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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  

PISTOL WHIPPED - Sony

An ex-cop finds his way out of debt by becoming an assassin ridding the city of some of the worst criminals while trying to retain his personal life. Steven Seagal films used to be among the best in action films during the late eighties into the early nineties. Now, they are one step above absurd. Seagal is getting to be “old hat” in his reprising role as the battered good-cop. His martial arts have slowed down in the last few films putting him at the same level as his victims. The stories are mediocre at best with poor casting and “cheesy” dialogue making even the most serious moments seem mundane. This film is not anywhere as good as his first few films and makes for a real “sleeper” until the very end. I would pass on this one in favor of some of his early films. The DVD is presented in Widescreen format with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Special features include deleted scenes.

WILD, WILD WEST: Season Four - Fox

James West and Artemus Gordon are two agents of President Grant who take their splendidly appointed private train through the west to fight evil. Half science fiction and half western, the Artemus designs a series of interesting gadgets for James that would make Inspector Gadget proud. The adventures never cease with Jim West and Artemus Gordon in season four of Wild, Wild West. The plots get more inventive and the action never slows putting this show at the top for prime time action. Just when you thought you knew what was going to happen....BAM!

Like many shows in this genre, the secret is the chemistry of the main characters. Conrad and Martin are unstoppable in their weekly performances making you want to come back each week to see more. Shows like this are slim to none in today’s venue. Some special guests this season include Alan Hale Jr, William Schallert, Michael Dunn, Jack Carter, Henry Wilcoxon, Jim Backus and Harvey Korman. Season four contains all 24 episodes in airdate order uncut with restored color in Full Screen Format with Dolby Digital Sound on six discs. Each volume is loaded with colorful artwork from the show and an episode synopsis on the back of each volume.

THE UNTOUCHABLES: Season Two, Vol. One - Paramount

Special Agent Eliot Ness and his elite team of incorruptible agents battle organized crime in 1930s Chicago. The adventures of Eliot Ness never cease as he and his team battle prohibition, crime and the notorious Al Capone on the streets of Chicago in the 1930s. The show ran from 1959 to 1963 and stars Robert Stack as Eliot Ness with Nick Georgiade as Agent Enrico Rossi, Abel Fernandez as Agent William Youngfellow, Paul Picerni as Agent Lee Hobson and Steve London as Agent Jack Rossman. Season 2 has more involved stories and puts the characters in harm’s way on more than one occasion. The writing is good with emphasis on Ness and his team. The chemistry of the cast is pretty significant which helps to keep the shows from all looking the same week after week. Some of this season’s highlights include a 2-part episode involving Al Capone’s escape on his way to Alcatraz and “The Otto Frick Story” putting the Nazi movement and mobsters in Madison Square Garden. The DVD includes 16 episodes on four discs. All the episodes are digitally re-mastered with crisp picture and sound. There is an episode synopsis on the inside jacket and attractive artwork on the cover.

THE FUGITIVE: Season One, Vol. Two - Paramount

A doctor wrongly convicted for a murder he didn’t commit, escapes custody and must stay ahead of the police to find the real killer. This series continues to be one of the best suspense thrillers in TV history. The series ran from 1963 to 1967 and stars David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimble. David Janssen heats up the screen each week in his quest to uncover the murderer of his lovely wife. The stories get more involved each week with one overall plotline that only thickens.

Barry Morse plays the part of the inspector chasing after Kimble. With each chapter, you see a transformation of this character as he begins to suspect that Kimble might be innocent. Barry Morse plays great against Janssen creating a chemistry that only gets better with age. Peter Rugolo continues to provide a high-paced action Main Theme and great episode music. The DVD presents the final 15 episodes of season one on four discs with restored picture and sound. The synopsis for each episode is on the inside cover.

THE DARJEELING LIMITED - Fox

Wes Anderson offers another quirky, melancholic riff on familial ties and father issues in The Darjeeling Limited. Francis (Owen Wilson) has invited his brothers, Jack (Jason Schwartzman) and Peter (Adrien Brody), to join him on a train trip for a spiritual quest through India. The brothers have been estranged since their father’s sudden death, and each is now embroiled in his own personal drama. Jack is being toyed with by his two-timing girlfriend, Peter’s wife is about to give birth, and Francis recently survived a car crash that nearly killed him. As the train chugs its way across India, the brothers try to reconnect, but mainly end up arguing and sharing pharmaceuticals. Francis admits that the real reason he lured them there is because he wants them to visit their mother (Anjelica Huston), who is living in a convent in the Himalayas. Peter and Jack are none too pleased with this plan, and immediately want to go home. The trip hits another snag when they are kicked off the train for a series of offenses. Stranded with their mountain of matching luggage, Peter and Jack are now insistent upon leaving. However, they suddenly find themselves brought together by an deadly accident involving some Indian children. The tragedy unites them, and they decide to continue on to their mother. Their visit with her proves revelatory, and they begin their journey homeward free of both their literal and metaphorical baggage.

30 DAYS OF NIGHT - Sony

Based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, 30 Days of Night works overtime to pump fresh life into the vampire genre. Director David Slade has created a series of pulse-pounding sequences, ripe with carnage, employing few tricks to keep his vision from getting lost in the seemingly tireless undertow of “undead” films.

Located in the northernmost part of Alaska, the town of Barrow experiences a complete lack of sunshine for an entire month once a year. The town is populated with tough, hardworking, and generally law-abiding citizens, so there hasn’t been much for Sheriff Eben Olesen (Josh Hartnett) to do except brood over his separation from his fire marshall wife, Stella (Melissa George). As darkness descends for its annual 30-day day, though, a series of bizarre discoveries rocks the town--and very soon vampiric Marlow (Danny Huston) and his minions arrive, slaughtering and sucking on everyone they can catch, safe in the knowledge that they have much longer than usual until sunup. Eben, his little brother Jake (Mark Rendall), Stella, and a handful of others are forced to hide and fight for their lives until the sun returns.

DEATH AT A FUNERAL - MGM

A dignified send-off for a loved one erupts into uproarious chaos when romance, jealousy, in-laws, hallucinogens, dark secrets, life-long yearnings and a spot of bold blackmail all collide in the irreverent British comedy Death at a Funeral. Directed by Frank Oz and featuring a cast made up of the cream of Britain’s crop, the film mischievously explores what happens on the day when a typically divided family is finally forced to come to terms with each other’s - bad behavior, outrageous faults, skeletons in the closet and all. On the morning of their father’s funeral, the family and friends of the deceased each arrive with his or her own roiling anxieties. Son Daniel (MATTHEW MACFADYEN) knows he will have to face his flirty, blow-hard, famous-novelist brother Robert (RUPERT GRAVES) who’s just flown in from New York, not to mention the promises of a new life he’s made to his wife Jane (KEELY HAWES). Meanwhile, Daniel’s cousin Martha (DAISY DONOVAN) and her dependable new fiance Simon (ALAN TUDYK) are desperate to make a good impression on Martha’s uptight father - a plan that literally goes out the window when Simon accidentally ingests a designer drug en route to the service, leaving him prone to uncontrollable bouts of delirium and nudity in front of his potential in-laws. Then comes the real shocker: a mysterious guest (PETER DINKLAGE) who threatens to unveil an earth-shattering family secret.

As riotous mayhem and unfortunate mishaps ensue on every front, it is now up to the two brothers to hide the truth from their family and friends and figure out how to not only bury their dearly beloved, but the secret he’s been keeping.

MRS. DOUBTFIRE - Fox

Robin Williams stars as an unemployed actor who loses custody of his children after his wife leaves him. Desperate to spend more time with the kids, the crafty thespian decides to dress up as a 60-year-old British woman and interview with his ex-wife for a nanny position. He lands the job, but he’ll have to give the performance of his life to keep it. This is one of Robin Williams’ most endearing roles and is one that is not to be missed.

AUGUST RUSH - Warner

August Rush is part romance, part gentle fantasy, but this sweet drama is all heart. When young cellist Lyla (Keri Russell) and rock musician Louis (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) meet at a party in the mid 1990s, it’s love at first sight, and they spend the night in each other’s arms. But Lyla’s father forces them apart, even though she later learns she’s pregnant. Later, an accident lands Lyla in the hospital, and though her father tells her that her baby died, the child survives and is given up for adoption. August Rush jumps to the present and begins to follow Evan (Freddie Highmore), an 11 year old who has grown up in a boys’ home. As Evan embarks on a crusade to find his parents, he imagines he can communicate with them through his gift for music. His journey to New York City brings him into contact with Wizard (Robin Williams), a man eager to capitalize on the child prodigy’s talent. Wizard gives Evan the name August Rush as he begins performing all over the city, but the boy’s ultimate goal is to find the parents he has never met.

MARRIED WITH CHILDREN: Season Eight

The Bundy saga continues with the seventh season of this long-running, trend-setting sitcom. Staunchly underachieving, antisocial, and utterly hilarious, the Bundy family is headed up by shoe salesman Al (Ed O’Neill), who fondly looks back upon his better days as a high-school superstar. His wife, Peg (Katey Sagal), is a curvaceous shopaholic, daughter Kelly (Christina Applegate) is a blonde bombshell with a low IQ, and her brother Bud’s (David Faustino) anomalous intelligence doesn’t prove helpful with the ladies. The adventures continue with this eighth collection of episodes.

ROBYN HITCHCOCK: Sex, Food, Death & Insects - A&E

This career overview of former Soft Boys member Robyn Hitchcock highlights his musical talents and far-reaching influence. The British-born singer-songwriter is filmed playing a couple of American shows (in New Jersey and Seattle) and a selection of committed fans, including Peter Buck from R.E.M. and Nick Lowe, talk about Hitchcock’s music.

12 ANGRY MEN

- MGM

Sidney Lumet’s directorial debut is a snapshot of the American judicial system in action. Twelve average New York males convene in a very small jury room on a very hot day in order to reach a verdict in a murder trial. Almost everyone wants to vote guilty and get on with their lives except for Juror No. 8 (Henry Fonda), a conscientious citizen who insists on establishing reasonable doubt. Arguments are made, cigarettes are smoked, murder weapons examined, diagrams drawn, and prejudices revealed. Firm opinions weaken and reverse; voices get raised, the clock ticks, and a ghetto kid’s life hangs in the balance.

I AM LEGEND - Warner

In I am Legend, Will Smith joins the ranks of Vincent Price (in 1964’s The Last Man on Earth) and Charlton Heston (in 1971’s Omega Man) as the star of an adaptation of Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel of the same name. Often surprising in its focus on loneliness and loss, this thoughtful, eerie, and restrained sci-fi horror film provides a parade of startling visuals, but never allows special effects to overcome the human element. Smith, in a strong performance very different from his usual persona, is Robert Neville, the lone survivor in a New York City where streets are overgrown and deer gambol among deserted automobiles. Following an epidemic, the Earth’s population has been turned into an army of nocturnal zombies. Immune to the virus, military scientist Neville searches for a cure in his Washington Square townhouse. Haunted by visions of his family leaving quarantined Manhattan two years prior, he drives through the city with his German Shepherd, Sam, by day and barricades his home from the monsters nightly. But when Anna (Alice Braga)--another immune stranger-finds him, they will have to fight the onslaught twice as hard. Akiva Goldsman and Mark Protosevich’s emotionally-charged script showcases the charisma of Smith, who commands the screen alone for most of the picture (aside Abbey, a talented German Shepherd).

ENCHANTED: Blu-ray - Disney

With a fine cast and fun in-jokes, Disney’s Enchanted is sure to cast a spell over both children and adults. It begins with a 2-D animation sequence reminiscent of the company’s beloved past. Surrounded by dozens of cute animals, Giselle (voiced and later played by Amy Adams) sings about her desire to find her one true love. Meanwhile, a handsome prince (James Marsden) overhears her, and they meet and fall in love. In many Disney movies, this is where the story ends, but Enchanted is just starting out on its journey. The prince’s wicked stepmother (Susan Sarandon) can’t stand to lose her throne, so she pushes Giselle down a well, and the beauty ends up in the real world.

Gone is the animated fantasy, and a live-action Giselle lands in the middle of Times Square in New York City. Her optimism and perkiness put her at odds with the New Yorkers she encounters, but she gets help from a cynical divorce lawyer (Patrick Dempsey) as she waits for her prince to rescue her.

HIGHLANDER: The Source - Lions Gate

Brett Leonard directs this fantasy epic about an immortal man who must find reason to go on once his city and loved ones have been largely destroyed. After finding a group of fellow immortals, Duncan MacLeod begins on a quest to find the source of immortality itself. Although I am personally a big fan of the Highlander series, this is not one of its stronger pieces of work.

DOGMA: Blu-ray - Sony

Imaginative theology and a bigger than usual budget make Kevin Smith’s fourth film a kind of post-Catholic fantasy that only a comic-book enthusiast of his caliber could dream up. The plot is set in motion by two banished angels, Loki (Matt Damon) and Bartleby (Ben Affleck). After a few millenia in Wisconsin, they’ve discovered a loophole in Catholic doctrine that would allow them back into heaven--but prove the fallibility of God and destroy the universe. Unaware of the peril, they make their way to New Jersey to receive a plenary indulgence. Meanwhile, God has dispatched a seraphim (Alan Rickman) to recruit lapsed-Catholic Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) to stop the angels. She finds help in muses, prophets (Jay and Silent Bob), and the forgotten 13th apostle, Rufus (Chris Rock). Before long, all hell breaks loose (literally), and God (Alanis Morrisette) has to put in an appearance of her own.

Nick be reached at Nick@filmlords.com

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   Last Update:  April 02, 2008