Saturday, December 31, 2011

I Don't Know How She Does It (DVD REVIEW)

I Don't Know How She Does It
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Female Empowerment Comedy Comes to DVD

Kate Reddy (Sarah Jessica Parker) is a high-powered, Boston investment banker whose boss (Kelsey Grammer) is ready to recommend his rising star for a big promotion. Trouble is the new position will involve longer hours and frequent overnight stays in New York, and the job has already been taking a toll on the stressed-out workaholic’s private life.
For instance, Kate’s 2 year-old son, Ben (Theodore and Julius Goldberg), has been bonding less with her than with his nanny (Jessica Szohr). Meanwhile, 9 year-old daughter Emily (Emma Rayne Lyle) has taken to giving her mom the silent treatment.
Even Kate’s relationship with her husband (Greg Kinnear) has grown increasingly strained, since more of the childcare has fallen on his shoulders during his wife’s climb up the corporate ladder. Nevertheless, she decides to accept the plum assignment which will have her working very closely with Jack Abelhammer (Pierce Brosnan), a dashing widower stationed in the company’s Manhattan office.
Thus unfolds I Don't Know How She Does It, a breezy, situation comedy directed by Oscar-nominee Douglas McGrath. Based on British novelist Allison Pearson’s best-seller of the same name, the film is rather reminiscent of Bridget Jones’ Diary, as it revolves around a series of pithy journal entries recounted by an introspective protagonist.
Here, however, Kate periodically shares her narrating duties with a coterie of support characters who are equally quick with the colorful quip or observational insight, especially her similarly-overstretched best friend, Allison (Christina Hendricks), her robotic assistant, Momo (Olivia Munn), and her infuriating adversary, Wendy (Busy Philipps), a spoiled-rotten, stay-at-home mom.
Most of the jokes reflect a cerebral look at life from a distinctly-female point-of-view. Typical is the instance when Momo warns Kate not to end a business email with “XO” because Jack might misread the notation as a romantic proposition. The advice is heeded, but the plot thickens anyway, when lonely Jack predictably begins to develop feelings for his fetching protégé.
Will Kate fend off his advances, or will the shuttling back and forth only place her marriage further in jeopardy? The answer ultimately proves far less pertinent than the question of whether women in general ought to be fretting about juggling the competing demands of family and career.
An intriguing feminist manifesto suggesting that trying to be more like a man might be a waste of a woman.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity and sexual references.
Running time: 90 minutes
Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: A conversation with Allison Pearson, the author of the novel on which the movie was based.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Contagion (DVD REVEIEW)

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Steven Soderbergh’s Apocalyptic Adventure Available on DVD

A decade ago, Steven Soderbergh won an Academy Award for Traffic, a multi-layered potboiler highlighting the hypocrisy and corruption permeating political bureaucracies entrusted with waging the war on drugs. Here, the iconoclastic director has fashioned another international mindbender, although the focus this go-round is on the medical community’s attempt to allay the public’s fears about a fictional outbreak of a deadly virus bubbling into a global pandemic.
Soderbergh assembled an impressive ensemble to execute his apocalyptic vision, an A-list cast featuring a quartet of Academy Award-winners in Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and Gwyneth Paltrow, as well as a trio of Oscar-nominees in Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne and Elliott Gould. Based on a sobering screenplay by Scott Z. Burns, the distressingly-realistic adventure paints a relentlessly-grim picture of the paranoia apt to accompany the rapid transmission of an inscrutable affliction imperiling the bulk of humanity.
As the film unfolds, we find corporate executive Beth Emhoff (Paltrow) fighting a cough as she flies back to Minneapolis following a business trip to Hong Kong. En route, she takes a phone call from an ex-boyfriend she apparently just shared a rendezvous with during a brief layover in Chicago.
Upon arriving home, Beth’s symptoms escalate to include a fever, seizures and finally foaming at the mouth before she succumbs to the disease in less than 48 hours. Her grieving husband (Damon) has to come to grips with his sudden loss while simultaneously worrying whether or not he and the kids (Griffin Kane and Anna Jacoby-Heron) might have somehow caught the mysterious malady.
After performing a gratuitously-gruesome autopsy, the coroner identifies the cause of death as “MEV1,” a fast-acting pathogen they’ve never seen before. Retracing Beth’s route back to Asia, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) subsequently dispatches an epidemiologist (Winslet) to Hong Kong in search of answers, although that proves a little late as the infection rate has already escalated exponentially into a planetary plague.
Soon, folks are dropping like flies in every city with less than six degrees of separation from proverbial Patient Zero, and the authorities are tempted to participate in a cover-up to prevent mass hysteria. And it falls to an intrepid internet blogger (Law) to disseminate the truth about a readily-available herbal antidote, if only he isn’t discredited for a past indiscretion.
Contagion’s complicated storyline contains a plethora of additional plot points, ranging from an avaricious pharmaceutical peddling an ineffective vaccine to a renegade scientist (Gould) being pressured to destroy the fruits of his promising research to the ethical dilemma of a CDC official (Fishburne) who selectively uses top secret information to direct his wife (Sanaa Lathan) from a hot zone to a safe haven while leaving thousands around her to perish.
Though paling in intensity to Soderbergh’s far more compelling Traffic, the convincingly-scripted and adroitly-acted Contagion nonetheless presents a chillingly-plausible peek at how quickly civilization might unravel in the face of a rapidly-accelerating, extinction-level, biological event. Not exactly a pleasant prospect to behold.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity and disturbing images.
Running time: 106 minutes
Distributor: Warner Home Video
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Digital download; False Comfort Zone: The Reality of Contagion; The Contagion Detectives; and Contagion: How a Virus Changes the World.

The 10 Best, No, the 100 Best Films of 2011

Kam’s Annual Assessment of the Cream of the Cinematic Crop

The standout flick of 2011 is The Artist, a silent love song that can nonetheless be heard by all who enjoy film. If you've been motivated to read this Top 100 list, you are undoubtedly among those devoted theatergoers I’m talking about.

The Artist not only runs silent, but also runs deep into the very soul of moviemaking, as it eloquently endeavors to entertain while simultaneously chronicling the evolution of the art form from its earliest beginnings to today's blockbusters. As such, this black & white throwback is a tour de force which earns well-deserved recognition for its unique contribution to cinema. Consequently, it would be unfair to pigeonhole such a genre-blending masterpiece, or to compare it to any of the other offerings of 2011.

The Artist aside, rather than limit my annual list just to the 10 Best offerings, I’ve expanded it, as usual, to 100, including documentaries, independents and foreign films, along with the obligatory Hollywood blockbusters. The idea is to encourage you to discover some of those lesser-known sleepers which might not have registered a blip on your radar, previously.

10 Best Big Budget Films of 2011

1. Bridesmaids

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

3. The Help

4. Super 8

5. The Lincoln Lawyer

6. Moneyball

7. Anonymous

8. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

9. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

10. War Horse

Big Budgets Honorable Mention

11. Crazy, Stupid, Love

12. Real Steel

13. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

14. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

15. Fast Five

16. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

17. Thor

18. Scream 4

19. The Ides of March

20. X-Men: First Class

21. Captain America

22. Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules

23. I Don’t Know How She Does It

24. Jumping the Broom

25. Bad Teacher

Best Foreign Films

1. Sarah’s Key (France)

2. Leap Year (Mexico)

3. Life, Above All (South Africa)

4. The Woman on the 6th Floor (France)

5. Point Blank (France)

6. Kinyarwanda (Rwanda)

7. True Legend (China)

8. Elles (France)

9. Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story (Egypt)

10. The First Grader (Kenya)

Foreign Films Honorable Mention

11. Senna (Brazil)

12. Viva Riva! (Congo)

13. King of Devil’s Island (Norway)

14. Hell and Back Again (Afghanistan)

15. Shaolin (Hong Kong)

16. Certified Copy (Italy)

17. The First Rasta (Jamaica)

18. TrollHunter (Norway)

19. Ip Man 2 (Hong Kong)

20. The Sleeping Beauty (France)

21. The Carrier (Zambia)

22. Le Havre (France)

23. I Saw the Devil (Korea)

24. Amigo (Philippines)

25. Special Treatment (France)

10 Best Independent Films

1. Drive

2. Melancholia

3. Art History

4. Gabi on the Roof in July

5. Shame

6. Midnight in Paris

7. The Debt

8. Courageous

9. I Will Follow

10. Trust

Independent Films Honorable Mention

11. My Reincarnation

12. Martha Marcy May Marlene

13. The Descendants

14. Silver Bullets

15. Meek’s Cutoff

16. Hello, Lonesome

17. London River

18. Albert Norris

19. The Grace Card

20. Tyrannosaur

21. Pariah

22. The Iron Lady

23. Spork

24. Fire in Babylon

25. Bellflower

10 Best Documentaries

1. Charlotte Rampling: The Look

2. Eames: The Architect and the Painter

3. Chasing Madoff

4. Dear Daddy

5. Carbon Nation

6. Hey Boo: Harper Lee and “To Kill a Mockingbird”

7. The Blackpower Mixtape 1967-1975

8. Crime after Crime

9. Orgasm, Inc.

10. Tabloid

Documentaries Honorable Mention

11. Thunder Soul

12. Forks over Knives

13. Beware of Christians

14. Rejoice & Shout

15. Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune

16. Fear of a Black Republican

17. Into the Abyss

18. Rebirth

19. Muhammad Ali 1973-1974

20. Sarah Palin: You Betcha!

21. The Interrupters

22. Under the Boardwalk

23. The Story of Lovers Rock

24. America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments

25. Undefeated

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 1-6-12

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening January 6, 2012


The Devil Inside (R for profanity, disturbing images, grisly violence and sexual references) Found-footage horror flick about a young woman (Fernande Andrade) who enlists the assistance of two priests (Simon Quarterman and Evan Helmuth) to conduct an exorcism on her mother (Suzan Crowley) at the hospital for the criminally insane where the demon-possessed murderer has been locked up since committing to a triple slaying back in 1989. With Ionut Grama, Bonnie Morgan and Brian Johnson.


Beneath the Darkness (R for violence and profanity) Suspense thriller about four teenagers (Tony Oller, Aimee Teegarden, Stephen Lunsford and Devon Werkheiser) whose grim discovery at the local funeral home makes them the target of a sadistic mortician (Dennis Quaid) who will stop at nothing to keep his secret buried. With Brett Cullen, Dahlia Waingort and Wilbur Penn.

It’s about You (Unrated) Rockumentary road flick, shot on Super 8 film, chronicling John Mellencamp’s 2009 studio sessions and summer concert tour where he shared the bill with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson.

Norwegian Wood (Unrated) Romance drama, set in Tokyo in 1969, about a Beatles fan (Ken’ichi Matsuyama) torn between dating a cute, college classmate (Kiko Mizuhara) and the emotionally-unavailable ex-girlfriend (Rinko Kikuchi) of a pal (Kengo Kora) who recently committed suicide. With Yuki Ito, Eriko Hatsune and Takao Handa. (In Japanese with subtitles)

Once upon a Time in Anatolia (Unrated) Fact-based drama about a posse formed to search the grasslands outside the town of Ceskin for the body of a murder victim (Erol Eraslan) buried alive by a couple of inebriated brothers (Burhan Yildiz and Firat Tanis). With Muhammet Uzuner, Yilmaz Erdogan and Taner Birsel. (In Turkish with subtitles)

Roadie (R for drug use and pervasive profanity) Prodigal Son drama about an aging roadie (Ron Eldard) who retires after 20 years working for the rock group Blue Oyster Cult to return to his childhood home in Queens to care for his ailing mom (Lois Smith). With David Margulies, Bobby Cannavale, Jill Hennessy and Suzette Gunn.

The Fine Wine of Aging (BOOK REVIEW)

The Fine Wine of Aging:
7 Habits of Forever Youthful People
by Angela M. Bryan, MPA/RD
Paperback, $6.99
50 pages
ISBN: 978-1-466396-98-2

Book Review by Kam Williams

“Many people confuse aging with getting older… Everyone grows older with time. It’s just a part of living… But aging is a progressive and gradual change in the physiological functions [of] the body and mind…Aging is gradually being unable to do everything you did when you were younger.
The fine wine of aging is the ability to control and support the internal environment of your body and your mind to such an extent that, as the chronological age increases, the physiological and metabolic functions are maintained or improved… In other words, the fine wine of aging is being able to do most of the things you did when you were younger, as you grow older.”
 Excerpted from Chapter Two - “What Is Aging” (pgs. 4-5)

The dawn of a new year generally marks the moment when most people pause to take stock of their lives before making an annual list of self-improvement resolutions. And for many us, that means a rededication to issues revolving around health and/or weight loss.
For that reason, a how-to book like The Fine Wine of Aging might come in handy right about now. This compact primer on delaying the aging process was written by Angela Bryan, a registered dietician who works for USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services Department.
Over the course of her career, the author has encountered a number of folks from all walks of life “who look and feel 10-20 years younger than their chronological age.” Upon asking them to share their secrets, lo and behold, she discovered that they had a lot in common, and distilled the essence of their daily regimen to the 7 habits which serve as the basis for this opus.
Ranging from eating healthily to exercising regularly to going to bed early to drinking plenty of water to breathing fresh air to maintaining one’s balance to minimizing stress, they sort of sound like common sense except they are actually easier said than done in this high-pressure age of over-scheduling and incessant demands which must often be met while on the run.
In sum, hats off to Ms. Bryan for providing a viable game plan for anyone really ready to walk the walk rather than merely talk the talk when it comes to this year’s resolutions. Fair warning: the successful anti-aging formula calls for summoning the willpower suggested in the Biblical message of John 13:17: “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hector Elizondo: The “New Year’s Eve” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Mondo Elizondo!

Born in New York City on December 22, 1936, Hector Elizondo first gained recognition on the New York stage for his Obie Award-winning portrayal of God in "Steambath." He went on to garner praise for his work on Broadway in Neil Simon's "The Prisoner of Second Avenue," "The Great White Hope," and "Sly Fox," for which he received a Drama Desk Award nomination, as well as the revival of Arthur Miller's "The Price."
Hector was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and an American Comedy Award for his performance in Garry Marshall's mega-hit "Pretty Woman." He has worked with Marshall in all of the director's films, beginning with "Young Doctors in Love" and going on to include "The Flamingo Kid," "Nothing in Common," "Runaway Bride," "The Princess Diaries" and "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement" and last year's hit "Valentine's Day." And his additional film credits include "Love in the Time of Cholera," "Music Within," "Tortilla Soup," "Necessary Roughness," "American Gigolo" and the original version of "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three," to name a few.
Hector won an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Dr. Phillip Watters on CBS's "Chicago Hope." During his half-dozen seasons on the show, he received 3 additional Emmy nominations and a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series. He also received an Emmy nomination for his role in the telefilm "Mrs. Cage."
Currently, he can be seen in the ABC comedy hit "Last Man Standing" starring Tim Allen. Here, he talks about his latest outing as Kominsky in Garry Marshall’s holiday-themed ensemble comedy, “New Year’s Eve,”

Kam Williams: Hi Hector, thanks for the interview.
Hector Elizondo: My pleasure, Mr. Williams.

KW: Normally, I start by asking an actor what interested them in the picture or why they wanted to work with the director, but there’s no need in this case, given your long relationship with Garry Marshall. You’ve appeared in all of his films. How did the two of you start collaborating?
HE: It goes back to about 1979. He knew me before I knew him. [Chuckles] I had no idea who he was but he knew who I was because I’d been working on the stage and in movies for about 20 years. We met playing basketball in a pickup game with a bunch of other older guys from New York. We hadn’t been introduced, but this guy with wrapped knees was guarding me and sticking to me like Velcro. And when I tried to whip a behind-the-back pass to a teammate, something happened. So, the first time I met Garry Marshall was right after I almost knocked his teeth out. The ball hit him in the chops and that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. New Year’s Eve is our 17th film together.

KW: Wow! Which one of his movies would you say is your favorite?
HE: The first one, Young Doctors in Love. We had as much fun as you could have making a movie.

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles asks: How hard was it to come up with Kominsky’s Eastern European accent in New Year’s Eve?
HE: Not hard at all. It was my 6th or 7th time with that accent. I do many accents, everything from Japanese to Russian to Middle-Urdu, for God’s sake. In the case of Kominsky, we invented this character, because he wasn’t in the script. We had to figure him out. He brings the light to the dark, so he’s sort of like the cavalry that saves the day. So, we decided that he was a whistleblower who had been fired because he warned that the ball in Times Square was going to get stuck someday. Sure enough, it happens, and they have to call him back to fix it.

KW: The film has so many stars in it. Who’d you get to do scenes with?
HE: Hilary Swank, who was terrific. Absolutely sensational! I can’t say enough about her.

KW: What’s up next for you?
HE: A half-hour sitcom with Tim Allen called Last Man Standing. It airs Tuesday nights at 8 PM.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
HE: Yeah, what did you really want to do before you became an actor?

KW: Okay, what did you really want to be when you grew up?
HE: I wanted to play baseball for one of New York’s major league teams: the Yankees, the Giants or the Dodgers. Or else I wanted to play jazz or become a schoolteacher. But life didn’t lead me that way. I was introduced to the theater, and that hooked me. I landed my first professional acting job in 1960.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
HE: Now that’s a good question. I won’t tell you the joke, but last week I heard a good St. Peter at the Pearly Gates joke that was great because it recalibrated me and brought me back into focus.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
HE: Dark chocolate.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
HE: John Updike’s collection of short stories called “My Father's Tears.”

But I have very eclectic tastes, and I’m always reading several books at once. I’m also reading the essays of Montaigne.

And an upcoming novel by my friend, Robert Kalich called “The Investigation of Ariel Warning.”

And I also just finished the Haruki Murakami novel “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.” He’s a wonderful writer.

And Susan Jacoby’s “The Age of American Unreason.”

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to?
HE: The String Quartets of Philip Glass. They’re stunning. I keep replaying them and I discover something new every time. I love chamber music. To me, it’s the purest form of music.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
HE: I’m very monk-like. I can make do with a bowl of brown rice with veggies and grilled chicken with a little hot sauce on it, as long as I can have it with a glass of Cabernet or Pinot Noir. I can’t eat dinner without drinking a little red wine. I’m a cheap date! [Laughs]

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
HE: I see someone who should be having a better time than he is.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
HE: To get my knees back.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
HE: Suckling on the big, brown nipple of a wet nurse, when I was about 3 years-old. My father couldn’t get over the fact that I remembered that.

KW: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
HE: Right now, it’s a guy named Memo Becerra.

KW: Dante Lee, author of "Black Business Secrets,” asks: What was the best business decision you ever made, and what was the worst?
HE: [LOL] I’m not much of a businessman. My best business decision was to be conservative and not try to make a killing in the stock market. My worst business decision was as young kid when I was working in a mailroom and I didn’t listen to my boss’ suggestion to buy a few hundred dollars’ worth of stock in a company called Xerox.

KW: The Judyth Piazza questions: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
HE: Empathy.

KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
EH: I was a very sickly kid. I sent away for a Charles Atlas booklet for 98-pound weaklings I saw advertised in the back of a comic book. It took a lot of work, but that gave me the confidence I needed.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: What is your favorite charity?
HE: Planned Parenthood, Human Rights Watch and the IRC, International Rescue Committee.

KW: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
HE: Not succumbing to materialism.

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
HE: Art… a great painting… new ideas… new music… the curve of a woman’s calf… shapely hips… Serena Williams. [LOL]

KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?
HE: My father. My dad was my hero, a working-class guy who came here during The Depression and just did the right thing. He was an old-fashioned, unsung hero who always put food on the table.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
HE: As someone who stood up to be counted when it really mattered.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Hector. I really appreciate it. And best of luck with both New Year’s Eve and Last Man Standing.
HE: I loved it, man. Take care of yourself, Kam.

Friday, December 23, 2011


Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Latent Lesbian Summons Courage in Out-of-the-Closet Drama

17 year-old Alike (Adepero Oduye) has been hiding a big secret from her parents, namely, that she’s gay. But that fact is becoming more and more difficult for the latent lesbian to suppress, given the raging hormones which have her yearning for a girlfriend.
Lately, she has struck up a Platonic friendship with Laura (Pernell Walker), a high school classmate who is already out of the closet. This development doesn’t sit well with her mom, Audrey (Kim Wayans), who is so deep in denial that she doesn’t recognize any of the telltale signs of her daughter’s sexual preferences, such as frequenting a gay bar.
Instead, the meddling mom tries to discourage Alike from hanging out with a bull dyke named Laura by introducing her to Bina (Aasha Davis), a girl she presumes to be straight. But the best laid plans often go astray, since there’s such a thing as lipstick lesbians. And sparks fly when the two hit off.
As the truth emerges, Alike’s home situation grows increasingly uncomfortable, between her Bible-thumping mother and her police officer father (Charles Parnell) who doesn’t like the rumors he’s hearing down at the local liquor store. Soon, the poor kid has no safe harbor, and has to negotiate her way daily down a rough block in Brooklyn marked by intolerance of her homosexuality.
Is it any wonder then that she might feel like a pariah, a social outcast struggling to find acceptance. Pariah is also the title of this semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age drama directed by Dee Rees. Although the picture does feature a number of superficial parallels to Precious, it is in no way derivative, and addresses a very different theme of equal import to the black community.
A sobering look at what it might very well be like to grow up lesbian in the ‘hood.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for profanity and sexuality.
Running time: 86 minutes
Distributor: Focus Features

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Cruise and Company Go Undercover for Dangerous Assignment in Russia

Before he could intercept a courier carrying the activation codes for Russia’s nuclear devices, an American spy (Josh Hollaway) is slain in Budapest, Hungary by a blonde assassin (Lea Seydoux). She was working on behalf of Cobalt (Michael Nyst), a person of interest whose identity can only be determined by infiltrating top secret files located inside the Kremlin.
That dangerous assignment is accepted by the latest crack IMF team assembled by Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) with the usual understanding that the secretary will disavow any knowledge of its existence if they are killed or captured. So, when a detonation by Cobalt destroys the Kremlin during the operation and America ends up accused of the bombing, the President of the United States has no choice but to issue a Ghost Protocol declaring them rogue agents.
This leaves Hunt and company blamed for the attack, and the only way they can clear their names is by tracking down the real culprit and retrieving the codes before he can trigger a weapon of mass destruction. That, in a nutshell, is the premise of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, the fourth and arguably finest installment yet in the international espionage series.
Directed by Brad Bird (Ratatouille), the picture ups the ante in terms of state-of-the-art gadgetry and eye-popping feats on land, sea and in the air. Besides the visual capture of action unfolding against breathtaking backdrops of exotic locales as far afield as Moscow, Dubai and Mumbai, the production has been blessed with a plot compelling enough to hold your attention for its duration.
A mature Tom Cruise is in top form here, displaying a relatively-sophisticated savoir faire in lieu of the easy boyish charm that’s served him so well in the past. His talented supporting cast includes Simon Pegg who offers comic relief, periodically, as his bumbling, new sidekick, Benji Dunn. And joining them for the roller coaster ride are Paula Patton as sultry Agent Jane Carter, and Jeremy Renner as William Brandt, an IMF bureaucrat pressed back into field duty by unusual circumstances.
Michelle Monaghan and Ving Rhames reprise their roles as Hunt’s wife, Julia, and his best friend, Luther, respectively, but only in blinked and you missed it cameo appearances. Regardless, nostalgia is not the reason to check out this action flick, which is all about the death-defying stunts designed to have you scratching your head while wondering, “How the heck did they do that?”
A welcome addition to a beloved, film franchise which, like a fine wine, is only improving with age.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence and intense action sequences.
Running time: 132 Minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Top Ten DVD List for December 27th

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for December 27th

Looney Tunes Golden Collection: 1-6

The First Grader

Happiness Is Peanuts: Friends Forever

Jane’s Journey

Final Destination 5

A Good Old Fashioned Orgy

Jersey Shore – Season Four

Dora Loves Boots

Hostel: Part III

Apollo 18

Blacktrospective 2011

by Kam Williams

Headline: Kam’s Annual Assessment of the Best in Black Cinema

2011 proved to be another banner year in black cinema, with The Help emerging as the cream of the crop. Even though the adaptation of the Kathryn Stockett best-seller had detractors like Professor Melissa Harris-Perry questioning the historical accuracy of its depiction of Mississippi maids in the Sixties, there’s no denying that Viola Davis delivered an Oscar-worthy performance as the movie’s lead character, Aibileen Clark.
In terms of male leads, Vin Diesel was the best of the bunch in this critic’s opinion. I just hope the ethnically-ambiguous matinee idol doesn’t mind being branded a brother.
A number of excellent offerings were shot over in Africa, most notably Kinyarwanda (Rwanda) and Life, Above All (South Africa). Then there’s Pariah, a gritty, dysfunctional family drama ostensibly inspired by Precious (2009), as it is set in the ‘hood in New York City and features a comedienne (Kim Wayans) cast against type as a monstrous, child-abusing mother.
Finally, as far as documentaries, Dear Daddy by perennial fave Janks Morton gets the nod, which has me wondering when other filmmakers will figure out how to capture sisters so beautifully on camera and in such an emotionally-searing fashion. []

Ten Best Black Feature Films

1. The Help
2. Life, Above All
3. Kinyarwanda
4. I Will Follow
5. Pariah
6. The Grace Card
7. Mooz-Lum
8. Madea’s Big Happy Family
9. Trinity Goodheart
10. Jumping the Broom

Best Black Documentaries

1. Dear Daddy
2. The Blackpower Mixtape 1967-1975
3. Thunder Soul
4. Rejoice & Shout
5. Fear of a Black Republican
6. Muhammad Ali 1973-1974
7. The Interrupters
8. America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments
9. Undefeated
10. Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain

Best African Films

1. Life, Above All
2. Kinyarwanda
3. The First Grader
4. Viva Riva!
5. The Carrier

Best Actor (Lead Role)

1. Vin Diesel (Fast Five)
2. Ken Bevel (Courageous)
3. Oliver Litondo (The First Grader)
4. Tyler Perry (Madea’s Big Happy Family)
5. Eric Benet (Trinity Goodheart)
6. Eddie Murphy (Tower Heist)
7. Laz Alonso (Jumping the Broom)
8. Evan Ross (Mooz-Lum)
9. Mike Higgenbottom (The Grace Card)
10. Mutsari Jean (Kinyarwanda)

Best Actor (Supporting Role)

1. Anthony Mackie (The Adjustment Bureau)
2. Lou Gossett, Jr. (The Grace Card)
3. Bow Wow (Madea’s Big Happy Family)
4. Anthony Mackie (Real Steel)
5. Jamie Foxx (Horrible Bosses)
6. Derek Luke (Captain America: The First Avenger)
7. Laurence Fishburne (Contagion)
8. Tyrese Gibson (Transformers: Dark of the Moon)
9. DeRay Davis (Jumping the Broom)
10. Isaiah Mustafa (Madea’s Big Happy Family)

Best Actress (Lead Role)

1. Viola Davis (The Help)
2. Khomotso Manyaka (Life, Above All)
3. Salli Richardson-Whitfield (I Will Follow)
4. Adepero Oduye (Pariah)
5. Nia Long (Mooz-Lum)
6. Erica Gluck (Trinity Goodheart)
7. Naomie Harris (The First Grader)
8. Loretta Devine (Madea’s Big Happy Family)
9. Cassandra Freeman (Kinyarwanda)
10. Paula Patton (Jumping the Broom)

Best Actress (Supporting Role)

1. Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids)
2. Nicole Beharie (Shame)
3. Kim Wayans (Pariah)
4. Octavia Spencer (The Help)
5. Aasha Davis (Pariah)
6. Angela Bassett (Jumping the Broom)
7. Beverly Todd (I Will Follow)
8. Sanaa Lathan (Contagion)
9. Gabourey Sidibe (Tower Heist)
10. Lauren London (Madea’s Big Happy Family)

Best Director (Feature Film)
1. Steve McQueen (Shame)
2. Alrick Brown (Kinyarwanda)
3. Ava Duvernay (I Will Follow)
4. Dee Rees (Pariah)
5. Qasim Bashir (Mooz-Lum)

Best Director (Documentary)

1. Janks Morton (Dear Daddy)
2. Menelik Shabazz (The Story of Lovers Rock)
3. Darryl Roberts (America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments)
4. T.J. Martin and Dan Lindsay (Undefeated)
5. Tim Story & Leslie Small (Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain)

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

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


The Iron Lady (PG-13 for violent images and brief nudity) Meryl Streep impersonates imperious Margaret Thatcher in this intimate portrait recounting the private life and political career of the former Prime Minister of Great Britain. With Jim Broadbent, Anthony Head and Iain Glen.


Angels Crest (R for profanity and sexuality) Dysfunctional family drama chronicling the blame game played in the wake of the accidental death of a toddler (Ameko Eks Mass Carroll) as his estranged parents (Thomas Dekker and Lily Collins) and members of their tight-knit community try to make sense of the tragedy. With Jeremy Piven, Mira Sorvino, Elizabeth McGovern, Marty Antonini, Dave Brown and Gillian Carfra.

Pariah (R for sexuality and profanity) Shades of Precious abound in this coming out drama, set in Brooklyn, about another monstrous mother’s (Kim Wayans) mistreatment of her troubled, teenage daughter (Adepero Oduye). With Charles Parnell, Aasha Davis and Pernell Walker.

A Separation (PG-13 for mature themes) Marital crisis drama revolving around a feminist (Leila Hatami) who files for divorce in order to raise her daughter (Sarina Farhadi) anywhere but Iran over the objection of a husband (Peyman Maadi) who wants her to stay to help care for his father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi) suffering from Alzheimer’s. (In Persian with subtitles)

El Sicario: Room 164 (Unrated) Good cop/bad cop documentary featuring the shocking confessions of Chihuahua’s former chief of police who admits to killing hundreds of people while moonlighting as a hit man for a Mexican drug cartel. (In Spanish with subtitles)


New York, NY (December 20, 2011) – The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC) has voted “THE HELPBest Film of 2011, Dee Rees Best Director for “PARIAH”, Viola Davis Best Actress for “THE HELP” and Olivier Litondo Best Actor for “THE FIRST GRADER”.  The announcement was made by today by Mike Sargent, co-president, BFCC.  Votes were cast and tabulated in NY at the organization’s annual meeting on December 19, 2011.

Recognizing achievements in theatrical motion pictures, the BFCC awarded prizes in 13 categories including best picture, best director, original and adapted screenplay, best actor, best actress, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, best animated feature, best independent film, best documentary feature, best foreign film and best ensemble. Special Signature awards are also given to industry pioneers and rising stars.
“This year was a very engaging one in cinema,” says Sargent.  “Both commercial and independent fare illustrated the continued ability of Hollywood to entertain, spotlight new talent, show fresh perspectives and move audiences.  Congratulations to all of the winners.”

The complete list of award winners include:

Best Picture - THE HELP
Best Director - Dee Rees for PARIAH
Best Actor - Olivier Litondo for THE FIRST GRADER
Best Actress - Viola Davis for THE HELP
Best Supporting Actor - Albert Brooks for DRIVE
Best Supporting Actress - Octavia Spencer for THE HELP
Best Independent Film - PARIAH
Best Original Screenplay - Dee Rees for PARIAH
Best Adapted Screenplay - Tate Taylor for THE HELP
Best Documentary - BEING ELMO: A Puppeteer's Journey
Best Foreign Film - LIFE, ABOVE ALL
Best Animated Film - RANGO
Best Ensemble - THE HELP

BFCC Signature Awards include:

Pioneer - Harry Belafonte
A renaissance artist who brought his unique talent to all areas of entertainment in a career that has spanned nearly 60 years, Belafonte is a multi-Grammy© winning artist, an Emmy© Award winner with the distinct designation as the first African American television producer, a Tony© Award winner, motion picture film actor and producer, Civil Rights Activist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. From his music, films, and humanitarian work, Harry Belafonte has continued to embody the very essence of the word Pioneer.

Rising Star - Adepero Oduye
Adepero’s performance in PARIAH is a moving, powerful unforgettable portrayal of a young woman of color coming to terms with herself, her sexuality, and her family. We believe she is truly a Talent to Watch.

Special Mention - Attack the Block:
Attack is a genre film that defies a number of conventions, not only by having a primarily black cast but portraying each character with a dignity seldom seen on screen and even more rarely in a Science-Fiction film.

BFCC's Top ten films of 2011

1. The Help
2. The Artist
3. Pariah
4. Drive
5. The Descendants
6. Attack the Block
7. Tree of Life
8. Hugo
9. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
10. Warrior

Founded in 2010, the Black Film Critics Circle is a membership organization comprised of film critics of color from daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, magazines, radio, television and qualifying on-line publications.  The organization is dedicated to honoring excellence of professionals in the theatrical motion picture industry in U.S. and World Cinema.  Its   mission is to celebrate contributions and achievements in film by people of the black Diaspora who work in front of and behind the camera, maintain the integrity of a true Critics organization and advance a collective vision of journalists of the black Diaspora.  BFCC assists in the development of new talent in the field of entertainment journalism through educational opportunities, mentoring and strategic partnerships and raises awareness of the significance of black film and black film history as a critical part of film culture and preservation.  The organization meets annually in December to vote on the year’s films.  BFCC’s Founding Members are journalists Mike Sargent (WBAI-FM NY/, Wilson Morales (, and Shawn Edwards (WDAF-TV Fox Affiliate Kansas City, MO).

For more information, visit us online @ or visit us on Facebook @

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cynthia Addai-Robinson: The “Spartacus: Vengeance” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Cynthia’s Synergy!

Born in London, to a mother from Ghana and a father from America, Cynthia Addai-Robinson was raised in the U.S. by her mom in a suburb of Washington, DC. A graduate of NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts with a degree in Theater, the emerging ingénue’s TV credits include guest starring roles on such shows as “CSI: NY,” “CSI: Miami,” and “Numbers.” Her recent recurring roles include F/X’s “Dirt “and ABC’s “Flash Forward,” while on the big screen she most recently appeared opposite Zoe Saldana in Columbiana.
Presently, Cynthia is joining the cast of the Starz Networks’ hit series “Spartacus: Vengeance.” The season will open on the heels of the bloody escape from the House of Batiatus that concluded "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," as the gladiator rebellion continues and begins to strike fear into the heart of the Roman Republic.
Gaius Claudius Glaber and his Roman troops are sent to Capua to crush the growing band of freed slaves that Spartacus leads before it can inflict further damage. Spartacus is presented the choice of satisfying his personal need for vengeance against the man that condemned his wife to slavery and eventual death or making the larger sacrifices necessary to keep his budding army from breaking apart. Containing all of the blood-soaked action, exotic sexuality, and villainy and heroism that has come to distinguish the series, the tale of Spartacus resumes in epic fashion.
On the show, Cynthia assumes the role of “Naevia,” a slave girl/lady in waiting captured in the first season who is rescued only to be engulfed by the main love story with Crixus (Manu Bennett). Here, Cynthia talks about Spartacus’ upcoming season which is set to begin on January 27, 2012.

Kam Williams: Hi, Cynthia, thanks for the interview.
Cynthia Addai-Robinson: It is my pleasure, Kam.

KW: Congratulations on joining the cast of Spartacus What interested you in doing the show?
CAR: I was really excited to be a part of something that is really edgy and innovative in the world of television. The time period that Spartacus takes place in has some really great storylines and high-stakes drama, so that was something I was really excited to sink my teeth into.

KW: Tell me a little about your character?
CAR: I play the role of Naevia, a former slave in the house of Batiatus. We last saw her in Season One, being cast out of the house under very strenuous circumstances. This season we find out what has happened to her since.

KW: How is the role of Naevia going to be expanded in the upcoming season?
CAR: I wish I could tell you! The writers have put together a great season with a lot of surprises, so you'll have to tune in to find out.

KW: What would you says is the message of the show?
CAR: The great thing about really heightened historical dramas like Spartacus is that they can convey much larger themes. This season is called Spartacus: Vengeance, which is the focus of a lot of the storylines this year. But I think the series delivers some really moving and powerful messages about fighting for freedom and the right to exist on your own terms, no matter what the cost.

KW: You were born in England, but raised in the U.S. by a mother from Ghana and an American father. Which of those countries do you identify with?
CAR: I identify with all three! I feel comfortable in the US, the UK and in Ghana. They are all home to me in some way.

KW: You had formal acting training at NYU. Do you recommend that route for aspiring actors?
CAR: All actors have their own unique path when it comes to the development of their training and careers. I had a good experience at NYU, and my training is the foundation of the work I do. But there are plenty of actors who don't have formal training and just have "it". I think training is helpful, but so is living a well-rounded life full of different experiences.

KW: Which do you prefer performing on the stage, on TV or in film?
CAR: I love performing in any medium, and more the opportunities you have to vary things, the more you learn.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
CAR: Ha ha, if they haven't asked then they probably don't want to know.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
CAR: All the time, but I don't see that as a bad thing. I had many moments when I was afraid shooting this season of Spartacus, but I can happily report that I surprised myself and managed to overcome my fear every time.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
CAR: I am very happy!

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
CAR: Playing "The Michael Jackson Experience" with friends and family this Thanksgiving.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
CAR: Pop music. I listen to a wide variety of music of all genres, but sometimes you just need a cheesy pop song.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?
CAR: "Forever" by Little Dragon, an amazing band out of Sweden.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
CAR: “At Home: A Short History of Private Life” by Bill Bryson, a book about the history and development of the modern day house.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
CAR: My repertoire is small, but I can make a pretty tasty pasta sauce from scratch.

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
CAR: Music excites me, inspires me, fuels me! I listen to music every single day.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
CAR: I'm really liking Derek Lam right now, but my style changes depending on my mood.

KW: Dante Lee, author of "Black Business Secrets, asks: What was the best business decision you ever made, and what was the worst?
CAR: The best decision I ever made was to invest in myself, both financially and time-wise. The worst? I can't think of one, but even bad decisions usually result in good lessons learned.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
CAR: A work in progress.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
CAR: Ten more wishes!

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
CAR: Spending time with my mother.

KW: The Pastor Alex Kendrick question: When do you feel the most content?
CAR: When the sun is shining, the right song is on, and I'm with people I love.

KW: The Toure question: Who is the person who led you to become the person you are today?
CAR: Without a doubt, my mother. I learned how to be a woman and a good person just by watching and observing her.

KW: The Judyth Piazza questions: How do you define success? And, what key quality do you believe all successful people share?
CAR: I would define success as setting a goal for yourself and then accomplishing it. I think successful people set out to do something and then just do it. They know before they accomplish their goal that they will, in fact, accomplish it.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
CAR: Surround yourself with good people that keep you grounded, work hard, and be patient.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
CAR: As someone who tried their best and hopefully succeeded.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Cynthia, and best of luck with the show.
CAR: Thank you, Kam!

Top Ten DVD List for December 20th

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for December 20th

Midnight in Paris

Beware of Christians

Dolphin Tale

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

Margin Call


Monica & David

Two Minutes to Glory

Catch .44

Bobby Fischer against the World

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Fincher Makes First-Rate Adaptation of Grisly Swedish Crime Saga

Mikael Blomqvist (Daniel Craig) resigns from his position as editor of Millennium Magazine after being unable to substantiate the incendiary allegations he’d made about a corrupt billionaire (Ulf Friberg). Fortuitously, the disgraced journalist is soon secretly approached by an intermediary representing recently-retired industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to investigate the mysterious murder of his beloved niece, Harriet (Moa Garpendal), back in 1966.
Mikael jumps at the job offer, since his desire to escape the media circus surrounding him in Stockholm conveniently dovetails with the aging patriarch’s need to reopen the case right on location at the family’s secluded estate where Harriet had disappeared into thin air. An additional incentive is Henrik’s promise to provide the proof necessary to overturn the libel conviction.
So, straightaway, Mikael moves up to the remote island of Hedestad in northern Sweden, and starts sifting through the boxes of 40 year-old evidence. After unearthing an array of sordid skeletons in the Vanger family closet ranging from anti-Semitism to sadomasochism, he realizes that he sure could use the help of an assistant, and takes Henrik’s suggestion that he collaborate with Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a brilliant, if bizarre-looking, computer whiz.
Mikael is willing to pardon the young hacker’s tattoos, multiple piercings and punked-out hairstyle because of her passion about catching any creep who’d harm a female. And her technical skills do prove to be the perfect complement to Henrik’s uncanny ability to interview surviving witnesses despite their putting on aristocratic airs. Still, not surprisingly, the closer they come to solving the mystery, the more dangerous a situation they find themselves embroiled in.
So unfolds The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a worthy remake of the Swedish-language thriller of the same name just released in 2009. Directed by David Fincher (The Social Network) this English-language version is actually a rarity in that it is an improvement over its foreign film original.
Both movies are based on the first installment of the trilogy of novels by the late Stieg Larsson, and Sony Pictures has already committed to adapting the other two books to the screen, too. Here, scene-stealer Rooney Mara is nothing short of riveting as the ever-edgy Lisbeth, while Daniel Craig disappears into his role as Mikael sufficiently so you forget about the fact that he also plays James Bond.
An intricately-woven, edge-of-your-seat whodunit as graphic and grisly as it is cerebral and mind-bending.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for rape, torture, brutal violence, profanity, frontal nudity and graphic sexuality.
Running time: 158 minutes
Distributor: Columbia Pictures

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Documentary on DVD Revisits Black Revolution of the Sixties

During the Black Power Movement back in the Sixties, most folks only got to know the leaders by way of sound bites disseminated by the mass media. Whether it was Stokely Carmichael’s demand “We want black power!” or H. Rap Brown’s appeal for riots via “Burn baby burn!” or Eldridge Cleaver’s assertion that “You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution,” the icons were mostly reduced to incendiary slogans for the purposes of entertainment masquerading as news.
But I bet you didn’t know that Stokely was also a momma’s boy born in Trinidad. Or that Angela Davis was from Birmingham, Alabama where her family was close friends with those of the four little girls slaughtered in the Baptist church bombing in September of 1963, a couple of weeks after the historic March on Washington.
These are the sort of intimate aspects of African-American luminaries’ lives explored in The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, an eye-opening documentary directed by Goran Olsson. His enlightening cinematic collage was culled from found 16mm film of vintage interviews conducted by fellow Swedish journalists with everyone from Black Panthers Bobby Seale and Huey Newton to radical attorney William Kunstler.
The archival footage has been augmented here with current-day voiceover commentaries by the likes of Danny Glover, Erykah Badu, Harry Belafonte, Melvin Van Peebles and Talib Kweli, and features a sweet Hip-Hop/R&B soundtrack scored by Questlove and Om’Mas Keith. Nonetheless, what makes the movie so moving are the original tete-a-tetes probing the psyches of its freedom-loving subjects.
For example, when asked about whether or not she advocates violence, Angela Davis offers this heartfelt response: “When someone asks me about violence, I just find it incredible because it means that the person asking the question has absolutely no idea what we have gone through in this country since the first black person was kidnapped on the shores of Africa.”
An absolute must-see for anyone interested in fully appreciating the mindset and motivations of the charismatic militants who emerged to capture the collective imagination of an impatient generation of African-Americans in the wake of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Excellent (4 stars)
In English and Swedish with subtitles
Running time: 96 minutes
Studio: Sundance Selects
Distributor: MPI Home Video
DVD Extras: Interviews, a short documentary, a featurette and the theatrical trailer.

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

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


The Adventures of Tintin (PG for violence, drunkenness and smoking) Steven Spielberg directs this animated adaptation of the classic comic book series about an intrepid young journalist who is abducted from Europe to Morocco where he escapes his kidnappers to embark on a perilous quest for hidden treasure. Voice cast includes Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis and Toby Jones.

The Darkest Hour (PG-13 for profanity and violence) Sci-fi horror flick about the struggle to survive of a quintet (Olivia Thirlby, Emile Hirsch, Rachael Taylor, Joel Kinnaman and Max Minghella) stranded in Moscow during an invasion of Earth by aliens in need of a power supply. With Dato Bakhtadze, Gosha Kutsenko and Veronika Ozerova.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (PG-13 for profanity, disturbing images and mature themes) Post 9/11 drama about a 9 year-old boy’s (Thomas Horn) desperate search for the lock that matches the mysterious key left behind by his father (Tom Hanks) who perished in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. With Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, John Goodman and Jeffrey Wright.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (R for rape, torture, brutal violence, profanity, frontal nudity and graphic sexuality) David Fincher directs the English-language version of the Swedish thriller based on the first installment of the Stieg Larsson trilogy about the effort of a disgraced journalist (Daniel Craig) to restore his name by solving a decades-old missing person case with the help of a sociopathic computer hacker (Rooney Mara). Cast includes Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Robin Wright and Joely Richardson.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (PG-13 for violence and intense action sequences) Fourth episode in the espionage franchise finds Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his fellow secret agents (Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg and Josh Holloway) going rogue to clear the IMF’s name after a bomb blast flattens the Kremlin while they just happened to be carrying out an undercover operation in Moscow. With Ving Rhames, Michelle Monaghan and Tom Wilkinson.

War Horse (PG-13 for ) Steven Spielberg directed this World War I saga about a young man (Jeremy Irvine) who enlists in the British Army after his beloved horse is sold to the cavalry. With Emily Watsaon, Benedict Cumberbatch and David Thewlis. (In English and German with subtitles)

We Bought a Zoo (PG for mature themes and mild profanity) Screen adaptation of Benjamin Mee’s bittersweet memoir recounting the grieving widower’s (Matt Damon) decision to relocate his family to a dilapidated estate with 200 exotic animals on the premises with hopes of refurbishing the zoo while rebuilding their lives. Cast includes Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Elle Fanning and J.B. Smoove.


Albert Nobbs (R for profanity, sexuality and brief nudity) Glenn Close plays the title character in this genderbending drama about a lesbian who passed as a man for over 30 years in order to survive in 19th Century Ireland. With Janet McTeer, Brenda Fricker, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Brendan Gleeson and Mia Wasikowska.

The Flowers of War (Unrated) Historical drama based on the Geling Yan novel about a mortician (Christian Bale) who poses as a priest in order to save the lives of prostitutes and parishioners during the Japanese’s rape of Nanking. With Shigeo Kobayashi, Bai Xue and Paul Schneider. (In English, Mandarin and Japanese with subtitles)

In the Land of Blood and Honey (R for sexuality, nudity, violence, rape, ethnic cleansing and profanity) Angelina Jolie directed this romance drama set during the War in Bosnia and revolving around a Serbian soldier (Goran Kostic) who reencounters a Muslim ex-girlfriend (Zana Marjanovic) now being held captive in a POW camp. With Fedja Stukan, Branko Djuric and Nikola Djuricko.

Miss Minoes (PG for rude behavior, smoking and brief profanity) Carice van Houten stars as the title character in this kiddie comedy about a cat which morphs into a woman in order protect its quaint hometown from developers with evil intentions. Cast includes Theo Maassen, Sarah Bannier and Pierre Bokma. (In Dutch with subtitles)

Pina (PG for sensuality, smoking and partial nudity) Reverential biopic about modern dance maven Pina Bausch (1940-2009), featuring both tributes to and performances of four pieces by the late choreographer. (In English, French, Russian, German, Spanish, Croatian, Korean, Italian and Portuguese with subtitles)

Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Holmes and Moriarty Match Wits in Action-Oriented Sequel

Once again, Guy Ritchie has served up a bombastic interpretation of Sherlock Holmes which will undoubtedly have Sir Arthur Conan Doyle purists squirming in their seats. That disclaimer notwithstanding, anyone open-minded enough to forgive the blasphemous action sequences is in for a cinematic treat every bit as cerebral as it is visually captivating.
Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law reprise their roles as Holmes and Dr. Watson, respectively. And Jared Harris has joined the cast to play the pair’s diabolical archenemy, the inscrutable Professor James Moriarty.
At the point of departure, we find Holmes in the midst of throwing a bawdy bachelor party for his loyal sidekick who is set to marry a fetching lass named Mary (Kelly Reilly) the very next morning. However, after the wedding, the newlyweds’ travel plans go immediately courtesy of a comedy of errors in which the bride is unceremoniously tossed off a train leaving her hubby and Sherlock to share the honeymoon suite aboard the Trans Europe Express.
It’s just as well, anyway, given the fact that the perspicacious Holmes has been the only detective able to connect the dots among a series of recent slayings, including the murders of an Indian cotton tycoon, a Chinese opium trader and an American Steel magnate, as well as some suspicious bombings in Strasbourg and Vienna. The super sleuth has figured out not only that it must be the work of Moriarty but that the maniacal madman might be trying to trigger an international incident.
Next, a frenetically-paced, cat-and-mouse caper unfolds in which the protagonists chase the endlessly-clever professor from France to Germany to Switzerland. Along the way, they are assisted in this endeavor by Holmes’ hulking brother (Stephen Fry) and a gypsy fortune teller (Noomi Rapace) with the proverbial heart of gold.
Just brace yourself for the sort of stylized, high-impact fare for which director Ritchie is best known. Still, besides the bravado and over-the-top derring-do, the adventure does also allow for intellectual interludes during which Sherlock and his nemesis match wits in a rather refined fashion.
Welcome to the 21st Century edition of Sherlock Holmes, a well-rounded gent as likely to flex his brawn as his brain!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for drug use and intense violence.
In English and French with subtitles.
Running time: 129 Minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

10 Best Black Books of 2011 (Non-Fiction)

by Kam Williams

1. Sister Citizen by Melissa Harris-Perry

2. Fatal Invention by Dorothy Roberts

3. Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? by Touré

4. Muzzled by Juan Williams

5. A Reason to Believe by Governor Deval Patrick

6. Ashamed to Die by Andrew J. Skerritt

7. Super Rich by Russell Simmons

8. Giving Back by Valaida Fullwood

9. Fail Up by Tavis Smiley

10. High on the Hog by Jessica B. Harris

Honorable Mention

No Higher Honor by Dr. Condoleezza Rice

My Long Trip Home by Mark Whitaker

Incognito by Michael Sidney Fosberg

The John Carlos Story by John Carlos with Dave Zirin

This Is Herman Cain by Herman Cain

Eye of the Hurricane by Rubin Hurricane Carter

Push Has Come to Shove by Dr. Steve Perry

Black Gotham by Carla L. Peterson

Faith in the Fire by Gardner C. Taylor

I Didn’t Ask to Be Born by Bill Cosby

Life upon These Shores by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The End of Anger by Ellis Cose

D.C. Unmasked and Undressed by Lillian McEwen

Is Marriage for White People? by Ralph Richard Banks

Black Woman Redefined by Sophia Nelson

Legacy by Yvonne Foster Southerland

How Could My Husband Be Gay? by Ondrea L. Davis and J’son M. Lee

I Can Finish College by Dr. Marcia Y. Cantarella

Ageless Beauty by Yvonne Rose and Alfred Fornay

News for All the People by Juan Gonzalez and Joseph Torres

Pass It Down Cookbook by Chef Jeff Henderson and Ramin Ganeshram

True You by Janet Jackson

I Hate Muscular Dystrophy by Star Bobatoon, Esq.

Transparent by Don Lemon

Second Chance by Martha Marie Preston

I Beat the Odds by Michael Oher

My Brother, Marvin: A Memoir by Zeola Gaye

The Adventures of Sasha & Malia at the White House by Carol A. Francois and P Segal

You Are Not Alone, Michael by Jermaine Jackson

Not Another Victim by Katha D. Blackwell

Guy Ritchie: The “Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows” Interview

with Kam Williams

Headline: Elementary, My Dear Ritchie

            Born in London on September 10th, 1968, Guy Ritchie got his start in the UK film industry in 1993 as a runner on Wardour Street. He worked his way up the ranks by shooting music videos and TV commercials before making his directorial debut with "Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels."
            The movie became one of the UK's biggest box office hits and received a BAFTA Award nomination for Best British Film. Ritchie followed that offering with "Snatch" which featured an ensemble cast including Brad Pitt, Dennis Farina, Jason Statham, Vinnie Jones, Alan Ford, Lennie James and Benicio Del Toro.
            After "Snatch," Guy directed a remake of the 1974 Lena Wertmuller classic "Swept Away," starring Madonna, who was still his wife at the time. Next, he continued to explore new challenges with the edgy crime thriller "Revolver" with Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, Vincent Pastore and Outkast's Andre Benjamin.
            More recently, Ritchie directed "RocknRolla" and the smash hit "Sherlock Holmes" which opened on Christmas Day 2009 and went on to gross more than $516 million worldwide. Successfully bringing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famed detective to the big screen for a new generation, the film starred Robert Downey Jr. in the title role and Jude Law as Dr. Watson.
            Here, he talks about that picture’s new sequel, "
Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows."

Kam Williams: Hi Guy, thanks for the interview.
Guy Ritchie: Thank you, Kam.

KW: Editor/legist Patricia Turnier asks: What intrigued you enough about Sherlock Holmes to make movies about the character?
GR: Ever since I was a child, I’ve always been fascinated with Sherlock Holmes.

KW: Rudy Lewis asks: Why is your Sherlock Holmes more macho, more sexual and more humorous than the stiff-lipped Basil Rathbone?
GR: Because I truly believe that if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were alive today, this is how he’d prefer to have the character presented.

KW: Judyth Piazza would like to know a little about Professor Moriarty, the villain in A Game of Shadows. 
GR: True to Conan Doyle, Moriarty keeps himself distanced from his crimes, which is why Holmes has such a hard time linking him to the crimes. But it’s really the size of Moriarty’s ambitions that make him unique. We’ve tried to stick to the idea that he’s an academic who hides away at a university, and who seems like the least likely villain imaginable.

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles asks: How would you characterize the cat-and-mouse relationship of Holmes and Moriarty?
GR: Because they’re intellectual equals to a degree, the game is stimulating to them both. They almost need one another. Holmes needs Moriarty as much as Moriarty needs Holmes. That’s authentic to the books.

KW: How did you go about casting Moriarty?
GR: It was a challenge, because Moriarty is arguably the most famous super-villain in terms of literature. But I’m very fond of Jared [Harris] who seemed perfect for the role, and I believe was the right man for the job.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman says: The trailer looks fabulous! I cannot stand watching the commercials much longer. The anticipation is almost painful. The second film looks like it has more spectacular effects than the first. Did you feel any pressure to outdo the original in order to meet audience expectations? Did that make you feel intimidated?
GR: No, I was enthusiastic, but with some reticence. Since we’d introduced a certain amount of technical toyery in the first one, I assumed that the audience was expecting more on this one. So, we had to come up with some sensational ideas for the action and up the stakes in general. In that respect, I had my work cut out for me.

KW: Larry Greenberg says: I loved your first Sherlock Holmes and I can't wait to see A Game of Shadows. He asks: Was it hard recreating the chemistry between Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law this time around?
GR: Well, now that they’ve slept with each other, they’ve got a lot of issues out of the way. [Laughs] No, obviously their relationship is fundamental since Holmes and Watson’s relationship is the spine of the entire narrative.
You care a great deal about their characters. Robert and Jude sorted it out between themselves. They’re both very creative and my job really is to harness that energy and to calm them down when they’re about to swap spit and take long walks in the moonlight. Their characters are butch guys who need a feminine edge.    

KW:  Bernadette also asks: What’s the difference between working with American versus European actors?
GR: None, really. Great actors are great actors.

KW: Tell me how you came to cast Noomi Rapace and Stephen Fry?
GR: Noomi felt fresh. And she’s passionate and ambitious in all the right ways. She’s a tour de force. Every time I was trying to have a discussion with the actors, she’d be pulling out a blade out from underneath her gypsy skirt and menace someone saying, “Maybe I should slit your throat.” So, I had to keep a close eye on her. [Chuckles] And Stephen is a very capable, intellectual heavyweight who could’ve played Sherlock or Moriarty. He’s very intimidating, until he takes his clothes off. In fact, even then, he’s quite intimidating. [LOL]

KW: Film school student, Jamaal Green, asks: From concept to completion, how long did it take to get Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels made?
GR: About four years. Finding the financing was really hard. We nearly gave up because we had the money pulled from us a few days before shooting. But we got it together eventually. 

KW: Kate Newell says: I loved Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Do you have any plans to channel your inner hoodlum again?
GR: I’m definitely open to it. Lionel [producer Lionel Wigram] and I have a few movies in the pipeline, but exactly in which order they will manifest, I’m not sure.

KW: Reverend Florine Thompson asks: How important is spirituality to you and what role does it play in your life?
GR: It s very important to me, but I don’t care to elaborate because it means different things to different people.

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

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
GR: I’m not telling.

KW: What is one of your favorite dishes to cook?
GR: Chilean sea bass.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
GR: Don’t try to follow in my footsteps. Forge your own path.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Guy, and best of luck with the film.
GR: My pleasure.