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Reviews
userpicDon Lemon (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Don Lemon

The “Ferguson, Missouri” Interview

with Kam Williams

 

Anchoring the National Conversation on Race

CNN’s Don Lemon has anchored and reported many breaking on-the-scene news stories, including the George Zimmerman trial, the Boston marathon bombing, the Philadelphia building collapse, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the Colorado Theater Shooting, the death of Whitney Houston, the Inauguration of President Barack Obama, the death of Michael Jackson, Hurricane Gustav in Louisiana, and the Minneapolis bridge collapse.

In 2009, Ebony Magazine dubbed Don one of the 150 most influential Blacks in America. Furthermore, he has won an Edward R. Murrow award for his coverage of the capture of the Washington, D.C. snipers, and an Emmy for a special report on real estate in Chicagoland.

Don earned a degree in broadcast journalism from Brooklyn College where he currently serves as an adjunct professor, teaching and participating in curriculum designed around new media. Here, he talks about CNN’s coverage of the recent shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

 

Kam Williams: Hi Don, thanks for another opportunity to interview you.

Don Lemon: Hey, Kam, thanks for asking me.

 

KW: I appreciate your taking the time to speak with me, since you seem to be on CNN 24/7 lately. It’s been wall-to-wall Don Lemon from Ferguson, Missouri.

DL: [Chuckles] I don’t know about that. It’s been a tough go, but it’s an important story. I wanted to make sure I got it on and got it right.

 

KW: I have a ton of questions sent in for you by viewers. Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Do you think your ability to report from Ferguson, Missouri was adversely affected by your almost becoming a part of the story like when you got shoved or punched by that racist cop [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDyOvrwYo5Q] or when rapper Talib Kweli [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ktv6IcDaozk ] put you in the awkward position of having to defend CNN’s coverage on the air?

DL: Well, I don’t know if I became part of the story. I just think we had so many resources devoted to it that we were way ahead of the competition. So, everyone tuned in to CNN, and they were watching us. [Regarding Talib Kweli] I’m not the only one on the air who’s been put in a position of defending our reporting. If someone comes on and criticizes it, we’re there to tell them the truth. [Regarding Officer Dan Page] I got pushed by an officer live on television, but that was just me doing my job. He pushed me, so it wasn’t as if I’d injected myself into the story. We were standing where we’d been instructed to stand, and he came around the corner and shoved me when I just happened to be doing a live shot on The Situation Room. I don’t think that made me part of the story. It was more that everyone was watching when news was breaking live around me.

 

KW: Do you still teach as an adjunct? What grade would you give yourself on the reporting of this story overall? 

DL: Yes, I still teach occasionally at Brooklyn College, but I’m now more than an adjunct. I’m on the board of trustees. I would have to give CNN an A+. I think we did a really good job. No one compared to us, resource-wise. We had every angle of that story covered. That’s why people saw it and felt it as if they were there. We did a great job bringing people there. And that’s that.  

 

KW: Editor Lisa Loving asks: Were there any teachable moments for you as a journalist covering the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting?

DL: I think there’s always a lesson you can learn from any situation. In this case, I learned how tightly people hold onto their beliefs. And, here, people had really strong beliefs about this story on both sides. People supporting the officer felt Michael Brown did something wrong. Those supporting Michael Brown said the cop did something wrong. There was very little that you could do to convince either side otherwise, or simply to be objective and not jump to conclusions. So, if you were just reporting the facts, and said “Michael Brown did this…” you’d be challenged by his supporters asking, “How do you know that?” By the same token, if you said, “Witnesses say the cop did this…” the officer’s supporters would challenge you with “Well, how do you know that?” It reconfirmed that I have to be objective in my reporting and allow viewers to read into it whatever they want. So, the teachable moment for me was a reminder that I just have to state the facts.    

 

KW: Aaron Moyne asks: Are you satisfied that CNN has covered the Michael Brown case objectively, devoid of bias and sensationalism?

DL: Absolutely! My answer is “yes” and I’m so happy that Aaron asked this question because that means that people are paying close attention. So, it’s incumbent upon us not only to be objective but to be passionate about our reporting… meaning wanting to be there… wanting to tell the truth… and wanting to tell the story from all sides.

 

KW: A crowd control police officer overtly referred to protesters as “animals” on CNN. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQuo5-ewDR8] Is that sound bite an accurate reflection of the state of relations between Ferguson’s police officers and the African-American community?

DL: I can’t answer that because I’m not a resident of Ferguson. I can only tell you what, from being there, people are saying to me. And I know that there are some good officers in the Ferguson Police Department, and then there are some bad ones, just as in any police department around the country. But I don’t know if someone calling protesters “animals” is an accurate reflection of the Ferguson Police. You’d have to ask the police and the people of Ferguson. I know they have issues with the department. That’s what you saw playing out on television. They are passionately distrustful of the police. Many people are. There’s a disconnect between the police and the community. And so that’s a question that’s better answered by those who live there.   

 

KW: Has the court of public opinion already outweighed any opportunity for Officer Wilson to voice his rationale for shooting Michael Brown so many times?

DL: No, I don’t think it’s outweighed his rationale. The officer is yet to tell the public and the media what he did. I’m sure he’s already spoken with investigators. What everyone else is really waiting on is to hear his side of the story. But he can do that at any point. So, if anyone feels there’s been some bias in the reporting of the story that’s because only one side is telling their story. The officer hasn’t told his story in the first person. In the beginning, the Ferguson Police gave a version. Then they turned it over to St. Louis County. And then there’s an alleged friend of the police officer who called a radio station to tell her side of the story. But that’s really been it. So, you haven’t heard much from the officer’s side. However, you have heard from witnesses on the scene who have a lot to say about what they saw happen to Michael Brown. So, if you don’t have the officer or someone speaking on his behalf, how do you tell his story? You can’t.    

 

KW: In your opinion, was there a sufficient threat against the police for them to don riot gear, use teargas and make such a show of deadly force?

PH: I don’t know about a sufficient threat, but I do know there were agitators in the crowd. We saw some of them. Come on! We saw people get shot in front of us. I wasn’t at every scene that turned into a violent situation, but I did see protesters instigating in some instances. Still, the overwhelming majority of people said they were doing nothing but exercising their right to protest and to march on the street when all of a sudden they came up against a heavy police presence pushing them out of the way. I take them at their word that this was true. The police said to us that we didn’t see everything that’s going on... that people were throwing bottles of water and urine at them, and that when something’s flying through the air they have no idea whether it might be a Molotov cocktail. So, while I might tend to agree with the conventional wisdom that it looks like an overly-militarized presence, just judging from the optics of it, I would nevertheless take both sides at their word, because I’m not the police and I wasn’t in the crowd 100% of the time. I think there was some instigating by police, and I think there was some instigating by some of the people who were out in the crowd.  

 

KW: How has all the looting affected the public perception of the Mike Brown case? Did the optics of that serve to divide the country along color lines?

DL: I think in a way it distracted us from the real issues: first, the killing of Mike Brown and, secondly, the police’s relationship with certain members of the community. When you saw people stealing, that changed the narrative of the story. But it also showed how upset people are. I think you’d be hard-pressed to go back in history and find any sort of major change achieved without some sort of upheaval. Even during the peaceful, non-violent Civil Rights Movement, something would break out. There are often people in a crowd who will do things they’re not supposed to, even during the celebration of winning the Stanley Cup, the World Cup or the NBA championship. We see it all the time. It was no different in Ferguson. But it doesn’t suggest that the people there are different from anyone else. It’s just that there were a few agitators in the crowd. And yes, I do think it did take our focus off of what’s really important.    

 

KW: Do you have any qualms about the black community making Michael Brown the poster child for police brutality, assuming he had robbed a store and roughed up its owner just minutes before his confrontation with Officer Wilson?

DL: Listen, I can’t make people act or react a certain way. They’re going to do whatever they’re going to do. As with any situation, I would just urge caution and that people reserve judgment until all the facts are out. But I do know that, regardless of what happens with Michael Brown, it’s important that we get to the truth. That doesn’t take away the distrust of the police and the way certain people are treated by them in our society. This has really opened up that line of conversation. So, if anything comes out of this, hopefully it’s a conversation that encourages police departments around the country to look at themselves and to figure out ways to serve their communities better.    

 

KW: Ray Hirschman asks: Based on the evidence surrounding the case now, do you have a gut feeling whether the police officer will walk or be charged with homicide and found guilty?

DL: You never know how these things are going to turn out. But, and I say this knowing people are going to get upset, if you look back at the history of similar cases, it’s very tough to convict a police officer in a situation like this. Juries often decide that it’s easy for people to armchair quarterback when they don’t know what a cop has to deal with out there on the streets. I think the grand jury will have that in the back of their minds. But I just want justice, whatever that is, whether the Michael Brown or the police officer is right. And I think that’s what most people want. However, history has shown that it’s very hard to convict a police officer under circumstances like this. That’s not to say it’s not going to happen, but it’s going to be tough.

 

KW: Steve Kramer asks: Is there any chance CNN would consider devoting an equal amount of coverage to the horrific black-on-black killings being committed by gangs against other gangs and innocent bystanders that occur daily in so many inner-cities in places like Chicago, Detroit, Philly and Newark?

DL: Steve may have a short memory, because we do devote a lot of attention to that. We cover Chicago, black-on-black crime, and violence in big cities a lot. The only reason people probably bring it up is because this is a flashpoint, so you see it on the news now. Ordinarily, we spend more time covering daily violence in big cities than we do covering a story like this. I devote entire newscasts to what happens on the streets in major cities all the time. It’s just that people might not have tuned in to see it, or it might not draw the attention, because you don’t see any rioting or teargas. But we do it all the time.

 

KW: Have you been the victim of a profile stop by police?

DL: I have had interaction with police officers, yes. What man of color hasn’t? That’s the reality. I was also detained for “shopping while black.” Listen, I live in America. If I live in this country, things are going to happen to me, especially as a black man. I’ve talked about my experiences before, but I don’t really want to be the story.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Don, and keep up the good work.

DL: You’re welcome. Sorry, if I sounded tired.

 

KW: You must feel exhausted. You’re on the air every time I turn on CNN. But no need to apologize. This was another great interview. Get some rest.

DL: Will do. Thank you very much, Kam. I appreciate talking to you.



Reviews
userpicAs Above, So Below (FILM REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

As Above, So Below

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

Catacombs Provide Claustrophobic Setting for Harrowing Horror Flick

            The late alchemist, Dr. Marlowe (Roger Van Hool) lost his mind and then committed suicide over a futile quest for the Philosopher’s Stone supposedly hidden somewhere in the cryptic maze of catacombs beneath Paris. Now, his headstrong young daughter, Scarlet (Perdita Weeks), has decided to follow in daddy’s footsteps by mounting her own search for the sacred talisman said to turn metal into gold.

The determined Brit has prepared herself for the dangerous trek by earning not only Ph.D.s in archeology and symbology, but a black belt in karate to boot. She’s being assisted in this dangerous endeavor by a team comprised of her linguist ex-boyfriend (Ben Feldman); an African-American cameraman (Edwin Hodge); a graffiti artist familiar with the caves (Francois Civil); plus a couple of other local yokels (Marion Lambert and Aly Marhyar).   

            The motley crew’s descent starts out unremarkably enough, despite a little gallows humor and worries about whether they might encounter any bats or rats. The most concerned participant is George whose little brother Danny (Samuel Aouizerate) drowned in the cave at a young age. Adding fuel to the fear is the fact that the last time George accompanied Scarlet on an expedition he ended up in Turkish prison.

            This is the ominous point of departure of As Above, So Below, a found-footage horror flick written and directed by John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine). The film has all the hallmarks of the genre inaugurated by The Blair Witch Project back in 1999, from the claustrophobia created by incessant, extreme close-ups to the seasick cinematography coming courtesy of handheld cameras.

            Credit Perdita Weeks as the intrepid protagonist for keeping her audience enthralled even after the production morphs into a farfetched cross of Tomb Raider (2001) and The Da Vinci Code (2006). Whether crawling across piles of skeletons, deciphering ancient Aramaic messages, or fearlessly repelling down uncharted shafts, spunky Scarlet has the ‘tude and charisma to keep you rooting for her as others meet their fate, one-by-one.    

            A harrowing tale of survival revolving around an endearing heroine every bit as brainy as she is resourceful.

Very Good (2.5 stars)

Rated R for terror, graphic violence and pervasive profanity

Running time: 93 minutes

Distributor: Universal Pictures

To see a trailer for As Above, So Below, visit:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SX5IHP5c_A




The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears
Film Review by Kam Williams

Dan Kristensen (Klaus Tange) could find no sign of his wife Edwige (Ursula Bedena) when he returned home from a business trip. Moreover, the communications executive’s suspicions were aroused by the fact that the chain was across the door when he unlocked their apartment, suggesting that someone ought to be inside.

Inquiring of neighbors only served to compound the mystery, between his landlord who suggested that his wife had a reason to disappear, and the provocatively-dressed elderly senior who tries to seduce him after saying that her husband had disappeared, too. As he makes his way around the building, Dan gradually discovers that the place is a den of iniquity where people participate in all sorts of bizarre sexuality.

With each flat he enters, the sadomasochistic displays revealed are increasingly kinky, eventually even rising to the level of a bloodbath replete with decapitation. Co-directed by Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani, The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears is not so much a mystery with a linear plotline as a surreal thriller designed for cinephiles with a taste for abstraction and eroticized violence.

Undeniably artistic, yet gruesome and harrowing, this atmospheric adventure has a dark, ominous air about it which keeps you braced for something bad for the duration of the entire endurance test. A difficult to decipher whodunit guaranteed to have you still scratching your head even after its confounding resolution.

Good (2 stars)

Unrated  

In French, Danish and Flemish with subtitles

Running time: 102 minutes

Distributor: Strand Releasing

To see a trailer for The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears, visit:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYXXpT11WtM




The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

Husband Searches for Missing Wife in Surreal Erotic Thriller

            Dan Kristensen (Klaus Tange) could find no sign of his wife Edwige (Ursula Bedena) when he returned home from a business trip. Moreover, the communications executive’s suspicions were aroused by the fact that the chain was across the door when he unlocked their apartment, suggesting that someone ought to be inside.

            Inquiring of neighbors only served to compound the mystery, between his landlord who suggested that his wife had a reason to disappear, and the provocatively-dressed elderly senior who tries to seduce him after saying that her husband had disappeared, too. As he makes his way around the building, Dan gradually discovers that the place is a den of iniquity where people participate in all sorts of bizarre sexuality.

With each flat he enters, the sadomasochistic displays revealed are increasingly kinky, eventually even rising to the level of a bloodbath replete with decapitation). Co-directed by Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani, The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears is not so much a mystery with a linear plotline as a surreal thriller designed for cinephiles with a taste for abstraction and eroticized violence.

            Undeniably artistic, yet gruesome and harrowing, this atmospheric adventure has a dark, ominous air about it which keeps you braced for something bad for the duration of the entire endurance test. A difficult to decipher whodunit guaranteed to have you still scratching your head even after its confounding resolution.

 

Good (2 stars)

Unrated  

In French, Danish and Flemish with subtitles

Running time: 102 minutes

Distributor: Strand Releasing

To see a trailer for The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears, visit:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYXXpT11WtM




Second Opinion
Film Review by Kam Williams

If you’ve ever wondered whether the cancer industry is truly interested in developing a cure for the disease, you might want to check out this eye-opening expose’ confirming your worst fears. Directed by Eric Merola, the shocking documentary blows the covers off a shameful chapter in the history of Sloan-Kettering hospital, a revered institution long-trusted to have the best interest of its patients at heart.

Apparently, that wasn’t the case back in July of 1974 when one of its top researchers, Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura, announced that an experimental drug named Amygdalin, also known as Laetrile, had proved highly effective in treating certain types of cancers in laboratory mice. Instead of heralding the discovery as a major inroad in the fight against malignancies, the Sloan-Kettering brass, ostensibly at the direction of the American Cancer Society, moved swiftly to discredit Dr. Suguira’s findings.

Not only did they issue a “Second Opinion” disputing the notion that Laetrile might reduce tumors, but they even went so far as to suggest that its side effects were much worse than chemotherapy, which was “an out and out lie.” That is the contention of Dr. Ralph Moss, a colleague of Suguira who was also on the Sloan-Kettering staff at the time.

Moss was so offended by the disinformation being disseminated in the press by his bosses that he eventually decided to turn whistleblower. Truth be told, Laetrile was “better than all the known cancer drugs” then available.

However, Sloan-Kettering came down on Moss like a ton of bricks, too. He was summarily terminated, losing both his job and career in the process.

Furthermore, he was unable to interest any mainstream media outlets in the cover-up, despite the overwhelming data in favor of Laetrile. In fact, the New York Times proceeded to publish a front-page story denigrating the drug.

Dr. Moss’ only satisfaction is that the three hypocritical superiors who fired him, Dr. Robert Good, Dr. Lewis Thomas and Dr. Chester Stock, all MDs, all died of cancer, ironically. Whatever happened to the Hippocratic Oath to “First, do no harm?”

Excellent (4 stars)

Unrated

Running time: 75 minutes

Distributor: Merola Productions

To see a trailer for Second Opinion, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcCyawsaWZQ



Interviews
userpicBill T. Jones (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Bill T. Jones

The “Story/Time” Interview

with Kam Williams

 

Tiny Dancer, Dancing in the Sand

Williams Tass Jones is an accomplished artist, choreographer, dancer, theater director and writer. The world-renowned Renaissance man was born in Bunnell, Florida on February 15, 1952, but raised in upstate New York from an early age.

 

Bill began his dance training at the State University at Binghamton, where he studied classical ballet and modern dance. In 1982, he formed the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company with his late partner, Arnie Zane. Today, he continues to serve as the company’s choreographer and artistic director. He is also the executive director of New York Live Arts, a multi-disciplinary performance venue. Bill is the recipient of many accolades, including the National Medal of Arts, the Kennedy Center Honors, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award, Tony Awards in the Best Choreography category (for Fela! And Spring Awakening), a MacArthur Genius Grant, the prestigious Order of Arts and Letters from the government of France, and induction into the National Museum of Dance Hall of Fame. Here, he talks about his career and his surrealistic new memoir, “Story/Time.”

Kam Williams: Hi Bill, thanks for the interview. I loved the book.

Bill T. Jones: Fantastic!

KW: What a unique idea, turning a series of surrealistic lectures you delivered at Princeton into a memoir?

BTJ: I don’t know why I still have this illusion that I could do something quietly which would just be for a very small group of people. Now that the book is being promoted, there are wider ramifications, and it’s part of a whole other form of expression beyond my just doing pure inquiry for myself. And you’re one of those personalities that comes along with that tsunami of discourse. So, no complaints, I’m just adjusting to that. So, what would you like to do, Kam?  

KW: I’d like to mix in questions from fans with some of my own. Professor/Filmmaker/Author Hisani Dubose says: How has the trend towards people relying on technology for entertainment affected the appreciation of creativity in terms of live dance performances?

BTJ: [Laughs] Well, that’s quite a question, Hisani. I appreciate the question. We’re all wondering about that. There are a couple things we see. Dancers were the last romantics. The Romantic Movement of the 18th and 19th Century had this idea that everything in the world was an expression of Nature. We in the dance world held onto this idea for a long time that we were Nature itself. There were no tricks involved. When the curtain went up, you saw real people onstage. And we took that as setting us apart from other cultural pursuits. It’s not scored and we don’t need a conductor to bring it to life. No, dance is about a group of people coming together and using their bodies. But now we’re in an electronic, on-demand age where everything can be reproduced, and where life is an ever more turned inwards experience. One thing about dance that I’m proud of is the fact that you have to show up in a place and create an instant community for an event that occurs onstage which, depending on the skill of the creators, has great resonance with that community of people. And this may sound suspiciously Christian, but you also all share a communion. Do we have the same experience with electronics? I think watching live performers onstage is different from standing around the water cooler discussing last night’s episode of Breaking Bad  I notice that there is now this feeling among many young people that the most important things are those that are validated by media. Do they go out of their way to attend an event with a smaller group of people who share a specialized interest? I tend to doubt it. And I suspect that might be a consequence of the rise of electronic media.

KW: Do you think electronic media should somehow be restricted or perhaps even eliminated?

BTJ: No, I’m not a reactionary in that regard. I believe that human life is a spiritual activity, and that anything that human beings give themselves to with great enthusiasm can rise to the level of being transcendent. I’m on the side of humanity and its penchant for finding innovative ways to express our dilemma through whatever medium we’re faced with.

KW: Marcia Evans says: First, let Bill T. Jones know that ironically while on Bard College Alumni site I discovered that he received an honorary degree. Let him know as a past Bard student it made me proud to see him at that podium. It brought back my fond memories and my disappointing ones regarding lack of professors of color teaching at that esteemed college. The years I attended in the early 1980 black professors were not teaching at Bard at that time. This was before Toni Morrison who was the first professor of color to teach there. Leon Botstein kept saying that they couldn't find black professors who wanted to teach there, which was nonsense. Secondly, it's nice to see how much Mr. Botstein has grown since then. An example of his progress is reflected in how many times Mr. Jones’ dance troupe has graced the stage at Bard. It's clear that Botstein now respects Mr. Jones as an artist with much to teach about dance. Third, let him know that I admire his warrior spirit teaching the world about AIDS. Fourth, let Mr. Jones know that the mother's words of wisdom his mother gave him after he lost his partner really spoke to me. Finally, let him know that he is one of my heroes and that this sister is major proud of his gift and grace and of how he conducts his business of dance.

BTJ: Well, Marcia, I am overwhelmed by your response, because I am very much African-American, even though I’m not a Christian like my mother was. Still, I appreciate the African tradition in the Black Church where you stand up and speak out to the community and the community answers back, effectively saying, “I hear you!” And this is what this communication with you has just done for me, Marcia. One of the struggles of a contemporary modern artist is to bridge this question: Is my work coming from a continent of one, an inner voice, a unique personal experience? Or is it that you have the privilege of standing on the shoulders of a community of people who have afforded you that platform, and that your work is always going to be negotiating that inner personal location and the ongoing discussion that your people are happy? I am really proud when I receive national honors, but I’m equally pleased when I hear a sister, a black woman, actually embrace me like a brother. I no longer feel alienated at this moment.     

KW: Have you had a hard time pushing back against society’s tendency to pigeonhole you and the pressure to categorize your work? What is black dance?
BTJ: That used to be the most torturous question for me. For years, I used to say that I wanted to be no part of anything that had to have a color. I wanted the same freedom enjoyed by my white colleagues. But now I say that black dance is anything that a person who defines himself as black chooses to do. That causes a lot of head scratching. Some may ask, “Why do you bother to put “black” in it?” Because there’s another subtext to that. You can look at my face and see what color I am. Still, it’s important to me to carry that little medal on my shoulder. As time goes on, it just might be part of the answer to the existential question “Who am I? Where do I come from? And why am I here?” There’s something specific about it that inflects my life as a black person.

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier who is from Canada and loves dance was wondering whether you have any plans to perform there in the near future.

BTJ: We’ve played in Toronto quite a few times and hope to go there every time we produce a new work which right now is “Story/Time” which this book is based on. And we have another work-in-progress called “Analogy” dealing with a narrative in which the dancers speak. I would love to show both of those productions in Canada.

KW: What did it mean to you to be part of the series of the Toni Morrison lecture series, given that she was the first black female to win the Nobel Prize for Literature?

BTJ: It was a great honor, as well as an honor to have her in attendance, and I look forward to presenting her a copy of the book. Toni actually also happens to be a friend as well. She lives 15 minutes away from me and my companion and soon-to-be spouse, Bjorn Amelan. We live in a little town in Rockland County called Valley Cottage. Toni’s nearby in a community called Grand View. We see each other socially, and Toni and I shared the stage with Max Roach doing a piece called Degga. Degga, by the way, is a West African word, it’s Yoruba for “understand,” and according to Toni is the root of the phrases “Dig it” and “Can you dig it.”   

KW: Was writing this book a cathartic experience for you?

BTJ: On one level it was. The book initially was three lectures in which I attempted to work out some ideas in public. Since I’m a performer, that’s how I’m most comfortable. But, it’s a whole other thing when you’re confronted with just your words on the page unaccompanied by your personality. So, yes, it was cathartic, but it was also nerve-wracking because I’m a professional performer, not a professional writer. 

KW: Would you be interested in choreographing a screen version of a Broadway musical that is dear to your heart?

BTJ: Film is a little beyond me right now. [Laughs] I’m still wrestling with staging real space/real time events that are going to appeal to a broad audience. The recent Broadway musicals which have made it to the screen haven’t done very well. That could change, but it’s not the same as during the Golden Age of Broadway. Making a movie could be a great thing, but for some reason they haven’t fared so well lately.

KW: Ilene Proctor asks: Do you think dance should be taught as part of a school’s curriculum?

BTJ: Yes, I do. Dance is one of the most challenging cultural endeavors, because we’re literally working with the body, this profound instrument of transformation and communication. Conceptually, you can teach children, even if they have no legs, how to think not only by looking but by feeling and doing. And it’s not about athletics or competition. Inspiring a child to move just for the joy of moving is a great gift to that child.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman says: I love your work so much. I know you have worked with children and with professionals of all ages to teach them your choreography. Do you think there are some people in the general public who have no sense of rhythm who can not dance no matter how hard they try? 

BTJ: [LOL] I appreciate your analysis, Bernadette, but I would ask you to expand your concept of dance beyond rhythm. There are some very moving performances I’ve witnessed where the person is practically still the whole time, making very few gestures. The most advanced people working in dance right now are using the body to explore questions about life, religion, art, medicine and so forth. And that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be a crackerjack social dancer, but rather calls for a certain level of intelligence to be employed in close collaboration with this sacred instrument called the body.    

KW: Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with that you haven’t yet?

BTJ: The list grows every day. One is the visual and installation artist Theaster Gates. He has distinguished himself by working in clay with his hands while singing the blues and nursery rhymes. He also creates a novel form of art by renovating abandoned buildings in the ‘hood in Chicago them and turning them into listening rooms for the community. I’m looking forward to collaborating with him on something.

KW: Daryl Williams was wondering whether you felt that Fela's death due to AIDS should have been included in the play.

BTJ: Obviously I didn’t, because I didn’t put it in. Black themed shows have a hard time on Broadway. I have my reasons for that. I thought that it would hard be enough to get audiences to come and listen to his type of music as theater music. I didn’t want Fela’s uniqueness and all of his accomplishments to be subservient to another AIDS story.

KW: Colonel Alan Gray asks: How did you become involved with Alvin Ailey? BTJ: When I moved to New York, Alvin came to one of my workshops because he had been hearing about me, since there weren’t many young black choreographers around. He recognized something that we had which was kindred and he asked me to make a piece for his company. He sort of put his arm around me, encouraged me and joined my board. And I’m forever grateful to him for that. 

KW: Alan also asks: Are African-Americans generally appreciative of your style of performance?

BTJ: African-Americans are a very large and diverse group, right? We need to have a much more sophisticated discourse than that. Anything less is insulting to us as a group. Let’s face it, the modern dance world is mostly a white middle-class world. But I’ve seen more blacks attending more dance events over the years. That’s why I talk about it so much. I do want black people to know that there is a man, a brother, inside of all this esoteric stage movement who is really trying to say something from his heart. Some of it has to do with being African-American, some of it has to do with being a “World Citizen.”

KW: Thanks again for the time, Bill. Best of luck with your wedding, the book, your upcoming productions, and your many other endeavors.

BTJ: Thanks, Kam. Please don’t hesitate to call if you need to fact-check anything.



Reviews
userpicThe Calling (FILM REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

The Calling

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

Susan Sarandon Stars as Small Town Detective in Adaptation of Cat-and-Mouse Murder Mystery

            Hazel Micallef (Susan Sarandon) was thinking about retiring from the Port Dundas police force because of the herniated disc which left her addicted to both booze and painkillers. But the hobbled detective decided to put those plans on hold the day she stumbled upon the body of an elderly neighbor whose throat had been slit from ear-to-ear by a deranged intruder.

After all, this was her beloved hometown’s first homicide in years, and there’s no way she could leave the investigation on the shoulders of the only other two detectives on the force, veteran Ray Green (Gil Bellows) and newcomer Ben Wingate (Topher Grace). Soon, the three unearth evidence which indicates that the murder might very well be the work of the same serial killer responsible for several other recent slayings elsewhere around Ontario. .

Apparently, the creepy lapsed Catholic was practically taunting the authorities by leaving clues online, which is where he preys on each of his vulnerable victims. The question is whether, with the help of a priest (Donald Sutherland), the police will be able pinpoint the prime suspect’s locale in time to prevent him from striking again.

That is the intriguing setup of The Calling, a multi-layered mystery marking South African Jason Stone’s chilling directorial debut. Based on the Inger Ash Wolfe best seller of the same name, the film unfolds less like a whodunit than a cat-and-mouse caper, given how the perpetrator’s identity is confirmed about midway through the movie.

Still, the picture proves compelling, thanks to a powerful performance on the part of Susan Sarandon. The talented Oscar-winner (for Dead Man Walking) is uncharacteristically unappealing playing a familiar archetype, one of those substance-abusing souls in decline who summons up the strength to solve one last case.      

Fair warning: the film is tarnished slightly by periodic displays of grisly crime scenes apt to upset audience members averse to gratuitous gore. Otherwise, the picture earns accolades as a taut thriller about a religious zealot on a ritualistic killing spree.

Bless me father for I have slain!

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for violence, profanity and disturbing content

Running time: 108 minutes

Distributor: Sony Pictures

To see a trailer for The Calling, visit:   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sCDg5Ij6e0  



Reviews
userpicThe November Man (FILM REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

The November Man

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

 It’s Spy vs. Spy in Labyrinthine Espionage Thriller

Director Roger Donaldson is probably most closely associated with No Way Out, one of the best espionage thrillers ever made. The accomplished Australian revisits the genre with The November Man, though this picture pales in comparison to his ingenious, 1987 classic.

Nevertheless, Roger has crafted another labyrinthine, cat-and-mouse caper which miraculously manages to keep you on the edge of your seat despite an often-incoherent plotline, slapdash action sequences, and an inscrutable cast of characters with difficult to discern motivations. Overall, the adventure amounts to a dizzying head-scratcher which takes you on one helluva roller coaster ride, even if it might take a scorecard to keep the profusion of players straight.

Based on the Bill Granger best seller “There Are No Spies,” the movie stars Pierce Brosnan in the title role as Peter Devereaux, an ex-CIA Agent once code named “The November Man.” While he retired to Switzerland five years ago, it doesn’t take much to coax him out of the rocking chair to help extract Natalia (Mediha Musliovic), a Russian double agent ready to come in out of the proverbial cold.

After all, they share a secret past which produced Lucy (Tara Jevrosimovic), a love child he misses terribly. However, the prospects of a father-daughter reunion are reduced significantly when Natalia is shot in the head by a team of assassins led by David Mason (Luke Bracey), Peter’s former protégé in the CIA.

What’s up with that? Did the Agency really want Natalia dead? Or did David go rogue? These are the questions left unanswered as Peter accepts another dangerous assignment, namely, the exfiltration from Moscow of Alice Fournier (Olga Kurylenko).

Alice is a pivotal witness for the prosecution set to testify in front of a war crimes tribunal about all the atrocities committed in Chechnya by Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski). Trouble is Federov is Russia’s ruthless President-elect and isn’t about to let some social worker abort his rendezvous with destiny.

So, it’s not long after making Alice’s acquaintance that Peter realizes she has no shortage of angry adversaries, both Soviet, such as Federov’s acrobatic henchwoman (Amila Terzimehic), and American, like the CIA mole giving David his marching orders. Regardless, the peripatetic pair proceed to leave a messy trail of bloody bodies behind as they pick up long-lost Lucy before making a daring escape to the West.

            Vintage Brosnan!

Very Good (2.5 stars)

Rated R for rape, profanity, sexuality, nudity, graphic violence and brief drug use

In English and Russian with subtitles

Running time: 108 minutes

Distributor: Relativity Media

To see a trailer for The November Man, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0-uN5l1Z2I  



Reviews
userpicAre You Here (FILM REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Are You Here

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis Return to Roots in Irreverent Buddy Comedy

Sometimes you can appreciate what a movie might have been shooting for, even though the final cut falls far short of the mark. Such is the case with Are You Here, a cringe-inducing buddy comedy co-starring Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis.   

The movie marks the eagerly-anticipated directorial debut of nine-time, Emmy-winner Matthew Weiner who fails in his first attempt to find the same magic which served him so well writing scripts for both Mad Men and The Sopranos. Unfortunately, something ostensibly got lost in the translation from TV to the big screen, as this picture proves to be an annoying test of patience.

            The problem probably emanates from the ill-advised pairing of the wry Wilson and goofy Galifianakis, whose personas mix about as well as oil and water. Sorry, Weiner doesn’t get any extra credit for effort for crafting an ambitious adventure that bites off more than it could chew cinematically, since all that matters to an audience is execution.

And while Are You Here revolves around an intriguing enough premise and features plenty of surprising twists, the comedy portion of the production simply flunks the “Make me laugh” test. At the point of departure, we’re introduced to roommates/BFFs Ben Baker (Galifianakis) and Steve Dallas (Wilson). The former is an infantile eccentric incapable of functioning in society, while the latter is a stoner and popular TV weatherman for a local network.

When Ben’s dad dies, the two decide to drive the thousand miles back to their idyllic hometown in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where the recently deceased has left behind property worth millions of dollars. Also showing up for the funeral is Ben’s only sibling, Terry (Amy Poehler), a greedy shrew who clearly expects to inherit half of her father’s estate.

At the reading of the will, however, she learns that the old man only left her $350,000, and cut his trophy second-wife, Angela (Laura Ramsey), out of the will entirely, with the bulk of his cash plus a grocery store and 144-acre farm going to Ben. But her brother’s so dysfunctional, there’s no way he’d ever be able to manage the family businesses, given such bizarre behavior as visiting their Amish neighbors in his birthday suit.

Based on the scenario I’ve just described, one would naturally expect the tension to build around a fight over the inheritance. However, writer/director Weiner earns high marks for creativity in that regard, as he’s fashioned a novel plot that’s hard to predict.

Rather than spoil any of the subsequent developments, suffice to say that its unique storyline can’t save a picture that breaks a cardinal rule of comedy by failing to be funny. Have Wilson, Galifianakis and Poehler ever been better? Gosh, I certainly hope so.  

   

Fair (1 star)

Rated R for sexuality, nudity, profanity and drug use    

Running time: 114 minutes

Distributor: Millennium Entertainment

 

To see a trailer for Are You Here, visit:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMtNpu6xBvU



Reviews
userpicPolice State U.S.A. (BOOK REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Police State U.S.A.
How Orwell’s Nightmare Is Becoming Our Reality

by Cheryl K. Chumley
Book Review by Kam Williams

WND Books
Hardcover, $26.95
288 pages
ISBN: 978-1-936488-14-8

“People have liberty; people take their liberty for granted; people become apathetic; people lose their liberty. We are on that track, but detouring back to the freedom road is still possible…

The data in this book concerns me and should concern you… The coming signs of tyranny are all around us. Fortunately, they can be stopped before it is too late, but not without a courageous effort… We can still save liberty for our children if, and only if, America awakens.”

-- Excerpted from the Foreword (pages xi-xii)

Anybody tuning in to the media coverage of the daily protests of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri can’t help but notice the intimidating police presence that makes the city look more like a battlefield than a suburban enclave. The frightening militarization has featured everything from armored Humvees and tanks rolling down the streets, to helmeted officers flanked shoulder-to-shoulder behind body-length armored shields, to snipers in camouflage fatigues training their M16 rifles on marchers through night-vision scopes, to the use of teargas, rubber bullets, smoke bombs and flash grenades to disperse demonstrators.

What are we to make of such a disturbing show of force on the part of local, state and federal authorities? To Cheryl K. Chumley it is merely further evidence of a burgeoning abuse of power on the part of a government already hell bent on trampling its citizens’ Constitutional rights.

In her book, Police State U.S.A.: How Orwell’s Nightmare Is Becoming Our Reality, the veteran journalist indicts present-day America as a “total surveillance society.” She argues that tyrannical rule has come as a consequence of the Patriot Act’s creation of secret data collection centers and the employment of the IRS, NSA phone taps, drones, tracking devices, warrantless searches, traffic light cameras and the like to nefarious ends.

For example, the author cites the case of Scottsdale, Arizona, whose city council approved the purchase of a building to house its police investigative unit, “but refused to disclose the facility’s location” in order to “protect the lives” of detectives working undercover. She says it’s certifiably scary, when the nation has arrived at a point where taxpayers are no longer privy to such previously public information.

In a timely chapter devoted to “The Rise of Militarized Police,” Ms. Chumley states that the technology cops now have at their disposal “is the stuff of science fiction,” like guns that fire darts embedded with a GPS. Though such draconian measures should supposedly be of no concern to the law-abiding, it’s still of little comfort when you think of the seemingly neverending state of siege for folks in Ferguson trying to exercise their First Amendment rights.

Food for thought for anyone who fervently believes our inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness comes from God, not the government.



Interviews
userpicThere Is Nothing Like a Damon
Posted by Kam Williams

Damon Wayans, Jr.
The “Let’s Be Cops” Interview
with Kam Williams

Damon Wayans, Jr. is a member of the famed Wayans family, creators of the groundbreaking television series In Living Color, the Scary Movie franchise, and much more. Damon made his film debut in Blankman, a superhero comedy that starred his father. He also appeared in his dad’s television series My Wife and Kids before striking out on his own as a stand-up comic on Def Comedy Jam.

Damon subsequently made such movies as Dance Flick, Marmaduke, Someone Marry Barry, and The Other Guys. More recently, he has starred on the TV sitcoms Happy Endings and New Girl. Here, he talks about his new film, Let’s Be Cops, where he co-stars opposite Jake Johnson, a fellow cast member on New Girl.

 

 

Kam Williams: Hey Damon, how’re you doing?

Damon Wayans, Jr.: Kam-tastic!

 

KW: Thanks for the time, bro. What interested you in Let’s Be Cops?

DW: I guess it was the concept which was similar to a buddy cop comedy, except they’re not cops. So, it’s sort of a fresh take on the idea. I was actually a little curious about why it hadn’t been done before, but I was definitely interested, especially once I heard that Jake Johnson was in the mix. We get along really well and make each other laugh a lot. So, I was like, “If you do it, I’ll do it.” And that’s how we got involved in the project.   

 

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Did you do your own stunts and dancing? Did you shadow a real cop to prepare for the role?

DW: I did not shadow a real cop to prepare for the role because in the movie we‘re pretending to pretend to be cops. Basically, any mistakes that I would make as an ordinary citizen were encouraged. So, I never needed to shadow a cop to try to look like a cop. And yes, I did most of my own stunts, and when it came time for the dance moves I even did my own back flip. But when it came to really dangerous stunts, like breaking the glass table with my back when the lady throws me, that wasn’t me, but a stuntman named Reggie.   

 

KW: Kate Newell says: It's great seeing you on New Girl. Is there much improv happening on the set?

DW: They allow it, yeah. After they get their takes in, they kinda allow us to do anything we want. It’s fun working in that environment with people I like. I went to high school with Zooey [Deschanel]. We know each other really well. 

 

KW: Talking about TV shows, I recently read that In Living Color might be coming back to TV.

DW: Really? That’s cool to hear if it’s true. I know that they tried to revive it a year or so ago, but it didn’t really pan out.

 

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: You have experience on both the big and small screen. Which might be a better fit for your performance style?

DW: I don’t really know. That depends on how Let’s Be Cops does at the box office. If it tanks, I guess TV is better for me. [LOL] I feel like I can do both. I think of the small screen as my 9-to-5 job and of the big screen as projects that you fit in between.  

 

KW: How hard is it hailing from such a talented and famous family?

DW: It’s not really hard. They’ve encouraged me the whole way, since we see a win for any one of us as a win for all. So, if I’m doing good work, and they approve of it, I’m happy.  

 

KW: Your dad has a reputation for being a bit of a disciplinarian. Is that rumor true or false?

DW: It’s true. He was definitely a disciplinarian, when we were growing up. It was almost as if he went off to play Major Payne in the movie, and stayed in character after he got back. He would make us do sit-ups, push-ups and jumping jacks every morning when we woke up. If we got anything below a B grade, he would shave our heads and make us wear a suit to school. He’s a pretty intense guy. [Chuckles] 

 

KW: You wouldn’t believe how many people I’ve interviewed over the years have told me they broke into show business with the help of one of the Wayans.

DW: That’s awesome. I guess the Wayans gave me my first break, too.

 

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: Which scene in Let’s Be Cops was the most fun to shoot?

DW: [Laughs] It’s hard to pick just one. The ones with Jake, Rob Riggle and Nina Dobrev were all fun. And Keegan-Michael Key from Key and Peele was hilarious. I’d say any scene that made me laugh or break character in the middle of it. I just had a blast the whole way through.

 

KW: Patricia is also wondering what teacher or mentor played an important role in your professional path?

DW: My two greatest influences were my dad, and my martial arts teacher, Mark Mikita.

 

KW: Finally, Patricia says: You’ve written scripts for TV. Are you interested in writing for the big screen? 
DW: Absolutely! One of my dreams is to be able to what the big boys, the Seth Rogens and the Jonah Hills as able to do, get my own projects greenlit, shot and do well at the box office like. That’s kind of my ultimate goal. 

 

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

DW: [LOL] No, I don’t think so.

 

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

DW: About five minutes ago.

 

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

DW: That reality-TV show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I always want to eat that food whenever I watch it.

 

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

DW: I read a lot of books. The last one was “Gone Girl,” a novel by Gillian Flynn.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0307588378/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20 That’s a really good book which has just been made into a movie by David Fincher. It’s coming out in October and stars Ben Affleck. And I’m reading the “The Bourne Retribution” right now. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1409149617/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20 

 

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

DW: “Summer,” by Calvin Harris. I hear it everywhere. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00IZQ81C0/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

 

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

DW: Here’s the thing, dude. I can’t really cook, but I make a mean Top Ramen. [Laughs]

 

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

DW: Danger! I like to do daring things. I’ve bungee jumped three times. The only thing I haven’t tried is skydiving.

 

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

DW: I’m not really a clothes guy. I’d rather be naked.

 

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

DW: My dad. [Chuckles] and I see a guy who’s pretty happy.

 

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

DW: The power to fly, for sure.

 

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

DW: I’d serve corn chowder bisque, and Jake [Johnson] would not be invited because he’s standing here bombing my interview. [To Jake] You’re not invited. I’d invite Dave Chappelle, Louis C.K, and all these people who make me laugh. I would sit at the head of the table and say, “Make me laugh or get out of my house.”

 

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

DW: My uncles Shawn and Marlon bursting into the bathroom while I was pooping, throwing me off the toilet, and laughing at my turds. That really happened. They used to torture me. [Laughs]

 

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

DW: I don’t think I’ve ever had my heart broken, because I’m a man. I laughed it off, and then went and had sex with about 16 women, all unprotected. [Chuckles]

 

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

DW: A dolphin.

 

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?

DW: I smile and laugh a lot more when I’m at home.

 

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

DW: The ability to make people’s heart stop, if I just point at them.

 

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

DW: Drive, and belief in themselves.

 

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

DW: Weekend at Bernie’s.

 

KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?

DW: By crying a lot. [LOL]

 

KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan’s question: What is the dream locale where you’d like you live?

DW: Hawaii.

 

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

DW: If you have the ability and want it bad enough, do it!

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Damon, best of luck with Let’s Be Cops, and IO look forward to speaking with you again soon.

DW: Awesome, Kam, thanks!

 

To see a trailer for Let’s Be Cops, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExciLtpHp74  




Jersey Shore Massacre
Film Review by Kam Williams

When Teresa (Danielle Dallacco) and her girlfriends arrive at their rental house on the Jersey Shore, they’re shocked to learn that their sleazy stoner landlord (Ron Jeremy) already let someone else have the place for the weekend. Luckily, Teresa’s mobster Uncle Vito (Dominic Lucci) happens to have a summer home sitting empty in the nearby Pine Barrens, since he’s stuck in Staten Island under house arrest with an ankle bracelet.

After picking up five hot-looking guys on the beach, the six cute coeds get back into their convertible and make their way to a clearing in the godforsaken the forest. Turns out Uncle Vito has a pretty posh mansion with a built-in pool.

The bimbos slip into their bikinis and begin flirting with the buff boy-toys, blissfully unaware that a couple of Mafia hit men were just murdered in the same neck of the woods by a deranged maniac. If you’re familiar with high body-count slasher flicks, you have a good idea what’s in store for the unsuspecting revelers.

The killer soon starts picking them off one-by-one, dispatching each victim in very grisly fashion, whether that death be by baking in a tanning bed, by decapitating with a bicycle chain, by stabbing in a shower Psycho-style, by whipping, hanging, wood chipper, or run through by sword. Much of the violence is highly eroticized ostensibly to satiate the bloodlust of fans who like their slaughter with a little titillation on the side.

Written and directed by Paul Tarnopol, Jersey Shore Massacre is a gruesome horror flick not for the faint of heart. And the picture also paints a pretty pathetic picture of Italian-Americans, since the principal players are the sort of vapid, vain characters featured on the reality-TV series Jersey Shore.

While the film fails to break any new ground in terms of the splatterflick genre, it’s still entertaining enough to recommend, provided you have a strong stomach for vivisection and Italian stereotypes.

Good (2 stars)

Rated R for sexuality, nudity, profanity, drug use, ethnic and homophobic slurs, and graphic violence

Running time: 88 minutes

Distributor: Attack Entertainment

To see a trailer for Jersey Shore Massacre, visit



Reviews
userpicJersey Shore Massacre (FILM REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Jersey Shore Massacre

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

Weekend Getaway Turns Gory in High Body-Count Slasher Flick 

            When Teresa (Danielle Dallacco) and her girlfriends arrive at their rental house on the Jersey Shore, they’re shocked to learn that their sleazy stoner landlord (Ron Jeremy) already let someone else have the place for the weekend.  Luckily, Teresa’s mobster Uncle Vito (Dominic Lucci) happens to have a summer home sitting empty in the nearby Pine Barrens, since he’s stuck in Staten Island under house arrest with an ankle bracelet.

After picking up five hot-looking guys on the beach, the six cute coeds get back into their convertible and make their way to a clearing in the godforsaken the forest. Turns out Uncle Vito has a pretty posh mansion with a built-in pool.

The bimbos slip into their bikinis and begin flirting with the buff boy-toys, blissfully unaware that a couple of Mafia hit men were just murdered in the same neck of the woods by a deranged maniac. If you’re familiar with high body-count slasher flicks, you have a good idea what’s in store for the unsuspecting revelers.   

The killer soon starts picking them off one-by-one, dispatching each victim in very grisly fashion, whether that death be by baking in a tanning bed, by decapitating with a bicycle chain, by stabbing in a shower Psycho-style, by whipping, hanging, wood chipper, or run through by sword. Much of the violence is highly eroticized ostensibly to satiate the bloodlust of fans who like their slaughter with a little titillation on the side.

            Written and directed by Paul Tarnopol, Jersey Shore Massacre is a gruesome horror flick not for the faint of heart. And the picture also paints a pretty pathetic picture of Italian-Americans, since the principal players are the sort of vapid, vain characters featured on the reality-TV series Jersey Shore.

            While the film fails to break any new ground in terms of the splatterflick genre, it’s still entertaining enough to recommend, provided you have a strong stomach for vivisection and Italian stereotypes.

 ood (2 stars)

Rated R for sexuality, nudity, profanity, drug use, ethnic and homophobic slurs, and graphic violence

Running time: 88 minutes

Distributor: Attack Entertainment 

To see a trailer for Jersey Shore Massacre, visit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDcw8L_M3S4



Reviews
userpicIf I Stay (FILM REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

If I Stay

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

A Life Hangs in the Balance in Adaptation of Bittersweet Best-Seller

            Mia Hall (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a bright 17 year-old full of the bloom of youth. Between playing the cello purely for pleasure and dating the doting boy of her dreams (Jamie Blackley), the happy high school senior considers herself truly blessed.

            She is even lucky enough to have the perfect parents (Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard) who support the idea of her majoring in classical music, whether she gets into Juilliard or simply sticks around Portland to attend Lewis & Clark College. Mia is also very close to her only sibling, Teddy (Jakob Davies), a cute kid who absolutely adores his big sister.

However, fate intervenes, or so it seems, one snowy day during a family outing when a car coming in the opposite direction veers across the highway’s double lines. Right then, in the blink of an eye, their fortunes are irreversibly altered by an unavoidable head-on crash.

By the time the ambulances and paramedics come to the rescue, all four are in grave condition, and there is a chance that none might survive the tragic accident. Mia, who has suffered a collapsed lung, a broken leg and internal bleeding, slips into a coma.

At that instant, her spirit miraculously separates from her body, and she is suddenly able to observe situations and eavesdrop on conversations like an invisible ghost. While a team of doctors struggle to stabilize her vital signs in the hospital, she watches a nurse (Aisha Hinds) lean over and whisper that “Living or dying is all up to you” into her ear.

This suggests that Mia, ultimately, must choose between ascending to Heaven and returning to Earth to face a host of challenges on the road to recovery. And suspended in this state of limbo, she’s afforded the unusual opportunity to reflect and reminisce during the critical next 24 hours before making a decision.

That is the surreal setup of If I Stay, a bittersweet flashback flick based on Gayle Forman’s young adult novel of the same name. Although this unapologetically sentimental tearjerker will undoubtedly resonate with teens in the target demographic, the film’s surprisingly-sophisticated, thought-provoking exploration of such themes as family, friendship, love and spirituality ought to readily endear it to audiences in general.

Directed by R.J. Cutler, the movie basically revolves around introspective Mia’s contemplation of her future while factoring in her family’s grim prospects, nostalgia, and the bedside manner of visitors like her grandfather (Stacy Keach), boyfriend and BFF (Liana Liberato). Although reminiscent of The Lovely Bones (disembodied teen narrator), The Notebook (love story with a syrupy finale) and Twilight (star-crossed romance set in the Pacific Northwest), If I Stay is nevertheless a unique adventure with a tale to share all its own.  

A poignant portrait of a life precipitously hanging in the balance which pushes all the right buttons to open the emotional floodgates.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for sexuality and mature themes

Running time: 106 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers

To see a trailer for If I Stay, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wH6PNeTy6Nc     




Abuse of Weakness
Film Review by Kam Williams

Catherine Breillat is a feminist filmmaker famous for shooting sexually-explicit films bordering on porn, although arguably from a woman’s perspective. Romance (1999), Fat Girl (2001) and Anatomy of Hell (2004) are among her highly-controversial offerings . Abuse of Weakness marks a bit of departure for the controversial iconoclast, as it is a semi-autobiographical drama revisiting an unfortunate chapter in her own personal life.

In 2004, she suffered a stroke which left her partially paralyzed on the left side and in that very vulnerable position soon fell prey to a notorious charlatan. While pretending to be her knight in shining armor, the creep proceeded to pressure Catherine to write him checks totaling over a million dollars.

The experienced thief was such a smooth operator that he managed to drain all the cash out of her bank account before what was transpiring came to the attention of any of her children. The philanderer simultaneously toyed with Catherine’s affections for over a year, seducing her despite his having an expecting wife and then a newborn at home.

All of the above is recounted in heartbreaking detail in Abuse of Weakness, a fictionalized screen version of director Breillat’s book of the same name. The poignant, character-driven drama co-stars Isabelle Huppert as Maud (aka Catherine) and Kool Shen as her duplicitous Casanova, Vilko.

The picture paints a plausible picture of how a patient attempting to recover from a life-threatening illness might be easily exploited by a conniving con artist without a functioning conscience. In this case, the arrogant Vilko never exhibits the slightest contrition, even when a humiliated Maud confronts him after finally facing up to the truth. He’s more worried about his wife (Laurence Ursino) finding out about their affair than about leaving his victim in such dire financial and medical straits.

A cautionary tale depicting a shocking example of man’s inhumanity to (wo)man.

Excellent (3.5 stars)

Unrated

In French with subtitles

Running time: 104 minutes

Distributor: Strand Releasing




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