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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.


 

TAKEN

Liam Neeson is an unstoppable force in this adrenaline-fueled thrillerf rom director Pierre Morel. Bryan (Neeson) has taken early retirement from the CIA in order to live closer to his teenage daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). Bryan’s government work kept him away from Kim for much of her childhood, and he’s now trying to make up for lost time. When Kim announces that she’s taking a trip to Paris with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy), Bryan is apprehensive about her traveling on her own. His worst fear is soon realized, as Kim and Amanda are abducted upon their arrival in France.

Bryan immediately springs into action, using his well-honed CIA skills to piece together clues from a single, frantic phone call he received from Kim. He hops a plane to Paris, determined to rescue his daughter before she falls off the grid completely. With some help from his old CIA buddies, he tracks down the kidnappers--an Albanian crime ring known for selling young girls into the sex trade.

He quickly takes matters into his own hands, plowing his way through Paris’s underworld as the clock ticks down and the bullets fly. His search propels him into the upper echelons of a massive crime ring, putting him closer and closer to his beloved daughter. Neeson is known for tackling extremely cerebral roles, so it is interesting to see him in full-on action-hero mode.

In Taken, he is no less than a crime-fighting machine--a Bourne/Bond hybrid with a deathly serious baritone. And while he spends most of the film firing Uzis and snapping necks, he still manages to deliver a moving performance as an estranged father fighting for what he loves most in the world.

The film undeniably owes a lot to Neeson’s acting chops. He manages to raise this rather thinly plotted, deeply violent film a bar above your typical action fare.

 

Taken

Starring: Liam Neeson & Maggie Grace

Director: Pierre Morel

Company: Fox

Now Showing: In area Theatres

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Grade: B-


DVD PICKS


Through nine episodes of this acclaimed mini-series, a young Irish immigrant finds his way up from the gutter. Here is the archetypal rags-to-riches story personified in the character of Joseph Armagh, who slowly builds himself up, through suffering, sorrow and heartbreak, to become one of the leaders of the nation.  Through struggle, heartache and ruthless perseverance, he becomes one of the richest and most powerful men in the country. But fortune has its price as Joseph’s arrogance and obsession to have his son Rory (Perry King) elected president ultimately lead to his downfall.  NBC’s First Mini-Series Event - Starring Richard Jordan in his Golden Globe Award-Winning Role.

The first film ever to tell the story of the Army’s all African-American Buffalo Soldier unit, Miracle at St. Anna is inherently an important film. Yet rather than allow it to stand on its own as simply a war picture starring African-American actors, Lee takes on myriad social and historical discussions. Based on the novel of the same name by James McBride (who also wrote the script), the movie follows four soldiers as they take refuge in an Italian village after being cut off from their platoon. There are various supernatural elements to the film, the most pronounced of which is a mysterious statue head that one soldier acquires and refuses to part with.

There’s also a framing device involving a murder nearly 40 years after the conclusion of the war; add to that a subplot involving the Italian resistance movement, and it’s easy to get a bit lost in this Byzantine tale.

Considered one of the most important figures in the history of British television, Dennis Potter created numerous widely-acclaimed television dramas. Powerful and often controversial, his groundbreaking works continue to enthrall audiences worldwide. Dennis Potter: 3 To Remember showcases three exquisite but rarely-seen teleplays shot on location and specifically produced for London Weekend Television.  This program includes Blade on the Feather, Rain on the Roof, and Cream in my Coffee.  This DVD package also includes Dennis Potter: The Last Interview.

 Iowa is a searing tale of crime, love and addiction.  After an unexpected inheritance comes their way, Esper (Matt Farnsworth) and Donna (Diane Foster) plunge into the “batch” business - cooking their own methamphetamine - only to watch it burn a scorching hole in their lives. Left with no one to trust, the two lovers find themselves on the run from a corrupt parole officer (Michael T. Weiss), Esper’s gold-digging mother (Rosanna Arquette) and their own consuming addiction.  A gripping film that is definitely worth picking up to add to your collection.

Fast, fun and inspiring, Hell on Wheels is the true tale of a group of hard-hitting Austin, Texas women who resurrect the sport or roller derby, only to find internal strife ripping the fledgling organization apart. Two leagues emerge from the clash and, in four short years, the two Texas leagues overcame all obstacles to revel in undreamed of success. Riding a wave of international acclaim, the Lonestar Rollergirls and the Texas Rollergirls launch a roller derby revival, inspiring hundreds of other leagues to start up across the globe. Shot over a five-year period by filmmakers Bob Ray and Werner Campbell,

Hell on Wheels is a dizzying clash of athleticism, exhibitionism, egos, politics, and business that is moder-era rollery derby.

Teen dream Jesse McCartney takes his first starring role in a film with this romance. Natalie (Elisabeth Harnois) is almost ready to graduate from high school when she meets a boy (McCartney) who challenges her heart and her goals for her life.  A film that originally didn’t receive much buzz, this film will grab you and won’t let go.  Check it out!

Jason Voorhees has carved his place into American pop culture and is one of the most recognizable cinematic killer in horror history. Now nearly, 30 years later, see how it all happened! With over 100 interviews with cast and crew, behind the scenes footage and dozen of film clips spanning the entire Friday the 13th series leading up to the 2/13/09 remake, there is no better way to get up close and personal with one of the most feared icons of our generation. Shut off the lights, lock up the cabin and get ready to learn all about a boy... His Name Was Jason.  His Name was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th is a two disc set loaded with over 4 hours of bonus material.

This film is a behind the scenes look at the franchise that broke horror box office records and made Jason a pop culture icon. With over 80 interviews from the cast and crew of the Friday the 13th film franchise, including the new Friday the 13th film, these firsthand accounts of never-before-told stories and rare behind the scenes photographs offer the ultimate look at the history of Friday the 13th!

The inspiring early days of America - the personalities, the battles,the bravery, the losses, and even the romance- spring to life inspellbinding detail in this sweeping 14-DVD set from A&E Home Video which is a must own for anyone interested in the history of our country.  Founding Fathers and Founding Brothers examine the relationships of the very human men who risked their fortunes and lives for independence. The Revolution recounts great battles, devastating losses, and miraculous victories. Ben Franklin and Benedict Arnold: A Question of Honor look at the critical roles played by both men -- one a hero, the other a traitor -- while Washington the Warrior and The Crossing pay tribute to the soul-stirring leadership of our first president.  With performances by Kelsey Grammar, Aidan Quinn, and Jeff Daniels, rare archival material, and commentary by leading historians, The Founding of America presents historical programming at its comprehensive best.

The unfathomable power of the universe explodes to life in an out of this world set from the History Channel. Planets, stars, and galaxies are revealed in a whole new light: not as tiny dots in a telescope, but as if you were right there. Incredibly realistic computer reconstructions, sophisticated animations, and the most current scientific intelligence combine to show the hottest events in the sky, from colliding celestial bodies to collapsing suns.  Closer to home,

The Universe Collector’s Edition delves into how our own Earth developed from an inferno of molten rock to the beautiful orb that sustains us today. Experience firsthand the cataclysmic events that set the stage for life, and visit sites where Earth s birthing process is still in evidence. Relive astronomical triumphs, from the first crude lenses that were able to magnify celestial bodies to probes that blaze to the most distant planets. It s a journey of cosmic discovery, amazement, and adventure like nothing on earth.  This DVD package includes numerous bonus features as well!

Maya Gallo (Laura San Giacomo) is a feisty, often combative news reporter who, after losing her job at a New York television station, is forced to get a job at Blush, her father Jack’s (George Segal) fashion magazine. There, she must content with difficult former model, Nina (Wendie Malick), Jack’s obnoxious assistant Dennis (David Spade), and an overly randy photographer Elliot (Enrico Colantoni). The series premiered in the U.S. on NBC in 1997.

Popular water-cooler drama about an unremarkable and uncharismatic chemistry teacher, Walter, who discovers new passion in his life after he learns he has terminal cancer. Once a successful chemist, Walter now teaches apathetic high school students and works part-time at a car wash to help support his family - wife Skyler, who earns a modest income buying and selling items on eBay, and son Walter, Jr., a strong-willed 17-year-old suffering from cerebral palsy. Realizing he has nothing but his family left to live for, Walter’s new sense of purpose reinvigorates him into a man of action as he turns to an exciting life of crime to provide for the ones he loves.

Zen, a girl born from an affair between two members of rival crime syndicates, lives in recluse with her mother. She learns how to fight by absorbing martial arts skills from what she sees on TV and from the Muay Thai boxing school next to her home. When Zen’s mother falls ill she sets out on an ambitious quest to settle the debts still owed from her mother’s gangster days, which leads her to confrontations with dangerous criminals, as well as an unexpected encounter with her father.

The Brain is an astonishing voyage of discovery into our last biological frontier. Although today s computers can make calculations in one-100th of a second and technology can transport us outside the bonds of Earth, only now are we beginning to understand the most complex machine in the universe.  Using simple analogies, real-life case studies, and state-of-the-art CGI, this special shows how the brain works, explains the frequent battle between instinct and reason, and unravels the mysteries of memory and decision-making. It takes us inside the mind of a soldier under fire to see how decisions are made in extreme situations, examines how an autistic person like Rain Man develops remarkable skills, and takes on the age-old question of what makes one person good and another evil.

We all know things are often not what they seem. But how many times have shadowy schemes, twisted plots, and secret conspirators been behind some of history’s most newsworthy events?  For example, was Princess Diana the victim of a tragic traffic accident, or a murder scheme? Was TWA Flight 800 brought down by a missile rather than a faulty fuel tank, as the official report says? Was that a flying saucer that crashed in the desert scrubland near Roswell, New Mexico?

And what about strip club-owner Jack Ruby? Did his murder of Lee Harvey Oswald signal a far wider conspiracy in the death of John Kennedy?  This 13-episode series from the History Channel looks at all sides of these and other tantalizing questions. Using original documents and interviews with experts and eyewitnesses, it enables viewers to reach their own conclusions. Conspiracy? will have you thinking again and again about the history you thought you knew.

The heartwarming television dramedy 7th Heaven blends sometimes outlandishly comic situations with dramatic plotlines about serious social issues into a positive affirmation of family values and Christian morality. Produced by Aaron Spelling, the series centers on an all-American family headed by Reverend Eric Camden (Stephen Collins) and his stay-at-home wife, Annie (Catherine Hicks), as they struggle with the daily stresses and joys of parenting. Meanwhile, the Camdens’ seven children--among them Lucy (Beverley Mitchell), Simon (David Gallagher), youngest daughter Ruthie (Mackenzie Rosman), and twins Sam and David (real-life twins Lorenzo and Nikolas Brino)--navigate the trials and tribulations of growing up with wholesome aplomb. This collection presents every episode of the family drama’s eighth season.

 Don Johnson stars as Nash Bridges, a San Francisco detective who’s trying to take a bite out of Bay Area crime while cruising the town in his trademark yellow Barracuda. As the leader of the police department’s Special Investigations Unit, Bridges employs his ample charisma to get to the bottom of some of the city’s most puzzling cases--and defuse plenty of tense situations. But Nash’s charm doesn’t help much when it comes to taming a stormy personal life that includes two ex-wives and a teenage daughter. Lending his expertise to Nash’s open cases is ex-cop Joe Dominguez (Cheech Marin) who, in this second season, returns from retirement to join the Unit. As always, Joe has a bottomless stash of get-rich-quick schemes to proffer to his doubtful partner.

Alfred Molina stars as Davide Rietl, a determined film producer battling anti-Semitism, in this powerful World War II drama. Though war looms all around his set in Rome, Rietl refuses to give in to fascist demands and shut down his production. Together with his performers, Kristina (Catherine McCormack) and James (Jonathan Pryce), the dedicated filmmaker makes a harrowing attempt to complete his project against all odds.

This is the extraordinary story of Albert Einstein and hisdecades-long battle to prove his Theory of General Relativity amid theviolence of war and his tumultuous personal life.  For centuries,Isaac Newton’s Law of Gravity stood untouched. But in 1915, Einsteinattacked Newton with a mind-boggling theory: Gravity is not pulling you down ... instead, massive bodies like the Sun and the Earth are bending space and time around you, pushing you down. During a total solar eclipse, he predicted, that warp in space-time should reveal itself. Fiercely competitive astronomers raced each other to exotic locations to see if Einstein was right... or wrong.

Hardships, weather, and war foiled their expeditions again and again. When, against all odds, a blazing glimpse was finally captured, the humble  instein exploded into a global icon. This rich DVD from the History Channel moves beyond theories and the cult of personality to breathe new life into the man, not the myth.

A modern take on classic French film noir, Paid tells the story of a call girl and a hit man who are determined to escape the criminal life. Inspired to clean up their act by a six-year-old Bolivian child who unexpectedly becomes their charge, the pair attempt to change their path, only to be thwarted by the ties they still have to the gangster underworld.

Contact Filmlords@gmail.com if you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column. Write a SIGNED letter to the editor with valid day time phone number--name can be withheld by request.

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   Last Update:
March 13, 2009