Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Five-Year Engagement (DVD REVIEW)

The Five-Year Engagement
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Raunchy Romantic Comedy Revolves around Wedding Day Delayed     

            This underwhelming endurance test certainly trades in all of the anticipated staples of any Judd Apatow production, if his sophomoric brand of humor suits your taste. There’s the gratuitous male nudity, the coarse jokes with profanity serving as punch lines (“Suck my bleeping bleep!”), and such suggestive sight gags as a character simulating sex by gyrating his hips behind a carrot dipped in whipped cream.
            Much of this comic relief arrives courtesy of an ethnically-diverse support team comprised of an Asian (Randall Park), an East Indian (Mindy Kaling) and an African-American (Kevin Hart). But beyond the skits falling flat, the tortoise-paced picture has bigger problems in an abysmal script and romantic leads with no screen chemistry.
            The oil-and-water casting of loose cannon Jason Segel opposite prim-and-proper Emily Blunt has disaster written all over it. His Tom Solomon is a Sous-chef who dreams of opening a restaurant in San Francisco, while her Violet Barnes is a recent Ph.D. with hopes of landing a teaching position at Berkeley in Psychology.
            Just past the opening credits, she accepts his marriage proposal and puts on the ring, although they both agree that it might be wise to delay tying the knot until their careers have had a chance to blossom. That decision doesn’t sit well with their aging relatives, but at least it means they won’t have to decide right away whether to be married by a minister or a rabbi.
            As time passes, the protagonists find additional excuses to postpone the nuptials, like when her sister Suzie (Alison Brie) is left pregnant after a one-night stand with his best friend, Alex (Chris Pratt). Eventually, Violet and Tom drift so far apart that it’s not much of a surprise when she sleeps with the head of her department (Rhys Ifans) or when he’s seduced behind the salad bar by a cute co-worker (Dakota Johnson).
            “Can this relationship be saved?” may be the burning question, but don’t expect to care when you’ve never really been asked to invest emotionally in such an unsympathetic pair of hesitant hedonists.

Fair (1 star)
Rated R for sexuality, nudity, coarse humor and pervasive profanity.
Running time: 124 minutes
Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Feature commentary by the director, a producer and the principal cast; deleted, extended and alternate scenes; gag reel; Line-O-Rama; Experiment-O-Rama; Weird Winton; Gonorrhea Trouble; Top Chef: Alex Eilhauer; The Making of Five Year Engagement; The Making of Gastrocule; The Making of Turkey; digital copy; BD-Live; pocket BLU app; uHEAR and more.

To see a trailer for The Five-Year Engagement, visit:  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Terry Crews (INTERVIEW)

Terry Crews
“The Expendables 2” Interview
with Kam Williams

Hail Terry!

Former NFL football player Terry Crews traded in his helmet and cleats in 1997 to pursue an acting career while simultaneously becoming the ultimate family man. Terry is now more commonly known for his natural wit, comedic timing and versatility.
He is also currently the spokesman for the very successful “Smell is Power” campaign for Old Spice. And he’s a contestant on the new NBC reality series “Stars Earn Stripes.”
He already stars in the TBS series “Are We There Yet?” produced by Ice Cube, which will continue to air this fall. Terry plays the role that Ice Cube originated in the film version of the sitcom. He previously appeared on the television series “Everybody Hates Chris,” where he played ‘Julius,’ the father of a young Chris Rock.
He can be seen in the following films: “Friday after Next,” “Malibu’s Most Wanted,” “Deliver Us from Eva,” “White Chicks,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “Soul Plane,” “Idiocracy,” “Harsh Times,” “Inland Empire,” “Street Kings,” “The Longest Yard,” “The Expendables” and “Bridesmaids.”  
            Crews was born in Flint, Michigan where he attended Flint Southwestern Academy. He earned an Art Excellence Scholarship to attend the Interlochen Center for the Arts and then Western Michigan University.
            While completing his studies as an Art major, Terry was a key member of the WMU football team, where he earned all-conference honors as a defensive end. He was subsequently drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the 11th round of the 1991 NFL Draft. 
            He proceeded to carve out a pro career that lasted six seasons, including stints with the Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles. While in the NFL, he put his artistic talents to good use, painting a line of NFL licensed lithographs for Sierra Sun Editions.
            Terry currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Rebecca, and their five children. Here, he talks about reprising the role of Hale Caesar in The Expendables 2.

Kam Williams: Hi Terry, thanks for another interview. How you been, bro?
Terry Crews: Alright! I been good, Kam.

KW: What interested you in a second round of The Expendables?
TC: Well, it’s so much fun just to be a part of something like this. We all know the fact that a movie even gets made is a miracle. Here, you have one with some of the biggest stars in the world. We were able to get the first one out. On top of the miracle of getting it done, it was a hit. Then, you get another miracle in a chance to do a sequel, but this time much bigger and better, adding Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Liam Hemsworth and a female Expendable, Nan Yu, to the mix. I think this is the movie Sly [Stallone] originally wanted to make if he had his wish list. It’s so awesome to be in this spot. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. I really do.   

KW: Well, you’re being humble. Right now you’re at the top of your game. Besides this movie, you have the sitcom [Are We There, Yet?], an HBO series [The Newsroom], your own reality show, [The Family Crews] and a new reality series [Stars Earn Stripes].
TC: You know what, I just see the opportunities and I go for them. I don’t want to play my career safe. I’ve had my successes and I’ve had a few failures, too. But you just keep going and do the best that you can. That’s what I’ve learned.

KW: How hard is it to get elbow room to do your thing in a film when you’re sharing the screen with so many other matinee idols: Stallone Schwarzenegger, Willis, Jet Li, Jason Statham, etcetera?
TC: I liken the whole experience to my time in the NFL. When you’re a rookie, you see all these great names that you’ve admired. But once you put on your uniform, and go from the locker room to the field, you’ve got to be ready to hit your greatest heroes in the mouth when they blow that whistle. [Chuckles] In fact, you have to do more than that. You have to slam ‘em to the turf. And acting is sort of similar. It’s a jousting match where they want you to bring you’re A-game. Timidity has no place in a major action movie. You have to know how to take your moments. Sometimes walking out the door is just walking out the door. But when it’s your moment, you have to go for it. I’ve learned by watching these guys: Arnold, Sly, Bruce, Jean-Claude and Chuck. They know how to take their moments, and they do it right. I’ve observed and said to myself: That’s how you do it! You only have but so much time to make an impact or people will forget you. My goal always is to make the biggest impact possible. A lot of my colleagues are content to be character actors who are always in the background. I’m not that guy. I’m the guy who wants the limelight. Gimme the ball and I’ll run it through a brick wall for you. I’ll be your biggest soldier. 

KW: What message do you think people will take away from The Expendables 2?
TC: It’s just a fun, fun throwback movie with cartoonish violence. It’s almost like Cowboys and Indians in a lot of ways.

KW: Which is your favorite genre to work in, reality shows, TV shows or film?
TC: Oh, movies! Let me tell you, Expendables 2 is the dream experience of my life. Here I am, a poor kid from Flint, Michigan, and I’m acting next to the biggest stars in the world. Only in America could something like this happen. This is not about luck. This is about hard, hard work. I’m not guaranteeing that if you work hard you’ll be able to duplicate my success. But in America, if you work hard, you just might. I’m a perfect example of that. 

KW: Tell me a little about your new reality series, “Stars Earn Stripes/”
TC: I have so many fans in the military, I said, “Man, this is a show I would be proud to be a part of.” This is not one of those reality series where they put all the contestants in a house and have them argue with each other. The idea here is to give us a chance to experience what members of the military go through on a daily basis and to give them the recognition they deserve. We have every kind of American military special op force represented, and they team up with the contestants and take us on combat missions. We basically get to do what they do out in the field while raising money for charity. Mine is the Pat Tillman Foundation.

KW: That’s a great cause. Let me ask you about the “The Family Crews.” Does having cameras following you around 24/7 alter the family dynamic? 
TC: It does. I think it has strengthened us. My wife and I just celebrated 23 years of marriage, and I’m ready to go another 50 with my baby.  

KW: Congratulations, Terry! Dante Lee, author of "Black Business Secrets,” asks: What was the best business decision you ever made, and what was the worst?
TC: I was broke when I first moved to L.A. My best business decision was to humble myself and to take a job mopping floors at a factory. I had left the NFL and we didn’t have any money. That experience let me know that I would hold onto my principles and be willing to do anything that was legal to support my family. I’ll never forget my worst business decision. I bought a Nissan Pathfinder with my first signing bonus. I didn’t even have a place to live, but I bought a car. [LOL] My wife was like, “That’s kinda silly!” And she was right, because when I lost my job, we couldn’t live in the car. Not a smart move but, believe me, I learned from that mistake.

KW: The Black Eyed Peas’ Taboo question: What is the best thing about being a parent?
TC: That you get to see yourself as a child. My kids will tell you: I’m not that grown. [Chuckles] I’m not in the business of trying to prove to them that I know everything. You have to empathize with your children. If you love them, you never really get too angry with them when they make a mistake, because kids are expected to make mistakes. Having children, you start to see yourself through them.

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
TC: Going to see a great movie. I just watched "The Pursuit of Happyness" with Will Smith again, and it still gave me goose bumps. 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Terry, and continued success with all your projects.
TC: You got it, Kam. Thanks!

To see a trailer for The Expendables 2, visit:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 9-7-12

Kam's Kapsules:      
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         
by Kam Williams
For movies opening September 7, 2012


Bait 3-D (R for profanity, graphic violence and grisly images) Disaster flick about a group of residents of a beachfront community who find themselves surrounded by a swarm of great white sharks after a tsunami leaves them trapped inside a submerged grocery store. Cast includes Xavier Samuel, Julian McMahon and Phoebe Tonkin.   

The Words (PG-13 for smoking and brief profanity) Blind ambition is the theme of this emotional drama about a best-selling author (Bradley Cooper) who pays a price for achieving literary success by plagiarizing the work of another writer. Ensemble cast includes Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid, J.K. Simmons, Olivia Wilde and Jeremy Irons.


Baby Peggy (Unrated) Bittersweet retrospective chronicling the rise and fall of Diana Serra Cary, now 93, a Silent Era matinee idol who made millions back in the Twenties as one of Hollywood’s first child stars only to suffer a nervous breakdown after her parents frittered away her entire fortune.

Bachelorette (R for sexuality, drug use and pervasive profanity) Raunchy comedy about three members of a clique of mean girls (Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan) asked to serve as bridesmaids at the wedding of a former classmate (Rebel Wilson) they used to tease mercilessly back in high school. With James Marsden, Adam Scott and Kyle Bornheimer.

Branded (R for profanity and sexuality) Futuristic sci-fi thriller about one man’s (Ed Stoppard) valiant fight to expose the truth behind a mammoth corporate conspiracy to keep humanity disillusioned, dependent and passive via mind control. With Leelee Sobieski, Jeffrey Tambor and Max von Sydow.    

Brawler (R for profanity, sexuality, drug use and graphic violence) Sibling rivalry saga about a couple of brothers who agree to settle their differences in the ring in a death match at an underground fight club after one (Nathan Grubbs) catches the other (Marc Senter) cheating with his wife (Pell James). Supporting cast includes Michael Bowen, Bryan Batt and Megan Henning. 

The Cold Light of Day (PG-13 for profanity and sexuality) Political potboiler about a San Francisco businessman (Henry Cavill) whose family is abducted while vacationing in Spain by kidnappers demanding he hand over a briefcase he knows nothing about. With Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver and Roschdy Zem. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)

Desperate Endeavors (PG-13 for sexual references) Overcoming-the-odds drama, set in 1973, following an Indian immigrant’s (Ismail Bashey) dogged pursuit of the American Dream in New York City. Featuring Gulshan Grover, Lavrenti Lopes and Deborah Green.

Detropia (Unrated) Dire documentary from Oscar-nominated co-directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (for Jesus Camp) painting a simultaneously surrealistic and sobering picture of Detroit suggesting that the host of woes visited upon the Motor City might be coming soon to a town near you.

For Ellen (Unrated) Custody drama revolving around an alcoholic, aspiring musician (Paul Dano), locked in a bitter divorce battle, who embarks on a long-distance drive to confront his estranged wife (Margarita Levieva) over his visitation rights regarding their 6 year-old daughter (Shaylena Mandigo). With Jon Heder, Jenna Malone and Dakota Johnson.

The Eye of the Storm (Unrated) Assisted suicide flashback flick, set in Sydney, surrounding the last days of a terminally-ill, family matriarch (Charlotte Rampling) determined to die on her own terms rather than face relocation to a nursing home. Featuring Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis and Helen Morse.

Hello, I Must Be Going (R for profanity and sexuality) Romantic dramedy about a depressed divorcee (Melanie Lynskey) who moves in with her parents (Blythe Danner and John Rubenstein) in suburban Connecticut where she’s soon revitalized by an affair with an awkward teen (Johnathan Abbott) half her age. Support cast includes Julie White, Andrea Bordeaux and Sara Chase.
The Inbetweeners (R for coarse humor, graphic sexuality, frontal nudity, profanity and drug and alcohol abuse) Teensploitation comedy based on the British TV series of the same name examining the rowdy exploits of a quartet of high school grads (Simon Bird, James Buckley, Blake Harrison and Joe Thomas) vacationing in Crete. With Emily Head, Laura Haddock, Tamla Kari and Jessica Knappett.

Keep the Lights on (Unrated) Homoerotic drama about the tensions which develop between a gay filmmaker (Thure Lindhart) and a lawyer still in the closet (Zachary Booth) when their fling unexpectedly blossoms into love. Ensemble includes Julianne Nicholson, Paprika Steen and Souleymanne Sy Savane.

Serving Up Richard (Unrated) Cannibal-themed horror flick about a married couple (Susan Priver and Jude Ciccolella) with a taste for human flesh who get more than they bargained for when they set they start salivating over a guy (Ross McCall) answering their classified ad for a used car. With Brian Burke, Adam Kulbersh and Darby Stanchfield.   

The Black Chicago Renaissance (BOOK REVIEW)

The Black Chicago Renaissance
Edited by Darlene Clark Hine and John McCluskey, Jr.
University of Illinois Press
Paperback, $27.95
272 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-0-252-07858-3
Book Review by Kam Williams

“Beginning in the 1930s and lasting into the 1950s, black Chicago experienced a cultural renaissance that rivaled and, some argued, exceeded the cultural outpouring in Harlem... However, [it] has yet to receive its full due. This volume addresses that neglect…
Black cultural artists in music and dance and in visual and literary arts demonstrated cognizance of the centrality of race and sex in the distribution of power, the ways in which the social construction of both interacted to determine social privileges and exclusions. The challenge was to deconstruct racial categories and rid ‘blackness’ of its negative symbolism.”
-- Excerpted from the Introduction (pg. xv-xvi)

            Since the Harlem Renaissance, New York has been considered the unofficial capital of black America. However, that designation might be undeserving when one reflects upon Chicago’s considerable contributions not only culturally, but socially and politically.  
            For example, the Windy City sent its first African-American to Congress sixteen years before the Big Apple which only elected Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. in 1944. Furthermore, half of the all the black U.S. Senators there have been represented Illinois, and I know I don’t have to tell you that President Obama hails from Chicago.
            In terms of the arts, the city boasted such icons as novelist Richard Wright, choreographer Katherine Dunham, and poets Arna Bontemps, Margaret Walker and Gwendolyn Brooks during its heyday. What’s ironic is that at the very same time they were promoting positive images of African-Americans, Amos ‘n’ Andy, a minstrel radio show originating in Chicago, was doing just the opposite.
            The white stars of that popular program did demeaning impersonations featuring “mispronounced words, garbled grammar and characterizations of black women as bossy and black men as clownish.” Meanwhile, A. Philip Randolph was organizing the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters into a union to demand a living wage from the Chicago Pullman Car Company, “the single-largest employer of black people in the United States.”
            An impressive history lesson and compendium of fascinating factoids proving that the so-called Second City need not take a back seat to New York, at least when discussing the achievements of its African-American intelligentsia.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Quvenzhané Wallis (INTERVIEW)‏

Quvenzhané Wallis
The “Beasts of the Southern Wild” Interview
with Kam Williams

Headline: Crazy about Nazie!

            Quvenzhané “Nazie“ Wallis was born on August 28, 2003, in Houma, Louisiana where she attends Honduras Elementary School. She is the daughter of Venjie and Qulyndreia Wallis, and sister to Qunyquekya, Vejon and Venjie Jr.
            Nazie loves reading, singing, dancing, acting and playing her iPod and Nintendo DS. She’s a big fan of China McClain, Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus, and her favorite sports are basketball, volleyball, dance and cheerleading.
            Here, she talks about her Oscar-worthy performance as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild, a visually-enchanting modern parable issuing a dire warning about the threat to the planet posed by civilization and corporations if left unchecked. 

Kam Williams: Hi Quvenzhané, thanks for giving me an interview. You were so beautiful and so amazing in this movie! I was really stunned by your stage presence.
Quvenzhané Wallis: Thank you.

KW: I thought you were funny and charming when I saw you interviewed by Jay Leno on the Tonight Show recently. And I know that you also went to the Sundance Film Festival and travelled to France for the Cannes Film Festival. What was that like?
QW: I had a lot of fun in France. I liked how they said my name over there. They wouldn’t say Quvenzhané. They would say a whole other thing.

KW: What type of name is Quvenzhané? I thought it was French, especially since you’re from Louisiana, where there are a lot of people with French ancestry.
QW: It’s Swahili.

KW: My name is Swahili, too. Kam is short for Kamau.
QW: [To her mother, excitedly] His name is Swahili, too! [To me] What does Kamau mean?

KW: “Quiet warrior.” What does your name mean?
QW: My name means “fairy.”

KW: May I call you by your nickname, Nazie?
QW: Yes, but it’s pronounced “Nay-zee.”

KW: Sorry, “Nay-zee.” You were only 5, when you auditioned for the role of Hushpuppy. Had you acted or taken acting lessons before?
QW: No.

KW: Did you enjoy making Beasts of the Southern Wild?
QW: Yes.

KW: A lot of scenes were shot on the bayou and around animals like alligators, pigs and chickens. Were you ever afraid, Nazie?
QW: Yes, I was afraid of the pig.

KW: What was it like seeing yourself on the big screen for the first time, after the film was finished?
QW: I was like: “Wow! There is actually a bigger me, but I can handle it.” It was something you wouldn’t get used to, but I felt smaller, and my voice was smaller, too. So, there was like a bigger me with a smaller voice, and a smaller me with a big voice. It was something I would never have thought would happen that way.

KW: You are the youngest of four kids. Do your sister and big brothers treat you any differently now that you’re a movie star?
QW: Nope, they treat me the same way.

KW: Nazie, are you anything like your character, Hushpuppy?
QW: In some ways I am, in some ways I’m not. We both like to go outside and do some things that you wouldn’t even think about. 

KW: What do you think people will learn from this movie?
QW: That when you’re a little kid, you might have to take care of your parents as much as they take care of you. Otherwise, they might get sick, and that’s something you don’t want to happen. 

KW: What do you like to do to have fun?
QW: Ride my bike.

KW: What is your favorite movie? 
QW: Happy Feet 2.  

KW: What is your favorite book?
QW: Judy Moody. 

KW: Have you seen the Judy Moody movie?
QW: No, I don’t think so, but I might have seen it at school.

KW: I think you’d remember it if you’d seen it. It’s really cool! What do you like to watch on TV? 
QW: The Disney Channel.

KW: Which Disney show is your favorite, Nazie?
QW: Jessie.

KW: I heard that you got along with Dwight Henry, who plays your father in Beasts of the Southern Wild, because he gave you a lot of brownies and cupcakes from his bakery the day he had to audition with you.  
QW: Yes, but that’s not really why I liked him. I liked him because of his personality. He just acted hisself.

KW: What is your favorite food to eat?
QW: Jambalaya… No, stir-fry.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
QW: Myself.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
QW: To be a wizard.

KW: Like Harry Potter?
QW: No, like a wizard on The Wizards of Waverly Place. It’s another show I like on the Disney Channel.

KW: I’ve interviewed two of the stars on that show: Selena Gomez and Jake T. Austin. The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
QW: I can’t remember that far back, only to auditioning when I was 5 years-old.

KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
QW: I would like to be a penguin and a leopard.

KW: What do you want to be when you grow up, an actress or something else?
QW: A dentist.

KW: Who is your hero?
QW: My mom.

KW: What is your favorite music to listen to?
QW: Dancing music.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
QW: Yes, how did you burp and scream like that in the movie?

KW: Okay, how did you burp and scream like that?
QW: It’s just something I learned how to do. The screaming I do at my brothers’ basketball games to make the other team miss foul shots. One of them is in junior high, and the other one is going to high school.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
QW: I don’t know, but I would say you have to be nice to people you meet. 

KW: It must be hard for a kid to have to do a lot of interviews when you might like to be out playing.
QW: Yes, it’s very hard for a kid to deal with.

KW: Well, I really appreciate your taking the time to talk to me, Nazie, and congratulations again on making such an impressive acting debut.
QW: Thank you.

To see a trailer for Beasts of the Southern Wild, visit:   

The Revenant (FILM REVIEW)

The Revenant
Film Review by Kam Williams

Deceased Vet Revived as Vigilante Vampire in Campy Horror Comedy

            Second Lieutenant Bart Gregory (David Anders) was so full of life that it’s hard for his loved ones to believe that he actually died while serving his country over in Iraq. Even after his body arrives back in the States, his girlfriend, Janet (Louise Griffith), still states that, “None of this seems real.”
            At least the grieving gal found a shoulder to cry on in the dearly departed’s pal, Joey (Chris Wylde). And it’s not long before the two start sleeping together, since they couldn’t possibly predict what was about to happen next.
            For, a month after Bart perished, he miraculously rises from the grave and returns to town where a nurse named Mathilda (Jacy King) snap-diagnoses that he must be a revenant, meaning a person who returns from the dead in corporeal form. She suggests that chopping off the zombie’s head is the only way to put his soul to rest permanently.
            But the stupefied Joey can’t bring himself to finish off his buddy. Instead, against his better judgment, he takes the rejuvenated dude in as a roommate.
            However, Bart soon begins exhibiting the ghoulish urge to drain humans of blood, since he’ll otherwise decompose and rot. Joey tries to suppress that evil impulse by holding up a crucifix and throwing holy water at him, but none of those traditional measures seem to work.
            Given that the guy is going to sink his fangs into somebody’s neck anyway, the two eventually strike a compromise whereby Bart is allowed to roam around at night as a crime-fighting vigilante vampire. The rationale is that he can satiate his bloodlust while simultaneously cleaning the city’s streets of violent perpetrators.
            Thus unfolds The Revenant, a campy horror comedy resting on a cleverly executed premise. Well-written with a talented cast operating on a modest budget, the entertaining picture’s primary flaw is that it drags on for about a half-hour past a perfectly plausible ending.
            The scary movie that refused to die!

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for graphic violence, pervasive profanity, drug use, sexuality and graphic nudity.
Running time: 117 minutes
Studio: Putrefactory Limited
Distributor: Paladin/Lightning Entertainment

To see a trailer for The Revenant, visit: 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Premium Rush (FILM REVIEW)

Premium Rush
Film Review by Kam Williams

Manhattan Serves as Backdrop for Adrenaline-Fueled Bike Thriller

            Traffic is so congested in Manhattan nowadays, it’s hard to see that terminally-gridlocked terrain as a viable setting for high-octane chase scenes. Yet, that is precisely what we have in Premium Rush, an adrenaline-fueled adventure revolving around the derring-do of daring bike messengers who dart between cars and dodge pedestrians to make their deliveries.
            At the film’s point of departure, we’re introduced to several staff members of a bonded company called Security Courier. Employee of the Year Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Columbia Law School graduate who prefers this liberating line of work to being stuck sitting behind a desk in a business suit every day.
            Similarly, his gorgeous girlfriend, Vanessa (Dania Ramirez), sees it as a refreshing alternative to waiting tables in a restaurant. However, one hazard of the job for her is having to fend off the sleazy overtures of fellow messenger, Manny (Wole’ Parks), and of their equally-flirtatious dispatcher, Raj (Aasif Mandvi).
            Nonetheless, this picture is more about non-stop action than romance, and the fun starts soon after Wilee accepts an assignment to transport an envelope designated “Premium Rush” from his alma mater to Chinatown ASAP. But before he even has a chance to leave campus, a gentleman (Michael Shannon) identifying himself as the Dean of Students asks to take possession of the parcel.
            Wilee’s suspicion is aroused when Dean Ackerman inexplicably goes ballistic in response to a polite explanation that it can only be handed over to the addressee. And that concern escalates to fear when the guy starts frothing at the mouth and gives hot pursuit by auto, running lights and driving against traffic.
            The pedal-pushing protagonist gives the creep the slip, but the plot thickens further when he stops at the police station to report the attempted theft. There, he discovers that he’s on his own because Ackerman, lo and behold, is ostensibly a crooked police officer with a hidden agenda and a pecuniary interest in hijacking the package.
            Unfolding like a compelling cross of Crank (2006) and 16 Blocks (2006), Premium Rush proceeds from this juncture forward at a breakneck pace that doesn’t give you a chance to pause to consider whether what you’re watching is even credible. But nothing else matters when such an urgent roller coaster ride, or should I say bike ride, manages to keep you on the edge of your seat for its dizzying duration.
            The Big Apple as the backdrop for a Tour de Gridlock!  

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, ethnic slurs and profanity.
In English and Mandarin with subtitles.
Running time: 91 minutes
Distributor: Columbia Pictures

To see a trailer for Premium Rush, visit: 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Changing the Game (DVD REVIEW)


Changing the Game

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Ghetto Serves as Setting for Coming-of-Age Saga of Shakespearean Proportions

            Darrell Barnes (Sean Riggs) was dealt a horrible hand as a baby, having been abandoned by his mother after his father was shot dead on the rough streets of North Philly. At least he was lucky enough to be taken in by his paternal grandmother (Irma P. Hall), a Bible-quoting Christian who did her best to insulate the boy from the host of evils permeating their crime-infested neighborhood.
            Heeding her admonition to trust in the Lord, Darrell stuck to the straight and narrow as a child. He did his best to keep out of trouble, excelling in school, where he cut a sharp contrast to his best friend, Dre (Dennis L.A. White), a clueless victim of social promotion allowed to slip through the academic cracks at an early age.  
            So, it’s no surprise that juvenile delinquent Dre would eventually drop out to become a drug kingpin, and rationalize operating such a reprehensible enterprise by liberally quoting misanthropic lines from Machiavelli like, “Kill enemies before they kill you.” Meanwhile, Darrell did good and Grandma Barnes proud by gaining admission to the prestigious Wharton Business School.
            In most coming-of-age sagas, the empathetic underdog’s making his way out of the ghetto would herald a proverbial “happily ever after” ending. But in the more nuanced and multilayered world of Changing the Game, directed by Rel Dowdell, entre to the Ivy League merely signals the start of a new set of challenges to be faced by this naive inner-city refugee.
            After graduating, as warned by his wise, rapidly-expiring grandma, Darrell finds himself still tempted by the Devil and having to negotiate his way through a different gauntlet of wickedness. With both Jesus and Machiavelli’s teachings competing for control of his mind, he goes into business with a corrupt classmate (Brandon Ruckdashel) against his better judgment.
            The tension builds as Darrell lets greed get the better of him to a point of no return where it’s gonna take a miracle for the ambitious brother to escape with his soul intact. Touching on a litany of timely themes, this modern morality play of Shakespearean proportions packs an emotional punch while sending a sobering message about what really matters most. 

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, nudity, violence, ethnic slurs, drug use and pervasive profanity.
Running time: 103 minutes
Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Stills gallery.

To see a trailer for Changing the Game, visit:

Top Ten DVD Releases for 8-28-12

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Headline: Top Ten DVD List for August 28th                               

Harvey [Blu-ray]

9-11: A Day That Changed the World


School of Rock [Blu-ray]

Think Like a Man


Boardwalk Empire – The Complete Second Season


Sixteen Candles [Blu-ray]


The Lucky One

Changing the Game

I Am Gabriel


Honorable Mention


Nate & Margaret

PBS Kids Dinosaur Train: Big, Big, Big

Home Run Showdown

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein [Blu-ray]

10 Things You Don’t Know About – Season One

Spongebob Squarepants: Ghouls Fools

Once Upon a Time – The First Complete Season

Airport [Blu-ray]

Jersey Shore – Season Five [Uncensored]

The Amazing World of Gumball

Jersey Shore: Shark Attack

Nickelodeon Double Feature: Big Time Move / Rags

Lovely Molly

The Viral Factor

Life Happens