Sunday, March 31, 2013

Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal (FILM REVIEW)



Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal
Film Review by Kam Williams

Cannibal Inspires Artist in Unlikely-Buddy Horror Comedy

            Once the darling of the art world, Lars Olafssen (Thure Lindhardt) is down on his luck after developing the painter’s equivalent of writer’s block. He’s been reduced to taking a teaching position at a college in rural Koda Lake, Canada, a mythical town located outside Ottawa.
            There, he shares an apartment with Eddie (Dylan Smith), a mentally-challenged mute. Lars quickly learns that his untalented student obviously only gained admission to the school because he’s the relative of a generous alum.
            However, Eddie has bigger issues than being utterly unqualified, for he not only sleepwalks at night, but attacks and devours humans while in that somnambulant state. But rather than have the cannibal arrested, Lars lets his roommate embark on a reign of terror, since the bloodletting has simultaneously provided the spark of inspiration he’s been missing as a painter.
            Soon, with his popularity restored, Lars even finds himself pursued by an attractive colleague (Georgina Reilly). Will he ever help the police (Paul Braunstein) crack the case, or does his man-eating muse merely mean too much to his revitalized career?
            That is the question at the heart of Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal, a dark comedy written and directed by Boris Rodriguez. While a tad too understated and perverted to make this critic laugh, the film’s tongue-in-cheek brand of humor is nevertheless likely to resonate with cerebral types blessed with a taste for the droll and the bizarre.
            An unlikely-buddy horror flick which figured a viable way of walking a fine line between the sadistic and the sublime.

Good (2 stars)
Unrated
Running time: 90 minutes
Distributor: Music Box Films  

To see a trailer for Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal, visit: 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oW5U6JBt4Gg

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Temptation (FILM REVIEW)




Temptation
Film Review by Kam Williams

Adulteress Wife Shamelessly Violates Vows in Latest Tyler Perry Morality Play

            I’ll be honest, when I heard that Lionsgate wasn’t screening Temptation for critics, I really expected it to be a dreadful mess. But after entering the theater with very low expectations, I was pleasantly surprised by the latest morality play from Tyler Perry.
            No advance peek meant I had to wait until opening day to see the melodramatic soap opera, which in my case was in a sold-out house with a crowd that was about 90% black and female. As far as what the sisters thought of the picture, all I needed to hear was the chorus of Amen’s and the robust round of applause during the closing credits.
            Still, it’s debatable whether the Christian-themed cautionary tale’s simplistic sermonizing will attract a broader audience beyond that loyal demographic, but I’d guess that it very well might resonate with Evangelicals in general. Plus, don’t discount the box office appeal of reality show sensation Kim Kardashian who holds her own here in a quite comical supporting role as an opinionated fashionista.
            Loosely based on Perry’s 2008 stage production “The Marriage Counselor,” Temptation is a flashback flick revolving around 26 year-old Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), a na├»ve country bumpkin employed in Washington, D.C. by Janice (Vanessa Williams), a crafty love guru with a bad French accent but a thriving matchmaking service.
            Judith’s been married for six long years to loyal but boring Brice (Lance Gross), her childhood sweetheart and the only man she’s ever slept with. He runs a modest pharmacy in the city that never seems to have any customers. Nevertheless, the place’s atmosphere is kept pretty lively between comic relief coming courtesy of his gossipy, sticky-fingered cashier (Renee Taylor) and the ominous air created by a new employee (Brandy) hiding a big (and I mean BIG!) secret.
            College educated Judith dreams of opening her own psychotherapy practice someday, but doesn’t have sufficient funds to do so, presently. That predicament makes her all the more vulnerable to Harley (Robbie Jones), an unscrupulous, dot.com billionaire with money to burn and sexual conquests to make.
            The predatory home wrecker zeroes in on Judith while deciding whether to acquire her boss’ business. And before you can say “Mark Zuckerberg” she’s got dollar signs in her eyes and decides to leave her husband for a life of drugs and debauchery with suave Mr. Moneybags.
            Brice offers to pay more attention to his wife and to spice up their love life, but is it too late? Can this marriage be saved? A present-day parable preaching to the choir with sobering warnings about the love of money and taking your mate for granted.  
            The Gospel according to Tyler Perry!

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, sexuality and drug use
Running time: 112 minutes
Distributor: Lionsgate Films  

To see a trailer for Temptation, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDfTwu2CgDY

Friday, March 29, 2013

Travaris Spears (INTERVIEW)



Travaris Spears
The “Admission” Interview
with Kam Williams
 
Veni! Vidi! Varis!

            Known to many as "Varis" or simply as "V," Travaris Spears hails from Rochester, New York where, at an early age, he displayed a charm that was engaging and magnetic. An energy and passion for performing led him to sing, dance, and even imitate his favorite artists and celebrities. Using the world as his stage, Travaris leaves a lasting impression, thanks to a gift for communicating and interacting with people from all walks of life.
            In fact after performing in a Tiny Tots school play, the director and audience members expressed to his mother that he had something very, very special. With a desire for the best for her son, his mother, Tanika, moved to Brooklyn in 2007.
            From the time they arrived in New York City, she and Travaris set out to strengthen their resolve. Although Travaris was blessed with natural talents, he committed himself to various activities that enhance his character and improve his chances of blossoming as a professional artist.
            The discipline Travaris displays at such a young age is unrivaled and enables him to become fully engaged in a host of skill-building activities. His repertoire includes enrollment at the American Tap Dance Foundation, weekly guitar lessons, as well as voice and acting coaching.
            While maintaining excellent grades in school, he has appeared in a Siri/Universal Record Music Video, a television show, print ads and several indie films. Travaris' charisma is contagious, so appreciate him now and avoid the rush!
            Here, he talks about his new movie, Admission, a romantic comedy co-starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, where he plays Rudd’s adopted son, Nelson.


Kam Williams: Hi, Travaris. It was nice meeting you and your mom at the Princeton premiere. What interested you in Admission?
Travaris Spears: I think the thing that made me most interested in this role was playing a kid that had a life totally different from mine. Nelson is adopted… He travels the world with his father… no stability… no mother. It was interesting preparing myself mentally for this role.

KW: What was it like being on the set of your first feature film?
TS: It was so exciting being on set for the first time. Everyone welcomed me with love. It was a great cast to work with.

KW: Were you at all nervous acting around big stars like Paul Rudd and Tina Fey?
TS: Yes, I was nervous at first. I actually auditioned with Tina Fey before I was offered the role, and she made me feel really comfortable. We connected immediately. I was also able to meet Paul Rudd before I came on set to discuss some of the scenes, and he was very friendly and cool to work with. After the initial meeting, I was no longer nervous.

KW: How would you describe your character, Nelson?
TS: Nelson is an outgoing kid, very caring and outspoken. He loves to socialize like myself. Nelson is a kid who wants stability, a normal life, a mom and the same friends and the same school, instead of traveling the world with his father. Nelson hates traveling.

KW: Are you anything like him in real-life?
TS: Yes, Nelson and I are outgoing, caring, not shy, and we like stability. I couldn’t imagine traveling the world being taken away from my friends and family constantly.

KW: What message do you think people will take away from the film?
TS: People will see that change is not always bad; you can find many things in change including happiness.

KW: What was it like to see yourself up on the big screen for the first time?
TS: It was amazing to see myself on the big screen. I was so excited, I remember thinking what will I look like, and hoping I did a good job and that people would like my character. The one thing I was shocked about was everything I worked on was not in the movie. I learned about the editing of movies at my first screening of Admission. During the movie I said, “Mom, what happened to this scene? I worked really hard on that and it was taken out.”

KW: Besides acting, you sing, dance, play guitar and even box. Which is your favorite?
TS: I’m involved in a lot of activities and I enjoy them all, but if I could pick a favorite it would be acting.

KW: What do you like to do to unwind?
TS: On a busy day for me, once I finish work, I like to play video games or listen to music.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
TS: I always have good laughs daily. I’m a happy kid. For example, I’m a member at Gleason’s boxing gym, and my nickname there is Happy.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
TS: The last book I read was “The Red Pyramid” by Rick Riordan.
 

KW: What is your favorite dish to eat?
TS: Chicken Pad Thai and cheese pizza.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
TS: When I look in the mirror I see a handsome young man… smart, charming, willing to work hard for his dream… never giving up. And someone willing to help other people.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
TS: My only wish is to become a successful actor, and to be able to take care of my family and to help others in need.

KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
TS: I would be a lion. They’re strong creatures and they rule the jungle.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
TS: I remember when I moved to New York City when I was in the first grade. I remember being excited but also sad that I was leaving behind my friends and family in Rochester where I was born.

KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?
TS: If I had a superpower, it would be to be able to help anyone in need.

KW: The Michael Ealy question: If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be?
TS: It would be Martin Luther King, because he never gave up on his dream.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Travaris, and best of luck with Admission and with your career.
TS: No problem. Thanks for taking the time out to interview me.

To see a trailer for Admission, visit:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6fp8KswbCE 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Top Ten DVD Releases for 4-2-13



This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams


Top Ten DVD List for April 2, 2013                       

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One – Avengers Assembled


The Bible: The Epic Miniseries

 
Hitler’s Children


Knuckleball


White Elephant


Meet the Fokkens


Hemingway & Gellhorn

 
Charlie: A Toy Story


Tormented


13 Eerie



Honorary Mention

Stitches



Kam's Movie Kapsules for 4-5-13



OPENING THIS WEEK
Kam's Kapsules:      
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         
by Kam Williams
For movies opening April 5, 2013


BIG BUDGET FILMS   

Evil Dead (R for profanity, sexuality, graphic violence and gratuitous gore) Grisly remake of the Sam Raimi horror classic revolving around five friends who unwittingly arouse a dormant demon they stumble upon while vacationing at a cabin in the woods. Ensemble cast featuring Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore.

Jurassic Park (PG-13 for intense sci-fi terror) 3D rerelease of Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Michael Crichton’s best seller about man-eating dinosaur clones running amok at a prehistoric theme park located on a tropical isle.  Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Samuel L. Jackson.


INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

6 Souls (Unrated) Supernatural crime thriller about a recently-widowed, forensic psychologist (Julianne Moore) who becomes concerned about her family’s safety after discovering that all but one of a patient’s (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) multiple personalities resemble victims of unsolved murders. With Brooklyn Proulx, Frances Conroy and Jeffrey DeMunn.

The Brass Teapot (R for sexuality, profanity, violence and drug use) Juno Temple and Michael Angarano co-star in this adaptation of the comic book series of the same name about a cash-strapped couple that steals an antique which proceeds to reward them with money whenever they hurt themselves or others. Co-starring Alexis Beidel, Alia Shawkat and Matt Walsh.

The Company You Keep (R for profanity) Political thriller about a former Sixties radical (Robert Redford), still wanted for murder, who becomes desperate to clear his name before his identity is revealed by an investigative journalist (Shia LeBeouf) on the verge of blowing his cover. A-list ensemble includes Academy Award-winners Susan Sarandon, Chris Cooper, Julie Christie and director/star Redford, Oscar-nominees Terrence Howard, Anna Kendrick, Stanley Tucci, Nick Nolte and Richard Jenkins, as well as Sam Elliott, Brendan Gleeson and opera prodigy Jackie Evancho.   

Down the Shore (R for profanity and drug use) Romance drama set on the Jersey shore, where the lives of three friends since childhood start to unravel after a dark secret from the past is revealed. Starring James Gandolfini, Famke Janssen and Maria Dizzia.

Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal (Unrated) Dylan Smith handles the title role in this horror comedy about a once-successful artist (Thure Lindhardt) with painter’s block whose career is revitalized after he is befriended by a cannibal who walks in his sleep . With Alain Goulem, Paul Braunstein and Stephen McHattie.

Free Angela and All Political Prisoners (Unrated) Reverential biopic about Angela Davis chronicling why the controversial socialist professor-turned-black radical became a fugitive after landing on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list.

Lucky Bastard (NC-17 for explicit sexuality) Found footage horror flick about a fan (Jay Paulson) who comes to regret answering an adult website’s invitation to have sex with his favorite porn star (Betsy Rue). With Don McManus, Chris Wylde and Catherine Annette.  

No Place on Earth (PG-13 for mature themes and violent images) World War II documentary recounting the ordeal of five Jewish families who survived the Holocaust by hiding in caves in the Ukraine.

Simon Killer (Unrated) Romance drama about a just-dumped college grad (Brady Corbet) who moves from the U.S. to Paris where sleeping with a prostitute (Mati Diop) leads to blackmail and betrayal. With Alex Desjoux, Marc Gaviard and Alexandra Neil. (In French and English with subtitles)    

Trance (R for profanity, sexuality, violence, graphic nudity and grisly images) UK crime thriller, directed by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle (for Slumdog Millionaire), about an auctioneer with amnesia (James McAvoy) who hires a hypnotist (Rosario Dawson) for help remembering where he hid the priceless painting he stole to pay off a debt owed to a ruthless mobster (Vincent Cassel). Featuring Danny Sapani, Matt Cross and Wahab Sheikh.

Upstream Color (Unrated) Surreal sci-fi saga about a man (Shane Carruth) and a woman (Amy Seimetz) who are drawn together before becoming entangled in the lifecycle of an ageless organism. With Andrew Sensenig, Thiago Martins and Frank Mosley.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Eslanda (BOOK REVIEW)



Eslanda
The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson
by Barbara Ransby
Yale University Press
Hardcover, $35.00
434 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-0-300-12434-7  

Book Review by Kam Williams

“At a time when most Black women suffered painfully circumscribed lives, Eslanda Robeson enjoyed enormous mobility... For most of her life, Essie was a traveler, both literally and metaphorically.
She transcended class and cultural boundaries and crossed international borders; she conversed in multiple languages and traveled to nearly every corner of the globe. Essie Robeson’s story is about one woman’s journey across the vast and volatile landscape of 20th Century world politics and culture…
But it is not a singular story. It is a story of a marriage and a partnership that was fraught with complications, but which ultimately endured.” 
-- Excerpted from the Introduction (pg. 1)

            Born in Washington, D.C. in 1896, Eslanda Cardozo Goode Robeson was a descendant of slaves and Sephardic Jews. Although there were enormous barriers encountered by African-Americans during the early 20th Century, she somehow managed to gain admission to an Ivy League school, Columbia University, at a time when most black women worked as domestics and most black males had to settle for menial labor.
            After earning a B.S. degree, Essie landed a job as a chemist at a Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. In 1919, while still living in New York City, everything changed the day she met Paul Robeson, who was then a law student at NYU. The two fell madly in love, married a couple of years later and eventually had a child together.
            Blessed with a powerful, bass-baritone singing voice, Paul opted to pursue an entertainment career over the practice of law, with Essie serving as his business manager. Everyone knows that he went on to become an international icon, first as an entertainer, then as a blacklisted civil rights advocate.
            However, his wife was every bit as interesting, and her compelling life story is the subject of this fascinating biography by Barbara Ransby. For, despite the trials and tribulations of a rocky marriage and of having Paul, Jr. to raise, Essie remained a fiercely-independent trailblazer in her own right, whether attending graduate school, writing books, or railing against racism, sexism and colonialism.
            Above all, Eslanda Robeson was an outspoken peace pilgrim with an enviable, global network of friends and supporters, even if she would become a pariah in the United States because of being an outspoken advocate of progressive politics. This fact is reflected in the book’s 30+ pages of photographs, in which we find her in the company of such luminaries as Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Dr. Martin Luther King, novelist Pearl Buck, U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold, playwright Eugene O’Neill, Ghana’s President Kwame Nkrumah and poet Langston Hughes.
            A poignant portrait of a peripatetic, human rights activist willing to challenge oppression of any form wherever she could find it.        


A Royal Affair (DVD REVIEW)


A Royal Affair

(En kongelig affaere)
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Queen Plots Coup in 18th Century Costume Drama

            If you are a fan of elaborate costume dramas of Shakespearean proportions, A Royal Affair is likely right up your alley. Nikolaj Arcel, who wrote the script for the Swedish-language version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, does double duty this time around, both directing and adapting Bodil Steensen-Leth’s erotic novel, Prinsesse af blodet, to the big screen.
            The epic tale revolves around the love triangle which develops when Denmark’s 15 year-old Queen Caroline (Alicia Vikander) falls head over heels for a dashing doctor named Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen). This only makes sense since her considerably older husband she’s just met is not only a clumsy lover but stark raving mad to boot.
            She and the Royal physician are not only attracted to each other, but share some lofty ideals for the long-oppressed citizenry. So, casting their fate to the wind, the smitten lovebirds soon set about plotting to overthrow the cuckoo king.
            Of course, no monarch takes kindly to a coup d’etat, and complications ensue. It doesn’t help matters that the recently-arrived Caroline is a sister of Britain’s King George III, and Johann is German, which means the insurgency has the potential to turn into an international incident.
            While carrying on their torrid affair, the pair contemplates ushering in the Age of Enlightenment, a cultural movement that had already taken hold elsewhere around Europe. While folks familiar with Danish history might have an idea where this all leads, it was definitely fun for this uninformed critic to witness the intriguing play-by-play in the dark as to what was looming just over the horizon at each tawdry twist and turn.
            A lust for power revealing, what else, but something rotten in the State of Denmark.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for sexuality and violent images.
In Danish, French, German and English with subtitles
Running time: 137 minutes
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
DVD Extras: Interviews with Alicia Vikander, Mads Mikkelsen and Mickolaj Arcel; and a trailer.

To see a trailer for A Royal Affair, visit:  
 


Monday, March 25, 2013

Lincoln (DVD REVIEW)



Lincoln
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Daniel Day-Lewis Deliver’s Oscar-Winning Performance as the Great Emancipator

            At the beginning of his presidency, Abraham Lincoln invited three of his political opponents to join his Cabinet to form a so-called “Team of Rivals” with the hope of preserving the Union.   But the challenges proved to be insurmountable as the Southern states seceded anyway, leading to the outbreak of The Civil War.
            By late 1864, much blood had been spilled and the sides seemed as bitterly divided as they had been at the start of the conflict. Even holding the contending factions inside the surviving coalition together came courtesy of compromise, which explains why the Emancipation Proclamation freed the Confederacy’s slaves but none in any of the Union’s four, remaining slave states.
            Based on Harvard historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 944-page opus “Team of Rivals,” Lincoln telescopes tightly on the last five months of the Great Emancipator’s life, a period during which he was desperately devoted to both abolishing slavery and reuniting the country by ending the Civil War. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film landed a dozen Academy Award nominations and landed Daniel Day-Lewis the Oscar in the Best Lead Actor category.
            The stellar supporting ensemble includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, James Spader, David Strathairn, Gloria Reuben, S. Epatha Merkerson, Hal Holbrook, Tim Blake Nelson, John Hawkes, Jackie Earl Haley and Bruce McGill. The character-driven drama basically revolves around Lincoln’s twisting elbows to get the two-thirds vote in Congress necessary to pass the 13th Amendment ending slavery.
            This means most of the movie focuses on his exercising his powers of persuasion, promising (sometimes with his fingers crossed) whatever it takes to induce reluctant fellow Republicans and adversaries from across the aisle to support his historic measure. The President is helped in this regard by his Secretary of State, William Seward (Strathairn) who, in turn, enlists the assistance of Congressmen Bilbo (Spader), Latham (Hawkes) and Schell (Nelson). And already counted on for their votes are longtime liberals like Thaddeus Stevens (Jones) and James Ashley (David Costabile).
            This flick doesn’t feature any epic battle scenes or even Lincoln’s assassination, but simply lots and lots of talk scenes. The conversation-driven production winds what passes for tension around the fait accompli of whether or not the president’s bill will pass.
            While watching talking heads exchanging dialogue borrowed from “Team of Rivals” might delight history buffs, it’s unfortunately likely to test the patience of the Average Joe. Is it still worth the investment? Yes, but not if you’re expecting anything more than a poignant portrait of Lincoln’s last days, time spent as a marked man making his appointed rounds en route to his rendezvous with destiny.  

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for gruesome images, brief profanity, ethnic slurs and an intense scene of war violence.
Running time: 150 minutes
Distributor: DreamWorks Home Video
4-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: The Journey to Lincoln; An Historic Tapestry – Richmond Virginia; In the Company of Character; Crafting the Past; Living with Lincoln; and In Lincoln’s Footsteps. 

To see a trailer for Lincoln, visit:  


Jurnee Smollett-Bell (INTERVIEW)

Jurnee Smollett-Bell
The “Temptation” Interview
with Kam Williams

Sentimental Jurnee!

Born in New York City on October 1, 1986, Jurnee Smollett-Bell is an award-winning actress and activist of rare talent and conviction. She recently starred in the Emmy Award-winning series “Friday Night Lights” on which she portrayed the character Jess.

She’s also been seen on “The Defenders” as Lisa, a new attorney at the law firm.
Jurnee starred in The Great Debaters with Forest Whitaker and Denzel Washington who also directed the historical drama. Jurnee received rave reviews and won the NAACP’s Best Lead Actress Image Award for her performance.

The versatile thespian landed her breakthrough role at the age of 11, when she starred in Eve's Bayou opposite Samuel L. Jackson and was cited by Interview Magazine as one of the five Hollywood stars to watch in the new millennium. Her other film credits include Roll Bounce, Gridiron Gang, and Beautiful Joe with Sharon Stone as well as made-for-television films including the Wonderful World of Disney’s "Selma Lord Selma” and Showtime’s "Ruby's Bucket of Blood" opposite Angela Bassett.

On TV, Jurnee has guest starred in the season finale of “Grey’s Anatomy” as well as on "House," "E.R.," "Strong Medicine," and "NYPD Blue." Her other television credits include "Wanda at Large" and "Cosby," for which she won NAACP Image Awards in 1999 and 2000.

She began her television acting career at the age of 4 with a recurring role on "Full House," later reviving the character for a season of "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper." She followed that by starring on the ABC comedy "On Our Own" alongside her real life sister, Jazz, and her brothers, Jojo, Jussie, Jake and Jocqui.

Besides acting and singing, Jurnee is an activist and the youngest board member of Artists for a New South Africa (ANSA), a nonprofit dedicated to fighting the spread of HIV, advancing human rights, and to educating and empowering AIDS orphans and other at-risk youth. She has been involved with ANSA since the age of 11. 

Working with the organization, Jurnee has traveled to South Africa, where she has met with Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu, as well as with victims of HIV. She even went on an official mission for the U.S. State Department to Botswana, Swaziland and South Africa to conduct AIDS awareness workshops. 

Among Jurnee’s other charitable causes is the Children’s Defense Fund, where she joined the board at the invitation of her longtime mentor, Marian Wright Edelman. Here, she talks about starring as Judith opposite Vanessa Williams, Kim Kardashian and Brandy in Tyler Perry’s latest morality play, Temptation.

Kam Williams: Hi Jurnee, thanks for the time.
Jurnee Smollett: Thank you for taking the time.

KW: The last time I had a chance to speak to you was when you were doing The Great Debaters.
JS: Oh, man, it’s been a minute.

KW: What interested you in Temptation?
JS: The challenge of the role. It’s kind of what you look for as an actor. Something that you haven’t done before… something that can really make you stretch… and honestly, I’d always wanted to work with Tyler.

KW: How did that come about?
JS: I was awakened by a call early one morning from an Atlanta number. When I answered my cell phone, the person said, “Hello, this is Tyler Perry. May I speak with Jurnee?” And I said, “Shut up, there ain’t no way this is Tyler Perry.” [Chuckles] I thought it was one of my brothers doing a prank call on me. Tyler just laughed, apologized for waking me, and then asked me to call him back after I got up. When I hung up, my husband turned over and asked, “Baby, do you think that maybe that really was Tyler Perry? You might want to call back and see.” [Chuckles] Lo and behold, it was Tyler, and he said he had been following my career and that he had written this script with me in mind. He said Bill Cosby had actually told him years ago that he needed to work with me. 

KW: So, what did you think of the script?
JS: When I read it, I was like, “Wow! This is a lot to take on.” But I wanted the challenge.

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: Tyler Perry does very well at being funny and at being serious. You, too, do well at both. How did you prepare for the different emotional moods your character, Judith, is called upon to convey in Temptation?
JS: I had to do a lot of research because of the complexity of the character since she passes through so many different emotional colors. In preparation, I spent time speaking with marriage counselors , therapists and relationship experts in order to get into her head, to understand what leads to what, and how a third person could come between you and your spouse and convince you that your marriage and life isn’t what it should be. I wanted to get a sense of how that could happen. Being a newlywed, it was so hard for me to imagine that. Tyler and I would debate back and forth about the script. I’d ask, “Would she really do that?” Sometimes, he’d make an adjustment, other times he say, “Look, Jurnee, you have to remember this is not you in a happy marriage.” Those were the moments when I had to rely on my research.  

KW: What was it like having Tyler Perry as a writer and director?
JS: It was such a great experience. He’s so down-to-earth… he’s a fun guy… and he keeps a great set. Everything’s on time. He’s the first one to show up, the last one to leave, and he’s really open to suggestions and collaboration. For instance, if I said, “I don’t feel that that dialogue is truthful,” he’d respond with, “Okay, let’s work that out. Let’s adjust it.” He was very open to play, which is what you look for as an artist. 

KW: What was it like working with your leading men Lance and Robbie, as well as Kim, Brandy and Vanessa?
JS: It was great to work with the guys, because they really brought their “A” game. I was really grateful to them for being so open and emotionally available, since half of my performance involved looking into their eyes and reacting to them. And what an amazing cast of women. Vanessa Williams, who plays my boss, is such a legend. I’ve always looked up to her. Not only is she so gorgeous, but she is a pro. She gave me some great advice and support, that little stamp of “You got this, girl!” which you never can get enough of. Brandy, I already knew. Although I didn’t have many scenes with her, I was happy that she was in the film because she’s such a talented actress. And Kim was just so sweet to work with. She was very eager and very professional. It was a great, diverse cast.  

KW: What message do you think Tyler wants his audience to take away from the film?
JS: I think he really wants the film to start a dialogue among couples about relationships. That you cannot take your loved one for granted. You have to continue to communicate. You always have to work on the relationship. And then there’s another message about choices. The film at its core is really about how thoughts can infect your mind that might lead to choices that can lead to actions and behavior you never thought yourself capable of, if you don’t watch yourself. Since the movie, in a way, is a cautionary tale, Tyler wants the message about relationships to reach younger people, too.

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: Has the transition from child to adult actress been a smooth one for you?
JS: I’ve been blessed that it has been a smooth one, not without its challenges, of course. But for the most part, I’ve always been able to work. I’m very picky about the kind of work that I do, and I’m fortunate to have been able to work with great directors and great actors who’ve helped me grow as an artist. 

KW: Marcia Evans asks: Do you have any upcoming projects with any of your siblings? 
JS: Ahh! Possibly. My siblings are so talented. My sister’s a producer, and my brothers and I all write. We’ve been developing some stuff. We’ll see. It would have to be the right project. But for now, I’ve recently joined the cast of True Blood.

KW: Marcia also asks: Is there an historical figure you would like to play in a biopic?
JS: Ahh… that’s a good question. But there are too many to pick just one. [Chuckles]

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: How did you come to develop an interest at such an early age in AIDS in Africa and the Children’s Defense Fund as charitable causes?
JS: I love that question. When I was 12 years-old, I got involved with an organization called Artists for a New South Africa. One of its missions is to help with HIV/AIDS awareness. My best friend is Hydeia Broadbent who was one of the first people in America born HIV+. Between those two, I’ve always been passionate about HIV from a young age, because I’ve seen, personally, how it can affect someone’s life. Obviously, HIV/AIDS isn’t a death sentence anymore. Hydeia will be 28 soon and she’s a walking example of that. But still, as her best friend, I see how hard it is to live with this disease. She wakes up with stomach aches, because the medication is really harsh on your body. It’s nothing that anyone would choose to have. So, I do what I can to educate young people about this disease, because it is preventable.

KW: Patricia also says: I loved your performance in The Great Debaters. She asks: What does it mean to you to have African-American, Christian and Jewish roots? 
JS: It means that I’m a mutt. [LOL] My mom is African-American, Native-American, Irish and Creole, and my father is of Jewish, Russian and Polish descent. It’s made me who I am. Because of my diverse background, I think I can relate to many different people, different stories and different communities.   

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
JS: [LOL] I see my big ole smile. No, I see this young woman that I pray God can use for a bigger reason. 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Jurnee, and best of luck with the film.
JS: Thank you, Kam.

To see a trailer for Temptation, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDfTwu2CgDY