Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening June 1, 2018


Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun  
by Kam Williams


OPENING THIS WEEK

WIDE RELEASES

Action Point (R for profanity, sexuality, brief nudity, crude humor, drug use and underage drinking) Daredevil Johnny Knoxville stars in this stunt comedy as the crackpot owner of a daredevil theme park where the rides and attractions have been designed with danger in mind. With Brigette Lundy-Paine, Johnny Pemberton and Susan Yeagley.

Adrift (PG-13 for peril, profanity, partial nudity, mature themes, injury images and brief drug use) Tale of survival recounting the real-life ordeal of a young couple (Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin) who encountered one of the worst hurricanes in recorded history while sailing in a small boat from Tahiti to San Diego. With Jeffrey Thomas, Elizabeth Hawthorne and Grace Palmer.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN

All Summers End (Unrated) Tale of overwhelming regret about a guilt-ridden teenager (Tye Sheridan) trying to hide from his girlfriend (Kaitlyn Dever) that he was the person who pulled the prank that killed her big brother. Supporting cast includes Paula Malcomson, Annabeth Gish and Austin Abrams.

American Animals (R for pervasive profanity, drug use and brief crude sexuality) Fact-based crime caper about four young men (Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner and Jared Abrahamson) who hatch a plan to pull off one of the most audacious art heists in history. With Ann Dowd, Udo Kier and Lara Grice.

Discreet (Unrated) Revenge drama about a traumatized victim of sex abuse (Jonny Mars) who returns to his Texas hometown to confront the pedophile (Bob Swaffar) who had molested him years ago. With Atsuko Okatsuka, Joy Cunningham and Bill Johnson.

The Doctor from India (Unrated) Reverential retrospective chronicling the career of Dr. Vasant Lad, the holistic health pioneer who brought the practice of Ayurvedic medicine to the West in the late Seventies. Featuring commentary by Deepak Chopra, Robert Svoboda and Claudia Welch. (In English and Marathi with subtitles)

A Kid Like Jake (Unrated) Transgender baby-maybe drama about a Brooklyn couple (Claire Danes and Jim Parsons) who find themselves at odds over whether or not their precocious 4 year-old son's (Leo James Wheeler) interest in playing with dolls and dressing up like a girl is just a phase. With Octavia Spencer, Ann Dowd and Priyanka Chopra.

Rodin (Unrated) Vincent Lindon portrays Auguste Rodin in this romance drama, set in Paris in 1880, revolving around the famous French sculptor's scandalous affair with a teenage protege (Izla Higelin) less than half his age. Cast includes Severine Caneele, Bernard Verley and Anders Danielsen Lie. (In French with subtitles)

Social Animals (R for profanity, drug use, graphic sexuality and crude humor) Midlife crisis comedy about a promiscuous, broke stoner (Noel Wells) who finally falls in love after a series of one-night stands. Trouble is, he's a married man (Josh Radnor). Featuring Aya Cash, Carly Chalkin and Samira Wiley.

Upgrade (R for profanity, graphic violence and grisly images) Sci-fi horror comedy about a cured paraplegic (Logan Marshall-Green) who embarks on a revenge-fueled reign of terror after a billionaire inventor (Harrison Gilbertson) implants an experimental computer chip in his spinal cord enabling him to track down the muggers who'd murdered his wife (Melanie Vallejo) and left him for dead. With Betty Gabriel, Benedict Hardie and Richard Anastasios.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Carter & June

Film Review by Kam Williams


Bank Heist Dramedy Has Shades of Baby Driver

Baby Driver was this critic's pick for the #1 movie of 2017. It never takes very long for idea-bereft Hollywood to imitate a big hit. Exhibit A: Carter & June, a bank robbery flick which fails to measure up to Baby Driver, whether or not that cinematic masterpiece served as the source of director/co-writer Nicholas Kalikow's inspiration. 
 
A la Baby Driver, Carter & June revolves around a waitress and mobster under the thumb of a Machiavellian villain. But where the former film featured an A-list cast with Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey and Ansel Elgort, the latter's ensemble doesn't have any matinee idols.

Michael Raymond-James and Samaire Armstrong co-star as the title characters Carter & June, respectively, an action-driven dramedy set in New Orleans. Like the protagonist of Baby Driver, Carter is a small-time crook looking to go legit. Trouble, is he's indebted to Spencer Rabbit (Timothy Omundson), a vicious crime boss operating with impunity in the city because so many crooked cops, including the police commissioner (Paul Rae), are on the take. 
 
At the point of departure, we find Carter losing a load of Rabbit's cash during a drug deal gone bad. That means the only way to get back in the kingpin's good graces and out of his unsavory line of work once and for all is to participate in an elaborate heist of a cool half-million dollars from the New Orleans Bank & Trust. Of course, that will prove easier said than done. 
 
Unfortunately, for the audience's purposes, the screen is littered with more sidebars and support characters than you might care to keep track of. For instance, there's a compromised cop (James Landry Hebert) with a greedy wife (Lindsay Musil) who's secretly sleeping with a local preacher (Will Beinbrink). And June just happens to be in the midst a bitter custody battle with her vindictive ex over their young daughter. 
 
An overplotted mess that throws everything but the kitchen sink up on the screen.


Fair (1 star)
Unrated
Running time: 87 minutes
Production Studios: Sacred Bull Media / Octane Entertainment
Distributor: Freestyle Digital Media


To see a trailer for Carter & June, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lziv1wI3fvk


Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Gospel According to André


Film Review by Kam Williams




Riveting Retrospective Chronicles Career of Flamboyant Fashionista


André Leon Talley was born on October 16, 1949 in Washington, DC, but raised in Durham, NC by his maternal grandmother, Bennie Davis. Even though she was a housekeeper who scrubbed floors at Duke University to keep a roof over their heads, she was also aristocratic in the highest sense of the word. 
 
Through Mamie, André cultivated the values and sense of dignity which would serve him well once he made his way out of the Jim Crow South. For, after earning his BA at North Carolina Central University and an MA at Brown in French, he headed to New York City to begin what would be an incomparable career in the world of fashion. 
 
That impressive accomplishment is chronicled in very compelling fashion in The Gospel According to André, an intimate retrospective directed by Kate Novack (Eat This New York). A profusion of pop icons pay homage to the flamboyant fashionista in the biopic, including will.i.am, supermodel Isabella Rossellini, designer Diane von Furstenberg and Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, who kisses his hand. 
 
However, the cameos pale in comparison to André's own revealing account of how he overcame his modest roots with the help of his mentor, doyenne Diana Vreeland, as well as Andy Warhol, Karl Lagerfeld and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. We learn that he arrived in the Big Apple a diamond-in-the-rough, given how he'd been appreciating style since childhood. 
 
He explains that he'd been treated to a weekly fashion show by the ladies in his church's congregation. While many of these proud black women might have toiled as lowly domestic servants during the week, they would invariably arrive decked out on Sunday. André's thirst for haute couture was further whetted by magazines like W and Vogue which enabled him to mentally escape the limitations of life in racist North Carolina to a fantasy universe filled with pleasant and beautiful pictures. 
 
On his way up the ladder, the 6' 6" tall trailblazer studiously avoided the traps of drugs and indiscriminate sexual liaisons that destroyed the future of so many others in the Seventies and Eighties. André does confess to being a regular on Studio 54's dance floor, but he just never participated in any of the self-destructive behavior. 
 
Instead, he parlayed successes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art , Warhol's Interview magazine and Women's Wear Daily into a gig as Vogue's Fashion News Director. In that capacity, he became a fixture on the front row of leading runway shows, cutting an imposing figure in his signature flowing capes. 
 
And what sage advice does the trendsetting André have to offer today? "Fashion is fleeting. Style remains. Create your own universe, and share it with people you respect and love. Beauty comes in many forms. It could be a flower. it could be a gesture."
Precious pearls of wisdom, indeed, from a legendary gentle giant.



Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and some suggestive content
In French with subtitles
Running time: 94 minutes
Production Studio: RossVack Productions [Andrew Rossi/Kate Novack]
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures


To see a trailer for The Gospel According to André , visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzZkVGCY5rY






Saturday, May 19, 2018

Top Ten DVD List for May 22, 2018

by Kam Williams


This Week's DVD Releases


Annihilation

Game Night

I Kill Giants

Wild at Heart

A Fantastic Woman
https://www.amazon.com/Fantastic-Woman-Blu-ray-Francisco-Reyes/dp/B079PSXB7L/ref=ice_ac_b_dpb_twi_blu_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1526737812&sr=1-2&keywords=A+Fantastic+Woman

Big Box of Kids' Favorites

The 15:17 to Paris

The Fastest Guns of the West: 8 Films

Arming America: The Untold History of U.S. Gun Culture


Honorable Mention

Mary Higgins Clark: 14 Film Collection

Call the Midwife: Season Seven

Sunny Day

Masterpiece: Little Women

The Loud House: It Gets Louder [Season 1, Volume 2]


Friday, May 18, 2018

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening May 25, 2018

 
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams



OPENING THIS WEEK

WIDE RELEASES

Solo: A Star Wars Story (PG-13 for violence and sci-fi action sequences) Second installment in the Star Wars anthology revolves around Han Solo's (Alden Ehrenreich) early escapades in a dark and dangerous underworld where he befriends his future co-pilot, Chewbacca (Jonas Suotamo). Supporting cast includes Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke and Thandie Newton.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN

Future World (R for violence, nudity, sexuality, profanity and drug use) Sci-fi thriller about a desperate prince (Jeffrey Wahlberg) who embarks on an epic journey across a devastated wasteland in search of a mythical medicine which might cure his terminally-ill mom (Lucy Liu). With James Franco, Snoop Dogg and Suki Waterhouse.

The Gospel According to Andre' (PG-13 for mature themes and some suggestive content) Reverential biopic chronicling fashionista Andre' Leon Talley's overcoming humble roots and Jim Crow segregation on his way to a celebrated career at Vogue magazine. Featuring commentary by Sean "P.Diddy" Combs, Anna Winotur, Tom Ford, Whoopi Goldberg and will.i.am.

How Long Will I Love You (Unrated) Time-travel, romantic fantasy about a woman living in 2018 who wakes up in bed with a man living in 1999. Co-starring Jiayin Lei, Liya Tong and Zheng Xu. (In Mandarin with subtitles)

How to Talk to Girls at Parties (R for nudity, sexuality, drug use and pervasive profanity) Sci-fi comedy, set in London in '77, about a shy teen (Alex Sharp) who falls in love with a beautiful alien from another planet (Elle Fanning) he meets at an after-hours rave. With Nicole Kidman, Ruth Wilson and Matt Lucas.

In Darkness (Unrated) Crime thriller about a blind pianist (Natalie Dormer) who ends up on the run from Russian mobsters after hearing a neighbor (Emily Ratajkowski) murdered in her upstairs apartment. Featuring Ed Skrein, Joely Richardson and James Cosmo..

Mary Shelley (PG-13 for sexuality, mature themes and substance abuse) Elle Fanning plays the title character in this biopic about the rebellious teen who married the poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth) before writing the literary classic "Frankenstein." With Maisie Williams, Ben Hardy and Bel Powley.

The Misandrists (Unrated) Counter-cultural comedy, set in Berlin, revolving around a group of radical feminists intent on putting an end to patriarchy and ushering in a new world order. Ensemble cast includes Viva Ruiz, Caprice Crawford and Kembra Pfahler. (In English, German and Danish with subtitles)

Summer 1993 (Unrated) Poignant portrait of a traumatized, 6 year-old orphan's (Laia Artigas) adjustment to a new life in the country with her aunt (Bruna Cusi), uncle (David Verdaguer) and cousin (Paula Robles). With Montse Sanz, Isabel Rocatti and Fermi Reixach. (In Catalan with subtitles)

Who We Are Now (Unrated) Tale of redemption revolving around an ex-con's (Julianne Nicholson) attempt to regain custody of her son with the help of a public defender (Emma Roberts) after spending a decade behind bars for manslaughter. Support cast includes Zachary Quinto, Gloria Reuben, Jimmy Smits, Jason Biggs and Jess Weixler.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

George Takei

The “American” Interview
with Kam Williams


Legendary Thespian Reflects on Mistreatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII

Despite an enviable career spanning six decades, George Takei remains best- known around the world for his founding role in the acclaimed television series Star Trek, in which he played Lt. Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the Starship Enterprise. But his story goes where few stories have gone before.

From a childhood spent with his family wrongfully imprisoned in Japanese-American internment camps during World War II, to becoming one of the country's leading figures in the fight for social justice, LGBTQ rights, and marriage equality, George is still a powerful voice on issues ranging from politics to pop culture.

Here, he talks about his short film, American, a historical drama about the above-mentioned roundup and relocation of over 100,000 Japanese-American citizens during World War II.


Kam Williams: Hi George, thanks for the interview.
George Takei: Thank you, Kam. Where are you located?

KW: I'm in Princeton, New Jersey.
KB: I see. My grand-niece considered going there. But she decided to attend Brown in Providence instead.

KW: They're both excellent Ivy League schools. I went to Brown.
GT: And now here you are in Princeton. [Chuckles]

KW: Yeah, and my son went Princeton and my wife worked at Princeton, but I've never been affiliated with the University. I think Princeton's a little stodgy and preppy compared to Brown which I think is thought of as the most open-minded and progressive of the Ivies.
GT: I've spoken at Brown, but I've never even visited Princeton, so I don't know what it looks like, but she was very impressed with the campus.

KW: Both the campus and the town are beautiful.
GT: Well, I'll make a point of visiting Princeton one of these days.

KW: Let me know when you're coming, and I'll give you a great tour.
GT: Wonderful!

KW: In preparing for this interview, I was stunned to learn the breadth and depth of your career. You've done so much more than Star Trek, both before and since the TV series.
GT: I'm glad you did some research on me.

KW: What inspired you to mount your latest project, American? The movie made me weep.
GT: That chapter of American history is still so little-known. Were you familiar with the imprisonment of loyal, American citizens of Japanese ancestry?

KW: Yes, since I'm also an attorney, I studied the landmark Korematsu vs. the United States case in my Constitutional Law class. That Supreme Court decision was as shameful as Dred Scott.
GT: One of the reasons I've made it my life's mission to raise awareness about it is that east of the Rockies, so many people I consider to be well-informed and well educated are totally aghast when I tell them about my imprisonment as a child. They can't believe anything like that was done in the United States by the U.S. government. That's why we produced a Broadway musical about it [Allegiance] and founded the Japanese American National Museum where I served as one of the founding chairs of the board. It's an official affiliate of the Smithsonian. I think you get a better understanding of our country and of our democracy by know that chapter of our history.

KW: Is that the actual museum in the movie?
GT: Yes, that's the museum we founded.

KW: What really hit home was seeing the handbills directing Japanese-Americans to relocate to one of ten internment camps where they were expected to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day, despite being imprisoned behind barbed wire fences.
GT: I There were also half-a-dozen Justice Department camps which were much, much harsher. And one of those eventually came to be known as the "Segregation Camp." There's a very complex history to those four years of imprisonment. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, young Japanese-Americans rushed to their recruitment centers to serve in the military, just like so many of their peers. But this act of patriotism was met with a slap in the face. They were rejected and categorized as "Enemy Aliens." Isn't that crazy?

KW: It is hard to believe U.S. citizens could've been mistreated in that way?
GT: They were volunteering to fight and possibly die for this country. To call these young volunteers, born and raised in America, "The Enemy," was insane and totally irrational. And they certainly weren't "Aliens," so both words in the categorization "Enemy Alien" were nonsensical. Instead, the authorities announced a curfew. On the West Coast, all Japanese-Americans had to be home by 7 pm, and had to stay inside until 6 in the morning. Next, we discovered that our bank accounts were frozen. Entire life savings were gone! We couldn't even pay our mortgages or withdraw a few dollars to cover day-to-day living expenses. Then, on February 19, 1942, the President [FDR] issued Executive Order 9066 directing that approximately 120,000 of us be rounded up with no charges. You need charges to be able to challenge in a court of law.

KW: I know you were only 5, but do you still remember the day when they came for your family?
GT: Yes, I remember how my parents got me up very early one morning, together with my younger brother and our sister who was still an infant. They dressed us and told us to wait in the living room while they hurriedly did some last-minute packing. While we were just gazing out the front window, we suddenly saw two soldiers carrying rifles with shiny bayonets march down the driveway and stomp up the porch. They began banging on the door with their fists, and ordered ordered us out of our own home at gunpoint, literally. My brother and I had to wait for our mother to come out. When she did, she had our baby sister in one arm, a huge duffel bag in the other, and tears were streaming down her cheeks. And my father followed her with two huge suitcases and a rucksack on his back. I will never be able to forget that terrifying morning.

KW: Where was your family taken?
GT: From Los Angeles two-thirds of the way across the country to Arkansas. When it rained, the whole camp turned into a swamp. Can you imagine?

KW: No. I'm so sorry about what you and so many other American citizens had to endure when you were a little boy. We've run out of time, George, but I'd love to continue this conversation soon, since I want to hear more about your ordeal, and there are so many other topics I didn't get to touch on.
GT: I'd be happy to, Kam.


For more information about American, visit: https://www.americanshortfilm.com/
To see a trailer for American, visit: https://youtu.be/XpNy0dhZsfs



Monday, May 14, 2018

Pope Francis: A Man of His Word


Film Review by Kam Williams



Papal Profile Paints Intimate Portrait of the People's Pontiff 
 

Who is Pope Francis? Baptized Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he was born in Argentina on December 17, 1936. He would follow his calling at an early age by entering the seminary while still in his teens. 
 
After being ordained, he began his career teaching theology. He was appointed Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and subsequently named a cardinal three years later by John Paul II.

When he became pope in March of 2013, he made history by being the first Jesuit, the first from the Americas, and the first Francis. He took that name in honor of Francis of Assisi, the Saint generally regarded as the one most closely mirroring Christ's compassion for the poor.

Directed by three-time, Oscar-nominee Wim Wenders (for Buena Vista Social Club, The Salt of the Earth and Pina), Pope Francis: A Man of His Word is a poignant profile which follows the peripatetic pontiff around the planet as he executes his papal duties. You get the sense that this is a humble person who prefers to downplay pomp and circumstance in favor of making himself as available as possible to the masses that compose his flock.

Driving around in a modest sedan instead of a stretch limo or ornate Popemobile, his high priority points-of-call include children's wards in hospitals, prison yards of correctional facilities, and Auschwitz concentration camp. It is clear that he feels compelled to literally heed Jesus' plea to minister to "the least of my brethren." 
 
Again and again, Pope Francis' sermons, touching on timely themes ranging from poverty to pollution, exhibit a sincere concern for the underclass and the disenfranchised. During an address to a joint session of Congress, tears can be seen welling up in the eyes of members on both sides of the aisle. 
 
A fitting portrait of the People's Pope.


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for mature themes and images of suffering
In Italian, Spanish, German and English with subtitles
Running time: 96 minutes
Production Studio: The Palindrome / Centro Televisivo Vaticano / Decia Films
Distributor: Focus Features


To see a trailer for Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOmY8i-uBcY