Thursday, September 29, 2011


DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Irish Dancing Documentary Due on DVD

If you are a big fan of Irish Step Dancing, where all the action is from the waist down, you might like to check out Jig. Directed by Sue Bourne, this delightful documentary chronicles the grueling training regimen of some of the 3,000 entrants preparing to compete in the 40th Annual Irish Dance World Championships which were staged in Glasgow, Scotland in March of 2010.
The choreography is reminiscent of what might come to mind to folks familiar with the Broadway show Riverdance, except that the performers are in competition with each other. Also, instead of being all Irish, the contestants reflect a cornucopia of ethnicities, including Asian-American, Russian, Dutch and Sri Lankan.
Though both male and female, it appears that the sport appeals more to the latter, especially since the contest tends to take on the tone of a beauty pageant. For examples, the girls all sport Shirley Temple wigs and don elaborate costumes which can cost in excess of $2,500.
Given that the prize money couldn’t come close to covering all the travel, wardrobe and practice lesson expenses, the pursuit of perfecting the Irish jig is basically a labor of love with bragging rights awaiting the ones crowned high-kicking King and Queen in front of the appreciative audience. Apparently there’s a degree of subjectivity in the judging which makes it hard to predict which hoofers are apt to emerge victorious.
A captivating primer on tripping the light fantastic with your arms pinned to your sides.

Very Good (3 stars)
PG for mild epithets and mature themes.
Running time: 93 Minutes
Distributor: Screen Media Films
DVD Extras: Director’s commentary, commentary with the director and 8-time World Champion John Carey, “The Dziaks from Chicago,” ”Irish Dance Dresses,” and special footage of Champion John Carey breaking the Guinness World record.

Fast Five DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Furious Franchise’s Fifth Installment Arrives on DVD

When we first met Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) a decade ago, the decorated detective went rogue to help career criminal Dominic “Dom” Toretto (Vin Diesel) evade justice. Four sequels later, we find the pair still up to their old tricks, although the ex-cop is now with the FBI while the ex-con has just been sentenced to life for murdering a mobster during a heroin sting gone bad.
After the opening credits, Brian frees Dom again by ramming an L.A. Country Sheriff’s bus with a muscle car before it has a chance to reach the penitentiary. Following the daring escape, the buddies go their separate ways after arranging a rendezvous in Rio de Janeiro.
Down in Brazil, Dominic learns that Brian’s girlfriend, Mia (Jordana Brewster), is pregnant which coincidentally means that he’s about to become an uncle since she’s also his sister. But rather than begin buying baby clothes and otherwise preparing for the arrival of the little bundle of joy, they decide to hatch plan to pull off the proverbial “one last heist” certain to set them up for the rest of their lives.
It seems that the local drug kingpin, Herman Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), has managed to amass a cool $100 million in cash. However, our retirement-ready heroes realize that they need to assemble a crack team of experts if they’re going to relieve the ruthless mobster of his ill-gotten gains.
So, they entice a half-dozen former confederates to South America from the far ends of the Earth with the promise of a big payday. The elaborate scheme involves scaring Reyes into hiding all of his loot in one place, so that they’ll only have a single safe to crack. However, this proves more of a challenge than anticipated between the corrupt Rio cops and the arrival of a detail of Federal Agents led by Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson).
Fans of the Fast and Furious franchise are well aware of what to expect next, namely, a dazzling display of stunt driving and death-defying car chases involving souped-up, stolen automobiles. Soon, any subtlety in the protagonists’ strategy ends up tossed out the window in favor of eye-popping pyrotechnics, leaving one to wonder why they even bothered to incorporate any sophistication into the formula in the first place.
Fast Five does nevertheless deliver in terms of harmless, high-octane mayhem for folks satiated cinematically by non-stop action and special effects alone.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and intense violence.
Running time: 131 minutes
Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
2-Disc Blu-Ray/DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel, feature commentary with director Justin Lin, digital copy download, interactive U-Control and BD-Live features, plus numerous additional featurettes.

Scream 4 DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Features High Body-Count Shriekquel

It’s been a decade since the homicidal maniac known as Ghostface (voiced by Roger L. Jackson) last embarked on a harrowing reign of terror around the City of Woodsboro. Over the uneventful interim, calm has returned to the tight-knit community where the only visible reminder of what once transpired are the replicas of the sadistic slasher’s mask which some perverted pranksters nailed to telephone posts as a macabre tribute to the tragedy.
Such insensitive attempts at gallows humor notwithstanding, proud survivor Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) feels that it’s finally safe to return to her hometown for the first time in years. So, despite having been Ghostface’s primary target, she schedules a visit as the last leg of a promotional tour for her memoir about the sensational killing sprees.
Unfortunately, upon her arrival, Sheriff Dewey (David Arquette) interrupts the book signing to announce that the disemboweled remains of a couple of teenagers (Brittany Robertson and Aimee Teegarden) have just been discovered, and that it looks like it might be the work of a reincarnated Ghostface. Then, when the sheriff subsequently finds a blood-stained hunting knife in the trunk of Sidney’s rental car, he orders her to stick around Woodsboro until her name is cleared.
This double-murder jumpstarts the fresh round of senseless slaughter serving as the raison d’etre for Scream 4, a high body-count shriekquel designed for fans of the franchise who appreciate its combination of spine-tingling suspense and self-reverential parody of the scary movie genre. The casting for this installment also reflects that creative team’s continued commitment to top-flight talent, between returnees David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and Heather Graham, and series newcomers Anna Paquin. Emma Roberts, Kristen Bell, Anthony Anderson, Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin.
As for the plotline, Scream 4 revives the fairly formulaic “crazed madman with a penchant for stalking attractive teens home alone and in wooded areas” theme. Nonetheless, it’s tautly-enough executed to keep you on edge and guessing the villain’s identity for the duration. Plus, the picture features lots of comic relief via “Stab 7,” a film within the film which periodically enables characters to poke fun at horrifying horror flick conventions and clichés.
A worthy sequel certain to scare the bejesus out of you.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, underage drinking and graphic violence.
Running time: 111 minutes
Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment
DVD Extras: Feature commentary with director Wes Craven and the cast, deleted and extended scenes, alternate opening, extended ending, gag reel and “the Making of Scream 4” featurette.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kam's Kapsules: For movies opening October 7, 2011

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening October 7, 2011


The Ides of March (R for pervasive profanity) George Clooney wrote, directed and co-stars in this adaptation of the play “Farragut North,” a political potboiler about an idealistic press secretary (Ryan Gosling) who compromises a presidential candidate’s prospects by becoming embroiled in a scandal while on the campaign trail. With Marisa Tomei, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman Jeffrey Wright and Evan Rachel Wood.

Real Steel (PG-13 for violence, intense action and brief profanity) Futuristic sci-fi about a washed-up boxer-turned-fight promoter (Hugh Jackman) who, with the help of the young son he never knew (Dakota Goyo), trains a robot for a rock ‘em-sock ‘em championship bout. With Anthony Mackie, Evangeline Lilly, Kevin Durand and Hope Davis.


1911 (Unrated) Jackie Chan directed and stars in this historical drama recounting the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty which led to the founding of the Republic of China. Cast includes Joan Chen, Bingbing Li, Winston Chao and Jaycee Chan. (In Cantonese with subtitles)

Blackthorn (R for violence and profanity) Butch Cassidy sequel, set in Bolivia in 1908, finds the famed outlaw (Sam Shepard) teaming with a local criminal (Eduardo Noriega) as he tries to return to the States after having miraculously survived the ambush that brought down the curtain on his last adventure with the Sundance Kid. With Stephen Rea, Magaly Solier and Padraic Delaney.

Dirty Girl (R for profanity, graphic sexuality and frontal nudity) Coming-of-age road comedy, set in 1987, about an Oklahoma high school student with a bad reputation (Juno Temple) who runs away from home to L.A. to search for her long-lost father with the help of an equally-ostracized, gay classmate (Jeremy Dozier). Ensemble cast includes Milla Jovovich, William H. Macy, Mary Steenburgen, Dwight Yoakam and Tim McGraw.

Hell and Back Again (Unrated) Afghan War documentary toggling back and forth between the daily grind of a platoon fighting on the frontlines and the rehabilitation back in North Carolina of the Marine unit’s 25 year-old sergeant who was evacuated after being shot in the hip. (In English and Pashtu with subtitles)

The Human Centipede 2 (Unrated) Howl-inducing horror sequel revolving around a mentally-disturbed loner (Laurence R. Harvey) who becomes obsessed with replicating the exploits of the diabolical doctor who created a human centipede in the original by sewing his helpless kidnap victims together, one behind the other on their knees, in mouth-to-anus fashion.

The Sons of Tennessee Williams (Unrated) Out-of-the-closet documentary about the emergence of New Orleans’ gay community which started staging flamboyant drag balls and challenging discriminatory laws back in the late Fifties.

The Way (PG-13 for mature themes, drug use and smoking ) Bittersweet tale of overwhelming regret about a grieving doctor (Martin Sheen) collecting the remains of his recently-deceased son (Emilio Estevez) in France who decides to honor his late offspring by completing the pilgrimage he had been making through the Pyrenees. Support cast includes Tcheky Karyo, Deborah Kara Unger and James Nesbitt.

The Woman on the Sixth Floor (Unrated) Class-conscious comedy, set in Paris in 1960, about a bourgeois stockbroker (Fabrice Luchini), married to a snobby, socialite (Sandrine Kiberlain), whose life is turned upside-down when he is befriended by their beautiful, new maid (Natalia Verbeke). With Carmen Maura, Lola Duenas and Berta Ojea. (In French and Spanish with subtitles)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Resolution for Men

The Resolution for Men
by Stephen and Alex Kendrick
with Randy Alcorn
Edited by Lawrence Kimbrough
B&H Publishing Group
Paperback, $36.50
272 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4336-7122-7

Book Review by Kam Williams

“This book is an unapologetic call for men to live courageously for their faith and their families... We believe there is a rising movement of men who are disgusted by their own mediocrity and dissatisfied with the weak standards of our dark culture… Men who want to make the most of the rest of their days…
Throughout history, men who lived incredible lives and left great legacies did it intentionally. They knew that men do not stumble upon integrity… God’s word is calling us to man up... It’s time to make some serious decisions.”

-Excerpted from the Introduction (pgs. 1-3)

I don’t need to cite all the incarceration, dropout, and out-of-wedlock birth rate statistics to prove that the family unit has by and large broken down in the black community where about 85% of the children are now being raised by single-moms. The more important question is whether the self-destructive spiral is simply destined to continue or if there is any hope of reversing the unfortunate trend.
Offering a viable path to salvation is The Resolution for Men, an Evangelical opus which encourages wayward males to get out of their comfort zone by refocusing their lives on fatherhood, family and God. This in your face, how-to tome is the result of a collective effort by members of a creative team spearheaded by Pastor Alex Kendrick of Sherwood Baptist Church out of Albany, Georgia.
This Christian-themed workbook might best be thought of as a companion piece to Courageous, the latest, wholesome, homespun feature film from the good folks at Sherwood Pictures. Just like what transpires for the picture’s protagonists, this timely treatise culminates with a challenge posed to sign a document as evidence of one’s dedication to a spiritual transformation.
Foremost among the ideals you’re asked to embrace are leadership of, love for and fidelity to one’s wife and children. It also elicits a promise to fight for justice, to maintain your integrity and to leave a legacy.
The authors make a persuasive case for their cause by pointing out how males in this society tend “to remain boys as long as possible” nowadays, thereby “forcing girls to become women long before they are ready.” For the sake of the next generation, let’s just pray that many a manchild opts to sign on the dotted line.
Highly recommended as a Born Again literary equivalent of the Million Man March imploring immature males to heed the scriptural message of 1 Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”

Monday, September 26, 2011

Jamie Foxx: The “Thunder Soul” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Jamie’s Soulful Thunder

Born Eric Marlon Bishop in Terrell, Texas on December 13, 1967, Jamie Foxx was raised by his grandparents from the age of 7 months, following the failure of his parents’ marriage. He sang in the church choir as a child, and quarterbacked his high school’s football team, before going on to major in classical music and composition in college.
Jamie’s showbiz career began after a dare in 1989 when he went on stage on open mic night to take a shot at doing standup. After paying his dues on the comedy circuit, he was invited to join the ensemble cast of the Wayans Brothers’ TV sketch series "In Living Color" alongside Jim Carrey and Jennifer Lopez.
He subsequently landed his own series, "The Jamie Foxx Show," which went on to enjoy a five-year run.He not only starred on the series but was also its co-creator and executive producer, and directed several episodes.
He made his big screen in Toys in 1992, followed by appearances in Booty Call and The Players Club. He received rave reviews for his riveting work and in Any Given Sunday and as Bundini Brown in Ali, breakout roles which in turn led to a trio of critically-acclaimed performances in Ray, Collateral and Redemption in 2004.
He won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the legendary Ray Charles as well as an Oscar nomination in the category of Best Supporting Actor for his work in Collateral. Furthermore, he won an NAACP Image Award for his portrayal of reformed, Death Row inmate Tookie Williams in Redemption. Jamie has since appeared in The Soloist, Horrible Bosses, Due Date, Dreamgirls, Miami Vice, Jarhead, The Kingdom and Law Abiding Citizen.
Here, he talks about producing Thunder Soul, a reverential bio-pic which pays tribute to the late Conrad “Prof” Johnson (1915-2008), the founder and conductor of Houston’s Kashmere High’s legendary stage band.

Kam Williams: Hi Jamie, thanks for the interview.
Jamie Foxx: Hey, man, thank you, brother.

KW: It’s been awhile. The last time we spoke you were filming Law Abiding Citizen in Philly. In fact, we talked on the same day that you had to beat up that intruder who broke into your hotel room.
JF: Well, let’s hope that it doesn’t happen like that again.

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 producing this film? Is your sponsorship of this type of documentary a direction you plan to continue in? Do you have other projects like this in development?
JF: What interested me was the fact that the story had a huge music component, since I have my own fond memories of playing in a stage band when I was a kid. And then I also liked the movie’s eloquent and touching storyline which flowed as if it had been scripted, even though it’s a documentary. You have the band getting back together for the first time in 30 years for a reunion concert, and then Prof’s ending up transitioning right after the event. It’s a beautiful film, and I just wanted to make sure that everybody was aware of it.

KW: This movie had my eyes welling up all through it, not just at the ending.
JF: Oh, yeah, I was dying, man. And when a story touches you like that, you gotta be a part of it.

KW: Irene also asks: What message do you hope audiences will take away from watching Thunder Soul?
JF: The message is let’s get back to some of that old-time good feeling. This whole world has become so mean and so hateful; and everybody’s hating each other. You know how they say, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Well, I think they’re punishing everything. Thunder Soul is the type of uplifting story you can take the kids to see, and enjoy it, and sort of float away for a minute. Also, in the back of your mind, it’ll have you thinking about what we can do to keep the focus on the arts in schools. Because any time there’s a little trouble in paradise, the first programs they cut are the arts.

KW: Felicia Haney wants to know whether this project struck a personal chord with you, being a musician and also from Texas. She asks: What impact did music education have on you in life, and what do you have to say to schools that cut music programs?
JF: Kam, you know I come from the gospel background, and that my grandmother later had me learn classical music, and that I went on to college on a classical piano scholarship. Then, as an actor, I did Ray and Dreamgirls, movies with musical components. So, I‘ve been heavily impacted by my music education. Music has always been a way in which I expressed myself and supported myself.

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles says: When you do your musical gigs, you go front and center as Jamie Foxx and don't get to hide behind a character with make-up and costume the way you would for a film role. How different is that?
JF: It’s a little different. When it’s just me, it’s sort of more of my expression. It’s what I have inside of me that I’ve been wanting to get out and am finally giving people a chance to hear. When you’re on stage, it’s right there. And every night is a different night. But when you’re making a movie, it’s a process which will have been edited by the time it comes out.

KW: Editor/legist Patricia Turnier asks: Did you ever get to meet Prof?
JF: No, I didn’t, unfortunately.

KW: Patricia also asks: what is your favorite song by the Kashmere Stage Band?
JF: I don’t necessarily have one particular favorite. As you watch the movie, you feel the band’s overall vibe more than you listen to any individual song. That was what made them hot.

KW: Lastly, Patricia says: You are multitalented already, but if you could wake up tomorrow having gained one new ability, what would you want that ability to be and why?
JF: To be multilingual, Patricia, because, think about it, you could communicate and hang out every time you went to a different country.

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: When do you think I'm going to hear a brass section in a hot, hip-hop single?
JF: You already heard it, Larry, if you listen Jay-Z or The Roots.

KW: Judyth Piazza asks: What career goal are you yet to accomplish?
JF: I have way too many ideas to list.

KW: Judy also asks: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
JF: Hard work and discipline without needing anyone telling them.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
JF: Me sitting on a chair in my grandmother’s nursery school at the age of 3, watching my then pastor’s wife walk in with her kids on their first day there.

KW: Editor Mike Pittman asks: Who was your best friend as a child and are you still friends today?
JF: Wow! Gilbert Willie was my best friend as a child and, in fact, he’ll be coming to my house in a couple of days and we’re going to throw a huge birthday bash for him.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman says: Since you believe so fervently in musical education, having started at the age of 5 due to your grandmother's insistence, can you envision taking your advocacy of this issue a step further by joining a charity which promotes music education?
JF: Yeah, although I’m already committed to a lot of charities that do great work in the arts. Any chance we get to promote music, we do it.

KW: Bernadette would also like to know whether your daughter sings or plays an instrument.
JF: Not my older one, but my little one does. She plays the drums and the piano, and she’s only 2½.

KW: Erik Daniels asks: Will you use your radio show as a way of getting minorities out to register and to vote in the next presidential election?
JF: Oh, most definitely! We did it last time when Barack Obama was 30 points down and nobody knew who he was. We not only educated people about Obama, but about politics in general. And we plan to do it again.

KW: Dante Lee, author of "Black Business Secrets,” asks: What was the best business decision you ever made, and what was the worst?
JF: Oh man, I’m making a couple of big business decisions right now, so I have a feeling we’re going to find out soon.

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
JF: Fun! Just fun, no matter what it is. A great concert… playing softball with the family… Fun!

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
JF: I see a blessed man.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Jamie, and best of luck with Thunder Soul.
JF: Thank you, Kam.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Brad Pitt Delivers Oscar-Quality Performance in Baseball Bio-Pic

Despite this delightful bio-pic’s arriving in theaters prior to the onset of Oscar season, you can already pencil in Brad Pitt as a serious contender for an Academy Award. For he is simply sensational as Billy Beane in this emotionally-uplifting, David vs. Goliath saga revolving around the amazing run of the Oakland Athletics during the 2002 season.
The iconoclastic, A’s General Manager revolutionized baseball that year by fielding a team of lowly-touted underdogs who somehow managed to beat the odds by overachieving and reaching the playoffs. But Billy knew their feat was no fluke since there had been a mathematical method to his madness.
Based on Michael Lewis’ best-seller of the same name, Moneyball chronicles how Beane came to make roster moves relying on statistics alone in lieu of listening to scouts like the other major league franchises. Truth be told, the beleaguered GM had adopted the unorthodox approach almost out of desperation because he’d just lost three of his best players to free agency: Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Jason Isringhausen.
And as a small market team with modest revenues, the A’s simply couldn’t afford to match the mega-salaries being offered by perennial World Series contenders like the Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox. So, on the advice of his nerdy, young assistant, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), an Ivy-educated economist he’d hired away from the Cleveland Indians, Beane began to employ a state-of-the-art system of computer analysis known as Sabermetrics.
That highly-quantitative theory ignores conventional baseball wisdom, scouting reports and popular stats like batting averages and RBIs in favor of lesser-appreciated indicators like slugging and on-base percentages which apparently have a higher correlation to wins and losses. Beane strictly followed the computer’s rating of players, stocking up on underrated castoffs from other clubs nobody wanted.
However, he still had a hard time selling the strategy to his skeptical, hard-boiled manager, Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who initially refused to cooperate with what he considered a patently ridiculous innovation. But he would eventually embrace the rag-tag assortment of misfits he was handed, and lead the team to victory.
Directed by Bennett Miller, Moneyball was adapted by Academy Award-winner Aaron Sorkin (for The Social Network), a gifted storyteller with a knack for both inspired dialogue and compelling character development. Here, he deserves accolades for the way in which he humanizes his protagonist by having Billy exhibit a sincere regret over his failed marriage and the toll the divorce is taking on his emotionally-distant, 12 year-old daughter, Casey (Kerris Dorsey).
Consequently, the audience comes to care as much about the resolution of the strained father-daughter relationship as about the outcome of Oakland’s historic baseball season. How long can the A’s computer-assisted miracle season last? Will Billy and Casey ever reconcile?
A tender reminder that the heart sometimes still matters even if we now live in a technology-driven, Digital Age where machines lead and humans follow.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity.
Running time: 133 minutes
Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Thunder Soul

Film Review
by Kam Williams

Headline: Reverential Bio-Pic Pays Tribute to Legendary H.S. Bandleader

After graduating from Wiley College (of “The Great Debaters” fame) back in the Thirties, Conrad “Prof” Johnson (1915-2008) briefly embarked on a promising career as a jazz musician, joining big band orchestras led by the likes of Count Basie and Erskine Hawkins. However, he decided to come off the road in 1940, right after meeting the love of his life, Birdie.
The couple soon married and decided to settle down in his native Texas, where for the next 37 years, Prof would teach music at Kashmere High in Houston. There, he formed a stage band to compete in tournaments against other schools, and as conductor taught his students how to achieve a professional quality sound on their instruments.
By the late Sixties, Kashmere had developed an enviable reputation as a world-class powerhouse, courtesy of a funky brand of music dubbed Thunder Soul. But perhaps more important than forging youngsters into a competitive, top-flight band capable of winning national championships was the fact that Prof simultaneously served as a father figure to so many who were being raised without a male role model.
Although he retired in 1978, Conrad Johnson had made such a lasting impression on his Kashmere kids that numerous band alumni decided to pay tribute to him 30 years later by reuniting to do a show when they learned their hero was in failing health. That Herculean effort is the subject of Thunder Soul, a reverential bio-pic directed by Mark Landsman.
Produced by fellow Texan Jamie Foxx, the picture features file footage of the group performing in the Seventies when they were mostly sporting big afros and wearing bell bottoms pants and platform shoes. That retro reminder is deftly juxtaposed against the same individuals now middle-aged, yet somehow still summoning up the funkified fire of old as they “practice, practice, practice” just to please their former mentor in one glorious, toe-tapping last hurrah.
Mixed in with those preparations are a host of heartfelt reminiscences about how much Prof meant to each of them. And if you aren’t moved by those teary-eyed testimonials, then the floodgates will certainly open on reunion night when their 92 year-old mentor is wheeled up the aisle from a hospital bed to attend the magnificent concert in his honor.
They don’t make ‘em like Prof anymore!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for smoking and mild epithets
Running time: 83 minutes
Distributor: Roadside Attractions

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Art History

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Latest Swanberg Mumblecore Features Film within a Film

Joe Swanberg is a leading force in the Mumblecore movement and the brains behind such offbeat, character-driven dramas as LOL and Nights & Weekends. The innovative writer/director/actor’s latest, low-budget offering is Art History, a daring film within a film which pushes the genre’s envelope even further.
This atmospheric mindbender features a cast of just five, provided you count Swanberg, his wife and his sound engineer, Adam Wingard, playing a director, his assistant wife (Kris), and a sound engineer, respectively. The action unfolds in the cramped quarters of a dingy, dark bedroom where they’re shooting a steamy love scene between Juliette (Josephine Decker) and Eric (Kent Osborne), the attractive stars of a low-budget movie.
The tension builds as the naked pair proceed to wrap themselves around each other as if actually about to copulate. However, right when they’re in the midst of a hot and heavy clinch, Sam (Swanberg) yells “Cut!” and they immediately separate. After all, they are supposedly merely acting.
And while the director and sound man retire to the next room to assess the quality of what they’ve just recorded on a monitor, Juliette and Eric modestly cover-up and engage in conversation indicating that they don’t know each other very well. Nonetheless, over the course of the protracted production, the cozy co-stars eventually opt to go all the way, ostensibly because of becoming stimulated by repeatedly simulating sex for the camera.
However, crossing that line ultimately has the diametrically opposite effect on each, with Juliette hinting that she might want a relationship, as opposed to Eric’s seeing their lustful liaison as just a set romance. Needless to say, this development has a negative effect on their subsequent screen performance which in turn frustrates Sam when he can no longer coax the same chemistry out of his leading man and woman.
As the passion disappears into thin air, the viewer can’t help but seriously contemplate what it must be like for an actor and actress to have to turn their feelings on and off to perform an intimate love scene. Another intriguing examination of the human condition courtesy of iconoclastic Mr. Swanberg!

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 74 minutes
Distributor: Factory 25

Top Ten DVD List for September 27th

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for September 27th

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Ben Hur [50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition]

Viva Riva!

How to Make It in America – The Complete First Season

Lost Heritage

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Sister Wives 2

The Stool Pigeon

Hung – The Complete Second Season

Footloose [Blu-Ray]

Honorable Mention

Airplane! [Blu-Ray]

The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad

The Cost of Love

Dead Cert

Go for It!

Friday, September 23, 2011


DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Kinshasa Serves as Setting for Congo Gangsta Flick

Drugs may be the contraband of choice in most modern, American crime capers, but this curious African adventure revolves around a present-day black market in petroleum. The picture’s protagonist is Riva (Patsha Bay), a petty thief who has commandeered a truckload of gasoline across the Angolan border into the Congo with plans to resell it in his hometown of Kinshasa where the populace is presently in the grips of an oil shortage.
The trouble is that he isn’t quite ready to rise to his calling as a crook, for he soon becomes beguiled by Nora (Manie Malone), the red-headed, gun moll of a local mobster (Diplome Amekindra). And while he allows himself to be led around by the loins, he soon lands on the radar of her jealous boyfriend as well as a policewoman (Marlene Longange) and an angry Angolan crime boss (Hoji Fortuna) determined to recover his pilfered petrol.
Winner of a half-dozen African Movie Academy Awards, Viva Riva! marks the promising scriptwriting, directorial and producing debut of Djo Munga. The movie is most reminiscent of all those cheap-looking blaxploitation flicks made by gangsta rappers searching for some crossover appeal back in the Nineties.
Given the omnipresence of such genre trademarks as graphic nudity and gratuitous violence, Viva Riva! certainly manages to keep your attention riveted to the screen. And since it simultaneously serves up a compelling storyline and does a decent job of character development, it’s worth checking out just based on the rarity of a movie with an empathetic black protagonist even being made about the Congo.
The un-Tarzan!

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for frontal nudity, graphic sexuality, brutal violence, profanity and drug use.
In French and Lingala with subtitles
Running time: 96 Minutes
Distributor: Music Box Films
DVD Extras: None.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Headline: Cops Struggle to Juggle Careers and Fatherhood in Faith-Based Family Flick

When Pastor Alex Kendrick read a report back in 2003 alleging that movies had become more of an influence on impressionable young minds than the church, he decided to do something about it. So, along with his brother, Stephen, and fellow pastors Michael Catt and Jim McBride, he co-founded Sherwood Pictures in order to make their own faith-based films.
Operating on a modest budget under the aegis of the Sherwood Baptist Church of Albany, Georgia, the Christian-themed studio has previously produced a trio of well-received, inspirational morality plays, most notably, Fireproof, which grossed over $30 million at the box-office alone.
A bona fide Renaissance Man, Pastor Alex not only writes and directs each feature, but stars in them as well. Plus, he is the author of several best-selling novels, including “The Love Dare,” a New York Times #1 Best Seller which has remained on the list for 126 weeks thus far, while selling 6 million copies and counting.
Courageous, Kendrick’s latest cinematic offering, is an alternately action-oriented and thought-provoking adventure which thoroughly entertains while ever so subtly issuing a clarion call for a cultural rededication to traditional family values. The story specifically telescopes tightly on the trials and tribulations faced by a quartet of colleagues serving on the Albany Police Force.
We witness an endearing male bonding among the four at work as they cultivate the trust necessary to know a buddy will have your back when apprehending perpetrators in dangerous situations. However, an entirely different type of camaraderie is called for after hours as they try to unwind from the stresses of the day in the company of their wives and children.
It is that struggle to juggle career and fatherhood which sits at the heart of Courageous, a sobering parable designed to make men reflect on what’s most important in life. And to varying degrees, each of the picture’s protagonists proves to be a flawed individual.
First, there’s Officer Adam Mitchell (Kendrick), who’s been chided by his wife, Victoria (Renee Jewell), for not devoting enough quality time to their kids. He can’t catch a break, between missing daughter Emily’s (Lauren Etchells) dance recitals and declining son Dylan’s (Rusty Martin) repeated offers to run a 5K race together.
Then we have Adam’s partner, Shane Fuller (Kevin Downes), who behaves more like a pal than a dad to his 12 year-old, perhaps because he was left emotionally wounded by his own parents divorce. Consequently, he’s taken to filling that hole in his soul in an inappropriate manner.
The third officer is Nathan Hayes (Ken Bevel), an 8-year vet from Atlanta who has just moved his family back to his hometown to raise his kids in a city with a slower pace. He never even met his own father, so foremost among his issues is figuring out how to parent a flattered 15 year-old (Taylor Hutcherson) being wooed by an older boy (Donald Howze) in a gang who has his own car. Finally, there’s Nathan’s young partner, David Thomson (Ben Davies), a deadbeat dad who is in denial about the existence of a 4 year-old daughter born out-of-wedlock.
Each of the aforementioned predicaments eventually boils over into a crisis leading to a moment of truth. But no matter the issue, again and again the question seems to return to whether or not each is ready to summon up the requisite amalgam of courage, faith and resolve to become a man.
A moving, modern parable not to be missed by anyone who’s always wondering why they don’t make wholesome movies with uplifting messages anymore.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Latest Installment in Special F/X Franchise Arrives on DVD

This installment of the Transformers franchise reimagines the past by placing fictional characters at the center of critical historical events. Its revisionist history suggests that the space race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. in the Sixties was inspired by the crash on the dark side of the moon of an alien aircraft from the planet Cybertron, the home of the Transformers.
The Apollo 11 astronauts were the first to find the wreckage, and they retrieved some futuristic technology during an untelevised portion of the lunar landing. The Russians, theoretically, reached the marooned spaceship, too, and subsequently seized a share of its state-of-the-art know-how. This back story ostensibly explains how the two anthropomorphic races of robots, the Autobots and the Decepticons, came to be sworn adversaries.
Following that fanciful prologue, the film fast-forwards to the present where we learn of several developments in the life of Sam Witnicky (Shia LaBeouf), the unassuming hero of the trilogy’s prior two installments. He’s recently graduated from college and moved to Washington, D.C. where he lives with his new girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley).
With the help of her billionaire boss, Dylan Gould (Patrick Dempsey), Sam soon takes an entry-level position at a corporate conglomerate. What he doesn’t know is that the unctuous Dylan is secretly in league with the Decepticons who are hatching a plan to colonize Earth and to turn most of humanity into their slaves.
Of course, once Sam does catch wind of the frightening scheme, it’s again up to him to summon up the courage to save the day with the help of a rag tag team comprised of human patriots and anthropomorphic Autobots. The only glaring flaw of this bombastic Michael Bay spectacular is that the special-effects driven showdown between the forces of good and evil drags on for about an hour longer than necessary. Consequently, the ending is less a dramatic conclusion than a welcome relief from incessant overstimulation.
Despite the picture’s disintegration into an indiscriminate concatenation of pyrotechnics and noisy detonations, there are nonetheless a number of laudable performances to enjoy along the way, most notably, Shia LaBeouf as the intrepid protagonist, Patrick Dempsey as the despicable villain, Dr. Ken Jeong as a paranoid conspiracy theorist, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (replacing Megan Fox) as the vulnerable damsel-in-distress, John Malkovich as a sadistic henchman, and Tyrese as a trash-talking, gung ho mercenary.
Mindless escapist fare designed with the attention-deficit millennials in mind.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, mayhem, destruction, sexual innuendo and intense, sci-fi violence.
Running time: 154 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: None.

Kam's Kapsules: For movies opening September 30, 2011

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening September 30, 2011


50/50 (R for sexuality, drug use and pervasive profanity) Bittersweet dramedy about a 27 year-old writer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who learns what’s most important in life after being given a 50/50 chance of beating a rare form of spinal cancer. With Anjelica Huston, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard and Philip Baker Hall.

Courageous (PG-13 for violence and drug use) Alex Kendrick wrote, directed and co-stars in this faith-based parable about the trials and tribulations of four colleagues facing different ethical dilemmas while serving on the Albany, Georgia police force. Cast includes Ken Bevel, Ben Davies and Kevin Downes.

Dream House (PG-13 for violence, terror, sexuality and brief profanity) Psychological thriller about a married couple (Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz) whose relocation from NYC to a quaint New England town leaves their family the target of the same sadistic killer who had brutally murdered the previous owners of their new home. With Naomi Watts, Marton Csokas and Jane Alexander.

What’s Your Number? (R for sexuality and profanity) Screen adaptation of Karyn Bosnak’s best-seller “20 Times a Lady,” a romantic romp revolving around a marriage-minded young woman (Anna Faris) who decides to track down all of her former boyfriends to determine whether one of her exes might be her one true love. With Chris Evans, Blythe Danner, Andy Samberg and Ed Begley, Jr.


American Teacher (Unrated) Matt Damon narrates this reverential documentary which pays tribute to the country’s 3.2 million teachers by profiling the careers of a quartet of dedicated educators.

Bunraku (Unrated) Revenge saga about a drifter (Josh Hartnett), a bartender (Woody Harrelson) and a samurai (Gackt) who join forces to take on a ruthless mobster (Ron Perlman) with an army of 9 assassins. With Demi Moore, Shun Sugata and Kevin McKidd. (In English and Japanese with subtitles)

Connected (Unrated) Filmmaker Tiffany Shlain is the subject of this cinematic autobiography exploring such themes as love, death and technology.

Margaret (R for profanity, sexuality, drug use and disturbing images) Serendipitous drama about a 17 year-old high school student (Anna Paquin) who convinces herself that she inadvertently played a role in a woman’s death after witnessing a horrific bus accident in Manhattan. Ensemble cast includes Matt Damon, J. Smith-Cameron, Matthew Broderick, Mark Ruffalo, Allison Janney, Jean Reno, Olivia Thirlby and Kieran Culkin.

Sarah Palin: You Betcha (Unrated) Unauthorized bio-pic features Brit muckraker Nick Broomfield taking a tongue-in-cheek look at the life of the Alaskan governor-turned-conservative cultural icon.

Take Shelter (R for profanity) Paranoia drama about a working-class family man (Michael Shannon) plagued by apocalyptic visions who finds himself struggling with whether or not to have his wife (Jessica Chastain) and daughter (Tova Stewart) hide in a backyard bunker he’s built as protection from the conflagration he believes is imminent.

Tucker & Dale vs. the Devil (R for profanity, graphic violence and brief nudity) Horror comedy about a couple of West Virginia hillbillies (Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk) who are mistaken for chainsaw killers by a group of vacationing college kids after saving one of them (Katrina Bowden) from drowning. With Jesse Moss, Philip Granger and Brandon Jay McLaren.

You Don’t Like the Truth (Unrated) War on Terror documentary culled from surveillance tapes recorded at Guantanamo during the four days of the interrogation of a Canadian teenager named Omar Khadr who was captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sister Citizen (BOOK REVIEW)

Sister Citizen:
Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America
by Melissa V. Harris-Perry
Yale University Press
Hardcover, $28.00
392 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-0-300-16541-8

Book Review by Kam Williams

“This book is concerned with understanding the emotional realities of black women’s lives in order to answer a political, not a personal, question: What does it mean to be a black woman and an American citizen?
…The particular histories of slavery, Jim Crow, urban segregation, racism, and patriarchy that are woven into the fabric of American politics have created a specific citizenship imperative for African-American women—a role and image to which they are expected to conform.
We can call this image the strong black woman… The strong black woman myth is a misrecognition of African-American women. But it creates specific expectations for their behavior.”

-- Excerpted from the Introduction (pgs. 20-21)

What is it like to be a black woman in America? That is the basic question explored by Professor Melissa Harris-Perry in her fascinating new book, Sister Citizen. According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.
The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.
As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.
Sadly, that notion has persisted to this day, which is why so many African-American women’s rape allegations aren’t taken seriously, like that of the NYC hotel maid who recently leveled just such a claim against a well-connected guest from France. Despite the existence of DNA evidence, the charges were dropped, thereby leaving the accuser shamed by the insinuation that the contact must have been consensual.
The author might argue that the stigma of the black female as loose played a role in the case’s disposition without even a trial. For as she points out here ever so succinctly, ”White men’s right of access to black women’s bodies was an assumption supported both by their history as legal property and by the myth of their sexual promiscuity,” and “Emancipation did not end the social and political usefulness of this stereotype.”
A feminist manifesto endeavoring to free sisters forever from the cruel and very limiting ways in which they continue to be pigeonholed.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Touré: The “Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Tora! Tora! Touré!

Born in Boston on March 20, 1971, Touré is a cultural critic for MSNBC, as well as the host of a couple of shows on Fuse-TV: “Hip Hop Shop” and “On the Record.” A contributing editor at Rolling Stone, his articles appear regularly in publications ranging from The New York Times to The Village Voice to The New Yorker.
Touré is also the author of a collection of essays called “Never Drank the Kool-Aid,” a collection of short stories called “The Portable Promised Land,” and a novel titled “Soul City.” Furthermore, he serves on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Nominating Committee, and is a member of the Adjunct Faculty of the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.
A devoted father, Touré lives in Fort Greene, Brooklyn with his wife, Rita, and their two children, Hendrix and Fairuz. Here, he talks about his new book, “Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?”

Kam Williams: Hi Touré, thanks for the interview.
Touré: Hey, man, what’s happening?

KW: Not much. Nice to make your acquaintance.
T: Yours, too.

KW: I really enjoyed reading Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness, and I have a lot of my own questions for you, as well as a lot from my readers.
T: Whatever you want to talk about is totally cool.

KW: What inspired you to write the book? Let me guess, the incident in college where somebody embarrassed you by saying, “Shut up, Touré! You ain’t black!”
T: Yeah, that was definitely an inciting incident. I had already been thinking very actively about what it means to be black since I was very young. But that got me thinking about it with a different intensity on an extremely deep, personal level. So, that sort of got the ball rolling, but the more specific influence was the success of Barack Obama which was an indication to me that something had changed in terms of race and what it meant to be black in America. We are not post-racial, but some things have changed. For instance, I think the younger generation has a more progressive attitude, and that definitely played to Barack’s favor.

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles says: It's one thing for artists to feel that blackness can mean anything. But how can so many in the period you describe as post-blackness give up being boxed in by race if they have neither the educational nor economic opportunities to leave the ghetto locality?
T: What I’m saying is that you have the ability to embody blackness however you wish. I believe Harriet’s right that you see greater opportunity for education and advancement as you go up the class scale, but America is the land of rapid class ascension within a generation, within a decade, even within a year. So, I don’t think this only applies to middle-class black people. If you go into the ‘hood, you’ll encounter a huge variety in terms of blackness.

KW: In the book, you talk about being from Boston, and how your parents taught as a child you that some areas of the city were dangerous for blacks. I learned that the hard way when I was in law school there in the Seventies, like the time I was refused service in a pizzeria because I was black.
T: That highlights the stupidity of racism. You were simply saying: “I’m just trying to give you money for the thing that you produce. I’m not looking to start a fight; I’m trying to engage in the commerce that you do every day.” And they’re response was, “We don’t want your money, because you’re black.” Unbelievable!

KW: Troy Johnson asks: Do you see any value in the government census trying to keep track of people by race: black, white, etcetera? If so, how can we truly become post-racial??
T: I don’t think the goal is to become post-racial. I don’t want a world in which we’re not thinking about race. I want a world where people are proud to be who they are, and where everybody feels comfortable imposing the beauty of their culture on America. The goal is that prejudice based around those differences ends. Post-racialism is not the goal, because it’s not even possible.

KW: Rene Harris says: One time during a Twitter interaction with you, you freely used the actual n-word, but only referred to a slur against Jews as the k-word. When I questioned you about it, you never answered. Care to clarify now?
T: I remember that interaction. It transpired a long time ago before I made a personal decision to not use the n-word anymore. Twitter is a very particular venue where it can be very easy for someone to misunderstand something that you’ve written. So, you have to be very careful when you are dealing with really incendiary ideas. For me to use the n-word as a black person is not going to be as potentially controversial as using the k-word. It can be tricky, if someone reads my tone wrong. But there’s a big difference between using a word and talking about that word.

KW: Judyth Piazza asks: What is something your fans may not know about you?
T: I don’t know how to answer that question.

KW: Judyth also asks: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
T: The ability to take a “no,” because in order to become successful at anything, you’re going to experience a lot of setbacks and a lot of doors closing.

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What message do you want the public to take away from your book?
T: Two things: First, I want the black people made to feel like outsiders because they like opera or sushi or scuba diving to know that they’re not weird and that they are black. You can do black and be black in any way you choose. And secondly, I want the self-appointed, volunteer identity cops to be frozen in their tracks, because they’re not really doing the race a service. It’ time for them to take off their badges and let people be black in whatever way they see fit.

KW: Patricia also says: In 1903, W.E.B. Du Bois said that "The problem of the 20th Century would be the problem of the color line, the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the seas." If Du Bois were alive today, do you think that he would just cross out 20th and change it to 21st and consider it as relevant today, or would he see another issue as the prevailing question of this Century?
T: Well sure, it’s still a dominant issue in America. However, now, class enters the equation and makes it a three-dimensional game, instead of a two-dimensional game. So, the issue is only getting trickier and more nuanced as class boundaries change, and as expectations and perceptions change. Plus, there’s a growing class of mixed people who are going to bring a variety of additional new perceptions.

KW: Finally, Patricia asks: What advice do you have for young people who are interested in entering the field of journalism?
T: Oh God! Think about something else that might make you happy. I’m serious. I don’t think the opportunities are there to make a comfortable living in journalism anymore.

KW: Professor/film director/author Hisani Dubose asks: How did you first become a Pop Culture consultant for CNN, and how did you go from there to being a regular contributor?
T: I started off at Rolling Stone. From there, I was given an opportunity to appear on CNN with Paula Zahn when she was hosting American Morning. That went well, and they asked me back more and more, and eventually had me do a panel three times a week called 90-Second Pop. After that I became a correspondent.

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

KW: Do you have a good question you can give me that I can ask other celebrities?
T: Yeah, who is the person that led you to become the person you are?

KW: Thanks. That’ll be known as the Touré question. The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
T: I suppose, but not very often, because I always feel like there’s something I can do to get out of any situation, sort of like MacGyver.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
T: Yeah, absolutely! I’ve got two great kids and a wonderful wife. And I just published the best book that I’ve ever written. So, I’m very happy right now.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
T: All the damn time! One of my kids said something earlier today that was incredibly funny.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
T: Bacon. It’s not just for breakfast anymore. I know it’s wrong health-wise. But even though it’s wrong, I don’t want to be right. At the butcher store, they’ll sometimes talk me into a pork fillet which is like eating a steak of bacon. That couldn’t be good for you.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
T: I just finished “Retromania” by Simon Reynolds which is an excellent discussion of modern pop culture’s obsession with its own past.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: Who are you listening to on your iPod?
T: I spend a lot of time looking for new music, because I’m a very restless listener. Lately, I’ve been listening to Kanye West and Jay-Z, The Kills, The Weekend, The White Stripes, Abbe May, Cults, Danny Brown, Ariel Pink, Vampire Weekend, LCD Sound System, Tyler the Creator, The Black Keys, Jay Electronica, Childish Gambino and I brought back Amy Winehouse after she passed away.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
T: I’m really not that good a cook. I can make a nice steak. But is frying a rib eye in a pan cooking? My favorite dish to eat might be fried chicken. I love eating fried chicken to death. It’s good, man!

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
T: Everything! My kids… my wife… the future! The possibilities! The ability to connect with people through new ideas excites me. Great pieces of culture, be it music, TV or a movie. Great food! The thrill of spectator sports! Doing yoga... running… playing tennis… playing basketball…
So many things.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
T: I don’t have one.

KW: Dante Lee, author of "Black Business Secrets, asks: What was the best business decision you ever made?
T: I bought some shares of Google and Apple a few years ago. It’s going good so far.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
T: Me. It’s always a bit of a surprise where we’re at today.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
T: [Mark] Zuckerberg money. I could handle all the rest after that.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
T: Standing in front of my father as he was getting ready to go to work one day, and saying, “You’re white,” because he’s light-skinned. He answered, “No, I’m not.” And I responded, “Do people think you’re white?” And he said, “No, they know.” I accepted that, but as a very young person, I didn’t understand. I don’t know why that memory stands out.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
T: Read a lot, write a lot, try to experience a lot, and take a big bite from the buffet of life.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
T: Oh, man, I don’t know. That’s too hard to call, and it’s too early.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Touré, I really appreciate it.
T: I’m glad. Cool!

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Grisly Crime Caper Finds Getaway Driver on the Run

This riveting cat-and-mouse thriller represents another solid outing by Ryan Gosling in which the underappreciated actor further establishes himself as among the best actors yet to win an Academy Award. Here, he plays a Hollywood stuntman whose secret dream is to save enough money to become a professional race car driver on the NASCAR circuit one day.
When not executing dangerous rollovers on movie sets, he supplements his meager income by moonlighting as a getaway driver. And just like Jason Statham’s character in The Transporter (2002), he doesn’t even want to know what each job is about, provided his price is met and his privacy is respected.
This philosophy works well for the unnamed loner we’ll call Driver so long as he religiously protects his anonymity. But complications ensue soon after his Achilles heel, attractive women, rears its pretty head in the person of Irene (Carey Mulligan), a flirtatious neighbor living right down the hall.
Driver naturally assumes her to be a single-mom, since she shares the apartment only with her young son, Benicio (Kaden Leos). Sparks fly, and they start spending quality time together, almost like a family.
But before their budding friendship has a chance to blossom any further, Irene admits not only that she’s married, but that her husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), is about to be paroled from prison. When he arrives home a week later, the two hide their feelings for each other.
The ex-con, who wants to go straight, is too busy to be suspicious anyway, because he’s being pressured to pull one last heist by a loan shark (James Biberi) he’s deeply indebted to. Against his better judgment, Driver decides to break his unwritten rule about not knowing his clients when he agrees to drive a getaway car for Standard.
Unfortunately, the robbery goes horribly wrong, and Driver ends up in sole possession of the million dollar take. He subsequently finds himself being hunted by an army of vengeful mobsters threatening to harm him, Irene and the boy unless the cash is delivered.
The chase is on and, again and again, Driver makes the most of opportunities to demonstrate his elusive skills behind the wheel. The slippery fugitive is forced to fight on occasion, too, and he’s not one to shy away from a good rumble either.
Based on the James Sallis best-seller of the same name, Drive is an alternately atmospheric and grisly crime saga which devotes as much attention to character development as to gruesome action sequences. The film was directed by Denmark’s Nicolas Winding Refn who boldly blends elements of the seemingly-incompatible blood sport and romance genres.
The picture features a profusion of spellbinding performances besides Gosling’s, most notably Carey Mulligan as the femme fatale, as well as Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks as a couple of the scariest villains to grace the screen this year. Provided you have a strong stomach for gore, don’t miss this novel cinematic treat offering both an adrenaline fix and a compelling love story.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, ethnic slurs, nudity and graphic violence.
Running time: 100 minutes
Distributor: FilmDistrict

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Weird World of Blowfly

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Godfather of Rap Belatedly Gets His Due in Jaw-Dropping Bio-Pic

Clarence Reid is a legendary songwriter who wrote R&B hits back in the Sixties and Seventies for everyone from Sam & Dave to KC & the Sunshine Band. What many people don’t know, however, is that he also donned a flamboyant costume, periodically, to perform raunchy rap tunes as his irreverent alter ego, Blowfly.
With titles like “Rapp Dirty,” “Porno Freak,” “Butt Pirate Luv,” “Electronic Pussy Sucker,” “Funk You,” “Burning Pussy,” and “Destructo Cock,” the bawdy ballads were laced with explicit lyrics which left little to the imagination, such as “Should I [expletive] that big fat ho?”. Basically, Blowfly’s act involves bragging about his sexual prowess in much the same fashion adopted decades later by gangsta rappers.
Although well past retirement age, Clarence still tours the country as Blowfly, and he is being well-received by young audiences which appreciate his critical influence on the Hip-Hop Generation. Those debatable cultural contributions are the subject of The Weird World of Blowfly, an aptly titled documentary directed by Jonathan Furmanski, with an emphasis on the word ‘weird.”.
What makes the film fascinating is the fact that several rap pioneers like Chuck D. and Ice T. make appearances to pay tribute to their degenerate mentor, thereby confirming that what otherwise appears to be just a dirty old man in a mask is telling the truth when he claims “I invented rap.” For example, Chuck D. states that “Rapp Dirty” served as the inspiration for the Public Enemy anthem “Fight the Power.” Who knew?
Cringe-inducing debauchery courtesy of The Godfather of Rap!

Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 89 minutes
Distributor: Variance Films

Top Ten DVD List for September 20th

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for September 20th


Breakfast at Tiffany's [50th Anniversary Edition]

The Kennedys

Dumbo [70th Anniversary Edition]

Chrysanthemum… and More Whimsical Stories

Baseball’s Greatest Games: Derek Jeter’s 3000th Hit

Spooky Buddies

Area 51

Scholastic Storybook Treasures: My First Collection, Volume 2

The Mentalist – The Complete Third Season

Honorable Mention

Body of Proof – The Complete First Season

Set Up

Castle – The Complete Third Season

The Bachelor Party

Forever Plaid

I Want to See

Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World

Spongebob’s Runaway Roadtrip

Blue Sunshine

Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bridesmaids DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Female Answer to The Hangover Arrives on DVD

Annie Walker (Kristen Wiig) has been in a tailspin since her bakery failed during the recession. And she’s currently in danger of losing the job she got at a jewelry store only because a member of her mother’s (Jill Clayburgh) support group took pity on her.
Annie’s problems at work stem from her bad habit of openly expressing her skepticism about marriage to customers shopping for engagement rings. She has good reason to be cynical, between hearing her biological clock ticking and her poor track record in relationships, including the shallow guy (John Hamm) she’s currently involved with who treats her like a doormat.
Annie is also close to being kicked out of her apartment by her roommates (Rebel Wilson and Matt Lucas) for falling behind in rent. This means she might have to move back in with her mom. Given all of the above, is it any wonder why Annie has such mixed emotions upon being asked to be her best friend Lillian’s (Maya Rudolph) Maid of Honor?
For on the one hand, she’s happy that the ecstatic bride-to-be has finally landed the man of her dreams (Tim Heidecker). On the other hand, however, the impending fairytale wedding promises to serve as a constant reminder to the thirty-something spinster of just what an unmitigated mess her life has become.
These diverging fortunes set the stage for a boatload of laughs in Bridesmaids, a screwball comedy co-written Kristen Wiig who enjoys her best big screen outing to date courtesy of a character displaying oodles of that trademark sarcasm we’ve seen her display on Saturday Night Live for years. The plot thickens when the other bridesmaids are introduced, and Annie suddenly finds herself constantly in competition with Helen (Rose Byrne), the filthy-rich wife of the groom’s boss (Andy Buckley).
Even though Helen hasn’t known Lillian very long, she shamelessly lobbies to replace hapless Annie as the Maid of Honor because she has the bucks, taste and class to help plan a more lavish bridal shower, bachelorette party and wedding reception. The only other bridesmaid of consequence is Doug’s larger than life (literally and figuratively) sister, Megan, played to perfection by scene stealer Melissa McCarthy in a peerless performance.
Motor-mouthed Megan intermittently provides comic relief as a constant reminder that the escalating tension between Annie and Helen shouldn’t be taken seriously, especially once the former finds herself being wooed by an Irish cop with a heart of gold (Chris O’Dowd). An estrogen-fueled adventure featuring madcap hilarity ranging from the scatological to the sublime!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for pervasive profanity and graphic sexuality.
Running time: 125 minutes
Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Gag reel, deleted scenes, extended and alternate scenes, “Line-O-Rama” and “Cholodecki’s Commercial.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kam's Kapsules: For movies opening September 23, 2011

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening September 23, 2011


Abduction (PG-13 for sexuality, teen partying, intense violence and brief profanity) John Singleton directs this action thriller about a teenager (Taylor Lautner) who ends up on the run from a team of hit men when he tries to determine his true identity after seeing his baby photo on a missing persons website. With Sigourney Weaver, Alfred Molina, Maria Bello and Denzel Whitaker.

Dolphin Tale (PG for mature themes) Fact-based family drama, shot in 3-D, recounting the heartwarming story of a boy (Nathan Gamble) befriended by a bottlenose dolphin which lost her tail in a crab trap. Cast includes Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson and Harry Connick, Jr.

Killer Elite (R for profanity, sexuality, nudity and graphic violence) Jason Statham stars in this cat-and-mouse caper based on the case of a special-ops agent who came out of retirement to rescue his mentor (Robert De Niro) caught in the clutches of an Arab oil sheik (Rodney Afif) with an army of assassins. Cast includes Clive Owen, Dominic Puircell and Yvonne Strahovski.

Moneyball (PG-13 for profanity) Baseball bio-pic about Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the Oakland Athletics’ general manager who pioneered a successful method of drafting players on a modest budget by relying on computer-generated, statistical analysis. With Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jonah Hill and Robin Wright.


A Bird in the Air (Unrated) Romance drama about a freewheeling librarian (Rachel Nichols) who helps an uptight loner (Jackson Hurst) locate the owner of the loquacious parrot that flew into his trailer home. With Buck Henry, Judith Ivey, Linda Emond and Anjanette Comer.

Machine Gun Preacher (R for sexuality, profanity, violence, disturbing images and drug use) Redemption drama chronicling the real-life exploits of a recently-paroled biker (Gerard Butler) who ventured with his wife (Michelle Monaghan) to war-torn Sudan in order to rescue hundreds of kidnapped orphans after becoming a crusader for Christ. With Michael Shannon, Kathy Baker and Madeline Carroll.

Mardi Gras (R for crude humor, graphic sexuality, frontal nudity and pervasive profanity) Ribald road romp about three college buddies (Nicholas D’Agosto, Josh Gad and Bret Harrison) headed to New Orleans to sow their wild oats over Spring Break. Featuring Carmen Electra, Regina Hall and Dominique DuVernay.

Puncture (R for profanity, drug use, nudity and a sexual reference) David vs. Goliath courtroom drama about a substance-abusing attorney (Chris Evans) who sues a mammoth pharmaceutical company on behalf an emergency room nurse (Vinessa Shaw) accidentally pricked by a contaminated needle. With Mark Kassen, Kate Burton, Michael Biehn and Brett Cullen.

There Was Once… (Unrated) Tolerance-themed documentary about a Hungarian high school teacher who recently decided to create a memorial for members of the local Jewish community totally wiped out during the Holocaust. (In Hungarian with subtitles)

Thunder Soul (PG for smoking and mild epithets) Musical documentary chronicling the 35th reunion of members of Houston’s history-making, Kashmere High School Band with 92 year-old Conrad “Prof” Johnson, the legendary coach who led the ensemble of African-American, inner-city kids to a number of championship titles in nationwide competitions during the Seventies.

Weekend (Unrated) Out-of-the-closet drama about a straight guy (Tom Cullen) who picks up a man (Chris New) at a gay club for what was supposed to be just a drunken, one-night stand only to have the homoerotic encounter blossom into a full-blown love affair.

White Wash (Unrated) Hang Ten documentary, narrated by Ben Harper, exploring race relations through the eyes of black surfers in Hawaii, Jamaica, Florida and California.

Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists

by Valaida Fullwood
with photography by Charles W. Thomas, Jr.
John F. Blair Books/Foundation for the Carolinas
Hardcover, $36.50
390 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-0-89587-564-8

Book Review by Kam Williams

“’To whom much is given, much is expected.’
This Biblical passage from the Gospel of Luke conveys a belief that I and many of my African American family and friends hold dear… We are acutely aware of what others have given up to pave the way and contribute to our successes. As a result, we share a sense of responsibility about honoring and sustaining that legacy…
While this cultural legacy of giving back prevails today, it is often overlooked by mainstream society and rarely celebrated within the African American community… Media coverage and reports of prominent philanthropic leaders and institutions advance a false view which places African Americans only on the demand side, not the supply side of philanthropy.
The truth of the matter: African Americans give 8.6% of their discretionary income to charity—more than any other racial group in America.”

-Excerpted from the Preface (pgs. xviii-xix)

Cultivated by ancestors in Africa for ages, black folks’ spirit of philanthropy was ingrained way before their arrival on these shores. During the slave days, it was evident in the altruism of fugitive Harriet Tubman who risked recapture to help others in chains find their way to freedom via the Underground Railroad.
Such behavior has basically been the rule, rather than the exception, for a people whose very survival has often depended on selfless displays of compassion towards the least of our brethren. For, as mentor Michael Sales points out, “What’s most remarkable is that even as we help those who are at risk, we ourselves are often at risk at the same time.”
This attitude persists despite the still precarious position of those African-Americans living above the subsistence level who have managed to extricate themselves from poverty. Giving Back is an uplifting opus celebrating the generosity of charitably-inclined blacks, a touching tribute told in portraits, proverbs, anecdotes and micro-biographies.
The book is the brainchild of idea whisperer Valaida Fullwood who collaborated with award-winning photographer Charles W. Thompson, Jr. to create a visually-captivating, coffee table book chock full of intimate homages to unsung heroes as well as inspirational sayings like the sage notion courtesy of Frederick Douglass that “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
An overdue salute to an underappreciated segment of African-American society.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Viola Davis: “The Help” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Victorious Viola!

A graduate of the Juilliard School, Viola Davis built an exceptional background in theater productions and has continued to perform on the stage throughout her television and film career. Making her feature-film debut in 1996 as a nurse in The Substance of Fire, she followed that up with several TV movies and guest-star appearances on dramatic series like Law & Order and NYPD Blue.
She went on to play another nurse in City of Angels, a hospital drama with a predominately African-American cast that didn't last long on CBS. She began collaborating with Steven Soderbergh for Out of Sight, and went on to star in two of the director's subsequent films, Traffic and Solaris.
In 2001, she appeared in Kate and Leopold as well as in Oprah Winfrey's television presentation of Amy & Isabelle. The following year, she landed parts in both Far From Heaven and in Denzel Washington's directorial debut, Antwone Fisher.
However, in 2008 she made the most of a modest but critical role as the mother in John Patrick Shanley's screen adaptation of his award-winning play, Doubt. Although her screen time was minimal, her indelible performance garnered Viola an Academy Award nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category.
Here, she talks about her latest outing as Aibileen in The Help, a compelling tale of survival, set in Mississippi during the waning days of Jim Crow segregation, which explores the unspoken tensions simmering just below the surface between well-to-do white women and their African-American maids.

Kam Williams: Hi Viola, thanks for the interview. I’ve admired your work for a long time, so I’m very honored to have this opportunity to speak with you finally.
Viola Davis: Thank you, Kam.

KW: I have a lot of questions sent in by fans, so let me get right to them. Legist/Editor Patricia Turnier asks: What message do you want people to take away from The Help?
VD: That anything can be achieved with a good, healthy dose of courage. These ordinary people who are just kind of just going about their lives are transformed into heroes because they have the courage to put their voices out there. I think that’s a powerful message in this time of political strife.

KW: Patricia also asks: Are there any unwritten rules which are part of the movie industry?
VD: Yes, there are a lot of unwritten rules in the industry.

KW: Film director Kevin Williams says: Congratulations on another great performance! How did you approach you’re role and the material in such a way that it manages to stand out from other Civil Rights era films?
VD: Well, I made a choice to humanize this woman beyond her uniform is what I did. I made a choice to explore Aibileen fully: her joys, her grief at losing her son, her journey in finding a purpose in life, because when you meet her, she has basically died to herself after losing her child. So, that’s what I did. I created a human being. That’s not what you usually see in a maid. You see the woman cooking in the kitchen or taking care of a child, and she comes up, says her one line, and then she goes back into the kitchen. So, I made a choice to use my craft to create a character.

KW: Rene Harris says: I read an article in which you were quoted as saying it is a painful certainty that you will never see a contemporary black woman on screen as layered and complex as you. Do you expect someday to be in a position to greenlight just such a story someday?
VD: Oh, absolutely! My husband [Julius Tennon] and I started a production company. We’ve already optioned a book and some scripts to do exactly that, to create more complicated, multi-faceted roles for African-Americans, especially African-American females. I think it’s important. Cicely Tyson was my inspiration to become an actor. And one of the people I’ve always wanted to emulate in pursuing that dream was Meryl Streep, in terms of the different types of roles she’s been able to play and the number of different stories she’s been able to tell. I know very few black actors who’ve been given the opportunity to do that. I want to do what she does. I want to span different genres. I want to be able to transform. I want to be able to be sexy, and funny, and quirky, and all the other things that I am. And I feel that the best way that I can achieve that is by producing. I am not a writer, but I feel that when our production company is successful, we’ll be able to give some young writers with fresh voices an opportunity to put their work out there.

KW: Rene was also wondering whether there are any books that present complex women of African descent that you might consider getting the rights to?
VD: Oh, there are 50 million of them! I already optioned a book called The Personal History of Rachel DuPree.

I also like The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill.

And I love all of Octavia Butler’s books. She’s created some very complicated black heroines with a variety of belief systems. There are many great books out there, but those are a few of the ones that stand out.

KW: Speaking of writers, children’s book author Irene Smalls says: You are one of my favorites. I read an article saying that even though you are dark-skinned you have succeeded as an actress in Hollywood. How do you feel about a comment like that?
VD: I really appreciate that comment. I’ve always seen myself for who I am, which is a lot of things. So, I guess that when I walk into a room, I bring all those things to a role, and I’ve always just simply seen myself as an actor. And I believe that it serves me well to just think in terms of my craft. If hypothetically, I saw myself only as a sex symbol, or as some other limited stereotype, I think I would feel like a complete failure. I’ve been to acting school and I think that at the end of the day, when you just focus on the work and you’re comfortable with who you are, that at some point someone’s going to recognize your talent and give you an opportunity. And after that, there’s a domino effect. I’ve always believed that, and never wanted to be anything other than who I am.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman says: I love your work, and have enjoyed seeing you on Broadway. I’d like to know whether the actresses bonded along racial lines during the filming. I’m asking because I saw some cast members on a TV talk show, and there seemed to be different reactions to the cover photos of you on Essence and Vogue.
VD: The absolute truth is that the bond between all of the actresses on the set was beyond compare. It was the most loving and most supportive environment you can imagine. First of all, we had a great cast which was all about the work. No egos. Secondly, I think we all understood that we needed each other. We needed a relief from the world that we were creating. Each of us was as uncomfortable as the next. In terms of the magazines, I’m not exactly sure what Bernadette is referring to. I suppose that the covers are open to interpretation, but I want to assure you that if you were in a room with the cast, you would see absolutely no division.

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles asks: How do you encourage someone to see the film who might say, “I read the book and already discussed it in my book group, so I don't think I need to see the movie. “
VD: First of all, film is a different medium. These characters actually come to life in the movie, and you get to feel them in a completely different way which is palpable. Plus, with a movie, you’re able to share the experience with an audience. And [director] Tate Taylor did a great adaptation of the book. Because he’s friends with [the book’s author] Kathryn Stockett, he felt a great responsibility to stay true to the story, so he fought hard for everything that you see on the screen. Therefore, I’m urging people who might have read the novel to see the movie for the unique experience the film has to offer.

KW: My wife, Susan Doran, would like to hear your reaction to this quote from the postscript to the book: “There’s no trickier subject for a writer from the South than that of affection between a black person and a white one in the unequal world of segregation. For the dishonesty upon which a society is founded makes every emotion suspect, makes it impossible to know whether what flowed between two people was honest feeling or pity or pragmatism.”
VD: I think that is precisely what the movie is about. And I think that the reason why the book has been so successful is their unlikely friendship, because they’re coming from two different worlds. They’re coming from a place where they cannot trust each other, because of what each represents in terms of what the culture has dictated that we should believe about each other. Then, all of a sudden, this idea of a book is put in the midst of all of that mistrust, and the requirement of our having to work together to finish the book literally forces us to have some sort of relationship with each other. I think that’s why it works.

KW: Susan would also like to hear your reaction to Kathryn Stockett’s recently saying she’s proud of the South.
VD: I can’t speak for the author, but I would guess that she feels proud of the progress the South has made because, growing up, she experienced a very different Mississippi than the one that exists today.

KW: Director/Professor Hisani Dubose says: I fell in love with your acting abilities ever since I saw you in Antwone Fisaher. What type of roles are you currently looking for?
VD: Complicated women who are filled with contradictions.

KW: Larry Greenberg says: You are one of the few actresses to enjoy success in theater, film, and television. Do you view these as a continuum or as three distinct forms?
VD: Probably as a continuum.

KW: Rudy Lewis asks: What was it like working opposite Denzel Washington in the staging of August Wilson's Fences?.
VD: It was a wonderful, beautiful experience working with the consummate professional.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
VD: No, I think people ask me just about everything.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
VD: Meeting my 9 year-old sister for the first time when she came to live with us when I was 5.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
VD: In one sentence? Gosh! I see a wise, confident yet insecure and ultimately proud, African-American woman?

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
VD: Oh my God! I would love to be remembered as a person who used her life to inspire others in any way, shape or form.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Viola, and best of luck with all your endeavors.
VD: Thank you very much, Kam