Thursday, June 30, 2016
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Posted by Kam at 6:39 PM
Film Review by Kam Williams
Alexander Skarsgard Stars as Legendary King of the Jungle
Tarzan became a sensation soon after his initial introduction to the world via pulp magazines published in 1912. Created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the character proved to be such an enduring cultural icon that he would become the subject of a series of best-selling novels, 200+ movies and a long line of consumer products.
According to the lore spun by Burroughs, Tarzan, aka John Clayton, was the son of a couple of British aristocrats who perished in Africa while the boy was still an infant. The baby was subsequently raised by apes in the wild where he became so in tune with nature that he learned to speak the language of all the beasts residing there.
Moreover, as the legendary "Lord of the Jungle," he not only exercised dominion over the animal kingdom but over cannibalistic tribes eager to rape white women and to boil missionaries in a big pot. Such insensitive portrayals of Africans as evil and uncivilized eventually became controversial in more enlightened times. And after decades of uncritical appeal, Tarzan finally witnessed a sharp decline in popularity.
Now, for the first time this millennium, he's been brought back to the big screen. Directed by David Yates (Harry Potter 5, 6, 7 and 8), The Legend of Tarzan features a more politically-correct version of the controversial character.
Set in 1884, the film stars Alexander Skarsgard in the title role as well as Samuel L. Jackson as his sophisticated sidekick, Dr. George Washington Williams. The American doctor was ostensibly shoehorned into the story to offset the relatively-primitive image of the indigenous black folks.
At the point of departure, we find Tarzan and wife Jane (Margot Robbie) living in the lap of luxury in London as Lord and Lady Greystoke. It's apparently been ages since Tarzan has even set foot on the dark continent.
He leaps at the chance to return to the Congo, when invited by Parliament to serve as a trade emissary. What Tarzan doesn't know is that he is merely a pawn in a plot masterminded by Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), a diabolical villain dealing in blood diamonds.
Upon arriving, it doesn't take long for Tarzan to revert from a proper gent to a feral vine swinger who can summon a thundering herd of elephants with that distinctive yell. Aaaaaaaargh... Aaaaaaaaarghaaaah... Aaaaaaaaaaaargh!
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for action, violence, sensuality and brief crude dialogue
Running time: 109 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures
To see a trailer for The Legend of Tarzan, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aj7ty6sViiU
Posted by Kam at 12:05 PM
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
KW: Does the movie have a message, or should people just sit back and enjoy the action?
Posted by Kam at 6:58 AM
Sunday, June 26, 2016
by Kam Williams
Civil War Saga Chronicles Exploits of Confederate Soldier-Turned-Slave Revolt Leader
While the slave raids led by Nat Turner and John Brown have been well documented in the annals of American history, the relatively-successful exploits of another notorious abolitionist insurrectionist have somehow slipped through the cracks. At least until now.
Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey) was born and raised in Jones County, Mississippi, the grandson of a slave owner, making him, at first blush, a very unlikely figure to mount a revolt. He even served as a medic in the Confederate army during the Civil War, but was disheartened to learn how the sons of large plantation owners had been exempted from the military draft. And he was further demoralized the day a fresh young recruit (Jacob Lofland) from his hometown who had just joined his unit perished in battle upon reaching the front lines.
No longer seeing any sense in poor people fighting to preserve the privileges of the very rich, Newt impulsively went AWOL, the dead boy's body in tow. He returned to Jones where he is quickly identified as a deserter. After being abandoned by his wife (Keri Russell) and having his farm confiscated by the Confederacy, he flees for his life, finding sanctuary in a swamp deep in the woods inhabited by a handful of escaped slaves.
There, he befriends Moses (Mahershala Ali), a runaway bothered by an iron collar that had been soldered around his neck by a sadistic slave master. Newt, a blacksmith by trade, gains the group's trust by freeing the beleaguered black man from the torturous contraption.
He soon emerges as its very charismatic, spiritual leader, founding the Free State of Jones on a quartet of core principles promoting racial equality. Gradually, its ranks swell to over 250, with both ex-slaves and disaffected Rebels joining.
In this oasis of racial harmony, Newt proceeds to fall in love with Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a beautiful black woman who bears him a son. Thus unfolds Free State of Jones, a reverential biopic written and directed by four-time Oscar-nominee Gary Ross.
Matthew McConaughey shines from beginning to end in a star vehicle where the virtuous protagonist is never allowed to exhibit a flaw. This costume drama proves compelling enough, primarily because nobody knew such a scenario could possibly have unfolded in a Southern state like Mississippi supposedly marked by segregation and intolerance.
An overdue history lesson about an important chapter in America's long march to freedom.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for brutal battle scenes, an ethnic slur and disturbing images
Running time: 139 minutes
Distributor: STX Entertainment
To see a trailer for Free State of Jones, visit:
Posted by Kam at 1:47 PM
Friday, June 24, 2016
Posted by Kam at 10:35 AM
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Film Review by Kam Williams
It's Surfer vs. Shark in Harrowing Tale of Survival Offshore
Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) was so shaken by her mother's (Janelle Bailey) untimely death that she's dropped out of med school. In order to feel closer to her dearly departed mom, she's decided to vacation at the same exotic Mexican retreat where she was reportedly conceived back in 1991. An avid surfer, she also plans to search for the stretch for her mom's favorite beach.
Upon arriving, Nancy is so impatient to find that idyllic, uncharted spot, that she impulsively heads for the ocean with her surfboard, handbag and smartphone, abandoning her bushed traveling companion at the hotel. Instead, she accepts a ride to the shore from the very obliging Carlos (Oscar Jaenada), an affable local yokel who is more than happy to serve as the bikini-clad hitchhiker's chauffeur and navigator.
He drives away right after depositing her at the secluded cove, yet Nancy has no qualms about being left alone, since she does have cell service. Next thing you know, she's blissfully paddling out to deep water where she's surrounded by a pod of playful dolphins as she starts riding the mammoth waves.
The plot thickens soon after she spots the bobbing carcass of a humpback whale. What Nancy doesn't recognize until it's too late is that she's inadvertently entered the feeding grounds of a still-hungry shark who'd rather dine on human flesh than cetacean.
She subsequently suffers a nasty gash from the initial attack but is somehow able to swim to a tiny, low-lying island nearby. Her medical training comes in handy as she quickly fashions a tourniquet from part of her outfit.
Still, with high tide coming in a matter of hours, she knows that she's got to figure out how to survive once this temporary sanctuary sinks below sea level. The shore is 200 yards away, which is way to far to swim with a determined predator steadily circling as her blood drips into the water.
A couple of potential rescuers (Jose Manuel Trujillo Salas and Angelo Josue Lozano Corzo) show up, but hope fades fast when the dopey duo simply starts swimming without noticing the damsel-in-distress. The next beachgoer (Diego Espejel) does see that Nancy's in need, but he seizes the opportunity to steal her phone and other personal effects left on the sand.
This means spunky Nancy must survive by her wits, a daunting challenge given her dire straits. Thus unfolds The Shallows, an engaging, edge-of-the-seat thriller expertly directed by Jaume Collett-Serra (Non-Stop) to ratchet up the tension.
The movie borrows elements from Jaws (headstrong, maniacal shark), Castaway (this stranded heroine bonds with a seagull instead of a volleyball), Blue Crush (oodles of gratuitous titillation) and MacGyver (a brilliant tinkerer exhibits endless ingenuity). The good news is that it all has been sewn together quite seamlessly yielding a thoroughly enjoyable screamfest reminding us that it's still not safe to swim in the ocean.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for bloody images, intense scenes of peril and brief profanity
Running time: 87 minutes
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
To see a trailer for The Shallows, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgdxIlSuB70
Posted by Kam at 12:36 PM
Posted by Kam at 2:23 AM
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
On television, Mahershala was recently cast in Netflix's Luke Cage in the role of Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes. He can also be seen on the award-winning Netflix original series House of Cards, where he's reprising his fan-favorite role as lobbyist and former press secretary Remy Danton.
Mahershala's previous feature film credits include The Place Beyond the Pines opposite Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, Crossing Over starring Harrison Ford, John Sayles' Go For Sisters, and David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
On television, he appeared opposite Julia Ormond in Lifetime's The Wronged Man for which he subsequently received an NAACP Nomination for Best Actor. He also had a large recurring role on Syfy's Alphas, as well as the role of Richard Tyler, a Korean War pilot, on the critically-acclaimed drama The 4400.
On the stage, Mahershala appeared in productions of Blues for an Alabama Sky, The School for Scandal, A Lie of the Mind, A Doll's House, Monkey in the Middle, The Merchant of Venice, The New Place and Secret Injury, Secret Revenge. His additional stage credits include appearing in Washington, D.C. at the Arena Stage in the title role of The Great White Hope, and in The Long Walk and Jack and Jill.
Here, Mahershala talks about playing in Free State of Jones, a Civil War saga co-starring Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Keri Russell.
Posted by Kam at 10:56 AM