The Filtered Excellence: March 16, 2017


Bob Geldof once asked us, “Where is the filtered excellence!?” It’s right here. Once a week we take a break from comedy to bring you this week’s picks of the best things to watch, the most interesting things to do, great things to try, the best picks to read, our favorite things to listen to and more.


WATCH THIS:

T2: Trainspotting 2.  The sequel to the 1996 classic picks up the exploits of Renton (Ewen McGregor), Sickboy (Jonny Lee Miller), Spud (Ewen Bremner) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) 20 years later.  Renton has spent that time in Hollland, becoming a successful software retailer, got married and traded in his drug addiction for physical fitness.  Sickboy runs a failing pub and with the help of his escort girlfriend Veronica (Anjela Nedyalkova), blackmails rich johns.  Spud is still trying to overcome his heroin addiction and Begbie, who’s been locked up for murder, escapes, setting his sights on getting even with Renton.  It’s Renton’s return to Scotland that sets into motion a rocky reunion, another elaborate scam, and all of the things that made them lifelong friends.  But its Renton’s betrayal from 20 years earlier that is still hanging over each of their heads.  Working with screenwriter John Hodge, director Danny Boyle revisits some of the elements that made the original so memorable, but also adds themes – namely regret and how the recklessness of their youth comes back to haunt them  as they reach middle age.  The cast is also in fine form with McGregor leading the way as Renton, who is the best off of the crew outwardly, but the most broken inside.  With an array of flashbacks, fantasy sequences, action, and another killer soundtrack, Boyle and the cast have put together a sequel that stands alongside the original.  T2: Trainspotting 2 opens nationwide this weekend.

Song To Song.  Terence Malik released two masterpieces between 1973 and 1978:  Badlands and Days Of Heaven.  Then there was a near 20 year gap.  Now the reclusive director seems to be making up for lost time with his 5th film since 2011.  His latest takes place in the midst of the vibrant Austin music scene centering around two couples:  struggling songwriters BV (Ryan Gosling) and Faye (Rooney Mara) and music executive/producer Cook (Michael Fassbender) and Rhonda (Natalie Portman), the waitress whom Cook literally sweeps off her feet while she’s at work.  Their lives intersect as BV and Faye begin a business relationship with Cook that veers deeply into the personal.  All of the Malik trademarks are here:  Extraordinary shots, wistful voiceovers and dialogue that seems to ask more questions than provides answers.  Also catch notable cameo appearances by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, John Lydon, The Black Lips, Florence Welch, Big Freedia, and Lykke Li in their element, which is on and backstage.  If you are looking for a film that will challenge all of your senses, check out the next chapter in what has been an exceptional career of a director giant.  Song To Song opens this weekend.

Betting On Zero.  The new documentary from writer/director Ted Braun (Darfur Now) looks at the corporate battle royal between Bill Ackman, the controversial hedge fund magnate and the enormously successful company Herbalife.  Ackman is on a crusade to expose Herbalife as the biggest pyramid scheme ever and he’s put up over a billion dollars to prove it.  The catch, of course, is that in doing so, Ackman stands to make a fortune if he’s proven correct.  On the other side, Herbalife’s President and CEO Michael O. Johnson is relentlessly fighting off Ackman’s accusations and continue to build on his expanding empire.  He finds an ally in Carl Icahn, another hedge fund titan – and Ackman’s chief rival, who not only sees a chance to make money with Herbalife, but also wants to stick it to Ackman.  Caught in the middle are the investors, who are anxiously waiting to see how this battle plays out.  Braun paces the doc like a high stakes chess game with finance heavyweights fighting it out in the board rooms and in the press.  He also gives ample screen time to those who lost their life savings dealing with Herbalife and how this latest tug of war will ultimately leave them out in the cold.  Its that sequence that underscores how in the game of high finance, it’s always those of the bottom of the totem pole who always get hit – and hurt – the hardest.  It’s a fascinating look at the darker side of the American Dream.  Betting On Zero opens this weekend.

Mean Dreams.  Director Nathan Morlando serves up a film that doubles as teen love story and a tense thriller.  It stars Josh Wiggins as Jonas, a local teen living on a farm in a densely populated area of rural America.  He starts a relationship with Casey (Sophie Nelisse), the new girl next door who lives with her police officer father Wayne (Bill Paxton).  As they continue to grow closer, Jonas realizes that Casey’s home life is a growing increasingly abusive one and that Wayne’s working on the wrong side of the law.  He impulsively steals the money that Wayne made in a drug deal and convinces Casey to run away with him to start a new life.  But Wayne is onto their plan and aggressively pursues them to recover the money.  With him and the sheriff (Cole Feore) hot on their trail, the couple must stay a one step ahead of them both and make life-altering decisions in order to survive.  Morlando, working with writers Kevin Coughlin and Ryan Grassby, keeps the twists and turns coming, using the stark landscape to remarkable effect.  Wiggins and Nelisse are terrific as the teen lovers who are forced to do some serious growing up while also navigating their emotional roller coaster that comes with first love.  Bill Paxton turns in a powerful performance as the corrupt Wayne, at times, just using body language to convey pure venom and menace.   You totally believe that this is someone you really don’t want to mess with.  It’s a fitting coda to a career that was sadly cut short earlier this month.  Morlando has crafted a dark and complex thriller that deserves to be a 2017 sleeper hit.  Mean Dreams opens in limited release this weekend.

LISTEN TO THIS

The Order Of Time by Valerie June.  The latest from acclaimed multi instrumentalist Valerie June expands on many of the themes that she introduced on her breakthrough album Pushin’ Against A Stone.  Working with producer Matt Marinelli, June tells wonderful stories against sweeping soundscapes that incorporates blues, rhythm and blues, gospel, country alongside Brian WIlson/Phil Spector style pop.  What makes this album even more brilliant is how it manages to be rootsy but experimental, personal yet universal, current but timeless.   The first half of this work will hypnotize you.  The second half will blow you away.  Another contender for one of the best of 2017.  The Order Of Time by Valerie June is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers. You can also go to www.valeriejune.com for more information.

DO THIS

New York City: The People Speak: Based On The Work Of Howard Zinn.  A People’s History Of The United States tells the history of the nation from those who helped build it it and made sure it lived up to its core values:  women, Blacks, Native Americans, immigrants and laborers.  To celebrate the life and work of the book’s curator, historian Howard Zinn, some of today’s leading performers and artists will be at The Brooklyn Academy of Music to bring those voices to life once again.  Marisa Tomei, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, David Strathairn, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Frances McDormand, Talib Kweli, Stew, Heidi & The Von Trapped are just some who are scheduled to pay tribute to a great documentarian and American.  Come out and see how by revisiting our nation’s past, we can unlock the doors to where we need to go moving forward.  The People Speak:  Based On The Work Of Howard Zinn will be at the Peter Jay Sharp Building at The Brooklyn Academy of Music on March 21st.  You can also go to www.bam.org for tickets and additional information.

New York City: Manhattan at the Film Forum in 4K.  ’s 1979 love letter to New York City gets a much deserved fresh look at Film Forum.  Shot in glorious black and white by legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis and with timeless songs by George Gershwin providing the soundtrack, Allen’s story of a complicated love triangle between TV writer Issac Davis (Allen), his wise beyond her years teenage girlfriend Tracy (Mariel Hemingway in an Oscar nominated performance) and his best friend’s mistress Mary (Diane Keaton) has lost none of its wit and aura nearly 30 years after its release.  To see the breathtaking opening sequence on the big screen is worth the admission price alone.  Come out and see Allen in peak form.  Manhattan will be at Film Forum through March 21st.  You can also go to www.filmforum.org for tickets and additional information.

New York City: Celebrating Lou Reed.  To celebrate what would have been his 75th Birthday, The New York Public Library – which recently acquired Reed’s archive – will be having a series of events to mark this milestone.  Two displays highlighting the more unique aspects of the Reed archive will be on view at The 42nd Street Library on 5th Ave and The Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center.  It will include original drafts of song lyrics, letters from Martin Scorsese and Paul McCartney, one of many pairs of eye glasses, audio and much more.  It’s just the start of an exploration in the mind and creative process of a rock n roll master.  Celebrating Lou Reed will be at the Stephen A. Schwartzman Building at the New York Public Library and The New York Public Library for The Performing Arts through March 20th.  You can also go to www.nypl.org for more information.

Los Angeles: PaleyFest.  The 34th annual edition of this week long salute to TV will take place at the Dolby Theatre.   In addition to seeing exclusive episodes and clips, fans will also have a chance to take part in panel discussions and Q&As with the cast and creators of some of TV’s hottest shows. This year’s lineup will include screenings and cast panels with Westworld, This Is Us, American Horror Story and much more.  If you’re a TV junkie or just looking to get caught up, this is the place to be.  PaleyFest runs through March 26th.  You can also go to media.paleycenter.org/paleyfest-la-2017 for more information.

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