Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Soloist DVD



DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Bio-Pic Starring Jamie Foxx as Homeless Savant Arrives on DVD

Despite being raised in the ‘hood by a single-mom, child prodigy Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) exhibited such promise on the cello that by the time he graduated from high school in 1970 he had earned a scholarship to Juilliard. But unlike his classmates such as Yo-Yo Ma, Nathaniel would never get a chance to realize his full potential, because during his sophomore year he began exhibiting symptoms of the schizophrenia which would derail his dream of a career in classical music.
Soon, he had to drop out of school and return home to Cleveland where he was cared for by his mother until she passed away in 2000. At that juncture, he headed west, prompted by a delusion that his long-lost father resided in Los Angeles. Instead, Nathaniel only ended up on the infamous Skid Row, leading a hand-to-mouth existence in obscurity alongside thousands of the equally destitute and less-fortunate.
There, the only hint of his musical past was revealed when he periodically played the violin in the park while standing beneath a statue of Ludwig Van Beethoven. Nonetheless, Nathaniel generally went unnoticed by passersby until the fateful day, Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.), a writer for the L.A. Times, was struck by the virtuosity being exhibited by this homeless man on a battered, old instrument with only two strings.
The intrigued reporter introduced himself, and was shocked to hear semi-lucid Nathaniel, during rare moments of clarity, assert that he had once studied at Juilliard. After confirming that rarified pedigree with the school’s administration office in New York, Lopez decided to write a series of feature stories about how someone so talented could end up a street musician begging for tips. However, he gradually found himself crossing the line from dispassionate journalist to friend and benefactor as he became increasingly involved with rehabilitating his subject, not only finding him an apartment, but arranging for violin lessons and mental health treatment as well.
Thus, “Can this lost soul be saved?” is the burning question posed by The Soloist, a bittersweet bio-pic based on Mr. Lopez’s best-seller of the same name. Directed by Joe Wright (Atonement), the film features Jamie Foxx who does a magnificent job in his most challenging outing since Ray. Here, he convincingly conveys the tragic plight of a man still capable of flashes of brilliance who is more often than not betrayed by his own brain.
A compelling cross of a couple of Academy Award-winning Best Pictures, A Beautiful Mind and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which is capable of holding its own up against those similarly-themed, screen classics.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, drug use and profanity.
Running time: 116 minutes
Studio: Dreamworks Home video
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, director’s commentary, “The Making of” plus a couple of other featurettes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Obsessed DVD



DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Psychological Thriller Featuring Beyonce’ Comes to DVD

Derek Charles (Idris Elba) is on top of the world, having recently been promoted to Executive Vice President at a leading, Los Angeles investment house. Furthermore, he couldn’t be more in love with his beautiful wife, Sharon (Beyonce’), and young son, Kyle (Nathan and Nicolas Myers), and he has just purchased a sprawling, suburban McMansion for his picture-perfect family.
However, Derek has no idea that their American Dream is about to morph into a never-ending nightmare the fateful morning that a temp agency sends Lisa Sheridan (Ali Larter) to fill-in for his secretary who’s out with the flu.
Derek agrees to this arrangement against his better judgment, since he’s promised Sharon he’d never hire another female assistant because their love had blossomed out of an office romance. Yet, he not only lets Lisa stay for the rest of the day but even allows her to remain with the firm indefinitely.
Meanwhile, Lisa’s inappropriate behavior gradually escalates from flirting to cornering Derek for a kiss under the mistletoe at the company Christmas Party to following him into the men’s room to trying to seduce him in the parking garage and more. Inexplicably, Derek proves to be either too polite, too flattered or too dense (or maybe a combination of all of the above) to fire Lisa on the spot. Instead, he recklessly risks both his career and his marriage by failing to mention to his wife or his boss (Bruce McGill) that he’s being stalked by a delusional employee who craves his body.
Superficially, the plotline of Obsessed reads like a thinly-veiled remake of Fatal Attraction, as it features so many similarities to that classic thriller that the original’s scriptwriter, James Dearden, deserves to share a credit for the screenplay. Whether it’s the suicidal sexpot, the kidnapping of Derek’s son, his fed-up wife’s being forced to take the law into her own hands, or the femme fatale having nine lives in the climactic finale, the story often looks like a line-by-line rip-off.
Nonetheless, that being said, the three principal cast members throw themselves into their respective roles with such gusto that they manage to generate a palpable tension which makes this B-version feel genuinely fresh and exciting. Idris Elba rises to the challenge of playing his clueless character convincingly, while Beyonce’ is just as good as the doubting spouse with serious trust issues. But it is Ali Larter as home wrecking Lisa who steals the movie by serving up a scary screen monster so despicable you’ll be cheering with relief by the time she finally gets her comeuppance.
A cautionary reminder that Hell still hath no fury like a woman scorned, especially when she’s a crazy, two-faced psycho.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, violence, suggestive dialogue and mature themes.
Running time: 108 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Three featurettes entitled, “Dressed to Kill,” “Playing Nicely Together” and “Girl Fight!”

To order a copy of Obsessed, visit: Amazon.com


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

OPENING THIS WEEK
Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening August 7, 2009


BIG BUDGET FILMS

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (PG-13 for mayhem and graphic violence) Action-oriented thriller about an elite team of gadget-equipped, military spies who venture to the ends of the Earth in search of the international arms dealer (Christopher Eccleston) masterminding a diabolical plot to plunge the planet into complete chaos. Supporting cast includes Channing Tatum, Dennis Quaid, Arnold Vosloo and Sienna Miller.

Julie & Julia (PG-13 for sensuality and brief profanity) Nora Ephron directs this lighthearted bio-pic merging the memoir of celebrated chef Julia Child (Meryl Streep) with that of her biggest fan, a suburban housewife (Amy Adams) who tried to cook 524 of her idol’s famous recipes over the course of a single year. With Jane Lynch, Stanley Tucci and Chris Messina.

Paper Heart (PG-13 for profanity) Romantic comedy revolving around a jaded young woman (Charlene Yi) who meets the guy of her dreams (Michael Cera) while traveling across the country interviewing people for a documentary she’s making about the meaning of love. Cast includes Seth Rogen, Jake M. Johnson and Paul Rust.

A Perfect Getaway (R for profanity, sexual references, graphic violence and drug use) Horror flick about a newlywed couple (Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich) whose backpacking honeymoon on Hawaii turns into a nightmarish struggle for survival when they discover that psychopaths are stalking and slaughtering tourists camping out on the beaches. With Timothy Oliphant, Kiele Sanchez and Marley Shelton.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Beeswax (Unrated) Quirky ensemble comedy, set in Austin, Texas, centering on a couple of identical twins, one, a wheelchair-bound paraplegic (Maggie Hatcher), the other, a clothing store owner (Tilly Hatcher) who rekindles a romance with an ex-lover (Alex Karpovsky) in order to get legal help with a lawsuit filed against her by her business partner (Anne Dodge).

Bliss (Unrated) Dysfunctional family drama based on Omer Zulfu Livaneli’s incendiary best seller about a 17 year-old rape victim (Ozgu Namal) whose mortified Muslim parents (Emin Gursoy and Sebnem Kostem) ask her cousin (Murat Han) to perform an honor killing when she refuses to commit suicide after her loss of chastity. (In Turkish with subtitles)

Cold Souls (PG-13 for nudity and brief profanity) Paul Giamatti plays himself in this droll, sci-fi dramedy about an off-Broadway actor with performance anxiety who travels from New York to Russia to retrieve his medically-extracted soul from the ambitious, soap opera actress (Dina Korzun) who borrowed it. Cast includes David Strathairn, Emily Watson and Katheryn Winnick.

I Sell the Dead (Unrated) Horror comedy, set in 19th C. Ireland, chronicling a condemned grave robber’s (Dominic Monaghan) confessing his and recently-beheaded partner’s (Larry Fessenden) exploits to a priest (Ron Perlman) en route to the guillotine.

Smile ‘Til It Hurts (Unrated) documentary revisits the rise of Up with People, the cult-like, faith-based singing sensation sponsored in the Sixties and Seventies by the Religious Right as a politically-conservative alternative to rebellious Rock & Roll.

Not Quite Hollywood



Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Daring Documentary revisits the Golden Age of Australian Cinema

For decades, the Australian movie industry was subject to one of the most repressive set of censorship rules around. Consequently, nobody wanted to see the terribly-tame productions shot in the country, not even the Aussies themselves. But after shifting social mores led to a liberalizing of the laws in the Seventies, virtually overnight the land Down Under became more associated with sexually-explicit romps and gratuitous violence than with cuddly koalas and kangaroos.
That stunning transformation is the subject of Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation, a dizzying documentary simultaneously combining running commentaries with shocking snippets of footage culled from representative samples of the sensational genre. Foremost among the experts weighing-in on the subject is Quentin Tarantino who is never identified as a director but merely as a “fan” every time he appears onscreen. And that appellation proves appropriate as Tarantino generally just gushes about this or that over the top technique employed by colleagues whose gutsy approach to filmmaking he obviously admires.
Unfolding at a rapid machine gun pace which never pauses to take a breath, Not Quite Hollywood starts with titillating sequences of topless actresses to show how bawdy Aussie cinema became once freed of governmental restraints. Next, splatter flicks featuring everything from severed limbs to decapitated corpses get the same frenetic treatment, followed by horror fare in which the monster hunting for humans was frequently a souped-up automobile.
A bodacious effort which successfully elevates a bevy of godawful B-movies to an art form worthy not only of study but appreciation to boot.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, violence, gore, drug use, profanity and graphic nudity.
Running time: 103 minutes
Studio: Magnolia Pictures

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Renegade: The Making of a President

by Richard Wolffe

Crown Publishers

Hardcover, $26.00

368 pages

ISBN: 978-0-307-46312-8

 

 

                                  

Book Review by Kam Williams

 

“This is the making of a president, witnessed from a front-row seat, as it unfolded from its first day to its last. With the help of more than a dozen one-on-one interviews with the candidate and then president—as well as scores of sessions with his trusted aides, friends and family—this account is an attempt to translate the enigma of Barack Obama, to answer the questions of who he is and what ay behind his rise from freshman senator to forty-fourth president of the United States of America.”

·         Excerpted from Chapter One, “Change” (pages 5-6)

 

The election of Barack Obama has spawned a cottage industry of

books about the President and the First Lady. Many of these publications have merely been “take the money and run” rip-offs rushed to print in a calculated attempt to cash-in on the collective euphoria about the historic moment. One author even freely admits in the introduction of her tome that she never even spoke to either the Obamas or to any of their relatives, friends or colleagues. But that didn’t prevent her from quickly putting out a coffee table-type keepsake.

People who were patient enough to wait for a quality opus will find themselves handsomely rewarded by Renegade, a recounting of Obama’s ascension to the White House by Richard Wolffe, a reporter who was assigned by Newsweek Magazine to cover the 2008 campaign from beginning to end. Over those 21 months, he enjoyed unusual access to the candidate, since it was Barack himself who came up with the idea of Wolfe’s chronicling his rise to the presidency for posterity, ala The Making of the President, the Teddy White’s classic about JFK.

Renegade revisits all of the high and low points of the campaign trail, allowing the reader to get inside Obama’s head at critical moments, like after the win in Iowa, the loss in New Hampshire and during the agonizing days of the Reverend Wright controversy. We also learn when Obama identified Hillary Clinton’s Achilles Heel, and when and why he decided to neutralize her as a threat by appointing her as his Secretary of State.

Furthermore, Wolffe discusses the Obamas’ early years together, when Barack’s “restless political ambitions took their marriages and finances to the brink.” Michelle essentially supported the family during that period until he finally agreed to take what “was supposed to be his last shot at politics,” a run for the U.S. Senate. Miraculously, “He burst onto the national scene with a single speech, trounced the opposition, and secured a handsome book contract.”

And the rest is history, and it’s all recounted here in vivid detail.

 

To order a copy of Renegade, visit: Amazon.com

 

 

Streets of Blood DVD

 

DVD Review by Kam Williams

 

Headline: 50 Cent and Val Kilmer Co-Stars as Cops in Post-Katrina Crime Caper

 

                This grisly thriller is set in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, during a time when devastation and lawlessness defined The Big Easy. Wading right into the messy aftermath and trying to wrest control back from the criminals are veteran detective Andy Devereaux (Val Kilmer) and his new partner, rookie cop Stan Green (50 Cent).  

                Right off the bat we learn that Andy abides by the first law of nature, as he explains to his shrink (Sharon Stone) why he has no qualms about taking another man’s life, if necessary. He simplistically summarizes his credo of self-preservation with the rationalization that “It’s better to be judged by 12 than to be carried by 6.” Stan, by contrast, was raised in the ‘hood where he ran with a rough crowd until he decided to go straight for the sake of his wife (Pilar Sanders) and their 3 young kids.

However, when Andy and Stan try to bring down a drug ring, they encounter interference from colleagues on the take intent on keeping the cartel in business. For instance, they cross paths with a crooked undercover cop who arrogantly announces, “You don’t exist in this city unless I say so.” Thus, it is no surprise that our heroes soon end up paranoid and fearing their own force more than any mobsters. 

And as they dig deeper, their suspicions are confirmed, as they unearth evidence of corruption which not only implicates DEA Agents but which points to the highest levels of their own department, possibly including their boss, Captain John Friendly (Barry Shabaka Henley). So unfolds Streets of Blood, an appropriately titled splatter flick featuring both incessant action and a very complicated, multi-layered mystery which I dare not spoil by revealing any further details.

Suffice to say that Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Val Kilmer deserve kudos galore for cultivating a convincing chemistry as cops unfairly considered rogue merely for being honest. A well-concealed whodunit which takes you on a relentlessly-raw, rollercoaster ride certain to satiate the bloodlust of fans of the high body-count genre. 

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for violence, nudity, sexuality, drug content and pervasive profanity. 

Running time: 95 minutes

Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment

 

 

Fragments



Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Psychological Drama Studies Survivors of Spree Killing

The tranquility of an otherwise unremarkable morning is shattered when a psychopath pulls out a gun and starts randomly spraying bullets around a diner in Los Angeles. A number of people perish, including ultimately the shooter, but those who lost their lives are not the subject of this harrowing psychological drama. Instead, it focuses on the emotional fallout visited upon several traumatized souls who witnessed but miraculously survived the slaying.
Based on the novel Winged Creatures by Roy Freirich, Fragments was directed by Australia’s Rowan Woods, who managed to assemble a stellar ensemble to execute his vision for the screen adaptation. The serendipitous nature of the picture’s elliptical plotline is reminiscent of Crash, although this thought-provoking mindbender is certainly novel enough to stand on its own.
In the wake of the slaughter at the point of departure, we see that each of the characters reacts differently, starting with Charlie Archenault (Forest Whitaker) who had only been grazed in the neck by a bullet while sitting at the restaurant’s counter. Although Charlie was already suffering from cancer, he sees his close shave as a sign of good fortune, so he goes to a gambling casino to test whether his brush with death is the beginning of a lucky streak.
On the other hand, waitress Carla Davenport (Kate Beckinsale), an overburdened single-mom, responds to the incident rather irrationally, by neglecting her baby’s needs and by flirting with one of her customers, the unhappily-married Dr. Bruce Laraby (Guy Pearce).
Then there’s teenager Anne Hagen (Dakota Fanning) who turns to religion to cope, much to the chagrin of her mother (Jeanne Tripplehorn) who is mostly frustrated by her being Born Again. Other sidebars feature Jennifer Hudson as Charlie’s concerned daughter, Embeth Davidtz as the doctor’s distant wife and Josh Hutcherson as Anne’s boyfriend who had been at the scene, too, and successfully ducked under a table.
Harrowing proof of the metaphysical harm inflicted by gun massacres.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated R for violence, sexuality and profanity.
Running time: 95 minutes
Studio: Peace Arch Entertainment

Monday, July 27, 2009

Niecy Nash: The "G-Force" Interview



The “G-Force” Interview
with Kam Williams

Headline: G for Glamorous Niecy!

Niecy Nash was born Carol Denise Ensley in Palmdale, California on February 23, 1970. She developed an interest in show business at a very early age after seeing the fabulous Lola Falana on TV. But she first earned a B.A. at California State University before embarking on a career in Hollywood, starting out as a standup comic.
Known for always wearing a trademark flower in her hair, Niecy made her
big screen debut in Boys on the Side in 1995, which led to her landing support roles in such movies as Cookie’s Fortune, The Bachelor and Malibu’s Most Wanted. The glamorous actress subsequently appeared in such blockbusters as Spiderman 2, Guess Who and Code Name: The Cleaner and Reno 911!: Miami, the screen version of the hit television series where she co-stars as Deputy Raineesha Williams.
Speaking of TV, Niecy is also recognized for playing Benita, the late Bernie Mac’s sister on The Bernie Mac Show. Here, she talks about her work in G-Force, the Disney family comedy featuring a mix of animation and live-action which is currently the #1 movie at the box office.

Kam Williams: Hi Niecy,
Niecy Nash: Hi baby, how are ya?
KW: Great. Thanks so much for the time.
NN: You’re more than welcome.
KW: Do you have one of your trademark flowers in your hair right now, early in the morning, as we speak?
NN: [Laughs] I’m gonna tell you the truth that I do not.
KW: How did you come to wear a flower all the time?
NN: When I started out in the “home makeover” genre, I was the only black woman doing that type of TV show. But I wasn’t na├»ve enough to think I was going to remain the only one. So I decided to come up with a way of setting myself aside. It started out as branding, but now I’m a little tied to it, because if I go out without a flower, my fans get upset.
KW: What varieties of flowers do you wear?
NN: Oh, roses, orchids, a little bit of everything.
KW: Do florists and fans help you out?
NN: Not so much florists, but fans definitely do.
KW: W.C. Fields once said, “Never work with children or animals,“ because you’ll be upstaged. What interested you in doing G-Force, in spite of that age-old Hollywood maxim?
NN: But you have to work with Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney. So, if it comes down to that, hey! I actually auditioned for him, and he hired me right away.
KW: Tell me a little about your character, Rosalita.
NN: She’s a woman who owns the pet store where the hamsters live. She’s funny and speaks a form of broken Spanish I like to call “Spanglish.”
KW: How hard was it to act opposite invisible animated characters?
NN: In a way, it was a little similar to doing a voiceover, but they made it as easy as possible.
KW: How, by having a stand-in read their lines?
NN: Yeah, and we played with stuffed animals a lot.
KW: What is G-Force’s message?
NN: I’d have to say that the underlying message is that you are what you believe you are.
KW: Is this movie just for kids?
NN: No, I think adults are going to love it, too.
KW: The last time we spoke was before Bernie Mac died. You played his sister on his show and you were also in the movie Guess Who with him. How were you affected by his passing?
NN: Bernie Mac was one of the most authentic and most generous people I’ve had the privilege of working with in this business. Most people are only familiar with the Bernie they saw on camera, but just as impressive was the real Bernie, this amazing man you’d meet off camera.
KW: And how did you feel about the death of Michael Jackson?
NN: Michael Jackson was a man who sacrificed his childhood to give us music that would last forever. So, there has to be some level of respect for his family’s privacy. Most people, if they should, God forbid, drop dead today, there are some things that they wouldn’t want their family, their friends, or anybody to know about them. Therefore, when you look at Michael’s passing through that personal lens, it should make you a little more forgiving in the pursuit of the sort of information the tabloids are seeking.
KW: Is there any question no one has ever asked you, that you wish someone would?
NN: No one has ever asked me that. [Laughs] I can’t think of one. Reporters are thorough.
KW: Here are some of the questions I got from celebrities when I asked them that. The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
NN: First of all, I love Tasha Smith. Secondly, I really try to exercise my faith, because I find that fear and faith can’t exist inside of me at the same time. If there’s anything in my life that makes me feel fearful, I attempt to face it and conquer it because I don’t rest in a place of fear.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
NN: you got that from Columbus? I mean, you get people to come up with some gooooooood questions! This makes me feel forced to come up with one. It’s like, “Wait a minute! I know I can think of an interesting question, too.” Let’s see. Am I happy? Yes I am. I live my life believing that any day above ground is a good day. At this stage of the game, I’m a single woman. I would love to be sharing my life with someone special. But still, when I lay my head down at night, I have to say that I love my life. I love the fact that I am able to live my dream and feed my family at the same time. Sometimes, those two don’t work hand-in-hand.
KW: When I saw you on The View recently, you talked about having a new boyfriend here in New Jersey. What happened to that relationship?
NN: We’re still really good friends, but we stopped seeing each other simply because of our locations. It’s really difficult to date with 3,000 miles between us. Somebody needed to move.
KW: How do you balance raising three kids with your career?
NN: I thank God almost every day for my mother. She helps me a great deal, because I did not want a nanny or someone I didn’t know in my home helping me with my children. Fortunately, my mother is able to help me maintain it all. She retired early and sold her house to move in with us.
KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan was wondering, where in L.A. you live?
NN: In the Valley.
KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?
NN: My fans can help me remaining supportive. It’s difficult for African-Americans to stay on television. If you’re a fan, you need to follow that person, support the work they do, send a letter or an email to let the studios and the industry know that you’re paying attention, and what you want more of.
KW: Where can you’re fans contact you?
NN: I have my own site, www.niecynash.com.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
NN: Before You Do: Making Great Decisions That You Won't Regret

KW: What is your favorite meal to cook?
NN: I prefer to make reservations at the Oceanaire, my favorite restaurant of all time. It’s on the East Coast. But there’s so much good food in Los Angeles, from fine dining to hole-in-the-wall places. I’ll take any of it, as long as I don’t have to stand over a stove.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to nowadays?
NN: I listen to R&B and Gospel. Those are my two favorite genres.
KW: Teri Emerson would like to know, when was the last time you had a good laugh?
NN: [Laughs] My girlfriend Jamil is not a comedienne, and has never been on stage, but I promise you that she is by far the funniest person I have ever met in my life. And I’ve met every comedian in Hollywood. There isn’t a day that goes by when I speak to her that I don’t literally laugh out loud. So, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to laugh every day because I know her.
KW: Do you see yourself as an actress first or as a comedienne?
NN: I’d have to say I see myself as a comedienne first. And no one has ever asked me that question either.
KW: Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?
NN: My sheroes are my mother, Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou and Oprah. At the top of my hero list would be President Barack Obama.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
NN: The truth.
KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
NN: That you pursue whatever God has helped you identify as your destiny, no matter what.
KW: How do you want to be remembered?
NN: I would love to be remembered as being a blessing.
KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
NN: Experiencing personal tragedy. When I was 15, I saw my mother get shot right in front of me. And then my brother was murdered the day before my 23rd birthday, Those are the things that are still pressed against the fabric of my soul every day. Those personal tragedies change you forever so that you’re in a perpetual state of overcoming.
KW: Now that you’ve had a little time, can you think of a question no one has ever asked you?
NN: No one has ever asked me whether I’ve had an awful experience working on a project. People just assume that everything’s great because you’re on TV or in a movie. But every day is not always the best day. There’s an upside and a downside to everything, including entertainment. The downside is not only when you don’t get work. What about when you’re in a cast with an actor who’s insatiable, with a diva who’s over the top with her foolishness, or working for a director who’s ruthless or a cutthroat? They can wear on you as well.
KW: Thanks again, and best of luck with G-Force and all your other endeavors.
NN: You’re welcome. Bye-bye.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Ugly Truth



Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: An Ugly Sitcom, and That’s the Truth

Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) is the exasperated producer of Sacramento AM, a TV morning show suffering from poor ratings. Presently, morale in the studio is so low that crew members have begun bickering with each other on a daily basis, even co-hosts Georgia (Cheryl Hines) and Larry Redding (John Michael Higgins) who happen to be married to each other.
Faced with the prospect of having her program cancelled, Abby grudgingly agrees to let her boss (Nick Searcy) make several programming changes, although she hates the idea of allowing corporate management to dictate content. Still, she could never have guessed that the first personality he’d hire would be a sexist like Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler), a Neanderthal with a popular relationship advice show on public access television.
It turns out that just the night before, Abby happened to tune in to an episode of “The Ugly Truth” by accident. And she’d been so outraged by Mike’s misogynistic musings that she was prompted to call in to confront him on the air about his pronouncement that all men are shallow and only interested in a woman’s looks. Unfortunately, he gets the better of the exchange, putting the anonymous caller on the defensive by insinuating that she was a lonely spinster. Then, he referred to her as a “house-bound inbred” before hanging up on her unceremoniously.
Romantically-challenged Abby’s love life has admittedly been a disappointment, between focusing on her career and saving herself for the sort of perfect gentleman that macho Mike claims doesn’t exist. Of course, the two butt heads from the moment he arrives at the station the following morning, especially when he goes over her head to get approval for segments featuring everything from female Jello wrestling to a couple of brainless bimbos billed as “The Fun Bag Twins.”
So unfolds the battle-of-the-sexes scenario established at the outset of The Ugly Truth, a predictable romantic comedy directed by Robert Luketic (Monster in Law). Only in a formulaic Hollywood fairytale could an infuriated feminist like Abby eventually fall for a creepy cave man like Mike. This transpires in spite of the appearance of a perfectly-respectable suitor, Colin (Eric Winter), a handsome and polite doctor with all the attributes she’d been holding out for. The script (written by a trio of ostensibly self-hating females, by the way) has her preferring a date-rape advocate who believes that “Just because she says no doesn’t mean she means no.”
But worse than the implausible and patently offensive plotline is the picture’s relentlessly-raunchy brand of humor designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator in a decidedly-coarse fashion. For example, director Luketic shamelessly lifts the classic fake orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally, except that the climax is neither faux nor funny in this crude variation on the theme.
Ugly, and that’s the truth!

Fair (1 star)
Rated R for sexuality and profanity.
Running time: 97 minutes
Studio: Columbia Pictures

Saturday, July 25, 2009

An American Affair DVD



DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: JFK Becomes Embroiled in Unsavory Triangle in Historical Drama

While President Kennedy was in office, the press apparently turned the other way while he was cheating on Jackie with Marilyn Monroe and other girlfriends. Those days were very different from the present when everything is fair game, and it’s always up to a loyal wife to save the political career of her philandering husband, like First Lady Hillary did for Bill Clinton repeatedly. An American Affair, set in Washington, D.C. in 1963, revolves around an implausible love triangle involving JFK, a beautiful divorcee (Gretchen Mol) and a 13 year-old boy (Cameron Bright).
At the point of departure we meet Adam in uniform at his Catholic school, where he is obviously unhappy about being bullied. Soon thereafter, we see the lonely latchkey kid letting himself into his home in Georgetown, since both of his parents (Perrey Reeves and Noah Wyle) are employed as journalists. Then, just while he’s enjoying a layout in the latest issue of Playboy, he looks out the window and lo and behold is treated to the sight of his gorgeous, new next-door neighbor undressing.
This fortuitous development turns Adam into a Peeping Tom till he summons up the courage to introduce himself to the object of his affection. The excuse he uses to approach Catherine is that he needs a job to raise money for a school trip to Europe. Aware of his barely-contained crush, she decides to hire him as her gardener.
However, this only serves to escalate his obsession to the level of stalking. Now monitoring the inside of her apartment with a camera, he can’t help but notice that his competition is the President. He even sneaks in one day to read her journal only to end up watching them make love from inside Catherine’s closet.
The entire kinky scenario unfolds against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it gradually becomes clear that Castro might be planning a little revenge in Dallas. Regrettably, JFK was too busy sowing his wild oats to listen to a mistress trying to pass along a warning from an earnest CIA operative.
Brace yourself for a bittersweet sendoff, since the prognosis is likely tragic for a wayward woman not only sleeping with the President but entertaining the advances of a minor to boot. A flick for Kennedy assassination conspiracy buffs which puts a whole new spin on the phrase “grassy knoll” courtesy of the flamboyance of a nearly-naked Gretchen Mol.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for nudity, sexuality and profanity.
Running time: 93 minutes
Studio: Screen Media Films
DVD Extras: Deleted and extended scenes.

Miss March DVD



DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Girl Next-Door Becomes Playboy Playmate in Raunchy Teensploit Released on DVD

High school seniors Eugene Pratt (Zach Cregger) and Tucker Cleigh (Trevor Moore) are best friends, despite the fact that the former is a celibate nerd, while the latter is a popular player who openly boasts openly about having already slept with a dozen different women. Eugene and his girlfriend, Cindi Whitehall (Raquel Alessi) have agreed to abstinence, because his big brother got a woman pregnant the first time he had sex.
But since they’re about to graduate, Cindi suggests that they make love the night of the Prom. Eugene reluctantly agrees, but then gets so drunk on Jack Daniels that he spoils the big moment by falling down a flight of stairs and ending up in a coma. Much has changed by the time he comes around four years later when Cindi just happens to be naked in the current issue of Playboy Magazine where she is featured as Playmate of the Month.
Furthermore, she’s living out in L.A. at the Playboy Mansion with Hugh Hefner and the rest of his harem. And to add insult to injury, Eugene learns that she’s no longer a virgin from a former classmate-turned-gangsta’ rapper who goes by the monicker Horsedick MPEG (Craig Robinson).
The foulmouthed MPEG has catchy hit songs at the top of the charts with titles like “I’m going to [f-word] a white bitch” and “Suck my [d-word] while I [f-word] that [a-word]. Charming. One of the most reprehensible African-American characters in the history of cinema, he actually celebrates that fans were killed at his CD release party.
Even more disgusting is the scene where, upon learning that Eugene is still a virgin, he orders Crystal (Tanjareen Martin) a woman in his entourage to “Get in here and have sex with this dude.” Sadly, the attractive sister simply obliges, immediately taking off her top to try to seduce the stranger, only to die suddenly when an act of God intervenes. .
This is no surprise, since it’s obvious that Eugene is supposed to save himself for his long-lost sweetheart. Will Cindi see the error of her ways and want Eugene back, or has she been irreversibly turned into a wanton blonde bimbo only too willing to be seen as a sex object? Who cares?
This relentlessly insulting and offensive flick attempts to redeem itself with 11th-hour moralizing after every frame up to the end had been a wholesale celebration of the debasement of females and the stereotyping of blacks as depraved? I‘m done.

Poor (0 stars)
Rated R for nudity, sexuality, drug use, pervasive profanity, and crude humor.
Running time: 91 minutes
Studio: Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Unrated version of film, Fox trailers, viral videos, two auditions and a “Down and Dirty” music featurette.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: The Lincoln on Race and Slavery Interview



This is an interview Kam conducted with Dr. Gates back in February 2009. He approached him for another interview about his recent arrest, but he declined at this time.

with Kam Williams

Headline: Dr. Gates Gets Honest about Abe

Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr. was born in Piedmont, West Virginia on September 16, 1950 to Henry, Sr. and Pauline Coleman. Today, he is a world-renowned scholar and educator and the Alphonse Fletcher Professor at Harvard University.
In his capacity as a public intellectual, he has served as host of “African-American Lives,” a PBS series which employs a combination of genealogy and science to reconstruct the family trees of the descendants of slaves. And just last year, he co-founded “The Root,” a sophisticated website dedicated to the concerns of the black intelligentsia.
Here, in conjunction with the celebration of the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, Professor Gates discusses two new projects revolving around the 16th President, his book, “Lincoln on Race and Slavery,” and his PBS special, “Looking for Lincoln.”

KW: Hi Dr. Gates, I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.
SG: No, it’s my pleasure.
KW: Where should I start? What approach did you take in terms of producing your new PBS series on Lincoln?
SG: Lincoln’s myth is so capacious that each generation of Americans has been able to find its own image reflected in the mirror of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln is our “Man for All Seasons.” There’s a Communist Lincoln, a Republican Lincoln, Lincoln the writer, Lincoln the orator, Lincoln the atheist, Lincoln the Christian, Lincoln the war criminal, Lincoln the Savior of the Union, the Confederate Lincoln, the African-American Lincoln, etcetera. So, I wanted to look at all these myths about Lincoln, deconstruct them, and see what the actual man was like. And, frankly, I also wanted to confront the complexity of his attitudes towards slavery and racial equality, which weren’t exactly the same thing. For, while he was fundamentally opposed to slavery, it took him a while to embrace racial equality.
KW: As a person who majored in black studies, I appreciated the fact that you included Lerone Bennett and a discussion of his 650-page biography of Lincoln, “Forced into Glory.” Bennett’s ordinarily overlooked when it comes to Lincoln scholars, since he indicts the 16th President as a racist who very reluctantly freed the slaves.
SG: Thank you. First of all, I admire Lerone Bennett. When I was 18, I read his essay in Ebony Magazine, “Was Abe Lincoln a White Supremacist?” At the time, I didn’t have the intellectual sophistication to judge his evidence. But of course it was a shock when I read it.
KW: Did you enjoy doing research for the series?
SG: It was a delight! [Chuckles] Doing this film was a learning experience for me, because I hadn’t explored much of the Lincoln scholarship other than George Fredrickson’s last book. [Big Enough to Be Inconsistent: Abraham Lincoln Confronts Slavery and Race] I went back to read Lincoln’s own words and what historians had to say about him.
KW: What did you learn?
SG: That he was an enormously complex man… that he had his flaws, but he changed. He progressed. He changed during the Civil War. Through the efforts of Frederick Douglass and the achievements of the 200,000 black men who fought in the Union Army, he came to have new respect for black people. And, in fact, in his last speech he advocated the right to vote for the black veterans and for the “very intelligent Negroes.” That’s what made John Wilkes Booth kill him. Booth was in the audience, and said, “That’s it. That means [N-word] citizenship. And I’m going to run him through.” So, Lincoln literally gave his life for espousing black rights.
KW: On the show, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin says, “It’s not Lincoln’s fault that he was mythologized. Lincoln had to live in his times.” You responded to her by saying, “Doris was right,” and “I’ve come to admire him.” How did you get to that point?
SG: I really got to that point in the middle of that interview. I had been walking around upset with Lincoln’s reluctance to support equal rights and his determination to free the slaves but to encourage them to migrate to Panama, Haiti or Liberia. Doris said, “You’re upset because you feel like you’ve been lied to. But Lincoln didn’t lie to you. The historians did.” There’s a cult of Lincoln among some historians who feel almost like they’re the disciples of Christ. Lincoln is like a secular Christ in America. So, once I could get straight about who to be upset with, I was fine.
KW: Another thing you said which upset me was when you spoke about Lincoln’s being the seminal story in American History. Do you really think that Lincoln has replaced the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence and the rest of the Colonial Period?
SG: Oh, sure, absolutely. The primal event in American History, other than the founding itself, is the Civil War, saving the Union, defending the Constitution, and redefining the Declaration of Independence to include all men, which Lincoln did. Lincoln was very consistent about that. So, whereas you can’t have subsequent events without the founding, it really was the Civil War which was the truly great American Revolution.
KW: Tell me a little about “Lincoln on Race and Slavery.”
SG: In this book, I examine three strands of thought. Imagine a braid of hair. Most of just us say, “Lincoln freed the slaves, therefore he liked black people.” That’s the braid, but it turns out the braid has three strands. One strand is how he felt about slavery; another is how he felt about racial equality, and the third is colonization. We find contradictory impulses in Lincoln at least through 1863 when he finally begins to do the right thing, and all three strands are re-connected into a new braid.
KW: What do you think about our new president?
SG: I think Barack Obama is going to be one of the best presidents in the history of this republic.
KW: Is there a question you’ve never been asked, that you wish someone would?
SG: [Chuckles] I’ve pretty much been asked everything… Here’s one: Why do I do what I do?
KW: Why do you do what you do?
SG: Because I love black people, and my goal is to restore black history from on the grand scale, the broad sweep of history, down to the level of each black person’s family tree.
KW: Speaking of family trees, will there be a third season of African-American Lives?
SG: My next series is called “Faces of America,” where I’ll be tracing the roots of two Jewish-Americans, two Arab-Americans, two Latino-Americans, two Asian-Americans, two West Indian-Americans, two Irish Americans and an Italian-American. So, we’ll be employing the same genetics and genealogy format, but for the broader American public. I’m very excited about it.
KW: When I interviewed Lisa Kudrow, she told me a similar British TV-series is helping her trace her roots which had sort of hit a dead end with the Holocaust as far as she knew.
SG: Yeah, these genealogy shows are popping up everywhere now. And most of them are the sons and daughters of African-American Lives, so I’m very proud of that.
KW: I remember you traced most of your roots back to Ireland.
SG: Only on my father’s side. I definitely have something called the U Neill Haplotype on my father’s sign, which means I’m related to 8% of all the men in Ireland. [Chuckles]
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
SG: Sure, I was afraid the American people weren’t going to do the right thing and overcome centuries of discrimination by voting for the better candidate. A month ago, my 95 year-old father had pneumonia and I was afraid.
KW: 95! God bless him!
SG: Thanks. A little fear is a good thing. Being paralyzed by fear, however, is not a good thing.
KW: Why did you stay at Harvard during the great exodus of so many other African-American professors after they were mistreated by then Harvard President Larry Summers (who is now in the Obama administration?
SG: I stayed to defend what I, Cornell West, Anthony Appiah, former Harvard President Neil Rudenstine and our other colleagues had all built. I felt that it would be vulnerable, if I left. That’s why I stayed, and it was the right decision.
KW: How are Harvard students different from Princeton students?
SG: I’ve never taught Princeton students.
KW: Wait, I live in Princeton, and I used to see you around town and even met you here at an NAACP function.
SG: I was at the Institute for Advance Study while on leave from Harvard. But I didn’t teach. I was on sabbatical. However, I would imagine that the students are just as smart and as energetic and wonderful as the students at Harvard. They’re from the same gene pool. [Chuckles]
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
SG: I’m a very happy person. My life has been such a fantasy, I’m sometimes afraid that I’m going to wake up and it’ll turn out that I’ve been in a coma.
KW: That’s the vibe you give off, like Alicia Keys, who has a very grounded vibe.
SG: Yeah, she’s very centered.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
SG: A biography of Alain Locke by Leonard Harris and Chalres Molesworth.
KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?
SG: My mother, Pauline Coleman Gates, who is deceased, and my father, Henry Louis Gates, Sr.
KW: What was the biggest obstacle you’ve ever had to overcome?
SG: I had an infected hip replacement, a 300,000 white blood cell count, which is huge. So, I had to have emergency surgery, because I could have died. I wasn’t frightened, but that was the biggest obstacle. That’s when you’ve descended into the valley of the shadows, and you have to fight to come back. And fortunately, I made it.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to?
SG: I almost exclusively listen to Soul Street on XM Radio, Channel 60. It’s R&B from the Fifties and Sixties. I’m just an old-school black man.
KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?
SG: I want them to watch my programs and then give me their feedback and tell me what they think. That’s the best way they can help.
KW: What advice do you have for young black kid who wants to follow in your footsteps?
SG: Overall, by staying in school, deferring gratification and believing in the power of education is the way that we can help ourselves as a people.
KW: How do you want to be remembered?
SG: As a man who loved black people, and who fought to preserve their great cultural traditions!
KW: Thanks again for the time, Dr. Gates.
SG: Thank you, buddy.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Saw VI Teaser Trailer

Starring Tobin Bell, Betsy Russell, Shawnee Smith, Mark Rolston, and Peter Outerbridge.

Teaser Trailer: http://www.specialopsmedia.com/assets/Lionsgate/SawVI/SAW_VI_TEASERTRAILER_1A.zip

One-Sheet: http://www.specialopsmedia.com/assets/Lionsgate/SawVI/SawVI_TeaserPoster.zip

Synopsis:

Special Agent Strahm is dead, and Detective Hoffman has emerged as the unchallenged successor to Jigsaw's legacy. However, when the FBI draws closer to Hoffman, he is forced to set a game into motion, and Jigsaw's grand scheme is finally understood.

Factsheet:

http://www.specialopsmedia.com/assets/Lionsgate/SawVI/fact_sheet.zip

As always, it would be greatly appreciated if you would send me a link to your coverage when it goes live on New York Film Critics Online!

SAW VI opens in theaters on October 23, 2009!


Big Man Japan DVD (JAPANESE)

(Dai-Nipponjin)

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Campy Monster Mockumentary from Tokyo Arrives on DVD

Back in the Fifties, there was an explosion of low-budget, sci-fi flicks from Japan featuring an array of enormous mutants ostensibly created by the fallout from the radiation of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Although this film is, by design, reminiscent of those cheesy, badly-dubbed, black & white productions, writer/director/star Hitoshi Matsumoto has come up with a clever enough variation on the theme to refresh the genre thoroughly.

The movie is essentially a mockumentary in which a camera crew with a nagging narrator (Tomoji Hasegawa) follows around a middle-aged man named Masaru Daisatou (Matsumoto). Masaru is down on his luck despite having the ability to morph into a powerful giant who comes to the rescue whenever a monster suddenly attacks Tokyo.

First, he rushes down to the electric company where he is turned into his superhero alter ego, Big Man Japan, with the help of thousands of volts of electricity. Then, among the worthy adversaries we get to see him engage in battle against the backdrop of the Tokyo skyline are the Strangling Monster, the Leaping Monster, the Evil Stare Monster, the Stink Monster and the Child Monster. But even eradicating these dangerous enemies doesn’t bring Masaru much joy.

The reasons why he’s such a sad sack are plentiful. First of all, he’s separated from his wife who has found herself a new lover. Second, he hasn’t seen his 8 year-old daughter in 6 months. Then, there’s the fact that he’s the last surviving member of a dying breed which is no longer appreciated by his fellow countrymen.

Big Man Japan is likely to work for you to the extent you’re willing to endure special effects almost as cheap as those in the beloved, bad B-flicks like Godzilla being lampooned. Makes you almost nostalgic for some of the worst cinematic offerings ever to come out of the Orient, including such crappy classics as Rodan, Mothra and the Giant Behemoth.

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated PG-13 for action and crude humor.

In Japanese with subtitles.

Running time: 108 minutes

Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment

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

Bart Got A Room DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Jewish Teen Angst Comedy Comes to DVD

Danny Stein (Steven Kaplan) is a socially-awkward, straight-A student who plays the trumpet in his high school’s jazz band. He hails from a Jewish community in Florida which seems to be made up mostly of retirees. The gangly nerd has less of a love life than either of his recently-divorced parents (William H. Macy and Cheryl Hines), who almost rub that fact in by inappropriately sharing the sordid details of their romantic relationships with him.

At the point of departure, it’s getting dangerously close to prom night, and the sexually-repressed senior still doesn’t have a date. Unfortunately, he’s oblivious to the fact that his best friend, Camille (Alia Shawkat), would jump at the chance, if he would only ask her. But Danny simply can’t see her as anything but a buddy, despite the not so subtle hints being dropped by his parents and hers.

Instead, he spends his time fantasizing about taking Britney (Tyler O’Campo), a cute blonde classmate. When he finally summons up the nerve to ask her, she just laughs in his face. He subsequently approaches a few other classmates, invariably striking out, even declining the Asian girl (Brittney Winton) who accepts on the condition she doesn’t have to be seen with him, since she already has a boyfriend.

What really irks Danny is learning that Bart Beeber (Chad Jamian Williams), a dweeb even nerdier and homelier-looking than he is, not only has a date, but has already booked a hotel room for a little post prom hanky-panky. This prompts Danny to kick his own search into high gear, to avoid being the last of his peers to lose his virginity. Will he wise up and ask Camille, who has been patiently waiting in the wings?

So, unfolds virgin Bart Got a Room, a charming romantic comedy which proves it’s still possible to find funny teen-oriented fare that doesn’t rely on relentlessly crude and profane humor. A coming-of-age tale that you can watch with the kids without covering their eyes. How refreshing!

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated PG-13 for sexuality, mature themes and brief profanity.

Running time: 80 minutes

Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment

DVD Extras: “Pop Up Production Notebook” featurette, theatrical trailer and Anchor Bay sneak peeks.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

California Company Town

 

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

Headline: Ghost Towns Reveal American History in Brilliant Documentary

 

                Like a cinematic archaeologist, Lee Anne Schmitt packed her 16mm camera to explore the past of California’s once-booming ghost towns which presently lay empty for a variety of reasons, mostly because of the disappearance of the natural resources upon which the local industries had originally depended. What she found and recorded for posterity is shocking proof of how quickly corporate interests are willing to rape and then abandon any area as soon as it is no longer profitable.

But besides discovering these companies’ immoral indifference to ecological concerns, she found that many simultaneously advanced racist, classist and anti-union agendas, and often with the complicity and/or approval of the authorities.

For example, Schmitt visits a barren wasteland called McCloud, California, a city incorporated by the McCloud Lumber Company which entirely owned not merely the manufacturing business but the local schools, stores, even the union hall. In her research, the director unearthed proof that McCloud paid its black employees less than its white workers. Worse, when it came to living quarters, Caucasians were allowed to rent ready, well-constructed housing while African-Americans were forced to build shacks for themselves on the other side of town out of castoff boards of wood.

The legacy of Latinos revealed here isn’t any better, in cities such as Keene where migrant farm workers were treated as if they were less than human. No wonder the late, labor organizer Cesar Chavez dedicated his life to improving conditions for Mexican immigrants, especially after watching his father being denied a living wage or decent working conditions by avaricious agribusiness interests.

Schmitt also shot footage in Manzanar, the vacant site of a former concentration camp used to house American citizens of Japanese ancestry during World War II. Along with the eroding exoskeleton, she mixes in priceless propaganda wartime footage of Japanese forced by the government to put on a minstrel show in blackface ostensibly to let the rest of the country know how happy they were behind barbed wire.

As the peripatetic Schmitt travels from town to town, to places with

unfamiliar names like Chester, Scotia, Kaweah, Drawin, McKittrick, Corcoran, Arvin, Buttonwillow, Trona, Boron, Adelanto, Salton City, Silver Lakes and California City, again and again, she educates her audience about each desolate region’s devastation and about it’s ugly, unspoken history. A brilliant, haunting and informative expose’ not to be missed and not to be forgotten at awards season.  

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for profanity, sexuality and drug use. 

Running time: 76 minutes

Studio: Anthology Film Archives

 

Loren Cass

 

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

Headline: Skinhead Searches for Self in Surrealistic Southern Drama

 

                Back In 1996, riots broke out in St. Petersburg, Florida following the fatal shooting of an 18 year-old black driver by cops who had incorrectly suspected him to have stolen his vehicle. During the disturbances which ensued, a police officer was shot and 28 fires were set by rampaging hordes of African-American youths.

Chris Fuller, a white resident of the city who was 15 at the time, started writing a script about the incident, but from the controversial perspective of a skinhead. Although it took him over a decade to complete the project, the upshot of his efforts is Loren Cass, a surrealistic Southern drama sympathetic to the plight of young white rebels without a clue.

Using St. Petersburg’s palpable black-white tensions as a bleak backdrop, Loren Cass focuses on the empty lives of three individuals from the Caucasian side of the tracks. But looks can be deceiving, for as the narrator inscrutably notes, “This is their story, and it’s all a mother-[bleeping] lie.”

There’s bald from the ears up Jason (Travis Maynard), a tattooed wonder who likes to contemplate the meaning of life while waiting for a ride from Cale (Fuller), an equally-ignorant pal with a pickup truck. By day, the two have nothing more productive to do than to cruise around their lily-white enclave looking to beat the living daylights out of any African-American pedestrians unlucky enough to be walking alone in the neighborhood. Evenings, they unwind in a nearby nightclub’s mosh pit watching stage diving as noisy punk rock bands perform.

The third wheel to this tacky triumvirate is Jason’s girlfriend, Nicole (Kayla Tabish), a slightly more complicated soul who works as a waitress in a truck stop diner. What the racist Jason doesn’t know is that the object of his affection has a bad case of Jungle Fever. For at the point of departure, we find her secretly sleeping with a brother (Din Thomas) in her own bedroom and practically right under her parents noses.

But the movie is more of a meditative mood piece than a melodrama about race relations, because it is given to long stretches where Jason just sits on the curb holding his shaved pate in his hands staring at the piece of the street between his feet. Along the way, the daring director drops big hints that his antihero might be depressed, such as by having him hang out in a cemetery or extinguish a cigar on his own arm.

I’m not sure why it’s even in the movie, but for some reason the film includes the disturbing scene featuring the unedited, graphic footage of R Bud. Dwyer committing suicide by shoot himself in the head. I went into shock at that point and could think of nothing else.

So, what’s the movie’s message? Perhaps, that underneath the antisocial veneer, angry white males with suicidal tendencies are people, too. A sobering reminder if we all are going to have to get along in the all-inclusive, post-racial Age of Obama. 

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Unrated 

Running time: 83 minutes

Studio: Kino International

 

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

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

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam's Kapsules:      

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         

by Kam Williams

For movies opening July 31, 2009

                    

 

BIG BUDGET FILMS

 

The Collector (R for sexuality, nudity, profanity and pervasive, sadistic bloody violence) Crime thriller about an ex-con (Josh Stewart) whose attempted burglary of his boss’ country home goes awry when he discovers that another criminal (Juan Fernandez) has rigged the place with a maze of deadly booby traps.

 

Funny People (R for profanity, sexuality and pervasive crude humor) Judd Apatow wrote and directed this raunchy teensploit about a terminally-ill comedian (Adam Sandler) with less than a year to live who decides to hire a deli counterman (Seth Rogen) as his opening act only to have his disease go into remission. Cast includes Leslie Mann, Dr. Ken Jeong, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill, Sarah Silverman, Andy Dick, Norm MacDonald and RZA. 

 

 

INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

 

Adam (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and mature themes) Bittersweet romantic comedy, set in NYC, about an unemployed electrical engineer (Hugh Dancy) with Asperger’s Syndrome who finds the girl of his dreams in his patient next-door neighbor (Rose Byrne) willing to put up with his eccentricities.

 

Aliens in the Attic (PG for violence, suggestive humor and mild epithets) Horror flick about three siblings (Ashley Tisdale, Ashley Boettcher and Carter Jenkins) who save the day when their clueless parents (Kevin Nealon and Gillian Vigman) are placed under a spell by the pint-sized aliens that have invaded the family’s summer home in Michigan. Cast includes Doris Roberts, Andy Richter and Robert Hoffman.

 

The Cove (PG-13 for disturbing images) Eco-documentary highlights the noble efforts of a group of animal activists who travel to Taiji, Japan in order to save dolphins being raised in captivity for their meat and for entertainment purposes.    

 

Flame & Citron (Unrated) World War II saga, set in Copenhagen in 1944, recounting the real-life exploits of a couple of legendary Danish patriots (Thure Lindhardt and Mads Mikkelsen) who performed heroic acts of sabotage with the Resistance during the Nazi occupation. (In Danish and German with subtitles)

 

Fragments (R for violence, sexuality and profanity) Crime drama chronicles the psychological fallout suffered by the five survivors (Forest Whitaker, Kate Beckinsale, Dakota Fanning, Guy Pearce and Josh Hutcherson) of a random spree killing in an L.A. diner. With Jennifer Hudson, Jackie Earle Haley and Jeanne Tripplehorn. 

 

Ghosted (In English, German and Mandarin with subtitles) Monika Treut directed this homoerotic whodunit revolving around a Taiwanese journalist (Ting-Ting Hu) who travels from Taipei to Hamburg to investigate the mysterious death of the lesbian lover (Huan-Ru Ke) of a local artist (Inga Busch).

 

Gotta Dance (Unrated) “Young at heart” documentary showcases the auditions by senior citizens competing for a spot on the geriatric, hip-hop dance team used by the NBA’s New Jersey Nets as a halftime attraction.

 

Import/Export (Unrated) Bleak bi-furcated tale of woe unfolding across Europe. One strand focuses on a struggling single-mom (Ekateryna Rak) who leaves her daughter behind in the Ukraine in order to find work in Vienna. The other follows a rudderless young man (Paul Hoffmann) traveling in the opposite direction with his trucker stepfather (Michael Thomas) to make a delivery for a vending machine company. (In German, Russian, Slovak and English with subtitles)

 

Janky Promoters (Unrated) Mike Epps and Ice Cube co-star in this buddy flick chronicling the comedy of errors which ensues when a couple of shady, L.A. concert promoters book a popular rap artist (Young Jeezy) they can’t afford to pay. Supporting cast includes Terry Crews, Tamala Jones and Little JJ.

 

Lorna’s Silence (R for nudity, sexuality and profanity) Crime caper, set in Belgium, about an Albanian immigrant (Arta Dobroshi) who hatches a diabolical plan with a mobster (Fabrizio Rongione) to marry and then murder a Belgian heroin addict (Jeremie Renier) so that a Russian mafia kingpin seeking citizenship can assume his identity. (In French and Albanian with subtitles)

 

Not Quite Hollywood (R for sexuality, violence, gore, drug use, profanity and graphic nudity) Down Under documentary reveals the untold story of Australia’s explosion of “Ozploitation flicks” during the Seventies and Eighties in the wake of the liberalization of the country’s oppressive censorship laws.

 

You, the Living (Unrated) Ensemble drama, set in Stockholm, celebrates the human condition via a series of about fifty vignettes exploring a variety of philosophical themes ranging from love and loss to betrayal and redemption. (In Swedish with subtitles)

 

Thirst (R for graphic violence, disturbing images, nudity, graphic sexuality and violence) Horror flick about a priest (Kang-ho sang) who is accidentally turned into a vampire after a medical procedure goes horribly wrong. (In Korean and English with subtitles)