Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Say It Loud! (BOOK REVIEW)

Say It Loud!
Great Speeches on Civil Rights and African-American Identity
Edited by Catherine Ellis and Stephen Drury Smith
The New Press
Hardcover, $35.00
300 pages, with an MP3 CD
ISBN: 978-1-59558-113-6

Book Review by Kam Williams

“This is the second anthology of great speeches by African-Americans meant for the eye and ear. Our first book/CD project, Say It Plain, chronicled an array of black leaders across the 20th Century exhorting the nation to make good on its promise of democracy.
This collection opens in the middle years of the modern Civil Rights Movement. It captures speeches by an eclectic mix of African-American orators arguing about how best to pursue freedom and equality in a nation still deeply marked by racial inequalities.
Say It Loud is titled after the classic 1969 James Brown anthem ‘Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.’ This anthology is meant to illuminate the evolution of ideas and debates pulsing through the black freedom struggle from the 1960s to the present and the way these arguments are suffused with basic questions about what it means to be black in America.”

-- Excerpted from the Preface (pg. ix)

Five years ago, Catherine Ellis and Stephen Drury Smith published an anthology comprised of many of the greatest civil rights speeches delivered by African-American leaders in the 20th Century, including classic orations by Dr. Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, Thurgood Marshall, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Julian Bond and Fannie Lou Hamer, to name a few. Now, the authors are publishing book number two, but the question becomes, what do you do for an encore when you’ve already used up a lot of the best stuff?
Well, it looks like maybe you look over to the right, politically, and add to the mix addresses by some relatively-conservative black folks to feature next to the usual suspects such as Dr. King, Malcolm X, Roy Wilkins, Bobby Seale and Angela Davis. What does it mean when alongside these firebrands we find the words of Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Ward Connerly, who built his career by appealing not to fellow African-Americans but to right-wing white zealots?
The text delivers an almost whiplash effect when you go from Malcolm’s urgent call for the right to vote or violent revolution in “The Ballot or the Bullet” to Connerly’s Uncle Tom-like, if heartfelt, answer to the inquiry “Why is this black man leading the effort to eliminate affirmative action?”
The opus appropriately closes with Barack Obama’s campaign-saving speech from March of 2008 when the then presidential hopeful claimed he could no more disown Reverend Wright than his racist grandmother. How historic could that be if he proceeded to throw his minister of under the bus a couple of weeks later? It’s like Dr. King changing his mind about his March on Washington summation about judging people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
A bonus is that the book arrives with a CD containing excerpts of each of the speeches except one (Ossie Davis’ eulogy for Malcolm X). Overall, an alternately worthy and bizarre sequel suggesting we’ve actually arrived at a post- racial utopia where black liberal and conservative luminaries deserve equal time.

White Wedding (SOUTH AFRICAN)

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Groom and Best Man Get Waylaid En Route to Wedding in South African Romantic Comedy


Ayanda (Zandile Msutwana) is frantically putting the finishing touches on her impending, dream wedding reception set to transpire in Cape Town in a couple of days. Unfortunately, the ravishing beauty just can’t help herself, as she acts out like your typical Bridezilla, much to the frustration of her miffed mother (Sylvia Mngxekeza) and her flamboyant event planner.

Meanwhile, the relatively-mellow groom, Elvis (Kenneth Nkosi), is 1,800 kilometers away in Durban, where he is set to embark on what he reasonably expects to be an unremarkable drive sitting astride his lifelong friend, Tumi (Rapulana Seiphemo). However, upon arriving to pick-up his best man, he discovers the bon vivant in bed with three naked women. And although Elvis keeps his promise to Ayanda by declining the offer to participate in the impromptu bachelor party, the tone for their wild sojourn along the seacoast is nonetheless set.

Thus begins White Wedding, a wacky romantic comedy which might best be thought of as South Africa’s answer to The Hangover. The movie marks the auspicious writing and directorial debut of Jann Turner, who on a modest budget has managed to make the best road flick in the region since The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980). The movie’s title reflects the style nuptials bourgie Ayanda is arranging, one akin to Western traditions as opposed to honoring her and Elvis’ own indigenous culture.

In any case, it doesn’t take long to figure out how the plot is about to thicken considerably, for the focus soon shifts to an inebriated British woman crying on her sister’s shoulder in a bar about having just broken off her engagement to her philandering fiancé. Then, when even her sibling admits to sleeping with her ex, Rose (Jodie Whittaker) sets off on foot hoping to thumb a ride to the airport to catch the next flight back to England.

You’ll never guess who serendipitously encounter the hitchhiker while driving along the highway? Yep, our heroes. Over the vociferous objections of Elvis that the disheveled and disoriented white woman is bound to attract nothing but trouble for a couple of brothers driving a late model Mercedes, turned-on Tumi revels in their luck, and ushers her right into the car.

What ensues is a rollicking romp, during which both Tumi and Rose catch a serious case of Jungle Fever. As one might imagine, their mutual affection doesn’t sit well with everyone, such as the denizens of a redneck watering hole where a telltale Apartheid flag is still draped on the wall, sending a clear message to all who enter like the South African equivalent of a Swastika.

Between running from a lynching party and then having a car accident, Elvis has plenty of excuses for possibly arriving late to his own wedding. If only he could tell increasingly-impatient Ayanda the truth about all he’s been up to. Not to worry, our clever film director isn’t one to let anything really ruin a radiant bride’s big day.

The hangover must be crazy, if you catch my drift.


Excellent (4 stars)


In Zulu, Afrikaans, English and Xhosa with subtitles.

Running time: 93 Minutes

Distributor: The Little Film Company

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: T.I. Masterminds “One Last Heist” in Flashy Crime Caper

The “One Last Big Heist” is a theme of the crime caper genre which has proven to be quite popular over the years. Takers employs that tried and true formula in entertaining fashion, recycling vaguely familiar scenes from the likes of The Italian Job, Ocean’s 11, True Romance, District B-13 and, perhaps most obviously, Heat.
When such a cobbling of stock elements creates a uniquely compelling adventure, it’s generally referred to as an homage. But if the movie merely seems like a shameless rehash of other picture’s greatest moments, we tend to dismiss it as an unworthy rip-off. Takers teeters precariously on the dividing line between hit and miss, belatedly getting around to offering just enough edge of your seat excitement to make you stop wondering where you might have seen this or that bit before.
Set in Los Angeles and directed by John Luessenhop (Lockdown), the film features a talented ensemble headed by recently-paroled rap star T.I. who is typecast as Ghost, a recently-paroled ex-con. Chris Brown co-stars, but not as a guy who beat up his girlfriend, although his best scene is a great escape where he runs for his life from guys angrier than Rihanna’s big brothers.
As the film unfolds, we are treated to the sight a smoothly-executed bank robbery which nets the gang (Brown, Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Michael Ealy and Hayden Christensen) a cool $2 million. However, before they even have a chance to divvy up the take, who should show up unexpectedly, but their former partner in crime, Ghost, looking something like a, er, well, like someone who just rose from the dead.
He’s inclined to overlook the fact that he was dumped for pal Jake (Ealy) by impatient girlfriend (Zoe Saldana) while he was up the river, so long as the boys are willing to let him mastermind an armored car robbery five days from now. They agree, even though it involves breaking an unwritten rule calling for a year off between burglaries. Several slightly-developed subplots supply the rationale for this deviation from the norm, such as Gordon’s (Elba) desperately needing more cash to move his substance-abusing mother (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) from a rehab center to the Caribbean.
The deliberate pace finally speeds up after we’ve become acquainted with each of the guys. That’s because the LAPD officers (Matt Dillon and Jay Hernandez) keeping the crew under surveillance spring into action after uncovering evidence proof of felonious intent.
Fair warning: the highly-stylized romp which ensues revolves more around visually-captivating detonations, chase scene and fight sequences than around the sort of cerebral fare one ordinarily associates with a cat-and-mouse affair. Mindless mayhem perfect for fans of pyrotechnics for pyrotechnics sake.

Good (2 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, graphic violence and partial nudity.
Running time: 107 Minutes
Distributor: Screen Gems

Daniel & Ana (MEXICAN)

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Cautionary Tale Uncovers Another Reason to Avoid Mexico

I don’t know anybody who’s considering Mexico as a vacation destination anymore, given the kidnappings of the rich for ransom, the mass murders in resort areas like Acapulco, the ever-escalating body count in the drug wars and the recent employment of bombings as a terrorist tactic. If, in spite of all of the above, you’re still thinking of venturing South of the Border, you might want to check out Daniel & Ana, a cautionary tale blowing the covers off another problem plaguing the troubled region.
Directed by Michel Franco, Daniel & Ana opens with a warning which reads, “Based on real events. The movie tells the story exactly as it happened. Only the names were changed.”
At the point of departure, we are introduced to Daniel (Dario Yazbek Bernal) and Ana Torres (Marimar Vega), a brother and sister lucky enough to be raised in the lap of luxury in a country cleanly divided into rich and poor. Best of friends, he’s a high school student and looks up to his big sis who commutes daily to a nearby college campus. The only evidence of sibling rivalry is their healthy competition when training to run a marathon.
At 16, Daniel is experiencing his first pangs of sexual awakening, while Ana is engaged to a guy who would like to relocate to Spain after the wedding. But the blushing bride-to-be will hear none of it, insisting that they’ll remain in Mexico City to be near her tight-knit family.
The Torres’ idyllic existence is irreversibly altered that fateful day the two are abducted and tossed into the trunk of their own car by pornographers with a kinky agenda. Apparently, there is a big black market for for incest flicks in Mexico, and these sickos put guns to the pair’s heads not for money, but to force them to engage in intercourse with each other on camera.
The bulk of the picture is devoted to the fallout following the unspeakable violation, starting with traumatized Daniel and Ana’s inability to look each other in the eye. Furthermore, not only do they fail to report the crime to the authorities, but they can’t bring themselves to discuss it with their parents, a shrink or even each other. Instead their every relationship remains ruined by a humiliation which might at any moment further shame them by resurfacing on the internet in graphic detail.
The cinematic equivalent of a PSA shedding light on an underreported vacation risk the Mexican Board of Tourism will never mention in its beckoning commercials.

Very Good (3 stars)
In Spanish with subtitles.
Running time: 90 Minutes
Studio: Strand Releasing

Friday, August 27, 2010

This Week’s DVD Releases

by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for August 31st 2010

Why Did I Get Married Too?

House, M.D. Season Six

The Best of Soul Train

Icarly: Ispace Out

Biracial, Not Black, Damn It!

Water Wars

Beyonce’: The Ultimate Performer

Thriller: The Complete Series


For My Wife

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Good Guy DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Sitcom Sets Up Classic Love Triangle

Tommy Fielding (Scott Porter) is a Wall Street whiz raking in big bucks at Morgan Brothers, a fictional investment bank with a name ostensibly inspired by a transparent contraction of Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers. Located in lower Manhattan, the company is an ethnically-diverse boys club where greed is good and misogyny reigns around the water cooler chatter. Setting the tone is Cash (Andrew McCarthy), a philandering, profit-oriented woman-hating he-man with a moniker about as subtle as the firm’s.
The Good Guy doesn’t offer much of a plot to sink your teeth into until the day one of Morgan Brothers’ rainmakers announces that he’s leaving to take a better offer from a competitor. At that juncture, Tommy taps computer geek Daniel Seaver (Bryan Greenberg) to fill the vacant position, even though he doesn’t have a background in finance or much in the way of or a magnetic personality.
This ill-advised decision comes to take more of a toll on cocky Tommy’s social than professional life, after he encourages his nerdy new protégé to hangout with his gorgeous, green girlfriend (Alexis Bledel). For Beth, a conservationist concerned about carbon footprints, has only been dating morally-bankrupt Tommy for a few months.
So, it doesn’t take much for relatively-sensitive Daniel to have her rethinking her relationship with a Neanderthal. First, he undergoes a Jerry Lewis/Jim Carrey comedy-quality transformation merely by removing his eyeglasses (ala the social zero makeover in your typical teensploit). He then proceeds to win her heart by contributing to the conversation at her women’s book club. Needless to say, a tawdry love triangle ensues, as clueless Tommy catches on too late to prevent complications. Which guy gets the girl?
Unfortunately, without any chemistry among the lead characters, you won’t care, as this insipid sitcom simply fails to engage the audience on an emotional level. And the crude humor isn’t reason enough to invest in this mirthless sitcom either, since the laughs are few and far between, if you know what I mean.
Good guys finish last and make mediocre movies.

Fair (1 star)
Rated R for sexuality and pervasive profanity.
Running time: 90 Minutes
Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Audio commentary by the director and actress Alexis Bledel.

Wonderful World DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Matthew Broderick Falls for Sanaa Lathan in Jungle Fever DVD

Terminally-grouchy Ben Singer (Matthew Broderick) is a miserable loser having a midlife crisis. The divorced, unemployed stoner mostly fritters away his time getting high in his Shreveport, Laousiana apartment. He can’t even pull himself together for his emotionally-estranged, 11 year-old daughter (Jodie Ferland) when he has custody of her during visitation every other weekend.
In fact, his only constructive relationship is with his roommate, Ibu (Michael K. Williams), a Senegalese immigrant, since they enjoy playing chess while chatting. But then even that escape gets ruined the day Ibu has to be rushed to the hospital in a diabetic coma.
This relentlessly-depressing premise sets the tone for the magical transformation to come in Wonderful World, a bittersweet dramedy written and directed by Joshua Goldin. For Ben gets a new lease on life and a shot at redemption when Ibu’s attractive sister Khadi (Sanaa Lathan) arrives from Africa and decides to share the flat with Ben until her sibling is stabilized.
The two proceed to fall in lust immediately, although Matthew Broderick and Sanaa Lathan generate little in the way of screen chemistry, unlike her outing opposite Simon Baker in Something New. The problem is that there’s a permanent, pre-pubescent boyishness about Broderick, which leaves him less than convincing in a romantic lead. Nonetheless, if you can forgive the inauthentic clinches, the rest of the script is at least well-enough executed to earn this sufficiently entertained critic’s a stamp of approval.
Ferris Bueller’s Jungle Fever!

Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated R for profanity, drug use and sexuality.
Running time: 89 Minutes
Distributor: Magnolia Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: A trio of featurettes: "As Soon as Fish Fall Out of the Sky: Character and Story of Wonderful World," “Working with the Director and with Matthew Broderick” and a behind the scenes montage.

Why Did I Get Married Too DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Tyler Perry Battle-of-the-Sexes Sequel Debuts on DVD

For years, four very close couples, friends since college, have been taking an annual vacation together to luxurious getaway spots to reconnect, reminisce, and reflect on the state of their marital relationships. Their previous reunion at a Colorado ski lodge proved very eventful, especially for the emotionally-abused Sheila (Jill Scott), who eventually summoned up the courage to dump her openly-unfaithful husband, Mike (Richard T. Jones).
This go round, the revelers make reservations at an oceanfront resort in the Bahamas, where just as much melodrama unfolds as before. First, Mike shows up uninvited, hoping to rekindle a little romance with his ex who’s now remarried to Troy (Lamman Rucker), the local cop who rescued her like a knight in shining armor in a blizzard back in the Rocky Mountains.
Meanwhile, the other three couples find themselves facing their own issues, too, starting with outspoken Angela (Tasha Smith) who has trouble trusting her hunky hubby (Michael Jai White). After all, the former pro athlete has cheated on her before, and likely has more opportunities to stray since he’s finally gainfully employed as host of “The Sports Shuffle,” a TV talk show.
A little more difficult to discern are the subtle strains on the seemingly-perfect marriage of psychologist Pat (Janet Jackson) and architect Gavin (Malik Yoba), given that she’s a celebrated love guru with a new best-seller out on the market. However, we soon learn that even a mild-mannered shrink might need to blow off some steam after keeping her feelings about the death of her son bottled up inside for so many years.
Last but not least, there’s Terry (Tyler Perry) and Dianne (Sharon Leal), whose relationship tension revolves around his suspicious that his workaholic, attorney spouse might be having an affair in spite of her perfectly plausible explanation for her whereabouts. “Can this marriage be saved?” remains the running theme raised repeatedly in Why Did I Get Married Too, one of those rare sequels which is actually better than the original.
Tyler Perry earns high marks for not only reassembling his entire principal cast, but for embroiling the talented ensemble in another compelling, modern morality play which feels as fresh as it is funny.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, sexuality, profanity, drug references and domestic violence.
Running time: 121 minutes
Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Several featurettes.

The Milk of Sorrow (PERUVIAN)



(La Teta Asustada)

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Atmospheric Academy Award-Nominee Arrives in Theaters


Nominated for an Oscar earlier this year in the Best Foreign Language Film category, The Milk of Sorrow is an introspective mood piece shot against an array of atmospheric backdrops around the city of Lima. More engaging than the underdeveloped storyline are the soulful, ever-expressive eyes of its visually-arresting protagonist, Fausta (Magaly Solier), a beautiful but bordering on catatonic young woman afflicted with the rare disease from which the picture takes its title.

You know how a baby can be born addicted to crack or with fetal alcohol syndrome, if its mother was a substance abuser during pregnancy? Well, this flick relies on the novel notion that a rape victim can unwittingly transmit the trauma of a sexual assault merely by breastfeeding her offspring.

That’s what happened to the ethereal Fausta, whose late mom (Barbara Lazon) never recovered from being violated during a period of civil unrest in her native Peru. Sadly, the sins of the marauders were visited upon the peasant’s daughter who now suffers from nose bleeds and feinting spells, much to the chagrin of her doting uncle (Marino Ballon).

He accompanies her to the doctor who is skeptical about the existence of the aforementioned malady. Instead, the doubting physician misdiagnoses it as a classic case of tuber womb. Yes, Fausta had admittedly taken to placing a potato in her vagina at the suggestion of her mother, as a means of warding off an attacker. But that chastity protector has nothing to do with the hard, cold truth that she’s come into the world “without a soul because it hid underground out of fear.”

Thus, whether serving as a bridesmaid in her cousin Maxima’s (Maria del Pilar Guerrero) wedding to Marcos (Edward Llungo), or working as a housekeeper for a tempermental, accomplished pianist (Susi Sanchez), we see that our damaged heroine maintains that vacant, thousand-yard stare of a grizzled war veteran, never managing to muster up anything in the way of emotions.

This evocative example of Magical Realism paints a relentlessly-grim, if visually-captivating, portrait of a tormented soul suffering in silence while simultaneously delivering a powerful message about the continuing consequences of rape across generations like a ripple on a pond.


Excellent (4 stars)


In Spanish and Quecha with subtitles.

Running time: 100 Minutes

Distributor: Olive Films

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 September 3, 2010


The American (R for violence, sexuality and nudity) George Clooney stars in the title role of this international thriller as an assassin who reports to a tiny Italian town for his last assignment before retiring only to befriend a priest (Paolo Bonacelli) and woo a local lass (Violante Placido) against his better judgment while awaiting further instructions from his Belgian contact (Thekla Reuten). (In English and Italian with subtitles)

Going the Distance (R for sexuality, profanity, drug use and brief nudity) Bicoastal romantic comedy about the trials and tribulations of a journalist (Drew Barrymore) and a music scout (Justin Long) trying to maintain their relationship after she moves to San Francisco while he stays behind in New York City. With Christina Applegate, Ron Livingston and Kelli Garner.

Machete (R for profanity, sexuality, nudity and pervasive graphic violence) Revenge thriller about a renegade hit man (Danny Trejo) who embarks on a bloody rampage after being fleeced by a drug kingpin (Steven Seagal) and double-crossed by the Texas businessman (Jeff Fahey) who hired him to assassinate a Senator (Robert De Niro) sending illegal aliens back to Mexico. With Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Alba, Don Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez and Cheech Marin.

The Winning Season (PG-13 for profanity, sexual references, alcohol abuse, smoking and mature themes) Sports comedy about a divorced, deadbeat dad (Sam Rockwell) who makes the most of a shot at redemption after taking a job coaching a girls’ high school basketball team whose members give him some good advice about how to relate to his estranged teenaged daughter (Shana Dowdeswell). Cast includes Emma Roberts, Shareeka Epps, Mara Rooney and Rob Corddry.


Clear Blue Tuesday (Unrated) Transcendental rock musical examines the fallout of 9/11 visited upon eleven New Yorkers in the first seven years following the
terrorist attack. Ensemble cast includes Becca Ayers, Julie Danao, Vedant Gokhale, Erin Hill, Cassandra Kubinski, Brother Love, Greg Naughton, Jan O’Dell, Jeremy Schonfeld and Asa Somers.

Etienne! (Unrated) Unlikely-buddy, road comedy about a pet owner (Richard Vallejos) who decides to take his hamster on a sightseeing bicycle trip after learning that the critter is terminally-ill with cancer. With Jeremiah Turner, David Fine and Courtney Halverson.

Last Train Home (Unrated) Melancholy documentary highlights how modernization has contributed to the disintegration of the Chinese family by chronicling the arduous annual migration home undertaken by 130 million peasants just to celebrate the New Year. (In Mandarin with subtitles)

Mesrine: Killer Instinct (Unrated) Bio-pic revisiting the exploits of France’s Public Enemy #1 Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel) and sidekick Jeanne Schneider (Cecile de France), vicious mobsters dubbed the French Bonnie and Clyde by the gendarmes during their globetrotting reign of terror over the Sixties and Seventies. (In French with subtitles)

My Dog Tulip (Unrated) Adult-oriented animated feature based on J.R. Ackerley’s 1956 memoir about the enduring friendship forged between a lonely, British gentleman (Christopher Plummer) and the German shepherd whose life he saved. Voice cast includes Lynn Redgrave, Isabella Rossellini and Brian Murray.

Prince of Broadway (Unrated) Immigration drama revolving around a couple of struggling street hustlers, an African (Prince Adu), and an Arab (Karren Karagulian), selling counterfeit merchandise in midtown Manhattan whose lives are complicated when the Ghanaian’s baby-mama (Kat Sanchez) suddenly shows up, dumps an infant in his lap (Aiden Noesi), and takes off.

White Wedding (Unrated) It’s The Hangover, South African style, in this road comedy about a groom (Kenneth Nkosi) and a best man (Rapulana Seiphemo) who get waylaid en route to the wedding while driving from Durban to Cape Town. With Grant Swanby, Jodie Whittaker and Zandile Msutwana, as the blushing bride. (In Zulu, Afrikaans, English and Xhosa)

A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop (R for violence) Chinese-language remake of the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple, overhauled as a screwball comedy about a noodle shop owner (Ni Dahong) whose plans to murder his adulterous wife (Yan Ni) and her lover (Xiao Shen-Yang) go terribly awry. (In Mandarin with subtitles)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Piranha 3D



Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Teen-Eating Fish Ruin Spring Break at the Lake


The only thing disappointing about this high body-count horror flick is that it was released too late in the summer to enjoy the long run in theaters it really deserves. Otherwise, this campy B-flick is the best offering from the tongue-in-cheek genre since Snakes on a Plane, another gratuitous gore fest with a good sense of humor.

First of all, understand that this film’s R rating is well-earned, being laced with lots of sex, vivisection and eroticized violence. Still, I’m sure word of mouth will have plenty of underaged jumpers buying tickets for another movie and simply switching theaters.

Like Snakes on a Plane, Piranha 3D has a title which lives up to its billing, as it serves up plenty of the prehistoric monsters in a fashion which makes you think you could almost reach out and touch them. But the plot reads more like Jaws, given that the story unfolds in a resort town at the height of the tourist season.

It’s Spring Break, and thousands of college students have descended on fictional Lake Victoria in Arizona for a little fun in the sun and the water. And it falls to Sheriff Forester (Elisabeth Shue) and her beefy deputy dog (Ving Rhames) to keep the kids under control, although the two are only anticipating having to deal with disorderly person issues like public nudity and intoxication.

Their primary adversary in this regard is Derrick Jones (Jerry McConnell), the sleazy producer of a string of titillating Girls Gone Wild-style videos. The dirty old man has arrived on location with a camera crew ready to stage wet T-shirt contests and soused coeds coaxed to take off their bikini tops.

 However, unusual seismic activity in the midst of the debauchery creates a fissure under the lake which leads to the mysterious death of an unsuspecting fisherman (Richard Dreyfuss). Against their better judgment, the cops never close the beaches, even ignoring the dire warnings of an alarmed scientist (Christopher Lloyd) out of fear that mass hysteria might be bad for the local businesses.

Beware, Hell hath no fury like a school of starving, teen-eating piranhas!


Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for sexuality, profanity, graphic nudity, teen alcohol consumption, gratuitous violence and gore, crude humor and drug use.

Running time: 89 Minutes

Studio: Dimension Films

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ava Duvernay: The “My Mic Sounds Nice” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Ava Has Arrived!

Ava DuVernay has worked in the world of film as a marketer and publicist for more than 14 years, forming DVA Media + Marketing in 1999. Her award-winning firm has provided strategy and execution for more than 80 film and television campaigns for acclaimed directors such as Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Michael Mann, Robert Rodriguez, Bill Condon, Raoul Peck, Gurinder Chadha and Reggie & Gina Bythewood.
Yet, in 2008, Ava stepped behind the camera to make her feature film directorial debut with the critically-acclaimed hip-hop documentary, “This is The Life.” DuVernay, a graduate of UCLA and a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, is based in L.A. Here, she talks about her skyrocketing second career.
Kam Williams: Hi, Ava, thanks for another interview. How have you been?Ava DuVernay: Thanks, Kam. I always love talking to you. I’ve been good and busy!
KW: Congrats on having three new productions going at the same time. Looks like you’ve really arrived! AD: Appreciate that. It feels wonderful. I’ve wanted to direct for a long time, so working full-time as a filmmaker this year has been a dream come true.
KW: Tell me a little about each of them.AD: Well, the first is a network project called “My Mic Sounds Nice.” It was commissioned by BET as their first original music documentary and explores the art and issues around women rappers. I interviewed 35 people, half of whom were female emcees like MC Lyte, Salt n Pepa, Roxanne Shante, Trina, Eve, YoYo, the list goes on. Commercially available music created by female hip-hop artists is a bit of a lost art form at the moment, and there are many theories as to why that’s the case. We attempt to explore the history and current state of this issue in “My Mic Sounds Nice,” which premieres on BET on August 30 at 10PM. The second project is a concert film I directed for Essence and Time, Inc Studios chronicling the 2010 Essence Music Festival in New Orleans. Did you know Essence Music Fest is the largest annual African-American gathering in the country? This year’s three day fest was absolutely amazing, with everyone from Janet Jackson to Alicia Keys to Mary J. Blige to Jill Scott, to Earth Wind & Fire to Trey Songz! It was so much fun to direct. “TV One Night Only: Live from Essence Music Festival 2010” airs on August 28 on TV One.
And finally, the third film is another documentary that I’m directing for Essence about two New Orleans women who have overcome tragedy and adversity after Hurricane Katrina and its tragic aftermath. These women are truly breathtaking in their strength and faith. Look for that doc, currently entitled Essence Presents: Faith the Storm in October on TV One.
KW: Which one has been your favorite to shoot?AD: Oh wow. That’s like asking me to pick between my children. I’d say “My Mic Sounds Nice.” Sitting down and interviewing all those talented women artists, plus the excellent panel of experts, academics and journalists, was a rare treat.
KW: Which one was the most challenging?AD: I’d say the Essence Music Festival, only because the Louisiana Superdome, where the concerts take place, is so massive. There are so many moving parts. So many acts and artists. The logistics were challenging, but the experience I wouldn’t trade.
KW: What’s up next for you?AD: Next, I’m putting the finished touches on a narrative film I wrote and directed called “I Will Follow.” It’s an indie drama, starring Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Omari Hardwick, Michole White, Tracie Thoms, Dijon Talton and Beverly Todd. The film makes its world premiere as the official Closing Night selection of the Urbanworld Film Festival in New York this September.
KW: You are among a small group of working black women filmmakers in Hollywood. What are your thoughts on the dearth of black female directors?AD: I think it’s a wonderful time to be a black woman who makes films. It’s a good time to be an artist period. Traditional models of making and consuming art are breaking down and being rebuilt. I find that to be incredibly exciting as a filmmaker and film marketer. Then, you add being a black woman to that? And to be among all the amazing sisters who are telling stories right now is phenomenal. You have the vets like Cheryl Dunye, Kasi Lemmons, Julie Dash and Gina Prince-Bythewood. Plus now, I’m happy to be amongst a new crop of sisters who are all making their first feature films independently right now. Dee Rees, Tina Mabry, Tanya Hamilton, Nzingha Stewart and Victoria Mahoney. It’s a beautiful time for us, in my opinion. I prefer to embrace this moment as a moment of empowerment, instead of moaning about the lack of this or problems with that. I’m making and marketing my films, by any means necessary, and enjoying life while I do so.
KW: You have a rare skill set, being an experienced marketer who has worked on major studio campaigns for movies like Dreamgirls and Invictus. How are you applying those skills to your own films? AD: When I’m marketing a film, whether its mine or someone else’s, I work with a great deal of strategy and elbow grease until the job is done. It’s pretty simple really. I just dive in and start digging. Yes, I’m fortunate to know the in’s and out’s of a true studio-level marketing campaign. But really, anyone who is diligent and well-researched can pull it off too. Its easier for me, but it doesn’t make it impossible for others. Filmmakers need to realize that their job isn’t done when they lock picture. We must see our films through. Studios no longer do this for a large percentage of films. The odds that your film will get a major campaign are dim these days. So you must find and nurture your own audience and make sure your film has a life. Filmmakers must learn this now, just as they learn to work with the camera or the actors. I find the marketing part of the process fun and fascinating. But I realize it’s a challenge for others, so I’m actually building a business model to assist black independent filmmakers get their films into theaters, identify and speak to their audience. I’ll be talking more about that in a few months and I’m very excited about the possibilities.
KW: We’ll look forward to hearing all about that. Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would? AD: Hmmm. I always find it fascinating to ask people, why they’ve chosen to live their life as an artist? Why be an actor, a singer, an author, a filmmaker? I’ve heard such inspiring answers to that question.
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?AD: Good health and safety for my loved ones.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see? AD: Wow! Good question. I see a woman who is happy. Truly, it’s a very happy season for me at the moment.
KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times? AD: I remind myself that whatever is happening was meant to happen to me, at that particular time, for a specific reason. That it is meant to be, and that all will be well.
KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
AD: Be passionate and move forward with gusto every single hour of every single day until you reach your goal.
KW: Anything else you’d like to add?AD: Just that people can follow what’s happening with the films I’m working on via Twitter @AVADVA.
KW: Thanks again, Ava, and all the best! AD: Thank you, Kam, for the interview. I appreciate it a lot.




America I AM

A Journal

Edited by Clarence Reynolds

Smiley Books

Paperback, $11.95

240 pages, Illustrated

ISBN: 978-1-4019-2407-2


Book Review by Kam Williams


“’Would America have been America without her Negro people?’ The question posed by W.E.B. Du Bois serves as the underlying theme for America I AM… It spurs us to consider how the original gifts of African culture were uniquely manifested in America, and helped to lay the foundation for the creation of this country.

If we wrestle with this question, we will begin to see just how central black people have been in creating, sustaining, and contributing to America, both past and present. Such contemplation allows us to finally recognize African-Americans’ indisputable economic, socio-political, spiritual, and cultural.”

-Excerpted from the Introduction (page 1)


My son has repeatedly said to me that he thinks of African-Americans as the only true Americans, because we not only shed so much of our blood, sweat and tears as slaves during the foundation of the nation, but have also contributed to the country’s unique cultural legacy in terms of music, dance, language and elsewhat. Affirming such wisdom coming from the mouth of babes is America I AM, a journal edited by Clarence V. Reynolds, a veteran journalist who has written for Discover, The Network Journal and the Black Issues Book Review.

Designed as much to be written in as to be perused by each reader, America I AM is essentially a 200+ page diary whose pages are graced with famous quotations from leading figures in African-American history. The idea is to celebrate the struggles, sacrifices and survival against the odds of a people who simultaneously miraculously managed to enrich the world despite a host of woes.

Among the more memorable passages recounted here is Harriet Tubman’s telling reflection abut the source of her inspiration to rescue the least of her brethren via the Underground Railroad. “I have heard their groans and sighs, and seen their tears, and I would give every drop of blood in my veins to free them,” she asserted defiantly.

Then there’s the following excerpt from John Brown’s testimony when put on trial for his life for leading a slave revolt. “I want you to understand that I respect the rights of the poorest and weakest of coloured people, oppressed by the slave system, just as much as I do those of the most wealthy and powerful. That is the idea that has moved me, and that alone.”

A treasure trove of powerful citations with plenty of space allotted for the musings of potential black leaders of the future.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tip "T.I." Harris: The "Takers" Interview



with Kam Williams


Headline: On the Q.T. with T.I.


Tip “T.I.” Harris is one of his generation’s most captivating speakers and one of the biggest hip-hop artists of all time. Whether they see him conversing with a room full of young people about staying in school and following their dreams, or moving tens of thousands at one of his concerts, audiences are always engrossed by the words of the “King of the South.” In 2008, T.I. delivered his most potent and important LP to date, “Paper Trail,” and his highly-anticipated, seventh studio album, “King Uncaged,” is set to be released this Fall.

T.I.’s second professional love is acting in films, and in this arena he has taken major steps forward in recent years. He made his motion picture debut in 2006 in the Warner Bros. film A.T.L. He also appeared in the hit Universal film American Gangster opposite Denzel Washington, and guest-starred on HBO’s hit series “Entourage” in 2008.T.I. recently signed a three-picture deal with Screen Gems that will have him both acting in and producing movies.

Music and movies are just the leading edge of T.I.’s entertainment conglomerate. He’s also expanding into comedy tours, the nightclub and restaurant scene, talent management, and record producing. Plus, he has launched his own fashion line, Akoo.

Here, he talks about his new movie, Takers, a crime caper abut a gang of bank robbers who decide to pull off one last heist before retiring. The film co-stars Zoe Saldana, Chris Brown, Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Michael Ealy and Hayden Christensen.


Kam Williams: Hey, T.I., thanks for the time.

TI: No problem, how you doing?


KW: I’m great. The last time we spoke was for the premiere of ATL. So, a lot has happened for you since then.

TI: Yeah, right.


KW: First of all, congratulations on your wedding last month. You finally made an honest woman of Tameka. Children’s book author Irene Smalls says congrats and wants to know how being married has changed you.

TI: [Chuckles] Man, please, we’re here to talk about the movie. It would be wonderful to just talk about the movie.


KW: Well then, what interested you in Takers? It seems like you had a hand in every aspect of this project, from acting to the soundtrack to executive producing

TI: I was just producing, not executive producing. It was an outstanding experience. I had a phenomenal time, and I’m very, very proud of the outcome.


KW: How did you manage to assemble such an accomplished cast? There’s not only Oscar-nominees Matt Dillon and Marianne-Jean Baptiste, but Zoe Saldana, Hayden Christensen, Idris Elba, Chris Brown, Paul Walker and Jay Hernandez as well.

TI: I think that the script did most of the work in terms of attracting the talent, because it was so exciting that everybody jumped at the opportunity not only to work together but to be a part of something we felt had so much potential.


KW: And how did working with this ensemble turn out?

TI: Man, it was an honor and a pleasure.


KW: It even has a chase scene with Chris Brown doing some parkour, that French, free-running form of movement popularized in District B-13 and the first James Bond film with Daniel Craig.

TI: Yeah, it definitely reads like a fast-paced, high-energy action flick.


KW: How did you prepare for your role?

TI: I think the first step in preparing for this or any other role involves developing a clear understanding of the script, and then mentally placing yourself in the scenarios of your character.


KW: I see that people are already calling Takers “T.I. 11” and “The T.I. Job,” allusions to Ocean’s 11 and The Italian Job. How do you feel about that?

TI: I mean, man, I’m just pleased to be talked about in the same breath as the elite of action films. You know what I’m saying? The comparison is an honor all in itself.


KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles asks, what message do you want audiences to take away from this movie?

TI: That there is no good without bad. That karma is real. And that you can’t go through life doing only bad and expect good to come of it.


KW: What type of audience do you expect the movie to attract?

TI: A very diversified one over a broad spectrum.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

TI: [Laughs] Man, that’s a tough question to answer. I try to cook whatever the kids and the family want to eat. Let’s see, here… I got a fresh shrimp dish that I prepare fairly well that has become a household favorite. I marinate it in a special parmesan sauce. [Chuckles]


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

TI: My reflection. [Laughs] That’s another very difficult question…[Pauses to think] I see the man that I’ve grown to become.


KW: Director/author Hisani Dubose says, “As soon as a rap artist, sports figure or actor becomes well known, everyone says they are a role model for kids. How do you feel about that?”

TI: I feel that we are all one another’s examples in life. And if my experiences, past and present, can help guide a young person in the right direction, then so be it.


KW: The Nancy Lovell Question: Why do you love doing what you do?

TI: I’m just a passionate person by nature. So, I have a lot of love for music, and a drive to succeed in general, be it film, be it fashion, or whatever the case may be. I put a lot of myself in all of my work. That passion carries over into each of my endeavors.


KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

TI: [LOL] Absolutely! The happiest I’ve ever been.


KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

TI: Just now, when you asked me if I was happy.


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

TI: Not of anything but God. I think fear is a wasted emotion.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

TI: The Bible.


KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What are you listening to on your iPod?

TI: I listen to a lot of old school R&B. I don’t get many opportunities to listen to much else right now because we’re in the final stages of the recording process.


KW: When will the album be finished?

TI: We’re taking the time necessary to dedicate the necessary attention to the marketing and promotion of the movie first. After that, we will completely submerge ourselves into the completion of the album.


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

TI: Just for healthy, productive, successful lives for my children and the rest of my family.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

TI: The first day of school in kindergarten.


KW: How would you describe yourself in one word?

TI: Loyal.


KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

TI: I don’t want to sound vain, but that would have to be my own fashion line, Akoo.


KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

TI: I don’t feel the need to feel guilty about any of my pleasures. [Chuckles]


KW: What has been the happiest moment of your life?

TI: The births of my children.


KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered? What do you want your legacy to be?

TI: Just as a stand-up guy, man, who put his family first, and who put a lot of passion and sincerity into his work.


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

TI: Nah, nah, nah, I think I’ve been asked just about everything you can be asked.


KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?

TI: [Laughs] They’ve already been helping me throughout my career. Their continued love and support is enough for me. The only other thing outside of that is sharing their honest opinion of what could be done better. Keep it real with me, that’s all.


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

TI: If you set out trying to follow in my footsteps, you won’t achieve what I achieved without doing everything I did wrong, too. So, in order to do everything right and end up in a similar position without also making the mistakes I made, you have to aim higher. You have to endeavor to be better than me. On a daily basis, I’m always pushing and challenging myself to be better.


KW: Well, thanks again for anther great interview, T.I., and best of luck with the movie and the album.

TI: Thank you, Kam. It’s been an absolute pleasure. Later!