Sunday, December 31, 2017

Brad's Status

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Father-Son Bonding Opportunity Adventure Released to Home Video

Brad Sloan (Ben Stiller) feels inadequate despite his happy marriage and a thriving business that enables his family to live comfortably in suburban Sacramento. He gets depressed, nevertheless, because he compares himself to his relatively-successful college buddies instead of the Average Joe.

For instance, one pal, Craig (Michael Sheen), is a best-selling author who worked in the White House and now teaches at Harvard. Then there's Billy (Jemaine Clement) who's already retired and shacked up on Maui with a couple of girlfriends after selling his hi-tech company for a fortune. 
Another, Jason (Luke Wilson), is a filthy-rich, hedge fund manager with his own airplane. And Nick (writer/director Mike White) is a famous Hollywood director whose home was just featured on the cover of Architectural Digest.

Consequently, rather than count his blessings, Brad considers himself a failure. Furthermore, he has the nerve to not only blame his supportive wife (Jenna Fischer) for his lack of ambition, but to ask her how much they stand to inherit from her parents' estate. Disappointed with her response, he shrugs,."We've plateaued," ostensibly resigning himself to a mundane existence. " This is it."

Brad's existential angst is further amplified when he takes their college-bound son (Austin Abrams) on a tour of schools in the Boston area. For being back in Beantown serves as reminder that he was forced to settle for Tufts after being rejected by the Ivies. 
Troy's prospects are much better, since he's a musical prodigy with a good chance of being accepted by both Harvard and Yale. However, that fact doesn't shake his father out of the doldrums, especially after they cross paths with Craig. During the brief encounter, Brad learns that he was the only member of the old gang not invited to Nick's recent wedding. 
Thus unfolds Brad's Status, a midlife crisis dramedy, if I ever saw one. Ben Stiller is quite convincing as the jealous title character. The only problem is that it's impossible to empathize with the suffering of a whiny ingrate obviously benefiting from many of the privileges associated with being a white male. 
A morality play warning about the folly of trying to keep up with Joneses, especially where the Joneses are all members of America's wealthiest 1%.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for profanity
Running time: 101 minutes
Production Studio: Sidney Kimmel Entertainment / Plan B Entertainment
Distributor: Annapurna Pictures / Amazon Studios
Blu-ray extras: A Look at Ben Stiller as Brad; A Culture of Comparing Ourselves; Mike White on Directing His Own Script; and The Story of Brad's Status.

To see a trailer for Brad's Status, visit:

To order a copy of Brad's Status on Blu-ray, visit:

American Made

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Tom Cruise Fact-Based Action Flick Arrives on Home Video

Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) was gainfully employed as a commercial airline pilot when he was surreptitiously recruited by a CIA agent (Domnhall Gleeson). The Agency wanted him to fly covert reconnaissance missions over Nicaragua to assist U.S.-backed rebels trying to overthrow the government.

Barry leaped at the opportunity to spice up his humdrum existence, despite having to hide his new line of work from his wife (Sarah Wright) and young daughter (Morgan Hinkleman). However, he probably had no idea at the time that this would be the start of a reckless career spiral he'd never be able to pull out of.

For, after first having his thirst for excitement whetted by conducting espionage missions, he opted to venture to the dark side when Pablo Escobar (Mauricio Mejia) made him an offer he couldn't refuse. The Colombian drug lord seduced Barry into smuggling cocaine into the States by plane with a promise of $2,000 per kilo delivered.

Thus unfolds American Made, a real-life tale of derring-do directed by Doug Liman. The production reunites Liman with Tom Cruise with whom he previously collaborated on Edge of Tomorrow (2014).

The picture's premise situates Cruise in a familiar scenario, given how, at the point of departure, his character is informed that the CIA will disavow any knowledge of his existence, should he be captured or killed, a la Mission: Impossible. The difference is that, here, Barry goes rogue by going into business with the ruthless Medellin cartel.

Who knows whether this biopic is loosely or strictly based on the truth? But if even half of what's served up onscreen is accurate, Barry Seal had quite a hair-raising tale to tell.

American Tale takes you on a wild flyboy ride, literally and figuratively, between the breathtaking aerial shots and the audacious exploits of an avaricious mercenary available to the highest bidder. Kudos to Cruise, a proven master at consistently cranking out satisfying cinematic fare certain to keep you glued to the edge of your seat.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for violence, sexuality, nudity and pervasive profanity
In English and Spanish with subtitles
Running time: 115 minutes
Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray/DVD combo pack extras: Deleted scenes; American Storytellers; Cruise & Liman: A Conversation; In the Wings; Shooting American Made; Flying High; and The Real Barry Seal.

To see a trailer for American Made, visit:

To order a copy of American Made in Blu-ray/DVD format, visit:  

Saturday, December 30, 2017

A Question of Faith

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Moving Morality Play Finds Three Families in Crisis

Faith-based films ordinarily have limited appeal beyond the Christian community because most tend to be heavy-handed morality plays just preaching to the choir. A Question of Faith represents a refreshing change of pace, since it downplays the proselytizing in favor of character development and a compelling plot. 
This carefully-crafted, modern parable explores a timely mix of worldly and spiritual themes in a way apt to entertain Bible thumpers and sinners alike. The picture was directed by Kevan Otto who recruited quite an impressive ensemble to execute Ty Manns' multi-layered script.

Credit the capable cast for disappearing so thoroughly into their parts that it's easy to forget you're watching actors after just a few minutes. One of the stars is Kim Fields who's probably still best known for the iconic role of Tootie she originated on the TV sitcom, Different Strokes, and continued to play for close to a decade on the hit spinoff, The Facts of Life. 
The film unfolds in the City of Atlanta where we're introduced to three families dealing with serious life issues. Theresa Newman (Fields) is worried that her workaholic husband (Richard T. Jones) remains so obsessed with taking over as senior pastor of the church from his father (Gregory Alan Williams) that he might break yet another promise to attend their younger son's (Caleb T. Thomas) basketball game. 
Elsewhere, we find aspiring gospel singer Michelle Danielsen (Amber Thompson) being pressured to perform at a record company audition by her cash-strapped father (C. Thomas Howell). Overbearing John's ostensibly more concerned with avoiding an impending collapse of his own business than with diagnosing the cause of his daughter's debilitating, recurring headaches. 
Lastly, we have restaurant owner Katie Hernandez (Jaci Velasquez) reminding her reckless daughter Maria (Karen Valero) to stop texting behind the wheel while making deliveries. She doesn't want the high school senior to do anything that might jeopardize her chances of becoming the first in the family to attend college. 
These parallel storylines eventually converge by chance and in very dramatic fashion. Since it would be unfair to spoil any of the ensuing developments, suffice to say that the protagonists are challenged to rise to the occasion in different ways as their fates further intertwine. 
A very moving tale of redemption which not only reveals God's grace but makes a case for cross-cultural tolerance that's sorely-needed in these divided times.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for mature themes
Running time: 104 minutes
Production Studio: Silver Lining Entertainment
Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

To see a trailer for A Question of Faith, visit:

To order a copy of A Question of Faith in Blu-ray/DVD format, visit:  

Friday, December 29, 2017

Top Ten DVD List for January 2, 2018

by Kam Williams

This Week’s DVD Releases

American Made [Tom Cruise Stars in Fact-Based Action Flick]

Brad's Status [Father-Son Bonding Opportunity Adventure]

A Question of Faith [Christian Ensemble Drama]

Battle of the Sexes [Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs Docudrama]

Love Beats Rhymes [Inner-City Poetry Slam Saga]

Breathe [Inspirational Tale of Love in the Face of Insurmountable Odds]

The Stolen [She's Coming for You]

Hell Night: Collector's Edition [Pray for Day]

The Houses October Built 2 [5 Friends Endure Extreme Haunting]

The Adventurers [High-Stakes, Hong Kong Action Thriller]

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Kam's Kapsules for Movies Opening January 5, 2018

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun  
by Kam Williams



Insidious: The Last Key (PG-13 for violence, terror, disturbing content and brief profanity) 4th and final installment in the horror franchise finds occult investigator Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) facing paranormal activity in her own home. With Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson and Kirk Acevedo.


Anatomy of a Male Ballet Dancer (Unrated) Reverential biopic about Marcelo Gomes, the Brazilian ballet star who danced with the American Ballet Theatre for the past two decades (until resigning from the company on December 21st of this year after being accused of sexual misconduct.

Before I Awake (PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing images) Horror flick about a couple (Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane) whose recently adopted, 8 year-old son (Jacob Tremblay) comes with some scary baggage triggered by nightmares. With Annabeth Gish, Dash Mihok and Jay Karnes.

Blame (Unrated) suspense thriller about a substitute high school teacher (Chris Messina) who is disgraced after a jealous pupil (Nadia Alexander) spreads word of his clandestine affair with another one of his students (Quinn Shephard). Featuring Geneva Carr, Tate Donovan and Trieste Kelly Dunn.

Dark Meridian (Unrated) Crime thriller, set in New Orleans, about a police detective (James Moses Black) and a murder witness (Dave Davis) who join forces to apprehend the ruthless killer threatening both of their lives. With Billy Slaughter, Jody Mullins and Paul Rae.

Django (unrated) Musical biopic about Django Reinhardt (Reda Kateb) focusing on the legendary jazz guitarist's escape from occupied France during World War II. Featuring Cecile De France, Bea Palya and Bimbam Merstein. (In English, French, German and Romany with subtitles)

Goldbuster (Unrated) Sci-fi comedy, set in Hong Kong, revolving around a ghost hunter (Francis Ng) recruited by the residents of a Haunted apartment building to perform an exorcism. Cast includes Alex Fong, Teng Shen and Yi Zhang. (In Mandarin with subtitles)

In Between (Unrated) Middle East drama, set in Tel Aviv, revolving around a trio of Palestinian women (Mouna Hawa, Sana Jammelieh and Shaden Kanboura) torn between traditional and modern culture. With Mahmud Shalaby, Miri Abu and Ali Assadi. (In Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles)

In the Land of Pomegrantes (Unrated) Israeli documentary examining the Middle East conflict from the perspective of Jewish and Palestinian youngsters. (In Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles)

Project Eden: Volume 1 (Unrated) Sci-fi thriller revolving around a young woman (Emily Fradenburgh) and a former military officer (Peter Christian Hansen) who end up on the run from the FBI after uncovering proof that their kids' catatonic state is part of a global conspiracy. With Mike Dopud, Erick Avari and Cliff Simon.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The 10 Best, No, the 100 Best Films of 2017

by Kam Williams

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

10 Best Big Budget Films
1. Baby Driver
2. Lady Bird
3. The Disaster Artist
4. The Florida Project
5. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
6. Mudbound
7. Dunkirk
8. Wonder Woman
9. Get Out
10. Rough Night

Big Budgets Honorable Mention

11. Everything, Everything
12. Going in Style
13. Fate of the Furious
14. Darkest Hour
15. LEGO Batman
16. The Meyerowitz Stories
17. Girls Trip
18. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
19. Brad's Status
20. American Made
21. The Shape of Water
22. The Post
23. Roman J. Israel, Esq.
24. Molly's Game
25. Battle of the Sexes

10 Best Independent Films

1. Call Me by Your Name
2. Wind River
3. It Comes at Night
4. Mayhem
5. The Big Sick
6. Lucky
7. Novitiate
8. The Zookeeper's Wife
9. The Hero
10. Maudie

Independent Films Honorable Mention

11. Crown Heights
12. Lemon
13. The Leisure Seeker
14. Professor Marston & the Wonder Women
15. Flim Stars Don't Die in Liverpool
16. Brigsby Bear
17. The Levelling
18. Victoria & Abdul
19. The Tiger Hunter
20. Good Time
21. A Question of Faith
22. The Promise
23. A United Kingdom
24. I, Tonya 
25. On Wings of Eagles 

10 Best Foreign Films

1. 1945 (Hungary)
2. Santoalla (Spain)
3. Lost in Paris (France)
4. Summer 1993 (Spain)
5. In the Fade (Germany)
6. First They Killed My Father (Cambodia)
7. The Women's Balcony (Israel)
8. In This Corner of the World (Japan)
9. Loveless (Russia)
10. A Fantastic Woman (Chile)

Foreign Films Honorable Mention

11. Song of Granite (Ireland)
12. Happy End (France)
13. 13 Minutes (Germany)
14. Bobbi Jene (Israel)
15. Menashe (Yiddish)
16. Polina (Russian)
17. Okja (South Korea)
18. Thelma (Norway)
19. Blade of the Immortal (Japan)
20. Foxtrot (Israel)
21. Napping Princess (Japan)
22. The Girl without Hands (France)
23. November (Estonia)
24. One Week and a Day (Israel)
25. Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (Spain)

10 Best Documentaries

1 Man in Red Bandana
2. Let It Fall: L.A. 1982-1992
3. Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
4. Long Strange Trip
5. I Called Him Morgan
6. 100 Years: One Woman's Fight for Justice
7. Human Flow
8. No Greater Love
9. My Scientology Movie
10. The Defiant Ones

Documentaries Honorable Mention

11. Betting on Zero
12. I Am Battle Comic
13. Step
14. Jane
15. Kedi
16. Alive & Kicking
17. California Typewriter
18. School Life
19. Whose Streets?
20. May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers
21. Sled Dogs
22. Actor Martinez
23. The Final Year
24. Brimstone & Glory
25. Contemporary Color

Sunday, December 24, 2017


DVD Review by Kam Williams

Revenge-Fueled Splatterfest Gives New Meaning to "Hostile Work Environment"

Attorney Derek Cho (Steven Yeun) was a rising star working his way up the corporate ladder at Towers and Smythe when he was blindsided by a false accusation of making a million-dollar mistake. He was callously fired on the spot by the sadistic director of operations (Caroline Chikezie) and escorted by the heartless Grim Reaper (Dallas Roberts) to the basement of the building where he was pressured to sign a confession as a condition for receiving a severance package. 
It's obvious he'd been stabbed in the back by a colleague at the cutthroat law firm. But he has no idea who it was. While weighing his options, he swaps sob stories and forges an alliance with Melanie Cross (Samara Weaving), a client also screwed over by the firm. 
Before the two can be kicked to the curb, they're afforded an opportunity to even the score, thanks to divine intervention. For, an outbreak of Red Eye has the authorities sealing the offices of Towers and Smythe, with no one being allowed to either enter or leave the building

The highly-contagious virus sweeping through the ventilation system is not fatal, but it does cause those infected to act out their primal impulses, whether violent, sexual or elsewhat. So, the Center for Disease Control orders the skyscraper quarantined for the next 8 hours, the time it will take for the antidote to take effect.

Meanwhile, Derek and Melanie's infection not only makes them morph from model citizens into bloodthirsty killing machines, but conveniently provides an excuse for their ensuing reign of terror, namely, the virus made me do it. Soon, the pair proceed to track down their enemies to dispatch them, one-by-one, with a variety of unorthodox implements, ranging from buzzsaw to nail gun. 
Directed by Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2: Dead End), Mayhem is a sophisticated social satire that might be best described as a compelling cross of Office Space (1999) and The Purge (2013). Lynch has deftly blended the wry, anti-establishment wit of the former with the temporary lawlessness of the latter into a riveting, revenge-fueled splatterfest you won't ever forget. 
A righteous bloodbath in the boardroom!

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 87 minutes
Studio: Circle of Confusion / Royal Viking Entertainment
Distributor: RLJE Films / Image Entertainment
DVD Extras: Creating Mayhem: The Making of the Film.

To see a trailer for Mayhem, visit:

To order a copy of Mayhem on DVD, visit:

The Mountain between Us

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Plane Crash Survivors Bond While Battling the Elements in Romance Drama Reminiscent of "The Revenant"

Bride-to-be Alex Martin is in a rush to return home where she and her fiance' (Dermot Mulroney) are getting married in the morning. The only reason the dedicated photojournalist was even in Idaho so close to her wedding was out of a sense of duty to cover a potentially-incendiary demonstration by skinheads and neo-Nazis. Elsewhere in the same airline terminal, Dr. Ben Bass (Idris Elba) is just as eager to get to Denver where he's urgently needed to perform potentially life-saving surgery on a critically-ill child. 
So, it's easy to imagine both passengers' frustration upon learning that their commercial flight has been canceled due to a forecast of inclement weather. The two strangers soon commiserate over their plight before deciding to charter a private plane.

Unfortunately, their pilot (Beau Bridges) has a fatal heart attack en route, and the plane crash lands atop a snow-capped mountain. Their cellphones useless, Ben, with broken ribs, and Alex, with a fractured leg, suddenly find themselves stranded far from civilization in the middle of nowhere.

That is the scary setup of The Mountains between Us, a harrowing tale of survival based on the Charles Martin best seller of the same name. The visually-captivating production is superficially reminiscent of The Revenant, which won a trio of Oscars, including Best Cinematography. 
The Mountain between Us revolves mostly around the protagonists' battle against the elements while lost in the frigid wilderness hundreds of miles from civilization. During their perilous trek they must negotiate their way through a dangerous gauntlet marked by ravenous cougars, slippery cliffs, lakes with thin ice and more.

However, the film also features a romantic angle, as Ben and Alex gradually grow increasingly fond of each other over the course of their ordeal. But the burning question eventually becomes: whether these feelings will continue once they're saved. After all, he's married and she's engaged.

A riveting disaster flick and a steamy bodice ripper rolled into one! 

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, peril, injury images and brief profanity
Running time: 112 minutes
Production Studio: Chernin Entertainment
Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Love and Survival: Creating Chemistry;
Mountain Between Them: Shooting in Isolation; The Wilds: Survival Stunts;
deleted scenes; and a stills gallery.

To see a trailer for The Mountain between Us, visit:

To order a copy of The Mountain between Us Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit: 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Blacktrospective 2017

by Kam Williams

Kam’s Annual Assessment of the Best in Black Cinema

Best Big Budget Black Films 
1. Mudbound
2. Everything, Everything
3. The Fate of the Furious
4. Get Out
5. Girls Trip
6. Hitman's Bodyguard
7. Roman J. Israel, Esq.
8. xXx: Return of Xander Cage
9. Detroit
10. Marshall

Best Independent Black Films

1. A Question of Faith
2. Crown Heights
3. A United Kingdom
4. Sleight
5. N.O.L.A. Circus

Best Black Documentaries

1. Step
2. I Called Him Morgan
3. The Final Year
4. Night School
5. Whose Streets?

Best Actor (Lead Role)

1. Jason Mitchell (Mudbound0
2. Vin Diesel (The Fate of the Furious & xXx: Return of Xander Cage)
3. Lakeith Stanfield (Crown Heights)
4. Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)
5. Idris Elba (The Dark Tower & Molly's Game)
6. Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.)
7. Morgan Freeman (Going in Style)
8. Samuel L. Jackson (The Hitman's Bodyguard)
9. John Boyega (Detroit)
10. Chadwick Boseman (Marshall)

Best Actor (Supporting Role)

1. Nnamdi Asomugha (Crown Heights)
2. Jamie Foxx (Baby Driver)
3. C.J. Jones (Baby Driver)
4. Gregory Alan Williams (A Question of Faith)
5. Laurence Fishburne (Last Flag Flying)
6. Mamoudou Athie (Patti Cake$)
7. LilRel Howery (Get Out)
8. Ludacris (The Fate of the Furious)
9. Barkhad Abdi (The Pirates of Somalia)
10. Kofi Siriboe (Girls Trip)

Best Actress (Lead Role)

1. Kim Fields (A Question of Faith)
2. Amandla Steinberg (Everything, Everything)
3. Regina Hall (Girls Trip)
4. Halle Berry (Kidnap)
5. Michelle Rodriguez (The Fate of the Furious)

Best Actress (Supporting Role)

1. Carmen Ejogo (It Comes at Night & Roman J. Israel, Esq.)
2. Mary J. Blige (Mudbound)
3. Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip)
4. Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)
5. Jada Pinkett Smith (Girls Trip)
6. Yvonne Huff (Lucky)
7. Queen Latifah (Girls Trip)
8. Keesha Sharp (Marshall)
9. Natalie Paul (Crown Heights)
10. Anika Noni Rose (Everything, Everything)

Best Director

1. Dee Rees (Mudbound)
2. Stella Meghie (Everything, Everything)
3. F. Gary Gray (The Fate of the Furious)
4. Jordan Peele (Get Out)
5. Maggie Betts (Novitiate)
6. Malcolm Lee (Girls Trip)
7. Amma Asante (A United Kingdom)
8. Angela Robinson (Professor Marston and the Wonder Women)
9. J.D. Dillard (Sleight)
10. Janicza Bravo (Lemon)