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Reviews
userpicSupremacy
Posted by Kam Williams

Supremacy

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

White Supremacists Take Black Family Hostage in Harrowing Hostage Thriller

            Garrett Tully (Joe Anderson) is about to be paroled after spending the last 15 years behind bars. Although he might have paid his debt to society, he has little hope of making a smooth adjustment back to civilian life, given his fervent hope that America is on the brink of a race war.

            You see, Garrett has a lot invested in that belief, being a white supremacist with tattoos of swastikas, a Confederate flag, an Iron Cross and the word “HATE” adorning his face, arms, fingers and chest. This means his prospects of turning a new leaf aren’t very brilliant, especially since Doreen (Dawn Olivieri), the Aryan Brotherhood groupie picking him up from prison, is packing heat just in case they cross paths with a black person on the way home.

And wouldn’t you know it, they’re pulled over by an African-American police officer en route and, before Doreen has a chance to produce her license and registration, Tully calls the cop the “N-word” and blows him away with the gun hidden under the seat. Next, rather than hightailing it to a neo-Nazi sanctuary, the unrepentant race baiters decide to break into a house in a black neighborhood where they proceed to use more racial slurs like “porch monkey” and “niglet” while holding everybody hostage.

Fortunately, the Walker family patriarch (Danny Glover) makes sure cooler heads prevail, until help arrives. Too bad the police negotiator (Derek Luke) turns out to be African-American, too.

Directed by Deon Taylor (Chain Letter), Supremacy is a hostage thriller ostensibly inspired by actual events which transpired in Sonoma County, California on the night of March 29, 1995. At 11:30 that evening, Sheriff’s Deputy Frank Trejo was assassinated by a recently-paroled member of the Aryan Brotherhood and his gun moll, just before they forced their way into a nearby house and held the owners captive.

The resolution of this Hollywood version of the standoff relies on an empathetic Mr. Walker’s rising to the occasion. His philosophizing (“Prison does something to a man.”) miraculously manages to induce a couple of the most menacing and despicable screen characters in recent memory to have an 11th hour conversion.

A pretty preposterous turn of events, but who am I to argue with a tale presumably based on a true story?

Fair (1.5 stars)

Unrated

Running time: 106 minutes

Distributor: Well Go Entertainment

To see a trailer for Supremacy, visit: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj5pENEbZZI




Above and Beyond
Film Review by Kam Williams

Israel found itself losing its War of Independence in 1948 because it had no fighter planes with which to respond to air attacks on the part of its Arab adversaries. Luckily, a number of World War II fighter pilots from half a world away would answer its desperate plea for assistance.

Though this ragtag band of brothers considered themselves more American than Jewish, they were nevertheless willing to risk their U.S. citizenships and their very lives by volunteering to come to the rescue. So, they started by smuggling planes out of the country in order to train behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia.

Next, they flew to the war-torn Middle East where they would play a pivotal role in turning the tide of the conflict, while cultivating an unexpected Jewish pride in the process. The daring exploits of these unsung aviators are recounted in vivid fashion in Above and Beyond, a reverential documentary directed by Roberta Grossman.

Among the octet feted here is Leon Frankel, a bomber pilot who had received a Navy Cross for the heroism he’d exhibited over Okinawa. Another is Coleman Goldstein, who had been shot down over France in 1943 and declared missing in action. However, he survived WWII by making his way over the Pyrenees to Spain where he was rescued and reunited with his squadron. Then there’s the late Milton Rubenfeld, fondly remembered here by his son Paul, better know as comedian Pee Wee Herman.

Inter alia, we learn that the members of the 101st painted “Angels of Death” as a logo on their aircrafts’ fuselages. On one mission, a former commercial pilot for TWA tricked Egyptian air traffic controllers into believing that he was about to land in Cairo before dropping explosives on a city which had never been bombed before.

Another recounts observing refugees from Hitler’s death camps kissing the ground upon arriving in Israel. Besides fighting, the 101st not only flew supplies to the front lines but evacuated wounded soldiers from the Negev Desert battlefields.

As the curtain comes down, one ace waxes rhapsodic with, “God allowed us to survive World War II, so we could come to Israel and help the remnants of our people survive.” Hear hear!

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Unrated   

In English and Hebrew with subtitles

Running time: 87 minutes

Distributor: International Film Circuit

To see a trailer for Above and Beyond, visit: http://aboveandbeyondthemovie.com/trailer  




Voices of Auschwitz
TV Review by Kam Williams

While tracing his roots a year ago, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer learned for the first time that his paternal grandparents had perished at Auschwitz during the Second World War. That discovery inspired him to produce Voices of Auschwitz, a powerful documentary commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the infamous concentration camp.

Over one million Jews were murdered there at the hands of the Nazis, whether in the crematorium, by firing squad, as guinea pigs in experiments, or by other methods. This CNN special focuses on the reflections of a quartet of Auschwitz survivors, Renee Firestone, Martin Greenfield, Eva Kor, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, members of an aging fraternity whose numbers are definitely dwindling. For that reason, it is important to hear how they not only miraculously managed to survive the ordeal, but went on to lead very productive lives after the war, despite losing most of their relatives.

Renee relates how upon arriving at Auschwitz, her mother was sent straight to the gas chamber, while she and her sister were sent into the prison where she bought time by offering her services as an aspiring fashion designer. Similarly, Martin worked as a tailor for the Gestapo, and was able to endure the bitter cold by sewing together scraps of discarded material.

Anita got a reprieve by playing the cello in a makeshift inmate orchestra, and eventually founded the English Chamber Orchestra. And Eva was only 10 years-old when she was branded "A-7063" at Auschwitz where she and her twin sister Miriam were subjected to torture on a daily basis at the hands of the diabolical Dr. Mengele.

Besides interviewing these survivors, Blitzer shares a tete-a-tete with film director Steven Spielberg, who credits shooting Schindler’s List and creating the Shoah Foundation for his renewal as a Jew. In sum, this moving memoir stands as a remarkable testament to the indomitability of the human spirit as well as a mighty reminder why the evils of the Holocaust must never be forgotten.

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 49 minutes

Distributor: CNN

Voices of Auschwitz premieres on CNN on Wednesday, January 28th @ 9pm ET/PT (check your local listings)

To see a trailer for Voices of Auschwitz, visit:  http://www.cnn.com/videos/tv/2015/01/23/exp-promo-voices-of-auschwitz.cnn 




Kevin Costner
The “Black or White” Interview
with Kam Williams

Kevin Michael Costner was born in Lynwood, California on January 18, 1955. After landing a breakout role in Silverado in 1985, he enjoyed a meteoric rise in such hit pictures as The Untouchables, No Way Out, Bull Durham and Field of Dreams en route to winning a couple of Academy Awards for Dancing with Wolves.

 

Other films on his impressive resume include JFK, The Bodyguard, Message in a Bottle and Draft Day, to name a few. Here, he discusses his latest film, Black or White, a courtroom drama where he plays a grandfather caught up in a legal fight for custody of his biracial granddaughter with the black side of her family.       

 

 

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

Kevin Costner: You can call me Kevin, Kam.  

 

KW: Thanks! I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, so I have a lot of questions for you from fans. Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: What attracted you to this project, and do you think the plot is relevant, given the evolution of race relations in America?

KC: That’s what attracted me to the project. It reminded me of one of the things I like about movies. I remember how, after I read the script for Dances with Wolves, I just knew that I had to make it, when not everybody else wanted to. But I did end up making it. Similarly, Bull Durham and Fields of Dreams, didn’t strike people as giant movies, but I think the hallmark of all three of those pictures is that they have traveled through time and become classics. And when I read Black or White, I had the exact same feeling. I said, “Oh my God! This is about the moment that we’re living in right now. And this was before Ferguson, and all this stuff. You know, our problems didn’t just start in August. I’ve been living with this my entire life. But I thought there was a level of genius in the writing that I thought would make everybody rush to make this movie also. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and so the journey of this project has been very much like the journey of others that I’ve had to push uphill. But I didn’t think Black or White had any less value, so I decided I would pay for it, and make this movie because I just thought it had a chance to be a classic, and because it said some things I think a lot of people need to hear and would even perhaps say themselves, if they could string the words together.  

 

KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: Black or White looks like a great movie, Kevin. Did you give your on-screen granddaughter, Jillian Estell, any acting advice on the set?

KC: No I didn’t. I just tried to lead by example by the way I behaved on the set, and she understood. She’s a little girl, and I always had to keep that in mind. But she gave us the performance that we really needed. This movie depended on her being really good, which she was!

 

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: Field of Dreams’ message was, “If you build it, he will come.” What’s the takeaway built into Black or White?

KC: I guess the message of Field of Dreams, ultimately, was about things that go unsaid between people who really love each other, and about how it’s important that you try to say those things while you’re still alive, so that they have that level of meaning, that level of value, that you can carry with you for the rest of your life.

Field of Dreams, to me, was always about things that go unsaid that need to be talked about. I don’t know what the takeaway for Black or White is, but I do know that if you’re going to make a movie, and it’s going to deal with race, you have to make it authentic, and not pull any punches. You have to use the language that’s appropriate. And I thought this movie was a miracle because writer/director Mike Binder was able to just be authentic in dealing with race. These were things that wanted to be said, so I knew that I would have a kind of a role of a lifetime in Elliot Anderson.

 

KW: Director Larry Greenberg says: Black or White touches on how alcoholism and addiction impact parenting. Is this an issue that you feel needs more attention?

KC: Well, obviously, you were able to see the movie, Larry, and for that I’m grateful. The hope is that, if the movie did touch you, you’ll continue to tell other people about it. But alcohol, used in any excess, is always going to put a veil over how we behave… clouding our judgment… and affecting our ability to love and to be responsible. And certainly, in this instance, it’s pretty clear that what was driving the drinking was the loss of the love of his life, his wife, and the loss of his child seven years earlier. The discussion of alcohol, and where he is in terms of it, is pretty unique in this film, because at one point he suggests that maybe he isn’t an alcoholic, but just an angry person. And that clouds his judgment when he’s backed into a corner. Also, the movie deals with addictions on both sides, which makes it very balanced and enjoyable to watch.

 

KW: Sherry Gillam says: Happy Belated Birthday! [January 18th] I saw your picture on the cover of AARP Magazine a couple of months ago. You’re still just as handsome as ever.

KC: [Laughs heartily] Thank Sherry a lot. I have no choice, but that was really a high compliment. It’s been a pleasure making movies for people of my generation. I try to make films that will stand the test of time, so that the younger generations will be inclined to catch up to them. That’s what I tried to do with Black or White. It’s relevant to us now, but I’m hopeful that someone watching it twenty years from now will understand what’s at stake when you’re dealing with the welfare of a child, and of the problem that might come when you overlay it with race.

 

KW: Sherry did have a question, too. She asks: What makes you smile on the inside?

KC: [Laughs again] A good idea makes me smile. My children succeeding makes me smile. My wife looking at me and saying she’s proud of me makes me smile. Even just being surprised makes me smile.

 

KW: Professor/director/author Hisani Dubose says: You have such a broad range of movies, which I think is great. What attracts you to a script? Is there a unifying factor?

KC: Sometimes, it’s the chance to say something I want to say for myself. Other times, it’s having an opportunity to say something that I feel everyone in the world would like to say. And Black or White really matches up with that. There are some things said in this movie that I know people have wanted to say for a long time. I was given the speech of a lifetime in the courtroom, and I’m gratified to hear that audiences have been clapping when I’m done. A lot of people would never think that’s possible, given the movie, but I’ve seen it in theaters night after night. That’s been very pleasing to me.

 

KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams says: Thank you for making so many great, enjoyable films. When you look back upon your career, how do you remember your magical rise from Silverado to winning a couple of Oscars for Dances with Wolves?

KC: The truth is that I can remember it, I understand, yet I never thought my career would ever have that kind of success. Listen, I’ve had such good luck. I didn’t know it could ever be as wonderful as it has been, although it has had a measure of stress and pain. Still, it’s been an incredible ride. I appreciate my good luck and my good fortune, and I have loved every minute of it. Silverado, Fandango, No Way Out, The Untouchables, Open Range, Hatfields & McCoys, all these movies that I look back on, and now Black or White. Listen, I’ve had good luck, and I get that. I just hope the second half of my life plays out in a way that I am able to continue to make movies that are relevant not only to me but to people who like to go to the theater.

 

KW: My favorite of your films, one which I’ve watched over a dozen times, is No Way Out.

KC: [Chuckles] That was a movie that wasn’t going to get made, either. It was sitting at Warner Brothers in a state of limbo known as turnaround. It just wasn’t on the minds of anybody. Orion Pictures wanted to do a picture with me, but they didn’t have anything in mind. They asked me what I was interested in, and I told them that there was this picture over at Warner Brothers I really loved called Finished with Engines. I brought the script to them and they decided they would do it, but they changed the title to No Way Out.  

 

KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: What do you enjoy the most about the moviemaking process?

KC: I really love rehearsal. I love being with people and working on something when no one else is looking. Another aspect I enjoy is having a job where you have breakfast, lunch and dinner with the people you work with. You always get to know people a lot better when you’re actually able to have meals with them. So, I was really perfectly suited for the movie business. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I thank God for it every day.  

 

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Do you think this film will initiate a debate about interracial adoption?

KC: I think that if you see this movie with someone who doesn’t look like you, you’re going to have an incredible conversation afterwards. I believe Black or White will really foster conversation whether you see it with friends or with your sweetheart, and that you will be a little different when you come out of the theater. 

 

KW: David Roth says: In Black or White, your character, Elliot, is raising a black granddaughter, sheltering her from her junkie dad and the perceived instability of her black relatives. Does this picture pander to “white knight coming to the rescue of a person of color” stereotype avoided by Selma director Ava DuVernay in her downplaying President LBJ’s role in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

KC: Audiences coming out of the theater say how refreshing Black or White is because of its evenhandedness in that regard. We know that humans are sometimes willing to fight unfairly, and what makes this picture great is that it feels very, very authentic. We’re not dealing with the same issue that David has with Selma. No one likes to go to a movie and fell like they’ve been manipulated. You smell a rat when you’re being manipulated. The truth is just as entertaining as a lie, so why not shoot the truth?

 

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

KC: I see a full life. And I’m raising young children, and my desire to stay healthy and to remain relevant is uppermost in my mind.

 

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

KC: I remember everything from about 2½ or 3 years-old on. I remember my father coming home and unlacing his work boots... I remember my mom cooking in the kitchen… I remember the curtains… the couches… the smell of the linoleum. I even remember some of my dreams from back then.    

 

KW: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that powerful eulogy you delivered for Whitney Houston. There were a lot of great eulogies that day, but yours eclipsed them all.

KC: Thank you. Well, Whitney and I had a unique relationship. I wasn’t even sure that I should be up there talking, but it seemed like the world demanded that because of our make believe relationship in The Bodyguard. The world has linked us together because of that movie. So when I was asked to speak, I could only talk about what it was I knew.

 

KW: Harriet also asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

KC: I don’t really think about that very much. There are a couple that I might redo, but I still just love breaking new ground on an individual movie. I appreciate great classics, and perhaps I’ll make one someday, but I have six or seven lined up, and not one of them is a remake or a sequel.  

 

KW: Are any of your kids interested in following in your footsteps?

KC: No, they’ve all charted their own paths. None of them has pivoted off my name. They’re all doing their own thing. That’s what I love about them. My daughter [Lily] sings in Black or White. That’s her singing in the funeral scene. She’s 28, and an amazing singer/songwriter.

 

KW: Lastly, what’s in your wallet?

KC: [LOL] What’s in my wallet? Well, at the premiere a few days ago, this Chinese fellow came up to me, handed me his card, and said, “I want to make movies with you.” I haven’t called him yet, but we’ll see if he really means it.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Kevin, and best of luck with the film.

KC: I’m glad you liked the movie, Kam, and thanks for writing about it.

 

To see a trailer for Black or White, visit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqlE-7PP7Ho




Black or White
Film Review by Kam Williams

When Elliot Anderson’s (Kevin Costner) wife Carol (Jennifer Ehle) perishes in a tragic car accident, he suddenly finds himself facing the prospect of raising his 7 year-old granddaughter Eloise (Jillian Estell) alone. After all, the couple had originally assumed custody from the moment their own daughter died giving birth to the little girl, since the baby’s drug-addicted father (Andre Holland) was behind bars and totally unfit to be a parent.

Today, however, Elliot does have a drinking problem which proceeds to escalate out of control in the wake of his spouse’s untimely demise. And this state of affairs comes to the attention of Eloise’s fraternal grandmother, Rowena “Wee-Wee” Davis (Octavia Spencer), who soon resurfaces for the first time in years.

She approaches Elliot about setting up visitation, in spite of her son’s substance abuse problems, since Eloise has a lot of other relatives on her father’s side of the family eager to see her. But the wealthy, white lawyer balks at the very suggestion, presumably because they’re black and from the ‘hood, and he’s thus far managed to shield his relatively-privileged granddaughter from the ghetto and its host of woes.

Of course, Wee-Wee doesn’t take the rebuff sitting down, but rather prevails upon her attorney brother, Jeremiah (Anthony Mackie), to file suit. Next thing you know, the parties are slinging mud at one another in an ugly custody battle where Reggie is accused of being a crack head with a criminal record and Elliot is labeled a racist and an alcoholic. Responsibility for dispensing justice blindly falls to Judge Margaret Cummings (Paula Newsome), who might very well be a bit biased in favor of plaintiff Rowena, given that she’s also African-American and female.

All roads inexorably lead to a big courtroom showdown in Black or White, a cross-cultural melodrama written and directed by Mike Binder (Reign over Me). Ostensibly “inspired by true events,” the picture pits a couple of worthy adversaries against each other in Elliot and Wee-Wee, as capably played by Oscar-winners Kevin Costner (for Dances with Wolves) and Octavia Spencer (for The Help). 

Any lawyer worth his or her salt knows that you never ask a question on cross-examination that you don’t already know the answer to. Nonetheless, Jeremiah violates that cardinal rule by asking Elliot, “Do you dislike all black people?” This affords the just-disgraced granddad an opportunity to rehabilitate his tarnished image courtesy of a scintillating, self-serving soliloquy reminiscent of Jack Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth!” monologue in A Few Good Men.

If only the rest of this racially-tinged baby-daddy drama had matched that climactic moment in terms of intensity. Still, the film is worth the investment for veteran Costner’s vintage performance and for the way in which the timely script dares to tackle some tough social questions in refreshingly-realistic, if perhaps politically-incorrect fashion.

  

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated PG-13 for profanity, fighting, ethnic slurs, and mature themes involving drugs and alcohol  

Running time: 121 minutes

Distributor: Relativity Media

To see a trailer for Black or White, visit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqlE-7PP7Ho




Americons
Film Review by Kam Williams

It is California in 2007, at the height of the sub-prime mortgage boom. Jason “Jay” Kelley (Beau Martin Williams), a cash-strapped bouncer is offered an alternative line of work in a higher tax bracket by Devin Weiss (Matt Funke), a hotshot real estate broker whose company is in the midst of a hiring blitz.      

For, the Feds have recently deregulated ARMs (Adjustable Rate Mortgages), making the liars loans available to any member of the general public able to meet the minimum down payment requirement of a mere 1%. That development has triggered a feeding frenzy which left lenders like Devin with too few employees to process notes fast enough.

Unfortunately, Jay proves unable to resist the easy money being dangled right in front of his eyes like a carrot on a stick. Worse, once greed has gotten the better of him, he succumbs to the suggestion that it’s okay to behave unscrupulously in the name of the almighty dollar. So, he soon finds himself being trained to trick naïve borrowers into signing on the dotted line to finance homes way beyond their means.

Jay’s ethical tailspin begins with his fast-talking an unemployed pal (Trai Byers) with a wife and kids into buying a house he’s destined to default on. Jay subsequently loses his moral bearings afterhours, too, by attending wild parties with his colleagues where snorting coke off women’s bare midriffs is par for the course. Worst of all, when he sobers up and decides he wants out, he’s blackmailed by a manipulative boss (Sam McMurray) who’s been secretly recording his hedonistic behavior.

Unfolding like the West Coast’s answer to the decadence displayed in The Wolf of Wall Street, Americons is a sobering cautionary tale exposing the ugly underbelly of the California mortgage industry. Directed by Theo Avgerinos (Fifty Pills), the semi-autobiographical adventure was co-written by its co-stars, Beau Martin Williams and Matt Funke.

A modern morality play serving as a telling reminder of exactly how easily an American Dream can dissolve into a neverending dystopian nightmare.

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for profanity, nudity, sexuality and drug use.

Running time: 85 minutes

Distributor: Archstone Distribution

To see a trailer for Americons, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtxWOOAN33M



Interviews
userpicLee Daniels (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Lee Daniels

The “Empire” Interview

with Kam Williams

 

Daniels Builds a TV “Empire”

After directing and/or producing such successful feature films as The Butler, Monster’s Ball [for which Halle Berry won an Academy Award], and Precious [for which Mo’Nique won hers], two-time Oscar-nominee Lee Daniels [for Precious] has set his sights on TV for the first time. Here, he talks about directing the new nighttime soap opera Empire, co-starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson.

 

 

Kam Williams: Hi Lee, thanks for another opportunity to speak with you.

Lee Daniels: Great, Kam. How are you?

 

KW: All is well, thanks. What was the source of inspiration for Empire?

LD: My partner, Danny Strong, came to me with this idea of telling a story about my life, and merging that with music and the Hip-Hop world. He wrote The Butler and originally wanted to do Empire also as a movie.

 

KW: I had no idea it was semi-autobiographical. Why TV, as opposed to the big screen?

LD: What happened was we decided that’s enough with movies, let’s do it for television so that we could bring this to life for America on a weekly basis. It picks up, historically, where The Butler left off, and deals with race relations. It’s a little bit like my family, a little like some friends of mine with money, their world, and a little like some of my friends without money, their world. I think it’s the African-American experience.

 

KW: Which character are you? Lucious Lyon [played by Terrence Howard]?

LD: I’m Lucious… I’m Jamal… I’m all of the characters. My sister and my cousins are Cookie [played by Taraji P. Henson]. Cookie’s  little bit of all of them.

 

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: How do film actors like Terrence and Taraji make the transition from the big screen to the small screen?

LD: That’s a very good question and a very complicated one, because with film we get the luxury of time. It works at a different pace. It’s nice and slow. As a film director and as film actors, you get used to a certain rhythm that’s slow. But with TV, it’s hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry. It’s a different pace. So, it’s about adjusting to the pace. It’s not meant for everybody.

 

KW: Has the frenetic pace frustrated you?

LD: No, I think it’s made me a better director, because I have to think fast. I no longer have the luxury of taking my time. Does that make any sense?

 

KW: Absolutely! Chalyn Toon asks: Did you consider other actors or did you always envision Taraji and Terrence for the lead roles?

LD: I always considered Taraji, but even though Terrence and I are very good friends and had worked together on The Butler and were thinking about doing The Marvin Gaye Story. But I didn’t know if he’d do TV. I was thinking of Wesley Snipes for the role, but word on the street was that Taraji wasn’t feeling it anymore. Then she told me, “I’ll do it, but only if Terrence does it.” I went, “girl, you ain’t even got the job yet.” And I was like, “Terrence ain’t going to do TV.” But then he said he would, and there you go.  

 

KW: Chalyn also says: Most writers avoid dealing with homosexuality within the black community. What made you choose that path? Unlike your counterpart, Shonda Rhimes, who has depicted white males in a passionate relationship, perhaps to target a whiter audience, you’ve put two males of color in a gay relationship. Why did you choose to do so?

LD: I did it because I think it’s time to destroy a myth in the black community about gay men. When I was doing research for Precious, I went to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis here in New York City, because the movie dealt with AIDS. What I expected to see was gay men, but what I found were African-American women and children who’d been infected with HIV by black men on the down-low. They were on the d-l because their pastor says, because their minister says, because their neighbor says, and their homeboy says, “You can’t be gay.” Black men on the d-l are killing our women. I can’t hate the men on the d-l, I only hate that they’re on the d-l, because our people forced them to be. So, this is really dedicated to educating. This is the civil rights movement of our generation.

So, this is really dedicated to educating   

 

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier: You are working on a Richard Pryor biopic. What does he mean to you?

LD: The more research I do, the more I uncover not only his brilliance, but how much of a pioneer he was at a time that was harder on African-Americans than it is right now, if that’s imaginable. His experience as a black American was very similar to mine. We both come from troubled backgrounds. He was very open about his sexuality, and what he did, and he spoke the truth. And he fought for the truth for everybody. And because he was so tormented, he was a drug addict, and so was I. Our similarities are strangely connected. So, he speaks to me. He was ahead of his time, and he didn’t even know that he was changing the world through humor. He was uniting African-American and white Americans through his humor. He didn’t know, and I hope to do him justice.

 

KW: Marcia Evans says: Lee, I'm major proud of all your work, and I'm digging Empire. Congratulations on your weight loss. You’re looking good. Vegan is working for you.

LD: [Belly laugh] I’m not really vegan. I’m vegan-ish. I have a piece of lamb every now and then.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Lee, and best of luck with Empire.

LD: Thank you, Kam. Talk to you soon.

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




The Imitation Game
Film Review by Kam Williams

At the outset of World War II, the Nazis gained the early advantage with the help of its Enigma, the encrypting machine which enabled the German military to communicate without having to worry about any messages being intercepted. In response, Winston Churchill deputized eccentric, math genius Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) to handpick a group of fellow savants whose appointed mission would be to crack the Enigma’s inscrutable codes.

Operating on the campus of a cypher school located in Buckinghamshire’s Bletchley Park, Turing’s exceptional eggheads immediately embarked upon a surreptitious race against time every bit as important as the fighting simultaneously unfolding on the battlefield. And when they finally did manage to decipher German communications, it remained important that they keep that fact a secret.

You see, the info unearthed afforded the Allies fighting on the front lines a competitive advantage. So, if the Nazis ever caught wind of the fact that their supposedly inscrutable commands were actually being intercepted, they would undoubtedly have immediately altered their encrypting.

The British government credited Turing’s team with saving millions of lives while shortening the conflict in the European theater by a couple years. That important achievement is the subject of The Imitation Game, a bittersweet biopic directed by Norwegian Morten Tyldum (Headhunters).

Nominated for eight Oscars including Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor (Cumberbatch), and Supporting Actress (Keira Knightley), the film is based on “Alan Turing: The Enigma,” Andrew Hodges’ belated tribute to the unsung hero. Unfortunately, despite the pivotal role he had played, Turing was never really recognized as a national hero because of his homosexuality.

Instead, after the war, he had to suffer the indignity of being persecuted, arrested, convicted, and ultimately chemically castrated for being gay. That led the brilliant visionary to commit suicide while on the brink of inventing the computer.

Though that tragedy can never be undone, at least we live in more enlightened times, when an icon of Turing’s order might finally be afforded his due. A well-crafted character study which just might land the talented Benedict Cumberbatch a coveted Academy Award.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for sexual references, mature themes and smoking

Running time: 114 minutes

Distributor: The Weinstein Company

 

To see a trailer for The Imitation Game, visit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5CjKEFb-sM




Big Muddy
Film Review by Kam Williams

Martha Barlow (Nadia Litz) is a femme fatale with a checkered past and plenty of skeletons in her closet. Consequently, she’s done her best to keep off the grid, raising her son, Andy (Justin Kelly), in relative seclusion in rural Saskatchewan.

Seems like everybody around their tiny prairie town is the sort of unsavory character you cross the street to avoid, including Martha’s boyfriend/ and partner in crime, Tommy (Rossif Sutherland). The couple’s favorite haunt is the local racetrack which is where they concoct cockamamie con games, like robbing a bar patron who has propositioned a prostitute by waiting to pounce until the john is in a compromising position. The pair’s felonious antics don’t sit well with teenaged Andy, who hangs out at the track because the girl (Holly Deveaux) he has a crush on works there.

The plot thickens during an attempted shakedown gone wrong, after Tommy shoots the horse of an owner who refuses to be intimidated. The situation further degenerates when the tables are turned and Tommy takes a bullet from the barrel of the victim’s gun.

Seeing his mother’s life threatened, Andy reluctantly gets involved, and the next thing you know mother and son are on the run. As fugitives from justice, Martha and Andy seek refuge at the home of her estranged father (Stephen McHattie), a geezer disinclined to offer them a port in the storm, especially since he’s never even met his grandson before. Another fly in the ointment is the fact that Andy’s father (David La Haye) has escaped from prison and is intent on tracking down Martha.

Thus unfolds Big Muddy, an intriguing neo noir marking the impressive directorial debut of Jefferson Moneo. Atmospheric and absorbing, this well-crafted whodunit is rather reminiscent of Red Rock West (1999), for folks familiar with that cult classic co-starring Nicolas Cage and Dennis Hopper.

A deliberately-paced, multi-layered mystery, tailor-made for nostalgic, pulp fiction fans.

Excellent (4 stars)

Unrated

Running time: 104 minutes

Distributor: Monterey Media

To see a trailer for Big Muddy, visit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gn3ds0i3f_s




Tara Ochs
The “Selma” Interview
with Kam Williams

 

Tara Ochs is an actress and voice-over artist residing in Atlanta, GA. She has also been a comedy improviser her entire career and credits that skill with opening many doors.

Tara can currently be caught performing with Atlanta-based theatre company Dad’s Garage, where she also teaches improv to people of all ages. Previously, she worked with The Second City troupe, and was a company member of the L.A.-based improv companies ComedySportz and ACME Comedy Theater.

Tara’s television credits include Crossing Jordan, CSI:Miami, One Tree Hill, Army Wives, Close to Home, Samantha Who? and Single Ladies. And her voice-over credits include numerous national and regional radio spots, as well as over 40 audio books with Audible and Hachette Publishing Groups.  She lists M.M. Kaye’s “Shadow of the Moon” and Dale Kushner’s “Conditions of Love,” as among her favorite reads.

A graduate of Florida State University, Tara considers Pensacola, Florida her hometown, although her family moved around quite a bit when she was a child due to her father’s enlistment as a Navy pilot. His service has inspired Tara’s love of country, while her mother’s dedication as a schoolteacher has motivated her to work with young people in the arts.

Here, she talks about portraying civil rights martyr Viola Liuzzo in the Academy Award-nominated film, Selma.

 

Kam Williams: Hi Tara, thanks for the interview.

Tara Ochs: Thank you Kam! You look really nice today. Is that a new sweater?

 

KW: Thanks! And, yes, it was a Christmas gift. What interested you in Selma? Were you aware of the march?

TO: I was NOT aware of anything to do with Selma or the marches. Living in Atlanta, you can’t help being surrounded by the vestiges of the civil rights movement, so naturally it interests me. But this particular moment in history, I was unfamiliar with. Once I was introduced to the story via the audition, I was thrilled to come across an example of such a large number of people coming together to support the movement.

 

KW:  How about the character you played, Viola Liuzzo? Had you heard of her?

TO: I also knew nothing about Viola Liuzzo. It wasn’t until I received the script that I learned of her enormous contribution to the movement. It was a surprise – I had no idea that a white woman had lost her life in the struggle for civil rights.

 

KW: How did you prepare to play her? Did you speak to her children or anyone who knew her?

TO: At the time of the filming I had not yet gotten in touch with her family--the turnaround for this film was incredibly fast. From script to screen in just about a year! I am currently in touch with them however, and so thrilled to have their support.

To prepare I did my good actor research--I Googled. The resources I came across that had the most value for me as a performer were the book “From Selma to Sorrow” by Mary Stanton, and the documentary Home of the Brave.

 

KW: Did you feel any responsibility to portray Viola right, given that she was martyred?

TO: Absolutely! The weight of that responsibility was overwhelming. I speak a little about that on my blog [ www.taraochs.blogspot.com ] In short, I wanted to approach Viola as a woman, not as a saint--so I looked for those details that made her seem human to me.

 

KW: Is there a cause bigger than your own self interest, for which you might be willing to pay a big price, perhaps even sacrificing your life?

TO: The first answer that comes to mind is my family. But I suppose that’s not a cause. [Chuckles] In a way, though, it contributes to the things that I feel passionate about. For example, my father is a veteran, so patriotism runs deep in my family.

 

KW: Did it ever get emotional on the set, given the historical importance of Selma?

TO: [LOL] Constantly! CONSTANTLY! I can’t tell you how difficult it was to keep it together as we marched on that bridge with actual survivors of Bloody Sunday. And the final speech back in Montgomery? There was no need to act that day.

 

KW: What message do you hope people will take away from the film?

TO: Hope. And perhaps a clearer understanding of why non-violent protest is the most effective way to agitate.

 

KW: What do you think of the criticisms being leveled at the film, suggesting that LBJ is being portrayed unfairly?

TO: What controversy? The film clearly shows LBJ for who he was--a master politician. And it clearly shows Dr. King for who he was--a master activist. It just doesn’t seem like a controversy to me. I am cheering for both LBJ and MLK by the end of the film.

 

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

TO: I’ll have to think on this one.

 

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

TO: This past Saturday – I was practically in tears. My high school outreach improv team had their tournament and they were absolutely brilliant. I could barely catch my breath.

 

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

TO: My Dungeons and Dragons group. We play weekly, and I play a Battle Cleric who worships a sun goddess. Pathfinder edition, if that means anything to you.

 

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

TO: I’m working my way through the “Wheel of Time” series because I want to get to the ones written by my favorite author, Brandon Sanderson.

I’m taking turns with that and “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Ehrman. I’m sort of nerdy about theology.

 

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

TO: “Glory,” of course. 

 

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

TO: Shrimp Creole, my grandma’s recipe.

 

KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?

TO: Absolutely. I grew up in the Episcopal Church, and it was a key part of my social and spiritual life

 

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

TO: About 50 different people. When I was little, my mom used to put me in the corner when I misbehaved for time out. But the corner she stuck me in had a mirror. I love making faces.

 

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

TO: I have a terrible memory, but I used to have a recurring dream which I later realized was a childhood memory. I lived in Japan from age 2 to 4. The memory was of me in a park with the Great Daibutsu [Buddha] at one end. I got to climb inside that statue. I remember perhaps being awed for the first time.

 

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

TO: Faith.

 

KW: The Gabby Douglas question: If you had to choose another profession, what would that be?

TO: I would have gone with astronaut, but I heard that’s harder than being an actor. [Chuckles]

 

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

TO: The Apartment.

 

KW: What’s in your wallet?

TO: It’s lean. Just the cards I need, always some cash, a MARTA card [Atlanta Transit] and a Fox Bros BBQ [restaurant] sticker. [Laughs]

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Tara, and best of luck with Selma and the rest of your ventures.

TO: Thanks Kam! I’m going to go memorize my rap battle lyrics now. Have a good evening!

To see a trailer for Selma, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPgs2zshD9Y




Academy Award Nominations 2015
by Kam Williams

Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel have emerged as the early Oscar favorites after garnering nine Academy Award nominations each. Both of those films are excellent movies and well-deserving of all the accolades they’ve received.

Nevertheless, the simultaneous snub of Selma is a little mind-boggling. The critically-acclaimed civil rights saga is enjoying the highest Rotten Tomatoes rating (99%) of any of the Oscar hopefuls, yet was only rewarded with nominations in the Best Picture and Best Song (“Glory”) categories.

Why didn’t Ava DuVernay become the first African-American female director nominated, as most insiders had predicted? Her slot was ostensibly given to Bennett Miller, the director of Foxcatcher, which wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture.

And why wasn’t Selma star David Oyelowo recognized for his powerful portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King? To add insult to injury, the Academy Award nominations were announced on January 15th, Dr. King’s birthday. Given the glaring omission, one can’t help but note that all of the nominees in the acting categories are Caucasian, perhaps a reflection of the predominantly-white Academy voting membership.

Another contributing factor to Selma’s stock suddenly tanking, undoubtedly, was the sharp criticism directed at it by Joseph Califano in a scathing op-ed printed in the Washington Post. The former assistant to Lyndon Johnson takes issue with the movie’s suggestion that the President’s was a reluctant supporter of the march and the Voting Rights Act, when “in fact, Selma was LBJ’s idea.” Califano he concludes his piece with the assertion that the picture “should be ruled out for consideration” this awards season.

Granted, the film was inaccurate in its portrayal of President Johnson. However, anyone who as actually seen the movie knows that LBJ was not cast as a villain, but more as a sympathetic figure in need of persuasion.

To her credit, director DuVernay avoided the familiar Hollywood formula which would have a group of imperiled blacks folks rescued by a great white savior on a pedestal. Instead, she opted to spread the praise around, acknowledging pivotal roles played not only by such icons as Dr. King and John Lewis, but by lesser-known, Selma local activists like Annie Lee Cooper and Cager Lee.

What I find very disheartening about the Selma smear campaign is that other historical dramas in the Oscar race, including The Imitation Game and American Sniper, have basically been given a pass despite whispered rumors of their having also taken liberties with the truth. For, such license didn’t prevent Lawrence of Arabia, A Beautiful Mind, Schindler’s List, Argo, The Last Emperor or The King’s Speech from winning the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Given how moving and meaningful a film Selma is, it’s sad to think that a few narrow-minded detractors with a patently-political agenda might have actually succeeded in derailing it.

                       

Complete List of Academy Award Nominations

 

Best Actor

  • Steve Carell, "Foxcatcher"
  • Bradley Cooper, "American Sniper"
  • Benedict Cumberbatch, "The Imitation Game"
  • Michael Keaton, "Birdman"
  • Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything"

 

Best Actress

  • Marion Cotillard, "Two Days, One Night"
  • Felicity Jones, "The Theory of Everything"
  • Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"
  • Rosamund Pike, "Gone Girl"
  • Reese Witherspoon, "Wild"

 

Best Supporting Actor

  • Robert Duvall, "The Judge"
  • Ethan Hawke, "Boyhood"
  • Edward Norton, "Birdman"
  • Mark Ruffalo, "Foxcatcher"
  • J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash"

 

Best Supporting Actress

  • Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood"
  • Laura Dern, "Wild"
  • Keira Knightley, "The Imitation Game"
  • Emma Stone, "Birdman"
  • Meryl Streep, "Into the Woods"

 

Cinematography

  • "Birdman"
  • "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
  • "Ida"
  • "Mr. Turner"
  • "Unbroken"

 

Costume Design

  • "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
  • "Inherent Vice"
  • "Into the Woods"
  • "Maleficent"
  • "Mr. Turner"

 

Directing

  • Alejandro González Iñárritu, "Birdman"
  • Richard Linklater, "Boyhood"
  • Bennett Miller, "Foxcatcher"
  • Wes Anderson, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
  • Morten Tyldum, "The Imitation Game"

 

Foreign Language Film

  • "Ida," Poland
  • "Leviathan," Russia
  • "Tangerines," Estonia
  • "Timbuktu," Mauritania
  • "Wild Tales," Argentina

 

Makeup and Hairstyling

  • "Foxcatcher"
  • "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
  • "Guardians of the Galaxy"

 

Original Score

  • "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
  • "The Imitation Game"
  • "Interstellar"
  • "Mr. Turner"
  • "The Theory of Everything"

 

Adapted Screenplay

  • "American Sniper"
  • "The Imitation Game"
  • "Inherent Vice"
  • "The Theory of Everything"
  • "Whiplash"

 

Original Screenplay

  • "Birdman"
  • "Boyhood"
  • "Foxcatcher"
  • "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
  • "Nightcrawler"

 

Best Picture

  • "American Sniper"
  • "Birdman"
  • "Boyhood"
  • "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
  • "The Imitation Game"
  • "Selma"
  • "The Theory of Everything"
  • "Whiplash"

 

Animated Feature Film

  • "Big Hero 6"
  • "The Boxtrolls"
  • "How to Train Your Dragon 2"
  • "Song of the Sea"
  • "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya"

 

Documentary Feature

  • "Citizenfour"
  • "Finding Vivian Maier"
  • "Last Days in Vietnam"
  • "The Salt of the Earth"
  • "Virunga"

 

Documentary Short Subject

  • "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1"
  • "Joanna"
  • "Our Curse"
  • "The Reaper (La Parka)"
  • "White Earth"

 

Film Editing

  • "American Sniper"
  • "Boyhood"
  • "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
  • "The Imitation Game"
  • "Whiplash"

 

Original Song

  • "Everything Is Awesome," "The Lego Movie"
  • "Glory," "Selma"
  • "Grateful, "Beyond the Lights"
  • "I"m Not Gonna Miss You," "Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me"
  • "Lost Stars," "Begin Again"

 

Production Design

  • "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
  • "The Imitation Game"
  • "Interstellar"
  • "Into the Woods"
  • "Mr. Turner"

 

Animated Short Film

  • "The Bigger Picture"
  • "The Dam Keeper"
  • "Feast"
  • "Me and My Moulton"
  • "A Single Life"

 

Live Action Short Film

  • "Aya"
  • "Boogaloo and Graham"
  • "Butter Lamp"
  • "Parvaneh"
  • "The Phone Call"

 

Sound Editing

  • "American Sniper"
  • "Birdman"
  • "The Hobbitt: The Battle of the Five Armies"
  • "Interstellar"

 

Sound Mixing

  • "American Sniper"
  • "Birdman"
  • "Interstellar"
  • "Unbroken"
  • "Whiplash"

 

Visual Effects

  • "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"
  • "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"
  • "Guardians of the Galaxy"
  • "Interstellar"
  • "X-Men: Days of Future Past"



The Wedding Ringer
Film Review by Kam Williams

Doug Harris (Josh Gad) and Gretchen Palmer (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) are putting the finishing touches on their impending wedding. Trouble is the socially-challenged groom has yet to find a best man and they’re set to exchange vows in just ten days.

He’s been rejected by every acquaintance he’s approached, receiving rude responses ranging from “I thought you died” to “I didn’t even invite you to my wedding.” So, Doug decides to hide his awkward predicament from his fiancée, since he’s too embarrassed to admit that he doesn’t have any friends.

Instead, he hires a professional best man, Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart), along with seven strangers to serve as his groomsmen. Can these guys get to know Doug well enough in a week to convince Gretchen and members of the wedding party that they’re long-lost friends?

That is the preposterous point of departure of The Wedding Ringer, an unlikely-buddies comedy marking the directorial debut of Yale University graduate Jeremy Garelick. Provided you are not offended by and are willing to suspend disbelief about the farfetched setup, you’ll actually be richly rewarded by the hilarious, bad boy hijinks about to ensue.

Most of the laughs emanate from the attempt by that motley assortment of unsavory characters to impersonate refined, white-collar types ranging from a podiatrist, to a principal, to a lawyer, to a professor. The sham of a best man adopts the alias “Bic Mitchum” and passes himself off as a priest.

And although he proves convincing at faking bromance, he warns Doug not to develop feelings because, “You’re not buying a new friend. You’re hiring a best man.” But despite this strictly business understanding, coldhearted Jimmy gradually warms to the goofy groom and the two somehow bond anyway.

That unexpected development is what ultimately redeems The Wedding Ringer’s otherwise pretty repugnant premise. After all, how much hope could there really be for a marriage, if a groom would opt to stage such an elaborate scheme rather than simply explain the situation to his bride-to-be?

Check your brain at the box office, and motor-mouthed Kevin Hart, surrounded by a talented cast of seasoned comedians, will keep you in stitches for the duration of a decidedly-lowbrow, politically-incorrect misadventure.  

Very Good (3 stars)

StarStarStar

Rated R for crude humor, pervasive profanity, coarse sexuality and brief graphic nudity

Running time: 101 minutes

Distributor: Screen Gems

To see a trailer for The Wedding Ringer, visit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3TeI9jPPuA



Interviews
userpicStraight from the “Hart”
Posted by Kam Williams

Kevin Hart
“The Wedding Ringer” Interview
with Kam Williams

Kevin Hart might be the hardest working man in Hollywood. Just last year, he starred in a trio of feature films: Ride Along, About Last Night and Think like a Man Too, and enjoyed supporting roles in Top Five and School Dance, too.

Meanwhile, he has his hit TV show, Real Husbands of Hollywood, for which he won the NAACP Image Award in the Best Actor in a Comedy Series Award. In 2014, the NAACP also named Kevin the Entertainer of the Year.

The irrepressible comedian shows no sign of letting up, between presently releasing The Wedding Ringer, and following that up with Get Hard in March. And he’s already wrapped work on Ride Along 2, and has The Secret Life of Pets, Central Intelligence and Captain Underpants in production.

Read the rest of this story »



American Sniper
Film Review by Kam Williams

Navy Seal Chris Kyle served four tours as a sniper in Iraq between 2003 and 2008. Over the course of dangerous deployments to Ramadi, Sadr City, Fallujah and other hot spots, he racked up enough kills to become the most lethal sniper in the history of the U.S. military. Directed by the legendary Clint Eastwood, American Sniper is a reverential biopic chronicling the eagle-eyed sharpshooter’s enviable exploits.

The film is based on Kyle’s autobiography of the same name, and stars Bradley Cooper in the title role. Besides highlighting battlefield heroics, the movie mixes in plenty of poignant flashbacks from the protagonist’s formative years.

For instance, in those early childhood scenes, we see Kyle learning to shoot from his father (Ben Reed), nobly protecting his little brother Jeff (Luke Sunshine) from a playground bully (Brandon Salgado Telis), and piously pocketing his dog-eared copy of the Bible while attending Church services. These telling tableaus are obviously designed to provide hints at how such an exemplary combination of character and skills might have been forged.

Another focus of the picture is Kyle’s relationship with his terminally-worried wife, Taya (Sienna Miller). She’s raising their kids back in the States, but often finds her long-distance phone chats with her hubby rudely interrupted by everything from IED explosions to enemy fire. However, Kyle always attempts to qualm his frazzled spouse’s fears with calm reassurances that he’ll survive the ordeal.

This deliberate humanizing of the soldier at the center of the story into a tenderhearted family man is what sets American Sniper apart from other recent war flicks like Lone Survivor and The Hurt Locker. Consequently, we really care whether this patriot will ultimately return home safe and sound.

Kudos to Clint Eastwood for fashioning such a moving and well-deserved salute to a true American hero!

Excellent (4 stars) StarStarStarStar

Rated R for graphic violence, sexual references and pervasive profanity

Running time: 132 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers

To see a trailer for American Sniper, visit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bP1f_1o-zo




Inherent Vice
Film Review by Kam Williams

Dateline: Los Angeles, 1970, which is where we find Private Eye Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) living in a beach house with a view in a fictional, seacoast enclave called Gordita Beach. He’s totally wasted, but that doesn’t stop Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) from approaching her ex-boyfriend for help with a personal problem.

Seems that the fetching femme fatale is currently the mistress of real estate magnate Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), and she has reason to believe that the philandering billionaire is about to be involuntarily committed to a mental institution by his vindictive wife, Sloane (Serena Scott Thomas), and her lover, Riggs Warbling (Andrew Simpson).

Against his better judgment, Doc takes the case, and soon finds himself swept into a seamy underworld filled with colorful characters ranging from a recently-paroled black radical (Michael Kenneth Williams) to an avowed white supremacist (Christopher Allen Nelson) to the proverbial prostitute with the heart of gold (Hong Chau). After being conked on the head, Doc comes around in a police station where he learns that he’s the prime suspect not only in the disappearance of both Mickey and Shasta Fay, but in a murder to boot.

So unfolds Inherent Vice, a surreal whodunit far more concerned with recreating the feel of the post-Sixties’ daze of free-flowing drugs than with crafting a compelling crime thriller. Unfortunately, the absence of a credible plotline means the premise soon dissolves into a rudderless, meandering mess, reducing the viewing experience to enjoying the retro décor, fashions and slang of the period.

The picture was directed by five-time Oscar-nominee Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights and Magnolia), who also adapted the script from the Thomas Pynchon best-seller of the same name.

The film does feature a few standout performances, most notably, Joaquin Phoenix in the starring role, and Josh Brolin as a hard-nosed LAPD officer. Otherwise the production makes precious little use of the services of its cluttered, A-list cast which includes Academy Award-winners Reese Witherspoon (for Walk the Line) and Benicio del Toro (for Traffic), and Oscar-nominees Eric Roberts (for Runaway Train) and Owen Wilson (for The Royal Tenenbaums).

An unstructured, atmospheric affair ostensibly designed to appeal to folks nostalgic for the hedonistic hippie era.

Good (2 stars)

Rated R for profanity, violence, sexuality and graphic nudity

In English and Japanese with subtitles

Running time: 148 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers

To see a trailer for Inherent Vice, visit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZfs22E7JmI




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