Film Review by Kam Williams
Reverential Retrospective Revisits Abbreviated Life of Legendary Jazz Great
Legendary jazz great Lee Morgan (1938-1972) was born and raised in Philadelphia where he received his first trumpet as a gift from his sister on his 13th birthday. He soon became a protege of Clifford Brown who would die in a car accident at the tender age of 25.
Lee passed away prematurely, too, though he was murdered by his common-law wife, Helen, in a fit of jealous rage. She blew him away in between sets at a Greenwich Village cabaret because not only was he cheating on her but had the temerity to bring his mistress with him to the club that night.
Written and directed by Kasper Collin, I Called Him Morgan is a warts-and-all retrospective chronicling the highs and lows of Lee's checkered career. He enjoyed a meteoric rise as a member of Dizzy Gillespie's big band while still in his teens, only to eventually become broke because of a heroin habit that made him so unreliable that nobody in the music industry would hire him anymore.
Upon bottoming out, Lee was lucky to meet Helen, a woman 14 years his senior who put him in rehab and let him move into her Manhattan apartment after he got cleaned up. She subsequently became both his lover and his business manager, negotiating deals and escorting him to gigs.
Initially very grateful, Lee proceeded to make the most of the shot at redemption she afforded him. He resumed performing and churning out albums, and became a very productive and respected member of the jazz community again.
Unfortunately, the accolades and attention accompanying success apparently went straight to his head, and he started taking Helen for granted. Lee had an eyes for the ladies and, when he stopped coming home at night, Helen issued him a warning that she couldn't handle such insulting mistreatment.
Their turbulent relationship came to a head on the night of February 19, 1972 after a heated exchange at Slug's Saloon . First, Lee's new girlfriend confronted Helen. Helen then slapped Lee. Lee tossed Helen out of the bar and into a blizzard without a coat. Helen came back with the gun Lee had given her for protection and shot her philandering man once in the chest. Since it took an ambulance over an hour to arrive due to the heavy snowfall, Lee bled out.
What makes this film so fascinating is that much of it is narrated by Helen herself, albeit posthumously. For, just one month before she died in March of 1996, she sat down to talk with a music professor who recorded her life story for posterity. Besides that audiotape, the documentary features file concert footage, plus the reflections of many of Lee's contemporaries: Ben Maupin, Wayne Shorter, Benny Maupin, Billy Harper and more.
To paraphrase an age-old maxim, Hell hath no fury like a Helen scorned!
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 92 minutes
Production Studio: Kasper Collin Produktion
Distributor: Submarine Deluxe
To see a trailer for I Called Him Morgan, visit: https://vimeo.com/181151415
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Black Pearl Media Works produces artistic, entertaining, profitable media that explores humanity through the lens of black cultures worldwide.
Emmy award winning independent filmmaker, Dante James is pleased to announce the formation of Black Pearl Media Works, LLC (BPMW). The multi-media production company has received partial financing for two projects; a feature length documentary, God of The Oppressed and a series of dramatic short films, In Our Own Words.
“It has taken many years to marshal my own resources and cultivate a relationship with an investor who understands the importance of resources from black financiers,” James said in discussing the challenges facing black filmmakers.
“We believe this approach will shield projects grounded in our history and culture from the ‘filters’ that often come with resources from entities outside of our community, James said. For many years, I made films for PBS, however as a black man, independent filmmaker and activist coupled with the challenges black people face I’m committed to making the strongest, and most creative statements possible in my films. For me that was not possible with PBS. I’m not criticizing PBS or rejecting resources from outside our community but artistic and editorial control is a prerequisite. My new projects are representative of my desire to explore humanity through the lens of the black experience ‘unfiltered’ by the dominate culture.”
In Our Own Words, presents a creative chronicle of the African American experience through short stories by iconic and lesser-known black writers, some of whom could not get past the publishing ‘filters’ they encountered. The concept for the series is grounded in self-definition paired with concerns regarding the degrading, shallow images of African Americans, that are too prevalent in corporate controlled media. Unfortunately, many of these images are created by black people.
“Now with new means of distribution, liberated black filmmakers have opportunities to redefine the images of black people. Too often the view of black life is demeaning and perverted to the point that it has become the perception of who we are and that perception is literally and figuratively destroying us. More accurate definitions of who we are can be found in our literature,” James said.
Black writers have defined their own world, moving beyond the traditional definitions often imposed on them. The short stories of In Our Own Words will be selected by outstanding African American literature scholars, Maryemma Graham, Ph.D. and Joycelyn Moody, Ph.D. The first film of the series, THE DOLL, based on a short story by Charles W. Chesnutt was completed several years ago. It was awarded best dramatic short at the Hollywood Black Film Festival.
Through the stories of Nat Turner, Bishop Henry McNeil Turner, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Rev. Traci Blackmon and others, God of the Oppressed will explore Black Liberation and Womanist Theology. Stories, characters and gospel music will celebrate and frame a perspective of God within the context of an oppressed people. Prof. James Cone, author of the book, God of the Oppressed, will serve as chief academic advisor. Cone argues for a theology constructed from the experiences of black people who understand God’s role in liberating those crying for the pain to end. He challenges theologians to abandon the white system defining the meaning of God. Cone’s work challenges black men and women to listen to the voices of black people to construct a theology framed from their experiences.
Rev. Carl Kenney, a black liberation theology minister will be a co-producer. Kenney said. "Let my people go, is the age-old cry of black people holding to the claim that God loves the oppressed. Black theology isn't passive it fights for freedom while refuting claims of inferiority.”
God of the Oppressed is an extension of Dante James’ work as the executive producer of THIS FAR BY FAITH, the final series from Blackside Films. Both projects will begin pre-production immediately, however BPMW is seeking additional investors/partners with those who recognize the domestic and international profit potential of these projects, appreciate black culture and literature and are concerned about the shallow interpretations of black experiences. Media inquiries and interested investors should call Dante at 919-475-9879 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Job applicants can apply a www.blackpearlmw.com.
In closing James stated, “these projects will require producers, directors, actors, screenwriters and other production personnel. Hopefully, they will be a vehicle to put our people to work telling stories that explore our experiences from our point of view. I also see this work and this new company as a connection to my friend and mentor the late Henry Hampton.”
Posted by Kam at 6:19 PM
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity and brief frontal nudity
Running time: 84 minutes
Distributor: Monterey Media
To see a trailer for The Levelling, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNC8SeWPiw4
Posted by Kam at 1:04 PM
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Film Review by Kam Williams
Microscopic Martian Matter Morphs into Monster in Outer Space Screamfest
In recent years, Hollywood has started serving up some outer space adventures, a la The Martian (2015) and The Space between Us (2017), suggesting that the Red Planet is basically a benign environment free of any hostile creatures. But just when we thought it was safe to visit Mars again, along comes Life, a cautionary horror flick unleashing a terrifying alien force aboard an international space station.
Directed by Daniel Espinosa (Safe House), the claustrophobic thriller co-stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds as Dr. David Jordan and Roy Adams, respectively, the Pilgrim 7's flight engineer and chief medical officer. The balance of the six-person crew is composed of Center for Disease Control quarantine specialist Dr. Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), systems engineer Sho Kendo (Hiroyuki Sanada), eco-biologist Dr. Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) and the spaceship's captain, Katerina Golovkin (Olga Dihovichnaya).
As the film unfolds, we learn that their appointed mission is merely to deliver a single-cell organism arriving via space probe from the surface of Mars. It all sounds easy enough as the disarming plotline initially devotes itself to developing the characters' back stories, like how David is a disenchanted, Iraq War vet.
Upon retrieving the capsule, they celebrate the discovery of the first incontrovertible proof of life beyond Earth. They even allow Sho's daughter to give the ostensibly-innocuous substance a cute, cuddly name, oblivious of the danger lurking just over the horizon.
The plot thickens when "Calvin" begins reproducing via mitosis, and every cell of its luminescent ectoplasmic mass proves to be an irrepressible mix of brains and muscles. By day 25, the sentient creature develops proto-appendages and becomes strong enough to breach containment.
Initially, it nibbles on a finger of Hugh's, who somehow discerns that "Calvin doesn't hate us, but he's got to kill us to survive." Great. What ensues is a desperate race against time to return to Earth before the mushrooming monster devours them all, one-by-one.
Though reminiscent of such sci-fi classics as Alien (1979) and Species (1995), Life is a worthwhile addition to the extraterrestrial on the loose genre. Substantial credit in this regard goes to the ever-underappreciated Jake Gyllenhaal who turns in the latest in a long line of impressive performances which includes outings in Nocturnal Animals (2016), Southpaw (2015), Nightcrawler (2014) and Prisoners (2013), to name a few.
Strap yourself in for a cardiovascular screamfest that'll keep you squirming in your seat. A riveting reminder that it still ain't smart to mess with Mother Nature!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for violence, terror and pervasive profanity
In English, Japanese and Chinese with subtitles
Running time: 103 minutes
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
To see a trailer for Life, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeLsJfGmY_Y
Posted by Kam at 4:09 PM
Saturday, March 18, 2017
Posted by Kam at 6:51 PM
Friday, March 17, 2017
BIG BUGET FILMS
Posted by Kam at 10:47 AM
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams
Ben Affleck Directs and Stars in Gruesome Gangster Saga
Dennis Lehane has enjoyed phenomenal success not only as a novelist but writing directly for TV (Boardwalk Empire and The Wire). And several of his crime thrillers have been brought to the big screen, including Mystic River, Shutter Island and Gone, Baby, Gone.
In 2007, Ben Affleck directed Gone, Baby, Gone, staying behind the camera while letting his little brother, Casey, play the picture's protagonist. But in the case of Live by Night, the latest adaptation of a Lehane best seller, Ben has opted to do double duty as both star and filmmaker.
He will likely be second-guessed for that decision, since his acting proves to be the weak link in an otherwise first-rate production. The trouble is that his limited range often leaves the audience wondering whether his character is being sincere or sarcastic.
The action unfolds in Boston at the height of Prohibition which is where we are introduced to small-time crook Joe Coughlin (Affleck). Trouble is, he's the black sheep of a prominent Irish family whose patriarch (Brendan Gleeson) is the city's Deputy Chief of Police.
Of course, that proves easier said than done for the "made man," so the body count must rise before the dust settles. Despite Ben's wooden performance and an overstuffed production which rushes along ostensibly to cover all the ground of the 400+ page novel, Affleck has another hit on his hands with this chilling adaptation of Lehane's gruesome gangster saga.
Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, nudity, graphic violence and pervasive profanity and ethnic slurs
Running time: 129 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group
Posted by Kam at 11:58 AM