Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Ice Cube

 
The “Fist Fight” Interview
with Kam Williams


Ice Cube in a Mellow Mood!

Born O'Shea Jackson in Compton, California on June 15, 1969, Renaissance man Ice Cube is an actor, writer, producer, director, rapper, philanthropist and father. N.W.A., the rap group he co-founded with Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, MC Ren and DJ Yella, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.


Cube made his feature film debut in 1991 in Boyz n the Hood, and proceeded to parlay his critically-acclaimed performance into an enviable career. He has become one of the most bankable names in Hollywood as a writer, star and producer.


His production company, Cube Vision, has been making memorable films for over two decades. And his movies have cumulatively grossed over a billion dollars at the box office. Here, he talks about his latest outing in Fist Fight, a comedy co-starring Charlie Day.


Kam Williams: Hey Cube. How you been, brother?
Ice Cube: I'm good, good. How about you, Kam?

KW: Great, thanks. What interested you in Fist Fight?
IC: I thought it was a great concept based on a funny premise. And when they started filling in the pieces with Charlie Day and Tracy Morgan, I just knew we were going to have a great time and hopefully shoot a funny movie.

KW: In this film you play a teacher who is sort of like a bully. Did you ever have a teacher like your character, Mr. Strickland? And were you either bullied or a bully when you were a kid?
IC: In my neighborhood, you were either one or the other. Going back to my memory bank, there were teachers who were no-nonsense and intimidating. Most of them were coaches or gym teachers.But a few were classroom teachers who just didn't take no mess. I just went over the top with it, because we were having fun with the comedy.

KW: Growing up, was there a spot where kids would settle their differences after school?
IC: There wasn't just one spot. But it had to be out of sight of teachers, like behind a building, which is where most fights took place. There was never one particular area where we always got down.

KW: Who came up with the idea of flipping the script by having the after school fight be between two teachers instead of two students?
IC: Well, the script was brought to us by [director] Rich Keen and New Line Cinema. I don't know exactly who came up with the concept, but that's what made it funny to me. It's unusual to have two teachers going at it, instead of two students. That unique premise was one of the things that hooked me.

KW: How did you and Charlie Day go about generating the bully-nerd anti-chemistry that the story called for? How did you know how mean to be without going over the line and ending up looking cruel?
IC: It's a dance. We had a mutual respect for each other's skills. And when you have that mutual respect, you're more giving actors. You'll make sure he shines where he's supposed to shine, and vice versa. The key is to not get in the way of the character, and to be honest and true with it. Still, real personalities creep in every now and then. It's all about knowing the script, and understanding its ebbs and flows. So, we worked well together. I think we're going to end up doing a few more movies together.

KW: Well, you already set up the sequel to Fist Fight in the closing scene.
IC: Yeah, without a doubt! Without a doubt!

KW: You guys had a terrific supporting cast: Dennis Haysbert, Dean Norris, Christina Hendricks, Kym Whitley, Jillian Bell and Tracy Morgan. Was this Tracy's first film since the accident? I don't remember seeing him in anything.
IC: Yeah, this was his first movie back. It was great to have him. I'd worked with him before in a movie called First Sunday. It was cool to see him again, to be able to hang, and to just have him here. That accident it was in was horrible. It was great to have him around again.

KW: I've interviewed him several times, and he's one of those rare people who's just naturally funny.
IC: Yeah, he doesn't have to tell a joke. All he has to do is talk. He's just a funny dude. God blesses some people with a gift.

KW: Fist Fight was Richard Keen's first full-length feature film. It's pretty impressive considering it was a directorial debut.
IC: Without a doubt! He did a great job. And he's the one who really sold me on the movie. He cut together a trailer showing what the movie would look like by cutting Charlie and me into pieces of other movies. That sold me. I said, "Dude, if you make this movie that you're showing me, then I'm in." and he definitely went above and beyond expectations.

KW: He certainly was able to keep it exciting by setting the film in a high school on Senior Prank Day. That way, all sorts of surprises could pop up during lulls in the action.
IC: Yeah, it's cool, because people think it's just a fight, but there are a thousand other things going on. [Chuckles] It's nice to have a lot of surprises in a movie like this.

KW: What message do you think people will take away from Fist Fight?
IC: I think it's really talking about the school system, and the underlying problems that the society's facing when it comes to educating kids. Do we just coddle them or do we really try to hold them accountable for what they learn?

KW: What do you think of the Academy Awards nominating a half-dozen black actors after none the previous two years?
IC: I don't really know what they're going through, but I'm pretty sure the nominees deserved it, and that's all that matters, that our work is recognized. We don't want any quotas. Just recognize good work.

KW: Last year, it was unfortunate that your biopic, Straight Outta Compton, was only nominated for Best Original Screenplay. And your scriptwriters were all white.
IC: It ain't no thing. At least I don't make movies for no Oscars. i make movies for the people.

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?
IC: What’s in my wallet? [LOL] Not too much. An I.D. card. That's it. [Laughs some more]

KW: Thanks again for the time, Cube, and best of luck with the film.
IC: Take it easy, Kam. Catch you later.


To see a trailer for Fist Fight, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aIzXYo6VCE

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A United Kingdom


Film Review by Kam Williams


Historical Drama Recounts Scandalous Interracial Romance

Upon the untimely death of his father, Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) was crowned the King of Bechuanaland at the tender age of 4. But his Uncle Tshekedi (Vusi Kunene) assumed the reins of power until the heir apparent could complete his education. 
 
While studying law in Great Britain, Seretse fell in love at first sight with Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a lowly clerk at Lloyd's of London. Their whirlwind romance ignited an international firestorm of controversy because of their color, not their class, differences.

For, he was black and she was white, and this was 1946, a time of strict racial segregation. So, the couple's scandalous liaison was met with resistance both in England and back of Africa.

Although they found themselves assailed with racial slurs like "slut" and "savage" while out on dates, the hostility only served to intensify their feelings for one another. Meanwhile, Seretse was threatened with the loss of his throne, since Bechuanaland was a protectorate of neighboring South Africa, a white supremacist nation. Nevertheless, he got down on one knee and proposed to Ruth and the two married just a year after they met. 
 
Unfortunately, major impediments were subsequently placed between the exiled young monarch and his governing, and that struggle is the subject of A United Kingdom. Directed by Amma Asante (Belle), the film was shot on location in Botswana, which is what the country has called itself since gaining independence in 1966. 
 
Because the movie telescopes tightly on Ruth and Seretse's relationship, it's success or failure is destined to turn on the performances of co-stars David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. The good news is that they're very talented thespians capable of disappearing into their roles while generating the requisite chemistry to make their characters' enduring affair convincing.

The film's only flaw is that it feels a bit rushed, as if director Asante had a long checklist of actual incidents from "Colour Bar" (the 432-page book the movie's based on) she was determined to shoehorn into the encyclopedic biopic. Nonetheless, the final product is a praiseworthy production reminiscent of another tale of racial intolerance recently in theaters. 
 
Let's say, "Loving," African style!



Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sensuality, profanity and ethnic slurs
Running time: 111 minutes
Studio: Harbinger Pictures
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures


To see a trailer for A United Kingdom, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pX5vI4osR50



Monday, February 20, 2017

Nocturnal Animals




DVD Review by Kam Willams



Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) hears from her estranged, ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) for the first time in almost 20 years when he mails her an advance copy of his upcoming novel, "Nocturnal Animals." Not only is she surprised to discover that he's dedicated the book to her, but that he'd like to get together for dinner the next time he's in Los Angeles.

Far more unsettling is Edward's semi-autobiographical manuscript which seems to be making thinly-veiled references to their failed marriage. While Susan had managed to move on with her life, it is suddenly apparent to her that he'd remained stuck in the past and might now be rehashing their relationship as a literary form of therapy.

After all, back when they were dating, Susan had been warned by her imperious, well-heeled mother (Laura Linney) that she'd regret tying the knot with a romantic, aspiring writer from a relatively-humble background. Sure enough, the family matriarch knew best, as the mismatched couple did eventually divorce.

However, while Susan went on to become a celebrated art curator and to remarry a businessman (Armie Hammer) who could afford to keep her living in the lap of luxury, Edward has yet to achieve anything approaching their level of success. Instead, the emotionally-stunted scribe has ostensibly been venting all of his angst in an opus that truly frightens his former wife.

It is abundantly clear that the novel's unstable protagonist, Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal), is based on Edward, and that the salacious series of events chronicled in the oft-gruesome text are the product of a terribly troubled mind. The only reason Susan might even entertain the idea of a rendezvous with a man she hasn't even spoken to in a couple of decades, against her better judgment, is the fact that she's just learned that her second hubby is having an affair.

So unfolds Nocturnal Animals, a cerebral suspense thriller directed and adapted by Tom Ford from the Austin Wright best seller, "Tony and Susan." The movie's only Oscar nomination was landed by veteran thespian Michael Shannon in the Best Supporting Actor category.

The film revolves around a sublime deconstruction of Susan's shifting mental state, from her present-day predicament, to flashbacks of her relationship with Edward, to her perspective of disturbing scenes from his unpublished novel. A haunting deconstruction, worthy of Hitchcock, of a vulnerable socialite's very fragile psyche.



Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for menacing, violence, profanity and graphic nudity
Running time: 116 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Three Making of Nocturnal Animals featurettes: Building the Story; The Look of Nocturnal Animals; and The Filmmaker's Eye: Tom Ford.


To see a trailer for Nocturnal Animals, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-H1Ii1LjyFU

To order a copy of Nocturnal Animals on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit:  




American Masters: Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise


Premieres nationwide Tuesday, February 21 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings)

PBS-TV Review by Kam Williams


PBS' American Masters Broadcasts Revealing Retrospective about the Late Icon


Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was born Marguerite Annie Johnson,in St. Louis, Missouri on April 4, 1928 to parents for whom she and her big brother Bailey soon became a burden. When Maya was just 3, the siblings were sent alone by train to live with their paternal grandmother in Arkansas where they would be terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan.

At 7, Maya moved back to St. Louis, only to be molested by her now single mother's boyfriend. When she reported the rape, the perpetrator was soon murdered under mysterious circumstances. 
 
Maya subsequently fell mute and was shipped back to her grandma's house. Although she couldn't talk, she did take to reading like a fish to water. And by the time she spoke again at the age of 12, she'd become very acquainted with the classics ranging from Shakespeare to Langston Hughes to Edgar Allan Poe. 
 
Unfortunately, exposure to great literature didn't save Maya from further trauma, as she would become a single-mom at 17 after being pressured into a sexual encounter with a boy who wanted nothing more to do with her. She subsequently supported herself and her son, Guy, by holding an array of odd jobs, including work in the sex trade industry as a stripper, prostitute and even a madam. 
 
Yet somehow, Maya would overcome her humble roots and checkered early career to become an African-American icon and a very respected writer in her own right. That miraculous recovery is the subject of Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, a reverential retrospective offering an intimate look at the life of the late poet/author/actress/director/civil rights activist. 
 
Co-directed by Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack, the film features heartfelt reflections by an array of luminaries, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, John Singleton, Cicely Tyson, Dave Chappelle and Valerie Simpson, to name a few. For example, we hear Secretary Clinton refer to her as "a phenomenal woman" while Lou Gossett, Jr. credits her with raising his political consciousness. 
 
A poignant portrait of a sex abuse survivor's unlikely path from abandoned street urchin to consummate poet laureate! 
 
Excellent (4 stars)
Unrated
Running time: 114 minutes
Distributor: PBS


For a behind-the-scenes peek at Common on the set with Maya Angelou, visit: https://youtu.be/O8pLATICKq8

For an excerpt featuring Maya Angelou speaking about her role in a production of Porgy and Bess, visit: https://youtu.be/TYIzoL5bJmI

To see a trailer for Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ihsqa4mVjEw

To order a copy of Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise on DVD, visit:

 





Oscar Predictions 2017



Your Guide to the Academy Awards
by Kam Williams

Will La La Land make history by eclipsing the record of 11 Academy Awards? Damien Chazelle's magical homage to the Hollywood musical definitely has a decent shot. After all, it's a lock to win in 5 categories: Best Picture, Director, Score, Original Song, and Sound Mixing. And it 's the heavy favorite in another 5: Lead Actress, Cinematography, Costume Design, Production Design and Film Editing. 
 
That leaves Sound Editing, Original Screenplay and Lead Actor. La La's best shot at tying the record will be by beating the World War II epic, Hacksaw Ridge in Sound Editing. 
 
If successful there, it has two paths to 12. Unfortunately, Ryan Gosling is unlikely to win for Lead Actor because he's up against some very stiff competition in Casey Affleck and Denzel Washington. That leaves Original Screenplay where Manchester by the Sea has the advantage by virtue of its being a super-realistic drama as opposed to an escapist musical fantasy.

Nevertheless, I'm optimistic that the Academy voters will pull the lever for the very-deserving La La Land a record-breaking dozen times.


The Envelope Please
Who Will Win, Who Deserves to Win, Who Was Snubbed

Best Picture

Will Win: La La Land
Deserves to Win: La La Land
Overlooked: Deadpool


Best Director

Will Win: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Deserves to Win: Damien Chazelle
Overlooked: Denzel Washington (Fences) and Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures)
Comment : Wunderkind Damien Chazelle, at 32, becomes the youngest Best Director winner in history.


Best Actor

Will Win: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
Deserves to Win: Casey Affleck
Overlooked: Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool)
Comment: Denzel Washington might upset Affleck, if the Academy decides to overcompensate for its complete snubbing of minority actors the last two years. And Ryan Gosling has a puncher's chance of prevailing if La La Land's sweep turns out to be a record-breaking tsunami.


Best Actress

Will Win: Emma Stone (La La Land)
Deserves to Win: Emma Stone
Overlooked: Amy Adams (Arrival) and Annette Bening (20th Century Women)
Comment: Stone is a shoo-in for three reasons. First, Viola Davis opted to compete in the Supporting Actress category. Second, it was an off-year for perennial-nominee Meryl Streep whose performance in Florence Foster Jenkins was undeserving. Third, Amy Adams wasn't even nominated. Fourth, Emma's the only Lead Actress nominee whose movie was also nominated for Best Picture.


Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Deserves to Win: Mahershala Ali
Overlooked: Andre Holland (Moonlight) and John (La La Land)
Comment: 2016 was a breakout year for Mahershala Ali who was only on screen in Moonlight for about 20 minutes. But he always cuts such a mesmerizing presence that he could have just as easily been nominated for Hidden Figures, Kicks or Free State of Jones.


Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Viola Davis (Fences)
Deserves to Win: Viola Davis
Overlooked: Greta Gerwig (20th Century Women) and Janelle Monae (Moonlight)
Comment: Viola Davis finally gets the Oscar she deserved for The Help. This go-round, she strategically avoided a head-to-head showdown with Meryl Streep by downsizing her starring role into a support performance.


Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: La La Land
Deserves to Win: La La Land
Overlooked: Loving
Comment: La La Land manages to squeak by Manchester by the Sea, a critical win on an historic night.


Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: Moonlight
Deserves to Win: Moonlight
Overlooked: Deadpool
Question: Why was Moonlight nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, but nominated in the Best Original Screenplay category by both the British Academy and the Writers Guild of America?


Predictions for the Balance of the Categories

Animated Feature: Zootopia
Foreign Language Film: Toni Erdmann
Documentary Feature: 13th
Cinematography: La La Land
Costume Design: La La Land
Production Design: La La Land
Film Editing: La La Land
Makeup and Hairstyling: Star Trek Beyond
Original Score: La La Land
Best Song: La La Land ("City of Stars")
Sound Editing: La La Land
Sound Mixing: La La Land
Visual Effects: The Jungle Book
Animated Short: Piper
Documentary Short: Extremis
Live-Action Short: Ennemis Interieurs

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Top Ten DVD List for February 21, 2017

by Kam Williams


This Week’s DVD Releases

Manchester by the Sea

Hacksaw Ridge

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise
 

Nocturnal Animals

Dirty Dancing: 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition

Grace and Frankie: Season Two

Sophie and the Rising Sun

The Level: Series 1


Air Bound

Beauty and the Beast


Honorable Mention

The Great & the Small


Scooby-Doo! Shaggy's Showdown

Bad Santa 2: Unrated

Alzheimer's: Every Minute Counts


Dinosaur Train: What's at the Center of the Earth

Friday, February 17, 2017

Hacksaw Ridge


 
DVD Review by Kam Williams


Best Picture Nominated WWII Biopic Arriving on DVD 
 

Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) was born in the Blue Ridge Mountains where he was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist. Devoutly religious, he followed his faith's literal interpretation of the 10 Commandments, including the 5th's dictate that "Thou shalt not kill." So, when he rushed to enlisted in the Army right after the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, he did so as a Conscientious Objector.

But because he was unwilling to touch, let alone carry a weapon, Desmond was teased mercilessly by other members of his platoon. In fact, he was not only beaten to a pulp by a bully (Luke Bracey), but court-martialed for failing to complete the weapons part of basic training.

However, the military tribunal ruled in Desmond's favor after his World War I veteran father (Hugo Weaving) showed up to testify on his behalf. Still, his fellow G.I.s remained reluctant to embrace a comrade they suspected to be a coward, since they had just been taught by hard-nosed Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) that a unit was no stronger than its weakest link.

Nevertheless, Desmond was commissioned as a medic with the 307th Infantry with whom he would more than prove his mettle on the island of Okinawa in the bloodiest battle of World War II. For, he exhibited extraordinary courage over the course of a month spent dodging bullets and bombs to attend to the wounded during the siege of Hacksaw Ridge.

Desmond would save the lives of 75 grateful soldiers, and his selfless exploits would be appreciated by both grateful buddies and the Pentagon. And the heroic medic eventually became the first Conscientious Objector to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

All of the above is recounted in riveting fashion in Hacksaw Ridge, a gripping biopic directed by Mel Gibson. The critically-acclaimed docudrama was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Director and Lead Actor (Andrew Garfield). The action-oriented flick features very graphic battlefield tableaux reminiscent of the gory D-Day reenactments found in Saving Private Ryan (1998).

When not devoting its attention to recreating gruesome war scenes, the flashback flick focuses on Desmond's formative years , as well as to his whirlwind romance with Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer), the pretty nurse he fell in love with at first sight and married shortly before shipping out for the Pacific Theater of Operations. The film fittingly brings down the curtain with archival newsreels and stills of the real-life Desmond and Dorothy to ensure there won't be a dry eye in the house following the closing credits. 
 
A moving portrait of an unorthodox war hero who contributed considerably to the effort without ever wielding a weapon against the enemy.



Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for graphic violence, gruesome images and ethnic slurs
Running time: 131 minutes
Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Deleted scenes, Veterans Day greeting from director Mel Gibson; and The Soul of War: Making Hacksaw Ridge documentary.


To see a trailer for Hacksaw Ridge, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2-1hz1juBI
 

To order a copy of Hacksaw Ridge on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit: