Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Push Has Come to Shove (BOOK REVIEW)

Push Has Come to Shove:
Getting Our Kids the Education They Deserve (Even If It Means Picking a Fight)
by Dr. Steve Perry
Crown Publishing
Hardcover, $25.00
270 pages
ISBN: 978-0-307-72031-3

Book Review by Kam Williams

“I’m often referred to as a ‘tough love’ principal… The day I declared that I wanted to start a school was the day that the fighting began… Push has definitely come to shove…
I opened Capital Prep because I know that America has failed to develop a successful public school system that can be replicated across racial and class lines… Children deserve better and we can give it to them…
This book introduces you to the challenges we encountered and how we beat them to become one of America’s most successful schools.
-- Excerpted from the Introduction (pgs. 6-16)

You don’t need me to recite the statistics for you. By now, everybody knows that the public school system is failing America’s kids. Even those who earn a diploma are generally getting an inferior education in comparison to their private school counterparts and to children in most developed nations, especially places like Finland and South Korea.
The situation is the most alarming in the inner cities where the graduation rates are so low that lots of schools are now routinely referred to as dropout factories. This is not the case, however, with Capital Prep, a magnet school located in Hartford, Connecticut.
The institution was founded in 2005 by Dr. Steve Perry, a proponent of tough love reminiscent of the legendary Joe Clark of Lean on Me fame. Although he doesn’t roam the halls with a baseball bat, Dr. Perry is just as demanding of his pupils, and he also has very high expectations of his teachers as well.
And his tireless efforts have yielded some astounding academic results, namely, a 100% graduation rate in a district with a 29% average. Furthermore, he sends all of his kids on to college, a rare feat indeed for any public school.
In Push Has Come to Shove, Perry, a frequent CNN contributor, shares his formula for success in the hope that it might be embraced and replicated all across the nation. But be forewarned, his controversial approach envisions the implementation of significant changes which would amount to a drastic overhaul of the entire school system.
For, with a glee akin to that of former Washington, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, Dr. Perry advocates an assault on such seemingly sacred cows as top-heavy administrative bureaucracies, tenure for teachers, and the union inclination to protect its bad apples via what he dubs a “leave no teacher behind” philosophy. Luckily, the author only needs to point to the triumphs of his own program as proof that his innovative ideas deserve some serious consideration.
Brutally honest in its indictment of the status quo, Push Has Come to Shove amounts to an urgent clarion call for change by a relentlessly-uncompromising iconoclast who undoubtedly has his students’ best interests at heart.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Zendaya: The “Shake It Up!” Interview

with Kam Williams

Born in Oakland, California on September 1, 1996, Zendaya grew up around the California Shakespeare Theater in nearby Orinda, where her mother worked as the House Manager. In addition to training at the theater company's student conservatory program, and later performing in numerous stage productions, she helped her mom seat patrons and sell raffle tickets to benefit the organization.

While attending the Oakland School for the Arts, Zendaya starred as a young Ti Moune in "Once on This Island" at the Berkeley Playhouse before enjoying her breakout role as the male character Joe in "Caroline, or Change" at Palo Alto's TheatreWorks. She subsequently honed her craft at both the California Shakespeare Conservatory program and the American Conservatory Theater, adding such classics by the Bard of Avon as "Richard III," "Twelfth Night" and "As You Like It" to her stage credits.

Zendaya, by the way, means "to give thanks" in Shona, a Bantu language native to Zimbabwe. Besides acting, the versatile young talent has served as a fashion model for Macy's, Mervyns and Old Navy, and as one of the back-up dancers in a Sears commercial featuring Selena Gomez.

Zendaya currently resides in Los Angeles with her family and Midnight , her pet Giant Schnauzer, and her interests include singing, dancing and clothes designing. Here, she talks about "Shake It Up!" her hit Disney Channel sitcom where she co-stars opposite Bella Thorne as Raquel "Rocky" Blue, half of a comedic duo trying to dance their way to superstardom.

Kam Williams: Hi Zendaya, thanks for the interview.
Zendaya: No, thank you, Kam. It is my pleasure.

KW: What interested you in Shake It Up?
Z: Well, I would say that Shake It Up was a chance for me to do two things I really love: acting and dancing.

KW: Tell me a little about the show?
Z: It's a buddy comedy based around dance. It's about two best friends Rocky and CeCe who live out their dream as background dancers on a show called Shake It Up Chicago. They have to navigate life as young teens going to school and dancing on the show.

KW: How would you describe your character, Rocky?
Z: Rocky is such a sweet girl. She really cares for people and always wants to help her friends. She is a very good student who really works hard, and she is a dedicated friend to CeCe who often talks her into doing things they shouldn't. Rocky is a bit more shy and unsure of herself, and sometimes does more following than she should.

KW: What message would you say the show is trying to deliver?
Z: Shake It Up definitely teaches kids about the importance of reaching for your dreams and setting high goals. It also teaches great lessons about friendship and family.

KW: What do you enjoy the most: acting, singing, dancing or modeling?
Z: Wow! I couldn't choose between all of those things! I looooove acting and dancing on Shake It Up, and I am currently in the recording studio working on my music. And one of my dreams is to walk down the runway during fashion week!

KW: When is your debut album being released, and what type of music is on it?
Z: Well, I am not sure of when my album will be released but my music has a lot of different sounds. I'm a hip-hop/R&B girl at heart, but I love pop music as well, and I even have an affinity for country music. So I would say my music might have something for everyone.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
Z: I'm never asked what I love to do outside of the arts. My answer would be sports. I was actually supposed to be a basketball player, not an actress. My parents had me playing basketball on competitive teams when I was in kindergarten. Even though my heart belongs to the arts, I'm a tomboy at heart, too.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
Z: Yes! I am scared of spiders! And I still get a little afraid every time I have to do something new or have to get out in front of a big crowd. The first time I sang "Swag It Out" live, I was really scared.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
Z: Yes, I am. This is my dream, truly. I grew up watching "That's So Raven" and "Lizzie McGuire," and I said to myself that I could do that one day, and here I am. This is a dream come true and I am just ecstatic to be here living out my childhood dreams.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
Z: Just yesterday I was dying laughing with my niece who is staying with me this summer. We have so much fun together!

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Z: Oh, it's Haagen Dasz ice cream, coffee flavor. It makes me feel so much better when I am upset and even happier when I am perfectly happy already.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
Z: I am reading the book that I just did a book trailer for...it's called "From Bad to Cursed." It's really creepy and good. And the last book I read for school was “Animal Farm,” but I didn't really like that.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What are you listening to on your iPod?
Z: I always have my own music on my iPod, especially songs that I am going to record. Besides that, I have lots of others ranging from Chris Brown to Beyonce’, Michael Jackson, Rascal Flatts and Adele.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
Z: I am really good at making Top Ramen. I also love it when my mom makes vegetarian lasagna for me.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
Z: Chanel all the way! Just because not only do they have timeless pieces, but since it is the epitome of class and elegance.

KW: Dante Lee, author of "Black Business Secrets," asks: What was the best business decision you ever made, and what was the worst?"
Z: I would say my best decision I ever made was to pursue my dream and give it my all. Thankfully, I have not yet made really bad decisions, I'm the kind of person to play it on the safe side.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
Z: I just see me, an ordinary girl. I know my life is not typical, but I have tried to stay really grounded and true to myself. My family really helps me with that.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
Z: It would be to go back in time and meet Michael Jackson and work with him.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
Z: Every year my mom takes her 5th grade class on an outdoor education trip, and ever since I was born, I came with her. One thing I remember the most was this long, old rickety bridge held by two redwood trees. In order to get to the camp fire, you had to cross it. Each time I went across I made my brother carry me on his shoulders. It freaked me out sooooo much, even a little now when I think about it.

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
Z: Determination. No matter what field your is, determination will surely get you to the top.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Z: A, surround yourself by positive people who will help you reach your goal and support you. And B, go for it!

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
Z: As an awesome, hardworking and caring artist, who loves what she does.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Zendaya, and best of luck with the show.
MSN: Thanks so much, Kam, it was great to be a part of this!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Our Idiot Brother

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Terminally-Naïve Hippie Wreaks Havoc in Prodigal Sibling Comedy

Ned (Paul Rudd) is a good-natured organic farmer who was dumb enough to be duped into selling pot to a uniformed police officer (Bob Stephenson). Not long past the opening credits we find him just being paroled, having paid his debt to society by serving a long stretch behind bars.
However, when he hitchhikes home to surprise his girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) after being released from prison a few months early for good behavior, he’s shocked to find out she’s already shacking up with another hippie (T.J. Miller). What’s worse, she won’t even let him stay in the goat barn while he tries to get back on his feet.
So, broke and unemployed, Ned appeals top his mom (Shirley Knight) who enlists the assistance of his relatively-successful sisters, Liz (Emily Mortimer), Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) and Natalie (Zoe Deschanel). They grudgingly agree to take turns letting the proverbial black sheep of the family crash on their couches, despite the fact that he has never held a steady job.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for Ned to wear out his welcome at each port-of-call, when the same gullibility which initially makes him so endearing ends up destabilizing his siblings’ assorted relationships. For instance, he is forced to bid mother-of-two Liza adieu soon after matter-of-factly mentioning that he caught her film director husband (Steve Coogan) cavorting naked with his latest leading lady (Lori E. Cunningham).
He next manages to make as much of a mess of commitment-shy Natalie’s life by nonchalantly informing her lesbian lover (Rashida Jones) that his sister is now pregnant after having a hetero one-night stand. And that same blasé attitude comes into play when he inadvertently interferes with a platonic friendship of Miranda’s as well as with her latest interview assignment for Vanity Fair.
Directed by Jesse Peretz, the decidedly droll Our Idiot Brother will work for you to the degree that you are able to suspend disbelief and swallow Ned’s terminal naïvete as he unwittingly wreaks havoc everywhere he goes. Credit Paul Rudd for portraying the character with an utterly convincing innocence, even if that dedicated effort is regrettably oft undermined by the script’s repeated reliance on repugnant misogynistic and mean-spirited flourishes.
A well-intentioned idealist clueless enough to make Forest Gump look streetwise.

Good (2 stars)
Rated R for nudity, sexuality and pervasive profanity.
Running time: 90 minutes
Studio: The Weinstein Company

Friday, August 26, 2011

Top Ten DVD List for August 30th

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for August 30th

House, M.D. - Season Seven

If a Tree Falls

Top Gun [Blu-Ray]

Murphy’s Law – The Complete Collection

iCarly – The Complete Third Season

Madea’s Big Happy Family

The Man Who Walked between the Towers

Desperate Housewives - The Complete Seventh Season

Police, Adjective

Dora the Explorer: Dora’s Halloween Parade

Honorable Mention

Hip Hop Backstage Pass – Four Movie Collection

Cougar Town – The Complete Second Season


The Vampire Diaries – The Complete Second Season


Norwegian Ninja

True Adolescents

Detroit 1-8-7 – The Complete First Season

The Nightmare before Christmas 3-D

Running Wilde – Season One

A Proper Violence

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Police, Adjective DVD

(Politist, Adj.)
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Wry Romanian Dramedy Released on DVD

Compared to America, a country inclined to dole out stiff sentences to drug offenders, Romania is a place where a police officer might be rather reluctant to bust someone for a narcotics violation. At least that’s what’s suggested by Police, Adjective, the two-time Cannes-winner from writer/director Corneliu Porumboiu, whose previous picture, 12:08 East of Bucharest, also picked up a couple of awards at the famed, French film festival.
This deadpan dramedy stars Dragos Bucur as Cristi, a cop who experiences a crisis in conscience after being ordered by his boss (Ion Stoica) to keep a teenager suspected of dealing under surveillance. But after shadowing Victor (Radu Costin) for days on end, the jaded detective realizes that the kid is just a recreational user whose worst offense is offering to share some hashish with a couple of classmates.
If you buy the Talking Heads’ notion that Heaven’s a place where nothing ever happens, then this deliberately-paced morality play might be your definition of nirvana. Think of Police, Adjective as the direct antithesis of the generic, Hollywood crime thriller featuring such staples as gunplay, fisticuffs and that obligatory chase scene where a careening car plows through a fruit stand and sideswipes a woman with a baby carriage before flying off a cliff and exploding in a fireball. Don’t expect any of that.
Instead, what you’re treated to here are a couple of glum gumshoes in the midst of an existential crisis in the station house where they wax philosophical while parsing words like “conscience,” “police,” “moral” and “law” in elusive, Clintonesque fashion. So, will the schoolboy scofflaw get brought to justice in the end? Turns out, that depends more on dictionary definitions than on catching the perp red-handed.
A slow to unravel crime saga laced with the trademark super-realism we’ve come to appreciate from the New Wave of Romanian cinema.

Very Good (3 stars)
In Romanian with subtitles
Running time: 115 minutes
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
DVD Extras: A new transfer of the film enhanced for widescreen viewing, an 8-page press booklet, and the theatrical trailer.

Madea’s Big Happy Family DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Sixth Madea Adventure Makes Its Way to DVD

This flick is the sixth in the franchise featuring Tyler Perry in drag as America’s sassiest granny. At the point of departure we find Madea’s niece, Shirley (Loretta Devine), being informed by her physician (Philip Anthony-Rodriguez) about a resurgence of the cancer that she’s been fighting for the past seven years.
Despite the dire diagnosis, she declines further treatment, explaining that she’s simply too tired to do another round of chemotherapy. And with just weeks to live, the devoutly-religious Christian resigns herself to the will of the Lord.
What does still matter to her, however, is seeing her children one last time to break the unfortunate news to them in person. The trouble is that each of them is currently consumed by a relationship crisis.
Daughter Tammy (Natalie Desselle) is married to a wimp (Rodney Perry) who lets their smart aleck sons (Stevie Wash, Jr. and Benjamin Aiken) walk all over her. Materialistic middle-child Kimberly (Shannon Kane) cares so much about her high-paying corporate job and the trappings of success that she ignores her toddler and takes her patient hubby (Isaiah Mustafa) for granted.
And 18 year-old Byron (Bow Wow), Shirley’s youngest, is being pressured by his gold digger of a girlfriend (Lauren London) to supplement his modest income by selling drugs on the street again. Adding to the recent-parolee’s angst is the baby-mama drama surrounding his hypercritical ex’s (Teyana Taylor) demands for more child support.
Care to hazard a guess whose help Shirley enlists to slap some sense, both literally and figuratively, into this dysfunctional menagerie? That would be Madea. Upping the ante in terms of sheer frivolity, she proceeds to browbeat her misbehaving extended family into shape in her own inimitable style.
Along for the ride purely for comic relief are a couple of embarrassing relatives: Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis) and Mr. Brown (David Mann). The former is a feisty septuagenarian who smokes marijuana and flirts shamelessly (“Are you married?” “Are you straight?”) with younger men. The latter is a garishly-dressed master of the malapropism who somehow convincingly confuses the words “prostitute” with “prostate,” “carbon peroxide” with “carbon monoxide,” and even “colonoscopy” with “Coca-Cola.”
Such distracting buffoonery notwithstanding, Madea miraculously manages to straighten everybody out, and right in the nick of time for the uplifting, closing credits Kodak moment. Melodramatic tough love as meaningful group therapy!

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, mature themes and drug use.
Running time: 107 Minutes
Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Four featurettes: “By-Reen: The Baby-Mama from Hell,” “Ties That Bind,” “Madea’s Family Tree” and “Brown Calls Maury.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kam's Kapsules: For movies opening September 2, 2011

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening September 2, 2011


Apollo 18 (Unrated) Found-footage horror flick, set in 1974, shedding light on a government cover-up of a NASA space mission on which the crew of astronauts were attacked by parasitic life forms they discovered on the moon.

The Debt (R for violence and profanity) International espionage thriller, set in 1997, about three former Mossad Agents (Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds) who come out of retirement to track down a Nazi war criminal (Jesper Christensen) back on the loose after already being apprehended by them 35 years earlier. With Jessica Chastain, Martin Csokas and Sam Worthington.

Seven Days in Utopia (G) Unlikely-buddies drama about a promising young golfer (Lucas Black) who’s befriended by an eccentric rancher (Robert Duvall) in a tiny Texas town after making a disastrous debut on the pro tour. With Robert Bear, Madison Burge and Brady Coleman.

Shark Night 3-D (PG-13 for terror, violence, disturbing images, profanity, mature themes, sexual references and partial nudity) High body-count screamfest about a Louisiana Gulf getaway which turns into a nightmare for vacationers sharing a beachfront home surrounded by shark-infested waters. Cast includes Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan and Donal Logue.


Bodyguard (Unrated) Bollywood remake of Malayalam action flick of the same name revolving around a muscle-bound chaperone (Salman Khan) who falls in love with young heiress (Kareena Kapoor) he was hired to protect while she’s away in college. With Mahesh Manjrekar, Shatrughan Sinha and Reema Debnath. (In Hindi with subtitles)

Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life (Unrated) Holocaust survivor bio-pic chronicling the ordeal of singer/songwriter/actor/director Serge Gainsbourg (Eric Elmosnino), a Jew who came of age during the Nazi occupation of Paris before going on to blossom into a multi-talented Renaissance Man after the end of World War II. With Lucy Gordon, Claude Chabrol and Laetitia Casta as Brigitte Bardot. (In French, English and Russian with subtitles)

A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy (R for profanity, pervasive sexuality and graphic nudity) Jason Sudeikis stars in this raunchy comedy about a party animal who decides to host a wild sex party over the Labor Day weekend after learning that his father (Don Johnson) has decided to put the family’s summer home in the Hamptons on the market. Ensemble cast includes Will Forte, Rhys Coiro, David Koechner, Michelle Borth, Lake Bell, Lindsay Sloane, Lucy Punch and Leslie Bibb.

I’m Glad My Mother Is Still Alive (Unrated) Dysfunctional family drama about a troubled teenager’s (Vincent Rottiers) obsession with finding his birth mother (Sophie Cattani) who had given him up for adoption at the age of four. With Christine Citti, Yves Verhoeven and Maxime Renard. (In French with subtitles)

Rebirth (Unrated) Post 9/11 documentary updates the progress made over the last decade of five, emotionally-scarred people trying to recover from the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center: a woman who lost her fiancé; a teenager who lost his mom; a firefighter who lost the rest of his company; a construction worker saddled with survivor’s guilt over his deceased brother; and a badly-burned victim who has undergone 40 surgical procedures and counting.

Resurrect Dead (Unrated) “Kilroy was here!” documentary endeavoring to decipher the meaning of the hundreds of cryptic messages found in tiles embedded by a mysterious graffiti artist into city streets all across the United States and South America.

Saving Private Perez (PG-13 for violence and brief profanity) Parody of Saving Private Ryan featuring the daring exploits of a Mexican mobster boss (Miguel Rodarte) pressured by his ailing mother (Isela Vega) to assemble a team of commandos for a suicidal mission to save his brother (Juan Carlos Flores) who’s a POW in Iraq. Cast includes Joaquin Cosio, Jaime Camil and Claudia Salinas.

That Girl in Yellow Boots (Unrated) Mumbai thriller about a desperate woman (Kalki Koechlin) who takes a job at a seedy massage parlor in order to find the father she’s never known only to end up trapped inside the city’s seamy underworld. With Divya Jagdal, Naseeruddin Shah and Gulshan Devaiya. (In Hindi with subtitles)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Special Treatment (FRENCH)

(Sans queue ni tete)
Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Shrink and Call Girl Cross Paths in Wry French Romp

Alice Bergerac (Isabelle Huppert) is a Parisian call girl who discretely caters to a clientele of wealthy businessmen with kinky tastes. This means that she spends her days in a high class hotel dressed up like everything from a schoolgirl to a dominatrix in order to feed her johns’ bizarre fantasies.
Despite all the perverse behavior, it looks like Alice is providing a valuable service to the community. After all, these sessions are what enable some guys with serious issues to keep up appearances as well-adjusted family men.
Is it possible then that, other than being illegal, the world’s oldest profession shares some parallels with the practice of psychotherapy.
At least that is what is suggested by Special Treatment, a wry erotic romp directed by Jeanne Labrune, and based on a script she co-wrote with her longtime collaborator, Richard Debuisne. The picture does a decent job of highlighting some of the similarities between Alice’s line of work and that of Dr. Xavier Demestre (Bouli Lanners), a shrink who keeps his patients confidences while charging them by the hour to explore their darkest, antisocial impulses.
The big difference between the two protagonists is that Alice always leaves her customers satisfied, so to speak. Dr. Demestre’s, on the other hand, must make do with a more frustrating outcome.
In any case, the plot thickens when Alice and Xavier’s paths cross, which affords an opportunity to reflect upon the state of their personal lives. Alice may be a bit jaded about her job, but at least she’s in a fulfilling lesbian relationship with a fellow prostitute. The same can’t be said for the miserably-married Xavier, who’s just about at the end of his emotional rope.
Overall, Special Treatment proves to be a character-driven flick which does a better job of introducing its leads in intriguing fashion than doing much meaningful with them once the plot thickens. Furthermore, the erotic scenes seem surprisingly tame for a film obsessed, superficially, with lustful liaisons.
A curious cross of sex therapy and psychotherapy where nobody spends much time in bed or on the couch.

Good (2 stars)
In French with subtitles
Running time: 95 Minutes
Distributor: First Run Features

Celebritize Yourself (BOOK REVIEW)

Celebritize Yourself:
The Three-Step Method to Increase Your Visibility and Explode Your Business
by Marsha Friedman
Warren Publishing
Paperback, $15.95
192 pages
ISBN: 978-1-886057-20-3

Book Review by Kam Williams

“To become a celebrity is no easy feat, but in today’s world, it is easier than ever… Anyone – in any business – can become a celebrity following my proven 3-Step Method…
To celebritize oneself is not merely to gain fame or fortune. It’s to share one’s life experiences with others who may be in search of, and in need of, your wisdom. That’s the guiding philosophy for becoming a celebrity.”

-Excerpted from the Preface (pg. 1)

Andy Warhol once predicted that in the future everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. Today, Marsha Friedman is doing the pop icon one better by suggesting that not only can anyone become a celebrity but that “done smartly, fame can last a lifetime.”
And she delineates just how to achieve that goal in Celebritize Yourself, a self-help book offering a step-by-step plan leading to a life in the limelight. In fact, Ms. Friedman’s method has just three simple steps, namely: Write, Speak and Sell.
What she means by this is that you should begin by writing a book and/or articles on a specific topic that you know a lot about. Being a published author will in turn qualify you to speak as an expert about the same subject on radio and TV, at conventions and seminars, at schools and churches, and so forth. The final phase of the transformation into a household name involves selling books along with other logical products and services, since “each time you sell, you also sell yourself.”
That’s the basic bare bones plan, although the text definitely fleshes-out Ms. Friedman’s approach in much greater detail. Part pep talk, part practical guide, Celebritize Yourself is designed to whet readers’ appetites for stardom while simultaneously helping them determine what work still needs to be done in order to expedite that assault on immortality.
For example, the author has you answer a number of probing questions in the spaces allotted about your strengths, your weaknesses and your reasons for wanting to be a celebrity. Perhaps more importantly, she also has you identify your mission, your target audience, and your plans for yourself once you’ve finally achieved greatness. In this way, you won’t end up just another rich bugger with no social or personal agenda beyond mere materialistic accumulation.
A viable roadmap to fame and fortune for those interested in maximizing their potential by tackling the challenge of generating their own buzz.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Selena Gomez: The “Dream Out Loud” Fall Collection Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Selena the Dreamer

Selena Marie Gomez was born on July 22, 1992 in Grand Prairie, Texas to Mandy Cornett and Ricardo Gomez, but raised mostly by her mom from the age of 5 on, following her parents’ divorce. She made her debut on TV at 7 as Gianna on “Barney & Friends,” and in film soon thereafter in “Spy Kids 3-D.”
Since then, Selena appeared on such TV shows as “Walker, Texas Ranger,” “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” “Hannah Montana” and “The Suite Life on Deck,” before skyrocketing to fame starring as Alex on the Disney Channel’s Emmy-winning sitcom, “Wizards of Waverly Place.”
In 2008, the versatile teenager kickstarted her singing career when she recorded three songs for the soundtrack of her Disney film, “Another Cinderella Story.” And she has gone on to make a dozen music videos and to record a variety of hit tunes, including duets with Miley Cyrus, The Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato.
In 2009, she formed Selena Gomez and The Scene, a pop band which has released three albums, including “When the Sun Goes Down,” just this past June. A single from the CD, “Who Says,” has already gone platinum.
Although Selena has recently been romantically-linked to fellow heartthrob Justin Bieber, the chaste chanteuse has taken a vow to remain a virgin until marriage. Here, she talks about the launch of her own clothing line, K-Mart’s “Dream Out Loud” Fall Collection.

Kam Williams: Hi Selena, thanks for the interview.
Selena Gomez: Hi!

KW: What interested you in launching your own fashion line?
SG: I really wanted something for my fans. Honestly that’s where it all kinda started. A little girl had a picture of me, a paparazzi picture, and she went out and bought the same outfit I wore in the picture which was really sweet. So, I wanted to come up with a line that would be affordable, classic and also really a lot of fun for my fans.

KW: How would you describe the “Dream Out Loud” Fall Collection?
SG: Very almost preppy, with a back-to-school kinda feel. We have a lot of plaids. We have a really cute plaid skirt that I actually wore in one of the shoots with a little shirt you can wear over it with boots. It’s pretty cool!

KW: What demographic was it designed for?
SG: It ranges for all ages. It’s safe to say from 7 up to around my age.

KW: Which do you prefer, acting or singing?
SG: Ugh! I don’t know. I love both for different reasons. I guess I would choose acting, if I had to pick one.

KW: Does privacy matter to you?
SG: Yes, it does. It is very hard to have. But it is very important to me.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
SG: I am very happy, yes. I am in a very good place.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
SG: Yesterday. I saw Final Destination 5 and this lady in front of me was so mad that her boyfriend made her see that movie and she was complaining the entire time. I was laughing pretty hard. It was pretty awesome.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
SG: The TV show “Friends.”

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
SG: “13 Reasons Why.”

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What are you listening to on your iPod?
SG: A little bit of everything. Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Taylor Swift. A mixture of everything.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
SG: Usually about the roles that I choose. Or something related to the clothing line. You already basically asked all the questions I really like about the clothing line and my fans.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Selena, and best of luck with all your endeavors.
SG: Thank you.

Special thanks to my intrepid intern, Richie von der Schmidt, for running a gauntlet through thousands of Selena’s rabid fans to conduct the interview, many of whom had waited on line overnight for a chance to meet her at K-Mart.

Chasing Madoff

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Documentary Delineates Whistleblower’s Decade-Long Effort to Expose Ponzi Scheme

By the time Bernie Madoff was finally arrested in December of 2008, Harry Markopolos had already been trying to expose his investment firm as a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme for years. For, starting way back in the spring of 2000, the Boston-based securities analyst had first approached the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with proof that the former NASDAQ Chairman was perpetrating a fraud.
It had taken mathematical brainiac Markopolos less than five minutes of statistical analysis to figure out that there was something fishy about Madoff’s astronomical performance charts. Yet, the Federal watchdog agency charged with protecting the public declined to investigate, ostensibly because Bernie was such a prominent and well-respected figure in the financial services industry.
Not one to be easily dissuaded, Markopolos reiterated his request at the SEC the following year, and again in 2003, with each inquiry only falling on deaf ears. Because the incriminating evidence he had provided essentially amounted to an open and shut case, he realized that the government might be deliberately looking the other way.
So, he decided to try to interest business-oriented media outlets like Forbes Magazine and The Wall Street Journal in taking a look at the file, but the incendiary story was killed in every case. Even hand-delivering a copy to then NYS Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, a fearless, Wall Street white-collar crime-fighter, ultimately proved futile.
Meanwhile, Madoff was well aware that he had a formidable enemy in this lone whistleblower whose testimony, if believed, would bring down his illegal operation. Thus, it gradually dawned on an increasingly-paranoid Markopolos that his life was in danger, since Bernie was likely in league with mobsters capable of carrying out a hit. Therefore, he purchased a pistol to protect himself and his family, instructing his wife to fire from the top of the stairs until the gun was empty, if an intruder should ever enter the house while she was home alone.
So unfolds Chasing Madoff, an eye-opening documentary exposing the SEC as an inept outfit, at best, and as thoroughly corrupt, at worst. Given that the lead attorney assigned the Madoff case left the regulatory agency to marry Bernie’s niece and that powerful cronies in high places were running interference for him every step of the way, it’s no surprise that his politically-protected Ponzi scheme only crumbled when the unsustainable house of cards collapsed of its own weight.
A fascinating account of an unassuming hero’s harrowing ordeal during a decade-long effort to bring the truth about Bernie Madoff to light.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 91 minutes
Distributor: Cohen Media Group

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4-D

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Scratch-N-Sniff Sequel Features Disappointing “Aroma-Scope”

When a movie’s marketing campaign is built around a gimmick, that calling card had better live up to its billing, especially if the picture hopes to benefit from any positive word of mouth. In the case of Spy Kids 4-D, all the hype has to do with “Aroma-Scope,” a dubious feature which unfortunately proves to be pretty disappointing.
Dubbed “Odorama” when augmenting John Waters’ Polyester back in 1981, and revived most recently in Rugrats Go Wild in 2003, the scratch-n-sniff contrivance has never quite been able to capture the imagination of theatergoers. In this instance, the eight options on the Aroma-Scope card smell more like assorted flavors of urinal cakes than scents matching the suggestions ranging from chocolate candy to baby poop.
If this represents state-of-the-art olfactory technology, the innovation still has a long way to go before it amounts to anything more than a novelty. Nonetheless, youngsters in the target demographic will probably enjoy the diversion for the audience participation aspect alone.
Written and directed as usual by creator Robert Rodriguez, Spy Kids 4-D looks pretty much like the last gasp of an expiring film franchise. The long-in-the-tooth protagonists of the prior installments, Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara), have aged out of their lead roles in favor of precocious twins Rebecca (Rowan Blanchard) and Cecil Wilson (Mason Cook).
The plot is implausible ab initio, from the sight of the adolescents’ pregnant stepmom, Marissa (Jessica Alba), in hot pursuit of Danger D’Amo (Jeremy Piven), the proverbial diabolical villain bent on world domination. Despite contractions coming a couple minutes apart, the indomitable OSS Agent manages to apprehend the menace to society before arriving in the delivery room with just enough time to give birth to her little bundle of joy in the company of a hubby (Joel McHale) who thinks he’s married to an interior decorator.
However, this is not the last that Marissa will hear from her nefarious nemesis, since the creep is determined to get his hands on a powerful red-sapphire necklace capable of speeding up time to the point of planetary collapse. But when she falls into his clutches, leaving humanity on the brink of extinction, guess who springs into action to save the day equipped with lotsa cool gadgets?
Yet, of far more consequence than the improbable exploits of these pint-sized sleuths is Spy Kids 4-D’s profusion of bodily function fare, a concatenation of scatological humor designed to keep tykes in stitches while scratching-n-sniffing away. After all, what’s funnier to a ‘tweener than a fart joke you can smell, too?

Fair (1 star)
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor.
Running time: 89 minutes
Studio: Dimension Films

Friday, August 19, 2011

Top Ten DVD List for August 23rd

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for August 23rd

I Will Follow

Bill Moyers – God & Politics

The Big Lebowski – Limited Edition with 28 Page Book


Win Win

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Remembering 9/11

Prime Suspect – Series One

Prime Suspect – Series Two

Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension

Honorable Mention

Sympathy for Delicious

Gossip Girl – The Complete Fourth Season

Bambi II

Brothers & Sisters – The Complete Fifth Season

Road to Nowhere

Off the Map – The Complete Series

To Die Like a Man

DeRay Davis: Power Play

Little Big Soldier

Roger Corman’s Cult Classics: Sword and Sorcery Collection

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Salli Richardson-Whitfield: The “I Will Follow” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Salli’s Soliloquy

Born in Chicago on November 23, 1967, Salli Richardson-Whitfield burst onto the silver screen in 1993 in 'Posse, an African-American Western directed by and co-starring Mario Van Peebles. Her resume’ reveals extensive work since then in television, film and theater.
Salli starred opposite both Denzel Washington and Will Smith, playing their wives in the films "Antwone Fisher" and “I Am Legend," respectively. And she happily juggles such big studio assignments with interesting independent features like “Black Dynamite," "Pastor Brown" and "We the Party."
On TV, she currently portrays Dr. Allison Blake on the SyFy Network's hit series "Eureka," for which she was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Her other television credits include a starring role as attorney Viveca Foster on "Family Law "and recurring roles on "CSI: Miami", "Rude Awakening" and "NYPD Blue." In addition, she guest-starred on the critically acclaimed series, "House," and voiced the character of Elise for the animated series "Gargoyles."
Salli resides in Los Angeles with her husband, actor Dondre Whitfield, and their two children, Parker and Dre. Here, she talks about her new film, “I Will Follow,” an ensemble drama directed by Ava DuVernay.

Kam Williams: Hi Salli, thanks for the time.
Salli Richardson-Whitfield: Hi Kam. Happy to be here.

KW: I’ll be mixing in my questions with some sent in by fans. Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: Why this film? What attracted you to the script?
SRW: Well, you don't pass up roles that give you the opportunity to stretch and to grow. For black actresses in Hollywood, these kinds of parts are few and far between. Our writer/director, Ava DuVernay, did a beautiful job of creating a multi-dimensional character that shows a black woman at a crossroads and how she keeps her balance when the unexpected happens in life. The film explores love, loss, loyalty and life in general. I couldn't pass it up, even though it scared me a little. I wondered, "Could I do this?" I'm glad I stepped in and tried. I'm very proud of what we made with this film.

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles says: A 'surprising thirst for life' that follows after the death of a loved one seems so different from the reports of depression and loss of interest in life that so many people experience. How does "I Will Follow" reconcile this?
SRW: ”I Will Follow” is a celebration of life. Sometimes when you lose something, you understand its value more than when you had it. The same is true for life. When a loved one passes, there are mixed emotions and a thirst to live one's own life more deeply can certainly be among them.

KW: How did you prepare for the role of Maye?
SRW: It was tough. From the time I first met Ava, the director, to the first day of shooting was only a week, if that. It was a very fast, very creative, very organic process. My manager pushed me to dive in with both feet. The director knew what she wanted. And with the encouragement and the support of both, I decided I was going to give it my all - and I did.

KW: What would you say is the film’s message?
SRW: I hope people come see “I Will Follow” when it opens on March 11 and find their own lesson in the film. It will speak to everyone differently. That's the power and the magic of film.

KW: What was it like working with Ava DuVernay as a director?
SRW: She is wonderful. Very focused. Like I said, she knows what she wants. Every director, believe it or not, does not have a clear vision. And without a clear vision, the captain can't steer the ship. She guided the ship smoothly. She was kind and patient and encouraging, but very clear on where we were all going. She was also very open to ideas. She certainly didn't seem like a first-time narrative director. She has a bright future.

KW: What challenges did you face in shooting a full-length feature film in just 15 days?
SRW: Indies are always an extra challenge. The time is shorter because you have less money to spend and fewer days to shoot. But our set on “I Will Follow” was very harmonious and very familial. The feeling we created together offset the lack of a big budget. So yes, there were challenges, but they only brought everyone closer together, which I think you can see from the final product.

KW: Attorney Bernatte Beekman asks: What role did the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM) and its grassroots distribution play in your decision to participate in the project? Would you like to produce, direct?
SRW: I didn't know about AFFRM before I made the film. I learned about it after. I think it’s brilliant and much needed. AFFRM is a new way to distribute black movies - not just for our film, but for other quality black indie films. They've gathered the nation's finest black film organizations together to release a first-run film simultaneously in theaters nationwide. AFFRM's “I Will Follow” is the first grassroots national theatrical release powered completely by community organizations. It’s a game changer, and I'm proud to be involved somehow.

As far as directing, yes! I am directing already. I helmed an episode of my show “Eureka” that will air this coming season and I'll be doing another next season. I love it and plan to direct much more.

KW: Larry Greenberg would like to know what the difference is between working on a TV series like “Eureka” and a serious film like “I Will Follow.”
SRW: “Eureka” is a blast. “I Will Follow” fed my soul. Both are necessary and positive. I'm fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in both worlds.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
SRW: That's a good one! Gosh, I wish I had one. I feel like I've been asked just about everything over my career at some point or another. But that’s a very good question.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
SRW: Yes. We all get scared. But that's the time to be brave, push on, strive for your goals and push past what scares us.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
SRW: Yes! My husband, Dondre, and my two children make me incredibly, incredibly happy. Plus, I get to go to work doing a job that I love. I'm very happy and grateful.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
SRW: I was just on The Steve Harvey Show and on The Monique Show doing press for “I Will Follow,” and they both had me in stitches.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
SRW: I have one cheat day every Saturday. And on that day, I've been known to settle down with a whole pizza! Guilty pleasure, indeed. But then I'm back to being good on Sunday!

KW: Thanks again for the time, Salli, and best of luck with the I Will Follow.
SRW: Thank you, Kam! I hope folks come out and support this lovely black film starring myself, Blair Underwood, Omari Hardwick and Beverly Todd. We need everyone's support to make it a success!

I Will Follow

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Bittersweet Drama Directed by Ava DuVernay Arrives on DVD

I Will Follow is a refreshingly-rare cinematic treat which presents black folks in a recognizably realistic fashion. Written and directed by Ava DuVernay (This Is the Life), the picture stars Salli Richardson-Whitfield as Maye Fisher, a successful makeup artist who put her career and her man (Blair Underwood) on hold to attend to a beloved Aunt (Beverly Todd) battling cancer. Amanda had served as an inspirational role model for Maye during childhood, which made it easy for the grateful niece to resolve to return the favor at her hour of need.
The film unfolds in L.A. over the course of just 24 hours right in the wake of Amanda’s funeral. At the point of departure, we find Maye preparing to vacate the house she had rented for her Aunt atop breathtaking Topanga Canyon. While packing up her belongings, the grief-stricken caregiver pauses periodically to reminisce about the fond memories triggered by each item she’s wrapping.
However, between flashbacks, she has no choice but to attend to a variety of mundane matters like terminating the television satellite service and directing the moving men. Proving even more disruptive of Maye’s mourning process is the arrival of Amanda’s absentee daughter, Fran (Michole Briana White), who only shows up to collect her inheritance and to blame her cousin for her estranged mother’s death.
“She wanted trees. She didn’t want to fight, or chemo,” Maye matter-of-factly,” defends herself. But that heartfelt explanation falls on the deaf ears of a witch who insensitively demands, “I want my mother’s stuff!” before storming out.
At the end of the day, exhausted and drained, Maye finally finds a shoulder to lean (Omari Hardwick), and before the sun can set on this compelling, character-driven drama, she has to reassess her own relationship priorities as she contemplates dating a sensitive brother despite his modest means. Congrats to Salli Richardson-Whitfield for delivering a career performance, here, and to Ava DuVernay for shooting such a thought-provoking meditation on mortality in just a couple of weeks and on a micro budget.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 80 Minutes
Studio: Forward Movement/ African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM)
Distributor: Image Entertainment

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Kam's Kapsules: For movies opening August 26, 2011

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening August 26, 2011


Columbiana (PG-13 for violence, sexuality, intense action sequences, disturbing images and brief profanity) Revenge thriller, set in Bogota, Colombia, about a young girl (Zoe Saldana) who grows up to be a cold-blooded assassin after witnessing the murder of her parents. With Michael Vartan, Cliff Curtis and Callum Blue.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (R for violence and terror) Remake of the 1973 made-for-TV horror flick about a 10 year-old girl (Bailee Madison) abandoned by her mother who moves in with her father (Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend (Katie Holmes) only to discover that the spooky Gothic mansion they’re renovating is haunted by creepy creatures. Supporting cast includes Jack Thompson, Edwina Ritchard and Garry McDonald.

Our Idiot Brother (R for nudity, sexuality and pervasive profanity) Paul Rudd stars as the title character of this stoner comedy about an idealistic ex-con’s effort to readjust to civilian life with the help of his three sisters (Emily Mortimer, Zoe Deschanel and Elizabeth Banks) after serving time in prison for selling pot. With Rashida Jones, Adam Scott and Steve Coogan.


Brighton Rock (Unrated) Remake of the 1947 crime thriller based on Graham Greene’s classic novel about a ruthless hoodlum (Sam Riley) who romances the gullible waitress (Rose Riseborough) scheduled to testify after witnessing him murder a rival mobster (Sean Ellis). With Helen Mirren, John Hurt and Andy Serkis.

Chasing Madoff (Unrated) Whistleblower documentary delineating securities analyst Harry Markopolos’ futile, decade-long effort to interest the press and the SEC in proof that Bernie Madoff was running a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme.

Circumstance (R for sexuality, profanity and drug use) Iranian coming-of-age drama, set in present-day Teheran, revolving around the sexual awakenings of a rebellious, 16 year-old lesbian (Nikohl Boosheri) over the objections of her disapproving parents (Soheil Parsa and Nasrin Pakkho) and her uptight, orthodox Muslim brother (Rezo Sixo Safal). With Sarah Kazemy, Sina Amedson and Keon Mohajeri. (In Persian with subtitles)

The Family Tree (Unrated) Dysfunctional family drama about a philandering wife (Hope Davis) who turns a new leaf after developing amnesia when she hits her head while cheating on her husband (Dermot Mulroney) with their next-door neighbor (Chi McBride). Ensemble includes Jane Seymour, Keith Carradine, Bow Wow, Selma Blair, Rachael Leigh Cook, Max Thieriot, Britt Robertson and Evan Ross.

Higher Ground (Unrated) Vera Farmiga makes her directorial debut and stars in this adaptation of The Dark World, Carolyn Briggs’ memoir about a Born Again Christian who comes to question her faith while living in a tight-knit, evangelical community. With Donna Murphy, John Hawkes and Bill Irwin.

Iron Crows (Unrated) Eco-documentary chronicling the dangerous work of the 20,000 peasants who risk their lives daily to earn $2 a day scavenging ships from all over the world being dumped in a toxic naval graveyard located in the port city of Chittagong.

Special Treatment (Unrated) Wry comedy illustrating the intriguing parallels between the nature of the services a miserably-married shrink (Bouli Lanners) and a jaded call girl (Isabelle Huppert) offer their clients. Featuring Sabila Moussadek, Richard Debuisne and Valerie Dreville. (In French with subtitles)

Swinging with the Finkels (Unrated) Midlife crisis comedy about a married couple (Mandy Moore and Martin Freeman) who decide to spice up their listless love life by swapping partners with their best friends (Melissa George and Jonathan Silverman) whose relationship is also in crisis. With Jerry Stiller, Elizabeth Tan and Graham Bohea.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Hate Muscular Dystrophy (BOOK REVIEW)

I Hate Muscular Dystrophy:
Loving a Child with a Life-Altering Disease
by Star Bobatoon, Esq.
Photos by Mark Gomez
Black Currant Press
Paperback, $14.99
120 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-0-9817111-8-8

Book Review by Kam Williams

“This is a personal story of a family’s ability to love and support each other through the unexpected challenges of a life-transforming condition. It speaks of the strength and resolve of a mother who believes that life is to be lived and celebrated, despite any real or perceived limitations…
It gives us poignant glimpses into the initial disillusionment of a parent’s dream for her child, while at the same time, openly embracing all of the gifs that this experience has to offer… I Hate Muscular Dystrophy shows us that life can be beautiful even during periods of despair and pain. It helps us know that miracle and wonder of life is found… in simple moments of mystery and grace.”
-- Excerpted from the Foreword by Dr. Julie vanPutten (pg. vii)

Unless your life has somehow been touched by Muscular Dystrophy (MD) directly, the only time you probably think about the disease is during the Labor Day Telethon hosted annually by Jerry Lewis since the mid-Sixties (up until the recent announcement that he’s being replaced as emcee next month). And while making a contribution to a worthy cause like “Jerry’s Kids” is certainly laudable, you still might not know what it’s like to live with MD on a day-to-day basis.
For this reason, may I suggest that, before tuning in to this year’s fundraiser, you read I Hate Muscular Dystrophy: Loving a Child with a Life-Altering Disease. Half-heartfelt memoir/half how-to primer, the book was written by Star Bobatoon whose son, Hurricane, was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) in 2001 at the tender age of 5.
Star was not only pregnant with her second child but employed as an attorney at the time, so the prospect of caring for a kid with a degenerative disease proved daunting, despite the presence of her very doting spouse, Mark. Thus, her initial response of “complete shutdown and denial” was understandable, given the profound effect the condition was about to exact on their lives and relationships with each other.
Eventually, the author came to make peace with the “exasperating characteristic” of DMD, reflecting that, “Just when you think you’ve got it handled, it changes…and “never for the better.” Nevertheless, as Hurricane’s muscles atrophied and he lost the ability to walk, her spirits have remained buoyed by a determination to help him make the most of the time he has left on Earth.
Having learned how to overcome depression in the face of his dire prognosis, Ms. Bobatoon lays out a 4-point plan, augmented by exercises and affirmations, for other families struggling to come to grips with MD or any other seemingly all-consuming affliction. Still, it is perhaps fitting to close with the Star’s moving summation that “Living with DMD has made me a stronger, more patient and more passionate person… It has led me to my purpose and for that I am grateful.”
Powerful proof that illness might sometimes serve as a blessing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Eric Benét: The “Trinity Goodheart” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline Benét’s Soiree

Born in Milwaukee on October 15, 1970, two-time Grammy-nominee Eric Benét is an actor, singer and songwriter whose music has been influenced by such R&B greats as Al Green, Sly Stone, Chaka Kahn and Marvin Gaye. His first professional break came back in the late Eighties while he was in a local group called Gerard.
Since then, Eric has struck gold on the R&B charts and released albums like True to Myself, A Day in the Life and Love and Life. He has collaborated with a range of highly respected artists, including Something for the People; Earth, Wind, and Fire; and Wynonna Judd. As an actor, he’s enjoyed recurring roles on the TV series “For Your Love,” “Half & Half” and “Kaya.”
Here, he talks about starring opposite Erica Gluck in his new film, Trinity Goodheart, a heartwarming family drama about a strained father-daughter relationship. The movie premieres on the GMC-TV Network on Saturday, August 20th at 9 PM ET/PT (8 PM CT).

Kam Williams: Hi Eric, thanks for the time. How’re you doing?
Eric Benét: I’m doing very well, thank you.

KW: I’ll be mixing in my questions with a lot I got from fans. The first is from Teresa Emerson who says: I love your music, Eric. Great to see you back in films. What interested you about this particular project?
EB: Well, my manager had read the script, and liked it a lot. And I finally got around to it after I was ambushed at a gig in Atlanta by the producers and the scriptwriter. They told me they felt I was perfect for the part. So, I took the initiative to read it that night and fell in love with it, because there were so many parallels between the main character’s life and my own. And I also liked how the story was so warm and about faith and how it reminded people that love and family are both worth fighting for.

KW: Felicia Haney says: This film has some similarities to your having been a single-dad with a young daughter in real life. Is that one of the reasons why you chose to do the film?
EB: I felt that if this was going to be my first male lead in a film, then it would be a great opportunity to latch onto since there were so many anchors in this character that I could sink my teeth into because of all the parallels with my life.

KW: Was that you really playing the sax in the movie?
EB: I did not actually play. I kind of just pantomimed, hoping that whoever really played the sax would sound good and coincide with what I was doing.

KW: Irene Smalls says: You play a black, single father raising his child alone. This is definitely not the norm in the Black community where there are so many single-female headed households. She asks: What message do you want to communicate through your role?
EB: Irene’s right, it’s not the norm. But it was my reality. I was pretty much a single-father for most of my daughter India’s life. She’s 19 now, just finished her freshman year at USC, and she’s blossomed into an incredibly talented, beautiful, strong young woman. Looking back, were there things I could’ve done better? Yes, but I’m still pretty proud of myself for having raised such an amazing individual. Being a parent is not easy, but speaking for myself, it’s a wonderful blessing and the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.

KW: Teresa also asks: Will your daughter India be following you into the music business, and if so, how do you feel about it?
EB: India is an extremely talented singer/songwriter, and she is absolutely forging her own way musically. She’s majoring in music business and communications, and she’s been spending a lot of time in the studio while at school, so I think we’re going to see a whole lot from India in the future.

KW: Marcia Evans asks: What parenting skills have you employed raising your beautiful daughter, India, to produce such a healthy offspring. Do you have any parenting tips to share with single fathers?
EB: I have always tried to keep an honest, age-appropriate line of communication open with India, even during the teen years, a painful time of development when they usually shut down, and the last person they want to speak to is a parent. But India would always tell me what was going on, so I really encourage people to be as open with your children as you possibly can.

KW: Marcia goes on to say: The duets that you’ve done, like the one with Tamia, have been outstanding. So, she wants to know whether you’ve considered doing an entire album of duets, especially since love songs are what people are craving during these trying times.
EB: Hmm… That’s a good idea, but I don’t think I will ever do an entire duet album, because the logistics and scheduling get tough. I will continue to do two or three duets per album. And I agree with Marcia that those kinds of very nurturing melodies and lyrics are needed more so than ever right now and I’m definitely going to do my part to make sure more of those songs are out there.

KW: Finally, Marcia asks: How do you explain to India about real love, and how do you explain your songs with risqué lyrics to her?
EB: Hmm… as accurately as I possibly can. I explain that love’s an elusive, fragile and resilient thing. And as far as the lyrics, I say that part of being an adult is being sexual, and when you’re in a relationship, to express yourself that way is a beautiful thing.

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles asks: Is there a recording artist you haven't worked with that you'd like to? And which of your recordings is your favorite?
EB: Every time I think about the first question, the answer generally turns out to be a living legend like Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder or Chaka Khan. I would love to record with any one of them, because they helped shape and mold who I am creatively. As to Harriet’s second question, the answer changes with my mood. But right now, I’d have to say it’s a song I wrote called “Sometimes I Cry,” which audiences always really get into when I perform it at live shows.

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: When you played music producer T. Davis on the MTV series Kaya, was that character based on anyone you know from the music industry?
EB: [LOL] Yeah, I did base my character on a mosaic of a lot of the cocky, self-assured producers I’d worked with over the years. [Laughs some more]

KW: Legist/Editor Patricia Turnier asks: If you could back in time and speak to the Eric Benét of 1992, when your first album was released with the band called Benét, what advice would you give to yourself?
EB: Oh, that’s a great question! The #1 tip I would probably give myself is: “Enjoy every moment of this journey,” because back then I would really get caught up in the details of “Why aren’t we signed yet?” and “Why isn’t this happening faster?” I would have to tell myself that there’s always a reason why things happen. I’ve learned in my older age how to let it go when things don’t work out, because something incredible that I don’t know about yet is probably right around the corner.

KW: Patricia also asks: What is more challenging for you, singing or acting?
EB: Singing, for me, is like breathing air. Acting is a challenge. I find it difficult to switch gears emotionally.

KW: Lisa Loving says: There are probably a lot of struggling young artists who are working at UPS and trying to break through into the music industry at the same time, like you did. What advice do you have for them besides, “Lift with your back?” EB: [LOL] I think the best advice I would give them is to always be working on your craft, because there are so many people out there with a dream similar to yours, a whole lot more than when I started.

KW: Lisa also says: You have lived through some real tragedy in your life. How did you deal with the grief?
EB: The way I’ve tried to grieve is by not holding it in. If you’re mourning, cry, scream and purge whatever is going on inside you emotionally. That’s part of the process. And keep those that love you very close as you go through it.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
EB: No, because one of the least enjoyable things for me to do is to talk about myself.

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

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
EB: Very happy!

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
EB: I can’t even remember what we were talking about, but I had a lot of family in town recently and we shared a deep, gut-wrenching laugh in the kitchen before I left for New York.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
EB: Reality-TV shows like Hoarders.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
EB: An old classic from Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer Series called “One Lonely Night.” http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0451204255/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What are you listening to on your iPod?
EB: The last song I listened to is one I just wrote called “Real Love” which is going to be on my next record.

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

KW: Thanks again for the time, Eric, and best of luck with both Trinity Goodheart and the upcoming album.
EB: Thanks, Kam.

Trinity Goodheart is set make its world premiere on the GMC-TV Network on Saturday, August 20th at 9 PM ET/PT (8 PM CT) with additional airings on Sunday, August 21st and Monday, August 22nd at 9 PM ET/PT (8 PM CT).

Trinity Goodheart

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Motherless Child Yearns for Reunion in Inspirational Family Flick

Trinity Goodheart (Erica Gluck) is inconsolable from the moment her mother (Kellin Watson) vanishes into thin air through the fateful day she finds half of a heart-shaped pendant lying on her bed. Convincing herself that the precious keepsake was delivered by a guardian angel on behalf of her long-lost mother, the desperate 12 year-old seizes on the discovery as a promising sign of a possible impending reunion. After all, the saying inscribed on the back of the torn locket prophesies, “Every broken heart longs to be whole again.”
Such wistful thinking is understandable given how immature her father, Jeremy (Eric Benet), has been behaving lately. The aspiring musician has barely been able to keep a roof over their heads since quitting his steady job at a bank. Consequently, he’s currently been reduced to playing his saxophone for tips on the streets of Boston.
The stressful situation has taken a toll on Trinity’s performance at school where the once straight-A student finds herself at risk of suspension because of a declining attendance record. The problem is that the precocious adolescent is smart enough to understand that she and her panhandling dad urgently need someone to lean on, despite the fact that he is too proud to approach his attorney parents for help.
They consider Jeremy the black sheep of the family since he failed to follow in their footsteps by attending law school like his brother did. Meanwhile, Jeremy is even more estranged from his well-to-do in-laws, The Hawthornes, who never gave him a chance just because they didn’t like the idea of a black man marrying their white daughter. Sadly, they even continued to refuse to reconcile after the birth of their only grandchild.
Over her father’s objections, Trinity secretly tracks down both sets of her grandparents on her own, reasonably expecting them to let bygones be bygones, if only for the sake of solving the mystery of her missing mother. However, when her surprisingly surfacing only stirs up old controversies, she decides to run away from home out of frustration, hitchhiking from Beantown to Buffalo, the place she suspects holds the key to her missing mom’s disappearance.
Thus unfolds Trinity Goodheart, a wholesome family flick based on a script by Rhonda Baraka. Though shot on a shoestring budget, Joanne Hock makes an impressive directorial debut with this modern morality play with an uplifting, if bittersweet message about forgiveness and the importance of family.
Much of the credit for the movie’s success must be attributed to the chemistry generated between its talented co-stars, Erica Gluck and Eric Benet, given that the story primarily revolves around their characters’ dysfunctional father-daughter relationship. Though an original production by the Gospel Music Channel Network, the film only hints at a faith-based agenda via light touches such as Trinity’s name and lines like, “Don’t forget to say your prayers.”
A present-day parable delivering a powerful reminder that much wisdom often still comes from the mouths of babes.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 84 Minutes
Distributor: GMC Network (Gospel Music Channel)

Trinity Goodheart is set make its world premiere on the GMC-TV Network on Saturday, August 20th at 9 PM ET/PT (8 PM CT) with additional airings on Sunday, August 21st and Monday, August 22nd at 9 PM ET/PT (8 PM CT).

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Final Destination 5

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Premonition Dooms Colleagues in High Body-Count Horror Flick

Fair warning: Final Destination 5 is a relentlessly-gruesome horror flick of no redeeming value which splatters loads of blood and guts virtually right in your face courtesy of the genre’s best 3-D special effects since Piranha. Provided you have a strong stomach and an appetite for such gratutous gore, this high attrition-rate affair does knock off its characters in shocking, scream-inducing fashion.
As the film unfolds, we are introduced to 25 employees of Presage Paper Corporation preparing to spend the weekend together at a corporate retreat. Among the motley ensemble is Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto) who is considering leaving the company to pursue his dream of becoming a chef in Paris where he has just been offered an internship at a 5-star restaurant.
Because of his recent poor sales numbers, he is encouraged to quit by his best friend, Peter (Miles Fisher), although that possibility doesn’t sit well with his girlfriend, Molly (Emma Bell). In fact, she breaks up with Sam just before they all board the bus. Also of consequence are intern Candice (Ellen Wroe); blind as a bat Olivia (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood); womanizer Isaac (P.J. Byrne); assistant plant manager Nathan (Arlen Escarpata); and their hard-boiled boss, Dennis (David Koechner).
En route to the getaway, the bus becomes stuck on a suspension bridge undergoing construction repairs. Sam suddenly has an ominous premonition and alerts his colleagues. They jump up and scramble to safety before wires start snapping, the roadway disappears and the bus and other cars plummet into the river below.
86 people die in the freak accident, including 17 from Presage Paper, although the aforementioned 8 miraculously manage to escape. However, at the memorial service, an uninvited, shadowy figure (Tony Todd) among the mourners eerily warns the survivors in a creepy whisper that “Death doesn’t like to be cheated.”
The grieving octet reluctantly returns to the office to stare at the empty cubicles of the dearly departed while awaiting grisly fates as each is knocked-off one-by-one in the order of Sam’s prescient vision. There isn’t much of a plot to what ensues, but plenty of senseless vivisection to satiate the bloodlust demo.
Death takes no holiday!

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for profanity and gruesome violence.
Running time: 92 minutes
Distributor: New Line Cinema

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Top Ten DVD List for August 16th

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for August 16th

Jane Eyre


The Grace Card

Idiots & Angels

The Conspirator

Lavell Crawford: Can a Brother Get Some Love?

Shirley Adams

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season Nine

Fanboy and Chum Chum: Brain Freeze

September 11th: Memorial Edition

Honorable Mention

The Best and the Brightest

Something Borrowed

Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil

Damn! Is the Price of Fame Too Damn High?

Elvira’s Movie Macabre: The Terror / Eegah!

Idiots & Angels DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Animated Amorality Play Pitting Good vs. Evil Arrives on DVD

Angel is a morally-bankrupt individual who miraculously wakes up with wings grown on his back one day. When he ventures down to Bart’s Bar, his favorite haunt, all the regulars tease him about his new appendages.
At first, he decides to have them surgically removed by his doctor, at least until the envious physician comes to covet them. And then, Angel suddenly discovers that he can fly, so he tries to put his newfound talent to use for some selfish purposes. But when that avaricious endeavor is frustrated because the wings seem to have a mind of their own, he impulsively takes a chainsaw and simply slices them off all on his own, before returning hangout at his favorite saloon.
This bizarre chain of events jumpstarts Idiot & Angels, a mindbending, animated adventure written and directed by Bill Plympton. The plot of his imaginatively-illustrated, dialogue-free fantasy proceeds to thicken upon the introduction of a blonde temptress leading to a little love triangle.
A cartoon designed with adults in mind, Idiots and Angels is a delightful yarn revolving around an age-old showdown between good and evil. Credit Plympton for thoroughly engaging the viewer via a novel overhaul of a Biblical-style allegory about one of the Ten Commandments.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife except, perhaps, if her husband is a physically-abusive idiot.

Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 78 minutes
Studio: Passion River Films

The Grace Card DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Faith-Based Tale of Reconciliation and Redemption Released on DVD

17 years ago, Mac (Michael Joiner) and Sara McDonald (Joy Parmer Moore) were left devastated by the loss of a child as a victim of crime. 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 a prejudiced attitude 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 fable of Biblical proportions certain to resonate with the Christian community as well as those 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. 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 for a mutual shot at reconciliation and redemption. Inspiring and uplifting, this modern morality play serves as a telling reminder about the real meaning of forgiveness.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence and mature themes.
Running time: 102 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, outtakes, “Healing Begins” music video, commentary with the director, the executive producer, and actor Michael Joiner, and featurettes entitled “Wayne Returns” and “Starting a Grace Awakening.”