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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.
 
GRIDIRON GANG  

It begins as an idea born out of frustration. Perplexed and appalled by the alarmingly rate of recidivism among his troubled young charges at Camp Kilpatrick, probation officer Sean Porter (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and his colleague Malcolm Moore (Xzibit) are desperately looking for a way to lift these young men out of the desperate circumstances that landed them at the maximum security juvenile compound.

Most have been convicted of crimes within their communities in and around Los Angeles, and are now forced to live together in an atmosphere of mutual distrust and outright hatred. The multi-racial group’s forced truce often explodes into violence. Camp Kilpatrick is seen by the judicial system as a last chance for these youths before incarceration in California Youth Authority, where they will experience the horrors of adult life in lockup. Getting these wards of the county to care about themselves and their lives has been a thankless task for even the most dedicated counselors like Porter and Moore. Too many of the young men in their care have gone back out into the world only to end up in prison or, far too often, meet a violent end before they can reach adulthood.

As a teenager, Porter overcame his own personal problems to become a firstrate high-school football player. He wonders if the lessons he learned through discipline and team spirit could be applied to these young men and help them overcome the hopelessness they feel. He and Moore cobble together a team, the Camp Kilpatrick Mustangs, from among the residents of the facility, some of whom are eager to play, and others who are resistant.

Porter’s plan is met with immediate skepticism from camp director Paul Higa (Leon Rippy) and his assistant, Dexter (Kevin Dunn), as well as from football coaches at the surrounding high schools who are opposed to hosting convicted felons on their playing fields.

The prospective team members share a distressingly similar upbringing, marked by abuse, chronic poverty and gang warfare. Willie (Jade Yorker), an African-American, recently lost a family member to gang violence. Kenny (Trever O’Brien), a Caucasian, came from a broken home. And 17-year-old Junior (Setu Taase), a young man from Samoa, has already fathered a two-year-old boy.

Porter and Moore strive diligently to gain the trust of the team members. Slowly, through their unstinting dedication, the young men start to overcome their petty differences and commit to regular football practice, despite a myriad of factors, including the fact that the camp field is little more than a rock-strewn pasture, that there is no money for equipment, that practice often conflicts with their school classes and brings down the enmity of the other inmates who are not part of the team, which ignites violent outbursts landing key players in solitary confinement for days at a time.

Nonetheless, some of the team members begin to demonstrate special abilities. Willie has a gift for running the football. Calvin (David Thomas) has the ability to tackle any runner — especially Willie, since they come from warring gangs in South Central L.A. Madlock (James Earl III) is a natural lineman, while Kenny has the good hands of a receiver. Others like Bug (Brandon Mychal Smith) and Evans (Jamal Mixon) are to lend their support as team managers.

As the team progresses through drills on the hot and dusty makeshift gridiron, there are setbacks to be sure. Junior is seriously injured and the loss of his leadership is deeply felt. Willie and Calvin continue to scrap and wind up in solitary confinement. Even Coach Porter suffers a serious loss after his mother’s health spirals irreversibly downward.

Porter and Moore finally break through, however, and manage to convince one high school coach after another to play them. When the Camp Kilpatrick Mustangs prove themselves to be worthy adversaries, they earn enough trust to be allowed to travel beyond the locked gates of their Santa Monica Mountains prison. Through a season that tests their minds and bodies, the players learn self-respect and respect for each other. With that comes the realization that their lives are not hopeless and desperate, that if they can reach the regional championship game, it may only be the first of many accomplishments about which they can dare to dream.

This picture is somewhat of a quandary as I see it. The story isn’t anything new as it has been seen numerous times over the past fifty years. The acting is both hot and cold and has mostly unknowns. For some reason though, I thought it was a solid picture. It wasn’t mind-breaking, but was simply enjoyable on an entertainment level. Is it art? No, it isn’t. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t gain something from the picture, even if it is only an upset stomach from the Jujy Fruits.

Gridiron Gang

Starring: The Rock & Xzibit

Director: Phil Joanou

Company: Columbia

Now Showing: In area Theatres

MPAA Rating - PG:13

Grade: C


DVD Picks

STARSKY & HUTCH: Season Four - Columbia

The crime-fighting duo (no, not Batman and Robin) are back in their fourth season for your pleasure. Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul star as Starsky and Hutch, two swinging bachelors who drive an ultra-cool 1974 Ford Torino. This crime drama is pure 70’s living at its best. Yes, this series is dated, but it is still great entertainment. Huggy the informant is back for a 3-part episode that is great to have in your collection. This DVD set has been digitally remastered and looks incredible. There are 22 episodes on five discs, and unfortunately, there are no bonus features.

BEWITCHED: Season Four - Sony

After a man (Darrin Stephens) marries a very pretty woman, he finds out on his honeymoon that she is a witch who twitches her nose & uses hand gestures to do witchcraft. Samantha (the witch) promises her husband to try not to use any magic as long as they are married. Her mom, Endora, disapproves of the marriage & is always trying to break them up. Samantha, Darrin and Endora are back to their old tricks again in this fourth season set. The laughs continue as Darrin deals with his Witch family on a day to day basis not knowing what to expect when he gets home from work. This season has the cast in full swing with top-notch episodes including “Humbug Not to Be Spoken Here”, “A Safe and Sane Holloween”, “Samantha’s Secret Saucer” and “Splitsville”. The fun never stops with these great stories. The DVD contains all 33 episodes on four discs complete with a synopsis on the back of each volume and great stills of the cast for artwork. Each episode is in color and presented in Full Screen format with Dolby Digital sound. The fun continues in this great classic.

THE MUNSTERS: Fright Fest - Universal

Munsters’ Revenge: The owner of a wax museum has an exhibit dedicated to the Munsters. When he uses robots that look like Herman and Granpa to pull a jewelry heist, everyone thinks that the real Herman and Grandpa did it. They must prove their innocence and uncover the real thieves. Munster Go Home: Herman discovers he’s the new lord of Munster Hall in England. The family sails to Britain, where they receive a tepid welcome from Lady Effigy and Freddie Munster, who throws tantrums because he wasn’t named Lord Munster. Sit back and laugh yourself “to death” with these two Munster films in one set.

The whole cast is back and at it again with Herman and Grandpa getting in all sorts of trouble only to be bailed out by Lily. Both films are made in the true spirit of the original TV show complete with Spot, the dragon, the cool family car and Grandpa’s laboratory. One of the best things about these two films is that you get to see the show in color for the first time. Both programs run about an hour and a half and are presented in Widescreen format with Dolby Digital Sound.

Sadly, there are no extras in this set. The box art is full of stills from the show and a creative “spider” overlay. Don’t miss your chance to relive the fun and adventures with The Munsters.

RETURN TO THE PLANET OF THE APES: Animated Series - Fox

While on a mission, three astronauts in their space ship get caught in a time vortex. They return to Earth in the year A.D. 3979 and discover that intelligent apes are now the highest form of life. What a great animated series! Talk about serious animated Saturday Morning 1975?

I remember watching this show as a kid and loving it, and now enjoying it again on DVD. The episodes all link together to make one story arc. The voices are close to those of the movies and TV series and the animation is classic. This is true “kid entertainment” at its best. In keeping with the Planet of the Apes tradition, the animated series makes reference to some of the movies and ties in these astronauts with the previous ones. The show only lasted 15 episodes, but made its mark in the Saturday morning classics. All 15 episodes are presented in airdate order with digital surround and Full Frame presentation. If you liked the Apes movies and the TV series, this set will really complete your collection.

CLICK - Columbia

Michael is an architect trying to make partner at his firm by doing everything his asinine boss (David Hasselhoff) asks of him. As a result, he works overtime constantly, on holidays and weekends, and has no time for his wife Donna (the lovely Kate Beckinsale), or his two kids. Some late-night TV difficulties catches this stressed-out guy at the wrong moment, sending him to Bed, Bath and Beyond looking for a remote to replace the various clickers that are driving him crazy. There, in the “Beyond” section, he meets Morty (Christopher Walken), who has a unique universal remote for him. This remote programs itself, but that’s not all it does, as Michael soon learns, while muting his dog and then fast-fowarding through his “business,” and his life. The picture and sound quality of this package is superb. The DVD includes numerous special features and is highly recommended.

Nick be reached at Nick@filmlords.com

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   Last Update:  November 01, 2006