Saturday, May 30, 2015


McFarland, USA
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Kevin Costner Shines in Inspirational, Real-Life Tale of Overcoming-the-Odds
In the fall of 1987, Jim White (Kevin Costner) was fired as head football coach of a high school team in Boise, Idaho when he lost his temper and hit one of his players in the face and drew blood. With a wife (Maria Bello) and two young daughters (Morgan Saylor and Elsie Fisher) to support, the hot-headed perfectionist found himself in urgent need of another job.

So, he accepted a demotion to assistant football coach at the public high school in the predominantly-Latino, working-class town of McFarland, California.  However, once it became clear on the gridiron that being second-in-command wasn’t working out, the versatile veteran came up with the idea of fielding a cross-country track team instead.

Though initially skeptical, Principal Camillo (Valente Rodriguez) grudgingly agreed, and White immediately started scouting around campus for fleet-footed prospects. As it turned out, many of McFarland High’s Chicano students were already in shape, being accustomed to darting the long distance from the field to the classroom, after picking fruit and vegetables alongside their parents from the crack of dawn.

Upon settling on seven promising protégés, the dilemma yet confronting Coach White was whether or not their cash-strapped clans could afford the luxury of letting them run track in lieu of laboring as farm workers in the wee hours of the morning? If so, the boys might also be afforded an opportunity to expand their horizons, since a standout’s landing an athletic college scholarship was definitely a distinct possibility.
Directed by New Zealand’s Niki Caro (Whale Rider), McFarland, USA is much more than your typical, overcoming-the-odds sports saga, in spite of the fact that it might sound fairly formulaic at first blush. Yes, it’s a classic case of a disgraced coach making the most of a shot at redemption with the help of a motley crew of underestimated underdogs.

Nevertheless, this true tale of overcoming-the-odds proves oh so touching because it simultaneously sheds light on the plight on of an invisible sector of society, namely, the masses of mostly Mexican immigrants who harvest our  produce in obscurity for a mere pittance.

Kevin Costner has never been more endearing than in this outing as a devoted mentor and family man. And he’s surrounded in that endeavor by a talented supporting cast convincing enough to make it easy to forget you’re watching actors, at least until the closing credits roll. That’s when we’re treated to photos of the real-life people just portrayed, plus positive updates about their present lives which serve to validate all the sacrifices made.


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for violence, mild epithets and mature themes
In English and Spanish with subtitles
Running time: 129 minutes
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray extras: McFarland Reflections; “Juntos” music video; Inspiring McFarland; and deleted and extended scenes.

To see a trailer for McFarland, USA, visit:

To order McFarland, USA on Blu-ray, visit: 

Top Ten DVD Releases for 6-2-15

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams
Top Ten DVD List for June 2, 2015                      
Jupiter Ascending

Know How


The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of the Water

Eastern Boys

She Must Be Seeing Things

The Taking of Tiger Mountain

Smiling through the Apocalypse: Esquire in the 60s

With This Ring

The Dog Who Saved Summer

Honorable Mention

Rectify: The Complete Second Season

Max & Ruby: Sharing & Caring

Team Umizoomi: Umi Space Heroes

All Yours

Bubble Guppies: The Puppy and the Ring

Dora's Explorer Girls: Our First Concert

The Poltergeist of Borley Forest

Dora Saves Fairytale Land


Seventh Son

Monsters: Dark Continent

Eat with Me

Private Number

Once Upon a Sign: The Magic Mirror [in American Sign Language]

Friday, May 29, 2015

Jupiter Ascending (DVD REVIEW)

Jupiter Ascending
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Latest Wachowski Siblings' Sci-Fi Arriving on DVD

            In 1999, Andy and Lana Wachowski wowed the world with a spectacular mind-bender called The Matrix. But that was ages ago, another millennium, in fact, and their diehard fans have been patiently awaiting the launch of another groundbreaking, sci-fi franchise over the intervening years.
            Those prayers might have finally been answered by Jupiter Ascending, a futuristic adventure featuring Mila Kunis in the title role of Jupiter Jones. The film is likely to serve as the first installment in a special f/x-driven series revolving around an apocalyptic showdown over the fate of humanity.  
            The picture’s point of departure is the city of Chicago, which is where we meet Jupiter, a humble housekeeper born without a country, a home, or a father. She hates her life, between cleaning other people’s toilets and a never-ending string of tough luck, despite an astrological chart marked by Jupiter rising at 23 degrees ascendant which supposedly means she’s a woman of great destiny.
            Truth be told, she’s not merely a maid, but has royal blood running through her veins, even if it is of the alien variety. As it turns out, Jupiter’s actually entitled to inherit Earth, and is informed of that good fortune by Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a hunky emissary from a distant galaxy.    
            The epic unfolds like a classic origins tale by introducing a plethora of characters and filling in their back stories. For instance, we learn about a trio of aliens from the same planet as Caine, Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Titus (Douglas Booth) and Kalique Abrasax (Tuppence Middleton), each of whom is vying for control of the family food business in the wake of the death of their mother.
            That gruesome business involves the seeding of countless planets with life forms for the purpose of consumption. And they are just about ready to harvest humanity, since the Earth is now overflowing with people.
            The only thing standing in the way is Jupiter, whose royal genetic signature has established her to be an Abrasax as well as the rightful heir to Earth. For that reason, there’s a price on her head. And her and humanity’s hope for survival rests on the broad shoulders of her proverbial half-albino/half-wolf knight in shining armor, Caine.
            Once this creepy Soylent Green (1973) subplot is revealed, the pace of Jupiter Ascending ramps up substantially. For, at that juncture, the film sweeps up Jupiter for a visually-captivating journey which careens around the universe at breakneck speed, while barely pausing to take a breath until finally depositing a very relieved heroine back home where she’s happy to find herself surrounded by familiar faces.
            An overstimulating, intergalactic odyssey evocative of The Wizard of Oz.      

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, sci-fi action, partial nudity and some suggestive content
Running time: 127 minutes
Distributor: Warner Home Entertainment Group
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Jupiter Jones: Destiny Is within Us; Jupiter Ascending: Genetically Spliced Caine Wise: Interplanetary Warrior; The Wachowskis: Minds over Matter; Worlds within Worlds within Worlds; Bullet Time Evolved; and From Earth to Jupiter (And Everywhere in Between).

To see a trailer for Jupiter Ascending, visit:

To order Jupiter Ascending on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit: 


DVD Review by Kam Williams

Will Smith Cat-and-Mouse Crime Caper Comes to DVD

Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie) is an aspiring con artist who picked the worst guy to steal a wallet from when she settled on Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith). She had no reason to suspect that he was a third generation flimflam man descended from a grandfather who ran a crooked poker game in Harlem back in the day.
Nicky was more curious than infatuated when he accepted the seductive stranger’s invite up to her hotel room after sharing drinks at a bar in midtown Manhattan. So, he was ready when an accomplice (Griff Furst) posing as her berserk husband burst in brandishing a fake gun.

Rather than hand over his wallet, Nicky calmly laughs and schools the two in the flaws of their little shakedown, such as not waiting until he was naked to try to rob him. Jess is so impressed that she not only confesses, but begs him to take her on as a protégé, giving him a hard luck story about having been a dyslexic foster kid.

Nicky agrees to show her the ropes, and even invites her to join his team of hustlers about to descend on New Orleans where they plan to pickpocket plenty of unsuspecting tourists. They’re also set to hatch an elaborate plan to fleece a wealthy compulsive gambler (BD Wong) of over a million dollars.

Though Jess proves to be a fast learner and the plot is executed without a hitch, Nicky is reluctant to include her in his next operation after they become romantically involved. Instead, he moves on alone to Argentina, where he hopes to bilk a racing car mogul (Rodrigo Santoro) of a small fortune.

The plot thickens when Jess is already draped on the arm of the playboy billionaire by the time Nicky arrives in Buenos Aires. Is she in love with the handsome Garriga or simply staging her own swindle? Will she expose Nicky as a fraud or might she be willing to join forces with her former mentor?

Co-directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love), Focus is an overplotted, cat-and-mouse caper which ostensibly takes its clues from the cleverly-concealed classic House of Games (1987). But where that multi-layered mystery was perfectly plausible, this frustrating homage unnecessarily ventures from the sublime to the ridiculous, thereby sabotaging any chance that its promising premise might be played out in serious fashion.

Nevertheless, co-stars Will Smith and Margot Robbie generate enough chemistry to steam up the screen and make the farfetched romantic romp just worth the watch, provided eye candy alone can do for you in lieu of credulity.

Good (2 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality and brief violence
Running time: 105 minutes
Distributor: Warner Home Entertainment Group
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Masters of Misdirection: The Players in a Con; Will Smith: Gentleman Thief; Margot Robbie: Stealing Hearts; deleted scenes; and an alternate opening.

To see a trailer for Focus, visit:     

To order Focus on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit: 


Kam's Movie Kapsules for 6-5-15

Kam's Kapsules:      
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         
by Kam Williams
For movies opening June 5, 2015


Entourage (R for nudity, drug use, graphic sexuality and pervasive profanity) Screen adaptation of the hit HBO series reunites the original cast for a romp revolving around the misadventures of a Hollywood movie star (Adrian Grenier) and his pals as they navigate the cutthroat world of show business. Ensemble cast includes Jeremy Piven, Scott Caan, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Liam Neeson, Mark Wahlberg, Jessica Alba, Haley Joel Osment, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Kevin Connolly.

Insidious: Chapter 3 (PG-13 for violence, profanity, frightening images and mature themes) Haunted house prequel finds Lin Shaye reprising her role as a clairvoyant who reluctantly employs her psychic powers to help a teen (Stefanie Scott) being terrorized by a powerful, paranormal entity. Featuring Leigh Whannell, Dermot Mulroney and Dylan McDermott.

Spy (R for sexuality, brief nudity, violence and pervasive profanity) Fish-out-of-water action comedy about a desk-bound CIA analyst (Melissa McCarthy) who volunteers for active duty to avert a global crisis after the colleague (Jude Law) she has a crush on goes missing overseas. With Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, 50 Cent, Allison Janney, Bobby Cannavale and Miranda Hart. (In English, French and Italian with subtitles)


Doomsdays (Unrated) Pre-apocalyptic comedy following the misadventures of a couple of slackers (Justin Rice and Leo Fitzpatrick) with a penchant for squatting in unoccupied summer homes in the Catskill Mountains. Supporting cast features Brian Charles Johnson, Jenny Bradley and Laura Campbell.

Charlie's Country (Unrated) Australian drama about an aborigine (David Gulpilil) who heads for the hills to escape the encroachment of white civilization on his simple, but idyllic life in the bush. With Peter Djigirr, Luke ford and Wayne Anthoney.

Freedom (R for violence) Antebellum Era drama, set in Virginia in 1856, about a runaway slave (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) who makes a break for freedom in Canada with his family via a secret network known as the Underground Railroad. Co-starring Sharon Leal, William Sadler and Phillip Boykin.

Hungry Hearts (Unrated) Psychological drama about a newlywed couple (Adam Driver and Alba Rohrwacher) whose marriage is suddenly tested by the birth of a baby when the wife becomes inexplicably obsessed with nutrition and cleanliness. With Roberta Maxwell, Al Roffe and Geisha Otero.

Love & Mercy (PG-13 for mature themes, drug use and profanity) Musical biopic chronicling The Beach Boys' singer/songwriter Brian Wilson's (John Cusack) battle against mental illness with the help of a shady psychotherapist (Paul Giamatti). Featuring Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, Jake Abel Dee Wallace and Kenny Wormald.

The Nightmare (Unrated) Medical documentary chronicling cases of sleep paralysis, a frightening condition plaguing thousands of people who find themselves unable to move while trapped between the dream and waking worlds.

Patch Town (Unrated) Sci-fi fantasy about a toy (Rob Ramsay) who, after being abandoned by the mother who'd adopted him, decides to confront the evil corporation that manufactured him . Featuring Zoie Palmer, Julian Richings and Scott Thompson.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (PG-13 for disturbing images and brief sexuality) Episodic absurdist comedy revolving around the trials and tribulations of a couple of peripatetic traveling salesmen (Nils Westblom and Holger Andersson). With Viktor Gyllenberg, Lotti Tornros and Jonas Gerholm. (In Swedish and English with subtitles)

Police Story: Lockdown (Unrated) Jackie Chan stars in this crime thriller, set in Beijing, as a police captain who will stop at nothing to save the long-lost daughter (Jing Tian) he hasn't seen in years. Support cast includes Ye Liu, Yiwei Liu,Tao Yin and Wei Na. (In Mandarin with subtitles)

Testament of Youth (PG-13 for mature themes and disturbing images) Adaptation of Vera Brittain's (Alicia Vikander) coming-of-age memoir recounting her service as a nurse in London during World War I while awaiting word about the fate of her brother (Taron Egerton) and fiance (Kit Harington) fighting on the front lines. With Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson and Hayley Atwell.

Wild Horses (R for profanity and violent images) Crime thriller revolving around a Texas Ranger (Luciana Duvall) who reopens a Missing Persons case implicating a wealthy rancher (Robert Duvall) in the mysterious disappearance of a local boy. Cast includes James Franco, Josh Hartnett and Angie Cepeda.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Firebird (BOOK REVIEW)

by Misty Copeland
Illustrated by Christopher Myers
G.P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group
Hardcover, $17.99
36 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-0-399-16615-0

Book Review by Kam Williams

With spare, poignant text, American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland writes of a young dancer whose confidence is fragile. Through hard work and dedication, Misty shows her how she can reach the same heights as Misty, even becoming the Firebird, Misty Copeland's signature role.

An affecting story echoing Misty Copeland's own remarkable and meteoric rise in ballet, paired with vibrant, memorable art with plenty of style and flair—a must-have for any lover of ballet.”

-- Excerpted from the Bookjacket

Misty Copeland has undeniably arrived. First, this force to be reckoned overcame poverty and being a minority en route to earning a coveted spot as a prima ballerina in the prestigious American Ballet Company. She subsequently went on to write a best-selling memoir ostensibly designed to inspire others from humble backgrounds to pursue their own seemingly-unreachable dreams.

More recently, Misty was not only the subject of a feature story on CBS' 60 Minutes, but she also landed on the cover of Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Obviously, this is a woman with much more to share than dancing on her tippy toes.

For these purposes, the subject of discussion is her latest opus, Firebird, a delightful picture book appropriate for aspiring ballerinas up to about the age of 8. Dazzlingly-illustrated by Caldecott Medal-nominee Christopher Myers, the enchanting tale is basically a poetic pep talk delivered by Misty in heartfelt fashion to a promising protege plagued with self doubt.

Misty's points out that she herself was once “a dancer just like you... a dreaming shooting star of a girl with work and worlds ahead.” And in a telling postscript for the parents she explains how it isw her aim “to pave a more definitive path than the one that was there for me.”

A modern Horatio Alger parable with the perfect prescription for motivating many a rug rat to find their voice and spread their wings.

To order a copy of Firebird, visit:  

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dana Perino (INTERVIEW)

Dana Perino
The “And the Good News Is…” Interview
with Kam Williams

Primo Perino!

Dana Marie Perino was born in Evanston, Wyoming on May 9, 1972, where she grew up herding cattle at the crack of dawn on a cattle ranch. In college, she moonlighted as a country music DJ while majoring in Mass Communications. And after graduating from Colorado State University-Pueblo, she went on to earn a Master’s in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. 
Dana made history as the first Republican female to serve as White House Press Secretary. After seven years in the George W. Bush administration, she was recruited by the Fox News Network to co-host a new show, The Five, which has become one of the most highly-rated programs on cable TV. 
Christians in word and deed, Dana and her husband, Peter, devote considerable time to philanthropy causes, traveling to Africa on numerous occasions to volunteer with charities ranging from Living Hope to Mercy Ships. The former is a faith-based organization working with AIDS victims, while the latter is a state-of-t
he-art floating hospital which sails down the Congo River to bring free medical care to desperate people living is some of the poorest countries in the world.
Here, she talks about her life and career, including the time spent as President Bush’s official spokesperson.

Kam Williams: Hi Dana, thanks for the interview. How are you?
Dana Perino: I’m pretty good, thank you.

KW: You know, I feel like I already know you, from seeing you on The Five everyday.  
DP: That’s one of the favorite things I hear a lot on the book tour. I think that’s a huge compliment to The Five.

KW: Even though I’m very liberal, I still enjoy the show, especially because you and Greg Gutfeld aren’t predictable in terms of your political stances.
DP: I know what you mean. Bill Shine, an executive at Fox, once said, “Who would’ve ever thought that it’d be Dana Perino always defending the unions and the TSA?”

KW: Or coming to the defense of Obama administration White House Press Secretaries. What were your expectations, when you agreed to do The Five?
DP: When we first started, we didn’t think it was going to be a permanent show, based on the way it was pitched to us. They said it was only going to run for six weeks. I said okay, because I didn’t really have anything to lose. And I didn’t want to have an act, since all I know how to be is myself. The good news for me is that Fox has let me be that person. It’s been great for me, actually.  

KW: I think the show has really humanized you and allowed you to blossom. Most people probably had you pigeonholed very narrowly, after only seeing you as the mouthpiece for the Bush administration.
DP: And who knew the show was going to be so much fun?

KW: It reminds me a lot of The McLaughlin Group.
DP: You’re not alone in that. Gutfeld says our show’s like The McLaughlin Group.

KW: I’m going to be mixing in readers’ questions with my own.
DP: Oh, good!

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What is the primary message you want people to take away from your book?
DP: That you don’t have to have attended fancy prep schools growing up, or gotten an Ivy League education, or have your life completely planned and mapped out to enjoy a great deal of personal and professional success.

KW: Patricia also says: You became the second female at your former position at the White House. She’d like to know what advice you have for women trying to break the glass ceiling, given that there have been so few females, historically, in such government positions as White House Press Secretary, Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice. She’s wondering if you think some obligatory measures should be taken ensuring parity between the genders?
DP: I don’t. I think I was the right Press Secretary at the right time. I know that I was chosen because President Bush felt I was the best person for the job. I’m also very encouraged by developments in Washington, D.C., a place where women in government can advance even more than in private corporations. If you look at the number of females who have been chiefs of staff and undersecretaries under the past two administrations, the chances of a woman succeeding there are very good, and I think that corporate America is trying to catch up. And that’s happening not just in terms of political positions, like the one I held, but with the bureaucracy as well. 

KW: Scott McLellan, the White House Press Secretary who hired you, wrote a book which was a scathing indictment of the Bush administration after he resigned from the post. Did his memoir make your job even harder, and how did that betrayal affect you emotionally?  
DP: One of my favorite passages in the book is where I recount the lesson in forgiveness I was re-taught by President Bush.   

KW: I was astonished to read that President Bush had urged you to forgive him.
DP: That’s how President Bush lives his life. One of the reasons I wanted to write the book was to explain what I saw: he was focused on his job and he lived his faith. One way to succeed is to make sure you’re forgiving of little things… even big things. Certainly, that was a betrayal by Scott McLellan. And it made my job harder for about a week. But, at that point, when the president heard that I was still tied up in knots over it, he called me into the Oval Office at 6:40 in the morning and asked me to try to forgive Scott. That just took the weight off of my shoulders. But what really helped me continue to do my job well the most occurred later that day as I was leaving the White House, when President Bush said, “By the way, I don’t think you’d ever do this to me.” So, he was a good enough manager to know that I was tied up in knots because I was concerned about his press coverage, and about how I was going to deal with the briefing. But then I was also worried about my special relationship with him, and that the closeness and access I needed in order to do my job well was going to be curtailed. So, what he was doing was taking the time to assure me that that access was not going to be curtailed, and it certainly wasn’t.

KW: What’s your best memory of the late Tony Snow, your immediate predecessor as White House Press Secretary? 
DP: He was a giant of a Press Secretary. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received in my life was from him on his last day at the White house. I was very nervous, because I’d be taking over the next day, and he’d been so popular and so great at the job. I didn’t know how I was going to measure up. He was 6’5” and I’m only 5’ tall. He made me stand up, and he put a hand on my shoulder, tilted my chin up, and said, “You are better at this than you think you are.” I sort of made light of it at that moment. But it did hit me, after getting through two weeks of briefings and finding my rhythm. I thought, “Oh, that’s what he meant. I don’t have to be like him in order to be good at this job. I just have to be myself.”
That’s a theme that recurred throughout my career in Washington, and was also true with Roger Ailes at Fox News. I wasn’t really ready, but he gave me enough time to come out of my shell.
KW: Speaking of your height, how do you feel about the way Greg always teases you about being tiny whenever he does the intro to the show?
DP: I love it. One of my favorites was when he said, “She uses toothpicks for ski poles.”

KW: Finally, Patricia says: As an executive at Random House, what would you say helps distinguish a great book from an unknown writer?
DP: I think trust between the editor and the writer, and a belief in the project. Word of mouth helps as well.

KW: What inspired you to get involved with the Mercy Ships, and doing so much volunteer work in Africa?
DP: Initially, it was when President and Mrs. Bush launched the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS relief. So, I knew of the program for a long time, and I was familiar with the statistics, but I had never been to Africa until I went with them in February of 2008. I was really touched by the whole experience. I told my husband that I’d like to go back to Africa for six months after leaving the White House. He whittled that down a little and we went for six weeks. Volunteering and advocating for poverty alleviation, maternal health and early child development on a global scale are very important to me. Later, when I learned about Mercy Ships, I decided I’d like to see it for myself. And Peter, ever the trooper, came with me to the Congo. While we were there, we shot a video that reached millions and millions of people, letting them know about Mercy Ships. I was so proud of that.     

KW: I think a lot of people were very impressed by your doing that, especially since so many Democrats are convinced that Republicans only care about the rich?
DP: That’s a shame! It surprises me that people might think that, because when they publish the charitable donations each year you see that, across the board, conservatives give more. The AIDS relief program was started by President Bush, in part, because of encouragement from Evangelical Christians who felt a moral obligation to save a continent that was about to lose an entire generation of people. And now, Bono starts his concerts by asking everyone in the audience to thank President Bush for saving ten million lives.

KW: Documentary Filmmaker Kevin Williams says: It seems like the past several White House Press Secretaries since you left the job have been much more combative and antagonistic towards reporters asking tough questions. Do you think that’s the result of the recent jobholders’ nerves wearing thin or of a fundamental change in the role of the White House Press Secretary?
DP: I would say that there was a great deal of tension as well between the press and my two predecessors as well. But I don’t necessarily need to comment on other people’s styles. I would just say that I didn’t feel that it was very productive or helpful to the people of America for the White House Press Secretary and the press to be at each other’s throats everyday. That wasn’t how I wanted to live my life. They had a job to do; and I knew it was an important one. And I had a job to do, too. So, I tried to meet them halfway. I saw 50% of my job as advocating and defending the United States of America through the eyes of the Bush administration. I saw the other 50% of my job was defending and advocating for the press so it could maintain its access to the president. I don’t understand the antagonism we see today, or why this administration has cut off some access, like they did with photographers. President Obama is so handsome, he never takes a bad picture. So, they didn’t need to antagonize the press with that piece. In Chapter Six, I write about how swallowing sarcasm and carrying yourself with dignity and grace will make you more effective as a communicator than fighting all the time.  

KW: Kevin has a follow-up: Is it fair for people to see an unhealthy relationship between the political class and the press at the White House Correspondent's Dinner? Did you enjoy the so-called Nerd Prom?
DP: Hate's a strong word, but I hate the Nerd Prom and I have not been back since 2008. Big group events don’t suit me well. I’m not impressed by meeting celebrities. And one of the things that disappoints me about the dinner is that it is meant to celebrate the young people who are being awarded scholarships. Yet, the guests sitting at the tables won’t shut up long enough to allow the young people to enjoy their moment to shine.   

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: What would be the most important piece of advice you’d give to an incoming Presidential Press Secretary?
DP: I think I would pay forward the advice I got from Chief of Staff Andy Card, o say a little prayer of thanks every morning before the Marine opens the door to the West Wing for you, and it will set your day off on a better foot.  

KW: Children's book author Irene Smalls asks: What is the toughest challenge you faced at the White House?
DP: I'd say the accumulation of stress and intensity, and the overwhelming amount of work we had to do. If I got to go back and do it over again, I would have taken better care of my health, because I really let things spiral out of control, and I think I would've been a better Press Secretary, if I'd focused on taking better care of myself.

KW: As Press Secretary your hair was short. Now it's long. Which is your preference?
DP: I had long hair for a long, long time prior to the White House. Now, I have the benefit of professional help in getting ready to appear on The Five. But I loooooove to wear a ponytail.

KW: Irene also asks: What are your hopes for the country?
DP: That we would recognize that we are so blessed to have been born here, and that we are an exceptional nation with a great deal of responsibility in the world which we need to take seriously. And that we need to live our lives with joy, because that's what was intended. And that we would come together and recognize that our problems are solvable. We sometimes just lack the will to solve them.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
DP: [Chuckles] I'd just like to share my favorite piece advice from the book: Choosing to be loved is not a career-limiting decision. My marriage has helped me in my career more than perhaps anything else I could've done, despite leaving an enviable career-track in Washington, DC when we had nothing.

KW: What was the last book you read?
DP: I'm almost finished reading “All the Light We Cannot See,” which is a novel about World War II.   I'm also reading “Munich Airport” by Greg Baxter. 
Another book by him I loved was “The Apartment.”  

KW: What is the last song you listened to?
DP: Last night, I listened to the new soundtrack from the TV series “Nashville,” a show which is like a combination of “Dallas” and “Fame.” [Laughs]   

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
DP: My husband and I love steak with some sort of vegetables. But I'm also very good at making a dish I call Blue Cheese Heaven, which is stir-fried vegetables with blue cheese crumble melted served over sourdough toast with horseradish spread.

KW: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
DP: I didn't really learn a lot about fashion growing up in Wyoming, so I'm a little intimidated in Washington and New York at times. I'm lucky that I found a young designer named Bradley Scott who takes such great care of me. Whenever I have a special occasion, I pull out one of his dresses.

KW: When you look in the mirror what do you see?
DP: An older version of myself. [Laughs] I have found a way to be joyously content. I don't see myself as worried, or stressed or fearful anymore, like I use to. I also used to see a very hard-edged person when I worked in the White House, although that wasn't the kind of Press Secretary President Bush wanted me to be. And it wasn't good for my marriage either, so I tried to be the way I believe God intended my life to be, which is a little more joyous.

KW: I suppose that position forces you to be a little harder-edged.
DP: I think it's very hard to leave those arguments in the Briefing Room. But I was very much supported by President Bush and the White house.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
DP: I would like the feeling of serenity to be shared by more people in the world.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
DP: My earliest, childhood political memory was watching the inauguration of Ronald Reagan. My earliest memory was riding a pony my grandfather bought me named Sally at the ranch. I loved that pony.

KW: Would you mind giving me a Dana Perino question I can ask everybody I interview?
DP: Sure: What keeps you up at night? President Bush used to ask that of other world leaders because it would help him understand what their anxieties were so he could work better with them.

KW: Excellent! Thanks. The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
DP: I remember very well when I was dumped in college by this guy I'd dated for two and a half years. All of a sudden he failed to show up one Friday night; and I never saw him again. I got the flu and was feeling sorry for myself until my friend Andrea said, “We gotta get you up and outta here.” And we started going to these country music bars in Pueblo. We'd danced with every guy but go home with no one. She and I are still such good friends. That experience taught me that you can survive a broken heart.

KW: What is the biggest difference between who you are at home and the person we we see on TV?
DP: I think I'm quieter at home. I need time to think, and I need time to read which isn't an indulgence but part of my job, since I get a lot of galleys

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
DP: I actually believe it is optimism, not the unrealistic, Pollyanna sort, but the type that enables you to keep striving to achieve in the face of adversity.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
DP: As kind.

KW: Finally, what's in your wallet?
DP: Some credit cards and an I.D. And you know what I carried around in my wallet for five years? A scrap of paper with my sketch of an outline for this book I wanted to write. For some reason, I never threw it away, even after the first publisher I approached said the book would never sell. When I showed it to the one who did end up publishing the book, he said, “Leave this with me.” And he even wrote my proposal, because he believed in it so much.

KW: Wow! And it's been #1 on Amazon's best-seller list for several weeks straight.
DP: Would you believe it? Well, I loved talking with you, Kam.

KW: Same here, Dana. It's been an honor. Like I said, I love you on the show because you're not a predictable, hack Republican spouting the party line, but a very sensitive and intelligent person who obviously thinks for herself.
DP: Thank you, Kam, you made my day!

To purchase a copy of “And the Good News Is…” visit:  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Bass Clef Bliss

Bass Clef Bliss
Film Review by Kam Williams

African-American Mother and Son’s Adjustment to Autism Chronicled in Inspirational Biopic

            Before Terrence Partridge turned 2, his parents first noticed an arrest in his development of age-appropriate social skills. In fact, he actually started regressing soon thereafter, as words he had already been using began to disappear from his vocabulary.
            But it would still be a couple more years before they would receive the devastating diagnosis that their son was autistic. Unfortunately, the marriage would not last, as is so often the case with families touched by this affliction, and the burden of raising Terrence alone would end up falling entirely on his mother Therese’s shoulders.    
            Since early intervention can be critical in a kid’s prognosis, he was lucky she committed herself to giving him the love and support of even more than two parents. And she resolved to become an expert in autism, since it can manifests in myriad ways, making what might be a viable protocol for one child, totally inappropriate for another.
            In Terrence’s case, he exhibited an early interest in music, being among the 1 in 10,000 people blessed with perfect pitch. His attentive mom recognized his talent which she proceeded to cultivate with the help of Louise Titlow, his trombone instructor. Under his patient teacher’s tutelage, the boy blossomed into a promising prodigy to the point where he would one day play in San Diego’s New Youth Classical Orchestra as well as jazz in a combo led by trumpeter Gilbert Castllanos.
Louise modestly explains away her student’s seemingly miraculous achievements with, “All it takes with Terrence or any autistic child is a little bit more love, a little more time, and a little more faith.” Perhaps of greater significance is her further assertion that, “He can be an angel of healing self-expression through music, and heal others as he’s uplifting himself.”
Directed by Patrick Scott, Bass Clef Bliss is an alternately heartrending and uplifting biopic chronicling the tight bond between a mother and son as together they confront an assortment of daunting challenges associated with autism. Scott makes a most impressive debut here, as he oh so delicately balances the access he was afforded to his subjects ‘daily lives with their plausible concerns about personal privacy.
Besides focusing on Terrence and Therese’s trials, tribulations and ultimate triumphs, this informative documentary features a cornucopia of facts and figures about autism, courtesy of both experts and anecdotal evidence. Did you know that in 1985, 1 in 2,500 babies developed the disorder, and that today the number is about 1 in 68?
Thus, autism is now, effectively, universal in nature which makes a labor of love like Bass Clef Bliss certain to resonate deeply with any spiritually-inclined soul compassionately attuned to other than self.    

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 70 minutes
Distributor: BKLYN2LA Productions / Drama House Productions

To see a trailer for Bass Clef Bliss, visit: