Nick’s Picks – September 23, 2015

everest_ver2

EVEREST

For majority of the films where it’s man vs nature, we’ve come to learn that nature always wins no matter how skilled or cautious man can be. That is evidenced in films like The Perfect Storm, The Poseidon Adventure, All Is Lost and Alive. Everest further proves that the mountain reigns supreme.

Directed by Baltasar Kormakur, best known for the films “2 Guns” and “Contraband”, Everest is the story of several climbing expeditions in May 1996 and the devastating snow storm on the mountain that took several lives. Kormakur expertly handles the realism of the frozen and challenging dangers on Everest with stark realism and spine tingling tension.

Leading one of the expedition teams is Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) who runs and manages the expedition guiding company called Adventure Consultants. Rob leads an expedition team to climb Everest on a yearly basis. He’s experienced and cautious emphasizing that his job is to not only get you to the top of Everest but to get you back down safely as well. That is foreshadowing at its best.

In the beginning of the movie, Rob hesitantly leaves his pregnant wife Jan (who’s also a climber) (Keira Knightly) who’s reduced to acting through telephone calls to her husband. He promises to be back in time for the birth. Again…foreshadowing.

His roster of clients for this expedition includes: Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin) and arrogant Texas businessman married to Peach (Robin Wright) who doesn’t like him going on these expeditions; Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) a mild mannered mailman working 3 jobs who almost made to the top of Everest the year before; Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori) the lone woman on the climb who has climbed 6 of the 7 summits with Everest being the last one to reach her goal; and Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly) as the journalist from Outsider magazine. Also part of his team is Helen (Emily Watson) who manages base camp and the doctor who informs the group of all the dangers and perils they will face by climbing up to the 29,00 ft. pinnacle of Mount Everest.

Once informed of all the dangers to the human body by climbing that high, we start to wonder why anyone would want to do it just once, let alone on a regular basis leading groups of people to their potential deaths. Everest is based on a true story of several climbers dying on the 1996 expedition and serves as a cautionary tale. Overall, the movie’s scenery is majestic and expansively beautiful which is captured superbly by the cinematographer Salvatore Totino and shot on location in Nepal and the French Alps. The scenery and the mountain is the main character of this story. The climbers are the supporting characters with weak supporting storylines.

From the film’s trailer we expect to see Jake Gyllenhaal in one of the lead roles but he’s relegated to the supporting role of Scott Fischer who runs a rival expedition company called Mountain Madness. His approach to climbing Everest is more of a laid back, hippie style where he drinks heavily and lounges at base camp in a drug induced stupor.

What works in this film is that the average person has no idea what it takes to get to the top of Mount Everest or why anyone would want to. Checking it off your bucket list is not a logical reason to do this. This film both informs and entertains as we get a firsthand account of everything from their arrival, hiking to set up base camp, acclimating the body to the frigid climate, and how important the Sherpas are to these expeditions. Once the climbers reach the top of Everest and plant their flag, you’ll feel a sense of victory as well because Kormakur drags the viewer along on this adventurous, tense, spine chilling expedition best seen in its 3D splendor.

Starring: Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightly, Josh Brolin, Emily Watson
Director: Baltasar Kormakur
Company: Universal Pictures
Now Showing: In Theatres
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (disturbing images and intense peril)
Grade: A-

Black Mass Poster

BLACK MASS

As far as gangster movies go there’s none better to tell those mobster tales than Martin Scorsese or even Francis Ford Coppola. Director Scott Cooper, best known for Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace, makes a valiant attempt but falls a wee bit short in this true story of Whitey Bulger as a violent criminal from Boston who uses the FBI as a pretend informant to gain the upper hand and control of his turf by informing on other mobsters.

This is a film based on the book by reporters of the Boston Globe who told the story of Whitey Bulger and how he manipulated his brother, a senator and his best friend who was an FBI agent.
It’s a story of violence and manipulation with very little redeeming qualities. We know the bad guys from the good and with such a large cast we get lost among the myriad of characters.

Depp as Whitey Bulger, is probably his best role in a long time. Nonetheless, his portrayal is a caricature of a real mobster and exaggerated with the heavy makeup to curtail us into believing he’s as sinister as they come. The make-up is distracting and even though the steel gray contacts reeks evil, a dramatic performance alone as one that Depp can deliver would be more true that the heavily laden makeup to convince us he is the devil incarnate. Still a decent performance by Depp.

The supporting cast is full of recognizable names. Benedict Cumberbatch as William “Billy” Bulger, the senator who shields and protects Bulger from the FBI while Whitey uses this brotherly relationship to further his own gain. There’s Whitey’s best friend since childhood, James Connolly (Joel Edgerton) who became an FBI agent and uses the government’s resources by protecting Whitey as he informs on the Italian mob invading his turf. James is essentially helping Whitey become a stronger more dangerous criminal cloaked in the veil of FBI entanglement as Bulger’s secret private army. It’s this game of chess that makes the film a thriller, yet Cooper instead focuses on Whitey’s sinister persona which tends to lean toward the incredulous.

A film can only portray evil or the devil in so many ways and the audience has probably seen them all. With the better mobster movies of the past holding the bar so high, Cooper failed the legitimacy test and instead spoon feeds us with typical mobster recipes. This story could have been so much more engrossing without all the heavy make-up and over dramatization. There’s little humanity to Whitey, and inserting a few scenes with his loving girlfriend (Dakota Johnson) and son to demonstrate that Whitey is human and has a tender side was just a cheap magic trick.

This film reeks of disbelief because even the average educated soul would scratch his head and wonder how did the FBI not know what was going on and how could Whitey elude them for over sixteen years as a fugitive.

For a film that’s two hours long you’d be better off watching the “Whitey” documentary for some real entertainment and suspense. This knock-off version is a letdown and your non-typical gangster movie.

Starring: Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Kevin Bacon, Dakota Johnson
Director: Scott Cooper
Company: Warner Bros. Pictures
Now Showing: In Theatres
MPAA Rating: R (strong violence, strong language, profanity, graphic scenes)
Grade: C+

 

FREE DVD GIVEAWAY

Skin Trade Pop Life Love and Mercy Kindness

We are doing a Free DVD Giveaway! If you are interested in a chance at winning a free copy of Skin Trade, Love & Mercy, Pop Life or Kindness is Contagious, 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!

SKIN TRADE – Magnet

With nothing but vengeance to live for, detective Nick Cassidy (Dolph Lundgren) ransacks his way through the Bangkok underworld in pursuit of Viktor Dragovic (Ron Perlman), the human trafficker who attempted to kill his family. As the crossfire grows more deadly, FBI Agent Eddie Reed (Michael Jai White) is sent to bring Nick home, while Thai detective Tony Vitayakui (Tony Jaa) questions the motives and methods that have brought Nick across the globe. Through dire circumstances, detectives Cassidy and Vitayakui must come together to destroy Dragovic’s human trafficking network.

LOVE & MERCY – Lionsgate

Love & Mercy presents an unconventional portrait of Brian Wilson, the mercurial singer, songwriter and leader of The Beach Boys. Set against the era defining catalog of Wilson’s music, the film intimately examines the personal voyage and ultimate salvation of the icon whose success came at extraordinary personal cost.

POP LIFE – Cinedigm

Pop Life is a film that delves in the popularity of the new generation of street drugs such as Molly and the environments where these party drugs are enthusiastically consumed and celebrated.

KINDNESS IS CONTAGIOUS – Cinedigm

The documentary began with an article about James Fowler and his research concerning the viral nature of kindness. Fowler demonstrated that if you are kind to one person, they will be kind to four other people, and that each of those four people will be kind to four more people, and so on and so on… With this in mind, the general consensus amongst researchers in this arena is that we are hardwired to cooperate with one another. In short, to be kind. This is our fundamental strength as a species and the reason why we are the most successful organism on the planet. Kindness Is Contagious profiles cutting-edge scientists and best-selling authors from Berkeley to Harvard and everywhere in between as well as real life people from all walks of life whose lives illustrate this incredible discovery and how it affects us and how a little generosity can help us live happier, healthier, wealthier, longer and more fulfilling lives.

SOME KIND OF HERO – Olive Films

Corporal Eddie Keller just spent six years as a prisoner of war. Now he’s coming home. Richard Pryor wowed audiences with his moving portrayal of the former POW who tries to return back to the normal life he remembered before the war. The only problem is, nothing is as he remembered it. Pryor’s brilliant comedic talents make this the rare sort of drama that you can watch with a smile on your face. Margot Kidder and Ray Sharkey are excellent in touching supporting roles. Richard Pryor is Some Kind of Hero, in a role that is arguably the best of his career.

ALL AMERICAN HIGH REVISITED – Virgil Films

All American High Revisited is the ultimate high school documentary. We spend a year with the Class of ’84 — an era of neon fashion, punk posing and Princess Di hairdos. Flash forward three decades to those same students reflecting back at their teen selves with fond, bittersweet memories.

PITCH PERFECT 2 – Universal

A sequel to the 2012 musical comedy that follows Fat Amy and Beca through their senior year at Barden University.

RESULTS – Magnolia

A love triangle develops out of a momentous trip to the gym in Andrew Bujalski’s hilarious romantic comedy, RESULTS. Danny (Kevin Corrigan) is newly divorced, newly wealthy, and totally aimless. In an effort to add structure to his life, he joins a gym where he meets self-styled guru/owner Trevor (Guy Pearce) and quickly falls for his audacious new trainer, Kat (Cobie Smulders), who happens to be Trevor’s ex-flame. Soon, their three lives are entangled, both professionally and personally.

CHAIN OF COMMAND – Lionsgate

A Special Ops soldier seeks revenge for his brother’s death, but his quest leads him to uncover a conspiracy involving the U.S. government.

MIDSOMER MURDERS: Series 16 – Acorn

What evil lurks beyond the well-trimmed hedges of Midsomer! The cozy villages of Midsomer County reveal their most sinister secrets in these contemporary British television mysteries. Inspired by the novels of Caroline Graham, modern master of the English village mystery, the series stars Neil Dudgeon as the capable Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby, with Gwilym Lee as his new sidekick, Detective Sergeant Charlie Nelson. Guest stars include Michael Jayston, Sharon Small, Robert Bathurst, Ann Eleonora Jorgenson, and Hayley Mills. Included are the following mysteries: The Christmas Haunting – New detective Charlie Nelson helps Barnaby investigate a stabbing at a haunted house. Let Us Prey – A Series of murders mimics scenes on a medieval fresco in Midsomer St. Claire. Wild Harvest – The death of a wealthy farmer leads the detectives to rotten dealings at a celebrity chef’s restaurant. The Flying Club – After a man falls out of a plane, Barnaby and Nelson scrutinize the turbulent relationships at an airfield. The Killings of Copenhagen – When a Midsomer businessman is poisoned on a trip abroad, Barnaby assists the Danish police with their inquiry.

MIDSOMER MURDERS: Series 17 – Acorn

The English village mystery gets a contemporary spin in this hit British television series that has earned a worldwide following. Bucolic settings harbor macabre crimes and eccentric characters that are no match for DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon, Life of Riley) and his assistant, DS Charlie Nelson (Gwilym Lee, Land Girls). “Delightful in a murderously charming way” (Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy). Guest stars include Amanda Burton, Claire Bloom, Joe Absolom, Andrew Lee Potts, Claudie Blakley, and Clarke Peters. The mysteries included are: The Dagger Club—When a hot new manuscript is stolen and its cover illustrator murdered, Barnaby and Nelson wonder who would kill to get their hands on the book. Murder by Magic—A magic trick gone wrong exposes simmering tensions between members of St. Cyprian’s Church and a local pagan group. The Ballad of Midsomer County—When the head of the Lower Crosby Folk Festival is killed, the detectives must determine if the motive was financial or far more personal. A Vintage Murder—Sabotage of a party at Midsomer Vinae Winery appears to be the latest attempt to discredit the vineyard—until a dead body turns up on the premises.

BLACK CAESAR – Olive Films

In this crime drama, an African-American crime boss rules Harlem with a bloody, iron fist. He is particularly cruel to the newly-promoted police captain who beat and crippled him as a boy. To get his revenge, the crimelord extorts the mob-connected, racist captain at every turn.

MANNEQUIN – Olive Films

Andrew McCarthy and Kim Cattrall star in this comic farce about a ne’er-do-well stock boy who falls in love with a department story mannequin that is actually an ancient Egyptian princess. McCarthy plays Jonathan, a hapless stooge who can’t seem to hold on to a job, or his girlfriends. He finally lands a job at a Philadelphia department store, Prince & Co. At the store, he meets a collection of wacky characters, including belligerently gay window designer Hollywood (Meshach Taylor), cool and scheming store manager Richards (James Spader), and Felix (G.W. Bailey), a fascistic security guard. And of course, there is Emmy (Kim Cattrall), the Egyptian princess/window dummy. Jonathan begins an affair with Emmy, who can only turn into a real woman when she is wrapped in her lover’s embrace. But inanimate romance has to be put on hold as Jonathan comes to the rescue of Prince & Co. when they are threatened with a hostile takeover by rival store Illustra. Jonathan, with the help of Emmy, concocts eye-catching window displays that draw the customers to Prince & Co. But Illustra won’t give up the takeover bid that easily.

HARRY – Acorn

Still grieving his wife’s suicide, Detective Harry Anglesea (Oscar Kightley) returns to Auckland’s Major Crime Unit after bereavement leave in his native Samoa. Although he’s eager to jump back into his job, his self-destructive behavior hints that he may not be ready. His 13-year-old daughter, Mele, is even less ready for life as usual and desperately needs her father’s attention. But Harry and his boss, DSS Jim “Stocks” Stockton (Sam Neill, Jurassic Park), soon become engrossed in a high-profile case. After a series of violent robberies turns fatal, the city clamors for the police to catch the killer. Harry traces the crime from a drug-crazed gunman to the street gangs that peddle methamphetamine, though there may be larger forces at play. But the investigations leads him on a downward spiral that could destroy his career and what remains of his family. Gritty and suspenseful, this award-winning drama probes the narcotics underworld of New Zealand’s largest city and the toll it takes on those caught in its grip.

MURDOCH MYSTERIES: Season 8 – Acorn

In Season 8 of this delightful detective show, joy and heartbreak await Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) and his friends in turn-of-the-century Toronto. After his brutal beating by the dockyard gang, Inspector Brackenreid’s (Thomas Craig) future remains uncertain. Constable Crabtree (Jonny Harris) faces life-altering changes, including a new romance, while Dr. Emily Grace (Georgina Reilly) and Dr. Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy) join the women’s suffrage movement. And in the show’s 100th episode, wedding bells ring as Murdoch and Julia finally walk down the aisle. Along the way, Murdoch encounters notables like W.C. Fields, Thomas Edison, and President Theodore Roosevelt. Guest stars include Peter Keleghan, Patrick McKenna, and Peter Outerbridge, the original Detective Murdoch from the TV movies that preceded the series.

MISTER JOHNSON – Criterion

A decade after he broke through with Breaker Morant, Australian director Bruce Beresford made another acclaimed film about the effects of colonialism on the individual. In a performance that earned him the Berlin Film Festival’s Silver Bear for best actor, Maynard Eziashi plays the title character, a Nigerian villager eager to work as a civil servant for the British authorities, including a sympathetic district officer (Pierce Brosnan), in the hopes that it will benefit him in the future. Instead, his ambition leads to his tragic downfall. Mister Johnson, based on a 1939 novel by Joyce Cary, is a graceful, heartfelt drama about the limits of idealism, affectingly acted and handsomely shot.

JUMANJI: 20th Anniversary – Sony

When young Alan Parrish discovers a mysterious board game, he doesn’t realize its unimaginable powers, until he is magically transported before the eyes of his friend, Sarah, into the untamed jungles of Jumanji! 26 years later he is freed from the game’s spell by two unsuspecting children. Alan (Robin Williams) reunites with Sarah (Bonnie Hunt) and together with Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter (Bradley Pierce) tries to outwit the game’s powerful forces in this imaginative adventure that combines breathtaking special effects with an enchanting mixture of comedy, magic and thrills.

ZATHURA – Sony

Celebrate the 10th anniversary of this heart-racing science-fiction adventure with a special, all-new Blu-ray edition! Two squabbling brothers are propelled into deepest, darkest space while playing a mysterious game discovered in the basement of their old house. On their fantastic journey, they are joined by a stranded astronaut and must survive meteor showers, hostile lizard-like aliens, a rocket-propelled robot who runs amok and an intergalactic spaceship battle. Unless they finish the game and reach the planet Zathura, they could be trapped in outer space forever.

THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD – Sony

An Adventure Comes to Life! The most amazing adventure is awaiting. Are you ready to unlock the secret? On his ninth birthday, Omri is presented with many gifts – the most unusual being a cupboard. But this is no ordinary wooden box. It is endowed with magical power that transforms Omri’s plastic toy figurines into living creatures. The first miniature to be animated is a 19th Century Iroquois warrior named Little Bear, who is terrified at first by his alien surroundings but soon bonds with his gigantic playmate. But when Omri’s friend, Patrick, gets in on the act and brings a six-shooting cowboy (David Keith) to life, their fantastic secret is in danger of being revealed.

ARROW: Season 3 – Warner

Determined to right the wrongs of Starling City and sworn to bring justice to those who have failed it, Oliver Queen (aka The Arrow) – with the help of his iron-fisted right hand, John Diggle, the tech-savvy Felicity Smoak and the newest member of the team, Roy Harper – narrowly defeats the vengeful Slade Wilson, his onetime ally and mentor on the island of Lian Yu. But like all wars, there are casualties. Sacrificing herself for her children, Moira Queen falls at the hand of Deathstroke, sending Oliver’s sister, Thea, into self-imposed exile with her biological father, Malcolm Merlyn.

CPO SHARKEY: Season 2 – Time Life

Season Two finds Sharkey trying to cope with two new characters. Raw recruit Apadoca likes to tawk and Sharkey can t find the off button. But it s new commanding officer Captain Buckner who makes Sharkey s life a living hell. They get plenty of in-your-face time during a submarine mission in San Francisco. Buckner cringes at the thought of Sharkey hosting a Japanese CPO, and almost blows a gasket when a child is born in the barracks while crusading Congresswoman Bagley inspects the base. Sharkey is under constant pressure. His girlfriend gives him an ultimatum. He deals with a bout of Russian flu. He trains Rocky-style for a boxing match with a rival Marine lunkhead. Sharkey gleefully bails out his guys by foiling a crooked used-car salesman. He s earned his gotcha moment. It sure beats squirming all day.

THE FLASH: Season 1 – Warner

CSI investigator Barry Allen is endearingly book-smart, somewhat awkward late and – as a result of a scientific experiment gone awry – the fastest man alive! He’s The Flash, zigzagging through the action-packed new series from the creative team behind Arrow and based on the supersonic DC Comics character. With his life shadowed by his mother’s murder and his father wrongly convicted of the crime, Barry finds that his newfound power of super speed grants him the ability to move through Central City like an unseen guardian angel. Barry quickly discovers he’s not the only “metahuman” created by the explosive disaster, however – and not everyone is using their new power for good. Now, to protect the innocent, Barry and the close friends who know his secret race to combat evildoers in one astonishing adventure after another that come at you like lightning in this fantastic set.

SWAMP MONSTERS: Season 1 – Cinedigm

The hunter becomes the hunted each time the Bayou Enforcement Agency for Supernatural Threats (B.E.A.S.T.) wades deep into the heart of the Louisiana swamps. But still they search whether for the infamous pack of Grunch lurking in the middle of the swamp, the notorious 400-pound Honey Island Swamp Monster, or the Cajun werewolf known as Rougarou B.E.A.S.T. will not stop until they have tracked down, proven the existence of, and eliminated the threat posed by these illusive creatures. Step in, if you dare, and slosh through the southern swamps alongside the B.E.A.S.T. . . but time will only tell whether you re the predator or the prey.

BREAKER MORANT – Criterion

At the turn of the twentieth century, three Australian army lieutenants are court-martialed for alleged war crimes committed while fighting in South Africa. With no time to prepare, an Australian major, appointed as defense attorney, must prove they were just following the rules of war and are being made into political pawns by the British imperial command. Director Bruce Beresford garnered international acclaim for this riveting drama set during a dark period in his country’s colonial history, and featuring passionate performances by Edward Woodward, Bryan Brown, and Jack Thompson; rugged cinematography by Donald McAlpine; and an Oscar-nominated script, based on true events.

JOJO’S BIZARRE AVENTURE: Season 1 – Warner

In 1987, 49 years after the deathly fight between Joseph Joestar and Pillar men, Joseph visits Far East Japan to see his grandson Jotaro Kujo who has been possessed by evil spirit. He tells Jotaro why the evil spirit “Stand” suddenly appeared. It was caused by loathed fate between the Joestars and the Vampire DIO who woke up from 100 years long sleep. Jotaro’s mother Holly passes out from bad influence brought by DIO. Jotaro leaves with his fellows to save his mother and defeat the ringleader DIO.

HARPER LEE: From Mockingbird to Watchman – First Run Features
To everyone’s surprise, fifty-five years after the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee has published another novel. Go Set a Watchman was written before Lee’s beloved masterpiece, as director Mary McDonagh Murphy explains in this update of her 2011 documentary Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill a Mockingbird. Murphy’s new film, Harper Lee: From Mockingbird to Watchman, sifts through the facts and speculation surrounding Lee and both her novels, and includes interviews with Lee’s older sister, close friends, and admirers including Oprah Winfrey, Scott Turow, Anna Quindlen, Tom Brokaw, Wally Lamb and more.

 

Synopsis used with permission

Posted under: Home Entertainment