Saturday, January 31, 2015

Supremacy (FILM REVIEW)

Film Review by Kam Williams

White Supremacists Take Black Family Hostage in Harrowing Hostage Thriller

            Garrett Tully (Joe Anderson) is about to be paroled after spending the last 15 years behind bars. Although he might have paid his debt to society, he has little hope of making a smooth adjustment back to civilian life, given his fervent hope that America is on the brink of a race war.
            You see, Garrett has a lot invested in that belief, being a white supremacist with tattoos of swastikas, a Confederate flag, an Iron Cross and the word “HATE” adorning his face, arms, fingers and chest. This means his prospects of turning a new leaf aren’t very brilliant, especially since Doreen (Dawn Olivieri), the Aryan Brotherhood groupie picking him up from prison, is packing heat just in case they cross paths with a black person on the way home.
And wouldn’t you know it, they’re pulled over by an African-American police officer en route and, before Doreen has a chance to produce her license and registration, Tully calls the cop the “N-word” and blows him away with the gun hidden under the seat. Next, rather than hightailing it to a neo-Nazi sanctuary, the unrepentant race baiters decide to break into a house in a black neighborhood where they proceed to use more racial slurs like “porch monkey” and “niglet” while holding everybody hostage.
Fortunately, the Walker family patriarch (Danny Glover) makes sure cooler heads prevail, until help arrives. Too bad the police negotiator (Derek Luke) turns out to be African-American, too.
Directed by Deon Taylor (Chain Letter), Supremacy is a hostage thriller ostensibly inspired by actual events which transpired in Sonoma County, California on the night of March 29, 1995. At 11:30 that evening, Sheriff’s Deputy Frank Trejo was assassinated by a recently-paroled member of the Aryan Brotherhood and his gun moll, just before they forced their way into a nearby house and held the owners captive.
The resolution of this Hollywood version of the standoff relies on an empathetic Mr. Walker’s rising to the occasion. His philosophizing (“Prison does something to a man.”) miraculously manages to induce a couple of the most menacing and despicable screen characters in recent memory to have an 11th hour conversion.
A pretty preposterous turn of events, but who am I to argue with a tale presumably based on a true story?

Fair (1.5 stars)
Running time: 106 minutes
Distributor: Well Go Entertainment

To see a trailer for Supremacy, visit: 

Top Ten DVD Releases for 2-3-15

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Top Ten DVD List for February 3, 2015                      

Dear White People

John Wick

The African Americans & Black in Latin America

Pom Poko

7 Shades of Sexy Movie Collection [Bliss / Bare Witness / Spider’s Web / Impulse / Youth without Youth / Storyville / Where the Truth Lies]

Sex(Ed) The Movie

The Retrieval


Anzac Girls

Hector and the Search for Happiness

Honorable Mention

Nas: Time Is Illmatic

Once upon a Time Veronica

Edison: The Father of Invention

Porco Rosso

Frontline: Firestone and the Warlord

Hitmakers: The Changing Face of the Music Business

When a Stranger Calls: Original (1979) and Remake (2006) [Double Feature]  

The Reagans: The Legacy Endures

The Big Burn

Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic

Clarence: Mystery Pinata [12 Episodes + Pilot]

A Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking: Season Two

Steven Universe: Gem Glow [12 Episodes + Pilot]

Tales from Earthsea

Dracula Untold

Doc McStuffins: Cuddle Me Lambie

Zombie Killers: Elephant’s Graveyard



Friday, January 30, 2015

Hector and the Search for Happiness (DVD REVIEW)

Hector and the Search for Happiness
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Simon Pegg Stars as Shrink Seeking Joy in Peripatetic Road Comedy

            Hector (Simon Pegg) is a funny duck, as they say. The eccentric neat freak is lucky to have a gorgeous girlfriend like Clara (Rosamund Pike) who’s willing to put up with his odd requests, such as arranging everything in perfect order, from his socks to his sandwiches. He’s even more fortunate to have a thriving psychiatric practice, given the barely-contained contempt he routinely exhibits for the folks lying on his couch.
A moment of truth arrives the day one of them (Veronica Ferres) finally summons up the courage to tell him to his face that he’s transparent, inauthentic, and just going through the motions. Conceding that he’s become so jaded that he isn’t helping his equally-miserable patients anymore, Hector decides to embark solo on a globe-spanning, spiritual quest for the fulfillment that has somehow escaped him.
After all, how could he not have joy, when surrounded by all the trappings of success? Hector’s plans have Clara concerned about whether the relationship is on shaky ground, since she’s been reluctant to start a family and she’s also aware that he has an ex (Toni Collette) in the U.S. he still cares about.
Unfolding like the alpha male answer to Eat Pray Love (2010), Hector and the Search for Happiness is an alternately introspective and action-oriented travelogue played mostly for laughs. Simon Pegg exhibits an endlessly-endearing naïvete as the peripatetic protagonist, whether misreading the flirtations of a prostitute (Ming Zhao) in China or taking a while to realize that his cab has been carjacked by the underlings of an African crime boss (Akin Omotoso).
Such perils notwithstanding, our intrepid hero persists in posing his pressing question “What is happiness?” at each port-of-call as he circumnavigates the globe. Taking copious notes on a writing pad, he records the answers he receives, like “Being loved for who you are,” “Answering your calling,” and “Feeling completely alive.”
            Eventually, Hector experiences that elusive “Eureka!” epiphany he needs so dearly, which allows him to rush home revitalized to Clara and a career and clients who might not be so annoying after all. A feel-good meditation on the meaning of life, guaranteed to leave you counting your many blessings as you walk up the aisle.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity and brief nudity
In English, French and German with subtitles
Running time: 114 minutes
Distributor: Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Around the World with Simon Pegg; The Making of Hector and the Search for Happiness: and commentary by director Peter Chelsom.

To see a trailer for Hector and the Search for Happiness, visit:    

To order Hector and the Search for Happiness on DVD, visit:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Retrieval (DVD REVIEW)

The Retrieval
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Bounty Hunter Befriends Runaway Slave in Civil War Drama
It is 1864, and the bloody conflict between the Union and the Confederacy is raging. Against the ominous backdrop of battle and cannon fire in the distance, we are introduced to Will (Ashton Sanders), a 13 year-old orphan ostensibly wrapped up in his own struggle to survive near the front lines.
            Separated at birth from the mother he’s never known, the vulnerable black boy is trying to save enough money to track down his long-lost dad. He works as the assistant to Burrell (Bill Oberst, Jr.), a bounty hunter in the fugitive slave business. Will does the white Southerner’s bidding by first ingratiating himself with unsuspecting escapees, and then betraying them once they confess to being runaways.
            Today, we find him on a mission in search of an ex-slave named Nate (Tishuan Scott). Will gains his confidence by offering to escort him back below the Mason-Dixon Line for a deathbed visit with a dying brother.
That establishes the absorbing premise of The Retrieval, a riveting road saga with escalating tension. Will Nate catch on before he’s turned over to Burrell? Or might the kid have second thoughts about striking a bargain with the devil?
            Written and directed by Chris Eska, The Retrieval made a splash on the festival circuit including at South by Southwest last year where Tishuan Scott won the Special jury Prize in the Breakthrough Performance category. Besides being blessed with great acting, this atmospheric mood piece features eerie cinematography that manages to transport you back to the Civil War era more convincingly than either 12 Years a Slave or Django Unchained.
         Slavery revisited as a sick institution occasionally making for strange bedfellows.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for violence and ethnic slurs. 
Running time: 94 minutes
Distributor: Kino Lorber
DVD Extras: Deleted scene; stunt rehearsals; audio commentary by director Chris Eska; and the theatrical trailer.

To see a trailer for The Retrieval, visit:

To order a copy of the Retrieval on DVD, visit:

Dear White People (DVD REVIEW)

Dear White People
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Ensemble Comedy Examines State of Race Relations in the Ivy League

The academics are tough enough at Winchester University, a mythical Ivy League institution. It’s too bad that black students there also have to worry about making themselves comfortable socially.
            That’s precisely the predicament we find a quartet of African-American undergrads facing at the point of departure of Dear White People, a sophisticated social satire marking the directorial and scriptwriting debut of Justin Simien. Earlier this year, the thought-provoking dramedy won the Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent at the Sundance Film Festival. 
The picture’s protagonists are as different from each other as night and day. Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams) is gay and uncomfortable around his own people because blacks teased him the most about his sexuality back in high school. So, he lives in a predominately-white dorm where he’s ended up being bullied anyway.
Then there’s Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P. Bell), a legacy admission to Winchester courtesy of his father (Dennis Haysbert), an alumnus and the current Dean of Students. Troy’s dating an equally-well connected white girl, Sofia Fletcher (Brittany Curran), the daughter of the school’s President (Peter Syvertsen).
Political activist Samantha White (Tessa Thompson) sits at the other extreme, being a militant sister who lives in the all-black dorm ostensibly serving as a refuge for the “hopelessly Afro-centric.” She also hosts a talk show on the college’s radio school’s station, “Dear White People” where she indicts Caucasians about everything from their racism to their sense of entitlement.  
Finally, we have Coco Conners (Teyonah Parris) who just wants to assimilate into mainstream American culture. In fact, she’s more concerned with whether she might make the cut for the reality-TV show conducting auditions on campus than with challenging the status quo, ala rabble rouser Samantha.
So, the premise is set by establishing that the four lead characters have little in common besides their skin color. And the plot subsequently thickens when Pastiche, a student-run humor publication, decides to throw a Halloween party with an “unleash your inner-Negro” theme.
Now they share the prospect of being stereotyped by white classmates cavorting around in blackface dressed as pimps and gangstas, and as icons like President Obama and Aunt Jemima. En route to a surprising resolution, director Simien pulls a couple of rabbits out of his hat while lacing his dialogue with pithy lines (“Learn to modulate your blackness up or down depending on the crowd and what you want from them.”) and touching on a litany of hot button issues ranging from Affirmative Action to Tyler Perry.
A delightful dissection of the Ivy League that stirs the pot in the way most folks mean when they issue a call for a national discussion of race.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, ethnic and sexual preference slurs, sexuality and drug use
Running time: 109 minutes
Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: Audio commentary with writer/director Justin Simien; The Making of Dear White People; “Get Your Life” music video by Caught a Ghost; deleted scenes; outtakes; Racism Insurance Skits; The More You Know about Black People (a PSA Web Series); DVRS: Black Friends When You Need Them; LEAKED: Banned Winchester U Diversity; and audio commentary with Justin Simien, and cast members Tessa Thompson, Tyler James Williams, Teyonah Parris and Brandon Bell.

To see a trailer for Dear White People, visit:

To order a copy of Dear White People on Blu-ray, visit:

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 2-6-15

Kam's Kapsules:      
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         
by Kam Williams
For movies opening February 6, 2015


Jupiter Ascending (PG-13 for violence, partial nudity and some suggestive content) Mila Kunis stars as the title character in this futuristic sci-fi as a humble housekeeper who learns from an intergalactic emissary (Channing Tatum) that she’s actually an alien aristocrat and the heir apparent to planet Earth. With Eddie Redmayne, Terry Gilliam, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and James D’Arcy.

Seventh Son (PG-13 for intense violence, frightening images and brief profanity) Screen adaptation of “The Last Apprentice,” Joseph Delaney’s fantasy epic about a righteous knight (Jeff Bridges) who, with the help of a young apprentice (Ben Barnes), attempts to thwart an evil witch (Julianne Moore) bent on world domination. Cast includes Djimon Hounsou, Alicia Vikander, Antje Traue and Olivia Williams. 

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (PG for mild action and rude humor) Screen adaptation of the animated TV series finds everybody’s favorite, sea-dwelling invertebrate (Tom Kenny) coming ashore with his friends to retrieve a stolen recipe from a dastardly pirate (Antonio Banderas). Voice cast includes Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Thomas F. Wilson and Slash.


3 Nights in the Desert (Unrated) Intriguing romantic romp revolving around the awkward love triangle drama which arises when a musical trio reunites in the desert a decade after the band members went their separate ways. Co-starring Wes Bentley, Amber Tamblyn and Vincent Piazza.

5 Hour Friends (Unrated) Romantic dramedy revolving around an unrepentant womanizer (Tom Sizemore) who gets a taste of his own medicine when he finally meets his match (Kimberlin Brown). With Musetta Vander, Dan Hewitt Owens and Leilani Sarelle. 

1971 (Unrated) Freedom of Information documentary recounting the break-in at a Pennsylvania FBI office by whistleblowers who found proof of the existence of an illegal surveillance program monitoring the movements of thousands of U.S. citizens.

Ballet 422 (PG for mild epithets) Behind-the-scenes documentary following wunderkind Justin Peck around backstage as he choreographs an upcoming New York City Ballet production.

Enter the Dangerous Mind (Unrated) Psychological thriller about a reclusive musician (Jake Hoffman) who starts dating a homeless woman (Nikki Reed) he meets at a shelter until he is manipulated into sabotaging the budding relationship by his skeptical roommate (Thomas Dekker). With Jason Priestly, Scott Bakula and Gina Rodriguez.

Love, Rosie (R for profanity and sexuality) Romantic comedy, based on “Where Rainbows End,” the best-seller by Cecelia Ahern about a couple of lifelong BFFs (Lily Collins and Sam Claflin) who take forever to realize they were meant for each other. Support cast includes Suki Waterhouse, Tamsin Egerton and Art Parkinson.

Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine (Unrated) Reverential biopic about Matthew Shepard (1976-1998), the University of Wyoming student sadistically beaten and left to die tied to a fence for being gay. An intimate portrait painted from the perspectives of the friends and family members who knew him best.

On the Way to School (Unrated) Thirst for knowledge documentary illustrating the great efforts which four children (one each from Kenya, India, Morocco and Argentina) make on a daily basis to get to school, whether by foot, wheelchair or horseback. (In French with subtitles)

One Small Hitch (Unrated) Romantic comedy about best friends since childhood (Shane McRae and Aubrey Dollar) who make believe they’re engaged for the sake of dying dad’s (Daniel J. Travanti) last wish. With Janet Ulrich Brooks, Mary Jo Faraci and Robert Belushi (son of Jim).

The Other Man: F.W. De Klerk and the End of Apartheid (Unrated) Revisionist biopic reassessing the legacy of the last president of apartheid-era South Africa.

Pass the Light (Unrated) Faith-based drama revolving around a 17 year-old, high school senior (Cameron Palatas) who decides to run for Congress mounting a grassroots campaign with a Christian platform. With Dalpre Grayer, Alexandria DeBerry and Colby French.

The Voices (R for profanity, sexual references and graphic violence) Crime comedy about a factory worker (Ryan Reynolds) whose crush on a colleague (Gemma Arterton) takes a sinister turn after she stands him up on a date. Cast includes Anna Kendrick, Jacki Wea

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Above and Beyond (FILM REVIEW)

Above and Beyond
Film Review by Kam Williams

Reverential Retrospective Recounts U.S. Pilots’ Role in Israel’s War of Independence  

            Israel found itself losing its War of Independence in 1948 because it had no fighter planes with which to respond to air attacks on the part of its Arab adversaries. Luckily, a number of World War II fighter pilots from half a world away would answer its desperate plea for assistance.
Though this ragtag band of brothers considered themselves more American than Jewish, they were nevertheless willing to risk their U.S. citizenship and their very lives by volunteering to come to the rescue. So, they started by smuggling planes out of the country in order to train behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia.
Next, they flew to the war-torn Middle East where they would play a pivotal role in turning the tide of the conflict, while cultivating an unexpected Jewish pride in the process. The daring exploits of these unsung aviators are recounted in vivid fashion in Above and Beyond, a reverential documentary directed by Roberta Grossman.
Among the octet feted here is Leon Frankel, a bomber pilot who had received a Navy Cross for the heroism he’d exhibited over Okinawa. Another is Coleman Goldstein, who had been shot down over France in 1943 and declared missing in action. However, he survived WWII by making his way over the Pyrenees to Spain where he was rescued and reunited with his squadron. Then there’s the late Milton Rubenfeld, fondly remembered here by his son Paul, better know as comedian Pee Wee Herman.
Inter alia, we learn that the members of the 101st painted “Angels of Death” as a logo on their aircrafts’ fuselages. On one mission, a former commercial pilot for TWA tricked Egyptian air traffic controllers into believing that he was about to land in Cairo before dropping explosives on a city which had never been bombed before.
Another recounts observing refugees from Hitler’s death camps kissing the ground upon arriving in Israel. Besides fighting, the 101st not only flew supplies to the front lines but evacuated wounded soldiers from the Negev Desert battlefields.
As the curtain comes down, one ace waxes rhapsodic with, “God allowed us to survive World War II, so we could come to Israel and help the remnants of our people survive.” Hear hear!

Excellent (4 stars)
In English and Hebrew with subtitles
Running time: 87 minutes
Distributor: International Film Circuit

To see a trailer for Above and Beyond, visit:  

Dark Girls (BOOK REVIEW)

Dark Girls
By Bill Duke
Interviews by Shelia P. Moses
Photographs by Barron Claiborne
Hardcover, $35.00
192 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-0-06-233168-7

Book Review by Kam Williams

“In today’s society, dark skin has become linked to longer prison time, higher unemployment rates, low self-esteem, lower standards of beauty, and higher psychological distress. The skin bleaching industry is a multimillion-dollar business. Women go to great lengths to lighten their skin in an attempt to be more attractive in the eyes of male partners and society as a whole…
Studies have also found that young girls… feel as if they are not as ‘pretty’ or ‘desirable’ as their friends with lighter skin. That is one of the reasons why this project is so important. It is showcasing dark girls from all over the world…
This book will be an inspiration to [help] people... realize that our dark skin tone makes us unique and beautiful as opposed to viewing it as a constraint that needs to be altered or avoided.”
-- Excerpted from the Postscript by Dr. Tenika Jackson (page 172)

Last year, the documentary Dark Girls was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Now, the film’s director, Bill Duke, has published an equally-valuable companion piece celebrating the beauty of ebony-hued black women.
The classy coffee table book is comprised of over 80 full-page portraits of sepia-skinned sisters of every age and from every walk of life. Besides breathtaking photographs by Barron Claiborne, the opus includes the heartfelt reflections of each of the subjects about her coloring.
Retha Powers recalls being teased in grammar school by a mean classmate, before she expresses her concern about the welfare of her 6 year-old daughter, Isa. Sensitively answering her curious child’s questions about hair texture and styling, the supportive mom asserts that “90% of beauty is between the ears. It’s an inside job.”
 Another contributor is Camille Winbush, best known for playing niece Vanessa on The Bernie Mac Show. She admits that her feelings were hurt at the age of 12 while participating in a fashion show, when she was asked “What’s wrong with you?” backstage by a white girl pointing out her pigmentation. Fortunately, the gorgeous child actress had already been taught that “dark was normal and beautiful.”
Among the other luminaries weighing-in, here, are the comedienne Sommore, TV Judge Mablean Ephraim, Hip-Hop star Missy Elliott, actress Loretta Devine, Olympic gold medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson, and actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, to name a few. Artist/communications strategist Floydetta McAfee probably sums it all up best when she says, “I know and understand my history as an African-American. I come from the bloodline of many proud and self-assured people who are dark like me. I embrace that bloodline and our skin tone. In this dark skin I was born, grew up, traveled the world, and live proudly.”
            An uplifting collection capturing both the intelligence and elegance of darker-skinned sisters.

To order a copy of Dark Girls, visit:   

Monday, January 26, 2015

Voices of Auschwitz (TV REVIEW)

Voices of Auschwitz

TV Review by Kam Williams

CNN Special Revisits the Liberation of Notorious Concentration Camp

            While tracing his roots a year ago, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer learned for the first time that his paternal grandparents had perished at Auschwitz during the Second World War. That discovery made him a natural to host Voices of Auschwitz, a powerful documentary commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the infamous concentration camp.
Over one million Jews were murdered there at the hands of the Nazis, whether in the crematorium, by firing squad, as guinea pigs in experiments, or by other methods. This CNN special focuses on the reflections of a quartet of Auschwitz survivors, Renee Firestone, Martin Greenfield, Eva Kor, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, members of an aging fraternity whose numbers are definitely dwindling. For that reason, it is important to hear how they not only miraculously managed to survive the ordeal, but went on to lead very productive lives after the war, despite losing most of their relatives.
Renee relates how upon arriving at Auschwitz, her mother was sent straight to the gas chamber, while she and her sister were sent into the prison where she bought time by offering her services as an aspiring fashion designer. Similarly, Martin worked as a tailor for the Gestapo, and was able to endure the bitter cold by sewing together scraps of discarded material.
Anita got a reprieve by playing the cello in a makeshift inmate orchestra, and eventually founded the English Chamber Orchestra. And Eva was only 10 years-old when her arm was branded “A-7063” at Auschwitz where she and her twin sister Miriam were subjected to torture on a daily basis at the hands of the diabolical Dr. Mengele.
Besides interviewing these survivors, Blitzer shares a tete-a-tete with film director Steven Spielberg, who credits shooting Schindler’s List and creating the Shoah Foundation for his renewal as a Jew. In sum, this moving memoir stands as a remarkable testament to the indomitability of the human spirit as well as a mighty reminder why the evils of the Holocaust must never be forgotten.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 49 minutes
Distributor: CNN

Voices of Auschwitz premieres on CNN on Wednesday, January 28th @ 9pm ET/PT (check your local listings)

To see a trailer for Voices of Auschwitz, visit: