Friday, June 23, 2017

Chips


DVD Review by Kam Williams


Raunchy Adaptation of Classic TV Series Arrives on Home Video


Whenever a classic television series is made into a movie, the buzz always seems to be about whether the screen version will be a creative variation on the theme or merely a campy, cornball, take-the-money-and-run ripoff trading in familiar formulas and shopworn cliches. After all, for every inspired adaptation like Batman (1989), Charlie's Angels (2000) and 21 Jump Street (2012) there are just as many bitter disappointments, al a Dragnet (1987), I Spy (2002) and Get Smart (2008).

Fortunately, Chips is more in league with the worthwhile remakes rather than the ones leaving you wondering why they ever bothered. The picture was ostensibly a labor of Dax Shepard who wrote, directed, produced and also co-stars in it opposite Michael Pena. They play California Highway Patrol Officers Ponch Poncherello and Jon Baker, the same characters popularized on TV by Erik Estrada and Larry Willcox.

The original, airing for a half dozen seasons starting in 1977, was a buddy action drama basically revolving around the heroic exploits of a couple of mismatched motorcycle cops, with Ponch often going rogue, much to the chagrin of his relatively-straitlaced partner. This go-round, the script has been flipped, so that Jon is more of a misfit. At the point of departure, we find him getting a probationary badge and graduating from the police academy only because Sergeant Hernandez (Maya Rudolph) takes pity on him. 
 
They're both going through difficult divorces, although Jon is desperate to win back his wife (Kristen Bell). He hopes she'll be impressed by his transition into a safer line of work after an accident-prone career as a professional motorcross bike racer. 
 
He's soon teamed with the veteran Ponch to solve a rash of armored car robberies suspected of being pulled off by a gang of crooked cops. They proceed to make a mess of the investigation at every turn, which only makes their terminally-exasperated boss (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) repeatedly blow his cork. 
 
However, there's little reason to pay attention to the intermittently-incoherent plot, for this kitchen sink comedy's raison d'etre is to generate laughs by any means necessary. To that end, the politically-incorrect bottom feeder easily earns its R rating via an incessant indulgence in scatological, ethnic, sexist, slapstick, bodily function and gay panic fare.

A vulgar but funny enough departure from the classic TV series to warrant recommending.



Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for crude humor, graphic sexuality, frontal nudity, violence, drug use and pervasive profanity
Running time: 100 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: This Is Not Your Dad's Chips; Practical Pursuit; Ducati: The Perfect Bike; director's commentary; and deleted scenes.



To see a trailer for Chips, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IfqqUTW-i4

To order a copy of the Chips Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack , visit:  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Beguiled


Film Review by Kam Williams


Southern Belles Vie for Union Soldier's Affections in Sofia Coppola's Sublime Tale of Seduction

The Beguiled is a Civil War saga based on the best seller of the same name by the late novelist/playwright Thomas Cullinan (1919-1995). The sublime tale of seduction was first adapted to the screen in 1971 as a melodramatic revenge flick starring Clint Eastwood. This relatively-refined remake was directed by Sofia Coppola whose effort was richly rewarded at Cannes where she became only the second woman to win Best Director in the history of the festival.

The story is set in 1864 at a Virginia boarding school for girls run by prim Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) with the help of equally-proper Edwina Dabney (Kirsten Dunst). They have five students entrusted to their care, ranging in age from prepubescent to the late teens. 
 
At the point of departure, the sounds of battle are audible off in the distance. The raging conflict cuts a sharp contrast to the serenity of the idyllic campus where we find Amy (Oona Laurence) foraging in the forest for wild mushrooms. 
 
She stumbles upon a wounded Union soldier hiding in the woods. Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell) had been felled by a bullet to the leg. The innocent adolescent instinctively brings him home, only to be criticized by an elder classmate (Angourie Rice) for rescuing a "dangerous enemy."

After initially issuing a stern warning that "You are a most unwelcome visitor," their ordinarily icy headmistress inexplicably melts. She allows the ailing adversary to remain on the premises without even informing the Confederate army of his presence. 
 
Personally assuming the responsibility of nursing their guest back to health, man-starved Martha soon finds herself swooning for the solicitous stranger. Trouble is, John proves to be quite the Casanova, knowing just the right words to surreptitiously charm the pants off each of the females, one-by-one. 
 
Of course, the cat's eventually out of the bag, and his collective spell is broken. And after the heartbroken lasses put their heads together, he probably wishes he'd simply surrendered to the Rebels rather than seek refuge.

Hell hath no fury like some Southern belles scorned!



Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sexuality
Running time: 93 minutes
Production Studio: American Zoetrope
Distributor: Focus Features


To see a trailer for The Beguiled, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBoLK5z_FHo

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening June 30, 2017

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams

OPENING THIS WEEK

BIG BUDGET FILMS
 
13 minutes (R for sexuality and disturbing violence) Fact-based drama, set in Munich in 1939, recounting German carpenter Georg Elser's (Christian Friedel) attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler (Udo Schenk). Featuring Katharina Schuttler, Burghart Klauszner and Johann von Bulow. (In German with subtitles)

Baby Driver (R for violence and pervasive profanity) Ansel Elgort plays the title character in this crime comedy about a music-loving getaway driver pressured by a powerful crime boss (Kevin Spacey) to participate in an ill-fated bank heist. With Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Lily James, Big Boi and Flea.

Despicable Me 3 (PG for action and rude humor) Fourth installment in the animated franchise (if you include Minions) finds Gru (Steve Carell) facing his most formidable foe ever, an ex-child star (Trey Parker) still obsessed with the character he played back in the Eighties. Voice cast includes Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Jenny Slate, Julie Andrews and Russell Brand.

The House (R for sexual references, drug use, violence, brief nudity and pervasive profanity) Dysfunctional family comedy revolving around a married couple (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) who open an illegal casino in their basement after bankrupting their daughter's (Ryan Simpkins) college fund. With Jeremy Renner, Nick Kroll and Allison Tolman.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography (R for brief profanity and graphic nude images) Oscar-winner Errol Morris (for The Fog of War) directed this documentary chronicling the career of Elsa Dorfman, a proponent of the Polaroid Land camera from 1980 until the company went out of business in 2008.

Inconceivable (R for sexuality, nudity, profanity and violence) Suspense thriller about a married couple (Nicolas Cage and Gina Gershon) who come to regret hiring a mysterious nanny (Nicky Whelan), new to town. With Faye Dunaway, Natalie Eva Marie and Leah Huebner.

The Little Hours (R for sexuality, profanity and graphic nudity) Romantic comedy, set during the Middle Ages, revolving around a runaway servant (Dave Franco) who takes refuge from his master (Nick Offerman) at a monastery filled with sexually-repressed nuns. Ensemble cast includes Molly Shannon, Kate Micucci, John C. Reilly, Paul Reiser, Fred Armisen and Aubrey Plaza.

Mali Blues (Unrated) Concert documentary featuring performances by Malian musical icons Fatoumata Diawara, Bassekou Kouyaté Master Soumy and Ahmed Ag Kaed in the face of death threats from radical Islamists. (In French with subtitles)

Okja (Unrated) Sci-fi adventure revolving around a young girl's (Seo-Hyun Ahn) attempt to prevent a multi-national corporation from kidnapping her massive pet. With Jake Gyllenhaal, Tilda Swinton, Lily Collins, Paul Dano, Devon Bostick and Giancarlo Esposito. (In Korean and English with subtitles)

Pop Aye (Unrated) Unlikely buddies drama, set in Thailand, about a jaded, big city architect (Thaneth Warakulnukroh) who embarks on a cross-country trek with his long-lost pet elephant (Bong) back to the farm where they were raised. Cast includes Penpak Sirikul, Narong Pongpab and Chaiwat Khumdee. (In Thai with subtitles)

The Reagan Show (Unrated) Political expose' revealing President Ronald Reagan as just a made-for-TV leader of the Free World.

The Skyjacker's Tale (Unrated) Justice delayed documentary about FBI Most Wanted List fugitive Ishmael Muslim Ali, who hijacked a plane to Cuba in 1984 after being convicted of masterminding a massacre of 8 at a Rockefeller country club in the Virgin Islands.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Gil Robertson


The “Book of Black Heroes” Interview         
with Kam Williams


Gil's Goodwill!

For nearly three decades, writer/author Gil L. Robertson, IV has used the written word to enlighten, empower and uplift. The one-time political organizer initially made his mark in entertainment journalism, penning over 50 national magazine covers and contributing bylines to a wide range of publications that include the Los Angeles Times, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, USA Today, Billboard, Fortune, Essence and Ebony.

Gil is also the founder and creator of the nationally-syndicated Arts & Lifestyle column, The Robertson Treatment, which began a couple of decades ago with an interview with Samuel L. Jackson for EVE’S BAYOU. Today, The Robertson Treatment has a reach of nearly two million.

As an author, Gil has specialized in books that empower his readers, beginning first with the self-published "Writing as a Tool of Empowerment" (2003), a resource guide primarily aimed at young people interested in journalism. From there, he edited the groundbreaking 2006 anthology "Not in My Family: AIDS in the African American Community" where he gathered a diverse mix of voices that include Oscar-winner Mo’Nique, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, legendary singer Patti LaBelle and former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, all addressing one of the most pressing public health and social challenges of our time.

His subsequent anthologies—"Family Affair: What It Means to Be African American Today" (2008) and "Where Did Our Love Go: Love and Relationships in the African American Community" (2013)—ignited a national conversation about identity and love and relationships in the 21st Century. In addition, Robertson has been a regular contributor to The African American Almanac (Gale Press). Accolades for his work include “Pick of the Week” selection by Publisher’s Weekly for "Family Affair" and NAACP Image Award nominations for "Not in My Family" and "Family Affair".

His latest offering is "Book of Black Heroes: Political Leaders Past & Present" from Just Us Books. The opus represents a full-circle moment for Gil who began the first phase of his career in politics. This collection of biographies on game-changing elected political leaders like former President Barack Obama, pioneering Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, current U.S. Senator Kamala Harris and Reconstruction era governor Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchbank is intended to introduce young readers especially to not only dynamic personalities but to the concept of individual and political leadership.

Never one to sit on the sidelines of any pressing issue, in 2003, Gil rolled up his sleeves and got to work as the co-founder of the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), the largest collection of Black film critics in North America. As the organization's president, he oversees the annual AAFCA Awards, which has become a recognized fixture of the Hollywood awards season. In addition to highlighting African-American achievement behind and in front of the camera, AAFCA works with the industry to usher in and support African-Americans in the Hollywood community, uniting consumers, creators and gatekeepers.

He also serves as a public ambassador for diversity within the industry, appearing on numerous shows on networks like CNN. With a B.A. in Political Science from Cal State Los Angeles, Gil is a professional member of the National Press Club, National Association of Black Journalists, The Recording Academy, The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the Motion Picture Association of America. And he lectures nationwide on issues ranging from diversity in the entertainment industry to personal and community development.


Kam Williams: Hi Gil, thanks for the interview.
Gil Robertson: Thanks, Kam. It’s always a pleasure speaking with you.

KW: What inspired you to write Book of Black Heroes?
GR: Following Obama’s election, I was astonished to discover how little most people knew about the contributions of African-Americans in politics. When most people think of blacks in U.S. politics, they usually fall back on the same group of leaders who came into prominence during the Civil Rights Movement. So, I wanted to do my part in expanding people’s level of awareness of black people who have been active participants in national politics since Reconstruction, and that their contributions continue to this day. Black political leaders make enormous contributions to the quality of our lives, and I simply wanted to provide readers with an introduction to who these people are and, as a by-product, stimulate aspirations among young people to consider a career path in political leadership.

KW: Who's your intended audience?
GR: People who are curious about contributions that African-Americans have made to the political and social landscape in America. This book offers an amazing tapestry of leaders, both past and present, who have fascinating back stories, but who all stepped up to the challenges of leadership.

KW: What's the appropriate age group for the book?
GR: The target age group for Book of Black Heroes are young adult readers in the 10 – 14 age group. But I believe it will have an appeal to all teen readers and even adults. Readers will discover political leaders that they’ve never heard of who are creating great opportunities both within black communities and beyond.

KW: How did you decide which icons to include?
GR: Well, that was a challenge. At the onset of the project, I was only going to write bios on individuals who were a part of the new wave of African-Americans in politics: people like Kasim Reed, Kamala Harris and Corey Booker. However, when I completed those bios, my publisher felt we should include leaders from the past as well to provide readers with the full scope of accomplishments that have been made by black elected officials.

KW: Did you include Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas? I know that some people have complained that he doesn't have an exhibit in the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, DC.
GR: No Clarence Thomas, but not for the reasons you might think. The book only includes elected officials, and Justice Thomas was appointed to his seat on the Supreme Court.

KW: What message do you want children to take away from the book?
GR: I want them to understand that being a leader is something that is attainable. I hope the book provides readers with an appreciation for African-American political leaders and motivates them to do their part in harvesting their skill sets to improve the lives of others.

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?
GR: The love and generosity of my parents.

KW: Who loved you unconditionally during your formative years?
GR: Throughout their lives, my parents loved me completely with no conditions.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
GR: The best advice that I can give others is to be truthful to themselves about their abilities and to also live their lives with purpose.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Gil, and best of luck with the book.
GR: My pleasure, Kam.


For more information about Gil Robertson, visit www.robertsontreatment.com

To purchase a copy of "Book of Black Heroes," visit:

 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Life

 
Blu-Ray Review by Kam Williams


Gyllenhaal Gives Great Performance in Sci-fi Horror Flick

In recent years, Hollywood has started serving up some outer space adventures, a la The Martian (2015) and The Space between Us (2017), suggesting that the Red Planet is basically a benign environment free of any hostile creatures. But just when we thought it was safe to visit Mars again, along comes Life, a cautionary horror flick unleashing a terrifying alien force aboard an international space station. 
 
Directed by Daniel Espinosa (Safe House), the claustrophobic thriller co-stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds as Dr. David Jordan and Roy Adams, respectively, the Pilgrim 7's flight engineer and chief medical officer. The balance of the six-person crew is composed of Center for Disease Control quarantine specialist Dr. Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), systems engineer Sho Kendo (Hiroyuki Sanada), eco-biologist Dr. Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) and the spaceship's captain, Katerina Golovkin (Olga Dihovichnaya). 
 
As the film unfolds, we learn that their appointed mission is merely to deliver a single-cell organism arriving via space probe from the surface of Mars. It all sounds easy enough as the disarming plotline initially devotes itself to developing the characters' back stories, like how David is a disenchanted, Iraq War vet. 
 
Upon retrieving the capsule, they celebrate the discovery of the first incontrovertible proof of life beyond Earth. They even allow Sho's daughter to give the ostensibly-innocuous substance a cute, cuddly name, oblivious of the danger lurking just over the horizon. 
 
The plot thickens when "Calvin" begins reproducing via mitosis, and every cell of its luminescent ectoplasmic mass proves to be an irrepressible mix of brains and muscles. By day 25, the sentient creature develops proto-appendages and becomes strong enough to breach containment. 
 
Initially, it nibbles on a finger of Hugh's, who somehow discerns that "Calvin doesn't hate us, but he's got to kill us to survive." Great. What ensues is a desperate race against time to return to Earth before the mushrooming monster devours them all, one-by-one. 
 
Though reminiscent of such sci-fi classics as Alien (1979) and Species (1995), Life is a worthwhile addition to the extraterrestrial on the loose genre. Substantial credit in this regard goes to the ever-underappreciated Jake Gyllenhaal who turns in the latest in a long line of impressive performances which includes outings in Nocturnal Animals (2016), Southpaw (2015), Nightcrawler (2014) and Prisoners (2013), to name a few. 
 
Strap yourself in for a cardiovascular screamfest that'll keep you squirming from beginning to end. A riveting reminder that it still ain't smart to mess with Mother Nature!


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for violence, terror and pervasive profanity
In English, Japanese and Chinese with subtitles
Running time: 104 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: Deleted scenes; Astronaut Diaries; Claustrophobic Terror: Creating a Thriller in Space; Life: In Zero G; and Creating Life: The Art and Reality of Calvin.



To see a trailer for Life, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeLsJfGmY_Y
 
To order a copy of Life on Blu-ray, visit  

 

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This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams


Top Ten DVD List for June 20, 2017

Life

Car Wash

Merlin


The Paul Naschy Collection [Vengeance of the Zombies / Horror Rises from the Tomb/ Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll /Night of the Werewolf / Human Beasts]


La Granja


Audubon

Isolation

The Lawnmower Man: Collector's Edition


Railroad Tigers

Workaholics: The Final Season


Honorable Mention

Nature: Forest of the Lynx

Nature: Hotel Armadillo

Nova: Building Chernobyl's Mega Tomb


Friday, June 16, 2017

Lost in Paris

 
Film Review by Kam Williams


Canadian Librarian Courted by Hobo While Searching for Aunt in Delightful French Farce



If you're familiar with the surreal cinematic stylings of Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon, then you have an idea of what sort of treat's in store while watching Lost in Paris. The talented husband and wife team wrote, directed and co-star in their latest magical escape into the theater of the absurd. 
 
The movie might best be described as a cross of Wes Anderson and Charlie Chaplin, as it is an unconventional, visually-captivating affair featuring little in the way of dialogue on the part of the mime-like leads. The lithe-limbed, rubber-faced duo entertain far more with their movements and expressions than with words. 
 
The film unfolds in Canada about a half-century ago, which is where we find Fiona (Gordon) bidding farewell to her beloved Aunt Martha (recently-deceased Emmanuelle Riva) who is moving to Paris. Fast-forward to the present when Fiona, now a librarian, receives an urgent appeal for assistance from her 88 year-old aunt. 
 
In the letter, Martha complains that they're trying to move her into an assisted-living facility for old folks. But the feisty free spirit will have none of it. 
 
Fiona dutifully springs into action and the next thing you know she's landed in France sporting a bright orange backpack festooned with a Canadian flag. Her troubles start right off the bat, when she gets stuck in a subway turnstile thanks to that oversized valise.

The slapstick escalates further when the weight of the knapsack causes her to topple into the Seine while posing for a photo on a bridge. She has to shed the bag to survive the ordeal, and ends up separated from all her possessions, including her passport, cell phone, cash and clothes. 
 
It is in these dire straits that Fiona crosses paths with Dom (Abel) an amorous hobo living in a tent pitched along the banks of the river who soon becomes hopelessly smitten. So, Fiona finds herself having to fend of the advances of an ardent admirer while frantically searching for her missing aunt.

The ensuing chase proves every bit as charming and sublime as it is hilarious and implausible. A disarmingly-endearing homage to the Silent Film era!



Excellent (4 stars)
Unrated
In French and English with subtitles
Running time: 83 minutes
Distributor: Oscilloscope Laboratories


To see a trailer for Lost in Paris, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NXqwh_76sk