January 16, 2019

A NEW HOME: Animal shelter volunteer Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King) and receptionist Olivia (Alexandra Shipp) celebrate his adoption of puppy Bella. But Bella is later separated from Lucas and his mom, and embarks on an eventful 400-mile journey home. (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures)

By Kam Williams

Life has proven to be quite a challenge for Bella (voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard) right from the start. Soon after birth, the puppy was separated from her mother, though she was lucky enough to be nursed back to health by a stray cat. 

The lovable mutt eventually lands at an animal shelter, where receptionist Olivia (Alexandra Shipp) introduces her to a volunteer, Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King). Lucas decides to adopt Bella, hoping she might help lift the spirits of his mom Terri (Ashley Judd), a military veteran suffering from PTSD. more

January 9, 2019

OUT FOR VENGEANCE: Nicole Kidman plays against type and is almost unrecognizable as Erin Bell, a self-abusing LAPD veteran detective turned vigilante in the revenge thriller “Destroyer.” (Photo courtesy of Annapurna Pictures)

By Kam Williams

Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman) is a veteran LAPD detective whose partner, Chris (Sebastian Stan), died when his cover was blown during an undercover operation gone bad. Courtesy of flashbacks, we learn that he was murdered by Silas (Toby Kebbell), the leader of the gang of bank robbers the two had infiltrated.

At the time, Erin and Chris were also lovers, and she was pregnant with his baby. Fast forward 16 years and we find the single mom doing a miserable job of raising their rebellious daughter, Shelby (Jade Pettyjohn), who is presently under the spell of a surly slacker (Beau Knapp) already in his 20s. more

January 2, 2019

POWER COUPLE: Amy Adams and Christian Bale star as Lynne and Dick Cheney in “Vice.” The seriocomic film marks the third film collaboration for Adams and Bale, who thoroughly disappears into his role. (Photo courtesy of Annapurna Pictures)

By Kam Williams

Who is the real Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) and how did he become the most powerful vice president in U.S. history? Those are the fundamental questions explored by Vice, an alternately hilarious and sobering biopic written and directed by Adam McKay.

McKay won an Oscar in 2016 for his brilliant adaptation of The Big Short, the Michael Lewis best-seller chronicling the complicated series of events leading to the financial crisis of 2007-2008. Nevertheless, he probably remains better known for having previously directed a string of sophomoric comedies starring Will Ferrell including Anchorman 1 and 2, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, and The Other Guys.  more

December 26, 2018

STAR-CROSSED LOVERS: Tish Rivers (Kiki Layne) and her fiancé Fonny Hunt (Stephan James) face seemingly unsurmountable obstacles in the coming-of-age story “If Beale Street Could Talk,” adapted from the classic novel by James Baldwin. (Photo courtesy of Annapurna Pictures)

By Kam Williams

In 1974, James Baldwin published If Beale Street Could Talk, a love story set in Harlem about a beleaguered black couple’s pursuit of the elusive American Dream. Many critics consider the heartrending novel Baldwin’s best work, perhaps because of the way in which it humanizes an array of African American characters ordinarily marginalized and relegated to the shadows of society. more

December 19, 2018

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: Holly (Julia Roberts) welcomes her son Ben (Lucas Hedges) home with open arms on Christmas Eve, even though he left a drug rehab facility without permission. She soon comes to regret that decision in the harrowing family drama Ben Is Back. (Photo Courtesy of Black Bear Pictures)

Holly (Julia Roberts) and Neal (Courtney B. Vance) are raising a family in a quaint country home in upstate New York, ostensibly far removed from the sort of woes that plague the inner city. It’s Christmas Eve, and we meet Holly in church where she’s patiently watching three of her four kids practicing for the Christmas pageant.

However, looks can be deceiving, since missing from the idyllic picture is her eldest child, Ben (Lucas Hedges). The troubled 19-year-old has been living at a drug rehab center, where he’s managed to keep clean for the past 77 days.  more

December 5, 2018

DRIVING MR. SHIRLEY: Classical pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali, right) hires Tony Lip Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), a bouncer from the Bronx, to drive him on an eight-week concert tour across the Deep South in the 1960s in the fact-based film Green Book. (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

By Kam Williams

Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) was a promising prodigy whose formal training in classical piano began when he was admitted to Russia’s prestigious Leningrad Conservatory at the age of 9. Because he was raised in Florida in the Jim Crow Era, it was very unlikely that his extraordinary talent would be appreciated anywhere in the South upon his return to the states.

The North was decidedly different. While still in his teens, Shirley was invited by conductor Arthur Fielder to perform with the Boston Pops Orchestra. He would later compose symphonies for the New York Philharmonic and was even allowed to rent an apartment above Carnegie Hall. more

November 28, 2018

By Kam Williams

ALL TOGETHER NOW: From left, Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) Wagner form an Instant Family when they adopt siblings Lizzy (Isabela Moner), Lita (Julianna Gamiz), and Juan (Gustavo Quiroz). (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) Wagner are speculators who make a living flipping real estate in their hometown of Atlanta. The couple’s latest acquisition is a fixer-upper with five bedrooms that they hope to sell to Ellie’s sister Kim (Allyn Rachel) and brother-in-law Russ (Tom Segura).

However, Kim and Russ aren’t in the market for a house that needs so much work. Furthermore, they’re childless with no plans to start a family. So, they simply have no use for a place that large. 

Pete and Ellie don’t have kids either, but they have been seriously considering adoption. In fact, they’ve even been checking out photos of available children online.  more

October 31, 2018

WE ARE GOING TO BE BIG STARS: Bohemian Rhapsody tells the story of the rock group Queen, which was founded in the early seventies by, from left, bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzallo), drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), lead singer Farrokh Bulsara, aka Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), and guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee). (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox)

By Kam Williams

Prior to seeing Bohemian Rhapsody, I knew precious little about the rock group Queen. Sure, I’d enjoyed lots of their pop hits like “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Another One Bites the Dust,” but I was totally unaware of the legendary British band’s back story. more

October 10, 2018

By Kam Williams

Neil Armstrong made history on July 20, 1969 when he became the first person to walk on the moon. Subsequently, the NASA astronaut never sought to cash in on his celebrity status. Instead, he eschewed fame and fortune and withdrew from the limelight in favor of sharing his experiences in the classroom as a college professor. He even discouraged biographers until he finally agreed to cooperate with James R. Hansen on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong.

Published in 2005, the book has been adapted to the screen by Oscar-winning scriptwriter Josh Singer (Spotlight). However, the movie covers 1961 through 1969 — Armstrong’s early years in the space program — and ending with Apollo 11’s historic lunar landing. more

September 12, 2018

SHOCKING NEWS: Sergeant Darren Hill (Liam Matthews) was just finishing up a tour of duty in Afghanistan when he was killed during an ambush of his unit.

By Kam Williams

Sergeant Darren Hill (Liam Matthews) was just days away from finishing up a tour of duty in Afghanistan when he died during an ambush of his unit. The shocking news devastated his wife, Amber (Lindsay Pulsipher), and their young daughter, Bree (Makenzie Moss).

In fact, Amber was so embittered she stepped down as her church’s choir director, saying, “Look where my faith in God got us.” And pep talks from Pastor Williams (LaDainian Tomlinson) and her friends, Bridgette (Jordin Sparks) and Karena (Robin Givens), fail to bring her back into the fold. more

September 5, 2018

SWIM FOR YOUR LIVES: The huge prehistoric shark called a megalodon, or Meg for short, is threatening the lives of people who are vacationing at a popular beach where people were enjoying themselves in the water.

By Kam Williams

Five years ago, Captain Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) managed to save half his crew when his research submarine was crippled by a massive 75-foot-long shark (a megalodon) that was thought to be extinct. Because the Navy brass were skeptical about the existence of a megalodon, Taylor was dishonorably discharged and lost his career, and his wife, because he wasn’t able to save more members of his crew.

Ever since, he disappeared from public view, and was rumored to be drinking heavily in Thailand. That’s where former colleague, Dr. Minway Zhang (Winston Chao), found him after the prehistoric creature attacked again, and left another submersible sitting on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.

 more

August 29, 2018

By Kam Williams

The first two movies of this popular animated series were set in a hotel that created a safe space for monsters to unwind. But what happpens when the resort owners themselves need a break? That’s the question being answered at the outset of Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, an animated film about proprietor Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) and his company’s getaway on a luxury cruise for ghouls. At the point of departure, we find Dracula’s daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) making reservations for the family aboard the Legacy, a boat headed for the Bermuda Triangle to search for the mythical island Atlantis. more

August 22, 2018

By Kam Williams

number of years ago, after his wife and daughters were slaughtered during a period of civil unrest in his African homeland, Wilson (Cake-Baly Marcelo) escaped to Hungary. The 50-something widower chose to seek political asylum in Budapest instead of continuing on to Western Europe like most of his fellow refugees.

He soon found a nice apartment and steady work as a supermarket security guard and liked living in the city. However, the only thing standing in the way of his staying in Hungary permanently was that he repeatedly flunked the country’s tough citizenship test.

His boss Eva (Tunde Szalontay) did not want to lose her reliable “Employee of the Year,” and suggested that Wilson take history and language lessons from her sister Mari (Agnes Mahr), a teacher. However, sparks flew between Wilson and Mari, who was in an unhappy marriage. Their tutorial sessions soon turned into a whirlwind romance that included dancing, swimming, and dining together. more

August 15, 2018

By Kam Williams

Although Nick (Henry Golding) and Rachel (Constance Wu) have been dating for a few years, they don’t know much about each other’s background. They both live in New York City, and Nick has never mentioned that he’s from one the wealthiest families in Singapore, and she’s never talked about how she was raised by an immigrant (Kheng Hua Tan) from China who was a single mom.

The difference in social status has not affected their relationship, because Nick is unassuming, and Rachel was able to take advantage of a great education and become an economics professor at NYU. In fact, Nick is seriously considering marrying her and he’s even picked out a diamond ring. more

August 8, 2018

By Kam Williams

Back in the ’70s, Ron Stallworth became the first African American to join the Colorado Springs Police Department. The young, ambitious college grad was soon promoted to detective, and his first undercover assignment was to cover a Stokely Carmichael (Corey Hawkins) rally when the Black Power advocate was invited to speak at Colorado College.

However, his most unlikely mission was to infiltrate the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Using his real name, he answered a KKK classified ad recruiting new members, not knowing what to expect.

When the organization contacted him by phone, Ron adopted a white accent and complained that his sister was dating a black man. That was all it took for him to get invited to the next Klan meeting and to secure a membership card signed by Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace). more

August 1, 2018

By Kam Williams

Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) is starting her last week of middle school, and graduation can’t come soon enough for her. After all, the lonely, 13-year-old has just been voted “Most Quiet” by her classmates, despite being desperate to make friends.

Nevertheless, she finds herself routinely ignored because she’s overweight, pimply, and not from a prominent family. So, between being ostracized by the popular cliques and going unnoticed by the cute boy (Luke Prael) she has a crush on, Kayla leads a very solitary and unhappy existence.

It doesn’t help matters that she’s an only child, and that her well-meaning single dad (Josh Hamilton) doesn’t have a clue about how to connect with a daughter growing up in the Digital Age. The two barely talk to each other at the dinner table. She just scrolls through social media on her cell between bites while grudgingly giving monosyllabic responses to his questions about how her day went.   more

July 25, 2018

By Kam Williams

Collin (Daveed Diggs) and Miles (Rafael Casal), who are black and white, respectively, have been best friends since they were kids. Now in their 20s, they both still live in the rough Oakland neighborhood where they grew up, although it‘s been gentrifying in recent years.

The change in the neighborhood has made it hard for the two of them to get along with their new neighbors because Collin is a convicted felon on probation, and Miles has ghetto written all over him, such as the tattoos all over his body.

When Collin was paroled, Miles got him a job with the moving company where he works. more

July 18, 2018

By Kam Williams

Since 1950, Rucker Park has been home to a popular basketball tournament that takes place on an outdoor court located at 155th Street in Harlem. Many promising prospects have honed their skills on the world famous proving ground en route to NBA careers: Kevin Durant, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, “Dr. J” (Julius Erving), and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, to name a few.

Uncle Drew is a hilarious hoops movie that pays tribute to Rucker Park as well as to the athletes who have mesmerized generations of fans who have attended the annual summer classic. Directed by Charles Stone III (Drumline), the picture stars the Boston Celtics’ Kyrie Irving as the title character, but don’t expect to be able to recognize him under all the plastic makeup that turns him into a senior citizen. more

July 11, 2018

By Kam Williams

To describe Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield) as struggling would be an understatement. He and his girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), are four months behind in their rent on their unfinished garage apartment in inner-city Oakland. The only reason they haven’t been evicted is because their landlord is Cash’s Uncle Sergio (Terry Crews), who is willing to wait to be paid, and has even given his nephew a car. more

July 3, 2018

By Kam Williams

When they were kids, five best friends from Spokane, Washington began playing a game of tag that, over the years, morphed into a cutthroat version where each would go to extraordinary lengths to pass on — or avoid becoming “It.” Several decades later, despite bearing all the responsibilities associated with adulthood, the guys were always trying to avoid a tap on the shoulder.

The five friends came to the attention of Wall Street Journal reporter Mark Steilen who wrote an article about them entitled, “It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being ‘It’.” Soon thereafter, Hollywood obtained the rights to their story. more

June 27, 2018

By Kam Williams

Why it has taken Disney and Pixar 14 years to release a follow-up to The Incredibles? It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and grossed over $600 million at the box office. Meanwhile, creator Brad Bird made Ratatouille (2007), Mission: Impossible (2011), and Tomorrowland (2015) before turning to writing and directing Incredibles 2.

Fortunately this sequel was well worth the wait. Most of the actors who played members of the crime-fighting Parr family are back. Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter reprise their roles as the parents Bob (Mr. Incredible) and Helen (Elastigirl), as do Eli Fucile and Sarah Vowell as baby Jack Jack and 14-year-old Violet. Ten-year-old Dash is now portrayed by Huck Milner, because the original kid’s voice deepened. Samuel L. Jackson has also returned as the family friend and fellow superhero Lucius Best/Frozone. Additions to the cast include Catherine Keener, Isabella Rossellini, and Bob Odenkirk. more

June 20, 2018

By Kam Williams

Super Fly (1972) was one of the most profitable of the blaxploitation [black exploitation] era movies. Released during the genre’s heyday, the picture was about its iconic title character, Youngblood Priest, a flamboyant cocaine dealer who dressed like a pimp, drove flashy cars, and distributed his wares from a spoon, shaped like a cross, that was draped around his neck.

With a modest budget of just $500,000, the film’s box-office success led to several sequels, (Super Fly T.N.T. (1973) and The Return of Superfly (1990).  more

June 13, 2018

By Kam Williams

The original Ocean’s 11 (1960) starred Frank Sinatra and a group of fellow Las Vegas headliners called the Rat Pack. The film was remade in 2001 with George Clooney starring as Danny Ocean along with ten other film stars. The story was again set in Vegas and also was about an elaborate casino heist. The picture was such a hit it spawned a couple of successful sequels, Ocean’s Twelve (2004) and Thirteen (2007).

Ocean’s 8 is a refreshing departure from the original series. In addition to featuring an all-female gang, the film is set in New York City instead of Las Vegas. more

June 6, 2018

By Kam Williams

Mechanic Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) is a vanishing breed. He’s an an old school grease monkey who rolls up his sleeves and repairs classic cars without the help of diagnostic computers.

He asks his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo), to follow him in her self-driving car so he can return the Pontiac Firebird that he’s just finished working on to its owner, high-tech mogul Eron King (Harrison Gilbertson). The eccentric billionaire has a subterranean research laboratory hidden just beneath the ocean’s shoreline. He proudly tells Asha and Grey about his company’s latest invention, an implantable computer chip that is programmed with artificial intelligence (AI). more

May 30, 2018

By Kam Williams

Deanna Miles (Melissa McCarthy) was a junior in college when she became pregnant and dropped out of school to have the baby. She married her boyfriend, Dan (Matt Walsh), who finished his degree and started his career while she remained a stay-at-home mom.

Fast forward to the present and we see the couple dropping off their now-grown daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) at their alma mater, Decatur University, where she’s about to begin her senior year. She’s moving back in with her girlfriends at the Theta Mu Gamma sorority house.  more