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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  

MATLOCK: Season One - Paramount

There are TV lawyers and then there’s Matlock. Folksy yet aggressive, Harvard educated but still down to earth--Andy Griffith’s portrayal of the clever Southern attorney is one of the all-time classic icons of television legal dramas. Fans who have followed the show for all of its nine seasons will be thrilled to revisit how the program began.

They’ll also be surprised at how much the show changed over the years, while some things remained the same throughout its storied run. From his simple gray Ford to his predilection for hot dogs, Matlock came across as both a personable and humorous character whose $100,000 fee was always worth the dough. Along with Tyler Hudson (Kene Holliday) and Matlock’s daughter Charlene (Lori Lethan), the first season established the format that the show would follow throughout its time on the air. The cases no one could solve, the clients no one could help, and the scandals no one could uncover are all deftly handled by Matlock and his team. For those who have never seen the show, this collection will clarify the program’s immense popularity, while longtime fans will get to take a trip back in time and be reminded of why the fell in love in the first place. Includes 24 episodes plus the original pilot.

LOCH NESS TERROR - Sony

A rash of suspicious and gruesome murders in a sleepy lakeside town has authorities stumped. They soon realize the culprit is not only connected to the lake, but in it! They must figure out what it is and how to stop it before it’s too late. This DVD falls into the category of “you’ve got to be kidding me.”

PREDATOR: Blu-ray - Fox

Sent to eliminate a gun-running camp in Central America, United States Major Dutch Schaeffer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his commandos get more than they bargained for when they cross paths with a mysterious assassin. As members of their unit begin to disappear, Dutch, Dillon (Carl Weathers), and Blain (Jesse Ventura) conclude that whatever is hunting them is not of this earth. Every attempt at a tactical defense is a defeated for Dutch and company and it is only in the last stretch of their race to safety that their suspicions are confirmed and they encounter the alien nimrod face to face.

JUNO: Blu-ray - Fox

The word “quirky” has become the quick and easy way to describe films such as Little Miss Sunshine and Lars and the Real Girl that straddle the lines between indie and studio films and comedy and drama. While Juno fits into that same category, this distinctive dramedy is in a class all its own. Ellen Page stars as Juno, a witty teenage girl whose boredom doesn’t lead her to the mall. Instead, she makes a one-time trip into the arms of her best friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). When Juno discovers that she’s pregnant, she’s forced to grow up fast as she tries to find adoptive parents for her quickly growing child. Juno might have a lot of strengths--Page’s award-worthy performance, a pitch-perfect soundtrack, excellent direction from Jason Reitman--but it’s the screenwriting debut of writer Cody Diablo that makes this such a winning film.

ALIEN AGENT - Allumination

Rykker is an intergalactic warrior trapped on Earth, destined to fight a gang of ruthless aliens known as The Syndicate. The syndicate is an alien fifth column plotting to take over the world. The film opens with a spectacular highway chase, as Rykker liquidates several syndicate agents. Saylon is a top syndicate leader who comes from outer space and crash-lands on Earth. His mission to build a wormhole link between Earth and the alien planet - a portal - making possible a full-scale invasion of the Earth. Isis is the sexy and ruthless leader of the syndicate on Earth. While launching a robbery spree to steal the spare parts necessary to build the portal, Isis becomes hell bent on destroying Rykker and clearing the way for Saylon’s master plan. Julie is a fifteen year old who’s family is murdered During the hijacking of a truck carrying material for the portal. Julie left totally alone in the world, seeks vengeance on the killers. Rykker also seeks to find them.

SHIRLEY TEMPLE COLLECTION: Volume Six - Fox

Hollywood’s original child star will be making audiences S-M-I-L-E when The Shirley Temple Collection Volume Six charms its way to DVD on the eve of her 80th birthday, April 22nd from Fox Home Entertainment.

The collection contains three of America’s sweetheart’s treasured films digitally restored in widescreen presentation: Young People, Stowaway and the John Ford classic Wee Willie Winkie. Taking the screen at the age of four and rising to fame by the age of six, the adored entertainer captured the hearts of audiences during the height of the Depression with her delightful song and dance and memorable films. Continuing to steal hearts everywhere, her timeless films continue to charm and enchant many generations. Showcasing the beloved songs “That’s What I Want For Christmas,” “Fifth Avenue,” and “You Got To S-M-I-L-E,” The Shirley Temple Collection Volume Six also includes both the black and white restored original as well as an all-new tinted color version of Wee Willie Winkie.

GENE SIMMONS FAMILY JEWELS: Best of Seasons One and Two - A&E

Larger-than-life Kiss icon Gene Simmons lives with his girlfriend, former Playboy model Shannon Tweed. Simmons and Tweed have two kids, Nick and Sophie, and the four live an idyllic existence in an impressive home. GENE SIMMONS FAMILY JEWELS is an OSBOURNES-style reality show about the Simmons family, with camera crews tracking their every move as they perform both remarkable and mundane everyday tasks. A selection of episodes from seasons one and two of the show are included here.

CHILD’S PLAY - MGM

The Lake Shore Strangler, a mass murderer who has plagued the Chicago area for months, meets his untimely end when he gets shot in a toy warehouse. Left for dead, the killer summons the strength to recite a voodoo chant which causes his soul to be “reincarnated” into one of the dolls resting on the shelves. The incantation also sparks an unnatural lightning storm, and when lightning hits the warehouse, it burns to the ground. Only one doll survives: the doll possessed by the killer’s soul. Later, a mother innocently buys this doll as a present for her son. At first, everything seems fine, but soon the doll starts communicating with the young boy. Then he slays the child’s babysitter. That’s only the first of his many gruesome exploits, however. So watch out... because just when you think Chucky’s gone -- he might be coming back.

ONE MISSED CALL - Warner

In the tradition of The Ring, The Grudge, Dark Water, and Pulse, One Missed Call is yet another moody Japanese ghost story to be adapted for American screens. Originally made by cult director Takashi Miike in 2003 from Yasushi Akimoto’s novel Chakushin Ari, this American version retains the elements that are sure to please J-Horror fans--jerky apparitions, ghostly children, desperate messages from beyond the grave, possessed electronic devices, and strong female characters. While this remake, which is the debut English-language film from French director Eric Valette, dispenses with some of the freakiness of Miike’s version, the creepiness remains. Shannon Sossamon is Beth, a developmental psychology student who has plenty of cause for concern after her friend Leann (Azura Skye) receives a panicked cell phone message from herself days in the future. After Leann falls in front of a train at the same date and time on the message, Beth suspects that she may be next. Beth’s fear seems even more justified after her friend Taylor (Ana Claudia Talancon) befalls a similar fate as her phone message is being investigated by a reality TV host (Ray Wise) who specializes in unexplained phenomena. With the help of police chief Jack Andrews (Ed Byrnes), Beth discovers a link between the calls and a deceased mother and daughter.

AMERICAN DAD: Volume Three - Fox

From the creators of The Family Guy comes another outrageous and over-the-top take on the American nuclear family. With his doting wife, Francine, at his side, Stan Smith--CIA agent, anti-terror operative, and upstanding citizen--runs a household that includes his ultra-liberal daughter, Hayley; his dweeb son, Steve; a sarcastic alien named Roger; and a lascivious German goldfish, Klaus.

THE 11th HOUR - Warner

Environmental documentary 11th Hour resides at the polar opposite of escapist summer fare, its mission to firmly confront viewers about the indelible human footprint that humans have left on this planet, and the catastrophic effects of environmental neglect and abuse. Produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, and ably directed by Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Peterson, the documentary doesn’t get much fancier than talking heads, news footage, and the occasional animated illustration, but its message is potent and delivered effectively. The first hour of the film is essentially a horror story, recounting the myriad sins perpetrated against the environment (pollution, deforestation, over-mining resources), the reasons behind it (corporate greed, faulty public policy, bad leadership, ignorance), and what it means for the human race. Thankfully, the last third of the movie tilts the mood upward, with a spirited discussion of solutions, offered by a crack team of scientists, designers, and thinkers. Stirring visions of alternate energy sources, diversified transportation, enlightened governmental agendas, sustainable homes and cities, and, most importantly, more conscious consumer choices leave viewers with the palpable feeling that change is both necessary and possible. If the “eleventh hour” for our planet is drawing near, this admirable film points confidently towards a new dawn.

CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR - Universal

Charlie Wilson (Hanks) was a bachelor congressman from Texas who had a habit of showing up in hot tubs with strippers and cocaine. His “Good Time Charlie” exterior, however, masked an extraordinary mind, a deep sense of patriotism and a passion for the underdog, and in the early 1980s the underdog was Afghanistan--which had just been brutally invaded by the Russians. Charlie’s longtime friend and patron and sometime lover was Joanne Herring (Roberts), one of the wealthiest women in Texas and a virulent anti-communist. Believing the American response to the Russian invasion was anemic at best, she prods Charlie into doing more for the Mujahideen (Afghan freedom fighters). Charlie’s partner in this uphill endeavor is CIA Agent Gust Avrakotos (Hoffman), a blue-collar operative in a company of Ivy League blue bloods. Together, the three of them--Charlie, Joanne and Gust--travel the world to form unlikely alliances among the Pakistanis, Israelis, Egyptians, arms dealers, law makers and a belly dancer. Their success was remarkable. Funding for covert operations against the Soviets went from $5 million to $1 billion annually. The Red Army retreated out of Afghanistan. When asked how a group of peasants was able to deliver such a decisive blow to the army of a superpower, Pakistani President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq responded simply, “Charlie did it.”

TREVOR ROMAIN: Self Help Series for Children - Porchlight

Using humor, original music and a fast-paced storyline, Trevor Romain offers kids practical, easy-to-implement solutions for dealing with their own bully problems such as work on building your confidence, staying calm, giving bullies lots of space, telling an adult and more!

And Trevor also encourages kids not to believe myths about bullying such as getting bullied is normal, bullies are always boys, and the best way to handle bullies is to ignore them or fight back. There are currently seven titles in the Trevor Romain series with each one providing a sensible approach towards dealing with real life issues for kids. Whether taking care of your body, dealing with cliques in school or divorce at home, bullies, homework, the death of a loved one, or even fear tactics, this series presents real life answers for kids in a manner they can both understand and enjoy. This is a DVD series for all kids and every school library should definitely have this set. Simply not to be missed!

Nick be reached at Nick@filmlords.com

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   Last Update:  April 30, 2008