BIG BUDGET FILMS
Posted by Kam at 4:29 PM
Posted by Kam at 11:19 AM
by Kam Williams
Against-the-Odds Documentary Chronicles the Inspirational Ascension of Youtube Singing Sensation
By day, Samantha Montgomery cared for the elderly as an orderly in a New Orleans old folks home. After hours, however, the aspiring singer/songwriter spent most of her free time pursuing her elusive dream of superstardom.
As Princess Shaw, she would perform solo in local clubs on open mic nights, mostly in front of inattentive, unappreciative audiences. She also posted heartfelt renditions of her original tunes on Youtube where she failed to generate much of a following.
But lucky for Princess, among her handful of fans was Ophir "Kutiman" Kutiel, a pioneering composer/musician/video artist living half a world away on a kibbutz in Israel. Without her knowledge, he began producing her tunes in the studio, augmenting her haunting a cappella vocals with an orchestra that included keyboards, bass, cello, viola, drums, guitars, percussion, violins, saxophones and a brass section.
Miraculously, this promising diamond in the rough was suddenly blessed with a very professional sound evocative of Amy Winehouse. And when Kutiman subsequently released his polished version of Princess' "Give It Up" on Youtube, it soon went viral, generating millions of hits.
Next thing you know, the new internet sensation not only had a following, but found herself being mentioned in everything from the New York Times to People Magazine, all thanks to a generous stranger she'd never even spoken to. Eventually, the two do finally meet when Princess flies to Tel Aviv to do a show booked by Kutiman.
So unfolds Presenting Princess Shaw, a moving documentary directed by Ido Haar. The inspirational picture devotes as much time to details of Princess' traumatic personal life as to her magical music.
Along the way, we learn that she was left traumatized by the physical and sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of her mother's boyfriend while growing up in Chicago. Today, she continues to encounter a host of challenges, being, black, gay and struggling financially.
Let's just hope that Princess Shaw is able to turn the corner with the help of this uplifting biopic and Kutiman's mashups of her soulful ballads.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 83 minutes
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Posted by Kam at 7:41 PM
DVD Review by Kam Williams
College Grad Test Singles Scene in Raunchy Romantic Romp
When Alice (Dakota Johnson) graduated from college, it would have been very easy for her to settle down with her college sweetheart of four years. After all, Josh (Nicholas Braun) was not only a nice guy with a promising future but very eager to marry and start a family.
However, since she'd never really dated anyone else, Alice wanted to test the waters before making such a big commitment. So, she ended the relationship and moved clear across the country to New York City to live with her elder sister, Meg (Leslie Mann), an obstetrician who hears her biological clock ticking.
Alice lands a job as a paralegal at a big law firm where she makes fast friends with a flamboyant co-worker (Rebel Wilson) eager to show her the ropes both around the office and the Manhattan dating scene. Despite a Rubenesque figure, Robin exudes an enviable confidence that the relatively-modest Alice ostensibly admires.
After hours, the two descend upon a trendy meat market, where Alice catches the eye of a handsome bartender (Anders Holm). Against her better judgment, she impulsively agrees to a one-night stand with the stranger, only to find it not to her liking.
Worse, the disaster has her pining for Josh who has no interest in reconciling. That means Alice must continue to negotiate her way around the gauntlet of a strange new world where she can't quite get her footing.
Thus unfolds How to Be Single, a raunchy romantic comedy directed by Christian Ditter (Love, Rosie). The movie is very loosely based on Liz Tuccillo's 2008 best-seller of the same name which revolved around a 38 year-old heroine instead of one in her early twenties.
Dakota Johnson exhibits an endearing mix of sensuality and vulnerability as the naive newcomer looking for love in all the wrong places. And her character's plight is playfully juxtaposed against that of her sister who is so desperate to get pregnant that she's willing to visit a fertility clinic.
Alice has to kiss a lot of frogs before finally finding a prince in David (Damon Wayans, Jr.). Too bad the wealthy real estate developer is a still-grieving widower with a young daughter (Zani Jones Mbayise) to raise.
I suspect Millennials might more readily relate to the frenetically-paced hookup culture captured onscreen than us old fogeys. Nevertheless, the irreverent brand of humor has a universal appeal, provided the over-the-top antics of shameless, scene stealer Rebel Wilson suits your taste.
An utterly unfiltered salute to the Age of Indiscretion.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sexuality and pervasive profanity
Running time: 110 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: The Pros and Cons of How to Be Single; Rebel Rabble; A Look at Rebel Wilson; The Best Idea Wins! The Humor of How to Be Single; deleted scenes; gag reel; and Rebel Wilson outtakes.
To see a trailer for How to Be Single, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrDI4-BSovs
Posted by Kam at 7:41 AM
DVD Review by Kam Williams
Joseph Fiennes Stars in Biblical Epic Revisiting the Resurrection
A fundamental tenet of Christianity is the belief that Jesus rose from the dead three days after being crucified. And His Resurrection is celebrated each spring on the holy day known as Easter.
Directed by Kevin Reynolds (Waterworld), Risen is a New Testament epic which revisits that miraculous event from a novel perspective, that of Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), a Roman military commander instructed by Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) to burn Christ's body to prevent his returning to life as predicted.
But lo and behold, Clavius finds the boulder rolled away from the front of an already empty tomb. So, he accuses Jesus' disciples of stealing the body from the sepulchre, and demands it be reinterred in the Golgotha graveyard before the high priest "Caiphus and his pack of raving Jews show up."
When apostle Peter (Stewart Scudamore) shrugs his shoulders, the Roman soldiers start digging up corpses in Calvary's Hebrew cemetery to squash the rumor circulating that Christ really was the Messiah. Of course, that effort would prove to be an exercise in futility, as would interrogations of Mary Magdalene (Maria Botto), Simon (Joe Manjon) and other apostles.
Ultimately, a funny thing happens to Clavius by the end of his search. For, if Jesus truly is God, then His ascension to Heaven leads the skeptical investigator to the logical conclusion that eternal life is a possibility for everyone.
Risen is a visually-captivating Biblical drama harking back to such faith-based classics as Ben Hur (1959) and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). Between mob scenes and muted sackcloth costumes, this proselytizing parable persuasively delivers its underlying Easter message designed to convert heathens while simultaneously preaching to the Evangelical choir.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing images .
Running time: 107 minutes
Studio: Affirm Films
Posted by Kam at 7:19 AM
DVD Review by Kam Williams
Disaster Flick Revisits Coast Guard 1952 Rescue off Cape Cod
On February 18, 1952, one of the worst nor'easters in history hit New England. In fact, the roiling waters off Cape Cod were so severe that a couple of oil tankers totally split in half.
While the SS Fort Mercer was able to issue an urgent S.O.S., the SS Pendleton's fore section was swallowed too quickly by the ocean to broadcast a distress call. The latter's captain went down with the shortwave radio, too, leaving 34 sailors in the stern with no idea whether the world was even aware of their perilous plight.
As luck would have it, a tow truck driver (Matthew Maher) not only spotted a light from the Pendleton listing off the coast of Chatham, but he had the wherewithal to report it to the authorities immediately. Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana), the officer in charge of the local Coast Guard station, was a World War II vet who'd seen combat in the Pacific theater. He didn't hesitate to order a rescue attempt, despite the blizzard's frigid temperatures and gale force winds.
That unenviable task fell to Bosun's Mate Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) who hastily assembled a crew composed of Seamen Richard Livesey (Ben Foster) and Ervin Maske (John Magaro), as well as Engineman Andrew Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner). The rag-tag team left the harbor aboard a modest motorized lifeboat seating only a dozen and offering scant protection against the elements.
It would take a yeoman's effort just to reach the sinking Pendleton, given that the tiny Coast Guard cutter encountered waves as high as 70 feet-tall out on the open seas. Moreover, Webber was further frustrated by the loss of his compass to one of the tsunamis.
Meanwhile, the remaining sailors on the Pendleton were doing their best to keep what was left of the ship afloat. With the skipper and his other officers already swept to watery deaths down in Davy Jones locker, a new leader emerged in Engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), a salty dog with nerves of steel and a wealth of naval knowledge.
The veteran boat whisperer not only took command of the crew, but determined that survival depended upon the electric pumps functioning long enough to ground the vessel on a sandbar. A third plotline was unfolding back in Chatham where the worried families of the brave Coast Guardsmen, including Bernie's fiancee Miriam (Holliday Grainger), were wringing their hands.
Directed by Aussie Craig Gillespie (Million Dollar Arm), The Finest Hours is a gripping, seafaring adventure reminiscent of The Perfect Storm (2000). It is also based on a best-seller recounting the real-life exploits of some unsung heroes who rose to the occasion in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
A visually-captivating and remarkably-moving recreation of what, to this day, remains the most daring Coast Guard rescue on record.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for intense peril
Running time: 117 minutes
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: Deleted scenes; Against All Odds: The Bernie Webber Story; Brotherhood; Two Crews; The Finest Inspiration: The U.S. Coast Guard; and What Is Your Finest Hour?
To see a trailer for The Finest Hours, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQmllwTKtqU
Posted by Kam at 6:38 PM
Posted by Kam at 5:33 PM