My Film BlogCrazy WisdomThe WoodmansOver Your Cities Grass Will GrowA Good Day to DieMeditate and DestroyBeing in the WorldBrilliant Moon

Interviews
userpicZach Braff (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Zach Braff

The “Wish I Was Here” Interview

with Kam Williams

 

Zach to the Future!

Zach Braff was born in South Orange, New Jersey on April 6, 1975. He attended Columbia High School in Maplewood where he was friends with hip-hop diva-to-be Lauryn Hill.

Zach studied film at Northwestern University where he earned a B.A. before heading to Hollywood. As an actor, he’s best known as Dr. John “J.D.” Dorian on Scrubs, the Emmy-winning sitcom which enjoyed a nine-year run on network TV from 2001 to 2010. As a director, he made an impressive debut in 2004 with Garden State, a semi-autobiographical offering which he also wrote and starred in.

For Zach, Wish I Was Here is the culmination of personal filmmaking at its best. As the movie’s co-writer, director, star and producer, he was involved in nearly every aspect of the picture’s creative development. A decade ago, in Garden State, he perfectly portrayed the plight of a young man trying to find his place in a crazy world.

This go-round, he and his co-writer brother, Adam, examine what it means to have a family today. Zach plays Aidan Bloom, a struggling actor with a wife (Kate Hudson) stuck in a soul-crushing job. The couple have two kids (Joey King and Pierce Gagnon) who are being forced out of private school due to financial constraints, since Aidan’s dad (Mandy Patinkin)is facing life-threatening health issues. 

Despite such harsh realities, the picture nevertheless poetically weaves a wonderful tapestry of an enchanting world worth living in. This is in no small part thanks to the power of the imagination which has fueled Zach’s own evolution from a wide-eyed kid from New Jersey into a gifted filmmaker capable of connecting with his audience emotionally.

 

Kam Williams: Hi Zach, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity.

Zach Braff: Oh, thanks Kam. It’s nice to talk to you.

 

KW: I loved the film. Garden State made my Top Ten List for 2004, and Wish I Was Here is definitely one of my Top Ten favorite films of 2014 so far.

ZB: Thanks, man. You just put a smile on my face.

 

KW: Everybody in the small group I saw it with cried at the end and all the way through the closing credits.

ZB: That’s a good sign.

 

KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you and they sent in more questions than we could ever get to. Let me start with one who just said: He’s incredibly adorable and incredibly talented. Have fun!

ZB: [LOL] I don’t think that’s a question.

 

KW: Director Kevin Williams asks: Why a decade between movies?

ZB: It was just so hard. I tried my best, but I didn’t want to put out a picture that I wouldn’t want to put my name on. I didn’t want to let my fans down, and all the scripts that were coming my way were really commercial and felt like something we’d already seen a thousand times. A couple times I had movies put together, only to have the project fall apart because we lost a star or I lost the money. There are so many pieces that have to line up. And I was also still doing Scrubs, so I just couldn’t work it out with a piece of writing that I was willing to put my name on until I was able to collaborate on this original script with my brother.     

 

KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: I watched Garden State almost every night for a year when I was in college. Often we see the final product but aren't aware of the creative process that goes into a script or filming. What does your scriptwriting process look like?

ZB: Well, it was different for Garden State, because I wrote that on my own. This one, I wrote with my brother, so we got together for about a month to hammer out the characters and the outline of the story. The main character’s sort of a combination of us. My brother’s about a decade older than I am. We wanted to write about a guy in his mid-thirties, so we were able to attack it from the angle of two men born ten years apart. He’d work on one scene while I’d work on another. Then we’d switch scenes and sort of give each other notes, and debate what was right and where it should go. And little by little, through all these conversations, the whole script took shape.   

 

KW: To what extent is this film autobiographical, given that it was written by you and your brother, and it’s in part about their relationship?

ZB: A lot of it is… the search for spirituality… the struggle to question how long you’re allowed to pursue a dream, especially when you have mouths to feed and a mortgage to pay. All of those things that my brother and I are asking. It’s also about relationships between fathers and sons and mothers and daughters.  We all have those battles with our parents where we want to be our own person but they’re still saying something else. A lot of it is autobiographical, although our father couldn’t be more supportive of our pursuing the arts, whereas the father in the movie is pretty against it. 

 

KW: Peter Brav says that while watching the film, he thinks he spotted a flaw, namely, a brochure at a Jewish funeral home offering the option of an open casket.

ZB: If that’s the case, it would be a prop master mistake, and I apologize for that. 

There is no option for an open casket at a Jewish funeral. For Peter to have detected that he must be able to speed read and have zeroed in on the pamphlet. The casket is always closed in Judaism, although the family is allowed to view the deceased before the ceremony, if they so choose.

 

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles was wondering what auteur message this film and Garden State seek to deliver?

ZB: I believe, personally, that this experience we have on Earth is finite, and that there is nothing else. I know not everyone agrees with me, but that is my personal belief. So, I think that the message is both about trying to celebrate the present, trying to get out of our heads, and about being present with the people we love. For me, that’s the great quest of life, the struggle to be in the moment. That’s why the film is called Wish I Was Here, meaning I wish I was here in the moment.

 

KW: Why the grammatically incorrect title?

ZB: I have a two-fold answer. First, it’s a play off the classic postcard salutation, “Wish You Were Here,” but switched around to reflect the perspective of the individual sending it. Second, the premise of the film revolves around a father who’s homeschooling his kids but doesn’t know how to teach them grammar. We see his daughter [Joey King] correct her mom [Kate Hudson] on the proper use of “who” and “whom,” and that’s something that he would get wrong as well.

 

KW: Hadas Zeilberger asks: How would you compare the experiences of shooting Wish I Was Here and Garden State? How many members of the cast and crew worked on both films?

ZB: I tried to reunite all the top creative heads from Garden State, and I got some of them. Others weren’t available. Both my cinematographer [Lawrence Sher] and my editor [Myron Kerstein], who do amazing work and are really good friends, are back for the film, and that was really crucial to me. And my producers were the same. As far as the cast, Jim Parsons is back and Michael Weston, who played the cop in Garden State, is back. And I tried to find as many cameos as possible for people I like to work with. In terms of the shooting, this one was unique because of the crowdfunding aspect of it. We had our incredible backers visiting us on set, serving as extras, and generally hanging around. That was fun because it gave us a chance to show them how movies are made. Ordinarily, you and the crew just get so caught up in doing it that you don’t ever pause to explain the process to people it’s foreign to. But here, you’d look over and see an electrician showing a backer why we are hanging a light a certain way. Or you’d look over and see Kate [Hudson] saying to someone else, “Oh, yeah, this is where my little hidden microphone goes.” The process was very educational for a lot of people.

 

KW: Kate Newell and Larry Greenberg had a similar question. They ask: Would you use Kickstarter again for your next film project?

ZB: No, this was always meant as an experiment, not as the permanent way in which I plan to finance my films. It was sort of like, “Hey, wouldn’t this be a crazy idea if this worked?” The dilemma in holding onto your artistic integrity is removing any corporate or other sort of involvement that might influence the art. The question for us was: What would it be like if we took that out of the equation? That was my vision, and it worked. So, it proved to be a wonderful experience, although it was always conceived as a one-off experiment.

 

KW: Hadas also asks: Are you friends with Donald Faison in real life?

ZB: Yeah, he’s my best friend. He truly is my best friend, and we do everything together. He’s so supportive of me that he’s been promoting the movie and making the rounds even though he only has a smart part in it.

 

KW: Lastly, Hadas would like to know how you got your hair like that?

ZB: [Laughs] My hair? People always like to talk about my hair. It’s just bed head. I often take showers at night. So, when I wake up, my hair’s crazy.

 

KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden says:You've had an extraordinarily diverse and interesting career.  If you had to choose one or two of your favorite types of work could you do that, or is it the variety of your professional activities that gives you most satisfaction?

ZB: That’s a great question, Grace. I always think it’s good to shake things up. You know, I’m doing a big Broadway musical [Bullets over Broadway] right now at the same time that I’m releasing this indie movie. They couldn’t be more different from each other. But that’s what makes being a creator of entertainment so much fun. Shaking it up! I would be incredibly bored if I just did the same thing over and over. I like trying new things and really being brave. Doing the crowdfunding was a brave experiment, and singing on Broadway is another brave experiment. I like to attempt things that I’m fearful of.

 

KW: Grace also asks: Where do you see your career being ten years from now?

ZB: Well, I hope it won’t be ten years before I make another movie. My hope is to be making a lot more movies in the next decade. It’s certainly what brings me the most joy.

 

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier aks: What was the most challenging scene to shoot in Wish I Was Here?
ZB: Probably those fantasy sequences, because they were very elaborate and we didn’t have much time. We shot the whole movie in 26 days. The fantasy sequences involved a lot of special f/x and a costume built by a great company called Legacy Effects, and all sorts of camera toys. Those were the most challenging, especially since I had to direct from inside the suit, which was really hard. But I did have a body double for when my face wasn’t onscreen,

 

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

ZB: Wow! That’s a great question… [Pauses to reflect] But I’ve been asked so many questions that I can’t think of one.

 

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

ZB: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/031622135X/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

 

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

ZB: I can’t cook, so I’ll say ice.

 

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

ZB: Someone who’s extraordinarily tired because he’s doing eight shows a week on Broadway while he’s releasing a film.

 

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

ZB: I don’t even know. But I can remember my earliest movie memory. My father used to somehow get a hold of 35mm prints and project them on our living room wall way before I could understand them. My earliest movie memory is of my parents having a dinner party and showing Annie Hall which, to this day, is one of my favorite films. 

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Zach, and best of luck both on Broadway and with Wish I Was Here.

ZB: Thanks for all your support, Kam. That really means a lot to me.

To see a trailer for Wish I Was Here, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCponfeWNOI




The Purge: Anarchy
Film Review by Kam Williams

Dateline: America, 2023. It’s now nine years since the country voted the New Founders of America into power. High on that elitist political party’s agenda was designating March 21st as the Purge, a day on which all law is suspended, meaning anything goes, rape, robbery, even murder.

Most citizens opt to stay inside for the duration of the annual ordeal, battening down the hatches with a Bible or a weapon in hand, since they can’t call upon the cops to come to their assistance in the event of an emergency. Yet, many turn vigilante to rid the streets of the dregs of humanity, others seize on the opportunity to even the score with someone they have a grievance against.

A couple of hours before the “fun” starts, we find Eva (Carmen Ejogo) rushing home from her job at a diner to be with her teen daughter, Cali (Zoe Soul). In the process, the attractive waitress ignores the crude passes of both a co-worker (Nicholas Gonzalez) and her apartment building’s custodian (Noel Gugliemi).

Elsewhere, Liz (Kiele Sanchez) and Shane (Zach Gilford) are driving to his sister’s while debating about whether to inform her that their marriage is on the rocks. But the two soon land in desperate straits when their car conks out on the highway only minutes before the siren sounds signaling the beginning of the Purge.

That moment can’t come soon enough for revenge-minded Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) who’s itching to get even with the drunk driver (Brandon Keener) that not only killed his son, but got off scot-free on a legal technicality. However, soon after the Purge starts, the police sergeant reflexively comes to the assistance of Eva, Cali, Liz and Shane, all of whom are on the run from a bloodthirsty death squad.

So, he puts his plan on the backburner temporarily to protect the frightened foursome. That endeavor proves easier said than done in The Purge: Anarchy, a stereotypical horror sequel in that it ups the ante in terms of violence, body count, pyrotechnics and gratuitous gore.

Unfortunately, the film pales in comparison to the original, which was a thought-provoking thriller raising questions about poverty and privilege. This relatively-simplistic installment pays lip service to that intriguing theme in almost insulting fashion, envisioning instead a nihilistic U.S. which has merely degenerated into a decadent dystopia where blood-thirsty rich snobs relish slaying the poor purely for sport.

It is, thus, no surprise to witness the rise of an African-American guerilla leader (Michael K. Williams) who’s exhorting the masses to revolt by indicting the Purge as racist. An entertaining enough, if incoherent, splatterfest which unapologetically lifts familiar elements from such apocalyptic classics as The Hunger Games (2012), V for Vendetta (2006), The Warriors (1979), Escape from New York (1981) and Hard Target (1993).

A perhaps prophetic satire celebrating senseless slaughter as a natural national holiday in such a gun-loving country!

Good (2 stars)

Rated R for profanity and graphic violence

Running time: 103 minutes

Distributor: Universal Pictures

To see a trailer for The Purge: Anarchy, visit



Interviews
userpicRosie Perez (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Rosie Perez

The “Handbook for an Unpredictable Life” Interview

with Kam Williams

 

Everything’s Coming Up Rosie!

Rosie Maria Perez was born on September 6, 1964 in Bushwick, Brooklyn where she was raised in a Catholic orphanage after being abandoned by her mom and taken from her aunt. She made a most memorable screen debut as Spike Lee’s girlfriend, Tina, in Do the Right Thing, and later landed an Oscar-nomination for a nonpareil performance in Fearless. Her many other credits include White Men Can't Jump, Won’t Back Down and The Counselor.

 

Rosie serves as the Artistic Chair of Urban Arts Partnership and sits on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. Here, she talks about her career and her autobiography, “Handbook for an Unpredictable Life.”  

 

 

Kam Williams: Hi Rosie. I’m honored to have this chance to speak with you.

Rosie Perez: Absolutely, Kam.

 

KW: I really enjoyed the book!

RP: Oh, you’re one of the few journalists who actually read it before speaking to me. That’s wonderful!

 

KW: What inspired you to write your autobiography?

RP: I didn’t really know at first. I kept asking myself, “Why am I doing this?” because I’m such a private person. Then, one day, the head of programming at my charity, the Urban Arts Partnership, said she was excited that I was writing it, and she hoped I’d be giving copies to the students. My first reaction was “No,” since the subject-matter was really heavy, and because of some of the language I was using. But she then reminded me that I’d already shared my stories with them, and I almost burst into tears. I realized, “Oh my God! That’s why I’m writing it.” Those students had been the first people, outside of my inner circle, to hear my story. It happened when I participated in one of our programs called Life Stories, where we encourage the kids to open up and share so they can understand their lives. One day, I was challenged to share my story with them. That‘s where finding the inspiration and strength to write this book began.   

 

KW: I found it very moving, especially since I had no idea about any of it. I just thought of you as that bubbly, talented, attractive actress I’d seen in movies and on talk shows.

RP: And I am that person, but I’m also this one. And the reason I decided to share with the students was because I saw them come into the Academy so burdened by life every day. When you are a low-income, poverty-stricken, Title 1 kid, you have so much to endure just waking up. So, you may have a bad attitude or a chip on your shoulder before you even get to school. You may arrive so anxious, angry, hungry or apathetic that you may say to yourself, “Why should I pay attention in class?” You might be beaten-up on the way to school, because you live in a bad neighborhood. Still, I had to inform them, especially the seniors, that they didn’t have the luxury of bringing all that baggage into the world which they would be stepping into as adults. I’d say, “You need to come to terms with it, or let it go. One or the other. And if you can do both, then you’re golden.” If you are unable to get past that baggage, the opportunities that should be yours will not be yours.

 

KW: Well, I applaud you for overcoming so many obstacles. After all, the odds of making it in Hollywood are long enough for someone coming from a privileged background.   

RP: I hear you, since the odds were supposedly great. But you know what? I knew I was going to be successful from day one. From day one. That’s why it throws me whenever someone says it was such a fluke that I was successful.

 

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

RP: I would say tenacity and perseverance. You have to be like a dog with a bone. You can’t just let it go. And number one is belief. You have to believe in yourself. You need to have the audacity to be great.

 

KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

RP: Wow! No one’s ever asked me that question. I wouldn’t try it, but the only one that popped into my head is A Woman Under the Influence, the John Cassavetes film starring his wife Gena Rowlands. Her depiction of mental illness frightened me. Her performance shocked me, because it was so simple.

 

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

RP: No, I can’t think of anything, although that question is probably out there.

 

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

RP: Me! I see me, and the reality of me gets clearer as I get older, and I’m loving it.

 

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

RP: The crib, the peach bedspread, and the French doors at my aunt’s house when I was 2.

 

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

RP: Pollo guisado, it’s a Puerto Rican-style chicken stew.

 

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

RP: Oh, I don’t have a favorite.

 

KW: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision?

RP: To go to college.  

 

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

RP: “White Girls” by Hilton Als. Blown away! http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1936365812/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20  

 

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 

RP: To be honest, “Drunk in Love” by Beyonce’. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00HFWYA3E/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

 

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

RP: That my husband [Erik Haze] and I will be in premium health until we take our last breaths, so that we could enjoy every single second of our lives together.

 

KW: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend the time? 

RP: With my husband and my family. It wouldn’t matter what we were doing. We’d probably be telling each other how much we appreciate each other while watching boxing and eating a good meal. Of course, it would turn into a party. 

 

KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

RP: A horse.

 

KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

RP: I have no idea.

 

KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Isthere anything that you promised yourself you’d do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?

RP: Yes, to go back to school and get a degree.

 

KW: What was it like to skyrocket to fame?

RP: It was both difficult and wonderful. It was quite difficult for me because, being raised in a home, I’d come to hate being pointed at whenever we went out in public in a group. It’s still uncomfortable for me to be stared at, although I’ve learned to deal with it better. It makes me self-conscious. 

 

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?

RP: I’m more guarded and shy on the carpet. At home, I’m the silliest cornball who talks way too much and wants to be quiet and left alone at the same time. And I love to entertain, but in a small, intimate way. But I feel like I can be myself on Craig Ferguson’s show. I have so much fun on his couch, because he’s an idiot. That man cracks me up. I think there’s a kinship in our silliness. I dance like he does in my living room all the time.  

 

KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

RP: You might think it was being abandoned by mother. But no, it was being taken away from my aunt at the age of 3, because I was self-aware by then and I knew what was going on. That was my biggest heartbreak, and it informed a lot. I didn’t want it to be my whole story as an adult. So, I’ve learned to heal that heartbreak and move on.

 

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

RP: Yeah.

 

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

RP: About an hour ago during a meeting at my charity. I laugh a lot. It’s disgusting how much I laugh during the day.

 

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

RP: [LOL] I don’t know that I would encourage anyone to follow in my footsteps.

 

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

RP: As someone that gave back, because the people I remember the most in my life are the ones that gave. 

 

KW: Thanks again for being so forthcoming and so generous with your time, Rosie, and best of luck with both the book and your career.

RP: Thank you, Kam. I really, really appreciate it.

 

To order a copy of Handbook for an Unpredictable Life, visit:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0307952398/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20




Wish I Was Here
Film Review by Kam Williams

As an actor, Zach Braff is most closely associated with the character J.D. from Scrubs, the Emmy-winning sitcom which enjoyed a nine-year run on network television from 2001 to 2010. As a director, he’s best known for Garden State, the quirky, semi-autobiographical feature film where he played a struggling actor who returns to his hometown in Jersey for his mother’s funeral.

Wish I Was Here is more akin to the latter, being another delightful, dysfunctional family dramedy which Zach directed and stars in. He also co-wrote it with his brother, Adam, and the offbeat adventure milks much of its mirth from Jewish culture in a manner often evocative of Joel and Ethan Coen’s A Serious Man (2009).

The point of departure is suburban L.A. which is where we find 35 year-old Aidan Bloom (Braff) in the midst of a midlife crisis. The fledgling actor is on anti-depressants and in deep denial about his dwindling career prospects, despite the fact that he last worked ages ago in a dandruff commercial.

What makes the situation problematical is that he futilely fritters away his time auditioning, oblivious to his breadwinner wife’s (Kate Hudson) resentment. She hates being stuck like a rat on a treadmill in a stultifying government job where she’s being sexually harassed on a daily basis by the pervy creep (Michael Weston) who shares her cubicle.

But she can’t quit her job because their kids, Grace (Joey King) and Tucker (Pierce Gagnon), won’t have food on the table or a roof over their heads. As it is, they’ve already sacrificed some luxuries, like the built-in pool that sits empty in the backyard.

Something’s gotta give when grandpa Gabe (Mandy Patinkin) suddenly announces that his cancer has returned, so he can no longer afford to subsidize his grandchildren’s expensive private education. Not wanting to subject them to the substandard, local public schools, Aidan grudgingly agrees to abandon his pipe dream of Hollywood stardom in order to homeschool them.

However, this affords him an unexpected opportunity to not only share some much-needed quality time with them, but to orchestrate an overdue reconciliation between his long-estranged brother (Josh Gad) and their rapidly-declining dad, as well. Soon, adolescent Grace develops the confidence to blossom from a repressed wallflower into a show off sporting a metallic purple wig, and 6 year-old Tucker finds fulfillment toasting marshmallows in the desert with his more attentive father.

By film’s end, expect to be moved to tears by this poignant picture’s bittersweet resolution and sobering, universal message about the importance of family. And don’t be surprised if the weeping persists way past the closing credits.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for

Running time: 120 minutes

Distributor: Focus Features

To see a trailer for Wish I Was Here, visit




America: Imagine the World without Her

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

Revisionist Documentary Speculates about Alternative U.S. Reality

 

What would the U.S. look like today if the Minutemen had lost the Revolutionary War to England? That query is the launching pad of America: Imagine the World without Her, an unapologetically right-wing documentary written, directed and narrated by Dinesh D’Souza.

D’Souza, a political pundit who immigrated here as a teenager back in the Seventies, proudly wears his patriotism on his sleeve, announcing at the outset, “I love America! I chose this country!” before launching into a full-frontal attack on such controversial left-leaning leaders and public intellectuals as Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Ward Churchill, Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Eric Dyson, Bill Ayers, Howard Zinn, Saul Alinsky and Hillary Clinton.

But he levels his most caustic remarks at Barack Obama whom he indicts as a liar by playing a number of incriminating comments from “If you want to keep your doctor, you can keep your doctor” to “Nobody is listening to your phone calls.”  D’Souza goes on to explain the President’s behavior as merely part of a strategic socialist conspiracy to destroy the capitalist system.

The movie is basically an attempt to prove that the United States is a great nation with no reason to be ashamed of its past, as suggested by its supposed detractors like Reverend Wright who is heard again in his most notorious sound bite, “No! No! No! Not God bless America… God damn America!” D’Souza brushes aside shameful chapters in our history like slavery and the slaughter of the Indians by arguing that there were just as many black slave owners as white ones, and that Native Americans had fought with each other for millennia prior to the arrival of European settlers.   

His goal is to inspire the masses to rise up and save the country before it’s too late. I suspect that the picture will serve as red meat to arch-conservatives already inclined to dismiss Obama and other progressives as communists in liberals’ clothing. Unfortunately, it also won’t do much to encourage civil discourse or to bridge the intractable stalemate between Democratic and Republicans sitting on opposite sides of the aisle.

            Divisive D’Souza: Imagine an America without him!

 

Fair (1.5 stars)

Rated PG-13 for violent images   

Running time: 104 minutes

Distributor: Lionsgate Films

 

To see a trailer for America: Imagine the World without Her, visit:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7r3Ef7Ssy8



Reviews
userpicRage (FILM REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Rage

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

Shades of “Taken” Abound in Gruesome Nicolas Cage Vigilante Vehicle

            In recent years, Nicholas Cage has made a lot of mediocre movies, and Rage is no exception. This B-movie action flick might be best thought of as an unapologetic rip-off of the Liam Neeson vigilante vehicle Taken. 

            But where Neeson was a retired CIA agent, Cage plays a reformed ex-con. And while the former was frantically searching for his missing daughter, the latter is looking for whoever fired a fatal bullet into the head of his sweet, 16 year-old daughter. As for the villains, Taken’s were Albanian sex traffickers while Rage’s are Russian mobsters. 

            Otherwise, the stories are similar enough to warrant a comparison. At the point of departure we find Paul Maguire (Cage) and his trophy wife, Vanessa (Rachel Nichols), bidding his daughter (Aubrey Peeples) adieu for the evening as they head out to dinner at a local restaurant. The overprotective father makes a point of impressing upon Caitlin’s boyfriend, Mike (Max Fowler), that he doesn’t want any hanky-panky on the premises in his absence.   

            However, what actually transpires proves to be far worse than anything he imagined, for he gets a call from Detective St. John (Danny Glover) informing him of a break-in back at the house. Turns out that Caitlin’s been kidnapped and, based on the clues supplied by Mike, Paul suspects that her abductors might be the same ruthless Russian gang he’d had the temerity to rip off 19 years earlier.

            Sadly, her lifeless body is soon discovered, and all the evidence points to the posse’s kingpin, Chernov (Pasha D. Lychnikoff). So, rather than let the police solve the crime, Paul opts to take the law into his own hands, and rounds up a couple of his tough buddies (Max Ryan and Michael McGrady) before embarking on a revenge-fueled reign of terror armed to the teeth.

Gritty and gruesome, Rage is an unapologetic splatterfest featuring pyrotechnics, pistol-whipping, stabbing and slow-motion senseless slaughter murders via sawed-off shotgun. The body count gets pretty high en route to the protagonists’ surprising showdown with Chernov, a barrel-chested Vladimir Putin lookalike.

Think Taken with a heckuva twist!

Good (2 stars)

Unrated

Running time: 98 minutes

Distributor: RLJ/Image Entertainment

To see a trailer for Rage, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3FVLRN7Nzc     



Interviews
userpicBobb'e J. Thompson (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Bobb’e J. Thompson

The “School Dance” Interview

with Kam William

 

The Chat Heard ‘Round the World

Kicking off an impressive career in front of the camera at the tender age of five, Bobb’e J. Thompson rose to fame as a child actor well before his teens, initially with a small but colorful and energetic supporting role as the pint-sized Tupac in My Baby's Daddy (2003). He subsequently appeared in television and film efforts such as The Tracy Morgan Show (2004), Shark Tale (2004), That’s So Raven (2004), and Joey (2005).

Bobb’e contributed to OutKast mainstay Bryan Barber's offbeat, inventive musical drama Idlewild (2006) before teaming up with Vince Vaughn in the holiday comedy Fred Claus (2007). He then starred in the acerbic farce hit comedy Role Models as the hilarious, wisecracking Ronnie Shields, for which he earned an MTV Movie Award nomination for Best Breakthrough Performance in 2009.

2009 proved to be a breakout year for Bobb’e. He appeared in Land of the Lost with Will Ferrell and the family comedy Imagine That opposite Eddie Murphy. He was also a semi-regular on NBC's 30 Rock, stealing scenes and showing perfect comic timing in his role as Tracy Jr., the son of Tracy Morgan's character.

Next, Nike recruited Thompson for multiple commercials as the fast-talking Lil Dez, who gives NBA greats Kobe Bryant and LeBron James a run for their money while babysitting. He became the first Spokes Kid for Sony PSP in their multi-commercial campaign Marcus Rivers Don’t Play That and the youngest star to host WWE Monday *ight Raw, following his onscreen appearance opposite Big Show as fight promoter Mad Milton in Knucklehead.

Tyler Perry jumped at the opportunity to work with Bobb’e, casting him as M.J. Williams in the television series For Better or Worse. But the role of “Cal Devereaux” in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs showed a sweeter side closer to his real-life personality.

Besides his film work, Bobb’e has cultivated favorable attention for his prominent contributions to the youth-oriented urban dance video JammX Kids: Can't Dance Don't Want To, which afforded him the opportunity to show off his flair for urban music and footwork. And his hosting gig on the Cartoon Network show Bobb’e Says ranked number one on all television among its primary target demo, boys 6-11.

Here, Bobb’e reflects upon his starring role as Jason, the main character in Nick Cannon’s directorial debut, School Dance.

 

Kam Williams: Hi Bobb’e, thanks so much for the interview.

BJT: Thanks for having me, Kam.

 

KW: What interested you in School Dance?

BJT: Honestly, I kinda liked the fact that I would have the chance to play a character that’s the opposite of what I’m used to playing. Jason isn’t as outspoken and foul-mouthed. I liked having an opportunity to channel my abilities in a different direction.

 

KW: Did you feel any pressure to do a good job and carry the movie as the main character, given that it’s Nick Cannon’s directorial debut?

BJT: I don’t know what pressure feels like. I went in with my head clear ready to do my job, because I knew everybody else was coming to do theirs. I was working with a team, so as long as I was ready to do my part, I was confident that the pieces were going to fit together as they should.

 

KW: What was it like working with a cast with so many great comedians? Kevin Hart… George Lopez… Katt Williams… Mike Epps…  

BJT: And Lil Duval and Luenell. We had some heavy hitters. We had fun on set. Everybody was upbeat and in good spirits. We cracked jokes and laughed but, by the end of the day, everybody got their work done. We were all about business when it was time to get on camera. And when the camera’s rolled, it was crazy! Everybody was cracking jokes and having fun, man.

 

KW: The movie reminded me of a musical, comical version of Romeo and Juliet. 

BJT: Yeah, that’s kinda what Nick was going for when he pitched it to me. Like a West Side Story with a modern twist to it. I went, “Yeah, that’s dope!” And we made it happen. That’s how we wanted it to be perceived, so I’m glad you saw it that way. 

 

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: How did you prepare for the role and how challenging was it playing your first lead in a movie?

BJT: It wasn’t really hard for me. It didn’t take too much preparation. I knew I wasn’t Ronnie from Role Models this time around. And I had great guidance from Nick to tone it down whenever I started to slip back into that character. 

 

KW: Patricia also says: You started acting at 5.  What does acting mean to you and what advice do you have for young people who want to be part of the film and television world?

BJT: When I first started, acting wasn’t something that I wanted to do but it’s become a passion over the years, and I have a divine love for it now. If you want to act, I advise you to stay in school, because you need your education, too, since this is a business. I’d also say, follow your dreams. Never give up! Stay persistent!

 

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles observes that in the movie, your character says, “I’m working on it, bro.” She asks: Is the real Bobb’e similar to Jason?

BJT: No. I’m kinda the exact opposite. He dresses like a nerd. I dress nice. And If I’m interested in a girl, I’ll approach her. He has no swag at all.

 

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: What are your dreams and aspirations as an artist?

BJT: I think when it’s all said and done, I need 5 Grammys, 6 Oscars, a few Emmys and a couple of NAACP Awards. The whole 9 yards. My dream is to be one of the wininngest entertainers ever. I just want my work to be recognized as well as the effort I put in.  

 

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: What were Nick Cannon’s instructions about how Jason should relate to Kristina DeBarge’s character, Anastacia.

BJT: There were no directions about how we should relate because we were coming from two different sides of the tracks and we only had to build chemistry later on.

 

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

BJT: Reporters never ask me about my real passion, my music.

 

KW: Okay, then tell me about your music. 

BJT: I just finished a mixtape that’s available at www.DatPiff.com . And I also have a video out on Youtube entitled “OMG.”

 

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

BJT: The last time I sat down to watch School Dance.

 

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

BJT: Eating sweets, grapes, strawberries, cherries and stuff with a lot of sugar.

 

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

BJT: Burgers and fries. I’m an easy guy.

 

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

BJT: Michael Oher’s “The Blind Side.” It’s a great book.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B007CGTKYM/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

 

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 

BJT: It was one of my songs, but I’m not sure which one. I don’t want to sound conceited, but I listen to myself all day. I critique myself a lot. 

 

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

BJT: Polo, Ralph Lauren.

 

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

BJT: I see an ambitious young man who will one day have it all.

 

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

BJT: To bring my grandmother back so I could share all this with her.

 

KW: Let's say you’re throwing your dream dinner party—who’s invited… and what would you serve?

BJT: I’d invite Carmelo Anthony, since he’s my favorite basketball player. And Beyonce’ and Jay-Z, Puffy, and my boy Rich Homie Quan. And K. Michelle or Keyshia Cole or to be my date… whichever one of them ain’t busy at the time.

 

KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

BJT: A lion.

 

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

BJT: It’s really funny. I was chasing my big brother around the house when I was really, really little, about 3 years-old. He slammed the door in my face, and I got a black eye. [LOL]

 

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?

BJT: I don’t promote at home. On the red carpet, I’m in full promotion mode. [Chuckles]

 

KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

BJT: I’d like to be able to fly. L.A.’s got too much traffic.

 

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

BJT: A nice smile. I think everybody who’s successful has nice pearly whites.

 

KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

BJT: Yeah, let’s remake the Home Alone series. We could take it to the ‘hood and show you how a little black boy would handle some robbers. [Laughs]

 

KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

BJT: When my grandmother died, it made me value my days more, and work harder to achieve everything I told her I was going after.

 

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

BJT: Follow your dreams, stay in school, and honor your mother and your father. That’s pretty much it.

 

KW: The “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan question: Do you have a favorite city where you’d like to live?

BJT: I’d like to live in Miami.

 

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: What is your favorite charity?

BJT: Yes, Juneteenth, back home in Kansas City.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Bobb’e, and best of luck with School Dance.

BJT: Appreciate it, Kam.

To see a trailer for School Dance, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qKXSL2N0RQ

To watch Bobb’e’s music video, “OMG,” visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PS79KWlR-w

To download or listen to Bobb’e’s mixtape, visit:

http://www.datpiff.com/Bobbe-J-PSA-Aint-Nobody-Fuckin-With-Me-mixtape.625973.html



Interviews
userpicDinesh D'Souza (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Dinesh D'Souza

The “America: Imagine a World without Her” Interview

with Kam Williams

 

A D’Souza Lollapalooza!

 

Scholar, author, public intellectual and filmmaker Dinesh Joseph D’Souza was born and raised in Mumbai before coming to the U.S. in 1978 as an exchange student. He subsequently matriculated at Dartmouth where he co-founded, edited and wrote for a conservative periodical called The Dartmouth Review.

A former White House domestic policy analyst in the Reagan White House, he later served as President of The King’s College in New York City, and as a fellow at both the American Enterprise Institute and Hoover Institution. He’s also co-written and co-directed a couple of documentaries: “2016: Obama’s America” and “America: Imagine the World without Her” which is currently in theaters.

A bit of a bomb-throwing provocateur, the right-wing commentator’s controversial remarks on topics ranging from racism to feminism to colonialism have incurred the wrath of many on the left. He specifically targeted President Obama in incendiary tomes titled “The Roots of Obama’s Rage” and “Obama’s America: Unmaking of the American Dream.”

Dinesh has published over a dozen books in all, most recently, “America: Imagine a World without Her,” a companion piece to the aforementioned movie. Here, he shares his concerns for the country while delineating his political philosophy..

 

 

Kam Williams: Hi Dinesh, thanks for the interview.

Dinesh D'Souza: No problem, Kam.

 

KW: What’s the inspiration behind America: Imagine a World without Her?

DD: Well, I’m an immigrant to the U.S., and I’ve constantly been thinking about America both from the inside and from the outside. And I’ve come to believe that we’re living at a critical time when the American Dream is in jeopardy and this American Era which began after World War II might be winding down. So, I wanted to make a strong, moral defense of the country, in both the book and the movie, against the people who have been strong critics of America.

 

KW: Editor Lisa Loving says: You argue that Obama is “intentionally shrinking’ the United States” presence worldwide because progressive politics argue for it, but isn’t Obama actually expanding federal government spying powers on civilians and even approving targeted assassinations of American citizens in other parts of the world? And now he is asking for $5 billion to invest in training Syrian rebel troops? That doesn’t sound like “shrinking America’s presence in the world.”

DD: Well, that question’s confusing a couple of things and muddling them together. Obama’s policies can be summarized as follows: omnipotence at home, impotence abroad. So, the federal government is expanding its powers at home over the private sector and over the lives of ordinary citizens. The NSA’s spying is part of that. Abroad, Obama’s working to undermine America’s influence and power. Now, that is consistent with his actively trying to strengthen our enemies. He has done that to some degree. If someone is trying to shrink America’s influence, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do it by doing nothing. You can also be vigorous like Obama who has been very active on both the domestic and foreign policy fronts to achieve what has really been his consistent objective. 

 

KW: Why do you think there has been little outrage in response to the expansion of the Executive powers via the NSA and IRS? If this were the Sixties, the youth would’ve taken to the streets.

DD: In the Sixties, there was a big resistance to the Vietnam War. But what accompanied it was a tendency to view all of American history cynically through the same sort of jaundiced eye, and people began reinterpreting all American history as a series of misadventures and crimes and oppressions visited upon the innocent, the poor, the defenseless, the minorities, and so on. This created a new narrative in America. Let’s call it, “America the inexcusable.” And this narrative has been drummed into the minds of our young people, not only in college, but also in elementary and secondary education. And then it spilled out into the media, the churches and mainline media where it has metastasized. What’s happened is that a whole generation of Americans has been taught that theirs is a bad country. And it’s then very difficult for them to figure out how one can one be a good citizen in a bad country. So, part of the explanation for people’s emotional paralysis is not knowing how to deal with a person like Obama. On the one hand, he is the embodiment of American exceptionalism. His story is not possible anywhere but in America. And yet he doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism, and he doesn’t like it. If he thinks America is exceptional at all, he thinks it’s exceptionally bad, not exceptionally good. 

 

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman says: I have observed current college students who have no ability to verbally express an original idea or to continue a discussion based on a topic involving current events. Perhaps this generation is the "ADHD" generation and is incapable of doing more than parroting the latest tweet, I am not sure.  How would you encourage young people to become more involved in lively, in-person discussions and less involved in shouting in the cloud? By that I mean, how do you encourage dialogue, discussion and actively pursuing an endeavor with other human beings present and attempting to attain tangible results instead of simply texting and emailing about current issues?

DD: Well, I do think our culture has shifted a little bit away from the contemplative more toward the visual, more toward the emotional, and more toward the expressive. I don’t think there’s a lot that can be done about that. We just have to understand that it’s the product of technology and of the way people live now. That’s one reason I make movies in addition to writing books. There’s a big audience for books, but it isn’t as large as the audience for films. Books are an intellectual experience, and films are primarily an emotional experience. Primarily. We need both, and I think the way to motivate people is to speak to them in a way that they can understand, in a way that inspires and motivates them. If you watch our America movie, you’ll see that it’s different than the kind of rhetoric you traditionally hear. It’s a film that helps you experience and feel America, and it’s a film that helps you look at American history in a new way which builds rather than undermines patriotism.

 

KW: Did you have any hesitations about doing another documentary, given how the feds came down on you after you criticized the President in 2016: Obama’s America? Do you think that making that movie was what got you in trouble with the IRS?

DD: In my case, it was a campaign finance law violation. It had nothing to do with the IRS. There’s no question that I’ve been a prominent critic of Obama. I know for a fact that he was upset by that film, 2016. How do I know? I know because he started railing against it on his website, www.BarackObama.com. But I’m not intimidated by the fact that people in high places are opposed to me. I work hard to earn their discomfort and perhaps even their rage. So, again, with my new film, America, the Left is already out there screaming and trying their best in their clumsy, heavy-handed way to discourage people from seeing the film. It’s not really going to work, but it’s a strategy that I fully expect and am ready for.    

 

KW: Do you think that between the NSA and the IRS might have had an effect on the outcome of the 2012 Presidential Election the way that so many conservatives who applied to create 501(c)(3) non-profits were put through the wringer?

DD: I don’t know. I do believe that the Obama administration has reached a new low by using the instruments of the state against its political adversaries. Obama does not see people who disagree with him as well-meaning opponents but rather as enemies. That’s not something that Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton did as President, and it’s certainly not something that Reagan or either Bush did. Probably Obama’s direct descendant in this line is Richard Nixon. And Obama seems to have carried Nixonian tactics to a new low. So, we’ve turned a corner in American politics that doesn’t bode well for our future.

 

KW: Larry Greenberg says: According to the American Enterprise Institute, the Hobby Lobby ruling won't change much and isn't very important. Do you agree?

DD: It’s hard to say. I know a little bit about the ruling, of course. The issue of religious liberty is absolutely critical. America was founded on three different types of liberty: political liberty, economic liberty, and religious and civil liberty. It’s remarkable that, one-by-one, these strands of liberty are coming under fierce attack from the Left. And that’s particularly ironic because “liberal” derives from a word which means “liberty,” the free man as opposed to the slave. This liberalism which we’re saddled with today isn’t a real liberalism at all, but a gangster style of politics masquerading as liberalism. . 

 

KW: Cousin Leon Marquis asks: How can the Average Joe, making under $100,000 per year, survive and thrive in the new America that you envision?

DD: Well, it depends on what you mean when you say “you envision.” There’s one America that Obama wants, and there’s a very different America that I want. I want an America that is entrepreneurial, that has a strong private sector in which religious faith is respected and even nourished, in which there’s vigorous debate across the spectrum, and in which our universities teach real history instead of propaganda. That’s a very different kind of America, and they’re moving very resolutely towards their goal. Certainly the decline of America is a choice, though the outcome is not foreordained. But liberty is also a choice, and I’m doing my best to persuade the people of America to make the latter choice.

 

KW: Professor/Filmmaker/author Hisani Dubose says: You’re quoted at Salon.com as saying, "The cultural left in this country is responsible for causing 9/11 ... the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the non-profit sector and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world." You also said the problem with colonialism in Africa and India is that it did not last long enough.  Do you not think that America's policies in Africa and Islamic countries are what have caused the "volcano of anger" toward the United States? Most of the dictators there were backed by the U.S.

DD: That question, unfortunately, is a little bit incoherent because it combined things I did say with things I didn’t say. For example, on colonialism, I don’t say it lasted too long in India. It lasted long enough there, like a couple hundred years. My point was that it lasted in Africa only for a few decades. The complaint was that the colonialists were there for too short a time to actually introduce Western values of democracy, separation of powers, and checks and balances, the kind of stuff that the Indians learned from the British which enabled India to establish a democratic society and to open universities based on the Western model which could teach people English and ultimately create the foundation for the technical explosion that is happening now. None of that development would’ve transpired in India if it hadn’t been for the colonial influence that first laid the groundwork for it. That didn’t happen in Africa where Western roots were too thinly planted. And as far as 9/11, obviously Islamic radicals were responsible for the terrorist attack. It would take a moron to blame someone else. They did it! But my point is that liberal propaganda around the world has helped to shape and encourage the idea that America is a shameless, amoral country. Islamic radicals have benefitted from that, and it has served to strengthen their recruiting efforts on the Arab street. 

 

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

DD: I’m in the process right now of reading Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.” http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1495429113/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

 

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

DD: When you look in the mirror, what do I see? I see a reflection of myself.

 

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

DD: Standing on the balcony of my house after my grandfather died when I was very young.

 

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

DD: I don’t cook, but my favorite dish to eat is Chicken Tikka Marsala.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Dinesh, and good luck with the book and the film.

DD: Thanks Kam. Bye-bye.

To see a trailer for America: Imagine the World without Her, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7r3Ef7Ssy8

To order a copy of the book, “America: Imagine a World without Her, visit: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/162157203X/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20



Reviews
userpicSchool Dance (FILM REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

School Dance

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

Nick Cannon Makes Directorial Debut with Help of Star-Studded Cast

            Nick Cannon is a versatile entertainer known as an actor, comedian, rapper, radio DJ, TV host and as the husband of pop dive Mariah Carey. With School Dance, Nick steps behind the camera to add filmmaker to his extensive resume.

His jaw-dropping directorial debut is a raunchy romantic comedy that might be best thought of as Romeo and Juliet gone completely gangsta’. Set at an inner-city high school in Los Angeles, the irreverent romp revolves around diminutive Jason Jackson (Bobb’e J. Thompson), a modestly-endowed virgin with a crush on a cute and curvy classmate.

Trouble is Anastacia (Kristina DeBarge) has never even noticed the nondescript nerd. A bigger complication is that he’s black, she’s Chicano, and their respective ethnic groups don’t mix, let alone get along. Nevertheless, Jason accepts a dare from the dudes in his posse to get into her proverbial panties by the end of the semester.

To that end, he hatches an elaborate plan to impress the girl of his dreams by winning their high school’s annual talent show which features a grand prize of $2,000. But of as much import as the outcome of that contest is the raucous road the flick en route to that fait accompli.

Director Cannon apparently had no trouble casting his first picture, since the screen is filled with top comedians at every turn, from the man of the year Kevin Hart to the resurrected Katt Williams to “Yo’ Momma’s” Wilmer Valderrama to the irrepressible Luenell to the incomparable Mike Epps to George Lopez and Patrick Warburton. All of the above found the elbow room to do their thing, although the production might have benefited from editing out some of their most offensive remarks.

For example, the blasphemous rap, “F*ck the President, Barack f*cking Obama. F*ck that n*gger” was a bit much for this critic to stomach, even if the euphoria of historic Election Night 2008 is just a distant memory. Equally off-putting was this line uttered by Lopez as Anastacia’s overprotective father. “I don’t want some little black baby with a big penis running around this house touching all my shit.”

Still, I suspect that such shocking fare will find a ready audience in a Hip-Hop Generation weaned on a profusion of profanity and fond of the N-word. A 21st Century update of the beloved Shakespeare classic about a pair of star-crossed lovers from the opposite side of the tracks.

Good (2 stars)

Rated R for crude humor, graphic sexuality, underage drug use, ethnic slurs and pervasive profanity

Running time: 85 minutes

Distributor: Lionsgate Films

To see a trailer for School Dance, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qKXSL2N0RQ 



Reviews
userpicEarth to Echo (FILM REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Earth to Echo

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

Coming-of-Age Sci-Fi Features Shades of E.T. 

Most people know E.T. revolves around several kids who befriend an alien stranded on Earth and eager to return home before ill-intentioned adults can do him any harm. That coming-of-age classic landed four Academy Awards back in 1983, and was even voted the best sci-fi of all time in a recent survey by Rotten Tomatoes.    

But if you’re too young to remember Steven Spielberg’s heartwarming adventure, or if it’s been so long since you saw it that the storyline’s a little fuzzy, have I got an homage for you. Much about Earth to Echo just screams remake, starting with the picture’s vaguely-familiar promotional poster which similarly features a human hand reaching out to touch an extra-terrestrial.

Still, this delightful variation on the theme endeavors to refresh the original by incorporating current cultural staples, ranging from texting shorthand to social media. So, when the protagonists here communicate with each other, they often rely on inscrutable slang apt to befuddle fuddy-duddies unfamiliar with the lexicon employed by today’s average adolescent.

At this found-footage flick’s point of departure, we find narrator Tuck (Astro) lamenting the impending separation from his BFFs Alex (Teo Halm) and Munch (Reese Hartwig) when their Nevada neighborhood is razed in a week to make way for a turnpike. The plot thickens after all their cell phones inexplicably “barf” simultaneously, and they decide to discern the source of the mysterious malfunction.

Equipped with a camcorder and state-of-the-art spyglasses, the youngsters ride their bikes into the desert in the middle of the night accompanied by a cute rebel (Ella Wahlestedt) with her own reason for running away from home. GPS sends the sleuths to a site in the desert where, lo and behold, they find Echo, a cuddly visitor from another galaxy with pressing issues akin to the aforementioned E.T.

The kids, of course, kick it into high gear on his behalf, keeping just a step ahead of the untrustworthy authorities. Their noble efforts inexorably lead to a satisfying resolution every bit as syrupy as Spielberg’s.

An unapologetic retread bordering on plagiarism that nevertheless provides the perfect, popcorn summer escape for the tyke and ‘tweener demographics.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG for action, peril and mild epithets

Running time: 92 minutes

Distributor: Relativity Media

To see a trailer for Earth to Echo, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMlcdEtAiBA



Interviews
userpicMichael Ealy (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Michael Ealy

The “Think Like a Man Too” Interview

with Kam Williams

 

Mike on the Mic

For the last few years, Michael Ealy has been red-hot, jumping from TV to film and back to TV, seamlessly. He recently starred in the sci-fi television series, Almost Human, for which he earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Leading Actor in a Drama Series.

Earlier this year, he starred in the remake of About Last Night, and prior to that on the TV series Common Law. He also completed impactful, multi-episode arcs on CBS’ hit series “The Good Wife,” and on the Showtime series, “Californication,” while concurrently shooting the feature adaptation of the renowned theatre production, For Colored Girl’s Only, Who Consider Committing Suicide When The Rainbow Is Not Enough for Tyler Perry Studios and Lions Gate Films. 

Prior to that, he was handpicked by Will Smith to co-star in Seven Pounds, and by Spike Lee to join the ensemble of The Miracle at St. Anna. Michael’s riveting performance was lauded in this true story of four Buffalo Soldiers who risked their lives to save a young Italian boy while behind enemy lines.

A student of history and supporter of education, Michael participated in the History Channel’s documentary series The People Speak, based on Howard Zinn’s acclaimed book where one of the historical figures he portrays is “Malcolm X.” He earned a Golden Globe nomination for his lead performance on the Showtime mini-series “Sleeper Cell” where he portrayed Darwyn, a Muslim FBI agent sent undercover to infiltrate a terrorist cell in Los Angeles.

He was tapped by Oprah to star opposite Halle Berry in the Harpo Films telepic “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” The TV special received rave reviews and was viewed by over 26 million people. Michael earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special for his portrayal of Teacake”.

The Silver Spring, Maryland native appeared in several stage productions after graduating from college, including the Off-Broadway hits Joe Fearless and Whoa Jack. It would not be long thereafter before Michael nabbed guest-starring television roles on “Law & Order” and “Soul Food.”And he was subsequently  cast in the films Kissing Jessica Stein and Bad Company

While visiting his friends in Los Angeles, Michael heard about auditions for Barbershop.  After placing a call to his manager and a few rounds of auditions, he landed the role of Ricky Nash,” a two-strike offender. In terms of the tabloids, the blue-eyed hunks was named one of People magazines’ “On the Verge” actors in the magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” 2002 and 2013 issues. Furthermore, he was named one of E! Entertainment Television’s “Sizzlin’ 16” of 2004 and appeared on the cover of Essence magazine's "Hollywood Screen Gems" for their April 2004 issue. 

Michael resides in Los Angeles with his wife Khatira Rafiqzada and their baby, Elijah.

 

 

Kam Williams: Hi Michael, thanks for the time, bro.

Michael Ealy: What’s up, Kam?

 

KW: Tim [Director Tim Story] managed to reassemble the whole cast for the sequel. How’d he make that happen?

ME: It’s a miracle that everybody’s schedule opened up. I think part of the genius of it was that they made the decision early, and said, “Next summer, we’re going to try to knock this out.” So, everyone kinda made sure that they were available. We also had such a good time making the first one that everybody jumped at the chance to come back and do a sequel with the same cast and same director. That’s an opportunity you just don’t get very often.

 

KW: And did you enjoy yourself as much the second go-round?

ME: I definitely did, although being in Vegas for two or three months obviously presented a whole new set of challenges, since it’s a place that most people visit for only two or three days. You had the heat and the extreme air conditioning. And also constant, constant stimulation, whether it’s people getting drunk out of their minds, couples getting married, people going to strip clubs, prostitutes or whatever. It’s Sin City! It’s hard sometimes to stay focused on your job when there’s so much going on around you, as well as people following you around. There were plenty of distractions. So, I wouldn’t say it was as easy as shooting in L.A. Location is a factor. If you have to go somewhere to work, it helps to be focused.

 

KW: As usual, I have a lot of questions for you from fans. Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: This isn’t your first sequel. You also did Barbershop 1 and 2. What is it about them that calls you back, and will you be doing Barbershop 3.

ME: [Chuckles] I think what happened on Barbershop also kinda happened on Think Like a Man, and the irony is that both pictures were made with the same director, Tim Story. It just doesn’t happen often that the movie you shot for $12 million ends up making $90 million. That’s very rare. So, when you catch lightning in a bottle like that, you jump at an opportunity to come back and do a sequel. You’re lucky if one out ten movies you make gets a sequel.   

 

KW: So, will you be doing Barbershop 3?

ME: I don’t even know whether that’s in the works.

 

KW: I spoke to Ice Cube a few weeks ago, and it looks like a go. It already has a page up at imdb.com, although no director has been named.

ME: Really? Well, they haven’t come to me yet. So, I don’t know anything about it.  

 

KW: What about Think Like a Man 3?

ME: I don’t see why not, if we can bring back the exact same producer, cast and director.

 

KW: Marcia Evans says: I'm a fan of yours, big time. I think the chemistry you have with Taraji [co-star Taraji P. Henson] in Think Like A Man is awesome. I appreciate the message your characters’ relationship sends to the audience that falling in love can be sexy and respectful.

ME: Thank you.

 

KW: She goes on to say:I'm a history buff and I love the TV series “Finding Your Roots” with Dr. Henry Louis Gates where he explores the lineage and genetics of some prominent people.  When I see you onscreen with those blue eyes, I wonder if you have personally researched your genealogy?

ME: I’ve definitely watched those PBS specials with Dr. Gates. I won’t lie, I’ve been curious, but I haven’t yet initiated a search of my family tree.

 

KW: Marcia would also like to know whether you have any plans to make any biopics about historical figures from the Maryland or Washington, D.C. area, like Benjamin Banneker, since you’re from Baltimore?

ME: That’s an interesting question because it was a dream of mine for the longest time to bring a film that I was starring in back to the DMV [D.C./Maryland/Virginia] for a screening or a premiere. And I’ve been blessed to be able to do that twice, for Think Like a Man and, recently, for Think Like a Man Too. And now, the next dream of mine, career-wise, is to shoot a movie that takes place there, to showcase the area for what it is. So, Marcia’s question is actually inspiring me to dig a little deeper and to consider playing someone from the area. So, yeah, I will give that some serious thought. If there’s someone I could portray, I would do it in a heartbeat.

 

KW: Marcia’s final comment is that she enjoyed both Unconditional and Miracle at St. Anna’s, and that she was having dinner recently with friends when they talked about how Spike [director Spike Lee] and the cast didn’t receive enough love for the film. 

ME: Yeah, we went to Italy and worked like crazy for three months to make that movie amazing. But sometimes, a picture gets lost in the system. I don’t know what happened, but the marketing campaign wasn’t there. You really can’t afford to worry about it, because it’ll depress you and take you to a darker place. However, we made a good movie, and you can still get it on demand. So, I really appreciate that comment. I don’t know what happened, but it didn’t work to our advantage.  
 

KW: That September release date didn’t help. Everybody’s focused on getting back to work and school after summer vacation.

ME: A lot of factors contribute to how a film fares, and sometimes that includes the release date.

 

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: I loved your performance as Dominic in the original Think Like a Man because it was realistic and reminded me of my ex who pretended to be a yuppie in the same way that Dominic lied to his girlfriend about what he did for a living to impress her. Is Dominic more authentic and confident about presenting his real self to the world and to his girlfriend in the sequel?
ME: Good question, Patricia. Yes, Dominic is absolutely much more confident. He now has two more food trucks, and his career as a chef is on the rise. I think anybody who’s doing well in the pursuit of their dreams is going to be a little more confident than what they were when they first started. What I like is that Dominic doesn’t cave to peer pressure from some of his closest friends who question his drive because he’s so in love with Lauren. He handles himself very well, and he’s very open with everybody, including Lauren, about his feelings. I respect that about the character.

  

KW: Patricia, whose native language is French, was also wondering whether you speak French.

ME: I do not speak French. I know enough Italian to function in a Spanish-speaking country. French is a language that I probably should know, and I’d like to learn, but I have to work on that. Sorry.

 

KW: What kind of kid were you? Did you dream of becoming an actor during your childhood?

ME: No, I had normal aspirations. When I was little, I very badly wanted to be Art Monk, the great receiver for the Washington Redskins. Then, in middle school, I decided I wanted to be an architect. I was looking at the work of Frank Lloyd Wright when I was in the 7th and 8th grade, and trying to decide whether architecture was for me. It wasn’t until I was about 19 that I settled on acting. I was already in college.

 

KW: Have you ever had a near-death experience?

ME: [Laughs] No, I have never had the type of near-death experience most people talk about but, where I’m from, you have one anytime you’re pulled over by the police. When I was growing up, racial profiling was rampant, and you didn’t always make it outta there. I’ve seen friends get beaten up and slammed against patrol cars.

 

KW: Yeah, when I was in college, I was profile-stopped over two-dozen times,

And the cops always used the excuse that I resembled a supposed perp to pat me down and search me.    

ME: Back in college, some friends of mine and I were stopped on our way to a party, allegedly because there was a shooting in the neighborhood, based on a description of the suspects being young black males. One of my buddies was in law school, one was in med school, and the others were upperclassmen. All upstanding citizens. We couldn’t have been further from the guys they were searching for. 

 

KW: Would you mind saying something controversial that would get this interview tweeted?

ME: I don’t think I can help you there. My goal is not to be tweeted about.

 

KW: How do you get through the tough times?  

ME: To put it simply, faith and family. That’s gotten me through a lot of the rough years early on, and they continue to serve as a rock in my life now

 

KW: Thanks again, Michael, I appreciate having another opportunity to interview you. Best of luck with the film.

ME: Okay Kam, I appreciate it, too. Always good to talk to you.

 

To see a trailer for Think Like a Man Too, visit:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8b6kVSZNLE



Reviews
userpicBlind Boys & Taj Majal (CONCERT REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Blind Boys of Alabama and Taj Majal

Concert Review by Kam Williams

 

A Glorious Night of Gospel and Blues at N.J. State Theatre

            The Blind Boys of Alabama opened for Taj Majal on June 18th at the New Jersey State Theatre, where they easily managed to eclipse the headliner in terms of intensity and audience appeal. “Boys” is a bit of misnomer for the six-time Grammy-winning gospel group formed way back in the 1930s by 9 year-old students attending the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind, located in Talledega.

            Sadly, only a couple of the founding members are still alive, Jimmy Carter and Clarence Fountain, and the latter’s participation in concerts is limited to the extent his failing health allows. But in the early decades, the talented ensemble crisscrossed the country, often going on tour with The Blind Boys of Mississippi, with whom they would share the stage in a friendly battle of the bands.

The show I attended featured a mix of traditional, classic and modern spirituals, ranging from “I Shall Not Be Moved,” to Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” to Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky,” to a novel arrangement of “Amazing Grace” set to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun.”

Despite now being in their 70s and 80s, the hard-working harmonizers maintained their high energy for the duration of the hour-plus set, with Jimmy being guided up and down the aisles for hugs, handshakes and photo ops during a lively encore that brought down the house.

By contrast, the Taj Majal trio was relatively-subdued, and fed his fans a steady diet of blues, blues and more blues, ignoring the jazz, reggae, rock and R&B in his repertoire, except for a brief incursion into his African roots. Otherwise, his playlist included such standards as Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Corinna, Corinna,” T-Bone Walker’s “Mean Old World,” Muddy Waters’ “Honey Bee,” John Lee Hooker’s “Annie Mae,” and Mississippi John Hurt’s “Satisfied and Tickled Too.”

Taj was backed by drums and bass while he played guitar (dobro, electric, 12-string acoustic, and so forth) on all but a number where he sat at an electric keyboard. At 72, I was concerned that he might have lost his voice, but it sounded as powerful as ever, and he definitely delivered, provided you came content to hear the brother sing the blues.

To hear “Clara: St. Kitts Woman” by Taj Majal, visit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4wcBzRE44Y

To see a vintage video of The Blind Boys of Alabama, visit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mr5FmYvWNhc

To order a copy of The Blind Boys’ new album, “I’ll Find a Way,” visit: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00CZ1TMXI/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20




Begin Again
Film Review by Kam Williams

Greta (Keira Knightley) followed her college sweetheart (Adam Levine) to Manhattan when he was signed to a lucrative record deal with a major music label. However, the overnight fame went to Dave’s head and he soon started to stray. This development signaled not only the end of their romantic relationship but the demise of their promising partnership as songwriters, too.

Nevertheless, Greta is still very talented in her own right, which she readily proves when pushed by a pal to perform at a Greenwich Village dive on open mic night. The haunting strains of “A Step You Can’t Take Back” catch the ear of Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo), a legendary talent scout who happens to be sitting in the audience.

He proceeds to imagine how great Greta would sound accompanied by a full band instead of simply by her acoustic guitar. So, right after the diamond in the rough steps offstage, he offers to help turn her into the next singing sensation.

But Greta is initially reluctant for a couple of logical reasons. First of all, she’d just decided to abandon her silly pipe dream of superstardom and was on brink of moving back to England. Secondly, the solicitous stranger standing in front of her reeks of alcohol and looks homeless, and nothing like a veteran A&R exec.

Truth be told, disheveled Dan is in the dumps because he was recently fired from Distress Records by the Harvard classmate (Mos Def) he’d co-founded the company with. Furthermore, he’s being missing his estranged wife (Catherine Keener) and daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) since being kicked out of the house a year ago.

In fact, he was actually contemplating suicide until Greta’s voice gave him a new reason to live. Well, will he be able to revive his career and launch Great’s simultaneously, or will the ambitious endeavor fail miserably? And, will the two fall in love, despite the age difference, or might they merely return to their respective exes? Those are the alternate scenarios contemplated by Begin Again, an absorbing, character-driven, musical drama written and directed by John Carney.

The movie is most reminiscent of Carney’s earlier offering Once, which won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Song (“Falling Slowly”) en route to the Broadway stage where it subsequently swept the Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Begin Again similarly revolves around a pair of losers down on their luck whose close collaboration yields a cornucopia of mellifluous melodies.

Who knew that Keira Knightley could carry a tune let alone in such a dulcet tone? Or that she was capable of generating palpable screen chemistry? Kudos are also in order for her top-flight, supporting cast, especially Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, Mos Def, James Corden, Catherine Keener, Hailee Steinfeld and CeeLo Green.

An enchanting musical adventure amounting to the best kept cinematic secret of the summer! At least until now.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for profanity

Running time: 104 minutes

Distributor: The Weinstein Company

To see a trailer for Begin Again, visit




Think Like a Man Too
Review by Kam Williams

The surprise hit Think Like a Man was #1 at the box-office over its opening weekend back in April of 2012. Inspired by Steve Harvey’s best-selling, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” the original explored some of the serious issues tackled by the popular, relationship advice book by examining the angst of four couples in relationship crisis.

This go round, director Tim Story has abandoned the source material in favor of a screwball adventure that unfolds more like a blend of “The Hangover” and “Bridesmaids,” madcap movies about a bachelor and bachelorette party, respectively. Think Like a Man Too endeavors to increase the ante by featuring both a bachelor and bachelorette party.

Unfortunately, this relatively-tame sequel fails to measure up to either of those side-splitting descents into debauchery, being basically a vehicle for Kevin Hart’s kitchen sink brand of comedy. Here, the motor-mouthed comedian serves as an omniscient narrator who calls the battle-of-the-sexes’ play-by-play.

Director Story deserves credit for reassembling the principal cast members, thereby easily maintaining the ensemble’s continuity and chemistry. The reason for the reunion is that Candace (Regina Hall) and Momma’s Boy Michael (Terrence J), are tying the knot, so they’ve invited his meddling mother (Jenifer Lewis) and all their friends to Las Vegas for the nuptials.

Just past the point of departure, we find chef Dominic (Michael Ealy) and corporate executive Lauren (Taraji P. Henson) still struggling with whether to put career ahead of romance. Meanwhile, settled-down Kristen (Gabrielle Union) and Jeremy (Jerry Ferrrara) are thinking about having a kid. And Mya (Meagan Good) is having a hard time trusting her beau, Zeke (Romany Malco), given how his ex-girlfriends seem to surface at inopportune moments.

Eventually, all of the above plus Sonya (La La Anthony), Tish (Wendi Mclendon-Covey), Bennett (Gary Owen), Isaac (Adam Brody) and Terrell (David Walton) separate by gender the night before the wedding ceremony. The plot thickens when the bridesmaids carouse around Sin City in search of stimulation by bulging biceps, and just as best man Cedric and the groomsmen get the bright idea of entering a male stripping contest dressed as the Village People.

It’s not very hard to guess what happens next, or how it will all end after the wedding is almost cancelled. A pleasant, if predictable, diversion peppered with incessant chatter on the part of the irrepressible Kevin Hart.

Good (2 stars)

Rated PG-13 for profanity, drug use, crude humor, sexual references and partial nudity

Running time: 106 minutes

Distributor: Screen Gems




The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne
Film Review by Kam Williams

Doris Payne was born black back in 1930 in Slab Fork, West Virginia where she was raised during the Jim Crow era of racial segregation. Besides having to withstand withering bigotry and racial discrimination as a child, she grew up in a dysfunctional family where her father routinely beat her mother right in front of her face.

That might help explain her turning to crime at an early age, starting with stealing a diamond from a department store, fencing it, and using the funds to help her mom escape the abusive marriage. Unfortunately, Doris didn’t stop there, but took to jewel thievery like a fish to water, gradually escalating to seven figure takes by targeting upscale retailers like Cartier and Tiffany.

Her modus operandi involved gaining the confidence of a gullible store clerk before resorting to distracting devices such as sleight of hand and dizzying hand jive. That reprehensible behavior kept the sticky-fingered felon forever on the run from authorities as she netted millions in gems over the course of a checkered career spanning six decades and counting.

Specializing in identity theft, Doris was an expert at impersonating wealthy socialites in exotic locales, as she did on Monaco where she passed herself off as the wife of movie director Otto Preminger. Overall, she‘s employed at least 20 aliases, 11 Social Security numbers and 9 passports in pursuit of ill-gotten gems. Brief stints in prison couldn’t cure Doris’ compulsive kleptomania, which is why she’s presently doing time behind bars for purloining a precious stone worth 22Gs just last year.

Co-directed by Matthew Pond and Kirk Marcolina, The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne is a documentary of dubious intentions which futilely endeavors to paint an empathetic picture of an unrepentant octogenarian who simply fails to earn the audience’s respect. After all, her odious line of work has serious consequences not only for herself but for others, as was the case with a tearful clerk seen here who was fired for being fleeced by the wily old recidivist.

Doris Payne, an unappealing, un-role model who stole millions from the rich and simply frittered it away on herself in decadent fashion.

Very Good (2.5 stars)

Unrated

Running time: 74 minutes

Distributor: Film Forum




| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | Next> Last>>