The Humbling starring Al Pacino & Greta Gerwig. Finding your passion is one thing. Maintaining it is at the heart of this new film from Academy Award-winning director Barry Levinson (Diner, The Natural, Good Morning Vietnam, Rain Man, Flight). Based on Philip Roth’s last novel, the film stars Al Pacino as Simon Axler, an aging stage actor who, after an epic episode of anxiety on stage, retreats to his country home to regroup. It’s there where Simon meets his muse: Pegeen (Greta Gerwig), the lesbian daughter of a long time friend (Dianne Wiest). Pegeen admits to having a long time crush on Simon and despite being in a relationship is eager to act on it. The affair re-awakens Simon, even as he desperately tries to keep up with her and her always moving lifestyle. Adapted for the screen by Buck Henry, the cast – which includes Kyra Sedwick, Dylan Baker and the always dry and droll Charles Grodin – seem to be having a ball with the material. Using his Connecticut home as the backdrop for Simon’s re-awakening, Levinson keep the pace brisk and light. No visual tricks here – Levinson lets the material do all of the talking. The Humbling is a smart, funny, adult comedy about aging and re-discovering your lust for life. It opens in select theaters this Friday and will also be available on Itunes.
Black Sea. A surprisingly fun and intelligent thriller, the Black Sea has elements of Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Asphalt Jungle set on a submarine, out-of-work veteran submariners and divers plan a heist to recover lost Nazi gold in the black sea. Tension and greed between the English and Russian crew lead the submarine off-course. Academy Award winner Kevin MacDonald (One Day in September) makes his debut in the Action genre with a smart script, excellent cast, effective visuals, and a dark and gritty alternative to the usual slick and pretty action movies of late. The movie stars Jude Law as the gritty captain, along with a crew of character actors including Michael Smiley, Konstantin Khabenskiy, David Threlfall, Ben Mendelsohn, Sergy Puskeplis, Scoot McNairy, Sergey Veksler, Bobby Schofield and Grigory Dobrygin. Black Sea opens in theaters on Friday, January 23rd.
Mommy. An alternate reality French-Canadian film from Xavier Dolan, Anne Dorval plays a single mother forced to deal with her son, who suffers from a severe form of ADHD and attachment disorder when he’s expelled from reform school. Weird and unsettling, the movie is a completely original family drama with commentary on health care assistance for the mentally ill. It also happens to feature Antoine Olivier Pilon, who might be giving the best teen performance since Leonardo DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Mommy opens in limited release on Friday, January 23rd.
Red Army. A companion piece to the movie Miracle, director Gabe Polsky looks at the incredible reign of Russia’s Red Army, the undefeated national hockey team. the movie is an excellent sports comedy-drama and personal story of Russian hero Slava Fetisov, which sheds new light on the Miracle on ice. Red Army opens Friday, January 23rd in New York and Los Angeles.
Duke of Burgundy. The other S&M movie coming to theaters, you would do better seeing this romantic drama about two English woman experimenting with punishment and pleasure. Younger Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna) loves being dominated by older Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen), who is uncomfortable with the constant games, especially when Evelyn continually wants to escalate the games. Peter Strikland’s stunning romance perfectly balances the sexplotation films of the past with domestic drama, and at once a sexy, funny, and compassionate look at such a relationship with out judgement of the participants. The Duke of Burgundy opens on Friday, January 23rd in select theaters and On Demand.
Cake starring Jennifer Aniston. Pain – physical and emotional – is the center of this dark comedy from director Daniel Barnz. Jennifer Aniston stars as Claire Bennett, a divorced lawyer who survived a horrific car crash that killed her son. Claire wears her pain – along with her scars – openly, and its only soothed by meds, alcohol and sex with her gardener. Her direct, blunt approach alienates everyone around her except her housekeeper Silvana (Adrianna Barraza), who manages to tolerate her emotional cruelty. When Nina (Anna Kendrick), a member of Claire’s support group kills herself, it begins a trippy, dark, yet at times humorous road to self-discovery and awareness. It’s a journey that includes interacting with Nina from the beyond and forging a relationship with Nina’s widowed husband (Sam Worthington) and their son. Aniston gives her most emotional and raw performance to date as Claire, stripping away all of the mannerisms (physical and otherwise), that made her a star. It’s the most rounded and multi-dimensional role of her career. Worthington brings surprising depth as the widowed husband struggling to make sense of his wife’s suicide while trying to raise his young son. Felicity Huffman is in fine form as the leader of the chronic pain support group, as is Kendrick as Nina, who, at times, trying to convince Claire that death is the only true escape from pain. A new spin on dark comedy. Cake opens nationwide on Friday.
Absent Fathers by Justin Townes Earle. The son of Steve Earle and the godson of Townes Van Zandt, Justin Townes Earle had made a name for himself to close to a decade with his brand of alt-country, folk, blues and soul. On this companion album to his 2014 release Single Mothers, Earle stays with insightful, often heartbreaking songs of failed relationships, fractured families and lives stuck in the mud. Whether played seperately or as one piece, the albums mark a new chapter for one of the most dynamic singer-songwriters on the alt-country scene. One of the first great albums of 2015. Absent Fathers is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers.
You can also go to www.justintownesearle.com for more information.
Order Absent Fathers at Amazon.com now.
Vulnicura by Bjork. Bjork’s new album – her first in nearly 4 years – was supposed to be released in March to coincide with her upcoming tour and a retrospective at New York’s MoMa. But an online leak has forced the work to be rush released on Itunes with physical copies still on tap to come out in the spring. Working with producers Arca and The Haxan Cloak, Bjork has crafted what she calls a 9 song ‘heartbreak album’ documenting the events leading up to, the actual end, and the aftermath of, her relationship with Matthew Barney. Sweeping in scope, but raw and personal, Bjork, as she has done countless times, put a spin on the ‘break up album’ to astonishing effect. A excellent primer to what is going to be a big year for one of the truly original artists in popular music. An early candidate for one of the best albums of 2015.
NEW YORK CITY: Hedwig and the Angry Inch starring John Cameron Mitchell. The original is back! John Cameron Mitchell who created the hit musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is returning to star as Hedwig on Broadway. He’s putting the boots back on and grabbing the wig in a comeback to the electrifying role he brought to life off-Broadway at the Jane Street Theatre in the late 90s. Mitchell created “Hedwig” with composer Stephen Trask who did the music and lyrics to the show. The musical has had a major revival on Broadway in the past year winning 4 Tony Awards. The part of Hedwig has been handled by Neil Patrick Harris, Michael C. Hall and Andrew Rannells. Now in the most exciting news for the musica,l John Cameron Mitchell returning to the lead role for an 8 week run. Mitchell began doing regular performances this week and said, “I’m having fun going through the old show in my mind and thinking about throwing in more ad-libs and rock ’n’ roll like we did downtown.” Hedwig and the Angry Inch starring John Cameron Mitchell is playing on Broadway now.
ATLANTA, GEORGIA: Merle Haggard. One of the creators of the Bakersfield Sound and an innovator in outlaw country, Merle Haggard is playing the Atlanta Symphony Hall on Friday. “The Hag” will be playing some of his greatest and most influential hits including “Workin’ Man Blues”, “Mama Tried”, “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink” and his signature song, “Okie From Muskogee” which he killed with during a performance at the Grammy Awards last year with Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Blake Shelton. Country legend Merle Haggard will be at the Atlanta Symphony Hall on Friday, January 23rd at 8pm.
NEW YORK CITY: Taxi Driver at the IFC Center. The 1976 Martin Scorsese classic is playing on the big screen this weekend at the IFC Center. “Taxi Driver” which earned Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Jodie Foster and Best Actor for Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle will have midnight showings at the center. De Niro plays the depressed Vietnam vet who takes a cab driving job at night to help deal with his insomnia. This is a chance to see a completely different New York from today as opposed to the one Travis Bickle lives in where he takes Betsy (Cybil Shepherd) to a porn theater on a date. Things have changed. “Taxi Driver” screens Friday, January 23rd and Saturday, January 24th at 12am a the IFC Center.
WASHINGTON DC: Bootsy Collins’ Rubber Band. The President of Funk University is bringing his band to the nation’s capital. Bootsy Collins best known as the bassist for funk legends Parliament – Funkadelic brings the funk to the Howard Theatre. A Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Bootsy will be performing his songs including “Stretchin’ Out (in a Rubber Band)”, “I’d Rather Be With You Bootsy Collins” and “Bootszilla” plus other songs where he’s worked in his name into the title. Known for his personality as much as his music, Bootsy Collins and his Rubber Band play the Howard Theatre in Washington DC on Friday, January 23rd at 7:30pm. Doors open at 6pm.
NEW JERSEY: Gladys Knight. You make a pretty credible argument for Gladys Knight as one of the greatest soul/R&B singers of all time. Her work with The Pips speaks for itself: ‘I Heard Through The Grapevine’, ‘I Don’t Want To Do Wrong’, ‘If I Were Your Woman’, ‘Neither One Of Us’, ”I’ve Got To Use My Imagination’, ‘You’re The Best Thing That’s Ever Happened To Me’, ‘Save The Overtime For Me’ and, of course, ‘Midnight Train To Georgia’. Her post-Pips career is just as strong, scoring hits with ‘Love Overboard’, ‘Men’ and her chart topping hit with Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and Dionne Warwick, ‘That’s What Friends Are For’. Ms. Knight will be bringing all of those hits and more to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on January 23rd. Be ready to unleash your inner Pip.
Go to www.njpac.org for tickets and additional info.
NEW YORK CITY: Billy Idol. After an extended hiatus, dance-punk pioneer Billy Idol returned with a vengeance in 2014 with a hit autobiography (Dancing With Myself and a new album, The Kings And Queens Of The Underground. Touring with a band that includes long time collaborator Steve Stevens, expect to hear songs from the new album along with the classics ‘Rebel Yell’, ‘Eyes Without A Face’, ‘Mony Mony’ and ‘Cradle Of Love and more’. Guaranteed to be loud, raucous and fun.
Go to www.billyidol.net for more info.
LOS ANGELES: The Vaselines. This Scottish-band released two acclaimed EPs and one full length album, before calling it quits in 1990. But the group had an important fan: Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, which openly championed the group and covered ‘Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam’ and ‘Molly’s Lips’. It exposed the band to a new audience and led their reformation along with two new studio albums. The Vaselines will be performing at The Roxy in support of their latest CD, V for Vaselines.
You can go to www.theroxy.com for more tickets and more info.
CHICAGO: Chris Tucker One Night at the Chicago Theater. The star of ‘Friday’, the ‘Rush Hour’ movies, and ‘Def Comedy Jam’ returns to his stand-up roots at the Chicago Theatre this weekend. Expect to hear great stories about his Hollywood experiences along with his experiences traveling around the world for his foundation.
Go to www.thechicagotheatre.com for tickets and additional info.
CHICAGO: Neil deGrasse Tyson. The award-winning astrophysicist, author and host of the show Cosmos brings his informative, entertaining and engaging look at science and exploration to the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. This isn’t just another lecture or complex presentation – deGrasse Tyson puts fun into it all and gives a whole new look at the world as we know it.
Go to www.auditoriumtheatre.org for tickets and additional info.