Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 5-9-14

Kam's Kapsules:      
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         
by Kam Williams
For movies opening May 9, 2014


Chef (R for profanity and sexual references) Jon Favreau wrote, directed and stars in this kitchen sink comedy as a cook who quits his job at a fancy restaurant in L.A. before returning to his Miami roots to operate his own food truck while reconciling differences with his estranged ex (Sofia Vergara). Cast includes Dustin Hoffman, John Leguizamo, Robert Downey, Jr., Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale and Amy Sedaris.   

Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (PG for scary images and scenes of peril) Animated sequel to The Wizard of Oz finds Dorothy (Lea Michele) venturing back to the Emerald City where she joins forces with a princess (Megan Hilty), an owl (Oliver Platt), a tugboat (Patrick Stewart) and a marshmallow (Hugh Dancy) after she finds the Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer) and Cowardly Lion (Jim Belushi) under the spell of a wicked Court Jester (Martin Short). Voice cast features Bernadette Peters as Glinda the good witch, Tacey Adams as Auntie Em and Michael Krawic as Uncle Henry.

Moms’ Night Out (PG for mild action and mature themes) Faith-based comedy about a tight-knit group of housewives in need of a break from their domestic duties who come to regret having their hapless husbands babysit for a few hours. Starring Sarah Drew, Patricia Heaton, Trace Adkins and Sean Astin.    

Neighbors (R for crude humor, graphic sexuality, frontal nudity, pervasive profanity and widespread drug use) Ensemble comedy chronicling the frustrations of a couple (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) with a newborn forced to live next-door to a rowdy fraternity house. With Zac Efron, Lisa Kudrow and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. 


App (Unrated) Sci-fi thriller, set in Amsterdam, about a psychology student (Hannah Hoekstra) terrorized by a cell phone app that circulates her secrets, photos and videos over the internet. With Isis Cabolet, Robert de Hoog and Alex Hendrickx. (In Dutch with subtitles)

Borgman (Unrated) Jan Bijvoet stars in the title role of this psychological thriller as a hobo who destabilizes the upper-class family that befriends him. Support cast includes Hadewych Minis, Jeroen Perceval and Alex van Warmerdam. (In English and Dutch with subtitles)

Breastmilk (Unrated) Lactation documentary extols the health and mother-baby bonding virtues of nursing while shedding light on one of the female body’s most remarkable functions.

Devil’s Knot (Unrated) Fact-based legal drama, set in the Bible Belt, revolving around the efforts of a skeptical private investigator (Colin Firth) to reopen the case against three teens (James Hamrick, Kristopher Higgins and Seth Meriwether) convicted of performing ritualistic, Satanic killings of young children. With Reese Witherspoon, Dane DeHaan, Elias Koteas, Mireille Enos, Bruce Greenwood and Amy Ryan.

The Double (R for profanity) Jesse Eisenberg stars in this adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s classic novella about a nerdy milquetoast whose life is turned upside-down by the hiring of a co-worker who’s his spitting image and has all the charm and confidence he lacks. Support cast includes Sally Hawkins, Mia Wasikowska, Gemma Chan, Wallace Shawn and Chris O’Dowd. 

Fed Up (PG for mature themes, brief profanity and smoking images) Agribusiness expose, narrated by Katie Couric, indicting the food industry for sickening far more consumers than most people realize. Featuring commentary by Michele Simon, President Bill Clinton and Senator Tom Harkin.

God’s Pocket (R for violence, sexuality and pervasive profanity) The late Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in this adaptation of the Pete Dexter best-seller as a struggling working-class hero who finds himself stuck with a trophy wife (Christina Hendricks) he can’t please, a body he can’t bury and a debt he can’t pay after his crazy stepson (Caleb Landry Jones) dies in a construction accident. With Eddie Marsan, Jack O’Connell and Bill Buell.
Palo Alto (R for graphic sexuality, drug and alcohol abuse, and pervasive profanity) Gia Coppola makes her writing and directorial debut with this coming-of-age drama based on a James Franco short story revolving around a clique of rebellious teens with a knack for finding trouble. Ensemble cast includes Franco, Emma Roberts, Val Kilmer, Chris Messina and Nat Wolff.

The Rescuers (Unrated) Cross-cultural documentary follows Rwandan activist Stephanie Nyombayire’s travels with British historian Sir Martin Gilbert to 15 countries to interview Holocaust survivors as well as the descendants of diplomats who had saved thousands of Jews from the Nazis.

Stage Fright (R for profanity, sexual references and graphic violence) High body-count horror flick set at a snobby drama camp terrorized by a bloodthirsty slasher who hates musical theater. Starring Meat Loaf, Minnie Driver and Allie MacDonald.

Still I Strive (Unrated) Uniquely-structured documentary interweaves reality with dream images to relate a tale of healing and transformation through compassion at a Cambodian orphanage where child actors train for a command performance for royalty. (In Khmer with subtitles)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Pageants, Parlors & Pretty Women (BOOK REVIEW)

Pageants, Parlors & Pretty Women:
Race and Beauty in the 20th Century South
by Blain Roberts
University of North Carolina Press
Hardcover, $39.95
378 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-1-4696-1420-5

Book Review by Kam Williams

“[This book] tells us how Jim Crow and civil rights were expressed in southern women’s bodies. Using female beauty as a lens, the book brings into focus an untold social and cultural history of southern women and of the South generally...
I argue that female beauty in the American South was, more so than in the rest of the country, deeply racialized…I also emphasize the complexity inherent in the pursuit of beauty… I approach beauty as an expansive category that encompasses ideals, practices, labor, and even spaces…
Underscoring almost every conversation about beauty in the region were worries about morality and sexuality… Pageants, Parlors & Pretty Women provides a fresh perspective on the anxieties that plagued southerners from the late 19th C. through the mid-20th C. Or, put another way, it reveals how the female body both informed and reflected the challenges of life during Jim Crow.” 
-- Excerpted from the Introduction (pages 6 -10)

            America has a long, ugly legacy of promoting diametrically opposed images of black and white females. This can be traced all the way back to Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson, an adulterer who had a white wife, but fathered a half-dozen children with Sally Hemmings, one of his hundreds of slaves.
            Yet, in his only book, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” the hypocritical third President of the U.S. frowned upon race-mixing while denouncing black women as unattractive on account of their hair texture and skin color. He actually went so far as to pronounce sisters so promiscuous that they would just as soon mate with an ape as a human.
            Sadly, such racist notions continued to shape popular attitudes about African-American femininity after Emancipation, especially in the South with its strictly-enforced color line. In the wake of the Civil War, Caucasian women “were transformed into symbols of white supremacy and, eventually, massive resistance,” to integration and equal rights.
            That is the proposition put forth by Blain Roberts in Pageants, Parlors & Pretty Women: Race and Beauty in the 20th Century South. Roberts, a History Professor at California State University, Fresno, discusses at great length the role which beauty played in maintaining the racial divide.
            For, the enduring plantation myth still propagated post slavery placing white women on pedestals as paragons of virtue in need of protection proved to be the ideal tool for justifying the persistence of white supremacy ad infinitum. And Jim Crow Era bigots found affirmation in the Miss America beauty pageant which would for many decades be not only lily-white but dominated by entrants from former Confederate States.  
            The opus also delineates the black female struggle to escape the stranglehold of their stereotype as “sexually licentious” and “innately depraved and dirty.” They fought back by turning to skin lighteners and straightening combs until finally being freed by the Sixties’ “Black is beautiful!” movement to embrace their natural hair and skin tones.
            A far more sophisticated examination of black and white pulchritude than Gone with the Wind’s long unquestioned suggestion that it’s as simple as Mammy vs. Scarlett O’Hara.

To order a copy of Pageants, Parlors & Pretty Women, visit:

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 5-2-14

Kam's Kapsules:      
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         
by Kam Williams
For movies opening May 2, 2014


The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (PG-13 for action and sci-fi violence) Second installment in re-booted Marvel Comics franchise finds your friendly neighborhood superhero (Andrew Garfield) wooing Gwen (Emma Stone) while protecting New York from a few, formidable new foes (Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan and Paul Giamatti). With Sally Field, Chris Cooper, Denis Leary, Colm Feore and Embeth Davidtz.

Belle (PG for mature themes, mild epithets and brief smoking) Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars in this biopic about the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761-1804), the illegitimate offspring of an African slave and a British ship captain (Matthew Goode) who sent his daughter to England to be raised in polite society by his aristocratic aunt (Emily Watson) and uncle (Tom Wilkinson). Cast includes Penelope Wilton, Sarah Gadon, Miranda Richardson, Tom Felton and Bethan Mary-James.  


Altered States of Plaine (Unrated) Sci-fi thriller revolving around a young fugitive (George Gallagher) on the run from the government who is desperate for a cure from a mysterious affliction that has him waking up in a different place whenever he falls asleep. (In English and French with subtitles) With Kether Donohue, Michael P. Mathis and Donald Pritt.

The Bachelor Weekend (Unrated) Buddy comedy, set in Dublin, about a bride-to-be (Amy Huberman) who recruits her ex (Andrew Scott) to plan her fiance’s bachelor party, an overnight camping trip to the Irish countryside (Hugh O’Conor) with his friends and her obnoxious brother (Peter McDonald). Featuring Brian Gleeson, Michael Legge and Andrew Bennett.  

Bad Johnson (Unrated) Battle-of-the-sexes comedy about a charming womanizer (Cam Gigandet) who finally gets what’s coming when his penis leaves his body and takes human form. Cast includes Jamie Chung, Nick Thune and Katherine Cunningham.   

Decoding Annie Parker (R for profanity and sexuality) Samantha Morton handles the title role in this fact-based drama about a woman’s fight against the same hereditary form of breast cancer that claimed the life of her mother and sister. With Helen Hunt, Rashida Jones, Marley Shelton, Maggie Grace and Alice Eve. 

Farmland (Unrated) Generation Next documentary taking a look at the lives of some farmers and ranchers who have assumed the reins of the family business while still in their twenties. 

For a Woman (Unrated) Romance drama, exploring the mystery of undying love from the perspective of a daughter (Sylvie Testud) deconstructing her parents’ (Benoit Magimel and Melanie Thierry) enduring marriage. Cast includes Nicolas Duvauchelle, Julie Ferrier and Denis Podalydes. (In French with subtitles)

Friended to Death (R for profanity and crude sexual references) Dark comedy revolving around a social media junkie (Ryan Hansen) who fakes his own death online just to see whether any of his supposed friends come to the funeral.
With James Immekus, Zach McGowan, Pancho Moler and Angela Bullock. 

Ida (PG-13 for mature themes, sexuality and smoking) Skeleton-out-of-the-closet drama, set in Poland in 1962, about an orphan (Agata Trzebuchowska) raised in a Catholic convent who learns that she was born Jewish just as she’s set to take her vows as a nun. Co-starring Jerzy Trela, Halina Skoczynska and Agata Kulesza. In Polish with subtitles)
Jobriath A.D. (Unrated) “It’s better to flame out than to fade away” biopic recounting the brief career of Bruce Wayne Campbell (1946-1983), aka Jobriath, the first openly-gay rock star, and the first to die of AIDS.

The M Word (R for profanity and sexual references) Ensemble comedy, written and directed by the legendary Henry Jaglom, following three middle-aged sisters (Frances Fisher, Mary Crosby and Eliza Roberts) as they make the awkward adjustment to the onset of menopause. Co-starring Corey Feldman, Tanna Frederick and Gregory Harrison.   

More than the Rainbow (Unrated) Shutterbug retrospective highlighting the eclectic portfolio of eccentric cabbie-turned-NYC street photographer Matt Weber.

Mr. Jones (PG-13 for terror, frightening images, sexuality and brief profanity) Harrowing horror flick about an aspiring filmmaker (Jon Foster) who moves to the country with his girlfriend (Sarah Jones) where they get more than they bargain for when they sneak into the home of their new next-door neighbor (Mark Steger), a reclusive sculptor with a weird agenda. With Faran Tahir, Stanley B. Herman, Jordan Byrne and Ethan Sawyer.

The Protector 2 (R for profanity and violence) Tony Jaa reprises the title role in this martial arts sequel, set in Thailand, as a retired Royal Guard now enlisted to crack a terrorist conspiracy to disrupt peace talks in Bangkok. With RZA, Marreese Crump and JeeJa Yanin. (InThai with subtitles)

Speak the Music (Unrated) Reverential biopic chronicling the 51-year career of classical violinist Robert Mann, a founding member of the Juilliard String Quartet. 

Walk of Shame (R for profanity and sexuality) Elizabeth Banks stars in this romantic comedy, set in L.A., as an ambitious reporter whose dream of becoming a news anchor is imperiled after a one-night stand which leaves her stranded downtown without a phone, cash or car. With James Marsden, Gillian Jacobs and Sarah Wright.

Whitewash (Unrated) Convoluted crime thriller, set in the wintry woods of rural Quebec, about a drunk snowplow operator (Thomas Haden Church) who decides to hide in the forest the body of a man he accidentally hit while driving under the influence. Co-starring Anie Pascale, Marc Labreche and Isabelle Nelissse.   


Monday, April 28, 2014

Emma Stone (INTERVIEW)

Emma Stone
The “Spider-Man 2” Interview
with Kam Williams

Spidey’s Flawless Stone

Emily Jean Stone was born on November 6, 1988 in Scottsdale, Arizona where she started acting at an early age. With her striking beauty and sincere talent, the Golden Globe-nominated actress (for Easy A) has claimed her place as one of Hollywood’s most sought after actresses. 

She recently wrapped filming a still untitled Cameron Crowe project opposite Bradley Cooper and Alec Baldwin which will be released on Christmas Day 2014. She also finished shooting the Woody Allen film Magic in the Moonlight in which she stars opposite Collin Firth, set for release later this year, too.

Besides The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Emma will soon be seen in the dark comedy Birdman, starring opposite Zack Galifinakis, Michael Keaton and Edward Norton. Previously, she lent her voice to the hit animated film, The Croods. And she will soon reprise her role as the voice of Eep for the sequel, which will hit theaters in July of 2017. 

Emma’s additional film credits include the period drama Gangster Squad; Easy A, the award-winning drama The Help; the romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love; Friends with Benefits; Paperman; the animated comedy, Marmaduke; Zombieland; the romantic comedy Ghosts of Girlfriends Past; The House Bunny; The Rocker; and the ensemble comedy Superbad.

When not filming, Emma is an advocate for Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), a groundbreaking initiative created to accelerate innovative cancer research that will get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now. Laura Ziskin, the late producer of The Amazing Spider-Man, started the organization and got Emma involved. 

In addition to SU2C, Stone is also an ambassador for Gilda’s Club New York City. Named for Gilda Radner, the late comedian and original cast member of SNL, Gilda’s Club offers a place where people dealing with cancer can join together to build social and emotional support. Stone has become an active member in the Gilda’s Club community and continues to do so by engaging with their younger departments for children and teens. 

Here, she talks about her latest movie, Spider-Man 2, where she reprises her role as Spider-Man’s love interest Gwen Stacy.

Kam Williams: Hi Emma, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.
Emma Stone: Oh, thank you, Kam!

KW: I’ve admired your versatility and so much of your work, from Superbad to Zombieland to Easy A to Crazy, Stupid, Love to The Help to Gangster Squad to Spider-Man.
ES: Thanks.

KW: Now, I have a lot of questions for you from fans which I’m going to mix in with my own. Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier would like to know how it was reuniting with the cast and crew to do Spider-Man 2.
ES: It was so great! I had never worked with the same cast and crew twice in a row before. So, I had a really good time. We had a nice rapport and trust among all of us, and with the new cast members as well, like Dane [DeHaan] and Jamie [Foxx]. It was a blast!

KW: Patricia also asks: Are you at all like Gwen? 
ES: In some ways, yes, since I find things about myself that can relate to every character that I’ve played. So, yeah. But in other ways, maybe not as much. [Laughs]

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: What’s the difference between a screen romance with a super-hero and one with an ordinary leading man?
ES: Well, I think Peter Parker in some ways is both because he’s a regular high school student, now college student, who happens to have this other life as Spider-Man. It’s sort of one and the same and this point. They’re pretty symbiotic. They’re inseparable!

KW: Harriet also asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
ES: No, not one I could think of off the top of my head. If there’s a classic I’m tempted to redo, it’s because I loved the original so much. But I wouldn’t really want to mess with it.

KW: Lisa Loving asks: Did you ever wish you had a superpower in the film, considering the fact that several other characters did? Or were you happy not to, since superheroes and villains tend to be jerkier than normal people?
ES: I feel like Gwen’s mind, her intelligence is her superpower, and her heart, too. I think if there’s any superpower I’d want her to have it would be invisibility, so she could advise Spider-Man while remaining unseen, and not get so swept up into his antics.

KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: How different was acting in Spider-Man 2 for you from the original, and is Spider-Man 3 in the works?  
ES: I know Spider-Man 3 is in the works. They’re already working on it now. Spider-Man 2 was different in the sense that the original was kind of just setting the table of the story while the second movie was sort of getting into the feast. So, it felt like we were all finding our footing on the first movie and getting to know each other and what kind of story we wanted to tell in our version of Spider-Man. Now, in the second one, we knew what the tone was, so we were able to dive deeper into the real heart and meat of the story.

KW: Grace also says: Watching a panel discussion you were on about the Spider-Man costumes, I heard that you are opposed to gender stereotypes. Is that the case?
ES: [Chuckles] It’s interesting how that whole conversation, which was just a simple conversation, has become a big deal. No, I don’t really believe in gender stereotyping, but I was genuinely just asking for a clarification of the definition of it in that circumstance.   

KW: A lotta guys didn’t exactly send in questions, but asked for dates or just went on about you, like Gil Cretney who said: “Love that girl!” and Richie the Intern who gushed: “She’s really attractive!”
ES: [Giggles] That’s nice!

KW: Obama biographer Dinesh Sharma asks: Why did you recently refer to yourself as a “bland, basic bitch” in Vogue?
ES: [LOL] Because that was a comment I read about me once, and I thought it was kind of funny.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Who was your favorite superhero growing up?
ES: I loved the Tim Burton Batman movies, so I’d have to say Michael Keaton. I also enjoyed Beetlejuice, so I guess Michael Keaton characters were my superheroes.

KW: Bernadette also asks: Is there someone who does superhuman things in real life that you admire?
ES: Lot’s of people! Anyone who’s making a huge impact or speaking out about what they believe in or who’s brave enough to be themselves is a superhero to me.

KW: Pat says: I love the character Pippi Longstocking.  Would you consider playing her onscreen? I think you would be perfect for the part.
ES: Well that’s very nice of you to say, Pat. Of course I would!

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
ES: Hmm… That’s a good question. [Pauses to reflect] I don’t really have one that I revisit. It’s kind of a haze of memories of the first house my family lived in, like being in the living room and the bedroom at about 2 or 3 maybe. But I don’t really remember anything too vividly.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
ES: I like to bake, but I haven’t gotten all that great at cooking. So, pasta is usually my “go to” dish. I’m really good at making Kraft macaroni and cheese. [Chuckles]

KW: Do you spice it up, or just follow the instructions on the box?
ES: I don’t use any milk, but I add too much butter for human consumption. It’s pretty damn good! It’s my dad’s college recipe. He ate it every day for a year.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
ES: I don’t really have one favorite. I have a few.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
ES: I just finished re-reading The Four Agreements.   
I’m reading Lolita now for the first time. 
And I’m trying to get back into The Goldfinch. I started reading it, but put it down after about 150 pages. I’m going to try to finish it, because people seem to really love that book.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 
ES: “Cigarettes and Coffee” by Otis Redding.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
ES: I’d wish for an infinite amount of wishes. 

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
ES: I don’t know. That’s a good question. I’d have to think about it. [Chuckles]

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
ES: My face.

KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Is there anything that you promised yourself you’d do when you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?
ES: No, because I never thought it was going to become a reality. It’s all been pretty nuts!

KW: Thanks again for the time, Emma, and best of luck with the film.
ES: Thank you very, very much, Kam. It was nice to talk with you.

To see a trailer for Spider-Man 2, visit:

Sunday, April 27, 2014


Film Review by Kam Williams
18th C. Biopic Revisits Life of Ex-Slave Raised as Aristocrat

            Born in the West Indies in 1761, Dido Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) was the product of the taboo union of Mary Belle, an African slave, and John Lindsay (Matthew Goode), a British ship captain. Upon Mary’s death, the concerned father brought his 8 year-old daughter to England to see whether his well-heeled aunt and uncle might be willing to take her in.
            After all, Lady (Emily Watson) and Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson).
had just adopted another niece whose own mom had passed away. Plus, since Dido and Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) were about the same age, the orphaned girls could conceivably keep each other company.          
            Captain Lindsay further argued that his daughter was entitled to live on the family estate by virtue of her noble birthright. This prompted a skeptical Lady Mansfield to speculate about whether skin color ranked above or below bloodline in polite society.
            Ultimately, she did agree to raise Dido, and the young cousins proceeded to forge a close friendship that would last a lifetime. In fact, proof of their enduring bond would be preserved for posterity in a striking portrait of the pair commissioned in 1779.  
            That famous painting apparently served as the source of inspiration for Belle, a mesmerizing biopic based on a speculative script by Misan Sagay. Directed by Amma Assante, the riveting historical drama continues the recent cinematic trend of reexamining race from the black perspective, ala Django Unchained, The Retrieval and Oscar-winner 12 Years a Slave.
            Here, the picture focuses primarily on Dido and Elizabeth’s coming-of-age against the backdrop of a country increasingly uneasy about its involvement in the slave trade. After being fairly protected during childhood, racism rears its ugly head when the boy-crazy girls start entertaining the overtures of appropriate suitors outside the safe confines of the family manse.
            Meanwhile, tension builds around a legal decision set to be handed down by their uncle in his capacity as Chief Justice of England’s Supreme Court. The case revolved around a trading company that was seeking compensation from its insurance company for the loss of over a hundred Africans who had been deliberately drowned.
            The question Judge Mansfield was being asked to settle was whether or not slaves should be considered human or mere cargo that could be thrown overboard for financial gain at the whim of the owner. The longer he agonizes over the ruling, the more pressure he feels to issue a far-reaching, landmark opinion likely to signal the death knell of an odious institution.
               An 18th C. tale of race and romance told in a sophisticated fashion reminiscent of the best of Jane Austen.   

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for smoking, mature themes and ethnic insensitivity.
Running time: 104 minutes
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

To see a trailer for Belle, visit: 

Saturday, April 26, 2014


The M Word
Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Siblings Adjust to Menopause in Entertaining Tale of Female Empowerment

            Menopause apparently affects women differently, even if they happen to share the same genes, as is the case with Carson (Frances Fisher), Rita (Mary Crosby) and Louise (Eliza Roberts). Each of these sisters is struggling to maintain her dignity while dealing with the fallout from the so-called “Change of Life.”
            Frustrated Carson describes feeling for months on end “like I don’t have any control.” By contrast, Rita’s body chemistry is so confused by the assortment of medicines and creams she uses that she wants to murder her husband, one minute, and to make love to him, the next. Meanwhile, relatively-macabre Lulu relies on humor to cope with her constant obsession with death.  
            At an informal gathering with her siblings, Carson announces that she just impulsively left her husband (Gregory Harrison) and moved in with her daughter (Tanna Frederick). But that doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll be able to avoid Mack entirely, since he’s a sportscaster at the same local television station where Moxie plays a dog on a wacky kiddie series.
            The plot thickens when network executive Charlie Moon (Michael Imperioli) arrives in town from New York with plans to implement programming changes to reverse the station’s plummeting ratings. However, he is distracted at first sight by foxy Moxie who is not above using her powers of seduction to save her own neck, if not her struggling show. Further complicating matters is the fact that she not only recently missed her period, but is stuck in an unsatisfying relationship with her producer (Corey Feldman).
            That is the incestuously-intriguing point of departure of The M Word, a sophisticated ensemble dramedy written and directed by the legendary Henry Jaglom (Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?). The picture’s soap opera-style premise basically serves as a launching pad for frank discussions about the biologically-determined plight of women of a certain age.
            As humorous as it is sobering, Jaglom proves as masterful as ever at creating fascinating characters designed to make you both laugh and reflect. His raw tale of female empowerment revolves around uncompromisingly-realistic discussions of menopause ranging from night sweats to mood swings to depression to atrophied vaginas to cramps to forgetfulness to a loss of skin elasticity.
            After venting their angst interminably, our heroines eventually get around to resolving their crises in entertaining fashion before the curtain comes down on a decidedly upbeat note (“There is nothing like being a girl!”), thus allowing the audience to exit the theater with a big smile on its collective face.
            Such a satisfying cinematic treat that the M Word might very well be “Marvelous!”

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity and sexual references
Running time: 111 minutes
Distributor: Rainbow Releasing

To see a trailer for The M Word, visit:

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Address (DVD REVIEW)

The Address
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Gettysburg Address Revisited via Novel Ken Burns Documentary
            On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to dedicate a cemetery at the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. The President kept his remarks to a mere two minutes, paling in length to that of the relatively long-winded Edward Everett, a former Secretary of State whose keynote speech lasted a couple hours.
            Although one newspaper reporter would derisively dismiss Lincoln’s 272-word sermon as “silly, flat, dish-watery utterances,” it would prove to be a soliloquy for the ages. After beginning with the icon phrase, “Four score and seven years ago,” he proceeded to recount the lofty ideals which had inspired the Declaration of Independence before cleverly repositioning the Civil War as less a struggle to save the Union as a God-ordained fight for human rights.  
            “The Address” represents a bit of a departure for Ken Burns, a director long associated with painstakingly-researched, historical documentaries. For, this picture is set in the present at the Greenwood School in Putney, Vermont, an institution founded in 1978 for boys with learning disabilities ranging from dyslexia to dysgraphia to ADHD to executive function.
            Nevertheless, the school has a tradition whereby every student is expected to comprehend and commit the Gettysburg Address to memory by the end of the school year in order to recite it individually in front of an auditorium filled with parents, guests and staff. This is no mean feat, given how the school serves as a refuge of last resort for kids who have basically been labeled unteachable everywhere else they’ve enrolled.
            Burns’ camera was apparently afforded unusual access to the classrooms at Greenwood over the course of the year. So, we’re able to observe how a dedicated team of educators and therapists managed to instill enough confidence in all 50 members of the student body, no matter how crippling the fear or handicap.
            The transformations are so remarkable by the day of the assembly that tears will reflexively roll down your cheeks in admiration of the children’s achievement. Moreover, don’t be surprised to come away from the experience with a deeper appreciation of the Gettysburg Address and maybe even a determination to memorize it yourself.
            A current-day, Ken Burns production every bit as moving as any of his nostalgic classics.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated TV-PG
Running time: 85 minutes
Studio: Florentine Films
Distributor: PBS

To see a trailer for The Address, visit:  

To learn more about the Gettysburg Address and to video record yourself reading or reciting it, visit: