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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.

In a movie season filled with CGI fantasy, Live Free or Die Hard gets real – with real action, real humor, and the reprise of a beloved and iconic character: John McClane. On the Fourth of July weekend, an attack on the vulnerable United States infrastructure begins to shut down the entire nation. The mysterious figure behind the scheme has figured out every modern angle...but he never figured on McClane – the old-school “analog” fly in the “digital” ointment. It’s the beginning of the holiday, but New York City Detective McClane isn’t celebrating. He’s had yet another argument with his college-age daughter Lucy, and received a crushingly routine assignment to bring in a young hacker, Matt Farrell, for questioning by the FBI. But for McClane, the ordinary has a habit of exploding into the extraordinary – abruptly hurtling him into the wrong place at the wrong time.

With Farrell’s help, McClane slowly begins to understand the increasing chaos surrounding him. An attack is underway on the vulnerable United States infrastructure, shutting down the entire nation. The mysterious figure behind the scheme, Thomas Gabriel, stays several moves ahead of McClane as he implements his incredible plans, known to uber-geeks like Farrell as a “fire sale” (as in, everything must go!). Bad guy extraordinaire, Timothy Olyphant, absolutely steals this picture. His mannerism and expression while on camera simply eschews his ability to come across completely in control. Live Free or Die Hard may be preposterous, but it’s an efficient, action-packed summer popcorn flick with thrilling stunts and a commanding performance by Bruce Willis. The worst thing about this picture is the editing. At times, I felt that I was watching a poorly dubbed foreign film. The filmmakers made an R rated film. After filming the picture, the studios decided to “edit” the film down so it would have a PG-13 rating. This was done in an effort to attract more of the young teenagers and in an attempt to compete with the summer lockbuster, Transformers. (By the way, there simply is no comparison). Some of this dubbing is actually that bad it is laughable. Even the ten year old kid sitting behind me commented on the poor job of editing. I, for one, can’t wait for the director’s cut on DVD. That will be an infinitely better picture.

Live Free of Die Hard

Starring: Bruce Willis & Justin Long

Director: Len Wiseman

Company: Fox

Now Showing: In area Theatres

MPAA Rating - PG-13

Grade: B-


For centuries, two races of robotic aliens –- the Autobots and the Decepticons –- have waged a war, with the fate of the universe at stake. When the battle comes to Earth, all that stands between the evil Decepticons and ultimate power is a clue held by young Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf). An average teenager, Sam is consumed with everyday worries about school, friends, cars and girls. Unaware that he alone is mankind’s last chance for survival, Sam and his friend Mikaela (Megan Fox) find themselves in a tug of war between the Autobots and Decepticons. With the world hanging in the balance, Sam comes to realize the true meaning behind the Witwicky family motto -– “No sacrifice, no victory!”

Michael Bay’s new best friend has to be is CG coordinator. With every single male on the planet under the age of 27 waiting with baited breath for this film, questions are all abound on how this live action flick would work. Rest assured, those questions are answered with authority within the first five minutes! No, this isn’t an Oscar worthy picture, and no, the cast won’t be sitting up front at an awards show. This picture is what it is; simply a wonderful popcorn movie with lots of testosterone that is clean enough for the youngsters to go see. There definately is more to this picture than meets the eye!


Starring: Shia LeBeouf & Megan Fox

Director: Michael Bay

Company: Dreamworks

Now Showing: In area Theatres

MPAA Rating - PG-13

Grade: A-

DVD Picks


Don Bluth’s The Secret Nimh is an exquisitely drawn, colorfully animated feature about Mrs. Brisby, a brave mother field mouse who struggles to save her family’s home from a farmer’s plow. She soon discovers she needs the help of the strange, intelligent rats who live beneath the nearby rosebush in an intricate city. But when the timid but determined Mrs. Brisby discovers the astounding wonders of NIMH, it could change her life forever. From the Hitch*censored*ian flashback sequence revealing the rats’ secret to the moral questions raised about animal testing, this film is a beautiful example of how animation can expertly tell a gripping story while still remaining appropriate and entertaining for children.

GUNSMOKE: Season One - Paramount

This show chronicles the adventures of Marshall Matthew Dillon and the town of Dodge City. Well, it took long enough for this set to FINALLY come out. Gunsmoke is a timeless classic spanning more than twenty seasons and winning countless awards for best TV show and cast. It is still TV history’s longest running series and set the standard for all Westerns up to present date. My grandfather, brother, and cousins would sit around the TV set every Sunday night and watch Matt Dillon faces countless challenges with his trusty sidekick Festus ( or Chester depending on the season) keeping the town of Dodge City safe for Miss Kitty and Doc Adams. The show had lots of class. The action was “family friendly” and the stories were always entertaining. This first season box set contains all 39 half-hour episodes starting with the pilot introduced by John Wayne, adding even more class to the show setting the standard for the season. All of the episodes are in Black & White with restored picture and sound. The six discs are cleverly assembled in this thin case making it easier to store. There is an episode synopsis on the inner jacket detailing each episode with airdate postings. I feel as though everyone should purchase this set if not for yourself, then for your kids. Make Gunsmoke a part of your family history. Article by Richard Maher.

BAA BAA BLACKSHEEP: Volume Two - Universal

Major “Pappy” Boyington assembles a squadron of absolute misfits, drunks and degenerates into one of the most effective fighting units in World War II history. This was one of my favorite shows when I was a kid. The adventures of Pappy and his squadron fighting the Japanese zeroes and the endless humor from episode to episode made for one of the best prime time shows airing from 1976 – 1978. Robert Conrad is perfect for the part of Boyington leading a stellar young cast including some familiar faces like Dirk Blocker, James Whitmore Jr, John Larroquette, Jeff MacKay, Dana Elcar, Robert Ginty and W.K Stratton. The stories are partially based on historical truth padded with lots of “Hollywood”, but make for quality entertainment for the entire family. In addition to the chemistry of the cast were the exceptional aerial battles in each episode. This made the show stand out from the rest providing some of the best stunt footage to date. This DVD set provides the final episodes of season one on three discs. In my opinion, every episode is a highlight with no exceptions. All of the episodes have restored picture, Digital sound and are in airdate order. There is an episode synopsis on the back of each volume. No extras are provided here. Don’t miss this true TV classic from the seventies.

PRIDE - Lions Gate

Let’s not be too proud about Pride. But it is a heartfelt drama that hits close to home. Marred by mistakes in the past, swimmer Jim Ellis (Howard) is trying to get a job coaching. Unsuccessful, he resorts to Philadelphia’s job placement program. Now in charge of shutting down the recreation center he starts the long journey of trying to save it while connecting with inner city youths through swimming. While the movie has several positives which include a warming story, and a family friendly storyline, there are some areas where it’s lacking. First is actor Tom Arnold as the rival coach. Not only is the performance poor, but almost comically bad. Furthermore, there are an abundance of stories already out with a similar premise- Glory Road, Coach Carter, Remember the Titans to name a few. While originality is lacking, this “true story” has been told- just this time it’s in the water.


Even without vampires, this movies needs help. It is not even a valiant attempt at being a great sniper film. All in all the film touts the action reputation of Wesley Snipes in a CIA conspiracy film. Not only is the plot difficult to follow at times, the film opens and closes with the most unlikely picture imaginable- Snipes as a cowboy in Montana! A small positive arises from the young actress opposite Snipes, Emily (Eliza Bennett) provides an interesting interaction between the hunted CIA operative and the local girl who has a big heart. The film lacks serious action, and the cinematography is average at best. Ultimately, I’ll just wait for the final installment of Bourne.

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA: Season Three, Vol. One - Fox

Voyage chronicled the adventures of the world’s first privately owned nuclear submarine, the SSRN Seaview. Designed by Admiral Harriman Nelson, she was a tool of oceanographic research for the Nelson Institute of Marine Research. This show is starting to wear thin with me. I like the concept of the undersea adventures in a highly advanced submarine with lots of high-tech gadgets, but there is only so much that they can do from week to week. The stories are getting too absurd and it is obvious that the crew is getting tired of the show. Heddison and Basehart are still great and the episodes show creativity from time to time, but the show needs to end. This is the third season of the four season run and this is a good thing. Highlights from volume 1, season 3 include “The Day the World Ended” leaving the crew of the Seaview as the only survivors left on Earth, “Deadly Waters” trapping the Seaview at the bottom of the ocean and “The Lost Bomb” involving the crew racing against time to deactivate a superbomb. As I said before, the episodes are still good, but the show is on the downhill slope. This DVD set presents 13 episodes of the third season on three discs shown in Full Screen format with Dolby Digital sound. Extras here include Still Galleries and interviews with David Hedison.

BEWITCHED: Season Five - 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. Get set for more spells, enchantments and laughs with season five of Bewitched. The whole cast is back for more adventures with stellar performances from Elizabeth Montgomery, Dick York, and Agnes Moorehead. This season has the cast in full swing with top-notch episodes including “Samantha’s Wedding Present”, “Samantha’s Shopping Spree”, “Tabitha’s Weekend” and “Daddy Does His Thing”. Special Guest Stars this season include Maurice Evans, Paul Lynde, Henry Gibson, Danny Bonaduce, Jack Cassidy and Isabel “Weezy” Sanford. The DVD contains all 30 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.

Nick be reached at Nick@filmlords.com

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   Last Update:  July 18, 2007