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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.
 

SPACE CHIMPS: Blu-ray - Fox

Circus monkey Ham III (Andy Samberg) works in a circus where he’s regularly shot from a canon but he still lives in the shadow of his father’s legacy (Ham I was the first chimp shot into space in 1961). A natural born rebel against authority, Ham the third is initially reluctant to go on a dangerous space mission to rescue a lost space probe, but away he goes, for lots of RIGHT STUFF-style astro-training alongside two highly prepared chimps, Luna and Titan (Cheryl Hines and Patrick Warburton). NASA’s by-the-book methods jar with Ham’s mischief-making of course, but once the space training ends, the mission begins, with myriad dangers along the way, including: a big-toothed monster and a run amok alien named Zartog (Jeff Daniels) whose harnessed the previous space probe for world-domination purposes, all good opportunities for Ham III to redeem himself.

BAKUGAN: Volume Two - Cartoon Network

Based on the popular card game, this anime series follows Dan and his friends as they pit their Bakugan monsters against each other. But what starts as a simple game turns into a quest to save the universe from destruction! With their powerful creatures under their command, these young heroes must halt Hal-G before his despicable plan is set into motion. This second volume continues their quest with four more episodes of action.

STEP BROTHERS - Sony

The Step Brothers plot is about as simple as they come: Brennan Huff (Ferrell) and Dale Doback (Reilly) are deadbeat man-children thrown together when the single parents with whom they live marry. The two initially despise one another, but become fast friends over a shared love of ninjas, COPS, porno mags, and the comforts of living in the fantasy world of a prolonged adolescence. What makes Step Brothers so much fun, however, has nothing to do with story or script; rather, it’s McKay’s foresight to step back and let Ferrell and Reilly run wild. The duo kick and punch, fart and burp, laugh and cry, yet somehow elevate such banalities to a level of grotesque poetry, hitting upon what feels like an entirely new comedic language. When the pair act like children, they are not presenting themselves as immature adults, but are literally acting like children, meticulously duplicating everything from the fears and concerns to the speech patterns and awkward physicality of children. It sounds simple enough, but it requires a dexterity and sense of timing and delivery that is actually quite amazing.

FRED CLAUS:

Blu-ray - Warner

Sibling rivalry takes on a new dimension in director David Dobkin’s third collaboration with actor Vince Vaughn, FRED CLAUS. Ever since his younger brother, Nicholas (Paul Giamatti), was born, it seems that nothing Fred Claus (Vince Vaughn) does is good enough. Nicholas literally becomes a saint and is beloved by millions worldwide, but Fred is just a regular Joe. When Fred finds himself in need of big money in a hurry, little brother Santa is the only one he can turn to. Soon, Fred is working at the North Pole to earn some quick cash and shaking things up with the elves to the delight of efficiency expert Clyde Northcutt (Kevin Spacey), who is on a mission to close down Santa’s operation. Can the dueling Claus brothers work together to save Christmas? A sweet lesson is thrown in amongst the sibling rivalry and hijinx: there are really no naughty children at Christmas, just kids who may need a little or love or a second chance.

SOUNDER - Koch

An extremely powerful and uplifting story about a family of black sharecroppers, the Morgans, set in rural Louisiana during the early 1930s, Martin Ritt’s Sounder is so simple and effective that it evokes an emotional response from viewers of all ages. Even so, Sounder is not a children’s film by any means; it treats serious, adult issues, and features some of the most deeply felt performances and mature relationships ever captured on film. Sounder’s title comes from the name of the Morgan family dog that young David Lee Morgan takes with him while hunting with his father, Nathan. Unfortunately, times are so hard for the Morgans that when Nathan tries to steal a ham for his family, he is caught and sent to a labor camp. David, now the man of the house, sets out on a journey to find the camp where his father was sent. On his way, he comes across an all-black school where he enrolls, learning empowering lessons about black achievement in America. Based on the Newberry Award winning novel by William H. Armstrong, Sounder not only improves on its source material, but it is also one of the rare films about the black experience that moves people of all races.

WHITE DOG - Criterion

A blunt parable about racism, Sam Fuller’s White Dog explores what happens when a young actress (Christy McNichol) adopts a German Shephard that has been trained to attack black people. After a number of terrifying attacks, she hires a black trainer (Paul Winfield) to rehabilitate the animal. Together, their effort to cure the white dog of its vicious upbringing becomes something an ethical experiment: can hatred be unlearned? A trenchant moral drama that isn’t subtle, or easy to forget, WHITE DOG is well aided by Ennio Morricone’s fine musical score which deepens its operatic dimensions and adds a layer of psychological unease. Produced in 1982, the film’s controversial subject matter caused it to be withheld from theatrical release until 1991.

HOW’D THEY BUILD THAT? FIRETRUCK! - Marvelous Media

With their screaming sirens and life-saving ladders, fire engines are often quick to captivate curious kids. This entry in the Marvelous Machines series takes young viewers behind the scenes at the Seagrave Fire Apparatus manufacturing plant, where hundreds of fire trucks are assembled--by hand!--every year. This is a wonderful DVD item for kids! Who didn’t want to be a fireman when they were a child? The roar of the engine and the pitch of the siren - kids love them!

24: REDEMPTION - Fox

Redemption sets the scene for the seventh season of Fox’s blockbuster action series 24, and it does so with all the fast-paced verve fans have come to expect from the franchise. This feature-length movie finds Federal Agent Jack Bauer working alongside old friend Carl Benton (Robert Carlyle) at an underprivileged boys’ school in war-ravaged Sangala, Africa. Despite receiving a subpoena from a squirrelly bureaucrat (Gil Bellows), Jack springs into action when the coward of a U.N. representative who’s been assigned to protect the village does nothing to stop a heinous warlord (Tony Todd) from kidnapping schoolchildren to be recruited in his army and staging a coup. Meanwhile, in the United States, it’s the day of inauguration for the country’s first female president, Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones), but her son just may be the target of the corrupt businessman (Jon Voight) responsible for funding that bloody African uprising. For fans of 24, this full-throttle TV movie is a must-see.

PETTICOAT JUNCTION: Season One - Paramount

From the mind of Paul Henning, creator of The Beverly Hillbillies, came this charming sitcom that aired from 1963-70. Set in the fictional Hootersville, the show followed the goings-on at the Shady Rest Hotel, run by Kate Bradley (Bea Benaderet) and her three gorgeous daughters: blond, boy-crazy Billie Jo (Jeannine Riley); literary, intellectual Bobbie Joe (Pat Woodell); and redheaded tomboy Betty Joe (Linda Henning). The only way to reach the hotel was via the Cannonball Express, which was run by Charley Pratt (Smiley Burnette) and Floyd Smoot (Rufe Davis). The girls’ Uncle Joe (Edgar Buchanan), who fancied himself the hotel’s general manager but instead just generally shirked, and Sam Drucker (Frank Cady), who ran the General Store, round out the cast. This release features the first season of the classic country-themed show.

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL - Fox

Beginning with a documentary style that immediately hooks the viewer, The Day the Earth Stood Still, based on the Harry Bates short story “Farewell to the Master,” becomes as much a human interest story as it does a sci-fi B-movie classic. The film soberly depicts the arrival of an alien dignitary, Klaatu (Michael Rennie), who has come to earth with his deadly robot, Gort (Lock Martin), to deliver the message that earthlings must stop warring among themselves--or else. After being shot at by ignorant, panicky military guards, Klaatu is brought to a Washington, D.C., hospital, where he begs a sympathetic but frank Major White (Robert Osterloh) to gather all the world’s leaders so he can tell them more specifically what he has come 250 million miles to warn them about. Losing patience, Klaatu slips into the human world, adapting a false identity and living at a boarding house where he meets a smart woman with a conscience, Helen Benson (Patricia Neal), and her inquisitive son, Bobby (Billy Gray). Both mother and son soon find themselves embroiled in the complex mystery of Klaatu, his message, and the government’s witch hunt for the alien. Made during the cold war--when Americans were obsessed with the destructive capabilities of the atomic bomb--The Day the Earth Stood Still, thanks to its beautiful pacing, excellent dialogue, and haunting score by Bernard Herrmann, is still a treat for contemporary audiences.

 

Nick be reached at Filmlords@gmail.com

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   Last Update:  February 05, 2009