Nick's Pics Nick
Nicholson Film & Home Entertainment Critic
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As the film begins, we meet Steve Jones (David Duchovny), his wife Kate (Demi Moore) and their children Jenn (Amber Heard) and Mick (Ben Hollingsworth) as they move into their monster home in an affluent suburb of a city somewhere in America. Friendly, confident and very good-looking, they are also loaded with the coolest, newest stuff.
The Joneses are much more than just the new neighbors. Within days, all four family members have insinuated their way into the community. Their most dedicated fans are their next-door neighbors Larry (Gary Cole) and Summer (Glenne Headly), a couple devoted to each other yet prone to keeping secrets as well. Despite the Joneses’ success integrating into the community, it’s not long before the fissures in their family begin to spew. But it’s not until an outright catastrophe occurs next door that they are forced to make choices about their priorities.
Duchovny is compelling as a man who doesn’t really know who he is until it’s almost too late, and Moore gives one of her best performances as a woman who uses her job as a literal and metaphorical shield against real emotional involvement. Cole and Headly are particularly affecting as a couple who have wholly committed themselves to the principles of the American dream but are ultimately betrayed by their own ideals.
If ever there was a film that was perfectly attuned to the current Zeitgeist, it would be The Joneses. First-time writer/director Derrick Borte imbues a serious core theme represented by the wobbly undercurrents of a frenetic consumer culture and does so with humor, warmth and shots of clever, zesty fun. Is it more important to be happy or to have the latest and greatest of everything else? Unbelieveably fresh, creative and off the cuff, The Joneses provides a fresh glimpse at what it's like to completely lack a moral compass and then discover exactly what it is that you've been missing. The first Oscar-worthy film of 2010, you better catch it before it's gone from theaters.
Starring: Demi Moore, David Duchovny and Lauren Hutton
Director: Derrick Borte
Company: Roadside Attractions
Now Showing: in Theaters
MPAA Rating: R
REVIEWS FROM WORLDFEST
An ordinary and meaningless existence can often change suddenly
between life and death. Bambara Walalla is actually a term from a Sri
Lankan dance. In this film, the audience is often left to ponder just
how desperate one man can become and subsequently just how far he
would go in unexpected circumstances. After having served his time in
jail for killing his step-father who raped his sister, Podi Eka, an
uneducated Sri Lankan man goes through many changes in a life of rags
to riches. Dramatic plots abound as they tell the story of one man as
he progresses from loincloth to jeans.
There are a number of positives surrounding Bambara Walalla. The film
captures your interest from the opening frames throughout as director
Athula Liyanage keeps the pacing moving forward at a good clip. The
cast does a remarkable job feeding off the energy of each other as the
film progresses. Of particular importance, the cinematography is
simply stunning in this picture. A brilliant film that tells a very
harrowing story, Bambara Walalla is a must see film that will
captivate you from the first frame to the last.
Starring: Athula Liyanage & Mehendra Perera
Director: Athula Liyanage
Company: Sri Lanka
Now Showing: WorldFest Houston
MPAA Rating: NR
Mr Shepherd (Dan Worley) is a struggling door to door freeze dried pet
salesman. He lives with his mother (Diane Hruska) who happens to be
addicted to televangelists and prescription drugs. When he loses his
job and his mother's condition worsens, Mr Shepherd, his mother and
their neighbors Phil (Danny Trejo) and Annamaria (Maria-Elena Laas)
hit the road to attend the End Times Tent Revival. After a dramatic
turn of events, Mr Shepherd is inspired by his mother's adoration of
televangelists and decides to turn over a new leaf and begin his new
Without a doubt, this comedy that premiered at the WorldFest Houston
International Film Festival is a cult classic in the making. In the
vein of wholesome entertainment that so often eludes us in our
cinematic spectacles today, Pastor Shepherd lacks profanity, sex,
nudity and all of the other idiosyncrasies that often clutter the
films will see. In other words, Pastor Shepherd is a film for
everyone that all are sure to love. Edwin L. Marshall has reached a
significant milestone with his directorial debut. This film is a home
run. The performance of Dan Worley as Pastor Shepherd playing against
the next door neighbor father (Danny Trejo) is simply priceless and
the banter of the two 'trying to understand each other' is enough to
cause cardiac arrest from the comments and zingers thrown back and
forth. (Whoever thought that Danny Trejo could play a loveable
character?) The beautiful and incredibly talented Maria-Elena Laas
plays the perfect straight-lady and love interest to the unflappable
Shepherd. I simply would be remiss if I also didn't point out the
tremendous job done by Josh Perry as Lord Dewey. His mannerisms and
presentation are priceless and he provides perhaps the biggest laugh
of the film when he finds a new use for white out. Watch carefully,
so you don't miss it! Pastor Shepherd is an excellent film that I
cannot recommend more highly.
Starring: Dan Worley, Maria-Elena Laas & Danny Trejo
Director: Edwin L. Marshall
Company: Harbor Light Entertainment
Now Showing: WorldFest Houston
MPAA Rating: NR
Maya (Trisha Ray) has not been able to forgive her businessman father,
Bodhisattva (Soumitra Chatterjee), for her mother's suicide. So when
she comes home from the United States after an extended visit, she
chooses to stay with an old classmate Anu (Miska Halim) and her
husband Avik (San Banerje) rather than stay with her father. What
begins as a fun filled visit soon turns into a psychological battle
between the trio and peaks to a shattering climax.
Never judge a picture by its cover - this film isn't your typical
Bollywood fare. There is nary a song and dance routine nearby. This
film is tells a story that is all too familiar in the dysfunctional
family hierarchy. The chemistry between Maya and the other characters
is absolutely palpable. Chatterjee and Ray are compelling and the
tension between the characters is played to the hilt. San Banerje,
the picture's director, is a self trained auteur that not only made a
tremendously well done film, but completed the shooting of the film in
a mere seven days. Banerje is a young up and coming director that
will no doubt be heard from more and more as the years progress.
Bodhisattva is must see film if ever there was one.
Starring: Soumitra Chatterjee & Biswajit Chakroborty
Director: San Banerje
Now Showing: WorldFest Houston
MPAA Rating: NR
FATHER VS SON
After a lifetime of soul-crushing, mind-numbing dates, Grant (Josh
Dean) is ready to give up on love. Enter Jerry (Paul Wolff), Gran'ts
over the top father, whose wife just ran off to Mexico with her Krav
Maga instructor. Jerry is heartbroken and ready to rock the singles
scene with his son in order to relive his youth. Grant wants nothing
to do with his father's pending mid-life crisis - until they meet
Darlene (Heather Stephens), a mysterious exotic dancer, ex-chicken
plucker, and office temp who is the ray of sunshine both of these men
need. But when Grant and Jerry both fail for Darlene, the sparks fly
and the bond between father and son is tested to the limit.
A quirky comedy that is oh so much more than that, Father vs Son shows
the perfect trifecta that so often eludes us in films these days. The
writing, directing and acting in this picture snap into place with
such ease, the performances all show the relaxed confidence that allow
the cast to truly explore their characters and push the proverbial
envelope to reach their full potential. Josh Dean portrays the
perfect 'sad sack' who is ready to throw in the towel when it comes to
his love life and Paul Wolff in the midst of his mid-life crisis
provides spice and a sense of urgency to the role. The performances
of the entire cast were tremendous and lively, yet the comedic timing
of Heather Stephens steals the film. Her innocence and wisdom was the
glue that kept this gem together. Director Joe Ballarini and Paul
Wolff co-wrote the screenplay that will tickle your funny bone and
keep your interest throughout. Also of note, Father vs Son was
selected by the Houston Film Critics Society as the Best World
Premiere Film at the 43rd WorldFest - Houston Independent
International Film Festival. This is just one of the many accolades
that are sure to come down the road for this brilliant picture.
Father vs Son
Starring: Josh Dean, Heather Stephens & Paul Wolff
Director: Joe Ballarini
Company: Hidden Staircase
Now Showing: WorldFest Houston
MPAA Rating: NR
THE DESCENT 2 - Lionsgate
Dazed, bloodied and speechless with trauma, Sarah Carter emerges alone from the Appalachian cave system where the events of The Descent took place. Local sheriff Redmond Vaines forces her back underground to help the rescue team which is desperately searching for her five missing girlfriends. As the team moves deeper into the caves, Sarah’s flashes of fractured memory intensify and she begins to realize the full horror of the would-be rescue mission. Only Sarah knows the terror which lurks in the shadows of the caves. But they are about to encounter a new tribe of crawlers – inbred, deformed and even more viciously feral than those Sarah faced before.
ALLY MCBEAL: Season Two - Fox
This was one of those quirky little shows set in a law firm. It uses its cases to set the mood for each episode but also relies on the peccadillos of its main characters to anchor the show. We have the wattle man, the Barbie doll, the nose noise man; even the unisex bathroom almost becomes a character. Ally had once dated one of the other lawyers who works at the firm with his current wife which sets the mood for a lot of sexual tension. Ally is supposedly still in love with him though she manages to fall in love with most other hunky men who walk through her door. Humor abounds in this exciting and ground-breaking television show!
HARLEM ARIA - Magnolia
Chasing his dream, Anton (Gabriel Casseus; G-Force) leaves his aunt's home in Harlem for downtown New York City, where a quick-witted street hustler named Wes (Damon Wayans; My Wife and Kids) cons him out of his life savings. Homeless and empty-handed, Matthew (Christian Camargo; The Hurt Locker), a street musician stalled in his own dreams, invites Anton to perform with him in the park. Amazed by Anton's singing talent, Matthew befriends him and attempts to keep him safe from Wes's enterprising exploitation. Caught in the middle, Anton's journey isn't an easy one. The three men's lives entwine and lead each down a path of destruction, truth and redemption.
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR PARNASSUS - Sony
Blessed with the extraordinary gift of guiding the imaginations of others, Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) is cursed with a dark secret. An inveterate gambler, thousands of years ago he made a bet with the devil, Mr. Nick (Tom Waits), in which he won immortality. Centuries later, on meeting his one true love, Dr. Parnassus made another deal with the devil, trading his immortality for youth, on condition that when his daughter reached her 16th birthday, she would become the property of Mr Nick. Valentina (Lily Cole) is now rapidly approaching this ‘coming of age’ milestone and Dr. Parnassus is desperate to protect her from her impending fate. Mr. Nick arrives to collect but, always keen to make a bet, renegotiates the wager. Now the winner of Valentina will be determined by whoever seduces the first five souls. Enlisting a series of wild, comical and compelling characters in his journey, Dr. Parnassus promises his daughter’s hand in marriage to the man that helps him win. In this captivating, explosive and wonderfully imaginative race against time, Dr. Parnassus must fight to save his daughter in a never-ending landscape of surreal obstacles – and undo the mistakes of his past once and for all!
WILLIAM KUNSTLER: Disturbing the Universe - New Video
This is a fascinating, engaging, and balanced portrait of the civil rights attorney William Kunstler. The film documents Mr. Kunstler's life and career from his military service during WWII to his early years practicing law in Westchester County to his transformation into a leading civil rights figure and his eventual career as a criminal defense attorney in NYC. Made by his two daughters, the film also tells the story of both the challenges and the inspiration that resulted from growing up with Mr. Kunstler as a father. The filmmakers are not uncritical of their father and don't hesitate to question the motives behind some of Mr. Kunstler's decisions.
THE BASKETBALL DIARIES: Blu-ray - Palm Pictures
This movie was gripping from the start to finish. I loved how it opened- a bunch of kids who obviously have minds of their own- getting high off of some household cleaner or something, skipping school, ripping off hot dog carts.. and you think this all seems crazy but then ultimately all the hard core drug usage starts and while at first it may seem like nothing but a small enjoyable thing to do- it soon is a huge habit for Jim. Watching all the struggles Jim has to go through- loosing friends, trying to be clean & then failing, prostitution, begging for money, getting into physical fights.. - it is hard to watch and you physically can't believe that someone can go through so much and come out victorious in the end.
INCOGNITO LIVE IN LONDON: 30th Anniversary Concert - MVD
Incognito - far more than just a band. The sound visionary Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick has been pioneering in the mercurial acid jazz scene, and as a talent factory, Incognito has rolled out the red carpet for vocal prodigies, such as Jocelyn Brown and the best musicians from the British groove community. Short-lived musical trends have done nothing to damage the popularity of this multi-cultural band with their driving rhythms and elegant melodies and they have become a trademark all over the world, especially live.
HONEY AND CLOVER: Box Three - Viz Media
First, some clarification. Considering the episode count of the two previous sets and some other details, this final set of Honey and Clover - being marketed in Region 1 as Honey and Clover 3 - is apparently the limited series Honey and Clover 2 which followed the original series. It follows Yuta and Hagu's final year as undergraduates as they prepare to follow their three friends into the workforce. The initial recap episode is probably not necessary for those who have been following the series on DVD. As Yuta decides what kind of architectural work he wants to do and Ayumi grieves as the last nail is put in the coffin of her hopes of a romantic relationship with Takumi with Rika finally deciding to let herself love again, we finally find out why Shinobu needs so much money as Nomiya stands prepared to catch Ayumi when she falls if only she'll let him. But a terrible accident leaves everyone dropping everything and running to a friend in need as one of the gang suffers injuries that would be rough for anyone but potentially devastating and career ending for someone who works with their hands. The end of Honey and Clover solidifies the series as a must-buy for anime viewers who have gone through the college journey, even if that journey has not involved the visual arts which are it's characters' passion.
BLEACH: The Assault, Volume 26 - Viz Media
After two filler seasons of fighting with the vampiric Bounts, the story finally comes to an end in "Bleach Volume 26." However, it's also... kind of an anticlimax, with one straightforward battle with Jin Kariya bleeding into the next. However, Kariya's powers are pretty awesome, and there's a nice tidy little wrap-up episode. With only a day to go before the Jokai Crest detonates, the Soul Reapers are trying to find and destroy Kariya -- but the ones who find him are Ran'Tao and Uryu. Both of them push themselves to the limit to defeat him, but eventually Ichigo has to get involved (naturally -- he's the hero!) and with only minutes to go before the Jokai Crest is unleashed, Kariya shows his doll's power. And after the battle, the survivors recover and reflect on both their pasts and their futures. A lone survivor is left to ponder what the future will hold, and Rukia, Renji and Ichigo all think about the month before Rukia turned Ichigo into a Soul Reaper.
DREAMSCAPE: Blu-ray - Image
Alex Gardner (Dennis Quaid) is a talented young psychic who's frittering his gifts away betting on the ponies. That is, until he's coerced by his old pal and mentor Dr. Paul Novotny (Max von Sydow) into taking part in a dream research project in which his psychic abilities make him indispensable. The project concerns "dreamlinking," whereby talented individuals like Alex hook up via electrodes and project themselves into some troubled subject's nightmares, in which they not only observe but participate in the dream, hopefully effecting some remedy. Alex is by nature a feckless guy, a charismatic scoundrel sporting a Cheshire cat's grin. But he warms easily to his new role as dream-dwelling psychotherapist, having a core of decency. Not so his nemesis, Tommy Ray Glatman (David Patrick Kelly), a dreamlink prodigy and pawn of Bob Blair (Christopher Plummer), who runs the research project for the government (he's described as the "head of covert intelligence"). Blair is worried about the President (Eddie Albert), whose nightmares of nuclear holocaust cause him to escalate disarmament talks with the Russians, much to Blair's dismay, being your basic evil, slick, smarmy covert kind of guy. Turns out Blair's real aim is to use the project to train dreamlink assassins, his star pupil being psycho Tommy Ray and his test case the President. Only Alex is there to stop them.
THE ESSENTIAL GAMES OF THE DETROIT TIGERS - A&E
Not for the faint of heart, The Essential Games of the Detroit Tigers provides all Tiger fans with the quintessential set to satisfy the thirst of their baseball team. Disc 1, the 1968 broadcast, is as ghostly and grainy as the original broadcast, but fascinating nonetheless. Interestingly, ALL of the bonus clips mentioned are also on Disc 1, and they are also both fascinating and thoughtful--I had forgotten about Pat Sheridan's home run in Game 3 of the 1987 ALCS but it's here on the DVD; also present are many of the original announcers from these games--Curt Gowdy at the 1971 All-Star Game, a baby-faced Tony Kubek at the 1968 World Series...although instead of hearing Howard Cosell at the 1984 ALCS (I believe this was Cosell's final baseball assignment) we get Ernie Harwell's WJR radio call. Disc 3 is another welcome addition to the set--the final game at Tiger Stadium, one of the most heartbreaking days in the history of baseball. Oddly, however, the video from this game is not particularly great for some reason; again, this was the UPN 50 broadcast, and while only ten years old, the picture is grainy and oddly faded. Another disappointment--none of the post-game festivities are included, even as a bonus feature. Somewhere I have a video from WKBD featuring both the post-game ceremonies and a terrific tribute to Tiger Stadium (hosted by Ray Lane) that was broadcast after the game. Both would have been welcome additions to this box set. This is arguably one of the greatest sports DVD box sets ever made, a stirring reminder of a legendary ballpark and the players who played there.
PRIDE & PREJUDICE: Restored Edition - A&E
Jane Austen's classic novel of 1813, Pride and Prejudice, still wins the hearts of countless schoolgirls with its romantic story of Elizabeth Bennet and her Mr. Darcy. Now, the 1996 BBC miniseries is winning over adults, with its faithful adaptation, gorgeous scenery, and superb acting. The essence of the story is the antagonism between Mr. Darcy, a wealthy single man who believes Elizabeth to be beneath him, and Elizabeth, who upon being insulted at a dance by the aloof Darcy refuses to associate with him in any manner. Austen evokes incredible tension with the wit and flirtation of the two characters, and director Simon Langton (who also directed Upstairs Downstairs) successfully translates the repartee and conflict in this six-hour miniseries. Dialogue, for the most part, is painstakingly replicated, except when fleshing out and smoothing for modern sensibilities was necessary. Darcy, for instance, is drawn out, giving his personality significantly more depth. The acting sweeps you away to Regency England: Jennifer Ehle (of Wilde) is convincing as the obstinate Elizabeth, who, despite her mother's attempts to marry her off, spurs the attentions of Darcy. And Colin Firth (of The English Patient) will have women everywhere longing for a Mr. Darcy of their own.
WAKE - E1 Entertainment
What more could a lovelorn woman need than a funeral, a dead body and a strangers engagement ring? The perfect juxtaposition of a comedy in the making in this hilarious story of Wake. When things get tough for Carys Reitman (Bijou Phillips) she goes to strangers' funerals to unwind. But after a funeral service mix-up, Carys unexpectedly finds herself in possession of a dead woman’s engagement ring and in love with the grieving fiancé (Ian Somerholder).
THE HILLS: Season Five, Part Two - MTV
Heidi and Spencer’s wedding brought everyone together – and now that Kristin Cavallari is back on the scene, she’s not going anywhere. She has L.A. nearly conquered, but she has to yet find the one person to share it with. When she crosses paths with Justin-Bobby, sparks fly. Audrina has a new man in her life and seems to have moved on from Justin, but that doesn’t mean she’s ready to see him with another girl, especially not Lauren’s old rival Kristin. Meanwhile Brody is still with his Playmate girlfriend Jayde, but with his ex-girlfriend Kristin back on the scene, how long can that last? Heidi and Spencer are moving to suburbia and a life of wedded bliss, but they’ll quickly discover that married life isn’t as perfect as their storybook wedding.
MAMMOTH - MPI
Gael García Bernal and Michelle Williams star in the English-language debut of internationally acclaimed writer/director Lukas Moodysson. Leo (Bernal) is a successful web developer. His wife Ellen (Williams) is a dedicated emergency room surgeon. Their New York City workaholic ways leave little time for their 8-year-old daughter, who is mostly cared for by their Filipino nanny (a breakthrough performance by Marife Necesito). But when a series of personal decisions triggers a chain of events on the other side of the world, will they discover the rippling effects of life s smallest choices? Thomas McCarthy co-stars in this powerful family drama about imperfect lives, fateful actions and the epic ironies that bind us all together.