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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.


 

NIGHTS IN RODANTHE: Blu-ray - Warner

Diane Lane and Richard Gere team up for the third time (after COTTON CLUB and UNFAITHFUL) for this three-hankie romance based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. Adrienne Willis (Lane) feels her life falling apart around her: her unfaithful husband (Christopher Meloni, LAW & ORDER: SVU) is begging to come home, and her teenage daughter (Mae Whitman, HOPE FLOATS) can’t stand to be around her. When her friend (Viola Davis, ANTWONE FISHER) asks her to watch her bed and breakfast in the picturesque town of Rodanthe, Adrienne leaps at the chance to get away. But since it’s late in the season, there’s only one guest: the handsome Dr. Paul Flanner (Gere), who is quiet about his reason for coming to the town. Driven together by a powerful hurricane, Adrienne and Paul find love and comfort in each other’s arms.

HOBSON’S CHOICE - Criterion

David Lean’s finest films, from Great Expectations (1946) to Lawrence of Arabia (1962), are resolutely sober, which is more than can be said of Henry Horatio Hobson in his wonderfully comic encounter with the moon in Hobson’s Choice (1954). Lean’s only other comedy was Blithe Spirit (1945), but here he approaches matters of the heart with a surprising lightness of touch and wins a marvelous performance from Charles Laughton--himself soon to make his one and only film as a director, Night of the Hunter (1955). The setting is late-19th-century Salford, England (the black-and-white location filming is exceptional), and widower Henry Hobson forbids his three daughters to marry to avoid paying their dowries. Romance will not be thwarted by economics, and much humorous conflict ensues, interspersed with some serious and even disturbing moments. Brenda De Banzie is splendidly spirited as the eldest daughter, Maggie, while her fiancÈ is played by the ever excellent John Mills, who would later win an Oscar for his part in Lean’s much more serious love story, Ryan’s Daughter (1970).

BODY OF LIES: Blu-ray - Warner

Leonardo DiCaprio fights terrorists for the CIA in this rapid-fire thriller from director Ridley Scott. While Roger Ferris (DiCaprio) gets his hands dirty on the teeming Arab streets, his handler Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) watches from Washington via spy satellite, cheerfully giving bull-in-a-china-shop style orders while picking up his kids from school. Innocent lives are lost, buildings blow up, and the threat of winding up beheaded on the internet is always one move away. LIES is decked out from front to back with fascinating bits of Arabic and espionage minutiae as it races along its wild mission to track down an elusive terrorist sect leader.

JOHN GRISHAM COURTROON COLLECTION - Warner

Looking a gift horse in the mouth... I had hoped these would be new transfers from High Definition masters but The Pelican Brief, The Client and A Time To Kill were all mastered in 1997 and A Runaway Jury in 2003. At least they are all anamorphic - “Enhanced for Widescreen TVs”. Since Warner is releasing Blu-ray discs of The Pelican Brief and A Time to Kill, it would have been nice to have given us new transfers of these two at least. The price is right and all four discs are in thin-line cases, so they take little shelf space, but this release could have been better.

THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES: Season Three - Paramount

Sit a spell and enjoy the country charm and humorous appeal of the Clampett clan, stars of the highest-rated half-hour show in TV history. Created by TV maverick Paul Henning and premiering in 1962, the show followed the family from Ozark poverty to Beverly Hills, California, after they struck “black gold” on their swampland farm. With their 36-room mansion overrun with Elly May’s animals and Granny’s illegal moonshine, while girl-crazy Cousin Jethro and Uncle Jed try to keep an eye on them all, this family ain’t like the neighbors--but they sure are a lot of fun! This collection presents the series’ third season.

YENTL - MGM

Barbra Streisand cowrote, produced, and directed as well as starred in this popular motion picture, based on a short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer. The story follows the adventures of Yentl, a courageous young woman growing up in Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th century. Inspired by her father’s teaching to become a Talmudic scholar--despite the religious restrictions against her doing so--she manages to make her dreams come true by disguising herself as a boy and entering an orthodox Jewish school. But her masquerade causes big problems when she falls in love with her fellow scholar Avigdor (Mandy Patinkin)...and his fiancÈe (Amy Irving, in an Oscar-nominated performance) falls in love with her.

FROZEN RIVER: Blu-ray - Sony

Courtney Hunt’s feature directorial debut Frozen River is a powerfully unflinching tale of two women, who, driven by economic hardship, form an unlikely partnership smuggling illegal immigrants across the Canadian border. Melissa Leo turns in a gritty performance as Ray, a struggling dollar-store cashier and mother living in a trailer home in upstate New York who is desperate to make ends meet. When Ray’s gambling-addicted husband runs off with the family’s payment on a new doublewide trailer, her life quickly spirals into a financial tailspin. During a frenzied search for her deadbeat spouse, she apprehends Lila (Misty Upham), a Mohawk Indian from an area reservation, attempting to steal her car. In the process of taking back her vehicle, she learns of Lila’s smuggling operation through an unpatrolled corridor within Mohawk territory--the frozen St. Lawrence River that forms part of the border between the U.S. and Canada. Out of necessity, they form an uneasy alliance: Ray, working to meet the payment’s deadline, and Lila, who scrambles to earn money to redeem herself to her estranged in-laws and infant child.

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 Heroes, 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. He is visited annually by Huang Yaoshi (Tony Leung Ka Fai), who brings him stories from the outside world--and especially his lost love (Maggie Cheung). Meanwhile, Murong Yang (Brigitte Lin) has contracted to have Huang killed, and Murong Yin (also Lin) wants her brother taken care of. For a film that examines the role of memory in people’s lives, Wong assembled an all-star cast that also includes Tony Leung Chiu Wai as a blind swordsman, Carina Lau as his wife, Charlie Young as a young girl seeking vengeance, and Jacky Cheung as a poor swordsman looking for work.

PRIMAL FEAR - Paramount

This History Channel special examines some of the most widely-held fears--from snakes and heights to terrorist-paranoia--in an attempt to uncover the psychology beneath them. Scientists and historians analyze the rise of these fears over time, and study the physical effects that stem from extreme fright.

ELEGY - Sony

Like director Isabel Coixet’s previous film My Life Without Me, Elegy is consumed by the ideas of love and mortality. But while that film focused on a young protagonist, the hero of this drama is an aging writer and professor played by Ben Kingsley. David Kepesh (Kingsley) is a minor literary celebrity in New York City who shies away from commitment, happy with his casual relationship with a businesswoman (Patricia Clarkson) who is rarely in town. But a date with a stunning grad student named Consuela (Penelope Cruz) surprisingly turns into a long-term romance, changing David from a confident Lothario into a jealous boyfriend. His age and her beauty haunt their romance until David begins to push her away.

SEX DRIVE: Blu-ray - Summit

Eighteen-year-old Ian Lafferty sets out on a cross country drive with his best friends Lance and Felicia in order to lose his virginity to a red-hot babe he met on the Internet. But the journey, filled with hilarious misadventures and raunchy escapades, teaches all three more than they expected about life and love. Randy, raucous and unexpectedly romantic, Sex Drive follows three friends on the road trip of a lifetime! Ian Lafferty (Josh Zuckerman) can’t seem to catch a break. He’s taunted by his cocksure older brother Rex (James Marsden), shown up in the romance department by his 14-year-old younger brother and humiliated by his job at a mall donut shop. But Ian’s biggest problem is that he’s about to start college as a virgin! Getting nowhere with the girl of his dreams and longtime “best friend" Felicia (Amanda Crew), Ian resorts to the Internet for dates.

THE HILLS: Season Four - MTV

The star of the glamorous MTV hit “reality” series Laguna Beach heads for the more adult tinsel of Los Angeles in The Hills. Lauren Conrad embarks on a new set of more mature struggles as she bunks up with entertainingly ditsy roommate Heidi, attends fashion merchandising classes at FIDM, and tackles a demanding internship at Teen Vogue. Between professional and academic responsibilities, Lauren has little time left for drama, but still manages to squeeze in some troubled romance with Laguna heartbreaker Jason. The Hills will please fans of Laguna Beach and beyond, as its subject matter is a bit less catty thanks to its nice-girl lead and the absence of bad-girl Kristin Cavallari--and it has an addictively stylish look.

WATCHMEN: THE COMPLETE MOTION COMIC - Warner

Alan Moore’s Watchmen is given sound and movement in this video version of the critically acclaimed comic book. Under the supervision of original illustrator Dave Gibbons, the 12-chapter series has voice actors translating the comic’s dialogue balloons into speech, while digital zooms, pans, and some animation effects take viewers further inside the story than ever before. First distributed on iTunes, and scheduled for DVD release just days before the 2009 feature film by Zach Snyder, Watchmen - Motion Comics offers a helpful intro to Alan Moore’s dystopian world of dark superheroes. Set in a 1980s-era America where masked heroes have their talents banned, the sprawling story begins when someone starts taking down the former heroes one by one--and a mysterious character named Rorschach begins to investigate.

 

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