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

May 23, 2018

By Kam Williams

Who is Pope Francis? Baptized Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he was born in Argentina on December 17, 1936. He would follow his calling at an early age by entering the seminary while still in his teens.

After being ordained, he began his career teaching theology. He was appointed archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and subsequently named a cardinal three years later by John Paul II.

When he became pope in March of 2013, he made history by being the first Jesuit, the first from the Americas, and the first Francis. He took that name in honor of Francis of Assisi, the saint generally regarded as the one most closely mirroring Christ’s compassion for the poor. more

May 16, 2018

By Kam Williams

As an adolescent, Sean (Robert Sheehan) moved with his mother from Ireland to Portland, Oregon so that his stepfather could take a construction job. Seven years later, Sean has become an aspiring artist who is eking out a living parking cars at a trendy restaurant.

He and a fellow valet, Derek (Carlito Olivero), devise a plan to burglarize the homes of the well-to-do customers while they’re dining. The scheme seems like an easy source of money, since most people hand over all their keys when they check their vehicles.

Unfortunately, the pair didn’t consider that they might break into the house of a homicidal maniac who was in the midst of a killing spree. That’s precisely what happened the night they decided to rob Cale Erendreich (David Tennant), whose multimillion-dollar mansion was just minutes away from the restaurant. more

May 9, 2018

By Kam Williams

On March 3, 1991, five LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) officers were caught on camera viciously beating an unarmed black man who had led them on a high-speed chase instead of pulling over as directed. When the police cornered him, the driver, Rodney King, suffered a broken ankle, a broken cheekbone, multiple skull fractures, and chipped teeth in the subsequent assault by the police with their billy clubs.

A year later, riots broke out all over South Central Los Angeles after a jury acquitted all the officers involved in the arrest. Six days later, 63 people had died and thousands of businesses had been looted and burned to the ground, with over a billion dollars in damages. more

May 2, 2018

By Kam Williams

This critic prefers this kind of old-fashioned monster movie. Loosely based on the video game of the same name, Rampage is reminiscent of campy Japanese classics like Godzilla (1954), King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), and Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964).

However, instead of decimating Tokyo, the gargantuan creatures here are located in Chicago. Also, Rampage is a big-budget spectacular that relies heavily on CGI and state-of-the-art special effects.

You know the drill. Some ordinary animals morph into mammoth man-eating beasts after a scientific experiment goes terribly wrong. In this case, we have a wolf, a crocodile, and an albino gorilla that mutate into predators. more

April 25, 2018

By Kam Williams

In 1972, Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm) was a career U.S. diplomat serving overseas in Lebanon. He and his wife Nadia (Leila Bekhti) were so comfortable living in the Middle East that they had decided to adopt Karim (Idir Chender), a 13-year-old Palestinian refugee.

This, despite the fact that unstable Lebanon had a history of falling into a state of unrest where warring factions faced each other for months, if not years. However, as a seasoned veteran, Mason knew how to keep the lines of communication open because the fighting starts once the talking stops. more

April 18, 2018

By Kam Williams

On July 18, 1969, Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy (Jason Clarke) hosted a reunion in a rented cottage on Chappaquiddick, a tiny island just 150 yards off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. The gathering was in honor of the Boiler Room Girls, six women who had worked on his late brother Bobby’s presidential campaign the previous year.

Around 11:15 pm, Kennedy left the party in his ‘67 Oldsmobile with one of those young staffers, 28 year-old Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara). About an hour later, the car, driven by Kennedy, went down a dirt road and off of a wooden bridge. The driver lost control and the car landed upside-down in  Poucha Pond. more

April 11, 2018

By Kam Williams

It is 2045, a time when the planet has devolved into a desolate dystopia that is a combination of pollution, overpopulation, poverty, corruption, and global warming. Most of humanity lives in slums where they escape their misery by disappearing, via virtual reality, into the Oasis, a parallel universe co-created by James Halliday (Mark Rylance) and Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg). Halliday is now in control of Oasis and Morrow is no longer associated with the firm.

The picture’s point of departure is an unrecognizable Columbus, Ohio, that is a devastated metropolis that has been reduced to a wasteland of vertical “stacks,” i.e. mobile homes that are piled  on top one another. We meet Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), who is an orphaned teen who has been taken in by his Aunt Alice (Susan Lynch).  more

April 4, 2018

By Kam Williams

Times have certainly changed when dramatic actresses can now play action heroes in blockbuster movies. For instance, Jennifer Lawrence had already been nominated for an Academy Award (Winter’s Bone) when she agreed to star as Katniss Everdeen in the adaptation of The Hunger Games trilogy. Alicia Vikander is following Jennifer’s lead by assuming the role of Lara Croft in the remake of the Tomb Raider. She had won an Academy Award (The Danish Girl), and also received critical acclaim for her performances in Ex Machina and Testament of Youth.  more

March 28, 2018

By Kam Williams

Ella (Helen Mirren) and John Spencer (Donald Sutherland) have been happily married for more than 50 years, and their love hasn’t diminished one iota in spite of his battle with dementia or by hers with brain cancer. Therefore, the inseparable couple resisted their doctors who wanted them to move into different healthcare facilities.

Instead, the 80+ year-olds decide to share one last vacation in their mothballed RV fondly called “The Leisure Seeker.” They plan to drive from Wellesley down to Key West where John, a retired English professor, hopes to visit the home of Ernest Hemingway. more

March 21, 2018

By Kam Williams

Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) would tell you that he’s a typical teen, except for the fact that he’s hiding one huge secret. He’s gay, but he hasn’t told his parents (Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner) or any of his friends. He’s even dated a female classmate (Cassady McClincy) at Creekwood High to keep up the charade.

He’s well aware of the merciless teasing waiting for anybody who is brave enough to come out of the closet after witnessing the fate of Ethan (Clark Moore), who was bullied at the school after he revealed his sexual orientation.

Simon keeps his equilibrium by anonymously visiting an LGBTQ-friendly blog where he has found another gay student from Creekwood High. At first, they only support each other, however, over time their friendship blossoms into love. However, since they’re both using pseudonyms Simon has no idea who “Blue” is because both of them are understandably hesitant to reveal their true identities. more

March 14, 2018

By Kam Williams

Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo) is a loyal employee at Promethium Pharmaceuticals who has been patiently waiting for his chance to share in the success from the company’s lucrative sales of medical marijuana in a pill form. Unfortunately, the naive Nigerian immigrant is unaware that the Chicago-based company’s CEO, Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton), has no intention of giving him a share of the profits.

Instead, Richard fills his head with promises of a lavish lifestyle like the ones he’s seen in rap videos. Furthermore, Harold has no idea that his boss is having an affair with his wife, Bonnie (Thandie Newton). In addition, Richard is in a relationship with his business partner, Elaine (Charlize Theron).  more

March 7, 2018

By Kam Williams

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail is an Oscar-nominated documentary that chronicles an outrageous example of bigotry against the Sung’s Chinese American immigrant family. Patriarch Thomas Sung was inspired by the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life, when he and his family founded the Abacus Federal Savings Bank in 1984 in New York City’s Chinatown.

He wanted to help the people of his community get loans after repeatedly witnessing how other lending institutions were willing take Chinese people’s deposits, but were reluctant to let them borrow money. Abacus flourished over the years, and his daughters, Jill and Heather, joined the family business as executives after they became lawyers. more

February 28, 2018

By Kam Williams

Samson is a popular Biblical figure who was blessed by God with super-human strength as long as he kept his hair long. However, there’s a lot more to know about him than can be found in the Book of Judges in the Old Testament.

For example, his life mirrored that of Jesus Christ in many ways. For instance, both were the product of a miraculous birth that was announced by angels. Jesus’s mother was a virgin and Samson’s was barren. Each was betrayed by a confidante, Judas and Delilah, who were paid in silver coins. Each ultimately fulfilled a prophecy by delivering their people, the Israelites.

Co-directed by Bruce Macdonald and Gabriel Sabloff, Samson is an epic biopic that fleshes out the one-dimensional warrior into a vulnerable person with a full range of emotions. The movie stars Taylor James as Samson and Caitlin Leahy as Delilah. more

February 21, 2018

By Kam Williams 

Chadwick Boseman has made a successful career by portraying a variety of prominent African Americans, such as football star Floyd Little (The Express), baseball great Jackie Robinson (42), Godfather of Soul James Brown (Get on Up), and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall (Marshall). The versatile actor’s efforts have been recognized by the NAACP, which has nominated him for five Image Awards.

Although Black Panther is a fictional character, the role is no less significant than the historical figures Chadwick has played in the past. That’s because black kids have rarely had a superhero that looks like them to root for, even in Africa, where the Lord of the Jungle, Tarzan, was white. more

February 14, 2018

By Kam Williams

The Shape of Water is clearly a favorite in this year’s Oscar sweepstakes. The science fiction fantasy about love across species lines was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, in six major categories: Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Lead Actress (Sally Hawkins), Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer), and Supporting Actor (Richard Jenkins).

Writer/director Guillermo del Toro was apparently inspired by Creature from the Black Lagoon, a classic horror film from the 50s. This variation on the theme portrays the merman as being misunderstood instead of evil. more

February 7, 2018

By Kam Williams

In 1983, 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothee Chalamet) is spending another summer in Lombardy, in northern Italy, with his parents. Each year, Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an archaeology professor, invites a different doctoral candidate to live with his family over the summer and be his research assistant.

This year, the guest is Oliver (Armie Hammer) who is Jewish and gay. That’s just fine with Elio, who’s exploring his sexuality and has been dating a local girl (Esther Garrel), until Oliver arrives at the villa.

It isn’t long before Elio realizes that he is developing feelings for the 24-year-old Oliver, who is quick to understand what is happening. Elio and Oliver spend long stretches of time flirting with each other, whether it’s swimming in the lake, canoodling at a cafe, or taking walks along the shore.  more

January 31, 2018

By Kam Williams

Zenzile Miriam Makeba was born black in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1932, which meant she was a second-class citizen. In fact, she spent the first six months of her life in prison with her mother, a sangoma (witch doctor), who was sent to prison just days after giving birth.

Luckily, her mother was also an amateur singer, and that was a gift Miriam inherited. She married at 17 and had a child a year later, but was soon abandoned by her abusive husband. So, to support her young daughter, she started singing professionally.

After performing and recording with several different bands, she found a measure of fame as the lead singer of an all-girl group called The Skylarks. However, while on tour out of the country in 1959, Miriam’s passport was revoked after the release in Italy of Come Back, Africa, a secretly filmed anti-apartheid documentary drama in which she appeared.  more

January 24, 2018

By Kam Williams

A few days after the 9/11 attack, President George W. Bush visited Ground Zero where he delivered an iconic speech while standing on a pile of rubble. He assured the rescue workers and the rest of America that those responsible for the senseless slaughter would soon be held accountable.

Less than a month later, the first contingent of soldiers was sent to Afghanistan. Their top secret operation, code named Task Force Dagger, called for them to be dropped behind enemy lines and rendezvous with a local militia led by General Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban).

The American Special Forces unit, composed of a dozen elite soldiers, was led by Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth). He was not only confident that the mission would be successful, but made the bold guarantee that no one under his command would perish in battle.  more

January 17, 2018

By Kam Williams

The Post is a movie that should be compared to two classic newsroom thrillers: All the President’s Men (1976) and Spotlight (2015). Like the former, it’s set in Washington, D.C. in the 70s and is about an attempt by the Nixon administration to prevent the publication of incriminating information leaked to the Washington Post by a whistleblower. And it’s eerily similar to the Best Picture Oscar-winner Spotlight in that they’re both dramas about an idealistic newspaper’s legal battle in defense of freedom of the press.

Hollywood has a predictable habit of parroting success, which means it’s just a matter of time before a knockoff of a big hit arrives in theaters. In this case, Spotlight’s Academy Award-winning scriptwriter, Josh Singer, was tapped to tweak first timer Liz Hannah’s original screenplay about the Pentagon Papers. more

January 10, 2018

By Kam Williams

Darkest Hour and Dunkirk cover the same period of time, which was Winston Churchill’s (Gary Oldman) first month as prime minister of Great Britain. When he was sworn in on May 10, 1940, the country was at war with Germany which had already conquered most of Europe and was just starting to invade Belgium, France, and the Netherlands.

Churchill’s predecessor, Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) had unsuccessfully tried a diplomatic policy of appeasement which had only emboldened Hitler. As a result, soon after entering office, Winston found himself facing a daunting task after the Nazis’ blitzkrieg had broken through the Maginot Line.  more