June 2007 Reel Action With Kam Williams

Kam Williams
Excellent .....................****
Very Good .....................***
Good ...............................**
Fair ..................................*
Poor ...................... No Stars

Scroll down or click on the movie title to see its review:

Bushwick Homecomings ||The Condemned
Day Night Day Night || Duck || The Hip Hop Project
Provoked || The Salon || Shrek The Third || Spider-Man 3
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End || Kickin' It Old Skool

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Bushwick Homecomings
College Grad Returns To Roots To Reminisce And
To Find ‘Hood Undergoing Urban Renewal

Bushwick Homecoming

When 31-year-old Stefanie Joshua was growing up in Bushwick, Brooklyn, her crime-infested neighborhood was a scary place where gunshots rang out every night. During the day, she had to run a gauntlet of crack and heroin dealers hanging on the corners, and she was even robbed of her gold necklace while riding the subway on her way home from school.
Coming of age in the 90s, during the rise of gangsta rap, meant that many members of the Hip-Hop Generation would become victims of street violence. And, the death in 2002 of a gentle friend, nicknamed Poohbear, inspired Stefanie to return to her roots to find out what became of some of the kids she grew up with.
Ms. Joshua had somehow escaped the ghetto and attended Stony Brook University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics. Next, she earned an MA in Sociology at CCNY, writing her master’s thesis on delinquency and social disorganization theory.
Though she had no formal training in filmmaking, Stefanie started interviewing men from her block, encouraging them to reflect honestly on their challenging childhoods. The result is Bushwick Homecomings, a remarkable documentary which leaves the viewer with the feeling that it’s a miracle that any of them could have survived such a dysfunctional and dangerous concrete jungle.
Ironically, the picture also points out that Blacks are currently disappearing from the area, which is belatedly benefiting from an aggressive urban renewal program. With gentrification gradually erasing the African-American footprint from the community, Bushwick Homecomings stands as all the more significant as an historical record of tougher times and a tribute to those still around to talk about them.
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 37 minutes

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The Condemned
Stone Cold Steve Austin Stars In
Survival-Of-The-Fittest Saga

The Condemned

TV producer Ian Breckel (Robert Mammone) has come up with a novel idea for a reality show. Take ten Death Row inmates from prisons scattered around the Third World and drop them onto a deserted island outfitted with hundreds of hidden cameras for a fight to the death. Broadcast the grisly goings-on live over the internet, charging pay-per-viewers $50 apiece to tune in. And as an added incentive to insure enthusiastic participants, attach a time bomb set to detonate in 30 hours to everyone’s leg, and promise the victor his freedom and a bundle of cash to start a new life.
This is the intriguing point of departure of The Condemned, a high attrition-rate flick featuring former WWE Wrestling Champ Stone Cold Steve Austin. The movie was written and directed by Scott Wiper, who was undoubtedly inspired by the Richard Connell’s literary classic The Most Dangerous Game, a novella which was made into a movie starring Lon Chaney and Fay Wray back in 1932.
That flick, in turn, has spawned innumerable “human as prey” scenario knockoffs, including Open Season (1974), Battle Royale (2000) and Surviving the Game (1994). The Condemned is perhaps most similar to The Running Man (1987) and Series 7 (2001), sharing not only their “last man standing” theme but also their “televised contest” aspect also.
Fortunately, the film is visually riveting enough to make you forget its absence of originality. The picture wastes little time in plunging you right into the action, for the first casualty occurs when one of the convicts balks at jumping out of the helicopter which has ferried them to an uncharted isle located somewhere in the Pacific. Instead of going into the ocean willingly, this ill-fated felon is pushed out belatedly and ends up impaled on a mammoth stake on the beach.
The rest of the rogues’ gallery is comprised of a colorful menagerie of murderers. There’s a Nazi (Andy McPhee), a Russian strongman (Nathan Jones), a Japanese martial arts master (Masa Yamaguchi), a husband-wife team of serial killers (Manu Bennett and Dasi Ruiz) from Guatemala, an African girl gone wild (Emilia Burns), a ghetto gangsta’ (Marcus Johnson) gone gaga over the sister, yada yada, you get the idea.
But any idiot can figure out from the beginning that this no-holds-barred smack down is inexorably leading to a big showdown between the noble Jack Conrad (Austin) and the dastardly Ewan McSorley (Vinnie Jones), ala your typical WWE spectacular. Button-lipped and beefy, macho Conrad admits only to being an “interior decorator.”
Yet it’s clear that this red-blooded American had been unfairly imprisoned in El Salvador, leaving a hot blonde (Madeleine West) with a couple kids worried about him back in Texas. By contrast, McSorley is an irredeemable misanthrope who set fire to an entire village in Rwanda before raping nine women. And it is just as obvious that the show’s greedy and amoral mastermind, Breckel, will have to get what’s coming to him, too, if there’s any justice in this world.
Despite the transparent plotline, the dumb dialogue, the cheesy special f/x, the cornball comic relief and the self-righteous sermonizing, this campy B-movie adds up to a slumming cinematic experience so godawful, it’s great, in a reverse-chic sort of way. What’s good for a tongue-in-cheek homage like Grindhouse is even better for a shameless embarrassment like The Condemned.
Rating: R for profanity and pervasive graphic violence.
Running time: 113 minutes
Studio: Lions Gate Films

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Day Night Day Night
Suicide Bomber Stalks Manhattan
In Domestic Terrorism Thriller

DayNight Day Night

A teenager (Luisa Williams) traveling alone to New York for the first time, is careful not to draw any attention to herself. When she arrives, the unusually self-absorbed youngster goes straight to her motel and draws the curtains. For this is not your typical tourist, but a suicide bomber on a mission to detonate herself in a crowded Times Square.
Instead of being curious about the sights and sounds of the city, the radical Muslim girl gets into the bathtub to shave off all her body hair. Surrendering her will to Allah, she prays, “I only have one death, and I want my death to be for you.”
Eventually, her cell phone rings. She is instructed to put on a blindfold and handcuffs somehow already hidden in her room. Minutes later, several hooded confederates appear, and grill her mercilessly. “What’s your name?” one asks. “Leah Cruz?” she lies, using the alias she’s been provided.
She also reliably supplies an equally-fake home address in Colorado, date of birth and other personal information, all without hesitation. The idea behind this carefully-orchestrated operation, with all the earmarks of Al Qaida, is that she not arouse the suspicion of anyone who might engage her in conversation en route to Midtown Manhattan.
She is supplied with a 50-lb. backpack containing plastic explosives, though she is informed that most of the weight is made up of nails. Before the members of her terrorist cell slip back into the night, the leader forces her to repeat her final orders aloud.
First, “I will wait for the red light to turn green,” which refers to the button on her detonator. And second, “If I think that I have been noticed or if there’s a small chance that I may be caught, I must execute the plan immediately, even if there’s no one nearby.”
While awaiting her fateful marching orders, the religious zealot we know only as Leah starts contemplating her imminent demise. Evidencing doubt, she seeks a sign of approval from Allah. “How can I know that I’m doing this for the right reason, that my motives are pure?” she asks.
This doomsday scenario is the surprisingly-convincing set-up postulated by Day Night Day Night, a taut psychological thriller written and directed by Julia Loktev (Moment of Impact). Shrouded by a haunting pall which permeates the picture throughout, the movie is more interested in examining the mindset of a maniacal Muslim with her finger on the trigger than with the plight of her potential victims.
As she perambulates Broadway towards her rendezvous with destiny, “Leah” seems to be having second thoughts, because she encounters nothing but good people every where she goes, from friendly faces to strangers ready to lend a helping hand to the persistent brother complimenting her with lame pickup lines, unaware that if he gets too close, she’ll blow his Black ass to bits.
An Osama drama drenched in paranoia.
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 94 minutes
Studio: FC First Take

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Suicidal Senior Citizen Saved By Duck
In Unlikely-Buddy Drama


It’s 2009, Jeb Bush is president, and the U.S. has become no place for those societal castoffs unfortunate enough to have to subsist on fixed incomes or insufficient government subsidies. Retiree Arthur Pratt (Philip Baker Hall) is just one such poor soul, having landed homeless and alone on the streets of Los Angeles after using up all his savings.
Broke and despondent, the grieving widower is contemplating suicide in the park where his wife’s and son’s remains lay, when he encounters a duckling who mistakes him for its mother. Instead of following through, Arthur’s paternal instincts kick in, and he adopts the waddling orphan and names him Joe. The two soon bond and become inseparable, wandering all around the city, trying to survive and find their place in a world which considers them extraneous.
Ala Amélie (2001), the naïve waif who won everyone’s hearts in the Oscar-nominated French film, Arthur and Joe magically enrich the lives of similarly-situated strangers they encounter on their peripatetic sojourn. For instance, they befriend a blind man (Bill Cobbs) with a seeing-eye dog, an Asian manicurist (Amy Hill) whose clients never speak to her or look her in the eye, and a little girl separated from her nanny (Annie Burgstede).
Some are hostile, however, such as the callous construction workers, bus driver, mental health workers and members of a hobo support group. The movie works only because Philip Baker Hall throws himself into the role ever so convincingly opposite his anthropomorphized companion in a manner reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart with his imaginary 6-foot tall rabbit in Harvey (1950), and Tom Hanks talking to a volleyball he called Wilson in Cast Away (2000).
A geezer and his pet pal performing random acts of kindness till they find salvation at the ocean shore.
Rating: PG-13 for brief profanity.
Running time: 98 minutes
Studio: Right Brained Releasing

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The Hip Hop Project
Once-Homeless Orphan Relies On Rap
To Reach Troubled NYC Teens

The Hip Hop Project

Chris “Kazi” Rolle was born in the Bahamas where he was abandoned soon after birth by his mother, who decided to start over on her own and set out for America. Understandably, Kazi grew up with a hole in his soul, and headed for New York City at the age of 14 to track her down.
But, their reunion was to be short-lived and, at 15, the unwanted orphan was kicked out of the house and ended up having to survive by his wits on the hard streets of the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. He temporarily joined a gang and turned to a life of crime, until he hooked up with a program called Art Start.
This self-help group enables troubled teens to channel their frustrations positively, by giving them a chance to express their emotions through the rhymes-associated rap. The organization even has a recording studio in order to attract aspiring hip-hop artists, though with the goal of getting them to write about the real issues affecting their souls, not ghetto fabulous gangsta fantasies about guns, bling and Black-on-Black crime.
The upshot is that, with the help of Art Start, Kazi was not only able to heal himself and become a productive member of society, but he then started serving as a mentor to at-risk kids in need of help. This spiritual transformation is the subject of The Hip Hop Project, a warts-and-all documentary which pulls no punches about the prospects of those stuck in poverty while simultaneously making a powerful statement about human potential.
The camera is kind to the now 24-year-old Kazi in the winning way that it captures his infectious enthusiasm as he influences two of his protégés, Princess and Cannon. Pregnant Princess, whose father was recently arrested for drug possession, is writing a song about whether or not to have the child. Cannon, who we learn has been rapping on the subways since 1999, is despondent because his mother has just succumbed to multiple sclerosis without his having a chance to say goodbye to her.
Despite their considerable disadvantages, the triumphant participants in the four-year operation prove that, as Kazi claims, “The criminal mind is a creative mind.” They manage to channel their negative experiences constructively by collaborating on a meaningful CD, containing insightful personal narratives which touch on a variety of universal themes.
As the closing credits roll, postscripts updating the current status of all the folks we’ve gotten to know leave you with a sense of satisfaction. Look for cameo appearances by producer Bruce Willis and Def Jam CEO Russell Simmons, extolling the virtues of the organization.
With 100 percent of the profits going to non-profit charities devoted to youth, The Hip Hop Project might be the first totally tax-deductible movie.
Rating: PG-13 for profanity and ethnic slurs.
Running time: 89 minutes
Studio: Thinkfilm

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Courtroom Drama Puts Battered Housewife On Trial
For Setting Abusive Hubby On Fire


When Kiranjit Ahluwalia (Aishwarya Rai) immigrated to London for an arranged marriage in the late 70s, she had no idea that her family had inadvertently picked out an alcoholic (Naveen Andrews) who would slap her silly for no reason at all. Initially, because she had been raised in an East Indian culture where females were expected to be deferential to their spouses, the unfortunate woman quietly accepted the treatment without retaliation, and even had a couple of kids with the creep.
Finally fed up after a decade, she doused him with gasoline one night while he slept. The wife beater woke up and ran out of the house screaming, ending up in the hospital where he would eventually succumb to the burns which covered his body.
In short order, Kiranjit, who spoke very little English, was arrested, tried for murder, convicted and sentenced to life in a rush to judgment which never entertained the idea that killing could have been provoked. Lucky for her, the case caught the attention of a woman’s rights group and of her cellmate’s (Miranda Richardson) estranged brother (Robbie Coltrane), a barrister who was willing to handle her appeal on a pro bono basis.
That quest for publicity and for a new trial which transpired while Kiranjit was rotting behind bars is the subject of Provoked, a courtroom drama loosely based on Ms. Ahluwalia’s actual ordeal. The film has been catching flak from a couple of the activists who had been involved in the effort to overturn the conviction because it takes considerable license with the facts as recounted in the victim’s autobiography, Circle of Light.
Apparently, Kiranjit was a factory worker, not a housewife, as portrayed in the movie. Secondly, the screenplay employs American, rather than British, legal jargon. Thirdly, the two aforementioned feminists have been compressed into one character in the picture. However, unless you’re already previously familiar with the details of the story, none of these slight alterations is likely to diminish your ability to appreciate or applaud the significance of a landmark decision which established Battered Women’s Syndrome as a defense.
At least in England, relief for an abused wife is just a Molotov cocktail away.
Rating: Unrated. In English and Bengali with subtitles.
Running time: 113 minutes
Studio: Eros International

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The Salon
No Stars
See Sassy Sisters Trash-Talking Galore At The Salon

The Salon

Since the success of Barbershop, Hollywood has been having a love affair with trash-talking Black folks’ having their hair done. Besides the brothers in Barbershop 2, we’ve also seen sisters dishing the dirt in Beauty Shop and Hair Show. If you’re in need of proof that the genre has been milked dry, may I suggest The Salon, a derivative flick which is reminiscent of all of the above.
The film opens interestingly enough, with an explanation of the ghetto grooming ground rules. “Hair is a form of expression in the Black community. It doesn’t even have to be your own… Horse hair, camel hair, raccoon hair, whatever. Girlfriend, if you bought it, it’s yours.”
Next, we’re introduced to shop owner Jenny (Vivica A. Fox), and the colorful collection of familiar stereotypes hanging at her ‘hood-based establishment. There’s larger than life Lashaunna (Kym Whitley), a motor-mouthed mama who has nothing nice to say about anybody.
And then there’s D.D. (De’Angelo Wilson), a flamboyant gay, whose presence in the picture is justified by his willingness to be the butt of mean-spirited homophobic threats and teasing. Ricky (Dondre Whitfield) is a player who sleeps with his clients and boasts that he’ll never get caught. Every character is readily-recognizable and one-dimensional.
The basic idea, here, is that like a barbershop, a salon is a place where folks feel free to let their hair down, literally and figuratively. Tragically, this translates into people referring to Blacks by the N-word, homosexuals by the f-word, and making offensive comments about Asians mixing their ‘l’s and ‘r’s. And so forth.
The film bottoms out when D.D. offers these encouraging words to an aspiring prostitute: “If you’re going to be a ho, be an ambitious ho. Work uptown.” What unfortunate timing, given the whole Don Imus controversy.
Despite a talented cast which includes Terrence Howard and Garret Morris, life’s simply too short for slur-ploitation with such lamentably low standards.
Rating: PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, crude humor, mature themes, ethnic and homophobic slurs.
Running time: 92 minutes
Studio: CodeBlack Entertainment

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Shrek The Third
Myers And Murphy And More Hijinks For The Lovable Ogre And His Chatty Donkey Sidekick

Shrek The Third

Despite a noticeable drop-off in adult appeal from Shrek 1, Shrek 2 nevertheless made almost a billion dollars at the box-office worldwide, thereby doubling the take of the original screen adaptation of the imaginative children’s tale written and illustrated by William Steig. So, review-proof Shrek the Third still would’ve been one of the biggest hits of this summer season even if it had simply been another mediocre sequel just aimed at the pre-pubescent set. However, first-time director Chris Miller rights the ship with this slight improvement, another readily disposable, animated adventure, this about the ogre who wouldn’t be king.
The voice cast again features Mike Myers in the titular role, along with Eddie Murphy as Donkey, Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona, and John Cleese and Julie Andrews as her parents, the King and Queen of Far Far Away. Also back are Antonio Banderas as the swashbuckling Puss in Boots, Rupert Everett as Prince Charming, Christopher Knights as the Blind Mice and Cody Cameron as Pinocchio and the Three Little Pigs. The picture introduces a plethora of new characters plucked from familiar fairy tales, such as Sleeping Beauty (Cheri Oteri), Cinderella (Amy Sedaris), Snow White (Amy Poehler), Rapunzel (Maya Rudolph) and Rumplestiltskin (Conrad Vernon).
The plot is a logical extension of developments from the earlier installments. Shrek 1 introduced the lovable green swamp thing and ended with his wedding to Fiona. In Shrek 2, the Princess took her lovable ogre home to meet the parents.
At this flick’s point of departure, we find King Harold, in failing health and urgently in need of an heir. Unassuming Shrek is reluctant to ascend to the throne, but when his froggy father-in-law croaks, he faces the fact that he’ll have to wear the crown, unless he can find a suitable replacement. Otherwise, the heir apparent will be his old nemesis, ambitious Prince Charming, an outcast from the royal castle who has now been reduced to performing in a demeaning dinner theater.
Fortunately, Fiona does have a more-deserving distant cousin in Artie (Justin Timberlake), a nerdy teen who’s attending a medieval prep school suspiciously similar to Hogwarts, an obvious cinematic concession to the popularity of the Harry Potter franchise. After hearing from his wife that she’s expecting, a suddenly discombobulated Shrek sets off in search of her cousin.
Accompanied by his trusted sidekicks, namely, the trash-talking Donkey and the debonair Puss in Boots, our humble hero embarks on a trek during which he finds himself at odds with an assortment of villains from famous fables, like Cyclops (Mark Valley), Cinderella’s evil step-sisters (Larry King and Regis Philbin) and Captain Hook (Ian McShane). But there’s never much doubt about how it will all turn out, for yet another happily-ever-after ending is obviously in the offing.
Along the way, brace yourself for sassy repartee, computer-generated slapstick, and scads of bodily function humor. Enough projectile vomit, fart and poop jokes to keep kids of any age enthralled for 90 minutes.
Rating: PG for crude humor, suggestive language and daring action.
Running time: 92 minutes
Studio: Paramount Pictures

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Spider-Man 3
Touchy-Feely Sequel Shows Spidey’s Sensitive Side

Spider-Man 3

Sometimes more is less, and this, unfortunately, is the case with Spider-Man 3. Director Sam Raimi has upped the ante in terms of just about every aspect of his latest installment of the storied Marvel Comics franchise. This means that the first blockbuster of the 2007 summer season features plenty of twists, more intense fight sequences, more implausible cartoon physics, the next generation of dazzling computer-generated special effects, increasingly inscrutable adversaries, a new romantic interest, an evil Spidey alter ego, a couple of love triangles, zanier comic relief, and even several singing performances.
The upshot is that what we’re dealing with here is a scatter-plotted production, which cost close to a quarter-billion dollars to make and needed 140 minutes to introduce, develop and mesh all the additional material. Yet, what’s most remarkable about this unorthodox adventure is the inordinate amount of attention it devotes to the ensemble’s emotional states.
When was the last time you saw a superhero shed tears or forgive the nemesis who’s just explained why he’s been trying to waste him? Perhaps such concern with feelings is a sign of our more enlightened times, but I’m not sure how many fans of the genre really care to empathize with a diabolical villain or to see an ordinarily invincible protagonist portrayed as being quite so vulnerable. Consequently, the pre-teens in this review-proof picture’s desired demographic are likely to be squirming impatiently in their seats during its extended breaks from the action, dedicated to plumbing the psyches of so many sensitive characters.
At the point of departure, we find Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) right where we last left them, blissfully in love. She has just landed the starring role in a Broadway musical, while he’s dividing his time between fighting crime and his freelance job as a photographer for the Daily Bugle, which is located in Manhattan’s famed Flatiron Building.
The critics pan MJ’s opening night performance, and tensions between the couple arise after well-meaning Peter fails to offer the shoulder she needs to lean on. So later, she never lets on when she’s replaced by an understudy, or that she’s miffed about his being kissed while accepting the key to the city by the cutie pie he saved (Bryce Dallas Howard). As a result, his secret plan to propose to her at a fancy restaurant goes awry, the help of an obsequious maitre d’ (Bruce Campbell) notwithstanding.
Back at the newspaper, Peter now has a competitor, Eddie Brock, Jr. (Topher Grace), and the two find themselves competing for the approval of their irascible boss, J. Jonah Jameson (J.K. Simmons). The film’s funniest moment transpires during a hilarious scene when the short-fused editor fumbles with his blood pressure pills.
Meanwhile, a new archenemy emerges after police chase a perpetrator (Thomas Haden Church) into a demolecularization sand pit at the moment of a scientific experiment. The man instantly morphs into Sandman, a shape-shifting misanthrope who proves to be more than a match for the cops.
Thus, it falls to Spider-Man to deal with this menace, when not addressing numerous other sidebars, such as solving the murder of his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson), tender moments with his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) about his intention to pop the question, attending to his temporarily amnesiac best friend, Harry (James Franco), and wrestling with the demons which emerge when he dons a costume turned black by an evil force from outer space.
Just remember, Spidey’s agonizing, introspective and second-guessing himself every step of the way, like Woody Allen in a mask and stretchy pants - your friendly neurotic Spider-Man.
Rating: PG-13 for intense action sequences.
Running time: 140 minutes
Studio: Columbia Pictures

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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Depp And Disney Deliver In Trilogy Finale

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Who cares that a summer blockbuster might be an incoherent, overplotted mess, when it comes stocked with a charismatic protagonist, an intriguing love triangle, plus enough swashbuckling action and spooky special effects to make you forget the fact that the story is almost impossible to keep straight? That’s what we have with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, possibly the finale of Disney’s billion-dollar trilogy, unless the company can coax Johnny Depp to have another go at it as Captain Jack Sparrow.
When last we saw the terminally-eccentric skipper of the Black Pearl, he and his ship had been dragged to the bottom of the ocean by the Kraken, a mammoth sea monster doing the bidding of dastardly Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). In the interim, piracy has turned into a rather perilous profession, due to an unholy alliance between Jack’s tentacle-faced tormentor and Lord Beckett (Tom Hollander), the chairman of the East India Trading Company.
With Beckett now in control of The Flying Dutchman, Jones’ ghoulish ghost ship, the invincible vessel has been ridding the Seven Seas of pirates. So, as the film unfolds, we are greeted with the spectacle of the mass hanging of hundreds of convicts condemned to the gallows.
Meanwhile, a plan is being hatched by Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and his fiancée, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), the fetching femme fatale responsible for seemingly sending Jack to a watery grave. With the help of Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), they encourage the rest of the outlawed Lords of the Brethren Court to put aside their differences to rescue him and thereby to resuscitate their flagging brotherhood of thieves.
Also among the ill-fitting crew of conspirators assembled for the adventure are the mischievous Pintel (Lee Arenberg), the superstitious Ragetti (Mackenzie Cook), and Tia Dalma, aka Calypso (Naomie Harris), a West Indian witch whose clairvoyant persona was ostensibly channeled from Miss Cleo of the Psychic Friends Network. Yet, none from this colorful ensemble can match Cap’n Jack in terms of magnetism, for his concatenation of tics still steals his every scene, even opposite his father, played by the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, who Depp freely admits served as the source of inspiration in creating the character.
Since Pirates 2 and 3 were shot simultaneously, fans of the franchise are forewarned to anticipate a sense of déjà vu while watching this flick. Although the scenes are certainly original, there remains a vaguely familiarity air about it all, similar to the experience offered by the final installment of Lord of the Rings.
In sum, At World’s End is a CGI-driven, seafaring saga of Shakespearean proportions, exploring an assortment of themes worthy of The Bard of Avon: love and betrayal, good versus evil, failing and redemption, and more. Unfortunately, it spins a far more convoluted yarn than its demographic desires, a flaw further complicated by a glut of both good guys and bad guys to keep track of.
Best to think of Pirates 3 as just a Johnny Depp vehicle to be savored as a mindless, mildly scary escape. Just be sure to sit through the entire closing credits for a postscript, which ties up loose ends while dropping a big hint about what might be in store, should there be a Pirates 4.
Rating: PG-13 for intense violence and frightening images.
Running time: 168 minutes
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures

Kickin' It Old Skool
No Stars
Patient Emerges From 20-Year Coma
To Breakdance Again In Bad Taste

Kickin' It Old Skool

When he was an adolescent, Justin Schumacher (Jamie Kennedy) was left in a coma after landing on his head while breakdancing.
Fast forward twenty years and we find his parents (Christopher McDonald and Debra Jo Rupp) pulling the plug on their son's life support system due to his degenerating vegetative state and their mounting debt.
Miraculously, instead of dying, Justin recovers, though he is still 12 mentally but now in the body of a 32 year-old. Eager to help pay off his medical bills he comes up with the bright idea of entering a dance contest with $100,000 grand prize. So, he tracks down the three other members of his pre-teen posse, The Funky Fresh Boys, to see if they're interested in a reunion.
First, he finds his best friend Darnell (Miguel Nunez, Jr.) who is married but unemployed and gets no respect from his sassy wife, Roxanne (Vivica A. Fox). Though her husband denies that he's the father of her three kids, she warns him as he leaves, "I don't want to see your black ass again till you get a whole lot of money or a whole lot of diapers."
Next approached is the morbidly obese Hector Jimenez (Aris Alvarado), who's happy to ditch his job as a meter maid. Talking Aki Terasaki (Bobby Lee) into rejoining them isn't as easy, since he's making good money in a white collar corporate position. However, it's hard for him to resist when they ask him to say "booby traps" so they can laugh at his Asian accent.
This sort of bad taste humor is par for the course in Kickin' It Old School, one of the most offensive gross-out comedies in recent memory. The film features a varietyof graphically-depicted sanitation issues, from a homeless guy urinating onto another person (twice), to projectile vomiting onto an innocent kid's face, to men taking women's tops to wipe their anal clefts.
Truly an equal opportunity offender, the dialogue repeatedly resorts to ethnic, gender and other assorted slurs, whether referring to blacks by the N-word repeatedly; calling Asians gooks, geisha girls or egg rolls; calling females bitches, hos or pink sushi, calling gays homo, calling the mentally-challenged retarded, or associating Jews with several stereotypes.
Not one scene of this disgusting shocksploit is either entertaining or funny, proof being its failure to elicit even one laugh out of anyone at the screening which this critic attended. Another negative is the picture's profusion of prominent placement ads for Pepsi, Nike, Apple and Pop Rocks, and equally-distracting  cameos by David Hasselhoff, Erik Estrada, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Alan Ruck (Cameron of Ferris Bueller), John Ratzenberger and Emmanuelle "Webster" Lewis who has my permission to return to obscurity after embarrassing himself by calling a woman a ho before slapping her on the butt.
Jamie Kennedy ought to let a bomb-sniffing dog check out scripts for him.
Rated PG-13 for profanity, ethnic slurs, sexuality and crude humor.
Running time: 108 minutes
Studi Yari Film Group

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