Friday, November 28, 2014

Top Ten DVD Releases for 12-2-14



This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams


Top Ten DVD List for December 2, 2014                      

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: 75th Anniversary Edition [Blu-ray Debut]


Robin Williams Remembered

The Hundred-Foot Journey

Bing Crosby Rediscovered


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

One Direction: Where We Are [Live from San Siro Stadium]

Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years

As Above, So Below

Into the Woods: Original Broadway Production

Fagbug Nation


Honorable Mention

Design Is One: Lella & Massimo Vignelli

Resurrecting Richard III

Field of Lost Shoes

When the Game Stands Tall

Big Gay Love

The Dark Place

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 12-5-14



OPENING THIS WEEK
Kam's Kapsules:      
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         
by Kam Williams
For movies opening December 5, 2014


BIG BUDGET FILMS   

The Pyramid (R for violence and gruesome images) Subterranean horror flick about a team of archaeologists who find themselves hunted by an evil creature after getting lost while exploring a labyrinth inside a lost pyramid discovered in Egypt beneath the Sahara Desert. Co-starring Garsha Arristos, Joseph Beddelem, Omar Benbrahim and James Buckley.

Top Five (R for sexuality, nudity, crude humor, pervasive profanity and drug use) Chris Rock wrote, directed and stars in this star vehicle about a standup comic trying to become a serious actor. With Gabrielle Union, Tracy Morgan and Rosario Dawson.    


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS 

The Barefoot Artist (Unrated) Poignant portrait of 73 year-old Lily Yeh, the Chinese artist-turned-global humanitarian who, based on a belief that access to art is a fundamental human right, created a foundation which transformed abandoned lots and buildings into parks, gardens, theaters, studios and educational facilities for poor kids in Philadelphia, Rwanda, Kenya, Ecuador and elsewhere around the world.      

By the Gun (R for sexuality, nudity, graphic violence, pervasive profanity and drug use) Mafia drama, set in Boston, about an ambitious mobster’s (Ben Barnes) effort to become a made man. With Harvey Keitel, Toby Jones and Leighton Meester.  

Comet (R for profanity, sexual references and drug use) Time-travel adventure set in a parallel universe and chronicling a star-crossed couple’s (Emmy Rossum and Justin Long) tempestuous relationship. With Eric Winter, Lou Beatty, Jr. and Kayla Servi. 

Concerning Violence (Unrated) Liberation retrospective, narrated by Lauryn Hill and inspired by Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth,” recounting nine African nations’ fights for freedom from European colonial rulers in the Sixties and Seventies. (In English, Swedish, French and Portuguese with subtitles)

Dying of the Light (R for profanity and violence) Revenge thriller about a CIA agent (Nicolas Cage) who goes rogue, rather than retiring as ordered, in order to track down the terrorist (Alexander Karim) who tortured him years earlier. With Anton Yelchin, Irene Jacob and Adetomiwa Edun.

The Foxy Merkins (Unrated) Unlikely-buddies comedy about a cash-strapped, asthmatic, lesbian, wannabe whore (Lisa Haas) who learns the ropes of the business from a straight, wealthy, seasoned streetwalker (Jackie Monahan) well-versed in picking up and satisfying women. With Frances Bodomo, Diane Ciesla and Claudia Cogan.  

Lap Dance (Unrated) Greg Carter wrote and directed this semi-autobiographical drama about an aspiring actress (Ali Cobrin) who gets permission from her fiance (Robert Hoffman) to moonlight as a stripper to pay her cancer-stricken father’s (James Remar) medical bills. Co-starring Stacey Dash, Mariel Hemingway, Carmen Electra and Nia Peeples.

Life Partners (R for profanity and sexuality) Romantic comedy revolving around a couple of BFFs, one gay (Leighton Meester), one straight (Gillian Jacobs), whose long-term friendship is tested when the latter starts dating a doctor (Adam Brody). Support cast includes Gabourey Sidibe, Abby Elliott, Greer Grammer and Kate McKinnon.   

Night Will Fall (Unrated) Holocaust documentary culled from recent found-footage shot in 1945 by Alfred Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein in liberated concentration camps in Germany. 

Pioneer (R for profanity) Fact-based political thriller, set in the Seventies, about a grieving diver’s (Aksel Hennie) attempt to expose a corporate and government conspiracy to cover up the truth about how his brother (Andre Eriksen) died during the installation of a gas pipeline in the North Sea. With Wes Bentley, Stephanie Sigman and Jonathan LaPaglia. (In Norwegian and English with subtitles)

Poverty, Inc. (Unrated) “The more things change, the more they stay the same” documentary questioning whether Western nation’s anti-poverty industrial complex has been at all effective in alleviating the suffering of Third World peoples. 

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (Unrated) Female Empowerment documentary recounting the rise of the women’s movement in the Sixties. Featuring appearances by Muriel Fox, Ellen Willis, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Kate Millett, Susan Brownmiller and Linda Burnham.

A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness (Unrated) Surrealistic metaphysical realm exploration of the present-day challenge to carve out space for spirituality in an increasingly-secular Western culture.

Wild (R for sexuality, nudity, profanity and drug use) Reese Witherspoon stars in this adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, an Oprah Book Club selection recounting her transformational, 1,100 mile solo trek across the Mojave Desert at the age of 26 to heal herself in the wake of a divorce, heroin addiction and the death of her mother. Cast includes Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Michael Huisman and Gaby Hoffmann.   

Zero Motivation (Unrated) Comedic portrait of the clash of personalities among the members of a bored, all-female unit of Israeli soldiers stationed on a military base located in the desert. Starring Dana Ivgy, Shani Klein, Nelly Tagar and Heli Twito. (In Hebrew with subtitles)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Little Hope Was Arson (FILM REVIEW)




Little Hope Was Arson
Film Review by Kam Williams

Bible Belt Documentary Chronicles Atheistic Arsonists’ 2010 Reign of Terror across East Texas

In little over a month, starting in January of 2010, ten churches located within a 40-mile radius of a rural section of East Texas were all burned to the ground. Was this the work of devil worshipping atheists, arsonists in search of a spectacle, or someone else?
The crimes confounded the criminal investigators who mounted the largest manhunt in the history of the region. Eventually, the authorities did crack the case, arresting a couple of troubled young men, Jason Bourque, 19, and Daniel Mcallister, 21.
Daniel soon started to sing, confessing after waiving his right to remain silent. He also implicated his pal Jason in return for word from his interrogator that he’d receive half the sentence of his co-conspirator. But that handshake wasn’t worth the paper it was written on, and both defendants landed life sentences when they got their day in court.
After all, this was not only the heart of the Bible Belt, but Texas, a state notorious for its lack of patience for felonious behavior. And when you factor in the ire of unforgiving church members who’d lost their place of worship, all bets were off in terms of any promised plea deal.
Little Hope Was Arson marks the noteworthy directorial debut of Theo Love. The picture is less sensational than understated as it relates an engaging tale in matter-of-fact style. Along the way, we learn about the family dysfunction in each of the boy’s childhood which ostensibly contributed to their lives spiraling out of control.  
Personally, I only felt empathy towards the two upon learning how long they’ll have to spend behind bars, since nobody died during their month-long reign of terror. But maybe I was surprised to see a couple of white kids have the Good Book thrown at them.
Nevertheless, I’m sure that they were taught right from wrong as little boys, and somewhere along the way they simply opted for the dark side. So, now they must pay their debt to society.
The moral? Like the ghetto gangstas say: If you can’t do the time, don’t commit the crime. I can only pray that Daniel and Jason’s momentary thrill of setting those buildings ablaze was worth flushing their futures down the drain. 

Excellent (4 stars)
Unrated
Running time: 73 minutes
Distributor: The Orchard / Submarine Deluxe

To see a trailer for Little Hope Was Arson, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwrOdbanxyg

The Light of Truth (BOOK REVIEW)



For cover photo, visit:

The Light of Truth:
Writings of an Anti-Lynching Crusader
by Ida B. Wells  
Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Mia Bay
General Editor: Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Penguin Classics  
Paperback, $18.00                                                                     
624 pages
ISBN: 978-0-14-310682-1

Book Review by Kam Williams
           
“Ida B. Wells was born a slave in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1862. After beginning a teaching career to support her orphaned siblings, she moved to Memphis to become a journalist…
In 1883, she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a train, an experience that she chronicled in her first published piece. Though Wells achieved success as a writer, editor and even co-owner of a newspaper, her greatest accomplishments came after the lynching of a close friend in 1892 spurred her into a lifelong anti-lynching campaign.
She published powerful diatribes against lynching, leading to death threats and forced exile in the North… Wells devoted the rest of her life to civil rights, publishing widely and delivering impassioned speeches.”
Excerpted from the Introduction (page i)

Over 70 years before Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, Ida Wells was similarly arrested for refusing to surrender her seat on a train to a white person. Wells survived the ordeal and was eventually inspired to embark on an impressive career as an eloquent advocate on behalf of African-American civil rights.
Her specific focus was lynching. After all, the practice went unpunished for over a century during which not one white person was ever tried, convicted and executed for employing that brand of vigilante justice against any of the thousands and thousands of black men, women and children victims. Edited by Mia Bay and Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Light of Truth is a collection of Ida’s fiery essays, culled from her early writings.
In a professional and persuasive journalist tone, Ida recounts case after case in which a rush to judgment led to a gross miscarriage of justice. For example, in Selma Alabama a “colored man named Daniel Edwards” was hung from a tree and riddled with bullets as a “warning to all Negroes that are too intimate with white girls.” Truth be told, he had secretly dated the daughter of his employer for over a year until the scandalous relationship produced a biracial child.
Another entry discusses the details of the 1892 lynching in Quincy, Mississippi of five African-Americans merely on suspicion of poisoning a Caucasian, despite their already having been declared innocent by the local coroner. In this instance, Ida chastises white Christian ministers for failing to give the matter “more than a passing comment” in the pulpit. She goes on to cite the slayings as “proof of the moral degradation of the people of Mississippi.” And so forth.
A debt of gratitude is owed Ida Wells for preserving for posterity a host of illustrative examples of racist mobs bent on satiating their bloodlust by visiting violence on the bodies of blacks in vile fashion without any concern about guilt or innocence.

To order a copy of The Light of Truth, visit: 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Brooke Shields (INTERVIEW)



Brooke Shields
The “There Was a Little Girl” Interview
with Kam Williams

A Look at Brooke!

Brooke Shields is an award-winning actress and a Princeton graduate with honors in French Literature. She started in iconic films such as “Pretty Baby,” “The Blue Lagoon” and “Endless Love.”
Brooke is also a renowned model, and starred in the long-running TV show “Suddenly Susan” as well as the critically-acclaimed “Lipstick Jungle.” She has appeared on Broadway on numerous occasions, too, and wrote and performed in her own one-woman show, “In My Life.”
A gifted writer, Brooke penned the New York Times best-seller “Down Came the Rain” and a couple of well-received children’s books. She lives in New York City with her husband, Chris Henchy, and their daughters, Rowan and Grier.
Here, she talks about her life, her career, and about her new memoir, “There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me.”  

Kam Williams: Hi Brooke, I’m honored to have this opportunity to interview you.
Brooke Shields: Omigosh! Thank you, Kam, for wanting to. I’m losing my voice a little bit, but I’ll try to speak up. I hope it’ll sound clear.

KW: I live in Princeton, and once met you briefly, when you were a student here, in that tiny pastry shop on Palmer Square. We were both being waited on and I remember being quite stunned when I realized it was you in line ahead of me. But you were quite natural when I said “Hi” and struck up a little chit-chat about the offerings in the case. Was that a favorite place of yours to frequent?
BS: Yeah, they had those really big, like three-pound bran muffins. [Chuckles]

KW: Yep! My readers sent in a lot of questions for you. Let me start with Editor Lisa Loving. She says: Brooke, what an interesting person you are! We are around the same age and I have always followed you. What was the turning point in your life? To me, it seems that you have had more than one. 
BS: That’s a very astute way of looking at it, Lisa. Most people assume there’s only supposed to be one turning point which dictates the rest of our lives. But I think we have to be open to additional turning points when they arrive. Things happen in our lives. Classmates graduate… careers change… babies are born… friends are lost… loved ones die… There are so many milestones that I believe are important to acknowledge as being significant to you. That’s a very refreshing perspective that Lisa shares, because there really isn’t just one critical turning point in a life, but rather a number that you’ll need to be willing kind of bend with.    

KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: You are awesome Brooke! What was your favorite spot to hangout in Princeton?
BS: Ooh! Wow! In town, it was all about food. I became a bit addicted to Thomas Sweets [ice cream] which is one of the reasons why I gained about 20 pounds while I was in college. [Chuckles] Winberie’s [restaurant] was always an unbelievable, safe place where we could go as a group and have meals and have fun playing games. I don’t even know if it’s there anymore.

KW: It is.
BS: I’m glad. Well, those were my favorite spots in town. At school, I felt very free anywhere on campus. On warm, sunny days, I especially loved sitting outside the library, hanging out by the fountain or camping out in the fields behind the independent study. They were all amazing!  

KW: Princeton has eating clubs instead of fraternities. Had they begun admitting women when you arrived?
BS: Yes, although when I went there in ’83, Ivy Club was all-male when I arrived and it was still all-male when I graduated. I joined Cap & Gown.

KW: Dave Roth asks: Who is your intended audience for this book? Is there a particular demographic you believe will gain from it?  
BS: I think there’s a difference between who will be interested in reading it and those who might be able to gain perspective. I’ve been around for so long that those people who have actually grown up with me might read it just for the trivia. However, I’m hoping that younger audiences will sort of tap into the part that simply deals with getting to know your parents and asking them to try to understand who you are. That’s a dialogue that needs to happen. 

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: What becomes a legend most? That’s the old Blackgama slogan. Do you remember those ads? 
BS: I do! I do, Harriet!

KW: Harriet goes on to say that “What becomes a legend most?” is an interesting question to pose to you, given how you’ve been a legend since childhood.
BS: Well, there’s a certain sense of longevity that’s associated with legends, as well as a sense of endurance. I think what becomes a legend most is not only that which lasts the test of time but an ability to keep adapting. I’ve been around for decades, and I’ve tried to stay afloat by seizing upon opportunity when presented to me. And the opportunities presented to me now look very different from the ones in the Eighties. But instead of waiting for everything to happen in the way you think it should, it’s a matter of being able to see what the real lay of the land is, and figuring out how you can play a part in it.

KW: That makes me think of Isabella Rossellini, whom I interviewed a couple of weeks ago. She’s also an actress who has made herself over numerous times.
BS: But besides being talented, she’s also smart, artistic and beautiful. There’s a beauty in her that was considered amazing, not the norm. Yet, she managed to maintain a sense of self through all of her films, and she’s endured the test of time. I think that’s what “legend” is, in addition to being willing to fail, get up, and try again.  

KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams asks: Can I ask a Blue Lagoon question? Then he says: I fell in love with you after watching that film when I was 12. But he forgot to ask his question.
BS: well, the fact that he was allowed to watch it when he was 12 was pretty forward-thinking of his mom.

KW: Sarah Jane Cion says: I love Brooke Shields! I just ordered the book. My pen name is Sally Shields, and the Shields part was picked for Brooke. When I was 16, you were on the cover of Seventeen Magazine, and I thought you were the most beautiful girl I had ever set eyes upon. I wish I had a question, but all I can think of is how much I admire and appreciate you. Wait, do you need a jazz pianist to play at any functions?
BS: Wow! I’m honored that I inspired you to pick Shields as part of your pen name. And what’s funny is that my first fake name was Diana Williams, which I made from Princess Diana and baby William. And what does she play, jazz?

KW: Yes.
BS: I’m so much more in awe of people who can play an instrument than of almost any other talent. I wish I could play an instrument.

KW: Peter Brav says: I look forward to reading the memoir. I once sat next to you and your mom at a dinner for the Israeli Film Festival in 1983 and found you both to be very charming. My question is: if you hadn't entered the entertainment industry, what do you think you’d be doing today?
BS: I’ve been in the entertainment industry for so long, before I even knew that I wanted to be in it. So, it would be hard to know what else I might be doing. I probably would have still made my way into it somehow because, to me, making people laugh, and entertaining, and watching people experience storytelling is one of the most rewarding things I can imagine. So, I think I would’ve found a way to entertain people in some capacity.

KW: Both Alice Yi and environmental activist Grace Sinden, a Princeton resident and former Princeton University researcher, ask: How important to you and your career has been the education you received at Princeton University? 
BS: It’s been the thing that’s helped me stay standing.

KW: Producer/director Larry Greenberg says: Brooke, thanks for being so nice to me when I met you briefly when you were a student at Princeton. When I see the tremendous wealth of work you have done in the industry, I can't help but wonder when you will try your hand as a director.
BS: Gosh, Larry, that’s just a beautiful sentiment. I directed Chicago at the Hollywood Bowl the summer before last, and I got a bit of the bug for it. So, I’m sure that within the next few years, there will be some sort of foray into it.

KW: Wesley Derbyshire asks: Did classmates ask you out on dates while you were at Princeton? 
BS: After awhile. Not much my freshman year. But by my sophomore year, I had asked enough people out that they started to ask me back.

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: If you could talk to your mother today, what would you say to her?
BS: I hope you knew how much I loved you.

KW: Marcia Evans says: I have every intention of reading your book from cover to cover. From the interviews that I've seen this week of you discussing the book had me feeling proud of your courage and honesty, discussing your private emotional and psychological child-rearing matters about growing up with your mother. I believe that your book will help many heal from the pain of being raised in an unhealthy or challenging environment.
BS: I think we can all look at our situations and find reasons to make them healthier and healthier. Nobody really has it all figured out. I believe there’s healthy and unhealthy in each of us. It’s when you operate with a sense of love in your heart that you maintain the integrity that enables you to keep going forward.

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier was wondering whether you might be interested in acting in a French language film, given that you majored in French Literature.
BS: I would absolutely say “yes” in a second, if given the opportunity. I would take on that challenge enthusiastically and work really hard.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Brooke, and best of luck with the book.
BS: Thank you so, so much, Kam.

To order a copy of There Was a Little Girl, visit: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0525954848/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20 

25 to Life (FILM REVIEW)


25 to Life

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Out-of-the-Closet Documentary Chronicles Clandestine Life of Brother Hiding His HIV Status

            When William Brawner was 18 months-old, his single-mom Linda left him in the care of a suspicious male babysitter against her better judgment while she went off to class at Howard University. Upon returning home, she found her baby so scalded by hot water that he needed numerous skin grafts and blood transfusions.
Doctor’s didn’t buy the babysitter’s story that it was all the result of an accident. And the proof in the pudding rested in the fact that the creep quickly slipped out of town before subsequently disappearing from the radar entirely.
Unfortunately for William, this tragedy transpired in the early Eighties at the dawn of the AIDS epidemic, well before the medical community became aware of how to protect the country’s tainted blood supply. Consequently, he contracted HIV from one of his transfusions.
Because of the social stigma then associated with AIDS, his mother decided to studiously hide Bill’s positive HIV status over the course of his childhood. Furthermore, since the guilty woman had no idea how long he might live, she also proceeded to spoil him rotten, admittedly raising a monster the rest of the world was going to have to deal with.
For, Bill eventually blossomed into quite the handsome ladies’ man. And while he did inform his high school sweetheart, Natasha, that he was infected, he never told any of the 20+ classmates he slept with when he followed in his mother’s footsteps to Howard.
He even had unprotected sex with some of those sisters, and was almost outed by his angry ex-girlfriend who sent an anonymous letter to the President of the University, warning, “Bill Brawner is HIV+ and infecting everyone at your school.”  But the roaming Romeo’s culpable response was to never again share his status with anyone, though he would remain promiscuous.
Finally, in 2006, William confessed to his shameless behavior by going on the radio to reveal to the world once and for all that he was HIV+. In addition, he founded a Haven Youth center, a healthcare facility offering infected teens treatment and counseling.
Directed by Mike Brown, 25 to Life is reverential biopic that revisits all of the above, opting to present Bill in a positive light despite his risky behavior with a string of sex partners. Granted, it’s great that he ultimately embraced honesty and even settled down and got married, but it would’ve been nice to hear from his former conquests to learn how they felt about being used and whether they’ve tested positive for the AIDS virus.
A cautionary tale about a charming predator’s penis dispensing potentially-lethal demon seed.  

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for PG-13 for action and sci-fi violence
Running time: 87 minutes
Studio: SimonSays Entertainment
Distributor: AFFRM

To see a trailer for 25 to Life, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9b7qEVRpQc   

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (FILM REVIEW)



The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
Film Review by Kam Williams


Uneventful Installment Serves as Setup for Franchise Finale

            In recent years, movie studios have started splitting into two their adaptations of finales from young adult book series, most notably, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” and “Twilight: Breaking Dawn.” The money-making ploy is arguably little more than a transparent attempt to milk the last dollar out of a soon to expire franchise.
            The Hunger Games is the latest such production to employ the cash-generating tactic, as it divides in half “Mockingjay,” the last opus in Suzanne Collins’ best-selling, sci-fi trilogy. Unfortunately, this uneventful installment basically treads water while functioning as a setup for the upcoming dramatic conclusion. Nevertheless, nothing in the power of these words could possibly affect the box-office returns of this review-proof episode.  
            Directed by Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), the movie again stars Jennifer Lawrence (as protagonist Katniss Everdeen) augmented by a support cast featuring Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, Liam Hemsworth as Gale, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, Jeffrey Wright as Beetee, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee.
At the point of departure, we find the country of Panem plunged into chaos and on the brink of revolution. Hunger Games victor Katniss reluctantly allows herself to be recruited by the leader of the rebellion, Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), to serve as the face of the struggle in propaganda videos designed to foment further insurrection.   
However, besides Katniss’ frequently fretting about the mental state of her pal Peeta’s being caught in the clutches of Panem’s ruthless President, Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland), not a lot transpires over the course of this anticlimactic adventure. Worse, we have to wait another whole year for the decisive denouement.
A lame excuse to fleece the legions of loyal Hunger Games fans in the target teen/tween demo.


Fair (1 star)
Rated PG-13 for intense violence, disturbing images and mature themes  
Running time: 123 minutes
Distributor: Lionsgate Films

To see a trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXshQ5mv1K8