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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.
 
DVD Picks  
THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO: Complete Series – Anchor Bay

Created by well-known television executive Stephen J. Cannell, The Greatest American Hero was an acclaimed show that was cancelled before its time. ABC seemed unsure how to market the show’s blend of superhero action with comedy, which seems prescient in regards to later superhero satires like Mystery Man and The Incredibles. Ralph Hinkley is a normal high school teacher who has a close encounter of the third kind, and is rewarded with a super-powered pajama suit. The problem is, he doesn’t quite know how to work the thing. Gung-ho FBI agent Bill Maxwell knows Ralph’s secret, and with his connections and the help of girlfriend Pam, Ralph travels around the world to save the day. The unfairly cancelled spoof can now be re-appreciated after years as a cult curiosity. This special collector’s set gathers all three seasons of the beloved series, as well as cast interviews, and the spinoff which never reached the air, The Greatest American Heroine.

CHIEFS

Hoosiers this is not, nor is it a basketball adaptation of Friday Night Lights. Winner at the 2002 Tribeca Film Festival for Best Documentary, this movie gives an honest look not only at basketball, but life on the reservation. Filmed in Wyoming, director Daniel Junge, combines the trials of being a teenager, playing basketball, and living on one of the state’s largest Indian reservations. Wyoming Indian High School is known for competing consistently each year for the state basketball title, and for outrageous, high-powered, triple digit scoring games. The film follows their dynasty team through the course of two consecutive seasons. Trail the town’s favorite athletes with names like C. Bearing, Beaver, and Morning Sides as the camera glances beneath the surface to depict their regular bouts with racism, poverty, and drug abuse. Then follow them to the next level as they struggle with college fears and frustrations of being far from home. Unrated, the film is not suitable for young audiences. The locker room language and drug abuse spills across the screen from the all access cameras. If its inspiration and motivation you seek, sorry, no warm fuzzy endings here. For an athlete’s perspective of real life on the reservation, and real basketball this is your ticket. Article by William Herrington.

C.S.I: NEW YORK: Season Two – Paramount

The second of two spinoffs launched by the hugely popular televisionseries CSI, CSI: New York distinguishes itself with an even darker, grittier tone than either of its predecessors by grounding the action in the gloomy aftermath of post-9/11 New York. The always brilliant Gary Sinise anchors the series as sternly professional former-Marine police detective Mac Taylor, whose stoic exterior masks the pain of losing his wife in the World Trade Center attacks. Taylor’s forensics team includes his tough-as-nails partner, Stella Bonasera (Melina Kanakaredes); the sexy but street-smart investigator Aiden Burn (Vanessa Ferlito); no-nonsense tough guy Don Flack (Eddie Cahill); smart-aleck detective Danny Messer (Carmine Giovinazzo); and the briskly efficient coroner, Sheldon Hawkes (Hill Harper). Bathed in somber, blue-tinged cinematography, the spinoff emphasizes well-drawn character development without sacrificing any of the grisly criminal and scientific elements that made its parent show such a smashing success. This collection presents all 24 episodes of the series’ second season. This product is an absolute must own!

NACHO LIBRE – Paramount

Black plays Ignacio, a half-Mexican priest at an orphanage in a quaint, timeless village south of the border. Consigned to kitchen duties by his priestly higher-ups (“They don’t think I know a buttload of crap about the gospel, but I do,” he says), he dreams of being a masked wrestler, or luchador, so popular among the country’s ordinary folk. If he were to realize his dream, perhaps he could even make some money to improve the orphanage But the monastery he belongs to disapproves of professional wrestling (there’s a church I can get behind), and so he dares not mention his dream to anyone, not even the angelic Sister Encarnacion (Ana de la Reguera), whom he has a less-than-priestly crush on. Luckily, luchadores tend to be masked. His identity concealed, Ignacio -- now Nacho -- pairs with a filthy, wide-mouthed street kid named Esqueleto (Hector Jimenez) to become the town’s newest wrestling sensation. Yet they can’t seem to break into the ranks of the established luchadores, and Nacho is particularly disheartened to realize his idol, Ramses (Cesar Gonzalez), is a jerk and a snob. Jack Black shines in this soon to be cult hit comedy.

A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION – New Line

Fans of A Prairie Home Companion will appreciate that the film was shot at the Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the two-hour radio program is broadcast live every Saturday night. The film’s fictional premise is that the theatre was bought by a corporation represented by The Axeman (Tommy Lee Jones), whose job is to shut down everything so they can develop the area. But the show is also facing more literal deaths, with a Mysterious Woman (Virginia Madsen) in a white trench coat skulking about as a kind of yin to narrator/private detective Guy Noir’s yang (Kevin Kline) plays the radio show P.I. in the film, and also joins Altman on a commentary track. Don’t look for mystery, though, or even gumshoe satire, because there isn’t much to be had. Everything is heavily nostalgic, even elegiac, with screenwriter Keillor taking the same perverse delight in the show’s-end premise as Mark Twain once did when he read about his own demise. It’s fair to say that this has all the bittersweet celebration of a New Orleans funeral. Prairie Home will keep you in your seat for the long run. What a great product!

THANK YOU FOR SMOKING – Fox

Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhardt) is a lobbyist, a spin doctor for Big Tobacco. He’s the man whose job it to quell legislative efforts to stymie the cigarette industry, and to counter bad news about smoking to keep people puffing and seduce potential new addicts. But curiously, neither Naylor nor anyone else in Jason Reitman’s debut feature, Thank You for Smoking, ever lights up any of that demon tobacco. After all, one of the anti-tobacco lobby’s big complaints over the last several years has been over smoking in movies. But leave it to a satire of political correctness to be the most politically correct movie of all. This is absolutely one of the best films of the year. You will laugh so much your sides will hurt!

ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL – Sony

Art School’s misanthropy is too sour, its targets too flat and cliched, and Clowes and Zwigoff stumble when trying to build a story around the premise. Art School Confidential follows a talented young artist Jerome Platz (Max Minghella) as he escapes from high school to a tiny East Coast art school. Here the boyish freshman’s ambition is to become the world’s greatest artist, like his hero Picasso. Unfortunately, the beauty and craft of Jerome’s portraiture are not appreciated in an anything-goes art class that he finds bewildering and bogus. Neither his harsh judgments of his classmates’ efforts or his later attempts to create pseudo-art of his own win him any admirers. But Jerome does attract the attentions of his dream girl — the stunning and sophisticated Audrey (Sophia Myles) — an artist’s model and daughter of a celebrated artist. Rejecting the affectations of the local art scene, Audrey is drawn to Jerome’s sincerity. When Audrey shifts her attentions to Jonah (Matt Keeslar), a hunky painter who becomes the school’s latest art star, Jerome is heartbroken. Desperate, he concocts a risky plan to make a name for himself and win her back. While seemingly unappealing, this product is worth the viewing.

THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: Tokyo Drift - Universal

If you want to see a real car movie, rent Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen. The Fast and the Furious - Tokyo Drift is an exciting film that has the prerequisite sex, violence, lack of a good script, and fast cars you would expect from director Justin Lin. To me, it is just rice burner show off time (although there is a real American muscle car in this film)—power-sliding around Tokyo and giving America’s youth another reason to put those annoying coffee can mufflers on their Honda Civic. If you are young and are into the street-racing thing, you will love this flick. There are lots of extras about the cars and some deleted scenes that you will find interesting. The picture on this 2.35:1 anamorphic DVD is stunning—rich details and vibrant colors. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack will give your speakers a real work out.

SIMON & SIMON: Season One - Universal

A.J. Simon is a polished fellow with a taste for classic cars and tailored suits. Rick Simon is his less refined (but still pleasant) older brother who has a taste for cowboy boots and four-wheel drive pickups. The two of them live in San Diego, where they own a private detective agency. The series chronicles their exploits. Well, the boys finally made it to DVD. Simon and Simon are here and better than ever. Join Gerald McRaney and Jameson Parker as Rick and A.J. Simon solving crimes and dodging danger at every turn. This show aired for eight seasons starting in 1981 at the time of some other great shows including Magnum P.I., Hunter and Remington Steele. There is never anepisode where you are not laughing or on the edge of your seat in suspense. Who could forget that massive truck!! The overall stories were just like any other prime time TV drama, but it was the chemistry of the two characters that prolonged the show for eight seasons. You never knew what Rick and A.J. would say next. I found this show to be one of the best on TV at the time and who could forget the great theme song for the show. The DVD contains all 13 episodes on four discs in Full Frame format and Dolby sound. Eighties lovers will love the bonus feature titled “Great 80s Flashback” showcasing the many programs that aired during that time. Don’t miss this classic detective show.

FRANKENSTEIN UNBOUND - Fox

The ultimate weapon which was meant to be safe for the mankind produces global side effects including time slides and disappearances. The scientist behind the project and his car are zapped from the year 2031 to 1817’s Switzerland where he finds Dr Victor Frankenstein and his contemporaries. Just when you thought you have seen every telling of this story....BAM! Corman’s vision of Frankenstein Unbound is unlike any version that I have seen. Having a scientist go back in time to the nineteenth century to find Dr. Frankenstein and aid him in his experiments is a great template for a solid film. Hurt and Julia’s performances are stellar and combined with a great supporting cast including Bridget Fonda, Catherine Rabbet and Nick Brimble, you have all the ingredients for a great picture. The overall story and effects are top of the line, adding much to the tone of the film. Carl Davis’s soundtrack is a work of pure genius and propels the film to a higher standard. Frankenstein lovers will like the Corman twists in the plot but will also be satisfied that the story stays consistent with the novel. I love watching Hurt on the screen. His performances are memorable and satisfying. I especially liked the effects for the creature. There were many instances when I jumped back during the film. The DVD presents the film in Widescreen Format with Dolby Digital Surround. Sadly, there are no extras on this disc. I would strongly suggest that you consider this film for your horror collection.

Nick be reached at Nick@filmlords.com

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   Last Update:  November 29, 2006