Sunday, November 30, 2008

Transporter 3

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Jason Statham Back for More Derring-Do as Daredevil Driver for Hire

In this critic’s opinion, Jason Statham was the obvious pick to replace Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. For the suave, self-assured leading man had fairly well established himself as the heir apparent to the role after a string of impressive action-oriented outings in everything from Snatch to Crank to The Transporter 1 & 2. Anyone who wants further proof need only check out Transporter 3, where the steely Statham makes the most of his latest opportunity to display his fighting skills while also adding a dash of romance to his repertoire.

The film opens like a variation of Speed, as it establishes a similarly urgent motif at the point of departure in order to keep the audience on edge for the duration of the high-octane adventure. Here we have Frank Martin (Statham), chauffeur nonpareil, who is “hired” at gunpoint by mobsters to drive a secret package to an undisclosed location. The catch is that to insure his allegiance the thugs have strapped a bomb to his arm which is set to detonate if he wanders more than 75 feet from the vehicle.

Another complication is that Frank has a raccoon-eyed passenger coming along for the ride in Valentina (Natalya Rudakova), a pill-popping, vodka-swigging party girl he saved from the goons. What our hero doesn’t know is that the freckle-faced femme fatale just happens to be the kidnapped daughter of Leonid Vasilev (Jeroen Krabbe), a powerful Ukrainian politician presently being pressured to sign a government contract as ransom by the same creep (Robert Knepper) who attached the explosives to Frank.

Fair warning, Transporter 3’s storyline won’t hold up well to close scrutiny, as the point of the picture is the incessant visual capture provided by all the pyrotechnics and gravity-defying stunt sequences featuring carefully-orchestrated gunplay, hand-to-hand combat, and car, bike and train chases. Is the plot plausible? No, but it hurtles along at such a breakneck pace you don’t have a chance to pause to contemplate its preposterousness.

From Frank’s successfully running a gauntlet of a dozen bloodthirsty foes, to driving his souped-up sports car off an overpass and landing safely onto a speeding locomotive, to tipping the auto onto its side to negotiate a narrow passageway between a couple of 18-wheelers, this is the stuff escapist movie magic is meant to be made of. Mix in a little charm and romance, and you have all the fixins for the most dashing and debonair British character around today, even if his name can’t be James Bond.

Very good (3 stars)

Rated PG-13 for violence, intense action, sexuality and drug use.

Running time: 100 minutes

Studio: Lionsgate Films

To see a trailer for Transporter 3, visit:

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Sequel Features Another Worthwhile Narnia Fantasy

Between 1949 and 1954, C.S. Lewis penned a captivating series of illustrated children’s novels referred to collectively as The Chronicles of Narnia. The first book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, was brought to the big screen in 2005, and introduced us to the Pevensies -- Lucy (Georgie Henley), Peter (William Moseley) Susan (Anna Popplewell) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) – tight-knit siblings evacuated from London to the country during the Blitz.

While exploring their new surroundings, they found a magical closet through which they traveled to a faraway realm known as Narnia. And before they finally returned to England, the kids embarked on an eventful adventure which had them fulfilling an ancient prophecy by breaking the spell cast over the peaceable kingdom by an evil witch (Tilda Swinton).

Set a year later, Chronicles 2 opens with the nattily-attired Pevensies suddenly being transported to Narnia again. Upon their arrival, they are dismayed to learn that their beloved utopia’s Golden Age has been disrupted by the rise to power of a merciless king (Sergio Castellitto) who rules with the help of a race of warriors called the Telmarines.

Furthermore, because the queen (Alicia Borracherro) has just given birth to a son, the mad monarch hatches a plan to kill his nephew, the unassuming Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes). Apprised of the crisis, the Pevensies pledge themselves to another noble enterprise, namely, the perilous effort to bring harmony back to Narnia again by helping the rightful heir ascend to the throne.

Reminiscent of such storied, cinematic epic fantasies as Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, the saga inexorably builds to a familiar, cataclysmic battle royal that’s simply a marvel to behold. It may lack the element of surprise, but it more than makes up for that failing with the visually-enchanting treat of eye-popping panoramas plus the seamless interaction of the human and animated characters.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG for violence and epic battle scenes.

Running time: 149 minutes

Studio: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

3-Disc DVD Extras: Audio commentary with the director and cast, bllopers, deleted scenes, digital copy, plus eight featurettes.

To see a trailer for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, visit:

Step Brothers DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Slackers Exhibit Sibling Rivalry in Dysfunctional Family Comedy

Sleazy does it in this one-trick pony about a couple of middle-aged adolescents who refuse to grow up. One is 39 year-old Brennan “Nighthawk” Huff (Will Ferrell), unemployed and still living at home with his divorced mom, Nancy (Mary Steenburgen). The other is 40 year-old Dale “Dragon” Doback (John C. Reilly), a parasite sponging off his widowed dad, Robert (Ricard Jenkins).

Brennan is a couch potato content to fritter away his days eating junk food in front of the TV while Dale divides his time between managing a fantasy baseball league online and playing the drums. The only reason these lazy slobs meet is because their parents fall in love at a medical conference.

After a whirlwind romance, Nancy and Robert decide to marry. This means that their slacker sons must not only live under the same roof but also share the same bedroom. The new step brothers’ instant dislike for each other initiates an escalating turf war marked by infantile antics like Brennan rubbing his private parts on Dale’s sacred drum set, and the latter getting even by threatening to sleep with his mother.

The pranksters prove to be particularly fond of fart jokes and sexual preference slurs, in case you find either of those brands of humor particularly appealing. Gradually, the newlyweds get fed up with the sibling rivalry, so they give their sons a month to find a job and another place to stay.

Too bad this re-teaming of Ferrell and Reilly failed to generate the magic of their prior outing in Talladega Nights. And with exhibitionist Ferrell finding another excuse to parade around in his birthday suit, the overexposed thespian is in danger of going down in cinematic history as the man who nude too much.

Poor (0 stars)


Running time: 98 minutes

Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

2-Disc DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, plus a half-dozen featurettes.

To see a trailer of Step Brothers, visit:

Wanted DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Mind-Bending Splatter Flick Comes to DVD

Wesley Gibson’s (James McAvoy) life is a mess. By day, the 25 year-old slacker sits behind a desk at a tiny cubicle in a low-paying job, trying to tune out the unreasonable demands of his overbearing boss (Lorna Scott). Evenings, he retreats to the equally-unpleasant confines of the noisy dive he shares with an abusive girlfriend (Kristen Hagen) who‘s openly sleeping with his best buddy from work.

Opportunity knocks for Wesley in a drug store while waiting to refill a prescription for his anti-anxiety medication when he’s approached by Fox (Angelina Jolie), a femme fatale with a take charge attitude. The mysterious stranger calmly informs him that the father he’s never known had been a colleague of hers in a secret society of cold-blooded killers called the Fraternity. She further delivers the shocking news that his Dad was shot to death the night before by Cross (Thomas Kretschmann), a renegade assassin.

Before he even has a chance to digest this information, Cross appears in the aisle pointing a gun in their direction and a shootout erupts which spills into the street and turns into a gravity-defying, adrenaline-fueled car chase clear cross Chicago. This is the intriguing point of departure of Wanted, a graphic splatter flick based on Mark Millar‘s comic book miniseries of the same name.

The over-plotted superhero adventure might be best described as a compelling cross of The Matrix and Memento, since it shares the former’s reliance on cartoon physics elements and the latter’s love of confounding convoluted twists. Soviet director Timur Bekmambetov makes an unforgettable, if quite controversial, English-language debut with this relentlessly-amoral exercise in gratuitous violence.

A cinematic Columbine filled with wanton carnage designed to validate the bloodlust of every ostracized loser stuck in a dead-end job and daydreaming of evening the score by going postal.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for sexuality, pervasive profanity and graphic violence.

Running time: 110 minutes

Studio: Universal Studio Home Entertainment

2-Disc DVD Extras: An extended scene, a music video, behind-the-scenes, stunt, special f/x and visual f/x featurettes, and more.

To see a trailer of Wanted, visit:

The Longshots DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Inspirational Flick about Female Football Player Released on DVD

Jasmine Plummer (Keke Palmer) made history in 2003 as the first female ever to play quarterback in the Pop Warner Football League. However, the competitive 11 year-old wasn’t content with just crossing the gender line, and went on to lead her team all the way to the Pee Wee Division Superbowl. The talented tomboy’s real-life exploits are the subject of this bio-pic, an against-the-odds sports saga which seeks to tug on your heartstrings at every opportunity.
For, Jasmine had innumerable personal obstacles to overcome off the field, starting with the trauma of abandonment by her (Malcolm Goodwin) father. His conspicuous absence, in turn, translated into less quality time with her exhausted mom (Tasha Smith) who had to work long hours at the diner to make ends meet. And things are no better for Jasmine in middle school where she found herself mercilessly teased by mean girls.
A blessing in disguise arrives in Jasmine’s Uncle Curtis (Ice Cube), a down-and-out alcoholic who walks town cradling a football every where he goes. The former high school standout’s need to clean up his act conveniently dovetails with his niece’s for a father figure and an after-school activity.
Of course, it isn’t long before Curtis is teaching his promising protégé to play quarterback and encouraging her to try out for the local all-boys team. In fast order, Jasmine’s ability soon wins the starting job, followed by a string of victories that takes the team to the title game. While The Longshots doesn’t have nearly the charm of Ms. Palmer’s Akeelah and the Bee, at least this well-intentioned variation on the theme does offer a wholesome message apt to be appreciated by minors.
A pleasant, if predictable, tale of female empowerment ideal for the under ten set.

Good (2 stars)
Rated PG for mild epithets, mature themes and crude humor.
Running time: 95 minutes
Studio: Genius Products
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, “The Making of” featurette, conversations with Ice Cube and the director, a documentary about the real Jasmine Plummer, and the theatrical trailer.

To see a trailer for The Longshots, visit:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Real Great Debaters DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Documentary Relates True Story of the Great Debaters

A year ago, Denzel Washington directed and co-starred in The Great Debaters, a compelling, if fanciful docudrama which recounted how a debate team from an unheralded, Southern black college had traveled in 1935 from Texas to Cambridge, Massachusetts to defeat Harvard and win the national championship in a competition aired live, coast to coast, on national radio. Unfortunately, because Hollywood had taken considerable liberties with the truth in bringing the tale to the big screen, many of the events were either sensationalized or fabricated entirely, and the ensuing controversy resulted in a desire of many to separate fact from fiction.
As it turns out, the truth proves to be just as riveting to anyone interested in this critical chapter of African-American history. For tiny Wiley College, led by its intrepid and dedicated coach, Professor Melvin B. Tolson, did in fact defeat the reigning champion, but that all-white team was not from Harvard, but USC. Also, the film had combined and/or conflated the members of the original debate team into simplistically-drawn archetypes ostensibly in the interest of fashioning readily-recognizable characters for an easily-digested inspirational yarn with mass appeal.
Now, however, thanks to director Brad Osborne, we have The Real Great Debaters, a fascinating documentary which doesn’t merely correct the record, but amplifies that priceless legacy by sharing a cornucopia of rich details about Tolson and his talented young protégés, Hobart Jarrett, Hamilton Boswell, Rudolph Henry Heights, James Farrmer, Jr., and Henrietta B. Wells. Archival footage, newspaper accounts and the wistful recollections of friends, family and luminaries combine to paint a rich picture of the complete lives of Tolson and his team and how they managed to beat the odds en route to their amazing accomplishment.
An overdue, posthumous tribute to some African-American role models worthy of emulation.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 74 minutes
Studio: AS Pictures
DVD Extras: Extended interviews, rare historical film footage, “Behind the Scenes” featurette, “Life at Wiley College” documentary, and much more.

To see a trailer for The Real Great Debaters, visit:

Garden Party DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Day in Life Drama about L.A. Rebels Arrives on DVD

When April (Willa Holland) catches her pervert stepfather peeping at her in the shower again, she decides its time for her to leave home. However, the spunky runaway soon discovers that it’s hard for a 15 year-old girl to find a decent-paying job that doesn’t involve taking off her clothes or worse. Although she can make $450 per session posing for nude photos, she’d prefer to survive without relying on the sex industry.

Consequently, wandering the streets leads April to the sleazy side of

Sunset Boulevard where her path crosses with other rudderless rebels without a clue pursuing a bohemian lifestyle. For instance, there’s Sammy (Erik Smith), a just off the bus, struggling street musician hoping for superstardom, and Todd (Richard Gunn), a porn-addicted artist.

He finds himself like putty in the hands of powerful realtor Sally St. Clair (Vinessa Shaw), a seductive temptress with a knack for spotting lost souls. And then we have, Nathan, (Alexander Cendese), an aspiring dancer from Nebraska, makes ends meet as Sally’s assistant, helping his devious boss implement her kinky agenda.

A seemingly endless stream of such morally-compromised characters dominates the screen in Garden Party. These unfortunate individuals share a certain desperation which suggests that present-day L.A. is a place where far more dreams are being dashed than realized.

Written and directed by Jason Freeland, the film paints a convincing, if dizzying picture of Tinseltown as a dangerous den of iniquity that eats away at one’s optimism until you capitulate and become just as jaded and hardened as the vultures who have made a career out of preying on the naïve and needy. Not exactly a feelgood drama, but nonetheless an eye-opening peek at the ugly underbelly of a merciless metropolis that could care less about the fate of the least of its brethren.

Very Good (3 stars)


Running time: 88 minutes

Studio: Lions Gate Home Entertainment

To see a trailer of Garden Party, visit:

Tuesday, November 25, 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 December 5, 2008


Cadillac Records (R for sexuality and pervasive profanity) Historical drama chronicles the rise of the legendary record company founded in Chicago in the Fifties by Leonard (Adrien Brody) and Phil Chess (Shiloh Fernandez), siblings who roamed the South in search of promising talent, and discovered such future musical greats as Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright), Etta James (Beyonce’), Chuck Berry (Mos Def), Howlin’ Wolf (Eamonn Walker) and (Willie Dixon (Cedric the Entertainer). With Emmanuelle Chriqui, Columbus Short, Gabrielle Union and Eric Bogosian.

Extreme Movie (R for pervasive profanity, nudity and sexuality involving teens) Ensemble comedy features a series of raunchy vignettes revolving around teens with kinky fetishes ranging from virtual reality to midgets to farm animals. Cast includes Michael Cera, Frankie Muniz, Jamie Kennedy, Christina DeRosa, Ryan Pinkston, Cherilyn Wilson, Kevin Hart and Melvin “Shorty” Rossi.

Frost/Nixon (R for profanity) Ron Howard directs this screen adaptation of the Tony-winning Broadway play recounting the series of television interviews conducted by British talk show David Frost (Michael Sheen) with Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) in 1977, three years after the disgraced U.S. President resigned from office in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Supporting cast includes Toby Jones, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt and Sam Rockwell.

Punisher: War Zone (R for pervasive violence, profanity and drug use) Ray Stevenson takes over the title role from Thomans Jane in this action-driven sequel as the vigilante superhero of comic book fame now waging a one-man war on an organized crime syndicate run by a vicious mobster known as Jigsaw (Dominic West).


The Black Balloon (Unrated) Coming-of age drama from Australia about a new kid in town (Rhys Wakefield) who’s fearful that his autistic older brother’s (Luke Ford) embarrassing antics might ruin his budding relationship with a cute classmate (Gemma Ward). Cast includes Toni Colette, Erik Thomson and Lisa Kowalski.

Ciao (R for profanity and sexuality) Homoerotic drama about the intercontinental romance which blossoms over the internet between two men (Adam Neal Smith and Alessandro Calza) who start corresponding with each other after the death of a mutual friend (Chuck Blaum). (In Italian, Mandarin and English with subtitles)

Dust (Unrated) Scientific documentary from Deutschland examines the ability of tiny particles to penetrate people and everything else in the universe, and thereby affect the cosmos in a variety of ways, including causing illnesses. (In German with subtitles)

The End of America (Unrated) Post-democracy documentary chronicles the chilling similarities between the loss of liberties in the U.S. since 9/11 under the Bush administration and the rise of fascism, historically, in formerly free societies.

Hunger (Unrated) Bittersweet bio-pic about the last six weeks in the life of Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), the Irish Republican Army leader who starved to death behind bars in 1981 while on a hunger strike demanding political prisoner status.

Let Them Chirp Awhile (Unrated) Low-budget romantic dramedy, shot in just 18 days, about a month in the life of a struggling NYC screenwriter (Justin Rice) who spends his time walking a love interest’s (Ilana Meredith) Jack Russell terrier when he’s not hanging out with a womanizing pal (Brendan Sexton III) or feeling victimized by a plagiarizer (Zach Galligan).

Local Color (R for profanity) Genius-protégé drama, set in 1974, about the mutually-beneficial relationship forged between a troubled 18 year-old art student (Trevor Morgan) and a retired Russian widower (Armin Mueller-Stahl) who lost his joy not only for painting but living, too, after the death of his wife. With Ray Liotta, Ron Perlman and Charles Durning.

Nobel Son (R for profanity, sexuality and violent gruesome images) Dysfunctional family dramedy about a kidnapped Ph.D. student (Bryan Greenberg) who is left in the hands of his abductors when his Nobel Prize-winning father (Alan Rickman) refuses to meet their $2,000,000 demand for ransom. Talented ensemble includes Danny DeVito, Eliza Dushku, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Shawn Hatosy, Ernie Hudson and Bill Pullman.

Timecrimes (R for nudity and profanity) Sci-fi thriller about a married moan (Karra Elejalde) forced to perform an unthinkable act to return to the present after accidentally traveling backwards in time. (In Spanish with subtitles)

How about You

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Holiday Comedy Has Aging Brits Sending Santa Their Bucket List

How about You is a charming little picture set at the scenic site of an old folks nestled in a rustic region of Northern Ireland. The point of departure is right before Christmas, when most of the codgers lodging there are being picked up by relatives for the holidays.

Kate (Orla Brady), the dour widow who runs the place, is taking a break to be with her own mum for a couple of weeks, so she leaves her five remaining residents in the hands of her younger sister, Ellie (Hayley Atwell). Freewheeling Ellie is a troublemaking sparkplug who shakes the resigned quintet out of the doldrums, inspiring them to do whatever they darn well please, whether that involve disobeying doctors orders, playing poker, drinking booze, smoking pot, or belting out the classic show tune (“I like New York in June, how about you?”) cribbed in the title.

Ellie challenges the irascible Georgia (Vanessa Redgrave), terminally-ill Alice (Joan O’Hara), grumpy old Donald (Joss Ackland) and repressed spinster sisters, Heather (Brenda Fricker) and Hazel (Imelda Staunton), to live what’s left of their lives to the fullest, even if that behavior costs the establishment its elder care license. While this gang’s sinful pleasures might not be nearly as decadent as the hedonistic indulgences of the bon vivants of The Bucket List, their relatively-modest last wishes nonetheless allow for a more meaningful meditation on what really matters.

I like Dublin in December, how about you?

Very good (3 stars)
Rated R for violence, profanity and graphic images.
Running time: 90 minutes
Studio: Strand Releasing

To see a trailer for How about You, visit:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Choreographing the Folk

The Dance Stagings of Zora Neale Hurston

by Anthea Kraut

University of Minnesota Press

Paperback, $25.

320 pages, illustrated

ISBN: 978-0-8166-4712-5

Book Review by Kam Williams

“Although I studied ballet and modern from an early age, jazz dance was my greatest love... In these predominantly white spaces, no mention was made of the African-American origins of the idiom… It was not until my junior year at Carleton College… that I confronted the racial dynamics that went unspoken in those suburban jazz dance classes… It became clear just how much jazz dance, that quintessentially American form, owed to African-derived traditions… Why had it been so easy to participate in and become passionate about a dance form without learning its history?

As I continued my study of American dance history in graduate school at Northwestern, my interest in ‘invisibilized’ histories only deepened. I learned that Zora Neale Hurston had staged a concert with a spectular Bahamian dance finale about which little was known. What began as a quest for information about Hurston’s theatrical revues gradually expanded as I uncovered connections between Hurston and a number of leading dance figures.

To a great extent, the recovery project also became a case study of invisibilization – an attempt to understand the conditions that enable certain subjects and performances to be forgotten – as well as an inquiry into the implications of restoring those subjects and performances to the historical record… For Hurston’s stage work… did play a role in the composition of American dance as we know it today.“

Excerpted from the Preface (pages ix-x)

Most people think of Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) as a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance, a literary icon fondly remembered as the author of the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. However, many forget that she was also a gifted choreographer whose innovative productions helped transform the landscape of modern dance. Sadly, due to racism, she never received the credit she deserved for her contributions to this then emerging field.

The disrespect she was shown was very similar to the way in which African-American jazz artists were denigrated in their day, while many of the white imitators who arrived in their wake, such as the Gershwins and Tommy Dorsey, were celebrated as cultural geniuses. While seminal jazz greats like Satchmo, Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington may have belatedly gotten their due, the same can’t be said for dance where Hurston’s name is still never mentioned in the same breath as the Caucasians generally credited with accelerating the acceptance of modern during the period between the two world wars.

Now, thanks to Anthea Kraut, author of Choreographing the Folk: The Dance Stagings of Zora Neale Hurston, the slight has finally been rectified. For, the detail-oriented Professor Kraut, who teaches dance at the University of California – Riverside, goes to great pains, here, to re-authenticate Hurston’s scores and theatrical stagings, while simultaneously raising suspicions about some of her competitors who undoubtedly benefited from their lack of melanin.

A choreographic legacy restored!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Girl Meets Vampire in Screen Adaptation of Romantic Fantasy

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) has decided to live with her father (Billy Burke) to make it easier for her recently-remarried mother (Sarah Clarke) to accompany her husband, a minor league baseball player (Matt Bushell), on road trips This means that Bella must move from sunny Phoenix, Arizona to perpetually overcast Forks, Washington, a dreary town whose only claim to fame is that it’s located on the rainiest spot in the nation.

At her new high school, the socially-awkward 17 year-old proves to be pretty popular, and finds herself being courted by classmates representing a variety of familiar teensploitation archetypes, from the handsome hunk (Michael Welch) to the nerdy Asian (Justin Chon) to the jive black guy (Gregory Tyree Boyce). But the shy loner opts to keep to herself until the fateful day she spots gorgeous Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) across the crowded cafeteria.

Bella’s warned on the spot by her gossipy girlfriend, Jessica (Anna Kendrick), that Ed and his four, equally-pale foster siblings are strange and keep to themselves. In fact, there’s a nasty rumor that they might date each other, and that their father, Dr. Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli), behaves more like a matchmaker than a legal guardian.

Nonetheless, from that moment on, Bella finds the aloof pretty boy irresistible. And Edward’s as attracted to her too, though not exactly for the same reason. What Bella doesn’t know is that he’s a vampire, albeit one trying to go vegetarian. Yet, her alluring scent operates on him like a drug, leaving him torn between treating her like a soulmate and like his next meal. So, when the two start flirting in Biology class, she hasn’t a clue that it takes all his strength to resist sinking his fangs into her neck.

The first hint Bella gets that something’s weird is when Edward saves her life by stopping a careening car with his bare hands. When she subsequently guesses that he’s a superhero like Superman or Spider-Man, he instead honestly warns her that he’s bad news. However, she’s already too smitten to keep her distance. “I trust you,” is the best response she can muster, after he eerily admits, “I’ve never wanted a human’s blood so much.”

Does this star-crossed romance stand a chance? Will Bella’s dad, the shotgun-toting, local sheriff, solve the mystery of the serial killer who’s been hunting for humans in time? Or, can the Cullen clan convince Edward that he’d be better off dating his own species?

These are the burning questions at the heart of Twilight, as inspired an overhaul of the vampire genre as you could ever hope to encounter. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen), the film is based on the phenomenally-popular series of young adult novels by Stephenie Meyer.

This visually-enchanting screen version is full of surprising twists, humorous asides and novel special effects all of which combine to keep the picture quite compelling. Another plus is the convincing chemistry generated by Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, a must when you’re asking your leads to execute such an improbable-sounding premise. For what female in her right mind would stay in a relationship with a freak fond of frequently saying scary things like, “I’m a killer” and “I’m the world’s most dangerous predator.”

Most importantly, since we’re essentially dealing with horror fare here, Twilight must be commended for serving up two hours of non-stop, edge-of-your-seat tension, as you never know what to expect next from this endlessly-inventive mindbender. The genre has certainly come a long way from I Was a Teenage Werewolf.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for violence and sensuality.

Running time: 121 minutes

Studio: Summit Entertainment

To see a trailer for Twilight, visit:

Nicki Micheaux: The Lincoln Heights Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Nicki Hits the Heights

Nicki Micheaux is one actress who always delivers when asked to bring a character to life, actress delivers. As a popular guest star on episodes of many of television’s best dramatic series, she is a talented thespian capable of convincingly displaying a wide range of emotions in a compelling fashion. From the tortured, drug-addicted sister of police officer Keith Charles (Mathew St. Patrick) on “Six Feet Under” to the fearless, undercover detective Trish George on “The Shield,” to the sexy temptress on the acclaimed Showtime series, “Soul Food,” Ms. Micheaux has already compiled a plethora of noteworthy performances on her impressive resume’.

She recently appeared with comedy legend Lily Tomlin in the HBO pilot, “12 Miles of Bad Road,” which was produced by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. And she also co-starred opposite Academy Award-winner Halle Berry in the critically-acclaimed made-for-TV movie, “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Among her other television credits are “The West Wing,” “NYPD Blue,” “ER,” “The Practice,” “City of Angels,” and “Desperate Housewives.”

Born in Detroit, the daughter of an Army colonel, Nicki moved around a lot, so she’s resided innumerous cities around the country. She considers Houston her hometown, although she has settled in Los Angeles with her husband and young daughter.

Here, she talks about her current role as Jenn Sutton, an independent and supportive wife and mother on the ABC Family series, “Lincoln Heights.”

KW: Hi Nicki, thanks for the time.

NM: Thanks. It’s my pleasure

KW: What initially interested you in Lincoln Heights?

NM: It was a great concept, great characters and I was really interested in seeing this loving black family trying to make a difference in the community.

KW: What is the main theme of Lincoln Heights?

NM: The notion that loving your family means doing anything to provide the best for them. Community is an extension of family and we cannot separate ourselves from the whole. We are all tied together.

KW: You play a nurse, wife and mother named Jenn Sutton. Tell me a little bit more about your character.

NM: That pretty much sums her up. She’s like a lot of women out there, juggling many balls, trying to do what’s best for her family and herself. The only unusual part is that she’s African-American. Typically black women aren’t so three-dimensional on the screen.

KW: How did you prepare for the role?

NM: Jenn is very close to who I am. So I try to just show up and be as simple as I can.

KW: Russell Hornsby is a wonderful actor who plays your husband. How do you two generate that chemistry?

NM: Oh Russell makes it easy. We’re lucky we all get along so well.

KW: As you enter the third season, are you pleased with the direction of the show?

NM: Yes.

KW: Black couples are rarely shown in a positive light on television or film. Did you have any input as to how your TV marriage should be depicted?

NM: Sure, we have a lot of open collaboration on the series. Everyone on the show agrees that Eddie and Jenn are meant to be kind of a light.

KW: You have played such a diversity of roles in your career. Is there something you have not done that you are interested in pursuing?

NM: Oh Yes! I’m waiting for my historical period piece. Either that or an epic fantasy. I can’t wait for something like that to try out.

KW: How do you feel about the election of Barack Obama?

NM: I am very inspired by the vision he has for our country.

KW: Music maven Heather Covington’s question: What are you listening to nowadays?

NM: Mostly the Backyardigans and Jack Johnson, since I spend most of my time with my daughter.

KW: Is she old enough to understand what it is you do for a living?

NM: Yes, but she thinks everyone is on TV, just like all her Disney friends, Mickey, Minnie, etcetera.

KW: Bookworm Troy Johnson asks: What was the last book you read? What was the last book you read?

NM: The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum.

KW: Is there a question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

NM: I can’t really think of anything.

KW: When did you know that you wanted to be in showbiz?

NM: Oh I don’t think I really want to be in showbiz. I just like to act, the “biz” part is just something I can’t get away from.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

NM: If you love the craft, stick to it. Try not to compare your path to others b/c each road to success is different.

KW: Where can fans of Lincoln Heights check you out on the web?

NM: I have a MySpace page. ( Also has lots of great info on the show, as well as past episodes.

KW: Do you answer your fan mail?

NM: I love to get to as many as I can.

KW: How do you want to be remembered?

NM: As a wife, a mother, and an artist.

KW: Any new projects on the horizon for you?

NM: I’m starring in the feature RAIN which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival this year. It’s the first Bahamian feature and we’re so excited about the positive reception the film is getting.

KW: Thanks again for the interview, and best of luck with all your endeavors.

NM: Thank you so much.

A Man Named Pearl DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Celebrates Life of Black Man with Green Thumb

When Pearl Fryar needed to move to Bishopville, South Carolina in 1976 to start a new job as a janitor in a can factory located there, the first house he and his wife, Metra, settled on was located on the white side of town. However, they changed their plans upon being informed by their new neighbors that they weren’t welcome because “Black people don’t keep up their yards.”

Though hurt by the racist remark, the couple didn’t become embittered but instead bought a 3½ acre plot across the proverbial tracks in the black community. Immediately, Pearl began to cultivate a top-flight garden, determined to make those bigots eat their words by becoming the first black person to win the Iris Garden Club’s “Yard of the Month Award.”

Because he didn’t have much money to fund his ambitious enterprise, most of Pearl’s plants and seedlings came from the dump behind the local nursery. And even though this son of a sharecropper didn’t have any book knowledge about botany, he had enough of a green thumb to figure out ways to revive all sorts of ailing and abandoned vegetation.

To land the “Yard of the Month Award” he began shaping his shrubs into an eye-catching collection of over 150 topiary figures. And not only did he earn the coveted accolade, but today folks flock from all over to see his world-renowned garden. In fact, because Bishopville is in economic decline, it can thank its lucky stars that Pearl’s topiaries have turned tourism into an alternate source of revenue.

This moving story of rejection-turned-acceptance is a touching bio-pic about a humble soul who encountered entrenched racism and responded with goodwill towards all. A life-affirming documentary illustrating how a black man’s green thumb proved to be the best revenge for white intolerance.

Excellent (4 stars)


Running time: 78 minutes

Studio: New Video Group

DVD Extras: Bonus CD with the original film score by composer Fred Story, Pearl Fryar and co-director Scott Galloway update, composer interview and filmmaker bios.

To see the trailer for A Man Named Pearl, visit:

Meet Dave DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Intergalactic Eddie Murphy Vehicle Arrives on DVD

In 1984, John Sayles directed The Brother from Another Planet, a thought-provoking, sci-fi comedy about an alien who washes ashore at Ellis Island and makes his way to Manhattan where he does his best to blend in because he’s being chased by a couple of bounty hunters who had followed him to Earth. Aside from being funny, what made that screen classic worthwhile was its touching on a timely theme in a thought-provoking manner.

For the film’s protagonist was an escaped slave who looked exactly like a black man. However, he had been persecuted back on his planet not on account of his skin color but rather because he was born with only three toes on each foot.

Ironically, his effort to survive in New York was complicated by his having to accommodate himself to an unfamiliar form of prejudice, namely, American racism. Sayles’ overall aim was to make a subtle statement about bigotry of any form by showing how silly it would be to divide people into minority groups based on the number of their toes or along the lines of any other arbitrary physical characteristics.

Here, we have Meet Dave, a sci-fi adventure which borrows Brother’s basic premise, while conveniently ignoring the movie’s more meaningful aspects. The dumbing-down is no surprise since it stars Eddie Murphy last seen in the equally-brainless Norbit.

The story opens with the crash near the Statue of Liberty of Dave, an Eddie Murphy-looking spacecraft being operated by 100 tiny aliens under the command of a Captain also played Mr. Murphy. At this juncture, the movie morphs into an cringe-inducing fish-out-of-water comedy, where the naïve newcomer must survive a series of ordeals on the mean streets of Manhattan.

The worst sci-fi comedy since Eddie Murphy made The Adventures of Pluto Nash.

Poor (0 stars)

Rated PG for action, suggestive humor and mild epithets.

Running time: 90 minutes

Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

DVD Extras: Cast interviews.

To see a trailer of Meet Dave, visit:

Fred Claus DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Santa’s and Sibling Spar in Holiday Comedy Coming to DVD

This is a sitcom with plenty of failings, from a flawed premise to questionable casting to a dearth of mirth to lasting way too long. The film stars Vince Vaughn in the title role as Santa’s ne’er-do-well elder brother, opposite Paul Giamatti, who looks a little out of his element as St. Nick.

The kid-friendly plotline revolves around Santa’s generously offering his broke brother a job managing his Naughty or Nice Department during the busy holiday season. Fred bids adieu to his practically fed-up girlfriend, Wanda (Rachel Weisz) and to his orphaned next-door neighbor, Slam (Bobb’e J. Thompson), and sets out for the North Pole from Chicago.

But upon his arrival, the slacker throws a monkey wrench in Santa’s streamlined facility by encouraging DJ Donnie (Ludacris) to play distracting dance music instead of holiday hymns and jingles. Soon, the elves are partying instead of making toys, and Santa falls way behind schedule. Then, nosy Mr. Northcutt (Kevin Spacey), a Scrooge-like efficiency expert roaming the grounds, threatens to shut down the operation entirely.

To top it all off, by Christmas Eve, suddenly sick Santa is worried about the prospect of disappointing all the children around the world eagerly-anticipating the impending arrival of their presents. The solution is no surprise, as he asks his brother to deliver the gifts by sleigh for him. Of course, Fred makes the most of this opportunity to overhaul his loser image, stepping in to save the day for a fairytale finale.

Don’t make the mistake of misreading the tacked-on happily-ever-after ending as a stamp of approval for a mean-spirited production, its PG rating notwithstanding. Among the movie’s tasteless moments is when Santa slides down the chimney of a Jewish family but departs without leaving any gifts for the children because they’re of the wrong faith.

Equally insensitive is the picture’s depiction of its two African-American characters as reprobates. DJ Donnie, the only black elf, willfully screws up at his job, while little Slam is so morally-unprincipled that he pickpockets Santa on Christmas Day, as if to suggest a genetic predisposition towards criminality. Ha-ha.

A feel-bad Christmas flick, not exactly the way anybody would want to kickoff the holiday season.

Poor (0 stars)

Rated PG for mild epithets and crude humor.

Running time: 116 minutes

Studio: Warner Home Video

DVD Extras: Director’s commentary and additional scenes.

To see a trailer for Fred Claus, visit:

Hancock DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Underwhelming DVD Features Will Smith as Alcoholic Superhero

John Hancock (Will Smith) is a superhero who has fallen out of favor with the public, and for good reason. First of all, he’s usually drunk and draped across a bench in downtown L.A. where he routinely harasses pedestrians, whether cursing curious little kids or trying to molest attractive women.

Worse, when he springs into action as his crime-fighting alter ego, Hancock tends to cause more trouble than he’s preventing. Just as he bottoms out he is offered a chance at redemption by Ray (Jason Bateman), a stranger he rescues from a car stuck on train tracks and about to be slammed into by a locomotive.

Grateful Ray diagnoses that all Hancock really needs is an image overhaul, so he convinces his reluctant rescuer to try counseling and to wear a superhero outfit in order to look the part. Trouble is Hancock has a big secret, which even he is unaware of because he’s suffering from amnesia. But his memory starts to come back when Ray brings him home to meet the wife (Charlize Theron).

The fatal flaw of this spoof of the superhero genre is the fact that the protagonist isn’t even likable. Who would opt to cast the ever-charming French Prince against type as a surly, foul-mouthed misanthrope? Nobody wants to root for a creep who calls women by the b-word, bullies children and makes a pass at the spouse of the only guy willing to help him.

Equally-annoying is the awkward, improbable and terribly twisted plotline which can only be comprehended with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight once all the pieces of the puzzle have finally been revealed. I’m not even sure how I would explain the resolution to an inquiring child incapable of such contorted mental calisthenics.

Don’t expect to laugh and you won’t be disappointed.

Fair (1 star)


Running time: 102 minutes

Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

DVD Extras: Five featurettes.

To see a Hancock trailer, visit:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ellen DeGeneres: The Ellen’s Even Bigger Really Big Show Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Dancing with DeGeneres

Born in Metairie, Louisiana on January 26, 1958, Ellen Lee DeGeneres attended the University of New Orleans after graduating from high school, but dropped out following her first semester. After a number of unsatisfying jobs, Ellen’s started out in showbiz as an emcee at a comedy club in New Orleans. By 1982 she had already landed national recognition when her videotaped stand-up performances led to her being named the “Funniest Person in America” by Showtime.

Ms. DeGeneres then moved to Los Angeles to film her first HBO Special. That same year, she made history on the Tonight Show by becoming the first female comedian to be summoned by Johnny Carson to sit down with him after a performance.

Her acting career began on TV on the Fox sitcom, “Open House,” and she was subsequently offered a part on ABC’s “These Friends of Mine” which was renamed “Ellen” en route to enjoying a successful run from 1994 to 1998. During the series’ fourth season, Ellen came out publicly as lesbian on the Oprah Winfrey Show, as did her character in an episode watched by a record 46 million viewers.

A beloved entertainment icon, Ellen’s distinct brand of humor comic has resonated with audiences not only on television, but on the big screen (Finding Nemo) and as the author of two books. However, she’s found a home in the daytime arena with her hit syndicated talk show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” now in its sixth season, which has now earned a total of 25 Daytime Emmy Awards.

Here, she talks about Ellen’s Really Big Show, an annual special she’s again hosting for TBS. The one-hour variety special, filmed at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, is set to air on Saturday November 29th at 9 PM (ET/PT). During our spirited chat, Ellen also talked about the Presidential Election and about both Barack and Michelle Obama’s dance moves. And since she married her longtime companion, Portia de Rossi, in August, she was willing to weigh-in on the passage of Proposition 8 in California, a measure banning gay marriage in the state.

KW: Hi Ellen, thanks for the time.

ED: Well, thank you.

KW: You danced with both Barack and Michelle on the show. So, which one’s the better dancer,?

ED: Well, I think that we agree that Michelle was. But I think that's good. I would be worried if he was a good dancer because that would mean he’s not spending enough time working. I always worry when someone’s a good golfer, too. It's like you shouldn't have time to be good at anything. You should just be a politician and you shouldn't have time to practice golf or dancing. So I am thrilled that Michelle’s a better dancer. Although he is a good dancer, better than a lot of people that I have seen on the show.

KW: Were you surprised at how much play the dance clips from your show got on all the cable news channels?

ED: No, I wasn't that surprised about that. I guess when you get the political candidates to dance, well actually only one danced, that’s going to get some play. I have the picture of Barack and me dancing right outside of my dressing room door, I see it every single day, and it makes me very happy.

KW: Where did you develop your dance moves?

ED: I get my dance moves from just moving around and listening to music and not really worrying about if it's perfect or not.

KW: I see you have Tony Okunbogwa back this season as the show’s DJ. How is that working out?

ED: I love Tony, I love his music; I love his style, so I am thrilled to have Tony back.

KW: Have you heard from Senator McCain since his appearance on your show, since your awkward exchange?

ED: No. I don’t think we're going to keep in touch anyway. I mean, I would be

glad to take a call from him. He seems like a nice guy. That was a moment that was an obvious question for me to ask, if he doesn’t really agree with equality, and that’s what it really boils down to is equality. I wasn't going to give him too hard of a time because I understand that that's what he believes and I wasn't going to change anything. I wasn’t there to change his mind, I just wanted to present a very obvious case that we are all the same and we all deserve to have equal rights. But I am glad people watched it and, like I said, I didn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable. That’s not my job. It's not the kind of show I ever want to do.

KW: Do you care to comment on the outcome of the election?

ED: I was thrilled, and really proud as a lot of people are about it. It was energizing that Obama got in and I felt excited about that. But the next day, especially because Obama got in, there was a big loud voice saying you were not equal to us. And that feels bad. That feels really, really bad. And if anybody could put themselves in that situation of feeling a giant loud voice saying you don’t deserve the same rights, you are different and you are not equal, it feels really bad. So it took a little bit of air out of me from the excitement from the night before. I do feel hopeful and excited. But certainly that was an emotional day for me. The next day, I'm trying to do a show when I felt that sad inside. But I've kind of bounced back. I feel good now. I'm not really a political comedian. So I think I'm done with that. I don’t think I will be commenting further.

KW: I watched your show the day you mentioned Keith Olbermann’s commentary about Proposition Eight.

ED: I thought Keith Olbermann was so brilliant and eloquent, and that what he said is all that needs to be said. It's on our website and I hope that everybody watches it. I am sure you can find it just about anywhere. It really is just about following your heart and people really paying attention to what the right thing is.

KW: I also read an article in the LA Times by Steve Lopez where he said that what the gay movement needs is a black Elton John, a black icon.

ED: I don't understand that statement about a black Elton John. But it needs for

people to not be ignorant. It needs for people to open their minds and understand. It is a fundamental right for people to be allowed to love who they want to love and marry who they want to marry and stop holding on to some form of discrimination that it’s just isn't fair. And if you look back, as you know if you watched what Keith Olbermann talked about, this happened to black people. It’s crazy that we're still holding on to some form of this. So I don't know what it is going to take, but I do have faith that people will realize that this is wrong.

KW: What the writer was suggesting with that black Elton John comment was that, although the African-American community is generally liberal, it tends for some reason to be somewhat homophobic and anti-gay marriage. And it would help if a black superstar would come out.

ED: Well, I think, unfortunately, it all comes down to certain cultures are just

more accepting or less accepting. I understand what you're saying about that stigma and unfortunately there are a lot of very well-known black people that are gay but unfortunately closeted. And that doesn't help things that people are not able to live their lives honestly. Do you come out and just force people to deal with it, or do you wait for it to be accepted and then people get to live their lives honestly and openly? Which comes first? It's a big risk for people to have a big career and come out. And that's because of what's going on, but it would change things if people would live their lives in a way that's healthier for them really. It's not really helping anybody to live a life that isn't true to themselves. But I don't know, I have faith that people will, even without some type of a symbol, open their minds and their hearts.

KW: Have you gotten any negative feedback from people about your marriage?

ED: I think I am probably protected from a lot of stuff that would be negative. I know there's always going to be feedback no matter what the subject. I mean I am shocked by somebody commenting on my shoes or my clothes. Everyone has an opinion and especially now more and more, everyone is logging about everything and has an opinion. So I can't possibly pay attention to that. Listen, I am sure that there are station managers that carry the show in certain markets that aren't really thrilled with it because they probably are the people that would vote yes on Proposition 8. They don't agree with gay marriage, they don't understand it, and probably were a little fearful in the first place of an openly gay person. So, I am sure people have opinions about it and I am sure they don’t really love me anyway, any which way I go. So, I can't really pay attention to that. I just have to speak from my heart. I don't really ever get political on the show. But to me that was not political. To me this is just about equality and about something that is way, way overdue. But to answer your question, I am sure some people don't like it.

KW: Are there topics that Ellen, the stand-up comedian, would touch on your upcoming special that Ellen, the talk show host, wouldn’t do on her daytime show?

ED: There is really no difference between Ellen, the stand-up, or Ellen, the talk show host, or even Ellen at home. The humor that I’m still writing that you see every day on the show is the same as when I did stand-up, as when I toured. It’s just kind of commentating on absurdities and human behavior. So, as far as the special how goes, it’s not like I'm going to be topless or start cursing all of a sudden. It’s pretty much the same. Although now that I mentioned it, I may be topless. That’s sounds actually kind of exciting.

KW: What can we expect from this year's special as compared to last year's, anything different or anything big plans?

ED: Well, as the title says, it's even bigger. And, I think that's says it all. Last year it was really, really big. This year, even bigger. And you know what that means! I don't know. I think it's going to be the same kind of excitement, the same kind of acts that you have never seen before. We brought in people from all over the world that are fascinating to watch and I think most of you are going to just sit there and wonder how they even thought of this idea that that would be a possibility as a talent. That's what I am going for.

KW: Of the other comedians who will be performing, Jerry Seinfeld, Katt

Williams, Mike Epps, Jamie Kennedy, etcetera, do you have a favorite?

ED: I don't really have a favorite comedian. And it wouldn't be fair for me to say. But I think, I mean, obviously Seinfeld is just so smart, so funny. And there will be a lot of new comedians that I haven't seen. I hope I get to go see some of them because I really haven't seen any of the newer comedians, because I'm always so busy.

KW: Do you miss doing stand-up?

ED: I don't miss traveling and sleeping in a hotel every night. I mean that touring

got really old. I did it for 15 years and I had no idea I was going to be a talk show host, but I used to joke with the audience at the end of my set that someday I am going to make you come to me, and I'm not going to come to you anymore. And now they do come to me. So, I still get to do stand-up every single day. I love that live energy exchange between the audience and myself, and to get to say the things I want to say and comment on.

KW: Is there any guest you haven't been able to book on the show?

ED: Bono, because I think he's an amazing man for what he does as a humanitarian even more so than as a musician. And George Clooney, of course, we're going to capture him one day. We're going after him and he has eluded us, but we will get him. Of course, now I want Keith Olbermann on, just because I love him and I think he's brilliant

KW: Why you think people should tune in to a comedy special at this time, considering the tough economy?

ED: Well I think people need to laugh everyday, even more so now. Whether the economy is good or bad, I think the most important thing is to laugh and to feel positive, if you are laughing at something positive. But if you are laughing at mean jokes then it's a wash

KW: What is your process when you are trying out new material?

ED: I am the opposite of Chris Rock and Seinfeld and Leno and everybody. I never try out material. When I did the Oscars, when I do anything, I write it and I just have a gut feeling and I just keep tweaking and tweaking and tweaking until I think have the wording right and know what I want to say and I just say it. I don't ever go to clubs and try it out. I have writers here with the show and we collaborate on that and the same thing with this special coming up. So, I just have a feeling of what I want to say and what is the right wording and I don't ask anybody. In the very beginning, I made lots of mistakes. I did some stuff on stage that clearly didn’t go over, but you know you just keep trying, and I think part of the fun, especially early on, is letting the audience see the mistakes. They love to see that. They like to see the process. So yeah, that's always how I've done it.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

ED: I'm very happy.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

ED: Afraid! No, I'm not afraid. I'm sometimes sad. Afraid of what, just in general?

KW: The way I got that question was I asked Columbus if there’s any question nobody ever asked him that he wished someone would, and he said, “Yeah, are you ever afraid?”

ED: Oh, really. What was his answer?

KW: Yes.

ED: I wouldn't even think to say that. No, never. I don't really ever live my life in fear. I really live my life in gratitude and feeling positive for the most part, except for the other day that happened. That was sad to me, but then I realized that everything happens for a reason and it has caused this movement of people kind of standing up and saying this isn't fair. So I kind of accept everything, that it's all perfect.

KW: Bookworm Troy Johnson asks, what was the last book you read?

ED: Probably Wayne Dyer's book, The Power of Intention.

KW: And Music maven Heather Covington’s question: What music are you listening to?

ED: God, I listen to so many different things. Last night I was listening to Anthony Hamilton and Coldplay.

KW: My wife just saw Anthony Hamilton in concert this week She loved him. Thanks again for the interview, Ellen, and best of luck with everything.

ED: Thank you.

To see a video of Ellen dancing with Barack Obama, visit:

To see a video of Ellen dancing with Michelle Obama, visit:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I Can't Think Straight

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Brit Brides-to-Be Rethinking Wedding Vows in Out of the Closet Dramedy

Leyla, (Sheetal Sheth), a repressed British Muslim of Indian extraction, is about to marry a dude who has no idea she’s gay. Except for being in the closet, she has little in common with Tala (Lisa Ray), a carefree Palestinian Christian living in London. Tala has been engaged four times herself, but always seems to get cold feet prior to her wedding day.

There’s chemistry aplenty when demur Leyla, a budding novelist, crosses paths with feisty Tala, a debutante from a filthy rich family. But because they hail from very different cultures, neither of which is tolerant of homosexuality, the two are slow to follow their hearts. After all, both still live at home, so they have to contemplate the consequences of coming out. Plus, their just being friends causes controversy on account of their religious differences. About all they can agree on is that “What the Middle East doesn’t need is more Jews.”

Anti-Semitism aside, the young ladies do lock lips and fall madly in love. Surprisingly, shy Leyla is the first to summon up the courage to come out. Unfortunately, her parents’ underwhelming response is the opposite of supportive, with her mother calling lesbianism, “a huge sin,” while her father wonders how his daughter could’ve turned gay so quickly, since he’d “only been gone two hours.”

Tala, on the other hand, takes her sweet time to share her secret, preferring to drop a hint by wearing a titular t-shirt emblazoned with the words, “I Can't Think Straight,” a cleverly-concealed double entendre. Writer/director Sharmim Sarif has crafted an engaging enough sitdram to keep you enthralled while wondering how her attractive heroines’ homoerotic relationship will resolve itself.

Lipstick lesbian, Hollywood’s answer to California’s passage of Proposition 8!

Excellent (3.5 stars)

Rated PG-13 for sexual content.

Running time: 82 minutes

Studio: Regent Releasing

To see a trailer for I Can't Think Straight, visit:

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 Thanksgiving 2008


Australia (PG-13 for violence, sensuality and profanity) Romance drama, set at the dawn of WWII just before the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese, chronicles the love relationship which blossoms between a genteel heiress (Nicole Kidman) and the rough-hewn rancher (Hugh Jackman) who helps her drive a herd of 2,000 head of cattle to market across hundreds of miles of unforgiving terrain. Aboriginal cast includes David Gulpilil, Brandon Walters and David Ngoombujarra.

Four Christmases (PG-13 for profanity and sexual humor) Dysfunctional family comedy, set in San Francisco, about an unhappily-married couple (Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon) forced to spend the holidays with several sets of relatives after their plans for an exotic getaway are ruined when the fog rolls in. Ensemble cast includes Robert Duvall, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam, Tim McGraw, Jon Voight, Sissy Spacek, Jon Favreau and Kristin Chenoweth.

Transporter 3 (PG-13 for violence, intense action, sexuality and drug use) High-octane adventure with Jason Statham returning as the gruff, two-fisted chauffeur for a mission where he falls in love with the kidnapped daughter (Natalya Rudakova) of a powerful Ukrainian politician (Jeroen Krabbe) while driving her from Marseilles to Odessa through a gauntlet of mob goons.


Milk (R for profanity, sexuality and violence) Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk in this bio-pic about the openly-gay San Francisco politician assassinated in 1978 by a Republican colleague (Josh Brolin) who successfully raised the “Twinkie defense” to beat the murder rap. Cast includes James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Alison Pill and Diego Luna.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Betrayal (LAOTIAN)


Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Post Vietnam Documentary Recounts Laotians’ Attempt to Assimilate in America

Few people knew during the Vietnam War that the CIA was simultaneously financing and backing a puppet government in nearby Laos. In order to eradicate pockets of Viet Cong in the country, the previously-neutral nation proceeded to allow the U.S. to drop more bombs inside Laos than had been used in WWI and WWII combined.

Among the traitors selling out his homeland was the father of Thavisouk Phrasavath, a military man whose job involved directing B-52s on their missions. However, following the fall of Saigon, the GIs high-tailed it out of Southeast Asia, leaving the local collaborators holding the bag.

After Thavisouk’s father was arrested and imprisoned, most of the family emigrated to America including him, his mother and seven of his siblings. When they were brought directly to the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, they actually panicked, fearing that they had somehow been mistakenly relocated to Africa since so many of their new neighbors were black. But they adjusted to life in their new environment, despite having to share a two-bedroom apartment with eight strangers from Cambodia and Vietnam.

Their whole challenging ordeal is recounted in The Betrayal, a documentary that’s difficult to stomach on a lot of levels. For, not only did these lost souls suffer the loss of their beloved patriarch, which led to the crumbling of the family structure, but they had to deal with the cultural shock of the melting pot to deal with, too. And there was no turning back, because they couldn’t return to Laos because of Papa P’s having collaborated with the enemy.

One of those overcoming the odds tales which you could easily see adapted into a touching feelgood saga, if stripped of its sorrowful and sobering elements. No such luck, here, as this warts and all expose’ is designed to leave you outraged about the way America treats naive allies and about the unresolved, ugly fallout of the Vietnam conflict.

Excellent (4 stars)


In English and Laotian with subtitles.

Running time: 96 minutes

Studio: The Cinema Guild

To see a trailer for The Betrayal, visit:

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's Pimpin' Pimpin' DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Latest Katt Williams Concert Flick Released on DVD

They say there’s a thin line between genius and madness, and it’s often very hard to tell which side of the line Katt Williams is standing on. I’ve been so curious about what make’s the diminutive comic tick that I’ve scheduled several interviews with him, each of which he either canceled at the last minute or simply failed to show up for.

Now there are reports that the inspired comic recently underwent psychological testing at the urging of his concerned relatives. I can’t say I’m surprised, given his long being associated with bizarre behavior, such as walking down a red carpet with a noose around his neck at the time that the Jena 6 case was in the news.

Whether he’s insane or simply insensitive, Katt brings an undeniable intensity to everything he does as an entertainer, whether it’s his standup act or playing an over-the-top character in a movie. The dude is funny-looking enough even before he opens his mouth, between his short stature, loud pimp outfits and that flowing mane of relaxed hair. So, by the time he finally starts to speak in that high-pitched squeal of his, the audience is already well-primed to burst into laughter.

This latest concert flick captured Katt’s act onstage in historic Constitution Hall in DC, where his material appropriately covered plenty of politics and current events. He saved some of his most scathing remarks to skewer George Bush and Hilary Clinton, referring to the latter by the b-word for assuming she’d get the black vote because of her husband.

But with Katt, a curse or an ethnic slur can just as easily be a term of endearment, as he repeatedly employs the N-word while promoting Barack Obama’s candidacy. Brash, bright and brutally-honest with a unique perspective to share, here Katt Williams serves up another shocking show which definitely won’t disappoint his legions of loyal fans.

Very Good (3 stars)


Running time: 77 minutes

Studio: Salient Media/Vivendi Entertainment

DVD Extras: Behind the scenes footage and a featurette entitled “A Day with Katt Williams in DC.”

To see a trailer for It's Pimpin' Pimpin', visit:

Still Trippin’ DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Steve Harvey Adds Blue Humor Back to His Standup Act

Steve Harvey was one of the Original Kings of Comedy, along with Cedric the Entertainer, D.L. Hughley and the late Bernie Mac. In the wake of the success of that brilliant standup concert film, Steve became a Born Again Christian and released Don’t Trip, a spiritually-oriented standup flick which was totally clean.
Since then, the irrepressibly funnyman has shaved his head and added foul language back into his act, the net result being a hilarious, if often profane, DVD called Still Trippin’. For the occasion, Steve brought his special brand of observational humor to Newark, New Jersey, where he filmed an expletive-laced performance in front of a very enthusiastic audience.
The movie marks the colorful comic’s fifth solo special, and the subjects he touches upon here are generally quite topical. He jokes about everything from the female astronaut caught wearing soiled adult diapers after driving 1,000 miles to murder her lover’s other girlfriend, to the homely-looking housewives in that polygamous cult located in Texas, women he compares to Aunt Bee of The Andy Griffith Show and Jane Hathaway of The Beverly Hillbillies.
Steve also delves into politics, discussing the differences between Obama to McCain, and taking potshot at president Bush’s “lying ass.” Besides that, he weighs in on the Michael Vick sentence, on ignorant people, on fat husbands, and on why you ought to get all the recommended inoculations before visiting Africa.
Overall, the blue Steve Harvey rates an A, although this critic would prefer that he leave out the cursing, since he already proved to me that he can be just as funny without four-letter words.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 106 minutes
Studio: CodeBlack Entertainment

To see a trailer for Still Trippin’, visit:

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Movie Magic Aplenty in Animated Action Adventure Available in 3-D

Bolt (John Travolta) is a normal dog who mistakenly thinks that he actually possesses the superpowers he displays as the hero of a TV action series. The white German shepherd is clueless about the truth because, since he was a puppy, he’s been raised on a set specially-rigged to trick him into believing that he really has the ability to perform amazing feats like subduing bad guys with his devastating bark and melting steel with his penetrating heat vision.

These delusions of grandeur have never been a problem for the pampered pooch, given that he’s had no contact with the outside world. Consequently, the only reality he’s ever known is the insulated studio environment in which he’s the pet of Penny (Miley Cyrus), the actress who pretends to be his crime-fighting partner. She resents the show’s director (James Lipton) who goes to such great lengths to keep up the charade that he even denies her request to take her canine co-star home with her over the weekend.

Everything changes the day Bolt slips out of his cage and, after a comedy of errors, accidentally ends up in a box being shipped to New York City where a rude awakening lays in wait. For not only are the streets of Manhattan mean enough to begin with, but they prove to be tougher still for a dog who expects to have an array of extraordinary powers at his paw tips.

Thus unfolds Bolt, an enchanting animated adventure that’s fun for the whole family. Available for screening in either a flat or 3-D format, it is this critic’s suggestion that you opt for the latter, if you don’t want to miss an opportunity to appreciate state-of-the-art techniques offering a visually-stimulating experience that’s substantially-enhanced by the investment in 3-D glasses. Just don’t be surprised to find yourself ducking to avoid vehicles hurtling in your direction or reaching up to grab dangling objects that appear close enough to touch.

Special-effects wizardry aside, this uplifting tale, more importantly, has a bounty of heartwarming messages to share about honesty, loyalty, humility, faith and other virtues. The tykes will learn an early lesson about what matters most in life watching frustrated Bolt adjust to his diminished status as a mere mortal.

He must grudgingly befriend a lowly alley cat (Susie Essman) and clumsy hot-house hamster (Mark Walton), enlisting their help to find his way back to Hollywood. En route, the unlikely trio bond while overcoming the host of ever-escalating calamities placed in the path between the homesick hound and a teary reunion with the equally-inconsolable Penny.

Another instant kiddie classic from Disney!

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG for mild action and scenes of peril.

Running time: 96 minutes

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures

To see a trailer for Bolt, visit:

Evan Ross: The Gardens of the Night Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: God Bless the Child: Diana’s Baby Has Got His Own

Evan Olaf Ross was born in Greenwich, Connecticut on August 26, 1988 to pop diva Diana Ross and Norwegian shipping magnate Ame Naess. Following not only in his mom’s footsteps, but in those of three of his sisters (Tracee Ellis Ross, Rhonda Ross Kendrick and Leona Naess), Evan entered showbiz at an early age, making an impressive film debut as T.I.’s troubled younger brother in the critically-acclaimed ATL.

Next, he received rave reviews for his NAACP Image Award-nominated performance as a troubled teen in the made-for-TV movie Life Support. He then returned to the big screen for another memorable outing as a stammering swimmer in Pride. That, in turn, led to his being signed to do eleven more pictures, including his current release, The Gardens of the Night, a harrowing drama about kidnapping, child molestation and homeless kids co-starring Gillian Jacobs, Tom Arnold, John Malkovich and Harold Perrineau.

Here, Evan talks about his new flick, s well as everything from his budding musical career to Barack Obama to his close relationship with his mother.

ER: Hey Kam, how’re you doing?

KW: Very well, thanks.

KW: How do you feel about Barack Obama winning election?

ER: I feel like we’ve been saved. I’m happy that we have a good person as president. I think that’s important.

KW: Your father’s from Norway. Do you speak Norwegian?

ER: Very little. I can understand some. I should have learned more, because I lived there for a long time. I am sure that I will at some point take the time to learn to speak it.

KW: Where did you live over there?

ER: Oslo.

KW: And where else did you live growing up?

ER: Let’s see… Switzerland… Greenwich, Connecticut… New York… Los Angeles… London... And we spent a year in France. My mom lived there longer when she was trying to make the Josephine Baker Story.

KW: So, what prompted you take on another challenging role in Gardens of the Night?

ER: Actually, I loved it from the moment I read the script, because I had just seen a very interesting documentary my mother recommended to me called Streetwise, about how homeless kids survive on the streets. So, when I read Gardens of the Night I thought it was an incredible idea and such a great story.

KW: Your female co-star is white, which had me wondering whether this was a case of colorblind casting?

ER: The role of Donnie wasn’t originally written for an African-American, but I kept meeting with them and auditioning because I really wanted to be a part of the film. I kept fighting for the role, and ended up doing it. More than anything, this was a passion project for everybody associated with the film, especially because it was such a tough subject.

KW: I hope that this approach to casting is a sign of things to come.

ER: Damian [director Damian Harris] was really great about that issue. He saw that skin color isn’t an issue among kids living on the street. Their worry is survival. So, I think that it was really great how he handled it in the movie. Never once was color talked about or made an issue. No one asked, why was this white girl with me. It never came up, and that’s the way I think it should be. It’s a non-issue.

KW: How was it working with Gillian Jacobs? You shared so many haunting scenes together.

ER: Really, really great. It ended up just being me and her and the director, not only on the set, but we also spent a lot of time with children in homeless shelters. I had been blind to the fact that there were that many homeless kids. It was very hard for all of us sitting with them and having them talk about their lives and share all the emotions of what they’re going through. Gillian and I really bonded after that to keep each other’s spirits up because it was such a heavy experience. As a result, we had great chemistry, so working with her was good.

KW: Was this your most emotionally-challenging role to date?

ER: Of the movies released so far, yes, although I have some others that will be coming out, like Black Water Transit, which were equally-challenging, but in a different sort of way... The more I think about it, Gardens of the Night might have been the toughest, since it took so long to shoot, and it was heavy being with the homeless kids and in their environment.

KW: Do you think you’re getting typecast as someone who only plays troubled characters?

ER: No, I’ve been the one kind of choosing to go in that direction. I like showing reality. But I have a more upbeat film coming out that I did with Hilary Duff called Greta. I play a more strong-willed character in that movie. But I like reality, because I think we shy away from showing the truth when we don’t need to cover up the truth. So, the way I choose projects is based on what I think is most real and most interesting, not on what’s paying the most money or what’s most popular.

KW: When did you develop an interest in acting?

ER: I always loved movies, especially watching some of my mom’s films when I was younger, like Out of Darkness, where she played a schizophrenic. I always found it interesting that I was still able to see her in each role, even though she was playing these different characters.

KW: Do you enjoy any other forms of artistic expression besides acting?

ER: I have many creative outlets. I sing, I like music, I like art, I paint, I draw. I like buying art. I read a lot, too. I love books. And I’m working on a clothing line, too.

KW: You already made a movie with your sister Tracee, Life Support. Any plans to do one with your mom?

ER: I would love to at some point. I talk to her about it all the time. I ask her when she’s going to do another movie herself. She says that because it calls for a serious commitment of time, she’ll only do it if it’s something special that makes sense and that she’s a big part of creating it. It’s hard doing these films when you don’t have any creative control, and you want it to look a certain way because you believe in it. So, I feel that if it made sense, she would do it. But I would love to do something with her, whether she’s playing my mom, or another character. I love her work as an actress.

KW: How about doing music with your mom?

ER: We’re doing that now. I’ve been making music for a long time, but I’ve been waiting to do it right, because I don’t want people to think it’s just a stepping stone in my career. A lot of actors go that route as a way of building their careers. I don’t want it to be seen as that. Because, like with my acting, my interest is not commercial, but to create something that I really love.

KW: So, who are you in the studio with?

ER: I’m working with Dallas Austin and some others who are not only really talented but who I love as people. Plus I’m on the phone with my mom, Stevie Wonder, and Michael, and getting their input in finding out how I’d like to do it.

KW: By Michael, do you mean Michael Jackson?

ER: Yeah, I talk to him a lot, advice-wise, musically. But I speak to mom the most. We go down to the studio and just kind of be creative and come up with new ideas. We have a lot of great stuff. But I’ve been singing my whole life, so it’s on its way.

KW: How would you describe your sound?

ER: Vocally, it’s got an R&B soulful sound, but it’s got a lot of guitars, too. Dallas has a great new sound that he’s working with, and we’re kinda just creating something new. People will like it and it will work, but it’s not the same as anything you’re hearing now.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

ER: Yeah.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

ER: Am I ever afraid? That’s a great question. Yes, a lot.

KW: Is there a question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

ER: I like both Columbus’ and Tasha’s questions. Those are personal questions that don’t get asked. They might not make sense to a lot of your readers, but those are actually a couple of great questions. What else have some people said they’ve never been asked?

KW: In a totally different vein, Taraji Henson said no one ever asked her what color panties she’s wearing. How about bookworm Troy Johnson’s question: What was the last book you read?

ER: Woman, a novel by Charles Bukowski. I love his work, and I find him interesting as a person. He’s quite a character.

KW: Music maven Heather Covington’s question: What’s music are you listening to nowadays?

ER: A lot of old music, Motown… Marvin Gaye... Rock and Roll… The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. I still listen to the Donny Hathaways, and I’m just discovering some lesser-known songs of my mom that I never heard of.

KW: I still love that album she did with Marvin Gaye with You Are Everything and a lot of other classics. It’s one of those perfect albums where every song is great.

ER: Yeah, it’s incredible. And so many people have never heard that album. I love those songs.

KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan question: Where in L.A. do you live?

ER: I live in the Hills. Not long ago, I bought my first house, which is a big responsibility, but I enjoy it. [Laughs] It’s nice, but I didn’t realize how big a responsibility it was, especially when I’m moving around so much. But I’m up in the Hills, and close to a lot of friends and people I work with. I enjoy where I’m at, the Sunset Plaza area. I might want to be further away at some point, but I know me, and if I spend too much time by myself, I think way too much. I like being around people.

KW: Does your mom live in Los Angeles, too?

ER: Yes, she does. She lives very close to me. She’s back and forth between L.A. and Greenwich. It’s more peaceful for her out there. It can be hard for here with the paparazzi around. So, she stays inside a lot or goes down to Malibu.

KW: Are you able to go to the mall or the movie theater without getting mobbed?

ER: Of course. I’m not afraid of people, and I do whatever I want. I think that when you start rolling with an entourage, you attract attention and you tend to create this whole big thing. My mom taught me that when you keep a low profile most people tend to totally miss you because they’re not expecting anything. I was just in Atlanta, working with Dallas, and it was interesting to see how many people knew me from ATL.

KW: How close are you to your mom?

ER: Me and my mom are extremely, extremely close. And I’m very close with Tracee and my other siblings. They all look out for me because they think I’m a little crazy. And I do the same for them. I love that we’re all very close. And my brother, Ross, who’s ten months older is great. He’s in college in New York. I go there to spend time with him, and he comes out to visit, too.

KW: How do you want to be remembered?

ER: That’s hard to say. I want to be remembered for the good work that I’ve done, for the positive work, and as somebody who was innovative and who people enjoyed.

KW: Hey, Evan, thanks for the interview, and best of luck with the movies, the music, and all your other endeavors.

ER: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure.

To see a trailer for Gardens of the Night, visit:

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Christmas Tale (FRENCH)

(Un Conte de Noel)

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Holiday Flick Finds Dysfunctional Family Convening for Eventful Reunion

Don’t be tricked by director Arnaud Desplechin’s deceptively benign title, this flick doesn’t spin a heartwarming yarn in the manner of such seasonal classics as It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story. No miracles lay in wait for any unfortunate orphans in this relatively sobering saga set in France.

If Jerry Springer ever decided to shoot his TV show in Paris, the protagonists of this picture, the Vuillards, would make excellent guests. For this dysfunctional family has more compelling drama than you can shake a stick of French bread at. And at the point of departure we find the clan convening at the family manse in advance of the Christmas holidays for a reunion guaranteed to stir up trouble.

The ringmaster of the three-ring circus is matriarch Junon (Catherine Deneuve), a cancer patient suffering from the same strain of leukemia which took the life of one of her sons many years ago when the boy was only 7. Today, she and her husband, Abel (Jean-Paul Roussillon), have three adult children, Henri (Mathieu Amalric), Elizabeth (Ann Consigny) and Ivan (Melvil Poupard) who arrive burdened by considerable emotional baggage as well as unresolved sibling rivalry.

For example, playwright Elizabeth has little patience for ne’er-do-well Henri, because she once had to bail him out of a bad investment for which their father had cosigned. The two haven’t spoken to each other since, so this occasion offers an opportunity for long-simmering fireworks to explode. Ivan, on the other hand, has issues with Simon (Laurent Capuletto), an orphaned cousin raised under the same roof.

It seems that Simon has been hiding a secret crush on Ivan’s wife, Sylvia (Chiara Mastroianni) since they were teenagers, so what better time to let the cat out of the bag than Christmas. All of the above is just the tip of the iceberg, as Junon is urgently in need of a bone marrow transplant. Thus, the burning question which permeates the air at the gathering is whether any of her relatives might be a suitable match.

Despite its relentlessly-grim overarching theme, A Christmas Tale’s absorbing array of richly-developed characters invariably embroiled in incestuous folderol easily outweighs the unpleasant tone of this otherwise depressing escapade. All that’s missing is Jerry Springer refereeing the play-by-play.

How do you say, “Don’t even go there, girlfriend!” in French?

Excellent (3.5 stars)


In French with subtitles.

Running time: 152 minutes

Studio: IFC Films

To see a trailer for A Christmas Tale, visit:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tropic Thunder DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Controversial Ben Stiller Action Comedy Comedy Comes to DVD

You know you’re asking for trouble when you make a movie with a white actor in blackface wearing a lower lip extension who’s always talking jive jibberish, and with a mentally-challenged character who is repeatedly teased about his disability. Consequently, it’s no surprise that this comedy, written and directed by Ben Stiller, would stir up so much controversy.

Superficially, the storyline sounds innocuous enough. It revolves around a Vietnam War flick being shot on location. Early on, we learn that each of the film’s stars has his own selfish reason for participating in the project. One (Stiller) is trying to rebound from a poorly-reviewed picture. Heroin-addict Jeff (Jack Black) wants to overhaul his image after a kiddie hit filled with fat and fart jokes.

An Oscar-winner (Robert Downey, Jr.) likes the challenge of playing an African-American, while Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) is a hot hip-hop artist out to parlay his musical success into a screen career. Finally, there’s a virtual unknown (Jay Baruchel) who’s just happy to get his big break.

However, disaster strikes soon after their arrival in Southeast Asia, when the director (Steve Coogan) is blown to bits by a land mine. It turns out that they’ve been mistaken as enemy invaders by bloodthirsty guerillas running a drug-smuggling operation. So suddenly, these clueless, pampered Hollywood actors suddenly have to fend for themselves in the jungle.

This provides plenty of fodder for a surprisingly clever satire of the war movie genre. For Tropic Thunder is an intelligent and frequently funny film with some profound points to make about the shallowness of the movie industry. Unfortunately, those relatively-subtle insights are likely to be lost on those too busy laughing at all the slapstick and cruel humor coming at the expense of minorities to bother to appreciate the movie’s deeper message.

Very Good (3 stars)


Running time: 120 minutes

Studio: Dreamworks Home Entertainment

2-Disc DVD Extras: Filmmaker commentary, cast commentary: with Ben Stiller,
Jack Black and Robert Downey, Jr., deleted and extended scenes, an alternate ending, video rehearsals, plus much more.

To see a trailer of Tropic Thunder, visit:

Bushwick Homecomings DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Revolves around Returns to Roots of Girl from the ‘Hood

When 31 year-old Stefanie Joshua was growing up in Bushwick, Brooklyn, her crime-infested neighborhood was a scary place where gunshots rang out every night. During the day, she had to run a gauntlet of crack and heroin dealers hanging on the corners, and she was even robbed of her gold necklace while riding the subway on her way home from school.

Coming of age in the Nineties during the rise of gangsta rap meant that many members of the Hip-Hop Generation would become victims of street violence. And the death in 2002 of a gentle friend nicknamed Poohbear inspired Stefanie to return to her roots to find out what became of some of the kids she grew up with.

For Ms. Joshua had somehow escaped the ghetto and attended Stony Brook University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics. Next, she earned an MA in Sociology at CCNY, writing her master’s thesis on delinquency and social disorganization theory.

Though she had no formal training in filmmaking, Stefanie started interviewing men from her block, encouraging them to reflect honestly on their challenging childhoods. The result is Bushwick Homecomings, a remarkable documentary which leaves the viewer with the feeling that it’s a miracle that any of them could have survived such a dysfunctional and dangerous concrete jungle.

Ironically, the picture also points out that blacks are currently disappearing from the area which is belatedly benefiting from an aggressive urban renewal program. With gentrification gradually erasing the African-American footprint from the community, Bushwick Homecomings stands as all the more significant as an historical record of tougher times and a tribute to those still around to talk about them.

Very Good (3 stars)


Running time: 37 minutes

DVD Extras: Director’s statement plus previously unreleased footage.

To see a trailer of Bushwick Homecomings, visit:

Mister Lonely DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Michael Jackson Look-a-Like Dominates Drama Due on DVD

A Michael Jackson impersonator (Diego Luna) has been eking out a living on the streets of Paris even though, except for the trademark dance moves, felt fedora and a single glove, he doesn’t really look anything like him. As fate would have it, while performing for the elderly at a senior citizen center he meets a hauntingly-beautiful Marilyn Monroe look-a-like (Samantha Morton).

Sensing that “Michael” is a lost and lonely soul, she invites him home to her castle in the Scottish Highlands where she lives with a host of other celebrity wannabes, including her mustachioed husband, Charlie Chaplin (Dennis Lavant), and their mop-topped, six year-old daughter, Shirley Temple (Esme Creed-Miles).

Michael takes her up on the generous offer, as much because he was instantly smitten, as for the company of like-minded oddballs. Upon their arrival at the seaside estate, Marilyn matter-of-factly announces, “I found a Michael,” whereupon the stranger finds himself welcomed into a community of losers pretending to be everyone from Madonna (Melita Morgan) to Sammy Davis, Jr. (Jason Pennycooke) to James Dean (Joseph Morgan) to Abraham Lincoln (Richard Strange) to Buckwheat (Michael-Joel Stuart) to the Pope (James Fox) to Little Red Riding Hood (Rachel Korine) to the Queen of England (Anita Pallenberg) to The Three Stooges, Moe (Daniel Rovai), Larry (Mal Whiteley) and Curly (Nigel Cooper).

The front story of this uneven production revolves around this motley crew’s plans to put on a vaudeville show. Meanwhile, a subplot revolves around the simmering sexual tensions which arise between Michael and Marilyn after she rejects her hubby because he reminds her more of Hitler than Chaplin.

Unfortunately, once the novelty of all the celebrity impersonations wears off, the film never gives you much of a reason to care about the predicaments of any of its cardboard characters.

Fair (1.5 stars)


Running time: 112 minutes

Studio: Genius Products

DVD Extras: Deleted scenes and “The Making of” featurette.

To see a trailer of Mister Lonely, visit: