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Pic of the Week

Each week we pick a recommended "Pic" from our archives. Below are our most recent picks.


***2010, Jon Amiel

Conventional script makes Darwin come to terms with the loss of his daughter

Released near Charles Darwin’s birthday, Creation is a mainstream British film that tells one story from Charles Darwin’s life. It’s loosely based on Annie’s Box, which was written within the last decade by a descendant of Darwin who found a box of mementoes Darwin kept to remind him of his daughter Annie who died at 10 of scarlet fever.

The Phantom of the Opera

***1/22004, Joel Schumacher

Transform your abode into your very own Garnier Opera House

The Phantom of the Opera gets off to a crackling good start and, luckily, even director Joel Schumacher can’t muff it up the way he did the Batman franchise.

Daughter of Dawn

****1920, Norbert A. Myles

Native American actors and story shine through the 1920s’ cultural insensitivity

Resistance is futile (or so we’ve been told) and when you are up against an inhuman alien force armed with superior weaponry and unencumbered by conscience you don’t stand a chance. Just ask the Native Americans. Or as Old Lodge Skins said in Little Big Man, “There is an endless supply of white men, but there has always been a limited number of human beings.” Oh, how true, how true.



Made as if it were a collection of “historical footage” of the Soviet mission to Jupiter’s moons

Interkosmos is a great little mock doc about a Soviet space program that really existed and a mission to the outer planets that is a pure flight of fantasy. Imagine The Right Stuff as done by Tarkovsky with the low budget of American Astronaut thrown in for good measure.

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius

***2001, John A. Davis

Hi there! I’m the real life Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius, and ya just gotta see my new animated movie!

Hi there! I’m the real life Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius, and ya just gotta see my new animated movie! I mean, how can you pass on a movie in which all the parents disappear?

Caution: boy genius at workYeah, I know that’s an insult. My full name is James Isaac Neutron and some kids (let alone parents) just don’t understand me. I’m a small kid with a big head (well, wait, we all have big heads in this movie), but I actually have a really big brain inside my big head and that scares some people.

That goes double for Cindy; she was the smartest student in class until I came around. She’s mean to me. There’s a word for girls like her, but I won’t use it here.

And then there’s Nick, a chain-sucking bad boy who thinks he’s dark and mysterious. Yeah, well, if that’s the case, then my question to Nick is, “If you’re so bad, why do you wear a helmet when you’re skateboarding?” I think he’s more a mama’s boy than I am – and when the gum hits the pavement, I bet he’d be the first to start crying.

I want to make the world a better place and with inventions like Bubble Travel, the Automated Toothbrush, the Shoebot, the incredible Burping Soda, and all sorts of other stuff, I’ll be able to revolutionize the world and how we live in it! Oh yes. The world will be mine.

What else should I tell you about myself? I created my own robot dog, Goddard. He’s my very own R2-D2. He’s so life-like, he even poops nuts and bolts! I’m also really proud of my girl-eating plant. It’s kinda like Audrey II, except it’s smart enough to sniff out only the girls. Gee whiz, just think! A world without those gross, cootie-ridden creatures!

Based on my real world experiences, the movie is animated because, gosh, to make it with real people would be far too expensive.

But, it’s still a mostly-hip endeavor and we paid a great deal of attention to the details. The set decorator did a great job and decorated our bedrooms with posters of some of the best bands around, including Outta Sync and Space Girls. Unfortunately, when it came time to burn the soundtrack, we had to settle for stuff by *NSync and Backstreet Boys.

I’m also a little disappointed that we had to cave into the Viacom empire and put in shameless plugs for Nickelodeon’s TV Land and recruit the vocal talents of Entertainment Tonight’s Mary Hart and Bob Goen for a TV-show-within-the-movie called YT. Well, maybe in the sequel I’ll have more clout and we can do things without the corporate sponsorship.

Anyway, the story revolves around the time all the parents were abducted by space aliens. It happened when all us kids were at the grand opening of this really neat amusement park called Retroland. It’s got all the great rides, like Gotta Puke, Show Me the Mummy, and Bat Outta Heck.

Uhhh… yeah… the whole parentnaping thing was kinda my fault, but we don’t need to go there.

Having no parents around was great for a while, but then some kids started taking advantage of the situation. You know. By doing crazy things like wearing clothes that don’t match in public, peeing in the shower, running tighty-whities up the flag pole, and eating waaay too much sugar products and drinking way too much soda.

In no time, there were zombie-like kids walking the streets in sugar shock, suffering from brain freeze, constipation, and all sorts of other owies.

Oh wait, I copped that from another animated franchise. Sorry. But it gets the point across ‘cause we go into outer space and take on these really ugly green things that are led by this nasty villain who has the same voice as Patrick Stewart, the bald buy from Star Trek: The Next Generation. His Number One is a mindless goon who sounds just like Martin Short (who in real life does that creepy talk show host, Jiminy Glick, on cable TV).

These aliens are such high-grade pure evil, they want to totally embarrass us by taking control of our parents’ minds (is that such a hard thing to do?) and make them dance to polka music before feeding them to this huge monster that’s a cross between Godzilla and a chicken. Yikes!

I can’t tell you how it ends, but you can take a guess.

OK, I’ll be honest. My movie doesn’t have the same kind of sophisticated humor that made Shrek and Monsters, Inc., such huge mega-movies. We’re going for a different, younger demographic here and we’re using our own formula, the Nickelodeon Formula that (even I must admit) overplays potty and slime humor and gives older people a bum rap.

But don’t get me wrong! Kids are welcome to bring their parents and chances are they won’t get bored if they’re young at heart. There are plenty of good-humored jokes that kids who aren’t as smart as I am won’t catch, but their parents will.

And, while it’s not as groundbreaking on the animation front as that swamp ogre’s movie, my tale is imaginatively told, colorful, and fast paced. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s light years ahead of the Rugrats.

One final thought: My cinematic journey might be a little hyper and youthful, just like me, but it’s a happy movie. And that’s the important thing.

Sex & Lucia

***1/22002, Julio Medem

With or without the sex, a wonderful tale of love and destiny, told well by a master storyteller

Sex & Lucía has lots of beautiful people having lots of sex. Subtract the sex and you would still have a wonderful movie, so I’m not sure why Medem gave it so much importance. The few statements from Medem I’ve read that “explain” it, don’t actually explain anything.

Nevertheless, Sex & Lucía is what it is. With or without the sex, it’s a wonderful tale about love and destiny, told well by a master storyteller.

Moulin Rouge

****2001, Baz Luhrmann

Ambitious, daring, energetic, and entertaining

For days now I’ve had Ewan MacGregor’s voice in my head, belting out snippets of songs: “The hills are alive, with the sound of music...” and “I hope you don’t mind / I hope you don’t mind / that I’ve put into words / how wonderful life is, now you’re in the world.”

Friends have been sympathetic, but they needn’t be.

The Armstrong Lie

***2013, Alex Gibney

The lie is the least of it in Gibney’s personal documentary

“I didn’t live a lot of lies, I lived one big one.”

That’s what Lance Armstrong told filmmaker Alex Gibney, just hours after his Oprah interview.


***2009, Hayao Miyazaki

The first American Blu-ray release of a Miyazaki film! Hooray!

“The balance of nature is restored,” declares a goddess at the end of Ponyo, continuing the 2,500-year-old dramatic tradition of Deus ex Machina. Audiences should be forgiven if they needed a reminder that the balance of nature was in jeopardy. They probably thought they were watching a movie about a little boy looking for his mother and adopting a new sister.


***1/22014, Jean-Marc Valée

Engrossing story of two parts may be Witherspoon’s best role yet

Based on a successful memoir by Cheryl Strayed, Wild stars Reese Witherspoon as the will-be author hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

Noi Albinoi

***2004, Dagur Kári

Mystery and ambivalence about this Bleak portrait of isolation are amplified on DVD

This bleak portrait of isolation is deliberately disengaging. And while the movie is effective at what it sets out to do, it’s hard to love it for its success. The DVD from Palm Pictures makes the ambivalence even stronger. The director goes on-camera to explain his goals, and in doing so, doesn’t explain anything. Rather than frustrating audiences, I think he beguiles them, making Nói Albinoi better on a second viewing.