Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Baby Driver




Film Review by Kam Williams


Mob Wheelman Puts Pedal to the Metal in Adrenaline-Fueled Blockbuster

All you really need to know about Baby Driver is that it's the best film of the year so far, hands down. The picture was written and directed by Edgar Wright, who is best known for a trio of British comedies starring Simon Pegg: Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007) and The World's End (2013).

Wright ventured across the Atlantic to Atlanta to shoot his latest offering, a labor of love a couple of decades in the making. For, this genre-defying tour de force had its genesis in "Bellbottoms," a discordant punk anthem he considered a song in search of a car chase from the moment he first heard it way back in 1995. 
 
And that cult classic isn't the only obscure tune on Baby Driver's eclectic soundtrack featuring rarities ranging from T. Rex's "Debora," to Blur's "Intermission," to The Damned's "Neat Neat Neat." But the adrenaline-fueled blockbuster has it shares of readily-recognizable hits, too, like the Commodores' "Easy," Martha Reeves and the Vandellas' "Nowhere to Run" and "Hocus Pocus" by Focus, famous for its yodeling. 
 
The music-driven masterpiece has an A-list cast that includes Oscar-winners Jamie Foxx (for Ray) and Kevin Spacey (for American Beauty and The Usual Suspects), Emmy-winner Jon Hamm (for Mad Men) and two-time, SAG Award-winner Lily James (for Downton Abbey). However, the film is carried by an up-and-coming thespian, Ansel Elgort.

He plays Baby, a deaf getaway driver extraordinarily adept at eluding the authorities. He is reluctantly married to the mob by virtue of a debt owed manipulative crime boss, Doc (Kevin Spacey). Baby wants out of the business badly, so he can drive off into the sunset with Deborah (James), the waitress he falls in love with across an empty diner.

Unfortunately, Machiavellian Doc insists he first serve as wheelman for the proverbial "last big heist" being pulled by a trio of certifiable lunatics in Bats (Foxx), Buddy (Hamm) and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez). When the robbery goes wrong, the ever-resourceful Baby's survival instincts kick-in in a primal urge for self-preservation.

A mind-blowing, roller coaster ride you'll never want to end!



Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for violence and pervasive profanity
Running time: 113 minutes
Production Studio: Working Title Films
Distributor: TriStar Pictures


To see a trailer for Baby Driver, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2z857RSfhk

Sunday, June 25, 2017

13 Minutes

 

Film Review by Kam Williams


Historical Drama Recreates 1939 Attempt to Assassinate Hitler


Believe it or not, over a dozen different attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler (Udo Schenk) were made before he took his own life in April of 1945. The year before, he only suffered minor injuries in the bombing that was the focus of Valkyrie (2008), a docudrama starring Tom Cruise.

Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall), 13 Minutes chronicles the first try after Hitler had taken control of Germany. The incident occurred in Munich on November 8, 1939 in a hall where the Fuhrer was scheduled to deliver an address. 
 
Trouble is, Georg Elser's (Christian Friedel) homemade time bomb went off too late, as Hitler had completed his remarks and exited the building 13 minutes earlier accompanied by several henchmen, including Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels (Ulrich Matthes), Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess, and the architect of the Holocaust, Heinrich Himmler (Ulrich Noethen).
 
Later that same day, Georg was apprehended while trying to slip into Switzerland. Border guards took him into custody upon discovering incriminating evidence in his possession suggested a connection to the explosion.

He was soon delivered to Germany's Chief of Police Arthur Nebe (Burghart Klauszner) and Gestapo Chief Heinrich Muller (Johann von Bulow) for interrogation, but refused to answer any questions until they threatened to arrest his girlfriend Elsa (Katharina Schuttler), too. Georg confessed to protect her, but they still didn't believe the simple carpenter could have possibly acted alone, given the powerful explosion that claimed 8 lives and wounded 62.

So, they resorted to torture to extract the identities of his suspected accomplices that only existed in their imaginations.But Georg had nothing further to share, other than an explanation of exactly how he'd secretly amassed enough gunpowder to construct a weapon of mass destruction.

13 Minutes employs an unorthodox story structure, as it opens with the failed coup, and is followed by a series of Georg's flashbacks. While behind bars, he reminisces.about everything from his disgust with Nazis to his ill-fated relationship with Elsa. 
 
A long-overdue tribute to an unsung hero who came that close to changing the course of history.


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sexuality and disturbing violence
In German with subtitles
Running time: 114 minutes
Production Studio: Lucky Bird Pictures
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics


To see a trailer for 13 Minutes, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1a-rnFq1FjQ

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Top Ten DVD List for June 27, 2017

by Kam Williams





This Week’s DVD Releases

The Lodger [Alfred Hitchcock Silent Film]

Trespass [25th Anniversary Collector's Edition]

Money [Heist Gone Bad Crime Thriller]

Striking Out: Series 1 [Irish Legal Drama]

Power Rangers [Adaptation of High-Octane TV Series]

Midsomer Murders [Series 19, Part 1]

Dirty Dancing [TV Remake of 1987 Classic]

Chips [Adaptation of Classic TV Series]

Grey Lady [Nantucket Murder Mystery]

Bunnicula: Night of the Vegetable [20 Episodes from Season 1]

 

Honorable Mention

The Story of China [with Michael Wood]

Last Days of Solitary [PBS Frontline]

The Similars [Harrowing Mexican Horror Flick]

Admiral [17th C. Dutch Swashbuckler]

Paradox [Time-Travel Suspense Thriller]

Kill Ratio [Eastern European Revenge Thriller
]

Sun Choke [Female Mental Health Drama]

Crossing Point [American Tourist Kidnapped in Baja]

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: