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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  
GRACE IS GONE - Genius

John Cusack (1408) is Stanley Phillips, a husband and father who waits while his wife Grace is off serving in Iraq. When he learns of her death, he can’t bear to tell his two daughters the news. To postpone the inevitable, the normally staid father proposes a spontaneous road trip to his girls, and the three set off for the fun of an amusement park called Enchanted Gardens. GRACE IS GONE picked up a pair of awards at Sundance: the Audience Award and Best Screenplay. It’s a deeply affecting drama that never resorts to manipulation in achieving its aims. Instead, it relies on the strong script from Strouse, as well as a trio of fantastic performances. As Stanley and Grace’s young daughters, Gracie Bednarczyk and Shélan O’Keefe make memorable film debuts. Their relationships with both each other and their cinematic father feel completely genuine.

THE GOLDEN COMPASS - New Line

The story opens with Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards) an orphan girl who lives in an alternate world that is similar to earth, but where people’s souls exist outside of their bodies in animal form. The people are ruled by a shadowy and oppressive council known as the Magisterium, which is doing it’s best to keep everyone from getting information about what is called “Dust.” Lyra’s Uncle Asriel (Daniel Craig) has been researching Dust, and he has seen to it that Lyra is given safe shelter at Jordan College. But when the visiting Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman) arrives, she asks Lyra to accompany her on a trip to the North to meet the Panserbjorne, a race of armored bears. Before Lyra leaves, the Headmaster gives her a golden compass, a device which only she can read, and from which she can intuit the truth. Lyra leaves with Mrs. Coulter, but when she learns that her friends have been kidnapped by “Gobblers,” she heads out to find them, and soon joins forces with the nomadic Gyptians, some witches, and an armored bear called Iorek Byrnison (voice by Ian McKellen). Lyra finds her friends, and so discovers the evil plans the Magisterium has cooked up for the world’s children. By the film’s end, she has vowed to track down her Uncle Asriel, and to discover the true power of Dust. Hollywood had a tricky time of taming this tale, as Pullman’s books portray religion - the Catholic Church in particular - in a less than flattering light.

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: Season Four - Paramount

Following the globetrotting exploits of a covert taskforce of government spies--team leader James Phelps (Peter Graves), electronics expert Barney Collier (Greg Morris), tough guy Willy Armitage (Peter Lupus), and master of disguise The Great Paris (Leonard Nimoy, replacing Martin Landau)--the series distinguished itself with intricate plotting, high-tech gadgetry, inventive cinematography, and, of course, an indelible theme song. Smart and iconic, the vintage series is resurrected in this collection of episodes from the fourth season.

NARNIA - The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe: Blu-ray - Disney

As the story begins, Mrs. Pevensie--in order to keep her children safe during World War II--sends Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmond (Skandar Keynes), Susan (Anna Popplewell), and Peter (William Moseley) off to stay at a professor’s country estate. Away from London and under the care of a strict housekeeper, they are instructed to stick to themselves and stay out of trouble. But when an innocent game of hide-and-seek leads young Lucy to a spare room containing a large wardrobe, she discovers something that will change their lives forever. Inside the wardrobe there is a world frosted with ice and filled with magical beings. Known as Narnia, the land is stuck in eternal winter at the hands of the cruel White Witch, played with great force by the pale, strong-featured Tilda Swinton. When she steps back into reality, Lucy struggles to convince her skeptical siblings of the things she’s seen.

THE FIRE WITHIN - Criterion

At his doctor’s request, Alain, a disillusioned alcoholic writer, leaves a clinic in Versailles where he is drying out and returns to Paris to visit his friends and old haunts. Alain has made up his mind to commit suicide and, giving himself a 48 hour period, searches for reasons to live. Although his friends care a great deal for him, Alain cannot muster enough feeling for them. When he again examines the superficial lives they lead -- the very life he himself led -- Alain strengthens his resolve to kill himself.

SENIOR SKIP DAY - Firstlook

Adam Harris, a semi-lame senior, is head over heels in love with Cara. Unfortunately she is the most popular girl in school. On the one day of the year that he could actually have a chance, senior skip day, he screws it all up by accidentally slipping the location of the party to his principle. But have no fear, in a last resort effort he moves the party to his house and all seems to be well. Or is it...?

Nick be reached at Nick@filmlords.com

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   Last Update:  May 28, 2008