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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.
 
American Gangster  

Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Brian Grazer and Ridley Scott team to tell the true juggernaut success story of a cult figure from the streets of 1970s Harlem in American Gangster. Nobody used to notice Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), the quiet driver to one of the inner city’s leading black crime bosses. But when his boss suddenly dies, Frank exploits the opening in the power structure to build his own empire and create his own version of the American Dream. Through ingenuity and a strict business ethic, he comes to rule the inner-city drug trade, flooding the streets with a purer product at a better price. Lucas outplays all of the leading crime syndicates and becomes not only one of the city’s mainline corrupters, but part of its circle of legit civic superstars.

Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) is an outcast cop close enough to the streets to feel a shift of control in the drug underworld. Roberts believes someone is climbing the rungs above the known Mafia families and starts to suspect that a black power player has come from nowhere to dominate the scene. Both Lucas and Roberts share a rigorous ethical code that sets them apart from their own colleagues, making them lone figures on opposite sides of the law. The destinies of these two men will become intertwined as they approach a confrontation where only one of them can come out on top.

Generally, anytime a film clocks in at longer than two and a half hours, I am very weary of seeing the product. With all of the hype surrounding American Gangster, I quickly realized there was no way out. Overall, I am very pleased with the picture. Is it without flaw? Absolutely not. However, American Gangster is a gritty and entertaining throwback to classic gangster films, with its lead performers firing on all cylinders. I highly encourage you to check this picture out. Just be sure to not pickup a large drink on your way into the theater!

American Gangster

Starring: Denzel Washington

& Russell Crowe

Director: Ridley Scott

Company: Universal

Now Showing:

In area Theatres

MPAA Rating - R

Grade: A

DVD Reviews

THE WAR - PBS

This DVD set is a must own. The War tells the story of WWII as only Ken Burns can do. In the beginning of the series the narrator says ‘The war affected people in every house, on every street, in every town in America.’ This series focuses on the people at home and abroad and uses expertly re-mastered film and picture to tell this story of the greatest generation. There are many clips that have never been seen before, and they are stunning. They look as if they were shot yesterday. The video and audio on this 6-disc set is superb and extras include a making-of featurette, deleted scenes, and extensive commentaries.

DELTA FARCE: Blu-Ray - Lions Gate

Well, there is a movie worse than “Larry the Cable Guy Health Inspector” and it is “Delta Farce”. If you are a huge Larry and Bill fan you will like this movie for about 30 minutes and then you will get tired of it. If you are not a fan—don’t bother watching this schlock. Oh, the story... Larry and friends think the are in Iraq but they are actually in Mexico and don’t know it...he, he, he. On the bright side this Blu-Ray disc looks great and has excellent sound.

There are some extras that include five deleted Scenes: “Larry Gets Promoted,” “Larry Gets Fired,” “Bill Likes Junior,” “Fun with Tear Gas” and “Find Your Moment.” Also, there are some forgettable featurettes in standard definition.

SICKO - Genius

America’s most incendiary filmmaker, Michael Moore, returned in 2007 with this health-care-industry exposÈ. SICKO tackles material as controversial as the topics explored in Moore’s other films, yet does so in a way that places the focus on ordinary Americans affected by the nation’s health-care crisis. After providing some historical background on how our nation’s medical care system became so ravaged and unfair, Moore interviews a series of individuals and families who have had their lives all but destroyed by the denial of care in the service of profit. While there are two sides to the gun-control debate and even a legitimate discourse for how to best wage the war on terror, it’s simply impossible to justify how a baby girl can wind up dead because her mother’s health insurance wasn’t accepted at a nearby hospital. Moore smartly allows this and other stories to be told with little or no interference, conjuring strong feelings of empathy, rage, and deep sadness. Of course, SICKO isn’t a PBS documentary, it’s a Michael Moore movie, and his fingerprints are all over it. Moore visits countries that have universal health care--spectacularly so when he takes several World Trade Center workers to Guantanamo Bay (and then to Cuba) to receive health care that they were denied in the United States--and presents a compelling argument for adopting a similar system in the States. Moore’s ultimate purpose here is to compel Americans to care for one another, and it’s a simple request that shockingly must be made via a major motion picture, making SICKO essential viewing.

MR. BROOKS: Blu-Ray - Fox

Kevin Costner stars as Earl Brooks, a man whose seemingly perfect family and status in the community hide an ugly secret. Brooks constantly says the plea of an addict--the Serenity Prayer--but he’s not in the grip of drugs or alcohol. Instead, his neat little bow tie belies a man with an urge to kill. Though he’s staved off that desire for two years, it has returned thanks to the efforts of his evil inner voice (William Hurt). He is caught in the act by a man who calls himself Mr. Smith (Dane Cook), but Mr. Smith doesn’t want to turn Brooks in. The smarmy amateur photographer wants to learn from Brooks’s methodical ways and become a killer himself. Meanwhile, a tough cop (Demi Moore) hunts for the man responsible for deaths all over Portland while she deals with issues in her own life. Mr. Brooks presents a fascinating portrait of a man at war with himself. As the devil on Brooks’s shoulder, Oscar winner Hurt adeptly alternates between menace and glee, adding to a resume already replete with varied roles. Though Costner is mostly known for playing nice guys and charming rogues, his performance as the tortured killer is interesting to watch, and he rises to the challenge of playing a completely different character than the kind he is known for. Mr. Brooks is an engaging thriller that goes into the fractured mind of a murderer, while also delivering an intriguing maze of multiple subplots.

PAPRIKA - Sony

With Paprika, Satoshi Kon unleashes another eye-popping anime adventure. The visually striking thriller is set in the not-too-distant future, where doctors are developing a groundbreaking new psychotherapy treatment called PT. This coincides with the invention of a device called the “DC Mini,” which enables researchers to enter the dreams of a subject and explore matters of the unconscious mind. But one day, a “DC Mini” prototype goes missing, and the doctors are thrown into a world of confusion. They realize how dangerous a turn of events this could be, and to ensure that things don’t spiral out of control, they embark on a mad quest to track down the missing prototype. The pretty but timid Dr. Atsuko Chiba teams up with the food-loving Dr. Tokita to find his assistant, Himuro, who has disappeared. Unfortunately, it is at this time that Atsuko’s boss, Torataro Shima, tries to commit suicide. Dr. Tokita calls in an old friend, Detective Konakawa, to help the team find an answer to the rapidly devolving problem. As the characters use their dreamworld alter egos to enter the dreams of troubled patients, the line between reality and unreality begins to blur, until no one knows for sure what is real and what isn’t. An adaptation of a story by the acclaimed Japanese writer Yasutaka Tsutsui, PAPRIKA tells a tough-to-decipher, but spellbinding, tale. Kon’s thought-provoking film features an absurdly catchy J-pop score and an unforgettable visual landscape.

LA VIE EN ROSE - HBO

According to Marlene Dietrich, chanteuse Edith Piaf’s voice was “the soul of Paris.” This French drama explores the often troubled life of the singer as her fame took her from the City of Lights to America to the South of France. Abandoned by her mother, Piaf grew up in her grandmother’s brothel and her father’s circus, which is hardly the fun one might imagine. While singing on the streets of Paris as a teen, Piaf (Marion Cotillard), is discovered by club owner Louis LeplÈe (GÈrard Depardieu), and this chance encounter changes the woman’s life. Her powerful voice takes her all over the globe, but it can’t guard her from the pain and suffering she can’t avoid.

TWIN PEAKS: Gold Box Edition - Paramount

Though it only lasted for two seasons, David Lynch’s shockingly original TV drama Twin Peaks forever changed the face of primetime television. A bizarre, ingenious, hilarious, and terrifying murder-mystery set in the Pacific Northwest logging town of Twin Peaks, the series opened with the discovery of the body of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), a seemingly straitlaced high school student. Assigned to the case is FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), a quirky man who converses regularly with Diane, his portable tape recorder. As Cooper settles into his life in Twin Peaks, he meets a revolving cast of characters who are all off-kilter in their own personal way. Gradually, the town’s facade of extreme normality begins to crack mightily, revealing an endless barrage of schemes, fronts, and hidden relationships that expose Twin Peaks as the disturbed, unsettling town that it is. Long awaited by Twin Peaks fans, this special collection presents the complete series along with the show’s shocking pilot which, due to legal entanglements, eluded previous sets.\

MURDER PARTY - Magnolia

In search of a good time, Chris drops in on a Halloween party thrown by pretentious Brooklyn artists in this satirical horror film. Without warning, he becomes the object of their “Murder Party,” an overblown art project that involves his torture and death. Naturally, Chris isn’t so thrilled about this idea. However, though stuck in an unwieldy cardboard costume, Chris isn’t as helpless as he looks, playing off hipster rivalries in a gory, and often hilarious, game of survival.

ELECTION - Tartan

The drama-thriller ELECTION centers on the power struggles within Hong Kong’s organized crime culture. Every two years, the Wo Shing society, the oldest and most powerful triad in Hong Kong, has to appoint a new leader. As Lok (Simon Yam) looks set to win the election, his violent rival Big D (Tony Leung Kar-Fai) will stop at nothing to influence the voting process. When the Dragon’s Head Baton, the society’s symbol of leadership, is stolen, a merciless battle for power begins.

Nick be reached at Nick@filmlords.com

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   Last Update:  November 28, 2007