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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  

BATMAN: The Movie - FOX

From the height of the television show’s popularity, this full-length movie features all four of the famous crime fighters’ most dastardly and cunning adversaries: the Penguin, the Joker, the Riddler, and the Catwoman, joining forces to take over the world thanks to a De-Hydrator that turns people into piles of dust. The dynamic duo pull out all the stops, with a BIFF! and a KA-POW!, to stop the bad guys.

4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS & 2 DAYS - IFC

Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, Cristian Mungiu’s excruciatingly intense drama is set in Bucharest in the mid-1980s, as Nicolae Ceaucescu and his evil dictatorship continue to reign. In a country where abortion is outlawed, a young college student, Gabita (Laura Vasiliu), finds herself in big trouble. Unsure what to do, she turns to her roommate, Otilia (Anamaria Marinca), for help. On the day on which the film takes place, the pair connects with a black market doctor, Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), in order to take care of Gabita’s pregnancy--but, of course, it isn’t that simple. The resulting 24 hours reveals a harrowing descent into a world in which the possibility of tragedy lurks around every corner. Mungiu’s decision to film every scene in a hyper-documentary style, with long, unbroken takes (by co-producer Oleg Mutu), ratchets up the tension to nearly unbearable proportions. Adding even greater drama is his decision to focus on the friend, not the victim. Marinca’s face, filmed in unflinching close-ups, expresses the impossibly complex flood of emotions that nag her throughout the day. The film’s true revelation, however, is Ivanov, whose portrayal of the shady doctor is an absolute tour-de-force.

WIENERS - Sony

Kenan Thompson stars as Wyatt, a man with a home-made wiener wagon that comes in handy when he and Ben (Zachary Levi of television’s CHUCK) decide the only thing that will cheer up their depressed friend Joel (Fran Kranz, THE TV SET) after being humiliated on Dr. Dwayne’s talk show is to take Joel on a cross-country drive and give that pompous windbag the beating of his life. Wyatt kills two birds with one stone, handing free hot dogs out to the public along the way in hopes that the stunt will land him his dream job at Oscar Meyer. Throughout their journey the three dudes encounter a cross section of freaks, weirdos, and losers. Saturday Night Live’s Darrell Hammond co-stars as Dr. Dwayne, along with Jenny McCarthy, comedian Andy Milonakis, and Joel Moore.

THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL: Blu-ray - Sony

Based on the best selling novel by Philippa Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl is an engrossing and sensual tale of intrigue, romance, and betrayal set against the backdrop of a defining moment in history. Two sisters, Anne (Natalie Portman) and Mary (Scarlett Johansson) Boleyn, are driven by their ambitious father and uncle to advance the family’s power and status by courting the affections of the King of England (Eric Bana). Leaving behind the simplicity of country life, the girls are thrust into the dangerous and thrilling world of court life – and what began as a bid to help their family develops into a ruthless rivalry between Anne and Mary for the love of the king. Initially, Mary wins King Henry’s favor and becomes his mistress, bearing him an illegitimate child. But Anne, clever, conniving, and fearless, edges aside both her sister and Henry’s wife, Queen Katherine of Aragon, in her relentless pursuit of the king. Despite Mary’s genuine feelings for Henry, her sister Anne has her sights set on the ultimate prize; Anne will not stop until she is Queen of England.

JUST ADD WATER - Sony

This quirky comedy from writer-director Hart Bochner (PCU) stars NIP/TUCK’s Dylan Walsh as a Ray Tuckby, a middle-aged man who simply never got around to leading a more exciting life. But when the small-town resident discovers his wife cheating, he begins to change things for the better, including reuniting with an old flame (Tracy Hiddendorf).

FUNNY GAMES - Warner

In 1997, writer-director Michael Haneke (CACHE) made the controversial Austrian thriller, FUNNY GAMES, about two young men who terrorize a family on vacation. A decade later, Haneke was convinced by producer Chris Coen to bring the story to America, filming a nearly word-for-word, shot-for-shot English-language version, even re-creating the locations and sets as obsessively as possible. Shortly after Ann (Naomi Watts), George (Tim Roth), and Georgie (Devon Gearhart) arrive in their country home, Peter (Brady Corbet), an eerily polite young man dressed all in white, including odd white gloves, appears on the doorstep, asking Ann if he can borrow some eggs for their neighbor. Peter is joined by Paul (Michael Pitt), and the Leopold-and-Loeb-like duo are soon doing horrible things to Ann, George, and Georgie, torturing them both physically and psychologically (nearly all the violence occurs off-screen), for no apparent reason other than they can, referring to the whole thing as a game. And the biggest game of all is whether the family will be alive at the end.

BE KIND REWIND - New Line

Set in dreary Passaic, New Jersey, the comedy centers on two of the town’s residents: trouble-making Jerry (Jack Black) and well-meaning Mike (Mos Def). Mike works in a video store in an age where the VHS is long dead, but the store’s owner, Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover), doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to change. When Mr. Fletcher leaves town for a trip, he entrusts his store to Mike with one piece of advice: don’t let Jerry in the store. But after some mischief, Jerry returns to the store in a strange state. Not only is he weirder than usual, but he’s also magnetized, which causes the entire store’s stock to be erased.

In order to keep the struggling business afloat, Mike and Jerry begin remaking the films in the store one by one.

SHORT CIRCUIT - Image

When a laser-armed Department of Defense robot named Number 5 gets zapped by a lightning bolt, he “malfunctions” and starts spouting peace slogans and developing a human-like consciousness. Naturally, the newly pacifist machine wants out of the military and escapes. As a frantic search for the creature begins, Number 5 settles down in his new home, with a gentle young woman named Stephanie (Ally Sheedy), who has every intention of holding on to her find, teaching Number 5 about popular culture and other mysteries of life. Thoroughly convinced that the robot is alive, she develops a strong bond with the creature. In order to prevent his capture by the military--who view Number 5 as an armed-and-dangerous weapon--the pair must convince his inventor, a reclusive scientist named Newton Crosby (Steve Guttenberg), that he is truly alive and more than just a metal machine.

ER: Ninth Season - Warner

Nothing’s slowed down in this ninth season of ER, as the show’s addictive mix of pulse-pounding medical procedures and personal dilemmas continue to reverberate through Chicago’s County General Hospital. Things start off with a bang as a smallpox outbreak causes pandemonium among the staff. As the series progresses, Dr. Carter (Noah Wyle) begins a love affair that may turn out to bite him in the back, while Dr. Kovac’s (Goran Visnjic) hard-partying off-duty also starts to catch up with him. Meanwhile, there’s much relief when the doctors learn that the abrasive Dr. Weaver (Laura Innes) will soon be leaving the ER--that is, until Dr. Roman (Paul McCrane) steps in to fill her shoes. Split-second decisions, institutional battles, and human tragedy--it’s all part of a day’s work in this ninth season of the long-running medical drama.

MAGGIE SMITH AT THE BBC - A&E

Legendary actress Dame Maggie Smith has been dazzling audiences for generations. And in a career full of triumphant moments, some of her greatest have been captured in the productions produced for the BBC.

Collected here are Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, George Bernard Shaw’s The Millionairess, Alan Bennett’s A Bed Among the Lentils, and Tennessee William’s Suddenly Last Summer. The performances presented here represent over 20 years of her career at the BBC and will remind fans just how much a powerful actress can bring to classic stage productions.

THE RECRUIT: Blu-ray - Touchstone

James Clayton is fired up. A bartender by night and computer hacker in the few hours of daylight for which he manages to leave his water bed, the kid is flying high, on a roll with a laid-back lifestyle that suits him just fine. Played by an agile Colin Farrell, Clayton is also a heartthrob with his five o’clock shadow and chiseled pecks. A cushy job offer from Dell computers peaks his interest in securing a professional career, and at the same moment he meets Walter Burke (Al Pacino), a recruiter from the CIA. Though Clayton’s better judgement tells him to stay away from the shady Burke, he is curious to learn whatever he can about his father, who was also a CIA agent, killed in the line of duty. Clayton is sent to an intensive CIA training camp called “The Farm,” where he quickly learns the gravity of his decision as he undergoes gruelling tests of physical, mental, and psychological strength. His romantic interest in the gorgeous, tough-as-nails Layla (Bridget Moynahan), a fellow trainee, becomes a weakness as the pressure of the tests steadily increases. Finally, without warning, Clayton is thrown into action as he and Burke go head-to-head in a mission that is more dangerous than either of them realize.

SIGNS: Blu-ray - Touchstone

It’s contaminated. That’s what pint-sized Bo (Abigail Breslin) says about every glass of water that she tries to drink, then rejects. This is just one in a long list of strange occurrences that are changing the lives of the Hess family. Things go awry when Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) and his brother, Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), awake early one morning to find the dogs barking and the children--Bo, and her brother Morgan (Rory Culkin)--wandering bleary eyed in the corn fields. They discover a pattern of perfectly carved crop circles left the night before. Trying not to overreact, Graham ignores the media frenzy that has permeated all television and radio stations, and even shrugs off the oddly familiar information that Morgan reads in his book about extraterrestrials invading earth. The real challenge for Graham is to find the faith he needs to pull himself, and his family, through this unexplainable series of events.

RESCUE ME: Season Four - Sony

In this fourth season of the hit dramatic series from FX, the entire Ladder 62 crew is persecuted by the media for failing to prevent the death of seven children in a fire. That, unfortunately, is only the beginning of the tragedy and turmoil in store for the boys and their families. Tommy’s daughter Colleen runs away from home, Janet is concerned her newborn baby doesn’t like her, the verdict is announced for Uncle Teddy’s manslaughter trial, and one of Engine 62’s own commits suicide. As if that weren’t enough, Tommy himself is being investigated for a beach house fire in the incendiary fourth season of this feverishly macho, seriocomic heavyweight. An apoplectic Denis Leary once again leads the game cast, who is joined by guest stars Gina Gershon, Desmond Harrington, and Artie Lange.

Nick be reached at Nick@filmlords.com

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   Last Update:  August 06, 2008