Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fire in Babylon

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Cricket Documentary Recounts Rise and Dominance of West Indian Team

Superficially, cricket looks a lot like baseball, except the players use a flat bat, hit the ball on a bounce and don’t bother to run around the bases. But you won’t need to understand all the fine points of the baseball-like sport’s rules to enjoy Fire in Babylon, a documentary detailing the exploits of the athletes who represented the Caribbean against a host of colonizing countries during their glory days of the Seventies and Eighties.
What makes the politically-tinged documentary so compelling is the fact that the West Indian team had to endure racist taunts while on tour whether in Great Britain, Australia or elsewhere around the former English empire. But again and again they prevailed, despite the fact that white fans were not prepared to sit idly by as the descendants of their former colonial subjects beat their heroes at their own game.
Plus, the West Indians apparently irritated opposing audiences by adopting an aggressive approach to what had previously been thought of as a genteel contest. Nonetheless, they enjoyed a 15-year run as undefeated champions.
To the extent that the picture has a plot, its tension thickens when the team was invited to participate in a tournament in South Africa. This transpired during the reign of the Apartheid regime, so they had to decide whether to enter the country in defiance of international sanctions in return for a big payday.
We learn that those who did defy the boycott were called traitors, mercenaries and sellouts not only by their fellow West Indians but by their leaders like Jamaica’s Prime Minister Michael Manley. No longer welcome in their own homelands, some of the shunned sought asylum from South Africa’s allies like the U.S., only to end up living out their days in obscurity, broke and often drug-addicted.
An invaluable lesson that there can be social consequences attached to playing a sport without a conscience even if you’re the best around at throwing, whacking or catching a ball. Just ask Muhammad Ali.

Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 84 minutes
Distributor: Tribeca Film

Cowboys & Aliens

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig Co-Star in Genre-Blending Adventure

Cowboys & Aliens might be the most poorly-executed blend of movie genres since custard pie slapstick was mixed with a Martian invasion in The Three Stooges in Orbit back in 1962. The good news about this campy Western/sci-fi combination is that it has about just as many laughs per minute as the Stooges’ ill-advised adventure. The bad news, however, is that director Jon Favreau (Iron Man) probably wasn’t trying to make a comedy.
Regardless, the audiences mostly likely to enjoy Cowboys & Aliens are those ready to laugh at the improbable sight of gunslingers in ten gallon hats trying to get the drop on aliens who have arrived on Earth with designs on mining all the gold out of the ground. Loosely based on Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s illustrated novel of the same name, the film co-stars Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, bona fide matinee idols whose presence in a cheesy B-flick with cheap special effects only adds to the unintended hilarity.
The story unfolds in 1875 in Absolution, New Mexico where we find the town folk initially disturbed by the arrival of Jake Lonergan (Craig) a grizzled drifter wanted dead or alive for the murder of Alice Willis (Abigail Breslin). But then a mysterious mothership descends on the desolate desert and starts abducting people one-by-one while simultaneously extracting ore.
So, local lawman Woodrow “Don’t call me Colonel” Dollarhide (Ford) decides to join forces with Jake whose futuristic bracelet proves a better weapon against the invaders than his standard issue six-shooter. In fact, all the humans in the vicinity put aside their differences in defense of the planet in an uneasy confederacy of settlers, Indians and outlaws.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing convincing about their ensuing Old West showdown with extraterrestrials, and it’s hard to believe that it took a collaboration of eight screenwriters to craft such a hokey, cliché-ridden script.
Sorry, judging from this disaster, cowboys and aliens simply don’t look like they ever belong up on the big screen together.
What’s next, the Lone Ranger and Tonto take on the Body Snatchers?

Fair (1 star)
Rated PG-13 for violence, brief nudity and a crude reference.
Running time: 118 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Interrupters

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Documentary Examines Chicago’s Escalating Homicide Rate

Chicago landed on the nation’s radar a couple of years ago when a high school honor student’s slaying by a mob of fellow teenagers was captured on a cell phone camera. Sadly, that killing was not all that unusual for the Windy City where the homicide rate in the ‘hood is higher than that among American soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The only thing that made this particular murder newsworthy was fact that it had been recorded which meant that there was footage to play for ratings on the 11 O’clock News. The sad truth is that similar scenarios are being repeated with painful regularity in our impoverished inner cities all across the country.
Fortunately, at least in Chicago, a couple of organizations have been formed with the aim of reversing the lethal trend. One is called Violence Interrupters and the other is Ceasefire, groups spearheaded by reformed gangbangers willing to put their butts on the line by calling for cooler heads to prevail when tempers start to flare on the mean streets of the ghetto.
Directed by Oscar-nominee Steve James (Hoop Dreams), The Interrupters is a riveting documentary which chronicles the efforts of several intrepid community organizers over the course of a year, including Ameena Mathews, Tio Hardiman and Cobe Williams. With the aim of bringing an end to black-on-black crime, the three devote their time to everything from disarming the revenge-minded to mentoring lost souls to consoling grieving parents to helping ex-cons readjust to civilian life.
The movie also allows some well-known Chicago luminaries to weigh-in on the burgeoning crisis, such as Jesse Jackson (“This is a state of emergency; this is what a war zone looks like.”) and President Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (“Violence is an American problem.”). But the experts’ pontificating pales in comparison to the unenviable task of being the one actually trying to talk sense to an enraged man-child with vengeance in his heart and a loaded gun at his disposal.
A crash course on how to stage an intervention, at your own risk, on behalf of a gangsta’ urgently in need of a little tough love.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 125 minutes
Studio: Kartemquin Films
Distributor: Cinema Guild

Friday, July 29, 2011

Top Ten DVD List for August 2nd

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for August 2nd



Con Artist

A Fistful of Dollars [Blu-Ray]

Minnesota Twins 1991 World Series: Collector’s Edition

Soul Surfer

The Magnificent Seven [Blu-Ray]

Ed Sullivan Presents: Rock ‘N’ Roll Revolution

Pie in the Sky: Series Five

Tracy Morgan: Black and Blue

Honorable Mention

For a Few Dollars More [Blu-Ray]

Everwood: The Complete Fourth Season

Eastbound & Down: The Complete Second Season

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXI

Garrows Law: Series Two

The Music Never Stopped

Magic in Minnesota: Remembering the 1991 World Series

The Perfect Game


Nicki Minaj: Romans Revenge

Point Blank (FRENCH)

(A bout portant)
Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Hubby Has Three Hours to Save Pregnant Wife in Adrenaline-Fueled Action Thriller

Paris has served as the backdrop for several superb revenge flicks lately, such as “Taken,” “District B-13” and “From Paris with Love,” and this adrenaline-fueled thriller measures up well in comparison with the best of the genre. Written and directed by Fred Cavaye, the picture features another desperate protagonist taking the law into his own hands with a sense of urgency due to the dire consequences apt to transpire should he involve the police in the resolution of the matter.
In this instance, the tension is wound around mild-mannered Samuel Pierret (Gilles Lellouche), a nurse and happily-married family man. The plot thickens right off the bat when gangsters break into his apartment, knock him unconscious and drag his 7½ months-pregnant wife, Nadia (Elena Anaya), away kicking and screaming.
Sam subsequently receives a phone call from the kidnappers whose life or death ransom demand gives him only three hours to free Hugo Sartet (Roschdy Zem), a dangerous criminal under his care at the hospital. The bad guys warn him not to alert the authorities and it’s not long before he realizes that there are already corrupt cops on the force he has to contend with anyway.
This means Sam is on his own as he plunges headlong into the fray by the seat of his pants. Up to the challenge, he proves to be an easy underdog to root for as he doles out a bloody brand of vigilante justice in search of his imperiled spouse.
Edited to keep the action unfolding at breakneck speed, this non-stop roller coaster ride never allows the audience an opportunity to pause to catch its collective breath. A heart-pounding, high-body count affair revolving around an unlikely hero who summons the courage to rise to the occasion for the sake of his spouse and unborn baby.

Excellent (4 stars)
Unrated R for graphic violence and bloody images.
In French with subtitles
Running time: 84 Minutes
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

Dirty Hands: The Art & Crimes of David Choe DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Features Daring Exploits of Thrill-Seeking Graffiti Artist

For some reason, the rules never meant anything to David Choe while he was growing up. As a matter of fact, the rebellious Korean-American graffiti artist could care less about getting good grades in school or about obeying the law. Instead, the troubled young truant would play hooky and shoplift to ply his craft day or night on walls all over the City of Los Angeles. This meant that he had no problem stealing cans of spray paint and trespassing in order to deface public or private property.
He explains his personal philosophy as “I just want to destroy [expletive]“ with a defiant shrug in Dirty Hands: The Art & Crimes of David Choe, a dizzying bio-pic representing the phenomenal directorial debut of Harry Kim. Mr. Kim trailed his restless subject around the world for eight years, with ports of call as far afield as the Congo, Israel and Japan, where David landed in jail after punching a cop in the face.
It would be easy to dismiss this irresponsible wild child as a lost cause, given how he not only stole, but forged checks to support his habit. However, when he finally sought psychological counseling, it was determined that the otherwise very talented dude was suffering from a variety of mental maladies, including schizophrenia, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, ant-social behavior, bipolar disorder, kleptomania and sexual addiction.
That last one cost the kid the love of a good woman, the others just added up to make his life a holy mess. Nonetheless, David Choe eventually became Born Again, went legit, got his act together, and started landing lucrative corporate contracts to design stuff like an ad for Converse sneakers and a cover for a Jay-Z CD. And he recently sold out a show in an upscale London art gallery offering about $2.5 million worth of his paintings. Talk about redemption!
An alternately frightening and exhilarating, guerilla-style documentary showcasing the downs and ups of an amoral thrill-seeker lucky enough to bottom out, enter rehab and turn a new leaf before it was too late.

Excellent (4 stars)
In English and Korean with subtitles.
Running time: 94 Minutes
Studio: Upper Playground
DVD Extras: Interviews with Sasha Grey and Eli Roth; video commentary with David’s parents; David shows his childhood art; David discloses his jail art; an art gallery; an 18 page magazine by David; and much more.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kam's Kapsules: For movies opening August 5, 2011

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening August 5, 2011


The Change-Up (R for crude sexuality, pervasive profanity, drug use and graphic nudity) Body swap comedy about a fatigued family man (Jason Bateman) and a jaded bachelor (Ryan Reynolds) whose prayers are instantly answered when they ask for each other’s lives while relieving themselves in a magical wishing well. With Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde and Alan Arkin.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (PG-13 for frightening images and intense violence) Prequel to the ever-popular “Gorillas Gone Wild” franchise, set in San Francisco, pits primates against people after a scientist’s (James Franco) test of an experimental cure for Alzheimer’s leaves millions of chimps with human-like intelligence. Cast includes Andy Serkis, John Lithgow, Freida Pinto and Brian Cox.


Assassination Games (R for torture, profanity, sexuality, nudity and graphic violence) Revenge thriller about a pair of rival assassins (Jean-Claude Van Damme and Scott Adkins) who reluctantly join forces in order to take on a blood-thirsty drug cartel backed by corrupt, undercover DEA officers. With Michael Higgs, Kevin Chapman and Ivan Kaye.

Bellflower (R for nudity, drug use, graphic sexuality, disturbing violence and pervasive profanity) Romance drama about a couple of buddies (Evan Glodell and Tyler Dawson) who build flamethrowers and other weapons of mass destruction with plans for world domination until one of them has second thoughts when he falls under the spell of a charismatic temptress (Jessie Wiseman). With Zack Kraus, Rebekah Brandes and Vincent Grashaw.

Gun Hill Road (Unrated) Dysfunctional family drama, set in the South Bronx, about a just-paroled ex-con’s (Esai Morales) return home after a three-year stint behind bars to an emotionally-estranged wife (Judy Reyes) who’s been unfaithful and a troubled, teenaged son (Harmony Santana) contemplating a sex change operation. With Isaiah Whitlock, Jr., Miriam Colon and Franky G.

Habermann (Unrated) World War II saga, set in Sudetenland in 1938, recounting the real-life ordeal endured by the family of a German saw mill owner (Mark Waschke) with a half-Jewish wife (Hannah Herzsprung) upon the outbreak of hostilities. Cast includes Karel Roden, Ben Becker and Radek Holub.

Magic Trip (Unrated) Psychedelic documentary about Sixties cult figure Ken Kesey recounting the best-selling author’s (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) fabled, hallucinogen-fueled bus trip across the country from Oregon to New York in the company of a band of freewheeling, fellow acid freaks known as The Merry Pranksters. With file footage featuring Neal Cassady, Jane Burton and The Grateful Dead.

Mysteries of Lisbon (Unrated) Screen adaptation of Camilo Castelo Branco’s historical novel, set in the 19th C., about a priest (Adriano Luz) who orchestrates the reunion of an orphan (Joao Luis Arrais) with an adulteress countess (Maria Joao Bastos) recently released from prison who might be his long-lost mother. Supporting cast includes Rui Morrison, Carloto Cotta and Ricardo Pereira. (In Portuguese, French and English with subtitles)

The Perfect Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll (Unrated) Prodigal Son drama about a one-hit wonder (Kevin Zegers) who returns to his hometown after his second record flops in order to reconnect with his songwriting friend (Jason Ritter) responsible for his first album’s phenomenal success. Ensemble includes Peter Fonda, Ruby Dee, Billy Dee Williams, Kelly Lynch, Lauren Holly, Aimee Teegarden and Sugar Blue.

Protektor (Unrated) Holocaust drama, unfolding in Prague in 1938, revolving around an emotionally-conflicted radio host (Marek Daniel) who decides to collaborate with the Nazi occupiers in order to save the life of his Jewish wife (Jana Plodkova). With Matthias Brandt, Jan Budar and Cyril Drozda. (In Czech and German with subtitles)

The Whistleblower (Unrated) Fact-based drama chronicling the heroic exploits of Kathryn Bolkovac (Rachel Weisz), an American peacekeeper in postwar Bosnia who uncovered widespread corruption, including a United Nations cover-up of the sex-trafficking of young women.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate
by Juan Williams
Crown Publishers
Hardcover, $24.00
304 pages
ISBN: 978-0-307-95201-1

Book Review by Kam Williams

“Is it possible to talk about Muslims and terrorism without being called a bigot? …What happened to me was not about me alone. It was an assault on journalism and honest debate…
My purpose in doing this book is not to get people to feel sorry for me. The goal of this book is to set the record straight and to use my experience in what amounts to a political and media whacking as the starting point for a much-needed discussion about the current, sad state of political discourse in this country. It is time to end the ongoing assault against honest debate in America.”

-The author explaining why he wrote the book (pgs. 3, 27 &92)

Juan Williams ignited a firestorm of controversy last year when he admitted to Bill O’Reilly on national television that he feels nervous whenever he sees fellow passengers in Muslim garb getting on a plane with him. Within hours, Juan was fired from his own talk show on National Public Radio (NPR) by his boss, Ellen Weiss, despite his having an exemplary record since joining the network almost a decade earlier.
He says Weiss essentially labeled him a bigot and “gave me no chance to tell my side of the story.” And the very next day, NPR’s CEO, Vivian Schiller, not only rubber-stamped his termination, but added insult to injury when she implied that Juan might be mentally unstable by suggesting that he should’ve kept the comment between himself and his psychiatrist.
Williams never retracted the Muslim comment, and he subsequently suffered some sleepless nights and shed some tears over the loss of his job and reputation. After all, didn’t his sterling civil rights record as the author of the award-winning, PBS saga “Eye on the Prize” as well as of a critically-acclaimed biography of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall count for anything? Yet now he was left with no idea what effect the blowback from the brouhaha would have on his career as a journalist just for merely exercising his First Amendment Right of Free Speech.
It is important to note that Juan’s incendiary quote had been taken out of context, and anyone who bothered to watch the whole interview understood that he had never actually advocated any intolerance of Muslims or expressed any anti-Islamic sentiment. Nonetheless, he remained dismissed by NPR, and effectively muzzled for the insensitive sounding sound bite.
Half heartfelt memoir/half an urgent appeal for the return of civil discourse to the public arena, “Muzzled” persuasively bemoans the pressure placed on pundits nowadays to talk only in sanitized, politically-correct phraseology. Its title probably sounds appropriate given that it was inspired by the unfortunate chapter of Juan’s life during which he was temporarily taken off the air.
However, I’d say “Vindicated” might make more sense, given that both of the NPR executives who had humiliated Juan were eventually forced to resign in disgrace. Meanwhile he went on to sign a multi-million dollar deal with Fox Television where he’s finally free to speak his mind and to savor the last laugh.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ryan Gosling: The “Crazy, Stupid, Love” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Ryan’s Hope

Born in Ontario, Canada, on November 12, 1980, Ryan Gosling has been honored for his work in a broad range of roles in both independent films and major motion pictures. In 2007, he earned both an Academy Award nomination and an Independent Spirit Award in the Best Actor category for his compelling portrayal of a dedicated but troubled inner-city teacher in "Half Nelson."
A year later, he received Golden Globe, SAG Award and Critics' Choice Award nominations for his work in the title role of the indie film "Lars and the Real Girl." In 2011, he landed another Golden Globe nomination, and his third Critics' Choice Award nomination opposite Michelle Williams in the romance drama "Blue Valentine."
Ryan will next be seen in the action drama "Drive" which recently premiered at the Cannes Film Festival where it was nominated for the Palme D'Or and won the award for Best Director. The film is slated for release this September. And his upcoming films also include "The Ides of March" in which he stars alongside the picture’s writer/director, George Clooney.
Gosling made his feature film debut in 2000 opposite Denzel Washington in the real-life sports saga "Remember the Titans." But his breakout role arrived the following year in "The Believer," which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. There, he portrayed a virulent anti-Semite who turned out to be Jewish.
Here, Ryan talks about his current role as playboy Jacob Palmer in the new film, “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” an ensemble comedy co-starring Julianne Moore, Steve Carell, Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei.

Kam Williams: Hi Ryan. Thanks for the opportunity to speak with you.
Ryan Gosling: Thank you, Kam.

KW: I really enjoyed “Crazy, Stupid, Love” as much as your dramatic work.
RG: All right!

KW: I have a lot of questions for you from fans, so why don’t I get right to them. Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: What interested you in doing this film?
RG: I wanted to work with Steve Carell.

KW: Irene has a follow-up: How similar are you in real-life to your character, Jacob Palmer?
RG: I’m actually more like Steve Carell’s character, Cal Weaver.

KW: What message do you think people will take away from the film?
RG: That’s up to them. I’m not the boss of them.

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles points out that Emma Stone says to you in the film that you have such a nice body that it looks like you’ve been photo-shopped. She’s wondering if you have ever been photo-shopped in real life.
RG: A strong case could be made that I was photo-shopped in this film.

KW: Harriet also observes that future astronaut John Glenn had baseball great Ted Williams as his wingman during the Korean War. How comfortable was it to have Steve Carell as your wingman?
RG: This was my first comedy. So, if you have to lose your creative virginity, you’d want to lose it to Steve Carell.

KW: Lisa Loving asks: What inspired you to speak out against the genocide in Darfur, and how can we help the people there? RG: Well, I feel lucky to have been provided an opportunity to visit Darfur. I would just encourage people to educate themselves about what’s happening there, and why it’s happening, so that they can then make an informed decision on their own about how they’d like to help.

KW: Lisa would also like to know whether you already wanted to grow up to be a serious actor when you were on the Mickey Mouse Club as a child? RG: No.

KW: Marcia Evans says: I am a huge fan of yours and I admire your entire portfolio of work. I feel it's now time for you to consider doing another romance drama like “The Notebook,” but with a sister [meaning a black woman] as your love interest.
RG: Let’s do it! [Chuckles]

KW: Reverend Florine Thompson asks: How important is spirituality to you, how do you express your spirituality, and where and how do you find spiritual nourishment?
RG: I find spiritual nourishment through not discussing it. It’s something that’s very personal, and I prefer to keep it to myself.

KW: Same here. I live a block from the forest, and I like to go for a long walk in the woods for at least an hour every day.
RG: Oh, wow! An hour every day? That’s nice! I’m jealous.

KW: Do you ever wish you could have your anonymity back?
RG: I can still have it, depending on where I travel.

KW: Now that Christian Bale has finally won an Oscar, it looks like you’ve inherited the mantle of being the best actor who’s never won one. How do you feel about that?
RG: [LOL] I’m honored.

KW: Florine also asks: What is your favorite saying, and why does it resonate with you?
RG: I’m going to have to think about that.

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
RG: It depends on how Judyth is defining success.

KW: I would define it as happy, but I don’t know how she would.
RG: In that case, I can’t comment.

KW: Judyth also asks: If you could change one thing about Hollywood, what would that be?
RG: That it would be in New York.

KW: Legist/Editor Patricia Turnier says: As a fellow Canadian, I am very proud that you were the first Canadian to receive a Best Actor Oscar nomination in 62 years. How did you feel about this recognition?
RG: Again, as an honor.

KW: Patricia also points out that you have played different roles during your career. She asks: What is your secret for not being typecast?
RG: I don’t give away my secret. That’s my secret.

KW: Lastly, Patricia would like to know: What is the most challenging aspect of your work as an actor?
RG: Interviews.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
RG: [Chuckles] That one.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
RG: Yes.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
RG: Yes.

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

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
RG: Romantic comedies.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
RG: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?
RG: “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It” by Rickey Nelson.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
RG: I like to make cereal, because you don’t have to cook it. [LOL]

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
RG: That guy from “The Notebook.” [Laughs some more]

KW: Do you know how crazy women are about that film. It really has quite a loyal cult following.
RG: I’ve heard that rumor.

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

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
RG: I don’t remember.

KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?
RG: You have to laugh to keep from crying.

KW: How introspective are you?
RG: Obviously not introspective enough to answer that question.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
RG: Make your own movies. You don’t have to do it the way I did it anymore. You don’t really have to move to L.A., do auditions, get an agent and deal with all that nonsense. You can just make a movie with your friends and put it online.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
RG: I don’t know.

KW: Thanks again for the interview, Ryan. Best of luck with the film.
RG: Thanks, Kam.

Top Ten DVD List for July 26th

by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for July 26th

The Blues Brothers [Blu-Ray]

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin and More Stories for Young Musicians

Comedy & Tragedy: Classic Opera Productions from the Glyndebourne

Life During Wartime

Animal House [Blu-Ray]

Beethoven Symphony No. 9: Ode to Jewish Freedom

Source Code

The Sentiment of the Flesh

Supernatural: The Anime Series

Turbulent Skies

Honorable Mention

Michael Blackson: African King of Comedy – Surviving America – Season One

Jackboots on Whitehall

Born to Ride

The Task

Jersey Shore: Season Three – Uncensored

Scream of the Banshee


Clifford the Big Red Dog: Dog Days of Summer

Women Do It Better

Gangsta Rap Icons: Snoop Dogg & Ice Cube

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Moore, Carell and Gosling Co-Star in Midlife Crisis Comedy

After 25 years of marriage, Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is still as smitten with his high school sweetheart as the day they first met. Consequently, when Emily (Julianne Moore) suddenly announces “I want a divorce!” one evening, he’s so stunned by the bombshell that he goes into shock, opens the car door, and tumbles out while it’s still moving.
Still, his bruises heal way before his broken heart, since his wife remains resolved to kick him out of the house on account of the steamy affair she’s been enjoying with a colleague (Kevin Bacon). With no choice but to bite the bullet, Cal grudgingly moves into a tiny apartment where he watches helplessly as his once-idyllic life continues to unravel.
For, not only has he lost his wife, but he also soon finds himself alienated from his kids, Robbie (Jonah Bobo) and Molly (Joey King), because he now only gets to see them occasionally, on weekends during visitation. And he is even being abandoned by guys he thought were his good pals, like Bernie (John Carroll Lynch), who ends their relationship after being henpecked by a spouse who has sided with Emily.
Lonely and depressed, Cal ends up frequenting a singles nightclub where he proceeds to strike out with every woman he approaches. Luckily, his futility is observed from across the crowded bar by a regular, Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling). Out of pity, the suave ladies man takes the terminally-nerdy newcomer under his wing, and teaches him how to dress fashionably, what manly drinks to order and how to deliver a pick-up line.
In due time, the makeover magically changes Cal from a wallflower into a womanizer, and perhaps foremost among his many conquests is a flattered schoolteacher (Marisa Tomei) he charms by calling her “the perfect combination of sexy and cute.” Curiously, his transformation is completed just as confirmed bachelor Jacob finally falls in love for the first time in his life with Hannah (Emma Stone), a brainy knockout he’s prepared to build his life around.
Meanwhile, Emily’s relationship with sleazy David has soured, leading her to have second thoughts about dumping Cal. Thus, the question looming over the horizon reads, if she changes her mind about breaking up, will it already be too late to reconcile?
So unfolds Crazy, Stupid, Love, a delightful and deceptively-complex, midlife crisis comedy co-directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. The film features a colorful ensemble embroiled in a hilarious fashion in an array of ill-advised liaisons.
Ryan Gosling shines in a comic outing which is a bit of a departure for the accomplished dramatic actor. Other standouts include Julianne Moore, Steve Carell, Emma Stone and Marisa Tomei, while Analeigh Tipton makes the most of a support role as a sex-starved, 17 year-old babysitter.
A refreshingly-tasteful, romantic romp which manages to entertain and elicit lots of laughs without relying on a vulgar brand of humor.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and coarse humor.
Running time: 118 Minutes
Studio: Warner Brothers

Captain America: The First Avenger

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Latest Marvel Superhero Saves the Day during WWII

This superhero adventure continues the recent trend in comic book screen adaptations in which the protagonist comes to play a critical role in the outcome of a significant historical event. Here, we have Marvel’s Captain America (Chris Evans) called upon to save the day during World War II when a cosmic cube called the Tesseract, said to be a source of limitless power, falls into the hands of Hitler henchman Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving).
That nefarious Nazi also happens to have been left horribly-disfigured but with superhuman strength as a result of testing a top secret serum designed to create a master race of super soldiers on behalf of the Fuhrer. However, Schmidt goes rogue after gaining possession of the Tesseract, morphing into an eviler alter ego, the Red Skull.
The monomaniacal madman proceeds to hatch a diabolical plan for world domination with the help of a horde of renegade German soldiers armed with futuristic death ray guns. We know they have shifted their allegiance from Adolf to the Red Skull because they now chant “Hail Hydra!” instead of “Heil Hitler!”
Meanwhile, clear across the Atlantic Ocean, we find frail Steve Rogers (also Chris Evans), a proverbial 98-pound weakling, desperate to enlist in the military despite suffering from asthma and a host of other assorted ailments. When he’s rejected at a New York City recruitment center for the umpteenth time, the frustrated patriot’s self-pity party is overheard by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a Nazi defector who had created the concoction that had mutated Schmidt.
Now putting his talents to work for the forces of good, Dr. Erskine offers Steve a chance to train in the Strategic Scientific Reserve, an experimental outfit being run by hard-boiled Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and a two-fisted British Officer Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Of course, the kid jumps at the opportunity to become the first to test the new and improved super soldier solution.
The injection transforms Steve into quite a physical specimen with an even more muscular physique than his best friend, Sergeant Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). This development isn’t lost on pretty Peggy who can barely keep her hands off his rock-hard abs.
More importantly, Steve dons a form-fitting red, white and blue costume and an impenetrable shield made of vibranium, the rarest metal on Earth. And accompanied by a crack team of commandos comprised of his pal Bucky, plus Dum Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough), Gabe Jones (Derek Luke), Jacques Dernier (Bruno Ricci), Jim Morita (Kenneth Choi) and James Montgomery Falsworth (J.J. Field), he sets out on a search and destroy mission in quest of the Red Skull and his minions.
Directed by Joe Johnston (Jumanji), Captain America proves to be a riveting roller coaster ride from beginning to end, basically because it relies on a winning recipe featuring all the fixins needed to hold an audience’s undivided attention, from a compelling plot which ratchets up the tension all the way to the final showdown, to eye-popping action and special effects, to a sweet romance between likable leads exhibiting screen chemistry, to lots of unexpected moments of levity (with much of the hilarious comic relief arriving courtesy of Tommy Lee Jones). Just don’t forget to sit through the closing credits for a sneak peek at the sequel, The Avengers, set to be released next year.
The best superhero blockbuster of the summer!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi violence.
Running time: 124 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

The Source Code DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Features Vet Cracking Case of Domestic Terrorism

Air Force Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) has been comatose since his helicopter was shot down during a rescue mission over Afghanistan. So, the incapacitated pilot has no way of knowing that while languishing in a vegetative state he was being recruited for the “Source Code,” a top secret program aimed at enabling him to inhabit another person’s brain, telepathically.
And exactly how, pray tell, might the highly-decorated veteran accomplish such a superhuman feat? By way of some “very complicated quantum mechanics” involving “parabolic calculus” explains project supervisor Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) in inscrutable, pseudo-scientific psychobabble, not in laymen’s terms which a movie audience could comprehend.
In any case, Captain Stevens is now unknowingly being thrust into the role of hero again when a domestic terrorist (Michael Arden) kills everybody aboard a train headed for Chicago by detonating a remote-controlled explosive. The military only has six hours to prevent the crazy madman from following through with his next threat, namely, to slaughter millions by unleashing a dirty bomb downtown.
Therefore, Dr. Rutledge directs his able assistant (Vera Farmiga) to implant Colter’s mind in the cranium of Sean Fentress (Frederick De Grandpre), a history teacher who just perished on the ill-fated train. She calibrates the Source Code’s wayback machine to teleport the time-traveling, body snatcher to a point precisely eight minutes prior to the railway blast. The soldier’s subconscious assignment in that brief window of opportunity is to determine which of his fellow passengers is the maniacal murderer.
Directed by Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie), The Source Code is a sci-fi adventure predicated on a farfetched premise that works only if you never pause to ponder its plausibility. Fortunately, this high-octane thriller does unfold at a breakneck pace which makes it easy to ignore just how preposterous a plot you’re dealing with.
A thought-provoking mindbender which mixes memorable elements of everything from Memento to Avatar to The Twilight Zone to The Manchurian Candidate.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and profanity.
Running time: 93 minutes
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
DVD Extras: Cast interviews, trivia track, science focal points and audio commentary with the director, the scriptwriter and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Life during Wartime DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Todd Solondz Disturbing Take on Jewish Dystopia Due on DVD

Taking a page from the Coen Brothers, whose semi-autobiographical A Serious Man captured what life was like coming of age in the late Sixties, here Todd Solondz serves up a much more twisted take on growing up Jewish, only in Florida instead of the Midwest. Life during Wartime also revolves around a 12 year-old (Dylan Riley Snider) studying for his bar mitzvah, but the dystopia in which he is immersed is far more bizarre than anything in the Coen’s relatively-comical adventure.
The movie is ostensibly a sequel to Solondz’ Happiness (1998), since the three adult sisters at the center of that somber suburban dramedy, Trish, Joy and Helen, are all back, although played by different actresses. In fact, the cast has been totally overhauled, so it might be best to think of this flick as independent rather than as a sequel.
Regardless, Timmy Maplewood and his two siblings (Emma Hinz and Chris Marquette) are being raised by Trish (Allison Janney), a single-mom who has tricked her kids into believing their father is deceased. Truth be told, he’s a convict serving a long prison term for child molestation. As the film unfolds, Trish has just met a nice Jewish man on a blind date that she actually could settle down with. Nebbishy Harvey (Michael Lerner) is refreshingly normal, although he comes with baggage, a highly-neurotic son (Rich Pecci) with a dark view of the world, namely, that, “In the end, China will take over.”
The plot thickens when pedophilic Bill Maplewood is paroled, and returns to town unannounced. Meanwhile, sister Joy (Shirley Henderson) is enduring even more depravity in her dysfunctional relationship with her African-American husband, Allen (Michael K. Williams), who is not only unemployed but unable to control his sexual impulses. These two bottom out while celebrating their anniversary in a restaurant when he’s slapped by a waitress who recognizes him as a pervert. It doesn’t help that Joy continues to feel guilt about the suicide of her high school sweetheart (Paul “Pee-wee Herman” Reubens).
Finally, we have scriptwriter sister Helen (Ally Sheedy), a spoiled-rotten narcissist living in the lap of luxury who nonetheless complains about “feeling crushed by the enormity of my success.” For all their weirdness ranging from the eccentric to the antisocial to the criminal to the uncertain, kudos to director Solondz for again crafting an ensemble of offbeat personas so realistic that they border on the palpable.
My Big Fat Jewish Wedding!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality, brief nudity and disturbing dialogue.
Running time: 97 minutes
Distributor: Criterion Collection
DVD Extras: A new digital transfer supervised and approved by director of photography; “Ask Todd,” an audio Q&A with director Todd Solondz; Making "Life During Wartime," a new documentary featuring interviews with actors; a new video piece in which Lachman discusses his work on the film; the original theatrical trailer; and a booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Sterritt.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Myth of the American Sleepover

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Teen Anomie and Angst Aplenty in Anticlimactic End of Summer Saga

There’s a thin line between making a Mumblecore and shooting a home movie, and in the case of The Myth of the American Sleepover it hard to discern exactly which you might be watching. Set in suburban Detroit, this aimless indulgence in teen anomie and angst strikes this critic as more improvised than scripted, although David Robert Mitchell, in his directorial debut, does take credit for the film’s screenplay.
The character-cluttered coming-of-age adventure unfolds over the course of the last weekend of summer vacation, and features an ensemble cast of more adolescents than you probably care to keep track of. Introspective to a fault, each one has an urgent emotional agenda to address before the beginning of the new semester.
There’s Maggie (Claire Sloma), a rebellious, high school freshman with nose and lip rings. She already sneaking beer, and ready to start smoking and to jump the bones of Cameron (Stephen Francis), a cute upperclassman she meets at the pool while hanging out with her homely BFF, Beth (Annette DeNoyer).
Then we have creepy college man Scott (Brett Jacobsen). He tries to talk a pair of considerably-younger, identical twins, Anna (Jade Ramsey) and Ady Abbey (Nikita Ramsey), into a ménage-a-trois after being dumped by his girlfriend. Meanwhile, over at a girls’ slumber party, we find transfer student Claudia (Amanda Bauer), a newcomer to town who unwittingly gets caught kissing the hostess’ boyfriend in the basement. And Rob (Marlon Morton), a cool dude in a loose mood, sets off on a relentless search for the blonde he spotted across the aisle in the supermarket.
While I’m willing to give director Mitchell an A for effort for his ambitiously-plotted production, I still can’t give him a Mulligan when the storylines uniformly prove so eerily uneventful. For, despite the fact that all the kids appear desperate to make the most of their last hours of freedom prior to returning to the stifling confines of the classroom, precious little ultimately transpires that would qualify as carnality.
I thought movies were supposed to be like real life except with all the boring parts edited out? This flick looks more like the reverse. A talky, tortoise-paced teensploit which teases far more than it titillates.

Fair (1 star)
Running time: 96 minutes
Studio: Sundance Selects/IFC Films

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Kam's Kapsules: For movies opening July 29, 2011

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening July 29, 2011


Attack the Block (R for violence, drug use and pervasive profanity) Horror comedy chronicling the valiant effort of a gang of teenagers from South London to defend their ‘hood during an alien invasion. Starring Nick Frost, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail, John Boyega and Luke Treadaway.

Cowboys & Aliens (PG-13 for violence, brief nudity and a crude reference)
Sci-fi adventure set in 1875 in the Wild, Wild West where a mysterious gunslinger (Daniel Craig) forms a posse to defend a desolate, desert town after a spaceship from outer space starts abducting people one by one. Directed by Jon Favreau and co-starring Harrison Ford, Abigail Spencer, Keith Carradine and Sam Rockwell.

Crazy, Stupid, Love (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and coarse humor) Midlife crisis comedy about an awkward nerd (Steve Carell) just dumped by his adulterous wife (Julianne Moore) who transforms himself into a suave ladies man with the help of a shameless playboy (Ryan Gosling). Cast includes Kevin Bacon, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei and Josh Groban.

The Smurfs (PG for action and mild rude humor) 3-D animated/live action adventure featuring the arrival of an army of diminutive blue creatures in New York’s Central Park after they are chased through a portal from medieval times to the present by an evil wizard (Hank Azaria). Starring Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays with voiceover work by Katy Perry, George Lopez, Fred Armisen, Jeff Foxworthy, Kenan Thompson and Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Reubens.


All She Can (Unrated) Overcoming-the-odds saga about a high school weightlifter (Corina Calderon) who sees winning an athletic scholarship to the University of Texas as her only ticket out of a godforsaken Texas town. With Julia Vera, Julio Cedillo and Julian Works.

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress (Unrated) Culinary documentary offering a behind-the-scenes peek at the chefs as they prepare the imaginative array of succulent dishes on the menu at El Bulli, the critically-acclaimed gourmet restaurant with a view of the Catalonian seacoast which is slated to close after 50 years despite just being dubbed the best bistro in the world by the New York Times. (In Catalan with subtitles)

The Devil’s Double (Unrated) Chilling bio-pic about the Iraqi Army lieutenant (Dominic Cooper) forced under the threat of death to serve as a body double for Saddam Hussein’s (Philip Quast) sadistic and sexually-depraved son, Uday (also Dominic Cooper). With Ludivine Sagnier, Jamie Harding and Mem Ferda.

The Future (Unrated) Romance drama about a couple in crisis (Miranda July and Hamish Linklater) who find their relationship further tested when they adopt a stray cat. With David Warshofsky, Isabella Acres and Joe Putterlik.

Golf in the Kingdom (PG for mild epithets) Screen adaptation of Esalen Institute founder Michael Murphy’s semi-autobiographical novel of the same name about a guy headed to an Indian ashram who gets a life-changing lesson in spirituality en route from a guru (David O’Hara) while on the links of a mythical course during a layover in Scotland. With Frances Fisher, Tony Curran and Mason Gamble.

Good Neighbors (Unrated) “State Farm” crime comedy set in the Notre Dame section of Montreal where, during the winter of 1995, a serial killer on the loose has the tenants of an apartment building unsure about whether they can trust each other. Featuring Jay Baruchel, Scott Speedman and Xavier Dolan.

The Guard (Unrated) Unlikely-buddy comedy about a quick-tempered Irish cop (Brendan Gleeson) who teams with a relatively-mild-mannered, FBI agent (Don Cheadle) to crack an international drug-smuggling ring operating in Galway. With Fionnula Flanagan, Mark Strong and Liam Cunningham. (In English and Gaelic with subtitles)

House of Boys (Unrated) Homoerotic, coming-of-age drama, set in 1984, about a rebellious, gay teen (Layke Anderson) who runs away to Amsterdam where he seduces his straight roommate (Benn Northover) into a torrid love affair that takes a tragic turn when he ends up HIV+. Woth Loic Peckels, Harry Ferrier and Sascha Ley. (In English, French, German and Luxembourgish with subtitles)

Life in a Day (Unrated) Experimental documentary, shot simultaneously by dozens of directors in different locations all over the world, designed to serve as a cinematic time capsule showing what life was like on the planet on July 24th, 2010.

Point Blank (Unrated) High body-count thriller about a nurse (Gilles Lellouche) who saves a mobster’s (Roschdy Zem) life in the hospital only to have the hit man’s henchmen kidnap his pregnant wife (Elena Anaya) in order to free their boss. With Gerard Lanvin, Claire Perot and Moussa Maaskri. (In French with subtitles)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fatal Invention (BOOK REVIEW)

Fatal Invention:
How Science, Politics and Big Business Re-Create Race in the 21st Century
by Dorothy Roberts, Esq.
The New Press
Hardcover, $29.95
400 pages
ISBN: 978-1-59558-495-3

Book Review by Kam Williams

“Race is an invented political system, not a natural biological division. The Human Genome Project has confirmed that the human species cannot be divided into genetically distinguishable races. Race is a political grouping created to support slavery and colonialism, and its boundary lines have shifted over time and across nations to suit political ends…
For the last three centuries, science… has been instrumental in justifying the concept of biological races—and this century’s genomic science is no different… Despite the scientific and political evidence, some scientists are attempting to modernize the myth that race is a biological category... What’s new is that today’s racial science claims to divide human beings into natural groups with more accurate precision and without the taint of racism.”

-Excerpted from Part I (pgs. 20-27)

The mapping of the human gene has established, scientifically, that there is only one race, the human race. So, one might naturally expect any arbitrary groupings by experts of individuals along color lines to cease. Think again. Regrettably, this is not the case, according to Professor Dorothy Roberts of Northwestern Law School.
She is the author of Fatal Invention, a cautionary examination of the current state of affairs in terms of the intersection of ethnicity and bioethics. In the book, she issues a dire warning that researchers are repackaging outmoded notions of race by hiding behind benign-sounding euphemisms like “geographic ancestry” when they should really be disposing of such baseless categorizations entirely.
For example, you may be familiar with television commercials being run by ancestry-testing companies offering to determine what percent white, black, Asian and Native-American you are based on a DNA sample. However, the perspicacious Professor Roberts warns that these ads erroneously “reinforce the myth that human beings were originally divided into pure races that exist in our genes.”
Perhaps more problematic, she suggests, is the way in which the medical community seems to be “searching for genes to explain racial disparities in health care that are actually caused by social inequities.” In this regard, Roberts indicates that “In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first race-specific drug, a heart failure therapy that was targeted to black patients for marketing reasons.”
A seminal appeal for the findings of the Genome Project to be applied not in service of separation and exploitation but to promote the ideals of inclusion and equality among all members of the human family.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Derek Luke: The "HawthoRNe” and “Captain America” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Dr. Derek on Call

Independent Spirit Award-winner Derek Luke (for Antwone Fisher) has joined the cast of TNT’s HawthoRNe, the powerful medical drama starring and executive-produced by Jada Pinkett Smith. In a multi-episode arc that began with the June 14th season premiere, Derek is playing the role of Dr. Miles Bourdet, a young surgeon who arrives at James River Hospital to become the protégé of Dr. Tom Wakefield (Michael Vartan). Currently in the midst of a divorce, Miles will attract the attention of Camille Hawthorne (Hannah Hodson), daughter of Jada’s character Christina Hawthorne.
In addition to the title role in Antwone Fisher, Luke’s feature film credits include Friday Night Lights, Miracle at St. Anna and Notorious. Here, he talks about HawthoRNe as well as his new movie, Captain America: The First Avenger.

Kam Williams: Hey Derek, thanks for another interview.
Derek Luke: No doubt! Same here, Kam.

KW: How you been?
DL: Things are great! I been blessed, bro.

KW: So, what interested you in joining the cast of HawthoRNe?
DL: First, a project has to speak to my heart. When I got the call to do HawthoRNe with Jada, I appreciated the fact that they were very open to collaboration and building my character. That was a signal to me loud and clear, as a person who cares about what type of message the show was going to deliver, that this was going to be a great opportunity.

KW: How would you describe your character, Dr. Miles Bourdet?
DL: As a man juggling a number of different responsibilities. He’s a husband, a father, and a professional. And what he’s discovering is that it’s necessary for him to manage and balance all three roles.

KW: How are people reacting to seeing you on a TV series instead of in a movie?
DL: Word on the street is that people are really excited and, secondly, I’m learning how many people already love HawthoRNe.

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles says: Currently, you’re appearing in Captain America, a summer blockbuster, and you have this new ongoing role on the TV series. Which type of work do you prefer?
DL: [Laughs] Which do I prefer? I started in movies, and that has given me a license to go into TV. If I have to pick one, I’d have to say movies, since that was my first love.

KW: Legist/Editor Patricia Turnier asks: How did you decide to play Gabe Jones?
DL: In this case, we didn’t get to see the scripts until well after we’d signed on. But I knew that Gabe Jones was created by the legendary Stan Lee. And that Gabe happens to be one of the few African-American characters in the comic world, period. In the very first Marvel Comics issue he appeared in he was white, because the printer assumed that the illustrator had made a mistake and changed his color.

KW: Patricia also asks: What profession would be your second choice after acting, and why?
DL: Wow! What a great question! It’s funny, because my acting career started with a question to God: What were you thinking when you made me? So, I would like to think my second career would be whatever His plan was.

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: What does the role of Dr. Miles Bourdet mean to you?
DL: It means that there’s an opening for spirituality on television. What I love is that he gets to play a healer beyond basic medicine. He’s actually interested in changing people’s lives. Secondly, he’s a man of color with morals and integrity. I’m very proud of that.

KW: Reverend Florine Thompson asks: What is your greatest source of inspiration? How important is spirituality to you and where do you find spiritual nourishment?
DL: The Bible. There’s a verse in The Bible that says, “What makes a man spiritual is ‘The Word.’” And I read a dose of The Word every day.

KW: Florine’s follow-up is: Do you have a favorite quote which resonates with you that you’d like to share?
DL: Yes: “Art without heart is cold and aimless.”

KW: Judyth Piazza asks: Who was your mentor and how important do you think it is to have a mentor?
DL: One of my first mentors was a Bahamian pastor by the name of Myles Munroe. I was given his book at a time that I was starving spiritually. Mentors are very important because they serve as the voices that help guide us on our journey.

KW: Judyth also asks: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
MSN: Now that’s an excellent question. All successful people share a determination and a will to refuse limitation.

KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome on the road to success?
DL: Believing that God had a plan for me bigger than my abilities.

KW: Dante Lee, author of "Black Business Secrets," asks: What business advice do you have for aspiring actors?
DL: The first thing I’d tell an actor is to find out what you were destined to do in show business and make it a need that only you can brand.

KW: Jimmy Bayan asks: If you had five minutes of your life to live over again, which ones would it be?
DL: [Pauses to think] Gee, I may have to come back to that one.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
DL: I like baking pastries, especially sweet potato pie.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
DL: I see grace and mercy.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
DL: Hmm….That everyone in the world be impregnated with a dream.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
DL: Growing up free from any responsibilities.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
DL: Nana Boateng.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
DL: Sugar.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
DL: It starts with a hunger to change.

KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?
DL: With worship.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
DL: As a man who fulfilled all his potential.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Derek, and best of luck with both HawthoRNe and Captain America.
DL: Hey Kam, thank you.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Winnie the Pooh

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Disney Brings Pooh and Pals Back to Big Screen

Written by A.A. Milne (1882-1956) back in the 1920s, Winnie the Pooh is a beloved children’s classic which has captured the imagination of young and old alike for generations on end. Since acquiring the rights to the collection of the collection of timeless tales in the early Sixties, Walt Disney has adapted them to both the big and small screens, even extending the popular franchise in recent years by creating sequels for such peripheral characters as Tigger (2000), Piglet (2003) and Heffalump (2005).
With the latest episode, Pooh (Jim Cummings) returns to the limelight for an animated adventure ostensibly-based on three of the original, illustrated bedtime stories. The action unfolds in fabled Hundred Acre Wood, where we find him rousing from hibernation, hungry and out of honey. This state of affairs inspires the anthropomorphic bear to sing “The Tummy Song,” the first of numerous excuses the production seizes upon to launch into a bouncy show tune.
.Winnie subsequently sets out on a search for some sweet bee nectar only to encounter his friend Eeyore (Bud Luckey), a donkey who’s depressed over having somehow lost his tail. After consulting with wise old Owl (Craig Ferguson), they convene a meeting attended by Pooh pals Tigger (also voiced by Jim Cummings), Kanga (Kristen Anderson-Lopez), Rabbit (Tom Kenny) and Roo the kangaroo (Wyatt Dean Hall) to announce a reward of a pot of honey for whoever comes up with the best replacement for the missing appendage.
But when neither a balloon, a cuckoo clock, an umbrella, a weather vane, an accordion, a moose head, a yo-yo nor a dartboard looks right on Eeyore’s rump, they decide to approach Christopher Robin (Jack Boulter) for help. The plot thickens when Owl misinterprets the note left on his door (“Back Soon”) to mean the boy has been kidnapped by a mysterious creature called a “Backson.”
Will the gang “rescue” Christopher Robin, secure a substitute tail for Eeyore, and fill Pooh’s belly so serenity might again abide inside this musical menagerie’s peaceable kingdom? That’s a lot of loose ends to resolve betwixt and between all the singing and dancing. But despite the picture’s scant running time of mere 69 minutes, only a fool would bet against Pooh and company.
A benign, tot-oriented fable sharing a heartwarming message about the true meaning of friendship

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated G
Running time: 69 Minutes
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Top Ten DVD List for July 19th

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for July 19th

Hey Boo: Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird

Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune

ICarly: The I <3 iCarly Collection


Small Town Murder Songs

Dive: Living off America’s Waste

The Royal Wedding Celebration

The Kids Grow Up

Shark Week

Royal Wedding of a Lifetime

Honorable Mention

Boy ‘N the Hood [Blu-Ray]

The Reef

Brave New Voices 2010

House of the Rising Sun



Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Kinky Former Miss Wyoming Serves as Subject of Latest Errol Morris Documentary

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and apparently that even goes for a beauty queen with an I.Q. of 168. That would be Joyce McKinney who enjoyed a whirlwind romance in Salt Lake City with a guy named Kirk Anderson following her reign as Miss Wyoming of 1973.
The blubbery 300-pounder was so flattered that Joyce found him attractive that he told her “I love you!” the night they met, and then proposed to her the very next day. The trouble was that he was also a Mormon and his devout parents disapproved of the hasty liaison. Plus, he was scheduled to depart to England soon to do the missionary work expected of all members of the Church of Latter Day Saints.
But Joyce just couldn’t get over being jilted, so she placed a classified ad for a pilot and a bodyguard for help in locating and liberating her runaway fiancé. They eventually found him on the steps of a church in London and abducted him at gunpoint, and then drove him not back to the airport but rather to a cottage in Devon 250 miles away.
Joyce had her henchman tie Kirk to the bed spread-eagled, and she proceeded to rape the fat man repeatedly for the next several days. Her rationale was that this was the best method of deprogramming him from what she felt was a cult.
However, instead of seeing the light, the object of her affection escaped and had Joyce and her accomplice arrested for kidnapping and sexual assault. The sensational story served as fodder for lots of lurid newspaper headlines in Great Britain for much of 1977, until the accused jumped bail and escaped back to the States, never to be extradited or to face justice again.
Tabloid, a bizarre bio-pic about a good girl gone bad, is the latest offering from Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris (for Fog of War). The film proves as fascinating as the rest of Morris’ intriguing body of work, given how it delicately unravels the mystery of exactly how and why Joyce planned and executed such a kinky conspiracy.
What might be most remarkable is the fact that the now wheelchair-bound mastermind cooperated with the project and remains in denial to this day, asserting, “I still don’t think I ever did anything wrong.” A thought-provoking picture raising the question: can a woman rape a man, or is it merely assault with intent to please?
You be the judge.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for nudity and sexuality.
Running time: 88 Minutes
Distributor: Sundance Selects

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Shanghai Red (CHINESE) DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Grieving Widow Dates Admirer in Cleverly-Concealed Mystery

Meili Zhu (Vivian Wu) was inconsolable in the wake of the murder of her husband, Lian Wei (Kenny Bee), because she had not only suddenly lost her life partner but would now have to raise their 7 year-old son, Bebe (Lu Yao), alone. Obviously, we all mourn differently and, in the case of this grief-stricken widow, the loss triggered a passionate reaction that rose to the level of a lust for revenge.
And, as she matter-of-factly states at the outset of Shanghai Red, “Sometimes you must do the honorable thing by dishonoring yourself.” So, ordinarily-modest Meili uncharacteristically donned a clingy, crimson dress to pose as a call girl for an escort agency. But this is all a part of her plan for vengeance, as her very first client is her late hubby’s business partner (Roger Yuan), whom she suspects was behind the grisly slaying. Upon entering the hotel room, Meili removes her oversize sunglasses to reveal her true identity to her prey right before pumping him full of bullets.
Unfortunately, crime still does not pay, as Meili narrates this tawdry tale of love and betrayal already behind bars, where all she has to look forward to is periodic visits from her handsome lawyer (Son Hong-lei). Somehow, she always manages to turn the tables on him during their conferences so that they end up discussing his troubled marriage instead of planning her defense strategy. Thus, this fascinating flashback flick unfolds in a rather unorthodox fashion, with the femme fatale enjoying a jailhouse flirtation when not gradually unraveling the multilayered mystery which led to her imprisonment.
We learn that Meili began having second thoughts soon after the shooting, when she went to visit Feng (Ge You), the man who had supplied her with both a motive and a murder weapon. “You wanted revenge, I just made it possible,” he protests, washing his hands of any culpability. Meanwhile, Meili, who prefers to focus on being a good mother to her increasingly troubled son, finds herself haunted by visions of her ex’s ghost and by the guilt of having committed such a violent act.
Then, the answer to her prayers arrives in the person of an American businessman who hires her as a translator. Michael Johnson (Richard Burgi) is instantly smitten and is ready to assume the role of surrogate husband and father figure.
Although the attraction is mutual, Meili has reservations, because of their cultural differences. Plus, it doesn’t help that Bebe’s babysitter, Wei Ma (Zhengwei Tong), repeatedly discourages her from dating a foreigner.
Juxtaposing a plethora of themes ranging from honor vs. disgrace to tradition vs. modernization to trust vs. duplicity, Shanghai Red shapes up like a modern morality play of Shakespearean proportions. The movie marks the directorial debut of Cuba-born Oscar L. Costo whose cleverly-concealed script is guaranteed to keep you guessing up to the whopper of a revelation at the conclusion of this endlessly-intriguing whodunit.

Excellent (4 stars)
In English and Mandarin with subtitles.
Running time: 119 Minutes
Studio: Indican Pictures

Hey, Boo DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Celebrates 50th Anniversary of “To Kill a Mockingbird”

In 1961, Harper Lee, an unknown white woman from a small town in Alabama, won a Pulitzer Prize for her groundbreaking novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Released at the height of the African-American struggle against Jim Crow segregation, the book played a pivotal role in raising the country’s awareness of racism while simultaneously serving to shame the South about its disgraceful legacy of lynching, oppression and discrimination.
A couple of years later, the screen adaptation of the best seller earned several Academy Awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor. Gregory Peck delivered his career performance as Atticus Finch, a highly-principled attorney defending a black man unfairly accused of rape.
Unfortunately, Harper Lee basically became a recluse after 1964, which is when she granted her last interview with the press. She also never published another novel, which has led to considerable speculation about the reasons for her silence and for her failure to write again.
After all, she and Truman Capote had been best friends as children, and it is apparent that the characters Scout and Jem in “To Kill a Mockingbird” are based on the two of them. Their relationship would endure into adulthood, and it was even the subject of a recent bio-pic about the late Capote.
All of the above and more fascinating factoids are unearthed in Hey, Boo as intriguing a documentary as you could ever hope to encounter. Since Ms. Lee did not cooperate with the project, director Mary Murphy depended on the reflections of luminaries like Oprah, Tom Brokaw, Andrew Young Jon Meacham and Scott Turow for insight into the reasons for the very private author’s uncompromising withdrawal from the public eye.
What turns out to be perhaps most compelling is how closely “To Kill a Mockingbird” mirrors events which transpired in Ms. Lee’s own life. For instance, she was a tomboy and the same age as Scout, 6, at the time that her father, a lawyer like Atticus, was representing a black man accused of a crime he hadn’t committed.
A cinematic toast to a true American heroine, a half century after she subtly helped shape the course of history and left an indelible mark on the country’s conscience.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 82 Minutes
Distributor: First Run Features
DVD Extras: Director interview, director bio, and extended interviews with Oprah Winfrey, James McBride, Mary Badham and Rosanne Cash.

Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD features Posthumous Profile of Progressive Folksinger

Phil Ochs (1940-1976) skyrocketed to fame in the Sixties on the strength of his defiant, anti-establishment anthems which dared to indict American militarism, racism, imperialism and expansionism. Armed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and an operatic voice to breathe life into his consciousness-raising hymns, the inveterate rabble rouser challenged authority at every opportunity.
And while Phil was famous for his sold-out engagements at leading venues like Carnegie Hall, he was also known to make impromptu appearances in support of the oppressed not only in the U.S. but in Africa, South America, and anywhere else around the planet he thought could help. Unfortunately, as a thorn in the side of the U.S. government in terms of the antiwar and civil rights movements, he couldn’t avoid making enemies of many powerful politicians.
Consequently, when Phil was strangled and left for dead while organizing over in Africa, he suspected that the assailant had been a CIA operative, especially because the attack effectively ended his career. That’s because the choking of his vocal cords reduced his distinctly-haunting singing voice to a shallow shadow of its former self.
From that point forward, the trajectory of Phil’s life spiraled downward, as he fought a losing battle with both booze and depression. Sadly, he would commit suicide at the tender age of 35, leaving behind not only a wife but a young daughter as well.
All of the above is carefully chronicled in Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune, a reverential profile directed by Kenneth Bowser. What makes the bittersweet bio-pic so compelling is the participation in the project of so many folks who knew the man well.
Rife with priceless archival concert footage as well as recent wistful remembrances by friends and family, the film opens with an examination of Phil’s early years as a band geek in high school, followed by his matriculating at Ohio State where he picked up the guitar. We next learn that he dropped out of college to become a folksinger in Greenwich Village where he was inspired to step up his game by virtue of a healthy competition in clubs with his pal Bob Dylan.
A fond tribute to a troubled, traveling troubadour who never turned down an invite to lend support by performing and putting his life on the line for a socially-relevant cause.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 97 Minutes
Distributor: First Run Features
DVD Extras: Extended Ochs performances, bonus interviews, photo gallery, director bio, director interview and more.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kam's Kapsules: For movies opening July 22, 2011

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening July 22, 2011


Captain America: The First Avenger (PG-13 for intense sci-fi violence) Marvel Comics adaptation revolving around the patriotic exploits of a soldier-turned-superhero (Chris Evans) who, with the help of his trusty sidekick (Sebastian Stan), comes to the aid of the Allies during World War II when a Hitler henchman (Hugo Weaving) bent on world domination develops a top secret weapon. With Derek Luke, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Natalie Dormer and Toby Jones.

Friends with Benefits (R for violence and brief sexuality) Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake co-star in this romantic comedy about a couple whose agreement to share intimacy with no expectations does nevertheless lead to relationship complications. Cast includes Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Richard Jenkins, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman and Andy Samberg with cameos by Jason Segel, Rashida Jones and Shaun White.


Another Earth (Unrated) Redemption drama about an MIT student (Brit Marling) and an accomplished composer (William Mapother) whose paths cross in tragic fashion on the very same night of the discovery of a mirror planet populated by duplicates of every human on Earth. With Jordan Baker, Flint Beverage and Robin Taylor.

Fire in Babylon (Unrated) Politically-tinged, sports documentary featuring file footage from the Seventies and Eighties as well as recent interviews with members of the post-colonial, West Indian cricket team which was forced to endure racist taunts while playing on tour around the world, including in South Africa during the reign of the Apartheid regime.

A Little Help (R for sexuality, profanity and drug use) Bittersweet dramedy about a dental hygienist (Jenna Fischer) who suddenly finds herself resorting to lies to provide for herself and her 12 year-old son (Daniel Yelsky) in the wake of her philandering husband’s (Chris O’Donnell) untimely death. With Kim Coates, Ron Leibman, Lesley Ann Warren and Rob Benedict.

The Myth of the American Sleepover (Unrated) Coming-of-age drama focusing on the fates of four teens (Claire Sloma, Marlon Morton, Amanda Bauer and Brett Jacobsen) looking for love and romance around suburban Detroit on the last weekend of summer before going back to school. With Amy Seimetz, Narisa Suzuki and Jade and Nikita Ramsey.

Sarah’s Key (PG-13 for mature themes and disturbing images) Holocaust drama, set in present-day Paris, about an investigative journalist’s (Kristin Scott Thomas) research the story of how the family of a 10 year-old girl (Melusine Mayance) was torn asunder by the roundup of Jews in occupied France during World War II. With Karina Hin, Sarah Ber and Kate Moran. (In French and English with subtitles)

Singham (Unrated) Bollywood crime caper about the showdown between the sheriff of Shivgad (Ajay Devgan) and the powerful mobster (Prakash Raj) who has recently arrived in the quiet, tiny town. With Kajal Aggarwal, Sonali Kulkarni and Sachin Khedekar. (In Hindi with subtitles)