Lawyer on a Mission to Preserve the Hard-Fought Right to Vote

 

Dee Hunter

The “Voting Rights Project” Interview

with Kam Williams

Lawyer on a Mission to Preserve the Hard-Fought Right to Vote

Dee Hunter is the Executive Director of The Civil Rights Center, a Washington, DC-based public advocacy organization dedicated to advancing the public interest in the areas of criminal justice reform and voting rights. The

Civil Rights Center is a national leader in the fight to end the Crosscheck Program, a discriminatory, GOP project ostensibly-designed to purge masses of minority voters from the polls.

Dee has a long history of political advocacy and organizing. He has worked on numerous political campaigns and for several non-profit political organizations including Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, Ralph Nader’s Appleseed Foundation, Americans for Democratic Action, The American Nurses Association and SEIU. And he is currently a Palast Foundation Fellow.

Dee studied political science at American University and is a graduate of Howard University School of Law.  He is currently a Masters of Divinity candidate at Wesley Theological Seminary. here, he talks about launching the Voting Rights Project.

Kam Williams: Hi Dee, thanks for the interview.

Dee Hunter: Thank you, Kam, for covering this important issue.

KW: Why are you launching the Voting Rights Project in Georgia?

DH: The Voting Rights Project is a campaign to combat the GOP mass voter purge scheme called the Crosscheck Program. It is fundamentally flawed, racially and politically discriminatory. The Crosscheck Program is a list of people who have purportedly registered to vote in two different states. The list contains approximately seven million names and is terribly flawed. It has resulted in the mass purging of millions of minority voters. Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, a pioneer of racial and partisan voter suppression, started Crosscheck.

We demand that Georgia end these illegal mass purges. We want to bring attention to Crosscheck, and the widespread voter suppression and persecution of voting rights activists that is going on throughout Georgia.  We want to be sure they don’t use Crosscheck to steal the 6th Congressional District like Trump stole the Presidential election. We are starting with Georgia and targeting the 20 most competitive Congressional Districts in states currently using the Crosscheck Program.

KW: What sort of voter suppression has transpired in the state?

DH: The systemic voter suppression and illegal persecution of voting rights activists in Georgia is more reminiscent of 1917 rather than 2017. Georgia officials have engaged in hostile racially and partisan motivated persecution of voting rights activists throughout the state. Its runs from the Governor and Secretary of State offices down to local, county voter registration boards. They first gerrymander the election districts illegally diluting our vote, then pass restrictive ID and registration laws. Next, they reduce the number of places where and the hours during which we can vote, and purge us by the hundreds of thousands using the Crosscheck Program. They also engage in a pattern of harassment and intimidation of voting rights activists. If you register people to vote in certain parts of Georgia you face the possibility of going to jail. People are afraid of retaliation for helping to register people to vote.

KW: How have they been getting away with this?

DH: Georgia has been a pioneer in voter suppression. Gerrymandering of state legislative districts in 2000 was the beginning of the modern onslaught. In 2008, Georgia adopted the Crosscheck Program while other states were dis-enrolling because of its unreliability. But Georgia adopted one of the most stringent Voter ID laws and felony disenfranchisement laws in the country. Elected officials throughout the state have engaged various suppression tactics. Secretary of State Brian Kemp has led the efforts. Kemp’s tenure has been plagued with multiple illegal mass purges. He has unlawfully refused to accept tens of thousands of voter registration applications because of small technical errors

He has also shortened the period for early voting, reduced the polling places in minority neighborhoods. He has generally engaged in a pattern and practice of harassment and intimidation of voting and civil rights activists.   

KW: How do you hope to prevent further violations in Georgia?

DH: I The strategy is threefold. It involves litigation, legislation, and mobilization. We are bringing together some of the most successful voting rights activists and organizations in the state to discuss tactics and strategies to combat Crosscheck, voter suppression and persecution. We are developing a Georgia Voting Rights Act that would stop the Crosscheck Program and other illegal mass purges. It would also liberalize voter registration and make it easier for people to register and to vote. Considering the extent that the GOP controls the legislature and state government, we are in for a long battle. Civil rights and voting rights groups have been quick to turn to the courts to combat voter suppression in Georgia. The results have been mixed. Recent legal victories in redistricting are encouraging.  Even when courts have ruled in favor of voting rights activists the state has refused to follow court orders. Activists are begging to bring lawsuits against election officials and other state officials in their personal capacity when they persecute activists and abuse their power. We must increase awareness and engagement. The same passion shown in the fight to save healthcare must be applied to voting rights. Trump won the state by 200,000 votes. If we increase minority turnout by three percent, candidates that would support expanding voting rights would win statewide. It is literally going to take hand-to-hand combat, door-to-door grassroots organizing at the neighborhood level. 

KW: What do you think of Trump’s Election Integrity Commission?

DH: It should be more appropriately called the Voter Suppression Commission. It is a very dangerous development. Kobach is the chair of this commission and will use it to make it more difficult to register to vote and to vote. Trump is delusional. His claim that millions of people committed voter fraud costing him the popular vote is just as valid as his assertion that the Russian interference in the election is “fake news.”  Any Secretary of State involved with this commission is assisting the enemies of voting rights.

KW What is the next stop for The Voting Rights Project?

DH: We are organizing in Virginia in June and in North Carolina in July. We are targeting the most competitive Congressional Districts in every state participating in Crosscheck.  They stole the 2016 presidential election. We are going to fight to make sure they don’t steal another.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Dee, and best of luck with the Voting Rights Project.

DH: Thank you for taking the time to cover this important issue, Kam.

 

Justice Denied Documentary Chronicles Racist Targeting of Chinese-American Bank

 

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

Film Review by Kam Williams

Justice Denied Documentary Chronicles Racist Targeting of Chinese-American Bank

Asian-Americans are often referred to as the “model minority” because of their  success in the U.S. despite the existence of discrimination which has crippled other ethnic groups. However, the label has also led many a racist to misread Asian modesty as an invitation to treat them like doormats.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Film Review, Documentary, discrimination, Asian, Dr. David Dao, United Airlines, Thomas Sung

Consider the serious rudeness done to Dr. David Dao, the Vietnamese-American physician who was beaten to a pulp by the police and dragged off an airplane for refusing to surrender a seat that he’d paid for to a United Airlines employee flying for free. Lost in the sauce was the fact he and his family were very likely selected because of the color of their skin. After all, the airline employee probably specifically targeted the Dao family never expecting members of the model minority to put up much of a fuss about getting bumped.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail is a jaw-dropping documentary which chronicles an equally-outrageous example of bigotry, this time against the Sungs, a clan of Chinese-American immigrants. Inspired by the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” family Patriarch  Thomas Sung founded Abacus Federal Savings Bank in 1984 in the heart of New York City’s Chinatown.

He was motivated to help his community after repeatedly witnessing how other lending institutions were willing take Chinese people’s deposits, but were very hesitant to let them borrow any money. Abacus flourished over the years, and his daughters, Jill and Heather, joined the family business as executives after becoming lawyers.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Film Review, Documentary, discrimination, Asian, Dr. David Dao, United Airlines, Thomas Sung

The world came crashing down around them all when the bank and 19 of its employees were charged with conspiracy, larceny and fraud in the wake of of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. What’s stunning is that Abacus was the only financial institution the government ever held responsible criminally for the collapse of the mortgage market. Furthermore, the case was based entirely on evidence which Abacus itself had turned over to federal regulators  upon unearthing felonious behavior on the part of a loan officer it fired on the spot.

Was the ensuing prosecution malicious or warranted? Judge for yourself. But don’t be surprised if this chilling expose leaves you convinced the Sungs were innocent victims of a thoroughly corrupt legal system doling out “justice” in color-coded fashion, even when it comes to white-collar crime.

Excellent (4 stars)

Unrated

In English, Mandarin and Cantonese with subtitles

Running time: 88 minutes

Production Studio: Kartemquin Films

Distributor: PBS

For movies opening May 26, 2017

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

by Kam Williams

For movies opening May 26, 2017

MOVIES OPENING THIS WEEK,   Kam's Kapsules,  Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun,  by Kam Williams

BIG BUDGET FILMS

Baywatch (R for crude humor, graphic sexuality, frontal nudity and pervasive profanity) Screen adaptation of the long-running TV series (1989-2001) as an unlikely-buddies action comedy about a veteran lifeguard (Dwayne Johnson) and a rebellious recruit (Zac Efron) forced to put aside their differences to take on a drug ring ruining the area. With Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach, and featuring cameos by original cast members David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson.     

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (PG-13 for violence and suggestive content) Johnny Depp is back as Captain Jack Sparrow for a swashbuckling adventure which finds the Black Pearl pursued by a ghost ship with a zombie crew under the command of an old nemesis (Javier Bardem). With Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush and Kaya Scodelario.

INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

96 Souls (Unrated) Sci-fi thriller about a research scientist who, after a lab accident, discovers he’s able to read people’s minds. With Sid Veda, Paul Statman and Toyin Moses.

Black Butterfly (R for profanity) Suspense thriller revolving around a reclusive writer (Antonio Banderas) who, against his better judgment, invites a shady drifter (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) to crash in his cabin during a serial killer’s reign of terror around the mountainous region. Supporting cast includes Piper Perabo, Abel Ferrara and Nicholas Aaron. 

Buena Vista Social Club: Adios (PG for mature themes, brief suggestive material and pervasive smoking) Concert documentary and sequel to the 2000 Oscar-nominee follows the final tour of the five surviving members of the band as they reflect on their careers and their contributions to Cuba’s musical culture. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)

Cruel and Unusual (Unrated) Miscarriage of justice documentary chronicling the 42 years straight spent in solitary confinement by Robert King, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, Black Panthers targeted and convicted of murder without a shred of evidence besides the testimony of bribed and blind witnesses.

Drone (Unrated) Revenge thriller about an American drone pilot (Sean Bean) conducting covert bombing missions from the comfort of his hometown who suddenly finds himself accused of killing the innocent family of a grieving Pakistani businessman. (Patrick Sabongui). With Mary McCormack, Joel David Moore and Sharon Taylor. 

Long Strange Trip (R for profanity, graphic nudity and pervasive drug use) Warts-and-all rockumentary affording a revealing look at the life and times of the Grateful Dead. Featuring never before seen video footage of Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bob Weir, Robert Hunter, Bill Kreutzmann and Pigpen.

Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan (Unrated) Prestige profile following the prima ballerina as she prepares to perform a modern dance piece while contemplating the end of her three-decade career with the New York City Ballet. 

The Women’s Balcony (Unrated) Tale of female empowerment, set in Jerusalem, revolving around the women members of an Orthodox congregation’s attempt to derail their new rabbi’s (Avraham Aviv Alush) plan to implement traditional gender roles at the synagogue. With Oma Banai, Yafit Asulin and Sharon Elimelech. (In Hebrew with subtitles)

Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama

 

David J. Garrow, Barack Obama, Book Review by Kam Williams, Genevieve Cook, Pulitzer Prize-winnerRising Star
The Making of Barack Obama 

by David J. Garrow

William Morrow

Hardcover, $45.00

1472 pages

ISBN: 978-0-06-264183-0

Book Review by Kam Williams

“Barack Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention instantly catapulted him into the national spotlight and led to his election four years later as America’s first African-American president. In this penetrating biography, David J. Garrow delivers an epic work about the life of Barack Obama, creating a rich tapestry of a life little understood, until now…

In Rising Star, Garrow has created a vivid portrait that reveals not only the people and forces that shaped the future president but also the ways in which he used those influences to serve his larger aspirations. This is a gripping read about a young man born into uncommon family circumstances, whose faith in his own talents came face-to-face with fantastic ambitions and a desire to do good in the world.” 

— Excerpted from the Bookjacket

For some reason, presidential biographies by Pulitzer Prize-winners tend to be rather lengthy. Consider David McCullough’s on John Adams (752 pages) and Harry Truman (1120 pages), Doris Kearns Goodwin’s on Abe Lincoln (1,341 pages) and FDR (760 pages), and Robert Caro’s continuing series on LBJ (3,180 pages and counting).   

Now, another Pulitzer Prize-winner, David J. Garrow, has published an epic opus of 1,472 pages on the life of Barack Obama, focusing on the years prior to the presidency. And it’s a safe bet that Garrow just might eventually write a sequel about about POTUS 44’s time in the White House, too. 

Any Obama fan is likely to find this in-depth portrait fascinating, as it is filled with plenty of little-known factoids and anecdotes about him. For example, it chronicles a childhood spent mostly on Hawaii where he was basically raised by his maternal grandparents in the absence of both his mother and father.

Garrow also documents “Barry’s” use of marijuana in high school and of cocaine in college, when he started preferring “Barack.” And the author reveals the identity of the woman Obama lived with for a couple of years during his stint in Chicago as a grassroots organizer.

We also learn that Obama not only worked with a lot of Bible-thumping sisters during his initial stint in the Windy City, but that he was already planning to become president of the United States way back then. And there’s the blow-by-blow of his strained relationship with Genevieve Cook, the rudderless white woman he dated during his tenure in New York City.

Everything you always wanted to know about Barack Obama but were afraid to ask, and then some!

To order a copy of Rising Star, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0062641832/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20 

Top Ten DVD List for May 23, 2017

 

This Week’s DVD Releases

by Kam Williams

Top Ten DVD List for May 23, 2017

This Week’s DVD Releases, Kam Williams, Top Ten DVD List, 05/23/2017

Get Out               

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06WW76HBM/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Shake the Dust

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06XRJ27W5/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

My Life as a Zucchini

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06WRTFKRY/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

All Governments Lie

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06XFHKFYF/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

The Enless Summer: Director’s Special Edition

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B003NAQ71A/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Injecting Aluminum

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06XD1LBMM/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Gauguin: Maker of Myth

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06XS2DS7N/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Unlocking the Cage

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06XSG3LF2/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Shaquille O’Neal All-Star Comedy Jam: Live from Sin City

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06XKJL4S4/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06XS27C3W/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Honorable Mention

On Any Sunday: Re-Mastered Director’s Special Edition

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000S88JTS/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

The Future of Work and Death

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06XFLZ2FB/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Welcome to the Loud House: Season 1, Volume 1

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06XNTYY64/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Outsiders: Season Two

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01MRBK70B/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Peel: The Peru Project

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000GY729C/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Duck Dynasty: The Final Season

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B071H7X859/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

The Great Wall

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06WGLLYNQ/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Rock Dog

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06ZZWYL1P/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Max 2: White House Hero

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06XL1GNMP/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Masterpiece: Dark Angel

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01N2VODGM/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Smithsonian: Air Warriors [Season 2]

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01N78S405/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

David Holt’s State of Music: Season 2

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06X976B6R/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Special Blood

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B071YTMJNB/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Outsiders: Season 2

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01MRBK70B/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Peg + Cat Save the World

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01N4139CY/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Vin Diesel Reprises Role He Originated in Latest Episode of High-Impact, Action Series

 

xXx: Return of Xander Cage,  Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams, high-octane thriller, espionage adventure, James Bond, Pierce Brosnan, Vin DieselxXx: Return of Xander Cage

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Vin Diesel Reprises Role He Originated in Latest Episode of High-Impact, Action Series 

When it was released back in 2002 , xXx grossed over a quarter-billion dollars worldwide in theaters alone. The visually-captivating espionage adventure starring Vin Diesel was reminiscent of James Bond, except it featured a hunkier hero and more spectacular stunts and special effects.

The high-octane thriller so overshadowed the relatively-mundane Die Another Day that year that Pierce Brosnan would soon be replaced by Daniel Craig as 007. Ironically, Vin Diesel was also replaced by Ice Cube in xXx 2, a drismal sequel that bombed at the box office, leaving a once-promising franchise on life support.

It’s taken a decade and a half, but Vin is finally reprising the role he originated. The good news is that the picture arrives laced with the sort of death-defying feats that made the first xXx such a hit. That means a plethora of action sequences in which our superhuman protagonist proves impervious to bullets and the laws of gravity.

There are also tons of the trademark titillation, coming courtesy of both Vin’s beefcake and a bevy of adoring beauties. Directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia), xXx: Return of Xander Cage even tips its hat to earlier episodes via cameos by Samuel L. Jackson and Ice Cube.

At the point of departure, we find Xander living under the radar in self-imposed exile in Latin America. He’s still an extreme sports enthusiast, and just for fun skis across the treetops of a verdant rain forest before switching to a skateboard for an equally-breathtaking ride down a winding mountainside highway.

Next thing you know, he’s being coaxed out of retirement by a CIA chief (Toni Collette) to keep the world safe for democracy. The mission involves retrieving a devastating weapon of mass destruction code-named “Pandora’s Box” that’s fallen into the hands of a gang of daredevils led by a diabolical trio (Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa and Deepika Padukone) bent on world domination.

After jettisoning a standard-issue, U.S. military support team, Xander recruits a motley crew of renegades more in his own image. Can that rag-tag posse, composed of a crack sniper (Ruby Rose), a fearless getaway driver (Rory McCann), a state-of-the-art gadget wizard (Nina Dobrev) and an affable DJ/ jack-of-all-trades (Kris Wu), rise to the occasion?

Why not? Anything is possible, with cartoon physics on your side!

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated PG-13 for sexuality, profanity and pervasive violence`

Running time: 107 minutes

Distributor: Paramount Home Media Distribution

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Third Time’s the Charm: Xander Returns; Rebels, Tyrants & Ghosts: The Cast; Opening Pandora’s Box: On Location; I Live for This Sh#t!: Stunts; and a gag reel.

                                                                                                                                                         

To order a copy of xXx: Return of Xander Cage on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01N9SFCYF/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

For movies opening May 19, 2017

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

by Kam Williams

For movies opening May 19, 2017

MOVIES OPENING THIS WEEK,   Kam's Kapsules,  Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun,  by Kam Williams

BIG BUDGET FILMS

Alien: Covenant (R for violence, profanity, sexuality, nudity and bloody images) Sixth installment in the sci-fi franchise revolves around a spaceship crew which finds more than it bargained for when it lands on an uncharted planet from which it received radio signals. Ensemble cast includes Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Carmen Ejogo, Billy Crudup, Jussie Smollett and Danny McBride.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (PG for rude humor) Fourth installment in the franchise inspired by Jeff Kinney’s children’s book series features a new cast and finds the Heffley family embarking on a very eventful road trip to visit grandma on her 90th birthday. Co-starring Jason Drucker, Charlie Wright, Alicia Silverstone and Tom Everett Scott.

Everything, Everything (PG-13 for mature themes and brief sensuality) An enchanting, if bittersweet, bildungsroman about the love which blossoms between a sickly girl (Amandla Stenburg) growing up in an antiseptic bubble and the chivalrous Prince Charming (Nick Robinson) who moves in next-door. With Anika Noni Rose, Ana de la Reguera and Taylor Hickson.

INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (Unrated) Justice system expose chronicling the five-year legal battle waged by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. against Abacus Federal Savings, the Asian-American community bank which was the only financial institution to face criminal charges in the wake of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis.

Devil’s Domain (Unrated) Revenge horror flick about a victim (Madi Vodane) of cyber-bullying who makes a deal with the Devil to get even with her tormentors. Cast includes Michael Madsen, Linda Bella and Zack Kozlow.

Fight for Space (Unrated) Pro-NASA documentary advocating for a more ambitious U.S. space program. Featuring commentary by astronaut Jim Lovell, physicist Michio Kaku and Bill Nye, the Science Guy.

Legion of Brothers (Unrated) War on Terror documentary recounting the exploits of the Special Forces unit sent on a covert mission to Afghanistan to track down the Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders behind the 9-11 attacks.   

The Survivalist (Unrated) Post-apocalyptic thriller, set in the wake of the collapse of civilization due to the exhaustion of petroleum, about a nomad ()Martin McCann) whose tiny farm hidden deep in the woods is discovered by a couple of starving women (Mia Goth and Olwen Fouere). Featuring Andrew Simpson, Douglas Russell and Kieri Kennedy.   

Wakefield (R for profanity and some sexuality) Midlife crisis drama about a burnt out attorney (Bryan Cranston) who hides in the attic from his family and the rest of the world after suffering a nervous breakdown. With Jennifer Garner, Beverly D’Angelo, Victoria Bruno, Pippa Bennett-Warner and Ellery Sprayberry. 

The Woman Who Left (Unrated) “Hell hath no fury” thriller revolving around a recently-exonerated inmate (Charo Santos-Concio) who hatches a plan to exact revenge on her ex-lover (Michael De Mesa) after spending 30 years behind bars for a crime she didn’t commit. Supporting cast includes Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino, John Lloyd Cruz and Mae Paner. (In Filipino with subtitles)

Prince Charming Courts Sickly Next-Door Neighbor in Bittersweet Coming-of-Age Tale

 

Everything, Everything,  Film Review by Kam Williams, Amandla Stenburg, SCID, Anika Noni Rose, Nick RobinsonEverything, Everything

Film Review by Kam Williams

Prince Charming Courts Sickly Next-Door Neighbor in Bittersweet Coming-of-Age Tale

It’s Maddy Whittier’s (Amandla Stenburg) 18th birthday, but she won’t be celebrating the occasion at a party or restaurant. In fact, she won’t be leaving the house or even having friends over anytime soon.

That’s because she has SCID, a rare genetic disorder that basically makes her allergic to everything. Consequently, she’s been stuck inside a hermetically-sealed house since being diagnosed with the disease at the age of 3, shortly after her father and brother’s untimely deaths in a terrible car crash.

Lucky for Maddy, her mom, Pauline (Anika Noni Rose), is a physician who could afford to raise her in a luxurious, if sterile, environment free of the germs that could compromise her immune system in an instant. Although Maddy grew up curious about the outside world, she’s gotten used to exploring it over the internet with the help of online courses and a support group for kids with her sickness.

Then, Maddy receives the best birthday gift she could ever imagine when new neighbors move in right next-door. For, one member of the family, Olly (Nick Robinson), is a  boy about her own age. And all it takes is a glance through the glass window for the handsome hunk to fall head-over-heels in love with her.

Everything, Everything,  Film Review by Kam Williams, Amandla Stenburg, SCID, Anika Noni Rose, Nick Robinson

The ardent admirer uses sign language to ask Maddy for her phone number, before typing “U R beautiful” in his very first text. Olly’s zeal only increases upon learning about her crippling affliction, and he asks if there’s any way he could be decontaminated to come over for a visit.

But that’s against doctor’s orders, especially mom’s, which forces the lovebirds to admire each other from afar. Hormones raging, Maddy is suddenly discontent with her sheltered existence in an antiseptic gilded cage. 

Will she recklessly abandon the protective bubble to rush into the arms of a perfect Prince Charming she barely knows? That is the burning question at the heart of Everything, Everything, a bittersweet, bildungsroman based on the young adult novel by Nicola Yoon. The picture was directed by Stella Meghie who successfully adapted the book into a syrupy soap opera certain to satisfy fans of the source material.

A tender enough tearjerker to dehydrate even this crabby curmudgeon!

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for mature themes and brief sensuality

Running time: 96 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures

<br

Stunning Stenberg!

 

Amandla Stenberg

The “Everything, Everything” Interview

with Kam Williams

Stunning Stenberg!

Amandla Stenberg first gained recognition for her role as Rue in The Hunger Games, alongside Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson. After the success of that film, Amandla earned the 2012 Teen Choice Award with Jennifer for Best Film Chemistry. She was also nominated for NAACP Image and Black Reel Awards for that performance.

Amandla Stenberg, The “Everything, Everything” Interview with Kam Williams, The Hunger Games, 2012 Teen Choice Award, Colombiana

AMANDLA STENBERG as Maddy in the Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures romantic drama “EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Amandla made her big screen debut in the breakout role of young Cataleya Restrepo in Colombiana. In January 2016, she appeared in As You Are which premiered at Sundance. The independent film won the Special Jury Prize at that year’s festival.

She recently finished shooting Where Hands Touch, a romantic drama set in the Forties, directed by Amma Asante. The story focuses on the relationship between a mixed-race German girl and an SS officer in Berlin.

She is currently filming The Darkest Minds, based on the best-selling series of young adult novels by Alexandra Bracken. The dystopian trilogy takes place in the wake of a mysterious plague which killed most of America’s youth population. Amandla stars as Ruby, a teenager with telekinetic powers who joins a group of kids on the run from the government.

She is also attached to The Hate U Give, adapted from Angela Thomas’ debut novel of the same name, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. The story revolves around a suburban, prep school student coping with the fallout from witnessing a police officer shoot her unarmed best friend.

Amandla Stenberg, The “Everything, Everything” Interview with Kam Williams, The Hunger Games, 2012 Teen Choice Award, Colombiana

AMANDLA STENBERG as Maddy in the Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures romantic drama “EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Besides acting, Amandla has been globally lauded for her crusade to improve society via thoughtful conversation, using social media as a platform to spread social awareness and knowledge. She has shared personal essays on such topics as cultural appropriation, inter-sectional feminism, biracial identity and beauty standards.

Wise beyond her years, at 16 Amandla was named one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential Teens as well as the Ms. Foundation for Women’s Feminist Celebrity of the Year. Furthermore, Dazed Magazine proclaimed her one of the most incendiary voices of her generation in its Autumn 2015 cover story.

In February 2016, Amandla was presented the Young, Gifted & Black Award at the annual Black Girls Rock! ceremony televised on BET. Later that year, she became one of the faces of Stella McCartney’s new fragrance, “POP.”

A versatile talent, Amandla also plays violin and sings in the folk-rock duo Honeywater, along with Zander Hawley. Here, she talks about her new movie, Everything, Everything, where she co-stars opposite Nick Robinson.

Kam Williams: Hi Amandla, thanks for the interview.

Amandla Stenberg: Thank you for having me.

KW: You have a unique name. How did you come by it?

AS: It means “power” in Zulu. That’s pretty much the main reason why my mom picked it for me. It was also the rallying cry of the South African freedom movement. To them, it meant “Power to the people!” Amandla’s the title of a Miles Davis album, too.

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B002S21CPU/ref=nosim/thslfofire-20

KW: Have you seen the movie Amandla about the pivotal role music played in inspiring the people of South Africa to summon up the courage to stand up to the repressive, Apartheid regime?

AS: The documentary, right? Yes, I have. My mom put a poster from the film up on my wall when I was little.

KW: What interested you in Everything, Everything?

AS: First of all, that they were considering casting someone like me as Maddy grabbed my attention because most movie romances aren’t very diverse. Usually, adaptations of young adult romance novels feature white leads. So, when they reached out to me with the script, I was struck by the fact that it was based on a book written by a black woman [Nicola Yoon] who specifically created a biracial protagonist. That was something I hadn’t seen before. It felt fresh to me that they were making a fairly corporate movie with a black female as the lead that would be widely marketed and distributed  And I also thought it was important when I considered how many people would get to see this girl with natural hair carry the film.

KW: Do you feel under any pressure for this film to succeed, so that this sort of colorblind casting continues?

AS: I don’t feel any pressure. I’m confident the film will do well. And whether or not it succeeds isn’t necessarily dependent on me. That’s not my responsibility. But I do feel proud to be a part of it, regardless. Besides, I don’t really think of a film’s success in monetary terms but by how it moves people. And I can already tell that black teenage girls are really excited to see themselves in a movie like this.   

KW: Had you read the novel, before learning about this project?

AS: No, I hadn’t read the book when I got the script. But as soon as I learned what it was about, I checked it out.

KW: What was it like working with a black, female director in Stella Meghie?

AS: It was really cool. Very special. I think we had a kind of unspoken, and sometimes spoken, mutual understanding of what it meant for us to be creating in that large, corporate environment together. It was sort of like, “We tricked them. Don’t they realize what we’re making?” We joked around that we were scamming them with our diverse content.

KW: And how was it working opposite your co-star, Nick Robinson?

AS: He’s a fantastic guy. Very grounded and real. We were both kind of relieved when we first met each other that were on the same page not only in terms of acting but as people.

KW: How would you describe the movie’s message?

AS: I think the movie’s fantastical, not really based in reality. It’s more of a fable or a large metaphor about breaking free of limitations that you place on yourself or that others may place on you. And it’s about conquering your fears and not letting anything get in the way of living your life more fully.

KW: And what was it like working with Anika Noni Rose, who played your mother?

AS: Anika’s fantastic as an actress and as an individual. She has so much conviction, heart and elegance. She’s such a a cool person and a strong lady. Yeah.

KW: Your breakout role came as Rue in The Hunger Games. How did you like making that movie?

AS: I was just 12 years-old, so it was a while ago. [Chuckles] But I had a helluva time!

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

AS: I don’t know. I’m not huge on remakes, unless they do it in a new way. I think of Everything, Everything not as a remake, but as a fresh take on something we’ve seen before, and I like that.   

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

AS: Looking at trees while my mom pushed me around the park in a stroller as a baby.

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

AS: I see a lot of different things. [Giggles] I see a person who is trying to make some change in the world.

  

Amandla Stenberg, The “Everything, Everything” Interview with Kam Williams, The Hunger Games, 2012 Teen Choice Award, Colombiana

AMANDLA STENBERG as Maddy in the Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures romantic drama “EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

AS: I like cooking with my mom at Thanksgiving and Christmastime because we make turkey, and mac and cheese, yams, collard greens and all the other black staples, pretty much.

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

AS: A favorite movie monster? I think the monsters in Ghostbusters are pretty iconic.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would? And please answer the question.

AS: I don’t think so. I’ve been asked a lot of questions, and they’ve all been pretty fantastic.

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

AS: I don’t know that I have just one, exclusively. I look at a lot of different designers. Right now, I’m really feeling this brand called Self Portrait.

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

AS: [LOL] In my wallet, you’d find my high school ID, my credit card, no cash, because I’m so terrible at ever retrieving it, a picture of the dog I had as a kid, and a tiny greeting card I found in Denmark when I visited there with my dad.

KW: Thanks so much for the time, Amandla. I expect big things from you, and i look forward to interviewing you again down the line. .

AS: `Thank you, Kam. Appreciate it.

Franchise’s Fourth Episode Features New Cast Up to Old Tricks

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, Film Review by Kam Williams, kitchen sink comedy, disastrous road trip, Jason Drucker, Alicia Silverstone, Tom Everett ScottDiary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

Film Review by Kam Williams

Franchise’s Fourth Episode Features New Cast Up to Old Tricks

According to Murphy’s Law, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” And Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul provides cinematic support for that pessimistic principle. For, this kitchen sink comedy relies on the domino effect to exacerbate the ever-mounting misfortunes visited upon the beleaguered Heffley family over the course of one disastrous, summer road trip.

The film is the fourth in the series based on Jeff Kinney’s illustrated children’s novels. It was directed by David Bowers who also made Wimpy Kid 2 and 3.

It’s understandable that the youngsters from the original might have aged out of their roles, though it’s a bit of a surprise that the movie features an entirely new cast, starting with Jason Drucker as the title character, Wimpy Greg Heffley. Alicia Silverstone and Tom Everett Scott play his parents, Susan and Frank, while Charlie Wright and Dylan Walters assume the roles of his older and younger brothers, Rodrick and Manny, respectively.

The premise of Wimpy Kid 4 revolves around a cross-country family outing to attend grandma’s 90th birthday party. The catch is that Susan envisions the drive as an opportunity to share quality time, so she collects everybody’s cell phone devices before departing.

This frustrates her fidgety brood who prove clueless without electronic devices. So Rodrick calls her “the worst mom ever” and sticks a “kidnapped” sign in the rear window which leads to their being pulled over by the police.

Subsequent eventful stops range from an overnight stay in a motel with rats in the pool  to a visit to a country fair where Manny wins a live piglet as a prize. The humor flowing from the escalating insanity is mostly of the bodily function variety: with farts, feces, burps and barfing being real crowd-pleasers.

Every skit is designed to keep the target audience of tykes and tots in stitches, with only occasional asides for adults, such as the inspired homage to Psycho’s legendary shower scene.

Altogether, a delightfully-mindless diversion for the pre-teen demographic!

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated PG for rude humor

Running time: 91 minutes

Distributor: 20th Century Fox