Sunday, July 29, 2018

Eighth Grade

Film Review by Kam Williams

Teen Angst Explored in Poignant Coming-of-Age Dramedy

Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) is starting her last week of middle school, and graduation can't come soon enough for her. After all, the lonely, 13 year-old has just been voted "Most Quiet" by her classmates, despite being desperate to make friends. 
Nevertheless, she finds herself routinely ignored because she's overweight, pimply and not from a prominent family. So, between being ostracized by the popular cliques and going unnoticed by the cute boy (Luke Prael) she has a crush on, Kayla leads a very solitary and unhappy existence. 
It doesn't help matters that she's an only child, and that her well-meaning single-dad (Josh Hamilton) doesn't have a clue about how to connect with a daughter growing up in the Digital Age. The two barely talk to each other at the dinner table. She just scrolls through social media on her cell between bites while grudgingly giving monosyllabic responses to his questions about how her day went. 

However, we see a whole other side of Kayla as soon as she retreats to her bedroom where she hosts a show on her own Youtube channel. There, she doles out precocious advice daily to fellow teens on such topics as "How to be confident" and "Putting yourself out there," invariably signing off with the optimistic exclamation, "Gucci!" Too bad she has a hard time conquering her own fears in real life. 
For example, at her father's insistence, she reluctantly attended the birthday pool party of Kennedy (Catherine Oliviere), a mean girl whose mother had extended the invitation. Kayla felt so uncomfortable after being teased about the present she brought and about how she looked in a bathing suit, that she called home to be picked up early. 
Thus unfolds Eighth Grade, a haunting, coming-of-age dramedy marking the impressive writing and directorial debut of actor Bo Burnham (Rough Night). The film also features a breakout performance by Elsie Fisher who is oh so convincing as the beleaguered protagonist at the center of the story. One can't help but cringe watching her tortured character's palpable angst about being bullied. 
A la Thirteen (2003) and Lady Bird (2017), Eighth Grade paints a poignant portrait of a tormented adolescent awkwardly negotiating a rite of passage.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality and mature themes
Running time: 94 minutes
Production Studios: A24 Films / Scott Rudin Productions
Distributor: A24 Films

To see a trailer for Eighth Grade, visit:

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Top Ten DVD List for July 31, 2018

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by Kam Williams

This Week's DVD Releases



Murdoch Mysteries: Series 11

FRONTLINE: Myanmar's Killing Fields

NATURE: Shark Mountain

NOVA: Wonders [Season 1]

Across the River


Nella: The Princess Knight [Royal Quests]

Rusty Rivets

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening August 3, 2018

Image result for The Darkest Minds poster
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun 
by Kam Williams



Christopher Robin (PG for action) Ewan McGregor handles the title role in this musical fantasy revolving around Winnie the Pooh's pal's (Jim Cummings) return as an adult to the forest which captured his imagination as a child. With Hayley Atwell, Brad Garrett Toby Jones and Sophie Okonedo.

The Darkest Minds (PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and mature themes) Adaptation of Alexandra Bracken's futuristic best seller set in the U.S. in the wake of a pandemic which has killed 98% of children under 20 and where the survivors are being rounded up by the government. Plot revolves around the runaway teen (Amandla Stenberg) leading the resistance. Ensemble includes Harris Dickinson, Mandy Moore, Bradley Whitford, Patrick Gibson and Skylan Brooks. 
Death of a Nation (PG-13 for profanity, violence, disturbing images, mature themes and brief drug use) Political documentary, written, directed and narrated by recently-pardoned, conservative pundit Dinesh D'Souza, drawing parallels between the presidencies of Donald Trump and Abraham Lincoln. Featuring commentary by Debbie D'Souza and Angela Primm.

Eighth Grade (R for profanity and sexuality) Coming-of-age dramedy chronicling a tormented 13 year-old's (Elsie Fisher) disastrous last week of middle school. With Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson and Missy Yager.

The Spy Who Dumped Me (R for violence, crude humor, pervasive profanity, graphic sexuality and frontal nudity) James Bond 007 spoof revolving around a couple of California BFFs (Kate McKinnon and Mila Kunis) who find themselves recruited as spies when one's ex-boyfriend (Justin Theroux) shows up at their apartment unannounced with a team of assassins on his trail. Supporting cast includes Sam Heughan, Gillian Anderson and Ivanna Sakhno.


Calling All Earthlings (Unrated) Conspiracy theory documentary speculating about whatever happened to George Van Tassel and his Integratron, the time machine he was building in the California desert back in the Fifties until the FBI intervened. Featuring commentary by Daniel Boone, Victoria williams and The Animals' Eric Burdon.

King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen (Unrated) Reverential retrospective revisiting the career of maverick Larry Cohen, director of such Blaxploitation Era classics as Black Caesar, Hell Up in Harlem and Bone.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Unrated) Chloe Grace Moretz plays the title character in this adaptation of Emily M. Danforth's coming-of-age novel of the same name, set in 1993, about a lesbian orphan forced by her aunt (Kerry Butler) to undergo conversion therapy after being caught kissing her high school's prom queen (Quinn Shephard) in the back of a car. With Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck and Jennifer Ehle.

Never Goin' Back (R for crude sexuality, pervasive profanity, brief nudity and drug use) Coming-of-age drama chronicling the madcap misadventures of a couple of suburban Dallas waitresses (Camila Morrone and Maia Mitchell) trying to relocate to Galveston. Supporting cast features Kyle Mooney, Aristotle Abraham II and Joel Allen.

Nico, 1988 (R for sexuality, profanity and drug use) "The good die young" biopic revisiting the last year in the life of Nico (Trine Dyrholm), the German singer/actress who fell on hard times after recording with the Velvet Underground and appearing in films directed by Fellini and Andy Warhol back in the Sixties. With John Gordon Sinclair, Karina Fernandez and Calvin Demba. (In English, German, French and Czech with subtitles)

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Top Ten DVD List for July 24, 2018

Image result for ready player one blu-ray
by Kam Williams

This Week's DVD Releases

Ready Player One

Operation Red Sea

You Will Be Mine

American Masters: Ted Williams [The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived]

The Three-Way Wedding

Keeping Faith: Series 1

Tainted Souls

Super Troopers 2

The Con Is On

Incident in a Ghostland

Monday, July 23, 2018


Film Review by Kam Williams

Lifelong Friendship Tested by Police Shooting in Bay Area Buddy Dramedy

Collin (Daveed Diggs) and Miles (Rafael Casal), who are black and white, respectively, have been best friends since they were kids. Now in their twenties, they both still live in the rough Oakland 'hood where they grew up, although they've been watching it gentrify in recent years.

The changing demographics have made it hard for the two to get along with their new yuppie neighbors. After all, Collin is a convicted felon on probation, while Miles has ghetto written all over him, from the grill in his mouth to the tattoos all over his body. 
When Collin was paroled, Miles got him a dead-end job with the moving company where he works. So, by day, they get to share the cab of a truck. 
After hours, immature Miles reluctantly goes home to his baby-mama (Jasmine Cephas Jones) and young son (Ziggy Baitinger), though he'd really rather roam the streets with his gun. By contrast, Collin has a strict curfew and needs to keep his nose clean, given that he's finishing up his sentence at a local halfway house.

The plot thickens one fateful evening as Collin sits in his car at a stoplight. He becomes the sole witness when a white police officer (Ethan Embry) shoots an unarmed black man in the back. 

Collin just drives away from the scene as ordered by the police, but the incident continues to haunt him for days. And when he tries to talk about it with Miles, racial tensions surprisingly surface which test their tight relationship.

Thus unfolds Blindspotting, an in your face buddy dramedy co-written by co-stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal who reportedly worked on the timely script for over a decade. The movie marks the impressive directorial debut of Carlos Lopez Estrada, who is previously known for shooting music videos for bands like Reptar, Passion Pit and Goo Goo Dolls.

Blindspotting's searing exploration of hot-button issues as race, class and police brutality in such confrontational fashion makes for a thought-provoking experience guaranteed to affect you long after leaving the theater.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sexual references, drug use, brutal violence, ethnic slurs and pervasive profanity
Running time: 95 minutes
Production Studios: Summit Entertainment / Codeblack Films / Foley Walkers Studio / Snoot Entertainment
Distributor: Lionsgate Entertainment

To see a trailer for Blindspotting, visit:

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

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Film Review by Kam Williams

Inspired Adaptation of the Animated TV Series Arrives on the Big Screen

Created by DC Comics back in 1964 to serve as sidekicks to members of the legendary Justice League, the Teen Titans is a talented team of superheroes in its own right. The motley crew underwent numerous personnel changes over the years before finally settling down as the five young crime-fighters appearing in the popular Cartoon Network TV series since 2003.

Led by Batman's Boy Wonder, Robin (Scott Menville), the intrepid quintet also includes shapeshifting Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), telekinetic Raven (Tara Strong), strong and speedy Starfire (Hynden Walch) and the humanoid Cyborg (Khary Payton). Co-directed by Aaron Horvath and Peter Rida Michail, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is an inspired, big screen adaptation designed for both loyal fans and folks totally unfamiliar with the kiddie franchise.

The animated adventure revolves around the Titans' desire to star in their own summer blockbuster, like other characters in the DC Universe. Trouble is they're not being taken seriously by Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell), Hollywood's hottest director. 

She'll only consider shooting the film if all of the members of the Justice League are suddenly unavailable to save the planet from a diabolical supervillain. As luck would have it, that's just what transpires when they fall under the spell of mind-controlling Slade (Will Arnett), the proverbial madman bent on world domination. 
Not to worry. The Teen Titans come to the rescue, and what ensues is a dizzying mix of slapstick humor, madcap action and musical numbers. Along the way, discerning adults are also apt to notice some clever allusions as well as the distinctive voicework of Jimmy Kimmel as Batman, Nicolas Cage as Superman, and James Corden as Balloon Man. 
An irreverent spoof of the superhero genre that's certain to delight the whole family!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for action and rude humor
Running time: 88 minutes
Production Studios: Warner Brothers Animation / DC Entertainment
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures

To see the trailer for Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, visit:

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening July 27, 2018

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun  
by Kam Williams



Mission: Impossible - Fallout (PG-13 for violence, intense action and brief profanity) Sixth installment of the espionage series finds CIA Agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and company in a race against time to prevent a global catastrophe after failing to apprehend a maniacal madman (Sean Harris). With Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Angela Bassett, Alec Baldwin, Henry Cavill and Michelle Monaghan. (In English and French with subtitles)

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (PG for action and rude humor) Adaptation of the animated TV series pits the team of superheroes against a power-hungry villain (Will Arnett) hatching a diabolical plan to control the minds of Batman (Jimmy Kimmel), Superman (Nicolas Cage), Wonder Woman (Halsey) and other members of the Justice League. Voice cast includes Kristen Bell, Tara Strong and Khary Payton.


14 Cameras (Unrated) Vacation from hell horror flick about a family of four that unwittingly rents a summer home from a creepy landlord (Neville Archambault) who secretly live streams their most intimate moments over the dark web. Co-starring Kodi Saint Angelo, Jacob Browne, Amber Midthunder, Tait Fletcher and Lora Martinez Cunningham.

The Captain (Unrated) World War II drama about a Nazi soldier (Max Hubacher) who deserts and proceeds to impersonate an officer when he finds an abandoned Captain's uniform. Cast includes Milan Peschel, Frederick Lau and Waldemar Kobus. (In German with subtitles)

Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings (Unrated) Mark Chao reprises his role as the title character in the third installment of the action franchise, set during the Tang Dynasty, which finds the intrepid gumshoe defending himself against a formidable foe (Carina Lau) while simultaneously fighting a crime wave. With Kenny Lin, Shaofeng Feng and Sichun Ma. (In Mandarin with subtitles)

Hot Summer Nights (R for drug use, pervasive profanity, sexual references and graphic violence) Coming-of-age saga, set in 1991, about an awkward teen's (Timothee Chalamet) struggle to make friends while spending the summer on Cape Cod with his Aunt (Rebecca Koon). Cast includes William Fitchner, Thomas Jane and Maika Monroe.

Killer Bees (Unrated) Hoop dreams documentary chronicling Bridgehampton High's defense of its basketball title as well as the struggle of the tiny African-American community to survive in the Hamptons, an exclusive resort area increasingly dominated by the rich and famous.

Puzzle (R for profanity) Midlife-crisis drama revolving around a jaded housewife (Kelly Macdonald) who gets a new lease on life when she develops a passion for solving jigsaw puzzles. With Irrfan Khan, David Denman and Myrna Cabello.

Scarred Hearts (Unrated) Adaptation of Max Blecher's 1939 novel of the same name about a young man with tuberculosis (Lucian Teodor Rus) who falls in love with a fellow patient (Ivana Mladenovic) at the sanitarium. Cast includes Gabriel Spahiu, Dana Marineci and Serban Pavlu. (In Romanian and German with subtitles)

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (Unrated) revealing biopic about Scotty Bowers, a bi-sexual Tinseltown pimp who claimed in his tell-all memoir, "Full Service," to have personally provided stud service over six decades to such stars as Spencer Tracy, Vivien Leigh, Rock Hudson, Vincent Price, Rita Hayworth, Cary Grant, Kate Hepburn, James Dean, Mae West and Errol Flynn, to name a few.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

James LaRosa

The “Hit the Floor” Interview
with Kam Williams

A Timely Tête-à-Tête with the Creator of Hit BET Series

James LaRosa is the creator, showrunner and executive producer of Hit The Floor. Not only does he run an all-female writers' room but he directed and appeared in several episodes this season.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, James knew at the age of 9 that he wanted to write for TV. He began his assault on Hollywood as an assistant to former Saturday Night Live writer Margaret Oberman.

He got his first break on the Dick Wolf-produced WB series D.C. From there, he wrote made-for-television movies for CBS, MTV and VH1, as well as pilots for ABC Family, MTV, NBC , Sony and FOX.

James earned a Daytime Emmy nomination in 2001 writing for MTV's Spyder Games. In 2007, he merged his passion for tennis and writing and began blogging and reporting for Tennis Chanel, Tennis Magazine and USA Today. He also co-wrote young adult novel The Academy: Game On.

A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, James currently resides in Los Angeles. Here, he talks about the new season of Hit the Floor. The show airs Tuesday nights on BET at 10 pm ET/PT.

Kam Williams: Hi James, thanks for the interview.
James LaRosa: Nice to speak with you, Kam.

KW: Congratulations on the fourth season of Hit the Floor. What inspired you to create the series?
JL: Thank you. Early in my career, I was writing what I thought people would go for and I didn’t like what I was doing, but you want to pay your bills and you want to launch things. You’d hear that a network was looking for a hospital drama or a certain kind of show and everyone would get the same message and everyone would develop the same show, and I was on that track. too. So I’d just finished a show that wasn’t my passion project. It didn’t feed me, although I had fun writing it. And afterwards, I needed some sort of a palette cleanser and I decided I’m going to just write this one show without paying attention to what people are asking for, or asking myself is this what’s hot and what’s selling, or what will my agent or the networks think of this. And I sat down and wrote an original pilot that hasn’t been made yet, but has gotten me every meeting I’ve had ever since. My career did a total 180 when I started writing what entertains me and what I find fun instead of stuff that was just for the paycheck, because that kills you.

KW: How would you describe the show in 25 words or less?
JL: Behind the scenes professional basketball through the eyes of the players, dancers and managers. It’s sex, drama, dancing, and sports!

KW: Have you spent a lot of time around any professional players and cheerleaders?
JL: Yes, I researched the show in order for the characters to be real, and I spent time speaking to players and dancers, and I definitely have my moles. [Laughs and looks around] They absolutely love the show because they watch it and know the stuff really happens. The best part is when I talk to a player or a dancer who I’ve never spoken to before and they ask, “Who have you been talking to? Are you inside the locker room hiding in someone’s locker or speaking into the big flower because you’re getting all the scoops." So when players spill all the tea, I’m there with a cup going, ”I’ll catch it, I’ll catch!”

KW: In the past, your groundbreaking series has explored a variety of timely themes, like LGBTQ issues. Can we expect it to continue to be on the cutting-edge this season, even though the show is moving from VH1 to BET?
JL: The short answer is "Yes." We will continue to value diversity on the show, LGBTQ issues for sure and many other issues. Whether it’s about gender or race, we’ve done all sorts of storylines and will continue do so 100% in season four. In season two, we had a storyline where one of our dancers got married to another of our dancers because she was undocumented and the marriage allowed her not to be separated from her kid. At the time, I was thinking “That’s interesting storytelling,” and then welcome to 2018 and look what’s happening. The bigger answer is that in today’s climate, it’s pure theater and we are all puppets and they’re basically pitting us against each other like little marionettes saying, "You hate this person and you hate that person because they’re taking this from you and giving it to them.” I’m not into that. So this show has as many different kinds of people as it can. They may try to push you off the balcony, they might try and steal your man or steal your position on the dance team, but everyone’s from the same world and on equal ground.”

KW: How many episodes will you write and/or direct this year?
JL: This season, I wrote three and directed four. In the season finale, I have six credits:created by, executive producer, writer, director, actor, and I also wrote a rap for one of the songs.

KW: Wow! How many episodes do you appear in?
JL: I act in three episodes.

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?
JL: My earliest childhood memory is using my imagination at about the age of 3 while playing with a Batmobile and a little blue Batman and a little yellow Robin.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
JL: My favorite dish to cook? Hmm... There’s a giant assumption in that question! [LOL] Well, I’m really more of a baker. I can bake a whole bunch of stuff: cupcakes and anything with sugar… I’m a sugar fiend. And I do it up, I'll put flower petals on it and all kinds of decadent embellishments. I really want people to eat it and enjoy. But as for cooking meals, if I was on “Survivor,” I would die.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
JL: Oh my God, aging!
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
JL: To completely change the political climate that we are in right now. I would love for people to open their eyes and get information from places that are legit and practice a little bit more of the kindness they would like to receive themselves. And a Lamborghini!

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
JL: Wow! Great question. Let me think… Where do you get your creativity from? I get it from my mom. When I was little, she would tell me these off the cuff little stories that were nonsense, but they were really entertaining. And because of her, I thought I could never be a writer because I could never be as quick as her. But the older you get, the more you work that muscle. You get quicker, you get more reference points. But my mother is no longer with me and so my instinct is to keep her alive, like by making her the question no one ever asks. She’s been gone for a couple of years now and she was a big fan of Hit the Floor, and the last conversion we had was after the season three premiere. She was very sick at that point and very weak, and she said “I just want you to know I know I saw it…” And that was the week she passed. So, I’m incredibly excited to be doing something she was excited about and to use the gifts she gave me, that I hope I’ve got enough of to keep her alive forever.

KW: I'm sure you will. Finally, as Samuel L. Jackson asks: What’s in your wallet?
JL: Let's see... [Begins pulling cards out of a compact wallet] Oh my gosh! Hold on… Okay, here’s a credit card, another credit card, ATM, driver's license, Starbucks card, health insurance card, another Starbucks card, auto insurance card, and another Starbucks card. So, anyone will tell you I’m over-caffeinated. The fact that there’s so little in my wallet is because I used to be a hoarder. I used to collect every issue of TV Guide, every issue of Entertainment Weekly and then it came to a point where I was like "It’s not cute” and I threw it all out, ten paper bags full, and it felt great. I recommend to anymore to just get rid of your stuff. [Whispers] And now I have this tiny little wallet with 3 credit cards and 700 coffee cards. You know I was really hoping there’d be something really nasty in my wallet, but yeah, that’s everything.

KW: Thanks again for the time, James, and best of luck with the new season.
JL: My pleasure, Kam.

To see a trailer for Hit the Floor, visit: