Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top Ten DVD List for January 3, 2017

by Kam Williams

This Week’s DVD Releases
The Monkey King 2


Another Man Will

Girls: The Complete Fifth Season

I Am Rebel: Season One

Hairspray Live!

Frontline: Confronting ISIS

Animals Gone Wild: Season Three

American Masters: Eero Saarinen

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life

Honorable Mention

Nova: Treasures of the Earth

Blair Witch

The Mind of a Chef: Ludo Lefebvre

Projections of America

USO: For the Troops

Secrets of the Dead: Graveyard of the Giant Beasts

Friday, December 30, 2016

A Monster Calls

Film Review by Kam Williams

Beleaguered Boy Befriended by Tree in Bittersweet Escapist Fantasy

Conor O'Malley (Lewis MacDougall) is understandably miserable. First of all, the 12 year-old divorced mom (Felicity Jones) is terminally ill. Second, they're both estranged from his father (Toby Kebbell) who has long since started another family over in America.

Third, Conor is tired of being mistreated by his cold-hearted grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) who cares more about her prized possessions than his welfare. And finally, he's routinely teased at school by a bully (James Melville) about always being off in his own dream world.

So, it's no surprise when Conor starts being plagued by nightmares on a daily basis. A few minutes after midnight, the giant yew tree (Liam Neeson) standing in the graveyard outside his bedroom window turns into an intimidating, anthropomorphic monster.

Despite its imposing presence, the beast gradually gains the kid's confidence, agreeing to tell a trio of insightful allegories on the condition that Conor reciprocate with one of his own. The idea, ostensibly, is that there will be a meaningful lesson to be learned from each of the parables.

That is the point of departure of A Monster Calls, a bittersweet escapist fantasy directed by J.A. Bayona (The Impossible). The movie is based on the illustrated children's novel of the same name by Patrick Ness who also adapted it to the big screen. Ness' award-winning book was inspired by the late Siobhan Dowd, who passed away before she could tackle the semi-autobiographical project herself.

The film is less a feel-good flick than a picture about making the best of a bad situation. For, the monster's stories paint a sobering picture of life that's anything but rosy. However, they do ultimately enable Conor to own up about his deepest fear, when it's his turn to share.

Given the mature themes and the dire plot developments, it's hard to recommend A Monster Calls for vulnerable youngsters. Nevertheless, it is unique in its approach to preparing a tweener to processing an impending tragedy.

A visually-enchanting, if fateful, fairy tale.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and scary images
Running time: 108 minutes
Distributor: Focus Features

To see a trailer for A Monster Calls, visit:

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening January 6, 2017


Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams



Underworld: Blood Wars (R for sexuality and graphic violence) Kate Beckinsale reprises her lead role in this fifth installment of the goth horror franchise which finds the heroine hybrid attempting to end the eternal war between werewolves and vampires. With Theo James, Tobias Menzies and Lara Pulver.


Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America (Unrated) Racial harmony documentary about a black musician's efforts to befriend Ku Klux Klansmen.

The Ardennes (Unrated) Reconciliation drama revolving around a repentant robber's (Jeroen Perceval) helping his recently-paroled brother (Kevin Janssens) readjust to society after serving time for a brutal home invasion they'd both committed. With Veerle Baetens, Jan Bijvoet and Viviane de Muynck. (In Flemish, French and Dutch with subtitles)

Arsenal (R for graphic violence, pervasive profanity and drug use) Crime thriller about a successful businessman (Adrian Grenier) who enlists the assistance of a private detective (John Cusack) after his mobster brother (Johnathon Schaech) is held for ransom by a ruthless crime boss (Nicolas Cage). Cast includes Lydia Hull, Heather Johansen and Christopher Coppola.

Banking on Bitcoin (Unrated) Financial documentary examining the disruptive effect that the alternative currency Bitcoin has had on the mainstream economy. Featuring commentary by Wences Casares, Nathaniel Popper and Senator Rand Paul.

Between Us (Unrated) Romantic comedy chronicling an eventful day-in-the-life of a couple in crisis (Ben Feldman and Olivia Thirlby) dealing with their fear of commitment as well as social pressure to tie the knot. With Adam Goldberg, Analeigh Tipton, Lesley Ann Warren, Peter Bogdanovich and Scott Haze.

Master (Unrated) Action thriller revolving around the white-collar crime detective (Dong-won Gang) leading the investigation of a multi-level marketing company suspected of perpetrating a massive fraud all across Korea. Supporting cast includes Woo-bin Kim, Byung-hun Lee, Dal-su Oh and Ji-won Uhm. (In Korean with subtitles)

Railroad Tigers (Unrated) Jackie Chan stars in this action comedy, set in occupied China during World War II, as the leader of a ragtag team of freedom fighters who ambush a Japanese military train for some desperately needed provisions. With Jaycee Chan (Jackie's son), Zitao Huang and Kai Wang. (In Chinese with subtitles)

Retake (Unrated) Homoerotic drama revolving around a lonely, middle-aged businessman (Tuc Watkins) who hires a male prostitute (Devon Graye) to accompany him on a nostalgic road trip to the Grand Canyon. Featuring Derek Phillips, Kit Williamson and Andrew Asper.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The 10 Best, No, the 100 Best Films of 2016


by Kam Williams

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

10 Best Big Budget Films
1. La La Land
2. Hell or High Water
3. Deadpool
4. Lion
5. Manchester by the Sea
6. Fences
7. Nocturnal Animals
8. The Finest Hours
9. The Shallows
10. Ghostbusters

Big Budgets Honorable Mention

11. Loving
12. The Magnificent Seven
13. Arrival
14. The Accountant
15. X-Men: Apocalypse
16. Deepwater Horizon
17. The Witch
18. Hacksaw Ridge
19. Ben-Hur
20. The Birth of a Nation
21. Race
22. Snowden
23. Hidden Figures
24. Jackie
25. Lights Out
26. Money Monster
27. The Infiltrator
28. Free State of Jones
29. Triple 9
30. Sully
31. Barbershop: The Next Cut
32. Fantastic Beasts
33. Now You See Me 2
34. Eddie the Eagle
35. Southside with You
36. Jason Bourne
37. Miracles from Heaven
38. How to Be Single
39. London Has Fallen
40. Miles Ahead
41. Hands of Stone
42. Vigilante Diaries
43. Sausage Party
44. Queen of Katwe
45. The Legend of Tarzan
46. Boo! A Madea Halloween
47. Skiptrace
48. The Perfect Match
49. Criminal
50. Inferno

10 Best Independent & Foreign Films

1. Moonlight
2. Kicks
3. Elle
4. Morris from America
5. Burning Bodhi
6. Sweaty Betty
7. Captain Fantastic
8. Little Men
9. In Order of Disappearance
10. No Pay, Nudity

Independent & Foreign Films Honorable Mention

11. I, Daniel Blake
12. Yosemite
13. Of Mind and Music
14. Dough
15. Destination Planet Negro
16. The Hunt for Wilder People
17. A Beautiful Now
18. White Lies
19. Monster Hunt
20. The Fits
21. Believe
22. Before I Do
23. The Fight Within
24. The Bounce Back
25. The Love Witch

10 Best Documentaries

1 13th
2. O.J.: Made in America
3. Weiner
4. Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words
5. Requiem for the American Dream
6. I Am Not Your Negro
7. Newtown
8. Can We Take a Joke?
9. Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You
10. Cameraperson

Documentaries Honorable Mention

11. At All Costs
12. Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise
13. The Brainwashing of My Dad
14. They Will Have to Kill Us First
15. The Wake of Vanport
16. Queen Mimi
17. Dispatches from the Gulf
18. When Justice Isn't Just
19. Hockney
20. Look at Us Now, Mother!
21. Presenting Princess Shaw
22. Dark Horse
23. Kevin Hart: What Now?
24. Do Not Resist
25. Hollywood Beauty Salon

Monday, December 26, 2016

Top Ten DVD List for December 27, 2016

by Kam Williams

This Week’s DVD Releases


Phantasm: Remastered

In a Valley of Violence

Close to the Enemy: Season One

Coming through the Rye

The Dressmaker

Jericho of Scotland Yard: Season One

Frontline: Terror in Europe

Nature: The Story of Cats

National Geographic: When Sharks Attack: Season Three

Honorable Mention

Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet: Season Three

New Girl: The Complete Fifth Season

Phantasm: Ravager

Grinder: The Complete First Season

Dog Eat Dog

Maximum Ride

When the Bough Breaks

The Disappointments Room

Nova: Great Human Odyssey

Secrets of the Dead: After Stonehenge

Sunday, December 25, 2016


Blu-Ray Review by Kam Williams

Docudrama Revisits Exploits of Expatriated Whistleblower

Citizenfour won the 2016 Academy Award in the Best Documentary category. But given how the movie made less than $4 million worldwide, one might reasonably conclude that the details of Edward Snowden's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) dump of National Security Agency documents remains substantially unknown. 
This is ostensibly the thinking of three-time Oscar-winner Oliver Stone (for Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July) in turning the story into a cloak-and-dagger drama about the NSA whistleblower-turned-fugitive's leak of classified information before going into hiding from the U.S. government. The movie unfolds in June of 2013 in the Hong Kong hotel room where 
Snowden met with journalists Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Ewen Macaskill (Tom Wilkinson) along with Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo), the eventual director of Citizenfour. 
We learn that following four days of interviews, Greenwald published his first story in the British daily newspaper, The Guardian. The Pulitzer Prize-winning series related in stunning detail the extent of NSA surveillance of American citizens in direct contradiction of a recent denial uttered under oath to Congress by James Clapper, the nation's Director of National Intelligence.

Because the articles identified Snowden as the source of the information, he immediately became the subject of an intense international manhunt. He somehow managed to slip through the dragnet and boarded a commercial airliner bound for Moscow, despite the fact that his passport had been revoked and the U.S. had requested his extradition from Hong Kong.
Upon landing in Russia, Edward was awarded temporary asylum and he has languished there ever since. Lucky for him, this movie has revived interest in his case, inspiring him to recently make a public appeal for clemency.

But a presidential pardon is unlikely to be forthcoming, even though President Obama considered the apprehension of the "29 year old-hacker" a very low priority back in June of '13. So today, Snowden remains a fugitive from justice charged in absentia with theft, espionage and conversion of government property. 
Via a variety of empathetic flashbacks, we are informed by the film that Edward was a high school dropout who suffers from epilepsy. He also enjoys a very loving, enduring relationship with Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley), the loyal girlfriend who followed him from Virginia to Hawaii to Moscow. More importantly, the movie establishes Edward as so patriotic he was willing to jeopardize his future to sound the alarm about the surreptitious NSA's widespread violations of our Constitutional rights.

Congrats to Oliver Stone for crafting a reverential biopic which convincingly repositions a supposed traitor as an altruistic hero of the highest order.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality and nudity
in English and Russian with subtitles
Running time: 135 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Deleted scenes; "Finding the Truth" featurette; and a Q&A with Edward Snowden. .

To see a trailer for Snowden, visit:

To order a copy of Snowden on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit: 


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Blacktrospective 2016

by Kam Williams

Kam’s Annual Assessment of the Best in Black Cinema

Best Big Budget Black Films
1. Fences
2. Loving
3. The Birth of a Nation
4. Free State of Jones
5. Race
6. Hidden Figures
7. Barbershop: The Next Cut
8. Southside with You
9. Miles Ahead
10. Queen of Katwe

Best Independent Black Films

1. Moonlight
2. Kicks
3. Sweaty Betty
4. The Perfect Match
5. Of Mind and Music
6. The Bounce Back
7. Morris from America
8. Mr. Church
9. Nina
10. The Fits

Best Black Documentaries

1. 13th
2. O.J.: Made in America
3. I Am Not Your Negro
4. Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise
5. The Wake of Vanport
6. When Justice Isn't Just
7. Kevin Hart: What Now?
8. Presenting Princess Shaw
9. Do Not Resist
10. The Wake of Vanport 2

Best Actor (Lead Role)

1. Denzel Washington (Fences, The Magnificent Seven)
2. Nate Parker (The Birth of a Nation)
3. Jahking Guillory (Kicks)
4. Stephan James (Race)
5. Ice Cube (Barbershop: The Next Cut)
6. Markees Christmas (Morris from America)
7. Terrence Jenkins (The Perfect Match)
8. Don Cheadle (Miles Ahead)
9. Parker Sawyers (Southside with You)
10. Shemar Moore (The Bounce Back)

Best Actor (Supporting Role)

1. Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Free State of Jones, Hidden Figures, Kicks)
2. J.B. Smoove (Barbershop: The Next Cut)
3. John Legend (La La Land)
4. Craig Robinson (Morris from America)
5. Forest Whitaker (Arrival)
6. Bill Bellamy (The Bounce Back)
7. Common (Barbershop: The Next Cut)
8. Christopher Jordan Wallace (Kicks)
9. Deon Cole (Barbershop: The Next Cut)
10. Isaac Ryan Brown (Believe)

Best Actress (Lead Role)

1. Ruth Negga (Loving)
2. Viola Davis (Fences)
3. Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures)
4. Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
5. Janelle Monae (Hidden Figures)
6. Royalty Hightower (The Fits)
7. Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Free State of Jones)
8. Aunjanue Ellis (Of Mind and Music)
9. Leslie Jones (Ghostbusters)
10. Zoe Saldana (Nina)

Best Actress (Supporting Role)

1. Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
2. Gabrielle Union (The Birth of a Nation)
3. Janelle Monae (Moonlight)
4. Lupita Nyong'o (Queen of Katwe)
5. Regina Hall (Barbershop: The Next Cut)
6. Eve (Barbershop: The Next Cut)
7. Aunjanue Ellis (The Birth of a Nation)
8. Emayatzy Corinealdi (Miles Ahead)
9. Halle Berry (Kevin Hart: What Now?)
10. Nicki Minaj (Barbershop: The Next Cut)

Best Director (Big Budget Film)
1. Denzel Washington (Fences)
2. Antoine Fuqua (The Magnificent Seven)
3. Nate Parker (The Birth of a Nation)
4. Malcolm Lee (Barbershop: The Next Cut)
5. Don Cheadle (Miles Ahead)

Best Director (Independent Film)

1. Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
2. Justin Tipping (Kicks)
3. Billie Woodruff (The Perfect Match)
4. Zachary Reed and Joseph Frank (Sweaty Betty)

Best Director (Documentary Film)

1. Ava DuVernay (13th)
2. Raoul Peck (I Am Not Your Negro)
3. Leslie Small and Tim Story (Kevin Hart: What Now?)
4. Rita Coburn Whack and Bob Hercules (Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise)