Nick’s Picks 02/01/12
FEATURE FILM REVIEW
Madonna’s W.E. is a beautifully crafted, passionate tale about the search for true love in the modern world, viewed through the prism of one of history’s most fabled romances. The year is 1998, and Manhattan is abuzz with anticipation about the upcoming auction of the estate of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. But the auction is far more than a diversion for Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish), a transplanted Southerner trapped in an unhappy and abusive marriage. Transfixed by the exquisite artifacts of the Windsors’ lives, Wally becomes obsessed with the love story of Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough), the chic, charismatic American who captured the heart of King Edward VIII (James D’Arcy). As she learns more about the sacrifices Wallis made in choosing to be with Edward, Wally finds the courage to follow her own heart and create her own happiness.
This film is very refreshing as it tells the popular tale from the perspective of the American, Wally Wintrhop. The decision to present the story from Winthrop, whom many believe to be the antagonist of the story, is quite daring. Tying into the story Madonna’s decision to include the story of arc of a modern day woman’s abusive relationship of the same name takes the film to an entirely new level altogether. This film is a true story that is peppered with so many fictional segments, the viewer begins to question which sections of the film are real vs make believe. But who really cares? Whether it is the story of true love and the lengths two people would go to achieve it or the story of a woman who yearns to find herself and get out from underneath an abusive spouse, this is a story for and about love and perseverance.
Andrea Riseborough’s performance is impeccable and, coupled with the juxtaposition of the thematic material, the chemistry between Riseborough, James D’Arcy and Abbie Cornish and the direction by Madonna, this film will pull at the heart strings of even the most cold hearted of viewers. There are many positives to take from this engaging story that nearly toppled the monarchy. The sacrifices, the love and the true representation of a woman in love make you just want to jump up and shout hallelujah! The biggest problem with the film is extolled by the lack of focus. I believe Madonna may have tried to do to much with this film. It seems as though she worked to fit in so many different angles of the story, rather than just telling the story of Wallis Simpson and how her love for King Edward VIII was so strong, he abdicated his right to the throne in order get married to her. Entertaining to the end and perhaps a bit convoluted at times, the bottom line is this film is well worth watching. You might even be impressed.
Starring: Abbie Cornish, James
D’Arcy & Andrea Riseborough
Company: The Weinstein Company
Now Showing: In Local Area Theatres
MPAA Rating: R
THE LEGEND OF DARK HORSE COUNTY
If you find yourself speeding around town and you come across a rather large gathering of people with cables, cameras, lights and stuff, you have probably stumbled upon one of two film projects that are being shot in and around the Houston area right now. The first project is The Legend of Dark Horse County, which is directed by Shawn Welling. The Legend of Dark Horse County began as part of Wellings’ line of short films built upon the AXI (Avengers of Xtreme Illusions) series, however once he found out just how strong an actress Olivia “ChaChi” Gonzales was, he decided to ramp the story up into a full fledged feature. Showcasing the talents of Gonzales was easy, but finding the other lead components that could compliment a world-class dancer was something altogether different. Welling considered himself fortunate to obtain the talents of Larry Wade Carrell to portray the Sheriff in the film. (Carrell’s claim to fame was the award winning feature, Jacob, starring Michael Biehn.) In addition, the incomparable Joy Willard is back filling out the leads. The film focuses upon a family who heads to an isolated mansion after being hired as sumer caretakers. When an evil and spiritual presence influences certain people and things into violence, the psychic niece, ChaChi (Olivia Gonzales), sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future. ChaChi vows to protect family members from this evil at all cost. The mansion (Bateman Estate) is surrounded by a deep thicket of woods which becomes the backdrop for a high-octane Sheriff posse pursuit to find two missing teens as this family becomes trapped in a nightmarish odyssey they’ll never forget into the dangerous American back-country. Keep your eyes peeled for The Legend of Dark Horse County. This film has it all and will definitely keep your interest!
Rebirth is a short film currently in production by Mark Baird and the Clear Lake Christian Media Project. The script for rebirth was written by Paul Spite in October of 2011 as part of the “Write of Passage” screenwriting competition in Los Angeles, California. Rebirth took third place in the juried competition and was voted “audience favorite” after the top 10 scripts were posted online. Baird submitted a proposal outlining production plans for Rebirth. The proposal was accepted and the script was awarded to the Clear Lake Christian Media Project for production. The finished film will premier as a “spotlight film” at the 168 hour film festival in LA in late March. Rebirth stars Bruce Carbonara and Bob Clark. Bruce is a musician and entertainer from Chicago, currently residing in Waco, TX. Bob Clark is the Executive Director at Houston Family Arts Center in the Cyfair area. Rebirth is a crime drama. When Johnny (Bruce Carbonara) ends up in the witness protection program after testifying against his own father, his younger brother Freddie (Bob Clark) must track him down and kill him to avenge their father’s incarceration and untimely death. But change has come to Johnny’s life. His witness protection program ‘cover’ of being a retired preacher is almost blown when the church he is attending presses him into service as their pastor. Now, as Johnny struggles to make sense of his own life, Freddie shows up to carry out the promise he made to his father.
FREE DVD GIVEAWAY
We are doing a Free DVD Giveaway! If you are interested in a chance at winning a free copy of Today’s Special, Beginning of the Great Revival, Beware the Gonzo, Essential Killing, Shut Up Little Man, Mannix: Season Six, The Confession, Revenge of the Electric Car, Hell and Back Again, Sesame Street: Iron Monster, Mildred Pierce, , it is really easy! All you have to do is send me an email at HoustonMovieGuy@gmail.com. The subject line of the email should read DVD GIVEAWAY. In the body of the email, be sure to put your name, full mailing address and which DVD or Blu-ray you would like. Winners will be selected by random drawing. Best of luck!
TODAY’S SPECIAL – Flatiron
Today’s Special, a heartwarming comedy with culinary flavor, tells the story of Samir (Aasif Mandvi), a sous chef who dreams of becoming the head chef at an upscale Manhattan restaurant. When he is passed over for a promotion, he impulsively quits and tells his co-worker Carrie (Jess Weixler) that he intends to go to Paris and apprentice under a master French chef. But dreams must be put aside after his estranged father, Hakim (Harish Patel), has a heart attack and Samir is forced to take over Tandoori Palace, the nearly bankrupt family restaurant in Jackson Heights.
BEGINNING OF THE GREAT REVIVAL – New Video
Eddie Gonzo” Gilman (Ezra Miller) is starting a revolution. When the wild eyed rebel journalist is ousted from his prep school’s newspaper by its überpopular editor, Gavin Riley (Jesse McCartney), Gonzo starts an underground paper, The Gonzo Files, to give a voice to all the misfits victimized by Gavin and his cronies. With help from the mysterious Evie (Zoë Kravitz), The Gonzo Files becomes a runaway hit and turns the school upside down, but Gonzo soon learns that the truth comes with consequences.
ESSENTIAL KILLING – Tribecca Film
In an award-winning performance, Vincent Gallo plays Mohammed, a Taliban fighter captured by the US military in Afghanistan after a violent desert attack goes awry. While being transported to a secret detention center in Europe, the vehicle crashes and he suddenly finds himself free. But his new found freedom quickly disappears as he is relentlessly pursued in a snow-blanketed forest by an army that does not officially exist.
SHUT UP LITTLE MAN! – Tribecca Film
The most important audio recording released in the nineties wasn’t a collection of songs by a self tortured alternative star. The most important recording release in the grunge era was entitled Shut Up Little Man! It was a covert audio recording of two older drunken men living in a small flat in San Francisco, who spent their available free time yelling, screaming, hitting and generally abusing each other. The first viral pop culture sensation began in 1987 when Eddie and Mitch (two young punks from the Midwest) moved next door to Peter Haskett (a flamboyant gay man) and Raymond Huffman (a raging homophobe). This ultimate odd couple hated each other with raging abandon, and through the paper thin walls their alcohol fuelled rants terrorized Eddie and Mitch. Fearing for their lives, they began to tape record evidence of the insane goings on from next door.
MANNIX: Season Six – CBS Paramount
Mannix, the action-packed detective drama about a tough and cynical private investigator stars Golden Globe winner Mike Connors stars as the title character. Mannix is a hard-boiled and gritty detective who constantly defies rules and regulations and is able to take a flurry of fist fights, high-speed car chases and bullet wounds in stride.
REVENGE OF THE ELECTRIC CAR – Docurama
By 2006, as many as 5,000 electric cars were destroyed by the major car companies that built them. Today, the electric car is back… with a vengeance. Without using a single drop of foreign oil, this new generation of car is America s future: fast, furious, and cleaner than ever. Narrated by Tim Robbins, and from the director of Who Killed the Electric Car?, the film goes behind the closed doors of Nissan, GM, the Silicon Valley start-up Tesla Motors and an independent car converter to find the story of the global resurgence of electric cars, following the race to be the first and the best, and to win the hearts and minds of the public around the world. It s not just the next generation of green cars that s on the line, it s the future of the automobile itself.
HELL & BACK AGAIN – Docurama
Embedded in Echo Company during the assault, photojournalist and filmmaker Danfung Dennis captures the frontline action with visceral immediacy. When Sergeant Harris returns home to North Carolina after a life-threatening injury in battle, the film evolves from stunning war reportage to the story of one man s personal apocalypse. With the love and support of his wife, Ashley, Harris struggles to overcome the difficulties of transitioning back to civilian life. The two realities seamlessly intertwine to communicate both the extraordinary drama of war and, for a generation of soldiers, the no-less-difficult experience of returning home. An unprecedented exploration of the moving image and a film of uncommon intimacy, Hell and Back Again comes full circle as it lays bare the true cost of war.
SESAME STREET: Iron Monster – Warner
Super Grover transforms into the Iron Monster when his cape is stuck at the Laundromat in “Super Hero of the Landuromat”, while Elmo, Abby, and Rosita star in “The Furry Four”, and Grover goes on the hunt for a partner in heroism in “Super Grover’s Sidekick”. Meanwhile, Slimey has his own adventure in “Slimey the Hero”. Each episode is designed to encourage basic math skills in young children.
MILDRED PIERCE – HBO
She gave her daughter everything, but everything was not enough. Mildred Pierce brings to life the memorable characters introduced in James M. Cain’s classic 1941 novel of pride and privilege in the middle class. Starring Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet, and co-written and directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Todd Haynes, this five-part drama is an intimate portrait of a uniquely independent woman who finds herself newly divorced during the Depression years, as she struggles to carve out a new life for herself and her family. The story explores Mildred’s unreasonable devotion to her insatiable daughter Veda (Evan Rachel Wood), as well as the complex relationship she shares with the indolent men in her life, including her polo-playing lover Monty Beragon (Guy Pearce) and ex-husband Bert Pierce (Brian F. O’Byrne).
CAST ME IF YOU CAN – MVD
Hiroshi is an actor, who always plays supporting roles, and lives in the shadow of his famous playwright father. Often mistaken for someone else, even for a kidnapper, Hiroshi struggles daily with his marginalized existence. But one day, luck changes. Hiroshi meets his muse, an aspiring actress Aya, who doesn’t mistake him for anyone else. He falls for Aya head over heels and struggles to play the lead in his own life. A sweet romantic comedy for all generations that will leave you smiling.
TIMMY TIME: Timmy Needs a Bath – Lionsgate
Join Timmy and his gang of friends as they learn the importance of health, hygiene and fun! This DVD product is perfect for children of all ages!
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 – Paramount
Paranormal Activity 3 takes you back to where it all began and the activity is more intense than ever. The cameras are on and recording the chilling moments when evil begins to terrorize young sisters Katie and Kristi for the first time. Brace yourself for the horror phenomenon that delivers heart-exploding scares so frightening that “the last 15 minutes will mess you up for life.
ANOTHER HAPPY DAY – Phase4 Films
On the eve of her estranged son’s wedding, Lynn (Ellen Barkin) is forced to confront long-suppressed family drama while visiting her parents’ home in Annapolis. With her two of her other children (Ezra Miller & Daniel Yelsky) in tow, Lynn faces off with her ex-husband (Thomas Hayden Church) and his new wife (Demi Moore) – all the while preparing for the imminent arrival of her self-mutilating daughter, Alice (Kate Bosworth).
LIMELIGHT – Magnolia
As the owner of legendary hotspots like Limelight, Tunnel, Palladium, and Club USA, Peter Gatien was the undisputed king of the 1990s New York City club scene. The eye-patch-sporting Ontario native built and oversaw a Manhattan empire that counted tens of thousands of patrons per night in its peak years, acting as a conduit for a culture that, for many, defined the image of an era in New York. Then years of legal battles and police pressure-spearheaded by Mayor Giuliani’s determined crackdown on nightlife in the mid-’90s-led to Gatien’s eventual deportation to Canada and to the shuttering of his glitzy kingdom.
POIROT: Series 1 – Acorn
Agatha Christie’s brilliant Belgian detective is on the case in the first series of the hit PBS mystery. Fan favorite David Suchet stars as the dapper sleuth who solves the thorniest of cases with his formidable intellect. Set in glittering 1930s Europe, these remastered adaptations capture every splendid detail of the Art Deco era.
THUNDER SOUL – Lionsgate
Thunder Soul is the inspiring, music-filled true story of high school band leader “Prof” Johnson, who took a ragtag jazz band and transformed them into the legendary funk powerhouse that took the nation by storm. Now decades later, “Prof’s” students prepare to gather and celebrate the man who taught them about pride, honor and the power of a deep groove in this unforgettable true story.
TEXAS KILLING FIELDS – Anchor Bay
Inspired by true events, this tense and haunting thriller follows Detective Souder (Sam Worthington), a homicide detective in a small Texan town, and his partner, transplanted New York City cop Detective Heigh (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) as they track a sadistic serial killer dumping his victims’ mutilated bodies in a nearby marsh locals call The Killing Fields. Though the swampland crime scenes are outside their jurisdiction, Detective Heigh is unable to turn his back on solving the gruesome murders. Despite his partner’s warnings, he sets out to investigate the crimes. Before long, the killer changes the game and begins hunting the detectives, teasing them with possible clues at the crime scenes while always remaining one step ahead. When familiar local girl Anne (Chloë Grace Moretz) goes missing, the detectives find themselves racing against time to catch the killer and save the young girl’s life.
NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS – Blue Underground
It was released as Second House on the Left, New House on the Left, and Torture Train. The ads screamed, “Most movies last less than two hours! This is one of everlasting torment!” It remains one of the most graphically fiendish films in exploitation history, the story of two teenage girls traveling through Europe, forced into a nightmare of sexual assault and sadistic violence. Irene Miracle, Flavio Bucci, Macha Meril, and Marina Berti star in this depraved shocker directed by Aldo Lado and featuring a haunting score by Ennio Morricone. Experience evil gone off the rails: Night Train Murders is now presented in a brand-new High Definition transfer from the original uncensored negative!
MONSIGNOR – Shout Factory
One of the all-time great bad movies, a pricelessly funny piece of cheese about a priest who not only breaks his vows of celibacy but gets chummy with the Mafia. Christopher Reeve stars as this upwardly mobile clergyman who climbs to the top, thanks to his assignment handling the Vatican’s business affairs. Of course, he’s only human–which is why he succumbs to the temptation provided by nun Geneviève Bujold. An outstandingly awful film, one marked by Reeve’s callow performance and a supporting cast (Fernando Rey, Robert Prosky) that should know better. A guaranteed hoot for anyone who ever survived parochial school.
MALCOLM X: 20th Anniversary – Warner
A biopic of the controversial and influential leader, In Malcolm X filmmaker Spike Lee, actor Denzel Washington and other top talents vividly portray the life and times of the visionary leader. One of the most charismatic and politically controversial voices in history Malcolm X burst into the public consciousness with radical perspective of race relations in America. His inspiring and enlightening ideologies touch and continue to influence the lives of millions. Washington was awarded the New YorkFilm Critic’s Circle Best Actor award for his portrayal of the title role in this biographical film.
ASTRAL CITY: A Spiritual Journey – Strand Releasing
Based on the best selling book by medium Chico Xavier, the film tells the story of Andre Luiz, a successful doctor who experiences an enlightening spiritual awakening after his death. When he wakes up in the spiritual world, he embarks on a new journey of self-discovery and transformation, from his first days in a dimension of pain and suffering, until when he is rescued and taken to the spiritual Astral City. With magnificent art direction and special effects that have never been seen before in a Brazilian production, and featuring an amazing score by composer Philip Glass, the film brings to the screen what life is like at the Astral City that hovers in the upper layers of the Earth’s atmosphere.
ANNIE HALL – MGM
Annie Hall is one of the truest, most bittersweet romances on film. In it, Allen plays a thinly disguised version of himself: Alvy Singer, a successful–if neurotic–television comedian living in Manhattan. Annie (Dianne Keaton) is a Midwestern transplant who dabbles in photography and sings in small clubs. When the two meet, the sparks are immediate–if repressed. Alone in her apartment for the first time, Alvy and Annie navigate a minefield of self-conscious “is-this-person-someone-I’d-want-to-get-involved-with?” conversation. As they speak, subtitles flash their unspoken thoughts: the likes of “I’m not smart enough for him” and “I sound like a jerk.” Despite all their caution, they connect, and we’re swept up in the flush of their new romance. Allen’s antic sensibility shines here in a series of flashbacks to Alvy’s childhood, growing up, quite literally, under a rumbling roller coaster.
THE APARTMENT – MGM
C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon) knows the way to success in business…it’s through the door of his apartment! By providing a perfect hideaway for philandering bosses, the ambitious young employee reaps a series of undeserved promotions. But when Bud lends the key to big boss J.D. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), he not only advances his career, but his own love life as well. For Sheldrake’s mistress is the lovely Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), elevator girl and angel of Bud’s dreams. Convinced that he is the only man for Fran, Bud must make the most important executive decision of his career: lose the girl…or his job.
JOHNNY TEST: Super Smarty Pants – Mill Creek
By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.
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