Tower. It was the first mass school shooting and it remains the most haunting: On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman, a 25 year old former Marine and engineering student at the University of Texas at Austin, went up to the school’s clock tower, and began to randomly started shooting. Before police were able to kill Whitman, he shot 49 people, killing 16. Keith Maitland looks back at a moment that stunned the nation in this new and visually arresting documentary. Using retroscope animation, archive footage and recollections from witnesses and victims, Maitland crafts a harrowing look at those terrifying 94 minutes that shocked a nation then and now. What makes it even more horrific is that it tells the story from the viewpoint of those in the line of fire, giving the carnage even more resonance. It also shows the extraordinary heroism by both law enforcement and students who saved those were wounded and eventually took Whitman down. Maitland also uses this story to show the eerie parallels between this shooting and the countless others that have happened since then to show the destructiveness of gun violence. One of the year’s best films. Tower is in NY theaters now and opens in select cities on Friday. You can also go to www.kinolorber.com for more information.
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. This new documentary from Bob Hercules and Rita Colburn Whack is the first comprehensive look at the iconic writer, poet, actress, singer and activist. With unprecedented access to her archives, the film covers everything from her upbringing in the Depression-era South, her work as a actress and singer, advocating for civil rights here in the States and abroad to her delivering a poem at the inauguration for President Bill Clinton. The doc also conveys on Angelou turned some of the most painful aspects of her life into art, becoming a voice for those who felt disenfranchised and marginalized . With great stories and remembrances from her son, Guy Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones, Bill & Hillary Clinton, Cicely Tyson, Louis Gossett, Jr, Alfre Woodward, and Tyler Perry; and loaded with archival footage, Hercules and Whack have crafted the definitive look at a literary and cultural icon. Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise opens this Friday. You can also go towww.MayaAngelouFilm.com for more information.
Christine. The 1974 on air suicide by Florida news reporter Christine Chubbock still remains one of TV’s most shocking moments. The events leading up to it is the basis of this new film from Antonio Campos. Rebecca Hall portrays Christine, a news reporter and community affairs show host looking to climb up the news ladder. Already battling depression and an unrequited love for lead anchor George (Michael C. Hall), Christine finds herself under more pressure from her news director Michael (Tracy Letts) to bring more juicy stories to the broadcast. How she chose to respond would alter the medium forever. Rebecca Hall, who had a breakout performance in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, goes all in as the title role, capturing both Chubbock’s abrasiveness and quiet desperation flawlessly. The supporting cast, which includes Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Maria Dizzia, J-Smith Cameron and Timothy Simmons, are also on their A-game. Campos straddles a thin line between black comedy and drama, and captures the era – right down to wardrobe and equipment with exceptional detail. Its a dark, probing look at a turning point in television. Christine opens this Friday. You can also go to christine.film for more information.
Revolution Radio by Green Day. After expending their sound – and their audience – with rock operas, musicals and a triple album release, Green Day goes back to basis for their 12th album. As evidenced by the first single, ‘Bang Bang’, going back to move forward is a good thing. Few bands have nailed down punk infused power pop better than Green Day and its loaded with great hooks, power drumming, thundering bass and big, loud guitars. It’s that loose, spirited rock n roll record that’s been missed for a minute and serves a reminder that this rock thing can be angst-ridden but also fun. A great return to form by one of America’s great bands. Revolution Radio is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music outlets.
Truth vs. Beauty by Chocolate Genius, Inc. Marc Anthony Thompson returns to his Chocolate Genius persona to deliver another outstanding set of introspective ballads, bits of political commentary, dark comedy and acoustic driven soul. Clocking in at just over 36 minutes, the album straddles the line between down home, experimental and DIY, but has a flow and cohesiveness that has you begging for more. It’s another winner from one of our best singer-songwriters. Truth vs. Beauty is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers.
Jazz Festival by Jim Marshall. Known worldwide for his work within the rock world, Jim Marshall first made his mark within jazz circles. Now for the first time, this new book gathers some of Marshall’s photos taken at various Newport and Monterey Jazz Festivals in the 1960s. It includes shots of such legends as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Nina Simone along with photos that show him inching closer and closer to the folk and rock scene. As with most of his work, it captures the artists on stage and off, loose, relaxed and in the moment. With a forward by President Bill Clinton and essays by Nat Hentoff and Graham Marsh, it’s a fitting testament to Marshall (who passed away in 2010) and a scene that was a critical and artistic zenith. Jazz Festival is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all major book outlets.
Prince Movie Collection. This 3 DVD/Blu Ray set puts together the three feature films Prince made before his untimely death: the seminal Purple Rain, its sequel Graffiti Bridge and Under The Cherry Moon. While Purple Rain has cemented its status as an iconic film and soundtrack, but its the two movies that proceeded it that deserve a new look. Under The Cherry Moon is high camp but features stunning cinematography while Graffiti Bridge is loaded with great music from Prince, The Time, George Clinton, Mavis Staples and Tevin Campbell. Considering that he had little to no experience, Prince also showed himself to be quite formidable in the director’s chair. This package is perfect for both the long time fan or for someone just getting introduced to his film work. The Prince Movie Collection is available now through Amazon.
New York City: Open House NY. For two days each October, New York City’s most important buildings and institutions opens its doors to give a unique insight into the design, preservation and evolution of the greatest city in the world. The Apollo Theater, The Beacon Theater, and the Bryant Park Hotel (forever immortalized in the original Ghostbusters) are just a small sample of some of the sites that will offer up close and personal tours of the facilities. Whether you are in town visiting, a recent transplant or a Native New Yorker, this is a great way to get see the inner workings of NYC. Open House NY takes placesOctober 15th and 16th. You can go to www.ohny.org for a complete list of sites, reservations and more information.
Los Angeles: Cinespia Cemetery Screenings. With Halloween right around the corner, The Cinespia Cemetery Screening Series places an emphasis on modern noir, horror and black comedy. Scheduled to screen throughout the month: Wim Wenders’ hypnotic 1984 film Paris, Texas – complete wth a special appearance by Harry Dean Stanton; Death Becomes Her starring Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and directed by Robert Zemeckis; Wes Craven’s classic A Nightmare On Elm Street; and the premiere screening of the new IFC series, Stan Against Evil, written and created by Dana Gould. With the rich California skies as a backdrop, this is a fantastic way to great your full Halloween freak on. The Cinespia Cemetary Screenings takes places through October 14th through the 22nd. You can also go to www.cinespia.org for tickets, locations and additional information.