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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 Reviews  

THE PIANIST: Blu-Ray - Universal

Roman Polanski’s The Pianist is based on the memoirs of the talented pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrian Brody), a Polish Jew, who miraculously survived World War II. The first half of the film transports viewers to 1939 Poland, and brings it to life clearly and believably. Szpilman is a tall, handsome, winsome man who is revered for his piano performances on public radio. He lives with his family--an intelligent, loving, and spirited bunch--in an upscale flat in central Warsaw. Bombings have begun to torment the citizens of Warsaw, and step by step, the Nazis infiltrate, the Jews are branded and set apart from their neighbors, imprisoned in a ghetto, and slowly exterminated. The story is told through Szpilman’s eyes, and thus carries as much confusion and fear as disgust and torment. Polanski paints Warsaw in bleak shades of gray and black, expressing the helplessness of the Jewish people and the cruelty of the Nazis with captivating photography. In the second half of the film, which takes place in the early 1940s, Szpilman is alone, having managed to avoid the trains to the death camps. His struggle to survive, with some help from non-Jews but mostly his own will to thrive, takes place in long, silent, languid stretches filled with the imagined piano music that inspires Szpilman to live. In a climactic scene of immense beauty and spine-tingling tension, Szpilman must actually perform for a German soldier who is inexplicably patrolling the near-deserted and utterly dilapidated Warsaw ghetto. The Pianist, in the subtlety of its sublime and heartbreaking tale, is carried by the intensely moving performance of Brody, whose transformation is truly unforgettable.

FATAL CONTACT - Genius

The tradition of wushu kung fu has a long history of developing the mind, body, and spirit. It also gave the world Jet Li, and has now delivered another martial arts superstar--Wu Jing! This is the first Hong Kong action flick to feature Jing in a lead role, and he doesn’t let fans down with his amazing acrobatic skill and winning charm. Along for the ride is the ever-whacky Ronald Cheng, in a story that takes another look at the world of underground fighting. While the action sequences are sure to satisfy, Fatal Contact is also a surprisingly dramatic film with moving performances by the leads. Only a Hong Kong film like this can balance equal doses of amazing human skill paired with genuine emotional conflicts, and Fatal Contact delivers on both ends.

EL CID - Weinstein

A widely acclaimed Hollywood spectacle which tells the story of the 11th century Spanish hero who drove the Moors from Spain. The restored version was overseen by Martin Scorcese and is uncut and remastered. Academy Award Nominations: 2, including Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, Best Song (“The Falcon and the Dove”).

WEDDING DAZE - MGM

Jason Biggs stars as a man recovering form the death of his girlfriend in this wild comedy feature. Biggs’s character asks a beautiful woman to marry him in an act of spontaneity and, much to his surprise, she agrees.

THE GAME PLAN: Blu-Ray - Disney

A film that marks Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s first leading role in a family-friendly comedy, The Game Plan finds the former pro wrestler starring as Joe Kingman, a popular NFL quarterback happily entrenched in a carefree single lifestyle. Kingman’s world is turned upside-down, however, when a young girl named Peyton Kelly (Madison Pettis) appears from out of the blue, claiming to be his daughter from a brief former marriage. Reluctantly, Kingman must learn how to shake his self-absorption and become a father, leading to hijinks that involve the inevitable clash of macho-man and little-girl cultures.

THE REAL WEST: Cowboys & Outlaws - History Channel

Eight documentaries on some of the Old West’s most prominent figures are included in this package from the History Channel. Country star Kenny Rogers hosts each installment, which include lengthy examinations of Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok, and the James Gang, among many others.

FEEL THE NOISE - Sony

The street beats of New York City and Puerto Rico meet in this film from Alejandro Chomski. Born and bred in New York City, Rob (Omarion Grandberry) dreams of making it as a rapper. When he becomes a wanted man in his neighborhood, Rob’s loving mother (Kellita Smith) sends him to Puerto Rico to stay with a father he never knew existed (Giancarlo Esposito). In an instant, Rob not only acquires a father, but a stepmother (Rosa Arredondo) and a stepbrother (Victor Rasuk), Javi, who also has dreams of making it big in the music world. Together, Rob and Javi are determined to put their imprint on the widely popular world of reggaeton, a musical genre combining reggae, rap, salsa, and bomba. With the help of Rob’s love interest, beautiful dancer C.C. (Zulay Henao), the duo just might hit the big time.

MISSIONARY MAN - Sony

Dolph Lundgren stars in this drama as Ryder, a biker who arrives in town following his friend’s death, only to find out that his friend didn’t die a natural death. Suspecting a local businessman of the murder, Ryder puts himself at risk in pursuit of justice.

Earth vs. FLYING SAUCERS - Sony

Space scientist Dr. Russell Marvin (Hugh Marlowe) and his wife Carol (Joan Taylor) are working on a secret missile project, but every time their rockets are launched, they are intercepted and destroyed by the more advanced technology of mysterious flying saucers hovering near the Earth. The alien race has completely surrounded the planet, giving Earth the sixty days to surrender. The enemy spacecraft appear indestructible, and Marvin sets out to find a weapon that can defeat them. The special effects of stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen are legendary, most notably in the scene in which flying saucers attack the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

QUEEN - Warner

Producer David Wolper was granted to permission to film an adaptation of the piece acclaimed writer Alex Haley was working on at the time of his death. The title character (Halle Berry) is the child of a slave woman and a male plantation owner. Queen’s life is experienced through the turmoil of the Civil War, Reconstruction and the early 20th Century. Through it all, Queen experiences both sides of segregation and prejudice with her light skinned complexion. An important television event based on the last work of a legendary American author.

MURDER IN MISSISSIPPI - Warner

In 1964, three civil rights workers were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. The crime lit up headlines and became a rallying cry for social justice. Murder in Mississippi recounts the last week in the lives of the victims, played by Tom Hulce, Blair Underwood, and Josh Charles. This searing true story later formed the basis for the 1988 film Mississippi Burning.

Nick be reached at Nick@filmlords.com

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   Last Update:  February 27, 2008