Oscar-Nominated Documentary about James Baldwin\’s Arrives on Home Video

 

When novelist/social critic James Baldwin passed away in 1987, he left behind an unfinished opus entitled "Remember This House." The 30-page manuscript assessed the plight of African-Americans in the United States while specifically reflecting upon the assassinations of three civil rights icons: Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.I Am Not Your Negro

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Oscar-Nominated Documentary about James Baldwin’s Arrives on Home Video

When novelist/social critic James Baldwin passed away in 1987, he left behind an unfinished opus entitled “Remember This House.” The 30-page manuscript assessed the plight of African-Americans in the United States while specifically reflecting upon the assassinations of three civil rights icons: Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

With I Am Not Your Negro, director Raoul Peck (Lumumba) fleshes out Baldwin’s  musings, cinematically, into a searing indictment of the United States as an unapologetically-racist nation. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the movie has been nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Documentary category.

The focus of the film never strays far from Baldwin, nimbly alternating between archival footage of the fiery figure challenging the status quo and Jackson’s readings from “Remember This House” and his other writings. Again and again, we hear him question the depth of the country’s commitment to reverse the damage inflicted upon the black community by generations of slavery, lynchings and Jim Crow segregation.

For example, he asserts that most Caucasians are perfectly comfortable relegating African-Americans to a second-class status. He even goes so far as to refer to them as morally-blind monsters for seeing blacks as sub-human. Until that attitude is eradicated,  whites will never recognize that “I am flesh of their flesh.”

Baldwin concludes that “The story of the Negro in America is the story of America.” Therefore, with black and white fates inextricably linked, “It’s not a question of what happens to the Negro. The real question is what is going to happen to this country.”

Given the precarious state of race relations, the late visionary’s prescient insights perhaps prove more timely, posthumously, than in their own day. 

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for profanity, mature themes, violent images and brief nudity`

Running time: 94 minutes

Distributor: Magnolia Home Entertainment

DVD Extras: Interview and Q&A session with director Raoul Peck; Q&A session with Samuel L. Jackson; and a video photo gallery of stills featured in the film.

                 

To order a copy of I Am Not Your Negro on DVD, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06W9FR1G3/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Source:  GIG News

Bittersweet Prodigal Daughter Parable Arrives on DVD

 

The Levelling,  DVD Review by Kam Williams, Joe Blakemore, Ellie Kendrick, strained father-daughter relationshipThe Levelling

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Bittersweet Prodigal Daughter Parable Arrives on DVD

It’s not very clear whether Harry Catto’s (Joe Blakemore) death was a murder or a suicide. One thing’s for certain, though. It wasn’t merely a mishap, because nobody accidentally sticks a gun in his own mouth and pulls the trigger. The cops suspect that he killed himself, but his father (David Troughton) is too much in shock to press them to launch a full investigation.

This tragic state of affairs greets Clover Catto (Ellie Kendrick) when she returns home to attend her younger brother’s funeral. Although she’s been away in veterinary school, she’s been estranged from her father for years. In fact, this is her first visit back to Somerset since the 2013 flood which devastated most of the wetland region’s coastal plains.

Upon arriving, Clover sees that much of the rural area still hasn’t recovered from the deluge, including the flattened dairy farm that she grew up on. But before she can devote any attention to the idea of resurrecting the family-owned estate, the grief-stricken Prodigal Daughter needs to focus on reconciling with her father and on figuring out the circumstances surrounding her sibling’s slaying.

That is the engaging point of departure of The Levelling, a haunting, modern parable of Biblical proportions. The deliberately-paced mood piece unfolding against a decidedly-barren, British backdrop marks a most impressive writing and directorial debut by Hope Dickson Leach.

The film also features a nonpareil performance on the part of Ellie Kendrick as Clover. The talented ingenue exhibits considerable range in service of a very emotionally-demanding role. She is assisted in this endeavor by an equally-capable supporting cast basically composed of David Troughton as a dad plunged deep in denial, and Jack Holden as an eyewitness with lots of answers.

A heartbreakingly-palpable exploration of a strained father-daughter relationship as well as a thorough post mortem on their loved one’s untimely passing!

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for profanity and brief frontal nudity

Running time: 84 minutes

Distributor: Monterey Video

DVD Extras: Behind-the-scenes interviews

The Levelling, DVD Review by Kam Williams, Joe Blakemore, Ellie Kendrick, strained father-daughter relationship

To order a copy of The Levelling, visit:  https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06X1BRQ7R/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20  

Oscar-Nominated Civil Rights Docudrama Released on DVD

 

Hidden Figures,  DVD Review by Kam Williams, NASA, African-American, female mathematicians, Kevin Costner, Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, Janelle MonaeHidden Figures

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Oscar-Nominated Civil Rights Docudrama Released on DVD 

All of the astronauts picked by NASA to participate in its maiden manned space programs, Mercury and Gemini, were white males. However, behind the scenes, there was a dedicated team of African-American, female mathematicians who played a pivotal role in ensuring that they launched and returned safely, whether from orbiting the Earth or a mission to the moon. 

  Equipped only with pencils and slide rules, these so-called “human computers” were among the best and the brightest minds recruited by NASA to do the critical calculations needed to win the space race with Russia. Author Margot Lee Shetterly gave these unsung heroines their due in “Hidden Figures,” a best seller belatedly crediting their quantitative contributions to the cause.

Besides chronicling their considerable accomplishments, the book also recounted the indignities these brilliant black women simultaneously suffered, simply because they had the misfortune to be living in Virginia during the dark days of Jim Crow. Back then, African-American brainiacs employed by NASA were automatically assigned to work in its segregated West Computing Group.

Directed by Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent), the overlooked icons’ story has now been adapted to the big screen as an uplifting, overcoming-the-odds docudrama. Nominated for a trio of Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer) The picture recounts the trials and tribulations of three members of the aforementioned West Computing Group: Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae).

We are flies on the wall when, without complaining, Katherine routinely has to run to a distant “Colored” ladies room despite the presence of one for whites right nearby. On another occasion, we witness Mary’s frustration in furthering her education on account of the fact that blacks aren’t allowed to matriculate at the local college offering the courses she needs.

By film’s end, both the bathroom and school are indeed integrated, albeit after an emotional intervention by NASA administrator Al Harrison (Kevin Costner). A worthwhile, teachable moment correcting a shameful chapter in American history.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG for mature themes and mild epithets

Running time: 127 minutes

Distributor: Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: It All Adds Up – The Making of Hidden Figures;  Audio Commentary by director Theodore Melfi and Taraji P. Henson; deleted scenes; Hidden Figures: Filming in Georgia; and a stills gallery.

To order a copy of Hidden Figures on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01LTI1RHQ/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

 

Original Source:  GIG News

Surreal Fantasy Features Liam Neeson as Voice of Anthropomorphic Tree

 

A Monster Calls,  DVD Review by Kam Williams, Lewis MacDougall, Toby Kebbell, Felicity Jones, visually-enchanting, Patrick Ness, Sigourney Weaver, facing deepest fearsA Monster Calls

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Surreal Fantasy Features Liam Neeson as Voice of Anthropomorphic Tree

Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) is understandably miserable. First of all, the 12 year-old divorced mom (Felicity Jones) is terminally ill. Second, they’re both estranged from his father (Toby Kebbell) who has long since started another family over in America.

Third, Conor is tired of being mistreated by his cold-hearted grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) who cares more about her prized possessions than his welfare. And finally, he’s routinely teased at school by a bully (James Melville) about always being off in his own dream world.

So, it’s no surprise when Conor starts being plagued by nightmares on a daily basis. A few minutes after midnight, the giant yew tree (Liam Neeson) standing in the graveyard outside his bedroom window turns into an intimidating, anthropomorphic monster.

Despite its imposing presence, the beast gradually gains the kid’s confidence, agreeing to tell a trio of insightful allegories on the condition that Conor reciprocate with one of his own. The idea, ostensibly, is that there will be a meaningful lesson to be learned from each of the parables.

That is the point of departure of  A Monster Calls, a bittersweet escapist fantasy directed by J.A. Bayona (The Impossible). The movie is based on the illustrated children’s novel of the same name by Patrick Ness who also adapted it to the big screen. Ness’ award-winning book was inspired by the late Siobhan Dowd, who passed away before she could tackle the semi-autobiographical project herself.   

The film is less a feel-good flick than a picture about making the best of a bad situation. For, the monster’s stories paint a sobering picture of life that’s anything but rosy. However, they do ultimately enable Conor to own up about his deepest fear, when it’s his turn to share.

Given the mature themes and the dire plot developments, it’s hard to recommend A Monster Calls for vulnerable youngsters. Nevertheless, it is unique in its approach to preparing a tweener to processing an impending tragedy.

A visually-enchanting, if fateful, fairy tale.

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated  PG-13 for mature themes and scary images

Running time: 108 minutes

Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Deleted scenes; The Making of A Monster Calls; and Making of the Tales.

To order a copy of A Monster Calls on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01LTI21YY/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Source:  GIG News

Eddie Redmayne Stars as Wizard in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Spinoff

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,  DVD Review by Kam Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Morton, Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Eddie Redmayne Stars as Wizard in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Spinoff

It’s New York harbor in 1926, which is when we are introduced to Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he disembarks a steamship from England that’s just docked at the pier. The young wizard has to resort to a sleight of hand to slip through customs, since his suitcase is filled to the point of bursting with a unique brand of contraband.

Newt happens to be hiding a menagerie of mythical creatures with unusual names like obscurials, bowtruckles and dougals. Given the unreliable latch on his tattered, leather satchel, it doesn’t take long for a mischievous niffler to escape. We soon observe the odd-looking critter breaking into a bank vault where it proceeds to indulge its insatiable appetite for gold by stuffing its pouch with glittery coins.

Newt, however, must get it right back under wraps ASAP, before it arouses the suspicion of Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton). She’s the leader of the New Salem Philanthropic Society, a group of no-majs, aka muggles (meaning ordinary human beings), dedicated to the extermination of wizards and witches.

Newt whips out his wand to recapture the naughty niffler in front of Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), an affable Everyman applying for a loan with hopes of opening his own bakery. Trouble is, since the unassuming fellow has just observed the use of magic, wizardry protocol calls for his memory to be wiped clean on the spot.

But Jacob not only flees before being “obliviated,” he inadvertently takes Newt’s bag of tricks with him to boot. Next, Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a comely witch with the Magical Congress of the United States of America, comes to Newt’s rescue.

Thus unfolds Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a visually-captivating adaptation of the J.K. Rowling best seller of the same name. Although the book was alluded to in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, one need not be familiar with the Potter series at all to appreciate this delightful debut of a fantasy franchise designed for five episodes.

Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne (for The Theory of Everything) delivers afresh conveying an endearing vulnerability as the picture’s bashful protagonist. And he is ably assisted in this endeavor by a stellar supporting cast composed of both A-list actors and an array of computer-generated creatures.

Redmayne’s enviable acting range makes Newt Scamander a far more engaging and emotionally- accessible character than Harry Potter ever was. Heavens to Hogwarts! 

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence

Running time: 133 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Over an hour of expansive, multi-part feaurettes; 11 deleted scenes; and Before Harry Potter: A New Era of Magic Begins!.

To order a copy of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack , visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01LTHOAGM/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20 

Source:  GIG News

Campy Horror Comedy Comes to Home Video

 

The Love Witch,  DVD Review by Kam Williams, Samantha Robinson, visually-captivating, cornball adventure, feminist fantasyThe Love Witch

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Campy Horror Comedy Comes to Home Video

Elaine Parker (Samantha Robinson) only became a witch after being abandoned by her late husband. An incurable romantic with fairy princess fantasies, the gorgeous widow still harbors hopes of finding Mr. Right.

With that goal in mind, she relocates to a quiet town in Northern California where she conveniently rents an already Goth-themed apartment in an imposing mansion on a hill. There, she makes fast friends with her laid-back landlady, Trish (Laura Waddell), while setting a trap for a string of unsuspecting suitors via a combination of spells and love potions..

Her first mark is Wayne Peters (Jeffrey Vincent Parise), a very gullible professor she picks up in a park. She seduces the stranger with the help of a drink spiked with hallucinogenic herbs. However, Wayne is not long for the world once the two have consummated the relationship.

After burying the corpse in her backyard, it’s on to the next conquest for Elaine, who sets her sights on everyone from Trish’s husband, Richard (Robert Seeley), to Griff (Gian Keys), the police Sergeant investigating Wayne’s disappearance. Thus unfolds The Love Witch, a campy horror comedy written, produced and directed by Anna Biller (Viva). The movie marks her sophomore offering, and stars  Samantha Robinson in the title role.

The visually-captivating adventure is a rarity nowadays in that it was shot on 35 mm film. And it is also a highly-stylized throwback in the sense that it is an unapologetic homage to the trashy sexploitation flicks of the Sixties and Seventies.

So, don’t expect to invest emotionally in this cornball adventure at all, particularly given how the heroine delivers virtually every one of her lines in a halfhearted, tongue-in-cheek tone. Ultimately, this period piece harks back less to a cultural era than to a bygone genre of moviemaking.

A light as a feather, feminist fantasy where flawed males meet their match during creative displays of eroticized violence.    

Very Good (2.5 stars)

Unrated 

Running time: 120 minutes

Distributor: Oscilloscope Laboratories

DVD Extras: Feature-length audio commentary with director Anna Biller, cinematographer M. David Mullen, actor Samantha Robinson, and producer/actor Jared Sanford; behind-the-scenes video with Anna Biller; interview with cinematographer M. David Mullen; deleted and extended scenes; and theatrical trailers.

To see a trailer for The Love Witch, visit: https://vimeo.com/151970316 

To order a copy of The Love Witch on DVD, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01NBRC74D/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Source:  GIG News

Natalie Portman Channels Jackie Kennedy in Oscar-Nominated Performance

 

Jackie,  DVD Review by Kam Williams, Jackie Kennedy, bittersweet docudrama, assassination, JFK, behind the scenes, Pablo Larrain, mental stateJackie

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Natalie Portman Channels Jackie Kennedy in Oscar-Nominated Performance

How did Jackie Kennedy feel in the wake of her husband’s assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963? That is the question explored in Jackie, a picture which paints a perceptive portrait of Camelot’s First Lady by speculating about her mental state during the days immediately following the assassination of JFK (Caspar Phillipson). In that regard, this behind-the-scenes biopic is rather reminiscent of The Queen (2006) which presumed to provide a fly-on-the-wall’s perspective of the goings-on inside Buckingham Palace after the untimely death of Princess Diana.    

Directed by Pablo Larrain (Neruda), Jackie stars Academy Award-winner Natalie Portman (for Black Swan) in the title role. Portman is likely to garner another Oscar nomination for her very convincing impersonation of the readily-recognizable legend. For, she manages to replicate certain expected staples of the Jackie Kennedy iconography, such as the whispery voice and the pillbox hat, while simultaneously plumbing the depths of her complicated soul.

Consequently, we get a sense of the familiar public figure’s internal angst in a variety of situations, such as when she had to break the news of their father’s death to Caroline (Sunnie Pelant) and John-John (Aiden and Brody Weinberg). Or when she was being given the bum’s rush out of the White House by incoming Lady Bird Johnson (Beth Grant), who was already thinking about replacing the drapes before JFK had been buried.

Fortunately, Jackie did have a shoulder to cry on in her hour of need. No, it was not brother-in-law Bobby (Peter Sarsgaard) who thought of her as a “silly, little debutante,” but the Catholic priest (John Hurt) who served as her confidant and confessor. He helped Jackie summon up the strength and courage to accompany her husband’s casket, by foot, in the funeral procession down Pennsylvania Avenue, despite fears of a copycat assassin.

Her faith faltering, Jackie freely admitted that, “I think God is cruel.” She even wondered aloud whether she might have been better off marrying “an ordinary, lazy, ugly man.” And while Jackie desperately grasps at straws to make sense of her unspeakable nightmare, the most comforting words her supportive cleric can find are “There are no answers in man’s search for meaning.”

A bittersweet docudrama effectively echoing the lyrics from the classic show tune Jackie identified as JFK’s favorite, a week after his passing: “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.”   

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for profanity and brief graphic violence

Running time: 100 minutes

Distributor: Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: From Jackie to Camelot; Audio Commentary by Natalie Portman and director Pablo Larrain; and a stills gallery.

To order a copy of Jackie on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01LTI1LA4/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Source:  GIG News