Soundbreaking. This new 8 part PBS series takes an in-depth look at how the recording process has evolved over the last 100 years which led to some of the greatest innovations in music. Episode 1 looks at how the record producer plays a key role in bringing out the best in an artist. Whether its George Martin’s work with The Beatles through multi-tracking, to Stevie Wonder’s groundbreaking use of synthesizers, to disco’s use of drum machines and to how sampling took hip hop to sonic and commercial heights, this series has something for everyone. Featuring more than 180 original interviews with artists classic and current, Soundbreaking is the ultimate insider’s look at how some of our greatest records are created. It premieres Monday, November 14th at 10pm Eastern on PBS. You can go to www.pbs.org for more information.
Don’t Look Down. As he did with his airline, record label, and numerous business ventures, Richard Branson loves taking risks and above all things, loves challenges. This new documentary from Daniel Gordon chronicles Branson’s attempts to break records for flying in a hot air balloon across various spots around the globe. Using previously unseen footage and new interviews with Branson, family members and collaborators, Gordon captures the highs, lows and near misses that Branson encountered during his various journeys. It’s easy to see why people have always gravitated to him: His enthusiasm and passion for life is contagious. It’s an inspiring and life-affirming look at one of the world’s true adventurers. Don’t Look Down opens on Friday.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. The latest from Academy Award winner Ang Lee takes a sharp and biting look at how war is experienced on the battlefield and how its perceived back home. Based on the best-selling novel by Ben Fountain, Joe Alwyn portrays the title character, a soldier who comes home for a victory tour after his squad survives a fierce battle in Iraq – which was also was captured by an embedded news crew. The tour concludes with The Bravo Squad being honored during halftime at the Thanksgiving game at Texas Stadium. As the pomp and circumstance consume him, Billy wrestles with his memories of the battle, a plea from his sister to leave the military, and how his fellow Bravo Squad members are being used to promote a war that is quickly losing favor with the public. Lee, once again affirms his status as one of the best filmmakers balancing the all too real battlefield sequences, the commercialization of war and the simmering anxieties that are felt by the soldiers and their families. Although he is a relative newcomer, Alwyn turns in a star making performance as Billy. He captures the sense of duty, brotherhood, and lingering doubts that all soldiers have and continue to experience. Garrett Hudland, Vin Diesel and Kristen Stewart also turn in strong supporting performances as Lynn’s brothers in the field and as Billy’s sister. It has all of the makings of being a strong contender in the upcoming awards season. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk opens on Friday.
Not Dead Yet by Phil Collins. Whether as a member of Genesis or as a solo artist, Phil Collins has been a part of the pop/rock landscape for over 45 years. This incredibly candid and, at times, brutally honest memoir, Collins goes in depth about his life and career: From being an extra in The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, working in the bars and clubs in the swinging 60s London scene, to becoming the drummer to a fledging young art rock band named Genesis, Collins captures it all with remarkable detail. Collins also talks about he ended up becoming Genesis’ lead singer after the departure of Peter Gabriel, launching an equally successful solo career, working with some of the biggest names in music and much more. He also talks about the darker side of success: Failed marriages, various health problems and a battle with depression that led him to retire in 2007. Loaded with great stories and insights, it’s pretty hard to find another rock memoirs that cut so close to the bone. Not Dead Yet is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all major book retailers.
New York City: The Rolling Stones: Exhibitionism. After blowing away crowds in London, The Rolling Stones’ exhibit comes to New York for a 3 month stay at Industria in the West Village. The band unlocks its vast archive – 70 original costumes designed by some of the top names in fashion, film clips, interactive technology, and original works of art – to give its fans the ultimate band experience. Whether you are a fan of music, film, fashion or art, this is the must see event of the season. Exhibitionism opens Saturday, November 12th and runs through March 12th. You can also go to www.StonesExhibitionism.com or Ticketmaster.com for tickets and additional information.
New York City: DOCNYC. Since its launch in 2010, DOCNYC has now become America’s largest documentary festival. This year stands to be their biggest yet, with over 250 films and events scheduled throughout the week long event. There will also be special guest appearance by such notables as Jonathan Demme, Barbara Kopple, Bill Meyers, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Steve Van Zandt and much more. Chasing Trane, the eagerly awaited documentary on the life and music of John Coltrane, will close out the festival. In addition to getting the heads up on the exciting new docs and the talent behind them, DOCNYC has also become the barometer of what will be talked about during Oscar season. One of the must see events of the fall season. DOCNYC runs November 10th through the 17th. You can also go to www.docnyc.net for a complete rundown of films, events and more information.
Los Angeles: AFI Fest. The 30th Annual AFI Fest is a chance to see films, shorts and indies by new directors while also paying tribute to stars who make their mark through the American Film Institute. This year’s honorees included Annette Bening (who will also screening her critically acclaimed new film, 20th Century Women) and Isabelle Huppert, who will be screening her latest, the Paul Verhooven directed film, Elle. In addition, there will be a preview screening of Warren Beatty’s latest, Rules Don’t Apply and special screening and discussion with director Cameron Bailey on his new doc on James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro. Its a great way to honor cinema’s past while getting a firm look at its future. AFI Fest runs November 10th through the 17th. You can also go to www.afifest.afi.com for tickets and additional info.