Monday, June 29, 2015

Magic Mike XXL (FILM REVIEW)

Magic Mike XXL
Film Review by Kam Williams


Tatum and Team Turn Up the Titillation in Sequel


What made the original Magic Mike so appealing was it's raw-edged, realistic feel that made you forgot you were even watching a movie. This relatively-superficial sequel tosses the notion of plausible character and plot development out the window in favor of a sensual take the money-and-run sequel focused squarely on titillation.

Yes, Channing Tatum has returned in the title role, but conspicuously absent are Matthew McConaughey, Olivia Munn and a couple of other actors critical to the success of the original. Also gone is the picture's legendary director, Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh (for Traffic) who retired in 2013 out of frustration with the film industry.

XXL picks up three years after the ending of the first episode, conveniently ignoring the fact that Mike had specifically left stripping for a legit line of work in order to walk off into the proverbial sunset with a grateful girlfriend. At the point of departure, we find Mike single again and flourishing as a furniture designer. He is soon duped into attending what is supposed to be the wake of Dallas (McConaughey), his former boss at the notorious nightclub known as Xquisite.

Upon arriving, however, Mike learns that Dallas is alive and well and living in Macao. The deceitful death notice was just a ruse concocted by pals to pitch him on participating in a reunion of The Kings of Tampa. That brawny brotherhood of hunky dudes with whom he'd once shared the stage is now interested in taking their bawdy burlesque show on the road.

Already signed on are Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Big Dick (Joe Manganiello), Tito (Adam Rodriguez) and Ken (Matt Bomer), as well as rubbery eunuch Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias), who's been enlisted to serve as the chauffeur of their food truck-turned-tour bus. The plan is to drive from Florida to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to perform in a competition at the annual strippers convention.

It doesn't take much in the way of arm-twisting to bring Mike aboard, and the next thing you know the motley crew is cutting a swath across the South, making stops to strip at seedy dives along the way, a big exception being the upscale establishment run by Mike's ex, Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), which caters to a predominantly black female clientele. Among the buff bods in her sepia stable are Andre (Donald Glover), Augustus (Michael Strahan) and Malik (Stephen “tWitch” Boss).
 
Magic Mike XXL was directed by Gregory Jacobs, best known for the made-for-TV Liberace biopic, Behind the Candelabra, which landed 11 Emmys in 2013. Too bad he apparently couldn't be bothered with crafting a credible story line for this disappointing, big screen production.

An unabashedly carnal indulgence solely interested in inducing gelatinous drools of saliva from the mouths of overstimulated females.



Fair (1 star)
Rated R for nudity, drug use, graphic sexuality and pervasive profanity
Running time: 115 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures

To see a trailer for Magic Mike XXL, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLoyU3xYwbs

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Stephen “tWitch” Boss (INTERVIEW)

Stephen “tWitch” Boss
The “Magic Mike XXL” Interview
with Kam Williams

Magic tWitch!

Born in Montgomery, Alabama on September 29, 1982, Stephen Boss was always spinning and staying in motion as a child, which is how he earned the nickname “tWitch.” After studying dance at Southern Union State Community, he made his Hollywood debut in Season 3 of the reality TV series “So You Think You Can Dance” and was runner-up in the Finals in Season 4.

He parlayed that television success into a film career, appearing in Hairspray, Blades of Glory, Stomp the Yard 2 and, most notably, several installments of the Step Up franchise: Step Up Revolution, Step Up: All in, and Step Up 3D. And since April of 2014, he has been featured on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” as a guest DJ.

tWitch is married to his “So You Think You Can Dance” co-star, Allison Holker.
Here, he talks about his latest outing opposite Channing Tatum and Jada Pinkett Smith in Magic Mike XXL.


Kam Williams: Hi tWitch, thanks for another interview.
StB: Hi, Kam. How're you doing?

KW: Just fine. And you?
StB: Great, thank you.

KW: So, what interested you in Magic Mike XXL?
StB: I had never worked with anybody doing the film before, which was great. And then when I heard that they were doing a sequel, I just put it out there that I was going to be a part of it. And I was excited.

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: How would you describe the character you are portraying?
StB: Malik is the guy that kind of inspires Mike to mind his p's and q's in order to be able prove that he's still a top notch dancer. 
 
KW: How do you prepare differently to play a stripper than to play the street dancer in Step Up or the fraternity step dancer in Stomp the Yard 2?
StB: Well, a lot of it has to do with the choreography. Once you're on set with the extras who are ready to throw dollars and excited that you're actually taking your shirt off it's pretty easy to get into character. Our choreographer, Alison Faulk, helped tremendously to make sure we were still bringing it.

KW: When you're cast alongside so many other great dancers, what do you have to do to stand out and put your personal mark on a movie?
StB: Honestly, by just getting down the only way that I can, which I think I did with my first solo team. That was basically me free-styling. And when I free-style, that's just the way that I dance. Nobody else dances like that. So, I think that's enough, doing me to the fullest.

KW: What message do you think people will take away from the film?
StB: [Laughs] It depends on what message you are open to taking. There's the underlying buddy theme to this film about taking a road trip with your boys for your last hurrah, and having a good time and being open for anything. There are a lot of unexpected twists and turns and relationships formed due to unforeseen circumstances that actually work out for the better.

KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: Twitch! Great seeing you with your wife on the finale of Dancing With The Stars last season. How do you make your schedules work, since you are both in the entertainment industry?
StB: Well, we just make it work. It's a day-to-day process. Sometimes, we're like ships passing in the night. But on a lot of other occasions, we've been fortunate to wrap projects at the same time. When she finished “Dancing with the Stars” this past season, it just so happened she wrapped the same day as “The Ellen Show.” So, both of us then had a couple of weeks off together. So far, it's been great! It's been working out.

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: We all got nicknames when we were young. How do you feel about keeping yours?
StB: I don't mind it at all, because it's a part of my being. It's become part of my persona, when it comes to dance.

KW: Kevin Curran says: The teacher in me wonders whether the "tWitch" activity level for which you were nicknamed persists to this day? Was it ever a problem for you in school, or was it possibly an asset?
StB: It was definitely a problem in school, but it was an asset, for sure. And yes, I continue to dance quite a bit and it remains very hard for me to sit still today, especially when music is playing. I had trouble in school because I didn't want to focus. Honestly, I would have rather been dancing.

KW: Kevin also asks: What do you see as the ideal trajectory for where you would like your career to go from here: mostly dance, mostly acting, or a continuation of both?
StB: I would prefer mostly acting, but I would like to still like to be in the dance world, as well. I've been studying acting in preparation for the next opportunity where a role comes along that isn't attached to a dance component. When it comes to dance, TV shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing with the Stars,” give you a platform to start and expand a dance business beyond your physical likeness, meaning I don't necessarily have to be there for the operation to flourish.

KW: How have you enjoyed being a guest DJ on Ellen? Do you really pick the music, or just play it?
StB: It's so much fun. I pick the music but, of course, Ellen has her say in terms of what she wants to hear. We have an incredible time. If you come to a taping of the show, you'll see how much fun it is.

KW: David Roth asks: How come they missed you when they cast Chocolate City? 
StB: [LOL] Because they cast me in Magic Mike XXL.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
StB: I don't know the answer to that question, but I'm sure there is one.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
StB: Strawberry Twizzlers. 
 
KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
StB: When it comes to fashion, I really enjoy sneakers. So, I'm going to have to say Jordans. 
 
KW: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision?
StB: To never stop.

KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?
StB: Yes there was, for sure. I was raised religious, for the most part, which came with a spiritual component that has continued. So, i've always had spirituality around me.

KW: The “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan’s question: What’s your dream locale in Los Angeles to live?
StB: I would have to say Malibu.

KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Is there anything that you promised yourself you’d do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?
StB: Yes, to build a community center in my hometown, Montgomery, Alabama.

KW: What's it like to be from Montgomery, a city with so much history in terms of the Civil Rights movement?
StB: Its history is very deep, and I'm so grateful to be from there. It really helps me in my day-to-day life. It helped me establish my vales, my base of who I am and how I feel about things..

KW: When I was growing up, you used to see Montgomery on TV all the time.
StB: Exactly!

KW: What was your very first job?
StB: Working at a restaurant called Flip Burger. I lasted a grand total of about two weeks.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
StB: As an artist? Of course there are times when I'm afraid. But the trick is not letting fear dictate my every move.

KW: The Michael Ealy question: If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be? 
StB: Malcolm X.

KW: What’s in your wallet?
StB: I[Chuckles] My license, my credit cards, and pretty much every business card I've ever been handed. I've got a George Costanza [from Seinfeld] wallet.

KW: Thanks again for the time, tWitch, and best of luck with Magic Mike XXL.
StB: Thanks so much, Kam.

To see a trailer for Magic Mike XXL, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLoyU3xYwbs

Friday, June 26, 2015

Top Ten DVD Releases for 6-30-15

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams


Top Ten DVD List for June 30, 2015

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

While We're Young

The Decline of Western Civilization

Five Easy Pieces [Criterion Collection]

Get Hard

Danny Collins

A Place to Call Home: Season Two

Dancer and the Dame

We Are Monster

Nova: Invisible Universe Revealed



Honorable Mention

Soldate Jeanette

Teen Beach 2

Spike Island

The Gunman

Of Girls and Horses

Saugatuck Cures

Faith of Our Fathers (FILM REVIEW)


Faith of Our Fathers
Film Review by Kam Williams


Faith-Based Family Film Finds Believer and Doubting Thomas Bonding En Route to Vietnam War Memorial in DC


GIs Steven George (Sean McGowan) and Edward Adams (Scott Whyte) became best friends while serving behind enemy lines in Vietnam, despite the fact that the former was a devout Christian while the latter was definitely a Doubting Thomas. Sadly, both the atheist and the believer perished in battle in 1969, with each leaving behind a child he never got to know.

Fast-forward a quarter-century and we discover that the apples didn't fall far from their patrilineal trees. Steven's offspring John (Kevin Downes) has been blessed with a strong faith like his late father, and Edward's son Wayne (David A.R. White) has somehow developed his own dad's disdain for organized religion.

This gulf in attitudes has ostensibly had a profound effect on the orphans' respective fortunes. For, John is stable and successful and on the brink of tying the knot with the love of his life, Cynthia (Candace Cameron Bure). By contrast, Wayne is an underachieving ne'er-do-well who has had more than his share of run-ins with the law.

Since John lives in California and Wayne in Mississippi, the two never met until the still-grieving groom-to-be informs his very patient fiancee that, before he walks down the aisle with her, he needs to repair the hole in his soul by learning all he can about his dearly-departed dad. That quest leads to Wayne, who just happens to have a stash of letters his father mailed home from the jungles of Southeast Asia.

The two soon hatch a plan to read the letters while making a pilgrimage to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC. What ensues is a very eventful road trip in which Christ and the devil do battle for the heathen's soul. The flashback-driven drama proceeds to alternate between the sons' spiritually-oriented sojourn and recreations of their dads similar discussions of the virtues of Christianity over the course of their fateful tour of duty overseas.

 
Thus unfolds Faith of Our Fathers, a faith-based modern parable directed and co-written by Corey Scott (Hidden Secrets). Fair warning: while the movie does feature wholesome family fare, it's occasional proselytizing (“Know that Jesus loves you and that you can trust Him.”) is distracting, but not so overpowering as to spoil the experience.

Look for Born Again Baldwin Brother Stephen in a scene-stealing performance as Sergeant Mansfield, the only character to appear both in the past and in present scenes. In 1969, we find him chastising Steven for preparing the men in his unit to die. But, he's singing a different tune 25 years later when he conveniently intervenes in a deus ex machina moment.


A latter-day variation on the Prodigal Son parable providing proof that God still works in mysterious ways.



Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for brief violence
Running time: 95 minutes
Distributor: Pure Flix Entertainment

To see a trailer for Faith of Our Fathers, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E49OumDl_yg

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Get Hard (DVD REVIEW)

Get Hard
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: White-Collar Criminal Preps for Prison with Help of Faux Ex-Con in Unlikely-Buddies Comedy

             Thanks to a flourishing career as a hedge fund manager, James King (Will Ferrell) is living in the lap of luxury in a sprawling, Bel Air mansion. Furthermore, the pampered multimillionaire’s stock seems about to skyrocket, given his promotion to partner and his impending marriage to the boss’ (Craig T. Nelson) daughter, Alissa (Alison Brie).

             By contrast, working man Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart) is stuck on the other side of the proverbial tracks in South Central L.A. where he has to worry on a daily basis about the welfare of his wife (Edwina Findley) and young daughter (Ariana Neal). He’s eager to move them out of the ‘hood, but first needs to save $30,000 to secure the mortgage on their dream house.
  
As a regular patron of a valet car washing service, James has regularly crossed-paths with Darnell. Nevertheless, he mistakes him for a mugger the day he’s surprised to see a black man approach him in the office parking lot.

To add insult to injury, instead of apologizing for the hurtful faux pas, tone deaf James insensitively claims ”I would’ve reacted the same, if you were white.” Then, he rubs salt in cash-strapped Darnell’s wounds by suggesting that, “I got to where I am by hard work,” before smugly adding, “Success is a mindset.”

However, the two’s roles are reversed when James is convicted of securities fraud, and sentenced to ten years in San Quentin. With just a month before he has to report to prison, he asks Darnell to prepare him for life behind bars, based on another unfounded assumption, namely, that he’s an ex-con.

Darnell agrees, charging precisely the $30,000 he needs as a down payment on his ticket out of the ghetto. However, the jokes are all on James, since the supposed “incarceration expert” he’s just hired has never even seen the inside of a jail.

Thus unfolds Get Hard, an unlikely-buddies comedy co-starring Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell. The movie marks the noteworthy directorial debut of Etan Cohen, whose successful mix of over-the-top slapstick and subtle social satire yields a cinematic experience as silly as it is thought-provoking.

So, one moment, we might witness goofy, gratuitous nudity courtesy of exhibitionistic Ferrell who has never been shy about prancing around in his birthday suit, his Rubenesque physique notwithstanding. The next, we’re treated to relatively-sophisticated humor such as the musings of a spoiled rich kid boasting about how he built his company with his own two hands, before also admitting that he had actually relied upon an $8,000,000 loan from his father as seed money.

Provided you’re open to politically-incorrect fare ranging from racist to misogynistic to homophobic, you’re likely to enjoy this inspired pairing of the relentlessly absurd Ferrell and the motor-mouthed Hart at the top of their games.


Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for full-frontal male nudity, drug use, ethnic slurs, and pervasive profanity, sexuality and crude humor
Running time: 100 minutes
Distributor: Warner Home Entertainment Group
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras:Just Put Your Lips Together and Blow; GET HARD Line-O-Ramas: Swear-O-Rama, Pickup-O-Rama, Shiv-O-Rama, and Cry A River-O-Rama; The Kevin Hart Workout; Face Off with Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart; Ferrell Fighting; A Date with John Mayer; Twerking 101; Will Ferrell, Gangsta; Inmates: Out of Control; Bikers, Babes and Big Bangs; gag reel; and deleted scenes.
To see a trailer for Get Hard, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5lojEIitNw

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

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 7-3-15

OPENING THIS WEEK
Kam's Kapsules:           
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun                 
by Kam Williams
For movies opening July 3, 2015
 
 
BIG BUDGET FILMS     
Faith of Our Fathers (PG-13 for brief violence) Christian-oriented drama about two strangers (Kevin Downes and David A.R. White) who bond while driving from Mississippi to Washington, DC with plans to locate where their killed-in-action dads' names were engraved in the Vietnam War Memorial. With Stephen Baldwin, Candace Cameron Bure and Rebecca St. James.


Magic Mike XXL (R for nudity, drug use, graphic sexuality and pervasive profanity) Channing Tatum reprises the title role in this titillating sequel which finds what's left of the Kings of Tampa reuniting to perform at the annual strippers convention in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Ensemble cast includes Jada Pinkett Smith, Adam Rodriguez, Amber Heard, Andie MacDowell, Stephen “tWitch” Boss, Michael Strahan and Gabriel Iglesias.


Terminator Genisys (PG-13 for intense violence, partial nudity and brief profanity) Reboot of the sci-fi franchise, set in 2029, finds John Connor (Jason Clarke) again leading the resistance in humanity's ongoing war with the cyborgs. Cast includes Arnold Schwarzenegger, JK Simmons, Emilia Clarke, Dayo Okeniyi, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance and Jai Courtney.



INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Amy (R for profanity and drug use) Bittersweet biopic revisiting the rise and fall of Grammy-winner Amy Winehouse who died of alcohol poising in 2011 at the age of 27. Featuring appearances by Tony Bennett, Mark Ronson and Mos Def.


Cartel Land (Unrated) Drug wars documentary chronicling the vigilante uprising led by a small-town physician trying to topple the cartel wreaking havoc on Michoacan, Mexico. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)


In Stereo (Unrated) Romantic dramedy about the on-again/off-again relationship of a couple of thirty-somethings (Beau Garrett and Micah Hauptman) who take forever to wake up and realize they were meant for each other. With Maggie Geha, Aimee Mullins and Mario Cantone.
Jackie & Ryan (PG-13 for suggestive material and brief profanity) Romance drama revolving around the unlikely love which blossoms between a train-hopping hobo (Ben Barnes) and a socialite (Katherine Heigl) embroiled in a nasty, child custody battle. Support cast includes Clea DuVall, Sheryl Lee and Nathan Stevens.


Jimmy's Hall (PG-13 for profanity and a scene of violence) Barry Ward plays the title character in this historical drama revolving around the return to Ireland in 1932 of Jimmy Gralton, a Communist organizer deported to the U.S. a decade earlier during the “Red Scare.” With Francis Magee, Aileen Henry and Simone Kirby.


Mala Mala (Unrated) Genderbending documentary celebrating the lives of nine members of Puerto Rico's transgender and drag queen communities. (In Spanish and English with subtitles)


Stray Dog (Unrated) Reverential biopic about Ron Hall, a biker with a heart of gold who has devoted his life to helping pet pooches, friends, family and fellow Vietnam vets.


Zarafa (Unrated) Animated adventure, set in the 19th Century, about a 10 year-old runaway slave (Max Renaudin Pratt) who flees sub-Saharan Africa across the desert on the back of a giraffe before sailing to Paris with the help of a Greek princess-turned-pirate (Ronit Elkabetz). Voice cast includes Simon Abkarian, Roger Dumas and Mohamed Fellag. (In French with subtitles)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It All Begins with 'I': The "New Rules" of Thinking and the Simple Secrets to Living a Rich, Joyous, and Fulfilled Life (BOOK REVIEW)

It All Begins with 'I'
The "New Rules" of Thinking and the Simple Secrets to Living a Rich, Joyous, and Fulfilled Life
by Stuart K. Robinson
Tallfellow Press
Paperback, $14.95
162 pages
ISBN: 978-1-931290-05-0

Book Review by Kam Williams

It All Begins with 'I'
The "New Rules" of Thinking and the Simple Secrets to Living a Rich, Joyous and Fulfilled Life
by Stuart K. Robinson
Tallfellow Press
Paperback, $14.95
162 pages
ISBN: 978-1-931290-05-0

Book Review by Kam Williams

What is your deepest desire? Probably the same thing most others really want: a happy and fulfilled life. When we don't experience life as happy and fulfilled, our tendency is to look for someone or something to blame, our parents, our boss, the government, an adversary, and a lengthy list of others.
However, even if and when we identify someone to blame, we are struck with with the stunning truth that we have zero power to change those people or conditions. And so we feel powerless. That feeling stops now.
In the pages that follow, you will see that you have all the power you need... And when you take control... by understanding and steadfastly following the New Rules of Thinking in this book, you will see miraculous results.”
-- Excerpted from the Introduction (page xiii)

If you're in the market for a positive thinking self-help primer, It All Begins with 'I' certainly fits the bill. The book was written by Stuart K. Robinson, a motivational speaker and life coach who has inspired folks all over the world with his “New Rules of Thinking.” Now, Mr. Robinson has reduced those 14 affirmations to an easy-to-digest format for those who can't come to see him in person. 
 
You've probably heard most of his common sense advice before in one form or another. Take, Rule #6: “I Will Fire the Announcer.” By that, the author means ignoring that distracting, negative voice in your head capable of discouraging you via a defeatist attitude. He suggests that, instead, you “Trust your heart, because you feel it.”

Robinson's other axioms range from “I Will Determine My Habits” to “I Will Believe in Myself” to “I Am Who I Think I Am, and I Get What I Expect.” In terms of more innovative ideas, he devotes an entire chapter to the difference between the “I” (good) and “Me” (bad) mentalities. 
 
Previously, I always assumed that the distinction between those first person pronouns was merely grammatical. But the author makes a persuasive case for eschewing the latter one, suggesting that having limiting thoughts like “What about me?” can be very self-destructive.

Robinson closes his optimistic opus with a trio of big secrets: the secret to a happy life, the secret to getting anything you want in two weeks, and the secret to finding out who you really are. Far be it from me to spoil those tips beyond relating that “happiness is yours” provided you follow Mr. Robinson's step-by-step path to total bliss.

Total fulfillment for just $14.95, if you're inclined to give it a shot.


To order a copy of It All Begins with 'I': The "New Rules" of Thinking and the Simple Secrets to Living a Rich, Joyous and Fulfilled Life, visit: