Thursday, July 27, 2017

Brigsby Bear

 
Film Review by Kam Williams                             

Freed Kidnap Victim Adjusts to Reality in Touching Character Study 
Brigsby Bear revolves around an age-old premise that's tough to establish and maintain convincingly, namely, the plight of a sheltered protagonist blissfully unaware of reality. Four films come quickly to mind which succeeded at plausibly presenting just such a plotline.


In Room (2015), we witnessed a little boy being imprisoned with his mother in a shed by the rapist who'd fathered him. In Life Is Beautiful (1997), we found a concentration camp internee doing his best to shield his young son from the horrors of the Holocaust.

In Being There (!979), Peter Sellers played a gullible gardener who learned everything he knew about the outside world from TV. And in The Truman Show (1998), Jim Carrey was an orphan who had no idea that he'd been adopted by a corporation that turned his life into a reality show. 
 
Now we have Brigsby Bear, a worthy addition to the challenging genre. The movie marks the impressive directorial debut of Dave McCary, who's been writing for Saturday Night Live since 2014. The picture stars SNL's Kyle Mooney, who co-wrote the script with Kevin Costello. 
 
As the film unfolds, we're introduced to James (Mooney), a 25 year-old very content to be still living at "home." The overgrown kid religiously tunes in to Brigsby Bear, a sci-fi series revolving around a crime-fighting superhero full of energy and optimism. 
 
James has a good excuse for his stunted growth. Truth be told, his supposed parents, Ted (Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams), are actually kidnappers who abducted him infancy. And they secretly produce Brigsby, the only program that ever comes on their TV. 
 
They've managed to discourage James from venturing outside the house by filling his head with lies about the air being so toxic that he'd perish without a gas mask. So, he's freely frittered away his future not only watching all 736 Brigsby Bear episodes, but visiting a fake chatroom devoted to the show. 
 
Everything changes the day James is rescued by the police and returned to his birth parents (Matt Walsh and Michaela Watkins) in Cedar Hills, Utah. Understandably, the adjustment to real-life proves problematic, since he remains obsessed with Brigsby to the point that he talks about it incessantly to anyone who'll listen. 
 
He's lucky to find a couple of sympathetic souls in an actor-turned-detective (Greg Kinnear) and Spencer (Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.), one of his teenage sister's (Ryan Simpkins) friends. They agree to help make a Brigsby Bear movie which just might enable James to find some closure on the sordid opening chapter of his life. 
 
A poignant character portrait capable of catapulting Kyle Mooney from SNL support player to bona fide matinee idol!


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for drug use, teen partying, mature themes and brief sexuality
Running time: 97 minutes
Production Studio: 3311 Productions / YL Pictures / The Lonely Island / Lord Miller
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics


To see a trailer for Brigsby Bear, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEohOb38hhs


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Quiet Passion



DVD Review by Kam Williams

Extraordinary Emily Dickinson Biopic Available on Home Video


Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) had less than a dozen of her 1,800 poems published, while she was still alive. Since she was only appreciated posthumously, it makes sense that a movie about her life might revolve around something other than the literary prowess that went unrecognized by her contemporaries.

In bringing her story to the big screen, writer/director Terrence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) wisely resisted the temptation to pore over the prolific scribe's evocative verses in favor of plumbing the depths of her terribly tortured soul. The upshot of that endeavor is A Quiet Passion, an exquisite costume drama alternately presenting the protagonist as an iconoclastic visionary and as a retiring recluse. 
 
On the macro level, the socially-conscious production subtly suggests that the agnostic, feminist abolitionist was ahead of her time and withdrew from the world in response to being raised in an era when evangelism, slavery and male chauvinism were the order of the day. Meanwhile, on the micro level, the character-driven drama telescopes intensely on a fragile psyche ostensibly further crippled by a cloistered existence. 

As the film unfolds, we find Emily (played in her teens by Emma Bell, later as an adult by Cynthia Nixon) just finishing a frustrating freshman year at Mount Holyoke. She soon decides to drop out due to the pressure being unfairly exerted by the school's president, Mary Lyon (Sara Vertongen), to conform to the outwardly pious practices dictated by the Christian revival movement. Introspective Emily rebels because she sees her relationship with God as a direct and personal matter as opposed to one demanding public displays of devotion at church services. 
 
So, she returns to Amherst, Massachusetts, where she again takes up residence on the grounds of the Dickinson family estate inhabited by her parents (Keith Carradine and Joanna Bacon), brother (Duncan Duff) and sister (Jennifer Ehle). Unfortunately, headstrong Emily proves unable to bite her tongue when visitors like the local pastor (Miles Richardson) or even a potential suitor (Stefan Menaul) come a callin'. 
 
Although she does eventually make trusted confidantes of her sister-in-law Susan (Jodhi May) and the equally-irreverent Mabel Loomis Todd (Noemie Schellens), her preference remains the solitude of the remote, upstairs bedroom which affords her the opportunity to craft her immortal poems in secret. Cynthia Nixon has never been more convincing than conveying the emotional fires simmering just beneath the surface of such a stoic countenance. 
 
A melancholy mood piece for the ages!



Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, disturbing images and suggestive material
Production Studio: Hurricane Films
Running time: 126 minutes
Distributor: Music Box Films
DVD Extras: Q&A with writer/director Terence Davies and Cynthia Nixon; and a behind-the-scenes featurette



To see a trailer for A Quiet Passion, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKJpx8FYp54



To order a copy of A Quiet Passion on DVD, visit:

Girls Trip Hits Chicago!


 

A bevy of beauties salute Girls Trip while lolling on chaise lounges at rooftop pool party
[photo credit: Bob Comfort]


Girls Trip Hits Chicago!
by Kam Williams


The ladies enjoying a panoramic view of the Windy City at sunset
[photo credit: Bob Comfort]
 
Bawdy Road Romp Opens as #1 Comedy at the Box Office

Universal Pictures' Girls Trip made a spectacular debut on its opening weekend, raking in over $30 million at the box office. The hilarious road romp, directed by Spike's cousin Malcolm Lee (The Best Man), co-stars Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish and Jada Pinkett Smith.

80% of the movie's predominantly African-American fans were female. But you apparently don't have to be black to appreciate the sisters' irreverent brand of humor, since about 20% of the audience was white, 15% Latino and 5% Asian.

Look for this madcap morality play about BFFs gone wild to enjoy a long run in theaters over the course of the long, hot summer.

 
Even some of the guys were game enough to don Girls Trip T-shirts
[photo credit: Julie Comfort]

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Black Butterfly


Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams 
 
Antonio Banderas Serial Killer Whodunit Comes to Home Video 
Paul (Antonio Banderas) is the literary equivalent of a one-hit wonder. The flash in the pan enjoyed a short-lived success, thanks to the best-seller he published while still in his twenties. Back then, he became the toast of the town when the popular tome was adapted to the big screen, even though the movie bore no resemblance to his book besides having the same title.

But that was decades ago. Now, all the money's gone. The hangers-on have disappeared, too, and so has his wife (Alexandra Klim). As of late, he's turned into a recluse, living alone in the mountains of Colorado in a rundown cabin he can no longer afford to keep up. 
 
He fritters away most of his days drinking at a desk in a darkened room, praying for the inspiration to produce another masterpiece. Unfortunately, he's suffering from such a terrible case of writer's block that all he ever types are the words "I am stuck" over and over again.

Upon bottoming out with little hope of recovering, Paul admits to himself that it's time to sell house. So, he lists the property with Laura (Piper Perabo), an attractive realtor he hires more for her looks than her expertise. After all, he's knows her very first client. 
 
His judgment proves even worse when it comes to making friends. For, he decides to bring back to his place the Good Samaritan (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who saved him from a trucker with road rage. Only after Paul agrees to let the stranger crash for a few days, does the guy reveal that he "just got out of prison and ain't never goin' back." 
 
Might this be the creep responsible for the recent rash of murders in the area? Unfortunately, Paul's located in an isolated spot in the woods without any internet, TV or cell phone service. Nevertheless, the plot thickens with the unannounced arrival of several visitors, including Laura, a delivery boy (Nicholas Aaron), and a cop (Vincent Riotta) looking for a missing mailman. 
 
Thus unfolds Black Butterfly, an English language-remake of Papillon Noir (2008), a French film featuring the same basic premise. Directed by Brian Goodman (Sal), this compelling suspense thriller slowly ratchets up the tension only to unravel during the denouement, thanks to a humdinger of a twist. 
 
A riveting whodunit spoiled somewhat by a rabbit-out-of-the-hat resolution.



Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for profanity and violence.
Running time: 93 minutes
Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: Black Butterfly backstage featurette; a trailer gallery; and a commentary with director Brian Goodman and co-writer Marc Frydman.



To see a trailer for Black Butterfly, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaOymYQ3nMM


To order a copy of Black Butterfly on Blu-ray, visit:




Erica Ash

The “Survivor's Remorse" and "Real Husbands of Hollywood” Interview
with Kam Williams


God Bless Sweet Erica!

NAACP Image Award-nominee Erica Ash is currently starring as Brigette Hart, ex-wife of Kevin Hart, on the faux reality show “The Real Husbands of Hollywood,” as well as M-Chuck Calloway on the hit sitcom “Survivor’s Remorse.” Erica originated the roles of Addie “Micki” Harris and Dionne Warwick on Broadway in the jukebox musical “Baby, It’s You!” 
 
She also starred in several other Broadway shows, such as “The Lion King” (Nala) and “Spamalot” (Lady of the Lake). Erica's TV career started with LOGO’s “The Big Gay Sketch Show” from which she was recruited to join the cast of FOX’s MADtv where she contributed as a writer, too. 
 
The highlights of her film career include Scary Movie V (Kendra), Random (Nicole), I Can Smoke? (Carmen) and Mina no Ie (Naomi). She is the creator/writer of the comedic advice blog “The Deviled Angel” and writes and produces sketch comedy for The Deviled Angel Network.

Erica enjoys giving back through various charitable organizations: the Make a Wish Foundation, Broadway Sings for Pride, The Helping Hands Campaign, Living Beyond Breast Cancer and Faithful Spouses Ministries. And she has hosted and/or participated in benefits for various theaters including the Rubicon Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse and Celebration Theater.


Kam Williams: Hi Erica. Congratulations on the fourth season of Survivor's Remorse.
Erica Ash: Thanks, Kam. I'm excited for our fans to see it.

KW: What originally interested you in the sitcom?
EA: I liked the idea of focusing on how the family of a star athlete deals with the mega success and I thought it had the potential to be something really smart and funny. I was right.

KW: How would you describe the show in 25 words or less to someone who hasn't seen it?
EA: It's a pointed, poignant, very prophetic roller coaster ride of a comedy that definitely gets conversations started, touching on current issues in a creatively unique way.

KW: Can we expect to see some exciting developments with your character, M-Chuck, this season?
EA: Yes! I think Mary Charles has been steadily growing throughout the seasons, especially the past two. This season continues that. But M-Chuck will always be M-Chuck and say what's on everybody's mind.

KW: The sitcom is produced by LeBron James, and he's even made a guest appearance on it. Is it based on his life or on that of another basketball star?
EA: No. When the series first started, it was loosely based on LeBron James' life, and really that of many basketball players, as many of them find themselves catapulted into a whole new world of money and notoriety when they start to play basketball professionally. But the series quickly took on a life of its own after season one. 
 
KW: Is there a message you want people to take away from the show?
EA: Yes: we're missing out on so much communication and it's okay to talk to and relate to one another. Our show does a great job of starting the conversation by tackling issues with gut-punch creativity.

KW: How about Real Husbands of Hollywood? What's it like playing Kevin Hart's wife?
EA: It's fun. I had no guidelines in creating this character as I had not met Tori before starting that series. But I do enjoy annoying Kevin, so I tried to come up with a character that would drive him crazy. I think I nailed it. [LOL]

KW: Since it's a fake reality show, do people ever mistake you for Kevin's real-life wife?
EA: Gosh, Yes! Even people who know me! Like family members who totally would've been invited to the wedding if I'd had one. I just take it as a compliment to my acting. Guess I'm pretty believable.

KW: What's it like having so many guest stars on the show?
EA: Busy! You never know what the next day is going to be like on set. But it's always fun.

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
EA: The Josephine Baker story and Love Jones.

KW: AALBC.com founder Troy Johnson asks: What was the last book you read?
EA: "The Greatest Manifestation Principle in the World."

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?
EA: "Shining" by Dk Khaled and Beyonce'.



KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?
EA: Running up to my dad with a mouth full of Oreos and kissing him when he came home from work. And watching my mom get ready to go out with my dad. I've always thought my mom was the most beautiful woman in the world

KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?
EA: My parents certainly tried but the spiritual component truly did not kick in until I was an adult. I'm sure it would not have kicked in had I not been raised the way I was.

KW: Who loved you unconditionally during your formative years?
EA: My parents. My mom showed it especially, though. There were times when I looked back and thought, "How did you not put me out?"

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
EA: I like a good stew with lentils and veggies.

KW: The Morris Chestnut question: Was there any particular moment in your childhood that inspired you to become the person you are today?
EA: Laughing so hard while watching SNL with my brothers and sisters made me want to be a person that makes others laugh.

KW: Craig Robinson asks: What was your last dream?
EA: My last dream was really weird. I couldn't even tell you what it was about... too many moving pieces. But I think I was Muslim in the dream

KW: Sherry Gillam would like to know what is the most important life lesson you've learned so far?
EA: Love is truly the missing ingredient in all manifestation

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?
EA: I'm waaaaay more of a tomboy at home. And I'm also usually not dressed. [LOL]

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
EA: Beauty and power.

KW: What's the craziest thing you've ever done?
EA: Sex in public with a boyfriend. But that was in college... I'm smarter now.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
EA: To find the fulfillment in a relationship that I have found in my career.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
EA: What I look for in a guy. Tall, 6'3" or taller, successful, funny, smart, strong mentally and physically, loving, adventurous, and easy to talk to and communicate with.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
EA: I try a different designer every red carpet event, so I don't have one favorite. I do like Haute Hippie and Foxbait.

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have a favorite movie monster?
EA: Candyman. He was the only one who truly scared me as a kid.

KW: Judyth Piazza asks: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
EA: Love. They love what they do and love is their motivation

KW: Finally, Samuel L. Jackson asks: What’s in your wallet?
EA: Cash, credit cards, ID, and my Soho House membership card

KW: Thanks again for the time, Erica, and best of luck with both series.
EA: Thank you, Kam!



To see a trailer for “Survivor's Remorse," visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUOudlwx-NU

To see a trailer for "Real Husbands of Hollywood,” visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2XmEwIuCaI

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening July 28, 2017

 
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun  
by Kam Williams


OPENING THIS WEEK

BIG BUDGET FILMS

Atomic Blonde (R for sexuality, nudity, graphic violence and pervasive profanity) Cold War thriller, set shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall, about an MI6 agent (Charlize Theron) dispatched to Germany to solve the murder of a fellow spy. Cast includes James McAvoy, John Goodman, Eddie Marsan and Toby Jones.

Brigsby Bear (PG-13 for drug use, teen partying, mature themes and brief sexuality) Offbeat comedy about a recently-freed kidnap victim (Kyle Mooney), abducted in infancy, who decides to make a movie of his favorite TV show while adjusting to a real world he's never known. With Beck Bennett, Claire Danes, Mark Hamill, Andy Samberg and Greg Kinnear.

The Emoji Movie (PG for rude humor) Animated adventure about an over-enunciating, text message emoji (T.J. Miller) who embarks on a quest for a filter that will limit him to one facial expression, just like his parents (Steven Wright and Jennifer Coolidge). Voice cast includes James Corden, Anna Faris and Maya Rudolph.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Imperfections (Unrated) Crime comedy about a struggling actress (Virginia Kull) still living with her mother (Marilu Henner) who plots a diamond heist in order to pay for her move from Chicago to Hollywood. With Ed Begley, Jr., Zach McGowan and Ashton Holmes.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (Unrated) Al Gore picks up where he left off in this cautionary documentary warning of the havoc being wreaked around the planet as a consequence of climate change. Featuring juxtaposed commentary by Presidents Obama and Trump.

Menashe (PG for mature themes) Menashe Lustig playes the title character in this bittersweet drama, set in the heart of NYC's Hasidic community, about a grieving widower's struggle to raise his son (Ruben Niborski) alone in the wake of his wife's untimely death. With Yoel Weisshaus and Meyer Schwartz. (In Yiddish with subtitles)

The Midwife (Unrated) Bittersweet drama about the unlikely friendship which blossoms between a high-strung midwife (Catherine Frot) and her late father's, free-spirited mistress (Catherine Deneuve). Featuring Olivier Gourmet, Quentin Dolmaire and Mylene Demongeot. (In French with subtitles)

Mubarakan (Unrated) Romantic comedy revolving around identical twins (Arjun Kapoor), with polar opposite personalities, simple-minded and street-smart, who swap identities after the savvy one is pressured into an arranged marriage he wants no part of. With Anil Kapoor, Athiya Shetty and Neha Sharma. (In Hindi with subtitles)

Person to Person (Unrated) Ensemble drama, shot on 16mm film, chronicling a very eventful day in the lives of a reporter, a record collector, a clock shop owner and other native New Yorkers. Co-starring Michael Cera, Philip Baker Hall, Isiah Whitlock, Jr. and Abbi Jacobson.

Rumble (Unrated) Rock and Roll retrospective about Native-American musical icons. Featuring Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton, Link Wray, Slash, Steven Tyler, Quincy Jones and Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Strange Weather (R for one sex scene) Holly Hunter stars in this poignant character study as a grief-stricken mother roaming around the back roads of the Deep South in search of an explanation for her late son's suicide. With Carrie Coon, Choppy Guillotte and Cotton Yancey.

Dunkirk

 
Film Review by Kam Williams


World War II Epic Recreates Heroic Rescue of Stranded Allies by Private Flotilla

When Hitler ordered an all-out assault on the Western Front in the spring of 1940, the vaunted Maginot Line proved to be no match for the pulverizing German blitzkrieg. The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France all fell in a matter of weeks, and the rapid collapse proved particularly problematic for the Allied forces.

By May 26th, about 400,000 British, French, Polish, Belgian and Dutch troops had been driven to the sea at Dunkirk, a port located along the northern coast of France. The retreating soldiers soon found themselves stranded on the beach, since there weren't enough military naval vessels to mount a rapid, full-scale evacuation. 
 
The logistical nightmare left most of the beleaguered, battle weary men in dire need of a miracle, as they'd basically become sitting ducks for Nazi artillery.and Luftwaffe bombs. At 7 pm that evening, the desperate British prime minister decided to issue an urgent appeal to private boat owners to join the rescue effort. 
 
By dawn, over 800 hundred vessels had been pressed into service. The improbable flotilla included everything from speed boats and yachts to tugboats and fishing trawlers to ferries and ocean liners. 
 
For the next nine days, they negotiated their way back and forth across the U-Boat infested waters of the English Channel. And although about a third of the ships would be sunk by the enemy, the altruistic patriots managed to save 338,226 troops. 
 
Leave it to Winston Churchill to put a positive spin on such a devastating military defeat.which claimed the lives of 68,000 British soldiers and left the country in fear of an imminent invasion. On June 4th, he took to the floor of the House.of Commons to deliver a rousing speech assuring the alarmed citizenry that there was no doubt that Great Britain would ultimately prevail.
"Whatever the cost may be,"he said in a stirring summation, "We shall fight on the beaches... We shall fight on the landing grounds... We shall fight in the fields and in the streets... We shall fight in the hills..." concluding, "We shall never surrender!" 
 
All of the above has been chronicled in unique fashion in Dunkirk, a visually-captivating, World War II epic directed by Christopher Nolan. Nolan, the best British director besides Alfred Hitchcock never to win an Oscar, has made a string of memorable movies that includes Memento, Inception, Interstellar and the Batman trilogy, to name a few. 
 
Here, he's found a novel way to recreate the historic evacuation. Instead of having the docudrama revolve around a single protagonist or a single unit, he has deftly interwoven a half-dozen or so discrete storylines highlighting the different perspectives of a number of unsung heroes. Whether on land, by sea or in the air, many among this patriotic band of brothers survive, but some do make the ultimate sacrifice in the valiant stand against the unspeakable evil spreading across Europe. 
 
Shot in 70mm, Dunkirk is an instant classic worth the extra investment to catch on an IMAX screen. An inspirational tribute to Britain's Greatest Generation that just might be Chris Nolan's best picture yet!


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for intense battle scenes and some profanity
Running time: 106 minutes
In English, French and German with subtitles
Production Studio: Syncopy
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures


To see a trailer for Dunkirk, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-eMt3SrfFU