Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Instant Family



Film Review by Kam Williams


Altruistic Couple Adopts Three Siblings in Inspirational, Real- Life Drama

Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie Wagner (Rose Byrne) are speculators who make a living flipping real estate in their hometown of Atlanta. The couple's latest acquisition is a fixer-upper with five bedrooms they hope to sell to Ellie's sister Kim (Allyn Rachel) and brother-in-law Russ (Tom Segura).
However, Kim and Russ aren't in the market for a house that needs so much work. Furthermore, they're childless with no plans to start a family. So, they simply have no use for a place that large.
Pete and Ellie don't have kids either, but they have been seriously considering adoption. In fact, they've even been checking out photos of available orphans online.
Next thing you know, they're visiting a foster care facility during an adoption fair run by administrators Karen (Octavia Spencer) and Sharon (Tig Notaro). While being escorted around the grounds, Pete hits it off with Lizzy (Isabela Moner), a headstrong, 15 year-old obviously in need of a father figure.
Trouble is, Lizzy has been serving as a surrogate mother to her little brother (Gustavo Quiroz) and sister (Julianna Gamiz), and she doesn't want to be separated from her siblings. Do the Wagners have enough love in their hearts to adopt all three?
Of course they do, and the ensuing adjustment to parenthood is the sum and substance of Instant Family, an inspirational biopic co-written and directed by Sean Anders. The semi-autobiographical adventure is based on Anders own real-life experience.
To its credit, Instant Family does tackle a variety of serious themes ranging from drug abuse, to sexual abuse, to racial tolerance, even if the issues are generally resolved fairly easily. An uplifting adventure apt to lead to an uptick in applications for adoptions.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, drug references and mature themes
Running time: 118 minutes
Production Studio: Closest to the Hole Productions
Studio: Paramount Pictures

To see a trailer for Instant Family, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUfZq3DUd3Y




Monday, November 19, 2018

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening November 23, 2018

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams



WIDE RELEASES


Creed II (PG-13 for violence, profanity and sensuality) Michael B. Jordan reprises the title role in this revenge-fueled sequel which finds the contender being trained by Rocky Balboa (Sly Stallone) for a grudge match with the son (Florian Munteanu) of the boxer (Dolph Lundgren) who killed his father (Carl Weathers) in the ring 33 years ago. With Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris and Russell Hornsby.


The Front Runner (R for profanity and sexual references) Political biopic revisiting the 1988 presidential campaign of Democrat Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) who dropped out of the race after being caught having an extramarital affair with former Miss South Carolina Donna Rice (Sara Paxton). With Vera Farmiga as Lee Hart, Michael Crider as Bob Dole, Spencer Garrett as Bob Woodward, Alfred Molina as Ben Bradlee, and Braden Bunch as Tom Brokaw.


Green Book (PG-13 for violence, mature themes, profanity, racial slurs, smoking and suggestive material) Unlikely-buddies dramedy, set in the Sixties, about the friendship forged between a black classical pianist (Mahershala Ali) and his white chauffeur (Viggo Mortensen) driving around the Deep South during Jim Crow segregation. With Linda Cardellini, Don Stark and P.J. Byrne.


Ralph Breaks the Internet (PG for action and rude humor) Buddy sequel, set six years after the original animated adventure, finds Ralph (John C. Reilly) and BFF Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) embarking on a desperate quest in search of a replacement steering wheel for a broken video game. Voice cast includes Gal Gadot, Jane Lynch and Ed O'Neill.


Robin Hood (PG-13 for action, violence and suggestive material) Taron Egerton plays the title character in this action adventure which has the legendary outlaw joining forces with a former Moorish Crusader (Jamie Foxx) to lead a revolt against a corrupt English crown. With Eve Hewson as Maid Marian, Tim Minchin as Friar Tuck and Ben Mendelsohn as the Sheriff of Nottingham.



INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS


Becoming Astrid (Unrated) Literary biopic about Astrid Lindgren (1907-2002), the Swedish author best known for the Pippi Longstocking series of children's books. (In Swedish and Danish with subtitles)


The Christmas Chronicles (Unrated) Holiday comedy about a brother (Judah Lewis) and sister (Darby Camp) who hatch a plan to catch Santa Claus (Kurt Russell) on camera on Christmas Eve. Cast includes Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Oliver Hudson and Lamorne Morris.


The Favourite (R for profanity, nudity and graphic sexuality) Olivia Colman portrays Queen Anne (1665-1714) in this biopic revolving around the bitter battle between the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) and a servant (Emma Stone) for the frail monarch's friendship and affections. With Emma Delves, Faye Daveney and Paul Swaine.


Shoplifters (R for nudity and sexuality) Crime drama, set in Tokyo, about a poor family that adopts a homeless child (Miyu Sasaki) they meet while stealing from a grocery store. Co-starring Lily Franky, Sakura Ando and Kirin Kiki. (In Japanese with subtitles)


The World before Your Feet (Unrated) New York City documentary chronicling peripatetic Matt Green's 8,000-mile walk covering every block in the Big Apple.









Sunday, November 18, 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Film Review by Kam Williams


Latest J.K. Rowling Romp Revolves around Familiar Clash of Good vs. Evil

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the second in a series of five Harry Potter prequels being written and produced by author J.K. Rowling. The movie was directed by David Yates who made the original Fantastic Beasts as well as Harry Potters 5 through 8.

Set in 1927, the film unfolds six months after the first which ended with the apprehension and imprisonment in New York City of the evil Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). However, while being transported across the proverbial pond to Europe, the dark wizard escapes his captors with the help of his minions.

Next thing you know, he's hatching a diabolical plot to establish a new world order by breeding a race of pure-blood witches and wizards to rule over all “muggles,” aka ordinary people. Ultimately, the hope for saving humanity will rest on the shoulders of the picture's protagonist, Newt Salamander (Eddie Redmayne). 
 
This good wizard is a “magizooligist,” meaning he has an army of supernatural animals at his disposal. Trouble is, Newt has been grounded by the British Ministry of Magic since inadvertently making such an embarrassing mess in the Big Apple during FB1.

Following a successful appeal of the harsh sentence, the unassuming hero's wand and travel rights are restored, setting in motion a series of events leading to an inevitable showdown with the megalomaniacal Grindelwald. Still, the deliberately-paced tale takes a number of nostalgic detours prior to the monumental clash of good vs. evil, thanks to Newt's fervent desire to remain neutral.

So, we're first treated to a string of extraneous subplots, like distracting sidebars revolving around reunions with Professor Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Newt's old flame, Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz). Diehard fans of the franchise are apt to appreciate such time-filling folderol while average audience members might grow increasingly impatient for the visually-captivating action sequences.

Overall, FB2 proves to be an entertaining episode ending on an engaging enough note to keep you curious about the next offering in J.K. Rowling's incomparable Wizarding World series.


Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for action
Running time: 134 minutes
Production Studios: Heyday Films / Warner Brothers Pictures
Studio: Warner Brothers Pictures

To see a trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bYBOVWLNIs

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Girl in the Spider's Web

 
Film Review by Kam Williams


Claire Foy Shows Her Versatility as Feminist Superhero in Reboot of Swedish Suspense Franchise

The late Stieg Larsson (1954-2004) is best remembered as the author of the Millennium trilogy of posthumously-published best sellers, all of which were eventually made into feature films (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest). His Swedish-language psychological thrillers revolved around a crime-fighting duo composed of veteran journalist Mikael Blomkvist and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander. 
 
In 2015, David Lagercrantz wrote the fourth installment in the series, “That Which Does Not Kill Us,” which was lauded as a faithful extension of the famed franchise. That book has now been adapted to the big screen as The Girl in the Spider's Web.

Directed by Fede Alvarez (Don't Breathe), the film co-stars Claire Foy as Lisbeth and Sverrir Gudnason as Mikael. Foy, who won an Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth on The Crown. And she's recently been getting a lot of Oscar buzz for her critically-acclaimed portrayal of astronaut Neil Armstrong's stoic wife, Janet, in First Man.

Here, the versatile thespian exhibits an impressive acting range in a demanding role where she plays a traumatized, incest survivor-turned-righteous vigilante. This incarnation of Lisbeth is not only a brainy, IT expert but a seemingly invincible heroine with an extraordinary set of fighting, driving and survival skills.

As the film unfolds, we find Lisbeth and her sister Camilla (Sylvia Hoeks) being molested by their father as youngsters. The former makes a daring escape from their snow-capped, mountaintop home, saving herself, but leaving her little sis behind to be violated by the monster for years.

Fast-forward to present-day Stockholm where vengeful Lisbeth is in the midst of unleashing a string of sadistic vigilante attacks against some of the city's worst misogynists. However, the plot makes a sharp turn into world politics when she and sidekick Mikael are recruited to disable a dangerous computer program developed by America's National Security Agency capable of sabotaging other countries' nuclear defense systems.

What ensues is a grisly game of cat-and-mouse played by spies equipped with state-of-the-art gadgetry. As the body count escalates, the relentless bloodletting is presented in such a stylized fashion that it's never really upsetting until the humdinger of a reveal during the dramatic denouement. 
 
Kudos to Claire Foy for oh so convincingly reimagining Lisbeth Salander as a cartoonish, feminist superhero on the order of Wonder Woman!


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for violence, profanity, sexuality and nudity
Running time: 117 minutes
Production Studio: MGM / Columbia Pictures / Pascal Pictures / Yellow Bird / Scott Rudin Productions / The Cantillon Company / Regency Enterprises
Studio: Columbia Pictures

To see a trailer for The Girl in the Spider's Web, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKMSP9OKspQ


Monday, November 5, 2018

Nobody's Fool

Film Review by Kam Williams


Classy and Trashy Sisters Square Off in Fish-Out-of-Water Comedy

Danica (Tika Sumpter) and Tanya (Tiffany Haddish) may have been raised by the same mother (Whoopi Goldberg), but they're still as different as night and day. The former is a successful businesswoman who was recently promoted to Vice President of a leading, Madison Avenue advertising firm. By contrast, the latter has spent the last five years behind bars while her sis was climbing the corporate ladder. 

Against her better judgment, Danica decides to take Tanya under her wing when she's paroled. So, she not only lets the hot ghetto mess move into her upscale crib but helps her land a gig as a barista at a trendy coffee shop. 
 
Trouble is, the prison-hardened Tanya is so rough around the edges that she has no idea how to behave in polite society. Consequently, she can often be found cursing, flirting, menacing and hurling racial slurs behind the counter indiscriminately.

Tanya should thank her lucky stars that her gentlemanly boss, Frank (Omari Hardwick), has a crush on her sister. Otherwise, her job might be in jeopardy. Too bad Danica's already in a relationship with a shady character (Mehcad Brooks) she's never met and has only interacted with over the internet, or she might give Mr. Right a chance.

Thus unfolds Nobody's Fool, a fish-out-of-water comedy written and directed by Tyler Perry. Tyler's films invariably feature a sassy, trash-talking sister, whether played by him in drag as Madea or, as in this case, by an actual actress, the irrepressible Tiffany Haddish.

Haddish has been hotter than a pistol since stealing every scene in Girls Trip a year ago. Since then, she's hosted Saturday Night Live and co-starred in Uncle Drew, The Oath and Night School.

The problem with Nobody's Fool is that it feels like Tiffany briefly parachuted in to do her crude shtick and split without worrying about developing any chemistry with the rest of the cast. Yes, she is the comedienne of the moment and, if all you're looking for is her coarse act, there's plenty of that lowbrow fare to enjoy.

But when Haddish is not lighting up the screen with her over-the-top antics, what's left is just a predictable, poorly-plotted, Tyler Perry morality play.


Fair (1 star)
Rated R for sexuality, drug use, ethnic slurs and pervasive profanity
Running time: 110 minutes
Production Studio: Tyler Perry Studios / BET Films / Paramount Players
Studio: Paramount Pictures

To see a trailer for Nobody's Fool, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTxSbKLVnvQ

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody

Image result for bohemian rhapsody fox
 
Film Review by Kam Williams


Riveting Rocktrospective Chronicles the Meteoric Rise of Queen

Prior to seeing Bohemian Rhapsody, I knew precious little about the rock group Queen. Sure, I'd enjoyed lots of their pop hits like “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Another One Bites the Dust,” but I was totally unaware of the legendary, British band's back story.

It was founded in the early Seventies by guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee), drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzallo) and lead singer Farrokh Bulsara, aka Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek). The film fittingly revolves around the flamboyant front man with a four-octave vocal range who also came up with the suggestive name Queen.

Born in Zanzibar and of Persian descent, Freddie's family fled to England when he was 17 to escape ethnic cleansing. In London, he met Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), the woman he would forever consider the love of his life, despite the fact that he was homosexual.

For years, she would serve as the rock Freddie returned to whenever Queen came off the road, until the philandering, flirtatious cross-dresser finally confessed to being gay. Out of the closet, he was suddenly free to engage in the sort of risky sexual behavior that could could catch up with you at the inception of the AIDS epidemic.

Meanwhile, Queen continued to crank out such rock-and-roll anthems as “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.” Eventually, an ailing Freddie would abandon his band mates for a solo career that failed to take off. 
 
All of the above is recounted in fascinating fashion in Bohemian Rhapsody, a riveting rocktrospective directed by Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects). Whether recreating the group's concert performances or offering a peek at their offstage antics, it's always the irrepressible Freddie who's front and center.

Rami Malek delivers an unforgettable performance in a breakout role destined to be remembered come awards season.


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, mature themes, suggestive material and drug use
Running time: 134 minutes
Production Studio: GK Films / New Regency Pictures / Queen Films Ltd. / Regency Enterprises / Tribeca Productions
Studio: 20th Century Fox

To see a trailer for Bohemian Rhapsody, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mP0VHJYFOAU





Indivisible

Image result for indivisible movie
Film Review by Kam Williams


Iraq War Drama Recounts Army Chaplain's Real-Life Ordeal

Soon after completing his seminary studies, Darren Turner (Justin Breuning) was commissioned as an Army Chaplain. He was assigned to Georgia's Fort Stewart, but received orders to ship out to Iraq before he and his family even had a chance to get settled.

Still, Darren and his wife, Heather (Sarah Drew) took the deployment in stride, relying heavily on their faith that he would return safely and have no trouble making the adjustment back to civilian life. This, despite evidence that neighbors like spouse-abusing Michael Lewis (Jason George) had been left severely damaged psychologically by tours of duty overseas. 
 
So, Darren naively bid Heather and their three young children adieu, oblivious of the toll that serving during the 2007 troop surge might take. Stationed at a forward operating base outside Baghdad, he would experience all the horrors of the war: sniper fire, ambushes, improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar attacks.

While Darren was spared physical injury, numerous soldiers that he ministered to were wounded or killed during the intense campaign. Against his better judgment, he routinely hid all the gruesome details of what he was witnessing from his family. 
 
Consequently, Heather came to feel that Darren was no longer connecting with her and the kids. And those suspicions were only confirmed when he arrived home after a year on the front lines. Jumpy and paranoid, the once doting husband and father was now angry, distant and mean.

Her patience wearing thin, Heather tells her husband he needs help. Ultimately, she kicks him out of the house, though praying for forgiveness for “judging something I don't understand myself.”

Thus unfolds Indivisible, a faith-based docudrama recounting the real-life fall from grace of Darren Turner. Co-written and directed by David G. Evans (The Grace Card), the compassionate biopic convincingly conveys the idea that a non-combatant like a chaplain might very well suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

What sets this film apart from most Christian-oriented fare is that its characters are more complex than those simplistically-drawn individuals typically served up by relatively heavy-handed morality plays. Homecoming from war treated as more than merely tying a yellow ribbon around an old oak tree and leaving the rest to Jesus.


Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence and mature themes
Running time: 119 minutes
Production Studio: Reserve Entertainment / WTA / Graceworks Pictures
Studio: Pure Flix / Provident Films

To see a trailer for Indivisible, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtD96nYOE3Q