Sunday, January 20, 2019

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening January 25, 2019

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun  
by Kam Williams 


OPENING THIS WEEK 
 

WIDE RELEASES


The Kid Who Would be King (PG for action, violence, scary images, mature themes and mild epithets) Sci-fi epic adventure about a bullied British schoolboy (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) who stumbles upon his destiny as a latter-day King Arthur before joining forces with Merlin the Magician (Angus Imrie) and a band of knighted classmates to defeat an evil witch (Rebecca Ferguson) bent on world domination. With Tom Taylor, Rhianna Dorris and Patrick Stewart.


Serenity (R for sexuality, bloody images and pervasive profanity) Suspense thriller about a fishing boat captain (Matthew McConaughey) who is asked by his ex-wife (Anne Hathaway) to secretly toss her abusive second husband (Jason Clarke) overboard in the middle of the ocean. Cast includes Djimon Hounsou, Jeremy Strong and Rafael Sayegh.



INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

The 5 Browns: Digging through the Darkness (Unrated) Skeletons-in-the-closet documentary about a quintet of siblings whose meteoric rise to super-stardom as classical piano prodigies was spoiled by the shocking revelation that their manager/father had sexually abused his three daughters.

Bricked (Unrated) Coming-of-age drama revolving around a high school grad (Tracy Campbell) who finds himself at odds with his family while coping with bipolar disorder. With Terrence TC Carson, Shavonia Jones and Tasia Grant.

The Image Book (Unrated) Impressionistic essay, directed by the legendary Jean-Luc Godard, examining cinema's failure to address atrocities of the 20th and 21st Centuries. Narrated by Godard and featuring archival footage of Buster Keaton. (In French, English, Arabic, Italian and German)

In Like Flynn (R for violence, drug use and a sexual reference) Thomas Cocquerel plays Errol Flynn (1909-1959) in this biopic depicting the future matinee idol's early adulthood in Australia spent as an adventurer, gambler, drug smuggler, gold prospector, womanizer and street fighter. With Isabel Lucas, Clive Standen, Corey Large and Nathalie Kelley.


The Invisibles (Unrated) World War II saga, set in Berlin in 1943, about four Jews (Max Mauff, Alice Dwyer, Aaron Altaras and Ruby O. Fee) who survived the horrors of the Holocaust by hiding in plain sight right in the Nazi capital. Support cast includes Florian Lukas, Victoria Schulz and Andreas Schmidt. (In German with subtitles)


Jihadists (Unrated) Radical Islam around Africa is explored in this jaw-dropping documentary exposing the radical ideology indoctrinating thousands from Timbuktu to Tunisia, and from Mali to Mauritania. (In French with subtitles)


King of Thieves (R for pervasive profanity) Michael Caine stars in this fact-based crime caper as the 77 year-old mastermind of a $200 million bank heist of cash and jewels by a gang of eccentric senior citizens. With Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent and Ray Winstone.


Polar (Unrated) Adaptation of Victor Santos' graphic novel about a retired assassin (Mads Mikkelsen) who finds himself targeted by an army of ruthless young killers. Featuring Vanessa Hudgens, Katheryn Winnick and Johnny Knoxville.


Tito and the Birds (Unrated) Brazilian animated drama about a 10 year-old boy (Pedro Henrique) who collaborates with his exiled scientist father (Matheus Nachtergaele) to find a cure for a virus sweeping across the country which turns people to stone. Voice cast includes Marina Serretiello, Matheus Solano, Enrico Cardoso and Denise Fraga. (In Portuguese with subtitles)

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The 5 Browns: Digging through the Darkness

 
Film Review by Kam Williams


Shocking Documentary Reveals Classical Prodigies Abused by Dad

The 5 Browns is a musical quintet composed of siblings born in Houston, Texas between 1979 and 1986, all of whom started studying classical piano at an early age. In 1991, they moved to Utah where they were home schooled. The promising prodigies eventually came to the attention of Juilliard which made the unusual gesture of enrolling them all to the exclusive conservatory simultaneously.

Desirae, Deondra, Gregory, Melody and Ryan skyrocketed to fame in the wake of a profile in the New York Times which led to further coverage in People Magazine and other popular periodicals as well as to appearances on Oprah, 60 Minutes and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Meanwhile, they began releasing albums, three of which reached #1 on the Classical charts. 
 
Managed by their parents, Keith and Lisa, The 5 Browns went on numerous tours around the world where they would do charity events prior to performing in prominent concert halls. Between mom picking their repertoire and dad overscheduling them, the music wasn't fun anymore and the kids found themselves putting on fake faces on stage.

But far worse was the fact that Keith had been sexually abusing his daughters for years. In 2007, the devastated girls learned about each other and summoned the courage to confront him about the incest. But he failed to exhibit any contrition. Instead, he started representing some aspiring female teen musicians. 
 
Alarmed, Desirae, Deondra and Melody decided to report their father to the police. Keith was arrested, pled guilty to child sex abuse, and is currently serving a sentence of 10 years to life. 
 
When publicized, the tragic revelations shocked the fans of The 5 Browns, given their previously wholesome, happy family image. However, being repeatedly sexually abused by their dad understandably left the girls traumatized, with the stress even causing one to go blind in an eye. 
 
To their credit, Desirae and Deondra are now working with N.Y. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to extend the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims. And they have created a not-profit organization called The Foundation for Survivors of Abuse.

All of the above is chronicled in engaging fashion in The 5 Browns: Digging through the Darkness. The revealing documentary marks the latest offering from director Ben Niles who figured out how to handle a very difficult subject with just the right balance of probing and sensitivity.

A moving tale of survival that's timely, too, given the emergence of the #MeToo movement.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Unrated
Running time: 100 minutes
Production Company: Plow Productions


To see a trailer for The 5 Browns: Digging through the Darkness, visit: https://vimeo.com/242671548

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Mary Queen of Scots

 
Film Review by Kam Williams


Saoirse Ronan Plays Beleaguered Monarch in Flamboyant Costume Drama

Mary Stuart (1542-1587) is a tragic figure whose life story does not naturally lend itself to the big screen. After all, despite being King James V's only legitimate offspring at the time of his death, she spent most of her childhood exiled in France and over 18 years of her adulthood imprisoned in England before being beheaded at the behest of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. 
 
But that hasn't discouraged filmmakers from periodically taking liberties with the facts in order to mount an entertaining, if fanciful, biopic about the ill-fated aristocrat. Katharine Hepburn played Mary in a 1936 version directed by John Ford, while Vanessa Redgrave landed an Academy Award nomination for her rendition in a 1971 remake which netted a half-dozen Oscar nominations. 
 
Now, Saoirse Ronan stars as the beleaguered queen in a visually-captivating costume drama marking the directorial debut of Josie Rourke. The movie is based on John A. Guy's 2004 biography, “Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart,” though the production seems less concerned with historical accuracy than with flamboyant hair and makeup.

You can forget about the book's assertion about being “true.” For example, Mary and Elizabeth (Margot Robbie) never met in real life, yet this picture's climax revolves around their rendezvousing for a face-to-face showdown fabricated for dramatic effect. Equally disconcerting is that the film hypes female solidarity as a hot button issue, a glaring reminder of how a movie often tells you more about the period in which it was made than the one it is supposedly about. 
 
Even if you're inclined to forgive all of the above, perhaps the picture's most annoying flaw is that it opens with the heroine's execution, and is then followed by a series of flashbacks leading back to Mary's demise. Why spoil the ending by assuming everyone in your audience is a history buff who knows how the story's going to turn out?

An anti-climactic overindulgence in pomp and pageantry designed for fans of British royalty.


Fair (1 star)
Rated R for violence and sexuality
Running time: 124 minutes
Production Companies: Focus Features / Working Title Films / Perfect World Pictures
Studio: Focus Features

To see a trailer for Mary Queen of Scots, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnqjSgMU36U

Monday, January 14, 2019

Top Ten DVD List for January 15, 2019


by Kam Williams


This Week's DVD Releases 

Trail of Tears [36 Documentary Collection]

The Old Man & the Gun

Halloween
https://www.amazon.com/Halloween-Blu-ray-Jamie-Lee-Curtis/dp/B07J3B7DQ9/ref=tmm_blu_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Jonathan

Madeline's Madeline
https://www.amazon.com/Madelines-Madeline-Blu-ray-Helena-Howard/dp/B07K147L77/ref=ice_ac_b_dpb_atc_badge_A2N1U4I2KOS032_twi_blu_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1547512710&sr=1-3&keywords=Madeline%27s+Madeline

Robin Hood Origins [5 Classic Films]

The Laurel & Hardy Comedy Collection

Bent

Dogs on the Job: A 7-Part Dogumentary Series

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween
https://www.amazon.com/Goosebumps-2-Haunted-Halloween-Blu-ray/dp/B07HSK1LXJ/ref=ice_ac_b_dpb_twi_blu_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1547512579&sr=1-2&keywords=Goosebumps+2%3A+Haunted+Halloween

Honorable Mention

The Plague of the Zombies

The Karate Kid Part III & The Next Karate Kid [Double Feature]

Paw Patrol: Pups Save Puplantis

Odd Sock Eaters

Neo-Nazis Run Out of Princeton!





Under the Protection of Her Community She Flourished! Large Numbers Out to Oppose No Show ‘Prankster’ Nazis

by Daryle Lamont Jenkins





The New Jersey European Heritage Association has been hassling Princeton, NJ for months now. On Saturday, they decided not to show for a rally they announced and pretend it was all a joke when we said we will hassle them back. We still will.
PRINCETON, NJ – The day before the New Jersey European Heritage Association (NJEHA) was to hold a rally, the fledgling White supremacist group posted on their Twitter and Gab accounts that it was all a prank and never intended to have a permit, even though residents caught group members posting flyers a week before announcing a rally at Palmer Square on Saturday at Noon.
In the end even though the NJEHA failed to make an appearance, hundreds of community members, clergy and antifa who came out to protest Saturday and celebrated what they saw as cowardice on the part of the group.
Despite the NJEHA cancellation, the city still prepared for massive numbers of people converging on the Square, but instead of confrontations with hatemongers, those that did opted to call attention to the racism and hate of such groups, encouraging communities to push back against them. No injuries or arrests were reported and much of the city operated business as usual, with Nassau Street, the main road through Princeton still open to traffic and shops taking in customers, serving as a backdrop to ralliers as theye chanted, “No Nazis, no KKK, no fascist USA!”



Jan. 12, 2019: Princeton Professor Emeritus Dr. Cornel West speaks to the crowd.
Joining the protesters was Dr. Cornel West, a Professor Emeritus at Princeton University and he reminded the crowd that they were all there “as human beings” and to not be discouraged by today’s political climate that seeks to foster division. “Do not become discouraged, this of this moment!” he said. “We can and we do make a difference!”
The NJEHA is a group that first got noticed last August at a rally in Washington, DC organized to observe the anniversary of Jason Kessler’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that turned violent and where Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer lost her life with neo-Fascist James Alex Fields, Jr. drove his car into a crowd of people, injuring several and killing Heyer. At the Washington, DC rally group members wore helmets and American flags as masks to conceal their identity. The group’s website says they believe that “we must wrest political, economic and social control away from the hostile elite who have usurped power in America.”
They reinforced this belief by saying, “Our creed can be summed up by fourteen simple words; we must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children,” using a mantra created by neo-Nazi terrorist David Lane of the Order. It is believed that the group is being led by Dan D’Ambly a worker at a New York Daily News printing plant in Jersey City.



Picture taken of Daniel D’Ambly posting the NJEHA flyers on a kiosk in Princeton. You can see some of the “It’s Okay to be White” flyers in this photo.



The flyer.
For several months, the NJEHA has been flyering not only Princeton, but also nearby towns such as New Brunswick. Last November they performed a flash mob down Nassau Street where five members wore sunglasses and mouth gags while holding signs reading “It’s Okay to be White”. Last Sunday, a person believed to be D’Ambly was seen and photographed posting several flyers, including one announcing Saturday’s rally. Upon learning of the group’s announced intentions, community members began to organize a counter protest. Meanwhile some supporters of the NJEHA were promoting their event as late as Friday.
Late Friday afternoon, the NJEHA announced that they never planned to hold a rally. Saying that promoting one was a hoax.
The New Jersey Democratic Socialists of America posted a statement and read it at Saturday’s rally:
Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) condemns both fascism and the enabling of fascism through silence. We commit not only to non-racism, but to anti-racism by organizing working people against fascist agitators trying to provoke racial hostility. Racial animosity is a core tenet of fascist organizing, and as socialists we stand against any actions that divide the working class with racist ideology. Today we are proud to say that our organizing has scared off the fascists, but we will still be rallying tomorrow to display our unity and strength.
In order to resist fascist action, we must understand that these racist agitators did not come from nowhere. They are part of a system that enables the abuse of people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, native peoples, disabled people, and others regularly targeted by fascists. Indifference from governments and the police mean that we must rely on solidarity to protect each other from those who wish to do harm.

We ask you to join us in actively resisting white supremacy in all its forms: on the streets, in the workplace, and in positions of power.  Acknowledge, encourage, and assist local resistance organized by marginalized people. Recognize that peace without justice is tyranny.
People who attended the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville are trying to gain sympathy and attract like-minded people in Princeton. They want to make themselves presentable, and we’re here to let people know who they really are and what they’re really doing. We believe that the best way to avoid a violent confrontation is to overwhelm them with numbers and deny them the space to spread their genocidal ideology. By dominating the space with sheer numbers, we believe that we can show them that they are not welcome, in New Jersey or anywhere else, and steal away their platform to promote our own vision of a better world. Our adversaries’ retreat proves that we are right.

In Charlottesville and similar rallies around the country, the press has inevitably defaulted to a false equivalency in their reporting, writing about “extremists on both sides.” The police have protected white supremacists as they provoke violence; more counter-protesters have been attacked and arrested despite the violence coming from the racist groups. We are protesting this rally not to provoke violence, but to show the white supremacists that our communities will not stand for their hate.
Last year, the Charlottesville chapter of DSA put out a statement after the anniversary of Unite the Right which included:  “We ask that you join us in confronting all forms of white supremacy in your community, however explicit or subtle. Whether it is gentrification, policing, prisons, ICE activity, schooling, environmental injustice, inaccessibility, or capitalism, we must confront the ways racism and fascism intersect and structure our daily lives. As a DSA chapter we believe that building a better, socialist world is not possible without this anti-fascist work. And we specifically ask DSA chapters around the country to do their part in this struggle against white supremacy and fascism.”

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening January 18, 2019

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun  
by Kam Williams


OPENING THIS WEEK
 
WIDE RELEASES


Glass (PG-13 for profanity, violence, bloody images and mature themes) Samuel L. Jackson plays the brilliant but brittle title character in this sequel to M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable, a sci-fi thriller revolving around a superhuman security guard's (Bruce Willis) pursuit of a disturbed maniac (James McAvoy) with two dozen personalities. With Sarah Paulson, Luke Kirby and Anya Taylor-Joy.


If Beale Street Could Talk (R for profanity and sexuality) Adaptation of James Baldwin's classic novel, set in Harlem, revolving around a pregnant teenager's (Kiki Layne) efforts to free her fiance' (Stephan James) falsely accused of rape. With Regina King, Teyonah Parris and Colman Domingo.



INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Adult Life Skills (Unrated) Midlife crisis drama about a reclusive slacker (Jodie Whitaker), living in her mother's (Lorraine Ashbourne) backyard shed for years, who finds herself forced to finally grow up as her 30th birthday approaches. With Ozzy Myers, Edward Hogg and Brett Goldstein.

Genesis 2.0 (Unrated) Global warming documentary chronicling scientists' search around the Arctic's thawing permafrost for a woolly mammoth carcass with hopes of using its DNA to bring the extinct animal back to life.

The Heiresses (Unrated) Diminished dreams drama, set in Paraguay, chronicling a couple of formerly wealthy BFFs' (Ana Brun and Margarita Irun) adjustment to running out of money. With Ana Ivanova, Maria Martins and Nilda Gonzalez. (In Spanish and Guarani with subtitles)

I Hate Kids (PG-13 for profanity and suggestive material) Baby-daddy comedy about a groom-to-be (Tom Everett Scott) who learns during his wedding rehearsal dinner that he has a son (Julian Feder) from a fling with one of a dozen women he slept with over 13 years ago. Supporting cast includes Tituss Burgess, Rachel Boston and Rhea Seehorn.

The Last Man (R for violence, sexuality, nudity and pervasive profanity) Psychological thriller about a paranoid combat veteran (Hayden Christensen) suffering from PTSD who starts building an underground bomb shelter on the advice of a doomsday street prophet (Harvey Keitel) warning of an approaching apocalypse. Featuring Liz Solari, Marco Leonardi and Justin Kelly.

Stan & Ollie (PG for smoking and mild epithets) Bittersweet biopic about Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) recounting the legendary comedy team's 1953 reunion in Great Britain for a comeback concert tour. Supporting cast includes Danny Huston, Stephanie Hyam and Susy Kane.

The Standoff at Sparrow Creek (Unrated) Crime thriller about an ex-cop (James Badge Dale) who comes out of retirement to track down the militiaman behind a mass shooting at a police funeral. With Happy Anderson, Brian Geraghty and Chris Mulkey.

Who Will Write Our History? (Unrated) Holocaust documentary recounting the effort of a clandestine group of Polish Jews to counter Nazi propaganda by chronicling atrocities occurring in the Warsaw Ghetto. Voice cast includes Joan Allen and Adrien Brody. (In English, Yiddish and Polish with subtitles)




Saturday, January 12, 2019

A Dog's Way Home

 
Film Review by Kam Williams


Separated Pet Embarks on Perilous Journey in Heartwarming Family Adventure

Life has proven to be quite a challenge for Bella (voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard) from the start. Soon after birth, the puppy was separated from her mother, though she was lucky enough to be nursed back to health by a stray cat. 
 
The lovable mutt eventually lands at an animal shelter where receptionist Olivia (Alexandra Shipp) introduces it to the cute volunteer (Jonah Hauer-King) she has a crush on. Lucas decides to adopt Bella, hoping she might help lift the spirits of his mom (Ashley Judd), a military veteran suffering from PTSD. 
 
Terri does take to the playful pooch, although she is subsequently threatened with eviction for violating her lease's “no pets” provision. A further complication arrives when Denver's dogcatcher (John Cassini) incorrectly labels mixed-breed Bella as a pit bull. He warns that a local ordinance allows him to euthanize any pit bull not on a leash in public.

The plot thickens the day Bella impulsively leaps through a window to chase a squirrel down the street. She's spotted and seized by Officer Chuck who is eager to put her to sleep.
But the hound's life is spared thanks to a compromise whereby Bella is shipped to New Mexico to live with Olivia's Uncle Jose (Darcy Laurie). 
 
Unfortunately, Bella is miserable without Lucas and Terri, and it's not long before she runs away, embarking on a 400-mile journey home. That very eventful odyssey, marked by love, altruism, loyalty, unlikely liaisons, close brushes with death and even a terrible tragedy (which might upset tykes), fuels the fire of A Dog's Way Home, a touching tale directed by Charles Martin Smith (Air Bud). 
 
The movie is based on the novel of the same name by W. Bruce Cameron whose best seller, “A Dog's Purpose,” was successfully adapted to the screen a couple of years ago. Though not technically a sequel, this is another inspirational adventure narrated by an anthropomorphic canine.

The sentimental storyline is designed to appeal to dog lovers of all ages. Don't be surprised if you just can't resist the transparent attempts to tug on your heartstrings, despite the fact that this is a flick which telegraphs it punches.

Fairly formulaic, but it works! 

 
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG for peril, mild epithets and mature themes
Running time: 97 minutes
Production Companies: Columbia Pictures / Pariah / Bona Film Group
Studio: Sony Pictures

To see a trailer for A Dog's Way Home, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pKdCHvH310