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Inside Out
Film Review by Kam Williams

Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) was understandably unhappy when she learned from her mother (Diane Lane) and father (Kyle MacLachlan) that the family was relocating from Minnesota to San Francisco. After all, she'd be leaving behind her home, her hockey team and all her BFFs.

So, it's no surprise that the uprooted 11 year-old might be very lonely after moving to the Bay Area. And, unfortunately, that solitary condition leads to an inordinate amount of introspection as she attempts to sort out her emotions, literally and figuratively.

For, her feelings aren't merely metaphysical experiences but five actual little figurines living inside her brain. This anthropomorphic quintet, composed of Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), are constantly contending for control of rattled Riley's moods as she navigates her way around a new house, city and school.

That struggle is the subject of Inside Out, the best animated offering from the talented team at Pixar since the equally-affective balloon adventure Up (2009). Don't allow the the awkward-sounding premise revolving around a melancholy kid who's a bit of a head case turn you off, as the material is handled delicately enough to be appropriate for a child of any age.

A touching tale illustrating how a dramatic life change might, temporarily at least, exact a terrible toll on a frail human psyche.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG for action and mature themes

Running time: 94 minutes

Distributor: Pixar Animation / Walt Disney Studios

To see a trailer for Inside Out, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZLOYXKmIkw

    


Dope
Film Review by Kam Williams

17 year-old Malcolm (Shameik Moore) was raised by a single-mom (Kimberly Elise) in a rather rough section of L.A. where he's turned out to be more of a milquetoast than a menace to society. He's actually so nerdy he's formed a funk band called Oreo with a couple of fellow geeks, Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori). The tight-knit BFFs carefully negotiate their way through the perilous gauntlet lining their path to school, doing their best to hide the fact that they do “white sh*t” like getting good grades in hopes of going to a good college and making it out of the ghetto.

Malcolm has his heart set on Harvard, which just might happen, given his high SAT scores. In terms of his application, he still has to finish his personal essay and then do a decent job in his upcoming interview with esteemed alumnus Austin Jacoby (Roger Guenveur Smith), the check-cashing magnate.

However, what might prove more of a challenge is simply keeping his nose clean the rest of senior year. After all, he encounters danger on a daily basis, whether it's bullies trying steal his sneakers or neighborhood gangstas pressuring him to join the Bloods.

Malcolm's unraveling starts when, against his better judgment, he accepts an invite from a girl he has a crush on (Zoe Kravitz) to a drug dealer's (Rakim Mayers) birthday party at an underground nightclub. His first mistake is even entering the seedy, subterranean rave. His second is asking Nakia to dance, because she's also the object of the macho birthday boy's affection.

Then, when a gunfight suddenly breaks out, Malcolm grabs his backpack and runs for his life, unaware that his rival in romance has hidden a stash of contraband there. So, the next thing you know, Malcolm's on the run from a number of unsavory characters who covet the carefully-packed powdery substance.

Thus unfolds Dope, a cleverly-scripted, coming-of-age comedy reminiscent of the equally-sophisticated Dear White People. Narrated by Forest Whitaker, this laff-a-minute, fish-out-of-water adventure mines most of its humor at the expense of an emboldened 98-pound weakling who's used to having sand kicked in his face.

The picture was directed by Rick Famuyiwa (Brown Sugar) who keeps you entertained by turning more than a few conventions on their heads. The film also features a very pleasant soundtrack which includes a couple of crowd-pleasing tunes by 11-time, Grammy-winner Pharrell Williams.

A rollicking roller coaster ride around the 'hood that's basically a hilarious cross between Kid and Play's House Party (1990) and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004).

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated Rfor profanity, nudity, sexuality, ethnic slurs, drug use and violence, all involving teens

Running time: 115 minutes

Distributor: Open Road Films

To see a trailer for Dope, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=strEm9amZuo

    


Interviews
UserpicMother of Jordan Davis Reflects upon the Loss of Her Son
Posted by Kam Williams
16.06.2015

Lucy McBath
The “3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets” Interview
with Kam Williams

Lucy McBath is the mother of Jordan Davis, the unarmed teenager gunned down at a Florida gas station for refusing to turn down the radio which was playing loud rap music. Although Jordan's murderer, Michael Dunn, has been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the crime, Lucy has remained a very vocal advocate on behalf of all victims of such violence.

Here, she reminisces about Jordan while discussing 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets, a documentary chronicling the trial of her son's killer. She also discusses her commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement and to pressuring the criminal justice system to hold all violators of black civil rights accountable.

 

Kam Williams: Hi Lucy, thanks for the interview.

Lucy McBath: Thank you, Kam. I'm glad we're able to connect.

 

KW: 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets was a very powerful film. What did you think of it?

LM: I'm extremely pleased because it's truthful and it does the very thing we wanted, which is impact people. It's been very, very well received, particularly among people who never spent much time thinking about the issues of racism and biases and guns and violence. They see how we're all related dynamically to my story in some way, because it's everybody's story.

Read the rest of this story »

    


3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets
Film Review by Kam Williams

On November 23, 2012, 45 year-old Michael Dunn attended his son's wedding in Jacksonville, Florida with his girlfriend Rhonda. After the reception, the couple stopped at a gas station where they pulled in next to a red Dodge Durango blasting rap music.

Dunn asked the teenagers sitting inside to lower the volume. When they refused, a heated exchange ensued. According to Dunn, one of them in the back seat opened the door and leveled a shotgun directly at him. So, in fear for his own life, he pulled out his own pistol and emptied it into the car, mortally wounding 17 year-old Jordan Davis.

Instead of immediately calling the police, Dunn fled the scene. But he was eventually apprehended with the help of a bystander who had scribbled down his license plate number and reported it to the authorities.

The trial drew nation attention because it revolved around another incident involving the shooting of an unarmed, young black male by a white man in Florida where trigger-happy aggressors tend to avoid prosecution by relying on a Stand Your Ground rationale. Why just the year before, George Zimmerman had successfully invoked the statute as giving him the right to ignore a 911 operator's explicit order to stay in his car and not pursue Trayvon Martin.

Thus, the burning question in this instance became whether Dunn might also somehow prevail in the face of damning testimony from Jordan's three friends who survived the attack that none of them had threatened Dunn and that there was no gun in the Durango.

Furthermore, Jordan couldn't have opened the back door even if he wanted to, since the car's kid- proof lock would have prevented him. And the icing on the cake was that Dunn's own girlfriend would testify for the prosecution, admitting that he fabricated a bunch of alibis after the fact, like the claim that Jordan had brandished a weapon.

Still, to be found not guilty, all Dunn needed to do was convince the jury that his fears were well-founded and that his response was reasonable. But because it was also clear that Jordan and his friends had not broken the law, the case would ostensibly serve as a test of whether black lives mattered in the eyes of the supposedly colorblind criminal justice system.

Directed by Marc Silver, 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets is a powerful documentary revisiting the critical issues in the landmark legal proceeding. Besides painstakingly examining the evidence, the picture devotes considerable time to humanizing Jordan Davis via a combination of home movies and heartfelt reminiscences by his parents and friends.

A riveting courtroom drama chronicling an emotionally-draining showdown played out on the national stage between the Black Lives Matter and Stand Your Ground movements.

Excellent (4 Stars)

Unrated

Running time: 85 minutes

Studio: Candescent Films Distributor: Participant Media

To see a trailer for 3½ Minutes,Ten Bullets, visit:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGl1IwNwSgo

    


Reviews
UserpicSelf-Reverential Sequel Revives Prehistoric Horror Franchise
Posted by Kam Williams
14.06.2015

Jurassic World
Film Review by Kam Williams

How do you revive an expiring film franchise that was ostensibly put out of its misery over a dozen years ago after audiences became jaded with over-saturated visual effects they no longer found spellbinding? In the case of Jurassic World, you mount a self-reverential sequel laced with allusions to earlier episodes in which you even go so far as to point out how dinosaurs don't capture people's imaginations to the degree they once used to.

This is the fourth installment in the sci-fi series based on novels by the late Michael Crichton. Jurassics 1 and 2 were directed by Steven Spielberg and adapted from a couple of Crichton's best-sellers (“Jurassic Park” and “The Lost World”). Jurassic 4's creative team includes director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) and a quartet of writers who came up with a script which basically remains faithful to the feeling of the source material.

The story revolves around siblings Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray Mitchell's (Ty Simpkins) Christmas vacation gone bad off the coast of Costa Rica. As the film unfolds, the adventuresome adolescents bid their folks a fond farewell, but not before their prophetic mother (Judy Greer) shares an ominous piece of parental advice:, “Remember, if something chases you, run!”

You see, they're headed to Isla Nublar, the same tropical resort where, in Jurassic 1, raptors ran amok during the christening of a dino-themed amusement park. Today, the place has been renamed “Jurassic World” and it's set to reopen under management just as greedy and inept as in the original, a deadly combination.

Helicopter mom Karen Mitchell isn't all that worried about her sons' welfare since she assumes they'll be under the watchful eye of her sister (Bryce Dallas Howard), the theme park's operations manager. However, upon their arrival, instead of spending quality time with the nephews she hasn't seen in seven years, Claire issues them a VIP all-access pass.

Their subsequent roaming around the premises in a gyro-sphere made of bulletproof glass inconveniently coincides with the escape from containment of Indominus Rex, a prehistoric hybrid bred in a test tube. Unfortunately, no one in a position of authority is inclined to destroy the creature before it goes on a rampage: not its mad scientist inventor (BD Wong), not the war profiteer (Vincent D'Onofrio) with secret plans to sell it to the military, and not Jurassic World's avaricious owner (Irrfan Khan).

This not only means that each of these dastardly villains will have to get their comeuppance but also that thousands of tourists will have to run for their lives. Most importantly, Aunt Claire must search for her nephews with the help of a chivalrous love interest (Chris Pratt). Overall, a riveting roller coaster ride with eye-popping effects and a satisfying resolution.

Still, not quite a Spielberg-quality blockbuster, but it'll do.

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated PG-13 for peril and intense violence

Running time: 124 minutes

Distributor: Universal Pictures

To see a trailer for Jurassic World , visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFinNxS5KN4