Monday, July 31, 2017


Film Review by Kam Williams

Claustrophobic Docudrama Revisits '67 Riots through the Prism of Infamous Interrogation at Algiers Hotel

Detroit's '67 riots broke out in the wee hours of July 23rd, in the wake of a police raid on an unlicensed bar where folks had been toasting a couple of vets who'd recently returned from Vietnam. Word spread like wildfire through the black community that the cops had arrested all 82 people they found inside, and it wasn't long before mobs began looting and firebombing stores all around the 'hood. 
The rebellion would last five days and result in over 1,000 injuries and 7,000 arrests, while also claiming 43 lives. In terms of property damage, about 2,500 businesses were destroyed and hundreds of families were left homeless. 
The insurrection was quelled by the Motor City's police force in conjunction with the state of Michigan's National Guard as well as federal troops from the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions. While the arrests at the speakeasy ostensibly served as the flashpoint for the civil unrest, the revolt was really the result of long-simmering frustrations with the poor quality of housing, employment and education in the ghetto. 
Directed by two-time Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow (for The Hurt Locker), Detroit revisits the '67 riots by telescoping tightly on events which unfolded at the Algiers Motel on the third night of the rebellion. The picture features an A-list ensemble that includes John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, John Boyega, Will Poulter, Jacob Latimore and John Krasinski.

The trouble started when a sniper seemed to be taking pot shots at the police stationed a block away from the Algiers. Truth be told, it was just 17 year-old Carl Cooper (Jason Cooper) firing a harmless starter pistol. 
Nevertheless, reasonably assuming they were under attack, officers returned fire before storming the hotel's three-story annex. Emptying the rooms, they found a dozen guests, two 18 year-old white girls and 10 black males, including members of The Dramatics, The Motown group whose biggest hit was "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get." 
The guests were herded into a first-floor hallway where, over the next several hours, they were threatened, humiliated and sadistically beaten during a prolonged interrogation being directed by Patrolman Krauss (Poulter). The white females were stripped naked, and called "whores" and "[N-word] lovers." 
No gun was ever found, but by the end of the torture three black teenagers lay dead: Cooper, Fred Temple (Latimore) and Aubrey Pollard (Nathan Davis, Jr.). Newspapers reported that they were snipers who died during an exchange of gunfire. But autopsies revealed each had been shot from behind at very close range. 
Detroit is very difficult to watch, since it's basically a searing snuff flick which forces the audience to witness the deliberate persecution of innocent civilians at the behest of a racist redneck with a badge. Riveting revisionist history setting the record straight in a way which will undoubtedly resonate with the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for graphic violence and pervasive profanity
Running time: 143 minutes
Production Company: Annapurna Pictures / First Light
Distributor: Annapurna Pictures

To see a trailer for Detroit, visit:

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Going in Style

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Cheated Geezers Pull Bank Heist in Hilarious Crime Comedy

Released in 1979, Going in Style revolved around a trio of retirees who break the monotony of their dreary daily lives by robbing a bank. That critically-acclaimed, comic caper co-starred a trio of entertainment icons in George Burns, Art Carney and the legendary Lee Strasberg, the father of method acting. 
Ordinarily, one would think twice before mounting a remake of such a beloved classic. Not Zach Braff (Garden State). Despite the daunting challenge, the ambitious actor-turned-director decided to give it a go.

First, he turned to Oscar-nominee Theodore Melfi (for Hidden Figures' screenplay). Melfi came up with a terrific script only loosely based on the original. He retained the main characters' names and the basic "bank heist" premise while updating the dialogue and overhauling plot to yield a rollicking, laff-a-minute adventure.

Second, Zach retained the services of Academy Award-Winners Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin to play the leads. Although 79, 84 and 83, respectively, these reliable, accomplished thespians generate an endearing camaraderie and deliver every punchline with perfect timing. 
At the point of departure, we find Joe (Caine) in the midst of complaining to an unsympathetic loan officer (Josh Pais) about Williamsburg Savings' impending foreclosure on his home when the place is suddenly held-up by a gang of masked men. Later that day, while commiserating with former co-workers Willie (Freeman) and Al (Arkin), Joe realizes they've all fallen prey to the bank's shady practices which includes completely draining the pension fund they're all dependent on. 
But instead of alerting the authorities, the victims opt to take the law into their own hands, conspiring to retrieve at gunpoint precisely the same amount "stolen" from them. Of course, the hold up proves easier planned than executed, given that this is each of these geezer's first felony. 
Fortunately, the BFFs are not to be deterred, even after a disastrous dry run shoplifting at a supermarket. What's bad for them is great for the audience, as the laughs just keep coming clear through the closing credits. 
You can't ask any more of a madcap comedy than this much hilarity!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, drug use and suggestive material
Running time: 96 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Deleted scenes; and director's commentary with Zach Braff.

To see a trailer for Going in Style, visit:

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

Top Ten DVD List for August 1, 2017

by Kam Williams

This Week’s DVD Releases
Going in Style [Broke Geezers Pull Bank Heist]

The Lovers [Can This Marriage Be Saved Saga]

Sleight [Orphaned Street Magician Turns to Drug Dealing]

Colossal [Party Girl Miraculously Controls Monster Wrecking Korea]

Crashing [The Complete First Season]

Big Little Lies [An HBO Limited Series]

A Quiet Passion [Emily Dickinson Biopic]

Opening Night [Stage Manager Struggles to Save Broadway Musical]

The Legend of Ben Hall [Western about Outlaws on the Run]

Cop and a Half: New Recruit [Unlikely Police Partners Comedy]

Honorable Mention

Fortitude [Season 2]

The Ottoman Lieutenant [World War I Love Story]

The Circle [Corporate Ethics Thriller]

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening August 4, 2017

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun  
by Kam Williams  



The Dark Tower (PG-13 for action, gun violence and mature themes) Adaptation of the Stephen King sci-fi thriller about an 11 year-old adventurer (Tom Taylor) who slips into another dimension where he witnesses a showdown between an evil sorcerer (Matthew McConaughey) and a gunslinger (Idris Elba) defending the universe from extinction. Supporting cast includes Abbey Lee, Dennis Haysbert and Jackie Earle Haley.

Detroit (R for graphic violence and pervasive profanity) Two-time Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow (for The Hurt Locker) directed this claustrophobic docudrama, set in the Motor City, revisiting the '67 riots through the prism of the sadistic police interrogation of some suspected snipers. Co-starring John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, Will Poulter, Jacob Latimore and John Krasinski. .

Kidnap (R for violence and scenes of peril) Suspense thriller about a single-mom (Halle Berry) who turns vigilante after her young son (Sage Correa) is abducted by kidnappers. With Lew Temple, Dana Gourrier and Chris McGinn.


Armed Response (R for graphic violence, profanity and grisly images) Supernatural thriller about a special forces team's investigation of the mysterious slaughter of the entire staff at a black ops facility. Co-starring Wesley Snipes, Anne Heche and Gene Simmons.

Columbus (Unrated) Romantic dramedy, set in Indiana, about a Korean man (John Cho) who falls in love with a local librarian (Haley Lu Richardson) living with her drug-addicted mother when he comes to Amweica to care for his comatose father. With Parker Posey, Rory Culkin and Jim Dougherty.

Fun Mom Dinner (R for sexuality, drug use, crude humor and pervasive profanity) Girls' night out comedy about four mothers (Katie Aselton, Molly Shannon, Toni Collette and Bridget Everett) with kids in the same preschool whose simple plan to unwind over a meal turns into a wild evening they'll never forget. Featuring Hart Denton, Gerald Dewey and Leigh Dunham.

Savage Dog (Unrated) Action thriller about a just-paroled boxer's (Scott Adkins) quest for revenge against the mobsters responsible for mutfrting a loved one. With Marko Zaror, Juju Chan and Cung Le.

Some Freaks (Unrated) Romantic dramedy about a one-eyed teen (Thomas Mann) who falls for a chubby, high school classmate (Lily Mae Harrington) only to have their relationship fall apart when she loses 50 pounds in college. Cast includes Marin Ireland, Lachlan Buchanan and Ely Henry.

Step (PG for mature themes and mild epithets) Against-the-odds documentary, set at a girls' high school in Baltimore, chronicling the effort of seniors on the step team to win a dance competition as well as scholarships to college.

Wind River (R for profanity, rape, graphic violence and disturbing images) Crime thriller about a rookie FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) who teams with a veteran game tracker (Jeremy Renner) to solve a murder after a body is discovered in the woods on an Indian reservation. With Graham Greene, Judith Jones and Jon Bernthal.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Brigsby Bear

Film Review by Kam Williams                             

Freed Kidnap Victim Adjusts to Reality in Touching Character Study 
Brigsby Bear revolves around an age-old premise that's tough to establish and maintain convincingly, namely, the plight of a sheltered protagonist blissfully unaware of reality. Four films come quickly to mind which succeeded at plausibly presenting just such a plotline.

In Room (2015), we witnessed a little boy being imprisoned with his mother in a shed by the rapist who'd fathered him. In Life Is Beautiful (1997), we found a concentration camp internee doing his best to shield his young son from the horrors of the Holocaust.

In Being There (!979), Peter Sellers played a gullible gardener who learned everything he knew about the outside world from TV. And in The Truman Show (1998), Jim Carrey was an orphan who had no idea that he'd been adopted by a corporation that turned his life into a reality show. 
Now we have Brigsby Bear, a worthy addition to the challenging genre. The movie marks the impressive directorial debut of Dave McCary, who's been writing for Saturday Night Live since 2014. The picture stars SNL's Kyle Mooney, who co-wrote the script with Kevin Costello. 
As the film unfolds, we're introduced to James (Mooney), a 25 year-old very content to be still living at "home." The overgrown kid religiously tunes in to Brigsby Bear, a sci-fi series revolving around a crime-fighting superhero full of energy and optimism. 
James has a good excuse for his stunted growth. Truth be told, his supposed parents, Ted (Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams), are actually kidnappers who abducted him infancy. And they secretly produce Brigsby, the only program that ever comes on their TV. 
They've managed to discourage James from venturing outside the house by filling his head with lies about the air being so toxic that he'd perish without a gas mask. So, he's freely frittered away his future not only watching all 736 Brigsby Bear episodes, but visiting a fake chatroom devoted to the show. 
Everything changes the day James is rescued by the police and returned to his birth parents (Matt Walsh and Michaela Watkins) in Cedar Hills, Utah. Understandably, the adjustment to real-life proves problematic, since he remains obsessed with Brigsby to the point that he talks about it incessantly to anyone who'll listen. 
He's lucky to find a couple of sympathetic souls in an actor-turned-detective (Greg Kinnear) and Spencer (Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.), one of his teenage sister's (Ryan Simpkins) friends. They agree to help make a Brigsby Bear movie which just might enable James to find some closure on the sordid opening chapter of his life. 
A poignant character portrait capable of catapulting Kyle Mooney from SNL support player to bona fide matinee idol!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for drug use, teen partying, mature themes and brief sexuality
Running time: 97 minutes
Production Studio: 3311 Productions / YL Pictures / The Lonely Island / Lord Miller
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

To see a trailer for Brigsby Bear, visit:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Quiet Passion

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Extraordinary Emily Dickinson Biopic Available on Home Video

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) had less than a dozen of her 1,800 poems published, while she was still alive. Since she was only appreciated posthumously, it makes sense that a movie about her life might revolve around something other than the literary prowess that went unrecognized by her contemporaries.

In bringing her story to the big screen, writer/director Terrence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) wisely resisted the temptation to pore over the prolific scribe's evocative verses in favor of plumbing the depths of her terribly tortured soul. The upshot of that endeavor is A Quiet Passion, an exquisite costume drama alternately presenting the protagonist as an iconoclastic visionary and as a retiring recluse. 
On the macro level, the socially-conscious production subtly suggests that the agnostic, feminist abolitionist was ahead of her time and withdrew from the world in response to being raised in an era when evangelism, slavery and male chauvinism were the order of the day. Meanwhile, on the micro level, the character-driven drama telescopes intensely on a fragile psyche ostensibly further crippled by a cloistered existence. 

As the film unfolds, we find Emily (played in her teens by Emma Bell, later as an adult by Cynthia Nixon) just finishing a frustrating freshman year at Mount Holyoke. She soon decides to drop out due to the pressure being unfairly exerted by the school's president, Mary Lyon (Sara Vertongen), to conform to the outwardly pious practices dictated by the Christian revival movement. Introspective Emily rebels because she sees her relationship with God as a direct and personal matter as opposed to one demanding public displays of devotion at church services. 
So, she returns to Amherst, Massachusetts, where she again takes up residence on the grounds of the Dickinson family estate inhabited by her parents (Keith Carradine and Joanna Bacon), brother (Duncan Duff) and sister (Jennifer Ehle). Unfortunately, headstrong Emily proves unable to bite her tongue when visitors like the local pastor (Miles Richardson) or even a potential suitor (Stefan Menaul) come a callin'. 
Although she does eventually make trusted confidantes of her sister-in-law Susan (Jodhi May) and the equally-irreverent Mabel Loomis Todd (Noemie Schellens), her preference remains the solitude of the remote, upstairs bedroom which affords her the opportunity to craft her immortal poems in secret. Cynthia Nixon has never been more convincing than conveying the emotional fires simmering just beneath the surface of such a stoic countenance. 
A melancholy mood piece for the ages!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, disturbing images and suggestive material
Production Studio: Hurricane Films
Running time: 126 minutes
Distributor: Music Box Films
DVD Extras: Q&A with writer/director Terence Davies and Cynthia Nixon; and a behind-the-scenes featurette

To see a trailer for A Quiet Passion, visit:

To order a copy of A Quiet Passion on DVD, visit:

Girls Trip Hits Chicago!


A bevy of beauties salute Girls Trip while lolling on chaise lounges at rooftop pool party
[photo credit: Bob Comfort]

Girls Trip Hits Chicago!
by Kam Williams

The ladies enjoying a panoramic view of the Windy City at sunset
[photo credit: Bob Comfort]
Bawdy Road Romp Opens as #1 Comedy at the Box Office

Universal Pictures' Girls Trip made a spectacular debut on its opening weekend, raking in over $30 million at the box office. The hilarious road romp, directed by Spike's cousin Malcolm Lee (The Best Man), co-stars Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish and Jada Pinkett Smith.

80% of the movie's predominantly African-American fans were female. But you apparently don't have to be black to appreciate the sisters' irreverent brand of humor, since about 20% of the audience was white, 15% Latino and 5% Asian.

Look for this madcap morality play about BFFs gone wild to enjoy a long run in theaters over the course of the long, hot summer.

Even some of the guys were game enough to don Girls Trip T-shirts
[photo credit: Julie Comfort]

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Black Butterfly

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams 
Antonio Banderas Serial Killer Whodunit Comes to Home Video 
Paul (Antonio Banderas) is the literary equivalent of a one-hit wonder. The flash in the pan enjoyed a short-lived success, thanks to the best-seller he published while still in his twenties. Back then, he became the toast of the town when the popular tome was adapted to the big screen, even though the movie bore no resemblance to his book besides having the same title.

But that was decades ago. Now, all the money's gone. The hangers-on have disappeared, too, and so has his wife (Alexandra Klim). As of late, he's turned into a recluse, living alone in the mountains of Colorado in a rundown cabin he can no longer afford to keep up. 
He fritters away most of his days drinking at a desk in a darkened room, praying for the inspiration to produce another masterpiece. Unfortunately, he's suffering from such a terrible case of writer's block that all he ever types are the words "I am stuck" over and over again.

Upon bottoming out with little hope of recovering, Paul admits to himself that it's time to sell house. So, he lists the property with Laura (Piper Perabo), an attractive realtor he hires more for her looks than her expertise. After all, he's knows her very first client. 
His judgment proves even worse when it comes to making friends. For, he decides to bring back to his place the Good Samaritan (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who saved him from a trucker with road rage. Only after Paul agrees to let the stranger crash for a few days, does the guy reveal that he "just got out of prison and ain't never goin' back." 
Might this be the creep responsible for the recent rash of murders in the area? Unfortunately, Paul's located in an isolated spot in the woods without any internet, TV or cell phone service. Nevertheless, the plot thickens with the unannounced arrival of several visitors, including Laura, a delivery boy (Nicholas Aaron), and a cop (Vincent Riotta) looking for a missing mailman. 
Thus unfolds Black Butterfly, an English language-remake of Papillon Noir (2008), a French film featuring the same basic premise. Directed by Brian Goodman (Sal), this compelling suspense thriller slowly ratchets up the tension only to unravel during the denouement, thanks to a humdinger of a twist. 
A riveting whodunit spoiled somewhat by a rabbit-out-of-the-hat resolution.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for profanity and violence.
Running time: 93 minutes
Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: Black Butterfly backstage featurette; a trailer gallery; and a commentary with director Brian Goodman and co-writer Marc Frydman.

To see a trailer for Black Butterfly, visit:

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

Erica Ash

The “Survivor's Remorse" and "Real Husbands of Hollywood” Interview
with Kam Williams

God Bless Sweet Erica!

NAACP Image Award-nominee Erica Ash is currently starring as Brigette Hart, ex-wife of Kevin Hart, on the faux reality show “The Real Husbands of Hollywood,” as well as M-Chuck Calloway on the hit sitcom “Survivor’s Remorse.” Erica originated the roles of Addie “Micki” Harris and Dionne Warwick on Broadway in the jukebox musical “Baby, It’s You!” 
She also starred in several other Broadway shows, such as “The Lion King” (Nala) and “Spamalot” (Lady of the Lake). Erica's TV career started with LOGO’s “The Big Gay Sketch Show” from which she was recruited to join the cast of FOX’s MADtv where she contributed as a writer, too. 
The highlights of her film career include Scary Movie V (Kendra), Random (Nicole), I Can Smoke? (Carmen) and Mina no Ie (Naomi). She is the creator/writer of the comedic advice blog “The Deviled Angel” and writes and produces sketch comedy for The Deviled Angel Network.

Erica enjoys giving back through various charitable organizations: the Make a Wish Foundation, Broadway Sings for Pride, The Helping Hands Campaign, Living Beyond Breast Cancer and Faithful Spouses Ministries. And she has hosted and/or participated in benefits for various theaters including the Rubicon Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse and Celebration Theater.

Kam Williams: Hi Erica. Congratulations on the fourth season of Survivor's Remorse.
Erica Ash: Thanks, Kam. I'm excited for our fans to see it.

KW: What originally interested you in the sitcom?
EA: I liked the idea of focusing on how the family of a star athlete deals with the mega success and I thought it had the potential to be something really smart and funny. I was right.

KW: How would you describe the show in 25 words or less to someone who hasn't seen it?
EA: It's a pointed, poignant, very prophetic roller coaster ride of a comedy that definitely gets conversations started, touching on current issues in a creatively unique way.

KW: Can we expect to see some exciting developments with your character, M-Chuck, this season?
EA: Yes! I think Mary Charles has been steadily growing throughout the seasons, especially the past two. This season continues that. But M-Chuck will always be M-Chuck and say what's on everybody's mind.

KW: The sitcom is produced by LeBron James, and he's even made a guest appearance on it. Is it based on his life or on that of another basketball star?
EA: No. When the series first started, it was loosely based on LeBron James' life, and really that of many basketball players, as many of them find themselves catapulted into a whole new world of money and notoriety when they start to play basketball professionally. But the series quickly took on a life of its own after season one. 
KW: Is there a message you want people to take away from the show?
EA: Yes: we're missing out on so much communication and it's okay to talk to and relate to one another. Our show does a great job of starting the conversation by tackling issues with gut-punch creativity.

KW: How about Real Husbands of Hollywood? What's it like playing Kevin Hart's wife?
EA: It's fun. I had no guidelines in creating this character as I had not met Tori before starting that series. But I do enjoy annoying Kevin, so I tried to come up with a character that would drive him crazy. I think I nailed it. [LOL]

KW: Since it's a fake reality show, do people ever mistake you for Kevin's real-life wife?
EA: Gosh, Yes! Even people who know me! Like family members who totally would've been invited to the wedding if I'd had one. I just take it as a compliment to my acting. Guess I'm pretty believable.

KW: What's it like having so many guest stars on the show?
EA: Busy! You never know what the next day is going to be like on set. But it's always fun.

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
EA: The Josephine Baker story and Love Jones.

KW: founder Troy Johnson asks: What was the last book you read?
EA: "The Greatest Manifestation Principle in the World."

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?
EA: "Shining" by Dk Khaled and Beyonce'.

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?
EA: Running up to my dad with a mouth full of Oreos and kissing him when he came home from work. And watching my mom get ready to go out with my dad. I've always thought my mom was the most beautiful woman in the world

KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?
EA: My parents certainly tried but the spiritual component truly did not kick in until I was an adult. I'm sure it would not have kicked in had I not been raised the way I was.

KW: Who loved you unconditionally during your formative years?
EA: My parents. My mom showed it especially, though. There were times when I looked back and thought, "How did you not put me out?"

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
EA: I like a good stew with lentils and veggies.

KW: The Morris Chestnut question: Was there any particular moment in your childhood that inspired you to become the person you are today?
EA: Laughing so hard while watching SNL with my brothers and sisters made me want to be a person that makes others laugh.

KW: Craig Robinson asks: What was your last dream?
EA: My last dream was really weird. I couldn't even tell you what it was about... too many moving pieces. But I think I was Muslim in the dream

KW: Sherry Gillam would like to know what is the most important life lesson you've learned so far?
EA: Love is truly the missing ingredient in all manifestation

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?
EA: I'm waaaaay more of a tomboy at home. And I'm also usually not dressed. [LOL]

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
EA: Beauty and power.

KW: What's the craziest thing you've ever done?
EA: Sex in public with a boyfriend. But that was in college... I'm smarter now.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
EA: To find the fulfillment in a relationship that I have found in my career.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
EA: What I look for in a guy. Tall, 6'3" or taller, successful, funny, smart, strong mentally and physically, loving, adventurous, and easy to talk to and communicate with.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
EA: I try a different designer every red carpet event, so I don't have one favorite. I do like Haute Hippie and Foxbait.

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have a favorite movie monster?
EA: Candyman. He was the only one who truly scared me as a kid.

KW: Judyth Piazza asks: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
EA: Love. They love what they do and love is their motivation

KW: Finally, Samuel L. Jackson asks: What’s in your wallet?
EA: Cash, credit cards, ID, and my Soho House membership card

KW: Thanks again for the time, Erica, and best of luck with both series.
EA: Thank you, Kam!

To see a trailer for “Survivor's Remorse," visit:

To see a trailer for "Real Husbands of Hollywood,” visit: