The Big Sick. Michael Showalter and Judd Apatow team up for this new film that puts a fresh spin on the romantic comedy. Based on a true story, it stars Kumail Nanjiani, a Pakistan-born aspiring comic who hooks up with grad student Emily Gordon (Zoe Kazan) after one of his sets. A one night stand quickly moves into a full blown relationship, but since Emily is white, it complicates Kumail’s relationship with his traditional Muslim parents, who are trying to find Kumail a Pakistani woman to marry. This clash of cultures ultimately causes the couple to have a nasty break up. But when Emily is hospitalized with a mysterious illness, Kumail is there for her and has to make the decision to place her in a medically induced coma. When her condition doesn’t improve, Kumail is forced to reach out to Emily’s parents Beth and Terry Gordon (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter). He’s meeting them for the first time, and unlike his parents, they know everything about him and their relationship. Kumail must confront his own feelings about family, tradition and what’s best for his life. Best known for his role as Dinesh on the hit HBO series, Silcon Valley, Nanjiani excels as writer, executive producer and co-lead, bringing depth, humor and a vulnerability that is rare for a male lead in a rom-com. Kazan, who’s quickly emerged as one of the most formidable writers and character actors working today, is a perfect counterpart as Emily. Romano and Hunter are perfectly cast as Emily’s matter of fact parents, who, in addition to dealing with their daughter’s sudden illness, have to deal with a boyfriend who they half know and the culture clashes that come with it. Showalter, who helmed the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer and last year’s critically acclaimed My Name Is Doris, handles the material with wit and precision without falling the cliches that plague many romantic comedies. This is a smart, honest, well thought comedy that is poised to be the sleeper hit of the season. The Big Sick opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday and in select cities on June 30th. You can also go to http://www.thebigsickmovie.com/ for more information.
Good Fortune. How did John Paul DeJoria overcome a life of poverty to become one of America’s entrepreneurs and philanthropists? That’s at the heart of this new documentary by Joshua Tickell and Rebecca Harrell Tickell. Narrated by Dan Aykroyd, they trace DeJoria’s story from growing up poor in East L.A; his time spent in motorcycle gangs, two separate stints being homeless; and how his work as a door to door salesman led to him achieve billionaire status as the co-founder of the Paul Mitchell hair care products and Patron tequila. The film also highlights his worldwide philanthropic efforts which includes helping the former homeless transition back into the work force and his direct efforts to stop whale poaching in the Arctic. With the help of family, long time friends such as Arianna Huffington, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo, and Michelle Phillips, and armed with a ton of news and archival footage, the Tickells have put together a moving portrait of a man who’s both super rich, yet super cool. Good Fortune opens in select theaters this Friday. You can also go to www.goodfortune.org for more information.
Nobody Speaks: Trials Of The Free Press. In this new documentary by Brian Knappenberger (The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story Of Aaron Swartz) he uses three seemingly unrelated stories to show how one of the core principles of The First Amendment – the freedom of the press – is in danger. The bulk of the film centers around Hulk Hogan’s libel suit against Gawker, while it also focuses on the anti-press rhetoric that became very effective during the 2016 Presidential campaign and the sale of Nevada’s largest newspaper, The Las Vegas Review-Journal. Knappenberger spends less time on the case specifics, but more on the one thread that connects them all: All were funded by extremely wealthy men who personal philosophies – and business efforts – run directly counter to core American principles. The doc is able to make its case that slowing down, and in some instances, eliminating the press’ right to confront, question and challenge, the foundations that make up a free press could crumble. Knappenberger puts together a film that is both a rallying cry to support journalism and warning against having media in the hands of a select, dangerous few. A probing, powerful work. Nobody Speaks: Trials Of The Free Press opens in select theaters and on Netflix this Friday.
Queen Sugar. The critically acclaimed series from writer-directed Ava DuVernay returns for its second season. It picks up with The Bordelons – led by middle sister Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner), Nova (Rutina Wesley) and Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) – still running their late father’s sugarcane farm, (now transitioning into a sugar mill), but also are still dealing with the personal, collective and emotional ramifications from season one. For Charley, she must also contend with her estranged husband Davis (Timon Kyle Durrett), who is trying to make amends for the damage he’s caused to Charley and their teenage son Micah (Nicholas L. Ashe) as a result of his role in a sex scandal. She must also be there for Micah, who is also struggling to make the transition for a life of privilege in LA. to his new, laid back, Southern surroundings. Nova is still heavily involved in activism, but also finds herself in a series of empty, casual relationships. Ralph Angel is still trying to find his footing in the new family business dynamic, while still trying to care for his son, Blue and repair his relationship with his son’s mother Darla (Bianca Lawson), a recovering addict. As it did last season, the series presents a side of the Black family dynamic that has been rarely, if ever, presented on television with candor, care, and a LOT of blunt, yet effective honesty. DuVernay wrote several episodes and, as she did last season, brings aboard a new crew of lady directors to bring a fresh, welcoming perspective to the narrative – especially as it deals with Charley, Nova and all its female characters. One of TV’s best shows is back and we’re all the better for it . Queen Sugar airs Wednesday nights at 10pm on OWN. You can also to http://www.queensugarown.tv/ for more information.
Nowhere To Hide. The complexities of the war in Iraq – and its consequences – are the center of this new documentary from Zaradasht Ahmed. It tracks five years in the life of Nori Sharif, a male nurse who is part of a medical staff that ventures into central Iraq – better known as the ‘triangle of death’ to treat survivors of the intense battles within the region. When American and Coalition forces retreat in 2011, there’s a sense of hope that Iraq can establish a new identity. But when new conflicts with ISIS emerge, most of the populace – along with the hospital staff – flee the area. When ISIS captures the city, Nori – who decided to stay – must now, with family in tow, leave at a moment’s notice. Now the man who was the film’s guide through the triangle of death, turns the camera on himself to document his family’s escape. What starts out as a boots on the ground account of the Iraq War’s many casualties becomes a real life thriller chronicling a man and his family’s struggle to survive. It also provides a fresh perspective on the refugee and immigration crisis that gets lost in the political rhetoric and news cycles. Tense, graphic, but all too human, this is a must see doc. Nowhere To Hide opens in select theaters this Friday. You can also go to www.nowheretohidedocumentary.com for more information.
Purple Rain Deluxe. After many starts and stops, the eagerly awaited reissue of Prince’s 1984 masterpiece finally gets to see the light of day. Prince was personally involved in the process, overseeing the remastering and digging deep into his vaults to unearth material that was related to the film and its accompanying soundtrack. This package includes the classic album (given a sonic makeover), B-sides, extended mixes, rarities and an DVD of a 1985 concert recorded during the Purple Rain tour. Several of the tracks have been included in other collections and bootlegs, but to have it all on one collection is the ultimate gift for any Prince fan. One of the greatest albums ever made is giving the comprehensive retrospective that it deserves. The deluxe edition of Purple Rain will be available this Friday through Amazon, iTunes and all major music outlets.
New York City: The Harlem Arts Festival. It’s only been around since 2010, but The Harlem Arts Festival has quickly emerged as one of the premier celebrations of Harlem’s longstanding artistic and cultural contributions to the world. This year’s festival will feature live music, dance presentations, workshops, classes, and, of course, straight up parties honoring the epicenter of American Black Culture. The scheduled performance of trumpeter Maurice Brown and keyboardist Marcy Cary will bring added importance since it was supposed to also feature Prodigy of the legendary group Mobb Deep, who passed away recently at the age of 42. With an eclectic array of events on the plate, this weekend’s festival promises to be a full on celebration of the arts. The Harlem Arts Festival runs June 23rd through the 25th. You can also go to http://www.harlemartsfestival.com/ for a full schedule of events and additional information.
New York City: Writing On It All. Poets, writers, street artists, activists, choreographers, and people from all walks of life will converge on Governor’s Island this weekend for the 5th Annual gathering. Using the walls of an abandoned house in Nolan Park as a base, participants use pencil, paint, music, projection, charcoal and chalk to write poems, lyrics, and drawings to express their feelings on an array of topics closest to them. Writers such as LaTasha Diggs, Olga Rodriguez Ulloa, Ana Lara, Mariame Kaba, and Laia Sole, among others, will be on hand, but this is truly a project of the people and by the people. A great event that celebrates the arts and the power of expression. Writing On It All will take place this weekend on Governor’s Island. You can also go to www.writingonitall.com for more information.
New York City: Up Close: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. If you ever wanted to see The Sistine Chapel up close, you would have to journey to The Vatican to do it. But now with this new exhibit, parts of Michelangelo’s masterwork will be on display at The Oculus within the World Trade Center. 34 components of the piece – including The Creation Of Adam and The Last Judgment – have been photographed and reproduced to give viewers an experience of the painting that you wouldn’t be able to see at The Vatican. This isn’t a small project either. Displays range from 40×40 to 11 feet – which will compliment perfectly with the size and scope of the new Oculus. Come out and capture art at its finest. Up Close: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel will be on display at the World Trade Center Oculus June 23rd through July 23rd. You can also go to http://www.westfield.com/ for tickets and more information.