Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Kidnap Victims' Harrowing Ordeal Chronicled in Adaptation of Emma Donoghue Best Seller

What would it be like to be 5 years-old and have lived your entire life inside a backyard shed about 10' by 10'? And suppose you were being raised there by a kidnap victim who'd been caged and repeatedly raped by her psychopathic abductor since she was 17?

That is precisely the predicament of Jack (Jacob Tremblay), the young narrator of Room, an intriguing suspense flick adapted by Emma Donoghue from her own best seller of the same name. Directed by Dubliner Lenny Abrahamson (Frank), the film is a thought-provoking affair apt to have audiences squirming uncomfortably in their seats for the duration of the claustrophobic, endurance test.

The story unfolds almost entirely inside their veritable prison and from the narrow point-of-view of a naive child shielded by his well-meaning mom (Brie Larson) from the fact that they're being held against their will by a monster who also happens to be his father. For, it is ostensibly her desire to give Jack as normal a childhood as possible under the circumstances, while she waits to be rescued or for an opportunity to make a break from their cell. That way, the boy might not lose his mind in the dungeon and have less of an adjustment to make if they are ever finally freed.

Make no mistake, Room is one of those movies one must endure, rather than expect to enjoy. In that regard, it is reminiscent of Das Boot (1981), the World War II undersea epic which transpires almost entirely inside the close quarters of a German U-boat. This picture offers an even more oppressive experience in that you feel confined to a much tinier amount of space.

What makes Room unique, cinematically, is its ingenious juxtaposition of the mother and son's psychological perspectives. To Ma, their ongoing predicament is a living Hell. For instance, she cringes any time her tormentor (Sean Bridgers) unlocks the door, since she doesn't know what evil deed might be on his agenda. By contrast, this is the only world Jack has ever known, and he exhibits a typical tyke's playfulness and insatiable curiosity, behavior which his mother does her best to accommodate, despite the limitations.

Overall, Room is a riveting tour de force featuring a pair of powerful performances by co-stars Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. The pair generate such chemistry that you never doubt that they're a parent and child stuck in the worst of circumstances.

A few years back, Ms. Larson made a big splash in her breakout role as Grace in the critically-acclaimed Short Term 12. I wouldn't be surprised if the talented actress were to land an Oscar nomination for her nonpareil work here as an exasperated mother straining to keep it together for the sake of a son she loves, despite his being the fruit of a demon seed.

A terrifying tale of survival told by an innocent blissfully unaware of his perilous plight.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for profanity

Running time: 113 minutes

Distributor: A24

To see a trailer for Room, visit:


Nate Parker

The “The Birth of a Nation” Interview with Kam Williams








The Birth of Nate's Nation!

Actor/humanitarian-turned-writer/director Nate Parker first received critical attention for his starring role in The Great Debaters opposite Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker. Nate received an honorary Doctorate from Wiley College, the school featured in the fact-based story.

More recently, Nate starred in Beyond The Lights opposite Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Minnie Driver, and Danny Glover. He also appeared in the action thriller Non-Stop opposite Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore.

In 2012, he was a member of the ensemble cast of Red Tails which included Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr. The film chronicled the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps who went on to become some of the finest pilots in World War II.

Nate also starred opposite Alicia Keys in The Secret Life Of Bees, which featured an all-star cast of Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Dakota Fanning and Paul Bettany. Additionally, he has been seen in Pride alongside Terrence Howard and in Dirty opposite Cuba Gooding Jr.,

On the stage, Nate appeared opposite Dustin Hoffman, Annette Bening, Rosario Dawson and James Cromwell in American Voices at the Broad Street Theater. Here, he talks about making his writing and directorial debut with The Birth of a Nation, a reverential biopic in which he stars, too, as slave revolt leader Nat Turner (1800-1831).


Kam Williams: Hey, Nate, how you been? .

Nate Parker: Kam! Great to speak to you again, friend!


KW: Congratulations on The Birth of a Nation's winning both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

NP: Thank you, brother. What a blessing! Right? Never in a million years would I even have dreamt of that. I just made a movie I hoped would touch people, but I can't even describe what it felt like to receive those accolades.


KW: How long had this project been percolating before you went into production?

NP: Ooh, years. I'm in my 8th year of the project now. At the starting point, I'd done a couple of films, and I thought to myself it isn't often, as black men, that we get an opportunity in Hollywood to play a leading role with a strong character. And when one does come up, there are so many people competing for it, plus the narrative isn't usually controlled by us. So, I asked myself, if I could tell any story, which would it be? And Nat Turner being my hero from a social justice standpoint, he became the focus of my desires when it came to making a film. I just wanted to create a hero that added to the narrative of America who didn't look like the usual patriots.


KW: William Styron won a Pulitzer Prize in 1967 for "The Confession of Nat Turner" Did you rely on that best-selling novel while writing your script?

NP: I never looked at it once. I had read enough of it when I was younger to have my stomach turn by an author who completely denigrated the life and motivations of one of our greatest heroes. But I don't blame him, because it's a work of fiction.


KW: Have you met Anikah McLaren, one of the executives at Fox Searchlight working on The Birth of a Nation?

NP: I know her very well. I love her! She's a wonderful human being.


KW: I've known her family for years. Her younger brother and my son were good friends growing up and I've also been long-time friends with her mother and stepfather, Arnold Rampersad, who used to teach here at Princeton.

NP: You know some good people, man. That's a good circle of friends. That says a lot about you.


KW: Thanks. In an earlier interview, you told me that you felt that you were blessed by God at the beginning of your career. Given how spiritual Nat Turner was and how he had a vision from God which inspired him, I wonder whether you see any similarities between him and yourself?

NP: I believe that Nat Turner, at his core, was striving to be more Christlike which dictated his thoughts and actions. I wouldn't say I'm trying to be like Nat, but I'm definitely striving, as he was, to get closer to my faith and to be more Christlike in the context of my own imperfections as a human being. I believe that Nat Turner is a role model that all of us could identify with and aspire to emulate in a positive way, because he used all of his influence to address a systemic crisis. And he did so with his faith and he did so sacrificing on behalf of people he'd never meet, like you and me.


KW: Even though I asked you in our first interview many years ago about the 1999 rape accusation when you were a college student, I would be remiss in not raising it again, since it has resurfaced and ignited a firestorm of controversy recently. What do you have to say about the incident?

NP: I'll say this. I'm 36 years-old, and my life has been a series of obstacles, a series of educating moments. As I said before, I'm trying to come as close to my faith as possible, and I see this journey as just that, a journey. I set out to make this film because I felt like it was written in my heart. And any obstacle that has come before or will come after I will have to deal with accordingly, with my faith. My hope is that people will see this film for what it is, and I also hope they will be able to see a bit of my heart and of what I'm striving to do with this film


KW: The last time we spoke was a couple of years ago when you were in Ferguson, Missouri in connection with the Mike Brown case. At that time, you spoke of "revolution" and described yourself as an "actor-vist" dedicated to eradicating the dehumanization and criminalization of black youth. I was concerned that, as an emerging star I had described as possibly the next Denzel, you might be tarnishing your image by being so visibly political.

NP: I originally sought to make this film really to create solutions to the systemic crisis we were dealing with then. But here we are, 8 years later, dealing with the same crisis. I heard someone say, if the next 50 years are like the last 50 years, then people of color might not exist except as assimilated people and as inmates in the prison-industrial complex. I believe that the more we recognize that we're in crisis, the more we will realize that there is a need for revolution. Because of our historical baggage, most people automatically assume that revolution means black people rising up against whites. But that's not what I'm saying. If Dr. Martin Luther King was right in saying "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," then anyone who is on the side of the oppressed needs to stand up, regardless of what they look like or where they come from. And they should do so employing their skills and their strengths, taking advantage of their occupations. Nat Turner only had broom handles and axes, and didn't even have the right to assemble. Today, we have journalism, technology and social media, yet we fall silent when it comes to dealing with injustice. When I speak of "revolution," I talk about it within the context of humanity. Our country started with a rebellion. What would our identity be without that rebellion? Who would we be as Americans, if we didn't even know that we fought against British rule? If history is an indicator, we know that subjugation will lead to revolution anyway. We just don't know what that revolution will look like. Am I an advocate of violence? No. I'm an advocate of freedom and liberation and, whatever that means, I'm willing to stand for it.


KW: Why did you call your film The Birth of a Nation, the same title as the D.W. Griffith classic released almost exactly a century ago?

NP: That was very intentional. I had my title before I had my script. I deliberately want to tether the present to 1915 in order to create context as to why we are where we are. Griffith, in my opinion, may have been one of the most powerful people around in the sense that he inspired all of America to embrace white supremacy as a form of self-preservation. As a son of the Confederacy, he asked America to turn its back on any thought of solidarity with people of color with the hope that whites would be able to maintain their privilege forever. And that idea of white supremacy wasn't limited to the Ku Klux Klan and toothless hillbillies, but it made its way all the way to the White House, where President Woodrow Wilson had connections to the Klan through D.W. Griffith. So, I use that film designed to disenfranchise and terrorize us as a starting point with the hope that, by reclaiming and re-purposing it, we could right a massive wrong, since we're still dealing with the fallout of the terror that it inspired.


KW: I really liked this film better than 12 Years a Slave. Can you put a finger on why that's the case?

NP: I think it was a desperate love for one's brothers and sisters. In this film, they're not trying to escape to the North for a better life that they once enjoyed. Instead, they're trying to reconcile the life they're stuck in with what they see as God's purpose for their lives as reflected in the scriptures. And Nat interpreted the Bible as saying that God was on the side of the oppressed, as He was with Israel. .


KW: How hard was it directing for the first time?

NP: It was very difficult. It wasn't my original intention to direct and produce the film. But no producers raised their hand saying "Here's the money!" and no director stepped forward saying, "I want to tell this story." People saw this movie as a threat. And I was even warned by many people in Hollywood that there would be grave consequences for making it. But you can't let fear control your actions, when you feel the Lord calling you to do something. So, I decided to just go for it. And despite raising only a third of the money needed, we were somehow able to achieve the impossible.


KW: It's interesting that the film is now being released at the height of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

NP: I think it's a testament to God's plan that it's coming out now. Imagine, if it had been released 8 years ago, 5 years ago, or even 3 years ago, I doubt that it would have had the same impact that it's having now in terms of creating an enlightened moment at a time of a desperate need for change.


KW: One thing that surprised me when the closing credits rolled was to see that Gabrielle Union and some other stars I hadn't recognized were in the movie.

NP: I told all the women in the project that we were going to do this natural, with no makeup. That's a scary thing, especially when so much of what we do is controlled by image. But people really bought into it, and we were able to achieve an authenticity that most projects are unable to match.


KW: What's up next for Nate Parker?

NP: I have a couple projects I'm considering, but I'm being careful to make sure it's something I'm passionate about.


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

NP: Yes and no. I was exposed to Christianity early on, but I didn't really understand the magnitude of God's power and the role of prophecy in my life. It wasn't until going through college that I began to appreciate this thing called faith and to explore whether there was something in it for me. So much of my life has changed since then, and my desperation for a connection to the Lord continues to deepen with every breath I take.


KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

NP: No money, just my insurance card and credit cards. I used to carry around some pictures of my kids, but I keep putting my wallet in the washing machine. [Laughs]


KW: Thanks again, Nate, and I hope to speak to you again during Oscar season.

NP: Oh, Lord willing, Kam. Thank you, brother.


To see a trailer for The Birth of a Nation, visit:


The Birth of a Nation

Film Review by Kam Williams  





Reverential Biopic Revisits Life of Infamous Slave Revolt Leader Nat Turner (Nate Parker) was born into slavery on October 2, 1800 on a sprawling plantation located in Southampton County, Virginia. There, as a precocious child, he exhibited a thirst for knowledge at an early age and learned to read the Bible with the help of his masters, Samuel (Armie Hammer) and Elizabeth Turner (Penelope Ann Miller). The couple simultaneously shielded him from the brutality of the evil institution by granting him the privilege of living and working in the mansion rather than having to toil in the cotton fields alongside his mother (Aunjanue Ellis) and grandmother (Esther Scott).


Nat grew up a deeply-religious boy, and was turned into a traveling preacher tasked with spreading the word of God to fellow slaves from neighboring towns. In that capacity, his job was to keep the masses of oppressed African-Americans content with their miserable lot in life by reciting scriptural passages like "Submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the cruel." (1 Peter 2:18)


However, the more he witnessed the atrocities associated with slavery, the more outraged he became. And by the time he reached adulthood, he'd not only become convinced that it was evil, but he'd started surreptitiously quoting Biblical verses supporting that conclusion, such as "Do not become slaves of men." (1 Corinthians 7:23)


Nat subsequently had a miraculous vision in which he was directly ordered by God to set his people free. That transformative moment would serve as the inspiration for a bloody insurrection which would begin with the slaying of his masters and ultimately claim about 60 more white slave owner lives.


All of the above is graphically depicted in The Birth of a Nation, a reverential biopic marking the impressive directorial debut of Nate Parker (The Great Debaters). Nate also co-wrote the script and stars here, as Nat Turner, in a revisionist period piece which effectively recasts as a hero an infamous slave revolt leader previously denigrated by history because of his resort to violence.


This compelling drama landed both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, and had emerged as the prohibitive Best Picture Academy Award favorite until buzz about Mr. Parker's having been accused of rape while in college went viral across the blogosphere. Nevertheless, judging The Birth of a Nation strictly on the merits, it undeniably deserved its previous status as a prime Oscar contender.


An emotionally-unsettling alternate version of a controversial chapter in America's slave legacy!



Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for brief nudity and disturbing violence

Running time: 120 minutes

Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures


To see a trailer for The Birth of a Nation, visit:


Top Ten DVD List for October 4, 2016

by Kam Williams  







This Week’s DVD Releases


The Innocents


The Wailing






X-Men: Apocalypse


Into the Forest


Murdoch Mysteries: A Merry Murdoch Christmas


Tyler Perry's The Passion Live




Spillover: Zika, Ebola and Beyond



Honorable Mention


Eat That Question


The Presidents Collection


Swiss Army Man


The Mind's Eye


Winter: The Complete Series


Complete Unknown


The Purge: Election Year


Welcome to Monster High


The Venture Bros: Season Six


My Many Sons 


Coming Out


Banshee: The Complete Fourth Season


Wild Oats


Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates


Laid in America


Being Canadian


Daughter of Dracula


We Bare Bears: Viral Video




Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV


6 Plots


Wild Kratts: A Creature Christmas


Charlie Brown's All Stars [50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition]

X-Men: Apocalypse

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams  





It's Mutants vs. Mutants in 9th Installment of Beloved Marvel Franchise X-Men: Apocalypse is the 9th installment in the much-beloved, Marvel Comics franchise launched back in 2000. This episode is the 4th directed by the series' originator, Bryan Singer, whose sophisticated touch always allows an audience to enjoy a relatively-cerebral cinematic experience.

Thus, this character-driven adventure includes not only the trademark action sequences featuring flamboyant exhibitions of superpowers but also an absorbing plotline that keeps the brain engaged for the duration of the story. The upshot is a film for kids of all ages that's memorable for more than its state-of-the-arts special f/x.

The fun starts in Cairo in 1983, which is where we we find the ancient mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) rising from the dead. Disenchanted with the world's current state of affairs, he decides to destroy civilization and start over.

Although Apocalypse is already the most powerful mutant around, he recruits a quartet of renegades to assist him in his nefarious endeavor. Dubbed the Four Horsemen, the confederacy is composed of Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Archangel (Ben Hardy), representing War, Famine, Pestilence and Death, respectively.

It is almost too late by the time the forces of good finally catch wind of Apocalypse's diabolical scheme, as cities from New York to Sydney are suddenly under attack. And when X-Men leader Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) falls under Apocalypse's spell, his protege, shape-shifting Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), rises to the occasion to rally the next-generation of mutants in the defense of the embattled planet.

Among her cohorts are telekinetic Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), teleporting Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee, supersonic Quicksilver (Evan Peters), brawny and brilliant Beast (Nicholas Hoult), laser-eyed Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne). Initially, they prove no match for Apocalypse, who has been harnessing an assortment of awesome powers for several millennia.

Only by pooling their skills and resources very effectively are our intrepid protagonists able to conquer evil, save the free world and thereby survive for another sequel.


Excellent (3.5 stars)

Rated PG-13 for violence, action, destruction, suggestive images and brief profanity

In English, German, Polish, Arabic and Ancient Egyptian

Running time: 144 minutes

Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Deleted and extended scenes with optional introductions by director Bryan Singer; gag reel; wrap party video; audio commentary by Bryan Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg; behind-the-scenes documentary; and a photo gallery.


To see a trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse, visit:

To order a copy of the X-Men: Apocalypse Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit:

Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words

DVD Review by Kam Williams  





Reverential Rockumentary Revisits Career of Late Rock Icon


Frank Zappa (1940-1993) is best remembered as the front man and lead guitarist of the Mothers of Invention, the avant-garde rock band that started developing a dedicated cult following in 1966 with the release of its debut album, "Freak Out!" The group's irreverent, anti-establishment anthems satirizing the status quo resonated with the emerging Hippie Generation's counter-cultural attitudes.

The long hair and rebel image overshadowed Frank's roots as a classical virtuoso influenced by such 20th Century greats as Edgar Varese and Igor Stravinsky. He began composing chamber music at the age of 14 and didn't write his first rock song with lyrics until after he turned 21.

Even after finding fame, Frank remained desperate to be taken seriously as an artist. Consequently, he quite obviously became quite frustrated over the course of his career by the constraints imposed by his packaging as a hippie rock idol.

An inveterate iconoclast, he was also very outspoken on subjects ranging from politics to drugs to the music business. And he often confounded journalists with his surprising stances on prevailing social issues. For example, he was extremely anti-drugs in an era when many of his fans and contemporaries were experimenting with marijuana, LSD and other so-called recreational narcotics.

In terms of his record company, he hated the fact that MGM had the nerve to censor his tunes without his permission. He further observed that, in general, "Musicians are regarded as useless adjuncts of society, unless you write a Coca-Cola jingle."

A free speech advocate, he felt that "Dirty words are a fantasy manufactured by government fanatics and religious organizations to keep people stupid." Just as suspicious of the Left and the Right, he asserted that "Any sort of political ideology that doesn't take into account people's differences is Fascistic."

Eat That Question is a reverential rockumentary directed by Germany's Thorsten Schutte. The informative film contains reams of archival footage featuring its loquacious subject expounding his personal philosophy. The intriguing biopic includes some performances, too, but the cerebral production proves far more fascinating when focusing on what made the man tick than on his music.

A riveting retrospective plumbing the depths of the brilliant mind of a Renaissance man underappreciated in his own time.


Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for profanity, sexual references and brief nudity

Running time: 93 minutes

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

To see a trailer for Eat That Question, visit: To order a copy of Eat That Question on DVD, visit:

Kam's Kapsules for Movies opening September 30, 2016

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

by Kam Williams



Deepwater Horizon (PG-13 for intense action sequences, disturbing images and brief profanity) Disaster flick recreating the real-life events surrounding the 2010 explosion of the offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico which claimed the lives of 11 crewmen and led to the worst crude oil spill in U.S. history. Co-starring Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell and John Malkovich.

Masterminds (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, violence and crude humor) Crime caper, inspired by actual events, revolving around an armored car driver (Zach Galifianakis) duped by a flirtatious co-worker (Kristen Wiig) into participating in one of the biggest bank heists in American history. With Jason Sudeikis, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Owen Wilson.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (PG-13 for instense violence, peril and action sequences) Tim Burton directed this adaptation of Ransom Riggs' best-selling children's novel about a 16 year-old orphan (Asa Butterfield) who uncovers a terrifying reality when he travels to a Welsh orphanage located on a mysterious island. Cast includes Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Green, Chris O'Dowd, Dame Judi Dench, Allison Janney and Terence Stamp.


American Honey (R for graphic sexuality, frontal nudity, pervasive profanity and teen drug and alcohol abuse) Raunchy road saga revolving around a troubled runaway (Sasha Lane) who joins a team of door-to-door salesmen who party when not hawking magazine subscriptions while driving across the American Midwest. With Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough and Arielle Holmes.

Among the Believers (Unrated) War on Terror expose' chronicling the efforts of Pakistan's infamous Red Mosque schools to raise a generation of Western-hating radical jihadists. (In English and Urdu with subtitles)

Clinton, Inc. (PG-13 for sexuality and mature themes) Adaptation of Daniel Halper's best seller of the same name offering a behind-the-scenes account of Bill and Hillary Clinton's maneuverings returning them to prominence after leaving the White House. Featuring commentary by Dick Morris, Rich Lowry and Ron Kessler.

Denial (PG-13 for mature themes and brief profanity) Courtroom drama recounting Deborah Lipstadt's (Rachel Weisz) epic legal battle with notorious Holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall) over whether or not Hitler and his minions really murdered millions in the gas chambers during World War II. With Tom Wilkinson, Andrew Scott and Jack Lowden.

Do Not Resist (Unrated) Domestic tranquility documentary examining the proliferation of militarized policing across the United States.

Girl Asleep (Unrated) Coming-of-age dramedy about an ostracized social zero (Bethany Whitmore) whose fortunes change dramatically after being thrown a 15th birthday party by her concerned parents (Amber McMahon and Matthew Whittet). With Harrison Feldman, Imogen Archer and Eamon Farren.

Milton's Secret (PG for mature themes, adolescent issues and brief epithets) Family drama revolving around an 11 year-old (William Ainscough) who becomes the victim of a neighborhood bully (Percy Hynes White). Cast includes Michelle Rodriguez, Donald Sutherland, David Sutcliffe and Mia Kirshner.

Passage to Mars (Unrated) True tale reenacting the real-life, 2,000-mile trek undertaken across the Arctic's frozen tundra by a half-dozen wannabe astronauts in anticipation of NASA's first manned flight to Mars. Co-starring Zachary Quinto, Charlotte Rampling and Buzz Aldrin.

Deepwater Horizon

Film Review by Kam Williams  





Spectacular Disaster Flick Depicts Real-Life Events Surrounding BP Oil Spill


On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, located 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana, exploded when high-pressure methane gas blew out the drill pipe. 11 members of the crew perished in the ensuing fiery inferno which engulfed the platform.

The accident also caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history, with over 200 million gallons of crude leaking into the Gulf of Mexico by the time the well was finally capped 86 days later. At that point, authorities turned their attention to the question of who was to blame for the mammoth ecological disaster.

There was no shortage of potential villains to sort through, given that the drilling unit had been built in South Korea, was owned by Transocean Limited, a Swiss company, operated under the flag of the Marshall Islands, was leased to British Petroleum (BP) but maintained by Halliburton, an American field service corporation, and serviced by Schlumberger, a Dutch company. Ultimately, the bulk of the blame would be attributed to BP, which would be found guilty of gross negligence and pay billions of dollars in damages to thousands of aggrieved parties.

Directed by Peter Berg (Battleship), Deepwater Horizon revisits the infamous incident primarily from the perspective of the rig's Chief Electronics Technician, Mike Williams. The picture reunites Berg with Mark Wahlberg with whom he previously collaborated on Lone Survivor.

Wahlberg plays Williams, a working-class hero of unquestioned integrity. As the film unfolds, we find him bidding adieu to his family before departing for a 21-day tour on the Horizon. If only Mike had heeded warning signs like his wife's (Kate Hudson) premonitions and his daughter Sydney's (Stella Allen) science project with a Coke can geyser gone kabluey, he might have had the good sense to call in sick.

The same could be said of his colleague Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), a mechanic who couldn't get her car started that same morning. Even the helicopter ferrying them to work experienced an ominous bird strike en route to the platform. And upon landing, they're greeted by a pal with a macabre skull-and-crossbones emblazoned on his hard hat.

Of far more significance are Don Vidrine (John Malkovich) and Bob Kaluza (Brad Leland), the bigwig BP bureaucrats who begin bullying their employees from the minute the chopper lands on the deck. This clueless pair of villains prove willing to put profits before any safety concerns, so it's no surprise when the platform's unstable drill pipe pops its cork.

The spectacular, pyrotechnic calamity which follows affords Mike an opportunity not only to play hero in a sea of fire but to later shame the cowardly culprits responsible in court. A harrowing tale of survival topped off by justice duly being served. What more could you ask for from an action-oriented morality play?


Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for intense action sequences, disturbing images and brief profanity

Running time: 107 minutes

Distributor: Lionsgate Films


To see a trailer for Deepwater Horizon, visit:

Sandra L. Richards

The “Rice & Rocks” Interview with Kam Williams

Richards Rocks!

The American-born daughter of Jamaican immigrant parents, Sandra L. Richards is the author of “Rice & Rocks.” She hopes that her debut picture book will serve as an educational resource for families seeking to teach their children the value of their heritage and the importance of cultural diversity.

Sandra completed both her undergraduate and graduate studies at Seton Hall University, and is the Executive Director, Head of Diverse and Multicultural Marketing, Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley. Learn more about Sandra at


Kam Williams: Hi Sandra. Congratulations on "Rice & Rocks."

Sandra L. Richards: Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.

KW: What inspired you to write the book?

SLR: The inspiration for "Rice & Rocks" came from my family in two parts. One, my parents are from Jamaica and immigrated to the USA with the hopes to give their children a chance of growing up with greater opportunities. However, it was important to them that we were raised with a sense of pride of our culture and traditions, and food was certainly at the center of that, especially Sunday dinners!The second source of inspiration stemmed from a heartbreak. In 2007, I lost my 8-year old nephew Giovanni to meningitis. That loss left a hole in the heart of our entire family. Over the years, I thought long and hard about a way to help keep his memory alive. Of course, we had pictures of the time we spent together, but that just didn’t seem to be enough. As I would replay moments of our time together in my mind, I kept finding myself thinking back to conversations we had over the years, and I fondly remembered one conversation in particular which had to do with food and culture. Giovanni was a very imaginative child and decided he wouldn’t eat his grandma’s rice and beans because the beans looked like rocks to him. That casual conversation ultimately led to the me writing "Rice & Rocks," a children’s picture book in my nephew’s memory.


KW: What message do you want kids to take away from the tale?

SLR: While memorializing Giovanni was the original intent of "Rice & Rocks," it was designed to do much more. "Rice & Rocks" is also a story that teaches kids about cultural diversity and the importance of learning about their own heritages. I think it is important for children to have knowledge about their culture and heritage as it will give them a sense of self, pride and ownership of their own story. How powerful would that be for a child to have that gift, a foundation for them to stand on, being able to identify who they are for themselves and not letting someone define it for them?

KW: Where did you come up with the idea of Jasper, a talking parrot from the Congo?

SLR: Giovanni actually owned a bird. He loved birds! In this story, I created Jasper, a parrot from the Congo, as a way to acknowledge Africa in the story. Jasper is quite a character and kids that read the story love him! I hope that will pique their curiosity to learn more about him and, ultimately, more about Africa.

KW: How did you settle on the dialogue, given that it it's a mix of child, adult and animal chatter?

SLR: Here is the funny truth. We grew up with animals in our family as pets: dogs, cats, birds and fish. We would all talk to them, and engage them in our conversations. So, for me and perhaps every other pet lover out there, it is normal to talk to your pets. They understand and respond in their own way. It was pretty easy to weave Jasper into the dialogue, because, after all, he is a parrot which is known to have a vocabulary of up to 600 words. My two dogs, Skye and Honey, appear in "Rice & Rocks" too and, while they don’t have a speaking part, they are very expressive in the book!


KW: What's your target audience?

SLR: "Rice & Rocks" is geared towards children ages 5-9. But, to be honest, I have had adults tell me they love reading picture books. I am in that category, too! I would say for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and godparents, there is something for you in this story to share with a child in your life, whether it be talking about your family roots and traditions, to opening your child’s mind to exploring new foods, to embracing the saying ‘It takes a village’ when needing help in raising future culturally-aware citizens of the world. For teachers, "Rice & Rocks" would be a great addition to their curriculum, as there is growing interest in talking about diversity and inclusion in the schools.

KW: Tell me a little about the book's illustrator, Megan Kayleigh Sullivan.

SLR: In short, Megan is brilliant! She graduated from Rhode Island School of Design in 2012 with a degree in illustration. I enjoyed working with Megan, alongside our wonderful art director. I had a front row seat, watching the story come to life sketch by sketch, page by page. What I loved most about working with Megan was her attention to detail and asking questions about my family early on, outside of the story, that would help capture the essence of not only Giovanni, but also Auntie, Grandma and other family members.


KW: Any plans to write a series of books about Giovanni?

SLR: Yes, there are plans to write more stories about Giovanni and Jasper while also introducing a few more characters along the way.

KW: founder Troy Johnson asks: What was the last book you read?

SLR: The last book I read was "Year of Yes" by Shonda Rhimes.

And I just started "Homegoing," by Yaa Gyasi.

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

SLR: I can still remember it now like it was yesterday, the first time I went to Jamaica. I was 8-years old. I loved it! It was beautiful! I met my maternal and paternal grandmothers for the first time, and they taught me how to cook. There is a road not too far from my grandmother's house, Holland Bamboo. It looked so regal, as though you are driving to a majestic palace. As a child, when we got close to the road, I would get excited because I knew it was only a matter of minutes until the fun begins. But I would also be sad when it was time to leave, looking out of back window as Holland Bamboo would appear further and further away. Today, I will gladly admit that those same feelings creep in when I see Holland Bamboo.

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

SLR:This immediately plays in my head, when you ask me this question: “We have come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord, trusting in His holy word. He never failed me yet.” I was blessed to have a godfather who was a Bishop of a church in Hempstead, New York. My brothers and sister, along with my cousins, were in his church every Sunday as kids. We were in Sunday school, the church choir, and we were there for every church revival. My mother and father had such a deep faith in God, and that set a huge example for me.

KW: Sherry Gillam would like to know what is the most important life lesson you've learned so far?

SLR: Discernment. There is something that my mother would say when things happen; good, bad or indifferent: “Everything happens for a wise purpose.” This goes back to the spiritual component of my life that has developed and evolved over time. It is human nature to question things that occur, certainly if you feel like it puts you at a disadvantage or hurts your feelings. When I begin to question those things, I replay my mother’s words, sit in silence and ask myself the honest and sometimes tough questions. What is the purpose? What lesson am I supposed to learn? What role did I play in this? If it is necessary for me to act, this exercise allows me to address things with courage, humility and grace.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

SLR: I love to cook curry shrimp with vegetables and fried plantains with Basmati rice. Kam, I have been told that my dish is delicious and nutritious. Do you remember that line from Brown Sugar?

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

SLR: I see a harmonious blend of my mother and father, and I am a reflection of their love.

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

SLR: My heart would be so full if I could have one more Sunday dinner with my mom, dad and Giovanni.

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

SLR: Scratch offs!

KW: Thanks for the time, Sandra, and best of luck with the book.

SLR: Thank you so much, Kam! I am honored to have spent this time with you.

To order a copy of "Rice & Rocks," visit:


Top Ten DVD List for September 27, 2016

by Kam Williams  







This Week’s DVD Releases


Hunt for the Wilderpeople


Blood Diner


The Shallows


Rod Serling's Patterns


Jim Henson's Labyrinth: 30th Anniversary Edition


A Dangerous Game: Donald Trump Vs. the Environment


The Disappearance


Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom


Talent Has Hunger


Jericho: Series One



Honorable Mention


The Catch: The Complete First Season


Power Rangers Dino Charge: Rise


Beyond Valkyrie: Dawn of the Fourth Reich


Central Intelligence


The Neon Demon


Chopping Mall


Barbarians Rising [4-Part Miniseries]


Edge of Winter




Indian Summer: Season Two


Heart of the World: Colorado's National Parks

Central Intelligence

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams  





Kevin Hart and The Rock Co-Star in Unlikely-Buddies Comedy


Back in high school, Calvin (Kevin Hart) was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" while his chubby pal Bob (Dwayne Johnson) was being bullied by classmates because of his weight.. But that was a couple of decades ago, and a lot has changed since then.

Today, we find Calvin wondering whether he might have peaked during his glory days at Central High when he and his childhood sweetheart Maggie (Danielle Nicolet) were voted Homecoming King and Queen. Yes, the two did marry, but the relationship's been so rocky she's currently insisting they enter therapy. Things are even worse for Calvin at his accounting firm, where he's just been passed over for a promotion to partner.

By comparison, Bob's fortunes have improved immeasurably over the intervening years. He's not only shed all that unwanted baby fat but he's re-sculpted himself into a veritable Adonis by pumping iron a half-dozen hours a day. Furthermore, he's flourishing in an enviable career as a crack CIA Agent well-versed in the tools of international espionage.

The pair's paths cross for the first time in years at their 20th high school reunion where Calvin is impressed by both Bob's new physique and his daring line of work. So, it's no surprise that the suave spy is able to enlist the jaded pencil pusher's technical assistance on his latest assignment. He also could use a little help apprehending the assassin who murdered his partner (Aaron Paul).

That's the point of departure of Central Intelligence, an unlikely-buddies comedy directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (We're the Millers). Kevin Hart has proven himself quite the master of the genre, given the success of such box-office hits as The Wedding Ringer, Get Hard and Ride Along 1 and 2, to name a few. Unfortunately, Kevin and co-star Dwayne Johnson fail to generate any chemistry, despite sharing the screen in scene after scene of silly slapstick.

The bulk of the picture's pathetic attempts at humor revolve around contrasting buff Bob's bravery with weak-kneed Calvin's cowardice. But sadly, the laughs are few and far between during this decidedly-underwhelming action-adventure.

Too bad whoever directed the promising trailer probably didn't direct the movie.


Fair (1 star)

Rated PG-13 for violence, sexuality, nudity, crude humor and brief profanity

Running time: 107 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group

Blu-ray Extras: Director's commentary; gag reel; alternate scenes; Line-O-Rama; Couch Scene; and a Dance-Off.



To see a trailer for Central Intelligence, visit: To order a copy of Central Intelligence on Blu-ray, visit:

The Shallows

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams  





Blake Lively Shines as Surfer Stranded in Shark-Infested Waters


Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) was so shaken by her mother's (Janelle Bailey) untimely death that she's dropped out of med school. In order to feel closer to her dearly departed mom, she's decided to vacation at the same exotic Mexican retreat where she was reportedly conceived back in 1991. An avid surfer, she also plans to search for the stretch for her mom's favorite beach.

Upon arriving, Nancy is so impatient to find that idyllic, uncharted spot, that she impulsively heads for the ocean with her surfboard, handbag and smartphone, abandoning her bushed traveling companion at the hotel. Instead, she accepts a ride to the shore from the very obliging Carlos (Oscar Jaenada), an affable local yokel who is more than happy to serve as the bikini-clad hitchhiker's chauffeur and navigator.

He drives away right after depositing her at the secluded cove, yet Nancy has no qualms about being left alone, since she does have cell service. Next thing you know, she's blissfully paddling out to deep water where she's surrounded by a pod of playful dolphins as she starts riding the mammoth waves.

The plot thickens soon after she spots the bobbing carcass of a humpback whale. What Nancy doesn't recognize until it's too late is that she's inadvertently entered the feeding grounds of a still-hungry shark who'd rather dine on human flesh than cetacean.

She subsequently suffers a nasty gash from the initial attack but is somehow able to swim to a tiny, low-lying island nearby. Her medical training comes in handy as she quickly fashions a tourniquet from part of her outfit.

Still, with high tide coming in a matter of hours, she knows that she's got to figure out how to survive once this temporary sanctuary sinks below sea level. The shore is 200 yards away, which is way to far to swim with a determined predator steadily circling as her blood drips into the water.

A couple of potential rescuers (Jose Manuel Trujillo Salas and Angelo Josue Lozano Corzo) show up, but hope fades fast when the dopey duo simply starts swimming without noticing the damsel-in-distress. The next beachgoer (Diego Espejel) does see that Nancy's in need, but he seizes the opportunity to steal her phone and other personal effects left on the sand.

This means spunky Nancy must survive by her wits, a daunting challenge given her dire straits. Thus unfolds The Shallows, an engaging, edge-of-the-seat thriller expertly directed by Jaume Collett-Serra (Non-Stop) to ratchet up the tension.

The movie borrows elements from Jaws (headstrong, maniacal shark), Castaway (this stranded heroine bonds with a seagull instead of a volleyball), Blue Crush (oodles of gratuitous titillation) and MacGyver (a brilliant tinkerer exhibits endless ingenuity). The good news is that it all has been sewn together quite seamlessly yielding a thoroughly enjoyable screamfest reminding us that it's still not safe to swim in the ocean. Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for bloody images, intense scenes of peril and brief profanity

Running time: 86 minutes

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Extras: Deleted scenes; Shooting in the Shallows; How to Build a Shark; When Sharks Attack; and Finding the Perfect Beach: Lord Howe Island.


To see a trailer for The Shallows, visit:

To order a copy of The Shallows on Blu-ray, visit:

Kam's Kapsules for Movies opening September 23, 2016

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

by Kam Williams



The Magnificent Seven (PG-13 for intense violence, smoking, profanity and suggestive material) Remake of the 1960 classic Western revolving around a rag-tag team of gunslingers recruited by a desperate widow (Haley Bennett) to defend her tiny frontier town from a ruthless gang of outlaws. Co-starring Denzel Washington, Peter Sarsgaard, Ethan Hawke, Chris Pratt, Vincent D'Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo.

Storks (PG for mild action and mature themes) Animated comedy about a flock of storks that abandons its traditional mission to deliver packages for a global corporate giant. Plot thickens when a rising star (Andy Samberg) risks a promotion promised by his boss (Kelsey Grammer) by attempting to make his first ever baby drop after accidentally manufacturing an adorable, little bundle of joy. Voice cast includes Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell, Keegan-Michael key, Jordan Peele and Danny Trejo.


Chronic (R for nudity and profanity) Poignant character study starring Tim Roth in the title role as a caregiver for the terminally-ill who apparently needs his patients as much as they need him. Support cast includes Michael Cristofer, Elizabeth Tulloch and Tate Ellington.

Closet Monster (Unrated) Homoerotic drama, set in Newfoundland, about a gay teen (Connor Jessup) who hides his sexual preference from his intolerant, short-tempered father (Aaron Abrams) after witnessing a hate crime, until he falls in love with a handsome co-worker (Aliocha Schneider). With Isabella Rossellini, Joanne Kelly and Jinji Dawson.

Dirty 30 (PG-13 for sexuality, drug use and debauchery) Female empowerment adventure about a couple of jaded women (Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart) who throw a bawdy birthday party to lift the sagging spirits of a lifelong friend turning 30 (Mamrie Hart), only to see the soiree spiral out of control. Featuring Adam Lustick, Anna Akana and Annie Sertich.

The Dressmaker (R for brief profanity and a scene of violence) Kate Winslet handles the title role in this Prodigal Daughter drama, set in 1926, as a fashion designer who falls in love with a local hunk with a heart of gold (Liam Hemsworth) and transforms her hometown upon returning to Australia to care for her ailing, long-estranged mom (Judy Davis). Cast includes Hugo Weaving, Kerry Fox and Sarah Snook.

Generation Startup (Unrated) Millennials are the focus of this documentary revolving around the entrepreneurial efforts of a half-dozen college grads building businesses in Detroit.

I.T. (Unrated) Cat-and-mouse crime thriller about a successful businessman (Pierce Brosnan) who turns vigilante when his most trusted confidante (James Frecheville) starts sabotaging the company, stalking his teenage daughter (Stefanie Scott) and threatening his family. With Anna Friel, Austin Swift and Michael Nyqvist.

The Lovers and the Despot (Unrated) Bamboo Curtain documentary about a successful South Korean director (Shin Sang-ok) who was kidnapped with his wife/actress (Choi Eun-hee) and delivered to dictator Kim Jong-Il to serve as the North Korean dictator's personal filmmakers. (In Korean, Japanese and English with subtitles)

Made in France (Unrated) Jihadist thriller about an investigative journalist (Malik Zili) who infiltrates a cell of disaffected Islamic youth planning a terrorist attack on Paris. With Dimitri Storoge, Francois Civil and Nassim Si Ahmed. (In French with subtitles)

Queen of Katwe (PG for an accident scene, mature themes and suggestive material) Madina Malwanga portrays the title character of this uplifting biopic, Phionsa Mutesi, the Ugandan chess prodigy who overcomes poverty and misogyny to become a grandmaster with the help of a volunteer (David Oyelowo) who organizes a chess club in her humble village. With Lupita N'yongo, Martin Kabanza and Taryn Kyaze.

The Ruins of Lifta (Unrated) Middle East documentary about a Palestinian village which was abandoned during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War but never repopulated after the founding of the Jewish State.

Seed: The Untold Story (Unrated) Eco-documentary chronicling the David vs. Goliath effort of indigenous peoples and family farmers to preserve thousands of varieties of seeds being destroyed and/or appropriated by agribusiness and chemical conglomerates. (In English, Spanish and Hindi with subtitles)

Jahking Guillory

The “Kicks” Interview with Kam Williams







Jahking and I!


An undeniable young talent on the rise, actor and rapper Jahking Guillory is already a veteran in the entertainment business at the age of 14. Born and raised in Long Beach California, ‘King’ started pursuing his dream at 9 years-old, landing jobs in national commercials, music videos and national print campaigns.

Graduating to larger roles in film and TV, 'King has already shown how versatile an actor he is, playing the ultra-cool kid with swagger, to the computer geek, to the teenage drug dealer. In addition to acting, 'King is a talented rapper and works on his craft every day. He writes lyrics about his life and makes beats with his friends to every song he records.

Jahking is also a championship athlete. He played running back for superstar rapper Snoop Dogg’s Junior football team, winning five championships. He is a track star, too -- winning the 800 and 1500 meter dashes in the Junior Olympics.

Here, he talks about his starring role as Brandon in Kicks, a coming-of-age adventure set in the Bay Area.




Kam Williams: Hi Jahking, thanks for the interview.

Jahking Guillory: Thank you.


KW: What interested you in Kicks?

JG: The story. It’s real. People are getting killed for materialistic things everyday and it has to stop.


KW: How would you describe your character?

JG: Brandon is shy and not confident. This changes for him drastically in the film.


KW: Who loved you unconditionally during your formative years?

JG: My mother.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

JG: I like to help my mom cook Jambalaya.


KW: What's the craziest thing you've ever done?

JG: Play Ding Dong Ditch. It was crazy!


KW: Craig Robinson asks: What was your last dream?

JG: I was sitting on the beach with my great-grandma.


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

JG: A cheetah.


KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have a favorite movie monster?

JG: Mike from Monsters, Inc.


KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

JG: My ID and some condoms. [LOL]


KW: Thanks again for the time, Jahking, and best of luck with Kicks.

JG: Thanks, Kam.


To see a trailer for Kicks, visit:

The Magnificent Seven

Film Review by Kam Williams  






Denzel Reunites with Fuqua in Worthy Overhaul of Kurosawa Classic

Directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa in 1954, Seven Samurai was a groundbreaking film which had a profound influence on the evolution of cinema for generations to come. Superficially, that seminal work merely reads like a martial arts epic set in 16th Century Japan. Yet, over the years, it has spawned a cottage industry of knockoffs trading in the picture's novel narrative revolving around a rag-tag team of selfless heroes recruited in service of some lofty goal.

In 1960, Seven Samurai was remade as The Magnificent Seven, a sprawling Western co-starring Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, Eli Wallach, Robert Vaughn and James Coburn. Today, that classic has been refreshed by Antoine Fuqua in an outing reuniting the director with Denzel Washington following successful collaborations on The Equalizer (2014) and Training Day (2001) for which the latter won an Academy Award.

This incarnation of The Magnificent Seven does feature a few variations on the theme. For example, the picture's dastardly bad guy is now an avaricious white man intent on seizing a mining town's gold instead of a Mexican bandito simply staging a series of border raids. And the good guys enlisted to engage the greedy gringo are a politically-correct, rainbow coalition reflecting every ethnicity.

Otherwise, the essence of the original plot remains intact. As the film unfolds, we find the folks in the frontier settlement of Rose Creek living in fear of Bartholomew Bogue and his gang of marauders. Bogue is your stereotypical, bloodthirsty villain, straight out of central casting, played to perfection by Peter Sarsgaard.

It is established early on just how low the diabolical Bogue will stoop to achieve his evil ends, between murdering an innocent woman and burning the church to the ground. That makes the arrival of bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Washington) all the more welcome by the time the exasperated and intimidated local yokels are at their collective wit's end.

They also have no idea that Chisolm isn't merely motivated by altruism but has his own revenge-fueled reason to tangle with Bogue. Regardless, once deputized, the gunslinger proceeds to assemble a motley crew composed of a Civil War vet suffering from shell shock (Ethan Hawke), a hard-drinking bombmaker (Chris Pratt), a gruff mountain man (Vincent D'Onofrio), a Chicano outlaw (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a crack Comanche archer (Martin Sensmeier) and a knife-throwing, Asian assassin (Byung-hun Lee).

Don't expect any deeply-developed characters and you won't be disappointed. It's all about the inexorable march to the big showdown during which the heroes will obviously even the score, and then some. The Wild, Wild West revisited as an ethnically-diverse fantasy land Hollywood has never imagined before!


Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for intense violence, smoking, profanity and suggestive material

Running time: 132 minutes

Distributor: Sony Pictures


To see a trailer for The Magnificent Seven, visit:

Top Ten DVD List for September 20, 2016

by Kam Williams  







This Week’s DVD Releases


Empire: The Complete Second Season


Colliding Dreams


Wedding Doll


Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition


Pretty Dead: 10 Horror Films


Bill & Ted's Most Excellent Collection


The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story


Midsomer Murders: Series 18


Free State of Jones


Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising



Honorable Mention


Dangerous Attractions: 10 Killer Thrillers




Enter the Faun


Barbie: Star Light Adventure


Elephant Kingdom


Mai-Chan's Daily Life


Thomas & Friends: The Great Race - The Movie


Labyrinth: 30th Anniversary Edition 


Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War


Frontline: Policing the Police


Coach: Seasons One & Two


Kate and Mim-Mim: The Mimiloo Zoo


Back on Board: Greg Louganis


Friday Night Lights: The First Season


Friday Night Lights: The Second Season

Free State of Jones

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Review by Kam Williams  




Matthew McConaughey Stars as Rebel Soldier-Turned-Slave Revolt Leader


While the slave raids led by Nat Turner and John Brown have been well documented in the annals of American history, the relatively-successful exploits of another notorious abolitionist insurrectionist have somehow slipped through the cracks. At least until now.

Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey) was born and raised in Jones County, Mississippi, the grandson of a slave owner, making him, at first blush, a very unlikely figure to mount a revolt. He even served as a medic in the Confederate army during the Civil War, but was disheartened to learn how the sons of large plantation owners had been exempted from the military draft. And he was further demoralized the day a fresh young recruit (Jacob Lofland) from his hometown who had just joined his unit perished in battle upon reaching the front lines.

No longer seeing any sense in poor people fighting to preserve the privileges of the very rich, Newt impulsively went AWOL, the dead boy's body in tow. He returned to Jones where he is quickly identified as a deserter. After being abandoned by his wife (Keri Russell) and having his farm confiscated by the Confederacy, he flees for his life, finding sanctuary in a swamp deep in the woods inhabited by a handful of escaped slaves.

There, he befriends Moses (Mahershala Ali), a runaway bothered by an iron collar that had been soldered around his neck by a sadistic slave master. Newt, a blacksmith by trade, gains the group's trust by freeing the beleaguered black man from the torturous contraption.

He soon emerges as its very charismatic, spiritual leader, founding the Free State of Jones on a quartet of core principles promoting racial equality. Gradually, its ranks swell to over 250, with both ex-slaves and disaffected Rebels joining.

In this oasis of racial harmony, Newt proceeds to fall in love with Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a beautiful black woman who bears him a son. Thus unfolds Free State of Jones, a reverential biopic written and directed by four-time Oscar-nominee Gary Ross.

Matthew McConaughey shines from beginning to end in a star vehicle where the virtuous protagonist is never allowed to exhibit a flaw. This costume drama proves compelling enough, primarily because nobody knew such a scenario could possibly have unfolded in a Southern state like Mississippi supposedly marked by segregation and intolerance.

An overdue history lesson about an important chapter in America's long march to freedom.


Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for brutal battle scenes, an ethnic slur and disturbing images

Running time: 139 minutes

Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extra: The History of Jones County


To see a trailer for Free State of Jones, visit:


To order a copy of the Free State of Jones Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit:

Kam's Kapsules for Movies Opening September 16, 2016

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

by Kam Williams



Blair Witch (R for profanity, terror and disturbing images) Found-footage horror sequel revolving around a college student (James Allen McCune) who leads a group of classmates deep into a Maryland forest in search of the long-lost sister who disappeared during a similar expedition. Ensemble includes Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson and Valorie Curry.

Bridget Jones' Baby (R for nudity, profanity and sexual references) Renee Zellweger reprises the title role in this baby-daddy dramedy which finds the British bachelorette pregnant but uncertain as to whether the father is her ex (Colin Firth) or her new lover (Patrick Dempsey). With Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones and Sally Phillips.

Hillsong: Let Hope Rise (PG for mature themes) Faith-based documentary chronicling the meteoric rise of Hillsong United, the Christian rock band from Australia whose hymns are sung in churches every Sunday by over 50 million people around the world.

Snowden (R for profanity, sexuality and nudity) Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays infamous whistleblower-turned-fugitive Edward Snowden in this cloak-and-dagger thriller directed by Oliver Stone. With Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Nicolas Cage, Shailene Woodley, Tom Wilkinson, Joely Richardson and Rhys Ifans.


The Beatles: Eight Days a Week (Unrated) Ron Howard directed this reverential retrospective featuring found footage from interviews and concert performances by the Fab Four recorded between 1963 and 1966. Including commentary by Whoopi Goldberg, Sigourney Weaver and Elvis Costello.

Cardboard Boxer (Unrated) Bum fight drama about a Skid Row hobo (Thomas Haden Church) pressured by some spoiled-rotten teens to box other homeless men. Featuring Terrence Howard, Marlo Thomas, Macy Gray and Boyd Holbrook.

Is That a Gun in Your Pocket? (R for profanity and sexuality) Battle-of-the-sexes comedy, ostensibly by Spike Lee's Chi-Raq and/or Aristophanes' Lysistrata, revolving around a stay-at-home mom (Andrea Anders) who recruits the women in her Texas town to withhold sex from their husbands until they surrender their weapons. With Cloris Leachman, Horatio Sanz and John Michael Higgins.

Mr. Church (PG-13 for mature themes) Eddie Murphy plays the title character in this bittersweet drama about a chef who befriends a little girl (Natalie Coughlin) while cooking meals for her terminally-ill mother (Natascha McElhone). Cast includes Britt Robertson, Lucy Fry and Xavier Samuel.

Silicon Cowboys (Unrated) American Dream documentary about the trio of entrepreneurial BFFs who founded Compaq Computers over brunch at a Texas diner back in 1981.

Wild Oats (PG-13 for sexuality) Buddy comedy about a widow (Shirley MacLaine) who embarks with her best friend (Jessica Lange) on a hedonistic getaway to the Canary Islands after a life insurance company makes a multimillion dollar error in her favor. With Demi Moore, Alan Arkin, Judd Hirsch and Billy Connolly.


Film Review by Kam Williams  






Joseph Gordon-Levitt Plays Infamous Whistleblower in Reverential, Cloak-and-Dagger Drama


Earlier this year, the film Citizenfour won the Academy Award in the Best Documentary category. But given how the movie made less than $4 million worldwide, one might reasonably conclude that the details of Edward Snowden's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) dump of National Security Agency documents remains substantially unknown.

This is ostensibly the thinking of three-time Oscar-winner Oliver Stone (for Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July) in turning the story into a cloak-and-dagger drama about the NSA whistleblower-turned-fugitive's leak of classified information before going into hiding from the U.S. government. The movie unfolds in June of 2013 in the Hong Kong hotel room where Snowden met with journalists Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Ewen Macaskill (Tom Wilkinson) along with Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo), the eventual director of Citizenfour.

We learn that following four days of interviews, Greenwald published his first story in the British daily newspaper, The Guardian. The Pulitzer Prize-winning series related in stunning detail the extent of NSA surveillance of American citizens in direct contradiction of a recent denial uttered under oath to Congress by James Clapper, the nation's Director of National Intelligence.

Because the articles identified Snowden as the source of the information, he immediately became the subject of an intense international manhunt. He somehow managed to slip through the dragnet and boarded a commercial airliner bound for Moscow, despite the fact that his passport had been revoked and the U.S. had requested his extradition from Hong Kong.

Upon landing in Russia, Edward was awarded temporary asylum and he has languished there ever since. Lucky for him, this movie has revived interest in his case, inspiring him to recently make a public appeal for clemency.

But a presidential pardon is unlikely to be forthcoming, even though President Obama considered the apprehension of the "29 year old-hacker" a very low priority back in June of '13. So today, Snowden remains a fugitive from justice charged in absentia with theft, espionage and conversion of government property.

Via a variety of empathetic flashbacks, we are informed by the film that Edward was a high school dropout who suffers from epilepsy. He also enjoys a very loving, enduring relationship with Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley), the loyal girlfriend who followed him from Virginia to Hawaii to Moscow. More importantly, the movie establishes Edward as so patriotic he was willing to jeopardize his future to sound the alarm about the surreptitious NSA's widespread violations of our Constitutional rights.

Congrats to Oliver Stone for crafting a reverential biopic which convincingly repositions a supposed traitor as an altruistic hero of the highest order. Excellent (3.5 stars)

Rated R for profanity, sexuality and nudity

in English and Russian with subtitles

Running time: 138 minutes

Distributor: Open Road Films


To see a trailer for Snowden, visit:


Mr. Church

Film Review by Kam Williams  





Eddie Murphy Portrays Selfless Chef in Poignant Period Piece

Marie Brody (Natascha McElhone) was told she only had half-a-year to live when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1965. But, not wanting to upset her daughter, she initially hid the fact that she was terminally-ill from 10 year-old Charlotte (Natalie Coughlin).

Marie's recently-deceased boyfriend did her a big favor by providing in his will for a chef (Eddie Murphy) who'd prepare all of her meals until the day she she died. So, you can imagine Charlie's shock the day a mysterious black man knocks on the door and announces he's their new full-time cook.

Initially, Marie balks at the intrusion, given how Mr. Church never bothers to measure his ingredients or use utensils besides a fork and knife while at work in the kitchen. Plus, some of his exotic dishes, like hominy grits, certainly take a little getting used to.

Church nevertheless attempts to ingratiate himself by extending his daily duties beyond the culinary, happily serving as a surrogate father to Charlie and as a home health aide to her mom. Marie gradually warms to the stranger when he whets her thirst for knowledge by bringing over classic books by literary greats like Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy and Edith Wharton. More importantly, Marie proceeds to outlive her doctor's death sentence, and a term of employment that was supposed to last merely for months stretches into the next decade.

That is the poignant premise of Mr. Church, a bittersweet period piece directed by two-time Oscar-nominee Bruce Beresford (for Tender Mercies and Breaker Morant). The picture's semi-autobiographical screenplay was inspired by the life of its scriptwriter, Susan McMartin.

The film works to the extent one is able to scale a couple of high hurdles placed in your path. First, you have to buy into the idea of perennial funnyman Eddie Murphy playing a serious role. Second, one must be willing to stomach yet another, stereotypical "Magical Negro" character, meaning a selfless, African-American more concerned with the welfare of a white person than with his or her own needs.

Additionally, a few of the plot developments are a little farfetched. For instance, have you ever heard of anybody saving up enough money to pay for college by clipping coupons? Neither have I.

Overall, a mildly-recommended period piece, provided you're prepared to take seriously the same Eddie Murphy who kept you in stitches as Buckwheat in that hilarious Saturday Night Live skit. Otay?



Good (2 stars)

Rated PG-13 for mature themes

Running time: 105 minutes

Distributor: Cinelou Releasing


To see a trailer for Mr. Church, visit: