Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Barack Obama in Hawai'i and Indonesia (BOOK REVIEW)

Barack Obama in Hawai'i and Indonesia:
The Making of a Global President:
by Dinesh Sharma, Ph.D.
Praeger Books
Hardcover, $19.95
322 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-0-313-38533-9

Book Review by Kam Williams

“This book is about Obama’s narrative truth—his cultural upbringing, narrative psychology, and transformative leadership. We will examine Obama’s cultural pathway through the life cycle and examine how he resolved the various developmental and psychosocial challenges he confronted…
Why is Obama’s upbringing in Hawai’i and Indonesia relevant for America at this turning point in history? Is there indeed a connection between the personal and the political? I find that there is a remarkable degree of confluence between Obama’s biography and the challenges America faces today”
-Excerpted from the Prologue (pg. xxv) & Chapter 1 (pg. 23)

Barack Obama’s historic run for the presidency spawned a cottage industry of books about him and the First Lady, with several even being published well before the inauguration. Most of the early offerings were merely take-the-money-and-run rip-offs, which is why this critic suggested that theose impatient for a keepsake consider waiting for someone to come up with a worthwhile biography likely to stand the test of time.

Proof that patience is a virtue is Barack Obama in Hawai'i and Indonesia, as insightful an assessment of the roots and psyche of the 44th President of the United States as one could ever hope to find. This fascinating analysis of the formative years which made the man was written by Dinesh Sharma, a cultural psychologist who received his Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Dr. Sharma conducted a couple of years’ worth of painstaking research in preparing this opus, venturing to Obama’s hometowns in Indonesia and Hawai’i and to other important ports-of-call to conduct interviews firsthand and to unearth evidence to determine how his subject had truly been imprinted as a child. Among many issues, he tackles such popular questions as whether Obama had attended a Muslim or Christian school in Jakarta (both) and whether he was born in Hawaii (of course).
Sharma found it harder to prove that the President’s parents ever wed. In fact, Barack Obama, Sr. was already married with children when he met Ann Dunham, Jr.’s mom. Womanizing, wife-beating Barack, Sr. takes it on the chin, here, being exposed as both a bit of a blowhard and a deadbeat dad despite his son’s desperate “dreams” and need to place him on a pedestal. Instead, it is the women in Barack, Jr.’s life had the most impact, from his mom, Ann; to his maternal grandmother, Madelyn; to his half-sister, Maya; to his wife, Michelle.

Overall, the author was obviously extremely impressed by what he learned about the President, since he has no reservations about comparing him favorably to such icons as fellow Nobel Peace Prize-winner Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln and the fabled King Arthur. For, like those equally-charismatic leaders, he has managed to mesmerize not merely the citizens of this nation, but folks all over the globe, with his inspirational message of hope and change.
An enlightening account of Obama’s boyhood chronicling an amazing transformation from an Indonesian slumdog ordinaire into a planetary prophet for the ages.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Alrick Brown: The “Kinyarwanda” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Alrick’s Alright!

With an MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Alrick Brown is a filmmaker and teacher who has found his calling writing, directing and producing narrative films and documentaries focusing on social issues affecting the world at large. For over two years, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cote d’Ivoire.
Alrick’s interactions with the indigenous people in the village where he lived, as well as his overall experiences in West Africa, have informed his creative expression, an expression first fostered by his birth in Kingston, Jamaica, and his upbringing in Plainfield, New Jersey. A fluent French speaker, he graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in English and a Masters degree in Education.
Since then, he has devoted his energy to changing the world by giving a voice to the voiceless by telling stories that otherwise would not be told. Alrick’s collective work has been screened in countless film festivals, and received numerous awards, including HBO’s Life through Your Lens Emerging Filmmaker Award for the critically-acclaimed documentary Death of Two Sons.
In 2004 he was one of four NYU students featured in the IFC Documentary series Film School, produced by Academy Award-nominee Nannette Burstein. And in 2007, he addressed the Motion Picture Association of America on C-SPAN. Here, he talks about his new film, Kinyarwanda, which won the Audience Award in the World Cinema category at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

Kam Williams: Hey Alrick, thanks for the time. Do you remember ever meeting me?
Alrick Brown: I do recognize your name. Where’d we meet?

KW: It was in Princeton, New Jersey a few years ago when you were working on your film school classmate Sean Welski’s student film.
AB: Oh my goodness! [Laughs] Cool, man! I kept asking myself: Why is this name so familiar?

KW: Well, it certainly looks like things have taken off for you since Kinyarwanda won the Audience Award at Sundance. How does that feel?
AB: It’s all an illusion. I’m still broke, man. I’ll answer that question, when I get out of debt.

KW: When did you get your degree from NYU?
AB: I officially graduated in 2008, when I turned in my thesis.

KW: Well, I really enjoyed Kinyarwanda. What inspired you to make a movie about the genocide in Rwanda?
AB: Thank you very much. The film came about because one of my Peace Corps buddies ended up in Rwanda after I left West Africa to go to NYU. He introduced me to Ishmael Ntihabose, a genocide survivor and aspiring filmmaker. Ishmael called me because he got a grant to make a movie about the Muslim influence on the peace process in Rwanda, which I hadn’t heard about before. So, he’s the picture’s executive producer. Then, when I arrived in Rwanda, I heard so many amazing stories of survival that I suggested to Ishmael the idea of an ensemble drama with intertwining tales, ala Crash, but with all the characters eventually meeting at a mosque. He went for it, and we shot it in 16 days.

KW: Had many of your cast members been touched by the genocide?
AB: Absolutely! Most of our crew and cast members were affected by it in some way. That added to the picture’s authenticity.

KW: What’s Rwanda like now? Is there still evidence of tensions between the Hutus and Tutsis?
AB: The country has turned itself around 180 degrees. In fact, the terms “Hutus” and “Tutsis” aren’t even used anymore. That’s not to say everything is perfect. Outside of Rwanda, there are still some people in exile who don’t believe in the reconciliation process who still hold animosities.

KW: I was surprised to learn from the movie that there are also Pygmies in Rwanda. What % of the population is comprised of the Twa people?
AB: Only around 3% or so. The Hutus were around 85%, and the Tutsis around 12%. And the number of Muslims in the country has increased from 8 to 12%

KW: Why so?
AB: Many people converted to Islam after seeing the good things the Muslims did during the conflict, because they felt that the church had let them down.

KW: Did Rwanda hold truth and reconciliation hearing like they did in South Africa after Apartheid?
AB: Yes, they had truth and reconciliation hearings, as well as re-education programs for the perpetrators. And the country implemented a new vision of itself via songs of unity and forgiveness.

KW: I was surprised to see guns in the movie. I thought all the killing had been done with machetes.
AB: No, soldiers and a lot of the more powerful guerilla leaders had guns, although most of the common people wielded machetes.

KW: How did you figure out a way to humanize so many characters, especially in a story unfolding in the midst of a massacre?
AB: I know a very personal Africa, that isn’t National Geographic. So, as a filmmaker, I was determined to show the truth that I know that we rarely get to see. I knew that my foundation was going to be the intimacy of people’s lives.

KW: What made you want to join the Peace Corps and venture to Africa in the first place?
AB: Believe it or not, I saw an episode of The X-Files in which they found a UFO that had landed in the Ivory Coast. I saw that as a sign. And I also wanted an opportunity to travel and see the world.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
AB: Yeah, how much money do you need for your next film? [LOL]

KW: How much do you need?
AB: Probably about $3 million. Hopefully, Kinyarwanda will show people what I’m capable of doing on a small budget.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
AB: I don’t think I’m ever afraid, but I doubt myself often. Because of that doubt, I constantly strive to make myself better.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
AB: That’s a good question, Kam. I’m proud, but I’m not happy, because the debt is stifling, the work is intense, I miss my family tremendously, and I don’t have anyone to share this journey with. Sometimes, I feel very alone.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
AB: [Chuckles] About a half-hour ago. I’m trying to enjoy this journey as much as I can.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
AB: [LOL] I have a lot of those, man. Sex… Haagen Dazs strawberry ice cream… people watching… and writing a good scene. I can stay high for weeks after writing something that I love.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
AB: The Manning Marable biography of Malcolm X.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you heard?
AB: A song called The Waitress by a folksinger named Jonathan Bird.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
AB: My lobster bisque and my seafood bisque are both pretty badass.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
AB: I do look in the mirror frequently. But I look past the physical and I feel proud of what I see, because I know where my heart is and the struggles I’ve been through to be able to stand where I’m standing.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
AB: If I answered that question it would be a lie, because I couldn’t tell you the truth.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
AB: Waking up from a nightmare at about 2 or 3 years of age in Jamaica, and hearing a woman screaming outside of the house.

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
AB: Persistence and discipline. Without those two, you have nothing, no matter how talented you are.

KW: Dante Lee, author of "Black Business Secrets, asks: What was the best business decision you ever made, and what was the worst?
AB: My best business decision was becoming a writer as well as a director, and learning all aspects of the filmmaking craft. My worst business decision was licensing music that I don’t own.

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
AB: Storytelling. Nothing gets me more juiced up than having an impact on people.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
AB: I want people to know that I tried.

KW: Thanks again, Alrick, and best of luck with Kinyarwanda.
AB: Thank you so much, Kam, I really appreciate it.

The Descendants

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Clooney Seeks Redemption as Regretful Patriarch in Dysfunctional Family Drama

Attorney Matt King (George Clooney) traces his lineage back to the 19th Century marriage of the last Hawaiian monarch to a European missionary. Today, as the family patriarch, he’s been kept very busy by having to manage 25,000 acres of prime real estate on behalf of the extended clan.
Hence, he and his sorely-neglected his wife, Liz (Patricia Hastie), have drifted so far apart that he’s unaware of her carrying on an affair practically right under his nose. To add insult to injury, her lover is the local realtor (Matthew Lillard) who stands to make a fortune in commissions should Matt follow through with tentative plans to sell all the property in the trust to a developer.
Meanwhile, emotionally-unavailable Matt has also grown distant from his two daughters. 10 year-old Scottie (Amara King) has no qualms about giving her dad the finger, and her equally-rebellious teenage sister, Alex (Shailene Woodley), has taken to using drugs and dating boys a lot older than herself.
Everything changes the day Liz is left in a coma by a boating accident. Shaken out of the doldrums by the tragedy, Matt vows on the spot to be a better husband and father. But when the doctor’s dire diagnosis indicates that Liz is unlikely to emerge from a vegetative state, the best he can do is try to repair the relationships with his girls.
This is the engaging point of departure of The Descendants, a dysfunctional family drama based on Kaui Hart Hemmings’ debut novel of the same name. Directed and adapted to the big screen by Oscar-winner Alexander Payne (for Sideways), the film stars George Clooney cast against type as a Prodigal parent filled with overwhelming regret, a far more introspective soul than the freewheeling bachelors and bon vivants he ordinarily gets to play.
Unfortunately, he fails to cultivate the requisite gravitas to convince you that Matt has indeed been deeply affected by his wife’s imminent demise or that his decision to spend quality time with his kids is heartfelt. The problem is that, as narrator, he often merely informs the audience of his feelings via voiceover, as opposed to displaying the claimed character development via observable facial expressions.
That being said, even if Clooney is the picture’s weak link, the rest of the ensemble cast turn in such splendid performances that they more than make up for his slight failings. Making it even more worthwhile is how it all unfolds against the visually-captivating backdrop island of Kauai.
A touching enough to recommend tale about an absentee father’s belated, if bittersweet, quest for redemption.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity and sexual references.
Running time: 115 minutes
Distributor: Fox Searchlight

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Top Ten DVD List for November 29th

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for November 29th

Smallville - The Complete Series

Seven Days in Utopia

Reel Injun

Packers Road to XLV

Friends with Benefits

Beyonce’ Live at Roseland: Elements of 4

The Future

The Girls Next Door – The Complete Series

Adele Live at the Royal Albert Hall

Now & Later [Blu-ray]

Honorable Mention

Vietnam in HD

Meet the Browns - Season Three [Episodes 41-60]

Our Idiot Brother

One Day

The Smurfs

Friday, November 25, 2011

Reel Injun DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Explores the Depiction of Native Americans in Hollywood

If you think blacks and Asians have been given a raw deal in the way they’ve been portrayed in Hollywood pictures, then you should reflect upon the harmful depictions of Native Americans on film. For, this beleaguered ethnic group has generally been stereotyped in a very limited fashion, namely, as deserving of extermination or being driven to reservations.
In most movies, Indians are bloodthirsty savages who get wiped out right after you hear the bugle signaling the arrival of the cavalry. My impression of this country’s indigenous peoples was so perverted by exposure to Westerns that one of my favorite childhood pastimes was playing “Cowboys and Indians,” an activity in which I took pleasure in fantasizing about killing adversaries with red skin.
An important aspect of learning is to unlearn propaganda, and this is particularly important for minorities in the United States. That is one of the salient points driven home in Reel Injun, a telling documentary co-directed by Dustin Diamond, Catherine Bainbridge and Jeremiah Hayes. For, in this eye-opening expose’, they interview fellow natives who shamefully admit that they had grown up cheering for the white man while watching Westerns.
Such is the power of cinema, that even the descendants of the original inhabitants of this country could easily be manipulated to embrace as heroes the invaders who had slaughtered their ancestors. That’s because, “The only good Injun is a dead Injun” was an unchallenged, recurring theme so pervasive that no one seems to discuss the legitimacy of the ethnic cleansing which decimated the ranks of every tribe across the nation.
By contrast, the activists interviewed here make the most of the opportunity to correct the flawed accounts of “How the West was won.” Typical are the remarks of the sage elder who asserts that the only thing more pathetic than the Indians playing stereotypes in Westerns are the Indians willing to watch Indians playing stereotypes in Westerns.”
A myth-busting documentary endeavoring to humanize America’s misrepresented, misunderstood and marginalized indigenous peoples.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 88 Minutes
Distributor: Lorber Films

Our Idiot Brother DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Paul Rudd Plays Naïve Ex-Con in Prodigal Sibling Comedy

Ned (Paul Rudd) is a good-natured organic farmer dumb enough to be duped into selling pot to a uniformed police officer (Bob Stephenson). As the story unfolds, we find him being paroled, having just finished paying his debt to society.
However, when he hitchhikes home to surprise his girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn), he’s shocked to find her shacking up with another guy (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 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 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 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 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 like a street hustler.

Good (2 stars)
Rated R for nudity, sexuality and pervasive profanity.
Running time: 90 minutes
Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: Deleted and extended scenes, “the Making of” featurette, and a feature commentary with director Jesse Peretz.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

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

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




Answers to Nothing (R for violence, profanity, nudity and graphic sexuality) Lost souls saga, set in L.A., about a miserably-married woman (Elizabeth Mitchell) too desperate to have a child to confront her philandering husband (Dane Cook) about his infidelity. With Barbara Hershey, Julie Benz and Kali Hawk.

The Big Fix (Unrated) British Petroleum expose uncovering the corruption at the root of the ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico triggered by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig.

Caitlin Plays Herself (Unrated) Offbeat finale in Joe Swanberg’s meandering Mumblecore trilogy (along with Silver Bullets and Art History) revolves around a Chicago performance artist (Caitlin Stainken) whose boyfriend can’t get over her appearing naked onstage during a play about the BP oil spill. Cast includes Frank V. Ross, Spencer Parsons and Megan Mercier.

Coriolanus (R for graphic violence) Ralph Fiennes stars in the title role of this modernistic reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s classic play about a banished Roman general who enters an unholy alliance with a sworn enemy (Gerard Butler). With Vanessa Redgrave, Jessica Chastain and Brian Cox.

Grandma, a Thousand Times (Unrated) Impressionistic biopic about feisty Fatima el Ghoul, an aging widow from Beirut who finds herself facing her own mortality while being haunted by the silence in her home since the passing of her violinist husband. (In Arabic with subtitles)

I Am Singh (Unrated) Mistaken identity drama about the trials and tribulations of a young Sikh (Gulzar Chahal) who comes to America from India in search of justice for innocent family members harmed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. With Rizwan Haider, Puneet Issar and Amy Rasimas and Tulip Joshi.

Kinyarwanda (Unrated) Character-driven ensemble drama, directed by Alrick Brown, revisits the genocide in Rwanda from the perspectives of a variety of people affected by the conflict. With Cassandra Freeman, Cleophas Kabasita and Mutsari Jean. (In English and Kinyarwanda with subtitles)

Knuckle (R for profanity and violence) Fight club documentary, shot over a 12-year period and narrated by Ian Palmer, chronicling the clandestine, Irish tradition of brutal, bare-knuckle boxing.

Outrage (R for violence, profanity and brief sexuality) High body-count revenge flick about a mob boss (Takeshi Kitano) who becomes bent on vengeance after his henchman’s (Jun Kunimura) defection to a competing crime family. (In English and Japanese with subtitles)

Shame (NC-17 for explicit sexuality) Erotic drama, set in Manhattan, about a sex-addicted bachelor (Michael Fassbender) whose life spirals out of control after his mentally-unstable, younger sister (Carey Milligan) stirs up memories of their painful past when she moves in with him. Cast includes Hannah Ware, Nicole Beharie and James Badge Dale.

Sleeping Beauty (Unrated) Aussie drama, set in Sydney, ostensibly inspired by The House of Sleeping Beauties and revolving around a passive college coed (Emily Browning) whose part-time job involves being sedated so perverts can paw at her limp, naked body. With Rachael Blake, Ewen Leslie and Peter Carroll.

A Warrior’s Heart (PG for off-color language, sports action and mature themes) Surrogate dad drama about a grief-stricken teen (Kellan Lutz) who starts acting out after his father dies fighting in Iraq until one of his dad’s Marine buddies (Adam Beach) takes an interest in him. With Ashley Greene, Chord Overstreet and Gabrielle Anwar.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This Is Herman Cain: My Journey to the White House (BOOK REVIEW)

This Is Herman Cain:
My Journey to the White House
by Herman Cain
Threshold Editions
Hardcover, $25.00
236 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-1-4516-6613-7

Book Review by Kam Williams

“I didn’t grow up wanting to be President of the United States. I grew up po’, which is even worse than being poor. My American Dream entailed working hard and… I became a corporate CEO, a regional chairman of the Federal Reserve, a president of the Restaurant Association, an author, and a talk show host before retiring at 65.
And then I became a presidential aspirant… I’m a leader… When all the votes are counted on Tuesday, November 6, 2012, we will be free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty! This nation will be free at last--again!”
 Excerpted from the Introduction (pgs. 1-2)

One criticism leveled at Herman Cain by a lot of TV pundits is that he isn’t really a serious presidential candidate because he’s devoted so much time during the campaign to promoting his autobiography. Well, anybody who’s actually bothered to read the book would see that it really devotes as much attention to his political platform as it does to his private life.
One thing’s for certain, whether he’s reflecting on his childhood or addressing the issues, the charismatic businessman has a knack for driving home his point in readily-digestible layman’s terms. In fact, he’s able to break down any topic of conversation into a slogan with 3 simple tenets.
By now everybody knows about his 9-9-9 economic plan. But this opus reveals that he identifies himself as A-B-C, meaning American, first; Black, second; and a Conservative, third.
Then there’s his 3 steps on to success: R-O-I, which refer to Removing barriers, Obtaining results and Inspiring yourself. And how did the former CEO turn around the Godfather’s Pizza chain when it was on the brink of bankruptcy? Why, with Q-S-C! Quality, Service and Cleanliness.
According to Cain, “There are generally 3 types of people in the world. People who make things happen, people who watch things happen, and people who say, ‘What in the heck just happened?’” And when it comes to appointing Supreme Court Justices, he says, “I have 3 criteria: conservative, conservative, conservative.”
You might be surprised that despite the apparent obsession with triads, he devotes an entire chapter to his lucky number, 45, in which he reveals that not only was he born in 1945, but that he expects to be the 45th President of the United States. If you’re superstitious, you might appreciate the other coincidences he cites, like recently writing an article with exactly 645 words, and eating at a restaurant named Table 45.
Numerology aside, I do recommend This Is Herman Cain for 2 (not 3) reasons. First, as an excellent reference articulating the Republican nomination contender’s positions. For, in a chapter entitled “The Cain Doctrine,” he elaborates on what his Administration’s policy would be on everything from the Economy to Abortion to Energy to Immigration.
Secondly, even if you’re not persuaded to embrace his right-wing point-of-view, you still might enjoy the rest of the text, a loving memoir crediting his late parents who labored as a maid and a janitor in Jim Crow Georgia to raise a black boy who beat the odds by growing up to become a captain of industry.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tasha Smith & Michael Jai White: The “For Better or Worse” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Tasha and Michael on Angela and Marcus

A dedicated and consummate performer, Tasha Smith is known for bringing style and intense character portrayals to the screen. Her outstanding performances have garnered universal acclaim from audiences and critics alike. Tyler Perry was so impressed with her stellar work that he cast her to star in three of his films, including Daddy’s Little Girls, Why Did I Get Married? and its sequel, Why Did I Get Married Too?
More recently, Tasha co-starred in the #1 box office hit romantic comedy Couples Retreat, and she has also hosted her own talk show for the Oxygen Network, Smith Vision. When not appearing in movies or on TV, Smith divides her time between motivational speaking and mentoring emerging actors at the Tasha Smith Actors Workshop (TSAW).
Michael Jai White first garnered widespread attention with his portrayal of controversial, boxing giant Mike Tyson in the HBO special Tyson. With more than two decades of experience as a martial artist, he holds a black belt in a half-dozen karate styles and has won 26 titles in competition. His well-honed skills have been employed to choreograph complex stunts in films such as On Deadly Ground.
Michael’s feature credits include Spawn, in which he played the title character, as well as The Dark Knight, Black Dynamite, 2 Days in the Valley, Breakfast of Champions, Thick As Thieves, Universal Solder: The Return, Exit Wounds and Kill Bill. His television credits include the made-for-TV movies Mutiny and Freedom Song, along with episodes of NYPD Blue, JAG, Living Single and Renegade.
Here, Tasha and Michael talk about reprising their roles as Angela and Marcus from Why Did I Get Married? on TBS’ new spinoff called Tyler Perry’s For Better or Worse, which premieres on Friday, November 25th at 10 PM ET & PT/ 9 PM CT.

Kam Williams: Hi Tasha, hi Michael. Thanks for the interview Tasha, you got married since we last spoke. Congratulations!
Tasha Smith: Awww, thank you, Kam!

KW: And Michael, the last time we spoke was when you made that karate film, Black Dynamite.
Michael Jai White: Right!

KW: Congratulations to you both on the new TV show. Are there any plans to have any characters from Why Did I Get Married? make cameo appearances on For Better or Worse?
TS: You never know, Kam. You never know. Okay?

KW: How does it feel to land your very own sitcom?
TS: We are excited about it, because Michael and I had so much fun making the movies together. So, for us now to have the TV show, Kam? Forget about it!

KW: Michael, will you be showcasing your martial arts skills on the show?
MJW: Nooooo! I would never do that. Marcus doesn’t do karate, so I wouldn’t want to remind people of the other stuff that I do.

KW: I watched the first two episodes, which I really enjoyed. But they seemed to explore very different themes from each other. Why is that?
MJW: Different things happen in different shows.
TS: The show is basically about us and our family, as well as our friends. And the early episodes are devoted to introducing all the characters and to establishing our relationships. It’s really abut the three couples and their relationships, and every once in a while it’s going to focus on us at home with the kids. Do you follow what I’m saying?

KW: Yep. How involved is Tyler Perry in the project?
TS: Let me tell you. It is his baby! He loves the show, and he loves these characters he created. He’s very passionate, very involved and very hands on because he wants to see it do well.

KW: What sort of developments can we expect to see in upcoming episodes?
TS: All I have to say is that there will be some twists and turns. The only thing I can guarantee you is that Angela and Marcus are committed to one another and will make their marriage work, for better or worse. It’s going to get funny, messy, dramatic and sexy. And it’s going to be the best show on TV!

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
TS: Kam, you know I can cook my butt off. I don’t know if Mike Jai is as good a cook as I am, but my favorite is my garlic crab dish. There is a restaurant in L.A. called Crustacean which is very famous for its garlic crab. Well, I my can make garlic crab better than Crustacean. My sauce is so good you’ll want to dip your bread in it, put it on your egg omelet, in your cereal, and in everything else.
MJW: I don’t cook. I think they named the “Mike”-rowave after me.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
MJW: Myself?
TS: I’ll answer that for him: muscles! As for me, I don’t want to get all deep and heavy, but when I look in the mirror, I see a survivor.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
TS: Taking long walks, and counting my dreams as I walked.
MJW: Being left in a hospital when I had pneumonia and the measles.
TS: Oh my God! Michael why didn’t I ever know that about you?
MJW: You never asked me the question.
TS: But we dated before! I should have known this.

KW: What was it like visiting your hometown of Camden earlier today, Tasha?
TS: It was invigorating! We went back to my old high school and to the city’s performing arts school.
MJW: She was amazing at both places. She inspired the kids so much.
TS: I also visited a childhood friend named Marvin who still lives at his momma’s house. As kids, I used to always knock on the basement window and I’d be like, “Whazzup!” when he opened it. Well, when I knocked on that window again today, his momma freaked out! [LOL] It was fun, Kam.

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
TS: Doing stuff like that, seeing old friends in Camden, and encouraging kids in the schools.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How introspective are you?
MJW: On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m about a 7.
TS: I’m a lot more introspective than one would believe.

KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?
MJW: By making everything relative, because when you weigh the good against the bad, things usually look a lot better.
TS: I could go on and on answering that question, but I’ll simply say I get through the tough times with prayer, dedication and by changing my negative thoughts.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Tasha and Michael, and best of luck with the show.
MJW: Thanks, Kam.
TS: It’s always good talking to you, Kam

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Latest Vampire Episode More Campy Than Scary

Taking a page out of the Harry Potter playbook, the soon-to-expire Twilight Saga is extending itself by splitting the last of Stephenie Meyer’s supernatural romance novels into two screen adaptations. However, the first, Breaking Dawn – Part 1, represents a striking departure from the earlier episodes, cinematically, being more of a campy soap opera than a spine-tingling horror flick.
So, instead of generating its typical tension via the fog-enshrouded specter of bloodthirsty vampires locked in combat with rabid werewolves, this cheesy spoof of the genre trades in puns and inside jokes ostensibly aimed at the legions of loyal fans of the review-proof franchise. This installment picks up where the previous one left off, namely, with the engagement of 18 year-old Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) to Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a century-old vampire able who can pass for her contemporary.
While her clueless parents (Billy Burke and Sarah Clarke) and the terminally-creepy Cullen clan have no problem with the impending wedding, the same can’t be said about teen werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) who is conspicuously-absent after losing the competition for the bride-to-be’s affection. But the rest of the couple’s high school classmates do attend, including jealous Jessica Stanley (Anna Kendrick) who does her best to ruin the reception, between spreading a vicious rumor about Bella’s already being pregnant and inappropriately suggesting during a toast that Edward should have fallen for her instead of Bella, ha-ha.
Once each of their guests has had a chance to make a wisecrack or a tongue-in-cheek remark, the newlyweds depart for a remote island near Rio de Janeiro for what’s supposed to be a magical honeymoon. Unfortunately, vampires and humans apparently weren’t meant to mate and Bella’s deflowering brings out the beast in Edward who delivers his demon seed with an unbridled passion which leaves the hotel room in shambles.
Bella soon misses her period and finds herself facing a moment of truth when she realizes that she’s carrying a rapidly-developing fetus destined to destroy her unless aborted. What to do? What to do? A cross-species cliffhanger to be answered in episode 5, although you’ll get a big hint by sticking around for a closing credits postscript.
Suggested solely for Twilight diehards, this underwhelming, unfunny melodrama amounts to little more than an uneventful setup for next year’s grand finale.

Fair (1 star)
Rated PG-13 for violence, sexuality, disturbing images, mature themes and partial nudity.
In English and Portuguese with subtitles.
Running time: 117 minutes
Studio: Summit Entertainment

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Eames: The Architect & The Painter

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Reverential Biopic Chronicles Career of Legendary Designers

Who would have ever predicted that Charles Eames (1907-1978), an architecture school dropout, and Ray Kaiser (1912-1988), an abstract artist who rarely painted, would join forces to spearhead a movement in modern design back in the Forties? But that is precisely what transpired after they married in 1941 and moved to Venice, California, where they opened an office and began creating a new style of furniture blending art and industry.
As Charles put it, “We wanted to make the best for the most for the least.” And based upon that utopian dream of providing high-quality, low-cost goods for all, they proceeded to mass-produce a variety of items, starting with their popular, plywood lounge chair. Over the years, the Eames’ empire would expand to include everything from photography and films to toys and games to houses and interiors.
A real Renaissance man and woman, they tackled projects as far afield as a splint for wounded soldiers, a solar-powered, do-nothing machine for Alcoa, and the IBM pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Yet, each new invention was still somehow stamped with the iconoclastic couple’s trademark, courtesy of their wild, whimsical approach to design.
Narrated by James Franco, Eames: The Architect & The Painter chronicles not only Charles and Ray’s storybook career, but also offers an intimate peek into their private life as well. Via a mix of archival footage and interviews with friends and colleagues, it is easy to discern that their affable public personas masked a deep desire for the privacy they routinely retreated to together. A funny sequence in the film features a disappointed dinner guest recalling having once been served an arrangement of inedible flowers instead of dessert by his eccentric hosts.
We also learn that, despite Ray’s letting Charles take all of the credit for their accomplishments as was generally expected of women in pre-feminist times, the legendary pair contributed an equal amount of brain power to the enterprise. In terms of accusations leveled by critics that they were too commercial, the Eames never saw themselves as selling out to big business, but rather as using corporations as a means of making beauty and taste available to the average person.
Another factoid worth highlighting is how Charles hated contracts, preferring to seal a deal with a handshake. Plus, the eclectic documentary is stocked with a number of catchy Eames aphorisms like, “Never delegate understanding!” And “Eventually everything connects!”
Congrats to co-directors Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey for fashioning a fascinating biopic as offbeat, engaging and readily-accessible as their endlessly-inventive subjects.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 84 minutes
Distributor: First Run Features

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Recovering Sinner Returns Favor for Guardian Angel in Raw, Redemption Drama

Tyrannosaur is a raw redemption drama revolving around a rather unusual triangle. Joseph (Peter Mullan) is a widowed, unemployed alcoholic with some serious anger management issues. If he weren’t so totally out of sorts, he probably would have thanked his lucky stars the day that Hannah (Olivia Colman) found him sprawled in a stupor outside of her second-hand clothing store.
For as a Born Again Christian, she sees it almost as her calling to minister to the needs of the least of her brethren. So, she not only brought him into the charity shop to clean him up a bit, but she even dropped to her knees to pray for his recovery.
Serving as Joseph’s self-appointed Guardian Angel, Hannah proceeds to do her best to bring the wayward sinner back onto the straight and narrow path. He only grudgingly goes along with the arrangement, not knowing exactly what to make of the kindly stranger.
What Joe doesn’t know, at least initially, is that behind the serene exterior Hannah is dealing with her own demon in the person of a physically and emotionally abusive husband (Eddie Marsan). Then James drops in to visit his wife at work unannounced one afternoon, finding her alone with Joseph. Mistakenly presuming them to be lovers, he beats her mercilessly when she returns home that evening.
The next morning, after Joe sees Hannah’s black eye and bruises, it is only natural for him to want defend her honor by playing knight in shining armor. After all, he’s already a violent-prone, macho thug given to picking fights in pubs and killing dogs for kicks.
Set in Leeds, Tyrannosaur marks the auspicious directorial debut of actor Paddy Considine, who is perhaps best known for playing the father in In America. Here, he exhibits considerable potential on the other side of the camera, spinning a relentlessly-grim yarn around a trio of tragically flawed individuals slowly being swallowed whole by the emotional quicksand of a blue-collar wasteland where there really aren’t any winners.
Salvation and redemption by way of a black eye for a black eye, and a chipped tooth for a chipped tooth!

Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 91 Minutes
Distributor: Strand Releasing

Top Ten DVD List for November 22nd

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for November 22nd

Super 8

Sarah’s Key

These Amazing Shadows: The Movies That Make America

Caldecott Favorites featuring The Snowy Day

Giving Thanks… and More Stories to Celebrate American Heritage

Nature: My Life as a Turkey

Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World [Special Edition]

The Devil’s Double

The Nickel Ride / 99 and 44/100% Dead [Double Feature]

Disney’s Prep & Landing

King of Devil's Island (NORWEGIAN)

(Kongen av Bastoy)
Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Revenge Flick Recounts Notorious Rebellion at Norwegian Reform School

Based on actual events, this character-driven, costume drama directed by Marius Holst recounts the harrowing, real-life ordeal of juvenile males isolated from civilization at Bastoy, a reform school located on a fjord outside Oslo, Norway. The story unfolds in the winter of 1915, which is when we find the institution being run by Warden Bestyreren (Stellan Skarsgard), a disciplinarian with little tolerance for lip.
The tyrannical taskmaster exacts slave labor from each of his young delinquents and is assisted in this endeavor by a loyal staff headed by his sadistic henchman, Brathen (Kristoffer Joner). Just surviving the elements on such a frozen, godforsaken tundra would be challenging enough for any teen shipped away from home, but when you throw in the dubious prescription of rehabilitation by torture you have a quite predictable prescription for disaster.
One kid who refuses to let his soul be broken is Erling (Benjamin Helstad), aka inmate C-19, even if the mistreatment might be too much for his pal, C-5, I mean, Ivar (Magnus Langlete). So, it is no surprise that it might fall to the former to incite a revolt, and what eventually ensues might best be described as a Nordic cross of Moby Dick and Escape from Alcatraz, between the desperate, aquatic jailbreak and a profusion of whale hunt allusions.
Realistic enough to give you chills, King of Devil's Island convincingly takes you back a century to a time when sparing the rod was definitely considered spoiling the child. Not exactly what I’d describe as a feelgood flick, but rather a bittersweet reminder that despite the debate surrounding the easy availability of Ritalin and Adderall, we’ve still come a long way from some less-enlightened methods of dealing with rebellious adolescents with attention-deficit issues.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
In Norwegian with subtitles.
Running time: 120 minutes
Distributor: Film Movement

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Super 8 DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Abram’s Spielberg-esque Adventure Arrives on DVD

Even Steven Spielberg would have a hard time making a movie which resembles one of his own movies as much as Super 8 does. This reverential homage was directed by J.J. Abrams, a protégé who unabashedly laced the production with allusions to Close Encounters of Third Kind, E.T., Jaws, Jurassic Park, War of the Worlds, The Goonies and other offerings by his legendary mentor.
Among the myriad motifs revisited are such Spielberg trademarks as an attempted cover-up of a burgeoning mystery, adolescents estranged from their parents, and an anthropomorphic extra terrestrial. Furthermore, many of his favorite technical devices are resurrected as well, like the employment of lens flares, foreboding flashlights and disorienting camera angles.
Luckily, because the edge-of-the-seat thriller also happens to be absolutely absorbing from beginning to end, the viewer doesn’t really have the luxury of pausing to debate whether J.J.’s borrowing of ideas amounts to a rip-off or a tribute. Another plus is the convincing chemistry generated among the gifted ensemble of mostly-unknown actors assembled to execute the riveting character-driven script.
The story unfolds during the summer of ’79 in Lillian, Ohio, a generic Midwestern metropolis. Protagonist Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is still mourning the death of his mom who perished in an industrial accident just a few months earlier.
He resists the pressure being exerted by his Deputy Sheriff father (Kyle Chandler) to attend baseball camp in favor of sticking around town to help his pal Charles (Riley Griffiths) finish shooting a zombie flick called “The Case” on Super 8. The rest of the motley movie crew is rounded out by awkward Preston (Zach Mills), equally-geeky Martin (Gabriel Basso), pyromaniac Carey (Ryan Lee) and tomboy Alice (Elle Fanning), a beauty about to blossom right before the boys’ very eyes.
The plot thickens when a passing freight train derails while they’re filming a love scene on the local station’s platform. As the children barely escape the conflagration with their lives, Charles inadvertently manages to capture some critical evidence with his camera.
Meanwhile, the citizenry is left rattled not only by the incident but by the bizarre occurrences which begin to plague their once-idyllic oasis. Soon, the military descends upon the town led by a conniving Air Force Colonel (Noah Emmerich) who eventually issues an evacuation order. That leaves it up to our resourceful youngsters to summon up the courage to save the day, which is a cinch, when you’re dealing with classic Spielberg shenanigans. Or should I say Abrams?
J.J.’s Close Encounter with E.T., Gremlins, Jaws and Jurassic Goonies.
It’s all in there!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, drug use and intense violence.
Running time: 111 Minutes
Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Blu-ray, DVD and digital copies of the film, commentary by the director, producer and cinematographer, deleted scenes, 8 behind-the-scenes featurettes, and “Deconstructing the Train Crash” documentaries.

Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Features 4th Installment of Pint-Sized Sleuth Franchise

Written and directed as usual by series creator Robert Rodriguez, Spy Kids 4 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 picture’s plot is implausible ab initio, when we find the adolescents’ 9-months 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 final time 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. And when she falls into his evil 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’s profusion of bodily function fare. A concatenation of scatological humor likely to keep only tiny tykes in stitches and howling away at a poop and fart jokes.

Fair (1 star)
Rated PG for mild action and rude humor.
Running time: 88 minutes
Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
4-Disc Combo Pack Extras: Blu-ray 3-D, blu-ray, DVD and digital copies of the film, deleted scenes, spy gadgets, an interview with director Robert Rodriguez, “Spy Kids Passing the Torch” featurette, and more.

The Story of Lovers Rock

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Nostalgic Documentary Celebrates Influential Black Brit Music Genre

Have you ever even heard of a smooth type of British music called Lovers Rock? Me either. But don’t let that stop you from checking out this alternately entertaining and educational documentary detailing the history of what was actually a very influential, if underappreciated, genre.
Directed by Barbados-born Brit Menelik Shabazz, The Story of Lovers Rock chronicles how the unique sound became the rage around London back in the Seventies. A blend of apolitical reggae and American-style R&B, it was created by the young offspring of Caribbean immigrants living in Brixton and other ghettos in England.
Signed by fledgling record companies, many of the performers soon found fame but without reaping any financial rewards, because they were routinely ripped-off by unscrupulous businessmen. (“Once you are a producer, you are a thief.”) I suppose this development was no surprise, given the long legacy of exploited black entertainers and the fact that these stars were so young, such as Louisa Mark, who had her first hit at the tender age of 14.
The victims’ tales of woe recounted here range from an admission that “I never saw a royalty statement” to overwhelming regret about being paid only a flat 6½ pounds for tunes that climbed the charts. Yet, to this day, they all still have loyal followings not only in Great Britain, but Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Australia and New Zealand.
Perhaps the movie’s most enlightening and telling history lesson lies in its delineating the enormous impact of Lovers Rock on the next generation of white British musicians. For groups from The Police to Boy George’s Culture Club to UB40 would go on to enjoy phenomenal success by incorporating a suspiciously-similar combination of reggae and soul into their ostensibly-derivative arrangements.
You can add The Story of Lovers Rock to the short list of must-see, politically-tinged documentaries which shed light on the cultural roots of a lesser-known sound, in much the same way that instant screen classics like Calypso Dreams and Buena Vista Social Club have done for Trinidad and Cuba, respectively. Three cheers to the talented Menelik Shabazz for making such a delightful, informative and thought-provoking cinematic contribution for the ages!

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 96 Minutes
Distributor: ArtMattan Productions

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kam's Kapsules: For movies opening Thanksgiving, 2011

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


Arthur Christmas (PG for rude humor) Animated, 3-D adventure revolving around the effort of Santa Claus’ (Hugh Laurie) kind-hearted, clumsy son (James McAvoy) to deliver a bicycle to a little girl (Ramona Marquez) his father accidentally forgot to leave any presents. Voice cast includes Bill Nighy, Joan Cusack, Jim Broadbent and Imelda Staunton.

Hugo (PG for mature themes, action, peril and smoking) Martin Scorsese directed this 3-D fantasy, set in the Thirties, about a 12 year-old orphan (Asa Butterfield) befriended by a toymaker (Ben Kingsley) and a fellow street urchin (Chloe Grace Moretz) while living in the walls of a Paris train station. With Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law, Jude Law, Christopher Lee and Richard Griffiths.

The Muppets (PG for mild crude humor) Miss Piggy (Eric Jacobson) and her puppet pals reunite to stage a telethon with the help of three fans (Jason Segel, Amy Adams and Peter Linz) in order to save their old theater from a greedy oil tycoon’s (Chris Cooper) wrecking ball. Cast includes Dr. Ken Jeong, Rashida Jones, Zach Galifianakis and Alan Arkin.


The Artist (PG-13 for a crude gesture and a disturbing image) Black & white film, set in Hollywood in 1927, chronicling the contrasting fortunes of a fading, silent movie star (Jean Dujardin) and an emerging ingénue (Berenice Bejo) positioned to leverage her big break in the talkies. With John Goodman, James Cromwell, Malcolm McDowell and Penelope Ann Miller.

A Dangerous Method (R for sexuality and brief profanity) Historical drama highlighting how psychiatrist Carl Jung’s (Michael Fassbender) iconoclastic protégé Sigmund Freud’s (Viggo Mortensen) unorthodox approach to treatment of a troubled young woman (Keira Knightley) led to both a complicated love triangle and the birth of psychoanalysis. With Vincent Cassel, Sarah Gadon and Andre Hennicke.

House of Tolerance (Unrated) Atmospheric adventure set in a bordello and revolving around a passive prostitute (Alice Barnole) who lets herself be disfigured by a regular client (Laurent Lacotte). With Hafsia Herzi, Celine Sallette and Jasmine Trinca. (In French with subtitles)

Romantics Anonymous (Unrated) 12-step comedy about a painfully-shy chocolatier (Benoit Poelvoorde) who falls in love with a new assistant (Isabelle Carre) suffering from the same affliction. Support cast includes Swann Arlaud, Pierre Niney and Lise Lametrie.

My Week with Marilyn (R for profanity) Strange bedfellows adventure about the unlikely set romance which blossomed between newlywed Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) and a star-struck crew member (Eddie Redmayne) during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl in September of 1956. With Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier, Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh and Dougray Scott as Arthur Miller.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Long Trip Home (BOOK REVIEW)

My Long Trip Home:
A Family Memoir
by Mark Whitaker
Simon & Schuster
Hardcover, $25.99
368 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-1-4516-2754-1

Book Review by Kam Williams

“His father, Syl Whitaker, was the charismatic grandson of slaves… His mother, Jeanne Theis, was a shy, World War II refugee from France…They met in the mid-Fifties, when he was a college student and she was his professor, and they carried on a secret romance for more than a year before marrying and having two boys…
My Long Trip Home is a reporter’s search for the factual and emotional truth about a complicated and compelling family, a son’s haunting meditation on the nature of love, loss, identity and forgiveness.”
-Excerpted from the Inside Cover Page

As Managing Editor of CNN Worldwide, Mark Whitaker is currently in charge of content and reporting for the world’s largest, global television network. Previously, he made history as Newsweek’s first African-American Editor-in-Chief.
To his credit, Whitaker has achieved his phenomenal, professional success in spite of being raised in a very dysfunctional family by parents as different as night and day, literally and figuratively. His mother, Jeanne, was in her fourth year as a French professor at Swarthmore College when she found herself being pursued by one of her students, Syl.
Since this was America in the 1950s, perhaps of more significance than their age difference was the fact that she was white, conventional and the daughter of devout Christian missionaries while he was black, immature, and a relatively-bohemian free-love advocate. Nonetheless, the unlikely couple secretly embarked on a torrid affair and wed just a couple of months after his graduation.
Unfortunately, although their union soon produced two precious sons, it would only last about a half-dozen years. For Syl had a weakness for both broads and booze. Worse, he turned into an ill-tempered lush to boot, when liquored up on the sauce.
In no uncertain terms, the abusive husband repeatedly made it clear to his wife that he considered theirs an open marriage, whether she was prepared to join him in participating in the Sexual Revolution or not. And he proceeded to imbibe and sleep around with such abandon that he torpedoed his own promising career in the process.
For instance, after being hired to head Princeton University’s newly-created Black Studies Department, he developed a reputation for propositioning colleagues’ wives and for staggering around the campus drunk, until he was finally given a severance package and shipped off to rehab. On the home front, not only was Syl a deadbeat dad after the divorce, but he was too busy making whoopee with fellow swingers even to call his sons, let alone share some quality time with them.
This makes Mark’s subsequent ascension up the corporate ladder something of a major miracle, especially given his mother’s simultaneous battle with depression as she struggled to keep a roof over her kids’ heads. Meanwhile, Mark was compensating for his anger at being abandoned by his father by acting out and overeating to the point of obesity.
Reflecting both a reporter’s painstaking attention to detail and a Prodigal’s Son’s sincere search for closure and redemption, My Long Trip Home is a riveting, revealing, and heartbreaking memoir affirming the potential of even the messiest of lives to blossom belatedly into something satisfying and beautiful.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Common: The “Happy Feet Two” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: The Dreamer, The Believer

Born Lonnie Rashid Lynn in Chicago on March 13, 1972, Common rose to prominence as one of hip-hop's most poetic and respected lyricists, having garnered multiple Grammy Awards for his first eight albums. Common's ninth, The Dreamer, The Believer, will be released in December by Warner Brothers Records.
In 2004, he partnered with fellow Chicago native and rap music mega-star Kanye West to produce the album BE, which went on to garner four Grammy Award nominations. Three years later, Common released his critically-acclaimed seventh album, Finding Forever, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Album Chart and went on to earn him another Grammy. His eighth album, Universal Mind Control, was released in 2008 and was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Rap Album.
Common’s film credits include "Smokin’ Aces," "American Gangster," "Wanted," "Terminator Salvation," "Date Night" and "Just Wright." In addition, he is set to co-star opposite Jennifer Garner next year in "The Odd Life of Timothy Green."
On TV, Common enjoys a recurring role on the AMC Network series "Hell on Wheels." He plays Elam, a freed slave who heads West in search of work on the Transcontinental Railroad in post-Civil War America.
His memoir, One Day It'll All Make Sense, was published in September by Atria Books. He is also the author of several children's books, including The MIRROR and M, its follow-up, I Like You But I Love Me, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award, and M.E. (Mixed Emotions).
In 2000, Common launched the Common Ground Foundation, with the mission to empower disadvantaged youth in urban communities by mentoring them. Here, he talks about serving as the voice of Seymour in the animated comedy Happy Feet Two.

Kam Williams: Hey Common, how you been, bro?
Common: Great! Great! How you been, Kam?

KW: Very well, thanks. Let me get right to questions sent in by fans. Judyth Piazza asks: What interested you in playing Seymour?
C: The reason why I really wanted to play Seymour was because Happy Feet Two is a family movie that can touch people of all ages. So, I saw the opportunity to be in the movie and to work with [director] George Miller, who is an incredibly talented visionary, as a great honor and blessing.

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: What is the acting process like when you’re voicing an animated character? Do you picture the character saying the words?
C: First of all, you start by finding the pulse of the character, because even though it’s animated, it still has a soul. George Miller creates characters who have heart, so you start by finding their essence. Then you bring that essence to the character, and add your imagination.

KW: Teresa Emerson asks says: You're really branching out between Seymour in Happy Feet 2 and Elam Ferguson in Hell on Wheels on AMC. What surprising role will you be tackling next?
C: God willing, I’ll be doing leading roles in some dramas, comedies and action films. My goal is to develop into a great actor.

KW: Aleesha Houston asks: Have you ever eaten at Harold’s Chicken in Chicago?
C: Of course, Aleesha! I grew up eating at Harold’s my whole life, specifically, the one that used be at 88th and Stony Island Avenue.

KW: Aleesha would also like to know, what is your fondest memory of growing up in Chicago?
C: Just enjoying time with my friends, from hanging out with the kids I grew up with, to playing basketball, to riding up and down Lake Shore Drive. Having fun!

KW: Denise Clay asks: When did you know that you had a future as a lyricist and poet?
C: I felt I had a future when I did I Used to Love H.E.R. When that was released, I was like, “Man, I really can do something.” I really felt strong about it.

KW: Jimmy Bayan says: Common, through your lyrics and your comments, you've seemed to attract a bit of controversy over the years. Being a rapper, in the past some of your lyrics have been flagged controversial. Being a father and a Christian, one could say you're a bit of a mixed bag. I'm trying to get to the essence of who Common is. Tell me how your journey has morphed you into the man you are today.
C: I put God first, and strive to do my best by being a loving human being, recognizing that sometimes I make mistakes and bad choices. But God is my guide and love is the strongest element in the mix, so I try to not judge myself too much, knowing that at the end of the day, my greatest judge will be Jehovah God.

KW: Jimmy has another question: Do you think President Obama has made a good enough effort to create jobs, balance the budget and work with the Republicans in Congress to move this country forward?
C: I think the President is doing his best to create jobs and better situations for the American people. As far as working with Republicans, I believe he’s doing what he can to make that happen.

KW: Felicia Haney says: Do you there’s something hypocritical and patently political about conservatives complaining about you being an invited guest to the White House but being silent about you starring in a children's film?
C: Yeah, their complaining about my being invited to the White House was just me getting caught up in politics. They didn’t even know who I really am.

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: You participated in the video Yes We Can. Do you think Hip-Hop was a driving force behind Obama's presidential campaign paving the way to the White House?
C: Yes, I definitely think Hip-Hop was one of the strong forces behind President Obama’s winning the election.

KW: Patricia would also like to know, what message you want the public to take away from your memoir, One Day It'll All Make Sense?
C: I just want people to feel like they can achieve something great in their lives. We all go through rough times, but love is the antidote. You’ve got to dream and just believe in yourself. And if you believe, you will achieve it.

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: To what do you attribute your ability to maintain your cool in the craziness of show business?
C: I attribute it to God, self-esteem, and knowing your purpose in life. It can’t be based on anything material or external.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Common, and best of luck with the movie, the TV show and the new album.
C: Thanks, Kam, I appreciate it.

J. Edgar

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Biopic Uncovers Skeletons in Closet of Legendary FBI Director

J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) served as director of the FBI from its founding in 1935 until his death in 1972. Over the course of that tenure, the legendary G-Man singlehandedly built the agency into an intimidating espionage and crime-fighting operation feared by gangsters and law-abiding citizens alike.
For, as his powers and spheres of influence expanded, he began directing his agents to spy not only on crooks and racketeers but on anyone he considered un-American, such as members of civil rights and anti-war organizations. And armed with the fruit of a variety of arguably unconstitutional surveillance techniques, he proceeded to stockpile a mammoth database of personal dirt to employ for purposes of blackmail, embarrassment and the leveling of veiled threats.
But while he had no problem exposing skeletons in other people’s closets, Hoover apparently went to great lengths to hide his own clandestine relationship with his constant companion of over 40 years, his Deputy Director, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). Successfully suppressing the occasional rumors that they might be lovers, the couple was only outed posthumously by New York City socialite Susan Rosenstiel.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, J. Edgar is a deliberately-paced biopic which gradually finds support for the basic contention that Hoover was, indeed, a sexually-repressed drag queen. The picture blames his latent tendencies on an overbearing mother (Dame Judi Dench) who’d cruelly discouraged him as a youngster from exploring his curiosity about cross-dressing by issuing dire warnings like, “I’d rather have a dead son than a daffodil for a son.”
This overambitious flashback flick unfolds against the backdrop of some of the FBI’s most-celebrated cases, from the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby to the bloody showdown with mobster John Dillinger to the monitoring of the movements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. However, of far more consequence here than any of these touchstones in Hoover’s career is the shadowy specter of him and his life mate secretly sharing stolen moments, whether holding hands in the back of a limo, whispering sweet nothings in each other’s ears, or enjoying makeup sex after a heated argument.
Appropriately narrated in an almost confessional tone by the title character, J. Edgar stands in sharp contrast to the dozens of previous screen portrayals of Hoover which had studiously avoided the sexual preference question. Credit iconoclastic Clint Eastwood for belatedly bringing a more balanced treatment to the screen, even if the shocking truth about such a tortured soul is apt to make audiences squirm in their seats.
Between the cross-dressing and pleas of “Please don’t leave me, Clyde!” brace yourself to see the vulnerable underbelly, literally and figuratively, of an anguished icon knocked off his pedestal.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for brief profanity.
Running time: 137 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers

Top Ten DVD List for November 15th

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for November 15th

West Side Story – 50th Anniversary Edition

It Takes a Thief – The Complete Series


Ocean of an Old Man

The Warring States

Spy Kids Triple Feature [Blu-ray]


Sea Rex 3D: Journey to a Prehistoric World [IMAX]

Assassin Creed: Lineage

Magic beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story

Honorable Mention

The Wavy Gravy Movie

Larry Crowne


Lost Everything

Bite Marks

The Littlest Angel

Dora the Explorer: Celebrate with Dora

What Women Want

Red vs. Blue – Season Nine

More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead

Leo’s Room

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Charlotte Rampling: The Look

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Legendary Actress Reflects on Life and Career in Revealing Biopic

The legendary Charlotte Rampling has been making movies since the mid-Sixties when she first stole scenes as the late Lynn Redgrave’s sidekick in Georgy Girl. Over the intervening years, she’s enjoyed high-profile roles opposite leading men like Woody Allen in Stardust Memories, Paul Newman in The Verdict and Robert De Niro in Angel Heart.
But the bilingual Brit has probably delivered her most memorable performances in such French classics as Swimming Pool and Under the Sand, and other productions which have similarly captured her compelling combination of sophistication and sex appeal. Given her remarkable ability to generate screen chemistry, it only makes sense that her biopic would be subtitled “The Look.”
Directed by Angelina Maccarone, this thought-provoking documentary offers an unusually-unguarded, cinematic portrait of a humble Hollywood icon, given the way that its 65 year-old subject was shot without any concern about finding flattering camera angles. For, you quickly see that this isn’t a superficial diva given to hiding behind costumes, makeup and cosmetic surgery, but a modest, down-to-earth soul who proudly wears her wrinkles and other indicia of her advancing age.
Consequently, of far more import here are her myriad insights shared on topics ranging from the invasive nature of fame (“Exposure is a beast, quite devouring.”) to exhibiting vulnerability (“You have to feel completely exposed to give anything worthwhile of yourself.”) to her definition of true love (“Feeling safe with someone, a shared solitude.”).
As for “The Look,” Charlotte playfully credits her heavy eyelids for her endearing sensual appeal. However, she is also quick to concede that she allows her ”animal instincts” to take over because “the camera has to be your most intimate friend” in order for each performance “to look as if it just happened, and was not thought of.”
Yet, she remains at a bit of a loss as to why she’s often been labeled “mysterious, distant, secretive and difficult to access,” but guesses that it’s likely a reflection both of what’s going on inside of her and inside of her audience, since “in cinema, you are the projection of inner things.” Regardless, whatever “it” is, this “it” girl has matured into a much-revered grand dame who’s still got it in spades.
A far more revealing look at the real Rampling than any of her nude scenes.

Excellent (4 stars)
In English, French and German with subtitles.
Running time: 98 minutes
Distributor: Kino Lorber

Friday, November 11, 2011

13 DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Remake of French Thriller Arrives on DVD

Sometimes you have to wonder why they keep foisting English-language remakes of great, little-known foreign films on the unsuspecting public. While these knockoffs might make it easy for folks who hate reading subtitles, that demographic might be better off watching a dubbed version of a sleeper than a watered-down imitation lacking sophistication and charm.
Invariably, the American version pales in comparison, and alas such is again the case with 13, a crime caper loosely based on a French masterpiece of the same name. The original was a riveting, edge-of-your-seat thriller about a down-on-his-luck roofer who was forced to participate in a high-stakes game of Russian roulette in which everyone but the winner will die.
There is considerably less tension in the 2011 edition because it isn’t tautly edited and since several contestants get to survive the ordeal. The picture squanders a big-name cast featuring Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham, 50 Cent, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Michael Shannon and Ray Winstone.
At the point of departure, we learn that the protagonist, Vince (Sam Riley), is an electrician desperate to pay his ailing father’s mounting hospital bills. After impersonating his late employer, he ends up in a mansion full of mobsters and standing in a circle of 17 guys holding pistols to each other’s heads while the sadistic gangsters place bets on who will survive each round of gunplay.
Despite a big, Hollywood budget allowing for a more grisly and more graphic, high attrition-rate adventure, it all somehow still adds up to less. Rent the original.

Fair (1 star)
Rated R for graphic violence, bloody images and brief nudity
Running time: 90 Minutes
Studio: Anchor Bay Films

The Weird World of Blowfly DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Belatedly Gives Godfather of Rap His Due

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: 90 minutes
Distributor: Indie Blitz/E1 Entertainment

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kam's Kapsules: For movies opening November 18, 2011

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening November 18, 2011


Happy Feet Two (PG for rude humor and mild scenes of peril) Animated 3-D sequel revolving around Mumbles’ (Elijah Wood) uncoordinated son (Elizabeth Daily) who runs away from home only to be befriended by a mighty flying penguin (Hank Azaria). Voice cast includes Robin Williams, Common, Pink, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Hugo Weaving.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (PG-13 for violence, sexuality, disturbing images, mature themes and partial nudity) 4th installment in the fantasy franchise finds Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) marrying and anticipating the birth of a mixed-species baby which poses a threat both to the vampire coven and riival Jacob’s (Taylor Lautner) wolf pack. With Billy Burke, Nikki Reed and Kellan Lutz.


Another Happy Day (R for pervasive profanity, sexual references, brief graphic nudity and teen drug and alcohol abuse) Dysfunctional family drama chronicling the trials and tribulations of a distraught divorcee (Ellen Barkin) when she ventures to her parents’ (George Kennedy and Ellen Burstyn) estate in Annapolis for the marriage of her estranged son (Michael Nardelli). With Kate Bosworth, Demi Moore and Thomas Haden Church.

Buried Prayers (Unrated) Holocaust documentary recounting the horrors of Maidanek, a concentration camp where ill-fated internees began burying their gold and other valuables prior to extermination to hide them from the Nazis. (In Polish and English with subtitles)

The Descendants (R for profanity and sexual references) Screen adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings’ bittersweet novel of the same name about a Hawaii land baron (George Clooney) forced to take custody of his daughters (Amara Miller and Shailene Woodley) after his estranged wife (Patricia Hastie) is left in a vegetative state by a tragic boating accident. Supporting cast includes Beau Bridges, Robert Forster and Judy Greer.

Eames: The Architect & the Painter (Unrated) James Franco narrates this benevolent biopic chronicling the life and times of Charles (1907-1978) and Ray Eames (1912-1988), the husband-and-wife team who were among America’s most influential industrial designers.

The Greater Good (Unrated) Vaccines are the subject of this incendiary documentary examining the hype and fear surrounding the polarizing question of whether childhood inoculations are safe.

In Heaven, Underground (Unrated) Holocaust documentary about the recent restoration of Berlin’s Weissensee Jewish Cemetery, created in 1880, which fell into disrepair in the wake of World War II. (In German, Hebrew, English and Russian with subtitles)

King of Devil’s Island (Unrated) Historical drama, set on a fjord near Oslo in the early 20th Century, recounting the real-life ordeal of incarcerated juvenile delinquents who plotted a violent revolt against the sadistic warden (Stellan Skarsgard) responsible for their inhumane living conditions. With Trond Nilssen, Daniel Berg and Benjamin Helstad. (In Norwegian with subtitles)

The Lie (R for profanity and drug use) Diminished dreams drama about an aspiring musician (Joshua Leonard) who reluctantly takes a 9-5 job to support the family after the birth of an unplanned baby (Violet Long) while his wife (Jess Weixler) is in law school. With Kelli Garner, Alia Shawkat and Jane Adams.

Rid of Me (Unrated) Katie O’Grady stars in this dark comedy charting the emotional breakdown and rebirth of a woman on the road to self-discovery. With John Keyser, Storm Large and Betty Moyer.

Tomboy (Unrated) Genderbending drama about a 10-year old girl (Zoe Heran) who decides to pass herself off as male to a new friend (Jeanne Disson) when her family moves to suburban Paris. With Malonn Levana, Sophie Cattani and Mathieu Demy. (In French with subtitles)

Tyrannosaur (Unrated) Redemption drama about an unemployed, alcoholic widower (Peter Mullan) with a short temper who attempts to turn his life around with the help of a devout Christian (Olivia Colman) with her own checkered past. With Eddie Marsan, Paul Popplewell and Julia Mallam.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wendy Williams: “The Wendy Williams Show” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: How You Doin’?

Born in Asbury Park, New Jersey on July 18, 1964, Wendy Joan Williams burst onto the TV landscape in July 2009 with the launch of her own nationally-syndicated talk show. Dubbed a “breakthrough in daytime” by The New York Times, “The Wendy Williams Show” is now in its third season and airs in 52 countries around the world.
“The Wendy Williams Show” is a reflection of its host; with its vibrant colors and upbeat soundtrack matching Williams’ own personality and energetic sense of humor. And the show’s focus on entertainment reflects her passion for pop culture.
By design, whenever she interviews celebrity guests, it’s from the perspective of a fan, as she asks the questions that her audience wants to hear. A lover of classic television, Williams’ style is inspired by her childhood idols like Dinah Shore and Merv Griffin.
Prior to makinf the transition to daytime television, Wendy built a devoted audience over the course of an enormously-successful 23-year run in radio. “The Wendy Williams Experience” was a top-rated, nationally-syndicated show which reached over 12 million people daily. In November of 2009, she was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame—one of only a handful of women to enjoy the honor.
Wendy recently competed on Season 12 of ABC’s smash hit “Dancing with The Stars.” Her other television credits include serving as host of Game Show Network’s original series “Love Triangle” and as a featured guest on ABC’s “One Life to Live” and Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva.”
She is also the author of the New York Times best seller The Wendy Williams Experience, as well as several novels including Ritz Harper Goes to Hollywood. Plus, she presently contributes a weekly celebrity hot topics column to the weekly entertainment magazine “Life & Style.”
A child of a teacher and a college professor, Williams earned a Bachelor’s degree in Communications with a minor in Journalism at Northeastern University, and she remains a very vocal education advocate. She credits the start of her career with the decision to take an internship at a radio station on St. Croix, Virgin Islands immediately following her graduation from college.
Wendy resides in Northern New Jersey with her husband, Kevin, and their 11 year-old son, Kevin, Jr. Here, she talks about her life and career.

Kam Williams: Hi Wendy, How you doin’?
Wendy Williams: [Laughs] How you doin’, Kam? You doing good?

KW: I’m awwwlllright! Ann-Marie Nacchio, a loyal fan of yours from Philly, told me to start the interview with “How you doin’?” because that would probably help relax you.
WW: And it did! That’s the official greeting of the show.

KW: How did being raised by two educators shape you?
WW: I know firsthand that educators are the most overworked and underpaid people around. It influenced me in that it was always about family first, and education was right next to that. There was never any question about whether I was going to college. And it was important to my parents that I get my degree in 4 years, because “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” [LOL] I will support my son in whatever he wants to do professionally, but he will go to college, too. My husband and I are in concert on that.

KW: How hard is it juggling your career and being a mom?
WW: It’s not easy. He’s in the 6th grade.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman says: First of all, how YOU doin’? I have been a fan since the days of radio and I love your Jersey Girl approach to life! You have been on radio, TV, film and authored books. Which gives you the biggest thrill?
WW: TV. It’s the best, although radio was my first love.

KW: You were certainly no stranger to controversy when you had the radio show. Do you think that might have been because you were the first African-American host to push the envelope in terms of gossip?
WW: Well, there were definitely elements of my rise in radio that had to do with my being black. But going back as far as Walter Winchell, Army Archerd and Hedda Hopper, legendary wags would grab a radio microphone and talk about what Errol Flynn and other stars were up to.

KW: Bernadette would also like to know, what is your favorite charity?
WW: Big Brothers/Big Sisters because I love helping out kids. Anything with kids.

KW: Alan Gray asks: Have you had any guests who just weren't very talkative? What do you do to try to get them to talk, and have there been any occasions where you couldn’t?
WW: No. Believe it or not, there are interesting elements in everyone. So, if I can’t talk to everybody for at least 7 to 10 minutes, then I’m in the wrong profession.

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: Do you enjoy being a shock jockette and who are some of the celebrities you most enjoyed interviewing?
WW: That’s so funny! I enjoyed being what I was in radio, which some thought of as a shock jock although, to this day, I still can’t figure out what I’ve done that’s so shocking. [LOL] As to my favorite interviews, I loved having my mother and father on. I also enjoyed talking to Elmo, who’s a puppet. I found T.I.’s trying to be extra-cool very endearing. Tyra Banks was not the diva I expected her to be. I loooooved talking to her. And Simon Cowell is a really nice guy. Yeah! He’s my fave, and he’s handsome.

KW: Irene also asks: What achievement are you most proud of, and what mountain do you still want to conquer?
WW: I’m most proud of our son, having suffered several miscarriages before having him. As for the next mountain, it takes so much to maintain what’s already going on that I don’t have time to think about it. But I want some more seasons of the TV show, I’d like to write another book, and eventually, I’d like to retire and take vacations with my husband like my mom and dad do.

KW: Professor/author/documentary filmmaker Hisani Dubose says: I would like to know, what was involved in making the transition from radio, where you aren't seen, to TV, where visibility is so important?
WW: Lipstick, foundation, a strip of lashes, and developing the ability to edit what I would normally say. I was always able to finish a thought on radio, because I had 4 hours. A one-hour TV show is only 44 minutes of programming.

KW: Film director Kevin Williams asks: What was the biggest challenge you faced in making the move from radio to TV?
WW: Finding the fine line between satisfying a daytime TV audience and an afternoon radio audience. That involved editing down my delivery to under an hour. I’ve been blessed to have great producers and a great staff to achieve that. I have a small team but they’re very efficient.

KW: Jessica Kelly says: I love your wigs Wendy, but I want to hear more about your eye make-up. It’s sooooooo hot!
WW: [Laughs] Merrell Hollis has been doing my makeup since the beginning of the show. I just close my eyes and let him do his thing. He’s a genius!

KW: Aleesha Houston asks: What's the last gift you purchased for yourself?
WW: A wig! [Giggles] I’m picking it up on Monday.

KW: Judyth Piazza asks: If you could change one thing about the entertainment industry, what would it be?
WW: More Wendy! [Roars]

KW: Teresa Emerson says: "How you doin' Wendy!" Who would you love to interview that you think may be afraid to come on your show; given your reputation for hard questions?
WW: I will take that as a rhetorical question.

KW: Lowery Gibson asks: What’s the real Wendy like, minus the wigs, makeup and "How you doin’?" Given that you had a breast endowment, do you recommend this cosmetic surgery?
WW: The real Wendy is a plain, regular girl with good skin. I do have hair, if he’s wondering about that. I have lots of witnesses to that. [Chuckles] And I’m a homebody. When I get off the phone with you, Kam, I’m going to the grocery store, because our power was out for 4 days. As for breast augmentation, I do recommend it for women over 30 who have a couple of extra dollars. But it’s not for a nutty schoolgirl who might just be doing it for a guy.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
WW: I have no answer. That’s a question I would really have to think about.

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

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
WW: Yeaaaaahhhh!

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
WW: A minute ago. I laugh all the time, loudly, with my mouth wide open, and all the way up to the tip of my wig. And I love just as hard. I only hope that people feel the passion when they watch my talk show. It comes from my soul. Kam, I can’t even describe to you what it feels like when I come through those double doors at 10 AM each morning. Sometimes, the emotions overwhelm me, and I start to cry.

KW: I heard that you’ve cried several times on the show.
WW: Please, are you making fun of me? [Laughs] I couldn’t tell you how often I’ve cried. Wendy Watchers know when it happens. And it could happen over anything. I could have something sad going on in my life… I could have my period… Women are emotional. At least I know I am.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
WW: Oh brother, here you go. If you must know, my son was reading to me from a children’s book called “Mousetrap.” The last one I read myself was “Satan’s Sisters,” Star Jones’ novel about a fictitious talk show.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?
WW: “Headlines” by Drake.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
WW: Mexican food is my absolute, #1 favorite food. But all the cutting and dicing is very time-consuming. I do like to cook a few times a week, but it’s not always that intricate with the shells and the cheese, etcetera.

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
WW: Doing the show. That 10 AM feeling when the doors open up. Forget about it! Also, my son coming home with a respectable grade on something that I know he’s worked hard on. And good health excites me, too.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
WW: I love Norma Kamali. I’m wearing Norma Kamali right now as I write my grocery list while I’m speaking to you. I’m multi-tasking.

KW: Dante Lee, author of "Black Business Secrets, asks: “What was the best business decision you ever made, and what was the worst?"
WW: I can’t narrow either one down to just one thing. I’ve rolled the dice and had both success and failure. I can tell you that right now we’re on a roll with the talk show. Everything is good with the TV show.

KW: Were you disappointed about your quick departure from Dancing with the Stars this season?
WW: I was relieved! I’m not a dancer, and it was very time-consuming. But I met great people, and it was flattering to be asked to be on. You don’t understand how demanding that show is until you’re on the inside. That is real work. Real work!

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
WW: Beauty! I’m sitting here looking in the mirror right now pushing my wig up. Wow! I look really good to be going to the grocery store. I see beauty today. Tomorrow, it might be something different. [LOL]

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
WW: For my groceries to just appear in the kitchen, so I can do what I love to do, which is turn on the TV and have myself a snack while watching the 5 O’clock News.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
WW: Believe it or not, it had to be about 1969. We were living in Asbury Park and I remember turning the TV channel back to Sesame Street from Divorce Court when I heard my mother’s heels clicking on the steps as she came down the stairs. I liked both shows.

KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
WW: It made me stronger, although I never experienced any devastating teenage angst. I wasn’t that type of girl. I was more nomadic in my younger years.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Wendy, and best of luck with the show.
WW: Thank you, Kam.