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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

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON

Set in the mythical world of burly Vikings and wild dragons, and based on the book by Cressida Cowell, the action comedy tells the story of Hiccup, a Viking teenager who doesn’t exactly fit in with his tribe’s longstanding tradition of heroic dragon slayers. Hiccup’s world is turned upside down when he encounters a dragon that challenges he and his fellow Vikings to see the world from an entirely different point of view.

This is a must see film in 3-D, and I generally despise the overuse of 3-D photography. The story and characters are good, but the film itself is worth the price of admission for the flying sequences that show Dreamworks is at the top of their game. An exotic film with fairy tale elements that are sure to please all who watch it. Pleasant and brilliant from beginning to end, How to Train Your Dragon is for the entire family.

How to Train Your Dragon
Starring: Jay Baruchel & America Ferrara
Director: Dean DuBlois & Chris Sanders
Company: Dreamworks
Now Showing: In area Theatres
MPAA Rating: PG
Grade: A

DVD REVIEWS

We are doing a Free DVD Giveaway! If you are interested in a chance at winning a free copy of 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!

The story takes place in San Francisco as the perfect couple live in bliss, they are accompanied by his felon brother (Lee Pace) while life plods along. To add "suspense" the camera flashed violent images with over amped music at you during various scenes. Finally, the bad event happens on one of the worst CGI Golden Gate Bridges you will ever see, and the brothers' bodies, lives and souls are changed/switched. From there, the storytelling falls apart even worse. The performances are fine, so I feel one will not be disappointed if they are big fans of Pace or Gellar, but the whole production looks confused and unprofessional.

This is the Fourth in the Free Willy series, but it's not about the original Willy. It is filmed in South Africa and Jason James Richter or none of the other cast from the first 3 movies are in it, but it's based on the same story line, a Orca is caught, can't get out, an evil man wants him and in the end he reunites with his family. I won't give details but it's a great family to watch. If you are a Free Willy fan it is a must see and buy.

Filmed in IMAX 3D, Under the Sea is a strikingly realistic underwater exploration of the amazing sea life of the coral triangle in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and the Great Barrier Reef. Viewers instantaneously become divers, immersed in the coral reefs and floating mere inches away from sea life ranging from cuttlefish to venomous sea snakes, nautiluses, sea dragons, and great white sharks. Narrated by a surprisingly sensitive and (mostly) serious Jim Carrey, the film explores everything from how various species use color and pattern changes to communicate to the mating habits of cuttlefish and the symbiotic relationships between sea creatures as varied as the crab and jellyfish. Carrey points out that man's actions have increased the oceans' carbon dioxide levels--a situation which leads to ocean warming and acidification which could potentially upset the symbiotic balance of undersea life and result in dissolving the coral reefs and destroying multiple species of ocean life. The film ends on a hopeful note, declaring that man is beginning to take responsibility for his actions and now possesses the skills to mitigate his effects on the environment and preserve the ocean wonderland.

This DVD from Scholastic is brilliant and fun to watch whether with the family or by yourself. Comprised of five children’s stories written by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin and Harry Bliss, Giggle, Giggle, Quack is an entry in the “Scholastic Storybook Treasures” of read-along DVDs. Randy Travis Abigail Breslin and Alexander Gould narrate the five stories included in the set.

Director John Woo's Red Cliff boasts some mighty impressive numbers. It took four screenwriters to adapt the 800,000-word source material, a 14th-century Chinese novel called Romance of the Three Kingdoms. There are also three editors, two directors of photography, hundreds of horses, and a combined cast and crew numbering in the thousands, making it reportedly the most expensive movie ever made in China. There are quite a few minutes, too, as it has a running time of 2 hours 28 minutes. That's only about half the length of the cut released in Asia, a fact that has led some critics to dismiss the American release as merely a bowdlerized version of the real deal. That may be, but this depiction of the titular battle that took place in AD 208 and is credited with changing the entire face of China is still an epic and magnificent piece of entertainment. The principal characters include Cao Cao (Zhang Fengyi), a power-hungry general and self-appointed prime minister who convinces the weak-willed emperor that two rebellious leaders in the south, Liu Bei (You Yong) and Sun Quan (Chang Chen), must be stopped; Cao Cao's antagonists also include the brilliant strategist Zhuge Liang (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and the heroic warrior Zhou Yu (Tony Leung), whose wife (Chiling Lin) is a legendary beauty. Cao Cao has a huge advantage in manpower, not to mention an impressive fleet of warships. But he is arrogant, while his opponents are not merely humble and brave but clever (Cao Cao's diabolical plan to send the contagious bodies of soldiers who have died from typhoid fever to the Southlanders' camp works temporarily, but the latter counter with ingenious strategies of their own, like using fog, wind, and fire to destroy Cao Cao's ships). All of this is depicted in the most spectacular battles scenes since the Lord of the Rings trilogy, with a steady supply of gorgeous shots and indelible images.

From day one, this show has not disappointed. It has some of the best writing and acting that Hollywood has produced for a television show in a long time and it has the awards to prove it. It's a highly stylized look at a Madison Avenue advertising agency and the people who work there and has been extremely enjoyable. Season 3 has had the best writing and acting and the last 3 episodes have been the best out of all 39 episodes produced to date. You cannot truly appreciate season 3 without watching seasons 1 and 2 so if you are new to the series, please do yourself a favor and watch them before consuming season 3, you will not be disappointed.

In Palm Beach, Florida, crimes of passion are a frequent occurrence among the rich and beautiful. Enter Sgt. Rita Lance (Mitzi Kapture) and Sgt. Chris Lorenzo (Rob Estes), the attractive young homicide detective whose job it is to investigate these high-class murders--or 'Silk Stalkings', as they call them. Pulsing with illicit affairs, kinky encounters, cold-blooded murders, and their own dark secrets, these are the deadly days and steamy nights of TV s sexiest cop partners.

Emmy Winner Michael Chiklis stars as Tony Scali, a no-nonsense police commissioner revered by his officers and community for this unorthodox style and compassionate nature. As a former Brooklyn cop, Tony uses tough and at times controversial methods to bring perpetrators to justice in his small town, where solutions to difficult situations often require considerable creativity. From parenthood to politics, from sex crimes to murder cases, one man takes it day-to-day with offbeat humor and street- smart skill.

The Backyardigans functions as friends who live in a backyard and their adventures take off from there. Join Tasha and Uniqua when they pretend to be two beautiful princesses locked in a tower. Will they escape the tower guards Pablo and Tyrone? This set includes four episodes.

The Prisoner miniseries is a reinterpretation of the British 1960s cult hit series that starred and was co-created by Patrick McGoohan. The Premise : A man, known as Six, finds himself inexplicably trapped in The Village with no memory of how he arrived. As he explores his environment, he discovers that his fellow inhabitants are identified by number instead of name, have no memory of any prior existence, and are under constant surveillance. Not knowing whom to trust, Six is driven by the need to discover the truth behind The Village, the reason for his being there, and most importantly -- how he can escape.

If you think that Ben Tennyson has problems before, then get this. Four new to DVD episodes involve a tiny Upgrade-like creature named Ship and Ben gets busted by his parents when they discover him as Swampfire ! Also, Ben teams up with Grandpa Max as they enter the Null Void to defeat an old enemy. A cool special feature is a sneak peek of the new "Ben 10 Alien Swarm" movie as seen on Cartoon Network. The movie is also out on DVD presently. But don't forget to look for more new episodes on TV as well as on DVD.

Sam Spencer and Freddie as they help Carly prepare for the scariest fight of her life in the iFight Shelby Marx TV Special the most watched iCarly special to date along with the iDate a Bad Boy TV Special and more all one DVD!

Word Girl fights crime and enriches vocabulary as she takes on quirky villains including Birthday Girl, in Earth Day Girl; Chuck the Evil Sandwich-Making Guy in You Can t Crush City Hall; Dr. Two-Brains in Two Brain Highway; The Butcher in Jerky Jerk; Tobey in Tobey or Consequences; Mr. Big in Mr. Big; Granny May in Coupon Madness; and Lady Redundant Woman in Lady Redundant Woman. In classic superhero form, WordGirl uses her superhero strength and colossal vocabulary as she battles and prevails over evil!

Collateral offers a change of pace for Tom Cruise as a ruthless contract killer, but that's just one of many reasons to recommend this well-crafted thriller. It's from Michael Mann, after all, and the director's stellar track record with crime thrillers (Thief, Manhunter, and especially Heat) guarantees a rich combination of intelligent plotting, well-drawn characters, and escalating tension, beginning here when icy hit-man Vincent (Cruise) recruits cab driver Max (Jamie Foxx) to drive him through a nocturnal tour of Los Angeles, during which he will execute five people in a 10-hour spree.

Wow! Wow! Everyone in Wuzzleburg is getting involved in saving the planet! In these earth-friendly episodes, Wubbzy, Widget, Walden and Daizy must find a new place for the Wuzzle Bears to live, think up creative ways to reuse juice bottles and learn to grow their own doodleberries. Your pre-schooler will discover important lessons about ecology, harmony, and personal responsibility while enjoying plenty of singing and dancing! Talk about putting your money where your mouth is! For every DVD sold, Anchor Bay Entertainment will donate $1 to plant trees in playgrounds & school yards across the country through Alliance for Community Trees. Donation not to exceed $20,000.

There is greatness in film that can be discussed, dissected, and talked about late into the night. Then there is genius that is right in front of our faces--we smile at the spell it puts us into and are refreshed, and nary a word needs to be spoken. This kind of entertainment is what they used to call "movie magic," and there is loads of it in this irresistible computer animation feature. Just a picture of these bright toys reawaken the kid in us. Filmmaker John Lasseter thinks of himself as a storyteller first and an animator second, much like another film innovator, Walt Disney. Lasseter's story is universal and magical: what do toys do when they're not played with? Cowboy Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Andy's favorite bedroom toy, tries to calm the other toys (some original, some classic) during a wrenching time of year--the birthday party, when newer toys may replace them. Sure enough, Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) is the new toy that takes over the throne. Buzz has a crucial flaw, though--he believes he's the real Buzz Lightyear, not a toy. Lasseter further scores with perfect voice casting, including Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head and Wallace Shawn as a meek dinosaur. A must own film if there ever was one, Toy Story is the epitome of animated excellence.

In this sequel to Toy Story, Woody (Tom Hanks) begins to fear that his usefulness as a toy is coming to end. When Woody is stolen, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) organizes a rescue. While our erstwhile heroes are seeking Woody out, Woody finds out the truth about himself; it seems that in the '50s he was the star of a hit show - Woody's Round-up. Given a choice between returning to his owner (and facing the end of his usefulness), or staying with the Round-up gang and living forever in a toy museum, Woody is torn. Simultaneously, the rescue team is facing peril after peril, culminating in the ultimate confrontation - Buzz Lightyear versus the evil Emperor Zurg! In many instances, a sequel just doesn't compare with the first film. In the case of Toy Story 2, this film is every bit as good as the first installment. Get your copy today!

Welcome to The Lair, a private club run by vampires, used to attract young male victims. Thom is the only one who knows the truth. But instead of warning the town, he becomes involved with Damian, the head vampire who desires him for more than his blood. I expected better story lines and acting by season three, but what can I say? It is a fun series to watch and it is entertaining.

Life with Derek is a funny Disney Channel sitcom about teenage angst, conflict, and reluctance toward change. Blending two families is never easy and when two self-absorbed teenagers and three younger siblings from two very different families are involved, major conflict is guaranteed. The Venturis have long been accustomed to a lax, unorganized way of life in which the three children invariably get their way and the MacDonalds thrive on a more orderly life where politeness is key. When George Venturi (John Ralston) and Nora MacDonald (Joy Tanner) marry, the two families must somehow merge into one. So, ultra-organized 15-year old Casey (Ashley Leggat) and her younger sister Lizzie (Jordan Todosey) move in with selfish and demanding Derek (Michael Seater), his younger brother Edwin (Daniel Magder), and their tantrum prone youngest sister Marti (Ariel Waller), and space, privacy, and dealing with change quickly become serious challenges. This modern-day Brady Bunch finds the kids fighting over everything from a shelf in the bathroom medicine cabinet to the television remote, who gets the biggest bedroom, and dating rules. Lots of drama, comedy, and attitude ensue and Derek can always be counted upon to be selfish in the extreme while Casey never quite feels that her needs are being met.

Learn how to face your fears and embrace your talents in this empowering collection of “Bob the Builder” episodes. Bob and his gang take you step-by-step through the building process, showing that it takes careful planning and lots of teamwork to get the job done. In the five animated episodes Scrap learns that observing others can help him work better in the long run; Lofty learns that water won’t hurt him; Roley learns that it’s better to work as a team and that his ideas aren’t necessarily the best ideas; Scoop learns that builders can be artists and being an artist doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to paint; and Lofty learns to face his fears with his eyes wide open and discovers that doing so gives him the understanding that there was nothing to be afraid of after all. This title assists children in working through problems or emotional issues and promotes service to and compassion for others.

Parallel earths, an evil Justice League, and Batman being badasss... Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths gives the people what they want, and that this flick touts a PG-13 rating is yet one more treat. I've missed the Justice League since the series went off the air, and the solo adventures of Bats and Superman, Wonder Woman and GL are great, but I miss all the interaction. The plot could've been convoluted, but the clear storytelling makes things easy to follow. It starts with a bare-nekkid Lex Luthor seeking help from the Justice League. Luthor claims to be from an alternate universe, one in which that version of the Justice League calls itself the "Crime Syndicate," and not because someone was trying to be ironic. The Justice League agrees to cross over to put a stop to their crooked doppelgangers, even though everyone's pretty suspicious, especially Superman (because it's still friggin' Luthor) and Batman, who decides to stay behind. I think I'll stop right there with the plot breakdown, other than to mention that, as it falls out, the stakes are much, much higher than mere world domination. The main bad guy spits at world domination.

For Halo Legends, various anime directors made eight short films that explore the universe of the popular video game franchise, just as the shorts in Animatrix expanded on the Matrix features. Although Halo ranks among the top first-person shooter games, the AI narrator of Hideki Futamura's two-part introductory episode complains about humanity's violent tendencies: "Like a virus, war is always with you." "The Duel," which pits two Covenant warriors in a samurai-like battle over honor, has a watercolor look that recalls Gankutsuou: Count of Monte Cristo. Unfortunately, the effect is applied too evenly, and the characters get lost in the backgrounds. Daisuke Nishio's "Odd Man Out" injects a welcome note of comedy, as warrior Spartan 337 copes with three difficult children and their pet tyrannosaur. Other Spartans in single fighters attack the flagship of the Covenant fleet in "The Package," by Shinji Aramaki. The elaborately choreographed space battle is obviously modeled on the attack on the Death Star in Star Wars, but the sequence packs more visual punch than the other films in the anthology. Dr. Catherine Halsey ends this segment with the line, "Something tells me this is just the beginning," so additional films may be in the works.

 

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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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