Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Street God

Book Review by Kam Williams

The Street God
I Won without Telling
by Christian Hayward
The Street God Entertainment
Paperback, $29.99
268 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9964967-0-4

This is a story about a small boy who started out as an innocent child raised by his grandmother in one of Cleveland's worst neighborhoods (East 93rd). As you read the uncut, unedited comeback story, it will help you understand how easily environmental and life experiences can shape and mold a harmless, impoverished child into a violent outlaw without any regard for authority or mercy for a human being.”
-- Excerpted from the Bookjacket

Don't let Christian Hayward's given name deceive you. He's no altar boy. In fact, he freely admits that he's "robbed and done everything violent under the sun."

The Cleveland ex-con's saving grace is a brutal honesty about his checkered past combined with a wonderful way with words. The upshot is a warts-and-all autobiography oozing so much street cred that you never question its veracity for a second.
Quite the contrary. Instead, you tend to wince while reading and think "Too much information." For instance, he recounts the evening in his teens he picked up Ms. B. at a school dance and started to seduce her in his aunt's car only to change his mind because she stank up the car when she slipped off her panties. I'll spare you the graphic details. 
Later, he describes Poo, his first cellmate in Lorain Correctional, as "an older cat" with "light skin with big lips." Christian was 18 then, as was a fellow inmate Rick, "a stick-up kid from my side of town." 
The colorful memoir is written in a stream-of-consciousness style that sounds spoken and almost jumps off the page. The only problem is that there are virtually no role models or lessons of redeeming value in this rough world, whether the author's talking about life behind bars or back on the street.

Consider this riveting account of a confrontation in jail. "That night... one of Crusher's boys spit on the cell floor and I beat him like a woman and he was at least 6' tall. He went out like a coward. He even stopped fighting back. I didn't sleep the rest of the night nor the next morning."
After finishing this fascinating bio, I can certainly concur with Christian's conclusion that "My life was amazing, and I didn't know if it was because I did time." 

To order a copy of The Street God, visit: 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Fifty Shades of Black

Film Review by Kam Williams

Marlon Wayans Spoofs Romance Genre in Shocking Parody of Salacious S&M Adventure

Ever since Scary Movie (2000), Marlon Wayans has carved out quite a career for himself writing and starring in a string of silly spoofs that includes Scary Movie 2 (2001), Dance Flick (2009), A Haunted House (2013), and A Haunted House 2 (2014). The latest offering in his cottage industry of genre-bending parodies is Fifty Shades of Black, a jaw-dropping lampoon of the already outrageous Fifty Shades of Grey. 
Released just a year ago, Fifty Shades of Grey was based on the best-selling erotic novel by E.L. James. That explicit adventure chronicled the sadomasochistic sexploits shared by a handsome billionaire and an impressionable, young college student . 
This relatively-kinky variation on the theme remains fairly faithful to the source material's basic plotline, so it helps immeasurably if you've seen the original. The major difference, however, is that the two leads are African-American, and much of the humor revolves around graphic nudity and stale racial stereotypes. 
At the point of departure, we're introduced to Hannah (Kali Hawk), a Literature major at mythical Howell University. Since her promiscuous, foul-mouthed roommate, Kateesha (Jenny Zigrino), has a crippling case of Chlamydia, Hannah finds herself recruited as a stand-in to interview filthy-rich Christian Black (Wayans). 
She asks "How did you get your money and can I have some?" His answer: "Drug dealing, like most successful blacks." And "Is you gay?" is met with "You're only gay if you enjoy touching penises." 
After that dubious exchange, Christian tricks the naive virgin into unprotected intercourse despite the fact that she's ovulating. That disturbing date rape scene is a little hard to laugh at, especially in light of the recent Bill Cosby revelations. 
Furthermore, when Hannah ends up pregnant, she takes him home to meet her misogynistic step-father, Ron (Mike Epps). Instead of protecting his daughter's honor, he sides with Christian's refusal to marry her, saying "I like this N-word," before denigrating Hannah's mother as a slut.

In other skits, Christian waterboards Hannah (while shouting "Where's bin Laden?"}, delivers an insulting commencement address at Howell ("Thank God, I'm not you!") and tosses his poop-filled underwear in the face of a screaming fan during a gross homage to Magic Mike. Still, the movie's most tasteless moments arrive on those occasions when Christian gratuitously exposes his genitalia.

A descent into depravity far more shocking than funny that's morally-objectionable in part for all.

Fair (1 star)
Rated R for crude sexuality, graphic nudity, ethnic slurs, coarse humor, rape and pervasive profanity
Running time: 92 minutes
Distributor: Open Road Films

To see a trailer for Fifty Shades of Black, visit:

Friday, January 29, 2016

Monster Hunt

Film Review by Kam Williams

Father and Warrior Protect Baby Monster in Medieval Martial Arts Mash-up

Directed by Raman Hui (Shrek the Third), Monster Hunt was released across Asia last summer where it became the highest-grossing Chinese film of all time. The version I watched was dubbed into English, which served to turn the martial arts/comedy mash-up into a decidedly campy affair.

The experience reminded me of the Japanese horror flicks from the Fifties where the corny dialogue invariably failed to fit the movement of the actors' mouths. This one even has its characters often speaking in inappropriately-modern idioms such as "You are such a loser!" Purists might be happy to know that the movie is also being made available with subtitles, though I suspect it's far funnier lip-synched.

Set during an ancient dynasty, the picture features an unapologetically exuberant mix of sentiment and slaps/tick that endeavors to tug at your heartstrings while simultaneously tickling your funny bone. The CGI-driven, costume fantasy unfolds in a mythical kingdom inhabited by both humans and monsters.

The plot thickens when the hamlet's male mayor, Tianyin (Jing Boran), is miraculously impregnated by a malevolent Monster Queen. Next thing you know, just about everybody around, human and monster alike, wants half-breed baby Wooba dead, much to the chagrin of the glowing, expecting daddy. 
Lucky for Tianyin, he forges a fast friendship with Hua Xiaolan (Bai Baihe), a female warrior blessed with a winning combination of maternal instincts and mad karate skills. She's determined to save the radish-shaped bundle of joy, so what ensues is an overstimulating kitchen sink adventure throwing everything up on the screen from cartoon physics fight scenes to Bollywood-style song-and-dance numbers.

Kid-friendly fare amusing enough to entertain adults, too, provided their brains are on pause!

Very Good (2.5 stars)
Dubbed or in Mandarin with subtitles
Running time: 104 minutes
Distributor: Film Rise

To see a trailer for Monster Hunt, visit:

Top Ten DVD Releases for 2-2-16

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Top Ten DVD List for February 2, 2016

Bridge of Spies



The Beauty Inside

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs [The Walt Disney Signature Collection]

Kansas City Confidential

Our Brand Is Crisis
The Sin Seer

How to Win at Checkers (Every Time)


Honorable Mention

Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet

All Hallows' Eve 2

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Pop Star Minnie

Big Stone Gap

Home Invasion

Falling Skies: The Complete Fifth Season


A Place in Heaven

Hora 79

Shimmer and Shine


Zombie Fight Club

The Land before Time: Journey of the Brave

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Our Brand Is Crisis

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Bullock Plays Dirty Tricks as Media Consultant in Political Campaign Dramedy

In 2002, Gonzalo "Goni" Sanchez de Lozada, a candidate for the presidency of Bolivia, found himself floundering in the polls with just a few months to go to election day. Since the desperate multimillionaire had been raised in the United States, he was well aware of how a political consulting firm was capable of influencing the outcome of an election. 
So, he retained the services of James Carville, who had successfully orchestrated Bill Clinton's presidential bid in 1992. And soon, the flamboyant spin doctor descended upon Bolivia with a team of seasoned, media-savvy strategists.

Still, repositioning Goni would be no mean feat, given the fact that he was an unpopular ex-president who'd already been exposed as a pro-American, pro-globalization puppet controlled by powerful corporate interests. Carville and company's only hope rested in employing smear tactics against the two favorites in the race, one, a socialist, the other, a centrist. 
Ultimately, the carpetbaggers did prevail, and that incredible feat was chronicled by Our Brand Is Crisis (2005), a dispiriting documentary illustrating just how easy it is for money to corrupt the democratic process with the help of operatives parachuted in from Madison Avenue. The picture also questioned the wisdom of fixing foreign elections in this fashion, since very bloody, civil unrest subsequently arose anyway in Bolivia, which forced Goni to flee the country for asylum in the U.S. a year into his administration. 
Directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express), Our Brand Is Crisis 2.0 serves up a relatively-sanitized version of the aforementioned events. Names have been changed and characters have been conflated and added to make the Yankee intervention appear almost benign. 
Here, courtesy of revisionist history, the socialist (Louis Arcella) and capitalist (Joaquim de Almeida) candidates both rely on assistance from American PR firms led by Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock), respectively. The entertaining adventure pits a flirtatious and crafty mercenary versus an idealistic, ex-alcoholic in search of redemption in an escalating battle of wits marked by deception and dirty tricks. 
Instead of making a pure political thriller, director Green has opted to undercut the tension with moments of levity and sexual innuendo. The upshot is that the movie works very well as formulaic Hollywood fare, so long as you don't enter the theater anticipating an experience as sophisticated as the thought-provoking documentary which inspired it.

A lighthearted primer in how to mount a smear campaign and thereby manipulate a banana republic to vote against its own self-interest.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for profanity and sexual references
In English and Spanish with subtitles
Running time: 107 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group
Blu-ray Extra: Sandra Bullock: A Role Like No Other.

To see a trailer for Our Brand Is Crisis, visit:

To order a copy of Our Brand Is Crisis on Blu-Ray, visit:


DVD Review by Kam Williams

Brit Costume Drama Revisits Feminist Fight for the Right to Vote

Nowadays, most females take access to the ballot box for granted. Nevertheless, they owe a big debt of gratitude to the mostly unsung Suffragettes who made great sacrifices for decades before securing that hard-fought right.

In the United States, women got the vote in 1919 via the 19th Amendment. The year before, England granted the franchise to females over 30 who were either landowners, college grads or married to a politician. However, a decade later, it was finally extended to all British citizens over 21 on an equal basis. 
Directed by Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane), Suffragette is a moving docudrama set in London during the critical period leading up to Parliament's passage of the Representation of the People Act of 1918. The film serves up a substantially fictionalized version of events, as only a couple of the characters here were real-life heroines, namely, Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) and Emily Wilding Davison (1872-1913), portrayed by Meryl Streep and Natalie Press, respectively. 
Streep merely makes a cameo appearance as Pankhurst, a pioneer reduced by advanced age to playing an inspirational role in the movement at that juncture. Still, that doesn't mean the perennial Academy Award-contender won't net her 20th Oscar nomination for delivering yet another sterling performance. The picture's other historical figure, Davison, was a fiery activist who was periodically imprisoned for advocating arson, stone throwing and other violent tactics in her zealous pursuit of the vote. 
The movie revolves around Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), a protagonist primarily a creation of scriptwriter Abi Morgan's (The Iron Lady) imagination. Curiously, she's initially less a suffragette than a fed up, steam laundry employee ostensibly motivated by a general desire to improve women's lot, especially in terms of wages, sexual harassment and safe working conditions. 
In many respects, Maud's persona is suspiciously reminiscent of Norma Rae (1979), the feisty union organizer played by Sally Field in an Oscar-winning turn. Might Morgan have deliberately crafted Maud for Mulligan with an Academy Award in mind? 
Who knows, but the parallels are hard to ignore. Both characters are uneducated, underpaid factory workers . Both have their consciousness raised with the help of a colleague. And both have unsupportive husbands opposed to their sudden embrace of political activism.
A poignant reminder of just how far women have come over the past century.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for intense violence, mature themes, brief profanity and partial nudity
Running time: 107 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Inside Suffragette; Suffragette: Looking Back, Looking Forward; Making the VFX for Suffragette; feature commentary with director Sarah Gavron and screenwriter Abi Morgan.

To see a trailer for Suffragette, visit:

To order a copy of the Suffragette Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit:

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 2-5-16

Kam's Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
For movies opening February 5, 2016


Hail, Caesar! (PG-13 for sensuality, smoking, violence and mild epithets) Day-in-the-life dramedy, directed by the Coen Bros and set in the Fifties, revolving around a Hollywood fixer (Josh Brolin) who comes to the rescue of a matinee idol (George Clooney) kidnapped for ransom in the middle of a film shoot. Ensemble includes Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill and Dolph Lundgren.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (PG-13 for action, violence and brief sensuality) Mash-up of the horror and romance genres yielding a parody of the Jane Austen classic in which a headstrong heroine (Lily James) finds herself being courted by an aristocrat (Sam Neill) raised from the dead during a zombie outbreak. With Jack Huston, Lena Headey and Douglas Booth.


4th Man Out (Unrated) Out-of-the-closet dramedy, set in upstate New York, about a small-town auto mechanic (Evan Todd) who surprises his straight buddies by announcing he's gay on his 24th birthday. With Parker Young, Chord Overstreet and Jon Gabrus.

The Choice (PG-13 for sexuality and mature themes) Adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks best seller of the same name about the love which unexpectedly blossoms between a confirmed bachelor (Benjamin Walker) and the marriage-minded med student (Teresa Palmer) who moves in next-door. Cast includes Alexandra Daddario, Maggie Grace and Tom Wilkinson.

The Club (Unrated) Skeletons-in-the-closet drama set in a secluded house along the Chilean seacoast where defrocked Catholic clergymen are sent to repent for their crimes against innocent children. Co-starring Alfredo Castro, Roberto Farias and Antonia Zegers. (In Spanish with subtitles)

Misconduct (R for profanity, violence, sexuality and nudity) Suspense drama about an ambitious young attorney (Josh Duhamel) caught in a deadly power struggle between his law firm's senior partner (Al Pacino) and a corrupt pharmaceutical executive (Anthony Hopkins). With Malin Akerman, Julia Stiles and Alice Eve.

Rams (R for profanity and brief graphic nudity) Sibling rivalry drama about a couple of long-estranged brothers (Sigurour Sigurjonsson and Theodor Juliusson) who grudgingly bury the hatchet to save their sheep from a plague decimating their flocks. Supporting cast includes Charlotte Boving, Jon Benonysson and Gunnar Jonsson. (In Icelandic with subtitles)

Regression (R for profanity, graphic violence and disturbing sexuality) Crime thriller, set in Minnesota in 1990, about a detective (Ethan Hawke) investigating claims of rape belatedly being leveled against a father (David Dencik) with no memory of molesting his daughter (Emma Watson) when she was 11. Featuiring David Thewlis, Devon Bostick and Aaron Ashmore.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Marlon Wayans

The “Fifty Shades of Black ” Interview
with Kam Williams

Fifty Shades of Marlon!

Marlon Wayans is a true multi-hyphenate: an actor/producer, comedian, writer
and film director. His films have grossed more than $750 million in domestic box 
office, an average of nearly $50 million per outing. As a stand-up comedian,
Marlon sells out theaters and clubs alike, nationwide.
On the feature film front, he recently starred in and produced A Haunted House
which grossed over $18 million on a $2 million budget. On the television front,
he'll soon be shooting a pilot for NBC slated to debut next fall.

Marlon's additional big screen credits include White Chicks; Scary Movie; Scary
Movie 2; Mo’ Money; Above the Rim; Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While 
Drinking Your Juice in the Hood; The Sixth Man; Senseless; Dungeons &
Dragons; Requiem for a Dream, The Ladykillers; Behind the Smile; Little Man;
Norbit; Dance Flick; G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra; Marmaduke; and The Heat. 

On TV, Marlon has appeared on In Living Color; Children's Hospital; Second
Generation Wayans; and The Wayans Bros which was the highest rated comedy
on The WB network. Here, he talks about his latest offering, Fifty Shades of

Kam Williams: Hey Marlon, thanks for the time.
Marlon Wayans: How're you doin', Kam?

KW: Where did the inspiration come from to do a parody of Fifty Shades of Grey?
MW: Initially, I just wanted to learn something from the novel, because women loved it so much. I was thinking of writing my first parody book, until I saw the movie. Then it kinda just hit me. I decided to scrap the book and do a spoof because the film gave me such great archetypes to work with in characters that I knew would be enjoyable to take to extremes. Playing a really bad lover was a lot of fun.

KW: So, your approach to Christian was to flip the script.
MW: Yeah, he goes to extremes. He's a stalker, and it gets uncomfortable. And he's also an extremely bad lover. I thought, what if he's a great package with all these tools that excite women until they get him into bed where he's just awful.

KW: How was it working opposite Kali Hawk, who plays your primary love interest, Hannah?
MW: Kali was great and a lotta fun! She was perfect for Hannah because, in the movie Hannah's a virgin and, in real life, Kali's a prude. So, that kinda worked hand-in-hand.

KW: What message do you think people will take away?
MW: I think women were a little upset with Fifty Shades of Grey because the female lead was so submissive. Fifty Shades of Black is different in terms of that.
Movies are always fun when there's an objective and you meet a lot of obstacles along the way. And in this film, the hardest person to dominate is a black woman. She refuses to play that stuff white girls will play. You get a couple of spanks in and she's like, "Oh, hell no!" Hannah flips that from the original.

KW: What was the most surprising thing you learned about your ancestry when your brother Keenan had your lineage traced by Skip Gates on the PBS-TV series Finding Your Roots the other night.
MW: It was interesting to learn I was Asian. I had no idea. i was wondering why I liked sushi so much. [Laughs]

KW: I found it fascinating how strong your ancestors' bonds were even during slavery, with an escaped slave being willing to risk his freedom to rescue relatives.
MW: Yeah, they went back to go get somebody. He thought, "Hey, what's freedom without my family?" For him to go back was awesome.

KW: I see that sort of loyalty as a trademark of the Wayans family to this day. I can't tell you how many actors and actresses have told me over the years that somebody with the last name Wayans gave them their big break. Just think of all the people who got their start on In Living Color: J-Lo, Jamie Foxx and Jim Carrey, to name a few. And so many others since.
MW: It's funny you should say that. Generosity kinda runs in our family. My dad is a very generous guy, and my my mom's always giving advice. So, Keenen was ultimately a wonderful teacher. He taught me and Shawn and Damon to be the same way. Those jewels are of no value 'til you pass them down. Sound advice is one of hte best things you can share with someone. We want to see other people succeed, and I guess that's something we all inherited. It's just part of our matrix.

KW: The first time I interviewed you, I brought my son along who was only in the 4th grade at the time. And I'll always appreciate how you and Shawn took a little time out to talk to him and to take pictures with him. And it made for a cherished childhood memory he'll never forget. Thanks!
MW: Aww, great!

KW: Will you be boycotting the Oscars?
MW: Look, if I get the memo and everybody's doing it, sure. I'm happy that they've immediately started making some changes. I was really touched by the swift reaction. But the bottom line is that everybody has a little bit to do with it. It's not entirely the Oscars' fault. The Oscars represent Hollywood, and Hollywood needs greater diversity. We need more African-American filmmakers, and we need the larger budgets to make big box-office spectacles like The Revenant. And we need the audience to support a smaller-budgeted art film that's about us, if we put one out. So, it's kinda everybody collectively, from the studios to the distributors, especially the overseas distributors who tend to look at blacks a little differently. I do comedy. Comedy has no color. and that's what I'm constantly trying to convince them. I don't make black movies. I'm a black man that makes comedy. comedy is colorless. Also, we as filmmakers have to develop young directors and cinematographers who'll make the kind of films that are needed. Then, if we have an onslaught of these pictures coming out, it'll be undeniable. Of course, we'd get the accolades we're looking for. But you can't expect it, if you're only releasing 4 or 5 movies a year. That's not enough. So, we have to over-produce, Hollywood has to help us with that, and then the audience has to come support it. We all have to put our money where our mouths are and support each other. At the end of the day, what I look for is a communicative approach to resolving problems. I don't think you need segregation and separatism. I think you have to come together at the table, communicate, and make things work. You have to build bridges, not burn 'em. Right now, I believe that, collectively, we're all at that impasse where we all need to come to the table, and all take some responsibility for making sure this never happens again.

KW: Speaking of colorblind casting, I just saw your nephew, Damon, Jr.'s upcoming film, How to Be Single, where he plays one of Dakota Johnson's love interests, but with no mention of his color. Have you seen it?
MW: No, not yet.

KW: Well, it's a tremendous film. How do you feel about going up against your nephew?
MW: It's not a direct competition, since it'll be released a couple weeks after Fifty Shade of Black. I'd be rooting for my nephew regardless. I don't believe in competition. Everybody has their own audience, and I wish everyone luck. in the film industry, one success is good for us all.

KW: What's your target audience with Fifty Shade of Black ?
MW: I don't know. It's everybody who loved Fifty Shade of Grey, everybody who hated Fifty Shade of Grey, and everybody who never saw Fifty Shade of Grey. [Chuckles] My audience is people who like to laugh, and I'm hoping to get a good female crowd in there, because I think this movie really plays to them as much as it does to guys. So, I'd say it's a perfect date movie.

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
MW: Look, Groundhog's Day is a flawless movie. Of course, I would love to find a way to do that. But that's such a classic, and there are some things you just don't want to touch.

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?
MW: Right now? My credit cards, my ID, and probably an old condom that's been in there since the 6th grade. [Laughs]

KW: Thanks for all, Marlon, and best of luck with the film.
MW: I appreciate you, Kam.

To see a trailer for Fifty Shades of Black, visit:

Monday, January 25, 2016

Requiem for the American Dream

Film Review by Kam Williams

Cautionary Documentary Warns of the Demise of the Middle-Class

MIT Professor Noam Chomsky has been an outspoken critic of the Establishment ever since opposing the Vietnam War way back in the Sixties. At 87, the controversial firebrand is now decrying the incredible gulf between the filthy rich and the rest of us.

He is the subject of Requiem for the American Dream, a cautionary documentary delineating the consequences lying in wait for a nation where wealth is concentrated in the hands of the top 1/10th of 1% at the expense of the rapidly-disappearing middle-class. Co-directed by Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks and Jared P. Scott, the movie was culled from interviews conducted with Chomsky over the past four years.

Nevertheless, the talented trio managed to edit the footage into a very engaging and enlightening monologue bemoaning the current state of the union. The upshot is a fascinating film featuring a "less-is-more" format reminiscent of the one employed by Errol Morris in his Oscar-winning Fog of War (2003). 
The picture basically consists of close-ups of Chomsky shot against a black backdrop as he talks about the Machiavellian manipulations employed by the power elite. It also intermittently interweaves illustrative file footage of suffering and decadence into the production to help drive home the aging grass roots activist's salient points.

Chomsky begins by waxing romantic about the Golden Age of the Fifties and Sixties when the American Dream was still within the grasp of the Average Joe. He says that was the period when the U.S. populace benefited the most from the host of domestic programs implemented by President Roosevelt. However, the affluent have always hated the New Deal, especially Social Security and the Glass-Steagall Act, which explains why they have repeatedly attempted to repeal those measures. 
Chomsky states that, in addition, the privileged have deliberately crippled our democracy to such a degree that public opinion no longer has any influence on politicians. Just consider how it has been impossible to get Congress to pass a bill making it harder for the mentally ill to purchase a gun, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of voters support the common sense idea. 

Overall, what we have here is vintage Chomsky issuing a rabble-rousing, rallying cry intended to rouse the masses before it's too late. America redefined as a civilization in sharp decline and on the verge of collapse because of the very greedy's systematic elimination of class mobility from the society.

Excellent (4 stars)
Unrated .
Running time: 73 minutes
Studio: PF Pictures
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures

To see a trailer for Requiem for the American Dream, visit:

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Finest Hours

Film Review by Kam Williams

Soaring Seafaring Saga Reenacts Daring Coast Guard Rescue

On February 18, 1952, one of the worst nor'easters in history hit New England. In fact, the roiling waters off Cape Cod were so severe that a couple of oil tankers totally split in half.
While the SS Fort Mercer was able to issue an urgent S.O.S., the SS Pendleton's fore section was swallowed too quickly by the ocean to broadcast a distress call. The latter's captain went down with the shortwave radio, too, leaving 34 sailors in the stern with no idea whether the world was even aware of their perilous plight. 
As luck would have it, a tow truck driver (Matthew Maher) not only spotted a light from the Pendleton listing off the coast of Chatham, but he had the wherewithal to report it to the authorities immediately. Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana), the officer in charge of the local Coast Guard station, was a World War II vet who'd seen combat in the Pacific theater. He didn't hesitate to order a rescue attempt, despite the blizzard's frigid temperatures and gale force winds. 
That unenviable task fell to Bosun's Mate Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) who hastily assembled a crew composed of Seamen Richard Livesey (Ben Foster) and Ervin Maske (John Magaro), as well as Engineman Andrew Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner). The rag-tag team left the harbor aboard a modest motorized lifeboat seating only a dozen and offering scant protection against the elements. 
It would take a yeoman's effort just to reach the sinking Pendleton, given that the tiny Coast Guard cutter encountered waves as high as 70 feet-tall out on the open seas. Moreover, Webber was further frustrated by the loss of his compass to one of the tsunamis.

Meanwhile, the remaining sailors on the Pendleton were doing their best to keep what was left of the ship afloat. With the skipper and his other officers already swept to watery deaths down in Davy Jones locker, a new leader emerged in Engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), a salty dog with nerves of steel and a wealth of naval knowledge. 
The veteran boat whisperer not only took command of the crew, but determined that survival depended upon the electric pumps functioning long enough to ground the vessel on a sandbar. A third plotline was unfolding back in Chatham where the worried families of the brave Coast Guardsmen, including Bernie's fiancee Miriam (Holliday Grainger), were wringing their hands. 
Directed by Aussie Craig Gillespie (Million Dollar Arm), The Finest Hours is a gripping, seafaring adventure reminiscent of The Perfect Storm (2000). It is also based on a best-seller recounting the real-life exploits of some unsung heroes who rose to the occasion in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. 
A visually-captivating and remarkably-moving recreation of what, to this day, remains the most daring Coast Guard rescue on record.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for intense peril
Running time: 117 minutes
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

To see a trailer for The Finest Hours, visit:

Friday, January 22, 2016

Top Ten DVD Releases for 1-26-16

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Top Ten DVD List for January 26, 2015

Downton Abbey: Season Six

A Brilliant Young Mind

Naz & Maalik


Learning to Drive

The Assassin

Black Work


Nickelodeon Favorites: Whiskers & Paws

Rock the Kasbah

Honorable Mention

The Land before Time: Journey of the Brave [Walmart exclusive]