Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Kam's Kapsules for Movies Opening 6-3-16

OPENING THIS WEEK
Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening June 3, 2016


BIG BUDGET FILMS

Me Before You (PG-13 for suggestive material and mature themes) Adaptation of Jojo Moyes' romance novel about the love which blossoms between a small town nurse (Emilia Clarke) and a wealthy gentleman (Sam Claflin) left paralyzed and depressed by a recent motorcycle accident. Supporting cast includes Vanessa Kirby, Charles Dance and Jenna Coleman.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (R for sexuality, drug use, graphic nudity and pervasive profanity) Musical mockumentary revolving around the trials and tribulations of a desperate one-hit wonder (Andy Samberg) whose second album is flopping. Ensemble cast includes Sarah Silverman, Imogen Poots, Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph, and features cameo appearances by Simon Cowell, Jimmy Fallon, Pink, Snoop Dogg, Adam Levine, Usher and Seal.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (PG-13 for sci-fi violence) Live-action adaptation of the video game of the same name finds the crime-fighting quartet (Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, Alan Ritchson and Jeremy Howard) battling their revenge-minded nemesis, Shredder (Brian Tee), who has joined forces with a diabolical mad scientist (Tyler Perry). With Megan Fox, Laura Linney, Will Arnett and Brad Garrett.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Approaching the Unknown (R for profanity) Sci-fi thriller about an American astronaut (Mark Strong) on a one-way mission to Mars. With Luke Wilson, Sanaa Lathan and Charles Baker.

Art Bastard (Unrated) Reverential biopic about maverick artist Robert Cenedella, an inveterate iconoclast who has managed to enjoy an enduring career without compromising his rebellious spirit. 

The Final Master (Unrated) Martial arts adventure, set in China before World War II, about an ambitious Wing Chun practitioner (FanLiao) who must defeat 8 dojos in order to open his own karate school. With Jia Song, Wenli Jiang and Shih-Chieh Chin. (In Mandarin and English with subtitles)

The Fits (Unrated) Coming-of-age drama, set in Cincinnati, chronicling an 11 year-old tomboy's (Royalty Hightower) attempt to find acceptance by joining a tight-knit dance team at the local rec center. With Alexis Neblett, Inayah Rodgers and Makyla Burnam.

The God Cells (Unrated) Healthcare documentary exploring the viability of fetal stem cell injection therapy for a variety of neurological and immunological ailments.

It's So Easy and Other Lies (Unrated) Warts-and-all biopic about Guns N' Roses' bass player Duff McKagan, chronicling his fame and fortune as well as his near-fatal struggle with alcohol and drugs. featuring commentary by Slash, Nikki Sixx and Benny Urquidez.

Time to Choose (Unrated) Eco-documentary, directed by Oscar-winner Charles Ferguson (Inside Job) and narrated by Oscar Isaac, exploring solutions for the climate change crisis.

Urge (R for disturbing violence and sexual behavior, drug use and pervasive profanity) Suspense thriller about a mysterious nightclub owner (Pierce Brosnan) who introduces some revelers to a new designer drug which strips them of their inhibitions. With Ashley Greene, Alexis Knapp and Danny Masterson.

The Witness (Unrated) Bystander Effect documentary revisiting the murder of 28 year-old Kitty Genovese in Queens in the wee hours of March 13, 1964 which awakened 38 of her neighbors, all of whom failed to call the police.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Princess Shaw

The “Presenting Princess Shaw” Interview
with Kam Williams


Aspiring Singer Talks about Transformation into Youtube Sensation with Help of Secret Admirer/Music Producer


Born and raised in Chicago, 39 year-old Samantha Montgomery moved to New Orleans in 2006. By day, she works as a caregiver for the elderly and, by night, she fearlessly performs as Princess Shaw online and at local open mics.


Inspired by her personal joy and pain from past and present, Princess’ lyrics resonate with honesty and emotion in a very visceral way. It’s this truth that inspires her collaborator Kutiman as well as the emerging fans who have discovered their viral hit "Give It Up."

Here, she talks about her very uplifting biopic, Presenting Princess Shaw, which will be in theaters, on Demand and on iTunes starting May 27


Kam Williams: Hi Princess, thanks for the interview.
Princess Shaw: Thank You, Sugar!

KW: When did you develop an interest in singing and songwriting?
PS: When I was very young, but I didn’t really find my own voice and my own sound until much later--around 2012.

KW: How hard was it finding time to pursue your dream while working long days in the nursing home?
PS: It’s just about finding balance and making time to do what you love.

KW: Were you ever discouraged when the videos of yourself you put on Youtube failed to generate much traffic?
PS: No, because I didn’t put the videos up for other people, I put them up for me, as something to do for myself.

KW: How about when you weren't picked to be a contestant on the reality-TV series The Voice?
PS: They want you to share your story on those shows, and I just felt that wasn’t the right time for me to share my story, so I didn’t. When Ido [director Ido Haar] came along, I knew he was someone that I could trust and felt comfortable sharing my story with.

KW: When was the first time you heard of Kutiman?
PS: I had heard a mash-up of his about a year before he released mine, but didn’t connect that the two were the same person until much later. I wasn’t familiar with his name at all when he released his video with me.

KW: What did you think the when you heard what he'd done with your songs?
PS: I was so happy and excited--like he took the music that was in my heart and put it out into the world. The music that he put with my lyrics was exactly what I wanted and had always heard in my heart.

KW: How surprised were you to learn that Ido Haar was making a movie about you?
PS: Initially, Ido was making a documentary about several of the Youtubers that Kutiman was including in his videos, although none of us knew we were being included. But slowly, over time, it narrowed down to just me and Kuti. Ido said that every time he left New Orleans his heart was telling him to come back. I had no idea that he and Kutiman knew each other when he started filming me, or even when I heard the song for the first time.

KW: What was it like meeting Kutiman in person?
PS: It was amazing, like finding a musical soulmate. He is like a brother to me now, and we have become great friends.

KW: What message do you think people will take away from Presenting Princess Shaw?
PS: That you survive the struggle in your life and if you keep going and keep pursuing the thing that feeds your soul, it’s worth it.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
PS: I see someone who has a lot of love for herself now, and that’s beautiful.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Princess, and best of luck with the film.
PS: Thank you, Kam.


To see a trailer for Presenting Princess Shaw, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMXGIch82ZU

To see Princess Shaw performing "Give It Up," as produced by Kutiman, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoHxoz_0ykI

To see Princess Shaw performing "Stay Here," as produced by Kutiman, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwM4n1VVHzI&nohtml5=False

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Presenting Princess Shaw

Film Review by Kam Williams




Against-the-Odds Documentary Chronicles the Inspirational Ascension of Youtube Singing Sensation


By day, Samantha Montgomery cared for the elderly as an orderly in a New Orleans old folks home. After hours, however, the aspiring singer/songwriter spent most of her free time pursuing her elusive dream of superstardom.

As Princess Shaw, she would perform solo in local clubs on open mic nights, mostly in front of inattentive, unappreciative audiences. She also posted heartfelt renditions of her original tunes on Youtube where she failed to generate much of a following. 
 
But lucky for Princess, among her handful of fans was Ophir "Kutiman" Kutiel, a pioneering composer/musician/video artist living half a world away on a kibbutz in Israel. Without her knowledge, he began producing her tunes in the studio, augmenting her haunting a cappella vocals with an orchestra that included keyboards, bass, cello, viola, drums, guitars, percussion, violins, saxophones and a brass section.

Miraculously, this promising diamond in the rough was suddenly blessed with a very professional sound evocative of Amy Winehouse. And when Kutiman subsequently released his polished version of Princess' "Give It Up" on Youtube, it soon went viral, generating millions of hits. 
 
Next thing you know, the new internet sensation not only had a following, but found herself being mentioned in everything from the New York Times to People Magazine, all thanks to a generous stranger she'd never even spoken to. Eventually, the two do finally meet when Princess flies to Tel Aviv to do a show booked by Kutiman. 
 
So unfolds Presenting Princess Shaw, a moving documentary directed by Ido Haar. The inspirational picture devotes as much time to details of Princess' traumatic personal life as to her magical music. 
 
Along the way, we learn that she was left traumatized by the physical and sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of her mother's boyfriend while growing up in Chicago. Today, she continues to encounter a host of challenges, being, black, gay and struggling financially. 
 
Let's just hope that Princess Shaw is able to turn the corner with the help of this uplifting biopic and Kutiman's mashups of her soulful ballads.



Excellent (4 stars)
Unrated
Running time: 83 minutes
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures


To see a trailer for Presenting Princess Shaw , visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMXGIch82ZU

To see Princess Shaw performing Give It Up as producerd by Kutiman, visit: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoHxoz_0ykI 



Saturday, May 21, 2016

How to Be Single


DVD Review by Kam Williams




College Grad Test Singles Scene in Raunchy Romantic Romp


When Alice (Dakota Johnson) graduated from college, it would have been very easy for her to settle down with her college sweetheart of four years. After all, Josh (Nicholas Braun) was not only a nice guy with a promising future but very eager to marry and start a family.

However, since she'd never really dated anyone else, Alice wanted to test the waters before making such a big commitment. So, she ended the relationship and moved clear across the country to New York City to live with her elder sister, Meg (Leslie Mann), an obstetrician who hears her biological clock ticking. 
 
Alice lands a job as a paralegal at a big law firm where she makes fast friends with a flamboyant co-worker (Rebel Wilson) eager to show her the ropes both around the office and the Manhattan dating scene. Despite a Rubenesque figure, Robin exudes an enviable confidence that the relatively-modest Alice ostensibly admires.

After hours, the two descend upon a trendy meat market, where Alice catches the eye of a handsome bartender (Anders Holm). Against her better judgment, she impulsively agrees to a one-night stand with the stranger, only to find it not to her liking. 
 
Worse, the disaster has her pining for Josh who has no interest in reconciling. That means Alice must continue to negotiate her way around the gauntlet of a strange new world where she can't quite get her footing. 
 
Thus unfolds How to Be Single, a raunchy romantic comedy directed by Christian Ditter (Love, Rosie). The movie is very loosely based on Liz Tuccillo's 2008 best-seller of the same name which revolved around a 38 year-old heroine instead of one in her early twenties. 
 
Dakota Johnson exhibits an endearing mix of sensuality and vulnerability as the naive newcomer looking for love in all the wrong places. And her character's plight is playfully juxtaposed against that of her sister who is so desperate to get pregnant that she's willing to visit a fertility clinic. 
 
Alice has to kiss a lot of frogs before finally finding a prince in David (Damon Wayans, Jr.). Too bad the wealthy real estate developer is a still-grieving widower with a young daughter (Zani Jones Mbayise) to raise.

I suspect Millennials might more readily relate to the frenetically-paced hookup culture captured onscreen than us old fogeys. Nevertheless, the irreverent brand of humor has a universal appeal, provided the over-the-top antics of shameless, scene stealer Rebel Wilson suits your taste. 
 
An utterly unfiltered salute to the Age of Indiscretion.



Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sexuality and pervasive profanity
Running time: 110 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: The Pros and Cons of How to Be Single; Rebel Rabble; A Look at Rebel Wilson; The Best Idea Wins! The Humor of How to Be Single; deleted scenes; gag reel; and Rebel Wilson outtakes.



To see a trailer for How to Be Single, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrDI4-BSovs




To order a copy of How to Be Single on Blu-ray, visit: 

 

Risen


DVD Review by Kam Williams


Joseph Fiennes Stars in Biblical Epic Revisiting the Resurrection


A fundamental tenet of Christianity is the belief that Jesus rose from the dead three days after being crucified. And His Resurrection is celebrated each spring on the holy day known as Easter. 
 
Directed by Kevin Reynolds (Waterworld), Risen is a New Testament epic which revisits that miraculous event from a novel perspective, that of Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), a Roman military commander instructed by Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) to burn Christ's body to prevent his returning to life as predicted.

But lo and behold, Clavius finds the boulder rolled away from the front of an already empty tomb. So, he accuses Jesus' disciples of stealing the body from the sepulchre, and demands it be reinterred in the Golgotha graveyard before the high priest "Caiphus and his pack of raving Jews show up." 
 
When apostle Peter (Stewart Scudamore) shrugs his shoulders, the Roman soldiers start digging up corpses in Calvary's Hebrew cemetery to squash the rumor circulating that Christ really was the Messiah. Of course, that effort would prove to be an exercise in futility, as would interrogations of Mary Magdalene (Maria Botto), Simon (Joe Manjon) and other apostles.

Ultimately, a funny thing happens to Clavius by the end of his search. For, if Jesus truly is God, then His ascension to Heaven leads the skeptical investigator to the logical conclusion that eternal life is a possibility for everyone. 
 
Risen is a visually-captivating Biblical drama harking back to such faith-based classics as Ben Hur (1959) and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). Between mob scenes and muted sackcloth costumes, this proselytizing parable persuasively delivers its underlying Easter message designed to convert heathens while simultaneously preaching to the Evangelical choir.



Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing images .
Running time: 107 minutes
Studio: Affirm Films

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-Ray Extras: Deleted scenes; The Battle of Zealots Deconstructed; The Mystery of the Resurrection: Making Risen; Creating A.D. Jerusalem; Script to Screen; and a feature commentary.



To see a trailer for Risen, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucUbAAMEF8M

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



Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Finest Hours


DVD Review by Kam Williams


Disaster Flick Revisits Coast Guard 1952 Rescue off Cape Cod



On February 18, 1952, one of the worst nor'easters in history hit New England. In fact, the roiling waters off Cape Cod were so severe that a couple of oil tankers totally split in half.
While the SS Fort Mercer was able to issue an urgent S.O.S., the SS Pendleton's fore section was swallowed too quickly by the ocean to broadcast a distress call. The latter's captain went down with the shortwave radio, too, leaving 34 sailors in the stern with no idea whether the world was even aware of their perilous plight. 
 
As luck would have it, a tow truck driver (Matthew Maher) not only spotted a light from the Pendleton listing off the coast of Chatham, but he had the wherewithal to report it to the authorities immediately. Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana), the officer in charge of the local Coast Guard station, was a World War II vet who'd seen combat in the Pacific theater. He didn't hesitate to order a rescue attempt, despite the blizzard's frigid temperatures and gale force winds. 
 
That unenviable task fell to Bosun's Mate Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) who hastily assembled a crew composed of Seamen Richard Livesey (Ben Foster) and Ervin Maske (John Magaro), as well as Engineman Andrew Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner). The rag-tag team left the harbor aboard a modest motorized lifeboat seating only a dozen and offering scant protection against the elements. 
 
It would take a yeoman's effort just to reach the sinking Pendleton, given that the tiny Coast Guard cutter encountered waves as high as 70 feet-tall out on the open seas. Moreover, Webber was further frustrated by the loss of his compass to one of the tsunamis.

Meanwhile, the remaining sailors on the Pendleton were doing their best to keep what was left of the ship afloat. With the skipper and his other officers already swept to watery deaths down in Davy Jones locker, a new leader emerged in Engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), a salty dog with nerves of steel and a wealth of naval knowledge. 
 
The veteran boat whisperer not only took command of the crew, but determined that survival depended upon the electric pumps functioning long enough to ground the vessel on a sandbar. A third plotline was unfolding back in Chatham where the worried families of the brave Coast Guardsmen, including Bernie's fiancee Miriam (Holliday Grainger), were wringing their hands. 
 
Directed by Aussie Craig Gillespie (Million Dollar Arm), The Finest Hours is a gripping, seafaring adventure reminiscent of The Perfect Storm (2000). It is also based on a best-seller recounting the real-life exploits of some unsung heroes who rose to the occasion in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. 
 
A visually-captivating and remarkably-moving recreation of what, to this day, remains the most daring Coast Guard rescue on record.



Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for intense peril
Running time: 117 minutes
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: Deleted scenes; Against All Odds: The Bernie Webber Story; Brotherhood; Two Crews; The Finest Inspiration: The U.S. Coast Guard; and What Is Your Finest Hour?



To see a trailer for The Finest Hours, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQmllwTKtqU


To order a copy of The Finest Hours on Blu-ray, visit::

 

Top Ten DVD Releases for 5-24-16

by Kam Williams


This Week’s DVD Releases

The Finest Hours

Risen

How to Be Single

Eleventh Hour

1916: The Irish Rebellion

Bad Influence

Sex, Love & Therapy

Rise of the Legend

Outsiders: Season One

David Holt's State of Music


Honorable Mention

The Wonder Years: Season Five

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey's Sporty-Thon

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Beyond the Known Universe

Major Crimes: The Complete Fourth Season

Kate & Mim-Mim: Balloon Buddies