The Filtered Excellence: June 8, 2017

Bob Geldof once asked us, “Where is the filtered excellence!?” It’s right here. Once a week we take a break from comedy to bring you this week’s picks of the best things to watch, the most interesting things to do, great things to try, the best picks to read, our favorite things to listen to and more.


Beatriz At Dinner.  Director Miguel Areta and screenwriter Mike White – creators of the cult classics Chuck And Buck and The Good Wife – reunite for this biting look at culture and class colliding over the course of a dinner.  Selma Hayek stars as Beatriz, a Mexican immigrant who has built up a solid career as a health practitioner.  When her car breaks down at the home of her wealthy, long time clients Cathy (Connie Britton) and Grant (David Warshofsky), they invite her to stay for a dinner party celebrating Grant’s new business venture.  It’s at this party where she meets Doug Strutt (John Lithgow), a billionaire real estate developer.  She’s quietly epulsed by Doug’s stories of aggressive business tactics, self absorbed behavior along with the subtle, but equally condescending remarks by other guests, Beatriz’s angry soon reaches a breaking point and her reaction will leave no one the same.  Hayek delivers a powerful performance in the title role, playing a woman who has dedicated her life to healing others, but denies herself void to her own physical and emotional needs to a harrowing effect.  Lithgow is the perfect foil as Doug, capturing all of the narcissism, self-importance and entitlement that is heard everywhere from Wall Street to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Areta and White have once again proven to be a formidable team, putting together a timely film that touches on everything from economic inequality, to the breakdown of basic civility towards one another.   It a piece that ties in perfectly with the social and political climate faces us now.  Beatriz At Dinner opens nationwide this weekend.


The Hero.  The latest feature from writer-director Brett Haley (I’ll See You In My Dreams) stars Sam Elliott as Lee Hayden, a Western star from the 1970s who now spends his time recording voice overs for commercials and smoking pot with his former co-star turned drug dealer Jeremy (Nick Offerman).  When Lee is diagnosed with cancer, it spurs him to reconnect with his estranged daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter), and start a new, unpredictable relationship with a comic (Laura Prepon).  But what he really wants is one more shot at a quality role that will cement his place in film history.  Elliot, who was already in the midst of creative second wind, channels six decades of experience into a role that was tailor made for him.  Prepon is just as strong as Charlotte, the in-the-moment comic who urges Lee to let loose and truly live his life.  Ritter and Offerman offer solid support as the two people on the opposite sides of Lee’s orbit – one who deals (literally) with his day to day needs and the other who reluctantly is getting pulled back into it. Anchored by Elliot’s career defining performance, Haley has put together a warm, funny, and uplifting look at a man looking to have one more run at life.  The Hero opens nationwide this Friday.  You can also go to for more info.




Chuck by Chuck Berry.  Before his passing in March, Chuck Berry put the finishing touches of his first album of new material since 1979.  There’s no attempt to put a ‘modern’ spin on his songs.  There’s no big name guest producers adding computerized big beats with select ‘special guest vocalists’ to help him connect with today’s audiences.  Instead, Berry sticks to his strengths: Witty wordplay, a band anchored in driving, blues based rhythms (courtesy of his long time support group, The Blueberry Hill Band) and, of course, a healthy dose of wire pulling wizardry from Berry.  He even has fun with his own legacy by writing sequels to some of his biggest hits.  ‘Lady B. Goode’ puts a feminist spin on ‘Johnny B. Goode’ while ‘Jamaica Moon’ is another Caribbean inspired update on ‘Havana Moon’.  There’s also a  spoken word driven work, the semi-autobiographical, ‘Dutchman’.  With the exception of a couple of guest appearances by Gary Clark, Jr and Tom Morello – both of whom trade licks with Berry on the rocking ‘Big Boys’, Chuck is largely a family affair with his son Charles Jr and daughter Ingrid on board to stand alongside their legendary father.   This is the musical equalivant of putting on a warm, comfortable sweater, aimed specifically to bring joy to the soul.  A true labor of love that is a fitting epitaph for a rock n roll iconoclast.  Chuck by Chuck Berry will be available this Friday through Amazon, iTunes and all major music retailers.


You & I by ALA.NI.  After singing back up for Mary J. Blige and Blur, ALA.NI could have easily transitioned into the worlds of mainstream R&B or Britpop.  Instead, she wrote and produce an album that has more in common with her great uncle,  Lesile ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson (a cabaret star of the 1920s and 30s) than it does her previous employers.  Backed primarily with a jazz influenced guitar and light instrumentation, ALA.NI relies on her otherworldly vocals (enhanced greatly by training in musical theater) to deliver an album length meditations on the fractured, darker side of love.  What’s remarkable about this collection is how she manages to recreate the production vibe of those early recordings but still manages to give it enough of a modern tilt to draw in today’s audiences.  Destined to be a late night listening classic.  You & I by ALA.NI will be available on Friday through Amazon, iTunes and all major music retailers.


American Epic: The Collection.  In the 1920s, radio took over the pop music business and altered the musical dynamic.  Record companies now had to leave the confines of the recording studios and clubs to hit the American highways in search of new talent.  What they found was beyond their wildest dreams setting the path to discovering the roots of rock n roll, blues, country, gospel, Tex-Mex, bluegrass and more.  This new 5-CD box set presents 100 of these original recordings from that fertile period, remastered and restored as the fine art that it is.  This set covers every stretch of the American landscape:  Applachian country music, Mississippi Delta Blues, Southern gospel, Louisiana Cajun music, Native American drummers from the Southwest, Tejano groups along the Texas-Mexican border and Hawaiian musicians.   Everything that we listen to now has its DNA in this set and every track is outstanding.  Part history lesson and master class, this truly documents the story of US and how American music came to have an global impact that is still being felt today.  A must have for any music fan.  American Epic: The Collection is available now through Amazon, iTunes and all major music retailers.





That’s A Crazy One by Mel Stones and High.  Before 9/11, gentrification and ‘quality of life’ initiatives forever altered its fabric, New York City still carried a hint of edge and danger.  It was also rich with identity, individuality with each neighborhood having a style and flow of its own.  Mel Stones and High were high school best friends from Brooklyn who were part of a group of kids who rode skateboards, smoked blunts, copped a 40, and drank free refills of coffee at dive diners in the Village and the Lower East Side.   It was this group of skaters, punks, goths, rave kids and nerds that caught the attention of Larry Clark, who along with Harmony Korine, based their film on this crew of outsiders.  There was always a camera around, which was used to capture them at the height of their day to day exploits.  Now, nearly 25 years after the film’s release,  Stones and High have compiled some of those shots into a new book.  With most of the shots done in glorious black & white 35mm film, it wonderfully captures a city that was still reeling from high crime, crack and AIDS, but bristled with an energy and vibrancy that’s long gone.  The book provides the last look into the lives of urban teens that didn’t center on cell phones and social media.  All proceeds from the book go to the New York City Public School Art & Photography Program.  Come and see images of a city long gone.  That’s A Crazy One can be ordered exclusively at




New York City: Museum Mile Festival.  New York City’s biggest block party – designed to celebrate and promote some of the city’s best museums – is back to ring in the upcoming summer season.  5th Avenue will be traffic free from 82nd to 105th Street and will feature street performances, art-in-the street opportunities, a chance to create musical instruments and much more.  The highlight of the festival is a chance to visit The Guggenheim, The Metropolitan Museum Of Art, The Jewish Museum, El Museo del Barrio, The Museum Of The City Of New York and more – for FREE.  It’s a great night out for those who love art and culture.  The Museum Mile Festival will take place on Tuesday, June 13th from 6-9pm.  You can also go to for more information.


It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night.  The Black Rock Coalition teams up The New York City Park Dept to present a salute to the music and legacy of Prince.  Tamar-Kali, Corey Glover of Living Colour, Sylvia Black of Betty Black and Gordon Voidwell will lead The BRC Orchestra in a live presentation that will dig deep into the Prince catalog with B-sides, rarities, key album tracks and much more.  Then as the evening sets in, there will a screening of the seminal 1984 film, Purple Rain.  The best part is that is all FREE.  Live music and an iconic film in the heart in the Brooklyn is a great way to kick off a weekend.  It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night will take place this Friday at 7pm in Von King Park deep n the heart of Brooklyn.  You can also go to for more information.


Los Angeles: The 2017 Playboy Jazz Festival.  Established in 1959 and a Hollywood Bowl mainstay since 1979, The Playboy Jazz Festival has been the premier showcase for everything from jazz, blues, R&B and pop.  George Lopez will host for the 5th consecutive year with performers such as Gregory Porter, Corinne Bailey Rae, Common, Taj Mahal & Keb ‘Mo all scheduled to appear.  It will also feature a performance by Hudson, a new jazz super group featuring Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Medeski, and John Scofield.  With great weather and cool grooves, this is a killer way to kick off the summer festival season.  The 2017 Playboy Jazz Festival will take place June 10th and 11th at The Hollywood Bowl.  You can also go to for tickets, full lineup and more information.


Last Remaining Seats.  Now in its 30th year, this film series offers classic films, live entertainment and Q&As in some of downtown L.A’s grandest and historic movie palaces.  This year’s lineup includes seminal movies such as On The Waterfront, Easter Parade, Wings and Laura alongside new classics such as E.T, Jaws, and L.A. Confidential.  It’s a night out at the movies as it was meant to be – on a big screen with booming sound plus a few added bonus.  It’s the ultimate for any true fan of cinema.  Last Remaining Seats runs through June 24th.  You can also go to for a complete rundown of film, events and additional information.

Want more excellence? Read last week’s The Filtered Excellence