Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dante Brown (INTERVIEW)

Dante Brown
The “Won’t Back Down” Interview 

with Kam Williams

Delightful Dante!

            Born in Chicago on October 6, 1999, Dante Brown’s big break came at the tender age of 5 when he beat out 500 other children to be showcased as a dancer, comedian and actor on Oprah’s 1st “Amazing Kids” show. A self-taught dancer who learned by watching Michael Jackson, Usher and Chris Brown’s Youtube videos, Brown’s amazing moves have been compared to that of a young Usher.
            Dante can also beatbox, rap, play piano by ear and make beats. With his younger brother, Dusan, he performs as a duo known as “The Brown Boys.” The siblings released their first album at 10 and 8, and have opened for such notable acts as the New Boyz, DJ Tha Pope and Trey Songz.
            Here, he talks about starring opposite Viola Davis in Won’t Back Down, an inspirational tale of female empowerment about a teacher and a single-mom who join forces to improve a grammar school.

Kam Williams: Hi, Dante, thanks for the interview.
Dante Brown: Oh, no problem, Mr. Williams.  Thanks for interviewing me. 

KW: What interested you in Won't Back Down?
DB: When my agent sent over the sides for my audition on the tape, the project was originally named Still I Rise. I immediately thought of Maya Angelou's poem and was very interested in getting to know my character more, as well as the story. My name means poetic, so it's ironic that I love poetry, and I was like, “Wow, interesting movie! [LOL]  Then I read the sides and the character was very different than me. But since the movie is a drama, and I love drama, I wanted to nail my audition to make sure I got a callback and be strongly considered for the role. So, it was a combination of all those things that initially interested me in Won't Back Down. And, oh yeah, for callbacks, I had to read the entire script before auditioning with the director, Mr. Daniel Barnz. By then, I knew that the message would be very powerful and I definitely wanted to be a part of this. 

KW: What was it like to work opposite Viola Davis as your mother, and with the rest of such an accomplished cast?
DB:  Working with Mrs. Davis... it was a joy! She was funny. She gave me tips and also helped me understand the importance of "being in the scene," so I could hold up to her star quality. She was very approachable and down to earth, so it made working with her very easy. She sort of reminds me of my Mom, so I never felt like I had to act, but simply be her son for the time being, while shooting the movie. Whenever I'd goof around, she'd have no problem with me either, in a nice way, of course. [Chuckles] I still keep in contact with her and will always look at her as an amazing actress that I was privileged to work with and get to know. As for working with the entire cast, it was like I was playing in the NBA All-Star game. [LOL] It showed me how great things can happen when you apply yourself and believe in yourself.  Being in their presence taught me that hard work and dedication pay off and one day I hope to be able to share my on-set experience and knowledge with newcomers. Overall, everyone was really nice and fun to work with and being a part of such a talented cast forced me to bring my A-game, too.  
KW: How would you describe your character, Cody?
DB: My character, Cody Alberts, is the son of Nona  [played by Viola Davis] and Charles Alberts [played by Mr. Lance Reddick]. Cody has a learning disability and, during a pivotal point in the movie, you'll learn the cause of his learning disorder. He's sort of a quiet kid, gets bullied at school, doesn't have any friends, and the kids pick on him by calling him names and stuff.
KW: You were named one of the All-Time Amazing Kids by Oprah. Did that make it hard to dumb yourself down to play an academically-challenged child?
DB: No, it didn't make it hard because as an actor I've learned to pull traits and characteristics from friends at school, relatives, by watching YouTube videos, other characters in other movies, etcetera. So, although I'm not like Cody at all, it took a lot of preparation and research to prepare emotionally for my audition and scenes as Cody. But that's what we do as actors and that's the gift God blessed me with, an ability to relate to people, and to actually become the characters I hope to play.  Transforming into someone else.... I love it!

KW: How would you describe you and your brother, Dusan's, debut CD, Here Come The Brown Boys?
DB: Fun! Exciting! Entertaining! Our CD has 11 songs, a little something for everyone. We get calls and messages from family and friends all the time telling us how catchy the songs are, how our friends and cousins enjoy listening on car rides to and from school, and just how proud they are of this project. Kids love it and adults, too. We actually have some dope beats on it and some great lyrics. We love performing songs from our CD and look forward to making more music in the future. We like making the type of music that inspires people. We've performed at schools and churches. The CD is good, kid-friendly music that can be performed anywhere. Shout out to my parents for executive-producing the album and Mr. Spike Rebel for producing and helping us tremendously with our first project. We look forward to our next album. Oh yeah, and stay tuned for the 8 year-old singing sensation Jayda B's new hit, “I Rock My Tutu." She invited us to collaborate and it's hot! The video should be coming out soon, and the single will be available on iTunes as well. 

KW: You have been blessed with many talents. Which is your favorite way to perform: acting, rapping, singing, dancing or playing piano?
ME: That's kind of tough, but I'd have to say acting because it's just so much fun being able to be someone else when auditioning for different roles and then working on set. But most definitely rapping, too. What I enjoy about rapping is being able to express myself with words. The Bible says that our words are very powerful. I like being able to spit hot bars and see the surprised reaction of people and hearing them say, "Wow, did that just come from a kid?" So, both acting and rapping allow me to tell stories and, like most people, I love a good story!

KW: Where do you go to school? Or are you homeschooled?
DB: I attend a great middle school in The Valley. I hope you understand that I can’t say which one for security reasons. But I love going to school, being in a traditional school atmosphere, having immediate access to my teachers, when needed, and interacting with my friends and playing sports. And I plan to attend regular school so long as I can balance everything and thrive while preparing for college.

KW: What do you do for fun?
DB: Fun? I'm the type of person that loves to have fun! So, I can turn any situation into a fun environment fun for me. I have fun going to school and auditioning, and even more fun when I'm on set. I have fun at home with my little brother, I have fun wrestling and fishing with my Dad. I have fun at church. I have fun when our family has movie nights at home or movie dates at the theater. But particularly my weekends, here in L.A., are generally free and I love living a very active lifestyle. So, we're rarely home. I'll either hang out with my friends for a while or go play basketball, swim, go to the movies, participate in The Looking Ahead Program, watch YouTube videos, work on my rap music or make beats, or even play NBA 2K12 - My Player Mode.

KW: What's your favorite TV show and your favorite movie?
DB: My favorite TV show is Everybody Hates Chris and my fave movie is... let's see... We love and watch a lot of movies... Okay...Finding Nemo! [LOL]

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
DB: Just now! [LOL] My little brother just flew in from L.A. to be with us for my movie premiere here at home in Chicago. I haven't seen him in about a week, but he's hysterical, such a funny guy. He keeps me rolling! I laugh a lot. Laughing is good for the soul, my Mom says, so I must have an amazing soul, as much as I love to laugh. [LOL]
KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
DB: Candy!  Twizzlers in particular. [Laughs]  Yummy for my tummy!

KW: The Michael Ealy question: If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be?
ME: Hmmm... interesting question. I would love to meet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
DB: “The Barcode Tattoo” by Suzanne Weyn.  

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 
DB: “Diamonds of Sierra Leone” by Kanye West, the clean version, of course. 

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
DB: Mostly breakfast foods. I'm still learning dinner dishes, but for now my fave dishes to cook are omelettes and French toast.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
DB: A young man with a desire to make a positive impact on the world by using the gifts God has blessed him with. I see a nice guy that enjoys people, a happy person enjoying life.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
DB: Oh, I know, I know.  To be the President of the United States... just for one day, though. I think it would be pretty cool being able to represent our country in the highest available office.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
DB: Ooh... let me think. [LOL] Cutting a huge hole in my little brother's hair. I think I was probably about 3 or 4 and he was 1 or 2. In my mind, I was pretending to be my Dad, who's a barber, but things didn't quite go as planned, as they do when my Dad cuts his clients’ hair. [Laughs some more] My brother ended up having to get all of his afro cut off, the lowest his hair's ever been. And my Dad wasn't a happy camper.

KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
DB: That's easy, a Lion, because he's the king of the jungle and nobody can stop him or get in his way. He's fearless, yet loyal to his pride.

KW: The Toure question: Who is the person who helped you to become the person you are today?
DB: Definitely, my parents. I don't really have one person, because they both help equally to develop me, guide me, support me and keep me on the straight and narrow path.

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 
DB: They all have "something" that drives them to be hard workers… a passion for their goals. And they also appear to be very focused on achieving their dreams. As my Mom had a successful corporate career and my Dad is a successful entrepreneur, I would have to say for me and my family, visualizing our accomplishments, taking small steps, daily, and putting God first.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
DB: Alright, read a whole bunch of books and pray!  This way, you'll become an exceptional reader, as well as learn how to fully comprehend and interpret the many scripts that you may receive. Stay true to yourself. Don't let anyone tell you, you can't do it. Maintain your inner confidence and for the details, contact my Mom. You can visit her website [  ] because she's helped a lot of moms get their kids started in the business and she has a very, very long note there on that website, spelling out exactly what she did to get me and my little brother started. The key part to this is prayer. I hold this part sacred and don't really share this with any and everybody, but I do feel it's necessary to spread the truth about what I find most valuable. I'd tell other kids wanting to become an actor, to ask God to direct your path and if this is His goal for your life, then He will open doors for you.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
DB: I want to be remembered as a good person. Someone who people enjoy being around.  That person that inspires you and has a light about him that you just can't put your finger on, but makes you feel good when you're in his presence. I also want to be remembered as a true professional of the entertainment industry, as a sharp thinker and creative. As a hard-working, yet fun person that people love and that loves to have fun. People often refer to me as a young Denzel. I think that would be great to follow in his footsteps as an actor. Although I haven't met him yet, he seems like a very classy man, so being referred as a younger him, I think is a huge compliment.  

KW: Thanks again for the time, Dante, and best of luck with the film.
DB: Thank you, Mr. Williams.  Thank you. It was fun doing this interview. Good questions and I appreciate your taking the time to interview me.

To see the trailer for Won’t Back Down, visit:

Florida Man Gets 20 Years for Shooting Car (News Article)

This article about a miscarriage of justice is by Kathy Ancar, an editor and good friend of mine.  
Florida man gets 20 years in state prison for shooting car
By Kathy Ancar

As he did every Saturday night for the previous four years, on August 20, 2011, single dad Joseph A. Blaine Dejoie IV, prepared for work while his seven-year-old daughter played nearby.  Joseph’s custody agreement called for his daughter to be picked up by her mother, Dina Moreno West, from Joseph’s place of employment on Saturday nights. Two days prior, Mr. Dejoie testified against Mr. & Mrs. West in custody court, where he sought more time with his daughter. 

On this particular Saturday evening, Joseph’s father (Joseph Dejoie III) received a telephone call from Mrs. West asking, “Are you home?”  Finding this strange, Mr. Dejoie III immediately called his son and warned him to be careful during the handoff.  Mr. Dejoie III had reason to be concerned by the call because Mr.  & Mrs. West had a longstanding history of threatening his son. Mr. West, in particular, had on more than one occasion threatened to shoot Mr. Dejoie. This fact has been corroborated by Mr. Dejoie, III, who repeatedly mediated discussions between the Wests and his son.

As they spoke, Joseph told his father, “It’s okay Dad.  She’s pulling up now, and she’s alone. I’ll call you back in a minute.” When several minutes passed with no call from his son, Mr. Dejoie III called his son’s cell phone. After repeated attempts to reach his son failed, the call was finally answered – by a Pensacola Police Department officer, who informed Mr. Dejoie III that his son had just shot Marcus West, his daughter’s stepfather.

When he arrived on the scene, Mr. Dejoie III learned that just as he and his son hung up their phones, Marcus West pulled up in his car, charged across the lawn, shoved and forcefully bore his forefinger into Joseph’s forehead, and began arguing about the custody hearing. Attempting to avoid the situation escalating further, Joseph ordered Mr. West to leave.  Several neighbors testified that they did indeed hear a man yell, “Get off my lawn,” several times. Mrs. West also pleaded with her husband to leave, to no avail. Mr. West ignored his wife’s pleas, and in fact, according to Mr. Dejoie, cursed her and pushed her into her car when she attempted to intervene.  According to Joseph Dejoie, and neighbors who witnessed the scene, West then claimed to have “something that will blow you and your house down!”

At this point, only after repeated demands that Marcus West leave his property, Joseph pulled a handgun from his belt and again ordered Mr. West off his lawn.  Mr. West leaned over and reached into his car, and Joseph fired his weapon, hitting Mr. West in the legs and buttocks.  Only then did Mr. West get into the car. Joseph, fearing that Mr. West was now inside the vehicle where he said he had a weapon, ordered him to show his hands. Mr. West continued to rummage under his seat, so Joseph shot again, hitting the car, but not Mr. West. Mr. West fled the scene. Joseph called 911, as had several neighbors before shots rang out, who reported hearing a loud argument between a man and a woman. Joseph remained on the phone with the operator until police arrived. Officers arrived on the scene within minutes.

After speaking with Joseph, the first officer on the scene said to him that this appeared to be a clear-cut case of self-defense. After all, Joseph was assaulted on his own front lawn. However, continued the officer, it all depends on how it is written up in the police report. 

The investigator, who did not interview all the witnesses, “summarized” the statements of those she did interview. Neighbors who had called police came outside to tell what they heard and saw, only to be told to go back inside. As a result, Joseph was arrested! Not only that, the attacker, Mr. West, who was treated and released from the hospital two days later, was never charged or arrested. Remember, Mr. West came onto Mr. Dejoie’s lawn, threatened him, struck him, assaulted his own wife, and gave conflicting statements that did not match those of several witnesses. However, Joseph was charged with aggravated battery and firing a weapon into an occupied vehicle. His charge was later elevated to attempted murder.  Joseph’s dad, an Escambia County Sheriff, asked the prosecuting attorney why the state attorney was pursuing these charges, when it was clearly self-defense. According to Mr. Dejoie, the prosecuting attorney responded that it was out of his hands, and that his orders “from above” were to push this case hard. 

During his trial, despite the witnesses’ testimonies verifying that Mr. West was clearly the aggressor, the jury found Joseph not guilty of attempted murder, but guilty of firing into an occupied vehicle. For that charge, Joseph IV faced 20 years in state prison. What!? NOT GUILTY for shooting a man, but 20 YEARS, under the 10-20-Life Law, for shooting a car?

This gets even better. Under Florida law, the prosecutor, NOT THE JUDGE, is the only person eligible to waive the mandatory minimum!*

Upon learning this, family and friends of Joseph wrote letters to the prosecutor pleading for leniency. The victim, Marcus West, when interviewed by the pre-sentencing PSI, said that he did not want Joseph to go to prison, stating that the only person to suffer if her dad went to prison would be Joseph’s daughter, De’Ana Moreno Dejoie. The PSI requested that Mr. Dejoie be given a reduced sentence, stating that he did not deserve to go to prison at all for this, as it was clearly self-defense. Their pleas fell on deaf ears. At the July 5, 2012 sentencing, Joseph’s parents spoke on his behalf.  Joseph read a prepared statement during which he admitted to shooting Mr. West, but reiterated that his sole intention was to defend himself and his daughter from imminent danger.

The judge stated that he believed this was an unfortunate incident that had been brewing for a long time and finally reached a boiling point. He asked the prosecutor if he wished to waive the mandatory minimum, which the prosecutor refused to do. Of course he refused to waive the mandatory minimum. It looks good for his office when he sends the “bad guys” away for a very long time. But, this was not a bad guy. 

Joseph Dejoie was employed and paying child support. He was also a fulltime student, who was in court fighting for MORE CUSTODY TIME with his daughter just two days prior to this incident. Additionally, he was on his own front lawn. He did not go out looking for trouble; trouble came to his front door, and he defended himself. 

It is ill-fated when citizens, in an effort to curtail crime, vote in favor of flawed laws that grant the power to determine a person’s fate to a prosecuting attorney rather than to the judge. Why do we even need a judge to preside over criminal cases if his only power is in ruling in favor of or against objections on the parts of the opposing attorneys? 

Joseph Dejoie IV plans to appeal the ruling. In the meantime, he has been sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 20-years in state prison FOR SHOOTING A CAR. This is a travesty. This man is not a career criminal. He is a victim, who in self-defense shot an attacker below the waist, and his wounds were not life threatening. As a result of the prosecutor’s decision to sentence him to the mandatory minimum, his daughter, who was accustomed to speaking to her dad every single day, and being with him four days each week, will not hug him again until she is 28 years-old. 

Until citizens stand up to these injustices and blatant abuses of power at the hands of elected officials, we will lose many more men like Joseph Dejoie to the system, and more little girls will suffer the trauma of having their daddies ripped from their lives and their hearts. We cannot let that happen. 
 If you wish to reach out to Mr. Dejoie, there are several ways to help his case and at the same time, make your voice heard.

·        Email and his parents will print out and mail your letters to him.

Six Million and One (FILM REVIEW)

Six Million and One
Film Review by Kam Williams

Children Retrace Steps of Late Father in Holocaust Survivor Bipoic

            When he was alive, Joseph Fisher never shared with his children any of his experiences while being interned in concentration camps during World War II. So, you might imagine their surprise to find a diary recounting his nightmarish ordeal among his personal effects after he passed away.
            Only one of his offspring, David, could bring himself to read the memoir, a heartbreaking account of a struggle to maintain sanity in the face of unspeakable horrors ranging from forced labor to starvation to torture to rape to cannibalism to murder. The incredibly revealing reflections (“It’s as if you have no skin to protect you.”) posthumously erased an emotional boundary that had existed between the son and his understandably-traumatized, if emotionally-distant parent.
            David immediately felt compelled to travel to Europe to retrace his dad’s footsteps from Auschwitz to Gusen to Gunskirchen. And he soon succeeded in convincing his very hesitant siblings to join him on the trek. The upshot of that undertaking is Six Million and One, as moving a documentary about the Holocaust as one is ever apt to encounter.
            At the site of the death camps, we hear poignant passages from Joseph Fisher’s journal about being ordered to remove bodies of other prisoners from the extermination block and about having to eat grass and snails to stay alive. He also talks about how, upon being liberated, “I felt guilty about surviving. I’ve felt this way all my life.”
            By film’s end, expect to weep as much as all four Fisher kids. A bittersweet tale of survival, as well as a priceless history lesson for the ages illustrating man’s capacity for inhumanity to his fellow man.

Excellent (4 stars)
In Hebrew English and German with subtitles
Running time: 93 minutes
Distributor: Nancy Fishman Film Releasing

To see a trailer for Six Million and One, visit:

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Top Ten DVD Releases for 10-2-12

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Top Ten DVD List for October 2, 2012                          

House – The Complete Series

Peanuts Holiday Collection

The Hole

Sound of My Voice

Hungry for Change

Soul of Sand


The Clintons: An American Odyssey

Cinderella [3-Disc Diamond Edition]


The Light Thief

Note to Self

Honorable Mention

Adventure Time: Jakes vs. Me-Mow


Dora the Explorer: Dora’s Royal Rescue

Semper Fi: Always Faithful


Pet Sematary

Dinosaur Train: Dinosaurs A to Z


People Like Us

Dark Shadows

Funky Town

General Education

Friday, September 28, 2012

Dark Shadows (DVD REVIEW)

Dark Shadows
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Johnny Depp Does Barnabas Collins in Nostalgic Adaptation of Classic TV Show 

            Dark Shadows was a daytime soap opera which originally aired at 4 PM on ABC-TV on weekday afternoons from 1966 to 1971. What made the program unique for the romance genre was its Gothic storyline revolving around Barnabas Collins, a 200 year-old vampire as earnest in his search for blood as for a reunion with his long-lost love, Josette.
            The television series built a big cult following among kids who never took the show’s fright fare seriously, but merely enjoyed it as a mindless diversion designed to help them unwind after a long day at school. It is with that same lighthearted spirit in mind that Tim Burton apparently approached the screen version of Dark Shadows.
            Set in 1972, this costume dramedy that offers a walk down Memory Lane courtesy of such best-forgotten staples of the era as Lava lamps, macramé and plastic fruit. It also features bell-bottomed Flower Children driving a Volkswagen bus while listening to rock anthems like “Nights in White Satin,” and “Season of the Witch.”
            At the point of departure, we meet Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote) en route to Collinsport, Maine to apply for a position as governess at Collinwood Manor. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the quiet coastal village, construction workers at an excavation site unwittingly unleash an undead monster by cutting the bolts keeping Barnabas’ (Depp) cast-iron casket sealed tight.
            Both Barnabas and Victoria descend on the sprawling Collins estate, only to find the mansion in a dire state of disrepair due to the decline of the family’s fortune. The place is presently presided over by imperious matriarch, Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer) who lords it over an assemblage of oddballs: her spoiled-rotten daughter, Carolyn (Chloe Moretz); her ne’er-do-well brother, Roger (Jonny Lee Miller); his troubled son, David (Gulliver McGrath); a live-in shrink (Helena Bonham Carter); and a couple of creepy servants (Jackie Earle Haley and Ray Shirley).
            The ensuing mix of slapstick violence and tongue-in-cheek humor is often amusing, nostalgic and clever but never really rises to the level of laugh out loud funny. This Johnny Depp vehicle benefits most from his bloodthirsty character Barnabas’ deadpan delivery, as when he mistakenly salivates over gobs of red goo undulating around a Lava lamp.   
            A faithfully-cheesy remake of a consciously-campy TV show.

Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, smoking, drug use and horror violence.
Running time: 113 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Becoming Barnabas; Welcome to Collinsport; A Melee of Monstrous Proportions; Angelique: A Witch Scorned; Reliving a Decade; Dark Shadowy Secrets; The Collinses: Every Family Has Its Demons; Cooper Rocks Collinsport; Vampires, Witches and Werewolves, Oh My; and deleted scenes.

To see a trailer for Dark Shadows, visit: 

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 10-5-12

Kam's Kapsules:      
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         
by Kam Williams
For movies opening October 5, 2012


Frankenweenie (PG for scary images, mature themes and action sequences) Oscar-nominee Tim Burton (for Corpse Bride) directed this animated horror comedy about a young boy (Charlie Tahan) whose scientific experiment to bring his beloved pet dog (Frank Welker) back to life results in unintended consequences. Voice cast includes Winona Ryder, Robert Capron, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau and Christopher Lee. 

The Paperboy (R for violence, profanity and graphic sexuality) Oscar-nominee Lee Daniels (for Precious) directed this crime thriller revolving around a big city reporter (Matthew McConaughey) who returns to his tiny Florida hometown to try to exonerate a Death Row inmate (John Cusack) with the help of his brother (Zac Efron), a colleague (David Oyelowo) and a sultry groupie (Nicole Kidman) With Macy Gray, Ned Bellamy and Scott Glenn. 

Taken 2 (PG13 for sensuality, action sequences and intense violence) Principal cast reunites for this adrenaline-fueled sequel which finds retired CIA Agent Mills (Liam Neeson) vacationing with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) in Istanbul where they end up abducted by a revenge-minded gang of Albanian sex traffickers. With Maggie Grace, Rade Serbedzija, Leland Orser and Luenell. 


Bel Borba Aqui (Unrated) Reverential biopic chronicling the career of Bel, the Brazilian artist whose oversized, outdoor sculptures dot the landscape of his beloved hometown of Salvador. (In Portuguese with subtitles)

Butter (R for profanity and sexuality) Social satire, set in small-town Iowa, about a young, adopted girl (Yara Shahidi) who squares-off against an ambitious housewife (Jennifer Garner) in the annual butter-carving competition. Cast includes Hugh Jackman, Olivia Wilde and Alicia Silverstone.

Escape Fire (PG-13 for mature themes) Medical crisis documentary addressing the question of whether the broken, American healthcare system can be fixed. Featuring appearances by Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Dean Ornish and insurance executive Wendell Potter.

Fat Kid Rules the World (R for sexuality, drug use and brief violence) Coming-of-age comedy about an overweight, suicidal 17 year-old (Jacob Wysocki) who forms a rock band with the street musician (Matt O’Leary) who saved his life by stopping him from jumping in front of a bus. With Billy Campbell, LILi Simmons and Jeffrey Doombos. 

The House I Live in (Unrated) War on Drugs documentary takes a penetrating look at the human rights implications of the American criminal justice system’s incarceration of over 45 million non-violent, narcotics offenders since 1971. 

Now, Forager (Unrated) Marital crisis drama about a counter-cultural couple (Tiffany Esteb and Jason Cortlund), subsisting by selling wild mushrooms to Manhattan restaurants, whose relationship is tested when the wife tires of living hand to mouth. With Almex Lee, Gabrielle Maisels and Marty Clarke.

The Oranges (R for profanity, sexual references and drug use) Romantic comedy, set in suburban N.J., about the strain placed on two couples’ close friendship  when one husband (Hugh Laurie) has a scandalous affair with the other’s (Oliver Platt) daughter (Leighton Meester). With Catherine Keener, Allison Janney, Alia Shawkat and Adam Brody.  

Pitch Perfect (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity and drug use) Musical comedy about a college freshman (Anna Kendrick) who overhauls the repertoire of her all-girl singing group in preparation for a big showdown on campus with an all-male rival ensemble in an a cappella competition. Featuring Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson and Skylar Astin.

V/H/S (R for gory violence, graphic nudity, explicit sexuality, drug use and pervasive profanity) Found footage horror flick about a gang of crooks who get the surprise of their lives after agreeing to break into a dilapidated house in the middle of nowhere to find a videotape for an anonymous third party. Starring Calvin Reeder, Lane Hughes and Adam Wingard.  

Sister (Unrated) Class-conscious drama, set in Switzerland, about a 12 year-old mountain urchin (Kacey Mottet Klein) who supports himself and his big sister (Lea Seydoux) by stealing from wealthy guests at a posh ski resort. With Gillian Anderson, Martin Compston and Simon Guelat. (In French and English with subtitles)

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You (Unrated) Introspective character study about a Brown university-bound high school grad (Toby Regbo) who spends a summer of discontent talking about his troubles to his grandmother (Ellen Burstyn) and psychotherapist (Lucy Liu). Support cast includes Marcia Gay Harden, Peter Gallagher and Deborah Ann Woll.

Trade of Innocents (PG-13 for mature themes and violence) International thriller about a couple (Dermot Mulroney and Mira Sorvino) grieving the death of their daughter who venture to Southeast Asia to rescue young girls caught up in child prostitution. With John Billingsley, Trieu Tran and Kieu Chinh.

Wuthering Heights (Unrated) Screen adaptation of the Emily Bronte classic about the love which blossoms between an orphan (James Howson) and the teenage daughter (Kaya Scodelario) of the Yorkshire farmer (Paul Hilton) who adopts him, much to the chagrin of the girl’s overprotective brother (Lee Shaw). With Solomon Glave, Shannon Beer and Simone Jackson.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Won't Back Down (FILM REVIEW)

Won’t Back Down
Film Review by Kam Williams
Jaded Teacher and Single-Mom Join Forces in Uplifting Tale of Female Empowerment

            In 2010, California passed the nation’s first “Parent Trigger Law,” a bill which enables a neighborhood with an underperforming public school to fire the principal, replace the staff and convert it to a charter, provided a majority of the parents with students attending it sign a petition. The legislation has proved very controversial thus far, with opponents alleging that the measure is merely anti-union, whereas the sponsors call it an overdue reform intended to give kids stuck in so-called “dropout factories” a fair chance.
            Consequently, Won’t Back Down is opening under a cloud of controversy, which is unfortunate since the film is otherwise a quite engaging and entertaining tale of female empowerment. The reason why the picture has generated so much suspicion is that it was produced by Walden Media, the same studio that just a couple of years ago released Waiting for Superman, an incendiary documentary that came under attack for blaming teachers’ unions for the broken educational system.
            Although based on actual events that transpired in Los Angeles, Won’t Back Down is set in the City of Pittsburgh, where we find an exasperated Jamie Fitzpatrick (Maggie Gyllenhaal) struggling to just to survive. Between selling used cars by day and bartending at night, the single-mom barely has any energy left to attend to the academic needs of her dyslexic daughter, Malia (Emily Alyn Lind).
            Convinced that the lagging 8 year-old hasn’t learned to read out of neglect, she enters the little girl in a lottery for one of the few coveted spots opening up at Rosa Parks, a highly-regarded, nearby charter school. But when Malia’s name isn’t called, the frustrated mother decides to do something about the school they’re still stuck with.
            Inspired by the state’s new “Fail Safe Law,” Jamie morphs into a tireless child advocate hell-bent on wresting the reins of control from an administration and staff with low expectations. Along the way, she enlists the assistance of Nona Alberts (Viola Davis), a jaded teacher who had all but gone to acceptance.
            Initially, Nona is reluctant to get involved, because she could very easily get blacklisted for trying to bust the union. Furthermore, she’s an emotional wreck, being overwhelmed by the prospect of having to raise her son (Dante Brown) on her own in the wake of her estranged husband’s (Lance Reddick) recent departure.
            Nevertheless, Jamie and Nona bond and, over the objections of bureaucrats, not only garner the requisite number of parental votes but even talk the teachers into surrendering job security for performance-based salaries. An uplifting, overcoming the odds Hollywood saga suggesting that the solution to public education’s host of woes might be as simple as a couple of women on the verge of a nervous breakdown picking up picket signs.
            In the tradition of Norma Rae and Erin Brockovich, say hello to Jamie Fitzpatrick and Nona Alberts!

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG for mature themes and mild epithets.
Running time: 121 minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox/Walden Media

To see a trailer for Won’t Back Down, visit: