Chris Rock: Tamborine. Recorded live in his hometown in Brooklyn, Rock’s latest comedy special has him making pointed, hilarious observations on police brutality, gun control, fatherhood, bullying, the current political climate, religion, and relationships. He also quite candid about his recent divorce and new life as a single father, peppering it with humor and acute quips about the long, costly and time consuming process. Mixing his classic delivery with philosophical insights, this is Chris Rock embarking on a new phase as a comedic elder statesman. Tamborine by Chris Rock is available now on Netflix.
Tell Them We Are Rising. The untold story of America’s Historically Black colleges and Universities is part of the latest installation of PBS’s Independent Lens series. Directed by Stanley Nelson (Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution) and Marco Williams (Two Towns Of Jasper; Banished), they tell how Black educators, officials and students overcame slavery, segregation and even the threat of death to establish institutions of higher learning for people of color. Working off a wealth of archival footage, photographs and interviews both new and unearthed, Nelson and Williams put together a doc that is breezy, informative, revealing, and highly entertaining. A true American story of perseverance. Tell Them We Are Rising premieres Monday, February 19th at 9pm Eastern on PBS. You can also go to www.pbs.org for more information.
Word Is Bond. The new Showtime documentary from acclaimed director, writer, producer and curator Sacha Jenkins explores how lyrical imagery presented by hip hop’s forefathers transformed the genre from a local sensation to a global phenomenon. Jenkins uses some incredible archival footage along with interviews by such artists as Nas, Tech9, J Cole, Rapsody and Anderson. Paak to show how various lyrical explorations within hip hop can turn a phrase into a poem, a poem into a song, and a song into an anthem. A unique look into hip hop’s continuous evolution. Word Is Bond premieres on Showtime Friday 16th and 10pm Eastern. You can also go to www.sho.com for more information.
The Party. In this sharp, dark comedy from director Sally Potter (Orlando), it stars Kristin Scott Thomas as Janet, a career politician who decides to throw a small party at her London home to celebrate her recent political ascension. Still shocked by the news, her husband Bill (Timothy Spall) medicates himself with booze and plays jazz and blues off an old vinyl player. Other guests include Janet’s best fiend April, a former idealist turned acidic cynic; April’s partner Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), an aging New Age hippie; feminist college professor Martha (Cherry Jones) and her younger wife Jenny (Emily Mortimer), whose expecting triplets; and Tom (Cillian Murphy), a millionaire banker who arrives with a huge stack of coke and a concealed firearm. As the night progresses, revelations of infidelity, terminal illness and a clash of ideals quickly turns the party from civil to dangerous. Shot in black & white, and filmed just as the Brexit vote was becoming final, Potter uses each character to examine such themes as feminism, social media trolling, and political disillusionment. The cast, an international mix of some of the best character actors working today, are clearly having a ball with the sharp, biting script that doesn’t let up. Don’t let the short run time (just over an hour and ten minutes) throw you off – this movie gets in plenty of great jabs. The Party opens in theaters this weekend. You can also go to www.theparty-movie.com for more information.
The Roxy Performances (Live) by Frank Zappa & The Mothers. Spread out over two nights and four shows, Frank Zappa & The Mothers December 1973 shows at L.A.’s Roxy Theatre have become the stuff of legend. So much so that it became the material got broken up in a number of live albums. Now fans can hear all of the shows in their entirety and more in this sprawling 7-CD set. It contains all four performances, recordings from a December 8th film shoot and sound check, and material recorded at Bolic Studios. Anchored by a band that included George Duke on keyboards and master mallet percussionist Ruth Underwood, this is Zappa at a critical and creative peak, with material ranging from jazz fusion to biting satire that speaks more about the political climate today than it did back in 1973. Whether you are a hardcore Zappa fan or newbie, this set is a must have. The Roxy Performances (Live) by Frank Zappa & The Mothers is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers.
Landfall by Laurie Anderson and The Kronos Quartet. Hurricane Sandy devastated the Northeast with many areas still recovering from its impact. Laurie Anderson’s lower Manhattan home was flooded, with most of her tools needed to create her art all but floating away. But in the true artistic spirit, Anderson turned this loss as the focus of her latest project. Teaming up with The Kronos Quartet, Anderson initially premiered Landfall in 2013 as a multi media piece. Now the official studio version of the piece is out and it loses none of its somber, emotional punch. It tracks the storm from its an early CNN predication, through its violent arrival, the eerie silence and assessments of the damage that followed. Anderson – using voice distortion, electronic instrumentation and wry observations – takes a few detours along the way to discuss how loss can hit at other various points in life, even among other species. It’s classic Laurie Anderson, astute storyteller, and world class musician, mining beauty even amidst the most dire circumstances. Dive in and take the journey. Landfall by Laurie Anderson and The Kronos Quartet will be available Friday on Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers.
New York City. Gordon Parks: I Am You Pt 2. The 2nd part of this retrospective on the iconic photographer, director, writer and composer looks back at his seminal imaginary from the 1940s through the 1960s through the prism of the American civil rights movement. Parks’ photographs chillingly convey how racism contributes heavily to the cycle of poverty and violence that affected communities of color. It will also feature images he created with close friend and author Ralph Ellison using images of Black Americans that ran counter to the negative ones that were presented in the media. This is Parks at the height of creative and commercial powers, cementing his status as an artistic iconoclast. A must see exhibit. Gordon Parks: I Am You Pt 2 will be at The Jack Shainman Gallery 2/15 through March 24th. You can also go to www.jackshainman.com for more information.
Los Angeles. The Dialectic of the Stars. Fans of visual art and performance will converge on the greater Los Angeles area for this two week festival. 19 emerging French and American artists will be featured at five venues to show how the region has emerged as a vital cultural hub. It will include a motorcycle concerns, art installations, a performance by the L.A. Dance Project and much more. Best of all its all free. A great way to stimulate all facets of your artistic palette. The Dialectic of the Stars runs through February 25th. You can also go to www.flaxfoundation.org for more information.