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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




The Giver
Film Review by Kam Williams

Despite being born in the same year and enjoying overlapping enduring careers, Oscar-winners Meryl Streep (for Kramer vs. Kramer, Sophie’s Choice and The Iron Lady) and Jeff Bridges (for Crazy Heart) never made a movie together prior to The Giver. Such a long overdue collaboration proves well worth the wait in this haunting, sci-fi adventure set in a deceptive dystopia masquerading as heaven on Earth.

The film is based on the Lois Lowry best-seller of the same name which won the Newbery Award as America’s best children’s book of 1994. This author-approved adaptation was directed by Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games) who tapped fellow Aussie Brenton Thwaites to portray the young hero, Jonas.

The picture’s point of departure is the young protagonist’s graduation day, when he participates in a coming-of-age ritual during which 18 year-olds are assigned a profession by the elders of their idyllic community. Jonas’ BFFs Asher (Cameron Monaghan) and Fiona (Odeya Rush) soon learn that they’ll be trained as a drone pilot and a nurturer, respectively.

Jonas, however, long recognized as special, because of an uncanny ability to see things differently, is designated the “Receiver of Memories,” the protégé of the “Giver” (Bridges). In that capacity, he quickly becomes aware that the whole society is a charade which shields its citizens from the fact that there is suffering in the world by injecting them once a day with a drug which keeps them naïve, obedient and blissfully content.

Truth be told, evil does exist in their midst, though invariably veiled, such as how the sick and the old are “Released” in a fashion that gives no hint that they’re actually being euthanized. And Jonas experiences a crisis of conscience in choosing whether to obediently follow in the Giver’s footsteps or to upset the apple cart by letting the cat out of the bag about how everybody’s mind is being controlled.

Among the factors influencing his critical decision is the unexpected pleasure associated with the “Stirrings,” the formerly-suppressed pangs of sexual awakening he suddenly feels for Fiona. Another involves the impending euthanizing of a baby with a birth defect (Alexander Jillings) he’s already bonded with.

Besides the historic pairing of Streep and Bridges, the film features sterling performances by the trio of emerging thespians playing the leads, as well as by Katie Holmes and Taylor Swift in support roles. A thought-provoking meditation on mind control offering a valuable lesson about the virtue of challenging any totalitarian authority.

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated PG-13 for action, violence and mature themes

Running time: 94 minutes

Distributor: The Weinstein Company

To see a trailer for The Giver, visit



Interviews
userpicCongressman James Clyburn (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Congressman James Clyburn

The “Blessed Experiences” Interview

with Kam Williams

 

Gentleman Jim Clyburn

James Enos Clyburn made history in 1993 when he became the first African-American to represent South Carolina in the House of Representatives since Reconstruction. Over the course of his tenure, he has served as Majority Whip and as Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and is currently the third-ranking Democrat in the House as the Assistant Minority Leader.

Representative Clyburn is an alumnus of the HBCU South Carolina State College, where he majored in history and was active in the civil rights movement. During his junior year, he was arrested and convicted as a member of the Orangeburg Seven, a group of student leaders who had organized a non-violent demonstration against segregated lunch counters.

Congressman Clyburn has been married to his wife, Emily, since 1961, and they have three daughters, two sons-in-law, and three grandchildren. Here, he talks about his life and career, and about his autobiography, “Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black.”

 

Kam Williams: Congressman Clyburn, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.

James Clyburn: Yes, sir. How are you, Kam?

 

KW: Great! I loved your autobiography. It really gave me a chance to get to know you in so much more depth than your appearances on C-Span and other cable news networks. I really knew next to nothing about your rich civil rights background and lifelong commitment to the underprivileged.   

JC: Oh, you’re so kind, Kam.

 

KW: I’ll be mixing in my questions with some from readers.Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: I am from Canada and thank you for taking the time to share your experience and knowledge in your autobiography. What is the main message you want people to take away from the book?

JC: The memoir’s main lesson is grounded in that old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” I lost three times before I got elected. There’s no limit. Stay in pursuit of your dreams. That’s what this book is about. I hope young people get a lesson out of every chapter and are motivated by the notion that the next time might be “the” time that they succeed.

 

KW: Patricia also says: Warren Buffett wrote about your book that you are the most significant African-American member of Congress who broke many barriers.  What does it take for a visible minority to shatter the glass ceiling and enjoy longevity in a career in politics? 

JC: First, get yourself prepared, not just in terms of education, but mentally. A question I often get is, “How do you maintain your sanity with so much happening all around you?” I think I developed a certain mental toughness that is required in this business. You have to have a thick skin and a brass bottom, because you’re going to kicked a lot.

 

KW: It also seems that the higher you go, the more they come after you.

JC: You’re exactly right. All you have to do is achieve a modicum of success.

 

KW: Patricia finishes by saying: Older females are among the most vulnerable individuals in the economic crisis. They are twice as likely as elderly males to be living near or below the federal poverty threshold. What needs to be done to secure a reasonable retirement for this segment of the population?

JC: Patricia is correct that it’s a very vulnerable population. But I don’t know that anything additional needs to be done outside of sensitivity to the fact that these issues are unique for this demographic, and that we ought to be aware of that uniqueness. We need to make sure that they are aware of and are able to gain access to what’s available for them. That’s why I was so concerned about the Affordable Care Act. A big part of it is the expansion of Medicaid, which includes not only low-income people, but senior citizens in nursing homes, the disabled and children who are vulnerable.

 

KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden says: As a Democratic leader in the U.S House of Representatives, you must often feel frustrated by the destructive resistance of the House Republican majority to move forward on any of President Obama's programs such as job creation, much-needed infrastructure improvements, including unsafe roads and bridges, and the impingement of voting rights in many states. How do you deal with the frustration that results from the blockage of necessary progress, since the opposition has made this their prime strategy in terms of the President's programs? An appeal to reason does not seem to work, because this is a blanket strategy.

JC: Sure, it’s frustrating at times, but you keep going at it. It took me seven years to create the Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, which failed to pass for a long time. All of a sudden the break came, and I was ready to pounce, as soon as I saw that opening. It’s now law. And it turned out to be one of the most popular things I’ve ever done. Often it depends on your not being hung up on getting the credit, since the best way to get legislation that you’ve proposed passed sometimes is to let another Congressman put his or her name on the bill.

So, I think stick-to-itiveness and a little humility can go a long way.   

 

KW: So, an ability to compromise is important, right?

JC: Absolutely! That means stepping back and getting the ego out of the way in order to accomplish what you want to get done.

 

KW: Grace also says: While you have a commendable voting record, you support nuclear power concluding that wind and solar power are too expensive. How do you respond to the legitimate fears of nuclear accidents, such as happened in Russia and Japan, and of acts of terrorism, as well as concerns about the safety and adequacy of the storage of highly radioactive spent fuel? 

JC: Well, I’m very concerned about the storage of nuclear waste, but I’m not worried about it. That’s one of the reasons why I’m so supportive of what we’re doing down at the Savannah River Plant. I think the technology’s there. All we need is the funding to turn the waste into additional energy. And I’m a big supporter of research. My wife, Emily, has had five bypass surgeries. She’s alive today because of nuclear medicine. You ought not be afraid of nuclear, but respectful of it. Yes, it has dangers, but it also has benefits. If not for nuclear, much of the medicine that’s saving lives today would not be in existence.   

 

KW: Publisher John Zippert says: There are many Black farmers who were still left out of the Pigford/USDA lawsuit settlement. Do you see Congress acting again to complete the process and make sure everyone who is eligible receives the settlement?

JC: Well, I’m satisfied that we’ve done all that’s going to be done on that issue. That’s not to say that everyone who should’ve gotten in on the settlement got in on it. Remember, we’ve done not just one Pigford, but Pigford II because a lot of people, through no fault of their own, were left out. That’s why we went back and did Pigford II. I suspect that some people might still have been left out, but I’ve been working very closely with the advocates, John Boyd [Founder of the National Black Farmers Association] and others who seem to be satisfied that we have done as well as we can do on that issue. 

 

KW: Mr. Zippert also says that less money was appropriated under the Farm Bill for the Section 2501 Outreach Program for minority farmers in Fiscal Year 2014 than previously when "veteran" farmers, a whole new category was added to the program.

JC: I think what he’s asking for is outreach to make sure that farmers who qualified did get contacted. Sure, there probably was less money this year than in the first round. But these are the sort of programs you phase out. You just don’t set aside the same amount of money as you did for 5,000 people, if there are only 2,000 left to be searched for. These moneys do get phased out, and they will eventually be phased out altogether.

 

KW: What do you think about Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent statement that he believes there is a racial animus behind much of the criticism of him and President Obama?

JC: I was glad to see him finally getting there. I’ve felt that way a long time. I’ve even said it publicly and been chastised for it, but I’ll say it again, a lot of it is racial animus. I ask anyone who disagrees with me to just read some of the hate mail that comes into my office. Or listen to some of the phone calls. I’ve had college student interns working for me who arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed hang up the phone crying after taking calls because people are so racist and cruel. So, don’t tell me that it’s got nothing to do with race. With some people, it’s got everything to do with race.

 

KW: What do you think of the Republicans suing President Obama?

JC: I think they’re playing to their base. These guys know full well that even if the lawsuit had any merit, which I don’t think it does, he’d be out of office before it worked its way through the courts. But this is their way of sending a signal to their base. There are a lot of people who have endorsed the narrative that there are certain things people of color aren’t supposed to be doing, and one of those things is running the United States of America as President. These are people who are going to work hard all day, every day, trying to make factual this narrative that there are certain areas of our society and of our economy that ought to be shut off from people of color.  

 

KW: Since you’re from South Carolina, I need to ask you about the 2010 Democratic primary for the U’S. Senate when this unknown black man named Alvin Greene, ostensibly a Republican plant, miraculously won the nomination by a landslide over a credible candidate. I suspected computer tampering. What did you think?

JC: I always felt that, too.

 

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

JC: [Laughs] I can’t think of one, but that’s a good question.

 

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

JC: Grits.

 

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

JC: Kindergarten.

 

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

JC: A 74 year-old who is not disappointed with his life.

 

KW: How frightening was it for you to be arrested and even convicted, when you were a college student activist, just for trying to integrate a lunch counter?

JC: Those were very trying times with a great deal of apprehension, although I don’t think we ever operated out of fear. We knew that segregation was unfair, and that we were going to challenge it, and that’s just what we did. 

 

 

 

 

KW: Well, I salute you for service in the Civil Rights Movement, because you could’ve very easily been beaten, blacklisted, imprisoned or even slain.

JC: Thank you. And some people were martyred, and some, like Congressman John Lewis, did get hurt. But we never thought about those things.

 

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

JC: Reading and in contemplation.

 

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

JC: “The Warmth of Other Suns” was the last one I read cover-to-cover. That was a great book.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0679763880/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

 

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

JC: I would love to sit at a table with Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Warren Buffett and Matthew Perry, the great civil rights attorney and judge mentioned in my book quite a bit.

 

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

JC: Omniscience.

 

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

JC: Perseverance.

 

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

JC: Like I said before, get yourself prepared, educationally and emotionally, and develop mental toughness. Don’t ever give up.

 

KW: Lastly, what does family mean to you?

JC: Oh, it means a whole lot. Not a day goes by when I don’t communicate with one or all of my daughters. My wife and I already exchanged several emails today. And I spoke to my brother John on the phone this morning, and to my brother Charles last night. We are a pretty closely-knit family.

 

KW: Thanks again for this opportunity, Congressman Clyburn, I really appreciate your taking time from your extremely busy schedule to speak with me.

JC: Thank you, Kam. I think it’s important for me to communicate with the public at-large, even on those occasions when I know it’s not going to be pleasant.

To order a copy of Blessed Experiences, visit:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/161117337X/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20



Reviews
userpicWesley Snipes (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Wesley Snipes
“The Expendables 3” Interview
with Kam Williams

 

Yipes, it’s Snipes!

 

Wesley T. Snipes is a globally celebrated actor, film producer, master in various martial arts, and a loving father and husband. Born in Orlando, Florida on July 31, 1962, he spent his childhood between Orlando, Florida and Bronx, New York while attending the High School of Performing Arts in NYC and graduated from Jones High School in Florida.

 

While attending the High School for Performing Arts, Wesley started appearing in Off-Broadway productions where he started to fine-tune his craft as a drama and musical theater artist. He later founded with friends a bus-n-truck street troupe called “Struttin Street Stuff” which took him into Central Park, dinner theaters, and regional productions around Florida before his college years at the State University of New York at Purchase.

 

Wesley’s work onstage and in TV commercials soon caught the attention of Joe Roth who cast him as an Olympic boxing hopeful in Streets of Gold. He was then handpicked by Martin Scorsese and Quincy Jones to play the gang leader in Michael Jackson’s Bad music video. And he subsequently joined the cast of Wildcats (1986) as well as Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues (1990) and Jungle Fever (1991).

 

The unique diversity of Wesley’s charisma, acting ability, and proficiency in the martial arts led to roles alongside some of showbiz’s biggest names – Robert De Niro, Sean Connery, Dennis Hopper and Sylvester Stallone. These roles include Major League (1989), Passenger 57 (1992), Rising Sun (1993), Boiling Point (1993), Demolition Man (1993), Drop Zone (1994), The Fan (1996), Future Sport (1998), and Undisputed (2002), all of which made him a most favored African-American action star not only in Hollywood, but internationally, as well.

 

Wesley has pleasantly surprised audiences with his versatile dramatic acting skills, evident in his award winning roles in The Water Dance (1992) and as a drag queen in the drama To Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995). Other notable dramatic roles include Disappearing Acts (2011), One Night Stand (1997), Murder at 1600 (1997) and US Marshals (1998).

 

In 1998, although faced with strong opposition and concerns, Wesley recognized the need for an urban action hero. Hence Blade, a lesser known Marvel character, was adapted and released. The Blade Trilogy is still one of the highest grossing adaptations at over $1.5 billion worldwide.

 

Wesley ranks among the highest paid African American actors with gross earnings worldwide estimated at over $2 billion. He has been married to Korean artist Nikki Park since 2000, and has four children with her and an older son from a previous marriage.

 

Here, Wesley talks about his latest outing as Doc alongside Sly Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Antonio Banderas, Terry Crews and Kelsey Grammer in The Expendable 3.

 

 

Kam Williams: Hi Wesley, thanks for the interview.

Wesley Snipes: How’re you doing, Kam?

 

KW: Great! What interested you in The Expendables 3?

WS: [Sarcastically] Really, it was the filming location, the food, and the wonderful hotel suite that they could give me. [Laughs] No, honestly man, it was the opportunity to work again with Sly, and the chance to be a part of that ensemble with a lot of the best of the best of this particular genre. 

 

KW: Documentary director Kevin Williams asks: Did you enjoy watching this genre of film growing up?

WS: Oh yeah! All the way back to The Seven Samurai. I’m a big fan of this type of film. And hearing about all the heavyweights they were bringing back only made it even more attractive. It was a blessing, Kam, just to be on the set with some of these iconic actors, to see how they perform, to have a chance to get up close and personal with them, and to crack a joke or two or three or four with them.

 

KW: Was it ever trouble making any elbow room with so many egos on the set?

WS: Not really. What would make you think that?

 

KW: So many matinee idols having to share the limelight might make for sharp elbows.

WS: [Chuckles] Yeah, but you’re talking about some of the best in the game. They’re all veterans who bring a certain level of sophistication and professionalism to the table. For what it’s worth, this action hero/action star genre is a small clique. There aren’t a lot of guys that do it.And there aren’t many guys who have excelled at it. There’s an appreciation for what it takes to pull it off, and for the durability reflected in being able to survive after all these years.

 

KW: Director Rel Dowdell says: Wesley, You are one of the few marketable African-American actors who can be effective in any genre, including comedy. Are you aware of any up-and-coming black actor who is as versatile as you have been?

WS: Well, I think they’re out there, but I don’t know whether they’ve been given the opportunity to shine like I have. I hope there are. It’d be great to work with them. But, hey, it’s been a blessing. I was fortunate enough to be trained in the theater. Coming from the theater background, you’re schooled to play diverse roles in preparation for the repertory environment, or the repertory type of lifestyle. So, to me, going back and forth from genre to genre is only keeping true to the way I was trained in the theater. And I’m really an action fan. I’m a movie fan in general, but I’m definitely an action fan, as well. I appreciate all the work and thought it would be cool if it could be one of the tricks that I could bring to the table.

 

KW:  Tony Noel asks: Wesley, what styles of martial arts have you studied, and how do you feel about Mixed Martial Arts?

WS: I appreciate Mixed Martial Arts, Tony. I’ve been training for a long time. I started training in the Japanese system, when I was 12, in Goju and Shotokan. From there, I was exposed to Grandmaster Moses Powell which is the Aiki-Jujutsu form. And after that, I got into capoeira, and I got ranking in three different systems: Indonesian, African and Japanese. And I’ve done Tae Kwon. So, I’ve done pretty well.

 

KW: Publisher Troy Johson asks: Wesley, was it difficult to produce the documentary, John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk?

WS: Thank you for asking, Troy. No, that was a very personal project which meant a lot to me because Dr. Clarke was a teacher and mentor of mine. I made the movie because I wanted future generations to learn about him and read his books, too. I’d love to make more films like that.

 

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: What was the toughest stunt you had to do for this movie?

WS: Hanging onto the side of a truck. That was pretty hard. Another that was tough, because of the horrible air quality on the set, was the wild scene we shot inside a big, abandoned building. A lot of us had respiratory issues for a couple of weeks afterwards because of all the stuff flying around.

 

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls says: Wesley, how did you feel about getting to play Blade, one of the first black superheroes?

WS: I don’t remember getting that excited at first, because it hadn’t been done before. So, the reception was all a big surprise.

 

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

WS: Thank you, Kam.

To see a trailer for The Expendables 3, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTte6BQndTQ




Fifi Howls from Happiness

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

Bahman Mohassess (1931-2010) had the misfortune of being born gay in a country hostile to homosexuality. Nevertheless, the flamboyant iconoclast managed to carve out an impressive career as an artist in pre-revolutionary Iran, enjoying celebrity status as the “Persian Picasso.”

He earned that recognition despite creating scandalous works such as anatomically-correct sculptures of men which had some censors breaking off their penises. Unfortunately, Bahman’s world came crashing down around him when Ayatollah Khomeini toppled the Shah in 1979.

For, the new regime was an Islamic caliphate which stepped up the oppression of homosexuals by passing strict religious laws making sodomy a capital crime. So, Bahman wisely hightailed it to Rome where he would live out his days in relative obscurity.

Over the ensuing years, Iran was criticized by human rights activists for doling out the death penalty to thousands of gays, prompting its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to assert in 2007 that “We don’t have any homosexuals.” Regardless, Bahman Mohassess continued to be an important historical figure, even in exile, and his controversial contributions have been preserved for posterity in Fifi Howls from Happiness.

Directed by Mitra Farahani, the enlightening documentary features an extended interview conducted with her cantankerous, camera-shy, chain-smoking subject shortly before his demise. And the film augments Bahman’s reflections with file footage of his art shows and installations, along with commentary by surviving friends and admirers.

A poignant tribute proving Iran has definitely had at least one homosexual, in fact, a national icon-turned-persecuted persona non grata who had the good sense to escape before being exterminated for his sexual preference.

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexual references, and scenes of intense peril and destruction

In Persian with subtitles

Running time: 96 minutes

Distributor: Music Box Films

To see a trailer for Fifi Howls from Happiness, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6YNQWzVgpc    

Vgpc   




Into the Storm
Film Review by Kam Williams

The skies are deceptively serene over Silverton, Oklahoma, offering no reminder of the fact that four people recently perished in a deadly tornado that touched down in a neighboring city. Consequently, we find the townfolk blissfully unaware of the rough weather bearing down on the area threatening to ruin high school graduation day.

Vice Principal Gary Morris (Richard Armitage), who is in charge of the commencement festivities, has assigned his sons, Trey (Nathan Kress), a sophomore, and Donnie (Max Deacon), a junior, the thankless task of filming the ceremony in order to preserve it for posterity in a buried time capsule. His younger boy complies with the request, but the elder is immediately distracted from the task at hand by an opportunity to assist acute classmate (Alycia Debnam Carey) salvage her own video project.

Meanwhile, a team of storm chasers is rushing towards Silverton at the direction of its meteorologist, Allison Stone (Sarah Wayne Callies), since her computer data has predicted that the next funnel cloud is likely to form somewhere in that vicinity. But because she’s a single-mom with a 5 year-old (Keala Wayne Winterhalt) back home, she’s a lot less enthusiastic about her job than their leader, Pete Moore (Matt Walsh).

Like a latter-day Captain Ahab, Moore is maniacal in his quest to capture the mother of all cyclones on camera. So, he exhorts Allison and the rest of the crew to risk life and limb in search of that elusive dream shot from inside the eye of a storm.

At least they have a couple of vehicles specially outfitted for such an occasion, including a glass turreted tank with grappling claws that can withstand winds of up to 170 mph. That’s more than can be said about local yokels Donk (Kyle Davis) and Reevis (John Reep), fate-tempting daredevils who have decided to try to capture footage by riding around in a pickup truck emblazoned on the back with a hand-painted sign that reads “TWISTA HUNTERZ.”

Once the colorful cast of soon-to-be imperiled archetypes has been introduced, Allison’s dire forecast proves uncannily accurate as ominous clouds form overhead. That’s when the fun starts in Into the Storm, a Seventies-style disaster flick reminiscent of such unnerving classics as Airport (1970), The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974).

This update of the genre benefits immeasurably from state-of-the-art CGI, a worthwhile investment for the eye-popping special f/x alone. A campy and cheesy yet visually-captivating roller coaster ride that makes Sharknado look like Sharknado 2!

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexual references, and scenes of intense peril and destruction

Running time: 89 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers

To see a trailer for Into the Storm, visit



Reviews
userpicInto the Storm (FILM REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Into the Storm

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

Tornado Wreaks Havoc on Tiny Oklahoma Town in Thrill-a-Minute Disaster Flick

The skies are deceptively serene over Silverton, Oklahoma, offering no reminder of the fact that four people recently perished in a deadly tornado that touched down in a neighboring city. Consequently, we find the townfolk blissfully unaware of the rough weather bearing down on the area threatening to ruin high school graduation day.

Vice Principal Gary Morris (Richard Armitage), who is in charge of the commencement festivities, has assigned his sons, Trey (Nathan Kress), a sophomore, and Donnie (Max Deacon), a junior, the thankless task of filming the ceremony in order to preserve it for posterity in a buried time capsule. His younger boy complies with the request, but the elder is immediately distracted from the task at hand by an opportunity to assist acute classmate (Alycia Debnam Carey) salvage her own video project.

Meanwhile, a team of storm chasers is rushing towards Silverton at the direction of its meteorologist, Allison Stone (Sarah Wayne Callies), since her computer data has predicted that the next funnel cloud is likely to form somewhere in that vicinity. But because she’s a single-mom with a 5 year-old (Keala Wayne Winterhalt) back home, she’s a lot less enthusiastic about her job than their leader, Pete Moore (Matt Walsh).

Like a latter-day Captain Ahab, Moore is maniacal in his quest to capture the mother of all cyclones on camera. So, he exhorts Allison and the rest of the crew to risk life and limb in search of that elusive dream shot from inside the eye of a storm.

At least they have a couple of vehicles specially outfitted for such an occasion, including a glass turreted tank with grappling claws that can withstand winds of up to 170 mph. That’s more than can be said about local yokels Donk (Kyle Davis) and Reevis (John Reep), fate-tempting daredevils who have decided to try to capture footage by riding around in a pickup truck emblazoned on the back with a hand-painted sign that reads “TWISTA HUNTERZ.”

Once the colorful cast of soon-to-be imperiled archetypes has been introduced, Allison’s dire forecast proves uncannily accurate as ominous clouds form overhead. That’s when the fun starts in Into the Storm, a Seventies-style disaster flick reminiscent of such unnerving classics as Airport (1970), The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974).

This update of the genre benefits immeasurably from state-of-the-art CGI, a worthwhile investment for the eye-popping special f/x alone. A campy and cheesy yet visually-captivating roller coaster ride that makes Sharknado look like Sharknado 2!

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexual references, and scenes of intense peril and destruction

Running time: 89 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers

To see a trailer for Into the Storm, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_kj8EKhV3w   

 



Reviews
userpic30 Years at Ballymaloe (BOOK REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

30 Years at Ballymaloe

by Darina Allen

Book Review by Kam Williams

 

Foreword by Alice Waters

Photographs by Laura Edwards

Kyle Books

Hardcover, $35.00

320 pages, Illustrated

ISBN: 978-1-909487-13-0

 

“Ballymaloe is Ireland’s longest established cookery school and a Mecca of international acclaim for those with a passion for food. Since it first opened in 1983, it has played host to an internationally diverse range of pupils from 16-69 years old and an impressive array of guest chefs…

Over the past 30 years the School has expanded its repertoire and now offers over 100 courses… Students can learn how to cure meat, make gluten-free meals and sushi, as well as discover forgotten skills such as producing butter and cheese, and beekeeping…

Featuring over 100 recipes, this book showcases the best of the Cookery School... [It] is a tribute to this unique place and the people that teach work and learn there.” 

-- Excerpted from the Introduction (page vii)

 

What is an Irish seven-course meal? If you grew up prior to the arrival of political correctness, you probably know that the punch line of that ethnic joke is “A six-pack of beer and a potato.”

Of course, the Irish aren’t all alcoholics and they eat a lot more than taters when they sit down at the dinner table. Still, most of us are undoubtedly influenced in our thinking by the very limited menu most restaurants offer on St. Patrick’s Day, specifically, spuds, corned beef and cabbage, and Irish Soda Bread.

Truth be told, their cuisine is much more refined than mere meat and potatoes. In fact, corned beef and cabbage is an American invention which most Irish natives never try before arriving in the States.

            If you want to get a sense of the best that Ireland has to offer in terms of culinary delights, check out 30 Years at Ballymaloe, a combination memoir and cookbook replete with recipes, history lessons and glorious photographs of both mouth-watering dishes and lush photographs of the Emerald Isle’s verdant countryside. 

            The elegant and practical coffee table opus is the labor of love of Darina Allen, co-founder with her brother Rory of the famed Ballymaloe Cookery School. Long esteemed as the Julia Child of Ireland, Darina staked her career ages ago on a health-oriented, “Slow Food” approach emphasizing organic, locally-grown, seasonal produce and cooking in wood-burning stoves.    

            So, the sort of Irish food you’ll see trumpeted here ranges from “Ballycotton Shrimp with Watercress and Homemade Mayonnaise” to “Carrageen Moss Pudding with Poached Apricot and Sweet Geranium Compote.” The author also offers tips on keeping cows which, in turn, enables her to make such fresh favorites as “Virgin Jersey Butter” and “Caramel Ice Cream.”

Darina has a fruit garden, too, of course, where figs, gooseberries, raspberries, figs, plums and green almonds can be found in abundance. And she bakes everything from brown bread to a chicken pot pie that sticks to the ribs, although the irresistible entrée that I just have to attempt is the pizza with roast peppers, olives and gremolata.

A practical primer on the farm to fork philosophy proving Irish culinary fare to be far more sophisticated than the sorry slop and green beer celebrated all across the U.S. every St. Patty’s Day.  

To order a copy of 30 Years at Ballymaloe, visit:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1909487139/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20



Reviews
userpicRich Hill (FILM REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Rich Hill

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

Rust Belt “New Normal” Chronicled in Diminished Dreams Documentary   

            Rich Hill, Missouri is a ghost town on hard times. Located about seventy miles south of Kansas City, the population of this once-thriving mining metropolis has dwindled down to 1,393 since the last of the coal was unearthed from the ground.

The lack of a sufficient tax base to maintain the city’s infrastructure is reflected in such urban blight as boarded up storefronts, potholed roads, abandoned farms, and the corner pharmacy and company bank reduced to rubble. Today, the remaining residents find themselves stuck in a godforsaken no man’s land marked by social dysfunction and high unemployment.

Nevertheless, there is an undeniable optimism among young Andrew, Harley and Appachey. These three boys are the subject of Rich Hill, a heartbreaking expose chronicling Rich Hill’s new normal in terms of the American Dream.

Co-directed by Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos, the picture won the 2014 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in the Best Documentary category. As the cousins’ camera follows the trio around, you can’t help but notice the crumbling exoskeleton in the background that looks almost post-apocalyptic. Could this really be the good ole U.S. of A?    

Meanwhile, each kid has a quite compelling story to share. 13 year-old Andrew worries about his family subsisting when not practicing the latest dance steps with his sister. Appachey, 12, wants to teach art in China when he grows up. But first, he has to repeat the 6th grade. And 15 year-old Harley has a great sense of humor despite the fact that he misses his convict mother imprisoned for the attempted murder of the sick stepfather who’d molested him.

The Rust Belt’s “New Normal” depicted as a desolate, depressed dystopia dotted with street urchins a tad too naïve to appreciate their dire life prospects.

Very Good (3 stars)

Unrated 

Running time: 91 minutes

Distributor: The Orchard

To see a trailer for Rich Hill, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHml65Du-Ug 




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