Friday, June 24, 2016

Top Ten DVD List for 6-28-16

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams


Top Ten DVD List for June 28, 2016

Fastball

Eye in the Sky


Cemetery of Splendor

Vera: Set Six

Kung Fu Panda 3

The Steps

Margarita with a Straw


Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Nova: Can Alzheimer's Be Stopped?

Odd Squad: The O Games


Honorable Mention

Prince Philip: The Plot to Make a King

Nature: Jungle Animal Hospital



 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Shallows


Film Review by Kam Williams


It's Surfer vs. Shark in Harrowing Tale of Survival Offshore



Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) was so shaken by her mother's (Janelle Bailey) untimely death that she's dropped out of med school. In order to feel closer to her dearly departed mom, she's decided to vacation at the same exotic Mexican retreat where she was reportedly conceived back in 1991. An avid surfer, she also plans to search for the stretch for her mom's favorite beach. 
 
Upon arriving, Nancy is so impatient to find that idyllic, uncharted spot, that she impulsively heads for the ocean with her surfboard, handbag and smartphone, abandoning her bushed traveling companion at the hotel. Instead, she accepts a ride to the shore from the very obliging Carlos (Oscar Jaenada), an affable local yokel who is more than happy to serve as the bikini-clad hitchhiker's chauffeur and navigator. 
 
He drives away right after depositing her at the secluded cove, yet Nancy has no qualms about being left alone, since she does have cell service. Next thing you know, she's blissfully paddling out to deep water where she's surrounded by a pod of playful dolphins as she starts riding the mammoth waves. 
 
The plot thickens soon after she spots the bobbing carcass of a humpback whale. What Nancy doesn't recognize until it's too late is that she's inadvertently entered the feeding grounds of a still-hungry shark who'd rather dine on human flesh than cetacean. 
 
She subsequently suffers a nasty gash from the initial attack but is somehow able to swim to a tiny, low-lying island nearby. Her medical training comes in handy as she quickly fashions a tourniquet from part of her outfit. 
 
Still, with high tide coming in a matter of hours, she knows that she's got to figure out how to survive once this temporary sanctuary sinks below sea level. The shore is 200 yards away, which is way to far to swim with a determined predator steadily circling as her blood drips into the water. 
 
A couple of potential rescuers (Jose Manuel Trujillo Salas and Angelo Josue Lozano Corzo) show up, but hope fades fast when the dopey duo simply starts swimming without noticing the damsel-in-distress. The next beachgoer (Diego Espejel) does see that Nancy's in need, but he seizes the opportunity to steal her phone and other personal effects left on the sand.

This means spunky Nancy must survive by her wits, a daunting challenge given her dire straits. Thus unfolds The Shallows, an engaging, edge-of-the-seat thriller expertly directed by Jaume Collett-Serra (Non-Stop) to ratchet up the tension. 
 
The movie borrows elements from Jaws (headstrong, maniacal shark), Castaway (this stranded heroine bonds with a seagull instead of a volleyball), Blue Crush (oodles of gratuitous titillation) and MacGyver (a brilliant tinkerer exhibits endless ingenuity). The good news is that it all has been sewn together quite seamlessly yielding a thoroughly enjoyable screamfest reminding us that it's still not safe to swim in the ocean.





Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for bloody images, intense scenes of peril and brief profanity
Running time: 87 minutes
Distributor: Columbia Pictures


To see a trailer for The Shallows, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgdxIlSuB70

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening 7-1-16

by Kam Williams


Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
OPENING THIS WEEK


BIG BUDGET FILMS

The BFG (PG for action, peril, scary images and rude humor) Steven Spielberg directed this adaptation of Roald Dahl's beloved children's novel about the unlikely friendship forged between a little girl (Ruby Barnhill) and the only member of a hostile race of invading giants (Mark Rylance) who won't eat children. With Rebecca Hall, Bill Hader and Rafe Spall.

The Legend of Tarzan (PG-13 for action, violence, sensuality and brief crude dialogue) Alexander Skarsgard handles the title role in this adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs adventure about a British boy born an aristocrat but raised in the Congo by apes. Ensemble includes Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Jim Broadbent and Djimon Hounsou. (In English and Bantu wuth subtitles)

The Purge: Election Year (R for profanity and disturbing, graphic violence) Third episode in the horror franchise finds a U.S. presidential candidate (Elizabeth Mitchell) and her bodyguard (Frank Grillo) on the run from government operatives during The Purge because of her campaign promise to discontinue the gruesome annual ritual. Cast includes Edwin Hodge, Kyle Secor and Mykelti Williamson.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Buddymoon (Unrated) Road comedy about a just-jilted groom-to-be (David Giuntoli) who honeymoons anyway, but with his incessantly-optimistic best man (Flula Berg). Cast includes Claire Coffee, Brian T. Finney and Jeanne Syquia.

The Innocents (PG-13 for disturbing mature themes, sexual assault, bloody images and brief suggestive content) Post-World War II saga, set in Poland in 1945, about a Red Cross intern (Lou de Laage) who discovers a convent containing a number of liberated Benedictine nuns impregnated while imprisoned in a concentration camp. With Agata Buzek, Jaonna Kulig and Anna Prochniak. (In French, Polish and Russian with subtitles)

Life, Animated (PG for mature themes and a suggestive reference) Heartwarming documentary chronicling how Disney cartoons and supportive parents helped an autistic boy overcome a host of his challenges.

Microbe & Gasoline (R for teen sexuality) Coming-of-age comedy about a couple of high school outcasts (Ange Dargent and Theophile Baquet) who embark on a summer road trip across France in an automobile they built themselves. With Diane Basnier, Audrey Tautou and Vincent Lamoureux. (In French with subtitles)

Our Kind of Traitor (R for violence, sexuality, frontal nudity, brief drug use and pervasive profanity) Adaptation of the John le Carre international thriller of the same name about a naive Britsh couple (Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris) duped into helping a powerful Russian mobster (Stellan Skarsgard) while vacationing in Morocco. With Damian Lewis, Alicia von Rittberg and Mark Stanley.

Roseanne for President! (Unrated) Prestige biopic recounting comedienne Roseanne Barr's unsuccessful run for president during the 2012 campaign. Featuring Michael Moore, Rosie O'Donnell and Sandra Bernhard.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Mahershala Ali

The “Free State of Jones” Interview

with Kam Williams





A Holler from Mahershala!

Born in Oakland and raised in neighboring Hayward, California, Mahershala Ali received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications at St. Mary's College. He made his professional debut performing with the California Shakespeare Festival in Orinda, California. Soon thereafter, he earned his Master's degree in Acting from New York University's prestigious graduate program.

Mahershala is fast becoming one of the freshest and most in-demand faces in Hollywood with his extraordinarily diverse skill set and wide-ranging background in film, television, and theater. Last fall, he wrapped Brad Pitt and Adele Romanski's independently-produced feature film, Moonlight, as well as reprised his role in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, the final installment in the Hunger Games franchise, alongside Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, and Julianne Moore. As District 13's Head of Security, 'Boggs' guides and protects Katniss through the final stages of the district's rebellion against the Capitol.

On television, Mahershala was recently cast in Netflix's Luke Cage in the role of Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes. He can also be seen on the award-winning Netflix original series House of Cards, where he's reprising his fan-favorite role as lobbyist and former press secretary Remy Danton.

Mahershala's previous feature film credits include The Place Beyond the Pines opposite Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, Crossing Over starring Harrison Ford, John Sayles' Go For Sisters, and David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

On television, he appeared opposite Julia Ormond in Lifetime's The Wronged Man for which he subsequently received an NAACP Nomination for Best Actor. He also had a large recurring role on Syfy's Alphas, as well as the role of Richard Tyler, a Korean War pilot, on the critically-acclaimed drama The 4400.

On the stage, Mahershala appeared in productions of Blues for an Alabama Sky, The School for Scandal, A Lie of the Mind, A Doll's House, Monkey in the Middle, The Merchant of Venice, The New Place and Secret Injury, Secret Revenge. His additional stage credits include appearing in Washington, D.C. at the Arena Stage in the title role of The Great White Hope, and in The Long Walk and Jack and Jill.

Here, Mahershala talks about playing in Free State of Jones, a Civil War saga co-starring Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Keri Russell.



Kam Williams: Hi Mahershala, thanks for the interview.
Mahershala Ali: Thank you, Kam.

KW: What interested you in Free State of Jones?
MA: The story, first off. I had never heard of Newton Knight. So, the narrative as a whole was really attractive to me because it was a refreshing departure from the homogeneous depictions of the Civil War where the North wanted to abolish slavery while the South wanted to keep it intact. Here, you had an example of a Southerner who spoke out against slavery during the war and who later became an activist for civil rights and this new idea of equality for all people regardless of one's skin call, race or creed.

KW: What interested you in playing Moses?
MA: I had never seen a character in this time period who had such agency and mobility for someone living in the South. He had run away with a group of former slaves and was really living life on his own terms in the swamps. And he was determined to be pro-active in his people's emancipation. Also, seeing his evolution over the course of the narrative really inspired me. He's a disenfranchised, runaway slave with no education who learns to read and write and really becomes a leader and an active participant in the democratic process who mobilizes others. His were big shoes to fill, but they were ones that I was very excited to step into.

KW: How was it working with such an accomplished cast that included Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keri Russell and Brendan Gleeson?
MA: It was very inspiring and also humbling. It was a difficult shoot, being in the swamps in both the heat and the cold for four months, but everybody arrived ready to go, all-in and totally committed. It all started with Matthew and Gary [director Gary Ross] who had a wonderful energy and approach to the work every day that trickled down to the rest of the cast and crew. Everyone was aware of and inspired by the importance of the story we were telling, and that was another added layer that contributed to the focus that everyone had.

KW: And how was it being directed by a four-time Oscar-nominee in Gary Ross?
MA: Pretty phenomenal, starting with the audition process. He was very curious about my ideas in terms of fleshing out the character, and he also wanted to know my perspective as an African-American and whether I felt it reflected the African-American experience. And it was mind-blowing and empowering how Gary wanted to portray African-Americans participating in their own liberation. So, I would work with him again at the drop of a hat.

KW: What message do you think people will take away from the film?
MA: That the struggle for freedom continues. And if you're a person like Newt, it becomes your responsibility to empower those in close proximity to you.

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
MA: The Great White Hope. I would love to redo that film in a way where it would be more focused on Jack Johnson.

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have a favorite movie monster?
MA: Terrence Stamp as General Zod in the1978 version of Superman starring Christopher Reeve.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
MA: I'm not much of cook, but I cook a mean bowl of oatmeal.

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?
MA: I remember choking on the core of an apple while being bathed in a large sink by my dad. He slapped me on the back until I coughed it up.

KW: Who loved you unconditionally during your formative years?
MA: My parents and my grandparents. My mom was extraordinarily present, but I'm so appreciative of all of them.

KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?
MA: I grew up in church. My mom's a minister, and my grandmother was an ordained minister. I was always very mindful of the presence of a greater being I call God.

KW: How were you affected by the passing of Muhammad Ali?
MA: I was very affected by it. He was my first hero. I was mesmerized by his photos and his presence, even though he was retiring around the time I was becoming conscious of him. He was 100% my first hero and idol.

KW: Sherry Gillam would like to know what is the most important life lesson you've learned so far?
MA: Hold tight to the mentality of being a student, meaning hold on to curiosity and approach life as a student.

KW: What was your very first job?
MA: Working at Kentucky Fried Chicken. I was able to save up and by my first car over the course of that summer.

KW: What's the craziest thing you've ever done?
MA: Commit myself to this journey of becoming an actor. It takes a lot of love and support and wonderful allies. But I don't necessarily recommend it.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
MA: No one ever asks me what inspires me. What inspires me today is a desire to get closer to an understanding of what my artistic capacities are with the hope of organically sharing my gifts with an audience in the most heightened way I possibly can.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
MA: Granola. I never grew out of the cereal thing. As an adult, I could eat granola three times a day, if it didn't have so much sugar in it.

KW: Judyth Piazza asks: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
MA: They tend to believe in themselves and to be really impassioned. The people that I admire have a wonderful balance of self-belief and humility.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
MA: To really be conscious of how long the journey is, be patient, push yourself, persevere and always be working on your craft while waiting for your break. That's what I'm still working on, having done this for 20 years now.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
MA: I guess as someone who was always looking to grow and improve in all the aspects of my life, from acting to being a good family man to embracing the spiritual tenets that I choose to practice. I always hope to be a better person tomorrow than today.

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?
MA: [Chuckles]I don't have a wallet. I carry my driver's license and a couple of credit cards in my phone. That and a money clip.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Mahershala, and best of luck with the film.
MA: Thanks, Kam.

To see a trailer for Free State of Jones, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_38WdArR20



Monday, June 20, 2016

Vigilante Diaries

Film Review by Kam Williams


 
Ex-Black Op Agents Go Rogue in High Body-Count Revenge Thriller

Vigilante Diaries is a movie that's hard to pigeonhole only because it doesn't have a coherent plotline. What I can say with confidence is that this balls-out action flick features a high attrition-rate as well a measure of eroticized violence for folks who like to be titillated while satiating their bloodlust.

At the picture's point of departure in 2005, we find members of a Special-Ops team already embroiled in a deadly shootout overseas with Armenian mobsters. They accomplish the dangerous mission, namely, freeing a mysterious figure known as The Vigilante (Paul Sloan), leaving bodies strewn all over the place in the process.

Fast-forward to the present and we find Mike Hanover (Jason Mewes) now searching for the psychos who killed his brother, namely, The Vigilante and his sidekick, The Kid (Kevin L. Walker). What ensues might best be described as a gruesome snuff flick with a good sense of humor. 
 
There's an abundance of excellent acting by guys who know how to die on screen. One gunshot victim, is more concerned about his ruined suit than his wounds, yelling "Yo, mother-[expletive], this is Gucci!" at his attacker.

Without any logic or explanation, the revenge theme eventually morphs into a terrorist scenario. Suddenly, we have a character called Barrington (Michael Jai White) talking about somebody being offered a billion dollars to set off nuclear IED's all over L.A.

Despite the fact that this high-octane thriller never made any sense, I must confess that it held me in its thrall from start to finish purely on the strength of the over-stimulation of its incessant visual capture.



Good (2 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, nudity, graphic violence and pervasive profanity
In English and Armenian with subtitles
Running time: 108 minutes
Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment


To see a trailer for Vigilante Diaries, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kl3cEhULgsQ











Sunday, June 19, 2016

Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words

Film Review by Kam Williams


Reverential Retrospective Examines the Underappreciated Brain of Brilliant Rock Legend


Frank Zappa (1940-1993) is best remembered as the front man and lead guitarist of the Mothers of Invention, the avant-garde rock band that started developing a dedicated cult following in 1966 with the release of its debut album, "Freak Out!" The group's irreverent, anti-establishment anthems satirizing the status quo resonated with the emerging Hippie Generation's counter-cultural attitudes.

The long hair and rebel image overshadowed Frank's roots as a classical virtuoso influenced by such 20th Century greats as Edgar Varese and Igor Stravinsky. He began composing chamber music at the age of 14 and didn't write his first rock song with lyrics until after he turned 21.

Even after finding fame, Frank remained desperate to be taken seriously as an artist. Consequently, he quite obviously became quite frustrated over the course of his career by the constraints imposed by his packaging as a hippie rock idol. 
 
An inveterate iconoclast, he was also very outspoken on subjects ranging from politics to drugs to the music business. And he often confounded journalists with his surprising stances on prevailing social issues. For example, he was extremely anti-drugs in an era when many of his fans and contemporaries were experimenting with marijuana, LSD and other so-called recreational narcotics.

In terms of his record company, he hated the fact that MGM had the nerve to censor his tunes without his permission. He further observed that, in general, "Musicians are regarded as useless adjuncts of society, unless you write a Coca-Cola jingle."

A free speech advocate, he felt that "Dirty words are a fantasy manufactured by government fanatics and religious organizations to keep people stupid." Just as suspicious of the Left and the Right, he asserted that "Any sort of political ideology that doesn't take into account people's differences is Fascistic." 
 
Eat That Question is a reverential rockumentary directed by Germany's Thorsten Schutte. The informative film contains reams of archival footage featuring its loquacious subject expounding his personal philosophy. The intriguing biopic includes some performances, too, but the cerebral production proves far more fascinating when focusing on what made the man tick than on his music. 
 
A riveting retrospective plumbing the depths of the brilliant mind of a Renaissance man underappreciated in his own time.




Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexual references and brief nudity
Running time: 82 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics


To see a trailer for Eat That Question, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eB7XUpSUnoQ

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Top Ten DVD Releases for 6-21-16

by Kam Williams


This Week’s DVD Releases

How to Get Away with Murder: The Complete Second Season

Midnight Special


Janet King: Series One - The Enemy Within

No Way Out

Eddie the Eagle

The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses

The Brothers Grimsby


My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

Nature: India's Wandering Lions

Knight of Cups



Honorable Mention

The Midnight After

Strawberry Shortcake: Campberry Stories

The Other Side of the Door

Workaholics: Season Six

Rollercoaster

Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz

The Crush

Super Why! Goldilocks and the Three Bears