Thursday, September 3, 2015

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 9-11-15

OPENING THIS WEEK
Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening September 11, 2015


BIG BUDGET FILMS

90 Minutes in Heaven (PG for an intense car accident and graphic images) Adaptation of Baptist minister Don Piper's best-selling memoir recounting his real-life ordeal in which he died and went to heaven briefly before being revived by the prayers of a Good Samaritan (Michael Harding) at the scene of a car accident. Co-starring Kate Bosworth, Dwight Yoakam and Elizabeth Hunter.

The Perfect Guy (PG-13 for violence, menacing, sexuality and brief profanity) Psychological thriller about a lobbyist (Sanaa Lathan) torn between her ex (Morris Chestnut) and a charming new suitor (Michael Ealy) in the wake of a terrifying revelation. With Charles S. Dutton, Tess Harper and Rutina Wesley.

The Visit (PG-13 for mature themes, disturbing material, terror, violence, nudity and brief profanity) M. Night Shyamalan directed this horror comedy, set in Pennsylvania, about a young brother (Ed Oxenbould) and sister (Olivia DeJonge) forced to survive by their wits after discovering something sinister while spending a week on their grandparents' (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie) farm. Support cast includes Kathryn Hahn, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Patch Darragh.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Breathe (Unrated) Homoerotic romp, set in Herault, France, about a straitlaced 17 year-old (Josephine Japy) who finds herself attracted to a free-spirited, newcomer (Lou de Laage) with a dark secret. Support cast includes Isabelle Carre, Claire Keim and Roxane Duran. (In French with subtitles)

A Brilliant Young Mind (Unrated) Coming-of-age dramedy about a nerdy math prodigy (Asa Butterfield) who develops enough confidence with the help of a mentor (Rafe Spall) to compete in the International Mathematics Olympiad. With Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan and Jo Yang.

Coming Home (PG-13 for mature themes) Romance drama, set in China during the Cultural Revolution, about the frustrations of a former political prisoner (Daoming Chen) who returns home to his wife (Li Gong) from prison only to discover that she's suffering from amnesia and can no longer recognize him. With Tao Guo, Ni Yan and Chun Li. (In Mandarin with subtitles)

Meet the Patels (PG for mature themes, suggestive images and smoking) Dysfunctional family documentary chronicling the pilgrimage from the U.S. to the subcontinent undertaken by 29 year-old bachelor Ravi Patel to find a Ms. Right from the same Indian caste with the help of his traditional parents. (In English and Gurjarati with subtitles)

Paul Taylor: Creative Domain (Unrated) Prestige biopic offering an intimate peek into the life and 50-year career of one of the world's most highly-regarded choreographers.

Sleeping with Other People (R for profanity, drug use, sexual references and graphic sexuality) Romantic comedy about the love which blossoms between a womanizer (Jason Sudeikis) and a serial cheater (Alison Brie) despite an agreement to have a platonic relationship. With Amanda Peet, Jordan Carlos and Adam Brody.

Time Out of Mind (Unrated) Unlikely-buddies drama, set in a Manhattan, about a mental patient (Richard Gere) inspired to reconcile with his long-estranged daughter (Jena Malone) by a homeless jazz musician (Ben Vereen) he befriends at Bellevue hospital. Featuring Kyra Sedgwick, Steve Buscemi and Colman Domingo.

Welcome to Leith (Unrated) Neo-Nazi documentary chronicling a notorious white supremacist's attempt in 2012 to take over the government of a tiny town in North Dakota.

Wolf Totem (PG-13 for disturbing images, animal cruelty and brief sensuality) Culture clash drama, set in the Mongolian desert in the late Sixties, about a student (Shaofeng Feng) sent to modernize the shepherds who instead ends up appreciating their nomadic way of life. With Shawn Dou, Yin Zhusheng and Ba Sen Zha Bu. (In Mandarin and Mongolian with subtitles)


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot (BOOK REVIEW)

Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot
Edited by Tom Butler
Foreword by Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro
Goff Books
Hardcover, $50.00
330 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-1-939621-23-8

Book Review by Kam Williams

Advertising-fueled overconsumption. Crushing poverty. Resource wars. Climate chaos and unraveling ecosystems. An energy sector madly trying to power growth using any means necessary—from splitting atoms to fracking shale to decapitating mountains in search of coal.
Every major problem facing humanity is exacerbated by a needlessly ballooning human population. So why is the explosive growth of the human family... generally ignored by policy makers and the media?
Anchored by a series of provocative photo essays, Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot presents the stark reality of a world transformed by human action, action that threatens our future world and the buzzing, blossoming diversity of life with which we share the planet.”
-- Excerpted from the Bookjacket


During the State of the Union address earlier this year, President Obama called climate change the greatest threat facing the country today. To highlight his feeling that time is of the essence, he recently visited Alaska, where global warming is already exacting a terrible toll in the form of receding shorelines, a melting Arctic ice cap and the destruction of animal habitats.

Why has this issue failed to hold the nation's attention any longer than the media coverage of the latest flood, tornado, hurricane or other natural disaster? Perhaps we can blame the populace's notoriously short attention span. Or maybe it's due to the fact that debates about rising sea levels, carbon emissions and atmospheric warming trends rely on mind-numbing statistics that can't effectively communicate the urgency of the crisis. 
 
For that reason, Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot represents a very valuable contribution to the cause. Instead of quoting numbers, this eye-opening opus relies primarily on photographs to make its convincing case. 
 
Edited by Tom Butler, the visually-arresting, coffee table book features shocking scenes of ecological blight all around the world, ranging from defoliated rain forests to pollution-filled skies to pumped dry, abandoned oil wells to mountainous trash landfills. Taken together, the pictures deliver a clear message that the devastation is a direct consequence of human shortsightedness. 
 
The breathtaking shots are supplemented by persuasive essays disputing the fundamental assumption of capitalism that “perpetual economic growth is “synonymous with progress.” After reading the text and taking in heartbreaking tableaux of oil spills, raging wildfires, dry lake beds and toxic dumps, it's hard to argue with the conclusion reached by contributor Jared Diamond that “All of our current environmental problems are unanticipated harmful consequences of our existing technology.” 
 
A captivating clarion call for the Green Revolution!


To order a copy of Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot, visit:  

Monday, August 31, 2015

Keith Beauchamp (INTERVIEW)

Keith Beauchamp
The “Till” Interview
with Kam Williams


Award-Winning Filmmaker Discusses Kickstarter Campaign for Emmett Till Biopic

Producer Keith Beauchamp is no stranger to Emmett Till. It was his Emmy-nominated film, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, that prompted the U.S. Justice Department, to reopen the case in 2004. Since his production of Untold, Keith has worked closely with FBI and their Civil Rights Cold Case Initiative, producing documentaries on other unsolved civil rights murders in his capacity as Executive Producer and Host of Investigation Discovery’s (ID) crime reality series, “The Injustice Files.”

Originally a Criminal Justice major at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Keith left school to pursue justice for Emmett Till. He remains the only filmmaker to work closely with the Till family and is dedicated to sharing their heartbreak and their mission to advocate for change.


Now, he has launched a Kickstarter in support of Till, a feature-length drama he's making about the life of Emmett Till. “After dedicating two decades of my life seeking justice for Emmett Louis Till,” Keith explains, “I'm truly excited and moved to finally bring his true story to the world."

"Here is a story that is as much a part of American history as the Boston Tea Party and may stand as the greatest argument for getting rid of sanctioned racism," adds Producer Whoopi Goldberg. "Emmett Till's brutal death at the hands of ignorant, brutish people exposes the Jim Crow-era South that gave the implicit okay to uphold that kind of racism without any real fear of repercussions. Today, the return of rampant, unchallenged racism cries out for the telling of Emmett Till's story again."


Kam Williams: Hi Keith, thanks for another interview.
Keith Beauchamp: Always great speaking with you Kam. Thanks again for the support and for the coverage.

KW: What interested you in making a drama about Emmett Till, since you already did a documentary about him?
KB: My life/career has come full circle. I've always wanted to produce a feature on the Till case. In fact, that's how my journey as a filmmaker started. The documentary, "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till" was my second vehicle to get the true story of Emmett Till out to the public. After gathering research, in 1998 I wrote a screenplay that was later optioned off by producers who had a deal with Showtime. Not knowing much about the industry, I felt that I gave my baby away because of the option period and the lack of interest in a Till film. The option eventually expired, but during that process I continued to travel to Mississippi and around the country gathering information on the case. After I discovered vital information that I felt could be critical in the reopening of the case, I decided and was encouraged by Mother Mobley to pursue the documentary so we could use it as a stepping-stone to get the case reopened.
After Mother Mobley's passing and before the documentary was finally released in theaters in 2005, the 50th anniversary of Emmett's murder, I was already, behind the scenes, sharing the evidence I'd gathered with federal authorities and local officials. It would be those meetings that led to the reopening of the case on May 10, 2004. Considering that I was involved with the Till investigation, I had to be very careful about what was presented in the documentary. The Till feature will be my second chance to get the full and true story of Emmett Louis Till out to the masses. Lastly, it also helps to have a Dream Team that includes, Fred Zollo, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Levin, Susan Rose, Paul Kurta and my co- writing partner Michael Reilly.

KW: Who do you want to star in the film?
KB: [Smiling] Great question, Kam. I've devoted 22 years of my life telling the story of Emmett Louis Till and pursuing justice in his case. I've worked closely with Mother Mobley for 8 1/2 years before she passed away. It's very important that my team and I choose someone that will portray my late friend and nurturer in the right way. Although we have not locked the title role as of yet, I've been thinking a lot about Taraji Henson. I've watched her career flourish over the years and when I saw her performance in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, it sealed the deal for me. But there's also Kerry Washington and others that I believe could play the role well.

KW: What's going to be the focus of the film?
KB: Till is adapted from my documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till and from research used to get the case reopened, as well as from Simeon Wright's book, "Simeon's Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till." Mr. Wright was my missing link in getting the case reopened. He was also the cousin who shared the bed with Emmett Till the night he was abducted. Our focus will be Emmett Till's murder and the catalytic decisions made by his courageous mother, which led to the mobilization of the American Civil Rights Movement.

KW: What message do you want people to take away from Till?
KB: I want people to be inspired and understand that the fight for freedom and justice is a continuous one, despite the post- racial society concept, that some of us want to believe. I firmly believe that this film will be a catalyst for change, just like the murder was in 1955.

KW: Do you think the movie is more relevant, given the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement?
KB: Yes, the timing could not be any better than now. As we continue to witness the ongoing police shootings of unarmed black males with no accountability and those suffering an injustice within our broken criminal justice system, Emmett Till's name is often evoked.

KW: How do you explain the country's sudden attention to the killings of blacks by police and white men? Is it just that so many incidents are being captured on cell phones?
KB: Unfortunately, what we are seeing today is not a new phenomenon. Police brutality and hate crimes committed against African-Americans and other people of color can be traced all the way back to the South Carolina Slave Patrol and the moment we planted our feet on American soil. Yes, I believe that because of technology we are now subjected to being exposed to this epidemic daily. Although it's great to be aware of what's going on in our country, receiving daily doses of this type of cruel behavior is very harmful to our spirit and human beingness.

KW: Why did you turn to a Kickstarter campaign to underwrite the project?
KB: We chose Kickstarter because I wanted to make a film for the people and by the people. Over the years, Fred Zollo and I pitched the film to studios and no one would bite. Perhaps the timing was wrong or they were just not interested. We decided long ago that we will make this film with or without a studio being attached, which led us to the Kickstarter platform. Understand that we are not trying to break any Kickstarter records with a goal of just $50,000. Our main mission for using this vehicle is to allow the public participation in the making of this film, and to garner grassroots support, just like I had in the making of the documentary. This is not just a movie to me, it's a movement. It's a way to awaken the “Sleeping Giant for Change” once again.

KW: Are you still reopening cases of unsolved lynchings around the South?
KB: Yes. I still have The Injustice Files franchise at Investigation Discovery and continue to assist the FBI with their Civil Rights Cold Case Initiative. However, for a year now, I've been on hiatus, gathering myself so I can fully focus on our Till feature. I will continue to investigate and produce documentaries on civil rights murders. This is my golden opportunity that I've been waiting for to crossover into the feature film genre, but I will always be here for families who are in need.

KW: How many black people do you think were lynched between Emancipation and 1980?
KB: There are at least 4,000 documented lynchings between Emancipation and 1980. However, there are some experts that believe there were two to three times more undocumented lynchings... Disturbing data that is unimaginable to think about.

KW: AALBC.com founder Troy Johnson asks: What was the last book you read?KB: Lately, I have been re-reading James Baldwin's books. "The Fire Next Time" and his old lectures inspire me, because they speak to the way I feel at this moment and time. 
 
Baldwin said "To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in rage almost all the time." It is also great to read the work of someone whose second play, "Blues for Mister Charlie," was loosely based on Emmett Till's murder.

KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?
KB: I've always been a God-fearing man and often felt that what's for me, will be. I heard it from my mother all my life and, with the experiences I've had along this journey, I can't help but think there's something higher watching over me. 
 
KW: Who loved you unconditionally during your formative years?
KB: I would have to say my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Beauchamp. They have allowed me to charter uncertain waters without discouragement. You can't imagine their faces when I decided to leave college in my junior year to work in film with my childhood friends. I consider myself an unintentional filmmaker, because I was hoping to become a civil rights attorney. Early on in my life, my parents instilled in me the value of speaking for those who can no longer speak for themselves. If it wasn't for my parents believing in me and financing Untold, it would not have been made and there would be no Keith Beauchamp filmmaker today.

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?
KB: I carry a money clip. Not much there but credit cards. Many of us who work in the field of civil rights know that it does not come with a paycheck. So, it's a constant struggle to survive while doing this work. But I've been very blessed to do this work and maintain a humble lifestyle.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Keith, and best of luck with the project.
KB: Thank you, Kam. I'm very happy and excited to bring this to the world. Another promise fulfilled and dream coming true.

To contribute to the Kickstarter campaign for Till, visit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/653510710/till

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (FILM REVIEW)

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

Film Review by Kam Williams


Historical Documentary Chronicles Rise and Fall of Incendiary Political Party

The late Stokely Carmichael is famous for coining the phrase “Black power!” What he might not be as well remembered for is founding the Black Panthers. Frustrated by the tortoise-paced progress of the Civil Rights movement and by the number of martyrs dying and disappearing around the South, he decided to leave SNCC (The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) to form a group for folks interested in self-defense. 
 
“You tell the people of Mississippi that all the scared [N-words] are dead!” he announced. However, Stokely had little to do with the organization after opening that first chapter in 1965 in Lowndes, Alabama (an 80% black county where no African-American had ever been allowed to vote).

Instead, it would be fall to Huey Newton and Bobby Seale to popularize the Panthers. They opened a storefront in Oakland in 1966, but they didn't really catch fire until Martin Luther King was assassinated. At that point, many young African-Americans became disenchanted, which made the idea of confronting the police by brandishing weapons very appealing. 
 
Soon, Panther chapters began spring up all over the country. And it helped recruitment immeasurably when ex-con-turned-best-selling author Eldridge Cleaver came aboard as Minister of Information. After all, the media-savvy spokesperson gave good soundbite, even if it only served to antagonize the police and establishment.

For instance, he called then Governor Reagan “a punk, a sissy and a coward,” going so far as to challenge the Gipper to a duel to the death. And after Huey was arrested for the murder of a police officer, Eldridge threatened open armed war on the streets of the country, if Newton weren't freed.

Meanwhile, J. Edgar Hoover was cooking up a counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) designed to bring down the Panthers. The FBI proceeded to embark on a surreptitious reign of terror which included frame-ups, disinformation, assassinations and infiltration. The ploy worked, as paranoia came to permeate the organization, which splintered when the leadership became suspicious of one another. Huey called Eldridge a coward. Eldridge then quit and called for hits against anyone still in the Party. 
 
Thus unfolds The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, a warts-and-all documentary directed by Stanley Nelson (Freedom Riders). The film is fascinating not only because of its copious archival footage, but on account of the many revelations exposing the dark underbelly of an outfit often given a pass in spite of myriad flaws in terms of misogyny and machismo. 
 
The Black Panthers revisited less as a political party concerned about the welfare of the people than as an internecine power struggle between a couple of larger than life egos.


Excellent (4 stars)
Unrated
Running time: 113 minutes
Distributor: Firelight Films



To see a trailer for The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F56O3kZ9qr0




Friday, August 28, 2015

Top Ten DVD Releases for 9-1-15

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams


Top Ten DVD List for September 1, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road


I'll See You in My Dreams


Braddock America

William Castle Horror Collection: 5 Movie Pack [13 Ghosts / 13 Frightened Girls / Mr. Sardonicus / Homicidal / The Old Dark House]

Good Kill

Five Star

Detectorists

Our Man in Teheran

A Bunch of Munsch: The Complete Series

Chicago Fire: Season Three


Honorable Mention

Run Hide Die

Felt

The Surface

Dark Was the Night

Paw Patrol: Meet Everest!

The Summer House

I Am Dale Earnhardt

Vampire Diaries: The Complete Sixth Season

Redeemer

Nashville: Season Three

Lost after Dark

The Originals: The Complete Second Season

Broken Horses

Five Star

Chicago P.D.: Season Two

The Curse of Downers Grove

Wolf Warrior


Extinction

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Good Kill (DVD REVIEW)

Good Kill
DVD Review by Kam Williams


Ethan Hawke and Zoe Kravitz Co-Star as Drone Pilots in Afghan War Flick

Tom Egan (Ethan Hawke) is a U.S. fighter pilot who was grudgingly grounded to fight the War on Terrorism via drone technology. The good news was that the reassignment meant his life would no longer be in jeopardy, since he’d now be stationed in New Mexico on a base located in the desert where he’d engaged the enemy 7,000 miles away from the theater of conflict. He was also guaranteed to see his wife, Molly (January Jones), and daughter, Jessie (Sachie Capitani), every day after work; and they no longer needed to worry about his safety.
Nevertheless, orchestrating remote attacks still took an unexpected toll on Tom, given the dispassionate fashion in which he was expected to bomb the Taliban and even accept the occasional killing of innocent civilians with friendly fire as mere collateral damage. Because he’s developed the proverbial 1,000-yard stare of a soldier who’s seen too much combat, Molly started accusing him of being emotionally distant.
His complaint to her that “I am a pilot; I am not flying,” only falls on deaf ears. He doesn’t like the fact that he has to wear a flight suit either. Consequently, he only finds solace in a bottle of alcohol, and in crying on the shoulder of his co-pilot, Vera Suarez (Zoe Kravitz). She’s just as disillusioned about the grisly business of dropping warheads on foreheads.
By comparison, their relatively-cavalier colleague, Danny (Michael Sheets) claims to be “Living the dream!” He’s the gung-ho type who doesn’t lose any sleep following orders from their immediate superior (Bruce Greenwood), despite the periodic presence of non-combatants in the kill zone. After all, he’s more concerned with providing critical support for the American boots on the ground.
Thus unfolds Good Kill, an Afghan War saga directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca). The purpose of this modern morality play is ostensibly to question the wisdom of the widespread use of military drones. In the end, it rather effectively drives home the point that there is no such thing as a surgical strike and that a soldier doesn’t have to be deployed overseas to develop PTSD.
The film features a number of noteworthy performances, especially those by Ethan Hawke, Zoe Kravitz, January Jones and Bruce Greenwood. In sum, a sobering, anti-war parable designed to remind the Playstation Generation, desensitized to violence, of the grim consequences of joysticks haphazardly delivering deadly payloads.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated R for violence, rape, profanity and sexuality
Running time: 102 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: Good Kill: Behind the Scenes.

To see a trailer for Good Kill, visit: http://www.ifcfilms.com/videos/good-kill


To order a copy of Good Kill on DVD, visit:

Mad Max: Fury Road (DVD REVIEW)

Mad Max: Fury Road
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Road Warrior Reboot Released on DVD

Fury Road reboots the legendary Mad Max franchise which has been sitting dormant for several decades. This fourth installment was again produced, written and directed by Oscar-winner George Miller (for Happy Feet) who tapped Tom Hardy to replace disgraced Mel Gibson in the title role as Max Rockatansky, the highway patrol officer-turned-intrepid road warrior given to dispensing a grisly brand of vigilante justice.
Set in 2060 AD, this post-apocalyptic adventure unfolds in the relentlessly-grim dystopia left in the wake of the series of global calamities that led to a total breakdown of civilization. At the point of departure, we find Max haunted by his tragic past and hunted by desperate scavengers as he drifts around the vast wasteland in a rusty, rattling, off-road muscle car.
The stoic gunslinger’s resolve to go it alone is soon tested when he crosses paths with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a fearless alpha female making a break across the desert with former sex slaves hidden in the hold of her big rig. She’s just freed the traumatized quintet from the clutches of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), a ruthless tyrant who wants his breeders back, especially Splendid (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), since she’s already pregnant and possibly carrying his first male heir.
The enraged warlord has dispatched a caravan of bloodthirsty goons who will stop at nothing to retrieve his so-called “wives.” Fortunately, they’ve found a sympathetic soul in Max who agrees to join forces with Furiosa upon being apprised of their plight.
The plan is to drive non-stop across the desert to “The Green Place,” a Shangri-La rumored to be teeming with water, vegetation and other scarce natural resources. But getting there proves to be all the fun, as our intrepid hero and heroine negotiate a relentless gauntlet of evil adversaries in dune buggies outfitted with a very creative variety of deadly military hardware.
An edge-of-your-seat, adrenaline-fueled, high body-count splatterfest that remains riveting from start to finish despite dispensing with the idea of plot development once the basic premise has been set.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for disturbing images and relentless intense violence
Running time: 120 minutes
Distributor: Warner Home Entertainment Group
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Maximum Fury: Filming Fury Road; Mad Max: Fury on Four Wheels; The Road Warriors: Max and Furiosa; The Tools of the Wasteland; The Five Wives: So Shiny, So Chrome; Fury Road: Crash & Smash; and deleted scenes.
To see a trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MonFNCgK4WE

To order the Mad Max: Fury Road Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit: