Whose Streets? The 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown – and its powerful aftermath – is the subject of this explosive new documentary by Sabaach Folayan and Damon Days. Told exclusively from the viewpoint of activists, community leaders, and Brown’s family, it shows how Brown’s death – who was killed by Officer Darren Wilson during an encounter – ignited long simmering resentments culminating mass scale protests for which the National Guard had to be deployed in Ferguson, Missouri. The footage gives a boots on the ground and in your face perspective as protesters forced the police, its community and the country at large to confront such issues as police brutality, the use of military grade weapons to quell protests and racial disparities. It also provides a indicting counter narrative to what has been widely reported in mainstream media outlets as to the actions of law enforcement during the protests. We also get personal insights into the protestors personal lives to show that these weren’t ‘race baiters’, ‘troublemakers’ or ‘thugs’, but honest, hard working people looking for justice. Timed to coincide with the anniversary of Brown’s death, this doc gives the events of Ferguson a fresh and welcomed re-examination. Whose Streets opens in theaters nationwide this weekend. You can also go to http://www.whosestreetsfilm.com/ for more information.
The Trip To Spain. The 3rd installment in the film series drawn from the critically acclaimed BBC series premieres this weekend. Directed once again by Michael Winterbottom, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are back on the road once again, this time to review the New Traditional restaurants along the Spanish coast for The New York Times. Of course, they go to great lengths to razz each other and their respective career arcs, as well as give us another round of hilariously on point celebrity impersonations. They also reflect reflect on entering middle age and its pitfalls attached to it, adding a sense of poignancy and depth to the series. Winterbottom wonderfully captures life on the road showing both the joy of seeing the breathtaking landscape and the often comical monotony of travel. Coogan and Brydon are, as always in fine form as the frenemies riffing and eating their way through a road trip. There’s even a great cameo appearance by Mick Jagger that turns into great showcase for Coogan, who deconstructs the Stones frontman in such a way that it all but steals the movie. Anchored by two great talents, dream like locations and a ton of food porn, the third time is definitely the charm. The Trip To Spain opens this weekend. You can also go to www.ifcfilms.com for more information.
California Typewriter. Even as computers and laptops have become a vital part of everyone’s lives, there’s a still a small, dedicated fan base to the traditional typewriter. Director Doug Nicol’s new documentary looks at the artists, writers and collectors who still use the typewriter as a tool, muse and, in the case of the Boston Typewriter Orchestra, an instrument. The film takes its name from the small repair shot is struggling to keep the machines alive and kicking in the digital age. The movie takes on a new resonance with the appearance of Sam Shepherd, who recently passed away after battling ALS. Tom Hanks, John Mayer, David McCullogh are just some of the other notables making their case for the keys and ink, making this a great salute and battle cry for a piece of literary history. California Typewriter opens in New York on August 18th. You can also to www.californiatypewriterthemovie.com for more information.
The Nile Hilton Incident. A murder mystery set on the eve of the Arab Spring is the basis of this new film by Tarik Saleh. Based on a true story, it was Fares Fares as Noredin, a cop working within a corrupt system in Cairo, who is investigating the death of a famous club singer. HIs bosses want to dismiss it as a crime of passion, but as Noredin digs deeper, he finds himself in the crosshairs of the Egypt’s power elite. He must then break his personal and professional codes to find out the truth. Saleh borrows heavily from the film noir tradition to put together a taunt, tense mystery that also excels as a political thriller. Destined to be a sleeper hit of the season. The Nile Hilton Incident opens in New York this weekend and select theaters on August 31st. You can also go to www.strandreleasing.com for more information.
Dark Matter by Randy Newman. On his first album of new material in 9 years, Newman has lost none of the bark and bit that has come to define his near 50(!) year career. Who else could open up a work with an 8 minute musical debate about religion vs science (‘The Great Debate’), whose side target becomes…the author himself – and make it work! ‘Putin’ takes dead aim not at the Russian leader’s politics or uncomfortably cozy relationship with the President, but at his skills as a ladies man. ‘Brothers’ imagines John and Robert Kennedy discussing the Cuban missile crisis with the aim not to depose Fidel Castro, but to save salsa great Cecila Cruz. ‘It’s A Jungle Out There’ looks at a world that has too much surveillance, over reliance on technology, polluted air and drinking water. ‘Sonny Boy’ is a first person account of obscure bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson I, who had his name and identity all but stolen from the more famous harmonica great Sonny Boy Williamson II. Newman once again proves that aside from the satire, he can also write songs aimed at tugging heartstrings. ‘Wandering Boy’ tells of a father longing to see his gifted prodigal son from whom he’s been estranged from for years while She Chose Me’ just might be the best love song he’s ever written. In short, this is classic Randy Newman, a songsmith still at the top of his game. Dark Matter is available now through iTunes, Amazon and all major music outlets. You can also go to http://www.randynewman.com/ for more information.
A Common Wonder by Amerigo Gazaway. The latest installment in the ‘Soul Mates’ series mashes up classic Stevie Wonder and with hip hop mainstay Common. As with previous series, Gazaway makes a generational connection between two artists that you wouldn’t think would work, but finds a common ground that will make you a bigger fan of both artists. Hearing Common’s positive, socially conscious lyrics juxtaposed with, and working alongside, Wonder’s musical and lyrical genius gives one an even bigger appreciation for what they have brought to the musical/cultural table. Gazaway’s previous mashups of De La Soul with Fela, Marvin Gaye and Mos Def, and B.B. King with Underground Kingz were brilliant, but this one is far and away the best of the series. A Common Wonder by Amerigo Gazaway is available now exclusively through http://www.amerigo.bandcamp.com./
Fiesta by Ice Balloons. This noise rock supergroup – made up of Kyp Malone of TV On The Radio, Sean Kennelly of Samiam, Sean Powell of Fukernos and Surfbort, Giselle Reifer of Midnight Masses, Dan Dciene and BA Maile formed in a Brooklyn basement in 2013, but are just now releasing their debut album. Built around sheets of feedback, thunderous bass and sledgehammer drums, Ice Balloons have put together an effort that is both an audio assault on the senses, but still manages to stay within traditional and melodic song structures. This is a relentless, probing and powerful debut. Fiesta by Ice Balloons is available now through iTunes, Amazon and all major music retailers.
Cost Of Living by Downtown Boys. The 3rd album from the Providence-based punk quartet is the most polished, yet visceral to date. Produced by Guy Piccotto of Fugazi and written in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election, the band – led by vocal fireball Victoria Ruiz – takes dead aim at issues ranging from plans to build a wall on the Mexican border, racism, capitalism, the prison industrial complex, fascism, and all forms of apathy. Piccotto’s production adds sonic sheen, but doesn’t take away from the in-your-face assault that can be heard at their live shows. Building on the legacy and foundation that was laid by X-Ray Spex, Rage Against The Machine and The Clash, The Downtown Boys has put together another soundtrack for the resistance. Cost Of Living is available now through iTunes, Amazon and all major music retailers. You can also go to http://www.downtownboys.bandcamp.com/ for more info.
New York City: Americana Fest NYC. The 4th Annual weekend festival celebrating the many facets of American Roots Music returns once again to Lincoln Center Out Of Doors. As with previous editions, the weekend will be a beautiful collusion of music ranging from Tex Mex, soul, R&B, and, of course, rock n roll. Day 1 will feature early afternoon sets by Traveller, Flaco Jimenez and Amanda Shrives at Heart Plaza. It then moves over to nearby Damrosch Park with Low Cut Connie, a celebration of the music of Chuck Berry under the musical direction of Vernon Reid, and a headlining set by The Jayhawks. Day 2 will have a set by soul songwriting legend Don Bryant and will close out with Grammy Award Winner and Rock n Roll Hall Of Famer Bonnie Raitt. The best part of this festival is that it’s FREE so arrive early and feast on the great music that’s being featured this weekend. Always a fun time. The Americana Fest NYC at Lincoln Center will take place August 12th and 13th. You can go to www.americanafest.org or www.lincolncenteroutofdoors.org for more information.
Los Angeles: Sundance Next Fest. This three day festival gives you all of the buzz, pomp and circumstance of The Sundance Film Festival without freezing your tail off. Located at The Ace Hotel in downtown L.A., Next Fest features eight films that range from the cutting edge, trendy and flat out bizarre. There will also be movie and musical guest pairings, stand up comedy sets, guest talks with the filmmakers and much more. If you love cinema and want to stay ahead of the curb on what’s coming down the pike, this fest is for you. The Sundance Next Fest will take place through August 13th. You can also go to http://www.sundance.org/ for a complete run down of films, ticket info and much more.