Insecure. Season Two. HBO’s critically acclaimed series is back for its second season. Issa Rae is back as Issa, newly single after breaking up with her long time boyfriend Lawrence (Jay Ellis). She tries to dive back into the dating game but quickly realizes that its not as good as she thought it would be. She also realizes that actually had a good thing with Lawrence, who now has a new job – and a new girlfriend. Meanwhile, Issa’s best friend Molly (Yvonne Orji) is looking to step up her game in the corporate world after she discovers that she’s being paid less than a white colleague and doing more work. Bad dates, booty calls, girls night out and straight up real talk, awkward and all, are aplenty this season, all written and performed with precision and wit by Rae. This is that rare show that shows the lives of Black women professionals without resorting to cliches or quick fixes. How Rae and her crew were snubbed by the Emmys borders on criminal, but with the new season approaching, expect that to change. The second season of Insecure premieres Sunday night at 10:30 Eastern on HBO. You can also go to http://www.hbo.com/ for more information.
The Pulitzer at 100. This new documentary by Kirk Simon celebrates the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a writer and those in the arts. It covers the exceptional story of Joseph Pulitzer, a man who established the award and devoted his life to the elevation and excellence with journalism. We also get a rate peek into the selection process behind the award. But at the heart of the film is the readings and recollections of the award winners, many of which had their lives forever changed upon winning this prestigious honor. Past winners such as Toni Morrison, Carl Bernstein, Thomas Friedman, Paula Vogel and Tony Kushner are here to talk about their experiences, while Martin Scorsese, Helen Mirren, Natalie Portman and Liev Schreiber are also on board to read passages from their favorite writers. Simon has put together a wonderful celebration of 100 years of journalistic and artistic life in America that is moving and inspiring. The Pulitzer at 100 opens in New York this weekend and in Los Angeles August 11th. You can also go to http://www.firstrunfeatures.com/ fro more information.
Landline. Life choices and the fragility of the family dynamic are the heart of this new film by Gillian Robespierre. Set in 1995, it stars Jenny Slate and Abby Quinn as Dana and Ali, two sisters dealing with what they perceive as the limited life options that are ahead of them. Dana is a twentysomething beginning to question her engagement to a ho hum finance. Ali is a high school senior whose into Hole and P.J. Harvey and plays song parodies on guitar. Their relationship is prickly to begin with and it gets more complicated when they suspect that their father (John Turturro) is having an affair and their mother (Edie Falco) is ether completely oblivious to it or lacks enough emotion to even care. As the two sisters navigate their individual lives and the issues within their family, there’s a fair share of hookups, flare ups, partying and ultimately acceptance with who they are what lies ahead. Robespierre perfectly captures the period in which there was no social media, text messages and direct communication was still essential. Turturro and Falco deliver solid as always performances as the embattled parents, but its Slate and newcomer Abby Quinn who really drive the film. Noisy, opinionated, open, fragile, uncertain, fun, funny, they run the gamut of the emotions well showing a range and maturity well beyond their years. If you are looking for a solid character driven comedy free of explosions and CGI, this is your movie. Landline opens this Friday. You can also go to http://www.landlinemovie.com/ for more information.
Santoalla. A quiet Spanish village that is rocked to its core is the focus of this new documentary from Andrew Becker and Daniel Mehrer. It tells the story of Martin Verfondern and Margo Pool, a progressive Dutch couple who dreamed of living off the land and away from the trapping of urban life. They find it in the Santoalla, a remote Spanish village. However, shortly after their arrival, they begin to challenge the traditions of the other remaining residents, the Rodriguez family. Tensions continue to build until one day, Martin mysteriously disappears. As local authorities investigate, this long forgotten parcel of land suddenly becomes the center of a mystery – with Margo searching for both closure and the will to move forward with her life. Playing as both a doc and cold case Becker and Mehrer uses to the sweeping starkness of the Spanish landscape to uncover a story about simmering resentments and the lingering effects of major life choices. A powerful, engrossing doc. Santoalla is screening now in New York and will open in select theaters on July 28th. You can also go to www.santoalla.ocilloscope.net for more information.
Who The F**k Is That Guy? How did a gay Puerto Rican kid from Brooklyn end up shaping – and in some cases, reinventing the musical landscape forever? That’s question is answered in this documentary by Drew Stone. Told primarily in his own words, Michael Alago tells how his love of music led him to be a talent booker at The Ritz at the age of 19, then as a 24 year old A&R exec, his love of metal led him to sign a young thrash metal band of a San Francisco named Metallica. He would later go on to sign White Zombie and work with artists ranging from Cyndi Lauper, Nina Simone, John Lydon, among many, many others. Alago is also very frank about how his hard partying lifestyle almost cost him his career – and his life. Alago isn’t short of energy or stories and to have members of Metallica, Lauper, Rob Zombie, Eric Bogosian back up these stories builds into a fast paced, fun doc on one of music’s coolest mavericks. Who The F**k Is That Guy opens this weekend.
Escapes. Wes Anderson executive produced this new documentary on the life and times of one of Hollywood’s unsung heroes. Directed by Michael Almereyda (Experimenter, William Eggleson In The Real World), it profiles Hampton Fancher, a native of East L.A. who went from Flamenco dancer to a character actor, then later wrote and produced the sci-fi classic Blade Runner. Along the way, Fancher has stories loaded with romantic misadventures, kindness, chivalry, jealousy, friendship and everything in between. By combining the stories with clips from Fancher’s numerous appearances in films around the world, Almereyda puts together a compelling portrait of an artist who’s been everywhere and back multiple times over and managed to live to tell all of the tales. We also get a fresh perspective on the creation of Blade Runner and it’s eagerly awaited sequel Blade Runner 2049 (also written by Fancher). A rich and entertaining doc. Escapes opens in New York on July 26th and in select theaters August 4th. You can also go to www.grasshopperfilm.com for more information.
Goodnight Rhonda Lee by Nicole Atkins. Hard to believe its been 10 years since Nicole Atkins released her debut album Neptune City, a work that quickly put her in the same conservation with many of her musical heroes. There’s been a lot of detours both musical and personal, and they all come to fore with her fourth album, Goodnight Rhonda Lee. Teaming up with the Texas based Nile City Sound – the same team that produced behind Leon Bridges successful album – it runs everywhere from countrified soul, Spector laced theatrics, Brill Building bounce, moody jazz-infused ballads and funk-infused, 70s Motown styled pop. This is Atkins flexing all of her musical muscles as a singer-songwriter on an album that stands alongside the best works of Dusty Springfield, Laura Nyro, and Candi Staton. Soul, pop, brassy R&B, country, gospel, and even a hint of jazz flying and flowing throughout, Nicole Atkins and Nile City Sound have put together a masterpiece. One of the year’s best. Goodnight Rhonda Lee is available now through Amazon, iTunes and all major music outlets. You can also go to http://www.nicoleatkins.com/ for tour dates and more information.
The Underside Of Power by Algiers. Led by multi-instrumentalist Franklin James Fisher, this Atlanta based band found critically acclaimed with their self-titled debut in 2015. For their second album, Algiers builds on the sound that fuses gospel infused vocals mixed with doses of electronica and other post punk soundscapes. The tenor of the times plays heavily also, drawing upon the militant politics of the Black Panther Party For Self-Defense, right up to Black Lives Matter. Fisher is posed to be rock’s next great vocalist, putting the holler back into the field holler but also showing a range that goes from rock, soul, gospel and everything in between. The band – which includes former Bloc Party powerhouse drummer Matt Tong – are also on their A-game, building up a sheet of sound that comes off the soundtrack to the resistance. There’s no sophomore jinx here – this is a band that is truly starting to come into its own. The Underside Of Power is available now through Amazon, iTunes and all major music outlets. You can also go to www.algierstheband.com for tour dates and more information.
Vanishing New York: How A Great City Lost Its Soul by Jeremiah Moss. For over 10 years, Jeremiah Moss has maintained a blog documenting how many long time New York institutions have been closed due to rising rental costs. This new book looks at how modern gentrification has transformed a culturally and ethnically diverse city into a suburbanized haven for the city – and nation’s – 1%. Moss takes us through Harlem, Chelsea, Williamsburg and the Lower East Side to give moving eulogies to neighborhood favorites that have shuttered or are on the verge of being shelved for no other reason than they simply cannot afford to stay here. Moss also goes chapter and verse into how the re-zoning of these and other neighborhoods around the city – along with real estate developers cozy relationships with The Mayor’s Office and the City Council has put these closings on the fast track. As stark as this news is, Moss does offer ways in which residents can fight back, profiling activists and groups dedicated to stopping the tide to make the greatest city in the world as bland as possible. Blunt, cantankerous, sarcastic but also told with a love and appreciation for the nuances that fuel and energize a city, Moss has put together a book that is destined to spur conversation and debate on America’s most vital city, Vanishing New York is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all major book retailers. You can also go to www.vanishiingnewyork.blogspot.com for more information.
Los Angeles: FYF Fest. Like most festivals, FYF Fest started out small and with a decidedly anti-establishment bent to it. With each passing year, its gone through several changes, including a variety of venue locations. Now it’s become one of the must see festival events on either coast and this year’s lineup should only enhance that reputation. Missy Elliott, Bjork, Frank Ocean, A Tribe Called Quest and Nine Inch Nails are all slated to headline various days of the event with artists running the full musical spectrum also on tap to perform through the three days. With Exposition Park as the site, great weather and killer music, it’s not summer time on the West Coast without FYF. FYF Fest 2017 will run through July 23rd. You can also go www.fyfest.com for tickets and additional information.