Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Call Me by Your Name

Film Review by Kam Williams

Gay Teen Seduces Dad's Doctoral Student in Adaptation of Bittersweet Bildungsroman

Dateline: Lombardy, 1983. 17 year-old Elio Perlman (Timothee Chalamet) is spending another summer in Northern Italy. Each year, Elio's dad (Michael Stuhlbarg), an archaeology professor, invites a different doctoral candidate to live with his family while serving as his research assistant.

This go-round, the lucky guest is Oliver (Armie Hammer) who happens to be both Jewish and gay. That's just fine with Elio who's in the closet and dating a local girl (Esther Garrel) when the handsome hunk arrives at the villa.

But it isn't long before the curious lad starts sending out subtle signals which 24 year-old Oliver is quick to pick up on. Next thing you know, the two are spending long stretches of time together shamelessly flirting, whether swimming in the lake, canoodling at a cafe, or taking proverbial romantic walks along the shore. 
So, despite the agonizingly-teasing, Kabuki dance of a courtship, there's never a question of whether they'll sleep together. Eventually, the relationship is consummated.during a midnight rendezvous, igniting the spark for a secret affair that will last for the balance of Oliver's stay.

Thus unfolds Call Me by Your Name, a deliberately-paced adaptation of Andre' Aciman's coming-of age novel of the same name. Directed by native Sicilian Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love), the homoerotic love story landed four Academy Award nominations in the Best Picture, Lead Actor (Timothee Chalamet), Screenplay and Song categories. 
Fair warning, the film never even addresses the questions of statutory rape likely to arise in the minds of many audience members, given today's hyper-sensitivity to sexual abuse issues. Nevertheless, this bittersweet bildungsroman deserves all the accolades its been showered with for its plausible portrayal of a gay teen apprehensive about sharing his sexual preference with his folks. 
What makes the movie memorable is the very delicate and supportive manner in which Dr. Perlman handles his son's trepidations about coming out. This seminal offering in the gay drama genre features remarkable performances by Michael Stuhlbarg, Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet, who also plays the love interest in Lady Bird. 
A visually-captivating exploration of sexual awakening in Lombardy!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, nudity and some profanity
Running time: 132 minutes
In English, Italian, French, Hebrew and German with subtitles
Production Studios: Frenesy Film Company / La Cinefacture / RT Features / Waters End Productions / M.Y.R.A. Entertainment
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

To see a trailer for Call Me by Your Name, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9AYPxH5NTM

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Where's Daddy?

Film Review by Kam Williams

Searing Expose' Indicts Child Support System as Racist and Rigged against Black Men

Today, there's a cultural consensus that the criminal justice system aggressively targets and imprisons African-Americans. Might the family courts be just as racist and rigged against black men? That is the question explored in thought-provoking fashion by Where's Daddy, a sobering indictment of the child support system directed by Rel Dowdell (Changing the Game).


Rel does double duty here, moderating dozens man in the street interviews, a la Michael Moore, conducted with brothers and sisters embroiled in custody battles. His novel, in your face style isn't always comfortable, but it yields riveting raw footage ranging from bitterness about being locked up to tearful testimony about baby-mamas spending support payments on Mercedes and their hair instead of on their kids. 

We learn that celebrities are not at all immune from child support woes. To wit, we hear from former Philadelphia Eagle receiver Arkansas Fred Barnett, journalist/author Mister Mann Frisby, comedian J'Vonne Peterson and rap artist Freeway. Again and again, someone recounts a nightmarish encounter where he felt treated as if guilty 'til proven innocent.


However, this informative documentary definitely takes an even-handed approach, with just as many criticisms being leveled at deadbeat dads as at money-grubbing moms. Regardless, the upshot is that many black males find themselves dragged before judges quick to jail any delinquent in arrears for child support. 

Besides airing the diametrically-opposed opinions of plaintiffs and defendants, director Dowdell allows an array of experts to weigh in on the subject. Their insights are often more enlightening, if a little less passionate, as they are able to reflect without axes to grind. Among the luminaries making appearances are Yesha Ministries' Bishop James D. Robinson, clinical psychologist Dr. Kathleen Walls, Ph.D., and attorneys Jermaine Harris, Brian Gordon and Shanese Johnson. 
Perhaps most poignant are the words of professor Joel Austin and physician Ralph Smith. The former describes what it was like to be handcuffed and shackled in front of his kids by sheriffs who arrived at 5 in the morning to arrest him. Meanwhile, the latter is inconsolable about being estranged from his son solely because of his ex-wife's vindictiveness.
A must-see expose' suggesting justice ain't blind, but rather inclined to dispense a color-coded brand of justice when it comes to child support.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 105 minutes
Production Studio: Artists First / Dowdell Film Company
Distributor: Breaking Glass Pictures

To see a trailer for Where's Daddy? visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3jkA32EErk

Friday, January 26, 2018

Top Ten DVD List for January 30, 2018

by Kam Williams

This Week’s DVD Releases

Black Wings [They Broke through Racial Barriers to Reach the Skies]

The Square [Oscar Nominated Best Foreign Film from Sweden]

Professor Marston & the Wonder Women [Cartoon Creator Biopic]

Slavery and the Making of America [Narrated by Morgan Freeman]

Last Flag Flying [Their Final Mission Wasn't on the Battlefield]

My Art [Poignant Aspiring Artist Portrait]

East West 101: Series 1 [Gritty Australian Crime Series]

Legend of the Naga Pearls [A Magical Fantasy Adventure from China]

Rendel: Dark Vengeance [Packed with Eye-Popping, High Octane Action]

Tyler Perry's Boo 2! A Madea Halloween [You Scurred?]

Honorable Mention

Nella: The Princess Knight [A Brave Young Heroine]

Masterpiece: Victoria [The Complete Second Season]

Christopher Kimball's Milk Street: Season 1 [Top Chefs' Cooking Secrets]

Nova: Killer Floods [Scientists Trace Giant North American Disasters]

Nova: Bird Brain [Discover the Intelligence of Birds]

Professor Marston & the Wonder Women

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Ever Wonder How Wonder Woman was Created?

William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans) was a Renaissance man with an impressive array of talents. After earning his B.A., Ph.D. and law degrees, the Harvard grad was hired to teach psychology at Radcliffe, his alma mater's sister school.Despite a demanding academic career, this jack-of-all-trades, inter alia, found time to write self-help books and to invent the precursor of the lie detector. 
To this day, however, he remains best remembered as the creator of Wonder Woman. Selling the idea to a comic book publisher in 1941 was no mean feat, since until then, Superman, Batman, The Flash, Captain Marvel, The Green Lantern and all the other superheroes had been male. 
The character Dr. Marston envisioned was not just a powerful crime-fighter, but an attractive, scantily-clad Amazon displaying an eroticism and a dominance her detractors would deem to be sexual and sado-masochistic in nature. Yes, Wonder Woman wore a skimpy outfit a la Superman, and she did use a rope to subdue and restrain adversaries, but the comic was far from pornographic. 
Truth be told, Marston had ostensibly been motivated by the success of the Suffrage Movement to further advance the feminist cause. In fact, he once stated "The only hope for civilization is the greater freedom, development and equality of women." 
Another source of inspiration were the two women sharing Dr. Marston's bed, his wife, Elizabeth.(Rebecca Hall), and their longtime lover, Olive (Bella Heathcote). He would father a couple of kids with each, and they all lived under the same roof, although the scandalous arrangement would lead to the family's being shunned by polite society. 
Written and directed by Alexandra Robinson, Professor Marston & the Wonder Women is an intriguing and informative biopic belatedly giving a brilliant visionary previously marginalized by history his due. Thanks to these more enlightened, LBGTQ-embracing times, William Moulton Marston can finally be fully appreciated, polygynous relationship and all.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, graphic sexuality and lewd images
Running time: 108 minutes
Production Studio: Stage 6 Films / Boxspring Entertainment / Topple Productions
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: The Secret Identity of Charles Moulton Motion Comic; A Dynamic Trio: Birth of a Feminist Icon; A Crucial Point of View: Directing – Professor Marston and the Wonder Women; and 3 deleted scenes: Love Leaders, Coughing Blood and Who is Sappho?

To see a trailer for Professor Marston & the Wonder Women, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mts8NIcLZUQ

To order a copy of Professor Marston & the Wonder Women visit:

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening February 2, 2018

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun  
by Kam Williams 



Winchester (PG-13 for violence, sexuality, drug use, mature themes and disturbing images) Revenge flick revolving around a Winchester Gun heiress (Helen Mirren) whose house is haunted by the ghosts of people killed by her company's repeating rifle. With Sarah Snook, Jason Clarke and Angus Sampson.

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero (PG-13 for violence and mature themes) Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje plays the title character in this animated adventure, set a thousand years ago, about an orphan who dreams of becoming a great warrior despite being sold into slavery after the murder of his mother. Voice cast includes Ian McShane, Jacob Latimore and China Anne McClain.


Braven (R for violence, sexual references and pervasive profanity) Action thriller about a logger (Jason Momoa) and father (Stephen Lang) forced to fight for their lives when their family's cabin in the woods is seized by drug smugglers. With Jill Wagner, Garret Dillahunt and Brendan Fletcher.

The Cage Fighter (Unrated) Blue-collar hero biopic chronicling 40 year-old journeyman Joe Carman's return to Mixed Martial Arts after a long layoff, over the vehement objections of his wife and four daughters.

Driving While Black (Unrated) Hands on the dashboard comedy, set in L.A., highlighting the hazards of being an African-American (Dominique Purdy) delivering pizza in a city where cops routinely make profile stops. With Sheila Tejada, John Mead and Julian Bane.

A Fantastic Woman (R for profanity, nudity, sexuality and disturbing violence) Chilean drama, set in Santiago, about a struggling cabaret singer (Daniela Vega) who becomes a murder suspect when her straight sugar daddy (Francisco Reyes) suddenly dies and the cops find out she's a transsexual. Support cast includes Luis Gnecco, Aline Kuppenheim and Amparo Noguera. (In Spanish with subtitles)

Lies We Tell (Unrated) British crime saga about a trusted limo driver (Gabriel Byrne) who comes to regret destroying evidence of his recently-deceased, billionaire boss' (Harvey Keitel) clandestine affair with a 16 year-old, Muslim mistress (Sibylla Deen). With Mark Addy, Jan Addin and Reece Ritchie.

The Music of Silence (Unrated) Thinly-veiled biopic of Andrea Bocelli (Toby Sebastian), the blind Italian boy who overcame his limitations and humble origins en route to opera superstardom. Cast includes Antonio Banderas, Jordi Molla and Luisa Ranieri.

Scorched Earth (R for violence and profanity) Post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller about a bloodthirsty bounty hunter (Gina Carano) in a race to kill criminals before the end of the world. Featuring John Hannah, Stephanie Bennett and Patrick Gilmore.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

2018 Oscar Nominations

by Kam Williams

The Shape of Water Leads Race with Lucky 13 Nominations
Weinstein, Spacey and Franco Conspicuously Absent

The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro's surreal, cross-species love story landed the most Academy Award nominations (13), including for Best Director, Picture and Original screenplay, as well as trio of acting categories. Dunkirk (8) was next, followed by Three Billboards (7), Darkest Hour (6) and Phantom Thread (6).

Up for Oscars are some familiar faces, like Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Jr.) and perennial-nominee Meryl Streep (The Post). Meanwhile, conspicuously absent from the roster are a number of disgraced Hollywood icons whose careers went up in flames in the wake of rape allegations.

There's Harvey Weinstein who, for years, had been a fixture on the aisle on Oscar night. But this go-round, The Weinstein Company's entire slate was snubbed, most notably, the critically-acclaimed and strategically-released Wind River. 
Just a couple weeks ago, James Franco was the toast of Tinseltown after winning a Golden Globe for The Disaster Artist. Since then, several women stepped forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct. Now, it's his career that's a disaster, suffering such a precipitous fall from grace that he didn't even earn an Academy Award nomination.

The voters showed little love to Baby Driver, this critic's pick for #1 film of the year, giving it only a handful of nominations in technical categories. In this case, you can blame #MeToo casualty Kevin Spacey for torpedoing the summer sleeper's Oscar chances right along with his own.

At least that picture got released. The same can't be said for Louis C.K.'s I Love You, Daddy whose premiere was postponed indefinitely after he admitted to some pretty bizarre, unwanted behavior in front of five different women.

For those still in the running, the 90th Academy Awards will air on ABC on Sunday, March 4th. The show will be staged at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood and hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. But don't surprised if one or two nominees get knocked out of contention for sexual pecadilloes that come to the surface between now and Oscar night.

Complete List of 2018 Academy Award Nominees

Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya,
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan
Get Out, Jordan Peele
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig
Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson
The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro

The Boss Baby
Loving Vincent

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Faces, Places
Last Men In Aleppo
Strong Island

Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405
Knife Skills
Traffic Stop

A Fantastic Woman, Chile
The Insult, Lebanon
Loveless, Russia
On Body and Soul, Hungary
The Square, Sweden

Call Me by Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Molly's Game

The Big Sick
Get Out
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

"Mighty River," Mudbound
"Mystery of Love," Call Me by Your Name
"Remember Me," Coco
"Stand Up for Something," Marshall
"This is Me," The Greatest Showman

Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
The Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water

Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water

Beauty and the Beast
Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Victoria & Abdul

Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Dear Basketball
Garden Party
Negative Space
Revolting Rhymes

Dekalb Elementary
The Eleven O'Clock
The Silent Child
All of Us
My Nephew Emmet

Blade Runner 2049
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

Baby Driver
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Darkest Hour
Victoria & Abdul

Monday, January 22, 2018

Molly's Game

Film Review by Kam Williams

Jessica Chastain Plays Skier-Turned-Felon in Warts-and-All Biopic

Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) was the third-ranked downhill skier in North America when her dream of representing the U.S. in the 2002 Winter Olympics was dashed by a crippling back injury suffered during a qualifying run. So, the multi-talented University of Colorado grad had a change of plans, and instead set her sights on law school.

Then, in the break before starting, Molly took a job in L.A. as a cocktail waitress. While working in the upscale bar, she was recruited by her abusive boss (Jeremy Strong) to help run his high-stakes, after-hours poker operation.

Molly had such a rare combination of brains and charm that she soon turned the game into a popular destination for not only professional athletes and Hollywood celebrities, but mobsters and titans of industry. Despite raking in millions, her management skills remained unappreciated and unrewarded by her ingrate of an employer. 
Consequently, it wasn't long before she copied his Rolodex of high rollers and went into business for herself. Crafty enough to stay one step ahead of the authorities, Molly's floating card game flourished for about eight years. 
However, crossing over to the wrong side of the law did eventually catch up with her. And on April 16, 2013, the FBI busted Molly, seized her assets and froze the $9 million in her bank accounts. Desperate, she retained the services of a leading defense attorney (Idris Elba) to help her avoid prison time. 
Thus unfolds Molly's Game, a warts-and-all biopic based on Molly Bloom's 2014 memoir of the same name. The book was adapted to the screen by Oscar-winner Adam Sorkin (The Social Network), who also makes his directorial debut here.

I'm not sure how much of an appetite audiences have for crooked, female Winter Olympians, given that I, Tonya is also in theaters, but at least this one doesn't attempt to turn a felon into a saint. Yes, the picture's well-cast and scripted, yet it somehow adds up to less than its parts.
Even for a former, world-class athlete, crime does not pay!

Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated R for profanity, drug use and some violence
Running time: 140 minutes
Production Studios: The Mark Gordon Company / Pascal Pictures/ Huayi Brothers Pictures
Distributor: STX Entertainment

To see a trailer for Molly's Game, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vu4UPet8Nyc

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Thank You for Your Service

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Vets Readjust to Civilian Life in Docudrama Based on Wounded Warrior Memoir

In the spring of 2007, the Washington Post's David Finkel accompanied a combat team of American infantrymen deployed to Baghdad at the start of the controversial surge ordered by President Bush. After being embedded for a year, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter chronicled the intrepid GIs' heroic efforts to bring stability to the region in a riveting best seller entitled "The Good Soldiers."

In 2013, Finkel published "Thank You for Your Service," an update about the same troops' struggle to readjust to civilian life upon returning to the States. Now, that opus has been adapted to the big screen as a psychological drama telescoping tightly on the mental state of a few members of the battalion.

The movie marks the impressive directorial debut of Jason Hall, who's previously best known for writing and appearing in American Sniper (2014). The picture stars Miles Teller as Adam Schumann, a former sergeant ostensibly suffering from PTSD. 
As the film unfolds, we learn that he has remained close with surviving members of the tight-knit unit once under his command. Unfortunately, all of them have been left damaged, mentally and/or physically. Consequently, all of their relationships are in crisis, and none has managed to hold down a steady job. 
Adam's worried wife (Haley Bennett) starts pressuring him to get help because he not only dropped their newborn baby inexplicably, but he's constantly looking for IEDs whenever they drive down the street, as if he's still in Iraq. Trouble is, there's a nine-month waiting list to see a shrink at the VA hospital, and he's being discouraged from seeking treatment by a callous colonel (Jake Weber) suggesting that all he needs to do is toughen up a little. 
Then, there's Solo (Beulah Koale), a Samoan with amnesia whose fed up wife (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is thinking of leaving him, despite being pregnant. Another buddy, Will (Joe Cole), was dumped by his fiancee (Erin Darke) before he even arrived home. And so forth.

The plot soon thickens, with things getting worse before they get better. But at least this loyal band of brothers can count on each other, if not the VA or their loved ones for support. A heartbreaking tale that's difficult to swallow since its based purely on the hard, cold truth. 
A sobering account of our wounded warriors' tragic misfortunes.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, drug use, graphic violence, brief nudity and pervasive profanity
In English and Samoan with subtitles
Running time: 109 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Staging a War; and The Battle at Home.

To see a trailer for Thank You for Your Service, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50LQGcb5knE

To order Thank You for Your Service in Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack format , visit:

Top Ten DVD List for January 23, 2018

by Kam Williams

This Week’s DVD Releases

Thank You for Your Service [Inspired by True Events]

Icons among Us [Jazz in the Present Tense]

In Search of Fellini [A Wonderfdully Whimsical Coming of Age Journey]

Echotone [The Quiet Fight for a Louder Future]

Chasing the Dragon [The Road to the Top Is Paved in Blood]

Roaring Abyss [Ethiopian Musical Documentary]

Trump: The Art of the Insult [How to Bash the Press and Political Opponents]

A Dog and Pony Show [Step Right Up and Laugh]

Nova: Killer Hurricanes [Storm Sleuths Reconstruct Historic Weather Events]

Geostorm [Some Things Were Never Meant to Be Controlled]

Honorable Mention

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood [Neighborhood Friends Collection]