First Reformed. The latest from writer-director Paul Schrader stars Ethan Hawke at Ernst Toller, a parish pastor at a small Dutch Reform Church in upstate New York. Despite its historical ties to The Underground Railroad and being a steady tourist attraction, Sunday attendance is down, due in part to its parent church, the much larger, more state of the art Abundant Life Church. Toller also carries a personal burdens: He pushed his son into enlisting into the war in Iraq, and died in the conflict. Toller has an illness that appears to the onset of stomach cancer. As a form of therapy, he begins to keep a journal detailing both his internal and external struggles. When Mary (Amanda Seyfried), a pregnant parishioner asks Toller to counsel her increasingly unstable environmental activist husband Michael (Phillip Ettinger), the sessions forces Toller to confront his dark past, and equally bleak future, until he finds redemption in a way that no one will forget. Hawke turns in a great performance as the conflicted pastor, channeling the solidarity torment that DeNiro presented in another Schrader penned film, Taxi Driver. All of themes that has been a constant in Schrader’s work are all here, but are given a fresh, refined perspective to eerily mirror the present. With strong support from Seyfried, Ettinger and a surprising dramatic effort by Cedric The Entertainer, Schrader continues his exceptional run of late period winners. First Reformed opens on Friday. You can also to www.firstreformedmovie.com for more information.
Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word. Acclaimed director Wim Wenders had exclusive access to Pope Francis in this new documentary. He traveled with Pope Francis across the globe, preaching messages of world peace, advocating for the poor and environmental issues, speaking out against wealth inequality, and heeding the call for social justice. Whether he’s speaking in front of record crowds or talking directly to world leaders and people of the street, Wenders captures Pope Francis at his most engaging, confrontational, peppering all with humor and warmth. An elegant and moving look at one of the world’s most engaging world leaders. Pope Francis: A Man Of His World opens this Friday.
Corazon. This John Hillcoat short film made its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival last month and is now available online. Produced by Montefiore and written by Kelley Sane, it stars Ana de Armas as Emily, a young prostitute working in Santo Domingo. She uses the money she makes on the street to provide for her younger sister and grandmother as well as for medicine to treat her heart condition. Her plight catches the attention of a New York doctor (Demian Bichir) doing volunteer work in Santo Domingo, who determines that her condition is critical, and pulls a number of strings to get Elena to New York to undergo a procedure that can prolong – if not save – her life. The film hits home on a number of fronts: High health care costs, how the endless cycle of poverty continues to have devastating effects on women outside of the U.S. and the importance of organ donation. Though the film clocks in just under an hour, it’s firing on all cylinders. You can go to www.corazonfilm.com to view the film and to find out more about organ donation.
New York City. The Vulture Festival. Vulture has emerged as one of the premier online sites for all matters pertaining to entertainment, so it’s no surprise that their festival will feature one of its top names. Ava Duvernay, Tracy Morgan, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Claire Danes, Susan Sarandon, Liev Schneider, Rachel Ray, Amber Tamblyn, Roxanne Gay, John Leguizamo and Wendy Williams are just some of the names slated to appear to talk about their most recent projects. Whether you are a fan of TV, comedy, film, literature, or the stage, this weekend will offer something for fans of each of these genres. The Vulture Festival will take place May 19th through the 20th at Milk Studios. You can also go to www.vulturefestival.com for tickets, a complete rundown of events and additional information.
New York City. Festival Of Disruption. David Lynch once again curates this now annual two day festival to raise awareness about the many benefits of transcendental meditation. It will feature talks and screenings featuring Lynch, Isabella Rossellini, Kyle Maclachlan, Naomi Watts, Lindsey Zoladz and Gregory Crewdson; live music from Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Rebekah Del Rio, Angel Olsen, Au Renoir Simone, Jon Hopkins and Animal Collective; DJ sets by Flying Lotus, Nancy Whang, Dean Hurley and Hudson Mohawke; exhibits by Williiam Eggleston, Sandro Miller and David O’Reilly plus much more. All proceeds from the festival will go to The David Lynch Foundation, which promotes TM as means to helping people dealing with trauma and post traumatic stress disorder within at-risk populations. Festival Of Disruption will take place at Brooklyn Steel May 19th and 20th. Go to www.festivalofdisruption.com for tickets, a complete rundown of events and more information.
New York City. The New York African Film Festival. Celebrating its 25th Anniversary, the New York African Film Festival celebrates the best and brightest that have come out of the Mother continent. This year’s festival will have a generational focus, honoring its past, while looking at new works by women and the next wave of African and diaspora arts. There will also be a special salute to the late Nelson Mandela (who would have turned 100 this year) and a number of films making their U.S premieres which are devoted to the struggle for independence and human rights. With Black Panther showing us a fictional glimpse of Africa’s finest, this festival shows us that what’s coming out of African nations is real and on point. The timing of this festival could not be any better. The New York African Film Festival will run at The Film Society Of Lincoln Center through May 22nd. You can also go to www.filmlinc.org for a complete schedule, tickets and additional information.
New York City. Zeitgeist: The Art Scene Of Teenage Basquiat. To coincide with the new Basquiat doc Boom For Real, The Howl! Gallery has teamed up with director Sara Driver to present an exhibition featuring many of Basquiat’s contemporaries and friends. It includes works by Fab 5 Freddy, Alexis Adler, Jim Jarmusch, Al Diaz, Futura, Nan Golden, Charlie Ahearn, Tessa Hughes-Freeland, Lee Quinones, Bob Gruen, Glenn O’Brien and many more. The fact that this exhibit is taking place near where Basquiat and the downtown arts scene flourished in the late 70s/early 80s is an added bonus. Come out and see the finest that that emerged from that period. Zeitgeist: The Art Scene Of Teenage Basquiat will be at Howl! Gallery through June 10th. You can also go to www.howlarts.org for more information.
Los Angeles. Fight Club Live. Nearly 20 years after its release, David Fincher’s big screen adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel is now considered a modern day classic. Anchored by performances by Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, and Helena Bonham Carter, many of its lines – including ‘The first rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club – becoming etched in cinematic history. For one night only, The Wiltern Theater will screen Fight Club with a couple of added bonuses: it will feature a rare appearance by The Dust Brothers performing their equally legendary score live backed an all-star band of in-demand sideman, along with incredible stunts and acrobatic action by fight coordinator Henry Layton. To say that this will take the movie going experience to another level would be an understatement. Come out and feast on the mayhem. Fight Club Live will be at The Wiltern Theater on May 19th. You can go to www.wiltern.com for tickets and additional info.