Crown Heights. The story of Colin Warner, imprisoned for over 20 years for a crime he didn’t commit, is the basis of this new film from writer-director Matt Ruskin. Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta) stars as Warner, who, as an 18 year old, is arrested in 1980 for the murder of a teenager in Flatbush. Based on the forced identification by a child witness and no physical evidence, Warner is convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Warner’s long time friend Carl ‘CK’ King (Nnamdi Asomugha) works tirelessly to get him out, taking out loans to fund his appeals, becoming a legal courier, and with the aid of a lawyer, conducts his own independent investigation. The case puts considerable strain on both: Warner’s stay includes a 4 year stint I n solitary confinement. King struggles to prove his friend’s innocence within a zero tolerance policy towards young men of color. But it’s their inner strength, loyalty and resolve that helps them reclaim their lives. Stanfield, best known for his role as Darius on the hit FX show Atlanta, gives a strong dramatic turn as the unjustly locked up Warner. Asomugha is the film’s X factor as CK, who relentlessly, against great odds, seeks to right a great wrong. Ruskin, who drew heavily from a segment devoted to the case on This American Life, deftly goes back and forth on Warner’s struggles to keep it together on the inside along with CK’s meticulous efforts to prove his innocence on the outside. He also uses speeches by various politicos – including Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton to show how ‘tough on crime’ policies have led to mass incarcerations regardless of the circumstances. It’s a strong, powerful, probing, yet inspiring work. Crown Heights opens in select theaters this weekend. You can also go to www.ifcfilms.com for more information.
Terminator 2: 3D. When James Cameron made The Terminator in 1983, he applied elements that were more common in chase films to make up for a limited budget and special effects. The strategy worked: It became a smash hit and gave him the clout to make splashier, big budget action epics such as Aliens & The Abyss. Cameron hit a new peak with 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day. It was his boldest work to date, featuring mind blowing action sequences and introducing special effects that are now industry standard. Now Cameron looks to up the ante by personally overseeing the the 4K and 3D restoration of the box office hit. The story of cyborg assassins being sent back in time to kill the future resistance leader explodes across the screen like never before. An entire generation has passed since T2 was in theaters, so here’s a chance to see a sci-fi classic like its never seen before. Terminator 2: 3D will in theaters nationwide this weekend.
Time Fades Away by Neil Young. In 1972, Neil Young released Harvest, his most successful solo album to date. It featured the number 1 single, ‘Heart Of Gold’, and future standards, ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’, ‘Old Man’ and the title track. With the album riding high on the charts, Young hit the road with The Stray Gators, a group of L.A and Nashville session musicians, that were featured prominently on the album. It was not a good experience for Young: Audiences preferred the down home sound of Harvest during the first set were indifferent to its second, high volume electric set that featured all new songs. Also, personality clashes, fights over money, drugs, and alcohol led to erratic behavior, ragged performances, and, for Young, a throat infection that required him to bring aboard David Crosby and Graham Nash to augment the vocals. Despite of all this, the band did 65 shows in 90 days and the live album Time Fades Away was released in 1973. Despite selling over a million copies, Young distanced himself from the album, allowing it to go out of print after its initial release. But it never lost its love between critics and fans, becoming a highly pirated item as the CD boom took shape. Young, having second thoughts, finally caved in and has now released Time Fades Away in the CD and digital formats. It captures Young and his band of musical desperadoes working their way through ego, anger and grief (guitarist Danny Whitten passed away just as the tour was about to roll out) across the States. A credible argument can be made that the roots of the Young classic Tonight’s The Night (and the blueprint for jam bands in general) starts here. It’s one of the many lost treasures in the Young canon that finally gets to see the light again. Time Fades Away by Neil Young is available now through Amazon and iTunes.
Ronnie Wood: Artist by Ronnie Wood. In addition to being an accomplished lead, slide and petal steel guitarist, Ronnie Wood is also an accomplished painter and sculptor. To coincide with his 70th birthday, this new book compiles the best of his paintings and drawings that has graced art galleries around the world. It covers everything from his art school portfolio, portraits of his heroes, icons and his band mates in The Faces and The Rolling Stones, nudes, city landscapes and much more. It’s the most comprehensive look at the creative side of a rock n roll icon. Ronnie Wood: Artist is available now through Amazon. You can also go to www.ronniewood.com for more information.
New York City: Afropunk. The 12th annual edition of this seminal Black Alternative music festival once again comes back to Brooklyn. The recent Presidential election, and a late minute attempt by local community boards seeking to have the festival shut down due to noise, has added a urgent tone to the proceedings. Gary Clark, Jr, Macy Gray, Raphael Saadiq, Solange, Michael Kiwanuka, and Unlocking The Truth are just some of the many artists scheduled to play the two day blowout. There will also be art exhibits, skateboard competitions, activist booths and a lot more. Along with great music, expect to see attendees put their fashion sense on full display with no fear of letting their freak flag fly. A great way to round out the New York festival season. Afropunk will be at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn August 26th and 27th. You can go to www.afropunkfest.com for tickets, a complete rundown of events and additional information.
New York City: The Graduate. Released in 1967, The Graduate made Dustin Hoffman, Katherine Ross overnight stars, cemented Mike Nichols status as a multi medium force, turned Simon & Garfunkel into rock legends and put the word ‘plastics’ into a new comedic context. To celebrate the film’s 50th Anniversary, Film Forum will be hosting a one week revival. Featuring a 4K restoration, here’s a great chance to see Benjamin find out that higher learning happens well after leaving college. The Graduate will be at Film Forum August 25th though the 31st. You can also go to www.filmforum.org for tickets and more information.
New York City: Central Park Conservancy Film Festival. A summer favorite, this outdoor film series explores the number of films – classic and recent that were shot in New York City. It will wind down this weekend with The Godfather on Friday night and Spider Man 3 on Saturday. With the Sheep Meadow, the skyline and killer weather on tap, bring a blanket and spend a glorious night out in the greatest city in the world. Go to http://www.centralparknyc.org/ for more information.
New York City: Charlie Parker Jazz Festival. Harlem will be awash in cool sounds and hot grooves as the Charlie Park Jazz Festival will be at Marcus Garvey Park this weekend. Though its named after the bebop great, the festival will feature acts that honor both past and present, honor the spirit of Parker’s relentless pursuit of individuality and originality. Lou Donaldson, Joshua Roseman, Anat Cohen and Jason Samuels Smith are just some of the performers scheduled to appear, alongside jam sessions, movie screenings, and much more. 25 years strong, this is the must see event for those who love jazz and for those who love Harlem. The Charlie Park Jazz Festival runs through August 27th. You can go to http://www.cityparksfoundation.org/ for more information.