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

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Top Ten DVD List for October 16, 2018



Image result for whitney dvd
by Kam Williams


This Week's DVD Releases


Ant-Man and the Wasp

Whitney

Unfriended: Dark Web

Arizona

He's Out There

Reprisal

Benched

Cold Skin

Down a Dark Hall

Boundaries








Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Hate U Give

 
The Hate U Give
Film Review by Kam Williams


Amandla Stenberg Stars in Adaptation of Searing, Inner City Saga

16 year-old Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) straddles two different worlds which never intersect, one, black and poor, the other, white and privileged. That's because she lives in the ghetto in Garden Heights, but her parents (Regina Hall and Russell Hornsby) have sent her to Williamson, an exclusive prep school located on the other side of the tracks.

They know that Williamson gives her a better chance of making it out of the 'hood than the local public high school which is only good for girls who want to get “high, pregnant or killed.” Consequently, Starr uses slang when hanging out with her friends on the block, although she always talks properly around her classmates. 
 
Having different personas isn't a problem until the night she accepts a ride home from a party from Khalil (Algee Smith), a close childhood friend she'd lost touch with. While obeying all the rules of the road , they're inexplicably pulled over by the police, ostensibly for “driving while black.” 
 
Starr quietly complies with the condescending cop's (Drew Starkey) every order, since she and her siblings had been carefully trained by her father how to survive such an encounter. However, Khalil opts to challenge the officer and is shot dead in seconds when his hair brush is mistaken for a gun. 
 
Within days, Starr finds herself suddenly being swept up into the eye of a media storm as the only eyewitness to the killing of an unarmed black kid by a white lawman. The community calls for justice, but the only hope of Officer MacIntosh's even being arrested is if Starr testifies before the grand jury.

That is the compelling point of departure of The Hate U Give, a searing, inner city saga directed by George Tillman, Jr. (Notorious). The movie is based on Angie Thomas' award-winning novel of the same name which spent 50 weeks on the New York Times' Young Adult best seller list.

The heartbreaking bildungsroman features a top-flight cast, starting with Amandla Stenberg who is riveting from beginning to end as the terribly-conflicted Starr Carter. Also delivering powerful performances are Russell Hornsby, Regina Hall, Anthony Mackie and Common in service of a timely story certain to resonate with African-American audiences.

A grim reminder of just how tough it is to be young, marginalized and black in a merciless environment oblivious of your plight.


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, profanity, drug use and mature themes
Running time: 132 minutes
Production Studio: Temple Hill Entertainment / Fox 2000 Pictures / State Street Pictures
Studio: 29th Century Fox

To see a trailer for The Hate U Give, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MM8OkVT0hw

Monday, October 8, 2018

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening October 12, 2018

Image result for first man poster
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun 
by Kam Williams



OPENING THIS WEEK


WIDE RELEASES


Bad Times at the El Royale (R for profanity, drug use, graphic violence and brief nudity) Suspense thriller revolving around seven strangers in search of redemption who rendezvous at a rundown hotel in Lake Tahoe. Co-starring Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Nick Offerman, Cynthia Erivo and Manny Jacinto.


First Man (PG-13 for peril, mature themes and brief profanity) Oscar-winner Damien Chazelle (for La La Land) directed this poignant look at the inner life of astronaut Neil Armstrong over the eight years leading up to his historic lunar landing. With Claire Foy, Shea Whigham and Corey Stoll.


Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (PG for action, scary images, mature themes, rude humor and mild epithets) Spooky family comedy about three kids (Jeremy Ray Taylor, Caleel Harris and Madison Iseman) who join forces with author R.L. Stine to prevent a ventriloquist's dummy (Avery Lee Jones) from unleashing an apocalypse on Halloween. Cast includes Wendi McClendon-Covey, Dr. Ken Jeong and Chris Parnell.




INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS


Beautiful Boy (R for profanity, brief sexuality and pervasive drug use) Real-life tale recounting a father's (Steve Carell) frustration caring for his meth-addicted son (Timothee Chalamet). With Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan, Timothy Hutton and LisaGay Hamilton.


Bigger (PG-13 for profanity, suggestive content, mature themes and brief violence) Rags-to-riches biopic chronicling how siblings Ben (Aneurin Barnard) and Joe Weider (Tyler Hoechlin) overcame poverty and anti-Semitism to found a bodybuilding empire. Supporting cast includes DJ Qualls, Steve Guttenberg and Julianne Hough.


Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer (PG-13 for mature themes and disturbing images) Crime blotter documentary about Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the African-American abortionist sentenced to life in prison for murdering babies in his Philadelphia clinic.


Jane and Emma (PG for mature themes) Faith-based docudrama, set in 1844, recounting the unlikely friendship forged between a free black woman (Danielle Deadwyler) and the wife (Emily Goss) of Mormon founder Joseph Smith (Brad Schmidt). With Ann Bosler, Clotile Bonner and K. Danor Gerald.


Look Away (Unrated) Psychological thriller about a lonely 18 year-old (India Eisley) whose life falls apart when she swaps place with her sinister mirror image. Cast includes Mira Sorvino, Jason Isaacs and Harrison Gilbertson.


The Oath (R for violence, drug use and pervasive profanity) Dysfunctional family comedy about the argument over presidential politics which has relatives siding with either the husband (Ike Barinholtz) or wife (Tiffany Haddish) hosting Thanksgiving dinner. With John Cho, Billy Magnussen and Jay Duplass.


Sophie (Unrated) Sophia Mitri Schloss plays the title character in this coming of age drama about a teenager trying to wreck her mother's (Melanie Lynskey) new relationship hoping she will reconcile with her estranged husband. Supporting cast includes John Gallagher, Jr., Danielle Brooks and Tony Hale.