Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Kam's Kapsules for Movies Opening 11-4-16

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams



Doctor Strange (PG-13 for action, crashes and pervasive violence) Benedict Cumberbatch plays the Marvel Comics character in this origins tale revolving around a neurosurgeon who morphs into a superhero in the wake of a tragic car accident. Ensemble cast includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams and Benjamin Bratt.

Loving (PG-13 for mature themes) Reverential biopic recounting the legal and real-life struggles of the Virginia couple (Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton) who mounted the historic court battle leading to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on interracial marriage. With Will Dalton, Dean Mumford and Terri Abney.

Hacksaw Ridge (R for graphic violence, gruesome images and ethnic slurs) World War II docudrama recounting the battlefield heroics of Army Medic Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) who saved 75 fellow G.I.'s lives during the fight for Okinawa. With Vince Vaughn, Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer, Sam Worthington and Rachel Griffiths.

Trolls (PG for mild rude humor) Animated musical adventure about the alliance reluctantly forged by an optimist (Anna Kendrick) and a pessimist (Justin Timberlake) to defend their village from a race of ravenous creatures who like to feast on tiny trolls. Voice cast includes Zooey Deschanel, Jeffrey Tambor, Russell Brand and Gwen Stefani.


All Governments Lie (Unrated) Prestige biopic recounting intrepid investigative journalist I.F. Stone's (1907-1989) career dedicated to uncovering political corruption and coverups.

Dog Eat Dog (Unrated) Adaptation of the Edward Bunker best seller of the same name about a trio of ex-cons (Willem Dafoe, Nicolas Cage and Christopher Matthew Cook) hired by a mob boss (Paul Schrader) to kidnap his rival's baby. With Omar J. Dorsey, Louisa Krause and Melissa Bolona.

The Eagle Huntress (G) Coming-of-age biopic chronicling the epic quest of 13 year-old Aisholpan, hailing from a tribe of Mongolian nomads, to become the first female in her family in a dozen generations to earn the esteemed status of Eagle Hunter. (In Kazakh with subtitles)

Ivory: A Crime Story (Unrated) Endangered species expose' examining the cause and consequences of the worldwide demand for ivory which has left the elephant on the brink of extermination.

My Dead Boyfriend (R for profanity and sexuality) Macabre comedy about a struggling writer (Heather Graham) who only uncovers the truth about her couch potato beau (Rich Graf) after he passes away while sitting in front of the TV. With Griffin Dunne, John Corbett and Gina Gershon.

Peter and the Farm (Unrated) Warts-and-all biopic about Peter Dunning who manages to maintain his 187-acre Vermont farm on his own despite depression, alcoholism and having been abandoned by three wives and four children.

The Prison in Twelve Landscapes (Unrated) Criminal justice system documentary showcasing a dozen correctional facilities doing great work rehabilitating inmates.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Film Review by Kam Williams

Hanks and Howard Collaborate on Another Adaptation of a Dan Brown Best Seller
Dan Brown is the author of a quartet of best-selling mysteries featuring Harvard Professor Robert Langdon as the protagonist. The phenomenally-popular novels have sold over 100 million copies and counting, with the fifth in the series slated to be released in the fall of 2017.

Screen versions of the first two Robert Langdon books, The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels & Demons (2009), netted over a billion dollars at the box office. So, it's no surprise that another adaptation might be in order.

Inferno reunites director Ron Howard with Tom Hanks who reprises his lead role as a genius with an uncanny knack for deciphering ancient symbols and religious iconography. And Howard enlisted the assistance of a stellar support cast which includes Ben Foster, Felicity Jones, Irrfan Khan and Omar Sy.

Inferno is easily the most successful of the offerings, as it reins in Langdon's earlier tendency to overindulgence in inscrutable jargon. This go round, the intellectual badinage has been minimized to make way for a flurry of visually-captivating action sequences.

Another plus is the easy to follow plotline. The point of departure is a hospital in Florence, Italy which is where we find Langdon suffering from amnesia yet lucky to be alive given how a bullet to the head only grazed his scalp. 
Before we even have a chance to blink, a gun-toting assassin (Ana Ularu) arrives to finish the job. Fortunately, Langdon's gorgeous doctor, Sienna Brooks (Jones), not only helps him escape on the spot, but is prepared to abandon her practice to go on the run with her traumatized patient. 
As it turns out, the hit woman was part of a much larger conspiracy. For, she was merely doing the bidding of Bertrand Zobrist (Foster), an evil billionaire on the verge of hatching a disturbing solution for the world's overpopulation problem. Essentially, the madman's plan is to unleash a lethal virus designed to kill half the people on the planet in less than a week. 
That sets the stage for Langdon and Sienna's dizzying race against time to unearth a cornucopia of clues enabling them to track down and disarm the diabolical Zobrist. That in a nutshell is the sum and substance of Inferno, except for a humdinger of a twist it would be unfair to spoil. 
Easily, the most accessible, engaging, entertaining and cinematic adaptation of a Dan Brown thriller yet!

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for action, violence, profanity, disturbing images, mature themes and brief sensuality
In English, French and Italian with subtitles
Running time: 126 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures

To see a trailer for Inferno, visit: 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

New Life

Film Review by Kam Williams

Childhood Sweethearts Face Adversity in Bittersweet Tale of Undying Love

When he was only seven years-old, Ben (Jonathan Patrick Moore) moved with his family to the U.S. from Great Britain. What the young immigrant liked best about his new home was his cute next-door neighbor, Ava (Erin Bethea), an adorable, little girl exactly his age. 
The two kids immediately forged a friendship that not only endured through childhood but blossomed into romance once they hit puberty. It even survived the separation which resulted when Ava went away to college while her beau stuck around town, dividing his time between driving a limo and interning at his father's architectural firm. 
Eventually, Ben proposed and the lovebirds married, just like everybody who knew them expected. They were eager to start a family, and became elated to learn that Ava was expecting. Unfortunately, she would subsequently suffer a miscarriage caused by a suspected tumor. 
Medical tests ordered by her doctor (Terry O'Quinn) confirm the presence of a malignancy. Consequently, the newlyweds suddenly find themselves dealing with a dire diagnosis on the Cancer Ward instead of playing with a bouncing bundle of joy on the Maternity Ward. 
That is the sobering premise of New Life, a bittersweet tale of undying love marking the directorial debut of actor Drew Waters (Parkland). Ostensibly designed with Evangelicals in mind, the faith-based parable probably has more of an appeal for the Christian crowd than for general audiences. 
To its credit, the PG-rated production isn't all that heavy-handed in terms of sermonizing. Still, its thinly-veiled moralizing is ultimately undermined by that bummer of a development which, quite frankly, proves to be irreversibly morose. Who goes to the movies to get depressed?

Good (2 stars)
Rated PG for mature themes
Running time: 88 minutes
Studio: Red Sky Studios
Distributor: Argentum Entertainment

To see a trailer for New Life, visit:

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Top Ten DVD List for 10-25-16

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Suddenly! [The Film Detective Restored Version]

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You

Captain Fantastic

Agatha Raisin: Series One

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby [10th Anniversary Edition]

Lights Out

Nighthawks [Collector's Edition]

The Last Film Festival

Janet King: Series Two - The Invisible Wound

Honorable Mention


Teen Wolf: Season 5, Part 2

Doc McStuffins: Toy Hospital

Barbie & Her Sisters in a Puppy Chase

The Id

Mr. Church


Be Somebody


Alice Through the Looking Glass

Independence Day: Resurgence

Preacher: Season One

Ancient Aliens: Season 9

India: Nature's Wonderland

Simple Gifts: The Chamber Music Society at Shaker Village

Friday, October 21, 2016

American Masters: Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Reverential Retrospective Revisits Career of Groundbreaking TV Producer

Norman Lear was born on July 27, 1922 in New Haven, Connecticut where he was raised Jewish to parents of Eastern European extraction. He dropped out of college to enlist in the Air Force following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He flew 52 combat missions over Germany as a gunner/radio operator before being honorably discharged in 1945. 
After World War II, he headed to Hollywood to embark on a career in comedy. In 1968, he first enjoyed a measure of success when he landed an Oscar nomination for writing the original screenplay for Divorce American Style. He skyrocketed to the heights of fame a few years later as the creator of All in the Family.

That groundbreaking TV series revolved around a small-minded, blue-collared character from Queens named Archie Bunker. America found the bigoted buffoon so appealing that the show soon became #1 in the ratings and retained the top spot for five years in a row. 
His finger on the pulse, Lear quickly began cranking out a string of similarly-realistic sitcoms, including Sanford & Son, Maude, Good Times, The Jeffersons and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. And at one time in the Seventies, he was the producer of a half-dozen of the Top Ten TV shows in the country. 
Despite the unparalleled achievement, Norman occasionally found himself facing discontent in the ranks, such as a rebellion on the set of Good Times. It seems that some of its cast members had become upset about the series' portrayal of African-Americans. 
Esther Rolle, who played Florida, complained about the buffoonery, while John Amos, who played her husband, James, became so disillusioned that he quit after three seasons at the peak of program's popularity. Matters came to a head when the Black Panthers stormed Lear's office, demanding that he present some positive African-American characters. That prompted Norman to give Archie Bunker's irascible neighbor George Jefferson his own spinoff as a wealthy businessman "Movin' on up!" on Manhattan's exclusive Upper East Side.

Co-directed by Oscar-nominees Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (for Jesus Camp), Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You is an intriguing retrospective offering a revealing peek inside the mind of a pivotal figure in the evolution of American culture. For, Lear, now 93, appears prominently in the documentary, along with luminaries like George Clooney, Jay Leno and Russell Simmons, to name a few. 
An alternately penetrating and poignant portrait of a true trailblazer!

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 90 minutes
Studio: American Masters Pictures / Loki Films
Distributor: PBS Films
DVD Extras: Mary Hartman Breakdown; Mary Hartman Casting; Not Dead Yet; Bill Moyers on Norman Lear; The Shrink and Syndication; and What do a 92 year-old Jew and the world of hip hop have in #Common?

To order a copy of American Masters: Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You on DVD, visit:

Lights Out

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Beware of the Dark in Old School Horror Flick

When Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) was growing up, she spent many a sleepless night frightened by noises that she only heard after the lights went out. Today, the emancipated 22 year-old has all but forgotten that unfortunate chapter of her childhood. After all, she's long-since moved out of the house and has her own apartment as well as a devoted, if dimwitted, boyfriend, Bret (Alexander DiPersia), she's been dating for 8 months.

But Rebecca's relative state of bliss is rudely interrupted when she gets word that her little brother, Martin (Gabriel Bateman), has been suffering from insomnia for several days. She can't help but wonder whether he's just having nightmares or if he's being terrorized by the the same sort of paranormal activity that had plagued her own formative years.

It suddenly has Rebecca reflecting on how her father (Billy Burke) had perished under mysterious circumstances at work after being warned by an alarmed colleague (Lotta Losten) that something weird was happening with the office lights. Could his untimely death possibly be related to little Martin's current plight or was there no correlation?

So, those are among Rebecca's concerns when she returns home to comfort her scared sibling. She offers to take custody of Martin as soon as he starts talking about their mom Sophie's (Maria Bello) recent bizarre behavior, an indication that she might again be struggling with bouts of depression.

Truth be told, however, something supernatural is afoot. The premises have been invaded by the ghost of Sophie's BFF (Alicia Vela-Bailey) who died from a light-sensitive skin condition when they were kids. For some unexplained reason, she's morphed into an evil apparition that haunts her old friend's house and only comes out at night.

Lights Out is one of those old-fashioned horror flicks which seeks to keep you on edge by making you jump out of your seat when you least expect it. The movie marks the noteworthy directorial debut of David F. Sandberg who has fully fleshed out his 2013 short film of the same name. 
Despite low production values that often leave a lot to be desired, Sandberg has nevertheless managed to shoot a rather riveting screamfest, thanks to a capable cast, a haunting score and a knack for editing that's downright nerve-wracking. Proof positive it's still possible to mount a decent B-horror flick on a very modest budget.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, mature themes, disturbing images, incessant terror and brief drug use
Running time: 81 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group
Blu-ray Extras: Deleted scenes.

To see a trailer for Lights Out, visit:

To order a copy of Lights Out on Blu-Ray, visit:


Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Chan and Knoxville Play Unlikely Buddies in Poor Man's Version of Rush Hour

Jackie Chan made dozens of martial arts movies in his native Hong Kong prior to finding phenomenal success stateside in 1998 co-starring with Chris Tucker in the buddy-comedy Rush Hour. Their pairing as unlikely-partners proved so popular that they returned to the well to shoot a couple of sequels in Rush Hour 2 and Rush Hour 3. And Jackie further milked the familiar formula in outings opposite Owen Wilson in Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights.

Despite being perhaps a little long-in-the-tooth to still be doing such stunt-driven adventures, the sixty-something matinee idol is back with Skiptrace, a slight variation on the theme co-starring Johnny Knoxville. Knoxville is known for Jackass, the TV and film franchise in which he and a coterie of deranged confederates perform an array of death-defying feats.

Here, he reprises some of his greatest hits, like rolling down the street in a barrel. The same can be said of Chan, as so many of the picture's chase and fight sequences have a feeling of deja vu about them. Nevertheless, a treat is in store for the uninitiated, especially youngsters who've never seen either of these leads ply his trade before.

In Skiptrace, Jackie plays Hong Kong detective Benny Chan, and Johnny co-stars as Connor Watts, an American gambler on the run from a Russian casino owner (Charlie Rawes) he fleeced to the tune of a million dollars. At the point of departure, Benny's partner Yung (Eric Tsang) is murdered by a mysterious mobster known as The Matador, and he makes it his mission to bring the creep to justice.

Meanwhile, half a world away, Johnny just happens to witness the kidnapping of Yung's daughter Samantha (Bingbing Fan). So, that makes him invaluable to Benny when the two subsequently cross paths, as much as the detective dislikes the idea of cooperating with a slippery con man.

Directed by Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2), Skiptrace overall is a globe-trotting affair which unfolds at a dizzying pace in the course of visiting a variety of ports-of-call all across the planet. The multi-layered whodunit eventually builds to a big showdown at Kai Tak Cruise Terminal back in Hong Kong, where the case is very satisfactorily resolved.

Though he's certainly no Chris Tucker, Johnny Knoxville does prove a decent enough accomplice for Jackie Chan's endearing combination of antics and acrobatics.

Good (2 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, suggestive content, profanity, drug use and brief nudity
Running time: 98 minutes
Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: Director's commentary; and "When Jackie Met Johnny" featurette.

To see a trailer for Skiptrace, visit:

To order a copy of Skiptrace on Blu-Ray, visit: