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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  

APRIL FOOL’S DAY - Sony

When wealthy Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman) invites her college friends up to her parents’ secluded island home for spring break, they all arrive expecting a weekend of sun and sex. Things are fine at first, but when one of the guest goes missing, the weekend takes a turn for the worse and only gets more horrible from there. But as bodies begin to pop up left and right, the guests have to remind themselves that Muffy always was a big practical joker--the trouble lies in trying to determine what is real and what isn’t!

THE GOOD NIGHT - Sony

Jake Paltrow directs his sister Gwyneth in this take on the midlife crisis. Gary (Martin Freeman) was once riding high as the member of a successful pop band. Now, seven years later, the band is no more and he pays the bills by composing mediocre music for commercials. To further add to his unhappiness, his relationship with his girlfriend, Dora (Paltrow), appears to be on its last legs. The only thing Gary looks forward to anymore is sleeping--so that he might have a reoccurring dream about a beautiful mystery woman he calls Anna (Penelope Cruz). He even goes so far as to take dream workshops taught by a scruffy eccentric named Mel (Danny Devito), in the hopes of prolonging his experiences in his subconscious. He soon becomes obsessed with escaping into his dreamworld, and his real life begins to fall apart. Depressed and confused, he finally has a revelatory dream wherein he realizes he needs to make a major change and return to reality. He plots a grand romantic gesture to get his life back on track, but the plan backfires with rather shocking and tragic results.

DOCTOR WHO: Planet of Evil - BBC

Doctor Who tries to avert disaster when he’s called to rescue a doomed Morestran scientific mission on Zeta Minor. The lone surviving scientist won’t give up his fascination for the planet’s dark powers. This is one of the more interesting of the Tom Baker stories.

DOCTOR WHO: Destiny of the Daleks - BBC

This time around, it’s up to Doctor Who to stop the mischievous Daleks from running a surreptitious drilling operation and exterminating a humanoid race. Tom Baker is as mischievous as ever as the Doctor in this episode.

WALK THE LINE - Fox

Primarily the story of the love that grew between country stars Johnny Cash and June Carter during the early years of Cash’s career, Walk the Line is the result of intense collaboration between director James Mangold, co-writer Gill Dennis, Johnny Cash, and June Carter Cash. Though both Cashes died in 2003, they oversaw the script’s development for seven years. Mangold and Cash’s insistence that the film’s stars would actually sing paid off. Witherspoon’s singing (as June) is lovely, and Phoenix’s contains the raw energy and soul that defined Cash’s sound. Even as a child on a cotton farm in Depression-era Arkansas, Cash shows a strong interest in music, escaping from his no-frills life and strict father (Robert Patrick) through hymns and listening to the radio. When his brother dies in a freak accident, young Johnny feels responsible, and worries that he will never live up to his brother’s goodness. The film follows Cash through his first marriage with Vivian Cash (Ginnifer Goodwin) and into the early stages of his touring career alongside such musicians as Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, and most importantly, June Carter.

I AM LEGEND: Blu-ray - Warner

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.

PARTY OF FIVE: Season Three - Sony

After their parents are killed in a drunk driving accident, the five Salinger children--Charlie (Matthew Fox), Bailey (Scott Wolf), Julia (Neve Campbell), Claudia (Lacey Chabert), and baby Owen--are left to fend for themselves as they encounter a range of issues and life experiences. This release contains season three of Party of Five.

HITMAN: Blu-ray - Fox

Based on the popular Playstation 2 game, Hitman chronicles the frame-up and retribution-packed odyssey of Number 47 (Timothy Olyphant), a bald assassin raised from birth to be a killer and tattooed with a barcode on the back of his head. There’s lots of BOURNE SUPREMACY-style flash-edits and superhuman stunt work as 47 seeks to find out why moderate Russian presidential nominee Belicoff (Ulrich Thomsen) was the client for his own assassination, a hit that 47 pulled off perfectly, except for one hitch: the target’s still alive.

ICE AGE: Blu-ray - Fox

A star-studded cast provides the voices for the prehistoric creatures in this computer-animated feature set 20,000 years ago as the Ice Age approaches. Seemingly anti-social Manny, a woolly mammoth (Ray Romano), acts as if he just wants to be left alone. When he meets Sid (John Leguizamo), a sloth, the two become unlikely traveling companions. The plot thickens when the duo finds a human infant and decides to try to return the child to its “herd.” Manny slowly but surely reveals his heart of gold, while Sid continues to provide comic relief. Diego (Denis Leary), a saber-tooth tiger with ulterior motives, soon joins them in their search for the humans. Ultimately, this group of misfits becomes its own herd, learning about friendship and loyalty as they brave snow, ice, freezing temperatures, predators, hail, and even boiling lava pits. All the while, a saber-tooth squirrel, Scat, provides comic relief as he valiantly struggles with an acorn.

BEE MOVIE - Dreamworks

Bee Movie stars the popular comedian as the voice of Barry B. Benson, a young bee eager to explore the world outside of his hive. As he discovers how people live in New York City, he befriends a human florist, Vanessa Bloome (Renee Zellweger), and becomes outraged at the selling of honey, leading to a lawsuit and, of course, plenty of Seinfeldian misadventures. Helmed by directors Steve Hickner and Simon J. Smith, Bee Movie lightens Seinfeld’s notoriously stinging humor for a family audience, while staying true to its inherent New York-bred quirkiness.

GATTACA: Blu-ray - Columbia

In the 21st century, genetic engineering makes possible the creation of biologically superior human specimens (“valids”), who then grow to positions of power and prestige. Would-be astronaut Vincent (Ethan Hawke) born the old-fashioned way, can only hope for a janitorial position at the elite Gattaca Corporation--until he buys the blood, urine, and identity of a perfect but paralyzed athlete. But a murder in the company’s ranks attracts the attention of a detective who threatens to sniff Vincent out.

THE MAGIC BLADE - Image

Fu Hung Hsueh (Ti Lung) is a stoic and extremely skilled wandering swordsman in Chor Yuen’s The Magic Blade. Based on a novel by Gu Long, the film opens with Fu engaged in a showdown with Yen Nan-Fei (Lo Lieh) over a previously unresolved duel. Soon, their rivalry is put aside as the warriors of an unseen evil sorcerer named Yu attack Yen. Fu saves Yen’s life and the two join forces against Master Yu in a race to find the ultimate weapon: the exploding “peacock dart!” After fighting more killers, Fu and Yen procure the peacock dart from its keeper. The two men set off to find the elusive Yu along with the beautiful, pure-hearted Chiu Yu-Cheng (Cheng Lee). Eventually, Yen is separated from his companions, leaving Fu to carry the rest of the film on his broad shoulders. Fu and Chiu also fall in love, and meet many people along the way who also want the dart. Their journey is filled with as many plot twists as wire-flips, and Fu has to use his wits as much as his skills as a swordsman to complete his quest.

THAT 70’s SHOW: Season Eight - Fox

Fondly commemorating and gently poking fun at the trends, fashions, and attitudes that made the decade of the 1970s so distinct, THAT 70s SHOW chronicles the rites of passage of a group of teens growing up in the Wisconsin suburbs. Eric Forman (Topher Grace) lives with his parents, his no-nonsense dad, Red (Kurtwood Smith), and his somewhat loopy mother, Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp), and hangs out with his sometimes girlfriend, Donna (Laura Prepon), cheerleader Jackie (Mila Kunis), hunky Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), conspiracy theorist Hyde (Danny Masterson), and clueless exchange student Fez (Wilmer Valderrama). The show revolves around the ever-shifting social dynamics of the teens and their families, and despite the silliness of the sitcom situations, the show touches on serious issues (absent fathers, marital problems), and at times creates a surprising poignancy.

Nick be reached at Nick@filmlords.com

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   Last Update:  April 30, 2008