Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 8-29-14



OPENING THIS WEEK
Kam's Kapsules:      
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         
by Kam Williams
For movies opening August 29, 2014


BIG BUDGET FILMS   

As Above, So Below (R for terror, graphic violence and pervasive profanity) Found-footage horror flick, set in the catacombs beneath Paris, revolving around a team of American archaeologists who unwittingly unleash countless dormant demons while exploring the uncharted subterranean maze. Co-starring Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge and Perdita Weeks. 

The November Man (R for rape, profanity, sexuality, nudity, graphic violence and brief drug use) Cat-and-mouse espionage thriller about a retired CIA Agent (Pierce Brosnan) who comes out of retirement to protect a valuable witness (Olga Kurylenko) to war crimes from his former protégé (Luke Bracey) gone rogue. With Will Patton, Eliza Taylor and Caterina Scorsone. 


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS 

The Calling (R for violence, profanity and disturbing content) Crime thriller about a small town detective (Susan Sarandon) whose investigation of a string of grisly murders brings her face-to-face with a serial killer. Ensemble cast includes Ellen Burstyn, Toper Grace and Donald Sutherland.

Canopy (PG-13 for intense violence and bloody images) World War II drama about an Australian fighter pilot’s (Khan Chittenden) struggle to survive in the jungle after being shot down over Singapore. With Mo Tzu-yi, Robert Menzies and Edwina Wren. (In English, Japanese and Mandarin with subtitles)

The Congress (Unrated) Animated sci-fi adventure about an aging actress (Robin Wright) who breaks a contract by coming out of retirement after having sold a movie studio the exclusive rights to her image. Cast includes Paul Giamatti, Harvey Keitel, John Hamm and Danny Huston.

Last Weekend (Unrated) Ensemble dramedy about a matriarch (Patricia Clarkson) who comes to question her role in her dysfunctional clan during a disastrous reunion at the family lakefront estate she’s about to sell. With Mary Kay Place, Zachary Booth, Rutina Wesley, Judith Light and Jayma Mays.     

Life of Crime (R for profanity, sexuality and violence) Mobster comedy about a couple of crooks (Mos Def and John Hawkes) who kidnap the wife (Jennifer Aniston) of a millionaire (Tim Robbins) for ransom only to learn that they’ve done the philanderer a favor by freeing him to spend more time with his mistress (Isla Fisher). Support cast includes Mark Boone Junior, Kevin Cannon and Julie E. Davis.  

The Naked Room (Unrated) Fly-on-the-wall documentary focusing on the behavior of patients, parents and physicians in the examination room of a children’s hospital in Mexico City. (In Spanish with subtitles)

The Notebook (R for nudity, profanity, sexuality and disturbing violence) Coming-of-age saga, set in the Hungarian countryside towards the end of World War II, about twin 13 year-old boys (Andras and Laszlo Gyemant) forced to fend for themselves after being left in the care of their abusive, alcoholic grandmother (Piroska Molnar) by their desperate mother (Gyongyver Bognar). With Andras Rethelyi, Ulrich Thomsen and Orsolya Toth. (In Hungarian with subtitles)

Second Opinion (Unrated) Medical expose’ about Ralph Moss, Ph.D., a young writer in Sloan-Kettering’s PR Department who risked his career by blowing the whistle on a massive cover-up of the truth about a promising cancer cure called Laetrile.

Shadows from My Past (Unrated) Holocaust documentary revisiting the plight of The Kaufmans, as preserved in letters exchanged among members of the Austrian Jewish family between 1939 and 1941.  

Starred Up (Unrated) Irish crime drama, set in Belfast, about a troubled juvenile delinquent (Jack O’Connell) assigned to an adult prison for violent offenders who meets his match in an inmate (Ben Mendelsohn) that happens to be his estranged father. Cast includes Rupert Friend, Sam Spruell and David Ajala. 

The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (Unrated) Behind closed doors mystery about a man (Klaus Tange) whose search for his missing wife takes him down a labyrinthine trail around his apartment building marked by eroticized bloodshed and bizarre sexual fantasies. With Ursula Bedena, Joe Koener and Birgit Yew. (In French, Danish and Flemish with subtitles)

Through a Lens Darkly (Unrated) Historical documentary tracing how African-American photographers utilized the camera as a tool for social change.

Police State U.S.A. (BOOK REVIEW)



Police State U.S.A.
How Orwell’s Nightmare Is Becoming Our Reality
by Cheryl K. Chumley
WND Books
Hardcover, $26.95
288 pages
ISBN: 978-1-936488-14-8

Book Review by Kam Williams

“People have liberty; people take their liberty for granted; people become apathetic; people lose their liberty. We are on that track, but detouring back to the freedom road is still possible…
The data in this book concerns me and should concern you… The coming signs of tyranny are all around us. Fortunately, they can be stopped before it is too late, but not without a courageous effort… We can still save liberty for our children if, and only if, America awakens.” 
-- Excerpted from the Foreword (pages xi-xii)

Anybody tuning in to the media coverage of the daily protests of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri can’t help but notice the intimidating police presence that makes the city look more like a battlefield than a suburban enclave. The frightening militarization has featured everything from armored Humvees and tanks rolling down the streets, to helmeted officers flanked shoulder-to-shoulder behind body-length armored shields, to snipers in camouflage fatigues training their M16 rifles on marchers through night-vision scopes, to the use of teargas, rubber bullets, smoke bombs and flash grenades to disperse demonstrators.
What are we to make of such a disturbing show of force on the part of local, state and federal authorities? To Cheryl K. Chumley it is merely further evidence of a burgeoning abuse of power on the part of a government already hell bent on trampling its citizens’ Constitutional rights. 
            In her book, Police State U.S.A.: How Orwell’s Nightmare Is Becoming Our Reality, the veteran journalist indicts present-day America as a “total surveillance society.” She argues that tyrannical rule has come as a consequence of the Patriot Act’s creation of secret data collection centers and the employment of the IRS, NSA phone taps, drones, tracking devices, warrantless searches, traffic light cameras and the like to nefarious ends.
            For example, the author cites the case of Scottsdale, Arizona, whose city council approved the purchase of a building to house its police investigative unit, “but refused to disclose the facility’s location” in order to “protect the lives” of detectives working undercover. She says it’s certifiably scary, when the nation has arrived at a point where taxpayers are no longer privy to such previously public information.
  In a timely chapter devoted to “The Rise of Militarized Police,” Ms. Chumley states that the technology cops now have at their disposal “is the stuff of science fiction,” like guns that fire darts embedded with a GPS. Though such draconian measures should supposedly be of no concern to the law-abiding, it’s still of little comfort when you think of the seemingly neverending state of siege for folks in Ferguson trying to exercise their First Amendment rights.  
            Food for thought for anyone who fervently believes our inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness comes from God, not the government.

To order a copy of Police State U.S.A., visit:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Damon Wayans, Jr. (INTERVIEW)



Damon Wayans, Jr.
The “Let’s Be Cops” Interview
with Kam Williams

There Is Nothing Like a Damon

Damon Wayans, Jr. is a member of the famed Wayans family, creators of the groundbreaking television series In Living Color, the Scary Movie franchise, and much more. Damon made his film debut in Blankman, a superhero comedy that starred his father. He also appeared in his dad’s television series My Wife and Kids before striking out on his own as a stand-up comic on Def Comedy Jam.

Damon subsequently made such movies as Dance Flick, Marmaduke, Someone Marry Barry, and The Other Guys. More recently, he has starred on the TV sitcoms Happy Endings and New Girl. Here, he talks about his new film, Let’s Be Cops, where he co-stars opposite Jake Johnson, a fellow cast member on New Girl.

Kam Williams: Hey Damon, how’re you doing?
Damon Wayans, Jr.: Kam-tastic!

KW: Thanks for the time, bro. What interested you in Let’s Be Cops?
DW: I guess it was the concept which was similar to a buddy cop comedy, except they’re not cops. So, it’s sort of a fresh take on the idea. I was actually a little curious about why it hadn’t been done before, but I was definitely interested, especially once I heard that Jake Johnson was in the mix. We get along really well and make each other laugh a lot. So, I was like, “If you do it, I’ll do it.” And that’s how we got involved in the project.   

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Did you do your own stunts and dancing? Did you shadow a real cop to prepare for the role?
DW: I did not shadow a real cop to prepare for the role because in the movie we‘re pretending to pretend to be cops. Basically, any mistakes that I would make as an ordinary citizen were encouraged. So, I never needed to shadow a cop to try to look like a cop. And yes, I did most of my own stunts, and when it came time for the dance moves I even did my own back flip. But when it came to really dangerous stunts, like breaking the glass table with my back when the lady throws me, that wasn’t me, but a stuntman named Reggie.   

KW: Kate Newell says: It's great seeing you on New Girl. Is there much improv happening on the set?
DW: They allow it, yeah. After they get their takes in, they kinda allow us to do anything we want. It’s fun working in that environment with people I like. I went to high school with Zooey [Deschanel]. We know each other really well. 

KW: Talking about TV shows, I recently read that In Living Color might be coming back to TV.
DW: Really? That’s cool to hear if it’s true. I know that they tried to revive it a year or so ago, but it didn’t really pan out.

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: You have experience on both the big and small screen. Which might be a better fit for your performance style?
DW: I don’t really know. That depends on how Let’s Be Cops does at the box office. If it tanks, I guess TV is better for me. [LOL] I feel like I can do both. I think of the small screen as my 9-to-5 job and of the big screen as projects that you fit in between.  

KW: How hard is it hailing from such a talented and famous family?
DW: It’s not really hard. They’ve encouraged me the whole way, since we see a win for any one of us as a win for all. So, if I’m doing good work, and they approve of it, I’m happy.  

KW: Your dad has a reputation for being a bit of a disciplinarian. Is that rumor true or false?
DW: It’s true. He was definitely a disciplinarian, when we were growing up. It was almost as if he went off to play Major Payne in the movie, and stayed in character after he got back. He would make us do sit-ups, push-ups and jumping jacks every morning when we woke up. If we got anything below a B grade, he would shave our heads and make us wear a suit to school. He’s a pretty intense guy. [Chuckles] 

KW: You wouldn’t believe how many people I’ve interviewed over the years have told me they broke into show business with the help of one of the Wayans.
DW: That’s awesome. I guess the Wayans gave me my first break, too.

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: Which scene in Let’s Be Cops was the most fun to shoot?
DW: [Laughs] It’s hard to pick just one. The ones with Jake, Rob Riggle and Nina Dobrev were all fun. And Keegan-Michael Key from Key and Peele was hilarious. I’d say any scene that made me laugh or break character in the middle of it. I just had a blast the whole way through.

KW: Patricia is also wondering what teacher or mentor played an important role in your professional path?
DW: My two greatest influences were my dad, and my martial arts teacher, Mark Mikita.

KW: Finally, Patricia says: You’ve written scripts for TV. Are you interested in writing for the big screen? 
DW: Absolutely! One of my dreams is to be able to what the big boys, the Seth Rogens and the Jonah Hills as able to do, get my own projects get greenlit, shot and do well at the box office like. That’s kind of my ultimate goal. 

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
DW: [LOL] No, I don’t think so.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
DW: About five minutes ago.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
DW: That reality-TV show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I always want to eat that food whenever I watch it.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
DW: I read a lot of books. The last one was “Gone Girl,” a novel by Gillian Flynn.


That’s a really good book which has just been made into a movie by David Fincher. It’s coming out in October and stars Ben Affleck. And I’m reading the “The Bourne Retribution” right now. 


KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 
DW: “Summer,” by Calvin Harris. I hear it everywhere.  


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
DW: Here’s the thing, dude. I can’t really cook, but I make a mean Top Ramen. [Laughs]

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
DW: Danger! I like to do daring things. I’ve bungee jumped three times. The only thing I haven’t tried is skydiving.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
DW: I’m not really a clothes guy. I’d rather be naked.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
DW: My dad. [Chuckles] and I see a guy who’s pretty happy.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
DW: The power to fly, for sure.

KW: Let's say you’re throwing your dream dinner party—who’s invited… and what would you serve?
DW: I’d serve corn chowder bisque, and Jake [Johnson] would not be invited because he’s standing here bombing my interview. [To Jake] You’re not invited. I’d invite Dave Chappelle, Louis C.K, and all these people who make me laugh. I would sit at the head of the table and say, “Make me laugh or get out of my house.”

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
DW: My uncles Shawn and Marlon bursting into the bathroom while I was pooping, throwing me off the toilet, and laughing at my turds. That really happened. They used to torture me. [Laughs]

KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
DW: I don’t think I’ve ever had my heart broken, because I’m a man. I laughed it off, and then went and had sex with about 16 women, all unprotected. [Chuckles]

KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
DW: A dolphin.

KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?
DW: I smile and laugh a lot more when I’m at home.

KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?
DW: The ability to make people’s heart stop, if I just point at them.

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you say all successful people share? 
DW: Drive, and belief in themselves.
 
KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
DW: Weekend at Bernie’s.

KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?
DW: By crying a lot. [LOL]

KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan’s question: What is the dream locale where you’d like you live?
DW: Hawaii.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
DW: If you have the ability and want it bad enough, do it!

KW: Thanks again for the time, Damon, best of luck with Let’s Be Cops, and IO look forward to speaking with you again soon.
DW: Awesome, Kam, thanks!

To see a trailer for Let’s Be Cops, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExciLtpHp74  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Jersey Shore Massacre (FILM REVIEW)



Jersey Shore Massacre
Film Review by Kam Williams


Weekend Getaway Turns Gory in High Body-Count Slasher Flick 

            When Teresa (Danielle Dallacco) and her girlfriends arrive at their rental house on the Jersey Shore, they’re shocked to learn that their sleazy stoner landlord (Ron Jeremy) already let someone else have the place for the weekend.  Luckily, Teresa’s mobster Uncle Vito (Dominic Lucci) happens to have a summer home sitting empty in the nearby Pine Barrens, since he’s stuck in Staten Island under house arrest with an ankle bracelet.
After picking up five hot-looking guys on the beach, the six cute coeds get back into their convertible and make their way to a clearing in the godforsaken the forest. Turns out Uncle Vito has a pretty posh mansion with a built-in pool.
The bimbos slip into their bikinis and begin flirting with the buff boy-toys, blissfully unaware that a couple of Mafia hit men were just murdered in the same neck of the woods by a deranged maniac. If you’re familiar with high body-count slasher flicks, you have a good idea what’s in store for the unsuspecting revelers.   
The killer soon starts picking them off one-by-one, dispatching each victim in very grisly fashion, whether that death be by baking in a tanning bed, by decapitating with a bicycle chain, by stabbing in a shower Psycho-style, by whipping, hanging, wood chipper, or run through by sword. Much of the violence is highly eroticized ostensibly to satiate the bloodlust of fans who like their slaughter with a little titillation on the side.
            Written and directed by Paul Tarnopol, Jersey Shore Massacre is a gruesome horror flick not for the faint of heart. And the picture also paints a pretty pathetic picture of Italian-Americans, since the principal players are the sort of vapid, vain characters featured on the reality-TV series Jersey Shore.
            While the film fails to break any new ground in terms of the splatterflick genre, it’s still entertaining enough to recommend, provided you have a strong stomach for vivisection and Italian stereotypes.

Good (2 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, nudity, profanity, drug use, ethnic and homophobic slurs, and graphic violence
Running time: 88 minutes
Distributor: Attack Entertainment 

To see a trailer for Jersey Shore Massacre, visit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDcw8L_M3S4

Sunday, August 17, 2014

If I Stay (FILM REVIEW)



If I Stay
Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: A Life Hangs in the Balance in Adaptation of Bittersweet Best-Seller

            Mia Hall (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a bright 17 year-old full of the bloom of youth. Between playing the cello purely for pleasure and dating the doting boy of her dreams (Jamie Blackley), the happy high school senior considers herself truly blessed.
            She is even lucky enough to have the perfect parents (Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard) who support the idea of her majoring in classical music, whether she gets into Juilliard or simply sticks around Portland to attend Lewis & Clark College. Mia is also very close to her only sibling, Teddy (Jakob Davies), a cute kid who absolutely adores his big sister.
However, fate intervenes, or so it seems, one snowy day during a family outing when a car coming in the opposite direction veers across the highway’s double lines. Right then, in the blink of an eye, their fortunes are irreversibly altered by an unavoidable head-on crash.
By the time the ambulances and paramedics come to the rescue, all four are in grave condition, and there is a chance that none might survive the tragic accident. Mia, who has suffered a collapsed lung, a broken leg and internal bleeding, slips into a coma.
At that instant, her spirit miraculously separates from her body, and she is suddenly able to observe situations and eavesdrop on conversations like an invisible ghost. While a team of doctors struggle to stabilize her vital signs in the hospital, she watches a nurse (Aisha Hinds) lean over and whisper that “Living or dying is all up to you” into her ear.
This suggests that Mia, ultimately, must choose between ascending to Heaven and returning to Earth to face a host of challenges on the road to recovery. And suspended in this state of limbo, she’s afforded the unusual opportunity to reflect and reminisce during the critical next 24 hours before making a decision.
That is the surreal setup of If I Stay, a bittersweet flashback flick based on Gayle Forman’s young adult novel of the same name. Although this unapologetically sentimental tearjerker will undoubtedly resonate with teens in the target demographic, the film’s surprisingly-sophisticated, thought-provoking exploration of such themes as family, friendship, love and spirituality ought to readily endear it to audiences in general.
Directed by R.J. Cutler, the movie basically revolves around introspective Mia’s contemplation of her future while factoring in her family’s grim prospects, nostalgia, and the bedside manner of visitors like her grandfather (Stacy Keach), boyfriend and BFF (Liana Liberato). Although reminiscent of The Lovely Bones (disembodied teen narrator), The Notebook (love story with a syrupy finale) and Twilight (star-crossed romance set in the Pacific Northwest), If I Stay is nevertheless a unique adventure with a tale to share all its own.  
A poignant portrait of a life precipitously hanging in the balance which pushes all the right buttons to open the emotional floodgates.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality and mature themes
Running time: 106 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers

To see a trailer for If I Stay, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wH6PNeTy6Nc     

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Top Ten DVD Releases for 8-19-14



This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams


Top Ten DVD List for August 19, 2014                      

The Empty Hours

The Amazing Spider-Man 2


Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Fourth Season



The Auction

The Mindy Project: Season Two

Go for Sisters

Parks and Recreation: Season Six

Secrets of the Dead: The Mona Lisa Mystery


Grigris


Smithsonian Channel: Aerial America – Southeast Collection





Honorable Mention


Once upon a Time: The Complete Third Season
  
Revolution: The Complete Second Season


Home Is Where the Heart Is


Ace Wonder

Jarhead 2: Field of Fire

Varsity Blood

Adventure Planet

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (DVD REVIEW)


The Amazing Spider-Man 2

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Scintillating Spidey Sequel Set for DVD Release

            If the idea behind a sequel is to up the ante in terms of bombast and intensity, then The Amazing Spider-Man 2 certainly fits the bill. This installment is bigger and better and louder and longer, featuring more villains, next generation special f/x, more captivating action sequences, and even a fully-blossomed romance between Spidey’s alter ego Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).
            The picture’s point of departure is a flashback filling in a bit of the back story about how Peter became an orphan. We learn that his parents’ (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) died aboard a doomed private plane hijacked by an assassin (Bill Heck) with an agenda, but not before his scientist father managed to email an explanatory message and critical computer file via satellite.
            Fast-forward to the present, Peter and Gwen’s high school graduation day. We see a frustrated Gwen searching the audience for her boyfriend as she delivers a sentimental valedictory speech at the podium. 
            We soon learn that he’s been delayed in Manhattan where as Spider-Man he’s trying to retrieve a shipment of stolen plutonium from a Russian mobster named Aleksei Sytsevich (Paul Giamatti). In the middle of the chase, he coincidentally saves the life of Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx), an engineer at Oscorp, the company responsible for supplying the city with electricity.
            After securing the vials and apprehending the perpetrator for the police, Peter rushes off to his commencement ceremony, arriving right in the nick of time to receive his diploma. However, he has no idea that he hasn’t seen the last of Aleksei and Max who are fated to return later in the adventure after a combat suit of armor and a freak accident enable them to morph into the villainous Rhino and Electro, respectively.
            But first, he grudgingly ends his relationship with Gwen in deference to her dad (Denis Leary) who doesn’t want his daughter dating a trouble-seeking vigilante. Next, Peter finds himself summoned to the offices of childhood pal Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), who has just inherited Oscorp Industries, but is suffering from the same hereditary affliction which claimed the life of his recently-deceased father (Chris Cooper).
            Harry futilely solicits Peter’s help in locating Spider-Man, hoping that a blood transfusion might cure his affliction. Of course, that ain’t gonna happen. So, instead, he has to settle for the venom of genetically-altered spiders, which transforms him into another diabolical Spidey nemesis, the Green Goblin.
            That makes a trio of worthy adversaries for the webslinging superhero to dispatch in creative fashion before the curtains come down. Provided you’re patient enough to sit through the closing credits after 2½ hours, you’ll even be treated to a tease of X-Men: Days of Future Past, opening later this month, courtesy of a Jennifer Lawrence cameo as Mystique.
            A “Marvel”-ously entertaining franchise that miraculously just keeps on giving and giving! 

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for PG-13 for action and sci-fi violence
Running time: 141 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Filmmakers’ commentary; four deleted scenes with commentary by director Marc Webb; Alicia Keys music video “It’s on Again”; and a PSA for the Worldwide Orphans Foundation.

To see a trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, visit:  
 
To order a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on DVD, visit: