Caine and Keitel Co-Star as Aging BFFS in Surreal Meditation on Mortality



Film Review by Kam Williams

Caine and Keitel Co-Star as Aging BFFS in Surreal Meditation on Mortality

Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) has chosen to withdraw from the limelight after a storybook career as a celebrated composer and conductor. He’s presently being pampered with mud baths and massages at a scenic spa nestled in the Swiss Alps where Youth, Film Review, Michael Caine, Rachel Weisz,Harvey Keite, mortality he’s vacationing with his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) and his his best friend, filmmaker Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel).

Despite being well into their 70s, Mick is working on the script for his next movie with the help of a quintet of young collaborators. For these purposes, it is good to know that Mick’s son Julian (Ed Stoppard) is married to Lena, who has just been dumped for a British pop singer (Paloma Faith herself).

While in the midst of dividing his days between reminiscing with his BFF and soothing his emotionally-distant daughter’s fragile psyche, Fred gets a surprising request to come out of retirement by an emissary (Alex Macqueen) of the Royal Family. Queen Elizabeth II is offering knighthood in exchange for playing his most popular piece, “Simple Songs,” at Prince Philip’s impending birthday concert.

However, Fred summons up the strength to decline the command performance coming with an honorary title attached. For, he has already shed any attachment to his public persona in favor of meditating on his mortality and giving Lena the quality time she was denied as a child. After all, she still hasn’t forgiven him for focusing so selfishly on classical music during her formative years.     

        Thus unfolds Youth, a surreal mix of heartfelt introspection and escapist fantasy reminiscent of Federico Fellini. The movie was written and directed by Fellini’s fellow paisan, Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) who is not shy about juxtaposing a variety of jarring images certain to leave a lasting impression, even if you’re not quite sure what to make of the visually captivating menagerie.Youth, Film Review, Michael Caine, Rachel Weisz,Harvey Keite, mortality

Caine and Keitel enjoy their best outings in ages, albeit in service of an inscrutable adventure that deliberately does it darndest to defy definition.

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for profanity, sexuality and graphic nudity

Running time: 118 minutes

Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Source:  Baret News

Spike Lee Offers Solution for Chicago Gang Violence in Timely Morality Play



Film Review by Kam Williams

Spike Lee Offers Solution for Chicago Gang Violence in Timely Morality Play

Just when we were ready to give up on Spike Lee, wouldn’t you know he’d reassert his relevance with a decent inner-city drama decrying the gang violence in Chicago? Ironically, this timely tale is based on Lysistrata, an ancient play staged by Aristophanes way back in 411 BC. Set in Athens during the Peloponnesian War, that farcical adventure revolved around a headstrong female who brought an end to the hostilities by persuading the women of Greece to withhold sexual favors from their mates until peace was declared.

Chi-Raq, Film Review by Kam Williams, Spike Lee, Chicago, gang, violence

Spike’s version unfolds in present-day Chicago  where we find a gun moll named Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris) growing frustrated by the escalating body count in the Windy City war between a couple of rival street gangs. Her boyfriend, Chi-Raq (Nick Cannon), is the leader of the purple-sporting Spartans,  the sworn adversaries of the orange-clad Trojans.

She gets fed up when a neighbor’s (Jennifer Hudson) young daughter is caught in the crossfire during a drive-by shooting and none of the gangbangers is willing to finger the culprit for the cops. After the funeral, she enlists the assistance of sisters all over the hood in implementing a “No peace, no p*ssy,” policy.

Besides borrowing Aristophanes basic plotline, I must point out that Chi-Raq’s dialogue is almost entirely in verse. When was the last time you saw a movie that rhymed? The novel screenplay was co-authored by Spike with film professor Kevin Willmott, the brains behind Confederate States of America, a brilliant social satire speculating about what the U.S. would be like today, if the South had prevailed in the Civil War.

Chi-Raq, Film Review by Kam Williams, Spike Lee, Chicago, gang, violence

Watching Chi-Raq, the pair’s experiment in iambic pentameter gets tiring after about 15 minutes or so. You feel like yelling, “Okay, you made your point. Now just let the thespians act without the burden of having to sound poetic, too.

Credit Spike for assembling an A-list cast featuring Teyonah Parris as Lysistrata and  Nick Cannon in the title role. The dramatis personae also includes Academy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson (for Dreamgirls), Oscar-nominees Angela Bassett (for What’s Love Got to Do with It?) and Samuel L. Jackson (for Pulp Fiction), as well as Dave Chappelle, John Cusack, Felicia “Snoop” Pearson and real-life, grassroots activist Father Michael Pfleger.

Chi-Raq, Film Review by Kam Williams, Spike Lee, Chicago, gang, violence

Chi-Raq may never be confused with She’s Gotta Have It (1986) or Do the Right Thing (1989), but it nevertheless represents the best adaptation of a classic into ghetto fabulous fare since the inspired reinterpretation of Romeo and Juliet as Romeo Must Die (2000).

Very Good (2.5 stars)

Rated R for nudity, profanity, sexuality, violence and drug use

Running time: 127 minutes

Studio: Amazon

Distributor: Distributor: Lionsgate / Roadside Attractions

Source:  Baret News

Iranian Dancer Defies Sharia Law to Pursues His Passion in Fact-Based Inspirational Drama


Desert Dancer

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Iranian Dancer Defies Sharia Law to Pursues His Passion in Fact-Based Inspirational Drama

Afshin Ghaffarian (Reece Ritchie) had the great misfortune of being born in Iran in the wake of the Islamist coup d’etat of 1979 which meant he was reared under a repressive religious regime which banned all the arts, from painting to poetry to playing music. So, when little Afshin began to exhibit an insatiable interest in dance as a youngster, he was warned by his mother (Nazanin Boniadi) that the activity was banned in accordance with the dictates of the nation’s authoritarian Ayatollah.

Desert Dancer, DVD Review by Kam Williams, Reece Ritchie, Nazanin Boniadi, Iranian Dancer, Sharia Law, Inspirational Drama
Nevertheless, she enrolled her son in the Saba Arts Academy, a fledgling studio secretly operating in the shadows. Under the tutelage of Mr. Mehdi (Makram Khoury), Afshin exhibited early promise while enjoying the freedom to express himself creatively, at least until the fateful day the place was trashed by morality police enforcing of Sharia law.
Fast-forward a decade or so and we find the promising prodigy now attending the University of Teheran but still holding fast to the impractical pipe dream of becoming a professional dancer. Along with a few curious classmates, he forms an underground company which proceeds to practice regularly in an abandoned factory loft.
Elaheh (Freida Pinto) is the only member of the modern dance club with any formal training, having been surreptitiously schooled in technique and choreography by a mother who’d been a prima ballerina prior to the fall of the Shah. Against the ominous backdrop of the burgeoning, student-led Green Revolution of 2009, Elaheh gradually forges the motley crew into a concert-quality troupe.

Desert Dancer, DVD Review by Kam Williams, Reece Ritchie, Nazanin Boniadi, Iranian Dancer, Sharia Law, Inspirational Drama
But between the tense political climate and the official state sanction against public performances, it looks like the idea staging a concert for an audience is out of the question. Thus unfolds Desert Dancer, an uplifting, overcoming-the-odds drama, recounting the real-life dilemma of defiant Afshin Ghaffarian and his equally-rebellious comrades.
The movie marks the absolutely splendid directorial debut of Richard Raymond who has crafted a visually-engaging spectacular with a compelling plotline leading to satisfying resolution. The story seamlessly interweaves inspired dance sequences, organized resistance and a little old-fashioned romance while touching on a litany of themes like love, loyalty, friendship and betrayal.
A must-see biopic poignantly illustrating the indomitability of the human spirit, even in the most oppressive of circumstances.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, violence and drug use
Running time: 98 minutes
Distributor: Fox Home Entertainment DVD Extras: Desert Dancer: In Conversation with Afshin Ghaffarian; The Rise of the People; First Memories; and the theatrical trailer.

To order a copy of Desert Dancer on DVD, visit:

Source:  Baret News

For movies opening November 27, 2015


Kam’s Kapsules:
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

by Kam Williams

For movies opening November 27, 2015

Movies, Opening This Week, November 27, 2015, Kam's Kapsules


Creed (PG-13 for violence, profanity and sensuality) Seventh installment in the Rocky series revives the franchise with this spin-off which finds Apollo Creed’s son (Michael B. Jordan) being trained for a title fight by his late father’s legendary  adversary (Sly Stallone). With Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad and Wood Harris.

The Good Dinosaur (PG for peril, action and mature themes) Animated adventure about an anthropomorphic apatosaurus (Raymond Ochoa) that is befriended by a caveboy (Jack Bright) after falling into a river and being swept far away from home. Voice cast includes Sam Elliott, Jeffrey Wright, Anna Paquin and Frances McDormand.

Victor Frankenstein (PG-13 for violence, macabre images and a scene of destruction) James McAvoy plays the title character in this variation on Mary Shelley’s classic tale about a mad scientist whose experiment in reviving the dead goes horribly wrong. Cast includes Daniel Radcliffe, Jessica Brown Findlay and Bronson Webb.    


Bolshoi Babylon (Unrated) Russian gone postal documentary deconstructing the 2013 acid attack on Sergei Filin, the artistic director of Moscow’s most-prestigious ballet company, by a  disgruntled employee.

The Danish Girl (R for sexuality and full-frontal nudity) Transgender biopic, set in Copenhagen in the Twenties, recounting the pioneering procedure undergone by Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne), one of the first recipients of a sex-change operation.   With Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard and Matthias Schoenaerts.

Iraqi Odyseey (Unrated) Middle East documentary, directed by Samir Jamal al Din, finds the Iraqi expatriate tracing the migration of his people over the past half century in the wake of wars, dictatorship and foreign occupation. (In Arabic, English, German and Russian with subtitles)

Janis: Little Girl Blue (Unrated) Reverential retrospective chronicling the meteoric rise and untimely demise of Janis Joplin (1943-1970). Featuring interviews with record exec Clive Davis, filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker and singer/songwriter Kris Kristofferson.


Karski & the Lords of Humanity (Unrated) Holocaust documentary recounting the exploits of Polish resistance leader Jan Karski (1914-2000) posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2012 and credited with saving 200,000 Jews from the Nazis during World War II.

Stink! (Unrated) Eco-expose’ about many dangerous chemicals politicians knowingly allow avaricious corporations to manufacture and disseminate in consumer products.

Submerged (Unrated) Harrowing thriller about a group of young party animals  held for ransom when their stretch limo plunges into a canal after being forced off the road by kidnappers. Ensemble cast includes Mario Van Peebles, Rosa Salazar, Talulah Riley, Denzel Whitaker, Jonathan Bennett and Tim Daly.

Source:  Baret News

Adaptation of Memoir about Miraculous Recovery Released on DVD


90 Minutes in Heaven

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Adaptation of Memoir about Miraculous Recovery Released on DVD

Traveling Pastor Don Piper was thinking about having his own congregation on his way home from a Christian convention when fate intervened in tragic fashion. His car was crushed so badly by a tractor trailer that he was declared dead right on the 513T9+MYOpLspot by first responders who couldn’t find a pulse.

Since the cops were in no hurry to extract him from the twisted wreckage, he was still lying there over an hour later, when a minister (Michael Harding) passing by the accident scene decided to stop and pray for the repose of his soul. But upon approaching the auto, instead of a corpse, lo and behold, the Good Samaritan found the supposedly deceased to be very much alive.

In fact, Pastor Piper was faintly singing a Gospel spiritual, despite his considerable loss of blood. A rescue team with the jaws of life was immediately summoned and he was soon extracted and rushed to the hospital in excruciating pain.

And although he would fight to survive for the sake of his wife (Kate Bosworth) and their three kids (Hudson Meek, Bobby Batson and  Elizabeth Hunter), Don was actually torn over whether he really wanted to live or die. For, during his near-death experience on the side of the road, he’d briefly entered the proverbial Pearly Gates.

There, he not only experienced an unparalleled feeling of never-ending bliss, but enjoyed reunions with a number of dearly-departed loved ones, including his great-grandmother (Sallye McDougald Hooks) and a couple of childhood friends (Matthew Bauman and Trevor Allen Martin). By comparison, being back on Earth was relatively painful, given the 34 operations he needed to undergo over the next several months to fix torn muscles, disfigurement, broken bones and shattered disks.90 Minutes in Heaven, DVD Review, miraculous recovery, Michael Harding, true story

Thanks to the power of prayer, Pastor Piper did ultimately recover. But rather than open his own church, he wrote a best-seller recounting his entering the Gates of Heaven as well as his subsequent resurrection. Directed by Michael Polish (The Astronaut Farmer) 90 Minutes in Heaven proves to be a pretty palatable modern parable, given that the title sort of serves as a spoiler. Of course, it helps tremendously to be a person a faith, though this is one Christian flick that has the potential to cut across demos.

A goner granted a miraculous reprieve by God ostensibly to let us all know that paradise really exists.

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated PG-13 for an intense car accident and graphic images

Running time: 121 minutes

Studio: Giving Films

Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment      

Blu-ray Extras: The Making of  90 Minutes in Heaven; Meet the Real Pipers; and Giving Films.

To see a trailer for 90 Minutes in Heaven, visit:


To order a copy of 90 Minutes in Heaven on Blu-Ray, visit:

Source:  Baret News

Will 2015 Go Down As The Weakest NFL Season Ever?


Will 2015 Go Down As The Weakest NFL Season Ever?

By Burt Carey

How crazy is it that after 11 weeks of NFL games, there are just nine teams with winning records? Are fans supposed to be completely enamored with the last two remaining undefeated teams and just chalk up the rest of the league as also-rans?

Perish the thought!stadium-663584_640
With sincere apologies to Tom Brady and Cam Newton, the odds just aren’t with either the New England Patriots or the Carolina Panthers to finish with a goose egg in the loss column. Which is a simple way of saying, don’t count out those teams with two, three or even five losses from taking home the Lombardi Trophy next February.

Since the NFL was founded in 1920, only one team has gone through a complete season and the playoffs undefeated (without ties): the 1972 Miami Dolphins. They finished the season 17-0 and won Super Bowl VII.

Three times teams have finished the regular season undefeated.

  • The 1934 Chicago Bears went 13-0 but lost in the ’34 NFL Championship Game to the New York Giants, 30-13. The Giants finished with an 8-5 record.
  • In 1942, having lost head coach George Halas and several players to World War II, the Bears raced to an 11-0 record only to lose to the Washington Redskins 14-6 in the NFL Championship. After a dismal 6-5 season in 1941, Washington rebounded with a sterling 10-1 record in that championship year.
  • And in 2007, Brady and current head coach Bill Belichick led the Patriots to an 18-0 mark (16 regular-season games and two playoff wins) before losing to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. The Giants that year finished the regular season with a 10-6 record and entered the playoffs as a wildcard team.

All of that underscores the fact that the Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills and, yes, the Giants, all at 5-5, have just as much of a shot at going to – and winning – the Super Bowl as either the Patriots or the Panthers.

Arizona Cardinal fans have legitimate reason to cheer for an 8-2 team that won a hard-fought battle against the 8-2 Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday. Both teams are looking solid and relatively healthy moving into the final weeks of the regular season, unlike the 7-3 Denver Broncos who’ve lost quarterback Peyton Manning for the next two weeks.

As the NFL season comes down the stretch, it’s anyone’s call as to which teams will show up in crunch time – and whether the cream of the regular season stays at the top through the playoffs.

Source:  Sportsmans Lifestyle

Road Trip For Great Barbecue!


Road Trip For Great Barbecue!

By Burt Carey


Barbecue is such a personal thing. Choosing between mouth-watering pork ribs and a slow-cooked brisket could send a Q-aficionado into convulsions. And since there’s no shortage of those self-proclaimed barbecue experts who want to put their own stamp on a Top 10 or Top 25 list, we’ll just suggest a road trip right through the heart of the United States to try out some great restaurants where you can get your smoke on.


BBQ, get your smoke on, road trip, St. Louis, Missouri, Lockhart, Texas, Austin, Texas, Kansas City, Kansas

Photo by Steven Depolo

Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, Kansas City, Kansas

Here’s your first stop for charred brisket trimmings. That’s Kansas speak for whatever those fellas from Oklahoma brought to Kansas City in 1996 issure worth a visit any one of the three Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que restaurants. I’m partial to the original location, a former gas station at the corner of 47th and Mission Street.

It used to be called Oklahoma Joe’s, but it still serves the Z-Man sandwich: brisket, provolone cheese and two onion rings on a Kaiser roll. World traveler and television host Anthony Bourdain said Joe’s made his list of “13 Places to Eat Before You Die.”

Don’t be put off if there’s a line of people waiting to eat here. It’s worth the wait. The sandwiches and ribs are top of the list.

Can’t wait til you get there? Look them up online here.

Franklin Barbecue, Austin, Texas

You’re likely to find a line forming by sunrise at Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas. That’s just the way it is for folks who can’t get enough of that Franklin brisket that’s been cooked low and slow for 18 hours. Tender never tasted so good! It’s best to get in line long before noon. They often sell out.

Franklin Barbecue is open only for lunch and serves ribs, sausage, turkey and sandwiches – try the pulled pork! – along with its famed brisket. Pitmaster Aaron Franklin has won the James Beard Award for best chef in the Southwest.

Want to see what you’ll be getting into? Here’s their website.

Kreuz Market, Lockhart, Texas

While you’re down around Austin, you might as well swing over to Lockhart and make a stop at the Kreuz Market for a bite of brisket or sausage.

Kreuz has been around since 1900, when it originally opened as a meat market. It’s now one of the Hill Country’s top barbecue hot spots. And don’t go asking for a fork or sauce; they don’t have either of those.

What they do have is brisket that melts in your mouth, pork ribs that have been seasoned to perfection with black pepper, and sausage laced with jalapeno cheese.

Just look for the big barn at the edge of town. If you get lost or want to order and have something sent via FedEx, call them at (512) 398-2361, or check them out online here.

Pappy’s Smokehouse, St. Louis, Missouri

Pappy’s isn’t exactly an old institution as far as barbecue restaurants are concerned, but since opening in 2008 it’s earned a reputation for Memphis-style ‘cue.

That means slow-cooking their meat for up to 14 hours over cherry or apple wood. Might I suggest the combo plate topped with one of Pappy’s sauces? Pappy’s Original is good and tangy, the Sweet Baby Jane sauce is, well, sweet, Holly’s Hot Sauce will get your attention, and the Hoodoo sauce is even hotter.

As with most great barbecue joints, you’ll find a line here most days – for good reason. Call ahead for more information at (314) 535-4340, or go find Pappy’s online here.


Source:  Sportsmans Lifestyle

Real Estate Appraiser Numbers Keep Falling



Real Estate Appraiser Numbers Keep Falling

By Burt Carey

When the housing bubble burst in 2008, lawmakers, bankers and mortgage company executives collectively pointed fingers at each other and at real estate appraisers.

In response, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Protection Act of 2010, which limited direct contact between mortgage Gingerbread_House_Essex_CTcompanies and appraisers, and put in place sweeping procedural changes that have led to serious concerns that the cost of home appraisals could skyrocket as the number of professional, credentialed appraisers in the United States continues to decline.

The country had a robust population of more than 92,000 appraisers in 2007. Today that figure has dropped to 78,500, and only about a third of them work in residential real estate.

There are several reasons appraisers are leaving the industry. Retirement is claiming a large majority of appraisers, but heavy workloads, lower pay, an aversion to technology and a failing marketplace (not enough sales) are also taking their toll.

What concerns industry executives most is that few young professionals are entering the appraisal field. The Dodd-Frank legislation unwittingly cut out the profession’s future by dictating a list of requirements for appraiser trainees that has become more and more stringent with each passing year.

Trainees must take at least 75 hours of classroom instruction and more than 2,000 hours working for low pay under a qualified mentor. To become licensed as a residential appraiser, allowing the appraiser to value homes up to $1 million, requires another 150 hours of classroom time. Those who stick around several years can become a certified real estate appraiser, which requires another 210 hours of classroom time studying advanced finance, valuation and market analysis.

Beginning this year, new appraisers must have a four-year college degree. Recent college grads, however, aren’t willing to work for $150 for an appraisal that takes an average of eight hours to complete.

No longer is it possible for a mortgage company using a Fanny Mae or other government-sponsored loan to work directly with an appraiser. Dodd-Frank led to the creation of appraisal management companies. The lender contacts an AMC with a potential home sale, and the AMC contacts and works with the appraiser through the process.

Mortgage lenders maintain lists of appraisers (called panels) it has approved. (Trainees are rarely approved for such panels.) The AMCs also require appraisers to register, including updated copies of annually renewed licenses, continuing education, and proof of general business and errors/omissions indemnity. The AMCs also eat into the dollars that traditionally went to appraisers, generally cutting payments to appraisers in half.

Every mortgage company and AMC has its own requirements of appraisers, which oftentimes means producing as many as 30 pages for a single appraisal on a home. Many now require more comparable sales than in years past, and some even demand to see other active sales listings that are comparable to the subject home. For their part, appraisers must physically inspect and measure the subject home, and physically see and photograph comparable sales.

One significant challenge with AMCs is geographic in nature. An AMC headquartered in Southern California, for example, may be assigning appraisers to jobs anywhere in the country. The assigned appraiser may be licensed in that particular state but may not be familiar with the county, city or neighborhood of their subject property, and could be assigning values based on incorrect data.

All of the changes since the housing bubble have led to a disgruntled population of aging appraisers. The Chicago-based Appraisal Institute projects that 3% of appraisers will retire every year over the next decade. By 2025, the country’s appraiser population could be as low as 58,000. The profession’s demographics tell the story: In 2007, about half of appraisers were age 51 or older. Today that figure is 62%. Only 24% are between 36 and 50, and 13% are younger than 35.

How all of this affects home buyers – the ones who usually pay for appraisals – is yet to be seen. A supply-and-demand cycle may lead to increased prices for home appraisals, as fewer residential appraisers are available, or AMCs and mortgage lenders may turn to data sampling products to determine values.

Source:  Sportsmans Lifestyle

Top Ten DVD List for November 24, 2015


This Week’s DVD Releases

by Kam Williams

Top Ten DVD List for November 24, 2015
Top Ten, DVD List, November 24, 2015, by Kam Williams

Bad Boys and Bad Boys II [20th Anniversary Collection]


Shaun the Sheep

Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back [The Criterion Collection]

The New Rijksmuseum

American Ultra

A Christmas Horror Story

No Escape

Inside Amy Schumer: Season Three

The Dinner

Honorable Mention

Ricki and the Flash

The Search for Michael Rockefeller

The Storm Makers

Mrs. Brown’s Boys: The Complete Series

Santa’s Little Helper

The Last House

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.

Symphony in Blood Red

Source:  Baret News