Logan Lucky. Steven Soderbergh’s return from his self-imposed retirement is a smart, breezy heist film tied directly with the tone of the times. Channing Tatum stars as Jimmy Logan, a former local West Virginia football hero, who’s now a down on his luck divorced father. When an old football injury cost him his excavation job at a NASCAR track, Jimmy comes up with plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend. His team includes his Iraq War veteran brother Clyde (Adam Driver), who has a prosthetic lower left arm; his speed-loving sister Mellie (Riley Keough) as the getaway driver; and explosive expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig). Jimmy figures that with his knowledge of how the money is funneled along with Bang’s almost savant use of explosives, the job will be easy. However, there are a number of things in the way: Namely, his crew’s complete lack of experience and breaking Joe Bang out – and back in – prison and then getting him back in before anyone notices. This film has been called a ‘redneck’s Ocean’s Eleven’, that’s understating it. Rather than make fun of the lower rung of Red Staters, Soderbergh – working off a script by Rebecca Blunt (rumored to be a pen name for his wife Jules Asner) – gives these characters remarkable depth and warmth. Here, they are the good guys and the so called high brow – which includes Seth MacFarlene playing a pompous energy drink magnate – are in the comic crosshairs. Tatum, who previously teamed up with Soderbergh on Magic Mike, is terrific as the leader of this rag tag band of criminals. Driver is dead pan and fabulous as Clyde, the brother who somehow is the voice of reason. Craig all but steals with the movie as buzz cut, fast talking, good old boy jailbird having a hoot during his unexpected vacation from the yard. We know he’s locked in to do another Bond movie, but he should seriously do more comedies. Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston and Hilary Swank also join in on a film that should heavily considered as one of the best of the summer season. Logan Lucky opens nationwide on Friday.
Lemon. This bizarre, twisted and gringe inducing comedy from director Janicza Bravo – which made considerable buzz at Sundance earlier this year – rolls out this weekend. It stars Bret Gelman (who also co-wrote the screenplay) as Issac Lachmann, a 40 year drama school teacher who is argumentative and demanding with all his students except for one student Alex (Michael Cera). His life outside of the classroom isn’t much better: Ramona (Judy Greer), his blind girlfriend of 10 years, who shut him off emotionally years ago, abruptly leaves him, and his auditions for acting jobs have devolved into a series of one demeaning experience after another. His downward spiral includes a brutally honest Passover dinner with extended family members and an afternoon backyard get together with the family of a Cleo (Nia Long), a Jamaican-American woman, who despite his neurosis and overbearing behavior, takes a passing interest in Issac. Bravo and Gelman have put together a film that stands right alongside the offbeat, quirky works by Terry Zwigoff and Larry David. They also put together one of the better supporting casts of recent memory with Jeff Garlin, Rhea Perlman, Shirt Appleby, David Paymer, Gillian Jacobs, Megan Mullally, Fred Melamed and Marla Gibbs joining in to poke the wounded animal with a stick. This is black comedy with a capital B and its fantastic. Lemon opens this weekend in select theaters and be available on iTunes. You can also go to http://www.lemonthefilm.com/ for more information.
Sidemen: Long Road To Glory. Despite being a key piece to an artist’s success, the role of the sideman is often a thankless one. This new doc by Scott Rosenbaum profiles guitarist Hubert Sumlin, pianist Pinetop Perkins and drummer Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith – cornerstone musicians who backed up Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. Individually and collectively, they not only were the X factors in the careers of their bosses, but also played influenced some of the greatest names in rock history: Narrated by Marc Maron, Rosenbaum looks at all their early years and what led up to them to land their life changing gigs. The film also doesn’t shy away from their struggles to regain musical footing after their bosses passed away, but details how they found success in later years fronting their own bands. Gregg Allman, Joe Perry, Bonnie Raitt, Robby Kreiger and Johnny Winter are just some of the many musicians who appear to pay proper respect to the influence and their impact on their careers. Rich with great stories, archival footage and, of course, some amazing music, Rosenbaum has put together a long overdue salute to three master musicians. Sideman: Long Road To Glory opens in New York this weekend and in select theaters nationwide on August 23rd. You can also go to http://www.sidemenfilm.com/ for more information.
Whitney: Can I Be Me. On the surface, Whitney Houston had it all: She was pop music’s premier voice, had a blossoming acting career and a successful marriage to singer Bobby Brown. But behind the hit records and sold out tours, Houston was battling a number of demons that would ultimately, and sadly, cut her life short at the age of 49. This new Showtime documentary by Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezai looks at these paradoxes, using never before seen footage from the European leg of her 1999 tour as its centerpiece. Outside of archival footage, those closest to Houston are largely absent from the film (the estate chose not to participate and how roundly denounced the project), so we are left to hear from those who were in her day to day work orbit. Backup singers, stylists and her long time bodyguard are all included to tell about Houston’s intense work ethic; her struggles to find acceptance within the Black community, and the drug addiction that eventually became all consuming. It’s a heartbreaking look at an artist, despite her exceptional gift, was struggling to find herself. We also get to see Houston’s undeniable talent at various stages of her life including footage of a 12 year old Whitney bringing down the house at a church service; award show and TV appearances, and, on stage. A powerful, warts and all portrait of a musical giant. Whitney: Can I Be Me opens in select theaters this weekend and will air on Showtime on August 26th. You can also go to http://www.sho.com/ for more information.
Popular by Van Hunt. In 2007, Van Hunt was on a creative roll. He had two critically acclaimed albums under his belt and won a Grammy with John Legend and Joss Stone for their cover of Sly & The Family Stone’s ‘Family Affair’. Hunt had put his heart and soul into his 3rd album, Popular, which he, and those who heard it at the time, considered his best work to date. However, due to record company politics between Blue Note and its parent company EMI, it was pulled from the release schedule and shelved. Blue Note owned the master recordings and after Hunt unsuccessfully tried to buy them back, both parties mutually agreed to part ways. Hunt would later go on to continue a successful career as an independent artist, but never gave up on getting Popular a proper release. Last year, Hunt met with Blue Note Records President Don Was about pulling the album out of mothballs and letting it see the light of day. Was, the former head of the band Was Not Was, was blown away from what he heard and green lit its release. A beautiful collision of loopy grooves, stinging punk-like guitars, Sly-like DIY funk, old school, band-driven R&B, and political/cultural commentary, it sounds as fresh, timely and vibrant today then when it was made 10 years ago. . Time and persistence has paid off for Van Hunt, as his lost gem finally gets to be heard and we are all the better for it. Popular by Van Hunt is available now through Amazon, iTunes and all major music outlets. You can also go to www.vanhunt.com for more information.
Boy by Bibi Bourelly. The latest EP by this rising young singer-songwriter is an intimate, live in studio setting. Armed with just a guitar and a vocal, this 4 song cycle features material from her Free The Real EPs that captures Bourelly at her most raw, honest, vulnerable, wiser beyond her years and, ultimately, beautiful. In a time where a lot of young artists are looking to surround their songs with big beats and lavish production, Bourelly wisely runs a counter move, knowing that, in the end, its all about the songs and the emotions behind them. Bibi Bourelly is on some other other and its all good. An intense, stunning work that captures an artist in full bloom. Boy by Bibi Bourelly is available now through Amazon, iTunes and all major music retailers.
Kanopy. This Western Australian company started out selling DVD to university libraries with the hope of having students having access to everything from hit movies to obscure gems. It’s now grown into a global brand, streaming over 26,000 films to over 3,000 higher education campus and public libraries around the world. This new app gives you full access to films from the Criterion Collection, documentaries, and much more. If you belong to a participating university or library, all you need is a student ID number or an existing library card to sign up. If you are a fan of classic films and exceptional documentaries, this app is the ultimate pass. Go to www.kanopystreaming.com for more information.
New York City: Boxing On Film, Pt. 1. With the much hyped fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor less than two weeks away, the Anthology Film Archives will host the first part of a extended retrospective that looks at how Hollywood has portrayed the sweet science. The first set in this series looks at the drama outside of the ring almost as much as what happens inside of it. It includes: The Set Up is Robert Wise’s 1949 look at an aging fighter (Robert Ryan) preparing for one more fight against a younger, faster opponent despite his wife’s reservations and unaware the his manger has arranged for him to take a dive. Fat City is John Huston’s unflinching look at two Stockton, California boxers on the opposite side of the spectrum: Tully (Stacy Keach) is a past his prime fighter who returns to the ring after befriending Ernie (Jeff Bridges), an 18 year old who has a great potential. Both have to deal with the brutality of the sport, the women in their lives, shady management and even more shifty promoters. Also included is Boxing Gym, Frederick Wiseman’s 2010 documentary on former featherweight contender turned gym owner and trainer Richard Lord. With works that span over 60 years, this is a series that will appease both fight fans and lovers of cinema. Boxing On Film, Pt 1 will be at the Anthology Film Archives from August 18th through the 27th. You can also go to www.anthologyfilm.org for a complete schedule, tickets and more information.