Hidden Figures. We know the names of the heroes of the American Space Program: John Glenn. Alan Shepard. Neil Armstrong. But in this new film from Theodore Melfi (St Vincent), it looks at three Black women who put the U.S. back into the Space Race and propelled it to new heights. Taraji P. Henson stars as math genius Katherine Johnson, who along with Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae), overcame racism and sexism to make the necessary calculations for John Glenn to become the first American to successfully make a complete orbit of Earth. Melfi, who co-wrote the script with Allison Schroeder, finds the right balance of drama and comic touches to the story, often poking fun at the pointlessness of racism and sexism that was part of the era. Henson, Spencer and Monae are all perfectly cast, working seamlessly together: These ladies are no pushovers on and off screen and are clearly having a blast in a film anchored by a three Black actresses. Kevin Costner is also in good form as Space Task Group director Al Harrison, determined to reset America’s role in the Space program regardless of who gets it done. It’s a fitting salute to the unsung heroes of our space program. Hidden Figures opens nationwide this weekend.
By Sidney Lumet. After a brief run in select theaters late last year, the latest American Masters installment rolls out this week on PBS. Directed by Nancy Buirski, it uses a series of previously unused interviews that Lumet did in 2008 along clips from his 50 year career, Buirski allows Lumet – who passed away in 2011 – to tell his own story. Whether he’s discussing his early days as a child star in theater, his gradual move into directing in the early days in television or what drove him to make such classics as 12 Angry Men, Fail Safe, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, or Network, Lumet recalls it all with candor, grace, bluntness, and with a touch of humor. It’s a strong and powerful look at a cinematic giant. By Sidney Lumet is airing now on PBS. You can go to http://www.pbs.org/ for run times and more information.
Not The Actual Events by Nine Inch Nails. After spending the bulk of the year scoring the films Before The Flood and Patriots Day, Trent Reznor gave fans an early Christmas presents with a new 5 song EP. With long time collaborator Atticus Ross on board as a full time member, the EP marks a return to the darker, dense atmospheric sounds that dominated such albums as The Downward Spiral and the The Fragile. Dave Grohl makes a guest appearance on the EP’s most explosive track, ‘The Idea Of You’, which features on the sickest musical breakdowns in recent memory. If this a prelude to an upcoming album or tour, watch out: Nine Inch Nails just might shake up the rock n roll deck once again. Not The Actual Events is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music digital outlets. You can also go to www.nin.com for more information.
New York City: Winter JazzFest NYC. 13 years strong, Winter JazzFest NYC has been the premier showcase for the re-emerging jazz scene. Social Justice is the undercurrent behind this year’s festival with Craig Harris’ ‘Breathe’ – which was inspired by the death of Eric Garner and others by police officers – Nate Smith’s ‘Disenchantment: The Weight’ (written during the George Zimmerman trial), and drummer Terri Lynne Carrington’s latest project, Social Science (which promises to address the current political landscape) all taking center stage. With over 130 acts playing across the West Village, it promises to be a festival that will satisfy the mind and the soul. Winter JazzFest NYC runs through January 10th. You can go to Winter Jazzfest(copy) for a complete list of events, venues and more information.
Jarmusch at Midnite. To coincide with the release of his latest film Paterson, Nighthawk Cinema will pay tribute to Jim Jarmusch with a series of midnight screenings of his work each weekend this month. Only Lovers Left Alive, Night On Earth, Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai and Mystery Train will all be featured throughout the run. It’s a great way to get caught up on or re-affirm an appreciation for one of the last true film visionaries. Jarmusch at Midnite runs January 6th through the 28th. You can go to www.nitehawkcinema.com for tickets and more information.