NFL Week Wrap: Shall We Dance?

 

NFL Week Wrap: Shall We Dance?

By Amy Lignor

 

The NFL teams are all over the place in almost all the divisions this year. What was, last year, the number “7” when it came to wins you had to have at the end of the regular season to fight for a spot in the playoffs, has now turned into the number “5.” That’s right, eight teams began on Sunday at 5-5 and actually LEAD their divisions. In other words, anything is possible when it comes to who will still be in come playoff time, right beside the Panthers and the Patriots.

 

il_fullxfull.786397897_ecs7Talk about a dance: it is the Vikings versus the Packers. First it’s the Pack ahead, then the Vikings…then the Pack beat the Vikings last week. Yet, on Thursday, the Bears came in and ruined Turkey Day for the Packers at Lambeau. Perhaps it was the tryptophan and the Pack was falling asleep. But then, the Vikings had to meet with the Falcons today. Would they have issues and give the Pack back the top spot? Nope. Minnesota had no problem whatsoever defeating Atlanta 20 to 10, giving them a one-game lead over beloved Green Bay. Is Aaron Rodgers done? No, guys. There are six games left. No one is safe.

 

San Diego Chargers beat Jacksonville easily enough, and Raiders beat the Titans. And…if everyone missed the real “turkey” performance, it was Cam Newton doing the Twist, the Swim, and any other dance he could think of when the Panthers beat the Cowboys and retired Romo for the season. It’s getting to the point, Cam, where we would rather see you on “Dancing with the Stars.” At least THAT is a show football lovers can turn off. Just keep the Seahawks in the back of your mind. First you’re on top…then…who knows where the heck you are.

 

Biggest messed up division possible is the NFC East. Let’s face it, the Eagles are done. Even though they can reach first place, they’re done. Two weeks of major losses, giving up a slew of points, and players that do not look remotely like they even want to play for their coach – that is the Philadelphia Eagles. Then, the Cowboys. Oh, yeah. Done. Without Romo they have proved they got a whole lot of nothing. So this means…say what? The Washington Redskins actually beat the Giants on Sunday. It was QB Eli Manning’s 178th straight start in the NFL, the most in the league, but when he headed into Washington and attempted to drop them back two games in the standings, it was the Redskins who came out of nowhere and ruined Manning’s day. Skins QB Kirk Cousins has not exactly been a star, but he was certainly focused. Either Eli Manning was having pains for his bro or just decided that this of all days was the day to throw as many interceptions as possible. What remains is that without Odell Beckham, Jr. at least grabbing those one-handed TD’s every once in a while, they would be dead in the water and not just out of first place.

 

Chiefs versus the Bills. Chiefs aren’t talked about a lot defense-wise, yet when looking at the stats, they should be. These guys are good…just quieter than the Rex Ryan defense of the Bills. Or…quieter than Ryan, himself. (As is an earthquake at its epicenter). Chiefs QB Alex Smith has not lost in a while, and this fact remains true. Another loss was handed to the Bills on a very bitter platter. Chiefs: 30, Bills: 22.

 

Drew Brees needed to come out against the Texans and prove that he is just as good as he is on those days where he is really good. This was not one of those days. The Texans take it, 24 to 6.

 

Bengals were on top…undefeated. Then, all of a sudden, they lost two in a row. Andy Dalton’s bright red hair is still in place, but is his fire still there? Oh, yeah. And he made sure to show the Rams that the fire is still blazing hot. Bengals take it and get back on track, 31 to 7.

 

40-year old Matt Hasselbeck has been the QB that is utter perfection when manning the helm of the Indianapolis Colts. Sunday, the oldest QB met up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that just so happens to employ the youngest QB in the NFL. Did energy win out over knowledge? Nope. Seems like Hasselbeck is actually the only luck the Colts need. Colts: 25, Tampa Bay: 12

 

Did you place your bets at the beginning of the season when you saw on the roster where the Patriots would be up against the Broncos? In Mile High? Where no one can seem to breathe? With the snow falling? But when you put that money down for the bet, you probably assumed that a man named Peyton would be the QB of the Broncos. And that the Patriots would have healthy receivers instead of an injured list that is longer than Santa’s wish list. In the end, the Patriots could clinch this weekend if they won and the Jets lost…which the Jets normally do. This weekend they decided not to play by those standards and literally showed Miami the door. Jets: 38, Miami: 20.

Now, THIS is football!

 

Source:  Baret News

 

Could Humans Become a Trend?

 

Could Humans Become a Trend?

 

AMC’s TV show “Humans” may have started this whole thing. After all, before that show aired, robots that had been presented to the very human audience were usually chrome colored or beeped or turned into the ultimate sports car. Some of the most exciting even got their own movies. Transformers, anyone? Others had their own hit franchises and will be reborn Actroid-DER_01before the year is over. C-3P0 and R2-D2 will live again. The gold one will sound pompous, the little one will beep up a storm, and both will cost a lot in order to wrap in paper and heave them under the Christmas tree.

When it came to the TV show, “Humans,” we are talking about a supremely intricate Swedish story that had to be translated for an American audience; a translation that had to make sense even though the theme was technology. Now the people in the show of course are human. Gemma Chan stars and she is stunning. She could also pass for a robot considering the fact that when you look closely she doesn’t seem to sport even one wrinkle. But, luckily for the world, she is still human.

Now, however, there is new technology on the horizon that should not only cause hair to stand up on the back of everyone’s neck, but also upset real humans in the entertainment industry who do not want to be replaced by actors who may be prettier and far less cheaper.

This past week in Beijing, The World Robot Conference was held. The magnet that seemed to attract everyone was the latest ‘model’ of Geminoid F; a realistic robot woman. Actually, she was frighteningly realistic, like something that Stephen King might have created once upon a time, Creepier still is the fact that this…thing is called “the world’s sexiest robot,” and, yes, she doesn’t have a wrinkle either. This android has rubber skin. She can speak, sing and, yes, even act. It was only a few short weeks ago that it was announced the android will star in a new Japanese disaster film titled, “Sayonara,” which will actually give an actress profile on IMDB to a robot.

Created by the mighty minds at Osaka University’s Ishiguro lab, the android was designed to be a woman in her twenties. She has an operating system that allows her to imitate motions and facial expressions of real people. (Grossed out, yet?) They even, perhaps even more frighteningly, gave her the ability to age. Her skin is a gel that will “become saggy” after one or two years which will then be replaced. Five-foot-six, she makes eye contact, understands, learns and takes on human body language, and smiles…with a whole lot of teeth. She does have a male robot counterpart, and if kids come out of this relationship, Stephen King should be called in to stop the whole thing.

This lab hopes that the android will become more common in “communication media for everyday life.” Apparently, event visitors crowded around her just to get a chance to talk with an android. When one man asked her age, she answered in a completely normal voice: “My age is a secret. I like chatting with people.” Although some commented on how lovely the android is, frankly, without Kiefer Sutherland’s voice and Bradley Cooper’s looks, the thing has no future in Hollywood.

Let’s be honest, people…and I mean people here, robots are fine. Technology is interesting. We have saved lives with experiments and by increasing our own knowledge. But, we have also destroyed. No one wants movies with robots in them. They want actors. If the actors have to play a robot and do it well, then give them the Oscar. Let’s just make sure that human beings stay the higher species. If we don’t, this may turn into the scariest world we’ve ever seen. And that includes all Stephen King’s works.

Source:  Baret News

 

Nick’s Got Talent!

 

Nick Cannon
The “Chi-Raq” Interview

with Kam Williams

Nick’s Got Talent!

Nick Cannon is a multi-faceted entertainer who wears many hats: comedian, executive producer and host for television, film star, director, entrepreneur, philanthropist and author of children’s books. Cited by People magazine as one of the “Top 10 Most Successful Young People in Hollywood,” Cannon is proof positive that focus and hard work can pay off. Nick made his first appearance on the big screen alongside Will Smith in Men in Black II, and was later seen in Drumline and Bobby.

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More recently, he wrote, directed and produced his first studio film, School Dance, and produced the sequel, Drumline: A New Beat. And he is currently in production on the reboot of the TV-series, Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.

The San Diego native began performing at the age of 8 after his grandfather left him several instruments as a gift. Shortly thereafter, he took to the stage to perform his music along with stand-up comedy.

Nick headed for Hollywood at the age of 15 and landed gigs at world-renowned comedy venues including The Improv, The Laugh Factory and The Comedy Store before landing his first television gig as a series regular and writer on Nickelodeon’s long-running hit series All That. This trajectory culminated in the creation of “The Nick Cannon Show,” which he starred in, directed and executive-produced.

Nick currently hosts NBC’s America’s Got Talent, which kicked off its 10th season last May. While his professional endeavors keep him extremely busy, Cannon has always made the time to use his resources and his voice as a philanthropist to giveback to the community and those in need, working with such charitable organizations as Feeding America, Boys and Girls Clubs, Do Something, Toys for Tots, Stomp Out Bullying, the Lupus Foundation of America and the National Kidney Foundation, to name a few. He is also an active member on the Board of Directors of New York’s St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital and he runs the Nicholas Scott Cannon Foundation.

Here, Nick talks about playing the title character in Spike Lee’s new film, Chi-Raq, a modernized adaptation of Aristophanes’ classic Greek comedy, Lysistrata.

Kam Williams: Hi Nick. I’m honored to have another opportunity to speak with you.

Nick Cannon: Oh, likewise, Kam. How’re you doing?

KW: Great, thanks. I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, so I’ll be mixing their questions in with mine. Children’s book author Irene smalls asks: What interested you in Chi-Raq?

NC: Even before I read a script, Spike Lee came to me and said, “I want to save lives in Chicago, on the South Side.” And I was like, “I’m in! I don’t know what that is, but I’m in.” Then, when I saw how he made the brave artistic choice to take Aristophanes’ 2,500 year-old play, Lysistrata, and set it in modern times, I thought that was brilliant and I felt honored to be able to be a a part of the project.

KW: Were you aware of Lysistrata before making this movie?

NC: Yeah, I was definitely familiar with Lysistrata  and other works of Aristophanes, and had heard the play’s plot referenced in various ways over the years.

KW: What did you think about all the rhyme in the dialogue?

NC: I thought it was outstanding that this film was in verse. I love how Spike remained faithful to that original format while mixing in spoken word and hip-hop and conveying an emotional message.

KW: Irene also asks: To what extent do you think we blacks are responsible for the violence in our communities?

NC: I say we’re responsible for everything in our community. We have to take responsibility for us, and for our own. Right now, I feel like it’s about reconditioning the community. We let this generation down, so we have to step back in and do whatever we can be the real pillars and the real leaders. Ultimately, these young people are hurt. They’re in pain. And instead of pointing a finger at them, we need to get involved and do something about the situation.

KW: Editor/Lergist Patricia Turnier asks: How did you prepare to play Chi-Raq?

NC: I really got to be a part of the community through Spike and [longtime Chicago political activist] Father Michael Pfleger who introduced me to some young peacekeepers, some reformed gang members turned leaders in the South side of Chicago. I lived with them. They came to my hotel and said, “Yo, let’s go!. Let’s rock! We going! We have to show you every aspect of who we are and what we do.” I was able to jump in in a big way, and that’s what it was all about.

KW: I assume that John Cusack’s character, Father Mike Corridan, was a thinly-veiled version of Father Pfleger. He really looked and sounded just like him.

NC: I haven’t yet seen the film, but I’m well aware of Father Pfleger, and I watched John study him. And when you have such a phenomenal artist like John, I’m confident he embodied him in every way possible.

KW: That’s quite a cast Spike assembled for Chi-Raq.

NC: Yeah, that just shows the power of Spike. People love him, and will come out for him to be a part of one of his projects. He always puts together a phenomenal cast, especially when the film is designed to deliver such an important, positive message. That made everybody jump in wholeheartedly.

  

KW: How would you describe that message?

NC: We want people to appreciate the value of life. A life is a life, and, like Spike says, “If we save one life with this film, then we’ve done our job.”

KW: Patricia also says: You are involved in the music industry as an entertainer, host and producer shows. I really think there is a need for another TV show like Soul Train. Are you interested in developing, producing and hosting a program like that which would give aspiring musical artists a chance to be showcased?

NC: Yes. In fact, for the last couple of years, I’ve been developing with the Soul Train brand a show that could be very powerful for our culture. We’re putting something together that’s been in the works for quite a while. So, Patricia’s right on the money with that suggestion.Nick Cannon, The “Chi-Raq” Interview, with Kam Williams, School Dance, America's Got Talent

KW: Patricia’s last question is: What was the biggest professional challenge you faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

NC: You know what? There are challenges every day, when it comes to this industry. But I never like it when someone tries to put me in a box. As soon as they think they have me figured out, I turn left. In that sense, it’s all about blazing your own trail and doing something no one’s ever done before. You have to give them something new, just when they they think they know what to expect from you. Part of that comes from my not being able to sit still, but mostly it comes from a need to push boundaries as an artist. If someone says, “You can’t do that,” that just ignites me. I have to show them that I can do it, and that I can do it well.

KW: Yeah, you’ve come so far that I’d totally forgotten that you started out as a child star on All That on Nickelodeon, which was one my son’s favorite show as a child.

NC: Thanks, Kam. That’s what it’s all about. It’s about growth and being able to build a career that can sustain. I’ve been doing this for two decades now. So, it has been a blessing, to say the least, to be able to express myself creatively on so many levels.

KW: Marilyn Marshall says: America’s Got Talent is enjoying great ratings, while American Idol continues to decline and is preparing for its final season. How do you explain the success of your show?

NC: It’s a family show you can watch with your children and your grandparents. At it’s core, it’s just true to what entertainment’s all about. It’s simply watching people display their talents in front of an audience.

KW: Did you feel any heavy burden playing the title character in a Spike Lee film?

NC: I didn’t see it as a burden. I welcomed it as a challenge. I also saw it as an honor for Spike to choose me for the role and to afford me a opportunity not only to display my skills as an actor but to be a part of a movement which really cares about people.   

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

NC: [Chuckles] I don’t know. Maybe that question. Obviously, there are so many questions one could be asked, but I can’t think of one off the top of my head.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

NC: I wish I could cook. My favorite thing to make is boiled eggs, because it’s the only one I know how to do. [Laughs]

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

NC: Singing and dancing at about age 4.

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

NC: Just the value of life itself, knowing how to respect each other, and that you have to learn to love yourself before you can do anything else in life. That’s revealed to me each day on so many different levels.

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?

NC: I’m probably a little more chill and a little more reserved in my everyday movements. But at the same time, I am that guy on the red carpet, too. But I’d have to say I’m probably a little more introspective and kind of focused than most would probably believe.

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

NC: Me, in all my glory! [LOL]

  

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

NC: I don’t know that I have just one I could pinpoint.

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

NC: Anywhere by the water is always amazing, whether that’s Malibu, Manhattan Beach or Newport. All those areas are beautiful.

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

NC: Probably a lion, the king of the jungle. [Chuckles]

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?

NC: Not really. It was never about become famous. It was more about becoming the best artist I could possible be. I see it as a great blessing to have attained the level that I’ve reached.

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

NC: I can’t think of one. But you never know, if the right project presented itself, I would definitely open it up.

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

NC: Freddy Krueger. [from A Nightmare on Elm Street]

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

NC: Don’t follow in mine. Blaze your own trail and go further than I could ever go.

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

NC: As someone who made people smile and entertained them with his art.

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

NC: Just my phone, because my phone and my wallet are the same thing.

KW: Thanks so much for the time, Nick, and best of luck with Chi-Raq and all your many endeavors.

NC: Thank you very much, Kam. I appreciate it.

To see a trailer for Chi-Raq, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0Bs1df0kPI

Source:  Baret News

Don’t Blame it on the Turkey

 

Don’t Blame it on the Turkey

By Amy Lignor

 

Ah…Turkey Day. When Thanksgiving comes along, family and friends get together and enjoy a good, good meal. Or, that is exactly what the process should be. But there were three things on this particular Turkey Day that ruffled a few feathers. For those families who went straight to the movies to see “The Hunger Games” wrap it all up after the bird was consumed, then New-turkeysTurkey Day was mostly peaceful and fun, allowing the bird to taste even more delicious. For those who have a certain tradition, however, that involves people with helmets who decide that on Turkey Day they will give fans and enemies a chance to see an NFL football game, when Thanksgiving came to a close many felt as if the turkey was somehow bad.

 

The majority of Texas was riled this past Thursday. They were grieving, perhaps even weeping, as the Carolina Panthers walked onto turf based in the Lone Star State and not only buried the Cowboys, but also took out the only weapon that everyone had waited for ages to be put back in. Yes, when QB Tony Romo laid on that turf and grabbed his shoulder everyone with a drumstick in their mouths threw it at the television set. Other than Carolina fans, most people were really routing to see the Panthers take a loss. Not to be mean, just to teach a rookie QB, who is getting a bit pompous this early in his career, that having an undefeated season is not as easy as he seems to think it is. But to watch Romo, the only guy this team ever wins a game with, walk into the locker room and basically say goodbye for the rest of the season was heartbreaking. Suddenly, people were looking up “salmonella poisoning” on the Internet, wondering why that pain in their guts had become so intense.

 

A somehwat lesser pain came in Philly. These fans are adamant about their Eagles, of course, but they’ve already seen (just last week, in fact) that their beloved players can lose against a team that scores 45 points. Back-to-back embarrassments. Especially for RB DeMarco Murray. A man who made the comment: “I’ve never been a part of anything like this.” Think about it. He’s the one who dumped the Cowboys to have a banner season with the Eagles. Hmm…come to think of it, the way things worked out, Murray would have had a horrific time no matter what team he played with. He could, however, teach Cam Newton that being a rookie one year and grabbing all the accolades does not mean the next year you can’t become an absolute no one on the field.

 

Now the third “bad tasting turkey dinners” appeared after a game that was extremely surprising, painful, wet, yet also had the best halftime show. Not a great recipe for the Green Bay Packers who hosted a team that they’ve beaten many times. The Chicago Bears barely win, we know that. They have picked up steam, but going to Green Bay and playing in that godawful weather in the home where football all began in most people’s eyes, had everyone placing another tick in their loss column before the game even began. But…don’t blame the turkey. Mother Nature gets the fault for this one. That rain came tumbling down and grew far colder as the night went on. No one could catch those flying footballs. In fact, the only reason the Bears won was one lucky play that their defense was able to grab. (He had some kind of glue on those mitts of his.) What about the halftime show? Brett Favre was retired and his name revealed in the Packers Ring of Honor within the stadium. He spoke about how good it was to be in Lambeau weather again, the real football weather, and secretly thought, “Thank God I do not have to do this anymore.” What was even cooler was the fact that the real idol, Bart Starr, came out on the field and was a part of the ceremony. Even though Green Bay couldn’t get the win, the fans got to see that amazing QB one more time.

 

So…congrats Detroit for being yet another to make the Eagles look like a grade school team. Congrats to the Panthers for staying undefeated. It will be interesting to see if the Patriots can remain that way as well when they head to Denver. And congrats to the Bears, even though they were completely outshone by the classiness of quarterbacks. Two QB’s, by the way, that the fans in that stadium were secretly hoping would re-don their uniforms and help the team out.

 

But, remember, don’t blame the pain you felt on the turkey; it was cooked just fine.

 

Source:  Baret News

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

 

Youth

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

 

Chi-Raq

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:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B014UE9TKI/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Source:  Baret News

For movies opening November 27, 2015

OPENING THIS WEEK

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

BIG BUDGET FILMS

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.    

INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

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:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtPq23E1Q1U

Or: http://90minutesinheaventhemovie.com/videosphotos

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

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0158W4MPS/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Source:  Baret News