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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.


 

DVD PICKS

THE CLEANER: Season One - Paramount

Each week The Cleaner follows Benjamin Bratt as William Banks, a recovering addict who helps others get clean by any means necessary as he struggles to maintain his own rocky personal life. William works with an eclectic team. Swenton is a wily smart aleck who is great undercover and always jealous of Akani, the beautiful, manipulative, and mysterious woman who always seems to get the best assignments and might just have a romantic past with William. Darnell is the newest member of William’s crew. Darnell is deeply indebted to William for helping his younger brother get clean, but he must balance his deep religious convictions with the kind of work required as part of William’s team. Together with this eclectic group, William works week-in and week-out to bring addicts of all kinds to the point where they are ready and willing to get help and begin the difficult process of getting clean.

PERRY MASON: Season Four, Volume One - Paramount

Perry Mason is an attorney who specializes in defending seemingly indefensible cases. With the aid of his secretary Della Street and investigator Paul Drake, he often finds that by digging deeply into the facts, startling facts can be revealed. Often relying on his outstanding courtroom skills, he often tricks or traps people into unwittingly admitting their guilt. This set represents the first half of the outstanding fourth season.

CANNON: Season Two, Volume One - Paramount

Cannons are hefty, difficult to maneuver, and explosive. So is Frank Cannon. He’s a gruff ex-cop who may be losing his hair but not his hunger for gourmet cuisine - and justice. As a private detective he doesn’t come cheap, but he certainly provides his clients with their money’s worth, making wrongs right and eating criminals for breakfast. Playing the overweight gumshoe is William Conrad, one TV’s most unconventional stars, who later went on to headline one-half of Jake and the Fatman.

MAN HUNT - Fox

Based on Geoffrey Household’s hit novel Rogue Male, Man Hunt itself became a big hit on the eve of World War II. It’s still a grabber because Lang, abetted by top Fox cameraman Arthur Miller, art directors Richard Day and Wiard B. Ihnen, and composer Alfred Newman, created a brilliantly atmospheric and entirely studio-bound world--just like the old days at Ufa, but with superior production resources. The film is Germanic to the max, with imagery of fierce angularity and chiaroscuro, literally underground confrontations, and a scenario rife with doppelg‰ngers and secret selves. Gestapo pursuer-in-chief George Sanders rates a bravura introduction, posed ramrod straight in a white uniform in a white room with a white mountain vista outside ... and yes, he has a monocle (like Lang’s).

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD: Blu-ray - Paramount

Frank and April Wheeler (DiCaprio and Winslet) always thought of themselves as special, but they settled in a conventional Connecticut suburb when they had children. Hungry for a less constricted life, April persuades Frank to move to Paris--but slowly their plans unravel and their marriage unravels along with it. While Revolutionary Road may be a bit too glib about suburban emptiness--the lives Frank and April lead don’t seem so stifled--the portrait of a mismatched marriage is vivid and devastating. The ways that Frank and April misinterpret each other, and the subtle yet unbearable dissatisfaction they feel, is rendered with remarkable and unsettling acuteness. Winslet and DiCaprio’s natural chemistry tells us what drew these two together, making the way they tear each other apart all the more shocking.

ELSEWHERE: Blu-ray - E1 Entertainment

In a small town, girls are mysteriously disappearing and no one seems to care. After revealing to her best friend Sarah (Twilight’s Anna Kendrick) that she has been meeting men online, Jillian (Lost’s Tania Raymonde) goes missing. Now, the only clues to her whereabouts are her diary and a cryptic message sent from her cell phone. Without a doubt, this film is freaky and will keep you guessing right up to the end.

FINAL FANTASY VII ADVENT CHILDREN COMPLETE: Blu-ray - Sony

Picking up two years after an epic battle between the forces of good (represented by brooding soldier Cloud) and evil (Cloud’s former general, Sephiroth), FFVII opens in the devastated city of Midgard, whose youthful occupants suffer from a ghastly disease known as Geostigma. A trio of brothers arrives with what appears to be a cure for the plague, but their gesture conceals a more sinister purpose: to revive Sephiroth and bring about the end of the world. Cloud and his companions must once again rise to the occasion to stop the siblings and the revived Sephiroth from unleashing total destruction. Complex and self-referential to the point of occasional incomprehension, Final Fantasy VII will definitely be most appreciated by fans of the game series, but if others can look past the numbing dialogue and frenetic action, the film offers a carefree and action-packed viewing experience.

GRAN TORINO: Blu-ray - Warner

Set in contemporary Detroit, Gran Torino tackles the shifting cultural and economic landscape of not only the Motor City, but America as well. Eastwood stars as Walt Kowalski, an unabashed bigot who never heard a racial insult he didn’t love. Bitter, haunted, and full of pride, Walt refuses to abandon the neighborhood he’s lived in for decades despite its changing demographics as he clings desperately to a mindset long since out of step with the times. When his Hmong neighbor Thao tries to steal his prized muscle car as part of a gang initiation, Walt is forced to grapple with the world around him. Gran Torino’s approach to the complicated issue of race relations is equal parts Archie Bunker and Crash. That is to say, there is nothing subtle about Walt’s bigotry, yet his misanthropy knows no bounds, and Eastwood does a remarkable job of finding the humor in Walt’s equal opportunity racism.

BABY ON BOARD: Blu-ray - Warner

Angela (Heather Graham) and Curtis (Jerry O’Connell) have it all – a loving relationship, a beautiful house and successful careers. That is, until an unexpected pregnancy sends them on a hilarious, nine-month roller coaster ride. Now, they must deal with hormonal and emotional mood swings, not to mention all the drama caused by their best friends Danny (John Corbett) and Sylvie (Katie Finneran) as well as Angela’s over-demanding boss (Lara Flynn Boyle). It all adds up to an uproarious battle of the sexes in this new romantic comedy by Brian Herzlinger.

RAISING THE BAR: Season One - BVHE

Mark-Paul Gosselaar stars in Raising the Bar as a crusading public defender whose passion gets him in as much trouble as it gets him out of. As Jerry Kellerman, Gosselaar is damp-eyed and earnest, off-kilter and rebellious, but he’s one of the top lawyers of a firm headed by cool-as-a-cucumber Rosalind Whitman (Gloria Reuben, ER). He also has connections across the aisle with rising prosecutor Michelle Ernhardt (Melissa Sagemiller), a beautiful blonde who tolerates sleazy behavior from her boss Nick Balco (Currie Graham). Both Jerry and Michelle regularly appear in the court of loose cannon Judge Trudy Kessler (Jane Kaczmarek), who’s having an affair with her clerk, Charlie Sagansky (Jonathan Scarfe), who just happens to be gay and closeted. Clearly, Raising the Bar emphasizes behind the door machinations, both political and sexual.

ARMY WIVES: Season Two - BVHE

Lifetime’s Army Wives is one of TV’s most satisfying dramas. And why not? Like the best hospital or police procedurals, the show portrays the imminent threat of death; like the best workplace shows, it features a wide variety of characters thrown together in a small, unforgiving environment and lets the drama unfold. Season Two shows how the characters have grown on the Army base, flawed though they may be, and always trying to make the world a better place. There’s more infidelity, more flirtations, more blossoming and unlikely friendships, and a lot more true drama. Standouts in this season include the spunky Sally Pressman (Roxy) who plans to reopen the Hump Bar after last season’s shocking tragedy there. Kim Delaney and Catherine Bell also give the cast its strong bone structure, though their characters experience fewer peaks and valleys this season.

MY DINNER WITH JIMI - Rhino

My Dinner with Jimi is a 2003 autobiographical film written by Howard Kaylan, dealing with events in 1966-67 which led up to the night in 1967 when Kaylan and the Turtles, encountered The Beatles in London, England. Finally available on DVD with this release, fans can truly rejoice. This DVD is highly recommended for anyone who is a fan of this genre.

SERGEANT PRESTON OF THE YUKON: Season Two - Infinity

The second season of the classic 1950s adventure show with the self-explanatory title is collected here; dated but still enormously fun, the show stars Dick Simmons as the wholesome Canadian Mountie who fights wrongdoers in harsh weather with his trusty dog, Yukon King. A wholesome show for the entire family, Sgt Preston is definitely not to be missed. All episodes from the tremendously popular second season are included here.

CATLOW - Warner

Catlow is a good western about the friendship between two men; Bijah Catlow (Yul Brynner) and Ben Cowan (Richard Crenna). Based on the novel by Louis L’Amour, Catlow tells the story of Cowan’s pursuit of his childhood friend Bijah Catlow. Brynner as Catlow is completely believable as the amiable outlaw that L’Amour wrote about. Good action sequences and quick dialogue pepper this film. This is a classic western that should be added to any fan’s library.

HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU - Warner

Based on a bestselling book, He’s Just Not That Into You confirms that the HBO series was more than just a television show - it was a cultural institution that spawned tours, catchphrases, fashion trends, and more. Ironically, the resulting film is both smarter and funnier than the big-screen version of Carrie and the gang. Of the nine central characters, the sweet, if clueless Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) makes the most vivid impression. The Maryland career girl tends to fall for friendly guys, like Conor (Kevin Connolly), who are “just not that into” her. At a local watering hole, she meets bar manager Alex (Justin Long), who sets her straight about the difference between what men say and what they mean, adding that there are exceptions to every rule. Her seemingly settled co-workers, Beth (Jennifer Aniston) and Janine (Jennifer Connelly), have relationship issues of their own: Beth’s boyfriend of seven years, Neil (Ben Affleck), doesn’t believe in marriage, and Janine’s husband, Ben (Bradley Cooper), has a wandering eye.

SPRING BREAKDOWN - Warner

All-season comedy fun gets sprung in a big way when Saturday Night Live veterans Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch and Will Arnett gear up for one huge Spring Breakdown. Thirtysomething best friends Gayle (Poehler), Becky (Parker Posey) and Judi (Dratch) have always dreamed of being fabulous. But they never grew out of being geeks. So when Becky gets the opportunity to unofficially chaperone her boss daughter Ashley (Amber Tamblyn) to the college spring-break destination of South Padre Island, the ladies decide to turn their tragically unhip lives around and party with the beer-and-bikini set. Through keg-stands, hookups and foam parties, Becky, Gayle, Judi and Ashley are about to discover that its better to stand out than to fit in.

THE SHIELD: Season Seven - Sony

The final season of this gritty, hard-hitting, award-winning cop drama comes to DVD! This season, Vic’s relationship with Shane is put to the test as they work against each other to bring down the Armenian mob. Dutch plays hardball to get a homicide witness to come forward. The Strike Team tries to rescue a drug kingpin’s daughter, and Vic is pressured to take down Pezuela, leading him to seek an immunity deal for him and Ronnie in exchange for them helping ICE take down Beltran.

FIND UP: Blu-ray - Sony

In this laugh-out-loud comedy, Ford High’ s star football players Shawn Colfax and Nick Brady scheme to ditch football camp so they can spend the summer surrounded by beautiful girls at cheer camp. The guys are having the time of their lives as they use their new reputation as “sensitive guys” to talk the hotties into skinny dipping, cheering naked, and hooking up. But when Shawn falls for the gorgeous head cheerleader who’ s suspicious of their motives, the players must change their game to prove Shawn’ s intentions before the thrilling cheer competition finals. A popcorn flick coming to DVD at just the right time, get your copy today!

FALLING DOWN: Blu-ray - Warner

This film, about a downsized engineer (Michael Douglas) who goes ballistic, triggered a media avalanche of stories about middle-class white rage when it was released in 1993. In fact, it’s nothing more than a manipulative, violent melodrama about one dude’s meltdown. Douglas, complete with pocket protector, nerd glasses, crewcut, and short-sleeved white shirt, gets stuck in traffic one day near downtown L.A. and proceeds to just walk away from his car--and then lose it emotionally. Everyone he encounters rubs him the wrong way and a fine lot of stereotypes they are, from threatening ghetto punks to rude convenience store owners to a creepy white supremacist--and he reacts violently in every case. As he walks across L.A. cutting a bloody swath, he’s being tracked by a cop on the verge of retirement (Robert Duvall).

DEFIANCE: Blu-ray - Paramount

Three ferociously committed actors fill the roles of the Bielski brothers, Jewish partisans who escaped into the forests of Eastern Europe during the Second World War. Daniel Craig is Tuvia, the leader of a group of refugees who eventually number over a thousand; Liev Schreiber is Zus, the antagonistic warrior; and Jamie Bell is Asael, a peacemaker no less devoted to the survival of the community. The three performers give life to director Edward Zwick’s account of this little-known chapter of Jewish resistance to the Holocaust, which otherwise plays more like a history lesson than a full-blooded movie. The film’s best achievement is its strong location work, in Lithuania--as the community makes its home in the forest, the landscape becomes an important player in the drama at hand, and the changing of the seasons is charted with bone-chilling detail.

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:
September 09, 2009