Friday, February 23, 2018

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening March 2, 2018

 
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun  
by Kam Williams 


OPENING THIS WEEK

BIG BUDGET FILMS

Death Wish (R for graphic violence and pervasive profanity) Remake of the Charles Bronson vigilante classic about a mild-mannered doctor (Bruce Willis) who takes the law into his own hands after his wife (Elisabeth Shue) is murdered and his daughter (Camila Morrone) is brutally raped and left comatose by a ruthless gang. With Vincent D'Onofrio, Kimberly Elise and Dean Norris.

Red Sparrow (R for profanity, sexuality, frontal nudity, graphic violence and torture) Espionage thriller revolving around a Russian ballerina (Jennifer Lawrence) recruited by the KGB who ends up falling for the CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) she was supposed to seduce and compromise. Support cast includes Charlotte Rampling, Jeremy Irons and Matthias Schoenaerts.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Foxtrot (R for sexuality, graphic images and brief drug use) Middle East saga, set in Tel Aviv, revolving around a couple (Lior Ashkenazi and Sarah Adler) grieving the loss of a son (Yonaton Shiray) serving in the military. With Dekel Adin, Yehuda Almagor and Gefen Barkai. (In Hebrew with subtitles)

Hondros (Unrated) Reverential biopic chronicling the career of Chris Hondros (1970-2011), an intrepid war photographer who covered conflicts in Iraq, Kosovo, Kashmir, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Israel and Liberia before being killed in Libya during a mortar attack.

Mohawk (Unrated) Revenge thriller, set during the War of 1812, about the pursuit of an Indian woman (Kaniehtiio Horn) and her two lovers (Justin Rain and Eamon Farren) by the survivors of the American camp they burned to the ground. With Noah Segan, Ezra Buzzington and Jon Huber. (In English, Mohawk and French with subtitles)

Oh Lucy! (Unrated) Poignant character portrait of a lonely cleaning lady (Shinobu Terajima) who travels from Tokyo to Southern California to search for the English teacher (Josh Hartnett) she has a crush on. Featuring Kaho Mnami, Koji Yakusho and Megan Mullally. (In English and Japanese with subtitles)

Souvenir (Unrated) Romance drama about a jaded factory worker (Isabelle Huppert) inspired by a younger colleague (Kevin Azais) to pursue her abandoned dream by entering a national singing contest. With Johan Leysen, Muriel Bersy and Fanny Blanchard. (In French with subtitles)

Submission (Unrated) Adaptation of "Blue Angel," Francine Prose's novel about a best-selling author-turned-English professor (Stanley Tucci) who finds himself attracted to a talented new student (Addison Timlin). Support cast includes Kyra Sedgwick, Janeane Garofalo and Ritchie Coster.

They Remain (Unrated) Suspense thriller revolving around a couple of romantically-linked scientists (William Jackson Harper and Rebecca Henderson) investigating the bizarre behavior of animals on the grounds of an abandoned compound where a cult once committed mass murder.

The Vanishing of Sidney Hall (R for profanity and sexual references) Logan Lerman plays the title character in this whodunit about a writer who disappears without a trace after publishing a best seller. With Elle Fanning, Michelle Monaghan and Nathan Lane.

When They Call You a Terrorist

 
Book Review by Kam Williams

 
When They Call You a Terrorist
A Black Lives Matter Memoir
by Patrisse Khan-Cullors with asha bandele
Foreword by Angela Davis
St. Martin's Press
Hardcover, $24.99
272 pages
ISBN: 978-1-250-17108-5


We have joined the rest of the country in protesting in order to get Trayvon Martin's killer charged. We have gone to meetings and held one-on-ones with community members. We have painted murals. We have wept.
We have said publicly that we are a people in mourning. We have demanded they stop killing us. But we have harmed not one single person nor advocated for it. They have no right to be here!”
And yet I was called a terrorist. The members of our movement are called terrorists. We--me, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi--the three women who founded Black Lives Matter, are called terrorists...
We are not terrorists... I am not a terrorist... I am a survivor."
-- Excerpted from pages 8 and 190


Patrisse Khan-Cullors is one of the last people you'd ever expect to be a founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. It's not a question of her commitment to the cause but rather the host of personal issues that would have crippled the average person. 
 
But this 5' 2" lesbian managed to survive a challenging childhood in a drug-infested ghetto where she and her siblings were raised by a single-mom who worked 16 hours a day to keep a roof over their heads. She didn't even meet her crackhead of a father until she was twelve, as he divided his time between rehab and prison. 
 
One of her brothers not only smoked crack, but was schizophrenic to boot. Consequently, Patrisse became intimately familiar with both the mental health and criminal justice systems. Meanwhile, at school, she was routinely teased and physically attacked for being gay. 
 
To paraphrase Langston Hughes, life for Patrisse ain't been no crystal stair. Nevertheless, when she learned that Trayvon Martin's killer hadn't been arrested by the police, she was so outraged that she created the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter which soon exploded into a nationwide movement.

Although the African-American community appreciated her efforts, the same couldn't be said for the LAPD which labeled Patrisse a terrorist and fabricated a flimsy excuse to conduct a SWAT team raid of her apartment. All of the above is revisited in riveting fashion in When They Call You a Terrorist, a fascinating combination autobiography and blow-by-blow account of the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. 
 
A must-read memoir by a beleaguered grassroots organizer with greatness thrust upon her.



To order a copy of When They Call You a Terrorist, visit: 

 






Thursday, February 22, 2018

Malcolm X: The Lost Tapes


Film Review by Kam Williams



Intriguing Documentary Features Found Footage of Late Civil Rights Icon


Malcolm X (1925-1965) is best remembered as the charismatic spokesperson for the Nation of Islam whose fiery speeches helped the Black Muslims' ranks swell from 6,000 to 75,000 between 1956 and 1961. However, he fell out of favor with the sect's founder, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, soon after making his pilgrimage to Mecca. 
 
While there, Malcolm prayed alongside Muslims of every hue who treated him like a brother. Consequently, upon returning to the States, he announced that he could no longer ascribe to one of his sect's basic tenets, namely, that white people were a genetically-engineered race of devils created in a lab 6,600 years ago by a rogue scientist called Yakub. 
 
Since that claptrap was a core belief upon which the Nation of Islam was founded, Malcolm found himself marked for death for his blasphemous change of heart. And less than a year later, he was assassinated by three members of the Fruit of Islam, the paramilitary wing of the Nation of Islam. 
 
Malcolm X: The Lost Tapes revisits the late icon's abbreviated career. The film features found footage illustrating the late civil rights leader's concern for the welfare of all African-Americans.

For instance, in one snippet, he says: "We're not brutalized because we're Muslims, Baptists or Catholics, but because we're black people living in the United States." Then, attempting to inspire his followers to appreciate their appearance, he asks: "Who taught you to hate the way you look from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet?"

You might be surprised to know that Malcolm attended but did not speak at the historic March on Washington in 1963. Here, he explains why he disagreed with Dr. Martin Luther King's non-violent philosophy. "There is nothing in the Koran that teaches us to suffer peacefully. If someone puts his hands on you, send him to the cemetery!" 
 
He also attempts to convert black military veterans to his cause by declaring that if they were willing to die overseas fighting to save Europeans from Hitler, they ought to be just as eager to shed blood to liberate their own people. Suggesting that it was silly to wait for segregationist Congressmen to end Jim Crow, Malcolm summarizes with a clarion call for "freedom, justice and equality by any means necessary."

An intriguing contribution to the enduring legacy of a common street pimp-turned-revolutionary Muslim firebrand.



Excellent (4 stars)
Unrated
Running time: 51 minutes
Production Studio: 1895 Films
Distributor: Smithsonian Channel


Malcolm X: The Lost Tapes is set to premiere on the Smithsonian Channel on Monday February 26th at 8 pm ET/PT, 7 pm CT.


To see a trailer for Malcolm X: The Lost Tapes, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHOcO-K8UZY


Friday, February 16, 2018

Black Panther

Film Review by Kam Williams


Chadwick Boseman Rises to the Occasion as African King/Marvel Superhero


Chadwick Boseman has already made quite a career out of portraying a variety of prominent African-Americans, from football star Floyd Little (The Express), to baseball great Jackie Robinson (42), to Godfather of Soul James Brown (Get on Up) to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (Marshall). The versatile actor's efforts have been appreciated by the NAACP which has seen fit to nominate him for five Image Awards. 
 
Although Black Panther is a fictional character, the role is ostensibly of no less significance than the historical figures Chadwick has played in the past. That's because black kids have rarely had a superhero that looks like them to root for, even in Africa, where the Lord of the Jungle, Tarzan, was white, too.

Consequently, advance ticket sales for this Afrocentric origins tale have been through the roof, and I'm happy to report that audiences will not be disappointed. For, the film not only features a dignified protagonist and a socially-relevant plotline, but it's also a worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. 
 
The picture was directed by Ryan Coogler (Creed) who made the most of his $200 million budget, between visually-captivating special effects and an A-list cast which includes Academy Award-winners Forest Whitaker (for The Last King of Scotland) and Lupita Nyong'o (for 12 Years a Slave), Oscar-nominee Angela Bassett (for What's Love Got to Do with It), as well as Michael B. Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya and Sterling K. Brown. 
 
At the point of departure, we learn that in ancient times the five tribes of Africa went to war over vibranium, a meteorite which imbues its holder with superhuman powers. Fast-forward to the present and we find T'Challa (Boseman) being summoned home to the fictional nation of Wakanda to assume the reins of power in the wake of the passing of his father, King T'Chaka (John Kani). 
 
Complicating matters is the fact that a number of other warriors covet the throne and that a South African arms smuggler (Andy Serkis) is trying to get his hands on some vibranium. Not to worry. T'Challa has a capable CIA agent (Martin Freeman) and a trio of loyal females on his side in his 16 year-old sister (Letitia Wright), his ex-girlfriend (Nyong'o) and a two-fisted bodyguard (Danai Gurira). 
 
What ensues is an edge of the seat roller coaster ride every bit as entertaining as any Spider-Man, Wonder Woman or other superhero adventure. Simply 'Marvel'-ous!


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for pervasive violent action sequences and a rude gesture
Running time: 134 minutes
Production Studios: Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Pictures
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures


To see a trailer for Black Panther, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxWvtMOGAhw




Thursday, February 15, 2018

Top Ten DVD List for February 20, 2018

 by Kam Williams



This Week’s DVD Releases

The Florida Project [The Sunshine State's Seamy Underbelly]

The Vanishing Black Male [Hisani DuBose's Award-Winning Documentary]

Steve McQueen: American Icon [The Untold True Story of a Hollywood Legend]

Tell Them We Are Rising [The Story of HBCUs]
 

The Star [A Tale of Faith and Friendship]

The Nine Lives of Marion Barry [Mesmerizing Political Biopic]

Resolution Song [Inspirational, Faith-Based Drama]

Broad City: Season 4 [With Over an Hour of Special Features]

Same Kind of Different as Me [Based on the NY Times Best Seller]

Daddy's Home 2 [More Daddies, More Mayhem]

Samson

 
Samson
Film Review by Kam Williams




Biblical Epic Recounts Exploits of Hebrew He-man Handpicked by God


Samson is a popular Biblical figure perhaps best known for being blessed with super-human strength as long as his hair was long. However, regular Sunday school attendees know that there's a lot more to know about the Hebrew he-man introduced in the Book of Judges. 
 
First of all, the arc of his life, mirrored that of Jesus Christ in many ways. For instance, both were the product of a miraculous birth announced by angels. Jesus' mom was a virgin, Samson's was barren. Each was betrayed by a confidante, Judas and Delilah, paid in silver coins. Each ultimately fulfilled a prophecy by delivering their people, the Israelites. And so forth.
Co-directed by Bruce Macdonald and Gabriel Sabloff, Samson is an epic biopic which fleshes out the one-dimensional warrior into a vulnerable soul with a full range of emotions. The picture stars Taylor James in the title role, and Caitlin Leahy as Delilah. 
 
The film unfolds in Gaza in 1170 BC which is where we find the Jews enslaved by the Philistines. But as Samson matured from a boy into a man, it was hard to ignore his threatening combination of ambition and combat skills. So, to show the upstart who's boss, the sadistic King Balek (Billy Zane) arranges a duel with Bolcom (Dylan Williams), a seemingly-invincible behemoth from Egypt. 
 
At first, Samson falters during the fight, prompting a gloating Philistine to ask, "Where's your Hebrew champion now?" a query ostensibly inspired by the Edward G. Robinson's classic line "Where's your Moses now?" uttered in The Ten Commandments. Not to worry. Samson picks himself up off the ground and disposes of the imposing opponent in due time.

Rather than recount what ensues, suffice to say that the story faithfully follows the parable's plotline . That ought to resonate with evangelicals who see the scriptures as history and thus prefer a literal interpretation of the Bible. So don't be surprised to see Samson slay a lion with his bare hands or suddenly lose all his power when shorn of his locks. 
 
An old school religious epic harking back to Cecil B. Demille, replete with mob scenes and breathtaking panoramas.


Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, including battle sequences
Running time: 109 minutes
Production Studios: Boomtown Films / Pure Flix Productions`
Distributor: Pure Flix Entertainment


To see a trailer for Samson, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSolF3QBVBY



Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening February 23, 2018

 
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams


OPENING THIS WEEK

BIG BUDGET FILMS

Annihilation (R for violence, profanity, sexuality and bloody images) Sci-fi thriller based on Jeff VanderMeer's best seller of the same name about a biologist (Natalie Portman) who volunteers to lead a secret mission into the same environmental disaster area where her husband (Oscar Issac) has disappeared. With Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Every Day (PG-13 for profanity, underage drinking, suggestive material and mature themes) Adaptation of David Levithan's NY Times best seller about a 16 year-old girl (Angourie Rice) who falls in love with a ghost that inhabits a different body every day. Supporting cast includes Debby Ryan, Maria Bello and Justice Smith.

Game Night (R for profanity, sexuality and violence) Crime comedy revolving around a couple (Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams) that invites some friends to play a murder mystery, only to have the party turn into a real-life whodunit when the husband's brother (Kyle Chandler) gets kidnapped by what were supposed to be fake thugs. With Sharon Horgan, Billy Magnussen, Lamorne Harris, Camille Chen and Kylie Bunbury. .


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Curvature (Unrated) Sci-fi thriller about a scientist (Lyndsy Fonseca) who travels back in time after a mysterious phone call in order to stop herself from committing a murder. With Linda Hamilton, Glenn Morshower and Noah Bean.

Half Magic (R for frontal nudity, profanity, graphic sexuality and drug use) Heather Graham wrote, directed and stars in this battle-of-the-sexes comedy revolving around three BFFs' (Graham, Angela Kinsey and Stephanie Beatriz) dating and work woes. With Molly Shannon, Johnny Knoxville and Thomas Lennon.

Hannah (Unrated) Charlotte Rampling plays the title character in this intimate portrait of a housekeeper drifting between denial and reality in the wake of her husband's (Andre Wilms) being sent up the river. Featuring Stephanie Van Vyve, Simon Bisschop and Jessica Fanhan. (In French and English with subtitles)

Hichki (Unrated) Bollywood coming-of-age drama about a young woman (Rani Mukerji) with Tourette syndrome who turns her weakness into a strength en route to landing a teaching position at an elite prep school. With Supriya Pilgaonkar and Ivan Rodrigues. (In Hindi with subtitles)

Mute (Unrated) Futuristic sci-fi, set in Berlin in the 2050s, chronicling a mute bartender's (Alexander Skarsgard) desperate search for his missing girlfriend with the help of a couple of U.S. Army surgeons (Paul Ruddd and Justin Theroux) on a mission of their own. Support cast includes Seyneb Saleh, Robert Sheehan and Noel Clarke.

Survivors Guide to Prison (Unrated) Incarceration documentary with practical tips for felons preparing for a stint behind bars. Featuring commentary by Danny Trejo, RZA, Ice-T, Susan Sarandon, Russell Simmons, Busta Rhymes and Q-Tip.

Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? (Unrated) Justice delayed documentary investigating the events surrounding the 1946 killing of a black man in an Alabama convenience store by the owner, the director's great-grandfather, a Ku Klux Klansman.