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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.
 
2005 IN REVIEW  

With 2005 now completely under wraps, I am in the unenviable position of ranking the best and worst of the year in film. Over the course of this year, I have seen over one hundred and thirty different movies, many of which I have thankfully long-since forgotten about. I would have to admit, however, this has been a good year for films. I have seen actors really surprise me by pushing the envelope such as Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. Then there is the opposite end of the spectrum, where actors really scrape the bottom of the barrel as Keira Knightley did in Domino. As the multitude of award shows begin to hit the airwaves this next week, you will have the opportunity to see and hear information about films you both have seen and never heard of. When the opportunity arises, check out some of these movies and see how they rate with you. I am anxious to see what 2006 cinema masterpieces have in store, but until then, here is my list, ranked in order, of The Best and Worst of 2005.

Best Pictures:

1. A History of Violence

2. King Kong

3. Memoirs of a Geisha

4. Good Night and Good Luck

5. Capote

6. March of the Penguins

7. Brokeback Mountain

8. The Constant Gardener

9. Crash

10. Munich

Best Actors:

1. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

2. Heath Ledger, Brokeback, Mountain

3. Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line

4. Russell Crowe, Cinderella Man

5. David Strathairn, Good Nightand Good Luck

Best Actress:

1. Charlize Theron, North Country

2. Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

3. Keira Knightley, Pride and Predjudice

4. Joan Allen, The Upside of Anger

5. Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson

Presents

The Worst Films of 2005

1. Domino

2. The Pacifier

3. Stealth

4. Shark Boy and Lava Girl

5. The Wedding Date

 

 

 

 

 

DVD Review

MONTY PYTHON’S FLYING CIRCUS: 16 Ton Megaset - A&E

When I first discovered Monty Python, I was at the perfect age of 14; young enough to adore the silliness, intelligent enough to catch some of the smarter satire, and open-minded enough to admit that I simply didn’t get one-third of the jokes. But now that we’re halfway through the first decade of the 21st century and it’s now considered quaint and kitschy-cool to adore the parrot sketch, the cheese shop, the lumberjack song.

From 1969 to 1974, Monty Python’s Flying Circus aired on BBC Television -- and it started an absolute landslide. Find me one modern-day comedian who doesn’t admit to being inspired by the Monty Python guys and I’ll show you a liar. These six lunatics (John Cleese, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Eric Idle & Terry Gilliam) could do it all: Outrageous slapstick, brilliant social satire, memorably disgusting gross-out gags, lampoons of church, government, and society in general -- and all the myriad combinations thereof. The guys often, bravely, dressed up as women when a particular sketch called for it, they displayed an effortless chemistry together, they took their comedy quite seriously, and they single-handedly changed the conventions of television comedy forever. Basically, the Pythons are to comedy what The Beatles are to rock & roll. Period.

But seriously, like the world needs another dissection of Monty Python like it needs another sitcom about a fat dad, a hot wife, and two obnoxious kids. There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who already adore Monty Python -- and those who haven’t watched any of their work. Frankly I feel a little bad for anyone who doesn’t know why The Spanish Inquisition, Spam, or “nudge nudge” is freaking hilarious -- but these six madmen have given me enough hardcore hilarity to last three lifetimes.

Boasting all 45 of the original episodes, as well as the two Monty Python Live platters, this set packs all 16 discs into a bunch of slick little slim-cases that fits perfectly as the centerpiece to your DVD collection, comedy division.

Basically, if you own this set and the three “true” Python films (Grail, Brian, and The Meaning of Life), then you truly own the very best of this immortal troupe. The video quality on the DVDs is good, considering the age of the source material. The episodes are presented in their original Full Frame format, and you should have little complaint on the visual side of the equation. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and is unremarkable. There are numerous extras included on the DVDs. With every episode of Python ever created available to you in one set, why would you want something completely different?

DVD Picks

SNATCH - Sony

A four-fingered diamond crook with a gambling problem, a trio of hopeless black thugs, a gangster who feeds his victims to pigs, an out-of-luck boxing promoter and his gun-toting buddy, a New-York diamond reseller, a hit man with a giant gun a gypsy boxer no one can understand. What do all these characters have in common? Bingo! They’re all part of Guy Ritchie’s hilarious and entertaining follow-up to his hilarious and entertaining debut Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The Brits have really been coming on strong in the criminal comedy department over the last few years and the style won’t go away as long as they keep coming up with great efforts that surpass one another in all the realms of good times. The DVD is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and the sound is impeccable with 5.1 Dolby Digital. There are numerous extras included in this two disc set that include features, commentary, and hidden extras.

DISNEY TREASURES:

Wave Five - Disney

Disney continues to delve into its past with the release of four more limited-edition DVD sets in its Walt Disney Treasures series. The Chronological Donald, Volume 2 and Disney Rarities, Celebrated Shorts highlight, Disney’s animated shorts. The Adventures of Spin and Marty and Elfego Baca and the Swamp Fox. Legendary Heroes offer a look at 1950s television. Many of the extra features are passable, though serious Disney fans will appreciate them.

Donald Duck, with his hairtrigger temper and incomprehensible voice, was Disney Studios most popular character. The Chronological Donald, Volume 2 features 32 Donald Duck cartoons released from 1942-1946. Most of the cartoons follow a formula that has Donald in a specific profession, smithy, gold miner, army private, and then have him deal with frustrations inherent to the situation. Other shorts pit him against his mischievous nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie. The formula works well, though watching several cartoons can become repetitive. These shorts are best enjoyed in smaller doses.

In 1923, Walt Disney and some fellow animators made Alice’s Wonderland, which featured a live-action girl in a cartoon world. More than 50 of the Alice comedies were made in the next four years; eight are on disc one of Disney Rarities. These films also tend to be repetitive, though one can trace the evolution of the studio’s cartooning as the series progresses, the live-action sequences become shorter, the animation becomes more complex and the pacing speeds up.

The Adventures of Spin & Marty was a regular segment on Mickey Mouse Club. This DVD set has the entire first season of the serial. The 11-minute episodes follow the adolescent boys who go to the Triple R ranch for summer camp. Spin (Tim Considine) is an all-American boy who spent the summer at the Triple R last year. Marty (David Stollery) is a snooty rich kid who arrives with his butler in tow and wears a suit and bow tie. The adventures are fairly low-key: there is a snipe hunt, a close encounter with a rattlesnake, a rodeo. Valuable Lessons about getting along with others are learned. To a modern viewer, Spin & Marty feels a little corny, but it’s hard to fault a series that promotes friendship and teamwork.

After the enormous success of Davy Crockett, Disney studios looked for more real-life American heroes for its Disneyland television series. One was Elfego Baca (Robert Loggia), a New Mexico lawman. Another home-grown hero was Col. Francis Marion (Leslie Nielsen), nicknamed the Swamp Fox, who led a band of guerilla fighters against the British in the Revolutionary War. Elfego Baca and the Swamp Fox. Legendary Heroes has three episodes for each character, though more episodes were filmed and aired. Perhaps a future DVD release will present these episodes, but three is enough for now.

Of all of the Leonard Maltin interviews on these discs, the most memorable is with Tony Anselmo, who took over Donald Duck’s voice after the death of Clarence Nash. Anselmo started out as an animator at Disney and learned the intricacies of the voice from Nash himself. There are no particularly interesting revelations in the other interviews, though David Stollery of Spin & Marty admits that he wasn’t a very good actor at the time. Maltin never forgets to pay homage the studio. Anyone who worked for Disney while Walt was alive is asked to share a story about meeting him. For Mickey Mouse Club fans, there is an entire episode on the Spin & Marty DVD set, it includes a segment introducing The Adventures of Spin & Marty. All of the DVD sets have extensive galleries of photos, stills and publicity material.

The quality of the picture and sound on the DVDs depends on the source material. The picture on the Alice cartoons is surprisingly crisp for 80-year-old films, with only occasional scratches. These silent films have a newer music soundtrack in stereo. The rest of the shorts on Disney Rarities and The Chronological Donald are in color and look very good, with only the occasional flaw. Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom, on Disney Rarities was the first cartoon made in Cinemascope. It was also Disney’s first stereo cartoon. This latest wave of treasurers is a must own for any Disney fan.

Nick be reached at Nick@filmlords.com

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   Last Update:  September 07, 2006