Thursday, December 31, 2015


The Walk
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Visually-Captivating Drama Recreates Philippe Petit's Daring Feat

In 1968, Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) a struggling juggler, mime, magician and trapeze artist decided to elevate his game, literally, by stringing his tightrope between the tops of the Twin Towers. The World Trade Center was yet to be erected, which gave the Parisian street performer a half-dozen years to plan and practice for his death-defying feat. 
Finally, on the morning of August 7, 1974, he pulled off the eye-popping stunt with the help of a few friends sworn to secrecy. They'd agreed to help rig the high wire, despite breaking the law in the process. 
You see, Philippe hadn't bothered to ask the authorities for permission, figuring it'd never be approved. And for 40 minutes, he put on a heart-stopping show, during which he danced a jig, saluted the crowd below and even lay down on the wire to take a brief rest. 
Written and directed by Oscar-winner Bob Zemeckis (for Forest Gump), The Walk recounts the events surrounding Philippe's bold and historic stroll. However, the film takes a few liberties with the facts along the way, ostensibly in deference to the demand for the sort of romance and tension found in the typical Hollywood drama. 
Consequently, Philippe has a hand-wringing love interest here, Annie (Charlotte Le Bon), as well as several close calls while hovering a quarter-mile above the ground between skyscrapers. In reality, the relationship wasn't very serious and the only time he feared for his life was when he fell down a flight of stairs while being manhandled by the cops who'd just arrested him. 
If you're interested in an accurate, if less sensational version of events, check out Man on Wire which won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Documentary. But if all you care about is production values, stick with this hyperactive, special f/x-driven affair guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat until Philippe plants his feet back on solid earth. 
A heart-stopping spectacular which plays fast and loose with the truth in the interest of overstimulating entertainment.

Good (2 stars)
Rated PG for mature themes, peril, brief nudity, drug references, smoking and mild epithets
Running time: 123 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
3-D Blu-ray/Blu-ray Combo Pack Extras: Deleted scenes; First Steps; The Amazing Walk; and Pillars of Support.

To see a trailer for The Walk, visit:

To order a copy of The Walk on 3-D Blu-ray/Blu-ray Combo Pack, visit: 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 1-8-15

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening January 8, 2016


The Forest (PG-13 for mature themes and disturbing images) Psychological thriller about a young woman (Natalie Dormer) frightened by paranormal activity transpiring as she searches for her missing sister in the woods at the base of Mount Fuji. With Eoin Macken, Taylor Kinney and Stephanie Vogt.

The Revenant (R for profanity, graphic violence, gory images, brief nudity and a rape) Adaptation of Michael Punke's tale of survival, set in Wyoming in 1823, about a frontiersman's (Leonardo DiCaprio) harrowing ordeal after being mauled by a bear and left to die in the wilderness by members of his hunting party. Support cast includes Tom Hardy, Domnhall Gleeson and Will Poulter. (In English, French and Native American dialects with subtitles)


Anomalisa (R for profanity, graphic sexuality and frontal nudity) Adult-oriented animated adventure about an author (David Thewlis) who is unable to connect with other people until he hits it off with a stranger (Jennifer Jason Leigh) he meets on a business trip. Additional voices supplied by Tom Noonan.

Anesthesia (R for profanity, sexuality, drug use and brief violence) Crime thriller about several strangers whose lives intersect serendipitously in the wake of the mugging of a Columbia University philosophy professor (Sam Waterston). With K. Todd Freeman, Corey Stoll and the film's director, Tim Blake Nelson.

Diablo (R for violence and brief profanity) Post-Civil War Western, set on the American frontier, about a revenge-minded veteran's (Scott Eastwood) desperate search for his wife (Camilla Belle) abducted by a ruthless gang of Mexican outlaws. Featuring Danny Glover, Walton Goggins and Adam Beach.

Lamb (Unrated) Coming-of-age drama about a middle-aged man (Ross Partridge), grieving the death of his father and the disintegration of his marriage, who saves a suicidal 11 year-old (Oona Laurence) by taking her on a sightseeing sojourn across the country. With Jess Weixler, Tom Bower and Scoot McNairy.

The Masked Saint (PG-13 for violence and mature themes) Adaptation of the Chris Whaley best seller of the same name chronicling the real-life exploits of a professional wrestler-turned-pastor (Brett Granstaff) who decided to not only return to the ring but to moonlight as a crime-fighting vigilante. Cast includes Diahann Carroll, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Lara Jean Chorostecki.

Sweaty Betty (Unrated) Inner-city saga, set in Washington, DC, about a Redskins fan (Floyd Rich) who raises a pig in the 'hood with hopes of turning it into the team's mascot. With Seth Dubois and Rico S.

Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art (Unrated) Counter-culture documentary about a cadre of iconoclastic artists who plied their trade in the Sixties and Seventies on the deserts of the American Southwest.

Wazir (Unrated) Unlikely buddies drama, set in Mumbai, revolving around the twist of fate which inspires an Anti-Terrorist Squad officer (Farhan Akhtar) to join forces with a wheelchair-bound chess master (Amitabh Bachchan) to crack a conspiracy. With Aditi Rao Hydari, John Abraham and Anjum Sharma. (In English and Hindi with subtitles)

Yosemite (R for sexuality, nudity and profanity) Coming-of-age tale, set in Palo Alto in 1985, revolving around the partially-overlapping misadventures of a trio of fifth graders (Everett Meckler, Alec Mansky and Calum John) living in a suburban community with a mountain lion on the loose. Based on the James Franco short story of the same name, and featuring Franco, Henry Hopper, Steven Wiig and Barry Del Sherman.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Blacktrospective 2015

Blacktrospective 2015
by Kam Williams

Kam’s Annual Assessment of the Best in Black Cinema

Best Big Budget Black Films

  1. Creed
  2. Concussion
  3. Straight Outta Compton
  4. The Perfect Guy
  5. Chi-Raq

Best Independent Black Films

  1. Dope
  2. Tangerine
  3. Beasts of No Nation
  4. Brotherly Love
  5. War Room

Best Black Documentaries

  1. 3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets
  2. What Happened, Miss Simone?
  3. Holler If You Hear Me: Black and Gay in the Church
  4. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
  5. Rosenwald
  6. Bass Clef Bliss
  7. Tango Negro
  8. Fresh Dressed
  9. Terror
  10. In My Father's House

Best Actor (Lead Role)

1. Will Smith (Concussion)
2. Michael B. Jordan (Creed)
3. John Boyega (Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens)
4. Shameik Moore (Dope)
5. Anthony Mackie (Shelter)
6. Davide Oyelowo (Captive)
7. O'Shea Jackson, Jr. (Straight Outta Compton)
8. Kevin Hart (The Wedding Ringer)
9. RJ Cyler (Me & Earl & the Dying Girl)
10. Nick Cannon (Chi-Raq)

Best Actor (Supporting Role)

1. Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation)
2. Samuel L. Jackson (Kingsman: The Secret Service)
3. Ving Rhames (Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation)
4. Anthony Mackie (Our Brand Is Crisis)
5. Derek Luke (Self/Less)
6. Morris Chestnut (The Perfect Guy)
7. Forest Whitaker (Southpaw)
8. Quincy Brown (Brotherly Love)
9. Chiwetel Ejiofor (The Martian)
10. Stephen "tWitch" Boss (Magic Mike XXL)

Best Actress (Lead Role)

1. Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Concussion)
2. Zoe Kravitz (Good Kill)
3. Kiersey Clemons (Dope)
4. Kitana Rodriguez (Tangerine)
5. Sanaa Lathan (The Perfect Guy)
6. Zoe Kravitz (Treading Water)
7. Keke Palmer (Brotherly Love)
8. Zoe Kravitz (The Road Within)
9. Priscilla C. Shirer (War Room)
10. Teyonah Parris (Chi-Raq)

Best Actress (Supporting Role)

1. Tessa Thompson (Creed)
2. Zoe Kravitz (Insurgent)
3. Phylicia Rashad (Creed)
4. Chanel Iman (Dope)
5. Vivica A. Fox (Chocolate City)
6. Lupita Nyong'o (Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens)
7. Jada Pinkett Smith (Magic Mike XXL)
8. Jennifer Hudson (Chi-Raq)
9. Zoe Kravitz (Mad Max)
10. Macy Gray (Brotherly Love)

Best Director (Big Budget Film)
  1. Ryan Coogler (Creed)
  2. Antoine Fuqua (Southpaw)
  3. Rick Famuyiwa (Dope)
  4. F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton)
  5. Spike Lee (Chi-Raq)

Best Director (Independent Film)

  1. Jamal Hill (Brotherly Love)
  2. Julius Onah (The Girl Is Trouble)
  3. Jean-Claude La Marre (Chocolate City)
  4. Dean Taylor (Supremacy)
  5. Charles Stone III (Lila & Eve)

Best Director (Documentary Film)

1. Clay Cane (Holler If You Hear Me: Black and Gay in the Church)
2. Stanley Nelson (The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution)
3. Dom Pedro (Tango Negro)
4. Sacha Jenkins (Best Dressed)
5. Lyric R. Cabral (Terror)

Monday, December 28, 2015

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (FILM REVIEW)

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens Film Review by Kam Williams

Eagerly-Anticipated Sequel Proves Well Worth the Wait

The Force Awakens is a splendid sequel to Return of the Jedi, the 1983 finale of the original Star Wars trilogy. This offering follows the uneven prequel trilogy released over the intervening years, the low point being the introduction of a jive Jamaican character named Jar Jar Binks. 
Episode VII, which also marks the launch of another trilogy, just might be the best Star Wars installment yet. This is no surprise when you consider that it was directed by Spielberg protege J.J. Abrams (Super 8), who'd proved himself worthy of being entrusted with the storied sci-fi series by virtue of his prior success with the tent pole franchises Star Trek and Mission Impossible. 
The Force Awakens represents an ingenious mix of the old and the new, as it features familiar faces like Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, as well as fresh ones in John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver. The same can be said of the adventure's robotic cast members, with anthropomorphic android BB-8 joining in the fun with much beloved R2-D2 and C-3PO.

An engaging plot interweaves all of the above in a way which never feels forced. Credit in this regard goes to Abrams for collaborating with three-time Academy Award-nominee Lawrence Kasdan (for The Big Chill, The Accidental Tourist and Grand Canyon) and Oscar-winner Michael Arndt (for Little Miss Sunshine) in crafting an engaging script frankly imbued with a little more depth than expected. Betwixt the hi-tech battles between good and evil, the tale exploits breaks in the action to serve up a fair amount of nostalgia and sentimentality. 
It all unfolds a few decades after the events in Return of the Jedi, opening with the trademark conceit "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." followed by a crawl explaining what's transpired since we've last met. At the point of departure, we learn that the New Republic is joining forces with the Resistance to fight the Stormtroopers of the First Order, an intergalactic dictatorship led by the diabolical Snoke (Andy Serkis). 
Soon thereafter, intrepid protagonists emerge in rebel fighter pilot Poe (Oscar Isaac), renegade Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega), orphaned scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) and reliable veteran Admiral Han Solo (Ford). The good guys have a seemingly inexhaustible army of adversaries to vanquish en route to making the universe safe again for freedom and democracy. 
The hostilities inexorably build to a spectacular, light saber battle best appreciated in 3-D and on an IMAX screen. Nevertheless, for my money, the movie's most inspired moments are the ones designed to tug at the heartstrings, like the touching reunion of Solo and Princess Leia (Fisher). 
A thrilling outer space epic breathing new life into a once flagging franchise!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence
Running time: 135 minutes
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

To see a trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, visit:

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Daddy's Home (FILM REVIEW)

Daddy's Home
Film Review by Kam Williams

Wahlberg and Ferrell Compete for Kids' Affections in Dysfunctional Family Comedy

Brad's (Will Ferrell) been a model stepfather, ever since he married Sarah (Linda Cardellini) eight months ago. He's always lavishing attention on her children, whether picking them up from school, coaching their Little League team, offering a shoulder to cry on about bullying, or tucking them in at bedtime. In that respect, he's the polar opposite of their biological dad, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), an unreliable narcissist who was rarely around to attend a school function or help with homework. 
For that reason, you might think that little Megan (Scarlett Estevez) and Dylan (Owen Vaccaro) would appreciate all the TLC now being lavished on them by Brad. Think again. He's been having a heck of time winning them over, despite doting on them 24/7 since Dusty's been out of the picture. 
The kind of thanks Brad gets is being referred to as "Mr. Fletcher" by Megan. And to add insult to injury, she doodles drawings of him with poop on his head and being stabbed in the eye with a knife. The problem is that she and brother miss their real dad, his flaws notwithstanding.

So, you can just imagine the effect it has on the household when he shows up unannounced. For, he soon decides to compete with his replacement not only for the affection of his children but for that of his ex to boot. It doesn't help matters any that Dusty is a virile hunk while Brad is flabby, sterile and unable to get Sarah pregnant. 
Directed by Sean Anders (Sex Drive), Daddy's Home is a dysfunctional family comedy which basically pits a nerdy nice guy versus a bad boy alpha male. The movie reunites Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg who generated tremendous chemistry as ill-matched police partners in the action comedy The Other Guys (2010).

This collaboration as adversaries proves equally-inspired, as it allows for both actors to play to their strengths. The film seizes on as many excuses for a shirtless Wahlberg to flex his beefcake as it does to showcase Ferrell in silly slapstick sequences. 
Perhaps the picture's funniest bit, already spoiled in the trailer, finds Brad losing control of Dusty's motorcycle, riding into the house and up the stairs before becoming wedged in a bedroom wall. When asked by his worried wife, whether he's okay, he responds with, "No, I'm in the wall (Duh!)... and I'm scared!" Priceless!

Disposable, dopey humor designed to make you laugh out loud in the theater but to leave no lasting effect once the closing credits have rolled.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, crude humor, suggestive material and mature themes
Running time: 96 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

To see a trailer for Daddy's Home, visit:

Saturday, December 26, 2015

SlingShot (DVD REVIEW)

SlingShot DVD Review by Kam Williams

Eco-Documentary Offering Solution for World's Water Shortage Out on DVD

Dean Kamen is a genius inventor from the R. Buckminster Fuller school of design science, meaning his mission in life is less to maximize profits than to create gadgets to enhance the quality of life of the least of his brethren. Until now, he is probably best known as the creator of the Segway, the self-balancing two-wheeler which was supposed to supersede both the car and the bicycle in mass popularity.

Dean's new gizmo is the SlingShot, a water purification system he hopes will afford all of humanity access to potable drinking water. The machine is basically a vapor compression distiller capable of extracting pure H2O from everything from urine to sludge to seawater.

Thus, it should come in handy to billions all across the planet, since approximately 50% of illness comes as consequence of consumption of water borne pathogens. The only reason Dean hasn't already delivered his lifesaving device to those in need is because of interference on the part of foot-dragging politicians and multinational corporations solely concerned with their bottom line. 
Perhaps this optimistic documentary will inspire a grassroots effort on behalf of the miraculous godsend. Directed by Paul Lazarus, SlingShot divides its time between making infomercial-style sales pitches and weaving a reverential biopic. But whether focusing on Dean's eccentricities or on his latest pet project, the picture proves pretty fascinating from beginning to end. 
A compelling character study of a likable do-gooder whose only regret is that he has but one life to devote to his fellow man.

Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 88 minutes
Distributor: Passion River

To see a trailer for SlingShot, visit:

To order a copy of SlingShot on DVD, visit: 

Top Ten DVD releases for 12-29-15

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Top Ten DVD List for December 29, 2015

The Barefoot Artist

Bone Tomahawk

The Perfect Guy

A Bucket of Blood

Shameless: The Complete Fifth Season

A Walk in the Woods


The Dealers

Like You Mean It

The Bat

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Ten Best Black Books of 2015

The Ten Best Black Books of 2015
by Kam Williams

1. Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates

2. Black Male Frames
African-Americans in a Century of Hollywood Cinema, 1903-2003
by Roland Leander Williams, Jr.

3. The Face That Changed It All
A Memoir
by Beverly Johnson

4. America
The Black Point of View
by Tony Rose

5. After the Dance
My Life with Marvin Gaye
by Jan Gaye

6. Undivided
A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace
by Patricia Raybon and Alana Raybon

7. Stand Your Ground
Black Bodies and the Justice of God
by Kelly Brown Douglas

8. The Presidency in Black and White
My Up-Close View of Three Presidents and Race in America
by April Ryan

9. Firefight
The Century-Long Battle to Integrate New York's Bravest
by Ginger Adams Otis

10. Year of Yes
How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person
by Shonda Rhimes

Honorable Mention

Florynce "Flo" Kennedy
The Life of a Black Feminist Radical
by Sherie M. Randolph

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom
My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March
by Lynda Blackmon Lowery

Black Silent Majority
The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment
by Michael Javen Fortner

Negroland: A Memoir
by Margo Jefferson

The African Burial Ground in New York City
Memory, Spirituality and Space
by Andrea E. Frohne

Infinite Words
A Comprehensive Guide to Writing and Publishing
by Zane

Clean Design
Wellness for Your Lifestyle
by Robin Wilson

Son of Virginia
A Life in America's Political Arena
by L. Douglas Wilder

White Allies in the Struggle for Racial Justice
by Drick Boyd

The Lawyer as Leader
How to Plant People and Grow Justice
by Dr. Artika R. Tyner

by TheArthur Duncan II, Esquire

My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me
A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past
by Jennifer Teege

Corruption Officer
From Jail Guard to Perpetrator inside Rikers Island
by Gary L. Heyward

The Loneliness of the Black Republican
Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power
by Leah Wright Riguer

My Dreadlock Chronicles
by Bert Ashe

Restaurant Winners
Plain Talk for Bootstrappers Navigating the Foodservice Industry
by Mark Radford

It All Begins with 'I'
The "New Rules" of Thinking and the Simple Secrets to Living a Rich, Joyous and Fulfilled Life
by Stuart K. Robinson

40 Black Men Speak on Living, Leading, and Succeeding
Edited by Ben Jealous and Trabian Shorters
Foreword by Russell Simmons

Child, Please
How Mama’s Old-School Lessons Helped Me Check Myself before I Wrecked Myself
by Ylonda Gault Caviness

A Bold Perspective
Courage & Empowerment to Take on Life's Adversities
by Tina Marie and Rashon D. Fuller

Eye on the Struggle
Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press
by James McGrath Morris

Talking Back: Voices of Color
Edited by Nellie Wong

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
by Issa Rae

Rock the Boat
How to Use Conflict to Heal and Deepen Your Relationship
by Resmaa Menakem, MSW

Sunny 101
The 10 Commandments of a Boss Chick
by Sunshine Smith-Williams

The Street God
I Won without Telling
by Christian Hayward
Welcome to Death Row
The Uncensored History of the Rise & Fall of Death Row Records
by S. Leigh Savidge

Prince of Darkness
The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street's First Black Millionaire
by Shane White

The Leader's Journey
by Dr. Artika R. Tyner

Barack Obama, the Clintons, and the Racial Divide
by Joy-Ann Reid

The Antidote
by Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson