Chris Rock’s Top Five. Believe the hype: Top Five is not only the best comedy film to come out this year, its also one of year’s best period. Rock wrote, directed and stars as Andre Allen, a successful comedian and film star that, on the surface, seems to have it all: Money, fame, and a reality-star fiancee. But Andre isn’t feeling the funny anymore and flexing his star status muscle, decides to make a straight up drama about The Haitian Revolution. He’s also having doubts about his upcoming wedding, which his soon-to-be wife Erica (Gabrielle Union) is turning into a media circus. If he wasn’t anxious enough, Andre has to spend the day of the film’s release with New York Times reporter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson). As they spend the day around the city and visiting some of Andre’s old haunts, what starts out as a standard interview morphs into revealing what direction Andre wants to do creatively and personally. This is far and away Rock’s best film to date: Sharp, edgy and, of course, laugh out loud funny. After years of being in supporting roles, Rosario Dawson finally has a chance to shine in a role that brings out the best of her dramatic and comedic skills. The on-screen chemistry she has with Rock is electric. Another reason to see Top Five: appearances by some of the top names in comedy: Cedric The Entertainer, Kevin Hart, Michael Che, JB Smoove, Sherri Shepherd, Brian Regan and a movie stealing performance by Tracy Morgan. If you’ve read any of Rock’s interviews or essays in the last few weeks, we’ve seen his comedy evolve into a new brand of social criticism. With this film, we now see him evolve into a provocative and insightful filmmaker. Top 5 opens nationwide this Friday.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice. After two brooding but brilliant dramas, Paul Thomas Anderson returns to the quirky, off-beat, yet engaging films that defined such work as Punch Drunk Love, Boogie Nights and Magnolia. Based on Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel, Joaquin Phoenix plays Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello, a stoner private investigator working out of Los Angeles in 1970. One day, his former girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston) comes by Doc’s place asking him to help to prevent her current boyfriend, real estate mogul Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts) from being sent to a mental institution by Mickey’s wife Sloane (Serena Scott Thomas) and her lover. When Mickey mysteriously disappears, Doc suddenly finds himself in the cross hairs of his nemesis, L.A. Detective Christian ‘Bigfoot’ Bjornsen (Josh Brolin), musicians, drug dealers, burnouts, federal agents, and mobsters. Phoenix, working for the second time with Anderson, is fantastic as the side burned, half baked Doc trying to make sense of what should be a simple missing person case. Brolin is perfect as the slack jawed, crew cut wearing Bigfoot, who’s holding a lot more cards in the case than he appears to be. He rounds out an excellent all-star cast that includes Waterston, Roberts, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, Reese Witherspoon, Jena Malone, Anderson’s real life wife Maya Rudolph and Martin Short. Anderson, channeling the spirit of his late mentor and friend Robert Altman, is having a blast with the wild, sprawling script, time period, the characters and the city of L.A. itself. In a lot of ways, its channeling his earlier masterpiece Boogie Nights, by showing us another underbelly of life in L.A. during the ‘Me’ Decade. It challenges to the audience to pay attention to every frame, but its worth it. One more another winner from one of cinema’s best filmmakers. Inherent Vice opens in select cities on Friday and nationwide on January 9th.
The Army – Navy Game. This will be the 115th meeting on the football field between these two branches of the armed forces. It’s a holiday tradition that goes back to 1890. The Army – Navy game is now traditionally played after all other college rivalry games are done. It’s as much about the pomp and circumstance as it is the actual score. This year, the game returns to Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium. Navy goes into the game with a record of 6 – 5 and Army is at 4 – 7 overall. Don’t let their records fool you. Both sides will be battling for the win. Currently Navy holds the upper hand in the rivalry with 58 wins to Army’s 49. There have also been 7 ties in the series. Watch for President Obama to do the traditional walk to the other side at halftime in order for the Commander-in-Chief to show support for both parts of the military. Army faces Navy on Saturday, December 13th at 3 pm et on CBS.
The U: Part 2. This is the follow up to “The U” which was part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. The history of the University of Miami is so full of triumph and disappointment, that it took two documentaries to cover it all. The U: Part 2 picks up where the original left off. Director Billy Corben returns and has a lot more story to tell. In the late nineties, Miami is facing major sanctions by the NCAA for collegiate violations. New coach Butch Davis has lost dozens of scholarships and the U is banned from playing in bowl games and is forfeiting that money. Davis’ only job is to clean up the program. He does more than that. He rebuilds a broken college program back into championship form. The team is reinstated for bowl play and goes on to add another National Championship to its amazing history under the guidance of Davis’ replacement Larry Coker. The U: Part 2 premieres Saturday, December 13th at 9 pm et on ESPN.
Magician: The Astonishing Life & Work of Orson Welles. Director Chuck Workman has put together a new documentary about one of Hollywood’s most enigmatic figures, Orson Welles. You would know some of Workman’s work from the Academy Awards ceremonies. He’s put together many of the night’s In Memoriam segments honoring those Hollywood lost over the past year. In “Magician”, Workman builds on montages of Welles’ work from films including Othello, Touch of Evil and of course his classic Citzen Kane. Much of the documentary is told by Welles himself through footage of countless interviews. The film also includes comments about the filmmaker from Simon Callow, Peter Bogdanovich, Steven Spielberg and others. It’s the story of a man who loved the magic of Hollywood and how Hollywood rejected him. Magician: The Astonishing Life & Work of Orson Welles opens this week in New York and Los Angeles and rolls out after that.
MazzMuse: The Band. Though she was trained at Julliard, singer-violinist Mazz Swift has rock and soul in her bones. After a breakthrough 2012 solo performance on the Today show in, Mazz assembled a band and launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance her debut album. She also gained a fan in Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid, who came aboard the project as a producer. MazzMuse: The Band is a tour de force showcase for Mazz’s vocal and violin skills. Whether doing otherworldly things on the violin (‘Molten’) or taking your breath away with a sublime cover of Annie Lennox’s ‘Cold’, MazzMuse is a joy from start to finish. Reid’s outstanding production lets Mazz’s talent come to full fruition and could very well give birth to a new genre: Prog-soul. It’s a late contender for one of the best albums of 2014.
MazzMuse:The Band will be available on December 15th via Bandcamp: www.MazzMuse.bandcamp.com.
NEW YORK CITY: Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Party Ever. The first lady of rock and roll does Christmas better than anyone. The legendary Ronnie Spector is bringing her annual Christmas spectacular back to BB King’s Blues Club this Sunday. Ronnie will be doing her holiday classics including My Christmas Wish, Light One Candle, It’s Christmas Once Again and her version of Frosty the Snowman which the Ronettes made into a holiday classic. Plus, she’ll be performing her other great hits as well. Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Party Ever happens Sunday, December 14th at BB Kings’ Blues Club in Times Sqare at 8 pm. Doors open at 6 pm.
NEW YORK CITY: Rufus and Martha Wainwright’s Noel Nights. It’s a family Christmas show like no other. The Wainwrights are keeping up the tradition with a new show at the Town Hall. This year, the show features your old holiday favorites, some new ones and some done in French. The McGarrigle/Wainwright musical family comes together this season including Sloan Wainwright, Loudon Wainwright III and Lucy Wainwright Roche and special guests Emmylou Harris, Justin Vivian Bond, Cibo Matto and special appearance by Cyndi Lauper. Rufus and Martha Wainwright’s Noel Nights is Wednesday, December 17th at 8 pm at the Town Hall.
NEW YORK CITY: A John Waters Christmas. A John Waters Christmas. How about getting a little weird for the holidays? That’s John Waters’ idea of a Christmas party. The cult director (Pink Flamingos, Hairspray, A Dirty Shame ) is bringing a stocking full of smut to his annual holiday show. John takes down some Christmas archetypes, talks about his fascination with finding the perfect perverted gift and delves into some Christmas true crimes stories. Seasons greetings. A John Waters Christmas is Sunday, December 14th at 8 pm at City Winery. Doors open at 6 pm.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Yusuf Islam: Peace Train, Late Again. He hasn’t been on a tour of the United States since 1976, and now Yusuf Islam is back. Maybe better known as Cat Stevens, he’s doing his Peace Train, Late Again tour across America. On Sunday, December 14th, he comes to Los Angeles. Expect Yusuf to perform his classic hits “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out”, “Oh Very Young”, “Wild World” plus his version of “You Are My Sunshine”. Yusuf Islam: Peace Train, Late Again rolls into Los Angeles at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on Sunday, December 14th at 8 pm.