Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Deon Taylor

The “Traffik” Interview
with Kam Williams

The Hardest Working Brother in Hollywood!

Deon Taylor is a boundary-crashing, envelope-pushing, unabashed, creative force in the world of film and television. In Hollywood, roles vary and job functions are often blurred and blended – for talent, creatives, filmmakers, storytellers, show runners, producers and high-level executives alike. Few people, if any, in Hollywood exhibit the capacity and multidisciplinary skill set necessary to bridge multiple functions and roles successfully. Deon Taylor is one of the few who can – and does. 
A prolific writer, filmmaker, director and idea generator, Deon is a hybrid artistic force and savvy producer. His work is innovative, his writing is cutting-edge and his vision is distinctive. As a creator, he has forged his own unique path through Tinseltown and into theaters and onto TV screens, to the delight of audiences seeking fresh, original content with a unique voice.

Deon succeeds because he is always thinking outside the box - juggling projects with perfect aplomb while incubating ideas that others in the industry wouldn’t dare to pursue. Creativity and storytelling are the heart and soul of the global entertainment industry. With that mantra in mind, Deon runs his own thriving, independent film and production company, Hidden Empire Film Group (HEFG) formerly known as Deon Taylor Enterprises (DTE), which he launched in 2000.

Deon has written, co-written and directed dozens of films, TV series and special projects and HEFG produces a diverse array of larger budgeted projects, born of Taylor's boundless energy as a multi-hyphenate visionary and pioneer.

He successfully ventured into comedy in 2016 with his horror spoof “Meet the Blacks,” starring Mike Epps, George Lopez, Mike Tyson, Zulay Henao and King Batch. The film became a massive breakout hit and gained a cult following since opening in the Top Ten at the box office.

The popularity of “Meet the Blacks” led to a recently completed sequel, which Taylor also directed, wrote and produced. Due to hit theaters in late 2018, the sequel, titled “The House Next Door” stars comedy icons Mike Epps and Katt Williams, who last starred together in the hit “Friday After Next."

Deon also recently wrote, directed and produced the thriller “Motivated Seller” starring Dennis Quaid, Michael Ealy and Megan Good, and produced, with Jamie Foxx, the comedy feature “All-Star Weekend,” starring Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., Gerard Butler, Eva Longoria, Jeremy Piven, Jessica Szohr – directed by Jamie Foxx.

All of his films have been financed by his longtime business partner and lead investor, Robert F. Smith, the founder of Vista Equity Partners, which is consistently ranked as one of the top Private Equity Firms in the world with approximately $3 billion in capital under management. Another partner is Roxanne Avent - a thought-provoking and visionary producer and executive with a powerful business aptitude, who steers HEFG.

Deon has a background in marketing, sports and promotions. A Nike All-American basketball player from Gary, Indiana; he earned a biology degree at San Diego State University on a full basketball scholarship where he was named the conference's "Newcomer of the Year." He went on to play professionally and still competes weekly in the NBA Entertainment League out of Los Angeles.

Here, Deon talks about his new film, “Traffik” - an intense sex-trafficking thriller starring Paula Patton, Missi Pyle, Omar Epps, William Fichtner and Roselyn Sanchez.

Kam Williams: Hey Deon, thanks for the interview.
Deon Taylor: Hey!! Thanks for having me, Kam.

KW: What inspired you to write Traffik?
DT: The film was inspired locally, by my reading an email from my daughter's school telling us that kids were being trafficked at the local mall. So, I took an interest in trafficking and began to Google and do research. I was surprised to find out that this was a rapidly-growing epidemic all across the country. That's what originally inspired me to write the screenplay.

KW: How would you describe the film in 25 words or less?
DT: Informative... Intense... Scary... Funny... Dynamic... Heroic... It's a movie that will shake you to the core, that does not play by the rules and which ultimately leaves you with valuable information you should know about trafficking.
KW: How did you go about assembling such an impressive cast?
DT: Assembling a cast was extremely hard, as an independent filmmaker. What I had to do was basically reach out to people... get phone numbers... push... drag...scream... cry... and beg. Anything to get people to listen to a pitch and to ultimately read the screenplay.

KW: What message do you want people to take away from the film?
DT: To be vigilant about trafficking on a daily basis. Trafficking not only affects strangers' lives, but it could touch yours, too. It could be as close as your next door neighbor.
KW: You played basketball professionally before becoming a filmmaker. When did you develop an interest in movies?
DT: I loved films growing up, especially in junior high and high school, but I never gave any thought to becoming a writer or filmmaker until I was in Germany. Over there, I realized that I wanted to be involved with movies and I began by writing a screenplay which I brought home with me. I figured it out on my own, and the bug just stayed with me for a long time. I just was like, "I gotta do this!"

KW: How do you explain your being so prolific?
DT: I don't know how to answer that. I'm just trying to make films and do art and be the best me. I'm trying to figure out how do you create a world where you can constantly be a storyteller and get your projects out to the masses. I think what a lot of people are witnessing is, my passion, drive, and energy and the power of intention. My intent is to be successful.

KW: What is your earliest childhood memory?
DT: My earliest childhood memory is... I actually have a lot of them. Riding in the back of a 1978 Impala with zebra seats with my mom and my great uncle. And driving from Detroit to Gary, Indiana after my mom had just bought her first car, I just remember riding in the back seat. It's an incredible memory for me.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
DT: Chicken all day every day. Chicken! Chicken! Chicken! Chicken!

KW: Sherry Gillam would like to know what is the most important life lesson you've learned so far?
DT: Be true to yourself. Don't live for anyone else. Find your own path. Live your own life and be the best you, and everything else will fall into place.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
DT: A flawed human who is trying to do right and be right and to lead by example versus words.

KW: What's the craziest thing you've ever done?
DT: No comment. [Laughs]

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
DT: That my family be prosperous and healthy for as long as possible.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
DT: No one has ever asked my what's my favorite ice cream, and I'm gonna answer it today. It's a Dairy Queen Blizzard with M&M's and chocolate syrup.

KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan asks: What’s your dream locale in Los Angeles to live?
DT: If there was a way to get a house, like a flat, in Beverly Hills that would be incredible. I've just driven through that area so many times and looked at those houses and just wondered what it would be like to live there. I think that would be kind of cool.

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: Is there a classic film you'd like to remake?
DT: There are several I'd love to remake: Cujo, The Warriors and Cooley High. I think one of the most fun to redo would be Big Trouble in Little China.

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have a favorite movie monster?
DT: Of course, I do. Freddie Kruger!

KW: Finally, as Samuel L. Jackson asks: What’s in your wallet?
DT: Nothing! I'm a broke, struggling filmmaker trying to make it.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Deon, and best of luck with Traffik.
DT: Thank you so much, Kam.

To see a trailer for Traffik, visit:

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero

Film Review by Kam Williams

Kiddie Cartoon Recounts "True" Story of Canine War Hero

Ads for Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero bill the film as "The Incredible True Story of America's Top Underdog." Yet, the movie itself features this contrary disclaimer, albeit at the end and in small print: "Although based on historical events, all characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental." 
I suppose that in this age of fake news it was just a matter of time before we'd be wrestling with whether or not a picture passing itself off as factual might actually be phony. What's weird about this animated adventure is how it goes out of its way during the closing credits to authenticate the tall tale via archival photos of the decorated pooch and the soldier who purportedly adopted him.

The faux World War I memoir, narrated by Margaret Conroy (Helena Bonham Carter), unfolds in New Haven, Connecticut in 1917 which is where we find her brother Robert (Logan Lerman) enlisting in the Army out of a sense of patriotic duty. During basic training, the young buck private starts feeding a mangy stray that looks like a mix of Bulldog and Boston Terrier. 
When it's time for the soldiers to ship out, Robert bids his pet adieu, but the industrious canine somehow stows away aboard the vessel headed overseas. When discovered, Stubby is lucky that Colonel Ty (Jim Pharr) makes him the brigade's mascot and issues him a set of dog tags.

Upon landing in France, the doughboys are immediately dispatched to the Western Front. While stuck in the trenches, Robert and Stubby are befriended by a grizzled French vet (Gerard Depardieu) who shares his survival tips and some home-cooked cuisine. 
Then, when the Germans attack, Stubby exhibits extreme valor, between fighting the enemy and saving wounded soldiers. We only have a blow-by-blow of all of the above because Robert reportedly was a prolific writer whose sister Margaret presumably preserved all his letters home for posterity. 
And now, thanks to director Richard Lanni, the decorated pooch's battlefield exploits have been belatedly adapted to the big screen. Honestly, it's hard for this critic to know what to make of this movie. 
Is it merely an innocent, inspirational buddy flick or is it an Army recruiting tool targeting innocent tykes? Who knows? regardless, this supposedly 'true story' is the cinematic equivalent of not just fake news, but very fake news. 
Wag the dog!

Fair (1 star)
Rated PG for peril, action and mature themes
Running time: 85 minutes
Production Studios: Fun Academy Media Group
Distributor: Fun Academy Motion Pictures

To see a trailer for Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gv_vO182_kA

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Top Ten DVD List for April 17, 2018

This Week's DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

The Post [Featuring Meryl Streep in Oscar-Nominated Performance]

Claws: Season 1 [Sisterhood Sitcom Set inside a Florida Beauty Salon]

The Accident [A Deadly Crash Is Just the Beginning]

Honor Up [Damon and Stace Dash Co-Star in Gritty, Inner-City Crime Saga]

The Commuter [Lives Are on the Line]

A Taxi Driver [True Story Set in Seoul, South Korea in 1980]

The Only Living Boy in New York [Father and Son Land in Love Triangle]

Insidious: The Last Key [Fear Comes Home]

Frontline: Exodus [The Journey Continues]

Deep Blue Sea 2 [Stronger. Wiser. Deadlier.]

Friday, April 13, 2018

100 Years: One Woman's Fight for Justice

Film Review by Kam Williams

Bittersweet Biopic Chronicles Native-American Crusader's Class Action Suit vs. U.S.

"They made us many promises... more than I can remember, but they never kept but one. They promised to take our land... and they took it." That observation was made by Chief Red Cloud (1822-1909) towards the end of his life, after he'd witnessed the white man break treaty after treaty made with Native American tribes. 
President Andrew Jackson was a staunch advocate of Indian removal in favor of European settlers. He famously ignored a U.S. Supreme Court decision recognizing the Cherokee nation's right to the State of Georgia. 
Jackson even had the temerity to challenge Chief Justice John Marshall to try to enforce the ruling, before ordering an Indian mass exodus West on a decimating death march known as the Trail of Tears.

So, it goes without saying that Native Americans have had a woeful record when it comes to having America honor any treaties. That's what makes the accomplishment of Elouise Cobell (1945-2011) all the more remarkable. 
For, while serving as treasurer of the Blackfeet tribe, she uncovered massive mismanagement of billions of dollars that should have been held in trust for Indian people. Following years of frustration, in 1996 she filed the biggest class action suit ever brought against the U.S. government, seeking billions of dollars due 300,000 members from many tribes for the lease of assorted land and mineral rights. 
Exhibiting an unwavering determination, Elouise did ultimately prevail after a three-decade battle with the Department of the Interior. That selfless, indefatigable effort is at the heart 100 Years: One Woman's Fight for Justice. 
The eye-opening documentary was directed by Melinda Janko, who skillfully chronicled the landmark legal case in rather riveting fashion. Overall, a very moving tribute to an intrepid crusader who not only spoke truth to power but miraculously emerged victorious.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 75 minutes
Production Studios: Fire in the Belly Productions / Kavana Entertainment

To see a trailer for 100 Years: One Woman's Fight for Justice, visit: https://vimeo.com/183086246

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening April 20, 2018

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun 
by Kam Williams



Duck Duck Goose (PG for rude humor and mild action) Animated parable about a bachelor goose (Jim Gaffigan) who matures enough to serve as a surrogate father to a couple of ducklings (Lance Lim and Zendaya) he accidentally separates from their flock. Voice cast includes Reggie Watts, Jennifer Grey and Carl Reiner.

I Feel Pretty (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity and partial nudity) Split personality comedy about an insecure Plain Jane (Amy Schumer) who suddenly becomes convinced she's the prettiest woman on the planet after falling and hitting her head. With Michelle Williams, Emily Ratajkowski, Aidy Bryant, Lauren Hutton and Naomi Campbell.

Super Troopers 2 (R for crude humor, pervasive profanity, coarse sexuality, drug use and graphic nudity) Sequel to the 2001 cult comedy finds the Broken Lizard comedy troupe reprising their roles as inept Vermont state troopers in a madcap adventure revolving around a border war between the U.S. and Canada. Co-starring Jay Chandrasekhar, Paul Soter, Steve Lemme, Erik Stolhanske and Kevin Heffernan, with a cameo appearance by Fred Savage as himself.

Traffik (R for violence, sexuality, drug use, disturbing images and pervasive profanity) Suspense thriller about two couples (Paula Patton and Omar Epps, and Roselyn Sanchez and Laz Alonso) whose getaway weekend at a lair isolated in the mountains is rudely interrupted by the arrival of a violent biker gang. With Luke Goss, Missi Pyle and William Fitchner.


After Auschwitz (Unrated) Holocaust documentary belatedly recounting the trauma experienced by a half-dozen survivors who had been evacuated to the U.S. and pressured to suffer in silence without ever discussing the horrors they'd witnessed in Hitler's death camps.

The Devil and Father Amorth (Unrated) The Exorcist's William Friedkin directed this chilling documentary chronicling an epic battle between good vs. evil which finds an intrepid Catholic priest performing his ninth exorcism on a deranged woman possessed by demons. (In English and Italian with subtitles)

Dolphins (G) Disney nature documentary, narrated by Owen Wilson, about a pod of porpoises' most rebellious young pup.

Godard Mon Amour (Unrated) Romantic dramedy, set in Paris in '67, recounting the love which blossomed during the shooting of La Chinoise between director Jean-Luc Godard (Louis Garrel) and a teen actress (Stacy Martin) young enough to be his daughter. With Berenice Bejo, Gregory Gadebois and Micha Lescot. (In French, English and Italian with subtitles)

Mercury 13 (Unrated) Dashed dreams documentary profiling the 13 female pilots who passed NASA's astronaut test with flying colors in 1961 only to ultimately be refused admission to the exclusive boys' club.

Pass Over (Unrated) Spike Lee and Danya Taymor co-directed this filmed play about a couple of homeless black men (John Michael Hill and Julian Parker) shooting the breeze on a dangerous street corner on the South Side of Chicago. Supporting cast includes Ryan Hallahan and Blake DeLong.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Naomie Harris

The “Rampage” Interview
with Kam Williams

A Charming Chat with Oscar-Nominee Naomie!

Naomie Harris was recently seen in the Academy Award-winning Best Picture, MOONLIGHT. Naomie was nominated for an Oscar, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA Award for her tour de force performance as the protagonist's mother, Paula.

She is set to appear next in director Andy Serkis’ feature adventure, MOWGLI, as a member of a stellar cast that includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett. The film is slated to be released in the fall of this year.

Naomie reprised her role as Moneypenny in the latest installment of the James Bond franchise, SPECTRE, opposite Daniel Craig. She was first seen as the iconic character in SKYFALL, directed by Sam Mendes, which won the 2013 BAFTA Film Award for Outstanding British Film and went on to be Sony Pictures’ highest-grossing film ever, with a worldwide box office of over $918 million.

In 2013, she played Winnie Mandela in MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM, opposite Idris Elba. Her other screen credits include: COLLATERAL BEAUTY, opposite Will Smith; OUR KIND OF TRAITOR, opposite Ewan McGregor; Antoine Fuqua’s SOUTHPAW, opposite Jake Gyllenhaal; THE FIRST GRADER; SEX & DRUGS & ROCK & ROLL; PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END; PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST; MIAMI VICE; AFTER THE SUNSET; and 28 DAYS LATER.

Here, she talks about co-starring with Dwayne Johnson in RAMPAGE, an action-oriented monster flick set in Chicago.

Kam Williams: Hi Naomie. I'm honored to have another opportunity to speak with you.
Naomie Harris: Oh, it's an honor to speak with you, too, Kam.

KW: This is my first interview with you since your Oscar nomination for Moonlight. Congratulations!
NH: Thank you so much. That's really sweet!

KW: You really did a phenomenal job of disappearing into that role. And because of the picture's modest budget, you had to cram all your scenes into three days of shooting.
NH: Yes, we only had three days, which actually turned out to be wonderful because instead of waiting around in a trailer, I got to spend all my time working.

KW: All the buzz after the premiere the other night was about your gold dress.
NH: Really?

KW: Yes! It was stunning! Who's the designer?
NH: Miu Miu.

KW: Who designed your accoutrements?
NH: I wore David Webb jewelry and shoes by Jimmy Choo.

KW: Well, it all blended beautifully.
NH: Thanks, Kam. I'll tell my stylist.

KW: What interested you in Rampage?
NH: In Moonlight, I had such a dark, harrowing role. Coming off of that film, I wanted to do something relatively lighthearted that would offer me the opportunity to have fun. I also wanted to work with Beau [Flynn] again. He produced my first Hollywood movie [After the Sunset]. I've always loved Beau and admired his work. And Brad [Peyton] is a very passionate director who got me so excited by his enthusiasm that i couldn't wait to start working on the project. It was almost contagious. I knew that working with him was going to be a lot of fun. That turned out to be true, since every day was quite an adventure on the set. He's an amazing human being and a fantastic director. and then there was The Rock! I wanted to work with Dwayne [Johnson]. He's a rarity in how he exudes such charisma and appeals to the entire family: men, women and children alike. So, I was very eager to work with him as well.

KW: He and Brad have a successful track record together, having collaborated on San Andreas and Journey 2.
NH: Yes, I observed a wonderful bond and a great shorthand between them which was very helpful and great to see on set.

KW: I loved those light moments, like when Dwayne's character moans, "Of course, the wolf flies."
NH: I know. They're fantastic!

KW: I enjoyed this monster movie more than The Shape of Water. Rampage went in the direction I was hoping Shape was headed.
NH: That's funny. That would've made it a completely different kind of film.

KW: Did you play the Rampage video game growing up?
NH: No, I didn't play it as a child. I wasn't really a gamer. But I love the nods to the game sprinkled throughout the movie. A lot of the computer game's fans are going to appreciate that.

KW: What was it like acting opposite Jason Liles, the motion capture performer who played George, the giant albino gorilla?
NH: It was great, because I thought we'd just have a tennis ball or a gorilla head, if we were lucky, to act off of, because that's what you normally get in this kind of movie. But Brad felt that we needed something more substantial to react to, so he brought on Jason who gave a fantastic performance. He was so emotive and really gave us a lot to react to.

KW: Despite being classically-trained at the Old Vic [in Bristol], you're no stranger to the action genre. I first interviewed you for Ninja Assassin and later for the Bond flick Skyfall.
NH: [Giggles] Ninja Assassin! That's really going back a ways. The stunt work for that film was much more demanding and involved a lot more training. And I also ended up with a lot more bruises. Rampage was much kinder on my body, since most of the acting was against a green screen. 
KW: I recently read the announcement that they're doing Bond 25. You must be excited about that.
NH: Yes, I'm really, really excited! Kam, you know that most of the time spent as an actor you're sort of a gypsy, traveling around the world. You don't really belong anywhere, in a sense. You uproot your life and, in this case, go off to Atlanta, where we shot Rampage. After three or four months there, you come back home for a while before heading somewhere else. there's very little continuity. What I like about Bond is how it offers me a kind of family that I get to return to. I really love that feeling and everybody involved.

KW: Do the 007 movies involve much travel?
NH: Not for me. The guys flew all over the world for Spectre, but I shot all of my scenes in London.

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?
NH: [LOL] There's a huge difference because the person on the red carpet has had a whole village of people help her get ready, and done her hair and makeup, and put wonderful clothes on her. The person I am at home is much, much simpler. I'm a jeans, t-shirt and trainers girl. Yeah, that's how I roll most days. I'm very, very casual.

KW: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
NH: You're really into fashion, Kam, aren't you? I don't have one particular favorite. I love mixing up designers like Calvin Klein, Peter Pilotto and Mary Katrantzou.

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
NH: I love musicals. My favorite film of all time is The Sound of Music. I'd love to take part in a remake of West Side Story or what have you. But I can't sing, and I can't dance, so I don't think there's much hope for me, really.

KW: Finally, Samuel L. Jackson asks: What’s in your wallet?
NH: What’s in my wallet? Omigosh! And my driver's license, obviously. My credit cards and a bit of cash. I even have an old library card in there as well.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Naomie, and best of luck with the film.
NH: It's been lovely hearing your voice again, Kam.

To see a trailer for Rampage, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coOKvrsmQiI

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


Film Review by Kam Williams

Mutant Monsters Decimate the Windy City in Old-Fashioned Horror Flick

Hey, sci-fi fans, did you find it hard to stomach the sight of a human mating with another species in The Shape of Water, too? If so, have I got a movie that'll wash the bad taste right out of your mouth. 
Call me shallow, but I much prefer this old-fashioned monster flick. Loosely based on the video game of the same name, Rampage is reminiscent of campy Japanese classics like Godzilla (1954), King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) and Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964).

But instead of decimating Tokyo, the gargantuan creatures here have their sights set on the Windy City. Another significant difference is that Rampage is a big-budget spectacular that relies heavily on CGI and state-of-the-art special f/x.

Otherwise, you know the drill. Some ordinary animals morph into mammoth, man-eating beasts in the wake of a scientific experiment gone terribly wrong. In this case, we have a wolf, a crocodile and an albino gorilla mutating into alpha predators.

The anthropomorphic primate actually has a name, George (Jason Liles). That's because he was raised in captivity by Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson), an ape-whisperer stationed in Rwanda where he heads an anti-poaching unit dedicated to the preservation of endangered species. 
However, he makes a beeline to Chicago as soon as he receives word that the enormous animals have begun wreaking havoc. There, he joins forces with Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), a disgraced geneticist in need of redemption with access to an antidote. But before the cure can be administered, brace yourself for generous helpings of horror fare, ranging from the scaling of skyscrapers, to mass hysteria in mob scenes, to my favorite, helicopters swallowed whole.

Rampage marks the third time director Brad Peyton has collaborated with Dwayne Johnson following the equally-bombastic Journey 2 (2012) and San Andreas (2015). The capable supporting cast includes Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Malin Akerman and Joe Manganiello. 
For all the visually-captivating action sequences, what I enjoyed most about Rampage was the comic relief coming courtesy of the hero, and invariably in the middle of major mayhem, as if to remind everybody that we're just watching a movie. After a sightseeing boat filled with tourists flips over, Davis says, "Well, that sucks." Then, when an iconic building is flattened, it's, "I need a drink." And as a menacing creature unexpectedly takes flight, he matter-of-factly moans, "Of course, the wolf flies." 
Not only breathtaking stunts but perfect comedic timing from a beefy action star at the top of his game!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, mass destruction, brief profanity and obscene gestures
Running time: 107 minutes
Production Studios: Wrigley Pictures / Twisted Media / Flynn Picture Company
Distributor: New Line Cinema

To see a trailer for Rampage, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coOKvrsmQiI

Monday, April 9, 2018


Film Review by Kam Williams

Grieving Diplomat Returns to Kill Zone in Raw-Edged Revenge Thriller

In 1972, Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm) was a career U.S. diplomat delighted to be serving his country overseas in Lebanon. In fact, he and his wife Nadia (Leila Bekhti) were so comfortable living in the Middle East that they had decided to adopt Karim (Idir Chender), a 13 year-old Palestinian refugee.

This, despite the fact that the destabilized region had a history of easily falling into a state of unrest where warring factions remained on edge for months, if not years. As a seasoned veteran, Mason had become fast on his feet and knew to keep the lines of communication open because the fighting starts once the talking stops.

However, that philosophy proved futile the fateful day that a colleague, Cal Riley (Mark Pellegrino), arrived with some shocking news. He announced that Karim could be a security risk since his older brother was Abu Rajal (Hicham Ouraqa), an infamous terrorist who had just taken part in the massacre of 11 Jewish athletes participating in the Summer Olympics staged in Munich. 
Before Mason had a chance to react, gunmen burst into the house and start taking hostages. By the time the dust settled, Karim had disappeared and Nadia lay dead with a bullet in her head. Therefore, Mason never got a chance to discern whether the orphan they had welcomed into the family with open arms was secretly a radical Islamist.

Fast-forward a decade, and we find the still-grieving Mason addicted to alcohol while pursuing a totally different line of work in Boston. Then, he receives word that his old pal Cal has just been kidnapped in Lebanon. It doesn't take much for the U.S. State Department to coax him out of retirement. But can Mason lay off the booze, and does he still have what it takes to handle such a sensitive assignment? 
That is the intriguing premise established at the outset of Beirut, an edge-of-the-seat, political thriller cleverly crafted by Oscar-nominee Tony Gilroy (for Michael Clayton). The picture was directed by Brad Anderson and features a top flight cast that includes Jon Hamm, Rosamund Pike, Dean Norris and Shea Whigham.

The plot thickens upon Mason's landing in Lebanon when he learns that the mastermind he must deal with is none other than the now-grown Karim, who is willing to exchange Cal for his missing brother, rumored to be languishing in an Israeli prison. A raw, super-realistic tale of revenge, set in a godforsaken kill zone not on this critic's bucket list.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, violence and a nude image
In English and Arabic with subtitles
Running time: 109 minutes
Production Studios: Radar Pictures / ShivHans Pictures / Kasbah - Film Tanger
Distributor: Bleecker Street Media

To see a trailer for Beirut, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SagsqxiVStM

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Top Ten DVD List for April 10, 2018

by Kam Williams

This Week's DVD Releases

Phantom Thread [Daniel Day-Lewis' Swan Song]

Molly's Game [High-Stakes Poker Thriller]

All the Money in the World [Getty Kidnapping Revisited]

The Greatest Showman [P.T. Barnum-Inspired Musical]

Braven [Jason Momoa Action Thriller]

The Wonder Years [The Complete Series]

Jasper Jones [Based on the Award-Winning Aussie Novel]

Proud Mary [Taraji P. Henson Kicking Butt]

Father Figures [The Ultimate Paternity Quest]

Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke [40th Anniversary Edition]

Honorable Mention

Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds [Korean Reincarnation Thriller]

Gone Are the Days [There's Always Time for One Last Ride]

Forever My Girl [Find Your Way Back Home]

Understanding the Opioid Epidemic [Examines Drugs' Devastating Impact]

The New York Cantors [In Concert in Amsterdam] 

Victorian Rebel: Marianne North [Feminist Painter's Biopic]

WordWorld: Let's Eat [Reading Aid for Preschoolers]

Wild Kratts: Madagascar Madness