Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sunny 101 (BOOK REVIEW)

Sunny 101
The 10 Commandments of a Boss Chick
by Sunshine Smith-Williams
Voices International Publications
Paperback, $14.95
178 pages,
ISBN: 978-0-9911041-6-1

Book Review by Kam Williams

“[This book] was written on top of my bunk bed in a room I shared with five other roommates at Danbury Federal Prison Camp... In September 2014, instead of starting fall classes to obtain my master's degree in business, I had to withdraw from college to prepare myself mentally, emotionally, and financially to go back to prison to serve my sentence for Conspiracy to Negotiate Counterfeit Money...

I thought imprisonment would be the worst experience in my life, but God has turned my journey around and used it for my good. I always wanted to write a book, but with my busy schedule I never had the time. 
 
My stay behind bars has given me a well-needed period to focus, reanalyze my life, and acknowledge my shortcomings, which I openly share with you. I'm writing this book to encourage all women, no matter how old or young you are, to push ahead! 

Don't focus on how big your problems may seem. Instead, focus on how big your God is! He has personally proven Himself to me!” 
 
-- Excerpted from the Afterword (pages 153-154)


Piper Kerman did a year at the Federal Correctional Facility in Danbury, Connecticut after getting convicted for money laundering. However, she made the most of that temporary setback by writing ”Orange Is the New Black,” a cautionary tale about her experience behind bars. The memoir was subsequently adapted into an Emmy-winning television series which is now in its third season. 
 
So, the similarities between that book and “Sunny 101: The 10 Commandments of a Boss Chick” were not lost on this reviewer. I couldn't help but notice that Sunshine Smith-Williams, aka Sunny Money Queens, wrote her how-to tome while also incarcerated at Danbury for a money-related felony. Perhaps she's hoping that lightning strikes twice and that her opus ends up on TV, too.
Despite her recent fall from grace, Sunny Money is apparently “a successful author, manager, film producer, real estate broker, legal consultant and co-owner of a thriving chain of shoe stores” who has “run several other profitable business ventures.” More importantly, this very together wife and mother is a “Boss Chick,” a term she defines as”a woman who can acknowledge her mistakes and use them as a platform for greater success.” And, as a Born Again believer, she's decided to share her secrets in the form of a revised 10 Commandments. 
 
Besides being a little skeptical about Ms. Smith-Williams claims, I was disappointed by her tendency to talk in platitudes and by the profusion of typographical errors on the book's pages. Did it have an editor? Nevertheless, if you're willing to forgive those weaknesses, the author does have a number of worthwhile messages to share with her target audience of at-risk females. 
 
Her First Commandment is “Thou shall love yourself,” since “the first step to becoming a Boss Chick is to love and protect yourself at all cost!” Given the high out-of-wedlock birth-rate in the black community, impressionable young sisters would do well to heed the Fifth Commandment's dictate that “Thou shall not allow lust to make you a mother before love makes you a wife.” Furthermore, to avoid becoming ensnared in the Prison-Industrial Complex, the Tenth Commandment suggests “Thou shall be leery of the company you keep.” 
 
A 21st Century variation of the God-ordained principles brought down on stone tablets from Mount Sinai by Moses, now updated by a Boss Chick with the practical concerns of today's African-American females uppermost in mind.


To order a copy of Sunny 101, visit:

Monday, August 3, 2015

Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell (INTERVIEW)

Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell
The “Fantastic Four” Interview
with Kam Williams

The Funtastic Three!

Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell co-star along with Miles Teller as the Fantastic Four. Michael plays Johnny Storm, Kate plays his adopted sister, Sue, and Jamie plays Ben Grimm, aka The Thing.

Here, the talented trio talk about the reboot of the beloved Marvel Comics film franchise.

Kam Williams: Hi Michael, Thanks for this opportunity to speak with you again. And it's nice to make your acquaintances, Kate and Jamie.
Michael B. Jordan: Hey, what's going on, Kam?
Kate Mara: Hi
Jamie Bell: Hi, Kam.

Kam: I just want to let you know that I have more questions for the three of you you than we can get to, but if you answer succinctly, we might get through a lot of them.
Jamie: No problem. We like answering quickly.

Kam: Sangeetha Subramanian says: I'm so excited you all were cast! Did you get any advice from the actors who previously played your roles?
Kate: I had not met Jessica Alba until recently, actually. We were on an airplane together.
Jamie: Weirdly, Michael Chiklis was also on a plane I was on. But I was too scared to talk to him. Michael, did you speak to Chris [Evans]?
Michael: I talked to Chris when I met him at a Vanity Fair party right before we started shooting. We laughed about it and thought it was cool. He said, “Go do a great job.” That was it.
Kate: Do a good job. That's good advice Chris has.
Jamie: Exactly!

Kam: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: What’s it like to be called—and to have to be—fantastic?
Jamie: I wish Miles [Teller] were here. Miles would say, “It's easy.” [All three laugh]
Michael: Seriously, it's pretty cool.
Jamie: It's an honor.
Kate: Yeah.
Kam: Harriet also asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
Jamie: I don't know.
Michael: Repo Men.
Kate: I'd like to remake Gypsy, and play the stripper. [Everybody laughs]

Kam: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: How did you prepare to play your roles?
Michael: I think it was already programmed into me from reading the comic books and being so familiar with Johnny growing up. So, there wasn't really too much preparation for it, since I already knew his characteristics.
Kate: A lot of the preparation was just in talking to our director about our characters and about what the journey was going to be like for them.

Kam: I really enjoyed how much attention the picture paid to the characters' formative years.
Kate: That aspect of the film was one of the things that really excited me, when I read the script. Learning about these characters before they become superheroes.

Kam: Bernadette also asks: If you could have a "superhuman" power in real-life, what would you choose?
Michael: The ability to teleport.
Jamie: Oh, yeah, Teleportation!
Kate: I think I'd like to be able to fly. That would be a cool superpower.

Kam: Professor/Filmmaker/Author Hisani Dubose asks: Michael: Which was tougher: Climbing the Hollywood showbiz ladder or growing up in Newark?
Kate: [Exclaims] Ooooooh! [Then chuckles]
Michael: That's pretty good. That's a good question. I'll say, growing up in Newark wasn't easy by any means, but having a solid family foundation and the community really pushed me forward. So, I had an easier route than most. I've certainly been blessed. The Hollywood industry is pretty rough for anybody, regardless of background, as Jamie, Kate or anybody else enjoying longevity and true success can attest to.

Kam: Danielle Hamilton asks Michael: What's your favorite place to hang out in Brooklyn?
Michael: [Long pause]
Kate: Don't tell her, Michael.
Michael: I was prepared to answer that question, Kam, but I've been advised not to. [Everybody laughs]
Kam: Don't worry, she's not a stalker. She's an attorney.
Michael: I don't really spend that much time in Brooklyn. I'm from Jersey. I could help if she wanted to go hang out in Newark.
Kam: I think Danielle thought you lived in Brooklyn.
Jamie: She's not a very good stalker, if she thinks he's from Brooklyn.
Michael: Yeah, she's not a stalker at all. [Everybody laughs]

Kam: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
Kate: No.
Michael: That's a great question.
Jamie: That IS a great question. I wish I had more time to think about it.
Kate: Miles would have a great answer for it.
Jamie and Michael: Yeah, he would.

Kam: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
Michael: ”God's Promises for Your Every Need.”

Kate: ”The Girl on the Train.”

Jamie: ”The Martian.”


 
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
Michael: My homemade mashed potatoes from scratch. You've got to use Yukon Gold potatoes, though.
Jamie: Yeah, yeah. Totally! They're the best for mashing.
Kate: I don't cook. I need someone to cook for me. [They all laugh]

Kam: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
Michael: I know you don't want the real answer. So, I'm going to go with “trouble.”
Kate: Yeah, I see trouble.
Jamie: I see trouble, too. [Everybody laughs again]
Kam: Jamie, you found fame very early in life when you played the title character in Billy Elliot. How did you avoid all the pitfalls that plagued so many child stars?
Jamie: I don't know. I can't say that I avoided all the pitfalls. I've been lucky to have a lot of people close to me who keep me very sane and normal.
Kate: Jamie's just an amazing person, and no amount of success would ever change the way he is.
Jamie: Thanks, Kate!

Kam: 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?
Kate: I usually just walk around in sweatpants at home. I don't wear all that fancy stuff.
Michael: I walk around naked at home. That's the biggest difference. [Everybody laughs]

Kam: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
[All three look at each other and laugh heartily]
Kate: That's my favorite dirty joke. I can't answer that. World peace.
Jamie: Yeah, world peace. [They all laugh some more]

Kam: The “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan’s question: What’s your dream locale in Los Angeles to live?
Jamie: I don't want to say.
Kate: I don't want to say, either. I'll just say Eastside.
Jamie: Eastside, for sure.
Michael: I'm an East Coast kind of guy.

Kam: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
Jamie: Good question! As a nice dude who wasn't particularly annoying. And as just a regular guy.
Kate: As generous and kind.
Michael: I'd be happy just to be remembered at all.

Kam: What’s in your wallet?
Michael: I actually don't have a wallet.
Kate: And I forgot mine.
Michael: Really?
Kate: Yeah.
Jamie: Let me check.... A gym membership to a Gold's gym in Richmond. But I don't even live in Richmond, so I should cancel it.
Kate: [Laughs]

Kam: Thanks again for the time, and best of luck with the film.
Michael: Thanks, Kam.
Kate: Take care, Kam.
Jamie: Great questions by the way.

To see a trailer for Fantastic Four, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuV4BCYv-YY

Friday, July 31, 2015

Top Ten DVD Releases for 8-4-15

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams


Top Ten DVD List for August 4, 2015

How to Get Away with Murder: Season One

Message from Hiroshima

TV Guide Classics: The Adventures of Robin Hood [39 Classic Episodes]

 
Murdoch Mysteries: Season Eight

Home

The Wild West with Ray Mears

A Little Chaos

Jerusalem Stories

Antarctic Edge

Chocolate City


Honorable Mention

The Comeback [All 21 Episodes]

Looney Tunes: Rabbits Run

Blackbird

I Dream of Wires

Peppa Pig: School Bus Trip

Mad Love [20th Anniversary Edition]


Stand

Black & White: The Dawn of Assault

Seashore

Toolbox Murders 2 [aka Coffin Baby]

Into the Grizzly Maze

Appetites

Burying the Ex
Phantom Halo

Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal



Chocolate City (DVD REVIEW)

Chocolate City
DVD Review by Kam Williams

African-American Answer to Magic Mike Released on DVD

Cash-strapped Katherine McCoy (Vivica A. Fox) is holding down a couple of jobs to make ends meet while praying that her sons stay on the straight and narrow path until they can make it out of the ghetto. Though grown, both boys still live at home; yet neither is helping their struggling single-mom much, financially.
At least the younger one, Michael (Robert Ri’chard), is close to graduating from college and works part-time at a diner as a short order chef. But he hasn’t even been able to save enough from that minimum wage position to have his car fixed, so he has to travel around Los Angeles via bicycle. By comparison, his 30 year-old brother Chris (DeRay Davis) is a trash-talking hustler who’s more interested in hanging out on the streets than in finding gainful employment.
The siblings’ fortunes change the day they decide to patronize the local gentlemen’s club. For, while Michael is relieving himself in the men’s room, he’s approached by the owner (Michael Jai White) about stripping there on Ladies’ Night.
Initially, the handsome hunk hesitates out of concern about how his girlfriend (Imani Hakim) and his Bible-thumping mother might react to his moonlighting in his birthday suit. However, after taking the time to watch girls go gaga over other buff beefcake (played by Tyson Beckford, Ginuwine and others), he decides to throw caution to the wind.
So, on the advice of his brother-turned-promoter, he takes the stage name “Sexy Chocolate.” I suppose “Magic Mike” might have been a tad too transparent, even for this unapologetic rip-off.
Nevertheless, despite soon raking in the big bucks, Michael’s life starts to come apart at the seams. His grades plunge from As to Fs. His mother becomes suspicious about whether his sudden gains are ill-gotten. And his girlfriend gets the surprise of her life the evening she shows up at the club to take in a show with her BFFs in tow.
Written and directed by Jean-Claude La Marre (the Pastor Jones franchise), Chocolate City is basically a blackface version of Magic Mike that trades shamelessly in the same sort of titillating fare which made that flick a runaway hit a few years ago. A derivative, estrogen-fueled, overcoming-the-odds saga strictly recommended for females interested in seeing sepia-skinned Adonises gyrate while disrobing to mind-numbing disco.

Good (2 stars)
Rated R for profanity, brief violence, partial nudity and pervasive sexuality
Running time: 90 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Blooper reel. 
 
To see a trailer for Chocolate City, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42HA58cBHAM


To order a copy of Chocolate City on DVD, visit:

Blackbird (DVD REVIEW)


Blackbird
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Gospel-Driven Cross of Precious and Rent Arrives on DVD

             Randy Rousseau (Julian Walker) claims to be straight, even though everybody thinks he’s gay basically because he’s effeminate, sings in the church choir, and is a member of Christian High’s drama club. The repressed 17 year-old has even confessed to his BFFs, Effie (Gary Leroi Gray) and Crystal (Nikki Jane), to waking up “soaked in sin” after nightly wet dreams in which he makes love to other guys.
             Nevertheless, he’s so deep in denial, that he’s willing to take Crystal’s virginity to prove his masculinity. But that brief experimentation with heterosexuality is only momentary, while his choosing to co-star in Romeo and Julian, a gay-themed, school production of Romeo and Juliet, proves a tad more telling.  
             Perhaps Randy’s reticence to come out of the closet has to do with his horrible relationship with his parents, between an absentee dad (Isaiah Washington) he can barely recognize (“Who the eff are you?”), and a Bible-thumping mother (Mo’Nique) who calls him an “effing punk”. In addition, she blames her son for the mysterious disappearance of her daughter (Hannah Moye), and has faith that God will send her back home once Randy is purged of his gender-bending demons once and for all.
 Directed and co-written by Patrik-Ian Polk, Blackbird is a coming-of-age musical adventure which walks the fine line between drama and comedy. That failure to commit is an unfortunate flaw which serves to undercut any serious message the picture intends to deliver about tolerance.
Another problem is that the overplotted production has too many sidebars distracting our attention away from the compelling question of Randy’s sexual orientation. There’s the return of his Prodigal sister, his mama proselytizing in the supermarket, a pal infected with an STD, a married man cruising at a gay Lover’s Lane, the suicide of a preacher’s (Tirell Tilford) daughter (D. Woods), and an exorcism.
Despite its failings, I’m still willing to give Blackbird a little credit for tackling a subject that remains taboo in the black community. A gospel-driven cross of Precious and Rent, only set in a sleepy Southern town that time forgot instead of New York City.

Good (2 stars)
Rated R for teen sexuality, profanity and drug use
Running time: 99 minutes
Distributor: RLJ Entertainment
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes; audition footage; Behind-the-Scenes of Blackbird; D. Woods music video “Find Your Way”; and the theatrical trailer. 
 
To see a trailer for Blackbird, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3KEVWeHPg8
 
To order a copy of Blackbird on DVD, visit:

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (FILM REVIEW)


Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation
Film Review by Kam Williams



Cruise and Company Reunite to Topple Terrorist Organization 
 

Rogue Nation is the fifth installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise featuring Tom Cruise as the dashing and daring Ethan Hunt. This episode has everything you'd expect from an action-oriented espionage thriller: international intrigue, irresistible eye candy and edge-of-your-seat fight and chase sequences. 
 
Just past our unflappable protagonist's death-defying airplane stunt in the picture's opening scene, we find him put out to pasture and retiring to Europe where he soon disappears from the grid entirely. It seems that his Impossible Mission Force (IMF) is being disbanded by the U.S. Senate Oversight Committee at the behest of CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), an inept, if well-intentioned bureaucrat. 
 
A governmental directive for IMF spies to come in from the proverbial cold gives evil a license to thrive, especially the Syndicate, a clandestine confederacy of assassins bent on what else but world domination. Ignoring the orders of his superiors, Ethan instead recruits former colleagues William (Jeremy Renner), Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) for help in toppling the power-hungry terrorist organization. And the team of veteran sleuths is ably assisted in that endeavor by Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), an inscrutable double-agent with mysterious motives.

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, MI5 is as cerebral and multi-layered as it is high-octane and visually-captivating. Overplotted to the point of incomprehension, this is one brainteaser you might be better off not bothering to decipher. I say, simply sink into your seat and soak in the sweeping panoramas, the IMF team's infectious camaraderie, and wave after wave of their derring-do, whether by land, sea or air. 
 
The epitome of a bona fide summer blockbuster!



Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for action, violence and brief partial nudity
Running time: 132 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures



To see a trailer for Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOW_azQbOjw

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 8-7-15

OPENING THIS WEEK
Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening August 7, 2015


BIG BUDGET FILMS

Fantastic Four (PG-13 for action, violence and profanity) Marvel Comics reboots its beloved film franchise with a riveting, character-driven roots adventure. Co-stars Kate Mara, Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell as the titular quartet. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)

Ricki and the Flash (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, mature themes and brief drug use) Meryl Streep plays the title character in this musical dramedy as an aging rock star who returns home to make peace with her long-suffering husband (Kevin Kline) and daughter (Mamie Gummer) after years on the road. Supoort cast includes Rick Springfield, Audra McDonald, Charlotte Rae and Sebastian Stan.

Shaun the Sheep Movie (PG for crude humor) Stop-motion, animated adventure about a mischievous lamb (Justin Fletcher) who leads his flock from the the farm to the big city over the course of an exciting day off. Voice cast includes Kate Harbour, John Sparkes and Richard Webber.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Assassination (Unrated) Historical drama, set in 1933, revolving around Korean resistance's plot to kill the military commander of Japan's occupy forces. Co-starring Ji-hyun Jun, Jung-woo Ha and Jung-jae Hee. (In Korean with subtitles)

Call Me Lucky (Unrated) Prestige biopic chronicling the enduring standup career of irreverent, funnyman Barry Crimmins. Directed by Bobcat Golthwait, and featuring commentary by fellow comics Margaret Cho, Kevin Meaney and Patton Oswalt.

Cop Car (R for violence, profanity and brief drug use) Kids do the darndest things thriller about a small-town sheriff's (Kevin Bacon) pursuit of the ten year-old delinquents (James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford) who took his patrol car for a joy ride. With Camryn Manheim. Shea Whigham and Kathleen Bentley.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (R for profanity, drug use, underage drinking, graphic sexuality and frontal nudity) Coming-of-age saga, set in San Francisco in the Seventies, about a rudderless rebel (Bel Powley) who embarks on an ill-advised affair with her mother's (Kristen Wiig) handsome boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgard). Cast includes Christopher Meloni, Austin Lyon and Abby Wait.

The Gift (R for profanity) Suspense thriller about a happily-married couple (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) whose life is turned upside-down after a chance encounter with a high school friend (Joel Edgerton) in possession of an unsettling, decades-old secret about the husband. With Busy Phillips, David Denman and Allison Tolman.

Homme Less (Unrated) American Dream deferred documentary chronicling the plight of homeless, former fashion model Mark Reay who keeps up appearances by day, while sleeping on a Manhattan rooftop at night.

The Prophet (PG for mature themes, violence and sensual images) Animated adaptation of Khalil Gibran's epic poem. Voice cast includes Liam Neeson, Salma Hayek, Quvenzhane Wallis and John Krasinski.

The Runner (R for profanity and sexuality) Nicolas Cage handles the title role in this potboiler, set in New Orleans in the aftermath of the BP Gulf oil spill, about an idealistic but flawed politician whose career is ruined by a scandalous affair. With Connie Nielsen, Sarah Paulson, Peter Fonda and Wendell Pierce.

Sneakerheadz (Unrated) Foot fetish documentary examining the explosive popularity of sneaker collecting all around the world.