COMING SOON...

COMING SOON...

BLACK VENUS, IT, THE NAVIGATOR: A MEDIEVAL ODYSSEY, TIDELAND, THE HOT ROCK, DIAMONDS OF KILAMANDJARO, GOLDEN TEMPLE AMAZONS, THE HIRED HAND, DAY OF THE JACKAL, and DUCKMAN THE COMPLETE SERIES

Friday, November 30, 2012

PREP & LANDING/PREP & LANDING: NAUGHTY VS. NICE (TOTALLY TINSEL COLLECTION): I'M A SUCKER FOR CHRISTMAS SPECIALS



Looking for some fun this Christmas that will also make a great gift for animated film fans? Then by all means pick up the PREP & LANDING series that arrives in time for Christmas. It features both the original PREP & LANDING and the new short NAUGHTY VS. NICE. The package features both standard DVD and Blu-ray and includes a number of extra features that are as entertaining as the specials themselves. Included are several other short shorts that involve the elves including SECRET SANTA and TINY'S BIG ADVENTURE, a training film for prospective elves, a North Pole newsreel, hilarious commercials for the North Pole viewers (like Elf-Date.com and The Fruitcake Factory), a behind the scenes look at Grace Potter as she makes a song for the toons and does one of the voices and a behind the scenes look at how the programs are made.

PREP & LANDING/NAUGHTY BUT NICE

Every year a new crop of holiday specials makes it to television, sometimes trying to capture the magic of Christmas but more often than not trying to make some sort of statement instead. The best/worst example of this is the Frosty sequel more concerned with climate change than a Christmas tale. But now and again a new show arrives that has the potential of being a great new holiday treat. The Prep & Landing shows are just that.

The first one, PREP & LANDING, works for both children and adults. The prep & landing teams are elves that make sure things are set for Santa's arrival. They make certain kids are asleep, areas are ready for toys and the landing strip on the roof is cleared and marked for Santa's sleigh. The best elf to handle this is Wayne who thinks he's being promoted this year. Instead he's kept at the job and given a trainee named Lanny.

Disappointed, Wayne doesn't exactly take to the job as well. When Lanny makes a few mistakes, everything from messing up the Christmas tree to losing part of the landing strip, Wayne must find his Christmas spirit once again and come to the rescue.

The show plays out like Mission Impossible with elves replacing Tom Cruise and his elite team. Gags revolve around the gadgets and techniques used to insure everything goes right. Christmas phrases are inserted for code words and the spirit of Christmas joy finds its way directly into the story.

Christmas is compacted into a 30 program that will offer laughs galore for kids and adults alike. A smile is sure to cross your face while watching this. As in the best of classic cartoons, this computer animated short film offers jokes that the kids will laugh at but that adults will find more subtle humor in to offer a chuckle. It is a rare treat, a new holiday special that delivers the goods.

PREP & LANDING: NAUGHTY VS. NICE

When a naughty child tries to gain access to the equipment used by the North Pole for the naughty list using a stolen device, Wayne and Lanny are assigned to put a stop to it and get it back. Accompanying them is an expert in naughty, a coal elf named Noel, Wayne's little brother.

Noel is much loved and admired by all, a loud and obnoxious sort who seems fun to almost everyone who knows him. Of course this leads to a massive case of sibling rivalry. While Wayne is the older brother, Noel always seems to show him up.

The team takes off, arrives and sets out to save Christmas by retrieving the device. Once there they discover another case of sibling rivalry, one that is about to destroy Christmas itself. In saving this disaster from ruining the holiday, Wayne and Noel learn what being brothers is all about.

This time around not only are the Christmas themes present again but a tale that might help children deal with jealousy at Christmas time unfolds as well. I know, I said earlier that stories that deal with issues ruin Christmas specials. Fortunately here the issue is one that involves Christmas rather than uses it as a backdrop. Best of all the story entertains and offers laughs for both children and adults once more.

I love Christmas. I love Christmas specials having grown up with the classics of the past, from RUDOLPH to the TV series shows that featured Christmas episodes like The Beverly Hillbillies. So to find a new special for the holidays that meets the criteria that I have for one (must be true to the spirit, must be about the holiday and not some political agenda, must entertain, must touch me in some way) makes me feel an incredible amount of joy. I've just added this DVD to my list of must watch movies for the Christmas season. I would suggest that you pick up a copy for your shelf as well.

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LAWLESS: PROHIBITION MOUNTAIN STYLE

It's been years since the theme of bootleggers was the subject matter in movies. Back in the 70s there was a rush of movies about this subject ranging from the low budget MOONRUNNERS (the movie later turned into the hit TV series THE DUKES OF HAZARD) to the even lower budgeted MOONSHINERS. Even Burt Reynolds took on the subject in WHITE LIGHTNING. But then it kind of disappeared. That all changed when reality TV took a shine (pun intended) to the topic and the film LAWLESS is a result of that renewed interest.

Based loosely on the real life story of the three Bondurant brothers in Franklin County, Virginia, the story focuses on a short period of their lives when bootlegging was their claim to fame and the end result was what was called a war in their home county. Descendants of the real life family have written a book on the subject and that is what the film is based on.

The Bondurant brothers were legends in Franklin County. Oldest brother Forrest (Tom Hardy) was said to be indestructible having crossed paths with death on several occasions. Middle brother Howard (Jason Clarke) has perhaps decided to dip into the family recipe too often but remains the muscle of the group. The youngest brother, Jack (Shia LeBouf) is the upstart, trying to think of ways to impress his older brother Forrest and increase the profits of their bootlegging venture. But Forrest is content to sit back and make the money that he does from their product and pay his bribe money to the local sheriff.

All that changes when a new prosecutor comes to town. Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) is part of a task force that was sent to shut down the stills but who in truth is more interested in taking over the entire county's bootlegging business. When Forrest refuses to comply, Rakes sets out to destroy the Bondurant family in any way possible. The result is a violent and bloody confrontation that leaves Forrest wounded but alive and his brothers ready for revenge. But that is not to happen yet.

Jack decides the best way to increase their finances is to begin selling their product to Chicago gangster Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman). With the country dry due to prohibition, Jack can get good money from the mobster in return for supplying the demand the gangsters need for their town. While the brothers may disagree on this item the money does come in handy at the right time.

Rakes' men having been behind the attack on Forrest and the brutalization of a waitress and love interest of Forrest (Jessica Chastain) that same night have left a bad taste in the mouths of the brothers. When they blow up their still and murder Jack's best friend in cold blood, a harmless young boy who had no chance of being a problem to Rakes, the brothers can take no more. An eventual showdown between the corrupt lawman and the bootleggers is inevitable. It's bloody but not overly so and the results are surprising.

LAWLESS does a great job of capturing the era and area that the film takes place in. The back hills of Virginia look beautiful rather than wasted away and yet the people who live there looks as poor as the times the story takes place in. While bootlegging may have paid the bills for poor farmers who made more money this way it was not the glamorous life that say cocaine dealers have been depicted in more modern stories. These were tough men who did what they had to to feed their families and keep their farms. The work was hard and the rewards merely enough to get by. There was no glitz and glamour here.

The acting here is stupendous. Tom Hardy turns in another dynamite performance as a man who uses few words and fewer actions yet carries the threat of violence about him like an aura. His character knows the ways of the world and tries to convey them with little success to his younger brother. LeBouf does a great job as well, depicting a hero worshipping brother who wants to do well by his family yet gets turned down more often than not. Pearce is equal to these two in depicting a bad guy that even law abiding citizens will find themselves hoping gets his due.

The movie doesn't offer a pretty picture of the bootlegging business but it does offer a few new anti-heroes for viewers to root for. You care about this family and the others who faced these problems in the past. It was a violent world that handled things much differently than they are handled today. And that makes for some tremendous storytelling that just might make viewers want to find out more and read about those times.

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THE EXPENDABLES 2: 80'S HEROES UNITE!

If you saw THE EXPENDABLES then you have a clue as to what to expect from any sequel. Lots of explosions, plenty of gunplay and hand to hand combat from a group of mercenaries who also tend to have a moral backbone. The first film delivered tons of action to the point that I consider it one of the best action films ever made. It was popular enough that a sequel had to follow. So how does THE EXPENDABLES 2 stack up?

The opening sequence offers up the action quota quite well and we get to see the team in action. We also meet a new member, a sniper by the name of Bill (Liam Hemsworth). Each member is given enough screen time to earn them their paycheck and before the sequence ends, team member Yin (Jet Li) parachutes out of their plane never to return for the rest of the film.

When they return home ready for some R & R, Barney (Sylvester Stallone) is contacted by Church (Bruce Willis). Unhappy with the outcome from the first film, he tells Barney he has another mission for the team, an easy one that will square things away between them. Mission in hand and the addition of a CIA operative Church sends along, the group sets out for a small European country to retrieve some codes locked in a safe.

The group retrieves the codes and is ready to head out when they're confronted by a problem they weren't warned about. Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and his men have the team surrounded and Bill with a gun to his head. The team can do nothing but give in and surrender the codes. Even though they've complied, Vilain kills Bill in front of them before leaving. Of course this sets the revenge ball rolling and Barney will stop at nothing until he gets the codes back and sees Vilain dead.

The premise for the film is rather simple but that's never been a problem with either film. It's a core story that surrounds itself with tons of action and special effects. That's what these films are all about. That and half a dozen hand to hand combat sequences that would result in work for half the stunt men in the world. These films are action films made for fans and for fun. And the new one delivers, for the most part.

This time around though it feels different. For one the surprise has been taken out of the equation. The first film we all wondered what it would be like to see some of the biggest names in action films from the 80s together on the screen at the same time. We got that and this time around we get it in spades. We have the members of the original cast together again and Willis and Schwarzenegger are even allowed to play with the rest this time around. Not only that, but Van Damme and Chuck Norris are tossed in as well. Norris has an especially funny part in the film. And yet it doesn't feel the same.

Perhaps it's seeing all of our heroes from the past aging just a bit before our eyes even though every one of them still seems fit and perhaps more so than when they were the hottest thing in action films. Maybe it's that the quips and witty one liners we've come to associate with them feel rather old hat here. Yes, they are cute but for me they came up too often. I'm not sure what it is but it made me feel that this film wasn't quite as good as the first one.

That being said it's still a great action film. And seeing Willis, Schwarzenegger and Stallone shooting their way through an airport, all of them in the same shot, was amazing. This is not an action film where you'll find yourself wondering how plausible the movie is or if the situations seen could really happen. This movie is a roller coaster ride that takes you up and down, tosses you around and then makes you want to go for another ride. It's a popcorn movie, plain and simple, and one to be enjoyed for just that reason.

Word is that a third film is in the works. It will be interesting to see what other action stars of the 80s are brought back for this one. Steve Seagal? Mel Gibson? Perhaps they'll choose a different route and bring in action stars of today with the hopes of making this series of films last longer with a new crew taking on bad guys. No one knows except Stallone who's been behind both films. Let's just hope it continues and only gets better with each film.

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DAMNED BY DAWN: MORE CHILLS THAN EXPECTED

When you choose to have a title for a horror film that includes words like this feature does the expectations of the viewer increase. You'd better deliver the goods or horror fans will do little more than ridicule the name over and over again, citing the title in their jokes and slams. If you can deliver the goods, then you make a movie that fans can enjoy. DAMNED BY DAWN is just such a movie.

A slow start finds a young couple going to the home of Claire to visit her grandmother perhaps for the last time. Her boyfriend Paul finds the family a bit off kilter but not enough to make him run for the hills. When Claire sits at her grandmother's side to talk about the mysterious package (an urn) her grandmother sent her, she's told she is the only one her grandmother trusts with its care. She knows her time is coming and wants her grand daughter at her side to insure nothing prevents what is to happen.

That night the inevitable does happen and grandma dies. At the same time a storm whips up outside and Claire looks out the window to see something unexpected, a visage in white flowing gown, eyes bleeding and packing a scream that sends her reeling while opening the window. The banshee is here to take grandma's soul. But Claire unknowingly interferes and puts not just her grandmother's soul in jeopardy but the lives of everyone inside as well.

The dead rise and take wing, tracking down everyone in the house as they try to figure out what has happened. When Paul goes for help, he's attacked by a scythe wielding creature that flies at him. His body is later discovered by Claire's father and a neighbor who was visiting. As those who survive in the house are taken out one by one, Claire must figure out just how to put a stop to the banshee before everyone dies.

A rather simple story, the movie opens at a dreadfully slow pace but don't let that prevent you from watching as it gets better. The usual mind set needed for a horror film, suspension of belief, needs to kick in to truly enjoy the film but it does offer some truly creepy images and sounds. The cry of the banshee, a mind piercing scream, is one that jolts you while watching the film. Coupled with the images of the banshee it might be something that will cause a few sleepless nights for those who scare easily.

The movie is not Oscar worthy but it does offer a decent horror tale with a new twist on an old legend. The acting is up to par and the effects are well done. Some are obviously CGI effects but at least they do a good job with them here unlike the weekly dose of sharks or pythons dished up by the SyFy network. If you're looking for a decent horror movie you could do worse but at least this one has some heart, talent and desire to be considered a well done piece. It succeeds on several levels and is worth watching.

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SILENT NIGHT: ANOTHER REMAKE THAT PAYS DECENT TRIBUTE

There seem to be three roads to take when making a horror film these days. The first and least used path is to make something original. Unfortunately few in charge these days are willing to risk anything to make an original film. The second is to make a sequel. The sad part here is that when an original film is made that succeeds it tends to go this route to far lesser productions. The last road is that of the remake. The bad news is that some people feel they need to improve what can be considered a classic and update it for the times, more often than not by adding a few more scenes of titillation or more gore. Most of these fail. But once in a while...

SILENT NIGHT is not actually a remake of the classic bad movie SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT, the film that caused such an outrage when it was released years ago. Yes, a few of the memorable items from that film are here including a killer dressed in a Santa costume and the antler scene. But this film feels more like a tribute to all of those low budget slasher flicks from the 80s instead of a remake.

Its Christmas time and in a small Midwestern town everyone is gearing up for the annual Christmas parade as well as the Santa costume contest. Aubrey Bradimore is a new deputy for the Sheriff's department. Still dealing with the recent loss of her husband, Aubrey is called in to work the night shift when another officer fails to show for work. Bad goes to worse when Aubrey is sent out to find him only to discover his body strapped to a chair and electrocuted in a basement as well as the dismembered body of a woman upstairs. For those of us watching we know full well who the killer was. Well sort of. It was a man dressed in a Santa outfit with a mask on to keep everyone from knowing up front who the killer is.

The cantankerous Sheriff Cooper (Malcolm McDowell) insults his deputies and rules with an iron fist. Discovering he has a possible serial killer in his town while a major event is schedule doesn't bother him. Instead he welcomes the chance to face down the killer without the help of the State Police or FBI since the roads to town are presently closed. To him this just means that the killer can't leave.

As Aubrey and Cooper as well as the other deputies search for clues, signs of what is about to happen creep up around town. Various town members each receive a small wrapped package but none of them open them. Had they done so perhaps a clue would have led them to the killer? Included in those who receive a package are the mayor, the sheriff and Aubrey's father, an ex-policeman in town.

The victims at first appear to fall prey to that most dangerous of things found in slasher movies; they all seem to be having sex. The deceased deputy was having a fling with a married woman. The killer's next victims are shooting low budget soft core porn in a motel room giving the film makers the chance to offer some nudity, thus satisfying the prerequisite T&A required for all low budget horror films.

As the body count rises, Aubrey continues to try and figure out just who this mass murderer is. Cooper, on the other hand, is ready to blame almost anyone. The clues slowly unravel a bit but in all honesty it doesn't matter. For slasher films of this sort its more about body count and the methods of murder that matter most.

As I said at the start this movie isn't quite a remake of the classic bad film of the same name. That movie revolved around a young boy scarred by a life in an orphanage who had traumatic experiences around Christmas time as well as having witnessed his parents murdered and raped by a man in a Santa outfit. A twist on that is offered here at the very end, but nothing that would lead us to the identity of the killer early on.

The movie seems to pay homage to those cheap slasher films of the 80s by following their patterns fairly faithfully rather than try and make something more meaningful. It offers the masked killer who seems unstoppable. It offers the gushing fake blood by the gallon, more than any wound would actually spout out. It offers victims who are either in the midst of sex or have a secret in their past that began this whole cycle to start with. And it offers a heroine who comes to the rescue before the final reel. It also offers one more classic 80s slasher item but I won't reveal that one. If you don't recognize it then you're not a fan of the genre.

Offering few scares but enough story to hold your interest, this movie isn't that bad. It will be a nice addition to the collection of holiday horrors on your shelf. If you're offended by that sort of thing it will be easy enough to walk by. But for those who have a fond remembrance of those 80s slasher films then you'll want to give this one a watch. The vibes that emanate from this one bring back the feeling of those films in spades.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

PAPINOS PIZZA IN DECATUR: GREAT DEALS AT GREAT PRICES


Okay so I know that this page is supposed to be about nothing more than movies released on DVD. But on occasion I like to toss something else in that might interest people. Here's a quick tidbit: go see SKYFALL the new Bond flick. It's great.

Now for another item to pass along. Here in Decatur a locally owned and operated pizza place is trying to find a way to get the word out there that they exist. The place is Papinos Pizza. I can tell you from experience that they offer a great pizza and at a great price.

For a while people were talking about how Papinos didn't have a great price, comparing the price rather than what they were getting. Papinos 14 inch pizza offers a better deal per square inch than that $10 pizza someone else offers. But Papinos listens to its customers and now they're offering their 14" pizza for a special price. How long this will last I don't know. Check their facebook page to find out.

Their facebook page always lets you know things that are going on there and in the photo page they have the menu in case you don't have one around. Just go to facebook and type in papinos pizza. It's not hard to find.

So give them a try and find out just how great their pizza is.

BRAVE: A DIFFERENT DISNEY

The fusion of animation between Disney and Pixar studios has resulted in some dynamite movies over the past few years. Many have become the classics of the future for children including movie series like CARS and TOY STORY. There hasn't been a single movie from the combined efforts of these two that has yielded a bad movie. This holds true for their latest release to DVD, BRAVE.

BRAVE takes place in an unnamed country that more than likely is Scotland pre-Christianity days. These Celtic warriors talk tough and battle against the likes of bears when not fighting one another (something alluded to as the film progresses). In this world is a young princess named Merida, a free spirited young woman who loves to roam the countryside with her bow and arrows, riding her horse and climbing mountains. But that's not the thing that a princess should be doing as her mother reminds her of over and over.

Her mother wants Merida to be a young lady of refinement, ready to take over the duties of a queen when the day comes. That day comes sooner than Merida would like when her mother and father inform her that the leaders of the other three clans are on their way bringing with them their first born sons, her eligible suitors. Ever the misunderstood teen in these sorts of films, Merida revolts against her parents and when a tournament is held to determine who will win her hand, it is Merida who wins the match and announces she is free to choose as she likes. This doesn't go well with the clans and arguing ensues.

Back at the castle Merida and her mother have words that result in Merida slicing a tapestry of her family her mother made and running off to the woods. In the woods she comes across a Stonehenge type area where she spies a sprites (blue lit fairies of a sort) that guide her to a house in the woods where a witch lives. Talking about her desire to determine her own fate, she makes a bargain with the witch to help find a way to change her mother.

Returning with a gift for her mother, a treat that contains the spell, her mother eats a portion of it only to become ill. Once in her room with Merida's help, her mother changes into a black bear. Not a good thing since Merida's father is known for being a bear killer. The two escape the castle and head back to find the witch's house in hopes of returning the queen back into herself.

In order for this to happen, Merida and her mother must mend the tear in their relationship that has come about. Not only must they do this figuratively they must do so literally as well with the tapestry. Along the way they begin to understand one another clearer than they did in the past. But if they don't take care of this problem soon, the queen might stay this way forever.

What we have here is a failure to communicate. Okay I had to say that. But the gist of the story lies in the inability between a teen and her parent to be able to come to a common ground. This, as well as several exposed bottoms on the warriors, makes the film more inclined to be one for teens as opposed to the younger crowd. That might not be easy since by that age they're past cartoons, computer animated or not.

The movie is entertaining with some great music in it. The animation as always is breath taking to behold and you'll wonder just as I did how they are able to capture such detail in some areas like Merida's hair. The story is one that might even help a few teens and their parents come to terms with one another and communicate better than before seeing the film.

My only problem was that this isn't the sort of film Disney was known for. In the past magic was on display in Disney films but was used as a plot device. The jaded apple, the pumpkin carriage and such. In this film the magic stems from Celtic symbols and revolves around magic. This might not mean much to some people but for me it gave the film a different feel than the normal Disney films I grew up with.

Still, the movie does offer a nice piece of entertainment. It tells the story of a young girl looking to find her way in life and how she achieves that. For me, it won't go down as a classic Disney tale and my guess is it won't be remembered as well as most, but it's still a good movie.

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CINDERELLA DIAMOND EDITION: IF THE SHOE FITS

One of the many benefits of blu-ray movies is that studios, knowing these will be the most pristine versions of their films, make the effort to insure that they are of the highest quality when it comes to how they look. One studio that has done this in spades is Disney. Their blu-ray and Diamond Editions are well worth the cost. And now they're releasing one of the classics to the Diamond Edition fold, CINDERELLA.

Made in 1950, CINDERELLA became a Disney staple when it comes to fairy princesses. If you don't believe me check out their toy lines which have always included this character. It was also a return for Disney to the classic animated films he had been known for at the time. The artwork involved, the painstaking hand drawn detail and the beauty of the film are seen in every frame.

For those completely unaware the story revolves around a young girl named Cinderella whose widowed father marries to insure that his daughter will have a woman in the house to help raise her. In doing so she also finds two step sisters as well. Unfortunately her father passes away and the inheritance he left behind was squandered on the two step sisters. Cinderella has since become a handmaiden and work horse in the home she was raised in receiving nothing but grief from her hateful step-siblings and evil step-mother. Her only friends are the animals of the house: birds, mice and the loyal dog.

Word is sent out by the King that he intends to have a Ball to celebrate the Prince's return home. In truth, he's hoping the Prince will find a bride and marry. Everyone is invited and Cinderella even plans on going until her step-mother prevents her going. Fortunately her dreams carry the day and her Fairy Godmother steps in using magic to whip up a coach, coachmen, footman, carriage and a beautiful dress for her to wear. The only stipulation is that she returns home by midnight.

She meets the Prince, falls in love and at the stroke of midnight runs to return home. Smitten with her the only connection the Prince has is a glass slipper that fell from her foot as she ran away. With only that slipper it is now up to the Grand Duke to find the Prince's bride to be and for them all to live happily ever after. That is unless the evil step-mother prevents it from happening.

It's the classic fairy tale from days gone by given the Disney touch here. That means cute little animals that assist Cinderella in everything from cleaning to making her a gown to wear to the Ball. The birds even wake her in the morning before anyone can ruin her day yelling. All of them are as nice as can be and the mice are adorable with each one having their own particular characteristics.

What makes Disney films so spectacular and why they have lasted so long is that they stuck to a formula that worked and continued to do so while Walt Disney was alive. They took classic tales and just altered them enough to make them their own. They used amazing artistic abilities to bring to life on screen what was once just the written word. They combined sight and sound with the brightest and most colorful visuals and some of the best songwriting available at that time.

That was then and this is now though. What the studio has done with their use of blu-ray technology is offer the most fantastic looking version of the film that you will find. With each re-release of a Disney classic, they use the most current technology to bring forth the original vision offered when the film was released and in some cases make it even more colorful. There has never been a studio that has made animated films that can come close to rivaling Disney. It shows here.

For fans one of the best things about this release is that it's coming out just in time for Christmas. I know that I've routinely asked for their new releases each Christmas and this one would be no exception. The price is never outrageous and the costs will pay itself off with countless viewings between older fans and new ones discovering the magic for the first time.

The sentimentalist in each of us that grew up with these Disney films will be touched once again with a more current viewing. You'll marvel at the beauty of the film, you'll be touched by the story and you'll find yourself reliving memories of when you saw the film for the first time. This is a film you won't want to miss. One word of warning, like most Disney classics they only release them for a limited time period so don't hesitate, get it today.

Other Disney titles are making their way just in time for the holidays as well. Want to know which ones? Then make sure to check Digital Views.

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THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: QUICK REVAMP

It may seem longer but it's only been 10 years since Spider-man first swung his way across the silver screen increasing the public interest in seeing major films spun from comic book titles. And yet Sony has decided that it needed something fresh, it needed a reboot to the series. This could be because the stars would now be seeking bigger bucks when it came to contract time. Or it could be that the success of the third film in that series didn't live up to their expectations. In any event, a reboot was released and now makes its way to DVD. Was it worth it?

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ups the ante by not just picking up where the other films left off but starting from scratch. Instead of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) automatically living with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen), we get to see a glimpse of his parents, secretive scientists who whisk him away to the aunt and uncle when their home is broken into leaving behind only Peter and a briefcase that comes into play later on.

Peter in this version isn't the stereotypical science nerd as depicted in the first film or in the comics. He comes off more as a brooding teen who still get picked on and who has yet decided to be a professional photographer. He has issues with his adoptive parents like any teen and seeking answers comes across the aforementioned briefcase with a hidden compartment containing a formula and a picture of his father alongside another scientist, Dr. Curt Conners (Rhys Ifans).

Sneaking in with a group in intern wannabes Peter discovers Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), the girl he worships from afar, works for him as Oscorp. During the tour he catches the attention of Connors and eventually reveals that he is the son of his old friend. It is also during this visit that Peter is bitten by a DNA enhances spider that provides him with the ever popular hero's super powers, those of a spider. He explores just what these will do and keeps his findings to himself.

Connors and Peter begin working together on the formula that Peter found and apply it to a project Connors has been working on, combining interspecies DNA in the hopes of finding cures such as a reptiles ability to re-grow body parts. Connors has a personal interest in this as he lost an arm years ago.

After forgetting to pick up his aunt one night, Peter and his uncle get into a fight with Peter running off as a result. When Ben goes to search for Peter, he is gunned down by a many Peter could have stopped who robbed a grocery store. Now the character turns dark and seeks vengeance on the man who killed his uncle, tracking down every punk criminal in a dark alley and getting the police involved in searching for a masked vigilante in the process.

But here's the only problem I had with this movie. Connors won't rush the test results of his project through to satisfy Oscorp so they plan on canceling the project. That night he injects himself and not only does his arm grow back, he changes into a giant lizard as well. When he wreaks havoc on the city, Peter changes his plans and all thoughts about his uncle's killer disappear and combating the Lizard takes center stage. There isn't a smooth enough transition here and it makes the movie feel like two movies in one, neither of which is complete.

Along the way to the inevitable final confrontation between good guy and bad, Peter continues to fall in love with Gwen and find that love returned, meets her father the police chief (Dennis Leary) who he argues with over the objectives of Spider-man and continues to have problems at home and school.

One thing those at Marvel have almost always done right is hiring the perfect people to cast as their characters. There isn't a single actor here who doesn't get the part and perform it well. None of them take the performances of the previous actors and apply them here, instead making these characters their own. Garfield in particular doesn't give off the total nerd vibe that Tobey McGuire did so well, instead playing Peter as a teen filled with the usual angst and rebellious nature that he must learn to control as much as his powers.

As should be expected the effects are amazing, pun intended, and the visual feel of the film goes the opposite of the original films. Everything here seems dark, from the colors used for Spider-man's costume to the settings. Most of the action takes place at night making the film at times seem more along the lines of the Batman films than Spider-man which was always a bright colored adventure in the comics.

All that aside, I actually found that I liked this film. Perhaps not the first time I watched it, but on DVD certain things made more sense to me. The skateboarding that Peter does connected with the poses used by Spider-man as he leaps from building to building, web to web. As I said, with the exception of the seemingly split storyline, the film is really quite entertaining. Not only is this one a movie worth watching, its one worth adding to your collection as well.

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SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN: ROMANCE IN THE UNLIKLIEST OF PLACES

When I first heard the title of this film I was curious. After learning what the plot was I thought it was ridiculous. After watching the movie I found it was a wonderful film that I knew I could go back and watch again and still be entertained.

The premise of the film is that a sheik in Yemen loves fly fishing. He finds it a relaxing way to spend time and dreams of having his own fishing stream in Yemen. The only problem is that there are no salmon in Yemen. It's also not just the fishing that he wants to bring to his country. The sheik is a visionary, wanting to have peace in his country and hoping to change it for the better. To do so he will spare no expense to make it happen.

The sheik contacts his investment consultant in London, Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) and tells her to get things started. For Harriet and the group she works for nothing is impossible when it comes to the sheik. She contacts the British government and the PR person in charge thinks it will give them some good press in the hopes of building relations between the two countries.  She doesn't think it will work but that doesn't matter as long as it looks good.

The program is passed down the line until it arrives at the desk of Dr. Fred Jones (Ewan McGregor), a bureaucrat who's comfortable in his cubicle doing little and being paid for it. A devout fly fisherman himself, he thinks there is no way possible this could work and tells Harriet so. Her reply is for him to find a way to make it work. Apparently working together will be nothing but a cause of friction between these two.

Jones gets things running with the hope that the obstacles he finds will prevent the project from moving forward. Instead the doors are opened for each one to be eliminated due to the involvement of the government. Eventually he finds himself meeting with the sheik himself to discuss the project. What he finds, the man he meets and talks with, changes his attitude toward not just the project but his life as well.

Against all odds the project does move forward. Salmon are found and a way to relocate them is made. The river that they intend to bring the salmon to is made and will not only be a place for the fish but will change the world of Yemen as well. Unfortunately not everyone in that country agrees with the sheik and problems are set in motion at the same time the project moves forward.

The nicest thing about this film is that it isn't just about the building of a river to be stocked with fish not natural to the location. It's about life and people and the effects they have on one another. The images of the salmon swimming upstream make for a wonderful metaphor to life lived in pursuit of a dream, constantly battling the flow of the river in the hopes of reaching a goal.

The story also revolves around not just the project but the characters played by Blunt and McGregor. While Blunt is engaged to an MIA soldier and McGregor is married, both are not in relationships they necessarily want. Blunts was short lived, having met the man she fell in love with shortly before he disappeared. McGregor is married to a woman more concerned with her status in life, her career and moving upward in social status than she is in him and his dreams. The pair come together to see the project become a reality and in so doing find one another as well. How that will play out between the return of the missing soldier and McGregor's marriage is resolved before the film ends.

The movie is visually attractive, making the area that is supposed to be Yemen attractive in its own way. The possibilities of making this area not just productive but attractive to tourists and the like becomes believable. It would be wonderful for something like this, something that would make this area of the world a beautiful place to be would happen. But as the story progresses the chances of that happening are less than hopeful due to the politics of the land.

The romance between the two leads is well played and more tender than one would expect. In a world where most movies find the main characters ready to forget their world and responsibilities and ready to jump into bed at the drop of a hat, these characters slowly find one another. The sexual chemistry between them is one that builds and simmers but never becomes physical. The resolution to their predicament isn't resolved until the end of the film.

As I said at the start here, trying to judge a film by title alone doesn't always turn out with the expected results. Don't let the title of this one make you walk by it on the shelf. Instead pick it up and watch it and you'll be pleasantly surprised.


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RESCUE: REAL LIFE HEROES

Don't rent or buy this movie expecting a feature film. It's not that at all. Instead this is an IMAX experience that is being released to DVD in every format available, including 3-D. As with most IMAX films it isn't a straight forward story you're getting but more a look at the world, in this case the world of rescue relief workers.

The film establishes each person being talked about from a woman who pilots planes for the Air Force to a fire fighter who wants to help people. We get a glimpse into the daily routine of their lives and what they do there. About halfway through that changes and each one finds their way into helping the survivors of the earthquake that took place in Haiti.

The film then displays the contributions of each to the rescue mission that went on there. When we hear about these sorts of disasters these days it seems all we hear about is how someone didn't do enough or didn't do it fast enough. Watching this film you get the idea that doing it fast isn't always the answer but doing it right is. In some cases, as in this situation, you could see that word got out as quick as possible and the response was immediate. In some cases it was days before the actual help could arrive but it was on the way.

While there aren't dramatic instances on display in this film such as a man carrying a baby from a burning building, the efforts of each one of these people do show an amazing amount of courage and dedication to helping others. It would be nice if the world we knew had more of that and less of people not asking for help because they want it but because they need it. The selflessness on display by those involved here is worth plenty of applause.

The movie itself is breathtaking. Sure it was made for IMAX and for 3-D but the copy I have was a straight forward DVD. The images were as clear as if they were blu-ray intended and incredibly sharp. The photography was breath taking. If you're looking for something do show off what an amazing thing a big screen TV is or to see for yourself what it's capable of, then by all means this one would be worth adding to your collection. I can only imagine what it would be like in 3-D.

As it is, the film is a reminder of how fortunate most of us our in our day to day lives. Hopefully we will never suffer the devastation that those in Haiti faced. And if we do face that lets hope that those selfless heroes seen on display in this film are there to offer comfort and aid once more.

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THE BARRENS: IS IT THE JERSEY DEVIL?

As I started to write this week's column I was going to write about ROCK OF AGES. Then I thought why waste the space on something I didn't like much (although it did make me want to go seek out the music in my collection) when I could write about a small movie that was better? And more qualified for the Halloween season as well.

THE BARRENS, as some of you already know, is a wooded area in New Jersey set aside for camping and such. It's also well known for the existence of a creature known as the Jersey Devil. This winged man like creature has supposedly stalked the woods for decades and paranormal investigators have sought it out for years. So it only makes sense that a horror film concern itself with the area.

Richard Vineyard (Stephen Moyer) is a father and new husband trying to unite his family. His daughter Sadie is at that age where everything is about rebellion. Tie that in with her rejection of her stepmother Cynthia (Mia Kirshner) feeling she's trying to replace her deceased mother and the son Richard and Cynthia had together, Danny, she's the typical annoying character that you hope learns about reality before the film ends. To bring this family together, Richard has decided that they are going camping in the Barrens, the place where his father took him when he was young.

As they prepare for the trip Richard seems distracted, at times even fearful of the trip even though he initiated it. Memories of his childhood in the woods seem to have a haunted moment that he can't quite remember. But the family heads out to the woods for a camping weekend. Along the way, upset that the family can't leave their gadgets behind for just a few days, he tells his wife to put away the cell phone and his daughter to take off the Ipod. This weekend is about nature.

The family arrives and sets up camp but its nothing like Richard remembers. Instead of the isolated campground that he recalled there are tons of families here for the weekend. When he finds his daughter flirting with a young man in the campground area, he insists that they move deeper into the woods to be more secluded.

As the trip proceeds Richard gets more distracted, breaking out in a sweat and behaving unusual. It isn't until later that the cause is revealed, at least part of it. Is there something physically wrong with Richard? Something mentally disturbing? Or is he truly the victim of the Jersey Devil whose story is told around the campfire one night?

It's these questions and watching to find clues for the answer that make this film work so well. You never know if there is something creeping in the woods or if Richard has lost it. As bodies begin to turn up gutted, torn to shreds, you remember Richard playing with his knife and start to consider he's gone mad. Then again perhaps it was this creature that shredded its victims. The final solution to the mystery should satisfy everyone.

The movie builds up at a slow pace, increasing the tension as you watch. You not only fear what will happen to those around this family but what will happen to the family itself. Each actor does a wonderful job in the roles given but Moyers stands out as the head of the house that seems to be just tipping over the edge with each scene. Every supporting actor does a great job as well convincingly playing victims of one kind or another.

One negative note that can be corrected. Included in the film is an alternate ending. While watching that I felt that it should have been tacked on as well. It would have made the ending of the film better even though it's still got enough surprises to hold your interest until the end.

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THE REVENANT: ZOMBIE RAMBO

It's nice to see original movies coming out these days with the tons of remakes and sequels that seem to dominate theaters. Unfortunately these original films never seem to make it to the local theater and almost always end up going unseen until they arrive on DVD. For a film lover that means that DVD is the best way to find the newest items. Such is the case with THE REVENANT.

Bart Gregory (David Anders) is a soldier killed in action as the film opens. Just who killed him and how isn't quite certain but his body is returned home, given the full honors of a fallen soldier and he's laid to rest. Well not quite. That evening Bart digs his way out of his grave and heads to the home of his best friend Joey (Chris Wylde).

Of course this scares Joey at first but then he begins to worry about his friend. Thinking he's probably starving he makes him something to eat only to have Bart toss his cookies, an odd looking black ooze, on the floor. As the pair try and figure out what must have happened, they eventually decide that Bart must be one of the living dead and in need of fresh blood. Who says watching all those old horror films doesn't pay off.?

The pair begins by robbing blood from blood banks but inadvertently they discover another way to get the blood Bart needs. Stopping a crime they find that bullets have no effect on Bart. Invulnerable he stops the crime, kills the bad guy and then drinks his blood. A new crime fighting hero is born! It's as if Rambo rose from the dead and began taking back the streets from criminals.

Bart and Joey are suddenly in the spotlight though unseen. Because they're saving people from criminals the victims never offer good descriptions. Why would they want harm to come to those who helped them? Learning that the criminals they kill rise as well, the duo dispose of the bodies as they go along, something that will come back to haunt them later in the film.

Bart also reconnects with his fiancé as well. Of course this lends itself to a rather awkward moment, especially when he learns that she and Joey slept together when they thought he was dead. But time heals all...well most...wounds and they are reunited once more.

Everything seems to be going smoothly for the pair until Joey gets shot during one of their encounters with bad guys. Rather than let his friend die, Bart turns Joey into a member of the living dead as well. But Joey has always been a screw up and he soon lets his new found powers go to his head. When one of their first victims returns for some vengeance of his own, there's no telling what will happen.

There are several things that make this film work. One is that they treat the subject matter as if it were real, as if it truly could happen. In so doing the movie has a certain vibe to it that makes the viewer think okay I can see that happening. The second thing it has going for it is a nice mix of comedy and horror that works as well. Scenes between the main pair are hilarious at times. A good example (seen in the trailer) is when they get in a fight and start shooting each other knowing good and well that they're both invulnerable.

The acting is done well here especially by the leads who must convince viewers that this is a plausible concept. The effects are done well and not too far over the top, something that could have ruined the film completely. The movie won't be one that everyone will love but horror and comedy fans will both be happy with the end product.

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FIRE WITH FIRE: STANDARD DIRECT TO DVD ACTION FLICK



I like Josh Duhamel. I thought he made the TV series LAS VEGAS interesting when he was there and he certainly fit the bill when he starred in the TRANSFORMER films. Why he hasn't been used more as a leading man I'll never know, but if his output is limited to direct to DVD films then I don't expect him to become the major player he should.

This brings me to FIRE WITH FIRE, the latest direct to DVD flick to highlight the fact it was produced by the same people who brought you RIGHTEOUS KILL and 16 BLOCKS. Come on folks, we really don't care who produces a film because for the most part that's rarely a guarantee that the film will be any good. Fortunately here it turns out that it is.

Duhamel plays Jerry Coleman, a good guy and a fire fighter who witnesses a murder at the local quick mart after stopping in for snacks. The owner and his son are shot and killed in front of Jerry and only through some quick thinking does he escape only to be wounded in the process. Jerry goes to the police and with the sketch they do of the suspect the case pulls in Det. Mike Cella (Bruce Willis). The killer is David Hagan (Vincent D'Onofrio), a white supremacist who killed Cella's partner years ago. Released for that crime, Cella wants desperately to put him behind bars. With Jerry's testimony he can do that.

But things start off bad and eventually get worse. While in a line up to be identified, Hagan lets Jerry know he knows who he is and where he can find him. The D.A. offers Jerry witness protection via the U. S. Marshall Service and he takes the offer. His identity erased from all databases and moved to New Orleans, 8 months go by and the trial date is approaching. But that's not all that's happened.

While being guarded, Jerry has fallen in love with his protector in the Marshall Service, Talia Durham (Rosario Dawson). A big no no in the Service, she plans on moving back to his home town once the case is settled. Too bad Hagan was able to find their location and send in a hit man to kill them both. With Durham wounded, Jerry is able to contact the Marshall Service for help. Though they plan on protecting him more thoroughly this time a phone call from Hagan prompts Jerry to decide to stop running and take the man on on his own terms.

Dropping his agents, Jerry makes his way back home. Knowing that Hagan has been trying to take over turf held by the Crips, Jerry approaches them for a weapon. Once he's armed, he sets out to make sure that he gets Hagan before Hagan can get him.

So the revenge film is set in motion and the side characters offer nice support in this film that actually turns out to be quite well done. The look of the film is completely professional and looks slick. The acting is believable by all involved here. And the story isn't near as thin as a number of main stream major releases seen of late.

Going in I think that most people will know what to expect from this film. Willis has taken on the duties of packing the deck in a number of low budget films in the past few years and my guess is he's trying to pay back helping others on the way up. His name will draw viewers to this film even though he isn't the main focus of the film. But once you get started with this movie you'll find yourself drawn in and watch from beginning to end. It's not a bad movie and you'll get your money's worth with a rental. 

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REC 3, GENESIS: GORE AND MORE

Fans of the REC series love each and every movie that's been released and with good cause. What could have been a simple zombie story has added touches of mystery that make you wonder just what causes these events and how far they might spread. The original film was a masterpiece of claustrophobia where a supposed virus may have infected those inside an apartment building whose inhabitants are forced to ride out the attacks of the night with no hope of escape.

The latest entry into this series takes a different approach. The film opens with a wedding and reception. Clara and Nina are a couple in love and both their families represent quite a large gathering. Included in this group is Nina's uncle. His uncle is a veterinarian whose hand is wrapped that day due to a dog bite. This simple bite will change the entire day.

The usual festivities go on and everyone is dancing and singing when they suddenly notice this uncle balancing on the balcony with a strange look on his face. He falls and the first person to respond he reaches up and bites, pulling away flesh and frothing at the mouth. From there things progress with the discovery that he's infected others there and those who are infected begin attacking those who are not. Soon blood sprays and bites become frequent, Clara and Nina become separated and each group they are with attempts to find a way to survive.

These zombies are not the standard slow moving sort but the run as fast as you can and grab anything moving kind. And each person who falls then gets up to join the carnage. With no hope of anyone coming to their rescue, Nina tells those in his group he refuses to leave until he finds Clara. He says they have a connection and he knows she's still alive. When her voice comes over the PA system his statement is proven true and he now heads out to find her.

The film offers something different from the previous entries. First off is the fact that while its contained in a huge reception hall and grounds, its no longer that enclosed feeling found in an apartment complex wrapped in plastic to contain the disease. The disease is loose on the world now. Secondly this one adds small touches of humor now and then to ease the fear you feel while watching. One character walks around in a foam knock off brand Spongebob outfit (he was there to entertain the children) with a shotgun in his hand. Nina dons a suit of armor found in the chapel to protect himself while searching for Clara. Touches like these shuffle the emotions felt while watching.

The film should keep gore hounds happy with the amount of blood that splatters and shoots across the screen. Limbs are severed, guts are yanked out and bites offer up plenty of chewed flesh that spurts plenty of fluid.

Some people have criticized the film for straying away from familiar territory. One criticism has been that the priest in the film stops the zombies from moving about by reading Biblical passages. Those who know the cause of this plague will understand, those who thought it was simply a virus will not. Suffice to say that it is possible in the world this story takes place in that that would help.

Another thing that upset some fans was the change of locale, the difference between the confined space and this spacious reception hall and grounds. But that only makes sense when you consider the subject at hand, the spread of a disease of sorts that will infect the world. Eventually you must leave that confined space and move on. REC 3 does just that, taking the disease outside of that small space and moving it forward. Should another sequel come up my guess is it will be spread even further, infecting an entire city rather than a small space. It's the natural progression of things.

If you like zombie films, you'll love this. If you like the REC films, you should love this. If you love horror movies or gore films this one should be right up your alley. If you enjoy none of the above be prepared for something different than you normally watch. A solid foreign horror film that hits all the right notes.

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COMA: MEDICAL MAYHEM FOR A NEW GENERATION



When the original movie COMA was released to theaters an entire generation was put into a state of panic when it came to undergoing simple surgery. The idea of surgery is scary enough but to consider the thought that someone at the hospital would put you into a coma on purpose so they could harvest your organs for the highest bidder? My guess is the number of people who signed on to "organ donor" cards that year plummeted. Believe it or not that was 34 years ago and it seems that there is a new generation who has no idea what the story of COMA is. That is until they watch this new mini-series just released on DVD.

The story revolves around a med student studying to become a surgeon by the name of Susan Wheeler (Lauren Ambrose). It helps that her family helped establish the hospital she's doing her residency in, but Susan has to pull her own weight as well. Just having a name won't get you past doctors trying to push you to the limit.

Things get a little odd when a friend of Susan's in for a routine operation suddenly crashes on the operating table and goes into a coma. No one can explain why this happened and she is eventually sent to a long term care facility called The Jefferson Institute. But this doesn't comfort Susan much. She continues to search for a reason for her friend's sudden comatose state, a search that eventually causes two different people who provide her with information to lose their jobs.

Running parallel to this story is a bright young surgeon who is Susan's instructor as well, Dr. Mark Bellows (Steven Pasquale). Bellows is having an affair with a psychologist and hospital head, Dr. Lindquest (Geena Davis). As he instructs Susan and eventually joins her crusade to find out what's going on, Lindquest becomes jealous and threatens his position. It's not enough to stop him or Susan from digging deeper.

As Susan checks the records she discovers that there has been an abnormal amount of comas at her hospital, enough that one would think and investigation would have begun. But doctors and the heads of the hospital circle the wagons and not only prevent an investigation but threaten to expel Susan as well. To her rescue comes the star doctor of the hospital and their biggest money maker when it comes to fundraising, Dr. Stark (James Woods). When Stark takes gets involved with Susan's investigation things take a turn for the worse. Sorry, no spoiler here I won't reveal anything involving Stark.

The more Susan digs into the reason for the comas and their connection to The Jefferson Institute, the darker things become. Just who is involved and how far up the chain of command this conspiracy goes is anyone's guess and as viewers we find ourselves with plenty of possible bad guys to choose from. From Susan's point of view there is almost no one she can trust and even those she does she has to wonder about. When an attempt is made on her life rather than give up she continues searching for answers.

If you've seen the original then you already know what is going on behind the scenes. If you haven't then you'll probably not want to watch this before scheduling surgery any time soon. The story itself is a tight thriller that keeps you guessing until the end.

That being said it worked better the first time around. Contained in a film just under 2 hours it works better and doesn't overload you with far too much information or quantity of possible suspects. As a four hour mini-series it takes us places that don't matter that just seem to fill time and cause you to forget who is who and just why they're important to the story. The pacing isn't near as frantic and the thrill aspect of the story doesn't really kick in until the last 20 minutes of more. The original kept a pace going from half way through until the very end of the film.

This is not to say that this version is terrible. It's just, well, different. That's one of the problems with remakes; those of us who remember the original find ourselves unconsciously comparing the two each and every minute of the film. If this is your first exposure to this story then you'll find plenty to hold your interest. If you recall the first version, this one holds up okay but you'll find it slower than that one. Either way, it makes for an interesting story and worth the price of a rental. 

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MAGIC CITY: MIAMI AND THE MOB



Once more cable TV sets out to make a series that hopes to deliver high class drama with low class subject matter. It's something they've come to do well for the most part but not always as effectively as they'd like. This time around the series revolves around the Miami hotel circuit near the end of the fifties and into the sixties, displaying the desire of Hollywood execs to try and capitalize off the success of other shows once more. Once MAD MEN took off and became a hit, suddenly everyone wanted to revisit the early 60s. The network series about Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Empire floundered shortly after it aired and PAN AM didn't even make it through the first season. So how does MAGIC CITY stand?

The story revolves around Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a man who struggled from the bottom to get to the top. The owner and main driving force behind the Miramar Hotel on the famous beach does whatever he can to make his business succeed. Unfortunately that includes becoming involved with the mob in the form of boss Ben Diamond (Danny Huston).

The time is ripe for mob influence as well with Castro coming into power in Cuba and their hotels/casinos there being lost. They not only want to be involved in the hotels in Miami, they want to take ownership of them from behind the scenes. It's the only way they can with the FBI looking over their shoulder.

Ike sees the potential that the hotels in Miami have. He sees it as more than a simple place to rest yourself on the road to somewhere. This is a resort town in the making with the potential of casinos and high class entertainment much like Vegas which was developing at the same time. But he has problems that he thinks only these mob connections can solve, the first of which is a potential union strike by the hotel employees. With Frank Sinatra set to open on his stage, he can't afford to have them picketing out front. The mob solution of course ends in someone being killed and the body dumped. This plays into several episodes down the line and links Ike into the dealings behind the scenes as well as in front.

The story also involves Ike's sons, one of whom unknowingly begins a rather heated affair with Ben's wife and the other going to college to become involved with law enforcement. Either one has the potential of collapsing the dreams of Ike.

The show does capture the feel and the look of the times. It offers a glittery surface that most people who went their saw without the darker roots at its core. It's those darker roots that develop most of the drama in the show and that keep it interesting.

The acting is well played by all involved. Morgan has become a driving force in the roles he plays. I first saw him in the series SUPERNATURAL and wondered why he wasn't used more. Since then he's had several starring roles and with his turn here as Ike shows that he deserves more. Huston plays the slimy mob boss to perfection. Ruled more by temperamental fits than by sly cunning, Huston's Ben is to be feared first and foremost. He can be outmaneuvered but only if you don't forget that behind that temper is a cunning sense of evil that just might discover more than you want.

While the show is well made and thought out it didn't feel to me that it would be one that would last several seasons and yet season two is already in the works. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. The one thing that did bother me while watching was the reliance on nudity that all cable shows seem to feel the need to resort to. It's as if they feel the only way to let people know that the show is a cable show is to display nude women every so many minutes per episode. While the women on view are lovely isn't there a better use for them in a series than window dressing? I'm sure those who made the series would argue that women at that time in this arena were used for nothing more. For myself I've just grown tired of the same thing being dumped into cable series as nothing more than a way of saying "See? We're a cable series. We have breasts and networks don't. Watch us instead." It doesn't encourage me to watch. The story should be what matters and the focus of the show as well. The so called "window dressing" doesn't get me interested.

That being said there is potential in this show. If they can focus on the important aspects of it and move past the rest then it might be something worth watching. If it continues down this path then it is nothing more that a celebration of T&A with some story thrown in for good measure.

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EXCISION: NEW TURN ON THE TROUBLED TEEN



A generation of film makers has been influenced by David Lynch, a director with and artistic touch whose movies were always interesting and always quirky. Unfortunately that same generation missed out on the artistic side and has clung to the quirkiness of his films offering movies that while weird aren't usually entertaining. Until the final moments of EXCISION, that's the case here.

Anna Lynne McCord stars as Pauline, a disillusioned teen who dreams of being a surgeon one day but who has no plans of following what it takes to get there. She refuses to study, does everything in her power to make herself the outsider in her school and for the most part is just plain disagreeable. Pauline is what teens appear to be these days, a young person who dreams of glory and expects it to just happen.

Pauline's mother is completely different. Phyllis (Traci Lords) is a prim and proper home maker. Not quite June Cleaver, but she plans out her dinners, expects her children to eat at the table and not leave until excused and wants what is best for both of her daughters. Pauline's sister suffers from a disease that will eventually require her to have a lung replaced. Due to this ailment she usually gets preferential treatment. Her father is just a fixture in the house, rarely taking sides in any argument except to back his wife when she pushes the issue.

Pauline is a completely unlikable character in this film. Make up has provided her with the typical teenage zits problem, she doesn't comb her hair and she dresses in the drabbest way possible. She's an outsider who wants nothing to do with the other kids at school and the feeling is mutual. Her days are spent trying to figure out ways not to develop into something else and her dreams are filled with people dressed in white who almost always find a way to cover themselves in blood.

Pauline does make an attempt at normality of sorts. She decides it's time she lost her virginity and approaches a young boy to be the one to deflower her. He shrugs her off in front of her friends but eventually gives her a call. They retreat to a motel room where they have at it. Things go smoothly until Pauline asks him to perform oral sex on her. It's only then that he realizes she's on her period, something she planned to avoid pregnancy but never bothered to tell him. This results in his girlfriend getting even with Pauline when she learns and painting words like slut on her house. Yes, it's that kind of movie folks.

The movie moves along at a snails pace and is filled with little more than one attempt after another for Pauline to try and anger her mother. Most films that feature teen angst are trying to make a point, here it's just a plot device to move the film forward. Or is it?

 The film has an upsetting and mind blowing ending that makes the entire film seem completely different in retrospect. The problem is that it takes almost the entire length of the film to get there, giving nothing but weird and boring moments until then. While watching I had this feeling of saying that this film was the biggest waste of time I'd seen in ages. But after the end I found myself thinking about it differently. Yes, it's still not for everyone and only those with a taste for the unusual will like it. But it's not the terrible film it seemed while watching it.

My guess is that this film will develop some sort of cult following if those who find themselves into this sort of thing can discover it. Once they do perhaps it will be listed as a film that critics will recommend as something startling, something inventive and something original. It is all those things but its also slow moving and not in the best way possible. If you decide to watch this one then watch it all the way through to the end. Only then will it make it a film worth watching.

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