Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Why Vegan Is the New Black (BOOK REVIEW)

Why Vegan Is the New Black:
More Than 100 Delicious Meat and Dairy-Free Meal Ideas Your Whole Family Will Love
by Deborrah Cooper  
Deborrah Cooper   Publishing
Paperback, $24.99                                                                     
224 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-0-9909713-8-2

Book Review by Kam Williams
“An estimated 82% of black women and 69% of black men are considered overweight or obese, with 45% and 40%, respectively, suffering from hypertension. Heart disease is the #1 killer of African-Americans, with cancer, stroke and diabetes also among the top five reasons for early death.
These are largely preventable afflictions, directly related to what we put in our mouths. Reality is, what’s on our plates is killing us… The typical African-American diet is full of greasy, high-sodium fast food that really packs on the pounds and sets us up for serious health problems.
My goal was to help change the perception that healthy foods look weird and taste bad. Reducing the quantity of animal protein and upping the plants we eat has been proven to reverse heart disease, normalize blood sugar and lipids, and lower both weight and blood pressure in just a couple weeks.”
            Deborrah Cooper 

Even though Deborrah Cooper was a nutritionist and fitness trainer for over a decade, she never considered becoming a vegan until her body began breaking down. As assorted stresses of life started taking a toll, she found herself battling headaches, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and sever stomach pains.
And with each visit to a physician’s office, she was prescribed pill after pill to treat this or that symptom. But rather than resign herself to a dependency on doctors and medications, Deborrah decided to become actively involved in her recovery by making some immediate lifestyle changes.
She had a hunch that a combination of diet and weight loss would do the trick, so she proceeded to exercise more while turning to vegetarianism. As she explains, in making the shift to a plant-based diet, she got rid of “anything that would not fit my new eating plan… bakery items, butter, eggs, cheese, crackers, packaged convenience foods, fish, poultry, bacon, canned chili and soups, canned milks, lunch meat, etcetera.” 
Fortunately, the changes “worked wonders… reducing risks of coronary heart disease and stroke by half in just eight weeks.” As an African-American, Deborrah subsequently felt a sense of duty to share the secret of her success with the black community, given its particular susceptibility to a host of diseases which are preventable simply by paying strict attention to what one ingests.
However, she also knows that there is a general “perception that health foods are expensive, bland and flavorless.” So, in order to reverse that image, Deborrah has published Why Vegan Is the New Black, a combination how-to primer and illustrated cookbook featuring 100+ mouthwatering recipes for main dishes (Black Bean Lasagna), appetizers (Potato and Mushroom Soup), sauces (Tahini Salad Dressing) and sweets (Oatmeal Shortbread Cookies).
An inspirational, informative and creative guide for anyone hoping to wean themselves off meat and/or prescription drugs.      

To Hear Deborrah Cooper discuss why she became a vegetarian, visit:

To order a copy of Why Vegan Is the New Black, visit:

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Search for General Tso (FILM REVIEW)

The Search for General Tso
Film Review by Kam Williams

Culinary Documentary Explores Derivation of Delectable Chinese Dish

General Tso‘s Chicken is the most popular takeout dish ordered by American diners. But who was General Tso? Was he actually a military hero, or was his title merely honorary, a la that of “Colonel” Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame?
Was he even the originator of the delectable entrée that bears his name, or was the ingenious recipe created by his wife or a cook? What are its ingredients? When was it introduced to the United States? Why has it proved so popular with the American palate? And are the Chinese as fond of the sweet and spicy fried fare?
            These are among the intriguing questions posed by The Search for General Tso, a culinary documentary any Chinese food lover is likely to find fascinating. The picture was written and directed by its host/narrator, Ian Cheney, whose dogged, globe-spanning quest for answers led from Brooklyn to Asia and back around the U.S.
Along the way, we learn that there was, indeed, a General Tso, a legend who distinguished himself on the battlefield in the 19th Century towards the end of the Qing Dynasty. However, his clueless descendants have no idea how their esteemed ancestor came to be associated with the unfamiliar dish, since it is a very modern invention traceable to Taiwan in the 1960s. Without ever being introduced to mainland China, it crossed the Pacific Ocean a decade or so later, taking the States by storm, starting with San Francisco.  
Besides unearthing these and other intriguing tidbits, intrepid Cheney devotes his time to tracking down and interviewing chefs claiming to be the pioneer who first put General Tso’s on the menu. Of course, he also devours many mouth-watering morsels of the honey-glazed chicken chunks, too, which is exactly what you’ll be craving as the closing credits roll.  
The cinematic equivalent of an entertaining encyclopedic entry about the most irresistible offering on today’s Chinese takeout menu!

Excellent (4 stars)
In English and Mandarin with subtitles
Running time: 72 minutes
Distributor: IFC Films / Sundance Selects

To see a trailer for The Search for General Tso, visit:   

Monday, December 29, 2014

Unbroken (FILM REVIEW)

Film Review by Kam Williams

WWII Saga Recounts U.S. Olympian’s Ordeal as Brutalized POW

Do you remember how, Infamous, a biopic about Truman Capote, was released right on the heels of the one entitled Capote? But because the latter had already received considerable critical acclaim, including an Oscar for the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, the Johnnie-come-lately had little chance of making more than a blip on the radar.
The same fate might befall Unbroken, a World War II saga directed by Angelina Jolie. The parallels between this picture and The Railway Man are impossible to ignore, since they both recall the real-life ordeal of a POW tortured by a sadistic, Japanese officer.
The Railway Man, which opened last April, was based on Eric Lomax’s autobiography, and starred the charismatic Colin Firth in the title role opposite Tanroh Ishida as the sick interrogator who seemed to take pleasure in beating him mercilessly. Although Lomax would survive Singapore, he was left traumatized by the grueling ordeal, and ultimately attempted to exorcise his demons by returning to Southeast Asia to track down his abuser.
The correspondingly-themed Unbroken was adapted from the Laura Hillenbrand’s (Seabiscuit) best-seller of the same name recounting bombardier Louie Lamperini’s (Jack O’Connell) struggle to survive a POW camp in Tokyo after his plane crashed in the Pacific during a rescue mission. Because he had represented the U.S. in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, he was singled out for special mistreatment by a cruel prison guard (Takamasa Ishihara). And later in life, he would return to the Orient to try to confront that evil creep who’d singled him out for an extra measure of persecution.
Unbroken, like The Railway Man, even ends with a touching, closing credits photo montage featuring snapshots of both the hero and his tormentor which only added to this critic’s profound sense of déjà vu. An honorable, historical drama who’s primary flaw rests in its being released too soon after a more-compelling biopic revolving around similar subject-matter.
An uplifting tribute to the indomitability of the human spirit. 

Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for brief profanity and intense brutality
In English, Italian and Japanese with subtitles
Running time: 137 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures

To see a trailer for Unbroken, visit:

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The 10 Best, No, the 100 Best Films of 2014

The 10 Best, No, the 100 Best Films of 2014
by Kam Williams

Kam’s Annual Assessment of the Cream of the Cinematic Crop

            2014 has produced a cornucopia of great films, at least a dozen of which has an excellent shot of taking home the Academy Award for Best Picture, including Boyhood, Birdman, The Imitation Game and Whiplash, to name a few. However, all the stars seemed to be aligned for my personal favorite, Selma, the searing civil rights saga, set in March of 1965, about the historic march led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Directed by Ava DuVernay, the film is arriving in theaters at a moment when race is once again an urgent issue threatening to rip asunder the fabric of the country. So, it might serve as a timely reminder about the effectiveness of adopting a philosophy of non-violence.
Furthermore, this is the first feature-length biopic about Dr. King, which is hard to believe since the revered national icon was assassinated way back in 1968. Thirdly, the picture’s wide release practically coincides with his birthday, which has been celebrated as a federal holiday since 1986.
With Black History Month following close on its heels in February, it’s easy to envision Selma building up a head of steam over the course of awards season, when momentum dictates the favorites and often determines the winners in the Oscar sweepstakes.

10 Best Big Budget Films

1.      Selma
2.      Nightcrawler
3.      Birdman 
4.      The Equalizer
5.       The Imitation Game  
6.       X-Men: Days of Future Past
7.       Fury
8.       Kill the Messenger
9.       22 Jump Street
10.  This Is Where I Leave You 

Big Budgets Honorable Mention

11.  American Sniper 
12.  The Grand Budapest Hotel
13.  Edge of Tomorrow
14.  The Theory of Everything
15.  The Judge
16.  A Most Violent Year
17.  Godzilla
18.  Top Five
19.  Non-Stop
20.  Earth to Echo
21.  The Amazing Spider-Man 2
22.  The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
23.  Noah
24.  The Gambler  
25.  Beyond the Lights

10 Best Independent Films

1.       Whiplash
2.       Boyhood
3.       Wish I Was Here 
4.       Calvary
5.       Dear White People
6.       Life's a Breeze
7.       Two-Bit Waltz
8.       Belle
9.       The M Word
10.  Begin Again 

Independent Films Honorable Mention

11.  The Retrieval
12.  Obvious Child
13.  Chef
14.  Half of a Yellow Sun
15.  Snowpiercer
16.  1,000 Times Good Night
17.  The Two Faces of January
18.  Coherence
19.  St. Vincent
20.  Happy Christmas
21.  Believe Me
22.  Alan Partridge
23.  Hector and the Search for Happiness
24.  The Machine
25.  One Chance

10 Best Foreign Films

1.       Web Junkie (China) 
2.       The Way He Looks (Brazil) 
3.       Ilo Ilo (Singapore)
4.       Zero Motivation (Israel)
5.       The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Japan)  
6.       The Almost Man (Norway)
7.       Metro Manila (The Philippines)
8.       Abuse of Weakness (France)
9.       Two Days, One Night (Belgium)
10.  Wetlands (Germany)

Foreign Films Honorable Mention

11.  Dancing in Jaffa (Israel)
12.  Stranger by the Lake (France)
13.  Pioneer (Norway)
14. The Circle (Switzerland)
15.  The Missing Picture (Cambodia)
16.  Demi-Soeur (France)
17.  Fifi Howls from Happiness (Iran)
18.  Grand Depart (France)
19.  Jews of Egypt (Egypt)
20.  Guilty of Romance (Japan)
21.  Soul of a Banquet (China)
22.  Big Bad Wolves (Israel)
23.  Plot for Peace (South Africa)
24.  Journey to the West (China)
25.  We Are the Best (Sweden)

10 Best Documentaries

1.  The Barefoot Artist
2.   Life Itself
3.   Ivory Tower
4.   The Internet’s Own Boy
5.   Mobilize
6.   American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs
7.   Vanishing Pearls
8.   America the Beautiful 3
9.   Pump 
10. Second Opinion

Documentaries Honorable Mention

11. Citizen Four
12. Keep on Keepin’ On  
13. Little Hope Was Arson
14. Breastmilk
15. Tales of the Grim Sleeper
16. Kids for Ca$h  
17. I’ll Be Me
18. Spanish Lake
19. Altina
20. The Great Invisible
21. I Am Eleven
22. Tanzania: A Journey Within
23. Advanced Style
24. 12 O’Clock Boys
25. Take Me to the River

Friday, December 26, 2014

Top Ten DVD Releases for 12-30-14

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Top Ten DVD List for December 30, 2014      
The Equalizer


American Experience: Ripley, Believe It or Not



Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking: Season One

Banshee: The Complete Second Season


Stephen King's A Good Marriage

Elsa & Fred

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 1-2-15

Kam's Kapsules:      
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         
by Kam Williams
For movies opening January 2, 2015


The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (PG-13 for disturbing images and mature themes) Haunted house sequel, set in the English countryside during World War II, where a group of children evacuated from London unwittingly unleash a demonic force. Ensemble cast includes Phoebe Fox, Helen McCrory, Jeremy Irvine, Leanne Best and Adrian Rawlins.


Leviathan (R for profanity, sexuality and nudity) Legal drama about a humble family man (Aleksey Serebryakov) who retains the services of an attorney (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) to prevent his seaside home with a view from being seized for a pittance through eminent domain by a corrupt mayor (Roman Madyanov). Support cast includes Elena Lyadova, Anna Ukolova and Sergey Pokhodaev. (In Russian with subtitles)

A Most Violent Year (R for profanity and some violence) American Dream drama, set in NYC in 1981, revolving around the efforts of an immigrant couple (Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac) to make it in the corrupt, oil delivery business during one of the most dangerous periods in the history of the city. Cast includes David Oyelowo, Albert Brooks and Alessandro Nivola. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)

[REC] 4: Apocalypse (R for profanity, gore and graphic violence) Fourth and final installment of the horror franchise finds soldiers rescuing a television reporter (Manuela Velasco) unaware that she’s infected with a demonic virus. With Javier Botet, Paco Manzanedo and Maria Alfonsa Rosso. (In Spanish with subtitles)

The Search for General Tso (Unrated) Foodie documentary exploring both who was General Tso and the derivation of the sweet and spicy fried dish that has become so popular with the American palette. (In English and Mandarin with subtitles)

The Taking of Tiger Mountain (Unrated) Adaptation of the Qu Bo novel of the same name about an intrepid captain (Gengxin Lin) who leads a liberation army to recapture a mountain fortress from a ruthless bandit (Tony Leung). With Liya Tong and Hanyu Zhang. (In Mandarin with subtitles)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Russell Simmons (INTERVIEW)

Russell Simmons
The “Who Polices the Police?” Interview
with Kam Williams

"Rush" to Judgment:
Hip-Hop Icon Seeks Solution to Rash of Police Shootings

Russell Simmons has been very active as of late in the Black Lives Matter movement, and not merely as a participant on the picket lines. Whether extracting a promise from N.Y. State Governor Cuomo to appoint special prosecutors in cases of police brutality, or defending Bill de Blasio after NYPD President Pat Lynch suggested the Mayor has “blood on his hands,” Rush has been an outspoken advocate urgently lobbying for an overhaul of how the criminal justice system handles the prosecution of cops accused of police brutality.  

Kam Williams: Hi Russell, thanks for taking a break from your vacation to talk to me. Where are you calling me from?
Russell Simmons: I’m with my kids in St. Bart’s. I’ve come here every year for the past 27 years. Kam, I wouldn’t take the time to talk to anybody else. You’re the only one I trust to get out the word accurately.

KW: I appreciate the opportunity, brother. Let me start by asking how you feel about the cowardly ambush assassination of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in their patrol car?
RS: It breaks my heart that those two innocent police officers were killed. I am really very, very brokenhearted about it. But the best way to protect both the policemen and the community going forward is by creating a system that’s just, where everyone feels safe. Of course everyone feels terrible about what happened to the policemen, but it’s terrible what happened to Eric Garner, too.

KW: Why do you spend so much time on the streets marching nowadays and previously in the park with the Occupy Movement, when you have money?  
RS: Why not? Why can’t I occupy? Why can’t the rich help the poor? Why can’t I pay attention to systematic problems that disenfranchise my people?

KW: You’ve been working with the Justice League NYC, a progressive group that has gained a lot of traction as of late, and which issued a specific list of demands.
RS: I’m a little concerned about the group’s demands, all of which are legitimate, because as thoughtful as the list is, it’s still been easy for the New York Post and others to find ways to cherry pick and disparage it.  

KW: Well, what would you say is your most important goal?
RS: There’s one overriding issue, namely, that we live in a police state so long as the police get to police themselves. And that is why cops go unindicted. 

KW: Does it all boil down to whether or not black lives matter?
RS: I don’t like to racialize it, but it is a question of whether black lives matter. They do matter less. We know that from the news when one little white girl going missing in Brooklyn is considered more newsworthy than the fifty black kids who got shot in Chicago the same weekend. So, yes black lives matter less, but Global Grind [ ] did follow the recent incident involving an African-American policeman who shot a white boy and didn’t get indicted. We’ll never know whether he’s guilty, because there won’t be a trial. So long as the local district attorney [D.A.] is responsible for indicting a cop, we live in a police state. I will not rest until that one flaw in the system is changed.  

KW: What happened in that meeting you and Jay-Z had with Governor Cuomo a couple of weeks ago? Afterwards, you held a press conference saying that the Governor had pledged to employ special prosecutors in the future, but he seemed to simply say that the system needs to be reformed.   
RS: Maybe I misunderstood him about an executive order, but he did promise to change the law. He said something to the effect of, “I promise you, I’m going to get a bill passed establishing a separate office and a separate prosecutor for the state that looks into police abuse.”

KW: You have your differences with NYPD Union President Pat Lynch, too.
RS: The police union can point all the fingers they want at everybody else, but they’re fighting to retain control. They know it’s the #1 issue. But people are avoiding it, and pushing it to the side. I don’t think anybody’s going to rest until we get a separation of the local D.A. in these cases. I’ve been in all of the meetings with [Attorney General] Eric Schneiderman. The Governor would have to issue an executive order that would land on Schneiderman‘s desk, or he’d have to introduce a bill in Albany to make that change. New York may be the first state to enact such an initiative, and then it could rollover all across the country. Regardless, we’re going to fix New York State. No one’s going to rest until New York has an independent prosecutor to look into these cases.

KW: As a lawyer, it’s painfully obvious to me that these cases are being thrown, since any prosecutor could, as they say, indict a ham sandwich if he or she wants to.
RS: All of these prosecutors have thrown the cases. Normally, everybody gets indicted and is put on trial. In the Eric Garner case, the only person the Staten Island grand jury did indict was the guy who filmed the tragic incident. 

KW: I didn’t know that, but I can’t say I’m surprised.
RS: I’ve spent a lot of time with Eric Garner’s son recently, and it breaks my heart to see his family grieving and to know that unless U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder steps in and brings some civil rights charges, they will never get justice. So, when I march, I’m thinking about that one issue everybody has to agree with. The Police Association is the only one that doesn’t. It’s been horrible, between all the attacks on the Mayor and the peaceful protestors.  

KW: What needs to be done to reduce the tension between the rank-and-file police officers and the community?
RS: It’s the job of the head of the police union to create a dialogue and a comfort level with the community. Mayor de Blasio’s doing his best to understand the dynamic and to work out a fair plan, but it’s like Lynch doesn’t want to give an inch. It’s in his power to determine whether a cop is indicted. If a local D.A. indicts a cop, he may as well kiss his ass goodbye. That conflict of interest can’t exist anymore. If Lynch doesn’t change, then blood could be on his hands, because he has the power to support the appointment of special prosecutors, so that any inappropriate behavior and excessive force can be investigated in a reasonable way. 

KW: How well attended were the marches? Did the police play down the head count?
RS: When we marched down Fifth Avenue, there weren’t just 30,000 people out there, but at least 150,000 people out there. It stretched for 35 crowded blocks full of people. I’ll send you the footage shot from a helicopter. It was a peaceful march, and if we don’t adjust system, we will march again. Last time, I had everybody from Khloe Kardashian to Miley Cyrus to Kanye to Puffy to Nas out there. They all Instagrammed and Tweeted and used other social media to let folks know that they were going to be there. Tyrese has 20 million followers on Facebook alone. These people are all waiting for word of when we launch. So, the issue is not going away, until the state is no longer a police state where the policemen police themselves. 

KW: New York sure looked like a police state when a long gauntlet of cops turned their backs on the Mayor as he walked down the hall of the hospital after paying his respects to the two officers who had just been assassinated. I realized, if they don’t feel that they have to show any respect to the Mayor, just think of the contempt they must have for the Average Joe.
RS: I would blame [Police Commissioner] Bratton. I’m not sure he’s the right person to bridge the gap. Bratton says, “It’ll go away.” He’s wrong. If he thinks it’s going away, he’s crazy. We’re not going anywhere. We’re just getting started. If we don’t get a special prosecutor in New York State, we’re going to march.

KW: What about the possibility of it inciting violence?
RS: I’ve never seen so many smart and thoughtful kids as at that 150,000+ march. The only incident involved a white, City College professor. Black people are used to the injustice, but this white professor probably got riled up because he’s white and wasn’t used to it. That was the only incident at a very diverse march. 

KW: Well thanks again for the time, Rush, recharge your batteries, so you can return from vacation ready to resume fighting the good fight. We need you. 
RS: Will do, my brother. God bless you.