Friday, May 22, 2015

Top Ten DVD Releases for 5-26-15



This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams


Top Ten DVD List for May 26, 2015                      

Murdoch Mysteries: The Movies

So Bright Is the View

Glee: The Final Season

Gun Woman

The Larry Sanders Show: The Complete Series

Battlestar Galactica: The Remastered Collection



The Wonder Years: Season Three

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Sons of Liberty

Sword of Vengeance


Honorable Mention

The House across the Street

The Loft

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (DVD REVIEW)



Da Sweet Blood of Jesus
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Lousy Spike Lee Remake of Blaxploit Released on DVD

            The Kickstarter page where Spike Lee raised $1,418,910 from fans for his latest “Joint” expressly states that the money would not used to shoot a remake of Blacula (1972). But it also failed to inform investors that the crowdfunded feature was ostensibly-inspired by another Blaxploitation era horror flick, namely, Ganja & Hess (1973). And after screening this disappointing indie, it’s obvious there was no reason to redo that picture either.
Spike’s sharp decline as a filmmaker in recent years is nothing short of shocking, with Oldboy (2013) and Red Hook Summer (2012) also submitted for your disapproval. Claims to the contrary notwithstanding, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is basically a boring vampire adventure that’s severely lacking in terms of tension, thrills, premise, storyline, special f/x, plausibility, production value, editing and character development. Am I forgetting anything?
The tawdry tale revolves around Dr. Hess Greene (Stephen Tyrone Williams), a wealthy anthropologist specializing in African Art History. This unrepentant bon vivant divides his time between New York City and an oceanfront summer home up on Martha’s Vineyard, living in the lap of luxury with the help of a private jet, a chauffeured Rolls Royce, and a loyal manservant (Rami Malek).
The plot thickens soon after Dr. Greene is stabbed with an ancient Ashanti artifact, when he develops an insatiable addiction to blood. To satisfy the craving, he steals some from a hospital, and he also embarks on a killing spree. Besides gratuitous slaughter, the film indulges in frontal nudity and eroticized violence, including a sleazy, lesbian sex scene that looks like an outtake from a soft core snuff film. 
What would Jesus do, Spike? Repent!

Fair (1 star)
Unrated
Running time: 124 minutes
Studio: 40 Acres & a Mule Filmworks
Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment

To see a trailer for Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n739-zHeooQ  
  
To order Da Sweet Blood of Jesus on DVD, visit:

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 5-29-15 (FEATURE)



OPENING THIS WEEK
Kam's Kapsules:      
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         
by Kam Williams
For movies opening May 29, 2015


BIG BUDGET FILMS   

Aloha (PG-13 for profanity and suggestive comments) Oscar-winner Cameron Crowe (for Almost Famous) wrote and directed this romantic comedy about a disgraced astronaut-turned-defense contractor (Bradley Cooper) who divides his time between a feisty Air Force pilot (Emma Stone) and a long-lost ex-girlfriend (Rachel McAdams) while on assignment in Hawaii. Supporting cast includes Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Jay Baruchel and Danny McBride.

San Andreas (PG-13 for action, mayhem and brief profanity) 3-D disaster flick, unfolding in the wake a devastating earthquake, about a helicopter pilot (Dwayne Johnson) who flies with his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) from L.A. to San Francisco to rescue their missing daughter (Alexandra Daddario). With Paul Giamatti, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi and Will Yun Lee.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS 

Barely Lethal (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, violence, drug references and underage drinking) Action comedy about a teenage spy (Hailee Steinfeld) who fakes her own death in order to have a normal life, only to find the treacherous waters of a suburban high school as challenging as international espionage. Featuring Jessica Alba, Samuel L. Jackson and Jaime King.

Gemma Bovery (R for sexuality, nudity and profanity) Screen adaptation of Posy Simmonds’ graphic novel of the same name, set in Normandy, about a baker’s (Fabrice Luchini) pursuit of a British beauty (Gemma Arterton) who has just moved to town with her furniture repairman husband (Jason Flemyng). With Isabelle Candelier, Niels Schneider and Mel Raido. (In French and English with subtitles)

Heaven Knows What (R for violence, sexuality, disturbing images, graphic nudity, pervasive profanity and incessant drug use) Screen adaptation of Mad Love in New York City, Arielle Holmes’s unpublished memoir, a tawdry tale of self-destruction and love between a couple of heroin addicts (Holmes and Caleb Landry-Jones) living on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Support cast includes Eleonore Hendricks, street legend Buddy Duress gore rapper and Necro.

I Believe in Unicorns (Unrated) Bittersweet drama about a vulnerable teenager (Natalia Dyer) who resorts to escapist fantasies to cope when her first romantic relationship turns violent. With Peter Vack, Julia Garner, Amy Seimetz and Toni Meyerhoff.

Results (R for sexuality, profanity and drug use) Midlife crisis comedy, set in Austin, revolving around a recently-divorced millionaire (Kevin Corrigan) who starts dating his hard-nosed personal trainer (Cobie Smilders), much to the chagrin of her jealous boos and ex-boyfriend (Guy Pearce). With Giovanni Ribisi, Anthony Michael Hall, Brooklyn Decker and Tishuan Scott.

Survivor (PG-13 for action, violence and brief profanity) International thriller about a double-crossed, U.S. Foreign Service Officer (MillaJovovich), stationed in London, who ends up on the run and trying to clear her name in time to thwart a terrorist attack planned for New Year’s Eve in Times Square. A-list ensemble includes Pierce Brosnan, Angela Bassett, Emma Thompson, Dylan McDermott and Robert Forster.

The True Cost (PG-13 for mature themes and disturbing images) Eco-documentary examining the toll exacted by the fashion industry on underpaid employees sewing the clothes and on the Earth’s natural resources. .

Welcome to This House (Unrated) Lyrical biopic about the closeted love life of Pulitzer Prize-winner Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979), the secretly-gay Poet Laureate of the United States.



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Michelle Obama: A Life (BOOK REVIEW)



Michelle Obama: A Life
by Peter Slevin
Knopf
Hardcover, $27.95
448 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-0-307-95882-2

Book Review by Kam Williams

“Here is the first comprehensive account of the life and times of Michelle Obama, a woman of achievement and purpose—and the most unlikely First Lady in modern American history... The journey winds from the intricacies of her upbringing as the highly focused daughter of a gregarious water-plant worker afflicted with MS to the tribulations she faces at Princeton University and Harvard Law School during the racially charged 1980s.
And then returning to Chicago where she… embarks on a search for meaningful work that takes her back to the community… even as she struggles to find balance as a mother and a professional—while married to a man who wants to be president.
[The book] deftly explores the drama of Barack’s historic campaigns and the harsh glare faced by Michelle in a role both relentlessly public and not entirely of her choosing.”
-- Excerpted from the Bookjacket

Michelle Obama has been catching a lot of flak again, this time for her remarks during a recent commencement address at Tuskegee University. The First Lady has been under the gun ever since the 2008 presidential campaign, when her detractors playing “gotcha politics” quoted something she said out of context to suggest that she hates the United States.
But Michelle was making more complicated points than the simplistic sound bites she’s been reduced to. For that reason, it is appropriate that her biography opens with an in-depth analysis of a very emotional speech she delivered to Anacostia High’s graduating class of 2010.
She pointed out the irony in the fact that this public school located in a neighborhood marked by poverty, violence and inequality was also just a stone’s throw away from the U.S. Capitol. She went on make parallels between that ghetto and the one where she was raised on the South Side of Chicago.
Then, Michelle started to cry while recalling the sacrifices on the part of her parents which enabled both her and brother to attend Princeton. And when she finished, it was apparent that her salient message about the power of perseverance had resonated with all in attendance.
            In Michelle Obama: A Life, author Peter Slevin paints an unapologetically rosy picture of the First Lady, opting to play down or entirely avoid any controversial subjects. It’s important to note that she never cooperated with the project, although he reportedly did get to interview a number of folks close to her.  
A titanic, 400+ page tome, complete with 16 pages of color pictures, for fans who prefer to read an opus about the First Lady that accentuates the positive.

To order a copy of Michelle Obama: A Life, visit: 
  

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Color of the Cross (FILM REVIEW)



                                    Color of the Cross
                                    Film Review by Kam Williams

Crucifixion Revisited with Black Jesus as Victim of Bias Crime

Was Jesus a black man? He might have been, given the features of the folks from the region of the world where he was born. He was at least more likely to look more like a brother than the generally-accepted representations of him as a fair-skinned, flaxen-haired Caucasian. Yet, Hollywood has never seen fit to make a major motion picture featuring a sepia Son of God. Till now.
Color of the Cross is the brainchild of actor/writer/director Jean-Claude LaMarre, a gifted tale-spinner who does much more here than merely revisit the life of Christ in blackface. For this controversial reinterpretation of the scriptures, which transpires during the 48 hours leading up to the Crucifixion, mixes many instantly recognizable Biblical passages with speculation about a motive for murdering Jesus which had to do with his skin color.
So, we find familiar scenes such as those taking place in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus (LaMarre) prayed to God the Father the night before he died, and where he was later betrayed by Judas (Johann John Jean) with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver. Of course, there’s The Last Supper, the last meal Christ shared with the Apostles.
Superficially, Color of the Cross reads like a Passion Play except for the
fact that Jesus is black, and that he has been rejected by disbelieving rabbis who have a hard time swallowing the idea that of a dark-skinned Messiah. In fact, they routinely refer to him as the black Nazarene, so in this version of the New Testament not only do the Jews crucify Christ, but they’re portrayed as racists to boot.
            Although this ethnic discrimination angle might be factually inaccurate, since if Jesus was a black Jew, his accusers must’ve mostly been black Jews, too, the best thing about Color of the Cross is that it finally furnishes us with a reason for the Crucifixion. It reminded me of the Don Rickles routine in which the comedian wondered how his people could possibly have screwed up Christmas. Now we at least have a theory.
            The storyline aside, Jean-Claude LaMarre charismatic performance as Jesus is what really holds the production together. He receives considerable help in this regard from his capable supporting cast which includes Debbi Morgan as the Virgin Mary, Ananda Lewis as Leah, Akiva David as John, Jacinto Taras Riddick as Peter, and John Pierre Parent as Doubting Thomas.
Is the film blasphemous? Blasphemy is in the eye of the beholder. But it’s certainly a lot closer in tone to The Ten Commandments (1956) and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) than to The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) or Andy Warhol’s Imitation of Christ (1967).
Regardless, if Kanye West can appear on the cover of Rolling Stone sporting a crown of thorns, then we’re probably already primed for a religious epic featuring an ebony Prince of Peace. Let the debates begin!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for graphic crucifixion images.
Running time: 108 minutes
Studio: Nu-Lite Entertainment

Vivica A. Fox, Tyson Beckford and Robert Ri’chard (INTERVIEW)



Vivica A. Fox, Tyson Beckford and Robert Ri’chard
The “Chocolate City” Interview
with Kam Williams

Is Vivica Really Dating the Handsome Hunk Who Plays Her Son in the Movie?

            Vivica A. Fox, Tyson Beckford and Robert Ri’chard co-star in Chocolate City which is basically a remake of Magic Mike. Director Jean-Claude La Marre explains that he felt an African-American variation on the male stripper theme was in order, given the absence of black faces in the original.
            This version of the tale revolves around a cash-strapped college kid (Richard) who hides from his mother (Fox) the fact that he’s moonlighting as an exotic dancer at a neighborhood nightclub on ladies’ night. The three recently spoke to me via a conference call about the film, and also about the rumors circulating in the tabloids of a steamy set romance between Vivica and Robert.

Kam Williams: Hey, thanks for the interview.
Robert Ri’chard: Hey Vivica, how are you?
Vivica Fox: I’m fine darling. How are you?

RR: When are you going to take me out for a glass of champagne, so I can buy you some chocolate?
VAF: [Laughs] You’re starting way too early, Robert. What, are you in need of a mimosa already? You’re too much! Too much!

Tyson Beckford: [Joins call] Hey, what’s happening everybody?
VAF: Hey, Tyson.
RR: I heard you’re in Vegas.
TB: No, I was in Los Angeles a few hours ago. But now I’m in New York. And I’ll be back in Vegas at this time tomorrow.

RR: I wanna dance tomorrow.
TB: You keep sayng that, but you’ve got to rehearse. You can’t just show up and get onstage. We’ll have to work you out. You’re rusty.

RR: I want to come to a rehearsal tomorrow.
TB: We don’t have one scheduled. I’ll have to bring you in and rehearse you real quick, if I have time for it.   

KW: Let me start off the interview with a question from children’s book author Irene Smalls. She asks: What interested each of you in Chocolate City?
TB: I’ll answer first, since I was the first to sign on. What interested me was the script. I loved how the characters showed their emotions. It made me feel for Robert’s character [Michael], because I’ve been through that as a college student trying to make my way through life. And I did the whole topless waiter thing in a male revue before, so I knew I could connect with it. In addition, I found the idea of Jean-Claude [director Jean-Claude La Marre] building an entire cast around me kind of intriguing. I was eager to see what he would come up with. So, that’s why I jumped in.
VAF: I’ll be very honest with you, Kam. I had worked with Jean-Claude before and, when I heard that he was doing this, I went to see Magic Mike. And I went, “Wow! How crazy is it that they don’t have any African-Americans in this?” I felt that whoever makes this film African-American will win. Jean-Claude let me know he wanted me to play the mom and, when he told me about the cast, I said, “I’m so totally in for this.” I’ve seen it, and it’s awesome. It’s a feel-good, girl’s night out film that everybody will enjoy.

KW: And why’d you do the film, Robert?
RR: Because I had a crush on Vivica.
VAF: [LOL]
TB: You see, that’s how rumors get started, Robert!
VAF: Exactly!
RR: The first time I ever modeled, I walked the runway with Tyson. And he let me walk in front of him. He was the man! I was like, “This is my dude!” So, when I was approached about working with him for a whole movie, I didn’t hesitate for a second. I just said, “Count me in.”

KW: Is there any truth to the rumor that you two are an item since making this movie?
VAF: Yes, Robert Ri’chard is the love of my life!
RR: The rumor’s not big enough.
VAF: [Laughs] We’re having fun, but let me set the record straight. No, it’s not true. It was my first time working with him. And our scenes were so intense that everybody was like, “Wow! They have a major connection with each other.” But it was literally mutual respect as actors. There’s no romance going on.
RR: Yet. I wonder how the tabloids are predicting the future.
VAF: [Laughs]

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier for Vivica: I am a big fan and have followed your career since the late Eighties. I probably watched Two Can Play That Game, one of my favorite romantic-comedies, over 40 times. Is there any chance you’ll make another sequel of this movie?
VAF: We actually made one sequel, called Three Can Play That Game. I did co-produce the film, but it didn’t do as well, because they didn’t allow me to have my original cast back. Lord, would I love to get that original cast back together, and do the real sequel that should’ve been done, because it’s a cult classic, and it’s been done by other nationalities. So, I’d love to do a true sequel. Absolutely!

KW: Patricia would also like to know whether you might like to direct in the future.
VAF: Ooh! Directing is a lot of responsibility. In the future, yes, but I probably wouldn’t get into that for another five years or so.

KW: Patricia has a question for Tyson. She says. You have roots in Panama, and I am taking this occasion to say that I went there last year for almost a month. I was very moved by the warmth of the people there. Not one person was impatient towards me when I looked for words in my French-Spanish dictionnary to communicate with them. Given your diverse background, would you be open to play in a foreign film in the future?
TB: Yeah, I would definitely love to do that. Panama is like one of my homes. I have cousins down there that I’d like to bond with. So, I‘d love to make a movie there.

KW: What advice do you have for guys who want to follow into your footstep in modeling and for those who want to be involved in modeling?
TB: That’s tough to answer, because you have to be cut from a certain type of cloth. You have to have be a certain height, build and a have a certain look. You can’t just wake up and decide to model one day. It’s hard to explain, but getting into the business is all about the features.

KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan says: Vivica, when you're really feeling naughty, and you just want to let your diet go off the rails, what's your guiltiest pleasure? Is there a place you specifically go in LA to get some really “bad" food? The type that makes you say, “Boy, I'm gonna have to hit the gym tomorrow.”
TB and RR: [LOL]
VAF: Do you hear them giggling in the background? I hear you. They’re so bad! Can you imagine having to deal with this all day? Where do I go? Two places: Casa Vega, because I love some good ole Mexican food, and California Pizza Kitchen, because I also love pizza. Those are my guilty pleasures, and not something else that they’re snickering about.
TB and RR: [Laugh some more]

KW: Jimmy also says: Tyson, you've enjoyed an enduring modeling career. When you started out, did you think this modeling thing would last as long as it has? Did you always have your sights set on the acting thing as a logical extension?
TB: A lot of people don’t know this, but I started out as an actor. Along the way, I was offered a modeling job, and the modeling took off. So, I put the acting off to the side. Still, I always told myself that once I made enough money, I was going to get out of the game. I didn’t intend to stay this long. I figured once my contract with Ralph [Lauren] was over, that I would go right into acting. But it’s taken awhile for Hollywood to recognize me. In fact, I still feel like they don’t recognize me yet, but they’re going to soon.
VAF: I know that’ right!
TB: You know me, Viv. You see how hard-headed I am. I ain’t stopping ‘til I get there.
VAF: I can tell you I’m so proud, because everyone’s really, really loving you at Chippendale’s, and you are just doing your thing. I’m so proud of you!
TB: Oh, thank you, babe.

KW: Reverend Florine Thompson asks: How do you maintain centered spiritually?
VAF: For me, it’s by keeping things simple, as far as the crowd of people that I’m around. I’ve also really learned to focus on family, and on how to be happy with myself from within. 
RR: I come from a very religious family and, for me, the key is my family unit which supports me and keeps me grounded when it comes to just giving it up to God, and putting God first.
TB: I might not go to church as much as I should, but I walk with God every day. I speak to Him, I ask Him for things, and what I can do for Him. And we have a fair trade that has worked out for me.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
TB: I see someone with drive who is not a quitter.
VAF: A grown woman who’s happy in her skin.
RR: An ordinary American son with extraordinary experience.

KW: Lastly, what’s in your wallet?
VAF: American Express and $200 in cash. 
RR: I’ve got a Mastercard and about the same amount of money.
TB: American Express. I never leave home without it! [Laughs]

KW: Thanks again for the time, everyone, and best of luck with the film.
VAF: Alright, thank you, Kam
TB: Take care.
 RR: Thanks, Kam.

To see a trailer for Chocolate City, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42HA58cBHAM

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Pitch Perfect 2 (FILM REVIEW)



Pitch Perfect 2
Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: The Bellas Are Back for Another Madcap, Acappella Misadventure

            The Bellas are back and badder than before! In case you’re unfamiliar with the sassy, all-girl singing group, they’re students at Barden University, a fictional college located in Atlanta, Georgia. In the original, the students overcame a number of frustrating setbacks on the slow road to victory at the national acappella competition.
            This semester, the motley crew led by super senior Chloe (Brittany Snow) has its sights set on the world championships in Copenhagen. However, they get off to a horrible start, thanks to an embarrassing, onstage wardrobe malfunction experienced by Fat Amy’(Rebel Wilson) while dangling at the end of a rope during a command performance for President Obama and the First Lady.
            The audience lets out a collective gasp when she splits her leotard down the crotch, thereby completely exposing her private parts to the world. By the time the dust finally settles on the ensuing reactions to “Muffgate” by the media, the  Barden Bellas find themselves temporarily suspended from competition by the board of governors.
Not to worry, the storyline seizes on that pause in the musical cause as a convenient excuse to develop the back stories of several group members. Amy has an ardent admirer in Bumper (Adam DeVine), but will she ever let her guard down long enough to share her sensitive side? Meanwhile, Beca (Anna Kendrick) secretly takes an internship with a Grammy-winning record producer (Keegan-Michael Key) with hopes of having him listen to the tunes she’s composed.
There’s also drama surrounding an angry black lesbian (Ester Dean), a freshman legacy admission Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) with low self-esteem; and an undocumented alien (Chrissie Fit), afraid of being deported. The pithy banter, here, frequently borders on the politically-incorrect, but it somehow works, perhaps because it’s never too mean-spirited.
As the assorted controversies are gradually amicably resolved, specter of the big showdown with the German defending world champs, The Sound Machine, looms ever larger on the horizon. Curiously, though billed as a celebration of acappella renditions of classic hits and show tunes, all the vocalists are actually accompanied by musical instruments.
Will the Bellas win? What? Are you in a rush? Just sit back and enjoy the irreverent ride. As one-man band Bobby McFerrin would warble, “Don’t worry, be happy.” A road to redemption paved with wisecracks and wonderful harmonies. 

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity and sexual innuendo
Running time: 115 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures

To see a trailer for Pitch Perfect 2, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bh4mvJ5jUg