Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Mustang

Film Review by Kam Williams



Hardened Con Offered Shot at Redemption by Rough-Edged Horse Whisperer

Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) has too quick a fuse to think before he acts. That's why he's done a dozen years and counting in a maximum-security prison for impulsively delivering a brutal beating that left his victim permanently brain-damaged. 
 
Even while incarcerated, Roman's never learned to control his temper. Consequently, he's voluntarily spent the bulk of his time in solitary confinement. 
 
A shot at rehabilitation finally arrives when Myles (Bruce Dern), a salty, old horse whisperer, offers Roman a spot in his program pairing inmates with wild mustangs. The hope is that each participant will learn to tame his own raging inner soul while bonding with his stallion.

Roman grudgingly accepts the invitation, before being assigned to work with a bucking bronco he names Marcus. Under the watchful eye of the sage trainer, con and colt do gradually take to each other, although not without its share of fits and starts. 
 
Marking Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre's nonpareil directorial debut, The Mustang is a character-driven masterpiece co-starring Matthias Schoenaerts and Bruce Dern. The two generate considerable chemistry in the course of delivering powerful performances against a variety of visually-captivating backdrops, ranging from the vast expanse of a barren, Nevada desert to the claustrophobic confines of one of the State's penal institutions.

An emotionally-engaging meditation on redemption inspired by a real-life program helping inmates turn their lives around.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, violence and drug use
Running time: 96 minutes
Production Companies: Legende Films / Cine+ / Canal+
Distributor: Focus Features

To see a trailer for The Mustang, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2a-KSOCIeY



Thursday, April 11, 2019

Breakthrough


Film Review by Kam Williams


Inspirational Memoir Recounts Teen's True Tale of Survival

Despite being saddled with a couple of generic American names, John Smith's (Marcel Ruiz) life story has been anything but boring. It's just too bad that the shy, 14 year-old has been too embarrassed to share it. 
 
You see, he was born in Guatemala, but raised in Missouri by Brian (Josh Lucas) and Joyce Smith (Chrissy Metz), the missionary couple that adopted him as an infant. But even the terrific childhood they provided couldn't supply answers to nagging questions that still burdened the boy in junior high, like, “Why didn't his birth mom love him enough to keep him?” John was so traumatized that he gave his teacher a lame excuse the day he was supposed to make a class presentation about his family tree.

Luckily, he did have a couple of BFFs to hang out with in Josh (Isaac Kragten) and Reiger (Nikolas Dukic). However, the three could be a little rebellious, like on the afternoon of January 15, 2015 when they were warned by a stranger not to tempt fate by wandering out onto seemingly-frozen Lake St. Louis.

But they did, and fell through the ice, one after another. Rescue teams arrived soon enough to save two of the kids within minutes, but John had slipped so far beneath the surface that it took the extraordinary effort of one very determined fireman (Mike Colter) to belatedly find his body by poking around in the 12-foot deep waters with a stick.

John had no pulse, since he'd been submerged over 15 minutes. Yet, that didn't discourage first responders and then the ER physician on duty (Sam Trammell) at nearby St. Joseph's Hospital from trying repeatedly to revitalize him. Miraculously, John did come around after about an hour, which prompted an airlift to the top doctor in the field (Dennis Haysbert) in the St. Louis area.

Thus unfolds Breakthrough, a true tale of survival based on a moving memoir by Joyce Smith. Since each step of the unprecedented feat recounted here had been accompanied by prayer, the question triggered again and again was whether the operation had succeeded because of state-of-the-art medical care, divine intervention, or a combination of both. 
 
An edge-of-your-seat, faith-oriented/medical drama, equally riveting in terms of spiritual and worldly concerns.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated PG for peril and mature themes
Running time: 116 minutes
Production Companies: Fox 2000 Pictures / 20th Century Fox
Distributor: 20th Century Fox

To see a trailer for Breakthrough, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52bORzIODec








Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Hotel Mumbai

Film Review by Kam Williams


Harrowing Docudrama Recounts 2008 Mumbai Massacre

On November 26, 2008, radical Islamists from Pakistan launched a series of coordinated attacks around the city of Mumbai which would claim 174 lives and leave hundreds more wounded. Within hours of the raid, the authorities were able to secure all of the sites except for the legendary Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

The jihadists ostensibly picked the legendary 5-star resort as the location for a final showdown because of its image as a getaway spot for rich and famous Westerners. The siege there would last four days, since the local police were outgunned by the terrorists who were armed to the teeth with bombs, hand grenades and automatic weapons. 
 
Directed by Anthony Maras, Hotel Mumbai is a harrowing docudrama which recreates the horrific events which transpired inside the Taj. In making his movie, the first-time filmmaker relied heavily on Mumbai Massacre, a 2009 documentary composed of survivors' recollections of their nightmares.

This fictionalized account, which changes names and conflates characters, primarily revolves around the ordeals of Arjun (Dev Patel) and David (Armie Hammer). The former is a selfless Sikh waiter who exhibits extraordinary heroism in an effort to save as many of the hotel's traumatized guests as possible. And the latter is a frazzled tourist desperate to reunite with his wife (Nazanin Boniadi), baby and nanny (Tilda Cobham-Hervey).

Besides these protagonists, the film features a profusion of simplistically-drawn supporting players, a la your typical disaster flick. There's the Russian playboy (Jason Isaacs), an elitist, world-class chef (Anupam Kher), a deferential butler (Alex Pinder), and so forth.

After the motley ensemble is introduced, the burning question left to be answered is which of these trapped victims will be able to remain undiscovered by the bloodthirsty assassins until the Special Forces Unit finally arrives from Delhi, some 800 miles away. For, the terrorist cell in control of the building is portrayed as religious zealots blinded by the prospect of paradise promised by The Bull (Pawan Singh), the operation's diabolical mastermind.

Yes, the hotel is ultimately retaken and order is restored. Nevertheless, the S.W.A.T. Team's belated triumph remains overshadowed by the sobering reality of so many lives senselessly lost. In sum, an uplifting tale of heroism and survival, as well as a haunting reminder of the evil that men do.


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, bloody images and pervasive violence
Running time: 123 minutes
Production Companies: Thunder Road Pictures / Xeitgeist Entertainment Group / Arclight Films Electric Pictures
Distributors: Bleecker Street

To see a trailer for Hotel Mumbai, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8IxhVslvro

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening March 29, 2019


Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun 
by Kam Williams


OPENING THIS WEEK

WIDE RELEASES


Dumbo (PG for peril, action, mature themes and mild epithets) Family-oriented fantasy about a baby elephant with big ears who's the laughingstock of the circus until it is discovered that he can fly. Co-starring Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito, Alan Arkin, Eva Green and Michael Keaton.


Hotel Mumbai (R for profanity, bloody images and pervasive violence) Fact-based drama recounting the 2008 terrorist attack at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel by radical Islamists which claimed 174 innocent lives. Co-starring Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Amandeep Singh and Jason Isaacs. (In English, Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi, Greek, Russian, Arabic, Urdu and Persian with subtitles)


Unplanned (R for disturbing images) Adaptation of Abby Johnson's (Ashley Bratcher) memoir of the same name chronicling her transition from Planned Parenthood spokesperson to anti-abortion activist. With Brooks Ryan, Robia Scott and Jared Lotz.




INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS


The Beach Bum (R for pervasive profanity, graphic sexuality, and drug and alcohol abuse) Matthew McConaughey plays the title character in this screwball comedy revolving around the misadventures of a hedonistic rebel who lives by his own rules. With Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Martin Lawrence, Jonah Hill and Zac Efron. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)


The Brink (Unrated) Political biopic examining the efforts of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon to mobilize right-wing voters. Featuring commentary by TV pundits David Frum, Michael Wolff and Ari Melber.


The Chaperone (Unrated) Elizabeth McGovern plays the title character in this adaptation of Laura Moriarty's best seller of the same name, set in the Roaring Twenties, about the woman who agreed to escort 15 year-old, aspiring film star Louise Brooks (Haley Lu Richardson) from Kansas to New York City. Cast includes Blythe Danner, Miranda Otto and Campbell Scott.


Diane (Unrated) Mary Kay Place stars in this poignant portrait of a selfless soul who divides her time between charity work and trying to save her drug-addicted son (Jake Lacy). With Estelle Parsons, Andrea Martin and Joyce Van Patten.


Lost & Found (Unrated) Serendipitous Irish dramedy inspired by the real-life encounters of seven strangers whose paths cross by chance at a rural train station's Lost & Found office. Starring writer/direct Liam O Mochain and a supporting cast featuring Norma Sheahan, Brendan Conroy, Seamus Hughes, Lynette Callaghan, Liam Carney, Barbara Adair and Aoibhin Garrihy.


Notebook (Unrated) Romance drama, set in Kashmir, about a soldier-turned-teacher (Zaheer Iqbal) who falls in love with a colleague (Pranutan Bahl) after reading a diary she left behind in a classroom. Featuring Muazzam Bhat. (In Hindi with subtitles)


A Vigilante (R for profanity and violence) Olivia Wilde handles the title role in this revenge thriller about a battered housewife who takes the law into her own hands on behalf of herself and other victims of domestic abuse. With Morgan Spector, Kyle Catlett, Tonye Patano and C.J. Wilson.




Monday, March 25, 2019

Unplanned


Film Review by Kam Williams


Adaptation of Memoir Recounts Abortion Counselor's Spiritual Transformation

Abby Johnson (Ashley Bratcher) was recruited by Planned Parenthood to do volunteer work when she was still an undergrad at Texas A&M. Her first job was to escort women seeking abortions from the parking lot into the building, past picketers calling them baby killers.
 
Upon graduating from college, she was hired as a counselor at the controversial, reproductive health services provider's clinic in Bryan, Texas. Over the course of the next eight years, she rose up the ranks to office director, even though she was privately conflicted over whether the organization's primary function was to inform pregnant women about their options or merely to perform abortions.

After all, she not only came from a conservative, pro-life family, but felt overwhelming regret about the two abortions she had undergone herself earlier in life. So, between pressure from her parents and the almost daily confrontations with demonstrators, Abby's conscience began to get the better of her.

The moment of truth arrived the day her help was urgently needed in the operating room. And, for the first time in her career, she observed an actual abortion. 

She was shocked by the gruesome procedure which left her convinced that the fetus was a baby. In fact, she felt so guilty that she decided to resign and join the pro-life protesters marching outside the building.

That is the touching transformation convincingly conveyed in Unplanned, a poignant, cinematic portrait co-directed by Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon. Unfortunately, abortion is such an incendiary issue, this is the sort of film audiences will be inclined to judge without seeing based on their political persuasion, although it's adapted from Abby Johnson's very personal memoir.

A riveting reminiscence recounting a Planned Parenthood exec's unlikely conversion to outspoken anti-abortion activist.


Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for disturbing images
Running time: 110 minutes
Distributor: Pure Flix Entertainment

To see a trailer for Unplanned, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBLWpKbC3ww


Sunday, March 24, 2019

Top Ten DVD List for March 26, 2019

Image result for If Beale Street Could Talk
by Kam Williams


This Week's DVD Releases
 
If Beale Street Could Talk

Stan & Ollie

Capernaum

Aquaman

Isiboshwa

The World before Your Feet

Brighton Beach Memoirs

Second Act

Hostage

Rich Girl

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening March 22, 2019



Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams



OPENING THIS WEEK


WIDE RELEASES
 

Us (R for violence, terror and profanity) Jordan Peele wrote and directed this suspense thriller, set in Santa Cruz, about a vacationing family that finds itself haunted by identical strangers. Co-starring Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss and Anna Diop.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Dragged across Concrete (R for profanity, sexuality, nudity, grisly images and graphic violence) Action thriller about a couple of cops (Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn) who turn to a life of crime after being suspended without pay for police brutality caught on camera. With Don Johnson, Fred Melamed, Michael Jai White and Jennifer Carpenter.

El Chicano (Unrated) Crime saga, set in East L.A., about twins (Raul Castillo) who choose to live their lives on opposite sides of the law. Cast includes Jose Pablo Cantillo, Aimee Garcia and Marlene Forte.

Hotel Mumbai (R for profanity, bloody images and pervasive violence) Fact-based drama recounting the 2008 terrorist attack at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel by radical Islamists which claimed 174 innocent lives. Co-starring Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Amandeep Singh and Jason Isaacs. (In English, Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi, Greek, Russian, Arabic, Urdu and Persian with subtitles)

Maze (Unrated) Historical drama, set in Northern Ireland in 1983, recreating the infamous jailbreak of 38 IRA members from a maximum security prison. Ensemble cast includes Barry Ward, Martin McCann, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Eileen Walsh and Aaron Monaghan.

Ramen Shop (Unrated) Coming-of-age drama revolving around a grief-stricken young chef (Takumi Saitoh) who travels from Japan to Singapore in search of his late parents' recipes only to also uncover some deep family secrets. With Seiko Matsuda, Jeanette Aw and Tsuyoshi Ihara. (In Japanese, Mandarin and English with subtitles)

Sunset (R for violence) Character-driven drama, set in 1913, about a young woman (Juli Jakab) who ventures to Budapest hoping to secure a job at the hat store once owned by her late parents, only to be turned away by the shop's new owner (Vlad Ivanov). Cast includes Susanne Wuest, Bjorn Freiberg and Urs Rechn. (In Hungarian and German with subtitles)

Trading Paint (R for profanity) Action adventure about a legendary father (John Travolta) and son (Toby Sebastian) car racing team who end up facing each other in a high-stakes contest following a falling out. With Shania Twain, Michael Madsen and Kevin Dunn.

Triple Threat (R for profanity and pervasive graphic violence) Action thriller about three down-and-out mercenaries (Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais and Tiger Chen) recruited to protect a billionaire heiress (Celina Jade) from a team of professional assassins (Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White and Michael Bisping) hired to take her out. Supporting cast includes Michael Wong, Daniel Whyte and Selina Lo. (In English, Mandarin and Thai with subtitles)