Super Bowl LI. Houston’s NRG Stadium will be the center of the sports universe as the biggest game in sports finally goes down on Sunday. For both teams, it’s about legacy: With the Patriots, its about Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are trying to become the first QB and coach to win five Super Bowls. For the Atlanta Falcons, Matt Ryan is trying to cap an MVP-caliber season and secure his place as the game’s next great quarterback. As always, there’s also behind the scenes drama as the potential of Commissioner Roger Godell having to present the Lombardi Trophy to the team he aggressively pursued during the so called Deflategate scandal very much in play. Will The Falcons end their 51 year title drought or will the Pats get the ultimate revenge? Tune in to FOX at 6:30 Eastern to find out. You can also go to www.superbowl.com for more information.
Oklahoma City. On April 19, 1995, a bomb ripped through the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring 675. Timothy McVeigh, a military veteran highly influenced by the radical right, would be arrested, tried, convicted and put to death for the worst act of domestic terrorism in American history. Barak Goodman looks back at the events leading up and following this tragic event -including how the deadly clashes between citizens and law enforcement at Ruby Ridge and Waco played a key role in McVeigh’s decision to kill innocent civilians in the nation’s heartland. Goodman also looks at anti-government groups that McVeigh associated with leading up the murders – some of which are still active today. Serving as a cautionary tale and a warning, Goodman has put together a moving, often chilling documentary about how the biggest threats often come closest to home. Oklahoma City opens nationwide this Friday. You can also go to www.okcityfilm.com for more information.
Wheeler. The power and beauty of old school country music is at the heart of this new film from writer-director Ryan Ross. Stephen Dorff co-wrote and stars as Wheeler, an aspiring musician from Kaufman, Texas, who travels to Nashville to make it as a country singer-songwriter. The interactions between Wheeler and actual people within the Nashville music scene were filmed as they happened and often unscripted. Dorff, who is heavily made up and wearing prosthetics, wrote and performs all of the music live in various clubs, capturing the attention of the town’s movers and shakers, as well as the one and only Kris Kristofferson. This has been a passion project from Ross and Dorff and they pull it off masterfully. You’re not quite sure if you are waiting a dramatic feature or a documentary – that’s how much they capture the flow and the feel of Nashville. Dorff turns in a career-defining role as Wheeler, putting in a performance that is so well lived in, you almost forget that he’s playing a character. It’s reminiscent of what Jeff Bridges pulled off as Bad Blake in ‘Crazy Heart’. It’s that good. With a great performance and solid songs, Dorff and Ross have put together a film that’s a moving love letter to country music. Wheeler opens nationwide this weekend.
To The Republic by ELEW. After gaining strong notices as a member of ensembles led by Wynton Marsalis and Elvin Jones in the late 1990’s, pianist Eric Lewis grew frustrated with the state of the jazz scene. He found inspiration from jamming with younger musicians, who, also turned him onto the compositions that were coming out of the rock world. Renaming himself ELEW, he began performing solo shows that showcased songs by Nirvana, The Killers, Coldplay, Linkin Park, and others in a style that combined jazz’s improvisational spirit with the aggressive swagger of a rock show. It has led to two critically acclaimed albums, an opening slot on Josh Groban’s arena tour and featured performances on the film festival and award show circuit. For his latest album, ELEW teams up with bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts to make a startling return to his jazz roots. Anchored by this monster rhythm section, ELEW and co lets us on salutes to Coltrane (‘My Favorite Things’), Ornette Coleman (‘Ornette’), and former boss Elvin Jones (‘Tones for Elvin Jones’). There’s also radical reworkings of Gershwin (‘Quickwork’, which deconstructs ‘I Got Rhythm’); subtle stabs at dancehall (‘Jamaican Girl’); New Orleans big beat (‘Lil Luba’) and Philly soul (‘The Philly Groove’). The title track features acclaimed actor Harry Lennox giving a dramatic reading of Act 3, Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Julius Cesar while the band provides a tense, powerful accompaniment. This project doesn’t completely left behind ELEW’s brand of ‘rockjazz’: his cover of The Knife’s ‘Heartbeats’ serves notice that the next great group of songwriters are coming out of rock and pop circles as much as they are coming out of jazz clubs. ELEW, Veal and Watts have created an instant classic, an album that both honors jazz’s greatest traditions while pushing it to new creative and sonic heights. To The Republic is available now through Amazon, iTunes, and all major music retailers. You can also go to www.elewrockjazz.com for more information.
New York City: One Way Or Another: Black Women’s Cinema, 1970-1991. In 1991, Julie Dash became the first Black woman to direct a feature film that received a general theatrical run. But in reality, she took on the shoulders on the number of Black female directors who dared to buck a system that was openly racist and sexist. The works of these great ladies are the subject of a new three week retrospective happening at BAMcinematek. Dash’s film – fully restored and the inspiration for Beyonce’s album Lemonade – will be featured along with several shorts that Dash directed from 1975 to 2016. Also included is Visions Of The Spirit, Elena Featherstone’s look at Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Alice Walker; Neema Barnette’s Zora Is My Name, written and starring the late Ruby Dee; Othello, Liz White’s interpretation of the Shakespeare tragedy, that explores the play’s racial dimensions with an all-black cast; Maureen Blackwood’s Perfect Image, which tackles beauty standards for light and dark skinned women and much more. There will also be post screening Q&A with some of the directors, and selected special guests, among others. It’s a great series that looks back – and forward – to some of the unsung heroes of cinema. One Way Or Another: Black Women’s Cinema, 1970-1991 will be at BAM February 3rd through the 23rd. You can also go to www.bam.org for a complete schedule of films, events and more information.
Los Angeles: Running Late with Scott Rogowsky. Comedian and writer for Onion News Network and Onion Sportsdome takes his live talk show out of its Union Hall headquarters in Brooklyn to do a series of shows out of The Virgil in LA. Weird Al Yankovic, Reggie Watts, Nikki Glaser, Dana Gould, Joe Manganiello and Greg Proops are just some of the guests scheduled to appear throughout the week long stay. With his father Marty as his co-host, Rogowsky’s show – now in its 6th year – has been compared to Jimmy Kimmel and NBC era David Letterman, so catch the show now before a network decides to pick it up. Running Late With Scott Rogowsky will be at the Virgil February 3rd through the 12th. You can also go to www.runninglateshow.com for tickets and more info.