Monday, December 30, 2013

Riddick (DVD REVIEW)

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Third Installment of Sci-Fi Franchise Finds Vin Diesel Reprising Role as Alien Antihero

            When we first met Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel) in Pitch Black, the notorious criminal had been arrested by a bounty hunter and was being transported to prison when the spaceship encountered a comet and had to make a crash-landing on an uncharted planet. He escaped, and proceeded to elude his captors in a gruesome struggle for survival which would consume most of their lives.
            The higher attrition-rate sequel served up more of the same while, at the point of departure of this episode, we find the feral title character still at large but marooned on yet another desolate planet. Now, he’s being hunted by two teams of badass mercenaries, one led by the father (Matt Nable) of the bounty hunter he’d wasted in the original.
            Although Riddick is wanted dead or alive, the reward is double if he’s brought back in a body bag. Of course, that’s easier said than done, since this seemingly-indomitable alien from planet Furya was blessed with superhuman strength, intuition, willpower and night vision, traits which combine to make him a formidable enemy, even when outnumbered badly by pursuers armed to the teeth.
            So, this installment boils down to an intergalactic posse’s attempt to apprehend Riddick as he tries to figure out a way to hijack one of the rockets in order to return to his faraway homeland teeming with water, grass and other signs of life. Too bad the scriptwriters of this boring installment ran out of new ideas for their flagging franchise.
            Consequently, Riddick does little more than generate a vague sense of déjà vu between the barren backdrop (except for a swarm of voracious critters) and the familiar ways in which the elusive antihero’s adversaries are dispatched. After all, how many different ways can you lop off a head or gut a guy so his entrails spill out?
            This edition even includes another round of titillation coming courtesy of a token blonde, in this case Katee Sackhoff as a lipstick lesbian whose sexual preference tends to frustrate the testosterone-blinded members of the all-male crew sharing the space station’s cramped quarters. Nevertheless, job one remains tracking Riddick with the assistance of dubious “futuristic” technology explained by what might best be best described as pseudo-scientific nuttery.
            A derivative disappointment that’s more of an uninspired remake than a groundbreaking sequel.
Fair (1 star)
Rated R for profanity, nudity, sexuality and graphic violence
Running Time: 119 minutes
Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Meet the Mercs; Vin’s Riddick; Riddick: Blindsided; Unrated Director’s Cut; The World of Riddick; Riddickian Tech; and The Twohy Touch.

To see a trailer for Riddick, visit:       

Kick-Ass 2 (DVD REVIEW)

Kick-Ass 2
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Shocking Splatterflick Ups the Ante on Original’s Gratuitous Gore

            It’s very rare indeed for a star to trash his own picture, no matter how horrible the film is. For that reason, you should considered yourself warned by Jim Carrey’s distancing himself from Kick-Ass 2, going so far as to apologize for the splatterflick’s shocking “level of violence.”
            But upping the ante on gratuitous gore is just one of a host of this sorry vigilante sequel’s fatal flaws. Another is that the rubber-faced comedian was not only crippled by a script with no funny lines for him but also required to keep his most valuable asset covered with a mask for most of the movie.
            Replacement director Jeff Wadlow takes the hit here for miscasting Carrey in a dramatic role. What’s wrong with playing to a thespian’s strengths, especially when you have at your disposal one of the funniest comics to ever grace the silver screen?  
            If you remember Kick-Ass 1, what really made the movie magical was Hit-Girl (Chole Moretz) and Big Daddy’s (Nicolas Cage) bizarre but tender father-daughter relationship. Unfortunately, Big Daddy bit the dust in the original, and the title role of Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has been expanded this go-round, mostly at the expense of Hit-Girl’s screen time.
            In fact, as the film unfolds, we learn that Hit-Girl has hung up her mask and stretchy pants to focus on her freshman year at Millard Fillmore high school as alter ego Mindy McCready. Senior David Lizewski, however, still moonlights as Kick-Ass and soon joins Justice Forever, a ragtag team of self-proclaimed superheroes led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Carrey).
            Their nemesis is The Mother [expletive] (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), the richest kid in all of New York. This spoiled orphan has inherited the bucks to assemble the most diabolical band of villains money can buy.
            The ensuing epic battle between good and evil for the fate of the city eventually forces Hit-Girl out of retirement, and just in the nick of time to turn the tide. Too bad the picture’s pathetic attempts at humor fall flat, its special f/x are cheesy, its characters never generate any chemistry, its preposterous plot fails to engage, and it features a morally-reprehensible “level of violence,” most of it involving teenagers.
            Oh, but the ending does set up the franchise’s next installment, for folks who get their kicks vicariously, via the observation of explicit vivisection. A relentlessly-gruesome bloodfest of no redeeming value that at least Jim Carrey had the decency to ‘fess up about. 

Fair (1 star)
Rated R for sexuality, graphic violence, crude humor, pervasive profanity, and brief nudity
In English, Mandarin and Russian with subtitles
Running Time: 103 minutes
Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Alternate opening; extended scenes; Big Daddy Returns: The Unshot Scene; An Ass-Kicking cast; Street Rules: Showdown at the Evil Lair; Hit Girl Attacks: Creating the Van Sequence; Upping the Game; Going Ballistic: Weapons & Stunts; Creating a Badass World; and a feature commentary with the director and stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Chloe Grace Moretz.  

To see a trailer for Kick-Ass 2, visit:   

Flo Anthony (INTERVIEW)

Flo Anthony
The “Deadly Stuff Players” Interview
with Kam Williams

Taking Stock of the Status Flo

            Flo Anthony is a syndicated celebrity radio host, columnist. The first African-American woman to work in the sports, entertainment and the renowned Page Six departments of the New York Post, as well as the first African-American to pen a column in the National Examiner, her work currently appears in the New York Daily News, Resident Magazine, the New York Amsterdam News and other newspapers.
            Flo is also the publisher and editor-in-chief of Black Noir Magazine, as well as a busy blogger. She has appeared on many TV shows, including Life After, omg! Insider, Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition, and other programs on the Fox News Channel, CNN, HLN and MSNBC.
            A graduate of Howard University, Flo resides in the East Harlem section of New York City. Here, she talks about her new novel, “Deadly Stuff Players.”

Kam Williams: Hi Flo, it was great finally getting to meet you at the Pocono Mountains Film Festival.
Flo Anthony: Hello, Kam. I feel the same way. You are such an amazing journalist. It was a thrill to finally meet you, too.

KW: Thanks! You are a Renaissance woman who wears a lot of hats: radio host, publisher, editor, gossip columnist, publicist, blogger, talk show guest, syndicated columnist and novelist. How do juggle so many interests?
FA: Thanks for the compliment. I keep a very tight daily schedule. I provide live radio feeds to almost 30 stations from 7:35 am until 5:00 pm. From 9:30 to noon, I research and write two shows, Gossip On The Go With Flo and Flo Anthony's Big Apple Buzz for the next day. At 12:10 pm, I record the shows. Then I start up live again at 2:00. In between feeds, I write my other columns and work on other projects. I was on a three-month deadline to write Deadly Stuff Players, so I began work on it at 5:00 every morning, did my other work between the radio feeds, then resumed work on the novel at 3:30, then worked until around 7:00 every evening and all day on Saturdays and Sundays.

KW: Which one do you enjoy doing the most?
FA: I love it all, but my radio show is my baby. I can say whatever I want and I love interacting with the air personalities. It is not financially as rewarding as it should be, but the creative outlet rewards my soul.

KW: What celebrity was your favorite interview of all time?
FA: Michael Jackson, every time I interviewed him throughout the years. The most exciting interview with him was when I took the Inside Edition cameras onto the set of his “They Don't Care About Us” video. I was very humble about it at the time, but looking back on it, it was a huge deal!

KW: Who did you most like representing as a publicist?
FA: Tyra Banks.

KW: What TV show have you had the most fun appearing on as a guest?
FA: Geraldo.

KW: What inspired you to write “Deadly Stuff Players,” a sequel to “Keeping Secrets, Telling Lies,” your first novel?
FA: I loved the characters Valerie and Rome, and wanted to bring them back. And, I kept coming up with all the other great characters like Vance Dumas, Platinum Pizzazz, Royale Jones, Turquoise Hobson, etcetera.

KW: The heroine of the book, Valerie, is a gossip columnist. Is the character based on you?  
FA: Yes, she is me down to the long blonde hair and love of Christmas. A lot of things that happen to Valerie in the book have actually been my experiences.

KW: Tell me a little about “Deadly Stuff Players.” The cover says “Zane Presents,” which makes me naturally expect a steamy romance novel. Yet, the title suggests that it might be a murder mystery. Which is it?  
FA: It is a murder mystery, although it does have a half-dozen love scenes. Zane has her own imprint, Strebor Books. 
KW: Tell me a little about the plot in 25 words or less?
FA: It revolves around Valerie and Rome, who is an NFL Hall of Famer-turned-Private Investigator, as they try to solve the murder of drug-addled socialite Andrea Dumas. She is the wife of an African-American billionaire Victor Dumas and mother of Vance Dumas, a jockey. The story follows Rome and Val around L.A. for five days and all the wild people, murder and mayhem they encounter.

KW: What was the most challenging aspect of writing the novel?
FA: Getting it exactly the way Zane wanted it to be.

KW: Who is the right audience for the book?
FA: Men and women from 18 to 80.

KW: What message do you think people will take away from it?
FA: That good prevails over evil and that life can have a happy ending.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
FA: Can I offer you a million dollar deal? Yes, you can. Thank you very much. [LOL]

KW: [LOL] Would you mind saying something controversial that would get this interview tweeted?
FA: I think that both Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston were murdered. They were both seasoned drug users. They wouldn't have overdosed. [Laughs again]

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
FA: Just now when I answered the last two questions. I believe laughter is good for the soul and I laugh all the time.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
FA: Drinking chardonnay. The new one is Flo wine by Marcus Johnson.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
FA: I read several novels a week, but the last good one was A Family Affair by Roshonda Tate Billingsley. I've actually read it over and over.  

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 
FA: “This Christmas” by Chris Brown from the This Christmas soundtrack.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
FA: Spaghetti and meat sauce. It's fast, easy, filling and inexpensive.

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
FA: Shopping for shoes.

KW: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision?
FA: To move to New York City by myself the Monday after I graduated from college to pursue my dreams.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
FA: I don't mean to sound vain, but a beautiful, seasoned woman.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
FA: A movie deal with Tyler Perry for Deadly Stuff Players.

KW: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend the time? 
FA: First, I would go to church and pray. Then, I would have a wonderful dinner and wine with my boyfriend Claude, and call my cousins and friends to say good-bye.

KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
FA: A lioness.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
FA: Going to the store for bananas in Mississippi when I was about 2.

KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
FA: It really hit me. I was 19. I lost 30 pounds, weighed only around 90, but I didn't get over him for a long time.

KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?
FA: To fly! That way, I could move around fast!

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 
FA: Most get very little sleep and are early risers.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
FA: Never give up! If you really want to do something, you can do it. Can you imagine that a person like me, born in Mississippi, raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, child of schoolteachers, would one day interview Michael Jackson and be able to call him and La Toya my friends? I could always write from a little kid, so I knew books were in my future.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
FA: As a nice person who gave of herself and was kind.

KW: Did it feel funny being asked these questions, instead of being the one doing the interviewing?
FA: No, I love being interviewed.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Flo, and best of luck with the book and all of your other endeavors.
FA: Thank you Kam, for all of your help and your contributions to the literary world.

Sunday, December 29, 2013



Film Review by Kam Williams

Phoenix Pushes Envelope Again in Another Mindbending Adventure

            A few years ago, Joaquin Phoenix released I’m Not Here, a novel mockumentary which chronicled his supposed retirement from acting in favor of a career in rap music. What made the movie mesmerizing was how hard it was to tell whether or not he’d really had it with Hollywood. For the three-time Oscar-nominee (for Gladiator, Walk the Line and The Master) threw himself into the role so convincingly that we had to wait for word of his next picture to know whether or not his new hip-hop persona was a fake.
            Joaquin’s latest offering, Her, is another mindbending adventure very dependent on his committing to a bizarre character. In this case, he plays Theodore Twombly, a lonely nerd who makes his living writing love letters for tongue-tied lonely hearts.
            Just past the point of departure, we find him being served with divorce papers by his estranged wife, Catherine (Rooney Mara). The suddenly single geek subsequently searches for a new mate and finds one not at an online dating website but right inside his computer.
            Sultry and seductive Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) is an operating system that comes equipped not only with state-of-the-art Artificial Intelligence but with a velvety voice to boot. Programmed to please, she’s ever evolving and adapting herself to fulfill her owner’s fantasies, and it’s not long before Theodore falls for her, computer headset over heels.
            After all, Sam gives good phone sex, going so far as to simulate the most inspired screen climax since Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. Soon, the man and software are an item, and smitten Theodore starts introducing his libidinous laptop to friends as his girlfriend.
            Sorry, but I have a problem buying into such a farfetched premise, especially since the eccentric protagonist keeps up the charade when he has a chance to date his gorgeous BFF (Amy Adams) after she’s dumped by her husband (Matt Letscher) and needs a shoulder to cry on. But no, we’re expected to believe he’d rather remain in a frustrating, metaphysical relationship with a piece of software that becomes possessive and jealous of women with bodies.
            Listen, this silly sci-fi storyline probably would have made a terrific, Twilight Zone TV episode back in the day, but it’s a little much to ask folks well grounded in reality to suspend their disbelief for a couple of hours for the sake of such a preposterous plot. That being said, I suppose there’s a good chance that the screen-weaned youngsters of the Millennial Generation might find the idea of dating a computer perfectly plausible.
            What’s in your laptop?   

Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality and brief nudity
Running time: 126 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers  

To see a trailer for Her visit: 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

American Hustle (FILM REVIEW)

American Hustle

Film Review by Kam Williams

Retro Dramedy Revisits Abscam Scandal during Gaudy Disco Era

            In the late Seventies, a half-dozen Congressmen along with a United States Senator were caught on camera taking bribes from FBI agents posing as wealthy Arab sheiks. The elaborate sting in which the disgraced politicians became ensnared was code named Abscam, a contraction of Arab Scam.    
            American Hustle is a visually-dazzling retro dramedy revolving around a fictionalized account of that embarrassing chapter of the nation’s history, Set in New York and New Jersey against the gaudy backdrop of the decadent Disco Music era, the film was written and directed by David O. Russell, Hollywood’s go-to guy blessed with the golden touch in recent years.
            His Silver Linings Playbook landed eight Academy Award nominations and netted Jennifer Lawrence 2013’s Best Actress Oscar. That picture arrived close on the heels of The Fighter, which had garnered seven Oscar nominations en route to trophies for both Christian Bale and Melissa Leo in acting categories.
            Here, David O. has produced another engaging and entertaining production featuring a plethora of memorable performances. This one co-stars Christian Bale as con artist Irving Rosenfeld and Amy Adams as his equally-mischievous British mistress, Sydney. They play a pair of small-time crooks pressured to help the Feds catch bigger fish in order to avoid prosecution.
            Reluctantly, they cooperate with Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), an ambitious, if flamboyant, FBI agent who draws attention to himself by curling his straight hair and wearing trendy clothes. Self-protective Sydney flirts shamelessly with the fashionable G-Man, feeling little loyalty towards her partner in crime who’s dragging his feet about filing for a divorce from his wife.
            But when blowsy Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence) realizes that her philandering hubby has been cheating, the trashy loudmouth decides to bring the drama, getting even by seducing a shady character (Jack Huston) she has no idea is under government surveillance. Generating great hilarity, these tawdry love triangles escalate into attention-grabbing distractions that threaten to wreck the supposedly covert operation.
            Meanwhile, the naive Mayor of Camden (Jeremy Renner) is being manipulated by Irving to introduce a notorious mob boss (Robert De Niro) as well as the aforementioned corrupt politicians to Sheik Abdullah (Michael Pena). However, the hapless FBI looks more like the Keystone Cops when the agent trying to pass as an Arab can’t speak his native language when challeneged.
            Who knows whether any of the ridiculous incidents recreated here ever actually transpired? But guess what? You don’t really worry about the truth when the laughs just keep coming and the witty repartee remains so inspired.
            Another memorable masterpiece cleverly crafted by the oh so talented David O!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, pervasive profanity and brief violence.
Running time: 138 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures

To see a trailer for American Hustle, visit:

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Top Ten DVD Releases for 12-31-13

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Top Ten DVD List for December 31, 2013                     

The Way, Way Back

Don Jon

They Came from Space: 20 Movie Collection

Perry Mason Movie Collection: Volume One

Love, Marilyn

Wolf Blood: Season One

One Direction: This Is Us

Thy Will Be Done



Elysium (DVD REVIEW)

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Damon and Foster Match Wits in Futuristic Sci-Fi Thriller

            It’s 2154, a time when the Earth has become so polluted and overpopulated that all of the idle rich have abandoned the planet to loll in the lap of luxury on a state-of-the-art space station. Their decadent enclave, Elysium, looks suspiciously similar to Beverly Hills, being dotted with palm trees, mansions and built-in swimming pools.
            Down below, the teeming masses of poor people struggle to survive, with escape to Elysium being their only hope for a decent existence. Of course, that’s easier said than done, since you have to be able to afford a ride aboard an expensive rocket ship just to get there. And, even after arriving, you have to provide the authorities proof of citizenship in order to stay.
            The job of preventing illegal immigrants from entering Elysium falls to its steely Secretary of Defense Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster), a heartless ice princess who has no qualms about shooting unauthorized space shuttles right out of the sky. She ostensibly does the bidding of John Carlyle (William Fitchner), the nefarious CEO of Armadyne Corporation, much to the chagrin of the orbiting outpost’s president (Faran Tahir).
            It’s impossible for any politician to reign in the powerful defense contractor, a fact which humble everyman Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) is about to learn the hard way. He only has five days to live after being exposed to a lethal dose of radiation in an industrial accident.
            After his request for medical treatment readily available on Elysium is summarily denied, he becomes determined to breach the border of the remote oasis by hook or by crook. He also wants to bring along his childhood friend, Frey (Alice Braga), and her young daughter (Emma Tremblay) who is suffering from acute leukemia. Standing in their way, however, is Kruger (Sharlto Copley), a blood-thirsty, heavily-armed mercenary deputized by Delacourt to patrol Los Angeles make sure no unworthy earthlings ascend to her exclusive abode.
            Directed by Neill Blomkamp, Elysium is a distinctly disappointing sophomore effort from the South African wunderkind who‘d made such a spectacular splash in 2009 with the sleeper hit District 9. This film feels like he’s all out of ideas, between the exploration of similar themes revolving and a cliché-ridden script filled with hack, action flick lines like: “That’s what I’m talking about,” “You have no idea,” and “I’m just getting started.”
            An underwhelming, sci-fi adventure more akin to After Earth than District 9.

Fair (1.5 stars)
Rated R for pervasive profanity and graphic violence
Running time: 109 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Engineering Utopia: Creating a Society in the Sky; and Collaboration: Crafting the Performances in Elysium.  

To see a trailer for Elysium, visit: