Friday, July 25, 2014

The Almost Man (FILM REVIEW)



The Almost Man
(Mir Eller Mindre Mann)
Film Review by Kam Williams

Unplanned Pregnancy Pressures Sophomoric Slacker to Mature in Scandinavian Social Satire

            Henrik Sandvik (Henrik Rafaelsen) is a slacker who’s never had to grow up. The 35 year-old underachiever is still doted on by a helicopter mom (Anne Ma Usterud) willing to wait on him hand-and-foot.
His equally-immature BFFs are the same guys he’s hung around since high school. Their boorish behavior ranges from snapping towels on each other in locker room showers, to getting wasted at parties where they proceed to pee off the balcony, flick their boogers, and engage in fistfights and homoerotic horseplay.
None of the above sits well with Henrik’s girlfriend, Tone (Janne Heltberg Haarseth), given how she recently learned that she’s expecting a baby. Her hope is that her beau will finally grow up, now that he’s on the brink of becoming a father. But that might prove easier said than done, considering that his favorite book is Peter Pan.  
The impending arrival of the couple’s bundle of joy lurks over the horizon in The Almost Man, a sublime social satire written and directed by Martin Lund. Unfolding against the backdrop of a variety of visually-captivating Norwegian settings, the film focuses mostly on Tone’s escalating frustrations with Henrik, even after he grudgingly takes a confining corporate job.
It’s not enough that he’s bringing home the bacon, when he blames a temptress he’s caught kissing for having seduced him. He even has the temerity to suggest that Tone have an abortion. But that ain’t happening.
And with only a few months to make over a philanderer who freely admits that “I’m not sure how to behave,” the mad mommy-to-be has her work cut out for her. Will Tone run out of patience before reluctant Henrik is ready to accept his responsibilities?
A droll dramedy examining the male metamorphosis from bachelor to family man.

Very Good (3 stars)
Unrated
In Norwegian with subtitles
Running time: 77 minutes
Distributor: Big World Pictures

To see a trailer for The Almost Man, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zv3DGwrOWJE

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Half of a Yellow Sun (DVD REVIEW)




Half of a Yellow Sun
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Romance Saga Set in Nigeria Released on DVD

            Twins Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) and Olanna (Thandie Newton) hail from a well-to-do Nigerian family well-enough connected to send them overseas to college where they majored in business and sociology, respectively. Ironically, while the sisters were acquiring a first-rate Western education in England, the independence movement back home was seeking to sever its ties with Great Britain.  
            After graduating in the early Sixties, they returned to Lagos to launch their careers, only to land in distracting love affairs. Attractive Olanna became the mistress of Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), an outspoken college professor who’d caught the anti-colonial fever, whereas willful Kainene entertained the advances of Richard (Joseph Mawle), a white expatriate writing a book about African art.
            Sibling rivalry moves Kainene to tease her twin about the philanderer disdainfully referred to as “The Revolutionary.” Nevertheless, Olanna relocates to the bush to be with Odenigbo and his loyal manservant, Ugwu (John Boyega). However, upon subsequently learning that Odenigbo has been unfaithful, she readily rationalizes seducing her sister’s suitor for a one-night stand.
            The resulting strain on the siblings’ relationship leads to their drifting apart, a development dwarfed by the bloody, three-year civil war which erupts all around them when Biafra secedes from the union. All of the above elements add fuel to the fires of Half of a Yellow Sun, the highly-anticipated screen version of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s best-selling novel of the same name.
            The film marks the impressive directorial debut of Biyi Bandele, who also adapted the 543-page opus into a 113-minute saga that walks a fine line between romance drama and sprawling epic. That being said, the picture’s examination of the country’s explosive Christian-Muslim tribal tensions proves to be both timely and compelling, given how they’ve recently resurfaced during the radical group Boko Haram’s current reign of terror.
            A steamy soap opera unfolding against the backdrop of a cautionary history lesson reminding us that in Nigeria, the more things change, the more they stay insane.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for violence and sexuality
Running time: 113 minutes
Distributor: Monterey Video 
DVD extras: Interviews with the cast and crew; “On Location” documentaries; a behind-the-scenes featurette; and “The Kiss,” a short film by Biyi Bandele.

To see a trailer for Half of a Yellow Sun, visit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iq2dNtP-2hU&list=UUJT0RwcR7HRLljiEEvF4x9A  

To order a copy of Half of a Yellow Sun on DVD, visit: 

Top Ten DVD Releases (FEATURE)



This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams


Top Ten DVD List for July 29, 2014                      

Next Goal Wins


The Amazing Catfish


Secret State


Noah


D-Day 360


Half of a Yellow Sun
 

Midsomer Murders: Set 24


The Big Chill [Criterion Collection]


Frontline: United States of Secrets


At War with the Army (Film Chest Restored Version)

 

Honorable Mention

Babar and the Adventures of Badou: Gone Wild
 

Five Dances


PBS Kids: Daniel Tries Something New


Curtains


Bubble Guppies: Get Ready for School

Neverlake


My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic [Keys of Friendship]

Lullaby

Ambert Alert: Terror on the Highway


Tennessee Queer

Dragonwolf

Noah (DVD REVIEW)



Noah
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Russell Crowe Adaptation of Biblical Parable Arrives on DVD 

            Anybody with even a rudimentary knowledge of the Bible is undoubtedly familiar with the story of Noah and the Ark. That scriptural passage, found in Genesis, revolves around a righteous patriarch recruited by God to build a big boat before the arrival of a flood being meted out as divine punishment for man’s many wicked ways.
            Heeding the word of the Lord, he proceeded to construct the mammoth vessel before herding two of each species of animal into the hold. It subsequently rained for 40 days and 40 nights, with water covering the entire Earth’s surface, thereby drowning all of humanity except for his family.
            So, until now, the tale of Noah was basically a simple one about God’s decision to completely wipe the planet of sinners and start over. Leave it to Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky (for Black Swan) to come up with a novel and intriguing reinterpretation of the popular parable recasting Noah as a complicated soul wrestling with inner demons during his quest to do the Lord’s bidding ahead of the impending deluge.    The movie also has an ecological angle, plus some computer-generated monsters ostensibly designed to holds the kids’ interest.    
            The film stars Academy Award-winner Russell Crowe (for Gladiator) in the title role, and features a talented supporting cast which includes fellow Oscar-winners Jennifer Connelly (for A Beautiful Mind) and Anthony Hopkins (for The Silence of the Lambs), three-time nominee Nick Nolte (for Warrior, Affliction and The Prince of Tides), as well as Emma Watson and Ray Winstone.
            The picture opens with what is essentially a Sunday school lesson, a refresher course about the creation of Adam (Adam Griffith) and Eve (Ariane Rinehart) who begat three sons: Cain, Abel and Seth. The evil one, Cain, slew his sibling Abel, and those descending from Cain’s demon seed continued to do the devil’s work by generally exploiting the planet’s natural resources.
            Noah, by contrast, as a son of Seth, learned how to live in harmony with nature. He and his wife (Connelly) raised their sons, Shem (Douglas Booth), Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll) and Ham (Logan Lerman), with the same eco-friendly philosophy.
            Eventually, of course, Noah gets his marching orders from God, and the plot thickens when the steady drizzle develops into a neverending downpour. Suddenly, his nosy neighbors no longer see constructing an ark as such a nutty idea anymore, and it’s going to take a miracle like an army of animatronic angels to keep the desperate hordes from climbing aboard.
            Meanwhile, a visibly-anguished Noah agonizes over what’s about to transpire, and consults his sage, berry-imbibing grandfather, Methuselah (Hopkins). But anticipatory survivor’s guilt ain’t about to alter God’s plan one iota.  
              An alternately introspective and breathtaking Biblical epic, every bit cerebral as it is panoramic!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, suggestive content and disturbing images
Running time: 138 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: Iceland: Extreme Beauty; The Ark Exterior: A Battle for 300 Cubits; and The Ark Interior: Animals Two by Two.

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

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 8-1-14



OPENING THIS WEEK
Kam's Kapsules:      
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         
by Kam Williams
For movies opening August 1, 2014


BIG BUDGET FILMS   

Calvary (R for profanity, sexual references, drug use and brief violence) Psychological drama, set in a tiny seaside town in Ireland, about a Catholic cleric (Brendan Gleeson) who finds his life threatened during confession by an anonymous parishioner who was raped as a child by a pedophile priest.  With M. Emmet Walsh, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly and Domnhall Gleeson (Brendan’s son).

Get on Up (PG-13 for sexuality, drug use, profanity and violence) Chad Boseman portrays James Brown in the biopic chronicling the Godfather of Soul’s rise from abject poverty to the heights of superstardom. Supporting cast includes Keith Robinson, Jill Scott, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer.

Guardians of the Galaxy (PG-13 for profanity, action and intense violence) 10th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe series about an American pilot (Chriss Pratt) who grudgingly teams with a ragtag outfit of extraterrestrial misfits in order to defend the universe against a diabolical villain (Lee Pace) with a twisted religious agenda. Ensemble cast includes Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Zoe Saldana, Djimon Hounsou, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly and Benicio Del Toro.

What If (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and partial nudity) Romantic dramedy revolving around a med school dropout (Daniel Radcliffe) who develops feelings for his BFF (Zoe Kazan) despite the fact that she lives with her longtime boyfriend (Rafe Spall). With Megan Park, Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis.    


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS 

4 Minute Mile (PG-13 for mature themes, violence, drinking, drugs, smoking and profanity) Overcoming-the-odds drama about the unlikely friendship forged between an at-risk teen (Kelly Blatz) and the reclusive, retired track coach (Richard Jenkins) who agrees to train him. With Analeigh Tipton, Kim Basinger, Cam Gigandet and Rhys Coiro.

The Almost Man (Unrated) Changed circumstances satire about a sophomoric, 35 year-old slacker (Henrik Rafaelsen) suddenly forced to mature when he gets his girlfriend (Solvei Grimen Fosse) pregnant. Supporting cast includes Egil Birkeland, Kim Eidhagen and Erik Haugstad. (In Norwegian with subtitles)

Around the Block (Unrated) Aussie drama, set in Sydney, about an aborigine kid (Hunter Page-Lochard) from a broken home who develops a love of acting with the help of his American drama teacher (Christina Ricci). Featuring Matt Nable, Jack Thompson and Daniel Henshall.

Behaving Badly (R for crude sexuality, graphic nudity, drug use and pervasive profanity) Romantic comedy about an awkward teen (Nat Wolff) with a crush on the cutest girl (Selena Gomez) at school. With Elisabeth Shue, Mary-Louise Parker, Dylan McDermott, Gary Busey, Justin Bieber and Heather Graham.

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (Unrated) Third installment in the horror franchise revolves around a bachelor party aboard a Caribbean cruise which is ruined when revelers start becoming infected with a flesh-eating virus right after docking their boat at a remote island. Ensemble includes Sean Astin, Currie Graham, Ryan Donowho, Brando Eaton and Jillian Murray.  

Child of God (R for nudity, profanity, violence and disturbing sexual behavior) James Franco adapted, directed and stars in this crime thriller based on the Cormac McCarthy best seller of the same name about a cave-dwelling serial killer (Scott Haze) terrorizing a Tennessee mountain community. Narrated by Wade Williams and featuring Tim Blake Nelson, Jim Parrack and Fallon Goodson.

Finding Fela! (Unrated) Oscar-winner Alex Gibney (for Taxi to the Dark Side) directed this reverential retrospective recounting the career of Fela Kuti (1938-1997), the Nigerian pop music icon who passed away prematurely after contracting the AIDS virus.    

Louder than Words (PG-13 for mature themes, smoking and brief profanity) Fact-based drama about a grieving couple (David Duchovny and Hope Davis) who decide to build a state-of-the-art children’s hospital after the untimely death of their young daughter (Olivia Steele-Falconer). Cast includes Timothy Hutton, Adelaide Kane and Xander Berkeley.   

War Story (Unrated) PTSD drama about a former Libyan hostage (Catherine Keener) decompressing in Sicily where she divides her time between an ex-lover/mentor (Ben Kingsley) and a young Tunisian (Hafsia Herzi) trying to migrate to France. With Donatella Finocchiaro, Vincenzo Amato and Guido Caprino. (In English and Italian with subtitles)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nine Lives of a Black Panther (BOOK REVIEW)



Nine Lives of a Black Panther:
A Story of Survival
by Wayne Pharr
Chicago Review Press
Hardcover, $26.95
320 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-1-61374-916-6

Book Review by Kam Williams

In the early morning hours of December 8, 1969, 300 officers of the newly-created, elite paramilitary unit known as SWAT initiated a violent battle with a handful of Los Angeles-based members of the Black Panther Party [BPP]… 5 hours and 5,000 rounds of ammunition later, 3 SWAT team members and 3 Panthers lay wounded.
The LAPD considered the encounter a disaster. For the Panthers and community that supported them, the shootout symbolized a victory. A key contributor to that victory was 19 year-old Wayne Pharr. [This book] tells Wayne’s riveting story of the L.A. branch of the BPP, and gives a blow-by-blow account of how it prepared for and survived the massive, military-style attack.”    
-- Excerpted from the dust jacket

The Declaration of Independence states that “All men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” namely, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The sacrosanct document further stipulates that when people are denied those rights by the government, “it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government.”
The Black Panther Party [BPP] was founded out of a frustration felt by folks being denied a fair shot at the American Dream due to segregation and racial discrimination. The revolutionary organization took to heart the Declaration’s clauses asserting a right to rebel in the face of oppression.
After the assassination of Martin Luther King, the fledgling BPP exploded in popularity among the no longer patient black youth of the late Sixties. After all, that generation had come of age watching news reports featuring wave after wave of non-violent martyrs being beaten, hosed and even lynched merely for lobbying to vote or eat at a lunch counter.
Among those attracted to the Party’s socialist philosophy was Wayne Pharr, a kid from Berkeley, California who volunteered his time at the L.A. chapter’s understaffed Watts office before becoming a card-carrying member. However, it wasn’t long thereafter that he landed in a life-and-death situation.  
For, the establishment felt very threatened when Black Panthers started not only opening offices in cities all across the country, but decided to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights in the face of police brutality by publicly brandishing guns. So, the FBI targeted the BPP through COINTELPRO, a covert program design to destroy leftist groups by any means necessary.
And while still in his teens, Wayne ended up trapped inside Panther headquarters during a 5-hour gun battle with the police. He was arrested and charged with a host of offenses, but basically beat the rap, thanks to stellar representation by the late Johnnie “If the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit” Cochran.
            In Nine Lives of a Black Panther: A Story of Survival, Wayne revisits that incident and the rest of the BPP’s turbulent years, a time when he had intimate interactions with such celebrated Party leaders as Huey Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, Geronimo Pratt, Bunchy Carter and Elaine Brown. The before-and-after memoir also recounts the author’s childhood as well as what his life was like in the wake of the assorted struggles which led to the total collapse of the beleaguered organization.
A riveting, warts-and-all retrospective affording an informative inside look at the meteoric rise and equally-fast demise of an iconoclastic African-American movement with a bull’s eye on its back, literally and figuratively.        

To order a copy of Nine Lives of a Black Panther, visit:


Monday, July 21, 2014

Keith Robinson (INTERVIEW)



Keith Robinson
The “Get on Up” Interview
with Kam Williams

Here’s to You, Mr. Robinson!

In a world where talent takes you far, Keith Robinson is ahead of the game. He’s a true triple threat -- having already mastered acting and songwriting, he’s now positioning himself to take over the music world with a velvety voice.

Before he made his way to Tinseltown, the Kentucky native set his sights on music, and attended the University of Georgia. Upon coming to Los Angeles, Keith had a chance meeting with a talent manager who jumpstarted his acting career. Since then, he’s thrived, landing an incredible 50+ projects in television and film while continuing to pursue his musical career-- often placing songs in the acting projects he stars in.

Keith may be best known for his critically acclaimed performance as “C.C. White” in the Academy Award-winning feature film, Dreamgirls. His big solo in the musical, “Patience,” which he also performed live at the Academy Awards, earned an Oscar nomination in the Best Song category. 

After Dreamgirls, he released his debut album, Utopia. On the acting side, he subsequently starred in This Christmas, Dear John, 35 and Ticking, and Hopelessly in June. .
  
Here, Keith talks about his new film, the James Brown biopic Get on Up, where he co-stars opposite Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jill Scott and Dan Aykroyd..


Kam Williams: Hi Keith, thanks for the interview.
Keith RobinsonThanks for having me.

KW: What interested you in Get on Up?
KR: As a musician, I was heavily influenced by James Brown's music. 

KW: What was it like working with Tate Taylor and such a star-studded cast?
KR: Tate is a really cool director because he has a clear vision of what he wants but still gives his actors freedom to collaborate in the process. That's rare. Working with a cast where everyone is really talented puts you at ease, actually. 

KW: How would you describe your character, Baby Roy?
KR: Baby Roy is the young exuberant one who just really loves to perform and be on stage as much as possible. He's what I like to think as the artist who still has those stars in his eyes and believes it's all about the music and hasn't been tainted yet. [LOL] 

KW: What message do you think people will take away from the film?
KR: That James Brown is the epitome of perseverance. You can never underestimate the magnetic power of self belief.  

KW: Are you a James Brown fan? What’s your favorite song of his?
KR:  Absolutely, "I'll Go Crazy," which I recently remade. 
 
And "It’s a Man's World," of course.  

KW: Your big break was when you landed the role on TV as the Green Ranger on the Power Rangers. Did you have a martial arts background?
KR: Not at all. I was just a good athlete and I had been in a few fights.  

KW: You were signed by Motown while you were still a student at the University of Georgia. What prompted your move from music to acting?
KR: I never really made a "move" from one to the other. Acting came second once I moved to Hollywood on a chance audition for the "Power Rangers." I've been doing both ever since. 

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
KR: Hmmm... I think I've heard them all at this point. [Laughs] 

KW: Would you mind saying something controversial that would get this interview tweeted?
KR: [LOL] Reality shows disgust me. Specifically, the ones that make black people look trifling and super melodramatic. You know who you are. 

KW: Have you ever had a near-death experience?
KR: Only in my sleep, thank God.

KW: Have you ever accidentally uncovered a deep secret?
KR:  Yep. 

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
KR: Yeah, I've been afraid--usually right before a movie drops. [Laughs some more]

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
KR: Yesterday. 

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
KR: Twizzlers and naked body surfing.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
KR: Fifty Shades of Grey. I had to see what all the fuss was about… and learn a few new tips.  
 
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 
KR: "True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper. It's on in the background right now. 


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
KR: Salmon.

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
KR: Progress.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
KR: A handsome dude that's come a long way with a long way to go. 

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
KR: Permanent financial security.

KW: Let's say you’re throwing your dream dinner party—who’s invited… and what would you serve?
KR:  Too many to name but it would be the fifty most influential people in the world. It'd be a potluck. I got the salmon and Twizzlers.

KW: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend the time? 
KR:  Eating with family, making love to my girl, and praying. 

KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
KR: A derby horse or a dolphin.  Everybody loves them.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
KR: Me and my brother locking the babysitter outside.  Still not sure how we did it. 

KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
KR:  It made me never underestimate the physical power a heartbreak can have on you. 

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?
KR:  I have on nicer clothes.  

KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?
KR:  Reading minds. I would always get what I want.

KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
KR: Uptown Saturday Night.

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 
KR: Consistency, discipline, and self-belief.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
KR: Consistency, discipline, and self-belief.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: What is your favorite charity?
KR: Boys and Girls Club. 

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
KR:  As an amazing multi-talented artist who told the truth, and as a humble brother who loved his friends and family unconditionally. 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Keith, and best of luck with the film.
KR: Appreciate it, Kam.

To see a trailer for Get on Up, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guOS6ev6hQ0