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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  
SILK - New Line

Michael Pitt stars as Herve Joncour, a Frenchman who lives in a small town that has hit hard times. A local silkworm magnate (Alfred Molina) stumbles upon a solution for his town’s troubles, and enlists Herve to travel to a hidden corner of Japan in order to smuggle back a boundless supply of rare silkworms. Traveling in disguise so that he won’t be exposed, Herve succeeds in his mission. Upon returning home, he reunites with his beautiful, supportive wife, Helene (Keira Knightley). While Herve and Helene have a loving relationship, their inability to produce a child creates an undercurrent of distance between them. This is compounded when Herve meets a beautiful concubine (Sei Ashina) during one of his subsequent journeys, sparking a passionate encounter that will haunt him for the rest of his life.

GOYA’S GHOSTS - Sony

Set against the backdrop of political turmoil at the end of the Spanish Inquisition and start of the invasion of Spain by Napoleon’s army, the film captures the essence and beauty of Goya’s work which is best known for both the colorful depictions of the royal court and its people, and his grim depictions of the brutality of war and life in 18th century Spain. Javier Bardem is Brother Lorenzo, an enigmatic, cunning member of the Inquisition’s inner circle who becomes infatuated with Goya’s teenage muse, Ines (Natalie Portman), when she is falsely accused of heresy and sent to prison.

SLIPSTREAM - Sony

After he witnesses a highway road-rage incident go deadly, Felix’s world begins to spin out of control. For one thing, the characters he’s written into his most recent script have begun to appear in his actual life. Two of these figures (played by Christian Slater and Jeffrey Tambor) happen to be evil hit men who have just knocked off another seemingly innocent victim (Michael Clarke Duncan). But when Slater’s character drops dead on set, the maniacal studio boss (John Turturro) sends Felix to the Mojave Desert to rewrite the script and resolve the situation. Along the way, he struggles to separate reality from fiction before the two blur together to the point where he no longer knows what world he’s living in.

NIAGRA MOTEL - Allumination

In Niagara Motel, several struggling individuals cross paths at a low-rent motel in the tourist Mecca of Niagara Falls. They are not tourists and they are all, for various reasons, at crisis points in their lives. The main characters are: a knockout waitress being recruited to star in low budget porn videos, a young couple with criminal pasts struggling to recover their child from social services and a middle class husband and wife whose marriage is disintegrating. The story also includes the woeful drunken motel manager, a prostitute working to support two children, a small time hustler, an underachieving staple salesman, the Serbian owner of the motel, his physics studying daughter and a social worker with a Christian bias. The needs of these people, their obvious failings and the unlucky conditions of their lives make them so vulnerable that they careen from the disturbing to the hilarious in a breathless instant. In this story, tragedy waltzes with unpredictable comedy in an intense dance of life.

IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH - Warner

Tommy Lee Jones plays Hank Deerfield, a retired military man investigating the mysterious disappearance of his soldier son, Mike, in this somber mystery-drama from director Paul Haggis. Charlize Theron is the civilian homicide cop in the small town near the base where Mike recently returned from a term of combat in Iraq. When this unlikely pair ends up investigating the mystery together, they encounter some suspicious covering-up from the army. Deerfield gets access to his son’s camera phone which contains startling video footage from combat overseas. Using a muted palette of military browns and greens, Haggis shows the same sharp eye for humanistic detail that served him so well in CRASH, infusing desolate scenes of civilian life--sterile concrete barracks, sleazy strip clubs, homey but empty diners, drugs, fast food joints, and ghostly motels--with vivid detail. Performances are all Oscar-worthy: Jones’s craggy, weather-beaten face hiding grief and anguish beneath a steely facade until they threatens to boil over. His mug becomes a symbol for an America with no other choice but to confront its own grave flaws if it’s ever to find any answers. Susan Sarandon bring the pain to the surface as the anguished mother waiting at home, and Theron is strong and sure, as a single mother who bravely faces, among other challenges, harassment in the workplace. Josh Brolin is her ex, the chief of police, and Jason Patric and James Franco are among the impassive faces of the military.

Nick be reached at Nick@filmlords.com

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   Last Update:  March 12, 2008