RIP Gene Wilder

by Carla Renata


As a kid, I couldn't wait to see Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. What's not to like about a factory full of chocolate??!!  What about those Oompa Loompas? What about those iconic roles in the Mel Brooks films, The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, which earned him numerous Oscar nominations.

Wilder_Young Frankenstien
Wilder_Young Frankenstien

For me, it was his performances opposite comic genius Richard Pryor in Stir Crazy, Silver Streak and See No Evil - Hear No Evil and the many films he Co-Starred in with his wife and SNL Superstar - Gilda Radner that solidified my love of his humility driven comic genius.

Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in Silver Streak, 1976.
Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in Silver Streak, 1976.
Pryor and Wilder in Silver Streak
Pryor and Wilder in Silver Streak

Stir Crazy Clip

Born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee, Wilder began studying acting at the age of 12. After graduating  U. of Iowa in 1955, he enrolled in the Old Vic Theater school in Bristol, where he honed his  acting technique and fencing.

Wilder caught his first big break playing a small role in the off-Broadway production of Arnold Wesker's "Roots" and followed quickly with his Broadway debut as the comic valet in "The Complaisant Lover" (both 1961), for which he won the Clement Derwent Award. His other Broadway credits included "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1963, with Kirk Douglas), "The White House" (1964, with Helen Hayes) and "Luv" (1966), but it was a 1963 Broadway production of "Mother Courage and Her Children" that altered the course of his life forever. In its cast was Anne Bancroft, who was dating Mel Brooks at the time, and the relationship established between the two men eventually led to Wilder's becoming part of Brooks' most celebrated actors.

With nominations for The Producers with Zero Mostel and Young Frankenstein, it seems Wilder's film career was unstoppable.. However, it was his collaboration with Richard Pryor that makes him unforgettable in my book.


His first association with Pryor had come on Blazing Saddles, when Richard Pryor (co-screenwriter) lost his bid for the Cleavon Little role. Pryor and Wilder first acted together in the commercially successful Silver Streak  and  Stir Crazy , but their later efforts were mediocre.


Ironically, Hanky Panky, Wilder's first of three films with his late wife Gilda Radner, originally was written to pair him with Pryor again, but Richard Pryor's unavailability necessitated rewriting the part for Gilda.

Gilda and Wilder
Gilda and Wilder


Two years after Gilda's death, Wilder married Karen Boyer.

Mel Brooks spoke on the death of his longtime friend and movie collaborator, who famously worked with Wilder on a long list of films and  took to Twitter to remember the movie legend, who died today from Alzheimer’s disease at age 83.

“Gene Wilder-One of the truly great talents of our time. He blessed every film we did with his magic & he blessed me with his friendship,”

-Mel Brooks

Wilder and Brooks
Wilder and Brooks

For me, Gene Wilder will always be that unusually handsome, comic genius with the piercing blue eyes and a heart that seemed to be as golden as a ticket from the Willy Wonka Factory.



by TheArthur Duncan II, Esquire

Book Review by Kam Williams


Mascot Books

Paperback, $19.95

244 pages

ISBN: 978-1-63177-187-3


“From hustling crack on a corner to practicing law in a courtroom... this is my story! I am living proof that despite your past, your dreams can still come true...

My story begins as I escape the violence of the Crips and Bloods street gangs in South Central LA and the abuse of a cocaine-addicted stepfather, only to go back to Buffalo, New York and perpetuate both ills by becoming a drug dealer myself. Ironically, I became a part of what victimized my family and me in Los Angeles...

I wound up in prison and had to put my life back together. While incarcerated, I found the God in me that I had long buried. After 3 years, I was released back into society and tempted by my old lifestyle, but... I succeeded.”

-- Excerpted from the Bookjacket

Probably the most popular genre of non-fiction being written by black folks nowadays is the overcoming-the-odds autobiography. I mostly pass politely when asked to review these titles because, hey, just about everybody has faced their share of adversity. However, I made an exception for TheArthur Duncan's memoir, "Felon-Attorney." This opus is special, given how low he sank before bottoming out, and how high he has risen since turning his life around.

The brother's story starts in Los Angeles, where he was born in 1969, though he was raised in Buffalo, New York by his maternal grandparents, Mary Jane and the Reverend James Smith. After graduating from the 8th grade, TheArthur went back to L.A. to spend his summer vacation with his mother.

However, he decided to stay, which on the surface seemed to make sense since both his parents resided there. However, in the process, he had to leave behind in Buffalo his grandparenrts, friends and a tight-knit community. And, unfortunately, he would have a tough time making the adjustment to the heart of the 'hood

Of course, it didn't help that TheArthur didn't live with his dad but with his drug addicted step-father. In the absence of a solid male role model to emulate, he ended up dropping out of school to pursue a trio of dubious pipe dreams: pro basketball, rap music and drug dealing, which eventually landed him in prison.

TheArthur was born again behind bars, where he began to turn his life around. He has made the most of that second chance, not only graduating from college, but law school to boot. He's also married the love of his life, Latisha, and the two are raising their five children back in Buffalo. Furthermore, he currently serves as a Deacon at First Calvary Missionary Baptist Church where he mentors at-risk kids and counsels married couples in crisis.

In Felon-Attorney, TheArthur recounts in very compelling fashion how he lifted himself from the societal scrap heap to morph into a pillar of the community. An uplifting, modern parable about a real-life Prodigal Son proving that anything is possible with faith in the Lord.

To order a copy of Felon-Attorney, visit: 

Wesley Snipes

Wesley Snipes -The Player 2Wesley Snipes -The Player "The Player” Interview

with Kam Williams


Expressly Wesley!

Wesley Snipes is perhaps best known for his role as Blade, the human with vampire genes based on the title character from the comic book trilogy of the same name. The veteran thespian has an impressive pedigree and a resume' with movies which have grossed over $415 million combined at the box office.

A master in the martial arts, Wesley was born in Orlando and got his big career break in 1986 when he landed a role in opposite Goldie Hawn in Wildcats. He subsequently appeared in an episode of the hit TV-series Miami Vice, and a year later was cast by Martin Scorsese in Michael Jackson's music video "Bad."

Larger roles quickly followed, including co-starring turns in such films as Passenger 57, Demolition Man, Money Train, The Fan, Rising Sun, New Jack City, White Men Can't Jump and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. Among his additional TV credits are outings on The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, America's Dream and The Bernie Mac Show.

Wesley has won a couple of NAACP Image Awards (for New Jack City and America's Dream). And on August 21, 1998, he had his star added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Here, Wesley talks about his recurring role as Mr. Johnson on The Player, the new NBC drama airing Thursdays at 10 pm ET/PT. (Check local listings)


Kam Williams: Hey, thanks for another interview. I appreciate having the opportunity.

Wesley Snipes: Good morning. Good morning, Kam. I appreciate what you do, too.


KW: What interested you in The Player?

WS: Well, first of all, the interesting opportunity to get into the television game, and to work with some talented people behind the scenes, producers who have a track record of success, particularly in a genre that I'm attracted to. And then they sent me one of the better action scripts that I'd read in a long time in which I get to play a cool boss of bosses.


KW: Yeah, it looks like it has feature film quality action sequences.

WS: It's a heck of an undertaking, but that's definitely our goal. Where we may not have a lot of quantity, we at least have high quality. and some great, great plot twists. some of the things they have planned this season are really exciting for me as a film actor.


KW: Tell me a little about Mr. Johnson, the pit boss?

WS: He's the kind of friend you'd love to have. He's the guy with the best connections, the best hook-ups, the best arrangements. He always has the box seats and the courtside seats... He knows where the body's at, but keeps his mouth shut, and can help you get rid of it, if needed.


KW: Is there a consistent message that each episode is trying to convey?

WS: Each episode would be a stand-alone event that has some carryover from episode to episode. The underlying message about the various characters--who they are and what their hidden agendas are--will play out over time. But the actual game, the actual wager, will stand alone from week to week.


KW: How do you enjoy shooting in Vegas?

WS: The idea of being around these individual who have $10 million a night credit lines is very exciting. Watching this show, we can all live vicariously and get a sense of what that lifestyle is like.


KW: Have you collaborated with any of your fellow cast members before?

WS: No, this is my first time working with them.


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

WS: [Laughs] We had a pretty good idea of doing not exactly a remake but an evolution of The Sting. It would be fun to do something like that with Woody [Harrelson].


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?

WS: [LOL] I'd say I'm much more laid back and easygoing at home, and maybe even funnier. People think of me as a pretty serious guy, but my family knows me to be fairly whimsical.


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

WS: For some reason, the guys and ladies who have Cole in their name seem to resonate with me: Cole Haan... Kenneth Cole... For some reason, a Cole always seems to show up.


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

WS: IHmm.... Yes, I promised myself I would take a world tour of all of the world's best roller coasters,and I still haven't done that.


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: Is there a key quality you believe all successful people share?

WS: Yes, two: discipline and determination.


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

WS: [Shouts] Don't do it! Save yourself![Chuckles] Live a healthy, normal life. However, if you want to have an exceptional life and want to be an exceptional man doing exceptional things, being in show business is a good way to start. But if you want a normal life, no, no, no, don't even touch this business. Leave this thing alone.


KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

WS: I As a great contributor to humanity through my art.


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

WS: Good question. I can't remember, because I've been too bogged down with scripts to read anything else lately. The last script I read was a crime thriller.


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

WS: Hearing my children's laughter and after a great workout.


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

WS: I'm going to go with anything that would allow you to control the elements.


KW: Like Storm from the X-Men.

WS: Yeah, like the warrior side of Storm.


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Do you have a favorite charity?

WS: Do I have a favorite charity? No.


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

WS: Who’s at the top of my hero list? Man! How far do we want to go back? To job? You talk about a cat who went through the fire and came through it on the other side. I admire all the trailblazers on the community and entertainment level who opened doors and cleared pathways but never got any recompense or recognition for making great sacrifices. Trailblazers rarely get any recognition until after they're die, unfortunately. Things kinda work that way.


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

WS: That I live by the Golden Rule, treating others in the way that I'd like to be treated. And that I'm divinely inspired and in this for spiritual reasons. The money's always gonna come.


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

WS: Oh yeah, I was baptized in Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem. From there, I went to Mount Zion Baptist Church down in Orlando, Florida. And then I came to New York. That's where the brothers on the corner grabbed me and started teaching me mathematics and pre-mathematics. That was a trip in itself. [Laughs] Can you imagine studying supreme mathematics and pre-mathematics while you're studying classical acting and Aristophanes and Shakespeare with a predominantly-white theater group? It was a very interesting combination. [Laughs some more]


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

WS: Get into the movie business. [LOL]


KW: Lastly, what’s in your wallet?

WS: [Laughs] A whole bunch of misinformation just in case I lose it.


To see a trailer for The Player, visit:


Room Film Review by Kam Williams


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:


Goosebumps Film Review by Kam Williams


Monsters Run Amok in Delightful Adaptation of Family-Friendly Fright Franchise Launched by Robert Lawrence Stine in 1992, Goosebumps is a phenomenally-popular series of spooky stories carefully-crafted to scare the bejesus out of 7 to 12 year-olds. The so-called Stephen King of kiddie literature has published hundreds of titles over the years, selling about a half-billion books worldwide and counting. Goosebumps has been spun off into a TV show and video games, so it makes sense that it would be brought to the big screen, too.

Directed by Rob Letterman, the picture stars the terminally-impish Jack Black as R. L. Stine, although the author he's portraying does make a cameo appearance during a mob scene. The movie marks the reunion of Letterman and Black who in 2010 collaborated on a poorly-received remake of Gulliver's Travels.

This production is likely to fare far better, since its has a built-in audience already weaned on the books. Plus, the adolescents' appetites have been further whetted by the prerelease of a product line of Goosebumps tie-ins, including posters, games, stationery, Halloween costumes, plush toys, clothes and accessories. Not that the movie version needs any help, as the combination live-action/animated adventure proves to be quite entertaining in its own right.

At the point of departure, we find teenager Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) and his recently-widowed mom (Amy Ryan) grieving their loss and sorely in need of a change of scenery, which explains their moving to the town of Madison, Delaware. Their new, next-door neighbor, Mr. Stine (Black), is a reclusive grouch who warns the boy right off the bat to keep off his property and to stay away from his home-schooled daughter, Hannah (Odeya Rush). But it's obviously love at first sight for Zach, who is instantly smitten with the attractive girl his own age.

On his first day of classes at Madison High, he proceeds to make fast friends with a nerdy loner named Champ (Ryan Lee). After school, the mischievous pair's curiosity gets the better of them, and they trespass onto the Stine's premises.

Upon entering the house, they rummage around the author's mysterious manuscripts hidden in the basement, thereby unwittingly unleashing an army of monsters. They're all characters mined from Mr. Stine's fertile imagination: a giant praying mantis, the Abominable Snowman, the werewolf, lawn gnomes, zombies, Venus fly traps, the Invisible Boy, and so on.

What's more, they're doing the bidding of a diabolical dummy bent on major mayhem in Madison, if not world domination. Can the creatures be corralled and safely redeposited between the covers of the author's journal? Can Zach win the heart of Hannah in spite of the objections of her overprotective father? Don't be surprised if this episode ends satisfactorily while simultaneously setting us up for a sequel.

A family-friendly romp providing just the perfect blend of light-hearted humor and spine-tingling fright fare to scare and delight kids of all ages!


Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG for scary images, intense action and rude humor

Running time: 103 minutes

Distributor: Sony Pictures

To see a trailer for Goosebumps, visit:

San Andreas

San Andreas DVD Review by Kam Williams Earthquake Disaster Flick Released on DVD

If you were afraid to swim in the ocean after watching Jaws, you might be just as reluctant to visit San Francisco after seeing this spectacular disaster flick. Directed by Brad Peyton (Journey 2), San Andreas features a character-driven plot as appealing as its dizzying special f/x.


The film stars Dwayne Johnson as Ray Gaines, a highly-decorated helicopter pilot with over 600 rescues on his resume. At the point of departure, we find the fearless L.A. Fire Department chief risking life and limb to pluck an accident victim (Stephanie Johnston) from a car dangling precipitously over a deep canyon. To you or me, attempting such a dangerous maneuver would be unthinkable, but to Ray, it's merely business as usual.


Meanwhile, Professor Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti) is delivering a lecture at California Institute of Technology on the incredible power of earthquakes. Then, when a colleague (Will Yun Lee) detects some unusual seismic activity in the vicinity of the Hoover Dam, the two quake chasers rush off to observe the event firsthand. They arrive in time to witness the considerable wrath wrought by a shift in tectonic plates registering 7.1 on the Richter scale. Worse, their state-of-the-art gizmo indicates that this event wasn't an anomaly but rather a precursor to an impending disaster of much greater magnitude. The ensuing rip in the San Andreas fault wreaks havoc all across the State of California. Of course, Chief Gaines jumps into action, plucking his estranged wife, Emma (Carla Gugino), from the roof of a teetering skyscraper before pointing the chopper in the direction of the epicenter, San Francisco. That's where their terrified daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario) called from after being abandoned by her mom's billionaire boyfriend (Ioan Gruffudd). At least she is in the company of a couple of chivalrous, young British lads (Art Parkinson and Hugo Johstone-Burt). Nevertheless, the search is on, as the desperate parents negotiate a perilous gauntlet to the Bay Area via air, sea and land, encountering everything from turbulence to tsunamis to landslides en route. Unfolding like a classic Seventies disaster flick, San Andreas serves up a smorgasbord ofreadily-identifiable archetypes: the musclebound hero, the effete coward, the damsel in distress, the terminally-nerdy professor, and so on, each played with perfect aplomb by a talented cast.


Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for intense action, incessant mayhem and brief profanity

Running time: 114 minutes

Distributor: Warner Home Entertainment Group

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Director's commentary; San Andreas: The Real Fault Line; Dwayne Johnson to the Rescue; Scoring the Quake; deleted scenes with and without director's commentary; gag reel; and stunt reel.


To see a trailer for San Andreas, visit:

To order a copy of the San Andreas Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit:


Dope DVD Review by Kam Williams


DVD Features Nerds Running Gauntlet through 'Hood in Coming-of-Age Comedy

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Excellent (4 stars)

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

Running time: 104 minutes

Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Dope Is Different and Dope Music featurettes. To see a trailer for Dope, visit:

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

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 10-9-16

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

For movies opening October 9, 2015                                                                                                                                     

by Kam Williams


Pan (PG for mature themes, mild epithets, action and violence) Levi Miller plays the title character in this prequel to Peter Pan, a fantasy adventure about a 12 year-old orphan spirited away to Neverland, a magical kingdom where he is fated to find his destiny. With Hugh Jackman, Rooney Mara, Garrett Hedlund and Amanda Seyfried.

Steve Jobs (R for profanity) Michael Fassbender portrays the late Apple founder in this warts-and-all biopic spanning the critical period from 1984 to 1998 highlighting the Machiavellian CEO's drive to gain a competitive edge in technological innovation. Cast includes Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, Katherine Waterston and Michael Stuhlbarg.

The Walk (PG for mature themes, peril, brief nudity, drug references, smoking and mild epithets) Historical drama, set in Manhattan in 1974, recreating daredevil Philippe Petit's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. With Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Schwartz and James Badge Dale.


Big Stone Gap (PG-13 for brief suggestive material) Romantic comedy, set in Appalachia in 1978, revolving around a shy and retiring spinster (Ashley Judd) who finds herself being courted by several suitors when a surprising secret about her long-lost father surfaces. Ensemble cast includes Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Wilson, Jane Krakowski, John Benjamin Hickey and Jenna Elfman.

Breaking Through (Unrated) Coming-of-age drama about a Youtube dance sensation's (Sophia Aguiar) attempt to balance sudden fame and her authentic identity before she loses everything she cares about. Co-starring Julie Warner, Jay Ellis and Robert Roldan.

A Faster Horse (Unrated) Reverential documentary chronicling America's love affiar with the Mustang, the crown jewel of the Ford Motor Company fleet, from its introduction in 1964 to its recent redesign earlier this year.

The Final Girls (PG-13 for profanity, drug use, violence, sexuality and crude humor) Horror comedy revolving around the grief-stricken daughter (Taissa Farmiga) of a recently-deceased scream queen (Malin Akerman) who is magically transported into her mom's most memorable movie where she ends up on the run from a deranged maniac (Dan Norris) while having to fend off the unwanted advances of young alpha males with raging hormones. With Alia Shawkat, Alexander Ludwig and Nina Dobrev.

The Forbidden Room (Unrated) Undersea adventure about a lumberjack (Roy Dupuis) who mysteriously materializes aboard a submarine stuck on the bottom of the ocean with a cargo of unstable explosives. Featuring Charlotte Rampling, Geraldine Chaplin, Clara Furey, Mathieu Amalric and Udo Kier.

In My Father's House (R for profanity) Prodigal father documentary chronicling Grammy-winning rapper Rhymfest's reunion with the deadbeat dad who abandoned him at an early age.

Knock Knock (R for nudity, profanity, disturbing violence and graphic sexuality) Home alone horror flick about a happily married man (Keanu Reeves) who comes to regret allowing a couple of stranded damsels-in-distress (Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas) enter the house while his wife (Ignacia Allamand) was away for the weekend. With Aaron Burns and Colleen Camp.

The Prime Ministers: Soldiers and Peacemakers (Unrated) Israeli documentary examining the legacies of Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres administrations as seen through the eyes of Yehuda Avner who served in each of their administrations.

Reversion (Unrated) Sci-fi thriller about the daughter (Aja Naomi King) of a high-tech billionaire (Colm Feore) who starts wondering about the accuracy of her memories of her late mother after she's kidnapped by a stranger (Jeanette Samano) with a hidden agenda. With Gary Dourdan, Amanda Plummer and Lela Rochon.

(T)error (Unrated) Whistleblower featuring a former FBI informant's scathing indictment of the Bureau's use of illegal surveillance and interrogation tactics during a counterterrorism sting operation.

Winter on Fire (Unrated) Ukraine documentary revisiting the events surrounding the 2013 revolution leading to the coup d'etat ousting President Viktor Yanukovich.(In Ukrainian, Russian and English with subtitles)

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 10-2-16

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

For movies opening October 2, 2015

by Kam Williams



He Named Me Malala (PG-13 for threats, mature themes and disturbing images) Oscar-winner Davis Guggenheim directed this inspirational biopic about Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai, the Pakastani teenager shot in the face by the Taliban for being an outspoken advocate of education and equal rights for girls.

Legend (R for pervasive profanity, graphic violence, sexuality and drug use) Mob saga revisiting the exploits of Reggie and Ronnie Kray (Tom Hardy), infamous identical twins who ran a powerful crime syndicate in London in the Sixties. Supporting cast includes Emily Browning, Paul Bettany and Chazz Palminteri.

The Martian (PG-13 for profanity, injury images and brief profanity) Adaptation of Andy Weir's sci-fi thriller of the same name about an astronaut's (Matt Damon) struggle to survive on Mars after being presumed dead and left behind on the planet by fellow crew members. A-list ensemble includes Oscar-nominees Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig and Chiwetel Ejiofor, along with Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, and Donald Glover.

The Walk (PG for mature themes, peril, brief nudity, drug references, smoking and mild epithets) Historical drama, set in Manhattan in 1974, recreating daredevil Philippe Petit's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. With Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Schwartz and James Badge Dale.


Addicted to Fresno (Unrated) Dysfunctional siblings comedy revolving around a lesbian (Natasha Lyonne) working as a maid in a hotel where her sex-addicted sister (Judy Greer) just out of rehab accidentally kills a guest during a passionate relapse. With Aubrey Plaza, Clea Duvall, Fred Armisen and Molly Shannon.

Brand: A Second Coming (Unrated) Warts-and-all biopic about iconoclastic actor/comedian Russell Brand, following the British bad boy as he dives headlong into drugs, sex and fame in an attempt to find happiness, only to realize we have all been nurtured on bad ideas and empty celebrity idols.

Freeheld (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and mature themes) Gay rights docudrama inspired by the Oscar-winning documentary of the same name chronicling the struggle of a terminally-ill, NJ police lieutenant (Julianne Moore) to secure pension benefits for her lesbian life partner (Ellen Page). With Steve Carell, Michael Shannon and Josh Charles.

Gravy (Unrated) Horror comedy about a trio of costumed misfits who seize control of a Mexican restaurant before forcing the staff to consume some unusual cuisine and libations. Featuring James Roday, Dule' Hill, Lily Cole, Gabourey Sidibe, Sarah Silverman, Sutton Foster and Paul Rodriguez

Northern Soul (Unrated) Musical drama, set in 1974, about a couple of young British BFFs (Josh Whitehouse and Eliot James Langridge) whose horizons are widened by the discovery of American soul music. Support cast includes Emily Aston, James Rhodes-Baxter and Dylan Brown.

Partisan (Unrated) Suspense thriller, set in a utopian commune isolated from society, where an 11 year-old boy (Jeremy Chabriel) meets resistance when starts to question the motives of the cult's domineering leader (Vincent Cassel). With Nigel Barber, Florence Mezzara and Timothy Styles.

Shanghai (R for graphic violence, drug use and brief profanity) Suspense drama, set in 1941, about an American who falls in love and uncovers a political conspiracy when he ventures to occupied Shanghai to investigate the mysterious death of a friend. With Gong Li, Chow Yun Fat, Franka Potente, Ken Watanabe and David Morse. (In English, Mandarin, Japanese and German with subtitles)

Shout Gladi Gladi (Unrated) Medical care documentary, narrated by Meryl Streep, celebrating the efforts of altruistic nurse-turned-peripatetic philanthropist Ann Gloag dedicated to healing African women suffering from obstetric fistulas.

Sicario (R for profanity, graphic violence and grisly images) Crime thriller revolving around an idealistic FBI Agent (Emily Blunt) enlisted by a federal task force to fight the war on drugs along the Mexican border. With Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin and Jon Bernthal. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)

Taxi (Unrated) Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi masqueraded as a cabbie to shoot this picture highlighting a day in the life of a typical taxi driver in Teheran. (In Persian with subtitles)

The Martian

Film Review by Kam Williams The Martian

Astronaut Stranded on Mars Survives By Wits in Outer Space Adventure


MacGyver was a TV series which revolved around a title character famous for relying on his vast body of scientific knowledge while using everyday household items to save the day in a variety of life-and-death situations. The Martian is an outer space adventure in which a stranded astronaut with an uncanny knack for improvisation takes a similar approach to surviving on Mars.

The picture stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney, a wounded botanist inaccurately presumed dead and left behind by fellow crew members in the wake of a dangerous dust storm on the red planet. However, he is actually very much alive, but without the oxygen, water, food, equipment and other resources needed to last the four years it would take for NASA to mount a rescue mission.

So, resourceful Mark proceeds to do everything from perform surgery on himself to growing potatoes in a makeshift garden, fertilizing the plants with his own poop. And, like an intergalactic variation of the island-bound protagonist played by Tom Hanks in Cast Away, Matt Damon appears alone on screen for the bulk of the sci-fi saga.

The great news is that Damon proves captivating, and the 141 minutes running time flies by in a flash. Besides amusing us with his ingenious inventions, Matt repeatedly makes us laugh via myriad humorous asides.

Directed by three-time Oscar-nominee Ridley Scott (for Thelma and Louise, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down), The Martian has all the tension of Gravity, plus it manages to keep you on the edge of your seat for an hour longer. Furthermore, its visual effects are the equal of Interstellar, and it features Mark Damon for the duration instead of merely for a cameo.

Think Robinson Crusoe on Mars, though sans any primitive manservant named Friday. Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for profanity, injury images and brief profanity

Running time: 141 minutes

Distributor: 20th Century Fox


To see a trailer for The Martian, visit:

Davis Guggenheim

The “He Named Me Malala” Interview with Kam Williams

Davis Guggenheim - Malala 2


Prime Time with Guggenheim!


Philip Davis Guggenheim is an Academy Award-winning director and producer whose work includes Waiting for Superman, It Might Get Loud, and An Inconvenient Truth, which won the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2007. The following year, Davis produced and directed President Barack Obama's biographical film, A Mother's Promise, and he also made The Road We've Traveled for the Obama 2012 presidential campaign.

In 2013, he directed Teach, a two-hour television special about what's working in America’s public schools, namely, that at the heart of every great education is great teaching. Besides documentaries, Davis has directed episodes of many television series including Deadwood, NYPD Blue and 24.

He is married to actress Elisabeth Shue who landed an Oscar-nomination for her stellar performance in Leaving Las Vegas. Nevertheless, she might still be best known for her breakout role as Ali in The Karate Kid. The couple have three children: Miles William, 17, Stella Street, 14, and Agnes Charles, 9.

Here, Davis talks about his latest opus, a feature-length documentary about Malala Yousafzai and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai. He worked closely with Malala and her family, filming their life in Birmingham, England, as well as their travels to numerous countries around the world as they talked about the power of education and its ability to transform a young person’s life.

Kam Williams: Hi Davis, thanks for the interview.

Davis Guggenheim: Thank you, Kam. Where are you located?


KW: In Princeton, New Jersey.

DG: My brother-in-law, Andrew Shue, used to live there. Did you ever run into him?


KW: Yeah. It's a funny story how we met. He was jogging past me one day as I was putting out the garbage. He stopped to ask if I knew anything about the house next-door which had a "For Sale" sign on the lawn. He looked so familiar that I asked him if we'd met before. He said "No," and that he was new to town. But when I kept insisting that I knew him from somewhere he introduced himself and said he was an actor on Melrose Place.

DG: [Laughs] That's funny.


KW: Are you related to Eileen Guggenheim-Wilkinson of Princeton who is on the University's Board of Trustees?

DG: No relation. I'm not related to the rich ones. I'm related to the sock and shoe peddlers.


KW: I noticed that you and I have Brown University in common.

DG: That's cool. did you like it?


KW: Yeah, I was there in '75, the year of the black student takeover.

DG: I just went back and didn't recognize it. Providence was a darker, more gnarly city when I was there in the Eighties.


KW: Well, I was very moved by He Named Me Malala. The movie made me cry as much as I Am Sam and Life Is Beautiful did. and in my review, I called it the best movie of the year so far.

DG: That means a lot to me, Kam. Thank you very much.


KW: I told my readers I'd be interviewing you, so I'll be mixing their questions in with mine. Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: I am Canadian and I have to tell you that I loved Party of Five, especially Neve Campbell. How long did it take to finance, shoot and complete production on He Named Me Malala?

DG: From the first day, until now, it's been a little more than 2 years. I was shooting and editing for 18 months, which is a really long time for a documentary. This one was the most difficult movie I ever made.


KW: I can understand how, since it involved so much travel. Plus, you worked hard to interweave those animation sequences so seamlessly. But I hope you consider it well worth the effort. I expect the film to get nominated for an Oscar. Patricia also asks: What was the most rewarding aspect of making this film about Malala?

DG: Actually, one of the most rewarding moments came recently when we screened the movie for 6,000 public school girls from a variety of backgrounds and some of the tougher neighborhoods in L.A. I didn't know whether Latino and African-American girls would respond to a film about a Pakistani girl. It turned out to be very emotional for them. The atmosphere was very charged. And it was a beautiful and gratifying moment for me to see how universal the story is, and how girls feel like this movie was theirs.


KW: I felt like it was mine, too. What would you say is the most surprising thing people will learn about Malala from the movie?

DG: They may have heard that she was shot on a school bus or that she won the Nobel Peace Prize. But those things aren't what make her extraordinary. What is so moving to me is that she made a choice to speak out and risk her life for something that was so precious to her, her school. She made that courageous choice, and that's what makes her extraordinary. And her father made a choice to not stop her, and that speaks to me and makes we wonder whether I'd have the courage to do that.


KW: Lastly, Patricia says: I have been a fan of your wife [Elisabeth Shue] since the Eighties. She went to Harvard. You went to Brown. Many young people think it is possible to make it in Hollywood without an education. Please share how your college background helped you become a respected filmmaker?

DG: That's a very interesting question, Patricia, because my older son is applying to college, and I now find myself considering what college means from the perspective of a father. There are specific skills I brought to filmmaking. I didn't go to film school, but I believe that more important than attending film school is developing the ability to write, to conceptualize and to express yourself. And, you learn those things in college, and also to develop your voice and your point-of-view. Many people think that you need to master certain technical skills in order to succeed as a filmmaker. It's my theory that the technical know-how is always shifting and can always be acquired. More important to me is finding people with something meaningful to say who can express themselves.


KW: Alice Hay-Tolo says: In the movie, Malala's mother did not seem to encourage her daughter in her crusade for rights for young women which was in striking contrast to her father. Is she old-fashioned in her views, uneducated, or simply detached from what her daughter was trying to achieve. Or is there some other explanation?

DG: She's not at all detached. In fact, she's very proud of her daughter, and wants Malala to do whatever she wants. Because the mother is a little bit in the background in this movie, people read a lot into it. But it was really more about her choice to be less on camera. In her culture, displaying yourself on camera is considered to be immodest. But I've seen her stand up in many gatherings and say how proud she is of her daughter. And Malala's pushing her mother to learn to read and write English, so they're very aligned, even though they come from different generations and have different cultural choices. They're very much in support of each other.


KW: Ilene Proctor says: Malala is obviously a very old soul. How has she managed to maintain her sanity and humility when she's surrounded by so many people worshipful of her?

DG: [LOL] That's a great question, Ilene. She is an old soul, and she has this quiet poise about her. At the premiere, all the adults were getting worked up, spinning around, and acting like children, and here's this teenage girl who has a serenity and calmness about her. I don't know how she does it. A clue might be found in the birthday card her mother gave her when she turned 18, saying "Happy 3rd Birthday," the point being that it's been 3 years since she was shot. I think there's something very powerful about being given a second chance in life. It enables you to focus on what's most important. Malala feels like she's been given a new life and she's very focused on what really matters.


KW: Sangeetha Subramanian asks: How do you choose what documentaries to make?

DG: Hmm... That's another good question. I'm very picky, Sangeetha. Perhaps the most important part of a movie is choosing whether to do it or not. A great, compelling story comes along very rarely. I'm always looking for a personal journey and for a story that transcends the specifics of an issue.


KW: Speaking of great stories, I loved your documentary Waiting for Superman, and I was surprised when it wasn't nominated for an Oscar. I guess it had to do with a political backlash after the picture got pigeonholed.

DG: Awards are very weird. Sometimes you get them when you don't deserve them, and vice-versa. You never know. I've learned not to focus on them. Even reviews can be confusing. My focus is really on getting people to see the movie.


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Are any of the proceeds going to assist Malala's goal to guarantee girls 12 years of education?

DG: I don't believe there are going to be profits from the film. But the partners involved, Imagenation Abu Dhabi, Fox Searchlight, Participant Media and I are very focused on Malala's mission, on helping her build her schools and on getting her message out..


KW: David Roth has a question about your treatment of time in the film. You decided not to treat the sequence of events linearly but rather to group material based on sub-themes around family relations, living in England vs. Swat, the situation in Pakistan, the assassination attempt, etcetera. This approach had you moving back and forth in time. I get that the images of the blood-stained bus and talk of bone fragments in the brain and the assumption she was going to die added dramatic impact to the end of the film. But it also risks diluting the effect of the earlier segments. At long last, my question: What were you hoping to achieve by choosing this approach over a more linear treatment of the material?

DG: A chronological treatment of the movie didn't seem to have a dramatic shape to it, since you'd have the shooting of Malala in the middle and then you'd devote the balance of the time on her life in England, in Birmingham. To me, movies build toward a moment and, if they're really good, they build towards a character making a choice. I wanted the movie to build towards her deciding to risk her life and speak out for what she believed, and towards her father's making the choice to not stop her. I knew that to build the film that way I had to cut time. It made for a very complicated story structure.


KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

DG: [Laughs] A lot of credit cards.


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

DG: Hey, it was really a pleasure talking to you, Kam. You made my day.

Davis Guggenheim -Malala

To see a trailer for He Named Me Malala, visit: 

Magic Mike XXL

DVD Review by Kam Williams  

Magic Mike XXLTatum's Titillating Man Meat Sequel Makes Its Way to Home Video


What made the original Magic Mike so appealing was it's raw-edged, realistic feel that made you forgot you were even watching a movie. This relatively-superficial sequel tosses the notion of plausible character and plot development out the window in favor of a sensual take the money-and-run sequel focused squarely on titillation.

Yes, Channing Tatum has returned in the title role, but conspicuously absent are Matthew McConaughey, Olivia Munn and a couple of other actors critical to the success of the original. Also gone is the picture's legendary director, Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh (for Traffic) who retired in 2013 out of frustration with the film industry.

XXL picks up three years after the ending of the first episode, conveniently ignoring the fact that Mike had specifically left stripping for a legit line of work in order to walk off into the proverbial sunset with a grateful girlfriend. At the point of departure, we find Mike single again and flourishing as a furniture designer. He is soon duped into attending what is supposed to be the wake of Dallas (McConaughey), his former boss at the notorious nightclub known as Xquisite.

Upon arriving, however, Mike learns that Dallas is alive and well and living in Macao. The deceitful death notice was just a ruse concocted by pals to pitch him on participating in a reunion of The Kings of Tampa. That brawny brotherhood of hunky dudes with whom he'd once shared the stage is now interested in taking their bawdy burlesque show on the road.

Already signed on are Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Big Dick (Joe Manganiello), Tito (Adam Rodriguez) and Ken (Matt Bomer), as well as rubbery eunuch Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias), who's been enlisted to serve as the chauffeur of their food truck-turned-tour bus. The plan is to drive from Florida to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to perform in a competition at the annual strippers convention.

It doesn't take much in the way of arm-twisting to bring Mike aboard, and the next thing you know the motley crew is cutting a swath across the South, making stops to strip at seedy dives along the way, a big exception being Domina, the upscale establishment run by Mike's ex, Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), which caters to a predominantly black clientele. Among the buff bods in her sepia stable are Andre (Donald Glover), Augustus (Michael Strahan) and Malik (Stephen “tWitch” Boss).

Magic Mike XXL was directed by Gregory Jacobs, best known for the made-for-TV Liberace biopic, Behind the Candelabra, which landed 11 Emmys in 2013. Too bad he apparently couldn't be bothered with crafting a credible story line for this disappointing, big screen production.

An unabashedly carnal indulgence solely interested in inducing gelatinous drools of saliva from the mouths of overstimulated females.

Fair (1 star)

Rated R for nudity, drug use, graphic sexuality and pervasive profanity

Running time: 115 minutes

Distributor: Warner Home Entertainment Group

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: The Moves of Magic Mike XXL; Extended Malik Dance Scene; and Georgia.

To see a trailer for Magic Mike XXL, visit:


To order a copy of the Magic Mike XXL Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit: 


Film Review by Kam Williams  


Orphan Abducted to Neverland in Overstimulating Peter Pan Prequel


Everyone's familiar with Peter Pan, the much-beloved children's classic revolving around the magical adventures of a little boy who can fly and won't grow up. In fact, the fanciful character is so deeply woven into the cultural fabric that he has a psychological disorder, the Peter Pan syndrome, named after him, a pathology applied to people seemingly stuck in a state of suspended adolescence.

Created by Sir James Matthew Barrie, Peter Pan was first produced as a play in 1904 and adapted into an illustrated novel seven years thereafter. The enchanting fairy tale made its screen debut as a silent movie in 1924, with assorted remakes, sequels, spin-offs and animated versions being released over the ensuing generations.

Directed by Joe Wright (Anna Karenina), Pan, the latest incarnation, is a prequel very loosely based on the J.M. Barrie plotline. This special f/x spectacular is the brainchild of actor-turned-scriptwriter Jason Fuchs, who ostensibly felt free to speculate wildly about Peter Pan's roots. The film stars Levi Miller as Peter, and features an impressive supporting cast including Hugh Jackman, Rooney Mara, Garrett Hedlund and Amanda Seyfried.

At the picture's point of departure, we witness a newborn baby being very reluctantly deposited by his mother (Seyfried) on the doorstep of the Lambeth Home for Boys, an orphanage run by an order of nuns. Fast-forward a dozen years and we find Peter and his fellow foundlings sharing the misfortune of being under the thumb of a sadistic mother superior (Kathy Burke).

Furthermore, it's the height of the Battle of Britain, and the Luftwaffe's daily fire bombings of London during the Blitz have left the lads terribly traumatized. Obviously, Fuchs' anachronistic screenplay takes a few liberties, such as in setting the story during World War II, well after the source material was already written.

Nevertheless, the tale makes an incredible leap from reality into fantasy the night a flying frigate swoops out of the sky and starts plucking the kids right out of their beds and up into the heavens. Curiously, the ship's captain is not Hook (Hedlund), but Blackbeard (Jackman), the notorious British pirate who roamed the high seas in the early 18th Century.

Unfortunately, Blackbeard is no savior but a kidnapper intent on enslaving the youngsters in Neverland, a lair located in another dimension. However, here, Hook happens to be a benign figure who befriends Peter, along with Indian princess Tiger Lily (Mara) and the ethereal fairy Tinker Bell.

At this juncture, the movie morphs into an overstimulating, kitchen sink extravaganza serving up everything from dazzling, CGI chase scenes to catchy song-and dance tunes (ala "Smells Like Teen Spirit") to swashbuckling derring-do. A riveting roller coaster ride well-designed to enthrall tykes for two hours straight.


Very Good (3 stars)

Rated PG for PG for mature themes, mild epithets, action and violence

Running time: 111 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures


To see a trailer for Pan, visit:

In My Father's House

Film Review by Kam Williams  

In My Father's House

Prodigal Parent Documentary Chronicles Grammy-Winning Rapper's Reunion with Long-Lost Dad

Che "Rhymefest" Smith is among the handful of rappers who have actually managed to make it in the music industry. What's even more remarkable is the fact that the Grammy-winning artist also overcame a challenging childhood, having been raised on the rough South Side of Chicago by a single-mom who'd given birth to him while still in her early teens.

Despite his phenomenal success in the music business, one thing that nagged at Rhymefest was why he'd been abandoned by his father, Brian, a man he'd only seen a few times in his entire life, and not at all over the past two decades. He wondered whether his dad ever cared or thought about him? Or might he be dead?

Rhymefest's curiosity was probably piqued because of the guilt he himself felt about having three out-of-wedlock offspring with baby-mamas he'd never committed to.He wanted to understand why he'd perpetuated the cycle of parental neglect, especially since fatherless kids represent 60% of youth suicides, 71% of juvenile incarcerations and 90% of homeless children.

So, first, he proceeded to buy the house that his father grew up in and moved in with his wife, Donnie. Then, after hearing rumors that Brian was a local hobo and an alcoholic, he started scouring the streets of the Windy City for him.

Yes, he did search for and get his dad into rehab right after their tearful reunion. But would the lush find the strength to keep his nose clean with the help of this new lease on life coming in the form of a job, an apartment, and a loving, supportive son?

That is the tension that tugs at your heart while watching In My Father's House, a Prodigal Dad documentary co-directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg. The picture proves to be very compelling as a sociological examination of profound dysfunction, but it's simultaneously a bitter disappointment for anyone expecting a miraculous, happy Hollywood ending.

Unfortunately, Rhymfest just can't get no satisfaction from the father he's craved and loved from afar for as long as he can remember. But at least he continues to flourish professionally, having recently co-written the 2015 Oscar-winning Best Song "Glory" with Common and John Legend for the film Selma.

The movie's message, if any? If you're a successful rap star, you might want to think twice before returning to the ghetto to track down the deadbeat dad you never knew. .


Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for profanity and ethnic slurs

Running time: 93 minutes

Distributor: Arc Entertainment


To see a trailer for In My Father's House, visit:

Florynce "Flo" Kennedy

The Life of a Black Feminist Radical by Sherie M. Randolph

Book Review by Kam Williams

Flo Kennedy


University of North Carolina Press

Hardcover, $30.00

328 pages, Illustrated

ISBN: 978-1-4696-2391-7


"I first came upon [Flo] Kennedy when I was sitting on my sofa, flipping through TV channels, and old footage flashed across the screen of her... A friend watching with me... knew that she had been active as a feminist in the 1960s and 1970s, but she knew little else...

Who was this radical black woman? The more I learned, the more I was drawn to [this] black feminist who fought against multiple forms of discrimination.

I was also fascinated by the broad range of her actions, stretching from the legal defense of Black Power organizers H. Rap Brown and Assata Shakur to the struggle to legalize abortion. Kennedy stood at the center of so many battles, yet I had never heard of her, and there was not a single book or even a scholarly article about her life.

What started as a hobby of collecting information about this enigmatic black woman developed into... a full-scale biography."

-- Excerpted from the Introduction (page 2-3)

Florynce "Flo" Kennedy (1916-2000) was a radical lawyer who played a pivotal role in both the the feminist and black liberation movements. In fact, she was also a very vocal proponent of equal rights for gays, the disabled and many other minority groups. For, central to her philosophy was the notion that the underclasses were substantially oppressed because of the establishment's effective employment of a divide and conquer strategy designed to keep them forever at odds instead of united against the forces exploiting them.

In an expletive-laced speech delivered on a college campus in 1976, the irrepressible iconoclast reportedly bellowed, "My main message is that we have a pathologically, institutionally racist, sexist, classist society. And that [N-word]-izing techniques that are used don't only damage black people, but they also damage women, gay people, ex-prison inmates, prostitutes, children, old people, handicapped people, Native Americans. And that if we can begin to analyze the pathology of oppression... we would learn a lot about how to deal with it."

A visionary way ahead of her time, Flo frequently found herself frustrated by the behavior of her compatriots. For example, she was disappointed by the failure of white feminists to support Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm's 1972 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Today, thanks to Sherie Randolph, the legacy of this overlooked historical figure has not been allowed to slip through the cracks. Flo's critical contributions are carefully chronicled in this painstakingly-researched biography which begins with a detailed discussion of her childhood in Kansas City where she and her four sisters were taught by her parents to always challenge authority.

Despite segregation, Flo never would accept her second-class status, a mindset which served her well in a fight to gain admission to Columbia University Law School way back in the Forties. After graduating, rather than cashing in on the license to print money, she embarked upon an enduring career dedicated to alleviating the suffering of the downtrodden and marginalized.

A fitting, overdue tribute to an unapologetic firebrand and tireless advocate that time almost forgot.

To order a copy of Florynce "Flo" Kennedy, visit:

He Named Me Malala

Film Review by Kam Williams  

Powerful Portrait of Nobel Prize-Winning Teen Illustrates Indomitability of the Human Spirit


Malala Yousafzai was named after a girl who spoke out and was killed for speaking out. That folk hero was a flag-bearing teenager who perished in 1880 while rallying fellow Pashtun resistance fighters to an unlikely victory over British invaders in a pivotal battle of the Second Anglo-Afghan War.

  After settling on the very meaningful moniker, Malala's father inscribed it into his genealogy because no females were mentioned in his family tree stretching back several centuries. Furthermore, Ziauddin Yousafzai resolved to raise his daughter to see herself as the equal of any boy.

  While such an approach might be unremarkable in the West, it was downright heretical in the Swat District of Pakistan, a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism in the late 20th Century. For, over the course of Malala's formative years, much of the country was being terrorized by the Taliban which had taken to blowing up any schools which had the temerity to admit girls.

  In defiance of their militant mullah's absolute mandate against any female education, Mr. Yousafzai not only allowed his daughter to matriculate, but even spurred her to speak out online as an equal rights advocate blogger. This only served to infuriate Mullah Fazlullah who issued a fatwa against her over the radio, which led to an assassination attempt on a school bus by one of his followers.

  Malala, who was just 15 at the time, was lucky to survive the bullet to the brain. While she languished in the hospital unresponsive and attached to tubes, her worried folks had no idea whether their daughter would ever even be able to walk or talk again.

  She did eventually emerge from the coma, though deaf in one ear and in need of months and months of rehabilitation just to master simple bodily functions most people take for granted. Initially, she blamed her dad for her plight, since he was the one who'd cultivated her activist streak. "I am a child," she said, "You are my father. You should have stopped me. What happened to me is because of you."

  But eventually her health was substantially restored, and she became a stoic and serene symbol of resistance to radical Islam. With continued death threats hanging over their heads, the Yousafzai family (including Malalal's mom and two younger brothers) was forced to resettle in England where she would become a champion of oppressed females all over the planet.

  Directed by Oscar-winner Davis Guggenheim.(for An Inconvenient Truth), He Named Me Malala is an emotionally-engaging biopic chronicling the close father-daughter relationship which enabled Malala to flourish in the midst of sheer intolerance. Their tender interplay is intermittently enhanced by animated interludes which further intensifies the sincere sentiment displayed on screen.

  The picture makes an inexorable march to Malala's emergence as an international icon, culminating in her becoming the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Pack the Kleenex for this powerful portrait ably illustrating the indomitability of the human spirit.

  Easily, the best film of 2015 thus far!



Excellent (4 stars) Rated PG-13 for death threats, mature themes and disturbing images Running time: 87 minutes Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

To see a trailer for He Named Me Malala, visit:

He Named Me Malala opens in select theaters on October 2nd, and then on over 2,000 screens a week later on October

Eric Dean Seaton

Eric-Dean-Seaton The “Legend of the Manatamaji” Interview

with Kam Williams


A Meetin' with Seaton!

Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Eric Dean Seaton was studying television and movies with the dream of one day becoming a director while most of his friends were running the streets. After graduating from Ohio State University, he moved to Hollywood where he proceeded to climb the showbiz ladder as an Assistant Director [AD] on such television series as Living Single and The Jamie Kennedy Experiment.

In 2004, Eric made his directorial debut on the Disney Channel's top-rated sitcom, That's So Raven. The two-time, NAACP Image Award-nominee in the Best Comedy Director category went on to direct over 210 episodes of 38 different television shows and 18 music videos. He also has shot a couple of pilots for Nickelodeon, and a couple of others for Disney XD.

Here, he talks about directing Legend of the Manatamaji, a short feature film adapted from his trilogy of graphic novels of the same name.


Kam Williams: Hi Eric, thanks for the interview.

Eric Dean Seaton: Thank you, Kam.


KW: You're very well known for directing TV shows. What interested you in comic books?

EDS: Growing up, my dad worked out of town and used to come home on the weekends and take me to a coffee shop that had comic books. I would binge-read them in one day. Years later, when I moved to California, I lived down the street from a comic book shop. Later, one of my first jobs was on the sitcom Living Single. The director was married to the president of Marvel Comics. So, every Tuesday, tape day, I would drill him about all things Marvel. Finally, he invited me down to a company they bought called, Malibu Comics. After a tour, the editor asked me if I wanted to write a Spider-Man, Stop the Violence special. I did, but Marvel went into bankruptcy, so I never received a copy. After that, I knew I had to do my own.


KW: Where did you come up with the idea for Legend of the Manatamaji?

EDS: It was just a mind meld of everything I wanted to see done in a story. I took real things like the Ankh and blended them into a totally imaginative story.


KW: How would you describe your characters?

EDS: All of them are flawed individuals, because that makes for the most interesting stories. I made sure, however, to include strong female characters and a multi-cultural cast; because this reflects the world we live in today.


KW: What message do you think people will take away from the film?

EDS: Heroes come in every race and gender, and that independent books can offer even greater and more imaginative stories than some of the mainstream companies can.


KW: This series of graphic novels certainly seems timely, given how there's suddenly a profusion of black superheroes onscreen.

EDS: I would agree. There is a profusion of superhero sidekicks and co-stars on screen, but there haven't been many lead superheroes onscreen anywhere, with the exception of Fantastic Four and Michael B. Jordan's role, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens with John Boyega. There won't be a leading role for African-American actors in theaters until Black Panther in 2018. And even then, he will be introduced as a story point for other non-black heroes. The opinion, here, is that we still have long ways to go, but, hopefully, Legend of the Mantamaji is opening doors for other main heroes and reaffirming that the story is just as good, if not better.


KW: What was the biggest challenge in adapting Legend of the Manatamaji to the screen as a live-action as opposed to an animated short?

EDS: Adjusting the look and tone of the books to match a real world. I think we proved that the tone of the books lends well to other media. The suit is exactly the same except the arms, and that is because we ran out of time making it. We had to shoot it in January on a certain weekend because of the equipment we got. But only I, as a creator, notice the arm difference. In making more down the line, we will actually do the arms just like the books.


KW: What are your future plans in terms of this series?

EDS: We are currently working on Book 4 which will be titled Legend of the Mantamaji: Bloodlines. It continues the story of the characters that survived the original series and introduces a few new ones that may change the history of the series as we currently know it to be


KW: What else do you have on tap?

EDS: We are also looking to shoot more shorts where we can introduce more of the characters. People are always asking if we are going to make a movie. We would love to but in 2015, with the exception of Michael B. Jordan, there isn't a black actor under the age of 40 that can open a movie. Kevin Hart can, but he's a comedian. So, we are looking to find a company willing to invest in the adventure knowing it fills a niche demographic, African-Americans, in an underserved market, while it is also multi-cultural with a universal appeal


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

EDS: What my dream cast would be.


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

EDS: Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. He's right when he says it's the last screenwriting book you'll ever need. 


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

EDS: Because my three-year-old son loves superheroes, we have to play the theme songs to a few of the movies every day. The Iron Man 3 theme "Can You Dig It" by Brian Taylor is his favorite. It is a catchy song, but I guess anything is when you hear it every single day. KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

EDS: Sadly, I'm not much of a cook. Luckily, my wife is a wonderful cook. But, I can do scrambled eggs well.


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

EDS: Church. I still go every Sunday and like to give at least one hour a week of my time. It's the least I can do. So, I don't miss a Sunday, unless we are out of town.


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

EDS: We had a fireplace and, as I was going to bed on Christmas Eve, I asked my mom what that smell was. She said dad had a fire going. I panicked and ran down stairs begging him to turn it off. I told him Santa could not come down the chimney because he would catch on fire and I would not get any toys. My dad assured me that would not happen and put the fire out.


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?

EDS: I'm much quieter at home. I don't talk on the phone much at all. I actually have gone days without talking on the phone. I love going to work and having the opportunity to interact with different people from different walks of life.


KW: What was your very first job?

EDS: Delivering papers for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I lived in a predominately-Jewish neighborhood filled with concentration camp survivors. Imagine a little black boy with a big German shepherd coming to your door every morning. Everyone was super nice, but I learned at a very young age a lot about the atrocities of World War II and how lucky I was to be young and free, even though racism was alive and strong.


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

EDS: A big dreamer and proud father.


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

EDS: Back in 2000, I was not working and my career seemed dead before it even got started. My dad wanted me to come back home and become a teacher. I got so mad I told him I was going to get the first AD job on That's So Raven and that in two years they were going to let me direct and I would go on to become a full-time director. Not only did I not have the job, but also I didn't even have the interview. I was pissed he was giving up on me and my dreams. Yet, everything I said in that conversation came true. And years later, after buying my first townhouse, I flew my father out to Los Angeles First Class and, in the car ride home from the airport, he said, "You did good." That was his way of saying he approved. KW: Who loved you unconditionally during your formative years?

EDS: My mom. She still does, although I think she thinks I'm still her little boy, because I left home right after high school.


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

EDS: To find a cure for cancer. One of the bridesmaids in our wedding died from cancer and the disease takes too many lives.


KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

EDS: Movie trailers. That anticipation of seeing two minutes of what could be an amazing experience always gets me going.


KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

EDS: Anything on the CW network. I watch pretty much all of their shows and will download the sad or motivational music they play at the end of every episode.


KW: The "Realtor to the Stars" Jimmy Bayan's question: What's your dream locale in Los Angeles to live?

EDS: I think I'm already in it! I found it on a whim and I love it now. I'm a dozen minutes away from every studio except Sony and Fox.


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

EDS: I don't want to say, because a few of my favorites have been done already. So, if they have not thought of it yet, I don't want to give them any ideas before I get the chance to do it.


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

EDS: It has to be the drive, because being only nice doesn't cut it. It has to be that single vision that burns and burns inside of you where you just do it, more than you talk about it.


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

EDS: If it's directing, you have a video camera on your phone, go shoot something. If it's graphic novels and comic books, be prepared for the glass ceiling. People will always say, "It's great for an independent." That is telling you right there that they think it can only go so far. But break that glass! It's the only way to really make a difference in the comic side of the business.


KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

EDS: As a great father and husband who created his own entertainment empire.


KW: Finally, what's in your wallet?

EDS: A small amount of cash, free movie tickets and gift cards. KW: Thanks again for the time, Eric, and best of luck with Legend of the Manatamaji.

EDS: Thanks, Kam. This was awesome! I'm honored that you took the time to ask so many great questions.


Check out the film version of Legend of the Mantamaji at

To purchase copies of Legend of the Mantamaji: Book 1, 2 and 3, the graphic novels the short was adapted from, visit:

You can find Eric at: Twitter at: @Mantamaji and @EricDeanSeaton

Instagram: @legendofthematamaji



Ashby Film Review by Kam Williams


Assassin and Teen Make Strange Bedfellows in Unlikely-Buddies Dramedy


Ashby Holt (Mickey Rourke) has just been informed by his doctor (Max Lesser) that he only has a few months to live. Besides putting his personal affairs in order, the terminally-ill retired spy wants to ensure that he's able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven upon his demise.


The problem is that he performed about a hundred hits over the course of his career with the CIA, thereby repeatedly violating the Fifth Commandment: "Thou shalt not kill." So, as a devout Catholic, he suddenly believes the only way he'll be able to enter the proverbial Pearly Gates is by seeking forgiveness for his sins.


However, also weighing heavily on Ashby's conscience is the innocent man he was once tricked into assassinating. And before confessing to Father Ted (Zachary Knighton), he'd first like to exact a measure of revenge on behalf of the victim by taking out the three evil superiors who had knowingly issued that order. Still, given his deteriorating health there's no way he could probably pull off such a feat on his own.


That's where Ed Wallis (Nat Wolff) comes in. The nerdy 17 year-old newcomer is sorely in need of a good role model, given how his flaky mother (Sarah Silverman) sleeps around and his absentee-father is entirely out of the picture. Ed's also having trouble fitting in at Varga Prep where he's being teased for being a nerd by everyone but equally-geeky Eloise (Emma Roberts).


The plot thickens when he's handed a school assignment to write a paper about an elder and he approaches his next-door neighbor, Ashby. The reclusive stranger agrees on the condition that the kid chauffeur him around town, conveniently hiding the fact that Ed will unwittingly be serving as a getaway driver for several grisly murders.


That's the premise of Ashby, an unlikely-buddies dramedy written and directed by Peter McNamara (The Rage in Placid Lake). The movie unfolds almost like four films in one, since besides the Ed-Ashby dynamic, it devotes considerable attention to Ed's dysfunctional home life, his budding romance with Eloise, and his attempt to make the football team.


Nevertheless, most of the picture's tension revolves around whether Ashby will survive long enough to complete his grim tasks. Mickey Rourke proves the best of a very capable cast here, bringing the requisite balance of swagger and vulnerability to lend credibility to the rapidly-expiring title character.


A genre-blending adventure which somehow successfully combines elements of the coming-of-age and last hurrah formulas. Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for profanity, violence and some sexuality.

Running time: 100 minutes

Distributor: Paramount Pictures


To see a trailer for Ashby, visit:

The Women's List

Alicia Keys - Women's List PBS-TV Review by Kam Williams


American Masters Special Profiles 15 Prominent Females

If you're all pontiffed-out from the wall-to-wall TV-coverage of Pope Francis' visit, you might like to take a break to check out a different kind of inspirational program airing on PBS. Directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, The Women's List is an American Masters special featuring one-on-one interviews with a variety of very accomplished females from all walks of life.

The documentary is his fifth in the series which has similarly profiled prominent Blacks, Boomers, Latinos and Gays. Among the fascinating icons spotlighted here are Pulitzer Prize-winner Toni Morrison, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, singer Alicia Keys, attorney Gloria Allred, talk show host Wendy Williams, airline pilot Nia Wordlaw, comedienne Margaret Cho and actress Edie Falco, to name a few.

In her revealing tete-a-tete, the self-deprecating Keys admits to being "a nerd, but a cool-ass nerd" who was valedictorian of her high school. Performance artist Laurie Anderson explains why she never discusses what her inscrutable work is about, while fashion designer Betsey Johnson discusses why she hid the fact that she'd developed breast cancer a decade after getting implants.

Actress Rosie Perez recounts the trauma of being surrendered by her mother to a Catholic orphanage where she was tormented by sadistic nuns on a daily basis. And scriptwriter Shonda Rhimes laments that so many women would rather be cute than equal to men.

Entrepreneur Sara Blakely waxes romantic about how her father's encouragement to take risks during her formative years played a role in cultivating the critical attitude she needed to launch Spanx shapewear successfully. And scientist/entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes notes that she might have failed to build that time machine in her backyard as a child but, while still in her teens, she did launch a company that is now worth over $10 billion.

An invaluable collection of intimate, female empowerment tales emphasizing the urgency of moving deliberately in the direction of your dreams.


Excellent (4 stars)


Running time: 54 minutes

Distributor: PBS-TV


The Women's List premieres on PBS on September 25th 2015 at 9 pm ET/PT (check local listings)


To see a trailer for The Women's List, visit:

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 9-25-15

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

For movies opening September 25, 2015

by Kam Williams



The Green Inferno (R for torture, sexuality, profanity, disturbing images, aberrant behavior, graphic violence, drug use and brief frontal nudity) Grisly horror flick about a group of American environmental activists who venture to Peru to save the Rain Forest only to end up on the run from a tribe of cannibals. Ensemble cast includes Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Aaron Burns, Kirby Bliss Blanton and Daryl Sabara.

Hotel Transylvania 2 (PG for action, rude humor and scary images) Spooky animated sequel finds Dracula (Adam Sandler) relaxing his haunted inn's monster-only policy while enlisting the assistance of his ghoulish pals in putting his half-human/half-vampire grandson (Asher Blinkoff) through monster boot camp. Voice cast includes Selena Gomez, Mel Brooks, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Keegan-Michael Key, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon and Nick Offerman.

The Intern (PG-13 for suggestive content and brief profanity) Workplace comedy about the intergenerational tensions which arise when a 70 year-old widower (Robert De Niro) comes out of retirement to take a position interning at an online fashion website. With Rene Russo, Nat Wolff, Adam Devine and Drena De Niro.


99 Homes (R for profanity, sexual references and brief violence) Diminshed dreams drama, set in Orlando during the housing market collapse of 2008, about a cash-strapped single-dad (Andrew Garfield) who ends up having to take a job with the ruthless realtor (Michael Shannon) who'd foreclosed on his home. With Laura Dern, Noah Lomax and Cynthia Santiago.

The Anomaly (Unrated) Futuristic, sci-fi about thriller an ex-soldier (Noel Clarke) in a race against time to escape the clutches of a mind-control biotech company that plans to kill him in less than ten minutes. Featuring Alexis Knapp, Brian Cox and Luke Hemsworth.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead (Unrated) Rise and fall documentary about National Lampoon, the subversive humor magazine which morphed into a Hollywood phenomenon before finally flaming out in 2010 when its CEO was sent to prison for artificially inflating the company's stock in a Ponzi scheme. Featuring commentary by Chevy Chase, P.J. O'Rourke and Bill Murray.

The Keeping Room (R for rape and graphic violence) Civil War saga, set towards the end of the conflict, about a couple of resourceful Southern Belles (Hailee Steinfeld and Brit Marling) who, with the help of a slave girl (Muna Otaru), take up arms to defend their home from marauding Union soldiers. With Sam Worthington, Kyle Soller and Ned Dennehy.

Labyrinth of Lies (R for sexuality) Justice delayed drama, set in Berlin in 1958, revolving around an idealistic young prosecutor (Alexander Fehling) frustrated by government bureaucrats in his attempt to prosecute fugitive, Nazi War criminals. With Johannes Krisch, Hansi Jochmann, Andre Szymanski and Johan von Bulow. (In German with subtitles)

Mississippi Grind (R for profanity) Road drama about a couple of down-and-out, riverboat gamblers (Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn) who join forces in a desperate attempt to change their fortunes. Support cast includes Yvonne Landry, Anthony Howard and Jayson Warner Smith.

The Reflektor Tapes (Unrated) Rockumentary about the making of the band Arcade Fire's album Reflektor.

Sleepless in New York (Unrated) Lovesickness is the subject of this documentary exploring the profound emotional pain adolescents and others experience in the wake of rejection.

Stonewall (R for sexuality, violence, drug use and pervasive profanity) Historical drama, set in New York City, revisiting the 1969 riot at a Manhattan bar which kickstarted the Gay Rights movement. With Ron Perlman, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Joey King and Caleb Landry Jones.

Theresa Is a Mother (Unrated) C. Fraser Press plays the title character in this musical comedy as a flat-broke single-mom with three daughters (Schuyler, Maeve and Amaya Press), who grudgingly asks her parents for permission to move back home after failing to make it as a singer in New York City. Supporting cast includes Edie McClurg, Richard Poe and Robert Turano.

Western (Unrated) Undocumented alien documentary chronicling the toll that the flood of immigrants across the Rio Grande is taking on the border towns of Eagle Pass, Texas and Piedras Negras, New Mexico.