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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  
TALLADEGA NIGHTS - Sony

You don’t have to be a NASCAR fan to love Talladega Nights. It is one of the funniest and smartest movies that I’ve seen in a long time—at least since Anchorman.

NASCAR stock car racing sensation Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) is the star of the track. Fans adore him and he wins because of his “win at all costs” attitude. His teammate and childhood friend Cal Naughton Jr. (John C. Reilly), are like brothers. They call themselves “Shake” and “Bake” and always work together to insure Ricky’s victories.

Disaster looms when Gay French Formula One driver Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) is selected to replace Ricky on the racing team. Yes, there are gay jokes, but the tide turns in the end and Ricky is not quite as redneck as you think. Ricky faces many his own demons and has to fight Girard for the right to be known as racing’s top driver.

There are touching moments in this film—well at least they set you up thinking it will be a touching moment and then Whammy, they hit you with a joke. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is a great comedy that you should not miss. There are tons and tons of extras with this DVD that are listed below. Don’t miss out on them as they are great fun to watch. The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks incredible. Bright colors and a very vivid, clear image make this a reference quality disc. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is up to the task to make you feel like you are in the middle of the Speedway.

WINGS: Season Three - Paramount

This is the third season of this hilarious sitcom from the 90’s. Wings is the story of Brian and Joe Hackett (Steven Weber and Timothy Daly), two totally different brothers who love to fly airplanes who really get into some wacky situations. Add Helen (Crystal Bernard) the lunch counter girl, Antonio, the Italian taxi driver (played excellently by Monk Star Tony Shalhoub), and eccentric mechanic Lowell (Thomas Haden Church) and you have the perfect ensemble to make you laugh. The brothers attempt to run a Cape Cod-based airline while getting into every imaginable situation. In season three we see more of Antonio and Lowell. This season is one of the funniest—the cast really were clicking and played off each other well. I was a die-hard fan of wings when it was on television and I am glad yet another season is available on DVD. This boxed set includes 22 episodes on four discs. The video quality is much better transfer than the season one and two set. There are no extras on this set.

ROCKY: SE - MGM

‘Rocky’ Balboa is a past-his-prime struggling pugilist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He exists on being an occasional enforcer for a loan shark to support his meager apartment. It seems his best days may be behind him and the owner of the gym (Burgess Meredith as Mickey), where he trains, feels likewise. Mickey, believes he could’ve made it to the top if he only put in the effort. Through fate and circumstance Rocky pursues and unlikely girlfriend, painfully shy Adrian (Talia Shire), sister to his slovenly friend Paulie and also gets his one big shot that life has seemed to appropriately deny him. He will get to fight the current World Champion, Apollo Creed, in a ‘set’ exhibition - chance that every boxer dream of. Both the video and audio are outstanding. There are numerous must see extras including a tribute to Burgess Meredith, which makes this DVD set an absolute must own.

SUPERMAN II: Donner Cut - Warner

Once again mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve), hiding his identity as Superman, must fight for law and order. This time around, a triumvirate of nasty villains from the planet Krypton break free of their dimensional prison and hightail it to Earth, where they enjoy the same superpowers as Superman. Meanwhile, Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) has discovered that Superman and Clark are the same person, so Superman debates whether to give up his abilities to become a normal man and share his life with Lois. Richard Lester (A HARD DAY’S NIGHT) originally helmed this sequel, but for this version Richard Donner (LETHAL WEAPON) has made significant re-edits and taken on the mantle of director. Lester’s version excluded Marlon Brando’s reprisal of his role as Jor-El from the first film, but Donner has scooped these scenes up from the cutting room floor and added them to his edit of the film. This DVD edition contains just enough creative material that it justifies the purchase. I recommend this version to any fan of the series.

SUPERMAN RETURNS - Warner

For five years, Superman (Brandon Routh) has been away from Earth, coaxed into space by a belief that Krypton may still exist. Finding nothing, he comes back to a changed world--not only has terrorism become rampant, but Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has married, started a

family, and won the Pulitzer for her piece “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman.” After a stop in Smallville to see his adopted mother (Eva Marie Saint), Superman is back in Metropolis, and Clark Kent has his old job back at the Daily Planet, with everyone still incredibly oblivious to his alter ego. But where there’s Superman, there’s Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey), and he is likely to be planning something dastardly--in this case, using a piece of pilfered kryptonite to grow an entirely new continent that he will control. Superman Returns is an incredible addition to the Man of Steel series. The audio, video, and the extras are truly outstanding. This is a must own DVD.

THE GREEN MILE - Warner

“The Green Mile” is told in a flashback narrated by Paul Edgecomb to his friend Elaine Connelly. Edgecomb is now living in an old-age home some six decades after working as the head guard on Death Row at Cold Mountain Penitentiary. Edgecomb’s tour of duty at Cold Mountain in the Depression-era South included watch over a quartet of killers awaiting their final walk down “the Green Mile,” the stretch of green linoleum flooring that took convicts from their jail cells to the electric chair. Over the years, Edgecomb walked the mile with a variety of cons. He had never before encountered someone like John Coffey, a massive black man convicted of brutally killing a pair of nine-year-old sisters. Coffey certainly had the size and strength to kill anyone, but his demeanor starkly contrasted with his appearance. Beyond his simple, naive nature and a deathly fear of the dark, Coffey seemed to possess a prodigious, supernatural gift. Edgecomb began to question whether Coffey was truly guilty of murdering the two girls. As the story unfolds, Paul Edgecomb learns that, sometimes, miracles happen in the most unexpected places. The Green Mile was one of the best pictures of the year. An incredible storyline with superb acting.

A FISH CALLED WANDA - MGM

In A Fish Called Wanda, veteran director Charles Crichton and scriptwriter-star John Cleese create a dazzling quilt from various strands of English and American comedy. The plot, in which four disparate characters attempt a daring heist, comes from Ealing caper comedies, such as Crichton’s own The Lavender Hill. Cleese and Michael Palin, as the hit man with a stutter and a love of animals, come from the anarchic tradition of Monty Python. The movie pays savage tribute to another Ealing comedy, The Ladykillers, as Palin attempts to kill a witness to the gang’s getaway. The glamorous con woman (Jamie Lee Curtis) is from Preston Sturges’s great comedy The Lady Eve, while Kevin Kline provides his own unique feverish comic intensity. But, in the midst of this breathless comedy, something else happens. The barrister, Archie Leach (Cleese), who is defending one of the gang, is jolted out of his tight-laced British existence by Curtis’s life force. And Curtis--like Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve -- falls into her own trap: falling in love with the man she’s conning. The 78-year-old Crichton never before had such rich material. He times everything in this brilliant comedy with the precision of a Swiss watch. A convincingly hilarious picture, the DVD is one of the best comedies of the 1980’s.

Nick be reached at Nick@filmlords.com

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   Last Update:  December 27, 2006