Saturday, October 25, 2014

Advanced Style (DVD REVIEW)


Advanced Style

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Fashion Documentary Focuses Lens on Ageless Ladies

We live in a culture which unfortunately equates beauty with youth. Why else are so many women to make a joke of their own faces so long as the skin remains as tight as a ten year old’s? As the late Joan Rivers, a big fan of cosmetic surgery, might ask: Can we talk?
For, flying in the face of this conventional wisdom is Ari Seth Cohen, a street photographer who roams around Manhattan looking for flamboyant elderly females to capture with his camera. He even has a blog, Advanced Style (http://advancedstyle.blogspot.com/) dedicated to portraits of these classy ladies ranging in age from 60 to 95.
The website generated so much interest that we now have Advanced Style, the movie, a documentary featuring some of his most attractive subjects. The picture marks the “Fabulous!” directorial of Lina Plioplyte who makes quite the splash simply by shedding light on seven, ageless fashion plates.
There’s Jackie Tajah Murdock, 81, who was a dancer at the Apollo during the famed theater’s heydays, and Lynn Dell Cohen, 80, the self-proclaimed “Countess of Glamour.” The baby of the group is Tziporah Salamon, 62 who rides around the city on a pimped-out bicycle. And at the other extreme we have the group’s elder stateswoman, Zelda Kaplan, 95, who has a good sense of humor about being a little addlepated.
Rounding out the crew are Ilona Royce Smithkin, 93; Joyce Carpati, 80; and Deborah Rapoport, 67. What they all seem to share is an infectious zest for life and for looking their best that they can’t help but share with anyone they meet. Ostensibly for the sake of a plot, the picture inexorably works its way to the ladies being feted, whether they’re landing a contract with Lanvin, making an appearance on Ricki Lake’s TV talk show, or just strutting their stuff during Fashion Week.
But it all seems secondary to the obvious fact that natural aging lines can look every bit as good if not better than Botox and face lifts. The best antidote around to America’s unhealthy obsession with youth!

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Unrated
Running time: 72 minutes
Distributor: Bond360
DVD Extras: Packed with tons of extra footage including conversations with the ladies about the aging process and about sex, and with some fun scenes that will make you want to dress up and approach each day a little more vibrantly.

To see a trailer for Advanced Style, visit:

To order a copy of Advanced Style on DVD, visit: 

St. Vincent (FILM)



St. Vincent
Film Review by Kam Williams


Misanthrope Rises to Role Model in Bittersweet Character Portrait

            Almost nothing is right in Vincent MacKenna’s (Bill Murray) life. The aging, Vietnam War vet is still suffering from PTSD. Plus, he’s fighting a losing battle against with booze, cigarettes and gambling, which has left him deeply indebted to a vicious loan shark (Terrence Howard).
In fact, Zucko is threatening to break Vincent’s kneecaps if he doesn’t come up with the cash in a couple weeks. Trouble is the miserable misanthrope doesn’t have a friend in the world, unless you count Daka (Naomi Watts), the pregnant prostitute he befriended at a neighborhood strip club. Unfortunately, Vincent can come up with no better solution to his money woes than wagering on long shots at his favorite haunt, Belmont race track.
Meanwhile, he’s also concerned about his wife, Sandy (Donna Mitchell), who’s been suffering from Alzheimer’s for the past eight years. He still visits her regularly at the elderly care facility, despite the fact that she no longer recognizes him.    
The last thing you’d think Vincent might need would be a new, next-door neighbor who’s more of a burden than a help. But, that’s just what he gets in Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) a single-mom desperate enough for a babysitter that she’s willing to let him babysit her latchkey kid.
Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) attends Catholic school where the pint-sized 12 year-old is picked on by bullies. This makes the boy a prime candidate for the sort of toughening Vincent has to offer, lessons on everything from boxing to betting.
Written and directed by Theodore Melfi, St. Vincent is a bittersweet, unlikely-buddies flick which works more in terms of comedy than drama. There’s something a tad unconvincing about the ambitious adventure’s sentimental side.
The film has one glaring flaw, a rushed feeling resulting from the introduction of more plotlines than it has time to develop fully. So, when it asks us to empathize with this or that character’s plight, or to buy into the heartwarming resolution, there’s simply not much of a wellspring of emotion forthcoming.
Nevertheless, St. Vincent does work when going for the joke, especially Bill Murray’s tongue-in-cheek brand of humor. He’s in rare form, here, as an irascible curmudgeon who exhibits an endearing vulnerability for the sake of an at-risk tween in need of a father figure.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, smoking, mature themes and substance abuse
Running time: 102 minutes
Distributor: The Weinstein Company

To see a trailer for St. Vincent, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5BVn-eyAxA    

Friday, October 24, 2014

Begin Again (DVD REVIEW)



Begin Again
DVD Review by Kam Williams


Enchanting Musical Adventure Set in NYC Arrives on DVD

Greta (Keira Knightley) followed her college sweetheart (Adam Levine) to Manhattan when he was signed to a lucrative record deal with a major music label. However, the overnight fame went to Dave’s head and he soon started to stray. This development signaled not only the end of their romantic relationship but the demise of their promising partnership as songwriters, too.
Nevertheless, Greta is still very talented in her own right, which she readily proves when pushed by a pal to perform at a Greenwich Village dive on open mic night. The haunting strains of “A Step You Can’t Take Back” catch the ear of Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo), a legendary talent scout who happens to be sitting in the audience.
He proceeds to imagine how great Greta would sound accompanied by a full band instead of simply by her acoustic guitar. So, right after the diamond in the rough steps offstage, he offers to help turn her into the next singing sensation.
But Greta is initially reluctant for a couple of logical reasons. First of all, she’d just decided to abandon her silly pipe dream of superstardom and was on brink of moving back to England. Secondly, the solicitous stranger standing in front of her reeks of alcohol and looks homeless, and nothing like a veteran A&R exec.
Truth be told, disheveled Dan is in the dumps because he was recently fired from Distress Records by the Harvard classmate (Mos Def) he’d co-founded the company with. Furthermore, he’s being missing his estranged wife (Catherine Keener) and daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) since being kicked out of the house a year ago.
In fact, he was actually contemplating suicide until Greta’s voice gave him a new reason to live. Well, will he be able to revive his career and launch Great’s simultaneously, or will the ambitious endeavor fail miserably? And, will the two fall in love, despite the age difference, or might they merely return to their respective exes? Those are the alternate scenarios contemplated by Begin Again, an absorbing, character-driven, musical drama written and directed by John Carney.
The movie is most reminiscent of Carney’s earlier offering Once, which won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Song (“Falling Slowly”) en route to the Broadway stage where it subsequently swept the Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Begin Again similarly revolves around a pair of losers down on their luck whose close collaboration yields a cornucopia of mellifluous melodies.
Who knew that Keira Knightley could carry a tune let alone in such a dulcet tone? Or that she was capable of generating palpable screen chemistry? Kudos are also in order for her top-flight, supporting cast, especially Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, Mos Def, James Corden, Catherine Keener, Hailee Steinfeld and CeeLo Green.
A most-enchanting musical adventure!
 
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity
Running time: 104 minutes
Distributor: Anchor Bay / The Weinstein Company 
DVD Extras: Four music videos; The Making of Begin Again; and The Weinstein Company trailers. 

To see a trailer for Begin Again, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwLuDO_Cxfc   

To order a copy of Begin Again on DVD, visit: 

Plastic (DVD REVIEW)



Plastic
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Brit Hackers Steal Gangster’s Identity in Fact-Based Mob Saga

            Sometimes, a film unfolds so fast and furiously that it’s hard to keep score. Such is the case with Plastic, a high-octane, high body count affair following the antics of a stolen credit card ring run by a brilliant and brazen computer hacker named Sam (Ed Speelers).
The movie opens with one of those “Based on a True Story” (Google Saq Mumtaz) which might mean that what you’re about to see is the cinematic culmination of painstakingly-researched historical fact. However, it’s could just as easily be serving as a disclaimer designed to sucker you into believing a farfetched story since, well, somebody once said it happened.
I suspect that this tall tale belongs in the latter category. Regardless, I suppose all that matters in the end is whether the picture has any entertainment value. Plastic does throw a lot of testosterone-directed gore and sensuality at you, but not much for anyone outside of the eroticized violence demographic.
The fun starts when the gang of four steals the identity of Marcel (Thomas Kretschmann) to the tune of a couple hundred thousand pounds. Boy, does this sadistic gangster know how to hold a grudge. Soon enough, he turns the tables and has the college student punks promising to pay him back ten times the amount they stole, plus interest. 
 High-stylized piffle designed to titillate and satiate bloodlust while slowly turning your brain to mush! 

Fair (1 star)
Rated R for sexuality, nudity, drug use, graphic violence and pervasive profanity 
Running time: 102 minutes
Distributor: Arc Entertainment

To see a trailer for Plastic, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6qJU5VtIVg      

To order a copy of Plastic on DVD, visit:

Behaving Badly (DVD REVIEW)



Behaving Badly
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Raunchy Selena Gomez Teensploit Arrives on DVD

            Rick Stevens (Nat Wolff) is a socially-awkward virgin experiencing pangs of sexual awakenings. That explains why he is trying to summon up the courage to make a play for Nina Pennington (Selena Gomez), the cute, high school classmate he’s had a crush on since the 6th grade.
Trouble is she already has a boyfriend, Kevin Carpenter (Austin Stowell), a handsome hunk who’s very jealous and possessive. Moreover, Rick is so distracted by his dysfunctional family that it’s hard for him to even have time for dating.
He’s mercilessly teased and abused by his deadbeat dad (Cary Elwes), and his alcoholic mother (Mary-Louise Parker) is recovering in the hospital after recently trying to kill herself. And to add insult to injury, she only left a suicide note addressed to Lucy, her pet dog.
Rick’s siblings have their issues, too. His sister, Kristen (Ashley Rickards), has secretly started working as a stripper, and his closeted brother, Steven (Mitch Hewer), is gay and afraid to come out.
Nevertheless, Rick is determined to summon up the nerve to approach the girl of his dreams, and finally jumps at the chance when their Latin teacher (Charles C. Stevenson, Jr.) drops dead during class, ironically while conjugating “vivo,” the verb for live. Nina accepts his offer to drive her to the funeral which, in his mind at least, will be their first date.
So unfolds Behaving Badly, a screwball comedy directed by Tim Garrick that’s far more raunchy than it is funny. This tasteless teensploitation flick serves up generous helpings of gratuitous nudity and profanity but precious little that elicits any laughter.  
Director Garrick throws everything at the screen but the kitchen sink in an almost desperate attempt to shock, forgetting in the process to craft a plausible plotline that might hold the attention of anyone with an I.Q. above room temperature. Before Rick is allowed to win Nina’s heart, he acts out repeatedly, prematurely ejaculating with a stripper and sleeping with his best’s friend’s (Lachlan Buchanan) mom (Elisabeth Shue) en route to sharing an incestuous moment in a men’s room with his own mother’s seductive alter ego.
He also gets mixed up with Lithuanian mobsters and lands in jail along with most of his guests after throwing a wild party in the house while his folks are away. The bottom-feeding production squanders the services of a star-studded cast featuring Oscar-nominees Elisabeth Shue (for Leaving Las Vegas) and Gary Busey (for The Buddy Holly Story), pop icons Selena Gomez  and Justin Bieber, Dylan McDermott, Jason Lee, Heather Graham and Patrick Warburton.
            A misfiring misadventure not even recommended for diehard Selena Gomez fans. 

Fair (1 star)
Rated R for crude sexuality, graphic nudity, drug use and pervasive profanity
Running time: 97 minutes
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
DVD Extras: Trailer.

To see a trailer for Behaving Badly, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CMZYm3y54g    

To order a copy of Behaving Badly on DVD, visit: 

Top Ten DVD Releases for 10-28-14



This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Top Ten DVD List for October 28, 2014                      

Begin Again


How We Got to Now


Wish I Was Here


Accused: Series One & Two


Vera: Set Four


The Mystery of Happiness

Death Comes to Pemberley


Lovejoy: Series Three


Cook’s Country: Season Seven

Thomas & Friends: The Christmas Engines


Honorable Mention

Grace: The Possession


The Reckoning


Dinosaur Train: Dinosaurs in the Snow


Free Fall


Child of God


Red Nights
 

My Little Pony: Rainbow Rocks

Nightbreed [Director’s Cut]


Deliver Us from Evil

Beethoven’s Treasure Tail


Ava & Lala


Plastic

Behaving Badly

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 10-31-14



OPENING THIS WEEK
Kam's Kapsules:      
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         
by Kam Williams
For movies opening October 31, 2014


BIG BUDGET FILMS   

Nightcrawler (R for violence, profanity and graphic images) Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the title role of this character-driven thriller as a freelance journalist caught in a cutthroat competition covering the crime beat in Los Angeles. With Rene Russo, Bill Paxton and Ann Cusack (Sister of John and Joan). 


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS 

ABCs of Death 2 (Unrated) Horror sequel featuring another 26 short comedies by 26 different directors, each titled for a different letter of the alphabet, from A is for Amateur to Z is for Zygote. Cast includes Martina Garcia, Tristan Risk, Beatrice Dalle and Andy Nyman. (In English, Hebrew, Japanese, French and Portuguese)

All You Need Is Love (Unrated) Sigourney Weaver narrates this inspirational documentary chronicling the daily lives, dreams and plight of Burmese children attending the Good Morning School in Mae Sot, Thailand in defiance of the dictates of their own country’s repressive regime.

Before I Go to Sleep (R for profanity and graphic violence) Screen adaptation of the S.J. Watson best seller of the same name revolving around an amnesiac (Nicole Kidman) whose husband (Colin Firth) has to remind her every morning that her memory gets erased every time she falls asleep. With Mark Strong, Anne-Marie Duff and Adam Levy.

Bitter Honey (Unrated) Female empowerment documentary exposing the betrayal and violence visited upon abused Balinese women stuck in polygamous marriages. (In Indonesian with subtitles) 

Braddock (Unrated) Cinematic tribute to a tiny town in Pennsylvania of historical significance as it tries to reinvent itself in order to remain relevant in the 21st Century. 

God the Father (R for violence) Mafia documentary in which former Colombo crime family mobster Michael Franzese recounts finding his faith and being born again after learning that his own father had taken out a contract on him.   

The Hazda: Last of the First (Unrated) Anthropological examination one of the world’s last remaining tribe of hunter-gatherers, the Hazda, who have lived in Africa’s Rift valley for the past 50,000 years. Narrated by Alfre Woodard, and featuring commentary by primatologist Jane Goodall and geneticist Spencer Wells.

Hit by Lightning (Unrated) Romantic comedy about an aspiring writer (Jon Cryer) who gets more than he bargained for when the passionate lover (Stephanie Szostak) he meets online suddenly announces she’s married and pressures him to murder her rabbi hubby (Jed Rees). With Will Sasso, Alexis Maitland and Sean Tucker.

Horns (R for sexuality, profanity, rape, disturbing violence, drug use and graphic nudity) Daniel “Harry Potter” Radcliffe stars in this horror fantasy as the prime suspect in his girlfriend’s (Juno Temple) murder who wakes up with horns growing out of his head after a night of heavy drinking. Featuring Max Minghella, Joe Anderson and Kelli Garner.

Magical Universe (Unrated) Retrospective revisiting the final decade in the career of Al Carbee (1914-2005), an eccentric, Barbie-obsessed artist who worked with dolls as his medium.

Missionary (R for violence, profanity and sexuality) Romance drama about a struggling single-mom (Dawn Olivieri) who embarks on a passionate affair with a Mormon (Mitch Ryan) only to watch him go berserk when she reconciles with her estranged husband (Kip Pardue). Support cast includes Connor Christie, Randy Molnar and Dushawn Moses.

Plot for Peace (Unrated) Historical documentary chronicling the previously-unknown role played by mysterious, French businessman Jean-Yves Olivier in freeing Nelson Mandela and toppling South Africa’s Apartheid regime. (In English, French, Portuguese, Afrikaans and Spanish)

Private Peaceful (Unrated) Romance drama, set in Devon, England, and revolving around two brothers (Jack O’Connell and George MacKay) who fall in love with the same girl (Alexandra Roach) before enlisting in the army and being shipped off to fight in Flanders fields during World War I. With Maxine Peake, Frances de la Tour and the late Richard Griffiths.    

Showrunners (Unrated) Behind-the-scenes documentary illustrating everything involved in the making of a TV series, from the creation of the concept, to the production, to the writing, to the casting, to the shooting, to the airing.

True Son (Unrated) Political documentary chronicling 22 year-old Stanford grad Michael Tubbs’ campaign for a seat on Stockton, California’s City Council.