Friday, February 28, 2014

Repentance (FILM REVIEW)

Film Review by Kam Williams

Psychological Thriller Traces Grief-Stricken Man’s Slow Descent into Insanity

            Therapist Thomas Carter (Anthony Mackie) has just published a popular self-help book about the near death experience which helped him turn his life around. He is proud of the fact that after almost perishing in a horrific, alcohol-related car crash in his teens, he eventually not only earned graduate degrees in World Religion and Clinical Psychology but went on to wed his soul mate, Maggie (Sanaa Lathan).
            Today, Tommy has a happy marriage and a flourishing practice founded on a spiritual philosophy combining faith and positive thinking. But sadly, his enviable fortunes have proven to be the polar opposite of his wayward brother Ben’s (Mike Epps) lot.
            The recently-paroled ex-con was barely back on the streets before word of a $12,000 bounty being placed on his head spread around their native New Orleans. So, when Ben approaches his successful sibling for enough cash to keep his bloodthirsty adversaries at bay, empathetic Thomas opts to raise the ransom by extending the best-selling tome’s publicity tour.
            At a local book signing, he is approached for an autograph by a fan also urgently in need of 1-on-1 counseling. Against his better judgment, the literary rock star agrees to see Angel Sanchez (Forest Whitaker) as a patient, since the $300/session fee definitely will put a dent in brother Ben’s debt.
            Even worse is Dr. Carter’s fateful decision to make house calls to the home of this loner left devastated by the death of his mother (Adella Gautier). For, although it might be easy to diagnose the source of the deeply-disturbed man’s anguish, the only hint that he’s at the end of his emotional rope is his estrangement from his wife (Nicole Ari Parker) and young daughter (Ariana Neal).
            The plot thickens when Angel takes his new shrink hostage, tying him up in his basement-turned-makeshift torture chamber. The psycho proceeds to behave sadistically while conveniently managing to keep up appearances for the sake of any visitors and passersby.
            Directed by Philippe Caland (Ripple Effect), Repentance is a momentarily-intriguing psychological thriller that establishes a compelling premise only to morph into an otherworldly horror flick. Over the course of this rudderless adventure, Forest Whitaker ultimately finds himself abandoned by an implausible script.
             The Silence of the Butler!

Fair (1.5 stars)
Rated R for profanity, violence and torture
Running time: 90 minutes
Studio: Code Black Films
Distributor: Lionsgate Films

To see a trailer for Repentance, visit:

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 3-7-14

Kam's Kapsules:      
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         
by Kam Williams
For movies opening March 7, 2014


300: Rise of an Empire (R for sexuality, nudity, profanity and pervasive violence) High body-count sequel, set in 480 BC, finds triumphant King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) now leading the Persian army against forces led by Greek General Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) in an epic naval showdown over Athens. With Eva Green, Lena Headey and Hans Matheson.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman (PG for mild action and rude humor) Animated adventure about a brilliant beagle inventor (Ty Burrell) who makes his mark on iconic moments in history when he travels back in time via Wayback Machine with his pet boy (Max Charles). Voice cast includes Ariel Winter, Mel Brooks, Stephen Colbert, Dennis Haysbert, Leslie Mann, Allison Janney and Stanley Tucci.


Awful Nice (R for profanity and sexuality) Tale of redemption about a popular college professor (James Pumphrey) who tries to mends fences with his deadbeat brother (Alex Rennie) as they drive cross-country to their father’s funeral. Cast includes Todd Sklar, Yakov Smirnoff and Laura Ramsey.

Bethlehem (Unrated) Middle East drama about an Israeli Secret Service agent (Tsahi Halevi) who induces a Palestinian teenager (Shadi Mar’i) to snitch on his terrorist older brother (Tarik Kopty). With Hitham Omari, Michal Shtamler and George Iskandar (In Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles)

The Face of Love (PG-13 for a drug reference) Romance drama about a widow (Annette Bening) who goes to great lengths to hide from her new boyfriend (Ed Harris) the fact that he’s the spitting image of the husband she lost five years earlier. With Robin Williams, Amy Brenneman and Jess Weixler.   

A Farewell to Fools (PG-13 for brief profanity and a violent image) World War II farce, set in a simple Romanian village, highlighting Nazi occupiers’ search for the perpetrator after the body of a German soldier is discovered by a local boy (Bogdan Iancu). Starring Gerard Depardieu, Harvey Keitel and Laura Morante.

A Fragile Trust (Unrated) Journalistic ethics expose about Jayson Blair, the African-American reporter for the New York Times who was dismissed in disgrace after being caught plagiarizing many of his stories. 

The Grand Budapest Hotel (R for profanity, sexuality and violence) Droll dramedy, directed by Wes Anderson, chronicling an accommodating concierge’s (Ralph Fiennes) exploits at a legendary European hotel during its heyday in the Thirties prior to the outbreak of World War II. Ensemble includes Owen Wilson, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Tom Wilkinson, Harvey Keitel, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Jeff Goldblum. (In English and French with subtitles)

Grand Piano (R for profanity) Tale of redemption about a failed child prodigy (Elijah Wood) once crippled by stage fright whose attempted comeback is imperiled by an anonymous death threat if he plays even one wrong note during a performance. With John Cusack, Dee Wallace and Kerry Bishe.  

Honey (Unrated) Euthanasia drama about a self-appointed angel of mercy (Jasmine Trinca) who takes it upon herself to help gravely-ill patients commit suicide. Featuring Carlo Cecchi, Libero De Rienzo and Iaia Forte. (In Italian with subtitles)

In Fear (R for profanity, terror and disturbing violence) Primal horror flick about a young couple (Iain De Caestecker and Alice Englert) who gets spooked when they realize they’re not alone after getting lost while driving in the Irish countryside. With Allen Leech.

Interior. Leather Bar. (Unrated) James Franco and Travis Matthews co-wrote, co-directed by and play themselves in this sexually-explicit docudrama reimagining the 40 minutes of lost footage deleted from the homoerotic classic Cruising (1980). Supporting cast includes Val Lauren, Christian Patrick and Brenden Gregory.  

Journey to the West (PG-13 for violence, sexuality, bloody images and partial nudity) comedy fantasy about a Buddhist monk (Zhang Wen) who develops feelings for the demon hunter (Qi Shu) helping him protect his village from a trio of evil spirits. With Bo Huang, Show Luo and Shing-Cheung Lee. (In Mandarin with subtitles)

Particle Fever (Unrated) Big Bang documentary tracing six leading physicists’ search for the Higgs boson with the help of the Hadron collider in their attempt to unravel the mystery of the origin of the universe.  

Tasting Menu (PG-13 for brief profanity) Romantic comedy about ex-lovers (Stephen Rea and Claudia Bassols) who reunite to keep a reservation made a year earlier at a restaurant billed as the best in the world. With Fionnula Flanagan, Jan Cornet and Togo Igawa. (In English and Catalan with subtitles)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Transforming Pain to Power (BOOK REVIEW)

Transforming Pain to Power
Unlock Your Unlimited Potential
by Daniel Beaty
Berkley Books
Hardcover, $19.95
236 pages
ISBN: 978-0-425-26748-6

Book Review by Kam Williams

“I grew up in Dayton, Ohio in a home scarred by addiction and incarceration. For most of my childhood… I thought chaos, bondage and sadness were the norm … My concept of who I could be in the world was greatly influenced by the men in my house. …
My father was a heroin addict and dealer… and my older brother followed in [his] footsteps, becoming addicted to crack cocaine and spending time in prison as well…
My life has been graced with the appearance of ANGELS who have led me through moments of intense darkness and empowered me to realize my potential… In this book, through memoir, poetry, character monologues, recovery technology, exercises, and statements of affirmations, I intend to share all that I have learned with the goal of empowering people to create the lives of their dreams.” 
-- Excerpted from the Introduction (pages 4-6)

            By any measure, Daniel Beaty had a pretty challenging childhood, starting even before his birth. He was almost born in prison, when his very pregnant mother was busted for possession of his dope-dealing dad’s heroin. She eventually had to raise him all alone when his trifling father finally abandoned the family after ping-ponging back and forth between home and the slammer.      Fortunately, while in the third grade, Daniel’s teacher played a video of Martin Luther King delivering his “I.Have a Dream” speech. The historic address had a salutary effect on the young lad in need of a positive role model. Right then and there, a seed was planted which put Daniel on a path to transcend his tragic circumstances.
            That journey would include a BA in English and Music from Yale University and an MFA in Acting from the American Conservatory Theater. Today, he’s quite an accomplished poet, playwright, actor, singer and motivational speaker.
            And he’s also the author of Transforming Pain to Power: Unlock Your Unlimited Potential, an uplifting opus which is as much an autobiography as it is a positive thinking, self-help tool. Underpinning this tough love tome is a simple enough basic philosophy, namely, “No matter who you are, where you are, or what you’ve been through, there is a power within you that is the unlimited potential to create, do, or be anything.”
            Besides the author’s heartbreaking life story, the text is filled with interactive exercises from role play to affirmations (“I am worthy of my dreams.”) to fill in the blanks (“My purpose is to become_____”). Thus, the emotionally-engaging pages don’t permit the reader to be passive.        
            An inspirational, practical and mind-expanding tool designed to instill the optimistic message that any soul, however traumatized, still has a chance of healing, thriving and becoming a productive member of society.  

Rebecca Da Costa (INTERVIEW)

Rebecca Da Costa
“The Bag Man” Interview
with Kam Williams

From the Runway to the Red Carpet!

Born in Recife, Brazil, supermodel-turned-actress Rebecca Da Costa studied at the Rui Barbosa School where she pursued her love of theater by writing, directing and starring in a number of plays. At the age of 14, Rebecca was discovered during a model search, and she debuted at Milan Fashion Week a couple of years later en route to gracing runways all over the world for Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Escada and Hugo Boss, to name a few.
The statuesque beauty also became the face of campaigns for Chopard, Swarovski, Nokia and L'Oreal. However, a visit to Los Angeles prompted a permanent move to the States, where Rebecca decided to focus on her true passion, acting.
Her first lead role was in an indie film titled L.A. I Hate You, and her credits came to include a stint on HBO's "Entourage" as well as starring roles in Free Runner, Mine Games and 7 Below alongside Val Kilmer and Ving Rhames. More recently, she wrapped shooting the horror flick Breaking at the Edge with Milo Ventimiglia and Andie MacDowell in which she stars as a bi-polar, pregnant woman in fear for her unborn child's life.
Rebecca currently resides in Los Angeles where, in addition to her modeling and acting career, she devotes her time to such philanthropic efforts as Kids with Autism and Common Ground HIV. To relax, she enjoys dancing, cooking healthy, Brazilian dishes and regularly practicing Transcendental Meditation in order to maintain a healthy mind and body.
As a planetary citizen who has lived on several different continents, Rebecca is fluent in many languages, with Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and English among them. Here, the versatile thespian talks about staring as the femme fatale in the neo-noir thriller The Bag Man opposite Robert De Niro and John Cusack.

Kam Williams: Hi Rebecca, thanks for the interview.
Rebecca Da Costa: No problem, Kam.

KW: What interested you in The Bag Man?
RDC: When I went to audition for the film, they didn’t give me the whole script, but I liked my character Rivka’s dry sense of humor. She seemed so witty in the scenes I read. It seemed like a big challenge, and that was one of the first things that caught my attention.

KW: Were all the big names already attached to the picture at that point?
RDC: When I first got the phone call that I’d booked the job, I didn’t know that John [Cusack] and [Robert] De Niro were attached. But when they gave me the news, I was like “Oh my God!” It was too much for me. And Sticky Fingers, Crispin Glover and Dominic Purcell later joined the cast.    

KW: How was it working opposite Cusack and a legend like De Niro?
RDC: It was a mind-blowing experience because I grew up watching those guys. To act opposite them was surreal. But at the same time, you naturally forget who they are after a few days since you’re so focused on getting each scene right. You couldn’t concentrate if you let yourself think, “That’s Robert De Niro.” Still, he was amazing to watch. It was the best acting class I ever had.  

KW: I know you like writing and directing. What sort of project might interest you in that regard?  
RDC: I’d like to direct children’s movies in ten years or so, because I love everything connected to their universe. But that’s a long-range plan because, right now, I’m just focusing on my acting career.

KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
RDC: I’d love to do a musical, because I love singing and dancing.  

KW: You’ve taken a very circuitous route from Brazil to Hollywood. You were discovered in you mid-teens, and moved to Milan as a model, right? 
RDC: Yes, I lived in Europe for seven years, in Italy… France… Germany… Austria… Everywhere! Then I moved to New York to work as a model, but I also started taking acting classes. Right after that I moved to L.A. and my career really started to take off. 

KW: Are you tempted to move back to Brazil? It’s hot right now, between the World Cup and the next Summer Olympics.  
RDC: I love my country, and I go back to visit my family four or five times a year, even though it’s a very long trip. I’ll definitely be going back for the World Cup, because I’m a very big soccer fan. And I hope to attend the Olympics, too. In my dream world, I’d like to live in both New York and Brazil.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
RDC: That’s such a good question. Let me think… I can’t think of one right now.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
RDC: I do this fish dish in the oven with vegetables and brown rice that’s very easy and very healthy and very nice. It only takes about a half-hour to make. I also like to cook and to eat black beans, rice and meat, a traditional Brazilian dish. It’s very similar to a Cuban and Mexican food. That’s what Brazilians have for lunch every single day. It may sound boring, but it’s really, really delicious. [Chuckles] 

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
RDC: I will go with Dolce & Gabbana because it just dresses my body-type  beautifully.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
RDC: That my career was going so well that I could live on a desert island. That way, I could shoot a movie, and then hide on my private island. [Giggles] I love my privacy so much that I closed my Facebook account for years. I just reopened it a few months ago at the suggestion of my publicist. But I prefer to be private and even unavailable at times. I’d rather not even turn on my computer sometimes. The world we live in right now, everybody can know where you are in a second.     

KW: Why an island?
RDC: I love the beach and the ocean! I’m very spiritual, and that’s where I feel very connected to a higher power. 

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
RDC: Oh, wow! It depends. Today, when I look in the mirror, I see somebody who’s very tired because, for the past few days I’ve just been so busy. From the minute I wake up until the minute I go to sleep, I have so many things to do. But it varies. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and I feel sad. Other times, I feel proud, because I was a very active child with so many dreams that I’m living now. But when I’m down or having doubts, I look in the mirror and ask myself, “What would 10 year-old Rebecca do, if she were facing this trouble?” That really helps me.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
RDC: Oh God, that’s so deep. I can remember playing with classmates at a school playground at around 4 years of age.   

KW: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision?
RDC: My best career decision was to move to L.A. I went there to visit a friend, and decided to move there. I remember praying about it to get some guidance. I’m not religious but, as I mentioned before, I am very spiritual. I like to pray to God for guidance. I think it helps me. I remember very clearly being back in Manhattan three days later when I got the phone call that somebody was interested in renting my apartment. I felt so happy as I strolled through Central Park listening to music because I knew I was now free to move. And, from there, everything started happening in my life.    

KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
RDC: It impacted me very much. I think it might have been what made me turn to acting. My first big heartbreak was with my father. As the oldest daughter, I was very attached to him. Unfortunately, my mother divorced him, and he wasn’t a part of my life anymore, by his choice, of course. That influenced who I am today, including the roles I choose.   

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
RDC: I love watching Brazilian soap operas. [LOL]

KW: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend the time? 
RDC: Funny you should ask, because just the other day I dreamed that the world was collapsing, and the first thing that came to my mind was: Where’s my mother? I would take a plane to be close to my family.  

KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the runway or on the red carpet?
RDC: On the red carpet, you’re pretty much posing playing a role and answering very generic questions. But in real life, I’m very open and anybody who takes the time to get to know me is going to see that I’m very easygoing, and that I’m a homebody who loves cooking, and relaxing with family and friends. Perhaps people might not sense that from seeing me on the red carpet.  

KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?
RDC: To be invisible. [Laughs]

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
RDC: I think you really need to ask yourself if it’s really what you want for your life. And if you decide it’s what you want to do, then focus on it and go for it with 100% of your power. Believe me, I’ve been very lucky, but I still face obstacles every day. I’m acting in English which is not my first language. So, it’s hard. But you have to have that conviction in your heart that this was what you were born to do, and just keep going. Don’t stop!

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: What is your favorite charity? I know you’re already doing great work with Kids with Autism and Common Ground HIV.
RDC: The HIV cause is very close to my heart, first of all because I had a cousin with AIDS who passed away a few years ago. Also, I think it’s so unfair that people who are HIV+ are still stigmatized. Come on! We need to support them. And I want to get more involved with children’s charities that touch me.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
RDC: I like that question. More than anything, I want to be remembered as a good person who had a great deal of dignity, and also as an actress who was really hard working and who believed in her dreams.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Rebecca, and best of luck with the film.
RDC: Thanks Kam, this has been an entertaining interview, because it allowed me to show a side of myself that I don’t think people have seen before. 

To see a trailer for The Bag Man, visit:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Oscar Predictions 2014

                           Oscar Predictions 2014

                  The Envelope Please:
                  Who Will Win, Who Deserves to Win, Who Was Snubbed
                  by Kam Williams
12 Years a Slave is benefiting from the most Best Picture buzz as we approach Oscar night, although this is shaping up as one of those rare years when the award for Best Director will probably go to a different film, Gravity. Look for 12 Years to net only a trio of statuettes overall, with Gravity likely landing seven.
12 Years a Slave is the sort of elaborate historical drama the voters just love to recognize, as reflected in such past picks as The King’s Speech, Gladiator, Shakespeare in Love, Titanic, The English Patient, Schindler’s List, Driving Miss Daisy, The Last Emperor, Amadeus and Out of Africa, to name a few. And since the Anglophilic Academy ostensibly is impressed by English accents, it will also help that 12 Years is a British production.     
Besides forecasting the winners, I also suggest which nominees in each category is actually the most deserving. Furthermore, because some great performances are invariably overlooked by the Academy entirely, I also point out some who should’ve at least been nominated.
The 86th Academy Awards will air live on ABC this Sunday, March 2nd at 8:30 PM ET/5:30 PM PT, and will be hosted by Ellen DeGeneres.   

Best Picture    

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave
Deserves to Win: 12 Years a Slave
Overlooked: The Butler

Best Director

Will Win: Alphonso Cuaron (Gravity)
Deserves to Win: Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
Overlooked: Lee Daniels (The Butler)

Best Actor

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Deserves to Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Overlooked: Forest Whitaker (The Butler)

Best Actress

Will Win: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Deserves to Win: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Overlooked: Sharni Vinson (You’re Next)   

Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Deserves to Win: Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Overlooked: Harrison Ford (42)

Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)   
Deserves to Win: Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
Overlooked: Maria Bello (Prisoners)

Best Original Screenplay:

Will Win: Spike Jonze (Her)  
Deserves to Win: David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer (American Hustle)
Overlooked: Aaron Guzikowski (Prisoners)

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Will Win: John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
Deserves to Win: John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
Overlooked: Danny Strong (The Butler)

Predictions for Secondary Categories

Animated Feature: Frozen
Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty (Italy)
Documentary Feature: 20 Feet from Stardom
Cinematography: Gravity
Costume Design: The Great Gatsby
Production Design: The Great Gatsby
Film Editing: Gravity
Makeup and Hairstyling: Dallas Buyers Club
Original Score: Gravity
Best Song: Let It Go (Frozen)
Sound Editing: Gravity
Sound Mixing: Gravity
Visual Effects: Gravity

Monday, February 24, 2014


The Bag Man
Film Review by Kam Williams

Courier Delivers Package for Crime Boss in Multi-Layered Neo-Noir 

            At first blush, The Bag Man reads a lot like The Transporter, the 2002 action film about a courier hired by a mobster to deliver a mysterious package without opening it. After all, the title character of this adventure has been asked by a crime boss to pick up a bag for him without examining its contents.
            However, besides sharing that basic premise, the two pictures don’t have all that much in common. Where The Transporter is a special-effects adventure peppered with car chases and pyrotechnics, The Bag Man is a relatively-cerebral affair, a multi-layered mystery featuring unpredictable twists and turns as a well as a femme fatale with inscrutable intentions.
            At the point of departure, we find a powerful gangster named Dragna (Robert De Niro) aboard his private plane where he’s giving very precise instructions to the protagonist. Jack’s (John Cusack) assignment is to take possession of an ostensibly priceless satchel and then wait for Dragna inside Room 13 at a seedy motel located somewhere in the country.
            Of course, this proves easier said than done, when a cornucopia of colorful characters commence to covet the very valise he’s been asked to protect. The fun starts when Jack’s shot in the hand by Bishop (Danny Cosmo), the gangster who just handed him the package.
            Then, while checking in, he alarms the paraplegic desk clerk (Crispin Glover) by assuming the suspicious name “Smith” and by paying in cash. Next, he has to deal with curious cops who have decided to stake out the premises.
            But his biggest challenge of all is presented by Rivka (Rebecca Da Costa), a gorgeous damsel-in-distress on the run from a couple of goons herself. Will the scantily-clad stranger in need of a knight in shining armor be Jack’s undoing?
That’s the burning question for the balance of the madcap, high body-count adventure once the two opt to join forces.
            An intriguing enough whodunit to keep you guessing, thanks to a decent script and game performances by De Niro, Cusack and newcomer Rebecca Da Costa.

Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated R for violence, sexuality and profanity
Running time: 108 minutes
Distributor: Cinedigm Entertainment

To see a trailer for The Bag Man, visit:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Top Ten DVD Releases for 2-25-14

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Top Ten DVD List for February 25, 2014                       



Muscle Shoals

Tear Jerkers [6 Movies]

People of a Feather

Nova: At the Edge of Space

Chick Flicks [8 Movie Set]

Thor: The Dark World

Nature: Meet the Coywolf

The Swan Princess: A Royal Family Tale

Honorable Mention

Nova: Asteroid - Doomsday or Payday

Caillou’s Garden Adventures

Lessons before Love

Gotham City Serials: Batman/Batman and Robin

The Last Elvis

Adventure Time: The Complete Third Season

The Oyler House: Richard Neutra’s Desert Retreat

Peter Rabbit

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Daniel’s Big Feelings

Jamesy Boy

Beware the Batman: Shadows of Gotham – Season One, Part One

Legit: Season One

The Adventures of Champion the Wonder Horse: The Complete Series

Lost in Thailand

Transformers Prime: Ultimate Bumblebee

L.A. Law: Season One

The Passenger

Strawberry Shortcake: Berry Big Help

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Life’s Little Lessons