Wednesday, March 31, 2010

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 April 9, 2010





The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond (R for gore, graphic violence, profanity, drug use, nudity and sexuality) High attrition-rate horror flick featuring 9 friends whose dream vacation in a Victorian mansion on a remote island turns ghastly when they decide to play an ancient game they find buried in the sand. Ensemble includes Robert Patrick, Danielle Harris, Walker Howard and the Avellan twins.


Date Night (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, violence, a drug reference and pervasive crude humor) Steve Carell and Tina Fey co-star in this screwball comedy as a jaded suburban couple from Jersey who decide to spice up their marriage by having dinner together in a fancy Manhattan restaurant only to end up on the run from mobsters and cops when they are mistaken for wanted con artists. Star-studded supporting cast includes Mark Wahlberg, Taraji P. Henson, James Franco, Common, Kristen Wiig, Mark Ruffalo, Mila Kunis and Will.i.Am.





After.Life (R for profanity, nudity, disturbing images and brief sexuality) Psychological thriller about a car accident victim (Christina Ricci) who comes out of a coma to find herself in a funeral parlor where a mortician (Liam Neeson) with a sick agenda persists in prematurely preparing her body for burial. Hope for rescue rests with her skeptical boyfriend (Justin Long) who urges the police chief (Josh Charles) to investigate.   


Everyone Else (Unrated) Romance drama about a bohemian rock publicist (Birgit Minichmayr) and a more conventional architect (Lars Eidinger) whose solid relationship starts to go sour after they accept an invitation to spend a day aboard the yacht of a married couple (Hans-Jochen Wagner and Nicole Marischka) they meet while vacationing on the Mediterranean Island of Sardinia. (In German and Italian with subtitles)


Fresh (Unrated) Eco-friendly documentary chronicling the movement being spearheaded by intrepid organic farmers trying compete with agribusiness conglomerates by bringing natural foods to local markets.  


The Good, the Bad and the Weird (Unrated) Sprawling spoof of the Clint Eastwood classic, a wacky Western set in Manchuria in the 1940s where we find three outlaws (Byung-hun Lee, Kang-ho Song and Woo-sung Jung) being chased by both the Japanese army and Chinese bandits while in a race to find a map leading to a priceless, buried treasure. (In Korean, Mandarin and Japanese with subtitles)


It Came from Kuchar (Unrated) Bio-pic recounting the enduring career of twins George and Mike Kuchar, legendary, low-budget filmmakers from the Bronx who got their start in the Fifties shooting movies in the backyard with an 8mm camera they borrowed from their Aunt.   


Letters to God (PG for mature themes) Bittersweet, faith-based drama, inspired by the true story of a cancer-stricken young boy (Tanner Maguire) who touched the lives of everyone who crossed his path, especially the beleaguered postman (Jeffrey Johnson) asked to deliver his hand-written prayers to the Lord. With Robin Lively, Bailee Madison and Ralph Waite.


The Misfortunates (Unrated) Coming-of-age drama adapted from the Dimitri Verhulst novel about a 13 year-old, Dutch boy (Kenneth Vanbaeden) being raised at grandma’s (Gilda de Bal) house by his alcoholic father (Koen de Graeve) and three party animal uncles (Wouter Hendrickcx, Johan Heldenbergh and Bert Haelvort) after his exasperated mother walked out on the family. (In Dutch with subtitles)


La Mission (R for profanity, violence and sexuality) Father-son drama, set in the barrio in San Francisco, about a macho, recently-widowed, alcoholic parolee (Benjamin Bratt) who finds himself tested on the road to redemption when he discovers that the son (Jeremy Ray Valdez) he’s now raising alone is gay. With Tina Huang, Melvina Jones and Max Rosenak.


The Square (R for violence and profanity) Aussie crime thriller, set in Sydney, about a guy (David Roberts) stuck in a loveless marriage whose life comes apart at the seams when he decides to run away with his mistress (Claire van der Boom) after she shows up with a bag containing a small fortune of ill-gotten cash. With Joel Edgerton and Anthony Hayes.


When You’re Strange (R for sexuality, nudity, profanity and drug references) Johnny Depp narrates this rockumentary recounting the meteoric rise and just as fast fall of The Doors, a talented quartet whose premature demise was hastened by the untimely death of its charismatic lead singer, Jim Morrison.


Who Do You Love? (Unrated) Yet another bio-pic chronicling the cultural contributions of Leonard Chess (Alessandro Nivola), co-founder with his brother Phil (Jon Abrahams) of the legendary record label which bore their name. With Chi McBride as Willie Dixon, Keb Mo’ as Jimmy Rogers, David Oyelowo as Muddy Waters, Robert Randolph as Bo Diddley and Miko DeFoor as Little Walter.

Sherlock Holmes DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Downey Does Rathbone in Remake of Doyle Classic Tale

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a kazillion times, the book was better. But in the case of this incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, we can’t compare the movie to any of the 4 novels or 56 short stories based on the beloved character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, because director Guy Ritchie relied on an original screenplay collaborated upon by five different scriptwriters. The action-oriented production represents a significant departure not only from the original source material, but from the series of 14 screen classics featuring Basil Rathbone between 1939 and 1946.
Apparently Ritchie could care less about remaining faithful to Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his sidekick, Dr. Watson (Jude Law) in terms of appearance and demeanor. For the pair’s personas bear precious little resemblance to what fans of the franchise might expect. In fact, this Holmes is more of a macho, butt-kicking superhero than a cerebral sleuth who leads with his grey matter.
That disclaimer out of the way, however, there is much to recommend about this adventure, especially for the attention-deficit generation weaned on the cattle-prod of incessant electronic stimulation. The supernatural storyline unfolds in London in 1891 where Holmes finds himself having to track down serial killer Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) for a second time. Despite having been brought to justice, executed and buried, the slippery patrician somehow cheated death, rose from the grave and escaped to resume his sadistic spree.
Since they neither behave nor look like Holmes and Dr. Watson, the heroes could just as easily have been named Batman and Robin or The Lone Ranger and Tonto. In any case, director Ritchie, whose career had been in a bit of a decline since casting his ex-wife, Madonna, in the remake of Swept Away, has ostensibly reversed that trend with this rollicking, rough-edged affair on the order of the best of his work ala Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking barrels.
So forget pithy sayings such as, “Elementary, my dear Watson,” the new and improved Sherlock Holmes is more inclined to gloat as he doles out damage, spitting out lines like, “Weaken right jaw. Then fracture. Break cracked ribs. Heel kick to diaphragm.” Downey assumes the mantle!

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for intense violence, startling images and one suggestive scene.
Running time: 128 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Extras: “Sherlock Holmes: Reinvented” featurette and a theatrical trailer.

Don McKay

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Prodigal Janitor Gets Mired in Emotional Quagmire in Screwball Sitcom

This indie flick isn’t half-bad, for a taut, neo-noir thriller that inexplicably transforms into a screwball comedy somewhere around its midway point. What salvages the production, which at times also isn’t half-good, is the fact that it was blessed by such a talented cast capable of convincingly executing the zany screenplay with perfect aplomb.
Let’s face it, when you’re spotted a trio of Oscar-nominees for the lead roles right off the bat, namely, Thomas Haden Church (for Sideways), Melissa Leo (for Frozen River) and Elisabeth Shue (for Leaving Las Vegas), plus have a couple of veteran character actors like Keith David and M. Emmet Walsh at your disposal as well, it’s reasonable for your audience to expect to witness something special. And this is just the good fortune visited upon Jake Goldberger who makes both his scriptwriting and directorial debut here with Don McKay.
Church plays the title character, a jaded janitor who’s been working at the same job in Boston for the past quarter century. Seems that he never got over having his heart broken by his high school sweetheart, Sonny Ross (Shue). After being dumped, he left their tiny hometown in Western Massachusetts forever, and pined away for her from afar for years in Beantown.
Meanwhile, she never answered any of his many letters, at least not until she developed terminal cancer and needed a shoulder to lean on. That’s the intriguing point of departure of this slowly-revealed whodunit which is secretly laden with an abundance of shocking twists lying in wait.
As the action unwinds, we find Don hurriedly returning to rustic Mount Raven by bus in response to Sonny’s urgent appeal for assistance. Upon his arrival at her place, he’s met at the door by her steely, live-in nurse, Marie (Leo) who warns of his ex’s weakened condition. Later, Sonny’s doting doctor, Lance Pryce (James Rebhorn), fills Don in further about his patient’s dire prognosis.
Despite the illness and the intervening years, the former lovebirds manage to rekindle the flames. Sonny apologizes for the way it all ended, and would now like to make amends by tying the knot on her deathbed. Of course, all is not as it appears, and the plot thickens when Doc Pryce exhibits a jealous streak in response to their resurrected romance.
It’s difficult to say what transpires at this juncture of the picture. Either the wheels entirely come off what had been a carefully wound psychological drama, or the enterprise merely morphs into a madcap sitcom, depending on ones tolerance for abrupt shifts in tone. Regardless, I dare not deconstruct the film any further, since that would involve spoiling some critical developments.
Suffice to say, Don McKay does remain an entertaining enough diversion, though in this critic’s opinion it veers sharply from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated R for profanity and violence.
Running time: 87 minutes
Distributor: Image Entertainment

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bible for African-American Children (BOOK REVIEW)

My Holy Bible for African-American Children

King James Version

By Cheryl and Wade Hudson


Hardcover, $24.99

1808 pages, Illustrated

ISBN: 978-0-310-71987-8



Book Review by Kam Williams


“If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.” – President Barack Obama

”Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

 -- Inspirational quotes in Bible for blacks kids


Given that this is the Easter Season, Christian parents might like to check out this new Bible specifically designed with black children in mind. This edition of the Good Book is basically the complete King James Version, but augmented by Cheryl and Wade Hudson to make it more appealing to African-American youngsters and teenagers.

For instance, Adam and Eve are brown-skinned in the illustrations. This only makes sense since the oldest human fossils unearthed by archeologists were found in Africa. Another bright-colored drawing features what appears to be Harriet Tubman leading a few fugitive slaves to safety via the Underground Railroad. A hint that it’s Harriet is that her skirt is fashioned out of a Canadian flag, and Canada was the final station on her perilous trek along the freedom trail.

Tubman technically wasn’t in the Bible, obviously, so her inclusion might strike some as a bit of an anachronism. However, she was deeply religious, and the page with her picture also contains the uplifting lyrics to the Gospel spiritual “Wade in the Water.” In addition, a number of other influential black Christians are quoted here, everyone from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Jesse Owens to George Washington Carver to Rosa Parks to Dr. Martin Luther King to President Barack Obama.

Given that the scriptures can get very dull (Ever try to read the whole Bible?), is it blasphemous to break them up with pearls of wisdom from more recent role models? Even the 10 Commandments enjoy a bit of an overhaul, with the archaic-sounding “Thou shalt not steal” being transformed into plain English as “You may not take and keep anything that doesn’t belong to you.”

Can I get an “Amen!” for the Hudsons for crafting a culturally-relevant interpretation of the Bible in order to encourage the up-and-coming generation of black youth to establish a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ and the Church.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Janet Jackson: The "Why Did I Get Married Too" Interview



with Kam Williams


Headline: Janet in Control


Born in Gary, Indiana on May 16, 1966, Janet Damita Jo Jackson entered show business at the tender age of 7 when she appeared onstage with her already famous elder siblings at the MGM in Las Vegas. This debut, was followed by appearances at 9 on her family’s variety show “The Jacksons” which, in turn, led to starring and recurring roles on such hit sitcoms as "Good Times," “Diff’rent Strokes," and "Fame."

At 14, Janet signed her first recording deal. Placing acting on the back burner to focus on her first love, music, she went on to enjoy extraordinary success upon the release of her breakthrough album, Control in 1986. Over the course of her ensuing musical career, she has thus far accumulated five Grammys, multiple MTV Awards, Billboard Music Awards, and Soul Train Music Awards, to name a few. As an artist, Janet excites, enlightens, leads, and embraces her fans with insights into life's meaning while touching their deepest feelings.

The film Poetic Justice marked this very versatile talent’s first foray into acting in feature films, and that was soon followed by a co-starring role in Nutty Professor II. Janet later received the NAACP Image Award in the Outstanding Supporting Actress category for her work in Why Did I Get Married. Furthermore, like all of her movies, Why Did I Get Married opened up #1 at the box office.

                Privately, Janet continues to focus on speaking out and giving back, raising money for charities such as the Cities in Schools and America's Promise. She has also supported the Watts Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club of America, the Starlight Foundation, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, A Place Called Home in South Central LA, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, S.O.S. Children's Villages in South Africa, Cartier's Love Bracelet Program benefiting OCNA and she sponsored an Airlift of Food and Medical supplies to famine-stricken Rwanda. In addition, Janet established the Rhythm Nation Scholarship with the UNCF and has assisted numerous students striving to meet their educational goals.

Most recently, Janet honored her brother Michael's legacy and supported the people of Haiti by joining over 80 artists who collaborated to record "We Are the World 25 for Haiti," the classic 1985 charity anthem re-imagined by Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones to support the earthquake relief efforts. Not surprisingly, Janet has been honored with countless humanitarian awards in response to her dedication to helping others.

Later this year, Janet plans to publish her autobiography, providing an intimate look at her life.Here, she talks about reprising the role of Pat in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too, one of those rare sequels which is actually better than the original. T


Kam Williams: Thanks so much for the time, Janet. I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.

Janet Jackson: It’s my pleasure.

KW: First of all, please allow me to express my condolences on the loss of your brother, Michael.

JJ: Thank you.

KW: Watching Why Did I Get Married Too, the first thing I noticed was that it afforded you an opportunity to display a much greater range of emotions. How did you enjoy that?

JJ: I loved it! I absolutely loved it. I was so thankful that Tyler had written such an amazing piece for me to explore. So, I was really excited about it. When he first gave me the script, he warned me, “When you read this, you’re really going to flip out. I think it’s going to be exciting for you.” And it was.

KW: It’s very rare that an entire ensemble cast comes back for a sequel. How was it being reunited with everybody again?

JJ: I loved being with them again. It truly is a family. There’s closeness and connection. After filming the original, when we went our separate ways, I felt like I had a new group of friends. We stayed in touch and tried to see each other whenever we were in town or in between projects. So, the minute we heard there was going to be a sequel, all of us were immediately on board, knowing we would be able to get back together again. And then, for half of it to be shot in The Bahamas made going to work feel like being on vacation with your friends. The crew members were sweethearts, too.

KW: What a refreshing difference from those nightmare shoots you sometimes hear about that sound like a clash of egos.

JJ: I credit Tyler. It’s Tyler’s vision. He’s created a true family.

KW: What is it about Tyler that makes him special?

JJ: He’s an amazing man. One of the things that I love most about him is that he has this spirituality abut him, and it’s a really big part of who he is. I adore Tyler, and I love that about him.

KW: All your previous films have opened up in the #1 spot at the box office. Do you feel any pressure to keep up the string?

JJ: I don’t feel any pressure at all. You know what? I honestly wouldn’t even have thought about it, if another journalist hadn’t brought it to my attention. Would it be great if it did? Of course. If it doesn’t open at #1, am I going to be bummed out? No, I’ve been so blessed and I’m just thankful to be a part of the project and grateful to Tyler for giving me another opportunity to explore this character.

KW: What do you think the experience will be like for the audience?

JJ: I think more so than anything people are going to enjoy the film and they’ll also walk away learning a lot from it.

KW: By the way, I love “Nothing,” the film’s theme which you sing on the soundtrack. I hope it lands you another Oscar nomination like the song “Again” did for you wit h Poetic Justice.

JJ: Thank you very much. That would be really nice.

KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, and they sent me a lot of questions, so let’s see how many we can get through.

JJ: Okay.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman says, “My favorite album of yours is Control which spoke to me because at the time I was working in Paris and I had such a lack of control over so many things in my life. Have you ever related to a song by someone else which intimately spoke to you at a point in your life?”

JJ: Definitely! There are two things that really move me: music and acting. And I’m not talking about my music or watching myself as an actor, but listening to other people’s music and watching other actors. There are so many different songs that have moved me. It all depends upon the mood that I’m in at that moment. Plus, I was raised with a ton of brothers and sisters where, obviously, the music running in and out of the house was very eclectic. So, I had a lot under my belt by the time I grew up. It all depends upon the mood that I’m in, the space that I’m in and what I’m feeling at that moment. But definitely!

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks which do you enjoy doing more, acting or singing?

JJ: I enjoy them both a great deal. I have a passion for both. Maybe acting just a little bit more because it’s more of a challenge for me, while music comes so easily.

KW: Marcia Evans asks, have you ever considered doing an album of duets?

JJ: No, I have not, but that’s a very good idea. Maybe someday that’ll actually happen.

KW: Documentary filmmaker Hisani Dubose asks if you plan to produce movies.

JJ: I would love to. A dream of mine is to produce films, as well as to produce content for television.

KW: Hisani also wants to know what movie you’ll be making next.

JJ: For Colored Girls, an adaptation of the play, which I’m sure she’s familiar with. We’ll start shooting that not to long from now.

KW: Laz Lyles wants to know, what's the biggest way you’ve grown as an actress since Poetic Justice, and whether you find that with each role you discover something new about yourself?

JJ: I always knew that I could go deep. How deep? I don’t know. But it always seems that with each character I take on, I’m challenged to go deeper than the last time, and then again deeper than the last time. This is the deepest I’ve ever been asked to dive. And to see how deep I actually went for this, and that I wasn’t afraid to go there in order to give Tyler exactly what he envisioned for the character, which was pretty deep, that’s what I discovered about myself.

KW: Larry Greenberg says, he loved your video for "Miss You Much" which was directed by Dominic Sena. He’s wondering, if there’s any chance of you doing something new with him?

JJ: I haven’t spoken with Dominic in a while, but I would love to. I actually wanted him to work on another video of mine, but he was shooting a movie at the time. Once in a blue moon, we wind up speaking to one another. I think Dominic is incredibly talented and, hopefully, we will work together again.

KW: Reverend Florine Thompson asks what gives the greatest meaning to your life?

JJ: It would have to be God.

KW: Varise Cooper asks, what are you doing to make a long-lasting, positive impact on the world?

JJ: I work with a lot of different charities, and by that I don’t mean merely by giving money, but by really getting involved hands-on. I’ve always said that one of the reasons why I was put on this Earth was to help people. That’s something I’ve always enjoyed both here in America and if I have the opportunity when I’m traveling out of the country. For example, I like to visit orphanages to spend time with the children. That’s very important to me.

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

JJ: That’s the question right there! [Laughs] That’s a good question.

KW: Well, on that note, let me thank you again for the interview, Janet.

JJ: Thank you very much.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Buddies Travel Back to the ‘80s in Raunchy Road Comedy

If the ostensible objective of each generation of raunchy road comedies is to up the ante in terms of debauchery, then Hot Tub Time Machine definitely deserves to be given its due, since this relentlessly-vulgar exercise in depravity easily outdoes many of the earlier examples of the shock genre. For instance, remember that moment in There’s Something about Mary (1998) where Cameron Diaz mistakes semen for hair gel? Well, now you better brace yourself for the sight of a guy messily ejaculating all over the face of one of his buddies.
Or how about the Oedipal overtones of Back to the Future (1985), where Michael J. Fox found himself fending off his own mother’s advances. By contrast, in this case we have a character who travels back in time to watch himself being conceived by his naked mom during a drunken one-night stand?
The movie also makes an allusion to more recent teensploits, such as The Hangover (2009) which featured a convicted sex offender molesting a missing infant. Here, we have incest instead of pedophilia, with a man erotically massaging his grown son’s private parts.
This sort of tasteless fare proves to be par for the course in Hot Tub Time Machine, a cinematic sign of the imminent collapse of Western Civilization. Directed by Steve Pink (Accepted), the movie stars John Cusack, Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry as best friends, each in the midst of a midlife crisis.
At the point of departure, we learn that Adam’s (Cusack) just been dumped by his girlfriend; Nick’s (Robinson) controlling wife (Kellee Stewart) is cheating on him; and clinically-depressed Lou (Corddry) feels he has nothing to live for, between his alcoholism and erectile dysfunction.
So, Adam and Nick decide to try to cheer up their pal by planning a vacation getaway to the same ski resort which served as the site of their sordid sexual conquests during the lost glory days they all so sorely miss. And for good measure, they bring along Adam’s video-game-addicted nephew (Clark Duke), an agoraphobic who needs to get out of the basement.
Soon after their arrival at the Silver Peaks Lodge, the buddies find themselves magically deposited in 1986 for a second go-round as bawdy bachelors, courtesy of an electrical short circuit of the hot tub they’re marinating in. The story doesn’t bother to offer a plausible scientific explanation for this astounding development, nor as to why our heroes suddenly look young again to everyone other than each other.
However, they do determine that they really have been teleported back a quarter of a century by asking someone whether Michael Jackson is black or white. That line might have been funny were the Prince of Pop still alive. But it goes over like a lead balloon in the wake of his recent passing.
Other questionable skits which should have hit the cutting room floor include projectile vomiting on a defenseless squirrel, an adult prompting a child to share his Ritalin, and a running joke about how the ski lodge’s bellboy (Crispin Glover) lost his arm in an accident. Nonetheless, in essence, this sleazy flick is a titillating, homoerotic fantasy masquerading as a nostalgic, male-bonding opportunity. Watch as the latent lads indulge their every forbidden fantasy in a drug and alcohol-fueled stupor until the clueless custodian (Chevy Chase) finally figures out how to reverses the effects of the faulty hot tub.
A kinky cross of Caligula and Back to the Future!

Poor (½ star)
Rated R for nudity, graphic sexuality, crude humor, drug use and pervasive profanity.
Running time: 99 Minutes
Distributor: MGM

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Eclipse

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Widower Falls for Empathetic Author in Atmospheric Romance Drama


                Michael Farr (Ciaran Hinds) is a recent widower who has resigned himself to raising his 10 and 14 year-old kids alone. The grieving clan lives along Ireland’s seacoast in a verdant, fog-enshrouded town whose only claim to fame is hosting an annual literary festival.

Schoolteacher Michael picked a practical profession, putting his dream of becoming a writer on hold in order to be able to provide for his family. However, he still harbors the hope of one day pursuing his true passion. Meanwhile, the only brushes he enjoys with the publishing industry is when he works as a volunteer at the aforementioned festival.

This summer, he’s been assigned to serve as a chauffeur for Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle), a best-selling author known for novels exploring supernatural themes. Her specialty dovetails conveniently with the fact that Michael’s been seeing ghosts ever since his wife’s passing. The plot gradually thickens as he develops a crush on Lena during her stay, because she’s the first person to give credence to his claim of feeling the presence otherworldly apparitions.

However, although Lena lends a sympathetic ear, she’s doesn’t think of him romantically. For she already has plans to rendezvous with Nicholas Holden (Aidan Quinn), the equally-renowned colleague she met and slept with at this same gathering the previous year.

But she had been too passionate back then to have the patience to learn much about her lover like the fact that he was married. This time around, the truth comes out in ugly fashion, and the miffed mistress ends up a tad torn about continuing to carry on an illicit liaison with a proverbial Ugly American she now recognizes as a bit of a narcissist.

So, as the days go by, the question becomes whether ardent admirer Michael might actually have a shot with this brilliant bluestocking way above his station whom he’s been secretly pining for from afar. So unfolds The Eclipse, an atmospheric adventure directed by Conor McPherson which proves to be as worthwhile for its breathtaking cinematography as for the intriguing love triangle it spins ever so deliberately, delectably and delightfully.

A literary lass finds more than she bargained for while looking for love on the Emerald Isle.


Excellent (3.5 stars)

Rated R for profanity and disturbing images.

Running time: 88 Minutes

Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Yes Men Fix the World DVD



DVD Review by Kam Williams


Headline: DVD Features Pranksters Infiltrating Corporate America Candid Camera-Style


                Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, aka the Yes Men, are political activists with an unorthodox approach to taking on crooked corporations. These intrepid investigative reporters’ M.O. is to infiltrate organizations with the aim of exposing corruption from the inside out. They even pose as captains of industry and call press conferences to make groundbreaking admissions on behalf of powerful organizations.

                For instance, take the case of Union Carbide/Dow Chemical, the multi-national responsible for the leak of toxic fumes in Bhopal, India which directly led to the deaths of over 25,000 innocent civilians. For years, Dow refused to accept responsibility for the disaster, never cleaning up the waste site or adequately compensating the victims.

                So, the Yes Men sprang into action, mounting an elaborate hoax. One managed to appear on TV on the BBC World News masquerading as a Dow executive, and he announced that the firm had finally decided to admit its culpability in the slaughter and that it would be unilaterally paying billions of dollars in damages.

More recently, the Yes Men went to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina where one posed as a HUD Undersecretary. He proceeded to inform thepress that poor folks evicted from public housing would be allowed to move back into the projects, even going so far as to stage a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The displaced locals were elated until FEMA intervened, saying that no such measure had been authorized.

Sadly, in every instance of such trickery, the beneficiaries’ joy is short-lived, since the Yes Men are invariably exposed as complete frauds. Nonetheless, they are at least able to embarrass avaricious corporate interests by raising pointed questions about the diabolical methods of the rich and powerful.

All of these irrepressible iconoclasts’ audacious exploits chronicled in The Yes Men Fix the World, an alternately hilarious and sobering, guerilla-style documentary which shows just how much havoc two guys with cheap suits and fake websites are capable of wreaking in corporate America.


Excellent (4 stars)


Running time: 87 minutes

Studio: New Video Group/Docurama Films

DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, additional footage of Yes Men antics, theatrical trailer and a biography of the filmmaker.

Afghan Star DVD



DVD Review by Kam Williams


Headline: DVD Features Afghani Answer to American Idol


                If you want to know why we’re fighting in Afghanistan, all you have to do is watch this nail-biting documentary chronicling a season of the country’s equivalent of American Idol. Forget the fact that the contestants on this reality series, Afghan Star, are far less talented than even lowly AI also-rans routinely humiliated by judge Simon Cowell like William Hung and Sanjaya.

                No, this film is as much about off-camera survival strategies as about onstage performances. Because of the resurgence of the Taliban, the entrants risk life and limb simply by appearing on the show. This predicament persists even though the season finale is so popular that over a third of the nation’s population tunes in.

                For remember, under repressive Taliban rule, singing and dancing were outlawed, and women were denied any education and required to cover themselves in basic black from head to toe. But once America deposed the religious zealots, some semblance of normalcy returned, in part prompted by the Western-style programming introduced by the Tolo TV network.

Directed by Havana Marking, Afghan Star focuses on the diverging fates of four of the finalists from among the thousands of hopefuls who initially auditioned. Rafi, 19, and Hameed, 20, are intrepid young crooners whose desire for fame outweighs their fear of a fatwa, aka a death sentence. But the guys’ bravery is easily eclipsed by that of Lima, 25, and Setara, 22, since what apparently really gets under the skin of the still-powerful Taliban mullahs is the idea of women as entertainers.

 The plot thickens when Setara summons up the gumption not only to dance during her act but to uncover her hair to boot. Such a defiant decision prompts Muslim fanatics to issue a fatwa. I wonder what would happen if they showed those nutty Neanderthals a couple of BET booty calls music videos. I bet they’d drop dead from apoplexy right on the spot.

Anyhow, Setara gets evicted by her landlord, is shunned by friends, and has to go into hiding while still on the show. And all this for hopes of landing a paltry $5,000 grand prize. I won’t dare reveal who emerges victorious, but I’m not sure there are any winners in a land where females lives are ruined just for exercising God-given freedoms as fundamental to the human condition as walking and breathing.

                Proof positive you can’t bomb people back to the Stone Age, if they’re already there. A flick likely to leave you grateful and counting your many blessings.


Excellent (4 stars)


In English, Pashtu and Dari with subtitles.

Running time: 88 minutes

Studio: Zeitgeist Films

DVD Extras: Video interview with director Havana Marking, and theatrical trailers.


Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Sun Blind Photographer Embarks on Otherworldly Odyssey in Supernatural Romance Saga


                Alex Santiago (Nando Del Castillo) is a successful fashion photographer living with his gorgeous girlfriend, Barbara, (Ariel Blue Sky) in a spacious East Village apartment with a view. What’s wrong with this superficially perfect picture are two unfortunate developments.

 First, Alex is sick and tired of boring commercial work. He’d much rather be doing something more emotionally satisfying by practicing his profession as a creative artist. Secondly, he and Barbara argue incessantly, so it’s only a matter of time before things come to a head, given how the compulsive Neanderthal insensitively takes pictures of her while she’s trying to share her heartfelt feelings.

                When she does decide to dump him and move out, that turn of events actually suits the emotionally-distant Alex just fine, given that he’s taken more of an interest in another woman, anyway, if you can call an apparition competition. For one day while shooting at dawn, he stared at the sun for so long that the face of a beautiful ghost became etched on his retina. And ever since he’s been roaming New York City in a relentless, late-night search to find the lady who matches that image.

                That otherworldly odyssey serves as the fulcrum around which the dizzying storyline of Shutterbug spins. Ostensibly inspired by both Greek Mythology and “Dante’s Inferno,” the movie marks the feature-length writing and directorial debut of Minos Papas. Papas, the son of Cypriot filmmaker Michael Papas (The Life Taker), made the most of a shoestring budget here, shooting guerilla-style against the backdrop of a variety of visually-captivating locales.

The upshot of his efforts is an overambitious production which, while not quite ready for primetime due to a gaggle of technical flaws, at least exhibits enough promise in terms of acting, plot and camera angles to make this critic curious to see Papas the Younger’s next picture. Dante’s Purgatory!


Good (2 stars)


Running time: 91 Minutes

Distributor: Cyprian Films


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

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 April 2, 2010




Clash of the Titans (PG-13 for fantasy violence, frightening images and brief sensuality) Sam Worthington stars in this action-oriented remake of the 1981 fantasy thriller about a mortal son of Zeus (Liam Neeson) who volunteers to lead a daring band of warriors on a dangerous mission to prevent Hades (Ralph Fiennes) from dethroning his father. With Gemma Arterton, Pete Postlethwaite and Nicholas Hoult.


Furry Vengeance (PG for crude humor, mild epithets and smoking) Eco-friendly, revenge comedy, set in rural Oregon, about a greedy real estate developer (Brendan Fraser) who gets what’s coming when the creatures living in the forest learn about his heartless plans to pave over their peaceable kingdom in order to make way for a mammoth housing development. Cast includes Dr. Ken Jeong, Brooke Shields and Angela Kinsey.


The Last Song (PG for mature themes, violence, sensuality and mild epithets) Coming-of-age drama revolving around a rebellious, 17 year-old prodigy (Miley Cyrus) sent by her divorced mother (Kelly Preston) to spend the summer with her estranged father (Greg Kinnear) in an island resort town where she prceeds to fall in love with a local yokel (Liam Hemsworth) while mending fences and making beautiful music with her dad.


Why Did I Get Married Too (PG-13 for mature themes, sexuality, profanity, drug references and domestic violence) Tyler Perry reassembles original cast for another round of madcap marital melodrama featuring four couples in crisis. Ensemble includes Janet Jackson, Jill Scott, Tasha Smith, Sharon Leal, Maliik Yoba, Richard T. Jones, Lamman Rucker, Michael Jai White, Cicely Tyson and Lou Gossett, Jr.




Don McKay (R for profanity and violence) Prodigal Son whodunit about a jaded janitor (Thomas Haden Church) who gets more than he bargained for when he returns to his hometown for the first time in 25 years at the beck-and-call of his cancer-stricken, high school sweetheart (Elisabeth Shue) only to find himself implicated in a tawdry murder mystery. With Melissa Leo, Keith David and M. Emmet Walsh.


The Greatest (R for profanity, sexuality and drug use) Emotionally-draining drama about a grieving couple (Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon), already dealing with the untimely death of their teenage son (Aaron Johnson), who find themselves further burdened by the arrival of his flaky, pregnant girlfriend (Carey Mulligan) in need of a place to stay. With Zoe Kravitz, Johnny Simmons and Cara Seymour.


Leaves of Grass (R for violence, drug use and pervasive profanity) Mob comedy about an Ivy League Classics professor (Ed Norton) who is lured home to Oklahoma by a false report of his pot-dealing, identical twin’s death only to end- up embroiled in a cockamamie scheme to topple his rival drug kingpin (Richard Dreyfuss). Supporting cast includes Susan Sarandon, Keri Russell, Tim Blake Nelson and Lucy DeVito) (In English and Latin with subtitles)


The Sun behind the Clouds (Unrated) Pacifist documentary chronicles the ongoing efforts of the Dalai Lama and other political activists lobbying for Tibetan independence fifty years after the country was conquered by Communist China.


The Last Breakup (Unrated) Bittersweet romance drama, set in NYC, about a bored young couple (Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein) who agree to orchestrate the gradual end of their relationship. With Andrea Martin, Julie White and Olivia Thirlby.


The Thorn in My Heart (Unrated) Michael Gondry directs this bio-pic about the Gondry family matriarch, his feisty Aunt Suzette, a 70+ retired schoolteacher with lots of amusing stories to share about her life and career. (In French with subtitles)


The Warlords (R for graphic violence) Jet Li stars in this remake of The Blood Brothers (1973), an historical epic set during the Taiping Rebellion of the 1860s and revolving around the exploits of a wounded general and two bandits (Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro), all of whom fall for the same irresistible courtesan (Jinglei Xu). (In Mandarin with subtitles)