Thursday, January 31, 2008

Jessica Alba: The Eye Interview

Interview with Kam Williams

Headline: Alba’s Core

Though born in Pomona, California on April 28, 1981, Jessica Maria Alba moved to Biloxi, Mississippi while still an infant when her father was transferred by the military. The peripatetic army brat came back to California with her family at the age of three, before relocating to Texas, and then finally settling in California at the age of nine.
Soon thereafter, Jessica exhibited a serious interest in acting, and landed her first screen role in a kiddie comedy called Camp Nowhere. She next made a string of support appearances on TV and in movies till landing the breakout role as the Dark Angel on the Fox-TV series of the same name. Since, she has starred in such films as Good Luck Chuck, Awake, Fantastic Four 1 & 2, Sin City, Honey, The Ten and Into the Blue.
Alba, an attractive blend of Latino, French and Danish, was named #1 on Maxim’s Hot 100 List of 2001, #1 on Ask Men’s 99 Most Desirable Women List of 2006, #6 on FHM’s Sexiest Girls of 2002, #3 on E TV’s 101 Sexiest Celebrity Bodies, of 2006, #4 on Empire Magazine’s 100 Sexiest Movie Stars of 2007, #12 on Stuff Magazine’s 102 Sexiest Women in the World List, Victoria Secret’s Sexiest Woman Celebrity in 2007, etcetera.
Jessica’s about to trade in that pinup image for mother and wife, because she’s expecting and engaged to actor Cash Warren, son of UCLA basketball great Mike Warren. Here, she talks about her life, her career, and her new movie, The Eye, a horror flick where she plays a blind violinist haunted by frightening visions after her sight is restored by a double corneal transplant operation.

KW: Hi Jessica, congratulations on the baby.
JA: Thank you.
KW: Have you picked out a name yet?
JA: I’m thinking of names.
KW: What are some of the ones you’re considering?
JA: I would never share that.
KW: How do you think life will change after the baby is born?
JA: I have to believe that when you have a child and you have someone that
needs you and needs your time, you kind of can’t be self-interested anymore and
you have to consider that any time you spend away from your child is invaluable.
And so I think I’ll just probably be a bit more choosy and not work for two years
straight like I just did.
KW: You get a lot of attention because of your looks. Has that influenced how
You pick parts?
JA: I never base anything on my appearance, to be honest with you. I don’t think
that people would hire me just because of that. There’s so many much, much
cuter girls in L.A. that would do just about anything to get roles. And if it was just
about looks they would be getting them. So I have to believe that I bring more to
the table than that. And whether it's likeability or an appeal or something more, I
don’t know.
KW: Do you think you’ll find yourself gravitating towards different types of roles
JA: I think, initially, I’m going to probably do more character-driven roles, more
indies, ensemble casts, smaller budget. Not necessarily the big, box-office, tent-
pole movies. And then, I’ve always had my eye out for an action movie since I
finished Dark Angel. It’s been this long since I finished that and I still haven’t
found that good, female-driven, action flick I’ve been looking for. So, if you have
any suggestions, send them my way.
KW: Will do. What sort of research did you do for this role where you had to play
a blind person?
JA: I went to a blind orientation center in LA and one in New Mexico. And I lived
among people who were learning to deal with blindness, particularly in New
Mexico. And I learned how to read braille, how to label everything in the house,
and to walk with my cane. I just sort of learned how to exist as someone with
KW: Which did you find more challenging? Playing the violin or playing blind?
JA: Violin was definitely more difficult, because I played a soloist, the best of the
best. There are people who’ve been playing that instrument since they were
three years-old and who practice eight hours a day who still don’t become
soloists. They’re just in the orchestra. So, that was tough for me because I
wanted to come off as realistic and as believable as possible in order for the
audience to really take the journey with me in this movie.
KW: How is this version of The Eye different from the original?
JA: The Hong Kong version was more bitter than sweet in the end. And ours was
definitely bittersweet, without giving anything away.
KW: Your previous picture was Awake, another thriller. How does that compare
to The Eye?
JA: Wow, they don’t compare at all. The Eye is way more scary. It’s a horror
movie, for sure. Awake is more a psychological thriller about someone who is
dealing with a surgery and trust. And everyone in his life is sort of betraying him.
The Eye’s about a girl who has a corneal transplant. She gains the ability to see,
she takes on psychic abilities of the girl, of the donor, and starts to see death
before it happens, and she doesn’t understand. She’s literally seeing for the first
time, taking in the world, and also seeing horrible things. So yeah, The Eye’s
definitely more scary.
KW: What’s up next for you?
JA: I am coming out in a comedy with Mike Myers, The Love Guru, which is his
first original character since Austin Powers. It’s absolutely hilarious! To me, this
was like a dream come true, because he is the Peter Sellers of our generation, I
feel. He’s a genius and he’s primed in every phrase in pop culture. That was
huge because I love comedy and, if you’re going to work with anybody in
comedy, Mike is definitely someone to learn from.
KW: What’s the movie about?
JA: I play the owner of a hockey team and he is a guru who fixes peoples, an all
around guru. But it’s mostly about love and loving yourself and fixing your love
life. My key hockey player’s love life is totally screwed up and our team is
losing, and everyone thinks the team is cursed because of me. So, I hire Mike
Myers to fix my guy’s love life and hopefully we can win the Stanley Cup. It’s a
very funny broad comedy.
KW: Do you have anything to say about the untimely death of Heath Ledger?
JA: Oh my God, it was… it’s such a huge loss, and the most tragic, saddest thing
ever… I can’t imagine a more… it was just horrible. And I just feel for his family
and his friends and everyone that’s close to him. And I… I don’t know… I guess
I’m just sensitive to the fact that he is in the public eye and the fact that people
can all have an opinion about him when I feel like he should just rest in peace
and people should grieve without having this extra attention on how he passed.
It’s a huge loss for the acting community and really so, so shocking and so, so
KW: Columbus Short gave me this question. Are you happy?
JA: [Sarcastically] You know what? I sound so bummed out right now. Of course,
I’m happy.
KW: Where in L.A. do you live?
JA: In L.A.
KW: Will you tell me the general neighborhood? Nosy Jimmy Bayan, realtor to
the stars, wants to know.
JA: I live in L.A. in the hills. [Hollywood Hills]
KW: Is there a question you always want to be asked but no one ever asks you?
JA: Not really, reporters get pretty in there. They get right to just about
KW: Well, best of luck with the baby and thanks for the time.
JA: No worries. Bye.

The Brave One DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Jodie Does New York as Revenge-Minded Vigilante

David (Naveen Andrews) and Erica’s (Jodie Foster) impending wedding plans are ruined the night they’re mugged while walking their dog in Central Park. David dies from the sadistic beating doled out by the creeps, while she’s left comatose.
Weeks after recovering from her wounds, Erica is still too paralyzed by fear to return to her work as a radio talk show host. In fact, she’s so traumatized by the tragedy that she can’t leave her apartment. Frightened by the prospect of encountering the criminals again, Erica purchases a pistol on the black market to protect herself.
Now armed and emboldened, she starts devoting her evenings to roaming the streets in search of the perpetrators. And she gradually morphs into a monster with no qualms about dispensing a deadly brand of instant justice to any outlaws who cross her path. Meanwhile, she returns to the airwaves as host of “Street Walk,” though subtly changing the theme of her program to reflect a simpatico with the anonymous vigilante who suddenly has all of New York abuzz.
So unfolds The Brave One, a raw-edged revenge flick which takes most of its cues from the Charles Bronson classic Death Wish (1974). Jodie Foster turns in her best performance since Panic Room, here, imbuing her cold and calculating killer with a contemplative side seldom seen in such tales of vengeance. Given that the script is riddled with lines which would sound false coming from the mouth of a less gifted lead, director Neil Jordan should thank his lucky stars for having landed a two-time Oscar-winner in Ms. Foster.
New York as a godforsaken metropolis where you have a close brush with a criminal every five minutes. Hence, everybody’s grateful for the presence of a gun-toting vigilante intent on exacting retribution.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality and graphic violence.
Running time: 90 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Extras: Additional scenes, plus a featurette entitled “I Walk the City.”

Great World of Sound DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Shows Seamy Side of Showbiz via Black-White Buddy Drama

Clarence (Kene Holliday) and Martin (Pat Healy) meet at a job seminar in Charlotte, North Carolina offering employment in the recording industry. The company misleadingly bills itself as an independent music label interested in signing promising talent to lucrative recording contracts.
Though a little suspicious of the shady character (John Baker) running the fly-by-night operation, the unemployed men still accept positions as talent scouts. Only during training do they see Great World of Sound for what it is, an elaborate scam to fleece local yokels before high-tailing it out of town.
Here’s how the scam works: They place classified ads in the papers, encouraging aspiring stars to come to a hotel room for an audition. The trick is that everyone who shows up is told they have promise and are offered a recording contract. Then, they’re pressured to fork over several thousand dollars as an investment in their own careers.
Truth be told, Great World has no intention of producing any CDs or promoting any of its artists. Instead, the sleazy owner simply plans to pocket all the checks and to pay his con men a commission for any sucker they sign.
Martin and Clarence are paired as partners for this unsavory endeavor, with the former’s good cop persona serving as the perfect counterpoint to the latter’s bad cop routine playing the pushy bully who closes deals via the hard sell. And these Willy Loman-like losers’ co-dependent relationship rests at the center of this character-driven drama.
Note that, ala Borat, the bulk of the auditioning support cast had been hoodwinked into believing that they were actually getting a shot at of fame. So, kudos to first-time writer/director Craig Zobel for a daring debut.dependent on duping desperate wannabes. Such an earnest intensity could never have been coaxed out of real actors.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity.
Running time: 107 minutes
Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment

Live and Become (ISRAELI)

(Va, Vis et Deviens)
Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Ethiopian Identity at Issue in Coming-of-Age Flick from Israel

9 year-old Schlomo (Sirak Sabahat) ended up in Israel in 1985 as part of Operation Moses, a humanitarian airlift of about 8,000 Ethiopian Jews fleeing religious persecution in their native country. The only thing wrong with this picture is that the little boy didn’t deserve to exercise any right of return like his fellow refugees, given that he was actually a Christian whose starving mother had him take the place of a child who had died.
Nonetheless, upon his arrival in Tel Aviv, he is presumed to be a Jewish orphan by the couple who adopt him, Yoram (Roschdy Zem) and Yael Harrari (Yael Abecassis). While hiding the fact that he is neither Jewish nor an orphaned, Schlomo does his best to adapt to the culture and customs of the Holy Land.
However, he soon finds that even if he were Jewish, most white Israelis seem to have a problem with his skin color, and don’t real consider him one of the Chosen People. This proves particularly challenging when he hits puberty and takes an interest in girls, especially Sarah (Roni Hadar), whose racist father doesn’t want his daughter dating a black kid.
These sort of fish-out-of-water scenarios abound in Live and Become, a coming-of-age, assimilation saga which covers 15 of Schlomo’s formative years. Over that timespan, we see the lost lad grow into a man while grappling with assorted identity issues. To its credit, the film fleshes out his character, treating him not as a freak or a curiosity but as an ever-evolving human experiencing a full range of emotions.
Consequently both his enduring, if awkward relationship with Sarah and his barely-tolerated presence in Israel in general combine to create a complicated and compelling character study which ultimately tells us as much about Schlomo’s tortured psyche as it does about an abundance of universal themes, from intolerance to abandonment to the need to belong. Brother from another temple.

Excellent (4 stars)
In Amharic, Hebrew and French with subtitles.
Running time: 140 minutes
Studio: Menemsha Films

Prince Among Slaves

PBS-TV Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Mos Def Narrates True Tale of Abduction and Enslavement

In 1788, 26 year-old Abdul-Rahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori (Marcus Mitchell) was in Mali pursuing higher education at Timbuktu when he was seized and sold to slave traders. The fact that he was a Fulbe Prince from the land of Futa Jallon meant nothing to his captors who immediately shipped him across the ocean to America where he ended up picking cotton on a plantation in Mississippi owned by Thomas Foster.
Abdul-Rahman’s ensuing adjustment to the change of circumstances, from a life of power and privilege to one of exploitation and utter subjugation is the subject of Prince Among Slaves, a costume drama narrated by rapper Mos Def. As the bio-pic evolves, we learn that, despite suffering unspeakable indignities, this member of a Muslim royal family managed to marry and father nine children.
He never totally capitulated to his plight mentally, sharing his tragic story with any empathetic soul willing to listen. Eventually, word reached the ears of President John Quincy Adams, and Abdul-Rahman was released after 40 years of servitude. But rather than return to Africa alone, he first moved to the North where earned enough money to purchase the freedom of his family.
Prince Among Slaves is recommended because it resurrects the tale of survival of a remarkable hero who overcame incredible odds. Though shedding light on a little know chapter of African-American history, the production suffers from unconvincing acting efforts, and the subtle suggestion that blacks who weren’t kings or queens might have somehow deserved their lot.

Good (2 stars)
Running time: 57 minutes
Studio: PBS American Experience/Paramount Home Video

Prince Among Slaves is set to premiere on PBS at 10 PM (EST) on February 4th (check local listings)

Kam's Kapsules: Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening February 8, 2008


Fool’s Gold (PG-13 for violence, profanity, sexuality and brief nudity) Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey co-star in this action comedy about a just-divorced couple who rekindle their romance after reuniting to search for a sunken treasure buried aboard a Spanish sailing ship lost at sea in 1715. Supporting cast includes Donald Sutherland, Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Brian Hooks.

In Bruges (R for pervasive profanity, graphic violence and drug use) Mob comedy about a couple of hit men (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) sent by their boss (Ralph Fiennes) to unwind in Belgium for a couple of weeks after an assignment in London goes horribly wrong.

Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show (R for sexual humor and pervasive profanity) Concert flick chronicles emcee Vince Vaughn presenting four of his favorite comedians, Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, Bret Ernst and Sebastian Maniscalco, as they crisscross the country, performing in 30 cities in 30 days.

Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins (PG-13 for profanity, crude humor, sexual content and drug references) Martin Lawrence plays the title role in this ensemble comedy about a popular, Hollywood talk-show host who finds himself cut down to size during a family reunion after he travels back to his Georgia roots for his parents’ 50th anniversary. Cast includes Michael Clarke Duncan, Mo’Nique, Mike Epps, Cedric the Entertainer, Nicole Ari Parker and Joy Bryant.


Bab’Aziz (Unrated) Intergenerational drama about a blind mustic (Parviz Shahinkhou) who ventures into the desert with his free-spirited granddaughter (Maryam Hamid) in search of a sacred convocation of whirling dervishes said to reoccur once every 30 years. (In Arabic with subtitles)

The Band’s Visit (PG-13 for brief profanity) Cross-cultural comedy about the hijinks which ensue when an Egyptian police orchestra gets lost on its way to a concert in Israel and ends up stranded in a tiny town where everybody learns a touching lesson in tolerance. (In Arabic, Hebrew and English with subtitles)

The Hottie and the Nottie (PG-13 for sexuality and crude humor) Romantic comedy about a single guy (Joel David Moore) whose only hope of dating the gorgeous girl (Paris Hilton) of his dreams rests with somehow separating her from her ever-present, ugly duckling best friend (Christine Lakin).

How to Rob a Bank (Unrated) Crime comedy about a bank employee (Erika Christensen) and a customer (Nick Stahl) who find themselves locked in a vault and having to handle the hostage negotiations between the cops and a gang of robbers. Cast includes Terry Crews, David Carradine and Leo Fitzpatrick.

London to Brighton (Unrated) Taut crime thriller, set in London, revolving around a couple of young prostitutes (Georgia Groome and Lorraine Stanley) on the run from their pimp (John Harris) and a ruthless mobster (Alexander Morton) with a thing for underage girls.

A Walk to Beautiful (Unrated) Post-partum documentary traces the road to recovery of a quintet of Ethiopian women each of whom experienced ostracism and a loss of dignity after suffering a devastating injury during childbirth. (In Amharic and English)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Blackout DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Straight-to-DVD Drama Revisits the Great Blackout of 2003

On August 14th, 2003, a power plant in Eastlake, Ohio failed, thereby suddenly triggering the worst blackout in North American history. The massive outage left over 50 million people in the U.S. and Canada without electricity for the next two days, forcing folks to fend for themselves.
Blackout, written and directed by Brooklyn native Jerry LaMothe, is based on actual events which unfolded in a predominantly African-American section of a tight-knit, East Flatbush community. This engaging, ensemble drama paints a poignant picture of struggles against poverty further compounded by the looting and violence which erupted when night falls.
The film, which features a talented cast that includes Jeffrey Wright, Zoe Saldana and Melvin Van Peebles, sensibly, takes the time to familiarize us with the intersecting lives of its assorted characters before the impending calamity strikes. Thus, we meet Nelson (Wright), the affable owner of the local barbershop; Ali (Nehal Joshi), the Muslim manager of a busy bodega; and slumlord Sol (Saul Rubinek) who’s planning to fire his superintendent, George (Van Peebles).
Other principal players include Sol’s tenant, Mrs. Thompson (LaTanya Richardson) who is relieved that her teenage son, C.J. (Michael B. Jordan), has just earned his ticket out of the ghetto, a scholarship to Penn State. Unfortunately, C.J. is presently being pressured by an ex-con (Jamie Hector) plying the drug trade on the corner.
Then there’s promising publishing executive Claudine (Saldana), who’s just about fed up with her boyfriend (Sean Blakemore) who’s been unemployed since 9-11, and what’s about to transpire isn’t going to make things any better. Finally, we have Fatima (Susan Kelechi Watson), a poetry slam performer who has an interest in Ali ever since discovering that her man has been cheating on her.
A well-crafted, slice-of-life saga which amply illustrates how easily matters might go from bad to worse in the already-overburdened inner-city when disaster strikes in the ‘hood.

Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 95 minutes
Studio: BET/Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Interview with director Jerry LaMothe, deleted scenes, interviews with survivors of the 2003 Blackout, Meet the Cast, and a “Behind-the-Scenes featurette.

African American Lives 2

Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Black Luminaries Find Roots in 4-Part PBS Series

A year ago, Harvard Professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates hosted a groundbreaking series on which he and eight other African-American icons explored their roots via a combination of genealogical and DNA research. The show was so successful, that PBS has brought Skip back along with eleven new recruits curious about their roots.
This go-round, the group of luminaries includes actors Don Cheadle and Morgan Freeman, poet Maya Angelou, Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee, DJ Tom Joyner, singer Tina Turner. Ebony/Jet publisher Linda Johnson Rice, fellow Harvard Professor Reverend Peter Gomes, comedian Chris Rock and belatedly-black author Bliss Broyard. Plus, there’s Kathleen Henderson, the contest winner picked from among over 2,000 entrants to have her history researched for the program.
If you remember the original show, then you are already well familiar with the format. Broken down into four episodes, the first focuses on each person’s 20th Century relatives. Episode Two traces Civil War era ancestors, while the third goes all the way back to the Colonial Period. DNA testing is introduced during the final episode, which is when the participants learn what per cent African, Asian, European and Native American they are. Some then venture to their respective homelands.
Highlights include Tom Joyner’s learning of the legal lynching of two of his grandmother’s brothers for the murder of a white man, the reading from a slave ship’s log about captives’ deaths from sickness and suicide, and Ms. Angelou’s heartfelt insights about her strong connection to the Motherland, even in absentia when she wistfully reflects, “I don’t think you can ever leave home.”
Ironically, the most compelling moments revolve around Ms. Broyard, daughter of the late New York Times literary critic, Anatole Broyard. For, her light-skinned father passed for white from the time he moved to New York City in 1938 at the age of 17 until his death in 1990. So, growing up, she never knew she was part African-American.
Here, she is clearly uncomfortable as she struggles to grasp the meaning of her new identity, while wondering whether her father ran from his out of self-hatred or self-preservation. There is nothing culturally black about Bliss, making her inclusion a bit strange, except that it reminds us that there are undoubtedly millions of others like her, the difference being they are either ashamed or unaware of their African ancestry.
The show’s only low moments come courtesy of host Gates who is given to drawing baffling and bizarre conclusions such as when he inappropriately sums up a situation with: “Being black in America has never been about one’s color or facial features. It’s more a state of mind.” What?
Or how about another occasion where he fliply suggests that the damage slavery has wreaked upon the black family can be easily undone, saying: “DNA can begin to reverse the Middle Passage. Ain’t that something?” Otherwise, African American Lives 2 is as moving, informative and fascinating four hours as you can hope to find anywhere on the TV dial.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 224 minutes
Studio: PBS

African American Lives 2 premieres on PBS at 9 PM (EST) on Wednesdays February 6 and 13. (check local listings)

Sticky Fingaz: The Blade Interview

Interview with Kam Williams

Headline: Sticky Stuff

Born in Brooklyn on November 3, 1973, Kirk Jones joined the rap game as a member of the hardcore hip-hop group Onyx, along with Sonsee, Big DS and his cousin, Fredro Starr. Better known as Sticky Fingaz, he’s recorded five albums with Onyx, plus two solo CDs of his own.
In 1995, he made his screen debut in Spike Lee’s Clockers, and he has already added about another 40 credits to his filmography. He’s appeared in a variety of movies, ranging from gangsta sagas such as In Too Deep and Dead Presidents to urban comedies like Malibooty and Next Friday to mainstream flicks like Flight of the Phoenix.
On TV, he’s enjoyed roles on both comedies and dramas, including CSI: Miami, New York Undercover, Nash Bridges, The Parkers, The Twilight Zone, The Shield, Law & Order, Over There, House of the Dead and Tell Me You Love Me. But he’s probably most closely associated with the title role of the television version of Blade, where he played a half-man/half-vampire with super-human powers. With the complete series being released on DVD, he talks here about that show and about what’s next in his illustrious career.

KW: I want to start by expressing my condolences on the passing of your brother, X-1.
SF: Thanks, I appreciate it, although he wasn’t actually a blood brother. A long time ago we started a group together called Gang Green. Our demeanors were so similar, everybody started calling us brothers.
KW: Well, I’d still like to express my condolences, since you were close. What does the name Sticky Fingaz mean?
SF: It means: Everything I touch, I take.
KW: I read that you left a gun behind after a stay in a luxury hotel. Seems like you forgot something. That doesn’t sound very sticky-like.
SF: [Laughs] It wasn’t mine. Somebody else must have left it there. I don’t know.
KW: Have you ever met another person with the name Sticky Fingaz?
SF: Never.
KW: I didn’t think so. Neither have I. So, how did you enjoy doing Blade?
SF: I loved it. It was incredible.
KW: Were you comfortable with the violence and bloodsplurt?
SF: Oh, I love all the gore. [Chuckles]
KW: How demanding a schedule did you have while shooting the series?
SF: Not only do you have twelve or thirteen hours on set per day but, outside of that, you gotta go through all the vigorous training: martial arts, kickboxing, sword work, wire work, stretching. And on top of all that, you have to know your lines, and you get hurt occasionally. So, it was really cutting into my party life.
KW: Yeah, whenever I interview TV actors, they say how much of a daily grind the work is.
SF: Figure it this way: Blade the TV show was an hour long drama every week, right? A typical movie is about two hours long and takes like three months to shoot. We’d only take eight days to shoot a one hour episode. So, not only were we going through all the rigorous training, but we had to film in one-eighth of the time of a normal movie. It was really crunch-time.
KW: Do you have a preference for making movies over TV shows as a result?
SF: No, I don’t really have a preference. I like ‘em both.
KW: What about comedy versus drama?
SF: I prefer action, although, don’t get me wrong, I like comedy, too.
KW: Which do you enjoy more, rapping or acting?
SF: You know what? I’ve never been able to answer that question directly, and that’s why I recently finished writing, producing, directing and starring in my own movie, called A Day in the Life in which basically, all of the dialogue is in rap.
KW: Like a rap opera?
SF: I don’t think that’s the proper word to describe it, but yeah it’s like a rap opera.
KW: Why don’t you call it a hip-hopera?
SF: Nah, that sounds kinda cheesy. This is a regular movie with action, sex, violence and everything. It’s just that all the dialogue is in rap. But it doesn’t feel like rap, but like regular dialogue, because they’re talking to each other about the situations that are going on in the movie.
KW: That’s interesting. It sounds like a trademark David Mamet play where the actors speak in a staccato cadence. I heard Troy Garity’s in your movie. Isn’t he Jane Fonda’s son?
SF: He sure is. He’s good, too. He plays a cop.
KW: Also Mekhi Phifer and Michael Rapaport, who’s in a lot of black movies.
SF: He’s half black?
KW: What?
SF: Not really, but he is.
KW: He has a black vibe.
SF: I gave him a new saying, “Once you go rap, you never go back.” He’s my boy.
KW: When do you expect your next solo album to drop?
SF: Probably April or May, alongside the movie.
KW: I’m sure you’re aware that in response to the uproar over Don Imus, Master P and Romeo have launched a clean record label. Are you going to write PG-rated rap lyrics?
SF: Never! I fee like this: a curse word is only a curse because society labels it a curse. For instance the word “f*ck” could mean “love” and the word “love” could mean “f*ck” if they labeled it that way. Words are only sounds, you understand?
KW: Yep.
SF: All words come from sounds. The whole human world is surrounded by words, while the rest of the world is surrounded by sounds. We humans have transformed sound into words, and then Big Brother, the government, what have you, has decided to call certain words curse words, even though there’s freedom of speech. They’ve censored certain words to show their power. I just feel that since I wasn’t born when those laws were created, I shouldn’t have to follow all of them. I’m going to tell you something. The Hip-Hop Generation is so smart that we created new curse words that aren’t even in the dictionary.
KW: Like what?
SF: The new word for “bitch” is “blick.” How are they going to censor that? They can’t even bleep that because they don’t even know it’s a curse word yet. We’re too smart for them.
KW: I think African-American culture has, historically, always changed whenever the mainstream has attempted to co-opt it, as if to say, “You can’t take our soul.”
SF: Exactly.
KW: What advice do you have for anybody who wants to follow in your footsteps?
SF: Follow in my footsteps? Don’t follow in my footsteps. Make your own path. You’re your own person, so you gotta create your own path and your own footsteps. Don’t ever follow in anybody’s footsteps, because you’re always going to be led astray.
KW: I know that you’re from Brooklyn. I went to high school in Bed-Stuy at the corner of Nostrand Avenue and Carroll Street, where Medgar Evers College is now. Do you know that area?
SF: Of course. I used to live not too far from there. On Franklin and President.
KW: I grew up in St. Albans. Where in Queens did you live when you moved there?
SF: Southside Jamaica.
KW: That’s right next to St. Albans. Because of Jimmy Bayan, realtor to the stars, I have to ask: Where in L.A. you live now?
SF: Woodland Hills, although I call it Hoodland Hills. [Laughs]
KW: Anything else on the horizon for you?
SF: I’m also working on a new Onyx album, a collaboration of hip-hop and rock & roll called The Black Rock.
KW: Well, I really appreciate the time, Sticky, and best of luck with all your ventures.
SF: Bet, thank you, brother.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Lost in Beijing (CHINESE)

(Ping Guo)
Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Complications Abound in Class-Conscious Revenge Drama

Ping Guo (Bingbing Fan) and An Kun (Dawei Tong), a young couple from the sticks, moved to China’s capital in search of the higher standard of living to be found in the big city. Thusfar, however, being in Beijing has been a bit of a bust, since the best paying job she could find was sponging men off in a sleazy massage parlor, and that only because she lied about the fact that she’s married. Meanwhile, her husband has taken on dangerous work as a skyscraper window-washer, so the two made do until the fateful day her rich boss (Tony Leung Ka Fai) decided to force himself on her.
Wouldn’t you know it, but An Kun just happened to be squeejeeing the plate glass of the room as Liu pounced on his wife, and he had to watch helplessly while dangling outside on the scaffolding. This didn’t stop him from later angrily confronting Liu, who offered them an insulting 2000 yuan to keep quiet.
But rather than report the sexual assault to the authorities, An Kun comes up with the bright idea of asking the attacker’s wife, Mei (Elaine Jin) for more money, 20,000 in yuans. But she says her husband would rather save face than pay blackmail. Then, angry that her husband had cheated on her, Mei suggests that the two of them sleep together, like their spouses had, implying that the rape had been consensual.
An Kun agrees and the two embark on a steamy affair. And that might have been the end of it, except that his wife misses her next period. Pregnant, the question becomes “Who’s the daddy?”
This is the intriguing, incestuous scenario which unfolds in Lost in Beijing, as messy a dysfunctional relationship drama as you could hope to witness on screen. And as complicated as what you’ve just read sounds, the plot only thickens as the baby’s birth approaches.
Without giving away any of this riveting romp’s unpredictable developments, suffice to say that our compromised protagonists find themselves in a complicated predicament about as easy to unscramble as egg drop soup. How do you say “Jerry Springer” in Mandarin?

Excellent (4 stars)
In Mandarin with subtitles.
Running time: 112 minutes
Studio: New Yorker Films


Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: FBI Agent Tracks Brazen Cyber Killer in Grisly, Cat-and-Mouse Thriller

FBI Agent Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) is a widow living in Portland, Oregon who always finds herself apologizing to her eight year-old daughter, Annie (Perla Haney-Jardine), for putting her law enforcement career before family. Fortunately, Grandma Stella (Mary Beth Hurt) is more than willing to pick up the slack, and spends evenings with Annie while her mom is working overtime.
Grannie comes in handy when Jen and her partner, Griffin (Colin Hanks), are asked to track down the creep who executed a cat on a website called The problem is that the sicko is extremely internet savvy, and knows how to prevent the cops from determining his IP address. In addition, every time the authorities attempt to shut down his site, he has it back up and running in a matter of moments.
Worse, it isn’t long before this sadist escalates to humans. Promising that the more people watch, the faster he will die, the next broadcast airs the slow death of a man tied to a rack with the words “KILL WITH ME” carved right into his chest.
This development has the investigating team wondering whether the murder is real or might merely be staged. That question is soon answered when the corpse of Herbert Miller (Tim de Zarn) turns up, and his grieving widow tearfully explains that her husband was no kinky sex freak, but a hockey fan who had been lured to the torture chamber by a classified ad offering playoff tickets for sale.
With each ensuing victim, the website’s ratings soar, as more and more viewers tune-in. So, unfolds Untraceable, a compelling, cat-and-mouse caper directed by Gregory Hoblit. Regrettably, as happened with Hoblit’s previous picture (Fracture), this psychological thriller’s well-earned tension is ultimately undone by a practically comical set of improbable developments during the denouement.
Furthermore, praiseworthy acting performances by a capable ensemble headed by Diane Lane and Colin Hanks are all squandered in service of a hypocritical morality play. Is it really ethical for a film to warn of the irresistible appeal of online snuff films while it simultaneously indulges, practically pornographically, in graphic displays of the same sort of kinky perversion?

Fair (1 star)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, torture and grisly violence.
Running time: 100 minutes
Studio: Screen Gems

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Meet the Spartans

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Nothing Is Sacred in Silly Spoof of 300

Released just last year, 300 was a green-screen epic recreating the bloody Battle of Thermopylae during which King Leonidas led several hundred Spartans in a futile defense of the country against invaders from Persia. Meet the Spartans is a light-hearted spoof of that costume drama which pits a now gay army against a suddenly hip-hop horde of marauders.
Since the movie is being brought to you by the same purveyors of parodies who made Scary Movie, Date Movie and Epic Movie, you ought to have a good idea of what to expect. For example, instead of macho heroes marching valiantly off to war, anticipate the sight of more sensitive soldiers affectionately holding hands two-by-two as they skip up the trail to their fate.
Although the picture fairly faithfully follows the plot of 300, it obviously does take considerable license with the facts. Besides revisionist history, the production also mixes-in prominent placement ads for everything from Gatorade to Grey Goose Vodka to Dentyne to I-Pod to Coke to Budweiser, all while taking potshots at a variety of movies, TV shows and cultural icons.
Seems that everyone is fair game, here, especially females whose faces and genitalia we generally find splashed across the tabloids, including Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, each of whom is graphically impersonated sans panties, the PG-13 rating notwithstanding. Other celebrity look-a-likes include Ugly Betty, American Idol judges Paua Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell, the show’s host Ryan Seacrest and sexually-ambiguous also-ran Sanjaya. Warning: while some of the aforementioned impersonators bear an uncanny resemblance to the real people, others must have been the directors’ idea of a joke.
This mean-spirited shock comedy is likely to make you laugh to the extent that you enjoy poking further fun at the vulnerable and the emotionally damaged. For example, there’s a parody of Tyra Banks’ on-air meltdown over her big butt bathing suit picture. Most characters end up in the Pit of Death as soon as the writers run out of ideas of what to do with them.
Yet, Britney definitely gets the most mud tossed in her direction, whether over shaving her head, going public with her privates, or being caught up in a custody battle with K-Fed. One of the film’s funnier moments arrives when internet curiosity Chris Crocker appears on screen delivering the “Leave Britney Alone!” rant on YouTube that landed him his 15 minutes of fame.
The movie makes other allusions to Austin Powers, Oprah, Stomp the Yard, You Got Served, Deal or No Deal, Yo! MTV Raps, Borat, Happy Feet, Ghost Rider, Transformers, Spider-Man Grand Theft Auto, Rocky and more. Unfortunately, most of the skits fall flat, since they have nothing of insight to share about the subject.
Don’t expect anything of depth and you won’t be disappointed by this predigested pabulum. Mental bubblegum for the brain whose cinematic taste lasts only about as long as the viewing.

Good (2 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, crude humor and slapstick violence.
Running time: 84 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox


Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Stallone in Sixties and Still Saving the Day

Sylvester Stallone may be in his sixties, but he hasn’t lost a step in terms of writing, directing or performing in balls-out, action movies. He proved that a year ago with Rocky VI, which was essentially a remake of his Academy Award-winning Best Picture of 1976. And now he proves it again in Rambo 4, a revival of the charismatic character he first introduced over a quarter century ago. John Rambo is a Vietnam War hero from Texas whose post-traumatic stress disorder was compounded by the fact that vets of his era weren’t welcomed back to America with open arms.
As the latest installment opens, we find him living alone along the Salween River in northern Thailand. He seems finally to have made peace with his tortured past, dividing his time between fishing on his longboat and catching poisonous snakes in the jungle. Thus, despite the fact that a decades-old civil war is raging just across the border in Burma, Rambo has no interest in venturing anywhere near the conflict.
Everything changes the day missionaries from the Christ Church of Colorado arrive, announcing their plan to bring Bibles and much needed medical supplies to the victims of the ongoing ethnic cleansing. Having heard that Rambo is the best river guide in the region, these naïve volunteers ask him for a ride into Burma aboard his rickety longboat. After repeatedly telling them in no uncertain terms to “Go home!” and warning that “You’re not going to change anything,” he succumbs to the womanly wiles of Sarah Miller (Julie Benz) who wraps him around her little finger and gets him to ferry them into the war zone against his better judgment.
So, it’s no surprise a couple of weeks later, when a panicky Pastor Marks (Ken Howard) shows up saying that his parishioners have been taken hostage by the Burmese army and that the U.S. embassy has refused to get involved. Fueled by a fear that some harm might come to Sarah, Rambo reluctantly picks up a gun again and leads a rag-tag team of mercenaries on a bloody, death-defying rescue mission.
At this juncture, the movie morphs into the familiar, testosterone-fueled fare associated with the high body-count Rambo franchise, replete with hand-to-hand combat, automatic weapons, and visually-captivating pyrotechnics. Critical to appreciating this revenge-driven flick fully is the dehumanization of the Asian bad guys into disposable sadists and godless rapists lusting over the only hot blonde to be found for miles around.
Not to worry, geriatric Rambo, AARP poster boy, still saves the day!

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R profanity, sexual assaults, grisly images and graphic violence.
Running time: 95 minutes
Studio: Warner Brothers

The Invasion DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers Released on DVD

The original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), starring Kevin McCarthy, was based on The Body Snatchers, a serialized novel by Jack Finney
published by Colliers Magazine. That black and white, sci-fi classic was set in a California town where citizens were being murdered and mysteriously replaced by identical pod people.
The first remake was released in 1978, followed by another in 1993. This version stars Nicole Kidman as Dr. Carol Bennell, a psychiatrist living in Washington, DC, one of many cities where people have begun behaving strangely after the explosion of a Space Shuttle during reentry from outer space. Seems that the debris has somehow contaminated the planet with an intelligent alien life force capable of reprogramming DNA.
Soon, this otherwordly catalyst starts turning people into polite automatons willing to sacrifice their individuality for the sake of a mind-numbing conformity. So, it falls to Dr. Bennell, her boyfriend, Dr. Driscoll (Daniel Craig) and another colleague, Dr. Galeano (Jeffrey Wright), to figure out how to reverse the epidemic before everybody is turned into a sea of easily-managed, insufferably well-behaved robots.
The film features a silly subplot revolving around Carol’s frantically text-messaging her missing young son, Oliver (Jackson Bond), a spunky kid who had been left in the care of her possibly infected ex-husband (Jeremy Northam). While this sidebar might accurately illustrate the current fad in electronic communication, here, it proves to be more of an annoying distraction than a compelling cinematic device.
Not that the front story is any more credible. Can someone explain to me exactly how a horror flick about a scourge that’s making humanity more civilized is supposed to be scary? Intermittently amusing, tautly-edited and very well-acted, but hopelessly crippled ab initio by a fatally-flawed script.
An amusing diversion, but not exactly edge of your seat excitement.

Good (2 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing images.
Running time: 96 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Extras: A documentary and three featurettes.

Descent DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Drama Stars Rosario Dawson as Revenge-Minded Rape Victim

Maya (Rosario Dawson) is a college student with a bright future until the fateful night she meets Jared (Chad Faust) at a party on campus. Beguiled by the exotic beauty of the ethnically-ambiguous brainiac, the buff jock puts his moves on her.
Although she’s initially put off by the flirtatious football player’s lame pickup lines, against her better judgment, Maya still rewards his persistence by agreeing to see him again. Eventually, she accepts an invitation back to his bachelor pad, only to see his evil side suddenly emerge.
She makes it clear that she’s not ready for intimacy, yet Jared just won’t take “no” for an answer. And at this juncture, he makes a Jekyll and Hyde transformation into a monster. Given his physique, Maya doesn’t stand a chance when he decides to have his way with her, and during the brutal rape which ensues, the sicko adds insult to injury by referring to her by disparaging epithets such as “bitch” and “baboon” in an expletive-laced diatribe.
Maya is left too traumatized by the violation to report it to the authorities, and instead starts spiraling down a self-destructive path which includes drug abuse and sexual promiscuity. This sordid turn of events serve as the tragic prelude underpinning Descent, an intriguing character study which is as much a harrowing mood piece as it is a female empowerment revenge flick.
For, by the next semester, Maya’s once perky persona has degenerated into the introspective edginess of a hopelessly tortured soul, a development that makes her motivations almost impossible to read. Rosario Dawson exhibits a previously unseen range, here, more than meeting the challenge of the most emotionally-demanding role of her career.
A claustrophobic psychological thriller guaranteed to keep you guessing all the way until the shocking conclusion.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, ethnic slurs, drug use and a brutal rape.
Running time: 98 minutes
Studio: City Lights Home Entertainment
DVD Deleted scenes, exclusive interviews, plus a commentary with Rosario Dawson and the director.

Daddy Day Camp DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Latest Cuba Gooding Dud Out on DVD

Perhaps I spoke prematurely when I suggested in my review of License to Wed that Robin Williams had replaced Cuba “Show me the money!” Gooding, Jr. as the kiss of death on a picture. Not to be outdone, Cuba has staked a claim for a return of his crown as the “King of the Bomb” with Daddy Day Camp, a sorry sequel to Daddy Day Care.
Here, he has taken on the unenviable task of trying to fill the shoes of Eddie Murphy, who opted not to reprise the lead role of Charlie Hinton. It doesn’t help that Cuba has no sense of comedic timing and that he’s relying on an abysmal script of disconnected skits cobbled together by a quintet of hack screenwriters. To make matters worse, the entire cast has been overhauled, with Charlie’s son Ben being played by Spencir Bridges, son of Todd “What You Talking about Willis?” Bridges of Different Strokes fame.
Strangely, the movie opens with a tie-in reminding us about Eddie and company’s wacky antics in the original. Soon enough, we find Charlie and his best friend Phil (Paul Rae replacing Jeff Garlin) escorting their sons to Camp Driftwood only to find the place in foreclosure. Of course, the daddy duo decides to purchase the place and go into the day camp business.
Next thing you know, they have their hands full with gleefully misbehaving little monsters who keep the pair up to their eyeballs in feces, cooties, bus crashes, flatulence, projectile vomit, poison ivy, swift kicks to the crotch, urine balloons and wedgies. Fortunately, Charlie’s no-nonsense father, retired Marine Colonel Buck Hinton.
An utterly predictable, unfunny, infantile test of patience and waste of ninety minutes of my life I can never get back. Show me the exit!

Poor (0 stars)
Rated PG for bodily humor and mild epithets.
Running time: 93 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: “The Making of” featurette, an interactive quiz, and more.

Feel the Noise DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Features Omarion as Aspiring Rapper in Overcoming the Odds Saga

After Rob (Omarion) has run-ins with both cops and hoodlums in his Harlem neighborhood, his mother (Kellita Smith) decides it’s high time that her son try a change of scenery. So, she ships the troubled teenager off to Puerto Rico to live with the long-lost dad (Giancarlo Esposito).
Although he doesn’t speak Spanish, Rob doesn’t have much of a problem adjusting to life on the enchanting island, primarily because, as an aspiring rapper, he’s well-versed in the universal language of music. Furthermore, he shares this interest with his step-brother, Javi (Victor Rasuk), a cool dude in a loose mood who introduces him to Reggaeton, a catchy blend of reggae, hip-hop and meringue.
The instantly-inseparable semi-siblings start dividing their time between the recording studio and a popular haunt filled with couples grinding shamelessly and gyrating with abandon to the sensuous beat. While soaking in the new sound, Rob saunters over to meet C.C. (Zulay Henao), the prettiest girl in the nightclub. Wouldn’t you know she’s already primed to dump her abusive, possessive boyfriend in favor of love at first sight with the tall, dark stranger?
This assorted state of affairs sets in motion the three ring circus called Feel the Noise, a combination flick comprised of equal parts overcoming-the-odds saga, across-the-tracks romance and father-son bonding opportunity drama. Fairly formulaic in most respects, the picture unfolds innocuously enough to stomach as a Latin version of the ghetto fabulous blaxploits which found their way to theaters in the wake of the explosion of gangsta rap.
Fortunately, R&B crooner Omarion proves himself quite the leading man here, generating enviable screen chemistry with his co-star, Zulay Henao, while his character simultaneously makes his assault on the music industry. How do you say “sappy Horatio Alger tale” in Espanol?

Good (2 stars)
PG-13 for sensuality, violence, profanity, ethnic slurs, sexual innuendos and illegal drug use.
In English and Spanish with subtitles.
Running time: 89 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: “The Making of” featurette and more.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Kam's Kapsules: Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening February 1, 2008


The Eye (PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing content) Jessica Alba stars in this remake of the 2002 horror flick from Hong Kong about a blind violinist haunted by frightening visions after her sight is restored by a double corneal transplant operation. With Parker Posey, Francois Chau and Chloe Moretz.

Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus (G) 3-D concert flick features performances by the phenomenally-popular, 14 year-old, Disney singing sensation, shot in Utah during last year’s, 54-city, Best of Both Worlds Tour.

Over Her Dead Body (PG-13 for sexuality and profanity) Supernatural romantic comedy about a bride (Eva Longoria) who dies on her wedding day only to come back as a ghost to sabotage the budding relationship between her devastated fiancé (Paul Rudd) and the psychic (Lake Bell) he consults at the suggestion of his sister (Lindsay Sloane). Supporting cast includes Stephen Root, Sam Pancake and Jason Biggs.

Strange Wilderness (R for crude humor, sexuality, drug use and non-stop profanity) Steve Zahn and Allen Covert co-star in this over-the-top comedy as the co-hosts of an animal wildlife TV-series who try to prop up the show‘s sagging ratings by mounting an ill-advised expedition to Ecuador in search of the legendary Bigfoot.


Build a Ship, Sail to Sadness (Unrated) Musical mockumentary, shot in black and white, follows a young man (Magnus Aronson) on a moped around the rugged Scottish Highlands as he tries to sell his idea of bringing a mobile disco to the region as a means of eradicating loneliness.

Caramel (PG for mature themes involving sexuality, profanity and smoking) Female empowerment flick explores a variety of concerns of a quintet of Lebanese women employed at a Beirut beauty salon, including religion, infidelity, virginity and sexual orientation. (In Arabic and French with subtitles)

Live and Become (Unrated) Historical drama, set in the Middle East in 1985, examines the adjustment to his new homeland made by a black Christian boy (Moshe Agazai) brought to Israel as part of Operation Moses, an airlift of about 8,000 Ethiopian Jews fleeing religious persecution. (In Amharic, Hebrew and French with subtitles)

Praying with Lior (Unrated) Documentary presents an uplifting portrait of the son of a rabbi about to be bar mitzvahed who was born with Down Syndrome yet has come to be considered a spiritual genius in his tight-knit community.

The Silence before Bach (Unrated) Experimental musical collage, shot across Europe, comprised of a cornucopia of visual images designed to underscore the cultural significance of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. (In German, Spanish and Italian with subtitles)

The Witnesses (Unrated) HIV+ drama, set at the dawn of the AIDS epidemic, examines the initial outbreak of a mysterious new disease among a motley crew of group of friends in Paris in the early Eighties. (In French with subtitles)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Game Plan DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Features The Rock as Bachelor-Turned-Daddy

Joe Kingman (The Rock) has it all. The narcissistic star quarterback of Boston’s pro football team is the toast of the town surrounded by a bevy of attractive groupies when not performing astounding feats on the gridiron. However, the egomaniacal party animal is forced to rethink his priorities after eight year-old Peyton (Madison Pettis) shows up on his doorstep announced.
For when the spunky stranger announces that she’s his daughter, Joe has to admit to his shocked agent (Keira Sedgwick) not only that he had briefly been married but that he was last intimate with his ex-wife (Paige Turco) about nine years ago. A vindicated Peyton says her mom has flown off to Africa for parts unknown, which leaves her long-lost dad no choice now but to play Mr. Mom.
The fish-out-of-water comedy which ensues revolves around the shopworn storyline featuring an exasperated adult driven batty by the sudden onset of the responsibility of having to be a parent. We’ve seen this theme countless times before, in everything from 3 Men and a Baby to Baby Boom to Big Daddy to Raisin Helen to Daddy Dare Care.
This variation has hapless Joe learning to juggle Peyton’s ballet classes, play dates and bedtime stories with his nightlife and leading his team to the championship. While the outcome of this Disney tale is never much in doubt, fortunately, The Rock throws himself into the role of Joe with enough gusto to make his character credible. Likewise, his diminutive co-star, Madison Pettis, is endearing enough to tug on your heartstrings a tad, and to teach her daddy a big lesson about what really matters.
Formulaic, but watchable.

Good (2 stars)
Rated PG for mildly mature themes.
Running time: 110 minutes
Studio: Walt Disney Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Bloopers with sportscaster Marv Albert, deleted scenes, interview with The Rock, four featurettes, and more

Why Black People Can't Lose Weight: The Psychology, The Challenge, and The Solution to Overall Wellness

by Makeisha Lee
Paperback, $14.99
172 pages, illustrated
ISBN: 978-1-4343-4738-1

Book Review by Kam Williams

“Weight loss. Why is it such a vicious circle? Why does it seem unattainable for us as a community, despite the hundreds of diet plans available? Why do we as Blacks lead in the highest percentage of obesity cases in all gender, age and ethnic groups to date? These questions deserve convincing and satisfying answers…
In this book, we will answer all the questions you may have had unanswered before… in a clear, concise manner without getting too technical… This written work of art will reveal all the hidden schemes that mainstream society has kept from us, and break it down so that a 3 year-old can understand why we as Blacks have been unsuccessful as a whole at getting and/or keeping the weight off.”
Excerpted from the Prelude (pages xiii-xiv)

After the annual eating season which starts with Thanksgiving and doesn’t end until somewhere around January 1st, most of us put losing weight high on our list of New Year’s resolutions. If you are one of those people who’s always fighting the battle of the bulge, perhaps the problem has to do with more than merely how much food is on your diet.
This is the contention of Makeisha Lee who believes that “We cannot even begin to confront obesity and/or its related illnesses without first addressing the toxicity in our bodies that exists.” Ms. Lee, a nutritional advisor and nationally-syndicated writer, has conducted extensive researcher in the field of alternative health. And in her new book, Why Black People Can't Lose Weight, she sets out a straightforward formula for overcoming obesity.
First, she informs us that “the food industry devises deliberate strategies to get people to eat more food,” most of which have been processed and stripped of “98% of the natural nutrition.” The author also says that not only are these refined foods addictive, but they are of no nutritional value.
Ms. Lee goes on to discuss why a variety of conventional approaches to weight loss simply don’t work, before suggesting a carefully-conceived, complex regimen combining internal cleansing with whole and organic foods, vitamins and supplements, and aerobic exercise and strength training. She refers to nutritional cleansing as the missing link and the “ultimate solution to helping Blacks reclaim their throne to a higher health status and lose weight.”
Well-crafted and convincing, Why Black People Can't Lose Weight offers a revolutionary, step-by-step approach to health aimed at changing the body by first eliminating destructive attitudes about dieting from the mind.

To order a copy of Why Black People Can't Lose Weight, visit:
Or call: (888) 519-5121

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tré Armstrong: The How She Move Interview

Interview with Kam Williams

Headline: Accomplished Dancer-Turned-Actress Takes Center Stage

Tracey Tré Armstrong has been dancing as long as she can remember. During her childhood in Toronto, she used to get up and groove to her mother's music and eventually she started taking lessons at a place called the Dance Factory. She later attended Erindale School of Dance and also trained with Luther Brown at Do Dat Entertainment.
Lithe-limbed Tré landed her first big break when she was chosen from over a thousand hopefuls to perform on the Missy Elliott concert tour. Then, she subsequently appeared in music videos for Rihanna, Sean Paul, Robbie Williams, Seal, Ashanti and Shawn Desman.
Meanwhile, she made her screen debut been in HONEY as one of the principal dancers. She then again appeared as a dancer in CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE DRAMA QUEEN, SHALL WE DANCE, BREAKIN’ IN: THE MAKING OF A HIP HOP DANCER, and STEPPIN’ UP: SAVE THE LAST DANCE II, where she enjoyed her first speaking part.
Now, the multi-talented cutie pie has parlayed her winning combination of acting chops, charisma, charm and, of course, dancing ability, into a co-starring role as the nemesis in HOW SHE MOVE. Here, Tré talks about all of the above and more.

KW: How long have you been dancing?
TA: I started off dancing when I was five.
KW: Do you see your future with acting or with dancing or with both?
TA: With acting. I’m a little character. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m bouncing off the walls all the time. I would love to play an action hero.
KW: You remind me of another dancer, Columbus Short, who has that same boundless energy. He made the jump over to acting successfully, and had a big hit starring in Stomp the Yard.
TA: Yes! We actually appeared together in Save the Last Dance II. I love the fact that he’s made that move. He’s a great role model for me, because that’s exactly where I want to go, except adding on choreography, too.
KW: Well, this is as good a time as any to ask the Columbus Short question. Are you happy?
TA: Am I happy? I am ecstatic! People have been telling me that I don’t look happy because I have to control myself to contain myself. If I let myself go, my erotic self will come out and I’ll do something.
KW: Is there a question that nobody has asked you, that you wish somebody would?
TA: Yeah, will you ever quit dancing?
KW: Okay, will you ever quit dancing?
TA: Never. Dancing is part of my life.
KW: Are you at all like your character in How She Move?
TA: That character, Michelle, is inside me, my inner self. I contain her. But if you tick me off, Michelle will come out more than you’ve ever seen her.
KW: Do you still live in Canada, or have you moved to Hollywood?
TA: I love Canada, But I’m making the move to L.A. in February.
KW: This is a good time for the Jimmy Bayan question. Where in L.A. will you live?
TA: I’ll probably stay in North Hollywood, though, to be honest, I’d rather stay in West Hollywood.
KW: Do you have your next project lined up yet?
TA: Actually, no.
KW: Who would you like to act opposite?
TA: I’d like to make movies with some up and coming actors.
KW: Any advice for those who’d like to follow in your footsteps?
TA: You have to believe in yourself first for anyone else to believe in you. And once you’ve done that, you have to follow your energy. Everybody has a divine-inspired energy. Accept it, don’t reflect it.
KW: Is there a way fans can get in touch with you?
TA: Yes they can visit my new website at
KW: Thanks for the time, Tré, and I hope when you break big, I’ll able to get another interview with you.
TA: You know what? I’ll make sure that happens. Thanks you so much!

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (ROMANIAN)

(4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile0
Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Unwanted Pregnancy the Subject of Sobering Rumanian Drama

Judging by a couple of recently-released Oscar hopefuls, Western and Eastern European teenagers must have very different mindsets when it comes to an unwanted pregnancy. Afterall, it’s no big deal for Juno, the terminally-sarcastic tite character of the hilarious teensploit. With the help of her equally-blasé best friend, this proto-typical American rebel simply decides to find a perfect suburban couple to adopt the baby, and then behaves like she’s above it all for the rest of the film till her unplanned bundle of joy arrived.
By contrast, we find relatively-morose Gabita (Laura Vasiliu), the heroine of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, stuck behind the Iron Curtain in Rumania where abortion has been outlawed. Looking lost like Borat’s wayward sister, this glum college student lives in a grey dorm on a grim campus where practically everybody seems to be dealing in contraband (cigarettes, candy, even showers) or is up to some sort of shady shenanigans.
For, you see, this is the late Eighties, during the last days of Communism, so it comes as no surprise when Gabita turns to the black market rather than have the child. Accompanied by her very supportive roommate (Anamaria Marinca), who handles most of the details, she unwittingly seeks out the services of Bebe (Vlad Ivanov), the callous butcher of Bucharest, an unlicensed monster who could care less about the welfare of his vulnerable clients.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a relentlessly-depressing, slice-of-life drama which unfolds over the course of 24 hours. While the picture, perhaps a little too convincingly, palpably conveys the harrowing ordeal of a desperate female in Gabita’s predicament, before seeing this movie you still might want to make sure you’re in the mood for a feel-bad flick.
The Un-Juno.

Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 113 minutes
Studio: IFC Films

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Rutina Wesley: The How She Move Interview

Interview with Kam Williams

Headline: Get Ready for Rutina!

After studying at the Las Vegas Academy of Performing Arts, Rutina Wesley attended the University of Evansville where she received her BFA in Theatre Performance. Next, the attractive, Las Vegas native matriculated in the prestigious Juilliard School’s Drama Division, performing in productions of Macbeth, Richard III and The Winter's Tale to The Marriage of Figaro, Rebel Armies Deep into Chad and In the Blood, among others.
Rutina also spent a summer studying Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she landed the title role in a production of Romeo and Juliet. And since graduating from Juilliard in May of 2005, she’s exhibited such an impressive emotional range that Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes cast her opposite Julianne Moore in the Broadway production of The Vertical Hour.
So, it’s no surprise that the charismatic young actress was tapped to make her screen debut in the lead role of Raya Green in How She Move. Here, the promising young star of tomorrow talks about this inspirational, inner-city saga where she plays a prep student who has to return to her crime-infested ghetto neighborhood when her parents can no longer afford the tuition.

KW: Thanks for the opportunity, Rutina.
RW: Not a problem. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
KW: Given your classical training, what interested you in this script?
RW: Honestly, when I read one of the first lines, which was, “Chocolate-stained skin,” I was immediately drawn to that, because I’m a dark-skinned female, and it’s something that I’ve, my whole life, struggled with, being considered too dark by some, and all that stuff. But I also just related to Raya because she’s very driven, she’s passionate, she sets goals for herself, and she goes after them on her own terms. I think that as a young lady, you start off not knowing what you want to do, and then you kinda arrive at yourself by the time you’re 17 or 18, hopefully. And that’s what I did. In high school I was figuring out what I wanted to do, and by the time I was 18, I settled on being an actress, and began seriously pursuing that goal.
KW: Where are you from originally?
RW: I grew up in Las Vegas, born and raised.
KW: Soon after Juilliard, you landed a role on Broadway as one of the five original cast members in The Vertical Hour. How was that experience?
RW: That was one of the most amazing experiences of my career, because a young actor could not ask for anything more than to work with people of the caliber of Sam Mendes, Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy. They’re so good at what they do, I learned so much just by watching them. And they treated me like family. I was very, very, very lucky to have that opportunity. It was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had.
KW: Now you’re in How She Move which is so much more than just a dance movie. It has a richness and depth which reminded me of Love Jones.
RW: That’s how I feel about it, too. The dancing is great, but there is this beautiful little story behind it that’s positive and hopeful for our community.
KW: I was very pleasantly surprised by the movie. It even made me cry. And you did a great job.
RW: Wow! Thank you. I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Wow! Thanks.
KW: Did you identify with your character, Raya?
RW: Definitely. I had definitely made sure that I got out of Las Vegas after high school. I knew that if I stayed there, I wouldn’t have been able to pursue my dreams as an actor or dancer. My family always told me to dream big, so I made sure that I got out of there and explored new places, because the world is huge. And I’m still learning new things every day in this business and in my life.
KW: Now, this is your screen debut. How much pressure did you feel in the lead role?
RW: It was a lot of pressure. Your nerves can get the better of you, especially when it’s your first film. But Ian [director Ian Iqbal Rashid], from the beginning, made me feel right at home, and reassured me that the part was mine, and that I didn’t need to worry about whether I was going to have the part the next week. So, I was able to relax, enjoy myself, and live in the moment.
KW: In the movie, your character has an accent since her family is from Jamaica. Do you really have a West Indian background?
RW: No I don’t. I had to work on the accent with a dialect coach. Raya, remember, went to a prep school, so her dialect had to be a bit more proper than her parents. But when she came back home, we threw a little more of her roots back in there to make her a little more tangible, and to contrast how she is at home versus how she is at school, because that really happens.
KW: Do you think Halle Berry’s Oscar win opened up roles for all black actresses, or just for lighter-skinned actresses?
RW: I think Halle opened the door for all of us. As black women, we should all stick together, and if someone gets there first, you’re setting an example for those behind you. So, I definitely look up to Halle Berry. And Angela Bassett is my role model. And Viola Davis is another actress who I love and adore. For me, I’ve gotten away from feeling I’m too dark. We’re all women of color, and a lot of us are doing some great things. I think it’s important the great things that we all do instead of asking, “Why didn’t I get this?” or “Why did the light-skinned girl get that?” instead of focusing on the positive. That what I and some girlfriends of mine are doing, celebrating all colors and all ethnicities of women of color. That’s a better way to go, rather than bringing all the negativities into it. It so much easier to smile and have fun than it is to hold grudges.
KW: I hope that your powerful performance here will open things up further in terms of colorblind casting.
RW: Thank you very much. The reason I trained so hard in school was so that I could be versatile and play any character. With all these in my bag, I’m like a chameleon. I always tell other young actors to go to school, or at least watch movies to learn as much as you can.
KW: Do you think you will still be able to go to the mall after this movie opens?
RW: My grandmother thinks I won’t be able to, but of course I will. I don’t know what it will be like, but it’s exciting.
KW: What message do you want the audience to get from How She Move?
RW: I would like for the young generation to walk away from this movie inspired about their lives and about the possibilities that are out there for them.
KW: Would you describe yourself as happy?
RW: [Laughs] Yes. I feel incredibly blessed. I’m happy, but all of this movie business, and working as an actress is really hard. When you’re not working is when you have to stay positive and remind yourself that you’re talented. What’s due for you is due for you, and you don’t know when that’s going to come. That’s something I struggled with after I got out of school, wondering how long I was going to have to wait. Then beautiful jobs started coming to me. Now, I feel that my path is going to be what it’s going to be, and as long as I relax and breathe, I can enjoy it. I think that an actor shouldn’t work from a place of fear, because it’ll show in your work. You should work from a place of contentment, relaxation, and coming from your heart, and from the truth of yourself.
KW: Columbus Short gave me that “Are you happy?” question when I asked him what would be a good question to ask him.
RW: Yeah, some people assume you’re happy, because you just did a movie. And you’re like, “Maybe not.”
KW: The Jimmy Bayan question. Where in L.A. do you live?
RW: I’m in the Hollywood area.
KW: What’s up next for you, career-wise?
RW: I have an upcoming HBO television series starring Anna Paquin called True Blood.
KW: You’re very intelligent. Do you think you’ll write and direct someday?
RW: I’ve thought about producing, maybe way, way, way down the line, because I do have a lot of friends who are amazing writers. I’d love to have a production company where I can produce more black films, period pieces, for instance, like Shakespeare, with an all-black cast. There are lots of ideas that I have, but all in due time.
KW: Well, best of luck with everything, and thanks for the time.
RW: Thank you.


Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Man-Eating Monster Triggers Mayhem in Hair-Raising Horror Flick

Ordinarily, the most memorable horror flicks arrive in theaters either around Halloween or during the summer blockbuster season, so excuse me for having low expectations of Cloverfield. But for some reason Paramount has ignored industry convention by releasing an exceptional example of the genre during January, a month used by most studios to bury their worst movies.
Reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project (1999), this cleverly-conceived screamfest was shot entirely with a shaky hand-held camera being operated by one of the film’s central characters. A similarly limited-perspective proved compelling in Blair, which had been billed as based on a videotape supposedly found at the site of a slaughter.
But by the time that “documentary” had belatedly been exposed as a fraud, the hoax had already benefited immeasurably from the hype of intense, internet-driven word-of-mouth. While Cloverfield, by contrast, is clearly fictional, it has relied on a viral marketing campaign deliberately designed to generate Blair-like cyber-buzz, in this case, heightening audience anticipation by spoon-feeding only selected elements of the hair-raising adventure. Thus, its ads leave much to the imagination, such as exactly what the monster looks like, a manipulative device likely to pique considerable curiosity.
Cloverfield starts with a cryptic statement that the top-secret tape you are about to watch is the property of the Department of the Defense. However, the initial half-hour looks more like a soap opera than a spine-tingling thriller. The fun starts on May 22nd, in Jason Hawkins’ (Mike Vogel) spacious Manhattan apartment with a bird’s eye view of the New York City skyline. With the help of his girlfriend, Lily (Jessica Lucas) Jason is greeting the fifty or so guests arriving for the surprise going away party he’s throwing for his brother, Rob (Michael Stahl-David) who’ll soon be leaving for Japan.
Jason directs their buddy, Hud (T.J. Miller), to film the festivities, and to record individual farewells as a keepsake. The plot thickens as Hud makes his way around the soiree, when we learn that Beth (Odette Yustman) is angry at Rob. Seems that the two recently slept together for the first time, but then he never called her again. So, she has shown up still miffed and hoping to make him jealous of her handsome date, Travis (Ben Feldman).
Comic relief comes courtesy of chubby Hud, who has a thing for Marlena (Lizzy Caplan), an elusive cutie pie who won’t give him the time of day. Yet, he keeps flirting, pointing the lens in her direction every chance he gets. Then, just when you’ve forgotten that this is supposed to be a horror movie, the building shakes and the power goes out.
The partygoers rush to the window to witness chaos and devastation unfolding as far as the eyes, or should I say camcorder, can see: from flattened cars to flying projectiles to crumbling skyscrapers to fleeing pedestrians unleashing bloodcurdling screams while looking over their shoulders. At this juncture, the movie morphs into a harrowing tale of survival featuring seasick cinematography, and it becomes pretty clear that some destructive unseen force has been released and is causing major mayhem.
Rob, Jason, Lily, Marlena and Hud descend to the street together where the Statue of Liberty’s decapitated head comes tumbling up the block at them. Hud keeps the camera rolling as they make a break for the Brooklyn Bridge when they get word that it’s safe on the other side of the East River.
But on the bridge, Rob’s cell phone rings. It’s Beth. She’s pinned and needs help. The group makes the fateful decision to go back to try to save her. And all that remains of that noble rescue effort is a chilling videotape, a spellbinding masterpiece also known as Cloverfield.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing images.
Running time: 90 minutes
Studio: Paramount Pictures

Friday, January 18, 2008

Sydney White DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Features Amanda Bynes as Latter-Day Snow White

If you’re eager to see Amanda Bynes play yet another tomboy who still lands the boy-most-likely in the end, then this may be the teensploitation flick for you. Here, her title role is as a freshman at mythical Southern Atlantic University, where she plans to pledge Kappa Phi Nu, her late mother’s sorority.
However, soon after arriving on campus, Sydney finds herself ostracized by an army of bottle-blonde Barbies led by the dreaded Rachel Witchburn (Sara Paxton). These brunette haters could care less about her legacy connection, so the poor girl ends up living with seven dwarfs, I mean dorks, at lowly Vortex, the least popular fraternity on Greek Row.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, this flick is a thinly-veiled update of Snow White the classic fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm. But this variation on the theme features a heroine with the name Sydney, not Snow White, and instead of dwarfs, we have allergic Lenny (Sneezy), mental midget George (Dopey), super-senior Terrance (Doc), moody Gurkin (Grumpy), upbeat Spanky (Happy), shy Jeremy (Bashful), and laidback Embele (Sleepy).
Rachel is obviously the Evil Queen and a character who comes along called Tyler Prince (Matt Long) serves as Prince Charming. Everybody knows exactly how the story ends, so the question is whether the execution makes it all worthwhile. The wacky Bynes displays the comic timing and endearing appeal of a latter-day Lucille Ball which has you in her corner every step of the way.
Sydney White has been constructed like a cross of Revenge of the Nerds and In & Out, both of which celebrated the ultimate triumph of underdogs, geeks in the former, gays in the latter. Unfortunately, the purloined and predictable plot elements leave too little to the imagination to warrant more than a tepid stamp of approval.

Good (2 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, partying and sexual humor.
Running time: 108 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Gag reel, deleted scenes, plus a half-dozen featurettes.

Sex and Breakfast DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Macaulay Culkin Home but Never Alone in Group Sex Saga

The first question you have to ask yourself before watching this film is whether you want to see a grown Macaulay Culkin cavorting about in a kinky drama devoted to couples experimenting with group sex. For most of us, Macaulay will forever be associated with the role which skyrocketed him to fame, playing Kevin McAllister, the precocious kid who managed to outsmart a gang of bumbling burglars in Home Alone 1 & 2.
Today, the former child star still has the cute baby face, almost as if it was frozen in a case of arrested development. This makes it very difficult to buy into the premise of Sex and Breakfast, a romance drama revolving around two couples who decide to swap partners.
Even though James (Culkin) is hopelessly in love with free-spirited Heather (Alexis Dziena) he goes along with their psychoanalyst’s (Joanna Miles) suggestion that they need to spice up their stale relationship by sleeping with strangers. And wouldn’t you know it, Dr. Wellbridge just happens to have another young couple also in need of swap therapy.
It doesn’t seem to matter that those clients, Ellis (Kuno Becker) and Renee (Eliza Dushku), suffer from a different sort of sexual malady, since she is curious about lesbianism and admits to being attracted to Betty (Jaime Ray Newman), her favorite waitress at the local diner. The shrink’s dubious professional diagnosis still calls for Renee to have a roll in the hay with James while Ellis sleeps with Heather.
Don’t be duped by the steamy-sounding premise, for this dud manages to turn the prospect of swinging into a dull and decidedly antiseptic affair.

Fair (1 star)
Rated R for sexuality and profanity.
Running time: 105 minutes
Studio: First Look Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Previews.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

How She Move

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Promising Prep Student Returns to Ghetto Roots in Inspirational Dance Saga

Raya Green’s (Rutina Wesley) dreams of becoming a doctor seem to be dashed when her elder sister dies of a drug overdose. Sadly, the tragedy leaves her already overworked, West Indian parents so strapped financially that they can no longer afford the tuition, room and board at her exclusive prep school.
This means Raya will have to return home and attend the local public high school, McCabe, which doesn’t measure up academically to the elite private institution where she’s been on track to study medicine. Worse, she’ll have to try to survive the streets of the same crime-infested neighborhood that took her sibling’s life and could quite easily gobble up her future, too.
Back in the ‘hood, Raya puts her ambitions on hold temporarily and focuses more on fitting-in than on excelling, so she won’t be ostracized as an egghead. However, when she’s exposed for dumbing herself down at the blackboard by her math teacher, her punishment is to tutor a truly struggling classmate twice a week afterhours.
Trouble is, like oil and water, the personalities of hard-edged Michelle (Tre Armstrong) and relatively-refined Raya don’t mix. What’s worse, Michelle doesn’t appreciate it when the newcomer suddenly starts hanging out with her “Step” crowd.
Rava’s curiosity about the elaborately-orchestrated dance routines was piqued when she learned about the upcoming Step Monster Competition with a $50,000 grand prize. She figures that if she can find a team that will allow her to join, she just might win the seed money to get her out of the ghetto again.
Although this premise might sound suspiciously similar to that of Stomp the Yard, given that it revolves around dance and a protagonist whose sibling dies at the point of departure, How She Move is enough of a variation on the theme to stand on its own. In fact, this engaging ensemble drama is superior in almost every way, especially in terms of character development, chemistry, choreography and conveying a feeling that you are watching real people in a real situation.
Consequently, accolades are in order for the inspired performances delivered by the two talented young leads, starting with recent Juilliard-grad Rutina Wesley, who makes a most auspicious screen debut as the picture’s emotionally-conflicted heroine. Equally-impressive is dancer-turned-actress Tre Armstrong, who more than holds her own as Ms. Wesley’s trash-talking nemesis.
While we’re spreading some love, kudos too to the supporting cast, which includes Dwain Murphy, who does a decent job as Raya’s love interest, Melanie Nicholls-King as her mom, and Brennan Gademans as her geeky shoulder to lean on. The film also features a few celebs in cameo roles, namely, singers Keyshia Cole and Mya, and comedian DeRay Davis.
Rather than spoil any of the sidebars or subplots, suffice to say: Be prepared to root for Raya for the duration of this satisfying saga, as she sheds tears, studies and stomps her way to the big stage, all while handling an array of pressing teen dilemmas in a refreshingly intelligent fashion for an inner city melodrama. Love Jones (1997) meets Step Up (2006).

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and drug use.
Running time: 98 minutes
Studio: Paramount Vantage

Confessions of a Superhero DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Documentary about Aspiring Actors Arrives on DVD

If you want to get a decent idea of what the average aspiring actor’s life is like in Los Angeles, you might want to check out this eye-opening documentary. The film is fun to watch primarily because these thespians actually spend most of their time in costume not on stage but on the street, portraying Batman (Maxwell Allen), Superman (Christopher Dennis), The Hulk (Joseph McQueen) and Wonder Woman (Jennifer Gerht).
Essentially panhandlers, they strut up and down the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard in front of Mann’s legendary Chinese Theater in their superhero outfits, hoping out-of-towners will ask them to pose for a picture. Then, only after the photo’s already been taken, do they inform the unsuspecting tourists that they also expect a tip for the trouble.
Though these desperate losers appear to be utterly delusional about their career prospects, credit director Matt Ogens for giving each a modicum of respectability, plus their 15 minutes of fame. It’s almost scary to hear these comic book character impersonators talk about fading hopes they hold onto ever so tenaciously.
Typical is Christopher Dennis, the son of the late, Oscar-winning actress Sandy Dennis (for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf). He does his best to resemble the late Christopher Reeve’s incarnation of The Man of Steel, complete with the spit curl plastered across his forehead. But we see that he’s obviously off the deep end when he allows the camera into his apartment, a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling shrine to Superman, filled with posters, action figures and other cheesy memorabilia.
Sad to say, but this futile foursome should consider themselves lucky just to be the subject of this picture. Prediction: It’s all downhill from here. A candid depiction of Hollywood as a la-la land where more dreams are dashed than realized.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity.
Running time: 92 minutes
Studio: Arts Alliance America
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes (Superman and Batman at Comic-Con with Margo Kidder and press footage from SXSW Film Festival), commentary tracks by Chris Dennis aka “Superman”, extended footage at the Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL with John Schneider (Dukes of Hazzard), photo slides, and more.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Kam's Kapsules: Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening January 25, 2008


How She Move (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and drug use) Inspirational dance saga about a promising high school student (Rutina Wesley) who has to return to her crime-infested ‘hood when her parents can no longer afford the tuition at the exclusive prep school she’d been attending. Co-starring Tre Armstrong and Melanie Nicholls-King, with cameos by Keyshia Cole and DeRay Davis.

Meet the Spartans (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, crude humor and slapstick violence) Silly spoof of 300 from the purveyors of parodies who brought us Scary Movie, Date Movie and Epic Movie. Besides the Spartan saga, this irreverent comedy satirizes everything from Transformers to Rocky Balboa to You Got Served to Britney Spears to Ghost Rider to Paris Hilton. Ensemble includes Carmen Electra, Method Man and Diedrich Bader.

Rambo (R for profanity, sexual assaults, grisly images and graphic violence) For the first time in 20 years, Sylvester Stallone reprises the title role as Vietnam vet John Rambo, now returning to Southeast Asia to lead a team of mercenaries on a mission to save Christian mercenaries kidnapped by sadistic Burmese soldiers. With Julie Benz, Matthew Marsden and Tim Kang.

Untraceable (R for profanity, torture and grisly violence) Diane Lane stars in this cat-and-mouse thriller as an FBI Agent on the trail of a brazen, cyber serial killer who broadcasts his murders over the internet, streaming live on his own website. Cast includes Colin Hanks, Mary Beth Hurt and Billy Burke.


4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Unrated) Eventful day-in-the-life drama, set in Romania in the late Eighties, during the last gasp of Communism, chronicles the harrowing ordeal of a pregnant college student (Laura Vasiliu) who, with the help of her roommate (Anamaria Marinca), travels to Bucharest in search of a black market abortion.

The Air I Breathe (R for nudity, profanity, sexuality and violence) Inspired by an ancient Chinese proverb, this quartet of overlapping sagas examines the four cornerstones of human emotions (love, sorrow, pleasure and happiness) through a businessman (Forest Whitaker) who bets his life on a horse race, a clairvoyant gangster (Brendan Fraser), a pop star (Sarah Michelle Gellar) mixed up with the mob, and a doctor (Kevin Bacon) desperate to save the love of his life.

Alice’s House (Unrated) Skeletons out-of-the-closet soap opera, set in Brazil, about the goings-on inside the home of a dysfunctional family comprised of a hairdresser (Carla Ribas) taken for granted by her philandering husband (Ze Carlo Machado) and their three spoiled sons while her voyeuristic mother (Berta Zemel) keeps score. (In Portuguese and English with subtitles)

Elite Squad (Unrated) Action thriller, set in Rio de Janeiro in 1997, revolving around a couple of idealistic police recruits (Caio Jungueira and Andre Remiro) assigned to rid a dangerous slum of drug dealers prior to the pope’s impending visit. (In Portuguese with subtitles)

How to Rob a Bank (Unrated) Crime comedy about a bank employee (Erika Christensen) and a customer (Nick Stahl) who find themselves locked in a vault and having to handle the hostage negotiations between the cops and a gang of robbers. Cast includes Terry Crews, David Carradine and Leo Fitzpatrick.

Lost in Beijing (Unrated) Modern China melodrama about a masseuse (Bingbing Fan) whose window washer husband (Dawei Tong) blackmails her boss (Tony Leung Ka Fai) into letting him sleep with his wife (Elaine Jin) after catching the creep raping his. (In Mandarin with subtitles)

Orthodox Stance (Unrated) American Dream documentary traces the quest for the title and his place in the U.S. of 23 year-old Dmitriy Salita, a Russian immigrant who’s both a professional boxer and an Orthodox Jew.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Good Luck Chuck DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Dentist Does Damsels in Undress

Charlie Logan (Dane Cook) is a thirty-something dentist who has never fallen in love, not that he hasn’t tried. In fact, he’s become very popular with the ladies, because word has spread that after he sleeps with a woman, she always marries the very next guy she dates.
As a result, he’s come to be considered something of a good luck charm by eligible bachelorettes who hear their biological clock ticking. They all want him for just one night of passion, no strings attached, so they can then immediately settle down with Mr. Right. So, with the help of his best friend since childhood, Stu (Dan Fogler), a plastic surgeon who specializes in breast implants, Chuck has kept pretty busy providing stud service to a neverending string of frustrated females.
However, everything finally changes the day he crosses paths with Cam (Jessica Alba), a clumsy cutie who works at the zoo in the penguin cage. Convinced that she’s the girl of his dreams, Chuck suddenly wants to end his womanizing way to make sure that she won’t sleep with him only to ditch him for someone else.
This proves to be easier said than done, as he first has to figure out how to break the curse, and thereby stop strangers from throwing themselves at him. So goes Good Luck Chuck, a headscratcher that straddles the line between romantic comedy and soft porn.
Because the jokes fall flat, the dialogue is dumb, and the Swiss cheese script reads like an afterthought, the only logical conclusion is that all of the above is just a transparent excuse for the picture’s constant parade of topless females eager to assume a compromising position. The only thing missing was a cheesy soundtrack.

Fair (1 star)
Unrated with nudity, profanity, sexuality and gross humor.
Running time: 101 minutes
Lions Gate Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Unrated audio commentary with star Dane Cook, the director, the producer and the scriptwriter, gag reel, ad-libs, deleted and alternate scenes, four featurettes, plus an interactive matrix.

Why African-Americans Can't Get Ahead: And How We Can Solve It with Group Economics

by Gwen Richardson
Cushcity Communications
Paperback, $14.95
174 pages, illustrated
ISBN: 978-0-9800250-1-9

Book Review by Kam Williams

“Unemployment rates for African-Americans have historically been twice as high as for white Americans… and the plight of young black males is even worse, especially in the country’s inner cities… An even more telling statistic shows that less than 1 per cent of jobs held by African-Americans are created by African-Americans. In other words, we are literally dependent upon other groups for our very livelihoods.
Further, the problems facing the African-American community are no longer on the political radar screen… Political leaders have made appeals to the federal government to solve these problems, but after 40 years of persistently high unemployment rates and repeated studies showing little improvement, it is incumbent upon African-Americans to identify solutions and reverse this trend ourselves.
If African-Americans are to be treated as a group, we might as well act as one where economics is concerned. Practicing group economics, making a conscious decision to spend a significant percentage of our dollars within our community so long-term jobs can be created for our children and grandchildren is the only way to reverse this disastrous trend.”
Excerpted from the Introduction (pages xx-xxi)

Why is it that blacks have lagged behind most other American ethnic groups in terms of economic progress? According to Gwen Richardson, the key to financial success might lie in unity, a willingness to patronize black-owned businesses. As proof, she points to the success of Jews, Asians, Haitians, West Indians, Arabs and even gays, all minorities much smaller in size than the 40 million who comprise the African-American segment of the population.
Each of those other groups has nonetheless flourished by maintaining a cultural identity, rather than exercising the option “to fully assimilate into American society.” Consequently, not only are they able to take a measure of “pride in being a closed society,” but they are simultaneously able to keep capital in their communities and thereby build an array of flourishing financial institutions.

In Why African-Americans Can't Get Ahead, Ms. Richardson makes a passionate appeal for a collective black mindset in terms of money matters. And, in numerous case studies, she eloquently illustrates why she feels this approach is imperative, such as in her discussion of how Koreans came to control the bulk of hair care supply stores in black communities all across the country.
The author, a graduate of Georgetown University with a B.S. degree in marketing, is not just some ivory-tower intellectual with impractical Pan-African notions. No, she bases the ideas in this, her first book, on her practical experience of 20 years spent as an entrepreneur, which included co-founding with her husband, Willie,, the largest African-American internet retailer.
Why African-Americans Can't Get Ahead, an eye-opening game plan for advancement, offers some cutting-edge, 21st Century solutions for the host of persistent economic woes still plaguing the bulk of the black community despite the considerable inroads made since the Sixties in terms of integration and basic civil rights.

To order a copy of Why African-Americans Can't Get Ahead, visit:
Or call: (800) 340-5454