Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sandra L. Richards

 
The “Rice & Rocks” Interview
with Kam Williams


Richards Rocks!

The American-born daughter of Jamaican immigrant parents, Sandra L. Richards is the author of “Rice & Rocks.” She hopes that her debut picture book will serve as an educational resource for families seeking to teach their children the value of their heritage and the importance of cultural diversity.

Sandra completed both her undergraduate and graduate studies at Seton Hall University, and is the Executive Director, Head of Diverse and Multicultural Marketing, Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley. Learn more about Sandra at www.sandralrichards.com.


Kam Williams: Hi Sandra. Congratulations on "Rice & Rocks."
Sandra L. Richards: Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.

KW: What inspired you to write the book?
SLR: The inspiration for "Rice & Rocks" came from my family in two parts. One, my parents are from Jamaica and immigrated to the USA with the hopes to give their children a chance of growing up with greater opportunities. However, it was important to them that we were raised with a sense of pride of our culture and traditions, and food was certainly at the center of that, especially Sunday dinners!The second source of inspiration stemmed from a heartbreak. In 2007, I lost my 8-year old nephew Giovanni to meningitis. That loss left a hole in the heart of our entire family. Over the years, I thought long and hard about a way to help keep his memory alive. Of course, we had pictures of the time we spent together, but that just didn’t seem to be enough. As I would replay moments of our time together in my mind, I kept finding myself thinking back to conversations we had over the years, and I fondly remembered one conversation in particular which had to do with food and culture. Giovanni was a very imaginative child and decided he wouldn’t eat his grandma’s rice and beans because the beans looked like rocks to him. That casual conversation ultimately led to the me writing "Rice & Rocks," a children’s picture book in my nephew’s memory.



KW: What message do you want kids to take away from the tale?
SLR: While memorializing Giovanni was the original intent of "Rice & Rocks," it was designed to do much more. "Rice & Rocks" is also a story that teaches kids about cultural diversity and the importance of learning about their own heritages. I think it is important for children to have knowledge about their culture and heritage as it will give them a sense of self, pride and ownership of their own story. How powerful would that be for a child to have that gift, a foundation for them to stand on, being able to identify who they are for themselves and not letting someone define it for them?

KW: Where did you come up with the idea of Jasper, a talking parrot from the Congo?
SLR: Giovanni actually owned a bird. He loved birds! In this story, I created Jasper, a parrot from the Congo, as a way to acknowledge Africa in the story. Jasper is quite a character and kids that read the story love him! I hope that will pique their curiosity to learn more about him and, ultimately, more about Africa.

KW: How did you settle on the dialogue, given that it it's a mix of child, adult and animal chatter?
SLR: Here is the funny truth. We grew up with animals in our family as pets: dogs, cats, birds and fish. We would all talk to them, and engage them in our conversations. So, for me and perhaps every other pet lover out there, it is normal to talk to your pets. They understand and respond in their own way. It was pretty easy to weave Jasper into the dialogue, because, after all, he is a parrot which is known to have a vocabulary of up to 600 words. My two dogs, Skye and Honey, appear in "Rice & Rocks" too and, while they don’t have a speaking part, they are very expressive in the book!


KW: What's your target audience?
SLR: "Rice & Rocks" is geared towards children ages 5-9. But, to be honest, I have had adults tell me they love reading picture books. I am in that category, too! I would say for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and godparents, there is something for you in this story to share with a child in your life, whether it be talking about your family roots and traditions, to opening your child’s mind to exploring new foods, to embracing the saying ‘It takes a village’ when needing help in raising future culturally-aware citizens of the world. For teachers, "Rice & Rocks" would be a great addition to their curriculum, as there is growing interest in talking about diversity and inclusion in the schools.

KW: Tell me a little about the book's illustrator, Megan Kayleigh Sullivan.
SLR: In short, Megan is brilliant! She graduated from Rhode Island School of Design in 2012 with a degree in illustration. I enjoyed working with Megan, alongside our wonderful art director. I had a front row seat, watching the story come to life sketch by sketch, page by page. What I loved most about working with Megan was her attention to detail and asking questions about my family early on, outside of the story, that would help capture the essence of not only Giovanni, but also Auntie, Grandma and other family members. 

 

KW: Any plans to write a series of books about Giovanni?
SLR: Yes, there are plans to write more stories about Giovanni and Jasper while also introducing a few more characters along the way.

KW: AALBC.com founder Troy Johnson asks: What was the last book you read?
SLR: The last book I read was "Year of Yes" by Shonda Rhimes.


 
And I just started "Homegoing," by Yaa Gyasi.  




KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?
SLR: I can still remember it now like it was yesterday, the first time I went to Jamaica. I was 8-years old. I loved it! It was beautiful! I met my maternal and paternal grandmothers for the first time, and they taught me how to cook. There is a road not too far from my grandmother's house, Holland Bamboo. It looked so regal, as though you are driving to a majestic palace. As a child, when we got close to the road, I would get excited because I knew it was only a matter of minutes until the fun begins. But I would also be sad when it was time to leave, looking out of back window as Holland Bamboo would appear further and further away. Today, I will gladly admit that those same feelings creep in when I see Holland Bamboo.

KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?
SLR: This immediately plays in my head, when you ask me this question: “We have come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord, trusting in His holy word. He never failed me yet.” I was blessed to have a godfather who was a Bishop of a church in Hempstead, New York. My brothers and sister, along with my cousins, were in his church every Sunday as kids. We were in Sunday school, the church choir, and we were there for every church revival. My mother and father had such a deep faith in God, and that set a huge example for me.

KW: Sherry Gillam would like to know what is the most important life lesson you've learned so far?
SLR: Discernment. There is something that my mother would say when things happen; good, bad or indifferent: “Everything happens for a wise purpose.” This goes back to the spiritual component of my life that has developed and evolved over time. It is human nature to question things that occur, certainly if you feel like it puts you at a disadvantage or hurts your feelings. When I begin to question those things, I replay my mother’s words, sit in silence and ask myself the honest and sometimes tough questions. What is the purpose? What lesson am I supposed to learn? What role did I play in this? If it is necessary for me to act, this exercise allows me to address things with courage, humility and grace.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
SLR: I love to cook curry shrimp with vegetables and fried plantains with Basmati rice. Kam, I have been told that my dish is delicious and nutritious. Do you remember that line from Brown Sugar?

KW: Yep! When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
SLR: I see a harmonious blend of my mother and father, and I am a reflection of their love.
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
SLR: My heart would be so full if I could have one more Sunday dinner with my mom, dad and Giovanni.

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?
SLR: Scratch offs!

KW: Thanks for the time, Sandra, and best of luck with the book.
SLR: Thank you so much, Kam! I am honored to have spent this time with you. 
 
To order a copy of "Rice & Rocks," visit:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Top Ten DVD List for 9-27-16

 
by Kam Williams
 
This Week’s DVD Releases


Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Blood Diner

The Shallows

Rod Serling's Patterns

Jim Henson's Labyrinth: 30th Anniversary Edition

A Dangerous Game: Donald Trump Vs. the Environment

The Disappearance

Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom

Talent Has Hunger

Jericho: Series One


Honorable Mention

The Catch: The Complete First Season

Power Rangers Dino Charge: Rise

Beyond Valkyrie: Dawn of the Fourth Reich

Central Intelligence

The Neon Demon


Barbarians Rising [4-Part Miniseries]

Edge of Winter

Warcraft

Indian Summers: Season Two

Heart of the World: Colorado's National Parks

Central Intelligence

 
Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams




Kevin Hart and The Rock Co-Star in Unlikely-Buddies Comedy


Back in high school, Calvin (Kevin Hart) was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" while his chubby pal Bob (Dwayne Johnson) was being bullied by classmates because of his weight.. But that was a couple of decades ago, and a lot has changed since then. 
 
Today, we find Calvin wondering whether he might have peaked during his glory days at Central High when he and his childhood sweetheart Maggie (Danielle Nicolet) were voted Homecoming King and Queen. Yes, the two did marry, but the relationship's been so rocky she's currently insisting they enter therapy. Things are even worse for Calvin at his accounting firm, where he's just been passed over for a promotion to partner. 
 
By comparison, Bob's fortunes have improved immeasurably over the intervening years. He's not only shed all that unwanted baby fat but he's re-sculpted himself into a veritable Adonis by pumping iron a half-dozen hours a day. Furthermore, he's flourishing in an enviable career as a crack CIA Agent well-versed in the tools of international espionage. 
 
The pair's paths cross for the first time in years at their 20th high school reunion where Calvin is impressed by both Bob's new physique and his daring line of work. So, it's no surprise that the suave spy is able to enlist the jaded pencil pusher's technical assistance on his latest assignment. He also could use a little help apprehending the assassin who murdered his partner (Aaron Paul). 
 
That's the point of departure of Central Intelligence, an unlikely-buddies comedy directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (We're the Millers). Kevin Hart has proven himself quite the master of the genre, given the success of such box-office hits as The Wedding Ringer, Get Hard and Ride Along 1 and 2, to name a few. Unfortunately, Kevin and co-star Dwayne Johnson fail to generate any chemistry, despite sharing the screen in scene after scene of silly slapstick.

The bulk of the picture's pathetic attempts at humor revolve around contrasting buff Bob's bravery with weak-kneed Calvin's cowardice. But sadly, the laughs are few and far between during this decidedly-underwhelming action-adventure. 
 
Too bad whoever directed the promising trailer probably didn't direct the movie.



Fair (1 star)
Rated PG-13 for violence, sexuality, nudity, crude humor and brief profanity
Running time: 107 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group
Blu-ray Extras: Director's commentary; gag reel; alternate scenes; Line-O-Rama; Couch Scene; and a Dance-Off.



To see a trailer for Central Intelligence, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxEw3elSJ8M


To order a copy of Central Intelligence on Blu-ray, visit:

The Shallows


Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams


Blake Lively Shines as Surfer Stranded in Shark-Infested Waters


Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) was so shaken by her mother's (Janelle Bailey) untimely death that she's dropped out of med school. In order to feel closer to her dearly departed mom, she's decided to vacation at the same exotic Mexican retreat where she was reportedly conceived back in 1991. An avid surfer, she also plans to search for the stretch for her mom's favorite beach. 
 
Upon arriving, Nancy is so impatient to find that idyllic, uncharted spot, that she impulsively heads for the ocean with her surfboard, handbag and smartphone, abandoning her bushed traveling companion at the hotel. Instead, she accepts a ride to the shore from the very obliging Carlos (Oscar Jaenada), an affable local yokel who is more than happy to serve as the bikini-clad hitchhiker's chauffeur and navigator. 
 
He drives away right after depositing her at the secluded cove, yet Nancy has no qualms about being left alone, since she does have cell service. Next thing you know, she's blissfully paddling out to deep water where she's surrounded by a pod of playful dolphins as she starts riding the mammoth waves. 
 
The plot thickens soon after she spots the bobbing carcass of a humpback whale. What Nancy doesn't recognize until it's too late is that she's inadvertently entered the feeding grounds of a still-hungry shark who'd rather dine on human flesh than cetacean. 
 
She subsequently suffers a nasty gash from the initial attack but is somehow able to swim to a tiny, low-lying island nearby. Her medical training comes in handy as she quickly fashions a tourniquet from part of her outfit. 
 
Still, with high tide coming in a matter of hours, she knows that she's got to figure out how to survive once this temporary sanctuary sinks below sea level. The shore is 200 yards away, which is way to far to swim with a determined predator steadily circling as her blood drips into the water. 
 
A couple of potential rescuers (Jose Manuel Trujillo Salas and Angelo Josue Lozano Corzo) show up, but hope fades fast when the dopey duo simply starts swimming without noticing the damsel-in-distress. The next beachgoer (Diego Espejel) does see that Nancy's in need, but he seizes the opportunity to steal her phone and other personal effects left on the sand.

This means spunky Nancy must survive by her wits, a daunting challenge given her dire straits. Thus unfolds The Shallows, an engaging, edge-of-the-seat thriller expertly directed by Jaume Collett-Serra (Non-Stop) to ratchet up the tension. 
 
The movie borrows elements from Jaws (headstrong, maniacal shark), Castaway (this stranded heroine bonds with a seagull instead of a volleyball), Blue Crush (oodles of gratuitous titillation) and MacGyver (a brilliant tinkerer exhibits endless ingenuity). The good news is that it all has been sewn together quite seamlessly yielding a thoroughly enjoyable screamfest reminding us that it's still not safe to swim in the ocean.




Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for bloody images, intense scenes of peril and brief profanity
Running time: 86 minutes

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: Deleted scenes; Shooting in the Shallows; How to Build a Shark; When Sharks Attack; and Finding the Perfect Beach: Lord Howe Island.

To see a trailer for The Shallows, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgdxIlSuB70

To order a copy of The Shallows on Blu-ray, visit:

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Kam's Kapsules for Movies Opening 9-30-16

 
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams


OPENING THIS WEEK

BIG BUDGET FILMS

Deepwater Horizon (PG-13 for intense action sequences, disturbing images and brief profanity) Disaster flick recreating the real-life events surrounding the 2010 explosion of the offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico which claimed the lives of 11 crewmen and led to the worst crude oil spill in U.S. history. Co-starring Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell and John Malkovich.

Masterminds (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, violence and crude humor) Crime caper, inspired by actual events, revolving around an armored car driver (Zach Galifianakis) duped by a flirtatious co-worker (Kristen Wiig) into participating in one of the biggest bank heists in American history. With Jason Sudeikis, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Owen Wilson.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (PG-13 for instense violence, peril and action sequences) Tim Burton directed this adapatation of Ransom Riggs' best-selling children's novel about a 16 year-old orphan (Asa Butterfield) who uncovers a terrifying reality when he travels to a Welsh orphanage located on a mysterious island. Cast includes Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Green, Chris O'Dowd, Dame Judi Dench, Allison Janney and Terence Stamp.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

American Honey (R for graphic sexuality, frontal nudity, pervasive profanity and teen drug and alcohol abuse) Raunchy road saga revolving around a troubled runaway (Sasha Lane) who joins a team of door-to-door salesmen who party when not hawking magazine subscriptions while driving across the American Midwest. With Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough and Arielle Holmes.

Among the Believers (Unrated) War on Terror expose' chronicling the efforts of Pakistan's infamous Red Mosque schools to raise a generation of Western-hating radical jihadists. (In English and Urdu with subtitles)

Clinton, Inc. (PG-13 for sexuality and mature themes) Adaptation of Daniel Halper's best seller of the same name offering a behind-the-scenes account of Bill and Hillary Clinton's maneuverings returning them to prominence after leaving the White House. Featuring commentary by Dick Morris, Rich Lowry and Ron Kessler.

Denial (PG-13 for mature themes and brief profanity) Courtroom drama recounting Deborah Lipstadt's (Rachel Weisz) epic legal battle with notorious Holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall) over whether or not Hitler and his minions really murdered millions in the gas chambers during World War II. With Tom Wilkinson, Andrew Scott and Jack Lowden.

Do Not Resist (Unrated) Domestic tranquility documentary examining the proliferation of militarized policing across the United States.

Girl Asleep (Unrated) Coming-of-age dramedy about an ostracized social zero (Bethany Whitmore) whose fortunes change dramatically after being thrown a 15th birthday party by her concerned parents (Amber McMahon and Matthew Whittet). With Harrison Feldman, Imogen Archer and Eamon Farren.

Milton's Secret (PG for mature themes, adolescent issues and brief epithets) Family drama revolving around an 11 year-old (William Ainscough) who becomes the victim of a neighborhood bully (Percy Hynes White). Cast includes Michelle Rodriguez, Donald Sutherland, David Sutcliffe and Mia Kirshner.

Passage to Mars (Unrated) True tale reenacting the real-life, 2,000-mile trek undertaken across the Arctic's frozen tundra by a half-dozen wannabe astronauts in anticipation of NASA's first manned flight to Mars. Co-starring Zachary Quinto, Charlotte Rampling and Buzz Aldrin.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Jahking Guillory

The “Kicks” Interview
with Kam Williams


Jahking and I!

An undeniable young talent on the rise, actor and rapper Jahking Guillory is already a veteran in the entertainment business at the age of 14. Born and raised in Long Beach California, ‘King’ started pursuing his dream at 9 years-old, landing jobs in national commercials, music videos and national print campaigns.

Graduating to larger roles in film and TV, 'King has already shown how versatile an actor he is, playing the ultra-cool kid with swagger, to the computer geek, to the teenage drug dealer. In addition to acting, 'King is a talented rapper and works on his craft every day. He writes lyrics about his life and makes beats with his friends to every song he records.

Jahking is also a championship athlete. He played running back for superstar rapper Snoop Dogg’s Junior football team, winning five championships. He is a track star, too -- winning the 800 and 1500 meter dashes in the Junior Olympics.

Here, he talks about his starring role as Brandon in Kicks, a coming-of-age adventure set in the Bay Area.


Kam Williams: Hi Jahking, thanks for the interview.
Jahking Guillory: Thank you.

KW: What interested you in Kicks?
JG: The story. It’s real. People are getting killed for materialistic things everyday and it has to stop.

KW: How would you describe your character?
JG: Brandon is shy and not confident. This changes for him drastically in the film.

KW: Who loved you unconditionally during your formative years?
JG: My mother.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
JG: I like to help my mom cook Jambalaya.

KW: What's the craziest thing you've ever done?
JG: Play Ding Dong Ditch. It was crazy!

KW: Craig Robinson asks: What was your last dream?
JG: I was sitting on the beach with my great-grandma.

KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
JG: A cheetah.

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have a favorite movie monster?
JG: Mike from Monsters, Inc.
KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?
JG: My ID and some condoms. [LOL]

KW: Thanks again for the time, Jahking, and best of luck with Kicks.
JG: Thanks, Kam.

To see a trailer for Kicks, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWV2hK4HVEk

 

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Magnificent Seven

 
Film Review by Kam Williams


Denzel Reunites with Fuqua in Worthy Overhaul of Kurosawa Classic

Directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa in 1954, Seven Samurai was a groundbreaking film which had a profound influence on the evolution of cinema for generations to come. Superficially, that seminal work merely reads like a martial arts epic set in 16th Century Japan. Yet, over the years, it has spawned a cottage industry of knockoffs trading in the picture's novel narrative revolving around a rag-tag team of selfless heroes recruited in service of some lofty goal. 
 
In 1960, Seven Samurai was remade as The Magnificent Seven, a sprawling Western co-starring Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, Eli Wallach, Robert Vaughn and James Coburn. Today, that classic has been refreshed by Antoine Fuqua in an outing reuniting the director with Denzel Washington following successful collaborations on The Equalizer (2014) and Training Day (2001) for which the latter won an Academy Award. 
 
This incarnation of The Magnificent Seven does feature a few variations on the theme. For example, the picture's dastardly bad guy is now an avaricious white man intent on seizing a mining town's gold instead of a Mexican bandito simply staging a series of border raids. And the good guys enlisted to engage the greedy gringo are a politically-correct, rainbow coalition reflecting every ethnicity. 
 
Otherwise, the essence of the original plot remains intact. As the film unfolds, we find the folks in the frontier settlement of Rose Creek living in fear of Bartholomew Bogue and his gang of marauders. Bogue is your stereotypical, bloodthirsty villain, straight out of central casting, played to perfection by Peter Sarsgaard. 
 
It is established early on just how low the diabolical Bogue will stoop to achieve his evil ends, between murdering an innocent woman and burning the church to the ground. That makes the arrival of bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Washington) all the more welcome by the time the exasperated and intimidated local yokels are at their collective wit's end. 
 
They also have no idea that Chisolm isn't merely motivated by altruism but has his own revenge-fueled reason to tangle with Bogue. Regardless, once deputized, the gunslinger proceeds to assemble a motley crew composed of a Civil War vet suffering from shell shock (Ethan Hawke), a hard-drinking bombmaker (Chris Pratt), a gruff mountain man (Vincent D'Onofrio), a Chicano outlaw (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a crack Comanche archer (Martin Sensmeier) and a knife-throwing, Asian assassin (Byung-hun Lee). 
 
Don't expect any deeply-developed characters and you won't be disappointed. It's all about the inexorable march to the big showdown during which the heroes will obviously even the score, and then some. The Wild, Wild West revisited as an ethnically-diverse fantasy land Hollywood has never imagined before!


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for intense violence, smoking, profanity and suggestive material
Running time: 132 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures


To see a trailer for The Magnificent Seven, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-RBA0xoaWU