Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot. The latest from acclaimed director Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy, Good Will Hunting) stars Joaquin Phoenix as John Callahan, whose lust for life fuels a serious drinking problem. When an epic bender results in a devastating car crash, Callahan, now a paraplegic, still isn’t ready to embrace a life of sobriety, much less to adjusting to life in a wheelchair. He reluctantly joins a 12 step program and finds support from his physical therapist Annu (Rooney Mara) and his flamboyant, openly gay sponsor Donny (Jonah Hill). As he goes through each step, Callahan discovers a gift for drawing edgy, irreverent cartoons that draws the interest from a newspaper and eventually a national audience. It’s through his art that Callahan learns to re-connect with the outside world – and with himself. Van Sant is back in familiar territory: Home in his native Portland and re-teaming with his To Die For co-star Phoenix and they deliver some of their best work of their careers. Mara also puts in a memorable performance as Annu, cementing her status as a formidable screen presence. Hill – looking like a cross between Tom Petty and 1970s Brian Wilson – shines as the tell it like it is, out and outgoing Donny. Anchored by strong support from Jack Black, Beth Ditto and Kim Gordon, and another amazing score by Danny Elfman, don’t be surprised if this film doesn’t garner serious consideration during awards season. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot opens this select theaters this weekend. You can also go to www.dontworry.movie for more information.
Dark Money. This searing new documentary from Kimberly Reed (Prodigal Sons) shows how untraceable corporate money has infliatrated our elections – and our elected officials – threatening the core principles of our democracy. She travels to Montana – which has become the frontline in perserving fair elections – and follows John Adams, a local reporter who is attempting to expose just how big an impact the Supreme Court’s decision on the Citizens United case has had on the electoral landscape. Whether they are attack ads on TV, or a barrage of mailings, the agenda becomes clear. The real question becomes how – or what – is funding them. More frustrating is how the safeguards that are supposed to protect us are also caught in poltical quagmire. It’s a documentary that plays out like a polticial mystery/thriller with the American people as its biggest victims. A vital, important doc that cuts to the core of our current politcial climate. Dark Money opens in New York on Friday and in select theaters starting on July 20th. You can also go to www.darkmoneyfilm.com for more information.
Who Is America? Sacha Baron Cohen is back in this new 7-part half hour Showtime series that promises to show ‘the diverse individuals, from the infamous to the unknown across the political and cultural spectrum, who populate our unique nation’. Details have been scant, but reportedly Cohen spent a year working on the project and is said to feature Bernie Sanders, Ted Koppel, Howard Dean, Sarah Palin (who has already slammed Cohen and the show), and former Vice President Dick Cheney, who, in the teaser clip, autographs a waterboard. Whether or not he scores face time with the President remains to be seen, but rest assured, given his track record with Ali G and Borat, this has all of the makings of being ‘the most dangerous show in the history of television’. Yes, we have been warned. Who Is America premieres Sunday, July 15th on Showtime. You can also go to www.sho.com for more information.
W. Kamau Bell: Private School Negro. For his latest comedy special, W. Kamau Bell tackles topics such as raising bi-racial children, politcally minded TV shows for kids, free speech clashes in Berkeley, and, of course, the President, his adminstration and the state of the union as a whole. Bell, who also hosts the CNN show, United Shades Of America, is in top form, firing away at all facets of the ongoing debates igniting our nation, keeping you laughing and woke at the same time. It’s another lights out special from one of the best in the game. W. Kamau Bell: Private School Negro is available now on Netflix.
Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind. The world of comedy suffered a huge blow with the 2014 passing of Robin Williams. This new HBO documentary from Marina Zenovich (Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired) looks back his life and career and how his enormous impact on pop culture. Told largely through Williams’ own words, home movies, and on stage footage, it covers everything from growing up in the San Francisco Bay area; studying at the Julliard School in New York; working the explosive L.A. comedy circuit in the 1970s; his breakout sucess on the TV show Mork & Mindy; his landmark performance at The Metropolitan Opera; his Broadway debut in ‘Waiting For Godot’ and memorable performances in such films as Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, The Fisher King, Mrs Doubtfire and his Academy Award-winning performance in Good Will Hunting. Zenovich also covers Williams’ struggles offstage with substance abuse and depression and how he channeled those battles into his work. With remembrances from long time friends Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Eric Idle, Pam Dawber, Steve Martin, David Letterman and Williams’ son Zak, Zenovich has put together the most comprehensive look at a comedic giant. Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres July 16th at 8pm Eastern on HBO. You can also go to www.hbo.com for more information.
Vanished Gardens by Charles Lloyd & The Marvels & Lucinda Williams. A veteran of the jazz scene for nearly 50 years, saxist/fluiest Charles Lloyd has worked with some of the best jazz and blues musicians of all time, including Ornette Coleman, B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Cannonball Adderly, Tony Williams, Ron Carter and Roy Haynes among others. As the leader of his own quintet, Lloyd’s group became the first jazz band to play The Fillmore Auditorium and quickly became a favorite with the San Francisco counter-culture scene sharing bills with The Doors, The Beach Boys, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. Now 80, Lloyd has released his second album wth his new genre-fluid group, The Marvels, which includes Bill Frisell on guitar, bassist Reuben Rogers, Greg Leisz on pedal steel and dobro, and drummer Eric Harland. Joining them on half of the tracks is singer-songwriter extraordinaire Lucinda Williams and its simply transcendent. After working together on a cover of Dylan’s ‘Masters Of War’, they are able to stretch out to transform Williams staples ‘Dust’ and ‘Unsuffer Me’ into a mind blowing fusion of roots music and free jazz. Williams also wrote ‘We’ve Come Too Far To Turn Around’, a spritual anthem that is badly needed in these troubling times. Tracks such as ‘Defiant’ ‘Monk’s Mood’ and ‘Ballad Of A Sad Young Man’ are showcases for Lloyd and The Marvels, who show very quickly that they are some of the best musicians working in any genre. As good as any album you will hear this year. Vanished Gardens by Charles Lloyd & The Marvels & Lucinda Williams is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music outlets. You can also go to www.bluenote.com for more information.
Washington D.C. One Year: 1968, An American Odyssey. 1968 marked by political assassinations, mass protests against The Vietnam War, The Civil Rights Act becoming law, the first manned orbit around The Moon and The Summer Olympic Games becoming a hotbed of poltical protest. It was also the year that The Smithsonian opened its National Portrait Gallery and to commerate its 40th Anniversary, it’s displaying a one room gallery devoted to that turbulent year. It will feature memorable portraits of political movers and shakers (Martin Luther King, Jr, Presdent Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, Richard Nixon, The Black Panthers), the Apollo astronauts, the top names in music (Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead) and leading sports figures (Arthur Ashe, Peggy Fleming, John Carlos, Tommie Smith). It’s a great look back at a year that marked a turning point on the nation’s history. One Year: 1968, An American Odyssey will be The Smithsonian National Portrait Galllery through May 2019. You can also go to www.npg.si.edu for more information.
Washington D.C. Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show And American Culture. Whether as an Emmy-award winning TV Talk Show host, Oscar-nominated actrees, film producer, educator, philanthropist, media mogul, or as the founder and CEO of OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s mark on the American cultural landscape is undeniable . This new exhibit at The National Museum Of African-American History And Culture covers every facet of Winfrey’s life: Her formative years as she dealt with racial and gender discrimination; her 25 year run on The Oprah Winfrey Show; her current success with The Oprah Winfrey Network and as a film producerl; and how she helped shape and change the American conversations on race, gender and mass media. It also includes set pieces from Chicago’s Harpo Studios, which was the home of The Oprah Winfrey Show for over 20 years; items from her personal collection, photos, and, of course, a slew of highlights from her landmark talk show. It’s a fitting tribute to a mass media icon. Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show And American Culture will be at the National Musuem Of African-American History And Culture through June 2019. You can also go to www.nmaahc.si.edu for more information.