Monday, February 28, 2011

2011 Oscar Recap

Headline: “King’s Speech” Coronation Spearheads Another British Invasion
by Kam Williams

The King’s Speech not only won the Oscars for Best Picture, Original Screenplay and Actor (Colin Firth) as expected, but also for Best Director (Tom Hooper) in something of a slight upset over The Social Network’s David Fincher. Most of the awards went as this critic anticipated (16/20 picks correct), with Natalie Portman (Black Swan) landing Best Actress while Christian Bale and Melissa Leo prevailed in the supporting categories for The Fighter.
Over the years, I’ve made a habit of pointing out how Anglophilic the Academy tends to be, and this year was no exception. You couldn’t help but notice the profusion of English accents during acceptance speeches, between The King’s Speech and Inception, British productions which netted four Oscars apiece. Even Christian Bale’s thick Welsh brogue probably surprised a lot of folks who’d presumed him to be Yank after seeing him play so many American characters.
Why the U.S. continues to display such post-colonial deference to England centuries after declaring its independence is disconcerting. As a consequence of this lack of self-esteem, many deserving domestic talents remain fated never to enjoy a share the limelight.
The evening’s most memorable moment arrived courtesy of Ms. Leo who had to be bleeped when she tastelessly used the F-word while thanking the Academy. What’s perhaps more interesting is that she had come under criticism in recent weeks for launching her own ad campaign in the industry trade papers lobbying for votes. Obviously, the tactic worked, as it helped her edge out a Brit, The King’s Speech’s Helena Bonham Carter.
As for the co-hosts, James Franco and Anne Hathaway were visually appealing, but exhibited little in the way of chemistry or comedy chops. In fact, their performances peaked during the show’s opening, a pre-recorded parody featuring the pair immersed in famous scenes from screen classics courtesy of trick photography.
The absence of suspense or entertainment rendered the Academy Awards little more than a self-congratulatory celebration of material excess. This crop of Oscar-winners was lily-white, and unless I dozed off (which isn’t out of the realm of possibility), the only minority members who even appeared onstage as presenters, were Oprah, Jennifer Hudson and Halle Berry who paid a posthumous tribute to the late Lena Horne. Hey, Javier Bardem doesn’t count because he was born in Spain, and I don’t think Castilians qualify as Latino.
The curtain came down on the night’s festivities with a cleansing Kumbaya moment courtesy of an ethnically-diverse choir of school kids from Staten Island who sang “Somewhere over the Rainbow” during the closing credits. Let’s just pray that next year’s affair is a little more inclusive for the whole three hours.


The King’s Speech

Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech

Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Christian Bale, The Fighter

Melissa Leo, The Fighter

The King’s Speech, Screenplay by David Seidler

The Social Network, Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin

Toy Story 3

In a Better World (Denmark)

Inside Job, Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs

Inception, Wally Pfister

The Social Network, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

“We Belong Together,” Toy Story 3, Randy Newman

The Social Network, Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Inception, Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb

Alice in Wonderland, Colleen Atwood

The Wolfman, Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Inception, Richard King

Inception, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo, and Ed Novick

Alice in Wonderland, Robert Stromberg, Karen O’Hara

The Lost Thing, Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann

God of Love, Luke Matheny

Strangers No More, Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lou Gossett, Jr.: “The Grace Card” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: A Chat between a Journalist and a Gentleman

Louis Cameron Gossett, Jr. was born in Coney Island, Brooklyn on May 27, 1936 to Helen Rebecca Wray, a nurse, and Lou, Sr. a Pullman porter. Lou’s stellar career started in 1953 while he was still in high school, when he landed a role in the Broadway production of Take a Giant Step.
One of a select group of actors to win both an Academy and Emmy Award, he is best known for his Oscar-winning performance as a gunnery sergeant in the film classic, An Officer and a Gentleman and for his Emmy-winning portrayal of the character Fiddler in the historic TV-miniseries "Roots."
In 2006, Lou decided to devote his energies to fighting social ills, so he founded the Eracism Foundation, a nonprofit designed to create a "conscious offensive against racism, violence and ignorance." Toward that end, the organization has sponsored programs focused on youth mentoring, anti-gang violence initiatives, and diversity sensitivity training sessions at its Shamba Centers.
Last year, Lou published his aptly entitled autobiography, “An Actor and a Gentleman.” Here, he talks about his new movie, “The Grace Card,” a faith-based tale of reconciliation and redemption.

Kam Williams: Thanks for the time, Lou. I’m very honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.
Lou Gossett, Jr.: Hey, Kam, what’s going on?

KW: I have a lot of questions for you from fans, starting with “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan who knows you from the Wells Fargo branch next to the Marmalade Cafe in Malibu.
LG: Right.

KW: Jimmy says that he’s spoken to you about your Eracism Foundation on a number of occasions, and he hopes that you’ll talk about it during the interview.
LG: Absolutely!

KW: But first, I have to ask you what interested you in The Grace Card?
LG: Actually, The Grace Card’s aim is the same as that of the foundation, the elimination of racism. How synergistic and opportune is that? It seems to me that if we can create a society where racism just can’t thrive, it’ll go away. My concept is to teach children everything from self-respect to respect for elders and the opposite sex to a dress code to how to conduct themselves and how to live in harmony with the planet. When you start teaching kids these things at a young age, even before they start school, it sticks. It’s our responsibility to teach our children and to prepare them for the next level, just like Jews do in temples and synagogues. That’s not happening right now, and you don’t see it onscreen often. But The Grace Card is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. The magic word is “forgiveness.” And from forgiveness comes healing. We have to do the best that we can, with God’s help, to clean up our act, and to eliminate the negatives which prevent us from seeing the “Sunlight of the Spirit,” and then let the kids copy that. They have nothing to copy right now. Some of the decisions they’re making are antisocial and illegal. The culture currently glorifies womanizing, drinking, using drugs, bling-bling, and making babies they don’t take responsibility for. And it has them believing that that sort of behavior makes them a man. It’s irrational. It’s coming from a society that’s not healthy. Consequently, this generation is a lost generation. But you can’t blame them, because that’s all they know. When they look for role models to pattern their lives after, all that’s available to them is what they find on TV, in the movies and in the rap videos. My foundation is showing them another way. If minority kids think they can’t make it, it is our responsibility to help prepare them for the opportunity to be full-blown Americans right now. But they have to do it with grace and forgiveness, not with anger and resentment. In my program, they practice that from a young age, including morality and concern for our fellow human beings. We’re talking about the uplifting of America. The bottom line is that we need to be more responsible for ourselves and for each other. Every child should have shelter, healthcare, education and clothing. We all need each other to survive. That’s the reality.

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What has the feedback been like about your lovely autobiography?
LG: It’s amazing, when I visit churches and schools to speak about the book and about the work that I just discussed, the audience is like a sea of bobble-head dolls. Everybody agrees that we have to take the responsibility for ourselves and for raising, mentoring and teaching our children so they have appropriate role models to imitate. That’s the natural function, and the way it used to be. It seems like we abandoned our responsibilities when times got hard.

KW: Patricia also says: I was stunned when I once heard you say that despite the fact you received an Oscar, it took you a year and a half to find another interesting movie to work on and that you never made more than one million dollars for a picture.
LG: I still haven’t.

KW: She asks, what advice do you have for aspiring minority actors or actresses to negotiate the optimal movie deal?
LG: The optimal movie deal depends on how important you are. You need to get some performances onscreen to prove your worth, so that there’s an advantage when you negotiate. That’s when leverage comes into play. If you know that you have a name that’s bankable, then you can get some money for yourself.

KW: Dante Lee, author of "Black Business Secrets," asks: Is it important for an actor to also be an entrepreneur?
LG: Oh, it’s absolutely necessary. It’s very important for each successive generation to push the envelope further than the previous one.

KW: Attorney Tim Plunkett asks: Did you really fly in the fighter jet in Iron Eagle?
LG: I did. I knew Tom Cruise had lost his lunch when they put him in the cockpit. And I was warned by the Israeli Air Force, which has the best-trained pilots in the world, not to eat, because they fly like darts. So, I didn’t have any breakfast. After we landed, I felt kind of woozy when I climbed out of the plane. After I assured everyone that I felt fine, I walked fifty yards to my dressing room, closed the door behind me, and lost my meal from the night before. Nobody knew. That ride was exciting but, boy, you have to be in shape for that one. I’d never do it again.

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: What makes you get up in the morning with a smile on your face?
LG: Meditation and prayer. I have a checklist for the beginning of the day, and another one for the end of the day. It’s also very nice to be this age and to wake up every morning with something to learn. School is never out. There’s always something new to learn.

KW: Irene also asks: What is the one skill an actor must have to be successful today?
LG: First of all, an actor’s aspiration has to be the art, not the job. Then he has to be relatively naked to be able to take onto himself aspects of the character and to make everything look like it’s happening for the first time. Easy to say, hard to do, but that’s the aspiration. I never want to see an actor acting. I want to see him being.

KW: FSU grad Laz Lyles asks: Do you still get anxious when starting a new project?
LG: I always do, because I never think I know enough. That’s the impetus to prepare thoroughly and then to trust.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman observes that you’re playing a role with religious significance. She asks: Are you now more religious than when you were younger. Is your faith stronger?
LG: My faith is stronger. There’s more spirituality, and that inside job, that character builder is essential because it’s priceless. They can take all the material things, but nobody can take your spirituality away from you. And faith is most important when things appear to be down.

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles asks: How did you arrive at the name "Shamba" for your Eracism Foundation Centers. Can you speak to the origin and meaning of the word and to its special significance in your choice?
LG: ”Shamba” comes from Azim, a friend born in Kenya, who’s on the board of directors of the foundation. ”Shamba” is a Swahili word meaning farm. That’s a place where you plant seeds which yield fruit. So, Shamba Centers are where you plant seeds in the minds of children and all people really about how to live better.

KW: Harriet also asks: How do the roles you and other African-Ameican actors play in the movies and on TV contribute to Eracism's conscious offensive against racism and violence--and how do these roles conflict with those goals?
LG: I certainly don’t do anything conflicting with those goals any more. And I don’t think I’ve done any in the past either. I pick and choose those roles which educate, uplift and entertain. By way of example, Iron Eagle, An Officer and a Gentleman, The Choirboys and Enemy Mine are all uplifting, informational, educational movies. I wouldn’t play a villain unless the film’s overall message is positive. There’s a responsibility not only to entertain but to educate and to pick roles carefully, especially after you’ve become famous. I’m not going to exploit my audience.

KW: Larry Greenberg says: Most of your roles have been serious but you’ve also appeared on several TV sitcoms, and supplied the voice of Sergeant Angryman on "Family Guy" and you’ve even hosted "Saturday Night Live." How do you feel about doing some more comedy?
LG: I love comedy. I look forward to doing some more. I enjoy telling jokes in real life.

KW: Patricia asks: What needs to be done in Hollywood to create more non-stereotypical roles of substance?
LG: It’s happening, even though you don’t see much diversity among this year’s Oscar nominees. They did wonderful jobs, but diversity is essential, otherwise Hollywood will lose its fan base slowly but surely, if audiences don’t see representation that they can identify with.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
LG: Yeah, Would you like a hundred million dollars? Nobody’s ever asked me that.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
LG: I’m always afraid. But I have a philosophy: Where there’s no fear, there’s no faith. When fear comes up, I have to pray to turn that fear into faith.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
LG: I’m very content and spiritually happy. And very, very grateful.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
LG: About ten minutes ago.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
LG: Chocolate!

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
LG: I like lamb chops when they come from a farm where they don’t put chemicals in the meat. But my favorite dish is always whatever’s the freshest fish I can find. And I love all fruit. I think eating food from the ocean, from the ground and from the trees are the keys to a long life. That stuff was put on this planet for us to thrive on.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
LG: The Audacity of Hope.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What are you listening to on your iPod?
LG: I like Michael Franks, a great, great poet who turned to music. I like him.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
LG: Me. I have a new line coming out in about six months called Afro Fusion. I hate ties, so I created a suit similar to the Nehru that doesn’t need one.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
LG: An ugly Negro! [LOL]

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
LG: 100% optimum health: physically, mentally and spiritually.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
LG: I can remember screaming at the feeling of oxygen rushing into my lungs for the first time at birth.

KW: I recently interviewed your cousin, the actor Robert Gossett about his TV show, The Closer. How close were the two of you during childhood?
LG: Very. Our fathers were brothers. We fought over the turkey drumstick on Thanksgiving. I was raised with a whole lot of cousins.

KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?
LG: With the faith that they’re going to get better. And they do.

KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?
LG: Sidney Poitier. I wish I saw more of him nowadays. But he was very influential in my life, especially on my acting.

KW: He was the first African-American actor to win an Oscar. You were the second.
LG: Well, actually, I was the first African-American actor to win one. Sidney’s Bahamian.

KW: I forgot that. What was it like the night you won?
LG: I didn’t believe it when they opened the envelope. My agent had to poke me in the ribs and say, “They said your name!”

KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
LG: Drugs and alcohol, and they’re overcome on a daily basis.

KW: I won’t mention any names but I got an email from someone who knows you from a 12-Step program.
LG: My 12-Step group has given me the keys to the kingdom. It makes us the Chosen People, when we really adhere to a self-help philosophy that makes us heal. So, a negative has been turned into a great positive. Our noses are to the spiritual grindstone. Everybody on this planet needs some sort of guidance from a higher power in order to uplift their lives. And now we’ve become the ones who humbly help others.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
LG: There’s no such thing as impossible. Don’t follow so much in my footsteps. Just go for it!

KW: The Dulé Hill question. To what do you attribute your success?
LG: God runs it all. That’s my filling station. And I have to do the right thing with the message.

KW: The Dr. Cornel West question: What price are you willing to pay for a cause that is bigger than your own self interest?
LG: The price I want to pay is my life. But because my life is devoted to it, I don’t have to pay with it.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
LG: As the first bald, African-American in movies. [Laughs] No, I don’t know. I’d just like to be remembered.

KW: Thanks again, Lou, and I hope to speak to you later this year when your next faith-based film, The Lamp, is released.
LG: I look forward to it, Kam.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hall Pass

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis Co-Star in Raunchy Buddy Comedy

Peter and Bobby Farrelly are famous for cranking out crude teensploitation flicks like Dumb & Dumber (1994), There’s Something About Mary (1998), Me, Myself & Irene (2000), Shallow Hal (2001) and Stuck on You (2003). Owen Wilson, on the other hand, is a relatively-cerebral thespian known for his droll sense of humor. He’s also an Oscar-nominated scriptwriter (for The Royal Tenenbaums) with such sophisticated offerings on his resume’ as Rushmore (1998), The Life Aquatic with Steve Sissou (2004) and The Darjeeling Limited (2007).
Therefore, when you hear that the Farrelly Brothers wrote and directed Hall Pass, you figure something had to give. And if you’re wondering whether Owen’s subtle, tongue-in-cheek demeanor was compatible with their preference for boorish behavior, it wasn’t, and depravity did prevail in this vulgar contribution to the gross-out genre.
Still, I suppose faithful Farrelly fans won’t be disappointed by this bawdy, shock comedy laced with coarse dialogue, full-frontal nudity, sophomoric slapstick and bodily-function fare. Its highlights (or lowlights, depending on your point-of-view) range from a golfer defecating in a sand trap to a black man with gargantuan genitalia going public with his privates. The plot is essentially a series of excuses to celebrate such scatology and debauchery.
Hall Pass unfolds in the Farrellys’ home state of Rhode Island where we find best friends Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) constantly commiserating about their stale sex lives. Soon enough, their wives, Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and Grace (Christina Applegate), become so fed up with watching their hubbies salivating over other women that they decide to give them each a “hall pass,” meaning a week of freedom to cheat with no questions asked.
Incredulous about their good fortune, Rick and Fred leap at the opportunity, anticipating that their wildest fantasies are about to come true. However, they prove pretty inept at attracting females, which is no surprise given their reliance on lame pickup lines like “You must be from Ireland because when I look at you my penis is Dublin.” And their odds of scoring are only further diminished when they invite some pals to tag along, a Greek chorus of losers comprised of morbidly-obese Hog-Head (Larry Joe Campbell), trash-talking Flats (J.B. Smoove) and gawky-looking Gary (Stephen Merchant).
While Rick and Fred are striking out with women repeatedly, the plot thickens when their spouses are suddenly being seduced by ardent admirers out on Cape Cod. Will the guys wise up and beg their neglected wives for forgiveness before any wedding vows are broken?
A change of heart conveniently leads to a sweet resolution that’s really rather implausible given the previous ninety minutes of misogynistic locker room antics. The tried and true Farrelly formula, if that’s your taste!

Good (2 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality, drug use, graphic, male frontal nudity and pervasive crude humor.
Running time: 98 Minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers

Top Ten DVD List for March 1st

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for March 1st

127 Hours

Moonstruck [Blu-ray]

My Girlfriend’s Back


Love and Other Drugs

Alonzo Bodden: Who’s Paying Attention?


Michael Jordan to the Max

Climate of Change

Rain Man [Blu-ray]

Honorable Mention

Waiting for Hockney

Last Tango in Paris [Blu-ray]

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God?

S.W.A.T.: Firefight

Road, Movie


Alive? Is Michael Jackson Really Dead

In Her Shoes/There's Something About Mary [Double Feature]

Kaboom: Awesome Adventures

Legends of the Silver Screen: The Biographies Collection

Friday, February 25, 2011

127 Hours DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Harrowing True Tale of Survival Available on DVD

Directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), this harrowing adventure recreates mountain climber Aron Ralston’s (James Franco) real-life ordeal during the spring of 2003 in a desert region of Utah far removed from civilization. While there for a Saturday hike, the young outdoorsman ended up trapped in a ravine when his arm became pinned to a wall by a dislodged boulder.
Because Aron hadn’t informed anyone of his itinerary before setting off alone, he knew there wouldn’t be any rescue party organized to look for him. In fact, no one even noticed his absence until he failed to show up for work after the weekend.
Initially, the desperate 28 year-old hoped that another climber would come along by chance. But neither his prayers nor bloodcurdling screams were to be answered over the next five days, leaving the unfortunate lad simply stuck between a rock and a hard place in the middle of nowhere.
From about the 15-minute mark virtually right up to the conclusion, this 2½ hour saga basically features Franco delivering a protracted soliloquy. The versatile thespian more than meets the challenge of conveying the gradually deteriorating physical, mental and emotional states of a person forced by circumstances to reflect upon his life while resigning himself to an untimely demise.
After running out of food and water, we witness Aron using his free hand to carve his name and date of birth into the rock. He also videotapes heartfelt farewells to his friends and family, before he becomes delirious due to dehydration.
Far be it from me to spoil the ending for anyone who never read the newspaper account as it originally appeared in the papers. Suffice to say that when Aron finds himself facing certain death, his only option lies in a proverbial Hobson’s choice as unthinkable as it is gruesome.
What do you get when you let Danny Boyle put his spin on a fact-based cross of Cast Away and Into the Wild? An exhilarating episode of ‘Who Wants to Be a Slumdog Mountaineer?’

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for profanity, violence and disturbing images
Running time: 94 Minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes and a feature commentary by director/co-screenwriter Danny Boyle, producer Christian Colson and co-screenwriter Simon Beaufoy.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kam's Kapsules: For movies opening March 4, 2011

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening March 4, 2011


The Adjustment Bureau (PG-13 for sexuality, brief profanity and a violent image) Sci-fi thriller about a politician (Matt Damon) frustrated by fate while pursuing an affair with a ballet dancer (Emily Blunt). Cast includes Anthony Mackie, Lisa Thoreson and Michael Kelly, with cameos by Jon Stewart and Chuck Scarborough.

Beastly (PG-13 for profanity, crudeness, drug references and violence) Modern-day take on Beauty and the Beast reimagined as an urban tale about a school bully (Alex Pettyfer) who finds himself transformed into an ugly monster when a Goth classmate (Mary-Kate Olsen) casts a spell on him. To undo the curse, he must find a woman (Vanessa Hudgens) willing to love him in this hideous state. Cast includes Neil Patrick Harris, Lisa Gay Hamilton and Rhiannon Moller-Trotter.

Rango (PG for crude humor, mild epithets, action and smoking) Computer-animated adventure about a chameleon (Johnny Depp) who dreams about morphing into the sheriff of an Old West town plagued by bandits. Voice cast includes Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin and Bill Nighy.


Abel (Unrated) Coming-of-age drama, set in Mexico, about a nine year-old boy (Christopher Ruiz-Esparza) with a vivid imagination who blurs the lines between fantasy and reality when he moves back home after spending a couple of years in a psychiatric ward. With Geraldine Alejandra, Karina Gidi and Gerardo Ruiz-Esparza. (In Spanish with subtitles)

Bereavement (Unrated) Grisly splatter flick, a prequel to the 2004 slasher saga Malevolence, revolving around a 6 year-old kidnap victim (Spencer List) raised by a serial killer (Brett Rickaby) in an abandoned slaughterhouse where he is trained to abduct and dismember innocent young women. Cast includes John Savage, Michael Biehn and Alexandra Daddario.

Dear Lemon Lima (PG-13 for profanity and mature themes) Coming-of-age comedy, set in Fairbanks, Alaska, about a 13 year-old girl (Savannah Wiltfong) who comes to embrace the Eskimo half of her heritage after competing in her school’s Snowstorm Survivor competition. Cast includes Melissa Leo, Zane Huett and Shayne Topp.

Ex Drummer (Unrated) Dark comedy about a trio of disabled punk rockers who invite a writer (Dries Van Hegen) without a handicap to join the band, only to have the sadistic newcomer ruin the group’s chemistry. With Norman Baert, Gunter Lamoot and Sam Louwyck. (In Dutch with subtitles)

HappyThankYouMorePlease (R for profanity) Josh Radnor wrote, directed and stars in this serendipitous, slice-of-life comedy about a half-dozen New Yorkers struggling with relationship and career issues. Ensemble includes Malin Akerman, Michael Algieri, Richard Jenkins, Zoe Kazan and Bram Barouh.

The Human Resource Manager (Unrated) Adaptation of A.B. Yehoshua‘s novel, “A Woman in Jerusalem,” about an Israeli bakery executive’s (Mark Ivanir) efforts to prevent the publication of an article potentially damaging to the company’s reputation, in the wake of an employee’s death during a suicide bombing. Cast includes Rosina Kambus, Guri Alfi and Noah Silver. (In Hebrew, English and Romanian with subtitles)

I Saw the Devil (Unrated) Revenge thriller about a secret agent (Byung-hun Lee) who decides to take the law into his own hands by slowly torturing the serial killer (Min-sik Choi) who murdered his fiancée. With San-ha Oh, Yoon-seo Kim and Ho-jin Jeon. (In Korean with subtitles)

Old Cats (Unrated) Dysfunctional family drama, set in Santiago, Chile, about a senile senior citizen’s (Belgica Castro) effort to hide any signs of her deteriorating mental state from a scheming daughter (Claudia Celedon) with designs on control of her finances. With Alejandro Sievking and Catalina Saavedra. (In Spanish with subtitles)

Take Me Home Tonight (R for profanity, sexuality and drug use) Retro comedy, set in 1988, about an underachieving MIT grad (Topher Grace) working in a video store who attempts to impress the girl of his dreams (Teresa Palmer) by telling her that he’s an investment banker. With Anna Faris, Michelle Trachtenberg and Dan Fogler.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Unrated) Out-of-body comedy, set in Northeast Thailand, revolving around the deathbed reflections of a terminally-ill, old geezer (Thanapat Saisaymar). With Jenjira Pongpas, Sakda Kaewbuadee and Natthakarn Aphaiwong.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


True You:
A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself
by Janet Jackson
with David Ritz
Karen Hunter Publishing
Hardcover, $25.99
272 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-1-4165-8724-8

Book Review by Kam Williams

“Writing my first book was an adventure [which] comes from my heart with love… This is not an autobiography. It’s a journey that I am still taking to love and accept myself just as I am.
I want you to walk this road with me. You can never be happy until you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. If this book helps people find those answers, it has succeeded.”

-Excerpted from the Acknowledgements (pgs. v-vi)

Whenever I’ve interviewed Janet Jackson, I’ve always had the sense that
I was speaking with a very grounded individual for someone who was born inside the bubble of celebrity and has lived her whole life in the limelight. Thus, I am not surprised to discover that she would seem as real and equally accessible in her autobiography.
Janet co-wrote True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself with ghostwriter to the stars David Ritz, who has also penned memoirs with Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Aretha, Etta James, B.B. King, Smokey Robinson, Natalie Cole, Lang Lang, Don Rickles, Billie Holiday, The Neville Brothers and Don Rickles. The prolific Ritz credits his uncanny knack for the genre with an ability to become one with his subjects by “absorbing himself into the artist’s very heart and soul.”
Such is certainly the case with True You, an unusually humanizing tome in which Janet is forthcoming about the host of challenges she’s had to face in the public eye over the years, ranging from bouts with depression to overeating and yo-yo dieting. Despite her phenomenal singing and acting career, the five-time, Grammy-winning pop icon freely admits to having struggled with self-esteem issues.
Fortunately, Janet has finally broken free of the negative mindset, and she now has some sound advice for folks who might themselves be battling similar demons. She even shares some of her favorite, health-conscious recipes, an imaginative, mouth-watering menagerie with names like Strawberry Clouds, Oatmeal Pancakes and Cauliflower Popcorn.
Of course, this bio wouldn’t be complete without her reflections about growing up a Jackson. Not to worry, such fond reminiscences are here in abundance, especially about her late brother, Michael, as well as family photographs featuring Janet from infancy to the present, and at every stage in between.
Truly Janet!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fish Tank DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Raw Brit Melodrama Available on DVD

This searing, coming-of-age saga, written and directed by Andrea Arnold, earned the #2 spot on my Top 10 List of Independent Films of 2010. Although the movie doesn’t revolve around a fish tank, that still might be the best way to describe the cramped confines of the modest flat which serves as the setting for this increasingly-claustrophobic, pressure cooker.
Joanne Williams (Kierston Wareing) doesn’t look old enough to have a 15 year-old daughter, and the immature single-mom certainly doesn’t behave in a responsible enough fashion to be raising Mia (Katie Jarvis) and her kid sister Tyler (Rebecca Griffiths). First of all, she’s an irascible, foul-mouthed lush, traits she’s already passed on to her troubled teenager.
Consequently, Mia has ended up an angry, friendless alcoholic who’s always at odds with the world. This is not a healthy frame of mind when you’re stuck in the forbidding environs of the Essex projects, a maze of cold, towering edifices, each overlooking the vast, soulless wasteland of a totally-defoliated concrete jungle.
At the point of departure, it is established that Mia is a wanksta (white gangsta) who loves to dress, walk and talk hip hop-style, plus she’s doing her best to teach herself to breakdance in order to enter a competition. But she also like boys, and lands in hot water after head-butting a classmate whom she considers competition for the affections of a guy she likes.
Between that infraction and the booze, it isn’t long before Mia isn’t going to school anymore, but instead hanging out at home and contemplating working as a stripper. A little hope comes into the rudderless juvenile’s life the morning Connor (Michael Fassbender) staggers out of her mother’s bedroom after a one-night stand.
He compliments gyrating Mia by telling her that, “You dance like a black,” and it isn’t long before he further ingratiates himself with the needy girls as her new father figure. Too bad sexually-impulsive Joanne hadn’t bothered to determine whether the guy was married, had any kids or was a pervert before introducing him to her daughters. For, there is only danger in store as she endeavors to cobble a relationship with a pedophile who’s just waiting for the right moment to pounce on an emotionally-vulnerable juvenile.
Trouble in Cockneyland.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 122 Minutes
Distributor: The Criterion Collection
DVD Extras: three short films by director Andrea Arnold, a video interview with actress Kierston Wareing, audio conversation with actor Michael Fassbender, audition footage, a stills gallery, the theatrical trailer, plus a booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Ian Christie.

Oscar Predictions 2011

Headline: The Envelope Please:
Who Will Win, Who Deserves to Win, Who Was Snubbed
by Kam Williams

The King’s Speech is this prognosticator’s favorite to land the most Oscars this year primarily because the Anglophilic Academy adores English accents, especially in costume dramas revolving around the Royal Family. Another plus is the fact that the film opened in late December, around the same time that its chief competition, The Social Network, peaked in popularity due to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s being then named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.
Although The King’s Speech is a shoo-in for Best Picture, Tom Hooper is likely to be edged out by The Social Network’s David Fincher for Best Director, based on the latter’s never having won despite an impressive body of work which includes Panic Room, Zodiac, Fight Club, Se7en and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Brits Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) and Christian Bale (The Fighter) will prevail in the Best and Supporting Actor categories, respectively, while Natalie Portman (Black Swan) will win easily for Best Actress. Supporting actress is hard to handicap, with slight favorite Melissa Leo’s (The Fighter) chances being compromised by her cast mate Amy Adams’ having also been nominated. A split vote might allow Londoner Helena Bonham Carter to ride The King’s Speech tidal wave to victory.
Besides peering into my crystal ball to forecast the winners, I have also indicated below which nominees in the major categories are actually the most deserving. And because so many great performances are invariably snubbed by the Academy, I also point out who’s been overlooked entirely. I do pass on four categories: Best Foreign Film (which I have an abysmal history in terms of predicting) and the three short categories: Live-Action, Animated and Documentary.
The 83rd Academy Awards will air live on ABC on Sunday, February 27th at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT, and will be co-hosted at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood by James Franco and Anne Hathaway.

Best Picture

Will Win: The King’s Speech
Deserves to Win: The Social Network
Overlooked: Kick-Ass

Best Director

Will Win: David Fincher (The Social Network)
Deserves to Win: David Fincher (The Social Network)
Overlooked: Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass)

Best Actor

Will Win: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Deserves to Win: Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
Overlooked: Michael Douglas (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps)

Best Actress

Will Win: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Deserves to Win: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Overlooked: Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass) and Katie Jarvis (Fish Tank)

Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
Deserves to Win: Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)
Overlooked: Jerry O’Connell (Piranha 3D)

Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Deserves to Win: Amy Adams (The Fighter)
Overlooked: Rebecca Hall (The Town)

Predictions for Secondary Categories

Original Screenplay: David Seidler (The King’s Speech)
Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network)
Animated Feature: Toy Story 3
Art Direction: The King’s Speech
Cinematography: True Grit
Costume Design: The King’s Speech
Documentary Feature: Inside Job
Film Editing: The Social Network
Makeup: The Wolfman
Original Score: The Social Network
Original Song: “We Belong Together (Toy Story 3)
Sound Editing: Inception
Sound Mixing: Inception
Visual Effects: Inception

Monday, February 21, 2011

Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis: The “Hall Pass” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Co-Stars Expound on Their Comedy Philosophy and Their New Flick

Born in Dallas, Texas on November 18, 1968, Owen Wilson has garnered widespread acclaim for his memorable turns in both mainstream and independent films. He most recently starred in James L. Brooks’ romantic comedy “How Do You Know,” with Paul Rudd and Reese Witherspoon, and in “Little Fockers,” opposite Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro. Among his upcoming projects are “The Big Year” with Steve Martin, and Woody Allen’s romantic comedy “Midnight in Paris.”
Owen’s string of box-office hits includes “Marley & Me,” “Rushmore,” “Night at the Museum” (1 & 2) and “Wedding Crashers,” co-starring Vince Vaughn. He also was in this critic’s #1 film of 2007, “The Darjeeling Limited,” a movie which marked his fifth collaboration with director Wes Anderson.
In 2002, Owen was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for “The Royal Tenenbaums.” And his additional acting credits include “Starsky & Hutch,” “Zoolander,” “Drillbit Taylor,” “The Wendell Baker Story,” “Shanghai Noon,” “Behind Enemy Lines,” “I Spy,” “Shanghai Knights,” “Armageddon,” “The Minus Man” and “The Cable Guy.”
Born in Fairfax, Virginia on September 18, 1975, Jason Sudeikis is currently enjoying his sixth season as a principal ensemble cast member on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” following two years of his first serving as a writer for the show. Jason has also received rave reviews for his dozen appearances on NBC’s “30 Rock” as Tina Fey’s love interest, Floyd.
His film credits include “The Bounty Hunter,” “Going the Distance,” “What Happens in Vegas,” “The Ten,” “Watching the Detectives,” “Bill,” Semi-Pro,” “The Rocker” and “A Good Old Fashioned Orgy.” Here Owen and Jason discuss their careers as well as their co-starring roles in Hall Pass, a buddy comedy about a couple of married guys given a week of freedom by their wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) to do whatever they want, no questions asked.

Kam Williams: Hi Owen and Jason, thanks for the time.
Owen Wilson: Hi, Kam.
Jason Sudeikis: Hey.

KW: I have a lot of questions sent in by my readers, so I’d like to get right to them, if you don’t mind.
JS: Let’s do it.

KW: Danny Costa, says: Chump ask this question of Owen. Do you have any plans to do another small indie movie? Your early work is the best, bar none.
OW: Thanks, Danny. Uhhhhhhh, yeah, I mean I just worked on a Woody Allen movie that was kinda small. I guess that would kind of be considered an indie. I think that’ll be out in late summer or the fall.

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: Jason, what is your favorite impersonation to do?
JS: I like doing Joe Biden because he has such a very outgoing personality and because I get to wear fake teeth.

KW: Patricia also wants to know what’s your favorite SNL sketch to do?
JS: I really enjoy how the whole cast gets involved in the “What Up With That?” sketches. It’s a very fun energy when you have the majority, if not all, of the cast in one sketch, and the audience really responds to it.

KW: Patricia has a question for both of you. Who’s your favorite comedian of all time?
JS: I would probably go Eddie Murphy or Bill Murray.
OW: Yeah, those are good choices, although it’s easier for me to go with classic scenes with different people in them.

KW: Like the late comedians Sam Kinison and Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School.”
JS: Yeah, they were great in that.
OW: How about Zero Mostel in the opening of “The Producers.” That whole sequence was one of the funniest things ever.
JS: I don’t think there’s anything funnier than when Bill Murray’s sarcastic with anybody who’s being a pain in the ass. Nobody makes me laugh more.

KW: I thought the Bill O’Reilly impersonation you opened the show with a couple of weeks ago was great.
JS: I appreciate that. That’s very nice of you to say that.

KW: Larry Greenberg says: Owen, I love you in a purely non-gay way. When I see that you're in a film, I know that it will be fun to watch. How do you move so seemingly effortlessly from a zany comedy like "Night at the Museum" to a more complex film like "The Darjeeling Limited"?
EH: Thanks, Larry. Well, I guess it’s always about reading the script and knowing who you’re going to work with so you can make sure that even in the veiny comedies you have it grounded in some sort of a reality in the world that you’ve created. So, I don’t find it that hard a transition. It might actually be harder for someone who just does dramatic stuff to do a comedy than for someone who does mostly funny stuff to do something more serious. I think it’s actually easier to do it that way.

KW: Nick Antoine, a big fan of yours who has memorized every line from “Wedding Crashers,” says: I’ve heard that much of your acting is improvised. Do you just naturally have that droll sense of humor all the time?
OW: Well, yes… Somebody else was just asking us about that, and Jason was saying, which I agree with, that it isn’t where you’re letting the film roll and you’re just trying to come up with stuff on the set during the shoot. The improvising takes place maybe the day before or even when you first get the script, making notes in the margins like, “This could be something to try.” So, it isn’t so much improvising right in the moment, although that does happen sometimes, too. But it’s a lot more common that it’s the consequence of something you’ve been thinking about because you’ve been living with the character, the story and the script. For instance, do you remember my character’s unctuous pickup line in “Wedding Crashers” that went “People say you only use 10% of your brain. I think we only use 10% of our hearts.”
JS: [Applauds and laughs]

KW: Yeah, that was hilarious.
OW: Well, we’d already finished shooting that scene when I suggested adding the line to the director [David Dobkin]. He was like, “Okay, we can go back and work it in.” And you know what? I think that’s the way almost everyone I’ve come in contact with works. There may be some people who just always stick to the script, but most of us tend to come up with other ideas.

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles points out that both of you guys are accomplished scriptwriters. She was wondering how hard was it for you to work on a film where neither of you contributed to the original screenplay?
JS: I was fine with it. I’m used to working with really great writers at SNL where I sort of learned how to tweak scripts so they make more sense to me emotionally or comedically, as long as the author isn’t super-militant. I actually look forward to that opportunity, so long as the original scriptwriter isn’t so, for lack of a better term, enamored with their words or idea. If I know they’re married to the script going in, I don’t mind respecting the dialogue. But I think a free and open approach is a better way to go.

KW: Owen, attorney Bernadette Beekman says: Congratulations on becoming a father last month.
OW: Thanks, Bernadette.

KW: Jason, Bernadette wants to know if you’re a Kansas Jayhawks fan and if you’re really into basketball, given the way you’ve mentioned the team in sketches and how you’re shown shooting hoops in the opening credits on SNL
JS: Yes, that’s accurate.

KW: Marcia Evans says: Owen, I am a fan of your wonderful movie "Marley & Me." That film touched me on a few fronts: the love of animals, its showing the evolution and the growing pains of a relationship that led to marriage, and how adding children to the equation presents new challenges. I did not expect that film to tug at my heart strings as much as it did. The film made it clear that marriage is work. Marriage is about keeping love first whether it involves loving a person or an animal. She asks: Are you a dog lover? What breed of dog do you own?
OW: Thanks, Marcia. Yeah, I would say I’m a dog lover. I grew up with dogs, and I have a terrific pet that I’ve had for nine years, an Australian cattle dog, named Garcia. In fact, he had a cameo in “Marley and Me.”

KW: Howard Harris says: Owen, what film did you turn down and realize it would have been perfect for you?
OW: I’ve never had that happen to me. I think they approached my friend Woody Harrelson about Jerry Maguire, and he was like, “I don’t know about playing an agent.” But I don’t have any of those stories where somebody offered me a role which turned out to be something big.

KW: Owen, Will Cooper asks: How does it feel to have created a new genre of movie with those buddies you worked with on a number of your early films?
OW: I don’t know if they’re a new genre. They just seem like comedies to me. And I’ve just been fortunate to be able to work with a lot of people who are really good.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
JS: Yeah, how are you doing? No one takes the time to just ask me how I’m doing today.

KW: Okay, how are you doing?
JS: None of your goddamn business! [Laughs]

KW: How about you, Owen? How are you doing?
OW: None of your business! [Laughs]

KW: Okay, on that note, let me say thanks again for the interview, guys, and best of luck with Hall Pass.
OW: Thanks, Kam.
JS: Thank you very much.

The Grace Card

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Black-White Pairing Proves Combustible in Faith-Based Tale of Reconciliation and Redemption

17 years ago, Mac (Michael Joiner) and Sara McDonald (Joy Parmer Moore) were left devastated by the loss of a child who died while a crime was being committed. But where Sara’s grief led her to focus on the needs of their surviving son (Robert Erickson), her embittered husband lost his faith and gradually grew emotionally estranged from the rest of the family.

Furthermore, because the man who killed their little boy was black, Mac developed some prejudices about minorities, attitudes which only ended up sabotaging his career as a member of the Memphis Police Department. Recently, the veteran cop’s resentment turned to rage when he was passed over for a promotion in favor of an African-American with less seniority.

To add insult to injury, he found himself assigned that officer as his partner, a development setting up a potentially-combustible situation. For having to share a squad car with a bigot was likely to test the patience of even a mild-mannered, part-time pastor like Sam Wright (Mike Higgenbottom). And predictably enough, Mac is bothered not only by the Sergeant’s skin color but by his superior’s humming of Gospel hymns while they’re out on patrol.

This tinder box of a premise provides the intriguing point of departure for The Grace Card, a faith-based, modern fable of Biblical proportions marking the noteworthy directorial debut of David G. Evans. On a modest budget of just $200,000, Evans has miraculously managed to craft a compelling tale certain to resonate with the Christian community as well as anyone else in search of wholesome family fare.

The picture is narrated by Lou Gossett, Jr., who doles out helpful spiritual counsel as the voice of reason in a pivotal role as sage elder George Wright. The escalating tension has his grandson praying (“Lord, don’t let me kill my partner!”) for self-control and contemplating retiring from the force to pursue what he feels is his true calling as a preacher in the pulpit full-time.

So, Sgt. Wright consults his wise grandfather who urges him to remain a cop since “Jesus’ ministry is out here in the streets.” And as for handling hot-headed Mac, Grandpa George recommends compassion, and playing “The Grace Card” rather than “The Race Card,” because, “You can never underestimate the power of grace.”

Sam hesitantly heeds the advice to stick it out with Mac, which allows the plot to enmesh them in a life and death crisis leading to a mutual shot at reconciliation and redemption. Inspiring and uplifting, The Grace Card, in sum, is a modern morality play offering a satisfying reminder about the real meaning of forgiveness.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence and mature themes.
Running time: 103 minutes
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Top Ten DVD List for February 22nd

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for February 22nd

Memento: 10th Anniversary Edition [Blu-ray]

Fish Tank

Two in the Wave

Stieg Larsson Trilogy

Get Low

Mississippi Damned

Kings of Pastry

48 Hours [Blu-ray]

Last Train Home


Honorable Mention


The Last Unicorn

Eddie Griffin: You Can Tell ‘Em I Said It

Nurse Jackie: Season Two

Psych 9

Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Four

Weeds: Season Six


Survivor 20: Heroes vs. Villains

Mesrine: Killer Instinct [Part One]

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Martin Lawrence Back in Drag for Cross-Dressing Crime Comedy

It’s been said that there comes a critical moment in every African-American comedian’s career when he's asked to put on a dress. Among those who’ve succumbed to that subtle pressure over the years are Flip Wilson (TV’s Geraldine), Jaime Foxx (TV’s Wanda), Marlon and Shawn Wayans (White Chicks), Eddie Murphy (Norbit and The Nutty Professor 1 & 2), Tyler Perry (Madea), and of course, Martin Lawrence (The Big Momma trilogy).
Paradoxically, this controversial sub-genre has frequently been the subject of debate, with pundits disagreeing on whether or not the films are politically-incorrect. On the one hand, you hear blowback from naysayers complaining about the stereotypical portrayal of black women as overweight and obnoxious. On the other, the proponents point out the fact that many of these mistaken identity adventures feature black-on-black romance, a rarity in Hollywood, even if between a chocolate chubby chaser and a terrified transvestite trying to fend off advances while keeping up appearances.
In this critic’s opinion, the renaissance of rubber suit romps can be easily explained by the fact that kids tend to find fat female impersonators funny. It’s as simple as that. After all, what’s funnier to a child than a black drag queen?
How about two black drag queens? That ostensibly means double the laughs lay in wait for the target audience with Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, a gender-bending crime comedy co-starring Martin Lawrence and Brandon T. Jackson.
At the point of departure we’re reacquainted with FBI Agent Malcolm Turner (Lawrence) and his stepson, Trent (Jackson), an aspiring rapper with raging hormones and no interest in attending college. However, Turner will hear none of it, since the academically-accomplished 17 year-old has already been admitted to Duke University.
But before the college question can be resolved, Trent witnesses the shooting of a police informant (Max Casella) at the hands of Chirkoff (Tony Curran), a vicious Russian crime boss who’s searching for an incriminating flash drive. As the mortally-wounded stool pigeon passes away, he hints that the key piece of evidence is hidden somewhere at a nearby girls’ boarding school.
Naturally, Turner and Trent decide to don skirts to retrieve Exhibit A by infiltrating the place undercover. So, “Big Momma” takes a job as a housemother there while “Charmaine” matriculates as a transfer student.
From this point forward, the film degenerates into recycled fare strictly for youngsters unfamiliar with any memorable moments from classic films or television shows. For it takes a lot of nerve to steal Redd Foxx’s signature line “I’m coming to join you, Elizabeth!” from Sanford & Son without even bothering to change the name Elizabeth. Equally shameless is an imitation of Jennifer Beal’s audition in Flashdance right down to the head shaking and foot stomping to the driving tune “Maniac.”
Then there’s Faizon Love’s channeling Joe E. Lewis’ crush on Jack Lemmon from Some Like It Hot as an ardent admirer of Big Momma. I suppose there must be a scriptwriting recession, too. Luckily, all these purloined plot points will be lost on the tykes too busy howling at the flabalanche of pratfalls and wardrobe malfunctions to worry about the lack of originality.
Just enough goofy slapstick to enthrall the under ten demographic.

Good (2 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexual humor and brief violence.
Running time: 107 Minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox

Due Date DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Raunchy Buddy Comedy Comes to DVD

Although Peter Highman (Robert Downey, Jr.) has been away in Atlanta on business, he’s assured his pregnant wife, Sarah (Michelle Monaghan), that he’ll be back in L.A. on time to witness the imminent birth of their baby. Just before checking out of his hotel, he calls to let her know that he’ll be home soon.
However, upon arriving at the airport, a comedy of errors unfolds which makes it hard for the eager daddy-to-be to keep his promise. First, his cab is sideswiped by a dilapidated station wagon driven by a drunken hillbilly. In the ensuing confusion, he accidentally swaps suitcases with the jalopy’s passenger (Zack Galifianakis) in the other auto.
Then, as he attempts to pass through security, Peter is detained for questioning because of a pipe and drug paraphernalia discovered in the bag he’s carrying. And when he subsequently confronts the stranger on the plane about the contraband, they both end up arrested by a federal air marshal prior to takeoff for creating a disturbance.
After their names are added to the “No-Fly” list, the two grudgingly agree to share a rent-a-car together. But can an uptight architect and a flamboyant slacker who already hate each other find the patience to drive clear across the country in the same automobile without driving each other crazy?
That is the proposition posed by Due Date, an unlikely-buddy road flick which brazenly borrows its basic plot points from Planes, Trains & Automobiles, the 1987 classic co-starring Steve Martin and John Candy. But where that hilarious John Hughes masterpiece served up wholesome humor apropos for the whole family, this raunchy rip-off relies on relatively-profane, unfunny shock fare appealing to the lowest common denominator.
In this regard, the film’s prurient tone is more reminiscent of its director Todd Philips’ previous offering, The Hangover, which also featured Zack Galifianakis. Instead of engaging in pedophilia, this go-round Zack’s creepy character shares an intimate moment with a dog. Regrettably, despite their desperate efforts to entertain, he and Robert Downey, Jr. fail to generate anything in the way of chemistry or laughs over the course of their eventful misadventures en route to Los Angeles.
A relentlessly-offensive bottom-feeder of no redeeming social value which I learned in law school is the Supreme Court’s definition of obscene.

Poor (0 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality and drug use.
Running time: 95 Minutes
Distributor: Warner Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Gag reel and deleted scenes.

Two in the Wave (FRENCH) DVD

(Deux de la Vague)
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Deconstructs the Friendship of French Directors Godard and Truffaut

Jean-Luc Godard (born in 1930) and Francois Truffaut (1932-1984) were at the forefront of the group of young film directors who founded the New Wave Movement in Paris back in the Fifties. Both of these iconoclasts started out as critics in the wake of WWII when French cinema had become so stale that Truffaut roundly lambasted it in print as “artificial and uptight.” After subsequently being banned from Cannes for indicting the annual festival as academic and corrupt, the brash young upstart decided to try his hand at making movies himself.
Since Godard felt the same about the state of his homeland’s film industry, he easily bonded with Truffaut and they became the best of friends, backing and writing for each other’s early productions. During that renowned renaissance period, the fact that they came from very different backgrounds was never an issue.
Francois, whose Catholic mom had been abandoned by his Jewish baby-daddy, was raised mostly by his maternal grandmother in rather humble surroundings. He ended up not only dropping out of high school but frequently in trouble with the law.
By contrast, Jean-Luc hailed from a wealthy, Protestant family. Still, he and Francois similarly found salvation in cinema despite neither having any experience beyond having watched thousands of movies. These so-called “Young Turks” proceeded to subvert the dominant paradigm with such flicks as “The 400 Blows” (Truffaut) and “Breathless” (Godard).
However, their paths began to divert in 1968 when Truffaut remained indifferent to the student and civil rights uprisings at the same time that Godard would embrace the rise of radical politics. The pair finally parted ways for good following a series of heated exchanges in which Jean-Luc called Francois “bourgeois” and the latter responded by referring to his ex-pal as a “propagandist.”
This tempestuous relationship plus a most informative chronicling of their substantial contributions to film are the subject of Two in the Wave, a brilliant, bifurcated bio-pic directed by Emmanuel Laurent. The discussion here is amply augmented by illustrative snippets from some of their classic pictures, and by rare footage of these icons in the company of legendary colleagues like Hitchcock and Chabrol.
A fascinating and informative, must-see documentary for any serious cinephile.

Excellent (4 stars)
In French with subtitles.
Running time: 91 Minutes
Distributor: Lorber Films

Get Low DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Features Robert Duvall in Bittersweet Tale of Redemption

“Based on a True Tall Tale,” Get Low recounts events which allegedly transpired in 1938 in Roane County, Tennessee. A quirky, character-driven costume drama, the film benefits immeasurably from a cleverly-concealed script and a talented cast topped by Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek.
The compelling plot revolves around Felix “Bush” Breazeale (Duvall), an aging recluse who has lived in the woods for over forty years. He retreated there after being implicated in the death of Mary Lee Stroup (Arin Logan), a young woman who perished in a house fire under suspicious circumstances.
Although the details are murky at the point of departure, it is abundantly clear that the incident left the still-grieving geezer with a bad reputation in the region. Sensing that “It’s about time for me to get low,” meaning pass away and be buried six-feet under, Bush has decided to return to town to throw his own funeral.
So, he pays a visit to the local undertaker to inquire whether his wake might be staged while he’s still alive. Unscrupulous Mr. Quinn (Bill Murray) goes along with the unusual request, merely to take advantage financially of what he thinks is an addlepated old fool, unaware that there’s a method to the gruff mountain man’s madness.
For Bush subsequently summons to the morbid gathering everyone “who has a story to tell about me.” His goal? To make the most of the 11th hour opportunity to refute, albeit belatedly, the many rumors which have circulated unchallenged in his absence for so long.
The plan is for the service to be presided over by Reverends Horton (Gerald McRaney) and Jackson (Bill Cobbs), and foremost among the guests expected to attend is the late Mary Lee’s sister, Mattie (Spacek), a woman with good reason to be skeptical about the not quite deceased’s motivations. Once the naysayers have spoken, Bush steps to the pulpit to take a last shot at redemption, delivering a stirring, explanatory soliloquy before throwing himself on the mercy of the community.
Robert Duvall turns in another one of his trademark performances here, thereby almost singlehandedly making the production memorable. A moving morality play about the steep price guilt is capable of exacting on a tortured soul consumed with overwhelming regret

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and brief violence.
Running time: 103 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Commentary with Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, the director and the producer, cast and crew Q&As, “On the Red Carpet” and three other featurettes, and the theatrical trailer.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Now & Later

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Politics Make Strange Bedfellows in Sexplicit Agitprop Adventure

Bill (James Wortham) was making a decent enough salary crippling Third World economies as an international banker to be able to afford a great house in L.A. But when greed got the better of him, he ended up accused of embezzlement.
He subsequently became so despondent and suicidal about the prospect of spending eight years behind bars that, rather than face the music, he decided to jump bail without even telling his wife (Marcellina Walker). As a fugitive from justice with little more than the clothes on his back, he sought to keep under the radar by fleeing to the barrio, a place where no one would think of looking for him.
There, on the proverbial other side of the tracks, he hatches a plan to escape to Honduras. But while awaiting the arrival of his getaway driver (Luis Fernandez-Gil), he’s directed to hide out at the apartment of Angela (Shari Solanis), a gorgeous nurse from Nicaragua.
The socially-conscious illegal immigrant has bones to pick with Bill about the role he might have played in the oppression of poor folks in Latin America. Still, as an advocate of free love, she’s also more than willing to overlook his previous profession, and proceeds to seduce him on the spot.
With nothing left to lose, Bill is happy to indulge, and the two shed their clothes and start cavorting with abandon, like a couple of dogs in heat. Not content with just conventional sex, adventurous Angela ups the ante by asking him to indulge her more kinky fantasies. When he hesitates, she goads him by saying, “You Americans are such a bunch of frustrated hypocrites.”
It’s difficult to discern whether the jaw-dropping Now & Later is designed as politically-progressive agit-propaganda or merely as a thinly-veiled pretext for soft-porn, since it serves up generous helpings of fare which borders on both. Regardless, it’s compelling enough to keep your eyes glued to the screen for the duration, given the unbridled passion of a mismatched pair you’d never expect to see in the same zip code, let alone sharing a bed.
To top it all off, the plot thickens when Angela’s bisexual boyfriend, Diego (Adrian Quinonez), arrives home from the road unexpectedly. Will tension or a triangle flow from this combustible scenario? It’s anybody’s guess, given this unlikely trio.
The most sexplicit romp you’ll encounter in theaters this year, guaranteed.

Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 99 Minutes
Distributor: Cinema Libre Studio

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kam's Kapsules: For movies opening February 25, 2011

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening February 25, 2011


Drive Angry 3-D (R for nudity, grisly images, graphic sexuality, gory violence and pervasive profanity) Nicolas Cage stars in this supernatural, redemption thriller about a revenge-minded fugitive from Hell intent on rescuing his infant granddaughter from the gang of goons who murdered his daughter. Cast includes Amber Heard, William Fitchner and David Morse.

The Grace Card (PG-13 for violence and mature themes) Faith-based morality play, set in Memphis, chronicling the combustible relationship of a racist white cop (Michael Joiner) assigned to share a police car with an African-American partner (Mike Higgenbottom) who also happens to be a minister. With Lou Gossett, Jr., Cindy Hodge and Joy Parmer Moore.

Hall Pass (R for profanity, sexuality, drug use, graphic nudity and pervasive crude humor) Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis co-star in this buddy comedy about a couple of best friends stuck in stale marriages who are given a week of freedom by their wives (Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate) with a promise of no questions asked. Ensemble cast includes Richard Jenkins, talk show host Joy Behar, comedienne Kathy Griffin, retired Red Sox great Dwight Evans and J.B. Smoove.

Shelter (R for violence, terror and disturbing images) Harrowing horror flick starring Julianne Moore as a skeptical forensic psychiatrist forced to face the fact that her new patient (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) with multiple personalities has somehow been assuming them from unsolved murder victims. With Brooklynn Proulx, Frances Conroy and Jeffrey DeMunn.


A Good Man (Unrated) Aussie documentary about a sheep framer-turned-pimp who decided to pay for his quadriplegic wife’s mounting medical expenses after a stroke by opening a brothel.

Heartbeats (Unrated) Love triangle saga, set in Quebec, about a couple of best friends (Monia Chokri and Xavier Dolan) whose close relationship is tested when they both succumb to the charms of a handsome newcomer (Neils Schneider) to town. (In French with subtitles)

Of Gods and Men (PG-13 for brief profanity, disturbing images and a scene of wartime violence) Jihad drama recounting the real-life slaughter of seven Trappist monks stationed in a monastery in Algeria who were found beheaded after ignoring the warnings of fundamentalist Muslims to vacate the premises. Starring Lambert Wilson, Michael Lonsdale and Olivier Rabourdin. (In Arabic and French with subtitles)

Public Speaking (Unrated) Reverential bio-pic revisiting the career of Fran Leibowitz, directed by Martin Scorcese, featuring monologues by the author/journalist/pundit about everything from Obama to her beloved NYC, plus archival footage of literary luminaries like James Baldwin, Truman Capote, William F. Buckley and Toni Morrison.

Fallin’ Up (BOOK REVIEW)

Fallin’ Up: My Story
Keep It on the Positive
by Taboo
Hardcover, $24.99
364 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-1-4391-9206-1

Book Review by Kam Williams

“When I was young [my] Nanny Aurora hung a dream catcher above my bed. She would read me a story, then tuck me in, kiss me on the check and wish me good dreams. I didn’t know back then what this Native-American charm meant. I now believe it was there to catch my dreams before others crushed them…
Somewhere between chasing my dreams and making them a reality, my grandmother passed away and joined the man she spoke with every day: God. I didn’t know back then what her death meant. I now believe that she passed on to become the angel who saved me from myself; to stop me from taking a wrecking ball to the very dream she helped build…
God doesn’t always give second chances. Not unless you’re really lucky and walk with angels. And believe me, I was one of the lucky ones, performing and dancing with a dream catcher called Nanny whose wings helped me fly and, more importantly, allowed me to remain midair, soaring.”
-Excerpted from the Dedication (pg. xiii)

Jaime Gomez, aka Taboo, is a member of the Black Eyed Peas, the hip-
hop quartet which just performed earlier this month during halftime at this year’s Super Bowl. Despite presently appreciating the group’s stratospheric perch atop the music industry, it wasn’t very long ago that this once-reckless rap star came perilously close to blowing it all.
In his heartfelt autobiography, Fallin’ Up: My Story, Taboo recounts in entertaining fashion how a skinny, half-Chicano/half-Native-American kid raised by his grandmother in the modest Dog Town section of Los Angeles managed to overcome such humble origins and emerge a revered one-name icon with adoring fans the world over. However, part of what makes his rags-to-riches tale unique is the fact well after he was already famous a substance abuse problem almost cost him his career.
Taboo hit rock bottom after being arrested on March 27th of 2007 for rear-ending another driver with his Range Rover while under the influence of a drug cocktail. When he came out of his stupor behind bars hours later, he didn’t know where he was and couldn’t remember what had transpired. But after the cops helped fill in the blanks, he felt so humiliated and disgusted with himself that he says he wanted “to pull off my head and throw it against the wall.”
He credits the spirit of his late grandmother with putting him on the road to redemption at that juncture, a path which would lead to sobriety, reconciliation with his son, Josh, marriage to the love of his life, Jaymie, and then the birth of another son, Jalen. His checkered past fading away in his rearview mirror, this moving memoir reveals the more mature Taboo to be a well-grounded superstar with both his feet now firmly planted on the ground.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Top Ten DVD List for February 15th 2011

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for February 15th 2011

Waiting for Superman

Of Boys and Men

Network [Blu-ray]


Everyday Black Man

National Lampoon’s Dirty Movie

Glorious 39

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within

A Kiss of Chaos


Honorable Mention

Stag Night

Unstoppable DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Denzel’s Runaway Train Thriller Released on DVD

Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) is winding down a 28-year career riding the rails with the Allegheny & West Virginia RR. Despite the lack of a blemish on his sterling record, the veteran engineer’s being forced by the company to take an early retirement in a cost-cutting measure set to take effect in just a couple of weeks.
To add insult to injury, Frank finds himself partnered with Will Colson (Chris Pine), a young conductor who’s recently been hired because of his union connections. It is therefore understandable that there might be some tension in the air when, because of the rookie’s mistake, they end up leaving the train yard pulling a few more freight cars than intended.
However, that faux pas pales in comparison to the one simultaneously being made elsewhere in Southern Pennsylvania. For some inane reason, the world’s worst engineer (Ethan Suplee) decides to jump off his slow-moving locomotive to throw a switch to direct it onto another track.
Trouble is that, before he can climb back up, the throttle inadvertently slips down into the “FULL” position and the half-mile long freight train takes off without anyone aboard. This frightful development puts the runaway diesel on a collision course with a passenger train filled with school kids coming from the other direction on the very same track.
Can what looks like certain disaster somehow be averted? Of course, that challenge falls at the feet of fearless Frank who nobly rises to the occasion after grudgingly burying the hatchet with Will while suppressing his bitterness about being fired. That, in a nutshell, is the clichéd premise established at the outset of Unstoppable, an edge-of-your-seat roller coaster ride designed with the Attention Deficit Generation in mind.
Based on actual events, the over-stimulating adventure proceeds to serve up a thrill a minute, much like the delightful, taser-like delivery of your typical computer game. Still, this star vehicle features Denzel Washington doing what Denzel does best, namely, playing a selfless stoic with good teeth in another compelling performance certain to feel oh so familiar to his loyal fan base.
Deja Denzel.

Good (2 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity and scenes of peril.
Running time: 98 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Director’s audio commentary and a featurette entitled: “The Fastest Track: Unleashing Unstoppable.”