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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 Review

Set in 1960’s and 1970’s England, The Damned United tells the confrontational and darkly humorous story of Brian Clough’s doomed 44 day tenure as manager of the reigning champions of English football Leeds United. Previously managed by his bitter rival Don Revie, and on the back of their most successful period ever as a football club, Leeds was perceived by many to represent a new aggressive and cynical style of football - an anathema to the principled yet flamboyant Brian Clough, who had achieved astonishing success as manager of Hartlepool and Derby County building teams in his own vision with trusty lieutenant Peter Taylor. Taking the Leeds job without Taylor by his side, with a changing room full of what in his mind were still Don’s boys, would lead to an unheralded examination of Clough’s belligerence and brilliance over 44 days. This is that story. The story of The Damned United.

Michael Sheen shines as Brian Clough in an Oscar-worthy performance as the manager of Leeds United for the 1974 season. Through the brilliant storytelling and numerous flashbacks, the incredible story is told surrounded by everything from envy, through passion and defeat. The director of the film, Tom Hooper, is without question building his resume as an accomplished director. Responsible for the brilliant HBO film John Adams, he is sure to pick up even more accolades with his latest project. Allowing the primary characters to freely play off each other with abandon doesn’t generally work and can be quite dangerous in any project, yet Hooper gives his leads the slack to do just that and his plan pays off with this picture.

Although The Damned United doesn’t break any new ground with some mind jostling new format, it does grasp your interest from beginning to end. It is another sports film that tells a compelling story, but what is different here is that real drama is developed throughout the story and the story truly centers on the massive egos and many disappointments that stemmed from this season in the world’s eye. It becomes readily apparent by films end just how little one man can achieve without the help of his friends and colleagues.

The Damned United
Starring: Michael Sheen
& Timothy Spall
Director: Tom Hooper
Company: Sony Pictures Classics
Now Showing: In area Theatres
MPAA Rating: R
Grade: A

How often has the weather played a role in your life? The Weather Channel has a series, titled When Weather Changed History, that showcases certain historical events that were in some way affected by the weather. I had the opportunity to preview the series and though I generally consider the subject of weather to be somewhat interesting, the series definitely has something to offer those of us who might not have any interest in the subject. After all, most of the time people talk about the weather when there’s nothing else interesting to talk about. But When Weather Changed History does a great job not only showing us what an impact drastic climate shifts can have on history, but also presenting it in a way that makes it somewhat entertaining as well as educational. This is a brilliant set that comes in a very nice collectible tin. Definitely worth the purchase for the family library!

The weather controls all of us in one way or another. The weather is the ultimate drama. In the battle of man versus nature, these are the true stories of the survivors: the rescuers who never gave up and the victims who never gave in. Storm Stories is a 5-DVD collection of real world tragedy, triumph and suspense. From mile-wide tornados and killer hurricanes to blinding blizzards and mudslides, these images of the force of nature and the fortitude of man will have you on the edge of your seat. Storm Stories joins “Storm Tracker” Jim Cantore as he talks with the real-life players who’ve shown what they are made of in the face of nature’s wrath. These stories of triumph and tragedy told by rescuers and survivors are as moving as they are gripping, thanks to remarkable first-person accounts, personal views and heart-stopping footage. This is a brilliant set that is a must own for anyone who is interest in mother nature.

Yo Gabba Gabba! is a live-action program for preschoolers that uses upbeat music to highlight simple life lessons and universal experiences in the lives of preschoolers. DJ Lance Rock hosts and brings to life four friendly monsters and one robot in a colorful land full of music and laughter. Muno, the red Cyclops, Foofa the pink flower bubble, Brobee the green little one, Toodee the blue cat-dragon, and Plex the robot are ready to sing, play and dance whenever preschoolers are ready. Just say the magic words, Yo Gabba Gabba!

Robot Repairmen finds the Backyardigans in futuristic metropolis set to Roller Disco Music. Help Austin be the best robot repairmen he can be! The DVD contains this double-length episode plus two additional episodes, Runaway Train and The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman! Perfect for young children, this set is sure to please everyone who takes in the program.

They are history’s most intriguing and horrifying women. Deadly Women fuses bone-chilling story-telling, sumptuous period drama and forensic fact in a bid to explore history’s most alluring killers. Each episode profiles four famous cases from the past and delves into a deadly world shaped by spiraling forces beyond the women’s control which include obsession, greed, and revenge. A very freaky program that will keep your interest from beginning to end.

Longtime crime boss Ged Brennan has had enough of the increasingly brutal criminal underworld. But to fund a legitimate business, he’s got to rely on his crew to successfully pull off one final robbery. When his boys have plans of their own and the heist goes horribly wrong, gang warfare erupts. With betrayal all around him, Ged must summon everything he’s learned from more than two decades in the world of vice if he’s going to survive in this pulse-pounding thriller.

An ancient curse returns with a vengeance in this harrowing descent into shear terror! While searching for her missing father, pretty young Allie and her friends are dragged kicking and screaming into a living nightmare courtesy of the Seamstress, a local legend spoken of in whispers who still terrorizes the community after her brutal death at the hands of bloodthirsty locals years before. Now armed with her very sharp sewing needles and a diabolical imagination, she won’t stop until the last drop of blood is sewn. Lance Henricksen stars in a picture that will definitely make you think twice about keeping a night light on!

Van Der Valk Mysteries: Set 1 offers up a cruder, more intuitive detective hero than most crime-drama series. This Dutch television show that aired in the 1970s has apparently become somewhat of cult classic, due to its focus on Amsterdam’s seedy underground culture at the time. For those who romanticize the glam-rock days when people were left alone to smoke their own hookah and pursue their eccentricities, Van Der Valk Mysteries may feel stylishly punk. The six hour-long episodes included in this collection star Commisaris Simon “Piet” Van Der Valk (Barry Foster) and his underling, Johnny Kroon (Michael Latimer), who solve crimes between shots of whiskey and pints of beer. It’s staggering to watch two cops get tanked while they arrive at some new, twisted truth. Few of the scenes adapted from author Nicolas Freeling’s novel actually show Van Der Valk without a glass in his hand. He’s a renegade, and it makes for a fun watch.

Undercover cop Tommy Murphy (James Nesbitt) throws himself into dangerous assignments to escape his painful past. He infiltrates a trigger-happy gang of diamond thieves, gets sent to prison to lure information out of a serial kidnapper, and risks becoming the victim of a murderous female who uses a gym to find her victims. Other assignments--such as acting as the bodyguard for a threatened snooker player--seem less dangerous, but minor problems swiftly escalate to threaten the lives of Murphy and his superior, DI Annie Guthrie (Claudia Harrison). Murphy’s Law: Series One has a lighter tone than the show would develop in later series, but the balance of procedural thrills and humor is thoroughly enjoyable. Nesbitt’s expressive eyebrows get a good workout; cheekiness comes naturally to him, but he’s just as good at revealing Murphy’s other sides, such as when his ex-wife appears and forces Murphy to face buried secrets. Most episodes feature cunningly surprising plots--in particular “Kiss and Tell,” in which Murphy pursues a female serial killer while a vengeful Russian mobster is pursuing him.

Calling the British television comedy The Mighty Boosh eccentric is entirely accurate as it is, after all, a series that features a vicious boxing kangaroo and a man made entirely out of used bubble gum, among countless other characters--but the label doesn’t make room for the fact that it’s also boundlessly energetic and funny, which is proven in each of the episodes from its three season run. The brainchild of stars Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding, who developed the show in numerous TV, radio, and live stage shows, and produced by Steve Coogan, The Mighty Boosh focuses on zookeepers Howard Moon and Vince Noir (Barratt and Fielding) who, in each episode, must contend with their certifiably insane employer (Rich Fulcher), a horde of animal-related problems, and their own obsessions and delusions. The stories, however, are simply a framework on which to hang off-kilter musical numbers, tangential and impossible plotlines and scads of memorably bizarre characters, most of which are played by Barratt and Fielding. Boosh is not for all audiences; those who favor more genteel UK comedy may find this too scattershot to follow, but its unique blend of Doctor Who like fantasy/camp, 1970s psychedelic children’s TV, and Mr. Show/Human Giant-style sketch comedy is sure to find its share of supporters on both sides of the Atlantic. Extras are as anarchic as the show itself. Barratt and Fielding are at the center of raucous commentaries on four episodes that are rife with in-jokes, while two featurettes provide background on the show’s setting and production and the show’s journey from live performance to TV.

Broadcast under intense speculation as to whether it would lead to David Morrissey taking over the title role (he didn’t), Doctor Who: The Next Doctor actually turned out to be a really enjoyable 2008 Christmas special for the show, crammed with action and ideas. The premise of The Next Doctor, that there are two Doctors on the go, is set up early, as David Tennant’s Doctor encounters Morrissey’s character wielding a screwdriver, talking of the TARDIS, and fighting foes. This allows Tennant to slip into the role of the assistant, and his double act with Morrissey is excellent, with the latter making the most of a meaty, evolving role. Also winning the acting plaudits though is the villain of the piece, played by Dervla Kirwan. She’s scene-stealingly good here, and next to her, the returning Cybermen look surprisingly tame, even considering the surprises that the episode throws up as it enters its final act. The Next Doctor isn’t a perfect episode by any means, and the terrific Christmas Invasion is surely the best Yuletide installment to date.

It was a long time coming, but finally the crew of the Red Dwarf were reunited for what could be the last time with Back to Earth. And it proved to be a bit of a mixed blessing, with all three parts throwing up moments of absolute genius, alongside parts where you couldn’t help believing that its best days are far behind it. The idea behind the show is quite ingenious. Back to Earth takes place after the supposed season 10 of Red Dwarf, and the crew find themselves thrown through a portal, at which time they realize that they’re all just characters from a TV show. Furthermore, they’re characters from a TV show who are going to all buy it in the final episode. The only solution? To track down both the actors that play them, and the creators of Red Dwarf itself. This opens the door for plenty of postmodern gags and situations, but arguably it’s only when things get back into more familiar territory that they start to gel a little more. And when they work, you can’t help but enjoy the fact that the crew are back together. Will this be the last voyage for Red Dwarf? Quite possibly, and there’s little doubt that it’s far from the show’s peak. But it’s still a fun and entertaining send-off.

The ladies of the Clatterford Women’s Guild are back for a second season of side-splitting hilarity! Set in a small west country town, Clatterford follows the continuing exploits of ex-practice nurse Sal Vine and the memorable - and not a little eccentric - members of the local Guild. The Women’s Guild - its ideals are to promote truth, justice, tolerance and fellowship - or is it just an excuse for good old gossip? Written by Jennifer Saunders and starring some of the best-loved names in British comedy, Clatterford is a comedy that takes an affectionate look at village life and the empathy and togetherness found in a local community where everyone knows everyone else’s business. THE KILLING ROOM - Genius In this highly charged, psychological thrill ride four strangers are recruited as volunteers in a scientific research study. But they soon find that they are pawns in a classified government program to determine the breaking point of the human mind. As the experiments are conducted with each unwilling participant, the sterile white room becomes a horrible nightmare where the endgame is survival itself. This isn’t one of those ho-hum thrillers that make you yawn and fall asleep. This picture grabs you from the beginning and simply won’t let go.

Uncover the mysteries buried beneath our feet! Join the world’s preeminent paleontologists in this eye-popping IMAX adventure as they uncover some of history’s most astonishing dinosaur finds. Travel across the exotic dunes of the Gobi Desert and along the sandstone buttes of New Mexico as scientists make brand-new discoveries about dinosaur behavior, their environments and find what could be the oldest dinosaur ever unearthed in North America. With stunningly realistic and scientifically accurate CGI, you’ll see these amazing creatures come alive... in a big way! This program is wonderfully narrated by Michael Douglas.

From Donald P. Borchers comes the resurrection of the most unholy shocker of all: It’s 1975, and a young married couple - Vietnam vet Burt (David Anders) and preacher’s daughter Vicki (Kandyse McClure) - are driving cross-country straight into the heartland of Hell. Here in Gatlin, Nebraska, the town’s bloodthirsty children - led by the boy preacher Issac and his teen enforcer Malachai - have slaughtered all adults by command of He Who Walks Behind The Rows. Now two new Outlanders have arrived...and The Time of Sacrifice is at hand. Preston Bailet (Dexter) and Daniel Newman co-star in this brutal and chilling re-imagining of King’s infamous take, featuring graphic footage not seen in the television broadcast.

DiamondDust Rebellion, the fast-paced, hard-hitting second Bleach feature, is closer in tone to the original broadcast series than the wistful first movie, Memories of Nobody. Ichigo’s friend, Captain Hitsugaya, is assigned to guard the Ouin, the staggeringly powerful seal of the royal family of the Seireitei, as it’s transported amid great pomp. When the Ouin is stolen, the Soul Society declares Hitsugaya an outlaw. Although he wants to recover the stolen artifact alone, Ichigo insists on helpinghim: that’s what friends do. The thief is Kusaka, who was Hitsugaya’s closest friend when they were training to become Soul Hunters--until they were ordered to duel for the possession of an enchanted sword. Everyone thought Hitsugaya killed Kusaka, but he somehow survived. His quest for vengeance pits Kusaka against the most popular Captain and Lieutenants from the series: Renji, Matsumoto, Kenpachi, Byakuya, Yoruichi, Ichigo and Hitsugaya in a spectacular battle. Like the first theatrical film, Diamond Dust Rebellion reunites many of the artists from the original cast and crew, and plays like a lavish, extended episode of the popular television program. The disc of extras includes a gallery of production art, the original Japanese trailers, and five making-of interviews, including one with the members of the band Sambomaster, who perform the title song.

Two girls with the same name leave their old lives behind and come to Tokyo to start fresh--what adventures await these two hopeful young women under the bright lights of the big city? Nana Osaki wants nothing more than to make it big as the singer of a rock ‘n’ roll band, while Nana Komatsu wants to put her life in motion and get her new relationship off to a good start. When the two Nanas fall in love with the same apartment, they become roommates and then best friends, and the party has just begun! This DVD is a wonderful addition to the Nana series that is sure to captivate everyone!

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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   Last Update:
October 14, 2009