Saturday, January 21, 2017

Top Ten DVD List for January 24, 2016

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams


Ixcanul

Peanuts by Schulz: Snoopy Tales

The Man Who Fell to Earth [Limited Collector's Edition]

The Code: Season 2


The Light between Oceans

Inferno

Sea Monsters: The Definitive Guide


Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Guardians of Oz


Honorable Mention

16 for 16: The Contenders

The Incredible Dr. Pol: Season 9

Adventure Time: Islands [Miniseries]

X-Rated

Odd Squad: The Movie

American Experience: The Battle of Chosin

Smithsonian: Polar Bear Town: Season 1

USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage





Friday, January 20, 2017

xXx: Return of Xander Cage

 
Film Review by Kam Williams



High-Octane Franchise Revived by the Return of Vin Diesel as the Title Character

When it was released back in 2002 , xXx grossed over a quarter-billion dollars worldwide in theaters alone. The visually-captivating espionage adventure starring Vin Diesel was reminiscent of James Bond, except it featured a hunkier hero and more spectacular stunts and special effects. 
 
The high-octane thriller so overshadowed the relatively-mundane Die Another Day that year that Pierce Brosnan would soon be replaced by Daniel Craig as 007. Ironically, Vin Diesel was also replaced by Ice Cube in xXx 2, a drismal sequel that bombed at the box office, leaving a once-promising franchise on life support. 
 
It's taken a decade and a half, but Vin is finally reprising the role he originated. The good news is that the picture arrives laced with the sort of death-defying feats that made the first xXx such a hit. That means a plethora of action sequences in which our superhuman protagonist proves impervious to bullets and the laws of gravity. 
 
There are also tons of the trademark titillation, coming courtesy of both Vin's beefcake and a bevy of adoring beauties. Directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia), xXx: Return of Xander Cage even tips its hat to earlier episodes via cameos by Samuel L. Jackson and Ice Cube. 
 
At the point of departure, we find Xander living under the radar in self-imposed exile in Latin America. He's still an extreme sports enthusiast, and just for fun skis across the treetops of a verdant rain forest before switching to a skateboard for an equally-breathtaking ride down a winding mountainside highway. 
 
Next thing you know, he's being coaxed out of retirement by a CIA chief (Toni Collette) to keep the world safe for democracy. The mission involves retrieving a devastating weapon of mass destruction code-named "Pandora's Box" that's fallen into the hands of a gang of daredevils led by a diabolical trio (Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa and Deepika Padukone) bent on world domination.

After jettisoning a standard-issue, U.S. military support team, Xander recruits a motley crew of renegades more in his own image. Can that rag-tag posse, composed of a crack sniper (Ruby Rose), a fearless getaway driver (Rory McCann), a state-of-the-art gadget wizard (Nina Dobrev) and an affable DJ/ jack-of-all-trades (Kris Wu), rise to the occasion?

Why not? Anything is possible, with cartoon physics on your side!


Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, profanity and pervasive violence`
Running time: 107 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures


To see a trailer for xXx: Return of Xander Cage, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQEFmHsseaU


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Inferno


 
Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams


Hanks Reprises Role as Crime-Solving Symbologist in Latest Adaptation of Dan Brown Thriller

Dan Brown is the author of a quartet of best-selling mysteries featuring Harvard Professor Robert Langdon as the protagonist. The phenomenally-popular novels have sold over 100 million copies and counting, with the fifth in the series slated to be released in the fall of 2017.
Screen versions of the first two Robert Langdon books, The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels & Demons (2009), netted over a billion dollars at the box office. So, it's no surprise that another adaptation might be in order.

Inferno reunites director Ron Howard with Tom Hanks who reprises his lead role as a genius with an uncanny knack for deciphering ancient symbols and religious iconography. And Howard enlisted the assistance of a stellar support cast which includes Ben Foster, Felicity Jones, Irrfan Khan and Omar Sy.

Inferno is easily the most successful of the offerings, as it reins in Langdon's earlier tendency to overindulgence in inscrutable jargon. This go round, the intellectual badinage has been minimized to make way for a flurry of visually-captivating action sequences.

Another plus is the easy to follow plotline. The point of departure is a hospital in Florence, Italy which is where we find Langdon suffering from amnesia yet lucky to be alive given how a bullet to the head only grazed his scalp. 
 
Before we even have a chance to blink, a gun-toting assassin (Ana Ularu) arrives to finish the job. Fortunately, Langdon's gorgeous doctor, Sienna Brooks (Jones), not only helps him escape on the spot, but is prepared to abandon her practice to go on the run with her traumatized patient. 
 
As it turns out, the hit woman was part of a much larger conspiracy. For, she was merely doing the bidding of Bertrand Zobrist (Foster), an evil billionaire on the verge of hatching a disturbing solution for the world's overpopulation problem. Essentially, the madman's plan is to unleash a lethal virus designed to kill half the people on the planet in less than a week. 
 
That sets the stage for Langdon and Sienna's dizzying race against time to unearth a cornucopia of clues enabling them to track down and disarm the diabolical Zobrist. That in a nutshell is the sum and substance of Inferno, except for a humdinger of a twist it would be unfair to spoil. 
 
Easily, the most accessible, engaging, entertaining and cinematic adaptation of a Dan Brown thriller yet!



Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for action, violence, profanity, disturbing images, mature themes and brief sensuality
In English, French and Italian with subtitles
Running time: 121 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: Deleted and extended scenes; Ron Howard: A Director's Journal; A Look at Langdon; The Billionaire Villain: Bertrand Zobrist; This Is Sienna Brooks; Inferno around the World; and Vision of Hell.



To see a trailer for Inferno, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH2BD49sEZI

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

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening January 27, 2017

 

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams


OPENING THIS WEEK

BIG BUDGET FILMS

A Dog's Purpose (PG for peril and mature themes) Three-time Oscar-nominee Lasse Hallstrom directed this adaptation of W. Bruce Cameron's fantasy novel of the same name about an anthropomorphic, reincarnating pooch (Josh Gad) that uncovers the meaning of life with the help of a series of owners. With Dennis Quaid, Peggy Lipton and Britt Robertson.

Gold (R for sexuality, nudity and pervasive profanity) Unlikely-buddies drama about a down on his luck businessman (Matthew McConaughey) who joins forces with a geologist (Edgar Ramirez) to search for gold bullion in the jungles of Borneo. With Bryce Dallas Howard, Stacy Keach and Bruce Greenwood.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (R for pervasive violence) Sci-fi horror series' swan song written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson and starring his wife, Milla Jovovich. Post-apocalyptic adventure finds the fearless heroine forming an alliance with the hadnful of human survivors for one last stand against the undead. With Ali Larter, Iain Glen, Williams Levy and Ruby Rose.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Behemoth (Unrated) Eco-documentary illustrating the devastating toll exacted by mining on China's population and landscape. (In Mandarin with subtitles)

The Daughter (Unrated) Adaptation of "The Wild Duck," Henrik Ibsen's classic play revolving around a man (Paul Schneider) who uncovers a dark family secret when he returns home to attend his father's (Geoffrey Rush) wedding. Featuring Nicholas Hope, Sam Neill and Ewen Leslie.

Get the Girl (R for pervasive profanity, graphic violence, drug use and brief nudity and sexuality) Action comedy about a wealthy guy (Justin Dobies) who attempts to impress the object of his affection (Elizabeth Whitson) by coming to her rescue during a fake kidnapping, only to have the stunt go horribly wrong. Support cast includes Daniel Quinn, Adi Shankar, Noah Segan and Scout Taylor-Compton.

I Am Michael (Unrated) James Franco plays the title character in this biopic about Michael Glatze, a gay activist who claimed to be cured of homosexuality after turning to Christianity. With Emma Roberts, Daryl Hannah and Zachary Quinto.

Kung-Fu Yoga (Unrated) Jackie Chan stars in this action comedy as an archaeology professor who embarks with a young protege (Amyra Dastur) on a globe-trotting adventure in search of a lost Indian treasure. With Disha Patani, Aarif Rahman and Sonu Sood.

Massacre on Aisle 12 (Unrated) Horror comedy about a hardware store clerk (Michael Buonomo) whose first day on the job is ruined by the discovery of a dead body and a duffel bag stuffed with cash. Cast includes Chad Ridgely, Jim Klock and Doug Burch.

The Salesman (PG-13 for mature themes and a brief bloody image) Crime thriller, set in Tehran, about an Iranian couple (Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini), appearing in a local production of Death of a Salesman, whose relationship is tested when the wife is raped right after they move into a new apartment. With Babak Karimi, Mina Sadati and Emad Emami. (In Persian with subtitles)

Un Padre No Tan Padre (PG-13 for profanity, drug use and partial nudity) Dysfunctional family comedy about a cranky 85 year-old (Hector Bonilla) forced to move into his long-estranged son's (Benny Ibarra) hippie commune after getting kicked out of his retirement home. Support cast includes Zamia Fandino, Camila Selser and Eduardo Tanus. (In Spanish with subtitles)


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tears We Cannot Stop

 
Book Review by Kam Williams

Tears We Cannot Stop
A Sermon to White America
by Michael Eric Dyson
St. Martin's Press
Hardcover, $24.99
202 pages
ISBN: 978-1-250-13599-5



America is in trouble, and a lot of that trouble--perhaps most of it--has to do with race. Everywhere we turn, there is discord, division, death and destruction.
When we survey the land, we see a country full of suffering that it cannot fully understand, and a history that it can no longer deny. Slavery casts a long shadow across our lives...
Black and white people... seem to occupy different universes with worldviews that are fatally opposed to one another... What, then, can we do?
What I need to say can only be said as a sermon... I offer this sermon to you, my dear white friends... I do so in the interest of healing our nation through honest, often blunt, talk... Without white America wrestling with these truths and confronting these realities, we may not survive.
To paraphrase the Bible, to whom much is given, much is expected. And, you my friends, have been given so much. And the Lord knows, what wasn't given, you simply took, took, and took, and took.
But the time is here for reckoning with the past... and moving together to redeem the nation for the future.”
-- Excerpted from the Chapter 1, "Call to Worship" (pages 3-7)


Michael Eric Dyson teaches Sociology at Georgetown University, and is the prolific author of 20 best-sellers and a popular face on the TV talk show circuit. Many might forget that Professor Dyson got his doctorate in Religion from Princeton University. 
 
In his new book, Tears We Cannot Stop, he reminds us that, "Although I am a scholar, a cultural and political critic, and a social activist, I am, before, and above anything else, an ordained Baptist minister." That helps explain the profusion of captivating, flowery rhetoric whenever the brother's been handed a microphone.

While his previous works were aimed at a black audience, this is his first intended to be read by whites. It is also written in a unique literary style, namely, as a sermon designed to keep Caucasians standing on their feet like an inspired congregation of holy rollers. 
 
The chapters are even laid out like a church service, starting with the "Call to Worship," followed by "Hymns of Praise," an "Invocation," and the "Scripture Reading" leading to the "Sermon," and concluding with the "Benediction." The meat of the message can be found in the Sermon section which opens with the iconoclastic suggestion that there is no such thing as a white race. 
 
Professor Dyson's point there is that whiteness is an arbitrary (as opposed to a scientific) construct which affords one group advantages and privileges at the expense of others. He argues that "whiteness is made up, and that white history disguised as American history is a fantasy, as much a fantasy as white superiority and white purity." 
 
If I were Dyson, I wouldn't be holding my breath for a positive reception from his intended audience, given the ascension of Donald Trump and the celebration of rednecks in the runaway best seller, Hillbilly Elegy. He might be better off redirecting his sermon to the African-American community and changing his incendiary opus' subtitle to "Preaching to the Choir!"

Can I get an "Amen!"


To order a copy of Tears We Cannot Stop, visit:  


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Lion


 
Film Review by Kam Williams


Curious Adoptee Tracks Down Birth-Mom in Bittersweet Biopic


Saroo (Dev Patel) had the misfortune of being born into poverty in India's Khandwa district. He lived there with his single-mom, Kamla (Priyanka Bose), along with his big brother, Guddu (Abhishek Bharate), and younger sister, Shekila (Khushi Solanki). 
 
His illiterate mother was reduced to carrying rocks for a living, and she could barely afford to keep a roof over their heads. So, when Guddu found a night job hauling bales of hay, Saroo leapt at the chance to contribute, too, even though he was obviously a little small. 
 
And he promptly fell asleep after the long ride to the worksite sitting on his brother's bike's handlebars. "It's my fault," Guddu lamented, before leaving Saroo alone to spend the night on a train station bench. 
 
Trouble is, when Guddu failed to return by daybreak, the frantic 5 year-old inadvertently stowed away aboard a freight train headed to Bengal, a port-of-call 1,600 miles east. Upon arriving, Saroo couldn't get any help from strangers, between his not speaking the language and his mispronouncing the name of his hometown, "Ganestalay."

Consequently, he ended up struggling to survive on the streets until he landed in a local orphanage. Since Saroo didn't know his own last name or where he was from, he was ultimately shipped off to Melbourne to meet Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John Brierley (David Wenham), an Australian couple eager to adopt him.

For the next quarter-century, he enjoyed an idyllic life, whether playing cricket, swimming in a cove off the ocean, or dating Lucy (Rooney Mara), a lovely Aussie lassie. All was well until the fateful evening a childhood memory was triggered during a dinner of Indian food. 
 
Suddenly curious about his roots, Saroo was subsequently encouraged by Lucy to use Google Earth to find the spot on the planet that he hailed from. Once he recognized a few familiar places from his formative years, all that was left to do was to hop back on a plane and reunite with his long-lost family. 
 
Adapted from Saroo Brierley's autobiography, "A Long Way Home," Lion is a heartbreaking biopic that definitely packs an emotional punch, thanks to powerful performances by Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel as the young and adult Saroo, respectively. The supporting cast features equally-evocative turns by Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman as the women who played pivotal roles in the protagonist's life Down Under.

A bittersweet variation on the "I was lost, but now I'm found" theme of the parable of the Prodigal Son.



Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and some sensuality
In English, Hindi and Bengali with subtitles
Running time: 118 minutes
Distributor: The Weinstein Company


To see a trailer for Lion, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RNI9o06vqo

Friday, January 13, 2017

Top Ten DVD List for January 17, 2016

by Kam Williams


This Week’s DVD Releases

Ali [Commemorative Edition]

Long Way North

Train to Busan

Ouija: Origin of Evil

Don't Forget about Me: 4 Movie Collection [The Freshman/No Small Affair/Fresh Horses/Immediate Family]

The Girl on the Train

80's Beat: Teenage Dreamboats: 8 Movie Collection [Flatliners/Private Resort/True Believers/The New Kids/Little Nikita/The Legend of Billie Jean/Like Father,Like Son/Side Out]

Roger Corman's Death Race 2050

Rizzoli & Isles: The Complete Seventh & Final Season

Surf's Up 2: Wave Mania


Honorable Mention

Secrets of the Dead: Van Gogh's Ear

WordWorld: Let's Make Music

The Whole Truth