Wednesday, September 17, 2014

9-26 Kam's Kapsules (FEATURE)



OPENING THIS WEEK
Kam's Kapsules:      
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         
by Kam Williams
For movies opening September 26, 2014


BIG BUDGET FILMS   

The Boxtrolls (PG for action, peril and mild crude humor) Animated fantasy revolving around an orphan (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) raised in a cave by trash-collecting trolls targeted by an evil exterminator (Ben Kingsley). Voice cast includes Elle Fanning, Tracy Morgan, Toni Collette, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

The Equalizer (R for graphic violence, sexual references and pervasive profanity) Denzel Washington stars in the title role of this screen version of the Eighties TV series about a retired spy-turned-hardware store clerk who reluctantly starts moonlighting as crime fighting vigilante on the streets of Boston. With Chloe Grace Moretz, Martin Csokas, Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo.   

Pride (R for profanity and brief sexuality) Historical drama recounting real events unfolding in the United Kingdom during the summer of 1984 when a group of gay activists rallied to the side of striking coal miners. Ensemble cast includes Bill Night, Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine, Andrew Scott and Dominic West.    


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS 

Advance Style (Unrated) Aging gracefully is the focus of this documentary chronicling the fashion sense of some Manhattan socialites over 60 who are challenging the conventional cultural assumption equating beauty and youth.

Believe Me (PG-13 for profanity) Buddy comedy about a broke college senior (Alex Russell) who enlists the assistance of a few classmates to raise his tuition by forming a fake charity designed to fleece gullible Christians. Cast includes Nick Offerman, Christopher McDonald, Zachary Knighton, Miles Fisher, Sinqua Walls and Johanna Braddy.

Days and Nights (Unrated) Dysfunctional family drama, loosely based on Chekhov’s play “The Seagull,” revolving around the havoc wreaked by reckless desire indulged over a holiday weekend at a retreat in rural New England. Ensemble cast includes Katie Holmes, Allison Janney, William Hurt, Jean Reno and Ben Whishaw. 

Good People (R for profanity and graphic violence) Crime thriller about an American couple (Kate Hudson and James Franco), living in London, who end up on the run from mobsters after finding a fortune in cash hidden in their dead tenant’s apartment. With Omar Sy, Tom Wilkinson and Anna Friel.  

Jimi: All Is by My Side (R for profanity, sexual references and drug use) Oscar-winning scriptwriter John Ridley (for 12 Years a Slave) wrote and directed this rocktrospective chronicling Jimi Hendrix’s (Andre 3000) life in London prior to the release of his debut album. Featuring Imogen Poots, Hayley Atwell and Ruth Negga.  

Lilting (Unrated) Romance drama, set in London, where a Chinese-Cambodian mom (Pei-pei Cheng) mourns the untimely death of her son (Andrew Leung) with the help of the gay lover (Ben Whishaw) she never knew he had. With Peter Bowles, Naomi Christie and Shane Salter.

The Little Bedroom (Unrated) Unlikely buddies drama about an elderly widower (Michel Bouquet) who finds himself befriended by the grieving young nurse (Florence Loiret Caille) assigned to care for him after a bad fall. Cast includes Joel Delsaut, Valerie Bodson and Eric Caravaca. (In English and French with subtitles)

Plastic (R for sexuality, nudity, drug use, graphic violence and pervasive profanity) Fact-based tale about a couple of British hackers (Ed Speleers and Will Poulter) whose multimillion-dollar, credit card scheme lands them in the crosshairs of a sadistic gangster (Thomas Kretschmann) whose identity they stole.  

Smiling through the Apocalypse (Unrated) Reverential biopic about Harold Hayes (1926-1989) editor-in-chief of Esquire Magazine at the height of its heyday in the Sixties. Featuring commentary by staff writers Gore Vidal, Tom Wolfe, Nora Ephron and Gay Talese. 

The Song (PG-13 for mature themes including substance abuse, crude references and smoking) Musical drama examining the toll exacted upon an aspiring singer’s (Alan Powell) marriage after a tune he wrote for his wife (Ali Faulkner) turns him into a superstar. Featuring Danny Vinson, Aaron Benward Jude Ramsey.

The Two Faces of January (PG-13 for and smoking) Adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith best seller of the same name, set in Athens in 1962, about a couple of American sightseers (Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst) who, against their better judgment, help their tour guide (Oscar Isaac) cover up a murder. With Daisy Bevan, David Warshofsky and Ozan Tas. (In English, Turkish and Greek with subtitles)

Two-Night Stand (R for sexuality, profanity and drug use) Romantic comedy about two strangers (Miles Teller and Analeigh Tipton) forced by a snowstorm to share another night between the sheets after a disastrous one-night stand. Featuring Victor Cruz, Berto Colon and Jessica Szohr.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hector and the Search for Happiness (FILM REVIEW)



Hector and the Search for Happiness
Film Review by Kam Williams

Rollicking Road Comedy Chronicles Eccentric Shrink’s Crazy Quest for Joy 

            Hector (Simon Pegg) is a funny duck, as they say. The eccentric neat freak is lucky to have a gorgeous girlfriend like Clara (Rosamund Pike) who’s willing to put up with his odd requests, such as arranging everything in perfect order, from his socks to his sandwiches. He’s even more fortunate to have a thriving psychiatric practice, given the barely-contained contempt he routinely exhibits for the folks lying on his couch.
A moment of truth arrives the day one of them (Veronica Ferres) finally summons up the courage to tell him to his face that he’s transparent, inauthentic, and just going through the motions. Conceding that he’s become so jaded that he isn’t helping his equally-miserable patients anymore, Hector decides to embark solo on a globe-spanning, spiritual quest for the fulfillment that has somehow escaped him.
After all, how could he not have joy, when surrounded by all the trappings of success? Hector’s plans have Clara concerned about whether the relationship is on shaky ground, since she’s been reluctant to start a family and she’s also aware that he has an ex (Toni Collette) in the U.S. he still cares about.
Unfolding like the alpha male answer to Eat Pray Love (2010), Hector and the Search for Happiness is an alternately introspective and action-oriented travelogue played mostly for laughs. Simon Pegg exhibits an endlessly-endearing naïvete as the peripatetic protagonist, whether misreading the flirtations of a prostitute (Ming Zhao) in China or taking a while to realize that his cab has been carjacked by the underlings of an African crime boss (Akin Omotoso).
Such perils notwithstanding, our intrepid hero persists in posing his pressing question “What is happiness?” at each port-of-call as he circumnavigates the globe. Taking copious notes on a writing pad, he records the answers he receives, like “Being loved for who you are,” “Answering your calling,” and “Feeling completely alive.”
            Eventually, Hector experiences that elusive “Eureka!” epiphany he needs so dearly, which allows him to rush home revitalized to Clara and a career and clients who might not be so annoying after all. A feel-good meditation on the meaning of life, guaranteed to leave you counting your many blessings as you walk up the aisle.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity and brief nudity
In English, French and German with subtitles
Running time: 114 minutes
Distributor: Relativity Media

To see a trailer for Hector and the Search for Happiness, visit:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2mgTYdth0w    



Finding Your Roots (BOOK REVIEW)



Finding Your Roots
by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  
University of North Carolina Press
Hardcover, $30.00                                                                      
352 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4696-1800-5

Book Review by Kam Williams
           
“Who are we, and where do we come from? The fundamental drive to answer these questions is at the heart of Finding Your Roots… As Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. shows us, the tools of cutting-edge genomics and deep genealogical research now allow us to learn more about our roots, looking further back in time than ever before.
Gates’ investigations take on the personal and genealogical histories of more than twenty luminaries… Interwoven with their moving stories [is] practical information for amateur genealogists just beginning archival research on their own families’ roots. And details [about] the advances in genetic research now available to the public.
The result is an illuminating exploration of who we are, how we lost track of our roots, and how we can find them again.”   
Excerpted from the Book Jacket

Most black people hit a dead end when trying to trace their lineage, because their ancestors were considered fungible goods during slavery, meaning they were merely personal property to be bought and sold, and whipped and shipped at the will of their owners. While in bondage, they couldn’t marry, start a family or even raise their own offspring.
For that reason, Henry Louis Gates’ African-American Lives proved to be a hit on TV, since the popular PBS program profiled prominent black figures’ attempt to reconstruct their family trees with his help. Turns out some other ethnicities are just as curious about their heritage. So, Dr. Gates decided to host another show, expanding his focus this time to include a diversity of folks reflecting the full spectrum of the racial rainbow.
“Finding your Roots” is basically a companion book to Season One of that series of the same name. And among Dr. Gates’ over two dozen subjects is style diva Martha Stewart, whose name has come to be synonymous with class and sophistication.
Given her aristocratic bearing and Anglo-Saxon pseudonym, one might easily assume that she’s a WASP whose forbears arrived on the Mayflower. Truth be told, Martha doesn’t trace her roots back to British bluebloods but to a long line of Polish blue-collar craftsmen who toiled as butchers, basket makers, gardeners, shoemakers, seamstresses and iron workers.
By contrast, Korean-American comedienne Margaret Cho appreciated learning that her family’s surname started way back in 1237 with her great-great-great… ancestor In-gyu Cho. “I love this because now I feel like I exist,” she says, regretting how “Your specialness gets lost with your Americanization.”
CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who was born and raised in Michigan, was stunned to discover that one of his forefathers, Rameshwar Dass, had been imprisoned in the Thirties and again in the Forties as a freedom fighter in India’s struggle for independence from England. Also profiled are jazz musicians Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr, politicians John Lewis, Condoleezza Rice and Cory Booker, actors Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey, Jr., Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, minister Rick Warren, and R&B singer John Legend.
A painstakingly-researched genealogical tapestry weaving a wonderful tribute to America as a very culturally-rich melting pot.

To order a copy of Finding Your Roots, visit: 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Denzel Interview (FILM REVIEW)



Denzel Washington & Antoine Fuqua
The Equalizer” Interview
with Kam Williams

Equalizers ‘Я’ Us


Denzel Washington is a man constantly on the move. Never content to just repeat his successes, the two-time Academy Award-winner (for Glory and Training Day) is always searching for new challenges through his numerous and varied film and stage portrayals. 

From Trip, the embittered runaway slave in Glory to South African freedom fighter Steven Biko in Cry Freedom; from Shakespeare's tragic historical figure Richard III to the rogue detective Alonzo in Training Day; to his recent critically-acclaimed performance as the addicted airline pilot Whip Whitaker in Flight, Denzel has amazed and entertained audiences with a rich array of characters distinctly his own.
 
The talented thespian has also starred in 2 Guns, Safe House, Unstoppable, The Book Of Eli, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, American Gangster, Inside Man, Déjà Vu, Man on Fire, The Manchurian Candidate and Out Of Time, to name a few. And his next film as director was The Great Debaters, where he co-starred opposite Forest Whitaker. 

Here, Denzel and director Antoine Fuqua discuss their reuniting to collaborate again on The Equalizer. 


Kam Williams: Hi Denzel and Antoine, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with the two of you.
Denzel Washington: Our pleasure!
Antoine Fuqua: Yeah, thanks Kam.

KW: I want you to know that I loved this film and also your previous one, Antoine, Olympus Has Fallen. Thanks for using my quote on the DVD. I hope I get blurbed for this one, too. 
AF: Of course! You’re welcome.

KW: I have more questions for you two from readers than you could ever answer, but I hope we can get through a lot of them.
DW: Go!

KW: Film Student Jamaal Green doesn’t have a question, but says: You are both an inspiration to me and many of my peers who are pursuing a career in filmmaking. Thank you for your dedication to your craft.
AF: Thank you Jamal!

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls says to Antoine: Thank you for giving us a Black hero. Do you see the Equalizer as blossoming into a franchise?
AF: I hope so, but that’d be up to the audience.

KW: Larry Greenberg says: Antoine, I have only seen the trailer for The Equalizer, but I was blown away by the cinematography. How were you able to achieve that look?
AF: With the help of a great cinematographer, Mauro Fiore [Oscar-winner for Avatar].

KW: Pittsburgh publisher Robin Beckham asks As an Academy Award-winning actor, what is it like to work again with one of the few African-American directors, Pittsburgh born, Training Day director Antoine Fuqua? Is there some special “brother” chemistry in action while working together?
DW: [LOL, speaks while Antoine also laughs heartily] Yes, we have the ”brother” meeting every weekend, at the Brotherhood of Black Directors and Black Actors’ meeting. No, Antoine is obviously very talented, and we’ve had some success in the past, and I also look forward to our next opportunity.

KW: Director Rel Dowdell says: Denzel, you have set the standard of excellence for African-American actors for so long. Is there any type of film that you haven't had the chance to act in yet that you would like to?
DW: No. [Laughs again, then pauses to think] I don’t know... There’s no wish list, but thanks for asking, Rel.

KW: Editor Lisa Loving asks Denzel: Have you ever taken on a role that, when you were in the middle of it, made you think – wait, this is impossible?
DW: What does Lisa mean by impossible? Impossible to do or to be or in some other way?  
KW: I have no idea. I’m just reading what was sent in.
DW: Don’t shoot the messenger, right? [Chuckles]
KW: Yeah.

KW: Lisa also says: Antoine, based on your childhood, would your mom have been surprised to know all that you were going to accomplish in your professional career?
AF: Absolutely! Absolutely! I played sports. She would never think I was going to be a director. That wasn’t part of our daily conversations.

KW: Hirangi Patel asks Denzel: What can you reveal about your character Robert McCall’s mysterious back story?
DW: It wouldn’t be mysterious anymore, if I revealed it. [Antoine chuckles in background] You have to go to the movie and see.

KW: Dr. Joy Ohayia would like to ask Denzel: What is your secret to staying in fantastic shape for your action movies?
DW: There’s no easy way. Going to the gym, and a good diet and exercise. Well, I guess there are some magic pills available these days, but I don’t take any of ‘em. I may start, though. [Laughs]

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles: What message about this action hero do you hope viewers take away from the film?
DW: Maybe Antoine will answer that question, but I never do because it all depends upon what each viewer brings to the film. The idea is just to have a good time. It’s not a big deal. Is there a message, Antoine?
AF: No, just doin’ the right thing. He’s a guy who does the right thing, what’s necessary to help others.

KW: David Roth asks Antoine about The Equalizer: Why would a black man attempting to disappear choose to live in a predominantly white community?
AF: [While Denzel bellows in the background] who says it’s a white community?
DW: Actually, it’s a black and Hispanic community.

KW: Aaron Moyne: If you had the power to equalize social injustices in real-life, what would be the first one you'd tackle?
DW: Who’s that one for?
KW: He didn’t say.
DW: You got that one, Antoine?
AF: That’s a tough one. There’s a lot of things that need equalizing.
DW: Yeah. Just getting along, Aaron, and having respect for your fellow man.

KW: Kate Newell asks: Denzel, would you ever consider a career in politics?
DW: [Emphatically] No!

KW: Claudia Thorne asks Denzel: I would love it if you were the commencement speaker at my graduation from Howard University next year.
DW: Thank you, Claudia.

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What advice do you have for aspiring minority actors and directors, and did either of you have a protégé?
DW: Don’t look at yourself as a minority.  
AF: Yeah. Yeah, that’s right.

KW: Tony Noel asks Denzel: How have you managed to avoid having your life splashed across the tabloids?
DW: You can’t, unless you stay in the house. [Belly laughter from both]

KW: Tony asks Denzel: Is there an outcome or theme of a movie of yours that you would change if you could?  
DW: I don’t know. We actually changed the ending in Training Day. In the original one, he lived. He walked away into an airport or something.
AF: Yeah.
DW: We changed the ending since, in order to justify Alonzo Harris’ living in the worst way, he had to die in the worst way, which he did.

KW: Steve Kramer says: I played the piano for "The All Nite Strut" and worked with your then girlfriend…
DW: [Denzel cuts me off] Get outta here! Pauletta?
KW: Yes, with Pauletta in Boston and Toronto. I was a skinny white guy with a big Jew-fro back then.
DW: [LOL] A skinny guy white guy with a big Jew-fro?
KW: Yep.
DW: Okay, I’ll ask my wife.  
KW: Steve was wondering whether you remember walking the streets of Boston with him right before the release of your first movie, Carbon Copy, when he told you there was no greater woman than Pauletta?  
DW: Well, I’m glad I listened to him. [Chuckles]

KW: Denzel, city bus driver Kevin Kenna would like to know whether you have any fond memories of Philadelphia?
DW: Yeah, my son went to the University of Pennsylvania, so I have a lot of great memories from visiting him and working there… Cheese steaks and going to the Palestra to watch basketball games.

KW: Richie von der Schmidt asks Denzel about Philadelphia: Do you agree that “A bologna sandwich is a satisfactory meal, whereas caviar and champagne, roast duck and baked Alaska, that might be considered a delightful meal,” which is a line of your characters from the film Philadelphia.
DW: You gotta ask [director] Jonathan Demme.

KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams is curious about how working on A Soldier's Story and For Queen and Country improved your craft as an actor? You were so great in those early films.
DW: Well, A Soldier’s Story was a Pulitzer Prize-winning play first. I was one of the original cast members with Sam Jackson, among others in the play. We had great success off-Broadway even before we did the movie. It was a tremendous experience.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks Denzel: Will you ever retire from acting? 
DW: We’ll all retire from life at some point, but no. The great thing about acting is you don’t necessarily have to retire. 80 seems to be around the age that people seem to ease out of it. Gene Hackman… Sidney Poitier… So, I have a whole ‘nother quarter to go.

KW: Sangeetha Subram asks: Denzel, how did you come to produce this film?
DW: It’s just a title. It really was a collaborative process. We all got involved as soon as we were given the script. I’m not a numbers cruncher. I just helped make sure we put the best film we could onscreen. 

KW: Bernadette, Antoine, What was it like directing Denzel again?
DW: Oh, I’m going to walk away while you answer that one. [Laughs]
AF: Amazing. He’s simply amazing! You can’t ask for better.

KW: Professor/Fillmaker/Author Hisani Dubose asks: How has the Hollywood studios becoming part of conglomerates affected your ability to work? Do you think it’s feasible for independent productions to go after theatrical release these days?
AF: It’s always been big business. It doesn’t affect it any more now than it did 30 or 40 years ago. You just have to do the work.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
AF: Myself! [Laughs]
DW: The room behind me. [Laughs very heartily]

KW: Well, thanks again for the interview,
AF:  Thank you, Kam.
DW: Take care.

To see a trailer for The Equalizer, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BP_FwE0Z7no

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (FILM REVIEW)


The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
Film Review by Kam Williams


Ken Burns Biopic Paints Revealing Portrait of Influential American Political Dynasty

            Between Theodore (1901-1909) and Franklin (1933-1945), a Roosevelt was in the White House for 20 years of the 20th Century. It is not surprising, then, that they, in conjunction with FDR’s wife Eleanor, would reshape not only Americans’ relationship with the federal government but even the U.S.’ own standing in the rest of the world.
You probably think of Teddy as the tough-talking President whose foreign policy was reduced to, “Walk softly and carry a big stick!” And his cousin Franklin had his own iconic catchphrase, namely, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” which was generally credited for buoying the country’s spirits during the Great Depression.
Meanwhile, Eleanor might be best remembered for having publicly resigned from the Daughters of the American Revolution when the organization prevented Marian Anderson from staging a concert at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC because of her skin color. The First Lady subsequently took it upon herself to invite the snubbed opera singer to perform both at the White House (the first black ever to do so there) and on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday in front of  a crowd of 75,000.
What you might not know is that Eleanor Roosevelt was a staunch African-American advocate who insisted that housing, employment and equal education were basic human rights that this society had a moral obligation to provide to all its citizens. Fortunately, Ken Burns 14-hour series, The Roosevelts, fully fleshes out Eleanor, FDR and Teddy into the complex human beings they really were, including their triumphs, their transformations, their flaws, and their failings.
For example, we see how Franklin suffered from polio for most of his adult life, and how he went to great lengths to hide from the nation the toll the debilitating affliction was taking on his body. Covering over a century, from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962, this revealing biopic paints a fascinating portrait, not to be missed, of perhaps America’s most influential political dynasty.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated TV-PG
Running time: 14 hours
Studio: Florentine Films
Distributor: PBS

The Roosevelts airs on PBS from 8-10 PM ET/PT from Sunday, September 14th through Saturday September 20th (check local listings)

To see a trailer for The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcmGpZppPwA



To order a copy of The Roosevelts on DVD, visit:  

DVD Extras: 13 bonus videos; The Making of The Roosevelts; and deleted scenes with an introduction by Ken Burns.  
 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

This Is Where I Leave You (FILM REVIEW)



This Is Where I Leave You
Film Review by Kam Williams

Family Grieves Patriarch in Droll Dramedy Based on Best Seller

            When Mort Altman (Will Swenson) passes away, his children return home reasonably expecting to remain in town briefly. After all, despite being raised Jewish, they have no reason to expect to sit shiva, since their dad was an avowed atheist and their psychologist mom (Jane Fonda) is a gentile.
            However, after the funeral, Hillary Altman informs her offspring of the dearly-departed’s dying wish that they mourn him for a week in accordance with religious tradition. And then, she announces that they’ve all just been grounded for seven days, as if they’re still children.
This development doesn’t sit well with any of the siblings, since they don’t get along and this is the first time they’ve all been sleeping under the same roof in ages. Furthermore, their dad’s death couldn’t have come at a more inopportune moment, since each is in the midst of a midlife crisis.
Judd (Jason Bateman) has just learned that his wife (Abigail Spencer) is having an affair with his boss (Dax Shepard). Meanwhile, brother Paul’s (Corey Stoll) marriage is in jeopardy because his wife’s (Kathryn Hahn) biological clock is ticking very loudly but she’s been unable to get pregnant.
Then there’s playboy baby brother, Philip (Adam Driver), a narcissist with unresolved oedipal issues, judging by the fact that he’s dating a shrink (Connie Britton) old enough to be his mother. He’s such a self-indulgent womanizer, he doesn’t think twice about shamelessly flirting with an old flame (Carly Brooke Pearlstein) right in front of his mortified girlfriend. 
Finally, we have only-sister Wendy (Tina Fey). Superficially, she seems to be the most stable of the four as a doting mother of two with a devoted, if emotionally distant, husband (Aaron Lazar) who at least is a great provider.
Barry’s obsession with his career on Wall Street has come at the cost of preserving the passion and intimacy in the relationship. So, the last thing Wendy needs now is the temptation of a duplicitous dalliance being dangled in front of her eyes in the form of Horry (Timothy Olyphant). However, her hunky high school sweetheart is still single, still in shape, and still right across the street, even if he’s brain-damaged and lives with his mother (Debra Monk).
            All of these sticky situations serve primarily as fodder for a sophisticated brand of humor in This Is Where I Leave You, an alternately droll and laugh out loud dramedy directed by Shawn Levy (Date Night). Adroitly adapted to the screen by Jonathan Tropper, author of the best seller of the same name, this relentlessly-witty film features some of the funniest repartee around as it simultaneously explores a laundry list of sobering themes ranging from religion and mortality to love and betrayal.
            A character-driven examination of a dysfunctional Jewish family about as wacky as they come.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality and drug use
Running time: 103 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers

To see a trailer for This Is Where I Leave You, visit:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fH0cEP0mvlU

Saturday, September 13, 2014

No Good Deed (FILM REVIEW)


No Good Deed

Film Review by Kam Williams

Housewife and Kids Abducted by Killer in Edge of Your Seat Thriller

            It is usually a bad sign when a movie studio decides not to preview a picture for film critics. In the case of No Good Deed, Screen Gems claimed that it was refraining from doing so in order to prevent the spoiling of a surprising plot twist. Well, the butler did it! (Just kidding.)
Skeptical, I had to wait until opening day to see it. And while the movie is by no means a masterpiece, I’m happy to report that it’s nevertheless a tautly-wound nail-biter which keeps you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. And yes, there is a humdinger of a revelation during the denouement, not a totally preposterous development but rather a plausible one which was merely cleverly-concealed.   
The movie marks the theatrical directorial debut of Sam Miller, who is best known for Luther, the brilliant BBC-TV series featuring Idris Elba in the title role for which he won a Golden Globe in 2012. The two collaborate again here, with Idris playing Colin Evans, a serial killer who, at the point of departure, slays a couple of prison guards during a daring escape from a Tennessee prison.
He makes his way to his girlfriend Alexis’ (Kate del Castillo) house in Atlanta only to murder her, too, when he learns she’s already involved with another man. Colin remains so blinded with rage as he drives away that he crashes his stolen car into a tree along a suburban country road.
He subsequently knocks on the door of Terri Granger (Taraji P. Henson), an attorney-turned-stay at home mom whose husband (Henry Simmons) has conveniently just left town with his father away for a weekend golf getaway. Against the former prosecutor’s better judgment, she lets the tall, dark and handsome stranger enter the house, and it isn’t long before there’s trouble in paradise.
After all as the proverb suggested by the title warns, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Accordingly, Terri and her two young kids find themselves in the clutches of a desperate maniac until the protective mother’s maternal and survival instincts kick into high gear.
No Good Deed was ostensibly inspired by The Desperate Hours, a suspiciously-similar Broadway play starring Paul Newman which was first adapted to the big screen in 1955 starring Humphrey Bogart, and remade in 1990 with Sir Anthony Hopkins. Thanks to Mr. Elba’s menacing intensity, a potentially mediocre variation on the theme ends up elevated into a tension-filled gutwrencher his loyal fans won’t want to miss. 
            The urban-oriented audience at the screening I attended talked back at the screen a lot in the way that engaged black folks do, and they even applauded heartily as the closing credits rolled, surefire signs that the studio has a hit on its hands, conventional critics notwithstanding.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence and profanity
Running time: 84 minutes
Distributor: Screen Gems

To see a trailer for No Good Deed, visit: