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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.


 

MUST READ AFTER MY DEATH - Gigantic Digital

The audio crackles and hums over a black screen, a woman’s voice speaks “Friday, November 3rd, 1967. Hartford. This tape recorder was purchased so I might put down things I wanted our children to...This is the voice of Allis. In the 1950’s and ‘60s Allis made over 200 8mm home movies of her happy life family. In the ‘60s, she made a series of audio recordings that would eventually be over fifty hours of spoken material, documenting the decline of her marriage for her psychiatrist. Already in ‘61, in spoken letters on dictaphone records to and from her husband Charley, cracks are showing in the relationship. By 1965 they have decided to seek counseling. Allis outlines her reasons for this on a tape she secretly makes for their marriage counselor of the things she is not ready to talk about in front of Charley. This eventually grew into a 300-page single spaced typed file on her marriage that included notes and transcripts of arguments. It constitutes her ‘case against Charley’.

A series of psychiatrists helped the family from bad to worse. Allis was encouraged to record her thoughts, and even the arguments at home by her psychiatrists. Later she plays the tapes to her principle therapist, the shadowy Dr. Lenn, as proof of her innocence. The confrontational sessions just heighten their anger. Allis and Charley’s fights get worse and worse. Between 1967 and 1969 every member of the family goes into analysis. Bruce, at the age 14, is sent to an adult mental institution for nine months because he is acting out. Douglas spends the better part of his 9th and 10th years home school. When Chuck is killed in a car accident, the family takes a hiatus from therapy. A year later Allis writes Dr. Lenn a letter, outlining once again Charley’s failings. She leaves it on the dining room table and Charley reads it, oddly resigned. Allis’ comments on this are the last page of her file. The two days later, Charley is curled up on the floor next to the bed, dead. Must Read After My Death, is entirely created out of the tapes, films and photos Allis and her family made. As a family, they narrate their own tragedy in real-time. The director, Morgan Dews, is Allis and Charley’s grandson.

ASHES OF TIME REDUX - Sony

Two years after forming his own production company, Jet Tone, Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai released Ashes of Time, a martial-arts epic based on The Eagle Shooting Hero, a series of novels by Louis Cha writing under the pseudonym Jin Yong. The film was set in jianghu, an imaginary world with its own views of good and evil. In 2008, unhappy with the many alternate versions of Ashes of Time available, Wong reedited and restored the film, working with the original negative and soundtrack, which were in severe disrepair. The new version, called Ashes of Time Redux, which screened at such prestigious international gatherings as the Cannes, Toronto, and New York Film Festivals, is a breathtaking example of Wong’s masterly storytelling technique, combined with the stunning cinematography of Christopher Doyle and gorgeous new cello solos recorded by Yo-Yo Ma. Leslie Cheung stars as Ouyang Feng, a mysterious man living alone in the desert, where people come to him when they need someone eliminated.

THE LODGER - Sony

The tale that inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger gets a modern sheen in this thriller that features a star-filled cast. Hope Davis plays a woman who takes on a mysterious lodger (Simon Baker), even as a serial killer is turning West Hollywood into a graveyard. But the murders aren’t simple slices and dices; the killer is recreating the work of history’s most famous killer: Jack the Ripper.

ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 - Image

Director John Carpenter’s second film is a brutal, realistic story about the siege of a small police precinct by a violent and well-armed gang. The gang is seeking the man who killed some of their members in revenge for the accidental shooting of his daughter. After the father enacts his revenge, he wanders to the police precinct in a distraught state. The poorly manned precinct is being phased out of use, and is unprepared for the relentless assult which ensues. The violence in Assault on Precinct 13 was shocking for its time and has remained so over the years since its release, mainly due to the stark, unaffected direction of a young John Carpenter.

IGOR: Blu-ray - MGM

A hilarious twist on the classic monster movie, “Igor” tells the story of one Igor who’s sick of being a lowly lab assistant with a Yes Master’s degree and dreams of becoming a scientist. When his cruel master kicks the bucket a week before the annual Evil Science Fair, Igor finally gets his chance. With the help of two of his experimental creations - Brain, a brain in a jar who’s a little light on brains, and Scamper, a cynical bunny brought back from being road kill, Igor embarks on building the most evil invention of all time, a huge, ferocious monster. Unfortunately, instead of turning out evil, the monster turns out as Eva, a giant aspiring actress who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Just when the load on his back can’t get any heavier, Igor and his band of monstrous misfits uncover an evil plot that threatens their world. Now, they must fight to save it and prove that heroes come in all shapes and sizes.

GIRLFRIENDS: Season Six - Sony

The lives and loves of four feisty African-American women, and their male friend, form the hit formula for this long-running sitcom. Golden Brooks, Jill Jones, Traci Ellis Ross, and Persia White play the foursome navigating the sometimes choppy waters of life in Los Angeles. Joan (Ross) succeeds in her career as a lawyer, but she struggles to find that same success in love. Surrounding her is her independent assistant, Maya (Brooks); intelligent but flighty roommate, Lynn (White); and man-crazy friend, Toni (Jones). And while William (Reggie Hayes) spends a lot of his time with the girls, he still hasn’t learned everything there is to know about women. This collection presents the sixth season of this irreverent and heartwarming comedy.

KRAMER VS KRAMER: Blu-ray - Sony

Robert Benton’s moving and well-observed adaptation of Avery Corman’s novel about the aftermath of divorce stars Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep as the separating couple, Ted and Joanna Kramer. When dutiful wife and mother Joanna decides to leave Ted, an advertising executive, she also leaves him with the responsibility of caring for their young son, Billy (Justin Henry). The situation proves to be especially difficult since the workaholic father has never really taken care of the boy and, in truth, barely knows him. Things are rough at first, but as the two become accustomed to life without Joanna and Ted’s caretaking skills improve, father and son finally develop a relationship. As Ted devotes more time to his son and less to his work, however, the latter suffers, and Ted’s subsequent firing coincides with the return of Joanna, who wants her son back.

GANDHI: Blu-ray - Sony

Sir Richard Attenborough’s 1982 multiple-Oscar winner (including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Ben Kingsley) is an engrossing, reverential look at the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi, who introduced the doctrine of nonviolent resistance to the colonized people of India and who ultimately gained the nation its independence. Kingsley is magnificent as Gandhi as he changes over the course of the three-hour film from an insignificant lawyer to an international leader and symbol. Strong on history (the historic division between India and Pakistan, still a huge problem today, can be seen in its formative stages here) as well as character and ideas, this is a fine film.

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE: Blu-ray - Fox

Pile together a blue-ribbon cast, a screenplay high in quirkiness, and the Sundance stamp of approval, and you’ve got yourself a crossover indie hit. That formula worked for Little Miss Sunshine, a frequently hilarious study of family dysfunction. Meet the Hoovers, an Albuquerque clan riddled with depression, hostility, and the tattered remnants of the American Dream; despite their flakiness, they manage to pile into a VW van for a weekend trek to L.A. in order to get moppet daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) into the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Much of the pleasure of this journey comes from watching some skillful comic actors doing their thing: Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette as the parents (he’s hoping to become a self-help authority), Alan Arkin as a grandfather all too willing to give uproariously inappropriate advice to a sullen teenage grandson (Paul Dano), and a subdued Steve Carell as a jilted gay professor on the verge of suicide.

SEX DRIVE - Summit Entertainment

Sooner or later, the new breed of coming-of-age comedy (good ones like Superbad, not-so-good ones like College) had to inspire a parody of itself, and that self-conscious knock-off is the sporadically funny Sex Drive. A road movie about a virginal nice guy, Ian (John Zuckerman), who drives cross-country in his brother’s car to score with a girl he met online, Sex Drive sounds like just another teen farce. But it isn’t, exactly: with stops in a rockin’ Amish community, in the redneck house of a bathroom fetishist, and in Ian’s own family home (where a well-meaning new stepmother is continually exposed to Ian’s unsavory private life), the film has an original life of its own. Casting counts for a lot in this movie. Clark Duke plays the likeable, over-confident nebbish we’ve come to expect since meeting McLovin’ in Superbad, and Amanda Crew is Felicia, Ian’s best friend and obvious romantic destiny (once these crazy kids figure that out). The three of them go traveling together in search of Ian’s sure thing. But Sex Drive really becomes a much better comedy once Seth Green appears (as an Amish guy steeped in guilt-tripping sarcasm) and James Marsden (as Ian’s bullying, homophobic brother) lets loose with a very funny performance.

EL NORTE - Criterion

Brother and sister Enrique and Rosa flee persecution at home in Guatemala and journey north, through Mexico and on to the United States, with the dream of starting a new life. It s a story that happens every day, but until Gregory Nava’s groundbreaking El Norte (The North), the personal travails of immigrants crossing the border to America had never been shown in the movies with such urgent humanism. A work of social realism imbued with dreamlike imagery, El Norte is a lovingly rendered, heartbreaking story of hope and survival, which critic Roger Ebert called a Grapes of Wrath for our time.

 

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:
April 30, 2009