Get Hard
Film Review by Kam Williams

Thanks to a flourishing career as a hedge fund manager, James King (Will Ferrell) is living in the lap of luxury in a sprawling, Bel Air mansion. Furthermore, the pampered multimillionaire’s stock seems about to skyrocket, given his promotion to partner and his impending marriage to the boss’ (Craig T. Nelson) daughter, Alissa (Alison Brie).

By contrast, working man Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart) is stuck on the other side of the proverbial tracks in South Central L.A. where he has to worry on a daily basis about the welfare of his wife (Edwina Findley) and young daughter (Ariana Neal). He’s eager to move them out of the ‘hood, but first needs to save $30,000 to secure the mortgage on their dream house.

As a regular patron of a valet car washing service, James has regularly crossed-paths with Darnell. Nevertheless, he mistakes him for a mugger the day he’s surprised to see a black man approach him in the office parking lot.

To add insult to injury, instead of apologizing for the hurtful faux pas, tone deaf James insensitively claims ”I would’ve reacted the same, if you were white.” Then, he rubs salt in cash-strapped Darnell’s wounds by suggesting that, “I got to where I am by hard work,” before smugly adding, “Success is a mindset.”

However, the two’s roles are reversed when James is convicted of securities fraud, and sentenced to ten years in San Quentin. With just a month before he has to report to prison, he asks Darnell to prepare him for life behind bars, based on another unfounded assumption, namely, that he’s an ex-con.

Darnell agrees, charging precisely the $30,000 he needs as a down payment on his ticket out of the ghetto. However, the jokes are all on James, since the supposed “incarceration expert” he’s just hired has never even seen the inside of a jail.

Thus unfolds Get Hard, an unlikely-buddies comedy co-starring Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell. The movie marks the noteworthy directorial debut of Etan Cohen, whose successful mix of over-the-top slapstick and subtle social satire yields a cinematic experience as silly as it is thought-provoking.

So, one moment, we might witness goofy, gratuitous nudity courtesy of exhibitionistic Ferrell who has never been shy about prancing around in his birthday suit, his Rubenesque physique notwithstanding. The next, we’re treated to relatively-sophisticated humor such as the musings of a spoiled rich kid boasting about how he built his company with his own two hands, before also admitting that he had actually relied upon an $8,000,000 loan from his father as seed money.

Provided you’re open to politically-incorrect fare ranging from racist to misogynistic to homophobic, you’re likely to enjoy this inspired pairing of the relentlessly absurd Ferrell and the motor-mouthed Hart at the top of their games.

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for full-frontal male nudity, drug use, ethnic slurs, and pervasive profanity, sexuality and crude humor

Running time: 100 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures

To see a trailer for Get Hard, visit:     

The Gunman
Film Review by Kam Williams

Pierre Morel’s riveting revenge thriller Taken made over veteran thespian Liam Neeson into an action star at 55. Now, the clever French director is ostensibly attempting to repeat the trick for Sean Penn, who turns the same age later this year. In The Gunman, Penn plays Jim Terrier, a hit man for hire surreptitiously operating in the Congo while posing as a bodyguard for a healthcare clinic.

The story’s point of departure is 2006, where we find him serving as a sniper on a team of assassins hatching an elaborate plan to assassinate the country’s Minister of Mining. After pulling it off without a hitch, Jim leaves the country uneventfully before vanishing into the ether, but not before asking a friend, Felix (Javier Bardem), to take care of his gorgeous girlfriend, Annie (Jasmine Trinca), a doctor also working for with the NGO.

Fast-forward 8 years and Jim returns to the Congo only to barely survive an ambush by a trio of goons. Since it’s clear that his cover must have been blown by a confederate, the startled spy abandons Africa for England to determine exactly who wants him dead. He comes out of the proverbial cold in London to confront Terry Cox (Mark Rylance), an ex-partner in crime who claims to have retired his Kevlar vest for a cushy corporate job.

Terry suggests the man Jim might be looking for is Felix, since the duplicitous backstabber married Annie in Jim’s absence. So, our jilted hero’s next port-of-call is Barcelona, the city where the cozy couple has settled down to live high on the hog.

This contentious state of affairs jumpstarts The Gunman, a cat-and-mouse caper that telegraphs its punches while featuring a dizzying mix of fisticuffs, gunplay, international intrigue and old-fashioned romance. The picture is perfectly passable as an action genre offering, yet pales in comparison to Taken, between its Swiss cheese plot and a plethora of distracting sidebars which tend to undercut rather than amp up the tension.

For instance, Idris Elba arrives onscreen late in the adventure in a red herring of a role as an inscrutable Interpol Agent. Equally wasted is Ray Winstone as a cockney-accented, former co-conspirator of Jim’s. Basically, The Gunman boils down to a Sean Penn vehicle affording the surprisingly-buff (if long in the tooth) matinee idol ample opportunities to put his pecs on display in high-impact fight sequences as well as lingering love scenes.

Good (2 stars)

Rated R for profanity, sexuality and graphic violence 

In English and Spanish with subtitles

Running time: 115 minutes

Distributor: Open Road Films

To see a trailer for The Gunman, visit:    

UserpicShailene Woodley (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Shailene Woodley

The “Insurgent” Interview

with Kam Williams


Shailene! Shailene!

Shailene Woodley skyrocketed to fame on the strength of her powerful performance opposite George Clooney in The Descendants. Among the many accolades she landed for her work in that Academy Award-nominated film were the Independent Spirit and National Board of Review Awards for Best Supporting Actress, in addition to Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award nominations in the same category.  

Last fall, Shailene starred in the coming-of-age drama White Bird in a Blizzard, directed by Gregg Araki. And she further solidified her stature as a talented and versatile actress in the critically-acclaimed The Fault in Our Stars, the big screen adaption of John Green’s best-selling novel.

Prior to that, she starred opposite Miles Teller in The Spectacular Now. The co-stars shared the Special Jury Prize for Dramatic Acting at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2013. Shailene’s star status was firmly established by response to the big screen version of Divergent, the sci-fi thriller based on the popular Young Adult novel of the same name by Veronica Roth.

She is currently in production playing the female lead opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Oliver Stone’s Snowden, the real-life story of the Edward Snowden, the 28 year-old hacker-turned-whistleblower who leaked classified information from the NSA about surveillance programs run by the U.S.

Shailene began her career at the age of 5 soon after being spotted by an agent who recognized her potential. She cut her teeth in commercials before landing her first TV role in the 1999 made-for-TV movie, “Replacing Dad.”  

Shailene has some rather ethnically-diverse roots, being of British extraction on her father’s side, and a mix of African-American, Creole, French, Spanish, Swiss and German on her mother’s.  When not on a set, she spends as much time as possible outdoors, thinking of ways she can help keep the environment beautiful and healthy for future generations. Here, she talks about reprising the role of Tris in Insurgent, the eagerly-anticipated sequel to Divergent co-starring Kate Winslet, Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts and Zoe Kravitz.


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

Shailene Woodley: Omigosh, Kam, thank you for talking to me.


KW: Well, I’ve been so impressed with your acting abilities over the course of your brief career, from The Descendants to The Spectacular Now to 2014 when you really exhibited your versatility in Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars and White Bird in a Blizzard.

SW: Thank you!


KW: Just so you know, I’m going to mix in questions from fans with some of my own.

SW: Great!


KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: How do you prepare for such a physically-demanding role?  

SW: There was definitely some training involved, but there wasn’t anything too gnarly, as far as preparation goes. The most physical thing we had to do in this film was a lot of running.


KW: Irene also asks: What do you most want to communicate to the audience about Tris in this installment?

SW: I think in this movie Tris is really able to utilize and showcase the strengths that she gained from being “Dauntless” in the last movie.


KW: Larry Greenberg says: From the trailer, Insurgent looks like the kind of sci-fi action I want to fully immerse myself in. I don't just want to see it in 3D; I want to see it in 3D IMAX while floating in an isolation chamber.

SW: Wow!


KW: Larry does have a question: Were there any special directions Robert Schwentke gave you that enabled you to be so convincing as Tris?

SW: Special directions. The thing with Robert is that he was very keen on getting a sense of what my opinion was of who Tris is, and how she exists in the world. It was really exciting to work with someone who was so willing to collaborate. 


KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: Shailene, Divergent was one of the best movies I've seen in a long time! Can't wait to see Insurgent. What was it like on set in between serious takes? 

SW: It was great on set. Luckily, nobody took themselves too seriously, so even if there was a serious scene, there were never any stakes that felt very high.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: How is your approach to acting altered by whether you’re performing for TV versus the big screen?

SW: I don’t know that it’s any different except that with TV you have a limited amount of time to get certain shots. So, there seems to be a sense of rushing, while with movies you have more time to get the shots that you need.


KW: Harriet also asks: How much of the real Shailene is in Tris, and to what extent did you allow yourself to just get lost in the role?

SW: There is a lot of me in Tris, definitely. I really admire her bravery and her courage. But as far as getting lost in the role, it was more about calling upon my own bravery and courage, and reacting based on how Tris would react in any given situation


KW: Her last question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

SW: I don’t want to star in a remake. I don’t think they should be remaking a lot of classics, because so many of them are great on their own.


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden says: You've already had a phenomenal career at a young age. Were you nervous about working with George Clooney in The Descendants?  

SW: No, I wasn’t nervous. I was really excited, because I really admired him and admired his work, and was very, very keen on learning from him.


KW: You’re presently shooting Snowden with Oscar-winner Oliver Stone. How’s that experience thus far?

SW: It’s amazing!


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

SW: Hmm… [Pauses to think] Probably, of my brother being born when I was about 3.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

SW: Ooh, any kind of meat. I’m a big stew person, like a meat stew.


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

SW: I don’t have one favorite.


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

SW: I see a lot of opportunity for growth.


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

SW: The eradication of big corporations.


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

SW: The last book I read was called “Dear Lover” by David Deida.


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?

SW: At home, I never have makeup on.


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

SW: This morning.


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

SW: Maybe a bird.


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

SW: [Chuckles] Nope, because becoming famous was never on my mind.


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

SW: [Growls] Fly!


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

SW: Yeah, I don’t know that every single successful person has this quality, but I think it’s an ability to fight no matter what, to keep going no matter how difficult an obstacle in front of you might seem.


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

SW: I’d love to learn more about the human anatomy.


KW: What’s in your wallet?

SW: [Laughs] I don’t have a wallet.


KW: The Nancy Lovell Question: Why do you love doing what you do?

SW: I love doing what I do because it’s an art form and I get to tell stories.


KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?

SW: My mom.


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

SW: I’ve recently discovered Asaf Avidan, and I’ve become obsessed with his new album.


KW: The Pastor Alex Kendrick question: When do you feel the most content?

SW: When I’m honoring myself.


KW: Is there something you wish people would note about you?

SW: Not necessairly.


KW: The Toure question: Who is the person who most inspired you to become the person you are today?

SW: My momma.


KW: What do you admire about her?

SW: She is somebody who fights really hard for world compassion and empathy for others.


KW: What effect did having to wear a back brace as a child for scoliosis have on you? Was it very traumatic?

SW: Not at all. I just thought of it as something to embrace. It was just something I had. I could either be upset by it and be triggered by it, or embrace it and commit to working on it and move forward.


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

SW: I don’t know whether it’s decisions I’ve made, or opportunities I’ve been fortunate to have. I guess doing The Descendants was a big turn for me but, at the same time, it wasn’t really a decision because I would’ve given anything to be a part of that film. 


KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid on the scene?

SW: I don’t necessarily get afraid but, yes, you can definitely get nervous before a scene, occasionally, especially if you’re working with someone new that you really admire that you want to not impress, but honor.


KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

SW: Chocolate.


KW: What do you want that you don’t have yet?

SW: I would love to go to massage school, and learn about the way muscles affect bones.


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

SW: I’m very fond of an organization called, Food & Water Watch.


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

SW: Thanks so much, Kam. Have a wonderful day!

To see a trailer for Insurgent, visit:

Film Review by Kam Williams

Insurgent is the second in the action-oriented series of screen adaptations based on Veronica Roth’s blockbuster Divergent trilogy. This installment represents a rarity for a cinematic sequel in that it’s actually better than the first episode.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the franchise’s basic premise, the post-apocalyptic sci-fi is set amidst the crumbling ruins of a walled-in Chicago where what’s left of humanity has been strictly divided into five factions based on personality types, namely, Abnegation (the selfless); Amity (the peaceful); Candor (the honest); Dauntless (the brave); and Erudite (the intelligent).

Our intrepid heroine, Tris (Shailene Woodley) was deemed a threat to society after testing positive for several of the aforementioned qualities since that makes her a Divergent, one of the handful of nonconformists whose minds the government cannot control. Consequently, the headstrong rebel ended up orphaned and roaming the streets with fellow faction-less rogues by the end of the original.

Insurgent picks up right where Divergent left off, though upping the ante in terms of intensity and visually-captivating special f/x. At the point of departure, we find Tris on the run with her boyfriend Four (Theo James), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and the duplicitous Peter Hayes (Miles Teller). The fugitives are being sought by Jeanine (Kate Winslet), the monomaniacal Erudite leader who has seized control of the city by commandeering the Dauntless warrior class.

The Machiavellian despot has declared martial law until all threats to her power have been neutralized. Meanwhile, Tris and company proceed to elude apprehension as they search for a sacred talisman supposedly hidden somewhere by her late mom (Ashley Judd).

The ancient artifact is rumored to contain an important message from Chicago’s founding fathers. However, the box can only be accessed by a Divergent who succeeds at surviving an ordeal testing for all five of the commonwealth’s designated virtues. Sure, it’s obvious that Tris is bright, fearless and altruistic. But she could perish in the process of attempting to prove herself a pacifist and truthful, too.

Fans of the source material will undoubtedly be surprised by this complicated box challenge which wasn’t in the book. Nevertheless, the seamlessly-interwoven plot device works in terms of ratcheting up the tension.

The film features an A-list supporting cast that includes Oscar-winners Kate Winslet and Octavia Spencer and nominee Naomi Watts, along with effective performances on the part of Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Zoe Kravitz and Miles Teller. Still, make no mistake. Insurgent is a Shailene Woodley vehicle from beginning to end.

And the rising young star exhibits an impressive acting range in a physically as well as emotionally-demanding role promising to do for her what The Hunger Games did for Jennifer Lawrence.

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated PG-13 for sensuality, pervasive violence, intense action, mature themes and brief profanity

Running time: 119 minutes

Distributor: Lions Gate Films

To see a trailer for Insurgent, visit:

Ben Crump
The “Ferguson” Interview
with Kam Williams

Ben Crump is the attorney of record in many high-profile, civil rights cases, most notably representing the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, the 12 year-old boy shot by a Cleveland, Ohio police officer a second after he got out of his patrol car.

Kam Williams: Hi Ben, I appreciate the time. I know how busy you are.

Ben Crump: You’re very, very welcome, Kam.


KW: What is your response to the recent shooting of the two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri?

BC: Together with the Brown family, I condemn the shootings and make an immediate appeal for nonviolence, as we have from the inception of this movement. The heinous act of this individual does not reflect or forward the peaceful and non-violent movement that has emerged in our nation to confront police brutality and to ensure equality for all people. An act of violence against any innocent person eludes moral justification, disgraces the millions of Americans and people throughout the world who have united in peaceful protest against police brutality, and dishonors our proud inheritance of nonviolent resistance. We support the imposition of the full extent of the law on the perpetrator, and our prayers are with the officers and their families.


KW: What do you make of Attorney General Holder’s recently declining to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown?

BC: I just think that the Department of Justice has to stop sanitizing all these killings of unarmed people of color. When you look at the Justice Department’s report talking about the Ferguson Police Department’s rampant pattern of discrimination and its excessive use of force against African-American citizens, it’s hard to try to rationalize how this cesspool of racism doesn’t spill over onto the individual officers. For instance, Sergeant Mudd, the first officer on the scene after Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. He was Wilson’s mentor and supervisor. He was one of the primary witnesses and main advocates for Darren Wilson in front of the grand jury. We now know that this was the individual who sent the racist email that was repeatedly forwarded around the Ferguson Police Department saying that Crimestoppers paid a black woman $3,000 to get an abortion. So you have this cesspool of racism, yet they’re trying to suggest that it’s not going to affect individual officers. The Attorney General says that you have this high standard that you have to show that at the time of the shooting the individual was thinking hateful or racist thoughts. That’s an almost impossible standard. It should be enough to show implicit bias, given all the attendant circumstances. If there’s a pattern and practice of discrimination and excessive force, you should be able to hold these officers accountable for killing unarmed citizens. The reason I say that, Kam, is because, if there are no real consequences for their actions, we won’t get any different results. We need real consequences to get real results. There’s no deterrent to these officers’ behavior when they continue to see the local and federal governments under the Obama Administration sanitizing the killings of unarmed black and brown people.


KW: Holder’s also just announced that there will be no arrest of George Zimmerman for violating the civil rights of Trayvon Martin. That shocked me because everyone heard the recording of the 911 operator ordering Zimmerman to stay in his car and to wait for the police to arrive. But he ignored the instructions and killed an innocent teen innocently walking down the street, just yards from home. And even that’s not considered a violation of the child’s rights? How insane is that?

BC: Absolutely! We keep seeing a reoccurrence of their sanitizing these killings. It almost encourages people to conclude that they did nothing wrong, since the government didn’t press any charges. We’ve got to somehow send a message to deter this conduct. Otherwise, we’re going to see it over and over and over again. It’s becoming almost like an epidemic.


KW: No kidding. Just since you and I last spoke, we’ve had police shootings of Jerome Reid getting out of a car with his hands up in New Jersey, a homeless man in Los Angeles, 19 year-old Tony Robinson in Madison, Wisconsin, and Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Spokane, Washington.

BC: We’re representing Antonio Zambrano-Montes’ family.


KW: Great! And there’s also Sureshbhai Patel, an elderly tourist from India who was left paralyzed by a cop in Alabama who thought he was a black man prowling around a white neighborhood. These incidents are happening about once a week now. What about the Tamir Rice case? The chief of police in Cleveland is a black man, so I was stunned when the city said the boy’s death was directly caused by his own acts, not by police officer Timothy Loehmann. How did you react to that conclusion?

BC: It was literally shocking that, based on what we see in that surveillance video, this 12 year-old child could be called responsible for his own death because he wasn’t being careful, versus what we see and know happened there; how these officers violated all their procedures, training and department regulations, and drove up to the scene recklessly in a way which escalated the situation. Tamir Rice was killed in less than one second which was totally disrespectful. And the pattern of disrespect continued when his 14 year-old sister ran up crying, “You killed my baby brother!” Instead of showing her any compassion, they tackled her, handcuffed her, manhandled her, dragged her through the snow and threw her into the back of the police car where she had to sit helplessly 4 to 5 feet away from where her brother lay kicking as he died. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the pattern of disrespect continued with how they treated their mother when she arrived. They told her she could either get in the police car with her daughter to go to the station or get in the ambulance to go to the hospital with her son. And now the pattern of disrespect to the Rice family continues with blaming Tamir for his own death in the answer to the complaint of wrongful death we filed. That was shocking and sends a loud message not only to the people of Cleveland but to people all over America.   


KW: I’d also like to know how you feel about the video that surfaced of that Oklahoma fraternity singing that racist song on the bus.

BC: They may kick the fraternity off campus, but the thing that’s so unfortunate is that, no matter what they do, those students still felt it was okay to say what they said. So, you can’t help but wonder whether that’s how they really feel in their hearts. It reminded me of my personal hero, Thurgood Marshall. I’m reading Gilbert King’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the Groveland, Florida rape cases called “Devil in the Grove.” In it, he talks about Marshall, saying he had two fears. First, how big a celebration there was going to be the day racists lynched him and hung him from a tree. But his second and worst fear, after seeing so many young children in pictures of lynchings, was knowing that one day they would grow up to be running society. And that’s what I thought about watching the video on that bus. That in 20 years or so, those fraternity and sorority members will be running corporations, city governments and other institutions. And I wondered, what will their mentality be like? How does this bode for the future?


KW: I agree. It’s very scary. Thanks again, Ben, and keep fighting the good fight.

BC: Thanks so much Kam. Call anytime.