Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Epraim Sykes

 
The “Hairspray Live!” Interview
with Kam Williams

L’Chiam Ephraim! 
 

Ephraim Sykes plays Seaweed J. Stubbs in NBC’s production of “Hairspray Live!” airing Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 8 pm ET.
Seaweed J. Stubbs is a hip and kindhearted dancer who befriends Tracy Turnblad in detention and teaches her some new moves. He is also the son of Motormouth Maybelle (Jennifer Hudson) who falls in love with Tracy’s best friend, Penny (Ariana Grande).
Ephraim was an original cast member of “Hamilton” when the 11 Tony Award-winning musical opened on Broadway in August 2015. Prior to that, he appeared in four other Broadway musicals — “Motown the Musical,” “Newsies,” “Memphis” and “The Little Mermaid.”
His television credits include “Vinyl,” “Smash” and the Emmy Award-winning comedy “30 Rock,” and he can be seen in the upcoming Woody Allen series “Crisis in Six Scenes.”



Kam Williams: Hi Ephraim, thanks for the interview.
Ephraim Sykes: No, thanks for having me, Kam.

KW: What was it like working on such an historic show like Hamilton?
ES: Omigosh! It was a trip! An incredible journey, to say the least. I started working with it two or three years ago when it was just a reading, all the way though Off-Broadway and then on Broadway. It's an honor and a blessing to be a part of something that's become a part of American culture, changed theater and touched so many people

KW: Tell me a little about your character in Hamilton, George Eacker?
ES: He's the guy who killed Alexander Hamilton's son, Philip, in a duel close to the same spot where Hamilton himself was slain by Aaron Burr.

KW: Wow! What a coincidence!
ES: Yeah, it's kind of weird.

KW: Why did you leave Hamilton?
ES: I needed to take a break because my body was kind of beaten down from having done such a strenuous show for almost two years. I'd been on Broadway non stop for almost a decade. so, my body was kinda tired. And literally, on the day that I started my medical leave, I heard about Hairspray.

KW: Seems like you've done a lot on the stage. How did you get from St. Petersburg, Florida to Broadway. What's your background?
ES: To be honest, I came more from a concert, dance and music background. I did ballet, jazz and modern dance in a performing arts high school. I also studied a musical instrument and grew up singing in the church choir. After high school, I entered Fordham's Alvin Ailey program, so I was really concentrating on dance. After I got my degree and finished dancing with the Ailey Company, I got my first Broadway audition, which really altered the trajectory of my career.

KW: Which is your preference, the stage, TV or film?
ES: There's nothing like live theater where you can actually feel an audience react to you in real time. But I really do have a love for the film and TV worlds as well.

KW: Tell me a little about your approach to playing Seaweed in Hairspray? Did you watch a video of the original Broadway production?
ES: Absolutely! But I have to approach it differently, just because I'm a different person. However, I did study Corey Reynolds, Elijah Kelley, Clayton Prince and everybody else who's played Seaweed in order to better develop my version of him.

KW: What's it like working opposite a couple of powerhouses like Jennifer Hudson, who plays your mom, Motormouth Maybelle, and Ariana Grande, who plays your love interest, Penny?
ES: I have to admit it's a bit nerve-wracking coming into the studio with some giants like them, but it's exciting overall to be a part of it, because they are not only talented but down-to-earth, sweet loving people who love their work. I'm excited to see what we all cook up together.

KW: It seems like this production has the most star-studded cast of all, including a return of Harvey Fierstein who originated the role of Edna Turnblad on Broadway.
ES: I think it's going to be a fun time. The great thing about Hairspray is that, like Hamilton, the show's the star. The story itself is extremely timely and relevant.

KW: What message do you think people will take away from Hairspray?
ES: The power of the story is that sometimes, when our words fail, music prevails. Music can breakdown barriers!

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?
ES: Walking into the doors of the church where my father was pastoring. I got to experience God at a young age.

KW: Was the church a meaningful spiritual component of your formative years which shaped you?
ES: Yes, and it remains a driving force in my life to this day. It's a constant that's helped me combat anything that's come against me, especially my own fears.

KW: Who loved you unconditionally in childhood?
ES: My family, my parents, my sisters, my grandparents, and even my church family, my first dance teachers and my theater family .

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
ES: I see Ephraim. Someone who's never been before and will never be again. Something that's perfectly and uniquely me. Something that God created on purpose.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
ES: I'm not that great a cook. [Laughs] But I do really enjoy my own spaghetti.

KW: The Morris Chestnut question: Was there any particular moment in your childhood that inspired you to become the person you are today?
ES: Watching my father unite a city with love during a race riot. I still really admire and look up to him, and try to be like him. That brought out my heart for the community.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
ES: Oh, that's easy. I'd like to see Michael Jackson perform live while in his prime.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
ES: It's somewhere between eating really good food and binge-watching really great movies and Netflix type of stuff.

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?
ES: I try to be as funny and extroverted both places, but I can actually be introverted and pretty shy on the red carpet. At home, I'm always cracking jokes and saying ridiculous things. I can be my full self at home.

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
ES: That's another great question. What comes to mind is one of my favorites, West Side Story.

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have a favorite movie monster?
ES: Wow! The flying dog from The NeverEnding Story. And the huge, monster dog from The Sandlot.

KW: Judyth Piazza asks: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
ES: Self-assurance. They know how unique and special they are.

KW: The Pastor Alex Kendrick question: When do you feel the most content?
ES: When I'm around great live music.

KW: The Dana Perino question: What keeps you up at night?
ES: My goals. My big ideas and my dreams.

KW: Teri Emerson asks: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
ES: I had a really great one last night with my girlfriend.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
ES: Find what it is you love to do and run non-stop at it, and the doors will open up for you.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
ES: As somebody who tried to bring people together.

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?
ES: Not much! [LOL] An MTA Metro card for New York City that takes up too much of my money.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Ephraim, and best of luck with Hairspray Live!
ES: Thank you very much, Kam.

To see a trailer for Hairspray Live!, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7S0rGGs3v1k

Sunday, December 4, 2016

La La Land


Film Review by Kam Williams


Gosling and Stone Co-Star in Enchanting Homage to Hollywood Musicals 
 

If you only see one movie this year, you need to get out more. That being said, La La Land is the picture to catch. This nostalgic homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood is a panoramic masterpiece which makes very effective use of every inch of the big screen.

Written and directed by Oscar-nominee Damien Chazelle (for Whiplash), the picture was shot in CinemaScope, a supposedly-obsolete technology that fell out of favor with filmmakers in the late Sixties. Here, Chazelle resurrects the wide-angled lens for a last hurrah in service of an old-fashioned musical unfolding against a breathtaking array of L.A. backdrops. La La also features an enchanting original score composed by Justin Hurwitz who collaborated with college classmate Damien on Whiplash as well as his debut offering, the deceptively-unassuming Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench.

This relatively-ambitious romantic romp revolves around Sebastian Wilder and Mia Dolan, struggling artists played to perfection by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, respectively. Their talented supporting cast includes J.K. Simmons, John Legend and Rosemarie DeWitt. 
 
After a showstopping opening staged on a gridlocked freeway where stuck motorists suddenly break into song and dance, we're introduced to the likable leads. We learn that jazz pianist Sebastian's a purist playing for tips in dingy dives while trying to save enough cash to open his own nightclub. Mia's an aspiring actress who divides her time between fruitless auditions and a thankless job as a barista at a coffee shop right on the Warner Brothers lot.

Seb and Mia are strangers who initially experience only aggravation whenever their paths serendipitiously cross. Eventually, sparks do finally fly, which inspires them to belt out mellifluous and melancholy tunes. More importantly, they fall in love and encourage each other to pursue their elusive dreams. 
 
Since it would be unfair to spoil any of the ensuing plot developments, suffice to say that Gosling and Stone are pure delight, whether warbling or just generating screen chemistry. A charming crowd-pleaser that richly deserves all the superlatives it's undoubtedly about to receive over the course of the upcoming awards season!



Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity
Running time: 128 minutes
Distributor: Summit Entertainment / Lionsgate Films


To see a trailer for La La Land, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pdqf4P9MB8

Top Ten DVD List for December 6, 2016

by Kam Williams
This Week’s DVD Releases


Don't Think Twice

Kicks

Author: The JT Leroy Story

I Am Bolt

Call of Heroes



The Secret Life of Pets

Knucklehead

Jason Bourne

Greenleaf: Season One

The Secret Agent


Honorable Mention

Mad Max Fury Road / Mad Max Fury Road Black & Chrome Edition

The Fight Within

On Meditation

Mudbloods

SMART: Specialized Mobile Animal Rescue Team


Jennifer Lopez: Dance Again

In Order of Disappearance

The Shannara Chronicles: Season One

Dead Rising: Endgame

Never Open the Door

The Hollars


The Possession Experiment

Decommissioned


The Unspoken

Me, Myself and Her


Mavis!


Nova: School of the Future

Frontline: A Subprime Education

Frontline: the Choice 2016


Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Bounce Back

 

The Bounce Back
Film Review by Kam Williams


 In Delightful Romantic Romp, Love Gurus Date Despite Philosophical Differences


Love guru Matthew Taylor (Shemar Moore) is the author of the new best seller, "The Bounce Back." Accompanied by his enterprising business manager, Terry (Bill Bellamy), he's been hawking the self-help book on plenty of TV and radio programs.

Since Terry believes that "Image is everything," he's concerned that Matthew hasn't settled down since his divorce. "A relationship guru should be in a relationship for longer than a minute," he counsels his BFF/boss.

That sentiment is echoed by Matthew's teenage daughter, Aleya (Nadja Alaya), who says, "Dad, you really need to get a girlfriend." Nevertheless, her father tends to settle for one-night stands, like the one he recently shared with Lizette (Marta Cross), the makeup artist at a TV station where he'd just appeared.

Matthew finally meets his match, literally and figuratively, the day he crosses paths with Kristin Peralta (Nadine Velazquez), a fellow therapist also making the rounds on the talk show circuit. Trouble is, while there's evidently chemistry between the two, they have conflicting adivce to offer folks nursing wounds from a painful relationship.

Matthew's simplistic suggestion is to "Get out of your head and into action." By contrast, Kristin doesn't think the solution is quite that easy. She says, "Therapy's a marathon, not a sprint." After all, she's still recovering from having her heart broken over six years ago.

Consequently, she views Matthew as a charlatan exploiting the vulnerable. And she tells him so to his face, snarling, "Quick fixes like yours are always a scam, whether it's a book, a pill or a seminar."

Confrontation makes for great TV drama and, soon enough, the two therapists find their services in demand to debate their contradictory philosophies head-to-head. However, the more time they subsequently spend together making personal appearances, the more the feelings between them have a chance to develop.

But can a relationship survive on chemistry alone? That is the pivotal question posed by The Bounce Back, a delightful romantic romp directed by Youssef Delara (Filly Brown). The movie is most reminiscent of Think Like a Man, another urban-oriented soap opera revolving around the battle-of-the-sexes.

Nevertheless, this novel contribution to the genre stands on its own and thus warrants recommending, between a solid script with a couple of cleverly-concealed plot twists, and a plethora of praiseworthy performances on the part of a talented cast topped by Shemar Moore, Nadine Velazquez, Kali Hawk, Sheryl Underwood and the versatile veteran, Bill Bellamy.

Confirmation that opposites do, in fact, attract, even shrinks dispensing diametrically-opposed dating advice!


Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and brief drug use
Running time: 104 minutes
Distributor: Freestyle Releasing


To see a trailer for The Bounce Back, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1oF7bLKBEc

Friday, December 2, 2016

In Order of Disappearance


Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams


Dad Tracks Down Dead Son's Drug Dealers in Scandinavian Splatterfest


Nils Dickman (Stellan Skarsgard) had no idea his son Ingvar (Aron Eskeland) was a heroin addict until the day the young man was murdered by acouple of ruthless dealers who made it look like an overdose. Rather than take the loss lying down, the deceased's grieving dad decides to track down not only the killers but also the drug kingpin (Pal Sverre Hagen) who ordered the hit.

As it turns out, The Count has a slew of sidekicks running interference for him. But surprisingly, an army of goons prove to be no match for Nils, a mild-mannered milquetoast who was recently-crowned "Man of the Year" for servings as his town's reliable snowplow driver. Somehow, he morphs into a merciless vigilante who has no qualms about slaying all the henchmen standing between him and the elusive crime boss.
Thus unfolds In Order of Disappearance, a grisly revenge thriller directed by Norway's Hans Petter Moland. The movie reunites Moland with Stellan Skarsgard with whom he first collaborated in 2010 on A Somewhat Gentle Man.
This picture walks a fine line between macabre drama and dark comedy, given how the vindictive protagonist takes to butchery as the attrition rate.escalates. Then, when warned that he'll have to take on a vicious gang of Serbs along the way, Nils even enlists the assistance of his estranged, ex-con brother (Peter Andersson).
Fortunately, The Count has a son, Rune (Jack Sodahl Moland), who could conveniently come in handy as irresistible bait if successfully kidnapped from school. That ploy might finally flush his diabolical dad out of hiding, allowing for a satisfying evening of the score during a decidedly gruesome resolution.
A Scandinavian splatterfest staining the snow-capped mountainsides of an otherwise-breathtaking Norwegian wonderland!



Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for graphic violence and pervasive profanity
In Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, English, Serbian and German with subtitles
Running time: 118 minutes
Distributor: Magnolia Home Entertainment




To see a trailer for In Order of Disappearance, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbOR0aE2WlE

To order a copy of In Order of Disappearance on Blu-ray, visit:  


Kicks




Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams


Ghetto Kid Mugged for Sneakers Seeks Revenge in Coming-of-Age Drama


Brandon (Jahking Guillory) saved up for a pricey pair of Air Jordan, only to suffer the utter humiliation of having them stolen right off his feet at gunpoint by a gang of ghetto predators. Thus arrives a moment of truth for the nerdy 15 year-old who finds himself stuck at an unpleasant station in life where he's not only routinely picked on by his peers but absolutely ignored by the opposite sex to boot. 
 
Should he simply shrug off this latest dis as merely another cold reminder of what life is like in the 'hood for any kid that isn't macho, or is he finally mature enough to exact a measure of revenge on Flaco (Kofi Siriboe), the pompous perpetrator who'd seized the sneakers as a gift for a son (Michael Smith, Jr.)? Believe it or not, that is the sum and substance of the dilemma which fuels the fire of Kicks, a super-realistic, inner-city saga marking the memorable directorial debut of Justin Tipping.

This earthy, slice-of-life flick convincingly captures the anomie and sense of desperation which might help explain why so many black youths opt to murder each other over seemingly trivial slights nowadays. While this story unfolds against the barren backdrop of Oakland's exoskeleton, it could just as easily be taking place in such equally-godforsaken environs as latter-day Chicago, Baltimore, Newark, St. Louis, New Orleans or Detroit. 
 
Before Brandon embarks on his hunt for Flaco, he enlists the assistance of his BFFs Albert (Christopher Wallace, Jr) and Rico (Christopher Meyer). They prove to be game and, for some reason that is never broached, theirs is a lawless world devoid of the option of approaching police or parents to intervene on their behalf. 
 

A tentative tale of woe every bit as bleak as it is hopeful that there's an exit at the other end of a disturbingly dystopic tunnel.



Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for pervasive profanity,drug and alcohol abuse, sexuality and violence, all involving teens.
Running time: 87 minutes
Studio: Animal Kingdom
Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: Kicks: One-on-One; and a photo gallery. .




To see a trailer for Kicks, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWV2hK4HVEk

To order a copy of Kicks on Blu-ray, visit:



Thursday, December 1, 2016

Kam's Kapsules for Movies Opening December 9, 2016

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams

OPENING THIS WEEK

BIG BUDGET FILMS

The Bounce Back (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and brief drug use) Romantic comedy about a charismatic relationship guru (Shemar Moore) who falls in love with a skeptical fellow therapist (Nadine Velazquez) he meets while on a book tour promoting his new best seller. Supporting cast includes Bill Bellamy, Kali Hawk and Vanessa Bell Calloway.

La La Land (PG-13 for profanity) Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) directed this enchanting homage to Hollywood musicals set in present-day LA and revolving around an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and jaded jazz musician's (Ryan Gosling) whirlwind romance. With J.K. Simmons, John Legend and Rosemarie DeWitt.

Office Christmas Party (R for crude sexuality, graphic nudity, drug use and pervasive profanity) Raunchy holiday comedy about a couple of corporate execs' (Jason Bateman and T.J. Miller) attempt to save their jobs by throwing a wild party to impress a potential client. Ensemble cast includes Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer, Olivia Munn, Courtney B. Vance and Rob Corddry.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

All We Had (Unrated) Dysfunctional family drama about a cash-strapped single-mom (Katie Holmes) living hand-to-mouth with her 13 year-old daughter (Stefania Owen) until they move to a tiny town where she finds a steady job as a waitress only to be victimized by a fast-talking mortgage broker (Mark Consuelos). Featuring Eve Lindley, Richard Kind and Judy Greer.

Befikre (Unrated) Romantic comedy about a guy (Ranveer Singh) who ventures from Delhi to Paris in search of employment only to fall in love with a free-spirited Indian girl (Vaani Kapoor) born in France. With Elisa Bachir Bey, Julie Ordon and Hugo Diego Garcia. (In Hindi with subtitles)

The Brand New Testament (Unrated) Irreverent comedy about a sadistic God (Benoit Poelvoorde) living in a high-rise apartment in Brussels where he abuses both his wife (Yolande Moreau) and 10 year-old daughter (Pili Groyne). Support cast includes Francois Damiens, Catherine Deneuve and Marco Lorenzini. (In French and German with subtitles)

Burn Country (Unrated) Crime thriller about an Afghani refugee (Dominic Rains) who finds his life threatened after he takes a job as an investigative reporter with a newspaper in the quiet California town where he settles down. With James Franco, Melissa Leo and Rachel Brosnahan.

Friend Request (R for profanity, violence and disturbing images) High attrition-rate horror flick about a popular college coed (Alycia Debnam-Carey) who comes to regret unfriending a stalker (Liesl Ahlers) when her closest classmates start disappearing one-by-one. With William Moseley, Connor Paolo and Brit Morgan.

Harry Benson: Shoot First (Unrated) Reverential biopic chronicling the enduring career of 86 year-old Harry Benson, legendary photographer of the stars, with subjects ranging from the Beatles to Muhammad Ali.

Kill Ratio (Unrated) Espionage thriller about an American spy (Tom Hopper) working undercover to protect a fledgling, Eastern European democracy during a coup d'etat being orchestrated by a ruthless, renegade general (Nick Dunning). With Amy Huberman, Lacy Moore and Michelle Lehane.

On the Map (Unrated) Inspirational documentary recounting the Cinderella story of the Israeli basketball team's unlikely win of the European Cup in 1977.

Slash (Unrated) Coming-of-age comedy about an introverted, high school freshman (Michael Johnston) who turns a new leaf when a cute upperclassman (Hannah Marks) takes an interest in his erotic fiction. With Tishuan Scott, Jessie Ennis and Michael Ian Black.

Solitary (Unrated) Prodigal Daughter drama about an unemployed, substance-abusing party girl (Katharine Lee McEwan) who moves back home to live with her aging father after getting dumped by her boyfriend. Cast includes Sam Hoare, Jana Dowling and Jack Lowe.