have assembled a brilliant, watchable cast.

Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, The Princess and the Frog moves the classic fairy tale to a snazzy version of 1920s New Orleans. Tiana (voice by Anika Noni Rose), the first African-American Disney heroine, is not a princess, but a young woman who hopes to fulfill her father's dream of opening a restaurant to serve food that will bring together people from all walks of life. Tiana may wish upon a star, but she believes that hard work is the way to fulfill your aspirations. Her dedication clashes with the cheerful idleness of the visiting prince Naveen (Bruno Campos). A voodoo spell cast by Dr. Facilier (Keith David) in a showstopping number by composer Randy Newman initiates the events that will bring the mismatched hero and heroine together. However, the animation of three supporting characters -- Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley), a jazz-playing alligator; Ray (Jim Cummings), a Cajun firefly; and 197-year-old voodoo priestess Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis) -- is so outstanding, it nearly steals the film.

On the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations, an elderly Holocaust survivor living across the street from the UN building receives a determined visitor on a deadly mission. Rosa has lived alone for 50 years; Amaury has hatched a plan to assassinate "the worst son of a bitch mankind has ever known." But in order to carry out his mission, Amaury will need Rosa's help. As the secret service sweeps her building in search of terrorists, Rosa must decide whether to aid the obstinate intruder, or turn him in. Gripping, touching and enigmatic at the same time, this film will keep your interest throughout!

As practically everyone knows, Michael at about age 6 ignited the spark in the family's entertainment machine and has generated the most interest and -- let's just say it -- cash for the family. As someone noted soon after Michael Jackson's June 25, 2009 death, if the four oldest brothers had appeared in Berry Gordy's rehearsal studio without Michael, they would have soon been back in Gary, Indiana with only memories of what might have been to sustain them. This series takes a look into the family room, behind closed doors. If you are a Jackson Five fan or just have some time on your hands, check this out.

The Pineda family runs a seedy movie house which shows sexy double-features. The family also lives in the same building and as they go about their daily routines, we see how they suffer and deal with each other. Nanay Flor is the mother who lives with her daughter, Neyda, her son-in-law, Lando, adopted daughter Jewel who alternates between showing the films and attending to the canteen), nephew Alan, a billboard painter and Ronald, the projectionist. Nanay has a case against her ex-husband for bigamy and when the movie opens she is attending a court hearing at which a decision will e handed down. This is the background for the relational, economic and sexual problems of the family. Unbelievably convoluted to explain, let me simply say if you enjoy suspenseful films, check this one out. You must see it!

Nine Dead is a very good straight to video movie about 9 people who are captured by a masked man and each hooded and handcuffed in the same room. The masked man gives them 10 minutes to explain why are they here and how they are all connected to the masked man, if not one person will meet their death. Talk about suspense and drama! I am stunned this picture wasn't released in theaters. Get your copy today!

Ichigo and his friends have been fighting the Bounts on and off, while trying to keep them from capturing Uryu. But the battle becomes more intense in Bleach Uncut Box Set: Season 4, Part 2 -- this collection brings together the last twelve episodes of the hit anime's first filler arc. It's top-heavy on the action, with loads of freaky dolls, flashy swordfights and enjoyably freaky villains... as well as fewer flashbacks. The mysterious new dolls -- called "bitto"-- have started sucking the souls from living humans (and yes, I do love that phrase), which increases the Bounts' powers but also acts like a drug to their bodies and minds. When Kariya unleashes them on Karakura's population, Ichigo and his friends charge out to save the day, but quickly find themselves outmatched by the juiced-up Bounts and their dolls. But they have some unexpected allies -- a quartet of Soul Reaper lieutenants have arrived to help them drive back the Bounts.

Captain Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) loves his family, but he's equally devoted to his career. Just as his ne'er-do-well brother, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal), exits prison, where he did time for robbery, the Marines deploy Sam to Afghanistan. Tommy starts looking in on his wary sister-in-law, Grace (Natalie Portman), but then Sam's helicopter crashes in the mountains, and the military informs Grace that her husband has died. Unbeknownst to the Cahill clan, the Taliban has taken Sam hostage and tortures him to elicit information. Sam resists, but his colleague caves, leading to an unthinkable act. Back in New Mexico, Grace and Tommy grow closer, stopping just short of a full-blown affair. Even Tommy's disapproving Vietnam vet father, Hank (Sam Shepard), sees his son in a new light after Tommy renovates Grace's kitchen. But when Sam is rescued by his company, he returns a broken man and is convinced that his wife has fallen in love with his brother.

In this adaptation of the C.S. Forester novel, Humphrey Bogart (who would win the best-actor Oscar®) and Katharine Hepburn costar as an unlikely pair thrown together in German East Africa during the First World War. He's the gin-soaked skipper of what we might call the title character, a none-too-reliable steam launch chugging along the backwaters of the ""Dark Continent."" Hepburn's a straitlaced Methodist missionary who, following the demise of her bachelor brother (Robert Morley) and the burning of their village by Kaiser Wilhelm's troops, determines that the Queen should be used to attack the Königin Luise, a large German gunboat patrolling a lake downriver. It's an absurd proposition. Then again, John Huston and the absurd were always on familiar terms. A classic film that is a must own for anyone who cares about movies.

Andy Griffith returns as Ben Matlock. He always solved and had won his cases in court, whose clients have been accused of killing a person. Nancy Stafford returns as Michelle Thomas, Ben's young lawyer's assistant and Julie Sommars also returns as Ben's friend, the feisty, Julie March. The biggest change on Matlock was that Clarence Gilyard Jr. would join the cast as young private investigator, Conrad McMasters and that the multi-talented, Kene Holliday would be fired due to personal issues. Prior to Holliday's departure, when the episodes were aired out of order, he made two cameo appearances in this season. A mid eighties version of Perry Mason, Matlock is a wholesome show that is for the entire family.

Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker play an estranged husband and wife, both die-hard New Yorkers; while trying to patch things up, they witness a murder and have to go into witness protection in backwater Wyoming. Encounters with bears, bingo, and rodeo clowns ensue. The fish-out-of-water formula is not particularly inspired, but Grant and Parker are well matched; they're both pros who establish an immediate rapport and comfort with each other, making them persuasive as a married couple who haven't fallen out of love. On top of that, the supporting cast is top-notch: Elisabeth Moss as Parker's snippy assistant, Sam Elliott as the Wyoming marshal assigned to protect the neurotic couple, and Mary Steenburgen as the marshal's tough-as-nails wife are only the most recognizable of the solid ensemble playing the quirky characters surrounding the feuding romantic leads.

7th Heaven has captured the essence of family and the hearts of television audiences with its witty, charming and heartwarming look at the Camdens - a minister, his wife and their seven children as they live, love and laugh together. The series tackles a range of issues, from teen sex to drugs and alcoholism, guns, racism, homelessness, in a realistic, compelling and entertaining way and has been praised for providing high-quality entertainment for all ages.

Marco Ferreri is without question one of Europe's most incredible film makers. In this late sixties masterpiece, Ferreri provides a glimpse into the life of a gas mask designer (Michel Piccoli). His life is in shambles, his wife is drug addict, has an affair with his maid and, most interestingly, finds a gun that may have once been owned by John Dillinger. This film runs the gamut from the mundane to absurdity and back again in this purely existential look into the brain of a single man. The image is brilliant and the transfer to DVD is impeccable. Although there isn't an abundance of additional material, what is included is very well done and informative. Dillinger is Dead is certainly a must buy for those that enjoy foreign film.

The Blind Side takes the true story of a young man who went from abandonment to success as a pro-football player and treats it with respect. The movie doesn't oversell what is, on the face of it, already compelling. It's almost impossible to describe the plot without sounding painfully inspirational: Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a hulking but gentle African-American teen in Tennessee, gets taken in by a well-to-do white family; the mother, Leigh Anne Touhy (Sandra Bullock), pushes and mothers the boy, who eventually wins a football scholarship to the University of Mississippi. In the wrong hands, this could have been maudlin, manipulative, and condescending. To the credit of writer-director John Lee Hancock, adapting Michael Lewis's acclaimed book, the result is intelligent, genuine, and alternately funny and moving. Leigh Anne could easily have been grandstanding and virtuous, but Bullock doesn't shy away from her vain and domineering side.

BBC's new adaptation of John Buchan's thriller is the best ever! Richard Hannay (Rupert Penry-Jones) finds himself framed for a murder he didn't commit. Now he has to break a ruthless German espionage network to prove his innocence and, more importantly and patriotically, warn the admiralty that its plans have fallen to the enemy. Full of excitement, danger, fun and romance, The 39 Steps is a remarkable tale of an ordinary man who puts his country's interests before his own safety.

Dalziel and Pascoe represents the zenith of all mystery shows. With its literate, biting dialogue and tense interaction between the bombastic Dalziel and cerebral, buttoned-down Pascoe (who clearly admire each other, despite their great differences) it's a series that keeps you riveted to the screen and longing for more. As another viewer complained, up until this forthcoming release, there have been no US releases of this series and only the series 1 and 2 releases in the UK. A brilliant program that is for anyone that enjoys mystery and suspense.

Hard to define but easy to enjoy, The Men Who Stare at Goats is the preposterous yet more-true-than-not story of a small-town journalist named Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) who, trying to prove himself in Iraq, stumbles upon a man named Lyn Cassady (George Clooney) who claims to be a psychic spy for the U.S. Army. With dazzling cinematic efficiency, the movie bounces back and forth between the origins of the New Earth Army--a squad of American Jedi warriors--and Bob and Lyn wandering through war-torn Iraq, pursuing a mission that turns out to have been assigned by a vision. The movie shifts from giddy comedy to melancholy as a portrait of human pettiness, manifested in military paranoia and corporate greed, unfolds. The ending loses a bit of steam, but most of The Men Who Stare at Goats is a delight--unusual yet satisfying, funny and thoughtful in turns.

 

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