Wednesday, November 25, 2015

90 Minutes in Heaven (DVD REVIEW)

90 Minutes in Heaven DVD Review by Kam Williams

Adaptation of Memoir about Miraculous Recovery \Released on DVd

Traveling Pastor Don Piper was thinking about having his own congregation on his way home from a Christian convention when fate intervened in tragic fashion. His car was crushed so badly by a tractor trailer that he was declared dead right on the spot by first responders who couldn't find a pulse.

Since the cops were in no hurry to extract him from the twisted wreckage, he was still lying there over an hour later, when a minister (Michael Harding) passing by the accident scene decided to stop and pray for the repose of his soul. But upon approaching the auto, instead of a corpse, lo and behold, the Good Samaritan found the supposedly deceased to be very much alive. 
In fact, Pastor Piper was faintly singing a Gospel spiritual, despite his considerable loss of blood. A rescue team with the jaws of life was immediately summoned and he was soon extracted and rushed to the hospital in excruciating pain. 
And although he would fight to survive for the sake of his wife (Kate Bosworth) and their three kids (Hudson Meek, Bobby Batson and Elizabeth Hunter), Don was actually torn over whether he really wanted to live or die. For, during his near-death experience on the side of the road, he'd briefly entered the proverbial Pearly Gates.

There, he not only experienced an unparalleled feeling of never-ending bliss, but enjoyed reunions with a number of dearly-departed loved ones, including his great-grandmother (Sallye McDougald Hooks) and a couple of childhood friends (Matthew Bauman and Trevor Allen Martin). By comparison, being back on Earth was relatively painful, given the 34 operations he needed to undergo over the next several months to fix torn muscles, disfigurement, broken bones and shattered disks. 
Thanks to the power of prayer, Pastor Piper did ultimately recover. But rather than open his own church, he wrote a best-seller recounting his entering the Gates of Heaven as well as his subsequent resurrection. Directed by Michael Polish (The Astronaut Farmer) 90 Minutes in Heaven proves to be a pretty palatable modern parable, given that the title sort of serves as a spoiler. Of course, it helps tremendously to be a person a faith, though this is one Christian flick that has the potential to cut across demos. 
A goner granted a miraculous reprieve by God ostensibly to let us all know that paradise really exists. 

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for an intense car accident and graphic images
Running time: 121 minutes
Studio: Giving Films

Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: The Making of 90 Minutes in Heaven; Meet the Real Pipers; and Giving Films.

To see a trailer for 90 Minutes in Heaven, visit:

To order a copy of 90 Minutes in Heaven on Blu-Ray, visit:

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 12-4-15

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening December 4, 2015


Chi-Raq (R for nudity, profanity, sexuality, violence and drug use) Nick Cannon plays the title character in this Spike Lee "Joint" loosely based on Aristophanes' play Lysistrata. Present-day variation on the theme is set in Chicago where females from the 'hood decide to deny their men sexual favors until there is a cessation of the gang violence claiming so many young lives. Ensemble includes Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Dave Chappelle, Jennifer Hudson and John Cusack. 

Krampus (PG-13 for violence, terror, profanity and drug use) Holiday comedy about a frustrated kid (Emjay Anthony) with no Christmas spirit who unwittingly unleashes a demonic, Scrooge-like force (Luke Hawker). Cast includes Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman and Adam Scott.

The Letters (PG for mature themes) Reverential retrospective dramatizing the life and times of Mother Teresa (Juliet Stevenson) as reflected by correspondence she exchanged over a half-century with her BFF/spiritual advisor, Father Celeste van Exem (Max von Sydow). With Rutger Hauer, Priya Darshini and Kranti Redkar.

Life (R for profanity, nudity and sexuality) Brush with greatness biopic recounting journalist Dennis Stock's (Robert Pattinson) photo shoot of rising star James Dean (Dane deHaan) for a 1955 issue of Life magazine. Featuring Lauren Gallagher as Natalie Wood, John Blackwood as Raymond Massey and Kelly McCreary as Eartha Kitt.

Macbeth (Unrated) Michael Fassbender assumes the title role in the latest adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy about an ambitious general with designs on the throne of the King of Scotland (David Thewlis). Support cast includes Elizabeth Debicki, Marion Cotillard, Sean Harris and Paddy Considine.


Amour Fou (Unrated) Costume drama, set in Berlin in the Romantic Era, about a young poet (Christian Friedel) who enters a suicide pact with a terminally-ill socialite (Schnoeink) after failing to convince his kissing cousin (Sandra Hueller) to do so. Supporting cast includes Stephan Crossmann, Barbara Schnitzler and Marc Bischoff. (In German with subtitles)

Bikes vs. Cars (Unrated) Eco-documentary advocating the adoption of bicycles over autos as the primary form of urban transportation in order to reverse the global warming trend. (In English, Spanish and Portuguese with subtitles)

Christmas Eve (PG for peril, mature themes and mild epithets) Holiday comedy revolving around the plight of New Yorkers simultaneously stuck in a half-dozen elevators in the wake of a car accident. Ensemble cast includes Patrick Stewart, Jon Heder, James Roday, Gary Cole and Max Casella.

Hitchcock/Truffaut (PG-13 for suggestive material and violent images) Reverential documentary deconstructing the genius of legendary director Alfred Hitchcock through the eyes of protege Francois Truffaut and a number of other admiring colleagues. Featuring commentary by Peter Bogdanovich, David Fincher, Martin Scorcese, Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater and Paul Schrader.

The Lady in the Van (PG-13 for a disturbing image) Fact-based docudrama recounting the unlikely friendship forged between a celebrated playwright (Alex Jennings) and a homeless woman (Maggie Smith) living in a car parked in his driveway. With Dominic Cooper, Jim Broadbent and James Corden.

MI-5 (R for profanity and violence) Espionage thriller about a spy (Kit Harrington) who comes out of retirement to track down an escaped terrorist (Elyes Gabel) on the CIA's Most Wanted list as well as the British secret agent (Peter Firth) who'd been escortng him to prison. Support cast includes Tuppence Middleton, Lara Pulver and Jennifer Ehle.

My Friend Victoria (Unrated) Baby-daddy drama, set in Paris, about a poor, black single-mom (Guslagie Malanga) who waits seven years before finally introducing her daughter (Maylina Diagne) to the middle-class white guy (Pierre Andrau) she shared a summer romance back in high school. (In French with subtitles)

A Royal Night Out (PG-13 for sexuality and brief drug use) Post World War II dramedy, set in England in 1945, finds Princess Margaret (Bel Powley) and Princess Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) slipping out of Buckingham Palace, over the objections of the Queen (Emily Watson), to join the street celebrations on V.E. Day. With Rupert Everett, Mark Hadfield and Jack Laskey.

Uncle Nick (Unrated) Brian Posehn plays the titular character in this holiday comedy as the rude relative from hell who ruins the family's Christmas gathering. Cast includes Scott Adsit, Missi Pyle, Paget Brewster and Beau Ballinger.

The World of Kanako (Unrated) Crime thriller, based on the best-seller Hateshinaki Kawaki by Akio Fukamachi, about a retired detective (Koji Yakusho) who only learns about his daughter's (Nana Komatsu) secret life during the search conducted after she goes missing. Narrated by Hiroya Shimizu and featuring Satoshi Tsumabuki, Fumi Nikaido and Ai Hashimoto. (In Japanese with subtitles)

Youth (R for profanity, sexuality and graphic nudity) Surrealistic meditation on mortality by a couple of BFFs, one, a composer (Michael Caine), the other, a filmmaker (Harvey Keitel), reflecting on the meaning of life while vacationing in the Swiss Alps. With Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano and Jane Fonda. (In English, Spanish and Swiss-German with subtitles)

Monday, November 23, 2015


Creed Film Review by Kam Williams

Rocky Franchise Revived with Compelling, Character-Driven Spin-Off

When most people think of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), what automatically comes to mind is the iconic image of a gutsy underdog easy to root for who held his own in the boxing ring against a variety of imposing adversaries. Each installment of the series has basically revolved around the hype leading to a riveting championship bout between a veritable David and Goliath. 
Directed by Ryan Coogler, Creed is a worthy spin-off which not only pays homage to that tried-and-true formula but also represents a bit of departure for the beloved franchise. What's new is the fact that this film devotes as much attention to character development as to ratcheting up the tension surrounding the fateful showdown. 
The picture reunites Coogler with Michael B. Jordan, the star of his directorial debut, the critically-acclaimed Frutivale Station. Here, Jordan plays, Adonis Johnson, a juvenile delinquent who's had his share of scrapes with the law, thanks to a quick temper and a tendency to settle differences with a pair of unusually powerful fists.

Just past the point of departure, the hot-headed orphan is informed by Apollo Creed's (Carl Weathers) widow (Phylicia Rashad) that he is the illegitimate son of Rocky's original archenemy. That at least explains the inclination to fight that's ostensibly been baked into his DNA. 
Fast-forward a few years, when Adonis has learned to channel his anger and explosive might via boxing. Over the objections of his adoptive mom (Mrs. Creed) he decides to follow in his father's footsteps. 
So, he moves from L.A. to Philly where he finds Rocky running a restaurant called Adrian's. Adonis prevails upon the ex-champ to serve as his trainer. Rocky agrees on the condition the kid changes his surname to Creed, and the next thing you know the kid rises in the ranks to #1 contender and luckily lands a title fight with Pretty Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellow).

Meanwhile, Adonis falls in love with his next-door neighbor, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), an aspiring hip-hop artist on the verge of making it in her own right. Away from the gym, he spends some quality time with Rocky, too, offering a little heartfelt, if unsolicited advice that just might save his aging mentor's life. 
"Rocky" and the next Roman numeral might not be in the title, but this engaging and faithful seventh episode includes all the fixins to amount to a highly-recommended spin-off of the storied franchise.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, profanity and sensuality
Running time: 95 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures

To see a trailer for Creed, visit:

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Brooklyn (FILM REVIEW)

Film Review by Kam Williams

Homesick Immigrant Adjusts to U.S. in Bittersweet Romance Drama

Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) and Rose Lacey (Fiona Glascott) have stayed home for the sake of their widowed mom (Jane Brennan) who is still grieving the loss of their late father. The devoted daughters have had to put their dreams on hold, since job prospects aren't great for young women without higher education in tiny Enniscorthy, County Wexford. 
Although Eilis has exhibited an affinity for math, she had to settle for a part-time gig as a clerk at a grocery where she's under the thumb of a vindictive shrew (Brid Brennan). After all, this is the early Fifties, a time when any ambitious local lass would set her sights on America, a land of opportunity with a proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. 
Salvation arrives in Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), a Catholic priest willing to sponsor Eilis' emigration to the United States. She grudgingly agrees, aware that this means that the entire burden of caring for their mother will now fall on her sister's shoulders. Nevertheless, after an exchange of tearful goodbyes, she boards the New York-bound steamship and descends to a bunk in steerage for what proves to be a seasickness-inducing voyage across a roiling ocean.

Awaiting Eilis in Brooklyn is a room in a female-only boardinghouse run by an eagle-eyed landlady (Julie Walters) obsessed with protecting the reputations of the gullible, young Irish immigrants placed under her supervision. The newcomer's also handed a job at a department store, as well as tuition to study bookkeeping at college.

Despite being the beneficiary of so much good fortune, Eilis misses her mother and sister terribly. And she seriously considers repatriating, over the assurances of Father Flood that the feelings of homesickness will eventually pass. 
Everything does change the night she meets handsome Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen) at a dance. The two fall in love at first sight and embark on a whirlwind romance which finally enables Eilis to make the adjustment to life in the States.

But just when she's ready to put down stakes on American soil, fate intervenes in the way of a tragedy that mandates her immediate return to the Emerald Isle. And wouldn't you know it, that while back in Enniscorthy, Eilis finds herself pursued by a wealthy, eligible bachelor (Domnhall Gleason). 
Which suitor will she choose? The answer to that question arrives at the moment of truth in Brooklyn, a touching historical drama directed by John Crowley (Closed Circuit). Based on Colm Toibin's best seller of the same name, the film features an elegantly understated performance by Saoirse Ronan likely to land the 21 year-old ingenue her second Oscar nomination. 
A poignant character study highlighting an American Dream delayed and then derailed. But will it ultimately be denied?

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for brief profanity and a sex scene
Running time: 111 minutes
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

To see a trailer for Brooklyn, visit:

Saturday, November 21, 2015


DVD Review by Kam Williams

Challenge Authority Documentary Recounts How Radicals Uncovered FBI Cointelpro Program

On the evening of March 8, 1971, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier squared-off in a heavyweight championship bout billed as The Fight of the Century. At that very same moment, while the rest of the world’s attention was riveted on Madison Square Garden, eight antiwar activists used that event as a distraction to stage a daring break-in of an FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania.
The meticulously-planned operation went off without a hitch, and they managed to cram every file on the premises into suitcases. The audacious octet had no idea until later that they had purloined shocking proof of the Bureau’s wholesale violations of U.S. citizens’ Constitutional rights via an illegal counterintelligence program nicknamed Cointelpro.
Dubbing themselves, the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI, the group Xeroxed the evidence and mailed photocopies to numerous news outlets, most of which refused to publish them. But once one magazine finally did print it, a righteous national outrage ensued. And J. Edgar Hoover ended up with egg on his face, given how he had been using taxpayer money to entrap and spy on any liberals whose politics he did not share.
All of the above is recalled in fascinating fashion in 1971, a whistleblower documentary directed by Johanna Hamilton. What’s interesting to hear is how the participants in the theft eluded capture by the authorities for decades. In fact, the only reason their identities are even known now is because they decided to ‘fess up for the sake of this film.
A belated tribute to some fearless patriots with the gumption to expose the FBI’s lawless ways and the wherewithal to evade apprehension by the Bureau to boot!

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 80 minutes
Studio: Fork Films
Distributor: First Run Features
DVD Extras: 85-minute conversation with Edward Snowden about 1971 and the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI.
To see a trailer for 1971, visit:

To order a copy of 1971 on DVD, visit:

Top Ten DVD Releases for 11-24-15

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Top Ten DVD List for November 24, 2015

Bad Boys and Bad Boys II [20th Anniversary Collection]
Shaun the Sheep

Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back [The Criterion Collection]

The New Rijksmuseum

American Ultra

A Christmas Horror Story

No Escape

Inside Amy Schumer: Season Three

The Dinner

Honorable Mention

Ricki and the Flash

The Search for Michael Rockefeller

The Storm Makers

Mrs. Brown's Boys: The Complete Series

Santa's Little Helper

The Last House

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.

Symphony in Blood Red

Friday, November 20, 2015

American Ultra (DVD REVIEW)

American Ultra
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Eisenberg Excels Cast Against Type as Unlikely Action Hero in "Manchurian Candidate" Adventure

At first blush, Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) looks like your prototypical slacker with not much of a future. The small town stoner is very content to fritter away his life behind the counter of the local convenience store, so long as he can go home and get high with his girlfriend, Phoebe (Kristen Stewart), after work every day.

It's hard to figure out why she puts up with the loser, between his lack of ambition and a crippling fear of flying that prevents them from venturing very far from landlocked Lymon, West Virginia. After all, she's attractive and has a decent career as a bail bondsman. 

Nevertheless, she sticks with him, even after he has a panic attack in the airport and screws up their plans for the perfect Hawaiian getaway. Mike was as upset as Phoebe when he failed to muster up the courage to get on board, since he'd purchased a diamond ring with which to pop the question during the vacation. 
But Phoebe has no idea that her beau has a hidden past as a sleeper agent trained as a deadly assassin by a U.S. government spy agency. Trouble is, Mike's been blissfully unaware of it, too, since a of his brain was turned off when the Ultra program was put in proverbial mothballs.

However, the cozy couple is in for the shock of their lives soon after Adrian Yates (Topher Grace) targets Mike for death. The callous bureaucrat dispatches killers to Lymon to eliminate the remote risk of the dormant asset somehow activating and going rogue. Mike surprises himself when the hit men arrive to take him out. 
He suddenly displays an array of prodigious fighting and survival skills implanted deep in his subconscious, and slays his attackers almost effortlessly. Yates nevertheless remains determined to complete the mission, gradually upping the ante as Mike manages to vanquish each escalating wave after wave of adversaries. 
Thus unfolds American Ultra, an endlessly-entertaining action comedy directed by Nima Nourizadeh (Project X). This remarkably-novel adventure is reminiscent of Kick-Ass (2010) in the way it alternates effortlessly back-and-forth between lighthearted and graphic fare. 
The movie also devotes considerable attention to generating a palpable chemistry between co-stars Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, thereby ensuring we care about the fate of their characters once the plot thickens. Alternately sophisticated and silly, but ever unpredictable thanks to a few cleverly-concealed twists, American Ultra is a delight not to be missed.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for graphic violence, pervasive profanity, ethnic slurs, drug use and some sexuality
Running time: 96 minutes
Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Gag reel; audio commentary with director Nima Nourizadeh; "Assassinating on a Budget" featurette; and "Activating American Ultra" documentary.

To see a trailer for American Ultra, visit:

To order a copy of the American Ultra Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit: