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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.
 
DEFIANCE

Defiance is a different kind of World War II movie, one that looks at the Holocaust from a unique angle - telling the true story of a group of Jews in Eastern Europe who fought back. On the run from the Germans and the local police, the three Russian Bielski brothers - Tuvia (Daniel Craig), Zus (Liev Schreiber), and Asael (Jamie Bell) - hide out deep in the forest. Their numbers swell as more and more refugees join them, coming together to form a community while also patrolling with guns and shooting the enemy to stay alive. But Tuvia and Zus have a falling out over what future direction to take: Tuvia thinks it best to remain in the forest despite the coming vicious winter, but Zus wants to join the Russian resistance, which is aggressively attacking the Nazis. Complicating the situation are the women in their lives, known as forest wives - Lilka (Alexa Davalos) shows interest in Tuvia, Bella (Iben Hjelje) grows close to Zus, and young Chaya (Mia Wasikowska) and Asael flirt with the tingles of first love. As food grows scarce, diseases increase, and the Nazis become determined to find and kill them, the Bielski Otriad struggles to survive, battling back when necessary, including taking up arms.

Directed by Edward Zwick and based on the nonfiction book by Dr. Nechama Tec, Defiance is a powerful thriller filled with tense human emotion, a gripping story about brotherly love and the basic human instinct to survive against all odds. The ensemble cast is definitely a positive with the film. All three main characters play off each other with reckless abandon. Craig, Schreiber, and Bell are terrific as the Bielski brothers, three very different individuals who simply refuse to just lie down and die. This really keeps the viewer entrenched in the story of this very important part of the Jewish resistance. The drawback in this picture rests with the love stories. They take away from the momentum and energy the film creates in the first act. By the time the picture ended, I was left with a feeling of slight disappointment. I felt I had seen this all before - too many films following the old fashioned cookie cutter approach to film story telling.

Defiance

Starring: Daniel Craig

& Liev Schreiber

Director: Edward Zwick

Company: Paramount Vantage

Now Showing:

In area Theatres

MPAA Rating: R

Grade: C+


ROCKFORD FILES: Season Six - Universal

Jim Rockford, an ex-con pardoned for an armed robbery he didn’t commit, is a private investigator specializing in closed cases. He is sometimes assisted by his father Joseph (a.k.a. Rocky), his best friend Sgt. Dennis Becker of the LAPD, his lawyer/girlfriend Beth Davenport, and his former cell-mate Evelyn “Angel” Martin. We finally get the finish this series to complete our collections with season 6 of the Rockford Files. Running from 1974 to 1980, Private Detective Jim Rockford has shared his adventures with TV audiences worldwide. James Garner continues in his role as Jim Rockford in season six with a superb supporting cast of talented actors including Joe Santos and Noah Beery. Highlights for the final season include “Lions, Tigers and Monkeys”, “The Hawaiian Headache” and the final episode titled “Deadlock in Parma”. If you are looking for quality seventies cop shows, this one rated in the top three. The DVD contains the final 12 episodes on three discs presented in Full Screen format with Dolby digital sound. The packaging is attractive with an episode guide on the inside cover.

THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO: Season One, Volumes 1 & 2 - Paramount

Two police detectives keep the streets clean of crime in downtown San Francisco. As 1970s cop shows go, this one is excellent. The series ran from 1972 to 1977 and stars Karl Malden as Detective Lt. Mike Stone and Michael Douglas as Inspector Steve Keller. Both actors do justice to their roles on the screen and provide great entertainment from week to week. The stories are your average homicide cases with an occasional special case involving something from their personal past. The scripts are average making the actors embellish to prolong the intensity. We typically regard these shows as “dated” due to their lack of realism, but I enjoy the drama and can appreciate a time when you just had to use your imagination instead of watching it. This season contains 26 episodes in two volume box sets. All episodes are in mono Surround with restored picture. The only extras in these sets are a pilot presentation and Army Archerd Interviews on the first set. An episode synopsis is presented on each volume.

WALKER, TEXAS RANGER: Season Six - Paramount

Texas Ranger Cordell walker, one of the last old-fashioned heroes of the West, is a protective friend but a relentless foe who will stop at nothing to bring a criminal to justice. Walker works on instinct, often drawing on the traditions of his Native American ancestors. His partner, James Trivette, has a more modern approach to crime-solving. C.D. Parker, a retired ranger, and Alex Cahill, the county assistant district attorney who shares a mutual attraction with walker, support the rangers in their battle to serve justice. The excitement never ends with Texas Ranger Cordell in season six of Walker, Texas Ranger. Chuck Norris continues his role as Cordell and with a supporting cast including Sheree J. Wilson, Clarence Gilyard Jr, and Noble Willingham, the possibilities for character development are endless. Season six expands continues the drama of the cast centering on centering on Cordell and Alex. We all want both of them to “hook up”. Walker reminds me of the TV series “Airwolf” in that, at the end of every episode, the main character opens up a can of “whoop-ass” and saves the day. Whether it is a high-kick or a helicopter rocket, the outcome is the same. Several episodes from season six that stand out for me include “Code of the West”, “Team Cherokee” and the season finale “In Harm’s Way”. Season six presents all 23 episodes in airdate order complete and uncut on five discs. All of the episodes are presented in Full Screen Format with 2.0 Surround. The packaging is attractive with an episode synopsis on the back of each volume.

GHOST: Blu-ray - Paramount

After renovating their expensive loft in the TriBeCa section of Manhattan, Molly (Demi Moore) and Sam (Patrick Swayze), a young successful yuppie couple, are walking home one evening when Sam is tragically gunned down by a street mugger. Molly goes into a deep depression, but, unknown to her, Sam has come back as a ghost in order to protect her from danger--although he isn’t yet aware who or what means her harm, and he has a lot of learning to do in order to make himself known to her. He teams up with an unwilling psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg), and together they try to convince a very skeptical Molly that Sam was actually murdered and has returned spectrally to complete some unfinished business. Moore and Swayze and are excellent as the couple, and Goldberg won an Oscar for her portrayal of the wild and wacky psychic.

MANNIX: Season 2 - Paramount

This long-running detective series was known for its over-the-top fistfights, inventive title sequence, and swinging theme song. In this second season, gumshoe Joe Mannix (Mike Connors) quits Intertect to launch his own detective agency. And it’s just as well as the maverick investigator could never abide the straightlaced organization, or being told what to do by their computers. No, Mannix continues to do things the old fashioned way: with a little boot leather and a punch to the gut. Helping him make the transition are his faithful secretary Peggy Fair (Gail Fisher) and some of the city’s helpful boys in blue. Included here is every episode of the series’ second season.

DOCTOR WHO: The War Machines - BBC

Original doctor William Hartnell is shocked to find that a powerful computer is controlling the hypnotized citizens of present-day London (1966, anyhow) and organizing an army of killer machines bent on world conquest. See the original Doctor Who in all of his splendor!

REBA: Season Five - Fox

Popular country music singer Reba McIntyre stars in this hit family comedy series that airs on the CW channel. Reba is a recently divorced parent of three, whose dentist husband Brock (Christopher Rich) has left her for his painfully perky--and pregnant--assistant, Barbra Jean (Melissa Peterman). Simultaneously, she learns that her 17-year-old daughter Cheyenne (JoAnna Garcia) is pregnant as well, and intends to marry her football-star boyfriend, Van (Steve Howey). Reba’s daughter Kyra (Scarlett Pomers) is in the early stages of a rebellious and precocious adolescence, while her youngest son Jake (Mitch Holleman) maintains a calm within the storm. The trials and travails of this offbeat family are presided over by the take-charge, loving Reba, who manages to save the day almost every time, and whose motherly wisdom and openhearted good humor carry the show.

GROUNDHOG DAY: Blu-ray

Once again, for the fifth year in a row, TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is forced to cover the Groundhog Day ceremonies in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, an assignment he truly despises. But this year something truly bizarre happens after he finishes the report: When he wakes up the next morning, ready to leave, he discovers it’s February 2 all over again. He tries to tell his producer, Rita (Andie MacDowell), what’s happening, but neither she nor anyone else understands; only he remembers that they’ve already lived through Groundhog Day. When the same thing happens the next morning, he thinks he’s going insane and wreaks havoc all through the town. More and more mornings pass, all of them February 2, and all of them with an ever angrier Phil. Desperate to escape, he even tries suicide, but still another February 2 dawns. As he starts realizing that his exploits are not making time march on any quicker, Phil begins to change his behavior, performing a series of lifesaving tasks until he becomes a model citizen, hoping it will be enough to get him out of Punxsutawney forever.

THE LOVE BOAT: Season Two, Volume One - Paramount

Take a voyage to romance aboard this ocean liner that whisks its passengers, and surprising guest stars, on panoramic journeys that lead to love. Playing tour guide and matchmaker are the Pacific Princess’ trusty crew, including cruise director Julie (Lauren Tewes), yeoman Gopher (Fred Grandy), ship’s doctor Adam Bricker (Bernie Kopell), drink-slinger Isaac (Ted Lange), and, of course, Captain Merrill Stubing (Gavin MacLeod). Amid luxurious surroundings, and the tempestuous heat of the tropics, anything can happen in this show that is by turns heartwarming, sentimental, and slapstick funny. With several storylines per episode, this escapist gem offers a garden of delights for the romantic at heart.

ELECTION: Blu-ray - Paramount

Director Alexander (Citizen Ruth) Payne’s second film, based on the novel by Jim Perotta, takes the scandal and mudslinging associated with presidential elections and transposes them to a high school election for student council president in Nebraska- with impossibly sharp, satirical results. Matthew Broderick, in a reversal of Ferris Bueller, plays Jim McAllister, a teacher who will stop at nothing to prevent perfect Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), who is running unopposed, from winning the election. Jim, who bears a personal grudge against Tracy, goads a popular but dim football player into running against her. This spurs on a series strange events, (both madcap and surprisingly sexual) which add up to an uncommonly funny high school film for grown ups.

HENRY POOLE IS HERE - Anchor Bay

For a man who seems to be living a perfect life--comfortable, engaged, full of opportunity--the discovery in a routine doctor’s checkup that all is not well prompts Henry Poole to flee. He finds himself alone in a new house and a new place, somewhere where perhaps he can try to escape the fate that he has been dealt. It’s a house in a working-class suburb with neighbors who welcome him, or at least try to; he finds them rather unattractive, frankly, but fine for his purposes. But life won’t let him alone. His neighbors’ intrusions, the discovery of a “miracle” on a backyard wall, and the attentions of a little girl with a tape recorder disrupt whatever hopes he had for hiding out.

 

Nick be reached at Filmlords@gmail.com

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   Last Update:  February 05, 2009