Monday, February 27, 2017

2017 Oscar Recap

by Kam Williams

La La Land, I Mean Moonlight, Wins Best Picture
Climactic Moment Ruined by Monumental Blunder

The Academy Awards ended on a sour note when Faye Dunaway announced that favorite La La Land had won the Oscar for Best Picture. Trouble is, she and co-presenter Warren Beatty had been handed the wrong envelope.

So, while La La's producers were taking turns delivering heartfelt acceptance speeches, they were abruptly interrupted so that the audience could be informed that Moonlight was the real winner. Immediately, that film's cast and crew descended upon the stage while the suddenly-deflated La La entourage quietly exited via the wings. 
Emcee Jimmy Kimmel confronted Warren Beatty with "What did you do?" But the epic flub wasn't Warren or Faye's fault, since the card inside the envelope was actually for Best Lead Actress and read "Emma Stone - La La Land." 
Besides Best Picture, Monlight landed awards for Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali) and Adapted Screenplay. La La can take some solace in the fact that it nabbed the most honors overall, 6, including Best Director (Damien Chazell), Score and Song ("City of Stars").

Otherwise, Hollywood's biggest night represented a remarkable reversal of its recent lily-white preferences, picking the predominantly-black cast Moonlight as Best Picture, along with African-Americans Viola Davis (Best Supporting Actress), Mahershal Ali (Moonlight), Barry Jenkins (Best Adapted Screenplay) and Ezra Edelman (director of O.J.: Made in America).

Edelman, the son of legendary children's rights attorney, Marian Wright Edelman, dedicated his victory to Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson as well as to victims of police brutality. His wasn't the only politicized acceptance speech, with many recipients hurling thinly-veiled barbs at Donald Trump. 
The most virulent attack on the President came from came from Iranian Ashgar Farhadi, writer and director of Best Foreign Film-winner, The Salesman. He boycotted the festivities, but had a spokesman read a statement excoriating Trump for issuing an executive order temporarily banning travelers from his country and a half-dozen other Muslim countries. 
Jimmy Kimmel took a lot of indirect potshots at the president, too, like when he asked Meryl Streep whether her gown was from Ivanka's fashion line. When the O.J. Simpson doc won, he quipped, " O.J., you can get an extra slice of baloney on your sandwich tonight." Kimmel was very smooth delivering his funny but never mean-spirited jokes, so don't be surprised if he's asked to host again next year, especially given that the Oscars air on ABC, the same network as his late night show.

Complete List of Oscar Winners

Best Picture: Moonlight
Best Director: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Best Actor: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
Best Actress: Emma Stone (La La Land)
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (Fences)
Best Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea
Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight
Animated Feature: Zootopia
Foreign Language Film: The Salesman
Documentary Feature: O.J.: Made in America
Cinematography: La La Land
Costume Design: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Production Design: La La Land
Film Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
Makeup and Hairstyling: Suicide Squad
Original Score: La La Land
Best Song: La La Land ("City of Stars")
Sound Editing: Arrival
Sound Mixing: Hacksaw Ridge
Visual Effects: The Jungle Book
Animated Short: Piper
Documentary Short: The White Helmets
Live-Action Short: Sing

David Oyelowo

The “A United Kingdom” Interview
with Kam Williams

Oyez! Oyez! Oyelowo!

David Oyelowo is a multiple Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated actor and producer who has quickly become one of Hollywood’s most sought-after talents.
Later this year he’ll be seen in the third film in the Cloverfield horror franchise, and as the lead in the as-yet untitled Nash Edgerton film, co-starring Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Thandie Newton and Amanda Seyfried.

David gained international acclaim in 2014 starring as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Ava DuVernay’s Selma. For his performance, Oyelowo earned a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama.

Most recently, he starred opposite Lupita Nyong’o in Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe, earning a NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture. And his additional film credits include Interstellar, A Most Violent Year, Captive, The Butler, Lincoln, Middle of Nowhere, Jack Reacher, The Paperboy, Red Tails, The Help and The Last King of Scotland.
On the small screen, David starred in the HBO film, Nightingale, earning a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. He has collaborated with HBO on several other occasions, including a starring role in Kenneth Branagh’s 2006 production of “As You Like It,” in which he played ‘Orlando’ opposite Bryce Dallas Howard; and as the lead in the mini-series, “Five Days,” for which he won a Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television.

In 2008, he starred in the critically-acclaimed adaptation of the Alexander McCall Smith novel, “The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency,” which was directed by the late Anthony Minghella. He appeared in ABC-TV’s 2008 Golden Globe-nominated production of “A Raisin in the Sun,” too, alongside Sanaa Lathan, Sean Combs and Phylicia Rashad.

A classically-trained actor, David recently appeared opposite Daniel Craig as the title character in the New York Theatre Workshop Off-Broadway production of Othello. He got his start on stage in 1999 with The Royal Shakespeare Company. He garnered national recognition for his performance as King Henry VI in the RSC's 2001 production, when he was cast as the first black actor to play an English king in a major production of Shakespeare. The performance won David the 2001 Ian Charleson Award, which is presented in recognition of the best classical stage performances in Britain by actors under the age of 30.

Here, he talks about his latest outing opposite Rosamund Pike as an African king who falls for a British commoner in A United Kingdom.

Kam Williams: Hi David, thanks for another interview. I really enjoyed the film.
David Oyelowo: Thanks.

KW: What interested you in A United Kingdom?
DO: The fact that it was a story I felt I should know, but I didn't know. And as I dug deeper, I appreciated the enduring love that Seretse and Ruth had for each other was a wonderful story.

KW: After I watched the film, I went home and looked up their story as well as the history of Botswana, since I'd known nothing about either.
DO: One of the amazing things about this experience for me has been the Google trail. There's so much to learn about them and African history.

KW: I appreciate Amma Asante making a movie like this because when I grew up, the only movies about Africa I saw were Tarzan movies. So, I grew up rooting for Tarzan and thinking all Africans were cannibals. It reminds me of how a Native American friend says he grew up identifying with the cowboys and hating Indians because of how he'd been brainwashed by Westerns.
DO: That underscores the significance of someone like Amma getting a story like this made.

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: Did you speak to Ruth and Seretse descendants in preparation for the role??
DO: Yes, and we even shot on location in Botswana.
KW: Patricia observes that, unlike many other actors, you have managed to avoid being typecast. She asks: what is your secret?
DO: Becoming typecast is something that can happen very easily, if you are not paying attention. Look, the fact of the matter is that Seretse and Dr. Martin Luther King [in Selma] makes it twice in a row now that I've played historical, political figures. I've got to be mindful of that going forward, despite how much i admire both of these men. You've got change it up to have a long career. so, I won't be playing that sort of role in the near future.

KW: Since she's French-Canadian, she's also wondering whether the movie will be translated into other languages and if it will be showcased at Cannes
DO: It won't be showcased at Cannes, because it's already been released. But, yes, it will be distributed internationally, in Canada, France, Botswana, Italy, Germany and many other countries.

KW: How was it working opposite Rosamund Pike? How do you explain the great chemistry the two of you generated on screen?
DO: I had been working on the film for a long time, and it was important to find an actress who shared my passion for the project. When I sent Rosamund pictures of Seretse and Ruth, she had such an emotional and visceral reaction to them, it really gave me a lot of confidence that we would be bringing everything we could to the work. And I think that passion for the project led to the chemistry you see onscreen.

KW: This year, the Academy nominated seven actors of color for Oscars after not nominating any the previous two years. But that must be little consolation to you, since your terrific performance in Selma as Dr. King was snubbed.
DO: Well, thank you, but films are for life. Even with what happened with Selma, everywhere I go, people have seen that film. And at the end of the day, that's why you do it. with the passage of time, no one really remembers who was nominated or who won, it's the film that has to stand on its own two legs. i'm very proud to say that I feel we achieved that with Selma.

KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?
DO: [LOL] Well, I'm a lot sillier at home. I have four kids and a very rowdy house.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook for the kids?
DO: Being of Nigerian descent, I like to make fried plantains. It was a staple of mine growing up, and it's a big favorite in our house.

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have a favorite movie monster?
DO: [Laughs again] A favorite movie monster? Gosh... I have to say I was very intoxicated by King Kong growing up. I had one of those rubber King Kong dolls with stretchy arms, and I would play with it for hours.

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
DO: I always think it's a bad idea remaking classics. I'm of the mind that it's best to leave them alone unless you have a very, very fresh point-of-view which is almost never the case.

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you at this point in your career? I see you have an untitled project with Nash Edgerton coming up.
DO: Yeah, that's an action-comedy, which is a very different speed for me. I really loved doing that film. Speaking of avoiding being typecast, I really want to try my hand at some different genres. Action is something I love to watch, and I've had fun whenever it's come my way. Rasamund and I met doing an action-thriller [Jack Reacher]. I really enjoyed that experience, and would love to do something like that again. Comedy is something else I enjoy watching, and would love to do. So, the idea is to just keep mixing it up.

KW: You also have God Particle coming up with Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Chris O'Dowd. What's that about?
DO: It's a sci-fi that J.J. Abrams is producing and a wonderful, young director named Julius Onah is directing. As i'm sure you know, because it's a J.J. Abrams project, if I reveal any more, I'll be shot in the kneecaps. [Chuckles]

KW: Super 8 is my favorite J.J. Abrams movie. Have you seen it?
DO: Yes, he's a very special filmmaker. And we've really pushed the envelope with God Particle which is coming out in October.

KW: What's the craziest thing you've ever done with your kids?
DO: Taking them skiing. They thought they'd mastered it before they really had, so they started doing all these crazy jumps and things. They were incredibly good at it, and everything turned out fine, but it got a little hairy there for a second.

KW: When do you feel the most content?
DO: When I'm at home with my wife and kids, slumped on the couch, watching a movie or laughing together.

KW: Let's say you’re throwing your dream dinner party—who’s invited?
DO: I'd love to have Sidney Poitier, Daniel Day Lewis, Denzel Washington and Sean Penn over.

KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?
DO: I would probably choose time-traveling, so I could go back and change some of the fashion choices I've made.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 13 year-old self?
DO: When I was younger I couldn't wait to be older. I would say, "Slow down!"

KW: Bernadette also asks: What is your favorite charity?
DO: The GEANCO Foundation which provides scholarships for Nigerian girls who have been victims of Boko Haram.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
DO: As someone who helped people.

KW: Finally, Samuel L. Jackson asks: What’s in your wallet?
DO: [LOL] Less money than people think.

KW: Thanks again for the time, David, and best of luck with A United Kingdom.
DO: Thank you very much, Kam.

To see a trailer for A United Kingdom, visit:

Saturday, February 25, 2017


Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Homoerotic Bildungsroman Dramatizes Perils of Growing Up Gay in the 'Hood

It isn't bad enough that Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert/Ashton Sanders/Trevante Rhodes) is being raised by an emotionally-unavailable, drug-addicted, single-mom (Naomie Harris). The shy youngster also has the misfortune of having to hide the fact that he's gay, since he's experiencing pangs of sexual awakening in the midst of an African-American, ghetto culture which is homophobic to the point of violence.

Consequently, he finds himself not only being teased for being a "faggot" by a school bully (Patrick Decile) but sadistically beaten to a pulp by his best friend and secret lover, Kevin (Jaden Piner/Jharrel Jerome/Andre Holland). This sorry state of affairs has understandably left the closeted kid terribly confused. 
Fortunately, Chiron's mom's dealer, Juan (Mahershala Ali), and his wife, Teresa (Janelle Monae), have taken a personal interest in his welfare. They let Chiron crash at their crib whenever things get crazy at his dysfunctional mom's apartment. So, at least he has a father figure, even if it's the person pushing the poison that turned his mother into an irresponsible crack whore. 
Such are the dire circumstances collaborating to torpedo the troubled protagonist's potential in Moonlight, a homoerotic coming of age flick written and directed by Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy). nominated for 8 Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali) and Supporting Actress (Naomie Harris), the introspective mood piece follows the lead character's evolution from age 9 into adulthood, with Chiron and Kevin each being played by a trio of different actors. 
The picture convincingly conveys the sheer desperation of an abandoned street urchin searching for an oasis of sanity in a hostile world without refuge. Though this picture never offers any easy answers, it certainly will nevertheless resonate with countless black gays who've survived similar abuse during formative years spent negotiating their way through a merciless, macho, inner-city gauntlet 
A decidedly-dystopic perspective of growing up gay in the 'hood.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, drug use, pervasive profanity, ethnic slurs and graphic violence
Running time: 111 minutes
Studio: Plan B Entertainment
Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: Audio commentary with writer/director Barry Jenkins; Ensemble of Emotion: The Making of Moonlight; Poetry through Collaboration: The Music of Moonlight; and Cruel Beauty: Filming in Miami.

To see a trailer for Moonlight, visit:

To order a copy of Moonlight on Blu-ray, visit:

Friday, February 24, 2017

Top Ten DVD List for February 28, 2017

by Kam Williams

This Week’s DVD Releases


Doctor Strange

A Place to Call Home: Season 4

Live from Lincoln Center: Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel

Fuller House: The Complete First Season

American Experience: Rachel Carson

Corp + Anam: Seasons 1 & 2


A French Village: Season 6

The Gate

Honorable Mention

American Experience: The Race Underground

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening March 3, 2017

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams



Before I Fall (PG-13 for mature themes, bullying, sexuality, violent images, profanity and underage drinking) Adaptation of Lauren Oliver's young adult novel of the same name about a recently-deceased teen (Zoey Deutch) who is afforded an opportunity to relive her last day on Earth over and over until she untangles the circumstances surrounding her death in a tragic car accident. Cast includes Liv Hewson, Logan Miller and Jennifer Beals.

Logan (R for graphic violence, pervasive profanity and brief nudity) Hugh Jackman's last go-round as the Marvel Comics superhero finds a weary Wolverine withdrawn from the world and caring for an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) until he is recruited by a mysterious stranger (Elizabeth Rodriguez) to come to the assistance of a young mutant (Dafne Keen) on the run from dark forces. With Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Eriq La Salle and Stephen Merchant.

The Shack (PG-13 for violence and mature themes) Faith-based drama adapted from William P. Young's best seller of the same name about a grief-stricken family man (Sam Worthington) mourning the loss of a young daughter (Amelie Eve) who receives an invitation from God (Aviv Alush) to meet at the site of the murder, deep in the Oregon wilderness. Featuring Octavia Spencer, Radha Mitchell and Tim McGraw.


Burlesque: The Heart of the Glittter Tribe (Unrated) Revealing documentary showcasing the resurgence in popularity of striptease in Portland, Oregon. With Babs Jamboree, Angelique Devil and Zora von Pavonine.

Contemporary Color (PG-13 for brief profanity) Concert flick staged by David Byrne during the summer of 2015 at Brooklyn's Barclays Center and featuring performances by ten color guard teams from across the U.S. and Canada. With Nelly Furtado, Ad-Rock and Ira Glass.

The Freedom to Marry (Unrated) Gay rights documentary chronicling the hard fought advances achieved over the past 40 years by the Same Sex Movement. Featuring commentary by Evan Wolfson, Marc Solomon and April DeBoer.

The Institute (R for gory violence, disturbing images and graphic nudity) Suspense thriller, set in 19th C. Baltimore, revolving around the ordeal experienced by a grief-stricken orphan (Allie Gallerani) after she checks herself into a mental institution conducting pseudo-scientific, mind control experiments. Big name cast includes James Franco, Topher Grace, Josh Duhamel, Pamela Anderson, Eric Roberts and Tim Blake Nelson.

Kiki (Unrated) Anti-bullying documentary highlighting the efforts of minority members of the LBGTQ community to find a safe space to congregate in New York City.

The Last Word (R for profanity) Unlikely-buddies comedy about the friendship forged between an elderly control freak (Shiley Maclaine) and a truth-seeking reporter (Amanda Seyfried) assigned to write her obituary. Supporting cast includes Anne Heche, Phillip Baker Hall and AnnJewel Lee Dixon.

Lavender (Unrated) Psychological thriller about a photographer (Abbie Cornish) suffering from amnesia who finds evidence in her portfolio suggesting she might have murdered relatives she never knew she had. With Justin Long, Dermot Mulroney and Lola Flanery.

My Scientology Movie (Unrated) Faux documentary employing actors to recreate revealing incidents reported by disenchanted members of the Church of Scientology. Co-starring Andrew Perez, Stacia Roybal and Conner Stark as Tom Cruise.

Nakom (Unrated) Character-driven drama about a promising medical student (Jacob Ayanaba) forced to return home to his village in Ghana to provide for his family in the wake of his father's death. With Grace Ayanga, Justina Kulidu and Shetu Musah.

Table 19 (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, mature themes, drug use and brief nudity) Ensemble comedy about a maid of honor (Anna Kendrick) who finds herself relieved of her duties and relegated to a remote table full of reluctantly-invited losers at the wedding reception after being dumped by the bride's (Rya Meyers) brother (Wyatt Russell) With Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson and June Squibb.

Wolves (Unrated) Dysfunctional family drama about a high school basketball star (Taylor John Smith) whose recruitment by Cornell is jeopardized by his gambling- addicted and compulsive liar of a father (Michael Shannon). Cast includes Carla Gugino, Chris Bauer and Zazie Beetz.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Ice Cube

The “Fist Fight” Interview
with Kam Williams

Ice Cube in a Mellow Mood!

Born O'Shea Jackson in Compton, California on June 15, 1969, Renaissance man Ice Cube is an actor, writer, producer, director, rapper, philanthropist and father. N.W.A., the rap group he co-founded with Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, MC Ren and DJ Yella, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.

Cube made his feature film debut in 1991 in Boyz n the Hood, and proceeded to parlay his critically-acclaimed performance into an enviable career. He has become one of the most bankable names in Hollywood as a writer, star and producer.

His production company, Cube Vision, has been making memorable films for over two decades. And his movies have cumulatively grossed over a billion dollars at the box office. Here, he talks about his latest outing in Fist Fight, a comedy co-starring Charlie Day.

Kam Williams: Hey Cube. How you been, brother?
Ice Cube: I'm good, good. How about you, Kam?

KW: Great, thanks. What interested you in Fist Fight?
IC: I thought it was a great concept based on a funny premise. And when they started filling in the pieces with Charlie Day and Tracy Morgan, I just knew we were going to have a great time and hopefully shoot a funny movie.

KW: In this film you play a teacher who is sort of like a bully. Did you ever have a teacher like your character, Mr. Strickland? And were you either bullied or a bully when you were a kid?
IC: In my neighborhood, you were either one or the other. Going back to my memory bank, there were teachers who were no-nonsense and intimidating. Most of them were coaches or gym teachers.But a few were classroom teachers who just didn't take no mess. I just went over the top with it, because we were having fun with the comedy.

KW: Growing up, was there a spot where kids would settle their differences after school?
IC: There wasn't just one spot. But it had to be out of sight of teachers, like behind a building, which is where most fights took place. There was never one particular area where we always got down.

KW: Who came up with the idea of flipping the script by having the after school fight be between two teachers instead of two students?
IC: Well, the script was brought to us by [director] Rich Keen and New Line Cinema. I don't know exactly who came up with the concept, but that's what made it funny to me. It's unusual to have two teachers going at it, instead of two students. That unique premise was one of the things that hooked me.

KW: How did you and Charlie Day go about generating the bully-nerd anti-chemistry that the story called for? How did you know how mean to be without going over the line and ending up looking cruel?
IC: It's a dance. We had a mutual respect for each other's skills. And when you have that mutual respect, you're more giving actors. You'll make sure he shines where he's supposed to shine, and vice versa. The key is to not get in the way of the character, and to be honest and true with it. Still, real personalities creep in every now and then. It's all about knowing the script, and understanding its ebbs and flows. So, we worked well together. I think we're going to end up doing a few more movies together.

KW: Well, you already set up the sequel to Fist Fight in the closing scene.
IC: Yeah, without a doubt! Without a doubt!

KW: You guys had a terrific supporting cast: Dennis Haysbert, Dean Norris, Christina Hendricks, Kym Whitley, Jillian Bell and Tracy Morgan. Was this Tracy's first film since the accident? I don't remember seeing him in anything.
IC: Yeah, this was his first movie back. It was great to have him. I'd worked with him before in a movie called First Sunday. It was cool to see him again, to be able to hang, and to just have him here. That accident it was in was horrible. It was great to have him around again.

KW: I've interviewed him several times, and he's one of those rare people who's just naturally funny.
IC: Yeah, he doesn't have to tell a joke. All he has to do is talk. He's just a funny dude. God blesses some people with a gift.

KW: Fist Fight was Richard Keen's first full-length feature film. It's pretty impressive considering it was a directorial debut.
IC: Without a doubt! He did a great job. And he's the one who really sold me on the movie. He cut together a trailer showing what the movie would look like by cutting Charlie and me into pieces of other movies. That sold me. I said, "Dude, if you make this movie that you're showing me, then I'm in." and he definitely went above and beyond expectations.

KW: He certainly was able to keep it exciting by setting the film in a high school on Senior Prank Day. That way, all sorts of surprises could pop up during lulls in the action.
IC: Yeah, it's cool, because people think it's just a fight, but there are a thousand other things going on. [Chuckles] It's nice to have a lot of surprises in a movie like this.

KW: What message do you think people will take away from Fist Fight?
IC: I think it's really talking about the school system, and the underlying problems that the society's facing when it comes to educating kids. Do we just coddle them or do we really try to hold them accountable for what they learn?

KW: What do you think of the Academy Awards nominating a half-dozen black actors after none the previous two years?
IC: I don't really know what they're going through, but I'm pretty sure the nominees deserved it, and that's all that matters, that our work is recognized. We don't want any quotas. Just recognize good work.

KW: Last year, it was unfortunate that your biopic, Straight Outta Compton, was only nominated for Best Original Screenplay. And your scriptwriters were all white.
IC: It ain't no thing. At least I don't make movies for no Oscars. i make movies for the people.

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?
IC: What’s in my wallet? [LOL] Not too much. An I.D. card. That's it. [Laughs some more]

KW: Thanks again for the time, Cube, and best of luck with the film.
IC: Take it easy, Kam. Catch you later.

To see a trailer for Fist Fight, visit:

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A United Kingdom

Film Review by Kam Williams

Historical Drama Recounts Scandalous Interracial Romance

Upon the untimely death of his father, Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) was crowned the King of Bechuanaland at the tender age of 4. But his Uncle Tshekedi (Vusi Kunene) assumed the reins of power until the heir apparent could complete his education. 
While studying law in Great Britain, Seretse fell in love at first sight with Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a lowly clerk at Lloyd's of London. Their whirlwind romance ignited an international firestorm of controversy because of their color, not their class, differences.

For, he was black and she was white, and this was 1946, a time of strict racial segregation. So, the couple's scandalous liaison was met with resistance both in England and back of Africa.

Although they found themselves assailed with racial slurs like "slut" and "savage" while out on dates, the hostility only served to intensify their feelings for one another. Meanwhile, Seretse was threatened with the loss of his throne, since Bechuanaland was a protectorate of neighboring South Africa, a white supremacist nation. Nevertheless, he got down on one knee and proposed to Ruth and the two married just a year after they met. 
Unfortunately, major impediments were subsequently placed between the exiled young monarch and his governing, and that struggle is the subject of A United Kingdom. Directed by Amma Asante (Belle), the film was shot on location in Botswana, which is what the country has called itself since gaining independence in 1966. 
Because the movie telescopes tightly on Ruth and Seretse's relationship, it's success or failure is destined to turn on the performances of co-stars David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. The good news is that they're very talented thespians capable of disappearing into their roles while generating the requisite chemistry to make their characters' enduring affair convincing.

The film's only flaw is that it feels a bit rushed, as if director Asante had a long checklist of actual incidents from "Colour Bar" (the 432-page book the movie's based on) she was determined to shoehorn into the encyclopedic biopic. Nonetheless, the final product is a praiseworthy production reminiscent of another tale of racial intolerance recently in theaters. 
Let's say, "Loving," African style!

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sensuality, profanity and ethnic slurs
Running time: 111 minutes
Studio: Harbinger Pictures
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

To see a trailer for A United Kingdom, visit:

Monday, February 20, 2017

Nocturnal Animals

DVD Review by Kam Willams

Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) hears from her estranged, ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) for the first time in almost 20 years when he mails her an advance copy of his upcoming novel, "Nocturnal Animals." Not only is she surprised to discover that he's dedicated the book to her, but that he'd like to get together for dinner the next time he's in Los Angeles.

Far more unsettling is Edward's semi-autobiographical manuscript which seems to be making thinly-veiled references to their failed marriage. While Susan had managed to move on with her life, it is suddenly apparent to her that he'd remained stuck in the past and might now be rehashing their relationship as a literary form of therapy.

After all, back when they were dating, Susan had been warned by her imperious, well-heeled mother (Laura Linney) that she'd regret tying the knot with a romantic, aspiring writer from a relatively-humble background. Sure enough, the family matriarch knew best, as the mismatched couple did eventually divorce.

However, while Susan went on to become a celebrated art curator and to remarry a businessman (Armie Hammer) who could afford to keep her living in the lap of luxury, Edward has yet to achieve anything approaching their level of success. Instead, the emotionally-stunted scribe has ostensibly been venting all of his angst in an opus that truly frightens his former wife.

It is abundantly clear that the novel's unstable protagonist, Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal), is based on Edward, and that the salacious series of events chronicled in the oft-gruesome text are the product of a terribly troubled mind. The only reason Susan might even entertain the idea of a rendezvous with a man she hasn't even spoken to in a couple of decades, against her better judgment, is the fact that she's just learned that her second hubby is having an affair.

So unfolds Nocturnal Animals, a cerebral suspense thriller directed and adapted by Tom Ford from the Austin Wright best seller, "Tony and Susan." The movie's only Oscar nomination was landed by veteran thespian Michael Shannon in the Best Supporting Actor category.

The film revolves around a sublime deconstruction of Susan's shifting mental state, from her present-day predicament, to flashbacks of her relationship with Edward, to her perspective of disturbing scenes from his unpublished novel. A haunting deconstruction, worthy of Hitchcock, of a vulnerable socialite's very fragile psyche.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for menacing, violence, profanity and graphic nudity
Running time: 116 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Three Making of Nocturnal Animals featurettes: Building the Story; The Look of Nocturnal Animals; and The Filmmaker's Eye: Tom Ford.

To see a trailer for Nocturnal Animals, visit:

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

American Masters: Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise

Premieres nationwide Tuesday, February 21 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings)

PBS-TV Review by Kam Williams

PBS' American Masters Broadcasts Revealing Retrospective about the Late Icon

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was born Marguerite Annie Johnson,in St. Louis, Missouri on April 4, 1928 to parents for whom she and her big brother Bailey soon became a burden. When Maya was just 3, the siblings were sent alone by train to live with their paternal grandmother in Arkansas where they would be terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan.

At 7, Maya moved back to St. Louis, only to be molested by her now single mother's boyfriend. When she reported the rape, the perpetrator was soon murdered under mysterious circumstances. 
Maya subsequently fell mute and was shipped back to her grandma's house. Although she couldn't talk, she did take to reading like a fish to water. And by the time she spoke again at the age of 12, she'd become very acquainted with the classics ranging from Shakespeare to Langston Hughes to Edgar Allan Poe. 
Unfortunately, exposure to great literature didn't save Maya from further trauma, as she would become a single-mom at 17 after being pressured into a sexual encounter with a boy who wanted nothing more to do with her. She subsequently supported herself and her son, Guy, by holding an array of odd jobs, including work in the sex trade industry as a stripper, prostitute and even a madam. 
Yet somehow, Maya would overcome her humble roots and checkered early career to become an African-American icon and a very respected writer in her own right. That miraculous recovery is the subject of Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, a reverential retrospective offering an intimate look at the life of the late poet/author/actress/director/civil rights activist. 
Co-directed by Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack, the film features heartfelt reflections by an array of luminaries, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, John Singleton, Cicely Tyson, Dave Chappelle and Valerie Simpson, to name a few. For example, we hear Secretary Clinton refer to her as "a phenomenal woman" while Lou Gossett, Jr. credits her with raising his political consciousness. 
A poignant portrait of a sex abuse survivor's unlikely path from abandoned street urchin to consummate poet laureate! 
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 114 minutes
Distributor: PBS

For a behind-the-scenes peek at Common on the set with Maya Angelou, visit:

For an excerpt featuring Maya Angelou speaking about her role in a production of Porgy and Bess, visit:

To see a trailer for Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, visit:

To order a copy of Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise on DVD, visit: