Have A Nice Day. Liu Jian wrote and directed this new animated feature that draws heavily on classic noir films. It tells the story of Xiao Zhang, a driver desperately looking to raise more money to fix his girlfriends’s botched plastic surgery. After stealing a bag containing a million dollars in cash from his boss, all Xiao wants to do is get him and his girlfriend out of town. But word of the theft quickly spreads in the small Chinese town, putting him in the crosshairs of an assortment of locals and some very dangerous people. The film is drawling a lot of comparisons to Pulp Fiction, but it really pays a loving homage to the neo noir films of the 40s along with the anti-hero films of the late 60s/early 70s. Jian also puts in sly references to the recent 2016 U.S. elections, Brexit and China’s place in the ever shifting political landscape. How all of this gets packed in under 90 minutes is quite extraordinary. If you are looking for a smart, fast, tight crime thriller, this is your flick. Have A Nice Day opens in New York this weekend and in select theaters starting February 2nd., You can also go to www.strandreleasing.com for more info.
The Lucky Man. Faith, sin and redemption are the core themes of this new action thriller from writer-director Norman Mcguire. It stars Jesse James as Johnny, a young, charmastic con men posing as a faith preacher. Along with his girlfriend Becca (Mariana Paola Vicente) they scam small time churches to help fuel their appetite for drugs, booze and each other. When an attempt to secure more drugs goes horribly wrong, Johnny discovers that his faith healing powers are the real deal. But instead of using it for good, the couple hit Route 66, robbing and scamming everyone from churchgoers to drug cartels, making them targets to people on both sides of the law. Despite working with a limited budget, Mcguire uses the American landscape as another character, revealing both its mystery and its menace, echoing such classics as ‘Badlands’ and ‘Bonnie & Clyde’. James has a breakout performance as Johnny, wrestling between saint and sinner as he navigates his way through a haze of sex, drugs, booze and bullets. It’s a film that works as an atmospheric exploration of spirituality and on American ideals. A cool under the radar film. The Lucky Man opens this Friday. You can also go to www.IndicanPictures.com for more information.
West Of The Jordan River. In 1982, Amos Gitai released Field Diary, a look at The Israeli-Palestininan conflict through the eyes of its everyday citizens. In this new doc, Gitai returns to the region and profiles military, human rights activists, journalists, mourning mothers and Jewish settlers to get their take on the ongoing occupation. As leaders on both sides fail to come up with a viable solution, many of those profiled decide to use their own civil consciousness to bring about real change. Working more like an archeologist rather than a director, Gitai pulls away the many layers behind the conflict and brings out the humanity in all of the participants. Though the problems within the region still remain, Gitai’s film does offers some much needed hope. West Of The Jordan River opens this weekend. You can also go to www.kinolorber.com for more information.
In The Intense Now. In 1968, The United States was not the only country going through intense political upheaval. In this searing new documentary by Joao Moreira Salles, he shows how uprisings in France, Czechoslovakia, Brazil and China gripped each nation and captured the world’s attention. What makes this footage unique is that it was also shot by amateurs. Even more telling is that for Salles, there’s a personal connection: His mother was visiting China and managed to capture The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution as it unfolded. The protests in Salles’ native country of Brazil all also left a lasting mark on him and those close to him. Seeing this footage again in its stark, matter of fact style of filming only showcases the urgency of each of those campaigns, and eerily echoes what is happening nearly 50 years later. A powerful and haunting work. In The Intense Now opens this weekend. You can also go to www.icarusfilms.com for more information.
Fleetwood Mac (Deluxe Edition) by Fleetwood Mac. The reissue campaign by one of rock’s most endearing bands continues with this new edition of the self-titled classic. Released in the summer of 1975, the album featured the debut of new members Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham and saw the emergence of Christine McVie as a formidable songwriter. Anchored by the hit songs ‘Over My Head’, ‘Rhiannon’ and ‘Say You Love Me’, the album would sell over 5 million copies in the U.S, laying the groundwork for their 1977 masterpiece Rumours. This deluxe edition contains the original album, alternate takes, and 19 live tracks recorded during the subsequent tour. Digitally remastered for pristine sound, it captures a band fully coming into its own. A must have for any rock fan. The deluxe edition of Fleetwood Mac is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music outlets.
New York City. Black Borders by Anthony Barboza. This new exhibition highlights the many portraits that this legendary photographer has captured throughout his career. Highlights include James Baldwin, Gordon Parks, Amiri Baraka, Debbie Allen, Sylvester, Romare Bearden and much more. While the series is a fun look back, there’s also a series of shots that place Barboza firmly in the present. Come out and see the work of a giant in the field of photography. Black Borders by Anthony Barboza will be at the Keith De Lellis Gallery through March 10th. You can also go to www.keithdelellisgallery.com for more information.
New York City. That’s Me Up There: The Singular Art Of Playing Yourself. It’s one thing for an actor to prepare to play a character. But what happens if that character happens to be you? As a primer to the upcoming Clint Eastwood Film 15:17 To Paris – which will star the actual heroes who stopped a terrorist attack aboard a train bound for Paris – Quad Cinema will be presenting a week-long retrospective of films featuring people portraying themselves. It will showcase features starring The Beatles (A Hard Day’s Night), Muhammad Ali (The Greatest), John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich), Arlo Guthrie (Alice’s Restaurant), Evel Knievel (Viva Knievel), Peter Falk (Wings Of Desire), and much more. It’s a series that has a bit of something for everyone, with stars going from straight forward to silly in their self portrayals. A great series for both novice and hardcore film fans. That’s Me Up There will be at Quad Cinema from January 26th through February 1st. You can also go to www.quadcinema.com for a complete rundown of films and more information.
Los Angeles. Museums Free-For-All. L.A. is known for its great weather, beaches and movie stars, but it also features some of the nation’s top museums. This weekend, dozens of the best in the region will open its doors and invite visitors to check out this arts institutions free of charge. Some of the participating venues include The Museum Of Contemporary Art, The Museum Of Tolerance, The Getty Center, California African American Museum, The Paley Center For Media, The Los Angeles Museum of The Holocaust and much more. It’s a great way to absorb art and culture from a variety of perspectives. Museums Free-For-All will take place on Sunday, January 28th. You can go to www.socalmuseums.org for a complete list of participating venues and more information.