Friday, August 18, 2017

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening August 25, 2017

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun 
by Kam Williams 


OPENING THIS WEEK

BIG BUDGET FILMS

All Saints (PG for mature themes) Faith-based drama recounting the real-life struggle of a pastor (John Corbett) to save his cash-strapped church by farming its grounds with the help of some Vietnamese refugee congregants. With Nelson Lee, Gregory Alan Williams, Cara Buono and Chonda Pierce.

Birth of the Dragon (for violence, profanity and mature themes) Philip Ng plays Bruce Lee in the biopic, set in San Francisco in the Sixties, and revolving around a showdown between the martial arts legend and a kung fu master (Xia Yu). Cast includes Billy Magnussen, Xing Jing and Terry Chen. (In English and Mandarin with subtitles)

Leap! (PG for action and impolite humor) Animated adventure about an 11 year-old orphan (Elle Fanning) living in Brittany who runs away to Paris with a friend (Nat Wolff) to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a prima ballerina. Voice cast featuring Mel Brooks, Carly Rae Jepsen and Maddie Ziegler.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Bushwick (Unrated) Harrowing tale of survival, set after a bloody riot breaks out on the streets Brooklyn, about a young woman's (Brittany Snow) attempt to get home with the help of an army veteran (Dave Bautista). Cast includes Jeff Lima, Paco Lozano and Christian Navarro.

Good Time (R for violence, drug use, sexuality and pervasive profanity) NYC crime drama revolving around a mobster's (Robert Parkinson) efforts to spring his brother (Ben Safdie) from jail after a botched bank robbery. With Buddy Duress, Barkhad (I'm the Captain, now!") Abdi and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Polina (Unrated) Anastasia Shevtsova handles the title role in this coming-of-age saga about a Russian prima ballerina who leaves the prestigious Bolshoi Company to explore improvisation and modern dance. (In French and Russian with subtitles). With Veronika Zhovnytska, Juliette Binoche and Aleksey Guskov. (In French and Russian with subtitles)

Served Like a Girl (Unrated) Band of Sisters documentary chronicling the efforts of five, female combat vets to help 55,000 homeless comrades suffering from PTSD and other illnesses after serving overseas in Iraq or Afghanistan. 
 
Tulip Fever (R for nudity and sexuality) Romance drama, set in 17th Century Amsterdam, chronicling an artist's (Dane DeHaan) passionate affair with a married woman (Alicia Vikander) whose portrait he's been commissioned to paint. With Christoph Waltz, Zach Galifiniakis and Dame Judi Dench.

Unleashed (Unrated) Romantic comedy about a woman unlucky at love (Kate Micucci) who lands in an unlikely love triangle when her pet pooch (Steve Howey) and cat (Justin Chatwin) mysteriously morph into great guys she'd love to date. Featuring Sean Astin, Josh Brener and Illeana Douglas.

The Villainess (Unrated) Ok-bin Kim plays the title character in this action thriller, set in South Korea, as a trained assassin-turned-aspiring actress forced to take the law into her own hands when a couple of goons (Ha-kyun Shin and Jun Sung) from her former life come a-callin'. With Ye-ji Min, Eun-ji Jo and Seo-hyeong Kim. (In Korean with subtitles)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Hitman's Bodyguard

 
Film Review by Kam Williams


Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds Grudgingly Join Forces in Unlikely-Buddies Comedy


World-class bodyguard Michael Bryce's (Ryan Reynolds) services were in great demand when a Japanese tycoon (Tsuwayuki Saotome) was executed on his watch. That botched operation ruined not only his professional reputation but his romantic relationship with Interpol agent Amelia (Elodie Yung). In fact, his career took such a hit that a couple of years later we find him homeless and reduced to chauffeuring clients around in a beat-up jalopy for a fraction of his former fee.
 
A shot at redemption and at winning back the object of his affection arrives when Amelia surreptitiously approaches him for help protecting Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). He's the key prosecution witness in the trial underway at the International Court of Justice of Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), an Eastern European dictator accused of committing genocide. 
 
Amelia has determined that there's a mole inside of Interpol who has compromised Kincaid's safety. So, the only hope of getting him to court alive is by hiring someone outside the organization. 
 
Trouble is Darius is no altar boy, but a vicious hit man who has murdered hundreds of people. Despite being disgusted by the assassin's grisly resume, Michael grudgingly agrees to escort him from a British prison to The Hague where he's scheduled to testify in less than 24 hours. In return for his cooperation with authorities, Darius bargained for the release of his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek) who is herself sitting behind bars for slitting a guy's throat in a gruesome bar fight. 
 
That is the point of departure of The Hitman's Bodyguard, an unlikely-buddies comedy directed by Aussie Patrick Hill (The Expendables 3). Superficially, the film unfolds like a high-octane, action adventure where a pair of protagonists prove to be impervious to harm from bullets, explosives, pyrotechnics or boat and car crashes . 
 
The production works primarily because of the palpable screen chemistry generated by veteran thespians Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds. However, it does help immeasurably that each of these indestructible characters has been somewhat humanized by their vulnerability to a fetching love interest. 
 
But the guys mostly exchange lighthearted barbs while having a close brush with death every other minute or so as they negotiate their way through a neverending gauntlet of bloodthirsty goons. 
 
An eye-popping, stunt flick chock full of implausible fight and chase scenes orchestrated in accordance with the laws of cartoon physics.




Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for graphic violence and pervasive profanity
Running time: 118 minutes
Distributor: Summit Entertainment


To see a trailer for The Hitman's Bodyguard, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4Afusxc2SM

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Mamoudou Athie

The “Patti Cake$” Interview
with Kam Williams


Mamoudou's Breakthrough Role!

Mamoudou Athie is set to play opposite Brie Larson in her directorial debut, Unicorn Store. He also can be seen in the recurring role of Grandmaster Flash in “The Get Down,” a Netflix series created by Baz Luhrmann.

Mamoudou recently starred opposite Stockard Channing in “Me & Mean Margaret,” a pilot for an NBC sitcom. On the big screen, he appeared alongside Emma Watson and Tom Hanks in The Circle, a suspense thriller based on Dave Eggers’ novel of the same name.

Mamoudou received critical acclaim for his stage debut at New York's Lincoln Center Theater opposite Diane Lane and Tony Shalhoub in The Mystery of Love and Sex. Here, the graduate of the Yale School of Drama discusses his new film, Patti Cake$, an overcoming-the-odds saga revolving around a Rubenesque, white rapper's (Danielle Macdonald) quest for superstardom.


Kam Williams: Hi Mamoudou, thanks for the interview.
Mamoudou Athie: Thank you, Kam.

KW: What interested you in Patti Cake$?
MA: In a nutshell, the script, the director and the character, particularly meeting Geremy [writer/director Geremy Jasper]. I had a sense he was going to make something special. I initially had reservations about my character, Basterd, but I just couldn't get it out of my mind. And the script is one of a kind, yet also familiar in a personal way. Had me laughing aloud as well.

KW: How would you describe the film in 25 words or less?
MA: It's a glorious underdog story with wit, charm, and verve about the illest rapper in Dirty Jerz [aka New Jersey], KIlla P [played by Danielle Macdonald] with no holds barred stunts, high octane high speed car chases, and superheroes galore. And we have 300 million Instagram and Twitter followers.

KW: How did you approach playing Basterd? Did you base him on anybody?
MA: Not on any one particular person. I took something of a dim sum approach to him. He's a mix of some people I grew up around, Geremy's thoughts and influences, for sure, and Mickey Theis, a classmate of mine from YSD [Yale School of Drama]. He's one of the most beautifully sensitive actors I've ever worked with.

KW: What message do you think people will take away from the film?
MA: Go mother-[bleep]-ing hard!

KW: Were you surprised by the performance of your co-star, Danielle Madonald?
MA: Nah, I knew she'd totally slay it after I heard her first track. But when I heard that first track, yes -- I was surprised. That was amazing!

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?
MA: May've been "Stunt Queen" by Bloc Party or Arcade Fire's "Infinite Content."

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?
MA: I don't know . It's kind of a medley, but what sticks out the most is going to the park and zoo with my family and my holographic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle TV. It was half an inch and actually for my action figures, but I loved it more.

KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?
MA: Sure!

KW: Who loved you unconditionally during your formative years?
MA: My family.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
MA: Eggs... I'm lazy..

KW: The Morris Chestnut question: Was there any particular moment in your childhood that inspired you to become the person you are today?
MA: Again, I'm not sure if there was one particular moment, but I'm almost positive my parents have never lied while I've been alive. So they certainly set the bar for morals. I've lied though. Sorry, Moppa.

KW: Sherry Gillam would like to know what is the most important life lesson you've learned so far?
MA: Hmm... I can't say it's THE most important as it's hard to rate these things, but certainly being honest is a good way to sleep well at night. Learned that verrrrrry early. [Chuckles]

KW: What was your very first job?
MA: Cutting grass. I worked at the National Shrine in DC for a spell in 10th grade.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
MA: Depends on the day!

KW: What's the craziest thing you've ever done?
MA: Sorry, I didn't hear that question. Next!

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
MA: Instant worldwide utopia.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
MA: Excess napping and snacking. Shame.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
MA: [LOL] No. That's funny to imagine, though. I'm thinking of a person in an interview wondering, "I wish they'd ask me about this!" while quietly fuming internally.

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
MA: No! There are so many stories that have yet to be told. New content! Infinite content!

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?
MA: The usual.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Mamoudou, and best of luck with Patti Cake$.
MA: Thank you so much, Kam.

To see a trailer for Patti Cake$, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-591Dqa48g

Alien: Covenant

 
Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

9th Episode in the Sci-Fi Series Certain to Scare the Living Daylights Out of You

Alien: Covenant is the 9th episode in the enduring, sci-fi franchise launched back in 1979, provided you count the trio of Alien vs. Predator spinoffs. This installment is a sequel to Prometheus (2012) which devoted fans know was a prequel to the original. Covenant was directed by the legendary Ridley Scott who also made the first and the previous picture in the series.

As the futuristic tale unfolds, we find the spaceship Covenant hurtling through the ether on a mission to colonize a distant star with its cargo of 2,000 cryogenic humans and 1,140 frozen embryos. The crew, under the command of Captain Jacob Branson (James Franco), is composed of seven couples plus a state-of-the-art android named Walter (Michael Fassbender).

Before they reach their destination, the vessel is damaged by a "shock wave generated by a neutrino burst from a solar flare," whatever that pretentious, scientific jargon means. The upshot is that the accident conveniently dovetails with the arrival of mysterious radio signals that appear to be human in nature.

Curiosity gets the better of them, and they divert the crippled craft to the source of the transmissions, an uncharted planet nearby. Against their better judgment, they dispatch an expedition team to the surface to determine whether the place is habitable and might thus serve as a substitute settlement spot for their hibernating pod people. 
 
Unfortunately, the intrepid explorers are blissfully unaware that they're being contaminated by a monstrous, microscopic virus that can enter a body through any open orifice. After a brief gestation period, the opportunistic infection drains the hosts of their vitality while simultaneously morphing into the drooling, gelatinous, man-eating creatures long associated with the Alien adventures. 
 
This doesn't bode well for the Covenant, and what ensues is a high burn-rate affair in which crew members are gradually picked off one-by-one, with each succumbing to a demise a little more grisly than the last. To paraphrase, the franchise's immortal, inaugural tagline: In space, no one can still hear you scream, or save you from a body-snatching chestburster either. 

A blood-curdling sequel and worthy addition to the series certain to scare the living daylights out of you! 


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for violence, profanity, sexuality, nudity and bloody images
Running time: 122 minutes
Distributor: Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Audio commentary by Ridley Scott; a dozen deleted and extended scenes; Meet Walter; Phobos; The Last Supper; The Crossing; Advent; Master Class: Ridley Scott; theatrical trailers; and David’s illustrations.

To see a trailer for Alien: Covenant, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0VW6sg50Pk

To order a copy of the Alien: Covenant Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit:  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Top Ten DVD List for August 15, 2017

by Kam Williams


This Week’s DVD Releases

Everything, Everything [Bubble Girl Courted by Boy Next-Door]

Bluebeard [South Korean Suspense Thriller]

Murdoch Mysteries: Season 10 [Police Drama Set in Toronto in the Gay Nineties]

Alien: Covenant [Ridley Scott Returns to Direct Storied Sci-Fi Series]

Britney Ever After [Britney Spears Biopic]

Mickey and the Roadster Racers [Start Your Engines]

Hickok [Legendary Wild Bill Hickok Western]

Baby Steps [Gay Asian Coming Out Dramedy]

Digimon Adventure Tri: Determination [Dubbed Version of Popular Anime Movie]

How to Be a Latin Lover [Jilted Gigolo Seduces Wealthy Widow]



Honorable Mention

The Blacklist: Season Four [Crime Thriller TV Series]

Revolting Rhymes [Based on Classic Tales by Roald Dahl]

Once upon a Time in Venice [Purloined Pooch Whodunit]



Everything, Everything



Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams


Adaptation of Bittersweet Best Seller Arrives on Home Video

It's Maddy Whittier's (Amandla Stenburg) 18th birthday, but she won't be celebrating the occasion at a party or restaurant. In fact, she won't be leaving the house or even having friends over anytime soon. 
 
That's because she has SCID, a rare genetic disorder that basically makes her allergic to everything. Consequently, she's been stuck inside a hermetically-sealed house since being diagnosed with the disease at the age of 3, shortly after her father and brother's untimely deaths in a terrible car crash.

Lucky for Maddy, her mom, Pauline (Anika Noni Rose), is a physician who could afford to raise her in a luxurious, if sterile, environment free of the germs that could compromise her immune system in an instant. Although Maddy grew up curious about the outside world, she's gotten used to exploring it over the internet with the help of online courses and a support group for kids with her sickness. 
 
Then, Maddy receives the best birthday gift she could ever imagine when new neighbors move in right next-door. For, one member of the family, Olly (Nick Robinson), is a boy about her own age. And all it takes is a glance through the glass window for the handsome hunk to fall head-over-heels in love with her. 
 
The ardent admirer uses sign language to ask Maddy for her phone number, before typing "U R beautiful" in his very first text. Olly's zeal only increases upon learning about her crippling affliction, and he asks if there's any way he could be decontaminated to come over for a visit. 
 
But that's against doctor's orders, especially mom's, which forces the lovebirds to admire each other from afar. Hormones raging, Maddy is suddenly discontent with her sheltered existence in an antiseptic gilded cage. 
 
Will she recklessly abandon the protective bubble to rush into the arms of a perfect Prince Charming she barely knows? That is the burning question at the heart of Everything, Everything, a bittersweet, bildungsroman based on the young adult novel by Nicola Yoon. The picture was directed by Stella Meghie who successfully adapted the book into a syrupy soap opera certain to satisfy fans of the source material. 
 
A tender enough tearjerker to dehydrate even this crabby curmudgeon!


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and brief sensuality
Running time: 96 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Trapped in Love: The Story of Everything, Everything; and deleted scenes.



To see a trailer for Everything, Everything, visit:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42KNwQ6u42U


To order a copy of the Everything, Everything Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack , visit:

Friday, August 11, 2017

In This Corner of the World


 
Film Review by Kam Williams




Evocative Anime Chronicles WWII from Hiroshima Native's Point-of-View


On August 6, 1945, President Truman took to the radio to announce that "the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base." Truth be told, only about 15% of the 140,000 people killed by the blast were Japanese soldiers. Nevertheless, the history books have routinely ignored the fact that the vast majority of the casualties were civilians, in favor of crediting the Manhattan Project, a top secret scientific project, for the mammoth explosion hastening the conclusion of World War II. 
 
If you've ever wondered what it might've been like to live in Hiroshima before it was vaporized, submitted for your approval is In This Corner of the World, an evocative anime presented from the perspective of a young woman born and raised in the ill-fated city. The poignant tale covers over a dozen years in the life of Suzu Urano (Rena Nouren), an aspiring artist with a vivid imagination. 
 
The story unfolds in 1933, when we find her dream of drawing as a vocation frustrated by her having to work in the family seaweed business. That hope grows even fainter after the outbreak of the war when resources become rationed and just finding pencils to doodle with proves to be an exercise in futility. 
 
The plot thickens when she is courted by Shusaku (Yoshinasa Hosaya), a sailor from a neighboring seaport called Kure. After they wed, she relocates to the city, and resides with his family for the duration of the hostilities. 
 
That means she's away from her hometown on the fateful day that it's blown to smithereens. Nevertheless, she's deeply affected, as so many people and places dear to her heart disappear in an instant. 
 
A timely morality play, indeed, given the dire apocalyptic threats currently being traded between the unhinged leaders of America and North Korea.



Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and war images
Running time: 129 minutes
Production Studio: Mappa / Genco
Distributor: Shout! Factory


To see a trailer for In This Corner of the World, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaRqwKfMlKU