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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.
 
THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM - Lions Gate

The film begins in modern-day Boston. There, while teenage kung-fu flick enthusiast Jason (Michael Angarano) is buying bootleg DVDs from his favorite shopkeeper, Old Hop (Chan, aged by prosthetic makeup), he is drawn to an ancient golden staff. When a local bully forces weakling Jason to help rob Old Hop, Jason escapes with the staff and is magically transported to ancient China. He is soon rescued from the forces of the Jade Warlord by Lu Yan (Chan), a raggedy wanderer whose wine-guzzling ways conceal his kung-fu mastery. Yan reveals the truth of the staff, and that Jason is the fabled Seeker who must return it to the Monkey King (Li) to prevent the warlord’s evil plans. The two are joined in their quest by a kung-fu master, Silent Monk (Li), and a beautiful orphan (Liu Yifei) who harbors her own personal vendetta. Despite their differences, the two masters teach Jason the ways of the kung-fu warrior. And when Lu Yan is gravely wounded by the warlord’s sexy assassin, Jason must bring his newfound skills and courage to bear if he is to save one world and return to his own.

SMART PEOPLE: Blu-ray - BVHE

Dennis Quaid stars as a bitter, washed out widower in Smart People, a film that tackles the lives of several seriously unhappy people in surprisingly funny and touching ways. A hated literature professor at Carnegie Mellon, Lawrence Wetherhold has been earning the scorn of his students, colleagues, and family since the death of his wife several years ago. The only person on his side is his teenage daughter Vanessa (Ellen Page), whose loyalty and similarities to her father belie her tender age. Between running the Young Republicans club and aiming for a perfect SAT score, the over-achieving high school student knows no life beyond the insular world of family. When the film begins, the family dynamics are well established, with Lawrence merely going through the motions of his life, unable to muster up any passion for parenting or even his literary expertise. It takes a seizure, an unexpected visit from his adopted brother (Thomas Haden Church), and a new romantic interest (Sarah Jessica Parker) to shake things up and stir Lawrence from his constant misery.

NIXON: Blu-ray - BVHE

Using a nonchronological narrative style ‡ la Citizen Kane, director Oliver Stone explores former president Richard Nixon’s strict Quaker upbringing, his nascent political strivings in law school, and his strangely self-effacing courtship of his wife, Pat (played by Joan Allen). The contradictions in his character are revealed early, in the vicious campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas and the oddly masochistic Checkers speech. His defeat at the hands of the hated and envied John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election, followed by the loss of the 1962 California gubernatorial race, seem to signal the end of his career. Yet, although wholly lacking in charisma, Nixon remains a brilliant political operator, seizing the opportunity provided by the backlash against the antiwar movement to take the presidency in 1968. It is only when safely in office, running far ahead in the polls for the 1972 presidential election, that his growing paranoia comes to full flower, triggering the Watergate scandal. Surprisingly, Stone evinces considerable compassion as he gives us a Nixon of tragic stature and nearly Shakespearean dimension in this powerfully moving film. The star-studded cast, including Ed Harris and James Woods, complements Hopkins’s extraordinary performance.

MARRIED WITH CHILDREN: Season 9 - Sony

The Bundy saga continues with the eighth 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 ninth collection of episodes.

NCIS: Season Five - Paramount

Television’s charismatic military investigative team is back in season five of this clever show about what goes on behind the sealed doors of the Navy and the Marines. Former head of the unit, Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) is forced to come out of retirement to help his colleague Ziva David (Cote de Pablo), when she finds herself in heap of trouble. But will his return to the NCIS team lead to any more revelations about his past? And what other secrets might be uncovered when the entire team comes under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security? The mysteries are creative and thrilling, but the real charm lies in the quirky gang of detectives and scientists who are equal parts brilliant investigators and eccentric personalities.

PROM NIGHT - Sony

It’s been three years since her family was murdered by a teacher obsessed with her, and Donna (Brittany Snow) is getting ready to go to the prom with her boyfriend, Bobby (Scott Porter). Now living with her aunt and uncle, Donna has just started having nightmares again about the tragedy, especially the part where she was hiding under the bed as she watched the teacher, Richard Fenton (Johnathon Schaech), kill her mother. On prom night, Detective Winn (Idris Elba), who handled the original case, is suddenly told that three days ago Fenton had broken out of the psychiatric hospital where he was imprisoned, and is now missing. With a strong suspicion that Fenton will be heading after Donna to fulfill what he believes is his destiny--to be with her--Winn and Detective Nash (James Ransone) go to the prom, which is being held in a lavish hotel, to keep their eyes on Donna and to watch out for Fenton. But Fenton is a crafty villain, already on another murderous rampage as he makes his way toward Donna, who he believes belongs to him and only him.

PHANTASM IV: Oblivion - Anchor Bay

Picking up precisely where the last installment left off, Phantasm IV: Oblivion finds Mike (Baldwin) traveling through time to escape his evil nemesis, the Tall Man (Scrimm). In an attempt to unearth the origins of his enemy, Mike enters a dimensional gate leading to the 19th century, where he meets the Tall Man as an innocent (and actually friendly) scientist on the brink of unlocking the secrets of gates and spheres. Meanwhile, Reggie (Bannister) remains in the present fighting off the undead menace (and his murderous flying hardware) in an effort to save his friend’s life. Phantasm IV: Oblivion contains a never-before-seen scene cut from the first installment during a flashback sequence, and features the same director, writer, and cast as the original 1979 cult classic.

 

Nick be reached at Filmlords@gmail.com

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   Last Update:  August 20, 2008