Friday, December 14, 2018

Ben Is Back

 

Film Review by Kam Williams


Addict Unexpectedly Arrives Home for Christmas in Dysfunctional Family Drama

Holly (Julia Roberts) and Neal (Courtney B. Vance) are raising a family in a quaint country home in upstate New York ostensibly far removed from the sort of woes which plague the inner city. It's Christmas Eve, and we meet Holly in church where she's patiently watching three of her four kids practicing for the Christmas pageant.

However, looks can be deceiving, since missing from the idyllic picture is her eldest child, Ben (Lucas Hedges). For, the troubled 19 year-old has been living at a drug rehab center where he's managed to keep clean for the past 77 days. 
 
But Ben has left the facility without permission to be with the folks over the holidays. And the trouble starts when he breaks into the house when nobody's there upon his arrival. 
 
Understandably, Holly and Neal have different reactions to Ben's return. She naively welcomes her Prodigal Son with open arms. Meanwhile, his African-American stepdad is very skeptical about allowing the addict to stay, pointing out that, if he were black, he'd probably be in prison rather than a halfway house. 
 
Neal's not only concerned about the prospect of Ben using again, but about the welfare of Lacey (Mia Fowler) and Liam (Jakari Fraser), his impressionable, young offspring with Holly. By contrast, teenage stepdaughter Ivy (Kathryn Newton) is well aware of Ben's tendency to relapse, and is dead set against an impromptu reunion.

Unfortunately, headstrong Holly gets the final say. Against her better judgment and Ben's own warning that he can't be trusted, she agrees to a one-day visit. What ensues is a harrowing 24-hour nightmare the gullible mom will come to regret.

Thus unfolds Ben Is Back, a timely cautionary tale written and directed by Peter Hedges (Pieces of April). It stars his son Lucas in the title role opposite Julia Roberts who proves quite convincing as a mom in denial who becomes increasingly frazzled over the course of the misadventure. 
 
As chilling a depiction of the suburban opioid epidemic as you are apt to find onscreen.


Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for drug use and pervasive profanity
Running time: 103 minutes
Production Studio: Black Bear Pictures / 30 West / Color Force
Studio: LD Entertainment / Roadside Attractions / Lionsgate

To see a trailer for Ben Is Back, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MI9NdYktzfE

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening December 21, 2018


Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun  
by Kam Williams

OPENING THIS WEEK



WIDE RELEASES



Aquaman (PG-13 for action, violence and some profanity) Jason Momoa stars as the legendary DC character in this origins tale which finds the reluctant superhero forced to face his destiny as king of Atlantis in order to defend the underwater kingdom and the rest of the planet from his power-hungry half-brother (Patrick Wilsson). With Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren, Djimon Hounsou and Nicole Kidman.



Ben Is Back (R for drug use and pervasive profanity) Lucas Hedges plays the title character in this coming-of-age drama about a troubled teen who arrives home unexpectedly on Christmas Eve after running away from a drug treatment center. With Julia Roberts, Courtney B. Vance and Kathryn Newton.



Bumblebee (PG-13 for action and violence) Spinoff of the Transformers franchise revolving around the adventures of a young autobot (Dylan O'Brien) resuscitated by an 18 year-old (Hailee Steinfeld) after being found battle-scarred and broken in a junkyard along the California coast. Cast includes John Cena, Angela Bassett, Len Cariou and Justin Theroux.


The Favourite (R for profanity, nudity and graphic sexuality) Olivia Colman portrays Queen Anne (1665-1714) in this biopic revolving around the bitter battle between the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) and a servant (Emma Stone) for the frail monarch's friendship and affections. With Emma Delves, Faye Daveney and Paul Swaine.



Mary Poppins Returns (PG for mature themes and brief action) Emily Blunt assumes the title role in this musical sequel which finds the magical nanny reunited with the now-grown Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer) in the wake of a family tragedy. With Lin-Manuel Miranda, Colin Firth and Meryl Streep.



Second Act (PG-13 for profanity and crude sexual references) Fish-out-of-water comedy about a 40 year-old sales clerk (Jennifer Lopez) who lands a dream job she isn't qualified for with help of a doctored resume. Cast includes Milo Ventimiglia, Vanessa Hudgens and Charlyne Yi.



Welcome to Marwen (PG-13 for violence, profanity, mature themes, disturbing images and suggestive content) Fact-based drama about a transvestite (Steve Carell) left with amnesia after a violent, bias attack who tries to recover his memory by building a miniature World War II village in his back yard. Support cast includes Janelle Monae, Leslie Mann, Diane Kruger and Eiza Gonzalez. (In English, French and German with subtitles)






INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS


Cold War (R for sexuality, nudity and profanity) Romance drama, set behind the Iron Curtain in the 1950s, chronicling the unlikely relationship of a celebrated musical director (Tomasz Kot) and an aspiring, young singer (Joanna Kulig) from a humble background. With Borys Szyc, Agata Kulesza and Cedric Kahn. (In Polish, French, Russian, German, Italian and Croatian)


Swing Kids (Unrated) Musical drama, set at an American POW camp during the Korean War, revolving around a rebellious prisoner (Oh Jung-Se) who forms a tap dancing team with the help of a guard (Jared Grimes) who once worked on Broadway. Cast includes Ross Kettle, Hye-soo Park and Matthew Darcy. (In Korean with subtitles)


They Shall Not Grow Old (R for graphic images) World War I documentary, directed by Peter Jackson, featuring unseen footage and commemorating the centennial of the conflict.




Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening December 14, 2018


Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams
 
OPENING THIS WEEK


WIDE RELEASES


The Favourite (R for profanity, nudity and graphic sexuality) Olivia Colman portrays Queen Anne (1665-1714) in this biopic revolving around the bitter battle between the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) and a servant (Emma Stone) for the frail monarch's friendship and affections. With Emma Delves, Faye Daveney and Paul Swaine.


If Beale Street Could Talk (R for profanity and sexuality) Adaptation of James Baldwin's classic novel, set in Harlem, revolving around a pregnant teenager's (Kiki Layne) efforts to free her fiance' (Stephan James) falsely accused of rape. With Regina King, Teyonah Parris and Colman Domingo.



Mortal Engines (PG-13 for action and violence) Post-apocalyptic sci-fi about a fugitive assassin (Hera Hilmar) who joins forces with an outcast (Robert Sheehan) and an outlaw (Jihae) to lead the resistance when the city of London morphs into a giant predator on wheels. With Hugo Weaving, Stephen Lang and Leila George.



The Mule (R for brief nudity and sexuality, and pervasive profanity) Clint Eastwood directed and stars in this crime thriller about a broke World War II vet who unknowingly agrees to transport $3 million in cocaine across Michigan for a Mexican drug cartel. Ensemble cast includes Bradley Cooper, Michael Pena, Laurence Fishburne, Alison Eastwood, Taissa Farmiga and Dianne Wiest.



Roma (R for profanity, graphic nudity and disturbing images) Upstairs/downstairs drama, set in Mexico in 1970, chronicling a year in the life of a middle-class family's maid (Yalitza Aparicio). With Marina de Tavira, Carlos Peralta and Marco Graf. (In Spanish with subtitles)



Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (PG for action, violence, mature themes and mild epithets) Animated reboot of the Marvel Comics franchise revolving around the adventures of a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man (Shameik Moore) from Brooklyn, who is a half-black/half Puerto Rican teen. Voice cast includes Mahershala Ali, Hailee Steinfeld, Lily Tomlin, Nicolas Cage, Zoe Kravitz and Chris Pine.






INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS


Capernaum (R for profanity and drug use) Coming-of-age tale about a young Lebanese boy (Zain al Rafeea) who sues his parents (Fadi Yousef and Kawsar Al Haddad) for neglect while serving a 5-year sentence for attempted murder. With Yordanos Shiferaw, Cedra Izam and Nadine Labaki. (In Arabic and Amharic with subtitles)


The House That Jack Built (R for nudity, profanity, grisly images, sadistic behavior and disturbing violence) Matt Dillon plays the title character in this suspense thriller about an architect/serial killer reflecting upon each of the murders he had painstakingly-planned over the course of his 12-year spree. Supporting cast includes Bruno Ganz, Uma Thurman and Riley Keough. (In English, German and Italian with subtitles)


The Second Time Around (Unrated) Romance drama about a couple of senior citizens (Linda Thorson and Stuart Margolin) who fall in love upon meeting at a retirement home. With Alexis Harrison, Jayne Eastwood and Don Francks.


The Wedding (Unrated) Romance drama, set in NYC, about a virgin bride-to-be (Nikohl Boosheri) who has no idea her orthodox Muslim fiance' (Sam Abbas) has a gay lover (Harry Aspinwall). With Hend Ayoub, James Penfold and Mihir Chitale. (In English and Arabic with subtitles)




Widows


Film Review by Kam Williams



The Windy City Serves as Setting for Adaptation of Brit Crime Series

Widows was a British TV series which enjoyed a two-year run from 1983 to 1985. Created by legendary English author Lynda La Plante (Prime Suspect), the popular crime show was nominated for a BAFTA award in the Best Television Drama category. In 2002, ABC turned Widows into a four-part miniseries starring Brooke Shields and Rosie Perez, but that substantially-revised overhaul failed to resonate with the American audience.

Now, Academy Award-winning director Steve McQueen (for 12 Years a Slave) has brought a much more faithful adaptation to the screen, although the setting has been shifted from London to Chicago. The crime caper revolves around a trio of widows who opt to follow in their late husbands' felonious footsteps in the wake of a botched bank heist.

McQueen assembled an A-list ensemble featuring Oscar-winners Viola Davis (for Fences) and Robert Duvall (for Tender Mercies), as well as nominees Liam Neeson (for Schindler's List), Daniel Kaluuya (for Get Out) and Jacki Weaver (for Silver Linings Playbook and Animal Kingdom). The impressive cast also includes Colin Farrell and Michelle Rodriguez.

Not long past the point of departure, veteran bank robber Harry Rawlings (Neeson) masterminds a robbery in which he and his partners perish. Trouble is, Harry died indebted to a couple of South Side mobsters (Kaluuya and Brian Tyree Henry) to the tune of $2 million. 

Given a month to come up with cash (or else), Harry's widow Veronica (Davis) hatches a plan to raise the money by burglarizing a safe in the mansion of a well-connected family headed by corrupt, Windy City Alderman Tom Mulligan (Duvall). To that end, she recruits a couple of the other grieving widows (Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki) and a getaway driver (Cynthia Erivo) with promises of a multimillion-dollar payday.

The plot proceeds to thicken in convincing fashion while touching on such timely themes as politics, loyalty, race and class. Since it would be a crime in itself to spoil the ensuing developments even one iota, suffice to say McQueen slowly ratchets up the tension in a searing, multi-layered suspense thriller not to be missed.

With the help of a delicious script expertly executed by a coterie of her talented co-stars, the incomparable Ms. Davis steals the show and delivers yet another Oscar-quality performance. Vintage Viola!


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for violence, sexuality, nudity and pervasive profanity
In English and Spanish with subtitles
Running time: 129 minutes
Production Studios: Regency Enterprises / Film4 / See-Saw Films / New Regency Pictures
Studio: 20th Century Fox

To see a trailer for Widows, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN2yBBSRC78

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening December 7, 2018

 
 Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun  
by Kam Williams

OPENING THIS WEEK


WIDE RELEASES

Mary Queen of Scots (R for violence and sexuality) Saoirse Ronan plays the title role in this costume drama based on John Guy's best-selling biography chronicling the charismatic monarch's turbulent reign. With Margot Robbie, Gemma Chan and David Tennant.



Schindler's List (R for profanity, sexuality and some violence) 25th anniversary re-release of Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning biopic about a German factory owner (Liam Neeson) whose altruistic heroics during World War II saved 1,200 Jews from the Holocaust. Cast includes Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes and Caroline Goodall. (In English, German, Hebrew and Polish with subtitles)



INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS


Ben Is Back (R for drug use and pervasive profanity) Lucas Hedges plays the title character in this coming-of-age drama about a troubled teen who arrives home unexpectedly on Christmas Eve after running away from a drug treatment center. With Julia Roberts, Courtney B. Vance and Kathryn Newton.


Central Park (Unrated) Genre-bending horror flick about a half-dozen, high school BFFs who end up on the run from a knife-wielding, hooded executioner when they decide to spend a night partying in the park. Ensemble cast includes Grace Van Patten, Ruby Modine, David Valcin and Nicole Balsam.
The Charmer (Unrated) Romance drama, set in Denmark, about an Iranian refugee (Ardalan Esmaili) desperate to seduce a woman who can solidify his immigration status. Featuring Susan Taslimi, Lars Brygmann and Soho Rezanejad. (In English, Persian and Danish with subtitles)


Clara's Ghost (Unrated) Paula Niedert Elliott plays the title character in this dysfunctional family dramedy as a woman who finds solace in a supernatural spirit when she gets fed up with her self-absorbed relatives. With Chris Elliott, Haley Joel Osment and Bella Bracken.


Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes (Unrated) Warts-and-all biopic chronicling the rise and fall of the late, longtime chairman of Fox Television/adviser to Presidents Reagan, Bushes 41 and 43, and Donald Trump. Featuring commentary by Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly.


Great Great Great (Unrated) Romance drama about a couple (Dan Beirne and Sarah Kolasky) whose blissful relationship starts to fall apart after they get engaged. Support cast includes Richard Clarkin, Lindsay Leese and Ian Fisher.


The Great Pretender (Unrated) Romantic romp, set in NYC, revolving around a French playwright (Maelle Poesy-Guichard) who falls for the star (Keith Poulson) playing her ex in her stage version of their failed relationship. With Linas Phillips, Esther Garrel and Julian Grady. (In English and French with subtitles)


Swimming with Men (Unrated) Mid-life crisis comedy about a miserably-married and jaded accountant (Rob Brydon) who gets a new lease on life when he joins an all-male, synchronized swimming team. Supporting cast includes Rupert Graves, Thomas Turgoose and Adeel Akhtar.


Tyrel (Unrated) Jason Mitchell portrays the title character in this fish-out-of-water drama about an African-American who feels uncomfortable being the only black person attending a lily-white, weekend birthday party in the Catskills. With Christopher Abbott, Trust Arancio and Max Born.


Vox Lux (R for profanity, drug use and graphic violence) Musical drama, set in 1999, chronicling the transformation of an aspiring singer (Raffey Cassidy) into a pop icon with the help of her manager (Jude Law) and songwriter sister (Stacy Martin). With Natalie Portman, Jennifer Ehle and Christopher Abbott.






Monday, December 10, 2018

Green Book

Film Review by Kam Williams

Black Pianist Tours Segregated South with White Chauffeur in Road Trip Dramedy


Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) was a promising prodigy whose formal training in classical piano began when he was admitted to Russia's prestigious Leningrad Conservatory at the age of 9. Because he had the misfortune of being raised in Florida in the Jim Crow Era, it was very unlikely that his extraordinary talent would be appreciated anywhere in the South upon his return to the States.

The North was decidedly different. While still in his teens, Don was invited by conductor Arthur Fielder to perform with the Boston Pops Orchestra. He would later compose symphonies for the New York Philharmonic and was even allowed to rent an apartment above Carnegie Hall. 
 
In the early Sixties, Don decided to throw caution to the wind by embarking on an eight-week concert tour across the Deep South. This would involve playing numerous “white only” venues where, despite being the headliner, he might not be able to dine or use the restroom.

As far as finding a place to stay, he would turn to the Green Book, a priceless guide for African-Americans in need of public accommodations across the segregated South. And to make sure he kept out of trouble on the road, he hired Tony Lip Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), a blue-collar bouncer from the Bronx.

Thus unfolds Green Book, a fact-based buddy flick revisiting the unlikely friendship forged between a stuffy classical artist and his rough-edged driver in the face of their racial and class differences. The movie represents a bit of a departure for director Peter Farrelly, whose name has long been associated with lowbrow comedies like Dumb and Dumber, Shallow Hal and There's Something about Mary.

The relatively-sophisticated Green Book proves to be far more reminiscent of Driving Miss Daisy (1989) than of Farrelly's earlier bottom-feeding fare. In fact, the palpable chemistry generated by co-stars Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen will not be forgotten by the Academy come Oscar season.

A touching biopic with a timely universal message about brotherhood and tolerance.


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, mature themes, profanity, racial slurs, smoking and suggestive material
Running time: 130 minutes
Production Studio: Dreamworks Pictures / Amblin Partners / Innisfree Pictures / Wessler Entertainment / Participant Media /Conundrum Entertainment / Cinetic Media
Studio: Universal Pictures

To see a trailer for Green Book, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkZxoko_HC0





Kam's Kapsules for movies opening November 30, 2018

 

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams

OPENING THIS WEEK 
 


WIDE RELEASES



The Possession of Hannah Grace (R for terror and gruesome images) Kirby Johnson plays the title character in this suspense thriller about a cop (Shay Mitchell) who has horrifying visions when she starts working the graveyard shift at a city morgue. With Stana Katic, Nick Thune and Grey Damon.






INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS



Anna and the Apocalypse (R for profanity, sexuality, violence and gore) Horror comedy about a teenager (Ella Hunt) who joins forces with her BFF (Malcolm Cumming) to fight the horde of zombies invading their hometown at Christmastime. With Sarah Swire, Ben Wiggins and Mark Benton.



Bathtubs over Broadway (PG-13 for brief profanity) Quirky documentary following comedy writer Steve Young on his quest to collect rare, industrial musical albums. Featuring Florence Henderson, David Letterman, Martin Short and Chita Rivera.



Head Full of Honey (PG-13 for profanity, mature themes and suggestive material) English language adaptation of Honig im Kopf, the 2014 German film about a young woman (Sophie Lane Nolte) who takes her grandfather suffering from Alzheimer's (Nick Nolte) on a trip to Venice. With Emily Mortimer, Matt Dillon, Eric Roberts and Jacqueline Bisset.


The Man Who Mends Women (Unrated) Reverential biopic about Dr. Denis Mukwege Mukengere, the altruistic gynecologist who, for the past 20 years, has treated thousands of disfigured and traumatized rape victims of the Congo's civil war. Narrated by Martin Spinhayer, and featuring commentary by Hillary Clinton.


Mirai (PG for scary images and mature themes) Animated fantasy about a 4 year-old boy (Haru Kuroki) who discovers a magical garden which enables him to time-travel to meet relatives from different eras. Voice cast includes Gen Hoshino, Koji Yakusho and Kumiko Aso. (In Japanese with subtitles)
No Shade (Unrated) Romantic dramedy about a successful black photographer (Adele Oni) frustrated by the fact that the color of her skin is the only thing preventing the man of her dreams (Kadeem Pearse) from falling in love with her. With Sharea Samuels, Judith Jacob and Jade Asha.


People's Republic of Desire (Unrated) Cultural expose' chronicling the evolution of China into a country where virtual reality and social media have become more important than real-life human relationships. (In Mandarin with subtitles)


Sicilian Ghost Story (Unrated) Romantic fantasy about a 12 year-old girl (Julia Jedlikowska) who embarks on a search for the classmate (Gaetano Fernandez) she has a crush on after he mysteriously disappears in an enchanted forest. With Corinne Musallari, Andrea Falzone and Lorenzo Curcio. (In Italian with subtitles)


Unstoppable (Unrated) Korean crime saga about a legendary gangster (Don Lee) who comes out of retirement to rescue his kidnapped wife (Ji-hyo Song) from the clutches of a ruthless mob syndicate. Cast includes Noo-Ri Bae, Min-jae Kim and Seong-oh Kim. (In Korean with subtitles)


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Instant Family



Film Review by Kam Williams


Altruistic Couple Adopts Three Siblings in Inspirational, Real- Life Drama

Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie Wagner (Rose Byrne) are speculators who make a living flipping real estate in their hometown of Atlanta. The couple's latest acquisition is a fixer-upper with five bedrooms they hope to sell to Ellie's sister Kim (Allyn Rachel) and brother-in-law Russ (Tom Segura).
However, Kim and Russ aren't in the market for a house that needs so much work. Furthermore, they're childless with no plans to start a family. So, they simply have no use for a place that large.
Pete and Ellie don't have kids either, but they have been seriously considering adoption. In fact, they've even been checking out photos of available orphans online.
Next thing you know, they're visiting a foster care facility during an adoption fair run by administrators Karen (Octavia Spencer) and Sharon (Tig Notaro). While being escorted around the grounds, Pete hits it off with Lizzy (Isabela Moner), a headstrong, 15 year-old obviously in need of a father figure.
Trouble is, Lizzy has been serving as a surrogate mother to her little brother (Gustavo Quiroz) and sister (Julianna Gamiz), and she doesn't want to be separated from her siblings. Do the Wagners have enough love in their hearts to adopt all three?
Of course they do, and the ensuing adjustment to parenthood is the sum and substance of Instant Family, an inspirational biopic co-written and directed by Sean Anders. The semi-autobiographical adventure is based on Anders own real-life experience.
To its credit, Instant Family does tackle a variety of serious themes ranging from drug abuse, to sexual abuse, to racial tolerance, even if the issues are generally resolved fairly easily. An uplifting adventure apt to lead to an uptick in applications for adoptions.

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, drug references and mature themes
Running time: 118 minutes
Production Studio: Closest to the Hole Productions
Studio: Paramount Pictures

To see a trailer for Instant Family, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUfZq3DUd3Y




Monday, November 19, 2018

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening November 23, 2018

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
by Kam Williams



WIDE RELEASES


Creed II (PG-13 for violence, profanity and sensuality) Michael B. Jordan reprises the title role in this revenge-fueled sequel which finds the contender being trained by Rocky Balboa (Sly Stallone) for a grudge match with the son (Florian Munteanu) of the boxer (Dolph Lundgren) who killed his father (Carl Weathers) in the ring 33 years ago. With Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris and Russell Hornsby.


The Front Runner (R for profanity and sexual references) Political biopic revisiting the 1988 presidential campaign of Democrat Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) who dropped out of the race after being caught having an extramarital affair with former Miss South Carolina Donna Rice (Sara Paxton). With Vera Farmiga as Lee Hart, Michael Crider as Bob Dole, Spencer Garrett as Bob Woodward, Alfred Molina as Ben Bradlee, and Braden Bunch as Tom Brokaw.


Green Book (PG-13 for violence, mature themes, profanity, racial slurs, smoking and suggestive material) Unlikely-buddies dramedy, set in the Sixties, about the friendship forged between a black classical pianist (Mahershala Ali) and his white chauffeur (Viggo Mortensen) driving around the Deep South during Jim Crow segregation. With Linda Cardellini, Don Stark and P.J. Byrne.


Ralph Breaks the Internet (PG for action and rude humor) Buddy sequel, set six years after the original animated adventure, finds Ralph (John C. Reilly) and BFF Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) embarking on a desperate quest in search of a replacement steering wheel for a broken video game. Voice cast includes Gal Gadot, Jane Lynch and Ed O'Neill.


Robin Hood (PG-13 for action, violence and suggestive material) Taron Egerton plays the title character in this action adventure which has the legendary outlaw joining forces with a former Moorish Crusader (Jamie Foxx) to lead a revolt against a corrupt English crown. With Eve Hewson as Maid Marian, Tim Minchin as Friar Tuck and Ben Mendelsohn as the Sheriff of Nottingham.



INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS


Becoming Astrid (Unrated) Literary biopic about Astrid Lindgren (1907-2002), the Swedish author best known for the Pippi Longstocking series of children's books. (In Swedish and Danish with subtitles)


The Christmas Chronicles (Unrated) Holiday comedy about a brother (Judah Lewis) and sister (Darby Camp) who hatch a plan to catch Santa Claus (Kurt Russell) on camera on Christmas Eve. Cast includes Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Oliver Hudson and Lamorne Morris.


The Favourite (R for profanity, nudity and graphic sexuality) Olivia Colman portrays Queen Anne (1665-1714) in this biopic revolving around the bitter battle between the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) and a servant (Emma Stone) for the frail monarch's friendship and affections. With Emma Delves, Faye Daveney and Paul Swaine.


Shoplifters (R for nudity and sexuality) Crime drama, set in Tokyo, about a poor family that adopts a homeless child (Miyu Sasaki) they meet while stealing from a grocery store. Co-starring Lily Franky, Sakura Ando and Kirin Kiki. (In Japanese with subtitles)


The World before Your Feet (Unrated) New York City documentary chronicling peripatetic Matt Green's 8,000-mile walk covering every block in the Big Apple.









Sunday, November 18, 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Film Review by Kam Williams


Latest J.K. Rowling Romp Revolves around Familiar Clash of Good vs. Evil

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the second in a series of five Harry Potter prequels being written and produced by author J.K. Rowling. The movie was directed by David Yates who made the original Fantastic Beasts as well as Harry Potters 5 through 8.

Set in 1927, the film unfolds six months after the first which ended with the apprehension and imprisonment in New York City of the evil Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). However, while being transported across the proverbial pond to Europe, the dark wizard escapes his captors with the help of his minions.

Next thing you know, he's hatching a diabolical plot to establish a new world order by breeding a race of pure-blood witches and wizards to rule over all “muggles,” aka ordinary people. Ultimately, the hope for saving humanity will rest on the shoulders of the picture's protagonist, Newt Salamander (Eddie Redmayne). 
 
This good wizard is a “magizooligist,” meaning he has an army of supernatural animals at his disposal. Trouble is, Newt has been grounded by the British Ministry of Magic since inadvertently making such an embarrassing mess in the Big Apple during FB1.

Following a successful appeal of the harsh sentence, the unassuming hero's wand and travel rights are restored, setting in motion a series of events leading to an inevitable showdown with the megalomaniacal Grindelwald. Still, the deliberately-paced tale takes a number of nostalgic detours prior to the monumental clash of good vs. evil, thanks to Newt's fervent desire to remain neutral.

So, we're first treated to a string of extraneous subplots, like distracting sidebars revolving around reunions with Professor Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Newt's old flame, Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz). Diehard fans of the franchise are apt to appreciate such time-filling folderol while average audience members might grow increasingly impatient for the visually-captivating action sequences.

Overall, FB2 proves to be an entertaining episode ending on an engaging enough note to keep you curious about the next offering in J.K. Rowling's incomparable Wizarding World series.


Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for action
Running time: 134 minutes
Production Studios: Heyday Films / Warner Brothers Pictures
Studio: Warner Brothers Pictures

To see a trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bYBOVWLNIs

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Girl in the Spider's Web

 
Film Review by Kam Williams


Claire Foy Shows Her Versatility as Feminist Superhero in Reboot of Swedish Suspense Franchise

The late Stieg Larsson (1954-2004) is best remembered as the author of the Millennium trilogy of posthumously-published best sellers, all of which were eventually made into feature films (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest). His Swedish-language psychological thrillers revolved around a crime-fighting duo composed of veteran journalist Mikael Blomkvist and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander. 
 
In 2015, David Lagercrantz wrote the fourth installment in the series, “That Which Does Not Kill Us,” which was lauded as a faithful extension of the famed franchise. That book has now been adapted to the big screen as The Girl in the Spider's Web.

Directed by Fede Alvarez (Don't Breathe), the film co-stars Claire Foy as Lisbeth and Sverrir Gudnason as Mikael. Foy, who won an Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth on The Crown. And she's recently been getting a lot of Oscar buzz for her critically-acclaimed portrayal of astronaut Neil Armstrong's stoic wife, Janet, in First Man.

Here, the versatile thespian exhibits an impressive acting range in a demanding role where she plays a traumatized, incest survivor-turned-righteous vigilante. This incarnation of Lisbeth is not only a brainy, IT expert but a seemingly invincible heroine with an extraordinary set of fighting, driving and survival skills.

As the film unfolds, we find Lisbeth and her sister Camilla (Sylvia Hoeks) being molested by their father as youngsters. The former makes a daring escape from their snow-capped, mountaintop home, saving herself, but leaving her little sis behind to be violated by the monster for years.

Fast-forward to present-day Stockholm where vengeful Lisbeth is in the midst of unleashing a string of sadistic vigilante attacks against some of the city's worst misogynists. However, the plot makes a sharp turn into world politics when she and sidekick Mikael are recruited to disable a dangerous computer program developed by America's National Security Agency capable of sabotaging other countries' nuclear defense systems.

What ensues is a grisly game of cat-and-mouse played by spies equipped with state-of-the-art gadgetry. As the body count escalates, the relentless bloodletting is presented in such a stylized fashion that it's never really upsetting until the humdinger of a reveal during the dramatic denouement. 
 
Kudos to Claire Foy for oh so convincingly reimagining Lisbeth Salander as a cartoonish, feminist superhero on the order of Wonder Woman!


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for violence, profanity, sexuality and nudity
Running time: 117 minutes
Production Studio: MGM / Columbia Pictures / Pascal Pictures / Yellow Bird / Scott Rudin Productions / The Cantillon Company / Regency Enterprises
Studio: Columbia Pictures

To see a trailer for The Girl in the Spider's Web, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKMSP9OKspQ


Monday, November 5, 2018

Nobody's Fool

Film Review by Kam Williams


Classy and Trashy Sisters Square Off in Fish-Out-of-Water Comedy

Danica (Tika Sumpter) and Tanya (Tiffany Haddish) may have been raised by the same mother (Whoopi Goldberg), but they're still as different as night and day. The former is a successful businesswoman who was recently promoted to Vice President of a leading, Madison Avenue advertising firm. By contrast, the latter has spent the last five years behind bars while her sis was climbing the corporate ladder. 

Against her better judgment, Danica decides to take Tanya under her wing when she's paroled. So, she not only lets the hot ghetto mess move into her upscale crib but helps her land a gig as a barista at a trendy coffee shop. 
 
Trouble is, the prison-hardened Tanya is so rough around the edges that she has no idea how to behave in polite society. Consequently, she can often be found cursing, flirting, menacing and hurling racial slurs behind the counter indiscriminately.

Tanya should thank her lucky stars that her gentlemanly boss, Frank (Omari Hardwick), has a crush on her sister. Otherwise, her job might be in jeopardy. Too bad Danica's already in a relationship with a shady character (Mehcad Brooks) she's never met and has only interacted with over the internet, or she might give Mr. Right a chance.

Thus unfolds Nobody's Fool, a fish-out-of-water comedy written and directed by Tyler Perry. Tyler's films invariably feature a sassy, trash-talking sister, whether played by him in drag as Madea or, as in this case, by an actual actress, the irrepressible Tiffany Haddish.

Haddish has been hotter than a pistol since stealing every scene in Girls Trip a year ago. Since then, she's hosted Saturday Night Live and co-starred in Uncle Drew, The Oath and Night School.

The problem with Nobody's Fool is that it feels like Tiffany briefly parachuted in to do her crude shtick and split without worrying about developing any chemistry with the rest of the cast. Yes, she is the comedienne of the moment and, if all you're looking for is her coarse act, there's plenty of that lowbrow fare to enjoy.

But when Haddish is not lighting up the screen with her over-the-top antics, what's left is just a predictable, poorly-plotted, Tyler Perry morality play.


Fair (1 star)
Rated R for sexuality, drug use, ethnic slurs and pervasive profanity
Running time: 110 minutes
Production Studio: Tyler Perry Studios / BET Films / Paramount Players
Studio: Paramount Pictures

To see a trailer for Nobody's Fool, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTxSbKLVnvQ

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody

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Film Review by Kam Williams


Riveting Rocktrospective Chronicles the Meteoric Rise of Queen

Prior to seeing Bohemian Rhapsody, I knew precious little about the rock group Queen. Sure, I'd enjoyed lots of their pop hits like “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Another One Bites the Dust,” but I was totally unaware of the legendary, British band's back story.

It was founded in the early Seventies by guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee), drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzallo) and lead singer Farrokh Bulsara, aka Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek). The film fittingly revolves around the flamboyant front man with a four-octave vocal range who also came up with the suggestive name Queen.

Born in Zanzibar and of Persian descent, Freddie's family fled to England when he was 17 to escape ethnic cleansing. In London, he met Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), the woman he would forever consider the love of his life, despite the fact that he was homosexual.

For years, she would serve as the rock Freddie returned to whenever Queen came off the road, until the philandering, flirtatious cross-dresser finally confessed to being gay. Out of the closet, he was suddenly free to engage in the sort of risky sexual behavior that could could catch up with you at the inception of the AIDS epidemic.

Meanwhile, Queen continued to crank out such rock-and-roll anthems as “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.” Eventually, an ailing Freddie would abandon his band mates for a solo career that failed to take off. 
 
All of the above is recounted in fascinating fashion in Bohemian Rhapsody, a riveting rocktrospective directed by Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects). Whether recreating the group's concert performances or offering a peek at their offstage antics, it's always the irrepressible Freddie who's front and center.

Rami Malek delivers an unforgettable performance in a breakout role destined to be remembered come awards season.


Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, mature themes, suggestive material and drug use
Running time: 134 minutes
Production Studio: GK Films / New Regency Pictures / Queen Films Ltd. / Regency Enterprises / Tribeca Productions
Studio: 20th Century Fox

To see a trailer for Bohemian Rhapsody, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mP0VHJYFOAU





Indivisible

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Film Review by Kam Williams


Iraq War Drama Recounts Army Chaplain's Real-Life Ordeal

Soon after completing his seminary studies, Darren Turner (Justin Breuning) was commissioned as an Army Chaplain. He was assigned to Georgia's Fort Stewart, but received orders to ship out to Iraq before he and his family even had a chance to get settled.

Still, Darren and his wife, Heather (Sarah Drew) took the deployment in stride, relying heavily on their faith that he would return safely and have no trouble making the adjustment back to civilian life. This, despite evidence that neighbors like spouse-abusing Michael Lewis (Jason George) had been left severely damaged psychologically by tours of duty overseas. 
 
So, Darren naively bid Heather and their three young children adieu, oblivious of the toll that serving during the 2007 troop surge might take. Stationed at a forward operating base outside Baghdad, he would experience all the horrors of the war: sniper fire, ambushes, improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar attacks.

While Darren was spared physical injury, numerous soldiers that he ministered to were wounded or killed during the intense campaign. Against his better judgment, he routinely hid all the gruesome details of what he was witnessing from his family. 
 
Consequently, Heather came to feel that Darren was no longer connecting with her and the kids. And those suspicions were only confirmed when he arrived home after a year on the front lines. Jumpy and paranoid, the once doting husband and father was now angry, distant and mean.

Her patience wearing thin, Heather tells her husband he needs help. Ultimately, she kicks him out of the house, though praying for forgiveness for “judging something I don't understand myself.”

Thus unfolds Indivisible, a faith-based docudrama recounting the real-life fall from grace of Darren Turner. Co-written and directed by David G. Evans (The Grace Card), the compassionate biopic convincingly conveys the idea that a non-combatant like a chaplain might very well suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

What sets this film apart from most Christian-oriented fare is that its characters are more complex than those simplistically-drawn individuals typically served up by relatively heavy-handed morality plays. Homecoming from war treated as more than merely tying a yellow ribbon around an old oak tree and leaving the rest to Jesus.


Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence and mature themes
Running time: 119 minutes
Production Studio: Reserve Entertainment / WTA / Graceworks Pictures
Studio: Pure Flix / Provident Films

To see a trailer for Indivisible, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtD96nYOE3Q

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Top Ten DVD List for October 16, 2018



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by Kam Williams


This Week's DVD Releases


Ant-Man and the Wasp

Whitney

Unfriended: Dark Web

Arizona

He's Out There

Reprisal

Benched

Cold Skin

Down a Dark Hall

Boundaries