BlacKkKlansman. Hot off the heels of the Academy Award-winning Get Out, producer Jordan Peele recruits Spike Lee to direct this historically based period piece that has ties to what is happening today. Set in the 1970s, the film stars John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth, the first Black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Dept. At first, he buried in the records department, where he has to endure racial insults from his colleagues. Then, Stallworth is assigned to wear a wire and report on a Black Student Union event in which former MLK and Black Panther associate Stokely Carmichael (now known as Kwame Toure) is the keynote speaker. He also sparks a relationship with Patrice (Laura Harrier), the BSU president with an open distaste for cops. Eager to make a name for himself, Stallworth – using his ‘white voice’ – answers a KKK recruitment ad and finds himself talking with KKK Imperial Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace). He also recruits Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) – A Jewish cop – to be his face for in-person meetings. Together, they – leading the local chapter no less – disrupt Klan activities – including a plot targeting the Black Student Union. Although the film takes place in the 70s, Spike Lee – working off a script that he co-wrote with David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel and Kevin Willmott – puts it in context to show how these Klan activities put into motion what is happening today. Lee also takes Hollywood to task, using clips from The Birth Of A Nation to Gone With The Wind to show that it has it’s own KKK-related sins to atone for. Washington and Driver are fantastic as Stallworth and Zimmerman, two cops faced with the difficult task of fueling bigotry and racism at the same time they are fighting it. Harrier is just as formidable as Patrice, wonderfully counterpunching Washington’s stance on the need for law and order. Grace is all bile and slime as Duke, attempting to ‘normalize’ the Klan’s vision while at the same time signing off on it’s business as usual tactics. It’s another Spike Lee classic, destined to spark debates long after the film is over. One of the year’s best. BlacKkKlansman opens nationwide this weekend. You can also go to www.focusfeatures.com for more information.
Insecure. HBO’s award-winning series from Issa Rae returns for its 3rd seson. For this go round, Issa, who is still living in her former boyfriend’s house, is looking to step her professional and financial status in order to get her own place. She’s also looking to take her budding relationship with Daniel (Y’lan Noel) to the next level. Her best friend Molly (Yvonne Orji) continues her climb up the corporate ladder, while Tiffany (Amanda Seales) prepares to have her first child. Adding more comic relief is Kelli (Natasha Rothwell), Issa’s friend from college, who’s now offering her financial advice – and never afraid to speak her mind. It’s great to see a show featuring single Black women professionals working their way through life’s personal and professional hangups in a comedic, yet mature way, without being debasing or demeaning. A welcomed return to one of TV’s sharpest shows. The 3rd season of Insecure premieres Sunday night at 10:30 Eastern on HBO. You can also go to www.hbo.com for more information.
Ballers. Season 4 of the acclaimed HBO series is back and this time, Spencer Strasmore (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) and Joe Krutel (Rob Corddry) are bringing their high stakes hustle to the City of Angels. They are in L.A. as part of a new partnership with Lance Klians (Russell Brand), the artistic minded head of an extreme sports network and agency. Spencer’s long time friends/clients Ricky Jerret (John David Washington) and Charles Greane (Omar Miller) have also re-located to the area with the recently retired/soon to be father Jerret hinting at a comeback and Greane settling in as an executive for the Rams. For Spencer, the trip has personal undertones: it’s the first time he’s been back since the death of his brother and he has more than a professional interest in the mother of a star high school QB he’s looking to sign. This season also promises to address the current controversy surrounding atheletes using the playing field and their status within as a means for social change. With cameos from some of the biggest names in sports, biting humor and lavish backdrops, expect another solid run from the always enigmatic Johnson. The new season of Ballers premieres Sunday, August 12th at 10pm Eastern on HBO. You can also go to www.hbo.com for more information.
Original Human Music by Ultraphonix. After teasing fans earlier this spring with the explosive single ‘Walk Crawl Run’, the eagerly awaited full length album by the supergroup led by Corey Glover (Living Colour) and guitarist George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob) has finally hit record shelves. Anchored by the powerful rhythm section of Chris Moore (drums) and Pancho Tomaselli (bass), Ultraphonix runs the gamut from hard rock, funk, and prog, with songs ranging from deeply introspective to blistering social commentary. This isn’t just a showcase for Glover and Lynch, both of whom have been at their top of their game for over 30 years: Moore and Tomasseli are world class musicians in their own right, all but taking over the second half of the album with powerful grooves and percussive flair. It manages to build on their respective legacies while also establishing new musical directions for each of the band members. While they are hard at work with their parent bands, listen to this outstanding new project and hope that these songs can be heard live. One of the year’s best. Original Human Music by Ultraphonix is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers.
New York City. The Central Park Conservancy Film Festival. The Park Department, The Museum Of The Moving Image and The Museum Of The City of New York have teamed up once again to transform The Sheep Meadow into the city’s greenest outdoor theater. This year, the festival will films that celebrate New York City along with filmmakers who hail from The Big Apple. It will open with Hair (a fitting tribute to the late director Milos Forman, who shot the bulk of the film in Central Park); Crooklyn, Spike Lee’s love letter to his native Brooklyn; Dr Strangelove by Bronx native Stanley Kubrick and The Muppets Take Manhattan. Admission is free, but attendees are urged to arrive early in order to secure a prime spot. With the city as its backdrop, it’s the perfect night out. The Central Park Conservancy Film Festival runs August 14th through the 17th. You can also go to www.centraloarknyc.org for more information.
New York City. Summer Streets 2018. New York City’s most valued piece of public spaces has always been its streets and each Saturday throughout August, people will be able to enjoy someone of its finest without having to deal with traffic. From 7am to 1pm, 7 miles – From The Brooklyn Bridge to Park Ave and into Central Park – will be open to the public to run, walk or bike, car free. There will be designated rest stops along the route featuring activities for kids, artists and everything in between. The streets of Manhattan have always been a glorious sight on the eyes, but now here’s a chance to make them into your own personal wonderland. Summer Streets 2018 will take place August 11, and 18th. You can also go to www.nyc.gov for more information.
New York City. Yellow Submarine. To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of its release, George Dunning’s classic animated feature has been screened in select theaters around the world. This weekend, it will make a stop at the recently renovated Film Forum where viewers can either see the orignal version or a singalong edition in which a bouncing yellow ball will encourage both kids and adults to join in a number of Beatle classics. Featuring a 4K restoration and optimum sound, this pop art masterpiece will be appease hardcore and new Beatles alike. Yellow Submarine will be Film Forum August 11th and 12th. You can also go to www.filmforum.org for tickets and additional information.
Los Angeles. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – In Concert. Considered the best of the Star Wars films, The Empire Strikes Back took the franchise in a darker direction with a series of twists and turns that even the most hardcore Jedi fans were not expecting. The Hollywood Bowl will be presenting the 1980 classic with David Newman conducting a live to picture performance of John Williams’ iconic score with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Attendees are encouraged to show up in costume (guns and masks are prohibited), which will only add to what will be an epic night out at the movies. The Force will definitely be in the house. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – In Concert will be take place Saturday, August 11th at The Hollywood Bowl. You can also go to www.hollywoodbowl.com for tickets and additional information.