Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening December 1, 2017

 
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams


OPENING THIS WEEK

BIG BUDGET FILMS

Wonder Wheel (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, smoking and mature themes) Woody Allen wrote and directed this ensemble drama, set on Coney Island in the Fifties, revolving around a carousel operator (Jim Belushi) whose waitress wife (Kate Winslet), falls for a strapping, young lifeguard (Justin Timberlake). With Juno Temple, Max Casella and Jack Gore.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS
24 Hours to Live (R for profanity, drug use and pervasive graphic violence) Action thriller about a recently-deceased CIA agent (Ethan Hawke who embarks on a revenge-fueled reign of terror after being mysteriously resurrected for just one day. Cast includes Paul Anderson, Rutger Hauer and Qing Xu.

Brotherhood of Blades II: The Infernal Battlefield (Unrated) Action-oriented tale of redemption, set in the Ming dynasty, revolving around a disgraced cop's (Chen Chang) attempt to clear his name by tracking down a fugitive (Mi Yang) who knows that he is innocent. With Yi Zhang, Shih-Chieh King and Jiayin Lei. (In Mandarin with subtitles)

The Disaster Artist (R for sexuality, nudity and pervasive profanity) Adaptation of Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell's memoir of the same name recounting the friendship forged in an acting class between Sestero (Dave Franco) and Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), and how the two subsequently traveled together to Hollywood to pursue fame and fortune. A-list cast includes Seth Rogen, Bryan Cranston, Zoey Deutch, Alison Brie, Zac Efron, Lizzy Caplan, Kristen Bell, Sharon Stone, Zach Braff, J.J. Abrams, Melanie Griffith, Judd Apatow and Kate Upton.

Gangster Land (Unrated) Mobster saga recounts the rise of Al Capone (Milo Gibson) through the eyes of his right hand man, Jack McGunn (Sean Faris), as well as the Chicago turf war which led to the bloody St. Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929. Supporting cast includes Jason Patric, Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Mark Rolston.

Love Beats Rhymes (R for profanity and sexuality) Inspirational Hip-Hop drama about an aspiring poet/rapper (Azealia Banks) who finds her voice with the help of a demanding professor (Jill Scott). With Common, Method Man and Lorraine Toussaint.

Naples '44 (Unrated) World War II docudrama recounting the exploits of a British spy (Benedict Cumberbatch) in Italy near the end of the conflict. featuring archival footage of Alan Arkin, Ernest Borgnine and Keenan Wynn. (In Italian and English with subtitles)

The New Radical (Unrated) Political documentary featuring interviews with young anarchists employing a variety of high-tech methods to further their anti-establishment agenda.

The Shape of Water (R for violence, profanity, sexuality and frontal nudity) suspense thriller, set in Baltimore in 1962, about a janitor (Sally Hawkins) working in a top secret government laboratory whose life is changed forever when she and a colleague (Octavia Spencer) make a shocking discovery. Support cast includes Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins and Michael Stuhlbarg.

The Tribes of Palos Verdes (R for drug use, sexuality and pervasive profanity) Dysfunctional family drama chronicling how a teenager (Cody Fern) turns to drugs while his twin sister (Maika Monroe) takes refuge in surfing to cope with their parents' (Jennifer Garner and Justin Kirk) disintegrating marriage. With Alicia Silverstone, Joely Fisher, Noal Silver and Milo Gibson.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Mudbound



Film Review by Kam Williams


Returning WWII Vets Forge Unlikely Friendship across Color Line in Searing Southern Saga

Dateline: Mississippi, 1946, which means many of the Magnolia State's soldier native sons are making the adjustment back to civilian life after serving overseas during World War II.. But the fighting isn't over for Sergeant Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell), a black man reluctantly returning to the repressive Jim Crow system of segregation. 
 
After all, since he had been willing to die for his country, Ronsel figures it's reasonable to expect equality and all the rights of citizenship, racist traditions notwithstanding. So, when he arrives home, he boldly enters the local general store through an entrance reserved for whites.

But despite still wearing his Army dress uniform, the proud veteran is greeted with a hateful warning snarled by a seething customer. "You're in Mississippi now, [N-word]! Use the back door, if you don't want any trouble." Ronsel grudgingly obliges, ostensibly less fearful of direct harm from the elderly white man than of the veiled threat leveled should he have the temerity to cross the color line again. 
 
Ronsel can't afford to take any chances, because the intimidating bigot is Pappy McAllan (Jonathan Banks), the patriarch of the family which owns the farm where his parents (Mary J. Blige and Rob Morgan) presently reside as sharecroppers. Pappy's elder son, Henry (Jason Clarke), subsequently pays the Jacksons a visit, demanding an apology for the transgression.

The plot thickens when Pappy's younger son, Jamie (Garrett Hedlund), a decorated Air Force pilot, comes back to the plantation with some new notions about race relations. He's suddenly pro-integration after having fought alongside some brave Tuskegee Airmen. 

Thus unfolds Mudbound, a searing Southern saga based on Hillary Jordan's best-selling, first novel of the same name. The movie marks the sophomore offering from director Dee Rees who made her own impressive debut with Pariah in 2011. Here, she coaxes a career performance out of Mary J. Blige, who might very well be remembered come awards season. 
 
How did Nina Simone put it? 'Mississippi Goddam!'


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for nudity, ethnic slurs, brief profanity and disturbing violence
Running time: 134 minutes
Production Studios: Elevate Films / MMC Joule Films / Armory Films / Zeal Media
Distributor: Netflix


To see a trailer for Mudbound, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xucHiOAa8Rs

Top Ten DVD List for November 21, 2017

by Kam Williams


This Week’s DVD Releases

Bob Hope: The Ultimate Movie Collection [21 Classic Comedies]

Holiday Inn [75th Anniversary Edition]

Time to Die [Arturo Ripstein's Landmark Mexican Western]

The Hitman's Bodyguard [An Unlikely-Buddies Action Thriller]

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets [Luc Besson Sci-Fi Thriller]

Crown Heights [Justice Delayed Docudrama]

Birth of the Dragon [Bruce Lee Biopic]

The Villainess [An Endless Vengeance Begins]

The Fall [Complete Collection]

Jonah: The Musical [Sight & Sound Theatres]


Honorable Mention

Saving Christmas [What If Santa Claus Came to Town... and Stayed?]

High School Lover [He Wanted True Love for His Daughter. She Found Danger]


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening November 24, 2017

 
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun  
 by Kam Williams


OPENING THIS WEEK

BIG BUDGET FILMS

Coco (PG for mature themes) Animated musical fantasy revolving around a 12 year-old wannabe mariachi musician (Anthony Gonzalez) who runs away from home accompanied by a trash-talking trickster (Gael Garcia Bernal) after his disapproving parents deliberately destroy his beloved guitar. Voice cast includes Benjamin Britt, Edward James Olmos and Renee Victor. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)

Molly's Game (R for profanity, drug use and some violence) Jessica Chastain plays the title character in a biopic chronicling the rise and fall of Molly Bloom, the Olympic skier-turned-gambler who ran a high-stakes poker game for a decade until the FBI brought down the operation. A-list cast includes Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Graham Greene and Chris O'Dowd.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (Unrated) Revealing retrospective about the Jewish matinee idol-turned-inventor (1914-2000) who fled Austria and helped the Allies defeat the Nazis by developing a deadly-accurate, radio guidance system for torpedoes. Featuring commentary by Mel Brooks, Diane Kruger and Peter Bogdanovich.

Brimstone & Glory (Unrated) Visually-captivating documentary, shot in Tultepec, Mexico, celebrating the compelling appeal and beauty of elaborate fireworks displays. (In Spanish with subtitles)

Call Me by Your Name (R for sexuality, nudity and some profanity) Homoerotic, coming-of-age tale, set in Italy in 1983, about a 17 year-old (Timothee Chalamet) who develops a crush on his dad's (Michael Stuhlbarg) doctoral student (Armie Hammer) spending the summer at the family's villa. With Amira Casar, Esther Garrel and Victoire Du Bois. (In English, Italian, French and German with subtitles)

Darkest Hour (PG-13 for mature themes) World War II docudrama, set during the early days of the conflict, recounting how British Prime Minster Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) rallied the nation to prepare for an invasion as the Nazis rolled across the rest of Europe. With Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Eric Clapton: A Live in 12 Bars (Unrated) Reverential rocktrospective featuring commentary about the blues guitar legend by late colleagues like B.B. King, George Harrison and Jimi Hendrix, courtesy of archival footage.

The Man Who Invented Christmas (PG for mature themes and mild epithets) Adaptation off Lee Standiford's best seller of the same name crediting Charles Dickens' (Dan Stevens) "A Christmas Carol" for the cultural shift that turned a religious holiday into a gift-giving season. Featuring Christopher Plummer as Ebenezer Scrooge.

Mr. Roosevelt (Unrated) Offbeat comedy about a fledgling comedienne (Noel Wells) who moves back to Austin from Hollywood to care for her cat when informed by her ex-boyfriend (Nick Thune) that it has fallen seriously ill. With Britt Lower, Daniella Pineda and Andre Hyland.

What Happened in Vegas (Unrated) Eye-opening documentary exposing the Las Vegas Police Department's widespread practice of covering up corruption and police brutality.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Destined



Film Review by Kam Williams



Cory Hardrict Stars as Both a Gangsta and an Architect in Alternate Reality, Sci-Fi Saga

Sheed Smith (Cory Hardrict) is a drug dealer roaming Detroit's mean streets in a bloody turf war being waged in the 'hood where he was raised. Meanwhile, his doppelganger, Rasheed Smith (also Cory Hardrict), is an idealistic architect overseeing an urban renewal project designed to revitalize the same ghetto.

However, the two look-a-likes' paths never cross. That's because they exist in parallel universes. You see, Destined is one of those "What if?" affairs set in a couple of alternate realities. Thus, we are able to compare bad boy Sheed's fate to that of his straitlaced alter ego. 
 
The picture was written and directed by Qasim Basir who made a spectacular directorial debut in 2010 with the relatively-moving Mooz-lum. This disappointing sophomore offering earns an A for ambition, if only a C for execution. 
 
Cory Hardrict stars as both Sheed and Rasheed in a split screen saga that flits back and forth between storylines that never intersect. Unfortunately, neither plot is well enough developed to fully engage the viewer. 
 
I suppose Basir was too in love with his bifurcated, sci-fi script to consider jettisoning one-half and fleshing out the other into a full-length feature. Instead, we're treated to a one-trick pony that repeatedly illustrates the diverging fates of a guy who kept his nose clean and that of an identical stranger who ventured to the dark side. 
 
An amusing idea that runs out of steam not long after the premise is established.


Fair (1.5 stars)
Unrated
Running time: 91 minutes
Production Studio: Whitewater Films / Tilted Windmill Productions / Confluential Films
Distributor: XLrator Media



To see a trailer for Destined, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6fzjsU7nqY

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Star


Film Review by Kam Williams



Animals Emerge as Unsung Heroes in Animated Version of the Birth of Christ

Most movies based on the Bible have limited appeal beyond the faithful, because the stories are ordinarily dry adaptations basically recounting popular parables in straightforward fashion. A novel exception to the rule is The Star, an animated reimagining of the Nativity.
What makes the production unique is that it unfolds from the point of view of a gang of anthropomorphic barnyard animals that apparently played a critical role in the birth of the Christ child. Who knew? Bo the donkey (Steve Yeun) is the ringleader of the meandering menagerie ultimately huddled around the manger in the iconic creche tableau everybody knows. 
 
Furthermore, instead of serving up a purely pious plotline, this relatively-lighthearted revision features a lot of humorous asides, much of it coming courtesy of a trash-talking camel played by the irrepressible Tracy Morgan {"Three wise men don't get lost!"). Betwixt and between all the wisecracks, we witness the assorted ordeals of Joseph the Carpenter (Zachary Levi) and the Virgin Mary (Gina Rodriguez) as they negotiate the perilous gauntlet from Nazareth to a sacred stable in Bethlehem, in accordance with New Testament lore.
Think of The Star as an irreverent cross of Shrek (2001) and The Nativity Story (2006). The movie marks the noteworthy directorial debut of Timothy Reckhart, who recruited a big name cast that included Oprah, Tyler Perry, Mariah Carey, Ving Rhames, Anthony Anderson and televangelist Joel Osteen. 
 
To make sure you get the Christmas spirit, the score has been stocked with a profusion of holiday classics, starting with the familiar strains of "Carol of the Bells." If the name doesn't ring a bell, it's the catchy tune now better known as the "Give-a-Give-a-Give-a-Garmin" jingle from the GPS commercial. Also on the soundtrack are such standards as O Holy Night, The Little Drummer Boy, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, We Three Kings and Ave Maria. 
 
The Nativity revisited as a kiddie cartoon adventure guaranteed to enthrall tykes of any race, color or creed.


Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG for mature themes
Running time: 86 minutes
Production Studio: Affirm Films / The Jim Henson Company / Walden media
Distributor: Sony Pictures Animation

To see a trailer for The Star, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVgQuZf5o1M



Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Cory Hardrict

The “Destined” Interview
with Kam Williams


Cory's Story!

Born and raised in Chicago, Cory Hardrict immersed himself in the arts at an early age. His passion and talent led to an enviable and enduring movie and television career.

His big screen credits include Gran Torino, Brotherly Love, American Sniper, Spectral, Crazy/Beautiful, Naked, Battle: Los Angeles, Never Been Kissed and He's Just Not That into You, to name a few. Meanwhile, he's appeared on such TV shows as Law & Order, ER, Boston Legal, Cold Case, The Shield, Saving Grace, Heroes, Dark Blue and CSI: NY.

Here he talks about playing both lead roles in his new film, Destined, a coming-of-age saga revolving around alternate possible paths followed by a youngster trying to make it out of the ghetto.


Kam Williams: Hi Cory, thanks for the interview.
Cory Hardrict: Thank you for having me, Kam. Let's do it!

KW: What interested you in Destined?
CH: The material! Getting a chance to play two characters in a film was something I couldn't pass up on. Both worlds with two different meanings. Being able to show different sides to a story.

KW: How would you describe the film in 25 words or less?
CH: I would describe Destined as a groundbreaking, innovative slice-of-life adventure that reflect the times we live in now.

KW: The movie has two lead characters, Sheed and Rasheed, and you play them both. Was it hard playing people with such different personalities?
CH: The characters were shot like two separate films. But it still had its challenges grounding them. Living in such different worlds kept it simple and real.

KW: What was it like being directed by Qasim Basir, whose movie, Mooz-lum, received such critical acclaim?
CH: Working with Qasim was great. He's a calm director who loves the arts and has a great vision of what he wants to accomplish. He has a very bright future!

KW: How did you get along with Hill Harper, Zulay Henao and the rest of the cast?
CH: Hill Harper was awesome, and he’s such a positive guy. When he speaks, everyone listens, and you can take some key gems and apply them to your life. Zulay was cool to work with. She is passionate about her craft. The whole cast was wonderful, and I had great chemistry with Robert Christopher Riley who's an amazing actor.
KW: What message do you think people will take away from Destined?
CH: The message I hope people will take away would be that choices and decisions can make or break you. They can alter the next 30 years of your life.

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
CH: I haven't really given it much thought. But If I had to do one, it would be Scarface, set in Chicago, with me playing Tony Montana.

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have a favorite movie monster?
CH: I'm sorry I don't, but I love to watch whatever my son is watching.

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?
CH: Playing football in the street with my friends, and swimming in creeks. The good old days!

KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?
CH: Yes, going to Catholic school which taught me at a early age the power of prayer.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
CH: Mac and cheese!

KW: Sherry Gillam would like to know what is the most important life lesson you've learned so far?
CH: Just to help other. To be of service to people. I believe that's why we are here on this Earth.

KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?
CH: There is no difference. I wear sweats and a T-shirt everyday at home. On the carpet I just dress up. But same personality and all. At least with work, I get to tap into someone else for a bit.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
CH: A God-fearing man who would risk it all for family and his beliefs.

KW: Finally, Samuel L. Jackson asks: What’s in your wallet?
CH: Pictures of family, credit cards, and an ID. No money, though. [LOL]

KW: Thanks again for the time, Cory, and best of luck with Destined.
CH: Thank you, Kam. I appreciate the interview.

To see a trailer for Destined, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6fzjsU7nqY